Saturday, September 19, 2009

If there were a Nobel Prize for Humble-Osity/Abs, this guy would win it. (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 32)

I am a little late on the Hunk of the Week because Mr Bunches decided to sleep in 35-minute bursts last night, and in between sleeping decided to cry in 98-minute bursts, forcing me to keep checking on him and once to sit in the Babies!' room with him watching a portion of Kung Fu Panda, and then, when I did finally get up this morning after 3 hours sleep, I had to fight with Mr F about whether he was going to be allowed to have chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

He won.

Don't judge me. Just read about Sweetie's Hunk of The Week, Wolverine... I mean, Juan Martin Del Potro.

You don't know him without you watched the U.S. Open, or you heard that (tiny) portion of the coverage of the US Open that wasn't about rich, juvenile athletes complaining about a game, or, like Sweetie, you happened to be at the health club working out and saw him on a television screen accepting his trophy, a picture that was playing without sound on, prompting you to come home and ask your husband "Who won the U.S. Open?" But your husband didn't know. He was too busy trying to remember when Better Off Ted starts up again. Juan Martin Del Potro won the US Open this week, is my point, and Sweetie picked him because she saw a few soundless seconds of him on TV getting his trophy.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: beyond the sideburns making you think he's going to appear in the likely-never-to-hit-the-big-screen Twilight sequel? How about this: Juan Martin Del Potro, already blessed with tennis skills and an abundance of hair, also has three nicknames. They are: Palito, Delpo, and Enano. I ran those through the Babel Fish translator, and they translate to: Enano, Palito and Dwarf. I then ran them through, just for fun, a bunch of other translations: English to Chinese, Portuguese to French, Klingon to Calculcus, and in each case, they translated to those same three words. But then, I tried entering those words into the lottery, just on a whim, and my plane crashed and I ended up meeting this guy who lived in a hatch, and he looked just like Juan Martin Del Potro.

Sweetie insisted that I put in a "nice picture.
One where he shaved."
Her wish is my command. Here is
a picture of Juan Martin the morning
after the full moon.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him:
When I googled her question "Who won the US Open" and found out it was Hugh Jackman posing as Juan Martin, I couldn't figure out what the big deal was, so I supposed that it was because he was foreign, and women always dig the foreign dudes, right? But Sweetie said
"I didn't know he was Spanish. He didn't look Spanish." (Juan Martin, being from Argentine, is Spanish as far as Americans are concerned. When we bother to break down foreigners into groups smaller than simply Foreigners," we rarely do so with any more precision than "Spanish" or some such grouping.)

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He just seemed so humble and nice, accepting his trophy."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: The sound was off. Which means Sweetie was judging "humble" and "nice," apparently, by how much sweat was glistening on his not-Spanish-looking muscles:

He looks humble. Especially around the bicepular region.

Humbler, still!

My god, the man is like
Gandhi, only far more humble.

I'd shop there, but I'm pretty sure they don't just leave the old furniture behind the store.

Depending on where you live and how much you want to spend, getting good furniture can be a problem. Take me for example. With my location, Wisconsin, and my budget, zero, my furniture-shopping options are limited to "Let's hope the neighbors throw away a kitchen table soon, so we can stop using this upside down cardboard box."

There are, I understand, better places to get furniture than "the side of the curb," places like John Paras Furniture.

John Paras furniture SLC Utah has been the choice for great value on excellent furniture for half a century. They let you buy furniture the easy, old-fashioned way: just come to their store, where you'll get a great price AND their always-free delivery on top of their excellent customer service.

They've got everything from home theater to sleep sets, and you can even pick up a gift card for that housewarming gift or newlywed couple.

Friday, September 18, 2009

This has to be the only R-Rated Poem About Whales. NSFW! (Friday's Sunday's Poem 33)

Here's how I chose today's poem. First, I thought to myself, "I'm feeling a little Bukowski-ish today," but then I went and read a couple of Bukowski poems including "The Lucky Ones" and I thought, "No, I am asbolutely NOT feeling Bukowski-ish," and I decided that I was feeling happier than that, more along the lines of the Modest Mouse song "Bukowski" than actually like Bukowski. So I went in search of happy poems that would enhance my Friday afternoon mood, and then I discovered that many poetry sites have no happy poems., for example, has categories like "love," "hard times," "work," and "politics," but no happy. So I googled "Happy Poems"and got to this site, where I saw the title of today's poem, Whales Weep Not!, and I thought: "There! That's my poem! It's happy and triumphant sounding and will work perfectly."

