Saturday, July 11, 2009

Really: I wasn't kidding about how often pizza would make this list. (3 Good Things)

Every day, like clockwork, I think of at least 3 Good Things from the day before-- it keeps me upbeat and happy. Here's a couple from Friday:

1. Sausage pizza for dinner. And it was ready when I got home! There is nothing so nice, I think, as walking into a house that smells like fresh-baked sausage pizza.

2. I had enough time to write another installment of The End of Light done -- that's been waiting a while.

3. I had to go to court at 3:30, out of town -- which meant that when the hearing ended, I was done with work early and had nothing to do but drive home. "Getting out of work early on a Friday" is the only thing that comes close to "a house full of sausage pizza" in terms of pleasurable experiences..

If I wanted to be healthy, I wouldn't have invented "Pizza Nachos." (The Great Ranking Of

I went into our cabinet last night, looking for some chips to eat as a snack while I watched The Soup with Sweetie. That's our Friday night, and it's about all the excitement I can handle after a long week; some Fridays, I don't even make it 'til 9:30 before I conk out.

But last night, I was wide awake and ready to go, and I wanted some chips, something salty, to eat. Here is what I found in there:

-- Four opened-but-not-really-eaten bags of plain corn tortilla chips.
-- One bag of goldfish crackers.

There was also an empty bag that formerly contained Doritos, but now had just some Dorito powder at the bottom.

Those aren't chips. Those aren't even snacks. They're like pre-snacks -- they're snacks that require the addition of other things to become edible. Nobody eats plain corn chips. Nobody. It's impossible. They're so bland. They need salsa, or cheese, or pizza sauce, or ice cream, or something, before they can be eaten. And goldfish crackers? I'd rather eat a goldfish.

That lack of chips -- or plethora of chips nobody likes -- highlights the latest entry on The Great Ranking Of Problems, which is this:

Family members imposing their diets on me.

The reason we have those bland corn chips is that Middle and Sweetie, who do most of the grocery shopping, think they want those bland tortilla things. They will be in the grocery store and will see them and will think "I should get those, because they seem healthier than these Doritos and Fritos and Cheese Pops and Pizza-Flavored-Ranch-Zesties," and so they get them...

... and then don't eat them, because they're gross. But I get stuck eating them when I'm hungry, because it's all that's in the house. Just like I get stuck eating all the fruit that we started buying when The Boy decided he didn't want us to have junk food around the house, and asked that we buy fruit and yogurt instead -- so we started doing that, and he started going to Hardee's for lunch with his friends.

And just like I get stuck eating all the healthy cereal that our family buys, with people thinking I'm going to be healthy in the mornings, only they don't - -they don't eat the cereal, and they go to McDonald's and get Egg McMuffins and then, on Friday nights, when there's no snacks, I have to have a bowl of "Sticks & Stones: The Healthy All Natural Breakfast Cereal (Now With Real Stones!)" instead of something that's made primarily of corn starch and powdered nacho flavor.

So while I am very unwillingly forced to be healthy (or, at least, not as unhealthy) I am also going to post this one pretty high up on the Great Ranking:

Prior entries on The Great Ranking Of Problems:

Family members imposing their diets on me
99: Spousal PB&J Incompatibility.
173: Preshoveling & reshoveling snow.

What to do about stuff I was going to buy but then it broke in the store and now I still want to buy the stuff but I don't want to buy something that was broken?

413: Guilt Over Meanness To Sentient Paperclips
. . .
502: Having to wait forever, seemingly, for Italian food to cool down.
. . .

721: Printer not holding a lot of paper at once.
2,624: Unidentifiable Mystery Song Stuck In Head.
5,000: Lopsided Nail Clipping.
7,399: Potato(E?)s?
. . .

14,452: Worrying that there's too much peanut brittle leftover to eat before it goes bad.
15,451: Almost napping.
22,372: Having hair which isn't quite a definable color.
22,373: Having too many songs on an iPod

They'll be the smartest looking little boys around.

I wore glasses when I was a kid, and Sweetie wears reading glasses, and some of my nieces wear glasses, and so it seems likely to me that as Mr F and Mr Bunches get older, they're going to need eyeglasses, too. Which poses a problem, because the Babies! are not so much cute little babies as they are pure destructive forces of nature. They destroy EVERYTHING in their path, and I'm not kidding about that: yesterday, Mr Bunches almost took out an entire picture window because he wanted to go outside and thought that was a quicker way to get there.

