Saturday, October 18, 2008

You might be one click from what you need.

In tough times, whether they're personal or national or both, lots and lots of people find themselves seeking the comfort, or solace, or presence, of a higher power. Most of the time, people were raised into a religion and did not choose it for themselves, and may have drifted away from that religion as they grew older, because it was not suited for them, or they felt like they didn't fully connect.

As an adult, you have the opportunity and the obligation to ask yourself "What do I believe," and then follow your heart and your mind -- especially when times are tough.

Rabbi Yitzhak Miller can help you with that. He has been an ordained Reform Rabbi for over a decade, and has helped many congregations. Now, he is seeking to bring mainstream Judaism, and the Jewish values that have sustained the Jewish people for centuries, to anyone who is seeking help and values and the promise of a life well spent.

You can find more about the Jewish conversion process and Rabbi Yitzhak Miller at his website; but the basic outline is that he will not only help you through education and classes, learning about the Jewish religion and its traditions and teachings, but he will help you with, too, integrating yourself into your new community: finding a congregation and fitting in, and practicing and living your newfound faith as a part of your life.

Whole families can even attend the classes and go through conversion at the same time, bringing the families closer together, spiritually and emotionally, at the same time.

So if you're finding yourself looking for answers, looking for help, or looking for something to help you through hard times, you may want to look into Rabbi Yitzhak Miller's conversion process. Maybe the answers are just a click away.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You keep hanging round me and I'm not so glad you found me

Have you been keeping up with Rachel? You have? So you know why her octopus told her to walk South? And of course, you know what happened when she and Brigitte began attending services at the Church of Our Savior Of Living People Only, and you remember when she was knocked out by those revenants and woke up in Hell, where the Valkyrie Ivanka tried to help her get out and then she was shot down by ray guns once she WAS back out and somehow she ended up in Chicago...

... It all makes sense, if you've been reading Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!, the best web novel around. Check it out today, and keep up with Rachel!

I will probably also send her flowers.

I bet you don't have the first clue what a "driver" is and how it affects your computer. You don't know the first thing about the driver and your computer even though you spend all day, every day, "working" on your computer, asking it to switch from window to window, pretending to type letters and create spreadsheets when really what you're doing is downloading music or watching those crazy monkeys on Youtube.

Your poor computer just does everything you ask it to do, and tries its hardest, and you don't bother to try to understand IT, do you? You don't pay any attention to it, other than to complain when it's not working properly.

(Note: If you are mentally filling in the word "wife" for "computer," stop reading this and go get marriage counseling. Unless you are Sweetie, in which case, I am VERY sorry and I will try to be a better husband.)

You should know what a driver is, though. A driver is the software that helps your computer understand what it's supposed to be doing -- it takes the instructions the operating system gives it and then makes the hardware do that. A driver makes your storage, printer, monitor, sound and video cards and other hardware do things.

Or "not do" things, if the driver is not working properly or is outdated. If your driver is old or not working properly, your computer slows down or doesn't work at all.

What do you do then? You go to the driver library at Uniblue's Driver-Library. Uniblue has drivers ready for you, free, to download and install and improve your computer's performance.

If it's a Windows driver, Uniblue has it for you -- and not just the driver, but information on which devices they help and how they work -- and not just all that, but also information on how you can figure out which of your drivers aren't doing their jobs right and then how to automatically update your computer.

Learn a little about your computer, and you'll get along better with it. (And the same goes for your wife.) (And, again, Sweetie: Sorry!)

He's a madman with an Evil Slide!

Looking for a post? It'll appear in my upcoming book "Life With Unicorns".  Find all my books here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Or you could have it delivered to their office!

Sweetest Day is tomorrow, and everyone knows what to get women for Sweetest Day -- flowers and lingerie and jewelry and stuff.

