So, I was driving into work this morning, and I hear the voice of Tom Selleck on the radio, and I think "Oh, hey, Tom Selleck! He was Magnum P.I., and he doinked Monica on "Friends!" I should listen to him!"
And Tom Selleck says to me:
"Take time out to be a dad today. Learn more at fatherhood.gov."
And I'm sitting there, considering what I had just heard, absorbing the sheer lunacy of the whole thing.
Because, every day for the last ten months, from the moment I wake up in the morning, to the moment I go to bed, and quite likely in the dreams in between, I'm ALWAYS taking time out to be a dad! I'm a dad at home, and I'm a dad when I'm sitting at work, wishing I was at home being a dad. I'm ALWAYS a dad.
Now, I realize I'm not the target demographic for the fatherhood.gov initiative, such as it is. I'm a responsible father who is always thinking five steps down the road to ensure my family has a home and food for the foreseeable future. But, all that just made the ad and the initiative all the more insulting to me. Like, I wanted to yell, in no particular direction: "SCREW YOU!"
As my good friend and Geode Twin Caroline said: "If you have to 'take time' to be a mom or a dad ... YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG."
But, let's further explore the stupidity here. Let's say, for argument's sake, some deadbeat dad happens to be listening to the radio at that exact moment. He's eight cans into a twelve pack of Hamms, taking the last couple drags off his roach of pot, after leaving the apartment of whatever bar-fly he hooked up with the night before. Does anyone honestly think that guy is going pause and think to himself: "You know what? Tom Selleck is right. When I get into work at Pump -N- Munch tonight, I'm going to log on to fatherhood.gov and learn how to take time out to be a dad."
I mean. . . bullcrap, right?
And, please take special notice that there's no "motherhood.gov." There's no radio ad with, say, Candice Bergen, telling meth-head mothers to take time out of their day to let their kids out of the hallway closet and be a mom for awhile.
For that matter, let's say you're a deadbeat dad for reasons beyond your control. I mean, it's a tough economy. Times are tight. Do you really have the means to log on to the Internet to go to fatherhood.gov and learn how to be a dad? And that's forgetting for a moment that you can't LEARN how to be a dad; you ARE a dad who CHOOSES what kind of dad to be.
And here I'm reminded: My taxes pay for that fatherhood.gov initiative. I'm paying for pure stupidity. If someone were to approach me with an investment opportunity, and they presented me me with a PowerPoint presentation outlining the fatherhood.gov initiative, my wallet would slam shut with a bang, and I'd have the biggest laugh of my life.
The very idea that someone in a government position thought this fatherhood.gov initiative makes even the slightest bit of sense singlehandedly makes the case for why government needs to be smaller, not bigger.
Caroline: cnn.com: "Jesus' return set for May 21, 2011?"
Caroline: I should make a casserole for such an occasion.
Ryan: I was just going to say: "I haven't even prepared a room for him!"
I'll have to dust off that old manger in the garage.
Caroline: But you're remodeling your basement, that's got to count for something. It's like you knew.
Ryan: I knew the wife was pregnant.
Ryan: Our boys would be total best buds with the J-Man.
Ryan: They'd totally play X-Box.
Ryan: Favorite game: "Halo"
This is a screen capture of an ad that appears on SiteMeter. It's actually an ad for eye glasses, but when I first saw it I thought "What the hell is that raccoon doing with a samurai sword?
Maybe I need glasses or something.
I walked through the local RACE exhibit today, as a sort of work field trip, and I made the following astounding discovery:
Just when I thought I wouldn't be able to come up with a good blog topic this week, I happened to be perusing MSNBC.com and saw the following headline: "How to get boys to read? Try a book on farts." Immediately, I knew I was going to have to check out the article. Because, you know. . . FARTS!
For an article with such an attention-grabbing headline, some of the first introductory paragraphs just didn't deliver what I was hoping for. For example:
Boys have lagged behind girls in reading achievement for more than 20 years, but the gender gap now exists in nearly every state and has widened to mammoth proportions.
See what I mean? Boring! I was lured by the siren song of farts, and now I had to slog through stuff about a "gender gap?" The article was losing me, in other words. Thankfully, the article eventually went on to explain what I've already known for over 30 years. Namely, if you want to get young boys interested in learning, you often have to start with the lowest common denominator: potty humor.
