Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Freddie Krueger Has Got Nothing On CNN

Fifteen to twenty minutes is exactly how much time experts recommend you take a nap. It's just enough time to leave you refreshed, but not so long that you enter a deep sleep, which can leave you groggy. It's just right. I was thinking about this last night when, after fifteen or twenty minutes of sleep, my lovely wife woke me and asked me to check on the Princess.

Now I don't begrudge my wife for this. I've said before that this is one of my duties, and while not my favorite, I accept it. So I got up, checked on her, and tried, very unsuccessfully, to go back to sleep.

Last night, it was partially the perfect nap causing this, but mostly it was the television being on. Ordinarily I can ignore whatever she's watching and got to sleep, but last night, some joker on CNN made that an impossibility. See, he was ranting and yelling about how the House defeat of the federal bailout bill, and subsequent drop in the market was going to affect everyone in America.

Essentially, he was trying to convince us that we were all screwed.

Now, I'm ordinarily immune to such FUD tactics. I know it makes a good story. I know it get's people energized to act, even sometimes on stupid things. I don't listen, because the person spitting this stuff is emotional, and thus irrational.

Unfortunately, when I'm half awake, it can get in. So after a few minutes, I was laying there with a ball of fire in my stomach, convinced that everyone I know and love (me included) were all going to lose everything they had. I panicked over my friends who can't get jobs. I panicked over my relatives potentially nearing retirement. I panicked over that clause in every car loan and mortgage that says that the bank can demand to be paid in full at any time.

I ended up getting up and having a drink. I tried to watch television, but I was too emotional. I started crying. I cried when I though about all that I've lost this year. I cried when I though I might not be able to help those that I love. I cried when they pulled Spiderman back into the train and those two kids gave him his mask back. At that point, it became clear that I was having an over-emotional response and I calmed down.

I still didn't get back to bed until midnight, and I have no idea how long it took to sleep after that. I ended up in my usual forum, making snarky remarks, reading random jokes, playing a wonderful choose-your-own-adventure zombie movie (NSFW or mother-in-laws). I got my perspective back. I'm just mad that I let it get to me at all. I know better. For all the panic and terror that they can spin, people are adaptable. We'll get through.

Unfortunately, this does mean I'll be putting off some much needed home renovations, but hey, we're all tightening the belts, right?

Monday, September 29, 2008

It Came From YouTube: Kidd Video

Like a lot of kids in my generation, I watched too much television when I was young. It wasn't as easy back then. We didn't have Disney or Nickelodeon. We had one day a week, in fact only half a day, to pack in all the cartoon goodness we could get. We had Saturday mornings.

The thing of it is, you forget some of these things, and then one day, you randomly remember some show you watched as a kid. Not a big name. Not a Smurfs or a Tom & Jerry. Not even a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. No, some show that was on a couple of years, somehow hooked you, and then vanished without a trace.

Such a show was Kidd Video.

Kidd Video had a typically ridiculous premise. A rock band of four young people gets sucked into a cartoon world, The Flip Side, where they are pursued by Master Blaster, a fat guy hell bent on forcing them to create music for him to profit from while making everyone else do anything he wanted (kind of like the RIAA actually). There was of course a fairy on their side, complete with headband and leg warmers. Seriously, the only way this show could have gotten more eighties is if Micheal Jackson had occasionally run through holding a Pepsi with his head on fire.

So what was the hook? They were a band in the spawning MTV generation. That allowed two things. First, each episode featured a popular song being redone by the band playing in the background, typically during a Scooby Doo-esque chase scene. I distinctly remember them doing a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" (I'm guessing they didn't concern themselves as much back then about song meanings). Then, at the end of each episode, they would have an actual video by the band.

Well, I got curious (which is almost always a bad thing), and Googled them, and by God, there they were. The ridiculous outfits, the mediocre but catchy tunes, the whole mess, right there on YouTube. There are times when I don't know if the internet is a good thing or a bad thing in terms of information never dying. This, my friends, is one of those times. The highlight of the video, for me anyway, is that it gives us a taste of what diversity meant in the eighties. As you will see, the band featured three white guys with different hair types and colors (which was all the diversity one required back then), and a Latina girl who says not-at-all-stereotypical things like "Aye aye aye". It's a small world indeed.

And so, without further ado, I give you: Kidd Video

Friday, September 26, 2008

Better Than Nothing

Tired and distracted today, so a full post is unlikely. I will take a moment to say that I was really looking forward to tonight's debate, but someone Washington Post ruined it for me. Man, I hate spoilers.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Boy, Micheal Crichton Missed the Boat on That One

Ah, technology. Technology allows me to schedule posting here, so even today, while I am away, I get to bring you, my readers, another rambling post on the weirdness that is this world. Life is good.

First, an epic fail. PETA, who has practically mastered the epic fail, has put in a suggestion to Ben and Jerry's that, in an effort to be more humane, all their ice creams should cease using cow's milk and should instead be created with human breast milk. Ignoring the obvious humor that could be derived from naming such ice cream (yes, I do occasionally take the high road), one has to wonder why they do things like this.

You know, I'm not real fond of dairy products. For the most part, I don't eat dairy products. Besides being kind of icked out with the whole bodily fluids thing, I know that the conditions that the cows are often subjected to can be pretty harsh. I'm sure there are exceptions (something I say to avoid receiving letters from angry dairy farmers), but I've heard some stuff I'd rather have not heard.

