Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ever feel like you were all thumbs?

It could be worse:

Feel free to add your own captions, but here's a few to start off:

>Man, what a total knucklehead.
>Makes me wonder if his favorite food is hearts of palm.
>When he gives you the finger, he REALLY gives you the finger.
>He brings picking his nose to a whole new level.
>Don't feed the hand that, that's not it...
>Hand-eye coordination was never his strong suit.
>I've gotta hand it to you, when you were told to get a grip on things you really took it to heart.

Note that I have no idea of the source of this's another one of those mysterious email forwards. If you know the source, please, um, give me a hand, and I'd be happy to credit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Coral The Algae Sucker: 2007-2008

Stop all the filters, cut off the bubbler,
Prevent the dogfish from swimming with a juicy piece of plankton,
Silence the crashing waves and with muffled drum
Bring out the plastic tupperware, let the mourners come.

Let toilet bowl water circle down the head
Scribbling in the pebbles the message He Is Dead
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My Roomba. My Algae Sucker. my buddy. The best.
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The Tetra-Min is not wanted now: throw out every flake;
Pack up the fishnet and dismantle the pebble rake;
Pour away the water and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

My apologies to W.H. Auden.

But alas the news is that Coral the Algae sucker has passed. That leaves me (Goldie the badass cichlid) alone in the world. Sure, I wanted it this way, but now that I have my freedom, my silence, what good can it come too.

I blame Skinny Guy. I overheard him saying something yesterday about cleaning this filthy stench hole. But no, he got lazy yesterday, and poor Coral just couldn't take it anymore. He checked out around dinner time. Now he sleeps with the fishes.

Thing#1 was devastated. Let me tell you, that girl has some lungs. Skinny Guy told her he'd come home tomorrow with a couple of new Algae Suckers tomorrow. Good thing. I can't be expected to keep this thing clean by myself, after all!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My new chum

Okay, it's me again. Goldie the badass Cichlid. I wanted to take a moment and give you my side of the story of when Skinny Guy decided to allow a lesser fish to infiltrate my home.

I'll be the first to admit that fish aren't overly exciting to humans. You can wrestle with a dog, take it for a walk, or train it to attack ner-do-wells, but you can't do those things with most fish (and please don't try). Cats suck too, but for altogether different reasons, the most important of which is they tend to enjoy folks like myself as hors d'oeuvres. So why is it that once you crazy people have one fish, you feel the need to have another? Do you think it's better for my own psyche, like I need a friend to play Chutes & Ladders with? If so, you're wrong. I like my space. I like my privacy. And, most importantly, I like having all the food to myself. (note that I'm not counting Coral, the algae sucker, as a friend. He's more like a Roomba.)

After being here for about two weeks, Skinny Guy, followed by the Things, showed up with a plastic baggie in his hand. "Look at what the cat dragged in" doesn't begin to describe this ridiculous excuse for a fish he brought home with him. "Bait" comes a little closer. The new guy, whom they decided to name "Dusty" after some horrible dog from Skinny Guy's childhood that I hear mauled little children until he was crushed by a Chevy Nova, was dumped into the tank and the family outside smiled, thinking they'd given me a life partner. Oh please. You may as well have bunked Luke Skywalker with one of the Tusken Raiders (check Wikipedia, you'll get it).

As soon as Dusty was freed from the bag, he got a good look at me and, rightfully so, swam to the opposite corner and cowered. Just for giggles, I swam over and gave him a little nudge, just to see what he'd do. Nothing. I nudged him again. Nothing. So I gave him a slap with my tail, called him my beeyotch, and told him to do my bidding.

At this point, Skinny Guy realized the error of his ways. He then got the fool idea of taking us out of the tank and putting us into a soup container for a couple of hours as a bonding session. Oh, we bonded. Dusty sat at the bottom of the container, and I sat on top of his sorry little ass until while he struggled to breathe. Meanwhile, Skinny Guy cleaned things out of the tank, rearranged the furniture, and put up posters from Switzerland in an attempt to make the place feel more like a neutral setting rather than the private domain of Goldie the Badass Cichlid, in hopes of giving Dusty a better foothold. Not likely.

