Saturday, July 21, 2012

HOLY MACKEREL I have to read this right now. (Project 190, Day 12)

Today, I swam, but not right away.   The plan was to swim laps and then take the boys swimming in the pool at the club, and so we were going to have the boys in the club's playroom/daycare for a half-hour or so before they actually swam, but Mr F was not on board with this plan, probably mostly because to save time I had him wear his swim trunks instead of shorts, and so he probably mostly assumed that he was going to get to go swimming right away, instead of having to go to the playroom right away, and when I tried to drop him at the playroom, he objected and I caved because I always cave, and so I took him and Mr Bunches swimming while Sweetie worked out, and then she supervised them in the outdoor pool while I swam laps in and around them.

Also, three times, Mr F lost his swim trunks, because he is too skinny for them even though they have a drawstring and they fall off him as they swim.  The first time, I noticed because he climbed out of the water and he was stark butt naked and I couldn't even find the trunks, which sunk to the bottom of the pool and then drifted to the deeper end, and which were blue, so he had to wear my t-shirt as a toga while I found them.

Luckily, we had the entire pool and pool area to ourselves, probably because it's a cloudy day and not that hot.

While I swam, I tried to think of famous mythological heroes who swam -- a sort of inspirational tactic that I was trying out today, only I couldn't think of any, other than maybe Ulysses, who probably swam at some point.  Or Jason; Jason had a boat and so he probably went for a dip or two, but I didn't know for sure.

So when I sat down to type this up, I thought "I'm going to look up a famous swimmer in mythology," and what I came up with is the Wikipedia page on John Cheever's story The Swimmer, which summarizes the story as this:

The story begins with Neddy Merrill and his wife lounging at a friend's pool on a mid-summer's day. On a whim, Neddy decides to get home by swimming across all the pools in the county, and starts off enthusiastically and full of youthful energy. In the early stops on his journey, he is enthusiastically greeted by friends, who welcome him with drinks. It is readily apparent that he is well-regarded and from an upper-class social standing.

Midway through his journey, things gradually take on a darker and ultimately surreal tone. Despite everything taking place over just one afternoon, it becomes unclear how much time has passed. At the beginning of the story, it was clearly mid-summer, but by the end all natural signs point to the season being autumn. Different people Neddy encounters mention misfortune and money troubles he doesn't remember, and he is outright unwelcome at several houses which should've certainly been beneath him. His earlier, youthful energy leaves him, and it becomes increasingly painful and difficult for him to swim on. Finally, he staggers back home, only to find his house decrepit, empty, and abandoned.

I won $5 from PT Dilloway's blog the other day, and I am going to use it to buy that story.

Today's workout: Swimming, 24 laps, 14:00.
Latest Weight: 253
Today's song that I mentioned on my other blog and then went and listened to 'cause it's a really good song:

Iko Iko, by The Belle Stars:

That's a really good song to have in your head as you swim, because if you forget the words, you can just make up your own:

My left arm and your left arm
Getting really tired
My left arm said to your left arm
"Have you seen that show The Wire"

And keep going.

Also, I now have three different pools I swim in, depending on the day and whether Mr F wants to be with me and whether old ladies are aquajazzercising, and they're all different lengths.  The one today is the longest of the three.  Each time I swim, I up the count one lap, until I reach at least 20 minutes of swimming.  Given that the pools are different lengths, I decided that I'd just stick with the same number of laps, and if I happen to end up in the shorter pool, well, that's an easy day for me.

But today was hard.

The Dishwasher, 1 (Jobs v. Life)

Jobs v Life is essays about all the jobs I've had, in chronological order.  So far there's been paperboy,  and McDonald's... click here for an explanation and table of contents.

They say never to mix family and business, and I learned that at the age of seventeen or so when I got fired from McDonald's because my Dad wouldn't cover (lie) for me so I could go to a party.

Only I didn't learn it fast enough, because I then relied on my brother to get me in to a second job, working at Chenequa Country Club as a dishwasher.

Chenequa Country Club was, I suppose, a pretty swanky place.  Or maybe not.  I never saw much more of it than the back room, the kitchen, and, on New Year's Eve, the empty ballroom where we sat smoking and pretending we were having fun when what we were really doing was calling 867-5309 on the country club's phone to see what would happen.

(Nothing happened.)

(Nothing Happened could be the title of a series of essays about my social life as a teenager, and especially Friday nights.  It would be difficult to imagine a less eventful series of nights in the life of a teenager.  Many people probably look back nostalgically on their teenage years and think about the wild, fun times they had.  I am not one of those people.  Many of the Friday nights I spent as a teenager were so boring that to describe them as "uneventful" would be an overstatement.  That was largely preferable to the eventful Friday nights, though, as the nights on which things did happen were terrifying, such as the night we had decided to go cruising on Highway 100 and ended up nearly getting killed.