The problem with PETA is that they pull these stunts that are so preposterous that the stunt outshines whatever they were trying to say. So in the end, all they get out of it is a little free press, where they are soundly ridiculed and mocked for being as ridiculous as they are. What they are not is heard. Pity.

In brighter news, a scientist at the California Polytechnic State University drilled a hole in a hunk of amber and extracted a colony of yeast (among other, not so interesting bacteria and whatnot) that could be up to 45 million years old. What's really cool is that they were able to activate that yeast, even after all of that time. So, what to you do with 45 million year old yeast?

You brew beer out of it of course.

Unfortunately, you have to be in the California area to score a bottle of anything from the Fossil Fuels Brewing Company, but I assure you that if I was, I would give it a go. For now, I'll have to stick to Bell's. Actually, I'm pretty much okay with that.

And where am I today, that I might be away from a computer for too long a period to actually write this for you. I'm at my Alma Mater, trying to convince students not to abandon the sinking ship that is Michigan, but rather to come to my neck of the woods and work for my company. Hopefully, some of them will listen.

Until tomorrow kids, be good. Oh, and feel free to take the low road on the whole Ben & Jerry's ice cream naming things. That's what the comments section is there for.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

To Think I Used To Listen To the Radio

Like most mornings, I dropped the boy off and the Princess and I were wending our way to the elementary school where she hangs out with other first graders. Typically, I use this time to chat with her, remind her of our current goals, quiz her on spelling words...that sort of thing. Today, after a really rotten night of sleep, I found that I had zoned out without speaking for a mile or two, when my lovely daughter of six presented me with the following statement.

"You know dad, life never stops."

Needless to say, she had my attention. When pressed for details, she explained that babies are born, and if they are girl babies, they grow up, and then they have babies of their own. That happens "over and over and over and over". That's why life never stops.

As usual, I was stunned by her ability to think about things. I was also a bit relieved that we were speaking biologically, what with the original statement lending itself to a more philosophical interpretation that would have required more intellectual processing than my feeble brain can manage on less than a pot of coffee on days such as today. My relief was short lived, however, as she proceeded to smack me upside the noggin with the follow up postulation.

"Life never stops, and that's why life is true."

Had you been in the car with us, you might very well have heard the buzzing sound as my brain short circuited right there. You might even have caught the faint aroma of smoke. I asked her to repeat the thought, and instead she pushed me further. She said, "Life is true because...", and then she looked at me in the rear-view mirror, eyebrows raised, waiting patiently.

I responded, somewhat feebly, "Because...life never stops?"

She nodded. "Right. And?"

Well, I was spent. I told her I didn't know. I put it back on her, but she wouldn't elaborate any further. I was told that I was supposed to guess the answer, and that she wouldn't tell it to me. So when I left her, I had learned that life is true because it never stops, and that there was more to it, but it was up to me to find out what it is. Wow. I expected to occasionally learn things from my kids, but I didn't realize that they would be so deep. Frankly, I kind of miss her old, more literal style of declarations.

After all, not a lot of interpretation is necessary when presented with something like "Never lick the table".

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Programmer, Google Thyself

This morning, prompted by a Slashdot poll, I Googled myself. I like to thing of our readership as into technology enough to know what that means, what with the fact that you have to at least be able to use the internet to read this in the first place, but just in case you're not, or your wife helped you get here, I'll explain. Googling yourself is when you go to www.Google.com and search your name.

Previously, the first couple of results that came back were a picture of me reading to the Princess's elementary school, and then my Linked In profile. Well, the picture has vanished from the results, so now my profile is number one. This is a good thing, as employers now make this Googling a regular part of the hiring process, and my profile is all squeaky clean and whatnot.

The second result was a Facebook profile. This is fine, because I'm smart enough to keep my Facebook account reasonable clean as well (remember kids, once it's on the net it's fair game for life). So I clicked through to see what comes up, and the results are, shall we say, distressing. You see, what I found was some other dude who's name is the same as mine.

Not cool.

This displeases me for numerous reasons. First, I don't want to be mistaken for this guy. Now I don't actually know anything about this guy other than his/my name, so I've technically got nothing to fear there so far, but what if he suddenly goes nuts? You wouldn't want to open the news and find a headline saying something like "[Your name here] Goes On Vicious Puppy Kicking Rampage, Publicly Molests Cantaloupes Before Arrest". Well, I don't either.

More disconcerting to me, however, is the fact that, at least in his tiny profile picture, this other fellow seems to be lacking any facial hair. Now, I currently sport a beard, and while I am constantly tempted to shave it off, what with having to change my appearance every few months to throw off my enemies, it is still there. It's not a goatee, but between the two of us, I'm closer to that than he is. This can mean only one thing.

I'm the evil one.

Evil Spock

So the question is this: do I add this person as a friend on Facebook in an effort to learn more about him? It seems creepy, but at the same time, if we are in fact some variety of doppelgangers, then we need to know at least the whereabouts of the other, lest we come into contact and inadvertently cancel each other out, ending our respective existences. And that's the best case scenario. There's always a chance that we could start a chain reaction that begins the unraveling of existence itself, eventually collapsing the entire universe back on itself until nothing is left but the empty, gaping maw of nothingness.

That, or I just need to legally change my name to my true name, Lord Darkraven Von Fancypants, master of possessed pantanloons. I'm pretty sure that one's still up for grabs.

Monday, September 22, 2008

At Least I Was Doing Laundry, So It Wasn't a Total Waste Of Time

Last night, I watched the Emmy awards, or at least I watched part of the Emmy awards. I don't watch for the awards, what with not actually watching enough TV to know what the &$%# any of them were talking about. I watch for the show itself. After last night, I might not make that mistake ever again.