So if and when they do need glasses, I'll want them to look cool and smart and stylish, of course, and I'll want to spend as little as humanly possible, of course. Which means Zenni Optical.

Zenni Optical, which was featured on TV (check it out here: ), offers inexpensive-but-great eyeglass frames: they offer them for less than others because they make the frames themselves, avoiding costs imposed by the middleman. And they're good-looking glasses, too, like this wire-rimmed set:

Those look good -- and they're bendable, with memory, so kids'll have a hard time breaking them (even my kids) and they're only $23.95. In fact, only a few of the frames they had on that site were over $20, and those were generally under $30.

It's nice that, with all the expense that kids can put on a parent, there's a place out there that understands that we want our kids to look okay, but don't want to spend a fortune on their glasses.

After all-- we have to keep replacing picture windows.

He was voted a sexy geek, too. How come nobody ever calls me a sexy geek? They call me half of that phrase... (Sweetie's Hunks of the Week, 23)

Sweetie's Hunk of the Week is: Chris Hardwick!

You/Sweetie Know Him As: The host of Web Soup, a show making fun of the Internet that I found on TV and made Sweetie watch. Yep: Sweetie knows him because of me!

I know him as: Wait a minute... I gotta think this through here. Let me see: I found the show, and Sweetie didn't want to watch, but I got her to watch a couple of episodes, and then she picked this guy as the Hunk of the Week...

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: That doesn't actually seem so smart now, does it? Great! I find a cool show that I like and then Sweetie thinks the guy's all hunky, and now I can't watch it anymore because instead of laughing at stupid things on the Internet, all I'm going to be thinking is: What's so great about this guy? He looks kind of nerdy. In fact, his blog is even called "The Nerdist." Also, he played "Fish" on Baby Looney Tunes. Also, he has a huge Adam's apple. Although I actually thought that last one before I knew Sweetie thought this guy was the cat's pajamas.

The reason I tell myself Sweetie likes him: Did I just say "cat's pajamas?" This has really thrown me for a loop. It's like in one of those movies where the knight takes on a young protege, and begins to train him, never knowing that in the end, the knight will be overthrown by the very person he selected to back him up, and then will be eaten by a dragon.

There's movies like that, right? There should be. And now there probably will be, and they'll star stupid Chris Hardwick and his nerdy haircut and Sweetie will go see it and probably download the soundtrack, which will probably have a song by Chris Hardwick on it, so basically I'm looking at a life of Chris Hardwick.

The Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's cute."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: From now on, we are only watching shows that star Jackie Gleason. Him, I can compete with.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Get rich quick schemes that actually work (but are still schemes)

Like everyone else, I am always trying to save money and/or get some extra cash. And like everyone else, I'm lazy. That's why my extra-cash-getting schemes usually involve something along the lines of "trying to interest a television producer in making a reality series about a guy who doesn't do much" or "secretly sneaking into The Boy's room, getting his DVDs, and selling them for a couple bucks."

Don't tell him.

I've found a third way to maybe put a little extra cash in my pocket: Replace Chris Martin in Coldplay. I've heard he makes a lot of money, and maybe he's getting a little tired of being a billionaire cool laid-back rock star guy... and he's just looking for someone to take over for him.

On the offchance that none of those plans works, though, I could always find a way to lower my current expenses, like, say, auto insurance. Finding cheaper auto insurance used to mean a slog through the yellow pages, or having to call an insurance agent (shudder!) but now it's easy to get cheap liability car insurance -- just go to and type in your zip code. That'll give you a bunch of insurers and an estimate of quotes for you -- with a button to click and get a quote online.

Try it yourself -- that link'll take you there. Before you know it, you'll be saving on insurance and have more cash in your pocket.

And before you know it, I will be the new lead singer for Coldplay. How's that song go again? "Clocks... something something... yellow."

I called him "Mr Smushface" when I went inside: (3 Good Things for July 9, 2009)

Friday morning started gray and rainy... but my 3 Good Things from yesterday keep me happy and upbeat...

1. Happy and upbeat like Burt Farlander, the main character in Away We Go, which Sweetie and I saw last night for a date night -- and the movie was very good.

2. Happy and upbeat like Mr Bunches, who greeted me as I pulled into the driveway by looking out the upstairs window and smushing his face against it -- so I smushed my face into my door window back at him, and.

