Saturday, December 31, 2005

Chef in training

Misty called to tell me that she made spinach dip this morning. And that Emily helped.

Apparently, Emily's role in the process was to stir the dip. When I heard this, I immediately asked: "How much landed on the floor?"

"None got on the floor, miraculously enough," Misty told me. "But she did get some on her hands and proceeded to fling them around and cry as if the dip was burning her."

That didn't sound too bad.

Misty continued: "Then at one point, I turned around and she was sticking a huge spoonful of mayonnaise in her mouth, and she shuddered."

"... And then I turned away for a second to put something in the sink, and when I looked back, she was stirring the dip with her pen for the AquaDoodle."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sounds of delight

We've been driving around looking at Christmas lights over the past couple weeks, and Emily has picked up an amusing habit. Whenever she sees a particularly festive light display, she squeals, "ooooh!"

It may not seem like much from my description, but it's really cute.

I can't wait to see how she reacts to ZooLight Safari.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Me want cookie!

We've been watching a lot of Sesame Street at home lately. It holds Emily's attention far better than Higglytown Heroes. She's learned to say "Ernie" and "Elmo" (though to the untrained ear, it sounds more like "Uh-ee" and "Mo-mo") and can identify those two characters as well as Telly, who are all part of her bathtub playset.

As we were getting ready for bed last night, Misty and I were talking about classic Sesame Street skits that we remembered from our own childhoods. I mentioned the annual Christmas special where Cookie Monster kept trying to contact Santa, but was thwarted by his own appetite as he ate first his paper and pencil, then his typewriter, and finally his telephone.

Misty then said to me as if it was some sort of revelation, "Have you ever noticed that Cookie Monster doesn't really eat those cookies? They just crumble up and go everwhere, but nothing goes down his throat."

"Yes, dear," I told her. "That's because he's a puppet."

Friday, December 09, 2005

The number of the day

It has come to our attention that Emily knows how to count. We had no idea she could do so, and we assume they've been working on it at KinderCare.

She doesn't exactly count — it's more like a series of random vowel sounds. Nevertheless, she has the rhythm down, and it's obvious that she's trying to imitate counting.

Here's the crazy part, though. Misty was counting last night and Emily was making noises along with her. Emily's version went something like this:

"..... Uh... Eh... Uh... Ii... Ee... Ee... Eight... Nine... Ah!"

It blew me away that she knew eight and nine. Not only did she make the right sounds, but she said them in the right place. And she wasn't repeating after Misty, either — she was saying the numbers in unison.

We've tried counting several more times since, and usually have the same result.

My kid knows eight and nine!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gaseous anomalies

I was in the living room folding laundry this evening while Misty gave Emily her bath. As they were drying off and putting on a fresh diaper, Emily passed gas. It cracked her up, and she proceeded to clench and concentrate in an effort to reproduce the experience. I didn't see this, mind you, but Misty was providing ample commentary. All of a sudden though, I heard a roar of "Grrrraaaaaa!" as Emily tried with all her might to fart.

These are the stories that are bound to resurface in 15 years or so.

It's potty time

I thought this was pretty funny.




Emily has begun learning about the potty at home. This morning, she piled several of her stuffed animals (and her shoes) on top of the toilet. I guess she was implying that they each needed to go.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Over the limit

It seems that with the latest batch of pictures I uploaded, I've gone over my 200-photo limit on Flickr. I'm now debating whether to sign up for the paid "pro" account.

What do y'all think? Is Emily cute enough to justify paying $24.95 a year for unlimited photo storage?

Smurfette

On the day before Thanksgiving, one of Emily's classmates celebrated a birthday. The mother sent cupcakes to share with the other kids. Blue cupcakes. With blue icing.

This was the scene when Emily arrived home.



And that's after she'd been washed.

The next day, all the family had to crowd around and stare at Emily's blue butt when whoever was changing her exclaimed, "Oh my God! Look at this diaper!" I won't show you the picture Misty took of it.

Apparently, Emily's wasn't the only one in her class to be afflicted. When I filled out her daily report sheet on Friday, I wrote "blue bottom" in the blank for any new injuries, symptoms, or conditions. When I got the sheet back at the end of the day, the teacher had responded by writing, "everybody."

It took about four scrubbings in the bath before all the blue came off.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Irony

Driving back to my office from lunch, I passed by The Screening Room, a porn store on 2nd Avenue. Outside was parked a hot pink pickup truck with rear window decals proclaiming "Jesus is coming. Get ready."

WWJD? He'd rent porn, I guess.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The media gadfly

Today is one of those days that reminds me just how cool my job is. I just got word that Mo Rocca (of The Daily Show and Best Week Ever) will be participating in a live, interactive chat on al.com next month.

I don't know a concrete day or time yet, other than that it will be before his January 21 performance at the Alys Stephens Center.

Misty seems to think that I can parlay this event into her having lunch with Mo Rocca. I'm not sure that's a good idea considering her admission that she has "a big crush on him."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Important calls

My wife doesn't have Internet access at work, so from time to time, she'll call asking me to look something up for her. I just got off the phone with her as she was desperate to find out what time it is in Guam.

(It's 8:06 tomorrow morning there, by the way.)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Where you'll find me

A couple hours from now I'll be sitting on a blogging discussion panel at the meeting of the Internet Professionals Society of Alabama. If you're interested in attending, I'm told that meetings are free and open to anyone (Internet professional or otherwise).

Other Birmingham bloggers on the panel include:
Jeremy Flint (moderator) of Red Hot & Daily
Anne Glamore (not her real name) of Tales from My Tiny Kingdom
Dmitri Glazkov of his eponymous blog
Terry Oglesby of Possumblog

The meeting will be held in St. Vincents' Bruno Conference Center beginning at 11:30, and panel discussion will run from noon to 1 p.m.

It smells like home

My wife is weird about her pillow. She gets frantic whenever I wash the sheets, asking "You didn't wash my pillowcase, did you?" And when I break the news that, yes, I did indeed wash your pillowcase, I have to reassure her that it will come out of the dryer just the same as it went in — only cleaner.

So when I saw the article about pillow fungus in the LifeStyle section of today's Birmingham News, I called her at work to tell her about it.

"Your pillow is 'a cesspool of mold, mildew, fungus, dust mites and mite feces' according to bedding expert Dan Schecter," I told her.

"I know. That's why it's so soft," she said.

The pink belt

Emily is not a calm child. It started with the colic, I suppose. These days her rambunctious behavior continues with a fervor difficult to match for two tired parents. For Misty's mom, though, it's even harder to keep up with her.

"You know, Emily is not going to be the sort of girl who takes well to ballet classes," Misty's mom said last night after spending the day with her grandaughter.

"That's fine," Misty said. "She can take karate if she wants to... so long as they'll let me dress her in pink."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Just say no

Usually the first thing anyone asks when inquiring about my daughter is: "How old is she now?" It's the same whether I'm talking to a close friend or the check out girl at Wal-Mart.

I suppose it's understandable that only my immediate family keeps count of the number of months Emily has accumulated in her lifespan. And I know from experience that it can be hard to guess kids' ages. It's not a stupid question, and it never gets tiring talking about my daughter — even if it is only to mention her age.

What I find interesting is that you can tell which people don't have children of their own because they don't know where to go from there.

When I answer that Emily is 19 months old, someone without kids will ask: "Is she saying any words yet?"

Saying words? Ppffff! She's more than a year and a half old —' she's been saying words for about eight months! She knows more than 30 words!

Emily's favorite word lately is "no." It doesn't matter what you ask her, the answer will be "no."

"Emily, are you hungry?"

"No."

"Do you want to play at the park?"

"No."

"Do you love Daddy?"

"No."

She doesn't mean no, of course; she just knows that it's the answer to a question. So since we know how she's going to answer, we've had to get creative with the way we ask questions.

"Emily, do you want to stay in that wet diaper?"

"No."

"Are you planning on throwing your peas on the floor?"

"No."

"Is there anyone you love more than Daddy?"

"No."

I feel so clever to have outsmarted my 19-month-old kid.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

No match for el chupacabra

I've mentioned before that Misty's mom has a tendency to look on the dark side of things and assume the worst. This morning before Orkin arrived she was in top form as she warned me that a relative of hers was once bitten on the nose by a rat while sleeping. She went on to tell me that some rats have even been known to eat babies in their cribs.

Monday, October 31, 2005

He's invaded more than the kitchen

I had a dream involving this guy last night.

Peter Pettigrew


Creepy huh? You know, there are more famous rats out there than you'd think.

Rodent activity in our kitchen has increased dramatically since Orkin came out last week. Misty suggested that they must have sprayed the place with cheese. I'm pretty annoyed with the situation, but she is really on the warpath. Since finding evidence (read: droppings) that the rat had been on Emily's high chair, the gloves have come off. Misty has vowed that she will catch the rat by Wednesday. She went out today and bought steel wool, foam sealant, poison, and more traps. Plus Orkin is coming back tomorrow.

