Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Question of the Day

What will you do with your leap second?

I plan to use mine to try to re-set all the clocks in my house so that they are not off by one second going into the New Year, because I do not want to spend an entire year running one second behind the rest of the world.

There's a younger guy gunning for my job? Nobody tells me anything!

Here are some New Years' resolutions you'll want to make. As you go into 2009, you'll definitely want to:

Get your health under control, and improve your relationships with your family. You'll want to get more out of love and lovemaking. You'll want to beat that guy or girl in the office who's trying to get that promotion before you. You'll want to improve your finances.

And you'll want to get back your youth.

Well, Dr. Sergey Kalitenko, MD, wants to help you do all of those things , especially the anti aging thing, with his holistic approach to medicine. "Holistic" means he looks at everything going on and works on it all -- but he'll focus in on those areas where you may want to focus, too -- like using hormone replacement therapy to fight aging and menopause, or fighting fatigue through making sure your hormone levels are correct, to all those other things he can help you with.

More energy, less fatigue, more get-up-and-go, less got-up-and-went -- giving you the strength you'll need to face 2009 and whup it!

His website -- I've linked to it up there -- has a lot more information on how Dr. Kalitenko's approach works. The best testimonial? He used it himself, to help with his heart problems when he was suffering from them and it wasn't stress, wasn't cholesterol, wasn't any of the usual suspects: It was hormones. Other people have written in to tell their experiences. You could be the next success story for him, so if you want to start improving your life, don't wait another leap second: click there now.

We should at least get to pick the dinner: 74 down, 9,281 to go

The newest trend in in-laws' visits? Inviting people and making them pay for the dinner you serve them.

My dad first did this about two years ago on my birthday, when we drove to visit him (on my birthday) and he picked the dinner (on my birthday) and we paid for the dinner. On my birthday.

Now, today, we were invited to Sweetie's parents to dinner to make up for being weathered out of Christmas Eve last week. We accepted. Yesterday, Sweetie confirmed the times and said we'd be leaving right after dinner. Her mom assured her that dinner would be ready just as soon as we got there, then asked that Sweetie and I bring dinner with us by picking up some pizzas.

And crackers. She wanted us to bring crackers, too.

Song 74: "Valley of Tears," by Robert Plant and the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Down... to go: I don't have to go to the Valley of Tears to be understood. I just have to post my thoughts here with all the songs on my iPod. Song 73 here.

I'm drooling a little on the keyboard.

Remember in that episode of "The Simpsons," back when it was funny and in the time when cartoons didn't just lazily parody other TV shows and movies, where the Germans bought the nuclear power plant, and told Homer that they were from the "land of chocolate," and Homer imagined a land of chocolate where he could eat anything, walking through it eating trees and stop signs, and then got extra excited when he came on a store selling chocolate half-priced?

Well, I do, and that's kind of the feeling I got looking at Gertrude Hawk Chocolates this morning -- their website has chocolate this and chocolate that and chocolate the other thing and more more more... and a spot for half-priced chocolate.

They say on the website that they have great Valentines day gifts and they're right. They're so right. Not for Sweetie, though; for me. Sweetie doesn't love chocolate half as much as I do. But it would be wrong to just go and order a bunch of chocolate gift tubs-- chocolate covered almond crunch and chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate covered peanut butter smidgens-- for Sweetie for Valentine's Day, knowing that I'll just get to eat them.

Wouldn't it?

Would it?

What if I threw in some flowers?

The candy just looks so good...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Question of the Day: 19

What sound do zebras make?

The Babies! like to watch a "Baby Einstein" video in which various animals from around the world are shown -- they watched it three times straight through yesterday (don't judge me!, as Middle says) -- and each time the zebras came on, the sound the video played associated with them was hooves pounding.

So do they make a sound? Beyond the hooves, I mean.

I'd google it, but I'm technically in a seminar -- a "web-inar" right now and don't want to overload my computer.

It's really something more like 15 years and 9 1/2 months.

Only 16 years or so, and counting down, until I can buy new furniture.

I long ago decided that I would not buy new furniture while there were kids living in the house. All furniture would be used, second-hand, or, if I had to buy new, would be on the order of Frankencouch. I decided that after The Boy one day carved his name into the old coffee table we had.

Then I broke that rule a few years back when I celebrated a Christmas bonus by purchasing a new couch and coffee table, only to have the Babies! born a year later, so now I have to watch as Mr F pulls the drawers out of the coffee table and stands in them. $400 on a coffee table and it's used as some sort of pretend-diving-board.

If I were going to buy new furniture before the Babies! turn 18 and go off to college, I wouldn't do it by mucking around in drafty, giant stores where I get hassled by salesmen and then have to wait 33 weeks for them to ship the furniture I'd just bought. No, I'd go someplace like this "Buy Entertainment Centers Online" site I found, I site I like to go look at just to dream of the day I can purchase a new entertainment center or one of the great TV Consoles and have it put in my house without fear that it will be scratched by having a barn thrown at it, or stained with milk and S'mores.

So I spend my days looking at this:And dreaming of having that in my house -- it's beautiful! It could hold all of the movies we don't get time to watch, all of the books I had to put in the closet because the Babies! were throwing them at each other, all my old knick-knacks -- the signed softball from my old team that went 1-9, the coffee can from Morocco, the metal shovel that Oldest made in some class or other -- and still have room left over for other stuff.

That, or a new TV Stand sure would beat the one we've got now, a bland, glass-and-metal thing that has fingerprints permanently impressed on it.

To make things better for people who CAN shop for furniture now, and worse for me, Buy Entertainment Centers Online offers free shipping on all their furniture, unlike any other store I've ever bought furniture at. And everything they sell is discounted. That entertainment center I'm dreaming of is marked down 40% -- saving over $2,000 right now.

They don't just sell plain old entertainment centers at Buy Entertainment Centers Online, either. They've got Armoire style, as well. But I can only look so much before the longing gets too great...

So I'll bookmark the page, and hope they're still in business in 16 years... and counting.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rewriting is not writing, and what's wrong with sweater vests? 73 down, 9,283 to go.

Sweetie asked me tonight to write down a list of books that I want for my birthday next week... and for the first time in my life, I was stumped. I looked through my list of books that I've written down in the past as books I wanted to read, and suddenly I didn't want to read any of them. I looked through that 75 best books list on Esquire, and didn't want to read any of them, either.

And do you know who I blame? Critics, and Infinite Jest. Critics raved over Infinite Jest and I fell for it and I tried to read it, but it was almost deliberately obtuse, as though David Foster Wallace was purposely trying to make me not just dislike his book but dislike reading, so now, even though I know there's books out there that must be good, I can't trust my instincts anymore and I can't trust critics.

