Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Update: I am victorious

One of the weird side effects of having a lack of attention for more than 5 minutes when I'm feeling agitated is that I actually have the ability to hyper-focus for short bursts. Which is perfect for when you're playing Scramble against your nemesis, Cindy- the super-bitch genius. As evidenced below, I've recently made some excellent inroads on our recent battles. I think I will refer to this period as "The Surge".

Not only have I beaten her 3 times in a row in heads up matches but I had a great solo game which now puts me at the top of the ladder, just a mere 2 points above Cindy. I told you she was going down!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Just get the fuck away from me

As I described in a January post here, most of my downswings tend to be a bad version of mania. You know your moods are strictly bipolar related when you're actually experiencing the opposite in real life to what you feel inside. Since the external stimuli is positive and my internal emotions are negative, it tends to catch me off guard and I don't interpret my moods properly.

If not for my mood swing, this past weekend was actually very delightful.
-The Phils clinched their second straight NL East division title and I get to go to more playoff games.
-I went out with a friend of mine and our kids to a game yesterday and almost caught Lou Marson's first major league home run.
-The weather was kind to us at the game despite the fact it was raining at my house.
-I had no real plans otherwise and got to relax.

Yet, I kept finding myself annoyed by everyone around me. I've had insomnia the past few nights. Plus, I just can't hold my attention on anything for longer than 5 minutes. (this is the 3rd attempt so far to write this) Since I was supposed to be enjoying myself and not being such a shit (or having to hide being a shit), I wasn't quite aware of the fact that I might be in a downturn. Despite the knowledge that I'm getting less light, I still managed to forget to monitor myself.

So, I apologize to my wife and my friends who may have gotten a taste of my curtness this weekend. I may have to take some pills and hope that this doesn't last too long.

Saturday, September 27, 2008



Goodbye Paul Newman

Paul Newman has finally succumbed to his battle with cancer. Although it's been known for weeks that he was not long for this world, it still brings me great sadness to think that we can longer enjoy any new work. Aside from being a great actor, he was truly a classy human being. His work in charity speaks volumes as to the nature of his heart.

Paul Newman

The following is a list of movies I've seen that Paul Newman had starred in. There's not one movie on that list I didn't enjoy on some level and in every case Paul's performance was worth watching.

Cars (2006)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Nobody's Fool (1994)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) .
Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990)
The Color of Money (1986)
The Verdict (1982)
Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)
Slap Shot (1977)
The Drowning Pool (1975)
The Towering Inferno (1974)
The Sting (1973)
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)
Sometimes a Great Notion (1971)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Hombre (1967)
Hud (1963)
The Hustler (1961)
Exodus (1960)
The Young Philadelphians (1959)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)

Goodbye Paul, we'll miss you.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Hello to Arms

My youngest son, Gabriel, is quite the gun nut lately. It's not just guns either- swords, knives, axes, scythes, light sabers and anything else that can cause bodily harm in the pretend world is what really grabs his attention. He's even based his Halloween costume on what weapon compliments the outfit. As a result he's the grim reaper because he got a kick ass axe/scythe like weapon. It's on a long stick so he has greater range to decimate his foes. Good choice, IMO.

I'm about the furthest thing from being a proud NRA card carrying member. While I have softened my stance a bit due to my inclination to becoming more libertarian in my politics, I feel that guns rights may be fine for others but it's certainly not something I'm clamoring to have in my house. I think that the chances of an accidental or impulsive shooting are much higher risks than ever using a gun to defend me and my family. Perhaps, I'll feel differently if congress doesn't get their shit together and save us from the next world depression and there is mass chaos and looting in the streets.

Last night, Gabe laid out all of his action figure's guns on the table. he proceeded to ask me what type of gun each one was. To be honest, he knew more about the names than I did. I couldn't recall the name of a bazooka as he did, so why he was asking me, I have no idea- was he looking for tacit approval of his fascination? I did know what an Uzi was and he now has Israeli weaponry in his scope of knowledge. I try not to be judgmental, he is a 7 year old boy after all. Guns and weapons are cool, neato, rad, awesome, etc... It's something that I hope he'll eventually outgrow as he comes to the realization that death and destruction aren't things to be lauded.

When Lynn and I set out to be the best of parents, we tried to keep toy guns out of their hands. Gradually, over the years, we let in water guns, Nerf guns, space pistols and other such opaquely toyish guns. Their action figures come with tiny version of realistic guns and so far we have yet to get anything realistic looking like I had as a child. It wouldn't surprise me if realistic toy guns have gone the way of lawn darts as being too irresposible for children to have. I can imagine that some kids have been shot holding a toy gun that was mistaken as real. My kids have missed out on candy cigarettes too. I guess anything the ATF agency has jurisdiction over isn't something that should be marketed towards children.

The fact that Jonathan and Gabriel have friends that constantly wish to pretend that they are battling each other adds to my son's fascination with weapons. It leaves me as being torn between thinking that "boys will be boys" and genuine concern that Gabe isn't learning proper values that I hold about violence. I hope that my lack of major intervention is the best course of action at this point. In 11 years, I don't wish to see my son join up with army so he can shoot things with cool weapons.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm out of my cotton pickin' mind!