Here is what happened: 

We went cruising.

"Cruising" should not be a thing.  "Cruising" is just driving around, but not even that.  Cruising is the exact automotive equivalent of boating in that it is driving around but doing so in such a way that there is zero chance of anything significant happen.

You may guess from that sentence that I'm not a fan of boating.  I'm not.  Boating is dumb.  You get into a boat, and you go drive around in circles.  It's like NASCAR for Dummies, only a little more pointless than that phrase implies.

The only thing stupider than boating is cruising, in which you drive your car up and down a stretch of straight road, very slowly,  in a traffic jam of other kids doing the exact same thing.  This is supposed to be fun, and also a social opportunity, and I don't see how either of those two words could ever actually apply to cruising.

From time to time, around where we grew up, there would be a concerted effort on the part of West Allis, where we went cruising, to crack down on the practice.  We "cruised" on Highway 100 in West Allis because it was long and straight and had fast food restaurants on it and was near all the suburbs where we, as privileged white kids, could feel like we were badass (because we were cruising) without feeling scared for our actual safety (because were were not in Milwaukee where there were minorities.)

After all, nothing says badass like a group of kids with spiky hair sitting in a 1968 Impala listening to The Cure play Lovecats while they drive for the 11th time past a Burger King restaurant.

The point is, West Allis would constantly try to crack down on the cruising by ticketing people or posting cops out there or changing the traffic lights or something dumb, and the fact that our parents said "Don't you go cruising on Highway 100" and that it was kind of illegal made it somewhat more alluring than hanging out yet another night at the Attic West teen bar, dancing to The Cure's "Lovecats."  All West Allis/Parents had to do was not care, and we'd have given it up, but the slightly-illicit air of cruising made it sometimes a thing to do, because we were stupid and bored.

"Stupid And Bored" could be the title for a series of posts about suburban kids.

The intent of cruising was not to somehow recreate the halcyon days of the 1950s, as they were shown in the halcyon days of the 1970s in movies like American Graffiti, which I've never seen but which I think involves cruising.  This was 1986 and we didn't care about olden days like the 1950s or the 1970s; we hadn't even started yet listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, me and my friends.  We were purely 80s kids, with our New Wave bands and Generra shirts and feathered hair, and we wouldn't start getting into 70s stuff until a few years later when my dwindling band of high school friends was absorbed into my little brother Matt's social circle as a result of my dropping out of college for a while.

But that was not until 1988 and 1989; this was 1986 and we sometimes went cruising, ostensibly to "pick up chicks," i.e., meet women, and we really did call them "chicks" but not in an ironic or hip way; we called them chicks because we were, in a word, losers and thought it was cool to call girls, "chicks."

I'm not sure why we thought cruising would be any better for us to meet chicks than the other things we tried to do to meet them (go to teen bars, try to find parties to go to, ... and that was about it.)  But I guess it couldn't have been any worse at getting us to meet them. 

At 17, I was not so great at meeting the ladies.  Which was probably good, because if there was anything I was worse at than meeting women it would have been interacting with them, so it probably was good that I never had very many girlfriends.  As I think back now, I believe that at 17, when I was a junior in high school, my total number of actual, real, "girlfriends," who would qualify for that title under a reasonable definition of the word, was...


Her name was Kris and I'd met her at McDonald's, where she worked for a while, and we went on, as I recall, three dates (although I'm not entirely sure it was that many) including going to her homecoming dance, an occasion for which I believe I took her to a fancy restaurant across the street from a gas station in Waukesha.  It was a German restaurant.  I can't remember the name, but it's still there, none the worse for the wear.

I had gone on dates with other girls, too, but most of them were one-offs and didn't lead to anything that would be considered a relationship, or even anything that would be considered a second date.

So cruising was as good an idea to meet women as any -- because when I did meet women, I was not so successful at talking to them, and then, as things (rarely) progressed down the line from talking to them to asking them out to successfully taking them on a date to successfully getting a second date, my success rate went way down.

Lately, I have been working, in my imagination, on the idea that everything we do is simply a subset of everything we could do, and that a version of us is constantly doing every single thing we could be, and so as I sit here typing this, there is a version of me that instead of getting up to post on his blog, got up and got in the car and took the boys for breakfast and is even now eating a delicious pancake, and there is a version of me that instead of doing that got up and said "let's leave the boys with a sitter" and he and Alternate Sweetie are spending a day together at the Terrace, reading and talking and eating ice cream, and there is a version of me, even, that got up and said "Screw it! Today is the day we finally just up and go for it!" and that version of me put almost all his stuff for sale on eBay, took his savings out, and bought four plane tickets headed for a small Caribbean island nation, where they will land later today and start making a new life for themselves in a place where it never snows and the water is crystal-clear and they can wear floral-print shirts on the beach every day of their lives.

