Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Commuter of the Day 12/16/2009: He Who Smelt it, Dealt it.

I was at Wal-mart last night (my daughter is in her school chorus, and they sang Christmas carols there, something they do every year....it's a good practice for them, because they're also singing at the Governor's Mansion tomorrow), and walking through the parking lot I saw this license plate. On what is probably a very expensive Corvette.



I somehow don't think such a license plate would ever appear on a Jaguar or a Mercedes Benz. But a Corvette? I'm not surprised at all.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Preschooler's Movie Review: Planet 51

On Saturday, my wife took our 10 year old, Thing 1, to see "New Moon" (T1's 2nd viewing, my wife's first). At the same time, I took Thing 2 (who will be 5 in January) to see a showing of "Planet 51," which started around the same time.

I have to admit that I am a bit leery of taking young kids to see movies. Thing 1 is plenty old enough, but Thing 2 is at that age where the Icee from the snack counter could catch up to her, and she might not make it through the whole film. I still have memories of taking Thing 1 to see Miracle when she was about 5, and being halfway through the game between the US and Soviet Union (the climax of the film) and her having to use the bathroom. I carried her at a full sprint down the hall to the bathroom and was back in our seat in less than 2 minutes (hands may or may not have been washed).

Thing 2, unlike her sister, has the ability to nurse an Icee or a drink. Thing 1 has it finished by the time the opening credits are done. Thing 2 usually has some left over by the end of the movie, so she has that going for her. We made it through the movie "Up" back in June with no problems, other than her developing a speech impediment where she would say "Squirrel!" every 5 minutes for a week or so.

I have to say, I was not at all impressed with Planet 51. I think as far as the voice talent went, they did OK with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and the guy from the Mac commercials, but the story just wasn't that good (the writer also did Shrek and Shrek 2, and obviously strained his brain trying to squeeze in just as many double entendres and pop culture references but not as good). However, a movie has to be awful for me to want to leave a theater, and let's face it, I was not there to see Planet 51. I was there to spend quality time with my daughter, who DID want to see the movie. Even though I wasn't that wild about it, I had that feeling that we were going to miss some of it when T2 started fidgeting in her chair. And I knew we were going to have to rush out when she leaned toward me to whisper something. I bent down to hear her, and she cupped her hand around my ear to whisper something that I never thought I'd hear her say:

"Can we go soon?"

I was kind of taken aback by her question. So I said, "What?"

"Is this almost over? I want to go home."

Wow.

Dear producers of Planet 51:

My 4 year old daughter thinks your movie sucks.

Warmest regards,

Steve

Friday, November 20, 2009

Commuter of the Day 11/20/2009

I have a pretty good idea of how this went down. This particular commuter got into his car with his arms full, carrying a Pepsi. He probably put the Pepsi on the roof of his car while he fished out his keys, and put his briefcase, jacket and other items in the back seat. He then got in the front, started his car, and drove off. Forgetting the Pepsi on the roof, of course.

As he drove off, the Pepsi fell over, and rolled around on the roof of his car. Because of his roof rack, it prevented the Pepsi from going off the edge. Instead, the Pepsi merely went back and forth, hitting the rack, and going back in the opposite direction. Due to the low speed limit, there was not enough speed to send the can flying.

One little twist, however. This was my Pepsi. My car. And my commute.

I realized where I had left my Pepsi when I heard a thunk on the roof. I then heard a few more as the Pepsi rolled back and forth, smacking the rack and rolling back to the other side. I even made two turns, and the can continued its back and forth rolling. This was absolutely embarrassing, I couldn't believe that not only I left a soda on my car, but the damn thing wouldn't fall off. I finally made a turn onto a long, straight road which allowed me to get up to a decent speed, and I went from 35 to 50mph pretty quickly. It was at that point I didn't hear any more rolling, and instead, in my rear view mirrow, saw a can of Pepsi flying through the air.

I felt bad about littering. But I felt worse thinking other drivers might have been pointing and laughing at me. And possibly Twittering about it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Educational Pwnage

My younger daughter (Thing 2) is in Pre-K (pre-Kindergarten, the year before going to elementary school....throughout the US, pre-K programs basically prepare kids for starting Kindergarten by getting them to be able to identify letters, numbers, shapes, etc, so they can start Kindergarten already knowing how to write their name, and even read a few words in some cases). She is in a private pre-K program and goes 4 days a week, 9AM to 1PM (state pre-K programs are from 8-2:15, full day basically).

One of her best friends is a year older than she is. That girl is in Kindergarten, and was in a state pre-K program last year.

As many of you know, a lot of education is taught through song. We learn the ABC's by putting it to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (thus, when we're adults and pulled over at a DWI checkpoint, when asked to recite the ABC's without singing, it's a guaranteed fail). We also learn the history of the universe from The Barenaked Ladies "Big Bang" (trust me, it's a lot more fun than 4 years of physical science at a university).

Apparently, someone decided that learning the months of the year is a lot easier if you put it to a tune. Of course, the number of tunes whose length matches that of the months of the year is somewhat limited. So limited, in fact, that apparently "The Macarena" is the ONLY one. I know this, because if there was another one, don't you think they would have used that one instead of "The Macarena"? So, the new thing is to now teach the months of the year, to the tune of "The Macarena," complete with the dance moves that go along with it (if you live in a part of this planet where "The Macarena" never hit pop culture, count yourself lucky).

Because the Months Song is taught in both pre-K and Kindergarten, Thing 2 and her friend both know it, and both sing it. Recently, they did this in front of me. Thing 2 started it, doing the hand gestures, singing perfectly, and got all 12 months, in their right order, and stuck the landing. By that, I mean she took a bow. Literally. Her friend then made an attempt at it. The wheels fell of that bus by the time she hit April. Next thing you know, December is in the Summer, August is in Winter, and a couple months got counted twice, and some not at all. Naturally, I had to really stifle the snickering and potential guffaws that wanted to break free. I certainly didn't want to hurt this poor girl's feelings.

Please make no mistake, this is not an argument for private school. I was educated in a public school system, as were my brothers, and most of us turned out OK. My kids will go through the public school system, and probably attend public universities. This is me simply being very proud that my kid is smarter than another kid a full year older than her.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Father of the Year

Yesterday, my 10 year old, Thing 1, came up to me and said, "Dad, I have a silly question. I can't believe I'm asking this, but how do you spell 'near'?"

"Near?" I asked, making sure I heard her.

"Yes, near. I know I should know this, but it's been a long day and I just can't think straight."

"Simple," I said. "Just remember this classic rule, when spelling with vowels. 'I before E, except after C.'"

She looked at me funny, and thought for a minute. I could see the gears turning. Finally, she looked at me like I was a giant idiot and said, "There's no "i" in "near". I know there's an e, it's n-e-blank-r, but there's no i."

"Thank goodness you at least knew that," I replied. "I'll give you a hint, it's another vowel, and you already eliminated one of them."

I think she then went and asked her mom.

How I Make Neighbors Cry

First of all, if making your neighbor cry is your goal, it’s always best to find one that is hyper-sensitive, and possibly a semi shut-in. I suppose a drunk will work too, as drunks can go from “fighty” to “teary” very quickly.

Second…have a damn good reason to make her cry, or you just come across as an asshole. I’m not an asshole. I had a DAMN good reason.

There is a family across the street whom I affectionately call “The Bumpus Family.” I won’t name the kids, but one of them is named after one of the 5 boroughs of New York City, which seems to be all the rage (or was 6-8 years ago). And they have dogs. 2 dogs, to be exact. They also have an electric dog fence in their back yard. On exactly 1 of the 4 sides of their backyard fence. No more, no less.

Needless to say, with their digging ability, and their ability to determine that they won’t get an electric shock every time they dig under 3 of the 4 sides of their backyard fence, our neighborhood often looks like one of the scenes from the move “A Christmas Story,” when the dogs are running through the Parker’s house (minus the stealing of the Christmas turkey). Most of the people on our block have discussed these dogs, and how they have managed to survive without getting hauled off by animal control. This past weekend, the Bumpus family went to Disney World, leaving the grandparents in charge of the dogs. The dogs got out the day they flew out of town on Thursday, and came back home on Sunday when the family got back and the kids hauled them back home.

Recently, a line was crossed when I went from my house into my garage (the garage door was open) to walk out to the driveway to get into my car, before driving to work. I was quite surprised to see a dog walking around my wife’s car in the garage, ignoring me. I closed the door to make sure my cat didn’t dart out (she hates dogs) and heard this dog panting and walking just outside the door. Once the noise went away, I walked out to my car, threw my briefcase in the back, and walked across the street to the Bumpus House.

After ringing the doorbell a couple of times, a very nervous mom and daughter (the daughter is in middle school, so her bus is later and she was still home) answered the door. The father had already gone to work. I started by asking them if they knew where their dogs were. I received a blank stare in response. The ensuing conversation went like this:

Me: I walked out of my house this morning and found your dog in my garage.
Mom: I’m awful sorry, we…
Me: Your dogs spent the weekend walking around the entire neighborhood, as far as two streets away.
Mom: You see, we were out…
Me: I have a right as a homeowner to be able to walk to my car, or even into my garage, without having a neighbor’s dog in my garage.
Mom: I’m really sor….
Me: Neighbors up and down this street have been talking about these dogs, and a few of them have suggested calling animal control.
Mom: I’m…
Me: I am tired of seeing your dogs up and down the street running around, and I especially don’t want them pooping in my yard. Please do something about it immediately.

