Sunday, June 29, 2008

What Came First: The Cynic or the Child?

We finally finished "Peter Pan" tonight. The last portion is a short story, "The Blot on Peter Pan," whence comes this:

"He was always obedient, polite and good."

"What changed him?"

"I did, Sara, because I had become a cynic."

"What is a sinsik?"

Here I got in the deadliest thing I had said for years. "A cynic," says I, "is a person who has dealings with children."

Crazy Jane and Articulate Joe couldn't understand why that made me laugh so much.

Three nights ago Crazy Jane got out of bed and came to me.

Crazy Jane: How do you follow your dreams?

A Random Stranger: You do the things you want to do. What do you mean?

CJ: The princess singing movie [from Disney] said to follow my dreams.

ARS: It just means to figure out what you want to do with your life and then make sure that happens. What do you want to do in life?

CJ: Go to Disneyland and Disney World.

ARS: But what do you want to do that will be something that's good for you? You see, Disney's figured out that parents like to tell their kids to follow their dreams, so if Disney makes products that tell you to follow your dreams parents will buy those products. Disney doesn't care if you follow your dreams. They just want to sell you products. You need to listen to the people who care about you. Your family and your friends care about you. Wal-Mart and McDonald's and Disney don't care about you, they just tell you they do so you will give them money.

That lead to this the next night while reading Little Town on the Prairie and coming across the word "scholar":

CJ: What's a scholar?

ARS: It's someone who goes to school. They are based on the same word. A scholarship is when someone gives you money to go to school.

CJ: Like [my employer]?

ARS: No, they just give me money because I work for them. They don't care what I do with it. But the last couple years I've gotten a scholarship from the economics department.

CJ: They give you money so you'll keep going to school so you'll give them more money?

ARS: Sometimes things aren't as cynical as I make them out to be. They just gave me money to help me out. If it were a company you'd be right, but I don't think schools are like that.

Then last night as we were finishing Little Town on the Prairie and talking about our up-coming Laura Ingalls Wilder-themed vacation, Crazy Jane and I had this exchange.

Crazy Jane: Where are we going to stay when we go to Minnesota and South Dakota?

A Random Stranger: In hotels. Or in our tent, maybe.

CJ: I'm not sleeping in the tent.

ARS: You love camping.

CJ: I'm scared of it.

ARS: What is there to be scared of?

CJ: [matter-of-factly] Wolves.

Tonight I had to call a guy from church who was driving a truck full of cheese into Wisconsin. I said to him, "You're importing cheese into Wisconsin? I bet they don't want that to get out." Crazy Jane asked, "What's importing?" I shushed her until I was off the phone, then we had this conversation:

ARS: Importing means bringing something in.

CJ: Why doesn't Wisconsin want people to know they import cheese?

ARS: Because that's what they are known for.

Persephone: That's why all your school books have pictures of cheese in Wisconsin.

CJ: Maybe Wisconsin doesn't really make cheese, but guys from Wisconsin go out at night and steal cheese and bring it back and tell people it's theirs.

So maybe J.M. Barrie had it wrong. Cynics aren't people who have dealings with kids, but my kids are going to end up cynics by the time I'm done with them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kanye West Doesn't Care About Redneck People

When Kanye West says he's the most offended he's ever been, that's really saying something. This is the guy who's so regularly offended that his Saturday Night Live performance included a skit about it.

In other news, I now read Yahoo! entertainment stories.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Must You Make Me Love You?

Barack Obama is doing his best to become the object of my man crush. All Bob Barr's got going for him is a mustache. And Anthony Kennedy should be put in a time machine, returned to his childhood, raped by a child rapist, then put back in a time machine and returned to his mother's womb, and then aborted.

Anthony Kennedy: King of America

And to think: Anthony Kennedy was supposed to be a replacement for Robert Bork. If Robert Bork gorged himself on yak feces until vomiting all over a copy of a Howard Stern book, Anthony Kennedy would be unfit to clean up the mess with his tongue. A replacement he ain't.

Firstly, he was the deciding vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, keeping American fetuses on their toes (or are they just ten extra toes the mother decided to grow in her gut?) since 1992. Now, today he was the deciding vote in Kennedy v. Louisiana (they now name cases after the justice assaulting the state's rights and the state he's assaulting), allowing child rapists to live out their natural lives watching cable television for free. (Someone should tell these two Utah girls there's an easier way to get their cable turned back on.)

