Friday, October 31, 2008

Shame on America Sunday: Presidential Election Quiz!

Shame on America Sunday is appearing on Saturday because Sunday is Sweetie's Birthday and I promised her no 'puting on her birthday.

Another change: In lieu of my usual rants about how wealthy America is and how people should be ashamed for letting rich people hoard money while poor people have to hire lawyers to make sure they can get medical care, I am this week presenting something that should either (a) keep you from being ashamed, or (b) make you ashamed.

The thing I am presenting is the
Shame On America Sunday Presidential Candidates' Policies Quiz.

should take this quiz to make sure that you are informed enough to vote; if you're not informed you should not vote (and you should be ashamed for not being informed and not voting) -- but taking this quiz will make sure you are informed enough to vote.

So here we go; I've left out third party candidates and focused on the two that have a chance to win, Barack Obama and John McCain. The answer to each question is either "Barack Obama" or "John McCain."

Give your answer each question; I've got the correct answers at the end. Then, based on the answers, you'll know the candidates' positions and can decide which candidate you should vote for:

Ready? Let's begin -- it's only 12 questions...

1. This candidate wants to give families a tax credit of $500 per person, up to $1,000 per family, to reduce the tax burden by up to $1000 per family.

2. This candidate favors eliminating capital gains taxes on start-up businesses and small businesses.

3. This cand
idate wants to let bankruptcy courts modify mortgages if necessary to allow people filing bankruptcy to retain their homes while still repaying their mortgages.

4. This candidate as a sitting senator introduced the "Patriot Employer Act of 2007" to provide tax incentives to corporations which kept workers in the US or which increa
sed the number of US-based employees in their company and maintained a corporate headquarters in the US.

5. This candidate supports a get-tough stance against Iran, telling that country to either abandon its nuclear program and stop supporting terrorism, or face additional economic pressure and political isolation.

6. This candidate promises to require that health insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions.

7. This candidate promises to help make small businesses able to afford to
provide health insurance to their employees.

8. This candidate promises to make health insurance more affordable by giving a tax credit for health insurance premiums.

9. This candidate promises to upgrade America's infrastructure -- highways, electrical grid, and the like -- to help protect Americans against terrorists and natural disasters.

10. This candidate promises to reduce taxes on middle class families by approximately $1000 per family.

11. This candidate's tax plan, according to the IRS, would result in a tax savings of $2,100 for a single parent making $40,000 per year with two children in childcare.

12. This candidate opposes giving tax breaks to oil companies.

All done? Let's tally up the answers:

1. Obama.
2. Obama.
3. Obama.
4. Obama.
5. Obama.
6. Obama.
7. Obama.
8. Obama.
9. Obama.
10. Obama.
11. Obama.
12. Obama.

Well, what do you know? Imagine that. Here's what I've got to say, now:

America, you are going to vote in one of the most important elections that has ever faced our country. We are at a crossroads. For 8 years, individual rights have been violated and the Constitution has been subverted. For 8 years, a lack of meaningful regulations and oversights has allowed investors to run amuck and damaged the housing market and our economy. For 8 years, the United States of America -- the greatest and proudest country in the history of the world-- has been damaging its reputation abroad and endangering our citizens by instituting a policy of aggressive warfare against countries that did not threaten our national interest.

One candidate will continue this deterioration of our country.

One candidate promises to end it and restore our position in the world and restore our country to greatness.

We cannot continue to let America be a country where the poor must pray that God heals them because they cannot pay for medical care, where people lose their savings and their homes because banks took unfair advantage of their dreams, where we torture and imprison people without a trial, where our young men and women are sent to be shot and die in a war that had no reason to begin and no reason not to end, where our government spies on its own citizens and ignores the rules the people place on it, where the rich fly in private jets to their third or fourth or fifth home while the middle class and the poor work a second job to pay for child care.

Vote to change that. Vote to restore America. Vote for Hope.

Vote for Barack Obama.

A Halloween Song: 32 down, 9,097 to go.

You won't immediately think this song is Halloweenish, but it is and if you listen to it carefully as well as watch the lyrics helpfully posted in the video, you'll realize it's:

(a) A beautiful and catchy song that
(b) Would make an awesome horror movie.


And (c) Mr Bunches and Mr F are going as a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Pterodactyl for Halloween. Although you actually would not have realized that from the video. But it's true.

Down... to go is stories about me & the family with music I love. Read about song 31 here. Got more time? Why not read How I Know My Life Is Going Pretty Well... despite the lack of breakfast treats...


Children tormented by demons. An old man accidentally killing people. Witches who live hundreds of years and escape from Hell repeatedly. An astronaut drifting through space... these and other great stories can be found only on AfterDark: The scariest things, you CAN'T imagine.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I also looked for one that had "never pay it back" as an option, but surprisingly there were none of those, either.

