Thursday, December 27, 2007

Beefed Up Wind Instruments

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Each year, my friend Kevin and his family send out a Christmas card. Tucked in each of these cards is a three paragraph note detailing what Kevin's family has accomplished during the year. The paragraphs organize themselves by family member - starting with Kevin, moving to his wife and finally closing with the details about their smart, talented daughter.

It is very similar to other holiday letters we receive, except for one thing:

Kevin's family accomplishes an amazing amount of crap in one year.

Kevin, for instance, is a project manager on two major government construction projects. He's been selected by a trade magazine as one of fifty up and comers for his field. In his spare time, he got a law degree. His daughter is no slouch, either. She goes to school and takes multiple classes outside of school. In her spare time, she wrote a book.

In my spare time this year, I taught my kids to fart the melodies to all the songs on Britney Spears' comeback album.

As impressive as that accomplishment is, I still feel like something of a slacker when I look at Kevin's annual letter. So, I've decided to do something about it. I'm going to send out my own letter. Obviously, I can't go back in time and urge my family to achieve more than they actually did. No, it's much more practical for me to just lie about our achievements.

"When he wasn't spending hours working on his award-winning blog, Grim Richard mapped and sequenced his own human genome using parts salvaged from abandoned bread-making machines and exercise equipment. He also was nominated for, but did not win, a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the half life of french fries lost in the fissures of car seats."

Now, we're getting somewhere.

"His wife, when not perfecting her technique for growing breast tissue with her mind, finished writing and inking her twelve volume graphic novel detailing the history of the Middle East - making it the first graphic novel written in English, Farsi and Esperanto."

I'm starting to like my family better already. But my letter needs a little truth to keep it anchored to reality...

"Grim Richard produced and re-mixed Britney Spears' comeback album, Blackout, using "found" instruments and a beefed-up wind section...."

Yep. that's it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Catnip for Chicks

Ahhhhh! Our small house rings with sound of cooking, caroling and giftwrapping.

My only complaint? It's difficult to concentrate on video games like Call of Duty 4 or Halo 3 with all of that ringing Christmas crap going on in the background.

Every married video game player faces the same conundrum. How do you fit quality time with your wife into your already hectic video game schedule? And when you're spending that quality time with your wife, what's the best way to pretend that you're not thinking about playing video games?

It' a question as old as Atari, my friend.

My personal strategy combines elements of chess, timing and a keen understanding of my wife's television-viewing habits. When I get home from work, I resist the urge to jump online and play video games. Instead I do something less intuitive - I help around the house. My wife notices this pretty quickly.

"You're not going to play video games?" she asks.

"No," I reply. "I figured we'd watch T.V. together on the couch. You can lay down and I'll rub your feet."

At this point, my wife senses the trap, but to no avail. For some reason, foot rubbing is like catnip for chicks. They can't resist it and my wife is no exception. She positions herself on the couch; I turn on the Lifetime channel which, when combined with foot rubbing, forms a potent cocktail unrivaled by even Valium. My wife is snoring within 15 minutes. Then, I go play video games for three hours.

If she asks the next day, I tell her that I rubbed her feet for about an hour and then went to bed early.

I mentioned my strategy to a fellow video gamer at work.

"I use a different strategy," he said.

He begins the same way I do, by watching television with his wife. He tolerates it as long he can and then, when he can't stand it anymore, he turns to his woman, looks soulfully into her eyes...

"...and then I touch her boobs," he said.

Her response is almost instantaneous. She doesn't even look away from the television.

"Why don't you go play some video games, baby?"

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Web's Only Honest Holiday Gift Guide

The Web's Only Honest Holiday Gift Guide
(What You Shouldn't Buy This Christmas)

Every year, I see Web sites filling up space by publishing holiday gift guides. And every year, I see parents standing in line outside of Best Buy trying to buy the items listed in those holiday gift guides. Coincidence?

I think not.

This year I offer the Web's only honest holiday gift guide as a remedy. It's list of really cool stuff and reasons you shouldn't buy that cool stuff.

The Nintendo Wii

Every parent I know is searching fruitlessly for a Wii. It's the cheapest game console on the market and boasts revolutionary controls that encourage players to actually move and exercise when they're playing games.

My family got one last Christmas. It took my kids about an hour to figure out that big, wild, vigorous movements (you know, exercise) can be completely replaced by small, controlled wrist movements. Luckily for my kid's health, they enjoy playing a virtual reality game called "Running Around" on a revolutionary game console I call "The Outdoors."

The Lowdown: The only exercise benefit you're likely to get involves standing in line at Best Buy.

The I Phone

I really, really want one of these $400 phones with the revolutionary multi-touch interface. I want one of these so much that I harangued my wife into getting me one for Christmas - and then I withdrew my request.

You know why? It's a $400 phone. And it doesn't actually do anything better than other, cheaper phones. It just does it cooler. It's like the high school cheerleader of phones.

Hmmmm. Now, I want an I Phone again.

The Lowdown: It's expensive and won't improve your life. It does have the ability to make early adopters look cooler than they actually are, but if you don't have one by your money and buy another black turtleneck.

Big Screen Televisions

The old adage says it all: size does not matter. Unless you plan to sit more than 20 feet away from your television, a huge screen size is cool for exactly ten minutes - and then it looks like every other television screen.

The Lowdown: Bigger does not mean better. If someone tries to tell you different, they're either trying to sell you a television set, trying to justify why they bought one or compensating because of other, uh, size issues.

Gift Cards

You realize that this is a scam right? Stores offer them because up to 30% of the money put on these cards is never used - resulting in pure profit for the stores.

The Lowdown: If you'd like to approximate the purchase of a gift card for a friend without actually buying one, do this: withdraw $100 from your bank account. Hand $70 to your friend. Light the remaining $30 on fire and hug while you watch the money turn to dust.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Unreview

I'm a man with varied and eclectic interests that include reading, writing and working on elaborate science projects with my kids. I am, however, also a busy man and I've concluded that actually spending time on any of these interests would consume way too much of my discretionary time. For this reason, I don't actually participate in any of my hobbies, but I do enjoy buying stuff that gives me the appearance of actually participating.

Lately, instead of reading, I've been trying to buy Amazon's new electronic reading device, the Kindle. The Kindle, for those who don't know, is a white, paperback-sized device that lets you buy books wirelessly and begin reading them almost instantly - all for the low price of $400. I used the phrase "trying to buy" because the Amazon Kindle is sold out and will not be available until February.

A person less dedicated to buying stuff might use this opportunity to actually read books the old fashioned way. Not me. Instead, I've spent hours reading the Amazon reviews for the Kindle. I haven't actually learned anything new about the device, but I have learned something cool about the consumers who write Amazon reviews:

Hundreds of people who have never actually touched the device have given it negative reviews. That's right. Of the hundreds of negative reviews garnered by the Kindle, only a fraction were written by people who've actually used the device.

Frankly, this was an epiphany. For years, I've held back my opinion on various products because I hadn't actually used them. I've stifled my thoughts on hundreds of movies I haven't seen and buried my feelings concerning thousands of books I haven't had the time to read.

I had no idea you could unreview something.

