Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crab Song

We returned home from a vacation in Ocean City, MD almost a month ago.  While we were there, my two boys pestered, begged, pleaded and pouted for every piece of plastic piece of shit toy they saw.  My wife and I have developed a limited immunity to this behavior and have also worked it into all of our travel plans.  In most cases we use this to our advantage.  For example, I will get the boys a chocolate milk if they behave in the grocery store.  I don’t consider it bribery, I call it Risk and Reward.  But all bets are off on vacation, especially when there are new “marks” in town for them to con, i.e. non-parental relatives.  And that is how we ended up taking home Hermy and Scott, the two hermit crabs.

My sons conned their grandmother into purchasing them each a hermit crab on our first excursion to the boardwalk.  I don’t object to pets, I have owned almost one of every type of domesticated animal there is at one point in time.  Dogs, cats, rabbits, a snake, an iguana, you name it, I had it.  My wife on the other hand is not very fond of non-canine animals, especially birds, but she gave in on this purchase and the boys each picked out their newest pet.

I had several hermit crabs in my younger days.  I knew that they didn’t last very long and the ones I owned tended to be escape artists.  One particular crab escaped from his enclosure and proceeded to eat the carpet in my house.  He tore up and unraveled a 5” X 2” section of carpet.  Another hermit crab (it might have been the same one, but I doubt it) escaped, traveled up a flight of ten stairs and ended up in the bedroom of the one person in the house that was afraid of him, my sister Chris.  I think he died right there on the floor scaring the shit out of my sister, his dying act a bit of gleeful vengeance on his Brobdignagian captors.

The boys were entertained by their new friends throughout the vacation and for a little while longer when we got home, but after the first few days, my wife and I seemed to be the only ones that knew they were still around.  A week after vacation, my boys headed off to stay for a week with their grandparents in Pennsylvania.  During that week, Hermy the Hermit Crab expired with a puff of sewer gas.  We decided to keep his corpse “in state” (i.e. in the garage where his stench would be a little less noticeable) until my oldest son returned to bid him farewell.

Meanwhile, back in my basement layer, Scott the Crab was still as vibrant as ever.  He works out every morning for a few hours by taking laps on the cage walls, the clicking of his little legs keeping time with my clacking on the computer keyboard.  Didda-chuck.  Didda-chum.  Dadda-chee, the lobstrosity would then go play a little late at night.  Since it seemed that Scott was going to be with us for a little while longer, my wife decided it was time to do a little research and find out what hermit crabs really needed to survive.  That brings us back to the Risk and Reward topic.  If aforementioned children behaved themselves this weekend, we would a) secure Scott a new residence with some room to really stretch his claws, b) get him a new water bowl and some sand to dig in, and c) replace Hermy with a living version.

The kids lived up to their end of the bargain, so Saturday morning we headed off to Petsmart to see what they had in the way of crustacean casas.  Petsmart was actually well stocked in habitats, food and even hermit crab toys.  We walked out with a new home, a bag of colored sand, food, a water dish (with ramp) and Kelly the Krab.  (NOTE: The name Kelly is in honor of the Kelly Bachand, the youngest competitor on the History Channel’s Top Shot.  My boys roped me into watching this show and then we were all hooked.  I had my money on Iain the entire time.)  While at the store, the saleswoman made a special note of the warranty period and mentioned that while Kelly looked active in the aquarium, she thought his shell was way to small for a crab his size and suspected that there was something wrong with him.

Well, the saleswoman was right.  Kelly I, as he shall be called, didn’t even make it home.  He was hanging limply out of his shell by the time I had the new habitat furnished and everyone moved in.  Back to Petsmart with receipt and recently deceased Kelly I in tow.  I made an agreement with my oldest boy that we were going for vitality, not looks, in the selection of the next crab.  Unfortunately, the saleswoman who sold us Kelly I was no longer on duty and we had to explain the situation to a different woman.  Unfortunatelier, this new woman tried to tell me that Kelly I was not dead.  I explained that Kelly I was no longer among the living, and that I have owned several animals, including hermit crabs, and I could tell when they are no longer living.  It was not an argument, but the saleswoman did take a few minutes to convince that the hermit crab was, in fact, deceased or as she put it, not well.  I swore that any moment she would say, “Ah yes, Norwegian Blue, beautiful plumage.  He’s not dead, he’s just resting.

At the crab tank, I asked her to provide her most educated guess of which hermit crab was the most likely to survive for more than one hour of leaving the store.  The one she picked out had to be the least attractive of all of the crabs, but he did appear to be mobile.  My son said, “Cool!  His shell looks like a rock.”  My wife and I agreed that his “shell” resembled a desiccated dog turd more than a rock, but hey, he was alive and that is what matters.

Back to the basement.  Kelly II is in his new home and most importantly still alive.  Scott has gone into overdrive.  He is like a crab possessed.  Climbing the little ladder, going for a swim, moving the toys around, flipping over shells.  He has no tail to wag, so I assuming that this is happy behavior.  He has also has a liking for his new companion.  I have caught Scott sitting on top of Kelly II’s shell several times.  I don’t know how hermit crabs “do it” and I have not worked up the courage to hit Google to find out.  I have pondered the search terms I would use, such as “crab on crab action”, “hot kinky hermit crabs”, “your shell or mine? a crab love story”, “two crabs, one shell” or, the most mundane, “hermit crab reproduction”.  I have decided that should offspring be part of their union, then so be it, but I am not going to spend any time figuring out the sex of each of the crabs in our care.

As I write this, Kelly II is eating and Scott has made at least five laps around the habitat.  Who knows, in a few weeks I may have a new title to add to my resume, Hermit Crab Husbandry and have a source of homegrown Christmas presents too.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Without Wings

There is really no excuse for my absence, so I am not going to attempt to make one.  But I am going to make a better attempt at posting more often.  The past few weeks have been busy with work and kids and relatively uneventful.  We recently had a large software release at work and my team is gearing up for two big projects, so yesterday was the perfect time to take a break and blow off some steam. 

A coworker of mine, AKA the target of my April Fool’s prank, has been trying for several weeks to organize a team outing that would make use of his jet skis and a boat.  Due to some scheduling conflicts, a lot of our team couldn’t attend, and due to a system issue, our boat captain was not going to be able to provide the boat.  Hoping to salvage the trip, our dauntless organizer tried to find anyone willing to sacrifice their Friday to spend it out on the water.  My boss, one of the guys on my team and myself were willing to make that sacrifice. 

The cruise organizer, we’ll call him Julie for now (in fact that’s what we called him all day anyway), had everything scheduled down to the minute.  The plan was to arrive at his house at 10 AM, fuel up the jet skis and be in the water by 11 AM.  Everyone arrived on schedule, and we were in the truck and ready to roll by 10:30.  We stopped to get gas, some drinks and snacks for the trip.  As we were pulling away from the gas pumps the driver’s side fender of the trailer clipped the steel bumpers they put at the corners of the gas pump island.  There appeared to be only a minor dent in the fender, so we headed off.  As we drove down the street, the fender looked like it was rubbing the tire.  So we pulled off into the next gas station and jumped out to survey the damage.  I immediately reached down and pried the metal away from the tire and got a little more than I expected.  Let me describe the scenario with a little more detail.  Rubber tire, steel fender, constant contact for about a quarter of a mile at about 35 miles per hour.  If you still don’t get the picture, the fender was goddamn HOT!  In fact, it was hot enough to give me a 2nd degree burn in the less than ten seconds that I had a hold of it.  A huge blister immediately formed on my pinky. 

No big deal, I have had worse.  We all jumped back in the truck and drove off to boat ramp.  We were in the water by 11 AM, exactly as Julie predicted.  The water was perfect, warm and flat as glass.  The weather was perfect.  We headed off to Hart-Miller Island on the Chesapeake Bay.  We beached the skis and unpacked our gear.  We had a couple of drinks and shot the shit.  Andrew had brought along a ball that he had picked up on a trip.  He said the advertisements claimed that the ball would bounce on water.  We all headed out into the water to test it out.  And it WORKED!  The ball really did bounce on water.  The flatter the trajectory of the throw the more it skips and the faster it goes.  I found them on Amazon as soon as I got back, they are called the Waboba Ball.  I am definitely picking one or two of these.

