Friday, September 04, 2009

Why don't you have a seat, Sweetie? (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 30)

The Hunk of The Week this week will no doubt be surprised to be pulled out of gym class by the principal and told that he was named Hunk of the Week. Oh, the surprises 8th Grade holds for Bobby Campo, Sweetie's latest crush and the star of "The Final Destination..."

You/Sweetie Know Him As: "Nick" from The Final Destination 4 In 3-D: Technically That's 12D! Sweetie named him after we saw that movie last week, making him the first 3d Hunk! And also the first one who appears to be only twelve. I'd put a shirtless photo of him up here (because I know that's the only thing the ladies care about anyway) but I don't want to get a visit from Chris Hansen.

I Know Him As: "Ben" from The Final Destination 4: The Final-Est Destination. I seriously thought that was his character's name. He looks like he should have been called Ben. And don't ask how I can watch a whole movie and not know the character's name. I typically don't know what any of the characters' names are. I watch them and in my mind I'm thinking Man, Tom Hanks sure does know a lot about flying Apollo rockets.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm About Him: Bobby Campo might well be in the witness protection program. He also goes by "Bobby Camposecco," according to IMDB. As everyone knows, if you've got an Italian-sounding last name, you're either in the mob or you soon will be. Plus you like sandwiches. (Note: My education about Italians is based entirely on "Joey" from Friends and once watching "The Godfather," which was kind of a disappointing movie.)

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm About People Who Leave Comments on IMDB: What do you suppose was going through the mind of poisonousbestvillain-1 when he (or she) posted this message on Bobby Campo's IMDB board:

CONGRATS, Bobby! The Final Destination reached No. 1 at the box office!

Do you think that poisonousbestvillain-1 figured that Bobby Campo reads his IMDB message board? Do stars read their IMDB message board? Because if they do, I'm going to go and post a message on Tom Hanks' message board telling him that he was great a piloting that rocket to the moon even though he had AIDS and probably missed his mermaid girlfriend a lot, and that I hope he gets to move out of that all-girls hotel soon.

poisonousbestvillain-1 doesn't just congratulate the stars, either. He also engaged in a lively debate about whether Samara, from The Ring, was a "bitch" or just a murderer.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: Sweetie, yesterday, got mistaken for a 22 year old! She had to go pick up the long-awaited shower handle and the people there thought she was 22. She was no doubt swept up in the excitement and decided that, if she looks 22, she might as well get all hot-and-bothered about a guy who looks like he would totally get elected Junior High president.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: When I asked her why she liked Bobby Campo (even his name sounds young!) she said: "Because if I was in college I'd date him..." When I told her she had to be more specific she said: "Because he's hot and silky."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: What? I was all set to make another joke about Sweetie robbing the cradle, but... I give up. What's silky? Is that even a thing?

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Nine

29. What's so great about mom-and-pop stores and farms?

I've never understood what people have against big-box stores, and why it's supposed to be desirable that little hardware stores on Main Street stay in business.

I get the argument that some giant retailers don't provide health insurance or benefits, but I question whether the Mom-and-Pop stores do much better, or could do much better, in that department. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that it's easier for Giant Store Co. to buy group health insurance for 30,000 employees at once, using its billions of profits, than it is for Tiny Candy Company to buy health insurance for the owner and that girl that works Sundays.

I also think that having big-box stores where I can make one trip to get everything I need -- and where suppliers can make one trip to drop off everything -- likely cuts down on pollution and fossil fuel costs, because I'm not driving all over town to get a toilet seat cover, pants for the Babies! and school supplied, and there's not 53 different stores getting shipments daily.

Then there's the small farm idea. Isn't small less efficient? Isn't less efficient equivalent to more expensive? Isn't more expensive bad when it comes to food?

But we fetishize small farms and mom-and-pop stores, believing it's better to pay more for equivalent goods because Mom and Pop, or Old Man Jenkins, are their own bosses and are somehow holding the line against... what? Is running their own store or farm even all it's cracked up to be? What about time off? What if someone gets sick?

People need to think about why they are in favor of something. If you like Mom-and-Pop stores and farms because you're okay with the owners and operators having less freedom of schedule, less income, fewer choices, higher operational costs and all that, then, swell. But I suspect that people like them mostly because they seem quaint and old-timey, the way we like Victorian-era Christmas things, which is not so fine, because what looks good on the front of a greeting card doesn't always work so well in a real economy.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

My first action figure ever was "Luke Skywalker." (3 Good Things from 9/4/09)

You'd think it wouldn't be hard to come up with 3 Good Things from a half-day Friday, and you're right...

