Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm a dud on New Year's Eve.

New Year's Eve was never a huge holiday for my family. We just hung out and watched a movie or played games to pass the time, counted down and went to bed. As siblings left the house, it was eventually just my mom and me staying up (with my dad curled up in bed starting at 8 p.m.). We usually wouldn't make it to midnight, and would groggily stumble to bed when we woke up around 1 a.m.

(Tangent)
My sister does the COOLEST thing for New Year's Eve, and I plan on doing it every year, as long as my kids want to stay up late. She covertly goes around and sets all the clocks forward a few hours (when it's early enough that no one will notice). Then, they all have a fake countdown at 9 or 10 p.m. and send the kids to bed. It's a win-win. The kids think they've stayed up late and celebrated, and the adults still get enough sleep that they aren't the walking dead the next day.
(End Tangent)

However, things could have gotten dicey when I got married. So many people have fun traditions, all of which involve lots of activity and no sleep, on New Year's Eve. Can I tell you how excited I was to find out that my wife grew up the exact same way I did? We may be party poopers, but we are well-rested party poopers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A little pick-me-up

I want one of these t-shirts from here:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Vocab Super Powers

When I was little, I always wanted to have a super power or two. I REALLY wanted to fly or teleport, but I would have settled for running fast or super strength or shooting fireballs out of my hands.

Imagine my disappointment when every birthday wish went unfulfilled. I even made sure not to tell anyone, in case that would jinx it. Still, no matter how many times I asked for some kind of ability, I woke up the next day depressingly normal.

However, looking back I might have had a super power and not even known about it. This is in addition to my other, previously exposed super power. Granted, it's nothing cool like you see in the comic books, but I had a HUGE vocabulary.

(Tangent)
I say "had" because I think after reaching my peak in childhood, I just coasted through high school and landed pretty much where everyone else is.
(End Tangent)

You want some evidence? You won't just take my claim at face value?

Here's an example from when I was 4 or 5 years old:

My mom and I were heading into church. She always said I should have been born with a briefcase, and I typically talked to the adults around me about as easily as the kids. We were just about to reach the outer door, and I turned to my mom and said, "Mom, did you bring your brush?" She was a little surprised, and replied, "I did. Why do you need it?" That's when I (dressed in my little blazer, white shirt and tie) put a hand to the back of my head and said, "I need to make an adjustment."

My mom loves this story because she says it's indicative of how often she thought I was quotable.

(Tangent)
Incidentally, needing to make an "adjustment" was all too common. I have three ... count them ... three cowlicks on the back of my head. Two of them are right next to each other, and until I discovered the miracles of gel and pomade, I'd get a pretty awesome Alfalfa going each day. It used to bug me terribly, and at one point I even took scissors and chopped off the whole offending section. All this did was make it worse until it could grow back out. Thankfully, my daughter only has one cowlick. I checked. I also checked for some of my other minor deformities, and I think she got away without any of them.
(End Tangent)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

No work this week ...

If only my vacation looked like this:



And not like this:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

How To Article of the Week

This week: How to Write an Ode About Math

Seriously? Who thinks this stuff up? Once they've thought of it, who has time to go make a WikiHow entry?

Click on the link if you dare.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Kwanzaa!

My freshman year of college, I had a friend. I know, shocking. I had A friend. She knew a kid in her hometown who would always say the name "Nathan" as "Nay Nay." She decided I should have the same name, but she wanted to add a little flavor to it and call me "Sha Nay Nay."

I thought this was fitting because this name conjured up images of a "sturdy" black woman in my mind. Since I was a scrawny white guy, I appreciated the irony.

For a while after that, every time I would see her, she would yell, "Sha NAY NAY!" and do a few of those finger snaps with attitude.

In December that year, I found the door to my dorm plastered with Happy Kwanzaa posters. So, I thought I would access my non-existent black heritage and wish everyone Happy Kwanzaa! If you'd like to find out more, click here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The White Envelope

When I was younger, my sister started a tradition with our family on Christmas Day. She realized there was usually a little bit of a letdown after all the presents were unwrapped.