In response to the embarrassment that is Anthony "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" Kennedy, Barack Obama threw the Democrat Party playbook aside and spoke with common sense: "If a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution." (This also gained him points with Persephone, who would love to serve on a capital punishment jury because there'd be the chance they'd let her throw the switch herself.)

Meanwhile, Bob Barr just has facial hair. It's time to step it up, Barr. Obama's winning my vote, like he's already won my heart.

Your Favorite Band Is Dead

What's the opposite of a "shout out"? An internal murmur? If it is, I want to give an internal murmur to the people who have "favorite bands."

Your favorite band exists nowhere but in your head. In real life, they've changed since they made the music you like. They'll make some more music, and it will be different, because they're different people than they were before. Maybe you'll like it, because your interests coincided once, but maybe you won't, in which case they don't owe you your money back. This isn't "Strange Brew," where Bob and Doug will give you their dad's beer money if you complain that their product sucked. They don't have to make the same album for the rest of their lives; in the words of Buddy Holly, "If memories were all I sang / I'd rather drive a truck."

That being said, let me review the new Weezer album, known as "Weezer Red," which, as the Homeland Security Department would say, is a severe risk of a Weezer album. (The scale also works for "Weezer Green," which was a low risk of a Weezer album. Having the guitar solo be the melody that Rivers was just singing, and doing it with EVERY SONG ON THE ALBUM, does not make for interesting rock. Maybe if they would've mixed it up some the album could've been yellow or maybe even orange.)

I like the new album. The lyrics seem more creative and the music more experimental than in the past. I don't mind experimental music. Again, I don't expect them to continually record the blue album for the rest of their lives. Maybe if they all go to hell that will be their Sisyphean punishment, but while they're still alive they can experiment all they want. There are some songs that, right now at least, strike me as clunkers, but even the blue album has its clunkers (I'm looking in your direction, "Holiday.")

Instead of looking at Weezer as a single band that is or isn't my favorite, they are really six different bands, some of which are among my favorite bands.

  1. Pinkerton
  2. Blue
  3. Make Believe
  4. Maladroit
  5. Red
  6. Green

Competing with the Weezer that made "Pinkerton" for my "favorite band" would be the version of The Postal Service that made "Give Up," the U2 that made "Zooropa," the version of The Rentals that made "Return of the Rentals" (even though "Naïve" sounds so much like Cat Stevens's "Father & Son" that I can't listen to it without getting distracted), the Echo and the Bunnymen that made "Reverberation," the REM that made the second half of "Monster," and the version of The Hives that made "Tyrannosaurus Hives."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Got Fuel to Burn / Got Roads to Drive"

Neil Young is about to be 0-for-2.

As an sufficiently-hysterical person will scream at you, the Era of Cheap Energy is OVER!!!eleventy!!!

I've read a bunch of articles this week about the way people are responding, from a record decrease in driven miles to moving closer to work. And now it seems our sterling infrastructure will receive less funding because we're using it less. There's something almost minimalist in that plan. Fewer people use poorer roads, and eventually everyone reverts back to walking right when the last road falls apart. And people say America hates the environment. We don't hate the environment; we just want to harness it for our own lurid ends.


Title from Neil Young's song "Rockin' in the Free World."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Finding Lurve

Some people think no one should be denied a chance to find love. Not me. The freaky should die sad and alone as penance for their freakiness.

Case in point: White Owl, the local idiot celebrity here in Lawrence who ruins every sporting event and even graduation with his "free spirit" dancing. He just sits around up on campus and has a bunch of freshman potheads who think he's a poet or something, when really he's just a bum. Evidently, the 61 year-old White Owl is engaged to a 22 year-old budding idiot. They've known each other for a month. And the grossest part of all: the Kansan article discusses their planned sex life. I've never been prouder to no longer be on their staff.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Economics

Why do prices rise? Because demand is greater than supply. What happens when you keep a price from rising? Demand stays greater than supply. What happens when demand exceeds supply? You get a shortage.

A guy with a master’s in economics should know this stuff, so what other reasons would Mexican president Felipe Calderon have for orchestrating food price controls for the remainder of 2008? He doesn’t have to worry about reelection, since Mexican presidents are limited to one term. Maybe he thinks most Mexicans are getting too fat and this is his way of making sure they can’t find food as easily as before. If so, he’s doing a bang-up job.