1. Sweetie and I stopped to buy lemonade from some girls selling it at a roadside stand, and they said we were their only customers besides their dad. Sweetie always stops at lemonade stands. That should be one of my 1001 things, I think: Always stop at lemonade stands. (As we drove away with our lemonade, Sweetie reminded me of the time she'd stopped at one lemonade stand with a gimmick: The kids had played the flute for her while she drank the lemonade.)

2. Mr Bunches said garden. I know he said that because we were watching one of his instructional videos and the word-plus-sign-language was garden. So now he can count to five, almost, and say garden. He's ready for life.

3. We got to go to the toy store! One huge benefit of kids is that it lets you do kid stuff and not look weird, so I got to go walk through the action figures and radio-controlled toy aisles and not get thrown out of the store. (Sweetie eventually steered me to aisles that had toys for 3-year-olds, but I got to see action figures first.)

I'm not even exaggerating about the number of photos we have.

Sweetie loves Christmas cards. She loves getting them, and sending them, and her favorites are photo Christmas cards, the whole family gathered together and smiling and wishing you, the lucky recipient, happy holidays.

The problem is that to do that, we have to gather everyone up, which means these days not only getting the Babies! to the photo shop, hopefully with their pants on and a minimum of chocolate on their face and possibly standing still for a second or two, but also getting the older kids together. The Boy's always off somewhere, Middle is going to college, and Oldest... well, Oldest seems to be always at our house except when we need her.

That's why I keep suggesting to Sweetie that she just make her own photo christmas cards using the online services at 123Print. We have something like 20 billion photos of the kids, and all she has to do is click a couple of times and she'll be able to upload the photo she wants into a cool or fun design, and then order as many as she wants.

What's even BETTER about that, better than the convenience, is the multitude of choices she gets. The place we went to last year had maybe 3 or 4 different designs for their photo cards and we had to order a certain amount, like 25 or 50. But going to 123Print would let her order as many as she wants, (or as few) and pick from pages and pages of designs. She can even do a couple of different ones, picking fun card designs for friends and more formal card designs to send to the grandparents.

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Eight

28. No more long answering machine or voice mail greetings.

We know what to do. I do, at least, and so should everyone else. Voice mail is not a new technology and we don't need directions on how to use it.

Everytime I call someone and hear "Hi. I'm sorry I missed you, but your call is important to me. At the sound of the tone, leave your name and number and a message and I'll call you back. Or if this is urgent, dial zero and get an operator. Or press 5 to leave a numeric page. Thanks..." or something like that, I cringe and try not to realize that if I wasted just 15 seconds per day listening to messages like that, over the course of a lifetime that would amount to nearly four days.

Which means that if you have a message like that, you're robbing me of four days of my life.

Instead, try this: Your name. Your number. That's it. All I need to know when I call is that I got the right person. I understand the rest.

Phones are really the only technology we leave express instructions for using. We don't leave notes on the door saying "If you stopped by and I'm not in, please knock on the door, then ring the bell, then look into the door for a moment to see if I'm home, then look at the doorbell again and press it while listening carefully to see if it's working, then shrug and decide that next time you'll call." My emails don't automatically respond with I probably won't check these until later today or tomorrow, and if I don't want to respond to you I'll just let it hang in my inbox for a while, so you might want to send a second email asking me if I got the first." But with phones, we assume that everyone calling us is completely unfamiliar with the technology they used to call us.

If you do have one of those ultra-long messages, ask yourself this: What about the people that call you more than one time? Sitting through it once might be tolerable, but sitting through your spiel four times a week?

As I've said before, not every way of improving the world needs to be a giant governmental solution. You can make things better all on your own, in a small but important way. Change your answering machine message and quit stealing my days.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

master or disciple sheep or wolf (Friday's Sunday's Poem, 1)

all which isn't singing is mere talking
e e cummings

all which isn't singing is mere talking
and all talking's talking to oneself
(whether that oneself be sought or seeking
master or disciple sheep or wolf)

gush to it as deity or devil
-toss in sobs and reasons threats and smiles
name it cruel fair or blessed evil-
it is you (ne i)nobody else

drive dumb mankind dizzy with haranguing
-you are deafened every mother's son-
all is merely talk which isn't singing
and all talking's to oneself alone

but the very song of(as mountains
feel and lovers)singing is silence

Friday's Sunday's poems kick off with my favorite poet ever, e e cummings. When I picked out this poem, I thought at first it was a jubilant celebration kind of poem that matched how I feel on a Friday morning listening to The Killers on my last workday before a big weekend in which I get two days off, and it's a half-day at that...

