Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yawn. Stretch. Scratch. What's this, now? (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week 25)

Sweetie's Hunk of the Week is ... Josh Stewart.

That's right. I didn't bold the name because I was trying to think of how I could ratchet down the excitement about the Hunk of the Week. Usually, I put it in bold and italicize it, which is the equivalent, in typing, of a marching band, or at least a really good four-piece combo. But this week's hunk is so uninspiring that I felt that was not appropriate, and I didn't really have anything else I could do to de-emphasize the non-thrill you'll get from this week's hunk. What I really needed was a trumpet player to follow all my readers (both of you) around and do that wah...waaahh sound that accompanies disappointment in old comedy sketches.

So, um, anyway... here we go with Sweetie's hunk of the week...

You/Sweetie Know Him As: Who cares? I've never heard of the guy, his name is boring, and his picture appears to be an amalgamation of other, more interesting people Sweetie could have picked. He's got Patrick Dempsey's hair, that Harry-Potter-Actor's face, Chris Hardwick's eyes. He even probably borrowed Fonzie's jacket for that picture.

I know him as: The guy I'm forced to try to come up with something interesting to say all because Sweetie saw him in a commercial for a movie I'm apparently going to be seeing next week.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: Pleh. Why bother? I'm bored just looking at that picture. He looks bored with himself, too, doesn't he? Like he was going to do some cool publicity photos but then thought, eh... I wonder what's on TV? Plus, it looks like it was taken in his Mom and Dad's bedroom.

The Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: Sweetie likes plain, boring things. She doesn't like icing and toppings on cupcakes. She always goes for vanilla when she's getting ice cream and shakes and stuff. She drinks water. From the tap. Are you getting my drift here?

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's got a sweet face."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: That's what she said, anyway, about the face and all, but when I asked her who this guy was, she said "He's in The Collector," a movie that we saw a couple commercials for this week and then Sweetie went online and watched the previews and then she told me it looks good and that we might go see it next week, so I think Sweetie actually likes him because she's excited about that movie, which looks like it might be pretty good, even if it does star... what's his name? Oh, yeah. Josh Dempsey-Radcliffe-Hardwick McNobody.

What to give parents expecting a baby.

Everyone frets over what gifts to give to expectant parents... blankets? Cribs? Diaper service? Cute little bibs with take-offs of once-popular sayings on them? (I'm sorry, you've been voted off the nursery school...) But there should be no worrying and no discussion: The best gift to give expectant parents is the gift of protecting that child's life far into the future: A Cryo-Cell gift.

Cryo-Cell is the company that lets you collect and store cord blood when a baby is born, preserving stem cells (in a noncontroversial, easy way) for future use in protecting that child from adult harms. Umbilical cord stem cells can treat 75 different diseases and help in transplants.

And Cryo-Cell knows how to collect and store those cells, preserving them for the future when that little baby may need them; they're the world leader in that.

Right now, Cryo-Cell is concerned that with the economy down, people may not do this, and they think (and I agree) that this investment is more important than any number of cute bibs. So they're offering a special deal to help ease any financial burden a Cryo-Cell investment in a baby's future might pose, by lowering the price.

They're doing that through the "Protect Baby, Protect Mom" offer: Between now and midnight on July 26th, if you enroll yourself (or someone else, as a gift) in Cryo-Cell, using promotional code:995PS you'll get special pricing on UCORD enrollment -- only $995, a saving of over $700..

You could also choose to enroll in the Signature UCORD service program, with exclusive C'elle Service thrown in, for the extra-low price of $1299 by sighing up and using promotional code: P2PS

So forget the bibs and blankets -- take advantage of a special price and give a baby the gift of life.


The sunlight was remarkable. (3 Good Things From 7/24/09)

No real introduction.. just my 3 Good Things from yesterday...

1. Justin & Justin's Zombie Dream discussion on Holy Taco.

2. Leaving work early -- an extra 1/2 hour of weekend time!

3. The strange-but-wonderful way the sun shone through the trees, glancing off the puddles and raindrops leftover from the brief storm, as Sweetie and I and the Babies! drove along the Bumpy Road on our evening ride home.

Friday, July 24, 2009

In my life, the hard work never really began.

With the completion of the hard work on the Perpetually Under Construction Perennial Garden in our yard... no more digging, no more hauling brick, no more other digging... all that's left is to populate the Perennial Garden with stuff for people to look out. Trees, flowers, bushes, decorative grass... and, most important, a hummingbird feeder.

People making gardens always focus on the plants and forget about the most important element, the animals. I like trees and bushes as much as the next guy, but when I'm sitting in our backyard/perennial garden relaxing after a hard day's "work" and watching Mr Bunches and Mr F take turns dropping things into their wading pool, I want to see birds flying around, and no bird is more spectacular or welcome than hummingbirds.

That's because, first of all, they're like 3 inches long and yet they migrate from Mexico to all over the United States, making them among the most active and toughest of birds. And secondly, they're beautiful: shiny, bright-colored, darting here and there and hovering around. I want our yard filled with hummingbirds. And, thanks to, I can. not only has birdfeeders specifically designed to attract hummingbirds, but also information on just what they eat and how they act, so that I can prepare the backyard to attract them in droves. I know, from their site, that hummingbirds eat bees and wasps, too, and that the Calliope Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the US, likes scrub and bushes to sit in.

Plus, through, I can order the hummingbird feeders online and have them shipped right to me, at a great price... which is good, because, like I said, the hard work is over.

I Wish I Was A Muppet

Wouldn't life be better if our whole world was Muppets?

Mine would.

That's all I could think about this morning as I yet again wrestled with the downstairs shower handle, which was not working right again today. It doesn't work right almost every day. In the past four or five years, there have been about two days during which the downstairs shower handle worked right, those two days being the two days after I last fixed it, or thought I fixed it.

We have a downstairs shower that only I use, and because only I use it, it's a low priority on the list of things to fix up around the house, a list that grows longer and longer by the day, never really getting worked on because, first, we're kind of hoping that in the next year or two, we can just move to a newer house with fewer problems and a concomitantly shorter list, unloading this house and this list onto someone else who may enjoy the challenges it poses and not wish that everything in the house be a Muppet, and, second, because we've never actually worked "repairing things around the house" into our budget.

We have a budget; I know that we have a budget because 3-4 times a year Sweetie and I sit down, like Pip and Herbert, and do our accounts and look at the money coming in and the money going out, and we set up categories that we hope to live up to: mortgage payments, student loan payments, groceries, gas, and the like . We never include a budget line item for Fixing Things Around The House. Those get lumped into Surplus and Surplus has a lot more important things to take care of. Surplus has to do things like pay for the Netflix subscription, and crib tents to keep the Babies! from jumping out of their beds, and air mattresses for The Boy to take to football camp, an annual event that requires, annually, that The Boy get a new air mattress. I don't know what happens to the old air mattresses, and I've learned not to ask questions like that because the answer can infuriate or bewilder, but rarely illuminates.

