29 December 2008

A heart-rending ending?

In case you're all wondering where Santa has gone now that Christmas has passed, I have some sad news to bring you:

Ho ho ho! Kids share economy woes with Santa*

"You see things behind the beard that nobody else will ever see or hear. I've had children just literally tear my heart out."

So therein lies the end of a long, productive career spreading joy throughout the world... painful death at the hands of some psychotic, bloodthirsty children who've apparently spent too many hours playing Mortal Kombat.

Then again, the tone of this statement suggests an acceptance that only experience can bring. So perhaps this is an annual tradition, like a simple shedding of the skin. Maybe the Easter Bunny drops those eggs in our baskets on his way to deliver the Kiss of Life to kindly old St. Nick each year.

It seems that matchup between Jesus and Santa might be more even than we thought.

* I don't suggest you actually read this article unless you want to feel quite depressed.

Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this forest-missing nitpickery, you might want to peruse Literally, A Web Log.

26 December 2008

Sharing only the best

The best line by far from an action-packed Christmas came from my 4-year-old son D-, holding up a few very nice shirts my parents got him (along with a hearty portion of his mountain of new Stuff) and matter-of-factly stating:

"... I already have some shirts at home, so we can just give these ones to poor kids."

Editor's Note: It seems no one has told him that technically, living in a household of four supported solely by the salary of a new teacher at a school in the very worst part of town definitely qualifies you as a Poor Kid.

24 December 2008

Important Question: Jesus Claus?

The latest Important Question is a straightforward but timely one, though not nearly as important as the last one.

For those readers who are religious*, I respectfully ask the following:

Do you find that as your kids mature, the inevitable revelations about Santa Claus undermine or strengthen your teachings about God/Allah/Yahweh, even if you didn't take much of a part in this particular cultural/quasi-religious tradition?

This occurs to me every year, but I've never been in a situation where I could ask it with any hope of getting a thoughtful answer. I've just never imagined a way to teach a child about God and Santa/the Easter Bunny without setting up a significant crisis around age 8-10 or even earlier.

In case the above question is too deep for you, answer this question instead: Who would win in a fight, Jesus or Santa Claus? (And I don't mean a wimpy South-Park-style fight, I mean a genuine, few-holds-barred brawl.)

Ground rules: No reindeer, no hitting below the belt, and no resurrections.

Keep in mind that while Jesus of course has some notable powers and one heck of a tag-team partner, Santa clearly has supersonic speed, incredible stamina, and the ability to change his shape and size at will.

The comment board is now open-- discuss either question, or both, at will!

* I myself come from Catholic stock, mostly Irish immigrants, but I've only ever attended church for weddings, christenings, and the occasional funeral/communion/confirmation.

23 December 2008

Hee, hee, I said "Siemens"

Because I'm still a little overwhelmed from Holiday Party Season (along with the continuing Hip Surgery Recovery Season), I'm just here to share my amusement with this otherwise depressing testament to the corruption of the handful of global supercorporations that exploit each of us daily.

At Siemens, Bribery Was Just a Line Item

[Siemens'] telecommunications unit was awash in easy money. It paid $5 million in bribes to win a mobile phone contract in Bangladesh ... [and] also made $12.7 million in payments to senior officials in Nigeria for government contracts.

The most tragic part of all this, even more than Siemens' strategic enrichment of Saddam Hussein before his fall, is that they were duped into making those payments to the Nigerian officials by sweet-talking e-mails proposing a joint effort to secure much greater sums being held in probate.

How many more innocent, hard-working folks must be lured into clearly shady transactions for nefarious purposes before The Internet Police finally clamp down on these wiseacre Nigerians?

19 December 2008

The weather inside is spiteful

It was raining all last night here in Chicagoland, which makes me mad. It's supposed to be winter, a time of cold, fluffy snow, not balmy rain and lethal ice.

I think it's quite possible that Hell is actually a frigid ice fortress full of horrifically pointy icicles in every direction and black ice the only floor covering.

I have a feeling this warm-up indicates we'll miss a white Christmas yet again in my lifetime, which happens so often I'm never surprised, even though Christmas occurs at the end of December in Chicago. Two and two equal five here, it seems.

All of our beautiful, hard-fought snow from earlier this week (whose sudden arrival during rush hour caused me to park the car and walk with D- to Target rather than endure another half hour trying to drive a mere mile and a half), will be iced over and ruined, like a jilted lover left to rot at the altar.

This perfect snowball powder I didn't even get to roll in once got Havishamed in one long, bitter night, and what I'll be walking out into, whenever it is I choose to exit our icy cocoon, will be a shadow of its former self. I'm almost too upset to even picture it. Breaking through the icy crust over the yard (with the back of my skull, no doubt) to find the soft insides dried-out and useless for anything but metaphors...

I'm too digusted to even crack a simile.

17 December 2008

I would be embarrassed to host a yard sale

I recognize that for all my yammering away this past year, you all still don't know me as well as you should. So please allow me to continue chipping away at that barrier.

Have I ever shown you my widespread, impromptu collections of ancient, now-illegible receipts for transactions under $3? How about my utility bills from college? My many broken pieces of childhood toys? Never seen my "perfectly good" clothes that in my darkest moments I secretly acknowledge I'll never even want to wear again?

Perhaps that was a little extreme.

In all fairness to my compulsions, what if someday soon, I get: 1) called up to participate in a 4th-grade non-competitive soccer or basketball league; 2) re-hired as a store inventory auditor or movie theater supervisor; or 3) transported back to the early '90s on some kind of compelling mission that requires me to blend in with other toolbags?

I don't want to look like an incompetent moron that day, scrambling to dig through the musty back room of the thrift store where a full half of my clothes rightly belong. Paying for something I already owned at some point in my life? I refuse!

The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, after all, and I can assure you that I am prepared not only to suit up for a return to domination of smaller children on the soccer field, but also to be buried under a mountain of useless shit.

The only question is, which mountain will be the one that gets me?

16 December 2008

A conversation with D-: You are an idiot

The other day, while my 4-year-old son D- was showing off his typing skills to my mom, the following absolutely 100% true conversation took most of the suspense out of the question Will he turn out just like me?:

D- (pointing to "PQ" on the screen): See here? I typed "Pa".

My Mom: Oh, you mean like Pa in the Laura books? Actually, that's P-A. You wrote P-Q, but that's pretty close-- good job!

D-: ...Umm, actually, it's spelled like that.

My Mom: "Pa" like Laura's Pa is spelled P-A. Maybe we could go get one of the books and you could see, to help you remember.

D-: I think we should get the book, so we can look at it, and you can say, (adopting appropriate voice), "Oh, I was wrong!"

My Mom (deftly masking her disbelief, she grabbed The Long Winter): Here you go, see there? It's spelled P-A. But that's okay...

D-: I'm never going to read those books again.

15 December 2008

Another way to offend your wife

Publish a post on your blog describing a tongue-in-cheek statement she wasn't all that happy to hear in the first place, regardless of your helpful illumination of the shades of nuance or explanation of the disparity between your implication and her inference.

An important point to note for you all is that since we're talking about a post-Apocalyptic world, "rare delicacies" include not only rationed foodstuffs but also many simple conveniences and various other consumer goods.