...but then I looked at that last line and couldn't decide if it was good, or bad. If everything that's not singing is talking to oneself, but singing is silence, then is singing good? Or bad? Is that a Shymalanian twist at the end, a Bruce-Willis-is-Dead moment? Oh, so I should sing, then, I-- Dear God, no!

Or is the silence good?

Since Mr F gets mentioned twice, the picture is Mr Bunches... (3 Good Things from 9/3/09)

As you read my 3 Good Things from yesterday, keep in mind that if you've lost something, you should call me. It's probably in my top drawer...

1. Listening to David Sedaris read his stories on an audiobook as I drove home from court yesterday. The story "Repeat After Me" had me laughing out loud, and that's like the 5th time I've heard it.

2. Mr F's Naked Running Game. Getting them ready for their baths last night, I put a naked Mr F in the bathroom and went to get Mr Bunches. When I turned around, Mr F was already in his room and giggling. So I put Mr Bunches in the bathroom and then went to get Mr F, who'd climbed into a crib laughing. After putting him in the bathroom, I went to get towels, only to turn around and see Mr F, laughing crazily, and sitting in the crib again.

3. Sweetie found my wallet! After two days of walking around empty-back-pocketed, and after I looked in all the couch cushions and under the couches and even behind the One Surviving Plant in our house (where there was no wallet but there was a pile of stones put there by Mr F), Sweetie located my wallet... in my top drawer, where I put it on Tuesday and where I'd looked for it twice. (In my defense, it was hidden by all the other junk I put in there.)

Mr E's Beautiful Blues (From The Cheesecake Truck To The End Of The Line, 8)

Just before I got married to Sweetie, I made a mixtape to take on our honeymoon road trip to New York. The other day, I found that tape and decided to tell the story of our honeymoon through the songs on that tape. This is part 8. Click here for the table of contents.

"God Damn Right, It's a Beautiful Day..."
-- Mr E's Beautiful Blues, Eels.

We parked at the Holiday Inn in Buffalo, New York, near the airport. I walked up to the front desk and noted with a great deal of relief that there was no bulletproof glass in sight, no cigarette burns, no bums walking through the parking lot. I checked in and got our key and we drove the short distance to our room.

When we opened up the door, we opened it onto a suite. I was flabbergasted, probably the only time I've ever been that in my life. This room was huge. Immense. Gigantic. And beautiful. It had a bed and couch and chair, dressers, tables, a hot tub in the corner, a giant TV. It was better, frankly, than our apartment back home, which had all those things (except the hot tub) but they weren't as nice, and they weren't as nicely arranged, and, too, the things back home weren't as surprising. After the night before in Cleveland, I'd been hoping that our room at least wouldn't be full of bugs and slime; I'd set the bar pretty low and had been more than pleasantly surprised.

While I started setting out our suitcases and relaxing, Sweetie made a phone call to the kids back home. She, too, must have been pretty excited about the room because that was the first thing she'd mentioned when she talked to them. I heard her say "You've got to see the room," and she was smiling. I laid back on the bed, my legs hanging off the edge the way everyone does, I bet, when they get into a hotel after a long day of driving, and stared up at the ceiling. Maybe things were looking up, I thought. Yeah, we had less money available than I'd planned on, but at least we could touch things in our room and didn't fear stray gunfire taking us out.

The day felt long and stretched-out. Looking back now, it feels like it should have been two or maybe even three days. The couple-hours drive from Cleveland to Buffalo had been extended by the drive into both Niagara Falls cities and we'd been dragging as we got to Buffalo. I'd been weighed down by the worries that the hotel would be terrible again, that I'd have to spend another night fixing it, that we'd run out of money before we got to a hotel where I could let Sweetie relax. I hadn't passed any of that on to her, and had silently fretted all day.

But now, laying back on the bed, my legs swinging and banging my heels against the sideboard, I could feel my energy come back, at least a little. Sweetie kept talking to the kids, telling them about our drive and about Niagara Falls and asking them if they were being good for Grandma and Grandpa, and when she finally finished, I asked her if she felt like going to get some dinner and look around Buffalo for a while. She was up for that, so we headed out.

The first stop was a Denny's, for dinner. Eating at Denny's may not sound that romantic, or romantic enough for a honeymoon, but neither Sweetie nor I has ever been much for fancy dinners or fancy restaurants. Our wedding itself had featured nothing more fancy than the hors d'ouevres that we'd barely gotten to eat any of, and some wine and beer, and our relationship to that point had been marked by a lack of fanciness that accompanied the lack of money we had as newlyweds. That lack of money made eating out something we did only on very special occasions, occasions like our honeymoon and almost nothing else because of the expense involved.

