Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Why I haven't posted in a while...

Santa and I had a little "disagreement" over whether or not I needed a PS3 for Christmas. Unfortunately, Santa won.

But I'm feeling much better now.

Friday, November 10, 2006

At the prompt, enter "/NOMOPOO"

Three things I've learned about parenting in not quite four months:

1. Babies need to come with cheat codes. Seriously, wtf? I'm part of a glorious generation in which we've learned to face challenges via the medium of video games. If you get frustrated by a video game, you can hop onto Google, bounce over to any of a dozen gaming sites, and quickly find out what code you need to enter in order to get a few extra lives or unlimited gold. This is how things should be.

I tried that when my son was going through his "Everything's fine, must be time to scream for a while" phase. Googling "Baby Cheat Codes" turned up four sites of codes for video games with the word "Baby" in the title, five that told you how to unlock baby-related content in video games (i.e., Prince of Persia's "Baby Toy of Death"), and one album on entitled "Cheat Codes". There's clearly an untapped market here. Why can't our secret government programs quit trying to genetically engineer a super-soldier and get working on a baby who can be programmed to change himself? Speaking of which...

2. It's possible for a 17-pound baby to produce four pounds of mucous, nine pounds of poop, and five pounds of spit-up in a 24-hour period. The Law of Conservation of Matter does not apply here. Someone looking for a renewable energy resource needs to get on this. Note that I didn't say "clean", just "renewable".

3. Your wife won't think it's funny if you pump your fist and shout "Chug! Chug! Chug!" while she's feeding the baby. This is especially true if she's breast-feeding.

More to come, as the Little Overlord sees fit to clue me in.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My quote

Ego is one of the leading causes of deafness.

When I'm famous and/or dead, that's one of the ones I'd like attributed to me. Let some snot-nosed little high-schooler use that in his college application.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Get your head out of there!

There are a number of topics you are prohibited by law or policy from discussing in the office. Size of your genitalia, for instance. What you and the missus did with those two hookers and the marmot last night. How important it is for your cubemates to accept L. Ron Hubbard into their lives.

And yet, when my wife was ready to spawn our firstborn child, no law or policy prevented one of our company's owners from turning to me in the midst of a company-wide meeting and asking, "Is she dilated yet?"

Why is that? She wasn't the only person to ask me that, although she did perhaps have the most appalling timing. But who would think that the inner workings of my wife's girl parts are an appropriate topic of discussion at any time, much less in the office?

I've been trying to come up with a male equivalent--that is, what someone could ask my wife about me that would be equally untoward. So far, the best I've come up with is "So, how's your husband's narrow urethra? Are those stretching exercises helping?", and that's only funny if you say it in Hank Hill's voice.

If you've got a better idea, by all means, speak up. Maybe something involving the words "colon" and "obstructed bowel." And if you're wondering...well, just keep wondering.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why I like rural America

Life, I've found, does a much better job of giving positive reinforcement to bad habits than to good ones. They're generally easier, almost certainly more fun, and until they develop a "Save/Reload" function for reality, you can't really say if things would have turned out better had you been diligent about maintaining "good" habits. So what's the point?

Take procrastination, for example. As witnessed by my recent posting schedule, I find it's very easy to put off obligations. I think it was Mark Twain who said, "Never meet trouble halfway; something usually happens to it before it arrives." Now that I own a house, I couldn't agree more. Sure, an ounce of maintenance is worth a pound of cure, but who wants to measure out sixteen ounces of maintenance when you could just slap down a pound of cure later?

I put a stone patio in our backyard about a month ago, one of the most herniatingly good times I've ever had. A small stack of wooden pallets has been sitting in my driveway ever since, a byproduct of the stone delivery. Unfortunately, since I have enough room to park and can still get into the garage as needed, getting rid of the pallets hasn't carried any sort of immediate urgency for me. The garbage collectors wouldn't take them, and getting rid of them myself would require loading them into my truck and driving over the hot, sweaty dump, where I risked stepping on a rusty nail and needing to get my tetanus shots updated, which would further require me to spend even more valuable XBoxing time going to the hospital...hence, procrastination.