At that point, I left the porch.

That night, while preparing to sit down to dinner, the phone rang. It was Mr. Bumpus, the father. He called to apologize for his dogs being in my garage, but apparently, what ticked him off the most was that after I left, his wife called him, extremely upset, because I was, and I quote, “rude, mean, and sarcastic.” Obviously, his wife doesn’t know what that word meant, because sarcasm is, “oh, I just LOVE it when your dogs run free everywhere.” As I told him, I was blunt, to the point, and I wanted to make sure I got my point across.

Can you believe the balls on this guy? He calls me to make me feel guilty for upsetting his wife, and he told me that if there’s an issue with the dogs, I should go see him. Apparently, his wife is very sensitive, and cares what people think (and is apparently concerned now that the neighbors think they’re trailer trash). He, on the other hand, does not care. My response? “Sir, that’s where the problem is. If your dogs continue to run free, they will be picked up by animal control and you will be ticketed, and if the dogs have no tags, they will be put down. So you SHOULD care what people think. As for me, I will not apologize for talking to your wife. I am not going to wait until YOU get home if your dogs are in my yard in the morning. It does me no good if the problem is happening right there.”

He kept alluding to the fact that his wife was very upset, and felt intimidated, and couldn’t get in a word in edgewise with me talking this morning, which leads me to believe she was an hysterical mess. I think he was surprised when I explained to him that I was not there to discuss, nor debate. I was there to tell them to do something about their dogs. Why their dogs were running loose was irrelevant to me. But, I did not tell him to go to hell or pound sand, as our daughters all play together, and if I was a dick to him, then he would tell his family what he thought, and his daughters would take it out on my daughter, and then there would be a war.

So, once again, issues with neighbors rears its ugly head. I really think we need to move within the next year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"I Call"

Kids love playing the game of “I call.”

“I call getting to lick the beater!”
“I call shotgun!”
“I call sitting next to (insert friend or preferred parent’s name here)”!
“I call getting the next game of Pac-Man/Guitar Hero/Space Invaders!”
“I call lighting the next bottle rocket!”

At least, these were the things that were called in my house growing up (aside from Guitar hero).

My two daughters, Thing 1 and Thing 2, have not been happy with their assigned seating at the dinner table lately. Well, Thing 2 has not been happy. From her seat, Thing 1 can see the TV in the living room, whereas Thing 2 can’t. Occasionally, we’ll let Thing 2 pick a different seat. Lately, we make it easier by shutting the TV off during dinner (which is tough, that’s when iCarly is on). Regardless, I’m on the verge of simply letting Thing 2 take my seat, which would not only allow Thing 2 to see the TV if she turned around, but block Thing 1 from seeing it (assuming we allowed the TV to be on).

Needless to say, this created conflict too. Both of them now want to sit in my normal seat. I’m convinced they keep changing their minds simply out of spite. Neither one of them is happy unless the other one is unhappy. Since Thing 1 is 10-1/2 and Thing 2 is 4-1/2, it makes for interesting conversations. For example, the latest:

Thing 1: I call Dad’s seat tomorrow!
Thing 2: Oh yeah? I call that tomorrow, I get to hit you…..really badly…..in the face!

As you can see, Thing 2 wastes no time, at a tender age, in employing the Nuclear Option in all negotiations. I’d sure as hell hate to see how she handles the argument over licking the beater.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

5 Weeks. And Counting.

Quite some time ago, I wrote some comments regarding Halloween costumes. Well, they’re actually more like rules. Yes, they’re definitely rules. And I will not negotiate any of them.

Sometime between now and the blessed event, I will post some more specific rules regarding costumes. For now, here’s a good start, so you can start planning ahead.

As you can guess, I’m a bit excited for the arrival of Halloween. Now, I believe it is a holiday that can be shared by all. It’s a time for fun, and letting the hair down. No Satanism, no evil shit, just people having a good time. For everyone to have a good time trick or treating (meaning, for ME to have a good time), here are some simple rules:

1. You better be wearing a costume. I don’t care if you’re a teenager, if you’re at my house grubbing for free candy, you better entertain me. You, as a trick-or-treater, are obligated to put out some effort in order to get the candy reward. Put on a sheet and call yourself a ghost. Paint your face to look like an accident victim. I don’t care, but make the effort. Don’t phone it in. I will still give you candy, because I don’t want my house vandalized, but I have 2 kinds of candy. The good stuff for kids in costumes, and the crappy stuff for kids without costumes. If you are without costume, you will get root beer ringpops, which are foul, or super sour lemon balls, which are inedible.

2. Don’t ask for a different type of candy. You get what you get and you don’t bitch a fit.

3. Don’t fucking touch anything on my yard. I put in some effort to entertain you. If you violate that trust, you are ruining it for everyone.

4. You may come to my house as many times as you want in one night….but you better be wearing a different costume each time. The way I see it, if you are putting that much effort into it, you should be rewarded. Most kids don’t believe me. One kid, last year, called my bluff, and he was rewarded. I like seeing all the creative costumes as much as you enjoy getting free candy, you mooch.

5. Parents…..stick with your kids. It’s a dangerous world. Many of our neighborhoods have sex offenders living there. I know mine does. Please, keep an eye on them, we don’t want to spoil this day.

6. All peanut butter cups are mine. This is not negotiable.

7. Teenagers too cool to trick or treat….while you’re hanging out in the street, impressing your ugly girlfriends, don’t race up and down the streets in your cars, dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, etc. 2 years ago, I called the cops on you. You know I will do it again.

8. Parents…if you are taking kids Trick or treating, please, if it is a 2-parent home, one of you stay home and hand out candy. I consider this Karma. When you are getting candy for free, you should be giving candy for free. When both parents are gone, the house is dark, and it makes it a lousy neighborhood to T or T in. It’s only fair.

9. Kids, be respectful. People are giving you free candy. When we open the door, yell “Trick or Treat!” When we give you candy, say thank you.

10. Have fun. Don’t be jerks, vandalizing stuff, making loud noises, ringing bells a million times. Don’t make fun of other kids’ costumes, they put effort into them for one reason or another. As Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan once said: Be Excellent To Each Other.

Above all else, never, ever forget Rule #6.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If I owned a fragrance line, I'd call it "Schadenfreude."

As mentioned in my previous entry, Atlanta has received a biblical amount of rain. It started raining last Tuesday, and it rained every day since, until today. Today is the first day I've seen the sun since last Monday. Of course, another line of storms is on their way from Alabama. Proof that nothing good comes from Alabama (to further prove my point, Alabama has produced as many American Idol contestants as astronauts, according to Wikipedia).

I left the office at 3:30 yesterday after hearing reports on the radio that there were several bridges throughout the metro area that, if I didn't get across them now, they would not be there in a couple of hours. Or something like that. So, after wrapping up business, I got in my car and went home. Things went smooth until the last leg of my journey, which was about 2 miles of road on Highway 41, the main artery through Cobb County. Apparently, there was severe flooding north of my side road, so everyone at my side road had to either turn left or right. Thankfully, I had the good sense not to drink anything on the way home.

After about half a mile on Hwy 41, driving in the left lane, I was caught by surprise by a small Toyota 4WD pickup truck driving by me on the left. What shocked me was that there was no actual road to my left, just a grass and mud median with about a 20 degree sideways pitch to the left. I quickly surmised that he had to turn left at the next light, and was cutting in line to get to that left turn lane up ahead. I watched him bounce along for about a quarter of a mile, avoiding obstacles, the occasional drain pipe, things like that. But, after much bouncing along, he made it. For the last couple hundred feet, he was followed by a Jeep Cherokee that got the same idea, both of them going slow and bouncing up to the intersection.

They were about 20 feet from the additional left turn lane being added, when a police car passed them going south. Seeing 2 vehicles drive illegally on the grass median, the cop hit the brakes and turned on his lights. He then backed up on Hwy 41 (all the traffic was heading north....as the road was closed north of where we were, nobody was behind him). The cop pulled off to the side when he got near the intersection, and waved both vehicles over. A Toyota Camry was behind them and thought he got pulled over too, but as the Camry was not off-roading, he was waved past them.

The driver of the Toyota pickup obviously thought he had done nothing wrong, so he got out and started holding up his arms in a "WTF" gesture. I was still a few hundred yards away, but I clearly saw him stop, and turn around and get back in his truck. Clearly the cop was taking no shit on this day, and ordered him back into his vehicle (police in traffic stops do NOT want the occupants to leave the vehicle, and if necessary, a tasing will occur).

Traffic was going slowly enough that I was at first fearful that the cop would issue both tickets and have them on their way before I could get up to them. However, he was clearly taking his time. Probably because douchebags that cut in line in traffic have previous arrests to go through, to make sure there are no outstanding warrants. But, I was rewarded when I finally got to that intersection and they were still there. I was able to have my coveted moment of Schadenfreude by laughing, and saying, "Haha, fuckerrrr!!!" and giving them the "You're Number 1" sign. Oh, and I took their picture for posterity. It's not a good one, as it was raining and the raindrops obscured the view somewhat. But, this is what douchebags drive, apparently.



Here is the view of the scene as I passed them, from my side-view mirror. You can see the cop pulling over both douchenozzles, and the loooooong line of cars behind me.