One way to improve your credit rating is to have unused credit; your credit rating in part is based on how much credit you have versus how much you're using. So if you've got some maxed-out cards and need to borrow money, do this: 45 days before you apply for the loan, take out a new credit card and don't use it. That can increase your credit score by 10, 20, maybe even 30 points.

You can find all the Credit Cards you'll need at Cardhub, the easiest and quickest way to sort through credit card offers and pick the card that's best for you. Go there, click on the choices on the left to sort down the credit cards, and bingo! -- right there on your screen are all the cards that meet your criteria, with the details displayed to help you make the choice of the one you want. I did it, and got something like 33 different kinds of cards that I could choose from.

Of course, then I tried to find which one also had "And your wife will let you get one," but none of them would.

Still, you'll probably have even greater choices than I will, so whether you're trying to improve your credit rating, need a little extra money, want to get a business card, transfer balances, or whatever you need a credit card for, Cardhub lets you find one -- easy and fast.

31 down, 9,098 to go.

Last night, I had to take Mr F and Mr Bunches to get the final present for Sweetie's Birthday Month; her birthday is actually November 2, but we begin celebrating it on October 31, and continue until, oh, about December 10 or so (when we begin giving her Christmas presents, instead.) The Birthday Month includes movies and a stay in a hotel and lunch and things like that, and also requires lots of presents.

Because we were heading out before bathtime, I went upstairs to get ready and took both Mr F and Mr Bunches into my room with me. But that got them upset because they think that going upstairs right after dinner means bath, not watch Daddy put on a sweatshirt and grab his iPod.

So they got all crabby and pouty and were fighting and crying and generally moping and I didn't want them to stay that way; to fix it, I did what I always do in that situation: I sang the first two lines of song 31 All I Want Is You, by Barry Louis Polisar:

It worked; it worked because Mr F loves that song and loves when I sing it (especially because after I sing those two lines, I do a guitar part, going "barowm bap bap bap bup bup barowm" (well, it sounds like a guitar when I do it) and it worked because Mr Bunches is amazed that I sing, period.

It also worked later when I sang it to them in the department store to keep them calm because I'd run out of cookies. I think the other shoppers liked it, too.

Down... to go is stories based around songs on my iPod -- of which I now have 9,029. Read about Song 30 here. Got more time? Why not read why I fear I'm not smart enough to live my own life anymore?


Did you know a short horror story of mine, Don't Eat My Face, will appear in the upcoming anthology "Harvest Hill," available next fall from Graveside Tales? Go to their site to find out more and order your copy! And don't forget to read my other horror stories on AfterDark.

Christmas is a time to say... I can't believe they didn't get a professional card done.

Oh, what might have been? Remember when I told you how our family Christmas cards turned out? Sweetie went to pick them up today and I'm sort of afraid to go home and see the actual greeting we'll be sending to people; having been there live, I'm pretty sure this Christmas card is not going to engender any warm holiday memories for the people that receive it.

And it turns out we could have done a lot better, and also helped do some good -- by making Personalized Christmas Cards through "The Gallery Collection."

You might have heard of "The Gallery Collection," at; they're the company that just donated 800 cards to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center as a part of the "Show Me A Smile" Greeting Card Gift Giving Program; that's a protgram that helps patients in children's hospitals; what better way to cheer people up and remember what Christmas is all about than to give to kids who are so sick they have to stay in a hospital? I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

And The Gallery Collection has some great cards to give -- foil, embossed, personalized, die-cut cards, photo cards, and more; you can personalize them, make business Christmas cards to send to your clients and drum up business for next year, or, in our case, make a card that DOESN'T feature one kid lunging away from the rest of the group while The Boy falls asleep and Mr Bunches scowls.

In all seriousness, I think it's a great thing they did, donating those cards, and I like to recognize companies that do great things and reward them. So go there and get your Christmas cards ordered today, to send out soon (it's almost November, after all) and hopefully, the great cards you send will wipe away the memories of the cards that I send.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chase your dreams, kids! Provided that those dreams can be televised.

I will confess: I can't watch live events. I can't watch them because there's no TV to tell me where to look, leaving me lost and on my own and always just a second or two behind the action because something else distracted me.

I don't know why people attend sporting events live. I don't like to, and never have. If you watch a game at home, you're warm. If you watch a game at home, you can have access to all your snacks and drinks anytime you want, instead of having to (like I did) pack a baggie full of wafer-cookies and "Cinnamon Roll" cereal and 3 Musketeer bars and stuff sodas into your jacket pocket. If you watch a game at home, nobody thinks you're rude or weird if you also kind of read "Entertainment Weekly" during the commercials and timeouts. If you watch a game at home, on TV, you can follow the game easily because the camera always follows the ball and the announcers tell you what's happening and if something important happens, they'll replay it for you so that you can see the important thing, too, the important thing that you missed because you were getting a snack or reading Entertainment Weekly or because you were me and you're really incapable of paying attention to pretty much anything.

