Wednesday, January 31, 2007

We May Have Our Differences, But Once A Year We All Flush As One

I think I have heard about this before and I am sure residents of Miami are getting sick of hearing about it, but I read an AFP story this morning that just reinforces how pervasive that little football game they are scheduled to play Sunday really is. The city of Miami is asking that their residents try to avoid using their toilets during halftime to avoid overworking the city’s sewage system. They figure that the majority of attendees at the game and residents throughout the city will all be flushing during the same period. What’s more amazing is that an estimated 90 million people across this country will be flushing at basically the same time.

It begs the question of why this event is not tied into a charity. It is quite rare in this country that 90 million people (let alone just 90) do anything together. Of course I haven’t taken the time to research this, but I imagine that there weren’t half that many participants in Hands Across America, and that got it’s own song, didn’t it? Again, I have to ask you the reader because I didn’t research it. Let’s turn the big halftime flush into a charity pledge. We should get large corporations to donate 50 cents to a dollar for every flush. It could be called Flush for Freedom, Flush for Food, The Flush Fund, Flushing for Dollars or Flush Rush ’07. If successful, that would be almost 90 million dollars going to whatever charity that’s decided on, if not several charities. I’m sure musicians well past their glory days would volunteer to do PSAs or collaborate on a charity song commemorating and promoting the event. Heck, that will just generate more for the charity.

Flush for freedom, flush for the poor, flush for all the things we feel bad for
If you gotta go, people should know that we care about their pains and woe
Get off the couch, don’t be a slouch, after eating and drinking all day it’s finally halftime when you can flush it away
It’s time to flush, flush. Down it goes…all this country’s sorrow and woes
Drink that extra beer; let’s make a real change this year.
Help people improve their lives. Husbands, children and wives
When you flush, it’s such a rush sending heartache and pain right down the drain
It don’t matter if it’s numbers one or two, flushing to help is the least we can do
Flush for freedom, flush for the poor, flush for all the things we feel bad for

Now back to the logistics of the halftime flush. Miami says that it has the capacity and ability to facilitate the expected surge in restroom usage. It’s a good thing too because you can just imagine the problems that could arise if all of the flushing and water usage put a strain on the city’s equipment. How embarrassing it would be if the National Guard had to be sent in to assist with clean up of Miami’s sewage spill. Would any Mayor really want to request disaster relief and assistance for a massive sewage accident that stems from a sporting event? I imagine a problem like that would really put a damper on the Super Bowl’s second half.

Don’t worry, as a concerned American, I’ll be doing my part. I plan on not consuming any food or liquid until midway through the 3rd quarter on Sunday, thus needing to use my facilities later than everyone else does. I figure it will offset my traditional Super Bowl halftime shower, car cleaning, lawn watering, dishwashing, fish tank water switch out, ice cube tray filling and annual Super Bowl front yard dancing water spectacular, which the neighbors have really come to love. Obviously, as a patriotic, civic-minded person, not flushing the toilet during halftime is the absolute least I can do. Join me in waiting a little while longer to flush on Sunday, won’t you?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oh, What A Sight...The Eagle Has Indeed Landed

There are certain things that you never, ever forget seeing. These things include the birth of your children, the first crotch hit you witnessed on America’s Funniest Home Videos and the sight of a nurse accidentally shaving part of your nipple off before a medical procedure. I can now add the following Associated Press headline to my list of unforgettable sights. It read simply, eagle lugging a deer head causes outage. Maybe that’s just what I get for cruising odd news stories in the hope of picking up a cheap story idea.

If you have the least bit of a good visual imagination, this seems like quite a sight. The story says that it is believed the eagle found the deer head in a landfill and tried to fly away with it. Now I have been fishing on the lake and have seen an eagle or other type of bird try to carry away a trout, but never a deer head. Oh yeah, how did a deer head end up in a landfill, even if this was in Alaska? Maybe it’s a common occurrence where you live, but here in the suburbs of Southern California (which have pretty much become metro areas), finding the heads of large animals in the local dump smacks of mob involvement. I suppose it could have been a mounted and stuffed dear head that some recently married ex-bachelor’s wife demanded he get rid of (or threw out while he wasn’t at home to stop her). If that’s the case, there is some guy decorating his garage or game room shaking his head in disappoint at the waste of this crucial piece of male room décor.

I have to mention that while thinking about all of this, I just can't stop singing. I’m gonna fly like an eagle, let his talons carry me, I’m gonna fly like an eagle and stop electricity…

It seems the eagle bit off more than he could chew and couldn’t get himself high enough to clear the power lines. Yes, I’m assuming this bird was a male because I just know that female eagles would be too smart to try this. In fact, I bet that while all the male eagles were rooting their fellow eagle on, all the female eagles were shaking their heads at the bird’s stupidity. It must’ve looked like a Boeing 747 trying to take off. You just never think it’s going to get up enough speed or altitude to clear the runway. Unfortunately, the eagle didn’t survive the collision. It’s probably a safe bet to assume that the deer head wasn’t found in a mountable condition either.

As hard as I try to deny the thought, I can’t help but think that there is a children’s parable somewhere in this story. It involves the greedy bird that is so confident in his strength that he ignores those around him and thinks he can fly the deer head to his nest to enjoy it all by himself without sharing. Had he listened to the other eagles that tried to talk sense into him, he wouldn’t have struck the power lines, which of course metaphorically represents his own ego. See, he was struck down by his own ego. ‘Shocking,’ isn’t it? Now, how to handle the illustrations for this soon to be children’s classic?

In the end, it looks like birds on a wire tend to catch fire…

Monday, January 29, 2007

Whoa, That Was My Nipple!

Don’t let the title fool you, this post is pretty clean, unless of course you are squeamish at the sight of blood. Our story begins on a December night two years ago. I was sitting in the ole recliner with Ethel on my lap watching ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ when my heart skipped a beat (well actually, several beats). When that happens, it’s time to head to the friendly local Emergency Room for a quick electrical shock to get the heart rhythm back to normal.

Knowing that time was of the essence, I showered, called in to leave a voicemail for my boss that I’d be out the next day and ate a quick meal consisting of steak, salad and pie so that we could head off to the ER. The ER staff greeted me, told me how they vaguely remembered me from my last four visits that year and proceeded to start my IVs containing medication that hasn’t worked yet to correct my irregular heartbeat. Along about the 4th hour of waiting for the meds to kick in (about 2AM), the doctors came in and said that it was time to be knocked out for a few minutes so that they could shock me back into rhythm. I told the doctor it was probably a good idea since I have horrible rhythm, two left feet and almost everyone I know denies my existence when I hit the dance floor. Perhaps this is because I learned to dance while making fun of the way other people danced. Oh yeah, that and a scene I mimic from the Beatles’ movie ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ where Ringo’s idea of dancing is to pretend he’s boxing. OK, I guess I strayed a little off course.

Prior to the anesthesiologist coming in to tell me that he’d be the one putting me to sleep (which I translate as presiding over my brush with the unknown), a nurse came in to shave me. I calmly explained that I had showered prior to coming in to visit her nice hospital and I didn’t see the relevance of a five o-clock shadow when correcting heart arrhythmia. As her English was a little hard to understand, I don’t think she appreciated my joke. She indicated that she needed to shave my chest. This puzzled me as it’s not like I’m Sean Connery or Austin Powers and the middle of my chest is already barren thanks to my first open heart scar. Again, my complaints and concerns went unnoticed.

The nurse took out her construction grade non-lubricated razor and started scraping (not shaving, mind you) away. What happened then was a blur of flesh and blood highlighted by intense, albeit brief pain. As I looked down at my left nipple, it was bleeding…and gone. It was as if I was lactating blood. I then looked to my wife and her jaw was dangling on the floor. As I began to ask the nurse for something to soak up the blood, she noticed my concerned and puzzled look, not to mention my squirming. She stopped me and said ‘oh, did I cut you?’ The only answer I could muster was a mumble accompanied by a grunt and a point of the finger in the direction of my bleeding nipple-stump. Realizing the sensitivity (or extreme sensitivity) of the moment, she attempted to alleviate my fears and concerns with a simple ‘oops’ and a sheepish grin. Sadly, it really didn’t help.

All of the doctors and nurses were now gathering which means sleepy time and shocky time are fast approaching. Feeling a little embarrassed at the proceedings so far, I asked for a blanket to place over my nipple-stump, as I sure as heck wasn’t going to place a band-aid or other sticky substance over it. Then they knocked me out and cranked me over like a dead battery. It’s funny because I always remember them using paddles on TV, but now they just use pads that are very, very sticky. Now I know how a fly stuck on flypaper feels. For the record, wheeling the crash cart into the room in case I try to pass over to the great beyond should really be done after I’m asleep. It doesn’t boost the confidence level seeing it before.

