Saturday, November 29, 2008

God Bless the DVR

Just to show my readers that all this time out of work hasn't been a waste, I've recently mastered Donnie Wahlberg's rap from Dirty Dancing (track 7 of The Block)

With her itty-bitty waist and a pretty pretty face
and the leanest,meanest, maddest, baddest body
didn't have no time to waste, she was looking for a taste
yeah, and she was wanting me to party


Speaking of Donnie, man he ticked me off on the American Music Awards. His voice was gone. Nevermind that Joe's was strong, or that Jordan's voice kicked ass as always (although he looked tired) - that rough patch of Donnie's is what I imagine most people will remember.

Dude, you've been doing this for twenty-five years. If you're voice isn't there, as it sometimes won't be after three months on the road, then work the song around the problem. Don't just push ahead and risk ruining the song.

As a longtime fan of Donnie my sister C took umbrage to my protest, and then - get this - made fun of me by saying 'Oh, what are you going to do about it? Go on your blog and write 'my sister C' made me mad?'.

Yes, yes as a matter fact I will.

Lisa rated it an average performance but noted an increase in The Block sales in the hour after it played.

[You should see the inside of our van when NKOTB's on the radio, or when the CD is playing. At times I'll kill the volume just to hear the kids chime in with spot-on lyrics and background vocals, and they'll even imitate some of the hand moves. It must look dang strange if you're in the car next to us at a red light]

[Single is getting a lot of airtime here, with interest in it increasing organically. Even Chris' baby-daddy has acknowledged liking the song now]

BTW, my DVR automatically deleted the VHI NKOTB footage from September. If anyone has a copy, drop me a line.

* * * *

As long as we're discussing TV:

fringe Pictures, Images and Photos

One of the few new network shows I've taken a shine to is Fringe, although unlike my unequivocal love of Lost I think of Fringe as a guilty pleasure. The mad Doc is great, as is Dawson's Creek guy (no Wikipedia look-ups for this post, no siree) but . . .

I think they try a little hard to stretch the limits of 'fringe' science each time. Eventually the gimmick will wear off and it won't be pretty. Plus the actress that plays the main lead drags the show down. She mopes around looking perplexed and troubled at all times, like a toned-down female Shatner, and sometimes her Australian accent pops through. When the accent stays put, it's just as bad; a generic, bland telemarketer version of American speech.

My recommendation: have her kidnapped by the big-bad corporation (all companies are bad, dontcha know) and replace her with a more capable actress.

Another new guilty pleasure of mine is The Dish, Style Network's version of Talk Soup, starring Danielle Fischel of Boy Meets World, who turns out to be quite funny.

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Lot's of HGTV still in the rotation here, and I've developed a fondness for Trading Spaces. Prior to this year my only exposure to the show was an episode starring the daughter of my then-boss, but I've grown to appreciate it, ESPECIALLY a whack-job Hildy episode. I still say they intentionally mess with people's rooms for the inherent drama, but it's always fun to watch a train wreck in progress.

National Geographic would still be my favorite channel if it wasn't for their new found fondness for shows about prisons, both here and abroad. I get it folks. If you smuggle heroin out of Turkey bad things will happen to you and your (formerly) private regions during 25 years in a Turkish hell-hole. Why is this on TV twice a day, and why is it remotely worthy of NatGeo?

On the subject of horrors that are substantially less troubling, we've taken a shine to VHI's Scream Queens, in which contestants engage in acting competitions for a role in Saw VI.

It's fun, it's interesting, at times it's funny, and it's a (tiny) look into the making of a film. It also has the advantage of showcasing Lindsay Felton.

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Although a little short for my taste, she has many of the typical DannyGirl ideals: short hair (a must), brunette, smart, a cute nose, curvy, capable, and . . oh. Dangit. It slips my mind. What's that other attribute?

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I'm sure I'll remember eventually ;)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2008 Milwaukee Holiday Parade

How's this from the 'Dan is very predictable' department?

I was about to write an intro sadly reporting that unlike last year, this past weekend I just didn't feel like attending the annual Holiday Parade. Because, as you know, I'm such a big fan of parades and family get-together's in the freezing cold.

The truth, however, will not stay hidden. To quote the 2007 post: Today Lisa dragged me along on a family trip to watch the annual Holiday parade downtown. It was just about the last thing I wanted to do after a long week of work

Ha!

