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Effortlessly Average

Sort of half-heartedly leading the charge into mediocrity since, oh, let's say around 1987 or so.

My Photo
Location: Roaming (additional charges may apply), Argentina

Proof that with internet access and a powerful laxative, even insipid people will blog; the place where your excellence and my mediocrity collide; where my Karma whips ass on your dogma.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Quotes of the Day

The lights were on on the field. It was FlyBoy's first official game as a defensive tackle for the Colts. His football game had just ended (they won 20-0) and everyone's packing up to leave.

Anouncer: "Thanks to everyone for coming out to watch the game. As you leave, please help us keep the field clean by picking up any debris lying around."

PJ and I have our hands full of chairs, cameras, and blankets. I pointed to our trash of soda cans and hot dog holders. "Puffin, would you please pick up that 'debris' and put it in the trash?"

My 11 year-old daughter The Puffinator: "Sorry Dad, that's debris. I only pick up night-bris."

We've arrived home. I put the Honda in park and we all start to pile out. The drive is completely dark because the flood lights that normally illuminate it are burned out and I've been too lazy to replace them. Also, the only time I remember is at night when it's too dark to do anything about it. The only light at the moment is from the street lamp over by the firehouse. It's been a somewhat humid, misty day and the fog is lending a sort of eeriness to the moment. Buddha Wife walked to the back of the car to unpack the trunk.

FlyBoy, when he stepped out of the car and looked back at her: "Woah, Mom, in this light you look just like a zombie!" [a pause while he considers what he just said] "No offense; I'm not saying you're ugly or anything."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Alexander Only Had To Subdue The World; I Have Children

Alexander the Great had it easy. All he had to do was conquer the world.

But being a parent? Now that’s hard. Let’s review a case in point:

The other day, FlyBoy phoned me at work to say that someone needs to ground his siter, The Puffinator, his older sister by 16 months.

According to him, The Puffinator was sitting on the couch with the long, green pillow I like to watch TV with. She got up to go to the bathroom and get a cup of ice (she likes to suck on it while she watches the Disney Channel). However, she got distracted by something and didn’t make it back for about a half hour.

FlyBoy claims to have been upstairs playing his PS2 and came downstairs to hang out with his sister. He sat down on the couch in the spot both kids share as their favorite. He picked up my pillow, now cool from sitting there for several minutes, and settle down for a fine episode of That’s So Raven.

After a few minutes The Puffinator returned and wanted her spot back. FlyBoy insisted that he’d been sitting there for an hour and that it was vacant when her came downstairs, ergo the spot was now his. Actually, “ergo” was my word; FlyBoy's words were more along the lines of “step off, you loser.” The Puffinator then became enraged and began shouting all manner of derogatory remarks to him, threatening him with severe bodily harm if he didn’t give her the pillow and the choice spot on the couch.

This is the way FlyBoy tells it.

The Puffinator's story is significantly different.

According to her, she was only away for about 10 seconds and he was lying in wait like a panther for her to vacate the spot so he could pounce on it. She kindly and rationally asked him to return her spot, but he flew into a diatribe about her not owning the couch and as far as he was concerned she could go jump in a lake.

So here I sit at work, listening to both children shouting over each other while insisting, no, DEMANDING that I come down like an anvil on the other. Nothing short of capital punishment will satisfy.

I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between.

Now keep in mind this little tiff is over a spot on a couch that is big enough to have it’s own zip code or affect the weather and a pillow that is only one of the approximately 465,824 we have in the house.

My job is difficult because each child seeks immutable justice. My options seem bleak and it seems clear that whichever choice I make, someone’s not going to be happy about it. Now if the so-called “guilty party” is unhappy, I can live with that. My concern is making the innocent party suffer. I could force Bryce to give it back and move off the couch, but what if he’s right? Salem does have a tendency – from time to time – to boss him about and expect more from him than she thinks others should of her. Forcing him to give the pillow back and move from her spot would validate her behavior.

On the other hand, I could tell The Puffinator that she did get up and therefore lost her spot, keeping in line with the “you got up, I got down” philosophy that each child seems to follow on a routine basis. But what if she’s right? FlyBoy does demonstrate the apparent ability to manipulate time, which would suggest that The Puffinator wasn’t out of the room nearly as long as FlyBoy claims.

