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?

15 October 2008

A conversation with M-: We'll have to amputate

Because it provides a very revealing look into where we are on several fronts of my 20-month-old daughter M-'s advanced development, I thought I'd share this short conversation that took place recently after I brushed a couple of leaves off the trunk of our car:

M-: Ow, Dad!! Dad-- ow.

Me: What's wrong, honey?

M- (gesturing to her outstretched foot): You frew the leafs at my shoe.

Me: ... Oh... sorry.

M-: Thank you.

13 October 2008

Origami es mi amigo?

One recent evening, my wife J- was rigorously preparing for a lesson in origami, which is tied to a book her class has been reading, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. She's got to earn that big-time teacher's salary, with its infamous golden parachute and "consulting fees", somehow, right?

As she happily found out, gone are the dark days when you had to rely on boring old written steps to work magic with paper. No, folks, now we have the wonder of full-motion video at our fingertips 24 hours a day.

So now, whole fractions of an hour later, J- is a largely self-made expert in this ancient art. I know she would be more than happy to know I am passing on the lessons I learned by watching her study under her master sensei.

From piles of crumbled paper emerged this golden craneI've decided it's most appropriate for me to impart my learning in a format as cryptic as a 7-minute video called How to make an Origami Crane in five minutes.* So without further adieu, here are just a few of the pearls of wisdom that my wife was so gracious to hand down to me:

Alright, I'm starting over.

The f***???

Wait, what??!? How??

Fold this, a**hole! Slow down!!

This... is not a crane.

* In all fairness, I think the extra two minutes were the pumpkin pie breaks and requisite loud chewing, and since the value of those moments is unquestionable, I won't push my critiques any further for fear they might get edited out.

10 October 2008

Keep friends close and let enemies pummel you

Okay, so maybe my 4-year-old son D- won't become an arch-villain after all, or at least not a good one. Observe this conversation from yesterday morning:

D-: Ow! Owww... Oww! Ow!!

Me: Hey!

M-: Sor-ree!!

Me: Why were you just standing there letting her hit you?*

D-: Because I was trying to tell her something!

Me: But why would you just keep standing there if she was hitting you?

D-: Because I was just waiting for her to stop hitting me, so I could tell her something... I wanted her to stop hitting me so we could talk.

Don't let him fool you... Gandhi, he ain't.

* Please note, Child Protective Services, that I asked with an inflection suggesting he should have moved out of the way and protested the treatment, not that he should have violently escalated the situation, at least under these circumstances. Considering the burgeoning fearsomeness (and penchant for eye-gouging) of his 20-month-old opponent, I would never urge him to step into that lion's den.

09 October 2008

My son the Arch-Villain

Ladies and gentlemen, in the interest of all our safety, I feel compelled to inform you that I have reason to believe my 4-year-old son may in fact be the next in a long line of supervillains. And not necessarily one of the campy kinds.

Just look at this ferocious face he was making in the picture for this recent post:
He strikes pee into the pants of mortal men!If I hadn't otherwise suspected his secret identity, I'm pretty sure my suspicions would have been raised by his frequent claims to being an evil figure, whether specific or not. He has been Captain Hook (a LOT) and "black Spider-Man (I've never been clear where he found out about Venom), but generally he just declares himself (in a comically deep and menacing voice) to be "a BAAAAAD guyyyyy!" or sometimes "a BAD [insert random but dramatic action word] guy!"

While he also does the same thing with much more mundane figures, such as "I'm a crane guy!", "I'm a cooker guy!", or "I'm a garbage man!", he definitely tends more towards the dastardly side.

On top of that, at many a breakfast time, when asked what he'd like to eat, he seems to begin wildly threatening people with something called "pain-cakes".

Finally, to settle any remaining dispute, I recently found this behind the couch, and to quote Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up:
Superman was overcome by Lex Luthor's biggest rivalI'm assuming the green rope, at least, is made largely of Kryptonite.

Poor bastard never stood a chance.

08 October 2008

Corporate intelligence, Vol. 4: Bank of America

Let me pose this one to you: say you were Bank of America settling into a new market (Chicago) after somewhat recently buying up a pretty big chain of banks (LaSalle Bank). Which would you consider the smoothest opening move?

1) Running a print ad welcoming yourself to town using an outdated, inaccurate picture of the cityscape, or

2) Running a radio ad congratulating the Cubs on making the playoffs and wishing them the best of luck in their quest, two days after they were bitterly swept out of competition?

3) Both of the above.