Since Caribbean Me exists, I assume that Ladykiller Teen Me also exists, somewhere, and I sometimes wonder what he is like, in his alternate universe, where he successfully asked out that one cheerleader that danced with him when he was a freshman and she was a sophomore -- she danced with Ladykiller Me and "Real" Me, alike, but only Ladykiller Me asked her out on a date after that because Real Me was too shy to make a second request of the cheerleader, and I wonder if Ladykiller Me is happy -- he would have dated a lot of girls, probably, and maybe been more popular in high school, but would he have ended up where I did, anyway, meeting Sweetie and falling head-over-heels in love, so head-over-heels that it was hard for him to admit, or even understand, at first how much he loved this beautiful woman who was so nice, too? Or would Ladykiller Me have married someone else, or be so blase about women by that time that he took for granted the interest Sweetie paid him when they first met?

I don't want to be Ladykiller Me; if we are the stories we tell ourselves, I have no desire to change my previous chapters because I like how the plot of this life is shaping up, but I wouldn't mind having a big quantum reunion at the Higgs Boson Bar and meeting all those me's.  We could probably get "I'm The Version That Actually Followed Through On All Those Ideas You Had Me" to foot the bill.  He's got the money.

Anyway, cruising, which as I realize it has nothing at all to do with Chenequa Country Club but you're stuck with the me that's stuck on this story, and cruising it is.  Cruising was something we did about every three weeks, driving around on Highway 100, smoking and pretending we were cool and not bored and seeing girls and wondering what it would be like to talk to them, and cruising was Godawfulboring right up until the one night it was not, the last night we ever went cruising, and what made cruising not boring that night was that on that one night, instead of just cruising around, stopping at the stoplights, getting some food, and then going home, on that one night, instead, things took a wild, random turn for the bizarrely worse when at a stoplight, a guy got out of a car and ran over to our car and reached in through the front, open, passenger-seat window and grabbed my friend Fred and began punching him as hard and fast in the face as he could.

Oh, and:


Friday, July 20, 2012

The same effect cannot be achieved via an ellipsis... (Project 190, Day Eleven)

Today I biked, without Mr. Hufflepuff around, and while I biked I played "Peggle" on my Kindle; it's the kind of video game I like -- not 10,000 different controls for characters, no long quests, you can quit anytime you like -- and I listened to music, and I thought stuff.

Mostly, I thought about this idea I had, that if I right now decided to (mentally) insert a parentheses into my thinking/speech/actions... such that before I said or did anything else in life, I thought to myself:


Or just:


And then just went on with my life without ever closing that parentheses, then it would be like everything in my life was an aside, that everything I did was a parenthetical insertion into whatever it was I was really doing.

I liked that because not only would it be a rebuttal to e e cummings, but also it would imply that my life might not be the sum of my existence, any more than a parenthetical expression (like this one) is the sum of a sentence.

Then I wondered if maybe I hadn't heard a comedian say that once, that he had one time done that and so was living out that very thing that I thought.

Then I considered how hard it was to know, sometimes, whether I really had come up with something or whether I'd just heard it long ago and now didn't remember that I got that idea from someone else, which kind of happened to me once when I was at the library and I was looking at a book on the rack and I picked it up and read the back of it and thought "Hmmm... this sounds like the kind of book I would like" and then carried it with me while I looked at other books and selected, finally, a few books to check out and then I waited in line and as the librarian started checking out the books I pulled out that first one, the Hmmm this sounds one and I told her not to check that out because I had already read it.

And she looked at me like I was crazy -- like I'd read it while waiting or something, and her look was not unwarranted because that's kind of a weird thing to say, "Oh, here's this book that up until you touched it I was apparently going to check out but no, forget it, I've read it."

The truth was, I had read it; it was a book about a guy who builds this superhotel kind of weird thing, it's hard to explain, but I'd only just realized that I'd read the book before, and in fact, I had liked it.

I thought all that in 20 minutes, on the bike, while playing Peggle.

Today's workout: Biking
Latest weight: 253
Today's song that is so catchy that I kept calling Mr F "Miss Teen Wordpower" this morning even though that makes no sense at all but still, it's a catchy song: Miss Teen Wordpower, by The New Pornographers.

PS: I was unable to find a comedian who had told a joke like the parentheses, and I searched for nearly a minute.  I did find this XKCD comic strip but it's not quite the same thing.

PPS: Also, I did the parentheses thing.  At about 6:05 this morning, I thought to myself:


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Caring about Someone You Barely Know

Very Sad…

The other day I was on my way to work and I was preparing myself for whatever negative thing was going to happen.  I am not a pessimistic person (although some people may disagree but I would not be able to work with people every day without being some sort of a happy optimistic person while do a good job at it) but for the past three weeks or so every day that I go into work something happens and whether it is my fault or not (and it usually is not, it is my co-workers that I would say are a few french fries short of a happy meal) I am the one that is looked at to fix whatever it is. 