I realized that, yet again, that I'm incapable of following events or paying attention, when Sweetie and I braved the absolute-zero-temperatures and watched The Boy's team play in round one of the state football playoffs. It wasn't the first time I've come face-to-face with this deeper understanding of myself -- this understanding that I can't pay attention to anything-- but it was the latest, and I think the coldest, time.

If you are one of those people who can follow things, who takes part in conversations and watches plays or football games or parades and can understand and view them without seeing them inside a screen on a box, I envy you and I envy the fact that you will never know what it's like to wonder if the person you're talking to or the thing you're watching makes sense.

I spend a lot of time in conversations, and at events, that don't makes sense. I talk to a lot of people who, frankly, don't make any sense to me. I will see them when I come into the office in the morning, while we get coffee or while they try to interrupt me from reading the 8 web comics and one celebrity gossip site I like to read to get prepared for my day, and they will say something like this:

"Can you believe it? I mean, seriously, David!"

Leaving me to wonder what David did, and whether what he did was good, or bad, and why this person won't tell me the whole story. So I say something noncommittal, something that could go either way, something that is usually a Homer Simpson quote or a reference to one of the comic strips I just read.

4 years of college and three years of law school add up to: "Uh. Hmm. That's like the time Homer had that doughnut."

I always figured that it was other people who had the problem, because they were obviously forgetting that they hadn't told me what David had done, or whether he had done anything (because the comment, "I mean, seriously, David," could maybe mean they were astonished that David existed) and they were also forgetting all those other times when they tried to talk to me and I was not really interested in what they were saying. But I've had to over and over through the years deal with this so often that I figure maybe I'm partially to blame maybe just a little.

Especially when I attend live sporting events and realize that I'm just not able to watch them at all and really comprehend what's going on. Did you ever watch a sport from a foreign country, arriving midway through, and try to figure out what was happening and who was doing good? Imagine suddenly stumbling on, say, a cricket game that's in the fourth wicket or whatever they pretend is a segment of their game and people cheer and you're trying to figure out whether the people rooting for one side are cheering something that just happened that was good for their team, or something that was bad for the other team, or maybe you're just trying to figure out whether there are one or two or more teams playing.

That's how I am at any live event and last night's football game was no different, but it was colder. A lot colder.

The game started at 7:30, so Sweetie began getting ready to leave at 6:15, as she usually does. At 6:15, she was reminding me that we had to go to the game, whereas I at 6:15 was trying to figure out how many more cookies I had to give Mr Bunches to get him to quit standing up in his high chair so that I could finish eating my healthy dinner of pizza rolls, burritos, and Doritos. (Any good dinner will have a minimum of two courses from the "-ito" food group.) The answer to that turns out to be twelve cookies; six cookies will get Mr Bunches to sit back down, for a second, before he stands up again, but then I also have to give Mr F six cookies, too, because he'll get upset if you give Mr Bunches six cookies and leave him out of the equation, so in a way, Mr Bunches is kind of like a union negotiator; his standing up-protest gets benefits for the whole Brotherhood of Twins.

We finally left at 7:10, after about 10 more cookies and after baths and after a quick game of "Dr. Slider," which I had to play with Mr Bunches before we left because (a) he gets upset when he knows we're leaving, so we have to slide the grumpies away and (b) I really like playing "Dr. Slider" because I get to sing the theme song again.

We got to the game and paid for our tickets to get in and were confronted with the first of the social dilemmas that going out in public forces Sweetie and I to confront. We were going through the gates and saw our next-door-neighbor standing there, and Sweetie talked to her for a second while I focused on the fact that I was already freezing to death, and then we were through the gates and walking up the bleacher stairs to a seat high enough to get a good view of the field when Sweetie asked if we shouldn't wait for our neighbor, if it wasn't rude that we'd just walked away while she had gone back to get a ticket, which was the first moment I'd realized that we had, in fact, just walked away while she had gone back to just get a ticket. (I'd been buy trying to figure out if the game had already started. And also busy being cold.)

"Just look for her and tell her to come sit by us," I told her, figuring that would cure our rudeness by showing her that we actually did want to talk or sit by her, even though we actually didn't want to sit by her or talk to her, because Sweetie is a lot like me and we're both a lot like people who don't like other people hanging around us at public events, because (at least in my case) they get in the way of me trying to figure out what's going on, and they get in the way, also, of the other thing that I do when I'm forced to go out in public, which is watch people and secretly judge them to make myself feel superior to them.

We couldn't quite so easily just get our neighbor to see that we weren't trying to ignore her, though, because she didn't hear us hollering to her and waving, so I had to get up and go over by where she had opted to sit and invite her to come and sit by us, which she did, bringing her seat cushions and blankets and all and joining us.

