Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Osiris Waits for Her

Velvet Verbosity wants to send books around the world and hear the tales of their travels. It sounds like a fun idea to me. Here's my attempt at "Doorway:"

She stood outside the doorway, the molding pressed into her shoulder, and strained to hear something other than her own heart beating. She should go in. She knew she should. But how could she? How could she take that first step, how could she make herself reach out for the doorknob and turn it? It was an action impossible to imagine, as impossible as making herself rise from the floor and float there, bobbing like a balloon in a breeze. Instead she stood frozen, listening, waiting for the sound that would, like a starting gun, allow her to move again.

Tales From the Playground: The Spiders Will Get You!

[A man in his late twenties, in sunglasses, a sweater, slacks, and dress shoes, with a coffee in one hand. A girl, about four.]

You want to swing? No, you can do it. Remember? Hold on to the chains and pull yourself up. You got it! Oh, are you OK? That's why they put the soft gravel there, so when people fall. Oh, you're OK. It's soft gravel. Get up and try again. Try again, but this time remember to hold on. There you go! No, you're too far back. Slide forward a little bit. A little bit more. Not that much.

OK, remember how we talked about pumping? Back and forward. Back and forward. OK, I'll push you to get you started, but you've got to do it yourself. Back and forward. Back and forward. You're not doing it soon enough. A little sooner. Back now. Now forward. Back. Forward. You've got to do it sooner. You're sitting too far back. Slide forward. A little more. Now lean back. And swing your legs. Back. Forward. A little sooner.

OK, I'll push you higher. OK, come on now; now you're acting. It's not that high. Stop screaming. It's not that high. You're way overreacting. Why are you so afraid? It's not that high. All right, all right. Here. Is that better? Oh, you're just going to stop? Remember, keep trying. Don't give up. Come on now. Get up. You better get up. There's spiders. Tiny spiders live in the gravel. They'll bite you; you better get up.

Oh, now where are you going? Remember? Keep trying; don't give up!

Kavalier and Clay

When I finished In the Woods by Tana French, I went looking for other Edgar Award winners. I saw that Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union had been nominated. I had seen Michael Chabon's name in audiobook lists, had somehow formed the opinion that he was a formulaic detective story author, and had dismissed him and his work out of hand. Awhile back, I had seen a regular feature on the local news in which the local book store recommends a book of the week, and the book that week had been The Yiddish Policemen's Union. I had not at the time connected the author's name to the impression that I had created of Michael Chabon, the third-rate mystery writer.

So I went to the library to give the Yiddish Union a try. But they didn't have it. But they did have The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which rang a bell somewhere in my mind, so I checked it out. The bell turned out to be defective yeti. Back when I had a full-time job and nothing much better to do with my cubicle-dwelling time than screw around on the internet, I had read through defective yeti's archives. All of them. And in May of 2002, he talked about this book.

I won't re-hash the plot, but I will say it's not a formulaic detective story. I enjoyed it almost as much as The Time Traveler's Wife (and no, I don't select all of my reading material from defective yeti's book reviews). It could have felt very foreign to me: it begins in Nazi-occupied Prague; it ends 19 years before I was born; its characters are chain-smoking New York Jews encountering the likes of Salvador Dali and Orson Welles; and I've never read superhero comics, only the graphic novels Watchmen, V Is for Vendetta, and Sin City, which, in the novel's world, interestingly, are exactly the kinds of works purportedly influenced by the pioneering art of Joe Kavalier.

Despite how far out of my own experience it falls, it drew me in. I loved every minute of the long, slow climb toward perfect happiness that the threesome of Joe, Sam, and Rosa make. I knew that happiness couldn't last, but I still didn't see it coming when it withers at the precise moment that it was coming to fruition. I was intrigued by the threesome; at first I assumed it would be the typical scenario of a man, his love, and his friend: destruction by jealousy. But while Sam is jealous of Joe and Rosa in another way, it becomes clear that he's not capable of wanting her for his own. Then the threesome breaks, and Sam does take Joe's place, coming around at last to the fulfillment of what was inevitable but in an entirely unexpected, and deeply sad, way.

Joe himself is also a roundabout fulfillment of an old storytelling tradition: the man who loses what's most important to him, withdraws into a long, self-imposed, guilt-ridden exile, and then allows himself to be drawn back into the world by a new embodiment of that which he lost in the first place. But this tradition, too, becomes new because Joe doesn't lose his beloved wife, and he doesn't learn to love again when a quirky and charming new woman comes into his life. Sam and Rosa go into their own forms of exile, though not in the same way as Joe, and their rebirths can only come in concert with his.

All in all a beautiful book. Thanks, dy and Edgar and Tana French!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Tale of Two Christmases

I thought that last year was the end of the old traditions and this was the beginning of new ones. We have always gone to my parents' house in Dallas to spend Christmas (or a date near enough that fit everyone's schedules) with most or all of my family. This year, though, we decided to stay home for Christmas for the first time so that Thumper could have his joyful morning discovery of what happens when Santa Claus breaks and enters one's home. Mom said she was ready and willing to let go of hosting Christmas and would be happy to travel wherever else she might be invited, so we decided to host a Christmas this year. Big Brother, Social Worker Sister-in-Law, Freckles, and Robert McGee were going to be in Dallas anyway to visit SWSIL's family, and one of Aerie's sisters has a sick baby and wasn't visiting, and Biggest Brother and his family weren't able to make the trek to Austin, though. But Gummas, Gumpa, Mungo, and two of the three New England Aunties would be able to make it.

We had Gummas and Gumpa over Christmas Eve. We had dinner and let the baby entertain us. Then Christmas Day came. Thumper arises like clockwork at 7:00 a.m. every morning, so we invited everyone in both my family and Aerie's to come any time after 8:00 a.m. We kept that first hour to ourselves so we could have our own little family moment watching him emerge from his room. It was sort of anticlimactic, though. He came out, demanded "moke!" (milk) and "bye-tuh-nin!" (vitamin. We've experimented. Given the choice between vitamins (generic chewable Flintstones) and chocolate, he takes the vitamin. And then the chocolate), and didn't even glance in a tree-ward direction. With a little prompting, he noticed the giant pile of stuff, but he was in no hurry to open it all. Gummas and Gumpa came over, and we let the baby entertain us. We munched. We munched some more. Mungo and a couple of Aunties came over, and we let the baby entertain us. Then we munched some more. By bed time Christmas evening, he still had 4 unopened presents that we "helped" him open.

We tried to keep the munchies more or less healthy; at least, we eliminated most of the sugar and the fat. I didn't make my mother's secret family recipe for fudge that has been passed from generation to generation. Or cookies or candy or cakes of any kind. We did buy a grocery store pumpkin pie and some Cool Whip, for old time's sake, though. And we did have a delicious loaf of some sort of pound cake that one of Aerie's co-workers gave her. But we also had spicy roasted artichokes and sauteed spinach and mushrooms and a giant tub of the traditional Christmas tabbouleh. But healthy or not, the munching, munching, and more munching starts to add up.

And then on Saturday, because Biggest Brother, who's had more than a little turmoil in his family over the past year, wasn't quite ready to give up on the old traditions, we drove to Dallas to spend a second Christmas at Gummas and Gumpa's house. We sat around and munched and chatted and waited until Freckles couldn't stand it anymore and made us open presents. Then we went to the Chinese restaurant that we first went to back on Christmas of 1897 because Mom wasn't cooking, and there weren't a lot of choices in open restaurants on Christmas Day. And thus, a tradition was born, and thus was it honored again on Saturday. And we ate, and we ate, and we ate some more. And still there were leftovers for Skinny Fashion Model Niece to take home. So, much eating. But I'm not feeling too guilty. I've gained a few pounds this week, but I'm still on track. I worked out this morning. It's not the End of the Diet if I eat like a pig over the holiday.

And once again I learned the lesson that never seems to stick with me: the anticipation is never congruent with the actuality. I dreaded driving 3 1/2 hours twice in two days with the boy, who has demonstrated a decided disinclination to sleep in the car recently. In actuality, he fussed for a combined total of about 10 minutes, and otherwise slept or played or sang or laughed or chatted the entire way both directions. I also dreaded a night in a motel with him, as the last time we did this (oh, about, hmm, one year ago) he kept me awake all night with his thumping and tossing and turning and various other nocturnal noises. I also dreaded trying to get him to sleep in his Pack 'n' Play, in which he has demonstrated a decided disinclination to sleep recently. In actuality, he fell asleep in the short car ride from Gummas and Gumpa's house to the motel, awoke as soon as I unbuckled him, and then spent the next hour exploring, with no sign of the exhaustion he should have been feeling, every inch of the joint. Then we pinned him down, turned out the lights, and forced him to sleep. And sleep he did, almost completely silently, until 7:15 a.m. the next morning. So again, not as bad as I was anticipating.