In my opinion, we shouldn't be buying any poison or traps. With as much as Orkin charges, they need get in there and find that critter. Their services are supposed to be guaranteed, after all.

My idea is to use infared goggles to spot rodent heat signatures in the walls and shoot them right through the plaster. Of course, I don't have infared goggles or a gun.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The ballad of Nicodemus

Do you remember that cat I mentioned a couple weeks ago? The one that Misty adopted from the clinic to catch mice. Yeah, we haven't seen her since the first night we brought her home.

For the past couple days this week, I've been hearing noise coming from under the refridgerator. Since there was a mouse in the grill this summer and we've seen dead mice in the driveway a few times (courtesy of other neighborhood cats, not the aforementioned deserter), it wasn't a stretch for me to guess that we had mice living under our fridge.

I got a coat hanger and swivled it around, but all that came out was a plastic lid and a bunch of dust bunnies. No mice came out, though. I ignored the noise and went to bed.

Yesterday I was getting set to mow the lawn when I heard the sounds again. I hadn't put too much effort into my search before because Misty had been standing there, and I knew she'd freak out if a mouse ran across the floor (it sure was funny when she discovered the one in the grill, but she's refused to use the grill ever since). This time, though, I was home by myself and feeling a little more determined.

I pulled the fridge out from the wall. As I did, a rat ran out. To me (who did not expect to see a rat), he seemed huge, though I'm sure he's not as hefty in reality as I now imagine him in my head. He scampered across the kitchen floor and up under the edge of the cabinets below the sink (where I assume there's a hole, but I'll be damned if I'm going to stick my head down there to check).

Now I understand why Misty has refused to use the grill. For the rest of the day, I did my best to avoid the kitchen. When I did go in there, I made sure I was wearing jeans and thick, leather, rat-stomping shoes. Misty wanted to cook chili for dinner, but I insisted on going out to eat instead. When she asked if I'd wash the dishes for her, I refused. I'm not hanging around in that kitchen if it's not absolutely necessary.

Like the image of the rat in my head, I know that my cautions are unnecessary. I know he's not going to come out while I'm around unless (like before) I start to uproot his home. I know all the crap about "he's more afraid of you than you are of him." Let's just call it even. I'm not scared of rats, I'm scared of a live, free-roaming, wild rat in my kitchen.

On the bright side, I don't think it's been there for very long. Not only have I never heard it before this week, we've never seen any droppings before this morning. Hopefully, this is just one rodent who snuck in to escape the cold.

Orkin is headed over this morning. Their coverage includes roaches, ants, fleas, spiders, earwigs, centipedes, etc. in addition to rodents, so that sounded pretty good to me. It's funny; one roach or even one roach every week wouldn't prompt me to call an exterminator. I'd just put out bait and make sure the house was cleaner. But one rat, and that whole do-it-yourself attitude goes out the window. I'm not messing with this.

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch The Secret of Nimh while I wait for Orkin to arrive.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I am now Spanish

I got a promotion at work today. I'm now the Señior Editorial Producer. I've been working toward this position for a long time, and I'm very pleased that it has finally happened.

Basically this means I'll be responsible for more editorial coordination of the site and I'll have a bigger role as a liason with al.com's affiliate newspapers. There are other duties too, of course, but considering that most people, upon hearing that I work for al.com, assume either that I write for The Birmingham News or that I work for AOL (neither of which is the case), I figure you people are confused enough without me trying to go into detail.

And though it has nothing to do with the promotion, I also earned another benefit at my job this week. Since I've reaced my seven-year anniversary with my company, I now get 20 vacation days per year. It's weird to think that I may actually encounter difficulty in using that much vacation time, but rest assured — I will find a way.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Fall festival follies

Today was the annual fall festival at day care. Last year we missed the event because Emily was really too little to partake in any of the activities, but this time she was ready to mingle with the big kids.

When Misty and I arrived after work, we collected Emily and headed out back to the playground were the festivities were taking place. There was a moon walk, a dj and all sorts of games for kids. Emily received a paper lunch bag with her name on it for Halloween treats, but instead of putting candy in her bag, she preferred to run around putting her bag into the buckets of candy. She had her own system. In fact, running around was pretty much all we did at the event as Misty and I wove in and out between other parents and children, frantically trying to keep pace with our little bundle of energy.

At one point, Emily decided she was going to try the plastic bowling game, but again, she had her own way of doing things. Instead of rolling the ball, she'd just run up, grab a pin (knocking down the other pins in the process), and run off with it. Once Misty was successful in capturing Emily and returning the pin to the game, Emily would begin the cycle anew.

Several times Emily stepped up to the entrance of the moon walk, gazing wide-eyed at her friends inside. When we tried to get her inside it, though, she had a coniption. It seems that her love for the moon walk rivals her love for the swing set at Cahaba Lily Park.

It only took about 30 minutes before the task of chasing after Emily grew weary. There was a painting station at the festival in which Emily showed keen interest, and we didn't want to press our luck for too long. We tried eating a burger, but it was nearly impossible with a kid who wanted to simultaneously eat, run, play games, and be held by her mommy. I was amazed that I manged to emerge from the event unscathed by red punch.

Afterward, we stopped across the street to visit Misty's mom, but Emily chose (and I use that word intentionally) to have a crying fit. She's so advanced to have entered her terrible twos six months early. We left after less than five minutes because nothing was convincing her to calm down.

At home, at least, she was much better behaved. She ate most of her dinner and used the fork all by herself. Luckily the dinner-bath-books-bed routine has held up rather well for us, but I wonder how much longer it will be before Emily sees fit to restructure things.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My day's descent

Yesterday was supposed to be a good day. It started out in the right direction, at least. Misty and I dropped Emily off at daycare and we went for a hike. Afterward, we enjoyed breakfast at Tip Top Grill overlooking the edge of Ross Bridge. We had a great time and enjoyed the relaxation.

I should have picked up on the subtle shift in the day's activities when we went shopping at Michael's. At Bed Bath & Beyond, though, I became suspicious. By the time we left Sam's, I felt like Christopher Boone after he'd passed three yellow cars in a row. My fate was sealed — it was going to be a bad day.

At first I thought I just had a sinus headache. Such headaches are a common occurrence for me, and I hoped that some Tylenol and a short nap would knock it out. I slept only about 30 minutes, though, and when I woke the pain had grown to a migrane. It hurt against my forehead, behind my eyes, in my ears, on top of my head, and in my neck. I popped a couple more Tylenol and tried to take a hot bath. Unfortunately, lying back only made the pain worse, so I ended up just sitting in the water noting how dirty our tub was.

Misty and I had planned to take Emily to get her Halloween costume when we picked her up from day care, but I had to back out. Instead, I stayed home and threw up a few times. Doing so made me think I might have caught a case of flu, but I guess my body was just trying to shift the pain someplace else.

While my wife and daughter ran their errands, I tried to sleep. I managed to do so, if only lightly. I could hear what was on around me, but I was well enough out of it to ignore everything. When Misty and Emily got home, they came upstairs to check on me for a minute. I remember them coming in the room to get some laundry, but not much else. However, I distinctly recall what happened when they went downstairs. I heard Emily start yelling, "Daad! ... DAAAAAAAD! ... MAAAAT!" On one hand that made me feel a little better, knowing that she missed me. On the other hand it made me feel worse that I couldn't come down and play with her.

Eventually, after Emily had gone to bed, I gingerly made my way downstairs to eat dinner with Misty. She kindly kept the lights dim and talked quietly. At first I wasn't sure if I'd be able to eat, but the meal she made was (as always) delicious, and it helped make me feel a little better.

Today, thankfully, the only remnant of my migrane is a general weariness. When Emily stars screaming "Daaad!" this evening, I'll be right there to blow bubbles for her to chase, build Lego creations for her to knock down, and read Please, Baby, Please a dozen times in a row.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Night and day it's Cinderelly

I'm flipping through the coupons from today's newspaper, and there's a bundle from Proctor & Gamble with several ads featuring a tie-in with Disney's DVD release of Cinderella.

On the page with coupons for Ivory, Joy, and Basic paper towels the text reads "The Royal Treatment - You don't have to spend a fortune to make your home dazzle."

The next page has coupons for Gain detergent and fabric softener, and the text is "A fresh way to get your clothes Magically Clean."

Finally, the page with the Cheer coupon reads "It doesn't take a magic wand to Keep Your Clothes Looking Like New."

It's a cute campaign, but I'm not sure Cinderella is the best spokesmodel for Proctor & Gamble's products. Case in point: "The Work Song."
Cinderelly, Cinderelly
Night and day it's Cinderelly
Make the fire, fix the breakfast
Wash the dishes, do the mopping
And the sweeping and the dusting
They always keep her hopping

See what I mean?