3. Happy and upbeat like the air drumming I was doing to the Blink-182 songs I just got loaded into my iPod yesterday, finally, from "Enema of the State," including one of the greatest rock songs of all time: All The Small Things:

God, whatever happened to those guys? They were amazing. We need more songs like that.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

If I Had A Million Dollars (From The Cheesecake Truck To The End Of The Line, 6)

Just before I got married to Sweetie, I made a mixtape to take on our honeymoon road trip to New York. The other day, I found that tape and decided to tell the story of our honeymoon through the songs on that tape. This is part 6. Click here for the table of contents.

If I Had A Million Dollars:

I talked to Sweetie, about two weeks ago, about the drive from Cleveland to Buffalo.

"Did you know it only takes about three hours?" I asked her.

"Really?" she said. Sweetie frequently responds noncommittally to nonsensical statements that I make. She doesn't want to get roped into some scheme of mine involving a trip somewhere, or putting the Babies! on a reality show, or letting my family visit.

"Yep. I Mapquested it. But didn't we spend, like, twelve hours on the road that day?" I asked her.

"Yes," Sweetie said. I think she was still worried where this was heading. In her voice, I coiuld almost hear: We're not driving to Cleveland, are we? Or Buffalo?

Sweetie worries about things like that. I came home the last two days from a trial in another county, and each time I raved to her about how scenic the drive was and how much I'd enjoyed it. Each time, I told her that I thought we should take a drive out that way someday, so that she could see the scenery, too. "Maybe a Saturday or something," I said. "Make a day of it, because it's 90 minutes one way." Then, yesterday, after dinner, we took the Babies! for a ride (they like car rides, even at almost 3 years old) and I headed out of town on a little-used road.

"Where are we going?" Sweetie asked me.

"Just driving around," I said. "You know," I added, "This is the road I've taken to get out of town to go to court the last few days."

"We're not," Sweetie asked, "Driving all the way to that courthouse, are we?"

So Sweetie is inclined to think just that: that my mentioning the distance between Cleveland and Buffalo, in passing, might mean that I'm thinking about just up and driving to Cleveland. Or Buffalo, or both.

But I didn't, that day, think we'd be setting off on a road trip. I was only trying to clarify my memories, to figure out why in my mind I remembered an exhausting, long day of driving and yet the Internet told me it was 3 and a half hours.

"We went to Niagara Falls first," Sweetie reminded me. "We drove to see the Falls and then checked into our hotel room."

And that cleared things up -- and I remembered more clearly, then, what had happened, or at least the order in which it happened. We hadn't gotten our first (disappointing) glimpse of Buffalo until we'd had our first (disappointing) glimpse of Niagara Falls, and then our second (not at all disappointing) look at the Falls, and then had gone over to Buffalo to check into the hotel that we were hoping, all day, would not be a scary rundown thing like Cleveland had been.

Niagara Falls, the falls, are spectacular, but only when seen from the Canadian side. From the United States' side, they're junk. Absolute rubbish, as the British might say, and as I wish Americans said, because it's colorful.

Part of the problem with the American side is the approach. Niagara Falls, the U.S. city, is crummy and rundown and old and kind of slummy looking; most of it looked as though our Cleveland EconoLodge would fit right in, except that there was no real fear of crime: Looking at Niagara Falls, New York, it was hard to believe even criminals would live there.

I didn't get it. Niagara Falls is a huge tourist destination. It's probably one of the top-known sites in the world. It is, at least to Americans (or at least to me, and I'm an American) probably the best known waterfall in the world. And if there's one thing Americans know how to do well, or at least interestingly, or at least not run down and crummy, it's tourist sites.

Americans love tourist sites. At least, I do, and I am (as I said) an American. But others must, too, or there wouldn't be so many of them. And I don't mean "unspoiled, natural-beauty, look-at-all-this-wonder-of-creation" tourist sites. I mean "mystery-spot, post-card-selling, t-shirt vending, make a penny into a souvenier" tourist spots. Americans can turn anything into a tourist site -- if there's nothing around to focus on, we'll ram a hole through a tree, call it the "Drive Through Redwood" and then sell golf balls with that saying on it. Got a bay near your city where the sea lions like to come and bark? That's nothing until you throw a Merry-Go-Round, arcade, "Bubba Gump's Shrimp Shop" and a bunch of T-shirt stores near it -- blocking the view of the sea lions but letting people like me buy an actual redwood that we'll then take back to Wisconsin with dreams of starting a redwood forest in our backyard.