As a result, she decided to have each family member write down on a sheet of paper an act of service that someone did for them and an act of service that they did for someone else that year and put it in a white envelope. At some point before Christmas morning, each family stuck the envelope in the branches of the tree. I wish I could say that the white envelope had some cool, symbolic meaning, but I think we started calling it the "white envelope" because it was just the easiest color of envelope to grab.



After the presents were all unwrapped, we would excuse any of the younger kids that didn't want to stay, and each family member would take their envelope from the tree and read or tell about both service opportunities. I was surprised at how pleasant this experience was, and it really set the mood for the rest of the day. It was a wonderful finale to all the gift giving, and it helped me see the kinds of things my siblings do on a regular basis to help those around them.

Unfortunately, after a few years of this, some of my siblings started complaining about the tradition. They said they felt uncomfortable sharing service they did because it felt like they were trying to show off. I was baffled by this, and I couldn't figure out why it would be a problem when they were simply sharing it with their other family members. These acts of service were particularly touching when they came from my mom. She loves to help everyone, but her recent health forces her to limit these efforts. This time of year, we are able to hear about some of the small things she has found she can do that still mean something to those she does them for.

As a result, the tradition has pretty much died in our family. However, being the stubborn person I am, I refuse to let it go. My wife and I like it, and wherever we spend Christmas (with her family or with mine), we warn everyone that we are going to continue with it. If they spend Christmas morning with us, they had better be prepared to share. Fortunately, everyone who has stayed for Christmas morning has been willing.

I'm excited to see what will come to my daughter's mind as she gets old enough to participate. It will be nice to show her that service is just another form of gift we can give. In many ways, it will mean more than anything we could have purchased.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'm not sick.

I'm not sick. I know, I know. I'm jinxing myself by saying so, but I'm a little excited. Every year, I would have had 2 colds and 1 flu by now, but I've somehow dodged all the bullets headed my way.

I'd like to say it's because of the steady donut and Christmas treat diet I've been getting at work, but I have a feeling that's not the case. Or maybe it's all the time I've spent NOT exercising. After all, I'm giving my body more energy to fight off the infections, right?

In any case, I have a slim hope that Christmas will arrive without congestion and frequent trips to the bathroom.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear ...

I don't know of anyone who could have played this character better than Will Ferrell. I think I'm too easily amused because I saw a part of this movie on TV the other night and laughed so hard I couldn't breathe. My wife almost thinks it's funnier to watch me instead of the movie.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I hate shopping

I really do hate shopping. Specifically clothes shopping. I learned a while ago, that given my current physique, I will never be able to just wander into a store and buy a pair of pants. They just don't make them in my size. If I don't want to look like I'm waiting for a flood, I have to buy 30x36. I defy any of you to find that size in ANY store. As it is, I have to go online and have them shipped. So, not only are they never on sale, but I also have to pay for them to be delivered.

I try not to feel all jealous when I hear about someone finding a pair of pants for $10 because there is nothing I would like more than cheap pants. Oh well. Some day, I'll have a gut, and maybe I'll finally be able to find my size in a big and tall store. Until then, I have Lands' End bookmarked as a favorite.

Do you think they'd have these in my size?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Walking Dead

A couple days ago, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to hear an intermittent beep from one of our smoke detectors. I stumbled out of bed and grabbed the last of our 9V batteries, hoping I could fix it before the noise woke my wife and/or my daughter. To make sure I was replacing the right one, I stood under the detector in the hallway, waiting for it to beep. I think the detector knew what time it was and wanted to mess with me. It was a full 5 minutes before it beeped again.

I ripped the thing out of the ceiling and replaced the battery, crossing my fingers my brain hadn't woken up enough to keep me from going back to bed. I got it back up in the ceiling and fell back into bed with a sigh. No sooner had my head hit the pillow than another smoke detector started beeping. We didn't have any more batteries, so I tried in vain to tune it out. That lasted about 2 seconds, and my brain started going through my day, thinking of all the things I needed to get done.

