Friday, December 31, 2004

2004--A Year in Review

This is the End-of-Year Meme. I swiped the idea from another blogsite. Good bye to 2004 and Happy 2005 everybody!

1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before?
I got hired by my company. That is one thing. Other than that, I was the full time father of two children for an entire year. That is something I have definitely NOT done before. I also sold one house and bought another this summer.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I quit doing resolutions a few years ago. I never keep them and it seemed like a waste of time. So, no, I won't be doing another one for this coming year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Well, Perk's wife had another daughter. And another coworker of mine--the one that pushes me around on the basketball court--she should have had her first baby by now.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My dad's mom died in October 2003. It wasn't in this last year, but it has been the most significant family death in a while.

5. What countries did you visit?
The one I live in. Some people might think that south Georgia is another country, but I don't really subscribe to that theory.

6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?
The superficial, immediate response . . . an iPod.
A few of my old coworkers back in the office with me again.
A more reasoned response . . . a president I can trust.

7. What dates from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Obviously nothing, since I can't think . . . oh, wait. Ariel's fourth birthday party was a big affair, that's for sure.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Well, I don't know if its a big achievement, but I did start blogging and helped others do the same. Does that matter? Not really.
I did successfully keep my kids alive and operating. That is an achievement that I can be proud of.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I really tried to think about this and I couldn't think of a big, significant failure. Probably anyone who is reading this can immediately think of at least three or four ways that I failed them personally.
Of course, my current project at work is not complete and won't be in the 2004 calendar year, so that could potentially be a big failure. But while I am in charge of one aspect of it, I am not the only one to take the blame there. Many others cooks might spoil the broth.
(Boy that is really pessimistic . . . I don't really expect the project to fail and I am not going to let it happen, but that is the biggest "project" that is going on in life outside of simply living and keeping the family going . . . I think.)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Various colds and something that currently sounds like a smoker's cough (without the smoking) but I have been healthy this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Hmmm. Must be our house. Sure, I haven't technically bought it yet . . . and won't for many years. But it is the most useful thing that I spent money on. Closer to work, much larger than our old one. It's got its problems, but show me a thirty year old house without some, right?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mine! Oh, and those of my kids, who were very good and are successfully growing up into cool little girls. My work friends that worked very hard and with dedication during the political season.
Also, the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Presidential candidates. You all probably know where I stand on that. And most political advertiser companies. And George Steinbrenner, Alex Rodriguez.
And, especially that gutter salesman that wouldn't leave us alone and then didn't take no for an answer after four hours--and also to us for letting it go on that long.

14. Where did most of your money go?
EASY . . . Kindercare Learning Center on County Line Road in __________, Ohio.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Also EASY . . . Spiderman 2! It lived up to the hype (that created by Marvel Pictures and that created by me for my friends).
My girls and my super great wife.
Team Foos-Booyah!
Why Won't You Grow?!, Why Won't You Grow?! Omnimedia, and all WWYG?! subsidiary products.

16. What song will always remind you of 2004?

Probably something from the Garden State soundtrack. Other songs by The Shins or Modest Mouse, or Frou Frou.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
Happier . . . I think. I don't remember how I was last year.

b) thinner or fatter?
Again, I don't know for sure, but I would bet fatter . . . if only by a little.
c) richer or poorer?
Thankfully, richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Played more tennis.
Blogger more before I started this site.
Read more good books.
Hung out with family and friends.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying about work and other stuff that is not as important.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I just finished a great trip down to Georgia to catch up with my brothers, sister, parents, in-laws, and everyone that is truly important to me. I wish I could do it more often, but I enjoy the special time we have together.

21. Did you fall in love in 2004?
YES . . . with my blog! (Only kidding . . . or am I?)

No, I didn't fall in love as much as I stayed in love with Tegan and my kids.

22. How many one-night stands?

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Alias during the end of last season and Lost at the beginning of this season. So maybe I fell in love with J.J. Abrams this year?

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Possibly Bobby Flay?
Oh and, of course, Jake Gyllenhaal.

25. What was the best book you read?
House of Leaves by Mark J. Danielewski

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Almost any band from the Garden State soundtrack . . . but also Now Its Overhead. So, maybe I am also in love with Spec and Jack Thunder, who pointed me towards all that good music.

27. What did you want and get?
Special Edition DVDs of The Lord of the Rings--one as an outright gift, one as a gift card purchase and the third as a usage of gift cash.

28. What did you want and not get?
An iPod.
And universal acclaim from everyone around me.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Garden State was very good.
You know how I feel about Spiderman 2.
I really liked American Splendor also.
I am sure that I am forgetting something and that JT will comment on it quickly.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33 and didn't do anything that I can remember.
Does that mean I drank too much? No . . . I just don't remember.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having Jack Thunder and Old Navy remain with the company would have been pretty satisfying.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?
Shabby chic . . . I don't know.
How about "Almost J Crew"?

33. What kept you sane?
My wife.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Bans against same sex marriage and discussion of constitutional amendments about the same.

36. Who did you miss?
My Georgia family.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Golly . . . in 2004? I can't mention my work friends as they will be sad if I don't choose them and most of them I have met prior to this year . . . so, I'll say . . . the best new person I met was Burb?

Wow, is that a cop-out or what?

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004.
Save your documents every 15 minutes and ALWAYS when you get up from your desk for prolonged periods of time.

Also, when your manager asks you to help out with the FCAT ancillary program . . . run the other way!

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
This song sums up a lot . . . presidential elections, blogging, struggling for new ideas, good music, good friends that the music reminds me of.
So, here you go, in its entirety:

It's A Hit

by Rilo Kiley

Any chimp can play human for a day.
Use his opposable thumbs to iron his uniform
and run for office on election day
fancy himself a real decision maker
and deploy more troops than salt shakers.

