Sunday, December 31, 2006

Six Weird Things (And Happy New Year, Too!)

Abbagirl74 tagged me to list six weird things about myself so I figured I would do that today instead of a repost. First off, let me say that I’m glad the list was kept to six since I could easily write through all of 2007 about my oddities.

1. I really, really like Christmas. The music, the sights and the smells all greatly appeal to me. I have a huge collection of Christmas t-shirts (like the Grinch, Christmas Story and The Peanuts Gang) and I start buying eggnog before Halloween.

2. As long as I can remember, I have listened to music far older than me. I guarantee that much of my generation isn’t familiar with the works of Ray Conniff. But then again, I don’t know who the heck 50-cent is.

3. I hate alcohol and can’t stand the taste of it. Fortunately I get to save face publicly and say that I can’t have alcohol because of the heart medication I’m on.

4. I can’t wear tennis shoes or socks with shorts. It can only be sandals.

5. I collect PEZ dispensers.

6. Because of the artificial heart valve in my chest, when you are close enough to me and it’s quiet enough, you can hear me tick. It’s lots of fun at parties, but makes for a very difficult time trying to fall asleep at night.

That’s my list. I hope everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve. For the first year in a long time, we aren’t doing anything tonight (with the exception of roasting a very expensive piece of meat – it had better taste good). It’ll be interesting flipping through all of the New Year’s Eve specials tonight. You know that Anderson Cooper of CNN has made it big when CNN gives him is own New Year’s Eve special. Will wonders ever cease?

Happy New Year’s Eve!!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Things I Learned This Week: 12/30/06

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason, always makes me look pathetic. I hope that at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 12/24/06-12/30/06.

! I learned that gophers can still ruin your lawn in the dead of winter and you can still ruin Christmas by constantly standing in the front window mumbling and cussing to yourself about how to get the little critters.

! I learned that when my Father-in-Law dresses as Santa Claus for my daughters on Christmas Eve and I am telling other people about it on the phone, I should check first to make sure my daughters aren’t in the room.

! I learned that I should not put the lady leg lamp from ‘A Christmas Story’ next to a scene of the nativity, especially in my front window. The glow of electric sex and the holy birth are not always seen as compatible Christmas décor.

! I learned that when I open a Christmas present from one of my wife’s relatives, I should wait until we get into the privacy of our own home to tell my wife that I already was given the same present a few years ago by the same relative.

! I learned that to make my girls happy, all I need to do is wrap several boxes and tell them to go at it. They really don’t seem to care what is inside of them anyway.

! I learned that giving my wife a new wedding ring and having one of the diamonds fall out just hours after we pick it up from getting resized can make for a lousy Christmas present. This is even truer when the diamond falls out while we are with friends.

And lastly,

! I learned that when the nurse sticks the needle in my arm to get my blood and nothing comes out and she says “I guess I went the wrong way with the needle,” while giggling, it is going to bruise very badly. By very badly, I mean like the color of a tie-dye shirt badly.

Friday, December 29, 2006

It Just Could Be The Greatest Excuse Ever For Missing Work

Let’s just be upfront, most people work because they have to not because they want to. That being said, there are times when people call into work because they don’t want to go into work that given day. When I saw a story in Reuters about just such a thing, I read it looking for tips (that’s a joke of course, as my great boss has been known to frequent this blog). Boy did I find a tip. It could be one of the best excuses for missing work ever. According to Reuters, a young woman in Germany text messaged her parents that she had been kidnapped and therefore could not report to the fast food restaurant where she was employed. Yes, it is a great excuse but I’ll get back to that in a minute. She wasted such a great excuse because she wanted to avoid paying a coworker the Euros she owed that person.

For her, that’s it. She used it, blew it, and can never pull that excuse out of the ‘calling in sick’ bag ever again. For most people, they call into work and say that they aren’t feeling well, are sick, have a migraine, were temporarily disoriented and drove to the wrong office, just had a great uncle four times removed pass away, their pet or child is ill or their alarm didn’t go off. These excuses are nothing revolutionary, but are just realistic enough to be believed. I remember last year before I had to have open-heart surgery I would feel guilty when I called in sick saying I didn’t feel well, felt weak and was having trouble breathing. I worried that someone wouldn’t believe me, which could result in losing my job and how my attendance record for the year would look. When I ended up needing and having surgery, I knew that my days of calling in would not be an issue when my record then showed that I missed four months to have an artificial heart valve installed.

The genius of using your abduction as a reason for missing work lies in its boldness. It is so bold that if you actually used it, most people wouldn’t question it because it’s such an obviously fabricated excuse that they know you were risking your credibility and job by using it. Therefore, it must be true. It’s truly a brilliant excuse, if you are still following my warped logic. There is only one reason to even try to tell such a bold-faced lie and expect to get away with it. Because it’s true. That’s why I think it was such a waste when this lady used it just to get out of paying money she owed. She admitted to authorities the following day that she had made it all up. Now she’s in pretty big trouble.

If you were abducted, it should fall under some special personnel/human resources clause and be worth a lot more time than just one day. We will first operate under the assumption that your kidnappers held you for more than just one day, since I believe that’s generally what happens. When you finally are released, there must be the need for post-kidnapping counseling, as you could not be expected to be released from your captors and show up ready to do your job the following day. See, we are already over one week of time because of this abduction.

That’s one more reason why I think this could be the greatest missing work excuse ever and I’m not even going to begin exploring the whole getting in on the imaginary ransom racket yet. Well, I hope I’ve made my point. I’m done with this post and now I’ve gotta go make sure all my accomplices, I mean friends, get their stories straight when I turn up missing from the office after the New Year…

**Really Big Disclaimer: I would never try any of what I have just mentioned. While it is extremely clever, it is also illegal (I think, I really don't know but I wanted to sound stern). Now, should I happen to call in sick from work next week, please be advised that it is merely a coincidence.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

What Does It Actually Pay To Cheat At Chess?

I was reading a Reuters story about a shocking development in the chess world. An Indian player was found to be cheating in New Delhi and was subsequently banned for the next 10 years. It’s shocking for two reasons. 1- That someone felt it was worth cheating at chess and 2- That anyone cares. It sounds like something from one of those exciting new type of high crime heist themed movies like ‘The Italian Job’ or the ‘Ocean’s 11’ remakes. As the banned player won more and more, people started to ask questions until they finally caught him in the act.

The player accomplished his cheating through the use of a Bluetooth earpiece sewn inside a cloth cap that Reuters says he wore down over his ears. That allowed him to be feed information from his cohorts who were using a computer to calculate his next move. It’s surprising that no one got suspicious when he wore a wool cap inside during every one of his chess matches. I guess folks just wrote it off as a good luck charm.

To me, it seems far worse to be known as the guy who had to cheat at chess (and got caught) than receiving the ten-year ban. Thanks to this cheater’s exploits, old men playing checkers or chess every morning in the park are now going to become suspicious of each other every time someone needs to wear a hat because it’s cold out. It could get ugly. Why did they have to taint the game of chess? Why couldn’t they cheat at checkers, shuffleboard, or bridge? They could have even tried dominoes.

I shouldn’t complain too much because when it comes to me and chess, all I can say is that I do like looking at all the different chess collections out there. Virtually everything has been turned into a chess piece, but I’ve never bothered to collect any of them because a typical game of chess for me lasts about five moves. I’m still waiting for the sets made up of Democrats vs. Republicans, men vs. women, The Cast of High School Musical or The Best of Dancing with the Stars. Maybe then I can justify putting some money towards chess. It is a game I am horrible at, so much so that having someone whisper moves in my ear wouldn’t help. Pawn Rook Drag Queen 4 to Knighted Bishop Pope King 2. What the heck is that? I’d need someone translating that into English for me to even begin understanding what it means.