Hecklers, mark your calendars

There was some exciting next last week that I forgot to share. I've been asked to sit on a blogging panel at the next meeting of the Internet Professionals Society of Alabama. All I know about it right now is that Jeremy Flint (of Red Hot & Daily) is moderating, and the author of Tales from My Tiny Kingdom is also going to be a panelist. This should be fun!

Update: Terry Oglesby of Possumblog will also be on the panel.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Epitaph

To Jeff the Captain of the Starfish Enterprise: When you die, I'm going to do this for you.

And bring me the passengers; I want them alive!

At about 10 minutes to 4:00 yesterday, I called Misty at work to be sure she was goign to be on time picking me up. She'd driven today, and she'd gone to the gym during her lunch break, so I'd been stuck in the office for nine hours. I was ready to get out. She assured me that she'd be leaving "on the dot."

The dogs have been boarding at the clinic since we went to the beach last weekend, and I knew Misty had planned to bring them home that afternoon (they hadn't come home yet because they needed haircuts and baths, but Misty has to give clients priority, so our dogs often end up waiting a few days). I had a headache, though, and wasn't in the mood to deal with those two idiots clamoring all over the back seat and crying the whole way home as we drove through Friday afternoon traffic. "You're not bringing the dogs home, are you?," I asked hopefully. Luckily, Misty assured that they would be staying at the clinic another night.

A few minutes later, Misty arrived at my office. As I got in the car, I expressed my relief that the dogs weren't there. Then I heard: "Meow."

She did it. She brought home that cat.

On the bright side, though, it is not going to be called Sucka MC. Misty told me that she'd instead named the cat Padmé. Or, more specifically, Padmé Amidala Skywalker Cuthbert. Her theory is that by being named for Darth Vader's wife, the cat will exude a presence that will eradicate all mice from our home.

Or another way to put it is that she'll tear the house apart until she's found those mice!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Blonde. James Blonde.

So Daniel Craig is the next James Bond. I'm not all that interested.

However, what I do find amusing is this bit:
Rumored to have also been in the running were British actors Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gerard Butler and Ewan McGregor. Irishman Colin Farrell and Australians Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Eric Bana were also mentioned.

What a ridiculous list of names! Clive Owen is the only reasonable actor for the role in the bunch. It's amazing enough that people would speculate about Wolverine and the Hulk, but Colin Firth? Hugh Grant!? How fucking dumb are these people?

How about Daniel Radcliffe while we're at it?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bob Mould had a song about this

We just returned from our first-ever family vacation.

Yes, we went to Denver last year, but that was for a wedding, not an official vacation. And yes, Misty and I visited New Orleans a couple months ago, but that was just the two of us; Emily wasn't there.

So this weekend was our first vacation trip as a family. We spent two days at the beach in Panama City for a fun and exhausting time.

It will take a while to get all our photos posted online (and many will never be posted as they feature self-conscious parents in swimwear), but here are several that I've managed to get up so far.

Click to see more photos

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's busyness that's next to Godliness, right?

If you're wondering why I haven't been posting lately, it's because work has been keeping me very busy. Between unrelenting hurricane coverage, I've also tried to keep up with my usual entertainment sections.

Last weekend I took pictures at the Greek Festival and at Taste of the Summit. The week before that I did the same with Pet-a-Palooza and the Birmingham Zoo's 50th Birthday Celebration. (My apologies that Emily doesn't appear in the galleries. She went to each event with me, and her pictures will be posted later on Flickr.)

This week I've been focused two of the biggest entertainment events of the year in Alabama — Big Spring Jam and the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. I spent a lot of time putting together iPod festival guides for each, so please download them.

Jam Guide ... Sidewalk Guide

Before you tell me that you don't have an iPod, click here and sign up to get a free iPod Nano (this really works — I've recieved a 20G iPod and a 1G Shuffle from these offers already). Even if you don't want one, you can at least help me get mine. That way, with the Nano's color graphics capabilities, I can start adding nifty site maps and other pictures to the event guides.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The hurricane post

It seems like everybody is blogging about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I've read frightening stories of personal experience, thoughtful words of encouragement, engaging discourse about how things are being handled, and inspiring calls to action. But I don't feel like I have any words to contribute, myself.

I've been saturated with hurricane news over the past few days. When something huge like this happens, I have to put aside my usual entertainment production duties and focus on the bigger picture. But it goes beyond just me putting in overtime and helping with news production. The staff of NOLA.com (one of al.com's sister sites) is displaced from their city. They're scattered in different places around the country and can't return home — at a time when their site's traffic is going insane with people trying to get information. So we've been helping them where we can.

Anyway, I'm getting 8-12 hours a day of Katrina. That's not a complaint — I'm happy to do it. This isn't one of those sensational but inconsequential stories that you get sick of hearing about — it's just exhausting. There are so many things I'm thinking, but I'm counting on others to put the words out there. After everything I've seen and read, I don't feel like adding something more to the pile.

I'm gonna git you, Sucka

I have a feeling that there may be a new push for us to adopt a cat. When I opened the garage door this morning, there was a dead rat laying in our driveway. As far as rats go, it wasn't hiddeous. It was more like a super-sized mouse, actually. Nevertheless, its presence is sure to have triggered Misty's initiative to bring home a cat and give it a ridiculous name.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Checking in

It turns out that I've got bronchitis. My doctor perscribed an oral antibiotic, a cough syrup, and an albuterol inhaler. I don't feel any better yet.

Our power went out in the storm Monday night. It stayed out for 22 hours. We lost a few things from the freezer and refrigerator, but I figure that if that's the worst we suffered, then we got off pretty easy.

Misty's mom cooked us dinner last night because it's Misty's birthday today. Wanting to check if the power was back on before we went home, we called over to our house to see if the answering machine would pick up. It did. When we got home, there was an excited message from Misty exclaiming "power!"

Monday, August 29, 2005

Going postal

Just after my run-in with the idiot receptionist, I had another run-in that pissed me off a whole lot more. On my way home I stopped by the downtown post office to mail some CDs I'd sold on half.com. Here's a transcript of the incident:

Postal clerk: Help you?

Me: I'd like to mail these three packages through media mail and this one through first class mail.

Postal clerk: (holding up the first package) "What's in this?"

Me: "A CD."

Postal clerk: "OK, that's covered under media mail. I wanted to check because it's so light. If we don't know what it is we'll open it."

Me: (thinking) Huh?

The postal clerk proceeds to weigh the first package and affix it with a mailing label. The price is something like $1.80. She continues for the next two packages. As she's weighing the third package, I notice a message flash past on the screen in front of me that says something about upgrading to a better service for a lower price. Because she was moving through her process quickly, though it disappeared before I could read it.

Me: "I'm sorry, what was this saying about sending for a cheaper rate?"

Postal clerk: "First class mail would be $1.06."

Me: "So I could actually pay less and they'd get there faster?"

Postal clerk: "Yes, first class is usually faster."

Me: "Oh, then can I send these first class instead?"

Postal clerk: "You could have, but you said media mail."

Now, I understand that'd she'd already printed and affixed the stickers, but that was the wrong answer. Nevertheless, I kept my cool.

Me: "Why didn't you tell me, then, that first class would have less?"

Postal clerk: "Because you insisted on media mail."

Me: "I didn't insist on anything. I..."

Postal clerk: "When I axed you how you wanted to send these, you said 'media mail'."

Check the transcript, folks. She didn't axe me that. In fact, she didn't even ask me.

Me: "Yes, I understand that I said I wanted media mail. I'm just asking why, if there was a different service that was cheaper and faster, that you didn't mention it to me."

Postal clerk: "Because you said you wanted media mail. And I axed you what was in this because it was so light. And you said it was a CD, so that's covered under media mail."

Me: "Yes, that is absolutely correct. I'm not questioning anything you said or anything I said. I'm asking why you saw it on the screen in front of you, but you didn't suggest first class mail if it was faster and cheaper."

Postal clerk: "You said you wanted media mail. We have that screen right there so you can see what the other rates are."

Me: (thinking) No fucking shit! That's why I'm asking you about it in the first place!

So far, I had been firm, but I had not yet lost my patience. Now though, I was indignant.

Me: "I would like to send these first class instead of media mail."

With a scowl, the postal clerk ripped the labels off the three media mail packages and printed out new labels for first class mail.

Postal clerk: "Stamps or anything else?"

I hope the people I'm sending the packages to actually get their mail. Considering that woman's attitude, she might have just thrown them in the trash after I left.

Obviously there are people who do their job and just don't give a damn, and there are people who do their job and make that tiny little extra effort for the customer's sake. But if you're one of the former, and a customer asks you for some help, there's no need to be a bitch about it.

Jeez! Freakin' idiot!