But it's a jungle when war is made,
and you'll panic and throw your own shit at the enemy.
The camera pulls back to reveal your true identity.
Look, it's a sheep in wolf's clothing.
A smoking gun holding ape.

Any asshole can open up a museum.
Put all of the things he loves on display
so everyone could see them.
The house, a car, a thoughtful wife
ordinary moments in his ordinary life.

But if she breaks a smile, she'll give you away
'cause no one wants to pay to see your happiness.
No one wants to pay to see your day to day
and I'm not buying it either
but I'll try selling it anyway.

Any idiot can play Greek for a day
and join a sorority or write a tragedy
and articulating all that pain
and maybe you'll get paid.

But it's a sin when success complains,
and your writers block- it don't mean shit.
Just throw it against the wall and see what sticks.
Gotta write a hit.
I think this is it.
It's a hit.

And if it's not,
then it's a holiday for hanging
yeah it's a holiday for hanging
yeah it's a holiday for hanging
yeah it's a holiday for hanging
yeah shoo-bop-shoo-bop my baby

Any fool can play executioner for a day,
and say with fingers pointed in both directions
'he went thataway',
It's only a switch or syringe,
aww, exempt from eternal sins.
But you still wear a cross,
and you think you're gonna get in.

Ah, but the pardons never come from up-stairs.
They're always a moment too late,
but it's entertainment
keep the crowd on their toes,
it's justice, we're safe.
It's not a hit, it's a holiday
shoo-bop-shoo-bop my baby

It's a holiday for a hanging, yeah

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Further scenes from South Georgia

We are almost ready to come home. The travels back to the North Georgia cabin begins tomorrow and then we return to our (hopefully thawed out) home on Saturday.

All the traveling family members have moved on to their homes or to go visit other friends. We are spending some downtime with mom and dad, enjoying the ridiculously nice weather.

For your reference, the temperature here right now is about 71 degrees. It is bright, sunny, and beautiful.

The two things that would make me come back to Georgia are amply displayed on this trip--incredibly nice (winter) weather and family much closer by.

There are, of course, some problems with living down here. One such example is the level of intelligence by a lot of the people (in Tifton, specifically) and the lack of "culture." Now, as regular readers of WWYG?! know, I am really big on culture of all kinds. I am very high-falutin'. But there are some things that I won't accept.

For example . . . in Alapaha, a small town about 20 miles from here, the mysterious and legendary "Hogzilla" has been a focal point since its discovery and slaying a few years back.

As you can see from the linked article above, people in this area have a strange fascination with this animal, raising it to the level of a "festival."

It's a sad thing, I can tell you. The Tifton Gazette, the hometown newspaper, even ran a top-of-the-fold headline story on it today, claiming that it was on the "Not Quite" Top 10 events of the past year, as determined by some media service that does this sort of national, human interest story.

So . . . that is not all that great, but the weather has been fabulous lately. I know that the summers are awful, but the winters are something special.

We'll be traveling home, but many of you constant readers can expect to see me on Monday. My southern drawl might be a bit more pronounced when I return, but I trust you will be able to understand me.

Have a safe New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Wrap up of the last few days

Well it has been a busy couple of days here in Tifton.

All of the family has arrived from Greater Atlanta, Athens, and a few blocks away.

We have eaten several excellent meals prepared by either my sister, my mom, or my dad.

Ruth has been simultaneously fascinated and frightened by brother #2's (hereafter referred to as Muleskinner) toy dachshund named Rupert--after the Survivor character. She constantly refers to Rupert by some strange phrase that sounds either like "I see dog" or "[Muleskinner's] dog." (I trust that you understand that she is not saying "Muleskinner."

Ariel has had tons of fun running around with her three other girl cousins. They have run all around in the back yard, played all kinds of games, played with toys, etc. It is always so valuable for her to interact with her family and with other kids in such a constant way. And I know that she does this at school every day, but it is nice to see her do it with family.

Today I played golf with Dad, Muleskinner, and brother #1 (hereafter known as MSquared). Because I haven't played in practically two years, I (of course) sucked. Basically money thrown away, creating the vicious cycle in which I say that I won't waste money like that again and therefore don't get any better.

The adults have gotten the kids to bed and are going to play a game now--probably some kind of card game. We have already played several different card games before tonight. Last night we played 7-card stud poker and I ended up winning the last game of the night. Tonight, I don't know what the game will be.

BTW, Ariel is having her first sleep-over with her cousin L. tonight at my sister's house. We'll see if she braves it or gets scared. I am ready to get a phone call later tonight, but right now she and L. are watching a story and eating popcorn.

Well, the game is getting underway and there is lots of yummy dessert to eat. Later.

Step count (since last time): 6670.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Personal timeline of reflection

25 years ago: I was 8. I was in third grade. I frankly don't remember a whole lot about it. It was Len Lastinger Elementary School, which I walked to from my childhood home (briefly through the woods, down a few streets and there you were.) I was a intensely anxious kid when young--taking everything very seriously--so much so that my parents worried about my anxiety leve. This was a brief topic we discussed this morning during breakfast. I think I have mellowed since then, now only really, really worrying about stuff that really needs it--I hope.

20 years ago: I was 13, eighth grade. I think I got glasses at this point. I was a short kid and my glasses were not the most stylish in the world--sort of brown, tortoise shell. Kind of scarcely shaped. Basically I looked like a goofy kid with glasses, a bad haircut, and snaggly teeth. The braces would later help my teeth and my glasses eventually became better. I experimented with contacts for a bit in high school, but later felt they were more a nuisance than they were worth. Plus the glasses make me look more intellectual, don't you think?