In other news, future me gained access to a time machine and came back to tell current me what to expect. In three months we will all see a headline that reads, “Mexican Food Shortages Fuel Increase in Illegal Immigration.” (Other headlines coming soon to a newspaper near you include “Oprah Hears McCain’s Confession: ‘I’m sorry for using the “N”-word’” and “Thousands Mourn Obama; HRC Asks in Shock, ‘Why is everyone looking at me?’”.)

GustBuster sucks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Teams the Pirates are Better Than

Right now, Pittsburgh has a better record than the following:

New York Mets

Houston Astros

Cleveland Indians

Cincinnati Reds

Detroit Tigers

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

Washington Nationals

Colorado Rockies

Kansas City Royals

Seattle Mariners

That’s right, baby: the Pirates are tied for the 16th best team in baseball. That is a huge deal for us!

Like Cato the Elder, I will now end all my speeches on the Senate floor with, “GustBuster sucks!”

Father's Day

Today was MY day, baby! I read a news report that Americans were spending less on Father's Day presents this year than last year. I said to Persephone, "Are you spending less on me this year?" She said, "What did we get you last year?" Neither of us could remember.

I'm reading the "Little House" books with Crazy Jane. Right now we are on the seventh book, Little Town on the Prairie. I told her a few days ago that there was a surprise coming up, and since then she's been really annoying with demanding that we read until we get to the surprise. Well, today we got to it: Nellie Oleson moved to DeSmet. Crazy Jane was sort of not excited at all by that. I was expecting a big reaction. Nothing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Movie Review

Last night we watched "The Jane Austen Book Club." There are two things I want to say about it.

  1. The Grigg character bugged me. Not because of anything wrong with him, but because of exactly that: there was nothing wrong with him. You see, some women tend to live in "fantasy land," and their literature and cinema enables them by giving them characters like Grigg, whose only "fault" was his love of science fiction.
  2. At least they had Judging Amy and Jimmy Smitts end up together at the end. That seemed like a nice dig at the ladies in "fantasy land" who think, "Oh, if my husband ever cheated on me it would be OVER!" I dislike when anyone says they already know what they will do in a situation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

D-List Celebrity Stalking

Since I’ve undertaken an effort to shame GustBuster into repairing my umbrella for free, I thought about my other efforts to get low-grade famous people to acknowledge my presence. The track record is not good.

  1. I e-mailed Harvey Danger asking them if they knew they wrongly described some scenes of the movie “Vertigo” in their song “Carlotta Valdez.” I figured they’d respond, since they aren’t exactly huge rock stars anymore. In fact, I was pretty convinced that my wife and I were the only people on earth who purchased their latest CD, “Little By Little...” (and yes, the title has the ellipsis in it). Never heard back from them, even though I told them it was my goal in life to become rich enough that I could hire them to play at my birthday party, like the band playing in “Billy Madison” when Billy passes the third grade.
  2. I e-mailed J.C. Bradbury, an economist at Kennesaw State University, about a book he wrote entitled The Baseball Economist. My wife gave it to me for our anniversary and I wanted to tell him I liked it, and also ask a question about one of the things he wrote therein. He hasn’t responded. (Although, to be fair, it’s summer, and since he’s a college professor that means he’s either divorced and teaching summer classes, or he’s living it up on the Riviera.) Here’s how his reply goes in my mind: “A Random Stranger, thanks for the e-mail. You are totally right! I’m going to fix that in future editions of the book. Funny, you are an economics student interested in George Mason University, and I graduated from there. Let me write some reference letters for you when you apply next year. Sincerely, JC (not that JC, haha!).” We’ll have to wait to see how closely the real reply follows my fantasy reply.

PS: On a completely different topic, why do people say “try and...” when that makes so much less sense than “try to...” For instance: “Try and hit me Napoleon.” Is Kip asking Napoleon to hit him? Why would he want that? What he means to say is “Try to hit me.” You try to do stuff. Otherwise, the word “try” is redundant. Of course I’d try to do something right before I ACTUALLY DID IT. When I hear people say “try and...” I think, “That person hasn’t been speaking English very long.” Also, when people say “Far and few between,” I think they must have been dropped on their heads repeatedly when children, and not just dropped on the grass or some mulch, but dropped on some sort of pavement.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Skagen vs. GustBuster

My wife bought a Skagen watch for me on our first anniversary. About a year later the date wheel stopped working, so I took it to the watch store. They sent it to Skagen, who would repair it for free. (Are you taking notes, GustBuster? Free. As in, “the opposite of with cost.”) Skagen looked it over and then told me they couldn’t fix it, so they’d replace it, but they’d discontinued that model, so I had to pick a new model that was the same cost or less. Within a few days I had a new watch in the mail. For free, GustBuster.