Then I read the poem, and thought: "Oh, crap, it's whale porn."

But I went with it anyway.

Whales Weep Not!
by David Herbert Lawrence

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of
the sea!

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas,
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.
Then the great bull lies up against his bride
in the blue deep bed of the sea,
as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life:
and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale-blood
the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and
comes to rest
in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale's
fathomless body.

And over the bridge of the whale's strong phallus, linking the
wonder of whales
the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and
keep passing, archangels of bliss
from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim
that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the
great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.

And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-
tender young
and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of
the beginning and the end.

And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring
when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood
and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat
encircling their huddled monsters of love.
And all this happens in the sea, in the salt
where God is also love, but without words:
and Aphrodite is the wife of whales
most happy, happy she!

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin
she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea
she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males
and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.


And,for good measure, here's Bukowski, by Modest Mouse:

Sadly, they do not have any tips on how to get pictures of me standing next to movie stars, with the movie stars handing me money.

People think these days that with cameras being cheaper and easier to use, photography is easy, too. But it's not. The ability to point a camera and hit a button doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to print, share, save, or upload those photos, and, more importantly, the ability to point and click doesn't mean that you'll take GOOD photos.

For pointers on how to take a good picture, and what to do with them afterwords, check out the 42nd Street blog.

42nd Street photo has been around for four decades now, selling cameras and related equipment, and they've always been able to provide the hardware to take great photos. Now, with their blog, they're taking the next step and helping give you the SKILLS to take great photos. The tips range from the "Why Didn't I Think of That" variety (like "Read the manual," which seems obvious, once people tell you it, and once they DO tell you, you think "Oh, man, I threw away the manual") all the way to the ones that you never think of. Like this one: they say to "Use Both Hands," pointing out that most people like me will simply click away with one hand, because we CAN, but doing that means that you're likely to move the camera and blur the photo.

You'd expect great equipment from 42nd Street photo; they've got every kind of brand and their prices are great. It's nice, though, to see them use their expertise to help people USE all that equipment.

What's the point of making a video if you don't want people to see it? (3 Good Things From 9/17/09)

1. Mr F walked through most of the grocery store. That may not seem like a big deal, but traditionally, Mr F has enjoyed nothing more than running off as fast as he can, and so traditionally he rides in the cart when I go to the store, and Mr Bunches walks. Last night, I decided to give Mr F a chance to walk again, and he made it through more than 50% of the store before bolting -- and then recovered to stay out of the cart for the remainder of the store.

2. The Parks & Recreation beginning in which Amy Poehler rapped most of Parents Just Don't Understand after her boss said "Here's the situation." For most of my life, I thought I was the only person who, upon hearing those words, immediately thought My parents went away on a week's vacation.

3. Sweetie made up the grocery list for me. Although I gave her a hard time because it wasn't in the order I liked it, I was very appreciative that she made the list and saved me a bunch of time, making it possible for me to relax a little after work.

Unfortunately, Will Smith won't let me embed the video for Parents Just Don't Understand, so I guess he doesn't want you to hear it, see the video or buy the song. Do what Will wants and completely forget that you ever heard about that song, and by no means pass along word of it under any circumstances. Instead, I'll give you instead a better rap song:

O.P.P., "Naughty By Nature":

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Thirty-Nine.

39. Stop describing things as "hell" or "hard work" when they're not at all.

It's a mark of just how easy one's life is when things that are not even remotely difficult or hellish can be described as "hell" or "hard work."

Last year, for five days, I and The Boy tore down our old shed, carrying rotting boards and junk to the dumpster in the front yard, hauling cinder blocks, cutting up wood, and more. We were exhausted two hours into it. After that, I vowed never to describe my "work" as "hard work" again, and I've stuck to it.

Being a lawyer isn't hard at all. It can be mentally challenging, the hours can be long, there can be time pressures and people depend on you. But it doesn't make my back hurt, it doesn't cause blisters, and I wear a polo shirt on Fridays. I don't have to be exposed to the elements or wear safety goggles.

This week, in The Onion, the writers there discussed the movie Adaptation and noted that the movie in part "show[s] how writing for the movies can be a personal kind of hell."

