Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lost Tales of 3AM, Part IV: Return of the Ring

It didn’t start out as panic.

I merely had this feeling of curiously not knowing where such a familiar item would be. Normally, I carry it with me all the time. I wear it so much that it almost seems like a part of my body.

But on occasion I’ll take if off, to wash my hands, say, or when I’m working on a project that includes particularly gooey substances (making hamburger patties, or re-caulking a sink or shower).

If I’m doing intense yard work (like replacing a drain pipe) or doing some other project with my hands, I’ll take it off to keep it from getting in the way, or worse, getting lost.

My Supermodel Wife has warned me for years that taking off my wedding ring is a sure way to lose it. I, being the man, totally ignore her advice.

But after yet another day of not seeing it (and not really remembering where I put it) I began, in the back of my head, to wonder if she might be right yet again.

Still, I hadn’t really looked for it. I’m sure it’s in the bathroom somewhere, or up on my dresser. I promised myself that after work I’d track it down.

Of course I wouldn’t say anything to SMW. Why worry her unnecessarily?

But the ring was still missing after searching the usual places. Now I’m starting to get worried. Did I inadvertently drop it in the back yard somewhere? Did I perhaps leave it in the car after absentmindedly playing with it while waiting in rush hour traffic?

I searched all my pants pockets, as I sometimes slip it in there while washing my hands at work. But it was nowhere to be found.

The next day I checked my car and garage before going to work. No ring.

I scoured my cube and work station, my computer bag, all of my jackets and coat pockets. No ring.

By the end of the day, the panic HAD set in. The worst thing wasn’t that my Supermodel Wife might be right (she’s always right, so I’m used to that). What really sent the anxiety meter into the red was the realization that after 13 years I might have carelessly lost this symbol of our commitment to each other.

I lay in bed that evening staring at the ceiling retracing in my mind every step I'd taken in the previous few days. I examined every place I had looked, trying to determine if there was something I had missed.

I'd checked all of my pants, the couch cushions, the washer, the dryer...

Then it hit me. The one place I hadn't looked yet.

I bolted up and quickly but quietly made my way down to the laundry room in the basement. There, between the washer and dryer was a three-bin laundry hamper where we sort clothes.

I haphazardly toss the dirty clothes out of the bins onto the floor. First one, then the next and then finally, at the bottom of the third bin glimmering in the reflected florescent light like a gleam of hope at the end of a tunnel, a shining band of gold.

My long ordeal was over. The ring was safely in place on my finger. I went back to bed and slept soundly.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hatching plans...

Our six-year-old daughter is a Type A personality.

She gets that from her mom. Any plan, any idea must be carried out at that very moment. Otherwise, why plan at all?

She has yet to learn of the key roles of time and money. And when we try to explain the importance of time and money, this just leads to more planning.

For example...

We came up with our own restaurant concept while waiting for a table at O'Neill's a few nights ago. Our concept consisted of a pirate-themed seafood restaurant called "Arrjay's Galley." She's been bugging me to buy the burned out McDonald's on the corner so we can open our restaurant there with her kindergarten classmates as the wait staff.

Finally, I had to break the bad news that 1) due to labor laws, she won't be allowed to work until she's at least 14, and 2) we don't have anywhere near enough money to open a restaurant.

So, she chooses to focus on what seems the easiest problem to tackle.

"I have an idea," she announced. "We could save up enough money."

Now, you parents out there will immediately recognize this as the classic opportunity for what we call a "parenting moment." The idea is to heap praise on positive behavior in order to encourage more of it in the future.

When you can combine this with a lesson about money and the benefits of frugality, well, that's just a bonus.

So I replied enthusiastically, "Yes! That's a great idea! I'm glad you thought of that!"

By now, she's running with it.

"We could find a can or a jar or something. And every time we find a penny or a quarter, we could put it in the jar until we have enough."

I explained how, when I was growing up we had a giant glass jar that we eventually filled with all pennies. Still, I warned her that it would take a very long time -- years probably.

But the gears in her mind kept turning. After a minute or two of quiet pondering, she burst out with...

"Hey! I have another idea. Do we have a coffee mug or something? We'll need a mug."