For the next day, Dusty did nothing but smell up the tank. And that REALLY annoyed me. If you invited someone into your home who did nothing but sit on your couch and poop, how would you like it? Yeah I know, I know, "Invite him? Hell, I married him" would be the proper response there, but this is my stand-up routine, not yours.

The more he sat there, the more things started to smell. Now, had Skinny Guy done his research, he would have learned something important about me, and that is when I get pissed I turn black. No, seriously. This is like totally the coolest. You know how that Bruce Banner guy turned all big and green when he got pissed? I do the same thing, but in black. My face gets all cinched up, my fins and body turn a deep shade of the darkest night, and my fists and legs grow to twice their...okay, maybe not that last part, but you get the idea.

So Skinny Guy sees this, and starts to worry. Oh no, my poor little fishy is sick! Whatever shall we do! Sucker. After about a day of looking like Darth Vader, Skinny Guy removed Dusty (and I assume flushed him, as I would have), and I went back to my normal golden self.

If you ever want privacy, try that some time. Trust me, it's cool. Turning a different color is one of the better super powers out there.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Goldie's taking over the blog for now.

I'm in between home improvement projects. I'm debating what's next on the home improvement list. It's four degrees outside so we're not doing a whole lot other than catching up on last year's reruns on Netflix. So I've decided that for the time being, I'm going to pass the reins of my blogging responsibilities to someone else, who perhaps has a bit more to say. Meet Goldie.

This thing on? Hello? The name's Goldie. Now, before you go all, "oh isn't that cute, a goldfish named Goldie" let me say right now that I ain't no frickin' goldfish. I'm what's known as a South American Cichlid. Actually to be more specific, I'm a BLOOD PARROT South American Cichlid. Which makes me sound more dangerous. Like I kill small birds and eat their organs just for my own enjoyment. Don't even think about calling me a goldfish.

And, the name? Well, there are these two little monkey-like creatures running around outside my tank, which I'm going to call Thing#1 and Thing#2 (Yes, I'm a fan of Dr. Seuss. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish was pure GENIUS). They seemed to have voting rights on the name, so it was their idea. Not mine. I would have preferred something far more manly, like "Doug", but hey, that's not important right now.

So, the blogging thing. Well, Skinny Guy and I were staring at each other through the glass the other day. I gave him my best hypnotic gaze, concentrated really hard, and thought, "Get me the heck out of here!". Suddenly he grabbed the net, scooped me up, and here I am in front of the keyboard while he's on his knees wiping water off the Pergo. Not quite what I had in mind, but if it gets the message out...

I've been in this joint a month now. During that time, I've noticed a few things. First, these people have no idea how to care for fish. Next chance I get I'm going to shove each one of their giant heads into a mayonnaise jar and then pound on it with a rubber mallet while saying, "here fishy fishy!" See how they frickin like it. Second, it appears that the pattern of daily life around here consists of the following agenda: Skinny Guy leaves for most of the day, leaving Thing#1 and Thing#2 to run around all day screaming, making a mess, and asking that one with the glasses and book in her hand for snacks every eight minutes. She appears to spend most of her day pouring Rice Krispies into small bowls. Skinny guy returns home later, yells at the Things to stop making so much noise, then joins the book lady as she follows the things around, picking up their crap and pouring more Rice Krispies until they are sent upstairs for the night. This leaves me with the rest of the evening to catch Jon Stewart on the TiVo and hang out with the world's most boring roommate, the algae sucker.

Okay, despite the fact that I've finally figured out how to work this keyboard thing with my fins, I'll sign off for tonight. Tune in next time when I give my side of Skinny Guy's couple's therapy story. He really, REALLY, had no idea what he was doing there. Let's just say this guy is about as qualified to perform psychological experiments on fish as I am to drive a Barracuda. And I mean the car.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The media cart...making shoppers obsolete

I can't decide if this is a genius invention, a natural evolution, or just the friggin stupidest waste of consumers' time and money to come around.