We had a good time tossing the ball around, but I wanted back on the jet skis, I wanted to get back on the water.  I tried to explain my love of the water before and being right there on the beach was amazing, but to be out on the water is something completely different.  So I left my companions on the beach and headed out for a solo run.  I had never driven a jet ski before, but I have driven a boat.  I took the first five minutes to make sure I knew what I was doing and to make sure I knew how to control it and to make sure I wouldn’t kill myself.  After that, I just opened it up.  I don’t have pretty words to describe the feeling of doing 50+ MPH over the water with nothing separating you from the water but a little fiberglass and a foam seat cushion.  I imagine that it’s a lot like flying but without wings.  If you have never done it before, do it and do it now. 

The water was still very calm and I could just skim across with the throttle wide open.  That suited me for a little, but then I started hunting down passing boats.  I had some fun cutting across their wakes.  It wasn’t until a crabbing boat came along that was pushing a lot of water that I found out how awesome it could be.  The first time the jet ski and I left the surface of the water, I knew I was in love.  I don’t know how much time I spent out there, but I figured I needed to head back in to give someone else a turn.

When I got back we all headed out to the other side of the island where the water was a little rougher.  Since there were four of us and only two jet skis, we would take turns driving.  About ten minutes into the trip we had our first plunge into the water.  I was riding passenger with Patrick, AKA Julie, on the lead ski, Andrew and Hudson were following behind.  My job was to 1) hold on, 2) keep looking back to make sure the other two were keeping up with us.  The first job was simple enough, you just lock one hand under the vinyl strap on the seat and you are good to go.  The second job also proved easy enough too, until we both noticed the other jet ski to be driverless and saw the two heads bobbing up and down in the bay.  We turned around to lend a hand in rescuing our companions from the water.  My third and newest job proved to be a little more difficult.  I was supposed to grab the riderless ski, which was right-side up which is a good thing and pull it over to the two stranded in the water. 

I learned a few things during our rescue mission.  Thing number one – there is no really good place to grab a jet ski.  Thing number two – the more I lean, the more the jet ski leans.  Thing number three (and the most important thing) – if you lean too much and you are about to roll the jet ski, let the hell go of the other jet ski or just jump in.  So I rolled Pat and I and our jet ski over.  We weren’t doing 50 MPH or jumping waves or slaloming between crab pots, we were sitting still in.  So now all four of us were in the water and one of the jet skis was upside down (usually not a bad thing, they are designed to recover from stuff like that).  BUT I managed to still hold on to both of the skis.  Everyone recovered, two pairs of sunglasses lost, but everything else was fine.

Back to the holding on thing.  Apparently if you hold onto the seat strap with your palm up and your knuckles against the seat, you can wear away a nice chunk of skin from your knuckles.  At one point I looked down at the seat and the strap I was holding was covered in blood.  I hadn’t heard of any sharks in this part of the bay, so I didn’t worry too much about it.

We drove around a little more and decided to break for lunch at a restaurant.  We sat down exactly at 2 PM, exactly as Julie, I mean Pat, scheduled.  After a big lunch we rode around some more, with only one more unintentional dive into the ocean and then spent an hour digging for clams.  I think they managed to grab about 150 nice sized clams.  We made it back to Pat’s around 6 PM and I was home and showered by 7:30. 

A big thank you to Patrick for an amazing day!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Unearned Suffering

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “unearned suffering is redemptive.”  Pain and suffering can take many forms and be caused by any number of  sources.  Sometimes others inflict pain on us, sometimes we do it to ourselves.  A good example is when I happen upon a movie that plain sucks, the plot, the acting, the story, the special effects, etc., you name it, it blows, but once I start watching it, I continue to the end in the hope that it will magically get better by the end.  This happened Saturday.  I noticed that Surrogates was now in the my Instant queue on Netflix.  The kids are away and I could actually watch something that I wanted to watch.  I am sucker for science fiction, so I thought this would be a good choice.  I have been a Bruce Willis fan ever since his days on Moonlighting (FYI- my all time favorite episode was the Taming of the Shrew one), so this was another plus.

About fifteen minutes into the movie, I began to see the error of my decision.  The premise of the movie was awful and really farfetched, the dialog was lame and the editing was atrocious.  But I am a closet optimist (don’t tell anyone) and I stuck with it.  And when it started to get worse, I just couldn’t bring myself to turn it off.  There are 72 other movies in my instant queue that I could watch, but for some OCD-driven reason, I suffered through it.  I even stayed up until 2:30 AM to finish it.

I think in all of my 36 years, I have only turned off five or six movies because they were bad.  Let me rephrase that, when I am taking about watching a movie, I mean that I choose to sit down and watch a movie from the beginning.  There are several movies or shows that may be on TV that I catch parts of but never finish, but only five or six that I have sat down with the intention of watching beginning to end that I have stopped watching.  I am the same way with books.  There are only two books that I have put down mid-way through and never finished.  I just can’t do it, I get a sick feeling in my head, like I am quitting or something.

Unlike the mental pain of watching a bad movie, there is also physical pain.  While weed-eating the other morning, I actually hit my leg with the weed-eater (don’t ask how, because I am still trying to figure out how I could do something so stupid) and left a two inch gash in my shin.  I scared some young woman walking her dog when the string hit my leg and I yelled “Dirty Whore!”  I looked up from my bleeding shin to see her wide-eyed stare and gasping mouth as she hurried her dog away.  Then later that night, I was playing with my daughter.  One of her new favorite games is to pull the hair on my head and act like she is making a pile of the pulled hairs on the floor.  While this is painful in a dull, throbbing way, it was not nearly as painful as when she was grabbing my nose and accidently shoved her thumb into my left nostril and pinched.  She didn’t let go as she pulled her hand away from my face.  Her razor-sharp baby finger nails lacerated the inside of my nose and left my already allergy-beaten nose in a bloody mess.  She smiled and went on with her business as I hurried to the bathroom to stop the flow.

And then there is that deep, soul-wrenching suffering.  That anguish that is so persistent that no matter what you do or where you are, it is always present like a tooth-ache in your mind.  Something so insidious that you often lose your concentration, become irritable and snap at those you love.  This suffering can only be caused by one thing, something so innocent yet so vile, when you get a stupid goddamned song stuck in your head and you can’t get rid of it.

You see, it all started with this:

My wife and I have a habit of being silly, sometimes downright dorky at times.  A few months ago when we harvested our first crop of lettuce from the garden, we started eating a lot more salads.  And a salad is not complete without good croutons.  After working our way through several brands, we found Mrs. Cubbison’s Seasoned Restaurant Style Croutons.  Here’s where the silly (and covertly evil) part comes in.  My loving wife, while preparing salads for the family for dinner, came up with a catchy little ditty.  It goes something like this, “And here’s to you, Mrs. Cubbison, people love your croutons more than you can know. (wo wo wo)  God bless you please, Mrs. Cubbison, restaurant style on salads they will stay (hey hey hey)…” (sung to the tune of “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel).  There are other lines and various versions of the chorus, but you get the point. 

Now any time that box comes out of the cupboard, I am singing that friggin’ song.  My wife sings it, the kids sing it, I am singing it right friggin’ now.  I catch myself humming it at my desk, in the car, in the shower.  You just want to grab a big spoon and belt it out like you are on stage.  It becomes the punctuation to every sentence, to every thought.  “Oh, it’s Shark Week, and here’s to you Mrs. Cubbison…”  “Well that was a short meeting, People love your croutons more than you can know…”  It’s like an itch that you can’t scratch, like getting a wedgie while standing in front of a lot of people, you know you can’t dig it out, you just have to keep grinning and bearing it.  Like getting a pebble in the toe of your shoe or that bug that gets in the car and flies around your head while you are driving.  When I see homeless people on the street, talking to themselves and swatting at invisible objects, I know that in their minds they are singing some stupid song that happened to get stuck there many years ago that they couldn’t get rid of.

So now you know of my pain.  And it ain’t the least bit redemptive.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Silent Lucidity

I haven’t written anything since I returned from vacation.  There has just been too many things to do, taekwondo, laundry, summer camp for the boys, and reading, categorizing and responding to the 1,495 work emails in my inbox that I received during my hiatus.  After a busy week, things are starting to slow down and return to their normal rhythm.  I spent the morning doing much needed lawn care and my wife packed up the boys for a week long visit to my in-laws.  The boys were shipped out by 1 PM today and it left the house eerily silent.  When the baby took at a nap at 3, my wife and I both passed out on different sofas for an hour.  That sort of thing is not normally possible in our house.