Bottom line: I was in the shower by 4:30 a.m. and felt like the walking dead all day.

I felt a bit like this (brace yourself for one swear word):

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How To Article of the Week

This week's article: How to Ride a Mechanical Bull

I don't think I will EVER need to know this information, but thanks to WikiHow covering all the bases, I've got this down just in case.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What was I thinking?

Truthfully, the title of this post could be the title for most on this blog.

(Tangent)
I had the perfect video clip idea to go with this post, but I couldn't find it anywhere. For those of you who have seen "Life with Mikey," I wanted to find a clip of the two audition scenes with the montage of kids singing "Spoon Full of Sugar" and "Zippity Doo Da" but had no luck.
(End Tangent)

When I was little, I had a best friend. She and I were almost next door neighbors, and we did everything together. It's not an understatement to say she was the brains of the operation.

One day, we got this crazy idea to put on a show. I, being the attention addict that I was, immediately volunteered my mad singing skills developed during our kindergarten choir and my talents as a piano prodigy from the 6 months of lessons I had under my belt. My friend volunteered to be the director. This meant she sat in the front row and pointed at me with a pencil.

Since the piano was in the basement, we made construction paper footprints leading from the front door. I’m sure my mom wondered what on earth we could be cooking up, but she didn’t say anything. We also packed the room with rows of chairs. We decided to alternate between piano songs and choir numbers (which I planned to sing while jumping up and down on the couch).

After a brief rehearsal, we hit the streets to sell tickets. We made fliers to post on all the local telephone poles announcing the event and then went door-to-door. We sold tickets for 25 cents each, and decided to use some expert sales techniques, offering a “Family Four” pass for a dollar. At that price, it was a steal!

Looking back, I’m surprised our neighbors were nice enough to buy tickets. I’m even more surprised that most of them showed up. When it came time for the show, we had a room full of people, and I played and sang my little heart out. Jumping on the couch was definitely NOT cut from the program, and was probably my favorite part since I wasn’t supposed to on a normal day.

I don’t remember how much we made, but I know we felt like millionaires. My friend definitely was the smart one, though, because she took away half the profits, and all she had to do was sit and watch me make a fool of myself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Motivation

I saw this on Word to Your Mother.

This is just the kind of thing I need to get me through until my vacation at Christmas.

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes

Wall of Shame

In my cubicle, I have a wall of shame. It's basically a collection of emails that showcase my mistakes. I guess I probably shouldn't have these on display, but oddly enough, these are fun to read for two reasons:
  1. It helps me learn from my mistakes. I can look up and think, "Oh, I remember when I did that. I have to make sure I do XYZ next time."
  2. It reminds me that no matter how bad my day is, it's probably not as bad as when I sent/received that email.

My coworker says I should rename it and, instead of the "Wall of Shame," call it the "Wall of Overcoming Self-Made Obstacles." He suggested I call it WoOSMO for short.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Dee Tiew" (Translation: "Thank You")

My daughter is in the gibberish talking stage. She's 1 year old, and talks our ears off (I wonder who she gets that from ...).

A couple of days ago, I was getting ready, and she couldn't get her desired blanket out from under a pile of laundry. Her first impulse was to start screaming for it, so I told her that's not how we ask for help (I know, falling on deaf ears, but I have to try). Oddly enough, she stopped and mumbled something incomprehensible, so I said, "That's right. I'll help you get it out."

After pulling it out for her, I heard a very distinct "Dee Tiew" over and over for about a minute.

If I was a real man, I wouldn't admit this, but I got a little choked up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tacky Christmas (Continued)

I couldn't resist posting this picture, since it ties in so well with this. Once again, this find came from NCS on More Cowbell. She's pretty much the funniest blogger on teh Internets. She even loves Al Gore, who (after all) is the father of teh Internets.

Sick

Growing up, it seemed like one of the old standby gifts from dear old Saint Nick was a case of the flu. Often enough, I would either be horizontal in bed or all shaky and weak on Christmas morning from becoming best friends with our throw up pan.

