Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Millenium, Baby

I've written about how much I adore the movies of 1999 here, here, and here. I've also discussed the job I was working as 1999 gave way to 2000. But it's the music from that time which takes me there most forcefully. Before I elaborate, let me just share a bit of what was going on in my life at that time.

My wife and I were getting ready to move into our first house. We had rented apartments for the prior 3 years and after paying more than $700 rent for quite some time, realized that having our own home was a win, win (other than having to mow the lawn, shovel snow, and living several minutes out of town as opposed to within city limits). Our apartment was just 3 blocks from Saint Mary Hospital, so we constantly heard ambulances and police sirens.

Getting a yard for our dogs and cat was a big move-up as was having a garage for both our transports. We had requested that the home be built with vaulted ceilings, but the builder messed up and didn't do so. Since they wouldn't redo the ceilings, we either had to accept the standard one with a $500 credit or wait several months for another home to be built. We decided to take the credit and ended up moving into our place in January of 2000.

For our first few months there, we were the only ones on the block. In fact, they hadn't even put a streetlight on our block yet. Since the basement was mostly unfinished, we actually had less space to live in than we did in the prior apartment. Living a few miles out of town made me less inclined to want to go out in the evenings. However, I did love the quiet and quickly became used to the "commute".

As '99 drew to a close, a friend of mine and his wife began stockpiling supplies, worried that either all the world's computers would fail or that the world would come to an end. He was pleasantly surprised that nothing happened. I shook my head, never giving much credence to the hype in the first place.

Now, on to three songs that really take me back to those days. The first has Timbaland uttering the name of this post at the end of the song, the second song's video revolves around a party that is taking place on New Year's Eve 1999,

and the third is a late-night tune whose video surprised me in that it shows the use of text messaging (I had no idea it existed back then).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Time Is Here

I finally finished my Christmas shopping yesterday. Who wants to touch me?

I said, Who wants to touch me?!!

Kmart came to the rescue with a number of Buy 1, Get 1 Free specials. While I was looking for presents for my mom and her girls, my woman spotted something she liked. A few minutes later, heading in another direction, she asked if she could buy the item in question. I said we couldn't afford it, but then picked it up a few minutes later when she went to another store. She made it almost too easy.

One thing I've noted, doing a lot of shopping this season, is the look of not-quite-bliss on so many faces. It's like they don't realize that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Sure, most days are cloudy, there's too much snow on the ground, and the nights are incredibly long, but is it not the Chosen One's big day on Friday?

I think that many resent being slaves to the holiday, having to spend money they don't have on things that their family and friends might not even like. You'll find none of this ridiculousness on Thanksgiving. The joy is in simply being together. Being compelled to give gifts four weeks later doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Sure, I'll like getting Lady Gaga's new EP and a Friday's gift card, but does that compare with making someone smile or laugh? Not even close.

As I waited to get checked out at Kmart, I heard the cashier say to the couple ahead of me, "Would you like to donate $1 to St Jude's?" They said no, but I got an idea. Here is how my conversation with her went:

Cashier: "Would you like to donate $1 to St Jude's?"

Tom: "If you can say, "Suzy sells seashells by the seashore."

Cashier: "I can't do that!"

Tom: "Well, I'll donate the buck, anyway."

I did something similar at the movie theatre earlier this year. A lady was asking people, when they bought their ticket, what their ZIP code was. When she asked me, I said, "12345". Two seconds later, she said "Refusal" to herself and punched a couple buttons.

I got a nice gag gift for my twin sisters. They're 21 now, but I bought them each a RingPop (something they enjoyed as 5-year olds). I may also purchase some Fruit by the Foot; back then, they called it Pruit by the Poot. So cute.

Click here for video of our 2005 get-together.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Favorite Movies of the Aughts

As we say goodbye to 2009, I thought it'd be a good time to share what some of my favorite movies were from this decade (2000-2009).

My favorite movie of 2000 was "Gladiator". Other goodies from that year included "Scary Movie", "CastAway", "Me, Myself, and Irene", "You Can Count On Me" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (no, this isn't a sex film about the famous golfer).

My fave of 2001 was "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" followed by "The Majestic", "The Others", "Vanilla Sky", "Memento" and "Amelie".

2002: "Minority Report", "About Schmidt", "The Ring", "Signs", "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers", "The 25th Hour"

"Unfaithful", "The Mothman Prophecies"

2003: "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King", "Anger Management", "Scary Movie 3", "Love, Actually", " Bruce Almighty", "Bad Santa"

2004: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", "Super Size Me", "EuroTrip", "Team America: World Police"

2005: "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", "Brokeback Mountain", "The Weather Man", "A History of Violence"

2006: "Borat", "Casino Royale", "The Illusionist", "The Prestige", "Children of Men", Scary Movie 4"

2007: "Superbad", "The Orphanage"

"The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford", "Michael Clayton", "The Heartbreak Kid", "The Mist", "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story"

2008: "Wall-E", "Slumdog Millionaire", "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", "Religulous", "You Don't Mess with the Zohan"

2009: "Bruno", "Inglourious Basterds", "A Serious Man", "District 9", "(500) Days of Summer", "The Invention of Lying", "Drag Me to Hell"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

There Is More Joy In Giving (Gag Gifts) Than Receiving

Christmas is fast approaching, but so far, I've only bought one present. One good thing about all my blood siblings being Jehovah's Witnesses is that I needn't worry about getting them anything. Same goes for my old man, bless his heart. I've only five people to purchase things for: my mom, her newly-minted husband, my twin half-sisters, and my SexyGirl.

My mom likes getting gift cards, but I can't abide giving them. So unoriginal. Jerry Seinfeld once commented it's like saying, "I put absolutely no thought into this whatsoever!" So I'll go to a number of unique stores later this week and see if I can't find something more memorable.

Last year, I bought one of my sisters a page-a-day calendar called, "Why Do Men Have Nipples? and Other Mysteries". I gave my stepdad, a serious Baptist, a Jehovah's Witness Bible (When my mom talked about potentially rejoining the Witnesses, he said he would not support her on this, even dangling the possibility that he might break up with her). I have a Witness songbook that I may give him this time out.

I remember going to a meeting in college with a group called Christians In Action. After a prayer session, one of the leaders asked me if I had a Bible. I said I did. He asked what kind. I replied that it was the New World Translation. He was knowledgeable enough to realize that this was the one published by the Witnesses and asked if I knew that they were a cult.

One year, I wrapped a sample size package of Viagra and gave them to a friend. He thought it was just an empty box, but was rather shocked when he found tablets inside; don't worry, the meds weren't prescribed to me. On a similar note, I recently found a prescription bottle in the basement from 2002. It was Hydrocodone, a pain reliever I was prescribed while experiencing the excruciating pain of kidney stones. What should I do with them now, all these years later? Throw the bottle out? Flush the tabs down the toilet? Keep them in case Sarah Palin becomes President?

Monday, December 07, 2009


"You only live once". It's an oft-repeated phrase, but is it accurate? If you had the option, would you choose to live again? I'm of the belief that we do, if we so wish. This has informed my life experience for well over a decade. To illustrate, here is a portion of a journal entry I wrote ten years ago this month (the full entry can be read here):

December 27, 1999

"My peace of mind lately has been interesting. I go to work, take the dogs out, have supper, watch some TV, take a bath, and go to bed. On weekends, I can do what I want. And all this is fine with me. I don't really feel that I am missing anything. When I have no places to go, my favorite things to do are to take a warm bath and lay down in bed.

