Saturday, August 01, 2009

Sweetie's Hunk Of The Week Settles An Age-Old Debate (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 26)

Sweetie's Hunk of the Week is:
Tom Cavanagh, or, as he will be known in the future, "The Guy Who Finally Proved That Women Are Liars."

You/Sweetie Know Him As: Probably "Ed," the funny lawyer who also ran a bowling alley and engaged in humorous bets with his friend Mike. While Tom's had a lot of roles in shows, Ed is the one that had the greatest success. The others have not done so well, even though they were creative and funny and well-written and got critical acclaim. You know why that is? Why they haven't done so well? It's a secret, and but one I'll reveal in a moment.

I know him as:
Ed. That was the only legal show I could ever watch -- because it didn't pretend, in any way, to be based in reality. At least, I could watch it until it got moved around the schedule and then they all went to live in New York and I sort of lost touch with it and moved on. But I did watch it, and I watched it because it was funny. I tried to watch Tom's other shows, too, like Love Monkey (canceled) and Trust Me (taped but not watched because I tried to focus on finishing up Lost season 3) and anything else I saw him in. But that's because I'm a fan from way back, and not, as women are, sneakily telling guys one thing but actually believing another.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm About Him: Why aren't his shows more popular? They're funny. He's likable. They're unique. He's quirky. What could it be? What could be the problem here? Is there something that I, and society, are missing?

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: Because he's funny and quirky and likeable. What's not to like? I assume that Sweetie appreciates funny/quirky/likeable. Personality counts, right?

Hint hint.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "Because he's just so funny." So, Sweetie and I were on the same page. Personality counts! Hooray for personality! Women love funny quirky likeable guys. That's what's important to them, just like they always say.

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Reason For Liking Him: Wait a minute... let me check something here.

Actual number of shows starring Tom Cavanagh that Sweetie has watched: 1
Actual number of shows starring Tom Cavanagh that Sweetie has watched,
which I didn't make her watch because I was watching them: 0

Actual number of times Sweetie has watched reruns of an episode of some show that merely has a hunky actor like Josh Stewart or that other guy or the one with the hair, this week? 3.

So I did a little math here, used a little science, and here's what I've concluded: Women don't like funny and quirky at all! They can't. If they did, then Tom Cavanagh would be sitting on top of the world, because he's like the king of funny and quirky. Tom Cavanagh, if what women everywhere constantly say is true, would be hosting the Oscars while Hugh Jackman would be hiring teenagers to work at the McDonald's franchise his father-in-law bought.

But that's not happening, is it? Instead, Tom Cavanagh is in some tv series on some channel, maybe, if it's still on, even, and Chris Hardwick is on a cable clip show, and Andy Samberg has to work late every weekend -- while Will Smith is in movie after movie and Jason Patric just got into a movie and Christopher Meloni gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the same exact show every week, and meanwhile Dane Cook and Ryan Reynolds had to get all pumped up and abs-y just to get mentioned as Hunks...

So I'm sorry, women, you are busted. Sweetie's slip-up here has thrown open the worldwide conspiracy of untruth that is women's claims that "funny" is important. Funny is obviously not as important as abs, and I've got one final additional bit of proof to throw at you to prove it:

The other night, Sweetie had me sing the song Magic Bus by The Who for her, to prove that it was an actual song that I knew.

But while she had me do that, she also had me flex my biceps.

Busted! Sorry, Tom Cavanagh. You may be funny and quirky and a Hunk of the Week, but unless you get working on that abdomenizer, you'll never rise to the top among women. But I will at least watch your shows. Or I'll intend to watch them but then will get distracted. (Singing:) I just ride my magic bus...

We don't have the shirt anymore. We gave it to a ball team to use it as a tarp to haul across the infield when it rains.

I remember when Sweetie was pregnant with the Babies!, how much trouble she had finding anything that fit her and which she wanted to wear. Before-- and after -- the pregnancy, Sweetie was and is a very stylish woman, with clothes that were up-to-date and fit well and looked nice. She had great dresses and outfits for the office and casual-night-out clothes.

DURING the pregnancy, though, Sweetie had a pair of sweatshorts, and a giant t-shirt that I made specially for her off a website (Size: "You wouldn't believe me if I told you.") That's about it -- for nine months.

I know it bugged her, and it made me feel bad, and it probably makes other pregnant women and fathers-to-be bugged/feeling bad. Because why does pregnancy mean the end of fashion? Why does having a bun in the oven mean that women have to have a bathrobe as their outfit of choice for nine months?

Why can't more maternity clothes look like the Due Maternity dress shown here? Stylish and nice and made of good material and affordable (that's for people like me, who won't get pregnant but will want to save money)-- it's everything a woman wants in a dress, whether she's pregnant or not.

But especially when she's pregnant. I wish I'd known about the maternity clothes from Due Maternity back 3 years ago, because they've got great pants and tops and dresses, and Sweetie could have been dressed in style throughout her pregnancy, instead of dressed in that t-shirt and shorts she had to keep wearing and washing and wearing and washing.

Due Maternity lets pregnant women still dress the way they want to-- in nice clothes that don't shy away from showing that the woman is expecting, but instead incorporate it into an outfit that says I'm pregnant and I look nice -- and isn't that the message you want your pregnant wife, girlfriend, mom, or friend to send?

Question of the Day, 66

Did you tell The Boy we're going to get a McFlurry?
-- Me, yesterday afternoon.

This became an important question last night when Sweetie and I and Middle took the Babies! for a ride after dinner to get some ice cream and unwind. The Babies! like car rides, and Middle and Sweetie like McFlurries.

It was important, though, because of what happened earlier in the week. Earlier in the week, I'd taken Sweetie to get a McFlurry (and the Babies! for a ride), only to come home and find that The Boy had gotten back from football practice, and he was disappointed and pouty that he hadn't gotten a McFlurry.

So the next night, Sweetie and I ran to the library and bookstore, and on the way home, I offered to stop and get her a McFlurry, figuring that I could also pick one up for The Boy and he would then feel mollified from the night before. Only Sweetie decided that she didn't want one, and I deemed it not important enough to stop and get The Boy a McFlurry if nobody else wanted one.