Needless to say, I had my moment of Schadenfreude. Getting pleasure from the misery of others. This was tempered somewhat when I heard on the radio that about 7 people died in the floods throughout Atlanta. One of them was a 3 year old who was in a mobile home that got swept away in a flood, into a river, and broke in half. This was further encouragement to take it easy, drive carefully, make it home OK, and hug my kids.

Those thoughts, of course, went down the toilet when I got out of my car and saw the mud splatter all over the driver's side from the asshole in the white truck as he drove by me, and again I was thankful that a cop was driving by and ticketed that asshole.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Work Conversation

While at work today, outside my windows (which were behind me), the skies were opening up and unleashing a torrential rainstorm which some of you may have read about or seen on TV. At about 11:30AM, one of my coworkers poked his head in my office.

D: Hey Steve...have you looked outside?
Me: Yeah, it's raining like crazy. Sideways, last time I looked.
D: Did you see your car?
Me: No, why?
D: Take a look. You might want to do something about that.

I turned around and looked out the window. Unable to see anything, I stood and walked to the window, and spread open the blinds so that I could see better, as the rain was obscuring everything. Letting my eyes focus, I could make out my car. Unfortunately, I couldn't make out the asphalt on which it was parked, as it was completely surrounded by a rapidly growing lake.



I realize to some it may seem like another crappy Blackberry photo (taken with a coworker's phone), but it was raining so unbelievably hard, getting it in focus was impossible with a camera phone. What you can't see is the water going up to the bottom of my door. I quickly ran across the parking lot to get in and move it. The water was above my ankles, and while running, it completely soaked my pants above the knees. I didn't bother with an umbrella, as it would only slow me down.

I jumped in, started it, and put it into gear. And it wouldn't move. I gunned it, and I could feel the wheels turning very slowly. I began to panic, until I realized I had, for reasons unknown, put on the parking brake that morning (something I never do unless parking on a hill). I disengaged it and moved across the lot, where it was higher. It was then that I saw the nearby storm drain had obviously clogged up, creating a dam. The warehouse manager parked next to the drain, and the water was above the lower rim of the door, and water got inside his car.

My initial plan was to go home at lunch and change into dry clothes (less than 8 miles away). Unfortunately, every road to get home was closed due to flooding. It was certainly nothing like the Mississippi Valley in 1993, or the Brisbane floods of 1974, but for the Atlanta area, this was pretty damn bad. After 2 miles, I turned around and went back to the office, hoping matters would improve later. On the way back, another two coworkers called me. They had gone out for lunch, drove down the road past a Wal-Mart, and drove through what they thought was a puddle, only to find the water was halfway up their door, and they got flooded out. By the time I got there to pick them up, they got the car pulled out, and the local tire place stuck cones in front of the puddle to block it. Another car came zooming down the road, promptly drove around the cones, and then buried their car in over three feet of water. Clearly, a flooded road with cones in front of it was not enough to stop that dumbass.

My car, thankfully, is dry. It took me 90 minutes to get home, as there was only one road open that could get me there. All of the schools in the county are closed tomorrow, so that kids don't get stranded at schools (unlike today). I'm considering risking the drive in to work, down flooded roads, in order to avoid working from home with a 10 year old and 4 year old with chronic cabin fever.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's Grosser Than Gross?

Has anyone here ever played this game as a kid? I know it made it further than my hometown, because I knew kids from all around the area, usually at places like Boy Scout camp, school museum trips, etc, where this would be a discussion. It was basically a joke, usually along the lines of the book series "Truly Tasteless Jokes," that would go as follows:

Q: What's grosser than gross?
A: Falling off the Empire State Building and landing on a bicycle with no seat.

Obviously, this would generate loud groans among the male audience (it was always boys telling these, girls seemed to have too much good sense).

Naturally, the ante would be upped, when someone would say:

Q: What's grosser than that?
A: Halfway down, you catch your eyelid on a hook.

Or:
Q: What's grosser than gross?
A: Eating a bowl of corn flakes and finding your brother lost his scab collection.
Q: What's grosser than that?
A: Kissing your grandmother and she slips you the tongue.

You get the point. In retrospect, it was really a disgusting way to spend the time. For other people, I mean. I have two older brothers, so I had access to all of their dirty joke books (and dirty magazines), so I often had a distinct advantage when playing "What's Grosser Than Gross?" It's kind of one of the things I miss about childhood, sitting around with friends telling dirty jokes. I see my daughter doing the same thing with her friends, talking quietly and laughing, but I have a hard time believing she's telling gross jokes.

In honor of one of my favorite activities of my childhood, I will now play a blog version of What's Grosser than Gross?

Q: What's Grosser than Gross?
A: My Thumbnail:


Q: What's Grosser than That?
A: The Daisy Sour Cream that expired on June 1, 2009, and is still sitting in the work fridge. You can kind of make out where it's starting to turn blue, and get all lumpy. Imagine that on a baked potato!


Enjoy the gross-out session. I would like to say you've been warned, but that would've taken away all the fun.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school!

I pulled out of my driveway today and went to the end of the street, where I made my usual right turn. As I approached this intersection, I could see the high school-aged boy that lives next door to me (the younger brother of the tramp that likes to throw loud parties). He was sitting in the front yard of the house, presumably waiting for the school bus (I didn't realize that's where the high school bus stop is, I'm usually on my way to work a little earlier).

He was on the side street, his back to me, and as I approached, I could see that his hand was up to his mouth, and a puff of smoke had plumed away from his mouth. As it is still September, I knew it wasn't his cold breath, so I knew right away David was puffing away on a cigarette.

As I came to the stop sign and turned (yes, it was a rolling turn), I saw his arm drop. When he recognized me, he waved, and I returned the wave. I could see that neither hand held a cigarette. So, once I passed him, I looked in my rearview mirror. Sure enough, David reached between his legs, and I saw him pick a cigarette off the ground and continue smoking.

It's been 20 years since I began my senior year in high school, but I can see not much has changed. Many teenagers still smoke, and many of them are still sneaking it. And, amazingly, they think they get away with it. This alone makes it funny. And it's even funnier if young David thinks he can get away with it at home. His dad is not a smoker (which means he has a sense of smell), so chances are his dad knows exactly what David is doing at the bus stop.

And if not, I wonder if I can parlay this fact into a chance for some free lawn care in return for my silence?

Naturally, I'm interested in hearing your smoking stories, and if you got caught. I never smoked in high school, but I did try it 3 or 4 times in college (alcohol was involved, and even while drunk I knew I did not enjoy it).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Random Thoughts 9/9/2009

Fact: I love free breakroom donuts more than I fear catching H1N1 Swine Flu from germs left on those donuts by unwashed coworkers.

Fact: In the last 3 years, I have seen a doctor on 3 different occasions for soccer-related injuries (broken finger, bruised ribs, sprained ankle). Today, I had to tell a doctor I injured myself while painting lines on a soccer field.

Fact: I cut my thumbnail in half, right down the middle, on a sharp metal protrusion from the paint sprayer. That could be the worst soccer-related injury I've ever had.

Fact: The idea of losing my thumbnail (which is a when, not if, scenario) is probably going to keep me awake at night.

Fact: I'm coaching two soccer teams this year. One, a U12 girls' team with 10 and 11 year old pre-teens. The other, a U6 team filled with kids aged 4-1/2 to 5. This is the first week where both are practicing. I'm not too concerned about which one is worse. I'm more concerned with the over/under on how long my sanity holds out.

Fact: Soccer moms FTW.

Fact: "Leverage" could be one of my 3 favorite current TV shows (on TNT). This is not helping my unhealthy obsession with Gina Bellman, who could be one of the greatest things ever created in New Zealand.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my baby brother (who isn't so much a baby anymore) in, of all places, New York City. From the time of my birth until I was 18, and again from the age of 22 until 26, I lived about 75 minutes from the city by train, and as far as I was concerned, that was close enough. Trips to the city were limited to museums, planetariums, many baseball games (mostly Mets, and 1 Yankees game on a work-related outing) and exactly 1 circus. Never, until last weekend, have I ever spent a night in the city.

I expected to be kept up all night long with sirens, horns honking, gunshots, etc. Amazingly, the only thing that kept me awake was the hum of the air conditioner in the room. Due to the location of the wedding, we stayed in the Radio City Apartments, which is right near Rockefeller Plaza, Radio City Music Hall, and Times Square, which is not the Times Square of my youth (strip clubs, porn shops, peep shows, etc). It's the Times Square for my kids' youth (a large Toys R Us, an M&M's store, a Hershey's store, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, etc). This was the first time I actually got to walk around the city and just look, as all other previous visits were for a specific destination and then a trip back home to Jersey, so I actually got to do more people-watching.

Between the trip up and the wedding itself I have a lot of thoughts to put down, so I just want to touch on the unusual things I saw or experienced:

-Each morning, outside our hotel, sat a homeless Native American, with a sign that read that he was trying to get back home to Arizona. For the first time in years, I gave money to a homeless person. 10 feet away from him, my daughter found a dime and a penny on the ground, and I made her give the money to that guy, along with whatever change was in my pocket. I probably would've ignored him except all I could think of was the Crying Indian Commercial from my childhood. Remembering that guy crying guilted me into helping out this Indian in NYC.

-I left my cell phone charger in NJ. There was a Verizon store right next to the hotel, and my phone was running low, so on Saturday morning I walked down there to see if I could buy a charger. It was closed. The city may never sleep, but God help you if you need to buy a cell phone or pay your bill on a Saturday.

