Saturday, January 29, 2011

Roosters don't live in rain forests, for one thing. (Quote of the Day/Life With Unicorns)

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Worth A Thousand Words


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I didn't think you could make pizza better. Will wonders never cease!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of TABASCO® Original Red. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m not the kind of person who puts stuff on other stuff just for the sake of it.  That is, I don’t dip things or top things or spice things or otherwise jazz them up.  I just eat the food the way God intended it to be eaten.

So when I learned that Oldest and The Boy tend to put TABASCO® Original Red on their pizza, I scoffed.

(In case you don’t know how to do that, scoffing requires you to kind of cough, kind of harrumph! and shake your head.  Practice it before you try it.  You don’t want to mess up a good scoff.)

But they insisted that I give it a shot – try it out, they said – and not wanting to be the pizza equivalent of that unnamed guy in Green Eggs and Ham, I went along with it, even though “going along with one of The Boy’s ideas” is actually a misdemeanor in 32 states.  (33 if you count Nebraska, but who counts Nebraska?)

To my surprise, it was not only good, it was really good.  Turns out that TABASCO® Original Red on pizza makes the pizza better, where I’d thought it would only make it hotter.

That’s not actually a surprise, I gather, to the people who make TABASCO® Original Red, since, as it turns out, they’ve got a whole Pizza Perfected page on their website, which has tips for spicing up pizzas even more, beginning with TABASCO® Original Red but including prosciutto and cannellini beans and more. 

The site says that the sauce works by being more than just hot; it works by using the combination of flavors to enhance the flavors of the food you’re eating, but you don’t have to get all science-y to just enjoy it.

I liked it so much on pizza that I decided to check out other ways I could use the sauce in cooking – and luckily for me they’ve got a Game-Day Party Menu page that will let me fix up a bunch of things for the Super Bowl, so I can turn the tables on The Boy and Oldest and make them try my recipes.

(Turning the tables on The Boy is grounds for a Congressional Medal of Honor, and the only defense to those misdemeanor charges.)

Visit Sponsor's Site

as beautiful as they can possibly be (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 72)

by Harold Pinter

No, you're wrong.

Everyone is as beautiful
as they can possibly be

Particularly at lunch
in a laughing restaurant

Everyone is as beautiful
as they can possibly be

And they are moved
by their own beauty

And they shed tears for it
in the back of the taxi home

About the poem: Harold Pinter won a Nobel Prize for literature, for his plays, not his poems. The reason the Nobel people gave was that Pinter "in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms".

I don't know about all that. I do know that I read through five of Pinter's poems this morning because I found out he wrote a poem about American Football -- remember, I was looking for one last week -- but then I didn't like that poem. (You can read it here, if you'd like.) It wasn't just that it was full of swearing; I didn't mind that. It's that it seemed unusually lowbrow and overtly graphic, as though it was intended to challenge through it's vulgarity, but intended to challenge and nothing more -- making it the Nobel-laureate-poetry equivalent of a bad South Park episode.

This poem was the only one of Pinter's that I found that I liked, which just goes to show that being a Nobel laureate maybe doesn't mean all that much.

About the ... hot?... actress: I asked Sweetie who I should name, and she said "Katie Holmes." We then had this conversation:

Me: Really?

Sweetie: I'm not sure she's 30.

Me: I'm not sure she's hot.

Sweetie then suggested Mila Kunis, who is hot but isn't 30, so I went with Katie Holmes, but I don't feel good about it. I also found Katie Holmes' IMDB biography, which begins as follows:

Born two months premature at four pounds, Kate Noelle Holmes made her first appearance on December 18, 1978, in Toledo, Ohio. Her parents, Martin and Kathleen, say that her strong-willed personality is probably from being born premature...

To be cloying and sophomoric. Get it? Her "first appearance" was when she was born! Cute!

So I'm not very pleased with any of these choices today. Although I guess the poem does sort of relate to my feelings about Katie Holmes, making it symbolic or something. Then again, symbolism doesn't really mean anything, either, so I'm back to where I started. Going to be a great day, I see.

It just didn't seem like that sandwich would need to be refrigerated.

If there's one thing to learn in life, it's this: Do NOT eat a sandwich you found in your backpack after a few days.