Or I could take the easy way out – for me – and tell them to just “work it out.” Yeah, on the one hand I’d pat myself on the back for this kind of approach to problem solving because, in my mind, it helps them solve their own problems. But let’s not forget that these are children of 10 and 11, so the proclivity is high that the “working it out” route will devolve into who’s the strongest or best able to deliver a blow and we don’t want to teach the kids that might makes right.

And what must my co-workers think, hearing me on the phone nearly shouting in an effort to compete with the child on the phone, who is now conducting a shouting match with his sister while trying to carry on a conversation with me at the same time.

In the end I chose the time-honored approach parents take when they realize there is no easy answer and shouted “For Chrissake that couch is the size of Texas and we have about a million pillows in that house so you two stop arguing or I swear I’ll throw out both the couch and all the pillows and you can just experience what it’s like to sit on the floor! NOW STOP YELLING AT EACH OTHER AND BE HAPPY OR ELSE!”

I think I may have also mentioned something about starving kids in China.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Mouth 1, Brain 0

Several years ago I was invited to a wedding on the other side of the mountains from my home town. I was eager to go, however, I had far from what you’d call reliable transportation and at the time you had to be at least 25 years of age to rent a car. Another friend suggested that I take Amtrak. That sounded like a good idea to me; there used to be an Amtrak station right downtown and it wasn’t too much more than it would cost to rent a car. I remembered hearing how relaxing and enjoyable travel by train is so the more I thought about it, the more eager I became to buy my ticket. Being a college student, though, I didn’t have the funds to reserve my own cabin. Besides, it wasn’t going to be that long of a trip. So coach is where I ended up.

When the day of departure arrived, I heartily checked in and boarded the car, searching up the isle for my assigned seat. As I was sitting there waiting for the train to finish boarding and do whatever trains do during stops (I imagined the engineer up there topping off the tanks from the water tower flue), I started looking around the car. Across the isle, sitting in an opposite-facing seat a row or so away was a woman and her baby. And let me tell you, it was an ugly baby.

Now normally I’d hesitate before making a statement like that about someone else’s child, but hey, even if I don’t say it, it’s an ugly baby. Admit it, we’ve all seen a child from time to time that looks like the stork dropped it from the homely tree and it hit every branch on the way down.

Anyway, I sat there mesmerized by this child when from the corner of my eye I became vaguely aware of someone entering the car from the other end. And apparently this guy had been visiting the bar car because, well, he’d obviously had a few. The door slid shut and the man made his slow, unsteady way down the isle toward us, humming some illegible tune to himself. When he reached the middle of the car he caught a glimpse of the woman’s baby and stopped cold, just staring at the child the way someone does when he’s not sure if he just spotted Bigfoot.

The woman noticed him staring and, apparently not alien to people doing this, sneered “what are you looking at?”

I mistakenly thought she had caught me staring, so without thinking I replied “I’m looking at your ugly baby, lady. Man, that’s a baaaaad looking baby. You must save a fortune in day care cuz no one’s going to bother that kid.”

And, go figure, she got offended. She yelled for the conductor. When he arrived she was up in arms.

Conductor: “What’s going on?!”

Lady [pointing to me]: “This man just insulted me and I didn’t pay good money to ride this railroad and be insulted!”

Conductor: “I’m so sorry ma’am. I hope you understand that it’s always Amtrak’s goal to ensure every passenger’s experience is a happy one. Perhaps it would be more to your liking if we were to re-arrange your seating. Also, once the train is under way, I’d be happy to arrange for a free dinner in the dining car.”

Lady: “Fine.”

The conductor began helping her with her carry-on bags as she gathered up her ugly baby.

Conductor: “And if you give me a few minutes, I’m sure I can scrounge up a snack for your monkey.”

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Atomic Melville

I wish I could write. I mean really write. Well, yeah, of course I can write – like my name at the bottom of a contract or items on a shopping list. What I’m talking about is the intrinsic ability to paint a picture with words. That ability some people have that makes it possible for them to plant an image in your head without having to go on profusely, describing every little detail. These people have the ability to make you think, or laugh, or cry, or shake your head in whimsical amazement. And I’m apparently not one of them.

Consider Chris’ writing. Or Heather’s. When they relate an experience, you’re swept into the current of the story. And they do so using an amazingly small number of words. You feel as if you’re friends sitting down over cornbread and coffee on a warm autumn afternoon. How have you been? Not bad, you? Not bad. Oh, you’ll never guess what happened the other day. I was… and so your journey begins.

