Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lazy Dude Seeks Candle Lover

On the plane today, I read the SkyMall catalogue and discovered an amazing new product. Thanks to remote-controlled candles, my love life just got brighter. Now, with weeks-old popcorn unknowingly stuck to my behind and no longer able to distinguish between my arm and the couch's, I will be able to instantly set the mood with the click of a button. With luck, my universal remote will also be capable of controlling them too. This will enable complete romance domination. Without burning any calories, I will turn on an episode of Family Guy, DVR a WWE Smackdown, and turn on my battery-powered candles all guaranteed to gain my wife's affection. Unfortunately, I will have to order and implement my candles before February 17th when these analog candles will suddenly go dark.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lowering a Toddler's Center-of-Misbehavity

I have been intending to write a post about the stages of a toddler meltdown, outlining the evolution of a real screamer (and by ‘screamer’, I’m not referring to the child). That story will most likely begin with some speculation on prehistoric Cromagnon tantrums and followed by commentary about genetics. It will also probably end with an anecdote involving me, two crying kids, a rainstorm, and a lost boot. Until then, I will briefly share another story that leads me to this post.

Children's clothes should have handles. Nice sturdy, comfortable ones.

Handles would provide parents with the first truly effective solution for comfortably and efficiently removing a mid-tantrum toddler or preschooler from a public place. At least this is what I considered during one of my least favorite activities of sudden-and-immediate child relocation. It's a rite of passage for all parents. Children will test limits and disobey instructions. The growing-up handbook indicates that this should be done with maximum drama and in the most public forum. I am finding more and more justification to take my young children to sporting events where they can scream and kick as much as they want. They could even puke, swear, and throw things at the officials. Nobody will notice.

The most recent edition of tantrum occurred at Barnes & Noble where the crowd usually seems to dissipate and employees begin to whisper upon our arrive. I'm surprised the manager hasn't slipped a bill for lost business into my pocket each time we go there.

As usual, my son (3.5 years), daughter (22 months), and I started at Starbucks to purchase a beverage that would wake-up Daddy. This is part of the preparation ritual and countdown to disaster. While walking towards the coffee shop, I was non-responsive while I prayed quietly that Pumpkin Loaf still be in season. When I neared the counter and noticed that Pumpkin Loaf had been removed from the menu. Unfortunately, my son has yet to grasp the concept of they don't have any right now and therefore you can't have any right now.

I ran interference with a Luna Bar, the whole nutrition bar for women (and toddlers). Shea had to have the same thing. Snack time in the cafe lasted about two minutes before the kids were ready to see books.

With coffee in hand, I led the kids to the children's book section where they promptly ran to the loudest books in the store. That's correct. Because they are kids and reading alone is too quiet, they are drawn to the items that will make the most noise for a normally peaceful activity. If you ever wanted to experience bleeding from the ears, try listening to the cacophony that is the simultaneous playing of Elmo flushing the toilet, The Backyardigans on a friendly pirate ship, the Alphabet Song in Spanish, and Dora the Explorer singing to a sick dinosaur.

After we had sufficiently annoyed some of the other parents by our noise, and hence satisfying the requirements of both childhood and parenthood, I announced that it was time to go. Both of my children followed, but my son was distracted by an alphabet book (this time in English) on the way out of the section. He picked up the book and started to bring it with him. When I told him that we weren’t buying the book, he started to get upset and repeat “But I want the alphabet book. But I want it.”

When I asked him to put the book back or give it to me, he held the book even more tightly. Yet, the game of opposites would not have worked here. I needed to be more firm. I gave him several chances before I took the book and placed it on the shelf, at which point we entered the next stage of tantrum. This phase is characterized by a cry that starts with eyes closed, neck arched backwards, and mouth wide open despite the silent cry. The yawn-gone-wrong then turns into a full-fledged crying fit.

On this particular day, I was not in the mood to negotiate the Great Toddler Pact of 2009. With one arm, I grabbed him by the waist and started carrying him to the main entrance. When I realized that my daughter was too embarrassed by the scene to follow, I had to pick her up with the other arm.

While making our way through the stacks of books, my son was pushing away from me and yelling “Put me down! I want the alphabet book!” Other customers saw us coming and graciously parted like the Red Sea. But, the most challenging part of this was the wriggling, screaming, kicking, crying child. It was quite awkward and difficult to carry both kids with a bag over my shoulder. Fortunately, I had finished my coffee or I would have had to risk leaving it behind again.

I also found myself repeating the same words, “We aren’t buying a book today.” I have found that fatherhood involves a lot of repeating oneself too. Many fathers before me have experienced this and jokes about pre-recordings and signs printed with common dad quotes are not new. However, I really wish that my mouth had a repeat button that required little or no energy from the brain after the first issuance of a dad ruling.

I finally got the kids in the car and drove home. I have since developed this concept of the Toddler Handles. As I mentioned, the grips would be sturdy and comfortable for those long journeys through the IKEA, CostCo, or Disney World. Carrying two children by handles would be much more comfortable for the arms and a shoulder bag would be trivial.  Lowering the center-of-misbehavity offers the upper body much more flexibility and the agility required to make a quick exit.

The kicking legs and swinging arms might still be an issue, so these handles should have Spiderman-like retractable netting that could blanket the child and their limbs before pulling them inwards and closer to the aforementioned center-of-misbehavity.

The handles would also be large enough to accommodate a small digital sound system. A series of push buttons would activate manufacturer-installed pre-recordings that would include:
“We are not buying that today,”
“If you don’t start cooperating, you’ll have a timeout,” and
“If you keep doing that, I’ll take away the kitchen knife.”

For the nostalgic, pre-recorded classics might include:
"What? Do I look like I am made of money?,"
"I'll wash your mouth out with soap," and
"If you don't behave, I'll take you back to the Sears Surplus where you came from."