The human mind will occasionally make an usual hiccough. Some of these hiccoughs will manifest into serious mental disorders like OCD where the person has to make sure his light switches are all turned up or down and he can't go through a doorway without touching the frame 5 times or else suffer "dire consequences". There is no logic whatsoever to the behavior, it's just that something isn't working quite right in the person's brain for this to happen. Aside from what I suffer from myself, bipolar disorder, other such brain hiccoughs include anxiety disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, Turret's Syndrome and phobias. While there are certainly mostly serious and debilitating problems that result from these disorders, the pure illogical nature of these quirky behaviors can be sometimes be somewhat comical.

Which brings me to a confession that not all of you are privy to. I suffer from a phobia of touching an object that is completely benign and what everyone else would view as a good experience. It doesn't affect my everyday life, in fact I'd be surprised if it comes up 4-5 times a year. But, when it does enter into my life, the end result is that I freak out and everyone else around me giggles with amazement or flat out guffaws at my illogical fear and girlish screams of protests.

I can't touch a cotton ball.

Before I continue, I will answer your immediate questions-
1) Cotton shirts and other items made out of cotton don't bother me at all. It's the loose ball of fluffy cotton that gets me in a tizzy.
2) I have my wife open up OTC pill bottles. (thank you for wasteful blister packs!!)
3) Polyester balls are fine, they are synthetic enough to not have the same feeling, although I don't like looking at them.
4) Cotton candy is also a different texture and is a yummy treat that I have no problems in enjoying.

I'm not lying when I say that I now have chills up and down my spine as I write this. While the fear isn't out of control when I just look at a cotton ball, I do get a serious case of the willies just thinking about cotton. The worst is when I touch one, I get so anxious and afraid that I actually feel pain. I'll run and make a big production and scream, "GAHHHH!" as I vigorously shake my hand that touched the offensive ball of fluff. I do understand that the whole thing is absurdly funny for others to witness. My behavior makes no sense, so therefore the comic possibilities are near endless. At least, with other phobias like fear of heights or spiders, you can see why a person fears those things. The danger may not be imminent, but creepy crawlies are somewhat scary and a long fall can kill you. Most of us wouldn't think to tease a person with such phobias.

Yet, since I was a child, whenever someone finds out about my fear, they always tease me and do something to see my reaction when I encounter the harmless cotton ball. I recall that once my dorm floor tenants in Denton Hall found out about my phobia I was often was greeted to a door covered in cotton balls. I would have to wait for Jeff to get back from class for me to enter my own room. I could hear the snickers echo down the hall as I dejectedly walked away into the common living room to wait. I am grateful that I have avoided being video taped as of yet.

Even my own brother betrayed me today. My father had left a package in the warehouse for me to send by UPS to a customer of his. I guess he's forgotten about my irrational fear as he packed it in a box and used cotton for packing material. (my father is notoriously cheap, he'll use whatever he can find to accomplish his needs) Upon witnessing the box, I tried to remain calm and I paged my brother discretely so our employee Rocco wouldn't hear. He came up to the package and dutifully took away the cotton for me. As I repacked the box, I realized that my brother took the cotton balls into the office with him. When I entered the room I trepidatiously asked what he did with the "box". I immediately heard Rocco snickering so I knew I was in a bind. I then noticed the cotton balls taped to the bathroom door.

I suppose, if I can dish it out I need to take it as well. I am always the first person to needle someone when it comes to their weaknesses. I am especially fond of the absurd so I can't hate my persecutors, in fact, I even admire their tenacity (but I think their creativity needs work). Mind you, this is NOT an open invitation for you to start bombarding me with cotton balls, you probably won't like the results.

If I had to find any logic in fearing cotton balls I have to look back at my childhood. (how very Freudian!) I did get alot of ear infections as a youngster. Being on a swim team, I would get swimmer's ear alot and in the winter I would get the ear infections because I would sniff instead of blowing my nose. Back in those days, the treatment was to put in ear drops. The object that was used to keep the drops fro seeping out? - Of course, a cotton ball! I must associate the cotton ball with the pain of my ear aches. I surmise it's also why I hate the sound of walking in the snow- it's eerily similar to the sound of a cotton ball being pushed in your ear. Besides, I think this makes much more sense than what a girl in college once said to me- that I was a cotton picking slave in a former life.

I guess I could look to cure my phobia with therapy, but I don't think the amount of times it's truly made me uncomfortable that it makes it worth the expense. So, until my logical mind can somehow allow me to enjoy the tactile sensation of cotton balls, I will keep one eye open for the dreaded little suckers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The magic bus

Now I know what The Who was singing about all those years ago. Most weekday mornings, my wife comes home from her night shift at 8AM. I then give her and the kids a hug and a kiss goodbye as I leave for work. (she puts them on the bus at 8:45 and goes to sleep shortly afterwards) I make my usual trek down Stump road to Limekiln pike to Pickertown road which will eventually take me to Bristol road. But since school began, after I pass Upper State street I get stuck behind a school bus.

