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Thursday, May 28, 2009

There's a Nap For That

I felt I had to sneak in one last post before I’m off to tame the OBX on a much needed vacation. Preparation for such an endeavor requires that I take at least a small nap before departing as I am going to be the primary driver for almost all 12 hours of the trip. Of course, we will stop every couple of hours because of my daughter and in-laws. We’ll need to do a diaper change…my daughter, not the in-laws. We’ll also need to make sure my Mother-In-Law doesn’t sit too long because of blood clots. In actuality, I could probably drive the entire distance with no more than a few red bulls, a couple of Stay-Awakes, and an bathroom every now and then. That’s not necessary, though, as my wife will do some of the driving in key locations. But this is all contingent on that nap I must have. One, I know I will undoubtedly not get.

Something always gets in the way when it comes to a good nap. When my wife and I were first starting out living together, it was nothing to take a weekend afternoon and just catch a couple hours of extra sleep. I lived in a town house and didn’t have to take care of the yard and cleaning was an easy task. Even when we bought our first home, we found a few free hours, during the weekend, when we just needed to take a little snooze. Then, our daughter came. Suddenly, nap time took on a different meaning. Instead of catching a few Zzz’s when we weren’t busy, we began using our little one’s nap time as a chance to get things done. That wasn’t always a possibility, though.

My kid is a bit odd in that respect. She can sleep 12 hours through the night, and have a two hour nap in the day time and yet I find that when she’s done, you don’t move. Having creaky hardwood floors in our house doesn’t allow for much sneaking around. When’s she’s 16 it will be a benefit, but for now, it’s a hindrance to grabbing dirty laundry from the bedroom, cleaning the house, or even cutting the grass, outside. The kid is a light sleeper.

I can remember when she was just born, I would get up to feed her every two hours. Those two hours consisted of getting her out of her crib, checking her diaper, getting her bottle ready, feeding her, burping her, changing her diaper, rocking her, and laying her back down. Then I had to go clean up. By the time I was able to get back into bed, it was time to start all over again. Those first three days nearly broke me. I never thought I would get to sleep through another night. And when she went all night without waking up for the first time. My wife and I still didn’t sleep. We kept thinking something was wrong. Why isn’t she making any noise? Is she breathing? Is her blanket smothering her? If I go in there, I’m liable to wake her up, ruining what we have just accomplished. That was one of the longest nights of my life. It’s been downhill ever since with her. She sleeps great at night, but naps are still a fragile balance.

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So, when I declare that I am going for a nap before I make the trek in the Family Truckster, three things will happen.

  1. I will be unable to fall asleep.
  2. My wife will wake me because there is a spider in the living room.
  3. My two year old daughter will bang on the door, because she knows I’m in there.

The only reason she won’t come barging in is because the door is locked. She has the ability to turn door knobs and open doors, now. We confine her to one floor at a time and within our sight. The kitchen and dining room are blocked off and the door to the bedrooms and bathrooms of our ranch home are shut. Our bedroom is the only one she is fascinated with but the door latch isn’t the best. We can lock the door and shut it without fear of being locked out. A simple push on the door near the knob opens the door, easily. While she can turn knobs, her ability to push a locked door open is still limited. Although, while on her little scooter, she can achieve ramming speed. With that mode of transportation she might easily be in the room in no time. Then she will stand on the side of the bed, her head just clearing the mattress, and begin to repeatedly say, “Mup. Mup. Mup.” It looks like I’ll be putting another pot of coffee on while I pack the car.


While I’m gone, I hope I will be able to capture some great images to throw up here. I might even get a moment to do some shirt designs, although my wife will probably shoot me for opening up my laptop while on vacation. I cannot guarantee that I will post anything this coming week because I have an acute sense of survival, but I would like to address the changes made to CafePress while I’m gone. It may spell the end of Mongo Angry! Mongo Smash! The store.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Road to Riches is Paved with Nova Scotian License Plates

The License Plate Game. You ever play it? During those long car rides to the beach or other vacation spot, you must have been treated to it, right? If anything, as a parent, you must have used it as a diversionary tactic for the kids. No? Come on, what kind of Griswolds are ya?

Because of the configuration of our Family Truckster…that being a Chevy Custom Deluxe truck with a cap on the back, we didn’t play this little game on the trips to the beach when I was a kid. My parents sat up front and the three of us, prodigal children, sat in the back, secluded, with only a sliding window as a portal to our parents. It was smaller than a drive through window but it was sufficient. Sometimes, there was some excitement as we passed an object over the break between the cab and the bed of the truck. There was always that fear that our snack would somehow fall to its doom onto the pavement rushing underneath us.

I hadn't played the License Plate game until I was 10 years old. It was on a school trip to Canada. Somehow, although I’m not sure of the particulars of this back room deal where someone might cry out, "Leave the gun. Grab the cannoli.", the tour group managed to get away with funding such a venture on a bus with about 40 kids. Normally, group activities were beneath my attention span, but I was instantly enthralled and took the bait without question when the mention of money was involved. We were going to be playing this particular version for money instead of just points.

For those of you still scratching your head on this, let me give you a brief rundown of the rules. Now, be aware that my memory and my grasp of the rules are subject to interpretation. This is by no way a listing of official rules put forth by any governing body. This was simply a variation on a classic. Just like anything else in this world, your experience may vary.

The rules went as follows:

  1. During our trip we were told to look for a list of license plates by state.
  2. For each one on the list, we were given a monetary amount directly proportional to the rarity of that plate’s appearance in the region we happened to be in at the time. In other words, you got zero points for a Pennsylvania State License Plate, if you were in Pennsylvania whereas a plate from Canada was valuable. The same went for the opposite when we reached Canada. Ontario and Toronto were pretty much worthless while PA was valuable.
  3. You must have a visual confirmation by an adult chaperon on the trip.
  4. Our bus' plate didn’t count. I tried that one out as soon as we hit maximum distance from PA.
We became feverish as our eyes were glued to the windows of the bus checking out each and every passing car that went by. I formed an alliance with one of my roommates on the trip. In shifts, we would keep vigilant watch over the window in case the other got distracted or had to go the bathroom.

As we crossed the dotted lined border into New York, which was pink if I recall correctly from Social Studies, I heard the cry of one of my classmates. He yelled out, as if he was in a smoky fire hall playing bingo, “OHIO!” That was worth $0.50. We were infuriated. Where was that little rat bastard? That came from the other side of the bus. We didn’t cover that flank. We decided to double our efforts and shift seats to either side of the aisle. “VIRGINIA!” Another kid cried out. There was another $0.50. Frustration set in as we saw our potential riches vanish to our peers.

When we arrived into Niagara Falls for lunch our hopes of wealth seemed dashed. Of course, they were going to extend the game for the return trip home, but valuable time was already lost. Still, we were pretty confident we could spend a significant amount of our walking around money and win it all back with a more concentrated effort on the bus ride home. At this point, no one had spotted the elusive Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia plates. That was a crisp, clean $10 bill. Hope reigned as we envisioned seeing Alexander Hamilton come across our palms. Of course, we agreed to split the pot 50/50.

The trip itself was fun, from what I remember. We went to the top of the CN Tower and my ears popped. We went to a kick ass pizza place in Toronto called The Organ Grinder. I believe it’s closed, now, but it was pretty fantastic. A huge church organ sat on one end and played continuously while various sights and sounds were seen and heard throughout the restaurant. It was the kind of place made for an A.D.D. addled kid on a sugar rush.

Over the next couple of days we went to the Ontario Science Center and also Ontario Place. Ontario Science Center held more enjoyment for me as the colder March weather did not allow us to enjoy a lot of the attractions at Ontario Place. The exhibits played on my more curious nature while standing outside in 40 degree weather with a wind breaker didn't offer me a lot of incentive to move around much.

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As the trip came to a close, we strategically laid out our plans to recoup our costs. Stopping back at Niagara Falls, we broke for lunch. After eating quickly, my roommate and I decided to use the extra time to scour the parking lot for the ever elusive big game. It was a touristy place. What better environment to spot high valued license plates? We checked in with our chaperon and informed her of our intentions to go out into the parking lot for the hunt. She gave us approval and off we went.