That brings us up to Friday night, when I pulled into McDonald's and asked the Question of the Day, following it up with "Does he want one?"

Sweetie said "No, I didn't tell him. He's going to a movie."

So The Boy didn't get a McFlurry for the third time this week.

Friday, July 31, 2009

3 Good Things out of 500 (3 Good Things From 7/31/09)

Sweetie & I saw "(500) Days of Summer" last night -- ending the middle third of our own summer. It'd be easy to just include that as a good thing and move on, but I like a challenge. So here's 3 Good Things from that movie on 7/31/09:

1. The use of Regina Spektor's song "Us" over the opening credits.

2. Tom's failed Valentine's Day card, which I won't reprint here on this blog but which was very funny.

3. The last word of dialogue in the movie. It's hard to imagine a movie that had an ending better suited to its mood and theme.

The video's not from the movie:

Don't bother telling me Elvis is dead. What do I look like, a sucker who buys your corporate line? Uh-uh. (I don't look like that, do I?)

I'm going to start a band. I just decided.

I'm going to start a band because (a) bands are cool, and (b) I can then get free band t-shirts to wear around. Band t-shirts have really gone out of style, it seems. Nobody wears band t-shirts anymore. When's the last time you saw someone wearing a cool band t-shirt? Probably way back in the olden days (2002). And even then, it was probably some terrible band, like "The Rolling Stones" instead of some cool band like "Big Audio Dynamite II" or "Material Issue."

So I'm going to start a band in order to create cool band t-shirts which I can then sell to people, and also wear myself for free, which in turn will not only give me free t-shirts (that being a primal driving force in my life: GET FREE T-SHIRTS, my subconscious is always screaming at me) but will also make me rich (from selling the t-shirts) and will also bring back the band t-shirt as a fashion icon.

I can do all that, easily, with the shirt printing available at, the leader in t-shirt printing -- they'll create your t-shirt with your company's... or team's... or BAND... logo on it and they'll do it with style and class and quality, and do it for a lot less than most places. They'll give you free shipping, no screen charges or art fees, and they can get your shirt back to you in just ONE WEEK. Plus, they have only a 6-shirt minimum, so smaller orders are fine, which means that I don't need a very LARGE band.

Auditions start today. Prior band experience is a plus -- so if you're Chris Martin, Bono, or Elvis, you go to the front of the line.

tz is here to offer incredible pricing, free shipping, no screen charges, no art fees, no set up fees, low 6 piece minimums and an incredibly quick 1 week turnaround time on your orders

Stinkiness is next to Bounciness. (Cool Things I Never Learned In School 4)

When we were kids, we played "Superball Baseball" against the garage door. The rules were simple: Bounce the Superball off the driveway into the door, and the other guy had to catch it. If he caught it in the air, you were out. If he caught it after one bounce, it was a single, and so on.

We used superballs for a couple of reasons -- first, because the tiny little black dot they left on the garage door was smaller, which meant that it would take longer for my dad to realize we were doing that again and get mad at us for wrecking the paint job on the garage door, and second because superballs, as everyone knows, bounce higher and farther than any other ball.

I knew that superballs were better at bouncing than other balls, but I didn't know why until the other day. Despite 16 years of schooling that had science classes of one sort or another (law school doesn't count for this one: no science) I never learned why it was that superballs bounce so much higher than other balls.

Now I know: It's because Superballs are made with "sulfur bridges." They have extra amounts of sulfur mixed in with the rubber, which is all then superheated and formed into the ball. Rubber, when it bounces, stretches and bends and distorts -- but putting sulfur in helps restrain all that rubber movement. So putting more sulfur in presents more movement, which means that the rubber in a superball barely distorts.

That, in turn, means that the energy in a superball -- energy imparted by throwing or dropping it -- isn't used up by all the motion in the rubber and is free to be used up by bouncing the superball higher and higher. Superballs direct 92% of their energy to the bounce -- way higher than other balls, and all because of that extra sulfur.

I learned this watching a "Technology of the 60s" show on the History channel while I was jogging the other night. So:

School: 0. TV: 1.

Added Information: The original name applied to the rubber used in the Superball? "Zectron!" Science should use names like that more often.

You could put a picture of me on there, if you wanted to. Although your kids will probably wonder who I am.

I don't know why people feel a gift card isn't a good gift; I think it's a great gift, and I like getting them. I like getting them, in fact, more than any other present, including cash.

If you give me a present, you might get something I like, and you might not. If you give me cash, I could buy something I want, but I'm more likely to just use it to pay bills or put gas in the car or something.

But if you give me a gift card, you're not only letting me get something I like, but you're making sure that I use the money to buy something I want, instead of paying bills -- so a gift card to a store I like is especially welcome, more so than any other gifts.

The only thing I've never liked about gift cards is that they're so bland. I like to personalize gifts, too, and make the person think I put some thought into the gift.

Now, with GiftCardLab, I can do that. GiftCardLab lets me give personalized gift cards by uploading the picture of my choice to their site, and then having it put on a gift card to use. And the gift cards they offer are all Visa gift cards, so they can be used almost anywhere the person might want to go shopping.

Here's a thought, too -- companies can use the gift cards as advertising and promotions: Upload the company logo or emblem, then get some gift cards to give to employees as rewards or bonuses, and hand them out to valued customers or clients, who will like not only getting the gift, but who will then see your logo everytime they go shopping. Instant goodwill, instant advertising -- and uploading and customizing are no-charge: the cards aren't any more expensive than other gift cards.

So give gift cards to your heart's content, and make them more personal by putting a picture of you, your grandkid, your cat, anything, on there, thanks to GiftCardLab.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yesterday was a good day for thinking up stuff (3 Good Things From July 30)

My 3 Good Things from Thursday, July 30...

1. This line from The Intern's blog about inspirational journals: "I support myself by deleting rage." You'll have to read the whole post, but that line cracked me up.

2. Mr Bunches, Mr F, and I played The New Alphabet Game on our way home from the park, and got all the way up to "U" before we got home. (The New Alphabet Game requires that you find things, not words, that start with the letter of the alphabet, in order. I invented it on our way home.)

3. It rained in the morning -- but stopped raining before I had to walk over to the Courthouse for a hearing in the afternoon. Thanks, weather!