Well, I'm going to make up for lost time. I'm planning to become the Internet's - nay, the world's - best unreviewer. And I've started by unreviewing the Kindle. You can read my unreview here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Those Damn Sunday Shoes

On the day after Thanksgiving, my two sons, aged five and eight, decided to get full-on, 80s-style Mohawks. This was decided by the boys and their mother within the space of five minutes. Within an hour, each of the boys sported a closely-shaved head with a thick, hairy stripe of rebellious hair running down the middle.

The Mohawk is a classic rebellion move, designed to give a big, fat hairy finger to "The Man." I would be immensely proud of my kids, if it weren't for one thing:

I hate my kids' Mohawk haircuts.

This confused me at first. Why would their haircuts bother me? Both of the boys look kinda cool. And, as far as I know, neither of them are going for any job interviews in the near future.

Then I realized what the problem was. I am "The Man." I discipline the boys. I force them to eat leafy, green vegetables. I make them do homework. I have - God help me - actually bought them food from McDonald's that didn't come with some kind of toy.

I'm not supposed to like their Mohawks.

Don't mistake me. I don't like being "The Man." In fact, I specifically purchased my IPod to show that I'm not like the rest of my peers. No way. I'm hip. I'm cool. I'm so funky, in fact, that I need a portable music device with a thousand songs on it because the urge to dance might overcome me at any moment.

You know, like Ren McCormack in "Footloose." I can't count the number of times I've stifled the urge to kick off my Sunday shoes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

She Owes Them

Winona Ryder's refusal to do a nude scene has not only irritated and frustrated her male fans, it has endangered her chances of ever collecting a Best Actress Oscar.

I learned this surprising bit of news last night as I chomped down a Hooter's hamburger with two of my oldest friends, Kieth and Matt.

"It's true," said Kieth, a big guy with long hair. "You have to do a nude scene before you can get a Best Actress Oscar."

Matt scratched his grey, untrimmed beard. "Tell that to Reese Witherspoon. She won it for "Walk the Line" without taking off her clothes."

"I didn't say the actress has to be naked in the role that wins her the Oscar," countered Kieth. "Only that she has to get naked on film before she can win the Oscar. Reese Witherspoon had a topless scene in "Twilight".

"No way," Matt and I said simultaneously. I wondered where my Blockbuster card was.

"Yep." said Kieth. "It's why Natalie Portman took her clothes off in the recent "Hotel Chevalier". It had nothing to do with the story; she just wanted to get the nude scene out of the way."

"How do you explain Dame Judi Dench?"

Kieth deflected it. "I don't have to explain Judi Dench. She's never won the Best Actress Oscar. She was, however, naked in a 60s movie called "A Midsummer's Night's Dream".

"Yep," said Matt, "That Shakespeare dude has gotten a lot of girls in trouble."

Kieth continued. "Charlize Theron? Nude scene. Hallie Berry? Nude scene. Hillary Swank? Nude scene. Nicole Kidman? Ditto."

"Aha!" I said. "Julia Roberts. Julia Roberts is famous for never doing a nude scene."

"She's doing her nude scene later. Like Kathy Bates did. She got the Oscar for "Misery", but the did the nude scene the next year in "At Play in the Fields of the Lord". Have you ever wondered why she takes her clothes off on film?"

"All the time," I admitted.

"She owes them for the Oscar."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Save the Children's Foreheads!

Before I became a dad, I assumed that parents carried out one main function - raising their children to be productive members of society. This sacred duty, I thought, probably involved spending time with your kids, passing on important life lessons and occasionally motivating my kids to achieve more.

Oh, naive, base fool!

I now understand that my primary parenting job is to watch television and have the crap scared out of me by parenting experts. Oh, I'm still responsible for turning my kids into efficient cogs in the societal machine, but really there's not much time for that.

Right now, for instance, I'm confronting the twin terrors of deadly, unstoppable staph infections and the deadly, lurking dangers of lead-painted toys. And these are relatively new terrors. I was already juggling trans fats, childhood obesity, attention-deficit syndrome, Internet predators, child safety seats, toy magnets, stranger danger and video game violence.

I'm pretty busy just being terrified.

I'm on top of it, though. I'm slowly but surely removing all potential sources of danger from my children's lives. I've decided to share my list of the top four actions concerned parents can take to danger-proof their children's lives.

  1. The Outside is Bad - Circumvent the child safety seat problem and the stranger danger problem by forcing your children to remain in their rooms when they're not at school. If you must expose your children to the outside in order to get them to school, remember to apply huge amounts of sunscreen to their exposed surfaces. Also, don't forget the bug spray or you're just begging for lyme disease, West Nile and Malaria. Anyone is potentially a predator, so teach your children to avoid speaking with anyone. In fact, my experience shows that teaching children to talk at all just invites problems.
  2. Friends are Bad, Too - Generally speaking, I'd love for my kids to have friends. Unfortunately, friends are major vectors of infection, teen pregnancy and a love of hip-hop. Studies show that kids are 87% less likely to bow to peer pressure if they don't actually have any peers.
  3. Danger Proof Your Home - Over 85% of homes are built almost entirely out of sharp, 90 degree angles. Corners are dangerous. As a child, I once got my head stuck in a corner for well over three hours with permanent consequences. Only my special haircut hides the sharp indentation down the center of my forehead. I recommend puttying over the corners in your house. While you're at it, remove the furniture and replace the beds with fire-retardant blankets securely fastened to the floor.
  4. Remove the Media - Get rid of the televisions and video games. Burn that copy of Catcher in the Rye. Deny your kids access to most of the Internet because it's chock full of predators and, even worse, dangerous friends. Do allow them access to blogs because blogs are the best source of accurate lists of potentially dangerous stuff.

Well, that's my list. Use it well. I'm heading to the kitchen now so that I can throw out anything with corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or sugar. It's tough work, but I'm doing it for my kids. Sure, they're pale, mute, friendless, illiterate and afraid of right angles - but at least they're safe.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Baz Truman Returns!

Editor’s Note:

For years, workers have suffered through the advice of pundits, over-achievers and corporate lackeys, some of whom have had only three or four jobs in their entire lives.

Wouldn’t it be better to get career advice from someone with experience at literally thousands of jobs?

Baz Truman thinks so. Since the early 1980s, Baz Truman has been working at and getting fired from more jobs in a week than most people get fired from in a lifetime. Baz’ single-minded determination to excel at his career - no matter the cost – has gotten him fired from some of the world’s biggest and brightest companies.

The Most Fired Man in America
By Baz Truman

Q. I'm fairly new to Human Resources and still learning my craft. Since you have more experience getting fired from jobs than anyone in America, I'm wondering if you have any tips you can give out to the professional on the other side of the table who's doing the firing. Any suggestions?
Terminating Neophyte

Dear Terminating Neophyte:

After hundreds of terminations, I've gotten to see just as many techniques in action. I've found that every Human Resources person has their own technique as individual as a snowflake - only you wouldn't want to eat one of these snowflakes because they're bitter and much, much colder than a regular snowflake.

Ha ha ha ha. Just kidding.

That's exactly what's missing from most terminations - the spirit of fun. I've got a few suggestions to liven up any termination meeting and send everyone home with a smile on their face. Except maybe the employees who are getting fired. If you don't have the kind of experience I do, it's easy to get caught up in the whole "I don't have and job and I can't pay my bills" thing.