We love tourist spots so much, and hate unspoiled nature so much, that we built a walkway out into thin air in the Grand Canyon. I once toured a cave -- and remember, when you're touring a cave, it's already been altered; those lights didn't grow there -- and in the cave, which itself was beautiful, the proprietors had put (I'm in no way making this up) Smurfs in one little cavern. Because, you know, the cave wasn't enough.

In Wisconsin, we have the Wisconsin Dells, a series of natural rock formations carved out by the Wisconsin River over the course of eons. I've seen them several times in my life, and they are neat to look at, fun to walk through, interesting to marvel at.

Around those Dells, we have built more waterparks than anyone can shake a stick at. There is a waterski show, a magic act, numerous fudge shops, probably 17 billion miniature golf courses, and a place to bungee jump. If you still want to see the Dells, in between watersliding with a mouthful of fudge, you can see them... by jetboat. Nature's just not as spectacular if you're not moving at 75 miles per hour past it, apparently.

And this is not a modern thing, either. As far back as 1888, Americans were touristizing nature -- doing so at the Dells through spectacle: A guy named H.H. Bennett helped popularize the Dells originally by having his son jump from the top of one tall rock tower to the top of another -- a feat that later on would be done by dogs, jumping nearly 6 feet across a chasm.

Any society that can figure out how to endanger dogs and teenagers in order to capitalize on nature could surely, I always assumed, make Niagara Falls into a spectacle. I anticipated, and hoped for, a wonderland of tourism at Niagara Falls: Ferris Wheels, go-kart tracks, souvenier shops with waterfall themes, old-timey pictures, theme restaurants... maybe even something that we could drive through (fingers crossed!).

What I got was: a slum. An abandoned town would have been more scenic. If you've ever been to any moderately sized city and driven around, then you've seen that part of the city that nobody really goes to anymore. There was once a factory there, or insurance company, or something that drew people to that part but made nobody want to live there, and which required a lot of concrete and buildings and railroad tracks. Now, that factory/insurance company/whatever is gone, and all that's left is concrete and shuttered buildings and faded paint and here and there a car parked but the cars appear to have been parked there for decades.

That's Niagara Falls, New York, USA. I don't recall, now, even seeing any person in the city on the US side of the Falls. I know that's crazy -- I know that someone must live there -- but I don't remember seeing anyone on that side of the Falls. I just have a hazy memory of faded paint and those parked cars and weeds: In my mind, there are weeds as tall as my waist, growing right out of the sidewalks of Niagara Falls, New York.

And driving up to the Falls on the US side is like that. I don't remember anything really special about it. I think there's a place you can view them, and maybe Sweetie and I did that, but we didn't stay around long in Abandoned Weedville; instead, we decided, and quickly, This is rubbish (see? It's fun!) and headed over to the Canadian side, across the large bridge that back then, before 9/11 and before Osama Bin Laden and before we all freaked out and started making everyone take off their shoes before going into Wal-Mart, back then you could drive across by showing a picture ID and nodding at the border guards. I'm sure it's different today; so many things are. If I were taking this trip today, I'd be concerned that I'd have to preregister with the State Department in order to take a picture of the Falls, and that the request would have to be submitted in triplicate 9 months in advance and that I'd still, for some reason, have to remove my belt. But back then, we didn't have to worry about that at all; we gave it zero thought: We just drove onto the bridge and headed into Canada.

The Canadian side of the Falls was spectacular, and was touristy, I suppose, but in a Canadian way -- that is, kind of classy. There were theme restaurants, but they were expensive theme restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood. I can't remember which of those there were - -maybe there were both -- but we went to one thinking maybe we'd get a bite to eat or a snack, and we wandered around in it looking at the rock music or movie memorabilia (whichever it was) and ultimately I don't think we got anything, because the restaurant was expensive. I believe we moved on without spending most of that day's budget on lunch.

Beyond the theme restaurants, there were hotels, and lots of them, each offering a great view of the Falls and each looking super-expensive. And there were some souvenier shops, including one right by the Falls that we went into and bought some junk at -- exposing us as typical Americans when Sweetie went up to pay and asked how much it would be. The teller added up the cost of the postcards and t-shirts we were buying and said the price, adding, "Canadian."

Sweetie then said: "How much is that in real money?"

