Wednesday, April 09, 2014

"Monkey for Sale" / "How Much for the Monkey?" / "Oh, He's Not for Sale"

Cristin loves to hear the story of how my grandmother ordered a monkey from the Spiegel catalog in the 1950s. I don't think she can quite believe that you used to be able to mail-order monkeys. I don't see why that would be so weird; you used to be able to mail-order brides. Imagine the size of the crates they came in. (Although if the crate was too large, you'd just send it back before they even took it off the train, am I right? Right? [crickets])

Anyway, for some reason I decided to look up the Spiegel catalog online and see if someone had taken a picture of the "monkey for sale" ad. Maybe Cristin called me a liar. Maybe she just had a look in her eye that said, "I'd call you a liar, but since you're friends with my husband, I'll hold back." Actually, I'm unsure Cristin has an "I'll hold back" look. Nevertheless, just in case anyone out there thinks I'm lying when my family tells the story of the monkey that almost bit off my dad's finger so my grandpa shot it and buried it in the yard, here's proof (at least of some of it).

I did this so long ago that I can't remember if I've already blogged about it or not. Oh well. It's not like I'm running the trimmest blog on the high seas, you know.

Title paraphrased from The Simpsons episode "The Great Money Caper."

Monday, April 07, 2014

Raising a Hooligan

My daughter is a fan of Chelsea Football Club.

She's also a fan of Fernando Torres.

So when I sent her an article about Chelsea's manager, José Mourinho, and his plans to replace all four of the club's strikers, she was incensed. She wrote back:

This is why he is horrible. Even if he doesn't get rid of Torres, I am still mad at him for getting rid of Mata, he CAN'T get rid of all his strikers or I will sneak up on him and punch him in the face a billion + 1 times.
She included some pictures she doctored.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Farting in the Library

Sometimes our kids'soccer games have a dead hour between them. The games are 20 minutes away from home, so we have to find something to do around that town. Today we went to that town's library.

In the kid section, two kids were playing computer games (this is what passes for "spending time in the library" for kids these days; we were there to look at books like freaking dinosaurs or something). As we passed these kids, Screamapillar farted.

Farting in public is still considered gauche in America (but for some reason, wearing ear gauges at a fast-food job is not). However, comma, most people pay infants the courtesy of pretending to not notice.

Not these boys. It was the most entertaining thing that had happened to them all day (which is no great endorsement of the computer game they were playing). But when I returned to the section on my own, the boys started laughing again. Did these boys think I was the farter?

I told my family later, so we could all get a laugh at how ridiculous these boys were.

Tonight, I told Jerome some obvious lie and ended with, "True story." He replied, "True story: you were the one who tooted in the library today."

I'm not saying I'm above farting in a library (Fenwick Library, 2010--my Twitter feed will back my up on this), but I swear to you, at least today, it wasn't me.

Amateur Chiropractory

The Internet says "chiropractory" isn't a word. Well, it should be. Using "chiropractic" as a noun is just stupid.

Friends had us over once (really we have friends! or at least, we did at one time) and somewhere between dinner and dessert, the husband dislocated his shoulder. (I'd like to say we were arm wrestling at the time, but I think he actually was just sitting there--evidently, he's quite fragile.)

The table was quickly cleared and I felt like I was about to see some olde-timey kitchen table surgery. "Cut this tendon, Ma!" But after raising the table with books under each leg, there was no cutting. Not even any sawing. No, he just lay on the table and held a gallon of milk in his hand.

Talk about anti-climactic.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Stop the Presses: A Stupid Sign Exists in Suburbia!

When we lived in Bakersfield-Near-the-Potomac, there were 7-Elevens everywhere. In some instances, there were 7-Elevens on adjacent property. (Seriously. Those were the best Redboxes to visit, because it the one didn't have anything good, you could walk to the other on the way back to your car.)

In the time we lived there, two new 7-Elevens opened within a mile of our home. One ended up with this bizarre monument sign.

At first we thought the larger sign was replacing the smaller sign, but they co-existed for over a year. They even share a permanent base.

Even more bizarrely is the signage directing you to the entrance.