Today is also our eleventh wedding anniversary.  We headed down to Fells Point in Baltimore for some dinner.  We selected Meli to have dinner.  I don’t get out much, and when I do, I usually opt for a place where you order standing up and carry your food away in paper containers, but that does not mean that I don’t like fine dining.  I love the opportunity to try new foods, especially when they are prepared by professional chefs.  My wife and I had planned to arrive early before the place got too crowded, before the baby got too hungry and possibly have a peaceful meal with some fine food and light conversation.

The plan did not go as expected.  We ran into heavy traffic caused by a bad accident on the way to Baltimore.  That put us forty minutes behind schedule.  Securing parking is never easy in downtown B-more, but luckily nice restaurants like Meli offer valet parking.  We hustled out the car with only the baby and a diaper bag.  Once inside the restaurant, the impeccably dressed maître d’ informed us that they did not have highchairs.  Um, what?  Do you have booster seats?  No.  I almost expected him to say, “we don’t serve your kind here.”  The über-convenient fold up booster seat was at home and I watched the van drive away containing the stroller.  My wife and I conferred for a few seconds.  We can handle this.  We have three kids, we have been through every child rearing situation there is.  We agreed that we could just hold the baby.  Let the fine dining begin. 

We were shown to our seats and we sat pondering the menu.  The baby sat on a cushioned bench in between my wife and a wall.  She could see above the table and was sitting rather still, but every few minutes squealed or whined as babies often do to let you know they are still there and they want your attention.  Apparently the other diners in the restaurant have never seen nor heard a child before and offered us a few dirty looks.  I had my back to the rest of the dining room, so I missed most of them.  My wife, on the other hand, took the full brunt of the other patrons’ disapproving stares.  While the other diners may or may not have seen a baby before, albeit an especially well behaved baby that acted with a level of decorum well beyond her fourteen months of age sitting unassisted better than her older brothers would have, eating bread and fruit snacks, I know that they have never borne witness to one of my wife’s scowls.   

In our nineteen year relationship and eleven year marriage, I have found happiness and love.  In every relationship, especially after such a long time, you learn the mannerisms, likes and dislikes, and traits of your partner.  I love everything about my wife.  In these past nineteen years, I have learned how to tell when she is happy or sad or angry, and I have also learned to fear one thing, the Look.  There are few things on the planet that bear such malevolence and threat of violence as one of my wife’s Looks.  I have had the displeasure of being on the receiving end of the Look a few times.  I will show you the scars over drinks sometime if you are interested in such horror stories, just like Quint telling his tale of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.  With this one look, you immediately understand that your ass is grass and that my wife is starting the lawn mower.  You hear the rolling thunder of an approaching storm, you smell the brimstone of Hell’s fires, and you see your death, slow and painful, mirrored in her eyes.

I didn’t even have to look up from the menu to realize that the Look was ready to be unleashed.  The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I felt the heat on my shoulder as it passed over, directed at some middle-aged woman who couldn’t keep her bobble head pointed in the right direction.  There is no defusing the situation once the Look has been summoned, the trigger has been pulled, just hope you are not looking down the barrel.  Luckily for them, they quickly paid their check and vacated the restaurant before my wife tore their still beating hearts from their chests and ordered the kitchen pan-sear and serve them on a bed of lettuce.

The rest of the meal went quickly and without incident.  I think the staff realized that this was a less than optimal situation as much as my wife and I wanted to just eat and run.  Aside from the bad atmosphere caused by the other patrons and the lack of child-friendliness of the restaurant, the meal was excellent.  I order the Duo of Duck and my wife ordered the Tuna Burger with sweet potato fries.  For dessert, we opted for Pitango Gelato around the corner.  I had apricot sorbet and Bourbon vanilla gelato.

Overall, we had a good time.  Nothing is ever easy when you have a small child, but being a parent for eight years, you learn how to deal with anything that comes your way.  My wife is the expert and I just help out when she needs an extra set of hands.  What you don’t expect is when other people can’t deal with having a small human being around, especially a public place like a restaurant.

Meli’s rating:

  • Taste: 5 – The braised duck confit and the duck bread pudding were outstanding.
  • Prep Time: 4 – the food arrived very quickly, again, this could have been because they wanted us out quickly.
  • Health: 3 – not exactly sure, but seriously, who cares when it tastes that good.
  • Cost: 2 – Two entrees and no drinks were $60.
  • Kid Friendliness: 0 – If I had included negative numbers in my rating plan, this would definitely have gotten one.  Aside from not having a highchair or booster seat, they didn’t even have a kid’s menu.  If you are going here, don’t bring the kids.
  • Overall: 2.8

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Edge of the World

I’m back!  It was a relaxing vacation, as relaxing as it could be with three children under 8 years old, including a one year old.  We spent four days at the beach, soaking up the sun, swimming in the ocean and the pools, and having fun on the boardwalk.  The kids had a blast doing what they love to do, swim, stay up late, play games, and acquire junk which to them equates to treasure.  I was almost completely unplugged the entire time.  I had my Droid of course, but I used it for finding places to eat and amusements.  I have to admit I did have to spend some time on my brother-in-law’s laptop, trying to solve some issues with his iTunes.  For the record, I am not an Apple hater, I own an iPod, my son has an iPod Touch and my wife has a Mac, but I am not their biggest fan either.  And the hour I spent dealing with iTunes just heightened my distaste.  I never solved the problem, I don’t even think I got close, but I tried.

Other than seeing my wife and kids have a good time on vacation, the highlight for me is always the ocean.  I know this will sound cliché, but I am enthralled by the ocean.  I could sit for hours doing nothing but watching the waves come rolling into the shore.  I don’t need a book, an iPod, or a fishing rod, I just need to be there.  The crash, the roar and the hiss of each wave is like music to me.  The endless reach of the water out into the horizon makes me feel like I am standing at the edge of the world, and the rhythmic pulse of each wave is the world’s heartbeat.  I would stand in the surf and let each wave pound into me, feeling the pull of the current and feel so insignificant, so tiny compared to the power of the ocean, yet never felt so much alive than at that time. 

Wherever we went and whatever we did, I always tried to be in a position where I could see the water or hear the water lapping up against the side of a boat or pier.  We had a chance to get out on a boat during our trip and it was amazing how such a short time out on the water could make me feel so at peace.  The gentle roll of the deck and a southerly wind erased all stress and worry.  It’s hard to even write about it because I lack the words and the memory of it, I just “existed” there.  Even now, I think a small part of me is still there.  I hope to hold on to that feeling until I can return to the water again.

Thanks to my in-laws for providing such a great escape.  I enjoyed myself immensely, and I know my wife and kids did too.  Thank you again! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cooler But Still Complaining

The thermometer on my desk reads 76.6° and 30% humidity.  There is an eerie silence about the house.  There are no running fans or portable air conditioners.  There are no shocking temperature changes when you walk from room to room.  The fifteen days of living in Satan’s ass crack are over.  Yesterday the new A/C and furnace were installed.  It took the guys almost nine hours to get the job done but when they were finished it was bliss.  The new system is silent, inside and out, but you can feel the effects throughout the house. 

I have said before that my world is in complete balance, I cannot have the good without the bad.  While karma was tallying up all of the benefit from the new heating and cooling system, it decided to give me a wonderful sinus and ear infection.  How else would I start my first real vacation since Christmas?  So along with a bathing suit and beach chairs, I am packing a box of tissues and antibiotics for our trip to the beach.  I moped around the house today, packing up all of the portable A/C units and getting stuff together for our trip to the beach, stopping every few minutes to sneeze ten times and blow my nose another ten times.  I am considering going the Lord Valdemort route and having my entire nose and sinuses removed.  I really don’t need or want them anymore.

Yesterday, I really didn’t have much to do except sit around, blow my nose several hundred times, and wait for the guys to finish working around the house, so I caught up on some TV viewing.  I have been reading about the new SyFy series, Haven, for a few weeks now, but I haven’t watched any of the episodes.  Yesterday, I got a chance to see both episodes.  The series is based on Stephen King’s story, The Colorado Kid, and takes place in, where else, a small town in Maine named Haven.  Haven looks like the typical New England coastal town with pine trees and lobsters, but there are some weird things that are happening.  I won’t go into detail or divulge any spoilers, but overall the two shows that I have seen have been enough for me to want to see more.  The acting is pretty good, with the dialog being more on the humorous side.  The special effects are cheesy, but I can deal with that. 

