Thursday, April 30, 2009

Quote of the Day

While we were riding home from school YaYa announced she has a new crush, and said the boy wanted to meet me.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I told him all about you. He's just as gross as you are so he thinks you're cool. He even picks his nose like you do!"

LuLu chimed in with skepticism. "Uh, does he pick his nose with his pinky?"

"Yup," said YaYa.

LuLu laughed maniacally. "Then he is like Daddy!"

* * * *

Once again, I had my Escort back for 72 hours before it broke down again.

This time it appears to be - with the operative phrase being "appears to be" - just a cracked sparkplug wire. To answer all the cries of "Why don't any of these repair places give it a once-over?" I say: the exhaust place wasn't going to go poking around the engine, anymore than the regular mechanic could have forseen something cutting the brake lines while I drove. It's a stretch of bad luck, and I'm not going to chastise anyone for not being Edgar Cayce.

* * *

BTW, The Spirit was an awful movie, not even worth a full review. Skip it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cloudy X-Rays but Sunny Skies

I had some good news Tuesday. Or rather, a lack of bad news, which in this case amounts to the same thing. After taking those x-rays a few weeks back I scheduled a follow-up with my physician for mid-May. Two days later the office called and said that the doctor wanted to move the appointment up a significant amount of time. Naturally I asked why.

"I don't know sir," the receptionist said. "He just said he wanted to see you as soon as you were able."

There was more back and forth, and in the end the doc objected even to the new date and moved it up some more. These were x-rays of my back, and while I tried to remain logical, 40% of my brain was convinced they'd found either a tumor or a spot on my lungs. Other than Lisa I told no one and kept it to myself.

Tuesday I waited for an hour in the office before being seen. First things first, the doctor said the x-rays showed arthritis in my neck and throughout my back, with the worst of it in my neck. He asked if I had any pain that extended below the waist, and said if I did he would send me for an MRI and further tests.

I don't have back pain, other than the occasional ache everyone gets, and if they hadn't taken the X-rays I'd have gone twenty more years before suspecting a thing. To my mind, this was/is an irrelevant condition. I vetoed the MRI.

Then he wanted to know if I had ever experienced trauma to the region behind my forehead. That threw me. No, I replied.

"Any surgery, accident . . .anything metal? Shrapnel perhaps?"

I laughed. " Unless aliens kidnapped me and implanted something, the answer's still no. What's this about?"

The doctor looked confused. The x-rays had showed cloudy matter in that region but according to the reports it could not be identified because the shots were blocked by metal shards in my forehead.


"Let me see that," I said, and he handed me the one page report from the hospital staff. Yup, he had the gist right. That wasn't good. I read on and was surprised to learn I had been admitted to the ER after an assault. I was even more surprised to find out I was a 24 year old female.

The doc turned red.. "I am sorry, the hospital must have left a page of this woman's report in the fax machine when they sent yours. I apologize, this is a horrible breach of privacy."

Pshff. Fine by me. Bad for the lady with the cloudy brain pic, but gravy baby for me. No need to apologize.

"So do I still have arthritis, or is that her's too?"

Sadly, no go on that. That one's all mine.

All kidding aside, it sucks to spend 40% of your time wondering if you're on the way out. Will the kids remember me? If they do, will I be some idealized notion or a real person to them? Ah, man, if Lisa remarries she'll probably get more years in with him than with me; I should at least have gotten the lion's share. Why didn't I push past the writers block and get a book published? Crap, I hope I don't die before the Lost series finale. Etc. Etc.

Knowing me all this was for naught and I'll continue treading water. But at least in theory it's inspired me to set some things right and get my ass in gear. We'll see if it sticks.

* * * * *

I took a bike ride late Tuesday. It was a cold day, but you always see hippies cruising around on such afternoons. I assumed they had discovered that your body heat keeps you comfortable in that situation. I wore a jacket as I headed out, but was convinced I'd have to shed it soon into the ride.

Bulls**t. F'ing hippies.

It was cold. Damn cold. And you know what? It feels twice as cold when you're cutting through the air at a decent speed. I was an icicle by the time I got home.

F that. I'm sticking to warm days. Period.

Great Smiley News!

The Little Man got off the school bus and ran into the house brandishing a note from his teacher. It read as follows, with each 'bold' word being underlined twice in the teacher's handwriting:

[Smiley] said his own name today correctly with the "k" sound!! (I was so happy, tears came to my eyes!) Ask him to say it for you - emphasize the "k" for him! It was an awesome day!!

Ms. Heidi

Hot dog! Way to go little guy!

You should have seen how happy and proud Smiley was with the reaction he got. Oh, it would warm your heart. What great news!

Swine Flu Forces Closure of Milwaukee Public Schools

A friend of ours just got an automated call from MPS saying her daughter's school was "closed until further notice". According to the Milwaukee Journal, four schools have been ordered closed because of swine flu, with two confirmed cases in the city and a third in the state. Details are sketchy, but I'm sure it will headline the paper tomorrow.

I don't think that the swine flu is the end of the world, or a guaranteed repeat of the 1918 Influenza horror, but it's going to cause some damage before it's through. Not only is there a case at a school down the block from my house, but at the school our friend's daughter attends. Lovely news. The stomach illness that took me, Lisa, and YaYa out for part of last week was awful enough; I can't imagine getting hit by that strain.

Let's hope for the best, and a quick recovery for those stricken with the illness.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April's Last American Idol

I'm trying to figure out the math here. Ryan said it's three weeks until the finale but there are five contestants left. One goes home this week, one the next, so doesn't that leave three left to duke it out? I must have misheard him, because I can't imagine they're going to change the format at this point in the show's run.

Moving on, it was Rat Pack week and overall the quality of the show was high. With only five "boys and girls" left, this review won't take long.

* * * *

1. Kris - He's definitely moving up into striking range of the finals. I enjoyed the song, but it wasn't mind blowing. I imagine him with one or two moderately successful pop hits in the future, just not with 'Season Eight Winner' on the album cover.

2. Allison - I disagree with the judges. I had trouble understanding any of her lyrics, and I watched it twice AND had the closed captioning on. To me, it reinforced her as a one-trick pony. I think she's in trouble.

3. Matt - Love the guy, enjoyed the song, still think it was on the weaker end of tonight's performances.

4. Danny - surprisingly good version, surprisingly good posture, surprisingly snappy apparel. Well done. A nice return to form.

5. Adam - way too theatrical, indulgent, and dramatic for the needs and intent of the song. I suppose, like Simon said, that it's like complaining that a cow moos. Vegas drama is what Adam is about. The vocals were good but I think Danny trumped him tonight.

* * * *

So who goes home? My bottom two are Allison and Matt. I think America will toss Allison in there, but will debate putting Matt or Kris in that second chair.

At the end of the show, Allison goes home. I hope.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How I spent my weekend

Well, some of it you can deduce by my answers in the 'Game of Eight' in a previous post. But here's the full scoop.

