Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bus Conversation

Players: A Random Stranger (your protagonist) and Crazy Guy (a guy with whom I share a bus every six months or so

A RANDOM STRANGER: [enters bus, takes seat across from CRAZY GUY, opens Heavy Weather by P.G. Wodehouse and prepares to read]

CRAZY GUY: May I ask you a question?

ARS: Sure.

CG: It has to do with what you’re about to do, because I cannot do it. [dramatically] I. Cannot. Read. A book or a newspaper...unless it’s completely quiet. But you’re about to read on a BUS! How do you do it? Can you concentrate?

ARS: Yeah, I guess. I mean, it depends on what’s going on. If there’s a loud conversation next to me, it’s hard, but if there’s a quiet conversation at the back of the bus, I can ignore it.

CG: You know, to me, that’s a sign of intelligence, don’t you think?

ARS: Uh, I don’t know. I mean, you could say the oppo—

CG: I can’t even read a book in a library!

ARS: Libraries can get pretty loud. [begins reading, continues nearing his stop]

CG: Do you enjoy reading non-fiction?

ARS: Yeah, I enjoy both.

CG: Are you versed in the classics?

ARS: Uh, a little, I guess.

CG: What are Homer’s demigods?

ARS: Homer’s what?

CG: Demigods.

ARS: Uh, I don’t really know.

CG: [looks away, his face showing utter disappointment]


I disappointed a crazy bus rider today with my lack of literature knowledge. What do you have to show for yourself?

Monday, December 29, 2008


In my defense, I didn’t just expose my kids to Nirvana because I thought it was a good idea. They asked for it. Really. When they ride in the car with Persephone and she listens to Weezer’s red album, they heard the lyrics from “Heart Songs” when he says, “My roommate ... put a brand-new record on. It had a baby on it, he was naked on it.” Crazy Jane asked, “Why is there a naked baby on a record?” Thus came my children’s introduction to “Nevermind.” So if you’re going to blame anyone, blame Persephone for listening to Weezer with our kids around.

Musical Tastes

To start off our road trip last week, I put in Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” Articulate Joe asked, “Why is he yelling?” A little later he was covering his ears. When that album ended, I put in Oasis’s “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” and Articulate Joe said he liked it much better. So am I raising a sissy, or does Nirvana just suck now that it’s nearly 20 years old? (Yes, I know, Nirvana is nearly 20 years old! You, like me, are OLD!)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Post Completed

I figured I needed to write a new post for those of you with Google Reader or something so you'd know that my previous post has now been updated with all kinds of picture goodness. Yessss!

Monday, December 22, 2008

County Trip

I wanted to fit in a county trip before the end of the year, and I did it this past weekend. I got 45 new counties, which put me over 100 for the year (for my third consecutive year) and over 1,000 for my lifetime, which is a major milestone for us nerds who do this sort of thing.

Since my family is usually only on-board with county trips that involve actually seeing something, I figured they wouldn’t want to come with me. My original plan was for me to take the car and leave them home for the weekend. We live within walking distance of church and most weekends that’s just about the only place we go, anyway. However, the weather has been extremely cold for this early in winter and Crazy Jane was invited to a birthday party to which she would need to be driven. Persephone looked into rental cars and got a good deal on a car from Enterprise. (She needs to remember this next year when I sell our car. I’ve been telling her since I read How to Live Well Without Owning a Car that renting a car once or twice a month for the day is an excellent way to take care of the errands that public transit can’t accomplish.)

Because I was going to get my 1,000th county on this trip, I wanted someone to go with me to take my picture at the county line. (Again, this is a big deal for the nerds who run the newsletter to which I subscribe.) I thought it might be fun to take Articulate Joe and he didn’t flat-out refuse, so I made plans for the two of us to go.

The most radical part of my itinerary was my planned accommodations: the Wal-Mart parking lot in Yukon, OK. I’d read before about how Wal-Mart doesn’t discourage RVs from using their parking lots. My understanding is they appreciate having a presence there to keep down late-night crime. Well, I figured if RVs had their blessing, a car would, too. This follows a little something I’d like to call A Random Stranger’s Law of Civilization: when there are no women or children involved, civilization need not aim much higher than the comfort level of dogs. Things such as hotels, salads, and socks owe their invention and continued existence to the presence of ladies.