-My brother works in the Empire State Building, so he was able to get us specially-priced tickets that also enabled us to skip the line and go right to the elevators to the observation deck. I immediately noticed, west of the ESB, Penn Plaza and Madison Square Garden, where the NY Rangers play in the National Hockey League. When I pointed this landmark out to Thing 1, from approximately 2 blocks over and 1058 feet up, she proceeded to boo Madison Square Garden. That's my girl! (Suck it, Rangers!)

-While sightseeing on Saturday morning, during a steady rain, in Times Square, a Latino guy wearing shorts and a t-shirt crossed the road, near 47th Street. I should point out that all he was wearing were shorts and a t-shirt. He was pushing a double-decker hand cart that had cases of soda on the top, and underneath was a boom box playing a Def Leppard song. He pushed it towards the crowd, and when he came across an obstacle, he would hop around, change direction, and move to avoid hitting people, always hopping, like he was the happiest guy on earth. He almost looked like Frogger, trying to avoid hitting people with his cart. All the while with Def Leppard blaring. Barefoot. It was possibly the most surreal moment of the weekend.

-But, the absolute strangest sight of the weekend occurred while I visited the lunch counter right next to the hotel. It had a short-order counter for breakfast and lunch foods (eggs, bacon, home fries, sandwiches, etc). A short Latino behind the counter would take orders, and had fairly good English. Better than most of the people ordering, who were literally from all over the world (I heard Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Hindi). After I placed my order, for a couple of bagels and some scrambled eggs with bacon, an Indian (Hindi) guy next to me ordered. He asked for a bagel, with cream cheese, and eggs. Now, normally you put one or the other on a bagel. But combining the sweetness of cream cheese with fried eggs is, for lack of a better word, disgusting. It's like cheese on Chinese food. So, the Indian gentleman places his order, and the Latino behind the counter wrinkled up his face, and said, "bagel...with cream cheese, and eggs?" And the Indian confirms this order. And the cook again says, "with eggs?" With even more disbelief. Meanwhile, my stomach is just twisting at the thought. And the Indian says, "yes, with eggs." and one last time, the cook says, "EGGS?" Just to make sure he heard him right. And the Indian nodded affirmation. The cook shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and went to prepare the order, and undoubtedly a part of his soul died at the thought that he came all the way to America to put that piece of shit food order together. I almost wanted to ask that guy if he was sure he wanted eggs on a bagel with cream cheese.

Next up: Emergency tuxedo repairs, Princess Bride quotes, shitty NY pizza, open bars, and shit for which people will pay $118.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Commuter of the Day 8/17/2009: Muscle vs. Atrophy

While driving near my office today, I saw for the first time, up close, the new Camaro. A redesign of the classic American muscle car, more angular than the Camaro of the 80's and 90's, more of a re-imaging of the original 60's Camaro. While I thought the front end looked kind of dorky, I liked this view. To date, I had only seen it in commercials.



Since this was the first time I had seen this on the road, I figured this was an easy slam-dunk for commuter of the day. Until I was emailed the following photo. I don't want to say in which state this was seen, because I don't want to destroy the morale of millions of people.



Right...where to start? First of all, as I've said before, anyone who would pay all that money to have the brand of vehicle painted/decaled to that extent onto the side of the vehicle without actually having a check in-hand from the manufacturer to cover advertising costs is a complete douchebag. The human body is 98% water, those people are 98% vinegar and water.

Secondly....a spoiler? Seriously? On a Ford Focus? Are they expecting it to go fast enough where becoming airborne is a problem? Jesus, you watch "Fast and the Furious" and you suddenly think you can put a spoiler on anything. Jackass. My dad had a college buddy who owned a Corvette back in the 60's, and once drove it hard enough that he could've used a spoiler and unfortunately didn't have one (he was a good enough driver that he was able to maintain control). But this isn't a Vette. It's a farking FOCUS.

Lastly.....you know, most people wouldn't think that blue painter's masking tape would go well on the rims like that, so I kind of have to admire their bold choice.

I'm kidding of course. The driver is clearly an asshole. To prove he's an asshole, he's parked his car near the street, so people can see how much money he spent on a commuter car. And it's clear that he got the upgraded pipes, so while he's driving through this nice quiet community, everyone can say, "Ahh, Asshole's coming home!"

So, between the two vehicles, we have one that is proof that some people want to relive their youth, while others are too stupid too appreciate theirs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Was This Inappropriate?

I have a supplier that recently pushed out the delivery on a part (which I've purchased before) from 4 weeks to 12 weeks. Needless to say, this is outside my customer's window for the project they have going on, and my customer wants to know why it's late.

Thus, I have been peppering my vendor with questions. Is this a supply chain issue? Are their sub-vendors late? Is the factory behind schedule? Is there an infrastructure issue that we need to know about, and possibly try to find another supplier?

Each time I sent her an email, she would simply reply that the new delivery is 12 weeks, with no other explanation. She repeated this statement each time I asked her why the lead time tripled.

Finally, exasperated, I changed tactics, and sent her the following message:

What is driving the lead time? Does it have to go through a 4 week heat-treat process? Did the factory get leveled by a flood/earthquake? Are you waiting for it to be forged by dwarves under a mountain, using primitive tools, and then carried by donkeys?

Her response: In the future, please refrain from the inappropriate comments. I do not treat you with any disrespect. She then rambled on again how the lead time is 12 weeks and she won't respond to me again if I keep using inappropriate language.

I knew she wasn't going to change her answer, but I at least got her worked up a little. I just hope she knew I meant the mythological dwarves found in the Lord of the Rings, and not someone you'd find in a sideshow, or a reality tv show. Because if it was the latter, well, that would've been inappropriate.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

"Hey Steve, what're you doing?" my boss inquired, as I pressed the cell phone to my ear with my shoulder as I opened another cardboard box.

"Nothing, just looking for my grandmother's ashes," I replied.

"Uhhh.....oooookay," was his response, along with a half chuckle in the event I was only kidding.

"Don't worry, you can laugh, it's a funny story," I reassured him. And, as I searched my mom's basement looking for Grandma's ashes (while in New Jersey last summer on vacation), answering what WAS an emergency work-related phone call (which my boss quickly forgot about, once he had something better to discuss), I told him the story:

It all started in February 1982. Or ended, I guess would be the better way to put it. My grandmother Elinor passed away. The cause of death was a foot race between lung cancer due to decades of smoking and liver disease due to decades of drinking. In fact, it was the drinking that ended her marriage with my grandfather, and was bad enough that my dad and his sister lived with my grandfather until they went off to college. Ultimately, the lung cancer won out, relieving her of a couple of years of pain. She was the first relative I ever had that died, and I remember being absolutely destroyed, despite the fact that I barely knew the woman. When you're ten, all death is a tragedy. As you age, you can pick and choose your tragedies as you see fit.

There was no funeral, as I recall. We lived in New Jersey, Elinor lived outside of Chicago near my dad's sister. Only my dad went out west to help my aunt handle the affairs. The rest of us followed 2 months later, at Spring Break, to help clean out her apartment and haul back to NJ the items we claimed. I knew nothing of how she was interred, or even if she was interred.

I remained blissfully ignorant to that part of the death process, until one day, several years later (for reasons still unknown), I was snooping in my parent's bedroom. My parents had two dressers in their room, one of which was opposite their bed and on which sat the TV in their room. They also had a video game system (possibly a Nintendo) in there. It was kept there so that we didn't tie up the main TV in the living room. Bored from playing one game for a while, I decided to do what boys often do. I started opening up drawers just to see what was inside. In the very bottom drawer of this dresser, there sat nothing except a brown cardboard box. The box was about the size of two tissue boxes stacked one on top of another. Growing more and more curious, I opened that box, and inside found a cylindrical metal canister, about half the width of one of the large coffee cans. On the top of the canister was a label that said something to the effect of "Cremated Remains of Elinor Z," along with the statement, "Temporary Container."

And this is when I realized my grandmother's cremated remains were sitting in the bottom drawer of my parent's dresser. I won't say this is the same kind of shocking as walking in on your parents having sex. It's a different sort of shocking, but still shocking.

Over the years, I talked to my dad about his mother's remains, and it was always the goal to one day send them to a cemetery in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania (about 90 miles NW of Pittsburgh), where Elinor was from and where her family had a family cemetery plot. There was already a plot bought and paid for, all we had to do was send the remains there and the cemetery would handle the rest. This was a project my dad was going to take on, but for some reason never got around to doing it. He was not close to his mother, but he still respected her enough that he wanted to personally make this trip and oversee her being laid to rest.

My mom, on the other hand, kind of had fun with the whole thing. She would ask girlfriends of my brothers and I if they had ever met Elinor. With a mixture of 2 parts black humor and 1 part insanity, she would then bring down the box in which my grandmother was stored, and sit there drinking coffee and chatting while the young woman sat there horrified. I have to say, my mom never liked Elinor, and I think she kind of paid her back a little.

In 1998, my wife and I moved to Atlanta, and at the time Elinor was still there. In the few years that followed, my dad and I would occasionally bring up his mother's remains in conversation, and I assured him that if he ever felt up to the trip, I would go with him, but he never got motivated enough to do it. And in 2001, he retired, and he and my mom purchased a house here in Georgia, about an hour northeast of us, making it more difficult to go to Western Pennsylvania. So, Elinor was packed up and moved to Georgia.