Also, I was disappointed in books in general when I saw that two of the top 10 of the year, according to Entertainment Weekly, were remakes of other books: That "Edgar Sawtelle" thing which is just "Hamlet with Dogs" and then something about Anna Karenina living as a socialite in New York City.

That's not writing. Rewriting is not writing.

So I'm going to get a good night's sleep and hope tomorrow that a trip to the bookstore will restore my faith in the written word again.

Also, then, when I suggested to Sweetie that I could use some new dress shirts for work, she scoffed, and then she seemed to ridicule my request for sweater vests. But what's wrong with those?

Song 73 was going to be "They Write Books About This Sort of Thing," by Say Hi To Your Mom, but Say Hi To Your Mom doesn't want anyone to embed their videos anywhere else -- so they'd rather you don't hear about their music too much. They'd like fame and fortune and recognition, but only in small doses that they can control.

Instead, I've picked "Lost Coastlines" by Okkervil River.

Down.. to go: Sometimes one of the songs on my iPod perfectly matches my mood. And then you get to hear about it. Song 72 here.

"I think you're cute, and I like anime." What a line!

So you say you want to meet someone, and all you require of that person is that they have a nice smile, and be reasonably intelligent... and that they like anime.

Well, you can do that now-- thanks to Anime Chat City.

I'm amazed at how there's a dating and chat site for pretty much everyone in the world by now, but I guess I shouldn't be. I especially shouldn't be amazed that there's an Anime Chat Room for people who want to meet others and in particular want to meet others who love anime. After all, why should it be amazing? The internet is the greatest way to share information that humans have come up with, and if the information you want to share is "I think you're cute and I like anime," then Anime Chat City is just the thing.

It's actually a pretty neat idea: form a chat room, one that's free to join and easy to sign up, with free webcam chat, and then market it specifically to a group of like-minded people that want to mingle and talk about the things they love. That way, anime lovers don't have to worry that the person or people they're meeting and talking with will think they're boring; there's no chance of that because they know the person on the other side of the website likes the same things they do.

Question of the Day: 18.

Why didn't the Darryls talk?

I've been, off and on, rewatching Newhart as I DVR episodes to try to find the one I told Sweetie about where Dick has a series of small horses brought to the station. As I do that, the three thoughts that come to mind are today's question, and also "For some reason, I remember this show as funnier than it now seems," and also "mixing "Kissables" and Skittles together and then eating them combined is very delicious."

I have a vibrant inner life.

I'm no sucker.

Yesterday, I took the Babies! outside in the snow for the first time this year.

They haven't gone outside in the snow at all this year because they didn't have snow pants or boots. The lack of boots and snowpants is a surprising oversight from Sweetie, who purchases most of their non-superhero related clothing. Surprising, that is, unless it was Sweetie's plan to not get them snowpants and boots because without snowpants and boots I could not plan on taking them outside to play in the yard, and if I could not plan on taking the boys outside to play in the yard, then I could not actually take them outside to play in the yard, either, which would mean that there was no chance that the boys would get frostbite, or catch cold, or that I'd lose them in a snowdrift, or whatever it is that Sweetie thinks will happen if I take them outside to play in the snow. Sweetie professes great faith in my parenting abilities, but when push comes to shove sometimes the evidence shows that she's hedging her bets.

I hadn't cared, much, that they didn't have snowpants and boots, because I'm not the type that wants to go outdoors in the winter in the first place. I only grudgingly go outside in the winter, and then only for necessities like going to work or coming home from work or going to McDonald's for an eggnog shake. I think about winter sports the same way I think about swimming at the ocean or other activities that are supposed to be "fun" but which are not, actually, that fun, and what I think about them is this: What's the point?

That's what I thought when we went to Florida this summer and went to the beach where my brother Matt had assured us we shouldn't worry about sting rays even though all the signs said just the opposite. We went to a gorgeous beach with water the temperature of bath water and waves just big enough to be kind of fun, and we went in the water, and we swam a little and I went under water and I splashed through the waves, and then I thought "Now what? How long do I have to float around in the water before I can just get back to doing more fun things like shopping for t-shirts?" And that's what I think of winter sports, too. Throughout my life, more often than not, when I've strapped on skis or gotten the sleds or put on ice skates, about three minutes into the activity, I'm thinking "okay, is that enough? Can I go home now and read a book?"

I mean, once you've gone down a hill a few times, what's left of sledding? How much fun is it the fifth time? The fifteenth? And ice skating? Really? When we were kids we used to go to a mall that had an ice rink in the center and we'd sometimes rent skates and skate around. And around. And around. And around. Just skating in circles, over and over, and ten minutes into it, I'd be thinking I wish Mom had let me, instead, hang around the Waldenbooks so I could browse through "More Dirty Jokes IV" and try to figure out what the punch lines meant.

There's all sort of activities like that, activities that have no point to them other than that they exist. Swimming is a big offender, and it's one reason why I won't get a swimming pool: because swimming is boring. Unless you're swimming laps, what's the big deal? So you jump into the pool and... what? Do a headstand or a somersault? Splash someone? You end up just standing in the water and goofing off, and if I'm going to be just standing around doing nothing much, why do I want to be chest-deep in water instead of, say, lying on my couch watching How I Met Your Mother re-runs?

Winter sports and activities are even worse, because they're pointless-- ice skating in circles -- but they're also cold. And tiring and painful. Look at things you can do outside in the winter: Sledding involves climbing a hill repeatedly. Building a snowman? That's just work, and hard work at that. I didn't go to law school so that I could push a hundred pounds of wet snow around my yard. A snowball fight? I had a snowball fight with my nephew a few years back. I was tired of it two snowballs into it -- especially because when you're up against a four-year-old you can't even really try, so you have to keep getting hit in the face with snowballs but you can't fight back (and if you do fight back, like I did when I was a kid and my cousin Joe was throwing snowballs at me, the odds are there will be a piece of ice in that snowball and it'll hit him in the face and cut his cheek and he'll go inside crying and bleeding and I'll be in trouble so while I get to go back inside I also have to go up to my room and be grounded off TV and reading.)

So I don't like outdoor activities, but I had decided to take the boys outside this weekend. I was only taking them out in the snow to play for two reasons: one, I like to do things with them that are out of the ordinary when I can, and two, we had snowpants and boots that we'd gone to an awful lot of trouble to get on Friday night, because my brother Matt was coming up and Matt was insistent that we were going to have a "traditional" day of sledding and hot chocolate on Alternate Christmas, so Sweetie and I went out Friday night to get snowpants and boots and also to look for a trampoline because Sweetie thought she might want to get one of those exercise trampolines for use around the house.