The invention is the Media Cart system. Take the love child of your average supermarket shopping cart and Robocop, and here's what you get. The cart has a video screen on it along with a user interface and keypad that provides a whole host of benefits (to whom I'm not sure). Among other things, the unit is outfitted with RFID, allowing it to be aware of its own location as you maneuver it through the store. Thus, when you pass the gefilte fish, and there happens to be a sale on gefilte fish, your shopping cart can now tell you, "Hey! There's a sale on gefilte fish. Reach down and to your left, and grab a couple of bottles whydontacha!"

The cart runs on lithium ion batteries. When it is "docked" in a line with the other carts in the store waiting to be used, it charges itself. It is wirelessly internet enabled, so when you begin shopping you can scan your rewards card and it will provide you more personalized options, including automatic downloading of your shopping lists from the store's website. This feature I see as a particular annoyance for me personally, as I foresee being sent to the store by my lovely wife for milk and bread, only to be buggered by instant announcements on the screen saying things like, "the lovely wife wants you to get cereal as well. And juice. And fruit. Oh, and dinner for tonight. And pick up the dry cleaning."

According to this article, the units will begin their lives in a test run at Shop Rite stores in Connecticut soon. I was born and raised in a Shop Rite in Connecticut. My mom taught me to be frugal (and by that I mean a cheap bastard), and she would often take me to Shop Rite with her to demonstrate her prowess in coupon-driven cost-saving. I was always amazed that no matter what store we were in, be it the Shop-Rite, the Food Mart, or the Stop & Shop, she always knew the exact prices of things at all stores. Let me give you an example. I'd come across a box of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, toss them in the cart and say, "mommy, we need these." She would take them out and calmly reply, "okay, but they're cheaper at the Other Store." I'd put them back on the shelf, expecting that my Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs would soon be obtained from the Other Store for a price so low that it would make sense to stock up for the millennium.

To this day I have never been to the Other Store. In fact I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, she was trying to avoid buying those Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. But I would think it would be a nice enhancement if the cart could tell you the prices at the Other Store. Maybe finally I'd be able to get my Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs

I'm trying to picture a future where my mom goes to Shop Rite and proceeds to use one of these newfangled cartons. I have a number of concerns.

For one, how well do you think those screens will hold up to folks (like me) who enjoy giving their cart the heave-ho into the cart corral in the parking lot? and, when it's four degrees outside, how well are those batteries going to stay charged while the await retrieval by some minimum wage slacker?

Will anyone over the age of 70 be able to handle one of these things without accidentally hitting the accelerator instead of the brake and driving it through the fresh fish counter?

While on the one hand I like the fact that you can ask the cart to tell you what aisle the Cheez-Its are, I wonder if the tracking will wig out and think it’s broken when my mom spends a half hour standing in one place, behind the fish counter, swapping stories of the grandkids with the mom of one of my friends from high school.

I also wonder if there is a button mom can push that gives her a direct interface to the store manager, to whom she can bitch about the fact that they don’t carry kosher turkeys. One of my mother's favorite things to do at Shop Rite is bitch to the manager about kosher turkeys...don't take that easy access away from her. That's why she refuses to use the self-checkout aisle.

But most importantly, I have to wonder if anyone's going to give a crap about these things. In an age where your digital camera will be obsolete by the time you're done figuring out how to synchronize it with your GPS system, do we really need another gadget that sucks up energy, makes our food more expensive, and annoys the crap out of people who just want to buy a friggin box of Triscuts without being bothered?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Science that Matters

Here's perhaps the most important study I've seen happen in a while.

It seems Polish scientist concluded through a study that legs 5 percent longer than average are most attractive to both sexes.

Pawlowski and his colleagues at the University of Wroclaw showed 218 male and female volunteers photos of seven men and seven women whose images had been altered to make them all appear the same height.

Those with legs 5 percent over the average came in first in the hotness rankings, while those with 10 percent over came in second. Average proportions came in third.