So, I guess what I'm trying to mask in a blur of haughty multisyllabic words and my trademark Byzantine syntax is that rather than merely overstimulate some kind of compulsive eating disorder she certainly doesn't have, in this situation, the point to consider is that my wife would quickly become drunk with power in controlling a world-shaping secret, as much as from deciding who lives comfortably and who rots in the mildewous cavern of her disfavor. Also, I am a dick.

11 December 2008

Dalai Lama to wreak havoc, world is warned

Urgent Notice from the Chinese Government:
The People's Republic of China humbly wishes to make the world aware of a potentially serious though unpredictable epidemic of mayhem threatening to sweep all nations of the Earth:

The so-called Dalai Lama, seen here yanking an opponent's beard to move his face into optimal head-butting range (his devastating finishing move of choice), has secretly been training the most deadly non-violent army the world has ever seen, according to reliable sources inside the Chinese government.

Anyone encountering this disarming renegade, who should be thought of as not unlike an Evil Batman, is encouraged to quickly shave his beard, if any, strike a defensive judo crouch, and prepare to absorb a vicious full-body assault.

Do not be dissuaded by any devious entreaties of peace, friendship, or primal enlightenment. Respond to any moment of weakness with a judicious blend of blows to the face, neck, and torso.

Capture of this sinister vigilante will be met with a reward up to and including the eternal gratitude of the P.R.C. government and the future true Dalai Lama. In lieu of gratitude, reward may be payable in U.S. dollars, toilet paper, or forgiveness of debts already held.


09 December 2008

One way to offend your wife

I figured it'd be nice to counteract the burgeoning waves of sappiness threatening to spill over here due to my round-the-clock care and constant companionship of my poor, ailing wife for the last two weeks, so I thought I'd offer the husbands out there just one of many clever ways you can offend your wife whenever necessary.

Example Number 1: When taking a pause from reading her copy of a junior high sci-fi novel, such as The City of Ember, turn towards her --doing something sweet and innocent like playing her pink Nintendo DS on the collapsible bed she calls her invalid home-- and lay this truth on her:

"If there was a secret room in our post-apocalyptic world stocked with aisles and aisles of rare delicacies, you'd definitely be the one passed out in the middle of it OD'd on sugar and power."

I'm not sure why my own wife took issue with this earnest observation so strongly, but apparently it's quite a potent weapon to store away somewhere for a rainy day.

08 December 2008

A conversation with J-: Manic Monday

To give you a sense of how a quite-anxious J- and beyond-tired I passed the time while waiting for her to be wheeled into surgery two weeks ago, please enjoy the following conversation I later recorded on a notecard I just found in my coat pocket:

Me: You know, you'll be sleeping the whole time-- I'm extremely jealous.

J- (immediately, giving me a blank look): I'd trade places with you in a second.

Me: I would, too ... (makes Movie Magic sounds while wiggling fingers between us)

J-: (just blinks in confusion and resumes fretting)

Me: We'd better make sure not to touch any potentially magic inanimate objects at the same time. If we do, though, we definitely can't lose it, because I do not want to have a period. Or teach special ed.

J-: Whyever not?

Me: They both involve a lot more involuntary bleeding and discomfort than I'm willing to accept.

Click to read past conversations I've posted with my wife J-, my 4-year-old son D-, and my nearly 2-year-old daughter M-.

05 December 2008

Confessions, Vol. 1

1. If only they made giant diapers that still fit snugly on a toddler, I would gladly slap one of those on M- each night and sleep like a med student through the morning, while she fed and entertained herself with the many things I'd generously leave in her crib.

2. I referred to a cartoon chipmunk in a children's television show as "kind of an a**hole" with as much forethought and seriousness as I would the friend of a friend.

3. It's hard to write amusing "confessions" after somberly reading through PostSecret for more than an hour.

4. I find it oddly freeing to stop this list at four items on a day such as this, the fifth day of the week and month.*

* And yet, look at the time stamp.

04 December 2008

Then again, those who can't, teach, right?

The other day, someone arrived here from Greece through a Google search for "stop a child from eating off the floor," and all I can say to that is you, my friend, definitely came to the wrong place.

Sorry about that. I'll let you know if I ever become able to help you on that front.

03 December 2008

Next step for Pandas: Grow thumbs

Dispatches from the War Against Nature just keep piling up. Here's the latest report on the activities of our opponent's sinister Deceptively Adorable Tactical Force:*

Panda bites student who just wanted a hug

The official Xinhua News Agency reports the hospitalized student later said the panda was so cute and cuddly he never expected to be bitten.

And that, of course, is exactly how they get you.

How else do you think they've managed to exist this long while eating only bamboo? What other animal, certainly one so large, eats only one thing all the time?**

Considering that along with their notoriously picky mating requirements and long interval between cubs, it's nothing short of a miracle that at this point in history, pandas are represented on this Earth by more than a few fossilized bones in a drawer somewhere.

Or is it?

I believe that pandas long ago mastered the art of psychological manipulation, enticing other members of the animal kingdom to bring them copious amounts of food, either bamboo or possibly something secret that they never eat whenever people are watching.

Maybe bamboo is just usually the closest thing on which to gnaw innocently whenever National Geographic catches them by surprise?

Regardless, it's clear that they've tried to deal with us for as long as they're willing, and they have now moved into Phase 2 of their Human Response Protocol: Lure almost all humans to their death by clouding their logic processing centers with waves of overpowering cuddliness.

Phase 3 is of course to tally up the remaining bamboo-farming humans and decide on a responsible course of species management.

* Other members of this elite squad: Hippos, Chimps, and Koalas.

** Shut up, all you whale scientists.

02 December 2008

Takin' care of business

As I reluctantly sat there in the grimy bathroom of a greasy spoon liquefying my insides (resting comfortably on my nest of toilet paper lining), I prayed for the sweet release of death to come only after the immediate banishment of Papa John* and his minions to the deepest circle of hell.

Through my confused haze of rage, agony, and relief, I somehow managed to detect a poorly tuned radio station's attempt to bludgeon me with the melodious strains of Bachman-Turner Overdrive's landmark hit, Takin' Care of Business.

As my business took care of me itself, I couldn't help but realize that this song was made to be played in 30-second snippets at the absolute longest. It has a clear message to communicate, it's catchy, and it's said pretty much all it has to say in about half that time.

To sit and actually listen to the entire song in one sitting, so to speak, is torture enough, but to have it coming in and out --crystal clear one minute, fading quietly into mild static the next-- is like forcing someone to work next to an unshowered, incontinent, alcoholic hobo at the Customer Service station of Wal-Mart the entire week after Christmas.**

Just when it seems that 35 additional iterations of the refrain is all that those many commercials and movies have been sparing you these past few decades, the radio signal comes back clear as day so they can do a quick 10 more before it fades back to lie in wait ominously.

If I tried to work as many hours of overtime as these guys claim they have, I'd have been converted to a salaried position before the single was even released. But I guess, "Takin' care of business / And continuing to work until everything is done enough for my boss, regardless of the number of hours worked vs. dollars paid, and without concern for the long-term effects on employee morale or efficiency / Work out!" doesn't make for such catchy lyrics.

Anyway, you'll be happy to know I've survived my ordeal so far, although the song is still firmly stuck in my head.

Just be glad you caught that instead of the other thing.

* It can't be a coincidence that "Papa" John's last name is Schnatter. As in, "Oh my God, where's your Schnatter?!? I just finished lunch at Papa John's!"