Is there rehabilitation for a chess cheater? Can they ever sit down to a chessboard again and be trusted. Can they ever sit down at a chessboard and think well enough on their own to make the necessary moves? I guess it doesn’t really matter now. This player’s chess career is effectively over. In ten years when he returns, he will do so amid continued suspicion and mistrust. Come to think of it, maybe it won’t really be that bad for him. After all, Barry Bonds still gets to play baseball…

**Nothing Worthwhile Tip Of The Day: Beware of the food samples at those huge warehouse club stores. They must be tainted with some type of addictive ingredient. My wife, who hates beef, bought a $47 prime rib (despite the fact that she hates beef, in case I forgot to mention it) after trying a sample today. Maybe they can put whatever they used into celery.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Passing Of A President

The club of former Presidents just got a little smaller. As you have heard by now, President Gerald Ford passed away at 93 yesterday. The man who was given a new name as a child and who was never elected to the Vice Presidency or the Presidency actually became the longest living President. It should be noted that he also survived two assassination attempts. Despite his lengthy list of accomplishments from WWII service to head of the Warren Commission to his thirty years as an active former president, his career kinda sounds like a comedy movie. It’s the story of an unassuming, likable and lucky guy who keeps getting promoted through no activity of his own until he lands the highest office in the land. Did I mention he survived two assassination attempts within the span of about a month? I guess it does pay more to be lucky than it does to be good.

Actually, come to think of it, it also sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch, which brings me to the poorly thought out reason behind this post. As I stayed up late last night listening to all of our nation’s political pundits eulogize President Ford through the warm glow of 30 years worth of the passage of time, I could not help but think of Chevy Chase ( who will no doubt hear his name a lot over the next few days). If you aren’t connecting the dots, let me do that for you. Chevy Chase got a lot of SNL airtime in the mid-70s impersonating President Ford as a bumbling and clumsy person. He would fall over desks and fall through scenes as the President. I can also recall him playing President Ford at a desk petting his stuffed dog while thinking the dog was alive. I want to say that the dog’s name was liberty, but I could be mistaken.

For many, Chase’s antics as President Ford shaped their view of him. It just shows how far reaching comedy and parody is in our country that our perception of a President is somewhat formed by the individual mocking and satirizing him. For a long time, our view of the elder George Bush was that of a bumbling and goofy guy as portrayed by Dana Carvey. We can all remember Dan Akroyd as a grumpy Richard Nixon and Will Ferrell’s playing of the younger President Bush as a not so bright Texan. One of my most lasting impressions of President Clinton was not by President Clinton at all. It was Phil Hartman in a McDonalds as Clinton explaining about warlords in Somalia while stealing customers’ Big Macs to make his point. The neat thing about all of the parodies is that some of our former Presidents, like President Ford and Bush 41 spent time after their presidencies with their mockers. I saw video last night of Chevy Chase on stage with President Ford saying something to the effect of ‘if you’ll pardon me for a moment…’ Yes, it did get a big laugh.

I have read that President Ford could have gone into the NFL but ended up in a life of politics instead. He fell in public maybe twice and was parodied long after as a klutz (I guess it could have been much worse when President Bush vomited in China). As the eulogies for President Ford pour in over the next week or so, it will be interesting as a fan of history to learn the real story about him. Only in America could one’s name be changed and they eventually end up as President without ever running for the office and manage to survive two attempts on his life to become the longest living president.

You know, it all really sounds so extraordinary and unbelievable that maybe it should become a movie. I just wish Don Knotts were still around. It could be the follow up to the ‘Reluctant Astronaut’ and called the ‘The Not So Reluctant and Very Lucky President’ or ‘Who, Me?’ Now who could we get to play the amicable but aloof common man who lands the Presidency? Maybe Chevy Chase has some free time…he did pioneer the role.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Day After

Well, it looks like we all made it through another holiday season and I can say that I am officially another year older. I hope your Christmas was jolly and merry. For many this should be the slowest workweek of the year as we prepare for New Year’s. We got Monday out of the way and got to open a few presents, so the week is off to a good start.

I had a few good story ideas for you today. I had a great post planned describing how the Slinky on stairs is like the state of our nation’s current housing market. Since the end of the year is near, I was going to write obituaries for all of the celebrities who passed away in 2006 that you may have never heard of and I thought I might break down the field of presidential hopefuls in any easy to understand way by comparing them to famous SNL sketches or your favorite cartoon characters.

I was also toying with writing about how I may have offended some very good friends of mine when I sent them a photo late Christmas Eve but I feared it may not cast me in the best light, so to speak. It was a picture of my new half-size lady leg lamp (from A Christmas Story) as it sat beautifully illuminated in my front window. In the excitement of putting the lamp up after my wife very reluctantly gave me the ok, I neglected to realize that I had put the provocative lamp next to a miniature nativity scene. That is until my friend pointed out that I had combined electric sex and the nativity on the same table. Oops. I should also mention that I forgot to notice I had placed the lamp next to Santa, who is every child’s favorite guy on Christmas Eve. I’d like to think that this just makes me a bad decorator, not a bad person. In my defense, I was just really, really excited to put my lamp in the window.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to write about any of that today. I now not only have to go return almost every gift I opened yesterday, but I also have to put in a few good hours of confession…

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!!!

I hope that you and yours are having a very merry Christmas. May your day be filled with peace, joy and the comfort of good friends, good family and good food.

Can you think of a better way to spend a Monday?

Merry Christmas 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dona Nobis Pacem – It’s Christmas Eve!!

Mimi has asked us to get out our peace globes again and she picked a particularly suitable date. This post will probably ramble all over the place, but that’s what happens when you begin to get nostalgic. As I sit here a little after 1 AM in Southern California, it is Christmas Eve. I’m sipping some eggnog (light of course because it’s late), tracking Santa on NORAD’s website and listening to Christmas music. It is the holiest night on the Christian calendar and as this early, early morning turns into day and then night, the anticipation of both young and old will steadily grow. The young will eagerly anticipate St. Nick’s midnight flight and the rest of us will anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth. For me, Christmas Eve has always been a pleasant mix of wonderment and merriment. I can remember as a kid looking at every light in the sky and listening for any noise in the night with the hopes that it would be Santa. Christmas Eve also has another profound meaning for me. It is my birthday. I don’t tell you this just to let you know it is my birthday, but to emphasize that it has always been one of my favorite days of the year for many reasons.

For the lucky, today and tomorrow will be filled with friends, family and well wishes. Whenever anyone discovers that today is my birthday, they react as if it was an unlucky day to be born. I completely disagree and it has nothing to do with the birthday presents they think I missed out on as a kid because it was the day before Christmas. For me, it just heightens the Christmas holiday and I get to begin celebrating the season a day earlier. I have always believed that Christmas Eve is a time to experience the joy and goodwill of others, be it family and friends you see all the time or the folks that are always close to your heart but usually far away.

As my friends will embarrassingly tell you, I love Christmas. If the wife wouldn’t send me packing, I’d decorate the day after Halloween and start listening to my Christmas music at the same time (ok, you beat it out of me: I keep at least one Christmas CD in the truck all year and sometimes even pop it into the truck’s stereo. Yeah, I have a problem). I’ve heard people say that your recurring nightmares can tell you about yourself. Well, to be completely candid with you, the only recurring nightmare I have (although I don’t have it very often) is that I wake up one day and someone tells me Christmas has passed. I then become depressed because I missed the season, the lights, the tree, the décor and listening to Christmas music and know I will have to wait another year to do so. Again, I am aware I have a problem…

Living in Southern California has made it hard to really get into the Christmas spirit. There has definitely never been any snow around on Christmas Eve where I live. It was easier as a child because of the heightened wait for Santa and we were out of school. As an adult I’ve noticed that many times it seems like I was just going through the motions of what I thought I should be doing during the holiday season like decorating, shopping and listening to Christmas music. I have found that carrying through with the same enjoyable traditions year after year has helped me slip into the ‘spirit’ much more easily. Visiting relatives, playing certain CDs, watching certain movies or holiday cartoons and looking at the same decorated and lighted neighborhoods and houses with my good friend (like we did tonight and have done for the last 15 consecutive years) really helps. Now that Lucy and Ethel are 4 and are beginning to ‘get’ Santa Claus, it has added an extra excitement into our home. I also make a Christmas CD every year to give to our friends and family. It has gotten to the point that it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas if I didn’t do these things at Christmastime.

As a young kid, I can remember going to a relative’s open house after Christmas Eve mass every year. There was a lot of family around and it was so neat to be a part of it. I can also recall my brother and I waking up before sunrise every Christmas morning to see what had been left under the tree. I still get up before sunrise to this day, but it is to spend a few quiet moments alone in front of the tree and the fireplace listening to Christmas music and thinking about past Christmases. It is a very peaceful time for me.