Vacation rentals: Only a month left to book your getaway.

It's July 31 -- where did the summer go? Don't tell me you spent the entire first two months of summer looking for the right vacation rental. There's no need to go from site to site to site, bookmarking and clicking and calling and hoping, only to end up in some hovel in Mississippi at the end of August.

All you have to do is go to (or their companion sites, like to find the best, most affordable vacation rentals. -- another of their sites -- has the highest standards for owners, resulting in the best rentals for you. And what rentals! Beach villas. Mountain cottages. High-quality, affordable houses, apartments, condos, for you to use on your vacation.

So quit clicking and start vacationing through Vacation

What's that they say about a better mouse-trap? Does it involve $10s and $20s? (Commutation 13)

I'm coming up with great ideas left and right today, and the first great idea was on the way into work this morning.

I was driving along on a four-lane road, in the rain, and this guy in a gray car suddenly jerked over into my lane with no warning, cutting me off and forcing me to (a) slam on the brakes and (b) nearly drop my blueberry Pop-Tart. So I did something I rarely do: I honked the horn.

Remember that people who honk their horns are on my Enemies List, because honking your horn is such a dumb thing to do (for the reasons explained at that link.) But I was already irritated by the drive in, and nobody makes me nearly drop a Pop-Tart, so I honked...

and nothing happened.

I pressed and pressed and pressed, and nothing happened.

But then I realized: I was over it. My attempts at honking had used up my irritation and anger and had dissipated them, so I was past it and could go on driving/eating Pop-Tarts happily.

And that's why I came up with the invention that will change the world:

The Interior-Only Car Horn.

This is a car horn that, when you honk it, can only be heard inside your car. Nobody outside will ever know that you're honking your horn -- but you can blast away at the idiot drivers, moron bikers, stupid pedestrians, annoying buses, weird trolleys, cute-but-interfering-dogs, and others who mess up your should-be-blissful-but-isn't-commute. With the Interior-Only Car Horn, every minor grievance can become a major blow-out, just for you -- and nobody outside of the car will ever hear it, so you won't be randomly honking at people who didn't do anything while being ignored by the person who really got to you.

I think it's genius. I expect a phone call from most major automakers within moments of posting this, followed by live interviews of me on CNN. Good thing I brushed away those Pop-Tart crumbs.

The Long Drive Home Edition of 3 Good Things (3 Good Things from 7/29/09)

I had to go to Milwaukee and back yesterday, and all 3 Good Things are culled from the drive home:

1. For a bit, on the ride, there was, off to my left, a deep blue darkening of the sky as the sun began to set. Barely visible in that deep blue was a slightly-less deep shade of bluish-gray caused by clouds spreading out in the shape of a giant hand, making it look as though a ghostly enormous kindly hand was reaching out of the sky to pat the world on the head.

2. There's a point, when the sun sets just right and you're driving along I-90/94 from Milwaukee, where the trees along the road become dark shadowy silhouettes. As you drive along, the trees appear to be solid black paper-cutouts framed against the fading light of the sun, but when you get closer the trees suddenly open up and become a myriad of light-and-shadow, with seemingly each leaf outlined in black against the yellow-gold background. I love that.

3. When I got home, the house was quiet and dark and everyone had already gone to bed, but waiting for me in the oven was a plate of pizza.

Someday, "Thinking The Lions" will be a worldwide empire of phenomenal proportions. (Cue maniacal laugh.)

Writing a blog means that you want the world to know what you think, do, feel, or smell like -- and maybe you want the world to take those thoughts and turn them into gold, offering you a book or movie or television show deal.

It's not so simple as that, though, is it? It's not "Oh, I wrote a blog and now I'm a millionaire." At least not for me, and probably not for you and probably not for anyone except that LOLCatz guy, and Diablo Cody (curse her eyes!)

In fact, blogging and doing it right (or, doing it... write!) (get it?) means knowing a lot more about a lot of things besides writing and cute pictures of cats. There's getting the right web host, there's marketing your blog, there's monetizing your blog through ads and things -- all a bunch of stuff that's hard to learn on your own and harder to do than post pictures of cute cats.

But with Web Hosting Geeks, you can learn how to turn your blog into spun Internet Gold (let's say, intergold. No? How about cybergold?) Web Hosting Geeks can find you the best, cheapest web hosting company around.(That's a company that lets you put up your site, and gives you a domain name -- but you knew that, right?) and they do more than that, too -- they'll link you up with Yahoo marketing offers (giving you a rundown of which are good and which are bad, in easy-to-read form) and links to getting Free Google Adwords' credits by choosing the right hosting opportunity, and for the more technological-minded, they've got email hosting reviews, ecommerce hosts, and even a blog that's loaded up with information on all that and more.

So, in between posting those pictures of cute cats and stories about your grandma, check out Web Hosting Geeks and maximize the exposure, links... and money... your blog makes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quote of the Day, 33

When they're done, they sing.
-- Sweetie, talking about our washer and dryer.

Last night, I went downstairs to turn off all the lights and shut the windows (in order to keep out the serial killers). As I walked back upstairs in the dark, I heard from our laundry room a tiny whistling sound, a pleasant little upbeat song. I went in there, expecting to find one of the Babies!' toys, but couldn't see anything. So I went upstairs.

"Don't think I'm too crazy," I said to Sweetie, "But does our washer play music?"

"Yes," she said. "The washer and dryer both do. Why?"

I told her about the song and that I didn't know where they were coming from, and she said "They both do that when a load is finished. When they're done, they sing."

Which would be a good thing for everyone to do.

The photo is of the Shaw remember them, right? If not, click here to find out more.

The Miami Vice stubble look will come back some day (3 Good Things From 7/28/09)

Some days are better than others, right Bono? But all days are better if you focus on at least 3 Good Things that happened to you the day before:

1. I found the book Mr B Gone by Clive Barker on sale, new and hardcover, for $5.98 -- it's a book I was going to buy long ago but I didn't because I bought Infinite Jest instead (waste of money...) and now I've found it and gotten it cheaper.

2. I got Standing on The Beach: The Singles and Regina Spektor's new album, Far, all in one day-- along with my new book. A banner day!