Here's my list of "Dos" and "Don'ts":

Do pick some kind of theme for the termination. Instead of wearing a business suit to the meeting, wear a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. Hand the employee a beach towel and bottle of suntan lotion and turn the negative meeting into a positive by saying brightly, "Guess who's got a lot more time to go to the beach?"

Then point to the employee.

I know what you're thinking. How will the employee have time to go to the beach if he or she is looking for a new job? That's exactly what makes it so funny.

Don't bring paperwork to the meeting. The employee is not going to agree with you any way. Why spend the last few minutes you're ever going to have with this employee detailing his or her faults and signing documents?


Don't use a security guard theme if you can possibly help it. In my experience, security guards almost always "oversell" the joke, no matter how much you wink to let them know you're in on the joke. Take it from me, tasers are only funny the first couple of times.


Baz Truman The Most Fired Man in America

Friday, October 19, 2007

General Mom

My wife left town today to attend her sister's wedding. This seems like a monumental mistake to me because, frankly, I am not qualified to take care of three kids by myself.

Our family has already ignored the first rule of parenting - which says that the total number of kids should never surpass the total number of parents. Bridget and I smugly assumed that this rule applied to other, less capable people. We were wrong about this. Time and again, the three to two ratio has meant that two of our kids could effectively launch frontal attacks to distract us while the third child moved to flank us. I use battle metaphors only half in jest because parenting is exactly like war, except the troops fight for and against you. And the battles usually end with an entire roll of toilet paper mysteriously wedged into an overflowing toilet.

No, parenting requires a capable general - and our general is on furlough.

This morning, for instance, the kids began their assault, as usual, at breakfast.

"What's for breakfast?" asked Gabriel.

Normally, General Mom would issue marching orders at this point.

"Julian, get bowls out and set the table. Gabriel, get the milk out of the refrigerator. Riley, get your underpants off of the dog's head."

Then she looks at me. "And you should stop laughing at the dog. It's only encouraging Riley."

This is exactly the right way to handle the breakfast situation. Each unit is given clear orders with little room for interpretation. Even the dog appreciates the clarity.

How did I handle the same situation this morning?

"Uh, what would you like to have for breakfast?" I asked.

Apparently, the troops wanted one bite of peanut butter toast, one spoonful of yogurt, one piece of bacon and fifteen glasses of milk. They also clamored for chocolate sauce, which I might have given them except I had already used the entire bottle for my own breakfast.

I am no General Mom.

I know my wife will read this blog entry today, so let me say this:

Under your capable leadership, the troops have always assumed that I was second-in-command. You've only been gone about four hours, however, and the troops are beginning to realize that I am, at best, an enlisted soldier like themselves.

We love you. We know you deserve a couple of days with your family. But this is war, dammit! With all due respect, your furlough has been revoked.

Friday, October 12, 2007

3 and a Half Pack

Two exciting "husband" things have happened to me recently:

First, I bought the "Halo 3" video game and have been playing it online almost every night. For those who don't know, "Halo 3" allows you to battle players from around the world in a tense, futuristic setting using various lasers, grenades and machine guns. That's the promise, anyway. In actual practice, twelve year-olds from around the world use various lasers, grenades and machine guns to blow me up while casting aspersions on my mom's dating habits.

Man, I love that game.

Second, fans of this blog know that my wife became obsessed with Jake Gyllenhaal's massive biceps and forced me to start working out. Well, it worked.


I have lost weight and built some muscle. I don't have a six pack, but I can now pull off my shirt and proudly point to a three and a half pack. Truthfully, I suspect that the "half pack" may be a hernia. Whatever. Progress is progress - even it's big, red, bulging and painful to the touch.

And though my wife forced me to start working out, she worries that I will be tempted to put my bulging, red painful muscles to ill use if I'm out of her strict gaze. And this is where "Halo 3" intersects with my workouts.

My wife actually encourages me to play "Halo 3" because it means that I'll stay on the couch on a Friday night instead of hanging out with my bachelor friends. In other words, now that my wife feels that she's made me more attractive, she's using my favorite video game to effectively keep a leash on me.

I find this more than a little condescending and cynical. That's why I'm going to hang out with my friends this weekend. I'm grabbing the car keys, ignoring my wife's protests and going to meet my bachelor friends. If we end up at bar, my wife will just have to trust me. If my friends and I end up at a party of some kind, my wife will just have to remember that I'm a happily married, responsible adult. I told my friends that I'm up for anything this weekend, so bring it on.

I think we're playing "Halo 3" at Thad's house.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sucker From the Future

I must write quickly, for I go to clean my wife's car. I do not know how it will end. I only know that there will be a reckoning - and it will be epic.

My wife will likely read this entry at some point. Because she knows me, she will dismiss my opening sentence as hyperbole and exaggeration. But I tell you this:

The interior of my wife's car smells like winos have lived in it, slept in it and urinated in it.

No, that's not quite right.

It smells like winos lived in it, slept in it, urinated in it and were eventually chased out by a feral wolverine family who also urinated in it to unsuccessfully remove the smell of the winos.

I don't blame my wife for most of this; I blame my children. Those three kids have lost more food inside that car than most small countries need to subsist for a year, provided, of course, that the small country lives entirely on chicken nuggets and french fries.

Perhaps "lost" is the wrong word. Indeed, I've begun to suspect a kid conspiracy. "Lost" implies an accidental river of food flotsam and jetsam flowing inch by inch through the car and eventually depositing itself on some delta, perhaps a bumper.

This does not happen. I know this food is not "lost" because my kids "find" it with amazing regularity.

The other day, I looked in my rear view mirror and noticed that my three year-old daughter was enjoying one of those weirdly fluorescent bank suckers.

"Hmmm," I thought. "I don't remember getting that at that bank."

I almost jammed on the brakes. We hadn't been to the bank in three weeks. And I had cleaned out the car a week previously, scouring the car for hidden caches of junk and junk food.

"Riley!" I yelled. "Get that thing out of your mouth!"

And she did exactly that. When I got home, I pulled her out of her car seat and looked for the sucker. It had vanished.

So, I'm going out the clean the car again. I will take my usual complement of weapons, some of which you don't normally see used on car - a mop, for instance. I don't expect to find that bank sucker. I imagine that a thousand years from now, an archaeologist will pore over our ancient car using lasers and other futuristic crap. She will turn around to check on her daughter (in the future, kids are allowed to hang around lasers) and she will see her daughter contentedly working on that ancient bank sucker.

And it will still be fluorescent.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Here at Grim Richard Laboratories, we've been working on a Grim Richard trivia game. Our goal? To capture the essence of Grim Richard in a game. That means that our game needs to be witty, quick and a major pain in the ass.

I think we've done it.

I owe the seeds of the idea to my good friend Kevin, who I've known since I was a kid. People who went over to Kevin's house invariably discovered a plate of brownies or Rice Krispies treats that his mother had baked. Kevin would let his guests dig into the sweet treats and after a few moments passed, he'd say one thing.

"You notice I'm not eating any of those."