To appease the more PC types and psychologists in the family, you might hear:
"Connect with your inner emotions and release the poisonous naughty child inside of you,"
“Please don’t project your emotions onto me, young man,” or
"A little cognitive reframing would do you some good, mister"

Another button would play a child’s voice with statements such as “Excuse me, please” and “Thank you” that would be most helpful while exiting a store.

Needless to say, Toddler Handles would make millions. This new product, which will be advertised as the solution to getting a handle on the situation (“Get a grip!"), would also include a built-in IPod for when you simply need to tune in to tune out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

RIP Cable Guy

This is the most awkward gravestone.  Due to the downturn in the economy and the increased competition by FIOS and Satellite television, his family couldn't afford all of the words.  A last minute decision resulted in the removal of "GUY".  And despite the lawsuit (Mrs. Cable Guy vs. Association for Mole Protection*) that mandates the warning, he won't be a danger to anymole.

*Thanks to my friend Daniel for raising awareness about the AMA.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Kitty Pool

I'm still in Palm Springs and can't wait for the breakfast buffet.  

When I arrived at check-in here at the hotel, I was told that most of the rooms were full.  I had my choice of a king-sized bed behind the elevator or two double beds.  I chose the two double beds and went to the room on Floor 2 at which time I remembered how small a double bed is. I did a u-turn and went back to ask for the elevator room on Floor 2.  

I wondered, how bad can it be? 

Really bad.  I heard the elevator all night.  Why were that many people riding the elevator in the early morning?  I might grin-and-bear it through late night bar closers or sunrise joggers, but 3am?  I suspect that it was the poor souls from elevator rooms on other floors doing a strange elevator dance and hence contributing to the very issue they were trying to solve.  Perhaps it started with the sleep walker on floor 5 riding the elevator back and forth from the lobby.  Floor 3 wakes up and gets on, rides down, and heads to the desk to complain.  He rides back up, waking Floor 4 who also hears the sleep elevator-rider.  Floor 3 hears Floor 4 making his return trip and is that a lot of cursing from Floor 2?  This continues all night.  It's the only way I can explain the amount of elevator noise all night.

The next morning, I ask for a new room.  Unfortunately, there were none left.  Late that evening which much closer to elevator time, I bought ear plugs so that I could sleep.  The grocery store only had the bright orange ones and the packaging indicated that they were for shooting firearms.  Perfect.

Back in my hotel room, I twisted the ear plugs as instructed and put them in my ears.  I fell asleep instantly, but woke up at 3am feeling extremely uncomfortable from the ear plugs that had now expanded.  The pressure was so great that it felt as if firearms had actually blown out the inside of my ear canals.  I took out the earplugs and listened to the elevator dance for a few hours.

The next day (yesterday morning), I asked for a new room.  The staff had decided that I suffered long enough and granted my wish.  Last night, I was so happy to fall asleep in my quiet room without earplugs.

That is, until I woke up to a crying cat outside.  

This post just turned into live action news reporting, because while typing the last sentence I heard the cat.  I just went downstairs to the pool area.  I stood there for a few minutes before I heard it again and I followed the cries.  I found the stray cat by the Kiddie Pool which, as of now, has been renamed the Kitty Pool.  I couldn't lure the cat out of the bushes, so I went to tell the front desk.

"Where is it?"

"It's by the Kitty Pool."

The hotel staff is out there now trying to round up Fluffy.  

I can't promise that I'll get sleep tonight, but I'm really going to try.  Good Night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Will Work For Coffee

This morning, I got up early and walked to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast.  On my way there, I watched at least a dozen joggers run past me, near me, around me, and over me.  It occurred to me that I used to be that person.  I was once the guy that got up early, threw on my sneakers, and ran past the walkers and breakfast joints.  Now I'm the guy that gets up early, puts on his casual work shoes, and walks to get a breakfast sandwich.

When I got to Starbucks, I ran into someone that I know.  He's also here for the conference and we struck up a conversation.  We covered all the basics about when we arrived, how our flight was, and where we had spent our companies' money last night.  I didn't spend any, because I had to get sleep so that I could up early for my breakfast outing.  Once we knew as much as we needed to know about each other to maintain acquaintance status, he went to the other side of the store to wait for his company-subsidized latte.  

The guy behind me started talking to me.  Actually, I think that he was talking to himself but I was suddenly responding.  He had no upper teeth and I only understood every third word.  He had clearly been living on the streets for awhile.  The rising cost of a Venti has effected some more than others.  

He was telling me a story about how he waved to some children in a stroller and they and their parents just stared at him without responding.  Then, a garbage truck drove by and they were jumping up and down waving at the truck whose driver did not reciprocate their enthusiasm. The man was disappointed that, despite his friendly efforts, he ranked lower than a garbage truck.  He was laughing about it. So was I, because I began to realize that he was a nice guy with a good sense of humor.  I even think he would enjoy my blog.  Or at least every third word.

After we chatted for a minute or two, it was my turn to order and pay.  I had the bills, but was five cents short.  While digging around my pocket for a nickel, my conference acquaintance walked over and handed me the change and smiled.  I had a twenty in my pocket, but I was grateful for the gesture and the five cents.

I said goodbye to old friends and new and started walking back to my hotel.  I decided to sit down on a bench and eat my sandwich.  It's not often that I can sit outside on a January day and eat my breakfast.  I pulled out my sandwich at which time a nearby flock of pigeons came to see what I had.  What he has, what does he have, a sandwich, a sandwich!  They were all around me now.  Still sitting, I started stomping my feet to scare them away but they only flinched the first few times.  I was annoyed and dropped part of my sandwich.  Now, I was angry and started telling the pigeons to move along.  I wrapped up my sandwich and started walking back to my hotel to eat in private.

When I got back to my hotel room a few minutes ago, it occurred to me that I have met most of the requirements for an eccentric homeless person.  Accepting nickels, hamming it up with other homeless people, yelling at pigeons from a park bench, and watching people run around me and away from me.  I'm only a few steps away from cursing at garbage trucks while waiting for my latte.  Or perhaps I should say I'm...few...from...garbage...waiting...latte.