"Butts, farts. Whatever," said Amelia Yunker, a children's librarian in Farmington Hills, Mich. She hosted a grossology party with slime and an armpit noise demonstration. "Just get 'em reading. Worry about what they're reading later."
Sing it, sister!
Actually, I have my own anecdotal experience to draw upon in support of this learning initiative. Back when I was 10 or 11 years old, what I wanted more than anything else for my birthday was a chemistry set. I didn't want the set because I wanted to learn anything, necessarily; rather, I was mesmerized by the picture of the alcohol burning thing-a-mabob that was used to heat up test tubes. That thing alone sold me on a possible life as a scientist.
Lo and behold, my parents bought me a chemistry set for my birthday, and within a couple short hours, I had everything set up in the basement, ready to embark on my new Dr. Jekyl career. After the first few "experiments," however, I was rapidly starting to lose interest. One experiment, for example, was titled "Why hard water is a baddy." Leaving aside the terrible English, I nevertheless labored on that experiment to produce. . . chlorine.
Science, I was quickly starting to conclude, was for morons.
But then, about midway through my experiment book, I happened upon the greatest experiment science has come up with, even to this day. I can't for the life of me remember the title of the experiment, or what it was supposed to prove or disprove, but I remember that experiment like I cooked it up yesterday.
The experiment itself was simple enough. It called for a little bit of sulfur and a pea-sized chunk of wax to be placed inside a test tube, which I then heated up over the alcohol burning flame. The actual experiment also called for a piece of litmus paper to be placed at the top of the test tube but, I'm here to tell you, that piece of paper was COMPLETELY unnecessary.
The result of that experiment was FARTS. I mean, I don't know what kind of chemical reaction went on between the wax and sulfur when heated, but within ten minutes the entire house smelled exactly like the bathroom after my Dad had been in there for an hour. It was as if a semi trailer loaded with the rottenest of rotten eggs had crashed into our house.
My mother instructed me, in no uncertain terms, that I was never to conduct that "experiment" ever again, and I waited a good half hour before I cooked up another batch of fart science. Over the next several weeks, I drove my parents to the brink of insanity by repeatedly conducting that experiment. I called in friends from all over town to come to my house to see and smell science in action.
The experiment was pure murder on the test tubes, however. Each tube was only good for about three or four "experiments" before the bottoms became so bloated with old wax they were completely unusable. I also ran out of pure wax fairly quickly, but my scientific mind was quick to deduce that crayons were a perfectly acceptable substitute.
Eventually, unfortunately, I simply ran out of usable test tubes (and, for that matter, sulfur), and my mother flat out refused to buy me any replacements, knowing full well what I'd use them for. And so, my brief but shining career as a scientist came to a close at a shamefully young age.
I can't help but wonder, however, what kind of mathematics genius I would have turned out to be if only numbers somehow smelled like farts.
I feel as though I've been waiting for something to happen to me, when I should be out making things happen for me.
Perhaps I'm thinking things are more complicated than they need to be.
It honestly doesn't seem that long ago that we--we being the collective swarm mind of the Internet--were crowing with glee as the walking petri dish known as Paris Hilton was being carted off to the klink to serve her mandated stretch of time for being, well. . . for being Paris Hilton.
Well, time has passed. The lazy-eyed Paris Hilton has been ushered off the public stage and has now been replaced by one Lindsay Lohan, who dazzled us in "Mean Girls" with a pair of breasts that seemed to be a gift from the Great Spirit himself.
Lohan has been in rapid decline ever since, showing the world that, yes, you can actually destroy yourself in less than five years if you really apply yourself. The Lohan is now poised to serve a 90 sentence for failure to appear in court on charges of booze-related shenanigans, or something.
Now, while I'm all for justice being meted out to those famous people who believe themselves to be above such nonsense, there's something about this that just doesn't smell right:
"She is paying her new lawyer a fortune to fix this mess. She doesn't care what it takes," an insider tells me. "If Lindsay needs to start a Facebook campaign or set up protests or something like that she is totally into it. They are treating Lindsay differently because she is a star, so it's about time she used her star power to help her. She's seen the movie 'Chicago' several times, so it's not like she doesn't know how this sort of thing works!"
Sure, it's a great quote that's just dripping with jaw-dropping "No effing way" permeating throughout, but that's just it: no one can be THAT stupid, right? I'd like to know who this "insider" is before I bite all the way into the concept of someone believing a FaceBook campaign can set them free, or that "Chicago" is a template for beating the rap.
Color me unconvinced, in other words.