What separates their storytelling from mine is that with theirs you never feel as if you’re watching a movie or looking at someone else’s snapshots. Instead you feel as if you could have been there; as if the experience was a shared one. As you’re floating down the gentle river of the story, they have the ability to take you on a journey of exploration up every tributary along the way. And they do it in such a way that you don’t even know you’ve gone off on a tangent until, with a well placed tie-in word or sentence, you suddenly realize you’ve arrived back at the underlying story. My stories read like driving directions or a mediocre meatloaf recipe. Clinical. Anemic. As if I not only have to tell you the story, but why it's important, amazing, or interesting as well.

I fear that when you read one of my stories, yeah, you may feel as if you’ve gone somewhere, but you don’t really feel compelled to go again. And if you happen across a subsequent story it’s a safe bet you’d assume it’s the same as the last one. My stories seem to be like James Bond movies or John Grisham novels: there’s a smattering of interesting things sprinkled throughout, but by and large you’d be hard pressed to match the titles with the stories if given a stack of each.

But not Heather or Chris. After reading what they write, you’re often disappointed that the ride’s over. When I first came across Chris’ blog, I spent an entire week reading every single entry she’d ever made. Having now discovered Heather’s I’m in the process of doing the same. It’s little wonder they have dozens of replies to every entry.

I wonder, how do you acquire that ability? Are you born with it? Is it genetics that separate those possessing the essential literary talent from the insipid, talentless hacks? I wonder the same thing about other successful figures. People like Tiger Woods. Many people spend their lives devoted to the game of golf and very few ever demonstrate the same fundamental grasp of how to win. Clearly there exists something more elemental, something more philosophical, that places them on higher rungs of the success ladder. Not every golfer will be a Tiger Woods. Not every musical group will be The Beatles. Nor every physicist, Einstein or Hawking. And few writers will ever be Twain or Shakespeare, or even Rowling or Baldacci. But while so many writers won’t ever reach those heights, you can nevertheless see that spark, that fundamental ability to draw in a reader that all the great ones possess. And which, I fear, my own writing style lacks.

Maybe it’s that after reading one of their stories you're left with the sensation of having witnessed it yourself. I’ve heard it said that maturity in writing is the ability to make the reader emotionally connect to the experiences of others, so maybe that’s it.

Is it the conversational overtone to their stories? Is it that when I sit down to write my brain goes into overload and all the ideas try to push themselves onto the page at once, making organization and flow a virtual impossibility? Is it their ability to take a humorous thought or phrase and stretch it into an irreverent, casual, yet meaningful story?

Maybe my frustration stems from the fear of having to accept that this, too, is something I’m just not very good at. All my life I’ve lived in the shadow of the accomplishments of others. I’m the guy who always seems to have a boss ten years his junior. In school my brother was the one with all the muscles and athletic ability, which meant he was the one who got the girls. I was the guy to whom all the cute girls talked to about the cute guys they liked. My name has never been on “the short list.” At least not that I know of. I’m the guy who got the pretty girl to go to the dance only to have her cancel three days before the event because a guy she liked more subsequently asked her out. I'm the person who can gain five pounds from sniffing a grape.

Then I discovered writing and it seemed to be something others envied about me. Something I could do that so many others said they wished they could do. But when I read the works of published authors or even those of the talented amateurs, it somehow tempers the accolades I receive. After all, I think, to a starving man even a cracker tastes like gourmet cuisine. Is it that my writing is truly good, or is it only good in comparison to those who think Melville is something you do to someone who’s underwear is showing?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

When in Rome...

Several years ago I took a sociology class as part of my undergraduate education. For our year-end thesis my group decided we wanted to study the dichotomy between how people perceive good and evil versus how they actually act in their day-to-day lives. We started with the premise that there is more to being good than simply not being bad. We developed an anonymous survey of open-ended questions to guage how people really think when there's no societal pressure to do good. More on that in a later post.

However, one of the questions was: "If you could have one wish, and it could not include money, what would it be?"

My answer has banged around in my head a few times over the years, but I've always thought, as an observer of human behavior, that I'd make a more intelligent choice than your garden variety human who's driven more by personal wants than societal needs. So what would I want if I could have anything? But it can't involve money? Hmmm.