I'm not sure what happened, but the show was just painful to watch. The five hosts were just awkward. The bits in between were rambling, unfunny, or both with the exception of those I expect funny from - Don Rickles, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Any Poeler were funny. That's pretty much it.

The show wasn't just not funny though. Something was off about the whole thing. The other attempts at humor weren't just no funny, they were hard to watch. As an example, the Laugh In reunion bit. I've never seen Laugh In, so I can't speak to whatever it is they were striving for. What they got was, well...there's this moment in Sunset Boulevard where the lady of the house, an aging and all but forgotten actress, is putting on a show for her beau. She's dressing up and trying to be funny, and he laughs, but his laugh feels forced, and you just end up pitying her. That's what they got.

Anyway, I don't know what was going on last night, but I bailed at my usual ten PM bedtime. From what I've read, I didn't miss anything by leaving when I did. Either way, I have to say that while these shows are typically forgettable, I don't think I'm going to forget this one for a while, which is a good thing. I'd hate to think of getting caught up in the same waste of time next year.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Methinks I Best Be Keepin' An Eye On This One

This morning again found me escorting the Princess into school to ensure the safe delivery of a trinket borrowed from a friend. I'm kind of like the armed courier of the first grade - you call me in when it absolutely has to get there. Anyway, while walking her in, something happened, and frankly, I'm still processing both how I allowed to it occur, and how I feel about it.

We're walking down the tiger hall towards class when a young man walks up. He says 'hi' to the Princess, she says 'hi' back. He announces that he know who I am because he's seen me bring her to class before. He begins a chicken impression, which makes her laugh. I'm just following along so I can catch his name, as learning names of the people she spends her time with is something I'm trying to work on.

Now then, at this point two things become apparent to me. The first is that my lovely daughter is no longer holding my hand like she was when we began down the hallway. The second, and more pernicious, observation, was that somehow I had been edged out, the two of them walking towards the wall until I was no longer even walking next to the Princess, but rather a pace behind. I may be overreacting, but I'm pretty sure at the age of six my daughter just reduced me to the role of forgotten chaperon for the first time.

Okay, maybe that's a bit of hyperbole. Obviously, they're not engaged or anything. It was an interesting moment though. Bringing daddy into school with her used to be kind of a big deal. Now I find myself taking a back seat to a curly-haired, clucking boy. I'm not entirely thrilled with it, but I suppose it's bound to happen.

On an unrelated note, today is international talk like a pirate day (which I do not really observe since we here at DLOG all talk like Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate, all the time anyway). As such Google has included pirate as a new language option, which is cool, but not as cool as my favorite Google language choice, Swedish Chef.

Bork bork bork. Truly, words to live by.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

You! Yes, you! Stand still laddie!

Often, when I refer to my school days, I make passing jokes about not doing my work. The fact is that I didn't. I was easily distracted. I told a lot of jokes (shocking, I know). I goofed off in class. I was, in short, a kid.

I bring it up because we face a familiar song here. The Princess is having trouble following directions in school. Now, this doesn't come as a huge suprise to me. When tasked with something, she does just what I used to do. She starts in on it, seemingly whole-heartedly dedicated to the task, but quickly becomes distracted by something and wanders off task, only to be brought back by a reminder of what she was supposed to be doing.

What gets to me though is that when this came up in Kindergarten, and again when it came up this year, there was a subtle hint about the communications coming from the schools. Nothing blatant of course, but rather a suspicion on my part that the teachers are fishing for something in particular, a suspicion that was confirmed by my sister-in-law, a teacher herself. I suspect that they are trying to get us to question if our lovely daughter has ADHD.

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, has been kind of a scapegoat from what I can see, so the idea of someone trying to pin her behavior down like that infuriates me. In part, it's because I have no doubt that had this term been bandied around when I was a kid, my own parents would have happily diagnosed me and proceeded to medicate me into mediocrity ("better living through chemistry" was sort of a mantra in our household). Fortunately for me, when I was a kid we didn't throw pharmaceuticals at every behavioral problem, so instead of getting drugged, I was put into classes for advanced students, where I began to flourish.

Now I know that every parent has a blind spot when this sort of thing comes up. I know that we don't want to believe that anything is wrong with out children. So I am wary about the idea that maybe she's advanced instead of having some disorder. But when I look at how she becomes distracted, it just feels so damned familiar. She over thinks things. When she's given a task, she start brainstorming new ways to accomplish it, almost always over complicating things to the point of being ridiculous, but the sheer creativity involved is amazing. I have a hard time even considering that as something it would be beneficial to quash with a pill.

Also, I don't want to sound offhand about people who really do have ADHD. As someone who used to fight with depression, and at time still does, I can tell you that nothing is more frustrating than someone who doesn't know what you're going through telling you that it's all in your head. I'm lucky that I was able to control mine without medical assistance, but I can still feel it there, creeping around the edges of my mind. I know that if I'm not careful and vigilant, my natural tendency will always spin everything in a negative light. I also know that isn't the person that I am - it's something that's off. So to those who really have these issues, I sympathize.

Nonetheless, we will take on our daughter's behavior as something that just requires a little work. We're establishing routines. We're giving her more attention now that other things in our lives are finally settling down. I accept that I'm biased, but I know she'll be fine, and given the right guidance, something that didn't happen for me until it was too late, I think she could really blow everyone out of the water.