"Yes," I said, curious about what was coming next and eager to pass out more positive reinforcement. "We have lots of coffee mugs."

"Okay," she said. "Maybe we can get a coffee mug and go out on the street corner and pretend to be blind. Then we can ask people to put money in the mug."

"Well... er..." I stammered (Yes. I'm pretty sure that's a direct quote).

Okay, so not every idea can be a winner. What's important is the brainstorming process.

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Tree lock

I'm tellin' you people, times are getting tough out there. It's getting to the point where an innocent mall developer in Johnson County has to padlock their trees just to keep thieves from absconding with them.


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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

YouTube Tuesday: Keep your tongues off those poles, people

I don't need to tell you that putting your tongue on a dirty pole can be dangerous, no matter how big it is.

Here's video proof.

Merry Christmas to all.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

FWD: Failure to communicate

Like a lot of dudes, I sometimes don't take phone message seriously enough.

That's why I typically just don't answer the phone at all. If it's important enough, the caller can leave a message on the answering machine. If it's not important enough for a message, they usually just hang up (in which case I probably didn't want to talk to them anyway).

But hopefully, I wouldn't get it as wrong as this guy...

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Blogthing: It's a wonderful life rating

Where would I be without the Internetz to tell me how great my life is?

This Is My Life, Rated
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
Life: Your life rating is a score of the sum total of your life, and accounts for how satisfied, successful, balanced, capable, valuable, and happy you are. The quiz attempts to put a number on the summation of all of these things, based on your answers. Your life score is reasonably high. This means that you are on a good path. Continue doing what is working and set about to improve in areas which continue to lag. Do this starting today and you will begin to reap the benefits immediately.

But seriously it's a good time of year, especially with all of the economic doom and gloom, to take a step back and appreciate all of the good thing in our lives and take a moment to remember (and even give a helping hand to) those who may not have it so good.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top Ten Thursday: Hot and Black

Well, I don't mind telling you it's been a rough couple of days.

I'm not going to bitch and moan about my early Christmas present (a severe head cold that has me going through life in slow motion these days). I'll just say that I needed a few extra cups of coffee to get me off of Square One this morning.

Which brings me to today's Top Ten Thursday category: Top 10 Songs About Coffee.

And lucky you, it's an audio Top 10! Here's the playlist:

And, for those of you who are reading this in an RSS reader (you should click to listen), here's the track list:

Top 10 Songs About Coffee:

10) Coffee is my cup of tea -- Lardpony

9) Coffee -- Dave Miller

8) Coffee -- David Allen Coe

7) Taylor, The Latte Boy -- Kristin Chenoweth

6) Two Beds and a Coffee Machine -- Savage Garden

5) Starfish and Coffee -- Prince

4) One More Cup of Coffee -- Bob Dylan

3) Java Jive -- The Manhattan Transfer

2) Black Coffee -- Ella Fitzgerald

1) Cigarettes and Coffee -- Otis Redding

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

YouTube Tuesday: Xmasy

I dunno what it is with me lately. Maybe it's the fluffy white stuff we've seen in the last couple of days. Maybe going to the Christmas pageant at church. Maybe it's just the contagious excitement of our 6-year-old.

Anyway, whatever it is, it's enough to give an old cynic like myself a mild case of the Christmas spirit.

Don't worry. It's just temporary. I should be over it in a week or so. If it gets too bad, I'm sure a trip to the mall will cure me. In the meantime, here's an oldie but goody.

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3AM Poll: Shoeblogga

How could you miss the recent video footage of Prez Bush deftly dodging a shoe-chucker's projectile the other day. If it wasn't his finest moment as president, then it was definitely up there in the top five.

Actually, I could see shoe chucking becoming quite the spectator sport in this country as well. I mean it's a little more practical than pie throwing and chicken tossing, but it makes the statement nonetheless.

Which begs the question: Given the chance, who would you want to sling your Sketchers at?

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Monday, December 15, 2008

My way or the Fairway

Back in the day, about a year and a half ago to be inexact, a group of Fairway residents protested a project to put a higher, longer bridge across a creek near where Mission Road meets Shawnee Mission parkway.