What the Canadian side lacked in waterslides and miniature golf courses, it made up for in sheer spectacle. Once you see the Canadian side of the Falls, you forget there ever was an American side (and good thing, too.) The Canadian side has a well-groomed garden running along it, making for a nice pastoral stroll along the river and up to the Falls. Everywhere around the Falls is misty and kind of cold. (I'd opted, that day, to wear a sweater vest-and-button-up shirt combo with my jeans, which I thought made me look kind of preppy, but which my brother Matt, on seeing the pictures later, said made me look like a nerd.) The mist comes, I gathered, from the fact that a hundred billion thousand million kajillion gallons of water are going over the Falls every second.

That, of course, is not an exact scientific figure, but it might as well be. There's always a roar in the background as you approach the Falls, and that roar is all the water that is going over the edge, and has been going over the edge for decades, centuries, millennia, maybe... who knows? But it's a lot of water, and saying that doesn't tell you the scope of looking at just how much it is, how loud it is, how wide and fast and dangerous looking the river is.

I loved Niagara Falls, and so did Sweetie. But with that said, I don't know how it became such a romantic destination, how it became the honeymoon destination it's supposed to have been or supposed to be now. I mean, even Superman and Lois Lane went there on their honeymoon. But there's nothing romantic about it, at all.

There's certainly nothing romantic about the Falls themselves. They're great -- they're spectacular. They're the kind of natural thing that makes you just stand and look, without needing to say anything, for a few seconds when you first see them. They engage all your senses -- sound and sight, sure, but also touch and taste because of the water in the air, and a little smell, too, because all that mist and pounding leaves the stuff around you, and you, feeling perpetually like you're caught in a light spring rain and that makes everything smell fresh and new and clean (and a little damp, true.)

But looking at the Falls doesn't make you think romance, or boy, we should really start necking, or man, this is hot. They kind of have the opposite effect, at least on me: they made me feel small and insignificant, and also kind of like a wuss, because when I looked at them, I not only thought: Boy, that's a lot of water, but also this: Who would ever try to go over those in a barrel? Not me. So that's not the most romantic of feelings then -- staring at something that tells you: you are small, you are nothing, and also you're a bit of a coward.

Nor are the surroundings that romantic. On the US side, things were terrible; there's nothing romantic about a city that looks like it's made up of 100% abandoned rail lines. On the Canadian side, things might have been romantic, but they were too clean and modern and ... Canadian, and also too expensive, as I said. Having decided, the night before, to upgrade our hotels from "dangerous and disease-ridden" to "passable but expensive," I was now more conscious than ever about the money.

It also may have been that we were tired. But in either event, we were not so tired or poor that we did not take in some stuff. We bought, as I said, some souveniers, and we also went down to the base of the Falls. There's a walkway you can go down, with borrowed slickers (another word that's underused), and go stand at the bottom on a platform that never dries out; it's perpetually wet from the mist and roaring water that's not more than 200 or 300 feet away, towering above you.

The walk down -- like the rest of the Falls -- is not romantic. It's dark and dangerously wet and slippery, leading to a lot of helping of Sweetie but not in a heroic way -- in a I hope I don't accidentally get my wife's neck broken on our honeymoon kind of way. We got our slickers (see? fun!) and went down the damp steps and got to the bottom, where we stood together looking up at the Falls and trying to talk about them. That went a little like this:

Me: They're spectacular aren't they?

Sweetie: What? It's so loud!

Me: Never mind. I'll tell you later.

Sweetie: What? It's so loud!

Me: Later!

Sweetie: They're spectacular!

Me: What?

Again: Not very romantic. I was at a loss, all day long, as to how the Falls got its reputation as a honeymoon destination of choice. Then again, maybe that's something that's outdated, like Love, American Style; maybe my notions of what is romantic for a honeymoon were formed and set in stone when I was 8 years old watching reruns on Channel 18 instead of going out to play, and as a result, I still think that Niagara Falls is a honeymoon destination, while the rest of the world knows that was just a joke.

After walking back up the stairs and waiting for our hearing to clear (and our clothes to dry, because they got a little wet even under the slicker, we walked around the gardens a little more, took some more pictures, looked at the river, and we talked about the "Maid of the Mist" boats and whether Sweetie wanted to go on them.

As I asked that, whether she wanted to take the boat ride to the base of the Falls, I was secretly hoping she'd say no. I wanted to go on the boat rides. I thought they looked great. But I was, as the day progressed, more worried about money than I'd been that morning. I'm sure, now, that part of my worries were simply being tired -- and we were exhausted, especially me -- but a bigger part of the worries was that we didn't have much money, and most of it was intended for hotels. So as we'd walked around that day, I'd counted and recounted the money in my mind, figuring out how much we could spend and how much we should budget and more, doing that over and over, and I'd decided something: To help make the money last longer, while also making the honeymoon fun for Sweetie, we'd do only what she wanted to do, if it cost money.