Of course it doesn't hurt that she's the most amazing little girl that's ever existed in the entire history of mankind. Ever.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

By the Prickling of My Thumbs

This morning the Princess requested a Halloween hair pretty for her pony tail. I pointed out that Halloween isn't for over a month still, but she didn't care. "It's close enough."

Heh. That's my girl.

My favorite season is Fall for a lot of reasons. I like the weather. I like the trees changing color. I like apple cider and dougnuts. In fact, it's the best time to be here in Michigan, because I feel like it's the season where we really shine.

Most of all, I love Halloween.

Apparently most people don't realize it (I hide myself better than I know I guess), but I have this weird obsession with what I would consider 'spooks'. It's kind of funny, because I don't actually believe in any of that stuff, but given the chance I would foolishly squander my time sitting in front of the television absorbing mass quantities of horror movies.

Not just horror movies though. It has to be otherworldly. I have no interest in slasher films for example. I don't want to watch some guy in a mask hunting down teenagers with questionable morals. Not interested.

You throw in a ghost, a demon, an alien, a chupacabra...anything in the spook family, and I can't look away. It doesn't even have to be good. Lord, I don't even like to think about how many times I watched Killer Klowns from Outer Space when I was in school, and Evil Dead 2 still stands as a cinematic masterpiece as far as I'm concerned.

The fact that I'm a computer geek has done nothing but feed this. I'm a huge fan of survival horror games. As previously mentioned, at home I have a copy of Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly waiting to be fired up. I played about ten minutes before. I didn't even get to a save point, but it scared the bejeesus out of me. For reasons I don't understand, I can't wait to get back to it. If I don't have time for that, I can always find mini-fixes online, little terrors that creep around on the internet in the guise of adventure games. I don't recommend following any of those links at work, or at home in the dark. Maybe not in the light either. If that's not enough to ruin your sleep, throw a search for ghost into YouTube.

It's even manifested itself in my music selection. This time last year, I ordered myself a couple of CDs, something I haven't done in years. When the Princess asked me what they were, I told her they were Halloween music for grownups. It was true. It's good music that will sit well in the background when handing candy out, or even on the soundtrack of a scary movie. I'm currently eyeballing a Jill Tracy album that I can download from Amazon. It's even RIAA free. (I like spooks and all, but those guys are monsters.)

So as my summer burnout wanes, as the cool winds blow a restorative breath into my being, I find myself getting ready for the coming month. I get to carve pumpkins, and I have a porch to put them on. I get to hang spider webs. We get to hand out candy, and instead of being in an apartment building where we'll get ten or fifteen kids wandering by, we live in one of those neighborhoods that kids live for on these nights, the very neighborhood where my own tots had to declare defeat after only a couple of blocks last year, each carrying enough candy to kill a goat.

The only question is how the Princess will feel about me using her Barbie hair styling head as a prop in the upstairs window. That thing scares the Hell out of me. Why not use it to scare the Hell out of everyone else?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Everything's Coming Up Rose...Wait, What's That? KILL IT, KILL IT WITH FIRE!

Well, it's Tuesday in America, and every bit of news we're hearing is good, good, good. Well, as long as the only news you read is that George Takai of Star Trek fame at 71 finally getting to marry to his long time boyfriend. Oh, and TRL is ending, effectively reducing the total time of actual music on MTV to two hours of rap between 2 and 4 AM. If you read any other stories however, it's gloom and doom.

Yes, the good old US of A is now in a financial crisis of epic proportions. They're even suggesting that we might go into a recession. Now I'm not an economist, and I'm not sure at what point we get to call something a recession, but I'm pretty sure that an all time high unemployment rate probably qualified us for the title a while ago.

What's heartbreaking is that this isn't the most frustrating thing going on right now for me. No, for me it's all about the presidential campaign, and the sad thing that it has become. See, I keep making the mistake that people are essentially good, and honest. I also try to think of the majority of people as somewhat intelligent. I know we're not a nation of Einsteins, but I like to think of us as reasonable anyway.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, politics has proven me wrong. The people running the presidential campaigns have once again resorted to stretching the truth so far it makes taffy seem like a solid base by comparison. What's really awful is that's the group that seems to be taking "the high road", like both campaigns promised they were going to do. The other campaign is outright lying about various topics. In just a handful of weeks, I have to go vote for one of these people, and while I still believe that one is clearly a better choice than the other, I can't say I'm as enthusiastic as I was before.

What really breaks my heart is that it works. Last night on CNN, there was in interview with an expert who was explaining how much you could lie before you got in trouble and it backfired. He explained it completely scientifically, with no judgment one way or another. See, I couldn't do that. I would have to wrap up the conversation with something like, "Of course, after they do win they'll have to wake up in the morning every day knowing that they only achieved this goal by deceiving the very people they've sworn to protect, a knowledge that will hopefully eat away at them from the inside until there's nothing left but an empty shell of a person wrapped around their crooked, black soul, a despicable creature who spends each day longing for the sweet release that death will bring". I'm not real scientific like that.

Anyway, I'm going to do my best to ignore all of this. It's the system, and for better or worse it's what we're stuck with. I'm going to assume that the market will eventually right itself, preferably before we end up in a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max style civilization (which I'm completely prepared for having played both Fallout and Fallout 2). I'm going to continue hovering around FactCheck.org and making sure that at least I know the truth behind the stupid advertisements and e-mail campaigns. Worst of all, I'm going to go on assuming that most people prefer to educate themselves on these things by doing their own research on not believing whatever their party or some douche bag pundit says on the television. This is especially true when it comes our loyal readers here at DLOG.