To them, the new bridge was too large and didn't fit the scale of the neighborhood. It would put a "Highway Bridge" in a residential area.

Fast forward to last Wednesday when the new bridge opened, and I have to say that overall I think it's an improvement. Sure the new bridge is higher and longer - about 100 feet longer and five feet taller for what its worth.

But the improvement in flood control should more than mitigate their concerns of a monstrous highway bridge. And to be honest, it still has the feel of a small-town residential bridge.

I think the key characteristic wasn't the length, but the width. At two-lanes, this bridge doesn't change the character of the neighborhood at all. Rather, it should help the houses maintain their value, now that the risk of flooding has been reduced.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Blogthing: Leg warmers and Rubik's cubes

It seems the theme for today is 1980's pop music lyrics. Luckily, I'm quite versed in this topic. My performance in today's quiz is proof of that.
If you undertake this little trip down amnesia lane, you should know that the quiz has more than 100 fill-in-the-blank questions. But if your feeling nostalgic (like me), it will seem disturbingly fun and go by quickly.

So roll up your jean cuffs, take the laces out of your Adidas, spray on a fresh layer of Aqua Net and jump in to the quiz. Good luck!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bad news

I'm sorry to report that my plan to win the lottery and retire has hit a slight snag.


Top Ten Thursday: Top 10 Favorite Words from the Current Financial Meltdown

During our recent Grizwaldesque Thanksgiving road trip to North Dakota, I had a chance to catch up on all of the awesome NPR Planet Money podcasts. This is great programming and well worth the price of the download (it's free, btw).

Anyway, this crash course in the crashing economy gave me a new appreciation for some of the financial lingo. This week, I rank my Top 10 Favorite Words from the Current Financial Meltdown.

The main criteria was how cool I thought the words sounded, but I gave bonus points for the potential for double entendre.
Top 10 Favorite Words
from the Current Financial Meltdown

10) Collateralized Debt Obligation

9) Mortgage-backed security

8) NINJA loan -- No Income? No Job or Assets? No problem.

7) Swap line -- I've heard of parties in Overland Park where these were popular.

6) Troubled Asset -- Do these jeans make my assets look troubled?

5) Naked Short Selling

4) Deflation -- "I swear baby, this has never happened to me before..."

3) Stimulus package -- We've covered this before.

2) TED Spread -- That TED is such a floozy

1) Capital Injection
There you have it. As always, if you think I'm wrong on the ranking or if I missed something, feel free to say so in the comments.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thainfully employeed

I've tried to stay quiet on this one, but I can't just sit here while the angry mobs unjustly go after an upstanding citizen without saying a few words.

The media and bloggers have gone after John Thain pretty aggressively in the past week or so, and I'd just like to take this opportunity to suggest that a little slack cutting might be in order.

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, Thain is the embattled CEO of Merrill Lynch who has had everyone up in his jock simply because he requested a salary bonus that was rightfully his.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that:
Merrill Lynch & Co. chief John Thain has suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million...

The committee and full board are scheduled to meet Monday to hear Mr. Thain's formal bonus recommendations for himself and other senior executives of the New York company. No decision has been reached, and it isn't known what Mr. Thain will recommend, but the compensation committee is leaning toward denying the executives bonuses for this year...
Suddenly everyone was jumping on Thain's case for having such hubris, asking for a $10 million bonus while the economy, led by the banking sector that he was a major player in, when down the crapper.

From Donkelphant:
Why? Because he set up a deal for Bank of America to buy Merrill Lynch. That’s right. The firm was in dire straits and needed somebody to save them. That’s why this guy thinks he’s entitled to this cash.
From WSJ Blogs:
there will probably be a scant few who judge that in a time of turmoil, a few phone calls to BofA CEO Ken Lewis is worth an extra $10 million..."
There are many more examples of people eager to place their dagger in Thain's back. But I come not to bury Thain, but to honor him.

I mean, shouldn't we look at the entire body of Thain's work at Merrill Lynch when assessing his bonus request? He was there for an entire year, after all.