We started at one end of the parking lot and moved towards the other, checking every car throughout. After several minutes with no luck, we continued towards the fringe of the parking lot and followed a line of cars, parked along the curb. We called them out aloud, checking against our mental list. “New York, New York, Ontario…” These were nothing. At this point, New York was bound to get us a nickel but it wasn’t worth it. We wanted the big prize. The buses were still in our view so we continued to move just a little bit further, like a prospector checking one more pan. We approached a sedan that sat at the end of the row. The trepidation sat in as we realized that this would be our last shot. There was no going further as we would be out the “parking lot” and on our own in the wilds of Canada. We peered around the edge of the car and saw the plate, “Nova Scotia! Holy Crap! We did it!” Our blood, sweat and tears paid off in spades. We had found a Nova Scotia plate. That was ten dollars split between us. For two ten year olds it might as well been a $1000.

We had to get an adult to verify it. If we both went back to the restaurant, the car might leave. I told my friend to go get an adult while I stayed behind to keep an eye on the car. I was not going to let the guy leave. In movies and television shows, I had seen people remove distributor caps from vehicles to keep someone from leaving. Without an advanced understanding of automotive mechanics I would just have to plead with the owner to stick around or lay under the wheels like a protester in a rain forest about to be cleared.

A few minutes went by and my friend appeared with our chaperon. “We found Nova Scotia!” I yelled out. Her furrowed brow did not convey the same excitement. “Where the hell have you two been? The buses have been waiting for ten minutes.” I explained that she had given us permission to go into the parking lot to look for license plates. I’m not a geography expert, but I was pretty sure that where we stood was still considered as part of the parking lot. “Come on, you guys are big trouble.” I felt the need to tug at her sleeve towards the back of the car, pointing out our discovery. Somehow, I think I should refrain as her mood worsened with every step back to the bus. As we boarded the bus, all eyes shifted forward, simultaneously towards our presence. Apparently, this was a big deal.

The trip home was quiet. Every once in awhile the random call of a plate came out from someone, but we never looked up. In fact, our gaze never neared the window. We were out. We had our one shot at glory and we blew it. In my mind, I wondered where we went wrong. For a ten year old, logic is skewed towards the infallible nature of following rules that are left open for interpretation. We need to be instructed with the same specific nature as a computer manual. You cannot leave anything to chance as we will exploit any and every loophole as an opportunity for gain.

Nearly 25 years later, I still keep an eye for that Nova Scotia plate. I haven’t seen one since but I know it exists. It’s like my White Whale, constantly just out of the peripheral. Road trips give some nostalgic solace as I hope to one day spot it out my window or in a parking lot. I will persist as it does, ever vigilant in the pursuit of a ten dollar plate from Canada. Someday, I will pass on this game to my kids during one of our trips in the hopes that maybe they can find success in my failure. I will sit them down and tell them the tale. A long time ago, I found a Nova Scotia plate and it was like a dream. It was shiny and new and it meant everything to me in that moment. One day, you may find it too. If that day comes, have your cell phone or a digital camera ready and get your asses back to bus.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lost Childhood Found on Recliner Seat Cushion

I spent the holiday weekend catching up on one of my favorite shows. It’s about a mysterious place where time seems to be irrelevant. It’s hard to get to and even harder to leave. There are indigenous natives there that are not too friendly to outsiders and they tend to keep to themselves. If you happen to venture into their territory you might get hurt. In the jungles there are creatures lurking that are huge and tend to be loud and violent. Strange buildings and ruins mark the landscape which leave a lot more questions than answers. Time travel is a central theme as people continually end up there and while the main tries to get home, they often find themselves right back where they started from in the first place. Food is sometimes scarce as is shelter and the right survivalist could thrive there for years.

I think you have an idea of which show I am talking about. Oh, you thought I meant LOST. Well, it’s a common mistake. I am actually describing a 70’s cult kids show called Land of the Lost. Now, if that name seems familiar to you under 35 crowd, thank Will Ferrell. Then smack him for being a part of another in a long line of bad big screen adaptations of cult television shows. Remember Starsky and Hutch? Shaft? Yeah, that’s what I mean. Now, those that cannot seem help themselves by showing remake restraint are going to taint another childhood memory that consists of cheesy stop motion effects, guys in rubber suits, horrible green screen composites with miniatures, and compelling science fiction storytelling that makes LOST a little less confusing when you compare the two. While, I have not seen the movie, the trailers already depict a lot of differences from the original and quite frankly, that’s enough for me to skip this offering. However, I was delighted by the marketing tie in from television that made for a couch potato Holiday weekend.

I was sitting in my living room with my wife flipping channels when we happened to be on Sci-Fi. A commercial came on touting the 24 hour long marathon of LOTL on Memorial Day. “Honey, I think I need to stay home and, um, clean out my sock drawer. You go on ahead to your parents’.” That’s what I wanted to say. However, I chickened out, scanned my saved DVR programs, and made some tough sacrifices. I figured in the early part of the day, while everyone else was still sleeping, I could sit back with a glass of chocolate milk, a donut, and let the waves of childhood regression wash over me like a thick foam rubber boulder. I decided to ease the congestion of saved traffic in my DVR, I would try to get through as many episodes as possible eliminating the need for more unnecessary deletions from my other programs I have yet to watch…Hey, this takes precedence over the last 24 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy my wife and I haven’t watched. Of course, I had to watch the entire opening theme song, humming along in my head. If you could project my inner thoughts onto the real world you would get the image of a 34 year old version of my two year old daughter, rocking from one foot to the other while singing the theme to Caillou, one of her favorite kids’ shows. I will refrain from singing it for you, but the theme song gives you all the back story you need. Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition, met the greatest earthquake ever known. They plunge in their raft over the falls 1000 feet below into a portal that takes them to the Land of the Lost.

Apart from some really bad acting in the first episode, the show has held up well these last 35 years. The panic reactions to off screen baddies made for some comical moments from Will Marshall aka Wesley Eure, who comes off more like Buddy Lembeck in the last couple seasons of Charles in Charge, than Michael Horton from Days of Our Lives. Tree hugging and conservation of resource messages were alive and well in 1974 as patriarch Rick Marshall dispensed all the worldly wisdom of Woodsy the Owl and Smokey the Bear mixed with some granola. The fact that the Marshall clan hailed from California was testament to that, I believe.

Some of the Science behind the fiction was a little hokey. You have to remember, though, this is three years before Star Wars so, we became a lot more accepting of our suspension of disbelief over three years from the beginning of the series to the end. Yes, there were plot holes but when you are dealing with a demographic of regular Saturday Morning Cartoon watchers, you can get away with a lot in terms of plot, especially since you don’t have an online geek community dissecting each episode like we have now with LOST.

If you look below the surface the dispensing of explanations for the inner workings of the LOTL is quite fascinating. Millions of years ago, a highly intelligent race called the Altrusians built a closed universe designed as a way station for time travelers. It was a sort of wrap around environment that allowed you to walk forever in one direction constantly passing through your starting point in all directions that you travel. Sophisticated technology controlled the weather and time portals with things called Pylons. These little phone booth type buildings house a stone pedestal and basin with crystals that act like switches. The Altrusians lost their hold on their anger and emotions and eventually devolved into a warlike being, losing the ability to walk upright and even communicate beyond a reptilian hiss. The Land constantly gets buggy and opens up portals to other worlds and times bringing in visitors that either perish or assimilate into the background. Temples and other buildings have decayed and the land is overrun with dinosaurs and other creatures. In one episode it is theorized that the Marshalls cannot fully return home without being replaced with an alternate form of themselves. Why? Because, originally, they were too have died going over the falls. Instead, they were brought to the LOTL and created a paradox that continues on a loop.

Pretty heady stuff, huh? Also pretty scary, too. Now, the show premiered and ended before I was old enough to watch it on a first run basis, but it was rerun in the following years as I was still under the age of seven. For a kid my age, seeing the dinosaurs, whether they were of the stop motion claymation or the rubber hand puppet variety was a bit scary and the Sleestak, the warlike descendants of the Altrusians, were even scarier. These lurking lispers were reptilian in nature with big black alien style eyes, scaly bodies, and hissed as they approached. They were very menacing, even though they could never outnumber the entire Marshall clan as there were only three available suits in the production, making for clever editing to give the appearance of more than three attacking at a time. Still, what the production lacked in budget, they made up for with imagination and camera trickery.