"Not so strange," you say. Until you see a site map.

The entrance sign directs you to turn in at Chipotle's driveway, then circle two properties before reaching 7-Eleven's front door (as shown on the map with a red arrow). Also shown on the map by an orange arrow is the route a sane person would take.

This idiotic signage would upset me every time I drove past. (I know this reveals my terrible character. Another feature of my terrible character is not caring when it's revealed.) So much so that I once stopped by the site to take pictures of the signage so I could fume about it to people who hadn't seen it. (Asking, "You know that 7-Eleven sign on Sudley?" usually gets the response of, "No.") And now here we are, months later, and I need something to blog and I'm cleaning photos off my phone, and now you get the pleasure of asking yourself, again, "Why do I read this blog?"

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Winner Beware

Remember this contest? Of course you don't. Well, neither did I. Until I saw this blog post today.

Now that it's been two-and-a-half years, it's probably time for me to pay up. So here's the deal: I need Angela to find a grocery store in her area that has a bakery that can do one of those edible photos on top of a cake.

I've said too much!

Youngest Grandma - Remember That?

There was a while when I was fascinated with stories of super-young grandmas. Remember? You should, it has its own post label and everything. Anyway, I'd share a news story and usually add something thoughtful, like, "Whoa!" But then a lady left a comment about how distraught she was over being a grandma before she was 40, and then Google searches for "youngest grandma" brought back stories of incest and pedophilia, so I stopped.

Well, today I happened to see an article about a British man who, at 27, is about to become his nation's youngest grandpa. I got to thinking about how awesome a 27-year-old grandpa could be--young enough to be cool and active--but in this case, the grandpa's in prison for murder, so he probably won't be involved in very many trips to the water park. Of course, he could be out of prison just in time for his great-grandchild's birth, right before he turns 40. Here I am, pushing 40 myself, and I don't even have a grandkid yet, let alone a -grandkid. Jeez, what a loser I am.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

"I Don't Mind Being Called a Liar When I'm Lying"

A few years ago, I read about an American businessman trying to come up with a legal way of producing chocolate eggs with toys inside. These products are produced and consumed elsewhere in the world, but the American government has determined they are unsafe.

I talk about this when I teach Industrial Organization as an example of government market interference. Are we to believe that foreign kids are dying from this product and their parents aren't stopping it? That other western governments allow the sale of unsafe products? That foreign kids can grasp the "don't eat the not-food part" concept while American kids can't?

A student of mine went to Italy for The Holidays a few years ago and brought back one of these eggs for me. This despite the fact that doing so can lead to large fines. ("Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." - Ben Franklin)

So when my wife saw these products on sale at the store last week, she texted me a picture and demanded to know if I'd been lying to her this whole time.

No, I haven't been lying. There's been a breakthrough in American chocolate-egg-containing-a-toy manufacturing technology. Some styles are now legal. The news stories about this routinely claim that smuggling is now no longer necessary, but that is not true. All the styles that used to be illegal are still illegal. This is still a story of market interference, with massive resources committed to circumventing a problem that only exists because a bureaucrat created it. There will still be chocolate egg enforcement at the border, making criminals of ordinary citizens who know better than the Federales whether they will try to ingest a toy.

Although Americans are not more free than they used to be, at least I've demonstrated that I'm not a liar. Because, like Homer Simpson, "I don't mind being called a liar when I'm lying, or about to lie, or just finished lying, but NOT WHEN I AM TELLING THE TRUTH!"

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Looking Into "In To"

I went into the house. I went in to start dinner.

Sometimes the word "in" and the word "to" will appear next to each other without becoming the word "into." In the previous example, it's fairly obvious (although one thing I've learned about Americans and grammar is that, to a major portion of the populace, no bit of grammar is obvious).

But what about when speaking of "checking in"? Would you say, "I checked into our hotel" or "I checked in to our hotel"?

Here's my opinion: the verb is "to check in." The word "into" would turn part of the verb into part of the preposition. Here it would be appropriate to use two words: I checked in to our hotel.