I didn't object to her getting the trampoline. She didn't get one because we couldn't find one, and we couldn't find one in part at least because shopping with Mr F and Mr Bunches is a hit-or-miss proposition at best. I get them and go into the store with the best intentions of getting the things I came there to get and following my list, but after a few minutes of chasing after Mr Bunches while carrying Mr F (who I have to carry because if I don't he'll go in the opposite direction) and after a few more minutes of trying to get them to stop grabbing at the clothes that we are passing by, leaving a trail of sweaters and blouses and sweatpants strewn behind us, and after a few minutes more of trying to bribe them to stop crying by giving them potato chips and graham crackers produced from my jacket pocket, the inevitable happens. Not leaving the store. I rarely leave the store even at that point. No, "the inevitable" is that I get distracted by something that I see for sale, something like a large Christmas ornament -- a really large Christmas ornament, nearly the size of my head, in a display of similar large Christmas ornaments, all of them nearly the size of my head, and I look at a display like that and remember saying to Sweetie just that morning:

"Maybe next year we should do a tree with all oversized ornaments,"

and then here the ornaments are, so I could put that plan into effect right away, only it's still before Christmas, so I shouldn't get them just yet because they'll be on sale in a few days, when I'll find them at Wal-Mart for half-price but won't be able to get them because I'll have only enough money to buy the snow shovel I went there to buy, and also the three boxes of cereal it turns out I went there to buy but didn't know that I was going there to buy until Sweetie told me we were also going there to buy three boxes of cereal, and some cereal bowls, which I bought, too, along with the snow shovel we've been promising to buy for two years now but have never actually gone and bought until yesterday, when we bought it because I actually remembered that we had to buy a snow shovel, so we went to Wal-Mart right after church and I got a snow shovel and Sweetie got her three boxes of cereal plus three new bowls plus some face lotion or hand lotion or something. It was from the cosmetics department and it cost more than the snow shovel is all I know.

The reason we haven't actually bought a snow shovel for two years, despite our old shovel being amazingly short -- I have to bend nearly double to use it -- and amazingly bent and old is because who buys a snow shovel? The only time I think about needing a snow shovel is when I have to actually go shovel snow. I wake up in the morning, and see that the driveway is covered in snow, and so I have to go shovel it out, and I get ready and go outside with my iPod set to some song that'll help me get in a good mood for shoveling, a song like "Lucky Seven Sampson" from Schoolhouse Rock, and I see the old crummy shovel and I think "I should get a new shovel," but there's two problems with that thought. First, if I go buy a shovel right now, when it's snowing, I'll get ripped off.

I firmly believe that. Having been raised by my parents, I am always on the alert for people who are ripping me off by taking advantage of me, and I am thoroughly convinced that "ripping people off by taking advantage of them" is what the American economy is based on. That's how they get you is a mantra in my family -- whatever it is you think you're getting in a good deal is how they get you and you're getting ripped off. And the easiest way to get ripped off is to buy something when you need it. In my mind, the world is made up of merchants sitting around their stores with barrels full of snow shovels all selling for $1.00 or so, until the snow starts falling. The minute the first snowflake tumbles down, the merchants run and scratch out the "$1.00" and write over it, in magic marker, "$One hundred dollars! Sucker!" Because they know, see, that we'll all be driving to get a snow shovel right then and there, so they can make a quick buck.

So going to get a shovel right when it's snowing is a sucker move, but there's also a more practical problem, in that I can't go get the shovel until I shovel the driveway so I can get the car out and back in, and once I do that, I don't need the shovel anymore. Because who knows if it's even going to snow again this year, and if it doesn't snow again this year, then I've just wasted money on a snow shovel, haven't I? I don't have money to just throw around.

And you may think that's crazy, that of course it's going to snow again in January or February or March in Wisconsin, and you'd maybe be right but last summer I mowed the lawn in June and ran out of gas with just a foot or so left, and I should have gone and gotten more gas in the mower but then my grass didn't even grow enough the rest of the year to need mowing -- probably because it was battered down from all the hickory nuts falling on it -- so who's crazy now? Not me -- I saved a buck on lawnmower gas.

But after shoveling Sunday morning, I decided that we were going to go get a shovel, after all, because even "Lucky Seven Sampson" couldn't keep my back from hurting after shoveling, so I broke down and bought a shovel even though I didn't need it right then and there, and I probablywon't need it all this year, making it a waste of money, and I hate wasting money, which is why I had to have the boys go out in the yard yesterday: having invested nearly $100 in snowpants and boots, only to have our "traditional" sledding day cancelled because of the very nontraditional rain we got on Saturday, I now had two sets of snowpants and two sets of boots without a purpose, and I was not going to waste my money on them.

That's another thing my parents taught me: Don't waste money. If you buy something and then don't use it enough to justify spending money on it, it's a waste of money. So before I purchase anything -- anything: groceries, a tie, a television set -- I have to calculate how often I might use it, how necessary it is, whether I will in the end have wasted money on the purchase or if I really got a lot of value for my money. That all gets factored into every decision, or almost every decision. I don't really factor the question of whether I am wasting money into my decision to buy lottery tickets, because those are an investment. The idea that something is a waste of money if we didn't use it enough really put a lot of pressure on me as a kid; I'd go downstairs in the basement to find something to play with, and have to try to mentally calculate which toys I hadn't played with enough. Was it time to build something with the Lincoln logs again? Had I created enough Lego castles to justify that purchase? Playing "Star Wars Figures" was taxing, making sure that each character got enough playing time, even if he didn't quite fit into the storyline -- so sometimes Luke Skywalker would have to take some time out from blowing up the Death Star (my dresser) again, this time from the inside, to have a chat with Greedo, who happened to be in the Death Star, just passing by, and could briefly fight with Luke even though he and Luke really had no quarrel, because I didn't want Greedo to be a "waste of money."

Making my investment in boots and snow pants pay off required some work, because Mr F and Mr Bunches did not necessarily want to go anywhere yesterday morning. I think after the Christmas season, they're sort of burned out on "going places." More nights than not they were trundled into the car and then pushed around a bookstore, 0r walked down a mall, or grocery shopping, and when they weren't being bundled up to head off to the toy store where they were forced to just look at the toys instead of throwing them at each other, then they were forced to actually wear pants because company was coming over, company which would want to pick them up and hug them and make them look at presents when all they want to do is sit on Dad's new foot massager so it gives them a butt massage, like Mr Bunches did for about fifteen minutes during lunch on Saturday, ignoring all of the grown-ups sitting around talking while he massaged his butt, even using the "heat" setting to get a warm butt massage.