This year, as a matter of fact, I *did* wiggle out of going to the parade, and all it took was a bad runny nose from Lump and a persistent cough by LuLu. Someone had to stay behind to take care of them, right?

Here's what I missed:

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That's YaYa, Lisa, Smiley, and my niece KayKay.

It was cold enough to warrant the blankets, and chemical hand warmers. Still, I'm pretty sure these young ladies had it worse:

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The family went to the parade along with some friends from school.

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There were the usual hot air balloons, marching bands, and such. That's the federal building in the background, a structure I've always found distinctive and beautiful.

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They had a good time, but the kids complained about the lack of candy that was, er, wasn't thrown out over the parade route.

You'll note the lack of photos of the man of the hour, Santa himself. Again folks, don't blame me. I wasn't there taking pictures. I was much, much too busy sitting on my couch in a warm house regretting missing the parade to have left instructions on the photography ;)

Stuck

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Stuck
is a 2007 film starring Mena Suvari as a young nurses aide who hits a homeless man (played by Stephen Rea) while driving home high. The man is stuck in her windshield, but rather than report the accident or get him help she parks the car in her garage and waits for him to die.

While he struggles to free himself from his excruciating prison she has sex with her boyfriend, goes to work, and otherwise tries to maintain the illusion of a normal day.

The film is loosely based on the death of Gregory Biggs, who faced the same horrible fate.

Initially, the filmmakers try hard to frame her actions as those of a good person who fails herself when confronted by a difficult situation, rather than as an immoral/amoral and heartless killer. She's seen taking great care with an elderly patient and is held up as a symbol of responsibility in her profession.

That buildup falls flat quickly once the hit-and-run takes place. This is not a fender bender, or even the vaguely more excusable cover-up of a fatal hit and run; this is the slow and painful death of a man while you stand around and watch.

The change is abrupt but complete, and soon enough more than one person is on the moral hook, from her boyfriend to the neighbors who ignore the evidence in front of them.

Lisa found the actions mystifying and a little unrealistic. As for myself, I believe a large chunk of humanity holds idiocy and immorality close to their heart. So when a woman proceeds to beat a critically injured man and declare it is 'his fault', well, it's sadly not so unbelievable.

One thing about the film's production disturbed me. After seeing the film I saw the trailer and was surprised to see it edited to make it appear to be a comedy. Upon hitting the internet I saw several references to it as a 'dark comedy' or 'satire'. I found it nothing of the sort while watching it. Maybe I'm too dumb and it sailed over my head, or the studio had trouble marketing it properly, or whatever, but a comedy . . no, I don't think so.

3.0 out of 4

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Titanic at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Some time ago I wrote about YaYa's fascination with Titanic, both the ship and the movie. It's a passion both Lisa and I share and I'm glad YaYa's kept up her interest in it.

As a stroke of good fortune her interest coincided with the arrival of a major Titanic exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. The exhibit features real artifacts from the wreck, a large mock up of the iceberg that doomed her, full room recreations of passenger cabins, and a 3000 pound section of the actual hull.

Lisa and I want to go, but with current finances . . .luckily YaYa's Godfather had already announced he'd take her as a birthday gift.

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When you arrive you are given a boarding pass and assume the identity of an actual passenger.

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The trio spent all day at the exhibit and the museum, and I was pleased the follow-up reports indicated good and friendly behavior on behalf of my first born. Her Godfather's a good guy and I'm glad they get along.

They were all a tad, well, not disappointed in but not overjoyed with the exhibit. Her Godfather and his wife have seen a major Titanic exhibit in Florida, so take that into account, but YaYa left with some complaints of her own.

Some advertising - the website included - stated that perfume samples recovered from the wreck would be at the museum. If they were, they didn't see them, and she'd been looking forward to it. They also commented on the nickel-and-dime aspect of the show. Museum admission, exhibit admission, $6 for a audio tour, separate charges for the accompanying shows, and a slightly macabre gift shop that offered pieces of the ship's coal supply incorporated into fashion jewelry; well that all left a slightly mercenary taste in their mouth.

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At the end you are told whether or not your persona survived. YaYa, as pediatrician Alice Leader, lived. While her Godfather's wife survived, he himself was not so lucky. As a second class passenger he perished; but as a priest he went down a hero, helping others into lifeboats and offering absolution to the doomed.