I then remember mumbling that I wasn’t asleep and I didn’t want to be shocked while still awake. After several minutes of this, the doctor became annoyed enough with hearing it to the point that he finally said ‘uh, we shocked you about eight minutes ago.’ I felt a little stupid but then began to think if I was so out of it then maybe my nipple cutting was an anesthesia-induced dream. I confidently looked down at my left nipple only to discover it had bled through my blanket. My wife was still laughing at the situation and the guilty nurse was peeking into the room. Finally, we were discharged from the ER without my nipple, dignity and an apology from the nurse.

What made me remember this tale? Well, it’s very cold today and those are the times that I notice my ‘loss’ the most…

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Repost Sunday: Do My Eyes Look Like Marbles? The Continuing Adventures Of Binoculo.

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 September 20, 2006.

What follows is not for the weak stomached or faint of heart. According to the AP, Claudio Paulo Pinto of Brazil has his eye on a world record. You’re asking what the big deal about that is, well I’ll tell you. He can pop his eyes out of their sockets .3 inches and is working on breaking the current record of .43 inches currently held by a woman right here in the United States (with all respect to Lee Greenwood, it’s another reason I’m proud to be an American). That’s popping them out far enough to make the eyes of Sesame Street characters like Elmo, Cookie Monster and Kermit look like mere goose bumps!

The AP says that this world record hopeful was recently laid off from his job working in a haunted house (there’s a shocking surprise). I can’t imagine how one goes about popping the eyes out of their sockets. I know it happens frequently to animated characters, but it’s news to me that real flesh and blood people can do it. Apparently, it’s called “globe luxation,” although that sounds to me like something more relaxing than a violent ocular protrusion (for lack of a better definition).

My mind boggles at how Mr. Pinto discovered he had this “gift.” Was he blowing his nose? Did he get hit in the back of the head and then his optical orbs popped out? During a dream, did a voice come to him telling him to try to pop his eyes out? Was it a dare? My guess is that someone said something that really, really surprised him and his body’s natural reaction to it was his eyes protruding out of their sockets.

I’ll admit that as I’m writing this I’m trying to bear down as hard as I can to get them to pop out, but no dice. I guess having that special ability makes Mr. Pinto almost superhuman. He actually has a super power. He can zoom in on an object the way a digital camera’s lens can extend to zoom in on something. But what would be an appropriate name for a man with such powers? I’ve got it, Binoculo, the human pair of binoculars.

Binoculo roams high rises at night zooming in on darkened alleyways looking for the city’s evil doers in his never-ending attempt to prevent crime. When the city is in distress Binoculo looks towards the skies and sees a spotlight beckoning him to come to the rescue. Of course all Binoculo can do is see at longer distances, so he still has to call the police and by the time he calls them, reports the crime and the officers show up, the perpetrator has gotten away. Without Binoculo though, no one would know what the suspect looks like. What an asset Binoculo is.

Who would have thought that such a seemingly disgusting bodily action could be so positive? Although if he’s successful at setting the world record, won’t it ruin Binoculo’s secret identity? Something tells me it’ll be pretty easy to spot a guy who can pop his eyes out on command

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 1/27/07

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 1/21/07-1/27/07.

! I learned when I met with Lucy and Ethel’s preschool teachers that at 4 years old, they are already smarter than me. But they can’t work the TV’s remote yet, so there!!

! I learned that the minute I say how quiet it is at work, that every phone line will begin ringing, especially when I’m the only person in the office.

! I learned that I have 20 online courses to take within the next week to be eligible for my bonus at work. I then learned that I could just take the test and after enough attempts, I would pass. After that, I learned not to brag about my ingenious plan to others when they tell me how long the courses take.

! I learned that my new wireless BBQ thermometer is accurate after all and alerts you for a reason when your meat has reached its desired temperature.

! I learned to stop just agreeing with everything Lucy and Ethel say when I’m trying to watch TV after I apparently gave them approval to go bake cookies in the kitchen. The phrase ‘well Daddy told us we could,’ never, ever ends well.

! I learned that when my female coworker is giving me intimate details of her life that telling her how nice her hair looks usually distracts her enough to change the topic.

And lastly,

! I learned that when in a job interview and I’m asked if I write, answering with ‘yeah, I have a blog’ is not the best answer.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Now The News Can Be Entertainment, In Four Part Harmonies

I just finished reading a semi-memoir of Monty Python Eric Idle. In it he talks about his musical
‘Spamalot.’ Now tonight, I read an AP story about how the bride who ran away before her wedding back in 2005 saying that she was abducted is being turned into a rock opera. I’m not big on musicals, but all of this talk has me thinking how easy it would be to turn current events into a musical.

Since I already tried to boldly predict that there would be an Elvis version of Cirque du Soleil called ‘Elvis: How To Waste The Prime Of Your Career Du Soleil,’ I guess the only thing left is to rip ideas for musicals straight from the headlines. Heck, the seventeen Law and Orders do it every night (seemingly on every channel and at every hour). The only question is whether we focus on the serious news or the lighter moments.

After watching the State of the Union address the other night and all of the politicians bobbing up and down, I think a great dancing musical could be done. ‘Songs of The Union’ could be a huge hit. It will feature songs like ‘The Ballad of the Balanced Budget,’ ‘Let’s Ignore the Serious Stuff and Focus on a New Domestic Agenda’ and the torch song classic ‘Shhh Baby, No New Taxes.’

Yes, other countries’ pursuit of nuclear weapons is worrisome, but only if we don’t treat it with song. That’s the premise behind ‘It’s a Blast.’ Imagine twenty singers and hoofers dressed like Kim Jong-Il dancing to the up-tempo number ‘My Finger’s on the Button.’ Global warming is no light issue, unless it’s being told on Broadway and titled ‘Melt.’ Early speculation is that the show’s biggest song; ‘Honey, There’s an Iceberg on the Front Lawn’ could win several Tony Awards. Unfortunately, the big e-coli musical ‘Bacterialistic’ had to be shelved after several of the producers became very ill. The fact that it was going to be a dinner theater production probably didn’t help either.

Granted, it’s still pretty early in 2007, so the inspiration for the next great musical may not have even happened yet. However, I’m putting my money on the musical version of ‘The Apprentice.’ Just tell me you can resist wanting to hear its theme song, ‘You’re Fired!’

You’re fired, you’re fired, just pick up your stuff, you’re fired
Grab a taxi, get on home, blame the others, you’re all alone,
You’re fired, you’re fired…
The Boardroom was a pain, now it’s just your teammate’s gain
You’re fired, you’re fired
It was such a simple task, too bad the other team kicked your
Fired, you’re fired…

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Who You Gonna Conference Call? Don’t Conference Call Us, We’ll Call You…

After posting helpful suggestions for surviving the dreaded staff meeting, I figured I’d follow up on my ‘how not to succeed in business’ seminars with the obvious companion piece: how to make the teleconference more fun. It was inspired by me getting a last minute email today about a department wide conference call tomorrow. Oh great, a conference call with the department big wigs on a Friday. At least that’s what I was thinking until I recalled a few ways to make that boring old conference call a lot more fun.

Any conference call I have ever attended begins with several minutes of beeps, tones and ‘ahems’ or people clearing their throats and announcing they have joined the call. That is followed by acknowledgement of whoever has just introduced themselves and sometimes even little mini conversations between attendees that no one else wants to hear. This is usually a good time to speak up and let a little fake gossip slip from your lips. After that, what more fun could you have than saying you are someone you are obviously not? As many upper managers barely know who works under them, your voice will not be recognized. This is the perfect cover for you. Introduce yourself with a name you made up, a colleague who may be out sick or on vacation, or better yet, your sworn office enemy. I’m sure no one will notice that the same name was called twice. For a really fun reaction (and a test to see if anyone is paying attention), say you are a recently retired employee or an employee who has left the company for another job.

My most fun thing to do at the beginning of a conference call is to get on the line with a made up name and announce that I think I’ve joined the wrong call. This will surely get noticed, especially when you ask if anyone knows the call-in number for the conference call about the downsizing of the department you and all your fellow departmental colleagues work in. As you disconnect, make sure to press every button imaginable to make your exit as raucous and clumsy as possible and then mumble something about how you never understood management budgeting for that department to begin with.

Once the call is in progress, there are still a lot of great ways to keep entertained. For all of these, I strongly suggest being able to make eye contact with the employees in your office. It turns the game into a competition and you might be surprised what your friend in the cubicle across from you will try to do when egged on. A good thing to start with is taking your phone off mute and calmly asking if anyone else hears that high-pitched beep. Make sure your fellow office workers also say they hear it and then wait for all of the conference callers to chime in about whether they hear it or not. If you’re lucky, someone will say they do, providing you with a great workplace story to tell for many years to come. All of this is sure to eat up valuable conference call time.

