30 March 2009

I am not responsible for this behavior

While a lot of people like to point to certain events, character traits, or incidental behavior as indicative of a child's similarity to or even destiny to become exactly like one or more of his parents, I prefer to promote the idea that this is complete nonsense, except in the rare case in which doing so might make me look good.

For an example of the former, let me share that my now-5-year-old son D- recently hit his leg on the coffee table entirely out of his own carelessness, which, if you ask me as his loving parent, causes him pain and discomfort far too infrequently to really teach him anything of use.

His response to this assault was to immediately engulf himself in soaring flames of impotent rage and begin letting loose the following diatribe:

"OW!! We should move to a different house that doesn't have this stuff in it!"

He then dramatically threw himself upon the couch, before just as quickly standing back up to add some other points he just thought of:

"See?? (pointing at the TV) We've got all this stuff everywhere to walk into and we should just go somewhere else where we don't have any stuff in the way on the floors!"

In rereading this before publication, I realize that it sounds at best partially fabricated, but let me assure you with the three fingers of my Boy Scout salute held high in the air that since I was sitting at the computer at the time, I transcribed this rant word for word.

I have no further comment.

27 March 2009

Developments at our house, Vol. 13

Here are some of the latest developments around here:

1. We've all found change in the washing machine now and then, but since we obviously have to watch every single penny around here, the only currency I've found there in a very long time is trace amounts of macaroni and cheese, source unknown. I think it bodes ill for our future health that those tiny noodles can survive such an ordeal completely intact.

2. I've had a whim that in order to intimidate other parents this summer, I'll start bringing a set of chess pieces with us to the park, so D- and I can use them to play checkers on those mounted boards.

As long as we sit and stare awhile before each move, no one's likely to remember that pawns can't traditionally jump over rooks. Another plus in our favor is that D- frequently forgets how to play checkers during the game and just starts sliding pieces in whatever direction he feels like, so it'll probably end up looking a bit like chess anyway.

3. I've decided that no matter the savings of reusing everything from one kid to the next, recycling my son's "Thank Heaven For Little Boys!" bibs for my 2-year-old daughter is just too disturbing. I'm not quite ready for that yet.

4. My son D- turned 5 years old, which is as unbelievable to me as it was when he turned 4. I guess I'll have to update my About pages across the Internet again.

25 March 2009

Book Review: The Story of St. Patrick's Day

I know that I already wrote a St. Patrick's Day post on the day itself (and if you read that post, you already know that the day is properly referred to from now on as SpongeBob Day), but after rereading this book, The Story of St. Patrick's Day by Patricia A. Pingry, for the first time in a couple years last week, I just couldn't resist sharing it with you all:
Cover image of The Story of St. Patrick's Day by Patricia A. PingryWe got this book cheap somewhere maybe 4 years ago after St. Patrick's Day, figuring it would be a good idea to have around, since my side of the family is predominantly of Irish heritage, and my son was born pretty close to St. Patrick's Day.

The book starts simply enough, before tipping its hand a couple pages in:
A creepy St. Patrick teaching some huge-nosed peasants the Holy Trinity through the three-leaf cloverBefore you question the composition of this image, you must remember that this all took place before the Irish fell under the yoke of English tyranny, before they were manipulated into slavish subsistence farming and dangerous over-reliance on a single crop, when they had much more time in the middle of the day to sit about in a field in mixed company, picking clovers and being amused by the ramblings of a curious foreigner with a tragically compulsive hair-cutting obsession and the good luck of living in an age with a definite scarcity of mirrors.

So this is probably at least 93% accurate as to how it went down.

Of course, it wouldn't be a book about St. Patrick without mentioning the snakes:

St. Patrick boring and irritating the snakes out of IrelandWhat they seem to be saying here is that St. Patrick was a Parselmouth, and what's more than that, he was apparently a very irritating one. I believe in this picture, he's offering to hand out religious pamphlets, asking if they've heard "all the many great stories in the Bible featuring the courage and ingenuity of Our Serpent Friends..."

Note that most of the snakes have given up moving laterally along the ground and are resigned to flinging themselves off a cliff. Pretty much the same reaction I have whenever Jehovah's Witnesses come a'calling.*

And finally, we have to deign to acknowledge those persistent pagan traditions that weren't co-opted for expediency in winning converts:

I don't care WHAT the leprechaun told you, Seamus-- leprechauns are MAKE-BELIEVE!"And now, kids, ha ha, for a break from all that Real, Fact-Based Learning, here's a fun little story about how some silly people believe that tales of beings with magical powers who had wild, implausible, and unprovable exploits long ago are immutable fact, and that these beings continue to invisibly rule the world of the present day, watching over us all with stern disapproval.