** Having logged thousands of unhappy hours shopping at Wal-Mart in my lifetime***, I feel qualified to offer the following skit starring Clem, my generic hillbilly voice:

"Yeah, I got this here shotgun fer Christmas, but ever' time I try to shoot it, it won't DO nothin', no matter WHAT I's pointin' it at. I'm pretty sure Santa bought it here, wink-wink, so y'all need to take it back an' gimme one thut works when I go like this. ... Whoa, thar she is!! Nevermine, I guess. ... I s'pose you gotta go call somebody to have that looked at, huh?"

*** There are extremely few alternatives in Presque Isle, Maine, but now that we moved back out to Chicago, my personal visit count has likely stopped forever.

01 December 2008

Classic quotes, Vol. 9

Here are some of the latest quotes from around our house (M- is my 22-month-old daughter and D- is my 4-year-old son):

M- (pointedly, almost any time we ask her if she can do something): No, I'm too busy right now.*

D- (after being reminded about how M- will be 4 some day): And then we can have a FIGHT!!

M- (whenever she sees D- or I getting dressed): Bye, penis!

Me (with predictable disbelief and disgust): M-, do not eat food off the toilet seat.

M- (to my mom, uncharacteristically not doing whatever M- wanted her to at the moment): No! You make me saaad!!

* As I had to swear to my sister, neither J- nor I have ever in our lives said this to either of our kids, though of course many times we've thought it.

28 November 2008

Thanksgiving's done, now on to Christmas, right?

I'm going to be brutally honest with you all* right now.

If you don't have one of these, you are the opposite of how cool this guy is
Why has no one told me all these years that someone out there was manufacturing giant, lighted, inflatable Santas with bitchin' shades on a sweet hog??

I've been making an idiot out of myself all this time by NOT having one of these in my yard! For how long am I now doomed to rue these wasted years??

You have brought shame upon us all with your deception.

* Or should I say, those of you who aren't doing your patriotic duty right now elbowing old ladies in the face at fire sales down at the mall. You're all off the hook, as I'm crying a single red, white, and blue tear for your brave sacrifices.

27 November 2008

What are turkeys thankful for?

As my American readers know, today is Thanksgiving.* On this day, we are expected to give thanks for the plenty of food and family/friends we are lucky enough to have, and we are meant to celebrate this by ridiculously overindulging in both.

Because of this extreme ritual, we can manage as easily to last an entire year at a time without eating corn-syrup-soaked cranberries jellied into the shape of a can and as we can go that same year without again speaking to or otherwise acknowledging those most distant relatives whose branch of the family tree you can't easily trace.

This holiday is our central teaching tool for that noble tradition our ancestors set in place so long ago: When blessed with plenty, burn through your stores like the freezer's broken; when tested by famine, may you begin to understand why.**

Amen. Now pass me some of those candied corporate profits-- I'm starving!

* Canadian readers: You may not be aware of it, but what you celebrated last month is rightly called "Canadian Thanksgiving". Please see that you correct your calendars.

** It's believed there was a followup proverb, lost to history, saying essentially that one can always guilt a bunch of Indians into sharing all their stuff whenever you need some.

26 November 2008

Telegram from Hellegram

I just wanted to post a quick note of very sincere thanks to everyone for your nice comments and wishes for J-'s safe and speedy recovery.

She will be harnessing your words as fuel to cool the flames of rage and hatred for all of creation whenever the Earth absentmindedly rotates under her hip.

We spent Monday night and much of Tuesday in the hospital, instead of going right home Monday afternoon as they had hoped. This is because the universe loves J- so much it wanted to make sure she would sit down and take a breather for a good long time, with a paid, professional staff of enforcers on hand to play the heavies.

By now, she's setting land-speed records for crutch pilots, and she hardly feels those flaming fingers of death ripping her apart from the inside whenever she sits down, gets up, brushes against something, tries to scootch into a more comfortable position, or exhales.

On other fronts, the debilitating full-body itching that nearly claimed the lives of three nurses and one doctor has now subsided due to that trendiest of prescription painkillers, Taking Off Your Pressure Stockings Once Home Because When Pressed The Doctor Suggested You Could At Some Point Remove Them If Absolutely Necessary. Trade name: SorrybitchesIdowhatIwant-ycontin.

To sum up, I'll let J- herself have the last word, absolutely faithfully transcribed from her sudden whisper in her fitful sleep:


24 November 2008

It's hip to be timely

I know I haven't had too much to say about my wife on this blog, but it's not for lack of amusing stories or anything else. I just tend to procrastinate when it comes to writing about important things, and on many occasions I've let opportunities pass by where J- would be revealed as the amazing and funny person she is.

After a month or two of procrastinating, things start to feel stale and tedious and they pile up in my Drafts folder.

Take our fifth anniversary over a month ago-- wouldn't you expect some sappy post with a scrapbook of pictures and such? Or, knowing me, some sarcastic post with one picture, two at most, and a handful of tangential footnotes? I actually have more than a few pictures and a ridiculous story to tell about that day, but there it sits, and probably will for a while longer yet.

But that's not what this post is about.

Since I haven't said all that much about her, you won't mind me completely mischaracterizing her in your minds by way of introducing the subject of this post: almost six years ago now, she violently ripped the lining of her right hip socket while kickboxing.

She has limped along ever since on her remaining hip, which wasn't so great to begin with, trying and failing for various reasons (including lovely insurance debacles and poorly timed pregnancies) to have the problem surgically corrected. As you can imagine, the pregnancies made that hip sing like a finely tuned machine.

She's sleeping as I write this, as I should be, but today at noon she will fall asleep again. While she's sleeping, she'll be sliced open and have her femur yanked out of the socket, to allow the doctors to scrape out the remaining shreds of labrum and grind into oblivion the pesky bone spur on the end of her femur that started all this mess.

Then, assuming all goes well, they'll stitch her back up and send her hobbling on her merry way, to slowly recover over the next month and a half as she avoids putting any pressure on that leg so the bone doesn't shatter before it's completely healed.

Such is the fun she's bravely facing this holiday season, starting with a Thanksgiving spent as the immobile centerpiece for my extended family's celebration at my parents' house.*

Why is this happening now, you ask? Because she wanted to be sure she'd miss as few school days as possible, while not passing up another chance to get this done once and for all by waiting till next summer. She fills me with faith that this world is not completely lost, as she slogs through everything life throws at her without wasting too much time regretting paths she might have taken.

In the last few weeks, she moved from Drone to Zombie mode in continuing to get up at 5AM while staying late into the evening planning* and preparing everyone around her for her absence at this crucial stage of the year, making plans and more, all to be sure that her extremely underprivileged, forgotten students don't stop the unprecedented (and thankfully, quantifiable in enough areas to buy her some leeway) progress they've made since she took this school by storm last year.

All this leads up to her, a person about as averse to even the idea of surgery as you're likely to find, getting carved up with only the hope of feeling better at some point next year, even without that last little bit of handy buffer between the bones of her hip joint.

We may be back here some day down the road for the other hip, but hopefully it will hear enough horror stories from this one to shape up all by itself.

As for the kickboxing, no matter how successful her recovery is, I don't think she'll be dropping into any Thai cage matches or ill-advised college P.E. classes any time soon.

* Thanks to my parents, she has a place to stay that isn't up three flights of stairs, and thanks to them (and my sister), I'll have a little help managing the kids during J-'s recovery.

