29 February 2008

Shovel 16 sidewalks and whaddya get?

The effects of a typical snowfall in Aroostook CountyI grew up in the Chicago suburbs, so I've always been more than familiar with snow, and I even made a fair amount of money in those years shoveling driveways, but I wouldn't say I became obsessed until after I was married and living in Northern Maine. (Refer to the picture above for an idea of what Northern Maine looks like much of the year-- that's my good old Dodge Spirit [RIP] under there.)

Once, when she was very pregnant with D-, J- slipped on a chronically icy stair, injuring her tailbone and causing an odd muscle tightness in her abdomen (which is bad). After suggesting once again to our landlord that he should fix the leaky gutter over the stairs, I began religiously clearing every speck of snow and ice everywhere on the property, at all hours of the day and night. I just fell into a routine, which was aided by the fact that it snows 8 months of the year in Maine. It didn't hurt that this was pretty much my only regular exercise at the time, so I allowed my OCD demons to firmly take hold, and now I just about cannot stop myself whenever I have access to a shovel and uncleared snow.

Though there are worse obsessions, I still don't wish this one on D-, but I feel it may be inevitable, as he already can't even stop at shoveling the sidewalk and my parents' deck. He frequently takes to clearing as much of the yard as he can before being convinced to take a break, and even then you can catch him all but twitching to get ahold of the shovel once again.

Unfortunately, most of the shoveling at our house involves the three flights of stairs up to our back door, so I can't put him to work too much here. It really is a loss-- you'd be surprised by how effective he is at his age!

28 February 2008

Frosty's premies

D-'s snowmanA pair of these noble warriors stood guard at my parents' house until recently, when they finally met their match in a bout of slightly mild weather. But until then, they amused me each time I saw them (in amounts far exceeding their stature), due to the fact that they were as unaware of the uniqueness of their size as was their creator.

Despite the fact that we used to live in Northern Maine, D- doesn't have much experience with making snowmen, because when he was much younger, he hated wind in all its forms, and when he got older, he was more interested in throwing snowballs and stomping snow. He could stomp snow for hours, likely driven by a budding obsessive-compulsive disorder that is not yet powerful enough to drive him to tear down a ridiculously-proportioned snowman like this shortly after starting it. God bless him for that.

I'll admit that I can't remember even starting to make more than maybe two snowmen in my life, which I know may seem to some a tragedy. I just found the idea of snowmen boring as a kid, versus forts and snowballs. However, a parent's boredom doesn't matter much for activities with children, because many, many of those activities are mind-numbingly boring and/or exceedingly annoying. Mostly it's the repetition, I suppose, but then that's the only way kids learn. Sigh...

Anyway, I'm sure this plays a big role in his inexperience, but I'd be more than willing to help him make one if he wanted. I wasn't there the day he made these particular snowmen with my sister, but she found them as funny as I did. She was able to stoically refrain from laughing too hard while overseeing D- due to her ongoing training as an early childhood education major in college.

I honestly think that if I suggested making a snowman any bigger than these, though, we might get as far as constructing the regulation-sized base before D- would request permission to get a snow shovel so he could get back to clearing all snow from every horizontal surface to which he is allowed access. He presumably developed his slavish devotion to snow removal from watching me head outside each time a flake hits the ground, driven by a force I only slightly understand, but it may just be a coincidence... I'll post my thoughts about this tomorrow.

To offer a little perspective on just how tiny these things are, here's a picture with D- for reference:
D- with his snowmanI think we'll be making these guys and their baby-carrot noses into a family tradition.

27 February 2008

A conversation with D-: A laugh in the forest

This morning, the kiddos and I were eating breakfast, while I was reading (Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, if you're interested), when all of a sudden, D- began fake-laughing hysterically. Naturally, I was curious, so I said, "What?"

D-: What? [with a completely blank expression, as if he had no idea what I could be asking about]

Me: You were laughing...

D-: Oh, I went [makes random, understated noise & face] to myself and so I laugh-did^. What were YOU laughing about?

Me: I wasn't laughing at all.

D-: Oh.


This is how D- pronounces most past-tense verbs.

See the archive for more Conversations with D-.

Get it?? Get it?!?