If you chose number three, congratulations! You are officially entitled to millions upon millions of dollars in bonuses while commanding thousands of employees and billions of dollars in assets!

If you chose either option 1 or 2, you are still entitled to the above, but you'll also be disgraced by receiving a few billion dollars in charity sales of bad mortgages to the federal government.

Try living that one down, you poor sap!

07 October 2008

Parenthood is...

The usual suspects, Devious and Violent...Finding out that trying to take a quick shower by yourself means someone will poop on the floor.

Editor's Note: I'm thinking I could make this a feature, like the comic Love Is. If you haven't seen it, "it's about two naked 8-year-olds who are married."

06 October 2008

The rules of D-, Vol. 2

Here are some more rules of D-, my 4-year-old son. This time, it's a sampling of questions and statements that should not arouse any suspicion at all:

1. Can you stay in the shower for awhile longer?

2. (walking into a room, apropos of nothing)didn't punch her...

3. Go away from me now?

4. I don't want you to ask me about that.

03 October 2008

P.S. I squish you

The other day, J- left me a nice note before heading off to work at the crack of dawn (in response to an even better note I had left her, thereby granting me the clear edge here), and while it was, as I said, nice, as we approach five years of marriage and 10 years of knowing each other, we're past the stage of saving every little scrap of everything in a shoe box somewhere.

That being said, I want to clearly state for the record that I would in no way ever deliberately defile or deface a love note from my wife in any way, no matter the size or lyricism of it, except in the rare case that I could do so in a way that was absolutely, unquestionably hilarious. That opportunity has, fortunately or unfortunately, not yet arisen.

However, after her note lies upside down on the counter all afternoon, I think I can be held blameless for later accidentally using it to squash a tiny bug walking across our counter. Our counter! Of all the disrespect for the insect kingdom to show me... my counter! In my own home!! No, I am not redirecting the focus here.

Do you have any idea how many bugs I have respectfully let walk, fly, or crawl out of my sight, probably to be squashed by someone else later that day? But this little guy just strolled along my primary food-prep surface (and you know he was defecating all the way) careless as you please, insulting my intelligence by trying to blend in with the little specks in the pattern on the counter, figuring for some unknown reason that I don't have the peripheral vision of a... an owl? Something with incredible, godlike peripheral vision, anyway.

So, yeah, I grabbed the note and poinked that f***er-- no big deal, right? Tell that to the O in love.

But you know what? Since my wife is first finding out about this right now along with you, let me just take the opportunity to point out here that right amongst a handful of other things at the core of our relationship is her hatred of bugs and my sworn duty to protect her from them. So I'd say that disgusting smear of life's essential gooey parts is a flourish that only a truly loving husband could think to provide, and thus I converted what had been a mere note into a unique declaration and symbol of our love. Before throwing it in the garbage.

I may need to re-spin this.

Editor's Note: Yes, I'm aware that "life's essential gooey parts" could be completely misread, but since it's also a great name for a band, I'm leaving it in.

02 October 2008

Classic quotes, Vol. 8

Here is Episode 8 in the beloved series of quotes from around our house:

D- (while tying his robe belt around the door knob and chain lock, after I said "Stop"): Stop what?

M-: I'm mess-see!

D- (also the Voice Of My Stomach at most meals): I want some more of that taste, please.

M- (reaching into D-'s pants pocket): I'm takin' money!

J- (to me, after I suggested we go get some very delicious pancakes): Dude... don't tease a fat woman* with pancakes!

D- (looking at a globe): Are any of these states bad?

* Alert: Exaggeration for the sake of self-deprecation.

01 October 2008

Developments at our house, Vol. 11

Here's more of the latest developments around our house:

1. I've advised D- to invest some pennies in one of those super-skinny piano-key neckties, based on the amount of time he's lately been spending tickling the plastics on his toy synthesizer.

2. In a triumph for those who claim toilet humor as the inborn and fundamental base of all things that are funny, my 20-month-old daughter M-'s latest addition to her comedy routine consists of pointing to her backside and declaring, "Bum-bum!" before dissolving into giddy laughter.

3. D- has completed some kind of generational shift by referring to our corded phone as, I kid you not, a "cordless phone with a cord".

4. After spilling a large cup of juice all over our recliner, the floor, and myself, my second thought was that at least it will smell a lot better than most of the other things spilled around our house.

5. M- may have become the first known human in untold thousands of years to happily eat a raw crabapple, perhaps because it was sweetened to tolerability by the illicitness of having stolen it from the pile D- had gathered from the yard.