I also got to catch up on some movies that have been sitting around since the A/C broke.  My wife and I watched Shutter Island the other night.  It was very good.  I had not had a chance to read the book yet so the story was very surprising.  I am finishing Inglourious Basterds tonight, so far it has been amazing.

I don’t know if I will write anything while at the beach, I think I want to be computer-free for a few days.  Talk to you when I return.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

Chatty Kathies, Gadflies, Chatterboxes, Klingons, Stalkers.  You know what they are.  They are those people that stop by your desk everyday, IM you, call you, email you, and just won’t leave you alone and have no legitimate reason for being there other than to shoot the shit.  It doesn’t matter what you are doing, what time of the day it is, all of a sudden this person appears.  They ask you innocuous questions, “How’s your day going?”, “How’s the family?”, etc.  They start telling you about their day, their kids/pets/house plants/bed sores, and you didn’t even ask.  If you don’t know one, then you might be one.  There is nothing harmful in that, there is nothing bad about chatting with a friend.  But when it happens every day and begins to occupy the time that you have reserved for something else (like work), then it becomes an issue.  What do you do?

I have run into this situation several times in my personal and professional life.  Sometimes if you ignore the person long enough, they will go away.  But if they don’t get the hint, you have to take more extreme measures.  I did a little research on the topic when I was confronted with a particularly bad situation a few years ago.  At the time, there was a person from a different development team at work who would come over and plop right down at my desk every day and strike up a 45 minute conversation.  In the first two weeks, I learned more about his personal life than anyone who was not his spouse, doctor or clergyman should know.  I didn’t want to ruin my work relationship with this person and I didn’t want to cause any issues, so at first I just smiled and listened.  But then it started to interfere with my work and I found out later that it was also effecting this person’s performance, and it had to be dealt with. 

I can’t find the websites that I originally referred to on the subject, but I have found plenty more that say the same thing.  I found one that has some “professional” tips for resolving the problem.  Many of the experts will tell you to be direct, but gentle.  I started out by telling the person they only had 10 minutes talk and then I had to get back to work.  When 10 minutes were up, I would end the conversation and resume working.  When that was established, I moved on to “scheduling” time to talk with the person, by saying things like “I can’t talk now, but if you come back at 2, I can give you 10 minutes.”  When that sunk in, I began giving the person things to do, like “Hey while you are here, I need you to do this.”  That pretty much took care of that.  The person eventually stopped by once every few days and only stayed for a few minutes.  We were still friends.  All of these suggestions are great and I can attest that they do work.  But what is the fun in that? 

In today’s digital, work-from-home age, the interruptions are a little different, but they still have the same impact.  People can’t come and waste your time by stopping at your desk unless they physically come to your house, which has happened.  But that doesn’t mean people can’t reach out to you through instant messengers, email or even the phone.  It’s now not a problem of physical presence, but one of the ever-flashing IM window, or the cluttered inbox, or, gods forbid, the ringing of the phone. 

A friend of mine at work, we will call her “Ren” to protect her identity, told me a few weeks ago about klingon that she currently has, we will refer to the klingon as “Stimpy”.  Everyday Stimpy IM’s Ren, asks about her family, her baby, etc. and the two have never even met in person!  Worse than that, they only had a few brief conversations a few years ago while working on a project.  What one person took for a work conversation, the other took a life-long bond of friendship.  Now Stimpy won’t stop talking.  And it’s not the daily contact that is the issue, it’s that the questions are personal, referring to Ren’s baby as “her little niece”, asking about her life, and such.  It sounds like Stimpy could show up at her front door one day and ask to spend a few days with her while she is in town!  What do you do?

The first attempts at ignoring the gadfly failed miserably.  Soon Ren was greeted with replies in IM of “Why is my friend not responding, is something wrong?”  Blocking her in IM causes Stimpy to send emails of “I see you are offline, is everything ok?”  My advice – have fun with it.  Here are my suggestions.

Reversal Method:  Start asking her about her family, her husband, etc. but don’t stop there, get really personal.  Ask her what her man looks like, respond with “yum he sounds delicious.”  Ask if he is a top performer - wink wink and go from there.

Flood Gate Method: Don’t just respond, attack!  Launch a denial of service campaign against her.  Stay up late, get up early, don’t stop chatting all day long.  When you can’t be around, ask someone to log into your IM account for you and have them carry on the campaign. 

Disturbing Method: “How’s my little niece?”  “What, oh the baby, yeah, haven’t seen her all day.  I wonder if her water bowl is full.”  Or “OMG that kid is driving me NUTZ! Sometimes I could just smother her with a pillow.  haha j/k ;(”  Stop short of a criminal investigation.

Gross Method: “BRB gotta go, got the runs today.”  And then follow it up 15 minutes later with “Phew!  You better be glad you are not around here!  That smell could gag a maggot!  I mean, can I get a courtesy flush?  Boo-ya!”

Even Grosser Method:  “Stimpy, this is weird, but do you ever get that not-so-fresh feeling?”  Feel free to elaborate in detail about your least fresh day.

Captain Oveur Method: “Have you ever been in a cockpit before?  Have you ever seen a grown man naked?  Stimpy…have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”

Grosser still method: “Eeewww, there are short hairs all over my keyboard!  I wonder how they got here, they don’t taste like nose hairs.”

Henry's Chat Method:  Respond with only obscure movie quotes and music lyrics.  “How’s your day?” Response - “Is this to be an empathy test?  Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response?  Fluctuation of the pupil.  Involuntary dilation of the iris.” (Blade Runner)  Or for “How’s my little niece?”  Response - “She's like thirteen years old, and if you even look at her funny, I'm gonna stick an umbrella up your ass and open it.” (Last Boy Scout)  Or “What’s up?”  Response - “Now is the time, for me to rise to my feet, wipe your spit from my face, wipe these tears from my eyes!” (Hatebreed – I Will Be Heard)

Institutionalized Method: “Stimpy, do you hear them?  The voices?  Some people can’t hear them, but I can.  Sometimes they ask me to do things for them.  Sometimes they ask me to do bad things.  Very bad things.  Shush, shush, don’t say anything, don’t you hear them.  They are like butterflies in my head, so soft, like wisps of smoke.  They get angry when I don’t do what they say.  They make me hurt myself. DON’T YOU HEAR THEM?”

Old Spice Method: I won’t go there, I think they covered that one enough.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is It Safe To Go Back Into The Water?

Today marks one week since our central air shit the bed.  Or as I like to think of it, “Day 7 in Satan’s Butt Crack” with only eight more to go.  We had some rain this afternoon which help cool it down a bit, but only for a few hours.  I have the boys home with me this week, so they have the TV constantly running heating up the basement.  They will play nicely together for a few hours and I won’t even know they are there.  And then they start to bicker and then fight and then I have to lock them in separate closets.  They started to mellow out around 4 PM, and wanted to watch a movie, my 6 YO picked out Jaws.  I vetoed that choice until I could have a chance to sit down and watch it with them.

It was an odd choice of movie for them, especially from the 6 YO.  They know that it is my favorite movie, but they have never seen it.  It was interesting coincidence because July 20th marks the 35th anniversary of the movie’s release.  There are so many great things about Jaws, the dialog, the perfect soundtrack, cinematography, and I think it would only be fitting to celebrate its 35th birthday by introducing it to my kids.  So tonight we sat down and began watching it together.  I had to constantly remind them that it was make-believe and that real sharks are not like this.  I had to tell a few (great) white lies and tell them that there are no sharks where we will be going next week.

We only made it up to the part where Chief Brody and Hooper go out and find the abandoned boat before it was time for them to head up to bed.  They haven’t even gotten to see the shark yet.  They didn’t seem scared at all.  It will be interesting if they want to continue watching it after they see the shark for the first time.  I doubt that will happen.  Kids today seem so jaded to violence.

I was doing a little light reading after everyone was asleep and I saw an blog post about the release of “The Shark is Still Working,” a documentary on the making and impact of Jaws.  I have been waiting for this to come out for several years and it is finally here.  So far there is no news of when it will be shown around here or if it will go straight to video after all of the planned screenings.  Either way, I want to see this.

