Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Turkey travels

I've been in Atlanta for the past few days visiting my family. It doesn't seem so long, but I hadn't been there since last Christmas. Saturday night, I enjoyed my third Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I'm giving thanks that I've always seemed to have a high metabolism.

We got to see Jeff and Kim for the first time since their wedding. Unfortunately, they had to depart the same day we arrived, but at least we had a few hours. Jeff is really great with Emily — he's going to make a wonderful dad eventually.

Misty was all excited about going to Lennox Square, but we didn't make it. However, we did visit Discover Mills and the Mall of Georgia, both of which provided her with ample shopping enjoyment. At Discover Mills, Emily and I checked out the Lego store and watched the fish in the giant tank at the Bass Pro Shop. At the Mall of Georgia, on the other hand, Emily and I endured Misty's grueling 22-hour shoping spree (OK, it was probably more like 5 hours, but it felt much longer) that concluded with only one Christmas gift having been bought.

Last night, Misty and I met the Coffee Achiever and Cap'n Ken for dinner at Six Feet Under, a restraunt that derives its name from the fact that it sits across the street from Oakland Cemetery. I hadn't seen Kara in years, and (despite her claims) I'd never met her husband, so it was a welcome rendezvous.

On our way back to Birmingham today, we stopped for lunch at The Varsity. Misty commented that Emily's lunch was the most nutritious thing in the restaurant. Indeed my lunch was chock-full of grease, salt, grease, sugar, and more grease, but it was sooo good. Again, I give thanks for my metabolism.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Humpty Dumpty

I'm officially a bad father. Emily fell out of her crib today.

I was doing the laundry in the hallway, just a few feet from her bedroom. She was playing in her crib. I heard the thud, then, of course, the screams.

Two steps and I was in her room where I found her on her side on the floor beneath her crib. She'd pulled herself up and over the railing which had been lowered half way to make it easier for me to get her in and out. I didn't realize that she'd reached the stage where she could easily accomplish the same thing on her own.

I scooped her up immediately and held her close to me, hoping that she needed comforting more than anything. It worked. After about a minute, she stopped screaming. After another minute, she acted as if nothing had happened.

I knew I wasn't out of the woods yet, though, so I called Misty and delivered the frightening news. She was still on her way to work, so she was frantic about whether she needed to come back home. I assured her that she didn't, but that I'd just wanted her to know what had happened.

My next call was to the doctor's office. However, I didn't reach anyone for more than an hour, so in the meantime I just had to assume that I was doing everything right. Emily played on the floor with her blocks and crawled around making happy sounds, so I wasn't too worried anymore. I squeezed each of her arms and legs, her hands, and her feet and pressed on her back and chest. She gave no indicaion of pain. I even measured the height from the top of the crib railing to the floor (2 feet, 10 inches — shorter than it seemed) in case the hospital inquired about it.

When I finally reached a nurse, she asked if Emily was still upset, whether she ever lost consciousness, and what sort of surface she fell onto. I told her that she seemed fine now, she'd been conscious the whole time and that she'd fallen onto a thick rug on top of carpet. She told me that I could bring Emily in for an x-ray if I wanted, but it was really at my disgression. There's no standard procedure to follow, she said; just watch her behavior. She told me to pay attention to Emily's sleeping, making sure that she wasn't napping longer than usual. She also recommended that after putting her to bed for the night, I gently rouse her an hour or so later to make sure she's still able to maintain consciousness; then to do so again during the middle of the night. She also said to check Emily's pupils from time to time, making sure they were dialated at the same level.

Everything ended up fine, which I pretty much expected even before I'd spoken with the nurse. Nevertheless, I was relieved. Since Emily was unhurt, I'm looking at the incident as a lesson learned in how to deal with an infant who has fallen. I also learned that I need to keep the crib railing up.