What's the etiquette for that, really? What if we'd just chatted at the gate and then waved and walked away? Would we have had to invite her to sit by us, then? Or did we have to invite her, go the extra mile, to make up for having walked away from her instead of waiting while she bought a ticket? Was it our fault that she saw us and came and talked to us before going to buy her ticket? Didn't she violate some basic rule of civilization by breaking the code that requires people to go to the ticket line and then the entry line? Or should we ignore her doing that and instead get up and walk across the bleachers to invite her to sit by us and then offer to buy her hot chocolate, too, because I was going to buy some for us, and felt like I should buy some for her, too? Is that what the world's come to, now, where everytime I leave my house I have to buy hot chocolate for everybody around me? And stand in line behind a 12-year-old kid who's taking an infinite amount of time ordering his snacks, which I swear were:

A box of popcorn, a licorice rope, a coke, and twelve "Airhead" taffies. All blue. Twelve BLUE "Airhead" taffies, which made the concession stand guy have to pull all the "Airheads" out of the jar and begin sorting through them, picking out the blue ones, and they had only ten of them, so the kid then decided that he could live with a couple of green taffies, too, but only if they were dark green, so the guy and the kid were holding up the taffies to determine which was the darker green.

All the while they were doing that, I was lowing feeling in the top of my head, which no longer had a hood on it because although I'd worn a sweatshirt with a hood underneath my winter coat, I'd had to take the sweatshirt off to allow me and Sweetie to sit on it instead of sitting directly on the metal bleacher benches, which not only did not warm up as we sat on them, they actually got colder until they began sucking the heat from my body; I could feel the heat draining from my torso into my butt and then into the bench and dissipating out into the world.

Eventually, the kid had a sufficient number of appropriately-colored "Airhead" taffies and I got my hot chocolate and I settled back down to watch what remained of what I learned was the first quarter, at which point I learned that not only am I no good at following live events, Sweetie is no good to get updates on the live events I can't follow.

"What'd I miss?" I asked her.

"They fumbled, or something. I don't know," she said.

"Who fumbled?" I asked.

"I don't know," she answered.

Then we busied ourselves laughing everytime we heard the announcer say the name of a player that sounded a little like the name of a character on "South Park," and also watching the kids walk by in their sweatshirts, without winter coats, and sometimes in short sleeves, and then looking at the guy who had his baby with him; the baby was dressed warmly but that did not stop us from discussing how it was too cold to have a baby at the game and how we were very good parents because we'd left the boys home to be babysat by Middle instead of bringing them into the cold. We got a lot of judging of people in by halftime, and also, by halftime, I realized that the part of the scoreboard where I was looking to see what the down and distance were was not the right part of the scoreboard.

Here's what happened: throughout the first and second quarters, I would watch the play and try to determine what was going on, and then I would look at the scoreboard to see how far the team that I thought had the ball needed to go for a first down. And every time I looked at the scoreboard, it said it was down "3" and there were "3" yards to go.

And every time I looked I got a little more smugly irritated at whoever was running the scoreboard because why couldn't he change the down and distance, and then, just before the half, I looked and it was down "2" with "3" yards to go and only then did I realize that I was looking at the part of the scoreboard that showed how many timeouts the teams had left.

I think it shows you that I'm actually a good person because after mentally insulting the scoreboard operator for most of the first half, I, on realizing my mistake, mentally apologized to him.

Also, it's really easy to make that mistake, if your eyeballs keep tearing up because you're watching a football game in conditions so cold that you may as well be sitting on Pluto's surface.

Shortly after realizing my private mistake, I then publicly cheered, very very briefly, for the wrong team because I saw a bunch of players running and tackling and falling and I thought it meant our team had done something good but we didn't, as it turned out, have the ball, the other side did, so I quickly stopped cheering and tried to act like it was no big deal.

At halftime, we tried to walk around to warm up a bit while we called to check on the Babies! Walking around to warm up a bit was futile; not only were we still, stupidly, outside, where it was cold, but we also were so cold by that point that our joints were stiffening up and walking seemed to make it worse by allowing the wind to suck away the little heat that we might have built up.

The third and fourth quarters were mostly lost in haze of teams being on the other end of the field so it was even harder to see, and also my discomfort at realizing that the cans of soda I'd brought to drink were getting colder as the night went on, even though they were in my jacket pocket, and that as they got colder the cold was seeping into me through the inner lining of my jacket, and as the cold seeped into me from the sodas I could feel it spreading to my internal organs, slowly cooling down my kidneys and my spleen. We were getting too cold to even judge people properly; there were people who weren't wearing hats or who were talking on cell phones or otherwise doing things that would ordinarily let me feel superior to them but I couldn't muster up the energy. Instead, I tried to keep track of the game and also tried to get my teeth to chatter, because that might help build up some body heat to help replace what kept escaping through my head and might possibly also unfreeze my pancreas.