Well, if I could make one wish, it would be that humanity would forget about all this pointless religious and political bickering and join hands in the spirit of harmony and peace. But then I think, is one wish really enough? Why not one more? If I had two wishes I could make, the first would be that humanity would forget about all this pointless religious and political bickering and join hands in the spirit of harmony and peace. The second would be for 30 million dollars a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account. Screw it; they're my wishes, so why can't I have one about money? After all, when you get right down to it all those platitudes about money not being able to buy you happiness are just so much wishful thinking. If I'm going to be miserable, I'd rather do it in a mansion than a shack.

You know, now that I think about it, if I had three wishes I could make, the first of course would be for all humanity to forget about all the pointless religious and political bickering, the second would be for the 30 million dollars every month, and the third would be for all-encompassing power over every living being in the entire universe. And why not? I can't tell you how gratifying it would be to have the ability to shut down the car of the guy who just cut me off in traffic. He'd be driving along, thinking he'd just gotten one over on me, then PTHHHPT!, his car would just shut off. And his hair would suddenly fall out. And his "thing" would shrink to something the size of a pencil eraser; something like, well, a pencil eraser.

And if I had four wishes that I could make, the first would be the crap about humanity definitely, the second would be for the 30 million, the third would be for all the power, and the fourth would be to set aside one month each year to have an extended 31-day orgasm, to be brought out slowly by Nell McAndrew and that model Leticia-somebody, I can't think of her name right now. Of course PJ can come too, and knowing her she's behind me one hundred percent here, I guarantee it.

Wait a minute, maybe the sex thing should be the first wish because, you know, being a guy, sex is one of the primary motivations in my life. So I should made that the first wish, because with the current state affairs in the world it could all go boom tomorrow, right? Then what do you got, y'know?

Now don't get me wrong, the humanity thing, yes, the thing about humanity would be great; that would be nice. But wait a minute, who am I kidding? No one's going to be able to get all those people on the same page. I mean, the logistics of the thing is impossible, more trouble than it's worth! And sure enough you're going to have some windbag like Rush Limbaugh, Ted Kennedy, or some religious zealot come along with all their hot air and spoil it all. So -- we reorganize! Here we go. First, the sex thing. I'll go with that. Second, the money. No no no, I go with the power second, then the money. And then the harmony and peace.

Oh wait, jeez, I forgot about revenge against my enemies! Okay, wait; I need revenge against all my enemies, they should die like pigs in hell! That would be my fourth wish. And, of course, my fifth wish would be for all humanity to forget about all this pointless religious and political bickering and join hands in the spirit of harmony and peace. Yeah, that's the way I'd go.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Why I Choked On My Drink

Right from the start you need to know that I'm a guy. That info will be relevant in a moment.

I used to work in a high stress, open-office environment. My finance group tended to be the final step in the budget process from hell, so whenever someone was late with their estimates, it meant we stayed till midnight to produce trivial figures for the meaningless budget demanded by an unforgiving sychophant boss. Many raging battles were fought with various fatigue-related pains.

On one particular night I had the mother of all stress-induced headaches when I remembered that Karen, one of my counterparts, kept a bottle of Tylenol in her top desk drawer. I eagerly went to check and yep, there was the sweet solution to my pain in all it's little plastic glory. So I popped open the bottle and popped a few pills like a crack addict getting his fix. Headache gone.

The next morning I overheared her talking to Lucy, another person in our group.
Karen: "Luce, did you get into my desk yesterday or this morning?"
Lucy: "No, why?"
Karen [holding up the Tylenol bottle]: "Cuz I think someone took some of my Midol pills."

No, That Was Before Witness Relocation

"Is it 'Pat,' Kelly?"

Question posed to me by someone trying to remember my name during an introduction to a third person.

Full exchange:
Two women approached. One looked at me, her face lighting up in recognition.
"Oh hey," she said to her companion while still eyeing me, "I'd like you to meet someone.
Stopping in front of me, she motioned to her friend "I'd like you to meet Julie. Julie, this is..."
Her lips pursed and her eyes narrowed slightly as she tried to place a name to my face. Every second standing there in silence became more uncomfortable for her, so she decided to make a leap.
"... Is it 'Pat,' Kelly?"

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Quote of the Day

"Why is there a jock strap on the stairs?!"