Monday was the worst that it had been in a while.  Most of the time its small things like the printers being offline or the computer systems being down.  Easy problems to fix in, my opinion, but Monday was not easy. 

I have been working there for about 5 months and I have gotten use to the “usual” customers and I have grown to have favorites.  One of my favorites is a couple that comes in for lunch about three times a week and they are in their early 70’s and they are so in love that I hope to find someone that cares about me as much as they do with one another.  It’s very adorable and they are also very sweet and fun loving people and they have a liking towards me as well. 

Well on Monday when I got to work I did my usual managerial duties before I went out onto the floor and when I reached the front of the restaurant I looked at the front door and saw my two favorite people on the ground and the wife was bleeding from the head.  My stomach dropped and I was immediately concerned.  I asked the manager that was on duty was happened and she told me that the woman tripped on the rug walking in and she fell forward head first into the glass door.  I asked her if she called an ambulance and she said no.  I asked her why almost being mad because no matter what an ambulance should have been called just in case.  Plus my thought was that this poor elderly woman was bleeding from her head and she could have bleeding in her brain or she could have a concussion. 

So I called an ambulance and the paramedics came and took her to the hospital.  The husband stopped by later that night to give me an update because I had asked him before he left to follow the ambulance to the hospital if he would call with an update and let us know whether he needed anything or not so he stopped by. 

It turns out not only did she have a concussion and needed stitches for the wound on her head but she also broker her femur.  I was overcome with sadness because I knew that she was going to have surgery (and she did the next morning) and she was going to have to be in a nursing home for over month for rehab.  It was very sad because it’s hard to watch bad things happen to good people.      

So, I Decided To Create A Superpopular Videogame: Part Two: I did a little reading...

I bet you thought about my plan to create a superpopular videogame and become a multibillionaire in doing so, and possibly also help humanity or something, I haven't thought that far ahead yet, but the reality is I did not forget about it, I have just been working on all sorts of stuff and in the bizarrely oblique schedule I use for when I write, when I work on other projects, when I create t-shirts, and when I spend time running to Target at 7:30 at night in a driving thunderstorm so that we can get Mr F some new hangers to play with, Superpopular Videogame doesn't come around all that often.

We really did have to go last night to Target to get hangers; Mr F likes tapping things, things like spatulas or wooden spoons or these little pink-twisty-things that you get at the Dollar Store, but his favorite thing to tap is hangers, and his favorite kind of hanger to tap is the plastic kind that you get only at Target.

When I got home from work yesterday, Sweetie told me that we had to hurry up and eat pizza (YAY!) because we had to then go out to Target (Huh?) to get hangers for Mr F because he's broken the two he had and had been disconsolate and upset for the past two hours.  (Ohhhhhh!).

So we did those things, and ended up with me carrying Mr F and Mr Bunches across the parking lot because it was covered in an inch of water from the deluge that poured down on us as we drove there, and we went into Target where we bought:

-- A spaceship-and-trucks Matchbox cars set for Mr Bunches.
-- A book about Peek-A-Boo Elmo for Mr F
-- Two shirts, one a Spongebob shirt and one a Chicago Cubs shirt.

I am not a Chicago Cubs fan as I don't care for baseball or Cubs, but the shirt was on sale.

We also got three of the hangers Mr F likes, so he's very happy, and that prompted a discussion between Sweetie and I, as the reason we bought the shirts is that I say it is morally wrong to go into Target and just take hangers without buying the clothes the hangers were on.

Sweetie says the opposite: she says you don't have to buy the clothes because the store doesn't care about the hangers and backs that up with testimony from one of the boys' therapists who used to work at Target and says that's true, but here's how I vanquished Sweetie:

Me:  Would you just walk into Target and take hangers, without buying anything?

Sweetie: No...
And so I proved my point.   I think.

I'm typing this up as I'm waiting for something called Eclipse to download.  This is not the Eclipse science-fiction book I wrote that probably would have been shortlisted for the Pulitzer last year except the Pulitzer people didn't know it existed, and which you should definitely click that link and buy because it's pretty much the best story ever written and it's only $0.99.

No, this is the Eclipse that Java For Dummies, the book I am using to learn to program the Superpopular Videogame, said I should download because I have finished chapter one of the book (I told you: I have lots of other things I do. See, e.g., Target coat hanger-y things, about which I forgot to mention that Mr F got three hangers last night and we only bought two shirts so I hope that stealing hangers is only a venial sin) and having finished Chapter One of the book, I am now apparently going to begin actually programming a video game and so I need a program to do that with.

I am learning a lot.

In fact, I see that it has finished downloading, and so I am going to go try to open it up and see if I have correctly downloaded it.

That is not the only thing that I have done, though, to learn programming.  I also downloaded a game on the boys' Ipad called "CargoBot," which is supposed to teach me to learn to think like a computer programmer, and which is kind of fun. The game itself involved a robotic arm, and a bunch of boxes that have to be moved from one place to the other, and you have to program the robotic arm to pick up and move the boxes.