I've been sick for five days now. The first two I let slide, thinking I'd just caught Emily's cold. Saturday and Sunday were much worse, but I held off going to the doctor because I wanted to see my regular physician rather than the doc in the box (where I'll wait an hour to see him for 2 minutes just to get a shot). Just now, I called UAB Parkwest to make an appointment. I should point out, for the following conversation to make sense, that there are only two doctors at this particular clinic.

Me: "I'd like to make an apointment for today."

Receptionist: "OK. With which doctor?"

Me: "Dr. Bullock."

Receptionist: "Dr. Bullock is only working a half day today, and he's already booked up."

Me: "Then can I make an appointment with Dr. Copeland?"

Receptionist: "No, Dr. Copeland was on vacation last week, so she's all booked up today."

Me (thinking): Then why the hell didn't you say so in the first place, you nitwit?! Can't you hear that I'm breaking into coughing fits every time I try to speak?!

Me (reality): silence

Receptionist: "Would you like to make an apointment for tomorrow?"

Monday, August 22, 2005

Anyone? Anyone?

Tomorrow night WorkPlay is hosting the premiere of the Alabama-made film "Lightning Bug." Preceeding the movie is a meet-and-greet with the filmmakers and stars. Other than director Robert Hall, I don't know exactly which members of the cast and crew will be in attendance, but if you check the links, you'll probably recognize at least a couple of faces.

If anyone would be interested in joining me there tomorrow night, let me know. I'm going to take photos for al.com, but my usual date (see the blonde in the post below) can't make it.

Update:
Well, I went by myself (boo hoo). Here are the pictures.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mommy's little helper

Saturday usually represents a lull for me in the amount of work I have to do at the office. My busiest day of the week is Friday, with Sunday running close behind. Saturday, though, brings a reprieve.

Today, I had planned to use my time to get some real work done, banging out event listings from all the things that have been submitted to al.com's entertainment calendars. However, I've just discovered that the calendar tool is broken, so I'll probably have to wait until Monday for one of the techs in New Jersey to fix it.

Since I have a free moment, here are some pictures of Emily helping with the dishes.

Emily helps with dishes

Friday, August 19, 2005

Misty's scheming mind

On the way home from work yesterday, Misty bought the last of her textbooks for this semester's classes. After we put Emily to bed, we were sitting in the living room, she parusing her school books while I read a novel. Every few minutes or so, Misty would interject something along the lines of "I think you'd really like this book" or "this class would be right up your alley."

I can see what she's trying to do. She thinks she can trick me into reading her textbook so that I'll help her with her class. I'm not falling for it. I'll proofread her papers for her, and I'll share my thoughts on any communications subjects I'm already familiar with, but I'm not going to go so far as to jump back into reading and research. If I wanted to do that, I'd register for grad school.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Notorious C.A.T.

I was pushing Emily around the back yard in her big plastic car yesterday evening when a sudden shriek erupted from the porch and Misty bolted outside. She'd been lighting the grill when a mouse had walked across the grate.

Luckily the igniter didn't work, because as Misty pointed out, she could just picture a flaming mouse running through the open door and setting the house on fire. I was charged with the task of confronting the mouse and turning the gas off, and Misty went inside to cook the sausages on the stove, vowing to wheel the grill out in the yard and scrub it down before ever using it again.

Today she called me at work to inform me that we're adopting a cat. "I know you'll say 'no'," she said, "but I'm bringing it home anyway."

"No," I said.

"It's too late, I've already decided," she told me. "He'll live outside, so it won't be a problem. He'll catch mice."

I'm allergic to animal dander, but that's not really the issue that concerns me. My disapproval stems from the fact that we've already got two dogs that drive us crazy. We really shouldn't have them considering our general lack of enthusiasm for their companionship, but there's that attachment you form before they're a pain in the ass, and you can't quite manage to shake it. Getting another pet, though, doesn't seem like a step in the right direction.

"We're getting this cat," Misty continued. "I already promised the vet I'd take him. I'm going to call him Sucka MC."

"No," I said.

"Isn't that a great name for a cat?" she asked, undaunted.

"We're not getting a cat, and you're not naming him Sucka MC."

I finally worked my position to compromise that we could get the cat if Misty would agree to part with the shih tzus. Every time I mentioned this option, though, she acted as if she didn't hear it.

A worthy replacement

Congratulations to the North Mississippi AllStars. They may be my new Sister Hazel.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The dark side of the Dreaming

I had a nightmare last night that woke me up screaming.

In my dream I was standing in my living room when the doorbell rang. I was only wearing boxers and a t-shirt, so I didn't answer right away. Instead, I was hoping someone else would get it. When the bell rang again, I sort of tapped on the door to let whoever it was know that I'd be with them in a moment. I looked up the stairs where my brother was, thinking he'd come down and get the door for me, but instead he walked into my bedroom. I didn't get the impression that he was ignoring me — just that he was going to do something else first. But not wanting to make the person outside wait any longer, I gave up hope of modesty and opened the door.

Instantly, someone rushed me and smashed me on the right side of my head with a sledgehammer. My body immediately hit the floor. I didn't see my attacker, and I didn't have time to react. It just happened so fast. In the following two seconds before I felt myself lose consciousness, several thoughts flew through my mind: I needed to warn my family that someone was in the house. I was worried for the safety of Misty and Emily. I needed to let them know that I'd been seriously hurt so that they could come to my aid. I knew that I was dying. And I gave thought to the state of the world in the news and something about cheesecake and a compass.

That last part is weird considering the scope of things, and I wouldn't bother mentioning it except that I don't want to overlook anything that might have some significance. As I said, all these thoughts flitted through my head in only a couple of seconds. After that, I screamed for help four times. The first two times, nothing came out, and as I tried, I feared that I would not be able to alert my family of the impending danger. The next two times woke me up, though, as I hollered, "Help me! Help me!"

For the rest of the night, I didn't sleep much. In fact, I was afraid to go to sleep. I was so unslettled from that blind rush of terror. Every creak in the house had me on edge. As I lay in bed I thought about going to see my physician about the dream. Or a psychiatrist. Or a fortune teller. I wondered if our house was haunted, causing me to have bad dreams. I thought about calling the previous owners and asking them why they'd moved — if they'd had similar nightmares. I wondered if the soup I'd had for dinner could have caused any of this.

Aside from the fact that I was attacked with a sledgehammer, two things continue to unsettle me about this dream. For one thing, whenever I dream about being at home, I'm at the house in which I lived in Houston. I assume the reason for this consistency is that I spent more time living in that house than any other (with the exception of an earlier house in Houston, but I was too young to remember it well). With this dream, though, I was in the house where I now reside. That element made the dream more real, and it troubles me that the shift to my current home would coencide with such a horrible event. The other thing that bothers me is that this is the second dream I've had within a month in which I've been murdered (the other time involving being shot in the head point-blank while being held as a hostage in a bookstore or restaurant).

Should I be worried about this sort of thing? Should I seek out professional help? At the moment, I'm inclined to see if it happens again before rushing off to see a psychiatrist. Two incidents is a coincendece, but three would signal something more significant, I think.

Because of Winn Dixie

Misty and I stopped by the Winn Dixie in Vestavia on the way home the other day. Since the store is closing, they're touting closeout prices of 30%-50% off everything in the store.

I quickly realized why Winn Dixie is going out of business. Even at 30% off, most of their items were still a little more than I usually pay at Bruno's.

For some reason people have the impression that Winn Dixie is a less expensive grocery chain, but it's not true. Their stores just look like they ought to be because they're always so dingy and poorly lit.

No news

We haven't had a new story in the search for Natalee Holloway in four days from either The Birmingham News or the Associated Press. So this morning, I suggested we remove the box featuring the special report from our home page. My suggestion was approved, though we were told to make sure that a link was easily visible from the top of our news page.

It took 56 minutes for someone to e-mail a complaint.

The grass is always bluer

One of my co-workers called me while she was out on her lunch break to ask me what a bumper sticker meant. She said she's seen several that say "My Grass is Blue."

Once I searched for it online, I felt pretty stupid about my initial guesses. My first suggestion was that it meant "I'm a Democrat," and my second guess was that it meant "I'm from Kentucky."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Welcome home

When we returned from New Orleans this evening, we went to pick up Emily from Misty's mother and aunt. Upon opening the door, Emily's arms shot up in the air as she ran to me for a hug. Before I could scoop her up though, her attention shifted and she screamed "Ma Ma Ma!" as Misty appeared behind me. So I got about 2 seconds of appreciation before Emily grabbed hold of her mother instead.

I wasn't neglected for too long, though. We both sat down on the couch to regale the adventures of our vacation, while Emily lunged back and forth repeatedly between the two of us, hugging Mommy then Daddy, Mommy then Daddy...

Best welcome I've ever received.

Dethroned

A few months ago I read a book called Spam Kings, chronicling the history of spammers and the people who've waged war against them. So when I read this article in USA Today, I recognized some of the names.
America Online and Microsoft are hitting spammers where it hurts most: They are confiscating their assets and giving them away.