Really? I'd love for my job, and my life, to be so cushy that writer's block is a "personal kind of hell." Because prior to reading that comment in The Onion, I'd thought a "personal kind of hell" was best described by, say, as "being trapped in a coal mine that's burning."

There are many problems in our world, but one of the greatest problems is that people no longer understand what is really hard, and what just seems hard because our lives are so easy. If we could get people to never again describe "sitting at a desk in Southern California, typing" as "a personal kind of hell," we'd be a great deal further towards a better world.

Prior entries:

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.

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The Success Family of CE Companies understands that continuing education is not just a necessity for licensing but a necessity to stay on top of and grow your business, and that's why their focus is on profitability and efficiency. Everything they do is designed to make you better at your job and make you more money, from easy-to-access classes and smooth websites to those aforementioned tips on using continuing education as a sales booster. Check them out today so you can stop wasting time and start making time work for you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So, in the end, it's about... what? My story? Some ocelots? This is all unresolved! (What's That Song About, 9)

Today's Song: Andy's Chest, by Lou Reed.

What I Thought It Was About: I first heard this song when I got Lou Reed's "Transformer" on CD, a purchase I made for the sole purpose of getting Walk On The Wild Side. Before buying the CD, Walk On The Wild Side was one of three Lou Reed songs I'd ever heard. The other two were "Vicious," which was the B-side of Walk On The Wild Side, which song I had as a 45 record back in the 1980s. I used to play it on my stereo in my dorm room -- playing that song, and also the song You Really Got Me by The Kinks. (I later sang You Really Got Me as an audition song to try to become lead singer of a band. I didn't get the job.) The third song was Dirty Boulevard, which I'd bootlegged off the radio one day.

When I listened to Transformer, I had no idea what Andy's Chest was about. I assumed it would be about... Andy's Chest. I didn't know who Andy was, or why his chest was worth singing about. I assumed Andy would be some guy like the kid in Dirty Boulevard.

Here's the song:

What It's Actually About: Lou's imagery, and the catchy way he sings the lyrics that adamantly refuse to rhyme (much), caught my imagination, and I read up on Lou Reed and found out that he hung around Andy Warhol a lot, and that he'd (purportedly) written this song to cheer up Warhol after the shooting, throwing together random images and phrases for that sole purpose.

The phrase that always stuck with me from this song was You know what happens after dark, which I later stole as the title for my story You know what happens after dark, about a girl who happens to be too near her dying friend and ends up becoming a gateway for souls to re-enter the world. So, really, the only connection between the song and my story were the title.

Here's another great song off that album: "Hanging Round."

How'd carrots make this list? (3 Good Things From 9/16/09)

1. I got out of work early -- a conference ended at 4:30, which was too early to go back to the office, so I got to play hooky and head on home.

2. Sweetie made me "Brown Sugar Carrots" for dinner -- carrots cooked in butter and brown sugar. Delicious. If vegetables have to be eaten (note: they don't), they should at least be cooked in butter and brown sugar.

3. The ice cream ride we took after dinner -- Sweetie and The Boy wanted ice cream, the Babies! wanted to go for a ride, so we all took a drive around the city, and even though they said my route was boring, I liked it.

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

38. Accept the idea that eventually we're going to have to pay for stuff on the Internet.

I'm a big believer in free stuff. Free stuff provides about 97% of my motivation in life. I'm also a big believer in advertising, and advertising seems to hold the key to free stuff. As I've pointed out before, in a variety of contexts, I accept ads because ads make it possible for me to see and get stuff for free.

But the Internet is not making money, not for companies, and it's only a matter of time before the companies that are providing most of the Internet realize that, and also a matter of time before the companies that are providing most of the Internet decide they don't want to just throw money away on providing the Internet to us for free. In the meantime, the free Internet is killing off some other sources of entertainment, and news, like newspapers, magazines ,and television. It was recently revealed that The Simpsons charges more for ads on Hulu than on network television. Advertisers wouldn't pay more for ads unless the ads were effective -- which means that soon, ad revenues could start falling on TV, resulting in networks having less money to produce new TV shows, which could cause a network -- say, NBC -- to decide it's not worth it to pay a lot of money to produce a new dramatic series, and instead go the cheap route and schedule a talk show every night at 9 p.m.

No, that's crazy talk, right? Network TV will never die, right? There will never come a time that a formerly free TV show will end up on a channel that we have to pay to watch, right?