Eating out is always expensive, even if you just go to McDonald's or another fast food restaurant, and it's more expensive if you've got five people in the family. When we got married, Sweetie and I lived on a budget (we still do) that was extremely tight. Our grocery budget, most of the year, was about $80-$100 a week, for five people. We used to go grocery shopping with a list and a calculator, adding up the prices as we went to make sure that we wouldn't go over budget for the week. When we got near the end of the list, we'd see what excess we had left over and get some extras, ice cream or cookies or microwave popcorn, to fill out the budget.

At less than $100 per week, eating out is not something that can be done very often, and when we did go eat out, it was never at a fancier restaurant. That was mostly fine with me, though, because I've never been a fan of fancy restaurants and neither has Sweetie. That's what she tells me, anyway, and I'm inclined to believe her because she doesn't like fancy things even when we're not footing the bill.

When we were married, Sweetie worked at another law firm (something she did until I fulfilled all the promises I made to her.) That meant that we used to have to attend, at least once a year, a fancy dinner, usually for her office Christmas party. Her office Christmas party was a low-key affair, since the only people who worked at her office were two lawyers, her, and a part-time accountant. When they held their Christmas party, the four workers and their spouses came, so we'd get together, the 8 of us, at some restaurant for the Christmas party. Since her bosses always chose it, and they liked fancy food (being of the age and income brackets that they could like fancy food and fancy restaurants), we ended up eating at fancy restaurants at least once a year.

Sweetie actually went out more than that for lunches, too. Typically, her bosses would take her to lunch for secretary's day, and they'd all go to lunch for birthdays, too. She would tell me where they went, mostly to little places around town, and what the others ordered. Her bosses would get hamburgers that came with cabbage on them, exotic salads, things like that. When I'd ask Sweetie what she got, her typical answer was "Grilled cheese."

The nicest place her bosses ever took us to was a restaurant called "Quivey's Grove," a place that had been made into a restaurant from a bunch of 18th Century Barns or some such. The outside looked like an old-fashioned farm, and the inside looked like a bunch of rich people eating overpriced food. We went there, the 8 of us, for her office Christmas party one year, and ate things like "Salad That Looked Like It Was Made Of Stuff I Saw Next To The Sidewalk On The Way In," (not it's real name) and other typical-rich-person fare. I was underwhelmed by the salad, which had greens and stems and things that were purple, but I was overwhelmed by the entree, which was chicken stuffed with ham and cheese, and by the desserts, which had flavors and textures that poor people like me rarely got to experience.

Sweetie got the grilled cheese.

So when we went to Denny's for our honeymoon dinner, that was a pretty big deal for us. We'd be eating out most of the week, although it wouldn't get as fancy as Denny's more than one time after that, making a burger for me (and, probably, a grilled cheese for Sweetie) one of the most expensive, hoity-toitiest meals we'd eat on our honeymoon.

I don't remember what Sweetie ordered for dinner that night, but I do remember what she ordered for dessert, because of what she said. She was very tired by that point, almost unable to keep her eyes open at the table, and I was feeling drained and exhausted, too, waiting for my energy to perk back up. When the waitress asked us if we wanted dessert, I didn't, but I urged Sweetie to because it was our honeymoon and I wanted her to enjoy it. So she ordered some apple pie and when it was brought a few minutes later, Sweetie looked at it through half-closed eyes and said:

"Dutch Apple Pie. Otherwise it's just plain crust."

That was all she said. She then began eating and just looked at me while I waited for something to explain that. A verb. Or adjective. Or follow-up of any kind. Finally, I said:


Sweetie looked at me. "What?" she asked me.

"What'd you say?" I asked her.

"What'd I say?" she asked me. So I repeated her statement to her and said "What'd you mean?" She thought about it for a second, trying to remember what she'd said and what she meant, and finally said "I was trying to say that I like Dutch Apple Pie better because if it's not Dutch Apple Pie it's just plain crust."

I've never forgotten that quote, and I can't look at apple pie without remembering Sweetie saying that and feeling again the way the booth at Denny's in Buffalo felt, smooth and air-conditioned, the big table that was too large for just the two of us, Sweetie using a fork to eat her Dutch Apple Pie with ice cream, the general tired-ness and happiness that had settled on me as we sat there and relaxed. Every time, since then, that I see apple pie, or Sweetie orders apple pie, I say it again, sometimes to her, sometimes to myself: Dutch Apple Pie. Otherwise it's just plain crust.

