Saturday, August 14, 2010

I would VERY MUCH like my address to be "c/o The House At Bag End." (Stuff, And Junk.)

This is a house we drove by one day that I wished I could live in -- but Sweetie said she WON'T live in a geodesic dome. She's weird that way; she also wouldn't live in the octagon house near the nature trail, and she in past years put the kibosh on living in the house that was built into a hill like Bilbo Baggins' house.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

At least she's all mermaid. (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 59)

The Straightforward Mermaid.
by Matthea Harvey

The straightforward mermaid starts every sentence with “Look . . . ” This comes from being raised in a sea full of hooks. She wants to get points 1, 2, and 3 across, doesn’t want to disappear like a river into the ocean. When she’s feeling despairing, she goes to eddies at the mouth of the river and tries to comb the water apart with her fingers. The straightforward mermaid has already said to five sailors, “Look, I don’t think this is going to work,” before sinking like a sullen stone. She’s supposed to teach Rock Impersonation to the younger mermaids, but every beach field trip devolves into them trying to find shells to match their tail scales. They really love braiding. “Look,” says the straightforward mermaid. “Your high ponytails make you look like fountains, not rocks.” Sometimes she feels like a third gender—preferring primary colors to pastels, the radio to singing. At least she’s all mermaid: never gets tired of swimming, hates the thought of socks.

This poem appeared first in The New Yorker.

Read more
About the poem: I've often declared that one day or another, I was going to take a stand and say that poems must rhyme, because there are plenty of times when I think that rhyming is the only thing that separates poetry from prose. I've never actually put my foot down, poetry-wise, and done so, because I always come across a poem that makes me think "I like that even though it doesn't rhyme."

Then, in the latest New Yorker, I came across The Straightforward Mermaid, which was under Poetry in that magazine, but which, if it wasn't under poetry, would be just a super-short story; it's not even weirdly formatted like most poets do nowadays to seem cool, moving words to the right-hand side of the page for no artistic reason or capitalizing every third letter to be pseudoeccentric.

It's just a paragraph.

And yet, I liked it.

About the Actress: It's Rachel McAdams, who I thought of because of my post mentioning that Sweetie claims there's a sex scene in The Notebook, and then looked her up, and she's 32, and nobody's ever told me she's had plastic surgery, so she's in.

Worth A Thousand Words, 5


The only way to improve on the concept would be to make the baskets themselves edible.

When I was in the hospital recently, despite my best efforts, friends and coworkers found out where I was. Luckily for me, they respected my request not to be visited -- I don't want to see my coworkers when I'm wearing a hospital robe, and I don't really think they want to see ME like that, either. I'm no Brooklyn Decker, after all.

Unluckily for me, they mostly sent me flowers as get well wishes. Don't get me wrong; I'm not ungrateful and the flowers looked nice and all, but what I really wish I'd gotten were what I always send to people: gift baskets.

Gift baskets beat flowers six ways to Sunday. Yeah, flowers look nice, but that's about it. Gift baskets look nice, too, all wrapped up and full of neat stuff to eat or look at or wear, but they go beyond LOOKING nice and have all that stuff to eat or look at or wear.

At 1-800-Baskets ( they've got "Get Well" Gift Baskets that can be sent to just about anyone for any malady. They've got creative ones, like that great big "Get Well" Fortune cookie, and traditional ones that include teddy bears, and Parisian Fruit baskets -- which I'd have loved to have gotten, because the Docs put me on an "Eat More Fruit" mandate -- and, of course, cookies and popcorn and more, including things like the "Breakfast in Maine" basket.

All of those can be delivered, just like flowers, but when they get there, they do more than just take up space in the corner of the room. That's why, if you're ever in the hospital, you'll want to let me know -- and if I have to go back there, I'm just dropping this subtle hint to you millions of Internetizens about what you should send me.

Just don't come visit. Because seriously, those robes do NOT stay closed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I think I set a World Record For Almost-Dying: Part Four: Beware The Chili Dogs!

I almost died twice in one week. This is part four of that story.


Part 1.

Part 2.
Part 3.

My ventricles are lazy.

That's the big lesson I've learned from all this; that was what I needed to go to the doctor to have checked out yesterday, in what turned out to be not the end of this story but simply another chapter.

I'm a big believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason; I've always thought that if you look hard enough, you'll see that every good and bad thing that happens in your life can be pieced together like a puzzle, or a chain of cause-and-effect. So, for example, I think that it was fate that led me to go to school at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and that once there, I got an unpaid internship at the governor's office, because that unpaid internship got me a reference which got me hired into a 6-month limited term position at the Department of Revenue. That position expired in between hiring seasons, and so there was only one job available at the time, at a small law firm 48 miles from where I lived. I applied for that job, got it, met Sweetie and later married her and moved to Middleton, where, ultimately, I would get attacked by bees.