And then along came positive reinforcement in the form of my local United States Postal Employee, or as I like to call him, my Mail Dude. After a month of driving by my house and seeing the pile out there six days a week, he finally came by on a morning when I happened to be outside and asked if I was going to do anything with those, or if not, could he take them for camp firewood?

So, let me get this straight, the problem gets taken care of without any time or effort on my part?


Mail Dude came back that afternoon with his pickup, and I helped him load the pallets into an F-150 bed already packed with camping gear and various other sundries. So I guess it took a little time and effort on my part, but the payoff came in the form of this conversation:

Maildude: Let's see, just gotta make some room in my truck here... (moves a sack of potatoes).
Me: Mmm, spuds. Going to roast those in the coals?
MD: Nope. Those are for my potato gun.
Me: Potato gun? You got some unruly potatoes need keepin' down?
MD: (Takes out a 4' long contraption made of two pieces of PVC pipe with a screw cap on one end) Yep!
Me: How about that, a potato gun! What do you use to fire that, compressed air?
MD: Hairspray.
Me: Hairspray?
MD: (Unscrews cap and tips out a can of Clairol) Yup. I've got this grill igniter for a trigger...just put the wires to these two screws here, and push the button for a spark. Gotta clean the igniter, though, it's sticking right now.
Me: Well how about that. Hairspray! What kind of range you got on that?
MD: Depends on the potato, really. Good one'll go a thousand, fifteen hundred feet.
Me: Well, don't that beat all.
MD: Now, I know what you're thinking...
Me: I don't think you do.
MD: ...And the answer's no, you can't fire a golf ball with this. See, I went with the inch and a quarter PVC for this, I'd need to go smaller for that. But I'm gonna get a piece of that and cut grooves into the inside, and thread this end here so I can take it apart from the chamber. This one right now won't fit in my Camaro.
Me: Well, it's tough to get everything right on your first try.

Procrastination. Without it, I'd have missed out on this entire conversation, easily one of the highlights of my weekend. Now I just need a gravel truck to tip over in front of my house so I can finish my rock garden.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Falling down on the job

114,000 bras linked together, and the best headline Fox could come up with was "Cancer Activists Create World's Longest Bra Chain"?

That's pathetic! Who's editing over there? Not to go all Charlie Bales on 'em, but they were staring an opportunity in the face (or thereabouts) here, and they let it slip through their fingers.

"114,000 Strong; Cancer Activists From A to DD"

"Fraternity Party Gone Horribly, Horribly Right"

"Cancer Activists Give Hoot(ers) About Cancer"

"Breast Cancer Activists Show Support By Removing Theirs"

"Cancer Activists Form Support Chain"

Any one of these would've grabbed more attention for the cause. Fox, we expect better from the company that brought us "The Swan".

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Cover me

I am a fan of music. By this, I don't mean that I am a "serious" music fan. I don't spend hours a day deciding if I want to sort my CD collection alphabetically by lead singer's first pet, or from west to east by band's city of origin. I'm happy for people who are fortunate enough to have found their particular talent in life in this manner, but if that's mine, I'll just keep looking.

No, when I say that I like music, it simply means that, most of the time, I'd rather have the radio on than off. My CD player is the first thing I turn on when I walk into the kitchen, and I'd rather drive across the country without A/C than without FM. Like ribs (for her), it just makes things more pleasurable.

I realize that the very act of listening to the radio rather than some obscure garage band diminishes me in the eyes of the "serious" music aficionado. I have heard some independently-produced albums that sound great (yeah Dogfight, woohoo!) and some that don't. Ditto for the radio. I know that the songs sung by Avril and Snoop and Eminem and pretty much anyone else I've ever heard of are in some way influenced by the record companies that pay them millions of dollars a year. Frankly, I don't see what the big whoop is. If you prefer what they sing to nothing, leave the station on; if you don't, put in your college roommate's demo tape. Live and let live, I say.