3. Mr F sent me off to bed with a smile after rubbing his cheek against my stubble before he went to bed.

I'd like some insurance against my pants getting tighter for no reason.

One of the things that I see almost every day in my practice is people with no vehicle insurance, and the problems that come from having no vehicle insurance. The problem is so big that Wisconsin is the latest state to simply require that people have auto insurance -- passing a law recently to kick in sometime in the future that changes the longstanding practice of not requiring insurance.

But whether or not you're required to have insurance, you need it, because without it, you may be unable to pay for your car if it's in an accident -- and you may be unable to pay the damages the other side demands if the accident is your fault. And in some states (Wisconsin, again), getting in an accident while uninsured can result in losing your driver's license.

But finding insurance isn't easy, and finding the best insurance requires a lot of work -- unless you go with a quality insurance broker like

Autonetinsurance is one of the leading UK insurance brokers, and they can help you find Van Insurance , car insurance, vehicle insurance in general -- and they can not only help you find insurance, but they can save you money and hook you up with a tailor-made policy. They'll let you put your information in online, and as you do that, they'll be making a policy customized just for you with the lowest rates available -- something they can do because they constantly check all the rates out there. They're so sure they can get you the lowest price that if they don't, they'll refund your money.

If you want lower rates, still, call them -- they have offline rates that are even cheaper, keeping them offline to keep competitors from finding out. (Their number, if you need it, is 0800 021 7333.

So get yourself some insurance, and use Autonetsinsurance to make sure it's the best, and most affordable insurance available.


It's important to keep you aware of the things I'm aware of. It helps promote blogodiversity.

What I'm Writing:

In part 17, I explore why my meeting with a Supreme Court Justice turns out ultimately to be nothing but a walk-on part. (Thinking The Lions)

What'd you used to do in college? I used to have fun, and I still should be...(The Best of Everything)

First some magic tricks. Then the end of the world. Joe's first show went off without a hitch, thanks to a little help from ancient Mayan secrets, and Conan O'Brien. (AfterDark.)

Sue someone, and have them pay your attorney? It can be done. (Family And Consumer Law: The Blog)

These tables are tiny: At an awkward dinner with Ivy, Bumpy remembers their first "real" date... (5 pages)

I thought I was that interesting: I like The Intern's tips on writing memoirs. (Aaaaughh!)

Why is Brigitte shooting at Rachel? Talk about awkward: When Rachel's pregnant lover shows up again in a flying saucer, the first thing she does is start shooting. (Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!)

Facebook Me! Or whatever the verb is.

What I'm Reading And Listening To:

She says she doesn't make sense but she does... Angela's blog I Speak seems to be talking about my family. (I Speak.)

Socialized medicine is one thing, but socialized grape growing? Lisa's got some insight into champagne. The kind of insight that can only come from drinking a lot of it, I assume. (Lost In Provence)

I heard of them first: this music blog has free downloads (hopefully legal...) and a crush on Florence and the Machine. (Selective Service)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Question of the Day, 65:

Was I required to talk to her?

Yesterday, I went into the kitchen in our office to get a glass of ice water. I was standing there, filling my glass (slowly) and another lawyer came walking in. I'd already talked to this lawyer today, and had nothing new to say to her. I also had my back to the room and never directly faced her, although I knew she came in.

She came in, grabbed something, and left, all without saying anything to me, but then I felt weird and a little guilty and antisocial (but not in my normal antisocial way) and wondered if I was required, by etiquette or society or something, to have turned around and said "Hi" or something.

I don't think I was, and I can't go back and undo it so I just am left wondering what I was supposed to do in that situation. Society is hard.

Clouds rule. (3 Good Things From 7/27)

How often does work and commuting make the list of 3 Good Things? Not often enough...

1. When I had to run over to the courthouse on some official business, one of the judges mentioned to me that he'd seen this article and that my book sounded interesting. It was nice to get a small taste of celebrity. (My next step? Writing an article griping about how I never get any privacy.)

2. I upped my running speed, from 2.1 miles in 20 minutes to 2.25 miles in 20 minutes. That's an increase of... enough.

3. The clouds on the drive home from work were rising up over the horizon as the sun got behind them, making most of the clouds bluish-gray and soft-looking but around the edges, the sunlight turned them a hazy gleaming golden color.

One problem with not having enough money is that I have to borrow from the kids to buy my Snickers.

Being in debt isn't just one kind of problem -- not having enough money can do more than just create cash flow problems. It can result in credit cards being closed down, bank accounts being frozen, and even vehicles being repossessed. So if you're in debt, really in debt, it may not be enough to talk to someone about payment plans and lowering interest rates. You might have to avoid more drastic action by getting comprehensive help from someone who knows all the kinds of things that can happen to someone in debt.

Talk to someone like Abacus Debt Management, a company that can help not just with payment plans and debt adjustment, but also can help you get back money that you shouldn't have paid for credit protection, or work against repossession of your stuff.

Abacus has a simple debt analyzer that begins the process of getting your life back on track by asking you some questions about money going in and money going out. From there, they can give you information and solutions tailored to your needs, and they offer a free online advice guide to answer a lot of questions for you at no charge.

Abacus is more than just a "debt settlement" company-- they're a financial help group, aiming to work to solve the myriad of problems that can be created by not having enough money to go around.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ninety-Four, Part Seventeen: Wherein My Placement of A Photograph, Decades Later, Turns Out To Be Symbolic Of Something-Or-Other

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. Once a week, I'll recap that year. This is part 17; click here for a table of contents.

As memoirs go, this isn't much of one. It's as much about the process of trying to remember as it is about remembering, and as much about what I think about things now based on what I did then as it is what about what I did then.

Which maybe is the point.

But memoirs are supposed to have high points and great events -- like Dr Iannis in Corelli's Mandolin, who wanted to write history but then realized, no, he wanted to live through history -- or they're supposed to have quirky bits in them, like people that go live in a chicken coop for a year to see what that's like. They're not supposed to be (I thought) ruminations on things ranging from license plates to ice cream, and they're probably not supposed to drop storylines and thoughts like uncooked pasta and never come back to them, kicking those things under the oven to leave them there until they're found someday upon spring cleaning (which sometimes happens at times other than the spring.)