And then he wouldn't say anything else about the treats, nor would he answer questions about his statement. It was pure genius. We never stopped eating the treats, but it was harder to enjoy them because you were never sure what he meant when he said that.

We call our new game, Grivia - Grim Richard's Gross Trivia Game - and it's based on the same premise. Wait for the right moment and then announce something that is vague, factually true and possibly disturbing. For instance:

Three friends and I were hanging out one day when one of us farted. Farting, as many people know, is the primary bonding currency among guys and supplants football, NASCAR and scrapbooking. We naturally returned the salute in the customary way, mock indignation and an hour-long discussion about the pungency and loudness of the flatulence. I saw my chance to take it to the next level.

"Scientists have discovered that if you can smell a fart, that means that you have particles of fart in your nose."

This stopped the conversation cold. According to Grivia rules, I scored ten points for each disturbed listener for a total of 30 points. Actually, I scored 40 points because it even disgusted me a little.

Grivia is not a game for wimps. Or polite people.

You also score an additional 100 points if someone is still thinking about the statement days or years later. And I'm really good at picking up these bonus points.

The other night, I walked in the kitchen as my wife poured a tall, cold glass of milk. As she lifted it to her lips, I saw my opportunity.

"You know, technically, you're drinking cow breast milk," I said.

My wife kept drinking because she's played Grivia before. She set the glass down and turned to me. She had a milk mustache.

"You know, technically, you're an ass."

I would have been offended, but she said it with love.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Giant Angry Girl

My 3 year-old daughter is an angry girl.

Today, for instance, I visited a driving range with Riley in tow. She hates golf of any kind unless it involves her riding fast in a golf cart, so in preparation for our trip, I attempted to placate her with a Slurpee.

This worked for me, but not for the unfortunate driving range attendant who attempted conversation with my little blond daughter.

"Some lucky girl got a Slurpee today!" he said.

Full of sugar and spice, she responded the way any sweet girl would.

"I'm gonna eat your brain!" she yelled. And then launched her amazing scowl at him, keeping one eye wide open, the other eye tightly closed into a squint and her mouth curled into a fierce grimace.

The attendant actually turned pale. I went with a different shade - red.
"Whoah," he said. "I hope that Slurpee isn't your breakfast."

This is what people say when they think one of my kids is getting too much sugar.

"It's not the sugar," I want to explain. "It's high fructose angst."

I shall present further evidence. A few months ago, my two sons were drawing and coloring quietly at the kitchen table. This was a remarkable coloring session in two ways. First, the boys were not fighting and, second, they were actually drawing AT the kitchen table and not ON the kitchen table.

Riley came downstairs and into the kitchen with her baby doll hanging from one hand and her thumb in her mouth. She took the thumb from her mouth, which made a popping noise. Then she looked at the boys.

"Woozers," she said.

This is Riley's pronunciation of the word "losers". Then she unleashed her angry girl scowl and went back upstairs.

Riley also wants to be a giant. Because she's maybe three feet tall, this might seem like a conundrum for other, less angry little girls.

Not for Riley.

Whenever the mood hits - and no matter where it hits - she seeks me out. Then she holds out her arms as if to hug me and announces, "I wanna be a giant." My job is not to hug her, but to hoist her on my shoulders and walk around to other, shorter people.

"I'm a giant," she declares defiantly.

Usually, people take this is good stride - which usually indicates they didn't get her meaning.

Riley has sweet moments, but these usually occur while she's asleep. When she's sleeping, she's a little, blond cherub sucking on her thumb and hugging her baby doll.

On the inside, though, she dreams of being a scowling giant striding across the landscape, harassing losers and well-meaning driving range attendants.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

They Line Up

I unleashed my kids on the public school system last week; Gabriel assaulted the second grade and Julian dipped his toe into the educational pool by going to kindergarten for the first time. As it happens every year, the school held a "meet and greet" so that parents could introduce themselves to their children's teachers and faculty could outline their plans for the kids.

My wife went to the events this year. I don't go anymore because it bothers me to hear kindergarten teachers discuss the merits of homework. And it makes me sad to know that I could hurl one of those big, fat kiddie crayons in any direction and hit a kid on Ritalin.

Gabriel was in Kindergarten when his teacher first suggested that we put him on Ritalin. She said it nicely and even pointed out that several of the kids in her class were already taking the drug. The suggestion was a green smiley-face stamp, not a red stop sign.


Last spring at the end of the school year, Gabriel's first grade class held a party chock full of presents, songs and hot dogs. The fiesta culminated with a giant water balloon fight. It was a poorly-planned affair that nonetheless turned out to be, well, way cool.

Originally, I think the plan was to let the kids throw the hundreds of balloons at each other. That plan quickly went south. First, we led the kids to playground and, because no one could think of anything else to do, we had the kids line up. If there's one thing elementary school kids know how to do - it's line up.

But as we parents stood in a loose group with the buckets of water balloons that we had spent hours patiently filling, we began looking at each other. With a quick shrug, we grabbed water balloons and launched them at the kids.

It took fully 20 seconds for the children to realize what had happened. It took about ten more seconds before the bravest of the kids ran forward to grab balloons of their own and fight back. And then it was on, baby.

I remember being out of breath when we ran out of balloons and I remember every single person, young and old, was smiling and wet. I remember how happy my son looked. It might have been the best moment school moment we shared that whole year. The rest was red stop signs, grueling home work sessions and, sometimes, yelling.


Earlier at that same end-of-school party, I watched Gabriel sitting at his desk while his teacher thanked the class for the gifts she had received. At one point, she spoke to Gabriel but he didn't notice. He had formed a piece of lined notebook paper into a tall, cylindrical castle and pretended to assault it with erasers.

And right then, I recognized me. My son was exactly like me. School would always be a struggle because he would always be imagining wild battles and amazing heroes. Homework would go undone, tests would be failed. And the very thing that I most liked about myself - my imagination - suddenly seemed like a handicap, a chronic medical condition that needed to be fixed - like asthma or a cleft palate. And I had given it to him.


My second son has entered school now. I'm worried for him, but I deal with it by avoiding parent/teacher conferences. I concentrate on the water balloon moments. But even that crazy, great moment bothers me. I picture our little group of parents huddled around buckets. But instead of water balloons, the buckets are filled to the brim with Ritalin. The kids laugh and giggle with excitement because they don't know what's coming. But they line up. Because if there's one thing that elementary kids know how to do - it's line up.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007


I knew that my mojo had been missing for a while; a guy's mack doesn't just disappear without him realizing it. But as a husband, I assumed that I still possessed a Mack and had purposefully hid it because I didn't need it at the moment - like a sheriff who no longer wears his badge because the town is safe. But my mack is gone - and I know where it is.

My son has stolen it.

My first clue came one bright Saturday afternoon as my family and I pulled our car into our driveway and I noticed one of our neighbors, an attractive woman, working in her yard. I only saw her out of the corner of my eye. I did this on purpose.

All married men instinctively know that attractive female neighbors are like eclipses - it's never healthy to look directly at them. Also, it's not healthy to talk directly to them either. I mean attractive neighbors, not eclipses. You can talk directly to eclipses if you want.