In the past, I felt that I should go somewhere and meet people and such. Now, I don't really have the desire. This has to do with my laid-back attitude and the fact that I don't HAVE to do anything. There's nowhere I need to go, no one I need to see, no goals that absolutely have to be done.

I'm exaggerating a bit, but I do have a choice in all things. I choose to go to work. I choose to do virtually everything that I accomplish. Only rarely will I do anything that I don't want to. I remember as a youngster, my parents telling me from time to time that I would sometimes have to do things I don't want to. But I can't really recall the last time I did something that I really didn't want to at some level.

There is also the fact that I don't look at life as so many years and then you die. I know that I existed before I became Thomas **** and that I will continue to exist long after. So I may not be as compelled to have kids as others who think that all they get is one life and out. I know that I probably have had offspring in the past and/or the future, so having them right now is not necessary, although sometime in the next few years I may choose to do so.

Everything is now, and in this instant, I don't want to take care of a child. In the future, I may. In the future, having children is, like everything else, possible. But, in this instant, it is not a concern. Ask me about it next year.

That's all for now. It's almost 6pm. Time to take the dogs out, get a bite, get some gas, watch some TV, take a bath..."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Going Green...and Red

I decided last night that I'm not gonna give any Christmas cards to my nearest and dearest this year; I typically spend $4 apiece on cards for my mom, wife, and sisters. Ultimately, the cards just say "Merry Christmas" and "I love you" and I'm not ashamed to say that in person. Plus, cards are almost always thrown away after the holidays. If anyone gives me any lip about it, I'll just say, "I'm goin' green. Tis the season".

In a similar vein, I read a capsule review last night of a book called "Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays". The author says his theory is solid economics. "As an institution for 'allocating resources' (getting stuff to the right people), holiday giving is a complete loser." One example is that if you spend $50 on yourself, you'll get something worth $50 to you. But if your aunt Winnie buys you a $50 Christmas gift, she's likely to buy something that's worth nothing to you. In economic terms, that's a "deadweight loss". Our shopping puts retailers in the black while we wind up in the red.

My wife received an iPod this past week as an early Christmas present, so my days of being able to brag that I've never downloaded a song will most likely be ending soon. This, less than a week after getting HighDefinition installed on our new TV has my head spinning a bit (but in a good way). It's quite difficult to go back to watching regular definition TV after experiencing the joys of HD. Kinda like having sex with the prettiest girl in town and then trying to find enjoyment with your previous partner.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Night on the Town

On Saturday, I had the house to myself, so decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and take Zoe to the dog park. There were a number of canines frolicking in the winter wonderland. Kidding, the ground is as barren as what's between Sarah Palin's ears. Zoe can be a bit timid, but didn't hesitate to sniff a few derriers on that afternoon. We then took the trail that leads to a creek. We didn't stay in that area long as it was quite muddy. A few minutes later, I got a call from a friend and asked if he wanted to get together. He agreed and met me back at the house an hour later.

The first place we hit was Wal-Mart. I had a couple gifts that my mother gave me for my birthday that I wanted to return (some winter socks and a long-sleeve shirt). After receiving $12.50 for the items, we headed for the music section. Over the past week, I'd become a fan of Adam Lambert. It started when I happened to see him performing on the AMA's (his was the last performance and the only one I caught). I saw how risque' his act was and was like, "Damn". I chuckled as the show ended right after his song instead of giving out a last award; It'd be like the Oscars ending by playing a scene from a movie. Next, I read a review in Entertainment Weekly that gave his new disc a B+.

Shortly thereafter, I listened to the recording online at AOL's listening station. I was ridiculously impressed by his vocals and style. This from a man who's only ever watched one ep of "American Idol". So it should suprise no one that I was tempted to pick up his disc when I saw it on sale for a mere $9.95. With the extra money in my pocket from the returns, there was no way I was gonna pass up this deal.

Back in the car, I asked my friend where he wished to eat. He said he wouldn't mind Culver's. Not having been there in quite some time, I said that would be fine. I chose something from their "Meals for under $4" menu and looked for a seat. All the booths were taken save one, one of those corner booths that can seat six. Our party consisted of only two, but I always love sitting in such spaciousness. As we waited for our food, I noticed that the TV they had on the wall was playing Charlie Brown's Christmas in an endless loop. Tis the season. Culver's chicken tenders were pretty dang good for the price. We talked for quite some time as the restaurant gradually began to clear out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Endorphin Machine

This morning, I was reading an interesting article at Cracked.com about immunity to pain. Here is a snippet:

"Welcome to the wonderful world of endorphins. The very name of this miracle substance means "morphine produced naturally in the body." It's the ultimate feel-good substance. It's released into the body during exercise, excitement and orgasm, and it has the power to dull or completely eliminate pain by coating the receiving end of the synapses in the brain that would otherwise receive pain signals from the rest of your body."

I had to chuckle as I experienced all three examples of endorphin release (exercise, excitement, and orgasm) last night. Looking over the Black Friday flyers, I thought it might be a good time to get a widescreen TV. I had planned on going to Wal-Mart to get one early Friday morning, but first wanted to stop somewhere to see what size TV would be best for our family room.

Yesterday evening, after eating at Friday's, my wife and I went to Best Buy. An employee greeted us at the door. I said to him, "You ready for the weekend?" He replied that retail employees are never really ready for the pandemonium that occurs the day after Thanksgiving.

We headed back to the TV's and realized that a 19" is way too small of a set. A 32" set would be much better while still being affordable; Wal-Mart's set was about $50 cheaper than Best Buy's. It was then that I noticed a sign which said, "Why wait until Black Friday to get this set when you can have it today?" Paying a bit more for Best Buy's set might be worth not having to get up early and braving the crowds on Friday for a TV that might not even be available by the time I got to it.

My wife and I discussed the matter before heading into the can to clear our heads a bit. The thought of having a 32" widescreen LCD TV in my home that very night is what caused me to feel genuine excitement. I was a bit light-headed and giddy, something that I rarely experience.

Once we brought it home, I wondered what DVD I should watch to test it out. I settled on the first "Lord of the Rings" movie (my favorite film of 2001). It was pure heaven.

The LCD made the picture much brighter and the colors were incredible. I laughed at many of the same parts as when I initially viewed the movie, something not typical for me.

I watched the first half of the film last night and plan to continue tomorrow; I have the extended edition (that's what she said) of all three movies which comes out to close to eleven hours, so I'll be occupied with them for the next several days.

Before watching "Rings", I walked 22 minutes on the treadmill which is where the exercise portion of the endorphin equation came in. I plan to put even more time on it this evening. The orgasm element came into play a bit later. I don't know which of the three gave me a greater high last night. Ultimately, it doesn't matter as I can do any and all of them pretty much anytime I want.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hope Trail

One evening in the mid 90's, having completed my homework at the Winona State computer lab, I decided to write something for fun. But how to get in the proper mood? After messing with some settings, I stumbled upon the idea of working with a unique font; a Western-style one, in this case. Here's what I came up with:

Hope Trail

Sunlight burned across the desolate prairie. She walked through the tall grass, her dark brown hair blowing against her face. Her eyes were as determined as the settlers of a hundred years ago.

She walked with self-assurance, her eyes focused and her forehead tensed. She wore blue jeans, faded and torn. Her blouse was red and smelled of fire. The miles she had traveled could be seen on her face, sunburned and dirty. Her heart pounded as she gazed at the lonesome valley.

She thought of the long road that lay ahead, but she was strong, as strong as a dozen oxen on a rampage. She would never quit, not as long as blood flowed through her veins. Though all was lost, she still had hope and one more chance. She walked under the blazing sun as sweat began to form on her face.