I didn't tell Sweetie that. I didn't want her to worry about money. I wanted her to think that there were no worries about money, that the money was endless. It wasn't, not by a longshot, but I wanted her to at least think that. Maybe I couldn't actually give her a honeymoon that had an endless supply of money funding it, but I could create the illusion of one that did, by minimizing what I spent and maximizing what she could spend.

So I didn't tell her that I wanted to go on the boats. But I did ask her if she wanted to go on the boats, ready to pay for it if she wanted to do that. I wanted her to do anything, on our honeymoon, that she wanted to do. But as I asked, I hoped that she'd say no so that we wouldn't spend that money and things wouldn't be too tight.

She said, no, she'd rather not, and we decided, as we walked through the flower gardens alongside the Niagara River, that we'd head back across the border and find Buffalo and our hotel. That would have been about 3 in the afternoon, I think? Maybe a little earlier, maybe a little later. Buffalo wasn't that far away, so it was only a little while after we hopped back into our rental car, put the radio on and waved goodbye to Niagara Falls that we finally approached Buffalo, New York, and only a little while after that when we would locate, near the airport, our second hotel.

Having spent the day worrying about money and being bone-tired from watching our belongings and never sleeping the night before, I could only hope that our hotel room in Buffalo would at least be passable. As we got nearer and nearer, I got more and more nervous and found myself hoping, more and more, that the lady on the phone, the lady who'd been so nice to me at 3 a.m. as I nervoused it out in Cleveland, hadn't screwed me over.

That was about when Sweetie said "I'm sure it'll be all right," and we turned into the parking lot.

I sure hoped it would.

Apparently, I can learn stuff even from Oldest.

I found out the other day that Oldest doesn't have a bank account -- but she still has a VISA card and can shop online and has her checks deposited.

I was confused, and asked how she can direct deposit her paycheck into a bank account that doesn't exist. That's when I learned she's got a "Prepaid Visa debit card" through Vision Premier.

Vision Premier, I've since learned, offers prepaid Visa cards that you can get online and then have your paycheck deposited onto, so not only do you never have to go to the bank... you don't even have a bank. So no NSF fees, no bank charges, no waiting in line for a teller, and your money is available to you a lot faster than if you have to wait until the end of the day and then drive to the bank to deposit your check.

With average NSF fees around $25 or more, that's kind of important -- between the time and money saved, the Vision Premier prepaid VISA pays for itself -- especially because by doing direct deposit, there's no weekly charge.

The whole thing works just like a debit card -- on ATMs and online (and they even offer to let you pay your bills online) and there's no credit check for it.

I was so impressed with it that I thought we should get one for Middle when she goes off to college in the fall -- that'll keep her from having to travel around with cash, and let her use the card safely, and she can have her checks deposited, too, so she doesn't need to find a bank in Oshkosh.

I don't think you can actually spend peanuts there, though. (3 Good Things From July 8, 2009)

I've been in trial the last couple of days (we won!)(Naturally!)(Egotistic, aren't we?)(Yes, I am.) -- and I'll be in trial next week, too, so posts may be a little sparse here, but here's my 3 Good Things from yesterday that are keeping me upbeat today.

1. The view along Highway A between Lancaster, Wisconsin, and Rewey, Wisconsin. That drive is like being in a postcard. It's all hills and bluffs and cattle and horses and scenic farms and rivers and bridges, and periodically your car will come up a hill towards a blue sky with puffy clouds in it and it will seem almost as if you're going to keep driving up off the top of the world into a brilliant future. (But maybe I was just upbeat from winning?)(Maybe -- but it is a great drive.)

2. The sign for "Crazy Frank's" that I passed by four separate times. Why? Because "Crazy Frank's" not only says they're selling stuff for peanuts but they misspell "bargains." They've got it as "Bargans" on both sides of the sign. I like to think they left out the I to save paint... and passed the savings on to you.

3. The song "Foundations" by Kate Nash, which I listened to approximately 33 million times driving back and forth the past few days:

Monday, July 06, 2009

Actual Things I Thought While Running Errands to Get A Video Game For Our Nephew, Groceries, and a Hinge for Our Garage Door.

Sweetie and I had a night of errands that began with the revelation that our garage door hinge was breaking off. Here are an assortment of my Actual Thoughts from that night:

Should I wear jeans? It's cold out. But it's summer. I wear jeans all year. Are shorts and a sweatshirt okay?