Monday, January 26, 2009

External Leaking

On the airplane, there was a sign posted in the bathroom.  The words read something like this:

Please do not put objects other than toilet paper into the toilet.  This may cause external leaking and poses a health risk to the general public.

I wasn't about to throw something into the toilet, but this somewhat subjective rule made me nervous.  What if I accidentally dropped a typewriter into the toilet? Or a hedge trimmer?  

Regardless of the objects that I might accidentally drop in there, I couldn't help but imagine the embarrassment I would experience when I left the bathroom.  External leaking does not sound like something I could hide.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Zoning Out at the Airport

I'm blogging from Phoenix while on a layover on my way to Palm Springs.  I'm feeling a little out of place with my sweater and wool socks.  Did I say 'out of place'? Sorry, I meant to say 'wicked hot'.  However, I couldn't resist my five dollar burnt coffee.  I'll figure out later where to put that on my travel expense form.  In the meantime, I have to find someone to share my coffee with so that I can justify the expense.

I think that airlines made a great improvement to their plane boarding process when they implemented the Zone seating system.  If you haven't travelled recently, let me explain.  The airlines found that the attendants couldn't keep track of the row numbers or count higher than 10.  Therefore, management simplified things by grouping rows into Zones.  The boarding passes now tell you what Zone you are grouped into and when the attendant calls your Zone number, you get in a long line.  I realize that we all have the option of getting in line early regardless of our Zone designation.  The main advantage to this approach is that you don't have to hang way back and tell at least a dozen people what Zones were called while they were getting magazines bought for the sole purpose of telling other airline passengers what type of person they are.  The disadvantage of being a zone-butter is the scolding you will get from an underpaid airline worker.

This morning, my boarding pass said Zone 6.  I waited about 15 minutes while other people boarded the plane and I answered questions.  When the Zone 5-ers got in line, I was left standing there with one other guy and a cleaning person waiting for us to move along.  

I realized that if there were a Zone after 6, it would be called "Zone Out."  That's because when they finally called my Zone, I was staring out the window and probably drooling.  It was movement by the guy next to me that prompted me to get in line.  The cleaning person's pacing was also incentive.

When we landed, I realized that the attendants and their management no longer care about the Zone system when unboarding starts.  Zone 6 should have been the first group off the plane, but my boarding pass must have dissolved in my pocket.  This phase of the trip is called the "Zone for All."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

(Em)powered by a Battery

L: "What is that long gray thing next to your computer?"
Me: "What? This?"
L: "Yes. Is it a computer battery?"
Me:"No. Here, press that big square in the middle."
L presses.
L and I watch.
Me: "Did you feel anything?"
L: "No. Was I supposed to?"
Me: "No. Because it's a computer battery."

L is not a computer battery, but she is recharging right now.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I saw a large, very dirty truck on which someone had scrawled in the dirt on it's side. Instead of the usual "Wash Me" request, they had instead written "Test Dirt. Please Do Not Remove."  It made me laugh and wonder if this might be the perfect quality control experiment for a synthetic dirt company?  They could cover a truck in their SynDirt and see if anyone can't resist the urge to articulate the vehicle's need for a bath.  A real dirt graffiti artist won't be fooled.  Unless it's high quality synthetic dirt, that is.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What the President and a Bucket of Water Have in Common

It's crunch time for my presentation preparation, so this will be brief.  Today is one of those days that I wish I had a camera.  If I did, you would see two pictures (and someday will when I update this post).  They would/will be as follows:

a) A meeting I attended was in a conference room that apparently followed another meeting that had a seemingly fancy spread.  Well, spreads can only get so fancy in a room with one entire wall that is a white board. That is, unless someone wanted to break free from their fancy meeting and illustrate their emotions with dry-erase pens as a form of art-therapy ice breaker.  Draw how you are feeling when this fancy spread is in stark contrast to your laboratory coat covered with chemicals and biological waste (hopefully from the lab).

I was prompted to think about this when, upon entering the room with a leftover fancy spread, I noticed a wine glass full of vinaigrette salad dressing.  Clearly, the meeting was a hoot.

b) The lab in which I work has some instruments that use water (and other hazardous chemicals) that is recycled and then replaced every several weeks.  Our current labeling system for these containers of water is very thorough, detailed, and carefully worded.  We typically write "H20. Changed 1/20/09."  Therefore, on Tuesday (Inauguration Day) I couldn't resist writing instead: "H20. Changed (President and H20) 1/20/09."  I have yet to inform my coworkers that we will now be recycling that same bucket of water for the next eight years.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


You probably know from a previous post, that cereal and other bready foods are an integral part of the kids' menu.  In fact if the kids will eat it, we buy it in bulk.  Or in the case of Yogurt Burst Cheerios, the by-products are generated in bulk in our kitchen.  

My son only likes to snack on the pink "yogurt" coated cheerios.  He picks through bowls of perfectly normal beige brown tan-like cheerios to find those hidden gems.  What remains in the bowl is what I call "Pink-subtracted Cheerios."  When he discovers and eats all of the pink Cheerios, he asks for more at which point we dump the Pink-subtracted Cheerios into a storage baggie.  The storage baggie of Pink-subtracteds are kept "just in case."  The picture above clearly demonstrates that "just in case" rarely happens, yet at times we have more than one of these bags available.  It did happen once that we needed these rejects because my wife and I talked about them so much that the kids wanted them.  Although I thought the sudden shift would balance our Cheerio inventory, demand dropped the next day and the demand for yogurt Cheerios was again bursting.

I laugh when I open the cabinet (surprisingly, not the fridge) to discover these forgotten picked-over Cheerios.  However, these aren't nearly as funny (or tasty) as the Meatball-subtracted  Hot Pockets.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes We Can!

Dear Mr. President,

Can we fix it?