So our budget, which does include polo shirts for The Boy, does not include things like "Fix the Grandfather Clock" or "Tune the Piano" or "Repair The Outside Garage Door Opener" or "Fix The Downstairs Shower," with the result being that when the downstairs shower needs fixing, it goes through distinct phases.

Phase one: The first hints of trouble begin with the downstairs shower. The handle appears loose or too twisty. Small dribbles of water become harder to shut off.

Phase two: The trouble worsens. The leak becomes constant. Hot and cold water control becomes erratic.

Phase three: Water pressure becomes random. Some showers are taken under a tiny trickle of water. Others pound at me with fire hose intensity.

Phase four: The handle no longer works. The water temperature cycles wildly. The soap appears to become upset over the problems and repeatedly hurls itself off the shelf to its doom on the watery grave of the shower floor.

These troubles, while predictably moving through those phases, are made worse because each morning, they present with a new twist to them, requiring a new solution. Some mornings, I will be able to adjust the temperature by holding the handle a certain way, pressing it, and slightly twisting it. Other mornings I have to adjust the pipe that holds the handle. Some mornings it's both. Sometimes I can't do either because I'm standing on the suicidal bar of soap and my footing isn't good.

I tackle these problems, each morning, with a renewed sense of vigor and hope, puzzling over how the shower handle will try to trick me this morning. Will it scald my eyes while I shampoo my hair? Or will I feel its icy hands pounding my back while soaping my shins? Will it turn off with a twist of the wrist or will I be required to use the pipe wrench again?

And when the problems get too bad, I go to the hardware store again, with Mr F and Mr Bunches in tow, and we pick out a new handle and install that new handle, watching the shower work for a day or two again until the cycle begins anew.

It will begin anew, because the cycle always begins anew at our house, where entropy is the true head of the household and rules with an unpredictable but still iron fist. When I am not wrestling with the shower head, twisting the pipe left while twisting the handle right while holding the central screw perfectly still, I am instead replacing toilet seats at a prodigious rate. I had to install a new toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom not two weeks ago. That's the bathroom I avoid using to shower because it's filled with a variety of lotions and hair supplies and shampoos and combs and washes and other things that I can't always identify; the last time I took a shower in that bathroom, I hunted around for something that appeared to be a bar of soap, but couldn't find anything that looked anything like soap amidst the clothes and sponges and weird apparati and bottles. So I looked around for something that appeared to be shampoo and couldn't find that, either. Stuck in the shower without any apparent way to actually clean myself (but with multiple options for smelling like almost any kind of fruit), I ended up using the Babies! shampoo-and-conditioner and hoping for the best.

(That night, Sweetie told me "You smell nice." So you men out there, forget cologne; just splash on some Johnson & Johnson's No More Tears.)

I had to install what by now must be the 37th toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom because the old toilet seat had become loose and cracked and unreliable, and I didn't ask what was going on in that bathroom that could loosen and crack a toilet seat. That question, like the question of what happens to the annual air mattress, is not one which I care to have answered, since some things cannot be unthought. I wouldn't have time to ask those questions, anyway, because it is never very long between fixes, and seemingly immediately after the toilet seat cracked, the spray faucet on the kitchen sink became inoperable.

I had known that the kitchen sink might be next on the list of things to fall to the disintegrating chaos of our house. I fixed the kitchen sink about two years ago, when the old faucet broke... somehow.

That's how things break in our house: somehow. I suspect that they break through the misapplication of force by children who do not understand that they are no longer small, that they possess a great deal of strength and power now. Middle and The Boy, the two older kids still remaining at home, are strong, powerful, athletic beings who don't seem to understand that they are those types of people, and who as a result continue to pull on handles and push on doors and walk and lift and sit as though they are 1/3 their current size.

The Boy, in particular, lifts weights and plays football and stands nearly as tall as me but is somehow broader, bigger, than he even seems to be. I accuse him of having not just the usual three dimensions, but an extra dimension or two. "He's FIVE dimensional" I frequently tell Sweetie or say to myself, usually as I'm tripping over The Boy's giant shoes in the morning, as I do every morning. The Boy puts his shoes in the front hall, and I've largely given up on that battle, and each morning when I go to pick up the newspaper and battle my way through the spiderwebs that have been strung across our front walk, I see The Boy's giant shoes there in the hall and I resolve not to trip over them, and I plot a course to avoid them, and each morning I trip over them anyway, because, like The Boy, they are larger even than they appear (and that's saying something, because the shoes appear quite large.)

I sit at the kitchen table with the kids, and watch as the table sways back and forth from the slightest touch of their elbows or hands, powerful giant appendages that barely nick the table but make it shake back and forth. And I watch the kids as they turn the faucet on and off, pulling it (they think) only slightly towards them but the application of their young, powerful muscles and their extra dimensions makes the faucet torque more and more, bending it a little more each time.

"Be careful," I say to them, constantly. "Be gentle!" I try to say to them, but it doesn't work, because moments later I am downstairs and I hear them trundling on the floor above me like thundering herds of children.

The Boy's room is right next to ours, with his bed up against the common wall. The other morning, at 5 a.m., The Boy must have rolled over or shifted slightly in his bed and bumped the wall. The bump was so light, so nothing to him that it didn't wake him up at all. But Sweetie and I were both awakened by a sound akin to a tree falling on the house. I thought at first that was what had happened, but the tree would have had to have fallen inside The Boy's room and then against the wall (which, I briefly pondered, could have happened, since I never really know what The Boy is up to and maybe he had brought a tree into his room and it had fallen over.)

So I knew that the kitchen sink would have its problems eventually, because I could see how the older kids were affecting the faucet, pulling it and twisting it unknowingly and causing the faucet to loosen, subtly, so that there was a lessening of water pressure through the faucet. I hadn't, though, suspected that the first problem with the new kitchen sink would be the spray nozzle that sits off to the side. That one crept up on me. It was only recently that I tried to use it and realized that sometimes the little handle that clicks it on and off would stick a little. And when I noticed that, I did what I always do at the first sign of those little troubles, which is to ignore them and hope that they go away.

It worked with the "check engine" light on my car, after all. I ignored that for a whole week and now it's gone off, so the engine is fine.

I couldn't ignore the spray nozzle anymore Tuesday morning when Sweetie came and got me and said she couldn't get it to turn off. The nozzle hung there, spraying and spraying into the sink, at 7 a.m. I fiddled with it, doing what men like me always do when confronted with a mechanical problem: We play with the thing.