But women, what do you get MEN for Sweetest Day? Ties? A shirt? Tickets to the opera? Pleh! None of those show how much you love and understand your man. No, if you really want to make a hit on Sweetest Day, I've got one word for you:


Popcorn is the perfect Sweetest Day gift for a guy because (I'm letting you in on a guy secret here) guys love snacks. So get some popcorn from The Popcorn Factory, which luckily for you has Sweetest Day popcorn packages like the one above and which will ship it.

Too late for Sweetest Day? Don't fret: they've got Halloween Popcorn packages, and other holidays, too -- or you could just get some popcorn for your guy for no reason. The Popcorn gift baskets from The Popcorn Factory are good for any occasion -- or any day.

Aren't women always saying that men should just bring home flowers for no particular reason, just because men love women? Well, that goes double for women bringing home popcorn. After a hard day at work, men would love to come home and find a large bouquet (that's French for bucket) of popcorn waiting for them.

24 Down, 9,082 to go

Oh, god I am SO BORED.

It's 3:44 p.m. and I'm sitting in a seminar where I've been sitting all day. I've spent the time:

A.) Not listening.
B.) Making sure that the guy sitting next to me wasn't reading my Internet on my laptop.
C.) Writing my five pages -- I write five pages of a novel per day, rain or shine, hell or high water.
D.) Revising and republishing my book.
E.) Reading every old comic strip I could find on the Internet.
F.) Reading all the celebrity gossip sites I could find.
G.) Making sure the guy next to me did not read the gossip sites, especially, because he looked like he was paying too much attention to them.
H.) Reminiscing about the time that I was a college radio DJ and played THIS song on my radio show:

That's money well spent on another seminar. On the other hand, the guy running the show just announced we're done, so I'm going. Enjoy the song.

The Book Is Back!

Thinking The Lions* and 117 Other Ways Of Looking At Life (*Give Or Take)
my first book, has been revised a bit -- the cover is different, the price is different, but the humor and thoughts are the same, and you can buy it now for the low, low, low price of $12.98. How? Click here!

Why should you buy it? Because it's the only place to get the classic stories ... classics like my stunning scientific breakthrough summarized in Velociraptors, My Butt!

Get some art that will also keep you from being late for work.

I mentioned the other day that I wished all my furniture could be art -- and the highest art form furniture can aspire to is the grandfather clock.

I think most people, when they think of grandfather clocks think big boxy clocks with chimes and weights and roman numerals, and there are a lot of those. But that's not the only kind of grandfather clock. There's also this kind:

That's the Ridgeway Everest Waterfall grandfather clock and it's just one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of grandfather clocks you can buy at

That grandfather clock is more than just a timekeeper; it's art. It's a sculpture, and a centerpiece, and a conversation point, all in one. (It does tell time, though, so it's functional art). A great clock that will captivate you every bit as much as a great painting or photo or statue would.

At, they'll do more than just sell you a great clock. They'll also offer advice on what kind of grandfather clock you're looking for and what to do with it when you get it; take, for example, this entry on how interesting clocks can fit into unusual rooms and make them better.

But great clocks are the heart of their business: they have grandfather clocks lined up, waiting for you to buy them and make them a part of your home. I've had my eye on that waterfall clock for a long time; I'm planning on getting it and putting it into my living room just as soon as I can be sure that Mr F and Mr Bunches won't destroy it the moment it arrives.

I'm going to do that because furniture, including grandfather clocks, should be more than something you use. It should be something you appreciate, and want to see and touch and be near. Something you love.

Furniture should be art, and the grandfather clock is art.

23 down, 9,083 to go.

A few weeks ago I began the massive task of redoing my running playlist -- every so often I go through and delete that one and pick another 200 of the most-adrenaline-pumping, most-revving-up songs.

Of course, my adrenaline-pumping and your adrenaline-pumping might be different. For example, many people would not include, in the category of "Songs That Make Me Able To Run Longer" the musical number Stop The Planet of the Apes, I Want To Get Off from "The Simpsons." But I do, and that's what helped me go the final four laps on my amazing two-mile run last night.