This school bus will make 9 stops. Since the houses are directly on Pickertown road and not part of a development, the bus is picking up each child (or small group of siblings) from each household separately. In some cases it will stop, pick up a child, and then edge up another 100 feet and pick up the next child. Needless to say, it's rather annoying. Sometimes, you can even see that the child is running late and the bus will sit and wait as the child scrambles to get his bag and run towards the bus from his front porch. This whole getting stuck behind the school bus thing will delay my morning commute close to 6 minutes.

Basically, that leaves me a few options to rectify this situation:

1) Leave earlier or later to avoid the bus
2) Take a different route
3) Become friends with the union leader of the bus drivers and have him apply copious amounts of pressure to alter the bus route

Option 1 isn't really an option for me. If I were to leave later I would probably miss the bus, but, I would still be later to work and that would make me even later to work than if I was just stuck behind the bus. On occasion, I have had the luxury of having my wife come home as early as 7:53AM and I was able to get out the door earlier. This is where the magic bus part seems to come into play-

In the past 3 weeks when I leave between 7:53 and 8:03, I will get stuck behind the bus, no matter which time I leave. You'd think leaving a good 7 minutes before usual, you'd avoid the bus, but no....the 4 times I've had that chance (and I've been charting this with graphs and computers) I have yet to get in front of the bus before it makes its stops. I'm starting to think that there's a guy at a checkpoint somewhere along my commute who radios ahead to the bus so it can get in front of me. Perhaps, it's the stop light's timing mechanism or perhaps, it's all a big conspiracy to prevent me from getting to the office before the TV people set it up properly ala The Truman Show.

Option 2 doesn't really work either. The 2nd best route takes longer to drive due to traffic, lights, school zones (damn school kids!!) and longer distances. How much longer? That's right, you guessed it- 6 minutes!! I suppose I really should be taking the secondary route to save myself some agita. Despite the fact that the primary route is now the same time-wise, at least the secondary route won't get me all worked up over wondering how this damn bus always manages to get ahead of me.

Option 3 would be optimal, but I really don't like blue collar workers. I guess that makes me an elitist, but I'm just not a bring a lunch box to work kinda guy.

Alas, I should just suck it up and accept the fact that my commute will be 6 minutes longer when school is in session. I suppose it sounds like I'm whining as most of you probably suffer from interstate and turnpike traffic jams. But you lose sight of the bigger picture when you get cooped up in the car. The sense of urgency and the need for immediacy defies all logical thinking while you have your foot on the gas pedal. I can't imagine how much worse the Hulk would be if he had a morning commute.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The playoff tickets are here!!

According to the UPS tracking number I received from the Phillies, my playoff tickets are waiting for me when I get home. I almost didn't purchase them. The due date was the 12th of September- at that point the Phillies were 4 games out of first place and also 4 games out of the wild card race behind the Brewers. While it's true that the money goes towards next year's season tickets, I was somewhat disenfranchised about our playoff hopes at the time and didn't want the Phillies to get interest on me paying early for my season tickets. At the end of the business day I had a conversation with my old buddy, Jeff, on Facebook and he convinced me to go for it because "ya never know".

The Phils then proceded to sweep the Brewers for 4 games and eventually became the division leader.

So, thank you Jeff. I shall reward you with allowing you first choice of one of my games if you wish to come with me to one. (and I'll only charge face value too!)

The Phils haven't technically clinched yet, but it would take some extroadinary circumstances for them to miss the playoffs. Whether it's as a wild card spot or as the NL east repeat champs, the chances of them making the playoffs are rather high. According to stat sites like baseball prospectus, we have close to a 98% chance of making the playoffs. I guess it would take a collossal meltdown like the Mets had last year for the Phils to blow it.

The Philly in me knows not to get my hopes up again for the World Series, but the playoffs in baseball are often determined by which team is hot. The Phils seem to be heating up at the right time, so I guess you can say- "ya never know"?


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rapping to the oldies

When I was a kid, the AM dial on the radio had quite a few stations that were devoted to "oldies" music. They played Sinatra ballads, show tunes, swing music and big band songs. My dentist loved to listen to that stuff and would have the radio tuned to those stations. He had the volume way up as well as he was hard of hearing. Perhaps, it's why I hate Sinatra so much. I associate the pain of my teeth being drilled with blaring staticky versions of My Way and Chicago.

As a teen, the oldies stations started to play early rock n' roll. Buddy Holly, Elvis, and all of those wonderful one hit wonders from the 50's. My friend Mike and I would often tune into the FM station that played those dittys and listen to it on occasion, especially when we cruised around in his 1970 Pontiac Firebird. We'd often scream the lyrics out the car window- "Na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, hey- Goodbye!!" "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty girl your wife!!" Even though the music was created well before we were born, we enjoyed the simplicity of the classic style. We scoffed at the fact that this music was even considered remotely controversial as it was so tame by the day's standards.