AOL, the world's largest Internet service provider, is awarding $20,000 in gold bars, a 2003 Hummer H2 and $75,000 in cash it seized from a major spammer as part of a legal settlement last year. It will hold a sweepstakes on its Web site starting Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Microsoft on Tuesday said Scott Richter, once considered one of the world's top spammers, and his company, OptInRealBig.com, agreed to pay $7 million under a legal settlement. Microsoft is donating $1 million to a New York program to provide computer gear to community centers. It will spend $5 million more on anti-spam efforts.

"We think it's justice," says Curtis Lu, AOL deputy general counsel. "We're taking the ill-gotten bounty these spammers have earned off the backs of our customers and handing it back to customers."

What a load of crap.

AOL isn't "handing it back to customers." They're using this as a marketing ploy, attempting to lure in even more suckers to their net with the hopes of winning a raffle.

Now, I realize that with 24 million U.S. subscribers, AOL would only be able to refund each person's bill by about a half-cent based on the spam assets they acquired. So doing that isn't really practical, but their chosen route is sleazy.

Microsoft, though, is donating their winnings to charity. Kudos to Microsoft.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Milestone

Something sad happened on my way to work this morning. As I crested the hill (Red Mountain) and passed St. Vincent's Hospital on Hwy. 31, my car warranty expired. Yes, just under 2 years and 4 months from the date I purchased my car, the odometer has already passed 50,000 miles.

But before anyone gets the idea that my excessive driving is a gross contributor to Birmingham's ozone problem, let me say in my defense that my wife and I carpool to work, and I'm usually the one who drives. Also, I drive a Jetta, not some preposterous monstrosity of an SUV.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Digging the music

Chez tagged me with the following music meme, so now I've got cooties. Apparently, the only way for me to get rid of them is to complete the meme myself and pass it along to five more people, so here goes...

The instructions:
List ten songs that you are currently digging... it doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're no good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the ten songs in your blog. Then tag five other people to see what they're listening to.

My list:
They Might Be Giants - Damn Good Times - "I've got a friend who's a natural dancer / You could call her a jumpin' bean / She's got ants in her pants and she's gonna dance." This is totally Emily's song, and she does indeed love to dance to it.

Coldplay - Fix You - I love when the guitar kicks in about 2½ minutes into the song.

The Donnas - Fall Behind Me - Lyrically, the album is pretty weak, but if you let the music flow through you instead of trying to absorb it, you can just enjoy the fact that these ladies rock.

Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism - Misty brought my attention back to this one. I love the way it starts out so somber and just builds in intensity over 8 minutes.

Grant Lee Buffalo - Dixie Drug Store - Because I'm headed to New Orleans this weekend. It's a song about meeting the ghost of "Voodoo Queen" Marie Laveau.

Rilo Kiley - Spectacular Views - This one goes on my "Special Monday Morning Mix" (see Barry/Jack Black in "High Fidelity"). It really peps me up, and "it's so fucking beautiful."

Fountains of Wayne - All Kinds of Time - Who'd have thought I'd love a song about a football game?

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton - I read an article recently that mentioned how it's difficult to explain to kids who know Ice Cube from "Barbershop" and "Are We There Yet?" that he used to be one scary motherfucker. That prompted me to revisit some of N.W.A.'s music.

Blackalicious - Passion - Because the aforementioned song made me realize that I need to listen to more hip-hop.

Michael Tolcher - Mission Responsibile - His whole album is great, but I can't pull myself away from this one. I'm looking forward to seeing him again at Big Spring Jam.

Snow Patrol - Chocolate - It seems that I'm always digging some song or another from this album.

The Flaming Lips - Turn it On - I've been trying to download this song for almost a year, and I finally found someone who had it (yeah, shiver me timbers and all that).

Looks like I couldn't limit myself to 10.

I'll tag:
Lindsey - because this is just the sort of meme she should enjoy

Leslie - so I can see how she's coming along since she made her plea for new music suggestions

Hubie - because he's probably listening to something I haven't heard of that I'll like

Jeff - because I just discovered his blog, and I refuse to believe he only listens to Glen Phillips

Kara - so that she can post more than once in a month (like I'm one to talk)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Ladybug rejection

The pacifier's days are numbered. Or, at least, we hope so.

Currently, Emily only requires her pacifier when she goes to bed, but Misty and I have said that we want to wean Emily off it entirely by the time she's 18 months old. To do so, we figure she needs a replacement security fixture like a blanket or a stuffed animal.

We've begun leaving both in the crib with Emily at night so that she'll get used to having them there. Emily has decided, though, that she does not want to share her bed with an animal.

Usually, when we put her down for the night, she's wide awake. She's pretty good about it though, playing with her aquarium and babbling to herself occasionally until she falls asleep. Only rarely does she cry out for us once she's in bed.

Over the past couple weeks, Misty and I have been peering around the doorway of Emily's room to observe her bedtime ritual. In doing so, we've learned that the first thing she does after we leave the room is to grab her stuffed animal, stand up, and drop it out of the crib. She'll then plop down immediately into her sleeping position (head down, butt up in the air).

After seeing her do this several days in a row, we thought that perhaps she didn't like that particular animal. We switched from the big ladybug to a pink bunny, and for the first night it worked. The bunny was still in the crib with her in the morning. The next night though, it was back to the routine of dropping the animal out of the crib.

So, we don't know if she doesn't like sleeping with a stuffed animal, or if we just haven't found the right one yet, or if she's just being defiant. Her rejection sure is funny to watch, though.

12 months, 12 books - maybe

I am envious of Largehearted Boy's reading project. This year and last, he's set a goal to read a book a week, reviewing each on his site.

For the past several years, I've attemted to just read one book a month, yet somehow I always fall short of my goal. Last year and the year before, I managed ten.

2003:
Prey by Michael Crichton
Tricky Business by Dave Barry
Left Behind by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Babyhood by Paul Reiser
Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Copeland
Songbook by Nick Hornby
Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore
Lost by Gregory Maguire

2004:
Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yan Martel
Sleeping with the Angel by Nick Hornby (editor)
The Watermelon King by Daniel Wallace
Blankets by Craig Thompson *
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket *
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Coraline by Neil Gaiman *
We're Just Like You, Only Prettier by Celia Rivenbark
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Off Ramp by Hank Stuever
We've Got Blog by Rebecca Blood (editor)
Little Children by Tom Perrotta
* does not count toward goal

If I allowed graphic novels or junior fiction to count toward my goal, I'd have made it last year. But it's not meeting the goal itself that I'm concerned about — I don't get a prize if I accomplish it — I just want to read more. Nevertheless, most of the books on my list aren't that profound. I mean, I read Left Behind, for God's sake (it was so terrible).

Oddly enough, while I don't count books like Coraline or A Series of Unfortunate Events, since I consider them primarily to be children's books, I do allow Harry Potter to count toward my goal (hey, it's more than 800 pages).

This year, I'm on track to miss the mark again as I'm only in the middle of my sixth book after seven months.

2005:
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams
The Untelling by Tayari Jones
Never Let You Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson

I am determined to keep trying, though. I read faster when I like the book (and I have a tendency to keep muddling through despite not liking it), so hopefully the rest of my selections this year will be enjoyable. So far, only Hornby's How to Be Good has dragged me down, but it made for a very slow start to the year.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Heading for the Big Easy

With Misty starting up at school in a couple weeks, we came to a grim realization this weekend: She has only one remaining weekend off from work before her classes start.

We've been loosely planning three different vacations for a while now — to Destin, New Orleans, and Boston — but suddenly it looks like we're going to have a much tougher time pulling any of them off. Since two of her classes are held only once a week, missing either a Monday or a Wednesday puts her a week behind in either of those classes (and half a week behind in her Mon/Wed class). The beach is probably still doable, as it's a quick trip down there, and we can stay just a few days and be satisfied. New England, on the other hand, requires a more substantial commitment, because we have to factor in time to visit all of my relatives up there. So it seems unlikely that we'll be able to pull off that trip this year.

Faced with the fast-approaching start of UAB's fall semester, Misty and I have decided to squeeze in our New Orleans vacation next weekend. It's short notice, but we're not going to be able to manage it otherwise. We had hoped to go in a few months when it's not so ungodly hot and humid, but at least this is the off-season, and rates are lower.

I've never been to New Orleans. In fact, the city has never appealed to me. Like Vegas, the overtones of sin, excess, and flamboyance just aren't my cup of tea. Yet now, with our impending trip only a few days away, I find myself very excited about it.

Loophole

Something happened at Misty's office last week, but she asked me not to write about it in my blog. Despite my urge to share the story, I've obliged. I won't divulge the details here. However, Robin's post about the demise of her basement freezer gave me the opportunity to share this similar incident in her comments section.