I will let you know how the rest of the movie turns out for the kids when we finish it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Haulin’ Ice and Talkin’ Moons

I’m exhausted, I don’t know how I am still able to function right now.  My wife along with a few others from the labs on her floor hosted picnic at a local state park today.  My job was to play sherpa, loading, unloading, loading and unloading the truck.  During the first unloading, Lucille tried to smash my 6 YO’s head into the pavement by catching his shorts on the tailgate as he jumped down and up-ending him (and she has been behaving so well lately).  He was fine, and ended up ripping his shorts to shreds and only suffered a small scratch on his leg.   

I am not complaining about my role today, I actually enjoyed the work.  The temperature over the past few weeks has limited my outdoor time, since there is nothing to mow or trim.  Today gave me the opportunity to stretch my legs a little and I get bored and cranky when I don’t have something to occupy my time.  I don’t know many people from my wife’s work, and I am not the mingling type, so I stuck to the sidelines, helped serve the food and tried to keep myself busy.

I learned another weird fact about myself while the party was going on around me, I don’t like to relinquish control.  I know I have a heightened need for order, but this went beyond my normal bounds.  I had this weird feeling that I needed to take control of the setup, cooking and cleanup.  I don’t think anyone minded, everyone was there to have a good time.  And I had a good time, trying to allow everyone else a chance to unwind.  Cleaning up trash as soon as it hit the tables, reorganizing the coolers so they performed at optimum thermodynamic capacity, sorting the buns*, and standing ready at the grill in case my wife’s boss needed anything.  I hope I didn’t step on anyone’s toes.

The shirt I was wearing caught the attention of two young girls, both looked about my sons’ ages, who were the daughters of one of my wife’s coworkers.  Since most of my wardrobe consists of t-shirts and most of those shirts have been purchased from shirts.woot!, it’s typical that I get at least one comment when I wear one.  Today, I chose the “I hope you brought a lot of baggies” tee because it is one of my favorites and it is a light color so I didn’t bake in the sun. 

One of the girls approached me and asked what my shirt meant.  I asked her if she knew the names of the planets on my shirt.  She knew Earth, but didn’t recognize Saturn.  I explained that if each natural satellite was like a little puppy, then Saturn would have a really hard time controlling all 62 of hers, while Earth only had Luna.  I think I told her that only 49 of Saturn’s moons had names, but now that I think about it, 52 of them are named.  I explained that since Saturn was so large, she attracted a lot of moons around her, while tiny Earth only has one.  Her and her sister listened and asked questions while I talked about the planets and moons and then she surprised me by saying that the Earth should not have a moon that is so big.  I agreed and told her that based on the size of Earth, she has no right having a moon that large.  In fact, Luna is the fifth largest moon in the solar system and it is still a mystery why Earth has attracted such a large natural satellite.  I love when children get interested in science, even when it is from a silly t-shirt.

As the eating and talking wrapped up, we loaded everything back into the cars.  Everyone headed to the beach that was adjacent to the pavilion we were in.  By the time we finished, my wife and I were exhausted and the beach was packed.  I also didn’t feel comfortable with leaving the truck unattended, while the bed was filled with all of the party gear, i.e. pack and play, coolers, chairs, food, etc.  So we headed home, much to my sons’ disappointment.  We promised a trip to the pool after we unloaded everything at home. 

My sons, our neighbor’s daughter and I headed to the pool for a few hours after everything was unpacked and put away.  The water was warm and very relaxing and we arrived at the perfect time, just as everyone was heading home for the day.  We swam for an hour and a half and then enjoyed an ice cream while we dried off.  Today was a good day.

* The whole situation with the buns was driving me crazy.  They were placed out on the table in a heap of bags, hot dog buns mixing with the hamburger buns, white and whole grain and potato buns all together in a mish-mash.  I attempted several times to sort them appropriately, but I was not getting any respect for the sense of order this situation required.  Alphabetically seemed most fitting: hamburger + potato, hamburger + white, etc. but I thought this might work better: long + potato, long + white,…,round + whole grain, since not everyone was eating a “hamburger” and some were having veggie or turkey burgers.  And the opening of a new bag while there were still buns of the same type in an already opened bag!  I don’t know how many times I had to step in and consolidate.  I was even considering putting the buns away and only doling them out upon request, but there were so many other things that needed my attention.  Damn biologists!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Do – Dah – Dippity!

You may have seen this a few times already.  I know that I have seen it at least five times since last night.  It’s the new Kia commercial featuring life-sized hamsters driving the new Kia Soul.  It wasn’t the hamsters that I found interesting, it was that the commercial featured “The Choice is Yours” by Black Sheep.

As soon as it came on, I started rapping along with the hamsters, much to the amazement of my two boys.  They looked at me the same way they always do when I start acting strange.  My 6 YO had an inquisitive expression on his face, like he didn’t understand what I have become and what happened to the man that used to be his father and the 8 YO had a look of inner turmoil, like he was debating internally whether to run upstairs and tell mom that I am going crazy or just crazy along with me.  They are used to me singing along with heavy metal songs or quoting movies before the actors even say the words, but this caught them off guard.  It was too late last night to prove to them that I knew what this song was, so I waited until today to bring it up on the iPod for them.

But the Kia commercial did more than just prove to my sons that I listen to musicians other than Slipknot and Faith No More, it brought on the urge to listen to some old school rap.  I cycled through the “Rap” playlist on my iPod as we drove around performing errands today.  It brought back a lot of memories hearing A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” - “rrrooaww rrrooaww like a dungeon dragon, change your little drawers cuz your pants are saggin’” and Das EFX’s “Mic Checka” - “I miggedy-make the wonder twins deactivate.” 

With every new song that came on, I did two things, first play the song in fast forward in my head to make sure there were no objectionable lyrics that would further taint the minds of my two impressionable children and second try to recall when this particular song was popular and what I would have been doing around that time.  A lot of it was from the late 80s and early 90s when rap and hip-hop was becoming mainstream in suburbia.  I began to remember spending summers at a friend’s house, swimming in his pool, listening to Rob Base and Slick Rick.  And cruisin’ on High St. in Pottstown in a buddy’s white Dodge Shadow blasting 2 Live Crew and NWA with so much bass the windows would rattle.  And the high school graduation parties with Arrested Development’s “Tennessee” and “Mr. Wendal”.  And how could I forget seeing House of Pain, Body Count and Public Enemy perform live at Penn State.  Ice-T and Chuck D were both taking shots at how white people dance all night long.  Chuck D said at one point, “Y’all too white, if you can’t dance, at least jump in time to the beat.”

I was still into rock and metal back then, but most of my friends were not.  So I listened to hip-hop when I was around them and metal when I was by myself.  It wasn’t until 1991 when Anthrax released the Attack of the Killer B’s album, that I got to bring a little of my world into theirs.  Anthrax partnered up with Public Enemy to do a geared up version of Public Enemy’s “Bring tha Noise”, ala Aerosmith/Run-DMC and “Walk this Way” from five years earlier.  “Bring tha Noise” and Anthrax’s “I’m the Man” got me into a lot of trouble one day when I was senior in high school.  It was a senior cut day which happened to land me and four of my friends at my house at 9 AM.  We started by kicking my dad’s half keg of beer and then moved on to whatever else we could find.  Those two songs were the theme music for all of the events of that day.  At one point I remember sliding down the steps from the second floor to the first on my stomach and then vacuuming up someone’s puke.  There were a few other events that I don’t want to mention in a public forum for fear of any statute of limitations that have not yet expired.  I don’t think my elderly neighbors, at least the ones that were home to witness it, spoke to me for a few years after that.