Rhetorically yelled by Buddha Wife on her way upstairs to inspect the kids' newly cleaned room. Over the years this intelligent woman has developed a habit of talking out loud, to. nobody.

A Man with Simple Goals

When I told my father that my wife was pregnant with our first child, he told me something I have come to accept unequivocally: that becoming a father would change my goals in life in a very profound way. No matter what my goals were, he said, one look at that little pink Bologna loaf would change it all. At the time I wasn't sure I agreed.

See, I've always been ambitious. As a child I identified more with Alex P. Keaton than Joe Montana. By the time I was 19 years old I had a multi-year subscription to The Wall Street Journal, had studied the titans of business and how they had made their fortunes (J.P. Morgan, Nelson Rockefeller, John Paul Getty, etc), followed the movements of gold, silver, and currency more than I did football scores, and could name all the companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The reason why is complicated, but likely born of equal parts personal views about how society values those with wealth and my own lack of self esteem. But whatever the reason, my heart or my views, at that stage I had specific things I wanted out of life:

I wanted the 40 room house with the five car garage.
I wanted the private jet, or at least a jet powered helicopter, piloted by a Brit named Nigel.
I wanted a Ferrari or Aston Martin or, what they Hell; both.
I wanted a maid (preferably one with a smoking body and a desire to polish anything).
I wanted a butler named Franklin.
I wanted to be able to date the world's most beautiful women (read, sleep with).
I wanted to be able to make my desires reality via a simple phone call or, better yet, pay someone to be able to do it by merely insinuating to others what my desires are.
I wanted to be able to travel first class to any port of call on Earth.
I wanted the echo of my words to force changes in national economic policy.
I wanted women to adore me and men to be envious of me.
I wanted the world's powerful and wealthy to wish they were me.
I wanted my face on the $5 bill.
I wanted to be able to influence nations and economies.
I wanted to be wealthy enough to not know exactly how wealthy I was.

Ah, memories. How nice it was to believe that my only quest in life was conquoring the world for my own satisfaction. Back when I believed all that was required was my idealism and the benefit of having before me that magical day that makes everything possible: Tomorrow. It didn't take long following graduation from my undergraduate program to realize that desire and time are not the only factors necessary to achieve grotesque luxury. Indeed, they're often not required at all. There exists a randomness to success that is entirely beyond your control; those who say differently are selling something.

Over the years my father's words have proven true. As soon as my daughter was born, I let go most of the materialistic desires, only wanting to be a good father, husband, and guide. Besides, Ferraris are over-rated and temperamental anyway and who wants to be so famous that every little thing you do is obsessed upon by so many others? And my wife wouldn't really go for my having a nubile, eager-to-please maid, nor am I sure I possess the wisdom required to favorably influence nations.

Nowadays my wish list is pretty short. Today I look back on what I wanted all those years ago and marvel at my intention to swing for the fences without a weapon capable of getting me there. Age, experience, and a healthy dose of reality have replaced my unwavering belief that I would someday rival the likes of Gates, Morgan, or Astor. How humble have they become? Well, let's just say that aside from unleashing stable kids on the world my loftiest goal in life is to lose just enough weight so that my stomach doesn't giggle when I brush my teeth.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Quote of Days Past (Part, uh, Four):

"Cuz I'm not bored with you yet, I guess."

Spoken by Buddha Wife, in response to my asking her why she remains committed to our marriage after more than a decade together.

Quote of Days Past (Part Drei):

“I guess it’s true: the length of a minute depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.”

Spoken by The Puffinator, after being harassed out of the bathroom by her brother, FlyBoy, after only 30 seconds despite having told him she’d be out “in a minute.”

Quote of Days Past (Part Deux):

"That must be the guy who's saving the dog."

Spoken by FlyBoy during the final scene of the movie Dante’s Peak in which the stars are trapped in a mineshaft with their dog Ruffie, after he saw one rescuer with the words “K9 Rescue” on the back of his jacket.

Quote of Days Past (Part Uno):

"I wonder what they call girl bulls."

Spoken by my brother during the bull-riding competition of the Reno Rodeo several years ago. The opposite of the question: what do they call boy cows?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Actually, It's Quite Good On Toast

Before she left, wife and I had a deal: I do all the cooking; she does the cleanup. With my previous career, I was gone too much to do either, so it fell to her to both feed- and clean up after- our family. As a result "quick and easy" usually presided over "variety and healthy." When I took over the cooking I wanted to use fresh everything and infuse a bit of variety into our meals, so I hunt down recipes, experiment on my own, and routinely visit the International Section of the local super-mondo-mart. It's in these isles that I find many unusual ingredients and spices, which also fits in really well with the homeschooling of our kids in that we try to give them a cultural taste of other countries in addition to geography.