Wakka wakka wakkaToday D- walked up to me and spontaneously offered his explanation of why I spend time writing things down about him on the computer: "Cause I know how to make funny jokes, and you want to send them to people all over, to laugh. It's very silly."

In case you think he might be troubled by this habit of mine, keep in mind that he frequently tells goofy, nonsensical jokes and then tells me, "Write that down for people to read!"

Maybe I'll start collecting these jokes, like today's example, which consisted of him holding up a stuffed monkey and saying, "This monkey wants a real banana!"

Witty as that may be, I greatly prefer his unintentionally funny lines. In the shower this morning (okay fine, this afternoon), while reaching up to put a toy on the windowsill, he had to sternly yell at M-: "Don't grab penises!!"

I mean, that's just good advice, but still I had to stifle a laugh.

25 February 2008

I really do love my kids, honest!

For all you non-parents out there, here's one great thing about being a parent you might not be aware of:

You know that horrified panic you feel when you suddenly realize your mind was wandering while someone was talking to you, and you stand there awaiting sentencing once this person inevitably says something like, "So what do you think about that?"

When three-year-olds are most of the people you spend time with, you almost never have to deal with this feeling. Though when you also split that time with one-year-olds, you do have to run the risk of falling asleep while people are talking to you. Even three-year-olds notice that... trust me.

At least half the time, though, when a little kid is rambling at you, even they don't know what they're talking about. (I've actually checked on this periodically, in case you think I'm just as mean as this post makes me sound.) So you don't even have to feel bad tuning in and out at will while they practice their "conversation skills". Listening too intently all the time only results in logic-induced headaches and unanswerable questions (again, trust me on this one).

In fact, D- is standing right next to me going on and on about something completely nonsensical as I write this post, asking only that I occasionally offer a "Really?" or an "Oh, wow!" in response to his tone before deliberate pauses.

Warning: You should make sure to check in here and there, though, or you'll miss stuff like this:

23 February 2008

Luck favors the prepared parent

You wanna know a great way to torture a suddenly hungry baby? Take her down the baby food aisle at the store and try to explain why you can't just sit down on the floor, manufacture a spoon, and begin feeding her each of the jars she has pointed at (while loudly saying "Num-nummmm!!" and signing for "more").

While you're at it, rush her past rows and rows of various bottled drinks and describe to her (over her protests) what a water fountain is and why it'll have to do at the moment.

Go ahead and try it-- it's a blast!

(Before you think we're complete idiots, we weren't totally empty-handed, M- just quickly exhausted our meager supplies today.)

22 February 2008

Let's play dress up

Apparently Amazon thinks my audience is at least heavily made up of people interested in dressing up like "Asian" caricatures, based on this ad I caught in the sidebar the other day:

Who buys these kinds of things? I guess I can picture it at Halloween, maybe.I highly doubt this is so, but then again, how would I really know the tastes of all you folks? Who am I to question Amazon's mighty recommendation engine?

21 February 2008

A public service announcement

This is a banana:
Unmolested banana
This is a banana that made the mistake of lingering in a grocery bag in the same kitchen as a near-starving baby on the hunt for num-nums:
Molested banana
Any questions?

19 February 2008

Daddy: Destroyer of homes

This weekend, D- took his Lincoln Logs out to the dining room to build himself a house safely beyond the reach of pudgy little hands. Left completely to his own devices, I think he built a pretty impressive little shack (folks back in Maine might call it a 'camp house'):

D-'s childhood log homeWhen I saw it, I told him how great I thought it was, then I told him it was nap time. He asked if he could keep the house together so he could show it to Momma when she got home, and I of course agreed.

After nap time, he walked out into the room, saw the house, and said, with surprise and awe befitting the son of an unrepentant, vindictive, pathologically lying demolisher of childhood hopes and dreams, "You didn't wreck it!!"

I have no idea why he said this, much less why he said it with such unexpected joy, but I couldn't help feeling defensive. I just said "Of course I didn't-- I said we could save it for Momma, silly."

He just smiled with wizened amazement, wondering which of his slave duties was performed well enough to warrant such a magnanimous gesture from the tyrannical taskmaster he is unlucky enough to have to call Father.