Surprisingly, legs 15 percent longer than normal were a turn-off.

Oddly, nowhere did it talk about legs that went all the way up to the neck. That's a whole other category.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Time for Timer!

If I said to you, "they're doing push ups in Peoria, they're jogging in L.A." would that mean anything to you? Somewhere in the recesses of your addled brain, does this spark a memory of childhood? Well if you're my age, and you didn't get out much on Saturday mornings, it should. In the age before infinite repeats of Zack & Cody, we had Schoolhouse Rock, Time For Timer, and Chopper. Yes, Chopper. The opening line of his medley has been stuck in my brain for around thirty years, and would crawl quickly out of its recesses every time someone mentioned Peoria, Illinois. Trouble was, I could never remember the rest of the song, or even the subject matter. Bless you, YouTube. Strap yours seatbelts on, we're going back again...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back in my day lipsyncers were called singers!

This is just so sad. The buzz that surrounds Hannah Montana concerts, that is. I am happy to say that my kids only have somewhat of a passing interest in the Disney pop drug of the moment (after all, she wasn't one of the actresses in High School Musical, now was she?). Yet still, my wife had to ask me the token question...

"So, should we look into Hannah Montana concert tickets?"

Luckily she wasn't overly serious. I mean, tickets are selling for something like five thousand dollars apiece, and you have to lie about your father being a casualty of war just to be considered good enough to go. And then, once you're at the concert, you're treated to pre-recorded tripe so overly mechanized that a body double subs for the performer while she does a costume change. Really. Didn't Milli Vanilli teach us anything?

I want my daughters to grow up right. I want them to respect talent. To want to see a concert because they love the talent displayed by the performer, not because it's what a cable channel told them they have to do. I want to pay for a quality performance, not a duplicate of what I can get on TV in better quality.

Back in my day, when TV was called books and when having to Wii meant actually peeing, I went to only a few rock concerts. The two that stood out were INXS and Smithereens. I saw INXS with my older sister. It was my first concert and my ONLY stadium concert. But I saw them because they were my favorite band. Not because of who they were, but because of what they did. I didn't know the band members' names. I didn't have an INXS lunch box. I just liked their music. And the Smithereens I saw after their prime in the early 90's. I'd always liked their music, and got to see them in a club so small that quite literally I got to sit next to him on stage, with about thirty other people, while he played an acoustic version of "Behind The Wall OF Sleep". Twenty years from now, I would like to ask any girl that attended the Hannah Montana concert this year, to see what she remembers about the concert. I bet it's her hair.

There ya have it folks. I'm officially a grumpy old fart.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pottery Barn Schmottery Barn

Well, it only took me 4 months. Two days with dad's help building the cabinets, and three months, 28 days doing the painting, tile, doors, shelves, etc. But at long last we have living room cabinets. Finally, a new place to hide crap. A new place to organize my wife's endless piles of books. A new place to crawl into and hide from the annoyances of daily life. If only I could figure out how to install locks on the insides of the cabinets.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ask yourself, do you think I'm funny? Do you? Punk?

This message goes out to all three of my loyal readers as well as the 6.2 people per week that glance at my blog regularly in a misguided attempt to find illicit kiddie photos.

The message is, click here if you think I'm funny.

I'm often a bit torn regarding my status as a blogger. I write here as a way of plugging into my creative outlet. I write here because I don't write in a diary. And I write here in hopes that someone will come across my blog, think I'm the greatest writer ever, and offer to pay me millions of dollars for the rights to the movie "The Life, Kids, and Construction Projects of a Suburban Dad". But I've been wondering which is better: to have a half dozen friends reading what I write, or to have a random post circulate the internet much like that dude that wrote about finding the 1970's JCPenney catalog. As we all know, with great power comes greater responsibility, and I'm just not sure that I'd be able to keep up with the frenetic pace of becoming a rich and famous blogger.