It's at that point of the game, and that point, more or less every time we go watch a game or award ceremony or drama club or debate, that I begin to question the wisdom of my parenting, the wisdom of encouraging the kids to take part in things and have active social lives and hobbies and sports and things like that. All those nights when I sat around the dinner table telling them they needed to be more active and outgoing, all those days that I told them to shut off the TV and go do something with their friends or get a hobby, all those days that I told them they should try out for football or golf or the play or whatever it was they wanted to do, in all that encouraging them to chase their dreams, blah blah blah, I never stopped to consider that if they did chase their dreams, their dreams might well require me at some point to risk frostbite, or at least some mild discomfort, and if I'd thought of that before, I might have left the TV on.

I wonder if other parents ever kind of regret the encouragement they gave their kids, too. Did the parents of the Phillies and Rays players, sitting in the middle of that cold rain in the postponed-game-5 the other night, sit there publicly smiling and cheering and privately thinking I should've told him to be an accountant. Nobody ever has to sit in the rain to cheer on an accountant. I bet they did. I bet they did and they just won't admit it. They won't admit that they, like me, are privately practicing their next encouraging speech, which will go something like: You should do that. You can be anything you want to be! You're smart enough to do that. Just make sure that the thing that you're good and smart enough to do takes place in the summer, or indoors, and also that it isn't too long or boring and that it doesn't take place on a night when 'Battlestar Galactica' is also on, because while I could always tape it, I really like to watch it on Friday nights, so maybe instead of this activity, you could be all that you can be in some other activity that takes place on Tuesdays.

Which, rest assured, I would never actually say to them. Instead, while I might think that, I will tell them they should go for it, do their best, make the team, learn the lines, debate the... debaters... and then I might also warn them that maybe I might have to work late that night, whatever night it is.

By the middle of the fourth quarter, The Boy's team was up 42-7 and people began leaving the game, at which point The Boy got put in; being a junior, he plays a lot of second-string on the varsity, and we were excited to have our waiting pay off by seeing The Boy get in there and start pushing people around and knocking them down. Plus, clapping helps warm you up.

The Boy played well, aside from seeming to need to tighten the belt on his pants because after each play he had to hoist them up a bit. On one play, I saw him hoist them up during the play, blocking a guy, then pulling up his pants, then blocking another guy. And his team hung on to its lead and won the game; we stuck it out to the very end, when our side -- at least I'm pretty sure it was our side -- knelt down to run out the remainder of the clock. (I wasn't sure at first that they had knelt down; I thought maybe there'd been a fumble.)

Having done our duty, and lost feeling in the greater part of our bodies, we picked up our stuff and headed for the car, where I immediately turned the heat on full blast to try to get some relief. It's a sign of just how cold we were that the cold air that blows out of a cold car's vents when you first start it felt good -- it felt far warmer than I felt, myself, and I was grateful to have air that was only cold, instead of frigid, blasting on me.

The Boy's now got another game on Saturday, round two of the playoffs, and I'm preparing for it much the way Admiral Peary would prepare for an arctic expedition, or the way Admiral Peary would have prepared if Admiral Peary had thought more like me and less like Admiral Peary. Which is to say, I'm preparing for The Boy's next game by trying to figure out how I can get it televised.

Team Mom:

I don't recall this in Harry Potter but it's possible that Dumbledore had a private plate.

Everyone knows I'm completely jealous of everything English; my understanding of Great Britain is based entirely on things like Mark Haddon's A Spot of Bother and Hugh Grant movies (with a little Harry Potter thrown in), so it may be a bit skewed, but I still long to live in England.

Which is why I love going to sites like Northumbria Numbers -- a website to order private plates for cars in Northumbria; it lets me feel like I live in England, if only vicariously, and if only for a little while.

Of course, if you live in Northumbria, the Northumbria Numbers site is far more useful, in that you can find the private plates you want with a minimum of trouble. A minimum of bother, I should say. All you have to do is go there, search for the exact plate you want, and then Northumbria Numbers will do the rest, filling out the paperwork for you while making sure you get the private plates you want. Search by number, search by prefix, search ageless plates, they've got them right there for you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

30 down, 9,099

I swear, I'll do a longer post tomorrow. I was going to do one today but I got distracted by how powerful I am (in that I got the Brewers to want to trade Fat Prince Fielder), and I don't have time now because The Boy's team is in the football playoffs, so I've got to stop pretending to "work" and instead go home and get ready to take Sweetie and Middle and Mr Bunches and Mr F to the football game and keep our fingers crossed for The Boy to win, so I'll just quickly leave you with "A Desperate Cry For Help" by The Beauty Shop:

The Boy also leaves the refrigerator door hanging open.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm constantly on the lookout to upgrade our furniture. In part that's because our furniture is mostly hand-me-downs (with the exception of Frankencouch) and in part that's because our furniture has been subjected to years of The Boy's abuse, and now Mr Bunches and Mr F's abuse, and as a result, our furniture is always on its last legs.