All married men also instinctively know that you shouldn't grunt with appreciation when you see your attractive neighbor working in her yard, so it surprised me when I heard myself let out an exclamation:


I looked quickly at my wife, expecting to see a disapproving look on her face. And that look was there, but she wasn't looking at me. She was looking at my four year-old son, Julian.

I hadn't slipped at all. I hadn't made the inappropriate grunt of earthy approval. Julian had developed his own Mini Mack.

My wife turned to me. "Is he supposed be doing that this early?"

"Uh, no?"

Married men know that this is the correct answer.

Cut to another sunny afternoon two weeks later. My children and I rode in the car again, this time without my wife. A Harley-Davidson motorcycle passed us on the driver's side of the car. The guy driving it was not your typical middle manager playing biker on the weekends; he's tanned, muscled and covered with tattoos. On the back of the motorcycle, a beautiful blond woman held onto his waist. I noticed that she was beautiful out of the corner of my eye, because it's also dangerous to stare at eclipses with muscled, tattoo-covered boyfriends.

Here's the thing, though. She was staring at me. And she was smiling.

This confused me. I felt certain that my mack was hidden. But it occurred to me that sometimes really, really strong macks have a way of being noticed. Still, I'm a happily married guy, so I appreciated this information but I wasn't going to lock eyes with this woman.

But every time our car came along side the motorcycle, the woman looked directly at me and smiled. She even waved and I wondered how long it would take her boyfriend to notice what she was doing.

Both of our vehicles came to a stop light. The blond continued to look over her shoulder and smile. And just then, her boyfriend turned around and looked at his girlfriend and then toward our car.

He smiled.

"I've got an action figure!" Julian said from the seat directly behind me.

Sure enough, Julian was kneeling in his seat. He held a Bionicles action figure out of the window. He had the woman's full attention. She looked right past me.

The action figure was the toughest to take. Women don't smile at action figures. I've got action figures, but I have to hide them in the closet, dammit! Julian didn't though. Julian had made it part of his mack.

That's when I knew. I wasn't the sheriff. The town was safe, but that was because my son had taken my badge.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Here at Grim Richard Laboratories, we strive to maximize your productivity, simplify your life, save time and give you something to read on your laptop in the bathroom. Accordingly, we'd like to introduce our new feature, LifeCracker.

LifeCracker brings you a wealth of helpful tips, tricks and shortcuts that you can use to completely dominate people who don't understand e-mail and "to do" lists as well as you do. LifeCracker lets you focus your obsessive compulsive tendencies like a laser and literally kill the filthy procrastinators who never understood your need to organize your underwear by brand and thread count.

Plus, we do it with lists. Let's get started with our tips:

Pre-Lather for Your Next Shave (and Other Shaving Hacks)

Everyone loves shaving cream. Used properly, it makes your shaving nearly pain-free and reduces the occurrence of unsightly blemishes and ingrown hairs. If only you didn't have to apply it every morning in order for it to be effective! Think of the time that could be saved every morning if you didn't have to reach for the shaving can before you began shaving. Instead, try these shaving hacks:

1. Pre-Lather for Your Next Shave

You've just finished shaving. You've still got the can in your hand. Why not just lather up for tomorrow morning? Ignore the stares at the office. You've just save 50% of your reaching-for- the-shaving-cream-can time!

2. Grow a Beard

Believe it or not, growing a beard is the easiest way to avoid shaving completely. Ladies, go a la francais. You'll find that you're saving money on dating, too!

Embrace the LAGTD System

Do you find yourself procrastinating at work and home, constantly disappointing your co-workers and family because you're so behind on your various projects? Think about using our new organization system, Lying About Getting Things Done, or LAGTD.

It's simple to use. The next time your wife asks if you've taken out the garbage, just lie and say you did. The next time your boss asks if you finished formatting the annual report, just nod and lie through your teeth. Then e-mail him or her whatever you've got.

The last step of the LAGTD system is important. Always finish your lie by giving the other person a thumbs up. It reassuring.

Follow the LAGTD system and you'll free up nearly 75% of your day to do whatever you want.

Make Lists Instead of Actually Writing Your Blog

Take it from us, writing a personal blog can be time consuming. Sure, it's easy to get ideas, but the hard part is coming up with that pesky beginning, middle and end stuff. That's why we make lists whenever we run out of ideas. We find that making lists radically cuts down the actual amounts of content that we need to produce. An even better strategy? Making lists of other people's lists.

Friday, August 17, 2007


One of my nieces left for her first day of college today. Normally, this would only be a bittersweet moment for her parents, but I'm taking it pretty hard, too. I'll explain why.

First, I've known my niece since she came wailing into this world. Her entrance to college forces me to confront the fact that she's like eighteen years-old. That, in turn, makes me confront the fact that I'm...let's see...add the nine...carry the one...oh, yeah - really fricking old. I think it's really selfish of her to put this education thing ahead of my personal comfort, but that's kids for you nowadays.

More importantly, Grim Richard's Irregulars outsources much of its work to a labor force consisting almost entirely of my nieces. I call this NieceSourcing. My nieces work much more cheaply than, say, Chinese toothpaste makers, and this cost savings is passed on to you, the reader, in the form of free weekly updates - and sometimes - free weakly-written weekly updates. Since I only have five nieces, losing one eliminates like, uh, 43% of the Grim Richard workforce.

Or whatever. I outsource my math, too.

My nieces also comprise over 132% of the Grim Richard Institute of Science, a sub entity of Grim Richard's Irregulars that's been working on a top secret research project. Our amazingly secret goal? We've discovered the most disturbing word in the English language.

Nope. It's not that one. It's "moist".

Many researchers have pegged "moist" as disgusting prior to our study, but our rigorous testing confirms that it takes the coveted "Most Disgusting" designation. Admittedly, most of this testing involved me standing around crowded places on hot days and yelling, "It's so hot! Omigod, I'm moist!".

Then our researchers record the number of disgusted looks in my general area.

Anyway, my oldest niece is going to college. She insists on growing up, even though I've laboriously explained the disadvantages of doing so. It's a bittersweet moment and I try not think about it too much.

It makes my eyes, uh, moist.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kid Lo-Jack and Halo Head

After writing last weeks treatise on super powers I'd really, really want at a comic convention, it occurred to me that super powers would be also be useful in my everyday, mundane life as a husband and father. For instance:

Rapid Argument Losing

One of the biggest bummers about being a husband involves the slow pace of argument loss. It's a foregone conclusion that you will lose almost every argument with your wife, yet still arguments can take days or weeks to wind themselves down to their conclusion. This power allows husbands to wind time forward directly to their loss using a big, showy blast of energy from their hands. The blast of energy isn't necessary, but it does allow us to feel cool while we're losing. And, really, that's all that a husband wants.

Kid Lo-Jack

I'd like the ability to know where my kids are at all times. Add the ability to freeze them at that position and you've got Kid Lo-Jack, maybe one of the most useful super powers ever. I'd definitely trade both super breath and super leap for this one. But I wouldn't trade heat vision. No husband would ever give up the ability to shoot laser beams from his eyes.

Flaw-Hiding Ability

While many nerds might fantasize about shape-changing or other morphing powers, I'd just like the ability to hide my physical flaws from my kids until they're old enough to realize that they shouldn't mention them to me. I'm not considered a fragile person, but one "Dad, you're breath stinks" followed closely by a "Dad, why does your belly shake?" can ruin an entire day.