15 Years ago:I was 18. I graduated from high school. I had a girlfriend (Betsy) who was a year younger than me. I had many fun experiences in high school, due to my band friends and my Science Olympiad friends. I got to travel around the country quite a bit thanks to the Science Olympiad competitions we were involved in. My favorite subject in school was probably human anatomy and I loved the skeletal system. I wanted to head off to college the following year and study anthropology, with the goal of being a forensic anthropologist--somebody that identifies bodies (like on CSI). As you can tell, those plans worked out really well.

10 Years ago: I was 23. I was preparing to get married to Tegan that summer. I had just graduated from college with a bachelors degree in Anthropology and History. I was just getting ready to start my masters degree study in U.S. history at the same college.

5 years ago: I was 28. Tegan and I were preparing to start trying to have children. I had finished my masters degree and had moved to Ohio to start work on my doctorate in American history. My plan was to get a Ph.D. then find a university job somewhere and teach, living a good old, academic lifestyle. Tegan had worked for the first six months or so of our time in Ohio at a tutorial center and had recently started working at our current place of employment.

3 years ago: I turned 30 and Tegan thoroughly humiliated me at work (where I was into my second year as a full-time contract project worker. She made up many signs with pictures of me at various stages of my youth and posted them all around my side of the building so all of my coworkers could gawk at me and point and laugh. Ariel was about one year old. We were in our first real house--a smallish affair and things were pretty good for us.

1 year ago: I was 32. Ruth, our second daughter was born. I was into my third/fourth year as a project worker at my company. I had/have many friends there and Tegan was doing very well at her job, getting promoted and working very hard to earn her department mucho bucks on a New York project. Ariel was three, a great deal of fun and adjusted to the addition of another child very well.

This year: I am 33. This year has been marked by the move from our first house into our second house, a much larger affair, much closer to work. I was finally hired on full-time this past October. I lost a few work friends this year (meaning they left the workplace, but they are still friends). Ariel is four and Ruth is currently a year-and-a-half. Both are great fun and very smart. This year is, of course, the year of the blog.

Yesterday: See yesterday's post. I am visiting my family in Georgia and having a very quiet, cold (but sunny bright) Christmas.

Today: We are awaiting the arrival of brother #1 and his family We will open Christmas presents later this afternoon after a "Christmas" dinner. I went out to the pharmacy this morning to get eyedrops for Ruth. She has developed a case of pink eye and we are hoping to keep it under control.

Tomorrow: More fun with family. Probably some games at night once the kids are asleep.

My life has definitely progressed well. So many blessing from family, friends, and a great deal of luxuries and simple pleasures.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas day malaise

Well today has been a bit of a slow day, because we are postponing the opening of presents, etc. until tomorrow when Brother #1 and his family arrive in town.

But Ariel hasn't kicked up any kind of fuss, which is nice. Dad has said the most about it, but he is sort of a kid at Christmas anyway.

Right now the whole clan is back at my sister's house. We finished dinner that she prepared and dessert/coffee is being prepared right now. Brother #2 arrived with his wife a few hours ago, so the gang is almost all here.

Today was pretty cold and rained off and on. No snow, but I heard that there was snow in states to the west of Georgia.

I successfully called our house today and the answering machine picked up, so I hope that means we have operating electricity. I hope that also means that our pipes haven't frozen and aren't preparing to burst.

I am really trying not to obsess about that possibility, especially since we can't do a thing about it until we return.

Anyway, I think I'll sign off to eat some apple pie and drink a bit of coffee.

Merry Christmas.

Current step count: 4332

Friday, December 24, 2004

Scenes from a South Georgia Walmart

We drove down to Tifton yesterday.
Bright, sunny, a bit of rain. Temperature? Around 45 at the coldest.
A far sight different than Ohio, that's fur sure.
(Quick aside: the Blogger spell checker thinks Tifton should be replaced with Tibetan. Not even close Google, but thanks for trying.)

Today we went to the local Super Walmart to try and get some last minute present shopping done. We were somewhat successful. Really it wasn't as bad as my dad and mom would have me believe. It didn't seem any more crowded than any other Walmart at any other time.

The other thing going on is that I am now obsessing about the condition of our home back in Ohio. Because of our rapid departure, we didn't do anything about dripping the outside water or shutting off the water or anything. So, we are afraid that there is an outside chance we will come home to a house full of water damage due to bursting pipes.

We didn't turn the heater off, so the indoor pipes will probably be okay--except for the fact that our power might be off due to outages all over the central Ohio area.

All of this is speculation right now and we are getting a neighbor to check the outside faucets and get it dripping. But it grates a bit. At first we were heroes for escaping before the storm. Now we might look like galumphing doofuses for forgetting something like that.

BUT . . . life moves on as it must. We will deal with what awaits us when we return.

Right now I am visiting my sister, who recently moved back down to Georgia. Her family has a very nice, spacious house and we are planning to all take our kids to a kids Christmas service at the Episcopal church across from their house. Then back to mom and dad's house tonight for barbecued chicken and a nice Christmas eve. I expect some Fred Waring will be played at some point.

You do know that you are in south Georgia when you heard a lot of "ain't that right?"'s coming out of peoples mouths as they talk to people about stuff.

The old hometown doesn't seem changed that much. And we do come back about twice a year to visit, so its not like lots of radical things have been going on. I went to the mall to do some shopping and remembered riding my bike there as a kid to buy REM cassette tapes and stuff like that. But most things are the same. Traffic seem a bit worse, but it is still bright and rainy at Christmas time--not really cold at all.

I'll post more later. I hope you are all enjoying your holidays, wherever you are.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Babies in a Strange Bed

Anyone who has ever traveled knows that one of the most difficult things about the traveling is sleeping in someone else's bed.

People often have very specific desires and specifications about their beds, the temperature they prefer while sleeping, etc.