I don’t know how long my trip down memory lane will last, I am not even halfway through my collection of Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, LL and others.  If you have any favs from that era, let me know I will add them to my mix.  For now it will be “back on the scene, crispy and clean, you can try, but then why, cause you can’t intervene.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cuckoo for Caca

Caca: (n) excrement, poop, crap.  Random crap to be more specific.  Woot! Bag of Crap to be even more specific.   During the June 24th Woot!Off, I was drawn to my browser by the warbling alarm of my Wootalizer.  What could it be?  Another product has sold out?  No, it was not.  It was the ever elusive Bag of Random Crap!  I gazed at the “I want one!” button and it peered back into my soul like the burning gaze of Sauron.  I saw in its single golden eye the same fear that would take the heart of me.  A day may come when my internet connection fails, when I forsake my friends and break all bonds of fellowship and not click that button, but it was not this day.  An hour of woes and shattered shields and “Page loading” messages, when the servers of Woot! come crashing down!  But it was not this day!  This day I clicked… and waited… and entered my CVV code… and waited…! (you get the picture)  By all that you hold dear on this good Internets, I bid you Buy It!, Men (and Women) of the Woot!

So anyway, I got one.  This is my fifth bag of crap.  I received an email last week, informing me that it would be arriving on Tuesday, July 6th.  Bolstered by the hopes and dreams that I would get something like this, I imagined truck loads and truck loads of goodies being delivered to my front porch.  What I didn’t expect was that it would arrive three days early on Saturday.  My 8 YO met Dan The Mailman at the end of the driveway and Dan The Mailman delivered unto him a cardboard box with Woot! printed on the side.  My wife groaned.  My boys, a much happier lot when I buy stuff, exclaimed, “Wudyaget? Wudyaget?”

We didn’t even wait to take it inside.  Wielding my utility knife as if it were Andúril itself, we opened the box right in garage.  Packing materials flew as we tore into the box to see what mysterious contents it would yield.  Finally our treasures were visible, they were… you guessed it…crap.

6 YO: “I want the monkey!”

8 YO: “I want the case!”

The contents of my Woot! Bag of Crap were:

I don’t know what drives me to try to purchase the bag of crap every time it appears.  It may be that I want to land one of those sweet deals, like a Wii or Blu-ray player.  It could also be that I hope for something I would actually use.  I know it has something to do with proving to my wife that it isn’t just flushing $8 down the toilet.  But mostly I think it is playing the game.  Trying to get one is hard, there can be no hesitation, there can be no network latency.  You have to click as soon as it pops up or you have no chance.  Even then, your chances are still slim.  If you have to sign in or dig through your wallet for you credit card CVV code, don’t waste your time, they are already sold out.  Out of the five that I have purchased, only two have been during a Woot!Off or appeared at 1 AM ET with no warning.  For the other three, I expected them, because Woot! has posted them Christmas morning for the last four years.

While we are on the subject of crap, A/C is still broken and I am still sweating my arse off.  It reached a sweltering 92 in my living room and arms-sticking-to-my-desk 88 in the basement.  It is much cooler now, thanks to my father-in-law, who made a trip down from Pennsylvania with two additional air conditioners in tow.  One was another portable A/C unit that found a home in the baby’s room and the other, a window unit, which quickly got installed in the dinning room window so as not to be visible from the street.  My wife informed me that window units are illegal according to our Gestapo Home Association.  Home owners have been known to disappear in the middle of the night when such an egregious crime against taste has been perpetrated in our hood.  Tomorrow I will set about camouflaging it with shrubbery and flowers to avoid being “taken in for aesthetic rehabilitation.”

I also got to sign away my first born’s college fund in order to pay for the new unit that will be installed sometime in early December (just kidding, on July 20th).  Fortunately for him, I worked out a deal with the installers where they are going to leave the old unit in the garage.  My 8 YO can turn the skills he learns while rebuilding the broken A/C and furnace into a future in HVAC maintenance and repair.  There is obviously good money in this trade.  And he will get to exact his revenge on some poor sucker later in life and strip him of his child’s chance at a college education.  Just kidding, just kidding.  Dan the A/C Man, if you are reading this, I mean no disrespect.  Please feel free to clean your boots with the tears I shed while begging at your feet for an earlier install date. (just kidding, I didn’t really cry, you see, the sweat got in my eyes and they started to water and well, yeah sure it looked like crying, and the wailing and moaning was just cuz it stung like a bitch, well, think what you want)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Naked in Front of the Computer

Did you ever have one of those days where Karma walks up to you, smiles daintily and delivers a front snap kick to your groin?  I have a tendency to believe that the universe constantly seeks to find an equilibrium, that there is a balance, like the Force, that everything eventually comes to no net gain or loss.  When something good happens, something equally bad must take place to restore that balance. 

My weekend was awesome, kicked off with the Faith No More concert and then a great, fun-filled Fourth of July.   We started off our Independence Day with our neighbors’ annual breakfast picnic.  We then headed to the pool for a few hours of relaxation.  We ate a quick dinner at home and packed up for the parade.  We snagged good seats under a tree and the kids got a place right on the curb.  We stopped by home to drop my wife and daughter off and the boys and I went to the fireworks.

We found a great spot to watch the fireworks last year, the parking lot and sports fields of the middle school.  It is only a few blocks from the house and offers a perfect view of the show.  I planned to arrive early to secure the same position this year.  We were in luck and got to park the truck so we could sit in the back and the fireworks would be right in front of us.

The kids ran around in the field with flashlights and sparklers and then hopped into the bed of the truck as soon as the show started.  As soon as the show ended, we were about to fold up the chairs and head home, but the field in front of us exploded into light and sound.  Someone had prepared their own fireworks display right at the edge of the field.  About 800 feet in front of us, someone had set up several mortars, Roman candles, and rockets.  The display was almost as good as the one the town put on and lasted almost 30 minutes.  They even had a grand finale prepared.  Someone had taken a lot of time and money to put everything together.  The boys were amazed, they had never been that close to the fireworks before.  The secondary show elicited an even greater round of cheers and applause than “real” display.

We spent Monday lounging around the house, recovering from our long weekend.  Overall the weekend was a great success.  But the universe wasn’t pleased.  All of that good has to be offset by something bad, right?  Monday night, as the kids prepared for bed, everyone was commenting on how hot it was upstairs.  This is normal for our house, the upstairs is always hotter than the rest of the house, so we didn’t think anything of it. 

After everyone was asleep, I snuck downstairs to the basement and caught up on a few things.  By the time I was finished reading through the 100 emails I had gotten over the weekend, I was dripping with sweat.  The basement is always five to ten degrees colder than the rest of the house and I knew something was wrong.  I stopped by the thermostat on the way upstairs to bed and saw that while it was set to 77, the temperature in the living room was 88.  I could hear the blower running in the basement, but the air coming out of the vents wasn’t any cooler than the ambient air.  I ventured outside with a flashlight to examine the outside unit.  The fan was not running and I caught the smell of the magic blue smoke which meant something electrical was cooking.  I informed my wife that the A/C was dead and we started opening windows to attempt to reduce the temperature.  It didn’t help much. 

I spent the majority of today rushing around calling local companies and giving them the grand tour of heating and air conditioning system.  The current system is over 14 years old and has been patched and repaired several times since we have lived here.  During the last repair, which was only about 6 months ago, we were told it didn’t have much time left in it.  The options were to attempt to fix it again or replace the entire thing.  With a repair, there were no guarantees that it would last, especially with how hot it has been the past few days and the stress of running all day and night.  So we decided to replace it.  The first guy said he could have a new unit installed in two to three weeks with a lofty price tag.  Hmmm, umm, no.  My wife got a recommendation from a friend and that guy arrived an hour later.  He gave me the same prognosis, but offered to replace it by Thursday!  I am still waiting on his official quote which I should have tomorrow morning, but his ballpark estimate was much lower than the first guy.

While I was not on the phone or walking people around the house, I was searching for all of the pieces to a portable A/C unit that my father-in-law had given us a few years ago.  This little wheeled unit could be put in any room and had a flexible exhaust pipe that could attached to and vented out a window.  I found all of the pieces except for one, the piece that secured the exhaust hose to the window.  I scoured the entire house, literally top to bottom.  I was searched the attics (house and garage), the basement, every closet, every cabinet.  I did this at least three times before admitting defeat.  I was heading out to the garage to attempt to fabricate something when I decided I would try looking for it one more time.  I eventually found the piece hidden under a stack of remnant carpet pieces, a solar powered water fountain, a space heater, two rifles, and a set of grapevine reindeer all stuffed under the basement steps.