But even though I say that, there are still a few basic conventions that need to be made clear. We may argue back and forth all day about classic subjects like indecency vs. art, free speech vs. obscenity, to-MAY-to vs. any vegetable that doesn't taste like puke. But there is one area which must be addressed, and must be addressed soon:

Cover songs.

Yes, taking someone else's material and foisting it on mankind as your own is as old as Prometheus. Sometimes it's no big deal, sometimes it really is an improvement, and sometimes it's Celine Dion singing "I Drove All Night."

But why was it OK when Roy Orbison covered Cyndi Lauper's song, and not when Celine Dion did? I'm glad you asked! May I present:

Three Simple Rules for Cover Songs

1) Your version must add something.

In the example above, Roy pretty much added the Y chromosome to Cyndi's original. Can't argue that *that's* not something. Celine added a bad French accent. I'm not saying that there was necessarily anything wrong with her version, but...did it really add anything to the music world that a Montreal karaoke bar couldn't?

In fact, maybe that should be the rule: "Your version must add something that a Montreal karaoke bar couldn't."

I'm not saying the new version has to be earth-shattering; Hall & Oates added a jazzed--up guitar part and an extra "don't" to the Everly Brother's "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling", and that was enough to make it different. But if an artist can't even do that, then he's just trying to siphon off record sales from confused youngsters who think that Michael Bolton was the first person to sing "Dock of the Bay". And yes, I have reached the age where I'm trying to look out for America's youth. Don't sass me, you whippersnapper.

2) You cannot cover an artist's defining song.

I know, I know...who decides what a "defining song" is? Well, as the saying goes, if you have to ask if it is, it probably is. Anyone who thinks they can deliver more "Satisfaction" than the Rolling Stones deserves to be beaten soundly with Mick Jagger's lower lip. C'mon, that would be like me trying to take a piece about exploding toilets away from Dave Barry. That's just arrogance.

To take a subject that's closer to recent history, Michael Jackson had scads of hits, and we could debate for days on whether or not "Thriller" was a more defining song for him than "Beat It." (In light of his recent legal troubles, it probably won't be "The Girl Is Mine.") At any rate, I think we can agree that, for a number of reasons, it's definitely not "Smooth Criminal," and since Alien Ant Farm kicked things up several notches in their version, that passes muster.

In a similar vein, but different enough to deserve its own rule, is:

3) You cannot cover a one-hit wonder.

I heard a cover of "Jessie's Girl" on the radio a while back. Leaving aside the fact that the band (Frickin'A) broke Rule #1...c'mon, guys. This is the only reason Rick Springfield ever shows up on a Google search. How can you try to take that away from him? You wanna kick his dog while you're at it?

There you go. Aspiring musicians of the world, please take note of these three simple rules, and we can all live in harmony (nyuk!) with one another. At least until some record label hears me singing "Tiny Dancer" in my kitchen and signs me to a deal.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Quote of the day

From someone who was clearly and gratuitously trying to be the quote of the day, but what the heck, it wasn't bad.

"The president has to be like Moe Howard: At some point in every 'Three Stooges' short, Moe slaps both Curly and Larry and says, 'Get to work,' " -- Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, referring to the Republican party's need for unity in the face of record disapproval ratings.

From today's Seattle Times.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Now that's good writing!

Saw this bit in last Sunday's Washington Post, and it's one of the funniest non-Dave-Barry things I've read in a newspaper.

First, the backstory: the White House has hosted an Easter Monday Egg Roll since the days of Andrew Johnson (Campaign motto: "One way or another, I'll be a historical footnote!"). Each year, this event promises more family-friendly fun than the Hawley-Smoot Tariff, and so families line up for well in advance to get tickets. The particularly hardcore pitch tents and wait overnight (or even nights) for their chance, joining Duke basketball fans and people in Darth Maul impersonators as people who will one day look back on their lives and wish that they had grown up in the '60's, where they could at least blame the drugs.