Despite the differences that may exist on some songs, we can all agree that song 23 is the kind of song that everyone loves and that if you are jogging or running, you should have on your playlist because it'll give you a great boost as you run and also it'll make you say "Really? That's really by The Clash?"

Yes, it is: Hittsville UK, by The Clash:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

22 down, 9,084 to go

Here's what I'm pondering this morning. As I came up out of the parking garage, there was a guy near the door out to the street. I saw him coming towards the door. I was coming up the stairs and I was about 15 feet away from the door.

This guy then opened the door and paused there, holding the door open for me -- but I was still way far away. When he paused there, I felt compelled to speed up and hurry to get to the door so as not to inconvenience him by making him hold the door open longer, even though I hadn't asked him to do it or anything. So was it really polite of him to hold the door open? Or was it in fact inconsiderate because it required me to hurry up the stairs and rush through the door so that he could feel good about himself for the rest of the day?

Yeah. Think about that for a while. See? I'm right, aren't I.

The song? That's Pon De Replay by Rihanna. I didn't put this on the iPod myself; Middle did. But I like it:

And the video is from Bring it On Again: The Rebringening, which I'd probably also like, given that I liked Bring It On.

Stop reading:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

21 down, 9,085 to go.

What else can I say about song 21, other than that it is definitely the single best song ever written about the ghost of a headless gunner fighting as a soldier of fortune in Biafra. Yes, it's Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner, by Warren Zevon:

That song takes its place in the pantheon of songs that I like to sing along with but which I then feel vaguely guilty about singing along with because I don't feel like I should be enjoying a song about a guy who [KIND OF A SPOILER ALERT BUT YOU REALLY SHOULD HAVE GATHERED THIS FROM THE TITLE] gets his head blown off.

Got a little more time? Why not read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and I'm Lost?

Celebrity Adoption:

Do you like sports? Do you like Gisele Bundchen? Do you hate sports blogs, though? Then read Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! -- the sports blog for people who love sports but hate sports blogs.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, and I'm lost.

I will begin with this priceless advice, which you should write down: When you are lost on the way home from Chicago and are unclear where you are, don't just turn left.

That's what I learned yesterday. I learned other things, too, that may be not as applicable to your life but they're worth knowing anyway, so I'll give them to you upfront just so there's no wondering what the morals of this story might be. The other things I learned, in no particular order are:

1. Check your voice mails before you return a phone call.

B. If you're the type of person who always wants to be the center of attention and thinks that you can be the center of attention by doing whatever it is you are watching, it's best not to be a spectator at a marathon.

iii. There are a lot of biker bars in the hinterlands of Illinois.

I learned all of those things yesterday because I went with my nephew to see my nephew's dad, -- the guy I call my brother Matt-- run in the Chicago Marathon. I was taking my nephew because he and I live in Wisconsin, and Matt had asked me to take him there; Matt lives in Florida, so it makes perfect sense that he came from Florida to Illinois to run in a marathon, and that Nick and I went from Wisconsin to watch him do that.

I only ended up taking Nick because I have a sense of obligation to my family and because I'm slow-witted when I'm tired, and because I did not yet know Moral 1 of this story, from above. In short, I ended up taking Nick because I returned a phone call to Matt without checking my messages first. But I should be excused for not having checked my messages because at that point, I was tired. I was both tired of messages and I was physically tired because the point where I checked my messages was Saturday morning, and I had decided to give Sweetie a break and take care of the boys by myself. A broken lamp, a scrape on the leg, an entirely-shredded-newspaper and a lot of water on the floor (don't ask) later, I had decided that it was necessary, if Sweetie was really going to get a break, for me to remove Mr F and Mr Bunches from the house entirely, so I took them shopping for Sweetie's birthday and Sweetest Day presents.

I knew it was time to get a birthday present for Sweetie because she'd emailed me an email titled "Things That I Want For My Birthday." I knew it was time to get a Sweetest Day present because Sweetie told me last week "I already bought your Sweetest Day present," which made me wonder, for a second, if that was Sweetest Day, and, if so, how quickly I could convince her that my plan for her for Sweetest Day was to take her out to a surprise dinner despite the fact that (a) we'd already eaten dinner and (b) I was wearing my Buffalo Bill pajamas already.