My parents' stay in Georgia did not last long. In 2003, my mom decided she absolutely hated the entire state, and so they sold the house and moved back north to New Jersey. Unfortunately, they sold the house I grew up in, so they rented a 2 story duplex not far from the Raritan Bay in NJ. Again, Elinor made the trip, never once complaining about the lack of dignity of being moved around the country along with dinette sets, books, throw rugs, etc. Her remains were packed in a box along with other articles my mom did not readily need, and they sat in the basement.

On Friday, January 26, my father passed away unexpectedly, and I have to admit, all thoughts of Elinor left my mind for several months. However, I remembered her that summer when we took a family vacation to NJ. In the laundry room, on a high shelf, sat a bag from the funeral home, and in that bag was a box, not dissimilar to Elinor's, in which sat my father's remains. And it brought to mind the travels my grandmother made. A month after, I visited my aunt just outside of Chicago, and she asked me if I knew if her mother's remains had ever been sent to Punxsutawney. I told her that I didn't think they did, but the next chance I got, I personally would find them and send them home. She seemed very relieved that I was willing to take on the project my father, her brother, never got to finish.

In June 2008, I told my mother that it was time to find Elinor and send her to her final resting place, and I asked her where she was. The blank stare I received did not fill me full of hope. She was able to give me one clue. "It's in a Lego box." OK, great. My grandmother's mortal remains are in a Lego box. I then went to work. Her house does not have central air conditioning (window units all over), so the basement was hot. I got to work opening each and every box in that basement. My guess is there are probably 100 cardboard boxes in that basement filled with everything from pool toys, to gardening tools, swatches of fabric (my mom does a lot of sewing), unused kitchen sets, and mementos from my parent's childhood (for example, an antique chronometer, a tool used for celestial navigation, which my dad very likely knew exactly how to use by the time he was in his teens). But box after box, nothing. I did, however, find plenty of examples that my mom's 2 cats did not always use the litter box, so stepping around down there was done with extreme care. And it was during this search that my boss called me on my cell phone with a work-related question, and it was then that I informed him about my mission.

Along one wall of the basement there were boxes stacked 3 or 4 high, 10 wide, and about 4 deep, so I had to wade through all of these, trying to find the one box that contained my grandmother. Some of the boxes were empty. Some contained decorations you would hang around a swimming pool (with a tropical theme). I even found a brass sink, like you'd put in a fancy bar. I was down to the last stack of boxes when I started to lose hope. As I opened each one, searched, and moved it aside, I put the ones I looked in behind me as I waded further into the pile. And then I finally reached the last box in that stack, and opened it to find drinking cups.

It was then that I noticed a small white box, about 12" wide, 18" long, and about 18" deep. The box was narrow enough that it was wedged in between a couple stacks of boxes and wasn't visible from where I started. I reached down and opened it, and immediately saw a tin can advertising instant mashed potatoes. Filled to the brim, and above, in this can were dozens of Lego pieces, held in place by packing tape that stretched over the can. It was then that I realized it. "Oh. Not a Lego box. A box of Legos!" My eyes drifted inches from the can full of Legos, and I saw a nondescript brown box with the markings of a funeral home in Illinois on it. I opened the box and in it was a cylindrical metal canister, about half the width of the mashed potatoes can inches away. On the top of the canister was a label that said something to the effect of "Cremated Remains of Elinor Z," along with the statement, "Temporary Container."

I had found my grandmother. I then sat down where I was, on top of a box I had just searched through, and I wept. I wept at the realization that I had just spent hours doing something my father was never able to do before he died, and due to his health problems, probably never could have done. I wept because this woman's remains were kept in a box, in a dark, damp basement for years and nobody had gone looking for her. And I wept because this search had become a mission, a hard mission, and I was successful. My grandmother was going home to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania.

I brought the entire box....ashes, Legos and all...upstairs. On the way up, I recalled that I had played with these very Legos as a kid, and I wanted to give my daughters an opportunity to play with them. As for my grandmother....I placed her in a temporary resting spot of honor....on a high shelf, in the laundry room, right next to my father. Her son. And there she sat until my mom, shortly after, put the box into a shipping box and took it to the post office, where it was sent to a funeral home that was simply waiting for her remains to arrive so that they could lay her to rest with the rest of her family, family that had settled western Pennsylvania for over 200 years. And until I received confirmation from my aunt that they made it, I lived in fear that the box would be pounded around in transit until it finally split open, sending my grandmother's remains all over in a puff of ash. Which, I have to admit, kind of made me chuckle out loud a few times.

This story is one giant version of the lesson, "don't put off tomorrow what you can do today." Between him and his sister, my father was the more motivated of the two to deliver Elinor to her grave, but obviously life got in the way, coupled with the fact that my really couldn't give a damn. Which of course leads to an even bigger lesson....mothers, don't piss off your daughters-in-law. Especially the ones to whom your mortal remains might one day be entrusted.

As for me....I'm happy knowing that I fulfilled a job that I know my dad always intended to complete, but didn't. As his oldest son, I know I carried on an important family job, so that when I next see him, I can hold my head up high knowing I finished what he started in 1982. I have to hold my head up high to see him, as he'll be in his place of honor, on a high shelf in a funeral home bag in my mother's laundry room.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Commuter of the Day 8/6/2009: Confused Atheist

Today's commuter of the day was the car that had 2 bumper stickers on the back. One was a pro-atheism bumper sticker. It had some witty slogan on it that made me chuckle, but I failed to write it down.

The other bumper sticker said, "May The Force be with you - Always."

Now, can one really be an atheist if one is also a follower of the Jedi religion? Regardless of the fact that (and this may shock some) it's a made-up one?

Does the 5 Second Rule Apply.....

....1 hour after the exterminator did his quarterly rounds through the office?

And if not, how quickly should one get to the hospital?

Discuss.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Awkward Theological Conversation

A: I'm doing some volunteer work at XYZ Baptist Church this weekend (that wasn't the actual church name, but there are so many Baptist churches here, I don't really keep track of who's who).

Me: You're Catholic, isn't it a mortal sin to associate with Baptists? (of course, I said this in front of a close friend of both of ours, who is Baptist).

A: Hell, I don't care, I'm probably going to be excommunicated anyway.

Me: What'd you do, bang your sister?

A: No, I'm getting a divorce.

(awkward silence)

Me: Oh.

(more awkward silence)

Me: Well, who HASN'T the Catholic church excommunicated? They did the same thing to my ancestors 500 years ago.

A: You have a point.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Like a True Nature's Child,

We were born, born to be wild.
-Steppenwolf, 1968

Marco keep your eyelids up and see what you can see.
-Dr. Seuss, 1937

As I wrote recently, I went on vacation for a week to northern Wisconsin. I will always encourage people to drive across country rather than fly (and not just because I’m not a big fan of flying), because we live in such a huge, such a diverse country, filled with deserts, mountains, rolling plains, river valleys, shoreline, rain forests, and cities. Very few countries offer the geographical diversity that the United States offers. And, the people within the US are just as diverse. When you drive for a thousand miles, you get a first-hand glimpse of the heights and depths of that diversity.

And, more importantly, you will always have a story to tell. And the most interesting people on the planet are those with a story to tell. Hmm, I kind of implied that I am among the most interesting people on the planet, which kind of makes me out to be an arrogant ass. What I’m saying is, YOU can be among the most interesting people on the planet. Hell, you know what I mean.

A large portion of our drive is through Illinois….where we spend the most hours, by far, as we enter through the southernmost portion, and leave through the northernmost point. We bypass Chicago, which is the only interesting city in the state, and instead go through places like Metropolis, whose claim to fame is having a statue of Superman in front of the county courthouse, and Rockford, whose claim to fame is being the home of one of history’s greatest rock bands, Cheap Trick (and after that, its interest factor drops dramatically). So, it’s not surprising when the highlights of the trip occur on the interstate itself. One of which was the guy we saw with the Vespa scooter tied to the roof of his Nissan Sentra, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. The second was the group of bikers we saw.

With mostly flat roads, you can see for some distance in Illinois, so we saw this group of bikers overtaking us pretty early. They looked pretty tough from a distance, so we kept in the right lane and let them pass. My wife was driving. In a few minutes, the 4 bikers on Harleys came alongside. One of the bikers had a woman sitting in the “bitch seat.” 3 of the bikers, plus the “bitch,” had no helmets. A 4th biker, one of the solo riders, had one (Illinois does not have a Helmet Law). They looked especially tough….lots of road dust, scraggly beards, and one of them had a shaved head with a tattoo on his head. On. His. Head. Did we stereotype? Sure, I suppose, but considering you see more guys with skull tattoos in prison then you do in, say, an orthodontist or investment banker’s office, you can understand why. We gave them a wide birth, allowing them to pass easily. Once the quartet passed us, they smoothly moved into the right lane and kept up with their pace, and pulled ahead of us, their Michigan license plates clearly visible.

Naturally, my 10 year old, Thing 1, would not stop commenting about the tattoo on the side of the head, as I completely expected. But in a few seconds would be the vehicle that would capture MY attention. Shortly after the bikes passed us, we were overtaken by a small SUV pulling a trailer. The trailer appeared to be a motorcycle hauler, as there were frames on the trailer to which you could hold two motorcycles and tie them down into place. The hauler passed us and then pulled in front of us, it’s Michigan plate visible. At this point, I realized the hauler must be with the motorcycles. I had to snicker….these badass-looking bikers, who easily could’ve passed for Hells Angels, Pagans, or Del Fuegos, and they need a hauler to move their bikes and catch a ride in case the poor widdle babies get tired. I wouldn’t say this to their face, in case they actually WERE Pagans, but I sure as hell was thinking it.