Neither tale is for the faint of heart, but I think Misty's got Robin beat.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Day of accomplishment

Misty and I were supposed to have a date today. We'd planned to go out to lunch and then to see March of the Penguins. Oddly enough, when the day arrived neither of us felt like it very much. Instead, we decided to do housework.

Together we worked on cleaning up the clutter from our bedroom — a project that has been looming for nearly a year. We washed laundry, vacuumed, mopped the kitchen, cleaned the bathtub, and put together a new bookshelf. Having accomplished all that, we felt much more satisfied, I think, than we would have if we'd gone to the movies.

As our busy morning turned into a lazy afternoon, I finished the fifth Harry Potter book so that I can finally join the rest of the world on the new one.

Misty pulled me away just as I was finishing so we could head over to UAB. I don't think I've mentioned here that Misty has decided to go back to school to finish her degree in communications management. As she pointed out yesterday, this has been kind of a whirlwind decision. She met with an advisor a couple weeks ago to discuss the possibility, and within an hour she applied for readmission and plotted out what classes she'd need to take. This week, she found out that she had indeed been accepted, so today she went to sign up for classes and buy books. She's taking two classes: one Monday and Wednesday afternoons and one Wednesday nights, so she'll only be home late one night a week.

I have no doubt that after a five-year break, it's going to be difficult for Misty to get back into the swing of things as far as school goes. She's still going to be working full time, and of course her job as "mom" never lets up. Nevertheless, I know she can do it, and I know she's going to be so much happier once she does. I'm very proud of her for making this commitment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Forraging for food

I went for a hike at Moss Rock Preserve this morning. I took the blue trail so that I passed by the "great wall" and then what was indicated on the map as a waterfall (though there was only a trickle today). My real intention for today's hike was to pick blackberries, so I didn't pause often to take in the scenery. Nevertheless, I felt that the blue trail didn't offer as many nifty sights as the white trail.

I did spot a couple of young raccoons, though, who were sitting on a rock only a few feet from me as I came up the trail. One of them arched its back and kept its eyes on me as I stood and watched. Having no intention of getting closer, and seeing that they were too nervous to carry on with their activities while I was around, I moved on. After a few more feet, I turned back and saw that they'd hastened up a tree while my back was turned. They were still watching me intently.

As I neared the end of the blue trail where it intersects with white, I took a path out of the woods toward the top of the mountain where the power lines are. Two weeks ago, I'd walked back to the parking lot this way after I'd completed both the red and white trails. I'd been exhausted, and thought it would be a quick route out. It wasn't. It was still probably a mile or so back to the parking lot — which doesn't seem like much, but consider that this was late morning in the middle of the summer, I'd already hiked a couple of miles over hills and rocks, and unlike the trails through the woods, there are no trees to shade you along the path where the power lines reside. The nice part about the power line trail, though, is that it's lined with wildflowers. They're much more plentiful there where they can acually get some sun. There are also scores of blackberry vines, so hungry as I was, I helped myself to several berries as I walked along.

This past weekend, while my parents were visiting, we all went over to the Preserve to pick blackberries. However, all the vines near the entrance are well picked over, and you have to walk a long way down the path before you find large amounts of berries. Since it was afternoon, and we had Emily with us, we didn't go very far. No one else had been there before, though, so the collective assumption was that the berries had "gone by" for the season. I knew this wasn't the case, but it didn't much matter, as we couldn't have stayed long or walked far anyway.

So today, my goal was to return to the spot where I'd been two weeks ago and pick enough berries to proove that they were indeed plentiful. Once I reaced the clearing I didn't have to look far. I set about filling up the container I'd brought with me, and after about 20 minutes, I'd nearly done so. In fact, I didn't even move beyond the first patch of vines that I came to.

Now completely drenched in sweat from the heat, I began my trek back. This time, I didn't make the same mistake as before; I stuck to the trail through the woods in order to stay in the shade. The walk back was of course, much more strenuous than the walk there. And now back at home, I notice that I have tiny cuts all over my hands from thorns. But the blackberry cobbler Misty bakes tomorrow will make it well worth the effort.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mr. Fix-It

Wednesday was like the hottest day of the year, so of course our air conditioner broke.

I blame its shutdown on myself because of two stupid things I did (or did not do). First, I did not change the air filter for about 3 or 4 months. In fact, for a week prior to the air conditioner's demise, I thought to myself repeatedly, "I need to change that filter." But each time I thought about it, I neglected to actually do it.

My second blunder was a bit more complicated. On Tuesday, Misty called and asked me to open the windows and try to air out the house a bit. When I did, I shut off the air, and turned the system's central fan on. A few hours later, when the heat became unbearable in the house, I shut the windows and turned the air back on. I did not remember to turn the fan off, however. As such, the air ran continuously for about 36 hours until Misty discovered my mistake.

By this time, the air duct was coated in ice and the hose had become very hot and stuffy. We put buckets and towels down on the floor, and shut the unit off for a couple hours while we waited for the ice to melt. Once the ice was gone, though, the air conditioner kept on leaking. So much so, in fact, that we thought the buckets would overflow in the night if we kept it running. So we shut it back down and braced ourselves for an uncomfortable night.

Now if it wasn't bad enough that I'd caused the air conditioner to break down, something else made me look like even more of a dumb ass. Last year when our home warranty came up for renewal, I chose not to renew it. Misty didn't agree with my decision, but I held that even if an appliance did break, it would be less expensive to get fixed than to keep paying the insurance — probably. My assumption came from the fact that we'd already had the air conditioner fixed three times, finally ending with the warranty folks installing a new unit for us. I figured that with a brand new unit, it was a safe bet that it wasn't going to break down for at least a few years.

So it broke down. I caused it. And I caused us to not have a warranty to get it fixed. So I was pretty much screwed. Misty didn't have to say "I told you so" for me to know she was thinking it. I was determined to fix this thing myself so that I could get out of the doghouse.

Thursday when I got home from work, the first thing I did was change the filter. As I expected, it was chock full of dust. The dripping water started right back up when I turned the air on, though, so obviously it wasn't going to be that easy. Next I went outside to see if I could clear out the drain, but I didn't have the tools to get into it more than a couple of feet, and it didn't seem clogged there anyway. So I went back inside to the closet unit, and I pulled out all the pvc pipe.

Looking at the pipes, I could immediately tell that this was where the problem lay. They were totally clogged with dirt and dust. I used a coat hanger, a couple of old toothbrushes and the hose to knock out as much gunk as I could. It was just disgusting how much sludge poured out of those pipes. But with Misty's help, I got them all clean, and I installed them back into the closet.

Finally came the moment of truth. I turned the air back on and waited by the buckets for the dripping to begin. But it didn't. I'd fixed it.

Better yet, I didn't call a repair technician, and I didn't read the instructions. My manhood remains intact.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hey, doggie

Emily loves the shih tzus. She is the primary reason for their continued existence. She hugs them whenever they'll sit still enough for her, and she squeals with joy when they lick her face. Her favorite phrase is "hey, doggie."

But Emily doesn't discriminate. In fact, everything is "hey, doggie" these days. When she sees a cat in the neighborhood, she says "hey, doggie" to it. When we read a book about animals, half of them get a greeting of "hey doggie" (and some even get hugs). When we go to the zoo, the animals all get to hear her exclaim, "hey, doggie!" You can imagine what it's like when she visits Misty at work, and there really are a bunch of honest-to-goodness doggies around. Sometimes Emily even refers to Misty or me as "hey, doggie."

It's frustrating, because you're so excited when your child finally starts to call you "Mama" and "Daddy," yet she's happy to abandon that for a name which she obviously holds in much greater esteem.

Her new habbit, though, is calling me "Matt." Obviously she's picked it up from Misty, and we've now realized why so many parents talk like idiots, referring to each other constantly as "Mommy" and "Daddy."

Just yesterday when we were picking Emily up after work, she looked at me and said "Mama." I corrected her, saying, "no, I'm Daddy." She responded with, "MATT!"

The problem is that Misty finds this development quite amusing, stiffling giggles whenever Emily says "Matt." Of course, Emily's not calling her "Misty." So Misty taunts me with it, purposely referring to me as "Matt" in front of Emily, thus strenthening our daughter's misguided belief that she should call me by my first name.

But I suppose it's better than "hey, doggie."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My own private opia

I've had a tear in one of my contacts for the past couple weeks, but I've been putting off going to get it replaced. No reason, really, I've just had other stuff to do. But yesterday's episode of Higglytown Heroes prompted me to make an appointment. On the show, Wayne's glasses broke, preventing him from watching a meteor shower with his friends. Someone special saved the day though (as someone special always does) — the featured hero was the optometrist (OK, so this really had nothing to do with convincing me to go to the eye doctor, but I found the coincidence amusing).

At my checkup, I found out that my sight has worsened in both eyes. My left eye went from -6.5 to -7.0 and my right eye dipped from -6.5 to -7.5. This is the first time I've had a different prescription for each eye, so now I finally have to pay attention that I put the right contact in the right eye.