(Tangent)
Warning: I just skimmed back through this and almost felt the need for the pan I'm describing. This isn't for those with weak stomachs.

We had a designated throw up pan. Everyone I tell about it gets this gross look on their face, and I figure they think my family is crazy. As a result, I usually "forget" to tell them that this pan was one of the most sought after items when my parents downsized and relocated. My sister managed to get it first, and I'm sure most of my siblings were disappointed. It was the perfect pan for the following reasons:

1. It was all dented, so it would never have worked for cooking. As a result, it stood out, and we never accidentally used it to cook edible food in.
2. It was the perfect width. Some of the smaller pots really force the sickie to aim, something they can't always do really well.
3. It was the perfect depth. It wasn't a giant stew pot, but it was deep enough to hold all the necessities. It also meant it could easily be cleaned out in the sink in between sessions.
4. It didn't have a huge handle that would gouge you as you tried to sleep. I usually kept this thing tucked under my arm, and it worked just fine because it had two tiny little nubs that allowed for maximum grip and stability without having to deal with a huge handle.
(End Tangent)

I would as often as not be on a regimen of Sprite and Saltines, which to this day remind me of being sick.

The reason I'm writing all of this is that I think I'm getting sick a little early this year. The weird part is that I don't have a sore throat/headache/stomach ache or any of the other dreaded symptoms. Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling exhausted, and not just the normal exhaustion that comes with knowing you have a full work week ahead of you. Buttoning up my shirt left me winded.

The best way I've found to describe it is that it feels like someone has turned up the gravity. My whole body feels heavy, and I feel like I suddenly weigh enough that my chair is in danger of flattening underneath me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mandles

I don't have many man cards to begin with. I'm a toothpick, I have a high voice, and I don't like football. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to get a few of these.

video

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tacky Christmas

You have two assignments:

1. Go here and read the article.

2. Go here and build the list of tacky light displays in your area.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dreams Revisited

So, from yesterday's post, you know how boring my dreams are. Now it's time to talk about my wife's dreams. Needless to say, I'm jealous.

She regularly wakes up in the morning to tell me how she had to fight off a bunch of vampires/zombies/insurance salesmen and had to protect her sister or me or our daughter from being captured by the offending party.

Every once in a while, the universe throws her a curve ball and she has a normal dream. However, often enough, these dreams involve me doing something stupid, and they are vivid enough that she wakes up a little mad at me for whatever it was I did. At this point, I typically say, "I WOULD say I'll never do it again, but I don't think I can make that promise."

And, I'm glad I didn't, because inevitably I repeat the offense in her dream world.

Luckily, she forgives me anyway and I don't end up here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dreams

I need a dream interpreter. Whenever people talk about their dreams, it always involves something wacky or surreal.

If other people's dreams are Jim Carrey, then my dreams are Ben Stein. Usually I can't even remember mine, but when I do, it is always about something mundane, like vacuuming or cutting my toenails.

In high school, this was a real problem because I was a morning person and liked to get up early to finish my homework rather than stay up all night trying to work with a sleepy brain. Inevitably, I would have a vivid dream about finishing the homework and wake up the next day confused as to why my alarm was set so early. Then, I'd get to school, open up my binder and realize my homework was only half done. Try explaining THAT to a teacher. It's even worse than, "My dog ate it."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Disaster Area



Embarrassing confession time. Growing up, I had the messiest room of anyone I knew. It was a normal day if you couldn't see the carpet. In fact, it was a normal day if you still couldn't see the floor even after excavating a layer of clothes and toys.

Because it wasn't just soft clothes, walking through my room was like walking through a mine field. The unwary traveler could end up with a stubbed toe or an unfortunate face plant.

This lasted all the way through high school and was a constant battle between my parents and me. Despite their best efforts, my room stayed a disaster area. I vividly remember many times my mom said I couldn't go play until my room was clean. Rather than just cleaning it up, though, I found the most interesting places to stuff all the junk without actually having to put it away. I don't know if this was just my act of defiance or if I really thought this was saving time and energy, but it meant I could never find anything later.