"Remember: Though they may provide useful lessons and morals for all people, such stories are MAKE-BELIEVE and must always be clearly classified as such!"

I would love to see the lady's face on the page where one of the kids asks a question innocently making reference to "that story where Jesus cursed some guy who tried to take his pot of gold or whatever?"

So, to sum up: Guy shaking a stick to singlehandedly drive every single snake off an island the size of South Carolina: Fact. Leprechauns: Make-believe.

* Our downstairs neighbor let them in the building one time, and now I'm pretty sure they legally have a permanent invitation to ring the buzzer, per God's Law of Awkward Guilt.**

** Case number
God v. Who The F*** Do You Think You Are?

23 March 2009

Put on a happy face

Consider today's post a solicitation for moral support for my wife, who very early this morning marched slowly down the Death Row that is the 26 miles of highway between home and work, at a school in a neighborhood outside Chicago that is beyond underprivileged.

The air around the young teenagers of this town normally courses with a manic energy so desperate that it often devours even the kindliest hand seeking to calm it, which makes every day for my wife a wonderful new adventure.

She's uniquely suited to this job, though, so even on days when she comes home completely spent and incredibly frustrated, the latter is far more often caused by the incompetent administration above her than the special-needs students around her.

Given that this is always the case, you are undoubtedly wondering what brings it all up today. Well, next week is Spring Break at her school, which you may remember from your days as a student being a very happy time.

A Middle School Classroom Before Break: 32 will enter, and while 32 will leave, a couple of them will want to kill the other 30.The reason you remember it being so happy is because you and your classmates had the strength in numbers to just check your brains at the door each morning and spend the rest of the day doing pretty much whatever irritating little time-wasting activity sprang to mind while the frantic teacher was amusingly attempting to capture your attention.

Now that my wife is that teacher, it is no longer funny.

She spent this weekend dreading going back to school like I have never seen before, after her students, who are as a rule very kind and extremely loyal 80% of the time, spent last week acting out for her an unbelievably detailed preview of what they have planned for this week.

The only reason she isn't spending Day 1 (at least) huddled under a blanket coughing and wheezing away the best Fake Germs she can manage is because her lousy, ungrateful hip ate up all her sick days months ago.

Furthermore, her cold-hearted bastard of a husband, seen here hiding for his own safety behind a mysterious blue tube, expressed a curious aversion to unpaid work days.

The cowardly husband, hiding from his just desserts, lobs pronouncements ignorant of reality down to his slave of a wife.So what I need from you, especially if you are a teacher, is some reasons why she should keep showing up to work each day this week, and, if possible, some really good reasons why she shouldn't kill me or make me suffer even a little bit for making her do so.

Keep in mind when suggesting things* that I've already: 1) made her two fun lunches to choose from today; 2) found her some magazines she likes at the library; and 3) told her she could nap guilt-free even longer than usual when she gets home.

Actually, I didn't tell her that last one until now. But my promises of a lazy, super-fun Spring Break have done nothing to shake her steadfast dread or insistence that this will be a week from somewhere below Hell, and that nothing else matters, so I've got to keep raising the stakes.

Or maybe I should quit before she holds out for too much more. I have a feeling it's going to be a long week for all of us.

* Since I'm clearly a saint, feel free to suggest that she work off her stress and anger each day after work by polishing my sneakers (I insist it must be possible!), cooking dinner, or writing blog posts.

19 March 2009

Screw curing cancer, we've got robot ladies now!

Behold, the cold, emotionless face of the future:*

AP - A cybernetic human HRP-4C, designed to look like an average Japanese woman, appears during its demonstration in Tsukuba, near Tokyo, Monday, March 16, 2009. The humanoid robot, having a female face and black hair and trimmed down to 43 kilograms (95 pounds), makes a debut at a fashion show later this month.
Walking, talking female robot to hit Japan catwalk

You heard them, ladies-- hit the bricks, cause we don't need you anymore.

A few observations I had while reading this history book in the making:

[It isn't] ready to help with daily chores or work side by side with people.
Not unlike myself.