After pondering this all for a while, I decided that I already pay for a lot of my entertainment. I subscribe to three magazines. I have DirecTV. I go to movies in the theater and pay Netflix a monthly fee. I buy my music from iTunes. I subscribe to a newspaper.

There are free options for all of those. I could listen to the radio, or get the free weekly newspaper, or wait for movies to come on network TV. But I don't want to wait, and sometimes the quality suffers. So I pay for the privilege of getting songs and movies when I want them, and how I want them, and getting quality entertainment.

A general way of charging for the Internet would be to follow what movies are already doing: If you want to see a movie now, in the theaters, you pay full price. If you're willing to go at off times or wait a few weeks, you can get a discount. If you want to wait 3-6 months, you can see it for the cost of a DVD or rental, and if you want to wait a year or two, you'll see it for free on TV. Why not try that with the Internet? Make TV shows available right now, for download, for a price. Make them available cheaper a month later, and then have them on your website for free after six months. Other websites could follow the same route: Read it now for a charge, or read it in six months for free. I'd pay a small subscription fee for at least some of the sites I visit. And I'd pay something to be able to get full radio shows transferrable to my iPod, or read blogs on a Kindle.

Prior entries:

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.

The new backup exec open file option lets you save files without thinking about it.

And "doing stuff without thinking about it" is pretty much how we'd all like to describe our jobs, right? Well, with the new's backup exec open file option, you can save and store your files without any effort -- even those files you're working on at the time of saving them. is the online data backup service you should be using. It lets you save your work online (making it accessible from anywhere) and do so quickly and cheaply. From the simplest files to the most complicated, data-heavy material, can handle it, and they back up your information with military-strength encryption, so you don't have to towrry about security.

Now, they'll let you save and backup your files while you're working on them, from almost any platform or operating system. The "open file option" lets you save and store your files while you write them, so if you're working on a lengthy brief or report or marketing plan but don't want to take the time to close out of it, then back up the file, then reopen it, can still save it for you, while it's open and while you work on it.

So you could, say, work the entire plane trip on a report, having it saved and backed up as you go. Then, even if you leave your laptop in the taxi on the way to the big meeting, your report can be backed up and saved online, making it accessible to you at the meeting. Plus, there's no extra charge for this service. It's win-win!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Septathlon Golf! (Thinking The Lions)

Last night,The Boy and I set out for the Second Event of the Septathlon, with changed rules.

The first changed rule was that it'll no longer be limited to just seven events. Instead, we're going to try to do an event a week until we get bored or time ends, whichever comes first. (Note: Just because it will no longer be only seven events is not a good enough reason to change the name. It's not like Septathlon means anything, anyway. All those "old" "Greek" "words" are nothing of the sort; they're random assemblies of sounds foisted on us by scientists and high school teachers.)

The second rule is that Middle's no longer part of this, because she exercised poor judgment and went off to college.

The third rule is that the bets are weekly, and we'll alternate weeks picking activities. With that in mind, we sat down over a dinner of burritos and potato chips (Dinner of Champions) and agreed on last night's Septathlon Second Event and the bet.

The Event: Golf.
The Bet: If I win, The Boy has to watch 2 episodes of Better Off Ted without complaining. If wins, I have to watch the movie Heat.

(I, of course, immediately noted that he
had not added "without complaining," which meant that I was allowed to complain if I ended up watching Heat. The Boy then tried to claim that "not complaining" was included in the bet.)

We then finished up dinner and set off on our Golf Event, delayed only briefly by (a) having to load Mr F and Mr Bunches into the other car so that Sweetie could take them for a ride, and (b) having to assure Sweetie that I wasn't suffering a heart attack.

On the former, we ended up sending Sweetie and the Babies! for a ride because when we got ready to leave, they got all excited and thought they were getting to go somewhere, too. We couldn't take them with us, though, because the course we'd chosen, The Waunakee Free Course, is right on a highway, plus there's a water hole there, so it was too likely they'd end up drowned or run over or both. To avoid disappointing them, we had Sweetie take them for a ride in the car while we left.

As to the latter, Sweetie was initially concerned about my health, concerns that were overblown. All I'd said to her was that I'd had, all day, kind of a sharp, stabbing pain in my right side of my chest, one that got worse when I breathed or laughed. Sweetie thought it might be I was having a heart attack, but I pointed out that the heart is on the left side. She then guessed Spleen?, to which I responded: "I don't even know where my spleen is, so that's not the problem, either." Then I manfully shrugged off her worries and hopped into the car, taking a precautionary Pop Tart with me.