It's not even funny, I suppose, looking at it from outside like this. It can't be explained, why it stuck in my mind or why I laughed, and why Sweetie laughed, why we both felt that was so hilarious after our brief conversation, chuckling in a tired and settled-in way. I think it was only funny because we were so tired, and because we were so relieved that the day had ended, 12 hours later, better than it began, that we had a decent hotel room and nothing bad had happened at Niagara Falls and that we'd been married now for more than two days and things were improving, going from being lost in Illinois and being trapped in the slums to a nice hotel room in an okay city with some apple pie and ice cream, a trajectory we could get comfortable with, a direction we both wanted to be headed in. We'd left behind the early hitches and problems and things were starting to look like they were going to be okay, now.

In fact, as we sat there at the Denny's in Buffalo, a second wind took over, and I sprung a plan on Sweetie, one that had been brewing in my mind for a while since we'd arrived in Buffalo.

People who know me, probably including Sweetie, will think that I'd planned this all along, but I didn't, because I hadn't known, until we'd selected the destinations for our honeymoon, that we'd be going to Buffalo. We originally weren't going to go to Buffalo at all, actually, or even New York. My first choice for our honeymoon had been the Grand Canyon and Arizona, which I thought Sweetie would like and which I thought would be interesting. I'd been to the Grand Canyon, but she hadn't, ever, and I wanted to see it again. Plus, I liked the Southwest and it would be warm.

We'd nixed that idea because of time constraints; driving to the Grand Canyon and back in a week meant, as I knew, long, long driving hours. I'd done it about 8 years before with my dad and we'd spent upwards of 6, 7, 8 hours in the car most days. You don't really appreciate just how wide America is until you try to drive nearly all the way across it and back in less than a week, as Dad and I did the week before Matt got married. Now, almost a decade later, I had to admit that Sweetie and I wouldn't do any better and that I didn't want to spend my entire honeymoon in the car.

We'd also talked about New Orleans, which seemed like a fun place to go, but had opted not to do that because, in the end, we weren't certain that New Orleans would be a fun place. We were not big drinkers or partiers, and outside of Mardi Gras and cemetaries, we didn't know what else there was to do in New Orleans. What if we drove there and there was nothing to do there, we wondered.

So we chose New York City as our honeymoon destination, and then I added in that we could go see Niagara Falls, because Niagara Falls is a honeymoon destination, and because Niagara Falls was also located in New York, making it seem convenient to go to both places, NYC and Niagara Falls.

That was how my mind worked then, no lie. If something was in the same state as something else, it seemed to me to be easy to get from the one thing to the other. I've never stopped thinking that way, either. When we went to California in 2002, I decided it'd be a piece of cake to visit not only Sweetie's dad in Oakland but to drive up to visit my sister Katie in northern California and the next day drive straight on down to Los Angeles (driving through Oakland in the process). When we went to Florida last year, I planned initially to visit the Everglades even though we were staying in Kissimmee. The Everglades turning out to be 3-4 hours away from where we were, I abandoned those plans and instead opted to go visit my brother, Matt, who was only just over an hour from where we were.

I should know better. I should know that the fact that things are in one state together doesn't mean anything, since I've repeatedly driven hours and hours around Wisconsin, driving once about 6 hours north to attend my brother Bill's first wedding reception. But I've never learned to make that distinction, to say that just because things are in the same state there's no guarantee that driving to them is easy. In my mind, it's far harder (and longer) to drive from Madison, Wisconsin, to Chicago, Illinois, because that requires going to another state, than it is to drive from Madison to Green Bay, Wisconsin. But I just checked it out and it's 145 miles from Madison to Chicago and 136 miles from Madison to Green Bay.

Despite having checked it out, I still, in my guts, feel that driving to Green Bay must be far easier and quicker to get to. It's probably genetic, since when my Dad and I went to the Grand Canyon, we stayed in Flagstaff to see the Grand Canyon and the next day decided that we'd quick drive over to Las Vegas to see what that was like. That's a four-hour, one way trip, but to us, it all seemed about the same because we were in the Southwest. That's the exact reasoning we used.

So when I proposed, for our honeymoon, that we not only see New York City but also stop by Niagara Falls, the only thing I thought was that it'd be easy because they're both in New York state and that meant they were close together. (And in making that assumption, I at least had a little bit of experience to go on, experience from the time I'd gone with Mom and Dad and Katie on an ultimately unpleasant vacation to Maine that started off well and finished up horribly. On that trip to Maine, I'd noted that we passed through some states pretty quickly, and remembered that as a fact: things in the northeast are all close together. I'd then also, apparently, lumped New York into the northeast and possibly New England.)

I hadn't known, when we planned to go to Niagara Falls, that "Niagara Falls" was not only an actual city, but that it was an actual city that was very close to Buffalo, New York, and that Buffalo, would be cheaper to stay in than Niagara Falls. I learned all that when I initially sat down to plot out our trip, reserving "Econo Lodges" along the way and booking us initially into the Buffalo version of Econo Hell.