Now, six years later, the clasp on that watch is acting up. But I know it will be fine because Skagen takes care of its customers. (Companies that don't take care of their customers do things like charge them shipping and handling for repairing a defective product.) Everyone should run right out and buy himself a Skagen watch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

GustBuster Busts

About two months ago I bought the most expensive umbrella I’ve ever owned. For all I know, it could be the most expensive umbrella known to man. It’s a GustBuster and it cost something around $36. The selling feature of this umbrella is that it is much more wind-proof than a typical umbrella.

Before buying this umbrella I glanced through the reviews on amazon.com, but they are hard to take seriously because every good review makes me think, “That writer works for GustBuster,” and every bad review makes me think, “That writer works for GustBuster’s competitor.” So I bought the umbrella.

Atop the umbrella is a button. This button has broken off. My “lifetime warranty” from GustBuster requires I mail the umbrella to them with a ten dollar check for shipping and handling. So they’ve just increased the cost of their umbrella by close to 50%. It seems to me they sold me a defective umbrella, so they should eat the cost of shipping and handling. If they didn’t want to ship it or handle it anymore, they should have made an umbrella that wouldn’t fall apart.

I’m mostly irate right now. (Mostly, I say, because I forget about it and then I see my broken umbrella sitting on my desk and I remember again.) My wife is very irate. She already thought the umbrella was overpriced, and she was angry that I ordered it around our anniversary and got her hopes up when I told her a surprise was coming in the mail. (It was a surprise (for me, though) and it did come in the mail. What was the big deal?) GustBuster is making enemies around my house faster than whoever decided to pull the plug on Reese’s Whipps.

The Dangerous Streets of Lawrence

First the good news: we only have one car, so when my wife gets a brain freeze from a Sonic frozen drink and loses control of her vehicle (like this guy from the great State of Kansas), she won’t crash into me.

But now the bad news: She can run me over while I’m on my bike, and she goes to Sonic all the time. When it comes to Sonic, she’s got a bit of a “drinking problem,” meaning she drinks, and it’s a problem. The other day she said to me, “I wish Happy Hour was from 7 to 9,” because Sonic has drink specials from 2 to 4, when our kids are with her, and if she could drink alone, she'd have more money to spend on her own drinks.

Happy Hour Story: when my father would go to Phoenix for work, if we were off school for summer vacation we’d go with him (because what’s more enjoyable than Phoenix in the summer?). We’d stay at the same hotel, which had a picture of a mermaid laid in tile on the bottom of the pool. The room where they had their Continental breakfast (a big favorite of childhood-Random Stranger) once had a sign advertising Happy Hour from 1 to 4 or something like that. I thought that sounded like fun (who can argue against something called Happy Hour?) and insisted that I wanted to go. My mother didn’t want me to, but I persisted and eventually my father took me. I discovered that there were two things wrong with the sign: it wasn’t an hour, and it wasn’t happy. We had a soda or something and left.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Today, on a Very Special "A Random Stranger"...

Last December (when I still gave a rat’s ass about many things), I wrote this blog post about my children being outperformed by hero children in the news.

Yesterday it got a comment from someone going by “naïve” who said, in part:

“I am astonished about how naive I am.... At this adult age, raising teenagers, I realize how unequipped I am. I cannot fathom the ideas they conjure up, because I never had them. My 20 year old son, when he was 14, started smoking pot. We got thru that ordeal but he still has no ambition and at 20, no ‘plan’ for a job or future. His younger sister (now 16) just last night snuck out of the house to ride around with friends. Is this the first time, or one of many? I can't be sure. What would possess her to do this? Again, I never had the inclination to do these things. I cannot out think them because these thoughts are not in my mind.... I certainly don't have a clue, and I realize I am not a good parent because of this. I need help.”

Wow. That’s a pretty tall order. If I had a cool made-for-TV nickname that hinted at an unearned PhD, like “Dr. Dan,” I’d just throw out some crap about “babies having babies” and then I’d tell you to buy my new book, Seven Stupid Things You Did to Pay for My Vacation Home. But, alas, I have no PhD. Hell, since I have to tell everybody in person every damn day, let me just remind all of you that I don’t even have a bachelor's degree. (And yet, they still let me teach college. Suckers!) So, given these qualifications, let’s see what I have to say.