The hauler and the motorcycles pulled further on ahead, and then we were passed by a Honda mini-van, which pulled in front of us once it cleared us. It too had Michigan plates, which I took to be a coincidence. It was then that I realized the rear window was dirty, and there was something written in the dirt. I strained my eyes, until I could make it out:

CAUTION:
MOTORCYCLE
PERCESSION


So in summary…we have 4 bikers (and 1 bitch) that looked like they were going to the rally at Sturgis to kick some ass. One SUV with a motorcycle hauler, to carry them when they got tired, and a (dirty) mini-van, warning people to be careful (as though it was a “Wide Load” vehicle), driven by an apparently illiterate person. From Michigan.

This is indeed a great and colorful country. With bad spellers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The most practical use for a hijab

I was in the nearby Wal-Mart Supercenter that's down the road from my office, and I saw two Muslim women, in full-length burqas (I guess that's redundant....it's not like they have summer length burqas that only go to the knees, and flash a little leg), with the hijab head scarf, but without the face-covering niqab veil. The hijab was rather tight, as normal. What stood out though was the fact that she had a Blackberry Curve wedged INSIDE her hijab, so that it was pressed tightly to her ear, enabling her to have a hands-free conversation.

I briefly considered taking a photo of it with my Blackberry (also a Curve, which is why I knew). However, that's kind of ballsy and brazen, even for me. You'll just have to take my word for it that it looked like the clumsiest Bluetooth headset ever. But, in the day of tiny cell phones, it sure does make it easy to hold, since you can't press it between your shoulder and ear like a regular phone.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wisconsin's Victoria's Secret

Retail shopping in Wisconsin is an interesting experience. The harsh reality of Wisconsin is that the weather sucks. A lot. They get their first snowfall in October, and their last in April. They then have 2 months whose weather can best be described somewhere in between "planting season" and "brisk."

Around Fourth of July weekend, people get brave enough to venture into outdoor swimming areas (until then, most swimming is indoors....because of the climate, some genius in marketing figured out that if you build an indoor waterpark in a state that sees freezing weather 8-9 out of 12 months a year, people will flock to it like prison inmates to Soap-on-a-Rope). But, until those magical 3 months of summer (I will say this, no state in the country is more beautiful and has more going for it than Wisconsin in the summer), the weather always has the potential for astronomical amounts of suckage.

Therefore, the concept of One Stop Shopping is heavily embraced. Wal-Marts and Targets were welcomed with open arms throughout the state, and Wal-Mart Supercenters and Super Targets even more so. To be able to buy groceries, beer, hardware, rent videos, get film developed, buy electronics, and seeds for the garden in the Spring, all under one roof, and then being able to go straight to the car and go home, without having to go to 5 different stores in weather so cold your boogers are freezing inside your nose? Entire towns gave the big middle finger to their small businesses just for the opportunity to stay warm.

Even home improvement stores have gotten into that market. Where you used to go only for tools, lumber, and other home improvement-related goods, stores like Menards now sell limited amounts of groceries and books.

But the store that merges convenience in a matter more entertaining than all the others is Fleet Farm. Fleet Farm can almost be described as "Home Depot / Lowes / Menards.....for Farmers." There, you can buy stuff to build an animal pen, as well as windows and doors for barns (or, the home). But, it takes the convenience of home improvement shopping and merges it with the sporting goods shopping of Wal-Mart or Target, and offers a lot of recreational goods. I have been in grocery stores smaller than the section of the store that sells fishing poles and equipment at the Fleet Farm in Antigo. Across the aisle, they have water recreational gear.....inner tubes, water skis, etc. Elsewhere in the store is an entire section for all your hunting needs. Rifles, bows, arrows, ammo, knives, etc. In Fleet Farm, you can buy deer piss that will A, mask your natural smell, and B, make a buck think he's smelling a doe in heat, thus making it easier for a buck to walk right by you, allowing you to eat venison all winter while smoking a cigar in your easy chair underneath a mounted deer head.

And last but not least....they have a complete line of clothing. High-wasted jeans for those fashionable women who still think it's 1991. Practical clothing for men, women, girls and boys. Hip-waders, hunting jackets, clothing covered in camoflauge and trimmed in blaze orange. The camo is so that you can hide from deer, the blaze orange is so that other hunters see you.

But, what is amazing about Fleet Farm is that there is nothing.....NOTHING....that they won't trim with camoflauge and/or blaze orange. Which is why, when given the opportunity to go there (my daughters were going fishing with their uncle for the first time, and needed fishing poles), I jumped at the opportunity. Because, I knew I would see the following:



Yes, those are blaze orange panties, with some kind of animal motif. The kind of motif that folk artists will often paint on saw blades, but rarely on lingerie. And I also saw this:



Camo panties, for the hunter (huntress?) who likes to be completely in "kill" mode. Or, realizes that serial killers live in the woods, and just like in the movies, at some point she'll have to be running in fear while only in her underwear. Of course, the hot pink trim seems defeat that purpose, but I will never pretend to understand the mind of a hunter. But I will say this....tomorrow, Saturday, you can bet somewhere in Wisconsin, there is a young woman packing a bag for a honeymoon, and in her bag is at least one pair of underwear that you see here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Breakroom Fridge Day 4

Here’s an update. You can see the right side of the pizza curling up more than it was the day before, as it dehydrates and shrinks in upon itself.

Another update….the office manager and the operations manager have every intention of leaving it there. They know who the pizza belongs to, and are waiting to see if the guy gets a clue and gets rid of it.

And the onions were indeed a condiment of sorts for burgers they grilled a while ago for lunch, left there by the same guy who apparently is too big of a pussy to finish his last slice of frozen pizza.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mystery Food in the Office Fridge

I might make an entire series out of this. I noticed this next to the pizza, that I described below. I had no idea what it is,other than it's been there since I got back from vacation (last Monday). There are really no words to describe this, other then “oniony” and “pepperish."

Breakroom Fridge Experiment

This slice of “pizza” (I use the quotes because it came from a frozen box, and I’m not sure if everything on it is edible…and I don’t think this is any closer to pizza than Budweiser is to beer) entered the breakroom fridge yesterday after lunch, when one of the guys here in the office couldn’t polish off his lunch.

I am willing to bet it will still be there on Friday. I am even considering asking the office manager to not touch it, just to see if it moves on its own (or by the hands of the person to whom it belongs).

This is Day 1. I will post new photos each day.

July 20, 1969

Author's note: I actually wrote this yesterday, but didn't have a chance to post it here. And, I found that the lunar landing took place on July 21 in Australia, so maybe I'll make this in honor of Aussies that worked on our space program at those remote satellite stations....but, it's July 22 in Aus right now, so never mind.

40 years ago today, two men from the United States walked on the moon, a feat never before accomplished in all of human history, and only replicated 5 times since.

I will not debate this fact.

My father is the smartest man I have ever met, or will meet. If you met him, you would be able to say the same thing as well. I’m not saying this to give you an inferiority complex, I’m saying this because he was a brilliant man. When he was a teenager, he built his own planetarium. When other kids were learning sports, he was playing around with metallic sodium, dropping it into puddles of water to see the minor explosion. And when he looked into the sky at night, he knew what he wanted to study his entire life.

In the 1950’s, the US was locked in a military race with the USSR. Each country divided up the best German rocket scientists they could find after the war, and they both went to work trying to put men in space. To win this, the US created the National Defense Education Act, which essentially paid college tuition for anyone who wanted to go to school for science, math, or engineering and use these skills to either blow up the planet, or watch it from 200 miles up in space. My dad was one of them, and in 1960, he packed up his belongings and went from Chicago to California to study Astronomy at Pomona College, one of the few colleges in the US where one could major in this degree program. By 1970, he had a PhD in Astrophysics from UCLA. So yeah, he was pretty friggin smart.

And sadly, there aren’t many like my dad anymore. Long ago, this country lost interest in pursuing the sciences, and in some cases, retarded our scientific growth. Once we landed on the moon, we felt we hit a peak, and had to try something more challenging. Whereas a sports team, upon winning one championship, does what it can to win that championship every year, our country seemingly decided, “Nahh, we’re good, we just wanted to beat the Soviets here,” and we packed it in. We went from a space program that used a missile capable of carrying 250,000 pounds of payload, to a space shuttle that could carry only 50,000. And thus we lost our edge. The space program had so much potential, and so much of it wasted. But still, my dad loved it. He loved the innovations we got from it, and the new discoveries, especially when he saw the first images from the Hubble Telescope. I didn’t see him cry when his mother and father died, but I saw him cry when the Challenger exploded in replay after replay.

We, as a country, need to set our clocks back 40 years. We need to remember that money spent in the pursuit of exploration, science and peace is worth way more than money spent helping those who don’t want help, or money spent in learning new ways to kill. We need to remember that our worth as a society is not in how many lawyers we have, or how good our professional sports teams are, but how educated our population is, and how hard we work to pull our citizens from the depths of ignorance. And we need to do this intelligently. I remember asking my dad about Bush’s plan to use the Moon as a jumping point to Mars, and he laughed it off as a joke, explaining to me how stupid it is to cart all that infrastructure to the Moon (the facilities, the fuel, etc), when the Moon only saves you a few days travel time to Mars (on a 6 month trip). We don’t need to dream big….we just need to keep dreaming, and keep pushing, and keep innovating. And we need scientists willing to do this. Scientists like my dad. I sometimes hear people question whether or not we walked on the moon, and to those people, I can say with assurance that it was people like my dad who put those men on the moon, and if they were as smart as my dad, then it damn well did happen. We were at one time a nation of people who dreamt of nothing but putting people in space, and the benefits from those dreams are immeasurable. We need to go back to having those dreams again. We may not have been a better country then, but people back then were sure working a lot harder to make it a better country. People like my dad, who taught two generations of college students the same love for the stars that he had.