The sights and sounds of the holiday season are incredible to me (all I need to do is hear Nat King Cole sing ‘The Christmas Song’). The outrageous décor and lights that people put up are great to see, but it is the sight of a Christmas tree or candle through the window that really captures my imagination. I’ll see a beautiful and well-maintained older house with a tree in the window and it seems so comfortable and peaceful to me. I can imagine families and friends visiting together inside and it’s a very warming thought.

Whether it is in a home, a restaurant or a work Christmas party, the phrase ‘we should get together and do this more often’ will be repeated a lot over the next two days. Everyone who utters that sentiment is right, we shouldn’t get together just to visit and enjoy each other’s company once or twice a year because a holiday dictates that we do. We should try to do it more often and carry those peaceful thoughts and feelings with us all year. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get to bed so I can wakeup and do all that last minute shopping tomorrow. I hope everyone on my list needs toothpaste or paperclips…

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Things I Learned This Week: 12/23/06

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason, always makes me look pathetic. I hope that at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 12/17/06-12/23/06.

! I learned that my Lucy and Ethel don’t appreciate me quoting every single line verbatim when we watch ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ together.

! I learned that if I am unsure of the secret Santa gift amount at work it means I should double check. There is a slight difference between $20 and $25. Sorry anonymous coworker…

! I learned that even though I already learned to check the flue before having a fire, I also need to ensure that the wind is not blowing. I’m starting to worry that these repeated smoke-outs are going leave a permanent scent in our house.

! I learned that no matter how good my knowledge of Christmas trivia is, the folks at my work party were going to let me win one gift only, no matter how many times I raised my hand.

! I learned that although it has twice as many calories, regular eggnog tastes so much better than the light stuff. It also means I have to walk twice as far every morning to burn it off.

! I learned that you get lots of attention when shopping at Target when they open in the morning. When there is a ratio of 5 employees to every customer in the store, you can get all the help you need.

And lastly,

! I learned that I need to be more careful when weed-whacking around the cords of our light-up Christmas decorations in the front yard (and my wife’s rose bushes for that matter). Thank God for duct tape! Although I hope it doesn’t rain in the next two days.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Post A Day Keeps The Guilt Away

I have always tried to post everyday. It’s been a source of pride for me to say that I have posted something here basically every day since I began blogging. This has been made very easy for me to do since I don’t leave town very often, can’t be away from my computer for more than a few hours and have managed to somehow not lose both hands to a BBQ accident yet. This last piece of luck is certainly not for a lack of trying. When I light up a charcoal grill, I think it can be spotted from earth’s orbit.

This post will be a little different and much shorter as the holidays are proving to be the busiest time of the year for me. As all of the visits from and with family and friends increase, I’ve found it harder the last few days to find the time to get a decent post in (not to mention visiting my favorite blogs). I was going to let the evening pass without posting, but as the sands dropped through the hourglass (sorry, my wife watches ‘Days of Our Lives’), the guilt finally got to me.

So here I sit, late into the evening, typing something for the sake of saying I posted something today. It’s a cheap thing to do (I feel dirty and will have to take a shower after I post this), especially when I could write about the $110 dollar hamburger being offered in Indonesia or the fact that the last 10 files from John Lennon’s FBI documents were released and amounted to what a ten year old would be able to tell you about him (did you know his songs showed he held revolutionary views?). Apparently our government feared foreign retaliation for what the last harmless 10 Lennon files contained. Did our leaders think he was going to help Yoko Ono take over our country in a coup funded by bad art? I hear that her army was called Instant Karma. Well J. Edgar Hoover, whatever gets you through the night…it’s all right…it’s all right…

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Get Your Red Hot Reindeer Dogs!

I saw this little Associated Press story and couldn’t pass it up. Maybe it’s because I just spent three hours driving Lucy and Ethel around to look at Christmas lights. From Starbucks to Jack in the Box, food eateries try to add a little holiday spice to their menu this time of year. At one Chicago area hot dog stand, the holiday offering may be just a bit too much. The AP says that the stand is offering Reindeer Hot Dogs. They are produced in Alaska (you betcha)  and are supplemented by a little beef and pork because reindeer is apparently lean and dries out easily. That's what she said.  Ok, that one really didn't even make sense.  Sorry.  I'll be more judicious in my TWSS execution next time.

I know that deer meat is called venison, but I’m not sure what reindeer meat is called. I would suggest Prancer Pork, Donder Dogs or maybe even Blitzen Beef, but I’ll just play it safe and refer to them as Reindeer Dogs. The story didn’t mention how well the new item is selling, but my guess is not very well.

Mommy: Jimmy, would you like a hot dog or reindeer dog?
Jimmy: Wow, what’s a reindeer dog? Is it like a Happy Meal or something with a Christmas toy inside?
Mommy: Um, no sweetie. It’s ground up reindeer in a pink casing instead of beef or chicken.

Obviously the new hot dog isn’t going to be big with the 8 and under crowd. No doubt that there will be plenty of curious folks who will want to try genuine reindeer meat. Once you add the mustard, relish and onions you probably can’t taste the difference anyway. Go ahead and say it, it tastes like chicken.  The downside to serving up a holiday icon in a bun is that it might not sell, though I really like the phrase 'holiday icon in a bun.'  And then there's 'holiday icon with a bun,' which would be Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show, but now I've strayed way too far off topic. The upside of course is that this guy’s hot dog stand just got a ton of free publicity that will turn into increased sales. Reindeer with your meat so light, you’ll be on my bun tonight. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.

I think the vendor has really tapped into a new line of holiday food items though. I can just see someone offering up a Frosty the Snow Man snow cone. The tagline: it contains a special blend of the essence of Frosty with just a dash of magic from his hat. Actually, as long as it isn't 'lemon' flavored, I just might try it. Now if I could only figure out what nog is.  Actually, don't tell me.  I don't want to know...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

‘Tis Better To Be Grinched, Scrooged Or Exiled To Pottersville?

In the last few nights I have had the opportunity to watch a few holiday classics: The Grinch, It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. Granted, the version of the Christmas Carol was Mr. Magoo’s version but I’ll count it nonetheless. One constant that remains through all three of these movies is that of the villain. Two of those villains have become one-word descriptions for anyone grumpy during the holidays. Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life doesn’t get as much attention but let’s face it, it would be completely appropriate to call a pompous jerk a Potter Head during Christmas. For some reason all of this got me thinking about which ‘villain’ would actually be the least offensive to be compared to. So, in as close to a scientific way as possible (which means I actually watched all three movies recently and didn’t doze off during any of them), I will examine all three and try to make a determination.

First is the Grinch. He’s a pretty despicable guy when we are introduced to him. He mistreats
his dog, wants to stop Christmas from coming and impersonates Santa in order to ruin Christmas. If I remember correctly he actually has termites in his smile. Mr. Grinch even stands face to face with a little Who girl on Christmas Eve and then steals her tree after he lies to her and puts her to bed. That doesn’t add up to a very good list of character traits. To make things worse, when he sees the light and realizes that Christmas must be about something more than packages, boxes and bows, he suffers what will probably end up being a debilitating injury. His heart grew three sizes in just one day. He may have ended up on the nice side of Santa’s ledger, but he’s still got that dental problem and now has an enlarged heart. It’s not looking good for the Grinch.

Then there’s old (emphasis on old, please) Ebenezer Scrooge. There’s a reason Dickens went with Ebenezer Scrooge instead of Ebenezer Dogoodly. The name Scrooge just sounds awful. If there is anyone out there who happens to have the last name of Scrooge, please don’t send email. Scrooge was a tough taskmaster, completely underpaid his help and was probably in violation of every labor law you can think of. He asked Cratchet to work holidays, didn’t pay well and withheld the use of ample coal for office heating, which undoubtedly led to a hostile workplace. He also chose the pursuit of money over a beautiful woman. What an idiot! Scrooge was mean to charities and wanted poor people dead to help reduce the surplus population. That’s certainly no way to win a popularity contest. Lastly, he was rather mean to his nephew, which was his only living relative. Apparently Scrooge wore what appears to have been a dress to bed. That really has no bearing on my study, but I wanted to be childish and mention it anyway. Fortunately for Scrooge and all who knew him, he saw the light (three times I’m guessing) and changed his ways in dramatic fashion. I think that puts him the lead.