Luckily, that wasn't Sweetest Day; Sweetest Day is still some time in the future and I'm ready because now I've got the present, set to go, wrapped and everything. So when I get my Sweetest Day present, I'll be able to give one back and pretend that I knew it was Sweetest Day.

It did not help my mental and physical exhaustion that I hadn't slept much last week on account of I may have a broken nose from Mr F back in January that has been getting all stuffed up and keeping me awake nights; and it did not help much that by the time I returned the call in question I had already taken many, many calls on the subject of coming to see Matt in the marathon.

Growing up in our household, I should have known: we were raised to believe that if something was worth doing, it was worth making 273 phone calls about. Christmas, birthdays, graduations, visits for an hour, trips to the movies: if we were going to do something, we were going to talk about it incessantly on the phone, first. We were going to call someone to invite them, then call them to confirm that we were inviting them, then take a call to confirm that we'd called to invite them, then call them back to remind them, then take a call to see if they needed to bring anything, then call them back to say that they did not need to, then call to make sure they had the right time, then take a call to see if kind-of-cousin Spencer could come, then call to say that'd be fine, then call to see if kind-of-cousin Spencer was bringing anyone, then call to say we didn't mean that Spencer couldn't bring anyone, then take a call to confirm that it was okay if Spencer brought someone, then a call to say that Spencer wasn't coming after all, and then, on the day of the event, we would make one final call just to see if people were coming.

That, mind you, is the bare minimum of conversations necessary to attend a family event when I was growing up. And I'm not exaggerating. When my dad remarried a while ago, I took four calls from him the day before, ranging from a confirmation of when I'd be arriving to an update on what songs he wanted me to burn to the CD they wanted to play while guests were arriving. Then, I got a call from him as I drove in... "just to talk."

So although I tried, with Matt's Chicago Marathon, to show him a better way, I shouldn't have expected more. After an exchange of emails during the week, he left a message for me and emailed me again on Friday, so I called him and reassured him that I was still coming and that i didn't know yet whether I'd drive or take the bus and that I would make my plans Saturday and then I'd call him.

In the midst of trying to figure out exactly when Mr F had broken the lamp and what Mr Bunches was crying about, and get them ready to go shopping, Matt had jumped the gun and called me again, leaving a message. I loaded the boys in and hopped into the SUV and started out for the store. To save time, I simply called him back instead of checking the message.

Just so there's no missing it: Lesson 1. Check your voice mails before you return a phone call.

Had I done that, I would have been prepared when Matt asked if I'd mind bringing Nick down; Nick lives with his mom an hour away from me and is 17 and shouldn't drive to Chicago himself and all and I was on the phone with Matt as he made that request and I simply couldn't think fast enough to come up with a reason why I couldn't do that.

It's not as though I didn't want to do it. I mean, I didn't want to do it, but not because of anything to do with Nick or Matt. It had a lot to do with the fact that it required me to leave a lot earlier if I picked Nick up and go way out of my way, and it had a lot more to do with the fact that I'm not really a people person, and I don't see Nick more than once every 8 years or so, and Nick is 17 and I wouldn't have all that much to talk to him about, and it also had a lot to do with the fact that I'd figured, at that point, that since I was going to Chicago by myself I'd bring along my iPod and a book I bought last week and I would find a spot on the route and read for a while and then cheer Matt as he went by and then go back to reading until the race was done, and having set my heart on that being my day, it dismayed me to think that I couldn't do that because while I don't see Nick all that often, it would still be rude of me to just sit and read while he was sitting there, being 17 or whatever it is he would be doing.

So I thought as quickly as I could as Mr F and Mr Bunches threw potato chips at each other in the back seat and said "Okay," and we worked out details of what I would do and I decided to make the best of it. I also decided that Nick and I would listen to my music.