You better not let me down, dammit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

People Are...Strange

According to recent posts in our work message board, we have once again been attacked by that most unusual work annoyance. See, someone around here has a weird habit of stealing other people's lunches. Not just pre-packaged things either. They're taking someone's leftovers.

This is a whole world of bizarre as far as I'm concerned. Ignoring the fact that what you're doing would definitely get you fired, and technically could result in actual criminal charges, what with it being theft and all, you stealing someone's &$%*ing lunch. Dude, I know things are tough, but cough up five bucks and get a sammich at Subway.

What's really strange to me though is stealing someone's leftovers lunch. I mean, are you really so desperate that the meatloaf some stranger had for dinner last night is actually a good choice? Maybe it's a crime of convenience - someone was coming, so they just grabbed the first paper bag they saw and walked. Either way, it's creepy eating other people's home made food. I mean, you don't know what their definition of 'sanitary' is, do you? Or maybe they have creepy eating habits. All I'm saying is that at some point, someone packed a cold placenta sandwich. Is not missing lunch really worth taking that chance?

Anyway, what I always wonder about this is how they go about it. Do they scope out the lunches during the morning, or is it a sudden decision? Did they just forget lunch, or is it a game they enjoy playing? Is our economy really so bad that people in a professional setting are resorting to theft to feed themselves (it is Michigan, so I don't entirely discount that possibility)? How do you play it when you get caught pinching someone else's brown bag? Claim it was a mistake or draw the guns and make your escape? And doesn't the guilt take away what little enjoyment you're going to get out of that already mediocre Salisbury steak frozen dinner anyway?

You know, it strikes me that not only have I thought about this too much already, but I suddenly feel the need to see if my lunch is okay.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Maybe It's Time To Invest in Some Sheep

It would appear that I am somehow not in sync with my family when it comes to sleeping arrangements. Somehow, the three of them all know when we're going to have a sleepless night, whereas I trundle off to bed thinking it will be a standard slumber. Silly me.

First, my lovely wife gets a bout of insomnia. This is a shame, but not entirely unheard of. So, she flips channels while I drift off to sleep. I woke up long enough to see Letterman harassing Jack Hanna, so this was, as far as I was concerned, a win.

The Moose then chimes in with some coughing. Okay, a lot of coughing. Maybe even some hacking. It's hard to say. Either way, I sort of half sleep through that, listening for anything more serious.

Then the Princess comes into our room, and she says she can't sleep. Having been awoken a few of times now, I'm not in helpful daddy mode so much, so I tell her to get a glass of water, restart her lullaby music and return to bed. She does so, and we all move on.

So now we've made it to around 2 AM, and the Moose has a coughing fit that is sufficiently vicious to produce what sounds like coughing up a tremendous hairball. I have this really weird mechanism where I can be dead asleep, but when something is wrong, I leap out of bed and I'm in the boy's room before I really have a complete thought. It was a misfire thank goodness (no hairball), but my lovely wife (who may or may not have fallen asleep by that point) volunteers to give him his nebulizer that we may stop the coughing. He get's his meds to the light of the Cosby show, and I put him back to bed.

Having alleviated any medical issues, Mother Nature decides that an hour and a half of sleep is sufficient, and we get a rollicking thunder storm around four. This leads to the Princess returning to our room, this time visibly unsettled by the storm. She requests entry into our bed, but this typically results in a flurry of little knees and elbows being jabbed between her mother and I. Since her bed fits two better than our bed fits three, I end up grabbing my alarm and sleeping in her bed with her, sandwiched between a pink elephant and a pink poodle.

So, yeah, I don't know how they do it, but somehow everyone knew last night was no sleep night. If I had had more warning, I would have prepared. Made dip or something. Maybe cupcakes. At the very least, I wouldn't have spent yesterday reading up on Japanese urban legends, a mistake that left me more than once half asleep and prancing up the stairs too fast with the ridiculous though of what might be behind me.

Today, just in case, I'm going to keep all my research puppy and rainbow related.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yeah...I've Got a Thing That Night

Last night, I got a letter in the mail that I knew was coming. I identified it before I opened it. It was one of those squarish things that almost always mean the same thing - an invitation - and thanks to a forwarded e-mail from my mother in law, I knew precisely what I was being invited to.

Another high school reunion.

Now then, just five years ago my wife and I made a last minute decision to attend our ten year reunion (which I still feel bad for, since we did not RSVP). We went, it was...interesting. Mostly, it was like high school but with less hair and more drinking. Actually, now that I think more about it, it was just less hair.

Now we've been invited back and this time, it's a definite no. It's not that I don't wonder what everyone is up to (although honestly, things like Facebook are starting to eliminate that). It's just that, well, we're busy, and I just went back five years ago. Furthermore, and I can't stress this enough, I didn't like high school. It blew. As such, the idea of reliving it every ten years is fine. Every five years seems like a bit of overkill to me.

So there you are. I looked over the invite, admired a cute bulldog, and then tossed it. Call me again in five years, and, assuming that I have not yet been hit by a bus, then I'll show. For now, I'll just go on mostly trying to forget high school and the emotional whipping that it was. Besides, I did the smart thing. I took the best part of high school with me.

And she's stuck with me the rest of her life.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stick a Fork In It

Well, it's official. I hate politics. I'm trying to be fair about them. I'm trying to assess the presidential candidates based on their platforms. Unfortunately, I can't anymore.

See, Obama used the expression "lipstick on a pig" in a speech recently. It's a common expression. I heard it a few years ago for the first time. I heard it a few months ago when McCain used it to describe Hillary Clinton's efforts at health care reform. So yeah, it's out there.