Next, you can crumple up paper beside your phone’s earpiece and when management asks where the noise and static are coming from, you can tell them you are calling in from a cell phone while in the field. If you can make it obnoxious enough, you just might be excused from the rest of the call. You can get on the line, excuse yourself for interrupting and then identify yourself as your office mate and ask if you can go to the restroom. The downside of this is that you’re boss will probably reprimand you for such behavior. Perhaps the simplest way to entertain yourself during the conference call is to repeat in question form the same exact point that the conference call’s facilitator just made. This will of course make you look like a dolt, but if you cared in the first place you wouldn’t be trying any of these.

What’s the worst thing you can do during a conference call you ask? Well, fortunately for you I have done just that thing and can share it with you. First, ensure that your speakerphone’s mute button is off and that you can be heard and then say something to the effect of ‘can you believe this guy’ under your breath. Hopefully no one will recognize your voice and if you were paying attention to my second paragraph, you won’t have to worry because you identified yourself as someone else. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my whoopee cushion and duck call before I leave for work tomorrow.

Of course, if this post is read by anyone I work for, I’ll then have to go looking for another job…Perhaps I should sign it as being written by someone else? After all, my annual employee review is coming up in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll be voted most like to succeed…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Get Up, No Sit Down, No Get Up…It’s The State Of The Union Address!

I have no doubt there are politicians and dignitaries all over Washington rubbing their aching lower backs today. After all, the State of the Union Address was given last night. If anyone has ever wondered where the inventor of ‘the wave’ got his idea, all they had to do was watch the address given by President Bush last night. It was like bobbing for votes.

Having to choose between American Idol and non-stop State of the Union coverage, I chose the Presidential address (ok, I TiVo’d American Idol, but that’s not really my point here). If election night is like a political pundit’s Oscars, then the State of the Union has to be the Golden Globes. Every network covered it and each network said basically the same thing with the exception of interchanging a few clichés here and there. Did you know that Bush’s 62 or so applause breaks fell short of his high mark of 70+ a few years back? I bet you didn’t realize that at approximately 39 minutes, his address was far shorter than the diatribe given by President Clinton in 2000. That one lasted one and a half hours!

Of course, we have entered a new era in politics and that was evidenced last night as President Bush addressed Madam Speaker Pelosi. With her now perched behind the President, our political pundits (and in fact all Americans) can discuss more than just politics. We can discuss her fashion! I can just see political correspondents yelling at Madam Speaker as she approaches the House Chambers. “What are you wearing? Is It Vera Wang or Donna Karan?” Ok, please don’t ask me how I knew that. To answer the question, it was a minty green dress. I have no idea of what color tie the President or Vice President had on though. Although I guess no one really cares. At least our Vice President was awake.

By far the most enjoyable moments of the speech were when Democrats and Republicans jostled for party attention by rising for standing ovations. When each party heard what they liked or supported, they would all stand up, practically on cue. There were times when Pelosi got up before Cheney and when Cheney rose but Pelosi wouldn’t. You just knew what Cheney was thinking as he stood clapping while Pelosi sat next to him. Then there were the times when one party didn’t stand up but realized that they should. When one party member would stand, they all would follow. From the vantage point of a television camera, it really was comical. Supporting the President is one thing, but did everyone in those chambers last night really think that their constituents noticed every time they stood to applaud? “Oh look honey, Senator Clambake is clapping about the President’s remarks on gum in public schools! I knew we were right to elect him to the Senate. What a great Patriot.” “Now look, he’s standing again. Oh wait, he just sat down.”

The last time I saw that much standing and sitting was in one of my childhood Catholic masses. Now that it’s all over, we as a nation and all of television land’s political followers can look forward to the election. Heck, half of the Democratic Party’s candidates were on TV after the speech last night anyway. For a minute, I got really concerned and double-checked with my wife to make sure that we were still in 2007 and not 2008. Just like Christmas, the Presidential election season starts earlier every year. This is just a guess here, but when the Chief Justice is swearing in our new President one year from now, half the people sitting behind them will be openly campaigning for 2012.

You know what? Watching everyone react to the State of the Union last night gave me a great idea. I think during my next staff meeting I’ll stand and loudly cheer every time I hear something I like. Heck, I might even try that at home. Ok, maybe not…

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I’ve Heard Of Cleansing The Soul, But This Is Ridiculous…

An 81-year old Austrian woman is really, really clean right now. According to the AP, she was stuck in her bathtub for four days after not being strong enough to get out after a bath. Hmmm, where to start? Cue up the lame punch lines…I promise the jokes will be ‘clean.’

I know that the elderly tend to get wrinkles, but can you imagine how prune-like this lady looked? She could have joined the California Raisins singing group as a soprano. Rub a dub dub, she’s stuck in the tub…Splish Splash, she can’t get out of the bath…Calgon took her away, it just forgot to bring her back. I bet her reputation is sinking fast. Four days in a bath will really wash that gray right out of her hair. When they said she lives in her tub, I just figured they meant she likes to take baths. Do you think she finally got hungry enough and ate the rubber ducky? Supposedly, they taste like chicken.

Seriously, I can’t imagine being in that predicament. I hope she went to the restroom prior to getting into the bathtub. I don’t even want to think about the harrowing decision that faced her if she needed to go. Potential tragedies like this should make those Life Alert people produce a waterproof version of their necklace. “Help, I’m bathing and I can’t get up!” We should probably have waterproof cordless phones too so that there can always be one next to the tub. “Hi Jimmy, this is Mom. Yeah, I can’t get out of the bathtub again. Yes, I promise I’ll cover myself with a towel when you get here. I don’t see why you are so embarrassed, that’s where you popped out from when I brought you into this world.”

I bet the nights got awfully cold as she lay in that water once the heat wore off. While it might not be on par with the Apollo 11 story, this is quite a tale of survival. To her credit, she never gave up and kept knocking on the wall until finally her neighbors heard her. Although in good condition when she was rescued, she had to be taken to the hospital so she could be treated for exposure. I just wonder if it was her exposure to water or that she was exposed? Call me insensitive here, but it’s the rescuers that should be treated for exposure after seeing a naked elderly woman who had been lying in water for four days…

Monday, January 22, 2007

Driving Efficiently, Not Smartly

I read an interesting Reuters story online this morning while driving into work. The story caught my attention since I just wrote about drivers who don’t pay attention to what their satellite navigation systems are telling them to do. This story says that a survey was recently released showing that 81 percent of our fellow Americans (but it’s certainly not any of us reading or writing this) perform other tasks while driving. While I tend to view it as driving efficiently, others view it as not exactly the safest of driving practices.

The study by Nationwide Mutual Insurance says that drivers eat, mess with their music, do makeup, shave, exchange seats with other passengers, watch movies and yes – nurse their children while driving. Although in the case of the baby nurser, I don’t know how much driving they’d actually be doing. That’s downright illegal, I think. If you are nursing a child while driving then you either have amazing bodily contortion, stretching ability (of which I do not wish to further discuss) or you’ve taken the child out of their car seat, and they are stretched across your lap in the front seat. If that mom (I don’t think I have to state why I know it’s a mom and not a dad for obvious reasons) has to slam on the brakes, that’ll sadly be her baby’s last supper. It’s ‘utterly’ wrong…sorry.

Doing the other stuff while driving is certainly not bright, but we all know it happens every day. Here in Southern California, I’m not sure that efficient driving (my term only) is that dangerous for the simple fact that most of us get onto our lovely congested highways and never get into third gear, provided we’re lucky enough to get into second. If you are a regular participant in the hell that is known as commuting (defined as driving two-hours one way over a distance that should only take 30 minutes), then you could easily set up and play an entire game of Monopoly with a commuter in the lane next to you or a fellow passenger without every endangering yourselves. OK, I’m exaggerating. The game wouldn’t be monopoly; it would be Pictionary.

I don’t feel that American drivers should be accused of watching movies while driving. What did everyone expect when they started installing DVD players into our cars and SUVs in the first place? They probably don’t think we’re using our cup holders, moon roofs or seat warmers, either. I’ve tried to shave with my electric razor once, but it wasn’t a very close shave, so I won’t bother trying that again. I see ladies applying mascara all the time while driving. Do you know how tempting it is to pull up along side of them and gesture that they missed a spot? My only concern is that their insurance might find me at fault when they slam into the back of a minivan because they aren’t paying attention.

When I was younger, I only changed seats with other passengers while stopped at a red light. I feel so stupid that it never occurred to me that we could engage in that game while moving. I’ll have to try it because it sounds like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it might take too long getting Lucy and Ethel out of their car seats to participate. Maybe I’ll grab the company’s carpool van for the day.

It appears that the things we’re most guilty of while driving would have to be eating or car stereo related. Why just last night coming home from dinner, I mastered the art of driving in the dark on the freeway in 50 mile per hour wind gusts while changing CDs on my stereo. I should also admit that I got extra style points since I had to bend down and pick up the six CDs I dropped while trying to do all of this. I’m proud to admit that I only swerved once and my tires only hit the lane’s reflector bumps; they never actually crossed into the other lane. Now try that at home.

Oops, green light. I gotta go…

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Repost Sunday: I Just Cut My Finger Off But The Bases Are Loaded…

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 October 13, 2006.