You'd think that'd be the end of it, but there were two more phone calls and four text messages, during which the plan changed again and ultimately Nick ended up driving to my house and we left from there, leaving at 5:00 a.m. and heading out on the road.

Nick is a really good kid, and really smart, and very polite. He dutifully answered all my questions and made small talk with me for about 30 minutes and tried to ignore the old-man music I was playing. The ride was actually going pretty well, I thought, and we were getting along well. It must have been exciting for Nick to talk to his uncle again and take a road trip, because during a 20-second-lull in the conversation, he fell asleep. At least, I think he fell asleep. He may have been pretending in order to not answer any more questions.

To be fair, I'm not really sure how to talk to a 17-year-old. I didn't know how to talk to 17-year-olds when I was around their age; I was a quiet, shy, nerdy kid who never really got over the way the other kids picked on me and beat me up throughout middle school, so I didn't interact much with kids. And now that I've helped raise kids who were, for a year, 17-year-olds, I'm still not sure how to talk to them. Most of my talking to them is in the form of orders: pick up your room. Set the table. Bring me home one of those "Everything bagels" when you're done with your shift at Panera Bread. Come listen to this song that was made in the 1980s and which I think is cool but you'll find lame.

When I try to talk to them beyond giving orders, the conversations tend to go like this exact conversation I had with The Boy this morning.

The Boy: The Packers are in first place.

Me: Yeah, but they're tied with Minnesota.

The Boy: But who has Minnesota played?

Me: It doesn't matter; they're still tied.

The Boy: So you're telling me that it doesn't matter if the Badgers play a division II team and win their games there, that's what you're saying?

Me: (Confused because I don't know how the Badgers came in): College football is different.

The Boy: Exactly. (Storms off.)

I think I won that round. So I was at a loss for how to talk to Nick, but we soon found something that would be a regular topic of conversation for most of the day: We were lost, or possibly lost, or going to be lost. On the way to the marathon, I was trying to follow the Mapquest directions but I had trouble doing that because I'd given them to Nick to hold before he fell asleep, and as we neared Chicago he still had them, on his lap, but he was asleep. So I really needed to get the directions but I really also needed to not have my nephew wake up while I was reaching across his lap in his sleep.

I settled for hitting the brakes a little too hard as we came up to a tollway, and he woke up, and I had him look at the directions and figure out what exit we needed, and we came to the consensus that exit 51-I was far past us, since we were at exit 82 and then 83 and then 84. So we instead decided to generally head for downtown Chicago and look for signs that pointed us to the street we were headed for -- a street that, as it turns out, was the exact right place to head for because that was the starting line of the Chicago Marathon, but a street also that you could not get to because it was the starting line of the Chicago Marathon.

Just after we decided to use that method of finding our way around, a sign flashed by that exit 51-I was next, proving that we can't read directions and that numbers in Illinois do not follow the sequence of numbers in the real world. We took that exit, and in moments had parked the car and were making what would be my third cellphone call of the day, to Matt's wife Kassandra, to figure out a meeting point.

We met up with Kassandra at mile 2 and began the important task of looking for Matt to run by. Matt had a foolproof plan for making sure we'd notice him: He planned on being a 37-year-old white guy in a white shirt running in the marathon. That in fact separated him only from the Kenyans who win every marathon; as far as I could tell, 98% of the people in the race were 37-year-old white guys in a white shirt; the rest were mostly the Kenyans, a guy in an Elvis suit, and a guy who at Mile 13 stopped to talk to people next to us; he was running in the Marathon, running about an 8-minute-mile pace, and he suddenly stopped, chatted with the people next to us, took a sip of water, then said "Well, I'd better get going," and took off to run the other 13 miles.

I was impressed; I run occasionally, although not as much as I used to. But if I suddenly stopped running to talk to someone, all I'd be saying is medical attention, please and the people had better have a defibrillator with them. Especially if I'd gone 13 miles. I haven't run 13 miles this month; this guy did it in about an hour and a half, and wasn't even sweating.