Not that the bees were the end goal of all that. Because if they were, if the grand design of my life was to get attacked by bees and then make dumb jokes about it on the internet, I would find that to be kind of stupid. (No offense intended, God.)

In my mind, the bees were the latest step that fits into the puzzle that is my life, leading me somewhere -- and it turns out that there are more steps, I guess, before I figure this one out. I've never actually figured out the reasons for things happening in advance, after all. It's not like I was driving up to the job interview that time thinking "I'll bet there will be a hot legal secretary working there and I'll meet her and we'll fall in love and one day I will spend a sunny morning with her sitting in a hospital room talking about Priscilla Presley's plastic surgery."

Although I did think "I hope there's a hot legal secretary there." And there Sweetie was. So I'm a little psychic.

I also don't believe in predestination. I don't think I was predestined to meet Sweetie, not like that, and I don't think I was predestined to get stung 16 times by bees (about which, I'll note, the stings are still there. Those were some tough bees.) Or, put another way, I think that I was always going to meet Sweetie, but the how and the where and the why of it -- and what I made of that -- was up to me.

I say that because, as it turns out, Sweetie and I may have actually met in the past. Not past lives; I'm not a nut. In our past. I grew up in Hartland, Wisconsin, which is about 120 miles from where Sweetie grew up. Not an insurmountable distance, but certainly a big enough difference that we wouldn't have expected to run into each other all the time when we were little. Except that Sweetie had a relative who lived in my town and who she'd go visit from time-to-time, and Hartland was a small town, making it entirely possible that I ran into her once or more than once growing up... and then, years later, I would happen to notice an ad for a job and be one of two people who felt it might be worth it to drive 100 miles round trip for a job that paid ten bucks an hour -- and end up being the person they hired to work 20 feet away from Sweetie, who might have been walking around Jackson's Department Store when I was a kid, only I didn't do anything about it then.

Which makes me think that I was always going to keep meeting Sweetie, just in different circumstances, and what I made of it each time (and what she made of it) was up to us - -but if we hadn't gotten together at that job, I bet that a few years down the road I'd have bumped into her at a football game or something, and been given another chance.

That's how fate works to me: Not that every second of our life is predestined, just that the big things are bound to happen, good or bad, and when they do, we've got to recognize them and make the most of them or get through them, and that each one of those things leads to another event that we'll then have to recognize, too and make the best (or worst) of.

Which brings me back to the bees. And the ventricles. And chili dogs.

I think the bees saved my life -- in a very real way -- by trying to kill me as only vicious tiny killer bees can do, in a cloud of stingers and confusion. I think they saved my life because otherwise I would never have gone to the ER the Friday morning after the bees, and if I hadn't gone to the ER I'd probably be dead right now and they'd blame it on chili dogs instead of my lazy ventricles.

I'd been easing back into work all that week between the bees and the next almost-dying. The longest day I'd worked was Wednesday of that week, when I'd "worked" a lot of hours but done almost nothing. I'd had a hearing in Eau Claire, which is about 3 1/2 hours away from my house; the hearing was an early one, but I don't mind driving for work and it seemed like the kind of thing I could handle in person -- that way, I'd get credit for a whole day of "work" but the "work" would mostly be driving and making phone calls.

So I got up at 5 a.m. and got ready and hopped in the car and drove 3 1/2 hours to the hearing, listening to the radio and trying to not feel crummy because of the bee stings, and then had the hearing (we won) and drove back home -- getting back around 2 or so in the afternoon, having "worked" a full 8 hour day. I could have used the bee stings as an excuse to not go into the office that day, but I never go into the office on days like that if I have to; I don't feel it's productive to be on the road driving all day, then get into my office for an hour or 3 and try to focus on something when I'm tired. So I typically go home, and that's what I did that Wednesday: I went home, and went to bed, still tired from all the bees (and the getting up at 5 a.m. and driving all day.)

I mostly slept all Wednesday night, and then got up Thursday to go to work again. My plan on that Thursday was to actually go in and work an entire day -- not just be there or come home early, but to actually work a full day and get stuff done.

The first stuff I had to get done was a deposition, questioning this mortgage lender employee by phone. I gathered up my law clerks to help me out (the law clerks, law students, are great -- they work really, really hard for no money whatsoever, in exchange for the opportunity to watch and admire me while I work, thereby making me seem more important and giving me the chance to later pontificate on what it is they've just learned and witnessed) and got the witness on the phone, and struggled through about an hour of questioning during which I relied more than usual on notes and records -- ordinarily, I can wing it right through something like that without any props to go on.