But I was insistent that the Babies! were going to use their snow gear, so I distracted them by putting on a "Bunnytown" and then wrestled them into the boot liners, then their snowpants, then their boots, then their mittens, then their hats, then their jackets, taking nearly 30 minutes to get it all done, at which point all I had to do was grab my jacket, and my camera, and get them outside. I did that quickly, but not quickly enough, because Mr Bunches sat down and then couldn't stand back up again, while Mr F tried to climb on their new jungle gym with his boots on and got his foot stuck in the ladder slat and started crying, which upset Mr Bunches because he didn't know why Mr F was crying, so he cried, too, just in case, and I threw on my coat and told Sweetie to open up the door, and grabbed them both and carried them upstairs, staggering outside to put them on our back porch in their winter gear, still crying.

They stopped crying immediately, overcome by the shock of the cold or the brightness or maybe just the fact that at nearly-forty I can still pick up both of them and carry them outside that quickly, even when they are weighed down by an extra ten pounds of snowgear.

"Head to the backyard," I told them, and they tentatively began trying to walk through the snow that, I realized, was nearly above their knees, so they had the difficulty of walking in boots that weighed a lot, through crunchy snow that held the boot down, but they tried to troop on, crunching and falling to the side and standing up and sitting down, while I did what any concerned and loving parent would do: I got ahead of them and videotaped them trying to walk through the snow.

Eventually, though, I did help them get out to the backyard, moving them much the way I'd had to move my action figures when I was a kid: Go get Mr F, and help him walk a few steps, then position him where I want him (facing the house, ready to go) and go back to get Mr Bunches, helping him walk over to Mr F, who by then had sat down and couldn't get up, so I'd leave Mr Bunches propped up a few feet away and help Mr F stand up and walk him towards Mr Bunches, then have to go re-stand Mr Bunches again, facing him the direction of his brother so that they could play in the snow...

... and then Mr F let out a howl that curdled my blood and I turned around expecting the worst and saw that Mr F was sitting in the snow and his left mitten had come off, and he had powdery snow on his hand. I rushed over there and got his hand up and picked up his mitten and brushed his hand off but he pulled it away and in doing so thrust it right back into the snow, and howled again because the snow was cold-- I assume that's why he was howling. I don't know. Maybe he just didn't like the way the snow felt. Or he'd had enough and was going to get Child Protective Services here for once and for all, so that they could take me away and he could spend his days watching "Bunnytown" and not standing outside in the cold.

I tried to put his mitten on quick, but the mitten had dropped back in the snow and now had snow in it, so I picked him up and took my hat off and wiped his hand off, telling him over and over that it was okay, he was fine.

I wonder what little kids think when parents tell them obvious lies like that? It's okay, you're fine, I told him, but he was crying and his hand was red and cold, so in his mind, I'm sure, he was thinking It's not okay and I'm not fine and my hand is red and cold and you're a liar and where are those Child Protective Services people? So I began to take him back inside where Sweetie could warm him up, but I had a dilemma, because Mr Bunches was still where I had propped him up, and Sweetie would not approve of me leaving him in the backyard alone, even if he couldn't move. So I scooped him up, too, and carried them both to the back porch, where Sweetie, alerted by the echoing howls splitting the peaceful Sunday morning, was waiting.

I told her what had happened and she took Mr F in. I held onto Mr Bunches and told him we'd stay outside playing. He had no expression on his face, which I took to be a good sign, and I put him into the makeshift sled I'd created.

We had been going to buy a sled at Wal-Mart, along with all the cereal and really expensive lotion, but they didn't have any good ones. By "good ones," I mean "sleds that cost about $5.00 and are just little pieces of plastic." All the sleds they had at Wal-Mart had names like "Boogie Racers" and had handles and dramatic "X"marks and other "extreme" features that helped them have the "extreme" price of $17.99 or more, and Wal-Mart had exactly zero traditional sleds, sleds the way sleds are supposed to be: Made of cheap plastic, with a too-short pull cord on them and handles that will rip off and crack the sled the moment you try to steer using them. Those are the only kind of sleds that should be made, or should be bought, unless you opt to buy a saucer sled instead, a decision you only make if you don't really like having intact vertebrae and don't want to sled for too long, because the only things that can ever happen to someone who goes down a hill on a saucer sled are (a) they will go over a jump backwards and not know they went over that jump until they're in the air and will land hard enough to require spinal fusions in the near future, and/or (b) they will spin around enough to get sick and then wipe out, rolling their face in the snow.

Since we didn't have even a saucer sled, I was forced to make one to pull Mr F and Mr Bunches -- now down to just Mr Bunches -- around the yard, so I'd improvised by taking a laundry basket and one of Sweetie's wide belts, and I put Mr Bunches into that now to give him a ride around the yard.

We got about two feet. I pulled him, slowly, and he got nervous and tried to stand up.

"No," I told him. "Stay sitting and I'll pull you. Otherwise, you'll tip over." I helped him sit back down and he sat quietly and I started pulling him again and he promptly tipped over, landing face-first in the snow and instantly howling louder than Mr F had. I picked him up right away and brushed his face off with my hat, too, so that he didn't have snow on it anymore, and gave up on the snow outing. I took him inside and after fifteen minutes of undressing them, got the boys situated at the table with a plateful of macaroni and cheese and "Cookie Crisp" cereal, a lunch that made them feel good enough to stop crying and distract themselves by throwing their milk glasses while I cleaned up the outdoor gear and put my camera away.

In all, forty minutes of preparation and de-preparation led to only four minutes of snow adventures, which means that I'm going to have to try to get them outside again next weekend, and each weekend after that, until I've gotten my money's worth out of those boots and snow pants, because I am not paying nearly $100 for snow gear and then not using it as much as possible.

Because that's how they get you.

Celebrity Adoption:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Question of the Day 17:

Why do people eat toast separately?

I had some toast yesterday. I took two slices of bread and toasted them and then buttered them and then carried them down to watch the Babies! watch Bunnytown and I was eating them separately, the way you're supposed to with toast. Then I thought about it, and I put them together, making a butter sandwich, if you will, and ate them that way. But it was weird.

"B" is for letter.

Yesterday, at Alternate Christmas, Mom was telling us about how she sent a letter with pictures to my niece. (Mom's neat that way: She still mails things like pictures.) She then called and talked to my niece for a while, and asked if the letter had been received.