We do that because we're not mechanically inclined and have no idea, really, how any of this stuff works. At least I don't. I have no clue how most things in a house work and I don't really want to know how they work, because if you know how things work, then people ask you to fix them. My brother-in-law, a carpenter, knows how things work, and I ask him to fix stuff from time to time. If he lived closer, I'd ask him to fix more stuff than I already do. My mother-in-law knows how to sew, and we're always asking her to hem my pants or sew our couch cushions back together... the couch cushions being another of the inexplicably-breaking-down things in our house. Once a month or so, the couch cushions spring a leak or tear themselves open or otherwise need mother-in-lawing, and nobody seems to know what happens. Whatever happens, it happens overnight, because when I turn off the lights and the TV and lock the windows to keep the serial killers at bay and then go to bed, the couch cushions appear fine, but then the next morning, I come downstairs to find the television set to ESPN or Gossip Girl, and the remote controls have been moved, and the couch cushions appear to have been savagely attacked in the night, maybe by bobcats.

I don't know how to fix things and don't want to know, but I occasionally have to fix things like the spray nozzle, and so I fiddle with them in the hopes that my fiddling will solve whatever problem exists. When Sweetie couldn't get the nozzle to shut off, I took it and looked at it and clicked the handle once or twice, noting that Sweetie hadn't lied: it wouldn't shut off.

Having independently verified the problem, I then shut off the water itself. That worked: The nozzle shut off. I set it in its holder and looked at it, then turned the water back on. The nozzle sprayed me and I quickly shut it off again, and stood looking at it, pondering what to fiddle with next.

While I did that, Sweetie turned the water on, and I got sprayed again.

"Hey!" I said, and jumped back. She turned the water off. "What'd you do that for, if you just saw me spray it?" I asked her.

"I didn't see it spray you," Sweetie said, but I'm not sure that she was being fully honest. Maybe I had it coming, like the time she put popcorn in my sock as a punishment.

My next step was to take the nozzle apart, something I did using the only tool I ever really rely on, a butter knife. I pried at the handle and unsprung it and looked inside, seeing... the inner workings of a spray nozzle, and they of course made no sense to me. So I poked them with the butter knife in what I hoped was an authoritative (and fixing) way, and then put the handle back together, set it down, and turned the water on. It sprayed me.

I took it apart again and poked other parts, then I unscrewed the whole thing from the hose and poked different parts, and then put it all back together and turned the water on. It sprayed me.

I was stumped, and running out of time, as I still had to get ready for work and faced my own battle with the shower downstairs, so I came up with the short-term solution of leaving the nozzle pulled down into the sink with the admonition that people turning on the sink should be careful not to spray the water all over.

I fixed that nozzle the other day, but then today was confronted with the ever-deteriorating shower handle downstairs, which came up with the newest twist yet, and the twist that finally caused me to wish Muppetness on my whole life.

I had finished up showering with a minimum of scalding and only two soap-hurdles, and turned the handle off, holding my breath to see what would happen.

To my surprise, the water shut off. Completely. Without even a drip. Just like that. Just the way showers are supposed to work, and the way I imagine showers in other houses, houses that don't require muppetization, work.

I stared at it for a second and then let out my breath. It worked. I didn't know what I'd done, but I'd clearly done something and the shower was working again. Cheered by that, I began brushing my teeth while listening to the talk radio. When I'd finished brushing my teeth, I noticed that there was a tiny little dripping sound coming from the shower.

I should have left it alone, but I didn't. I had, for a brief shining moment, been the repairer of the shower; I'd owned a shower that shut off perfectly and I suddenly couldn't imagine going off to work with a tiny little drip after that moment of perfection.

That, and I once read a news story about a guy whose toilet ran slowly-but-constantly, and he'd gotten a $10,000 water bill that had nearly bankrupted him. I can't remember where I left my keys on a day-to-day basis, but I never forget a terrifying story that I once read in some newspaper or magazine or maybe online, and that came to mind, too, when I heard the tiny drip, so I figured I could not only return to the nirvana-like state of shower perfection, but I could also save $10,000, and I went back to the shower and tapped the handle down a little to shut it all the way off.

That turned the shower on. Somehow.

So I tipped the handle the other way, and that turned the shower on more. I moved the handle down (which usually is off) and noted that the shower flow diminished a little while the handle was in the middle. Moving the handle up (usually on) resulted in the same thing: a torrent of water, but while the handle was precisely in the middle, it let up a little.

So I placed the handle there and then began twisting the pipe, which now was wet and required that I get something to get a grip on it. That something was the Lion washcloth I'd bought for the Babies! when they were little -- it's a handpuppet-like washcloth shaped like a lion that I'd appropriated to use in the downstairs shower because it is good for gripping the pipe.

Wearing my lion, I tugged and twisted the pipe this way and that while trying to observe the effects on the shower, which fought back by increasing the water pressure and by turning steaming hot, quickly engulfing the tiny bathroom in clouds of steam that made it feel like I was breathing a hot cloud. The handle, meanwhile, loosened and I could see the screw slowly falling out, requiring me to grab the screwdriver set I keep in the downstairs bathroom for precisely such an emergency, and begin twisting it back in, while gripping the pipe with my lion hand.

That went on for about 10 minutes, during which I got soaked down again by the steam that built up in billows and during which I twice took apart the entire handle and put it back together again in the hopes that the shower would appreciate my effort and shut off.

I didn't win. I eventually got it to a small trickle of water that was the best I could do, and I left well enough alone and went back upstairs to get ready, and that's when it occurred to me that my life would be better if the whole world was Muppets.

In the Muppet world, almost everything is alive, and talks, and has emotions and sometimes arms. Doors, cars, trees, maybe even shower heads and handles, are alive and can interact with people as if they were all Jimmy's magic flute. In the Muppet world, if you didn't like what something was doing, you could bop it on the head like the Muppaphone, or lecture it, or otherwise deal with it in some manner other than simply taking it apart and putting it back together.

If my world was Muppets, then each morning, I'd go downstairs and talk with the shower and tell it to be good that day. I'd go to the handle and say "Medium-hot, please," and the handle would twist itself and smile and chat with me about my day. If the Handle wasn't having a good day, and was recalcitrant, I could cajole it or simply bop it (bopping Muppets never seems to hurt them) and it would then cooperate.

Or, if it wouldn't cooperate, I could at least feel as though I had more options than taking it apart. After all, I'm used to interacting with things that react in inexplicable ways and don't cooperate with me: Mr F and Mr Bunches fill that role already, and they don't bother me, much, except when (as last night) they're trying to use some sort of Baby Pantomime to get me to do something but I can't tell what it is.

Last night, Mr Bunches got me to go into his room -- he still stubbornly refuses to talk much, even though I know he can, because he says things like car and canoe and even tries to say motorcycle -- by pulling me by the hand. Once I was in the room, he tugged my hand down, so I got down on my knees, but then he pushed me back up. When I was standing again, he tugged me again and I started to crouch down, at which point he stopped me. I crouched there, while he studied me, and I steadied myself with one hand on the floor, but he made me lift that up. While I stood there like a baseball catcher, he stared and then came forward and grabbed my arms, spreading them out. Then he stood against me and put one arm around my neck. I thought he wanted to be picked up and so I did that, standing up, but he grunted and tried to wiggle free, so I put him back down again. He then tugged me into a crouching position again and left me there to go watch TV.