Lastly is Mr. Potter, the man who owns most of quaint Bedford Falls. He was unscrupulous. He owned what could only be described as tenement slums, which makes him a slum lord and he tried to shut down his competition, which would have given him the ability to make the entire town his renters. I don’t believe Bedford Falls had any form of rent control because George Bailey was so concerned about Potter getting all the real estate in town. Unlike Ebenezer, old man Potter did not see ghosts (which is a plus), but he did directly steal Bailey business money and then filed a false police report about it. Unfortunately for him, it appears that Potter never reformed. This one factor pretty much eliminates him from the competition but I needed a third subject to review to make today’s blog long enough.

Now who to pick? Would I rather be called a Grinch or a Scrooge? I’m concerned about the cost
of treating one’s teeth for termites and living with an enlarged heart is never recommended. On the other hand, despite his advanced age, Scrooge reformed with no visible health ailments. The Grinch could carve the roast beast and Scrooge could afford the biggest turkey in town so it’s almost a wash there. The Grinch had no visible means of self-support but Scrooge owned a financial firm. In the end (and after minutes of scientific evaluation), I have to go with a good income and being in good health over green fur and heart disease. So if my Christmas spirit begins to wane in the next few days, please accuse me of being a Scrooge instead of a Grinch. Bah-Humbug and God bless us every one!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Let’s Go Christmas Singin’ Boys!

This post will probably be a little shorter tonight and make even less sense than usual as I decided it was a great idea to take the family out Christmas shopping tonight. After the several hour ordeal was over and we hiked back to our truck, I decided we would never do that again…

Boy does Christmastime bring weird bedfellows (that’s just a cliché in this case, trust me). I put the TV on this morning while packing Lucy and Ethel’s lunch boxes in the hopes of finding some nice Christmas music on one of DirecTV’s Christmas music channels. They are named holiday appropriate things like ‘Holly,’ ‘Country Christmas’ and ‘Non-Offensive Over-Commercialized Holiday Music Standards.’ In flipping through their handy on-screen viewing guide I saw a listing for something that I truly felt had to be a bad Saturday Night Live sketch. It was an hour and a half show of Christian Christmas Music performances hosted by Amy Grant and former NASCAR champ and current NASCAR broadcaster Darrell Waltrip. If you aren’t a NASCAR fan, this may be lost on you but having Amy Grant and DW together is a particularly odd pairing. Don’t get me wrong, I love Amy Grant and am a big fan of Waltrip but never thought I’d see them together unless they were presenting an award at a really twisted awards show. That’s usually where you see two people together that would never spend time with each other and unfortunately that’s how it comes across to the viewer most of the time.

Not to take anything away from either one of them, but I wonder what market or audience DirecTV was trying to capture by asking these two to host their program of holiday praise music. Of course I only watched a few minutes of it, but I feel it qualifies me to blog about it. Amy Grant’s selection appeals to both the mainstream and the more religious, but DW can’t have a ton of cross over appeal I would assume. One of sports’ biggest sectors is the NASCAR fan so maybe they were hoping all us diehard stock car people would tune in for an hour and a half just to see him. Obviously it kinda worked, like on me for example. Was Amy Grant’s husband Vince Gill busy? Did they ask Jeff Gordon and he said no because he just married and impregnated a model?

I guess they could have done worse in matching co-hosts. Some really bad pairs that come to mind would be Kelly Ripa and Clay Aiken, Star Jones and Barbara Walters, Simon Cowell and anybody or Bill Clinton and Kenneth Star. Actually George W. Bush and Al Gore would probably be awkward too, now that I think about it. Maybe it was because it was early this morning or because I am ruminating about it tonight when it is so late, but seeing Amy Grant and Darrell Waltrip in the same sentence struck me as odd and a little funny. I know what it was, I had just finished walking three miles in 37-degree weather (I sound like my grandfather) and my blogging trough was pretty dry tonight. As odd as the pairing seemed to me, it was worth the few minutes I watched to hear Darrell Waltrip say the phrase ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes.’ Amazingly, he wasn’t talking about Jeff Gordon. Of course he described some of the acts as ‘really hauling,’ ‘pushing like a dump truck’ and I am pretty sure he described one singer as ‘needing to take half a round of wedge out and go down a quarter pound on the right side.’ Ok, I made that last part up…but I still don’t like Jeff Gordon!

Hey, maybe Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton will host ‘An Old Fashioned Family Christmas’ together tomorrow…

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hey You, You’re Time Magazine’s Person Of The Year (Actually, You Are Too)

In case you haven’t heard, you were named Time’s Person of the Year over the weekend. Of course so was I and you, and you and yes, you too. Time Magazine named you their Person of the Year for 2006. Don’t get too excited. Although they named you, they didn’t use your name and it is the same magazine that named Hitler their Person of the Year in 1938 or so. Fortunately they named a lot of other great folks as person of the year to make up for that lack of judgment, sanity and reason.

Not that I ever sat around day dreaming about what it would be like when I was finally named Person of the Year, but let’s just say it wasn’t exactly what I pictured (if I had day dreamed about it, of course). I expected to get some formal notification from the folks at Time and not read about it on a news website. They didn’t call you, did they? Being named the Person of the Year, I’m still awaiting a special dinner in my honor, or maybe in yours.

It seems that the revolutionary transformation of the internet led to me (and yes, you) being named to this prestigious honor (with the exception of course of the aforementioned Hitler thing). With millions of people throughout the world flocking to sites like MySpace, YouTube and blogs everywhere, it seems we have changed the world in our own little way. Many people call it Web 2.0 and it’s the personalization of the internet away from the ‘dot com’ type stuff that got people noticing (I guess, at this point I’m really just guessing). My only question is if someone who doesn’t blog or post on YouTube can consider themselves to be the Person of the Year? Oh wait, everybody and their mother has a MySpace account so I guess they’re covered.

As amazing as the new internet may be, one has to wonder how you became Person of the Year. Do the Time big wigs pass around a hat and everyone puts the name of someone they want to nominate into it. I imagine the hat would be filled with names like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, President Bush, Kim Jong-il, the genius that decided to make a reality show of that Dog bounty hunter dude or maybe the new Pope. Now I have to go to confession for not remembering his name. After all, how hard was it to remember Pope John Paul? His name isn’t Pope George Ringo, is it? That would be easier; I mean seriously, I can remember Kim Jong-il, but not the Pope? Man I’m in trouble! Was the name ‘You’ put in the hat as a joke and everyone liked it so much that they went with it? Maybe the folks at Time decided to take a break this year and use the easy way out. I bet they’ve had the ‘You’ card in their back pocket for years but finally felt this was the year they didn’t want to research anyone else. They’re probably still kicking themselves for not naming everyone as the Person of the Year for the war effort after we won WWII. The closest they’ve come to taking a break before was naming the Earth in 1988 and the computer in ’82.

Whatever their reason for using it this year, I couldn’t think of a better time to be selected for this honor than at Christmas time which is one of my favorite times of the year. I think I’ll donate my Person of the Year check to a worthy charity or maybe so they can further blog technology to the point where I only have to think of my post and make it appear. Hey Blogger programmers, it really would be much more efficient. What, really? No check for such an honor? I bet Ted Turner got a check when he was named in 1991! Now I’m thinking of just giving my Person of the Year trophy back! You’re kidding me, no trophy either? Tell me that Jimmy Carter didn’t get a trophy and I might be ok with all of this.

I think I’ll just ask my wife to hold a special dinner in my honor. I think we’ll rent out the Elks lodge down the street and invite as many of my fellow People of the Year as possible. Hopefully we can still get a good polka band. I’d also like a parade and a 3-story blown up print of the cover, although for some reason I’m not actually on it. I’m sure it was just an oversight. Wait, you weren’t on the cover were you? Even Stalin got a cover…

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Repost Sunday: Excuse Me, There’s A Hair In My Chocolate

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy. This was originally posted August 23, 2006.

A man employed at a chocolate factory in Wisconsin had an experience that most people would pay dearly for (in more ways than one). He fell into a cauldron full of chocolate. The man was doing maintenance around the container when he slipped and plunged in. Apparently, reports that he was trying to get closer to the chocolate reincarnation of the Virgin Mary are unfounded.