"I'm going to send you a letter, Nana," my niece told her.

"How nice," My mom said. "I look forward to that."

"Yeah," said my niece. "I'm going to send you a "B."

People don't really send letters anymore -- except Mom -- which is kind of a shame. I like the immediacy of email, and the ability to just attach photos and things, but there is something nice about getting a letter in the mail. It's like an event. When I was in Morocco, I would send home one letter a week, taking my time on it and making it as interesting as possible.

Maybe part of the problem is that letters aren't as interesting as the world we live in now -- there's no bells & whistles, no extras. Emails can have graphics and links and attachments, while letters are harder to write and have no extra payoff.

If that's the case, then maybe some creativity will help, like using better paper. There's a site called, and they have some really interesting stationary, stationary that would be fun to write a letter on. Like gold translucent paper, so your letter could be both interesting and see-through -- hold it up to the sunlight and your words would sparkle! Or giant-sized paper, 19x25 -- so that my niece could send Nana a huge letter B.

They even have cool envelopes, like these "Poptone" envelopes in bright colors, so a letter would wait in your mailbox, just hoping to holler out "Hey read me!"
Stuff like that might make people want to send and receive letters again, and bring back some of the fun.

What is the past tense of pajama? 72 down, 9,284 to go.

Some people's destiny is complicated. Some people face a destiny like "Lead the free world as the first elected African American president," or "Blow up the Death Star only after turning off your targeting computer," but not me. My destiny is simple. My destiny is: Own only one pair of Buffalo Bill's pajamas at a time.

That destiny was revealed to me when yesterday I snagged my knee on the gate that keeps the Babies! in the family room and tore a big gaping hole in the knee of my old Buffalo Bills' pajamas. But for two glorious days, I was dualpajamaed.

Song 71: "Jocasta", by "Noah and The Whale." I heard of "Noah and the Whale" the group through a commercial.

Down to Go: I use the music to help me make up the words. Song 71 here.

Also, if you want to find out what's The Best Song From A Commercial, click here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Question of the Day, 16:

Does everyone have, in their own life, a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens upon which so much depends, and if so, what is yours?

As for me, I have a lot of red wheelbarrows. I didn't think I did, but when I stopped to think about the answer to this question, I realized I have, like, fifty.

If it snows in July in Oregon, it's probably not the place for me.

This looks to me like a great idea: have your kids learn to ski, while having all kinds of other fun... in the summer.

Learn to ski at summer camp? They can do it with the National Alpine Ski Camp -- a summer program in June, July, and August, that teaches kids how to ski and ski race safely and with a lot of fun. They've taught over 10,000 kids to ski already, and can teach mine, or yours, or anyone's.

And they do it in a way that won't have you worrying. Kids are supervised 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and there's a coach for every 6 athletes there, so they can't get into trouble, and they won't want to, because when they're not learning to ski, they're taking part in fun activities like paintball, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, and more.

But it's really about the skiing-- they'll learn to ski and have fun doing it, and your little snow bunnies will come back world-class skiers, benefitting from great coaching and video analysis and tips and lots and lots of fun practice. They'll be skiing circles around you before you know it -- maybe literally, given how great the coaches are. They might actually be able to ski in circles when they come back.

The camp is held at Mount Hood in Oregon, so your kids will have a beautiful, exciting, and fun summer vacation.

Nontraditional traditions: 71 down, 9285 to go.

Matt wanted to come up for a "traditional" day of sledding -- although I'm not sure how it's traditional if our family has never actually done a "traditional" day of sledding. Doesn't something have to be done at least once to become a "tradition?"

Anyway, when I was unable to talk him out of it, I caved in and so last night Sweetie and I took the Babies! to the store to get them boots and sweatpants. Mr Bunches was crabby because I'd let them watch "Peter Pan" during their nap, and that being the funniest movie ever, he didn't sleep at all. We spent about 30 minutes trying to wrestle him and Mr F into submission to get at least one boot on them for trying-on purposes, and then chased them through the little boys' section to get them to try on the snow pants, having to twice drop everything and go after them, and having to also once stop a fight over who got to carry the hanger from the snow pants, since Mr Bunches had it but Mr F wanted it, prompting Sweetie, who ordinarily never stoops to shoplifting, to take a hanger from a nearby rack and give it to Mr F, at which point both of them lost interest entirely in hangers.

Now, today, it's raining.

Song 71: "Velvet Snow," By Kings of Leon:

Down... to Go: Every song on my iPod, and pretty much everything that happens to me. Song 70 here.

There are no large feet. Only large shoes. Wait, does that make sense?

I don't know where they get them from but Middle and Oldest have big feet. It troubles them no end because they think that girls are supposed to have small, petite feet. I don't know where they get that from, and I try to comfort them with these facts:

Most women in the US now wear a size 9 shoe -- that's the national average for women's shoe sizes, up two or three sizes from the 70s when this small-foot mania appears to have settled in.

And this fact:

The average fashion model that you see in magazines or on TV wears a size 11 shoe.

Amazingly, facts and statistics are not calming and soothing to young women, but something else is: Great shoes that actually fit them from Samanta.

Samanta's a place that makes not just shoes in the sizes you can find in the store, but also Size 12 womens shoes and even larger, shoes that are as high-quality as any shoe you could buy anywhere else, but which has the added benefit of actually fitting the foot it's put on.

Samanta has this crazy idea that "Style + Comfort = Luxury," and while I agree with that, as I said, the young ladies are not going to be calmed by math. So Samanta calms them instead with shoes like this:

Available from size 6 to size 13.

Which means that everyone, from the tiny-footed to the normal-footed, can get shoes that they actually like and like to wear, instead of having to choose between style and comfort. And I meant everyone: they sell men's shoes, too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ninety-Four, Part Two: Wherein I tell how I learned how many days I can sleep on a couch.

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. Once a week, I'll recap that year. Part One is here.

I had two notebooks where I wrote down everything, more or less, that I thought was significant about what I did and what I thought and what I saw in Washington and Morocco, what I experienced in 1994. I didn’t know, when I left that January day on the train to Chicago and then to Washington, whether what I was about to do was going to be interesting or fun or weird, but I knew it would be more interesting, more fun, and more weird than what I’d been doing.

Up until that time, my life was not one that would be considered fun, or interesting, or weird, in any way that people would want their lives to be described by those adjectives. I was not leaving much behind. I was giving up a studio apartment and some couches and chairs that I’d bought for $100. I was giving up my TV and the VCR my friend Jimmie had sold to me for $5. And I was giving my childhood bed, the bed I’d slept on since I was maybe ten years old, the bed that slanted into the middle and had a groove that was about as long and wide as my body, the bed that was one-half of the bunk beds that Matt and I had shared when we had to share a room because our sister Katie was born, the bed that I’d taken with me when I’d moved out of my parent’s house for good. Although “for good” in that sentence definitely doesn’t mean “for better.” I had not done much of anything, really, with my life, before or after moving out.