Then, a miracle happened. I went to college.

A few weeks after moving into the dorms, I realized with a shock that my side of the dorm room was spotless. My bed was always made, and everything was put away as soon as I was done with it. I was baffled. What caused such a complete transformation?

After thinking about it for entirely too long, I realized that my room at home was used for sleeping and dressing. Any other activity was done in another part of the house. I never actually lived in my room, so it was more like a storage closet. As soon as I moved into the dorms, that 3 foot by 5 foot space was the only place I had to live. Suddenly, my OCD tendencies began to apply to my room, and I was finally clean.

I think my mom was grateful she didn't have a total slob for a son after all, but I'm sure she wished I had figured this out several years earlier.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm No Richard Simmons

I think I'm stuck in a time warp. I've been the same weight since high school, and as you may have read, that weight is significantly lower than it should be.



A couple years ago, I decided I'd finally give this "exercise" thing a try. I bought a couple resistance bands and a set of DVDs that offered both strength training and cardiovascular exercise and made a few goals. That was exhausting enough, but I thought I'd still give it a try. I worked out six days a week for two months straight. Here are the results:

Significant muscle soreness
Had to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning
More energy
MUCH bigger appetite (eating almost constantly)
Not winded after a flight of stairs

But here's the kicker ...

Absolutely NO physical change whatsoever.

I was exactly the same as when I started. Still at my same weight, I had a thought.

Yeah, I felt better, but in looking at the pros and cons, feeling a little bit better didn't compensate enough for the effort of getting up every morning at 5 a.m. and feeling like crap while trying to stretch those resistance bands over my head. I know I should have a better attitude about it, but right now it feels pretty nice to sleep in for that extra hour.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'll do that later ...

In college, I worked for a center that, among other services, provided skill building workshops for students. Before I could teach these myself, I had to attend each one. I probably had one of the biggest epiphanies of my life during the "Overcoming Procrastination" workshop.

I attended knowing I procrastinate and I figured I wouldn't learn much, other than a confirmation of what I already knew. As the instructor went through the outline, she described the various forms our procrastination takes when it manifests. She started going through the list, and after each one, I thought, "Yep, that's me ... yep, that's me too ... yep, that's me again."

Pretty soon, I noticed a disturbing pattern. Could I really have every single form of procrastination?

Sure enough, every single one applied to me. I knew I put things off, but I never thought to consider what I did to replace what I should be doing. I realized that the first step to overcoming it is to understand how it affects my own behavior. It was in this class that I realized that whenever I had a test or a major project, I would replace doing it with other good projects. As a result, the apartment would be spotless. The dishes would be done, the floor vacuumed, the dusting done ...

After that, every time I sat down to study and realized I needed to clean the toilets, I would stop myself and plan to do it later. It worked great.

I still procrastinate like crazy, but at least I'm a little more aware that I'm doing it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Best Christmas Ever

My mom takes the cake for coolest moms. Sorry to all the runner ups. You just didn't cut it. Bear in mind, she's the one who had to listen to me talk ALL DAY. She's the one who had to deal with me when I did nerdy stuff that should have embarrassed me and probably embarrassed her. She's the one who also thought of the coolest Christmas gift I've ever received.

One year, I woke up to find a special surprise hung up with my stocking. It looked like a necklace with a bunch of bells on it.

At first I was confused, but then my mom pointed me to the note Santa left behind. In the letter, Santa said I had been such a good boy this year that he decided to give me something extra special.

He told me that the necklace was actually the bells from around Rudolph's neck. I couldn't believe it. I wore them everywhere I went for the rest of the break. I think I even wore them to school. To really appreciate how annoying this must have been for everyone else, you need to hear how loud the big bell is in the middle.

It's like a fog horn.

