Tuesday, August 30, 2016

15 More Blog Posts I'll (Probably) Never Write

Over the years, I've written a lot of blog posts. Sometimes people will help me out by giving me topics to write about. Other times I'm left on my own.

To be honest, it's easier to think of things that I shouldn't write about than it is to think of things I should write about. Here are a few more blog posts that I'll (probably) never write:

1. Why the Two Party System Guarantees We Get the Absolute Best Presidential Candidates.

2. 9 Tips For How To Use Your Leftover Bacon

3. Everything I Know About Love and Happiness I Learned by Watching Nicholas Cage Movies

4. "Moist" and 8 Other Words We Need To Use More Often

5. 11 Reasons Why Green Beans Are Better Than Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mmmmm....Chocolate chip cookies!!!

6. Customer Service vs. Profit: Why Big Pharmaceutical Companies Are Our Friends

7. Why Working At Home Is Easier When You Are Also Watching Kids

8. The 7 Best Shows On HBO to Watch Together As a Family

9. Ryan Lochte's Tips for Traveling Abroad

10. The Ten Best Fresh Seafood Restaurants In Lincoln, Nebraska

11. 18 Reality Television Stars Who Would Be Great As President

12. CEO Pay: Why $18 Million a Year Just Isn't Enough!

13. Six Things You Can Do To Pass Time While Your Show Is Buffering

14. Why We Need More Super Hero Movies

15. 13 Reasons Congress Deserves Free Health Care for Life But Veterans Don't

So, do you have any ideas for me?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Epi-Pens Are Sticking It To Us

I usually try to keep things light around here. I generally write amusing stories about being a dad or the inanities of everyday life. But today I've got something that's stuck in my craw, and I feel the need to say something about it.

My oldest daughter ("Thing 1" to my regular readers) is deathly allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Her doctor told us that as little as one-eighth of a peanut could cause a reaction that could kill her. So, we take it pretty seriously. We have no peanuts or cashews in our house. No Nutella. Not even any Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs at Easter. (You know I love my daughter very much if I'm willing to give up Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs!)

All we can really do is try our best to keep her away from nuts. (Easier said than done. One time my wife found the warning "may contain nuts" on a package of shredded cheddar cheese that I had purchased!) And, if by some chance she is exposed to nuts, we have to have the best available medical treatment close by so if she does have a reaction we will best be able to manage it until we can get her to a hospital.

And that's where Epi-Pens come into the story. An Epi-Pen is a medical device that injects a dose of medicine into a person. If my daughter were to have a reaction to peanuts or tree nuts, her airways would close up, making it difficult for her to breathe. She, or preferably someone else trained in their use, would use an Epi-Pen to inject a small dose of epinephrine into her to unblock her airways and allow her to breathe until she could get to a hospital and be treated by health care professionals.

Epi-Pens save lives! Epi-Pens are wonderful. Unfortunately, an Epi-Pen won't save a life if the person who needs it can't afford to buy it.

Epi-Pens are produced by a company known as Mylan Pharmaceutical. Mylan purchased the Epi-Pen brand in 2007, and has enjoyed a near monopoly on the automatic epinephrine injector industry ever since. ("Epi-Pen" is a brand name that dominates the industry, much like "Kleenex" dominates the facial tissue industry and "Jell-O" dominates the gelatinous food-like substance industry.)

Epi-Pens come in packages of two. (It is not possible to buy a single Epi-Pen.) Epi-Pens have an expiration date that is generally about a year from the time of purchase. At the start of every school year, we usually by three sets of Epi-Pens for our daughter, one for her to carry at all times, one for the school office to store in case of emergency, and one for us, as her parents, to have access to at all times.

Eli-Pens: So much money for something you hope to never use!

This year, when my wife went to purchase our first set of Epi-Pens, she was very perplexed on two fronts: the price and the expiration date. The price for one set of Epi-Pens was $531, and that was with a "coupon" for $100 off! (Yes, without the coupon the price would have been $631!)

When we first started buying Epi-Pens seven years ago, we could get a set for easily less than $50. (To be fair, I should point out that as those seven years have gone by, our insurance benefits and deductibles have changed many, many times, usually for the worse, so that has also had an effect on the amount we pay for Epi-Pens.)

Still, $531 is a lot of money, especially for something that you hope to never use. (Luckily, in the seven years since our daughter was diagnosed with her allergy, we've been able to avoid any reactions that would necessitate using an Epi-Pen. We've been very fortunate.)