Upon hearing the news of Emily's fall, Misty's mother and Aunt were oddly well spirited about it. They threw out some old wive's tale about how if a baby doesn't fall off of something before it's a year old, then it will die before it reaches two years of age. I knew that wasn't the real reason for their enthusiasm, though. A couple months ago, they'd turned their backs while Emily was crawling on a bed, and she fell off onto the floor. Now the attention was on me, and they were off the hook.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Today is the first anniversary of Misty's and my wedding. I gave her a couple dozen roses in shades of pink. I wanted to make her a boquet of origami roses since this was our paper anniversary, but the directions were unfortunately beyond my skill level.

We celebrated a couple days ago so that we'd have a babysitter available. Saturday night we dropped Emily off with Misty's mother and aunt, and we headed to Bombay Cafe for dinner. There was another couple seated near us who (despite their feble attempts to hide it) were clearly having an argument. It was amusing, but we were glad that they left soon after our arrival, as we didn't want their vibe to spoil our good mood.

As we dined, we commented on the fashion sense (or lack thereof) of various people our age walking by the windows. Misty claimed that based on the style of several of the women, she is no longer hip herself. I think that actually, she's just more mature — we're parents now, and that affects everything from how you spend your evenings to what you talk about at lunch to what you wear. Of course, I was never hip to begin with.

For dinner I ate sweet potato & onion silver dollar pancakes with soft shell crab and some sort of fish with vegetables and lobster tails. The food was delicious, and although we were amply filled even after our appetizers, we continuted to stuff ourselves. For dessert, we shared the Double Chocolate Nutball with Fresh Driscoll Strawberries (which Misty delighted in ordering just so that she could say Chocolate Nutball as many times as possible).

Following dinner, we went to the bargain theater (after Bombay Cafe, we couldn't afford a "real" movie theater). Misty let me pick the movie, and even though I knew she would have preferred "Harry Potter," I opted for "Spider-Man" because I suspected she would fall asleep — better to miss the movie she didn't want to see. I was right. Misty nodded off after about 20 minutes. She drifted in and out for the rest of the movie, continually insisting that she was watching, while at the same time, asking me to explain what was going on.

We finally made it home after midnight after picking up a zonked out Emily. It was a fun and romantic date.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Remember last week when the Russell Clinic sent my mother-in-law home, claiming they'd mailed her a letter letting her know that her appointment had been changed?

Guess what arrived in the mail today. It was postmarked yesterday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Wait issues

I went to Best Buy today to return a couple of DVDs that I'd decided not to give as Christmas gifts after all. I didn't have the recipts anymore, but they were both marked with Best Buy stickers that had both the price and the name of the movie listed. Nevertheless, it was a major problem in exchanging them.

First, I was told that they could be returned without a recipt, only they would have to look up my history on my Discover Card. I didn't realize Best Buy kept records based on my credit card purchases, and it was kind of creepy finding out. Regardless, looking up the DVDs took a long time. I waited, and waited, and waited. While two different people were supposedly helping me, they also took phone calls, helped several other customers, and chatted with other employees.

Eventually, I'd had enough waiting, so I asked one of "customer service" people what time it was. He said it was about 11:45. Shit. I'd been standing at that counter for 35 minutes! I was supposed to take my mother-in-law to the doctor at noon, and now I was going to be late. "It's going to be just a while longer," I was told. "We found one of the movies, but we're still looking up the other one." You'd think I had a customer history a mile long (a theory my wife would probably readily accept), but I don't purchase that many things there. I finally gave up. I asked for my DVDs back and said I'd come back in a few hours to try again.

After finishing up at the doctor's office, though, I didn't return to Best Buy as I'd claimed. Instead, I went to Wal-Mart. I peeled the price stickers off the DVDs and brought them to the customer service counter. I had bought the DVDs on sale from a different store and had no recipt, yet within 60 seconds, I was handed a store credit for their full price with no questions asked.

There are a lot of reasons I hate Wal-Mart. But the ease with which customers can take advantage of them is one of the few for which I love them.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Fond childhood memories

Clearly it's not a busy day at work when we sit around discussing classic McDonald's characters and trying to think of the name of the guy who had the Big Mac for a head. Remember him? You could climb inside his head on the playground. That was back in the days when the playground sets were made of metal and would sear your skin in the hot summer sun.