So what’s the big deal?  Millions of people around the world don’t have the luxury of central air conditioning.  Why am I such a wuss?  Well, I think my wife and I could deal with it, not happily, but we could deal.  I know the boys would be fine, they don’t seem to mind the heat at all.  But we are worried about the baby and the dog.  One year olds don’t have the ability to regulate their temperatures as well as adults and she is used to be in air conditioning all day long.  The dog is 11, weighs 90 pounds and is covered in a thick coat of hair. He did not enjoy today at all.  He paced around all day trying to find a cool spot to lay down.  Even when I had the portable A/C unit set up and running in the bedroom, he didn’t want to lay up there.  I took a cold wet towel and rubbed down his belly and under his armpits(?) a few times, which he seemed to enjoy.

On top of all of this, the boys had their annual doctor’s checkup, summer camp, Taekwondo, and I had a PTA budget meeting from 6 PM until 8:30 PM.  So I am sitting here exhausted and sweating in front of the computer.  Of course I am not naked, this office chair is leather and I don’t think that would be comfortable at all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

King For A Day

And Fan for a lifetime.  Saturday was my big night in Philadelphia, I got to see Faith No More for the first time in over a decade.  The show was PHENOMENAL!  It was everything I had hoped for and more.  We had good seats, we could see and hear everything perfectly.  Mike Patton was the same as always, his vocal range never ceases to impress me.  He was able to do amazing covers of Peaches and Herb’s “Reunited” and the Jackson Five’s “Ben” and still growl the likes of “Caffeine” and “Surprise! You’re Dead!”.  The musical highlight of the night for me was my favorite, “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.” 

The music wasn’t the only thing I came to see.  Patton, as usual, is just as fun to watch as he is to listen to.  Patton promised that he would “slow dance” with one of the fans before the night was over.  He delivered during “Ben”, when he singled out an extra large fan in the front row and climbed onto his shoulders.  He had the guy carry him throughout the entire song across the front of the stage while he sang. 

Patton didn’t stop there.  During “Just a Man,” he jumped onto one of the rope ladders leading up to the stage lights and proceeded to climb his way to the top.  Judging by the way two stage hands ran across the stage, this was not a planned event.  Patton shoved the mic into his mouth as he climbed and still continued to sing.  He finished from the top of the ladder and after noticing that there was nowhere else to go, said “Kinda got myself into trouble, didn’t I?”  The rest of the band just stared up at him and played “Edge of the World” in striptease fashion as he climbed back down.

The band came out for an encore of three songs, ending with “Digging the Grave.”  It was sad when it was over.  I may never again get to see them perform together again.

I learned a few technical details from the show.  The first is that neither the Flip Mino nor the Motorola Droid are good for long distance video.  The second is that I suck as a camera man.  It didn’t matter, I got to see it live.  Here are a couple of my crappy videos from the show:

You can see the rest of my videos here.  Or if you want to see better ones, you can check out the New Faith No More blog.

Thanks to Mark for coming with me!  I am anxious to see how your iPhone videos turned out.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Take This Bottle

Today, I had my first alcoholic drink in over six months.  In fact, I had two!  And the first came only five minutes past noon!  After the past several weeks/months, I felt like I needed a little something extra during lunch today, to ease the pain.  I don’t think it improved my work load any or will make me work any faster, but it sure felt nice and cold going down.  Today was one of those rare occasions when I actually got to leave the house and have lunch with adults.  I met a few of my fellow work-from-home coworkers at a local restaurant.  We try to meet at least once per month, but it always ends up being once every two or three months.  I arrived before everyone else and got to sit in a quiet room off the main dining room waiting for everyone to arrive.  There was no one else in the room, there were no TVs on, no computers, no email or instant messages, and no kids.  I felt it was only appropriate to celebrate this blessed moment of silence with a cold beer.

I decided to quit drinking when I was 19 years old.  I can assure you while I was still two years under the legal drinking age, I had many gallons under my belt at that point, and they was just what I could remember.  I did not quit entirely, but just stopped doing the “binge” drinking that was very prevalent with my peers.  At the time, I understood the effects of alcohol and when I drank, I drank with one purpose in mind, to get drunk.  I never saw a point in drinking to be sociable, or for the taste, or for any other reason than to get to that point where my mind stopped functioning coherently and go completely past it.  I had fun, I got in trouble, had more fun.  But by age 19, I decided that I didn’t like the “me” that I became when I drank too much.  I didn’t like not having control over what I did or said (I have a big mouth when I am sober, and it gets even bigger and louder when I have had a few).  I also noticed a big flaw in my head that would allow me to quickly become addicted to this type of thing.  So I quit.

Over the next 16 years, I have had times when I wanted to celebrate and allowed myself to cut loose.  But after those occasions, I went back to my “Coca-Cola drinking, sit on the sidelines and watch the other drunk fools” lifestyle.  About once or twice a year, I will have a beer or two, but I don’t allow myself anymore than that.  I don’t condemn anyone that drinks (only when it does harm or can potentially harm someone else), it doesn’t bother me when other people drink around me.  I am not trying to preach or get up on a soapbox.  It can be fine for other people, I just know it is not for me. 

In fact, I like being the only sober person at a party, you won’t believe the crazy shit I have talked people into doing, portraying the little devil on their shoulder.  I once talked a friend of mine into letting me draw a version of the da Vinci’s Last Supper on his back in permanent Sharpie marker.  When I was finished, it went from shoulder to shoulder, from the hairline on his neck to his waistline.  Don’t ask me why the Last Supper, I think it had something to do with the conversation at the time.  But I can tell you the next morning he was really pissed, but also impressed by my artistic rendering using only red, black and green markers.

So on this extended holiday weekend, drink responsibly and have a great weekend.  I doubt I will post anything tomorrow, since I will be in Philly for the Faith No More concert.  But I will try to have some pics and possibly some video for you when I return.  Sunday, we will head out to the annual Independence Day Parade and Fireworks. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Power of the Written Word

Yesterday I opened my big mouth and wrote an impassioned plea to Turkey Hill to bring back a certain flavor of ice cream.  I would like to report today that the execs over at Turkey Hill read my post, wept with compassion and immediately called their dairy managers to switch all production over to making Double Dunker.  Unfortunately, I cannot report that.  What I can say is that I need to do a little research before I open my yap. 

Whoever runs the @TurkeyHillDairy Twitter account replied to me and told me to look out for Double Dunker coming out this month and sent me a link to their 2010 limited edition schedule.  I consider myself to be fairly web-savvy, and I thought that I had been all over their site and I swear that never saw that calendar.  A little while after their Twitter reply, a Turkey Hiller (I don’t know if they really call themselves that), Alice, commented on my post and informed me that Double Dunker is also part of their Stuff’d product line!  I was feeling really dumb at this point.  How could this have slipped right under my nose?  I swear that I checked this out before too. 

Now that I have been proven wrong, I have a new quest, to find the elusive Double Dunker in the store.  I did the grocery shopping today, hoping to find it waiting for me in the ice cream aisle, but, alas, it is not there yet.  Only constant vigilance will prevail.  As soon as I find it, it will be mine, all mine. 

Thank you to everyone from Turkey Hill for replying and helping me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As I write this, the birthday sleep-over party is winding down.  I think they really enjoyed the Lunesta Pizza.  I am a little upset that I didn’t get to wear my new riot gear.

6 Days until FNM at the Mann!

An Open Letter To Turkey Hill

It has been a year since we first tasted Double Dunker.  It has been a year since we first experienced this wonder of frozen confections.  By the time we realized that this was the best ice cream ever created, it was gone.  Only six quarts and they disappeared so quickly.  We love your other flavors, Peaches ‘N Cream, Black Raspberry, Choco Mint Chip, Cookies ‘N Cream and so many others.  But no other ice cream even comes close to Double Dunker.  It feels like every spoonful of another ice cream is dishonoring the memory of Double Dunker, an act of unfaithfulness to our love for your chocolate cookie swirl and your creamy mocha goodness.  Eating ice cream is supposed to be a joyous occasion, but you have spoiled our taste buds.  You have left them wanting for something they can never again have.  We will continue to eat your other ice creams and drink your iced teas, but please, we implore you, Turkey Hill, to bring this back to us, bring back Double Dunker.  Fill this empty hole beneath our hearts once again.  Give our taste buds something to live for.