I was a little concerned, initially, when we arrived at the golf course, because The Boy has been golfing all summer, and I haven't been on a golf course since last September, when I beat Middle in a stunning come-from-behind victory that netted me a t-shirt. (Teaching the kids the evils of gambling by betting them and then winning = good parenting.) That, together with the Possible Spleen Attack (is that a thing?) made me a little nervous as we got up to the tee for the first shot.

The Boy went first, and borrowed my driver. The course we were on was a Par 3, short, free golf course set up by a developer who had some unbuildable land and who likes golf. No hole is longer than 200 yards, making drivers largely unnecessary. That didn't stop The Boy from using one, and he promptly whacked a shot about 90 degrees to his right, far off target.

"Well," he said, "At least I cleared the water." And he had -- on the 7th hole.

I got off a good shot and the game was underway. By about the third hole, it became apparent to me that The Boy had not been spending the time on the golf course this summer actually golfing, or, if he had been actually golfing, he'd been doing that by trying to invent some new, more aggressive, and more violent, form of golf. He would tee his ball up and then hack at the ground as though the ground presented at least an orange-level threat to him. After about the third such hit, I asked him:

"What were you doing when you golfed this summer?"

He didn't take that the wrong way and answered that he'd mostly been messing around, which seemed to me to confirm what I had secretly suspected -- that golfing hadn't been golfing at all.

The Boy has always, since he turned into a teenager, wanted to just hang out, or go walking around. That used to be the big thing he wanted to do: go walking around.

"Where?" we'd ask him, when he'd come to us and ask if him and his friends could just go walking around.

"Nowhere," he'd say. "Just around."

I never fell for it. When I turned 40, I also turned "suspicious of teenagers," to the point where if I see 2 or more teenagers together, I assume they're up to no good and I check my wallet and consider calling 911. That's true even if they're our teenagers, and it's true even if the teenagers are in an organized group. Attending high school meetings makes my Spider-Sense buzz: whole roomfuls of teenagers, all clearly conspiring to... do something. Smoke cigarettes or shoplift or something. I don't trust them, not a bit.

So when The Boy wanted to go walking around, with no clear plan, what I heard was get into trouble and we never allowed it. He could, and can, only go someplace if there's a clear destination and purpose to it. No walking around, but he can go bowling or go work out at the club.

I got more suspicious of The Boy than usual the day I called home on my way home to tell Sweetie that I needed The Boy to help me that night.

"He's at the health club," she told me, "Working out." As it happened, I also had to drive by the health club, and noticed as I did so that The Boy's car, Bluey, was not in the parking lot. I asked him about it later, wondering why if he was at the club his car wasn't there.

"I had to go to the Bank, first," he said, which would have been a perfectly reasonable explanation from anyone who wasn't a teenager. Coming from The Boy (a teenager), I knew that "had to go to the Bank" meant, probably "went to a wild party and got drunk and also committed crimes and used your credit card."

After all, that's what it meant when I was a teenager. (Don't tell my dad.)

I could never prove that The Boy's trips to the club, or the Bank, or golfing, were, in reality, just hanging around, until last night, when The Boy hacked his way through the first couple of holes and proved to me that not only had his "golfing" over the summer not helped him, it might well have set him... and golf as a sport... back several decades.

I gave him only a few pointers, along the lines of don't splay your feet, you're not a monkey. I had to add that he's not a monkey because I told him to hold his feet parallel, and he said "I can't." To which I said "Of course you can. You're not a monkey." I don't know why I said that. It just seemed to me like if there was any animal in nature that couldn't hold its feet parallel, it would have to be the monkey.

Beyond that, I didn't try to give him pointers because when I golf with people older than me, (my father-in-law or uncle-in-law), or with people better at golf than me (virtually everybody), they're always giving me tips, and I hate it. I don't go out golfing to get better at it. Getting better at things is practicing, and if I wanted to practice, I wouldn't be me. I don't practice at sports that I do for fun -- what's the point? I'm doing it for fun, and practicing isn't fun. If I wanted to be a pro golfer or pro racquetball player or something, I might practice and worry about getting better, but as it is, I just want to go out and hit the ball and have a little fun, and having my father-in-law come and grab my hips and adjust my feet and tell me to pivot this and swivel that isn't fun.