I’ll admit that sometimes I peruse many news sites’ “weird news” sections looking for a quickie laugh, or blog idea for that matter. I thought I hit pay dirt today until I gave what I read more thought. It was a news story courtesy of Reuters about a study done by an ER doctor in Maryland. The doctor was able to make the correlation between surges in male admissions to the ER with the ending of football, basketball and baseball games. He believes that many men are putting off needing to go to the emergency room until after the sporting activity they are watching is over. After reading it I only had one thing to say, which was, “and?”

I’m glad he was able to statistically prove what everyone probably already guessed: men don’t like going to the doctor, let alone the ER, and sports are really important to men. I don’t mind saying that in my life I have had to go to the emergency room many times to be treated for an irregular heart beat (and by treated I mean being shocked back into regular heart rhythm but as they say, that’s a blog for another day). I share that point with you only because I have statistically proven the Maryland doctor’s findings every time I have had to go to the ER. I may not wait until the game or race is completely over, but I definitely wait until the outcome of the sporting event in question appears to have been decided. Like most men, I figure that I have to be inconvenienced by spending time at the hospital for some unplanned reason and I might as well go in on my own terms, especially when my team is playing.

Now no one is admitting that this is a smart thing to do. Heck, when was the last time that men being smart and men’s devotion to sports were mentioned in the same sentence? Ok, I just did, but prior to that when was the last time that men being smart and men’s devotion to sports were mentioned in the same sentence? Shoot, I did it again, but before these two times, when was the last time…forget it, you get the point. The answer is probably never.

There is something about sports that calls to us. Maybe it’s the competition or maybe it’s the blondes used to promote beer sales during each commercial break. Ok, it’s probably both. I’m no “Women Are from Mars Men Are from Uranus” type author, but I assume that if the proverbial shoe (or high heel) were on the other foot, women would do the same thing. Or I could be wrong and unlike men, women realize the importance of immediately seeking physician assistance for chest pain or massive bleeding.

Since there is now empirical data showing that men would rather suffer or even put their lives in jeopardy to finish watching sports, will there be PSAs (which men will ignore by the way) to educate men to turn the game off and get to the hospital? I can just see it now:

“Hey guys, this is Mr. October Reggie Jackson with supermodel Heidi Klum here to ask if you just severed a finger. Are you doubled over in pain or experiencing horrible chest discomfort? If so, TURN THE GAME OFF IMMEDIATELY AND PROCEED TO THE CLOSEST HOSPITAL! You can watch the highlights on ESPN when you are all better, unless you don’t TURN THE GAME OFF IMMEDIATELY AND PROCEED TO THE CLOSEST HOSPITAL because this could be life threatening!

If PSAs are created, they should only be aired during sporting events and they’d probably better use the beer commercial blondes (no offense Reggie) to deliver the message. Now if you’ll excuse me, the game is almost over and I haven’t been able to feel my legs since the 2nd inning.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 1/20/07

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 1/14/07-1/20/07.

! I learned that I should never load up on bottled water and coffee before attending a three-hour staff meeting.

! I learned that they recently made a single turn lane at an intersection I use frequently into a double turn lane. Aren’t they supposed to warn you about that? I wasn’t even using my cell phone or satellite navigation system!

! I learned that I need to be a little more careful when I send out email to everyone in my office. This allows me to avoid accidentally sending it to my best friend as well.

! I learned that my anonymous male co-worker, with whom I share a cubicle wall, doesn’t quite appreciate my double disc collection of Louis Prima in the same way that I do.

! I learned that when Lucy and Ethel see my barbequing and say they want steak, they apparently only mean one little piece and not an entire rib eye.

! I learned that my life might not be as exciting as it used to be when I went to bed at 9:30 on a night when Lucy and Ethel were with their grandparents.

And lastly,

! I learned that I need to be more precise when I speak with coworkers. When a coworker asked the other day if anyone had any alcohol as a joke, my answer was that I recently found some soft drink I had forgotten about that fermented in my drawers. When she and several other people who heard me looked at me oddly, I realized I should have specified it had fermented in my OFFICE drawers.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Betrayed By My TIVO (also known as TIVO vs. TV Land)

Now when I purchased my TIVO unit two years ago, I hailed it (at least in our household) as revolutionizing the way we would watch TV. “Yeah, that’s the ticket.” With two little ones running around, we would no longer miss important moments in Lucy and Ethel’s lives because we didn’t want to miss the punch line in Laverne and Shirley’s. See, I thoroughly enjoy television and appreciate it as a true American art form and cultural component, especially classic TV.

Both of these things came together tonight. I was watching the last two installments of TV Land’s “100 Greatest Quotes and Catch Phrases” that I had TIVO’d a few weeks ago. My first thought was “Dyn-o-mite,” it’ll be so great to see how all of these sayings that permeate our culture came to be. “Would you believe” it was “marvelous,” simply marvelous to watch all of these classic television sayings? If you haven’t noticed, I love pop culture references, so watching the two one-hour shows received a big “two-thumbs up” from me.

Well, at least it did until the end of the first hour when I realized that the TIVO unit was running about six minutes behind and stopped at catch phrase #24 instead of #21 like it should have. “Bang, zoom, to the moon,” “what you talking about” TIVO? How could this be happening? We can go to “space, the final frontier” and put a man on the moon but can’t have our TIVOs synched correctly with TV Land to allow us to tape the whole 60 minutes of the same show? “Well isn’t that special?”

Actually, it isn’t. So, I began the second hour knowing that I would miss seeing what the number one catch phrase was. It’s a shame too, because it was such a ‘really big show.’ All was going ok until about phrase #11 (Fonzie’s “Aay,” if you are keeping score) when I clicked on the TIVO button to realize that I was already forty minutes into it. “Holy crap” Marie, I exclaimed, which made my wife really mad since her name isn’t Marie. “Good grief.” The show’s not even half way over and there’s only twenty minutes left! “Holy time bandits, Batman!” Now I’m getting agitated and keep clicking the TIVO button to reveal the precious minutes counting down. The show is going so well and all the guests commenting on each catch phrase are so spunky. “I hate spunk!”

Now the time is really going by. I mean it “kept going and going and going” and “yada, yada, yada,” the time runs out just after number four ("Baby, you're the greatest" from Ralph Kramden, if you’re playing at home). Great, the top three phrases aren’t recorded and now I’m left wondering, “where’s the beef?” As everyone knows, there’s only one thing you can say at a crushing time like this…"D’oh!"

As Mr. Cronkite himself would say, “that’s the way it is.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Staff Meeting – Tips For Survival and Success

Anyone in an office setting has had to endure a staff meeting, some weekly, some monthly or some quarterly. I recently sat in on a monthly one and thought it might be good to review ways to get out of a staff meeting with your dignity (not to mention employment) intact. Like all things in life, some parts of the meeting interested me and some did not. It’s not how we conduct ourselves in the meeting during the moments that interest us that make us good office folk; it’s what we do when bored out of our skulls that really showcase our character.

I’m sure everyone has doodled during a staff meeting. Heck, if Ronald Reagan could doodle while President, I’m sure it’s ok for the rest of us! If you are going to doodle, getting into the habit of nodding every 45 seconds or so helps you to be perceived as interested in what is happening. The same exercise can be used when daydreaming. No matter what is happening, when the rest of your colleagues laugh, do the same. Just make sure that you gauge the enthusiasm of everyone else’s laughter prior to committing to yours. Don’t respond to your colleagues’ chuckles with a hearty ho-ho. I did this once, it wasn’t Christmas and it was a dead giveaway that I was about thirteen miles from where everyone else was in the room.

You should always size up the physical aspects of the room you will be conferring in. Doing so allows you to avoid the one spot in every conference room where no one wants to sit - the chair directly facing the sun. When you aren’t totally paying attention, the worst thing to do is sit there squirming and constantly adjusting how you are sitting because all of the sun’s power is being concentrated directly and solely into your eyes. Speaking of eyes, I did learn one good technique to convey interest even though you have no idea what is going on. If you require glasses to see, simply take them off. Then when you look at whoever is conducting the meeting, you appear to be making direct eye contact with them even though you can barely distinguish their face from the wall clock behind them. I’ll give you credit though since they both have faces.

Some long meetings have beverages or snacks provided, but if the meeting is of a lesser duration, it can pose some challenges. Even when there are snacks, it can be awkward because you don’t want to appear to be a pig and reach across everyone several times to partake in the provided provisions. I have personally found that bringing a PEZ dispenser or tin of mints into the meeting serves many purposes. It lets people see that you are the kind and sharing type and it provides a tiny snack in its own container that can be passed around easily and cleanly rather than having everyone touch the food. A PEZ dispenser can hold 12 pieces of candy and most mint containers hold at least 25, so plan ahead based on the number of attendees that are expected in the meeting.