A Duplicate of Me Who Likes to Talk About My Wife's Day at Work

I never talk to my wife about my day at work, no matter how bad that day was. My wife, though, enjoys spending an hour elaborating on her work day, complete with details concerning who yelled at whom, why various people don't know what they're talking about and what she would do if she had control over the business. Sometimes, when my cantankerosity claws its way to the surface, I suggest that she stop whining and apply for a management job. A clone would never make this mistake.

Halo in My Head

I would even give up laser beams from my eyes for this one. Playing Halo on my X Box 360 is addictive. It's only flaw? People can catch me playing it when I'm supposed to be doing something more important. But what if I could play it mentally, without anyone knowing? Do you know how good I'd be at Halo deathmatch if I could play it at work and appear to be thinking or working? With enough practice, I might even be able to beat trash-talking 11 year-olds.

Some Unspecified, Important and Benevolent Power

Early in the writing of this column, I planned to devote at least one paragraph to imagining a power that wasn't entirely selfish but, honestly, something good came on television.

Ah, television. It's like my kryptonite.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Paul McCartney and Fizzy Nipples

So, I'm back from the San Diego ComicCon where I saw many amazing things. For instance, did you know that it's possible to fit well over 225 pounds of nerd into a Spider-man costume that's only rated to hold about 150 pounds of nerd?

I swear it's true.

I also had the opportunity to stand in my very first mile-long line. It stretched down the front of the mammoth convention center, around the side, down the back of convention center and eventually wended into a highway underpass. So, basically it was like a Starbuck's line only no one tried to sell me Paul McCartney's new album - which was cool, because a man can only take so much.

In any case, mile-long lines give you plenty of time to think. Since I was at a comic convention, I spent most of the time speculating about the kind of super powers I'd like to have. My list turned out to be very convention-specific.

For instance:

  • The Power to Dispense Fountain Beverages from My Fingers

Hey, it was hot standing in line. The power originally involved dispensing fountain soda from my breasts, but how could I hide my fizzy lactation while in my secret identity? Plus, two nipples limits me to two flavors.You gotta think ahead, people.

  • The Power to Fly On Time

Getting to and from San Diego involved multiple delayed flights, one canceled flight and one night sleeping on the floor of the San Diego airport. While most geeks dream of flying through the air like Superman, I just want to fly through the air at the time scheduled on my ticket.

  • The Power to Ask Really Original Questions

The convention had movie, book and comic writers participating in panels that usually concluded with a question and answer session. As if codified into natural law, the fans asked every single writer the same question:

"Your ideas are so original. Where do you get them from?"

Apparently not the same place fans get their questions from.

At the time, though, I couldn't think of anything interesting to ask the writers either. But if I had a question super power? I'd march up to the podium, smile and confidently ask a really original question.

"Have you ever thought of having a hero who lactates fountain soda out of his breasts?"

Then I'd wait a moment and let the question just hang there in the awkward silence of the auditorium. Then the famous writer would confirm my awesome powers by asking me his own question.

"Oh, my god," he would say. "That's the sickest thing I've ever heard of."

"Where do you even get an idea like that?"

Friday, July 20, 2007

Irony Sandwiches

I feel nothing but embarrassment for the consumer tools who lined up a couple of weeks ago to plunk down $600 for an I Phone. Is there anything sadder than rational human beings chasing a product like nursing puppies angling for an open nipple?

I thought about this a lot while I waited in a block-long line this morning to pick up the newest Harry Potter book. Actually, I wasn't in the line to buy the new Harry Potter book. Nope. I stood in the line for an hour to pick up a bracelet that would determine where I will stand in line later tonight when I finally get my chance to buy the new Harry Potter book.

I'm aware of the irony. Actually, that's not strong enough to describe the feelings I'm having. This is more like choking down a huge Irony sandwich. Only instead of cheese, the deli guys have added big, thick slices of irony. And instead of mayo, they spread on more irony. And there's no actual bread, there's just irony.

Whew! Making analogies is hard work! I wish I could buy some kind of product to make analogies for me.

I'm trying to fight my consumer tendencies. Yesterday, for instance, I took my kids out to lunch at Wendy's. I refused to buy the kids "Happy Meals", despite their sea gull-like cries for cheap toys. While we ate, I looked around the busy restaurant and noticed signs for Wendy's new breakfast menu. One item caught my eye. Apparently, Wendy's noticed that people really suck down the company's square-bunned Frescata sandwiches. Accordingly, Wendy's new breakfast biscuits feature - get this - square biscuits! That's right. The biscuits seem to be exactly the same as everyone else's - except they're square.

Wendy's calls them Frescuits and - God help me - I wanted to try one immediately.

Apparently, I like the taste of irony sandwiches. It's the shape I don't like.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Reverse Big

In a couple of weeks, two old friends and I will head to San Diego to attend the San Diego Comic Con. Once there, we will look at comics and science fiction stuff, buy related toys, stay up late and tell dirty jokes.

My wife okayed this trip believing that this will be a fairly innocent reunion among three mature, hard-working individuals. But we have darker plans. If our experiment goes well, the three middle-aged, flabby guys will vaporize in a blast of sulfurous, black smoke and be replaced by stupid, care-free twelve year-old boys. Stupid, care-free twelve year-old boys with credit cards.

In other words, we are attempting a Reverse Big.

This should not be confused with the Reverse Big as detailed in the Kama Sutra. The three of us are happily married. Besides, that particular Reverse Big requires women and, as I mentioned earlier, we are attending a comic convention. Our wives can rest easy.

No, we intend to create a Quantum Hanksian state as detailed in the movie "Big", but instead of growing up, we'll grow down, devolve into irresponsibility and exercise poor judgment. Some gullible physics amateurs might ask why we're not working to achieve a Quantum Reinholdian state in which a grown person actually switches bodies with one of his children, effectively forcing the child to do all of the mature stuff like going to work, paying the bills and attending meetings.

Simply put, my wife won't let me.

I detailed the experiment for my wife the other day while I watched anime on television. I had just finished playing video games with my kids and she had just started folding laundry.

"So," she said, "Your plan is to stop exhibiting any adult behavior and focus entirely on behaving like a kid?"

"Precisely," I answered.

She put down the laundry and looked at the cartoons I was watching on television.

"And how exactly will you be able to tell the difference?

I ignored the question. Did they understand Copernicus when he did whatever Copernicus did? Did they understand Tom Hanks' master plan when he was on "Bosom Buddies"?

I think not.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Celebration, Uluation

It's no secret that women single-handedly hold the holiday framework together. At Christmas in our house, for instance, my wife buys and wraps most of the presents, assembles and decorates the tree and perpetuates the Santa Claus myth by making cookies on Christmas Eve. If left to my organizational skills, Christmas would likely involve taking the kids to Target to buy gift certificates followed by a Yuletide round of Halo multiplayer death matches.

It's not that guys don't like holidays. We do. We simply lack good holiday judgment. This is why so many guys celebrated the adoption of the Declaration of Independence yesterday by getting on a boat, fishing and drinking beer. From the guy perspective, this is also an excellent way to celebrate, say, Arbor Day.