The other day I was at the giganta-mart searching for something along the stir-fry variety. I have in mind a shrimp-fest kind of meal for the weekend and was looking for something decidedly asian in flavor. I wanted something exciting, something original, something about which the kids would marvel at my culinary ability. Then in the Chinese isle, we ran across this:

Hmmm.... Several questions came readily to mind. What exactly does Ass Jelly taste like? Is it fruity, given its proximity on the shelf to the imported sliced mangos? How do they harvest it? Is it one particular kind of ass, or will the jelly from any ass suffice? Granted there are some truly inspiring posterior specimens out there, but even so I don't want to eat anything that comes from that particular part of the body since, to me, if an ass is producing jelly, something's seriously wrong. And what conditions must exist for an ass to begin producing jelly anyway? I've had an ass for quite some time and I'm pretty sure it has never produced jelly. Is it Ass Jelly as in "the jelly from the ass" or is it jelly "made from real asses?" And why is it green? Is this a pseudo-tribute to Soilent Green? Furthermore, what recipe can I make that would include this ingredient? "Eat up family! Tonight's cuisine includes my famous garlic and buttermilk mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus with a maple honey glaze, and a slow-cooked lamb roast served with an Ass Jelly sauce." Or "We're having a succulent lemon-mustard salmon with roasted carrots and for dessert, Ass Jelly ice cream!" No, it still sounds unpleasant, something along the lines of a sharp stick to the eye, although now I want some mashed potatoes.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Regular or Unleaded?

Where’s my soapbox?

Today at work, I overheard two people debating the recent controversy regarding the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andres and its rating change from “M” (for, Mature) to “AO” (for, Adults Only) and I have to say I don’t even know where to begin my rant. Or when to stop. If ever.

Do I begin by noting that this game was already rated M and therefore wasn’t supposed to be viewed by anyone under 17 years of age? Or that the change to an AO rating only supposedly delays the buying age by one year? Do I then ask if those pushing for the rating change actually think that at 17 someone is too young to handle the sex, but at 18 are suddenly more mature? Or that at 17 the violence is ok, but the sex is not? Perhaps I could begin by noting, as I would think should be obvious, that the entire stated purpose of the freakin’ game is to commit as many felonious acts as possible, any of which, if committed in reality, would check you into the Hotel Gray Bar for a minimum of 20 years. Then I could underscore the hypocrisy by asking why in the Hell does the game's content suddenly matter just because it deals with sex? I could ask parent and politician alike why they had no visible problem when the game was only about murder, assault, car-jacking, shootouts with the police, hit and run, and other anti-social acts, but suddenly rose to protest when it was discovered there are hidden sex scenes in the game’s programming (provided the gamer is computer savvy enough to download and install the modification required to unlock it).

As well I could inquire why so many parents, when interviewed about the hidden programming, admitted that they allow their underage child to play the game despite knowing the child is a significant number of years below the suggested minimum age. Or wonder, yet again, why American society displays a fundamental intolerance toward anything sexual, but seems to accept violence as if it’s not only ok, but entertainment.

Has our culture really become that rotten at it’s core? Where we’ll turn a blind eye to something that turns murder into sport? Or pay $7.50 to see a particularly bad movie remake of a mediocre television show just because it stars a nubile, big-breasted blond in tight shorts? Or suggesting political policies that ignore proven science simply because a small percentage of people still choose to believe the world is flat? Or our insistence on inserting an apostrophe when using the possessive “its?”

I could rant about all these things, ad nauseum, and I might feel better for a while despite the fact that I believe it would result in no meaningful change in anybody. Or, better yet, I could strip naked, douse myself in gasoline and run flapping down the interstate in search of the eventual blessed release of "death by cop." Turn it into a video game and I’ll bet twelve year olds everwhere could buy it at Wal-Mart for $49.95; unless of course you could actually see my nakedness - then it would be banned.

Something You Don't Want To Hear

"Hey Dad, why doesn't this magnet stick to this floppy disk?"