Until I got on that train to go to Chicago and then to Washington, taking with me those possession I figured I’d need: My clothes, my cassette tapes and stereo, some books, and the notebook in which I would write down what I did in a year that I was hoping would be worth writing down.

I wish I could remember what I wrote, that very first day. I know that I wrote something not only because I was excited about being off on a trip, but because I remember sitting in Chicago’s railroad station waiting for the train that would take me to Washington, and writing in the notebook.

I was excited about being off on a trip because I had not taken that many trips in my lifetime, and I had not ever gone to live anywhere else, not counting moving out of my parent’s house and moving to Milwaukee, which doesn’t count at all. Moving less than 75 miles away doesn’t count as moving. If you’re within range of a quick drive to spend the day there – if you are only a quarter-tank of gas away from dropping in on Mom, dropping in as it so happens right around dinner time, so you stay for dinner because otherwise almost every meal you eat is a sub sandwich from your job at Subway, seeing as how you are neither a good cook nor a good budgeter and as a result there is not much that you have in your house that could be called “groceries” and even less that could go from being “groceries” to “dinner,” – if you are that close to your parents’ house, making it that easy to stop by (and also very easy to steal a couple of bath towels on the way out the door, so that you don’t have to do laundry just yet) then you have not really “moved away.” “Moved away” means no easy way back, means that trips home require planning and pickups at train stations or airports, require consideration of just how many days you can sleep on a couch. If your trips home don’t require that kind of advance logistical planning, then you have not moved away, you’ve simply moved out.

My own answer to the question of how many days can I sleep on a couch would also be answered in nineteen-ninety-four. The answer is about seven days after trying to take the LSAT while deathly tired because you are staying at Mom’s, which means you are sleeping on Mom’s couch, and because you are sleeping on Mom’s couch, you will be woken up every time Mom wakes up in the night, especially if when Mom wakes up she first vacuums the living room (where you are sleeping) and then when you ask her if she could do that later on maybe during the daytime, and she agrees, you will be woken up about an hour later when Mom accidentally spills very cold milk on your leg. I can sleep on a couch about seven more days after that.

I didn’t know that, yet, in January of 1994. What I knew was that the train was a boring and long way to travel, something I’d gathered about an hour into the trip when I disembarked at Chicago and had to wait a couple of hours to catch my connecting train. I was only taking the train in the first place because it was cheaper—slightly – than an airplane and I had to ration my money carefully. I had my savings, and the excess money from the student loans that I will be paying until I am 71, and that had to last me four long months in Washington, D.C., and another two months after that in Morocco. So I did not splurge and take an airplane; at that point in my life, I had never taken an airplane. I had taken the train, which meant a lot of sitting on the train while it went past boring winter countryside, and then a lot of sitting in the train station waiting to be taken past more boring countryside.

I’ve traveled more now, and had traveled some then, and I know that America can be a beautiful place to drive through, scenery that looks as though it belongs in a painting, tableaus that if you saw them in a movie you would scoff at and said Fake! I’d seen some of those sights already in my life, having been through the Smoky Mountains and the Appalachians and to Florida and Virginia and South Dakota.

Trains do not go through any scenic areas. Not between Milwaukee and Washington, they don’t. They go through what must be the longest, most decrepit industrial park in the world, a string of broken-windowed browning buildings all boxy and two-storied and looking too dull and dirty to have even been used as a factory to make something exciting; these were old factories that clearly were in the business of producing boring, ugly, things: One could not picture video games or Christmas ornaments or baby clothes coming from the buildings the train passed by. One could easily picture rusty manhole covers being made there. Why someone would want to deliberately manufacture rusty manhole covers didn’t matter; that was all I could imagine them building in those places.

When there weren’t old dead factories, there was just old dead ground. Ground that was just hilly enough to avoid capturing my interest, and not covered with trees enough to be pretty.

Ninety-four was when I first began developing what eventually would become one of the concrete beliefs of my life, and that is this: Hills are scenic. For something to be considered “scenic” it has to have dramatic and large changes in altitude. There has to be a cliff, a mountain, a valley, waterfalls, drop-offs, plateaus, something. Every place I’ve ever been that could reasonably be described as scenic had that: San Francisco, the Badlands of South Dakota, the seaside near Mexico, the Atlas Mountains, to name a few, all had hills and valleys and other things that are scenic. On the other hand, places that were not scenic – Orlando, Oklahoma, Illinois, -- were flat, or mostly flat, or flat enough that I wouldn’t describe them as “hilly” and therefore were not scenic.

I developed that theory on the train ride from Milwaukee to Chicago, and then from Chicago to Washington, a train ride that goes through nondescript, featureless, terrain that has nothing to allow me to remember it. I can only remember it, now, like a negative: by remembering what it lacked. There were no big trees. No rivers. No waterfalls. Nothing for the mind to latch onto and say now, that’s scenic, or memorable or worth looking out the window for.

That’s why the time spent sitting in the train station in Chicago sticks out in my mind: from the time I left Milwaukee until the time I arrived in Washington D.C. it was the only portion of the trip that could lodge in my mind at all, that could find a foothold among the song lyrics and commercials from when I was a kid, among the names of all the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Legion of Substitute Heroes.

The beginning of my trip started out being memorable for being so unmemorable. I had thought, maybe, that the moment I got on the train, things would transform and become exciting and scenic and fun and weird. But that didn’t happen right away. That didn’t happen until nearly a day after I’d gotten on in Milwaukee, I got off of the train in Washington D.C., and realized that I had no idea where I was.

Or where I was supposed to go.

Ninety-Four: The year that changed everything. Or the year that everything changed. (This is the Table of Contents)

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. In these posts, I'll recap that year.

Part One: Wherein I Say Goodbye To Machiavelli The Hamster.

Part Two: Wherein I tell How I Learned How Many Days I Can Sleep On A Couch.

Part Three: Wherein I Digress Quite A Bit For No Apparent Reason But Get Back To The Subject Eventually.

Part Four: Wherein I muse about memory and turning forty and also, eventually, introduce you to Rip.

Part Five: Wherein I Reveal That I Am Brilliant And That My Memory Does Its Own Thing.

Part Six: Wherein a lot of things seem symbolically related to each other, maybe, but they are not.