It sounds simple, but it's not, because what I remember hearing about computers turns out to be true of CargoBot: computers take you literally and do nothing that you don't tell them to do... while they continue to do everything you ever told them to do until you tell them to stop.

In that way, computers are pretty much the exact opposite of children, but far far less expensive and when you stick them in a drawer because you're done with them, nobody gets all upset.

CargoBot is supposed to be the first game created entirely on the Ipad, and when I read about it and how it used a program made just for that purpose, I thought to myself "Hmmm... shortcut and I maybe don't have to read this book and download that program..." but then I thought to myself what I always told the kids, which is this:

In everything you do, the easiest option is almost certainly not the best option.

And so I'm reading the book anyway, and downloading the program anyway, and I'm going to kick myself if it turned out this Codea program really is the best option, but if that turns out to be the case, I'll say something like "It's the journey, not the destination," even though that's true only about 40% of the time.

Off to try to figure out how to open up that Eclipse program!

UPDATE:  Can't figure it out.  When I click on it nothing happens.  I have to do more reading.  Or more playing CargoBot. 

If I had those Google glasses I could watch TV and jog outside. Take THAT, nature! (Project 190, Day 10)

It rained last night and kind of looked like it might rain again today and so this morning I went running at the club instead of along the nature trail I like to run on, which means that I actually I think got a bit more of a workout than I otherwise might have, unless you count the fact that running on a treadmill is not as hard as running outside.

Physically hard, I mean: It's still mentally exhausting because I rarely see other people when I run outside and when I do it's for a brief moment, whereas when I run on a treadmill I see other people all the time and they do stuff like come up to the treadmills at the same time as me, then switch one of the TVs from "CNN Headline News" to "Morning Joe," and that's the TV I was going to watch but I figure I don't want to make a big deal of it, so I let him switch it and instead start up the treadmill and start running and it's nearly 10 minutes before I realize that the guy who put on Morning Joe

(Which is a completely stupid show by the way)

has not even gotten onto a treadmill and isn't in the area and he's gone somewhere else in the club, so apparently he can only work out if somewhere within a quarter-mile a television is showing Morning Joe, but that television cannot be in immediate proximity to him.

Leaving me with a dilemma: All I have to watch now is "Morning Joe," in which a host is saying that the next president will need more "national unity" than we needed on December 8, 1941 to address the economic problems

(Thereby I think indirectly invoking Godwin's law)

and the local morning news which never has any news and which today featured a cloud shaped like a monster, a picture sent in by a viewer, which, okay, I do stuff that too but frankly my cloud looked a lot more like Dumbo than this person's cloud looked like a monster, but either way, it's not something I want to watch while jogging.

And it's weird: I don't watch anything while jogging when I'm outside because nobody will drive ahead of me with a row of televisions, but yet when I'm inside I can't bear the thought of just staring off into space and not watching the TVs, probably because they're right there in front of me and also probably because if I don't look at the TV while I jog I either have to close my eyes or I'll be looking at the mirror and seeing myself but that is not an option, really, because I look disgusting when I jog.

I also could, I suppose, jog on the track, but that poses it's own problems one of which is there's always a class going on mid-track, so that the music they listen to drowns out my music for approximately half of each lap, and the music they listen to is just one giant pulsating disco beat, so as I come around by the class I get this:

[M. Ward's song Magic Trick is used for this example]:

Easy come, and easy go, sometimes without goodbye...
One magic trick, just one magic trick..

Which isn't my thing.   

Running on a treadmill, despite those mental hazards, is easier than running outside, and not just because there's hills and gravel and possibly bears outside -- you'll say "There's no bears in Middleton, Wisconsin" and you'll be right, right up until you see a bear on the nature trail and you'll die.

I haven't seen a bear, yet, but I did see a fox one night when walking home from the park with the boys and it watched us walk all the way up the road and was both kind of neat and kind of creepy because I was worried it was going to try to poach away Mr Bunches.   

But also, running on a treadmill means you're not carrying your body forward with each step, you're just hopping in place, and while I haven't worked this out scientifically or anything, it seems to me that running forward requires more energy because you are not just pushing yourself up like on a treadmill but also pushing yourself forward, the energy required to push 253 pounds horizontally and upwards being I think more than just to push it upwards.

Also, I can run for longer on a treadmill than outdoors.


Today's workout:  Run 2.5 miles,  30:30.
Latest Weight: 253.
Today's song that I really did listen to while I ran and that's why I mentioned it! Magic Trick, M. Ward


PS: I didn't think the cloud picture at the start of this post looked like anything; I just liked the way the clouds looked so I took a picture.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

And now, Mr Bunches will reverse the flow of time... (A Photo Essay)

Special bonus feature: Mr F, fully under water, which is a big deal for him!

You probably think a little less of me... (Project 190 Day Nine)

... because there's less of me to think of!

When I weighed myself this morning, pre-workout, I weighed 253 pounds!  So I've LOST A POUND AND THIS WHOLE THING IS WORKING.

That's always a nerve-wracking moment, honestly, in trying to lose weight: the weigh-in, especially that first one in the program.  What most people would think, when they go to weigh themselves for the first time after working out for a week-plus, would be "What if I didn't lose weight?"

That's not what I was thinking.

What I thought, as I approached the scale this morning, was: What if I GAINED weight?

That is how my mind works -- possibly in an attempt to trick me into not working out at all this morning, or ever, since my mind isn't always at war with my body. 

My mind usually is at war with my body, because my mind is the part of me that thinks stuff like "It would be a good idea to get up every day at 5:45 a.m. and exercise," or stuff like "That exercise should include swimming even though there's a very real possibility that when you go into the pool to swim, today, there will be two old ladies in there, doing that walking-around-the-pool thing that you hate, and those old ladies will be talking about the weather, but as if that's boring enough, they will be having THIS EXACT CONVERSATION:

Old Lady 1:  They said it might rain.

Old Lady 2:  I thought they said it was a 30% chance of rain.

Old Lady 1:  Thirty? I thought they said forty.

Old 2:  No, I'm pretty sure that yesterday they said it was forty and today it's only a 30% chance of rain.

Old 1:  Are you sure? Because today I thought they said it was a 40% chance of rain.


Old 2:  Maybe they did say forty.

[ME: SO OLD LADY 1'S INEXORABLE LOGIC HAS WON THE DAY...*wishes desperately he did not have this memory*]

Old 1:  Well, forty is more than 30.

That is a real conversation that I actually heard as I swam today and so my brain must continuously oppose my body to convince it to exercise, especially when that kind of thing is involved, and my brain must do other stuff like convince my body that three scoops of ice cream is probably enough.

My brain, I think, sometimes gets tired of always opposing the body, or maybe my body sometimes gets its act together enough to send a counter-thought to my brain, using that part of the nervous system that they say can make you pull your hand off a hot surface before you realize it's hot, and my body will then convince my brain to think stuff like:

What if even though we've been working out all week, what if we gained weight? Wouldn't that suck? We probably shouldn't weigh ourselves and should probably go back home and go to bed, and sleep until it's time to have way more than three scoops of ice cream... yummy delicious ice cream...

And today my brain almost fell for it, but I weighed myself (taking care to set down my car keys and take off my Crocs first because everyone knows how heavy those are) and I lost a pound, so my brain won out again.

Today's workout:  Swimming 22 laps while wishing my ears did not work.
Latest Weight: 253!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Today's song that I wished I'd had in my head while I swam instead of 'Thirty is more than forty':

Counting in C, by Jad Abumrad.

There is a fascinating Radiolab podcast that you can hear that on (a better version, even) and it explains, a bit, what "In C" is all about, plus you get to hear Zoe Keating play cello and she's just about one of my favorite things right now.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It would be different if it were VIDEO PADDLE BALL BOLO VS. ZOMBIES, I think. (Dollar Store Toy Review)

The Toy: A PaddleBall Bolo.

(Although to be honest, I am not sure if it is a "Paddleball" and "Bolo" is its name in another language, or if the full correct name of the toy is "Paddleball Bolo.")

(It might also be Paddle Ball Bolo, three words, as opposed to two.)

(There is no international standard, I guess, for naming Dollar Store Toys.)

It's been a long time since we went to the Dollar Store, the result of Mr Bunches having developed more expensive tastes in his retail habits; these days, when I try to convince him to go to the Dollar Store because (A) It is probably my favorite store in the world and (B) it's cheap, he is more apt to say "I think Target," which is his new favorite place in the world.

But we did go to the Dollar Store, Saturday night, after having the boys' pictures taken for our Christmas card, and don't ask me why we have that done in July because if you do, I'm liable to say "Go ask Sweetie why we have it done in July," only trust me I have tried that and what you get from Sweetie is something like "Because I want to," which is, I suppose, a reason but it's not (if you ask me) a good reason.

Since it is not necessary to have a good reason to get your boys' pictures taken in July for a Christmas card, we went to the mall Saturday to have the boys' pictures taken, a process that takes several hours and that is no lie.

The pictures themselves took only minutes: we were in the little room about 15 minutes, during which the boys sat on the ground, stood on a fake staircase, posed next to a number "6" because they're going to be six in two months, and sat on a stool, but they refused to lie on their stomachs which is probably for the best as I don't think that would have looked so good.

With that, my and the boys' involvement in the picture process ended, and we made our way down the mall to the playground that is in the mall, the one that's made of giant polyurethane appliances and is sponsored by our local electric company.  Here is Mr F, in his pictures' outfit, reclining on a giant light switch.