So I'm pretty sure I could deal with a household full of living appliances and Muppetized furniture and shower handles. They couldn't be any more inscrutable than the Babies!, and couldn't be any more difficult to control than the older kids, and while I might still have a house made up of automatically-shredding couch cushions, and disintegrating toilet seats, but I could at least have the fun of talking to them while they shredded and disintegrated.

And maybe they'd break into song, too. That was always happening in the Muppet show, wasn't it? I could probably learn to like that, if my shower handle would refuse to work but would sing me a song about how it wasn't going to work for me.

Hopefully, they use it to shop at "Buy Presents For"

Kids today do less and less of their shopping at malls and more and more of it online. I know ours do - -they buy songs off iTunes and order clothes off websites and download movies online and otherwise have little need for cash and a lot of need for a credit card.

Instead of giving them our maxed-out credit cards, I've gone and gotten them a Prepaid Card from Netspend. Netspend lets you get reloadable prepaid debit cards that work like any other debit card but without having a bank account or credit check. It's helpful not just for people who don't want (or can't qualify for) traditional bank accounts, but in our case, teens who don't want us to give them cash to buy the stuff they need - -they want to shop online, so we can pay an allowance to them on the Netspend card and they can use it where, and when, they like.

Mr Bunches was my Cat Search Deputy (3 Good Things)

It's Friday! 3 Good Things from yesterday to keep me cheery today! And it's Friday!

1. Mr Bunches helping me chase our cat Scruffy Jean MacDougal last night while we played in the yard. All I had to do was say "Let's go find Scruffy" and he'd say Ok and grab my hand and we'd head off on a search-and-rescue to bring Scruffy back home.

2. Hanging out, at the end of the night, with Sweetie and Middle and The Boy, just chatting before we went to bed. That doesn't happen often enough, that we all sit around just talking.

3. Waffles for dinner!

This is precisely what I needed to guarantee that I'll never become a productive member of society.

I wasn't exactly in danger of running out of things to distract me from ever actually working, but things just got a little worse with my discovery, this morning, of

DominoChamp lets me play dominoes, online, for free, in tournaments, and gives me a chance to win prizes, too -- winning in a perfectly legal way. It's like poker, but without all the lame-osity that Poker has come to have; I mean, seriously, can anyone, anymore, hear the word poker without mentally picturing a bunch of jerky frat-boys in sunglasses planning a trip to Atlantic City? I can't, and that's not an image I want.

But dominoes, online at DominoChamp, provides the same kind of skill-and-random-luck fun that card games offer, while at the same time being less jerky and more family-friendly. It's dominoes, the same game you played with your brothers when you were kids on the kitchen table, but it's dominoes online with a chance to win prizes, and to have some fun while doing it, thanks to neat little features like a trash-talking option that lets you taunt the people you're playing against.

And it's not just one kind of game, either -- they've got all the varieties of domino games to try out, and you can play online against others, people around the world. Moms at home, soldiers on leave, even, say, lawyers who really should be doing a little billable work now and then.

Not that I know anyone who fits that category.

All The Questions Of All The Days I Had Questions.

Ask good questions... the only advice anyone will ever need. Here are mine:

1. Is it true what they say about a fear of heights?

2. Why back into a parking space?

3. Why would an air conditioner need a remote control?

56. The Xbox question.

57. "How is that ironic?"

58. If you jump up in the air in a spaceship, and just stay free-falling while the spaceship keeps moving in the same direction, eventually would you drift towards the back of the spaceship if you waited long enough?

59: How much do you have to buy at McDonald's to use their playland without being a freeloader?

60: Am I a good person because I take my shopping carts to that little pen in the parking lot?

61: How old were you when you began actively comparing your age to other people's?

62: What if a spider flew up your nose?

Do you agree with me that there is a difference between garbage and a garage sale?

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?

65: Was I required to talk to her?

66: Did you tell the Boy we're going to get a McFlurry?

67: Can you tell us apart?

68: How much money would it take...

69. Why is blue raspberry blue?

70. Why do we sell beverages in multiples of six?

71. Is downhill good or bad?

72. Why do we say "off limits?"

73: Can you cheat on a magazine subscription?

74. Why aren't all rivers perfectly straight by now?

75. Why do we bother sealing up croutons?

76. Why do we need two kinds of pink-eye?

77. How happy are clams, really?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's "Down...To Go", Sweetie's-Lame-80s-Music Edition. (84 Down, 9,664 to go)

Sweetie has many great qualities, far too many to list even if the entire Internet was available for just that purpose. And there is little to balance those great qualities, because Sweetie has only flaw: Her taste in music and movies.

I suppose that could be two flaws, but I'm going to count them just as one, especially because sometimes her taste in music and movies comes together in one spectacular conflagration of terrible, as it does in song 84.

I don't want song 84 on my iPod, but it's there, because I share an iTunes with Sweetie and the kids, which means there is a fair amount of godawful music on my iPod, and a fair amount of that is Sweetie's horrible, horrible music. And of all the horrible, terrible music Sweetie likes, song 84 is by... far... the... worst. So I give you the newest song on my iPod, just added today: Dancing In Heaven by "Q-Feel."

That song is awful on so many levels. I wouldn't have liked it just on the basis of the title. I wouldn't have liked it just based on it being sung by "Q-Feel." (That's the kind of name that you hear and choke on your tongue and say I'm sorry, what'd you say? because you thought maybe the person was kidding you, or had a stroke just before saying the name.)

But then I didn't like it even more (less?) because of the air-traffic-controllers-meets-aerobics video, because of Q-Feel's (really?) perv-stache topping off his Tour De Pedophile outfit, and I didn't like it even more/less because it was off the soundtrack to the movie Girls Just Want To Have Fun, which is a movie that Sweetie loved for reasons that remain a mystery to anyone who has ever watched five minutes of that movie-- and only Sweetie has ever watched more than five minutes of that movie, because only Sweetie had any interest in watching a movie which can best be described as "Exactly like Footloose, but with less Kevin Bacon and more hair scrunchies."

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Better late than never (3 Good Things)

I'm getting later and later in the day with these... you can sometimes tell, by that, just how my morning's gone. But even on days like today, when it's been one crummy thing after another, I keep smiling and bright by remembering at least 3 Good Things from the day before...

1. The guys on the sports radio show during my drive home doing their hilarious impressions of how it would sound when Packers' fans begin calling in to radio shows this Friday, the day Brett Favre is expected to become a Minnesota Viking. I almost never laugh at their show, but they were really funny yesterday. "I've been a Packer fan since 1963 and I'll tell ya, Bart Starr woulda never done dis..." Nailed it!

2. The view from the top of the hill at the Department of Agriculture on the East Side of Madison. If there is a bright spot in having to spend over an hour poring over grain dealer records going back to 2002, it's that before and after I did it, I got to see Dane County spread out before me as though I were the king of the world. Or at least Dane County.