If you eat during the meeting, chances are you will drink during the meeting, if you haven’t already. Caffeine in the bladder is a ticking dirty bomb waiting to go off. If the necessity to lessen the amount of liquid waste in your system arises, go! Granted, I am not a doctor, but I have seen one on TV. I recommend strongly against holding it, as squirming is not an attractive quality. Just make sure that when you excuse yourself from the meeting you let someone know where you are going so no one mistakes your exit for you wanting to go check your voicemail or stocks and sports scores online. That all being said, there is one scenario where you should hold it at all costs. Now I am no career counselor, although I have seen one on TV, but if your boss is the one individual between you and the door, just stay put.

Also, be respectful of your superiors and colleagues and silence your cell phone. It can be hard to remember sometimes, but try to make it a habit of checking that your phone is on vibrate. You don’t want to turn it off though because then you’ll miss important text messages from friends. When you have annoying or revealing ring tones like ‘The James Bond Theme’ or Johnny Paycheck’s ‘Take This Job and Shove It’ (just to randomly snatch two out of thin air), you really want to make sure your phone is off. Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), no matter how tempting it may seem, don’t draft your next blog post under the guise of ‘taking meeting notes.’ That rule should be self-explanatory – you can’t fully focus on your blog post.

Well, there you have it - a few tips to help you get through your next staff meeting. In case my boss or anyone from work is reading, all of these scenarios and tips are fictional, completely fictional. While I’m sure they have happened to someone, they have not happened to me.

Now, back to work…diversification, uh-huh, uh-huh…market share, yep, I agree…2007 goals, uh-hmmmmm…

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Obligatory Idol Post

This being my first American Idol as a blog participant, I’m not sure of how many will post about American Idol, but figured I’d get mine out of the way. The thing that immediately struck me was how appropriate that ABC was running a special two-hour entertainment version of America’s Funniest Home Videos opposite Idol. Their cacophony of people falling off stage, running into one another and other performance themed accidents is to me what is really funny (how can anyone resist a crotch hit or baseball bat to the groin? Seriously, I see one and I’m incapacitated for 30 minutes giggling like a 12-year-old schoolgirl). At least all of those people intended to be laughed at when they submitted their tapes. Sadly and rather unbelievably, the same can’t be said for most Idol contestants. The worst part is that no matter how bad they are they can’t believe it and either can their love-blinded parents.

The Idol phenomenon is just plain scary. Of course you knew that the attractive and sassy Colombian girl would make it through to the next round, right? I was pretty confident of that the moment she walked through the door and the camera panned her up and down. Speaking of doors, do you think that they had one side of the double doors locked on purpose? After about the 10th person almost broke their wrist (and certainly their pride) trying to exit, perhaps they could have put a ‘use other door’ sign up. Oh well, at least we got to laugh at that too, right?

I thought it would be a fun time for Lucy and Ethel to watch all the bad singers. While they enjoyed it, I’m not sure it was a good idea. I certainly don’t want them beginning to judge people, especially when they told me before bed that my version of Rascal Flatts’ ‘Croaking Toad’ (or is it Broken Road?) was horrible, simply horrible. In their defense, I guess I was in the wrong pitch, but really, how does a four year old know about that!

I wonder if I could have any success with an Idol rip off? My first thought is ‘Congressional Idol.’ Contestants from every state could vie for a special 101st seat in the Senate. It would be like the real ‘voice of the people’seat; someone who’s only constituency would be the American public… and maybe Coca-Cola…and General Electric…ok and Ford, but that’s it…ok Kraft Foods too…seriously that’s all.

The tryouts would consist of everyone giving their best politician-style campaign speech. They would be ranked on incorrect use of popular catch phrases (like ‘my peeps’), overly used hand gestures (the Clintonesque thumb over fist comes to mind), repetition of past popular campaign quotes (what political speech would be right without ‘I feel your pain,’ ‘wouldn’t be prudent’ and ‘you are no John Kennedy’) and poor voice inflection. Extra style points would be issued for over the top crazed-man screaming and use of props, such as pens inserted into hands or flip charts with financial graphs. A panel of judges could be assembled that would include Howard Dean, Bob Dole, Paul Tsongas, Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis – clearly the most successful politicians to ever run for office. I’m sure it would be a ratings smash for C-Span, or maybe public radio…

How about ‘Sales Person Idol?’ Some large company could pony up its best sales job with the best perks to the winner. Contestants would be judged on their sales pitches. Although we’d probably still see the bad jokes, costumes and juggling. Judges for this gem could include Anthony Robbins, Ron Pompeil of Ronco’s ‘set it and forget it’ fame and Miss America (if she hasn’t had to resign in controversy yet).

Those are just a couple of poorly thought out ideas that could be pursued as Idol alternatives, should any studio exec be reading this. Although if they are, let me tell you briefly about my idea for a cop show where both detectives are emergency room doctors and can only speak in iambic pentameter. It will star David Spade as washed up cop Danny Spinucci and Roseanne Barr as aggressive, no-nonsense Captain Banner (veiled Star Spangled Banner reference intended). The show’s working title is “Stat,” but I’ve also thought of “Emergency Cops” and “Operation: Police.” I’m hoping to get Bob Newhart to play the meek and unconfident police chief, Dr. Detective.

Perhaps having Fred Willard read my company’s HR manual would be a bigger success. I know I’d gladly watch. One night of Idol and I’ve been reduced to writing about this. It looks like it will be on again tonight to ensure that an entirely different city’s worth of contestants won’t be able to show their faces at work or school tomorrow morning (or perhaps for the next month). Oh well, at least I know the Food Network will probably have a half dozen of Rachael Ray’s different shows on to watch tonight instead. Now that is entertainment!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

If It Told You To Drive Off A Cliff, Would You?

Over the last few months, I have read a few reports of drivers who have ended up in very precarious positions (not like a compromised politician, mind you) because of their satellite navigation systems. If it helps, you can picture cars hanging off cliffs, cars in the middle of lakes or cars driving through senior citizen homes with all of the confused drivers scratching their heads wondering how the heck they got there. The latest, according to Reuters, was in Germany where a man ended up on railroad tracks after his navigation system told him to turn in a direction that put him on the tracks.

That’s where we as ‘fellow motorists’ have to be concerned. We are all driving around in our little cocoons practicing our defensive driving techniques while cars are swerving all around us doing solely what their satellite systems tell them to do. It sounds like a scene from a bad comedy. I can imagine that the cars are all narrowly avoiding collisions with each other through no cause of their own. Are these drivers only looking at the satellite display with no awareness of where they are or what’s around them? I’d say yes.

It is an obvious assumption to think that when the satellite unit tells us to turn left that we’d look left prior to making that turn. Apparently, that is not what is happening. Instead, drivers are turning left and looking up to discover that they have driven through a beauty parlor in the middle of the afternoon and have ruined gossip time for 2 dozen biddies. Oops!

Perhaps just as presidential candidates are busy starting ‘exploratory committees’ to see if they should run for president (do you think any of these ‘committees’ are going to come back and say that someone shouldn’t run for president, like they really should?), we should form a committee to see how to improve satellite navigation systems. According to this committee, adding only one feature to navigation systems would solve all of the problems. It’s a little warning signal: ‘Danger Will Robinson, Danger Will Robinson!’ Or how about a recording of Roseanne Barr screeching ‘you idiot, you idiot!’ You know, something simple that will get us drivers to look up and realize what we are doing.

Where is Michael Knight’s KITT when you need it? Maybe a warning device like this should be installed in every vehicle on the road to handle all of the people that read their papers while in gridlock traffic or apply their eye mascara while in the fast lane. How many times have you been on your cell phone while driving when you pull into your office’s parking lot wondering how you got there? You can be sure that the folks dealing with the wreckage left in your wake are wondering the same thing!

It seems that as our cars and the technology in them get smarter, many drivers are getting dumber. It is probably all just a byproduct of us letting our guards down under the assumption that the satellite unit will do the thinking for us. A similar thing happens when I drive with my wife. I end up in the wrong lanes, turn down the wrong street, make illegal u-turns, etc. Basically, you name a dumb mistake that can be done while driving with my wife and chances are I’m guilty of it. It happened again yesterday as I ended up in the lane next to me after going through an intersection (fortunately the guy in the Hummer next to me didn’t notice as he had drifted into another lane too, unless he was avoiding me. Gee, I hadn’t thought of that). Don’t think for a second that my excuse of telling her ‘I knew I was doing it, I just didn’t want to shock you by veering back into the correct lane,’ worked. Upon further review, it actually made the situation a little worse. Of course, that never happens when I drive by myself. Or is there just no one around to point out all of my mistakes?

Whoa, stop everything! How’d I get to Needles, California? Last time I checked I was just sitting in traffic with my mocha-double-latte-fresca-cappuccino-smoothie talking to my buddy on the cell phone while doing the crossword puzzle and blogging on my laptop. That’s so weird. I hope I didn’t hit anything…

Monday, January 15, 2007

‘Multiple’ Reasons To Freak Out!