At any rate, this year's line included a greater-than-usual (that is to say, nonzero) number of openly same-sex couples with their kids. Some were there to make a statement; some were there simply because their kids wanted to go, and no doubt shocked and awed their parents with a combination of creative whining, sniffling, and Bambi eyes until Mom and Mom caved. Many were there as part of a concerted effort to encourage same-sex parents to come out of the closet, as it were, and simply enjoy the weekend of family togetherness (or at least as much as one can enjoy a camping trip in the middle of a major metropolitan area after all the bushes in the area have been picked clean of broad, soft leaves).

Many of the couples wore rainbow-colored leis or bracelets as a show of support for each other--a sort of visible secret handshake, now that all the good ribbon colors have been appropriated by bumper stickers. The author of the article spoke to some of the other people waiting in line to see what they thought of the whole affair:

"As long as that's all they do, the leis, that's okay," said Lisa Padres, 34, who lives near Chantilly. "I just wish they would just go dressed like everyone else and not stick out. That would be better."

Padres waited in line with two friends all night, the trio wearing fuzzy bunny ears.

Sometimes it only takes one side to show both sides of the issue. That's good reporting!

The full article, by Petula Dvorak, is available at the Washington Post's website. (Subscription required, unfortunately, but at least it's free.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006



I really like vanity plates. I think it's the hidden writer in me. Vanity plates are a form of creative expression as strictly structured as any haiku or sonnet. You have a few simple rules:
  1. You may only use capital letters, numbers, dashes, and spaces;
  2. You must keep your creation under seven letters (plus one space or dash)
  3. No dirty words...usually.

That last one's open to some debate. Here in Virginia, at least, there's a nifty little online tool that lets you input your potential plate and see if it's both allowed and available. The tool knows enough to reject obvious curse words ("ASS" is smacked down, for instance--sorry, Seinfeld fans), but not enough to stop the substitution of numbers for similar-looking letters ("A55" pa55e5 with f1ying c010r5). Maybe the DMV needs to hire more from the ranks of the leet (warning: sound) to get hip to the modern lingo.

Now, those are the impositions of the DMV. Good sense dictates that the potential plate poet exercise a bit of restraint, too. You need something that's funny more than once, since you're going to have it for a while. You don't want a plate that takes too long to understand, because if there's anything less funny than a joke that you have to explain, it's getting rear-ended by the person behind you too busy trying to figure out what "TI 3VOM" meant to notice the red light you'd stopped at. (Hint: that plate works better on the front of the car.)

With all these restrictions, though, there are still hundreds of good combinations out there, bounded only by the imagination of the vehicle owner. And let me tell you, the vehicle owners in Virginia have some pretty good imaginations. Some of the good ones I've seen:

  • JS4LAFS - cute, simple, to the point. People probably let this driver cut in a lot. I did. And to her credit, I got not one but two thank-you waves in return.
  • KELTYC - simple phonetics tribute to Ireland.
  • PL8 NMBR - can't argue with that. Ditto for "CAR" and "TRUCK".
  • AG EQUUS - on, naturally, a silver Mustang. I admire this one; it's not often you can list everything you remember from two high-school subjects in seven letters.
  • AU EAGLE - while you'd think this would be on a gold Talon, it was in fact on a black Honda, which made no sense at all until I saw the Auburn U sticker.
  • VGEPUNK - "I eat my tofu...raw."

...and some of the not so good:

  • I DZRV IT - on a red Mazda with a license plate frame that said "Call me! 1-800-YOU-WISH". Hmm, little red coupe screaming "my driver is a dink" you think this might be the most-pulled-over car in the state?
  • ISMLBCN - I guess not. But what chutzpah! Why not just put "SPEEDER" or "CR THIEF" on there? (Both are available, by the way. So is "8ALLZY".)
  • FCASTRO - Fidel supporter? Or is he saying "F--- Castro!" Or maybe the guy's name is just Frank Castro. Too many options.
  • WHT RBT - on a black Mustang. Maybe just a Monty Python fan?
  • ULYSTK - huh?
  • LADZ MAN - funny, but mostly because I didn't initially prounce the "D" correctly, leading to a run of Brokeback Mountain jokes.
  • BROKBAK - just kidding. That one's still available, actually.