I don't think this part of the memoir is quirky, at all. The part coming up, the part where I lived in Morocco, is probably quirky, at least at times, but the Washington D.C. part, the part I've been focused on for sixteen installments so far, doesn't seem quirky or monumental, and it is chock-full of Dropped Pasta -- like my attempts to quit smoking, and my then-sometimes-girlfriend, and even Rip, the guy who lived in my room with me for months and months and months, and about whom you've heard little. And like Carlos, another good friend of mine who may have been from Paraguay or may have been from Uruguay but who also was from a college in Pennsylvania -- maybe Slippery Rock -- and whose parents, I recall, may have been bigwigs in whatever 'Guay he hailed from -- and who was such a good friend of mine that he not only shows up in some pictures from that time but also he rode the train back with me from D.C. to Pennsylvania, where he said goodbye and promised to stay in touch (he did, I didn't) and promised that we'd get together again in the future (we didn't.)

Those people have put in cameos in this memoir, and if it seems they should have had a larger role, that they should have been pictured as many times in my photos from that trip as, say, Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling (the pandas that lived at the National Zoo at the time, and who were underwhelming when I saw them... well, not underwhelming, but they didn't live up to the hype. They were... well, they were just-whelming), if it seems that someone who was my roommate for months on end should figure more prominently in a memoir of that time than a not-remembered diamond, then all I can say is that my memoirs, like my memories, and like my life, don't tend to follow suit. Because I've got one picture of Carlos, and two of the pandas. In the end, from a perspective fifteen years later, looking down the telescope backwards as it were, Carlos and Rip and Frank and Dave and the son of the Shah of Iran and even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia played cameo roles in my life. They seemed, at the time, to loom large. They seemed, at the time, as though they were significant, but they weren't. They were, in terms of their impact on my life, less important than the first few characters you meet in every episode of Law & Order.

You know what I'm talking about. In every episode of Law & Order, some random character comes along a city street at night, or jogs through a park, or checks her purse for change by a parking meter, or babbles excitedly to his fiance outside of the Statue of Liberty. Then, Random Person spots a body, or bloody stump, or shoe, or something, and they virtually fade out of the episode -- maybe talking to Lenny for a minute or two more before exiting the episode, never to be seen again.

Frank, Rip, Dave, the Son of the Shah of Iran, quitting smoking, Hsing Hsing: these people simply introduced, maybe, storylines to come later, as did Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

I can't be blamed, I think, for not wanting to downgrade meeting a Supreme Court Justice to a mere cameo in my life. I didn't, in fact, downgrade him to that position until just today, when I decided to write about meeting him because memoirs are supposed to have monumental figures, and meeting a Supreme Court Justice is the closest I've come to meeting someone who is monumental.

Only he wasn't, and it wasn't. In terms of the impact on my life, meeting a Supreme Court Justice was not, ultimately, as significant as any hundred other things I've done. In terms of my memory of meeting him, I have a pretty good recollection of spending time with him. But I have a better recollection of, among other things, an afternoon I spent jogging, including going past the fire department in Hartland, Wisconsin, while listening to Paul Simon's "Graceland" on cassette tape; of the drug store in Pewaukee near the lake where I'd sometimes ride my bike to in the summer, when I was 13 or 14 or 15, buying a snack and some comic books and then riding home, of playing frisbee golf in the forests of northern California with my family and my sister on vacation. I remember all of those things about as well as I remember meeting Justice Scalia, so how monumental can he be?

Anyway, when you meet famous people in real life, they almost always disappoint, and people who are famous for governing are maybe more disappointing that people famous for doing things that aren't so important. I mentioned meeting Senator Bob Packwood, and one would expect him to disappoint, maybe, as a disgraced Senator on his way out. In that, he actually didn't let me down: leaning tiredly in the elevator, he appeared to be, in hindsight, exactly what I would have wanted him to be: a reduced figure, a man of some importance at one point, elevated to prominence only by the fact that he was about to be removed from prominence (as so many of our politicans' career arcs go).

I met other famous-for-governing people before and after Justice Scalia. I met Senator Herb Kohl, a Senator who is beloved in Wisconsin for being "Nobody's Senator But Yours" or some slogan like that. Herb Kohl was a self-made millionaire, or maybe billionaire, who started up "Kohl's Food Stores," a chain of groceries in Wisconsin that maybe doesn't exist anymore. He then started Kohl's Department Stores, which still exist around here, and which I still shop at sometimes, mostly when I accompany Sweetie to pick out a new outfit for her or the Babies! or the kids, or, at Christmas, when we always seem to go there to get someone a sweater as a gift. Along the way, or after that, Herb Kohl also bought the Milwaukee Bucks (which he still owns) and eventually paid some or all of the cost for the "Kohl Center" where the Wisconsin Badgers play basketball. As part of his life, he became a Senator, too, apparently on the grounds that as a million/billionaire, he could not be bought by special interests and also on the grounds that people in Wisconsin really like him.

I was able to arrange a meeting with Senator Kohl in Washington simply by going to his office to meet him. I went to the office, located in one of the office buildings off the Capitol, and found a receptionist and explained who I was and asked if I could meet the Senator. I'd tried this same thing with Russ Feingold, our other senator at the time (and still.) Russ hadn't been in when I stopped by to meet him, and so I wouldn't meet him in Washington, at all.

(I would, coincidentally, almost meet Russ years and years later when I moved to Middleton, Wisconsin, with Sweetie and then joined Sweetie's health club, a health club that Russ Feingold also belongs to. I see him there, sometimes, working out. He doesn't look like a senator when he goes to work out, but it's hard, I suppose, to look senatorial when jogging or biking.)

Herb Kohl was in, and the receptionist got him, after only a short wait. He came out, a short, hunched-over kind of guy with a bald-and-very-red head and very white hair and a smile on his face. He shook my hand, he asked me what I was doing in Washington, he asked me what college I attended, and made a few more bits of small talk, and that was it. He thanked me and went back to work, doing whatever it is Senators do all day in their offices.