But when Obama uses it, he's referring to Sarah Palin according to McCain's people. For me, that was the last straw. Since I haven't heard him disagree, my opinion is that he is okay with this. As such, I am forced to make the following assessment: the group responsible for the Republican presidential campaign, and by association both their nominees for President and Vice President, are all douche bags, and now I have to vote Democratic.

This may seem glib, and in some small way it is (I'm not that knee jerk about these things, preferring research to what seems to be the American way of "hey, he agrees with me on topic X, and that's good enough). Seriously though, since nominating Palin, it seems to me like the Republican party has stopped discussing anything having to do with our country and what they mean to do to fix it. Instead, I hear a lot of stories. Stories of McCain being a POW. Stories of Palin shaking up the Alaska government. No plans, just stories. I understand that we can go look up their plans online if we so wish, but it's telling that the onus is on us, as all they want to do is tell us stories.

But then, they start striking out against the Democrats, labeling any criticism of Palin as sexism. Okay, I can see where you're going to get traction out of that, and let's be honest, this was all about courting the white women, right? I mean, we don't really believe that of all the GOP, she was the person most qualified for this, do we?

But this latest tactic, in my humble opinion, is just too much. Claiming that this comment was a swipe at Palin is beyond bad politics. We've now moved firmly into immaturity. They know it isn't true. They know it's not what he meant. Most importantly, they think we're so stupid that if they tell us that it is what he meant and demand an apology, then we'll all go, "Yeah, you should say you're sorry".

Well, not this guy. I'm taking my vote, and calling my legion of devoted followers to join me (all six of you). I'm tired of seeing what amounts to devious double talk in place of an actual conversation. Unless something spectacular happens during the debates (and I'm talking McCain-kicking-a-puppy spectacular), this one is all over for me.

On a side note, with all of the bandying about of such a term, I am forced to wonder what effect it has on the theater running frog demographic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

With His Wee Beady Eyes

Now, I know a not-really-news press release when I see one, so the "news" that KFC is temporarily removing the secret recipe in an effort to shore up security struck me for exactly what it was - an advertisement. If the schmucks at the Associated Press wish to treat it as actual news, that's their call. It's not like anything interesting is going on, and frankly, after yesterday's gem I can forgive them their little slip ups.

The story itself though is hysterical to me. First, they talk about this recipe as if it is a highly coveted prize. I recall enjoying a piece of extra crispy as much as the next guy back in my more carnivorous days, but it's not like I sat around for days afterwards obsessing about what it was I has just eaten. I was satisfied throwing the Colonel a few bucks once in a while to get my fix, and honestly, I was there as much for the gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits as I was for the deceased birds.

The way they talk though, there are bandits sitting around plotting the theft of their 11 herbs and spices with the vigor one might apply to, say, stealing the Hope diamond. Maybe it's me, but I just can't believe that the guys who run Popeye's are sitting around a big table going over blueprints of the KFC headquarters, discussing how their going to attain the recipe, and this unseat the Colonel from his throne. Actually, death unseated the Colonel in 1980, but you get the idea. (Little known fact - the Colonel was not actually buried, but rather was battered and deep fried in his own recipe, and then served to a bunch of rabid chickens. Yeah, I didn't just totally make that up. It's a fact.)

Anyway, this whole story is clearly just an effort to get a little free PR from the good people in the journalism industry. Whatever. I just wish they wouldn't make comments like "the actual recipe would include some surprises". I mean, it's frankly kind of creepy that they insist on hiding their damned recipe to begin with (as a veggie, you tend to obsess about knowing just what you're eating). Why hint around the fact that whatever it is in there, it would surprise people?

Besides, everyone already knows that it includes an addictive chemical that makes you crave it fortnightly.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Why Nobody Goes to Fresno

This is a little unusual, but the following story is such a gem that I feel the need to post it here so, should it get lost in a brevity that is the internet lifespan, you all get a chance to enjoy it:

Authorities: Burglar wakes men with spice rub

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say they've arrested a man who broke into the home of two California farmworkers, stole money, rubbed one with spices and whacked the other with a sausage before fleeing.

Fresno County sheriff's Lt. Ian Burrimond says 22-year-old Antonio Vasquez was found hiding in a field wearing only a T-shirt, boxers and socks after the Saturday morning attack.

He says deputies arrested Vasquez after finding a wallet containing his ID in the ransacked house.

The farmworkers told deputies the suspect woke them Saturday morning by rubbing spices on one of them and smacking the other with an 8-inch sausage.

Burrimond says money allegedly stolen was recovered.

Information from: The Fresno Bee, http://www.fresnobee.com

What I love about stories like this is that, in such a small space, they offer so much. At it's heart, it's a simple caper, a burglary by a desperate man in need of funds. Despite knowing that it's wrong, he decides he must resort to breaking and entering.

So, you've decided that in order to collect the money to get your wife the surgery she needs to survive (I tend to over think the motives, as it helps me remember that a crime is rarely executed out of evil intentions), you're going to break into a house. Now, the risk inherent to breaking into a house is that you may very well run into someone who owns said house, someone who is most likely going to be less than thrilled with you being there. You need to be able to defend yourself, but you aren't going in there with the intention of hurting anyone, so guns and knives are out. You decide that a pocketful full of spices would effectively blind someone, so you grab some steak rub, and off you go.

But wait! What if the homeowner has a dog? You'll need something to distract the hound from your hindquarters. This is where the sausage comes in. You whip out your 8 inch kielbasa (stop it), and the dog will forget all about his beloved master for a moment or two.