Sure, maybe his company lost a few 11 billion dollars while he was the boss. Okay, granted the company's stock lost 80 percent of it's value, dropping from about $50 a share to (one sec while I check)... $14 bucks. Maybe he was forced to sell his company at a steep discount and risk the jobs of 30,000 employees.

But c'mon guys. This is America. We all about giving people a second chance. We're about understanding when someone has bad luck, not kicking them when they're down.

We're not going to fire you just because your wife ran around the office barefoot, insulted your coworkers and employees and performed ancient Druid rituals to try to get a tenant for the Sprint Center.

We still support you even if your pro-football team only wins six games in the last two years.

We don't blame you for having a bit too much to drink and driving your oil tanker into a mountain, despoiling pristine Alaskan wildlife habitats.

What we need to remember is that without his $10 million bonus, Thain only makes about $750,000 a year. Anyone care to tell me how he's supposed to replace the leather on the seats of his private jet on only $750,000 a year? Do you know how much it costs to pay illegal aliens to clean his 29-room Central Park West condo?

All I'm saying is that before we start criticizing Thain, we should all walk a mile in his Berlutis.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

TV tech

KCTV Channel 5 was pimping some kick-ass new technology on their news cast last night.

Seriously, every five minutes the announcers were dropping in mentions of this new, cutting edge technology that they were debuting, just in time for the first major snowtastrophy of the season.

What was this new technology? A new form of super live action laser Doppler radar? Pffth, that's yesterday's news. A bitchin' new weather control device? Still in development unfortunately.

Nope, the new technology was a video camera affixed to a news van, the pictures of which show you the road conditions at any given moment.

AWESOME! KCTV5 has invented duct taping a video camera to your bumper.

Actually if my pop culture history serves me well, I'm pretty sure Tony Soprano invented this about 10 years ago.

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YouTube Tuesday: A holiday favorite

As we find ourselves falling deeper and deeper into debt the holiday spirit, here's a Christmas classic that is sure to tug at the heart srings of some of you.

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Monday, December 08, 2008


Hey people in case you haven't noticed, the economy is bad.

It's so bad that the KU basketball program has decided to lay off three refs this year. I mean it's rough. A buck is so hard to come by that Walt Bodine has taken a job moonlighting as The Crypt Keeper just to make ends meet.

But over the weekend I saw a true sign of economic meltdown while on a quest for super cheap headphones for my six-year-old daughter to destroy use.

What was this sign? I'm glad you asked. Allow me to illustrate via camera phone:

That's right, Big Lots is having a FREAKIN' LIQUIDATION SALE!!!

Now, I don't know if you've ever shopped at a Big Lots. This is the bottom feeder of the U.S. retail distribution system. So if the American consumer-driven economy were an ocean, all of the chum deemed inedible by big fish like Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware or FAO Schwartz, would filter down to smaller fish like Target, K-Mart and Walmart.

The dregs unworthy of even these "value" retailers sinks to the bottom of the sea, where Big Lots picks it ups, dusts if off and puts it on the shelf and ludicrously low prices. This place is one step up from the weekly Lee's Summit swap meet.

You always hear that when the economy starts to sag (much like Larry Moore's chins), consumers flock to the value (cheap) retailers. Yet, here in good ol' OP, the throngs of shoppers seeking disposable grass trimmers aren't enough to keep the doors open.

Still, I could be misreading this. It could be that the store is closing due to the long-rumored "renovation" of the strip mall at 95th and Nall. I hope that's the case and that in a few months we'll have a newer, brighter Big Lots to get cheap junk from.

If the economy keeps going the way it is, we'll need it.

PS -- I got the headphones. Four bucks.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Top Ten Thursday

I'm trying out a new gimmick here.

It's been a while since I tried any new gimmicks, so today I'm launching a new gimmick. Just tossing this out there. Throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks.

I know it's not original. Lots of people do lists of all kinds of crap. But I figure, meh, it's something to do. Besides, I once read in a Top Ten List of blogging hints that readers and search engines like Top Ten Lists.

Anyway, it's pretty self explanatory. Each Thursday I publish a Top Ten list on a given subject. Sound good? Good.

To kick it off today, here's my:
Top Ten List of Upcoming Top Ten Thursday
Top Ten List Topics

10) Top Ten Favorite Movies (Obviously, this will be broken into various movie genre categories (Westerns, Drama, Comedy, etc.))