One last thing: her Godfather bought her a teddy bear dressed as the ship's captain.
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YaYa named him Captain Tit - pronounced like it looks - 'short for Titanic'. We have since convinced her to change the name :)

Just a mish-mash of gloom

You'll have to forgive the (relative) shortage of posts. I have no less than 20 in the 'draft' folder, but it's hard to post about cheerful or even ordinary events when you're down in the dumps.

Not much has gone right lately. Argh, not true. Take away the job situation and it's no worse/no better than a 'normal' week, but perspective is everything, and mine is dark right now.

* My cell phone was dropped in the sink last night, rendering it useless, and althought it was replaced today at no charge (by renewing the contract) none of my contact numbers could be recovered. I usually keep copies of the data off-phone, but this time . . . what can I say, I got lazy.

* Smiley has yet another ear infection. It's horribly par for the course for him, so much so that he doesn't even complain about them anymore. Here again perspective is everything, because the doc says the number of infections is greatly reduced in the last year, but my mind says the opposite.

* A friend of mine came into town with news that his wife had moved out but left their dog, and while he was at my house he received word that he was going to be laid off this weekend. Add a beer into the mix and you have a country song.

Enough of the negative. Wednesday's interview called back and wants to meet with me next week. It sounds promising, so I'll wait with fingers crossed. I have an interview with a different company downtown this Friday.

YaYa's taken to reading this blog, which is good and bad. It means I'll have to censor the blog more - not for language, but for content like Xmas gifts and whatnot - and that sucks. On Saturday I established a seperate Blogger account for her and set up her own blog, although I was careful to restrict it to invited readers only. Hopefully that'll take her attention off Slapinions.

Otherwise . . . well, I'll try to get the gumption to post later and clear out that 'draft' folder.

Talk to you then,

Dan

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Shoes

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While I realize 'Crocs' and their derivatives are surely the platform shoes of this decade, I happened to enjoy the hell out of a pair of knockoffs Lisa bought me on our 4th of July trip.

* * * * *

Oh, and a miserable night of football for me tonight, with Texas Tech swallowed whole by Oklahoma. I was SO looking forward to watching a good game - and a TT win.

I still don't know how my Badgers fared, and as I write I'm in the 4th quarter of the rebroadcast, with Wisconsin on the short end.

Have I mentioned I love Big Ten sports?

* * *

I watched a lot of the WIAA High School Championship games in a few divisions, culminating in Homestead's victory over Arrowhead in Division I. Congrats to them.

I also watched a bit of the girls high school volleyball championship. In a very hard fought, very well played match #9 ranked Kenosha Tremper beat my old hometeam (#1 ranked Pius XI)to take the crown.

** * *

Jesus I need a job. Girl's volleyball? What's next, a soap opera addiction?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Just an update

It was an exhausting day and a bitter end to the week.

I've been going to Mass every morning, not so much to seek solace or ask for help, but because it does help 'center' me. If I didn't so thoroughly enjoy sinning I'd consider being a deacon, something I wanted to pursue years ago.

Frankly the Mass also helps kill the awkward hour between the time the kids go to school and the start of the business day.

Friday I missed it because LuLu forgot her cold lunch and I had to double-back to go get it. No biggie, but the start of the downward slope. Afterwards I went to pick up my final paycheck and some drama ensued, starting with the fact that I was told I didn't have a check (B.S). Then the story changed to say that it was there but being held, pending me teaching them some things they'd failed to ask about (such as the name of a service tech) when I was laid off.

Nuh-uh. You wanted to know how to do X or Y or Z, then ya shoulda thought of it before you got rid of 97% of the staff.

I got angry but stayed civil. I got my check.

Oh, I never did mention that 97% number did I? It's only mild hyperbole, as just two of the primary staff members that started the month remain. The rest have been replaced by members of the family that now owns the place or not replaced at all. I'll leave it at this. While I was there I saw customers wait about as long as I've ever seen someone wait there, and there were people in line behind them. Replace me and the rest of management all you want, but at the base level it's all about customer service; they should have left the people who were paid to smile and woo in place.

While this was all going on I got a call about my insurance. You may remember my (non-employer) insurance was cancelled because a payment was received late, or at least reported as such, and another was 'never received' (although for a check that was never received they sure cashed it easily enough).