In fact, I couldn't have asked for a better toddler through the entire holiday season. He was a joy. And it always does me good to enjoy him through other people's eyes now and then and remember how remarkable he is. He skipped his usual afternoon nap on both Christmases and never melted down. He sat through nearly two hours in a hard wooden high chair at the Chinese restaurant and was just a little bit restless and now and then forgot to use his indoor voice. He was a joy. And even my fifteen-year-old nephew remarked, "He's really smart. I didn't know one-year-olds were that smart." In fact, he's so smart, he even knows to wear safety goggles when using power tools.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

My favorite present was the phone. I've been calling Mungo all morning. Hello? Mungo?

Of course, the spoons were pretty cool, too.

Anybody want to play Lincoln Logs with me?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa's Waiting

We're sitting quietly waiting for the boy to fall asleep so that Santa can go into the spare bedroom and take all the loot that he hid in there and stack it up by the Christmas tree for the morning. And with Anne's kind comment on my last post, I thought I would do well to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. That's one of my favorite parts of this time of year: all of the hope for good things to come in the next year. That and how odd "2009" sounds. Seriously, are we almost at the end of the first decade of the'00's? Weird. Much joy to you all!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Expanding on a Tweet

I asked Twitter why the Duggars make me angry. My mother emailed me to ask, "Well, why DO the Duggars make you angry?" This is what I replied:

"Well, I’ve never seen their show; I’ve only noticed the Today Show’s infatuation with them, but I think it’s:

Because when the world is on the brink of disaster resulting in large part from overpopulation, the idea that they have not just a right but a responsibility to make 18 and maybe more children seems arrogant.

Plus I don’t see how they can possibly sufficiently nurture that many people.

Plus they’re so robotically cheerful.

Plus they’re religious."

And even though my family itself went a little nuts with the R names, I could add the 18 J names to the list. It's so cutesy it just makes me want to hurl. And the dad named Jim Bob. Seriously? Jim Bob? I make faces and disgusted noises when they show up on my TV. I change the channel, then change it back, like poking at a bruise.

Having said all that, I'm perfectly aware that my own reaction to them is also arrogant. It's snarky. And bigoted. And the environmentalist take is disingenuous.

Do I want to believe that their cheerfulness is fake because it arises out of a faith that I cannot bring myself to share? Do I want their children to refute that faith by hating them for what they've wrought?

There's no reason that I should dislike earnest people happily living the life that their deepest beliefs mandate for them, is there?

Is there?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh, Is It Snowing at Your House?

Thumper and I went for a jog this morning in the lovely 70 degrees, and I noticed on returning how happy the roses are. They don't like the summers around here much, but they're full of the Christmas spirit.

I don't even remember what digging my car out was like.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And It All Falls Into Place

I never play my PS2 any more. With reading and working and exercising, video games just don't climb very high on the priority list.

It's cold outside, so I haven't wanted to expose the boy, even in his cold weather gear, for an hour-long run.

My copywriting workload has evaporated, so nap times are open for other uses.

A few years ago, I set up a small TV and DVD player in front of the treadmill.

In the late '90's, I spent many, many hours with Lara Croft in PC versions of Tomb Raider I and II.

Circuit City is closing near us and selling everything at deep discounts. I saw a PS2 version of Tomb Raider: Anniversary. I thought, "Well, I'll never play it, but it's so cheap, and I'm a sentimental geek, so..."

And then, in a flash of inspiration this morning, it occurred to me that I could hook up the PS2 to the treadmill TV. Genius! I'm not really coordinated enough to jog and play simultaneously, but apparently I can manage a good brisk walk without falling on my face. So I just put in a 72-minute steep-incline walk while exploring Croft Manor. And POW! the treadmill is new again! Usually I'm bored long before 60 minutes are up. Maybe this will be the week I manage to break that 249-lb. ceiling...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hey, I Didn't Know Our Camera Could Do That!

I haven't much to say these days. I should be spending the morning nap today composing the email with which I will attempt to keep one of my databases off of death row. In this email, I will attempt not to use the phrase "throwing out the baby with the bath water," but I make no promises. I'm sure it's a boring story to everyone but me, but it's been a saga several months in the making. I feel like my creation would be the picture of perfection if only given the chance. It ain't the database, it's the setup of the machine that's serving it, I swear! Anyway, there's some differences of opinion on the matter, and the bosses of the bosses have decided to go with the most stability and least functionality. So I'm going to try and talk them out of it.

This morning, since it may be the only cold day here this winter, we decided to go outside and try out Thumper's cold weather gear. And since I've got nothing very interesting to say, Thumper has a few things he'd like to mention:

Wow, is that the sound of me breathing? I'll try to remember to hold my breath next time.

You know, you can never have too much sherpa hat.

Or dimples. You can never have too much dimple.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Huh. Wow. Bleak. Merry Christmas!

I really wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not. Do people take babies to nursing homes where they have no friends or relatives in residence? Will he make the old folks sick? Will they make him sick? Will the whirling Hurricane Thumper break fragile bones as he tears gleefully through the joint?

So I called, and said, "I don't know if this is a good idea or not, but here's the thought I had..."

The lady said, "Sure! Great! I don't know if he'll be scared or not, but we'd love to see him!"

I asked, "Is there a common area where people gather?"

She said, "Yeah. Yeah. Or you can go to people's rooms."

Oh, no. Individual rooms? How would that work? Knock knock. "Hi there! I thought you'd like to look at my baby!" No. Plus, I reasoned, there's probably a lot of stuff for him to get into in a person's room. I figured we'd start in the lobby and see where the boy's feet took us. I checked with the missus to see if she had any objections (she did not), so I decided this afternoon would be the time.

I almost talked myself out of it, because I have a strong aversion to awkward social situations. This is the reason I can almost never sit through an entire episode of The Office without changing the channel. I'm terrible at making small talk. I'm terrible at introducing myself to strangers. But I told myself there was a reason the idea came to me, and I couldn't find out what that reason was if I never followed through. Besides, I figured young Thumper would do all the work and break all the conversational ice. I even Googled for tips for visiting nursing homes, but when the pdf I found suggested reading Scripture, I thought, "Well, we'll just wing it and see how it goes." So we did.

We started in the lobby, and I immediately felt like maybe this would be OK. There were two residents sitting in the lobby, and one was very friendly and chatty and seemed quite taken by the boy. He played shy at first, but he warmed up pretty quickly. They talked about the Christmas tree, and how pretty it was, and how those were indeed balls hanging from it.

"Gummas?" He asked her.

"Yes, I'm a grandma," she answered.

"Gumpa," he said, and toddled off down the hall.

He found a few grandpas, but the grandmas were much more susceptible to his charms. There was a little lounge area right by the central nursing station, and a group of residents that waxed and waned from as few as five to as many as ten gathered here. Thumper again went shy, but when the friendliest and most talkative of the bunch rolled her walker towards him and told him it was a car, he grabbed it and "vroom, vroom"ed it all around. I followed him around and made sure he didn't slam it into anybody. She was very sweet to him. Every few minutes, she would ask me how old he was. I would answer. She would say he was a big boy and tell me she had four little boys just like him. Then a few minutes later, she'd ask me again.

One nurse took up a defensive position in front of a wheelchair-bound resident's feet, put a hand on my shoulder, and said, "We have to be careful of her feet."

"OK," I said.

"Bless you," she said, and disappeared. I was immediately certain that Thumper would eventually trip and fall and snap one of her feet off at the ankles.

But of course, he didn't. He was the charmer I was sure he would be. He flirted with the four friendliest ladies who flirted back. He slowly approached one stone-faced gentleman, waving and saying, "Hi! Hi!" When the man didn't respond, Thumper let him be. He ran and ran laps around the nursing station, filling the room with laughter, both his own and that of the staff and a few of the residents. He explored down two of the hallways, peering into the rooms, but always came back to the four ladies in the middle. He sang, he jumped, he danced, he stomped, and he spun in circles. And when we waved goodbye to everyone and left, even the stone-faced man smiled and waved back.

So that's a success, right? Then why do I feel so bleak about it? I'd like to say we'll go back again, but I'm not sure. Why?

So many people just sitting and staring. Those dark rooms occupied by tiny people staring silently off into space or peering into miniature televisions, intently watching a mulleted John Stamos on Full House.

The anxious woman who raised her shaking hands and said, "No, no, no, no, no, no..." to Thumper whenever he approached her. So of course he was fascinated by her. She had a beat-up, red stuffed animal hanging from the side of her walker. He wanted to touch it. She very much didn't want him to. He kept coming back again and again, and filled her with the same anxiety every time.

The woman who every few seconds moaned piteously, "I'm all alone..."

But most of all, I feel like I'm being presumptuous, or condescending, like I'm walking through the door and saying, "Hey, you sick and unhappy people! I'm here with my adorable baby! Cheer up and pay homage to him!"

Yes, he made some people smile. And yes, some people either completely ignored him or were put off by him. And yes, I was generally uncomfortable and a poor conversationalist except when asked direct questions about the boy. I don't know if this will become a thing with us. I tend to think not. And that makes me feel a little guilty.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Do People Do This Kind of Thing?