But ever since I'd learned that, I'd had in the back of my mind that as long as we were going to be in Buffalo, as long as we'd ended up there entirely by accident and not at all on purpose as those people who know me and know that my favorite football team was the Buffalo Bills, as long as we were in that city anyway entirely by accident, I'd sort of had in mind what I then asked Sweetie as she finished off her Dutch-Apple-Pie-Otherwise-It's-Just-Plain-Crust:

"So, do you want to maybe take a drive and see the stadium where the Bills play?"

And it's not even that actor's real name (3 Good Things From 9/2/09)

Still unable to find my wallet. People are bugging me. Traffic was bad. Come on, 3 Good Things. Get me cheered up...

1. Sweetie started me off right yesterday morning, getting out a Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tart for my Pocket Breakfast on the way to work.

2. I had the time to create a logo for my fantasy football team, "The Battlin' Extraneous Vowels." That's the logo, over to the right. I think more teams should describe themselves as Battling or Fighting or similar words. Life would be more fun if I could root for the Milwaukee Battlin' Brewers. Not that I would root for them, much, because baseball is boring, but you get the point.

3. I got to be amazed by Sweetie and The Boy's rare talent, the talent of Identifying Celebrity Voices In Cartoons. In this case, Sweetie and The Boy were each able to identify Kiefer Sutherland as the lion in The Wild. (Sweetie also managed to figure out that Janeane Garofalo and Jim Belushi had parts, too.) They beat me: My guess was "Um... House?"

What do you know? It worked. Bring it on, Thursday!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

How can a listing of good things that happened to me generate a controversy? Oh, the world we live in! (86 Down, 9,880 to Go)

The second, or maybe third, greatest debate of our age has erupted. This one is about how often Mr F and Mr Bunches get mentioned in the 3 Good Things. After Sweetie claimed that Mr Bunches is mentioned more often, Lisa joined in and claimed that Sweetie was right, so I decided to settle this the way they used to in the Old West: By creating a Wordle.

Wordle creates pictures based on how often a word is used on a blog, so by creating a wordle and seeing whose name was bigger, we can scientifically prove that I do not in any way favor Mr Bunches over Mr F.

Here's the Wordle:
(Which the internet cops say I must attribute to, which I just did so I won't get Internet arrested.)

That scientifically proves... nothing. Because judging by that I use the word loans more often than I use every other word on this blog, which is just impossible, because (a) I make fun of Sweetie a lot, and so her name should be bigger, and (b), well, it just seems wrong and (c) I also make fun of The Boy a lot and I don't see his name in there, anywhere.

So I redid it and got this:

Which also scientifically proves nothing, either, because I don't see the letter F on there, so I'm going to just go out on a limb and say this:

Science is bunk.

Having established that, let me put all controversy to rest by pointing out that even if Mr Bunches makes it into 3 Good Things more often, Mr F's favorite song in the entire world, All I Want Is You by Barry Louis Polisar, is on my Upbeat playlist, the one I listen to on Fridays on the way home from work and when I need a pick-me-up, and I always start with that song, out of respect for Mr F, which means that every time I use music to improve my mood, I begin with that song and remember how me and Mr F would sit and watch the video on my laptop, him sitting on my lap and me singing along with it.

So I'd say the two are even. And here's song 86, All I Want Is You, by Barry Louis Polisar:

1001 Ways To Tune Up TheWorld, Number Twenty-Seven

I missed yesterday, so the whole list will take 1,002 days. I hope the world can wait an extra day for that last one.

27. Stop federal support of student loans.

Every time I mention this to someone, they scream bloody murder about how will people pay for college and blah blah blah.

Federal support of student loans is a terrible idea and it's helping wreck college educations.

The federal government supports student loans in a couple of ways. First, it guarantees them. Second, it pays interest on the loans while students are in school. Third, it makes collecting the loans easy by making them virtually nondischargeable in bankruptcy and easing collection efforts.

All of that means that student loans are about the best possible loan you can make, because there's virtually no chance you won't get it paid back. If I had any money, I'd get into the student loan business as quick as possible.

But student loans are killing students. They're making it possible for colleges to amp up prices and set ridiculous payment plans and they're making college cost more than ever, reducing choices in what to major in for students and making it harder for students to take jobs after college because of phenomenal debt. Middle had to borrow over $15,000 this year, to go to a small state school. Why? Because the school requires her to live in the dorms and won't set up a payment plan.

Middle has to live in the dorms, first of all. They require it. The cost of the dorms is roughly the cost of an apartment with groceries for nine months. But if she rented an apartment, she'd pay her rent monthly and buy her groceries weekly. She'd have to come up with, say $700 per month one month at a time.