In most cases, it seems, if you can replace "to" with "at" without grating on the listener's ears, it's appropriate to use two words (in to) instead of one (into). "I checked in at our hotel" sounds fine. "I drove in at the city" sounds strange, or else has a distinct meaning (Where did you enter the State of New York? I drove in at the city.).

This, of course, is of interest to no one. (Maybe I should have led with that.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Coaching Success

Last spring I was the coach for my oldest son's U-10 soccer team. The league had developmental directors who helped train the coaches. These directors were great guys with a lot of helpful instructional ideas. They wanted us to work on skills in practice, not tactics. They seemed to be driven by the goal of developing highly-technical players for the men's national team in 10 years.

The other coaches, though, were driven by the goal of winning. And winning by so much that they got asked to coach the all-star team. Our age-group commissioner had four already-existing, stacked teams that he wanted to only play each other, then he had six "other" teams that would only play each other. His supervisor vetoed that plan, so instead the stacked teams just ran up the score against the regular teams. The league had a rule against running up the score that was observed only in breaking it. The developmental guys said, "Do not take players off the field if one team is ahead by more than four goals. Instead, change your formation or have your team follow instructions like making sure every player touches the ball once before shooting." The other coaches would run up the score until I asked the referee to intervene, then they would remove players.

I came to have a dislike for careers and their coaches. We lost every game, often by eight or nine goals. The developmental guys loved me (and I guess the careers and their coaches loved me, too), but my players and their parents hated me. I decided I'd never coach again.

Somehow that led to me coaching my middle son's U-7 indoor soccer team this winter. The league supervisor is a nice guy interested in helping kids learn and have fun. The kids are younger, and the teams seem to be (mostly) randomly assigned. We've won two, lost two, and tied one.

Last Saturday, though, we were up against the closest thing our league has to a team of careers. The team seems like it might be a pre-formed group, since the players and coaches were already color-coordinated to their "random" team color. The team practices tactics (and illegal tactics, at that, leaving one kid 30 yards offside at all times, relying on the fact our age group doesn't enforce the offside rule). We only had six players that day, so we had no substitutes. (And one of our players was the troublesome kid who gets in his teammates' way and constantly tries to pick up the ball.)

It was very satisfying when we won, 3-0.

My son had two goals, and the best girl on the team added another. We even played a man down for five minutes when my son took a bathroom break mid-game. (Thanks to efficient design, the bathroom is two floors away.) After they went down 1-0, the other team pulled a defender up to play offense. After we scored our third goal, they pulled the other defender and the goalie up to offense, as well. I was hoping their coach would be crying during the post-game handshake line, but he wasn't.

Our team would have seven points from five games, if we kept score, recorded wins and losses, and used points. Projected out to 32 games played, we'd have 45 points, which would put is just inside the top half of the Premier League. Sam Allardyce only has 34 points right now and everyone's talking about how his job is secure.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Chicago Trip (We Focus-Grouped the Title and This Title Won; In Other News, Our Focus Group Sucked)

Why haven't I been blogging so much lately? Because I'm busy writing a dissertation? [bemused chuckle] No, that's not why. Depression? Getting warmer. But specifically regarding last weekend, it was because we were in Chicago.

On the drive there Saturday I got six new counties in Indiana: Wabash IN, Fulton IN, Miami IN, Pulaski IN, Marshall IN, and Starke IN. (I got eight more on the way back: Newton IN, Jasper IN, Benton IN, White IN, Carroll IN, Cass IN, Howard IN, and Tipton IN.) Memorable features of the drive include lunch at Burger King in Celina, Ohio; seeing the outside of The Dan Quayle Center in Huntington, Indiana; consternation from Jerome when we entered Miami County and he thought we'd just spent four hours in the car to end up back where we started; and driving through both Bruce Lake, Indiana, and Lake Bruce, Indiana. Sadly, no pictures were taken. But I did make this low-quality map.

I don't have very good skills with this mapping program, so the labels are lame and the Canadian half of Lake Erie is white instead of blue. Suck it.