When I decided to take Articulate Joe with me, though, everyone who heard about it started questioning the Wal-Mart parking lot plan. Just the night before, at my office Christmas party, I explained, “But the Wal-Mart we’re staying at is 24 hours, so we can go inside during the night if we have to.” Plus, we were going south, to Oklahoma, so I figured it should be warmer. Not balmy, but warmer.

I left work Friday afternoon and rode the bus to Enterprise. When the worker tried to start my car to get the fuel gauge reading, it wouldn’t start, so he upgraded me to a larger model. I went home and picked up the two oldest kids to go for a ride. (Crazy Jane was upset that she wasn’t getting to use the rental car while we were gone, so I had said I’d let her go for a drive before we left town.) We returned from the drive, the babysitter came, and Persephone and I went to the Christmas party.

The next morning I woke up at six and then again at seven, when I got out of bed and woke up Articulate Joe. He asked, “Why do we need to leave so early?” He was pretty sad for a while and I wondered if I’d have to leave by myself but he got happier and we left at seven-thirty. We took the turnpike to Wichita, stopping at a rest-area McDonald’s for breakfast. He normally doesn’t like eggs but he assured me he would today, so we both got McGriddles, which he liked because it had a toasted letter-M on the side. He loved Wichita because of all the airplane factories, and because they have a Superbaby billboard (a public service announcement of sorts that tells you to read to your baby; there's one on the way to Topeka that our kids think is great, although this picture of it didn't turn out too hot).

He decided delivering completed airplanes would be a fun job, or just working in the factory. I moved the front passenger seat all the way forward and then reclined it so he could see out the front window.

He liked me telling him which companies owned the rail lines next to our highways, and when we could expect railroad crossings. We stopped for gas in Harper and it was still very cold (sub-20), but not too windy. We went in to use the bathroom and it was the first of many times he would swear to have no pee, only to produce a lot of pee when I told him, “Just give it a squeeze and see what comes out.”

About a half-hour later we reached Barber County, KS, my 1,000th county. We stopped the car and got ready to get out. I had made a sign to hold up that read “1000.” I had also made Articulate Joe practice some photography during the week so he would get a good shot. The wind, however, was unbelievably strong, producing a wind-chill that must have been sub-zero.

He got a good shot, though, that captured everything we needed. A little further down the road we saw a field of turbines, none of which were operating. It probably wasn't the "right kind of wind."

When we drove through Pratt, KS, we were looking for a restaurant, but all we saw was a KFC on the wrong side of the road. Our breakfast had been pretty late, and we had snacks, so we just went on. The next town, Greensburg, was destroyed by a tornado last spring.

We were going to stop at the World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well, but when we got to town, it didn’t look like there would be much for visitors. I couldn’t just ignore the fact that the city had been destroyed, but Articulate Joe and his sister are both already terrified of tornadoes, so I played up the fact that nearly everyone survived and lots of them were rebuilding their houses.

Articulate Joe fell asleep for the next hour, but woke up when we were on a county road next to an abandoned rail grade. We stopped at a small bridge that had been left when the rails were taken up and took his picture.

The wind had died down a lot, but was still pretty strong and made me quite sad when I had to pee. Back in the car I tried to get our little DVD player to work, but it kept telling me every disc was the wrong disc, so we started on of our books on CD: Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary, which I’ll review here later. We drove through Laverne, OK, where Main Street has been renamed Jane Jayroe Blvd. after Miss America, 1967, a town native. Further down the road, on our way into Fort Supply, OK, we came across the only traffic we'd experience all trip, caused by three cows who'd escaped their pen and wandered onto the road.

I don’t think I’ve really pushed maps on the kid or made it obvious that I love maps, which might give him reason to like them if he’s trying to connect with me, but Articulate Joe loves maps as much as I do. His favorite thing to do on Sunday afternoons is to look at a map of Manhattan with me. Well, I let him be in charge of the map I made showing our route, and he really like it. The idea of scale is still a little beyond him, though, because he would say, “Where are we?” I would show him and then he would say, “Where are we now?” I would say, “The same place,” and he would say, “But we’re moving.”