After falling in, he quickly became stuck in the thick 110 degree chocolate. The mixture was so dense that the fire department that came to his rescue had to thin it with coco butter to get him out. He was trapped for about 2 hours before they freed him from the goo. A local hospital treated the sweet smelling victim for minor injuries and (I suspect) over eating.

“I figured the best way out was to start eating the chocolate, but after the first hour, I started feeling a little sick,” said the man. “It’s true what they say, dark chocolate really does taste richer than milk chocolate, but when they scraped it off of me, my skin felt so reinvigorated it made the whole ordeal worth it,” he added.

To compensate for losing money on the inedible chocolate, the company’s management quickly sought to find a use for it. Their first idea was to sell it at half price to a local shelter for dessert, but when all local shelters refused, they decided on an alternate plan. They are now selling the “experience” as “The Chocolate Spa Peel.”

"We spoke at great length with our employee," said one of the company’s owners. "Although he was initially in great pain with a lot of scarring and blistering, the hot chocolate eventually did wonders for his skin and since the FDA won’t let us use that vat for food production anymore, we’ve converted it into a chocolate spa therapy.

"The company says that they are now taking reservations for the spa experience. All anyone interested in the 45 minute chocolate spa and peel treatment has to do is sign the liability waver for potential 3rd degree burns and ensuing infections.

If the service proves profitable, we can expect more products and body treatments from them. They are already working on white chocolate acne masks, an entire line of gummy gels and lotions and syrup-infused hair tonics. A potential caramel-based enema, “The Creamy Caramel High Colonic” has already been nixed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Things I Learned This Week: 12/16/06

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason, always makes me look pathetic. I hope that at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 12/10/06-12/16/06.

! I learned that when I think I should wear a coat and tie to a work function it means I probably should. Khakis and a button up shirt don’t quite compare, especially when the big wigs show up and pictures are taken.

! I learned that I should check with my coworkers before I make a Christmas CD and give it to them. Apparently not everyone shares the same musical favorites that I do during the holiday season.

! I learned that when I’m going to take my little ones out to drive around and look at Christmas lights and decorations I need to make sure they went to the bathroom first.

! I learned that when I’m going to put some logs in the fireplace for a nice family night in front of the fire that it’s best to make sure the flue is open.

! I learned that when I know a movie is going to be part 2 of 3 to not expect a tidy ending, but rather a cliffhanger. Didn’t Barbosa die in Pirates #1? What's the deal?

! I learned to not let my blood pressure rise dramatically every time a Christmas bulb under our second story eave goes out. It seems my constant mumbling about it isn’t appreciated.

And lastly,

! I learned when it is very cloudy and cold outside and all the forecasts say there will be a few inches of rain that no matter whether I see a glimpse of sun or not, I should not go and walk four miles. Does anyone know who can repair a water logged MP3 player?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Santa Faces Possible Indictment Over Mutant Deer Discovery

A Wisconsin man discovered a deer with seven legs recently after he struck it with his truck. Perhaps even weirder is the fact that the animal had both male and female ‘parts’ (to be politically correct). The Associated Press reports that the extra legs were each a few inches long and were attached to its ‘regular’ legs.

The growing concern is that there may be something screwy going on up at the North Pole. Although no other reports of the existence of ‘genetically unique’ deer have been reported, there have been rumors. PETA officials have scheduled an ‘exploratory mission’ to the North Pole to investigate the treatment of the local deer population.

‘Obviously there’s something funny happening when deer can fly and some are born with red noses, so you have to make a connection between that and this mutant deer turning up,’ said a PETA official. ‘I don’t know what you do to get reindeer to fly, but it’s obviously harmful,’ he added.

The North Pole has remained quiet and secretive about their deer breeding practices and all reindeer flights have been cancelled until investigations have been completed. The Pole has always maintained that safety of their animals is the highest priority. Other than an ugly sleigh collision in 1973 that purportedly took the lives of three deer and a myth about a banjo-playing snowman who talks, no other reports of North Pole animal injuries or oddities have ever been reported.

“The whole Santa operation is very image based and the big guy would cringe if anything happened to tarnish that finely honed image,” said a diminutive North Pole spokesperson with pointy ears. “Believe me, when companies like Coca-Cola and large department stores give us free publicity, we don’t want to have any freaky transsexual deer running around to spoil an image we’ve been perpetuating for over 100 years,’ the spokesperson added.

If anything at the North Pole is found to be the cause of the mutant deer, Kris Kringle could face stiff fines and possible prison time for the ‘cruel and unethical treatment of fictional flying animals that don’t normally fly.’ Some observers worry about the global debate that will follow over who has jurisdiction over the North Pole as it has often been thought of as international territory. Canada, Russia, the United States, Denmark, Greenland, the ACME Ice Manufacturing Company and the estate of the late Liberace have tried at one time or another to claim territorial rights to the North Pole. The most likely outcome would find Santa imprisoned at Gitmo or Abu Grahib.

This will likely be a tense Christmas for the Clauses and little children the world over as they wait to see what will happen. Those close to Santa have reported that he’s in a very foul mood and mumbles constantly saying, ‘all because of one deer, one #^%#$#%$$ deer!’ Like one Santa believer said, ‘if they use nuclear energy to power submarines, there’s no telling what they use to get reindeer to fly.’

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Annual Christmas Letter

We all hate them, we all mock them and some of us actually take the time to write them. It’s the annual bragging Christmas letter that we send to family and other people we want to feel superior to. I present to you this year’s edition of the Christmas card letter as written from "the wife’s" point of view:

Dear Friends, Family and Frenemies:

Wow, I can’t believe another year has come and gone. It seems like just last year at this time I was writing our Christmas letter. It’s been another amazing year for the family and while I haven’t bothered to take the time to call or even email many of you, you all have been on our minds and more importantly, in our hearts. I hope your 2006 has been as wonderful, splendid, fantastic and terrific (not to mention busy, he he,he,) as ours has.

We were so lucky to be able to begin the year with the birth of our 10th child Annabelle, or as I like to call her, Annabellicious (I keep telling hubby that just two more will make it an even dozen). She was born a beautiful girl and all the doctors say that she was the prettiest baby they had ever seen. It’s been just under a year and she can already do fractions.

Of course the twins Niles and Frasier continue to be little rascals. Who knows what they will get into next. Why just last week I caught them eating whip cream right out of the can. I mean really, can you just imagine. They’re so naughty, but I guess that’s what you get with boys. Stuart entered the 6th grade this fall and he is already doing calculus. His teacher says he’s the brightest boy he’s ever taught and he was elected school president. Susie made the cheerleading squad again and is dating the quarterback. She also got the lead in the school production of ‘Grease.’ Unfortunately we thought it a little to risqué so she decided to take a knitting class.

Harold has been an alter boy at every single mass this year and he scored the winning goal at this year’s soccer championships. Lucy’s got the lead in the community ballet and she continues to volunteer at the retirement home. Phil is a junior this year and is already applying to Harvard (I like to say he’s got ivy in his veins). Amanda just learned how to walk and Freddie is scheduled to go up in the space shuttle next year.

You’d think I had my hands full with the kids, but I also found time to donate a wing to the hospital, sew blankets for the orphanage and volunteer (again) for the church carnival. You can imagine husband’s surprise when I returned from Kenya last month with our newly adopted son. I just don’t know where I get my strength. Maybe it’s from those yellow pills in the bathroom. Oops, I guess the cat is out of the bag on that ditty.

How about husband you ask? Well, he’s been ok. The firm was doing so well that he started a second one. Husband outsourced some of the phone operators to Liechtenstein and with the money the firm saved, we built a library solely devoted to the works of Dr. Seuss and Jack Kerouac. He finally got the roof up on the ranch in Kauai and the cottage in Vale should be done next spring. I’m just glad he found the time to attend all the kids’ special events. I can’t believe he had to build our 15th bookshelf for all the awards they keep winning!

Well, enough about us. As you can tell, it’s been another hectic but quiet year. I keep hoping we’ll have exciting news to share one of these years, but I guess for now we should call ourselves the Ho-Hums. We’re just so relieved that Lucy’s surgery went well and now we can all celebrate the holidays together at the castle in Scotland. We want to wish you a wonderful holiday season and we’ll try to think about calling all of you upon our return, in February!