9) Top Ten Favorite Movie Villains

8) Top Ten Favorite Breakfast Cereals

7) Top Ten Favorite Religions

6) Top Ten Ways to Break Bad News

5) Top X Favorite Roman Numerals

4) Top Ten Songs About Coffee

3) Top Ten Favorite U.S. Cities

2) Top Ten Favorite Stationery Items

1) Top Ten Favorite Middle Names
Well, there you have it. Obviously, the use of lists like this isn't to categorically rank arbitrary topics, but rather to generate debate.

Maybe you disagree that Middle Names should be ranked above Breakfast Cereals. Perhaps you think I left some important category off the list all together.

If so, then by all means leave a comment with your opinion.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A sort of Hjemkomst

One of my personal philosophies about travel is that you should do your best to seek out the historical and cultural flavor of where ever it is you find you've traveled to.

I think every place has something to discover. Sure, it might be an easier search in, say, Florence, Italy, than in Liberal, Kansas. But the there is there for the curious and persistent to discover.

It was this kind of thinking that had us spend a little extra time in Fargo during our Grizwaldesque Thanksgiving road trip to North Dakota.

Actually, the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center is in Moorehead, Minn. It hosts various local art and history exhibits, but the anchor tenant (pun intended) is the Viking replica ship, Hjemkomst.

The ship was the dream of Moorehead resident Robert Asp, who wanted to build a Viking ship and sail it to his ancestral home in Norway. For those of you who don't spreken Norwegian, Hjemkomst translates to "homecoming" and is pronounced (near as my non-Norwegian ear can tell) "yom-komst."

The hull of the Hjemkomst is 76 feet long and 17 feet wide. It took Asp eight years, 100 oak trees and 7,000 rivets to build.

In 1980, while I was busy trying to figure out a Rubik's Cube, Asp sailed the completed Hjemkomst on Lake Superior. Unfortunately he died of leukemia before he could attempt the voyage to Norway.

Two years after his death, four of Asp's children were part of a 12-person crew to finally attempt crossing the north Atlantic in the Hjemkomst. The 6,100 mile voyage was treacherous as the Viking ship was buffeted in a severe nor'easter.

A rogue wave hit the ship so hart that one of the hull timbers split. The crew faced sinking in the cold waters before plugging the breach with burlap sacks.

Hull breach caused by rogue wave in the North Atlantic.

The crew's quarters on the deck consisted of sleeping bags on wooden planks, just like the original Vikings used circa 890 AD (the planks, not the sleeping bags).

After more than two months at sea, the Hjemkomst pulled into the harbor at Bergen, Norway to the celebratory greetings of their cousins.

The museum plays a 30-minute documentary about the project before the tour. Admission is only $7 bucks a person for adults. The admission attendant let our 6-year-old daughter in for free. The ship exhibit allows you to get up close and touch the ship, see the water marks and get an idea of what life aboard the ship must have been like for the Americans in 1982 and for the Vikings in the ninth century.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

YouTube Tuesday: Feminists just need to find a man

I was listening to Nellie McKay during my lunch break on my ancient iPod (good luck finding her on any radio station around here). I've always appreciated her sense of humor and social satire... not to mention her phenomenal musical talent.

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Monday, December 01, 2008


Here are a few of the things I learned on during our Grizwaldesque Thanksgiving road trip to North Dakota:
  • Fargo is aptly named. The only thing it's close to is West Fargo (and Moorhead which, it turns out, is not aptly named).

  • Stay away from the biscuits and gravy at the Fargo Holiday Inn. "Stick to your ribs" must have a unique colloquial meaning in North Dakota.

  • The people of North Dakota are super nice, but they misspell and mispronounce "barbecue."

  • You can make it from Fargo to Sioux Falls on a single tank of gas... just barely.

  • It's only a matter of time before there's a Space Aliens Bar and Grill at either The Legends or the P&L District. But they damn well better spell "barbecue" correctly.

  • I spent hours along a lonely highway looking for that bag of money, but I didn't find it so it must still be there somewhere.

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