Even more pathetic than our source of trepidation is the fact that it took a while before we remembered that we work on the Internet and could simply search there for the answer.

We weren't the only ones who has pondered the fate of McDonald's characters of yore. On one site, the question is posed: "Do you remember Captain Crook?" The answer was revealed the shocking truth behind his and other erstwhile characters' disappearences.
A trip to McDonaldland to research this answer uncovered a complicated web of intrigue, deception and lies. Upon arriving I felt that there was only one person around who would be easily manipulated enough to give me the answers I was looking for.

Speaking with Grimace was interesting. While he's often portrayed as a big purple dope it seems that this is just a cover for a savvy political mind. With his "I have an IQ lower than a cheeseburger" act his peers all felt that they didn't have to cover their tracks as well as they would have to around someone like the Early Bird or I.M. Hungry. ...

It turns out the name of our character in question was actually "Big Mac." McDonald's wasn't very creative back then, I suppose. Nevertheless, those were the good old days.

I'm doomed

Just a moment ago I heard on Fox News: "A new study says sitting in front of your computer screen for too long can be bad for your eyes..."

My immediate reaction: "Is eight hours a day too long?"

I'd buy that for a dollar

Just last week, I was remarking that they ought to turn that old movie theater on Lorna Rd. into a dollar theater. There hasn't been a bargain theatre in Birmingham since the one at the Colonnade closed a few years back.

Then yesterday, Misty calls me and tells me to look at the movie listings in the paper. Lo and behold, my wish has come true! The Carmike 10 is now a bargain theater! Prices are $2.50 on weekends, $1.50 on weekdays, and a mere $1 on Thursdays.

It turns out that the theater was converted a while ago, too. I should pay more attention to the listings.

Right now, they've got a handful of movies that I either missed the first time around (Shrek 2, Harry Potter 3) or wouldn't mind seeing again (Spider-Man 2, Collateral). But for $1, I'd see pretty much anything.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I'll never know what you'll find

I've always been a fan of letterboxing. It's the reason I bought a DVD player seven years ago.

I'd never heard of this type of letterboxing, though, before today. It sounds really cool. Once I get a better idea of how it works, I might give it a try.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

It's in the mail

Today I picked up my mother-in-law and drove 20 miles in the rain to the Russell Clinic. After dropping her off at the door, I circled the parking lot for almost half an hour looking for a space. Then I traversed the gauntlet from the parking lot to the hospital across the street, through a maze of corridors on various floors, finally arriving at the clinic.

As I walked toward the waiting room, I saw my mother-in-law get up and make her way toward me. She had her coat and hat on, so I assumed she was finished already. "That was fast," I remarked.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. It seems that her appointment wasn't today after all. They told her that they'd mailed her a letter informing her that her appointment had been moved to February 3.

It would be easy to blame my mother-in-law for not having this information, but I'm not going to. Maybe they sent her a letter; maybe they didn't. Maybe she got the letter; maybe she didn't. Whatever the case, that sort of communication is ridiculous in this day and age.

What sort of backward system mails a letter to give a patient a new appointment date? Why not just place a phone call? Not only would they be wasting money on postage (not to mention paper and envelopes) each time they sent such a letter, but they'd also have no confirmation that the patient ever received their correspondence.

Best of all, this is the second time this sort of incident has happened to us at the Russell Clinic. Luckily the first time though, we had been unsure of the appointment time, so we called first to confirm. Upon doing so, we were told that the appointment had been moved, and that they'd mailed a letter to let us know.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The review is built into the title

I saw "The Incredibles" this afternoon. Wow.

But was there really any doubt that I'd love this movie?

There's no point in my singing its praises because so many other legitimate critics have already done so.

I'll just say that for anyone who's thinking it's a blatant knock-off of the Fantastic Four: You're right. The last few seconds of the movie confirm it with a hilarious and respectful homage.