I've been trying to think of volunteer opportunities that I could take advantage of with the boy. I'm thinking about Meals on Wheels, but I'm not sure about putting a lot of car time into Thumper's schedule. I haven't contacted them yet to see what the parameters are, though. But with Thumper being so friendly and funny and a lover of people, it occurred to me that I should take him to a nursing home and see if he can't spread a few smiles around.

Any thoughts out there on whether this is a good or bad idea?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Camp Songs

I was reading In the Woods, and the main character talked about dreaming about kids voices chanting different rhymes, and one of them was:

Two, two, the lily-white boys, clothed all in green-ho. One is one, and all alone, and evermore shall be so.

And suddenly I was thinking of something I hadn't thought of in twenty years or more.

I'll sing you one ho.
Green grow the rushes, ho,
What is your one ho?
One is one, and all alone,
And evermore shall be so.

And two, two, the lily-white boys, and three, three, the rivals, and four for the Gospel makers, and five for the symbols at your door... And, uh, well, Wikipedia remembers better than I.

I never thought about the meaning much. I wonder what other bastardized religious mnemonics I sang when I was a Boy Scout? What camp songs do you remember? This goes back so far, there must be a million I'm forgetting. Ah, the group participation experience, in the dark, around or across a fire. Good times. Let's see...

Let me see your boogaloo. What's that you say?

Squirrel, squirrel, shake your bushy tail. (Squirrels were brown where I came from. I recall Aerie telling me that when she was singing camp songs, it was "Gray squirrel, gray squirrel..." Freaky ass squirrels in the northeast are gray! You believe that? The first one I saw when I went up there for college, I thought it was just really old...)

The other day, I met a bear, a great big bear, away out there.

Father Abraham had seven sons. Seven sons had Father Abraham.

In a cottage in a wood, little old man at the window stood, saw a rabbit running by, frightened as could be.

Mmm mmm went the little green frog one day, mmm mmm went the little green frog.

And the green grass grew all around, all around. The green grass grew all around.

It skiddly oaten dotin', bo doh skee deeten dahtin, wah dahtin chu.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Now I Lay Me Down Not To Sleep

This should be classified as a rant and I'm not sure what the purpose of it is, other than if I can't sleep, why should anyone else? The hours I've slept over the last few weeks have been shrinking progressively.

Typically, I'm In Bed for 6 to 7 hours per night. In Bed does not necessarily equate with sleep, but on good nights, I get close to 6 hours of sleep. Lately, I'm lucky if it's 5 hours. This morning? Awake at 3:30 with maybe 4 hours of sleep.

Back in my college days, going to school full time and working the equivalent of a full time job (bouncing around with 2 to 3 part time jobs), I did just fine on 4 hours of sleep. A smidge over a decade and a toddler later, not as fine...or at least more pissed off about it.

I should Go To Bed. I'm tired, but I'm wired and I know sleep ain't happening yet. And, when it does happen, I just pray I don't have to pee in the middle of the night...if I do, it's a precarious journey to the bathroom on tiptoes to not set off 1 of the minimum 5 brains that Rodius insists I have crammed into my skull. (Not suggesting that I'm as smart as 5 brains, but rather that I have at least 5 things going on in my head at any given moment...)

Rodius went to Bed a while ago. I'm sure he was Out in less than 5 minutes. Both he and Thumper know how to sleep. I could use some lessons. I do what I'm supposed to....I don't watch the late night news....I don't drink caffeine in the evening...I have something to write down things that pop up on my To Do list just isn't always enough. Maybe I need to bust out the Ambien, but I'm not so keen on pharmaceutical induced sleep. It is a necessary evil once or twice a year, though, when the insomnia lasts a week or longer. Too late for it tonight. I can't be comatosed in the morning...I have my T-Day assignments to attend to.

Yeah, the words of Barenaked Ladies

Now I lay me down not to sleep
I just get tangled in the sheets
I swim in sweat three inches deep
I just lay back and claim defeat

My hands are locked up tight in fists
My mind is racing filled with lists
of things to do and things I've done
Another sleepless night's begun

Lids down, I count sheep
I count heartbeats
The only thing that counts is
that I won't sleep
I countdown, I look around

Who needs sleep?
(well you're never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep?
(tell me what's that for)
Who needs sleep?
(be happy with what you're getting)
There's a guy who's been awake
since the Second World War

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tales from the Playground: Trapped!

Thumper and I had coupons for free food at the brand new Chick-fil-A.

(Aside A: Huh. Am I crazy, or didn't it used to be Chik-fil-A? When did they put the extra C in? Was the mispelling of Chick an affront to God, but the mispelling of filet stands? And did you know Chick-fil-A is all religious and whatnot? The things you learn by searching the nutty, nutty internets.)

Anyway, we had coupons. They were mailed to us. We even got two sets of coupons in our mailbox, and if you think I'm going to walk six houses down to return their coupons to them, you're crazy.

So we went to the new Chick-fil-A today. And so did everyone else. It was a madhouse. The drive-thru (Thru!) line was a mile long, and the dining room was packed. If I hadn't felt so rushed, I might have read the menu a little closer and realized I could have substituted sides, which sort of takes the wind out of this rant, a little bit:

(Aside B: I had a "Spicy Chicken Cool Wrap Meal." I did not add the dressing they cheerfully offered me. I'm assuming the meal comes with "Medium" Waffle Potato Fries, which, by the helpful calculator on their website means that I had 780 calories and 33 grams of fat. Good Lord! Thumper had a 4-Piece Chicken Nuggets and presumably small Waffle Potato Fries, or 410 calories and 22 grams of fat. Yeesh! Good thing he's a pain in the ass about lunch lately and didn't eat it all. He ain't so keen on fries. And he flat-out refused fries with ketchup on them. Smart kid. I mean, seriously, fried brown lumps of chicken and fried brown lumps of potato? That's what's generally considered an acceptable meal for kids? I gave him bits of lettuce, tomato, and cabbage out of my wrap. While we were eating, I perused the menu again, and I saw that I could have substituted sides "for additional cost." I saw the Cole Slaw (370 calories and 32 grams of fat!) and the Fruit Cup (70 calories, no fat), but I didn't see Carrot & Raisin Salad (260 calories and 12 grams of fat) or Side Salad. Maybe they were there, and I just missed them.)

(Aside C: Did you know those stupid cows painting mispelled billboards have been around for 13 years now? What is it with this company and poor spelling?)

Anyway, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah. We ate, and then we entered the playscape for some post-lunchin' fun. Hopefully the little snot machine isn't contagious anymore. I mean, it's been almost a full week now, and he doesn't have a fever anymore. That's the key, right? Fever? No fever, no contagion? Or something? Well, whatever. Maybe we spread the contagion, but we had to get out of the house. And there's one certain child that I wouldn't mind so much if we infected. See if you can figure out which one it is!

So he played on the ground level for awhile, but with the several hundred (or maybe dozen or so) other kids running and climbing and sliding, he finally decided to check out the upper floor. So up he climbed. And he crawled through the tubes. And he sat in the race car and spun the wheel. And then he said, "Daddy? Daddy?" And then he started to cry.

I could see him through one of the plexiglass windows, so I got his attention so he could see me. That didn't help. "Down!" he sobbed. And I thought, "Crap. The fat man's going to have to climb up there and get him." And so I did.

Thank you, whoever builds those playscapes for Chick-fil-A, for engineering them well enough to withstand the weight of a dozen little kids and one fat man. Loathe to put my weight on the hanging tubes, I climbed up and poked my head in and called to him. He kept sobbing, but didn't poke his head out of the next tube, where I knew he was, about six feet down the line. There were three three-to-four-year-old girls standing at the next junction, right outside his tube, looking at me like I had three heads.

"Would you help him come out so he can see me?" I asked. They stared at me. "Please?" I added. "The baby, who's crying right there? Would you help him out, please?" They stared at me. And so I thought, "Crap, the fat man's going to have to put his weight out there in these hanging tubes and hope for the best." And so I did.

And crawling down there, I discovered what the real problem was. A four-or-five-year-old boy in an Indiana Jones costume was laying in the entrance to the tunnel. Completely filling it. To be fair, he wasn't carrying the whip and machete, but still. Thumper was just on the other side of him, still sobbing. He couldn't get out because Indy wouldn't get the hell out of the way.

"Would you move please, so he can get out?" I asked. He just looked at me. "Would you move out of the way, please?" Nothing. "You," I said, and pointed right at him. He seemed to wake up. "Move." And so he did.

So I grabbed the boy and tried to reassure him as I huffed and puffed and grunted my way backwards through the tunnels and back down the steps, trying not to crush any of the small children who continued to tear through the tunnels at top speed as if I weren't even there. Thumper calmed down almost as soon as I touched him.

So, lesson learned:

A strange adult out of context will make small children freeze like they've seen the basilisk.

Related corrolary:

Asking four-year-olds for help in a crisis is folly of the highest order.

If He Runs Fast Enough, Maybe the Earth's Spin Will Reverse

Not a very creative attempt at Velvet Verbosity's 100 Words; it's just that Time has been on my mind lately.

How does time move both fast and slow? Five days creep by like the passing of a month, trapped in the house with a sick kid, trying not to spread his contagion. But sixteen months flit away like a fly I'm trying to catch with chopsticks. Those framed photos must be some other baby we knew once, because they're not him anymore. In constant motion, he's moved on. Now, for a moment, he'll stop and let me hold him. He'll press his head to my shoulder and gently pat my back, and the clock will freeze. Then time races on.

Monday, November 24, 2008


There's spoilers ahead, if you have any intention of reading this massive volume. Just so's you know.

I just moments ago finally finished The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. And the feeling that overwhelmed me as I turned the last page was:


This is precisely the same feeling I get when I've committed two or two-and-a-half hours to a (usually artsy "independent") movie only to reach an ambiguous ending that answers none of my questions. Only this time it wasn't a couple of hours. It was seven weeks. Seven weeks of my life reading a 900-page book, and what did I learn? Is Agnes dead? Maybe. Probably. Does William bleed to death from his injuries, or is he perhaps robbed and murdered before he can make it home? I don't know. Does Sugar escape and make a new life and a new family? One would think so, knowing what we do about her resourcefulness and her financial situation. But maybe not. It's not a kind world to an unmarried woman.

So yes, it was a compelling ride, and yes, he was an able writer who evoked an engaging world that sucked me in so much that I committed two (Two!) entire naptimes in a single day to finish it.

But what do I get for my commitment? A tongue-in-cheek afterword and fifteen "Readers Group Guide" questions to properly direct my thinking about this book.

And no, I thought I knew where we were going with the title, but I didn't, really. I mean, yes, generally, I get the whole "the good and the bad," "the moral and the immoral" implications. But who are the crimson and the white? William and Agnes? William and Edward? Sugar and Emmeline? William and Sugar? Sugar and Sophie? Sugar and Caroline? William and Caroline? All of the above?

Eh, whatever. That was a long way to go.

Oh yeah, and while I'm at it, who wrote the blurb on the back of the book? Did they even read the goddamned thing? Probably not, since it's freakin' 900 pages long. It says:

"Meet Sugar, a nineteen-year-old prostitute in Victorian London who yearns for escape to a better life. From the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, she begins her ascent through society. Beginning with William Rackham, a perfume magnate whose lust for Sugar soon begins to smell like love, she meets a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters as her social rise is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds."

What? Rackham makes his pitch for Sugar on page 180, and he's nowhere near a "perfume magnate" at the time. And she leaves his house on page 868, no higher in her "ascent through society" than a (slightly higher class) servant in his household. Maybe this was an effective blurb as far as marketing goes, but man, it misses the actual book by at least as many inches as the book is thick. I wonder if the author scoffed audibly the first time he read it.

So there you go. There's my literary analysis of the book, one that would make the professors who shepherded me through my English major proud: it was pretty good. I liked it. But the ending kind of pissed me off. The end.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


In school, work, and social situations, I've generally been content to remain anonymous. I can be employed for years with a significant segment of my co-workers not even knowing my name.

But now, in my ushering job, I'm suddenly as unanonymous as I can get. I'm like Norm when he walks through the door of Cheers. It's all because I created a database that directly affects the part-time income of several hundred people. Now those hundreds of people all know my name. And my email address. And they have questions. And they have suggestions.

I worked on Sunday. I went in a little early so I could eat some lunch before we got started. It took me 10 minutes to walk the 40 feet to the microwave. And some of them aren't even asking about the database; it's just that now they think of me as the resident computer expert. Retirees ask me questions like, "If I use Outlook Express and put all of my contacts in there, why does Word use some other address book when I want to do a mail merge?" And I'm paraphrasing here, because it took several minutes just to get to the point where I understood that he was trying to do a mail merge in Word. He doesn't know phrases like "mail merge." Or "Outlook." Or "Word." Yet he was filled with hope that I would be able to solve his problem without ever laying hands on his computer.

When I was finally at my post, all afternoon ushers stopped by to chat. What about this? What about that? Could it do this? Can you reset my password? Can you check and see if my grandson has an account? I took a restroom break. Just as I was pushing open the door, behind me I heard, "Hey, Rodius, I've got a question for you." So I had to have a 10-minute hypothetical discussion outside the restroom about what wonders the future might hold if my bosses have the vision to approve some of the more grand ideas.

It's not that I'm complaining. Well, I guess I am complaining. But really, part of me likes it. It's like I'm a rock star now. It's just unsettling. What if things go bad? It's one thing to have everyone know your name when they're thrilled about what you've done, but they're still all going to know my name when they don't get on the events they want or when the server crashes. And then, there will be no hiding at the back of the room.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ready to Roll

In the Playroom

We're coupled, inflated, oiled, adjusted, and tightened. Man, inflating 2 tires to 95 psi with a clip-on hand pump is a workout in itself. Well, honestly, I only made it 65 before crapping out and saying, "Close enough."

Unfortunately, my gel bike seat melted in the shed, and now I'm thinking maybe we need helmets. We need helmets, right? So maybe a trip to the bike store after lunch, and then an afternoon test drive.

Also, just because I want to, here's our morning in the playroom today:

Friday, November 14, 2008

But We Haven't Hit 16 Months Yet

My mother, formerly known as Pure Light and now affectionately referred to as Gumma in our house, once told me that while people often talk about the Terrible Twos, in her extensive experience, 16 months was harder. Well, I think I'm beginning to see what she's talking about. Thumper has entered into a period in his life when he has discovered the intoxicating joy of seeing one's parents completely lose their shit.

He hits and pinches Aerie's face and laughs out loud if she flinches. He knocks my glasses off. He stands on the furniture. He goes after the TV, the stereo, the books, the CD's, the computer, the files, and absolutely anything else he can reach, and as tall as he is, that's a lot. And what's worse, what really just makes my blood boil, is that he does it all with an evil little smirk on his face. If I can, I'll try to take a picture of it some time, but I'm usually too busy trying to keep my cool to think of the camera. His devious smile looks a lot like this kid's, though.

I start out calm. I tell him no. I remove him from whatever it is. I hold him still and make him look right into my face for several uncomfortable seconds while I tell him no and no and no and why no. But he keeps at it and at it until I'm yelling at him and removing him rather roughly. I don't hit him. I don't shake him. But sometimes I think I'm getting close to it. I don't want to yell, because he's demonstrated just how ineffective it is. I have to get louder and louder each time for it to have the same effect, and eventually, even at top volume, it doesn't phase him at all.

Aerie was the calm one, talking me down, but now she's kind of starting to lose it, too. I know intellectually that it's not that he's in a power struggle with me or that he's laughing at my frustration. It's not that he's sophisticated enough to think it through to the conclusion that he can do whatever he wants, and we're not going to hurt him. It's just that he is revelling in his ability to have an impact on his world. He's destructive not because he's demonic, but because his fine motor skills aren't developed enough for him to be constructive. He likes to watch us lose our shit because it's a pretty good bang for his buck.

So Aerie suggested that maybe it's time for time out. I don't think he'll get the concept yet, but at least it will be a negative consequence for him to begin to associate with his defiance of the No. I don't have any illusions that he'll just sit in one place until we tell him he's done serving his time. Aerie tried the high chair once, but we don't want him to associate it with punishment. Ditto the crib. So I think I'm going to keep an eye out on our Goodwill trips for a small, preferably tip-proof, chair. And maybe I can add a seat belt to it if it doesn't already have one.

Really, all of that was just to get to this: what do you experienced folks think? Is 15 months too early for time out? Do you have any other suggestions for us, short of locking him in his closet?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lectured by Lito

Thumper had a fabulous time playing with two girls, about five and three, at the playground today. They were there with "Lito" and "Lita," which I'm guessing to be Spanish nicknames for Grandpa and Grandma. Perhaps a shortening of "abuelito" and "abuelita," which are, again perhaps, affectionate versions of "abuelo" and "abuela?" This is all conjecture based on my extensive ignorance of Spanish.

Anyhoo, he had a fabulous time. But Lito's extreme concern for Thumper's welfare was starting to make me nervous. He stopped the swing when Thumper was still 20 feet away. He gasped and sighed and jumped every time Thumper so much as wobbled a little. He kept instructing the little girls to take care of him. I began to take it personally. I wondered silently if he would show such concern if I were female, and then wondered if I would be so cavalier about Thumper's safety if I were female. I let him climb on his own. I even let him fall sometimes, but nothing serious, like a four-foot dive off the playground equipment. I let him approach the swings without yelling at him, but I wouldn't have let him walk right into them. I don't think I let him get into dangerous situations, but then I thought about the various scratches and abrasions on his left cheek, his elbow, his knees, his shin, etc., and I thought to a stranger, it might look bad.

Then a dog showed up. On a leash, with an owner. I don't know dog breeds, but the top of its head came to about Thumper's chin. Thumper yelled "Doggie! Doggie! Woowoowoowoowoowoo! Doggie!" and headed in that direction. Usually Thumper approaches dogs but doesn't get closer than 4 or 5 feet. I followed close behind. The dog seemed much calmer than most. I asked its owner if it was OK if Thumper got closer, and she said, "Yes. Roxie's a good girl." Roxie didn't seem at all excited, which I suppose explains why Thumper got closer than usual. The owner asked, "Do you want to pet her?" and patted the dog's side. Thumper patted her gently, and I said, "Good job. Do nice to the doggie." Then he smacked her a good one, and I picked him up, carried him away, and said, "No, do nice to the doggie. No hitting."

That was it. The dog didn't react to Thumper's hit at all. The interaction lasted no more than a few seconds. But as I walked away, Lito came up to me and lectured me, though in a very friendly and smiling sort of way. He told me I should be more careful with the boy, especially with dogs. The dog respects me because I'm so big, but because Thumper's right at eye level, that dog has no respect for him, and bad things can happen. He knows because he used to be an emergency room surgeon.

"Ah!" I thought. "That explains a lot." I thanked him, and we walked back to the car. I struggled with some resentment. Did he think he needed to warn me because I'm the dad and am probably just filling in for the mom for the afternoon? Would he have said something to a woman? Was he right?

I don't like to think I put the boy in danger. I like to think that I let him explore and discover things for himself. I like to think that I'm helping him not to be afraid of the world around him. I see kids at the playground all the time that fall apart at the slightest injury or who don't want to be pushed too high on the swings or who don't want to climb too high or get too dirty, and I think it's because they have protectors who follow them around telling them how dangerous everything is.

But then again, maybe I'm really going to regret it when he cracks his skull open or gets suddenly mauled by a dog that seemed quite calm a moment before.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fetch. Also, Noisy.

I tried to teach the boy a scaled-down version of catch this afternoon. I rolled him the ball. "Roll the ball!" I said. When it gently nudged his foot, I said, "OK, now roll me the ball! Roll it! Roll me the ball!" while making various gestures indicating motion in my general direction. He looked at me. He looked at the ball. He looked at me. "Roll me the ball!" I encouraged.

"Ball?" he asked?

"Yes, ball. Roll me the ball!"

"Danku!" he said, picking up the ball and carrying it over to me.

"Thank you!" I said. "OK, I'll roll you the ball!" And so forth, and so on. I affected my most enthusiastic tone. I rolled. I encouraged rolling. When he accidentally dropped it, I praised him shamelessly. "Yay! Good roll!" To no avail. My first game of catch was really a game of fetch.


I vacuumed today. The boy lost his mind. I guess that's testament to how rarely I vacuum. I think the last time I did so, his grandmother (affectionately referred to by the boy as "Mungo") was here, and she took him for a walk outside while I cleaned. That may have been as much as 6 weeks ago. It's amazing how much stuff he finds to eat on the carpet.

So I vacuumed. He freaked out. I only did one room. I stopped frequently to reassure him. "It's OK. It won't hurt you. It's OK. It's just noisy. It's not going to hurt you." And then I vacuumed again.

By the time I finished the one room, he was sobbing. And shaking. Seriously. Visibly trembling. I reassured him again. And for some reason, of all the words I used, he latched on to "noisy."


"Yes, it was just noisy. It's not going to hurt you. And it's all done."

"All done?"

"Yes, all done."

Etc., etc. So for the rest of the day, he's periodically looked toward the closet where the vacuum is stored. "Nosy? All done?" He said it for Aerie when she got home, too, and it seemed apparent that "Nosy?" is about the cutest damn word he's ever squeaked out. I think I'll torment him again tomorrow with another room. I'll tell myself I want to desensitize him to the vacuum so that it doesn't traumatize him so much, but really, I just want to talk about the Nosy some more.

All done!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Maybe I Need a Chief of Staff to Keep Me Focused

Thank you, Lisa L, for the congratulations on my weight loss so far. As I may have mentioned, I'm a bit of an attention whore, and that kind of positive feedback might really help me right now. I'm at a point that I have reached in previous weight loss attempts, the point where I'm losing motivation and on the verge of chucking it all in.

I'm sick to death of my workout routine, and I dread getting out there and doing it. And it's been much harder lately, because I've had some on-going respiratory difficulties ever since my pneumonia incident in September. My knees ache, my back hurts, and I just don't want to jog. Good thing Thumper asks me most mornings: "Dog?" To the untrained ear, that may sound like he wants a puppy just like Sasha and Malia, but really, he's asking to get out into the world and see a few cordles (squirrels), dogs, carsh, tucks, bushes, and mosiles (motorcycles).

I'm sick to death of counting points, too. I think I'm done with that. I'm glad I did it, though, because it was kind of a shocker how over the top my portion sizes were before. I have a better sense of mealtime propriety, now. Without counting, and keeping track of every day's point totals, it's a lot easier to tell myself that it's a special occasion or an anomaly when I eat too much. But I'm certainly not going to count points the rest of my life, and overcoming that little voice in my head that says, "Go ahead, it's just this once," is part of winning the battle that will let me keep a reasonable weight. It's a lesson I'll have to learn eventually.

So, solutions? I'm thinking of getting a bike trailer to strap the boy into so that I can mix up my jogging with some bike riding. The best thing about jogging is that, with the jogging stroller, I can include Thumper in my workout, so that when he's napping, I can use that time for other pursuits. And I like to think that I'm providing him with a good model for physical activity by including him in my exercise routine. Aerie has expressed misgivings about strapping the boy into a bike seat because I have been known to wipe out on my bike now and again. Like the time that I broke my wrist. She feels like a bike trailer might be a little safer, and she may have a point.

As for diet, I don't know. Just keep slogging through, I guess. With the exception of some Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops around Halloween, I really have done a pretty good job at eliminating chocolate candy from my diet. I love M&M's, so this is no small feat. Weight Watchers did show me what a waste it is, when you have only so many calories per day, to commit such a high percentage of them to a nutritionally void treat that will not leave you feeling fuller or more satisfied. And I've demonstrated in the past my inability to engage in moderation when it comes to M&M's, Special Dark, Twix, Kit Kat, Reese's, Watchamacallit, Butterfingers, Milky Way, etc. etc. etc., so succeeding in stopping myself when I pass them in the grocery store is a dietary success. I just need to keep working on saying no when I want to eat that bag of popcorn at 9:30 at night, or to eat a small bowl of pretzels instead of half a bag. I also need to find more creative recipes instead of eating big bowls of pasta because I'm sick of raw sticks of celery and peppers and zucchini and cucumber.

So, onward ho! If I don't go completely off the tracks, and remember the success that I've had and how I did it, maybe I can weather the slump and come out the other side with a renewed sense of motivation. And stop thinking things like, "Only 50 more pounds to go!"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Favorite Post of the Week

This might be my favorite blog post of the week. I'm such an attention whore.

Thanks, Ms. McQ!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Belief Is a Delicate Flower; Please Be Gentle With It

I haven't been, as so many of the bloggers that I follow have, as desolate and as despairing in my perception of the Bush administration, its goals, or the results of its pursuit of those goals. I've talked a little bit here about why I became more politically conservative, why I was disappointed in the Bush administration and its abandonment of most truly conservative ideals, and how I was, through my little glimmer of hope that Barack Obama really is who he seems to be, ready to believe that the coercive power of government, and the forced redistribution of wealth, may actually be the best conduit for justice, charity, equality, and sustainability.

Consequently, I wasn't as enthusiastic in my support of Obama as some. I voted for him, but I didn't donate to his campaign. I didn't proselytize. But now that it's here, the moment that could mean so much on so many levels for this nation and its people, I want to rejoice. I want to feel, like so many do, that this is morning in America, that all things are possible again.

Please, sir. Please, Mr. President-Elect. I don't see how you can possibly live up to all of the expectations that are placed at your feet, but please, just be a decent man. Act in good faith and in good conscience. Continue to talk to us as though you believe in us as much as many believe in you. Keep using your position to keep us focused. Remember what you've told us about sensible energy policy, about sensible taxation. Remember equality of opportunity. Remember love and pride and hope. You can't fix everything, but you can continue to inspire. And when the news media turns on you, as it eventually will, remember that you can talk to us without them. You did it in unprecedented ways through the election. Don't forget us out here. We're still watching. We're still listening. We're still hoping.

Oh yeah, and don't fuck the interns. Please.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kitty, Kitty, Dog, Kitty

And so, mostly to move that whole testicle business further down the page, I bring you a photo essay of my trip with Thumper today to the Texas Memorial Museum. And since cheapness counts, parking was only $2, and admission was free.








Dog, Dog, Key


Bye bye!

Meme Answers You Don't Want to Read

I finished making our lunch, and the boy is STILL asleep, so I thought, hey, instead of earning money and trying to finish the project that was due, um, three days ago, I'll read some blogs! And I discovered that I got memed. And since the boy's STILL asleep, OK, sure, why not.

Mr. Lady of Whisky In My Sippy Cup wants me to reveal Seven Random Things About Me:

1. I only have one testicle. Yep. That's right, I said it. I used to be horribly embarrassed by this. I fretted at urinals, like anybody's ever examined another man's testicles at the urinal. I was certain, absolutely certain, the first time I ever did the deed with Aerie, that she was horrified. In truth, she hadn't even noticed. I was born with only one. The other one is apparently "undescended," but exploratory surgery when I was eight never revealed it. The doctor at the time, when asked if it would hinder my fertility, said, "He'll only be able to have fifteen kids." For years, I was blind to his attempt at humor and was sure that the answer had been "Yes." Now, though I probably wouldn't tell somebody face to face ("Hi, nice to meet you. I only have one testicle!") I figure, why be mortified? It's just a thing about me, like any other thing. And clearly, I'm man enough to knock a chick up. I thought that I recalled, and then verified with some independent reading, that it also made me higher risk for testicular cancer, particularly in my late teens and early twenties. Consequently, I became absolutely certain around the age of 21 or 22 that I had testicular cancer. I was so sure, I even went to a doctor. This is rare for me now, but almost unheard of for me in my younger days. The as-yet-unbetrothed-to-me Aerie even accompanied me. I think I even made her feel my imagined lump. Is it not amazing that she's still with me? I mean, seriously, I don't know how I got so lucky. But anyway, standing in the doctor's office, my drawers around my knees, I got fondled and then told that no, that wasn't a lump that was just bits of plumbing and whatnot that was supposed to be there. I've never been so happy to feel like a complete idiot in my life.

2. Oh. Crap. I kind of shot my wad on that first one, if you know what I'm sayin'. Uh, I thought I was just kinda going to shoot some answers out there, and I'm already stumped. Hmm. Well, frankly, I think my one should count as at least seven, since how many of the men you know would ever tell the world they's got half the inventory of balls they's supposedta?

The boy's stirrin'. Time for lunch!

Weekend in Review

Strange Fruit

Things were going well. My fellow supervisor, who didn't work last week's game, had just commented to me that I must've straightened them all out last week because we didn't have nearly as many drunk students trying to talk us into letting them in without their student IDs this week. And then...

At just about two minutes before kick off, all of our ticket scanners simultaneously went offline. Students can print their tickets at home, and we scan the barcode on them to verify that they haven't been photocopied, photoshopped, or any of the dozen different tricks students use to beat the system. So, no scanners, no scanning; no scanning, no entry. No entry, several hundred enraged drunken students.

I grabbed a bullhorn and told them that the scanners were down, but would be back up shortly. I said that print-at-home ticket holders could walk down to the gates a little further south of us. I told them that holders of "hard tickets," those printed at the box office and not at home, could still enter through our gate.

As I was speaking, the cannon was fired. They fire the cannon at kick off. Suddenly those hundreds of enraged drunken students were acutely aware that they were missing the game. You know, the game between their team, the number one team in the country, and a highly ranked in-conference opponent. They instantly ratcheted up their rage level by a few clicks.

They screamed. They booed. They flipped me off. They came up to me and yelled, with spittle flying, words like "ridiculous," and "outrageous," and "refund." I nodded, I smiled, I apologized, I pretended I was getting a call on my earpiece so I could turn away. I repeated my bullhorn message.

While I was talking, the box office supervisor quietly closed the gate that was closest to me. My first thought when I turned and saw those bars was, "Eek! Don't leave me out here alone!" Apparently, my supervisor partner was standing on the opposite side of our gate and couldn't see me anywhere and couldn't hear me on the bullhorn. He, too, thought he'd been left to the wolves and had his own moment of certainty that he'd be lynched.

But in the end, we moved many to other gates, whose scanners were still working. Whatever the problem was with the wireless network to which our scanners were, and then were not, connected, was quickly fixed, and the entire ordeal lasted only about 10 minutes. But it was an exciting 10 minutes!

On the down side, there was much finger-pointing after the fact, and I was afraid perhaps I hadn't handled it as I should have. On the plus side, my bosses all reassured me I did everything right. The "strange fruit" reference, while entirely inappropriate for me to use in even a slightly humorous context, comes from one of those bosses asking me the next day if I'd had a restless night's sleep dreaming of strange fruit. She had to explain it to me.

Another plus is that I learned a lot about how the scanners work and what to do next time in case of a network failure. And I learned a lot about myself and how I will react in an unexpected situation.

Oh, and the biggest plus: I found a much more efficient way to piss off much larger numbers of drunken students simultaneously, rather than waiting for them each to come through one by one without their IDs.

Smoochy, Smoochy

Saturday was also the 16th Anniversary of Aerie's and Rodius' First Kiss. We were both exhausted from our days, but we still managed to fit in a traditional Kissiversary Margarita. Happy Kissiversary, Honey!

Little Devil

So that was my Saturday. On Sunday, I worked a fun community Halloween event. Student groups volunteer and set up booths with games and candy, and kids and their families come to the event, in costume or not, to "trick or treat" the booths, get their faces painted, explore a real fire truck, visit the haunted house, and more. Aerie took Thumper, and though I didn't get to participate because I was working, she tells me he had a blast running loose among all those kids. He also got to eat two whole mini peppermint patties, which for a kid who doesn't get much in the way of candy or other sugary treats, was quite a big deal.

And on a side note, if there's any doubt about the effect of sugar on children's behavior, I think my son offers, if not empirical evidence, then at least anecdotal: every time he gets a big dose of sugar, he loses his mind. His sleep patterns are disrupted, his eating patterns are disrupted, and his normally sweet, funny nature takes a disturbing turn toward the aggressive, violent, destructive, and just down right bratty. So though Aerie felt like she was getting the stink eye from other parents and from volunteers at the event for denying him any more than those two little patties, she was absolutely right. I wonder how many behavioral problems in schools and elsewhere would be greatly reduced if sugar wasn't so prevalent.

Wow, look. A long blog entry. And it ended all preachy and whatnot. Man, I should really get back to work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Thumper used to know trucks. Cars and trucks. We see them on our jogs all the time, and "Carsh!" he says. "Tuck!" he says. Then I took him to the UT campus, where there are buses, buses everywhere. "Tuck!" he said. "Bus!" I said. "Tuck!" he said. "Bus!" I said.

And now there are no more trucks. A pickup goes by. "Bus!" he says. "Truck!" I say. A delivery van goes by. "Bus!" he says. "Truck!" I say. An 18-wheeler roars past. "Bus!" he says. "Truck!" I say.

But today, we went to the Austin Children's Museum. They have a whole new exhibit on transportation that features the back half and engine of a Cap Metro bus. "Bus!" he said, spinning in circles and pointing frantically. "Bus!" "Yes," I said. "Bus!" He ran up to perfect strangers, kids and adults and anyone he could find. "Bus!" he said, pointing and pointing. "Yes," I said. "Bus!"

And when he'd worn himself out, I carried him back to the car. Just as I was unlocking the door and dropping the diaper bag in, a Cap Metro bus rumbled towards us. "Look, Thumper," I said, pointing. "What's that?"

He looked at the bus. We looked at each other. A beat went by, and we both smiled. It was a good joke. "Bus," we said together. "Bus." And then we laughed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bath Time Lessons

It's bath time, and I've washed and rinsed the boy. Now he's just playing. He's on his knees fiddling with the faucet, and one of his nesting bath cups is floating in the water. I hear the sound of a stream splashing into the cup. He looks down and asks, "Poop?"

"No," I reply. "That would be pee."

And thus another life lesson is successfully passed from father to son.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How Your Kids Are Spending Their Saturdays

If you sent your kids off to the University of Texas at Austin, and you failed, in their first 18 years on this planet, to impress upon them that they do not automatically deserve to be exempted from the rules simply because they are cute and funny and scantily clad and willing to throw your money around and just that much more charming and witty when they've got a few drinks in them, there's a good chance your kids are spending their Saturdays explaining to me with almost admirable persistence why I should let them into the stadium even though they, for a multitude of reasons they are more than willing to explain to me, repeatedly, do not have their student IDs.

If you are a drunken student, let me reiterate: a student ticket requires a student ID. A student ticket requires a student ID. A student ticket requires a student ID. Turning students away, the part of the job I found hardest at first, is rapidly becoming my favorite part. It's just getting funnerer and funnerer. If I was inclined to take bribes, I could've cleared $110 and a lap dance tonight. I'm not going to let you in anyway, but here are a few tips all the same:

1. Bring your student ID.

2. Don't buy somebody else's student ticket.

3. After I've said no, don't make your first rejoinder, "How much do you make in an hour? I'll pay you $10 right now."

4. Discourage your friend behind you in line from commenting, "Come on. She's really hot. Just let her in."

5. Don't keep telling me how much you paid for your scalped ticket.

6. When I've calmly made it clear in every way that I know how that I'm not letting you in, don't demand to speak to my supervisor. And when I instead wave a police officer over, avoid this exchange:

Officer: You're obviously intoxicated, so I'm going to make this easy. You can go home, or you can go to jail.

Drunk Student: I'm not... I just don't see why you can't... But I'm just saying, you know... [Swaying] I'm not drunk.

Officer: I'm going to try this just one more time, so listen carefully to what I'm saying. You can go home, to your own home and your own bed, or you can go to jail.

Drunk Student: I'm not the one causing a problem here. I just don't see why you can't do the right thing.

Officer: [Handcuffing Drunk Student] OK, I guess you want to go to jail then.

Drunk Student: What, now you're going to arrest me?

But hey, you know, I've got to be there one way or another, so I might as well be entertained. Go ahead and bring it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I finished my current copywriting project, and my database baby is just sitting around waiting to go live tomorrow, so look! A new header! I used Keren's Abstract Brushes Vol. 1, and her Flies as well. Happy Halloweeny!

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's a Big Week for Me

I worked the So You Think You Can Dance touring show tonight. Do you know about this? I had no idea it was a big deal. It was a sold out show. Seriously. It boggles the mind.

But that's not why it's a big week for me. It's a big week because my baby's getting born this week. On Wednesday, at noon. The database project in which I have a personal stake goes live. I worked SYTYCD, but my bosses just planted me in front of a computer to work on the database. I never know where I'll work for an event until I get there, but tonight, surprise! they needed me more for this than for that. I usually get a higher rate of pay for database work than I get for ushering work, but I didn't even care today that I was getting ushering pay for databasing. I just want it finished. I've been telling my bosses for a couple of months now to get on it, to play with it, to practice, to explore, to give me feedback. Did they do that? No, they did not. There were football games; there were concerts. They didn't have time. Three days before go time, suddenly they're hot to trot. They've got changes. Now they've got changes. But hey, at least it's finally going live. Glory be.

You see, when you usher at the arena, you travel back in time to some time in the late '70's, when people know that there are such things as computers, but these computing machines generally don't affect their daily lives. Here's the time-honored signup procedure for getting onto an event that you want to work:

1. Show up at the building at the same time as 200 other ushers. If you can't make it, you're screwed.

2. Write your name on a sheet of paper, next to one of a couple hundred consecutive numbers.

3. Sit around. Shoot the shit. Catch up on the gossip. Feed your toddler lunch. Let him run around and charm the retirees who make up a large percentage of the ushering population. If he's in a crappy mood, you're screwed.

4. Watch the boss draw a number out of a hat. Hope that it's yours, or close behind yours. Close ahead of yours and you're screwed.

5. Line up with everybody else. The lucky stiff with the drawn number is at the head of the line with each consecutive number coming behind.

6. Slowly trudge past a table full of colored sheets of paper representing available events. Some have only two or three available spaces; some have dozens. Sign up for the ones with available spots, if they happen to be on days that you can work. If there aren't any, you're screwed. When the few perfect-for-you events fill up, you're screwed.

7. Stop by the building one or more times a week for the next month to see if anyone's taken themselves off of one of those colored sheets of paper so that you can put yourself on. If they haven't, you're screwed. If somebody else beat you to it, you're screwed. If you live, oh, let's say "hypothetically" twenty miles away from the building, you're screwed.

So, there you go. That's the system my database replaces. It will mean that we (and by "we" I mean "I") can sign up for events from home. The next month's events will still open at noon on a particular Wednesday, but now we can all fight for spots from the comfort of our homes while our toddler sons take naps. This will be particularly helpful to me now that my own toddler son prefers to be unconscious at noon rather than eating lunch and charming retirees. And doubly glorious: we can simply open a browser window to see if any spots have become available insteading of driving 40 miles round trip to find out that no spots have in fact become available. I may or may not be able to actually get onto more events this way, but I am sure that I will save money on gas. And maybe I won't feel quite so screwed.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I tried to talk myself out of it. I really did. But the boy was practically leaping out of the carriage the moment he set eyes on it. It's missing the steering wheel and the gear shift, but it was only $25. I think the previous owners added the plexiglass windshield, because retail images of it don't seem to have a windshield, and it doesn't quite look like a factory install. I guess it sold at Costco for $150, and at Target and Amazon for $280. But I dropped $20 for an hourly rental pick up truck to get it home, and $15 on eBay for a steering wheel that's meant to be mounted on playground equipment. So $60. Not bad. I'm a sucker for Goodwill. I give you: the Battat Activity School Bus, in all its glory.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Time Keeps on Slipping, Probably on Thumper's Cars

Almost every day this week, Thumper's only had one nap. One nap. That's two hours of time that just no longer exist. It's like when Mr. Dark is tempting Jason Robards in Something Wicked This Way Comes.

"Second nap? Two more hours every day to write blogs and to read them. To write copy. To do laundry and dishes. Second nap? Speak now. Going... Gone."

I'm dreading the day when he tears the page on that first nap.

(Jump to about 5:40 to see the moment without watching the whole scene.)

I'm getting caught behind. I haven't worked out all week because now that my pneumonia is resolved, I'm having bronchitis problems. Of course! I'm behind on a copywriting project. I'm behind on a database project. And I haven't posted anything to my silly blog in almost a week. I'm already sick of my new header up there, but I haven't had time to make a new one.

It's a good thing my main job contains a large concentration of fun and smiling and laughing, or I'd be feeling stressed out. I had a pulse of 64 and a blood pressure of 110/70 at the doctor today. That doesn't sound like a stressed out man, and I think it's mostly because Thumper consistently makes things easier than I expect them to be.

Exception: after a long day yesterday that started on campus picking up my new "Supervisor" uniform, then our first Austin-SAHDs playdate in almost a year, then a nap in the car, then babysitting the cousins, he was pretty much an emotional and exhausted wreck by the time we got home. I'm having trouble working on the timing of snacks and lunch these days when his one nap falls right across the meridian line between morning and afternoon. But on the plus side, an exhausted baby means: he fell asleep in the 10-minute car ride home from the doctor this morning. An early nap! So I have a pretty good chance of getting a second nap out of him this afternoon! Time! To work! And I'm squandering it on my silly blog! I best get to being all productive and whatnot...

Friday, October 3, 2008


Dear Starbucks Drive-Thru ("Thru!") Lady Who Probably Would Prefer To Be Called a Barrista:

When I order a large coffee with an extra shot of espresso, please refrain from coyly attempting to indoctrinate me into the Starbucks Culture by teaching me its language ("Oh. A Venti Red Eye?"). Just pour the damn coffee. I appreciate the obnoxiously strong coffee when I'm driving 200 miles in the dark, and I appreciate the drive-thru ("thru!") window when I'm accompanied by a baby I'd just as soon remained asleep. I think your size names are stupid (how is a Grande not a large?), and when I come around again in a few months because I'm once again driving 200 miles in the dark, I won't remember if it was a Red Eye or a Red Bull or a Twitching Eye or a Tropic Thunder, or what. Thanks.

Dear Dog Owners:

Thanks for making the park smell like shit. I really appreciate the Value-Added Experience.

Dear Grandfolks:

Thanks for having us yesterday. We both appreciated your three big tubs of toys.

Master Mess Maker

And thanks for glossing over the murder and mayhem in Little Red Riding Hood.

What Big Eyes

You get grandparent bonus points.

Dear Thumper:

Thank you for once again surprising me with how well you can handle a potential difficult situation. You were a joy and a pleasure, even when you were forced to spend six-and-a-half hours in a car in one day, and I'm not sure how I got so lucky.

Oh, and also, thank you for trying to climb into the stroller this morning while asking, "Jog? Jog?" I was disinclined to workout today, since I was up so late and was feeling under-hydrated after drinking those two Venti Red Eyes last night. You gave me the little push I needed.

Oh, and also, after you fell asleep on said jog, when I was transferring you from the stroller to the crib, thank you for waking just long enough to croak "Grape!" like a man in the desert gasping for water. It really made my morning.

Your etc. etc.,

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Does This Mean I'm a Webmaster?

I'm giving up a revenue stream. My largest revenue stream, in fact, that counts for almost half the money I've made so far in 2008. And I'm doing it voluntarily. Wow, it kind of makes me nervous saying it out loud like that. What the hell am I thinkin'?

Anyway, if I'm going to flush thousands of dollars down the toilet, then I guess I better get serious about soliciting other work, the kind of work that I can do from home nights, weekends, and naps. (Naps! Don't get me started. We're inexorably marching toward one per day, I fear. Kid didn't go down until 11:00 a.m. today! And he didn't even seem that sleepy. But Daddy's got bloggin' to do, son.) So to that end (the soliciting work end, not the bloggin' end), I done made myself a website.

When I bought, I also bought a couple of other domain names, with the intention of someday doing something with them. But the website of my domain name registrar and web hosting service is extremely tedious to look at, and not intuitive to use, and I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and it took me enough time and effort just to get to work with, and I didn't have the time to invest in learning about hosting, and and and.

Well, this week I checked into their free hosting. I even put up a website, and then I realized why the hosting was free: they put an ad for their services right at the top of your pages. And if you use frames, which is what I originally experimented with, their ad shows up at the top of every frame, too. I ultimately decided against frames, but still, that ad at the top declaring that "this site is hosted for free by" just didn't strike me as the most professional look for someone soliciting work. So I bit the bullet and invested the $60 for a year's worth of hosting. So I hope I can get at least $60 worth of work out the thing.

I decided not to connect this site to that, though. Not only would my secret identity and that of my wife and son be revealed (though who knows; maybe they ain't that secret if someone really wants to know), but I wouldn't want the occasional foul language, poop talk, and my exposed political non-beliefs here to affect someone's decision to use or not use me in a professional capacity.

But if you need a Filemaker database solution, or have some audio you'd like transcribed, or maybe you have a web page or two for which you'd like some copy written, drop me a line. As a result of getting more intimately familiar with the hosting service's website, I actually setup my email. I think I only ever got two legitimate emails to my irodius Yahoo address, but still. Now I have a real one. Email me! I'm rodius at I told Aerie she could have an irodius address too, but she was unimpressed. I don't think she realized that she's living with a genuine Webmaster. And small business owner with real business expenses to deduct this year. And blogger to almost a dozen people. I guess the brilliance of my internet stardom just doesn't dazzle her jaded eyes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Think I've Been Blessed

Leaving the Greater Stadium Area after working football, even though my legs and feet were sore and tired, I was in a particularly good mood for a couple of reasons. First, at the height of load-in, at the busiest moment when all the folks were coming in my gate, one of my bosses stood beside me and asked, "Does it always go this smoothly?" Why yes. Yes it does. Second, we were out of there with daylight still left instead of at 10 or 11 at night like the last two games, and I knew that both of my loves would still be awake when I got home.

As I approached my car, feeling beneficent toward the world, a presumably Crazy Homeless Man stood on the corner. He pointed with vehemence, with his entire arm, his entire body, at each car and pedestrian passerby. Then he put his palms together in front of his face and bowed. The he pointed with vehemence at the next passerby, and bowed again. He was roundly ignored.

When he pointed and bowed at me, though, I put my palms together in front of my face and bowed in return. He looked at me for a moment, then nodded with vehemence several times, as if a deeply held conviction had been confirmed. Yes, that nod said. Yes. Fucking-A. That's what I'm talking about. Yes! Then he waved at me, then pointed with vehemence at the next passerby.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Fleet Foxes "White Winter Hymnal"

I was following the pack
All swallowed in their coats
With scarves of red tied 'round their throats
To keep their little heads from falling in the snow
And I turned 'round and there you go
And Michael you would fall
And turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime.

Why I Don't Talk About the Bailout

Here's another 100-Word Challenge from Velvet Verbosity. These are fun. I'd kind of forgotten about them, so I added VV to my blog roll to help me remember.


In 1992, Bruce Springsteen sang that there were fifty-seven channels and nothin' on. Now, only fifty-seven channels seems quaint. Provincial. Like how many you're allowed in England. Or France. Here, in America, the Greatest Nation on Earth, we're into the hundreds by now. At least. Maybe more. The cutting edge. 24-hour news channels. Passels of passionate pundits yelling at each other for their due while the crawl contradicts. The moral of the story is no moral, is passivity: we can do nothing because we can know nothing, because everybody knows something different. We are crushed beneath an avalanche of information.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Living Up to His Old Man's Athletic Legacy

I'm trying to teach my son to kick a ball. I say, "Kick it! Kick the ball! Kick it!" Then I kick it across the room. He looks at me blankly. I go get the ball. I say, "Kick it! Kick the ball! Kick it with your foot!" I wave my foot at him. "Foot! Kick it with your foot!" He squats down, grabs my toes, and says, "Toesh!"

"Yes," I say. "Toes. Kick it! Kick the ball with your toes!" I kick the ball across the room. "Toesh!" he says, and runs to retrieve it. He carries it back, holding it up. "Kick key!" he says and hands me the ball. I put it down. "Kick!" I say. "Kick it! Kick the ball! Kick it!" I grab his ankle and swing his foot into the ball. "Yay!" I cheer. "Good kick!" He runs after it. I think he has to get it now. He'll at least poke at it with his toe. No, he picks it up. He runs back to me, holding it up. "Kick key!" he says. "Kick key!"

Apparently I have taught my son that the name of that particular ball is "Kick It." Maybe he's more the musician type.

Tasha's Tail

Aerie made a scrapbook a couple of years ago of all our cats. Along with the pictures, she wrote each of their stories. There was "Sampson's Story," "Harley's Hisstory," "Tasha's Tail," and "Puck's Profile." Tasha's Tail ended this morning, probably from damage to her organs caused by the Metacam she was prescribed for pain from her torn knee ligament. The emergency vet on Sunday hypothesized that her lethargy and refusal to eat were due to ulcerations in her G.I. track from the Metacam. Yesterday, we gave her the medicines prescribed and force-fed her a soft meat paste with a syringe. By last night, she still hadn't perked up, so we planned on taking her to our regular vet again this morning. But she didn't make it that long.

So rather than dwell on all that, here's Tasha's Tail. I'm sorry in the end you knew hunger again, little girl.

Tasha's Tail

Gender: Female

Breed: Domestic Short Hair

Markings: Torti

DOB: 02/01/1999

Weight: 12 pounds

Likes: Kit-n-Kaboodle (aka PIECES!), being told how pretty I am, bread and butter, being told how pretty I am, back scratches and being brushed, being told how pretty I am, people, kitty greens, sitting on laps

Dislikes: The ironing board, having my toenails clipped, my brother Puck, being disrespected (it happens all the time, I swear!)

Hobbies: Keeping an eye on Puck to make sure he doesn't have any fun, grooming, playing with Ducky, stealing things off the table, tripping Momma and Daddy

Momma and Daddy took me home from the Town Lake Animal Shelter. I was happy that the shelter took me in because it was tough on the street. I’d recently given birth to a litter of kittens and I don’t remember what happened to them. I was malnourished and weighed barely 6 pounds (I’ve since been able to reach a beautiful, shapely 12 pounds and plan to never know hunger again).

At the shelter, they were calling me Pompei, which sounds like some foreign city. I quickly informed my new staff that my name was Natasha. They call me Tasha, which is fine. Some of the other nick-names are not so okay (like Tubby), but it’s so hard to find good, respectful staff these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love Momma and Daddy, but I just don’t always get the respect I deserve. Don’t they realize that cats were once worshipped? Momma tries to tell me that she is the queen in the house, which is why I have trouble respecting her. I love her a lot, but she’s not that bright. She brought that Puck into our lives and refuses to get rid of him! Now, Daddy has more sense than that. I have to respect him, so I won’t swat at him or hiss when he makes me mad.

I like people better than other cats because I’m clearly superior to other cats and much more beautiful. Harley was an okay brother and I do miss him. We got along pretty well and I had to respect him because he was already living with Momma and Daddy when I moved in. Puck is a different story, though. I’ll never understand why Momma invited him in. He’s such a brat! He doesn’t respect my authority.

Being this beautiful is a difficult and stressful life. There’s the constant grooming and unladylike hairballs. But, it’s all worth it. It’s not easy managing this household. I have to keep a constant watch on Puck and am always having to remind the staff when it’s time to be fed. They are sometimes late returning from their day of frolicking and you can almost see the bottom of the food bowls! Humans. *sigh*

I’m Tasha. Admire me.

Farewell, Miss Thang

Goodbye, Tasha. We'll miss you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tales from the Playground: The Dirty Rat

A little boy of Thumper's age (almost exactly, in fact) climbed up the single step and stood on the slightly raised platform with two older kids. The girl, probably between two and three, put her hand on his chest, straightened her arm, and launched him right back off the step he just climbed and flat onto his back. He cried; his mother came running. Her mother, who was bottle-feeding a near-newborn, hadn't seen the incident and said, "Oh, he fell!" I said, "Actually, she pushed him."

The next thing I know, the girl's mother hands the tiny baby to her friend and pulls a wooden spoon out of her purse! She carries around a wooden spoon! She yanked the girl over by the arm, and whacked her a good one on the bare back of her leg. I couldn't believe it! Is it me, or does that strike you as an incredibly ballsy thing to do in a public place in this day and age?

I feel horrible. I ratted her out, and she got whacked. I mean, she was an aggressive little snot, but now I think I understand from whom she's learning that aggression.
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