Just after sunset, we came to the town of Carmen, OK, and headed west on Highway 45 to get Woods County and then turn around. When we turned onto the highway, however, signs warned of the highway’s closure five miles ahead. I looked at our map and it looked like the county line was further than five miles away. The signs said “Local Traffic Only,” so I figured we could pretend to be local traffic. The signs, though, became increasingly difficult to drive around. When I looked at the map again, I could see a river crossing shortly before the county line, and I guessed that what was closed was the bridge, so we should stop driving around the road closure signs in case the bridge was missing. Here on the Great Plains, roads often follow the public land survey, meaning the highways run in straight lines and dirt county roads run parallel to the highways. Normally I could just head off the highway for a mile, pick up a parallel road, and get where I need to go. The river, though, made this unlikely, as most counties don’t maintain more bridges than necessary. Articulate Joe said, “I guess you’ll just have to get this county the next time you come back here.” I said, “But I don’t plan on coming back to this part of the country ever.” We went back to the nearest cross road, took it a mile north, then headed west on the county road we found there, hoping that the river bent to the west, allowing the road to cross the county line before it reached the river. I told Articulate Joe he was in charge of counting the miles driven (by counting cross roads) so we’d know how to get back to the highway. However, we came to the next cross road much sooner than a mile down the road, so I figured we were on a correction line. We could tell we were nearing the river because the trees were approaching, and at the trees the road curved to the left and I thought it was going to just follow the eastern bank. However, it was swinging left so if could come back right and cross the river perpendicularly on an ancient bridge that Persephone probably would have been afraid to drive across. On the other side of the river we continued until we came to numbered roads with very high numbers that got smaller as we headed west, taking that to mean they were numbered off the Woods County addressing plan. We turned around and went back to the highway, counting cross roads to make sure we made the correct turn. We didn't have a DeLorme atlas of Oklahoma (because my stingy wife won't let me buy one for every state), so we had to use addressing and hope for the best. When we got to Wal-Mart in Yukon we looked it up in one of the atlases they had for sale and saw that we had in fact reached Woods County.

Articulate Joe was getting hungry for supper, so I told him we would stop in Enid. Persephone had told me one of the things that made Articulate Joe agree to go with me was the promise that he could eat at McDonald’s, but when I started naming possible restaurants to him, he was adamant we had to eat at Sonic. I said, “But at Sonic you eat in your car and I wanted to go somewhere where we’d get out of the car. We’ve been in the car all day.” Nope, it had to be Sonic. When we got to Enid I started naming the places we passed, but he saw a Sonic (the company was founded in Oklahoma and they’re as ubiquitous as Manhattan Starbucks down there), and that was that. His attraction to Sonic: their slushes. Persephone’s written before on her blog about her addiction to Sonic slushes during the hot summer months, but Articulate Joe wants them all the time. Evidently he can’t talk Persephone into visiting Sonic now that the daily high temperature is below 10, so he made sure to get a slush for his drink. Forty-five minutes later, after he’d had his fill of it, he gave the rest to me, and it was STILL so cold it hurt my throat.

We came into the Oklahoma City metro area from the northwest, so we stopped at the temple to take a picture, then went to Yukon to find our Wal-Mart.

We happened past an enormous Christmas light display in their city park, so we drove through it. I’d never seen so many Christmas lights. Many of the displays were sponsored by families or businesses from the area, including one display sponsored by an auto glass company, which used Christmas lights to depict a worker installing a new windshield on a car. That’s not a Christmas light display; that’s an ad. At the end of the route they were “asking for donations” (read: barring exit to collect ransoms), so I had to buy them off to get out of the park.

We got to our Wal-Mart (on Garth Brooks Blvd.) about ten o’clock. I said to Articulate Joe, “People are going to give us dirty looks for having a kid at Wal-Mart so late, so just accept it.” (I knew we could expect dirty looks because I typically am the one giving out said looks.)

We went inside to walk around and do some Christmas shopping for Persephone. Articulate Joe laid his head down in the cart. By the time we checked out, put our packages in the car, and returned to the store to use the bathroom before bed, it was eleven.