This lack of judgment explains why my wife planned our Independence Day itinerary and why the holiday included no video game death matches where I blew up computer-generated characters with rocket launchers. Instead, our family walked to a nearby beach, threading in out of various drunk people, and sat down to watch fireworks set off by the very same drunk people.

Many people criticize the American propensity for celebrating by mixing alcohol, fireworks and the close proximity of children. I respond by pointing out that in many areas of the world, the celebrants also fire automatic weapons in the air and uluate. At least Americans don't ululate, for godsakes. Okay, I did personally ululate once, but it was in college and I was experimenting.

As usual, following my wife's holiday instructions paid off. We had a great time. We built sand castles and buried our feet. We applauded spectacular, brilliant explosions of fireworks and cheered on inebriated people as they lurched to the water to douse their flaming clothes.

Emotion overwhelmed me at one point. This is what family is about. No, this is what America is about.

When no one was looking, I celebrated by uluating.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Whatever You Do, Don't Plant It

In my neck of the woods, vegetable gardening has catapulted in popularity. Everyone's doing it.

I don't normally notice fads; I like to keep it real. Besides, fads would only distract me from my "core" workouts - and my stronger "core" has really taken my break dancing to another level.

In this case, though, the vegetable-growing fad has caused a vegetable surplus. The houses of our neighborhood overflow with bountiful harvests. Zucchinis overwhelm the kitchen table, quickly take the counters and move on to dominate coffee tables. And the damn cucumbers? Regardless of the nutrition, they have become cucumber-some.

That's where I come in. Everyone knows that when food is involved, Grim Richard can move it from a sur-plus to a sur-minus in a few minutes. And I'm happy to do it, provided I'm not practicing pikes, handstands or freezes with my crew. I do prefer, however, home-grown vegetables from people other than my wife. My wife is new to the farming craze and that means she is weird about vegetables. We're having these kind of conversations:

Wife: Did you eat the vegetables I harvested yesterday?
Me: I only saw a cherry tomato. I couldn't think of anything you can make with one cherry tomato.
Wife: Why didn't you eat it by itself? Is there something wrong with my tomatoes?
Me: Uh, no. They're good.
Wife: Good? You don't think they're better than store-bought?
Me: Uh, your vegetables taste way better. Their vegetable skills are no match for your vegetable skills. Your vegetables cause little explosions of flavor in my mouth.

The phrase "my tomatoes" is key here. My wife nurtured these plants and that makes them different from the other vegetables we normally ignore when we're reaching for ice cream. Speaking of ice cream...

Wife: What are you eating?
Me: Vanilla ice cream. Ummmm.
Wife: You know what would go good with that?
Me: Chocolate sauce?
Wife: No. Fresh cilantro from my herb garden.

I know she'll get over it. The other day a guy at work gave me a bag of broccoli from his garden and I started my spiel.

"Ooooh!" I said. "I can't wait to get home and cook this. It smells much fresher than those pesticide bombs you buy at the grocery store."

"Whatever," said the guy. "I've got fifty bags of this stuff. I don't care if you boil it, fry it or throw it at small animals."

He leaned in closer.

"But whatever you do, don't plant it."

Friday, June 22, 2007


Here at Grim Richard's Irregulars, I've done my level best to cut down on the time I spend discussing bodily functions, breakdowns or oddities. Oh, sure, I still mention male boobs regularly, but never so often that my readers would think I'm obsessed with them and certainly not at a level which would make one suspect that I actually have a pair.

Because I don't. Seriously. I'm just saying.

For 15 years, though, one of my wife's behaviors has bothered me. The behavior troubles me so much that I must ask the boyfriends and husbands who read this column to help me answer the following, potentially gross question:

Does your wife or girlfriend enjoy popping your zits?

I've already taken a quick poll of the husbands where I work and three men meekly raised their hands.

"Sometimes," one of the men said quietly, "I'm afraid to walk around without a shirt on."

I understand how he feels. In the middle of conversations, I see my wife's eyes moving over my torso and face in search of ingrown hairs, blackheads and bulging zits. If she finds one, she roughly pushes me down and sets to work on popping it. If I protest, she desperately bargains with me.

"Let me do this," she says, "and I'll let you buy a video game."

I feel stupid. I know I should decline as a matter of principle, but I really like video games.

I've racked my brain trying to understand this obsession. Why would a grown adult fixate on naturally occurring biological bumps on my body? Why would someone objectify another person like this?

Asking these questions usually causes me to experience an Uncomfortable Moment of Self-Awareness (UMSA). I have a lot of these UMSAs. Luckily, if you ignore them, they go away quickly.

So, male readers, let us know if your wife is a zit popper. I'll feel better if I'm not alone is this. And female readers, I urge you to come out of the zit popping closet and admit you have a problem.

But please hurry. My back zit problem has gotten worse lately. I'm not sure if it's related but I woke up the other night to find my wife standing over me with bottle of vegetable oil.

"What are you doing?" I asked sleepily.

She put a glistening finger to her lips to shush me.

"Go back to sleep," she said soothingly. "They're not ready yet."

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Friday, June 15, 2007

He Got Out and Walked

I finished work after ten tonight, walked through my front door a half hour later and found my entire family asleep. I had missed everything important. I missed homework, I missed dinner with my family, I missed kissing my wife good night and I missed tucking my three kids in. I could have slept somewhere else and they would never know, not until morning.

I should have been home.

My beautiful, bright seven year-old Gabriel is struggling with school. My younger kids spend most nights watching television while I work and my wife slogs through swamps of consonants and vowels with Gabriel. I yell too much, the house is a mess and my younger son Julian recently asked me why I work so much. I didn't have an answer that would make sense to a four year-old.

Truth be told, I didn't have an answer that would make sense to a forty year-old either. I don't know how to explain the truth: I don't know what I'm doing. I'm winging this fatherhood thing. I don't have a plan.

But when I'm in danger of turning completely into a self-pitying, living embodiment of a Harry Chapin song, I think about James Kim.

Even before Father's Day got this close, I thought often about the tragic father who spent nine days stranded with his family in the Oregon wilderness before setting out on an ill-fated quest to find help. I wonder about his brave family and I pray that they're healing. But I almost never think about the mistakes that were made or the opportunities sorrowfully missed. I think about the overwhelmed father who, when caught in real, deadly circumstances, made the decision to get out of the car and walk for help. And when I think about him doing that, I love him as much as a man can love a man he never met.

On Father's Day, my family will give me a present. They will talk about what a great father I am and I'll accept it all with the grateful smile of someone who has kept his secret for one more year. I'll think about you other fathers on Sunday, too. But for me, Father's Day is James Kim Day.

James Kim taught me what being a father really means. It means that when you're overwhelmed, terrified and on the verge of despair, you don't give up. No matter what the consequences are, you get out and walk.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Light Beer Bono

Our power winked out at 3 a.m. the other morning. With it went our lights, alarm clocks and the other necessities that my family depends on to survive modern life. For five hours, we lived like people in the 1800s. Well, actually, we were asleep for three of those hours - but I'm sure that sleeping in the 1800s sucked, too. Deprived of modern conveniences, my family surprised me.