The Marathon was more exciting to watch than I'd thought, though. You can say "50,000 people trying to run 26.2 miles all in one shot through the streets of Chicago" but that doesn't really give you an idea of the thrill it is to watch. I stood on the sidewalk in my jeans and "Chicago Marathon" t-shirt Kassandra bought for Nick and I, and I was impressed by the runners. We watched them go by the 2-mile mark and pump their fists and smile and people were ringing cowbells and it was very impressive and fun. When Matt went by, we jumped and yelled "Matt! Matt!" and waved; he finally shot up an arm and looked uncomfortable. I was worried for him; I thought if he looked uncomfortable already, how was he ever going to make it? (I learned later that I was so loud I'd startled him. Sorry, Matt.)

Kassandra had it mapped out for us to find another meeting point near mile 13, by the Sears Tower, so we strolled over there to stake out a spot. We made it there at about 45 minutes into the race, in time to see the Kenyans go jogging by at a 4-minute mile pace that appeared to strain them no more than it would for me to walk to get the mail - it might have been less arduous for them, in fact, since I'm not in the greatest shape these days and there's a lot of fallen hickory nuts on the way to our mailbox, making navigation tricky.

Once there, we did the main thing you do when watching someone compete in a Marathon: waited. Watching someone compete in a Marathon is tricky; unless they have the runners circle a track, you can't see them run the whole race. So the organizers try to set up a course that allows spectators to move from point to point without covering the same 26 miles, and if you do that (as we did) you get to the next spot well ahead of the runner you're following. In this case, it took us 15 minutes to go from mile 2 to mile 13, including stopping to buy a t-shirt and use a restroom. It took Matt 1 hour and 30 minutes to go that same distance.

We spent the time waiting for him trying to figure out where he'd be, and watching the runners, every one of whom was in far better shape than I've ever been, and far, far better shape than I was, standing there on the sidelines regretting that I'd forgotten to pick up a bag of BBQ Fritos like I usually do for road trips.

Some runners, though, were in even better shape than others. Some runners were having conversations as they ran - - and keep in mind, as I did, that they were talking as they ran by us on the 13th mile of their run. I tried to picture what they were talking about. Probably what it's like to be supermen and superwoman. Or, if they were relatives of mine, they were confirming their post-race plans and then confirming the conversation.

Matt ran by us at Mile 13 and was a little better prepared for our greeting this time, and having seen him, we set out to go to Mile 25 1/2, the closest regular people could get to the finish line. For some reason, you have to buy a ticket to see the end of the Chicago Marathon. I don't know why they won't let family members watch as people cross the line, or what the thrill is in watching people you don't know finish 12,317th in the Marathon, but there you go: if you want to watch people actually finish you need a ticket.

If you want to watch people almost finish the Marathon, you camp out at Mile 25 1/2, which it turns out is in the sun and also a mile or so from Mile 13, forcing Nick and Kassandra and I to walk there in the hot sun (it was almost 80 degrees) but we bravely marched on, heedless of the toll it was taking on our body.

Once at that spot, Nick and I thought we might get better seats across the street and told Kassandra we'd check it out. We did, and liked the spots, but Kassandra pointed out that her side of the street was where Matt would be meeting us after he finished the race, so we tried to go back across the street, only to be told by a guy wearing a "Bank of America" orange vest that street-crossing was forbidden.

As the Bank of America Vest Guy told us that, a biker with a box of Dunkin Doughnuts rode past him and crossed the street, but we couldn't make it past him, and we were unsure, actually, what authority he might have. He didn't look like a cop, but he did have an orange vest and the Bank of America is a sponsor of the Marathon, so he might have some quasi-police powers. What if we crossed and somehow they figured out which runner we were there to see and then disqualified him? What if Matt was just about to cross the finish line and other guys in orange vests grabbed him and said "uh, uh, buddy- your son and brother illegally crossed the street, so you're out!"