P.S. the dog had puppies again. I guess we really should put her in at night. Oh, I know I’m being just awful.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Get Ready; Don’t Bother To Aim, And Fire!

I was really worried that I would not have something to write about today and would miss my self-imposed rule of posting daily. Fortunately, people in Texas like to hunt, a lot. I found this courtesy of Reuters and it’s so fascinating that it almost doesn’t need commentary. A Texas State Representative has proposed a bill that would allow blind hunters (that sounds like a really good name for a novel, by the way) in his state to shoot any animal that hunters who can see are allowed to shoot. I can hear it now: ‘you’ll shoot someone else’s eye out, kid!’

If the bill passes, the rifles of blind hunters would use sighting scopes on the side of the gun instead of the top. This would enable whoever is assisting the blind hunter (it also sounds like a great rock band name, too) to sight the gun while standing next to the hunter and let the blind person actually pull the trigger. Now I don’t know about you, but if someone else did the aiming, it would make my bagging the critter feel a little hollow. After all, it would mean I didn’t do all of the work. I imagine that it would kind of be like an adult using the bumper lanes down at the bowling alley or Barry Bonds using a batting tee to hit home runs. If someone ran 9.99 miles of a 10-mile marathon for me and I stepped in for the last few feet to cross the finish line, I would feel just the same as if someone sighted my gun and told me when to shoot. It would just take some of the challenge, fun and sense of accomplishment out of it. Don’t get me wrong; I am all for equal hunting opportunities but pulling the trigger is the easy part.

Boy things could get really hairy out there in the wild during hunting season. Anyone who routinely spends time outside in Texas had better hope that flying animals are not included in this new law. Even though someone else is sighting the gun, it would be very difficult to track the fowl, tell the hunter to pull the trigger and still have the bird targeted by the time the shot is actually fired. What you would end up with would be similar to South Central Los Angeles at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

“Boy honey, it’s really raining out.”

“No sweetie, those are just bullets. The dang geese are migrating again.”

It sounds like this is the last hurdle to be cleared before sight challenged drivers can take to the road. The seeing-eye driver could sit in the driver’s seat and have control of the mirrors, brake and gas pedals while the blind driver could sit in the passenger’s seat and lean over to hold the steering wheel while the person with sight tells them where to turn. It’s nothing new because we’ve all had someone steer for us before from the passenger seat while we changed the CD, picked up something that dropped or finished the last few bites of that Big Mac. I should add that I think it’s only fair that the blind driver has control of the radio too. If blind driving proves successful then there’s no reason why blind pilots can’t be allowed in the skies.

All of this may really be the safer way to go when you stop to think about it. Most drivers are preoccupied by cell phones, the stereo, the newspaper they are trying to read or they are curling their eye lashes (which I actually saw this morning) and it is their driving and our well being that suffers. It they had someone with them who was tasked with helping them drive safely and not focused on anything else, the roads would be much safer.

I think that anyone who is blind should get to enjoy, as much as possible, all the things that people with sight enjoy and perhaps even take for granted. Hunting is very popular in Texas and there is no reason that anyone who is blind but still owns a gun (which makes you wonder who sold it to them) should have to feel excluded. They should be able to lift their guns, pull the trigger and fire a few rounds off into the mysterious distance. Now if only Dick Cheney had been fortunate enough to have this excuse…

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Well, I Thought They Sounded Good (And More Tales Of Holiday Music)

Among friends and family, my appreciation of Christmas music is very well known. So much so in fact that I make a homemade ‘family’ Christmas CD every year choc full of Christmas tunes that we give to our friends, family, and coworkers to listen to during the holiday season. By ‘family,’ I of course mean that I take total freakish control of the project and don’t let my wife participate. Until this year, which people have told me is the best one yet. Go figure.

In a small way, I kind of have an unspoken rivalry each year with my best friend who does a Christmas CD also. The only difference is that his usually turns out better than mine does. He devoted this year’s CD to the real reason for the season: songs about Christ’s birth. I have to say that I felt more than inadequate as I gave him my copy while saying, ‘well, my theme this year is Santa Claus.’ Somehow, it just didn’t seem to match up. Maybe next year…

I bring all of this up because I am in the process of passing out this year’s CD to our friends, family and co-workers. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at work this morning to a coworker’s copy of his annual Christmas CD on my desk. I like working with this coworker very much and was eagerly anticipating listening to his collection of holiday merriment, especially when he told me that it was made up of the most grating, annoying and awful Christmas tunes ever made. Woo Hoo I thought. Listening to this would be a lot of fun. Then I put it in my office computer to give it a listen. (Insert the sound of a needle scratching across a record here). SCREEEEEEEEEETCH!!!!

Now imagine how I felt as I toe tapped to 17 out of the 21 tracks as they are some of my favorite Christmas tunes, not some of my most hated. This CD will quickly become a holiday listening requirement for me. Then it got even worse. As I kept listening, I realized there were about 4 tracks on his CD that I had actually put on my CD or that were from the same artist and CD I chose to highlight. How can he and I get along so well when what annoys him pleases me? I guess one man’s treasure really is another man’s junk. Seriously, the last nine consecutive songs are from Christmas albums that I cherish and make sure to play every holiday season. Since sound travels so well in our little cubicle world, I guess I had better turn down my computer’s volume when I play my Christmas music for the rest of the season out of respect for my friend. Now I wonder if he was trying to tell me something with his Christmas collection.

Don’t get me wrong, Clay Aiken, Celine Dion and Neal Diamond singing Christmas tunes grate
my nerves as much as anyone, but Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Nat King Cole (even if he’s singing in German) and Elvis are holiday necessities for me. After we laughed about how his Christmas ridicule and my serious attempt at Christmas music were virtually identical, I felt it necessary to offer to take my CD back from my male coworker since it is filled with songs he will obviously view with contempt. He politely declined and I politely turned my volume down. Now if he’d included Robert Goulet on his collection, we might have had some middle ground. Ok, I’m lying, I have Robert Goulet’s Christmas album and enjoy it very much. Sorry male coworker, but thanks for a great Christmas album that will make you suicidal every time I play it…

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Greatest Game You’ve Never Played

Karaoke might just be the grown up’s equivalent of the bounce house. Actually I’m convinced of it. It’s the perfect party time killer and attraction. It’s this generation’s fondue party or our version of every couple putting their car keys in a bowl. Oh, that’s what ‘swinger’ means? Ewwwww. Well anyway, I think Karaoke as a must-have party item is here to stay and I was recently introduced to a slight twist on the amateur singing way of life.

The female coworker of mine (who has often been my muse) was telling me about a game that she and her family often play. It’s a karaoke game for the Play Station 2. Apparently it is a lot of fun and keeps score, so you get to sing and compete. The game is sophisticated enough to alert you when you need to raise or lower your pitch as well as play sound effects of a crowd cheering you on or booing you off stage, whichever is most appropriate. Perhaps it’s not a good idea for the little ones to participate though. Especially since getting booed by a fake computer generated audience while singing is exactly the type of negative reinforcement a child doesn’t need. Can you imagine having to go to a psychiatrist when you are older only to be told that your horribly low self-esteem is due to the Play Station’s logarithms determining that you weren’t a good singer at ten years of age? Hey, you might actually have a valid reason to seek punitive damages in court. You just didn’t hear it from me.

At any rate, the Play Station’s Karaoke game sounds like a lot of fun and would surely beat Monopoly or Pictionary at your next game night. Of course not everyone can draw well, but it’s a lot funnier when someone doesn’t sing well. I should know because I’ve dipped my feet into the deep, cold dark waters that is karaoke a few times. I don’t know that the phrase golden throat would apply to me, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

I hit the karaoke circuit a few times back in college. Fortunately since I will probably never meet my blog friends, I can share the details of my karaoke past with you. I will begin by admitting that a good friend and I often performed Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ and yes, we actually had choreography, especially for the climatic ‘who shot who’ verse. Sadly, the audience wasn’t entertained by our telling of Rico and Lola’s passionate disco romance, or something like that. The only award I ever won for performing was thanks to a karaoke rendition of Alan Jackson’s ‘Chattahoochee.’ Of course when I tell you that I won, I should also tell you that it was only a free pizza and half of our performing ‘group’ were of Asian descent. Yes, I do think our victory was certainly helped by the curiosity factor of performers and choice of country song, but I can also tell you that on that particular night, free pizza never tasted so sweet.

I almost had the Clay Aiken beat out of me one night (whatever the heck that means) for singing George Strait’s ‘All My Exes Live In Texas.’ Every Saturday night, the same cowboy would lumber up on stage and do that song. I wasn’t thinking one night and got up there before he did to sing the same song. About 3 words into the second verse was when I saw him and realized what I was doing. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very inspired performance and we got out of there pretty quickly. In a strange way, it was kind of like the Blue Brothers escaping from the honky tonk after singing ‘Rawhide.’ I’ve always felt that my best karaoke performance was with a friend on a duet of ‘To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before.’ That duet is not to be mistaken for the time rather recently when I was driving to visit a client with a work buddy of mine while listening to classic country on the radio. Let me assure you that it’s a very sobering moment when you realize that you and another man have been singing Barbara Mandrell’s ‘Sleeping Single In A Double Bed’ at the same time without either one of you being aware of it. Although I don’t think I have to tell you this, I will say that it was most definitely a very quiet several minutes before either one of us spoke again. We got to our client, went to lunch and forbade each other from ever bringing it up again. But please let me get back to the ‘To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before’ duet. I got to sing Julio’s part. Ahh the memories… A flock of dying geese never did sound so sweet.

Like a former high school athlete that whishes to lace ‘em up and get into a pickup game past his prime, this new Play Station 2 game has me intrigued and itching to belt one out for the crowd again. My vocal chords are a little out of shape, but maybe with a lot of practice I can karaoke in Play Station competition. The fire still burns inside but I hope the flesh is able. Yes, I think it’s time to grab that old Michael Jackson sequined glove, my copy of Frank Sinatra doing Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs. Robinson’ and my Wayne Newton mix tape. Danke Schoen baby, Danke Schoen!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Repost Sunday: Rabid Girl Scout Fears Mount

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy. This was originally posted August 7, 2006.

Approximately 1,000 Girl Scouts may have been infected with rabies after a visit to a recent camp. The fears began when girl scouts started telling their parents stories about bats living under the eaves of the camp shelter they were staying in. Many of the girls were not using the protective netting around their beds. They have been disciplined and promised not to be so reckless again.

Some of the bats that Virginia officials have captured tested negative for rabies, but the concern lingers. Rabies shots have been strongly recommended for the girls who stayed at Camp Potomac Woods. The camp now plans on adding screens to the doors, windows and sleeping quarters’ eaves to combat the problem. Why they were not added before it became a problem is still a mystery. “It seemed so odd that our windows did not have screens,” said girl scout Susie Q. “I figured it was just cheap air conditioning,” she added.

“At first the bats sleeping in our rooms scared the striped fudge cookies out of us, but then we grew to love them and kind of like adopted them as like our pets,” another Girl Scout said.

With approximately 6 months until the Girl Scout Cookie selling season begins, federal disease officials are concerned. There are growing fears at the Center For Disease Control that having up to 1,000 rabid Girl Scouts going door to door trying to sell cookies could lead to a national rabies outbreak that could not be easily contained.

“Most citizens would succumb to the threat of a rabid Girl Scout selling cookies and buy them but there could be those stubborn holdouts who refuse,” said an anonymous CDC official. “In a rabid state, these Girl Scouts could then become irritated and violent which would help the rabies spread very quickly. So for the love of God, please buy Girl Scout cookies whether you can afford to or not!”

Girl Scout leaders have rejected the violent cookie selling theory and say they are not worried about packs of rabid Girl Scouts roaming the streets. In fact they are cashing in on the public’s fear and are working feverishly to release new flavors for the upcoming selling season. They hope that Bat Bars and Rabid Rocky Road will be hot sellers.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Things I Learned This Week: 12/9/06

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and always pathetic. I hope that at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 12/3/06-12/9/06.

! I learned that just because another child sneezes while in the proximity of my child during a school Christmas recital that my child won’t become sick. I also learned that other parents don’t appreciate me pointing the sneezing child out to my wife while saying, “see, there’s another one, I told you Lucy and Ethel are gonna get sick!”

! I learned that my fellow coworkers don’t think I’m very smart just because I confused the measurements of feet and miles (momentarily, I might add) during a discussion about the altitude of our local mountains.

! I learned that just because my wife brings my daughters to work that it doesn’t give me the right to parade them into every office where I work to show them off…or the local restaurant I eat at for lunch every day.

! I learned that next time I volunteer to take 14 of my closest relatives to dinner that I need to choose someplace cheaper than an upscale Italian restaurant. The local burger dive would be just fine, and they probably have more seating and serve French fries!

! I learned that participating in all of the office Christmas parties and secret Santa gift exchanges might actually exceed what I make in any given pay period.

! I learned to never again buy a 32 ounce iced tea when I am conducting field visits for work and am 2 hours from home.

And lastly,

! I learned that the new wedding band my wife selected is 10 times more expensive than my new wedding band. I guess that’s what I get for buying new bands to celebrate our tenth anniversary…in May!

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Exploitation Of Rudolph, It’s Animagical!

It’s that time of year when those famous Rankin-Bass cartoons and stop-motion puppet (Animagic) specials like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty can be seen on TV as frequently as wreaths on long-haul truckers’ rigs. I think the only person that comes close to having produced more Christmas fare than Rankin-Bass was Johnny Mathis, who I’m pretty sure just released his 100th Christmas CD, or something close to it. The ABC Family Channel usually airs most of the Rankin-Bass productions all December long and my girls watched a few of them last night. Among them was ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year’ and ‘The Christmas without a Santa Claus.’ It got me thinking that at a certain point, the Animagic Christmas treatment may have been stretched a little too thin.

Obviously, ‘Rudolph’ is as much a part of the holidays as Bing Crosby and fish-stockinged leg lamps giving us the glow of illuminated electrix sex in our windows. It has to be good television for it to have been broadcast over network TV for the last 42 years. Although I seriously doubt that there has been an American child named Rudolph since the first airing of the special in 1964.  There probably has also not been a child named Adolf for even longer, but that has nothing to do with deer that have red light bulbs screwed into their noses.  It's just that the two names rhyme and my mind tends to wander when I write.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the TV classic. It’s the other Rudolph shows that prove maybe there can be too much of a good thing. Apparently, Rudolph has to find Baby New Year after he runs away in ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.’ It seems the little baby ran away because he was embarrassed by his big ears. Of course, Rudolph could sympathize (as could I, unfortunately) because he has that nose and all, but really, is that worth an hour children’s program?

Then there’s the very confusing ‘Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas in July,’ which just leaves me speechless. I’m still not sure what it was about but it featured Frosty for the first time as a stop-motion puppet. Should this be aired in the summer or in December? Combining the two seems to make as much sense as having Hank Williams, Jr. do a slow and reverent version of ‘Away in a Manger.’ Although if Hank did cover a version of it, please let me know so I can add it to my collection. At least Rudy was left alone for a while until ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys’ came along. That was done digitally though so I won’t consider it for the sake of this post.  Also, it was really bad and very annoying and Lucy and Ethel insist on watching it far too often.  The phrase "gratuitously often" comes to mind.

There were however, several holidays that Rankin-Bass apparently chose to have Rudolph not celebrate. Maybe they figured having a reindeer and snowman enjoy the 4th of July together was the bottom of the barrel. Think of all we missed if they had decided to continue milking Rudolph. (I'm sure there is something extremely inappropriate I could say after just using the phrase 'milking Rudolph," but I am going to resist the temptation.  That would be udderly disgusting.  Dangit!  I couldn't resist.)  There could have been ‘Rudolph’s Thanksgiving’ where he has to coax Tom the Turkey back to the turkey farm so he can be euthanized and ‘processed’ for Thanksgiving dinner. What about ‘Rudolph’s Haunted Halloween’ where he befriends a ghost who is afraid of dark haunted houses but has to haunt someone before he gets his official ghost status? Yep, they cook up a scheme with Yukon Cornelius to pretend to be scared by the timid ghost. It sounds a lot like Casper, but Casper is friendly and this ghost is timid. Trust me, if just for litigation purposes only, there is a difference in the two.