Me: Wear Crocs. See if I'm not right about the static.

Sweetie: It's just your head.

Me: Really? Then wear Crocs.


Me: I don't like the way this shirt looks. I think it makes me look fat.

Sweetie: You're like a little old lady.

Me: Old ladies worry about being fat?


My shirt does make me look fat. I'm changing.


Sweetie: Why are you undoing your pants?

Me: I'm tucking in my shirt.

Sweetie: I'm calling you Gladys.


Conversational topic on the way TO the store: Which of my siblings would I not be surprised about turning out to be a major criminal.


"Deadly Creatures: The Game?" That looks like a cool video game.


Oh. It's not.


Guiness Book of World Records, The Videogame?


Do they have that Katamari game for Wii? I bet he'd like that. I don't see it. Are these in alphabetical order? I'd like to play that Katamari game.


If he wants Indiana Jones for the Wii, and I get him "Lego Indiana Jones" because it's cheaper, is that acceptable?


Neither one of these lines appears to be moving. How can there be a line at Best Buy on a weekday? Why is this guy explaining the warranty to them while I wait with my 1 video game? Wait. What is she asking about? The Rewards Card? Oh, my God. I so chose the wrong lane. Is she going to fill out the application, here? Why? Maybe I should move to the other lane. That guy just saw me loking at him but really I was looking at his lane. I bet he's wondering what I'm writing. I can't believe these people aren't done yet! He's explaining how interest on their card works. They're buying a Wii and a TV. Big night for them. Finally! I can pay!


Sweetie: You were screwing around.

Me: What would you have done, just grabbed some dumb game?

Sweetie: Yeah.

Me: That's why I have to do these things.


Sweetie: I thought you were going to say something about how I take your change.

Me: You do. You take everything.

Sweetie: I do not take everything!

Me: Change-wise, you do.


Sweetie: (As I wrote down that last part): You're like a little old lady, it's taking so long.

Me: That's going in the notebook.


What I Chanted As Sweetie Dispatched Me and Mr Bunches For Some Groceries:

Potatoes, Bananas, Apples and a Pepper
Potatoes, Bananas, Apples and a Pepper
Potatoes, Bananas, Apples and a Pepper
Potatoes, Bananas, Apples and a Pepper


'Bacon ends and pieces'? Is that a thing?


Barbecue chicken breasts as lunchmeat? How does that work? Isn't the barbecue flavor all on the outside, leaving the lunchmeat un-barbecue-y?


Me: (Upon seeing pizza-flavored-cheese-balls:) Ooooooooooohh.


They have no Caesar-flavored potato chips yet. When will that come out? It almost has to, doesn't it? Barbecue is a pretty popular flavor for potato chips. But is it actually a flavor, like "lemon" is a flavor, or is it a method of cooking? They have flavored barbecue sauce, after all, like teriyaki barbecue sauce, so is that a whole different flavor or a combination of two flavors, or what? You never see teriyaki ranch or something.


Calgon: Ancient Chinese Secret, huh?


I wonder if we should get some microwave popcorn. We have real popcorn, but I never make it. It seems like so much work after microwave popcorn. But it seems like a waste to buy popcorn when we have it already.


Katy Perry is creepy.


I feel sorry for whoever buys that Heath Bar (thought after watching Mr Bunches pick it off the rack, drop it, try to put it back, drop it again, try a third time, then leave it there and walk away, stepping on it, after which I picked it up and put it on the rack.)


Me: Do you have any cash or checks left?

Sweetie: No. Why?

Me: Because I thought we would stop and get a hinge for the garage door.

Sweetie: Well, I have checks.

Me: That's why I asked if you had cash or checks.


Conversational topic on the way HOME FROM the store: Michael Jackson coverage/Is the hardware store likely to still be open/Stars who got plastic surgery that turned out badly.

See all the other Actual Things I Thought.

That's just the way things go, Dan.

The hardest part about being a wine drinker, or a wanna-be wine drinker, or just picking out a decent wine to give as a gift or bring to one of those fancy wine tasting clubs?

Navigating the confusing array of wines in a wine shop. I go into a wine shop or liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine, just a simple, elegant, nice bottle of wine for dinner or a party or because I've got a long bike ride ahead of me and need the fortification... and next thing I know, I'm amongst a bewildering assortment of bottles and types and colors and corks and sommeliers or whatever and I don't know what's going on, I get confused and disoriented and I end up just sneaking off to shoplift a bottle of tequila, which I do shots from on the corner with Dan.