She found a patch of water and stopped to rest. Lying under the big sky, she wondered if she would ever see home again. It had been so long and she had suffered countless hardships. But this time things would be different. This time she would fulfill her destiny. Life leads one through many detours, but you usually end up where you want to go. And she was so tired of taking detours. She slept for a long while as an eagle soared across the summer sky.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Lesser of Three Evils

I just started reading one of the books I received for my birthday. It's about how to deal with change. The first chapter talks about the three major types of changes that can occur in one's life. They are:

Relationship, such as the dissolution of a long-term one
Money, such as the loss of a job, and
Health, a diagnosis of cancer, for example.

Now, it's trouble enough if you're going through one of these things, but imagine experiencing two or even all three at once. This got me to thinking, which of the three would I choose to experience if I had to? Not health as they say if you don't have your health, you don't have anything. Not relationship as it can be a son-of-a-bitch to find a new one.

No, I would choose money as this would seem to be the one that could most easily be controlled. If a person loses their job, there are quite a few options available. Even if unemployment benefits cannot be obtained, it's not too difficult to tighten one's belt by eating out less and spending a smaller portion on various entertainments. Many companies will allow their customers to set up payment plans. School loans can be deferred. Chow mein is inexpensive and sex is (usually) free.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Endless Sleep

As I began my fifth year of college in the fall of '93, all was not well. I had recently been diagnosed with major depression and though talk thearapy was helping, the psychiatist said it would take several weeks for the antidepressants I was prescribed to take effect (assuming they worked for me, that is).

School was a chore. As a Business major, I took a number of Marketing classes. Under normal circumstances, I would've quite enjoyed taking Consumer Behavior, but I sure wasn't up for it that fall. My creativity was sparked a tad, however, when the professor, a Mr. Bovinet, asked us to write up a couple paragraphs on what product best fit our personalities. I went with an awfully downbeat piece, but what could I do? That's how I felt. Herewith is a copy of what I submitted (click on the pic for a larger version):

I wondered what his reaction would be. If confronted, I would just say that I was being seen by professionals. He wound up giving me a good grade on it and didn't ask any questions though I noticed that he seemed to keeping an eye on me for the remainder of the term (perhaps looking for any other possible suicidal indicators). I found out later that Sudafed isn't a sleeping pill.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 10, 1970

According to my parents, I was born on this day in 1970. Richard Nixon was President, the number one song was "I'll Be There" by the Jackson 5. Below is an entry I made into my personal journal on November 17, 1999, almost exactly ten years ago:

"My birthday went very well. My mom picked me up at work at 4pm. She took me home to take the dogs out and then we went to Fridays. She said someone was waiting for me. It turned out to be my dad and, of course, my wife, my life. We had a very good dinner. My love gave me an Adam Sandler CD, a Tori Amos videotape, a cake, and a ski mask. My mother gave me the Friendship with God book by Neale Donald Walsch as well as a framed picture of me and my parents when I was a toddler. My father paid for the meal and gave me $100 cash. I spent five of those dollars on "A Country Christmas 1999" at Target. This year's Christmas will be spent at the cusp of our moving into our first house."

Ten years later, I have to chuckle at the consistency of my gift requests. This year, I've again asked for Neale Donald Walsch's latest book and would've asked for Tori Amos' newest one but for the fact that it comes out today.

It's not mentioned in the post, but my father coming was quite notable. You see, he was a Jehovah's Witness and they are strictly forbidden from having anything to do with birthday celebrations, one reason being that a couple big-time parties in ancient times led to some beheadings (for more info on this, go here).

In my mind, that's not enough to throw out the tradition. It'd be like if a woman slit a man's throat after having sex and a law was decreed that in order to avoid this happening again, no one should ever have sex. It's basically throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The reason my dad decided to come even though he was still technically a Witness was that he had become disillusioned with the faith after the way one of his sons was treated by the elders in the congregation after he (the son) made a slight lapse in judgement (he looked admiringly at himself in the mirror; no, it wasn't that, but it wasn't much worse).

The Witnesses' loss turned out to be my gain and I'm not just talking about the one hundred smackers I received that night.

Addendum: Here is a pic from last night's (11-10-09) celebration:

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Night on the Town

Last night, the Mrs. and I went to Friday's for dinner. It was strange being there at 5:30pm and seeing it dark outside. There were a number of people at the bar, but not too many in the restaurant proper. We had a coupon for a free appetizer which my wife used to order potato skins. However, she asked that they come without sour cream or bacon. When they were brought out 20 minutes later, it was just potato skins with some cheese on top. Not very appealing to me, but she had quite a few. The waitress asked how many trick-or-treaters we had; I said a couple dozen. She said she and her kids dressed up, but not a soul rang on her doorbell. Poor girl, all that leftover candy.

Next it was on to ShopKo to buy a few necessities. In the beauty section, I looked for my trusty Carmex. There was a supervisor wearing a Brad Johnson jersey who was overseeing the work of a couple new recruits.

Not able to find my precious white jar of lip balm, I took a half-spent jar of it out of my pocket, went up to the super, and said, "Hey, BJ. Where do I find this?" One of his subordinates showed me. As I walked away, I heard him ask, "Why did he call me BJ?"

Next, I went to the DVD section where there was a young guy with long black hair doing some stocking. Journey's 80's classic "Don't Stop Believin" was playing. I was quite surprised to hear him say that he loved the song (he hadn't even been born when the song originally came out). I made a comment to my wife about a movie I wanted to Netflix called "Whatever Works". He overheard and said he'd never heard of it. His intrusion into our conversation made him seem like a video store clerk-wannabe. Sometimes I miss those days myself.

After checking out, we headed to the movie theatre to see "The Invention of Lying" (I had seen it a month before, but was eager to go again). We walked into the lobby and didn't see anyone who we could purchase a ticket from. A moment later, I noticed an employee talking to another employee. After a few seconds, I said "Ding" relatively loudly (I did this a couple weeks ago at a bank when a teller didn't notice me at the counter). It's obviously meant to simulate ringing a bell for service.

After doing this last night, the ticket lady kept talking to her coworker. So a few seconds later, I did the "ding" again. The lady then came up to us. My wife asked why I did this. The lady overheard me say, "Well, when I worked at the video store, the customer always came first, so you wouldn't talk to another employee if there was a customer waiting". The theatre is called Chateau, but it is experiences like this that impel me to call it Shiteau.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Going A Year Without Health Insurance

When I lost my job in late 2008, my healthcare benefits disappeared as well (though they weren't the greatest, anyway). The first thing I tried to figure out was how to still get my prescription meds for a reasonable price. I did some calling around and found a store where I could get them even cheaper than what I was paying with insurance. Interesting...

After a time, I looked online for affordable health coverage (an oxymoron if there ever was one). I pondered paying an exorbitant amount for catastrophic coverage, but after about 22 seconds, realized that it just wasn't justified.

Other than being curious about my cholesterol numbers, I've had no reason to see the doctor over the past year. Even if I had affordable coverage, I'd be down more than a grand as most health insurance costs more than a hundred dollars a month.

I haven't been extra careful when walking down the street (avoiding black cats, wearing glasses that are practical as opposed to fashionable, not telling smokers they smell like shit) as I feel that whatever happens, happens.

Circumstances have changed of late that lead me to believe I'll be back among those who are covered in the near future, but I have to admit to getting a bit of a kick out of not being covered. It's kinda like getting up every morning and heading to work without wearing drawers. I can certainly see the appeal it has for twentysomethings.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pimp My Bike

Throughout my college years (1989-1996), my main mode of transportation was by bike. In the early 90's, I had a standard Huffy 10-speed bike, the kind where you sit leaning way forward and have ridiculously skinny wheels. It got uncomfortable on long trips, but was much faster than walking. The seat was also small and didn't offer much support; this could be why I'm unable to father children.