Well earlier this week they acknowledged that all payments were in place and that the 'late' one was in fact on time, but it's still a brouhaha to get it back in place, which means I've gone without medicine since my prescription ran out on the 3rd. I presume the call today was to tell me yea or nay on getting it back up and running, but I had to put off the call to debate the owner's nephew.

I never managed the rep on the phone again.

On the way out of the parking lot I hit a large pothole -one of many fix-it projects the budget never had room for - and knocked a stabilizer bar loose.

Sweet.

Later I helped Lisa's Aunt purchase and install a large TV and went to the grocery store. Be still my heart.

Anyhow, on the job front:

Two interviews this week. The one on Wednesday was OK. I don't think I excelled or tanked, so any future there is strictly in the eyes of the interviewer. Thursday I had a second phone interview with a large company and was told I would move on to a face-to-face interview and told to prep for the long haul. From what she said, it could be a 6-8 interview process, assuming I make it that far, and there is typically a minimum of 4-6 interviews.

The weird part (and tell me if this is in fact common) was that on the last interview they require you to bring your spouse along to 'answer their [the spouses] questions' and see if I'd/we'd be a good fit for the 'corporate culture'.

Well hells bells, how very Stefford Wives., or am I wrong?

My main concern with the position would be going through all this and then getting turned down because of a credit rating. Mine is just fine to get a mortgage/car loan, etc, but it isn't Clorox clean, and that could be a deal breaker.

I'd never thought of that until one of Lisa's old friends brought it up. She was a friend eleven long years ago and then left our lives after a horrible bit of drama, but out of the blue she and Lisa reconnected this past week. I'm not saying I'm a great fan of this; as Bucko pointed out in a comment recently, I tend to find myself in adventures quite often enough as it is, and I was content to leave well enough alone. (adventure, as Louis L'Amour said, is just another word for 'trouble')

But lo and behold this woman is now a corporate recruiter and she mentioned that she herself had failed to get a job because of her credit rating (which is lower than mine, but still).

Her position would seem fortuitous for me, but not so; she's a recruiter for the legal field, which doesn't help me at all.

So I give it until midweek. At that point, barring a firm job offer, I hit the grunt path and get whatever gig I can to make ends meat (or is it ends meet?) while the longwinded professional search continues.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Futures Past



For some reason I've never been a fan of short stories. I guess it boils down to liking a little more character exploration, a little more 'long and winding road'of storyline than is typically possible in under 10,000 words.

On the other hand, I love time travel stories. Movies, TV, print; it doesn't matter, I enjoy them all. When I saw a copy of the time travel story collection Futures Past, my love for the genre outweighed my dislike of the format. I couldn't pass it up.

Overall it's an excellent compliation. Not every story met with my undying affection, as some reeked of cliche or a pseudo-literary bent, but most were very enjoyable. A few met with high approval indeed, and I feel them worthy of mention here.

The Only Game in Town by Poul Anderson is a tale of the Time Patrol, a temporal police force that, in this case, is sent to make sure a Mongolian expedition to the as yet-undiscovered Americas meets with a bad end. An excellent read and one that inspired me to pick up more of Anderson's work.

Playing the Game by Jack Dann and Garner Dozois, the editors of the book, is a short tale about a boy who accidentally shifts his existence into a parellel world, and tries, time and again, to right his error.

What Rough Beast a bittersweet tale by Damon Knight - a man has the power to heal others of all ills, one cell at a time. It's more of a curse than a blessing, and he searches time for an era where he can reside in peace

Radiant Doors
by Michael Swanwick - a fierce story of an exodus from the future into the present, as a future govenment makes the Nazi horrors look tame.

The Hotel at Harlan's Landing by Kage Baker - more of a horror story than time travel, it tells the story of a battle between angels in a waterfront tavern

Mozart in Mirrorshades by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner. I really enjoyed this one. In the future companies openly raid 'alternate' histories, destroying the 'present' cultures as they loot the era for all its worth. In one such world a young lad named Mozart has his own agenda . . .

Under Siege
by George RR Martin. This story concerns a post-nucleaur future that sends folks back in time - via a unique method - to alter the course of history

A very enjoyable book - pick it up if you see a copy.