We went to the nearby town of Byron this evening, thinking we'd go to popular Oxbow Park, not realizing the park closes at 4 p.m.
Before we went to the park and discovered it was closed, however, we decided to grab a bite to eat. We were going to go to Dairy Queen, but we decided to try the Mexican restaurant next door.
What transpired was an episode Seinfeld might label "The Salsa Nazi."
We sat down, and our server (also the owner) was very prompt, asking us if we wanted anything to drink. When we ordered water with a lemon slice, his irritation was so palpable, I could feel my tongue swell. So, we weren't totally surprised when he brought us plain water with no lemons or straws. We weren't going to say anything, because we knew what we were going to order to eat later wasn't going to improve his mood any.
The Salsa Nazi next brought the check to a table occupied by an older couple sitting near us. They asked for his name, and they seemed genuinely surprised when he said his name was the same as the name of the restaurant. It was clear they wanted his name so they could later call and complain, but instead the server/owner handed him his business card, and they certainly weren't going to give the owner the 411 regarding his terrible inter-personal skills. So, they simply paid for their meal and left.
The server/owner then came back to our table, and asked for our order, and when we said "We're going to have the fajitas," he took that to mean we'd both have an order of fajitas. We explained, no, we'd share a single order of fajitas, and he scribbled the order on his notepad so angrily, I expected ink to seep through the pad and start dripping on our table. To be fair, we also ordered chili con queso, but when he asked "Large?" and we responded "No, small," he visibly winced and then glared at our infant son, who had the audacity to enter his restaurant and eat Gerber food instead of pay for a child's meal.
Understand. My wife and I have 35 years of experience with American portions under our belts. We know that a single serving of fajitas at a Mexican restaurant can feed five people. We've known, for years, to only order a single serving of fajitas, ask for extra shells, and share them between us. Even when the Salsa Nazi eventually delivered the pared down version he thought would "teach us a lesson," it was still way more than enough for the two of us.
Tonight, in fact, was the first known time in my memory, that the server/owner of a restaurant actually stayed at the table upon delivering the check and waited for me to indicate a tip and sign the receipt, as if we were "dine and dash" risks. And, even though I gave a 35% tip (because the food, honestly, was excellent), he nevertheless seemed indignant about the whole exchange.
I don't mean to disparage this particular restaurant, mind you. As I said, the food was excellent. My wife even proclaimed it the best "local" Mexican restaurant food around.
But, Jeez, man. If you're an owner and you disdain your customers, at least pretend otherwise. Or stay in the kitchen.
My infant son spent basically all of June insisting on relying on the army crawl technique as his preferred method of locomotion. For an entire month, like some sort of wounded soldier, he dragged himself around the house, and I could always tell where he was based entirely on the sounds of his strained, grunting breathing as he exerted way too much energy to go from one room to another.
On Monday, June 28, he had his nine-month doctor's check-up. When he returned home and was placed on the floor, it was if he just flipped a mental switch and he was suddenly crawling all over the place using the standard baby crawl technique. It was an amazingly fast transition that took us completely by surprise. In a single day, we went from being able to follow the sounds of our army-crawling baby, to frantically chasing the curious little terror all around the house.
When we finished most of the basement earlier this year, I thought the unfurnished family room would be an excellent place for my son to crawl around in; it's spacious, carpeted and almost completely free of obstacles. I thought I'd be able to put him down in the basement and he'd be crawling in a hazard free environment.
Much to my surprise, when I put my boy down in the basement family room last night, he covered the distance from one end of the room to the other in ridiculously fast time, and I practically had to catapult myself over to the stairway when the little stuntman managed to get to the third step in just a few short seconds. I didn't want to discourage his efforts, but I simply couldn't believe it when he was over halfway up the stairs. I mean, he'd never climbed a single stair in his life, but yet there he was zipping up the staircase as if he'd been doing it from day one.
And his sheer determination was also remarkable. Even though I was hovering right behind him, ready to catch him at the slightest sign of a misstep, he kept his eyes locked on that top step. That was his goal, and he wasn't going to be denied.
In the end, however, his reserve of baby energy proved to be his Achilles heel. After burning so much energy crawling around the basement, he had to abandon his quest a mere four steps away from the top, at which point he just stopped his progress, sat on the step and panted, like an Everest hiker at high elevation.
And so we begin the next phase of baby vigilance. His world has now gotten much larger and more accessible, and our world has gotten much more interesting.