No thank you, I'm full

Now, given that my son is still only three years old, I like to think that I have the edge over him in the brains department, and days like this reassure me of that.

When I took out some watermelon juice (which, like most juices, Juicy Juice would have us believe nature makes primarily from apple juice...), he asked why I was taking out "that waterlemon juice". After I corrected him, he pointed to the picture of watermelon slices on the label and said "I looooove those. They are my favorite. I don't say 'I'm all fuuuullll'- I eat them all up. I don't say 'Daddy, I'm all full, I'm not hungry'- I eat them alllll up."

Of course, I've been onto his Convenient Fullness game for some time, but here he just laid it all out for the record. If only I could make him understand what he's done, he would know how much I own him now, and he could fully appreciate said ownership. Instead, my maniacal laughter falls on deaf ears.

I've got to find a more sophisticated nemesis.

16 February 2008

A conversation with D-: Cramming graham

The most fearsome Spider-Man-themed pirate in all the Great LakesAnother typical conversation with D-, this time after I broke up his graham crackers into smaller pieces:

D-: Cool! Them are in squares!!!

Me: Yep!

D-: (much more solemnly, for some reason) Why did you put them in squares?

Me: Cause I thought you would think that was cool.

D-: I do!!


14 February 2008

What's the sign for "God help us all"?

This is J- making the "More" signWe made the mistake of giving M- the gift of communication, in the form of the baby-sign-language sign for "more", which is made by touching all your fingers together, as pictured above.

Her version usually approximates this, but at its worst it degenerates into her pointing at her palm demandingly, as seen below:
This is M- making the "More" signShe also has expanded this beyond mealtime, to mean "gimme that toy", "pick me up now", and generally, "give me exactly what I want immediately."

Now we just need to teach her to understand my sign for "I see and understand what you are communicating, but I must deny you what you want for unspecified reasons."

I think I may need more fingers.

13 February 2008

Steppin' to the OCD

Like most people who've suffered a decrease in physical activity after enduring a marked increase in nighttime screaming and predawn eyelid yanking, I've gone a bit soft around the middle in the past 3 years or so.

To combat this, I've enlisted the help of my comically debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder, through the use of a pedometer.

As ridiculous as I may look, I've clipped this thing on my left front pocket every day for over a month now. Since the "other mothers" at library storytime pretty much ignore me anyway, I can unselfconsciously^ drive my way upwards towards the Minimal Acceptable Level For Physical Activity, which is 10,000 steps a day.

It's a lot easier to cite this nice, round number as a baseline than it is to walk it when the people you are chasing only measure their stride lengths in inches. I mean, what are the odds that this magical minimum for all humans is such a perfect number? Did the Masons arrange that, too? Just like they designed the Great Seal of the United States, and the way they planted this clever ruse now that Nicholas Cage has been hot on their trail for 3 years with no signs of slowing down?

...You might think my tendency to be easily distracted, which I'll tell you about some day, would interfere with my quest to achieve 10,000 steps per day. But, my friends, you would be discounting the awesome power of my OCD, which has spawned several worse nicknames for me than LiteralDan.

Do I have a fully calculating spreadsheet on which to record my daily steps and view my monthly average as it changes each day, you ask? You'd better believe I do. And will this spreadsheet only expand exponentially in complexity over time? My Magic 8 Ball says... All Signs Point to Yes. I think it's only basing that on my spreadsheets for our DVDs, Books, Bills, Presents (to give), and... that's all I have, really it is. Well, entirely by accident, I did recently create a spreadsheet for the pledged delegates in the 2008 presidential race. I swear I will delete that one once Obama wins the nomination. (You wouldn't think such a thing would really require a solemn oath, but when freed from the limitations of physical space, you'd be surprised by the useless s**t I have kept "in case I ever need it." Come to think of it, you should also come see the physical space in which I live...)

Anyway, because I'm such a gentleman, I did J- the courtesy of cloning my Steps spreadsheet for her, since she received the same pedometer from my sister this Christmas. All I can say is thank God the thing stores the previous 7 days' totals, or I would never be able to accurately record J-'s steps for her once a week. For some reason, she just doesn't seem to be consistently drawn each day to the computer to fill in the little cell with a number to see how all the other numbers change. And for the record, of course the spreadsheet is for her, not for me-- I am not now helplessly bound to fill the empty box I've created.