Well, the wife and I decided to take in a movie last night. It was the National Geographic Channel’s premier of a show about the development of multiples in the womb. We figured as parents of multiples (i.e. Lucy and Ethel) that it would be exciting for us to see what they went through. So we thought. Two hours later we were both stupefied that they developed into the little ones they are today. It is all such an amazing process that you can either walk away spouting the miracles of development or scared to death about everything that has to go like clockwork to turn the little cell into a baby. We both agreed we were glad we hadn’t seen anything like this before Lucy and Ethel were born and that we didn’t tell our friends who are expecting twins about the show. Maybe sometimes, it’s better just not to know how something happens, you know?

The show begins from the moment the egg is fertilized (although every time they showed the sperm, I could swear they were playing the sounds of seagulls) and then follows the process through the cell’s division into twins and beyond. The program followed a mother of twins, a mother of triplets and a mother of quads, which were all identical in some freakish 1-600 million chance. It was neat to see how the different scenarios occurred to create twins or higher multiples, but as the embryo’s development progressed, you felt like just speaking might screw everything up. Apparently so many things happen in development that it seems it wouldn’t take much to have the whole process go wrong. In fact I’m pretty sure that I caught myself holding my breath a few times. It was helpful to see all the different crossroads of development that could have gone wrong to explain my quirky backwards being, but that’s another story. It also begs the question of why we decided to sit and watch this on a holiday weekend, but I’ll plead the 5th for that.

The development from conception through fetus is absolutely mind-boggling. I give you for example the approximately three weeks that we have gills and a tail and are on an evolutionary track to become Mr. Limpet instead of human. Or how about the fact that during development the brain produces literally millions of neurons each day to the point that when we are born we have billions. For the record, this is most likely where things went wrong for me. The special also explained how all of a sudden the cells that make up our heart just start beating randomly one day, which sets in motion a chain of events that get our circulatory system going. It also talked about the development of the eyes, the ears, how the embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus and a whole bevy of things that have to happen just right, but always seem to go fine.

Aiding all of the story telling were models and computer generated ‘inside the womb’ videos. Interestingly, every time they showed them, it sounded like a Sparklett’s bottle gurgling and whooshing. It made me think that if that’s really what it sounds like in the womb, Sparkletts and other bottled water makers have an entirely new younger market to target. “Bottled water, it’s the sound you grew up with.” (I guess I should have trademarked that before committing it to internet, oh well.) The viewer really got the sense of how cramped it can be for multiples as they start to get bigger. They explained in detail how multiples can compete for room and resources (like fuel, water, education and money, I guess) while inside the womb. Apparently I wasn’t that far off when I told my wife after one of Lucy and Ethel’s sonograms that it looked like they were having a boxing match. If only I’d put money on Lucy.

Of everything mentioned or shown during the two hours, perhaps the most intriguing fact was how often there is something called the ‘vanishing twin’ (which coincidentally is the name of a horror flick coming to theaters in October). It seems that midway through a pregnancy, one of the fetuses can get so deprived of what it needs (like credit and a college education) that it literally vanishes. The show said that sometimes the remnants of a vanished twin could be seen in the placenta (which I think is Latin for ‘meat pancake’) or when an empty embryonic sac is spotted during a sonogram. It is thought that some left handed people could have had a vanishing twin because of the way the development occurred. The idea of the vanishing twin brings up so many different issues that I’m probably better off not even thinking about it. Although it probably explains why I talk to myself so often. You know, maybe all people who speak of themselves in third person had a vanishing twin. It’s just a thought, but why else would someone talk about themselves as if they were a whole different person? Spooky, huh?

The show wrapped up neatly showing the birthing process, which for two of the three mothers meant a C-section. It was quite something to see my wife covering her eyes trying not to see the C-section as it showed the cutting of the uterus, plenty of blood and the doctor reaching inside and pulling out each baby. Although I guess that’s better than me covering my eyes during the ‘natural’ birth to avoid seeing the….uh, well, you know…fuzzy wuzzy…

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Repost Sunday: Is There A Nomination Form For Sainthood?

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 October 25, 2006.

I read recently that the Pope named several new saints. Embarrassingly, I was not familiar with any of them, but it got me thinking of whom and what should be eligible for sainthood. Growing up Catholic, I was always reminded of St. Christopher every time we left for a family vacation when my mother said we needed to pray to him for a safe trip. I was also told about St. Anthony, the patron Saint of lost or stolen things. Although I might be abusing this saint’s time when I pray to him daily to help me find my favorite black ink pen that I constantly misplace around my office.

I don’t know how the Pope, Vatican, Electoral College or whoever it is nominates and votes on new saints, but I think there are several that the selection committee has overlooked. There are people who have completely altered the way we live and to the best of my knowledge, none of them are saints. If anyone from the Vatican is reading this, I’ve got a few folks who should be considered for sainthood.

Without a doubt, the first person is Juan Valdez – the Patron Saint of Caffeine, which a coworker of mine pointed out when she sent me an email stating that there is a special place in heaven for Juan Valdez. Just think about it, although if you’ve yet to pour your first cup of coffee for the day, you probably can’t think at all. Saint Juan of Valdez is responsible for our societies being able to start up every day.

Next would be the inventor of the toilet, Thomas Crapper – Patron Saint of Bodily Relievement (I can’t believe my spell check doesn’t think relievement is a real word!). If there were ever someone we need to thank our maker for, it would be Saint Thomas of Crapper. Just imagine what life would be like without his toilet, well not his toilet, I mean his invention, the toilet. Equally important is Willis Haviland Carrier. You probably don’t know who he was, but he invented the modern air conditioner and should become the Patron Saint of Home and Vehicle Cooling. Again, life would be a lot more uncomfortable, not to mention smelly, without him. Without Carrier’s contribution, we’d all smell and smell like garlic – ALL THE TIME! Speaking of garlic, (this is the worst segue ever, by the way) how many meals did you cook in the microwave this week? That’s why my next nomination for sainthood is Percy Spencer, the man who invented it. He should become the Patron Saint of Entrée Reheating.

Then there are Ray Kroc, Dave Thomas and Colonel Harlan Sanders. We all need to be grateful for their contributions to fast food. All three (I call them the Culinary Triumvirate) need to be named the Co-Patron Saints of Speedy and Convenient Nourishment. I’m using the word nourishment very loosely, but it sounds so much better than fast food. Lastly, Frank Sinatra should be named the Patron Saint of all Things Hip, Cool and Swinging, Too.

While you’d probably agree that all of these individuals are worthy of sainthood, there may be some (if not all) at the Vatican that don’t agree. Maybe we could compromise and create a hall or shrine to induct them into. It would be a category for mere mortals deemed to be just shy of deserving sainthood. We could have a huge annual induction ceremony where we honor them for their contributions to mankind. Why don’t we call them the Saintys? The little gold statues would depict a traditional saint complete with halo. Maybe someone will even broadcast the ceremony.

So there you have it. As society evolves and we reflect upon those who have sacrificed for the better good, it is time to consider broadening the definition of Saint. I don’t know that the Vatican has a website, but if they do, I hope there is a downloadable nomination form for Saints on it. Now what was the name of the guy that invented blogging?

**Author’s note: since I am Catholic, the answer is yes, I am wracked with guilt after writing this sacrilegious post about would-be Saints and will be attending the next confession closest to me**

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 1/13/07

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 1/7/07-1/13/07.

! I learned that I shouldn’t brag about how everyone in my house and everyone at work was sick and that I must possess some superhuman power because I didn’t catch anything. It just took me a few days longer than everyone else.

! I learned that when my wife allows her cat to sleep between us under the covers that no matter how much I cower and keep to my side of the bed, I’m still going to get bit.

! I learned that when a fish dies in our tank, it needs to be removed immediately to avoid prolonged discussions with four year olds about the meaning of life, eternity and heaven.

! I learned that companies make fireplace tools for a reason. Apparently fingers and hands are not meant to be the tools one uses to adjust logs upon the fire.

! I learned that I should not share with my coworkers that I’m skipping lunch with them so I can go buy more PEZ. Trust me, it’s wrong on so many different levels.

! I learned that Southern Californians are not prepared for snow or ice when it falls well below the normal higher elevations. You’d think we’ve never seen the stuff before.

And lastly,

! I learned that I should not bring in candy for the office to share when that same candy was given to me as a gift by a coworker (for Christmas three weeks ago).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hypochondria And The Four Year Old (X2)

I haven’t often written at length about my twins Lucy and Ethel (not their real names of course, those have been changed to protect the somewhat innocent), however something has been going on with them the last few days that I finally deemed blogworthy. I hope you don’t mind, I was really short on ideas today.