Bob the Builder

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Heart Stickers

You know that a sticker control policy is needed when there are so many that I don't even notice them stuck to me.  I'm sure that I have gone to work or the store with various stickers (mostly from the alphabet) stuck to my pants, shoes, or ears.  This one was a nice surprise when I went to wash my hands before lunch.  It may have been there all morning.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An Amendment to the "No Throwing Indoors" Rule

I implemented a new house rule that I never could have predicted.  I was faced with a scenario in which I had to quickly create the following amendment to the "No Throwing Indoors" Rule.  

"A stinky diaper shall not be thrown at a man with both hands in his pockets."

This rule applies outdoors also and is directly aimed to prevent further incidents.  Due to the circumstances under which this was created, it applies directly to my wife who will be subjected to just punishment if said rule is violated.  Please note that the duration of a time-out is still calculated as one minute per years of age.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Curbing My Addiction

A typical outing when I have my two kids (while my wife is at work) is to go to Barnes and Noble bookstore.  It's a great outing for everyone in the group.  The first stop is the Starbucks connected to the bookstore.  My day instantly gets better with my large coffee and the three of us split a muffin.  

We then venture into the children's books section where we have a routine.  We go to the section where they have the books that make music.  There is a lot of button pressing, noise making, and pulling books off the shelves so that Daddy can pick them up.  We then find the alphabet books and spend about 15 minutes there.  Eventually, we all get bored and decide to leave.  Sometimes, the B & N becomes the site of a tantrum when it's clear to the kids that our home book collection will not be increasing in size that day.

On one particular day last Fall, both of my kids wanted to be carried to the car as it was pouring rain.  I don't always give in to this, but I chose to avoid a toddler meltdown on that day.  I was just glad that we escaped the book section without incident and wanted to keep the momentum going.  Unfortunately, I couldn't carry both kids, our bag bursting with kid gear and snacks, an umbrella, and my coffee.  We stood outside on the sidewalk and under the awning for a moment while I considered my options.

It was clear that I would have to leave the coffee behind.  But, the Venti was half-full and it was an essential element to my future (at least the next eight hours).  I placed the coffee down on the sidewalk by the curb, picked up the kids and gear and ran for the car with my umbrella poised only semi-effectively over us.  I briefly felt guilty about the littering, but believed that I had an excusable motive.  In court, my friends and family would attest to my coffee addiction which would confirm that I was thinking irrationally at the time and thereby securing my temporary insanity defense.

Once in the car and buckled in, we were ready. Except I was disappointed about my coffee.  We started to pull out of the parking area and while waiting to turn right, I glanced left and saw my coffee on the curb.  I quickly changed my turn signal from right to left and peeled out of the parking lot.  I pulled up to the curb, jumped out, ran around the car, grabbed my coffee, ran back to my seat, and jumped in.  And it was totally worth it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Extra-Strength Tylernol

An old nickname resurfaced today. "Extra-Strength Tylernol" was a handle given to me by a teammate on my high school volleyball team. I'm glad that it has taken on new meaning in my professional life.  When my coworkers are feeling pain, "Extra-Strength Tylernol" will help. Perhaps at home, I should introduce a new nickname with similar effect. "Dadvil."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Riding the Elevator in the Dark? Not Today

I'll be pretty busy in the next week or so as I prepare for a presentation at a national conference.  However, I still hope to find time to at least mention the humor I find in each day.  

I was late to work today because I had to take my son to the dentist.  Our family dentist is in a Boston suburb much closer than where we live.  By the time I took him there, drove him back to preschool, and drove in to Boston again, it was close to noon.  One of the end results of this late arrival was that I had to park on the 7th floor of the parking garage.  It's labeled 'P7'.  I have never gone higher than 'P7', but I'm pretty sure that the next floor is called "International Space Station Maintenance Platform."

Taking the stairs down is no problem for a somewhat out of shape dad like me.  However, when the day was over I decided to take the elevator to 'P7'.  When the elevator opened, there was a sign taped to the wall that said something to the effect of:

Elevator Lighting Problems

Please use the stairwell.  

If you must use it, do so with caution.

I wasn't exactly sure what "do so with caution" meant with regards to a lighting problem.  If I were to take the elevator with such a issue, what possibly could I do that was cautious?  Step lightly onto the elevator so as to ride unnoticed, pray to the elevator gods that I may see the light for 7 P's, or be prepared to change a light bulb on the way up?

I considered what could happen on my ride.  The lights might go out?  I suddenly had a vision of the lights going out and the elevator getting stuck.  I got out of the elevator and decided to walk up the stairs.  I need to do this more often, for these days it's the most exercise I get.   P7 is actually 14 sets of stairs (okay, so I make it worse than it really is).  It crossed my mind that I chose a potential heart attack over riding the elevator in the dark.

On P7 and with my heart now racing, I decided that were my daughter (22 months old) with me I definitely would have taken the elevator.  If the lights were to go out, I believe that she would still find the emergency call button faster than I could say "No touching the big red button." And this time, unlike the last, I wouldn't even have to respond to a mystery voice asking "Can I help you?" with a "Sorry, that was my toddler calling to say hi."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Leaf Me Alone

Today's post will be written literally as leaves are falling on my head.   I just got out of radiology ~ ~ ~ (those are x-rays on my hand) and decided to log in here at the hospital's indoor atrium.  This medical facility has a waterfall, grass, flowers, trees, and a Dunkin Donuts.  It's beautiful here and sometimes I come just to relax and drink coffee with sick people. 

In the moment, a disgruntled hospital worker (or groundskeeper) is shaking the dead leaves out of the tree planted just up the hill from me.  Yes, the hill. In the hospital lobby.  It's working, the tree shaking. The dead leaves are falling.  Onto my computer and into my lap. If my thumb didn't hurt, I would signal for him to take a hike. Or find a rake.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Yo Quiero Wedding Bells

The town of Normal, Illinois will now need to change it's name. It may have lived up to it until a couple got married at Taco Hell.

I am very, very happy for the married couple and I'm not here to tease them specifically. They're actually kinda cute. Instead, it prompted me to think about a Taco Hell wedding.