I really don't have that problem, which is nice for me. I am always hot-natured, so I don't like a lot of covers, but that is easily fixed.

The real challenge is when you have children traveling with you. They often get very spooked by the different sleeping conditions, the change in the nightly getting to sleep routine that you establish at home. No one more so than babies, who really don't know a lot about what is going on.

Ruth has cried herself to sleep for the past two nights. The first night, it began around 1:30 (when we arrived, remember) and didn't really end until about 3ish. Last night we let her cry from around 7:30 to approximately 8:30.

Now, I know how that sounds--heartless, right? Wrong. Tegan and I could (and sometimes do) go in, comfort her, etc. but its not going to help much. It's just not her room! So, the best thing to do is let her cry until she is too tired to stay awake. If you can put up with the noise that is.

This is especially hard when you are visiting others, because you worry about upsetting them by bringing a crying baby into the house. But they're related, right?

Once Ruth gives up and sleeps, then get Ariel to bed, but you can't do put her is the same room . . . at least not at first, or you'll wake Ruth up. So, get her to sleep in another room and hope that you can later transfer her sleeping form into the room she shares with Ruth.

Failing that, do what we've done the past two nights. Have one parent sneak into Ruth's room to keep her quiet if she wakes up in the night and let the other one sleep with the already unconscious Ariel.

Tegan and I sleeping in separate rooms while visiting parents. . . . It's like we're dating again!

Step count (since last mention): 9511

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas travels

Well, we fled the wrath of God storm that was barreling down on the poor, defenseless Ohio Valley yesterday afternoon.

I first got wind of the coming storm on Monday evening. My family was planning to drive down to Georgia early Thursday morning, arrive at Tegan's parent's cabin in the North Georgia mountains Thursday afternoon and then drive to south Georgia (Tifton) on Christmas eve morn'.

But the storm changed those plans.

We decided to move our Ohio departure date to Wednesday morning. Getting an extra day off from work wasn't a big deal. But as we looked at the storm forecasts and the predictions of 4-6 (or more!) inches of snow in Ohio and any combination of constant rain, or freezing rain, or ice as we headed through Kentucky and Tennessee . . . well, we decided to get while the gettin' was good.

So, while I tied up loose ends at work--and said tearful, rushed goodbyes to my office homies--Tegan was busy at home packing. This was Tuesday morning; we had done no packing AT ALL at this point.

(Let me just say that it was a good thing we decided to have Santa come visit Monday evening.)

So, by 3 pm on Tuesday afternoon, Tegan had packed, loaded the car, picked up the girls from daycare, and swung by the office to get me. We hit the road and about ten minutes down the Interstate, Ariel said that "she had to go potty."


So, we swung into an exit, found a McDonalds and then realized that the entire restaurant was undergoing renovation--only the drive through was operating. The hotel next door had no public bathroom.

Anyway, it took us about 45 minutes to get from the office to the southern outskirts of town. From there is was relatively smooth sailing. Tegan had loaded the car with all manner of toys, books, art supplies to try and distract the girls, and for the most part they behaved very well.

We stopped about 6 pm for dinner in Dry Ridge, KY. One of my uncles lives there, but I wasn't going to feel bad about not letting him know we were around because I knew he was currently at him place down in Florida for the holiday. But no sooner did we sit down than my cousin, L. appear at our table. We had a nice chat and I explained how we were fleeing the brewing storm.

Dinner took much longer than necessary and so, by 7:30 we had not progressed very far. But we pressed on south and crossed into Tennessee and headed to Knoxville. We passed some spots of light rains going down I-75 and I worried that we might have to stop if the rain started freezing, but no worries. The girls started getting drowsy and eventually fell asleep.

We left the Interstate at south of Knoxville and struck out east, winding our way through the Ocoee river valley (site of whitewater rafting in the 1996 Olympics and also site of some near drowning moments for me at a family reunion a few years back--good times!) By now the night was full on us--about 11 or 11:30 and thank goodness the kids were asleep because we were winding through the darkness following the curves of the river, going up and down mountains. If the kids had been awake they would have thrown up for sure.

I wish it had been lighter, because it was a really pretty scene. An almost full moon was illuminating through the trees and I could see the rapids from the river rocks as we drove beside the river bank.

We finally hit north Georgia and after a bit more winding around we arrived at Tegan's parents house in Blue Ridge. By now it was around 1:30 in the morning.

We got inside, got on our pajamas and tried to get the kids to sleep. Tegan had to struggle with Ruth a bit and she didn't get much sleep, but Ariel slept with me and we did all right.

So, we made it. We are tired and still face about 5 hours more driving south to get to Tifton and don't know if we'll do it today or just wait for tomorrow morning, but we know that Ohio is currently getting dumped with many inches of snow.

So stay warm Ohio friends! I hope the office got closed and you can relax. Hello Georgia family, we are almost there!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Christmas party aftermath . . .

I'm currently at work, trying to get something done in the hours after our annual company Christmas party. Tegan is trying to run a few errands before we get the kids and go home.

My brain is not working at top efficiency right now and I have Alias and Jennifer Garner on the brain at this exact moment, so I will take a break and transcribe a bit from one of my favorite little office books, The Spy Guide's: Office Espionage.