I should know what Senators do all day in their offices, as a political science major, but I don't, because they don't teach you that kind of thing in political science, or in college, period. They teach you a bunch of other stuff, but nothing nuts-and-bolts about what it is that Senators do all day or how to be a Senator or whether there's a particular kind of handshake you'll want to use when meeting with college students who pop in to interrupting your Senatoring. Everything I know about what Senators do all day I know because I talked to Rip, who worked in a Senator's office, and I know because I read Parliament of Whores by P.J. O'Rourke, a book that really should be required reading for anyone who lives in America.

What Senators do all day is not immediately apparent from what we see Senators do. What we see them do is talk on TV and make speeches (usually with some sort of prop behind them) and we see them watch the State of the Union and, in TV shows, they sit behind desks and get quizzed by reporters or cops. But there's a lot more that goes into Senatoring, I gather, than that, and most of that "lot more" is either boring, fake, or done by interns and staffers.

Rip, as an intern/staffer, had a variety of jobs that he would tell me about from time-to-time, most of them looking into constituent concerns, which mostly meant "reading mail." Rip got to read the mail for the Senator, and respond to some of it, I think. Rip also talked about people coming in to meet with the Senator he worked for, and talked about staffers researching bills and staffers being lobbied, and the Senator being lobbied.

That, together with P.J. O'Rourke's description of how a representative spent his day -- mostly rushing to and from votes with a little card tucked into his pocket telling him how he stood on a given issue -- and with my own observations around Washington form the basis for what I know about what Senators do, and beyond that, I've never been very curious, other than to think, from time to time, that they appear to have a relatively stress-free job. It seems as though a political science major interning in Washington D.C. should both have wanted to learn more about the process of governing, and have actually learned more about the process of governing, but I didn't really care about that at the time and was more interested in seeing the sights in Washington and more interested in trying to meet famous people who might help me on my rise to fame. Which of these people, I occasionally wondered as I met them or tried to meet them, might be the person in the photo that news shows put up in the future to show when I began my own rise to prominence and fame. There's always such a photo, such a moment, for politicians, at least nowadays, and at least since Clinton met Kennedy.

The answer, I know now, is none of them. There were no photos with Herb Kohl, and fifteen years later he's not shown himself to be the kind of prominent politician that would inspire such comparisons even if I had myself become a prominent person instead of a quiet lawyer in Madison. It's unlikely that if I'd become president by now (I'm eligible, at least) that Katie Couric would have shown a picture of me meeting Herb Kohl to highlight the early beginnings of my career, and not just because there were no such pictures, but also because it was not a particularly inspiring moment. It was more of a pleasant interlude with a guy who seemed as though he'd be more at home sitting on a front porch genially telling kids it was okay to play on his lawn but would they mind the geraniums?

I had higher hopes for my meeting with Justice Scalia. I'd gotten the opportunity to meet Justice Scalia as part of my letter-writing campaign, writing to famous people and groups and asking how I could meet them or join them. I'd written to Justice Scalia and explained that I was here on an internship, that I admired his legal writing and philosophy, that I'd written a term paper on an opinion he'd authored in one of my classes that had dealt in some way with the judiciary, and could I meet him?

Then I'd forgotten about it amidst all the jogging and trying-to-quit smoking and wondering what it was I was supposed to be doing all day at my internship and my general-bumming-around-Washington D.C., forgotten all about it until I got a letter from Justice Scalia's office telling me that he'd be happy to meet with me, and I should call to make an appointment.

So I did; I called right that day, using the old black rotary phone with the phenomenally long cord that hung on the wall just down the hall from our dorm room -- the community phone to be used by our whole section of the dorms, a phone that had to be used amidst everyone else who was using the dorms, so that any phone call was made in a tile-and-cement hallway reminiscent not just of dormitories but also of middle schools and state Health & Human Service Departments. Phone calls to girlfriends to talk with them because one felt like he had to call his girlfriend even if he didn't really feel like calling to talk with his girlfriend, phone calls to family members to say "Hello" and hint around that if people wanted to send, say $100, it would be appreciated, and phone calls to Supreme Court Justice's offices, all were done amist people smoking and showering and walking around in towels and, for one group of guys, playing a semester-long, neverending game of "Axis and Allies," a wargame that I, too, loved, and which I secretly always wanted to be invited to play but never was. I even once said to one of the guys "Maybe I should jump in and play a game with you guys," only to get shot down -- he said "We're in the middle of a game and I don't know when it'll end."

He didn't say "But we'll get you on the next one" and I noticed that and never asked again, but I did, from time-to-time, listen in on their games, on the rolling dice and talk about who was invading who and who would regret strategic moves. I didn't want to be friends with those guys, I didn't want to sit around talking to them or anything. I just wanted to play Axis & Allies, because I loved that game. I don't even know how those guys, and those guys only, got to be the Axis & Allies guys on the floor; I don't think they knew each other when the semester started. I think they just ended up playing a game of Axis & Allies and became friends as a result of that, forming a clique that way and excluding others. Maybe if I'd been more outgoing that first night, I sometimes thought, I'd have jumped into that game of Axis & Allies instead of hanging out with Rip and Carlos and sometimes Mike, the Bald Guy who smoked a lot -- who smoked so much that when he tried to quit, he used the patch, and would smoke with the patch on, something he said gave him "weird dreams." I might have hung out with the Axis guys instead of hanging out with the guy who taught me how to play power chords on my guitar, a guy whose name I can no longer remember but whose legacy lives on in my ability to play So Far Away, Hitchin' A Ride, and Gimme One Reason on my acoustic guitar.

In that respect, I got more out of Guy Whose Name I Can No Longer Remember than I did out of meeting Justice Scalia. I called Justice Scalia's office the day I got his letter, calling from the dorm phone and setting up an appointment.

"Hello?" came the voice on the other end, and, as instructed by the letter, I asked for the justice's appointment secretary. Mrs. Toughill got on and I said who I was and why I was calling.

"Oh, yes," she said, "I know your name."

"I'd like to set up an appointment with the Justice," I said.

"When would be convenient for you?" Mrs. Toughill asked me.

For me? I said: "No, no, I'll meet whenever it's convenient for the justice," I said.

She then reviewed his schedule, noting which days the Court had oral argument and that those times were out (as he'd be in Court listening to the arguments) and we finally settled on an appointment.