Part Seven: Wherein I Embody Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Part Eight: Wherein I Use The Phrase "Moustachey Karateness."

Part Nine: Wherein I Gloss Over How I Met The Son of the Shah of Iran To Focus On Other Things.

Part Ten: Wherein I Talk More About The Time I Was A Lead Singer Than I Do About 1994.

Part Eleven: Wherein I Compound Interest, and Try Not To Appear To Be A Waiter.

Part Twelve: Wherein I Run After The Vice-President, And Become No One.

Part Thirteen: Wherein I Foreshadow, and Also Go To A Hockey Game.

Part Fourteen: Wherein I Write Some Papers and Mention George Clooney, For Reasons You'll Understand When I Get To Him.

Part Fifteen: Wherein (SPOILER ALERT!) I Never Actually Tell You About The Day I Went Rollerblading (Although I Mention Other Days...)

Part Sixteen: Wherein The Hope Diamond Puts A Scare Into Me About How Good My Memory Might Be.

Part Seventeen: Wherein My Placement Of a Photograph, Decades Later, Turns Out To Be Symbolic Of Something-Or-Other.

Part Eighteen: Wherein I Learn A Lesson At Gettysburg (But That Lesson Remains Unspoken.)

Part Nineteen: Wherein I Compare An Ex-Girlfriend To Formerly-Famous Pandas (But Not In A Mean Way).

Part Twenty: Wherein I Say "Screw This" and Jump Ahead To The Part Where I Will Eventually Do Some Really Cool Stuff...

Part Twenty-One: Wherein I Finally Do Jump Ahead To The Morocco Part... Almost.

Part Twenty-Two: Wherein I Fly To Pittsburgh To Get To Morocco

Part Twenty-Three: Wherein The Place I Got To Did Not Seem A Lot Like The Place I Left.

Part Twenty-Four: Wherein The Younger Me Gets To Tell You Stuff The Older Me Forgot.

Part Twenty-Five:Wherein Present Day Me Continues Reading An Old Letter And Gets To The Part About The Sheep's Eyeball.

Part Twenty-Six: Wherein The Younger Me Gets To Tell You Stuff The Older Me Forgot, Continued.

I'm pretty sure the Constitution actually says nothing about this at all.

There's only five days left in 2008, and that's hardly enough time to tell my readers about all the great stuff I did over the holidays, let alone all the great stuff I'll do between the holidays and the next holidays, or all the funny things that happen to me at work... in fact, I'm falling further and further behind. Adventures and funny stuff keep happening, but I type at something like 20 words per minute, and I just can't get it all posted in time.

So the five days left in 2008 mean that I've got five days left to buy "Dragon Naturally Speaking"-- but I can get it at a discount now, because I have access to the Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Basic with Discount Coupon Code,

By ordering the Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Basic with Discount Coupon Code I can not only improve my speed at blogging -- because Dragon Naturally Speaking will transcribe what I say and put it on the blog for me, so no more typos, no more slow-typing, no more hitting the delete key more often than I eat cold pizza -- but I can also save money, and not just because of the discounts those coupon codes give me on the program, but also because I use the program in my business, making it a TAX DEDUCTION -- yep, I get to save money on my taxes while making more money for me. That's what America's all about, right? Making more money, paying fewer taxes, and blogging faster: It's right in the Constitution.

So exercise your Constitutional rights and use the $50 Coupon Code- DNSMSBG -Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Preferred to get blogging faster. Or check out these offers:


Dress yourself in bleeding Madras: 70 down, 9,155 to go.

My favorite part of Christmas Day this year? The part where I decided to heck with it, I am going to wear as many of my new presents as I can at once, which is how I ended up playing Rar Monster with Mr Bunches and Mr F while wearing my red-and-blue checkered Buffalo Bills' pajama bottoms and my new Green Lantern-logo t-shirt. And that, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas.

Or not. I may be a little fuzzy on the details. We skipped church this year.

Song 70: "M79" by Vampire Weekend.

Down.. to go.: I've got a lot of time on my hands, and music to fill it up with. Song 69 here.

Movin' on up.

The other day, reading about McHale and Mateo Shaw, I saw where their mother wrote about how hard it is to get around in a wheelchair, and I thought about it the way she put it -- trying to imagine if I had to spend just a week in a wheelchair.

That would be hard. But you know what would be even harder? If you needed a wheelchair and didn't have one, so you couldn't go anywhere.

There's no need to be that limited, not with The Scooter Store. The Scooter Store sells mobility, in the guise of scooters, wheelchairs, and other mobility-assisting devices, like wheelchair ramps and accessories. And The Scooter Store makes it easy to shop there, even if you're not the most mobile of people, because they have locations all over the United States, and if they're not right in your city, odds are they can "bring the store to you" by having you simply call them up and work with them over the phone.

They've even got an online store now, so you can go to their website, find out how it works, then get mobile again, with a click or a phone call. They'll do all the technical stuff, walk you through the requirements, and deliver your scooter or wheelchair to you and teach you how to use it. In a lot of cases, they can even have Medicare pay for you.

So whether you need help moving around for a short time or a long time, get that help from The Scooter Store and get moving around again.

Question of the Day: 15

What would you imagine is the world record for most consecutive meals in which the only ingredient is leftover pizza?

I'm pretty sure I've set it or am closing in on it, with 5. It's tougher than you'd think, especially with The Boy gunning for the cold pizza, too. But I've got the heart of a champion.

Men like tools.

December 25 does not mean the end of the holidays -- this is America, and we're not going to let a little thing like "the holiday technically being over" to make us stop celebrating and stop giving and getting gifts.

That's especially true because with bigger and bigger families these days, it's harder to fit "Christmas" into two short days. So we don't even try, at our house. We celebrate Christmas Eve, "Alternate Christmas", Christmas Day and even that old favorite holiday, "Yeah, come on over, it'll be nice to see you Day."

That kind of schedule means that we are constantly running out to get last minute gifts from Kmart, which is another holiday tradition at our house, and which will be again followed today when we have to zip over to Kmart to pick up some presents for Mom and Matt and my niece and the others that are visiting tomorrow.

But I don't mind -- because getting last minute presents means I can get great prices on those presents, like the "2008 Holiday Barbie," which is only $44.99. The word in the family is that the niece loves Barbie, as all three year old girls do, and why wouldn't she like one that looks like a Holiday Princess?

They've got a bunch of gifts for under $25, too, like the Crafstman 23-inch hand tool box, with a comfort handle, which we'll pick up for my sister's fiance, a guy we've never met-- but he's a guy, right, and guys like tools? That is, guys who are not me like tools. And there's Martha Stewart candleholders, girls' Route 66 clothes, Joe Boxer mens stuff, and even LeapFrog Leapster Learning Games, all under $25.