Booby-Trapping Your Briefcase
There is a simple trick that will reveal if someone has helped him, or herself to your ideas while you were busy in the executive washroom. And it doesn't require expensive laser-beam alarms or motion detectors--just a few supplies that cost less than 30 cents.
1. Obtain three empty, plastic film canisters. It's best to differentiate them--apply dots of correction fluid or colored stickers, which can be found in any office.
2. Place your briefcase on a flat surface with the lid open. Arrange the film canisters in three predetermined positions in your briefcase. It doesn't matter where, as long as the canisters are upright and you remember their exact locations. This only works if you have a briefcase with a hard shell that lies flat. (If you use a soft bag with handles that sits upright or, even worse, a schoolbag, it's time to trade up.)
3. Carefully close and lock your briefcase. Make sure you don't bump the canisters out of position. Leave the briefcase on your desk with the latches pressed up against a stack of files. This way, anyone who wants to open the briefcase will have to move it.
4. Go about your business.
5. Upon your return, carefully unlock and open your briefcase. If the canisters have moved at all, someone has tampered with your case. It is nearly impossible to pick the lock of your case without disturbing the three canisters. Even if your office intruder succeeds, he or she will not suspect that you've laid a trap, since film canisters are common, everyday objects.
So, there you go. Feel free to immediate utilize this handy trick on the next highly suspicious person that is skulking about your place of employment . . . unless they have a habit of giving you free chocolate or being the cause of constant blame, so that you can do things wrong and people will logically blame the skulker instead of you. Whatever works for you, really.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Rold Gold Nativity, part 1 of 3

What follows is a description of a Christmas miracle that occurred recently at my place of employment.
I swear that all these words are made up by me, with some help of some words from the New International Version of the Holy BIble.
People may interpret the Bible differently than I, but I think this is at least as valid a sign of the coming of Christmas as the annual broadcast of "Its a Wonderful Life."
[Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter! Isnt' it great, I'm gonna burn in Hell!!]

The Rold Gold Nativity, part 2 of 3

"And there was [Shirtless] living . . . in the [cubicle] nearby, keeping watch over their [proofs] all [day].
An angel of the Lord appeared to [him] and the glory of the Lord shone around [his pants] and [he was] terrified.
But the angel said to [him] "Do not be afraid. I bring you [salty snacks] of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the [blog] of David a Savior has been born to you; he [resembles] Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you.
You will [see a pretzel] wrapped in cloths and [being put in a manger by his mother.] Suddenly [the] great company of [Glencoe] appeared with the angel praising [Steve] and saying, Glory to [PPAs] in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his [sales] rest. When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the [project workers] said to one another, Let's go to [Columbus] and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

The Rold Gold Nativity, part 3 of 3

"So they hurried off and found Mary . . . and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about the pretzel child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary [sold the image of the divine pretzel on eBay and] treasured [a pretty penny online for the wonderous baked treat.]"

Step count (Thursday through now): 9047

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Holiday parties

Gotta take a quick break from work.

As is so often true this time of year, the family has been to several parties this holiday season.

Our most recent, this past Tuesday, was a Ornament Stealing party with members of our old church. Started about five or six years ago by one of the church's heavily involved families, it was often lots of fun--featuring spirited banter, good-natured ornament stealing, and lots of good food.

This year's party was not quite the same.

One reason is we no longer attend the church. Since our move across town this summer, we have been attending a different church. Leaving our old church was a difficult decision because we were very involved in trying to make it work. It was a small mission church trying to grow and survive financially on its own. Anyone who has ever been in a small church knows that they are not easy. This experience was very difficult on us, especially as the years went by and the church never found a way to catch fire. Honestly, it was a bit of relief when we moved, as it gave us a concrete reason to leave.

You have to understand that in the absence of our real family, several hundred miles away in Georgia, these were the people that we turned to for socialization, for discussions about our growing children, for simple community. We remain strong friends with a great many of these people and I hope that continues into the future, but something had to change.

Tegan and I worked very hard for this church over the last few years and it had become very draining on us. We are trying to establish a connection with our new church family, but for right now, the sense of shared history is not there. I hope it comes with time, but right now I still feel a bit like a stranger.

Tonight we are going back to Ariel and Ruth's old daycare to enjoy a Christmas party with her old friends and teachers.

Here the opposite feeling exists. It's like attending a reunion, seeing old friends, people that helped Ariel grow up and were so sorry to see Ruth go before they really had time to get to know her. I feel a strange closeness to these people. It didn't feel like a business transaction with these daycare workers. It was really important that they cared about our kids. It will be good to see them again.

Step count for Tuesday and Wednesday: approx. 7739

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bee-dee-bee-dee. Way to go Buck!

Hey thanks U.S. Postal Service. You finally got something right.

After years of raising stamp prices--I remember when they were a nice, round quarter, and I hear the price might go up to 41 cents next year--the USPS has come up a great new service:

the Automated Postal Center!

You can call it the USPSAPC if you like, but I will call it "Tweekie" for that lovable robot on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century . . . starring Gil Gerard and (more importantly) Erin Grey!!

Now, where was it?

Oh . . . yes, Tweekie the mailman.

I had to mail a small package to Old Navy this morning. (Hey Old Navy!! Comin' at 'cha!) I was swinging by there this morning on the way to work, before 8 am, and I figured the main area of the post office, with the holiday-stressed employees would not be open.

But I had heard about the installation of these USPSAPCs and hoped that we would have them at our neighborhood postal center.

Sure enough, there it was sitting, waiting to serve. I was able to put my package on the scale, type in the zip code, pay with debit or credit, receive my printed postage (available in various rates and speeds of deliver), affix it to the postal item, and place it in the postal bin without speaking to a single, solitary sole.

So, by shuffling all the grunt work onto these mindless electronic slaves, we can free up the regular postal employees to doing other stuff--then maybe they won't be so surly (and believe me people, I know surly).

Happy Holidays from Tweekie--USPSAPC #12953ABDXZ34Q

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"Ten best" lists

The end of the year is a time for everyone to trot out their ten-best-this and top-ten-thats.
As one example, here is Newsweek film critic David Ansen's list of the 10 Best Movies of 2004:

1. Sideways
2. Before Sunset
3. Osama
4. Million Dollar Baby
5. Bad Education
6. The Aviator
7. Friday Night Lights
8. The Manchurian Candidate
9. Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban
10. Kinsey

But it got me thinking, so I am presenting to you here a list of the ten best things that I read of the web this year. I admit that I wasn't thinking about this all year long, so don't be surprised if much of this list is weighted to the last few months.