Tired of getting my ass tore up (that's what she said), I went to Kolter's Bike Shop one afternoon and found an incredibly soft gel seat that was much bigger than the one I had for a mere $15. I purchased the thing of beauty and picked it up the next day (Mr. Kolter needed time to install it). The pleasure I felt on riding the bike home was incredible, like going from using the toilet paper that is furnished in Wal-Mart bathrooms to the softest and thickest shit you can dream of.

With the new seat, biking became more than just a way to get from here to there, it was a joy unto itself. When the time came to purchase a new ride, I decided that a mountain bike might be in order. The wheels were much thicker, they didn't have the ridiculously curved handles that 10-speeds do, and a water bottle was provided for those really hot days. It was also important that I purchased a bike that had a cool name.

As a child, I had a orange banana-seated bike called SkyHawk. I loved that thing. I once outrode a bully (Danny Lehnertz) who was trying to get me; I felt like Han Solo in the Millenium Falcon shaking the Imperials.

I wound up purchasing a green and black bike called Mojave Gulch. I took frequent out-of-town trips on it. I liked to head over the bridge into Wisconsin.

One time, I rode more than 12 miles into Trempealeau, a river town on the Wisconsin side. Instead of taking time to enjoy the city, I started to think about the long voyage back and headed back home. I probably should've been scared of the cars and trucks driving 55 MPH+ past me, but I can't say I was. I also visited my childhood hometown, Rollingstone. While there, I parked in the playground of the elementary school I attended and went on the swings. From there, I could see the house that we lived in in the late 70's and early 80's.

One spring, '92 I believe, I watched the Weather Channel every morning to see how warm it was gonna get. If it was going to be warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, there was a good chance I'd take a recreational ride somewhere.

A couple years later, it was time to get another bike. This time, I chose Huffy's Stone Mountain.

It's the bike I had when I met my wife-to-be. A few months later, I bought a car, so no longer needed to ride the thing. However, on some afternoons, I took it out and rode the local trails. It's been years now since I've ridden a bike (Stone Mountain is in the garage, but his tires are flat), but I'll always be glad for the many years I spent being environmentally conscious by not driving a car (though my wife will probably never forgive me for the toll it wound up taking on my balls).

Monday, October 26, 2009

My First Time...On the Net

I remember the first time I hopped on the World Wide Web. It was 1994. I was about halfway through college. A high school friend and I went to one of the school's computer labs and gave it a whirl. We were both big on "Beavis and Butthead", so headed to a site about them. Only a few minutes later, my friend played a recording of them chuckling. A couple other people in the lab looked at him, fooling around while they were trying to finish assignments.

Sometime later, the school had a special lab set up where people could go to just surf the net. I liked going there in between classes. It was always a bummer when all the seats were taken. The video below reminds me of those early days when Netscape was the main search engine and many of the graphics were still quite primitive. Enjoy the trip back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

(The Memory of) Pain is Temporary

Last winter, my wife and I went to Ashland, Oregon (I wrote extensively about it here). I was somewhat surprised recently to read that I had a reasonable amount of neck pain the first couple days I was there. Looking back now, it's like I didn't actually experience the pain, my mind seems to only want to remember the good things about the trip.

This is most likely a universal experience. So when we think that some past event was such an awesome time or that days gone by far surpass what we're going through today, most likely we're remembering the way it never was. Something to keep in mind the next time you get wistful for the past (though there's virtually no question that the Clinton years were the best of all times in which to live).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Two-Ton Tessie

A month ago, I posted video of our Saint Bernard when she was but a pup. Now here she is full-grown "playing" with little Zoe:

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I lost my sunglasses the day before last. Apparently, I left them on the trunk of my girl's car while it was parked in the garage and then forgot to obtain them the following morning when going to work (as it was rainy out). She didn't notice the spectacles as she left, so they musta fell off onto the road somewhere. I've had them for years, in fact, just a few days before, I was marveling at how I don't generally lose glasses; the previous pair I had for a number of years as well until they wore out. Both were Viper Blublockers purchased from a summer street vendor.

I was bummed for a bit before realizing I should take my own advice and see every change as an opportunity. I thought of ordering another pair online, but then felt it might be best to scope things out around town, see what else is out there. Perhaps I could find an old-school pair that would make people think I'm Don Draper.

One good thing about losing my glasses at this time of year is that the only time I'll be wearing them is in my car as the weather is not really favorable (and won't be for some time) for taking walks. I don't plan to spend any more than $25.

I can still remember the first time I bought sunglasses (at the age of 20). They were quite dark, kinda like the Terminator's. I was somewhat embarrassed the first time I wore them (walking to my Dad's place) as I felt I looked cool enough without wearing them, but WITH them, forget it.

UPDATE: Mission Accomplished. I bought (would you believe) ESPN glasses:

After purchasing them, I went to the grocery store to buy some food. For the heck of it, I perused their sunglass selection. While doing so, I glanced up and noticed a man reading a magazine. Which one? ESPN.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Take Your Pick

I do many things in the morning before leaving the house: taking a shower, getting dressed, pleasing myself. But I never seem to remember to "clean" my nose. I drive to work, work for a couple hours before nature calls and then head to the bathroom. Once there, I can literally feel my nose screaming for relief. It is then that I use my finger to pick at its residue. I really need to put something in my bathroom to remind me to do this shortly after waking.

I typically use the two minutes spent brushing my teeth walking around the house, petting the cat, and marveling at how someone I work with has over 500 friends on Facebook. Another of my colleagues recommended her as a friend, but wouldn't I be just a drop in the bucket to such greatness?

Sometimes at work, I'll want to itch my ass, but first have to look around to make sure no one is looking my way (as if they don't do the same thing). Walking around the lake when such an urge strikes, I'm tempted to do the same looksie, but am generally like, "Who gives a fuck?!" and just do it already. One can't live their life worried that others are gonna think less of them because they like to "itch" certain body parts.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

"I Loved It!", "I Hated It!"

A couple weeks ago, my wife and her friend went to Matt Damon's new movie "The Informant!". I told her that the reviews for it were excellent and she was able to convince her friend to go along with her. I returned from work one afternoon and listened as she told me that "it was terrible...but you might like it". I seriously doubted it was terrible, not with a Tomatometer reading over 70%, not from the director of Erin Brockovich and Ocean's 11 (as well as its sequels).

I finally had the opportunity to see it yesterday afternoon and found it to be very good; I chuckled a great deal as the story unfolded. One of the most amusing things was when Damon (as the narrator) would make statements to himself that had nothing to do with what was onscreen. Here is one of my favorites:

Mark Whitacre: Polar bears cover their noses before they pounce on a seal. How do polar bears know their noses are black? Did they look in the water one day, see their reflection and say, "Man, I'd be invisible if it wasn't for that thing."

I was mystified at how others could say that it wasn't good. It's like we literally saw different movies. My wife and her friend also didn't care for "(500) Days of Summer" which I absolutely adored.

Could it be they were expecting a standard romantic comedy while I knew it had an unconventional narrative and didn't necessarily end happily? I've been a fan for more than a decade of quirky, offbeat films while others may prefer the cookie-cutter pleasures of action movies and chick flicks.