A lot of times, the biggest baddies were never seen. In a few episodes, there is allusion to a “Sleestak” God that lives at the bottom of a misty pit. Quite often, the Marshalls found themselves thrown down there for a ritual snack, only to escape with their wits. Off screen growling and shadows onto the foreground made for the only evidence to the actual monster, yet the expressions peril and fear projected by the intended entrees gave a third dimensional aspect that make you feel their angst. A lot of times, impending danger came in the form of a vocal cue or a lot pointing and reacting to something that the audience never got to see. That allowed for a lot of mystery and conjecture by the audience built up the suspense and tension, even for a show with rubber suited monsters and Harryhausen style effects.

What you couldn’t see was the biggest draw for me watching that show. I always wanted a peak around the edge of the screen into the rest of the world the Marshalls inhabited. Whenever they travelled over the crevasse to the Lost City, I always wanted to be able to look off in the direction behind them around the valley walls. What was back there, other than a matte painting? In the Lost City, they always seemed to enter and exit via the same cave, yet there were other openings visible. What was down those other corridors, I wondered? In the third season a shift in base of operations for the Marshalls led them to a huge temple, but there was a other doors that were not fully explored or weren’t initially explored when they were first shown on screen, piquing my curiosity. I wanted to be dropped into the Land of the Lost with a couple of bulldozers or other heavy machines with the intent of opening up those few places that never got more than a line of dialogue explanation. With a modest budget and limited effects, a lot of exposition was used to tie up loose ends about what was going on, leaving the imagination to run wild. We accepted it but craved more.

Viewing the series, now, has a dual effect. The kid in me is unabashed in his inner geek being stoked with a 24 hour long cheese fest while the adult in me gets various rolling of eyes and catcalls from his wife who just doesn’t get the nostalgic feel that I do in watching this show with the learned knowledge and rationale of understanding what was going on, all the while, laughing at the visible shadows and seams on the backdrops. I’m undeterred by the sub par effects as it’s all part of the experience. The show has a pop culture following among people my age or somewhat older. I could imagine the dorms and off campus apartments in the Southern California higher education communities. Their rooms billowing with as much smoke as the pit from the Sleestak caves, and various foodstuffs and other ‘medicinal’ offerings strewn about adding to the enhanced acceptance of the shows mythology and outright campiness.

However, today’s average young adult demographic cannot grasp the full effect of LOTL, even when kitsch meets cool as Robot Chicken tapped into the pop cult archives to show Sleestak sitting in a library, interrupted by a cell phone call prompting various shushes from the others. Upon first viewing, I nearly had a coronary at the cleverness, but then that geek purist in me wanted to blast the show for displaying more than three Sleestak on screen which would never happen. See above for that explanation. My wife along with other college aged viewers may have picked up on the reptilian nature in the hissing, but only those of us with a degree from Sid and Marty Kroft Pop College got the reference to our beloved childhood.

Yet, today, a whole new generation will base their first exposure to LOTL on a movie with Will Ferrell and most likely will regard the original series with as much reverence as a first time viewer of J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie with no prior experience of watching the original series from the 60’s. It’s like reading the Harry Potter novels after watching the movie. You just don’t quite get it the way the diehard fans do. Not to say we are an elitist bunch of snobs but we do take our nostalgia serious and I just don’t think someone under the age of 20 can appreciate RUSH from playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band like someone who knows that the opening to "YYZ" is Morse code depicting the IATA identification code for Toronto Pearson International Airport being played on crotales. You just don’t get it kids. You just don’t. You’re living in a Land of the Lost. Now, if you'll excuse me, my DVR is choking under the weight of all these juicy episodes yet to be watched.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Boston Police Department Ready To Alert You Of Zombie Invasion

Technology is a wonderful thing. It’s also scary for those hesitant to adopt it. As the youth of America become more geek advanced than the rest of the population, working adults in services that have been around for decades must tap into that inner child and learn new methods to keep up with the ever growing customer or client base. Police Departments are no exception. Growing up, we had a scanner that beeped and whistled with garbled messages from dispatch to responder. The pulsating channels of the scanner chased along like a Broadway marquee, only stopping to crackle out a incoherent message, now and then. But now, we have online applications that are available on our mobile devices that allow us to keep in touch with services at an instant and in readable text.

The University that my wife teaches piano lessons at has an email and mobile phone alert system for any lock downs, cancellations or other important information that must be disseminated to the student body and faculty. In the wake of tragedies like Virginia Tech, the ability to get a hold of this new media and communication methods is a valuable use of technology. Technology that would otherwise be used on inane activities like texting each about how boring Calc class is or what happened on Gossip Girls last night.

It’s nice to see the city of Boston, home of the first organized Police Department in the U.S., adopting new forms of media to help keep the public informed. The fact that they are using Twitter is amazing. Twitter’s stigma has been relegated to mostly competitions between Ashton Kutcher and CNN for the most followers, and the ridiculous need to know what’s in the heads of people that you really don’t want to be in anyway. Unfortunately, the accessibility of Twitter comes at a price, and that spawns unintentional humor…..and a shirt, of course.

Thanks to my good friend and the Consumerist for this one. The Twitter feed from the BPD detailed a simple injury report on one of its officers after the officer was bitten on the arm by a suspect. A follower asked a question about the nature of the injury. “If it was a zombie bite, would you tell us?” The Police responded, “Yes, absolutely.” Normally, a goofball natured question like this would be ignored and left to die on the vie. However, the BPD, set the bar pretty high on transparency and provided an official response. Now, one has to wonder if this was an automatic response or if there was some process to the exchange. Did the person who Tweeted have to get some kind of clearance to make that claim? Is there a procedure already on the books to handle a zombie situation? What would be the Police Code for such an emergency, 419 committing a 240? I would think that in a regulated environment such as law enforcement, simply placating the follower by giving him a curt response was a subtle attempt at turning the butt of that joke around, however, I think something more is going on here.

Perhaps the Boston Police are already prepared for an onslaught of living dead Slouching Towards Beantown. After all, they’ve already got shirts made up and everything…

Boston Police Dept. Zombie Task Force
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Stuff Blog Posts Are Made Of

The mind is always at work. Every single day, I am usually on automatic pilot with the repetitive tasks while my mind plots new ways to find solutions for my everyday woes. Unfortunately, my thoughts are as organized as my house. Everything is shoved into a place that was designed to be that objects container. A spare bedroom is a junk room, storage room, Santa’s Workshop, or closet for work clothes. Another closet serves as a document management repository. Two filing cabinets, tucked into the wings, serve to hold all of our bills, paychecks, savings info, and pretty much all of the user guides or instruction manuals to everything that I put together of an electronic or wooden nature. Of course, it also holds overflow from other areas. My garage was meant to hold a car, yet it is a labyrinthine of objects that have no connection to one another yet construct a path from the door to the a freezer and refrigerator that is also used for storage.

While trying to plan for my impending beach trip, I am forced to confront this state of disarray. I have to organize some stuff, buy some stuff, and pack all my stuff. I am going take a portion of my stuff to some other house for a week. I will then buy more stuff there and bring it all home to be added to this mess.

As I looked around at this mishmash of objects in different locations of my house. I immediately thought of three things, a dumpster, a match, and George Carlin. He had this whole piece on stuff that is truly a work of genius. Then man was a master of his medium. Now, while I will undoubtedly infringe on his work, I am expounding on some concepts that he introduced.

Carlin said it best. All I need a place for my stuff. A house is literally just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. My house is a huge pile of stuff with a tiny cover on it. Sometimes I’d love to throw some of my stuff out. My wife would really love to throw all of my stuff out. But she calls it shit. Just like Carlin indicated. I would love to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff like decorations that we haven’t used in years. But that is neither here nor there. Those are things that are not going to change. I am always going to have stuff and I need to find a place to put it. Sometimes, I think that I do not live in my house, my stuff does. But that’s what life is. Going from place to place with your stuff, you move around while your stuff stays at home and sits.