Yes, I'm a comic book geek, so you can call me biased, but I'm really impressed that the two best movies I've seen this year have been superhero flicks (Spider-Man 2 being the other).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

My own caffeinated ramblings

I discovered a dangerous new enjoyment today. Misty introduced me to coffee.

I've never cared for the taste of coffee. Nevertheless, I've always wanted to like it. I love the smell, and the atmosphere created by coffee drinking — whether at home, in a coffee shop, or standing around in the kitchen at work waiting for a fresh brew — is something I've felt left out of, so I've tried to give it a chance every so often. I've sampled different types of coffee several times over the years but never with a pleasant result. I don't even like coffee-flavored ice cream or cake.

Then yesterday morning, Misty and I stopped at Starbucks where she got a tall café mocha. Despite my protests that I wouldn't like it, she insisted that I try a sip anyway.

I liked it.

It wasn't fantastic or anything, but I felt that it was a breakthrough for me to at least enjoy it.

The drawback to this revelation is that I'm sure to soon become addicted. My body isn't used to much caffeine. I don't drink soda or tea, either, so the only caffeine I get comes from chocolate. The sudden introduction of coffee into my diet could produce disasterous results.

I'll take my chances.

Bird's brain

Watching the trailer for "The Incredibles" for the umpteenth time, I thought I recognized something familiar about one of the children's voices. Not the voice, specifically, but rather, its intonations and the way the line was delivered. The "Hey! No forcefields!" line reminded me of Billy — "You stupid dumbhead clutzoid nong-nong!"

Then I started noticing the character design — particularly of the parents when they were in civilian clothes. They too, seemed very familiar. That square head with the hu-hum, stuck-here demeanor of Dad; those backward glances at her impossibly curved hips from Mom... Could it be? Skip? Beverly?

Oh my God, it is! "Incredibles" director Brad Bird not only helmed "The Iron Giant" (one of my favorite movies), but he also directed the greatest cartoon ever — "The Family Dog." My taped-from-TV copy has the credits cut off, so I never realized that Bird was responsible.

With any luck, the success of "Incredibles" will prompt whoever owns the rights to "Amazing Stories" (Dreamworks? It was a Spielberg project, after all) to finally release "The Family Dog" to DVD.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The battle for climate control

I've never understood something: If it's summertime and you want to cool off, you'll set the air conditioner at 68°. As such, I assume 68° is a comfortable temperature for you. Why then, in winter, do you set the heat at 74°? Haven't we already established that 68° falls within your comfort zone? And if 74° is suddenly comfortable, why can't the air conditioner be set there in the summer?

My roomates had similar climate control issues during my freshman year of college. Two of them liked the air to be cold enough to lure in walruses (one of them even claimed that he needed it that cold for his computer to run properly), while the other two of us preferred a more normal range.

Every day, the two roommates who lived on a steady diet of walrus fat and crushed ice (acually, it was more like chicken fingers and Dr. Pepper, but this makes for a better story) would knock the thermostat down to its lowest setting. Whenever my more sensible roommate or I found our environment in such a state, we'd knock the temperature right back in the other direction (that is, assuming our fingers had enough sensation left in them to actually feel the thermostat — sometimes we had to put our mittens on first).

After a while, we got tired of this stupid game and decided to take drastic action. We opened up the thermostat casing and, with a pair of pliers, twisted the mercury-filled temperature gauge out of alignment. Our operation caused the thermostat to "think" the room temperature was in the mid-50's when actually it was somewhere in the low-70's. Now our foes could push the lever as low as it would go, and the temperature would end up right where we wanted it.

Unfortunately, I don't think such a procedure would work for me at home today.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Spring into action!

I so badly want this hanging in my living room.

Though if I bought it, I'd probably be up feces river without a method of propulsion.

For those of you who don't get it, you should be reading wigu.com.

AT&T's trojan horse

We've got the sound muted on the TV at work, so I don't really know what the point was in AT&T's ad where a giant trojan horse rolls through a city. I imagined my own dialogue: "Fools! You've led us right inside your gates!"

Probably not the message they were trying to convey, but sometimes it's the feeling I get from them.