But, these ARE things that stick in my mind as being memorable, well-written, clever, funny, imaginative.

And they are NOT ranked from best to 10th best, they are just ten that are memorable to me, in the order that I typed them. Enjoy and maybe I'll start bookmarking for my 2005 list in January!

1. p.s. I'll find my frog (click on the opening image and behold the joys and laughter within)
2. It was a tie between this
3. and this.
4. Scroll down to Friday, November 12, 2004.
5. Omar G. brought the gay back with a vengence in this Smallville recap.
6. Spongmonkeys . . . nuff said.
7. The moth is a metaphor!!! OK, we got it. (Also, kicking heroin is easy, man.)
8. I read the Sports Guy's columns a lot. Unfortunately, ESPN in their evil wisdom has archived his Boston, post-World Series win reflection column. But this is a good representation of his writing . . . even if it is on TV rather than sports.
9. I had to link to one of these presidential debate reviews . . . it was my blogs finest hour during its infancy.
10. And, of course, this. Which led to this, this, this and even this.

Stuff I read all the time. Thanks to all those working hard in 2004 and lets have even more fun in 2005.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Breaking News!!!

Newsweek and Time do it every year. The Daily Show made fun of them for it.

These magazines run a cover story in December on "The Birth of Jesus" or "The Real Jesus" or something along those lines. What else do they have to say I wonder? Sometimes I read the stories, but this year I confess that I have not done so. I just can't get very excited about it.

But there are some things I can try to get excited about. I wrapped stray Christmas presents tonight, attempting to take a break from doing some office work and needing to get away from the computer for a while this evening.

I am not particularly good at wrapping gifts. My wrapping is never taut and I am sure I waste more paper than I need and my lines aren't straight. Martha Stewart would shake her head in shame . . . if she wasn't currently serving time. (BOOYAH!)

But wrap I did, and it made me think of how we used to wrap presents when I was a kid. For whatever reason, we seemed to gravitate to my parents room to wrap presents on their bed. {Maybe the wrapping was kept in their closet . . . I don't remember.) We all knew, that past a certain time in December, if the door was closed (and sometimes locked for extra protection) then you shouldn't know what was going on and maybe someone was wrapping a present to you.

Over the years I have tried to get past my bad wrapping skills by being "creative" (which is probably a more polite word for lazy and unskilled). One memorable year in college, I simply placed presents in regular white, department store shirt boxes, taped them securely, and drew the recipient's name in cursive script by holding several markers of various color in my hand. You are probably imagining what this looks like now and either remember doing it yourself or have no idea what I am talking about. If you are the latter, stop whatever you are doing right now and try it . . . I'll wait.

Done? Wasn't that cool? But wouldn't it be a huge letdown to see an amateurish box decorated in such a manner under the Christmas tree? Well, no one disowned me that year.

Sometimes I wonder why we even bother to wrap gifts in my immediate family right now. It's not like we can put them under the tree, because Ruth will wander along, grab something, and start unwrapping immediately. So, it is best to simply keep gifts hidden away and out of the reach of small children. But I HATE having a Christmas tree with no presents under it. Maybe we could put some sort of invisible fence around the tree, but then I wouldn't be able to plug it in and I would probably violate some sort of child welfare laws.

So, I have some wrapped presents, but no where to put them. What should I do?

Today's step count: 3124

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Weekend stuff

It was a busy weekend and I don't have a lot of time to talk about it right now.

Maybe later.

But I can tell you that we were busy preparing for the holidays. We staged and took successful Christmas family pictures yesterday, ran them to the camera store, and picked up the prints today. We prepared many Christmas cards and will mail them this week. But there are more cards TK.

Tegan baked some cookies over the last few days and we even squeezed in a very small home project--drilling a hole in the ceiling to reposition the light above the dining room table.

I've got to cut this short because I need to try and do some work this evening--so I'll have to provide more details later.

This picture, by the way, is more evidence of Ariel's brilliance. Though she drew it from right to left, you are witnessing someone--possibly "Kid" from Kid 'n' Play--chewing bubble gum and blowing a bubble. She'll be an animator for Pixar and work ridiculous hours for pitiful wages someday . . . a father can be so proud.

Step Count: Friday through this evening--5079.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Live and Learn

Today was not one of my finest days in the workplace.

Several things came up that made me wish I had made different choices earlier or done things a bit differently before now. But I didn't and now as my project shifts from the preparation stage to the checking phase, I fully realize that I am facing a task that is probably larger, more complicated, and more difficult than it should have been in the beginning.

I made choices and now I am regretting those choices. That is "on me" as the kids say today, but the other part of my disgruntlement that sticks in my craw a bit is that I know enough to have known better at the time. If I had stopped and taken a longer view, using the experience and knowledge that I have acquired in the last several years, I could have avoided some of this.

And for someone else to say that they should have told me what to do (indicating that I don't know enough to do it) is doubly annoying because I DO know what to do, but of course I didn't choose to do everything that I COULD have done. So, I really AM the stupid one, aren't I?

Just crappy . . . and intentionally obscure. But Tegan and I talked it over tonight and I feel better about it now. That is one of the nice benefits about both of us working in the same place--we have the same work vocabulary, so we can really understand each other when discussing job-related problems.

And, even more important, I put Ruth to bed tonight, and all of that job stuff is far less important that having your adorable baby snuggling up to you in the rocking chair, and desperately trying not to fall asleep. (Every time I suggested to her that I put her in the crib, she vigorously shakes her hair and emphatically says "No" in the cutest little baby voice.