We are born with no stuff. We start to acquire an overwhelming amount but we are not responsible for it . Our parents, friends of parents, and other family members contribute to that pile of stuff early on leading to a diminishing organization and storage of all that stuff. The bigger we get, the smaller our toys are. We go from huge monstrosities of molded plastic held together by cheap screws that strip easily, running off of a handful of batteries to smaller, more complex devices that in essence can hold our electronic stuff. We trade the toy box for the blackberry. We go from physical representations of stuff to electronic applications and games that comprise our stuff. Where do you keep your addresses? Where do you play most of your games? It’s a pile of stuff with a cover on it.

We move from toy box to pencil box. Now our stuff is mobile. We can take it with us. Sure, it’s not exactly fun stuff, but it can create fun stuff. Soon we graduate from pencil box to locker. Now, we must be acquiring some good stuff, because now we have a lock on it. This stuff must be important. Then we break down that locked up stuff into a smaller container to go with us. It’s our homework or schedule or whatever else we carry throughout our day. I can’t believe that I managed to survive this long leaving a turkey sandwich, with mayonnaise and cheese no less, in my locker, unrefrigerated for four hours before eating it. How did I not end up with salmonella?

Once we reach a certain age, we move on from a small metal box of stuff to a large metal box of stuff…on wheels. Yes, once we are old enough to drive we obtain a rolling cover for some of our stuff. It holds tapes, CDs, books, clothes, maps, papers, and money. It goes with us and then we stop, take some stuff out and go somewhere else.

College? A larger place for your stuff. I stayed in the dorms for my entire collegiate career. Why? Because all I needed was a place for my stuff. Seriously. I had a TV, VCR, PC, Radio, books, magazines, refrigerator, hot pot, CDs, tapes, Food, clothes, bed, chair, bookcase, cabinet, and dresser all contained in a little pie shaped stuff holder. My stuff sat in one place and the rest of the campus was where I lived. There was no need for an apartment that was overpriced and probably in violation of several building codes. I want my stuff to be safe from the elements and intruders.

We graduate and sometimes move back into our original stuff holder, Mom and Dad’s! I get a call every now and then from my Mom telling me she’s going to get rid of the stuff from my childhood. There is a ton of stuff in our garage that is labeled, “Yard Sale.” That’s a name we give to stuff that we no longer want, but never get around to unloading. We always make plans to have a Yard Sale but that’s a euphemism for being a pack rat. It deflects the problem because it may go away some day.

Then we migrate some of our stuff into our car, again, to try and find a good job so we can buy more stuff or at least more expensive stuff. We get a computer that holds a lot of our stuff like resumes and contacts. We go online to social networks and we create email accounts. That all becomes containers for our stuff. Hell, this blog is just a place for all the inane and weird stuff that is in my head. I’m trying to get it out of there to make room for more important stuff. Maybe, one day, I can put it all together and have someone get a red pen out and fix it so I can write a book. Perhaps, you will have a copy of my stuff sitting on or next to your stuff in your home. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Then we buy that house or rent that apartment and try and fit all of our physical stuff from our various containers into one place. Eventually there is no room for us. So, we look into buying a bigger place, not get rid of stuff. We move and acquire more stuff that we need to complete the rooms in our new place for our stuff. We add those children I talked about and their stuff. We get pets and of course, they have to have stuff. Often, my cats tend to take my stuff and treat it as their own. My daughter hides my stuff when I’m not paying attention. Usually, it’s the phone of remote that goes missing.

One day, I may be able to get a bigger cover for my stuff. If I had my choice, I would build instead of buy. Why? Because I want to make sure there is room for my stuff. I want to allow for the acquisition of more stuff, and as I take a tractor trailer sized wide turn back around to my original point, I want better organization of all my stuff. After all, that is what I do for a living. I organize and hold other people’s stuff. That stuff is knowledge. It’s all electronic and it lives in one place. We managed to get rid of a lot of the paper stuff. It gets old and outdated and not everyone has access to it. We find the need to lock down those important items and we also make sure that our stuff is approved. With that in mind, I need to make sure that where I go next, I have a place for my stuff and it’s appropriately organized.

I would love to get rid of all of that paper that resides in those filing cabinets. I think that a Kindle type device would work well in a document management type setting. If I were smart enough to configure a system in my home to house all of my important documents, then I could probably use something like a Kindle to retrieve those documents when needed. Say I am working out in the garage and I have to find the instructions for some tool or project I’m working on. Instead of rifling through my cabinet or travelling back and forth from my desktop computer to the location I’m working at, I can just grab the Kindle and call up that document. Better yet, what if my wife is cooking and she needs a recipe? Instead of sifting through all of them, she can locate them by using this hand held device that can be propped up like a cookbook. On the phone with a utility or other service like insurance. Call up your last bill or medical records. Now, of course, you would need a backup of all this stuff. If there’s a power outage or something crashes, you would need to get to this stuff. But a backup copy still takes up less space. You could even box up all the other stuff and store it in a smaller container instead of a huge filing cabinet. You would always be able to get to your stuff. These are of course all pipe dreams because the initiative to do those things take time and money, which is stuff I don’t have.

If you stop and think about it, you literally have stuff everywhere. Your stuff is all over the planet. That online account I spoke of. It’s probably housing your stuff in a server overseas somewhere. You have little containers of stuff scattered about the Earth like a trail of Matryoshka Dolls. One set of stuff breaks down into smaller containers of the original. Our house becomes our car, which becomes our purses or back packs, which then becomes our wallets, and then our pockets.

When we die, most of our stuff finally leaves our possession. I inherited stuff, that is in my house, from relatives, who died. My poor kid(s) will eventually have to go through my stuff and decide to keep, sell, throw out, or God forbid, mark “Yard Sale.” Some people take some of their stuff with them. People put little trinkets and remembrances of our lives in a casket with us. If we decide to get cremated, someone will either scatter our ashes or keep us in an urn. Thus, we become stuff that gets put together with other people’s stuff.

I don’t know about you but that’s some scary stuff there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Great American Vacationer

I get it now. I understand my Father. Well, I understand some of his motives, anyway. The man may have done some strange things while I was growing up but yet, though this be madness, there is method in’t. Now, your typical everyday American nuclear family with its 2.4 kids customarily takes a vacation during the summer. I know there are those that skip the idea whether it be a monetary issue or whatever, but for the most part, a family vacation is woven into that tapestry of Americana upheld by the our forefathers like Clark W. Griswold.

However, for as many summers that I can remember going on vacation there were twice as many when we did not. For awhile, I thought we always went somewhere each summer but the gaps in my memory kind of blended together forming this one long running vacation that lasted three or four years. That’s the thing about being a kid. You tend to think a week’s vacation, lasts a lot longer than it really does. Whereas adults find themselves getting completely unpacked and settled only to get back in the car and head for home.

So, there he is, my Father, the master packer of a truck or car or camper and he doesn’t like to go on vacations. Why? These reasons only became clear to me in the last ten years. When I worked my previous position, I was responsible for day to day activities regarding customers individual events. I could go away for a week, return, and the work would have been done while I was gone. Now, I have a more long term responsibility towards my customers and that means that whatever work I leave will ultimately be there when I return. I’m not really getting away from it all, as it were. My Father understood this.

He’s in insurance and those people that you build up relationships with over 30 years tend to feel comfortable calling you at home and it would be nothing for me, as a preteen, to answer the phone from someone who had just been in a car accident or had a tree fall on their house and write down all the particulars to be handed off to my Dad. Usually he was away at some other activity whether it be Lions Club, the Municipal Authority, or helping to take care of the family farm where he grew up with his brother. Even though we were technologically behind with cordless phones and answering machines, there would be a stack of messages for him when he got back to the office after our trip. It became more of a hassle to go away for a week, then it would to just stay home.

But what is the fun in that? Anybody can spend a week at the PorchView Resort but only the bravest few will attempt to wrangle a family together and plan a trip that will go down in the annals of recreational escapes. Again, my Father understood this concept.