Saturday we had the First Communion retreat for YaYa, who will celebrate her big day next Sunday. It was a very nice time - no really, it was - involving a brief practice, a 20 minute talk from the priest, a fine potluck, and a creative art project: designing a pillar candle for use in the ceremony.




Note all the sequins and whatnot in this photo. When all was said and done Lisa told me to sort out our pile and place them back in the correct slot in the craft box. I agreed, put one away, and then stuck the mess in my pocket. Who's gonna sort out 50 different sequins, ya know? But Lisa caught me and the job was completed as requested.





I think it was a good idea to send her to Sunday School classes at our parish. You may recall there was pressure to join one of the 'cluster' parishes and participate with members of her everyday class. We decided against it, and I think we made the right choice.

A) We like the priest a lot, even if his sermons are 4000X better than his brief and clumbsy attempts at instruction B) she is free of any of the cliques (sic?) that plague her school C) she gets to meet new people and start fresh; heck, start with an edge, as she is well versed in many of the religious topics that are taught.

Plus the Sunday school teacher is very inventive and puts a lot of effort into the job. Case in point, a Powerpoint slideshow of the kids school year that was shown on Saturday. (when YaYa appeared on screen for the first time the kids yelled out "[YaYa]!" - but if you listen to her she's never had a friend here, there, or anywhere in her life).

YaYa admitted it was a good decision and out of the blue thanked us both for sending her there for the classes. And you could tell she relished the one on one time with us. Awwww!

* * * *

Much of the weekend was devoted to preparing for the communinon (although we both went to work Saturday shortly after the retreat ended).

Some time ago we decided to combine the parties for YaYa and my Godchild, as their First Communions are a mere day apart. As such, a month ago we sat down to work on the combined invites. Printed at home on some very nice invitation stationary Lisa got at a great discount, it was a true family affair.





Later in the month Lisa and my sister got together and melted chocolate into coin molds decorated with religious symbols - hands together in prayer, a chalice, and a cross. Sunday night, with Lisa at work, my sister and I sat down to finish the project.

We melted more chocolate, then skewered double-stuff Oreos and dipped them in the bowl, coating them completely. When dry we 'painted' the back of the coins with wet chocolate and 'glued' them to the Oreos. Lisa was pleasantly surprised that we managed to hammer out 70 more or less decent Oreos in the four hours she was gone; she then proceeded to finish the last (perfect) thirty in less than forty-five minutes. *@#$#


Sorry about the poor camera-phone quality of these next few; I'll get good pics at the actual party.




To be fair, the four hours I devoted to the project were interrupted by the kids announcing that the basement was leaking. Right on the heels of the sunny, 70 degree Friday weather we two straight days of torrential downpours. It shouldn't be a big deal - after all, our fine city has paid billiions to redo the sewers - but, uh, oh yeah, they did a crappy job. Every time it storms the streets in the neighborhood flood and if you give it time, that water has to go somewhere - and it's usually in the basements around here.

I got off easy, with a scant 15 gallons or so making its way inside, but I was soooooo ticked at the kids. They were no help at all, and at one point I yelled out: "This ain't your first rodeo, you know what to do! Get over here and give me a hand or you can go to bed right now!"


Where was I? Oh, today we bagged the Oreos, which will serve as a party favor at the Communion.

* * * *

Despite the trouble it brings, I love rain. Not *just* because it ensures that the kids will be inside and in sight, although that does assuage my paranoia. No, I just generally love a rainy day with a hint of cold in the air.

Sunny and warm is fine. But there's nothing so comforting as finding that patch of warmth as you come in from the cold, or the security of a roof over your head when you get out of the rain. And at night, with wind pushing against the window, puddles in the street dancing with rain, and a little jazz on the radio . . . perfect.

The Game of Eight

went ahead and tagged me with the Game of Eights, and I'm happy to play along. The rules seem simple: mention who drafted you, complete the lists of 8, and pass the game on to eight others online.

8 Things I am Looking Forward to:

1. Having the day off tomorrow
2. Buying some new clothes for the communion party
3. Going to sleep tonight - I'm tired :)
4. Watching the 'latest' Match Game as soon as I complete #5 on this list
5. Finding the TV remote
6. Seeing my tulips bloom
7. Not having to rely on others - or the bus - for rides with my car in the shop
8. Lisa's return from work tonight

8 Things I Did Yesterday:

1. Pumped water out of my basement
2. Dipped oreos in melted chocolate
3. Posted a few comments on BadgerBlogger
4. Went to HalfPrice Books with Smiley. He was very patient, holding my hand and only occasionally asking "Now Dada?"
5. Bought Smiley a gold hula hoop from Dollar General
6. Bought parchment paper and a yard of fabric from Joann Fabrics
7. Took Ginger, Lisa, and our friend Chris to The Olive Garden
8. Paid my speeding ticket from October the day before it was due

8 Things I Wish I Could Do:

1. Get my printer to work with our desktop PC
2. Find my slippers
3. Find the TV remote
4. Lose some weight
5. Scrape up the guts for a vasectomy
6. Clean the house
7. Find a better job
8. Travel in space

8 Shows I Watch:

1. Match Game
2. Lost
3. American Idol
4. Whatever, Martha
5. Twilight Zone
6. Trading Spaces
7. Naked Science
8. Seconds from Disaster

* * *
Thanks again Estella! As far as tagging eight others: whoever would like to pick up the torch by all means run with it, but I'll leave the decision to you.


Pics of Lump's First Haircut. Sorta.

A few readers (and let's face facts, that's all I have, God luv 'em - a few readers) have asked for pictures of Lump/Ginger's first haircut.

It aintagonna happen, because Papa Slap was at work when the event took place and Lisa is fond of saying "Forget the camera. Record it in your memories". Well and good, but memories alone don't make a blog post, so you're all out of luck. Sorry Future Lump/Ginger.

But I did scrounge up some pictures of YaYa's first ever haircut, taken with an antique digital camera way back circa 2003-2004. The exact date is documented in print editions of her baby book.

Close your eyes and pretend it's Ginger. I promise I won't tell people you cheated.




Sunday, April 26, 2009

Milwaukee was lucky to have Dolan - text of my column in Good Friday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

If you were born in Milwaukee in the '70s and grew up Catholic, as I did, then the Mass had more than the usual amount of consistency during your lifetime. I was nearing 30 before the intercession to help "John Paul our Pope, (and) Rembert our Archbishop" - a routine I learned in kindergarten - no longer applied.

Logically, I should follow that line of thought with a few lines talking about how awkward it was in 2002 to accept Timothy Dolan as Milwaukee's new archbishop and about how the process of acceptance took time and patience.

I could write that, but it would turn this from a column into a work of fiction.

With no disrespect to those who have held, or will hold that position, Dolan was born for the role. Here was a guy of Midwestern stock, who seemed to embody all the positive attributes of the stereotype: He's a hard-working, down-to-earth man with a respect for tradition and a great sense of humor.

In a lot of ways, Dolan seems less like the imposing, powerful man of the cloth he is than a friendly and gregarious neighbor. If there was ever an archbishop you could imagine playing with on a tavern league softball team, Dolan is your man.