The light switch is in the off position because we are learning, subliminally, to save electricity, which is kind of a dumb thing for a power company to teach us, don't you think?  Do any other companies actively try to dissuade you from using their products?  No, they don't.  If I were in charge of a power company, I would come up with a character to encourage people to use more power: 

Scene: A kid is sitting at his desk, squinting at a piece of paper and frowning.  Finally, he sighs in frustration and throws his pencil across the room.  From the light socket comes a little animated spark of electricity that grows in size until it is alarmingly like a ball of lightning.

"Who are you?" the kid asks.

"I'm Sparks! The friendly electricity!" Sparks says.  "Why so glum, chum?" he goes on because talking like an Archies' character is a good way to relate to kids.

"I can't figure out my homework," says the kid.

"Let's see if I can't help!" Sparks says, and heads over to the desk, where he punches some buttons on the calculator and frowns.  "This doesn't seem to be working!" he says.

"It's solar-powered," the kid says.  "You have to hold it by the window."

Sparks feigns shock and says "We'll see about that!" and he draws a quick outline in the air that turns into a supercomputer hooked into the wall by at least fourteen extension cords.  "You can't do math with SOLAR POWER," he says, and then tries to turn on the light, which dimly lights up only a portion of the desk.  "Hmmm..." says Sparks.  "Is that one of those fluorescent things?" he asks, making fluorescent sound a lot like the word pornographic somehow.

Soon, Sparks and the kid are in a well-lit lab powered by vast dynamos of energy, and the kid is curing cancer or something...

You get the drift.    After we had the pictures taken, we played at the playground for about 1 1/2 hours while Sweetie picked out which pictures, in which outrageously expensive combinations, she wanted, and by then me and the boys were bored at the playground and I tried to get them to go over to the Food Court so we could get a bite to eat, but Mr Bunches came across a little stand in the mall that was selling toys, including a racetrack that had cars going around and around, and HE. LOVED. THAT. RACETRACK.

But I had already gotten Mr Bunches a toy on this trip, a tiny replica of Air Force One that he'd picked out at the fancy toy store down by Sears, and the Racetrack was like $30 and so I had to decline to get him that because THERE ARE LIMITS, YOU KNOW, even if Mr Bunches almost never hits them, but he fought back by lying on the floor and making his sad face, and although he doesn't know it he was about 0.00001 seconds from getting the racetrack anyway when I thought of a possible outcome:

"Want to go to the Dollar Store?" I asked him, and although he did not stop being sad he did get up off the floor and deign to ride on my shoulders to get some french fries while we waited for Sweetie, and after Sweetie met up with us and after I pointedly did not ask her how much the pictures were costing us, we were headed out of the mall and Mr Bunches remembered that we were going to the Dollar Store, where, he announced, he was going to get a "Captain Hook", which is the little pirate playset they used to have there; he's bought like ten of those. (Well, two. Maybe three.)

Once there, though, they did not have a "Captain Hook," even though we went up and down the aisle three times, and Mr Bunches was on the verge of being sad again until I saw a Paddle Ball Bolo and said:

"Hey, do you want a Paddle Ball?"

And he said:

"Oh, sure, Paddle Ball," and we got that.

(We also got a helium balloon for each boy, because they were selling balloons.  Mr F got a red star, and Mr Bunches selected on wishing someone a "Happy Birthday.")

The Construction:

The Paddle Ball Bolo is made up of a plastic paddle, and a ball that does light up about 1 out of 10 times that you would think it should light up, and an elastic band connecting the two.

It is a tough paddle, and a tough elastic band, as demonstrated by the fact that Mr F likes the paddle but not the ball, and he has been unable to separate the two.

How It's Used:  You try to hit the paddle with the ball, or vice versa.  Once you get going, it really makes no difference what order you think you're doing it in. 

How It Works:

This is harder than I remembered it being, and results in mostly the ball and paddle not really occupying the same space all that much, and, when I do it, mostly ends up with me ducking the ball as it flies around, so that I am usually moving in the opposite direction of the paddle and (I hope) the ball.

Mr Bunches is better at it: he aims the ball down and tries to hit it when it bounces off the floor.

Mr F doesn't bother trying.  He just plays with the paddle and lets the ball do what it wants.

But with that, I have to say: The Paddle Ball Bolo works just fine.  If you manage to hit the ball, it will rebound off the paddle.  The paddle swings.  The elastic stretches.  Any flaws in the  operation of the Paddle Ball Bolo are likely to be user error.

The Review By Mr F and Mr Bunches:

By the time we'd gotten home, Mr Bunches was already forgetting about the Paddle Ball Bolo, in favor of his balloon, a giant plastic red crayon he'd gotten, and the movie Despicable Me, which he'd already had but which he wanted to watch, so he ignored Paddle Ball Bolo overnight.