** Fifteen special-needs teenagers in one classroom equals 15 separate daily plans.

21 November 2008

Who hsa time too prufread?

Let me start by saying you can't imagine how difficult it was to type out that title, and how painful it is for me to let it sit there as it is.

Now that I have your sympathies, I'll continue.

When I mentioned J-'s seemingly disastrous t-shirt purchase at the Obama rally in Grant Park, there was at least one request to see the offending shirt, and I'm nothing if not accommodating. 

Here is the front image, which as I said is interesting and unique enough, and actually impressive given the price:

Obama rally shirt - Obama as Action HeroI should jump in here to note that to compound my coming complaints, the salesman apparently misheard J-'s request and gave her an extra large shirt, so it's wide enough for the whole family to proudly wear at once.

And now, I forewarn you to choke back your vomit before continuing, because if you're like me, you may not be able to handle seeing the reason why it was only $5 without exerting tremendous self-control:

Obama rally shirt - Shirtmaker as F*** Tard
You know what my "New Hope" is? That sometime before the end of the Reign of Man, we will finally finish evolving enough that before even an everyday-schmo-just-trying-to-make-some-extra-money-capitalizing-on-his-fellows'-exultant-willingness-to-collect-memorabilia places an order for a few thousand t-shirts, he can manage to at least ask someone with a fresh eye to look over the design just once.*

And if we could keep things going enough to not make such errors on this tiny selection of text in the first place, that would just be icing. Right now, the only icing on this s***cake is the inexplicable use of a comma after the abbreviation of the month.

You may think I'm overreacting, but I don't know any other way to be. Life's too short to underreact to things like this. Plus, I've spent years of my life being paid to mercilessly deride people for boneheaded mistakes like this, so it's a hard habit to break.

Full Disclosure: That wasn't necessarily spelled out in my job descriptions, but it was always clearly encouraged. Or tolerated. Or quietly marveled at, in fear. Either way, it definitely seems called for here, because there's no red pen in the world that can wash this tragedy away.

* Barring that, maybe in this hypothetical nearly perfect world, the printer would notice the error and, since it's not his job to alter the design of his clients' orders, he would just print up a single shirt that says YOU ARE AN IDIOT - TRY AGAIN (SOMEWHERE ELSE).

20 November 2008

Next up: Aquaman, The Czech Republic

This just goes to show you that stupid people exist in all countries of the world, and frivilous lawsuits are one of America's last remaining exports:

Batman's Latest Archenemy: Batman, Turkey

The mayor of Batman, a small oil-producing town in Turkey, has filed suit against The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros., the studio behind the record-shattering blockbuster, looking for a cut in the film's royalties in exchange for using the city's name without permission.

As the article points out, where have these people been for the past 70 years? I'm pretty sure no one's confusing Batman movies with travelogues for Turkey, and furthermore, I bet that town has made at least millions in tourism dollars from college students alone diverting their backpacking trips just to go through there and snatch up whatever they can get their hands on to take back home.

So that includes more than a few street signs and a couple giant Welcome billboards... is that such a high price to pay for having one of the coolest city names in the world?

19 November 2008

Indisputable facts, Vol. 2

Here are more indisputable facts from the long list kept by the world's ultimate authority:

1. It's nearly impossible to support a family of four on a teacher's salary, particularly when that salary was agreed to by the worst union in the history of human society.

2. Kids are incapable of wearing a hooded garment without putting on the hood, regardless of weather or any other potentially dissuading factors.

3. I need to make some changes in my life.

4. If I were to get rid of every item in my house that has gotten inappropriate bodily fluids on it at some point or other, I would have very few personal belongings left. And definitely nowhere to sit.

18 November 2008

Attention feed readers!

Apparently something is screwy with Feedburner and today's post does not show up as being published today, so I have a feeling a lot of you missed it. Here's a link to it.

Now we get down to Real Problems

You know, while I may live right next to the city where our new president ended up settling, I can't say I fully identified with him personally until I saw this picture:

Obama gets a taste of my daily life"Backstage at the rally, Obama tries to calm a young supporter whose brother had taken his pretzel goldfish."*

I didn't get to see an After picture for confirmation, but I imagine him using his Dramatic Speech voice to full effect and settling this dispute within minutes.

I have to wonder if he'd be willing to lend me his services now and then in extreme emergencies, if for no other reason than as payback for all those dozens of dollars I gave him.

* I'm sure Pepperidge Farm would not be very happy to see their trademark genericized like this. I think we need to get out there and determine whether this was actually a Goldfish cracker or merely a regular cracker that happened to be vaguely fish shaped. If the latter, they get to start handing out lawsuits.

17 November 2008

A conversation with D-: Stuck in a jam

The following is a not-atypical conversation I had with my 4-year-old son D- the other day on our way to the library:

D-: Why are we going to the liberry?

Me (brushing the turnip leaves off my sleeve): The lie-berry? What's that?? Is it like a blueberry or a strawberry?

D-: No!

Me: Should I go look for a lie-berry bush so I can pick me some lie-berries for a delicious lie-berry pie?

D- (scolding): You know what I mean! The LIE... b... (pause) ...erry.

Me: Mmmm, sounds yummy!

D- (giving me a well-practiced blank look as if I'm a hopeless idiot*): It's not.

* May or may not be accurate.

15 November 2008

At long last, Pt. 4

Finally, here is the final section of my account of the Obama rally in Grant Park on election night in America. Part 1, part 2, and part 3 ran earlier this week.

The place was still packed and buzzing when the feed switched from CNN to the acceptance speech, and it was in listening to that landmark* speech that I felt myself really sucked in to the moment instead of floating outside it, taking notes, the way I generally do with most things in life.

I've often thought that I might have caught religion if I'd gotten to attend a so-called "black church" in my formative years instead of only visiting stale, conservative Catholic churches for various events in my extended family. Listening to this speech live was as close as I think I'll ever get, with the kinetic energy in the audience, the facial and bodily reactions of those around me, the frequent spoken responses throughout, and certain of Obama's tones in the speech itself. That sense of community, of taking part in a dialogue of both words and energy rather than sitting on my couch listening to someone talk at me from my TV, absolutely enhanced the experience in every way.

But more notably, I immediately noticed that feeling of widespread admiration for a president that I haven't known since I was 10 years old.** People who don't completely agree with this man can still admire him without feeling guilty about it, I think. I won't go on about my extremely negative feelings towards Presidents Clinton and Bush (Jr.) for their habits, attitudes, and personal character, since they're beside the point of this post.
After walking around a bit more to soak in the atmosphere, J- and I decided to start the slow trek back home, but not before accepting the fence-security guards' indulgence in actually peeking over at The Cool People's Rally. Also, not before I availed myself again of the remarkably uncrowded banks of portable toilets. Given the predictably low toilet-to-person ratio, the only explanatory factor I can think of is the prohibitive price of water leaving bladders empty across the park.

We took to the streets with glee, since this time almost everyone was on the move at the same time. The poor unlicensed t-shirt vendors hawking homemade wares from cardboard boxes could barely keep up with demand for their predictable products. I can understand the desire for a keepsake from such an event, but a t-shirt, and a poorly-made one at that, isn't necessarily my first choice.