It’s hard enough coordinating a weekend at home with a two year old let alone having three kids between the ages of 10 and 20 to deal with in terms of travel. First of all, where the hell are you going to put them? We didn’t have a minivan in those days. We had a Chevy Custom Deluxe with a few slight modifications in the form of a homemade insert that my Dad made for the bed of the truck that could act as two bench seats with a table or fold down into a full sized bed. In those days, no one thought about safety issues and the three of us kids would sit in the back of the truck for seven to ten hours playing Tiger electronic football or Trivial Pursuit.

As my siblings got older, we could downgrade to the family sedan since they opted to drive themselves in order to head along with their friends to another destination afterwards. While my parents did show concern over having another vehicle drive on major highways to other states by persons under the age of 25, being in insurance after all, they weren’t paying for gas so they didn’t mind as much. It saved them money having to take a vehicle with less fuel efficiency. Still, there is a lot of planning involved. What do you take? What can you get there? What do you really need? Are you even going to need slacks and a nice shirt? I tend to come from the school of thought of packing 5% extra clothes, 10% extra underwear, one pair of jeans.

Then there is what you leave behind. What about someone to conduct mail pickup, look after the yard, any pets you might have, and or even just leaving an empty house in general? The possibilities are endless for someone who thinks too much about the negative. But it does happen. Freak accidents cause your house to become damaged, a pet to escape, anything and everything can happen while you are supposed to be relaxing.

So, yeah, my father didn’t like taking vacations and now I am heading in that direction. I am currently getting ready to head for the Outer Banks and that in itself is always packed with drama. The last two times I was there I faced a hurricane and some strange dead alien looking creature on top of a cigarette vending machine. To add to the mix is the addition of my two year old daughter. This will be her first trip to the beach. This could totally throw her world into chaos and for that matter, ours.

The trip prep is crucial. We have to have the house ready for a week of no one really taking care of it. We need to shop, of course, for new things to drag 600 miles away to use at the beach and then back home, which will conclude their usage. For the next trip will probably buy more of the same forgetting that we already have those items, much like Christmas lights. You have to go online and check out all the activities in the area and order a beach guide so you can do your homework. And of course, for every road trip, you have to have a soundtrack and I’ve been trying to update my iPod for this year. I hope you kids see what a silly waste of resources this is.

Then, there is my in-laws. My wife’s sister is getting married on the beach, which is what prompted this trip. They are travelling separate but I will have my wife’s parents with us in a house. I’ve had to work on securing a rental vehicle in order to take all of us. I’ve had trouble explaining to rental agencies that an SUV won’t cut it because while I have only five passengers, I have a two year old whose Earthly possessions take up a lot of space. Also, we need to make allowances for my Mother-in-Law who recently had brain surgery and has to keep her feet elevated to alleviate swelling and we’ll be stopping periodically to keep her from having issues with blood clots.

I’ve had to find a house that will fit our budget and our needs. My Father-in-Law has an artificial hip and will need to have close access to the beach and amenities at the house. I have to take into account safety for my daughter, crib arrangements, chair and umbrella rentals. These are all the things you need to consider when taking a large group to the beach.

After a whole week of that, I will come home and then have to pick up the pieces of the outside chores as well as some inside. Granted, we are having someone house sit so out cats should be in good hands but I don’t expect anyone to have to cut my grass. My hill is a test in Eustachianary fortitude as well as a test of footing.

Still, I will do it and I will enjoy it. I probably put ten times more effort into the planning of this than is necessary. I give myself heartburn and ulcers and white knuckle my way through 12 hours of bickering and screaming for fun. I will listen to people complain about issues that are so far away from being important because they don’t ultimately understand that this is supposed to be fun and somewhat of an escape from suburbia. Why? Because I am the Great American Vacationer, like my Father before me. We are a dying breed. We must preserve our heritage and continue to do things the way our ancestors have for decades. This above all: To thine own self be true.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Crown of Bedazzled Thorns

OK. Maybe I’ve been in a vacuum for the past few weeks but why are Miss California and Donald Trump having a press conference? We have an economy in decline, jobs disappearing every day, two wars, constant threats to National Security, and we got these two follicle enhanced yahoos taking up air time.

Let’s see if I can get this straight. During the pageant, Carrie Prejean was asked, by Perez Hilton, her thoughts on gay marriage. First of all, why was Perez Hilton judging this thing? I mean that's like having Harry Knowles judge the Westminster Dog Show. Anyway, her response to Perez's (is that spelled right?) question was that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. Let it be noted that California has been a hot bed of activity over the can they/can’t they get married debate, thanks to the Prop 8 passage back in November.

Now, let me preface the rest of my sarcasm with the following statement. It is not up to me whether same sex couples can 'get married.' My opinions are just that. In any case, I am of no importance in this debate. I am a simple amateur blogger with an Internet connection and a lack of self control over my rant reflex. Do I think there should be a law one way or the other? No. This is the whole problem with separation of church and state. Why does one influence the other in this matter? I think it’s ridiculous that in the 21st century and with the changes that have occurred in this country that this is even an issue. All people should be allowed the same rights and benefits no matter who they are and they should be allowed to call it whatever they want. The very fact that this is an issue is in direct violation of the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

With that being said, I detest that Perez Hilton pulled the pin on this grenade and tossed it into the room. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was premeditated and wrong. Now, as to her response. Narrow minded as it was, it’s an opinion and everyone is allowed to have one. A wise bumper sticker once said, "Opinions are like assholes, everybody has them....except for Angels and Barbie Dolls. They can't say anything due to their lack of anatomy."

What is really deplorable here is the retaliatory moves made in the following weeks. Apparently, some questionable photos surfaced showing Ms. Prejean in less than concealing clothes. Gee, a model took some photos with some skin showing… wow. We’ve just been thrown back into the McCarthy era. However, if those photos were in direct violation of the rules and regulations of the Miss America Pageant, then by all means she should have been stripped of her crown, just like the other scandalous young adults with their free thinking and alcohol experimentation. Don't you see, they’re ruining society for the rest of us. How dare they be young? Of course, Donald Trump set the precedent because with his refusal to demote previous pageant contestants, I guess he needs the ratings, which is probably why television news stations are devoting time to this non issue-issue.

What is despicable is the fact that they are still calling into question her response to the gay marriage issue. That opinion has no bearing on her ability to adhere to rules and regulations set forth by the pageant. It’s free speech and an opinion. They didn’t go after her until the photos came up. And exactly who found and leaked the photos? Two guesses.

The media latches on and plays the devil's advocate and prosecutor to the proceedings. The left and right winged media analyzes everything from her vocal inflections to a single blade of turf that wags on Trump's head. The Stock Market falls three points but her Q rating is through the roof as is the market share Celebrity Apprentice gains next week. Why does this qualify as news? It's a pageant. The Taliban doesn't care whether or not Miss Ohio dropped her baton during the talent portion.

Simply, if the girl broke the rules, get rid of her. Don’t have a press conference. Don’t over analyze the entire situation. She broke a rule by posing, not by talking. Although, the whole spin on this is laughable. Quite frankly, her recount of what happened is only less credible than those reasons given to Chris Hansen by predators who come into the house of 13 year old girl with a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 and a bouquet of flowers bought at the gas station.

Yet, to keep the story alive and relevant in the media, we have to keep going back to that statement….sorry opinion, she made during the pageant. Perhaps the world is tired of hearing about the economy, the car companies filing for bankruptcy, the problems in Pakistan and Iran, the pirates in Somalia, the health care problems, the recession, the social security disintegration, and the like.

In other news, I hear Octomom, Nadya Suleman, is pregnant again, Jon Gosselin is the father and they are going to live in the Big Brother House next season with Guantanamo Bay released detainees. My DVR is set to stunned.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Not a Tumor

Oh, wait. it is!

The plot device. In the hands of a skilled writer it can be apparent in the story yet unnoticed until it is used to resolve the action. In the hands of a bad writer, it can bring the action to an abrupt halt or throw everything out of joint in a contrived revelation to the characters. An example that crosses both boundaries of good and bad is the Ruby Slippers in The Wizard of Oz. The Ruby Slippers are the main motivation behind the Wicked Witch of the West’s pursuit of Dorothy, even more so than the fact that she did a house drop off the top ropes onto her sister. However, after the witch is destroyed they serve no real purpose until we she misses the balloon ride to Kansas. Feeling distraught, she is then told by the Glinda that she could use the Ruby Slippers to River Dance her way back home. The whole time she had the method to get home but it was a little contrived that after all this, all she had to do was click her heels. It’s a bit of lazy writing in my opinion.