To use the parlance of our times:
Spam: This is bulk, unsolicited e-mail, usually in the form of bad advertising for boner pills or Nigerian royalty scams. It's unclear what kind of success rate spammers realize, but they nevertheless exist in the hundreds of thousands.
Trolls: These are Internet commenters or e-mailers who exist anonymously (mostly) primarily just to be jerks. They typically ask you to kill yourself or to otherwise shut up. It's unclear what kind of psychological need is filled by being a troll, but they nevertheless exist in the hundreds of thousands.
Back in 2004 and 2005, I spent several months playing Star Wars: Galaxies, and I had a blast doing so, because I played by the rules and made my way up through the ranks, including grinding out all the mind-numbing "Camping" requirements to become a bounty hunter.
Players of the game gradually sorted out little exploits and hacks within the game to carve out powerful little niches for themselves, so you eventually had spaceports populated with doctors who, for a price, would offer "buffs" which would improve other players' vital stats for a couple hours, basically making people virtually un-killable by in-game enemies.
The game developers didn't like that, so they kept tweaking the rules, yanking the rugs out from under the players who had invested considerable time building their characters.
Doctor characters became useless, while other characters found themselves with all sorts of new, unearned, skills and powers. This, obviously, made a lot of people mad, while also making some other people very happy, so a transition period ensued during which people settled into the new roles, discovering new exploits and hacks. Weapon makers, for example, created some seriously powerful guns that could mow down in-game enemies with ease.
The game developers didn't like that, so once again they kept tweaking the rules, yanking the rugs out from under the players who had invested considerable time building their characters.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Whenever characters started getting a little too comfortable playing the game, the developers kept intervening to get the game's economic model working the way they envisioned by knocking down the incentives for characters to truly excel.
All of this culminated in 2005 with the much-reviled "Combat Upgrade," which marked the point at which I began to lose interest in the game. Rather than a tweaking of the rules, the combat upgrade completely overturned the applecart. For a good 20 minutes after I logged in and experienced the effects of the combat upgrade, I couldn't even get my character to move around, because my once-awesome armor was suddenly too heavy for me to maneuver within. This was followed later in the year with a New Game Enhancements surprise that was inflicted on players with only 24-hour notice.
So why do I bring all this up? Well, I stopped playing SWG in 2005, because the constant changes just drove me nuts, and it was ridiculous how poorly-thought-out some of the major changes were. I loved the game I originally started playing, but those damned developers just couldn't resist messing it up in an effort to attain a fair and balanced system. In the end, they just totally blew up what was originally a really awesome game.
And I can't help but see a lot of parallels when I look at how governments also butt in and try to fix things they deem broken. Just when people get comfortable playing the game under familiar rules, everything gets messed up when government steps in to try to make things more "fair," whatever the hell that means.
Eventually, the people simply aren't going to like the product being sold, and they'll find ways to leave the game.
Ryan: I really thought I'd have my freelance check by now.
Caroline: I expect mine on the `5th.
Caroline: 15th, even
Ryan: The `5 only comes around during Leap Year.
Caroline: two years, then
Ryan: What's sad is I initially couldn't figure out how you made the ` symbol.
Caroline: magical keyboard
Ryan: I was looking at the "1" key, thinking "did she use the Wingding font for that or something?
Caroline: I hot wingdingin'
Ryan: Heh. Wingding. I'm just happy we live in a world that has a wingding font.
Wingding 1, 2 AND 3, no less.
Caroline: Totally. One Wingding isn't enough. It's kind of like Ghetto Booty in that way.
Ryan: OH MY GOD.
Ryan: I was JUST GOING TO PROPOSE A GHETTO BOOTY FONT.
Ryan: That's some powerful fucking brainwave action there.
Caroline: Indeed it is
Ryan: With the Ghetto Booty font, any time there's a double o "oo" it will be represented by a miniature pair of sunglasses.
Caroline: I'd use that font ALL OF THE TIME.
Ryan: It would totally kill off Helvetica.
Caroline: And forget about Arial.
Ryan: Already forgotten.
Ryan: We have some of the geekiest convos in the universe.
Caroline: That's what makes them awesome.
Ryan: Our Ghetto Booty font would have so much bling, it would almost be illegal.
Caroline: And to think this convo started thanks to a typo.
Well, we made it. The 4th of July weekend is upon us.