As I was waiting the requisite hour between the time of my apointment and the time I actually got to see the doctor, I considered heading back out to my car to get my coupon book. I had a feeling that there might have been a coupon in there for the Wal-Mart Vision Center. However, since most of the coupons in the book have proven useless, I didn't bother. For instance, the Wal-Mart coupons include "Free Cookie" (something Bruno's does every day), "Free Balloon" (another something Bruno's does every day), "Free lifetime rotation with purchase of tires" (something Wal-Mart already offers without a coupon). I figured if there was anything for the vision center in there, it was probably something like 5% off an exam, and I didn't bother going out to check.

So I have my exam, I pay the $50 exam fee and the $30 fitting fee (What the hell is that? Just tell me it's $80; don't try to fool me by saying an exam is only $50.) and I go home. At home I flip through the coupon book to find a coupon for "Free vision screening." Shit. "Vision screening" better not mean the same thing as "eye exam," or I just wasted $50. Knowing Wal-Mart, it's not the same thing, but it's probably best for me not to think about it just in case.

Those kids today

Just in case you didn't see the Life section of today's Huntsville Times (I'm betting you didn't), here's the opening of their top feature:
If your teenager complains of a sore throat and wants to see the doctor, don't just hand him a cough drop.

That cold might really be chlamydia.

Whoa! That'll cue up the paranoia.

And speaking of suicide...

The current top rated iMix at Apple's iTunes store is "My Dead Wife," the playlist of a guy's wife who recently committed suicide.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It fuels you and your car

We had leftovers tonight from a plate Misty's Aunt Wanda fixed for us. There was a weird kind of corn in there, and it was so tasty and sweet. Misty explained that it was field corn. It's mainly used for feeding livestock and not marketed to humans because it goes bad so quickly. Nevertheless, it tastes much better than regular corn, and so it's considered a real find if you can get your hands on some, she said.

I'd never heard of the stuff, but according to Misty all Southerners know about it, particularly older Southerners. In fact, that's what she and her family were planning on hunting for at the farmer's market this weekend.

As it turns out, field corn isn't just a tasty side dish, it could be the future of fuel consumption!
In general, current U.S. ethanol production is based largely on the starch in kernels of field corn, the nation's largest agricultural crop. (The predominant use of field corn is for animal feed. Current ethanol production uses only about 7% of the crop.) Any starch or sugar crop, however, can now be used to make ethanol.

As commercialization of advanced bioethanol technology makes possible ethanol production from biomass other than starch and sugar, vast additional resources will become available to supplement ethanol production from corn kernels.

It'll be just like in "Back to the Future" when Doc Brown threw that banana peel into the "Mr. Fusion" on his Delorian.

Emily's playlist

We were watching some of the Live 8 concerts last week, and when Madonna started singing "Ray of Light," Emily broke into a dance. This morning, I downloaded the song for her, and she again bounced up and down with her arms out and a big smile on her face.

She's always loved music and dancing (I say that like she's 15 years old instead of 15 months), but it's interesting to see which particular songs strike her fancy. Some of her other favorites include "Yeah" by Usher, "Hey Baby" by No Doubt, and "Here in Higglytown" from They Might Be Giants.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A muggle's diary

Saturday night I attended the McWane Center's Harry Potter book release party. I wasn't sure what to expect from it at first. On one hand, I thought that the fact that they were charging admission and selling the books for a bit more than the local bookstores might keep people away. On the other hand, they're already quite experienced in hosting events, and the admission charge would help supplement whatever decorations they were setting up.

The party turned out to be an amazing event. They had everything turned into scenes from the Harry Potter novels — from platform 9¾ at the entrance, to food in the Great Hall, to books for sale at Flourish & Blotts — and that was before you even got past the lobby. When you entered the museum itself, you were given a Marauder's Map to explain the layout and schedule of event. Once inside, you could put on the sorting hat and be placed into the house of your choice (most kids picked Griffindor). You could take classes in arithmancy, care of magical creatures, potions, and charms. You could get your face painted or make a wand at Olivander's. Many of the coodinators were in costume. I saw Professors Dumbledore, McGonagal, Quirrell, and Trelawney. Also Hagrid, Mrs. Weasley, and Rita Skeeter. The folks at McWane really went all out, and they put on an impressive show.

But as good of a job as they did, what struck me even more was the crowd. That place was packed. And so many people were dressed up — both kids and adults — for the night they became wizards, witches, quidditch players, house elves, and dementors. There was a real excitement in the air, and I think everybody felt it.

After a couple hours there, it dawned on me why I was having such a good time. Where I'd really wanted to be last weekend was in San Diego for Comic-Con International. And what I've always loved about that convention is the people. When you're in an exhibit hall with 80,000 other people who are all there for the same thing, you feel like you're part of something really important and special. At home, you're just a geek who reads comic books, but there, you realize that everyone else does too — they're like you, and they're not all weirdos.

That's how it felt at the Harry Potter party. I didn't feel a bit like a dork for being an adult who enjoys the Harry Potter books. There were tons of adults there who were in the same boat. We relished the evening; we cheered when the clock struck midnight; and we went home exhausted and smiling.

When you care enough to send the very best

I received the following press release over the weekend...
So you've decided to kill yourself but you just don't know how to say "goodbye?"

SENTI-MENTAL GREETING CARD CO., the first name in last words, announces the release of "Suicidal Sentiments." ...

The 12-card "Suicidal Sentiments" series offers a range of commonly repressed thoughts, feelings and emotions commonly held by suicidal persons. The series is surprisingly direct and cleverly written from the suicide's perspective, an innovative first in this "hush-hush" society of suicide and mental illness.

It goes on and on (as press releases tend to do) with quotes from the creator and such, but I think you get the idea already. Then, in order to avoid hate mail from people saying the business is tactless, it closes saying that they "will be donating 25% of all sales to local and national suicide prevention programs."

Of course if the prevention programs work, no one would need to buy the cards.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Hurricane Emily wreaks havoc




Emily had another bout of teething this week. Saturday night when Misty went out to dinner with her cousin, I stayed home with Emily while she cried and cried. At first we thought she was getting sick because she was extra fussy, she had a fever, and she didn't want to eat or drink much. She also began holding her hands behind her back, walking around with them clasped together like she's some professor pondering her lecture. Misty mentioned this to her boss, and he suggested that Emily might have a kidney infection which would lead to both the fever and her back hurting.

Luckily, though, it was just teething (you weren't worried because I mentioned that at the start), and she's got a big new molar now. We had a couple of bad nights where she didn't sleep well, and we ended up bringing her to bed with us. However, Emily still didn't quite sleep — instead she fidgeted back and forth, climbing on us — but at least she didn't fuss. In the morning, I woke (I say that I woke, but I never really slept) to find Emily's feet on my pillow and her head burried under the quilt. What a weird kid. Of course, she usually sleeps with her butt sticking up in the air, so I shouldn't be surprised.

The business of her walking around with her hands behind her back continues, so I still don't know what that's about. Maybe she's just fascinated by the fact that she can touch her hands together behind her. Whatever it is, she's not acting like she's in pain.

Hiking trails guide

Totally swiping the idea from Over the Bridge's CodPod and the text from an article in The Birmingham News, I created a guide to a few Birmingham hiking trails that you can download to your iPod.

I'm thinking about creating more of these sorts of files soon — kind of like mini travel guides for Alabama cities. They'll be on al.com as soon as I can figure out how to publish zip files.

It would be really nifty if I could make a little map that would show up on the screen, but since my iPod is an older version without image capabilities, I'd be unable to check my work to see what it looks like. For now, though, I'm pleased with this.

How to tell when someone's not paying attention

I was just walking down the hall toward my office when I passed a coworker.

Me: "Hello, Aaron."

Aaron: "Not too much."

Obviously Aaron's day has been more stressful than mine.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

It's fiction, dear

I was just eating dinner with Misty and her cousin Cathy, and we were talking about television. Misty was extoling the virtues of "Arrested Development" trying to gain another convert. Cathy said that the only programs she watches regularly are "Dr. Phil," "Big Brother," and "Cold Case." Misty hadn't heard of "Cold Case."

Cathy: "Each episode they investigate old homicides using new forensic evidence and stuff like that."

Misty: "Do they ever solve any?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

More City Stages images

These are a few of my favorite photos from Saturday and Sunday at City Stages.



One of Birmingham's finest plays a game at the PS2 booth.



Lampwick was the best new band I heard.



Children dance to the music of the Imagination Movers.



Kids cool off in the water in Linn Park.



Emily and Mommy hang out in the children's area.



Emily goes cruising for trouble.



Emily tries to borrow Daddy's media pass so she can get backstage.



Dad and Emily enjoy Father's Day in Linn Park.



Rachael Yamagata and the cellist from her band.



Ryan Adams made it difficult for the news media to take photos.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Picture pages

I spent most of the day yesterday at City Stages taking photos for work. Here are a few of my favorites.