Nowadays, the oldies stations are now mostly classic rock stations. They play the Beatles, Rolling Stones, early 70's stadium rock, Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin. This progression of what an oldies station has become has made me realize that the oldies stations will be playing corny 80's music in about 10-15 years and eventually grunge music and hard core rap.

I can just picture it now- in 30-40 years, driving my grandchildren somewhere with an oldies station on and they start to whine that 50 Cent is old people's music. I would be quick to retort back, "Listen here children, 50 Cent has more talent in his left thumb than those awful singers, if you can even call them that, that you guys listen to!"

"Comon' Pop-pop, don't make us listen to that Madonna chick again, that old bag is almost 90!"

"Hey that 'old bag' looks damn fine for a 90 year old, if I wasn't married to your Mom-mom I wouldn't mind striking a pose with her, if you catch my drift!"

"Ewwwww, Pop-pop! You're so gross!"

We have to remind ourselves that history repeats itself. The young will always have music that the old will hate and that music will someday become oldies music.

Scrambled Egos

Facebook has alot of time sucking activities. While I'm not a big fan of most of the crap that's on there (Lil' Green Patch gifts?!), I do enjoy the puzzle games like Scramble (a Boggle rip-off), Pathwords (another Boggle variant), Word Twist and Challenge Sudoku. Pretty much every day, in the past 15 years, I've completed a crosswords puzzle, a Sudoku board or a word scramble. Quite often I will do more than one. Needless to say I very much enjoy puzzles and I have gotten quite good at them- if I don't say so myself.

So when my friend Andy first started to challenge me to some of the aforementioned puzzle games on Facebook, I delighted in kicking his ass from here to his apartment in Washington DC. It took a little while to get used to the online format and I had to hasten my answers as the timer makes a huge difference but once I got used to it, I started to beat my friends piddly scores at most any game.

That is until Cindy came along....

Cindy is an old friend of mine from my high school days. She was both a band geek and drama nerd like myself. I always knew she was a smart gal but I had no idea that she could consistently best me over and over and over again like she has in the past 3 weeks. Although, I will admit I started to bore of toying with Andy and my other friends in Pathwords, I am not amused by the predicament that is my current lot in life.

She is good, damn good. I have sqeaked out a few wins here and there, but she consistently beats my scores. Even in Sudoku she beats me and I consider myself to a very strong player. At first, I was in shock and thought she got lucky. After she beat me 3 times in a row I started to accuse her of cheating. How else could she be scoring that high?! Eventually my ire caused me to stop challenging her to any games. My ego couldn't take any more. But then she started to challenge me!! I felt like a mouse who gets batted around by a cat until it's ready to break my neck and leave me on the front porch.

At least the competition has caused us to push each other to do better. Andy has even marveled at how high my scores have been lately and that is a direct result of this super-genius bitch driving me to the edge of insanity. I'm a competitive guy and it's why I get so upset when I lose at poker. I want to beat everyone and when someone is clearly better than me, well, that is a huge beat down to the old ego.

While my initial reaction was to move on to easier prey, I've now decided to make it my mission in life (right after raising my children and being a good husband) to grab Cindy by the ankles and drag her down to the ground and smoosh her superior brainy puzzle-solving skull into the mud with me. If you think that sounds a bit violet, don't worry- it's a metaphor. Besides, she's a republican and she deserves it.

Oh yes, I will have my day, look out Cindy- I've started some intensive training and you're going down.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Double digits

Cue the dramatic music-

My oldest son, Jonathan, is 10 today.

He, of course, is happy as a clam and I am happy for him.


I am experiencing a bit of the double digit blues. I am seeing way too many double digit figures for my tastes lately. This year It's been..

25th year since a Philadelphia sports championship (of importance- fuck the Soul)
20th year out of high school
15th year since the Phillies made the World Series
14th year since my business was started
13th year since my mother passed away
10th year of marriage
and now I have a 10 year old son (insert withdraw method joke here)

In hindsight, 10 years ago was the beginnings of me getting my shit together. Having a baby to care for will do that to you. It wasn't an overnight transformation, mind you, but I did start learning quick. I do still have to pretend to know what I'm doing half the time but at least I step up to the plate and get things done now. Quite a change from when it was 2 weeks before Jonathan's due date and I had quit my crappy car sales job in Downingtown.

I was miserable, I hated my boss, the commute was terrible and getting another car sales job is a snap but it was probably the most selfish thing I have ever done. About 2 weeks after Jonathan was born I got off my ass and sold cars in Newtown. Two years previously I eventually swallowed my pride and started to talk to my father again. The business that we started together and my brother was running was starting to really take off, so less than 2 years after Jonathan was born I was able to to come back to the business, buy a house, and starting planning to have another child.

Funny how children change you. I am almost an upstanding and productive member of society.