But if there's TWO things to learn in life, it's that thing about the sandwiches, and also that moving needs to be done right. Everytime helped someone moves, it seems, they do it wrong. They move using Dad's old truck and a bunch of garbage bags marked with Post-It notes. Or they ask everyone to load stuff into their car, tying a sofa on top of a Ford Festiva. Or... you get the picture.

Moving can be done right with abf upack - -and doing it right makes it easier. They'll move you almost anywhere in the US in anywhere from 2-5 days, and they'll make it simple for you.

ABF has two options available: trailers or ReloCubes. Either way, the process is about the same: Call ABF and they'll drop off a trailer or ReloCube at your location. You take up to 3 days loading it, and then ABF will come pick it up and drive it to where it needs to go, and you get up to 3 days to unload it.

Simple and easy. You don't have to maneuver a semi around your neighborhood, or do it all in one day. And the ReloCubes can even be stored for a while, in case there's a lag time between moving out of the one place and into the other.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not that I needed an excuse to hug Mr F and Mr Bunches (The Rum Punch Review of "Room," by Emma Donoghue, pt. 3)

Read part 1 here.

Read part 2 here.

As I was reading Room, I began to wonder how Emma Donoghue was going to keep the book going -- because it was tense and suspenseful and moving for the first 1/3 or so, as Jack and his mom live their lives for a few days in the Room, but after reading a few chapters of that, I began to wonder how she'd keep it up for the remainder of the book.

(I knew that I was 1/3 of the way through because I was reading it on the Kindle, which doesn't go by page numbers but by percentage of the book that's finished, something I didn't like at first but I do like now that I've gotten used to it. I have a bad habit, when I read, of wondering how much of the book is left compared to how much I've read, and just eyeballing a hard copy of a book was never much of a fix, for me: I didn't want to just look and say "I'm about 1/5 through," so I'd sometimes page to the end, to see what page number the book ended on, and then compare that to where I was. Which caused a bigger problem, in that I had to go to the last page of the book without looking at the actual ending of the book, because I didn't want to spoil the book, even though, if you think about it, very rarely does the actual last page of the book contain many spoilers.

Books, after all, aren't Law & Order episodes, where there can be a dramatic moment and then everything fades to black. Books tend to have their dramatic moments near the end, with the final few pages, or sometimes chapters, wrapping up some details or otherwise tidying up the world that's been created.

The worst of that type of thing was in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, where Tolkien had the last battle, and then another last battle, and then a [SPOILER ALERT!] dramatic rescue by eagles that mirrored (copied?) the earlier dramatic rescue by eagles in the prequel The Hobbit, and then an extended epilogue where the characters milled around the seven-ringed city, and then an extended epilogue, too, where they went to Rivendell (I think?) and then they went back to the Shire and had to reconquer that, and then they had a big birthday party or something and all sailed off to the Elven world, so that (as I recall) roughly 2/3 of The Return Of The King was anticlimactic wrap-up that could've been skipped. Or packed into a different book that nobody would read, like The Silmarillion was.

The Silmarillion was another of the once-rare-but-increasingly-common "Books I Started But Never Finished." I used to go on reading books no matter what, even if they were really boring or stupid, but there were some books, even back when I was bullheaded, that I couldn't finish no matter how hard I tried... which is saying something, considering that I finished both Moby-Dick and Anna Karenina. (And especially considering neither of them was worth the effort.)

The books that I can recall trying to read but not finishing because they were just... too... boring are:

1. The Silmarillion.

2. The Name Of The Rose, by Umberto Eco. I read Foucault's Pendulum, twice, but couldn't get through this book.

3. Mason + Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon. I made it through 50 pages and gave up. Like David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon is overrated by pseudo-intellectuals who (I bet) don't actually read the books, since they're virtually unreadable.

4. The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perotta. I was halfway through it when I had to return it to the library because I couldn't check out a CD I wanted until I returned the book. And I never went back to finish it.

5. Infinite Jest. See number 3. I'm still mad about this one, because I got caught up in all the DFW hype and, on a trip to the bookstore with Sweetie (pre-Kindle), I opted to get this tome of garbage rather than a book of short horror stories by Joe Hill. (Ultimately I got the Hill collection, 20th Century Ghosts, and it was worth it.)

6. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Why is this book so popular? I bought it for Sweetie, who showed no signs of wanting to read it, and then started trying to read it myself, but it was like forcing my way through a gardening catalog. (Almost literally, as the first 10,000,000 words are describing a flower.)

So I like to know how far I am in the book, but didn't like to skip ahead and spoil the ending, even though it's almost impossible to spoil the ending of a book simply by looking at the last page. And I know that, although I still worry about it -- and worried about it all the more so when John Irving made such a big deal about how he'd written the last line of his book Last Night In Twisted River (my review here), and that turned out to be overblown, too.

I was thinking, though, as I read Room, that Donoghue had to do something to keep the plot moving forward, or the feel of the book would grow stale... and thinking about the writing itself is not a good sign, as I noted when I talked about Jonathan Franzen's overwriting. But Donoghue didn't fall into that trap, because she moved the story forward in the way I least expected -- but probably in the way I should have most expected: by having the kidnapper, Old Nick, "punish" Jack and his mom for some infraction or other, the punishment being to turn off the power in Room, a development that finally convinces Jack's mom that she must escape the Room, and she and Jack together cook up a plan.

[SPOILER ALERT!] Jack and his mom then do escape -- the plan almost working almost perfectly -- and that's when Room goes from great to brilliant, as Jack and his mom cope with their introduction to a world Jack's mom barely remembered and Jack never believed existed. They're rescued and we see everything through Jack's eyes: The abundance of things and people and food, and the overwhelming sensations of wind and sun and grass and bugs and the playground and other people all washing over him and threatening to upset his barely-there equilibrium, and upsetting his mom's nature even worse.

Almost all of the big developments take place offstage, as it were -- as it natural, given that the narrator is a 5-year-old boy who can barely understand lawyers setting up interviews with TV hosts, let alone how to describe these things he's never seen before. The book moves from episode to episode, each as serious and dramatic as the rest. To Jack, putting syrup on pancakes is both gross and as momentous as a trip to the mall. He doesn't know how to go up and down stairs, and has never been in the sun. He gets his first cold, ever, and has to deal with that.

Through the latter 2/3, Room proves as disorienting to read as it would have been to live through it, a hallmark of how well written the book is: It moves along briskly, but the sense of space and time is messed up; I thought that months had passed when it was mere days or weeks. The feel is both claustrophobic and expansive, in a good way: Donoghue keeps the focus on minute details, so that Jack appears to be breaking down everything in his life to an 11x11 room, parceling out his experiences to make them understandable, and survivable.

And then Room ends... as abruptly and unfinishedly as it began, only about weeks (in story time) after the first scenes of the book. It ends on a hopeful note: Jack and his mom have a list of things they hope to try someday -- things that are both happy and sad as you read the list and realize that their dreams are very different from the things we imagine; have you ever been afraid to walk out into the rain? Probably not.

The initial hesitance I'd had to read Room, and the limits I had to put on reading it for the first few chapters, melted away, and the book became one I couldn't wait to pick up, one I'd struggle to keep awake to finish just a few more pages. The subject matter still bothers me -- and I don't think I'll ever forget Jack and his mom and the stories and games they told each other and the limited glimpse I got into their life -- but after reading the book, I'm glad I bought it.

It's rare that a book manages to so completely transport me to another world that I get engrossed in it and can almost picture what it's like to live in that world. It's even more rare that the world I get taken to is my own -- but that's what Donoghue has achieved in Room. She's shown me the world the way I pray it never will be, for me or for anyone else: Parceled out, limited, strange, and only becoming wonderful in slow, frightening stages, and in doing so, made me value my own experiences that much more.

And, also, I feel compelled to note that the night I finished it, I went and gave Mr F and Mr Bunches hugs as they slept. It felt like I ought to.

Click here to see all the Rum Punch Reviews.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On the plus side, I can find all my binder clips easily. (I Get Paid For Doing This/Life with Unicorns)

Almost every Sunday morning, I go into the office to get caught up on mail and emails, rad up on new caselaw, or otherwise work a little ahead.