That's not to say his tenure didn't have its share of problems, many of which he inherited. He arrived in Milwaukee to a Catholic community besieged by allegations of sexual abuse, lawsuits and a growing distrust of the clergy. Questions about the role and integrity of the church were rampant, and a financial crisis loomed.

Seven years later, have all those problems been solved? No, but Dolan tackled them head-on, meeting with abuse victims, effectively closing a $3 million budget deficit in 2008 and restoring a sense of purpose and respect to the local Catholic landscape.

He has his share of detractors; no one with that much authority can avoid that burden. In his native Missouri, he was criticized as being too lenient on abusive priests, while others accused him of acting too harshly. In Milwaukee, he's correctly seen as theologically conservative. Those who view that as a negative are quick to point out his opposition to efforts to change the church's position on celibacy in the priesthood or his polite but public objection to the University of Notre Dame's decision to give President Barack Obama an honorary degree.

None of his critics have dented his popularity. My wife, a lifelong Lutheran, counts herself as a fan of the archbishop. So do most people I know, both in and out of the Catholic faith. The announcement of his impending installation as archbishop of New York was no surprise for me; I knew Milwaukee was too small to retain a rising star like Dolan for very long.

Our loss is New York's gain, and I wish him well. If the past seven years are any indication, Dolan will win New York's heart in no time.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Scott Walker News!

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker announced via Twitter that he has filed papers to challenge Jim Doyle in the next Governor's race.

I met Scott Walker in DC back in '05, and he seemed like a genuine and likeable guy. He's the lone Republican to hold office in the Democratic stranglehold that is Milwaukee. That means in a statewide race he's got a chance to contend in an area that's usually a 'given' for the blue. He's also got a track record of doing what he thinks 'should' be done, regardless of whether its politically wise at the time. Case in point, turning down stimulus money this year. A political ploy? Statewide it might work in his favor, but locally it wasn't the most popular notion. I'm inclined to believe he thought the stimulus plan was a bunch of hooey and acted accordingly.

Hey, if you ran the desiccated remains of Rudolf Valentino against tax-happy Jim Doyle he'd win my vote. But I think Scott Walker has the opportunity to take the office and do some good with it. He has my support.

So if you're in Wisconsin say the word. I'm more than willing to hit the pavement for Walker, and I'd be proud to have you along to keep me company.

hat tip: the great guys at BadgerBlogger

Boring family stuff

A good day today. I didn't eat a single calorie, depriving my stomach of any opportunity to rebel, which allowed me to make it through the work day in relative comfort. A good thing that, as I had the opportunity to speak with a 91 year old customer,born in 1918 - "Nearly ninety-one," she was careful to correct me. "My birthday isn't for awhile yet." She's still driving her own car, writing out her own checks and living life on her terms.

"You sure don't look ninety-one," I said.

"Well, I wouldn't feel it either if I hadn't broken my damn hip last winter."

After work I took advantage of a beautiful 80 degree day to don shorts and break out the bikes. Sadly a leak in the shed led to my bike getting a few spots of rust over its first winter. Still, she did me proud on a 10 minute ride around the neighborhood with YaYa and Ginger. [Lu and Smiley were scattered among the grandparents] The ex-Lump had no recollection of the bike trailer and sat bewildered the whole time, but she'll be a happy passenger in no time.

Now I'd been texted at work with news that the backyard was overrun with gnats. I found this to be a slight exaggeration, but there does seem to be a bit of an issue. So I broke out the ol' standby, a bowl of sugar water with a coating of cooking oil across the top. Bugs come to taste the sweetness and get trapped by the oil.

Once again, despite a decade of experience in the field, people rose up to naysay. To which I respond: folks, by nightfall the dang bowl had more bugs in it than Windows Vista.

After a dinner with Lisa on her break at work, the kids and I hit a local church's basement rummage sale. For ~$4 total we picked up a mass book, a Scrabble dictionary, three decks of cards, a wooden turtle from Jamaica, a clothes steamer, a book light, a wooden jewelry box, a 3-D Titanic puzzle, a Brain Quest trivia game, a childrens book, a wooden frog that you can make croak by rubbing a stick across its spine, and a great camera case worth about $30 alone.

What a deal!

From there we returned home and YaYa and I watched Call of the Wild on DVD. Call of the Wild was one of the first (abridged) classics YaYa read.

"Will you watch it with me Daddy?"

"I really don't want to."

"Why not?"

The real reason was I was tired and sweaty and yearned for a shower. But what I said was: "Because I never finished the book and I don't want to ruin the ending. Someday maybe I'll finish it."

"You can read my copy upstairs."

"Naw, I want to read the adult version."

"Hrumph. Well, it does have 107 pages you know. But I guess that doesn't count."

Checkmate. So we watched Call of the Wild, which turned out to be a sequel called "Foxfire" anyhow. It was ok, and I certainly enjoyed cuddling with YaYa.
Afterwards, when Lisa got home, she quizzed YaYa on the BrainQuest questions and YaYa aced darn near all of them. I gave her a big kiss on the forehead.

"Truly, you are my daughter." I said.

"Half your daughter," Lisa said. "She's much too cool to be your clone."

Wah wah and boo hoo

I don't want to become Gloomy Gary or Sad Sammy here, but a good 25% of my life seems to be comprised soley of bad luck in recent days. Thankfully the wife and kids continue, even in the moments when I can't stand 'em, to more than balance out the scale.

* * * *

It's been less than 48 hours since discovering my mortgage payment would soar because of local property taxes. Today the Journal reports that despite an influx of $100 million of Obama's stimulus money, MPS (Milwaukee Public Schools) will be asking for an addtional double-digit increase in the property tax levy.

If you follow the link you'll see note a reference to a recent audit of MPS, one that identified numerous black holes in their budget. Memo to the school board: maybe you could close those gaps before you take more $ from my wallet and throw it away.

* * * * *

I got my Escort back from the shop tonight. The verdict: both brake lines had been severed in the area around the drivers seat. The cause? Flying road debris, rust, Lisa getting inventive - who knows?

Anyway, I had the car back twenty minutes before the the exhaust system fell apart. All was quiet one minute, and the next I'm driving in a car making enough decibels to burst your eardrums. It's well and truly undriveable in its current condition. If I drove across town (again) I'd get a ticket in a second.


* * * * *

Smiley missed school today for a required check-up at the Ear/Nose/Throat doctor. His left ear tube has fallen out, which was more or less expected, but in its absence fluid has again returned to plague his eardrum. He'll be put on a prescription and if it doesn't clear up, look for a return to the operating room for more tubes.

* * * *

I was talking to a couple of the guys from work today when they asked me when I was going to go drinking with them.

"Probably when someone asks me to," I said.

"We just did" came the response.

Regretably, I had to say no, not because of my legendary social phobias but because I already felt hungover by the time they asked, courtesy of a damn strong stomach virus.