That's why when someone says "That was an awesome movie!", it might help to know what their five favorite movies of all-time are. If "Transformers" is on their list, steer clear. At least I would, as that person's taste doesn't match up at all with my own. Call me crazy, but I like to see something unique when I go to the movie theatre, not the same ol' formulaic garbage.

BTW, in a nod to "Team America", when I went up to the box-office attendant yesterday, all I said was "Matt Damon" in the exact same way that it is said in these scenes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Wanna Catch Somethin'

A co-worker of mine got a flu shot yesterday. Being that she has asthma, I don't blame her. She said she's gonna make her husband get one as well since she doesn't want to catch something from him. Poor guy. I've noted before that I don't get the flu shot, that I prefer to take my chances and see what it gets me. I've been very fortunate in that (as I've also noted) I rarely get sick. I recently heard it said that getting sick encourages one to look inward, to be reflective, to temporarily be free of the daily business of life. If that's the case, then I'm really missing the boat. Anyone got any viruses you can send me that might help me grow spiritually? Cuz if getting sick helps one learn to overcome, I ain't learnin' shit.

I actually believe that all illness is self-created (at some level). Here's a quote from my favorite book in regards to this:

"Now let's understand what you probably already know: all illness is self-created. Even conventional medical doctors are now seeing how people make themselves sick.
Most people do so quite unconsciously. (They don't even know what they're doing.) So when they get sick, they don't know what hit them. It feels as though something has befallen them, rather than that they did something to themselves.
This occurs because most people move through life—not simply health issues and consequences—unconsciously.
People smoke and wonder why they get cancer.
People ingest animals and fat and wonder why they get blocked arteries.
People stay angry all their lives and wonder why they get heart attacks.
People compete with other people—mercilessly and under incredible stress—and wonder why they have strokes.
The not-so-obvious truth is that most people worry themselves to death.
Worry is just about the worst form of mental activity there is—next to hate, which is deeply self destructive.

Worry is pointless. It is wasted mental energy. It also creates bio-chemical reactions which harm the body, producing everything from indigestion to coronary arrest, and multitude of things in between.
Health will improve almost at once when worrying ends."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Honeymoon

On August 24th, 1998, my wife-of-less-than-24-hours and I left Illinois and drove to the Milwaukee airport. We both felt great. The wedding was fabulous, but now the time had come for just the two of us to celebrate. We parked the car and began to remove the luggage we'd brought. I'd hoped to bring along my fan to use as white noise at the hotel, but wasn't able to find any room to put it in. Crap, I probably wasn't gonna be able to sleep well without it.

We headed into the airport and waited for our flight to board. Once on the plane, we relaxed. After about 3 hours, we arrived at our destination: sunny Orlando, Florida. We picked up our bags and took a bus to the world famous Walt Disney World Resort. It was getting close to sunset when we arrived at where we would be staying: The Disney All-Star Sports Resort:

We relaxed the rest of that first night, but looked forward to seeing all the sights over the next 6 days. Just like when I went to Disney World with my stepdad in '93 and '94, I utilized the "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World". It gave the best times of day to hit certain rides, the best rides to go on, the best places to eat, etc. It was quite helpful.

We went to all 4 Disney parks while there: the newly opened Animal Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studios, Epcot Center, and, of course, the Magic Kingdom. One of my favorite rides at the Kingdom is Splash Mountain. For pretty much all of our days down there, it was quite hot. High 80's, low 90's, maybe even warmer. Thankfully, some of the attractions were indoors. Each morning, we would go to the All-Star Resort's cafeteria for breakfast. Invariably, I would have two glazed donuts and some Powerade to drink.

One of my favorite parks was Disney-MGM. Why? Well, the 30-foot (life-size) Star Wars AT-AT is one of the coolest things I have ever seen:

the "Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular" is bitchin', and the brand-new (at that time) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was also rockin'.

On about our 3rd evening in Florida, we decided to go to Pleasure Island (no, it's not like that, you dirty devils). They have all sorts of cool things there like comedy and dance clubs as well as a gigantic Tower Records. We took one of the Disney buses there. Partway into the ride, my beloved said that she was feeling sick. Luckily, we arrived at our stop a couple minutes later. She got off the bus and immediately vomited on the ground.

She said she wanted to go back to the room and rest, that I should stay and hang out a bit since I was already at the Island. So she returned to home base while I looked around. Vince Gill's new CD had just come out, so I listened to parts of it at the record store. After a while, I grew bored and returned to the hotel. She wasn't in the room; could she be cheating on me already? I assumed that she had most likely gone to get medical treatment. A short time later, I received a call from my wife. She said that she was at the hospital in Celebration, Florida. It's called Celebration Health.

Cool name, innit? If you're deathly sick, they send you to Invigorating Intensive Care; if you're having an acute issue, they ship you to Ecstatic Emergency Care. The docs said she was very dehydrated, gave her an IV, and released her a short time later. She came back later that night.

After going to all 4 Disney parks, we set out to see Universal Studios (we had to rent a car to do so). That evening, after going to the park, we went to one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Steak & Shake. My stepdad had introduced me to it 4 years prior and I loved it. On the way there, though, we experienced a mighty bad thunderstorm. The lightning strikes a lot closer in Florida than up in Minnesota. My girl got mighty scared (this can easily be explained; she was a lightning rod in a past life).

I wound up sleeping just fine without the fan. On our last night in Florida, we went to a big souvenir store in Downtown Disney. We bought a couple shirts and my love bought herself a Mickey Mouse watch. All in all, we had a great honeymoon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Too Much Skin

Why do people wear jeans that aren't flattering to their ass? I pride myself on wearing pants that show off what I got, but most guys wear their pants in such a way that it's virtually impossible to tell that they have a touchis; women are a bit better in this regard:

It's like, Have a little respect for yourself. Even if you're taken, there's nothing wrong with showing what you got.

Which brings me to chubby people wearing clothes that show off too much of their skin. I'm at a relatively healthy weight, but haven't worn tank tops since Chevy Chase was funny...just kidding, I think he's actually quite amusing on NBC's new show "Community". Clothes were designed for a reason: to obscure the body's largest organ and if you're packing more than 20% body fat, the more covered, the better.

If it's 80 degrees outside, I'm wearing a long-sleeve shirt because most all my day will be spent inside, either at work or during the weekend, at the movie theatre and a restaurant. I recently told a friend of mine that wearing a short-sleeve shirt to Friday's is just plain tacky. And don't even get me started on the fucks who wear flip flops everywhere they go. Sometimes I wish it was winter all year round.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Puppy Power

In the fall of 1998, my newly christened wife said she wanted to get a Saint Bernard. I, being of sound mind and body, was against it. She was unfazed. I said if she brought the pup home, I would divorce her. I guess she didn't believe me as she brought it home, anyway. Below is a bit that she taped of me that night.

The next day, she went to Petco to get supplies for the horse-to-be. The employee she spoke with said to think big, so my wife bought a huge water bowl as well as a gigantic crate. Check out 1:40 of this vid where a 5-pound Saint can be seen taking up about, oh, 5% of her crate.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Engagement Pic Takes Me Back 16 Years

This past week, my beloved and I have been taking care of a friend's dachshunds. When they dropped the girls off, they also left us some newspapers to put down in case they had to eliminate when we were gone or sleeping. I've not been a subscriber of the local paper for a couple years, so took the opportunity to take a gander at what had been going on in my town of late. Turns out that most of the papers were from June of '08. Talk about sad times; W (or should I say Cheney) was in charge back then. This didn't stop me from perusing a bit while eating lunch a couple days ago.