There was a time in my life when the 4th of July was a month-long event, rather than simply a three day weekend. That was before the dark times, before the Empire. . . I mean, before a job, and a home, and payments and responsibilities, and all those other icky things that intrude into our lives: also known as "adulthood."
When I coming up, which is an old-timey way of saying "growing up," I started to prepare for the 4th of July during the first week of June, or even into May if I could swing it, by buying fireworks. Granted, fireworks were illegal in Minnesota at the time, but trying to keep fireworks out of the hands of determined children is like trying to keep Lindsay Lohan away from a bottle of Grey Goose.
It's funny, but one of my earlier memories was of my Dad taking my brother and me down to the basement--the darkest place on the planet--and lighting a couple of sparklers. The fact that's one of my earliest memories should tell you a bit about the deeply ingrained allure of fireworks flickering in my soul.
For a solid month, I'd build my fireworks stockpile and keep it under lock and key in my skate box. I'd open it from time to time to marvel at the colors and breathe in the spicy aroma of gunpowder just waiting to be ignited.
This year marks the first 4th of July for my son, Aiden, and I have to admit I'm a bit torn. On the one hand, I want him to enjoy the holiday and the fireworks that are part of it, but on the other hand (thank God I still have two) I remember all too well the misadventures I had with pyrotechnics over the years. I'm probably one of only a handful of Americans who never went into the military, but nevertheless managed to detonate a grenade in his parents' backyard. So, I've set some fairly dangerous firework precedents, and I can see in my baby boy's eyes the glint of a child who will be no stranger to the lighter and fuse, whether I encourage him or not.
Fireworks are now legal in Minnesota, which is to say the most boring fireworks on the planet. If it can leave the earth or make a boom, it's still illegal, so we're left with things that, to use industry lingo: "Emit showers of sparks." Which, that's still cool and all, and to a nine-month old I'm sure they're every bit as magical as my father with his sparkers in the basement, but my boy's bound to discover the real world of fireworks at some point. You can make fireworks as illegal in Minnesota as you want, after all; so long as we share a border with South Dakota, we're going to get the bigger stuff, just as sure as you're going to get cocaine coming out of Mexico.
Perhaps it's a bit premature to be worrying about how and when my son will discover his first firework artillery shell. Hopefully, if I show good judgement and safety this year, some tendrils of that cautionary behavior will make its way into his rapidly-developing mind and will exhibit itself in his firework use years from now.
So, this year, probably tomorrow, I'll buy a big assortment of Minnesota-approved fireworks, and I'll light them this weekend as he watches, no doubt with delighted eyes, and we'll celebrate together this ongoing experiment that is America.
Enjoy your Independence Day, and the independence that comes with it.
Ryan: You know, I was just thinking about the name "Matt."
Caroline: That's ... not interesting.
Ryan: You never think of an old person with the name of "Matt."
Ryan: A 90-year-old named Matt. I just can't see that.
Caroline: Or Ryan.
Ryan: Hey, I plan on dying at 50, so there.
Caroline: Shit, you'd better get livin'.
Ryan: Now, Caroline, that's an old person's name you could set your watch to.
Caroline: Old Caroliiiiiiiiiiine, good times never seemed so good
Ryan: Or so far away.
Ryan: Bradley is a good old person name, so you're safe there.
Ryan: Bradley is an old man, sucking thoughtfully on a corncob pipe, feeling the tingle in his right knee because it's gonna rain, sure 'nuff.
Caroline: Old man Bradley
Ryan: Marc's a goner at 52 though. Ain't no Old Man Marcs.
Caroline: He plans on dying at 56ish.
Ryan: Wait, he could always play the Marcus card, I guess. That would at least buy him into his 70s.
Caroline: It's the Marks who need to worry.
Ryan: If they try to go with Markus, God smites them on the spot on general principle.
Ryan: Matthew can get you into your 80s, I suppose.
Caroline: That's better
Ryan: There's really no way for me to get old with my name. Just "Ry" might let me limp into my 60s.
Caroline: And there's no using your middle name to help the cause.
Let's be honest.
Ryan: No. My parents pretty much doomed me with "Carroll."
Caroline: My middle name is Louise, which is a fantastic old-person name.
Ryan: Shit, you're set until you're 112.
Ryan: Carroll O'Conner made it to 76, so I could maybe go that route.
Caroline: Brittany Murphy proved that she didn't have an old-person's age.
Although Heath should be an old-person's name and that didn't pan out.
Ryan: If Brittany can't make it, then Britney is totally screwed.