(Sorry for the parental gushing, but it really is better than continuing to vaguely complain about work.)

Anyway, tonight I relax and forget about all bad things. What comes tomorrow is tomorrow's problem.

Today's step count: A suspicious 2934. Did I really more than double yesterday's total or just jiggle my leg around in frustration?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The latest on "Lost"

Placed a brief critique of Lost on "WWYG Omnimedia" but not much to report beyond that. I DID take 1300 steps yesterday, but I didn't do so well with my Gluttonfest moderation . . . damn you chocolate!!!!

There are some other things up--work-wise. It's a project that Shirtless and I have been working on for a while that is coming into fruition. We are excited to see it coming to life.

I can't talk about it really, because to do so would be a violation of the Code Of Business Ethics, and I don't play around with THAT, you know?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

You Blockhead! It's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Grinch that Stole the Night Before Christmas!

Rankin and Bass. Burl Ives.
Linus saying "Lights please."
Schroeder's Giraldi jazz.
"I want to be a dentist." and "He's a friendly Bumble."
Bela Lugosi talking about a "three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich . . . with arsenic sauce."

What do all of these things mean to me? In some small way and definitely in a collective sense, they mean Christmas.

Not the Christmas that Linus speaks of when he asks to bring the house lights down. Not the story of Jesus. That is a separate matter, intertwined within the entire fabric of my memories of childhood Christmas and all of those traditions and rituals that encompass the month of December.

Everyone has some kind of Christmas tradition. For people of a certain age, some of it involves those classic TV animated specials--A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (where the mouse has to help rebuild the town clock to sign for Santa--remember?) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

I watched them all as a kid, every year. I've watched them many times since as I have gotten older. It is a different feeling now, certainly. Watching it alone at my home or trying to get Ariel interested . . . it's not the same. Maybe someday Ariel will appreciate these shows. I know that she likes them--she sings the Rudolph song all the time now and she always laughs at the funny things that Snoopy does, but she insists on calling him "Snoofy."

If I watched these shows with my brothers or my sister, it would be an entirely different experience for me. We would appreciate the humor in Rudolph because we have common memories. They would, I am sure, remind me of how badly the Abominable Snowman terrified me when I was young.

All families have traditions. The one I grew up in certainly did and the one I am growing up into now is creating them. Some are transfers from Tegan's childhood or mine. Some are created new.

I love putting our Christmas tree up because it reminds me of how many times I did it as a kid with my siblings. How we competed to put up one or two ornaments that were special to all of us and how we always made sure that we got to place that one ornament that was seen as ours alone. I look at my family tree now and I see a shared history. So many ornaments given to Tegan over the years by her aunts and uncles. So many that we have collected in recent years from our church ornament parties.

When Christmas eve arrives, I always want to stay up late and then drive around in the quiet of the darkened night, because my family stayed up late and then went to Midnight Mass to celebrate and worship. On the way back to our house, getting sleepy, but also kind of excited about the presents the next day, we would quietly drive through the neighborhoods . . . looking at the lights that decorated people's houses. Maybe some family will drive by our house this year as Christmas approaches.

I don't' know how many people will listen to Ray Conniff's Christmas Album but I always do. Recorded in 1965, it is one of the squarest collections of whitebread Christmas songs you could ever imagine. But I have so many memories of digging that album out of my parents bookcase on Christmas Eve, turning on the turntable, and laughing as I and my brothers and sister made merciless fun of "Here We Come A-Caroling" or "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" or (possibly the worst/funniest of all) a white Gospel version of "Go Tell it on the Mountain." This album is so important to me that I took a cassette copy of it along with me during my only Christmas in Hawaii. (That trip introduced me to the equally-square but wonderful Bing Crosby rendition of "Mele Kalekimaka.")

My experience of Christmas wouldn't be the same without these things. While I see them differently now that I used to, I try to hold onto some of those feelings from when I first had them. I hope my kids can someday look back on Christmas with similar memories.

Monday, December 06, 2004

A very social weekend

(This post is probably typed with sticky fingers, as my company's December "Gluttonfest" is underway. Every day someone brings in any manner of food item for us to gorge on. It's shameful really, but also really delicious. I have done well in avoiding giving into my baser instincts so far today. I hope to remain reasonable in my gluttony--even though that is a contradiction.)

This past weekend was an unusually social one for my family. Normally we go home on Friday, eat, get the kids to bed, Tegan and I watch some TV--usually ST: Enterprise, and then go sleep.
On Saturday's we slouch around in pajamas, watch cartoons, and try to clean parts of the house, begin the weekend's laundry, and (if the weather is nice) get outside and do something memorable and utterly fabulous with the kids.

(The intense desire to ACCOMPLISH great things with the kids is always strongest on weekends. This is a syndrome of modern parents that entrust their children to daycare during the week and might attempt to overcome residual guilt on weekends. Not that I feel guilty about using daycare, because I really don't. I think our kids are better socially adjusted and learn more due to daycare than they would if either Tegan or I were home with them.)

On Sunday, we go to church, continue cleaning, laundry, children activities, etc.

But THIS past weekend was a whole 'nother ballgame. Friday night we met up with another couple with kids Ariel and Ruth's age. We ate dinner out (yummy Greek food) and then went to see all the Christmas lights at the local zoo. The weather was not too cold and Ariel had fun. We got to be outside, get walking exercise, get in the holiday spirit, etc.

On Saturday, Tegan and I got to have fun. We joined up with other friends for a Christmas party and this time, we got a babysitter to look after the kids. THAT was a good time also and a nice opportunity to be adult (as best I can be sometimes) as opposed to being parents.

Yesterday we put some nice Christmas lights outside--no inflatable Santa's or mechanical reindeer--and successfully figured out how to set them up to timers that the previous owners left behind. Now we won't get glares from the other neighbors around us that had already lit up their houses.