Story of my life.

But with the Wine Styles Store ( I could potentially avoid all that. With their wine club options, I could sign up for one of their clubs and get not just up to two free bottles of wine per month, not just a discount on additional purchases, and not just invitations to private tastings but so much more -- like, for some memberships, a part of my fee goes to end child hunger. And, with their 150 locations, they're a national chain that's -- get this -- dedicated to SIMPLIFYING the wine shopping experience and make it easy to find the perfect bottle.

Which means I might've seen the last of Dan -- until I invite him to our dinner, of course.

Question of the Day, 64.

Is it wrong, if, when I go to get ice cubes out of the refrigerator and one drops on the floor, I just kick that ice cube off into a corner somewhere rather than expend the effort to pick it up and put it in the sink?

I'm not going to say why this question spring to mind. It's just something I've been wondering, something I wonder each and every time I go get a glass of ice water from the refrigerator at home or at work.

For no particular reason.

A little planning might help these make more sense. (Awesome Covers of Already Awesome Songs, 6)

The song being covered today is not actually awesome.

But I make the rules around here, and the song that is covering the not-awesome-song is, simply put, too awesome not to put on my blog.

The song being covered is Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. While Nirvana had a couple of good songs, my position on them (that they're the Bee Gees of the 90s) is well-known. And the song Smells Like Teen Spirit was not one of Nirvana's good songs. I was... how can I put this? Barely listenable.

Not so the cover version of it, which, as I said, is so awesome that it merits being on here. I give you: Smells Like Teen Spirit by The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain:

See what I mean? On the one hand, the overblown, tedious, Nirvana version. On the other hand, the Ukulele version, which, ironically* is like a musical nirvana.

*Is that ironic? Even I'm not sure anymore. Plus, I don't really know what "nirvana" means. I'm going to guess a state of bliss.**

** I was right.

Just as a bonus, here's the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's version of "Life On Mars," which actually was an awesome song. So I guess I should've gone with this one:

But then I wouldn't have gotten to make fun of Nirvana.

Read all the Awesome Covers here.

This is not my finger holding a baby turtle. (3 Good Things from July 5)

Back to work after a long weekend (for me that means 2 days off), with only my tie, my ravioli for lunch, and my 3 Good Things from yesterday to keep me smiling:

1. I finished the Lensman book that I'd been reading forever. And it ended up pretty good, too -- good enough that I didn't really want to start another book right away, which is my test for a good book: when you finish it, do you feel like starting another book right off, or do you let the old book marinate for a while?

2. I got a good start on my redesign of the always-in-progress backyard -- and when Middle looked out she said "It looks like lily pads," which is exactly what I was going for.

3. Mr Bunches and I got to see a nest of turtle eggs, marked and protected by chicken wire, on the nature trail where we went for a walk yesterday. (Mr F got to see them, too, but he wasn't looking.)

Read all the 3 Good Things here.

Three clues to look for in evaluating a business...

I mentioned, on my law blog the other day, the importance of (among other things) hiring a home inspector before you buy a home (and then of listening to that home inspector.)

It's not like it's difficult to find a home inspector, and it's not like it's difficult to tell if they're qualified or not. TakeNew Jersey Home Inspectors "Looksmart Home Inspections LLC." If you go to their site, you can tell they're qualfied right off the bat.

Let me walk you through how: First, look at all the information they offer you for free about their area of business. People who are GOOD at their jobs don't need to sell you on why they should be hired. They can provide you information about their areas for free, rather than charge you to educate yourself. So when I see that Looksmart Home Inspections, LLC has answers about what home inspection is, why you should get one, and even a walk-through list to tell you what to expect, I see that they're a company that isn't looking to rook you -- they'll tell you what they can do, up front, BEFORE they start charging you.

Clue number two? They tell you how to check out their work -- and their competitors. They've got links to their code of ethics and to regulations that govern them and checklists of how to see how they're doing. They're not afraid of you knowing what they can and can't do -- and they're not afraid of you knowing the high standards they impose on themselves.

Clue number three? What they say just makes sense. They point out, for example, that while you shouldn't have to pay a bundle for home inspections, you shouldn't skimp either -- because skimping may get you an unqualified inspector and that'll lead to trouble down the line.

Honest, up front, qualified, and fair -- that sounds like the kind of person I'd want to trust with inspecting my home before I bought it.