No matter what spin I choose to put on it, Lucy and Ethel are hypochondriacs. As I haven’t been around a lot of four years olds, maybe this type of behavior is normal for that age. I really don’t know, but it’s starting to concern (and yes, annoy) me. I have no idea where they learned to make a big deal out of every scratch, scrape and boo-boo. Certainly not from me. While I may have been accused in the past of being one, I was exonerated of all accusations two summers ago when I had to have major, major surgery. It kind of wiped the slate clean, so to speak. Their latest episode concerns a few shots they had to receive in order to be registered for public school.

Going on day 4 of the post shot trauma, Lucy and Ethel are still acting as though the arms that received the shots do not work. They both are holding their arms close to their body as a bird would hold its broken wing. That is of course until something exciting happens, at which point they forget about the ‘pain’ and let the injured arm in question flail about. They are terrified of the band-aids coming off and keep acting as if this devastating incident has permanently changed their lives. As one of them walked into the bathroom the other day, I actually heard her grunt rather angrily that she would never get another shot again. I had to laugh since it’s exactly how a grumpy old man would act in the same situation. Needless to say, my laughter wasn’t appreciated.

As a father, I feel bad for them, up to a certain point. By now though, I figure it’s time to move on and get over the pain. I am also starting to worry that Lucy and Ethel will both lose the use of their band-aided arms due to atrophy. They will each move the wrists on those arms, but that’s it. You should see them try to give me five with just their wrists and minimal arm movement. I’ve tried to engage them in using their hurt arms, but both refuse. We were able to get the band-aids off last night by bribing them with chocolate. I knew that would work, as a chocolate bribe (cleverly hidden inside the ring box) was the same way that I persuaded my wife to marry me. It was comical when the band-aid came off. You could see the momentary flash of surprise on their faces when the removal didn’t hurt before they went back and resumed their crying. Hopefully the absence of band-aids and the sweet smell of chocolate adrift in the house will get us past this traumatic event.

It concerns me though that hypochondria may be a permanent character attribute for both of them. I had a doctor tell me a few months ago that the health provider network he works for did a study where they discovered that a very small percentage of their patients used the majority of their services. I certainly do not want Lucy and Ethel to fall into that small percentage. I have worked with hypochondriacs before and it gets very annoying to deal with. These are usually the unluckiest people in the world. In one year, they can catch the Avian Flu, Tuberculosis, get frostbitten, dyslexia and even be diagnosed as manic-depressive and illiterate. I guess I should feel more compassionate for someone so unlucky!

Not knowing where Lucy and Ethel got this characteristic from makes it hard to stop. I guess we will have to manage one illness at a time. I just wish I knew where they had seen this hypo-behavior so that I could cut it off at the source. Oh well, maybe it’ll get better with time. For now, I guess I’d better get going and make my own doctor’s appointment. It seems that with several people in the office currently sick and the twins coughing in my face for the last three weeks, I’ve come down with the Bubonic Plague…

Thursday, January 11, 2007

200 Posts Later and Still Searching For Perfection

According to Blogger’s little login dashboard thingy, today is my 200th post. Since I just woke up and am feeling several feet under the weather, I had a lot of trouble coming up with something appropriate for this numerical occasion. After all, when our country turned 200, there was a parade of tall sailing ships and fireworks. Of course I do not have the resources for such extravagant luxuries, so I’m forced to post this…

As I began thinking of the last 199 posts (sadly, I could recall very few as being memorable), I found myself also thinking forward to tomorrow’s post, the next 50, the next 100, etc. I then wondered about that day (very long from now, of course) when I will post my last entry. Now, I’m not anal, but I do like to plan ahead, so I figured that I would just go ahead and write my final post now in lieu of something special for this 200th post and then put it in the can to be on the safe side. Has anyone else out there wondered about their final post? For my dignity, I’m surely hoping so.

It’s hard to predict why a certain post would be my last, but there are a few possible scenarios. The most obvious is that my wife would awake one morning to discover me sprawled out unconscious over my keyboard because I OD’d on blogging. Perhaps Lucy and Ethel discover how to hide my computer from me and I'm forced to quit blogging cold turkey. Another is that I finally created ‘the ultimate post’ – my Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper, or Mona Lisa, if you will. How will I know that I’ve finally reached my blogging perfection where it would make no use to try and top it? Easy, it’ll be the post where I finally and successfully combine the wit of Fred Willard and William Shatner, the humor of Johnny Carson, Bob Newhart and David Letterman, the music of the Beatles, the great story crafting of War and Peace and Willy Nelson’s Poncho and Lefty, the island imagery of Jimmy Buffett and the great taste that buttered lobster leaves in your mouth all into glorious written form. Obviously, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Will the final post be funny? Will it provoke deep thought or longing for a simpler time? Will it be sad? Should I thank all my blogging friends or apologize to my family for all the hours I’ve spent at my computer? Should I do one of those looking back things where I dredge up past posts? Maybe I should invite a guest writer? Perhaps I could leave my readers wanting more. I guess I could quote Lou Gehrig and say how I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth. If I’m fortunate enough, there might even be someone reading that final post so I’d like to make it ‘worthwhile’ for them, if you get my point.

I’ve got it, the perfect ending to my blogging career whenever that happens. I will spell out the word goodbye with rocks and photograph it from the air. Then, at the very end of my final post, I’ll wake up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette and realize that every single blog post and comment I’ve ever made or read had all been a dream.

So there you have it, my final blog post for safe keeping whenever it’s needed. Boy, do I feel glad that little piece of business is all wrapped up. Now we should all huddle together for a group hug, turn out the lights and shuffle off the stage…

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hey, I Wondered Where That Went

I’ll preface what I’m about to write be because I think I’m coming down with something as I can feel the cloud of sickness moving over me (which is bound to happen when you have been coughed at in the face continuously by two 4-year olds for the last three weeks). However, with that being said, I have to ask if there was a tear in the space-time continuum or a “Do Good Deeds Several Years Too Late Day” recently? In the last 48 hours, I have read three different AP stories about things being returned to their rightful owners decades after they should have been. It’s great that all has been made right with the world, but it’s odd that it has all happened at the same time. It is events just like these that make me feel the urge to update my last will and testament and go back and restock my recently abandoned Y2K bunker!

In Ferndale, Pennsylvania earlier this week a man received a letter in his mailbox addressed to a previous occupant. The letter was dated and postmarked 1954! The man did not open the letter and has not been able to find any relatives of its intended recipient. Good thing it was a letter and not a utility bill. It was probably just something minor anyway, like a letter from the recipient’s long lost twin brother that he didn’t know he had. I can just imagine all the people that worked at the postal facility where the letter was apparently ‘lost.’ I’m sure that every few years a postal worker would find the letter wedged somewhere or sitting behind something, pick it up and then realize he didn’t want to be associated with the 50-year-old missing piece of mail. To distance himself from it, he would look around to make sure no one was watching and then drop it back behind something else. Finally, all these years later, a person bucking for promotion came across it and actually reported it. It reminds me (in a strange way) of the Cheers episode where Cliff and Norm sit in the bar reading all of the magazines and catalogs he was supposed to be delivering. I guess that’s the price you paid (literally) for service when standard shipping was only three cents. I’ve ordered things from and apparently selected the same shipping method as this letter without realizing it.

Next, I read about a man who got his missing wallet back after 60+ years. He had lost the wallet in Europe during World War II. It was found by a fellow American soldier and brought home to be returned to its rightful owner. He must have forgotten to do so because after he died, his son found the wallet in a drawer. Fortunately, this time the wallet’s owner could be found. There is no indication that the gentleman who returned the wallet took out a few dollars for his trouble. See, maybe there still are a few nice people in the world. Of course, his Diner’s Club card had been stolen, but he’s not complaining. I’m just kidding; it was his Aluminum American Express Card - the most elite card that AmEx could offer during the WWII rationing era.

Finally, to compound the bizarre trend of things from the past showing up out of thin air, there was the man who after almost 50 years decided it was time to return the book he checked out of his local library for a school assignment. He said his mother had originally misplaced it and then they would occasionally come across it but not return it. The AP story says the man is a seventh-grade teacher and wanted to set a good example so even though the library had long since written it off, he returned it…with a check for $171 to cover the late fees! Not only is there good in the world but there is still some honesty left too. It remains to be seen if the book, which was about Egypt, will be put back into circulation. Seeing as it is almost 50-years old and refers to the pyramids being built by volunteers, I doubt it.

I don’t know why the return of all these things happened so close together, but it’s quite a phenomenon. What will we do as things from our past reappear? Boy, could it get spooky if every time we turn around we find things that have been missing for years, like the collection of Smurfs I has a little kid. Awww shoot, did I just write that? There will no doubt be stories of people who keep trying to lose things on purpose but they keep showing back up (no, I’m not referring to our weight).

On the positive side, all of these stories give hope to everyone that has lost something that maybe it will eventually turn up in the hands of a good person willing to follow through and return it. Which reminds me, if you are the person who happens to find my dignity, my email address is listed on the links bar to the right…

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Want To Get Away From It All? Get Yourself A Country.