* * * *

The book inspired me to rent Time Tunnel, the 1960's sci-fi TV show. Awful stuff. Aside from everything else, the very first episode put me off my leaping onto the Titanic. All the world and all of time and you just happen to wind up on a White Star liner in the Atlantic. Lame.

1 star out of 4.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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One of the best memories I have with my father is going to see Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was seven. My parents had already seen it and Dad had left the theater knowing I'd love the film.

We were running late the night we saw it together (arriving just as Indy was brushing off the tarantulas) and as I walked through the backyard on the way out I struggled, as I had all day, to remember the character's name.

"What's this guy's name again?" I asked.

"Indiana Jones," my Dad said, and I scoffed at the silly moniker.

But after we left the theater later that night there was no way, NO WAY I would ever forget Indy's name again. Wow.

I wasn't looking to repeat history with my seven year old YaYa, but she'd heard the story and wanted to see Crystal Skull with me. I rented it and we watched it together recently. I'm a bit sorry we did, as I think it was only a so-so way to introduce a youngin' to the wonder of Indiana Jones.

I'm sure you've heard plenty about the film, good and bad, and I know some folks are quick to defend it by bashing naysayers and writing them off as the same kind of people who ripped the Star Wars prequels.

Well, yeah. After Empire, the SW franchise went to hell. Arguing otherwise doesn't change the facts. Here's another bit of truth: this Indy movie was a mess.

If you don't think about it too hard the plot and the storylines seem only vaguely blurry. If you ponder it for a second, it seems like a dozen ideas were tossed together with very little glue to hold them together, other than a vague tip of the hat to the Indy format.

The religious motifs of the first three films are abandoned here for a UFO conspiracy. Yes, I know UFO's are perfectly in tune with the film's time period (1957). So what? All three of the first films had fantastic elements tied together by the human search for a Higher Power, a deity - mankind's oldest desire. Here the 'higher power' is a very physical, albeit otherworldly set of beings. That takes something away from the film for me.

SPOILERS

Anyone who failed to discern Mutt's parentage evidently never saw a standard issue Movie of the Week, the chase scene was so long and boring it seemed like a joke, not to mention the lame Tarzan ripoff, and large parts of the movie were so over-the-top campy it reeked of Temple of Doom.

1. How do scores of heavily accented Russians manage to wander around McCarthy's America?

2. Why is Indy so cavalier about destroying a perfectly preserved 500 year old corpse?

3. How do any of the events of the movie restore the Dean and Indy to their positions? The whole reason for their dismissal was his association with a traitor. That's still true, and there's no physical proof Indy found anything in the jungle.

4. Speaking of traitors, why does Mac just give up his life so easily in the end?

5. No one else is put off by the idea of Indy basically being a tool of the government for 16, 17 years by that point? What happened to the independent (but patriotic) man who worked for the government only with hesitancy?

6. What happened to the Russian babe? I get that her mind melted, sure, but what a rehash of the end of Raiders.

END OF SPOILERS

I'm going to hear about this one, but I think Harrison Ford looked too damn old to be doing this sctick. Sure, he's in fine shape for his age, and I understand that it's possible to look past a birth date (I'd get in Betty White's Depends if I could, you betcha) but no way Indy's still doing this dance. Uh uh.

Cool parts? Sure. I enjoyed large chunks of the movie (the 'part-time' scene was grand) and it was a fun movie to watch But I think if it didn't have Indiana Jones in the title you're looking at a straight to DVD release, not a blockbuster.

As entertainment 2.8 out of 4. As an Indy flick, 2.5 out of 4. I rank it third best in the franchise, behind Raiders and Crusade.

Fantasy Football - the misery continues

Yup. 3-7. 9th place in a ten team league.

I suck.

At least this past week I lost to the league leader 'Juicy Beavers'.