J- decided she wanted one particular shirt, though, and I could console myself with the price versus other commemorative shirts she has chosen to buy, or have bought for her (ahem). All the shirts I saw were much more competitively priced than the typical unlicensed shirts offered at concerts and other events, which pleased me, but the one J- liked so much happened to be only $5, which pleased me even more.

Of course, I later pointed out to her that the likely reason it was so cheap was that while yes, the front has an interesting and imaginative design, the back says "I WAS THERE WHEN HISTORY HAPPEN AT GRANT PARK - NOV, 4TH 2008".

I cannot adequately express how much staring at the back of this otherwise nicely-designed shirt makes me twitch with a craving for unfocused violence.

But that would make me the only one, it seems, because after seeing this, I couldn't help but notice that about 15% of the ecstatic crowd marching home alongside me was wearing the same lowest-bid shirt without a hint of the shame I felt for them.

The Chicago Police reported not a single arrest at the rally,*** which is of course incredible given the attendance and the circumstances of the event, so I'm guessing either all the city's other copy editors stayed home that night or they simply aren't quite as prone to violence as I am.
The walk to the train stop was unbelievable, for the sheer number of people filling six-lane streets for as long as they did, controlling traffic and owning the city at least for an hour or so. I tried to capture the effect in pictures to little effect (see one example below), since I had neither a helicopter nor a camera positioned strategically in the many-storey youth hostel overlooking the exit from the park, which was filled with what were presumably visitors from abroad, waving and shouting constantly from several storeys up.

A failed attempt to capture just one section of the massive crowd leaving the Obama Rally
So I'm left now with blurred pictures and crisp memories, and I can only hope this night proves to be as momentous a turning point in modern American history as it felt like at the time.

* Whatever your current opinion of our President-elect, his first speech in that role is as important as it always is, and given the tenuous state of our economy, government, and society combined with Obama's youth and the fundamental change he claims to represent, this speech, as an introduction to the coming inaugural address, was monumental one way or another.

** Granted, I was right in the middle of a distinctly unscientific sample, but I'll note that I did see several small indicators that there was a healthy number of McCain supporters there for the experience as much as everyone else. It's not like everyone can easily jet out to Arizona in the middle of the work week, and given that, why not be there?

*** I'll state for the record that I did see a young man being handcuffed while face down in the street, for reasons unclear, but that was several blocks away from the rally, and for all I know he was later released without being officially arrested.

Could it be a PR move for the sake of winning the 2016 Olympics? Or could they have just been helpfully demonstrating for this fellow what they
would have done had he been unruly or disrespectful.

14 November 2008

At long last, Pt. 3

This, Part 3 of my requested account of our experience at the election day Obama rally in Grant Park, ended up being so long that I've mercifully split off a part 4 to run tomorrow (here are part 1 and part 2). Sorry to those who've had no interest in reading such a thing-- I'll be back to my usual antics on Monday.

After trying out a few promising spots --leaning against a precious tree, sitting on a curb, sitting in dirt, standing in the street, etc.-- near some of the other Jumbotrons, we ended up settling on a good spot right in front of one not too far from The Cool People's Rally.

This spot provided us more than enough personal space, including the ability to sit down in the grass(!), and an excellent view* of a cameraman's view of history in action. And take note that when I think of the importance of this election, it's not much to do with Obama's race, but rather the involvement of young voters (and even those not yet old enough to vote) and the generally constructive passion involved on both sides.

A lot has been said about the racial makeup of Obama supporters, at least among under-30 supporters, so I don't have much to add in noting the diversity of the people around me, and how reassuring it was to see everyone united.

One older (70s?) couple was so excited early in the evening that not only did the man offer their guest bedroom to a young male German tourist he hadn't met, but he also happily took hold of J-'s waist and moved her over bodily after insisting she could stand in front of him to get a better sightline of the distant Jumbotron (this was shortly before she was mysteriously overcome and had to retreat). As creepy as this might be normally, it somehow wasn't so much so that night, especially since she really did have a way better view from there.

Several of you have made comments expressing terror at the idea of being surrounded by this (likely underestimated) 240,000-person crowd, and while I can understand that when I remember trying to force ourselves closer and closer to the front when we first got there, the rest of the time we spent moving from point to point, having plenty of space to breathe. This is a very large park, and the borders of the unofficial rally were quite porous, so there was plenty of room for even more people, had they not been dissuaded by the mayor's bold projections of a million people showing up.
The screams when CNN projected Obama the winner were beyond deafening, driving me almost to the point of reaching for my cane to wave at the hoodlums on my lawn, but I had been prepared by this after nearly drowning in the tsunamis of sound as they projected him to win states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.

Call me a curmudgeon, or more accurately, someone who remembers very distinctly the last two elections, but Wolf Blitzer telling me on election night that he thinks something will happen carries only slightly more weight than when he said the same kind of thing 6 months ago. With all the (clearly predictable) troubles with democracy-threatening electronic voting machines, I was ready to believe anything could happen, and I didn't want to jinx my outcome of choice by feeling too relaxed or confident until I at least saw a concession speech.

So as a result, I was one stone face surrounded by many thousands of people starting the party without me. But then, I'm not sure what I would have done if I had been on the same wavelength, because I've never been particularly demonstrative in public, so the world probably would have seen the same impassive face drifting through the background that CNN chose not to air, for some reason (I taped 9 hours of their coverage and didn't see myself in any of it).
I was glad to not be the only one listening carefully and respectfully to Sen. McCain's concession speech, and while I understood the initial smattering of boos at the sight of him, given how ugly and personal the race got by the end, I was reassured that they didn't catch on, and subsided as quickly as they had arose.

I know I'm not the only person to express the idea that if THAT John McCain had been out there on the campaign trail (and in the meeting where they picked his running mate), this race might have been much closer, a marked "downside" almost nonexistent, and the resulting presidency (whoever had won) less potentially violent and poisonous. We don't need to continue the zero-sum game that politics, and thus everyday life, has become in this century-- I hope those disappointed in the outcome can focus on the language and sentiments of the John McCain who spoke on that final night rather than the John McCain (and certainly the Sarah Palin), who spoke out on the campaign trail since the convention.
One more part to come tomorrow, despite my plan to do it in three parts. In case you were thinking it, no, my compulsions are not strong enough to overcome my laziness in this case, so I won't be stretching this into a part 5 for cosmic balance.

* This view was definitely hard-won, after I led a generally polite rebellion of our section against two unrepentantly selfish ladies standing up a few feet in front of the TV at the expense of at least a hundred or so people seated in the grass directly behind them. Democracy in action!

12 November 2008

At long last, Pt. 2

I've never done long multi-part posts like this before (unless you count the saga of how I nearly lost an eye), but it became clear it was definitely called for this time.

You may want to read Part 1 of my experience at the election day Obama rally in Grant Park before continuing.

Once inside the Parallel Party Someone's Mom Organized For The Uninvited Nerds, we found that to keep the mob from storming the inexplicably opaque* fences of the Cool People's Party, at least 10 Jumbotrons were set up around the rest of the park, with the primary one alone allowing probably 60,000 people to soak in CNN's commercials** and ridiculous gimmicks for hours before and after Obama's actual speech (on a closed-circuit feed).

So we had to satisfy ourselves with watching TV while standing alongside a whole bunch of other very happy voters. Since it was immediately evident that all of these many, many spectators were exceedingly peaceful and well-mannered, this prospect wasn't as undesirable as it might have been under other circumstances. I had known for months that I wanted to be out Amongst The People for this night, no matter the outcome, and I got exactly what I came for.