Living in the dorms, though, Middle has to come up with the same $700 per month (0r more) all at once, right now. That's because the school's "payment plan" is this: Pay 1/2 now and 1/2 in a month. Imagine a landlord telling you that: Yeah, I'll rent you the apartment. Pay me $4500 right now and $4500 in a month. You'd keep shopping.

But schools can charge it because there are guaranteed student loans and private student loans and those loans are nondischargeable and will be paid back, one way or another. So schools can keep hiking tuition and imposing ridiculous payment plans and making it harder and harder for people to pay for school without graduating under a massive amount of debt.

That massive debt then limits their occupations, both up front (because they have to choose an occupation that will let them pay for learning it) and at graduation, when they can't go into public service or lower-paying jobs because of the debt.

The government recognized this and made some changes, allowing income based repayment plans and some credits for public service, but I say go further. I say stop guaranteeing student loans already. Period. We don't guarantee housing loans or car loans (except in rare circumstances) and those lenders are doing fine.

Instead, have need-based grants that don't need to be paid back, and allow private lenders to fill the gap. But then change the law to treat student loans like any other loan -- dischargeable in bankruptcy and no easier to collect. That'll reduce the availability of loans.

At the same time, change the rules to say that payment plans set up by colleges, if reasonable, are nondischargeable. So Middle could attend UW-Oshkosh without a loan, but paying on a month-to-month basis; give that payment plan the protected treatment that student loans get now, which would encourage colleges to set up reasonable payment plans without hiking fees and paying administrators whopping salaries, salaries that are balanced on the backs of students.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

It's not my ACTUAL Grocery list. (3 Good Things from 9/1/09)

Today, I forgot my wallet at home, which doesn't matter so much because I never have money, but it does make it harder to get out of my parking garage without my parking pass... still, I'm in a good mood because of the 3 Good Things from yesterday.

1. I got to see some llamas on a farm on the way home from a court hearing. I like seeing more-exotic animals on farms as I drive; it makes me feel like I'm driving through a foreign country.

2. Even though I forgot the grocery list when Sweetie and I took the Babies! grocery shopping, I was able to reconstruct it from memory and we got every single thing we needed. That was better than I did last week, with the list.

3. I got to read my Newsweek last night while sitting in the midst of a game of chase, as Mr Bunches and Mr F raced each other around the table where I was reading.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Quote of the Day, 38

"Make sure you button up his shirt. He's not Lawrence Welk."

-- Sweetie, instructing me on how to dress Mr Bunches this morning.

Longtime readers will remember that Sweetie is particularly concerns about the Babies! showing their chests. Longtime readers may also wonder what era, exactly, Sweetie grew up in because she previously opted to use Bobby Vinton as the example of what the Babies! are not.

This morning, she dropped back a little more in history, picking out Lawrence Welk as an apparently-chest-baring hunk of yesteryear.

Lawrence Welk is shown alongside this post, for those who may be unfamiliar with him. Note the lack of cleavage available in the photo.

But I did what Sweetie said, and made sure that I buttoned Mr Bunches' shirt, lest he grow up to play the accordion and be memorialized in a museum in North Dakota.

I have watched the first 10 minutes of many movies with Mr F (3 Good Things From The Last Day of Summer, 2009)

Sweetie says I pick Mr Bunches more than Mr F for these, which I deny... but I'll even the score with a pair of Mr F Good Things from yesterday, plus a work-related one.

1. I got out of work 1 1/2 hours early, thanks to a meeting ending early! Too late to go back to work but not too early to just head on home.

2. During their bedtime snack, Mr F was picking out the tiniest bits of cookies that he could find, eating them one crumb at a time -- but making sure to chew each crumb thoroughly.

3. When we sat down to watch the first ten minutes of Shrek The Third, ten minutes being the longest Mr F can sit still, he laid on my stomach and put my hands over his own stomach, like a seat belt.

Monday, August 31, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Six.

26. Require everything we build, from here on out, to get at least some of its power from the sun or the wind.

I know that solar power and wind power right now aren't very efficient, but back 20 years ago, computers weren't very efficient, either. Since then, the demand and production and competition among computer makers has resulted in my phone having more computing power, now, than IBM had in its entire company in 1983.

So if, beginning right this second, we require that everything -- cars, houses, toasters, strip malls, the Space Shuttle -- get at least some of its power from solar or wind power, we'll be doing two things.

First, we'll be improving those things by introducing demand for production of solar- and wind-powered batteries or generators. People will have to start making them because toaster makers and NASA will need to buy them. That'll help spur development of better, cheaper, faster solar cells or windmills.