I didn't know that if you deprive my wife of a shower, for instance, she will refuse to do anything but sit on the couch in really ugly pajamas. That's how important hot showers are to my wife. I should note here that the power outage did not cause my wife to wear the really ugly pajamas (she always does that), but normally she'll change out of those really ugly pajamas at some point and go to work.

Since my wife was completely nonplussed by the situation, I tried to be, you know, plussed. I started to give her the speech I normally give to the children - my "People in Africa" speech. I like giving this speech because it makes me feel like the light beer version of Bono - all the compassion with a fraction of the actual work.

"People in Africa..." I began.

"Shut up about people in Africa," my wife barked.

I felt less and less like Bono every second.

"We don't have any television. How am I supposed to pick my clothes if I don't know what the weather is like?"

"You could go outside, Sweety," I suggested.

My wife got up in my face. "I'm not a meteorologist, sweety. Do I look like I've got a Triple Doppler radar so that I can just look outside and gauge what the weather is going to be like?"

She had a point.

A couple of hours later, the power company had fixed whatever caused the outage. I had already gone to work by then - without a shower. To my wife's credit, I learned the hard way that my co-workers appreciate the fact that I normally take a shower every morning - even if they never mention it.

I thought about our savage time living in the 1800s and how it put our family to the test and exposed our dependencies. I thought about how that might be a good thing because it taught us a valuable lesson about the things we take for granted. I thought about how valuable lessons usually suck.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I Dot the "i" and I Cross the "t"

I've been battling "Writer's Block" this week. For those who don't know, "Writer's Block" is a periodic affliction that strikes most writers and blocks them from writing - thus the name. I use the verb "battling" because it is exactly that - a horrific, internal struggle between a writer and his personal demons.

You can tell when a serious writer is battling writer's block because he or she is watching something on television.

It's easy for the layperson (especially the wife layperson) to confuse this television-viewing activity with the procrastination that regular people do in order to avoid regular work. But it's important to remember that "Writer's Block" is different in that we writers are sensitive, creative geniuses and when we watch television we are not "procrastinating", we are "battling".

Writers use television to battle Writer's Block in several ways. One method involves watching Jewel Kilcher music videos. Writers consider Jewel the patron saint of Writer's Block because she literally made millions of dollars writing the song "You Were Meant for Me". She filled this song with lines like "I brushed my teeth and I put the cap back on" and "I break the yolks; I make a smiley face". Clearly, this woman triumphed over Writer's Block. And dental tartar.

Writers also watch episodes of "Lost" because it seems afflicted with Anti-Writer's Block. Just one character, Sawyer, has watched his father kill his mother over a con man, become a con man himself, gone to jail, gotten out of jail, gone to Australia, killed an innocent man, been in an air plane accident and though he's been on a deserted island for only two months has managed to sleep with with two hot women. And Sawyer is just one of 22 characters.

The writers of "Lost" can't seem to stop writing that show.

Sometimes, even television won't cure a tough case of writer's block. When you've battled Writer's Block and lost, there's really only one thing left to do. Watch more television. Or, if you're really desperate, write a blog entry about Writer's Block. Sure, it's a cheap move, but the first sentence practically writes itself..

I dot the "i" and I cross the "t"...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Full Jenkinson

I sat in the kitchen eating cereal when my seven year-old son reared up and let me have it.

"Dad, did they have cars when you were a kid?"

"Are you joking?" I asked.

I looked at Gabriel. He was not joking and stared at me with a mixture of intense curiosity and mild pity. I recognized the look because my neighbors make the same face when I work in the yard without a shirt.

Honestly, the question irritated me. My first impulse was to irritably lash out at my son because he dared suggest that I was born prior to the widespread adoption of cars. My second and more rational impulse steered me toward educating my son about my childhood. Because rational responses tend to be boring, I discarded this option.

I decided to go all Clay Jenkinson on my son.

For those who don't know, Clay Jenkinson is a humanities scholar with a syndicated radio show who makes his living by impersonating Thomas Jefferson and other notable historical figures. According his Web site, Clay Jenkinson is "one of the most sought after humanities scholars in the United States". I like that his Web site says this - because it always seems that everyone concentrates on the illegal immigrant problem and almost no one is doing anything about the widespread proliferation of humanities scholars.

"Good Day, Citizen," I said to Gabriel.

To his credit, Gabriel turned to walk away immediately. I stopped him with a patriarchal hand on his shoulder.

"Though I cannot pretend to understand anything but the barest principles of your internal combustion engine and your "motor cars"...

Gabriel looked panicked.

"...I do feel that I can illuminate the effect of mechanical vehicles on the gentleman farmer and his place in a republic."

I think my gambit worked. The next time my son blindsides me with a question like that, though, I'm gonna let loose with the "Full Jenkinson". I can't give you all of the details, but it definitely includes wigs, man stockings and one of my childhood friends impersonating John Adams.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Most Fired Man in America

Editor’s Note:

For years, workers have suffered through the advice of pundits, over-achievers and corporate lackeys, some of whom have had only three or four jobs in their entire lives.

Wouldn’t it be better to get career advice from someone with experience at literally thousands of jobs?

Baz Truman thinks so. Since the early 1980s, Baz Truman has been working at and getting fired from more jobs in a week than most people get fired from in a lifetime. Baz’ single-minded determination to excel at his career - no matter the cost – has gotten him fired from some of the world’s biggest and brightest companies.

The Most Fired Man in America
By Baz Truman

Q. Baz, I've been caught playing computer Solitaire twice by my boss. She says that if I'm caught one more time, I may be in danger of losing my job. My boss have even moved my cubicle assignment to just outside her door, so that she can check on me. I get my work done, but sometimes I just need a break from work. What can I do?

In Solitary Over Solitaire

Dear In Solitary Over Solitaire,

One accounting company estimates that employees spend half a billion hours a year playing computer games during work, resulting in a loss of $10 billion dollars in productivity. Most managers will look at this figure and say, damn, our company needs to get this work gaming thing under control. As America's most serial employee, I see this:

If you divide $10 billion dollars by half a billion hours, you'll see the average person playing Solitaire makes $20 an hour. That's a pretty good wage. Clearly, playing Solitaire results in a better career.

First, you need to get some space away from your boss. I recommend farting. Often and loudly. Eat the right mixture of flatulence-causing legumes for breakfast and I give it a week before you have your own laptop and a cubicle in the parking lot. Take it from me, though - if you follow this route, beware the unintended consequences of this covert operation. I believe the CIA calls this "Blowback".

I call it that, too.

Next, realize that network monitoring software makes it almost impossible to play games at work and not be caught - even if you're working alone in the parking lot. Your only rational choice is to stop playing games.

Personally, I like to get caught early and get it out of the way. This is why I give all of my work projects names like "Minesweeper", "Freejack" or "Goal-oriented Team Accounting III".

If my boss catches me, I like to open up my Outlook Calendar and point to my schedule.

"See? Right there. It clearly says I'll be working on GTA III from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. today. You approved it."

This approach hasn't actually worked for me, but I have high hopes.

In closing, remember one thing. If America wants to beat its record of half a billion hours, we need every American doing their fair share.

That's right. If you're not being unproductive, you're not being productive.