Once in Chicago on Saturday, we had to find somewhere to eat dinner. My wife spent days deciding our food itinerary and about fifteen minutes planning what to pack. (Slight exaggeration, with a marked emphasis on "slight.") But most of the restaurants on her list were in Chicago, not the western suburbs where we were staying. We ended up deciding on that staple of Chicago-style dining, California Pizza Kitchen, but the line there was really long, so we ate at Red Robin.

Sunday we spent all day in town. We began at Adler Planetarium, where I tried to get Articulate Joe excited about the prospect of solving some of the many "still unknown" properties of the Universe highlighted in the exhibit descriptions. He wasn't buying it. But one of our children caught exploratory fever and boldly went where no man has gone before.

Later, we posed for pictures outside.

Nice attempt at spring, Chicago. The last week of March and the temperature was below freezing, with a wind chill in the teens. Our last day in town, it snowed. I tweeted, "I'd say Chicago is a stinking cesspool, but the reality is frozen s**t doesn't stink."

We walked five miles that day.

We had lunch at Lou Malnati's, where the servers evidently are not allowed to let you serve yourself from the main pizza dish. Not just when the pizza first comes to you and is hotter than the surface of the sun, but all subsequent pieces, as well.

Ignore the straw in front of Jerome's face. It's like that Kent State picture: award-winning photojournalism with an unfortunately-placed pole.

After lunch we went through the Art Institute, then while I walked back to get the car, my wife took the kids to see the reflective bean in Millennium Park.

Then we did something I swore I'd never do again: we went to Wisconsin.

It wasn't as bad as I remembered. But part of that was that this time I wasn't getting yelled at and insulted for two years. Anyway, it was my wife's 37th state, moving her past me and into the lead once again.

That night, Jerome somehow lost swimming goggles from on his head. One minute they're there, the next minute, they're nowhere in the entire hotel.

Monday we ate lunch at Big and little's, where I had a very good whitefish po'boy sandwich. Then we went to Lincoln Park Zoo, where Jerome saw African wild dogs for the first time. This was a big deal because he loves African wild dogs. He brought his stuffed African wild dog to meet its cousins.

The dogs were great, trotting around for no reason at all, over and over. While we stood there, other zoo patrons came up and either said, "Look at the hyena!" or else tried to get the dogs to howl. Jerome patiently bore their ignorance (it turns out African wild dogs don't howl, which I only know from him telling me).

Also at the zoo we had the lion roar at us. All the times I've been to zoos, I've never heard a lion roar before.

We saw Hemingway's house in Oak Park, then ate dinner at Portillo's, which was very good. I even had a piece of the chocolate cake, even though friends of ours know someone who died just days after eating a piece. (It's been four days and I'm still alive.)

Tuesday was our last day in town. We went to the top of John Hancock Center, where we found out that everyone in our family hates the look of Aon Center except my wife, who likes it.

That's right, I'm wearing a tie on vacation. Deal with it.

Everyone saw something he likes on this trip: my wife saw American Gothic and, of even-greater cultural significance, a cupcake ATM that allows for 24-hour cupcake purchases outside Sprinkles.

Crazy Jane saw a statue of her history boyfriend, Nathan Hale.

She also saw sites associated with the books Chasing Vermeer and The Wright Three. We drove Calder and Petra's block of Harper Avenue, saw the book shop at the corner, and saw the Robie House.

Articulate Joe saw a bunch of architecture he loves, like Willis Tower, Tribune Building, and Wrigley Building.

Jerome Jerome the Metronome saw African wild dogs. Screamapilar saw L trains all over town. And I saw my off-the-cuff estimate for the cost of this vacation come out to be 99.76% of the actual cost of the vacation. One fewer chocolate croissant at Starbucks and I would have been off by only 62 cents.

I came up with a life plan for after China: we'll live in a lake-front condo across from Grant Park. Crazy Jane will hone her cartooning skills at Art Institute. Articulate Joe will study architecture at Chicago Architecture Foundation. Jerome will become an astronomer at Adler Planetarium. And Screamapilar will become a scientist at Field Museum. But before then, Chicago's going to have to do something about that crap winter. Six months below freezing is appropriate for Siberia, not a town in the United States that actually costs money to live in.