J-, on the other hand, apparently got some kind of alien larvae threatening to Cesaerean itself right out of her abdomen, as was the diagnosis issued by the esteemed Doctor We-Don't-Want-To-Leave-So-We'll-Just-Play-It-By-Ear-While-Basking-In-The-Extra-Space-A-Sudden-Unexplained-Vaguely-Stomach-Related-Illness-Helpfully-Provides-In-A-Crowd.

The Bored Horsemen of the Apocalypse
These guys got all dressed up for nothing.

I haven't mentioned how miraculously warm it was that night, but it was over 70 degrees for three straight days, which is about 40 degrees higher than a typical November in Chicago. Clearly, it was a sign that God wants Barack Obama to be president.

This warmth was amped up at least 10 degrees in the thick of that many walking space heaters, and I'm sure the oxygen content of the air within the crowd was about half the dose required for sustaining life. Hence J-'s alien larvae decided to take evasive action by cutting power to her ears, sense of balance, and (almost) her consciousness.

It was at this point I decided to let J- lead us in a little conga line back through the crowd, issuing promises of copious vomit to anyone unwilling to make way quickly enough. I left her on a strangely unused filthy stage far from any of the Jumbotrons, and then made my way back into the madness to find some water.

Not just any water, mind you --after all, we were alongside one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world-- but rather the most expensive water I could find. Nothing's too good for my precious, and how else does one measure quality but by expense?

Luckily, I was in amongst a large, captive pool of consumers, so I felt sure I could count on Connie's Pizza to provide me with nothing but the best. After waiting out the 350 people ahead of me, I was relieved though unsurprised to find a bottle of water (not unlike the two I had confiscated at the gate) going for a patriotic $3, and knowing this stuff thus must be far better than any beverage I'd previously ingested, I readily threw down my money for a $5 slice of pizza while I was at it (since the mysteriously ill lady had decided greasy cheese would be an invaluable assistant in getting back on her feet).
After saluting the noble folks at Connie's (look for their Delivery Maseratis in a neighborhood near you), I again waded through a rainbow blur of human skin, dropped off the food, refolded J-'s death shroud, and headed out to find us a new base of operations. As I walked all over this sprawling park, I found several previously unnoticed McCain-sized rallies around each bend, in a layout I couldn't even begin to map out. If only the Secret Service would release some of the photos they must have been taking from their lonely helicopters up there in that restricted airspace, I could feel vindicated in my opinion of the crowd estimates.
Once again, you can read part 1 here, and look for part 3 tomorrow and part 4 after that.

* Why can't I at least watch through the short chain-link fence, under the watchful eye of security forces?? Those flimsy little fences weren't protecting ANYone.

** I can't have been the only one looking for my DVR remote to obliterate those commercials. I'd almost forgotten what an irritating experience they provide.

11 November 2008

At long last, Pt. 1

Well, by now I've sat here and read most every article I could find related to the election and all its tangents, and after much procrastination, I'm faced with finally writing about my experience at the Obama rally in Grant Park (Chicago) on Election Day, as requested by many of you.
Let me start off by saying that we did not rate tickets to the gated kingdom that was the area around the stage at the rally. I apparently missed the initial announcement that tickets were available for the asking (which probably lasted about 15 minutes), and instead I got an e-mail out of the blue from the Democratic Party the next day. I clicked the link when I saw it a few hours later, and I was immediately informed that I was on the waiting list.*

This was of course due to the fact that they offered tickets to only 32,000 people and a single guest each. Based on the fact that hundreds of thousands of people showed up to the park and the surrounding area**, I think you can tell the deck was stacked against me from the start.

So it was with a mixture of glee and disappointment that we made our way down to Grant Park that evening, alongside the expected anxiety with all those votes still to be counted.

Our 10-mile train trip in from the suburbs went flawlessly, with the relative lack of company due to our being considered very late to the party by arriving a mere 2 hours before the scheduled admission time. Our trip home was much more crowded and chaotic, though to the CTA's credit, it was still remarkably smooth.

A smattering of people far from the entranceWe walked a few blocks from the L stop to the park, and had we worried about where we needed to go, we had only to join the sizable throng of latecomers still inexorably marching down the streets like it was free sample day at the cookie factory.

Impressive as we were, bending the normal flow of traffic to our will, we were but a tiny stream disappearing into the sea of human flesh already assembled in the park.

As we tried to join the party, we were of course briefly stopped by "Security" and quickly stripped of the most threatening of our contraband. That's right-- whoever thought they could get within a block of our future president with a fully loaded water bottle must have been drinking too much of something other than water before showing up.

Speaking of which, my later observations determined that giant jugs of vodka were totally cool with these guys. Also okay: portable furniture, 25-foot telescoping flagpoles, large knives (probably), and airhorns.

Basically, the golden rule seemed to be that anything cited as disallowed in the public invitations was actually encouraged, and other common-sense, life-sustaining items not mentioned therein would be fished out of your colon, if necessary.
It seemed like a good idea to break this up into multiple posts, so look for part 2 tomorrow, part 3 the next day, and part 4 after that.

* As if people were going to be refusing these tickets-- way to get my already-generally-high hopes up higher against my better judgment, Democratic Party of Illinois. 

** I say there were much more than the 240,000 estimate I keep hearing, since I think it discounts a lot of people gathering right across the street and elsewhere in the area, as well as comings and goings over the course of many, many hours.

07 November 2008

Copout: America's Worst-Named Cities

Sorry folks, I need to beg a little more time to finish writing up an account of the Obama rally, as requested, but it should be noted that I'm not promising anything groundbreaking.

In the meantime, inspired by a few of the communities mentioned in all this campaign fuss, please enjoy this list of American cities that should probably consider a name change, for various reasons:

1. Smut Eye, Alabama
2. Rabbit Hash, Kentucky
3. Lynchburg, Virginia
4. Toadsuck, Arkansas
5. Little Compton, Rhode Island
6. Frannie, Wyoming
7. Phil Campbell, Alabama
8. Mound City, Illinois
9. Willacoochie, Georgia
10. Euren, Wisconsin

I know there are more out there, so fire away if you've got some.

05 November 2008

Exhaling after 8 years

A new day, a new hope.After riding home on a wave of very happy people unaware of the time, I can't think of anything useful to say, so I'll just leave it at this. Here's to tomorrow, and all tomorrows after.

04 November 2008

You know what you need to do

It may sound insincere, given my clear preference in this election, but I can honestly say that no matter who you're voting for, please make sure to do so today, if you haven't already.

If only everyone legally allowed would vote in every election (and then those votes were all recorded accurately before being faithfully tallied, of course), I think we'd stop being defined by the simmering dissatisfaction, constant infighting, and impotent rage coursing through this country.

If everyone just let their choices be known and then dealt with the consequences, we'd have so much more time for really important things instead of spending so much of it focusing on regrets and pointless analysis.

Anyway, enough with the sappy melodrama. Just make sure, like me, that this won't be any of you today:
LiteralDan in a Post-Obama-Rally coma
Tomorrow morning after the rally, of course, all my bets are off.