The first thing I grabbed was the lifestyle section. In it could be found pics of couples who had plans to be married over the summer (to think, they're not even newlyweds any longer). I carefully looked at the last names and found one that I recognized: Stokes. There was only one person I've ever known that has that name; a guy by the name of Ted who was a social worker of sorts for me in 1993. Well, wouldn't you know it. It WAS him. Getting married in his late 30's was somewhat unconventional, but who am I to judge?

Back in '93, I was seeing a psychiatrist who monitored the meds I was taking, a psychologist who I relied on for therapy, and Ted. I forget what his official title was, but his job was to meet with me every couple of weeks and take me somewhere for an hour where we might chat (it differed from traditional therapy in that it was less formal and we actually went outside of the mental health building).

Many times I would opt to go to a fast food joint to have lunch. He didn't always order food for himself as many of his clients throughout the day chose to go to restaurants. It's good he didn't have a problem with people eating in front of him. I recall that he was a big fan of the band Live and Hootie and the Blowfish. It was great to socialize a bit with someone my age (though he was actually getting paid to do so).

One afternoon, I arrived at his office a bit early, so waited out in the hall. I looked up and saw that all of the counselors had their names listed in white letters on a black board (similar to the one pictured below):

I got a wicked idea as I looked at Ted's name. I adjusted a few letters so that his name was listed as "Ted Strokes". I chuckled as he called me in. I did this again a couple weeks later when I saw that his name had been put back to normal. A week after that, as I sat with him, I mentioned that I'd recently seen his name listed on the board as Ted Strokes. He laughed a bit and said that he was aware of the issue.

A few months later, I was well on the road to recovery and no longer needed his services, but seeing his pic sure brought back some memories and for that, I thank you, Master Strokes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Today is the day that most NFL teams begin their season. I've had a problem of late with the sport being referred to as "football". You want a game in which the foot is used on a much more frequent basis? That would be soccer, which is fittingly named football around the rest of the world (as it should be). What the Vikings and what-not play is rugby as far as I'm concerned.

In high school, I'd frequently bet against my hometown team. My Chem teacher once asked why I did this. I replied,"If the Vikings win, I'm happy and don't mind parting with a few bucks. If they lose, I get some moolah to ease my sorrows".

I'm not as big a fan of the team as in years past. For example, this afternoon, the opposing team made a great stop on one of the Vikings players. I literally cheered as it was a fantastic play; it was irrelevant to me what color uniform the guy who pulled it off happened to be wearing.

An interesting article about fans' overidentifying with their favorite team can be found here. The first paragraph:

"It happens to me every time: I tell myself that it's just a game, that these overpaid basketball superstars don't really have any loyalty to a particular team, place, city, etc., that I really shouldn't care about the outcome of the NBA finals. And yet and yet: despite my self-awareness, I can't help but nervously pace during the 4th quarter, as I watch my Lakers surrender a 24 point lead. (The possessive pronouns of sports fan are so odd, considering that Kobe Bryant made more money in the 4th quarter than I will in the next decade.) And then, after the heartbreaking loss, I'm way too upset to sleep. I have to wait for the adrenaline in my blood to breakdown and for my pulse to return to resting state. It's such an annoying state of being, mostly because I know that my mild and meaningless suffering is a complete waste of emotion."

Earlier this decade, I went to a Vikings game with my beloved and a friend of ours. Shortly after the game began, my friend got a footlong hotdog. That thing was monstrous; just like Vikings player Visanthe Shiancoe). If I was a woman, I probably woulda fainted right there.

Monday, September 07, 2009

I Have To Pee

One downside to being a frequent moviegoer is that, unlike a person who watches movies exclusively on DVD, there's no way to press the "pause" button when nature calls. As I mentioned in my prior post, I always go to the bathroom before a movie starts. But what if I go to a film that is a bladder-strainer (such as "Lord of the Rings")? What if I drank too much Mello Yello at Friday's a couple hours before?

A little over a week ago, I went with a friend to Brad Pitt's "Inglorious Basterds" (an A movie if ever there was one).

About 90 minutes in, my bladder started calling for some relief. Now, there was no way I was gonna resist its call; I mean, how can one enjoy a bloody climax if their privates are screaming (pun intended)? I knew I had to go, but when? Certainly not in the middle of a crucial scene.

Over the years, I've mastered the art of going to the bathroom during a relatively non-important scene. For "Basterds", I took off when what appeared to be a expositional scene began. It consisted of Mike Myers (as a Brit) discussing strategies on how to deal with the Nazis (or as Pitt called them in his Mississippi drawl: "Natzis"). Two minutes later, when I returned, the scene was just finishing up and I didn't feel that I'd missed anything.

For those unsure how to distinguish essential parts of a film from non-essential, help has arrived in the form of a website called RunPee. It not only lists the best scenes in which to take a pee break, but also tells you what you missed if you go at that particular time.

Full disclosure: Sometimes when going to the bathroom while a movie is playing, I'll skip washing my hands in order to get back to the theatre that much quicker.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Public Restrooms

Almost without fail, I go to the bathroom before sitting down to watch a movie or eat at a restaurant; having an empty bladder pleases me greatly. When at a urinal, instead of just standing upright, I typically lean my head forward against the bathroom tiles. Washing my hands takes just a few seconds because I rarely ever use soap; in fact, I put my hands under the faucet for only about a second before getting to work on drying them. If all a restroom has is those automated dryers, I just shake my hands dry, not wanting to waste 30-45 seconds getting them completely dry. I also very rarely look in the mirror while in a public restroom. What's the point?

Now for some amusing bathroom stories: one evening at the Outback, I saw an old man waiting right outside the men's and women's bathrooms. I quickly realized that he didn't know which restroom was which; one said "Blokes", the other "Sheilas". A minute later, when he saw a man exit the "Blokes" restroom, he entered it.

When I see a man go to the bathroom and then not wash his hands, I'm tempted to go up to his significant other and tell them what just transpired; I have a bit of Larry David in me:

If memory serves, I actually did this about 10 years ago in a bowling alley.

I was in Friday's a couple weeks ago and a 20-something walked up to the urinal next to me and started going. Five seconds later, he began moaning as if he was being sucked off. I was like, "Jesus, save it for your woman".

Lastly, many moons ago, I saw Garth Brooks in concert and was eliminating when a couple girls walked in. I quickly used my hands to cover what I was packing as they headed for the stalls. A minute later, they were washing their hands and I can't say I minded that they were there. In fact, none of the guys present appeared to have an issue with it.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Skip Day

I rarely get sick, but sometimes just don't feel like going in to work. Once the thought enters my mind that it'd be more fun to just stay home, forget it; in all but the most extreme cases, I'm not goin' in. For the last job I had, I preferred calling in "sick" by leaving a message. This was only possible if the person who got to the office first hadn't arrived yet. Sometimes I'd have to hurry out of bed to get to the phone in order to ensure this.

When it was 7:30 or later, I'd have to talk to someone in person. This would be preceded by me preparing to sound like I'm sick. I would usually go downstairs so that my wife couldn't hear me laying on it pretty thick (she'd typically be asleep, anyway). Sometimes I'd dial the number and then get cold feet. After a minute or two of composing myself, however, I'd leave a message in which I spoke much slower than usual and sounded much less alert.

Two minutes later, I was a happy camper and went straight to bed with a smile on my face.

I'd sometimes feel a tad guilty about doing this (like a teenage boy after masturbating), but certainly not enough to stop the behavior.

BTW, I bought groceries this afternoon and the total came out to $55.55. That's gotta mean something, right?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Midnight Snack

Ever since turning 30, I get up at least a couple times in the middle of the night. In most cases, I'm at least a tad hungry, so after going to the bathroom, I hit the refrigerator for a snack or two (I've noticed that it's easier for me to get to sleep if I have a reasonable amount of food being digested). But where to eat it? I'm not big on eating at the kitchen table and don't really like ingesting food while in front of the telly.