3. I was able to quickly and easily fix the spray hose on the sink -- the little spray handle had broken and kept not shutting off when used to spray, but using my expert knowledge of "buying a handle and screwing it on," I fixed that puppy right up.

Oldest needs more help than just some quick money, that's for sure.

Oldest got herself into a minor car accident the other day -- nobody was hurt, but she was ticketed and that's her third traffic ticket in the last few weeks, which means that she's going to be short on money for a while.

She did what she always does in those situations -- come to us and ask for a loan. But Oldest has tapped out her line of credit with us (she still owes us for the couch and chair she bought back in November, for one thing). I suggested that she try another option: go pick up additional shifts at work or maybe get a second job. You can imagine how popular
those ideas were with her.

People like Oldest, whether or not they deliberately get themselves into those binds or just accidentally, need something they can do to weather the rough times, though, and I'm not unsympathetic to her. Even if she were to go pick up some other shifts at work, she wouldn't get paid for those immediately -- she'd have to wait until her paycheck comes through, so there's no quick fix there.

That's where an online cash advance might help someone in her shoes -- letting her get a little money, quickly, to tide her over until she can get that extra pay coming in or find a second job (or a better first job, I suppose.)

Cash advances and payday loans should never be taken out lightly, and nobody should borrow money unless it's an absolute emergency, but in the right situation, they sure can help.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Once an action is, catharsis is (A Mandolin For Your Thoughts, 1)

I mentioned the other day that I started reading Corelli's Mandolin, and that it was pretty good. I got the book as a used book on sale from the local library; it apparently was originally owned, or used, by someone else. (She signed her name but I'm not going to post it here.)

Throughout the book so far, the Prior Bookowner has underlined various passages, and as I read, I began to try to figure out why she (it's a she) was underlining those passages. Was it that she liked the way they sounded? Was it that she thought they were particularly true, or untrue? Was it that she agreed with them or disagreed or wanted to point them out to herself in the future?

I may never know, because Prior Bookowner has passed on the book and all I'm left with is the book, and its underlined passages. But as I read on and noted more, I thought to myself: I bet there's something significant to this. Something artistic to this. Something that I could post on my blog and take credit for.

That's how I came up with what I'm calling:

A Mandolin For Your Thoughts:
Collected Notes Of The Prior Bookowner

Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to post those underlined passages, in the order that Prior Bookowner has underlined them, and that is, I hope, going to form an Epic Free Verse Poem. What follows is that poem, formed entirely from the phrases Prior Bookowner underlined (with her handwritten notes included, in italics)

A Mandolin For Your Thoughts:
Collected Notes Of The Prior Bookowner


He nitrogenated the herbs in strict rotation, and tomorrow it would be the turn of the oregano.

Fascism is not merely a social and political revolution, it's cultural as well.
Whether they are Italians first or Jews.
Never forget; if the Armed Forces are the balls of Fascism, and I am its brains, you are its imagination.
Select an Albanian patriot for assassination,
Sink a Greek battleship in such a way that he was short of words even in his inner speech.

The self-anointed superior races, drunk on Darwin and nationalist hyperbole,
besotted with eugenics and beguiled by myth, were winding up machines of genocide,

Living up to her reputation as a scold.
Seventeen years old
She was proud and wilful.
Turkish culverin of solid brass
Mandras house
He first set eyes on Pelagia, Homosexual Carlo Piero Guercio,
The Symposium. Aristophanes explaining three sexes:
The men and women who loved
Men who loved men
The women who loved women.

Prime Minister Metaxas,
Lulu, my most beloved daughter:
History is the propaganda of the victors.
Senior officer by merit alone; it was done by browning the tongue.
Companies of Bersaglieri:
British military uniforms and Greek weapons, both proud to have been chosen.
We were deeply afraid.
Foolish jokes to conceal this.
The soldier also always has the fear that the authorities know more than he does
And that he does not know what is really happening, the fact,
And this makes him contemptuous,
Suspicious of authority.
We found that there is a wild excitement when the tension of waiting is done with,
And that sometimes this transforms,
A kind of demented sadism,
Once an action is, catharsis is.

Check back for part two once I read more of the book; and check here for something you can do like this.

Mr F is the one pictured in this post; you may not recognize him with his pants on. (3 Good Things)

Yesterday, on my way home from work I noted that yet another road was under construction, so there is officially now no route between my office and my home that doesn't have construction on it... but I remain optimistic because of the 3 Good Things from yesterday that I focus on:

1. We had guests over last night -- a couple of our friends, just to hang out -- and midway through the night, they were treated to Mr F streaking them, running through the living room sans clothes in a bid for attention.

2. I got through all 116 emails that had piled up between last Monday and this Monday -- meaning I got caught up on a week out of the office in just two days, a record for me.

3. This song, "Oh Daniel" somehow being on my Ipod. It's by a guy named Niklas Tafra, and I have no idea how it got on my iPod but I'm glad it did, because I listened to it while driving through the construction-ridden city:

Why didn't the Gilligan's Island people live in the trees, too?

So you've got your iPhone, and you've used it to make some calls, to identify some music, to play some kind of driving game, and to find a restaurant that serves Calamari... pretty much all the things that the commercial told you could be done.

Now what?

How about maybe use your iPhone for something useful -- like finding a place to live? Or do you think that apartments and houses grow on trees? They don't, you know. Except in that world where the Keebler elves live. And the Swiss Family Robinson's island. Although the Swiss Family Robinson's home didn't grow on the tree, they built it there, didn't they? I think they did. Funny how they built it without tools, even. Or did they have tools?

You know who didn't have any tools? Tom Hanks in Cast Away. That's why he couldn't build himself a great house that looked like it grew on a tree.

I digress. You need a place to live, and you need it soon, and what're you going to do, go look at a bunch of fliers on the college bulletin board for people looking for roommates? I think not.

Instead of doing things the loser, old-fashioned way, why not check out the free new App, MyNewPlace in the iPhone app store.

MyNewPlace is the hottest app around, and it's available for the very affordable cost of NOTHING right now. It lets you search more than 6 million rental listings nationwide, and you can search them by city & state, or ZIP code, or, coolest of all, by using GPS to find apartments near your actual physical location.

The app lets you filter by almost any criteria: amenities, how many bedrooms, even PET POLICIES. And, right there on the App, you can store your thoughts and photos so that you can keep track of which ones you like and which ones you don't.

MyNewPlace is brought to you by a 3-Time Business Week "Best of the Web" award winner My New Place, one of the largest apartment sites around. Find out more by going to the app store, or check out this link:


Video one:



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Paperboy, Part 2 (Jobs v. Life, 2)

Life is what happens when you're not working... and this is part 2 of my ongoing attempt to explain my life by the work I've done. Click here for the Table of Contents.

You know what I remember most about my years as a paperboy? Subbing.