03 November 2008

Decision 2008: Trick or Treat

Just a quick Halloween rundown today, starting with this curious picture:When Spider-Man got tired of swinging, he called in Tinkerbell to help him flyThese two strange children followed me around all day without revealing their identities or to whom they belonged. I would have called the police or Child Protective Services, but they seemed to be getting prodigious amounts of candy thrown at them, and thus I figured they might be of some use to me.

Two straight days of glorious stomachaches later, I stand by that decision. If only D- and M- could have been there... J- and I might have gotten twice as much candy.

Elsewhere, in an effort to hone her pumpkin-carving skills as well as get out the vote amongst the elementary-school and elementary-school-chaperone demographic, my sister decided that night to carve the Obama-Biden symbol into a pumpkin, with the word VOTE etched above it.

The day after Halloween, there wasn't much left of it:It's unclear why the other pumpkins were untouched, but maybe they just lack that j'ne sais quoisI can't decide whether this was an underhanded voter-suppression move by neo-conservative squirrels or merely an innocent nibbling of the alternatives by right-leaning independents who had their fill of nuts over at the Palin rally.

Speaking of nuts, I hope to be acting it with a few hundred thousand of my new closest friends in Grant Park tomorrow evening-- in case I don't post tomorrow, I'll see you all at the end of this long, strange tunnel Wednesday morning!

31 October 2008

Unanswerable questions, Vol. 2

Here are five more questions time and thought will never be able to answer:

1. Why doesn't my wife get excited when I whittle the unread posts in my blog feed reader from over 100 down to zero?

2. Why am I so tense as our presidential election approaches, minute by minute, since I have no control over the actions of the millions of other people who will decide its outcome?*

3. Why does having an old Scrooge McDuck figurine from my childhood hidden in a box-within-a-box somewhere in our house mean that he will magically surface inside my shoe, waiting patiently to cripple me, as soon as the kids learn who he is thanks to a recent free-library-DVD-fueled DuckTales bender?

4. Continuing from the previous item, why does the mere name of the evil Flintheart Glomgold make me laugh no matter how many times I think of it, and why did I feel so compelled to get that name in print that I shoehorned it into this list?

5. Why doesn't an actual, substantive post spontaneously appear in my Drafts list, after I dutifully procrastinate for days or weeks at a time, following every bit of fairy dust that floats through my mind whenever I have a clear chance to come up with something useful?

* Perhaps because it's been a very long, tedious 2 years leading up to our communal attempt to erase the last 8.

30 October 2008

Corporate Intelligence, Vol. 5

Though I was born and grew up out here in the Chicago suburbs, I lived in Northern Maine for over 3 years, until about a year and a half ago. Since that move, oblivious companies of all shapes and sizes who must hate the sight and smell of their own money took it upon themselves, with the assistance of the USPS and phone companies, to update their mailing and calling lists with my new information.

Now, this common practice makes sense for most nationally focused corporations, even if their message isn't always skewed appropriately for the drastically different region, time zone, accent, economic sphere, population density, worldview, pronunciation of various important words,* voting habits, or level of quaintness of my "new home".

What I'm really thrown by is the local businesses and organizations who seem to consider Reality Checks the province of "city slickers who don't have the sense to root for the Mighty Red Sox even when they live physically closer to Boston than we do."

Here are just two examples:

• Once we stopped getting the usual bits of local junk mail forwarded by the Post Office halfway across the country just to be immediately discarded, we started instead getting local junk mail formally addressed to our new house, trying to lure us back 1400 miles just to catch a mildly unbeatable deal on snow tires (This Weekend Only!) or The County's best interest rate on a snowmobile loan GUARANTEED!

• Lately, we've been getting automated calls from the Maine Democratic and Republican Parties, urging us to support their presidential candidate or vote against the opposing candidate, respectively. While you may say that a national campaign warrants a national calling list, you must agree that a long-distance call from Maine begging an Illinois voter to support his own Senator, elected with 70% of the vote just 4 years ago, is a senseless waste of money.

And lest you think that Democrats in Maine just don't have the time, money, or manpower to weed out useless numbers from their automatically updated phone lists, you should know that the strikingly low population of Maine allows it to have a single area code covering the entire state, and I'm pretty sure that even Thomas Edison's original autodialer** could be programmed in 10 seconds to ignore any numbers not beginning with 207.

But then where would AT&T and Verizon get the cash to buy both the ink for their Important Messages AND the souls of folks who'll speak out against Net Neutrality?

* Moving back, almost exclusively, from Incorrect to Correct, including, but certainly not limited to, the words permit and aunt ("aaaaaaaant"... I say if you don't live in London or Cape Cod, just give the whole "ahnt" thing a rest, already).

** Used to plant seeds in the minds of the nation's 137 early telephone adopters that Nicola Tesla fathered a black baby out of wedlock with his secret Muslim terrorist mistress, and that Alternating Current was just typical Liberal flip-flopping.

29 October 2008

Revenge of the Leafs

Since I've been so lax in responding to comments (and visiting people's blogs) in the past few weeks (and possibly indefinitely), I thought that instead of adding a bunch of responses now that no one would see, I'd write a separate post acknowledging your comments on this recent post showcasing M-'s language development through the lens of a leaf assault.

First off, I'd appreciate it if you guys would keep the violence of this neglect-ridden incident hush-hush. That is, unless Child Protective Services would be willing to work out some kind of time-sharing arrangement in which they would take the kids away from us only on Friday or Saturday nights, and maybe a day or so during the week as needed.

As for M-'s seemingly accelerated development in certain areas, I have nothing to offer in the way of tips or tricks, as requested, except to say that you should apparently try to spend as much time on the computer as legally allowed; never plan anything voluntarily or arrive anywhere on time; only feed your children random, disturbing combinations of food ALWAYS outside of whatever society tells you should be a Meal Time; and be ready to fend off many, many hard plastic finger puppets, because my friends, There Will Be Poinkings.

28 October 2008

A conversation with D-: Balbo Drive isn't far off the mark

The following is a surreal conversation I recently had, apropos of nothing, with my 4-year-old son D- while driving through our suburb:

D-: Do you know why they call it "downtown"?

Me: Downtown Chicago?

D-: No, the word downtown.*

M- (because she loves to be involved): Why?

D- (adopting his Teacher Voice): Because a long time ago, there was a guy called Down. (very casually) He was that guy who shot his own self after that big war, where he killed so many people.**

Me: You mean Hitler?!?

D-: Yeah, Hitler. That was his name, but then his last name was... Down. So... (clearly realizing he's lost whatever was his original idea in a sea of rambling 4-year-old bulls***) they had a town, and they named it for him: Downtown.

Me: Oh. ... Wow.

Editor's Note: For anyone interested in this post title, here is a great article written on the subject by my former history teacher, and here's the good-old Wikipedia page on the namesake of this Chicago street.

* I have no idea where he could have learned the concept of breaking down words for the meanings and origins of their components...

** You might assume that, at best, I let The History Channel babysit him all day, but actually, the kid just asks a lot of probing questions, and sometimes I can't help myself in answering them. We walk by a Holocaust memorial at least three times a week on the way to the library.

27 October 2008

They're up in arms in Sandwich, IL

You know, folks, many of us have spent plenty of quality time mocking the Bush Administration's beating the drums of war against Iran, but though it pains me to admit it, they just might be onto something:

Iranian crowd devours world's largest sandwich

Iranian workers prepare[d] a giant ostrich meat sandwich in an attempt to achieve a Guinness World Record ... But as the sandwich was being measured, chaos ensued ... when the crowd started eating it before it could be [officially] measured.