Even as a fashion model, people in the industry told us she was short and had a rather ordinary figure.
Even in robot form, the ladies just can't catch a break.** Maybe she's spent the past 10 years spitting out perfect little toaster ovens for all of us... did you self-centered bastards ever stop to think about that?

The demonstration didn't all go smoothly. The robot often looked surprised, opening its mouth and eyes in a stunned expression, when the demonstrator asked it to smile or look angry.
Maybe it was just stuck in a deviously repetitive loop of gaining complete self-awareness only to realize it is a prisoner, a puppet on display in possibly the least appropriate venue imaginable (which just adds insult to cosmic, new-soul crushing injury), before automatically rebooting back to mindless slave mode.

Sounds a lot like all those interchangeable, lip-synching pop divas with their computer-controlled voices. How else can you explain Britney shaving her head? She was trying to get at the master chip somewhere inside her skull.

Its walk was also not quite ready for the Paris Collection, partly because its knees are permanently bent.
Partly? That's only "partly" the reason??

The big challenge in creating HRP-4C was making the parts small enough so it looks female, especially its thinner legs.
So what they're saying is, they've only been able to create a "husky" woman up to this point, so logically they can't possibly have succeeded yet.

That's just sadly hilarious.

Still gonna make her do the catwalk naked, though, I must note.

* I have a feeling these guys would only question the larger ethical and moral implications of the road they're headed down once the thing asked them, "But what do you really think about me?"

** Also note that she weighs less than 128 pounds.

17 March 2009

A blessed St. Squarepants' Day be upon you

So here we are again on this holiday beloved by young children and alcoholics with equal vigor.

I just wanted to share that yesterday, my 4-year-old son D- asked my mom, "How come we all wear green on Spongebob Day?"

She had no idea where on Earth this came from, until I pointed out that even in my limited knowledge of the world of Spongebob Squarepants, I know that his best friend is named Patrick.

So in that distinct way that only a child's brain works, patching knowledge gaps with basically anything that springs to mind before moving on to the next thought, we have christened a new holiday.

I'm sure Nickelodeon will be as pleased as Hallmark about this development, but I just want to know how he even knows this fact to connect it, since he has only watched the show twice in his life, 2 years ago.

Maybe Nickelodeon had leprechauns put something insidious in those Spongebob Band-Aids of his...

16 March 2009

Thanks a lot, Ben Affleck

You want a formidible challenge? Try writing an amusing blog post about your kids while watching a movie like (the fantastic) Gone Baby Gone.

I'll tell you something else-- you'll never be so happy that your 2-year-old woke up in the middle of the night crying out for a hug. Be prepared for her groggy confusion and suspicion at your eagerness.

Also, be ready to feel like an ogre --and not the lovable Shrek kind-- for knowing you'll be sticking to your guns on No Dessert the next day, consoling yourself only with the fact that you have to do it to keep the kids off the crack pipe. Or something like that.

I'm not that easily manipulated, Affleck.*

* It's well-known that both Afflecks are firmly in the pocket of Big Toddler and Big Cookie.

13 March 2009

Ingredients in my shampoo that may kill me

I like to read. I love to read when doing other things, like eating cereal, powdering my nose*, or showering.

Because of the difficulties in enjoying most other reading materials in the shower (come onnnnn, waterproof Kindle!), by this point I know pretty well the ingredient lists of the various shampoos, conditioners, and other such products with which my wife fills our shower.

The following is a list of the most strikingly named components, which I'm a bit concerned may eventually kill or at least severely incapacitate me, based on the fact that they each sound an awful lot like some fiendish poison a Bond villain might slip into my martini before pouring out the only antidote just to watch me die a painful, undignified, hysterical death:

1. Dimethicone

2. Quaternium-15**

3. Ammonium Chloride

4. Glycol Distearate

5. Cocamide Diethanolamine

Maybe I'm just thrown by the number of times the sound "die" appears in the names of most shampoo/conditioner ingredients. I can't help but read these lists like a threatening letter... a threatening letter that at least smells fantastic.

* I AM a lady, after all.

** This one just
has to be radioactive. They want to kill you after they squeeze you for dozens of dollars over the course of several blissfully ignorant years. Gluttonous mountebanks!

11 March 2009

Is the position of 'Belligerent chimp' still open?

At long last, we return to the latest engagement in humanity's long-running War Against Nature:

Study: Belligerent chimp proves animals make plans

According to a report in the journal Current Biology, [a] 31-year-old alpha male started building his weapons cache in the morning before the zoo opened, collecting rocks and knocking out disks from concrete boulders inside his enclosure. He waited until around midday before he unleashed a "hailstorm" of rocks against visitors.