I last called in sick to work in August of 2000, when I had compacted wisdom teeth pulled out. I should have broke the streak today. I was miserable. Instead I slugged it out and made it through the day, but if things don't improve I'm pulling the trigger and call in Friday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

American Idol and other Schtuff

Allright, first off I'm having a lousy coupla days here folks. I'm fighting off a mean stomach flu, I'm broke, and my mortgage just went up 16.5%. Oh, I don't have an ARM, in fact I have a nice, very low fixed mortgage. But the city bumped up my taxes last year and apparently looks to again, and so the adjustment of my escrow will all but bury me.

Congrats, you dunderheads in City Hall. As with all the good neighborhoods in Milwaukee, you will soon tax families out of home ownership and drive them to the 'burbs. Within a few years Ritchie Riches from Pewaukee and Whiteman's Bay (er, I mean Whitefish Bay) will own all the houses here and use them as rentals. After a few more years of ignoring their upkeep the area will go to hell, leading to a fallow period before good people step in to 'renew' the block and we'll start the dance all over again.

But at least the taxes go for something good, like . . . yeah. I don't even have a good punchline.

* * * *

On to happier news, a review of last nights American Idol.

I don't know if it was because they unexpectedly had to find time for a 7th contestant or because of format complaints, but I appreciate hearing from all the judges. All we lost in return were the hokey video introductions before each song.

1. Lil - enough America. Send her home. And please, no more excuses on stage and no low-brow opinions yelled out from the audience.

2. Kris - an excellent peformance and an innovative approach. One notch against him in my book is that he and Adam seem to skirt the spirit, if not the letter of the rules. Make Disco or Country or Metallica night all your own, natch, but shouldn't the end result sound something vaguely like the genre it purports to represent? As good as it was, it wasn't disco. It was Kris sampling the lyrics of a disco song.

3. Danny - very solid vocals. He did well, but I do wonder why he must perform hunched over so often. On stage Danny looks like he's trying to mime the letter 'C'. Mayhaps he and I should get an 'All Danny' discount on scoliosis treatment together.

4. Allison - that outfit was too old for a 16 year old, but her vocals were fine. I thought the arrangement was off and as always it all sounded Joplin-y, but whattayagonna do?

5. Adam - Much better than last week, although I think he was indulgent for a second in the middle of the song. Did anyone else think it appeared to end abruptly? Anyhow, well done, but see my Kris comments regarding the arrangement.

6. Matt - I love the guy and his performance was good, but it was the polar opposite of the Kris/Adam sytle. While faithful to the original, it just didn't work.

7. Anoop - Vocally he was pretty good, but the arrangement was off (for me). I also think he dresses a whole lot like the 5th Doctor (Who) Peter Davidson. That's great on the cricket field, but not so wonderful for an American singing competition.

Ok, two go home tonight. My picks: Lil and (sob) Matt. America's picks: Lil for sure, and either Anoop or Matt, with Allison a dark horse.

I say Lil and Matt go home.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Watchmen is proof that being a literary pioneer is a mixed blessing.

The graphic novel has earned numerous accolades, and deservedly so, for its mature and inventive re-imagining of the superhero concept. Unfortunately, it was so innovative that it changed everything in the field that followed.

The idea that America would regulate and ban masked heroes is now old hat, having been used in everything from X-Men to The Incredibles. Want to see angst ridden superheroes that resemble Sam Spade more than Superman? Superhero love triangles? Discussions on the nature of a 'hero'? Amoral vigilantes with no qualms about killing? Thanks to Watchmen you can see it all, in the form of a hundred inferior clones created in the last twenty years.

What was original is now cliche, and I fear many young people will read Watchmen and be left wondering what all the fuss is about.

Watchmen tells the story of a group of masked heroes who retired in the wake of a government ban on their profession. Only a rogue vigilante remains on the loose, and it is he alone who investigates the murder of one of their own. Soon a conspiracy to eliminate the group is uncovered and they must all once again don their costumes and seek an end to the threat.

It remains a powerful and thoughtful piece of literature, 'comic book' be damned. This is a hefty novel that requires thought, one I couldn't finish in a single night. But while I stand by my praise and unequivocally recommend the novel, I want to point out that Watchmen is not, despite everything, a book that raises the graphic novel to par with standard prose literature. It is in truth a hybrid, deriving a fair portion of its character and plot development from prose chapters scattered throughout its length.

As I said, I unequivocally recommend this; if you haven't read it already, you need to pick up a copy. Today.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Loooong and meandering Post

A grade-school friend of mine was ordained as a Priest this past weekend, and it's about time. I remember as kids he'd recite every word of the Mass along with the Priest, as if he was conducting the service himself. I haven't spoken to him in ten years, so I'm not sure why he delayed enlisting, but all the power to him. Congrats Brad!

* * * *

To be honest I'm a little jealous of Brad. As a kid part of me wanted to become a Priest, and I remember playing 'Mass' with my sisters and using the piano bench as an altar. But I knew from an early age it wasn't for me. I've inherited a foul mouth, for one, and I also - let me be blunt - have a decently robust sex drive. During puberty I'd spend a good portion of the Mass staring at the ass of the girls ahead of me as they knelt in prayer. That . . . didn't bode well for celibacy.

* * * *

Regarding my last post, I think I'm going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and say that his statement, while quoted in the correct context, came off more bigoted than he intended. Maybe he's Catholic himself, or was, and was one of the people scarred by the abuse scandals; who knows?

It is creepy that he sought to mail it to my home. That isn't cool, although again I think he was harmless.

* * * *

You want real religious bigotry? A guy came into my work wearing a t-shirt that read "So many Christians - so few lions".

You are free to believe what you like, but can you imagine the uproar it would cause if he wore a shirt joking about violence towards Jews? Because of the Holocaust he wouldn't dare (instead, he'd no doubt moan about Israel; I do believe many of the people who hate on that state do so as an outlet for their anti-Semitism). Worse yet, can you imagine if he wore a shirt preaching violence against Islam, especially in the mideast?

He wouldn't - because they'd cut off his head. Literally.

And yet I'm willing to bet he doesn't think twice about the value of the First Amendment that grants him his freedom. It's a shame.

* * * *

Speaking of Israel, a word on Hitler, as today was the bitter anniversary of his birth. He was a monster. Period. Why we need to create more reasons to hate the man than those amply provided by WWII is beyond me, but I've seen more than one source in the last few days that sought to do just that.

I picked up a book that took grade school age photos of Hitler and sought to extrapolate intent and evil and malignancy in the eyes of a little kid . Crap like that minimizes the true breadth of his evil and twists it all into a cheap horror film plot. Think The Omen. The book was promptly returned to the shelf.

Then there are several TV specials that seek to establish, somehow/someway, that Hitler was of Jewish descent. I do not comprehend this line of reasoning. They aren't doing it to reason out a new and comprehensive physiological portrait of the man. No, they're doing it because in a twisted way it somehow makes him 'less' than he was, allegedly because if he was indeed of Jewish descent then he was a hypocrite on top of it all. I think we can all agree hypocrisy was the least of his crimes. Isn't that pursuit a dangerous, if unintended slippery slope? Aren't these people saying, in effect, "Hey, guess what? Not only was he an a*hole, but it turns out he was a Jew too! Can you believe that?"