But furniture can be expensive, and shopping for furniture, frankly, sucks, because you have to load into the car and drive around and go to these warehouses where Bob The Furniture Guy is going to follow you around and try to talk you into something that you don't really want and which you'll regret buying. Stay away from me, Bob!

That is, shopping for furniture in real life sucks; shopping for furniture ONLINE is awesome, because to shop for furniture online, all you have to do is go look at the Couches and Sofas available from

I like a name that doesn't mess around.

Anyway, BuyCouchesOnline does just that: It lets you buy couches online; you can click around and see the great sofas and couches and sectionals and theater seating they've got, with big pictures of them and details -- and it lets you then buy them and have them shipped to you, making the whole process of furniture buying both EASY and Non-Sucky.

Plus, it makes the whole process of furniture buying CHEAPER, because the prices that BuyCouchesOnline are charging start out lower than most places around here, and they've discounted them more.

They've got Leather Couches, fabric couches, recliners... whatever you could imagine.

For me, it's like a dream come true, and yet one more thing to distract me at "work" and make Sweetie take away my credit cards; but before she does that, I'm going to be ordering some things to spruce up our family room... and then forbidding The Boy, Mr Bunches, and Mr F from touching them.
Time for an update on Mateo and McHale Shaw -- you can see them there at the right.

In the past couple of weeks, according to their parent's journal, Mateo and McHale not only went to the pumpkin farm to get ready for Halloween, but they also stood up.

Angie Shaw, the twins' mom, reports that Mateo has been standing up on his own more and more -- which makes his brother McHale more determined to do it on his own, too.

In between standing and pumpkining, Mateo and McHale like to sing, especially when they're supposed to be napping.

Mateo and McHale Shaw were born conjoined twins and given a 5% chance of survival; three years later, they're going strong and getting better each day. But their medical bills exceed insurance, and they remain in need of medical attention. To learn more about this family, and why you should donate some money to help them, go to Caring Bridge; once on the website, type mateoandmchale into the box that lets you visit a specific site.

Or just send your tax-deductible donation to Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable Special Needs Trust, c/o Kohler Credit Union, 850 Woodlake Road, Kohler, WI 53044.

I'm the best-dressed lawn mower around.

Storefront_logoHere's how I bought my last suit: I went to the mall, found a big store with men's suits, went in and looked for the suits that were on sale. I picked out one that looked like it would fit, tried it on, paid my $58.99 (plus tax) and then took it home.

Here's how much I like and wear that $58.99 suit: not at all. Well, that's not true. Sometimes, I wear it when I'm working in the yard. I hate it. It's not a good suit, and while I don't spend all that much time thinking about clothes, I wear suits to work because you've got to have a suit on if you're going to sue someone. If you sue someone and show up wearing jeans, they don't take you seriously. You'll have to keep showing them your Bar ID and convincing them you're for real.

So I need a new suit. And clearly, buying the cheapest suit at the mall is not the way to go. I need to get a custom suit, one that was Made to measure for me.

The problem is, I can't find a place around where I live to get one; Wal-Mart isn't doing a lot of custom suits these days, and my expectations for a custom suit are high because I've been checking out the "My Suit" website.

If you go to the "My Suit" website (the links will take you there) they'll walk you through what a custom-suit-buying experience should be; they measure in, like, 30 different places and try on different suits and see how they fit my body type (lean and mean... sort of. Paunchy-and-mean is a little more like it) and my posture (best described as "are you carrying something heavy?) and then they walk you through all the kinds of coats, from one-button to six-button, and all the kinds of pants (with watch pockets and pleats and flat-front) and then all the kinds of fabrics, with swatches of them available to look at online, and then they let you make an appointment.

The appointment, though, has to be in New York. Not Madison. So while I was all enthused about the process, I then had to deal with the fact that my measurements and my custom suit will most likely be made at the PDQ convenience store down the road.

Lucky suit buyers in New York City, though, get to make an appointment to get measured for a mens’ suit, with no obligation to buy one, and then order a suit that will fit like a glove -- making them look, and feel, better.

The $58.99 suit may be the best I can do, but it's not the best YOU can do. Go to My Suit and see what it's like to have a finely-made, perfectly-fitted custom suit at a price that's more than reasonable.


Monday, October 27, 2008

29 down, 9,100 to go.

I thought the song "Your Head's Too Big" by The Ditty Bops was a strange song (and an especially strange song to have on my "Running" Playlist) but then I saw THIS video for it:

Yes, Mr. Cigarette Man did blow smoke and create cigarette smoke women and danced with them, and also converted a spider into a cornucopia.

Also, I solved my problem from last week. The sweater was green. Or so Sweetie says. She assured me as that I was wearing a green sweater, albeit a slightly faded one. But even as she said it, I was looking at the sweater and it had turned gray again.

More songs added over the weekend, and more songs counted down... Down... to Go is me listing all the songs on my iPod and what I think of them. Read about song 28 here.