Graham Colton



Michael Tolcher and band



Ben and Matt Hales of Aqualung



Common



Brandon Flowers of The Killers

You can see the rest of my pictures here and here.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Re-hire Dana Whitaker

One of the loose ends left unanswered at the season finale of Desperate Housewives was Tom's departure from his job and his decree that Lynette needs to rejoin the workforce while he stays home with the kids.

Will Lynette find a new job? It's not much of a cliffhanger, but I have the perfect solution: She could go to work as the producer for Sports Night (it was another ABC show, after all). Oh, how happy that would make me.

The beauty of the rhino

Plastic surgery is something that's supposed to make you prettier. So what's the word "rhino" doing in rhinoplasty? Quite a PR blunder.

Someone has probably made this observation years ago, but it just dawned on me this morning.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

It's not TV, it's DVD

I wish HBO would get on the ball with Six Feet Under and catch the DVDs up the current season. Season 5 begins June 6, but Season 4 doesn't come out on DVD until August. Guess I won't need to bother subscribing.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Walker, Texas Ranger

Emily has been working on walking over the past couple weeks, and she continues to improve. Yesterday she was taking a dozen steps or so before she'd plop down to the ground.




She's coming with me to work tomorrow for our company picnic. I can only imagine what sort of havoc she's going to unleash upon the office during the couple hours before we head off to Oak Mountain.

In a galaxy far, far past my bedtime

Here's the photo gallery from last night's midnight showing of "Revenge of the Sith." Not as many people in costume as I would have expected, but the theater sure was packed. A big thanks to Kelly Pratt for the photos she sent!

I've also posted my review of the movie over at Get on with Your Nightlife.

Can I graduate?

I didn't attend my high school graduation. I didn't walk at my college graduation. That sort of thing just never interested me. But I know it's an important rite of passage for a lot of people. That's why I was appalled by this story Hubie pointed me to.

Pregnant student banned from graduation walks stage anyway
Alysha Cosby waited four years to hear her name called at her high school graduation.

When it wasn't, she took matters into her own hands.

After the last graduate was asked to come forward to receive his degree at St. Jude Educational Institute's commencement Tuesday night, Cosby announced her own name and walked across the stage. ...

Her decision to do so prompted cheers and applause from many of her fellow seniors and dozens of people in the church. Some, however, murmured that her act was in poor taste and that it took away from the ceremony.

Took away from the ceremony? Give me a break! What about taking away from her ceremony?

Cosby didn't ask for the spotlight. All she wanted was equal treatment. If they'd given her that, no one ever would have noticed her. But since they weren't willing to grant her equality, she decided to aim for something a bit higher. Good for her!

Besides, graduations are even more boring than high school itself. Cosby did those people a favor by throwing a wrench into the machine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Queue of geeks

If any of you (especially those of you in Alabama) are going to a midnight screening of "Revenge of the Sith" tonight, I have a favor to ask.

Tomorrow at work, I'll be putting together a photo gallery of fans who are dressed up waiting in line for Star Wars. If you take any digital photos of such fans, and wouldn't mind sharing them with al.com, please let me know! Thanks!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Rubbing elbows

Here are a few of my favorite photos from Bo Bice's appearance at Fox 6 this morning...










You can see the complete gallery of photos here.

By the way, these photos are all © al.com. Don't steal them.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rare perks

Since it happens so infrequently that I get to do stuff like this at work, I'm going to take this opportunity to brag a little. Tomorrow I not only get to go to the Schaeffer Crawfish Boil to take pictures, but I also get to spend the morning tagging along with Bo Bice for his visit to Birmingham.

Since I haven't watched a single episode of "Idol" this season, I can't really say that I'm "excited," but it's cool that I get to attend the event, nonetheless.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Let me sing a song for you

As if The Killers, Aqualung, and Michael Tolcher weren't enough to convince me to go to City Stages, now they've added Ryan Adams.

Update: The Birmingham News has deleted the story they wrote (I don't know why) from their Breaking News weblog, so I've removed the link. However, Ryan Adams' web site and PollStar both list the concert.

Spyware infestation

I'm having a problem with spyware on my home computer which has worsened over the past week. Last night, it became invasive to the point of worrying me. New windows were popping up with great frequency and new icons were getting added to the desktop and quick-access bar. Many of the pop-ups were "warnings" that my computer was infected with spyware, but the close window x was disabled on them, and right-clicking on their tabs at the bottom of the screen did not offer an option to close the window, either. Since my only options were to click "yes" or "no" on the pop-up, I am led to dobut the validity of such "warnings."

I run anti-spyware software from Ad-aware and Spybot every week, but there's still stuff on my computer. What worries me is that previously when I've run these programs, there is usually a new update every week or so. However, over the past month at least, each have returned a message saying that no new updates are available. This seems fishy.

I think that the spyware folks may have found a way around the anti-spyware software. My guess is that there's something on my computer that's telling the Ad-aware and Spybot programs that there are no new updates available, when there really are. Either that, or there is something telling them to exclude certain files from their searches.

Has anyone heard of such things happening? Is there a solution?

Monday, May 02, 2005

A holiday for hanging

Rilo Kiley is coming to Birmingham June 9 for a concert at WorkPlay. Unforunately, Misty's mom will be unable to watch Emily that evening because she's having a stint put in her kidneys a few days earlier and can't lift anything over 20 pounds for two weeks. So Misty and I won't be able to go out that night.

However, that doesn't mean that I won't be able to go — and since Misty isn't a fan of Rilo Kiley in the first place, and would only be going for the sake of accompanying me, I don't need to feel guilty about going without her.

I don't want to go by myself, though. Is there anyone out there who'd be interested in joining me at the show? I'm trying to find out soon whether I'll be going because I anticipate tickets will sell out.

Details:
The concert starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. Okkervil River and The Brunettes are the opening bands

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Your daily dose of baby cuteness

This photo was taken about a week and a half ago at Aldridge Gardens.


Birthday greetings from W

I wonder how much of our tax dollars are wasted each year on this crap.

You'd better believe I'm ordering one for Emily, though.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The deadly Gaueko

I just got back from the post office where I was supposed to mail a package for my wife.

As I've mentioned before, Misty has developed an addiction for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. She orders perfumes online based on vivid, flowery descriptions. But buying perfume without smelling it first can be tricky. Sometimes "Blackened sandalwood and misty lavender, with curling wisps of smoky tobacco, nag champa, and labdanum" doesn't smell as pleasant as she thinks it will, and she wishes that she'd ordered something simpler like "Sugar Cookie." When that happens, she arranges a trade with another BPAL addict, each relinquishing scents they don't care for in exchange for something new they want to try.

That's what I was supposed to be mailing today.

When the woman at the post office counter asked me the standard question about whether my package contained anything breakable, perishible, liquid, hazardous, etc., I naïvely answered, "it's perfume." I was then informed that you cannot mail perfume because it is flamable.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't paper also flamable? I mean, I know perfume is flamable, but it doesn't exactly self-combust. Sure it's going to burn if you get it near flame, but I think that if you get a mail bag near a flame you're pretty much screwed anyway.

I didn't give the postal clerks a hard time, though. I knew there would be no point. I just took the package and went on my way.

I'll just go to the Homewood post office tomorrow and answer "no" this time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Road Rules

Today I was driving down Hwy. 280 (my favorite road ever!) and attempting to move from the center lane into the right lane. The person in the right lane didn't want to let me in though, and he sped up to close the distance between his car and the car in front of him just to proove it. Despite his efforts, I managed to squeeze in anyway, and of course, that really pissed him off. When we both turned onto Valleydale Rd., he gunned his car calling out, "To infinity and beyond!" (because he was driving an Infinity, and I am just that lame), and raced by me.

Oh well, he was no longer any concern.

A few mintues later I came to a school zone, and a cop pulled out in front of me and turned out his lights. I'd had time to slow down to the posted speed limit, so I knew I wasn't in trouble. Misty said, "Wouldn't it be great if he were going after the guy who passed you?" Indeed it would be. And that's exactly who the cop nailed.

Since I'd been going about 40 mph before I slowed down, the guy who passed me must have been doing at least 45 — 20 mph over the limit in a school zone. Ah, wonderful karma.

Monday, April 25, 2005

She's still standing

For those of you not privy to Emily's photo blog, look at what she can do now...



I expect she'll be walking any day now.

Do Dah Dumb

What the hell? I thought the king and queen of Do Dah Day were supposed to be dogs and cats. And 3 out of 4 of these yahoos don't even have pets!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Adios, Emily



We're sick of this kid. We're mailing her to New Hampshire.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Monday, April 11, 2005

I miss the tan ones

The verdict: They're not really all that m-Azing.

My favotire part, though, was the note "Do not use if inner foil is broken or torn." It's not a safety warning; it's an enjoyment tip.