So what about me? I've just got the boring ol' standard-issue plates, for now, in spite of spending more than a few idle hours whiling away various combinations at the Virginia DMV site. Much to my dismay (if not surprise), "OVRLORD" is long gone. So is 'NOGOL4U". "BIG PNIS" is still available, but let's face it, I don't want to have to back that up. Also, unlike the aforementioned BCN-SMLer, I'm perfectly content with the number of moving violations I have currently.

No, I'll just stick with what the state gives me, for now. As you may have noticed by now, conveying a pure, concise message in as few letters as possible runs pretty much exactly contrary to everything about my creative style. But if I'm whiling away some time on the internet some afternoon, and I discover that OVRLORD is suddenly available...I may not be able to HLP MSLF.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Farming it out

Some days, I just have to accept that nothing I could produce (pun intended) would be funnier than vegetable-based humor.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It's Haikuesday!

Titles are always tough. Am I being sarcastic, or just lame? It's hard to tell sometimes.

Yes, haiku! Like most folks in my neck of the country, I spend entirely too much time commuting--about three hours a day, on average, locked in my Detroit-made rolling coffin with an assortment of podcasts and a supply of daggers (suitable for glaring).

I like to make up poetry in my head to pass the time. Since there are only so many rhymes for "dumbass", I've branched out into non-rhyming forms. I like haiku, because they don't make me sound like a Jewel wannabe, and because I can usually remember seventeen syllables at a time.

For today:

Your hand gives payment
As you merge in front of me;
Keep the change, and thanks.

I can't even begin to count how many vehicles I'm sharing the road with on an average day. Enough to have figured out that, barring an unluckily short yellow light or two, letting a few cars in front of me isn't going to impact the amount of time it takes me to get home at all. And it's usually easier than riding the butt of the car in front of me to keep someone from cutting between us--particularly since, if I do that, that someone will simply zip ahead in front of *that* car and get in front of both of us. (I miss that about Boston. I'm continually fascinated by the regional driving rules that locals establish for themselves, and how different they can be from one place to the next. More on that another time.)

Anyway, while we've established that I can't generally keep you from getting in front of me one way or another, I still expect a "thank you" wave for the courtesy of letting someone in, for the same reason that I say "Bless you" when you sneeze. And not a half-butted flick of the fingers while you're turning the steering wheel, but an honest-to-goodness, visible-through-the-back-window, "Thank you for acknowledging my existence" flash of all five fingers. A woman in a green Honda gave two waves this morning; one when I motioned her out of the parking lot, and another after she'd merged into traffic. Last I saw her, she was still breathing without difficulty--I don't think the gestures took too much out of her.

I refer you again to Red Foreman's quote. And if you can't be bothered, then I should be entitled to fling my own crap at you. (Hey, 90 minutes is a long time to go with a full mug of coffee and no rest stop.)

Friday, March 24, 2006


It's not just what you are before you're uptight.

"Do you like to dream beyond limitations, swim against the current and risk for the sake of greatness?"

Would you use that sentence to open a job ad for anything other than American Inventor Contestant or Comic Book Hero?

How about Senior Claims Specialist with Progressive?

What sort of greatness do you aspire to, exactly? And what are you risking? Life in a vinyl-covered middle management chair?

Winning Acquaintances And All That

An awkward situation arose at the office this week, when our newest employee had the gall to celebrate his birthday on just his third day of employment. Now, we try to be accommodating of employees' different birthdates. Heck, we are small enough that we usually celebrate with a cake and a mildly humorous-but-inoffensive card. But this was really putting us to the test; two days is simply not enough time for us to each come up with our own inane but unique message to scrawl on the birthday card.