I drove to the back of the parking lot (which was the portion closest to Garth Brooks Blvd.) and started getting things ready for bed. I reclined the front passenger seat all the way and got the sleeping back ready for Articulate Joe, then covered him with extra blankets. For me, I put down the back seat to access the trunk, then moved the driver seat forward, took off the headrest, and laid the seat down. My sleeping bag went into the trunk with my body laying on the back seat and my head laying on the top of the driver seat. Articulate Joe, who had been scared of sleeping in a parking lot and quite sleepy while inside Wal-Mart, was now fully awake with how exciting our campout was going to be. Once we were tucked in it became obvious that our ears were going to get too cold, so we put our winter hats back on and went to bed.

I woke up at two-thirty and went back to bed. Articulate Joe woke me up at five-thirty and said he was too cold. I started the car to turn on the heater and started to get things ready for the day. I drove over to the Wal-Mart entrance and woke him up to go inside and get dressed and buy breakfast. He asked, “Is it midnight?” I said no. He asked, “Why is it still night?” We started driving again by six-thirty. We drove past a bank sign that said it was eight degrees.

Before leaving Oklahoma City we went by the state capitol, then headed east out of town. We listened to the rest of Ribsy, then Articulate Joe fell asleep for a while. While he slept we passed Oklahoma State Highway 52, where we took a picture to add to the collection of Highway 52 signs (which I'll have to put in a later post).

Finding lunch was a needlessly complex ordeal. We reached Tulsa at eleven and I started looking around for a place to eat since our breakfast had been so early. We both sort of wanted hamburgers or sandwiches of some sort. We got off the freeway and found a Chili’s but I turned the wrong way to see what else there was, then couldn’t find a place to turn around. I figured it was fine because there would be other places down the road. After weaving our way through Broken Arrow, we ended up at a Cracker Barrel on Memorial Drive. That was when Articulate Joe refused to eat at Cracker Barrel. Why? He would give no explanation. There was a Village Inn down the road. He said, “I guess we can eat there because I’ve never heard of it before.” I said, “They serve soups and salads and stuff like that.” He said, “Then we definitely can’t eat there.” There was a burger place named Braum’s that got Articulate Joe’s vote because they have ice cream as part of their logo, but it looked like it wasn’t open on Sundays, since the lot was empty. I wanted to find a mall, but Tulsa is full of mega-churches that look like malls until you get to them and see that they are named something like “The Church at Deer Run.” Finally we ended up getting our counties in the Tulsa area and heading north out of town, where we exited in Owasso. By now, though, all the churches were out and every restaurant was packed. I saw the empty parking lot of Chick-Fil-A but then realized it was empty because they’re not open on Sundays. There was a Cracker Barrel at that exit, also, and again Articulate Joe refused to eat there. When I asked why he finally said, "Cracker Barrel is yucky." I said, "It's not yucky," and he said, "Our mom says it's yucky." This is because, if I had my way, we'd eat every vacation meal at either In-N-Out Burger or, when not near their locations, Cracker Barrel, and Persephone hates it. She is okay with one meal each vacation there, but not three meals every day of vacation. Finally, two hours after we started thinking about getting some lunch, we stopped at a Quizno’s, which was once one of my favorite restaurants, but now I wish it would die in a fire.

The worst part about traveling with a child is the inability to poop. I couldn’t leave him alone outside the bathroom while I took some time inside and I couldn’t take him with me into a stall for any appreciable length of time without having CPS kick down the door and register me as a sex offender. I had to poop starting Saturday at my customary time of eleven in the morning, but couldn’t do anything about it. By the time we got to Quizno’s I figured I could take care of business while Articulate Joe kept eating at our table. My turd was enormous and resulted in a clogged toilet. I tried flushing and plunging three times before calling it quits. I had to go to the counter and tell the guy, “Your toilet won’t flush.” Then I told Articulate Joe, “I plugged the toilet.” He asked how. I said, “With a giant poop.” He asked, “How big was it?” I said, “It was as big as [Baby X].” I realized he’d never seen my poop and didn’t know if I was telling him the truth, so I told him, “Not really that big.”

A little further up the road we saw a break-down train on the rails. That was the highlight of the trip, as far as Articulate Joe was concerned. Shortly afterwards he was asleep again, and two hours later we were home.