And one day, maybe his love of science will rub off on someone else with that same dream, which is to never stop learning, and never stop pushing for the stars, so that we can one day set foot on the Moon, and continue our unfinished business.

40 years ago today, two men from the United States walked on the moon. I will not debate this.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Food Chain

The entire week I spent in Wisconsin was marked by a regular occurrence, one to which you could almost set a clock. Each night, shortly after midnight, I would hear howling in the distance. And that howling would get closer and closer each night. It was the howling of a pack of coyotes. We heard them every night, calling each other, sending signals to one another in their hunt for prey.

One night, we heard a different sound. The cows at the dairy farm across the road started bellowing. The cows are often in the field each night, eating and sleeping. This was one of those nights. When in the field, they are usually quiet, but this night, we heard them making loud noises. I knew immediately that they sensed something wrong. Within 2 minutes, I heard the howling. This was different than any other night though. The hairs on my arm and the back of my neck stood up. This was different because we knew where the coyotes were, and where their expected dinner was.

However, cows are quite good at natural defense. They form a circle, with the calves in the middle to protect them, and their heads face out, ready to meet the instigator. For about 20 minutes, we heard nothing but the cows bellowing, and the coyotes shrieking. We knew from the sound there was a siege in place, the coyotes trying to get a sizeable dinner.

The noises ended as abruptly as they started. We knew a pack of coyotes could not have taken all of the cattle, but if they got a hold of a calf, they would have torn it apart. We heard the occasional cow bellow, undoubtedly standing watch, but eventually it fell completely silent.

The next morning, we contacted the farmer across the street, and suggested she check her stock. She took the 4-wheeler out into the pasture and returned a little while later, reporting that all of her cows were fine. As vicious as coyotes can be, I was extremely impressed that the cows could fend them off.

In addition to coyotes, Wisconsin is home to a lot of other wildlife. A lot of deadly wildlife, like wolverines and badgers. The mascot of the state of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin is the badger, another animal native to Wisconsin. In the same family as wolverines, badgers are extremely protective of their young. And like wolverines, they have short tempers and long claws, and are genetically suited to disemboweling a human. Apparently, they are often found hunting WITH the coyotes. They have a mutual alliance with the coyotes, travelling behind and eating the carrion, or hunting alongside.

The Department of Natural Resources is apparently trying to reintroduce wolverines back into the state. Wolverines once extended their habitat throughout the upper Midwest (Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan) but now are extremely rare. Wolverines are the mascot of the University of Michigan. They are also nasty animals with foul tempers. The largest of the weasel family, they also have very strong scent glands, so they basically stink (much like the University of Michigan). Wolverines can take down animals several times their size with their ferocity, so putting them back into the habitat there is a wonderful idea, considering I take my kids there each year. So, the badgers aren’t dangerous enough, we have to put wolverines into the mix.

And then there’s the latest wild animal found in Wisconsin. As if the wolverines and badgers weren’t deadly enough, cougars have been sighted in Wisconsin. The DNR swears up and down there aren’t any, but there have been numerous sightings of what is the largest cat in North America.

In short, Wisconsin is rapidly becoming one of the deadliest spots in North America. Thank God there aren’t any snakes up there too!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Text Conversation 7/17/2009

I received the following text from my younger brother, E, who lives in Manhattan and can get away with such foolishness in his 30's):

E: Wish me luck, I'm about to participate in a beer pong tournament for charity.
Me: (After first getting over the fact that there are beer pong tournaments for anything other than celebrating the end of a week at college and/or turning a "4" into an "8"): As the mothers of Sparta would say, come back with your shield, or on it.

I heard nothing from him for a while, so I followed up:

Me: So how are you doing? What's the beer? Pabst?
E: This girl never played before and absolutely ran the table. We lost in like six throws. It was absurd. Beer was Blue Moon.
Me: Just like the bitch that plays the NCAA pool for the first time, never seen a basketball game in her life, and wins the pool?
E: Yeah. It was ridiculous.

Well, he at least had a semi-decent beer, normally Beer Pong is played using the cheapest beer possible. So then I discussed strategy.

Me: Did you try heckling? Bringing up her daddy issues?
E: The game was over before I could bring up why she still sleeps with teddy bears.
Me: You need to work faster. Always start with "So do you know your real father?" Or, "Which dead grandmother do you most resemble."

You can bet his next beer pong tournament will be very different. Although, I have to wonder why a 32 year old man is still playing beer pong. Is charity the ultimate goal? Or does calling it a charity legitimize the fact they're still playing a college game?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Rise and Fall of the MILF

I don't think I'll ever forget the first "MILF" that ever got my attention. This was way before the term MILF was ever used. This was way before "Hot Mom" was used. In fact, there was no word for it. I think the only way to describe such a woman was going to your friend and saying, "Dude, your mom's hot." Followed by the obligatory "Shut up Ted." (Before Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure came out, it was simply "Shut up Steve.") Or, we would say "So and So's mom is hot," followed by the dirty things we would do to So and So's mom, which of course would never, ever happen (until just a few years ago, when half the mom's in America apparently lost their mind and started sleeping with teenagers).


I will call this first MILF "Mrs. C." Mostly because I can't remember her first name, just her last name (no it wasn't Cunningham, it was a Spanish last name). Mrs. C was, in a nutshell, a hot, tanned woman, not very tall, round face, round cheeks, gorgeous smile, and long dark hair. She had definite Latin looks, but probably more Italian than Hispanic, unlike her husband. She was the first adult woman I remember paying attention to whenever she would bend over, hoping to get a look down her shirt (sure, this may be shocking to some, but guess what, teenage boys typically enjoy looking down the shirts of women).

She was the mom of one of my younger brother's friends, and in the mid 80's she was probably in her late 30's. I sometimes played soccer against her oldest son, so she would be there in a beach chair on the sidelines talking to other (less hot) moms and smiling beautifully. When watching my brother's baseball games, she was there on the bleachers, cheering on her younger son. When I was 13 and umpiring my brother's age level, I probably umpired every one of her son's games (and her husband was the coach), and I remember her sitting there on the bleachers. At times, I recall angling for a possible view up her skirt. Perverted, sure, but typical for the age.

By the time I was approaching high school graduation, she was divorced. Apparently, her husband, while married to an absolute goddess of a woman, had a hard time keeping his hands off of other women (plus, he was an incredible dick). Being a friend of the family, she would come over and visit occasionally, and we would get to hear (second hand from my parents) how worthless her husband was, and how wronged she was. I remember one such occasion when she was over talking about how she had a girl's night out, and was incredibly drunk. She was wearing short, loose-fitting nylon running shorts and a tank-top. She lay down on our sofa and described how she had to hold onto the floor to keep the room from spinning, and I remember seeing her white underwear with red hearts all over them, and being very excited at getting such a glance.

When I graduated high school in 1990, I moved southwest to Arkansas to attend university, and haven't seen her since. I have nothing but a flood of memories over this woman, about 20 years my senior, and how arousing she was. And I had no idea why, no clue that she contained a wealth of experience that I could only hope to enjoy.

Recently, I came across a woman who grew up not too far from Mrs. C, and played on a Select soccer team coached by Mr. C and on which their daughter played with this woman. We got to enjoy the "small world" moment, and afterward I emailed my brother with the story. I commented to my brother that Mrs. C was probably the first MILF that ever entered our lives. My brother emailed me back and said, "Yeah, Pete's mom was pretty hot. I saw her at Pete's wedding several years ago. She no longer has that MILF look to her. It's a shame."

And thus all of my childhood dreams and fantasies were destroyed with one email.

Recreating the Assault on Foy

Independence Day was spent on a family farm in the middle of northern Wisconsin. A cousin and a friend of his shelled out about $900 in fireworks, and put on a fireworks show over the corn field. But that was not the most interesting part of that evening. The fun part was once the fireworks were over. The group split into two teams. I was teamed up with my wife’s uncle and one cousin and a couple other guys. The rest spread out across the barnyard, most of them hiding behind the large red barn, and 1 behind the grain bin. And everyone had several handfuls of Roman Candles.

Like in Foy, at the tail end of the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans were occupying the village, with snipers in the buildings, behind them for cover, etc. My team had to go across open ground to hit them behind their cover. I tried to direct traffic by sending one guy around the right side of the barn, another guy around a drainage ditch where he’d have a good field of fire, and me and the uncle up the middle, using the grain bin as cover. I made 3 mistakes:

* The uncle was drunk.
* The two guys running the flank maneuvers were teenaged idiots.
* I wasn’t entirely sure who was on my team.

The last became evident when I was leaning against the grain bin, lighting a Roman candle. A guy in a white t-shirt was walking up behind me. All of a sudden, I realized I was being shot in the ass. I quickly ran around behind the grain bin. This basically gave the entire side a complete line of fire on me. And I was basically cornered, like in a firing squad. Unfortunately, there was no Captain Spears to come in and hold the line and reorganize us. At this point, it was every man for himself.