Ok, enough with the silliness.  In all honesty, Double Dunker is the best ice cream I have ever eaten, I think my wife and kids would agree as well.  I don’t even like mocha ice cream, but this was an exception.  It tasted like dunking a chocolate chip and Oreo cookie into a cup of coffee at the same time (hence the name).  They got the flavor exactly right.  I understood that it was a “limited edition”, but had I known that it would be gone so quickly, I would have stockpiled more.  We actually drove from our home in Maryland up through Lancaster and Chester Counties, PA, stopping at every Turkey Hill convenience store along the way to see if they had any left.  Of course, that wasn’t the purpose of the trip, but since we were there, we might as well stop and check. 

I grew up in Pennsylvania and had the benefit of living close to a Turkey Hill Minit Market.  I stopped in every morning before work to pick up a half gallon of their iced tea when I worked at the golf course.  I was extremely happy when a Redners Market opened up close to our home in Maryland and I saw that they carried Turkey Hill ice cream and iced tea.  I had actually forgotten how much I enjoyed their iced tea.  Their Green Tea Mango is my current favorite.

Help me support our cause to bring Double Dunker back.  Tweet “@TurkeyHillDairy – please bring back Double Dunker” or contact Turkey Hill on their contact page.  If you do, please be polite, I don’t want them to get pissed at me and never bring it back.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Twenty-five = Eight + One

Today is a big day for our household.  Yes, that’s right, it is six months until Christmas.  And yes, it is only eight days away from me seeing Faith No More at the Mann in Philly.  And yes, it marks one year since that child molester died of an overdose, may he rot in hell and his music be banned from the airwaves.  But more important than all of those things, it’s the birthday of two of my kids.  We don’t have twins, but we do have two kids born on the same day, seven years apart.  My oldest son turns eight and my daughter celebrates her first birthday.

We didn’t plan it this way, it just happened.  In fact, we really didn’t want it to happen that way at all.  It was the one day that we didn’t want our little girl arrive, but she chose that day to come anyway.  But it figures our child in utero would listen to us just as well as the two on the outside. 

The birth of each of our children was an exciting time.  For our first child, I was working in Delaware, about 42 miles from home when my wife called to inform me that her water broke.  I quickly packed up my gear and said a hasty goodbye to my coworkers as I sped out the door.  I think I made it from my office to the driveway of the house in just under 45 minutes.  I don’t remember any of the drive home, probably because it flew by in a blur.  I got my wife loaded into the car and headed to the hospital.  I don’t think she was nearly as nervous as I was.  She seemed calm and collected.  She was in labor a long time and didn’t deliver until 12:12 AM ET on 06/25/2002.  The nurse was complaining because she had all of the paperwork written up for him to be born on 06/24.

Our second son decided to come when I was at work, too.  I don’t think I made it home as fast this time because my wife was only being sent to the hospital for evaluation.  The nurse hooked all of the monitors up as soon as we arrived at the hospital and left us alone for about 30 minutes.  She came back in to check up on us and asked my wife if she knew she was having contractions.  My wife said that she thought she was but they seemed small.  He arrived a few hours after that, right in the middle of the Friends final episode.

Our little girl decided to sneak in.  I had just gotten done working for the evening, and sat down to play a little Call Of Duty: World at War with a friend and my wife appeared at the top of the basement steps.  “My water just broke.”  It was 12:14 AM ET.  We woke up the kids and wished my son a happy birthday.  We told him he was getting a very special gift, his baby sister decided she wanted to come on his birthday.  I was talking my time making sure everything was ready to go, making all of the phone calls, etc. but my wife was in a panic.  This was really different from the previous two, she wanted to be at the hospital as soon as possible, she was afraid she was going to deliver in the minivan on the way there.  So I popped on my racing hat, and was pulling a little under 100 MPH in our minivan on the highway.  I also got to go through some red lights.  I wasn’t going to do it, but my wife said “Just go already!”  I just nodded, looked both ways and floored it.  Our daughter arrived at 6:54 AM ET, about 6 hours after stepping into the hospital.

This weekend, we are having our first sleep-over birthday party.  If you don’t hear from me after this, it is because I will be recovering in a padded room in the nearest mental institution.  I already have a few nice ones picked out and I am downloading the admissions paperwork now.  It shouldn’t be that bad, we are only having three other boys here.  We will keep them locked safely away in the basement watching movies and playing games.  The nitrous tanks are filled and ready to be vented in if things get too rowdy.  My wife and I also have matching His and Her riot gear picked out if we have to invade the basement for any reason.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Domino Mutha…

It has been a week since my boys started their summer vacations.  The plan was to have them spend the first two weeks at home with me before they started their summer camp.  There isn’t an issue with being home with me while I work, they are fairly self-sufficient, i.e. they can get their own water or juice boxes, use the bathroom by themselves (I say nothing about aim), they can even feed themselves (if it is some sugary junk food).  I can get the same amount of work done with them here, I just have to answer an unending stream of questions and respond to an equally unending stream of complaints.  My theory is that if I can regularly give them something to occupy their minds and hands, they will be content.  And if I schedule my day right, I can actually spend some time with them and do some interesting activities.  My goal in choosing activities is threefold, do something educational, tire them out and not spend any money doing it.  My kids will suck a wallet dry in a matter of minutes if you give into their whims.

On Monday, I took the afternoon off and took the kids to Annie’s Playground (no this is not a strip club).  This is a playground built to honor a young girl who died in Baltimore after being hit by drunk driver.  It is one of the largest playgrounds in the country (according to the plaque at the entrance).  The place is enormous, I tried to get a good picture to show how large it is, but I could only get about 1/2 of it in any shot that I took.  It is a really safe environment for kids to play and offers them a wide variety of things to do.  There numerous tunnels, rope ladders, monkey bars, shaky bridges, swings and slides.  The entire ground level is covered in rubber mulch made from shredded tires.  The boys and I decided to play hide and seek first and within five minutes, I busted my knee open trying to crawl through a tunnel.  Obviously they designed it for children’s safety, not big oafish adults.  We spent about an hour there before deciding it was too hot and headed out to find something else to do.

After finding nothing around town that didn’t cost money to do, we headed back home.  As the kids rested, I checked a few things for work and noticed a cool math trick in my Google Reader from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

I spent about an hour teaching this to my 7 YO.  They don’t make kids memorize times tables anymore, so this might be a handy trick (pun intended) for him until he has them memorized.  The 6 YO sat and watched what we were doing but wasn’t really interested in trying it.  They really didn’t cover multiplication in kindergarten, so the concept was advanced for him.  Like the cartoon suggested, I imagined what it would be like to have twenty fingers (or just include my feet) and the concept worked the same way.  You just have to remember that it is now vigesimal (base 20) and not decimal (base 10).

Latter that night, we were searching through the game cabinet for something to do and I saw a box of dominos and coaxed them into learning how to play.  My 6YO complained at first because he already knew how to play dominos.  “You just stand them up in a row and knock them over.”  I explained that there were other ways to play and then explained the rules.  He finally agreed to play.  I was cheating in the beginning to let my 6 YO win, because I didn’t want him to loose interest too quickly.  He quickly became very good and I didn’t have to handicap myself.  The few hands that I won, I was tempted to pull little Doughboy action, but I figured that they should wait before teaching that part of the game.

This morning, my 7 YO stumbled upon something very cool.  He was searching on Google (with my supervision) for Lego animation videos and found hundreds of YouTube videos instructing you how to build different things with Lego pieces.  Both boys spent hours rooting through our box of Lego pieces to build various different guns and ships.  I love when they work together and build things.  They both stared intently at the monitor as other kids explained what pieces they would need and how to assemble everything.  Considering how closely they followed the directions (which is very different from when I speak to them), I thought of posting my own series of videos for them on topics like “How to pee without drenching the seat”, “Just throwing trash at the can does not equal throwing something away”, “Showering in Four Simple Steps: Get Naked, Bathe, Dry and Re-dress” and “Shut the hell up: The story of Daddy’s Nap Time.”  I could even do stop motion animation with Lego minifigs.

The boys also started Taekwondo last week and at tonight’s lesson, I started recording the session.  We can use this to practice on the days that they don’t have class.  MY 6 YO needs to work on stretching and my 7 YO needs work on his forms.

My next activity for them is card games.  Card games, much like dominos, will help them with counting and patterns and also help in developing some strategy.  I think I will begin with some basics like Blackjack and move into more complex games later.  I can’t wait to teach them Skat, it has been years since I played and it has always been one of my favorite card games.