And if that wasn't inconsiderate enough, he brought his own cake! His own cake!! The nerve! How are we supposed to make him feel welcomed and appreciated if we can't give him cake? Next thing you know he'll be bringing in pictures of his kids or his wedding or some other aspect of his personal life that we'll have to feign interest in, which should not be expected of us for at least two to three months. There are RULES, here, people! As Red Foreman once said, without rules, we may as well be sitting around in trees, flinging our own crap at each other.

To prevent such savagery, I thought I would clearly establish the proper timeline of behavior for New Guys everywhere, in order to ease their transition toward acceptance. These rules may also apply to New Females, but as future bloggings will no doubt prove, I haven't the faintest idea about the members of that kingdom, so I'm writing what I know.

Week 1: At this point, everyone still believes that you might be cool. The surest way to screw that up is by interacting socially with any of them. You're starting with a clean slate; try not to run your fingernails down it right away. You should spend most of your time at your desk, reading whatever paperwork they've given you and trying to determine the best monitor angle to hide your web surfing from the casual observer. Once that is accomplished, see if you can figure out exactly what it is you were hired to do.

Week 2: Took too long to adjust your monitor, eh? That's OK, you've still got some time. If you don't remember what you were hired for, try instead to figure out what industry you're in, based on what you see around you:

Large machines = Manufacturing (supplies, or possibly textiles)
Sick people = Health care
Very short people = Education or the Circus
Repo men = Dot-com

Week 3: You can begin to venture out of your office for such necessities as coffee and the bathroom. If you encounter a co-worker in your travels, you should greet them with a nod and a casual "Mornin'" (or, if you're feeling daring, "Afternoon"). Should you encounter the same co-worker again, you've left your office once too often. Play with fire and you'll get burned, my friend. Your only hope of escaping with dignity is to fake an asthma attack and rush back to your office for your inhaler. If the person follows you out of "concern," remove your sock and breathe deeply through it. This person is not actually concerned for your welfare; they are just looking for cracks in your facade of coolness. Don't give them anything this early.

Think of these as Special Forces Recon missions: get in, get your man, and get out. See if you can overhear a few important details about your company, such as "Gee, I sure am glad we're manufacturing so many textiles right now!" Be prepared to pull your feet up onto the toilet seat to avoid detection. You're not ready to encounter a co-worker in a room with only one exit.

Week 4: OK, this is the moment you've been preparing for all month: it's time to engage in conversation with your fellow employees. For the first week, we'll stick to the two safe topics: sports and the weather. But don't get too excited and make the classic rookie mistake of using both in one sentence, as in, "It's too bad the local Major League Baseball team was rained out last night, huh?" You've just exhausted all of your conversation options in one shot. Now you'll have to hide out in your office again until football season.

Weeks 5-8: As your conversations progress, you can gradually mix in a little color and small details about yourself, as in the following example:

"I really enjoyed last night's local Major League Baseball game! That starting pitcher can really bring the heat! Speaking of heat, what do you think of this weather we're having? I do not enjoy it!"

Here, by expressing your opinion on the subject, you encourage your dialogue partner to share his own. Most of your co-workers will pick up on this. The truly reluctant or conversationally inept, such as the members of your IT department, may require further drawing out. An excellent technique to employ here is the use of direct questions. To wit:

"I really enjoyed last night's local Major League Baseball game, you know? That starting pitcher can really bring the heat, huh? Speaking of heat, what do you think of this weather we're having, eh? I do not enjoy it, do I?"

This should be sufficient to prompt even the most reluctant conversationalist to act.

Week 9 on: You have progressed as far as you can socially with this group. It's time to seek a transfer, or if necessary, a new job. Good thing you adjusted your monitor back in Week 1, isn't it?

One final note: you may skip ahead one week in your development for each "New Guy" who joins after you, because now you are "the Seasoned Veteran." Other personality types to aspire to are "the Grizzled Veteran," "the Sarcastic Veteran," and "the Grizzled, Sarcastic Veteran." Such a lofty title often takes years of hard work, weather, and baseball games to attain, but as with any job, you must establish your goals early!

First post

So this is what happens when procrastination meets opportunity. Well, eventually.

More to come.