What does it matter??

Maybe I'm too sensitive on the subject. I don't know.

* * * *

One last WWII thing that ticks me off: ignoring Stalin's ills and painting his USSR as a besieged, noble country that rallied to stifle Nazism. Bullshit. Hitler killed millions and dragged the world into war. Easily, easily one of the top three human beings of the century. But Stalin was right up there, and unlike his one-time buddy Adolf, Joe went merrily committing mass murder for decades. Millions were murdered under his rule and few people seem to care, perhaps - and I'll grant this is dark - but perhaps simply because he never got around to waging war against American soldiers and grabbing the media's attention.

And uh, 'poor' Russia not only had a friendship pact with Germany, they invaded Poland in concert with Hitler.

* * * *
Allegedly a true story of WWII, but probably apocryphal: we of course bit our tongue about all those nasty points and supplied the Soviet Union with anything and everything they needed to fight Germany, as they were the only nation capable of bleeding Germany dry through raw numbers. When I say anything and everything I mean exactly that, right down to birth control. The Russians, as a macho snub against the Americans, requested condoms that measured eighteen inches long.

The Americans promptly delivered them as requested. Across each crate was stamped:

Condoms: size Medium

* * * *

In the last few days we marked the tenth anniversary of the Columbine shootings. When it happened I was working third shift. I remember on the night of the attack/early the next morning the newspaper guy came in and dropped off Journal's with the news splashed across the front page. I'd slept through the day itself, never hearing so much as a whisper about the attack.

* * * *

Let's end a bleak post with some happy thoughts: while I was at work Monday Lisa took Ginger for her first ever haircut. She did great and didn't fuss a bit :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A short Saturday post

It's a beautiful day here in Milwaukee, with summer like temps and an insane amount of sunlight. We even had my father-in-law and his wife stop by to visit in the backyard. And wonder of wonders, my tulips have begun to come up! Having planted them in the midst of our first winter snowstorm I'd have laid money on them being a no-go, but they're hardier than I thought.

* * * * *

I got my first anonymous, non-fan (not hate) mail yesterday. It was mailed to my father, as I'm not in the book, and was a polite handwritten letter responding to my article on Archbishop Dolan. Nothing objectionable in it until the end, where he says "congratulations to your [Lutheran] wife for not being under the spiritual domination" of the Catholic Church.

Ah. There are only two acceptable bigotries in America nowadays, one towards fat people and another towards Catholics. Luckily I'm both.

* * * * *

I work today and have to hit the showers. Later!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A talk with a Vet

I love collecting stories from people, even I never record their words on paper. That was the case the other day at work, when in a lull I found myself conversing with a man in his sixties. He was a retiree who spent some of his free time flying old WWII planes, mainly Mustang knockoffs and (my favorite) the Corsair.

I asked him what he was doing in Milwaukee, since he mentioned he lived 45 minutes away in Lake Geneva.

"Oh I was up at the VA getting something looked at. The docs want to take some more shrapnel outta my back, but I said I'd get back to 'em. Sure they numb you up, but that sucker hurts like hell for days after the surgery."

I asked him if he'd been a pilot in Vietnam, thinking he'd been a helicopter pilot that took some flak. He said no, he was an Army Ranger. Now when you talk to a guy from that era and you hear the words 'Ranger', 'Green Beret' or 'Seal', it makes you wonder if you're about to hear a tall tale. No one wants to say 'I spent the war as a clerk typist in Saigon', but I had a genuine feeling about this guy, especially when he detailed how he got his wound.

"We were checking out a village, see, that was our job. To come on in before the troops and make sure things were the way they were supposed to be. Sometimes it got hairy, but most of the time we weren't there to fight, we just had to check things out. Anyway I'm wallking through the village and I tripped over a landmine. And I mean I tripped over the damn thing, like my shoelace was untied or something. Blew right up. My back looks like a damn road atlas. It was allright tho, I left with all my arms and legs, which was good. But every once in awhile they want to go digging for some shrapnel. Last time was twenty years ago, but they said some of it shifted. Might be no bigger than a grain of sand, but they move. They might just move a [shows me his fingers a cm or two apart] in five years, but they work their way around. Doc says its near an organ and he wants it out."

He shrugged. "You know I'm on pysch meds. I ain't ashamed or nothing. Had a nervous breakdown. Doctors at the VA say it's Post-Traumatic but that's bull. I was always a little mixed up, from way back. It started getting worse and my wife bailed on me, and that was it, I cracked up."

He shrugged again. "Anyway, nice talking to ya. I didn't know it was this late. I gotta get back."

Fifteen minutes I spent talking to the guy, and in all that time I never got his name. Not once. If I see him again I'll ask for a formal interview. I've done two or three, with research, transcriptions, the whole ball of wax. One's even on file down at the Milwaukee Historical Society.

But even if I never see him again, it was time well spent.

A Joke

Warning: Naughty Bit

Read on, dear reader, and don't confuse the Obama reference ahead with a political post. It's a joke people, a funny.

A ten minute segment of Smiley's spring concert was a spoken word piece starring kids from the older grades. In the performance children were lined up across the stage and, one at a time, recited a fact or anecdote from the life of Barrack Obama, all presented in front of a rousing PowerPoint picture medley of the President.

What the hell. He's the President, and the new car smell hasn't worn off yet. I can deal, even if it is dancing on the edge of creepy.

Anyway, the amusing part. Every part of Obama's life, large and small, EVERY anecdote, ended with some variation of " . . . because Barrack Obama wanted to help people.". No part of his life was governed by motives outside the common good. The kids could talk about a job Obama had in high school and it would come out: "after careful thought he decided to work at Pizza Hut[dramatic pause] because Barrack Obama wanted to help feed people".

This went on with each kid across the stage and it was so over the top some parents in the audience began to snicker - and it was a very pro-Obama crowd.

There are advantages to sitting in the back row. Midway through I grinned and whispered to Lisa: "and after his prom Barrack Obama asked his date if he could take her virginity, because in his heart Barrack Obama only wanted to help people [climax]"

I believe Lisa hit me at that point, but if she did I was too busy laughing to notice.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What a lousy day

Ugh, I can't wait for this day to end.

After my last post I took Smiley out to the hospital to get those x-rays of my back. I figured, one, two shots at best - easy peezy fresh and freezy. Nuh-uh. They had me strip to my skivvies and did a busload of x-rays while Smiley sat and flirted with the radiologists. Thank God I'd thought to change my undies before I went.

Then, on the way home my brakes failed.

No warning, no prior problem. I'm rolling along at 30 miles an hour, the light turns red, I go to stop and nothing. Not a thing. I took the pedal all the way to the floor and nada, and then at the last second they kicked in and brought me to a stop mere inches - literally inches - from the guy in front of me.