Firstly, your Internet handle jives nicely with your opening declaration of naïveté. That means you’re a real straight shooter. And that’s nice.

Secondly, you say you got through your son’s recreational pot usage. That’s a nice accomplishment, and the mark of a good parent. As for his lack of ambition, most of that can probably be attributed to the fact that he’s 20. And not just 20, but 20 NOW, which means he was born in the 80s, and as anyone born in the 70s can tell you, kids born in the 80s have no idea how the real world works. (In fact, many of them think the phrase “real world” is the intellectual property of MTV.) All of my economics students last semester were from the late 80s and every single one of them had two questions: “Is the class curved?” and “Do you have another copy of the syllabus?” One of my fellow TAs had a student’s mother call the class’s professor to discuss her daughter’s grade. When everyone born in the 80s turns out to be such turds, you can’t be blamed for the turd-like things your son does.

Thirdly, your daughter is rebellious because she’s 16. You might not have snuck out for a joy ride at 16, but you were probably rebellious. Maybe try to channel her rebellion by loudly saying things like, “Nothing bugs me more than a cleaned room!” or “I look forward to doing the dishes every night and when I don’t get to do them I feel less happy.”

Fourthly, even if I’m way wrong and you’re completely to blame for your eldest son and your daughter, at least your youngest son has the advantage that you want to change.

Lastly, of course you have no clue; you’re a parent. Your job is to fake it for 18 years and then, like a good magician at the end of the night, not tell them how you did it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Enemies List (with Bonus "Movie Review" Goodness)

Remember a year or so ago, when I decided to keep an enemies list? That didn’t last too long, since the list wasn’t very dynamic. Once something secured a spot on the list, it basically stayed there.

Well, now I’ve got a new Number-One-Enemy: RedBox.

I know, I know: smarmy Erik is going to leave a smarmy comment wherein he will say (smarmily), “You should reserve your movie online. Smarmy.”

Here’s why Erik and his smarminess is close to making the list (as two separate entries--“Erik” and “Erik’s smarminess”): that doesn’t do anything except shorten the length of your own transaction time. When it comes to waiting in line behind someone who is reading the description of each movie, that still awaits you when you get to the RedBox.

REDBOX EXPERIENCE:

Friday night I went to redbox.com and tried to reserve my movie, but it kept erroring out on me, so I drove to the RedBox. Here was the scene:

Front of the line: married east Asians in their fifties, reading each movie description and talking about it in their native tongue.

Second in line: guy who had gotten his McDonald’s meal to go and drunk half his drink while waiting.

Third in line: me.

Shortly after I arrived, Second got tired of waiting, topped off his drink, and left. I moved up. And waited ten more minutes. While I waited, a family came in and got in line behind me. Right before it was my turn, a young guy came in to return a movie. I let him cut in line. Then I took less than a minute to rent my movie.

WIFE’S REDBOX EXPERIENCE:

Returning our movie Saturday night, Persephone went to the grocery store. There was a long line at the RedBox, so she did her shopping first. When she came back out, there was still a long line. The woman at the back of the line offered to return our movie for us, so my wife gave the movie to her and came home to check our e-mail to see if the movie was actually returned.

RedBox needs to invent a secured return hopper that allows you to drop off your movie without waiting in line. When the machine is done vending movies, it can process the returns that have backed up. That seems like a necessity. Something else that would be nice but is probably impractical is to eliminate the movie descriptions. If you don’t know whether you want to rent a movie, make that decision at home, where you have critical reviews to assist you instead of the marketing-department crap that’s loaded on the back of the box. Loading that information into the machine is just inviting a certain segment of society (hint: people born between 1946 and 1964) to read it. And seriously, people who spend more than ten minutes deciding how to invest ONE DOLLAR need a lesson in time management, anyway.

Now for the movie review.

"Dan in Real Life"

I liked it. I thought it told an entertaining story reasonably well. I liked the scenes where his large family would all leave the shot in different directions at the same time, leaving him alone. Reviews I’d read that complained of formulaity didn’t seem true to me. Although there was a time with about 15 minutes left in the movie that Persephone needed a bathroom break, and before we restarted I said, “I don’t want to watch the rest because it’s all going to go downhill from here. Right now he’s met up with the girl again; that’s a happy ending. However, he’s going to get caught, fight with his brother, fight with his kids, and not get the syndicated column. The rest of the movie’s going to be a downer.” But we watched the rest and it wasn’t bad.