Second, we'll be reducing demand for fossil fuels in the long run. If we replaced just 1% of current fossil fuel usage by replacing it with solar or wind power, that's 1% less pollution and 1% longer life for fossil fuels.

Why aren't cars equipped with solar cells on the roofs to help power them at low speeds in the cities -- a hybrid car that would draw less on fossil fuels to charge it up? Why don't skyscrapers have photovoltaics lining their sides? Why don't houses have small windmills on them to power the water heater?

Eventually, when the world starts listening to me, they will.

UPDATE: The world started listening to me on September 15. Read how here.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Who needs three anyway? It's an overrated number. Except when counting good things. (3 Good Things From 8/30/09)

The last weekend day of summer, and the 3 Good Things that happened...

1. I got Brett Favre on my fantasy football team! The draft was yesterday and once again, I'm lining up with the greatest quarterback ever to play football.

2. Mr Bunches can count to five. He says: One... two... four... bive.

3. Mr Bunches can also make his intentions known. Walking on the nature trail yesterday, he caught sight of a pond and wanted to head there, so he started walking through weeds taller than his own head. When I asked where he was going, he pointed at the pond and said "Going."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Last Sunday's Poem, EVER!

Painted red
by Lena Vanelslander

Entangle me in your passion
Take my blood and sign your masterpiece
From the alpha till the omega
Paint the waters deep
Let your finger be the brush
And my body the curtain
Slide along the curves
Of desires (un)certain
Till I surrender
surrender ...
and shiver for love's innuendo.


Lena Vanelslander, who is one of my favorite poets and who follows this blog under the name "Demeter," swam many waters. History, Comparative Culture Analysis, Languages, Mythology, Literature, Poetry, too many to sum up. After a life of tribulations the turning point came in her mid twenties: she started to write, actively, poetry in English. Her melancholic and darkminded nature colour her poems to an individual signature in both time and space.

She's been published in the Stray Branch, Savage Manners, the Delinquent and The Sylvan Echo. Her first chapbook ‘Ma Chanson de Rien du Tout’ has been released in August this year. Her first book of poetry, Quills of Fire (written with Marilyn Campiz) will appear in November 2009. When not writing fascinating and beautiful poems, she also profiles writers as a contributing editor for Gloom Cupboard () and editor for Outsider Writers .

I asked Lena to submit her favorite of her poems, and tell us about it. Here's what she had to say about "Painted red."

My own favourite poem is ‘Painted Red’ and originated from two other poems: an untitled one by myself and ‘Artwork’ by Elizabeth Kate Switaj, a poem in response to ‘untitled’. I wrote the first version but wasn’t 100% satisfied with the result, though some interesting ideas and images did emerge and found expression. The poem contained the verses ‘I’m bleeding Make me an artwork of it’ to which Elizabeth replied with her poem. Combining these two poems as inspiration and impulse to explicate what I started, I wrote ‘Painted Red’, this time with confidence in my own verses, knowing I expressed my thoughts accurately.

Free verse, as always, represents freedom in expression to me and ‘Painted Red’ is an excellent example … To make the body an artwork and paint it with the blood of the writer spoke to my unconscious imagination. I hope you enjoy the growth and train of thoughts in the poems as much as I did.

Here, too, are the poems that inspired Painted red:



by Lena Vanelslander.

There used to be a place like this
Where all was fine, where all was peace.

I'm bleeding
Make me an artwork of it

I'm cold
Shed your skin to keep me warm

I'm desolate
Touch my body,
Along the hills and valleys

And make it flourish with your breath and skin.
Make it an oasis in the deserted corridors
A secret place where you and I can meet ...

A place like this ...
Where all is fine, where all is at peace.


Elizabeth Kate Switaj

I tried to make a painting with your blood

but all the platelets fled

in horror
of my whalebone & horsehair

I tried
to leave them their escape

& etch
words & hills & valleys
into that shallow splash
It turned into an ocean
and raged, erased
my words & lines

& then my mind
& then my fingers’ memories of how to hold a pen


Want to read more of Lena's work? Click here to get started.

Thanks to Ms. Switaj, as well, for letting Lena send me her poem and put it here, too. Read more of her poems at Daughter of The Ring Of Fire.


And now to confirm what the post title says, this is the last Sunday's Poem ever, but that's only because Sunday's poem is going to be moving to Friday, so after today it'll be Friday's Poem, so if you're a poet who wants to submit one, send it to me at thetroublewithroy[at] Put "Friday's Poem" in the subject line, so I don't accidentally delete it. I don't have time to read all my emails, you know -- I'm too busy helping a variety of members of the Nigerian royal family move their money to this country.


Starting next sunday: Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! makes its return... of sorts.