On Sunday morning, we opened it and he played it for about five minutes before going to watch Youtube.

Mr F likes to hold onto the paddle and swing in his swing, leaving the ball winging around.

Final Grade: C.   It's probably a little too advanced for Mr F's or Mr Bunches' skills, so that indication on the label that it's okay for "3+" might be saying a bit much.  Granted, I am not the most dexterous of people but I have to think I'm a little better at stuff like this than a three year old

But even so, the Paddle Ball Bolo is not the type of toy that can hold one's imagination the way, say, a giant plastic red crayon can.

Or maybe it WAS actually Pat Benatar? (Project 190, Day Seven)

My God it was hot out there, today.

But I've done seven days in a row, rattled them off like nobody's business, and I'm seven days healthier than I was a week ago.

Today's exercise:  Running, my outdoor/nature trail track, 27:00.
Latest Weight:  254

Today's Song That Wasn't The First Song I Was Going To Put On Here But Then I Heard This Song And It Was A Better One To Post:

Apparently, that song was used in an Apple ad.  It was playing on my iPod as I did my cool down walk, and I noticed the line "I feel too fat to go to the gym," which seemed fitting.

The original song I was going to post was Heartbreaker

by Pat Benatar, which was one of the first songs I played as I began running, and I was going to mention something about how I remember having an assembly in fifth grade when some woman came to our school and sang that song.  I still don't know why we had that assembly.  Maybe she was a graduate of the school?  Imagine if you started a career as a singer and the highlight of your tour was playing to a group of fifth graders at Hartland Elementary South, and decades later they couldn't even remember your name.

PS: The ostrich has nothing to do with this post.  It's just a picture I took yesterday when Mr Bunches and I took a trip to the zoo to try to go on their cool playground but the cool playground was closed, thanks for NOTHING, Henry Vilas Zoo.

PPS: In the Ostrich Enclosure, there was also a peacock, which Mr Bunches was at first convinced was a baby ostrich and was cute.  When I helped him understand it was a peacock, he said "Like in Kung Fu Panda 2?" (A movie he's no longer afraid of), and I said "Yes," and he said "Oh, it's very strong, right?"

I agreed that peacocks are very strong.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Test Your Knowledge Of My Favorite Subject... ME! (Project 190, Day Six)

Today was swimming, again.  Here's a multiple-choice test to see how well you're learning about me.

1.  To try to avoid dealing with random, intrusive thoughts while I swam in near-silence, I decided I would try to have a song playing in my mind, as it were.  What song did my brain helpfully play the entire time I swam?

A.  Common People, by William Shatner, a song I find inspiring and with a driving beat.

B.  Music For A Found Harmonium, by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, a song I find soothing.

C.  The Theme From Blue's Clues, a song which I know only four words to ("Who's Clues? Blues Clues?)

2.  There was an older man already swimming laps when I arrived at the pool.  Was he...

A.  Moving so slowly I thought he might have died but I was in a hurry so I decided it was somebody else's problem.

B.  Doing some kind of weird butterfly stroke but not quite that I found instantaneously annoying and almost used as an excuse to call off exercising altogether.

C.  Wearing a Speedo that was at least three sizes too small, a fact I could only notice if he got out of the water and stood directly in my line of vision for several laps.

3.  Midway through my swim, I had a revelation about how to make this exercise far less unpleasant.  Was it:

A.  Kicking off harder from the wall means less effort swimming that lap.

B.  Making sure to use your legs helps ease the burden on your arms as you swim.

C.  Looking at the patterns of sunlight on the bottom of the pool for that long will make you forget to breathe properly so that when you finally start to black out and turn your head to get some air, you're going to swallow about half the pool.

4.    I swam 21 laps in 13 minutes, but decided not to walk in the pool for the remaining 7 minutes, because...

A.  I decided that having swum 21 laps in the time it took me to do 20 laps a few days ago was progress enough.

B.  I was tired from having worked out six consecutive days in a row.

C.  A woman walked in wearing a pair of white pants and a red-and-white-striped tank top, causing me to instantly imagine her buying the outfit at Shopko and doing so because it was "sailor-y!" and my imagining her saying the word sailory in a chipper tone made me dislike the world in general and her in particular so much that I had to get out of there before doing something stupid.

5.  Experts recommend repleneshing lost nutrients and fluids after exercising.  What did I opt for as my post-workout snack?

A.  A Gatorade and a Power Bar.

B.  Some water.

C.  A glass of milk with two ice cubes in it because I can't stand the thought of milk getting warm, and a slice of cold pizza left over from Chuck E. Cheese's yesterday.

Today's Workout:  Swimming, 21 laps, 13:00.
Latest Weight: 254

Today's song that I would have much rather heard over and over than Blue's Clues while I swam:  I Will Live On Islands, Josh Rouse

SCORING: The correct answer to each was "D."