Spoken by FlyBoy, my endlessly inquisitive son, when, after studying magnetism as a homeschool project, he roamed throughout the house testing the pull of various objects.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Collateral Damage

When I was a kid you had to chain me to the couch to keep me inside. My parents were lucky if I showed up before the sun went down each night. They'd be dragging me inside for dinner as I clawed at the ground in an effort to stay outside "just. a. little. longer. puh-leeeeeese!" My kids, however, seem compelled to grace me with their constant pressence. I was lamenting this after threatening to lock the doors to keep them outside for a while on such a nice day.

Typically they come back in roughly every 15 seconds to ask if they've been outside long enough and can they please come back inside and end the fun I'm forcing them to have. "Thank you, Father," they say. "We've learned so much about life, nature, and entertainment during our exile to the back yard, but while we will always thank you for exposing us to the wonders of what the world has to offer, we beg you to allow us to return to the security and warmth of hearth and home." But this time, Bryce came in to ask a different question:

FlyBoy: hey dad
Me: yeah [I said, ready to revert to the fatherly "when I was a kid" mode if he asked to come back in already]
FlyBoy: I have a question. How long do you think it would take to go away if someone sprayed mace into a closed car?
Me: [uh-oh]

It caused to surface a memory from my childhood. When I was a kid my father was a cop in what was then the smallish town of Reno, Nevada. Actually, his service was in Reno's sister city, Sparks, but since the two towns have long since grown into each other, making the distinction is semantics to everyone except those who live in Sparks.

For several weeks we'd been having problems with neighborhood stray dogs knocking over the garbage cans and spreading the trash all over the yard. Fortunately for us, my brother and I were still too young to be given the task of returning the trash to the cans and my mom wouldn't go anywhere near the mess, so the hazmat cleanup fell to Dad.

Rather than doing the obvious and capturing the dogs for Animal Control, my father took the more vengeful approach. After picking up all the trash for about the dozenth time, he sprayed a liberal helping of mace into them and quickly closed the lids. I guess he figured that if the dogs got into them again, the mace would ensure it would be the last time. Unfortunately it would also prove to be the last time for months that the garbage men emptied the cans.

I hadn't thought about it at the time, but today I can just imagine the poor garbage men rolling up the street in their big green truck, unaware that they were about to be gassed by Officer Vindictive. Back then the garbage trucks in town didn't have automatic emptying mechanisms, so I can picture the man removing the lid as he got ready to dump the can.

From inside the house I remember hearing the truck roll to a stop outside our house. I heard the cans being scraped across the asphalt and the lid being unceremoniously tossed to the ground. Then... "HOLY HELL!!! WHAT THE F@#! IS THAT!!"

Yes, it got rid of that dog; and the garbage men, too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Guy By Any Other Girls Name...

As only a guy whose parents wanted a girl would know, here are ten often overlooked benefits of being a guy with a woman's name.

  1. Assignment to the women's dorm in college.
  2. Toughened by a childhood of regular beatings.
  3. Thanks to registration fraud, the co-ed softball team is stacked.
  4. Actually getting selected from the backstage list to meet the band.
  5. Direct mail marketing from lingerie companies.
  6. Nobody suspects you're the jerk parked in the handicapped spot when the name is announced over the store PA system.
  7. Weaseling out of Selective Service.
  8. Scoring an interview at Legs Legs Legs strip club.
  9. Oratorical skills honed to a fine edge from daily speech explaining how, in Europe, there are plenty of men with your name.
  10. Getting to hear a billion times: "wow, I know a girl named..."

Pigs Don't Sweat

Me: So how was practice, Bud?

FlyBoy: Fine.

Me: Did they work you out hard?

FlyBoy: Yeah.

Me: Did you sweat like a dog?

FlyBoy: Well, no, since dogs don't sweat.

Me [thinking for a moment]: Yeah, I think you're right. Well then, did you sweat like a pig?

Wife: Pigs don't sweat either.

Me: Sure they do. I've heard that idiom my whole life, "sweat like a pig."

Wife: No they don't. Why do you think they roll in the mud? To keep themselves cool.

Me [feeling a little surly]: Well I can always count on you for that.

Wife: For what?

Me: To be sure to point out my mistakes in front of everyone else.

Wife: Well, if you'd stop being wrong...

Monday, August 01, 2005

Image photo

- The Number of People Stunned by My Mediocrity