All told, I ended with 45 new counties, 11 in Kansas and 34 in Oklahoma. (Articulate Joe got 55 new counties, moving him past 500 counties prior to his 5th birthday. I didn’t pass 500 counties until I was married.) I’m now more than half-way done with 13 states (Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Virginia, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nevada, and Nebraska), and I am two counties away from being exactly one-third of the way finished.

Lyrical Interpretation

I might have written here about this before, but I've had a question about the lyrics of the song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police for over ten years. In the send verse when Sting sings, "You know how bad girls get," what does he mean?

A. You know how badly some girls can behave.

B. You know the way that bad girls can behave.

I have similar questions about these two other songs:

"Good" by Better Than Ezra: "I'm not too proud to say it was good living with you."

A. My pride is not going to get in the way of me saying that it was good living with you.

B. I am not proud about saying that it was good living with you.

"The Angel and the One" by Weezer: "We are the angels and we are the ones that are praying."

A. There's reason for hope, because even though we're praying for help, we are the ones who can help ourselves.

B. There's no reason for hope, because we are the ones who are supposed to be helping, but we are praying for help ourselves.

I expect submitted opinions on all three songs from every blog visitor I have. (Sometimes I like to pretend I have blog visitors, which makes my efforts seem less futile.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Weather Reprieve of Sorts

The temperature dropped below freezing Sunday at noon and stayed down there until last night when we were all in bed. It peaked at about 40 degrees during the night, but was back below freezing by the morning and has stayed down there all day. So, even though the snow melted, I don't really think it counts as a break in the weather since most people were asleep for all of the heat wave.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Better Get While the Gettin' 's Good

Two news stories that I think should be related by all credibly news agencies, yet aren't.

"The sum of America's liabilities and other financial commitments now exceeds the collective net worth of its citizens."

"President-elect Barack Obama is considering a federal stimulus package that could reach a whopping $1 trillion, dwarfing last spring's tax rebates and rivaling drastic government actions to fight the Great Depression."

I thought we'd matured past this whole "we owe it to ourselves" deception.

Let the Fleecing Commence!

I've been trying to hold back my sucklage of the government teat, figuring I was doing the right thing. When the State of California tried to give me a "free" parenting video course "produced by Ron Reiner," I resisted. When the Feds decided to subsidize everyone's purchase of HDTV converter boxes, I wrote in this space of how horrible the idea was.

But if I hold back from using these programs, I'm increasing the chances that they won't be considered profligate. The real problem is that these stupid programs exist, and the easiest way to help these programs go away is to make them as expensive as possible.

So today I applied for my government coupon for an HDTV converter box. And I might apply for another one, since the limit is two. Even though I only have one TV, which is nearly un-American of me. I mean, even Ned Flanders's kids have a TV in their bedroom (according to "The Simpsons Movie"), but for some reason mine don't?! Why do I hate my children?

College Grad (Of Sorts)

I just passed the last test I had to pass to finish my bachelor's degree. I'm not actually graduating until May, but there's nothing left between me and graduating in May. And I nearly doubled up Tommy Callahan, so I've got that going for me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two Degrees

Yesterday while we were in church the temperature dropped below freezing and it won't come back above freezing until Thursday afternoon. It was two degrees when I walked to the bus this morning. Right now it's six but feels like negative eleven. For my foreign friends who want to convert that to Celsius, what you do is get a calculator, get a pen, beat the pen against your leg to unfreeze the ink, feel your nuts roll down your pant leg (because they've frozen off) and into your sock (because you've tucked your long underwear into your socks), subtract 32 and divide by 1.8. It's very important that you follow these steps in the proper order.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kiss-Up Students

So Cristin suggested that my students only laugh at my jokes because they're trying to kiss up. Five years ago maybe I would have agreed, but today's generation of college students doesn't kiss up to anyone. They are prepared to tell you why you're an idiot, why the professor's an idiot, why the material is stupid, why the answers in the back of the book are wrong, and why they'll never need to know this material in the real world, anyway. (Students' knowledge of the real world comes from four years of Tuesday/Thursday classes that don't start until 1 pm.)