When that day came, I dressed up in the nicer of the two dress shirts I had, and put on the nicer of my two sportcoats-- at the time I had only two coats, a dark gray and a lighter gray, and the lighter gray seemed the more serious and monumental of the two, and I put on a tie (I had about four ties) and I rode the Metro down to the Capitol area, where the Supreme Court building was located not far from the Capitol itself, and a little ways away from the White House.

The White House doesn't actually sit directly next to the rest of the government. It's on the National Mall, but it's off to the side. At one end of the Mall is the Lincoln Memorial, and then in the center is the Washington Monument, and then at the other end is the Capitol. Midway through that, and off to the left if you were standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking down the Mall, is the White House.

The Supreme Court building is up near the Capitol and Union Station, near where I'd first arrived in Washington. I got to the building early and made my way up the stairs. I walked up the stairs with interest: in getting the day off to go meet with Justice Scalia (a meeting Frank had wholeheartedly endorsed, I suspect partly on the basis that it was important that interns get to do those things and partly on the basis that I wasn't very much help around the office, anyway), in asking for that day off, Frank had told me more Washington lore, in this case a story that the architect of the Supreme Court building had deliberately designed the steps in such a way as to make them, for most people, slightly too long to be taken in one regular step, but slightly too short to be taken in two regular steps, the result being that when you walk up the steps to the Supreme Court, you must alter your gait, and do so very deliberately, taking smaller and shorter steps. Frank told me to look for that, and said that the architect had done that so that people approaching the Court would do so solemnly and deliberately and know that they were approaching a building in which important happenings took place.

Frank may have been making up that story -- I never verified it -- but he was right about approaching the Supreme Court building; it was tough to just walk up the stairs, and I couldn't do it. No other stairs in D.C. were quite like that. There were lots and lots of stairs, most of them small and narrow and steep, the way stairs were made back in the days before "trial lawyers" got a bad name, but no other stairs in D.C. made one walk in a weird, step-and-a-half gait.

The only other stairs I've ever seen anywhere like that, in the entire world, or at least in the portion of the entire world I've visited, are my front walk. The stairs to my front door in the house Sweetie and I bought seven years ago are, philosophically, identical to the stairs up to the Supreme Court building: they are too long to take in one step, too short to take in two regular steps. So each day, when I return home from work, I walk up to my front door in the same exact manner that I approached, fifteen years ago, the Supreme Court building: slowly, deliberately, and with a slightly odd hitch to accommodate unusually-lengthed steps.


I got inside and didn't spend much time walking around before I went in to meet with Justice Scalia. He was, like almost every other famous person I've met, short. He barely came up to my shoulders. I know that I'm kind of tall for a person, at 6'1", but that doesn't account for the fact that almost every famous person I've met has been not just shorter than me, but shorter than average.

Justice Scalia's office barely registers in my mind now, and I hesitate to describe it because I'm not sure how much I remember and how much I've filled in over time. In my mind, when I picture "Justice Scalia's office," I think of a wide, broad, long, old, solid desk with brown edges and a black top, with the chair backed up to a window that had wooden slats on it, looking out onto a garden of sorts. I think of walls lined with deep bookshelves and books upon books upon books. I think of a coatrack in the corner, wooden, bare because it was spring and a warm day.

But that's exactly what a Supreme Court justice's office should look like, and so I don't trust that it actually looked like that. If you want to picture it that way, feel free to do so; it can't hurt.

I introduced myself and thanked him for meeting me, and he was nice about it.

"So," he said. "Do you have any questions for me?" It had not occurred to me until that point that I should have questions for him, that as a political science intern student meeting a Supreme Court justice, I should have things that I'd like to ask him. I had nothing.

So I asked him this: "Is it as great as it looks, being a Supreme Court Justice?"

I have never pretended to be a philosophical person.

He said it mostly was; he said that it was a very good job, and added the obligatory reference to it being a lot of hard work and a lot of effort, about which, I think, now, fifteen years later, that it's not hard work at all, being a lawyer, and it's probably not hard work at all, being a Supreme Court justice, not hard work in the sense that being a construction worker or soldier is hard. It may be time-consuming, but it's not hard and it's not a lot of effort.

But I didn't say that, then. I asked him, instead: "What do you spend your time doing, all day?" And he explained to me, about listening to oral arguments, and researching for opinions, and writing opinions, and re-writing opinions, and debates in conference about how they were going to vote. It sounded thrilling to me then, but it sounds to me now like exactly what I do all day (absent the blogging, of course.) And I know that what I do, while interesting to me, is not thrilling or interesting to most people (including a kid that I had follow me around for a day, once. He wanted to see what it was like to be a lawyer, as part of his high school project, and arranged through a client of mine to "shadow" me, spending a day sitting in on hearings and negotiations and the like. Six months later, he sent me a note thanking me and letting me know that he would not be going on to be a lawyer.)

I asked Justice Scalia, and this is the part I remember most clearly about that meeting, whether the upcoming change in Supreme Court justices was a big deal for him. The Court was at the time, just a few months shy of Justice Breyer taking his seat, and I asked whether that made a big impact in his job and his life.

"Not really," he said, and I remember that because I remember thinking how could that be true but he then went on and said "You know what makes a big deal? We've got a bailiff retiring whose been here a long time. That makes a big change in your daily routine, losing a longtime staffer like that."

We talked a little more, and I got my picture taken by his secretary. I remember that, too. She came in when he buzzed her and I got out my old 110-film camera and handed it to her. We then stood back and waited while she tried to take the picture, only to have her unable to figure it out, so I had to show her again how to use it, and Justice Scalia made a joke about that. He then shook my hand, wished me luck, and sent me on my way.

I thought, in going to meet with him, that it would be a pivotal event in my life. I was, after all, majoring in political science. I was in Washington, D.C., with a career arc ahead of me that at that point included maybe the Foreign Service, maybe politics, but certainly something big, something important, something monumental. I was, I figured, going to live history, and someday, I guessed, I'd look back on this meeting as the starting point, or a starting point, or at least a significant point along the way to my rise to fame and fortune and power and the stunning heights that I was expected, and which I fully did expect, to reach.