The Dating Years
He likes her 7-Layer Crunchwrap and she likes his Steak Burrito Belgrande. They dream of a Taco-filled life together and share the same dreams, passions, and love for packets of salsa.

The Proposal
On one knee, he asks her to marry him and refill his soda on her way back from the restroom. She says yes(!) and they plunk down a quarter each to celebrate with a ride on the Taco-Go-Round.

The Preparations - The Week Before
A true first in the history of weddings, the groom visits the venue frequently to finalize the details and the menu. He always leaves 99 cents lighter.

The Preparations - The Morning of the Wedding
Breakfast Burritos from the drive-through.

The Best Man and Maid of Honor
They participate when they aren't ringing up customers.  The rings are handed back to the groom with his receipt.

The Flower Girl
Drops Nachos in the aisle.

The Justice of the Peace
Organizes and wins a refried beans eating contest prior to the ceremony. He leaves early.

The Vows (written on the back of a soft taco wrapper)
"I, Extreme Beef and Cheese Quesadilla, take you Grande Soft Taco,
to be my lawfully wedded Chalupa
to have and to eat, 
with salsa or beans,
for 99 cents or less,
in sickness or salmonella,
to love and takeout,
from this day forward,
until Taco Hell files for bankruptcy."

Tossing the Flower Bouquet
A male trucker from Omaha catches it.

Tossing the Garter Belt
With fear of what might come next, the trucker from Omaha tackles an old lady from Normal, Ill. (she's a regular) and comes out victorious again.

The Chicken Dance and Macarena.
Annoying, but both appropriate.

The manager opens a second register.

Only available at participating locations.

The Honeymoon Suite (in Chihuahua, Mexico of course)
"Honey. Are you okay in there?"


"Was it the-"

"Volcano Burrito."

"Oh. That was part of their 'Run for the Border' special..."

"Si. Run for the Bathroom."

Happily Ever After
They live in a casa, adorned with a bell, by the highway where they raise their two taquitos (one hijo and one hija) and a talking pet chihuahua.

A Town Named Normal
To be renamed Loco.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You Are All Too Polite

I'm wondering.... one post a day regardless of how brief, or less frequent and more carefully worded stories? Or both?  

Digits For Your Digits

Abacus, Foot Massager, or Children's Toy?  Yes.  

It's versatile, especially when using it to do arithmetic with your feet.  
Stressed about counting? Treat yourself to a foot massage.  

Lose track of how many minutes you have been hiding from the kids to indulge in a foot massage? The answer is at your toetips.

For the smart kids in the house, prepare for countless hours of toe math relaxation.  For the rest of them, it's just plain fun to spin and slide those suckers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Mattress Giant Parking"

I drove past a Mattress Giant store yesterday.  The marked parking spots around the building, located on a small plot next to a main road, were empty in the middle of the business day.  I don't know who the Mattress Giant is or thinks he is, but it is clearly impossible to park at his store given that all of the parking spots are reserved for him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Indian food and playing with words are on my list of favorite things, right between Indian words and playing with food.  For years the word 'Naan', describing a round flatbread from South Asia, has been tumbling around my brain desperately wanting me to use it in a clever way.  Naan is pronounced like 'NON' as in not or against.  Who knew that my revelation would come when, of all times, I made Naan for the first time this evening?

The Naan did not have a great beginning.  After mixing all of the ingredients and kneading the dough, it didn't look quite right.  My neighbor, who would ultimately be eating the Naan with us for dinner, suggested more milk and yogurt which we promptly added.  It looked much better.  A glance at the recipe said to preheat the oven to 200 degrees and, once the bread had risen as much as a flatbread would, we placed it in the oven for the recommended 10-12 minutes.

After several minutes, which included a brief discussion about how ten minutes at 200 degrees didn't sound right, I looked at the recipe again.  200 degrees Celsius. 400 degrees Fahrenheit!  We turned up the oven and peered through the window.  Ten minutes later, it didn't look baked yet.  Eventually, the Naan looked a little brown and we pulled it out only to discover that it was much browner than we expected.

After tasting the Naan, I commented that I was disappointed that it didn't turn out very well.  Naan is soft and spongy, whereas what I made was fairly crusty on the outside and bready on the inside.  In fact, I had made Non-Naan.

My neighbor kindly remarked that it wasn't Naan, but was still very good.  I agreed.  In fact, I decided that it was terrible Naan but really amazing Focaccia!

Friday, January 9, 2009

I Should Have Bought the Robots a Nightlight Too.

Yesterday morning during work hours, I went to Lowe's on the way to visit a vendor.  Our $6 million robotics platform just wasn't complete without a light timer. We don't need it for a light, but are considering it's application in the timed on/off operation of critical instrumentation.

As I'm sure most people do, I choose Lowe's over Home Depot because when the day comes that I get lost and can't find the exit I would rather be spending the night at Lowe's.  I think that the pervasive orange color at Home Depot would keep me up all night.  And if I actually did get to sleep (in the carpet section of course), my dreams would probably be orange. Unless my dream was about eating oranges in my orange pajamas at my orange alma mater where the mascot is an Orangeman, it would be strange.

At Lowes, I typically rely way too heavily on the signs at the end of each aisle.  I paced back and forth in the electrical section, wondering which aisle would have my light timer.  This took at least as much time as it would have taken me to walk all three aisles.  But, I didn't want to be too far from the exit so late in the day (11am).  

While pacing, I witnessed an altercation between a store representative and a customer.  The store representative, who looked and acted a bit scatter-brained and anxious, stopped the customer near the front of the store and reprimanded him for opening product boxes and taking out only the parts he needed. The customer denied it at first, but couldn't explain the item in his hand that looked identical to the item displayed on the box now being presented by the store employee.  Once the customer confessed to his crime, the store employee calmed down and realized that the fun had just ended.  I agreed and committed to an aisle.