I’ll tell you what was bad: Dane Cook. I can’t tell if it was more his character or him, but I couldn’t stand him in this movie. I wish when he rode off with the Pigface girl that he got in some sort of horrible accident and died. Also annoying: too many background family members. During the talent show Persephone said, “Where’d that brother come from?” I think some of them were just crew members’ spouses who’d visited the set for the day and the director said, “Why don’t you jump in this shot so the crowd looks a little bigger?”

Sunday, June 08, 2008

We're All Gonna Die!

Life used to be much simpler: Ward and June Cleaver could solve any problem in half an hour, you never had to worry about baseball scores on a Monday, and people with severe food allergies died.

Now it's a whole new millennium and I can't get peanuts on an airplane anymore. Today I read this news story about a girl who travels the world disrupting her classmates' dietary plans. First she made her school in Germany institute a policy just in time for her to move to South Dakota. Then her South Dakota school addressed her food allergies, so she moved to West Virginia. Now her school has a food allergy policy, but she says it's not strictly enforced. Says the girl: "Having peanuts in my face is like having a loaded gun held to your head."

Wow. She takes my safety seriously. But I think she meant to say it's like having a loaded gun held to her head, which again is not true because peanuts in her face will kill her, while a loaded gun, despite what media personalities scream at 6, 7, and 11, cannot kill anyone. A gun is like a washing machine: deadly when used against your person, but otherwise harmless.

The girl's mother, jealous of her daughter's skills with hyperbole, says, "Every day I send her out I never know whether or not I'm going to have to go and get her, whether I'm going to be called and told that she's in the emergency room or if she's going to make it that day." That basically describes everyone's everyday life experience. I might expect to hear on tonight's Kansas City news broadcast, "New in the first five minutes: life is a terminal event."

We can all rest assured that something is being done: a minor celebrity has taken up the cause. Of course, he's no Tom Hanks, who could get a bill passed by both houses of Congress in ten minutes, but country music singer Trace Adkins has a popular diet, so you know lots of people are listening when he speaks. Adkins hits the nails squarely on the head when he says, "When I was a kid, I didn't know anybody that had any food allergies." He then proceeds to miss the point entirely when he says, "We're doing something to our babies that are [sic] causing them to develop these allergies."

I think fatalism has gotten a bum wrap lately. There's something to be said for the notion that sometimes people die and go to Heaven. When we stopped believing in Heaven, that was no longer an acceptable answer to life's problems. Now we have to take every possible step to prevent every possible death. If you could die from being in the same room as a peanut, maybe that's Darwin's way of letting you know He wants you dead. (It turns out Darwin is just another name for what I call God, like Allah.) Not everyone gets to live to 90. Some people can't survive a post-Halloween bus ride, and I don't know that that's such a horrible thing.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Flint Hills

In a previous post I mentioned the Flint Hills, which is the nicest part of Kansas. Well, this mention drew the attention of someone who likes the Flint Hills even more than I do: Dr. Bill. He is involved in a Flint Hills travel and tourism website and he asked if I'd see fit to link to it. Of course I will, since I sort of borrowed their picture last week. If any of you are thinking, "The Flint Hills are pretty, but I'm not sure there's anything to do there," a few minutes at either website will make you eat those very words.
Also, Dr. Bill tipped me off to a National Geographic article about the Flint Hills. Since National Geographic is a heartless profit machine I don't have to apologize to anyone for linking to their article. They should be apologizing to me and giving me free music downloads. At least, that's what I gather from listening to some of my economics students last semester.
However, I'm still stuck looking for a really great Flint Hills picture. I guess that's because everyone likes something different about it. I like in April or May when you head out west of Topeka and you look to the south of the Interstate and the rolling hills look like a sea of the brightest green. Another great place to see is looking west from the road into Manhattan, or driving through Greenwood County. I'll have to take my own picture, or make Persephone take it, since she likes photography and is better at it than I.

Feedback

Isn't it great when you all comment and I can comment back? It makes my blog seem less sad, like people actually care about the opinions I'm spouting out into the ether.

Cristin: My wife has already set me up on statcounter.com, but all I've been able to glean from it is that a lot of people search the Internet for "world's youngest grandma," and many of those people end up coming to my blog.

JT: You love stats? Yes, you do need help. I can't stand stats, and my "victory lap" in stats this summer isn't doing anything to change that opinion.

Rachel: overachiever.