Fine, so we've established why a person might be breaking into a house armed with a sausage and a pocketful of spices, other than being part of the terrifying but talented German Ninja Chef Assassin Squad (the only group of assassins known to offer their victims a last meal). Unfortunately, my imaginative abilities either can't, or simple refuse to, establish a motive for dropping your pants, using the spice rub for its intended purpose on one of the victims, and then whacking someone else with the sausage before fleeing with your ill gotten gains. I mean, I'm assuming the guy didn't stand still while the burglar administered the vicious spice rubbing, so I'm guessing the victim was asleep when the, ahem, 'rubbing' commenced.

This can only mean that the burglar, for whatever reason, went in there with the intention of administering a spice rubbing to someone. I can think of a lot of reasons why I would hit someone across the face with a sausage. I mean, the humiliation alone of having to file a police report that you were pummeled by a polish, beat down by a bratwurst or smacked by a salami would be worth what would most likely result in parole. Plus, just before you hit them, you could look them in the eye and say "Que pasa, kielbasa?" in your best Dirty Harry voice. If someone did that to me, I think I could forgive them for the sausage-based shenanigans that followed. But a spice rub while wearing just a t-shirt, boxer shorts and socks? Man, that's just sick.

Unless, you know, he was planning on eating him later, in which case I suppose it's just being prepared.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Well, That and I Prefer Pepsi

There comes in every marriage a topic that, no matter the effort, a husband and wife must simply disagree upon. No amount of reasoning or debate will sway one or the other from their positions. Dislike it though I might, I have identified this debate between me and my lovely wife, and, failing to sway her, must turn to you, gentle readers, in the hopes that you will be more open to logic and sensibility.

The proper term for soft drinks, as you saw me use a couple of days ago, is "soda pop".

Now, let me lay out for you why this is the most correct term. For starters, I point to the map below (click for a larger view):

Map of soft drink terms in the USA

As you can see, the vast majority if the Unites States prefers the term "pop" when referring to soft drinks (the blue segment of the map). This is the segment my lovely wife falls into. Now, I don't ordinarily consider her to be one of those people who blindly follows the majority, so I suppose I have to blame her upbringing for not making her more understanding of the needs of others. This is ironic, as I have heard tales of her own extended family visiting when she was young and being shunned by close minded individuals who choose not to recognize that not everyone has been raised with the same set of terminology around them.

There is a smaller, yellow segment who uses the term "soda". This term is historically rooted in the soda fountain, where nice young men in paper hats would combine soda water with flavorings to produce what was the original version of soft drinks. Thus, while this term may be viewed as archaic by some, it is historically correct and should not be ignored.

This is why I advocate the term "soda pop". Wherever I am in the country, people know what I'm referring to. It's a simple term that breaches this controversy, and I think that's important. We already disagree too much over too many things. Why not try to be amenable to as many as possible, and thus avoid offense to anyone where we can.

Hmm? The red areas? Well, that's kind of pesky. You see, while I do advocate the support of others in their carbonated beverage terminology choices, I'm afraid that this is an exception. See, it's a thing called a genericised trademark. Basically, using the term "coke" to refer to any variety of soda pop takes away from the brand recognition and intellectual properties of the good people at Coca-Cola. So while I support most people's choices, I'm afraid that the red areas have followed a path that leads to damaging a company's good name, and I can't get behind that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get some aspirin and band aids to deal with the fallout of my decision to try and roller blade down an escalator while holding a large tray of jello.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tapes or CDs Indeed

As part of the new school year, we began establishing the evening routine last night, the first portion of which is emptying the Princess's bag of all school paperwork. We rifle through, reading notes, ignoring fund raisers (seriously, I'm not buying a &#$%ing frozen lasagna from you), and identifying homework, both hers and ours. Last night, we got a surprising note from her teacher. Apparently, one of the students in class has peanut allergies. As such, there is a complete ban in the class of peanut products, including no peanut butter in anyone's lunch.

I was officially taken aback by this. I understand that for bringing in birthday treats, care would have to be taken, and I can even see where snacks eaten in the classroom individually might need to be scrubbed, but not allowing peanut butter in lunches at all? Has our friend arachic hypogea been demonized to such an extent that an American staple of lunchboxes is now to be treated as contraband? Or is this another example of political correctness getting out of hand, us coddling those with disabilities of any kind in an effort to be seen as supportive (as well as avoid any attacks and bad press from disability support groups)?

Either way, I was actually upset by this. As vegetarians, the PB&J lunch is a favorite around here, and taking it away does take a major chunk out of our weekly menu (not to mention remove what is by far the easiest thing to pack). So, I go into research mode and start digging around on this. It seems that this is one of those mystery illnesses that crop up once in a while. According to the Mayo Clinic, peanut allergy symptoms range from a mild rash to anaphylaxis, an irritating symptom that leads that another irritating symptom, sudden death. Even more interesting is that anaphylaxis is treated with an emergency injection of adrenaline, a la Pulp Fiction.

Okay, now that I've established a bit of perspective one the situation (it's a pain to drop peanut butter and jelly from the menu, but not as bad as a kid getting a hypodermic to the chest), I still can't figure out where this came from. I mean, I grew up eating these luscious legumes as a staple of our diet, with nary a report of some kid puffing up and expiring from them. (And yes, they are legumes, not nuts, which is why they are called "pea" nuts. Well, that and their other name, "monkey nuts", doesn't sit well mentally.) Reports vary wildly, some claiming 75 deaths between 1975 and 1999, others claiming 175 deaths annually due to allergies, the majority being peanut related. I'm not linking because I don't frankly trust either source.