Alrighty... after walking around our apartment at least a dozen times just before midnight (I needed to beat my February average, to keep moving forward, and then I couldn't not break 6000 after getting so close), I'm ready to do that thing I do sometimes between feeding people dinner and breakfast... no, after sitting on the computer for a couple hours... for some reason, I can't think clearly enough to come up with what you call that... I'd better go lay down.

^ I've decided that this is a word, and that this is how it is spelled. I bet there's already a German word for it, though, and it would make me sound much more sophisticated.

11 February 2008

Keeper of the minutiae

Apparently I now have to stop talking about D- as if he's not in the room, because he's officially Not Oblivious To Anything anymore. I've tried not to do this for a long time now, but I slip into it every so often, mostly because we all do it so much with M-.

Last night, I was telling a story about how the other day, I had D- feed M- while I was making D-'s lunch, but I couldn't remember what food it was that he was feeding her. So I just moved past that detail, talking about the two of them as if they were chimpanzees picking nits off each other, when all of a sudden D-, sounding for all the world like an actual person, said "Mac and cheese... it was mac and cheese."

The fact that he remembers this insignificant detail regarding maybe 3 minutes of his life most of a week later (which in kid-years is probably about a month) tells me that he is destined to be blessed and cursed with a memory like mine. I am tormented by at least hundreds of millions of pointless tidbits from my life and others', along with plot lines to movies and shows I don't even like, lyrics to songs I hate, and useless trivia about people who annoy me.

And given that, I figure it won't be long before he gets that bored look in his eyes whenever I open my mouth, until he can correct me, point by point, out of a sense of compulsive duty as much as disdain for my inferiority. At least for now, his tone just indicates he's glad to help.

As for me, the source of his burden, the only thing that lets me forget things is a lack of sleep, though having endured this for so many years now, I have found that I rely on my traditionally complete retention for so many things, that by comparison I now think I know what Alzheimer's must feel like.

In particular, I currently remember less about my life in the past 4 years (coincidence? I think not) than would a 22nd-century D student after skimming a 1-page summary of my entire life just before a quiz on historical figures who failed to live up to their potential. Why I would even be on such a quiz, I'm not sure, but let's just say I invented a unique kind of food on a stick, then died tragically in a comical, insomnia-related accident. Any suggestions?

Rock-a-bama: Captain of Team America

D- spent Super Tuesday at my parents' house, and apparently all the vote-counting and speechifying had quite an effect on him. This evening, 5 days later, I was checking out the results from the Maine caucuses when D- walked up behind me. He said something I didn't quite catch, since I wasn't paying attention, so he stepped up beside me and repeated himself more urgently.

He was pointing at a picture of Barack Obama (who he called "Rock-a-bama") and said "Daddy! That's the guy that says, [dramatic, deep voice] 'You all can be... Americaaaa!!'"

If that isn't an endorsement of this man's power to motivate America's youth, I don't know what is. He's clearly nailed down the influential 3-year-old voting bloc.

09 February 2008

Going out to eat

Do you know what doesn't make a good piece of note paper, even when struck by an idea in the middle of the night? A diaper.

As best I could tell after trying to trace my intended chicken scratchings the next morning, I think I wanted to write an entry about something that happened to us the other day at the library.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, M- seems to be trying her best to double her weight each day. She took this to an extreme when we were at the library last week, waiting for D- to be finished with his storytime. M- was very cutely sitting at a little computer to play a Dora game some kid had abandoned. I only wish I had a picture of this... maybe I'll remember to bring my camera next time we go and I can stage a picture. Anyway, after a few minutes of happily clicking and smacking away, she noticed a lady near us was feeding her son some leftovers.

M- then did what she always does when food is within her gravitational range-- she began loudly smacking her lips and saying "Mmmmmm!" Little did she know (or did she?), this lady was a classic Mediterranean mother, and she immediately decided that based on M-'s antics, I must be a single father who, out of sheer ignorance, limited M- to one meal a day, and she would soon die without some substantial home cooking from someone who knows what she's doing.