Editor's Note: This is the ACTUAL picture of Rudolph's Bells (Please don't die of shock that I actually remembered to take a real picture)



Anyway, I still have them, and I love remembering how I felt when I got them.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"How To" Article of the Week

This week's article: How to Cook Food in a Hotel Room

This is all about cooking several meals using only a coffee maker and an iron.

I think someone had way too much time on their hands to think of this stuff, but I'm sure it would work in a pinch. If anyone decides to try it, let me know how it goes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

9th Grade English

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I thought I'd tell you about my 9th grade English teacher. Coincidentally, she is also the advisor for Academic Decathlon.

If I had to pick one teacher that influenced me the most in high school, it would be her because she is the one who got me excited about reading again.

(Tangent)
I loved reading when I was little. I would read all kinds of books, and we had bookshelves of them to choose from. For some reason, I just stopped reading in my early teenage years. I can't remember a specific experience that caused it, but I just never did it anymore.
(End Tangent)



During the year, we had several required books to read, but in between, she had several extra book report assignments. She did something that I thought was pretty ingenious for kids like me. She let us pick any book as long as it had a minimum of XXX pages. Any book. The freedom was exhilarating (remember the nerd comments in previous posts). Even better, we didn't have to write anything about the book. All we had to do is sit down with her, and she would open the book to random spots in the story and start reading. As soon as we knew where she was, we would stop her and explain what was going on in the story. If we could adequately explain, she would pass us off.

All of the sudden, I remembered how much fun reading was and I've been hooked ever since. I rarely go to bed without reading a chapter first.

I'll always be grateful to her for reminding me that books won't kill you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Academic Decathlon

By now, you know I'm a nerd. I just don't know if you've figured out how epically nerdy I am.

If there was a nerd club, I'd be the president ... no, the emperor.

In high school, I was in a club called Academic Decathlon.



This is basically a club where kids stay after school and study 10 topics for a competition that goes all the way to the national level. Members of the team are tested, and the highest scoring teams move up to state and then national competitions.

Yup, you read that right. I stayed after school for a studying club. Granted, I was only on the support team, meaning I helped the team members instead of joining the team, but it's still geeky.

That said, this was the funnest part of high school. In general, the only worthwhile memories I have are those with my friends, but this one part was actually fun. We even went to state one year, which is a pretty big accomplishment because the competition is pretty intense in California.

At some point, I'll have to share some stories from this period, but for now, I figure the first step is just to acknowledge that they exist.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Zits

The other day, I totally grossed out some of my coworkers. We were talking about zits (I know, thrilling conversation, right?), and I mentioned that I never really got any on my forehead, nose or cheeks. Mine were all centered around my mouth. It was then that I dropped the phrase that made them all dry heave ...

I said it was like I had a goatee of zits.

Great mental image, right?

Unfortunately, I still get a few stubborn ones that show up every once in a while. I like to think this is just my way of hanging onto my youth. I guess I never specified which part I wanted to hang onto.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To all the kids out there

When your mom takes you shopping for new school clothes, don't insist on wearing them home. As cool as you may think that psychedelic shirt and plum colored shorts are, just leave them in the bag.

Also, when you get home, don't immediately go running outside to play with your friend. If one of you gets the brilliant idea to make a giant mud puddle with the hose, be the older person and walk away.

And whatever you do ... don't plaster a mud pie directly on the front of your shirt. The stain won't fully come out and you'll ruin your school clothes.

Note: the kid in the picture is not me, but this is pretty much exactly what I looked like that fateful day.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Random Trivia: Inukshuk

During my time in Canada, I learned about a stack of rocks called an inukshuk (plural: inuksuit).



Now, I'm not an expert by any means, but these babies are supposedly placed along trails to guide travelers to food, water or shelter. They acted as a reference point for hunting grounds, etc.

The first time I noticed them was while driving through Ontario. Every once in a while, I'd see a stack of rocks on the side of the road. It turns out that some people still carry on the tradition by building them by the highways.

Granted, it's not that hard to get lost on Highway 1 in Canada, and you can bet that a paved road will lead somewhere. Still, I thought it was an interesting tradition.