I found the light switches and only the best would do for our $6 million robotic system.  It cost $15 and has two settings and a digital display.  The robots will be happy. In a pinch, we could also borrow it to automatically turn on a light when MIT closes for the next holiday. 

I decided that while I was there, I would ask someone if they sold peristaltic pumps.  You do not need to know what a peristaltic pump is to understand the rest of this story.  

I didn't think that they would have them, but I always wanted to kill two birds with one stone.  I turned to find assistance and guess who I found.  The scatter-brained and anxious store rep was placing now-complete and sealed product boxes back on a shelf.

First, I thought God don't let me get caught overnight in this place with him. Anyone but him.

Having forgotten to turn off my idiot magnet that morning, I approached him.

"Do you sell peristaltic pumps?" I asked.

"A what?" he replied.

"Peristaltic pumps," I replied.

"What are they?" he asked.

While making a circular motion with my finger and assuming that he heard me say pumps twice, I explained,"They move liquids from one place to another." I was trying to avoid explaining the application for which I needed one.

"You need a bucket," he promptly replied.

(insert sound of nighttime crickets here)

"No. It's a pump and it moves the liquid automatically through a hose or tubing," I said.

"Aaahhhhhh. You don't mean a peristaltic pump. You mean a drill motor pump." As he said this and started leading me deeper into the store, he was laughing in a way that indicated that he thought I made up the word 'peristaltic'. I was tempted to explain that the word also described the wave-like motion his digestive tract was doing with that slice of Cranky Pie he must have eaten. Instead, I followed quietly.

He handed me a drill pump, which works by peristalsis but is done manually with a hand-operated drill.

"I want something that I can plug in and will pump continuously and automatically," I said once again.

"Ohhhhhh.  You mean a peristaltic pump."

I paid for the light timer, found the exit, and got out safely.  I didn't have to spend the night, but it was too close for comfort.

If You Are Reading This From My Attic, Please Come Down

On December 29th, a family in Pennsylvania discovered that a man had been living in their attic.  The man climbed up there when he was kicked out by his friends in the adjacent unit, which shared an attic with the unsuspecting family's home.  Instead of leaving, he climbed up into the attic.  When the neighboring family wasn't home, he would climb down and steal clothing and electronics including a computer.  He made a list called "Stanley's Christmas List" on which he listed the items he had stolen.  If his unintentional hosts had a strong wireless signal, he may have even started a blog. 

I would know if someone was living in my attic, right?  And if I noticed things were missing, I would call the cops, right?  OK, let's give them the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps for years, Grandpa was up there before he passed and they were used to hearing footsteps.  That's the kind of noise that would just become background noise over time, desensitizing the family.  

But on Christmas day, didn't anyone notice that the cookies and milk were actually gone?

"That's strange. I didn't eat the cookies, did you?"

"Nope. Did you?"


"Cool. Merry Christmas. And sorry about your gift. I must have misplaced it."

"We're even."

But, the lawyer said that he was sorry.  And he found himself a pretty good lawyer who said, "He was very peaceful up there and kept to himself." Except when he was stealing things. 

Until a humane people trap is made, I will be setting hundreds of mouse traps in my attic.  I'll be sure to hear a person hopping around with a mousetrap clamped on to their toes.  But if I'm wrong and you see my posts suddenly stop for more than a few days, you'll know that my laptop has suddenly disappeared.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


From the Mass Pike eastbound in Newton, I can see a sign for a company called NEWTRON.  Yesterday morning, I noticed that the sign has lost it's 'O'.  Apparently, the building is now ready to be occupied by the former House Speaker once he completes his nursing degree.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Box O' Knives, Cabinet O' Glass

Most kitchens have a jar or similar container in which harmless kitchen implements such as spatulas and wisks are kept.  These utensils are usually strategically positioned for immediate action. Unfortunately, the end which will most likely end up in the food is readily available to bugs and projectile germs.  

In my house, we have the culinary version of Dan Akroyd's Bag O' Glass from SNL.  We have the Box O' Knives, as in Box O' Vipers, Box O' Sulfuric Acid, Box O' Knives.  They're decent kitchen items, you know what I mean?

Let me explain in further detail.  Our mission-style box is 5" Wide x 5" Deep x 7" Tall.  It is very important that you note that the box is 7" Tall.

I just took inventory of the evil box's contents.  I have binned these items into 2 categories below.

Equal to or Greater than 7" in Length
5 skewers
2 bread knifes
A very, very large fork
A very, very large knife
Toaster tongs (dangerous in the right hands)

Definitely Less Than 7" in Length
3 very, very sharp knives 
2 Vegetable/Fruit Peelers
Meat thermometer (purchased when we replaced the neighbor's that we destroyed on Christmas day)
Pizza wheel 
Apple corer ('Corer' is a funny word to say. Corer. Corer. Corer.)
Meat tenderizer
1 salad serving spoon
*And, most importantly, 1 dearly missed corkscrew

The reason this setup scares me is that the list of items that I can't actually see is longer than the list of items I can see.  Therefore, adventuring into the Box O' Knives is done at one's own risk.  In fact, it probably should have been part of our marriage vows as in "I offer you my solemn vow to enter the Box O' Knives at my own risk in sickness and in health."  

Let's say, for example, that I needed to core a watermelon.  I could go in for the corer, but what horrible fate lies below the 7" mark?  I can handle the toaster tongs (with great skill, I might add), the fork, and most of the other visible items.  But it's the hidden knives and pizza wheel that scare me.  

Therefore, the only time since 2001 that we have actually seen the items in the "Definitely Less Than 7" in Length" category is when I did this inventory last night.  

But, while writing this post my wife and I had a discussion that went as follows:

She said, "Are you going to explain why we have the Box O' Knives?"

"Yes, but please do tell me your version.  And don't get saucy with me or I'll grab the toaster tongs," I replied.

"The box's purpose is to contain all the sharp objects in the kitchen and keep them away from little kids' hands."