I would never suggest something like that title if it weren’t true. According to Reuters, this time it is true. How would you like to own the apparently sovereign principality of Sealand? The island (it’s a generous explanation because it looks more to me like the wreckage of Blofeld’s off shore oilrig from ‘Diamonds Are Forever.’ Maybe something happened to the rest of it?) was built during World War II as a fortification against German bombers. In 1967, a retired army officer purchased the two tower, 16-room ‘island.’ But that’s not all; tell them what else they get: a Sealand flag, constitution, postage stamps, national anthem, and even Sealand coinage. No, they are not chocolate medallions. Wikipedia (I really did my research this time) says that as a principality, Sealand has to be transferred instead of sold, but it can still be yours!

What a great comeuppance to those pesky neighbors down the street who seem to have everything and flaunt it at every opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to shut them up by inviting them for a quiet weekend in your very own country? Seriously, how could you not resist doing that? Whoever successfully takes possession of this small country needs to be researched thoroughly. I joked about James Bond earlier, but really, this is how dictators and world domination mongers get a foothold. First, you give them some money, then you give them a base of operations and before you know it, they are making space ships disappear and building fake volcanoes and miniature exact DNA replicas of themselves. Autonomy is just the shelter they need.

Power is a strange drug that can go to people’s heads. It’s often been said that you give a tyrant an island and you’re giving them the world. OK, I made that up, but it’s good, don’t you think? The availability of Sealand is really a unique event since there can’t be too many more small islands on earth that can still be bought up and made autonomous. Well, OK, at least there aren’t that many that Disney hasn’t bought up to be used as destinations for their cruises. Unfortunately, the domain of small independent countries is probably only open to the very wealthy. Does anyone know if lending institutions grant loans for the purchase and establishment of new countries? I guess I could always sign a bunch of pledges up to sponsor me in a walkathon to raise enough money to buy Sealand. The only problem with that is that I would actually have to walk from my home in Southern California to Sealand (somewhere off the coast of England) to get anywhere near enough money to afford the country. My guess is that somewhere near the Arizona border I would either decide to quit or drop dead from exhaustion, so that option is out. I had already thought of approaching friends and relatives to become investors, but that’s just going to end up in messy litigation when I attempt to change the name of my newly purchased country to Funlandia or Happy Time Isle…

Now if I only could find a way to purchase Sealand, because I have a lot of great ideas to share with you. I would finally be able to institute my failed Funday initiative (hence my wanting to name the country Funlandia) that would effectively ban Mondays from the Sealand calendar forever. I could make the official bird the plastic pink flamingo and finally make ‘Brandy’ by The Looking Glass our National Anthem. My country would completely stop for the Daytona 500 and believe me; my country would send a curling team to the Winter Olympics and a bowling team to the Summer Olympics. What, there’s no bowling in the Olympics? (Note to my foreign deputy minister: prepare petition on behalf of my country to get bowling instituted as an Olympic exhibition event).

In my small autonomous country, stretch pants would be declared punishable by fines and the ‘Just Because They Make It In Your Size Doesn’t Mean You Should Wear It Law’ would be passed and enacted. Unfortunately, I would have to declare war, which obviously will be the first controversial act of my nation. It won’t be a war of revolution or religion though. It will be a war on crappy reality TV. We’ll probably lose it, be forced to surrender and be internationally disgraced for a time, but I guess those are the chances you take as a young country.

I promise that our new nation will conduct itself with grace and dignity, never wear white after Labor Day or socks with sandals. I think this will get us admitted to the UN, but my sleazy lawyer disagrees saying something about international law, diplomacy, legitimacy and he keeps using the phrase ‘a real country.’ Whatever! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find Sealand on the map and finish writing my business plan for world domination. Uh, I mean ownership of a small autonomous country…Bwahahaha!!

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Hunka Hunka Burning Birthday Candles

The year was 1935. The surviving twin baby boy was Elvis. Yep, today marks what would have been (or what is, depending on what you believe) Elvis’ 72nd birthday. No matter what you thought (or again, what you think) of him, Elvis remains one America’s most iconic figures. His career spanned three distinct phases, all of which left a mark on our culture. There was his raw and shocking early career where he seemed to challenge middle America with every move of his hips, his forgettable 60s movie roles and lastly his Vegas jumpsuit era which is probably how most now picture him. Ok, enough of the tribute, let’s get on to the good stuff. So, pull up a chair, shoot out the TV and fry up a peanut butter and banana sandwich (which I will admit is actually pretty tasty, despite spending the night in the hospital for an emergency angioplasty after eating one).

Out here in lovely Southern California, the Nixon Presidential Library is getting in on the Elvis birthday action. The AP says that the library opened an exhibit today chronicling the December 1970 meeting of the former President and King of Rock and Roll. The exhibit features the outfits that both men were wearing (I wonder which weighed more, the all wool suit, or Elvis’ jumpsuit) and the gun that Elvis gave to Nixon. Of course, the photo of the two of them shaking hands in the Oval Office has become a very recognizable image and the AP story actually says that it is the number one most requested image from the National Archives. See, who says you can’t generate interest in American politics. Release a photo of Paris Hilton and President Bush and watch the interest peak.

I can’t help but look at that photo and think of Batman and Police Commissioner Gordon. It’s in the Oval Office, Nixon looks very ‘Presidenty’ and Elvis looks like a caricature in his jumpsuit and cape. Now tell me, how many other famous people can you think of who have the confidence (or perhaps audacity) to meet the President while wearing a cape? Not even Barbara Streisand, I bet. Although for public entertainment purposes, maybe every Oval Office visitor should be required to wear a sequined cape. It could have the Presidential Seal on it and you could buy replicas at Presidential libraries or the White House gift shop. Do you think Elvis offered to buy Nixon a Cadillac in order to get his drug enforcement badge?

Growing up a young impressionable Elvis fan left me with a few things to overcome as I grew up. You can imagine my surprise during my first few dates in high school when I realized that not every date was going to culminate with a campy song and dance number on the beach. It’s too bad really, because I always arrived prepared with my trusty cheap acoustic guitar and sidekick by my side. My first hint should have been that I wasn’t a racecar driver, circus performer, army soldier stationed in Germany or fishing boat captain. Plus, Ann Margaret was never with me. Looking back now, it seems that every date ended the moment I began to serenade the girl with a lyrically challenged sub-par 60s pop tune. Oh well, it’s not my fault that these girls had no sense of excitement and no appreciation for really bad campy mid 60s romance! Those fools! I bet they’re lonesome tonight…

What else can you say about a performer who’s actions were so threatening to Eisenhower’s America that he had to perform ‘Hound Dog’ on the Steve Allen show to an actual hound dog while clad in a tux and tails? Can you imagine a performer today only being filmed from the waste up during a performance? That prudish Ed Sullivan! No matter what you want to say about the King, at least he provided the blueprint for living a life of excess for all that tried to follow in his footsteps.

How cool would it be to step into Elvis’ shoes (ok, I’ll say it: his blue suede shoes – are you happy now?) for just one day? Where else would it be ok to have a department store open up in the middle of the night just for my friends and me? I could buy large gas guzzling sedans for complete strangers. Or how about naming my residence, putting a silhouette of me on the front gates and building a ‘jungle room’ in it? If it was fun to shoot out a TV 30 years ago, how much more exciting would it be to fire a round into a plasma TV today? The sideburns, the glasses, the ‘j-suits,’ the girls, the jet-black hair, this guy was cool. Unfortunately, because of his excesses, we often overlook just how good a singer he really was. This cat had pipes, especially late in his career. Maybe a great voice is the side affect of bloating up like the girl who ate the candy and turned blue in Willy Wonka.

If he had survived those last fatal moments in the bathroom and was around to turn 72 today, what would he be like? Suspicious minds want to know. Would he have remarried later in life to someone who would have tamed him ala Sinatra or George Jones? Would he still be dying his hair or would he have pulled a Bob Barker by now and be sporting an all grey pompadour? Would he have slapped his daughter silly when she married Michael Jackson?

If he was still singing, would it be popular or a musical after thought. Yes, he’d probably still be playing in Vegas to huge crowds and he’d probably have a theater in Branson named after him. Maybe he would’ve taken up golf or become a spokesman for Cadillac (or Skippy Peanut Butter). I can just imagine the signature Elvis Escalade now complete with custom medallion rims and ‘TCB take care of business in a flash’ lightening bolt pin striping. He could be the featured performer one week on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ or ‘American Idol.’ If he were alive though, would Graceland be open to the public? What type of videos would he have attempted during the era of the music video? Would he have completely made the switch to country radio? Would Elvis have made cameos in ‘Airplane’ or ‘Cannon Ball Run?’

There are so many questions that will never be answered. If Elvis were still around today, there would be a couple of sure things we’d definitely know the answers to. The National Enquirer would be sorely lacking a longtime story to follow and Elvis would probably be on his third artificial hip by now. Happy Birthday Elvis, wherever you are, or aren’t…