After being prompted to fetch a spoon from M-'s diaper bag, over the next 10 minutes, we moved from a few dainty spoonfuls (of what I was told was "cooked rice, beans, and... sheep meat?") to a constant flow from this lady's dish to M-'s mouth. I had no way of knowing, at the time, the limit of this lady's generosity, seeing as she had been trying to feed this food to her son (who was maybe 6 years old and totally uninterested in cold leftovers), so I foolishly kept assuming each spoonful was the last. This made for a long, awkward 15 minutes or so.

Finally, I suggested we should get going since D- would be done shortly, so she suggested I needed to manifest a Tupperware container to take some food home with me, since "she so hungry" and "she need good food to make her strong like [unintelligible]." I ended up dumping the corn flakes out of M-'s Snack Trap cup and into a very narrow empty bottle (easier said than done), so she could pack it full of this food, which I will say was quite good.

The lady was so nice, though aggressive in that Greek/Italian way I know well enough to not be offended by, that it only occurred to me after my daughter had ingested roughly a lamb shank's worth of this stuff that it might not be a good idea to take ambiguous food from strangers. For all I know, this lady and her son had spent their lives building up an immunity to iocaine powder, all so they could lure wandering morons into ingesting it so they could rob them and pose their bodies in ridiculous positions for their own amusement. Or something like that.

Anyway, both D- and I later managed to wrest some away from M- at lunchtime that day so we could try it too, and none of us have died yet. Now, obviously that lady had no way of knowing that M- frequently subsists on various bits of cereal when Daddy's in charge, but I can't help feeling that M- somehow traitorously communicated this fact to her. Furthermore, having gotten such an exotic treat in the middle of the afternoon, I think I see M- dying inside just a little bit each time I drop a bit of bread (or whatever other boring food I happen to have on hand) into her mouth when she's desperately tugging at my pant leg in the kitchen.

Now that I think I'm moving past the rejection, it might actually work for me to let M- outsource her feeding to the diverse international community that is our neighborhood. She could be a food snob by kindergarten! And I could be even lazier until then!

I've got to go rip some holes in that baby's pants.

08 February 2008

Can you dig it?

You know the best way to derail a quick walk to get Momma some 7-Up to settle her stomach? A giant hole in the street being filled by gravel dumped from a big loud truck and patted by the scoop of a backhoe.

I tried, but not very hard, to push past it and tell D- we'd check it out after our errand, but I knew before I said anything that this was a lost cause. It's like telling Ponce De Leon to make a mental note to further inspect that mysteriously glowing pond at a more convenient time.

So we stood and watched.

And watched.

And watched some more.

For some reason, several people walking by and looked at us like maybe somehow there was something more sinister at work than a 3-year-old boy's transfixion with his favorite toys wrought larger than life. People are weird sometimes.

He didn't get to operate any of the machinery this time, like he did this summer after we watched a crane replace the HVAC unit on the roof of a hardware store, but he was still pretty satisfied. Plus, one of the workers waved to us, which helps reaffirm D-'s carefully cultivated belief in the general politeness of people. Boy, is he in for a rude awakening at some point.

Till then, he's as pure as the new-fallen snow that's kept J- home from work (as a special ed teacher) for the past two days. Once life got word of this windfall, of course, it made sure to leave her deathly ill for the entire time. I guess on the bright side, that's two sick days she can use later.

06 February 2008

Oprah starts 'em young

Apparently Oprah really does have some kind of magical pull. When D- and I left to go shovel some snow the other day, M- was inconsolable for poor J-, screaming non-stop and practically clawing at the front door.

Eventually, J- gave up and turned on Oprah (good old DVR). M- immediately stopped crying and paid rapt attention. As soon as Oprah was off-camera, she started up again. This cycle went on for the entire show, without a clear explanation. Even M-'s little baby doll (seen above watching by herself after M- wandered away), perched on her lap, could not reassure her that Oprah would be back each time soon after she went away. (Given that she's been on every cover of O magazine for 7 years now, I don't think Oprah would take well to being off camera for more than 5 seconds at a time.)