So I never give tips to other people, unless they ask me, and I mostly stuck to that with The Boy, beyond giving him a pointer here or there (along the lines of "That wasn't very good.") I had my own worries, though, what with the Possible Spleen Attack making it a little difficult to swing a club, and what with my concern about The Boy's cavalier attitude towards finding the golf balls he lost here and there.

"I'm not even going to look for that," he'd say, after whacking a shot towards the weeds. Since that was my golf ball, and since golf balls cost money, I considered telling him he had to go look for it. But then I'd watch the violent way he'd swing at an easy chip shot, miss, spin, and toss the club ten feet, and think "I just hope I get out of this alive."

I also had to be concerned about losing, because I did not intend to lose to The Boy. I've never lost a round of golf to any of the kids and didn't intend to start now (even though I really did want to see Heat.) It's not just the principal of the thing. As I've gotten older and softer and less yell-y, I feel like I'm losing the moral authority that follows, naturally, from yelling. Parental yelling is the source of approximately 90% of parental authority: Parents have bigger voices and get to say Don't you yell at me when the kids start yelling back, and then they yell more, and then you get to tack on an extra punishment for yelling at you, punishments being the other 10% of parenting.

I don't yell so much anymore because I'm a relaxed, New Age-y kind of guy and because, to be honest, the Babies! have worn me down so much that I rarely have the energy to yell anymore about anything, so that no matter how angry I get that the ketchup bottle is again lying on its side on the top shelf, instead of standing upright on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, where it belongs, no matter how mad I get about that, I'm too tired from constantly re-pantsing the Babies! to really work up a good head of steam. I don't yell much anymore, which waters down my punishments, in turn, because yelling is how punishments are enforced.

And I know my punishments are watered down, because The Boy flaunts that at me. He's technically being punished right now, for bad grades last spring. His punishment included reading the book Catch-22, and also not going anywhere on school nights until his grades come up. So for the first two weeks of school, he read zero pages of Catch-22, and he went out with friends every night, until last Thursday, when he came and said:

"I know I'm being punished and I'm not supposed to go out on school nights, but can I go next door to hang out for a while?" "Next door" is where his best friend lives. I thought about that and in a very reasonable, non-yell-y, Doctor Spock approved voice told him that would be okay but that from here on out, he was not going to go out on school nights, period, until his grades came up, and that included not even just going next door.

He accepted that, and why not? On Sunday night, I asked Sweetie where he was and she said "I told him it was okay to go next door to watch the football game." When I brought that up to The Boy the next morning, he said:

"What's the big deal? It was only next door."

You can see where some yelling might have enforced that punishment. But I don't have the energy to yell anymore, especially when deep breathing causes Possible Spleen Attacks, so instead, I decided that it was important to cling to my last remaining vestige of parental authority, being better at things than the kids are.

Being better at things is the only other source of parental authority that can be invoked. When you've stopped yelling and stopped punishing and have nothing left, you can still sometimes get kids' respect if you're better at things than they are. I used to be able to invoke this all the time. After all, I had a job that gave me authority over people and that required me to wear a tie, two signs that I was pretty good at something. I was always able to help with their homework. I used to be able to answer their questions, back when their questions were things like "Who makes more money, Brett Favre or Chicago?* (*Actual question The Boy asked me, at age 10.) But then they saw me at the office and noticed that most of my time there is spent not working, but blogging, and their homework got hard, resulting in me saying, more and more, let's look it up on the internet, or, worse, you'll have to go talk to your teacher about that, and my authority eroded more and more, leaving me with just:

I'm better at sports than you are. And that's not even mostly true, since I can't beat them in basketball.

To preserve what's left of my parental authority, I focused, and I fought my way through the first couple of holes (when, improbably, The Boy actually took the lead for a brief time.) My efforts paid off: by hole number 6the contest was largely over, I was firmly in control, and The Boy was talking about packing it in, asking me if I wanted to play the last three holes.

He seemed even more eager to do so after I chipped nearly onto the green, from behind a tree.

This is the shot I'm talking about there.
I landed it just off the green.

A nicer person, one who wasn't concerned that golf was his only chance to actually retain power in his household, might have agreed to call it quits. I did not, and made him play out the last three holes.