Well, as Tom Cruise so wisely stated in Risky Business, "Porsche. There is no substitute." No wait, that wasn't it. Anyways, the idea here is that if you and hundreds of others like you were to click on HUMOR BLOGS, I would gain notoriety and popularity as a blogger of sorts. So click away.

Speaking of movie references, I was very disappointed with myself yesterday. My buddy called me last night. He and I have this habit of having entire conversations that consist of nothing but movie quotes. It annoys the crap out of my wife, who can't understand why on earth a guy would ever want to see a movie more than once, even IF it stars a young and dashing Harrison Ford. Anyway, my buddy told me he'd just joined "the steak club", which is some sort of high-falutin' guys night out gathering of overpaid doctors who want to avoid their wives.

And he of course said, "so what's the first rule of steak club?" Now, I know the proper answer should have been, "Never talk about steak club." I know the quote. I've seen the movie several times. I absolutely adore the whole Ikea parody with Ed Norton's apartment at the beginning of the movie. But no, I replied with, "um, wear pants?"

So what happened? Am I off my game? Am I getting Alzheimer's? Must be those meddling kids again. They've tapped the input lines to my brain and are pumping me full of High School Musical and Barbie quotes. All the useful ones, like those from Brad Pitt movies, are being pushed out the other side and landing on the floor in a heap of squishy gray matter. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go find a sponge mop and a bucket before my buddy calls again.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Boy things were different back then.

This sort of thing seems to come up at least once a year. Some teacher manages to screw her career by doing the same to a student. The latest is a local (Moon Township) teacher who had relations with a 14-year-old student, and even shared naked photos of herself with him for use on his cell phone. Brilliant. It makes me wonder, if one or two teachers get caught each year doing stupid things like this in America, how many others out there are doing it and not getting caught?

And, okay, I'll say what all the guys out there are thinking. Where were teachers like that when I was 14? Sure, it's horrible, it's inappropriate, and it's something that had better never happen to my kids, but those are the types of thoughts I am required to have after I'm grown up and have children. Back then, an opportunity like this would have been a growth experience.

I don't quite remember which teachers I had at age 14, but throughout my rather unmemorable high school career I can think of one or two that likely brought on some sort of Oedipal fantasy or two. Ah, Ms. Ammerman...conjugate those verbs for me! Of course, at my high school we spent most of our time wondering if in fact some of our teachers were either men or women. It was amazing to see what an ankle-length polyester skirt, flowered puffy blouse, and matching bow tie combination could do to hide any sign of femininity and keep the average teenager focused on his Spanish lesson rather than his new-found and puberty-driven fantasy life.

I do remember one scandal, where a popular male English teacher had a habit of asking young ladies to set up secret rendezvous. One actually took him up on the offer, but when he approached her car at the assigned meeting location he was greeted by the principal wearing a wig. Things kinda went downhill for him after that.

Those were some truly disturbing times, yes they were.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Couples Therapy for Goldfish

This year during the holidays we decided to forego the obvious gift of a Wii for our kids in favor of a goldfish tank. My theory was that if we could keep a goldfish alive for a few months, we could probably manage a dog eventually. Conveniently at the same time we presented the kids with the tank I came across a woman looking to get rid of a couple of fish. So we inherited a South American Chiclid (i.e. fancy goldfish) whom we named Goldie.

Goldie was a cute little bugger always with a smile on her face, but she didn't do much aside from hide behind a plant all day. Goldie came with one of those algae sucking bottom-feeders as well, but he didn't do much except, well, suck.

We decided to get Goldie a friend. On Saturday morning we picked up an additional fish, one that was slightly smaller than Goldie, but of the same South American heritage as the nice lady at PetSmart suggested. We named it "Dusty" (I wanted to name it "Bait" but got outvoted by my daughters). As soon as we added Dusty to the tank, Goldie bullied him into a corner and wouldn’t let him out for two days. Eventually we figured we’d be better off replacing Dusty with something bigger and more manly, a fish that could hold its own against Goldie's smackdown. But no, nice lady at PetSmart suggested instead that I take them both out and put them into a bucket for a while, then rearrange the tank. Basically, they’d be going into neutral territory, and when they got back into the tank everything would be all new, so it wouldn’t be like the new punk gettin’ all in Goldie’s space ‘n shit.