After that was done, we all went back upstairs to my office to talk things over and give the clerks some instructions on what they'd just seen and what to do now. I got up the flight of stairs and was short of breath and dizzy -- which is actually a rare thing, even though my diet used to consist primarily of Ramen Noodles and foods with names ending in -ito. And it didn't go away. I was still short of breath and feeling tired a few minutes later when I dismissed the clerks and said I was going to, after all, go home, and I spoke to a few people on the way out and said I still wasn't feeling well, so I'd have to take yet another day and I'd be back Friday.

I drove myself home, thinking the whole time Man, those bees are really powerful. When I got home, Sweetie asked me if I wanted to go to the doctor -- she'd ask me that about four more times that afternoon and evening and each time I told her the same thing: "It's nothing. It's just those bee stings and I'm tired from yesterday."

I took a nap, kind of: I felt like I almost fell asleep about 40 times but never really fell asleep, at all, a weird half-sleeping kind of state that hovered between awake and asleep and never really hit either, making me feel more dopey and cloudy-headed than usual -- and that's saying something.

I roused myself up for dinner and to spend some time with the Babies!, giving Sweetie a bit of a break because it had been a long week for her. We ate dinner -- chili dogs, a dinner that would come back to haunt me in more ways than one, it turned out -- and then I played with Mr Bunches and Mr F, but I wasn't myself: I got tired too easily and couldn't chase them around and didn't feel like doing much. Mostly we watched TV and played computer games and I finally at about 7:30 gave up and gave them a bath and put them to bed early; I was just too tired, and also the chili dogs were starting to bother me, giving me heartburn.

I thought. I thought it was the chili dogs bothering me -- because I didn't at that point know about the ventricles, and because chili dogs, it seems, are a clever kind of food that can fool even medical professionals into believing that nothing big is going on, and therefore almost killing me themselves.

So I took some Tums and went to bed, already kind of dying without actually knowing that.

Next: Coffee turns out to have few medicinal qualities.

In this photo, he sort of looks like he is the only person who knows where ET's body is buried. (Hunk of the Moment, 2)

Hunk of the Moment: Henry Thomas.

How You Might Know Him: According to IMDB, he's in Dear John, but to anyone over about 35, he'll always be the guy who helped ET phone home.

How I Found Out Sweetie Liked Him: Hunks of the Moment aren't prechosen; they're just guys Sweetie lets slip that she finds hunky. Like today's. On the way home from my second trip to the hospital, I was talking to Sweetie about the things I looked forward to, including getting back to blogging, and mentioned that I'd also be reviving the Hunks of the Moment. I didn't tell her how it would work, though, and then was going to move onto other topics, when Sweetie said:

"The whole time you were in the hospital, I found myself thinking that Henry Thomas from ET is hunky now."

Sweetie would like all my readers (both of you, including Sweetie) to know this: I got it wrong. What she actually said is: "I was watching CSI one night while you were in the hospital and he was on it and I thought he was hot." She also wants everyone to know that she took very good care of me that entire time. Which she did. Except that she never even once smuggled me in a McDonald's cheeseburger, which is what I thought marriage was all about.

Or we could just build a house out of books entirely. Like that beer commercial, only not lame.

Sweetie has, and I'm not making this up, about 200 books waiting to be read. I'm not even exaggerating. She's a voracious reader and a more voracious book shopper -- when she sees a book she thinks she'll like, she picks it up or orders it, and for authors that she knows she likes, she keeps tabs on their upcoming books and pre-orders those. She haunts bookstores and online sites for books like crazy.

I, while I support reading, also like to support other values, like "not spending tons of money." So in the past, I suggested things like used books and take them out of the library and even can you move this giant stack of books 'cause it's on my side of the bed. Those suggestions did not go over well (although she eventually moved them).

The latest idea I have to let Sweetie continue to buy every single book in the world, while also not having us declare bankruptcy (book-ruptcy!)(Ha!) is to have Sweetie order her books from AbeBooks using the AbeBooks coupon code I got from today.

There's more than one there -- ranging from free shipping to 90% off on textbooks to fiction books for a dollar -- so I can keep getting more and more codes and keep up with Sweetie's book purchases.

Then I'll work on getting a coupon code for a self-storage unit to hold them all.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A case of olive oil? How long would that last? (The Found Alphabet)


That's a cursive I over there. I took this picture about a month ago, when the Babies! and I went out on a Tuesday night to run some errands, one of which was picking up Sweetie's weekly Tuesday present. That week's present was a gift certificate for a pedicure at a shop at the Rich Mall we hardly ever go to. If you want to see some serious parenting, you should see me take care of two nearly-four-year-old boys while also standing in a nails shop and explaining to the proprietor, who's English is only passable, that I don't want a pedicure, I want a gift certificate for a pedicure.