After that the brake light announced itself and I noticed that there was a trail of liquid behind the car - brake fluid. As I was only half a block from a Walgreens (really, when isn't someone half a block from a Walgreens?) I stopped and put in some fluid I bought there, then continued home at a snails pace. I was careful to stick to side streets and because of this it took me around 40 minutes to cover the 15 minute ride home.

I had that car out of the shop for all of 72 hours. #!@#@$%

Remember, I still had to go pick up those couches. I hooked up with Socialist and headed out to Pewaukee, where Lisa had made arrangements to buy the set from a guy on Craigslist. We went armed with Mapquest directions, directions that were apparently flawed. They took Socialist and I about ten minutes out of the way, ten minutes spent arguing politics. Yay.

He and I got the couch and loveseat to my house, where we struggled to fit the pieces through my door. It was only after the loveseat was in and the couch stuck in the door that I remembered - ok, was prompted by Lisa's friend Jessica - that my new bay windows could be removed completely to accommodate moving furniture. D'oh. In the end, that's how we got the couch to fit.

Then it was on to Socialists house to reload his van with all the tools of his profession. During this time we noticed that three of the couch legs had been left inside his van. I took them home confident the fourth was at home (we'd removed them in front of the house) but so far, we haven't found it.


When I got home I had to help Lisa carry the old couch out to the curb, and THAT was a big ordeal, with Lisa laying into me for alleged - and by that I mean imaginary - lapses in carrying my share of the load. When we finally got it outside our neighbor to the north rushed over to offer Lisa I hand, but I shooed him away. I was dang ready to see she finished the job she had us start.

The only bright spot of the day were the kids physicals, were they all got a clean bill of health. Ah, but even that has a gray lining, as LuLu came straight from a sleepover with her cousin and showed up for the physical with ratty hair, a dirty shirt, and day old undies. The kicker is I'd called ahead and told them to get her ready for the appointment. Grrreeeaaat impression for the doc, dontcha think?

Friday, where are you????

Doctor Thursday at the Slapinions house

It's going to be a long day of doctor appointments. I already finished one and found out what I already knew: that last weeks x-ray's showed heel spurs. I guess what was good enough for Joltin' Joe is good enough for me.

But I also discussed my back with the doc. I was diagnosed with scoliosis as a kid but was told it was too mild to be treated. Eh, that reeks of bulls**t in hindsight, but either way its gotten much more pronounced lately. The doc checked my spine, noted a curvature to the right, rattled off some Latin into his digital recorder and said "Your left side is shorter, correct?"

"Left side of what? My whole left side? I don't know, I've never measured."

He nodded briskly. "It is shorter. Note how your left shoulder sits below your right. You must go for x-rays."

So in a few minutes its back out to West Allis to get the ol' spine zapped.

Meanwhile, Lisa has developed an abscess above a troublesome tooth, which is naturally a concern for us all. Oh, and all three of the older kids have scheduled physicals for this afternoon and I'm supposed to drive to Pewaukee this evening to pick up a new couch.

Fun times, fun times.

Beat the Reaper - a review

In many different ways, Beat the Reaper is a formulaic thriller. Boy's family is murdered, to avenge them boy grows up to be a professional killer, boy repents and quits, bad guys find boy, violence ensues. We've all seen the plot a dozen times or more.

Author Josh Bazell, a medical doctor turned author, decides to shake things up a bit while still sticking to that formula. Our ex-hit man Peter Brown is now living as a working (and exhausted) emergency room doctor, having gone back to med school in the witness protection program. It's pure bad luck that he treats a man he knew in his former life, a guy who ignores his terminal diagnosis and announces that if he dies, he's made sure the mob will know of Peter's whereabouts.

Somehow, someway Peter must keep the man alive to keep the secret safe - or else find a way to kill him without alerting the mob.

I've heard complaints about the books format, which includes footnotes that elaborate on the medical and social issues in the book. I disagree with this critique completely, as I thought it was an inventive and entertaining break from convention.

Where I find fault is in some scenes done in poor taste (such as an act of oral sex with a girl mere feet from her brothers corpse) and a viciously harsh assessment of Poland and its WWII anti-Semitism that populates a flashback. Perhaps the criticism of that country was justified, but in my experience someone capable of that much anger and contempt is often the equal of their target in bigotry.

Based on the work as a whole I would tepidly recommend this book for action/thriller readers, but one scene lifts this book to must read status. The final action is so out of left field and so extreme, that I literally laughed out loud in suprise and said "Oh my [bleeping] god!"

It is . . .crazy.

For that scene alone, you need to pick up a copy of this book.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

American Idol: broadcast on the anniversary of the Titanic's fatal contact with an iceberg and Booth's mortal wounding of Lincoln

Memo to AI producers: I don't give a flying fig about time constraints, I want to hear Simon's critique on each and every performer. If you need to trim the fat start with Paula and her wooden, pre-scripted comments; Kara 'Wrong Song Choice' DiGuardo (sic), or Randy 'Pitch Problems' Jackson.

Keep Simon yakking or lose your audience. Seriously.

* * * *

Quentin Tarratino? Instructing a singing competition? Jeez, who's next in line to tutor these guys, Dean Koontz?

* * * *

1. Allison - Ah, a great voice but a narrow comfort zone. Everything sounds the same. Great, but the same. Wait a few years and put a bottle of bourbon in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and package her as the next Janis Joplin. But she's not gonna win this thing.

2. Anoop - the best performance of the night, just smoooth like buttah. Well done.

3. Adam - Some weeks he's as good as he imagines he is, sometimes he's not, not by a long shot. I promised to judge him against his own standards and not those of the group, but by any criteria I thought tonight was pretentious poop. It was one step away from drag queen camp, Vegas style, and about as rugged and 'wild' as a crocheted scarf. Ah, I know there are ladies who are now eager to blast away at me for daring to cross the man, but with all due respect: stop thinking with your Vajayjay. It's as unbecoming as men voting for Megan just because she was hot.

4. Matt - I thought it was very good until about twenty-five seconds from the end. Then it fell apart, but I think he did well enough to stick around.

5. Danny - ho hum. It was like dinner with your Grandmother: pleasant enough, but more than a little on the dull side.

6. Kris - wow, who paid the guy to take a dive? I thought it was gut wrenching, and not in the sense of 'captured my empathy and emotions'. He might be in trouble.

7. Lil' - better than in prior weeks, for sure, but she's put the bar so low it's not difficult to best her par. She's adrift artistically, and her weekly reactions to the judging makes me question her maturity and temperament. But again, better than her past performances.

My bottom three? Lil, Kris, and Adam.

America's bottom three? Lil, Kris and Matt.

Who goes home? Probably Lil, just because of the cumulative effect of lousy performances, but on a 'this week only' basis it would have to be Kris.

Tuesday Update

Well, a Wednesday update as it's after midnight, but who's counting? I'm back online, courtesy of YaYa's Godfather, who restored my old desktop up to factory default after being on the sidelines for several months. I've had to swipe a 10 year old monitor from a computer the kids sometimes goof around with, since the monitor is kaput, but at least we're online. Alas, it does not look good for the computer that Smiley may/may not have vandalized. That laptop might be KIA. Keep your fingers crossed.