So, what is the real reason for the sudden increase in awareness and, seemingly, toxicity of the gentle peanut? Well, I think that's obvious given any real thought. Clearly, the problem is being caused by Republicans.

No, wait. Hear me out. Go back to 1977, when I was a wee lad of only two. Jimmy Carter, our 39th President moves up from his position as Governor of Georgia having achieved a narrow victory over Gerald Ford. Naturally, this honks off the Republicans, who immediately set a plan into action to see to it that Carter will be ousted in four years. What better way to drive down the man's approval rating than to attack him where he lives. Using genetic mutations, the GOP slowly introduces a new breed of peanut into the wild, which quietly and unnoticed replaces the previous incarnation. People start getting sick from them, associating the illness with the sitting President, and voila, four year later we get an actor with the shiniest hair to ever gleam in the oval office.

My God, George Washington Carver must have been rolling in his grave.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Comestible Conundrums

Last night, a question arose that was close to my heart. Why do we eat when we know we shouldn't, and more specifically, why, at those times, do we eat things that are awful for us? It's a strange habit that under certain conditions, I find myself longing for certain foods, even though I know that said foods are garbage.

For some people it's baked goods. Others have to have a chocolate fix. For me, it's actually a combination of foods - chips and soda pop. When under a lot of stress, exhaustion, or even when I'm just feeling blue, I find myself inexorably drawn to the local gas station, where I purchase myself a bag of chips, preferably of a variety that will burn (Jalapeno or Flaming Hot Cheetos for example), and a gallon drum of soda pop. I come back to my desk, I consume, and things are somehow better.

Now of course the respite is momentary, but I don't think that matters. I think I do it because as I get older, my life has gotten more complex. In particular, I frequently find myself straining just to meet the needs of others, be they children or my workplace or whatever. As a result, long periods of time go by where I simply don't do anything for myself, not because I'm neglecting myself, but because I'm just busy.

Taking a moment to enjoy some small treat, however, takes almost no time at all. I can do it while I'm working. It doesn't take away from anyone else. Most importantly, it's mine. It's something that's happening for no reason other than I want it, and it makes me a happy, if only for the time it takes to consume it. There's power in that, in the fact that this decision is totally within my control.

Of course this doesn't speak to why it almost always has to be something in the junk food category, but honestly I think it's the same reason. Nearly everything we do as adults is built around responsibility. As a parent, this is amplified tremendously, every action turning into a potential blueprint for my offspring's life long behavior. As such, when I feel the need to break down and do something just for me, just for the moment of pleasure, it seems that it has to have that element of naughtiness to it. It has to smack of irresponsibility. If it were carrot sticks, somehow I doubt I would achieve the same relief.

Now I realize that this moment of pleasure is not a solution to anything, but not everything has to be. Sometimes the things that stress us out are necessary, and just need to be worked through. Eventually, calm will return. So long as our little indulgences don't become a matter of habit, so what if we occasionally break down and treat ourselves to something decadent?

Responsibility is all well and good, but I'm thinking that a life lacking in a little decadence would be a drab one indeed.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

And I will Hug Them and Love Them and Name Them George

We've discussed the backbreaking work that was my lovely wife and I trying to save out lawn. Well, a three day weekend and a nasty pair of sunburned ears later, and I think we've won. Unfortunately, instead of just being a matter of hours of suffering at the end of rake and shovel, our situation, as it always seems to, became overly complicated.

The way we fixed the yard was with lawn patch. I go out and dig up nice squares of lawn, use the rake to tease it back into a roll, and then flip them over. We cover and level that with some fancy fertilized soil stuff, and then cover the whole mess with lawn patch.

Now, my neighbor had attempted to lay down some of this lawn patch previously with little success. He even warned me when he saw me putting out vast tracts of it that it didn't work. He did not, however, follow the directions, so a week later the first patches we did are now filling in with grass as hoped. I was tempted to go outside, stand on my new lawn, and shake my heiny at the neighbor, but my lovely wife discouraged such action, not out of fear of alienating the neighbors so much as not wanting me to stand on the new lawn yet. That's my guess anyway.

Having proven that it worked, I went in with renewed gusto this weekend and tore up the side and backyards. I was getting the little spots which simply rely on raking out the dead grass when I came to a patch of dead grass that looked off somehow. I figured maybe I had pulled a clump of grass out and left it, although I was trying not to do that as it makes it harder to see what needs to be patched.

Pulling the grass aside, I discovered that we have a bunny nest in the backyard. I took a moment to admire the cute little buggers, covered them back up, and uttered a four letter word that I dare not type here for fear of losing my solid PG-13 rating. See, the last step of the lawn patch is watering the hell out of it twice a day. So now that I've torn up the yard, I have to contend with the potential of drowning a nest of baby bunnies. What with me being a vegetarian, hossenfeffer was out, so now we've become the secondary protectors of four tiny bunnies.

Naturally, I did what I always do when faced with a difficult moral dilemma - I told my lovely wife the situation and asked her how to solve it. After several false starts, she settled on a system of covering the nest with a contraption she built from Tupperware, wooden splints and duct tape (I should have known duct tape would be involved). I cover the bunnies, the sprinklers run, then I uncover them again so mommy bunny can come out and feed them. It's complicated and feels a bit silly, but what can you do?

On the bright side, it has led to another potential epitaph: "It was complicated and felt a bit silly."