I hit upon the idea of eating on the floor of the bathroom at least five years ago. While sitting cross-legged on the floor mat next to the sink, I peruse EntertainMeWeakly

(check it: the cast of Seinfeld is reuniting this fall on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm")

or Snoozeweek as I eat a NutriGrain bar (or an Oreo Cakester if I'm jonesing for some chocolate). On other evenings, I'll microwave some Pillsbury homestyle pancakes and make sure to put plenty of syrup on them.

I sometimes even eat my dinner in there; the white noise offered by the bathroom fan is a nice reprieve from the TV blaring as my wife watches stuff like Nancy Grace and "Fried Green Tomatoes". The bright lights given off by the vanity also make it much easier for me to read.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eleven Years Ago Today

On August 23rd, 1998, I woke up by myself at the Ramada hotel in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Today was the big day. I took a long shower and shaved. I got dressed in regular clothes and headed next door to the Bristol Court banquet hall. There weren't too many people there yet.

I went to the men's dressing room. My best man, Phil, was there. I changed into a zoot suit. The other men in my party arrived soon after. I took a stroll around the banquet hall. Everything appeared to be in order. I was called over to do pictures with my about-to-be in-laws. Next, I met the rabbi (I'm not Jewish, but my wife-to-be was. Don't worry. Even though I'm not Jewish, I've been cut) who asked me to sign a wedding contract called a katuba. I didn't see her, but could hear my beloved talking from the top of the stairs (Is that bad luck?)

At 11am, it was time for the ceremony to start. I was quite nervous, but there was no turning back now. I went to my designated spot under the Jewish hupa and waited for my bride. Her parents walked her down the aisle. They had forgotten to put her veil down, however. Oh well. The rabbi gave a short talk about love, life and God. My love and I recited some Hebrew, exchanged rings, and drank wine. At the end, I was asked to smash a glass (actually a light bulb) with my foot (famous Jewish tradition). I did so and everyone said, "Mazel Tov". We then kissed (but not for too long, since her dad was just 3 feet away) and I felt mighty relieved that the most difficult part was over.

We did a meet and greet with everyone who had come (about 150 or so). Both my parents were there and 3 of my 4 siblings (the 4th one was having "issues" at the time). Many more pictures were taken by the wedding photographer.

After a while, the guests went to their seats. The entire wedding party was introduced by the DJ providing music for us. Dori and I were given a standing ovation, which was surreal, but cool. We sat down and proceeded to chow down, but not until after a few toasts. The food (caesar salad, chicken, etc) was quite good. Dori and I then proceeded to visit with our guests.

Then the dancing started. Our first dance was the Jim Brickman-Martina McBride love song, "Valentine". Next, the bridal party came out and then it was an all-skate, I mean, an all-dance. They were playing a lot of fast Jock Jams-like songs, but I just couldn't loosen up enough to really get down like some of the people there.

The music stopped right around 4pm and, like that, our wedding was complete. Me and my girl went to our respective dressing rooms and changed into civilian clothes. The girls in the bridal party suggested that everyone in the wedding party go out to eat someplace close for supper. Wendy's was right across the street, so the ten of us headed over there and had a good meal. The bridal party still wanted to have fun, so suggested a movie. They decided on "There's Something About Mary". We had seen it a week before (even back then, I was a movie freak), so didn't go along. We found out later that everyone loved the movie (it was quite good).

We then headed to my newly- christened wife's parents' house to do some laundry. We visited with them for a while, then headed to the honeymoon suite at the Ramada. Something was wrong with the bath, so we had to call for someone to fix it. The suite was nice. It had leather furniture which was quite sweet. We opened our wedding presents which, per Jewish tradition, consisted almost entirely of cash (!). After you-know-what, we went to sleep. The next morning, it was off to the Milwaukee airport and from there, a honeymoon in sunny Orlando, Florida.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wiping is so 20th Century

Toilet paper, such a waste (and not even very effective).

Check out this article from Newsweek:

Deep down, Americans have always known that wiping their rears with dry paper is ineffective; a classic survey showed that half of TP users spend their days with "fecal contamination" in their underpants. And yet we continue to mock the bidet, the Frenchest of innovations, as froufrou, risqué, de trop. But while personal hygiene is one thing, the future of the planet is another. The average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day; collectively, we burn through 36.5 billion rolls each year. Tossing all the TP in America would save 15 million trees, 17.3 terawatts of electricity, and more than 473 billion gallons of water annually; the environmental impact of bidets is minimal in comparison. No wonder the Japanese bidet behemoth Toto is gearing up for a massive sales push in the States. When it's hip to be green, ditching the Charmin could actually make a difference. And not only in our (dirty) drawers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Movies

I've been to four different movies over the past ten days. A week and a half ago, I saw "A Perfect Getaway", a thriller whose main point of interest is a doozy of a twist.

Going in, I didn't know what it was, but it's always cool trying to figure out what it is ahead of time. I wasn't able to do so in this case (I rarely do), but that didn't keep me from having a good time with it. The film took place entirely in Hawaii which made it awfully easy on the eyes (Milla Jovovich also helped greatly in this regard).

A few days later, I finally caught up with the 6th Harry Potter movie. Though there was hardly any action to be found, the characters and the struggles they faced held my interest throughout. Not something I'd wanna revisit, however, and like all previous installments, a very pale imitation of the far superior "Lord of the Rings" films.

On Saturday, I went to "District 9", a very highly praised sci-fi movie from a new director. Made for a paltry $30 million (crap like Transformers costs over $150 million), this movie had it all.

It started as a documentary about aliens trying to fit in with humans in South Africa before turning into a full-force action pic. I usually don't root for characters much in action films, but the ones in this movie really had my sympathies. A number of moments had me on the verge of cheering. Very stirring film and the number one movie of last weekend.

Yesterday, I caught "(500) Days of Summer".

As I went up to the cashier, I said, "I'll take one to "Days of Thunder". The guy asked me to repeat what I said and I did. A moment later, he gave me a tic to "Summer". I wonder if he went up to one of his coworkers later and told them about the yutz he encountered in the early afternoon.

"(500)" looks to be a love story, but the narrator states early on that this is not the case. The film had a number of laughs, but was even better at showing what it feels like to be in the "honeymoon" phase of a relationship, just not necessarily a relationship that is gonna end up with wedding bells. This is something that most rom-coms just don't get. Both leads were fantastic and the non-linear form that the film followed made for a more interesting experience than if it had followed a more traditional path.

One thing I noticed after seeing "Summer" was the high it had me on. Walking around the lake afterward, it was extremely palpable and I was reminded why it is that I love movies so much.

Here are my grades for the four: "A Perfect Getaway" (B+), "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (B), "District 9" (A), "(500) Days of Summer" (A-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

God's Pizza

Later this afternoon, I'll be going to my favorite pizza place in town, Godfather's Pizza (I wrote about my somewhat-criminal early 90's actions there here).

The only time I go there is when they have their twice-weekly buffet. I typically arrive just before it starts (at 5), find a seat, get a pop, and make sure there is plenty of parmesan cheese at my table. I pretty much always eat the exact same thing: five slices of thin-crust pepperoni pizza and a few dessert sticks.

You might ask how I get away with taking five pieces of the same type of pizza off the buffet. Well, if there's no one nearby, there's no problem; I just go for it. If someone is behind me, I'll take two or three slices off the buffet, put the plate on my table, and then immediately go back up there to get two or three more.