So don't let the holidays end just yet -- pick up those last minute gifts. And throw in a little something for that special someone... me. I'm that special someone.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some more news from Mateo and McHale Shaw.

McHale and Mateo Shaw are both out of the hospital for now. Neither is doing great -- McHale needs to have his tonsils out and he's still sick and unable to eat much -- but they're on the mend once again. Their mom Angie Shaw says that the boys went to see Santa Claus this week -- and were not impressed. Santa gave them candy canes, and the boys gave them right back. Smart kids: don't take candy from strangers.

I wish we could all give Mateo and McHale what they really want for Christmas, but we can't. Read what Angie wrote about what the boys want, and why she and her husband, with everything else they have going on, are also helping build a handicap-accessible playground:

[Mateo and McHale] want to do everything all the other two and a half years olds can do. Unfortunately, they can't because they can't walk but this will allow them and so many other children to play along side their peers, build confidence and new skills, be independent and experience the care free sense of being a child....because all too often they are in a hospital, in therapy and have to rely on us to help them get around.

We don't expect the world to change we only want a place for our children to be just that - a child. To play independently with their peers. As we have said before - if our boys walk tomorrow, we will still build the playground - we know what it is like to walk in the shoes we walk in and can understand what other families are going through. Honestly, we have it pretty good. They had a tough start at life and even though our boys have a long road ahead of them - they will be just fine

Those are some nice thoughts to ponder today.

Mateo and McHale Shaw were born conjoined twins and given a 5% chance of living. 2 1/2 years later they're still going strong, but they've used up all their medical coverage for a lifetime and need help paying for medical care. You can find out more about them by going to Caring Bridge; click this link and type "mateoandmchale" into the box that lets you search for a Caring Bridge site. Or send your tax-deductible contribution to:

Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable SNT
C/O Kohler Credit Union
850 Woodlake Road
Kohler, WI 53044

Ashi09 and I have a serious disagreement, here.

I've been reading the rundowns of all the music that came out this year -- the "20 best" or "10 best" or "1,000,000 best" singles, albums, CDs, videos, and more, and I keep thinking the same thing: "Yeah, some music critic says its great or not great, but what does that mean to me?"

Music critics don't look or listen to the things I do. I read these reviews and see things like the dissonance behind the music artfully clarifies the thematic composition and all I can say is "But is it good? And if it is, why?"

Now I can avoid reading reviews at all, and just find out if music is good or not right from the people who matter: Me and you and everyone we know, thanks to Everhype.

Everhype is the first internet site that lets you listen to music, rate it, and post Pop Music Reviews of your own, reviews by you about the music you like (or don't like.)

Right now, as I write this, I'm listening to The Veronicas' song "4Ever." It got a hype rating of 2 1/4 stars out of five -- but I'm helping them out by giving them 3 stars. All I had to do was click on a song and it started playing, and I then get to see how others rate it and rate it myself. They've got the lyrics up there, and I can read what other said, others like ashi09, who said the song goes downhill. (I disagree; I think it's all right.)

Signing up to post your own music reviews lets you create a profile, find friends, and more. So Everhype can be the only place you need to go to hang out and find excellent new music.

Question of the Day: 14.

Today's question is a story problem:

If you are the person sent to pick up the Christmas present for the boss, and the office (including you) has chipped in $90 to do that and decided that the present is a $90 gift certificate to a restaurant he likes, and you go to pick it up, and when you do, you find that the restaurant is having a special where if you buy $100 worth of gift cards, you get an extra $20 in gift cards, is it okay for you to use the $90 to buy the boss' card and then use $10 of your own money to buy the extra $10 so that you get the free $20?

Not to give away the answer or anything, but the question would be more accurate if it said "was it okay for you to use..." Or, to be more accurate, still, if it said "was it okay for me to use..."

Clouds Rule:

Last chance to make a wish come true...

It's Christmas Eve Eve, which someday will probably become an official holiday, and that gives you a little bit more time this year to make someone's wish come true with the Sears Heroes at Home wish registry.

The Heroes At Home Wish Registry is a simple idea, but a great one. Sears has let our soldiers, the men and women who tonight and tomorrow night and all the nights after that will be spending the holidays in danger, rather than with their family and friends and little kids, Sears has let those men and women list things that they would like to be able to get for Christmas, but can't -- can't because they don't have the money, or can't because they are off in Afghanistan or Iraq or somewhere in the world, left to spend the time thinking about how they wish they were home and how they wish they could give their family a nice present and watch them open it.

We can't bring them home-- yet -- but we can help them out by going to the Wish Registry and looking up a present to give someone. When you go to the Registry, you'll see little blurbs about the wishes, like the soldier who would like presents for his 9 nieces and nephews. The presents are right there to be bought, and when you click on them, you'll donate the money to buy the present.

Now, the donations aren't tax deductible, but that's not important, is it? How much of a deduction do you get for $40 for a remote control train set for a little boy, anyway? And how much of one do you NEED?

So while you're shopping around online today, killing time until the office Christmas party starts, click on over to the Sears Heroes At Home Wish Registry. Pick out a family and make their wishes come true. Then you'll drive home a little happier, and they'll wake up a little happier on Christmas Day.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Well, how would you type humming? 69 down, 9,156 to go.

Today at work, I found a way to work the phrase "retrograde motion of Mars" into the conversation. That takes skill. Especially because I do not work as an astronomer, and the conversation was not about astronomy, and because also I did it while entirely ignoring all the rest of the work I was supposed to be doing in favor of working that phrase into conversation.

But that level of audacity is what you'd expect from someone who also manages to hum today's song as the background music to the Babies! sliding down their slide. Mr F and Mr Bunches' new favorite game -- second only to The Tackle Game -- is to go down their slide, over and over, while I watch them and cheer them on. Each time they slide down, I say "Woo hoo!" or "Wow!" or I cheer and clap.

Then, one night, I decided to spice things up a little and started giving them hand claps and hummed songs as background. So I'd sing, say, The William Tell Overture while clapping (dadada dadada dada da-da-da!) and mix it up a little. They liked most of the songs I chose (Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the main title from Star Wars, the Jeopardy! theme) but their absolute favorite was when I hummed song 69, which is Promontory, from "The Last Of the Mohicans" soundtrack:

Humming that song really highlights the inherent dignity and solemnity of two-year-olds rumbling down a slide headfirst.

Down... to go. All the songs on my iPod, and how they fit into my life. Song 68 here.