So, Happy Birthday Jonathan- thanks for making me who I am today. I am so proud of you.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Agitated by the agitator

My sons, being only 2.5 years apart, have a lot of common friends. Whenever one or more of them end up at my house, the noise level doesn't go up by the one or two boys that is added to the mix but by exponential factors instead. It only takes one extra boy to get things really loud. I call this boy, whomever he may be, the "agitator". The agitator adds that exciting element that get my sons all in a tizzy and they realize they aren't just stuck playing with each other. Their conversational tones become screaming matches as they suddenly have the ability to pretend and play games, whereas, when it was just the 2 of them they couldn't find the will or inclination to do just that.

It's not the agitator himself that is the problem as it's just his mere presence that creates a completely different atmosphere. Some agitators are obviously more annoying than others as some kids that they play with just don't have proper manners and haven't been brought up the same way as our kids have. (and I'm sure that some parents aren't fond of our moral guidance as well.) However, as I said, the agitator rile up my kids regardless of whether the agitator is a problem child himself.

The agitator adds the following noises and annoying things to deal with while he's here:

1) As mentioned- the boys lose the ability to keep their voices down. I usually funnel them all down the basement and you can still hear their every word from the living room, even with the television on! Also, it's the type of screams that really get to me. For whatever reasons, my youngest son, Gabriel just seems to start making weird monster noises and grunts all the time. Since children can't really pay attention and are self-centered, they raise their voices in order to be heard instead of waiting until the one child is finished talking.

2) The second annoying thing that the agitator creates is that the gross factor becomes insipidly mind numbing. Puke, pee, poop, farts, boogers and anything nasty and gross is often brought up and laughed about. Now, I myself, have still been known to like a good fart joke. But the relentless unabashed grossness is an unstoppable barrage of unfunny jokes that the shock value is completely lost. Let's face it, farting while someone is eating their boogers isn't as funny as a proper well bred woman making a tiny but still audible toot in the middle of church.

3) Another thing that becomes evident when an agitator is present is that I start hearing doors slam all over the house. The kids can't seem to stay in one place when there's an agitator about. Plus privacy suddenly becomes a issue (despite the fact that they can't keep their voices down) so they feel it necessary to close the door. Since any sense of subtlety is thrown out the window when an agitator is in the house, the doors are constantly being slammed instead of being shut properly. "TWHAM!!

4) The aforementioned inability to stay in one place also creates the need to run and not walk from room to room. The resulting noise is even worse than the door slams- "thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk" (pause) "thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk- THWAM!!!"

5) The last thing that occurs when an agitator is in the house is that my kids suddenly become brash and will talk back to me in a obnoxious manner. I guess the need to show off for their friends overrides their survival mechanism. I do put a quick kabosh to that change in their behavior as I threaten to send the agitator home if they continue to sass me. Yet, they still feel the need to give it a try every time.

I wanted to have a girl at one point, but since we only wanted 2 kids and I'm fixed we won't be blessed with having one. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I am more knowledgeable on how to handle 2 boys. I am 2.5 years younger than my one older brother. The same dynamic that I grew up with is the same that my 2 boys have. I listen to stories of my wife's family, as she was the youngest of 3 girls, and I shudder. I wonder if I would've had the ability to handle a girl. 2 boys even with 2 or 3 agitators in the house aren't all that bad despite my complaints. Their predictability is what will ultimately doom them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'm the Son of Sam of the goldfish world

I either have no clue as to the correct care of goldfish or experience the worst luck in goldfish health conditions. This past Saturday my wife went to go change the water and clean the tank and she found poor Whitey was floating at the top. His lifeless body caught in the filter.


That's now 4 fish in approximately 3 months. I am at a higher ratio than 1 fish per month. While that's no shakes to people who live in Japan or to those rough and tumble fellows you see on Deadliest Catch, I get the feeling that goldfish feel as if I am the angel of death. I fear the next time I go to the pet store to pick out a replacement that the fish will all cower in the back and low corner of the tank or perhaps behind the shipwreck or the bubbly diver head.

If the Fish Police ever come to arrest me then I will claim insanity and tell them that my dog is Satan and told me to do it. One look at Brutus and you'll know instantly that his gaze hypnotizes you into anything he wants you to do. I often feel myself losing control as he looks at you with puppy dog eyes. It's no wonder that I may be killing fish and doing his bidding.

Brutus can't stand sharing his attention with other pets. If you ever want to call Brutus all you have to do is start petting our other dog, Sammy and he comes running. He'll jump in bewteen you and poor Sam so that he gets all the lovin'. So, I admit, it's possible that Brutus has somehow pulled a Manchurian Candidate on me and I've been killing the goldfish with my lack of knowledge and consent.

You try looking into those eyes...and feel your eyelids getting heavy...heavier...you are getting sleepy...sleepy...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rainy days and Tuesdays

Like the sunlight, the weather also seems to affect to my moods. A gloomy, rainy day like today always seems to give me the blues and make me feel melancholy. If I didn't have work responsibilities it wouldn't be that horrible. I'd just stay at home and listen to jazzy music or sad schmaltzy songs. Maybe I'd drink some red wine and heat up some soup with toasty bread. Small depressions can actually be somewhat relaxing as you aren't so high strung. It's when you start to revel in your own sorrow that it becomes bad.