Anyway, once Oprah was over, J- was on her own to make dinner with bleeding ears, as they both eagerly awaited our return. Once M- saw us on the porch, she lit right up like 10 Oprahs just said "Peekaboo! You've won a year's supply of tummy-ticklins!"

So I guess that means for all intents and purposes, I'm as good as or better than Oprah.

Power and influence now, please!

05 February 2008

Super Tuesday

It's hard to avoid mentioning the race to have a real president again, since I spend so much of my time reading and thinking about it, so I figured I would lay out some basic opinions here before I head out to vote.

Disclaimer: I promise I won't delve into these topics too much or too often, unless enough people care to ask me to. Unwelcome opinions, especially on politics, are one of life's eternal annoyances.

GW BUSH: There is little that is advisable for me to say, since it accomplishes little, but I'll give it a short sentence. I believe that his father is ashamed of him, as he should be; I hope he lives long enough to be punished for the damage he has done this country; and one benefit of having a Democratic president come 2009 will be to wash away the stain of Rove/Cheney/the rest more thoroughly than getting another Republican, even a non-neocon one.

McCAIN: A solid candidate, though I disagree with a lot of what he says. He seems to at least understand that you have to cooperate to get anything done.

ROMNEY: Seems too slick for his own good, like Bill Clinton without his "good old boy" shtick. I believe McCain and the others are right in labeling him a flip-flopper, as I think anyone would who reviewed his record. It's one thing to change your mind in response to a changing world, but quite another to completely reinvent yourself when it's politically convenient (like Guiliani, as well as Hillary Clinton, to a lesser extent). It's a shame though, because it would be nice to have the widest host of palatable options possible for breaking the WASPy male strangehold on the American presidency.

RON PAUL: I'm still in saddened disbelief how discounted he is, compared to Huckabee and others who have dropped out in the past month. This man has a lot of truth to speak, and I don't understand (without resorting to severe pessimism and conspiracy theories) why he doesn't merit inclusion even at this point in the millions of discussions and analyses of the race, the issues, and the debates. Here's another person with whom I disagree on several issues, but who I greatly respect and who I want to hear from without having to search back alleys of information. People just don't want to hear about how many things have gone wrong in this country (diplomatically, militarily, and economically) all at once. They want to address one problem at a time whenever possible. Maybe that's it...

HUCKABEE: Not worth much discussion, since he'll be farther gone by tomorrow even more than he is today (West Virginia's results notwithstanding). The best thing to come out of his ill-advised candidacy is last night's Battle Royale between Conan O'Brien, Steven Colbert, and Jon Stewart.

CLINTON: I know I'm not the first person to say this, but I am all for a female president, but just not this one. I lump her in with Romney in the robotic, ineffective politician category, though she at least has stuck closer to her alienating Raving Liberal guns. I think her presidency could possibly ruin it for all future female candidates for another century, and I think at best she would be a return to politics as usual. We'd be back to the Clintons' shenanigans that stained the country before Bush shattered it into a million pieces. I think she would soon remind me why I didn't mind Bush's election so much back in 2000, naively figuring he would be innocuous and at least interesting. (It makes me almost as sad to think of my foolish mindset in those days as it does to think of the Bush presidency we got.)

OBAMA: I really wanted him to finish out his first term in the Senate, so we could all see what he does on a national stage, and to build National Politics credentials to satisfy those who require them. Since he went for it now, though, I was ready to be disenchanted. In the past year or so, I've only gotten more inspired at the idea of the clean slate he offers. That's not the only reason I support him, of course

So as I mentioned, I'm off to vote now, and if your state primary/caucus is also today, I certainly hope you do the same. Good luck to us all in 2009!

04 February 2008

A conversation with D-: I love you, candy

Super D- about to almost catch a little footballHere is another in our high-minded series of conversations with D-, my three-year-old son.

When getting everything out to make D- yet another gourmet lunch of peanut butter and jelly this afternoon, I also took out a bag of candy that I saw, since I am a helpless slave to temptation. I set it on the counter, then turned back to the fridge to get the milk. This is what followed:

D-: Daddy?

Me: (nicely, I promise) No.

D-: ...No, I said "Daddy".

Me: And I said "No" to the question you were about to ask.