Now, fifteen years later, I've got that picture hanging on my wall, in a frame that also includes other things I did that year. That frame hangs on my own office wall, amidst my diplomas and certificates of admission to the Bar and articles I've had published, but also amidst a small joke sign my dad gave me that says I can't be fired, Slaves have to be sold and amidst pictures of the kids, and right next to a picture I took of a decorative lion's head on the Wisconsin Capitol, a building I walk by every single day of my life.

It's just one tiny picture among the other pictures on my wall, and among the other pictures on other walls. It's dwarfed by the watercolor I drew of some flowers that used to grow in a pot on our patio. It sits across from a photo collage of the neon signs in Las Vegas from the family vacation we went on five years ago, and it's smaller than the picture of me standing side by side next to an Elvis impersonator outside a casino. By sheer numbers alone, the Me & Scalia photo is losing the battle: there are 35 photos that have one or more of the kids in them. There are 8 photos that have Sweetie in them. There are 7 photos of things I just thought were interesting and so I took a picture of them.

And there is one each of photos showing Oldest practicing karate, me wearing a clown nose, Mr Bunches sleeping on a bench, the World Trade Center, a little league team I coached, me standing in my father-in-law's living room in Oakland, and me standing next to a Supreme Court justice.

Me and Scalia got lost in the shuffle.

Which maybe is the point.

Pine Cones (3 Good Things From 7/26/09)

Here's 3 Good Things from Sunday:

1. Addition-by-subtraction: I got a couple of bushes and a tree chopped down in our backyard, clearing out a lot of overgrowth and freeing up a good view of a pine tree, and the Eventual Perennial Garden looks all the better for it.

2. Ray Liotta showing up, for some reason, in Bee Movie, which I watched parts of last night with the Babies! and Sweetie after their baths to wind them down before bed. (Didn't work.)

3. Mr. F took his pine cone in the tub with him. I found a pine cone in the back yard and showed it to Mr F, explaining what it was. He then carried the pine cone around the rest of the evening and all the way through his bath, leaving it behind only when it was time to get out of the tub.

I'm not a vain person. I just want to be able to take a deep breath and not scare children.

I'm tired of sucking in my stomach.

I've been sucking in my stomach for, I figure, about 98% of my life. From when I first realized that my stomach was not a selling point, that it sagged and was kind of lumpy and generally looked as though it was built of Cheetos and ice cream...

... because it is...

...I've sucked in my stomach. And that's been most of my life, all of my life, really, except for that brief span of time where I really ran a lot and weighed 172 pounds and could, because I ran upwards of 6 miles a day, eat or drink anything I wanted and not put on any weight. For that brief span of time, about 3 years, I didn't suck in my stomach.

But otherwise, it's been nothing but shallow breaths, all my life, and it's starting to look like my newest workout program (which I call "Play Cloverfield With The Babies!") is not going to remedy the situation anytime soon.

Instead, I might have to take what some would call drastic measures: a tummy tuck. (Boy, they really need a more manly name for that, don't they?)

There's this place called "MYA." It stands for "Make Yourself Amazing," and they have a website that explains how a Tummy Tuck works, and it doesn't sound too bad: an incision to allow excess fat and skin to be removed, then the belly is sewn back up. It's all over in 3 hours, under general anesthesia, with generally just one night in the hospital, and then a few weeks' rest (can do!) and it's over, and I have the stomach that I always wanted -- and I have the ability to take a deep breath without my shirt on.

MYA seems like a good place to go, too. Sure, it's a long ways away, but it's worth it if you're going to have surgery and want it done right. I wouldn't want to skimp on something as important as surgery and my future appearance. It makes it easier to contemplate that traveling, too, when you consider what MYA's mission statement is -- they aim to provide not just people who actually listen to you but reliable results and aftercare. I think, for me, the mention and focus of the aftercare is what really makes me think I'd go to MYA; it'd be easy for plastic surgeons to forget about you after the surgery's done, when the check has cleared, but it is surgery, after all, and they should be mindful of the fact that you may need them to keep up with you afterwards, too. The fact that they put it right on their website and goals makes me believe that they're not just paying lip service to customer care.

So who knows? Maybe in the near future, you'll see me and think: Now there's a guy who doesn't need to suck in his gut.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

is it even okay if I don't paragraph (Sunday's Poem 26)

God Says Yes To Me
Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes


I was going to go with another poem that seemed to exemplify the outlook I try to have on life, but then I happened to catch a glimpse of the title of this one, and I wondered what it was that God said yes to the author about.

Then I read it and loved that God said
yes to everything. I think if we can go through our day believing that, we'll never stop smiling, even when our Uncrustables PB&J aren't quite unfrozen as we eat them for breakfast on a Sunday morning at the office...

... and actually even
that wasn't that bad, as it made the peanut butter crunchy in a unique way.

3 of the 5 senses are representin'... (3 Good Things From 7/25/09)

As always, it's hard to narrow down such a great day to only 3 Good Things so I got creative:

1. The sound that spaghetti sauce makes when it starts to boil, that thick blomp that can be felt by your ears and heard by your taste buds.

2. The sight of popcorn popping on the stove through the glass lid of the pan. Have you ever just sat and watched popcorn begin to pop? One, then another, then five at once, and then suddenly it's just exploding.

3. The feel of icy-cold river water and smooth river-bottom sand flowing through my Crocs as I waded with Mr F and Mr Bunches at the Secret Spot.

Nobody ever puts "Herman's Head" online for free. What's up with that?

I wish I'd known about this before Sweetie went and bought the first season on DVD. You can watch One Tree Hill online, seasons 1-6, right now, free, just the way God intended it. And by "God" I mean "Gods," so I don't offend anyone out there by implying that there's only one particular God and it's not yours. I mean ALL the Gods, from Zeus on, intended TV to be free and easy to watch on your computer, so that Sweetie can save money on DVDs and instead can focus on buying her husband more presents.

Seriously -- they've got EVERY SINGLE episode of "One Tree Hill" there and they're all free and watchable, so once you're done reading this blog (and sending me your monetary contribution via Paypal), go watch them all, in order. And give a big CYBERhello to Sweetie, who's probably already there.