And if I didn't say it loud enough - THANKS MAN! Those Sprecher's will be in your hands shortly! (Pick 'n Save only had the low cal)

* * * *

Plenty of pics from this past weekend, from the traditional Good Friday Easter Egg Dyeing to the baskets of Easter morn and a trip to the park I took with Smiley. I'll get those up (knock on wood) once I get my software reloaded on my desktop.

* * * * *

My Escort has also returned to active duty. While still needing a strut in the back it's running, and not taking the bus feels sooooo good. Now we'll have to get the van in for a tunep and an alignment.

* * * * *

YaYa has declared her intention of doing something 'different' with her life. Her stated career options are as follows: actress, writer, firefighter, astronaut, and NTSB air accident investigator.

* * * * *

Thursday YaYa went with me to the hospital to get x-rays to ID/eliminate bone spurs as the cause of the constant pain in my left foot. She got to sit with the nurses and view the x-rays, which she thought was cool, but was slightly embarrassed when we left.

"Dad, your foot stank. The whole room smelled when you were done."

Blogger Issues and Changes to the Comment Page

I had a big scare here on Slapinions yesterday. With my home computer still down I visited the local library after work to check my email. That worked fine, but I was unable to view my site on the first computer I tried. So I tried another. No site. Another. Still no Slapinions. I could sign into my dashboard page but venturing any further resulted in a Blogger error message.

The first Blogger resource I queried suggested my site had been automatically shut down as a 'spam site'. I guess it's not all that uncommon for Blogger to close a site because of a false negative whenever their algorithm mistakes a phrase or link in the site as spam content. Naturally I'd noticed that my last post had resulted in two spam comments, at least one of which linked to porn. Great.

But, the resource was quick to say, Blogger is quick to restore the site in cases of mistaken identity, while of course always searching for a way to improve their algorithm and bring sunshine into the life of all God's creatures.

Phooey. So much for Google being the safe haven of the exiled J-Landers.

A little later a rash of complaints quoting the same error code came up on Blogger help groups, which cheered me up quite a bit. One guy getting screwed is easy to ignore. Not so much when three dozen people are moaning about it all over the web.

Today, the site was back up where it belongs.

So as of today, with some regret, I've added the annoying anti-spam, word verification step to the comment page. I know Ken, in particular, hates that step but I'm gonna have to play it safe and run with it anyway. It's not like I'm inundated with comments, spam or otherwise, but I'm not going to take the chance and have one moron out there knock out five years of my work.

And you better believe I'm searching for a way to back up the site - again - this time off Google, which ain't easy to do, as the big G is to the web what the Mantle era Yankees were to baseball.

Who knows, maybe the first Blogger resource was dead wrong and it was just a general error - but why dare to take the chance?

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I'm writing this from the local library. After what may or may not have been an attempt by Smiley to clean it with windex, our computer is now kaput. I can only hope it's up and running soon.

Some bad news yesterday: the close friend of Lisa's best (female) friend died of an accidental overdose at her home in Michigan. Lisa and I had just talked about her that very morning, which increased the freakiness of the news. She'd been shown here on Slapinions near Christmas - the woman who attended the Christmas Bear concert with the kids. My girls remembered her instantly. "Evie's Mom died?" LuLu asked in shock.

Our prayers are with her family.

* * * *

Good news: here's a link to my article yesterday. If you are not Catholic and/or not from Milwaukee it's of little direct interest to you.

* * * *

And an Easter Good Samaratin: on the way to the library I buckled Smiley into the carseat, putting my books and DVD's on top of the van to free up my hands. Guess who then drove away, leaving $70 or more of library materials to fly away? I was so upset, but as I retraced my steps the guy on the corner presented me with all but one of the items. "Lose these?", he said. Moments later I found the last item, slightly damaged, in the middle of the street in front of my house.

* * * *

If I don't get back online before Sunday - happy Easter to everyone!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Smiley takes the Bus

This Monday Smiley began taking the school bus to school.

He loves it. He waits, staring out the living room window until it pulls up, then yells 'bye' and runs out the door. His friend Jay-Jay rides with him, offering him a manic 'hello' wave when the bus pulls up.
He tells everyone about it; in fact when he visited my Mom his first words were his version of "take bus".

Me? I hate it. I'm proud of him, and happy that he enjoys it, but it makes me a paranoid nut. I've kept that to myself, and I'm getting better, but oh my.


Man, I'm tickled pink!

Today the mailman delivered two envelopes from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Inside of each was a 'fan' letter to me that was mailed to the newspaper and then forwarded to my home. Unfortunately, I'd ripped open the first envelope thinking it was my check, then got so excited after reading the letter that I greedily tore open the second. That's a pity, because I would have liked to have preserved it for my future musuem. Ah well. :)

* * *

Bridgett - I read your comment on Scott's departure before having a chance to watch the recorded show. No matter - it was actually a better viewing experience, as I didn't have to sweat out the Anoop-Scott drama. As for his early departure, I think the top five *has* to be Adam, Danny, Allison, and Matt, with Kris or Anoop battling it out for the numero cinco. Long story short, whether he went home this week or next, the exit was coming soon.

* * *

Another reason I'm excited: for the first time in a few weeks the whole Slapinions family will have the opportunity to sit down and enjoy a real dinner together. That's odd that it's odd, as from the time of YaYa's birth on we ALWAYS shared dinner together, and 99% of the time, no matter the entree, fruits and vegetables were on the plate.

I don't think I've seen a vegetable that wasn't sliced and on top of a meat patty in a week. Some parts of working evenings SUCK.

My criteria tonight is firm: meat, starch, veggies, and a fruit. Oh man, I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mama Mia!

Yeah, I like ABBA. Sue me. I haven't had a chance to see the stage version of Mamma Mia! and was eager to watch the movie.

Simply put, it tells of Sophie's attempt to discover the identity of her father in the days before her wedding. The trouble is Donna, her Mom, (played by Meryl Streep) was very . . . adventurous one week twenty years ago, and there are three potential Daddy's. Each gets an invitation to attend the wedding and adventure ensues, while the music of ABBA develops the characters and moves the plot forward.

It's good to see the continuing (if small) revival of movie musicals (High School Musical, Enchanted, etc.) and I was pleasantly surprised, watching the subtitled version of the film, at how many of the lyrics are polished and literate.
I'm not sure if it's a flaw carried over from the stage version or not, but both Lisa and I felt the movie felt disjointed at times. There were some ludicrously naive plot points: the daughter who's sure she'll recognize her father on sight and that when she does "everything [in her life] will fall into place"; the fact that Donna seems unable to put two and two together, turning this into an elaborate episode of Three's Company; and Sophie's out of left field actions during the wedding.

Small complaints, all in all. My biggest problem with the film was that some people (cough Pierce Brosnan cough Meryl Streep cough) were hired for their name and not their voice. Pity that. Kudos to Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) for her great voice and natural beauty, both of which help elevate the film above the norm.