"Subbing" was what we had to do with papers, back then. The papers came in two sections, one of which had to be inserted into the other. Back then, I didn't know why that was, why there were two parts of the paper, the "main" and the "insert," as I called them.

The main was the front page and all its pages, and the local news, and all it's pages. The insert, or the sub, was the features, and included, in the paper I delivered, the Green Sheet -- the comics and "Dear Abby" and the crosswords and the Jumble.

The "Green Sheet" was called the "Green Sheet" because it was green -- in the rest of the paper (which at that time was only black and white) it stuck out like Gatsby's beacon, a smidgen of green in all that newsprint. It was famous, I guess, for being a green sheet of comics and entertainment -- famous as far back as 1954.

The Green Sheet was why I started reading the paper, back when I was a kid - -I could easily pull the comics out of the newspaper and read those, and sometimes read other things like the trivia quizzes or Dear Abby, on that same Green Sheet, all without having to resort to paging through the newspaper to find the comics. Later on, I would begin reading Newsweek for much the same reason -- because Newsweek had editorial cartoons and humorous quotes in it, and I liked reading those, so I'd page through the magazine in the school library to get to those, and sometimes then read other articles. So, you parents who despair because your kids only read the comics (or, like mine, only read the grocery store ads), don't worry: eventually, they might move on to reading actual substantive news articles and learning about the world.

It's important to say that, I think. It's important to point out that kids (or adults) can read the comics and still be productive human beings, or read anything and still be productive human beings. I've heard that former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun used to begin every day by reading the Sports section of the paper, and that's always seemed significant to me.

Society -- us, we-- make a distinction between "things that have merit" and "things that don't," and we tend to lump almost anything humorous, or fun, or popular, into the latter category. If something is funny, or fun, we seem to think, it can't be worth much to us.

I've always had a problem with that, and not just a problem in the "Comic books can be educational, too," sense. Because while, yes, comics can be educational, for the most part they're not (or not very) and the more educational they get, the more fun they tend not to be.

No, my problem has been more along the lines of this: Why is it that everything has to be so danged serious all the time? Why are only serious things considered to have any merit or point in society? Why is it better to read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises than to read Watterson's "Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons"?

No, I'm totally serious about that. What makes The Sun Also Rises better than Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons? Why is one considered by most people to be a literary classic that has to be inflicted on our students year after year, while the other is considered drivel?

I think it's snobbishness, and what I like to call The Cult Of Seriousness. People revere stuff that sucks because they think it makes them a more serious, more literary, more artistic, more better person. That's why we spend money to keep producing operas but relegate comic strips to the Internet to beg for money. Imagine if the National Endowment for the Arts were to not give $50,000 to an opera house that nobody wants to go to, and instead were to give $10,000 grants to each of five cartoonists. Wouldn't the world be better off paying Natalie Dee and Buttersafe to promulgate their thoughtful-but-weird humor, or better off having XKCD get even more exposure than he already does, than having yet another production of York! The Opera?

I sure think so, but as a society, we've decided, no, we're going to have kids read things like The Canterbury Tales and watch things like York! The Opera instead of reading things like Doonesbury and watch things like Better Off Ted, even though, so far as I can tell, the merits of the latter(s) far outweigh the merits of the former(s).

So anyway, thanks to the end of the Green Sheet, parents don't have to worry about kids being able to easily find the comics in the paper, and thanks to that and to my and Harry Blackmun's examples, can rest assured that kids who spend their time reading comics will eventually go on to read things that are more approved by society -- even though I hope that secretly they will, like I sometimes do, go read some comic books anyway. I like to think that somewhere, in the vast recesses of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., Justice Scalia is holed up with the latest issue of Green Lantern -- and that he's re-reading it for the second time. The world would be a better place if he would do that.

The Green Sheet seems significant to me because back then, not only were comics not hidden away, but they were specially segregated, marked out for easy reach, and everyone I knew read the comics in the paper and probably read them first, thanks to the section being green and easily pulled out of the rest of the paper. Which isn't to say that there weren't controversies back then about the comics. There are always controversies about the comics, it seems, because someone always likes a comic, even Nancy, and who likes that one? But because someone always likes a comic, any change to the comics page is met with more outrage than almost anything else you could imagine at the time.

At the time. Nowadays, I'm no longer astounded at the level of outrage that can be produced. We live in an out-rage-rific society, and outrage can be manufactured at a prodigious rate. But back then, outrage was reserved for important things like selling arms to Iran, or removing comic strips.

The controversy I remember most of all was probably, in the long run, responsible for me going on to read other parts of the paper beyond the Green Sheet, and that controversy was over Doonesbury. Specifically, it was a controversy about whether Doonesbury should be in the comics section or on the editorial page.

Very few comics back then (or now) ran anywhere but on one page, or a couple pages, of the paper in the features. There's always that odd comic out, like Gil Thorp, that runs in the sports section, but I never understood that. Will sports fans not go to the comics section to read a comic about sports? Would comic fans be put off, perturbed, by a blatantly-sports-oriented comic plunked down in the middle of their funny pages? Other soap-opera comics didn't get pushed to other sections. Mary Worth wasn't in the Lifestyle sections, or by the obituaries. Heathcliff ran in more than the "Pets" section. But comics that were seen as being too focused were relegated to specific sections: Gil Thorp and Tank McNamara to the sports section, and Dilbert to "Business," back when there was a daily "Business" section in most newspapers.

And Doonesbury was forever being shoved off to the editorial pages and then back, moved and switched and debated, because Doonesbury dared to have a political viewpoint, which apparently was way too much for the Green Sheet or most funny papers.

The issue of whether Doonesbury should be a comic or an editorial cartoon was, in my memory, as hotly debated as any other topic that got public attention when I was a kid, and ultimately, the editorial cartoon side won, with Doonesbury going to reside on the editorial page near throat-clearing essays about the importance of voting in the Second Aldermanic District elections in April and other such topics. I followed Doonesbury and would, each day, read first the Green Sheet and then turn to the editorial page to see what Doonesbury had to say that day, too, and I imagine that I eventually began reading other articles of note in the editoral pages, too, graduating from comic strips on to more serious articles and topics that receive more societal approval than comics do.

Like I began, I remember all that because I remember subbing, putting one section of the paper into the other section. Each day, in the afternoon, Mr. Ferris would drop off our stacks of newspapers for us to begin subbing them, and I didn't know then why the papers could come in two parts but not be all put together into one part. I know now: I know that it's because a big part of the paper is in fact put together well before it comes out. The main section of the paper is printed the day that you get it, or close to it (depending on how far away from the publisher you are) but the features, the classified ads, the comics, those things-- those are all printed in advance and prepared for a given day. Those pre-printed sections, then, came separate to the paperboy's house because they'd been prepared separately, so we had to put them together: the main section being lifted open to have the features section put into it, then the whole thing stacked off to the side, so that the evening paper delivered by us was one unified whole, giving the appearance of having all been written in the preceding 24 hours -- a trick of the trade, pulled off by paperboys.