After a couple hours of tank cleaning, I dropped the new guy into the tank and let him check the place out. He seemed okay with it. Then I dumped Goldie in, and she got all, “oh no he di-int’” on Dusty's ass, chased him into the corner, and that was that.

We haven't seen Dusty since. My guess is Goldie offed him and buried the body under the coral reef.

I realized today that, even though the couples therapy session wasn't so effective on the goldfish, perhaps it might be an effective measure taken against warring children. You see, we have perhaps the two most angelic, sweetest children in existence. When apart from each other. But once they share the same airspace, it's like the French & Indian war broke out in the family room. First Jes is yelling about Natalie stealing a barbie. Then Jes won't share the beads. Then Natalie allegedly hit her. Then one frowned in the other's general direction. Then she hurt my feelings. Then she won't let me watch Franklin and insists on watching her fifteenth episode of Zack & Cody. For god's sake someone call Rodney King!

So here's my plan. I'm going to get a 55 gallon drum. Fill it with packing peanuts. Put both kids in it. Then, while they are fighting about who gets to make the little snappy-snap sound by breaking the peanuts in half, I'll go upstairs and rearrange their rooms. When I'm done, it will be like we moved to a new house, they won't recognize it, and magically they will just get along.

Nah, I don't think it will work either. But I like the idea of keeping them in the drum for a spell.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My camera barks like a dog

I came across two good examples of technology in need of problems recently.

For the holidays I bought my wife a new camera, a Canon Powershot SD1000. This camera, as is usual with Canon's tinycams, is a gorgeous marriage of art and technology. However it reaches well beyond the normal level of bells and whistles to a point of ridiculousness.

When I opened the box I was greeted with not one, not two, but SIX instruction manuals. Okay granted two were in Spanish, but still. Knowing fully well my wife would refuse to read any sort of printed product that explained gizmo usage, I figured it would be up to me to read the instructions and train my wife. By the time I'd reached page 17 of the user manual, I had learned to make the camera bark like a dog when I pressed the shutter button. I also learned how to change the splash screen that appears when the camera turns on. And I learned how to make it show me the time and date on the screen whenever I wanted it to, in a special animated graphic that flashed across the screen just long enough to be cool but not long enough to actually allow the user to read and process the actual time.

But one thing the book did NOT tell me how to do by page 17 was to take a picture. I flipped forward and found the first instance of picture-taking instructions on page 23.

In another demonstration of grand UI design, a George Foreman Lean Mean Toasting Machine appeared in the office kitchen this week. It appears that in a sudden altruistic act of re-gifting, an anomymous benefactor decided to toss out the grungy old office toaster and replace it with this gray, streamline hunk of plastic.

I never new toasting could actually be either Lean or Mean. But it just so happened that I had toast to make that morning (a bagel, actually) so I gave it a shot.

First of all, this toaster allows both pieces of toast to go into the same slot, rather than in two slots parallel to each other. This meant the toaster is about a foot long. Which, as you can imagine, is way to big for a countertop.

Second, just above the slide-down lever is an LED indicator. On the indicator is a picture of a slice of bread, with an "X" drawn over it. A couple of us pondered what that could possibly mean. We also pondered why on earth we couldn't get the lever to stay down or the Lean Mean Toasting Machine to start leanly or meanly toasting. Eventually we discovered that this indicator was actually a button, in fact the "Cancel all toasting operations and return bread slices to owner" button, and it was pushed in and jammed, causing the system to malfunction.

There was also a button on the side of the unit, with a picture of a snowflake on it. Oh joy! This must mean our Lean Mean Toasting Machine would make Lean Mean Slushies, as well. No, unfortunately not. After looking on the internet we found this button is a defrost feature. We tried it, and successfully turned a frozen piece of bread into a pile of soggy bread. Ah, so it DOES make slushies...bread-flavored ones.

Nice try, George.