So we stayed put on our side of the street and saw as Matt went by at Mile 25 1/2, waving to us, and he picked up the pace and finished off the race. Even then, though, we couldn't cross, so we had to take a long, circuitous route to get around the entire finish line apparatus, where the runners apparently had to get through a gauntlet of medals and silver-tin-foil blankets and bread and gatorade and ice packs and well-wishers before they could go do what they really wanted to do, which was, in Matt's case, shower and eat as many carbs as possible.

While Matt showered, Nick and I bummed around and, I, thrilled with what I'd seen, watched the other runners finishing and the runners who were finished talking to their families and brandishing their medals and being excited, and it got me so pumped about the whole experience that I began thinking that I, too, should try to run a Marathon -- maybe even this Marathon. Focused on the way Matt was talking about how great it was, and remembering watching those runners go by with the eyes of a city on them and everyone cheering and waving them on, I imagined myself training and then next year, coming here with everyone to have them all watch me run.

Lesson B. If you're the type of person who always wants to be the center of attention and thinks that you can be the center of attention by doing whatever it is you are watching, it's best not to be a spectator at a marathon.

I luckily made no concrete moves towards that goal before I listened to how Matt had trained for this run, trained by getting up at 4 a.m. every day, and running 10, 15, 20 miles. As I listenend to that, I thought about how my feet were pretty sore from just standing and watching a Marathon, and then I remembered back to Thursday when I'd gone to work out at the club and after jogging for 20 minutes on the treadmill I'd decided that was enough and went home and ate some pizza. Perhaps Marathons are not for me, I figured. Plus, it would interfere with my plans to become a Superbowl-winning quarterback. So I opted not to declare that I, too, would run a Marathon and instead let Matt enjoy the spotlight while I enjoyed the pizza we were eating for lunch.

Nick and I headed out, then, to go back to Wisconsin and let Matt eat more carbs. We got onto what we thought was the same expressway we'd taken into the city, but, then, all highways look more or less like all other highways, especially in Illinois, which bills itself as the Land of Lincoln but which might as well be called the nation's interchange. We drove along and I listened to the football scores while Nick pretended that my conversation was both coherent and interesting, at least until he fell asleep again.

After a while, I noticed that I-90 didn't look so much like I-90 anymore. The first clue I had was that the signs that were supposed to read "I-90" instead read "41." The second clue that I had was that there were stoplights, and I didn't recall any stoplights in the middle of an Interstate highway on the way down there.

Not wanting to alarm Nick, I let him snooze for a while while I tried to figure out where I was, and eventually decided that I had to get back on the Interstate, which I did by taking a road marked "I-94," a road I recognized and which was also, numerically, pretty close to "I-90."

It was not geographically close to I-90, though, and I soon realized that and also realized that we were heading not towards the northwest and Madison, our goal, but directly North and to Milwaukee, which was not anyone's destination.

Luckily, I also realized that we were near a theme park, Six Flags Great America, which I knew because we'd gone to it a lot as a kid and had been back as adults about five or seven years ago. I also remembered that the last time I'd gone to that theme park with Sweetie and the kids -- which was the time we got almost run over by a semi that crunched into our car-- I'd gone home on I-90. So, I reasoned, there must be a way to get to I-90 from the theme park, and I therefore confidently stayed on the road I was on, all the way to Great America and then past it.

I never saw an I-90 sign, though. I didn't let that worry me, much, because I had two other things in mind: first, if worst came to worst, I could always go to Milwaukee because I knew my way home from there. And, second, I had the secret superpower of logic on my side.

Here's what logic told me: If I was heading north and needed to head northwest instead, and I knew for sure that there was a road heading northwest, knew it because I had, in fact, taken that road to get to Chicago just 12 hours before, then all I needed to do was turn left, and eventually I would intersect that road and everything would be fine.

So I did that, picking as the road I turned left on a road called "Rosecrans Road." I picked that because first, it looked like a major road, and, second, the name "Rosecrans" kind of made me think of Rosencrantz, which made me remember Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, a play we read in high school and which I'd enjoyed quite a bit; I remember in particular there was something symbolic about the way they flipped a coin in that play.