The upcoming fall weather will create this sort of atmosphere for me almost on a daily basis. The trick is to be careful for when the bleak winter has made its way into my moods. Nice patio fires and cool breezes are welcome as it winds me down from an always intense and manic summer. In some ways I wish we could just skip winter altogether and have fall to spring to summer to fall again. I suppose that's what it's like living in the mid-Atlantic states. I'd move there if it weren't for all the right wing republicans and annoying country music and accents.

The fall, of course, also provides more sleep for me. Aside from the summer humidity causing my underwear to stick to my hind quarters, the cool breezes of fall and shorter days allow me to have longer and more restful sleep. It's what my wife and I call, "sleepin' weather". The ability to cuddle up in your blanket or with each other makes you feel more cozy and sleepy. It's a shame my wife works nights or else I'd pop in a dvd tonight after the kids go to bed and get all nuzzled with her on the couch.

The dampening of my thoughts is a good thing I guess, if I can just get past the blues. In some ways this blog has been therapeutic as I can talk about such things. Expressing my feelings is one way to have a release. Even if I'm not talking to anyone in particular but empty cyberspace, it helps me organize my thoughts enough to be in touch with what's happening to me. That's half the battle, really.

Monday, September 8, 2008

When nerds collide

In two days, on September 10th, you will hear the collective sound of physicists and nerds around the world fapping away to the gentle hum of the large hadron collider being fired up. If you are an old guy over 35 and thus watch the Discovery and Science channels then you are probably aware of this monstrous machine and its implications. To sum up for the young, ignorant or apathetic, the large hadron collider (LHC) is a huge machine that is 17 miles in circumfrence and has lots and lots of magnets. It is designed to accelerate particles at sub light speeds and eventually into each other. The resulting collision is what gets the physics geeks all agog with glee and hard nipples.

Supposedly this mini-big bang will create what is called a Higgs boson. Once we can observe and study the Higgs boson we can then figure out all sorts of questions we've had since Newton got plunked on the head with an apple. Such questions include:

-How do atomic particles aquire mass?
-Why is gravity a weak force?
-Is there a grand unifying theory?
-Are there extra dimensions and can we see them?
-What is the deal with dark matter and energy?
-What does Britney see in Adnan Ghalib anyways?

Personally, I think that all they had to do was come and see me and I'd answer those questions without having to spend so much money:

-Bad carbohydrates like sugars and white flour.
-Trick question- gravity isn't a weak force. After all, ask the sky diver whose parachute didn't open just how weak it is.
-Yes, Barack Obama told me so at the Democratic convention.
-My parents had a friend who saw The 5th Dimension in concert, but he may have been on acid, so who's to say if he's right?
-Love will always overcome the dark side. (see Return of the Jedi)
-It's possible that Adnan has some sort of blackmail over her, I've even heard speculation that he has a sex tape that he's threatened her with.

What truly amazes me is that somehow people were convinced to spend well over 6 billion Euros on this project. To put that in perspective- In today's economy, one Euro is worth about a million dollars. Now, I'm not good at math but I think that makes this one helluva an expensive project! If the physicists want a collision that badly, I'd be perfectly willing to take half that money and drive my car into a wall. I'd even do it naked. Even if they don't want me naked, I'll still get naked because I care that much about science, dammit!

The biggest problem isn't if this big and expensive LHC goes kaput but if it does indeed work and then answers all of our questions. After all, once we have figured out the universe, what else is there left to do? Go home and call it a day? Go up to the Pope and scream, "I told you so!" as you do a little victory dance? Sell the secret of the universe to neighboring galaxies for oil? Go back and correct all the physics mistakes in Star Trek and release them all in a special Blue Ray DVD box set?

Alas, I do have a sinking feeling that just like the TV show Lost, once we have one our big questions answered that we'll be presented with 5 more new ones. I just hope it's not as stupid and there isn't a big frozen donkey wheel involved in all of this.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The weekend of last hope

The Phillies went into this week only a game out of first with the Mets playing the strong Brewers and the Phils playing the hapless Nats. It didn't quite go as planned as the Phils went 1-2 and the Mets went 3-0. Making it a 3 game lead for the Mets. The last shining ray of hope is that we get play them for 3 games this weekend.

Mano e mano (Nine-o e Nine-o?)

If we can manage a sweep or even pick up a game by winning 2 of 3 then I'll send in my playoff invoice this coming week. If they lose the first 2, well, then at least it's football season! The Iggles play the Rams in the home opener. Quite frankly, I just don't know what to expect. I hear that they could be good this year, but you hear that every year and while they do contend almost every year, I'd really like to see a real strong team that makes the Superbowl.

Dammit- is that too much to ask- a friggin' championship?

It's been too goddamned long and I'm sick of it. I couldn't give a rat's ass that the stupid Soul won a title. I want a Superbowl ring or a World Series ring and I want it this year.