I think we can all agree that if there are precious few habits we Americans consider "our things", among them most certainly would have to be forming angry mobs, eating compulsively whatever's put in front of us, and being the butt of everyone else's jokes.

But now the Iranians try to top all past and future competition with this madness? What are we to make of this affront to our honor, this usurpation of our primary role in global affairs? I say we move on to our second, and let slip the dogs of war!

But does anyone else really, really want a sandwich before we head out?

24 October 2008

The rules of M-, Vol. 1

Here are just five of the rules for life my 20-month-old daughter M- seems to live by:

1. If you find a little bit of something gross on the floor and you're struck with the admirable idea that you should go throw it away, you immediately get credit for that, even if you give up after one guess of which cabinet hides the garbage can and you then unceremoniously eat said bit.

2. Children must be heard and seen, at all times.

3. As long as you combine the vocabulary of a 4-year-old and the logical powers of a 5-year-old with the cuteness of a 6-week-old, people are much more willing to forgive the destructiveness of a 17-year-old.

4. Everyone must inform a high-ranking baby of every single thing they are doing, big or small.

5. Insisting that adults repeat something on demand over and over again, long after you know their response back and forth, will not only cement it in your memory, but it will push them into a hypnotic state in which it's impossible for them to resist digging out a pacifier for you.

See also: The rules of D-

23 October 2008

Given the economy, Santa may soon call in lots of "loans"

Alright, all you language lovers, now that it's been 10 years since Bill Clinton let us all know there was some uncertainty about the meaning of the word is, it's high time that a government corruption trial provide us with a new definition for what we thought to be a simple, unchanging word:

What's a gift? Sen. Stevens testifies on freebies

"He bought that chair as a gift, but I refused it as a gift," Stevens said. "He put it there and said it was my chair. I told him I would not accept it as a gift. We have lots of things in our house that don't belong to us. ... I refused it as a gift. I let him put it in our basement at his request."

Given this wonderful new definition of gift, here's a helpful (for you) list of things I'd like to indefinitely borrow from any or each of you:

• Your car.
• Some* of your money.
• A bunch of your coolest stuff, hand-selected by me.
• Your clicks on the Amazon links to the right whenever you're heading there to do your Indefinite-Loan-Granting-Season shopping. Nearly starving** would-be orphans will thank you for their commission.

* By some, I mean most. Thanks for understanding.
** Fussiness is an acceptable reason for starvation, right? I may need to give the Red Cross a call.

21 October 2008


I now bring you a bulletin from a front-line soldier in the Bee Theater of the War Against Nature.

When my wife J- was walking through a park to eat lunch on a field trip last week, she found herself silently stalked by some of these honeymaking heathens. Whether any of them were going incognito in fly costumes is unclear, and completely unsubstantiated, but I just wanted to throw that frightening possibility out there.*

Her first notice of these hulking cretins might have very well been a few dozen stingers in the back, but for the selfless alarm of a student known for making Calvin Coolidge sound like the town crier.

A chill must have ran down her spine as she heard, "The bees... the bees! Mrs. Copperbottom**, the bees!"

This girl then bravely laughed as J- flailed about in desperation, confused as to why these bees were unrelentingly targeting her no matter what she did or where she ran to.

You and I don't need to wonder why poor J- was being roughed up (and not for the first time) by these hired goons, but at that moment, fighting for her itchy-bump-free life, my hard-hitting blog exposés were the furthest thing from her mind.

Having tried everything she could think of, she finally tossed away the tote bag holding her precious, well-deserved lunch, and thankfully that was enough to satisfy these opportunistic idiots.

Wouldn't their precious Queen be pleased to know they were so easily thrown off their quest?

After consulting with an expert, my theories were confirmed that there's no way my new arch-nemesis would plan this hit merely to separate my wife from her lunch.*** This was incompetence in the execution of a much more malacious plot that, despite my gratefulness for regaining my wife relatively intact, I know will be rightfully punished as severely as a grotesque, miniscule insect with no arms can manage. I've got to at least respect Her Majesty's dedication and strict adherence to her fiendish ideals.

But regardless of the intent of this assault, I received the message loud and clear. And listen up, "lady"-- you've got a problem with me and my soon-to-be-Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative journalism, you come to ME, or preferably someone only tangentially involved who I don't care much about. You don't threaten my family.

It's on now. And this time, we won't waste any verses duping ourselves into believing our Mommys would be proud of anything but a bee-colored smear on our palms.^

* Associated Press, are you reading?? I think we'd be a good fit.

** Was this name changed for privacy? You decide.

*** Unconfirmed reports suggest these may have actually been neutral bees attracted to the large quantities of dried banana bread batter my wife forgot she had dripped all over the side of her tote bag the previous weekend.

^ Because I have various issues making this specific act undesirable to me, I'm much more likely to be bringing home those bee-colored smears on pieces of mail, other people's belongings, or my shoes.

20 October 2008

A conversation with M-: The official seal is made of sugar

Here's a deeply poignant, spontaneous conversation I had the other day with my 20-month-old daughter M- on the way home from dropping her brother off at preschool:

M-: Brackabama! I want Brackabama!

Me: You want Barack Obama to win?

M-: No.

Me: Oh, you want John McCain to win?

M-: No.

Me: Well, who do you want to win?

M-: Candy.*

Me: What?

M-: I want Candy! Can I have some?! Please?

So it's not clear to me whether she wants to see a Clark bar elected president or she's shrewdly selling her vote for one.

Editor's Note: I swear on all that is good and holy that I did not make this up.**

* Actually, I believe this was Ron Paul's nickname in medical school, so that counts.

** The lack of this disclaimer on previous or future posts should not be taken as an indication of fictionalization.

17 October 2008

All the Queen's bees vs. all the President's boys

On the way home from preschool yesterday, D- began chanting a somewhat disturbing song I only vaguely recalled hearing before-- The Baby Bumblebee Song.

Like any red-blooded American, my first thought was that I needed to call the ACLU to organize a protest against the teaching of this song that clearly incites violence against innocent bees, but then I thought, you know what else incites violence against suddenly-less-than-innocent bees? Those panicky little f***ers themselves stinging people without having the decency to give them a little honey first.

I guess I run hot and cold like that, so it's good to know that the kid is being sent off somewhere two afternoons a week to study at the feet of more level-headed people who understand we need to begin training our anti-bee army* as early as possible, to protect America at home and abroad in our uncertain future.

In case you haven't yet had the honey-soaked veil lifted, don't feel too bad when singing happily about slaughtering their young-- all these bees are steadily leaving for more profitable positions overseas anyway, so they can jack up their already obscene profits by avoiding taxes while exploiting our insatiable appetites and not giving a bit back voluntarily.

* An important special unit in our overall War Against Nature.

16 October 2008

Important Question: Paper, Liner, Hover, or Madness?

I'm gonna keep this simple. You may take me for the head of the new Human Un-Hygenic Activities Committee, but I promise not to judge you any more than legally required by the Common Sense and Decency Act of 1937.

I simply must hear from everyone on this important issue, particularly the ladies, who are potentially the worst offenders due to understandable volume, if no other reason...

Do you sit, or have you ever sat, directly on a public toilet seat?