Pricless advice: When you are lost on the way home from Chicago and are unclear where you are, don't just turn left.


Rule iii. There are a lot of biker bars in the hinterlands of Illinois.

You can guess, from Rule iii, what was interspersed between the farms and trees and rivers and lakes that I drove by as Nick slept. I tried to watch for a place to stop for directions, and also watch the compass I have in the car. As long as I'm heading northwest, I reasoned I'm heading to Wisconsin and Madison.

What worried me -- aside from the biker bars-- was when the road kept persistently heading southwest. I drove along hoping that Nick would keep sleeping so he wouldn't worry, and hoping that the road would magically turn into a highway heading towards Madison, or at least that I'd find a gas station that appeared friendly and that also seemed like the kind of gas station where you could pull in quick, run in, get directions to Madison, Wisconsin, and then get back out and on the road, all without waking up your nephew.

There's not a lot of gas stations like that in Illinois. Finally, I carefully got my cellphone out and put in the earpiece and called home. Sweetie answered.

"Yes?" she asked.

"You've got to help me," I said. "I have no idea where I am." Nick popped awake at that and I can't be sure but I'm pretty sure he tried the door handle and considered striking out on his own.

With Sweetie's help on the laptop we got ourselves not back to I-90, but onto a highway I ultimately recognized and took all the way back home, getting home only about 45 minutes later than I would have, otherwise, which wasn't too bad for me but it was not so great for Nick who had an hour's drive ahead of him to get to his house.

I offered to let him come in for a bit and get a bite to eat but he declined -- probably thinking that I'd get lost on the way into the house-- and headed out. I felt sad to see him go, honestly; I'd been so reluctant to pick him up but he was fun to talk to and was polite enough not to fall asleep the instant I began talking, so I didn't want to see him leave right away. But I went inside, armed with the souvenir t-shirts I'd brought home for Sweetie and the kids, exhausted and happy to be home.

On top of those feelings, I was very proud of Matt, who finished the Chicago Marathon in 4:17, a time that was far, far faster than anything I could have ever done if I were crazy enough to try to run a Marathon. I don't think I even would have finished the race. I'm not sure, given how things went, that I could have even followed the course.

Matt at Mile 13--
you'll know him;
he's the white guy in the white t-shirt!

19 and 20 down, 9,086 to go.

If you read the headlines to these posts, you'll realize that my countdown of all the songs on my iPod just got a little more Wowbaggerian, as I added some new stuff to the lists. I actually added two CDs, but I then deleted some stuff off of there, too, which is now driving me nuts because the moment I delete a song, I think to myself what if I never hear that song again and WANT to hear it?

The songs I deleted were from Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits; having lived with the entire crummy selection for a long time, I pared it down to what it should have been: Tusk, What Makes You Think You're The One and That's Enough For Me. So in reality, there is very little to worry about, as I'm nearly 100% sure that I will never in my lifetime think what if I'm missing out by not hearing a Fleetwood Mac song?

None of the three remaining representatives of Fleetwood Mac are today's song, though. Today's song is picked out to show what a dork I am. Driving my nephew to Chicago yesterday morning, at 5 a.m., I asked if he minded me putting some music on. "I've got a lot of stuff on here," I assured him "So it's not like it's all 40-year-old dorky guy stuff." Then, the first 1/2 hour of music was heavy on Coldplay, Fiona Apple, and this song:

That's a song that betrays my weakness for awesome songs about historical people -- songs like James K. Polk by They Might Be Giants and like this song:

Which is "William Howard Taft" by The Two Man Gentleman Band. Which is also a cool song but both of which belied (along with all the Coldplay and Fiona Apple) my claim that my iPod was not filled with a bunch of 40-year-old dorky guy stuff.

But I'm comfortable with who I am.

Read About Why "James K. Polk" is The Best Modern Song About the 19th Century (you mean there's more than one? Yep!).

Make out: