Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Home Depot Rebates STILL suck

Back on September 30th I wrote how Home Depot has been in the process of driving me frigging nuts with a $200 rebate for our kitchen counter tops. Last week I sent them mail asking why in the name of all that's good and holy I was still waiting for this rebate, which I originally submitted July 13th. Their response last week was that the paperwork (which they say they never originally received) was not processed until September 13th and please allow 4-6 weeks for processing from this date.

The end of that 6-week processing time was last Friday, so today I checked the website to see if I needed to send another email. I saw this:

"Your gift card was mailed on 30-Oct-2006. Please allow at least 30 days for delivery."

Thirty days??? THIRTY DAYS????? How on earth could ANYTHING take 30 days to mail? I suppose if it was being shipped to Alaska on a barge, then carried over the mountains by a Himalayan sherpa with an incontinence problem who had to stop at a public restroom every ten miles, then perhaps I could see thirty days.

Followup. I came across a site called Complaints.com (my kind of site) that contains plenty of venting about Home Depot rebates, or lack thereof. I also sent a letter to customer relations from HD's web site. Let's see if maybe it gets me a free Fubar.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pittsburgh 3-1-1

This is interesting, our esteemed and young mayor of Pittsburgh has given us city folk a way of reporting non-emergency issues and getting a response about them. I can think of many reasons this would be useful. But of course my first entry will be:

Dear Mayor Ravenstahl,
I am disgusted with the way old people are depicted on television. We are not all vibrant, fun-loving sex maniacs. Many of us are bitter, resentful individuals who remember the good old days when entertainment was bland and inoffensive. The following is a list of words I never want to hear on television again. Number one: Bra. Number two: Horny. Number three: Family Jewels.

New Stanley Tool: The Fubar

I love this. Stanley Tools has released a new tool as part of their "FatMax" product line known as the Fubar. It's a claw hammer. It's a pry bar. It's a whole lot of other things used to break, demolish, and tear apart stuff. Whomever came up with the product name was a genius. For those who are unaware, "FUBAR" is a military term, stolen from the military by computer geeks, referring to, (echem...) "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition". that first word of course being changed to protect the innocent. If there was ever a product with a name based on its purpose, there it is.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Uncle Harry and the Trail Of Courage

This weekend Natalie and I went on the YMCA Adventure Princess fall campout. Two full days of nothing but dads and daughters, bonding with nature. The weekend began Friday night when we arrived at Camp Kon-O-Kwee, after carbo-loading at Applebees with friends (we were forewarned about kon-O-Kwee's state-of-the-art institutional cuisine ahead of time, so I made sure to pack the antacid) and a couple of wrong turns. The first event was the Halloween costume ball. Natalie went as a princess (of course), and I was a dashing young lad made all that much more dashing by my five-dollar "Instant Geek" costume. I know, I know, not much of a stretch.

The dance lasted perhaps 45 minutes (you can only hold kindergarteners' attention for so long, after all), and we all retired back to our barracks...I mean our bunks.

The bunkhouse was designed to sleep 94 people. There were probably 93 staying there. You know what happens when you put 45 or so young girls into a big room when they are tired but not ready to go to bed? Chaos. Utter chaos. Add that to the fact that the acoustics in this log cabin were such that every sound was amplified about thirty times the normal volume, and we didn't get much rest that night. But kudos go out to Stu, one of the dads who bravely climbed out of bed to quiet a small group of dads who were getting a bit rowdy late at night. I say kudos because it takes a brave man to ask a bunch of other men to quiet down when he's wearing fluffy rabbit pants. He had forgotten his normal sleepwear, so he'd improvised using his costume.

First thing Saturday morning, we were introduced to the dining facility, and to Uncle Harry.

Uncle Harry, the veritable Pide Piper of Camp Kon-O-Kwee, is a gentleman whom for years has taken ownership of this camp and made it what it is today. Each meal was spent listening to Uncle Harry explain how the girls are owners of this camp, not the dads, and that "girls rule, boys drool". Dads who fell out of line with the rules of the weekend (no newspapers, no blackberrys, no drinking) were promptly disciplined by their daughters with a buttwhacking aided by a canoe paddle. the rest of Harry's speech involved not-so subtle suggestions that monetary donations to the camp would get us special favors. Like not being smacked in the butt by our daughters.

After a meal of French toast so hard that I bent a knife trying to cut it for my daughter, we ventured off to the craft room to paint T-shirts, and then to the Trail Of Courage. The Trail consists of several kid-friendly challenges like a rope ladder, zip line, a high wall climb, and log bridges. The kids certainly strutted their stuff, taking on these challenges like they were the living room coffee table and the back of the couch. I kept expecting to turn a corner in the woods and come upon the obstacle where the kids have to crawl under barbed wire through the mud while we fired rifles over their heads, but no such luck.

The rest of the afternoon involved all the classic camping activities such as canoeing, rock climbing, archery, and hiking, until their little feet gave out (the dads' feet, that is), and then it was back to the dining hall for a dinner of government surplus burgers and dogs, bug juice, and convict-grade cheese.

After dinner was the ceremonial campfire. I've been sworn to secrecy here, but let's just say it involved flaming torches, small explosions, and some screaming. Along with my daughter "Butterfly Princess" I, "Running Deer" became one with our circle and one with the tribe. And we finished up our enlightenment ceremony with a viewing of the movie Casper the Friendly Ghost. How spiritual.

The bedtime hour begat chaos, as the gaggle of overtired kindergartners felt it necessary to chase each other around the room while screaming at the top of their lungs (reminder here that the bunkhouse greatroom has the acoustics of the inside of a municipal water tank), while that dads stood around with a glazed look, wondering if perhaps they should call a mom or two to help bring order to the craziness. After about a half hour of this, an idea finally occurred to me. I borrowed a copy of a children's' book from one dad who was already making a pitiful attempt to try and sleep, and announced to our flock that it was story time. As I read through the trials of Frog And Toad, a calm swept through the barracks, and soon there was evidence of yawning. By 9:30, they were all fast asleep, and so was I.

The next morning, after another industrial breakfast, we tackled the Trail of Courage once more, and we were off for home. After having made so many new friends, Natalie was absolutely giddy to get home and tell her tales of the weekend to mommy. So excited, in fact, that less than a block from the house she threw up all over the back seat of the Mazda. Aw, swell.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

First it's Huck Finn, now it's Tag

We live in sad, sad times. CNN reports that a shool in Attleboro, MA has banned elementary students from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.

This is downright pathetic, sad, and upsetting. I don't want my kid to get hurt any more than anyone else, but is this going to protect our kids, or is it going to foster the idea that human contact is bad, and lawsuits are good? And it's just another excuse for kids to not exercise, get fat, play video games, and die early.

Lord knows, Blockades certainly would have been out of the question. I recall getting hammered numerous times, and I seem to recall my dad saying, "serves you right" when I got a black eye. I also vividly recall getting a scratched cornea when a rogue snowball hit me in the eye. That led to a doctor's visit, some meds, and perhaps a day off from school, but certainly not litigation. Sad, really really sad.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Gashleycrumb Tinies

My friend Paul sent me the link to this. A warm, family oriented children's tale and classic of literature, perfect for Halloween. Enjoy.

Carrying the torch for the younger generation

I mentioned the YMCA Adventure Princess program in an earlier post. The father-daughter bonding begins. But speaking of bonding, I'm finding this program to be a great opportunity to disappear into my workshop. And yes, Natalie gets to join me on this one....

Our tribe of 15 father-daughter couples needed a torch for the upcoming campout. The torch consists of a long straight tree branch, with a large steel coffee can mounted on the top, along with a smaller can inside. In the smaller can is placed a roll of toilet paper, doused in kerosene, and lit on fire.

Needless to say the construction of this torch was something I wholeheartedly volunteered for. After all, I already own a table saw, a router, and about 300 extra feet of electrical wire, so surely I could come up with the perfect solution for building this torch. I felt the need to make Red Green proud, discovering all kinds of creative uses for duct tape.

The real challenge was mounting that inner can. I didn't want to screw it to the outer can, for fear of the kerosene leaking and causing combustion of a small child. Duct tape was too flammable (sorry, Red), and hot glue would melt. So hmm, how to mount it.

First I considered expandable foam. But no, the can says expandable foam is highly combustible. I thought, gee, maybe I could cement it somehow. Two minutes later, after browsing through home renovation leftovers, I came across a half-used bag of floor tile cement. There'ya go. Mixed up a batch of that, poured it in the big can, set the smaller one into it, and voila.

The next step is to paint the can in our Adventure Princess Tribe's colors, and rig up a remote detonation-I mean, remote ignition device so that we can "light it up" just like that scene from LOST.

By the way, as a footnote, it looks like we're one step closer to inventing transparent aluminum, so that our Captain Kirk and his team can transport whales back to the future

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Painting in our free time

As the parent in our household responsible for going to work each day, sitting in front of a computer for hours and hopefully bringing home a paycheck a couple of times a month, I have a somewhat narrow view of what it must be like to be a stay-at-home parent. On the rare occasion where I do get to stay home, I tend to be ultra-productive. The kitchen gets cleaned, the bills get paid and, heck, I might even find some time to build a custom armoire in my workshop complete with inlays and dovetail joints. So why is my wife so stressed about this stay-at-home thing? What's the big deal?

Well for one thing, there's the parenting part. If I was a stay-at-home dad, my six-year-old would still be in diapers. My three-year-old would weigh about seventy pounds, after having been raised on nothing but pizza, crackers, and bag after bag of goldfish crackers. The two of them would be completely illiterate, but know every line of every episode of the Simpsons. Yes, being a stay-at-home parent is a full time career that takes a level of expertise for which I am totally unqualified.

This is the point of the story where I give my wife credit for the amazing job she does. She keeps us fed, she keeps us clothed (well, them, anyway - she doesn't shop for me). She's a brilliant teacher, as demonstrated by the fact that my six-year-old daughter's favorite word is pulchritudinous, and she even knows how to spell it. Okay fine, so I come home and the kitchen's a mess, but when my kids both graduate from Harvard on full scholarships, become successful doctors, and fund our retirements, we'll hire someone to clean the kitchen.

I was reminded of the massive responsibility and effort this parenting work takes only recently, at the tail-end of our major home renovation. We had several coats of paint to apply to various rooms, and I just didn't see how or when it was going to get done by me, working eight hours a day outside the house. I only half-jokingly said to my wife, "boy it would be great if I came home one day, and the family room was totally painted." After she was done pummeling me with her copy of Oprah Magazine, my wife proceeded to explain why I was completely off my rocker to think that there was even the remotest of remote possibilities of getting a room painted during the day with the kids awake. The conversation went something like this....

Lovely Wife: "How can you possibly think that I..."
Daughter #1: "Mom, can I have a snack?"
Lovely Wife: "Sure honey, let mommy finish first. So how could you possibly think that I..."
Daughter #2, yelling from upstairs: "MOMMMMM!!!!"
Lovely Wife: "YES????"
Daughter #2:"My unicorn is in on the shelf!"
Lovely Wife: "One second! ....possibly think that I would have..."
Daughter #1: "Mom, I don't know what I want for a snack"
Lovely Wife: "Well, when you decide, and when I'm done talk..."
Daughter #2:"MOMMMMM!!!! I need a tissue!"
Lovely Wife: "....think that I would have time to pa..."
Daughter #1: "Can I have goldfish?"
Lovely Wife: "No, you just had dinner. Have some fruit."
Daughter #1: "MOMMM!!!! I have a booboo!"
Lovely Wife: "Coming! I'm sorry honey, you were saying something about sending me to a spa?"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Happy Birthday, Thing #2

A couple of people informed me that my posts don't seem to provide much in the way of detail about my younger daughter, what's-her-name. Yes, the now-three-year-old, sweet and lovable, exceptionally opinionated toddler that currently rules the toy room with an iron fist. So, in an effort to provide equal airtime, here's a Jessica update.

As mentioned above, she has reached the golden age of three, today in fact. I'm currently traveling in Minneapolis and attempted to wish her a happy birthday when I called home earlier, but being three years old she had no real interest in speaking with the disembodied voice coming from the telephone handset as she was too busy arranging her Fisher-Price farm animals by order of date obtained.

Last Saturday was her party. For six months before the event, if you asked her where her party was going to be, she would authoritatively proclaim, "I'm going to see Chucky!" That'd be Chuck E. Cheese. Ah yes, Chuck E. Cheese. Processed, overpriced, high-fat fun for kids of all ages. There's nothing that makes me itch more than spending an hour at Chuck E. Cheese. But I seem to remember that when I was a kid, my parents never took me to CEC's, and I only dreamed that it was some sort of Taj Mahal, a magical place on the order of the Wonka Chocolate Factory, where animatronic wild creatures smothered you in piles of magical gold coins that made all of your dreams come true. And I'm sure that's how Jessica sees it now. Either that, or she sees it as "the place with the ball pit". Frankly, in our circle of families it's well known as the place where your kid gets to catch her first cold of the season.

Jessica is definitely the second kid. She will spend hours playing by herself, unsupervised, with a set of blocks. She graciously accepts hand-me-downs, and doesn't insist on having the pink Dora plate with her afternoon snack. Unlike her sister she hasn't been read every book in our vast library seventeen times. Sometimes I wonder if we've been unfair, having spent countless hours paying focused attention to her older sister, educating her on everything from the alphabet to power tool recognition, only to not have time for the same effort with our second child. But Jessica's no slouch. She already knows the important stuff, such as how to manipulate her father, how to tantrum until we give in, and how to wait until the very moment we sit down to ask for a second helping of raisins.

Here's a perfect example from a while back. After dinner, I was tossing dishes into the dishwasher when she pitter-pattered up to me and asked, "Um, dad? Daddy? Daddy? Dad? Um...dad?"

"Yes?" I responded.

"Can you play with us?"

"Not right now, I'm washing dishes."

She then waddled back into the playroom to proclaim to her sister, "He said YES!!!"

This is true. If you reread the above, you will see I did, in fact, say yes. Not to the question she asked, but that doesn't matter now, does it? She got me on semantics.

Happy third birthday, Jessica. It's gonna be a big year. Preschool, separation from Mommy, and being forced to poop in designated locations are all part of your to-do list. So enjoy it while you can!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Now THAT'S Co-branding!

Yesterday at the supermarket, we came across Lego Eggos. Yes, waffles in the shape of Lego pieces. The marketing lackey who thought this one up deserves a raise.

Of course, my daughters seem to just want to stack them rather than eat them. Go figure...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Not all gun nuts are in the South

So here is an article about a lawmaker in Wisconsin who wants to introduce legistation that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in shool, citing how this seems to work for schools in Thailand.

Thailand. "Where officials have been waging a bloody fight with Muslim separatists for the last two years..."

Now let's think about what just happened in the Amish schoolhouse in PA this week (forgetting for a moment that it's an Amish schoolhouse, and the Amish wouldn't carry a gun anyway). So the teacher owns a gun. Probably keeps it in her desk drawer, because you can't conceal it under a skirt too well. A gunman bursts in. The teacher is at the blackboard. The gun is twenty feet away in a desk drawer. Seems pretty pointless, and chances are good the teacher is gonna get shot in the process of diving for it.

And I think about that teacher in high school that tossed an eraser at my nose when I gave a dumb answer (I deserved it, and never once thought about a law suit) and wonder just how many unstable teachers there are that really shouldn't be toting guns in the first place.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I came across this company called Rejuvenation on the web while I was searching for a match to our kitchen drawer pulls. Rejuvenation sells period-style light fixtures. They seem similar in concept to the store Restoration Hardware, in that they make new stuff that looks like classic old stuff. But the stuff they sell is gorgeous (albeit pricey). I recommend ordering a catalog. Check them out at www.rejuvenation.com.

Oh, and I highly recommend considering the bat light.