SlapJacks


Pos Player Actual
QB Peyton Manning
(Ind - QB) 20.77
WR Braylon Edwards
(Cle - WR) 10.40
WR Hines Ward
(Pit - WR) 12.40
WR Santana Moss
(Was - WR) 2.90
RB Jamal Lewis
(Cle - RB) 6.50
RB Derrick Ward
(NYG - RB) 9.50
TE Zach Miller
(Oak - TE) 6.70
K David Akers
(Phi - K) 8.00
DEF Indianapolis
(Ind - DEF) 6.00
Total 83.17

VS. Juicy Beavers


QB Kurt Warner
(Ari - QB) 16.87
WR Roddy White
(Atl - WR) 10.20
WR Brandon Marshall
(Den - WR) 8.90
WR Reggie Wayne
(Ind - WR) 9.00
RB Chris Johnson
(Ten - RB) 8.80
RB Steve Slaton
(Hou - RB) 25.60
TE Dallas Clark
(Ind - TE) 4.40
K Stephen Gostkowski
(NE - K) 13.00
DEF New York
(NYG - DEF) 26.50
Total 123.27

* * * *
For the record, I think the OT scenarios in the NFL suck. Sudden death is stupid, ties are stupid. Play a quarter free-for-all, and if at the end you're still tied then give both teams a single down to drive in a TD from the 1 yard line. No score after all that, then go ahead and declare a tie.

* * * *
Regarding the disputed SD-Pit game (which I did watch): give me a break. The only people upset with the outcome are gamblers, and I'm sick of it. I thought it was pretty classless (although legal) to run in the TD in the first place when the game was over and it meant nothing.

Then to call it a TD, reverse it, announce you think you were wrong by reversing it, and then, THEN follow up with a notion to increase instant replay even more as a result, well that's just smarmy.

Did they or did they not cover the spread SHOULD NEVER BE A CONCERN, VOCALIZED OR INTERNALIZED, OF ANY NFL OFFICIAL ON THE FIELD OR BEHIND A MAHOGANY DESK.

* * *

Aaron Rodgers looked solid this weekend. Here's hoping for more of the same next week.

* * * *
'Wide right' again in Buffalo. What a crappy game. Cleveland - Buffalo is a good reason why the NFL should retain the power to alter the schedule in-season to ensure marquee matchups for their big timeslots.

Buncha random pics

Forgive me if I've posted these before, but I think this is their original 'publication'.

Here's LuLu and YaYa on the first day of the 2008-2009 school year.

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And two pictures of Smiley from a 'men only' haircutting salon I took him and his cousin too prior to the start of the school year.

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At a pool this summer

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My niece and Lump

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Lu and YaYa with warpaint on

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Lu on her bike

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and finally, the patented Nekked baby

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Climbing a tree, with unexpected results

The day of the trip to Benihana's YaYa climbed a tree in the park. No biggie, she's done it before.

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This time, however, I felt a physical urge, a yearning, to climb one myself. A thousand warning klaxons, all built over the last 34 years to contain and restrict me to what is safe and 'acceptable', rose to scare me off. And they worked. I backed off.

But then I thought on just how often, and it is often, that I found myself in that scenario. Not tree climbing, obviously, but 'not' doing something innocuous that every fiber of my being - save one or two stray Stick in the Mud genes - would like to do.

Big things, like the Nirvana concert I skipped out of sheer . . whatever the hell that rationale was in '93.

Small things, like resisting the urge for a last second dash to the video store before closing.

And things in between - like the tree climbing.

Somewhere inside my head I said 'F it' and started up the trunk. In a few seconds I was ten feet and a few limbs up in the air (I am, as I've mentioned, spry for a large man).

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I couldn't believe how easy it was, frankly, how easy it *usually* is for my body to do as my mind instructs, when given the rare opportunity.

All this led to a bit of an internal policy change, one that would soon lead to a positive milestone for my girls in the weeks to come . .

More later . . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two, count 'em TWO, blog awards :)

I have been honored by two different blogs in recent days. First, Ken of Bucko's World nominated me for a Marie Antoinette A Real Person, A Real Award badge.

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He wrote
"Dan (a.k.a. Slapinions, can not get much more real than this :o)"
and I thank him kindly.

Next up was Bernadette who nominated me for a Superior Scribbler Award.

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She wrote:
3. Slapinions - Have to throw a little testosterone into the mix before flowers and kittens start sprouting up on this entry! Dan is a mid-west father of four who always brings that essential male perspective to child rearing. Always good for a laugh and he regularly posts book and movie reviews. I can't write about him without mentioning our common bonds over football, I even like the guy so much I cut him slack for being a Pack fan ;) Dan is also an excellent writer, the kind that can actually get paid for it.