And instead of snowmen, I could see cactuses. Cacti? I'm not sure. But I want to see them.

It's about this time every year, as the days get short and the snow starts falling -- SNOW!! Before November!!-- that I start dreaming of moving someplace warmer and less expensive. We live in a REALLY expensive area, which would be nice if I earned money that could keep up with that really expensive area.

But I don't. I don't make the big bucks and I do freeze year in and year out for, like, seven months of the year. And I don't know why I stay here, because whenever I start dreaming of moving to a warmer place, I start looking at warmer places I could actually move to and then I hit on Arizona, and I look at things like Scottsdale AZ real estate and I realize that I could live in a warmer, nicer climate for less money.

I just did a search on the site that link goes to, and there are dozens of houses that are comparable to the one I'm living in -- all of which are less expensive for me to live in than the one I currently live in. Some of them are bigger -- one has a swimming pool, a pool I could use year-round instead of for the 30 minutes each year that Wisconsin has summer.

The real estate market around here is crazy -- houses are too expensive for most people to move into, and who would want to, given the weather? It's no wonder I'm looking out the window at the gray skies surrounding the too-costly houses in my neighborhood, while looking on my computer at the houses I COULD be living in, all available through Scottsdale Fine Properties, and all more affordable than my current house.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shame On America Sunday: Corporate Tunnel & Sports Lovers.

This week, the health care crisis really hit home. On Friday night, my dad left a message for me asking me to call him as soon as I could. I wasn't able to return his call until Saturday afternoon, and before I could return his call, I had breakfast with the in-laws on Saturday morning.

During that breakfast, my mother-in-law relayed to me that she had recently received a bill for her "treatments," a procedure she gets every month at the hospital. The bill was for $750, for two months worth of treatments; the bill was her 20% of the cost of the monthly treatments, which she says "keep her alive."

After that breakfast, in the afternoon, when I called my dad back, I learned that he had just been diagnosed with, in his words, "corporate tunnel syndrome," a development that he believed stemmed from a wrist injury he suffered at work and the physical therapy he's been going through.

Both my mother-in-law and my dad asked me, specifically, to look into their situations because I'm a lawyer, and they were concerned; mother-in-law was concerned about how she and my father-in-law were going to afford to pay $375 per month, on top of their other bills, and thought that their insurance should be covering these charges. Dad was concerned about how he'd pay for his surgery to cure his "corporate tunnel" -- try as I might, I couldn't get him to call it carpal tunnel -- if worker's compensation didn't cover it. He wanted to know whether I thought maybe he should be hiring a lawyer to make sure it was covered.

Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care?

As I pondered that question this morning, I saw a clip of the McCain speech where he referenced Barack Obama's ideas on health care and taxation and said they were redistribution of wealth, and I heard, as a senior citizen who doesn't have to worry about things because he's rich, as that man-wh0-married-into-inherited wealth spoke about helping the poor, I heard boos.

So before you answer my question -- especially those of you who are about to scream "socialism," especially those of you who booed or were inclined to boo yesterday when Out-of-Touch John McCain, when protect-the-wealthy John McCain, when further-destroy-America John McCain, said the words "redistribute money," -- before you answer my question, consider this:

Seats for the New York Mets new stadium, CitiField -- you may recognize the cognomen "Citi" -- it's from Citigroup, a company that bought the naming rights to the stadium but which may continue losing money until 2010 and which either have been or will be bailed out using money that could have paid for health care -- seats at CitiField will sell for as much as $495 per ticket per game. But it's worth it, right, because they get the best sight lines and offer all-inclusive food and drink, so it's not like you're spending extra for your hot dogs, right?

Before you answer my original question, which was, again: Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care? consider this:

To buy tickets at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium, football fans will have to first fork over $150,000 for a "personal seat license," and then pay $340 per ticket per game.

To buy tickets to a Colts game, some people pay $235,000 to rent a "Super Suite," the key feature of which is that each suite has a 50 inch plasma TV, along with an individual TV screen for each seat -- so Colts fans pay $235,000 to go to the stadium and watch the game on TV.

To buy tickets to a Giants or Jets game in 2010, fans will pay $20,000 for a "personal seat license" giving them the right to buy a $700 ticket to the game.

To buy tickets to a baseball game in our nation's capital, where Continue-To-Destroy-America John McCain has practically lived his life, some Nationals' fans pay $400,000 per year to rent a "Washington Suite," which features a porch with a TV and the best views of the park.

It's not just the superrich, either. The average cost of a major league baseball ticket in 2008, was $25.40 across the league, according to ESPN, with teams averaging between $48.80 per ticket (the Red Sox) down to $15.96 per ticket for Arizona.

The Red Sox' attendance this year was 3,048,250. So Red Sox fans spent at least $148,754,600 (I say "at least" because those numbers don't include premium seating and corporate boxes) just on tickets. Just to get into Fenway Park and watch the game, Red Sox fans spent $148,754.600.