The same goes for television shows, primarily in the genre of a soap opera. Now before I get blasted here, you can classify a Soap Opera as something you watch during the daytime while eating bonbons or you can look at what it is derived from, the serial drama. In both cases, the storyline progressives across multiple episodes, sometimes seasons, and yet sometimes they are tidied up or ended with a bad plot device.

In one of my many white board sessions, trying to explain how LOST’s time travelling conundrums work, I felt a sharp pain in my head. I was getting frustrated because I get what’s going on due to my several years of watching these kinds of shows like Quantum Leap and Back to the Future. She can’t grasp the fact that both sets of characters are being shown on screen in the same episode but 33 years apart from each other. Maybe the lack of the “Whoosh” sound is the problem. Anyway, that sharp pain didn’t give me a lot of worry, but considering recent events like my Mother in Law having a brain tumor and one of my friends from high school dying from brain cancer, I thought that maybe this was more than just a headache. It’s not. Don’t worry. You have to have a brain before you can get cancer in it.

But that sparked a longer debate between me and the misses. It seems that a lot of top notch television shows are using brain tumors to further their storyline or resolve them. If your DVR is at 98% because you’re behind on shows like I am, you may want to skip the next paragraphs.

ER – Dr. Mark Green
In the series 15 year history, it’s not hard to believe that a main character would develop a brain tumor. In this case, the actor wanted to move on to other opportunities and his character was written out after dying from a brain tumor.

HOUSE – Dr. Gregory House
OK, this is a false positive. House only faked a brain tumor but still, I’m seeing a pattern.

Grey’s Anatomy – Izzie Stevens
There it is. The tri-fecta of television doctor’s “suffering” (I know...see HOUSE) from a brain tumor. In one of the most bizarre turns on the tube, Izzie’s skin cancer metastasizes into a brain tumor. The first clue may have been her hoping in bed with dead Denny Duquette. The real clue for those with forensic television plot line backgrounds would have been the clinical trials that Derek and Meredith had been conducting. Bad bad bad.

Bones – Seeley Booth
At least by giving Booth a brain tumor, we get some hysterical hallucinations. I don’t mean dead soldiers helping him out of a ship that is rigged to explode. I mean seeing and talking to Stewie Griffin, an animated character from the Family Guy. It also drives the plot to make Booth the Baby Daddy to Bones’ Bundle.

All My Children – Jonathan Lavery
Of course, a Soap Opera is the brain tumor’s playground or at least the devilish writer’s playground. Although, it happened three years ago, I point out this instance because the discovery of a brain tumor in this character lead to a Deus ex machine type resolution to his storyline. Lavery came onto the scene, physically abused his girlfriend, killed his brother, and tried to blow up his other brother’s wife and friend, killed yet two more people (one a prominent character on the show), and then supposedly blew up in an explosion. After awhile it was discovered that his sister was taking care of him and he was admitted to a hospital and operated on to remove the evil tumor that caused all his mayhem, leaving him with the mental state of a child.

Eli Stone – Eli Stone
Not a brain tumor, but an aneurysm drives the entire plot of this prophetic show about a Lawyer with a conscience. Yeah, it got cancelled. Too unbelievable. Not, the fact that he had visions of George Michael dancing in his living room but that he had a conscience.

Desperate Housewives – Noah Taylor
Before zipping ahead five years into the future….yeah OK, Hello? LOST much? The show had a character named Zach whose mother not only killed herself in the pilot but provides narration from beyond the grave. Turns out Zach was adopted and his maternal grandfather, dying of a…you guessed it, brain tumor, was willing to leave everything to him if he proved himself a man. He did by unplugging grandpa’s life support, killing him.

Life on Mars – Det. Sam Tyler
Being an import of the BBC version of the show, it was hard to believe that the reason behind the problems with Sam Tyler’s grasp of reality would be a brain tumor. Yet, fans speculated on message boards and forums that the series would end with him having one. Nope, turns out he’s an astronaut with a garbled simulation running in his head….probably on Vista.

The Unusuals – Eric Delahoy
Trying hard to be like M*A*S*H and actually scoring well in some areas, this comedy drama has one of its characters dying of brain cancer. This leads to his over the top attempts to either be a hero or kill himself.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Joyce Summers
Ok, it was 10 years ago, but come on, but one of the best uses of a brain tumor in a show was the fifth season of Buffy. Although, the brain tumor was successfully removed, an aneurysm ultimately killed off Joyce Summers and leaving Buffy to not only save the world from the Hellmouth, but also run a household and help raise her teenage sister, Dawn. One of the best episodes of the series, The Body, featured no soundtrack and delves into the human nature of its lead character, a strong heroic figure that can kill demons, vampires, and all other sort of supernatural beings yet cannot save her own mother from death by natural means.

Well, that’s all I got but I’m sure I’ve missed a few and hopefully, you all will feel free to point them out. It is sweeps after all. There’s bound to be a few more shows out there with characters who have brain tumors. In fact, I think Fox just greenlit a show this fall about a brain tumor living in New York City, trying to make it as an actor. Is he kidding? Good night, everyone.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Night Remote Fight: Best Movies to Kick Off the Weekend

The post you are about to read contains dangerous levels of sugar and caffeine. Side effects include lethargy and feelings of euphoric childhood fantasies.
Consult a blogger.

Friday night. It’s a magical and mysterious thing. Surviving another long week seems almost worth it when you have this to look forward to. Some people have big plans to hit the clubs or some other event. Here in Pittsburgh, there’s a little thing called the NHL Finals going on and we’re down a game to the Capitals, so you know a majority of Pittsburghers will be either in the Mellon Arena at the game, outside the Mellon Arena watching the game on the Jumbotron, or in a bar watching the game on television. But what about the rest of us?

There was a time when I lived for Friday nights. Somewhere in my socially deprived mind I thought that if I didn’t go out somewhere, anywhere, on Friday night I was missing out on some sociological event that would go down in the annals as EPIC! Usually, that meant hanging out at the mall or even in my day, the roller rink. Yeah, for a brief period between the years of 1986 and 1990 I would make it a point to go to my local rink and just be. Of course, that meant be by myself, spend a couple dollars on Rolling Thunder or Xenophobe, watch other people couple skate, and then go home.

Then there were some Friday nights, during my early teenage years, that I just spent up in my room. Ok, it’s not what you’re thinking. This was about 1987 or 1988 and my brother had been in college at the time. Our first home computer took the form of an Apple IIc and my brother’s roommate had volumes of floppy disks with games on them that he copied for me. Now, the degree of advanced graphics and sound cards were still years away but even the simplest of games like Conan or Bruce Lee kept me busy for hours. It would be nothing for me to grab a can of Pepsi, a bag of Doritos, turn up my RUSH tapes, and not be seen again until Saturday morning at 7:00 AM when I had to get up for my paper route. How pathetic is that?

What kind of childhood was that? It was like the real life equivalent of the first twenty minutes of Weird Science, before the bras on the heads. Although, I kept waiting for my bedroom door to explode and have Kelly LeBrock standing amongst the smoky rubble just waiting for me to utter the simplest command. Never happened for you either? John Hughes was such a lying prick, wasn’t he?

Still, I remember, with fondness the days, when Friday meant I was done for the week. It was the time when my brain could just shut down and I could spend the next two days just crashed out in my “play clothes.” There wasn’t a child that needed tending to. There wasn’t a yard that needed to be mowed. I wasn’t responsible for taking out the trash or making sure the litter boxes were clean. It was all about the pleasure principle, and I don’t mean a Janet Jackson album.

Looking back at my childhood, I continually mount a pretty good case for being born too soon. There was of course the Power Wheels defense of 1983. That was just the tip of the iceberg, the smallest visible portion of the massive amount of technological innovations that developed over the years of my life. Those advancements in fun always seemed to be geared towards the demographic just below my age range, robbing me of the latest and greatest in media, toys and other escapist devices. While video game consoles are probably the greatest missed opportunity, the advancement in home theater and movie offerings through DVD and cable providers ranks a close second.

Yes, young Whipper Snappers, you there with your Twit-ster and Space-Book have all the hook up in gadgets and distractions of heroin addict whose house just landed in a Ozian poppy field. OhgodohgodDorothyDorothypoppiesfieldpoppiesfield... (ten points for you old timers that get that moldy oldie reference to geekdom.) I’ve become the Luddite equivalent of my parents talking about walking to school, uphill, both ways, in three feet of snow, but I’m explaining how, in my day, we had to sit in a certain order on the couch and touch the lamp just so we could keep our fuzzy reception of HBO visible. We dared not move or the audio track would go from somewhat discernible to that repetitive “cheet, cheet, cheet,” sound. It was like the whispers from Friday the 13th, set to the speed of Chipmunks and blasted like a Greek chorus, chanting over and over again that we were “cheating” the cable company, yet we continued to fine tune our

I mean, God help me if I was alone. I had the skills of a SETI radio technician, fine tuning the little knob on the device that clipped onto the back of our television, just so I could see the glimpse of a fuzzy pair of breasts from Revenge of the Nerds late at night. You kids, with your DVRs and your Blu Ray. Bah! You don’t know how stressful it was to have only five minutes to return a VHS rental and then realize you had to rewind the damn thing. If only I would have been born in 1985 I’d be knee deep in WoW and failing my Rocks for Jocks that I needed to graduate with a degree in Undeclared Arts. I’d be Netflixing the entire Second Series of Dr. Who while searching for another little jug of iced tea from 7-11. This would all be done simultaneously while texting my friends and updating my status while recruiting more people for my Mafia and send them all flair based on how much I hate Twilight.

But, I’ve gone completely off the point as I tend to do in my pop culture dementia. The entire point of this ever disintegrating rant is to highlight a selection of popcorn confectionery cinema treats that are best served reheated and with copious helpings of greasy, shop delivered pizza and carbonated beverages. This selection is a prime example of a childhood gone completely off the reservation. This is the kind of pre pubescent nostalgia that has you up until way past midnight, fixated on your glowing screen in a quasi reversed Ludovico technique. Instead of causing an aversion to the images and acts on screen, you wake the next day and head out into your backyard or neighborhood, engrossed in an intense imaginative state, reenacting the best scenes from the film. In your possession is a broken stick that doubles as a sword or rifle and you are clad in a newspaper hat and a cape fashioned from your Mother’s hand knitted afghan.

So, here we go. Settle down into that butt shaped groove you’ve made into the couch, Rochambeau your loved one or best friends for the remote with that killer Paper/Lizard/Spock combo move you’ve developed and let the brain take the night off, you deserve it. Now, I’m sure I will have missed some more of the classics and well established films but this is just a sampling.


Dude, where’s My Car?
Half Baked
Old School
(Could technically be listed under Sci-Fi)
Weird Science (As could this)
Big Trouble in Little China
Shaun of the Dead (
It splits the genre with Horror)


Evil Dead I and II
(Dead By Dawn is more comedy but let's keep it where it's at)
The Lost Boys
Halloween (1978)
The Thing
The Frighteners
Bubba Ho-Tep
Night of the Living Dead
Cabin Fever
Final Destination


Raiders of the Lost Ark
National Treasure
The Goonies
The Mummy
Jurassic Park
Romancing The Stone
The Three Musketeers (1993)


Kill Bill
Kung Fu Hustle
Die Hard
First Blood
Point Break
Bad Boys
Hot Fuzz


Fellowship of the Ring
The Running Man
The Matrix
Escape From New York
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Independence Day
Six String Samurai
The Black Hole
Back to the Future

Those of you who can’t turn your mind off for 2 hours.

Donnie Darko
12 Monkeys
Strange Days
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
North by Northwest
Close Encounters of the Third Kind


The Princess Bride
The Wedding Singer
Sleepless in Seattle
Only You
One Fine Day
10 Things I Hate About You
Failure to Launch

Just be sure to wipe the drool from the corners of your mouth when you're done. Have a good weekend and Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm sorry. Eleven Years Too Late

We met in high school and sort of got put into that same social group of misfits and outcasts. You had such a strange personality and at times I even felt that I couldn’t connect on your level. Even your name was different than any I had ever known. Yet, there was more going on there beneath the surface, but I was too stupid and immature to realize just how unique an individual you really were. For all your quirks and unashamed security in how you presented yourself, I, like most people, simply chalked it up to you just being a little weird. I’m sorry it took 11 years to realize it.

The times that I didn’t have my head up my ass were fun. Regardless of your style, you made it worthwhile. There was the games of hide and seek, or a variant of such, in your old Victorian home that kept us all laughing until our sides hurt. Once, we came to your place and just sat out on the roof watching the trains go on by through the neighborhood. You let me call your parents by your personal nicknames for them. I’m sorry I took advantage of your friendship.

We would watch crazy movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Clue at your house. Sometimes I would wonder how someone could love Rocky Horror as much as you did? You had several versions of the soundtrack and I thought that odd. Yet, in my own personal library I have multiple versions of the Star Wars movies in various formats and I don’t find that out of the ordinary. I’m sorry I was a hypocrite.

When you needed someone most, I didn’t see it. You had a rough time with a relationship and even after it imploded, you gave me and other friends all the liquor from the wedding that never was. We spent that summer driving around with a floating bar, always remembering to put more ice in the trunk until we finished the beer. We had that party at that lodge in the woods and I bartended with your booze. I’m sorry I didn’t make you another drink.

We hung out in small amounts and sometimes I felt that best. I was such a prick. Anybody in this world should be happy to have a friend call them even when they would rather not be bothered. I’m guilty just like everyone in the world, perhaps more so, because I could see what I was doing. I wasn’t oblivious, I just choose to continue the practice. You would call, and I would either be busy or wouldn’t answer the phone. It’s not that I think I was that important, but you were. You deserved my time and I didn’t give it. I would have rather sat at home in silence or with the inane blaring of a show on television that I half ignored than hear your voice and your thoughts. You wanted to hang out and I acted like I was too busy for you. I didn’t even have a job at the time. I had all the free time in the world, yet I couldn’t be bothered. I’m sorry I didn’t answer you.

Then it all stopped. You were somewhere in the world and I was in my own place. You were a picture in a yearbook or an anecdote that I would pull out when I would talk about my old life. Maybe you finally realized I wasn’t worth it. I mean, how dare I believe that my presence would be uplifting or warranted. Maybe you were happy I was so far on the peripheral that the thought of our time together was a footnote when you heard a song or watched a movie. I’m sure there were other people who saw what I didn’t and they took the time. Now, I’m probably extremely arrogant or pretentious to assume that my friendship was anything special. The fact that I’m even writing this, now, means I think having me as a friend was worth something and that’s a pretty big showing of testicular fortitude on my part. It wasn’t until 11 years went by and then someone, who I hadn’t spoken to in nearly as long, said you were sick and that there probably wasn’t much more time left. Suddenly, I could make time. Finally, I got it. I had decided that I had been stupid and should come see you. I’m sorry I didn’t.

I can make 1000 excuses as to why I didn’t. The biggest was that I was embarrassed. I should be the last person you would want to see. Where was I? Like every other time you were in my life for one reason or another, I dropped the ball. There’s always tomorrow, right? At one time or another we probably both had that same thought. Maybe not at the same time but more than likely we both looked ahead at our future and figured there would always be more time for everything. You got robbed. I’m sorry I have time and you don’t.