Three things about Bernie: one, for some reason her blog won't let me even advance to the 'leave a comment' section (AOL problem?), so excuse the lack of a 'thank you' there. Two, 'quarterlifecrysis' was one of the more imaginative blog titles out there and I miss it (or am I remembering wrong?). And three she left a hell of a well-written comment here earlier this week on the evolution post.

* * * *

Now I'm going to BLATANTLY CHEAT and not pay the awards forward. I'm supposed to gather together a list of blogs I feel are worthy of the honor and list them here, BUT:

1. I'm as good with memes as I am with portion control.

2. I'm more of a lurker than a commenter, so these things always look like I'm attempting damage control for 'not visiting'.

3. Someone always gets p.o'd at their exclusion

4. No other blog is as good as mine, so really, it'd just be watering down the value of the award. I kid, I kid.

I say this: take a look at the blogs I have listed on the sidebar, both the ones I inputted and the list of 'followers'. You'll find plenty of worthy writing there. Feel free to skip me and get the ball rolling yourself.

And Ken/Bernie - if this offends you then give me a holler and I'll pull the awards. The honor, as they say, was simply in the nomination :)

Ghost Rider of the South Side

Tuesday's are dance night, with the three oldest kids and Lisa all taking classes out in Brookfield. Normally Lisa's Mom helps out with the transportation but she was sick today and so I came out of the bullpen to save the day.

Unfortunately, my Mom called to say she needed a ride to Urgent Care, having let a tooth infection spread to the point where her visiting nurse feared it would go after her heart. WTF? So my sister K went to the classes with Lisa to keep an eye on the kids while I drove my Mom.

It was actually a pretty good time, aside from all the infection and schtuff. Rare is the conversation with my Mom that isn't a monologue of her day or a ratcheted-down argument, but it happened tonight. No moaning and groaning about her ills - ironic, considering why we were together - and actual give and take.

[When we put our minds to it it was surprising how much of my preschool we could remember, from the sliver I got on the playset and the time I tried rubbing two sticks together to see if it would start a fire, to the upstairs area for 'older' kids and the infamous crush I had on Christy, a young blond teacher that set my heart a'flutter.]

Afterwards I went on a few errands on her behalf and after listening to her marvel at all the 'new stores around', and realizing she spends most of her days inside her bedroom, I decided to take her with me out to Brookfield to pick up the kids.

I guess she enjoyed it, because by the end of the ride she asked me if I'd take her along the next time I would go to the bookstore. So, cool beans and a nice evening with her.

* * * *

On the way home an odd event. My sister C was in the car hitching a ride home when an Alero (sp?) pulled up alongside of my van. It was making an awful noise, part putt-putt, part groan, part the sound of metal tearing. It was unique, I'll give it that.

Eventually the Alero pulled ahead when I was stuck at a light. When I was through the intersection he was about two blocks ahead (this was between 27th and 20th on Oklahoma).

And then, in a flash, the underside of his car was on fire. I do not mean it was sparking or smoking or anything of the kind; I mean it was full on on-fire, with smoke billowing out and flames visible even from that distance. Not a fireball, (let's keep this in perspective) but inevitably well on its way to becoming a burnt-out shell.

The cars around him all pulled to the side of the road. Only he kept going. And going. And going, seemingly oblivious to the fire. I thought about calling 911 but saw another driver bring his phone to his ear. The yahoo was still driving the speed limit, right down the center of the lane as the flames got worse.

"He's going to burn alive," my sister said. "Oh my God, he's actually going to burn."

At which point the kids reacted with terror and screaming. So I floored it, bringing the van up to sixty and laying on the horn. We pulled aside and rolled down the window, screaming 'Fire!' and gesturing to the ground. The driver, a young Hispanic man, continued to bounce merrily to whatever tune was on his radio. When he did see us he reacted in anger, and for a split second I thought 'This moron wants to fight'.

It didn't get that far. Instead he took the next turn without slowing his Ghost Rider self, squealing his tires and hitting the gas. The flames grew larger, but the hell with him. I'd done my part. If he was still truly oblivious to it, then his mind is someplace I'd rather not visit.

It was a good few minutes before the kids calmed down - as I write this YaYa just came downstairs crying and asked to sleep on the couch - and I had to put off questions about what 'Burn alive' means. Bad slip of the tongue there Aunt C.