"Subbing" was even more intense on Sunday mornings, when there were even more sections of the paper to put together, because those papers were bigger and had circular ads and fliers and things in them. Paperboys didn't sub the papers on Sundays. In Hartland, where I lived and delivered papers, the Milwaukee Journal (and the Milwaukee Sentinel) had as their circulation department a run-down building downtown, a building that consisted of mostly a back room with long tables in it, and stacks here and there of leftover papers. There may have been offices, too, but I don't remember ever seeing any.

It was to that building, every day, that papers were delivered, and from that building that Mr. Ferris would take the papers and distribute them to the army of paperboys waiting around the lake country area to sub them and deliver them to people's homes. Mr. Ferris did this in his old, unmarked post office jeep, a surplus mailman's jeep stripped of its formal insignia and driven by a grizzly, white-bearded, foul-mouthed, bad-tempered old man who lived near Nixon Park. (I knew that because I would, sometimes, while riding my bike, see his old jeep parked outside his house, just across from Nixon Park and down the street from the factory that will always in my mind be Hartland Plastics, a company that no longer exists but which my Mom once worked at.) Mr. Ferris had the only surplus post office jeep I'd ever seen to that point, and the only one I've ever seen to this day. He's the only person I knew who ever drove one of those, and I guessed that he did it because it made sense to drive a mailman jeep around -- they stopped all the time, he stopped all the time, so in my 13-year-old mind, I assumed there was something special about post office jeeps that made them suitable for people who needed to make frequent stops in their lives.

Monday through Saturday, Mr. Ferris dropped off our papers, pulling up and tossing bundles of inserts and mains onto our porch. Sundays, he didn't. On Sundays, the only day that the Milwaukee Journal was delivered in the morning, we had to get up and go to the circulation building and pick up our papers, which had been pre-subbed by the gang of teenagers that hung around the circulation building subbing and smoking and joking.

I remember the general idea of those guys, but not anyone in specific: the smoking, kind-of-frightening teens that subbed the Sunday papers were not part of my 13-year-old crowd or part of the social circle my parents hung around, at all. They were, if I had to guess, the kind of people who hung out with the neighbors and residents my parents looked down on -- they were the kids who lived in those houses that my parents frowned on and discussed in quiet voices, the kind of kids who were suspended from school or whose parents were divorced or in prison or otherwise the kind of people who were not really meant to live in Hartland. I didn't talk to the subbing, smoking, teenagers. We would simply pull up in my dad's car and grab our bundles of Sunday papers, putting them into the backseat and sometimes the trunk and go deliver them, while I'd look at the teenagers in their black rock t-shirts with their long hair and their punching-each-other-in-the-arms and I'd wish that I was at home, in bed, still asleep. I didn't know if the teenagers had graduated from paper routes to subbing or whether they just did that, or whether they had other jobs, too, and I didn't really want to know. I didn't like them and didn't want to know much about them.

Sundays were the only day my dad helped us with the paper route, in part because we had to go get the papers in downtown Hartland and in part because the papers were really, really thick on Sundays. Our paper route had about 100 or more "Sunday" customers, so we had more papers to deliver on that day than on weekdays, too, making it more necessary for Dad to help us with it. I don't think he got anything out of helping us, as I look back -- I don't think we gave him any money or helped out in any way. He just got up and helped us with the route, every Sunday, because that's what he did -- that's what parents do. They get up and help you with the paper route they had you get in the first place.

We would trade off on Sundays, alternating Sundays delivering the paper, too. At first, when I got on the paper route, it was my brother Bill and I, and we divided up the duties into collecting and delivering, with Bill responsible for collecting the money and me responsible for delivering the papers. We traded off Sundays, each alternating getting up to go with Dad and deliver the Sunday papers. Later, when Matt got old enough to become part of the route, he and I divided the weekly duties up differently: we split the route in half and each delivered and collected half of the route, but we still split up Sundays, so that the only person who got up every Sunday to deliver papers was my dad.

Later, too, when I took over collecting half the route and Matt took over collecting half the route, when Bill had moved on to other jobs, I learned just how profitable our paper route actually was -- during the time that Bill was handling the money, I'd never made much. I found out, after Bill was off the route, why that was, also.

2/3 Videos, 1/3 Books: (3 Good Things)

I never really know what to expect when I walk into the house after work... but sometimes it leads to one of the 3 Good Things that keep me cheery the next day...

1. The song itself is okay, but not good enough to make the list of 3 Good Things. What did make the list of 3 Good Things is seeing how much Sweetie loved Andy Samberg's newest song. She loved it so much that it was the post-dinner soundtrack, providing the perfect after-dinner sounds:

2. Later, last night, the second of the three good things occured when Mr F decided that everyone had to sit and watch Youtube with him. We put on Laughing Baby, and as it played, Mr F made me and Sweetie both sit on the couch, in assigned seats, and watch it with him:

3. And the third good thing wasn't a video at all; it was the fact that I'm about 70 pages into Corelli's Mandolin, and it's turning out to be quite good -- a surprise, since I started it out of boredom and didn't have high hopes for the book at all.

If I take care of this, I'll only have another 455 faults to make up for.

I have a confession to make. I'm a lousy husband when it comes to backrubs.

Part of the deal with marriage, right, is access to backrubs. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that's about 96% of the deal with marriage: "Love, honor, obey, and give backrubs, at least from time to time."

And Sweetie holds up her end of the deal. She gives me backrubs from time to time and I appreciate it.

But I'm terrible about reciprocating. Whenever it's my turn to give Sweetie a backrub, I turn into Public Backrub Enemy Number 1.

Now, part of that is Sweetie's fault, in that she'll set herself up so that it's uncomfortable to rub her back. She doesn't just lean over or lie on her stomach and let me rub her back; she'll have to sit next to me, but a little behind me, and kind of off to the side, and at an angle where the sun is shining, so that in order to give her a backrub I have to kind of twist upside-down and backwards and squint and also, for some reason, hop on one foot.

But that's not the whole problem. The whole problem is that I'm just not a backrub giver. About 3 seconds into it, I'm tired and want my own backrub and also I get distracted and I end up sort of just rubbing the same area of her spine over and over.

But I at least have the honesty to admit it, and the courage to feel bad about it. And, now, the opportunity to do something about my failings, thanks to the new Human Touch Massage Chairs I found out about.

HumanTouch has created these super-advanced robotic massage chairs that emulate and improve on techniques used by therapists, chiropractors and physicians. With decades of experiences in the field, Human Touch engineers have come up with futuristic, incredibly advances systems that replace and improve on professional human massages.

These chairs roll, compress, push, knead and otherwise mimic, perfectly, an actual massage and they do it over the full body: neck to foot with three-dimensional movements and different programs to vary the intensity and the area and techniques.