One of the reasons we rarely go to that mall is not just because everything there is 14 times as expensive as it is outside the Rich Mall, but also because many of the shops there don't really seem to need to exist, period. That includes the shop where I took this picture, the "House of Oils:"

a whole shop devoted to selling kinds of cooking oils.

Sweetie and I sometimes look at small businesses and wonder how they stay open -- how people support themselves running those businesses. This is the classic example of that.
Who makes a special trip to get a special kind of cooking oil? Or am I missing the boat? Is it an impulse buy? Like you're at the mall to get a pedicure, and on a whim think "I need fancier olive oil than I can count on getting at the grocery store," and pick up a case or so?

Prior letters:


Republicans: "Weren't you listening? We said it's only DEMOCRATIC spending that increases the deficit!" (Publicus Proventus.)

Caption this photo!:

GOPers aren't only hypocritical when it comes to voting down spending bills because they don't spend enough. No, to really be completely out-of-touch with their so-called principals, the Republicans have to yell deficit deficit deficit for months, then vote not to increase taxes on the wealthiest 3% of Americans -- even though that means the deficit will at the least not shrink, and will likely grow more.

John Kyl summarized Republicans' lack of basic budgeting skills, which, combined with a near-certainty that the American public is stupid, form the two basic planks the GOP fall election platform. Kyl argued that "most economists do not believe that you can even begin to tax your way into a balanced budget, when you increase the deficit by that much and thus increase the debt by that much."

I dare John Kyl to produce a single economist who believes that -- and to prove that Kyl talked to or read something by that economist before speaking. But even assuming Kyl wasn't lying through his teeth when he made that claim, remember that Republican Jim Bunning, with the de facto blessing of the Republicans, blocked unemployment benefits in part because he wanted to make sure that paying them didn't increase the deficit.

Oh, and also in part because he didn't want to miss a basketball game in order to vote on the bill. That's totally true, and it's (part of) why Bunning's such an jerk.

I know, if God had wanted us to like our jobs, he'd have made us all stars on daytime soap operas.

Sometimes, the Corporate Entertainment the powers-that-be provide at company parties and getaways really... um... sucks. I mean, really, consider the last corporate party you went to. What did they do? Where'd they go? Was it something you even wanted to attend?

Bosses, listen to me: Your employees don't mind doing company outings and team buildings and things -- and it wouldn't matter if they did, because they're COMPANY things, so the grunts have to go. But can't you at least make it fun? Consider the corporate outings and events that Keith Prowse has: they'll get company tickets to concerts, sporting events, festivals, and more. And if you're not good at thinking up the stuff for your employees to do, then let them help you with it. That site is full of options and entertainment ideas that'll make your company get-together actually FUN.

And you know what that leads to: Employees who actually LIKE working there. Go on, give that a try and see if it doesn't help your business.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Worth A Thousand Words, 4


Metaphorical Petes are the worst. (My Enemies List, 9)

9. Advertisers who think that the best way to sell something is to show how disgusting it sounds when people eat it.

There are no new ideas in advertising, any more than there are new ideas in literature. All new ads simply recycle old ad ideas, which is why now that the UPS whiteboard guy is pretty much gone, we get that heartburn guy drawing on his chest.

And which is also why, about 1 or 2 times a year, some advertising executive has an "idea" that must go something like this:

"Man, I'm really under deadline on this. Why did I stay out so late last night? I mean, sure that chick was hot but I could've just gotten her number. Oh, God, I'm so hung over. What is Pete eating over there, pretzels made out of celery soup? This is disgusting. Close your $($&%$ mouth when you chew, Pete. Okay, focus, focus, focus, when will he be done with that sandwich? I'll show him. I'll show him what it sounds like to sit next to him every stinking day and get passed over for that promotion and then that girl waits until 3 a.m. to say she has a boyfriend?"

And the result is a commercial featuring sounds of people smacking their lips, slurping, crunching, and otherwise being disgusting. Why would I want to buy something that makes me sound like an absolute pig if I'm eating it? And since I no longer want to buy, say, Kit-Kats, why am I subjected to the sound of all those metaphorical Pete's eating their food while I try to watch Invader Zim?

Also, I didn't even know those sounds were supposed to be the Kit Kat jingle until I looked up the commercial.

People Who've Already Made My Enemies List:

1. People who honk their horn.
2. Pepperoni pizza.
3. The 2008 Detroit Lions.
4. The guy who programmed my cell phone camera, etc. etc....
5. The guy whose house I'm stalking.
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