Like I've said before in this space, at least when we were selfish brats, we knew enough to keep quiet about it. Students today think they're just "keeping it real." So, given they are so unlikely to flatter anyone, I think their laughter is genuine. Maybe some students are just humoring me, but I had at least ten students from last semester who intentionally took my class again this semester or tried to get in to a closed section of mine, so either I'm an incredible pushover or they honestly liked me. Or they're a new breed of super-student whose flattery is more deceptive because their fellow students' rudeness has lowered my defenses against butt-kissing. Who knows?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Giving a Whole New Meaning to American Motors

A few points:

  1. If we have to bail out the auto manufacturers, can't we at least wait until they run out of cash and shut down in January? That way we'd at least be paying lip-service to the idea of responsibility and not be blatantly rewarding morally-hazardous corporate practices.
  2. The companies we're talking about bailing out are so large that $15 bil. is like a fart in the windstorm to them. One article I read yesterday said the cash would get GM through to March. That's all we're buying, three additional months? Does anyone really think three months is enough time to restructure GM and turn it into a profitable company?
  3. What's the point of having bankruptcy laws and not using them? Why can't these companies restructure under bankruptcy protection?
  4. Does anyone really think that what's happened here is a decline in the American demand for cars? Of course not. So if the demand is still there, it will still have to be met, so the auto workers will still have to make cars. Why do we need those auto workers to do it with GM or Chrysler on their uniform? (Assuming they still wore uniforms instead of Ted Nugent concert tee shirts, but you get my point.)

Here's my ideal scenario: Congress and the president tell the Big Three to go pound sand. GM and Chrysler declare bankruptcy. Chrysler liquidates and GM restructures. They close underperforming plants and lay off those plants' workers. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan acquire the plants and hire the workers. Cars are still made. Workers are still getting paid. There is no government acquisition of car makers. The UAW is crippled and perhaps shuttered. Why won't this plan work?

Here's what will really happen: enough Republicans will want to appear "bipartisan" that the bill will pass. We will hire a new "car czar" (and that crap is completely deserving of its own diatribe, but I'm trying to get work done today). Congressmen will continue to utter asinine platitudes like Nancy Pelosi's "We call this the barbershop. Everybody's getting a haircut here, in terms of the conditions of the bill. The management itself has to take a big haircut on all of this" that insult your intelligence because they think you have no intelligence left to insult. Class envy will get a shot in the arm with the restrictions on executive pay and my dad will somehow feel better about his unchanged salary. The UAW will continue to hamstring the Big Three's business decisions, and in three months we'll be back where we are now: three giant car companies running out of money, asking for a handout.

Comrade Stranger's Glorious Weblog

Ahoy, Comrades!

Well, we own a variety of banks and we're about to own all domestic auto manufacturers, but do we own any STATES? Never fear, California is broke and they want some cash. If we follow precedents, we'll take a stake in the bailoutee. So the time has come to ask yourself, what are you going to do with your portion of California?

There are 163,696 square miles of California and 305,851,698 Americans, meaning we'll each get 0.000535 square miles, which is 0.34 acres, about the size of an average city residential lot. Of course, I've got a family of five, so when I bust some Communism on my kids and take according to my needs, I'll have 1.71 acres. With that much land, I'll have a number of options:

  1. If my land is next to an interstate, I can open a Missouri-style roadside porn shop.
  2. If my land is in the Coastal Range, I can run a herd of Shetland ponies.
  3. If my land is in the Central Valley, I can plant it all in soy beans and become a specialty soy milk manufacturer.
  4. If my land is in the desert, I can open a jihadist training camp.
  5. If my land is in Los Angeles, I can open a chain of crack dens.
  6. If my land is in San Francisco, I can open an Anti-Mormon amusement park called The Workin' the Glory Hole.

So, as you can see, I've got a bit of a head-start on you. Needless to say, all ideas have patents pending. (And when I'm charged with a federal crime for claiming patents pending where they aren't actually pending, I'll claim it was satire.)

Next Year in Moscow,

Comrade Stranger

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


An ellipsis is three periods, and a period is one period. If a sentence is ending, it needs either a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point. If you try to end your sentence with an ellipsis, the last period ends the sentence, which means your ellipsis is now only two periods and is, in fact, no longer an ellipsis, but an entirely new diacritical notation called an "I'm-A-Grammar-Retard." If you want an ellipsis at the end of your sentence, you need FOUR periods.