2.8 out of 4

American Idol 4/7

Once again I'm up too late because of this dang show. I'll try to keep it short.

* * * *

1. Danny - Ah, I wasn't bowled over. It was good but not great.

2. Kris - I like the guy a lot, but this did sound like souped up, jazzified elevator rock. Not good.

3. Lil' - Wow, she's really fallen off a cliff. So much talent gone to waste. I noticed her Tina-esque steps and knew it was over. Every week she promises to improve, and every week she sucks.

4. Anoop - It was fine, but a little bland. He'll stick around.

5. Scott - I thought it was OK, especially for a Scott performance, but the guitar was a joke. I also think he's a bit of a prick for how he reacts to the slightest criticism from the judges. But again, an OK night for him.

- I'm not the only one who's mentioned this, as I've heard it frequently out and about, but I'm guessing I'm the only yahoo brave enough to do it in print. Scott's eyes, for obvious reasons, fail to track like normal, and the Polar Express like phenomenon is highly unnerving.

Did I miss something? Has it become somehow insulting or demeaning for a blind or severely impaired person to wear sunglasses? Seriously, is this viewed as an insult now? And if so, someone better go out and tell Stevie Wonder. He was still wearing them when he was on the show, and I don't think there's a human being alive who doesn't respect the man.

6. Allyson - She rocked it. I don't think she'll win this competition, but she could have in at least two of AI's seasons, if not more.

7. Matt - Wow. Wow. Wow. I was blown away. This was a million times better than last week and the only, the ONLY song from tonight I'd enjoy listening to on the radio right now.

8. Adam - My DVR failed to record his performance, but thankfully it was present on the subsequent recording of Fringe from the next hour. It was good. Not standing ovation good, as Simon claimed, but very good. A little theatrical for my taste, but I'm starting to think the guy i going to wind up like David Bowie, with a specific if odd persona, style, and arrangements. Therefore I'm going to start judging him against his own standard, rather than as how he stacks up against the other performers. I'm not sure how he'd fly in the pop world, with the exception of an AI driven first album, but there's a niche he'll fill somewhere in the recording world.

* * * *

My bottom three: Lil, Kris, and Scott.

The real world bottom three is hard to pick, as mediocrity was the norm, bringing favorites down a peg: Lil, Kris, Anoop.

My guess is Lil goes home, and it'll be no loss.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another Column of Mine will be in the Paper this week

After the publication of that snow column last week I wrote the editors and told them I'd gladly take any assignment they wanted to parcel out.

To my genuine suprise, they had me write a column on the departure of Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who'll be assuming the same office in New York on the 15h.

Barring an outright rejection by the editor, it should be in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this (Good)Friday.

Eight weeks between the first publication of mine and the second, five weeks between the second and the third . . and ten days between the third and fourth. Booyah!

I'm gonna miss this gig when it's over.

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a Boring Life for Me

Lisa's up in Green Bay right now at a New Kids on the Block concert with some friends, which means I had to (gasp!) parent on my own for a night, shuffling the kids to and from school and dance class. The big test will be tomorrow morning. Lisa won't get in until the middle of the night, and will be out of commission for the morning prep-for-school rituals. And I am not a functioning human being at 6:30 A.M.

Speaking of the New Kids, they are embarking on another tour over the summer (or an extension of this one, take your pick) and you'll no doubt hear us yak about them again in the coming months.

BTW, their song Two in the Morning won a KISS Combat Challenge on the radio here. And it's 2009. Wow. Whodathunkit back in 1990?

* * * * *

True story: YaYa and I were dispatched by my Mom to pick up my father from a local church(not my own). When I asked for my Dad by name a woman got an odd look on her face, then came up and offered me her hand.

"I thought I recognized your picture from the paper, and that name is hard to forget. You were in the Journal a few days ago, weren't you? The article on snow. Oh, I thought that was dead on. I LOVED it. Are you writing anything else?" The woman wasn't 'meet the rock star' giddy, but she was reaching the 'meet the smooth jazz star' plateau.

I swear to you, I thought it was a candid camera moment and that my Dad set me up. But no, I guess she was legit. It was the only 'out of the blue' congrats, but I've had a few from people that vaguely know me (or of me), some of which had very sweet things to say.*


Anyway, what's that old anecdote about Caesar having someone whisper 'fame is fleeting' in his ear? You could tell YaYa was proud, but she's old enough now to treat such feelings towards her parents as 'uncool'. Here's her official take on it: "I hope you don't think you're famous now. Cuz, uh, you're not."


*Meanwhile a family member flat out said they didn't like it, and you know what? I appreciate their honesty.

* * * *

I burned my right ring finger last night cooking some Ramen noodles. I always do this idioticly macho 'shake it for a moment, swear, continue on as if nothing happened' routine when I burn myself. Most of the time I refuse to even run it under cold water, but this sucker hurt and blistered up. I all but teleported to the sink. Dang near ruined my viewing of the Match Game, it did.

Memo to college grad: don't grab a metal serving spoon if it's been laying on the hot stovetop for ten minutes.

* * * *

Monday, April 6, 2009

Smiley's Spring Concert

I wanted to post the only two pics I have of Smiley's performance at a concert at his school back in February.



Lump, for the record, was an absolute doll during the performance. In this she takes after her brother, the undisputed king of patient theater-goers, and not her troublesome older sisters.

Smiley's 4th Birthday Party

Smiley had attended his cousin Caitlin's birthday party at a local bowling alley and fallen in love with the sport. So never mind that it seemed a poor fit for a 4 year olds party, the boy demanded it be an occasion for bowling.


And so it was.

Fortunately his birthday fell on a Saturday, so the party took place on the special day itself. We invited all of the kids from his speech class (it is a sub-group of under 10 kids in a class of 37) Most of the kids showed up, among them all but one of the boys.


For most of the kids it was difficult to get the ball down the alley, and more than once the lanes were clogged by balls that stopped dead on their way to the pins. Part of the problem was the venue; when Smiley had first bowled it was at a place that had ramps the kids could roll the ball down; not where we held the party.

So we wound up 'helping' most of the kids. Not Smiley. He refused help and did, indeed, manage to get the ball down the lane.



Heck, my biggest concern wasn't the stuck balls - it was the danger to four year old fingers and toes!







The party was two hours long and we were given two games per kid as part of the package, but there was no way we were going past ten frames. Uh-uh. (we did hand off the excess games to some of the parents as the party wrapped up). So after the first game we ate some pizza





then fired up the ol' birthday candle and serenaded the Little Man




Afterwards he opened his presents. Throughout most of this JayJay, a blonde girl from his class, sat alongside him.

He appears to have a fondness for her (and blondes in general), a fondness that is returned in full. He gave her a big hug when he opened her gifts, although to be honest he is very affectionate in general and tried to hug everyone who gave him a gift.











Here's some family pics from the party. (Note: Lump is off the bottle, but a Sippy Cup could not be located for the event)




Man, was he pleased with his party, and so were we! May you have 110 more birthday parties like that Little Man. We love you!