In the words of the esteemed Tim Gunn, "Make it work!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The age of remembrance

I have solid memories dating back to the 2nd grade. If I try to remember beyond 1977, I can only remember a few scant details. I remember the yellow budded bush behind my house, I can recall some details of my room in Philadelphia and barely picture some of the friends I had at the time. (I moved the next year, so it's not that I remember them from later years) I can recall that my first grade teacher really admired Farrah Fawcett and had a poster of her pinned up on the wall. (and she was a woman!) Beyond those weird details I can't remember much else at all. Basically, your own sense of self and consciousness seems to have fully developed by age 7. Anything that happens before age 7 is merely a subconscious influence and not something you can directly call upon for decision making or recollection.

Since both my kids are now 7 and almost 10, I guess I should watch my influential behaviors a bit more. Anything negative that I do from this point is stuff that they can throw back in my face when they become adults. At least all of the bad parenting I have done in the past is something I can claim as being false memories of theirs. The stoic and cold reactions of my father have definitely made their impact on me. I'd like to think that the sensitive nature of my mother has also influences my current nature as well.

As parents, I think we all secretly desire our children to be just like us. In many ways, it's why teens and parents fight so much. The teenager desires their own identity and starts to dislike certain personality traits in their parents because they don't like it in themselves. (and vice-a-versa) I know when my father started to fool around behind my mother's back I was really bothered since I had looked up to him so much and emulated him. I wondered if I was doomed to eventually have the same "bad gene". (it's also quite disconcerting to discover your parents are human and make mistakes- but that's another blog)

I know my sons definitely look to me for reactions in certain situations. I fear that I may be breeding sarcastic and cynical people. I suppose that's not the worst thing as it does teach them to question things and not accept things blindly. But there's something to be said for giving a little and pretending to be happy to make others happy. Thank goodness they have their mother. She may also be a bit sardonnic at times but she is a bigger personality than she realizes. Her strength will teach my children that women are their equals and not to be objectified like the Farrah Fawcett poster.

I see myself in both my sons. It's a good thing I hope. I can only lead by example as best as I can. I like to think I do some things better than my parents and I can only hope that they do the same. I hope they can look back with fondness and I can only wonder what bits of info they'll remember.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Gag reflex

One of the things that seems to kick in overdrive when I get nervous is my sense of humor. The quick witted puns, jokes, and sarcasm just seem to fly off my tongue. Appropriateness be damned and whatever hits the brain doesn't go through the standard social filter. (see previous post about that) Going to doctor is one of those situations where I feel out of control and nervous. Even routine visits cause the heart to race and get me thinking he's going to squeeze a piece of my body and then he'll loudly proclaim that I have terminal cancer. While I know logically the chances of this happening are pretty slim, I still get a bit nervous when I visit any doctor. Heck, even a podiatrist scares me more than riding a roller coaster.

As far back as I can think, I was always a card in the doctor office. I could even get my pediatrician to laugh at times. The main problem is breaking in a new doctor as often my sarcasm is taken seriously. My current doctor I have only seen a few times and after paying him a visit for a severe sore throat today he did seem a bit lost as to my nature but quickly caught on. It eventually becomes a game for me to get the doctor to laugh. The following is a paraphrased conversation of my visit today:

Me: I have a bit of a head cold that's causing my throat to really swell. It's so swollen that I am physically gagging at times.

Doc: (starts to examine my nose, ears, etc) It appears we're in for a long cold season this year, I've already seen quite a bit of colds before the school season even started.

Me: Must be good for business, anything I can to do to help spread this around more efficiently?

Doc: (gives strange look) It's important to wash your hands especially after touching door knobs and the like.

Me: I gotcha- I should go around licking door knobs. Why don't you get your assistant to give me a few addresses of your patients and I can get to work right after I leave here. Will you pay me per customer that comes in or just a flat rate for the whole job?

Doc: (starts to realize I'm joking, but still tries to stay serious) Well, it's a good plan but it would break quite a few HIPAA laws, I'm afraid.

Me: I don't blame you. I wouldn't want the hippos after me either. I hear they kill three times as many humans than lions do in a year.

Doc: (after looking at my throat) Your uvula is swollen and it's resting on the back of your tongue. As a result you keep trying to swallow it dry. It's like giving your uvula a hickey and it's what's causing you to gag.

Me: Just promise me you won't tell my wife that I've been giving hickeys to uvulas, she might take that the wrong way.

Doc: (Physically holds back a snicker and tries to stay on track) I recommend that you keep a water bottle around with you so that you can swallow water every time you need to swallow. Since your reflux could also be causing the swelling, you shouldn't eat anything 4 hours before you're lying down. I'm also going to write a script for a Robotussin with codeine, that way you can get a good night's sleep.

Me: Okay, so let me get this straight- you want me to drink alot of water and then knock myself unconscious with some codeine?

Doc: Well, yes.

Me: Shouldn't I be wearing adult diapers?

Doc: (Finally lets out a laugh) Yes, I suppose that wouldn't be a bad idea!