They even do calf massages -- and that's a tough one to do. When Sweetie wants her calves massaged, I have to kind of hang from the ceiling on a trapeze while humming Inna Gadda Da Vida. But the chairs will do it with no trouble.

So I may be a lousy husband in the backrub department, but I can be a great husband in the getting-Sweetie-an-incredible-massaging chair department. If I can figure out where she hid the credit cards this time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Had To Destroy The Moral High Ground In Order To Save It. (I Fought The Library... The Epilogue.)

It's been a while since I mentioned my epic battle with the library, a while that can be explained by the fact that I thought perhaps things were over.

Let me get everyone up to speed: I took a bunch of DVDs out of the library. I then returned all the DVDs to the library. The library then said that I hadn't returned some DVDs and tried to charge me. I then convinced the library not to charge me by using their own rules agains them. The library agreed not to charge me for those DVDs, only to turn around and say that I'd lost a different DVD, "Baby Galileo," that they were going to charge me $19 for.

That's where I Fought The Library left off. And that's where it was going to stand, too, because there was no way I was going to pay for these new DVDs the library claimed I hadn't returned. Baby Galileo? I returned that. Forget it. I opted, at that point, to go with Plan... whatever plan I was on, probably Plan X by that point.

Plan X was the same plan I'd used previously on the library, back when the library claimed that I hadn't returned a Paul Simon CD and tried to charge me $10, and because I'd returned the CD, I wasn't going to pay the ten bucks, so I opted instead to use Sweetie's library card to take stuff out; I just went to the library, got my books and CDs and DVDs, and then went to the auto-check-out and scanned the card and then the books.

That plan had worked for a long time, until I'd gotten overdue books on Sweetie's card and she'd refused to let me use it, so I'd had to suck it up and pay the ten bucks after all, even though I'd returned the CD!

So this time, I was not going to pay the cost of the Baby Galileo DVD because I had returned that. Instead, I went to Plan X again and got Sweetie's library card and put it in my wallet so that whenever I went to the library I could just use her card and check them out.

What I hadn't counted on, this time, was that I now check things out of the library by first requesting them online, so that the library will do all the work for me and go get the books off the shelf and put them in a holding area, reserving them for me and me only. I do that because it's a lot easier to browse online for what I want, and then to cruise in there with the Babies! and grab my books instead of trying to roam through the stacks with a couple of nearly-three-year-olds who might, at any point, decide to make a break for it and end up with me chasing them around the Encyclopedia Brittanicas while people in the cubicles nearby act all annoyed, as though they didn't secretly think my kids are super-cute and didn't secretly welcome the respite from whatever weird Marxist literature they're reading.

(I don't get people who read in the library, or people who study in the library, and I always assume that people who read or study in the library are closet Marxists, reading old dusty copies of Das Kapital or, worse, deconstructionist essays comparing Das Kapital to Alice In Wonderland and contrasting both with economic feasibility studies of Cuban health care.)

Anyway, rather than bother the Marxists with my Babies!, and rather than try to rush through browsing for a book in the library -- when I rush I always regret it; I always end up with some crummy Dean Koontz book -- I opted to reserve my books online and then just breeze in and get them with no waiting and no hassle.


Except that when I reserve a book under my name, I can't check it out with Sweetie's library card, something I didn't know about until the first time I went in to try to do that, to try to check out a book I'd reserved but using Sweetie's card, and got told by the librarian there that I couldn't do that.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because it's not reserved under her name, it's reserved under yours," she said.

"But we're married," I said.

"I'm sorry," she said.

I really wanted that book. So I very reluctantly took out my card and handed it to her and hoped that maybe the system would have forgotten all about the Baby Galileo DVD the library still claimed I hadn't returned. Only, no such luck.

"You have a hold on your account," the librarian told me.

I was already pulling a twenty out of my wallet. "Yeah, I know," I said, and paid the $19 for the Baby Galileo DVD that I didn't lose, and then checked out my reserved books (which, to skip ahead a bit, weren't even all that good, and certainly weren't worth $19, and I also could've probably gone to Barnes & Noble and bought them for less than $19, and maintained the moral high ground here...and, no, I don't really know why that would be maintaining the moral high ground but I'm certain that I would be maintaining the moral high ground by not paying the $19...)

And that was where I Fought The Library ended. I'd caved in and paid them their $19 and given up on Plan X, all to check out some not-so-great books, and I'd lost the moral high ground.

But I had my revenge, anyway, because, remember, I'd said that I was going to be a good guy and become a "Friend of the Library," taking the money they'd wanted as a fine and instead joining up to become a Library Friend. Well, let me tell you: I scrapped that, the moment the library made me fork over the $19 for the Baby Galileo DVD. I walked out of the library that day and I vowed, as I did, this oath:

I will NEVER be a "friend of the library."

So that'll show them: They can extort $19 out of me, but in doing so... well, the library lost a friend. And a good friend, at that: Just ask any of my other friends. I'm a good friend. Or, if not a good friend, I'm at least dependable. Mostly.

Well, I'm interesting, anyway. So I'm not a good or dependable friend. I'm at least interesting, and the library lost out on that. The library, on that day, lost out on an interesting friend.

And that, finally, was the end of the library story.

Or so I thought.

Because later, not long ago, Sweetie and I were heading out on some errands and one of the errands was to stop by Best Buy and pick up a videogame for our nephew. (It was this set of errands.) I'd forgotten my Best Buy credit card and Sweetie dispatched me to go get it, so I ran back up to our bedroom and opened my little dresser drawer, the one where I put all the important things that I don't want to forget about, including credit cards.

Only it wasn't there, where I was certain I'd left it. The Best Buy credit card wasn't in the Important Things drawer, and I knew for sure it was there, so I opened the drawer more and began pulling stuff out of it, stuff like old cell phone receipts and a set of keys that I'm not sure what they're for and postcards people have sent me that I wanted to frame and a magazine that I was saving for something or other, and then...

...I pulled out the Baby Galileo DVD, in its original case.

I pulled it out from my Drawer Of Things That Are Not To Be Forgotten, where I'd no doubt put it in order that it Not Be Forgotten.

In the end, I had to make another trip to the library, to return the Baby Galileo DVD that I thought I'd returned, and arrange to have the library pay me back the $18 -- they keep a buck, for no apparent reason -- that they said they'd issue a check for, in 6 weeks or so ("The city does it, and it takes them a while," the librarian explained), all the while hoping that the librarian I was talking to was not the librarian to whom I'd repeatedly insisted, via email, that I'd returned the DVD (but I was pretty sure it was the same one.)

And that, at last, is the end of the story. The DVD is back, I'll get my money back, and the Best Buy credit card was in my wallet all along.

Behind my library card. And I don't even care if that's ironic anymore. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I give up. The whole thing is ironic, for all I know.

There's just one thing that I'm certain of, in the end: I have, I am convinced, retained the moral high ground in this entire episode. I don't know how, but I have.