I was so wrapped up in my own self indulgent bullshit that I could never find five minutes to get in touch with someone who I used to call my ‘friend’ without pausing. I threw that term around like I had a sense of entitlement. I didn’t put nearly enough time into what that word meant. Now I don’t have that chance. No, not chance, privilege, honor, freedom, pleasure. Any number of words could describe what your friendship meant and that is gone. I’m sorry I let you go. I’m sorry I was an asshole. I’m sorry you took a chance on my sorry ass. I’m sorry you got sick. I’m sorry you died. I’m sorry Margd.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Den Of a Sick Kiddie

I don’t take care of myself as well as I should. I could stand to lose probably 100 pounds if I listen to my Wii Fit. When I stand on the balance board, it says, “One at a time, please.” (rim shot) Frankly, if I lost 60 pounds I’d be happy. Granted, how I lose that weight is up for debate. I don’t have a horrible diet. I usually eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast. For lunch, it’s usually something leftover, a yogurt, a diet pop, and an apple that I eat on the way home from work. Dinner is the bad meal which is either two helpings of whatever my In-Laws are cooking or something off the menu at our favorite places. Still, I only eat about half of that and keep the rest for lunch the next day. Ok, I will say that lately, we’ve been eating a bowl of ice cream in the late evening and that is bad. My problem is my sedentary lifestyle. I don’t have enough exercise to counter balance all that food. So, if I exercised more I could probably shed a few pounds before I plateau and have to change my diet. Or, I could just get the stomach flu and throw it up continuously for three days.

That’s what my toddler daughter did this past weekend. She also did it over Valentine’s Day weekend, too. It all started Thursday evening. The little one seemed fine Thursday night. She had a bout with a little diarrhea and then sat on the floor with us in the living room watching television. Then, for no reason, she started crying and drooling. Her hands pointed at her mouth as she sobbed made us think she bit her tongue. We dismissed it after she calmed down and put her to bed. Not even twenty minutes later she began crying. Usually, we would wait and see if she would just go back to sleep but she didn’t. We went in and found vomit all over her bed. We immediately feared that our little friend the flu virus had come back to town.

Now, amidst all this latest scare over the H1N1, which I refuse to call it that, to me it’s Swine Flu. Why? Most of the news outlets and the government have stayed away from this pig connotation fearing an impact on the pork industry. For me, I’m not that paranoid because I only eat cured ham. (rim shot 2). Besides the puns, it’s funny to see as this spamdemic grows, so does the graphic of the pig over the shoulder of the news anchor on television. It’s like West Nile. It started out as a regular sized mosquito, but as the epidemic grew, so did the picture. Then they started adding red eyes and fangs and a shifty disposition to the image. In any case, I didn’t worry about Swine Flu, even though I was karmically due after all my jokes and shirts involving the scare. As you do note, I did include my second and third Swine Flu based designs in this post. I have to pay the bills, you know.

Swine Flu: Know the difference

Where was I? Oh, right sick kid. So, after we gave her a bath and she managed to throw up all over herself and the tub in the process, we got her stabilized and back down for the night. Thinking this just might be food related as she had a bowl of cottage cheese at dinner, we didn’t give much thought to us catching the bug like we did in February. If so, we would have been hugging the toilet by now. I needed to go to work in the morning so I tried to go to bed while my wife stayed up with our daughter. Unfortunately, she didn’t like the idea of having a bucket put in front of her when she showed signs that she was going to vomit and would run down the hall screaming towards our bedroom. Needless to say, I got little sleep and my wife got no sleep.

Friday presented us with little comfort. While we could see that our kiddo was in no way shape or form back to her old self we didn’t have any more vomiting so we thought we were in the clear. My wife had a doctor’s appointment in the evening and opted to let our daughter take it in order to get a clearer understanding of what was going on since we were still bug free. We decided not to take any chances and took a bucket of chlorine water to all our daughter’s toys and any surfaces she may have touched.

Now, the PA suggested that if we still saw diarrhea on Saturday that we should call them. Unfortunately, they close at noon and the little one stayed in bed until 1:30. Once again, she had a blowout and her crib was soiled. We hemmed and hawed most of the day on whether to take her to the ER. We made that move the last time and she ended being poked and prodded for nothing. They did absolutely nothing for her. Finally, we noticed she had a fever and wasn’t drinking. When she did try to drink, she would dry heave. Off to the ER we went.

Usually, our child does not sit still. She runs everywhere and you have to constantly keep an eye on her when she is on a bed. However, as of late, she’s learned how to get off our bed which is considerably higher than any of our couches. She simply turns around and backs herself to the edge and lowers herself holding onto the sheets. This was all her ingenuity in figuring out. I had nothing to do with her method of descent. But here in the ER she sat squarely on the gurney and never moved. That is until they put an IV line in her to rehydrate her. She did not like that at all. They added a 750cc bag of electrolytes and drained it in an hour as well as an additional 250cc bag immediately after. They also gave her a Tylenol suppository (she wasn’t going to keep it down otherwise) when we first arrived which treated her 101.7 degree fever. They also gave her something for nausea. Now, in introducing all three of these elements to her system, the charge nurse felt it would be comforting to my daughter to have me sit on the gurney and hold her. Unfortunately, she then let loose with a huge deluge into her diaper which then made its way onto my shorts. The staff offered me a pair of blue scrubs which didn’t have a button on them, giving away the ending. I travelled home, fed our cats and changed my clothes.

After a few hours and a hundred dirty diapers. She managed to stop dry heaving and became very still. The poor thing never flinched when they did a blood draw on her opposite arm which gave the charge nurse a sense of discomfort. The decision was made to admit her and we thought we had an option on where. The ER we were at was sold to a larger health system and they no longer handled Obstetrics or Pediatrics. A hospital in the system that would take her was not even ten minutes up the road. The other option was Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. While I would normally say, go to Children’s, they had just moved into a new facility that day and the normal routes to the hospital were blocked because of the Pittsburgh Marathon taking place the following day.

I pulled the car seat from our Malibu wagon and had them attach it a stretcher for the ambulance ride to the hospital. I then went home again to pack a bag for the night and take care of other errands that we normally do each night. I packed a huge suitcase which meant one bag to worry about. It contained everything from playing cards, more diapers, more wipes, my CPAP device (Sleep Apnea), extra clothes, some reading material, and my laptop to keep in touch with some friends on Facebook that were aware of the situation.

I arrived at the hospital around 2:45AM and headed up to our room. The staff gave us a private room, which they probably do in a case like this. They also gave us a Murphy bed to go along with the chair that folded out into a bed. The little one was a little more subdued and seemed in better spirits after being rehydrated. She even wanted a bottle. We eventually got some dinner which consisted of a “Wheel of Death” sandwich for my wife and a Snicker’s bar for me. We settled in for a couple hours of sleep.

Sunday showed a marked improvement in her disposition and she managed to take in a couple bites of vanilla pudding and half of a chocolate bar square. She also drank some juice. They removed her IV drip but kept the line in and she continually want to play with the wrapping on it. After a brief nap she got a visit from both my mom and my wife’s parents. Each brought our daughter’s favorite thing, balloons. At 2:30 the doctor came in and spoke to us about everything. We were given discharge papers and home by 7:00PM. However, the fun didn’t stop there. After she went down for a nap, my wife and I caught up on all the housework we missed during our hospital stay. I scrubbed the cat litters, unpacked our suitcase and unloaded the dishwasher. She did laundry and cleaned the downstairs of our house. Our daughter woke up and then tried to nap on me, all the while complaining of a belly ache. She eventually went up the hallway and what sounded like a huge tuba being played echoed up the hallway. Her stomach ache was gone along with the integrity of the air in our upstairs hallway. After changing her she laid down on a pillow and blanket spread out on the floor of our living room. She slept for another two hours and we had trouble waking her up. We conceded that we would just put her down for the night but she awoke, asking for noodles and pop. After a bit of the Boyardee shells and some ginger ale managed to stick with her and we felt better as we only found trace amounts of diarrhea in her last diaper change before bed time.

Through all this, both my wife and myself have been able to avoid getting sick, although I am starting to feel a little nauseous but that could be sleep deprivation. While I would take the stomach flu three times over in a trade off for my daughter’s health, I remember what it was like the last time we had it and it wasn’t fun. And while I sometimes get a little perturbed at her inability to sit and play in one spot instead of running all over the place, I can’t stand seeing her as lethargic and listless as she gets when she has the flu. I’ve become a full blown parent, now. The only thing that will probably make me more nauseous will be her teenage years. I have some time to prepare, though.

Oh, and here's the other design. This one takes a little more of a stop the hype approach...
Statistically speaking, human flu kills more per year than animal based flus.
Humans: Still the leading cause of death... in everything.

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