Here's why it's different from ending a sentence with a dash. Dashes are used when the person is interrupted, which means the sentence wasn't ended yet, and that's why it doesn't need a period, question mark, or exclamation point. Ellipses are used when a person trails off, so the sentence is ended.

And with that, I'm all the way caught up on my list from last week. Now I have to start a new list, and right now there's only one thing on it:

1. Cristin's question about whether my students only laugh at my jokes because they're sucking up to me.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Spelling Teacher

Me (to Persephone): So when I gave my students their evaluations to fill out, I told them, "Remember there's only one F in 'wonderful' but there're as many Ts in 'hot' as you want. Actually, the more Ts the better."

Crazy Jane (eavesdropping): You're a spelling teacher? I thought you just taught math.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Persephone and I have always figured you should tell kids the real names for stuff. We're not the kind of people who comment on Cristin's blog about the euphemisms they've devised for "penis." If a kid has a penis, he should call it that.

The problem is, though, that our oldest kid is a girl, and there's no real name for what a girl has. Each part has a name, but there's nothing for all of it together. As a result, Crazy Jane appropriated the word "bum" for all of her nether-regions and Persephone never really stopped her. (I think Crazy Jane figured it was all a bum because it all needs wiping at different times. Who knows.)

Anyway, our kids have a low-level but chronic need to differentiate between boys and girls. Every time Crazy Jane is acting too princessy, I tell her, "There's nothing you can't do just because you're a girl except be a dad." And Articulate Joe always says, "And pee standing up." And Crazy Jane always says, "Except sometimes I try to pee standing up."

The other day I was in the bathroom with Articulate Joe and somehow he tried to make a joke about someone not having a penis and I said, "All boys have penises," and he said, "And girls have bums!" So I knew it was time to set the record straight about the word "bum."

I told the two of them, "Girls' parts have names. They just have a lot of different names. Most people call the whole thing a vagina, but that's really just the part inside. The outside part is a vulva."

Crazy Jane said, "Volcano? Lava?"

I said, "No, vagina and vulva."

She said, "It sounds like volcano and lava, like when you have a baby it's like a volcano erupting."

I said, "The point is, it's not a bum and you should know that."

She said, "I already made up my own name for it. I call it a Baby-Maker."

I said, "Well, that's a pretty good name for it." So now, in our house, boys have penises and girls have baby-makers.

Telephone Call Transcript

Man: "He needs to pass this test on a computer."

Me [internal monologue]: [He's talking about the Gateway.]

Man: "And his deadline for passing this test is this Friday."

Me: [The deadline for the Gateway should've been a long time ago.]

Man: "And so he needs someone to help him pass this test by Friday."

Me: [Maybe he's calling me from the past. I wonder what kind of cell phone he has.]


Preemption: Yes, substance abuse is a serious et cetera. But when I read this article yesterday about Adderall addiction, I thought, "That stuff sounds great. I wonder if I should try to get some." Yes, I read the part about hallucinations and death, but I was more interested in the part about reading retention and weight loss, and if we mixed some of those effects, like reading retention and hallucinations, it would be like getting sucked into a book, like Thursday Next, and what cooler way is there to learn economics and mathematics?

So Much to Say!

Just two days ago I thought, "It's too bad I have nothing to say on my blog these days." Now I have too much! I'm going to spread it out over the day, but I want to make a list so I make sure I cover it all:

  1. Adderall
  2. Telephone call transcript
  3. Baby-maker
  4. Spelling teacher
  5. Ellipses

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Stupid People Are Inferior Goods

The place where I work has been poorly managed since before I got here in 2005. They made money during the first half of the decade, when any idiot could draft a business plan on a napkin and get an interest-only loan to buy Aeron chairs for all his cousins. (What was Steve Martin’s line in the last episode of “30 Rock”? Something like, “Here’s the pitch: wind power, Chinese market, bandwidth.”)

Well, now it takes more than three buzzwords to make money and this company isn’t cut out for that type of marketplace. So they’ve been ignoring the problems and firing productive people and telling us all that the rest of us will be fired soon. They’ve been doing this for three years now.