Most of those Sundays, I take Mr F and Mr Bunches with me.

They're SUPPOSED to stay in "their" office, the one the law clerks use, and watch movies on the computer or play with the toys we bring.

But sometimes, they pop in to see what I'm doing.

And sometimes they reorganize my desk for me.

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Seventy-Four

74. Stand-up comic radio over the airwaves.

As much as I like music, and as much as I like talk radio, I don't always want to listen to either of those -- especially when you consider that, increasingly, talk radio is made up of people being ordered to shoot people who think like me, or made up of washed-up actors doing a glorified podcast.

What I do like, a lot of times, is stand-up comedy. Many times, while cleaning the house, I'll put a comedian's show on Netflix on the computer, or go to Youtube to find clips of stand-up comedians I like, and play them while I'm doing my chores. I do that at work, too, where I can listen to a variety of "Comedy" radio stations over the Internet.

And on my iPod, I have loaded in some CDs of comedians I like, and can listen to them and clips from movies while I drive.

With all that, I began wondering, why isn't there a stand-up comedian radio channel? One that instead of music, or talk, would play bits from comedians, or snippets from movies or TV shows? I'd listen to that. Imagine if, on your commute in the morning, you could avoid listening to DJs making dumb jokes in between Avril Lavigne songs, and instead could listen to a bit from Mike Birbiglia, followed by a classic Richard Pryor:

DJ: "That was Bill Cosby's "Dentist," and coming up, we'll have Ricky Gervais on nursery rhymes. Now a word from our sponsor.

That'd be awesome. As would everything I think up. But particularly this.

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.

Is this working? You bet --

1001 Ways also helped change the world here!


1001 Ways also helped change the world here!

Here' s 3 Better Symbolic Gestures You Could Make To Unify The Country. (Publicus Proventus)

Last night, at the State of the Union, the House and Senate made a point to note that they were intermingling Democrats and Republicans -- as though on TV a viewer could tell who was who without being told? -- as a symbolic gesture of unity.

As symbolic gestures go, it was pretty hollow and meaningless -- again, because most people don't know all 535 members of Congress by sight, and it's hard to tell whether someone's a Democrat or Republican simply by looking at them. (As a visual guide, though, you can usually spot Republicans by the way they're sneering cruelly at the poor.)

I thought I'd help out Congress-- and all politicians -- by giving them some better gestures they could make to symbolically help the country, symbolic help being the only help anyone's likely to get for the next two years at least -- and maybe longer.

So here they are:

1. Learn the actual Constitution and U.S. history. Politicians and voters listen to "Justice" Antonin Scalia claiming that women aren't "people" under the Constitution but corporations are, and they listen to Michele Bachman claiming that the Founding Fathers "tirelessly" tried to end slavery -- claims that are demonstrably untrue. Bachman plans to go further by having 9/11 "truther" speakers "educate new congressmen as well.

It would be a nice, symbolic gesture if we could have politicians and judges say what history and the law actually are, instead of what they wished it could be.

2. Admit that you work for the government, and that the government works, too. Many politicians like to rail against the Government -- while getting benefits from that government (see: Kleefisch, Rebecca) and while not admitting that they are proposing further government regulation.

Politicians like "rising star" Paul Ryan. Here's Ryan responding to the State of the Union address from Still President Obama last night:

Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage.

Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt.
Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked — and it won't work now.
(Source.) Got it? Bureaucracies don't work, and we have to rein in government and private health care spending.

So here's Paul Ryan's Roadmap For America, which is what made him a "rising star":

The Roadmap secures Medicare for current beneficiaries, while making common-sense reforms to save this critical program.

* It preserves the existing Medicare program for those currently enrolled or becoming eligible in the next 10 years (those 55 and older today) - So Americans can receive the benefits they planned for throughout their working lives. For those currently under 55 – as they become Medicare-eligible – it creates a Medicare payment, initially averaging $11,000, to be used to purchase a Medicare certified plan. The payment is adjusted to reflect medical inflation, and pegged to income, with low-income individuals receiving greater support. The plan also provides risk adjustment, so those with greater medical needs receive a higher payment.