I told the kids what I believe the truth, however. That somewhere a block or two down the kid recognized what was going on, pulled over, and ditched the car. It'll go down in the books as one more lackadaisical car fire, he'll ride the bus tomorrow, and all will be well with the universe.

* * * * * *

More juicy news from work er, ex-work. Details Friday, after I pick up my final paycheck and the hounds are loosed upon the moor;)

Just a brief Update

It's been an odd few days. Cliche/sexist as it may be, it's true that a man seems defined largely by his job. I am, at times, at a loss as to how to describe myself since the layoff.

Case in point: I ran into my *pre-school* teacher for the first time in 30 years Saturday. She recognized my unusual name and asked me what I 'do' for a living. Uh, yeah, uh, about that . . . I'm kinda between gigs right now. Where the heck was she a week ago?

[true admission: sometimes I think I have largely useless flashes of premonition. The night before, while submitting a resume, a security question asked for the name of my first teacher. Unable to recall the name of my kindergarten teacher [Sr. Pat] I thought back to pre-school and listed 'Penny'. Twelve hours later I saw her for the first time since 1978. That happens to me more often than you'd think.]

[2nd sidenote, this time from the small world department: she works as a teacher at a nearby school and knows our friend Chris' kids]

On the subject of jobs, there's been some progress but I'll not jinx myself by writing about the news. I will say this much - in addition to tomorrow's opportunity I've also lined up an interview for Thursday.

The Journal-Sentinel, btw, has written to say they've accepted one of my columns and will publish it prior to December 19th.

* * *

On a very sweet note, some of my old employees/co-workers are getting together for drinks Wednesday and sent me an invite. :) Lisa works that night, so I'm not sure I can pull it off, but it's a grand gesture and much appreciated.

* * * *

As for the kids: report cards for both girls, including a surprisingly positive one for YaYa. We'd assumed, based on some homework, that she was struggling. The opposite appears to be true. On Saturday she also passed her Red Cross Level One swim test with 'excellent' marks, falling short only in the backstroke.

Lu's report card was more pedestrian, but in the conference the teacher said she'd lowballed the report card and that LuLu was doing great.

The next day Lu was in the kitchen and hit the back of her head against the table as she tumbled from a chair. It bled a decent amount, as scalp cuts are prone to do, and to be safe I took her to the ER for stiches, but none were required. Good thing it happened when I had company over, or I'd have been stuck taking all four kids along with me (Lisa was atwork) instead of leaving the others behind with the makeshift babysitter.

The part that ticked her off the most? The nurses messed up her ponytails while examining the cut. She glared at them until they got the hint and offered to redo both 'tails.

Smiley had a '50's party to celebrate the 50th school day of the year and wore a white T-shirt and cuffed jeans. He had a blast.

The Lump is just darn adorable, and fully mobile, getting up the stairs to the bedrooms with ease. I love skinny bald babies :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Some people get a tatoo . . .

Some people, when they encounter an unexpected change in their life, deal with it by getting a tattoo, having an affair, finding Jesus, or in any number of ways.

Me? I shaved my goatee.

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I'd promised Lisa, oh so many years ago, that I'd consent to shaving it off once every five years. I did it for our wedding, and once around the turn of the century. By my reckoning I was a few years past due and I figured, "What the hell."

I disappeared into the basement bathroom and reappeared with the sudden recollection that the kids' dimpled chins come via my genes.

The kids reacted to the 'new' me with laughter. LuLu fought off her giggles long enough to say 'You're ugly!" (charming girl). YaYa, being a little more couth, said she prefers it this way. Smiley doesn't seem to care but found it funny, and Lump looked confused for a minute before heaving up her shoulders and thinking 'Hey, I'm one. Everything is confusing. Move along.'

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I'm not saying I 'hate' my cleanshaven face, but it's been a shock. You'd think a 6'2" 350# man would have known he had a double chin, but I always assumed it was an shadow cast by the beard ;)

Seriously though, I do have girly lips and when I smile I look, Honest to God, like the bleepin' Joker, which is disconcerting to the residents of Gotham.

My skin reacted horribly, not having seen the light of day nor the touch of a razor for nearly a decade, but that'll pass if I keep up the look.

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What did Lisa say? She was shocked. She said I looked nice, but that she prefers the goatee.

Will I keep it up? Who knows. We'll wait and see.


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