Ashby: I can forgive you for thinking another blog is better than mine (since it is), but I can never forgive you questioning the superiority of Velveeta. The cheese is so creamy! And because I don't see a half-a-stick of butter going into the pot, I can convince myself that it's healthier for me, too.

Jesica: Thanks.

Barney: Nope.

Nance: If you keep commenting on my blog, my wife is going to start suspecting something.

Mofra: Ah, In-N-Out. I am aware of the greatness of In-N-Out. My wife once limited me to only one In-N-Out stop on each vacation, because it was my goal to eat at every location we passed. But since we left California in 2005, it's not been an option for us. I guess I should have clarified and said Velveeta is the greatest meal I can make for myself.

Eastman: I am intrigued by your like of Oklahoma. It seems like a hotter, drier, more-hickish, less-Abolitionist version of Kansas. I've never been to Ulysses, Kansas, yet. It was on our plans for this summer, but lots of stuff had to get moved around and that ended up killing the Utah trip that would have gotten me 34 new counties in Kansas, Colorado, and Nevada. With high gas prices and summer school classes, that trip hasn't really been replaced. Now I'm going to be lucky to finish Missouri later this summer (which will be my third completed state).

See, everyone? Isn't it more fun when we all comment?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Weather Let-Down

Although some Kansans got a free circus in their backyards thanks to tornadoes, there was very little action around our part of the state. Actually, it was a pretty big disappointment. I went to bed at eight (not my usual bedtime, but I was exhausted) and slept soundly.

For those of you who don’t know how to get to WaKeeney, you get in your car and head west, and right after you think, “I can’t believe how long this is taking,” you wait another hour, and you’re there. Two years ago when my brother was moving from Los Angeles to Saint Louis, his car broke down in Russell, Kansas. I had to drive out and bring him to Lawrence while my father drove over from Saint Louis to take him the rest of the way. Things were fine until I passed Salina, at which point distances doubled themselves, clocks slowed to a crawl, and taking my limited knowledge of the Theory of Relativity and applying it in reverse, I aged a thousand years while those who weren’t driving through western Kansas aged only two hours.

I’m not a Kansas hater. I just like the state a whole lot less out there. My favorite part of the state is the Flint Hills. (None of the pictures I can find on the Intertubes is especially inspiring; I’ll have to take my own picture one time when we go out there.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Lurkers

I think everyone should post a comment so we know who comes and reads. I imagine the final list will be something like this: my wife today or tomorrow, Justin tomorrow or Monday, Cristin early next week, Rachel late next week, Erik in two weeks, and no one else.

Having said that, I’m probably way over-estimating my number of readers. Setting the self-flattery aside, it will really be more like this: my wife next week, Justin in three weeks, and no one else.

But wouldn’t it be awesome if it really was something like 35 readers, including all of my former high school friends, mission companions, classmates, students, and/or former girlfriends who check in periodically to see if my wife is alive or dead?

Work is incredibly boring, so I’m going to try to come up with something else. Let’s see.... Oh, the deadly weather hasn’t started yet. I’ve ridden my bike to school, and then to work, and my wife’s taken the two sentient kids to their swimming lesson, and still no Mother of All Atmospheric Disturbances. I have to go back to school in two hours, then home two hours after that. I wonder if I’ll be able to bike it, or if I’ll have to take the bus.

I think Amy Winehouse is a fictional character invented by Paula Abdul’s publicist so Abdul always has a foil to make her crazy antics look sane. So Abdul went loco at an airport? Well at least she’s not shooting H with pre-schoolers like Winehouse!

Math is a demoralizing subject because once you’ve learned how to count, all the rest of it is just a fancy extension.

Last semester one of the correct answers on my students’ test was “too much.” Nearly two-thirds of them wrote “to much,” and one student wrote “2 much."

Many states’ county totals are multiples of 11. There’s New Mexico (33), Idaho (44), West Virginia (55), South Dakota (66), Oklahoma (77), Ohio (88), and Iowa (99). This makes it possible to be done with exactly the same percentage of each state at the same time, which would be slightly cool. However, my real completion percentages are New Mexico (81.82%), Idaho (0.00%), West Virginia (47.27%), South Dakota (0.00%), Oklahoma (16.88%), Ohio (46.59%), and Iowa (33.33%). Our summer plans include getting five more Iowa counties (38.38%) and 14 South Dakota counties (21.21%).

Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese is the tastiest meal known to man.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

If I Go Missing, Here's Why

The National Weather Service announced today that everyone between northern Oklahoma and eastern Iowa will die tomorrow afternoon.

Or, possibly, it’s all just the work of one particular hyper-dramatic Kansas City weatherwoman.

We’ll see.

End of the World: Not Coming Soon Enough

I can’t wait for the end of the world. Here are the things to look forward to:

  1. No more church. Things will be all crazy and so they’ll let you have sacrament meeting at home. When a testimony goes on a tangent, I’ll be able to say, “Stop saying crazy things, kid,” and my kid will get back to bearing a normal testimony. As it is now, I’ve heard testimonies of travel, testimonies of ancestry, and even testimonies of KU sports victories.
  2. No more work. Everyone will be cowering in his bunker, so I won’t have stupid coworkers anymore. Aside from those who’ve appeared on this blog before, such as Tito or The Friendly Jerk (whose search for a second job is really beginning to bug me), I work with a ton of other losers. One could be called Slobby McNicotine, who decided long ago with no malice aforethought that I deserved no respect. He talks overtop of me, doesn’t listen when I talk to him, and leaves meetings when it’s my turn to present. I don’t think he hates me; he just thinks, “Well, the meeting’s over now.” He will speculate for hours about something he doesn’t know, and ignore all my efforts to tell him the answer. This extends to sports, where he roots against Pittsburgh in all sports without realizing it’s because I’m a Pittsburgh fan.
  3. No more traffic. I walked down the block today with a coworker. At the corner was some large construction equipment that was moving through an intersection against the signal. Several cars from the other direction were stopped, even though the light was green. The driver three cars back from the intersection started honking and swearing at the driver in front of him for not moving. The piece of equipment in the intersection was enormous; there was no way he couldn’t see it.
  4. No more crowds. When my coworker and I finally made it across the intersection to The Cheese Shoppe (which floats persistent rumors of its imminent closure, yet remains open), the place was filled with stinky bums. “It’s called Speed Stick / It’s not expensive.” The last time I was associated with a crowd that wasn’t an embarrassment was when Ronald Reagan died and I went to the casket viewing at his library. Every other time someone is either drunk, immature, stinky, or vulgar.

On the other side of the coin, there’s the fact that I’m probably first on God’s list of people to kill when the world ends.

The start of the actual ending of the world will be when a Massey-Ferguson combine falls through the roof and lands directly on my head. When you see that happen, you know the sweet life is right around the corner.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"On 'Pet Rescue' Today the Clever Stoat Keeps Everyone on Their Toes in Somerset"

Since moving to Kansas, I’ve made a hobby of rescuing turtles.

  1. Driving up our street one Saturday morning, a car was stopped in the middle of the pavement, trying to block both lanes of traffic. Cars were slowly squeezing past on either side. As I passed the car I noticed the driver outside her vehicle, trying to stop cars so a turtle could finish crossing the road. Realizing she would end up causing an accident (and probably get a front-row view of the turtle getting run over), I parked on the next side street and ran back to help. She said she just wanted him to finish crossing the road, so I went to pick it up from the back. It jumped and turned around, so I went in again and just pinned it to the road with one hand, then picked it up with the other hand and ran it over to the adjacent creek. The woman thanked me and I went back to my car.
  2. My wife and kids had gone to the store while I stayed home. They called me to say there was a turtle in the road at the end of our block. I ran up the street, used the pin-and-grab move, and quickly had it in the creek.
  3. Yesterday while I watched the awesome hockey game with my two oldest children, my wife took Stoic Sam and went to the store. When she got home she told us there was a baby turtle on the sidewalk outside our house. He was small enough I didn’t even need to pin him to grab him. I took him down to the creek and let him go on the bank.

All of this contrasts with my first Kansas turtle encounter: while my wife went to Soup or Saturday, I took the two kids (Baby X was, at this point, just a twinkle in my eye) to the town’s nature center, where they celebrate biodiversity by exhibiting hundreds of stuffed former members of the biosphere. As we walked through the grass, I saw a turtle shell on the side of the trail. It appeared to have no turtle in it. As I bent down to pick it up, the turtle decided to high-tail it for the brush, causing me to scream like a little girl, which greatly amused both kids.


Title from "About a Boy."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Incredible Boredom

Blogging success can’t really come to people as bored as I. Nobody gets on the Internet to read “I’m so bored right now.”

Seriously, I’m trying to come up with something to say, but I’ve got nothing.