(Source.) So... bureaucracies do work, if they're the bureaucracies that Paul Ryan wants or creates (see: Walker, Scott), and the government can achieve things if it takes your tax money and gives it back to you to give to a privately selected company. That is what the "Roadmap for America" promises: The government will pick insurers to take part in the Medicaid plan, and then will take your taxes, and give you vouchers to buy insurance from the government-picked insurers.

So let me give you another quote from Massive Hypocrite Paul Ryan's response to the State of the Union:

Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.
I agree, Paul Ryan -- so it would be a nice symbolic gesture if you'd explain how that quote jibes with your plan to have the "Roadmap" pick winners and losers.

3. Stop telling people to shoot Democrats! It must have made Republicans nervous to be sitting right next to the people they've been urging their supporters to kill. Going back to 2008, the GOP has been inciting violence against Democrats, including but not limited to Glenn Beck playing out a mock civil war, Michele Bachmann (her again!) telling people to be "armed and dangerous" about energy taxes, right-wing bloggers saying judges "deserve to be killed," GOP candidates joking about getting a license to hunt Still President Obama, Andrew Breitbart recommending killing a greenhouse effect scientist, threatening the lynching of Democratic Senators...

I could go on (and this site has the entire timeline of threats against liberals), but this clip sums it up:

So if you could symbolically quit telling your followers to kill people they disagree with, that would go a long way towards "bridging the gap" or whatever it is you claim to be in favor of.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I mean, if they have time to spend teaching us about "The Teapot Dome Scandal," they could wedge this in, too.(Cool Things I Never Learned In School.)

Although I don't know what class this would've been taught in, I'm still going to use it to make the point that schools aren't very good at teaching things in an interesting or fun way. Here's a little fact I picked up on the Stuff You Should Know podcast from How Stuff Works:

During your lifetime, the amount of time you spend kissing will roughly equal the amount of time you spend sitting at red lights.

It just seems to me that schools could do something with a fact like that.

Also, weirdly, there's a Facebook page about kissing at red lights.

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Score: Illinois 120, Wisconsin -5. (Publicus Proventus)

I was going to do a post about how Illinois politicians are laughing at Governor Patsy's invitation to leave Illinois and come to Wisconsin, where, despite being "Open For Business" our taxes are still higher than the Land of Lincoln's:

And I was going to throw in something about Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch spending her day telemarketing:

but then those ideas got superceded by the fact that Governor Patsy's cheerleading is actually helping businesses leave the state:

Jim Rozell owns a hotel analytics company and plans to relocate from Glendale, Wisc., to Chicago by the end of the year. Hotel Compete currently has five employees, but Rozell said he will likely hire 10 more people once he comes to Illinois. Rozell said he started planning the move before taxes went up Illinois, but hearing about it didn’t deter him. “Initially one of my big deciding factors was that taxes were much lower (in Illinois). Even with your tax increase, it’s still lower than Wisconsin,” Rozell said.


In fact, since raising their taxes not that long ago, at least two other businesses have announced they're relocating to Illinois -- bringing 110 jobs to that state.

They're moving not just because the taxes are lower in Illinois than in Wisconsin, but also because more goes into deciding where to locate a business than simply "lowest tax rates." Infrastructure, educated workers, access to shipping, quality of life, and more all play into it -- so acting as though increasing the deficit by cutting taxes for your business buddies will "create jobs" is superficial at best, and lying at worst.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Mr Bunches is patriotic. (Life With Unicorns)

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Quote of the day, 55.

You don't say 'congratulations' to the baby!

-- Sweetie.

Sweetie read this post the other day, and laughed at me for saying "congratulations" to someone in my office who'd celebrated her birthday, and we had this exchange:

Me: What am I supposed to say?

Sweetie: You say 'happy birthday.'

Me: But the birthday is over, so it's too late to hope it was happy. When you see someone the day after Christmas, you don't say "Merry Christmas."

Sweetie: No, you say 'I hope you had a merry Christmas.'

[Note: At this point, I know what's coming next, and I know she's right, so I'm thinking ahead]

Sweetie: So you should've said "I hope you had a happy birthday."

Me: [having thought ahead]: What about when someone has a baby? What do you say to them, then? You say... congratulations.

At which point she delivered the coup de grace.