A nicer person, too, might not have said to him, as we teed it up for the 9th hole, "Hey, all you have to do is hit a hole in one and hope I shoot a 21."

But I'm not a nicer person. I'm a parent, and on this night, I was a parent who not only had to preserve his rapidly-dwindling authority, but also had to contend with a Possible Spleen Attack. So I didn't quit, and forged ahead, making him play out the round, turning me into not just a parent, but, more importantly, a parent who won.

By 19 strokes.


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Cross-Pollinization: This time, spelled 98% more correctly!

The weekly roundup of what I'm writing, and what I'm reading:

What I'm Writing:

I'm not ashamed to admit I was scared, because I'm the expert on scary movie monsters, including my posting of the second Best Horror Movie Monster ever. (The Best of Everything)

Joe can help them, or rule them. I wonder which he'll choose, as the end of the world nears... (AfterDark).

I can't believe it got published, or that 5,000 people bought it. Read the first of the reviews of Books You Didn't Know You Didn't Need (Aaaugh!)

Flying saucers vs. zombies and valkyries: Now, why isn't that a book? Because it's a blog. (Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!)

And then she hugged him. At the end of Bumpy's day in New York City, he gets a surprise. (5 Pages)

Only a lawyer could make 30 days take longer than 30 days. "30 Days of Debt Collection" continues; the most recent installment discusses whether YOUR bounced check is the debt collector's problem. (Family and Consumer Law: The Blog.)

Biker Babies! and Kids Names: Thinking The Lions explores the issues you care about. And also talks about a bunch of inane stuff. (Thinking The Lions)

What I'm Reading:

Next, I plan to find out what all the fuss is about "electricity." I know I'm a little late to this one, but I only recently found out about Flying Spaghetti Monster. (Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.)

SCRIBD Friend of the Week: Did you know you can download, for free, a bunch of stuff I write? It's true -- find them all on Scribd, just like my SCRIBD friend of the week, eBajana. eBajana has degrees in political science and oil painting, as well as a Masters in Urban Planning, which I think qualifies him to design the most artistic city ever. Working as a city planner, he's also at work on the first book of action/adventure series, so look him up on Scribd and check out his writing, and while you're there, read for free:

Up So Down: When Sarah's fiance drowns under mysterious circumstances, Sarah struggles to cope with the loss by joining a group of people trying to prove there's a serial killer at work, while her brother Bumpy responds to the tragedy by moving to Las Vegas to work as a writer and photographer. Click here to download it free.

Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World! In the future, everyone will eat squid jerky and listen to their octopus, and the fate of the 73 dimensions will rest on the slim, sexy shoulders of Rachel, Queen of the Lesbian Zombies. (Click here to download it free.)

Eclipse: Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars. And maybe he was. Or maybe things went murderously wrong. (Click here to download the free first chapter.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Thirty-Seven.

37. Spell your kids' names the right way.

Although this seems bossy, it's actually a compromise. I'm opposed to both weird names and weirdly-spelled names, but I am going to compromise and let people make up dumb names if they spell them the right way.

Having my name spelled with the Extraneous E on the end of it makes me an expert in this kind of thing, and it's an easy way to make the world a less stupid place and make your kids' lives easier. I've spent my whole life with people mispronouncing my name and asking me how it's spelled and having to correct it on my emails and otherwise adding, in a miniscule but still present way, to the troubles we all face. Maybe it's a small thing to have to tell a court reporter, as I once did, that "Yes, I'm sure my name is spelled that way." but why go through it at all?

Now, I'm not a fan of made-up fake names like Apple or Sparrow or whatever it is the next celebrity kid will be named (my money is on third-world country names: Tanzania Clooney has a nice ring, doesn't it?) but, as I said, I've decided to compromise, so if you want to name your kid something that's clearly not a name, something that's (as they said in Pretty In Pink) "a major appliance" or worse, then I'll be okay with that, so long as you spell it right. That's the rule I propose: Whatever you name your kid, spell it right. If you call your kid Tanzania, it's got to be spelled that way, not Taanzoneeyah.

And if you do the right thing and just use a traditional name, like Brian or Daniel or Tom, spell that the right way, too, not dAnYul or Tomm.

You can always get the weird name you want by having it be your kid's nickname after all. What's wrong with "We named her Lily, but we call her Apple." Nothing, that's what.

Prior entries:

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.