Rudolph would shine (if you’ll pardon the phrasing) in ‘Rudolph and the Leprechaun.’ In that one Rudolph searches for the pot of gold that Louis the Leprechaun lost in a cock-fighting bet. ‘Rudolph’s Meaty Memorial Day’ would follow the reindeer as he rounds up enough meat for Santa’s big ‘Start of Summer BBQ.’ Unfortunately, Santa feels like grilling venison this year. The hour long finale to the Rudolph dynasty would be ‘Rudolph’s Long Lazy Labor Day,’ where he sleeps all weekend before escorting the kiddy elves to their first day of school, but slips on a skateboard while on the way and breaks his leg, resulting in the need to put him out of his misery. Oh the mayhem that could ensue in that one. Wow!

As you can see, while he may have been exploited after the success of his original holiday special, it could have continued and been much worse. The lackluster Rudolph sequels seem to have done little to tarnish the little misfit’s street cred though (you know, that's the first time I've ever used that phrase.  I feel empowered by it.  Maybe using it just helped my street cred.  Ohhh, I'm liking this...) . They are making Rudolph themed everything these days. I actually saw a Rudolph version of Monopoly the other day. As Burl Ives would say, it seems that Rudolph is worth a whole lot of ‘silver and gold,’ no matter what he’s asked to do. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go open another roll of Rudolph toilet paper for the twins.

**The Wonderful World of Nothing Worthwhile’s useless observation for the day: Have you noticed in the original ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ that all of the hands on the puppets are dirty? Especially Santa’s. I don’t know why this is, but you can only watch something so many times until you start looking at things other than the plot…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I Found A Cheap Flight, And I Mean Really Cheap

The China Southern airline has come up with some pretty clever ways of reducing their operating costs, according to Reuters. The airline has determined that every flush of its planes’ toilets could save enough fuel to allow a car to drive ten kilometers. I wish I knew how far that was since I only know distance in terms of miles, but China Southern obviously thinks it’s significant enough to ask its passengers to use the bathrooms at the airport instead of in flight. The company has also discovered that blankets and pillows on every flight uses 60 tons of fuel each day and if that’s not enough, they are now flying with their water tanks just over half full. I’m certainly interested in seeing the fiscal fruits that these frugal flights will foster. Sorry, the letter of the day was ‘F’ on Sesame Street.

You really have to commend China Southern for coming up with such innovative ways of cutting costs. They could have gone with the traditional ways like raising ticket prices, layoffs, stopping certain flights or cutting their flight attendants pay and asking them to dumpster dive. You know, the normal methods of saving money. Oh yeah, I forgot to list bankruptcy. After all, you aren’t a real or legitimate airline until you file for Chapter 11.

There are some additional budget boosters that I think China Southern may have overlooked. They could cut down on in flight meal costs by serving only Jell-O and tofu, possibly two of the lightest foods in the world. That would certainly reduce flying weight and therefore help save fuel. The cheesy in-flight magazines could be scrapped since no one reads them and they cost too much to produce. Headphones could be eliminated and in-flight drinks could be stopped. What better way to get passengers from needing to use the bathroom than taking away the one thing that ensures that sooner or later they will need to use it. It would also negate the need for the heavy beverage cart, which must use a whole chunk of fuel.

Come to think of it, just remove the seats altogether and let everyone sit in a circle on the floor like those old-fashioned sit-ins and demonstrations from the 1960s. It would remove all that bulky cloth and upholstery filling, not to mention those heavy seat belt buckles. It would also allow everyone to get along and let them play fun games to pass the time like 'duck, duck, goose.' Yeah the aisle and window seats would be gone, but think about how much more room there would be. To compliment the novel idea of not filling the aircraft’s water reservoir all the way, why not only inflate the plane’s tires half way and hope you never have to make an unplanned landing on a poorly maintained and bumpy runway. Surely there’s a lighter material to construct the plane out of too. Spruce seemed to work pretty well on Howard Hughes’ monstrous airplane prototype.

It seems that the current financial model on which the entire airline industry is based doesn’t work too well anymore in today’s fiscal climate. You have to wonder if it’s time to find a cheaper way to fly altogether. Obviously the Star Trek transporter hasn’t been invented yet, rail traveling isn’t very popular, buses aren’t too dependable (at least the ones going to Vegas because I see more of them on the side of the road than I do on the road) and cars take too long and don’t come with pretty attendants to serve you food and beverages or bring you blankets and pillows.

With today’s advancements in materials and alternative fuels, maybe it’s time to bring back the blimp. They’re big, they fly, you can post billboards on them and charge advertising space to offset costs, they don’t require long runways or expensive fuel and ‘blimp’ is a lot more fun to say than ‘airplane’ is. Go ahead and try it, but make sure when you say ‘blimp’ that you put the emphasis on the ‘p.’ See? Whoever thought air travel would come to this? Oh the humanity…

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

There’s Just Something About The Air Up There

I really would have expected to find this AP story under the weird news instead of’s front page. I guess that means it’s really important news, huh? An American Airlines flight had to make an unexpected diversion and landing the other day after passengers reported smelling a burning scent. It turns out the scent was from recently lit matches (yes, lit matches on a plane). The offending female passenger on the flight had lit matches, but it was not for fun or as a prank. Sadly, (in a way) she felt she had to light them in order to cover up her passing of well, you guessed it, gas. In a story ‘ripped’ from the headlines, the Associated Press said the woman had an ‘unspecified medical condition,’ but did not say what she had eaten prior to boarding the flight. Although one can imagine a few of the items she may have eaten to cause this problem.

Man, that has to be embarrassing when your ‘scent’ is so overpowering that you need to risk the wrath of an air marshal by lighting matches to hide it. I bet next time she travels by air, when and if they let her, she includes a bag of potpourri in addition to the matches. Not knowing who this woman was, you can just imagine the few moments of sheer terror she felt when she realized that her ‘release’ of built up ‘pressure’ (I’m trying to use politically correct terms here) was ‘detectable.’ Ok, I guess I didn’t need to put quotes around detectable, but it seemed ‘appropriate,’ ‘sorry.’

It really surprises me that there is not some type of gas or bodily odor masking device already installed on commercial airliners. These pressured bullets with wings fly around at 40,000 feet so it’s not like you can open a window to allow the offending odor out. It’s also not a real good idea to spray Lysol or some other deodorizer, as its scent will linger too. If I was smarter and had the ability to hammer something together without the perquisite 3 emergency room trips per nail, I would invent and pattern an airline odor-fighting device. I would call it the F.L.I.G.H.T. (for lingering internal gas hovering temporarily) Fighter. The F.L.I.G.H.T. Fighter would be installed, at a nominal charge of course, aboard every airline willing to purchase one and it would be able to filter only air that had been contaminated by human gas. I have no idea how this could be achieved from a scientific point of view, but as a person who is most definitely not a scientist, I’m not worried about that. I can also see sales potential for the F.L.I.G.H.T. Fighter in the elevator, public transit and office cubicle industries. Oh yeah, portable toilet manufacturers might find it to be an attractive addition to their products too. Seriously, the world could definitely use odor free porta-potties. Maybe these devices could be reconfigured to fight tobacco smell and the smell of old age so that all the world would be either non-scented or pleasant food-scented. Maybe then, we’d all get along.

No one should have to feel remorse or embarrassment about having normal bodily ‘escapeage.’ Although in reality, I haven’t met a man yet who actually does feel remorse about it but that’s not my point. Unfortunately, it’s a natural process that smells really, really bad. If we can find a way to eliminate the body’s negative after affects, there would be no more awkward moments, snickering or finger pointing about ‘who dealt it.’ I was tempted to criticize American Airlines or whoever made what happened on the flight public (after I made fun of it of course), but maybe what they really did was bring to the forefront America’s misunderstood problem of bodily gas. We now live in a time when we have the technology to clone living things, use GPS to find out where we are at any spot on Earth and make an American Idol microphone that allows you to sing along to any song on the radio (according to the ad I saw). Don’t you think it’s about time we are able to make in-flight or personal handheld gas-hiding devices? After all, as we learned yesterday, when you’ve got enough gas to get to Pittsburgh (to quote Dean Martin), matches aren’t the answer.