But, why this is so funny to me and not to her (mainly because she is now asleep) is that right behind her during this discussion was our unlocked Cabinet O' Glass.  The Cabinet O' Glass is under the sink and well within toddler reach.  This cabinet is where we keep all 800 of our glass vases, which is especially annoying when I have to remove wads of Mac and Cheese from the sink's plumbing every few weeks.  The cabinet is usually child safety locked, but only since a few weeks ago.  Prior to that we used a rubber band that was often broken.  At least my daughter (20 months old) would point it out to us.  "Uh oh. Uh OHHHH!"

Therefore, in my house it's dangerous living.  You'll see when you visit us.  Bring a bottle of wine, ask me where the corkscrew is, and let's see what transpires.  At your own risk, that is.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Detroit "Surplus Edition" Hummer

When the economy was strong and "green" technologies were foreign to most of us, SUV manufacturers were making "Limited Edition" vehicles.  These were mainly for consumers like the drivers of Eddie Bauer Limited Edition Ford Explorers, who apparently wanted the label on their car to match the tag on their shirt.  After looking at their catalog each year, it's still unclear as to why you would want to burn so much fossil fuel to take yourself to a creek side cabin in such nice clothes while standing next to a canoe whose label matched your shirt and SUV.  

In light of the recent economic downturn and focus on hybrid or electric vehicles, I now wonder how the SUV makers will unload their large inventory.  I am thinking about placing my order for a Detroit "Surplus Edition" Hummer with bonus fuel tank.  This abundant model features Big Three Bailout-proof leather seats, voice-activated heated mirrors ("Creditors In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear"), and 3 additional cup holders (now occupying space where spare change once was, bringing the total to 26 cup holders). Oh, and how could I forget the heated roof rack for my Eddie Bauer Canoe?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Volumizing and Gravity Defying Hair Products Are Taunting Me

Let's put it on the table.  I'm follicly challenged.  If you are unclear what this means, then 
a) We have never met in person, or
b) We met over email, but you haven't yet noticed how my receding hairline has affected my typing, or
c) You saw my profile photo on this blog, but were blinded by the reflected glare from my forehead your monitor.

I do have some hair, so I shop for shampoo despite the stares.  While considering my options (invigorate my scalp? or restore shine?), I was reminded that "volumizing" shampoos are constantly taunting me.  Of all the people that need extra volume shampoo, I'm at the top of the list. I'm sure that marketing teams at hair product companies worldwide have given up on me.  

They probably use to say "Let's make a volumizing shampoo for those guys who could really use a lift.  Oh, and let's help their hair too."

After looking at the demographics, sales figures, and their own receding hairlines, they have decided instead to put these products on the shelf to quietly tease me when I least expect it.

I was again the victim of this silent and public humiliation at work recently.  During the past few holiday weeks, attendance at work was light and the offices relatively quiet.  A handful of us were busy, but our interactions were sporadic.  

"How was your holiday?"

"Good. How was your holiday?"

"Good. Happy New Year."

"Happy New Year. It's quiet around here."


Therefore, it was easy for a mystery Santa to secretly leave some holiday treats in one of the offices. This included cookies, peppermint bark, chocolate santas, those faux M&Ms that come in a plastic candycane perfectly designed for chugging those suckers when nobody is looking, and hair gel.

That's correct. Santa left hair gel.  Apparently, melting snowcaps at the North Pole revealed a time capsule from the 1980s that must have included the only Stretch Armstrong toy that never oozed, members of REO Speedwagon, and a surplus of unused hair gel. 

The labeling is what really got me thinking.

First, it's label claims that the gel will "defy gravity."  I'm not sure that we should be defying gravity, but I won't make a fuss about it.  Instead, I want to know what else they are willing to defy?  How about genetics?

Secondly, it's "fast drying".  This must be perfect for the person who just doesn't have time or money to spend on their hair. Or it's gravity defiance.

Finally, I'm intrigued by the "hold" scale which clearly displays that this particular product has achieved, with the score of '10', an "extreme hold" strength.  When they manufacture a batch of this gel, how do they perform quality control to ensure that it meets this specification?  Is this somehow measured by a hold-o-meter in which gel is applied to someone's hair and scientists measure their ability to get into a Cinderella concert without a ticket stub ("extreme hold" status is only achieved by the subject's unsolicited receipt of a backstage pass and reality show contract)?  By the way, I'm sure that if I ever applied for this job it would result in a discrimination lawsuit. That is to say for my hair unavailability; not for my pre-existing affinity towards glam rock.  

"No Your Honor, it was acceptable to us that he enjoys Cinderella.  And he always came to work on time.  But his hair just never showed."

More importantly, what happens to the vats of hair gel that don't pass QC?  Are they simply relabeled and marketed differently?  Perhaps a batch scoring '1' is marketed as a solution to hair that already has unwanted gravity-defying properties or as a cure for chronic bed head syndrome.  I'm most curious about every hold status between 2 and 9.  These must be the hardest to sell.  Although I imagine that a '5' (the "mediocre hold") would be perfect for the hair that needs a boost but doesn't want to draw too much attention.  

Personally, a gel that ranked '6' would be perfect for someone like myself.  It would give my hair a little extra umph and the slight edge over mediocre that only a follicly challenged guy like me could truly appreciate (and need).

Photo credit: PJ. Thanks!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

If I Were Actually In the Arctic, Would Anyone Notice My Deodorant?

My new deodorant is called "Arctic Breeze."  I'm not sure what the Arctic smells like, but I'm sure it's three inhabitants never thought to market the smell to Old Spice.  While I research this further, please let me know if I smell like a polar bear or, more appropriately, a muskox on a windy day.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Alphabet Breakfast

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Will there be enough room?
Here comes Z 
up the table for tea. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

Some Ballpark Franks Would Do a Better Job

There are some things in my house that simply aren't discussed.  One of them is how this will never be the solution we all hoped for.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Resolution: Stay Calm When Innocent

While putting my daughter in bed this evening, I looked out the window and saw something unusual.  The small pile of snow that I had created while shoveling out our driveway this morning was now obliterated.  It looked like someone did 'doughnuts' on the sidewalk, spinning their car or snowmobile in circles where there was once a snowbank. 