Every time we have one of these “bill more time to non-existent projects” talks, I start looking around for what else I can do to make money. My problem has always been that I’ve been in school and I could never find another job that would be as accommodating to my class schedule as this place. (This place is only so accommodating on accident; once they realized what they’d done, they tried to take it back, but I said no. That’s one of the reasons I’m especially keen to have a back-up plan: when the revolution comes, I’ll probably be first against the wall.) Now I’m in my final semester of major classes, meaning in two weeks I could be done with college if I wanted to be. This opens up my employment possibilities some, but I’d still like to finish my minors and some other projects I’ll be working on next semester, so if I can stay a student until May, that would be great.

Last time we had one of these talks at work I tried to get hired as a tutor for the athletic department, but I don’t think I qualified because I am an instructor. So this time I went all back-alley and just added my name to an online registry of tutors.

I got my first e-mail two weeks ago. I replied, and heard nothing. Then, the day after Thanksgiving (I refuse to call it Black Friday, just as I refuse to use composite names like TomKat, Benniffer, and Brangelina) I was in some snooty toy store in Chesterfield, MO (you know who you are) and I got a call from another interested student. I asked her to e-mail me, but when I replied to her e-mail, I heard nothing. Today I got a call and an e-mail from a student’s father, and if the deal would have been between the two of us, we would have met already, but he forwarded my information to his son, and I’ve heard nothing.

Persephone thinks I’m getting all this interest now because students went home for Thanksgiving and got in trouble for their grades. I think she’s right. The problem is, though, that these people obviously aren’t the most committed students on campus, or else they wouldn’t really need tutoring in the first place, right? So they call me to get their parents off their back, and then they don’t follow through when it comes time to decide to hire me. Which totally sucks because, in another giant error on my employer’s part, I have an ENORMOUSLY inflated hourly pay rate for this area of the country, and no other line of work could possibly pay me as much, but tutoring comes closest, so if I actually do end up fired or laid off, I would want to replace as much work as possible with tutoring.

So when I was sitting here wondering if this guy’s son was going to call me or not, I realized that dumb people are inferior goods, in that you only deal with them when you have to. If I was independently wealthy, I wouldn’t be trying to get tutoring jobs. The main reason is that they are flakes. It’s like being the hiring manager at Burger King: the good news is there are plenty of high school students who will work for what you offer, but the bad news is you are only hiring high school students. And people with either a criminal record or no ambition. But when you offer minimum wage, you know you’re getting a minimum wage worker, and when you work in tutoring, you know your getting a tutee: someone who has no commitment to the class or the work, but who wants to avoid confrontation with his parents because they are footing the bill for his “Thursday is the new Friday” lifestyle.

All of these flake students have reminded me of another line of work I explored last time it looked like my work was shutting down: life coaching. I know it was a joke back then, but all life coaching is a joke, and if people can make money at it, why not me? This town has to be full of potential clients. Last year I wanted to put up a flier just to see what type of response I’d get, but I thought I’d feel bad about actually taking someone’s money to life coach them. (Is “life coach” a verb? It is now, baby!) But I’ve recently decided I’m super qualified for this line of work. Here are my reasons:

  1. These students who call me at the end of the semester wanting me to help them avoid the F they’ve earned.
  2. A recent article in the student newspaper about alcoholic college students.
  3. A survey last month that found over 20% of respondents here at our school admitted to driving after having at least five beers. When you consider that these are the students who admitted it, and that you can be legally drunk way before five beers, you’ve got to figure half the student body has driven drunk. (Although according to the article this new breed of superdrinkers is impervious to alcohol, so maybe not half.)

I’m totally going to start a life coaching job next semester. I’ll have plenty of students who just went home and got yelled at for failing their fall classes and I’ll get them as clients because they’ll have made New Year’s resolutions or something.

This next semester is going to be awesome. First, I’ll be done with my major requirements. Second, three of my five classes will be the kind of class that never actually meets. Third, I’ll be done with the part of school that grad schools will have seen when they made their decisions. Fourth, I’ll be a freaking life coach and make money by telling people, “Don’t get drunk and have anonymous sex tonight. Call me tomorrow and we’ll see how well you obeyed.”

I think 2009 is going to be my year.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I saw this headline today and I had to click through all 12 entries to make sure my blog hadn't made the list. I can breathe more easily now. (Not literally, since my sinuses are fuller than Tokyo subway cars, but figuratively, you better believe my previous statement was accurate.)