And then it hit me. Literally. A Roman candle shot in the arm. While checking myself out, I was shot at by more Roman candles, but these were different. It took me a few seconds to register the fact that these were exploding when they got near me. Jesus….someone bought the upgraded EXPLODING Roman candles, and was firing them at people! Saying to myself, “fuck this noise,” I ran back to a position of safety…that being where all the kids are. That was one constant, nobody would fire near the kids. I kind of pulled a Saddam Hussein on that one.

Within minutes, everyone was out of Roman candles. Everyone, that is, except my 10 year old daughter. I was walking around picking up the discharged candles, when I see my wife handing her one and lighting it, and pointing at me. And with a gleam in her eye visible through her protective eyeware, Thing 1 charged at me with verve and vigor, firing SURPRISINGLY accurate shots right near my head. I managed to get cover behind the barn, at which point she ran out of ammo.

Fireworks are fun. Fireworks with audience participation are funner.

Monday, July 13, 2009

An Argument for Traveling by Car Instead of Air

Marco, keep your eyelids up and see what you can see.
Dr. Seuss

The United States is a large country.....3.7 million square miles (9.6 million square kilometers). Much of the population is centered along the Eastern seaboard, the West coast, around the southern Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, and in a strip across the mid-South. Otherwise, aside from a few pockets of large isolated metropolitan areas around the country (Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, etc), there is a lot more open land than there are people occupying it.

We have deserts, rain forests, wide open plains, majestic mountains, and rivers that hold the balance of life inside their riverbanks and stretch for thousands of miles. Beaches of white fluffy sand, hard-packed sand, black sand, and shorelines with rocky, deadly coasts with no beach at all. We are a country with areas that never see snow, and areas that never see an absence of snow.

But, what makes the United States such an awesome country to drive across (and I use that in a biblical sense) are not the range of landscapes, but the people that make up the United States. This is a country that is beautiful from both the ground, and from 35,000 feet in the air. But, I assure you, at 35,000 feet you will never see a sight like this.



This photo was taken by me at a rest area on Interstate 74 in central Illinois, partway between Champaign and Bloomington. What made this site truly unusual was the group of shirtless guys standing around the car. They looked like extras from "American Chopper." They would've looked right at home standing next to a bunch of Harley Davidsons. Instead, they're standing next to a Japanese commuter sedan with a moped tied to the back.

Knowing he would immediately appreciate the humor, I emailed this to my brother, E. Within minutes, I received the response, "Is that a Vespa tied to the back of a Nissan Sentra?" I knew any elaboration could do no justice, so I simply replied, "Yes it is. Don't fall asleep while driving through Illinois, you never know what you'll miss."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

I am back from a week of vacation in Wisconsin. Like most vacations, I have much to talk about. I'm not really sure where to start, so I'll let you, the reader decide from the following stories:

* Recreating the Assault on Foy from "Band of Brothers"....using Roman candles.
* The pitfalls of relying on Google Maps.
* Culvers...the fast food restaurant you wish your city had (and the girls who serve you the food).
* Talking soccer with Herman's Hermits (the band).
* Visiting Asheville NC for exactly 2 hours.
* Quoting the movie "Airplane!" via text-messaging...from an airplane.
* The Food Chain, Part 1: Coyotes and Cows
* The Food Chain, Part 2: OMFG this place has wolverines, badgers and cougars?

So, if you care to, let me know where you'd like me to start. I have the attention span of a kitten, so I have no problem starting in the middle.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If I Could Taste Heaven...

...It would taste (and look) like this.



This, my friends, is a Bacon Butterburger Deluxe, with a side order of fried cheese curds. A medium Pepsi accompanied the meal, but I felt it would take away some of the class of what you see here (and that's coming from someone who loves Pepsi and hates Coke).

This meal may have taken weeks off of my life. But, as smokers would say, only the ones at the end, when you're sick and decrepit anyway.

I've been on vacation for 5 days, and I've had this same meal twice.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Jesus Saves

No, I'm not talking about the starting goalie for Cruz Azul, Jesus Corona.

I'm referring to Effingham Illinois' one and only noteworthy landmark: The world's tallest cross.

Specifically designed for the world's tallest Lord and Savior.

Yes, it has a visitor's center. And Trucker Parking.

A theological question to pose....would Jesus Christ enjoy this memorial in His honor? Or would he think it's as tacky as South of the Border, Panama City Beach, and Gatlinburg TN?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Commuter of the Day 7/1/2009: This time, it’s personal

This is more of a weekly recap, as there are a couple of drivers that pissed me off to the point of wanting to get out of my car and wail on them.

As I mentioned, I took Thing 2 to go see "Up" on Monday. While coming up on an intersection, trying to get to the theater before the good seats were taken (which proved pointless, as there were only 2 other people in the theater), this guy pulls out of a gas station parking lot in front of me. We had the green light. He SLOWED DOWN approaching the green light. And then, to my unimaginable horror, the light turned yellow. Instead of hitting his gas pedal and flying through the intersection, this dipshit stopped. HE FUCKING STOPPED!!! There were no cars, he was just being a damn Mary. Look, this is no time to be a good "citizen." This is afternoon rush hour, people have places to go! And this was his license plate.



Speech? You want a speech? Fine, I'll give you a speech. Fuck you asshole. Drop dead. Peace out.

And then yesterday, on the way home from work, I was driving through downtown Kennesaw GA, which is a 2 lane road and a 25mph speed limit. The guy right behind me, the asshole on the cell phone, was riding my bumper like you wouldn't believe, pissed that I was going the speed limit (cops patrol that road constantly, so speeding is kind of stupid....plus, there are lots of pedestrians, so speeding is stupid anyway). I heard an ambulance from somewhere. It took about 20 seconds to realize it was behind me, coming towards me. So I do the (legally required) right thing....I pulled to the right.

So what does Asshole behind me do? HE PASSED ME!!! He didn't pull over also, he just whipped right around me, and THEN he pulled to the right. This is like being at the checkout lane at the grocery store, stopping to look at the gum/candy rack, and someone just walking around you putting their groceries on the conveyor belt. The ambulance passed us, and Asshole pulled right back out, in front of me, and went on his merry way, still talking on the cell phone.

Would I have been justified in ramming him?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Up

Because of a super-good deal on tickets, my wife took Thing 1 to the Demi Lovato / David Archuleta concert at the Gwinnett Arena tonight (for those not in the know, the former is a teen singer/actress heavily featured on Disney Channel programs, the latter owes his fame to American Idol…no clue if he won or not). After a heated game of Rock Paper Scissors that may or may not have involved an actual pair of scissors being pulled, it was determined that my wife would take her (her BFF and the BFF’s mom went with).

I was left with Thing 2 for the evening. If I had driven Thing 2 to the hospital with a compound fracture, part of her femur sticking through her leg, and having to hold her while the doctor popped her dislocated arm back into the socket, I think I still would’ve had the better end of the bargain.

I decided to take Thing 2 to a movie, so we went and saw “Up,” the latest Pixar movie. Question: Am I the only person in America that had no idea this was a 3D movie? The last time I saw a 3D movie in the theaters was “Treasure of the Four Crowns,” which even at the age of 10 I knew was an enormous piece of shit. Obviously, the technology has come a long way. We were given our complimentary 3D glasses (which looked like cheap Ray-Bans, sort of), loaded up on popcorn, candy, and soda, and went into the theater. Upon walking in, we doubled the amount of people that were already in the theater, so we were able to take the perfect seat.

10 minutes into the movie, Thing 2 missed the cup holder with her kids’ sized Sprite, and dropped it right onto the floor. She looked VERY nervous for a second, until I leaned down and whispered, “don’t worry. Free refills. Let’s go get you another one.” So off we went, missing the two minutes where Ed Asner modified his house with balloons. We got her another Sprite, and a handful of napkins, and reclaimed our seats. Amazingly, she was able to sit through the entire movie without requiring a bathroom break. Thing 1, when I first took her to a movie solo, needed one. But, it was “Miracle,” which was about 45 minutes longer, and she held out until the game against the Soviets was almost over. I literally carried her, while running, to the bathroom and got back before the game ended in that movie. Thing 2, however, made it the entire 96 minutes, plus the previews and credits. Gotta love a kid that’s a camel.

There was one sort of emotional part in the movie, but it had nothing to do with the film itself. I had a flashback to when I was Thing 2’s age. My dad would take me to see lots of movies, just him and I. That’s where I saw the Disney classics…Pinocchio, Peter Pan, etc. We also found a way to get together and see all three of the Lord of the Rings movies. Of course, in a solitary lack of judgment, in the summer of 1977 (the same year he took all of us to see Star Wars), he took me and my two older brothers (I was 5, they were 11 and 14) to see Animal House. My younger brother had just been born, so I blame lack of sleep on his part, he probably slept through the whole thing. But, going to see movies was a big part of my childhood, and one of the things I loved doing with my dad. So there I was, for an hour and a half tonight, more like my dad than I’ve ever been (I’m not counting the times my daughters learned to say 4 letter words from me).

So, this movie could’ve been as big a piece of raw sewage as “Treasure of the Four Crowns” (it wasn’t, it was actually pretty good), and I still would’ve lifted up that armrest, put one arm around my daughter, and enjoyed a movie with her. And, while Thing 1 is going on and on about how awesome Demi Lovato is, Thing 2 and I will forever have the inside joke of being able to yell “Squirrel!” and have it be instantly funny.