Once seated in a booth, I move the table really close to me so that I don't need to lean forward to eat. If no one wishes to accompany me, I bring along an ish of TIME or Entertainment Weekly. It was while reading articles there that I first learned about two of my favorite TV shows: "Prison Break" and "Entourage". One time, when writing a check for the buffet, I wrote it out to "God's Pizza". My wife, seeing this, said, "Can you do that?"

At 5:15, I leave the restaurant quite satiated and rarin' to play with pup for a while in the backyard to burn off some of the pizza-powered energy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whoa, Nelly

Fascinating article in TIME magazine last week about exercise and how it won't make you thin.

Some choice bits:

"The basic problem is that while it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.

After we exercise, we often crave sugary calories like those in muffins or in "sports" drinks like Gatorade. A standard 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade contains 130 calories. If you're hot and thirsty after a 20-minute run in summer heat, it's easy to guzzle that bottle in 20 seconds, in which case the caloric expenditure and the caloric intake are probably a wash. From a weight-loss perspective, you would have been better off sitting on the sofa knitting.

Could pushing people to exercise more actually be contributing to our obesity problem? In some respects, yes. Because exercise depletes not just the body's muscles but the brain's self-control "muscle" as well, many of us will feel greater entitlement to eat a bag of chips during that lazy time after we get back from the gym.

This explains why exercise could make you heavier — or at least why even my wretched four hours of exercise a week aren't eliminating all my fat. It's likely that I am more sedentary during my nonexercise hours than I would be if I didn't exercise with such Puritan fury. If I exercised less, I might feel like walking more instead of hopping into a cab; I might have enough energy to shop for food, cook and then clean instead of ordering a satisfyingly greasy burrito."

This time last year, I was hitting the treadmill like a madman, walking an hour every two to three days. Though it felt good, I can't say it did much to help me lose weight. If I'd eaten a bit less, I'm sure I would've had more favorable results, but fact is, I'm at a healthy weight and if anything, should work more on reducing saturated fat from my diet.

Over the past few months, I've been getting about 10 to 15 minutes of exercise each day (nothing strenuous), eat about the same amount of food, and have maintained my weight for the most part. I'm more than cool with this. Though the treadmill just sits, unused, it makes an awfully good coat rack.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fly Away

We've had a number of flies come into the house this summer due to leaving the garage door slightly ajar from time to time so that Zoe can come and go as she pleases. I have a very unusual strategy when it comes to dealing with them. Before I get into that, though, I have to note that flies in the house seem to bother the dog much more than the cat.

The dog will jump in the air to try to catch them and sometimes chases them from room to room. She actually caught one yesterday and was eating it (something that cats tend to do). The cat will chase moths in the garage, but doesn't appear to have much interest in flies (she did when she was younger).

When I encounter flies, I take a paper towel and try to capture them within it. Once I am able to do so, which can take some time, I open the deck door and let them fly away. Sometimes (though not too often), I'll clip a bit of their wing when I envelope them, but that's certainly better than what would happen if they'd wandered into virtually any other house in the neighborhood. My wife will sometimes get frustrated at my strategy saying things like, "Just kill it", but it's quite obvious to me that the fly just wants to be free; if a little extra effort can ensure this, it's a win-win.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Doesn't It Just Break Your Heart?

For more pics of animals in casts, go here.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Tone-Loc or Tone-Deaf?

Video I taped of my brothers 20 years ago

Monday, July 27, 2009

8.5 Hours a Day

While reading the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, I came across a column by Stephen King in which he mentioned a recently released study that says adults spend an average of 8.5 hours a day in front of various screens (television, computer, mobile devices).

This got me to thinking, what's the point of having a body if all you're gonna with it is sit in front of a screen? Such a sedentary activity. I admit to spending a lot of time on the internet and as the years go by, it becomes more difficult to remember what we did before this. As a child, I read books, but the net trumps this (I can read absolutely anything I want without having to turn a page and if something is boring, I can just move on to another website).

I believe that we are here to experience things, however, and staying home talking to others on Facebook may seem like a semi-social activity, but it's a poor substitute for face-to-face time. By the way, what is with these wusses on Facebook who have one of their children as their profile pic? Is it because they feel that they are grotesque-looking (or fat)? What of those who have a pic of two people (themselves and another) as their FB pic?

In heaven, are we also going to spend all our time in front of screens? Or will we actually get to live life as it was meant to be; with a plethora of members of the opposite sex who find us Dead Sexy and can't wait to get busy. But wait, why would we need genitals in the afterlife? Does God have genitals? Is that why he's referred to as a He? And if so, what in the hell does He do with them?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Doggie Style

It's (virtually) always a treat going to the local dog park; seeing how your dog interacts with the others, enjoying the sunshine with like-minded animal lovers, and trying not to stare at the better-looking bitches. The below video was taken in the spring of 2005 when Zoe was just under a year old:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mystery Solved

I've wondered for years why restaurants serve such large portions, but was finally given a satisfactory answer last night:

"One of the things that has long occurred to me about restaurant dining is that, because every customer must be served the same portion size, they’re naturally going to provide huge amounts of food. If you serve a 275 pound man an amount of food that would be appropriate for a 125 pound woman, he’s going to still be hungry at the end of his meal and therefore a dissatisfied customer. Because the marginal cost of additional food (especially pasta, potatoes, and the like) is negligible, it’s just good business to pile it on. Naturally, everyone else will be given too much to eat and all but the most disciplined will overeat."

"Two obvious ways health conscious diners can adjust are to resolve to take half the food home with them — better yet, get a “doggy bag” before starting eating and divide it right away — or to share food."

I order chicken fingers most of the time at Friday's; they always come with five fingers. The first thing I do when they're served is put two aside to give Zoe over the next few days as a treat.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Life, Love, and All That Jazz

A cousin of mine who's in his early 30's was diagnosed with cancer this past spring. He went through radiation therapy, chemo, everything the doctors recommended. He has quite a sizable circle of family and friends who have been praying for him these past few months. So it was with much optimism that he had a scan done last week that would tell if his treatment was successful in getting rid of (or at least making a dent in) the disease.

It was with great disappointment that he found out that the cancer had actually spread. What does a person of faith do in such instances? Were all the prayers for nothing? What's going on here? Does God ignore prayers? Does he not mind that one of his children is gravely ill? Most believers would say something like, "God moves in mysterious ways", but that's an awfully dodgy answer. His circle will continue to pray and I can't say I blame them, but if prayer only works some of the time, really, what good is it?

Though a big believer in God, I never pray. Praying makes God out to be stupid, as if She doesn't know what you want in your life, as if He can't already hear your thoughts, that you have to audibly say what it is that you seek. I believe that I co-created all of the events in my life before I was born, so what's happening is just what's happening and ultimately for my highest good.

Those who don't believe in pre-existence (having existed before being birthed by their mother) frequently feel as though things are happening to them, that they played no part in what is showing up. I accept all of it and therein lies much of my peace. It's possible that one day, I'll die in an accident. In my mind, however, there's no such thing as an accident or a coincidence.

I also have no doubt that there is something after this life. Most people, in fact, are the same. Why, then, do they worry about things? It's as if they think that the will of God can be somehow be thwarted (this is why the Devil was invented, by the way). The outcome of life is not in doubt. We are all assured a happy tomorrow. I only wish that more could see life as I do, that there is nothing to fear, ever, that all pain and sorrow is temporary. The day we pass, however, we'll know. We'll remember and wonder how we ever forgot.

Here are some real-life accounts of those who remembered.