The adult diapers line gets 'em every time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

School fools

It was an exciting day of school activity for the Klaus family, present company excluded. Aside from the kids starting up school again today, my wife was also at school observing a class. Lynn decided a few months ago to go back to school and become a high school science teacher. She's now working at night, sleeping during the day and doing online school during the evenings and whenever else she gets a free moment. I've done my best to help around the house with what I can and also avoid her when she becomes a stark, raving, mad, stressed-out lunatic. Since the online class is in Arizona she was put in the unfortunate predicament of having to schedule an observance and report on a class by this Wednesday. School in the west and south tend to start earlier than Labor day so it was extremely difficult for Lynn to be able to schedule an observance considering that the local schools haven't started until today. Nonetheless, she persevered and managed to convince our son's teacher from last year to let her come and watch today (we still had her email- hooray modern technology and the inter-webs!!). Thus, all three of my loved ones went to the same elementary school for some education.

Despite the end of summer vacation, I do recall getting excited over going back to school. You do get to see your friends that you haven't seen all summer again, you have a new wardrobe to sport and it's a brand new startwith new teachers so you're committed to putting your nose to the grindstone and getting great grades. The last sentiment lasts all about a week, but still it's fun to dream.

Looking back (do I do much else on this blog?) on my school years I had some rough patches but overall enjoyed my experiences. Elementary school was easy and fun. Intermediate school, like for most, was hellish and awful- a kill or be killed world. (and I was killed most of the time- chubby, nerdy and smart kids don't do so well on the social ladder) High school was where I really blossomed. I lost alot of weight- I was able to snag a few dates until I eventually went steady. Plus, I had alot of friends. It didn't seem like much at the time, but in hindsight I did have a much bigger number than I realized. That is, if my facebook account is to be believed. I was part of a few clubs like Boy Scouts, drama and marching band and I even was part of a 6 man comedy team that performed sketches live on stage (twice!!). As a result, I also had a sense of accomplishment and feeling wanted. College had its share of ups and downs. Especially lots of downs towards the end with my mood disorder in full swing (forgive the pun). Despite my failures, I would do it all over again for the experiences it provided me.

Now I get to watch my sons go through the same thing. Hopefully I can impart some wisdom that they'll actually follow. But I doubt that as I generally ignored my parents and blew them off as not being able to understand me and what I was going through (how wrong I was). The arrogance of youth is something to be marveled at. The ability to charge into a room at full speed without experience is a beautiful thing to watch. The lack of good common sense is what enables the young to learn after all. The best lessons are often not what your parents and teacher can give you but what is experienced by yourself.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Does a bear wipe in the woods?

I suppose as Americans we have our puritan roots and the shame that goes along with it. It isn't polite to discuss natural bodily functions. Of course, that leaves Madison Avenue and the ad men a problem. How can they peddle their hygienic products without even having to show or perhaps mention the dentures, piss, poop, herpes sores, anal fissures and menstrual fluids?

The first big idea was to give the products fancy names. The higher level of vocabulary that is used, the more clinical the products feel and thus the more detached we are from our own disgusting body waste and odorous expulsions. Instead of "blood diaper" or "period sponge" we have feminine hygiene pads. We use toilet paper (toilet being a fancy French word) instead of "ass wipers" or "shit towels". This clinical approach is one that works. It allows us to feel adult and mature when discussing our bodily functions and prevents us from giggling like a 10 year old boy after he hears a fart.

In order to continue with the clinical theme, the ad men often put their products in a laboratory setting in demonstrating their products absorbency or usefulness. The cold stainless steels and white wall backgrounds again bring up that this is indeed science and not something to look at the TV in horror or snicker when the announcer mentions diarrhea.

The best idea to emerge for TV was the use of blue colored water- Need to show how a diaper absorbs up lots of pee and doesn't leak? Start mixing up the blue raspberry Kool-Aid and pour on the blue water! Need to show how well a feminine hygiene pad keeps the menstrual fluid away from the edges versus the leading brand? Get the tidy bowl pellets out and pour on the blue water!

As a child, I would watch game shows like Match Game and Super Password with my mother during day time television. The commercials were overwhelmingly filled with hygienic products. As a result, I was concerned that someday that I myself would be leaking blue water or would eventually have to wear dentures that look like giant white tiles. Madison Avenue would use practically anything but the product's intended target. Our sensitivities must be as fragile as a sugar sculpture that we can't even bear to look at a pair of dentures sitting in a glass. Heck, there is a cable game show called Hurl, where the whole point of the show is to get contestants to puke up gobs of creamed corn and broccoli with mac and cheese. But they don't even show the vomit! They actually cover up the spewed chunks! Personally, I think that if they feel it's necessary to block out a stream of upchuck on a game show titled, Hurl, then they should at least use modern digital manipulation and have the decency to replace it with blue water.

Nowadays, I think we even have taken a step backwards. We can't even stand to look at clinical commercials (or perhaps are bored with them?) and now prefer to make our bodily functions cutesy. Just look at the silly song on the Pepto-Bismol commercial or the Charmin commercials with the cartoon bears and their dilemma of which toilet paper to use. Maybe it's me, but that stuff really skeeves me out more than a direct approach would.

"Charmin, softer than sand paper and doesn't leave dingleberries!"