D-: (thinks for a second) ...I was going to say "I love you".

I turn to look at him, almost buying this for a moment.

Me: Aw, I love you too, buddy. Is that what you were really gonna say?

D-: (can't resist looking furtively away for a second)

Me: ...Or were you going to ask for a piece of candy?

D-: (nods his head and smiles weakly) Yeah.

Me: That was a pretty good trick, but I know you too well.

D-: (smiles and laughs nervously at not getting in trouble for this)

Maybe I'm a bad father, but with the way he executed this, and the way it indicates his mind has developed, I just couldn't even scold him.

03 February 2008

A breath of fresh hypocrisy

For Christmas, M- got a toothbrush that plays music for 2 minutes, to serve as a reminder for how long one should brush (though with only three tooth-tips so far, 2 minutes would seem to be beyond overkill). The brush has a sticker on it that says "For better sound and a better planet -- turn off the water while you brush!"

Very subtly on the back of the package, it also says "Batteries included! Contains two AAA or R03 size non-replaceable batteries", and in case that wasn't bad enough, they add "Brush head is not replaceable." So the water-saving tip hardly evens things out. But at least all the ocean life living off the East Pacific Garbage Patch will have sparkling white teeth...

Beyond the environmental damage, though, these things cost $15, so your choices are to either spend $90 annually on toothbrushes (or a lot more, considering how quickly you'd get sick of hearing the same song, which plays louder the harder the kid brushes), or you could spend $10 on toothbrushes and $5 more on one stopwatch.

(Thanks to Amazon for the product image.)

02 February 2008

Can I borrow a feeling?

So, in a previous post, I mentioned my neighbors' love of Karaoke. They practice(? perform? not sure what you would call it, or what on Earth they'd be practicing for...) at all hours of the day and night. Thankfully, not consecutively, but we have heard them as early as about 8am, and as late as around 2am. I can't confirm whether my dreams of bludgeoning someone with a microphone mean that they push on till morning, or if that's just residual hatred after they've gone to bed next to the ol' Leadsinger LS-3700.

When we first heard them TESTING, TESTING the mike some time last fall, we were at a loss to explain what the sounds were that we were hearing. It sounded like their 10-year-old was babbling into some kind of echo-chamber microphone. After months of listening, I still have no idea who is singing at any given time.

Since the dad is Hispanic (though maybe mixed with something else), and the mom is East Asian of some sort (Filipino, maybe?), I figured maybe they were singing in some other language, and the cadence of that language sounded kinda like off-key English singing. But no, when I poked my head out into the hall, I could clearly hear "looooooooooove! liffffffffffffffft us. uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup! where. weeeeee!! beee-lonnnnnngggg." Except I can't do it justice in print-- those varying fonts and extra punctuation are the closest I can get.

And in case you were wondering, I've spoken with the dad a few times, and he is absolutely not just learning English.

Speaking of karaoke, it's pronounced "ka-ROH-key". This is how I believe the Japanese word is pronounced: karla-oh-kayyyy. I'll admit that I honestly have no memory if I made this up at some point in the last 10 years, or if I actually heard the word pronounced this way, but it sounds right and I'm sticking to it. I also have no idea if "karla" is the appropriate way to represent the combined liquid sound I often hear in Asian languages, but that's the best I've got.

Anyway, I can tell you, with or without my English degree, that "carry-yokey" can not, and should not, be taken from the spelling of that word. It's ludicrous.

This sounds like a job for Wikipedia!

I just went to the page for Karaoke, I encourage you to go as well, if only to listen to the hilarious clip of someone saying the word, though admittedly it's probably only hilarious when played in my version of Winamp with fade-in/fade-out turned on. It's actually kind of frightening at the same time.

Anyway, I submit that my pronunciation is much closer to the original, which interestingly enough, is partially taken from English. What a crazy post-WWII mutual infatuation we've got going on with Japan.

Disclaimer: It may be lame, but I just want to say that I hope all my statements regarding Asian people, culture, and languages make only, or at least mostly, me seem ridiculous, and that they impart my curious fascination and reverence for them. I hope my statements regarding horrible karaoke, however, impart my hatred for horrible karaoke.