Arizona, the club with the lowest ticket price, drew 2,509,924 people this year. Arizona fans paid $40,058,387.04 just to get into their ballpark and watch their team play.

It may be worth it just to get in the door for some people -- ballparks and stadiums are increasingly nice and increasingly pricey. Three new stadiums are scheduled to open in 2009 -- CitiField, Cowboy Stadium, and Yankee Stadium. The combined cost of just those three new venues is $3.2 billion. Let's spell that out:

$3,200,000,000 is the combined cost just to build three new sports complexes that will debut in 2009.

Some of the money is private, some is public -- but wherever the money theoretically comes from, it actually comes from the pockets of sports fans, because none of those teams (the Mets, the Yankees, and the Cowboys) are losing money and none intend to lose money. If the money to build the stadium is public money (as it was for Miller Park in Milwaukee, where the poor paid a disproportionate share of building a ballpark they can't afford to get into) it comes directly from you and me and everyone else; if the money is private, it comes indirectly from people who buy Romo jerseys and Yankee caps; corporations do not spend money or make money; they redistribute money from you as you buy products to people who run or own the corporation.

People will say that it is all right that we spend that money on sports, and they will say that because they'll say it's private money -- people choosing to buy a Jeter jersey -- or that the public money is well-spent because it creates jobs. (I'll talk another day about the jobs such spending creates, but not today.)

But it's not; it's not okay, because at the same time as people are doing what they want with their money, they are selfishly hoarding more than they need and selfishly resisting using a tiny portion of their money for the common good. At the same time as people are spending $700 to see a stupid ball game, they are booing Barack Obama when he suggests that the rich could spare some money so that the poor can get health care. And that's not okay. It's not okay for any American to spend $700 on a ball game, or even $50 on a ball game, but not want to help the poor.

It's not okay to have a country that thinks it's great to spend billions on ballparks and might elect Continue America's Destruction John McCain so that he can take away insurance coverage from people and which boos the proposition that the rich can help the poor. It's not okay because we can do better.

I'm going to rephrase my question and ask it one more time:

Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, in a country where we can spent three billion dollars to make sure that people can watch a game comfortably, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care?

Shame on you, America. Shame on you for booing the idea that the rich can help the poor, shame on you for making senior citizens worry about whether they can afford to live without pain, and shame on you for even considering voting for McCain.

The Fix: Increase the highest marginal tax rate to above 50% -- the rich can afford it, and the odds are you're not rich; when you get to be rich, you'll have an obligation, like the rich are obliged now, to pay your fair share of taxes. Pass real health care reform by providing a national health insurance policy that anyone can buy, a policy that has no lifetime caps on payments, and that provides an increasing premium and copay as the policyholder's income increases; those making at or near the poverty level would pay nothing; those who buy into the coverage but who earn more would pay more for it. In addition, require all insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, which would help make insurance coverage more competitive by letting those with pre-existing conditions switch carriers.

What You Can Do Until The Fix Is In: Don't vote for McCain. Seriously. Unless you are John McCain, or are extremely wealthy, voting for McCain is insanely against your interests. And if you are extremely wealthy, it's still against your interests because what will you do when the economy falls apart further under a McCain/Palin administration? Also, everytime you buy sports memorabilia, sports gear, or go see a game in person, take a dollar and donate it to charity. Here are two to start with:

Christ House: Located in Washington D.C.-- maybe even within site of the Nationals Park, but probably without the great sight lines available to season ticket holders-- Christ House's mission is to provide medical care to the homeless. Their administrator earns only $39,580 per year for salary, using the money it's raised to help over 3,600 homeless people in its 23 years of existence. Learn more about Christ House and find out how to donate.

The Humanitarian Service Project raises money to help seniors and kids through the troubles that poverty causes. Their programs include the "Christmas Offering," which gives four weeks of food to more than a hundred families every year -- plus gives away 12 tons of Christmas gifts to poor families. They also have the "Senior Citizen Project," which presently helps 115 senior citizens in need by delivering nutritious food each month, along with toiletries and other needed items, and helps them get "wish list" items like microwaves, TVs, and wheelchairs.

So how about that? You could buy that Romo jersey, and then send a couple of bucks to the Humanitarian Service Project so that a senior citizen could watch Romo play, too. And have a meal. Let's not forget that. They could watch Romo play and get a meal.

Find out more about the Humanitarian Service Project, and how to help.

Warm Is the New Green.

Worrying about wrecking the environment because you want to be warm this winter? Fuel oil, natural gas, even building a fire in the fireplace all have some detrimental effects on the world.

But you know what doesn't hurt the environment? One of the cashmere blankets from Their cashmere blankets are made from a natural process that benefits the local economy and the environment by having the blankets handmade in Nepal, and then donating money from each purchase to plant trees.

It's the perfect gift... to an individual, and the world.