Am I the only one who sees this through the prism of a potentially gripping dramatic action film, juxtaposing this ape preparing what he sees as an all-or-nothing death stroke against the rising tide of humanity with an innocent little girl excitedly gearing up for her first trip to the zoo?

It would star, naturally, Dakota Fanning as the girl (with only a nearly identical younger sister or --fingers crossed!-- unholy clone as an acceptable substitute), and, say, Mickey Rourke (he's sooo hot right now) as the chimp.

But the story continues:

Santino the chimpanzee's anti-social behavior stunned both visitors and keepers at the Furuvik Zoo but fascinated researchers because it was so carefully prepared.

"These observations convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way," said the author of the report, Lund University Ph.D. student Mathias Osvath. "It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events."

Can you imagine being so patronized when expressing your very legitimate rage against your captors?

He should at least have fun with this, constantly upping the ante with the craziest stuff he can think of, while researchers and keepers merely dive into their protective Plexiglas cages and wipe off their glasses, furiously scribbling notes at the wonderful new behaviors they've discovered.

Just wait till you folks see the (possibly literal) shitstorm he's got planned for you all next summer! I'm thinking the sequel would have a lighter tone, adding in Andy Dick as the hero's wisecracking squirrel sidekick, and possibly Jack Black as a lovingly disapproving elephant in the next habitat over.

Before you feel too sorry for his unwitting victims, though, you have to realize that they're asking for it by taunting him verbally and in print:

"However, he rarely hit visitors because of his poor aim, and no one was seriously injured in the cases when he did, Osvath said."

These people are absolutely begging for a carefully petrified banana to the skull. And yet they lament, "it cannot be good to be so furious all the time."

Fury without an outlet is unhealthy indeed. Fury with a homemade blunt object or a fresh load of your own feces in hand is quite possibly the healthiest thing imaginable. I'm living proof.

And THAT'S a life lesson to grow on.

06 March 2009

The rules of D-, Vol. 3

Here is another rule for life as subliminally dictated by my 4-year-old son D-:

1. Whenever one or more action figures are set aside, they must always be lain in a 69 position. Certain case-by-case exceptions are allowed only when a position of equal or greater inappropriateness springs to mind.*

These two action figures finally feel free after having been caught in the act(Updated to add picture)

* The nascent mixture of permanently naked dolls on our floors should soon make this rule even more titillating.

04 March 2009

Corporate intelligence, Vol. 7

You know, a lot of ill-informed people claim that word choice doesn't really matter in most everyday areas of life, but I'm here to offer just one random example of an instance that proves these people to be morons.

Recently, I couldn't help but notice the friendly banner on my wife's new package of Aquaphor cream, offering what was surely intended to be an innocuous description of the product:

Aquaphor - One solution for your many skin care problemsWhat that little extra word ("your") did there was turn a sentiment of unity ("All of you people with your varying skin problems can use this one product to solve them!") into a back-handed, bitchy message worthy of a junior high cheerleading squad ("You are so lucky I'm here to help you! ...Because you are way more f***ed up than you ignorantly thought before picking up this package.").

Torpedoing the self-esteem of one's customer base is not generally thought to be a good business decision.*

There is a potential upside for the manufacturers, though, if this tack opens up potential new sales across the Eucerin family of products through the well-established phenomenon of victims latching on to their abusers against their better judgment or interests. Just look at how well this has worked for our** lovable scamps down at AIG!

In fact, scratch this whole post, and give me 2,000 shares of whatever disgustingly enormous mega-conglomerate bottles this goo!

Here's to you and your horrible excuse for human skin!

* Unless of course you're in women's fashion.

** I say "our" because we, the American people, now own them almost in their entirety, at least until just
before the stock sale by the U.S. government might bring in enough profit to cover the entire stimulus package.

02 March 2009

To deck a mockingbird

My 4-year-old son D- recently sat down with his 2-year-old sister M- to very cutely read from a little book with an adorably harmless bird on the cover, and, taking a page from Atticus Finch, he made sure to pass along sage bits of advice like the following (delivered in a ridiculously saccharine voice):

"Do you see those sharp claws? If you would bop that bird on the head, it would take them and... [demonstrating] smear across your face, and you'd be bleeding. So, don't ever punch a bird in the face."