After the kids were in bed, I went out to see what had really happened.  What I discovered was close to what I suspected, but much worse.  Someone had driven off the road and slammed into the stone wall that runs the length of our front yard.  The stone wall was buckled up and seriously damaged.  The tire marks didn't show any skidding towards the wall, but did hint to a quick getaway.
As would anyone in the same situation, my thoughts first turned to the chipmunks that live in our stone wall.  Did they survive? Perhaps they were out for the night.  Assuming that they survived, where would they live now? It's New Years Day and it's 16 degrees outside.  According to, someone in their weather department claims that it "feels like" zero degrees.  What a way to start the chipmunk year. 

I called the cops.  I didn't mention the chipmunks, but did report that an accident had happened in front of my house.  It was a hit-and-run and the only known casualties were my stone wall and the car that left a few pieces sticking out of it.  The dispatcher explained that someone would be over in a few minutes.

I went back outside and waited at the crime scene.  While standing there, I picked up some of the car parts on my front lawn.  While looking at a tail light cover, it broke in my hands.  I destroyed evidence. And my finger prints are on it now.  I immediately replaced both pieces of the cover back on my lawn precisely where I found them.  Will they dust it and find my fingerprints all over it? Have I tampered with a crime scene and will I now be interrogated by a CSI

The police didn't show up as quickly as I expected.  I went back inside, warmed up my dinner and ate it while looking out the window.  It occurred to me that I should offer the cops something to drink when they arrive. Tea, officer? Or perhaps some warm dinner.  Microwaved leftover macaroni and cheese, officer?  Despite my good manners, I decided that it wasn't necessary in this scenario.

Two officers pulled up in a cruiser and I was instantly nervous.  For unexplained reasons, I get nervous around cops.  I have no good reason to be concerned.  However, I worry that my innocence is so authentic that they won't believe it.  This alone makes me so anxious that I start to act nervous.  I am so aware of this nervousness, that I tend to talk a mile a minute.   Tonight, I decided, I will just stick to the facts ma'am.

I went out to greet the officers.

"Good evening, officers. It's cold outside, huh? It's 16 degrees, but sure feels like zero," I said.

Meanwhile my thoughts were elsewhere.  Should I offer them mac and cheese? Does my breath smell like mac and cheese? That was really good mac and cheese.  But perhaps tea would be more appropriate.

Officer #1 replied "Yes, it is cold.  What happened?"

I explained what I observed in great detail. Twice.

Officer #2 asked, "Do you have an ID?"

I'm a suspect already. When do I mention my fingerprints all over the evidence?  

"Yes," I replied as I presented my driver's license to Officer #2.

"Did you have a party here last night?" asked Officer #1.

"No. My kids are young.  We were in bed by 9:00 last night," I answered.

Officer #1 laughed out loud.  Is that funny? Is my life that lame or does he think I'm lying?

Officer #2, while still looking at my ID, asked "When did you move here? You're license doesn't have this address shown."

He thinks I live somewhere else.  He thinks that I drove into the wall!

"I moved here two years ago.  I mean we moved here two years ago. Two years ago. I live here.  My license hasn't been updated yet.  Well, it has but the sticker came off. But I live here. Since two years ago."  

But, the chipmunks have lived here longer.

Officer #2 handed back my license.  Officer #1 leaned over to look at the broken tail light cover. 

I couldn't keep it in any longer.  "I already touched it, officer.  I'm sorry. I touched it before you got here.  My fingerprints are all over it, in case that matters.  I mean, I didn't think it would matter.  It doesn't matter, right? Do you guys want to come in and have some tea?"

The officers laughed and told me that it didn't matter. And no thanks to the tea.

As I was about to use a joke to disguise my concern about the chipmunks, they told me that a report would be filed downtown if I wanted it later for insurance purposes.  I thanked them and we all wished each other a Happy New Year.  They drove away into the dark Framingham night, most likely to another crime scene.

Could they smell the mac and cheese on my breath? I certainly hope not.

Happy New Year

On this first day of the year, I am considering a 365 project. I have only recently discovered this concept and I'm fascinated.  365 projects are most commonly year-long photographic journeys.  A Google search for "365 project" will present the homepage for Photojojo and their proposal that we take a picture every day, post it, and write about it.  

I have been following one particular photographic 365 project by a fellow Massachusetts resident.  You can see his work here at  It's wonderful to follow one person's life in pictures.  And his pictures are almost always great.  

I have also started following a blog called The Daily Asker ( in which the writer practices the art of negotiation everyday and blogs about her experience and the results.  I love these projects and I'm very impressed with their dedication and photographic and writing skills.

My quick searches online show that there are a lot of 365 projects, but few last the whole year.  I have been thinking about starting my own 365 project.  Unfortunately, I'm not very good with the camera and I'm too reserved to negotiate every day.  Besides, I'm worried that my time is too limited not to miss a day.  But, I have been considering projects that would be fun, interesting, and yet not too time consuming.

I considered a project that would satisfy my curiosity about the world and other bloggers.  Each morning, I would open my blog in Blogger and select "Next Blog" which takes you to a blog that was literally just updated.  I would read the blog's most recent posts, leave a comment or email, and write about who I met and what I learned that I didn't already know before I navigated there.  Thoughts?

Alternatively, my neighbors and coworkers have proposed that I bake them each an apple cake every day of the year.  Although I'm flattered that they like my apple cake, I think I might die from the amount of cinnamon sugar I might inhale over time.

Instead, perhaps I should first try a year of writing on this blog.  As mentioned in the header, I find humor in life every day.  I just need to write about it, regardless of how much (or how little) time I have to write it.  I'm going to try.  That is unless you want to see my tour of the internet, one blog at a time.  Or you want apple cake.  In which case, I will still find a way to make every day interesting.

Happy New Year!