(In another aside, we noticed that in our neighborhood there are definite "zones" of Christmas decorations. Some streets are almost completely--or at least half--lit, while some others are almost completely dark. Is that the Jewish part of our neighborhood?)

So, we had an enjoyable weekend, but last night as the kids' bedtimes approached, Tegan and I were both zombies, sitting down while the kids cavorted around us.

Being socially active can be rewarding, but it can also be exhausting.

Friday, December 03, 2004

A new Omnimedia post

Is anyone reading "WWYG Omnimedia?"

Do you find it useful, interesting? I would appreciate a bit of feedback when you have the time.

And for those of you who are members of Omnimedia, please post a review of a recent movie, or something that you want to share. I know that Spec has his own page, so I don't want to discourage what he is putting on there, nor do I want Flipper to stop doing her thing, or Lulu hers.

But, some other of you regular readers don't have their own blog, so feel free to take advantage of this one.

My most recent addition is here and it involves someone else's opinions and fears regarding Lost. (Twin Peaks fans might feel the anxiety.)

Morning difficulties

Few things can spin a morning out of control and totally sap your spirits like young children in a bad mood.

unfortunately, Tegan and I were on the receiving end of one of these ill-timed fits today.

Lately Ariel and Ruth have been holding onto a coughed that they just can't get rid of. It usually strikes at night and it makes it difficult for them to go down for sleep or it wakes them up at inconvenient hours of the morning.

But last night, Ruth slept very well (much better than the night before). When I came back upstairs from eating my bowl of cereal, I heard her calling out for someone. Her default request is usually for Mommy, especially since she often calls me Mommy as well.
I sometimes don't know how to take that--either I do a pretty good job of parenting, so that she doesn't distinguish (which I know isn't really true) or it is another example of rule 7B (sorry--that's a work joke).

Anyway, I went in there to pick Ruth up and everything was fine at first. I was picking out an outfit for her to wear and I laid her down on the changing pad to begin taking off her pajamas and the diaper. Complicating the issue was the fact that Ruth was continuing to hold onto a blanket, a stuffed Pooh Bear doll and a stuffed Eeyore doll. So, I got Eeyore away from her so I could negotiate the pj zipper.

She wasn't happy about THAT, and she let me know quickly. But I still couldn't successfully get the pjs off. So, next I took the blanket. This made her madder and now Ruth is starting to twist this way and that to get off of the changing pad to get to her items that I took away. Needless to say, this made taking the diaper off rather complicated.

By now she is in full wailing mode, clearly pissed off at me. I backtrack a bit and return the blanket to her, but it is FAR too late for any reconciliation on my part.

Tegan appears, after hearing the wailing (along with several of our neighbors, maybe.) She takes over, hoping a change of parent (and the insertion of Mommy) might soothe things. But even that won't work. I retreat to get Sarah out of bed and in some clothes, but the wailing continues, as it did for just about the entire rest of the morning's preparations and most of the drive to the daycare.

But its not all bad. I've got great little girls who are very intelligent, happy (mostly), spectacularly blessed with so many things. Quickly vent on the negative and then resume focusing on the positive.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Hell NO I don't want fries with that!

(Click on the post title to go to the film's website.)

So, tonight I settled down after dinner and getting Ruth to bed. I had a beer and a small (snack size) bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. I warmed up the DVD and popped in Lulu's copy of Super Size Me, a film that I have been really wanting to watch for a while now and she graciously lent to me.

Dude . . .

I had previously seen interviews with film-maker and guinea pig Morgan Spurlock. So I knew the basic premise of the movie:
  • Morgan sets out to eat nothing but food from McDonald's for 30 days.
  • He will eat everything on the menu at least once and will only Super Size if the employee asks him.
  • He gets a full physical and dietary advice from three doctors before he starts out and has weekly weigh-ins and regular blood tests, etc.

None of the doctors could foresee what would occur--I won't get into all of the details because it is better if you see it for yourself and much of it went by quickly so I can't remember it all, but suffice it to say--DON'T EVER CONSIDER EATING LIKE THIS!!

The film itself is extremely effective and Spurlock does a great job. I wasn't prepared for how personable and funny he is. It helps that he has no shame and will discuss anything, including how this diet negatively affected his sex life--even though his girlfriend (the good soldier Vegan, who remained concerned about this entire affair) insisted that the experience remained good even if he got tired faster.

One of the best moments--about day 2, I think--he eats a Double Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese and acquiesces on the request to Super Size. The 1/2 lb. of french fries (!) is just massive as well as the huge soda. It takes him about 30 minutes to eat this meal. I swear he got the meat sweats half way through--and then he threw it all up when he was done.

Clearly, his healthy stomach wasn't ready to accept all that stuff quite yet.

Spurlock targets McDonald's but makes sure that he implicates all of the fast food places equally, along with the food lobbyists of all shapes and sizes that keep whatever government radicals that might hope to do something about this in check. He cautions that McDonald's is targeting children and programming consumers. He also places equal responsibility on everyone (including me) that doesn't have the will power to resist the Big Mac attack and then wonders why they aren't as healthy or as slim as they might want to be.

The film is excellent, provocative, thought-provoking, VERY funny, educational and motivational.

Trust me, I am gonna remember stuff from this film the next time I want to eat at a fast food joint.

It'll be worth millions someday

This is another picture from my incredibly artistic daughter Ariel.

As you can tell, this is a green, spotted, underwater dragon. It is determined to breathe its toxic, highly flammable breath all over the fish of this underwater kingdom.
Bravely confronting this green dragon is either a highly anthropomorphic fish or a ballerina with gills.
And that thing down below is either a Christmas tree or a strangely-shaped spongiform plant. Any further interpretations are welcomed.