The high cost has left us with the terrible choice of either paying out over $1,500 to have the number of Epi-Pens we feel comfortable with; or gamble with our daughter's life, buy fewer Epi-Pens, and hope we can continue to be fortunate and avoid allergic reactions.

We consider ourselves upper-middle white trash, so we can afford to pay for the Epi-Pens as long as we dip into our savings and limit spending on vacations, eating out, and going to the movies. Also, we had to cut back considerably on what we spend on the kids for back-to-school. No new backpacks, socks, or underwear. (Last year's stuff will just have to last longer.) But, for those families at the poverty level, they might be making the choice between having that life-saving medicine or putting food on the table.

Aside from the exorbitant price, the other problem with Epi-Pens is the quick expiration date. When my wife purchased our first set this year she was very disappointed to see that the Epi-Pens wouldn't even last the school year before they expired! This led to the following exchange between my wife and the pharmacist:

My wife: "These won't even last until the end of the school year!"
Pharmacist: "Well, maybe you should wait until closer to the start of school to buy them."
My wife: "School starts next week."
Pharmacist: "Oh."

(NOTE: I should point out that this pharmacist's snarky attitude is NOT the norm. Usually the pharmacists have been very kind and understanding. In fact, last year when faced with a similar expiration date problem, the pharmacist said, "You know, we're getting a shipment of Epi-Pens in tomorrow. Come back then and we'll see if we can get you one with a better expiration date.")

Mylan makes a lot of money off of Epi-Pens. Mylan has been able to continually mark up the price of their product because of a virtual monopoly on the market, and consumers who must buy their product or risk their lives or the lives of their children. Meanwhile, Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, has seen her salary rise from just over $2 million dollars in 2007 to just under $19 million dollars in 2015! (Wow, with that kind of money she could even afford to buy a few dozen sets of Epi-Pens!)

But, this time they finally pushed the price a little too high. Over the past week or two, Mylan started receiving some serious pushback against their outrageous pricing. Facebook began to fill with posts from angry customers. News stories began to appear. Members of congress threatened to take action. Republicans and Democrats actually agreed on something!

And so yesterday, to diffuse some of the pressure, Mylan decided to make some concessions. In a press release by the company, Mylan says, "Company to cover up to $300 of out-of-pocket cost at pharmacy; reducing patient cost by 50% off Mylan list price."

Hey, that sounds great! ...Until you realize how much they're already jacking up the price. $300 off of $631 is still $331, and that's way too much for an Epi-Pen. It's like if McDonald's were to say, "We're asking $500 for a Big Mac, but we're going to give you a 50% discount so you'll be paying only $250!" Of course, one of the problems with that analogy is that the Epi-Pen contains needed, life-saving medicine, whereas a Big Mac is not going to save anyone's life. (At least not that I know of.)

And, as far as I can tell, this $300 off would only apply to people who have yet to purchase the Epi-Pens. It wouldn't do any good for us or the many like us who have already purchased our Epi-Pens for the school year.

Mylan probably thinks this grand $300 off ploy will appease the masses and take some of the negative spotlight off of themselves. I hope not. I hope people see it for the empty gesture that it is.

I think my mother-in-law (a very wise woman) put it best in her Facebook post when she said, "Mylan needs to lower the price for everyone and stop gimmicks that make it only seem like they're not still price gouging."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Of Daddies and Diapers

Times have changed.

According to my Mom, my Dad changed fewer than a dozen diapers while they were married. They had three kids. That averages out to four diapers per kid! (Of course, there is the chance that Mom's memory isn't completely accurate. After all, this is the same person who thinks Wendy's sells McNuggets.)

But still, a dozen diapers in his lifetime? Sometimes I'll change that many in a day! And, while it's possible that Mom's recollections are a bit off, I feel pretty confident in saying this: Dad didn't change diapers very often.

As I said, times have changed. Back in my Dad's day, the husband didn't change many diapers. Today, I change a lot of diapers. A whole bunch of diapers. Sooooo many diapers! (Will the diapers ever stop?)

The Wife and I don't have a system for who "gets" to change the diaper. Usually, it's whoever notices that the diaper needs to be changed. Or, it's the person who is less busy at that moment. (That's one of the reasons I get to change so many diapers. My natural laziness means The Wife is usually busier with other things than I am, so I "get" to change a lot of diapers.) (Sooooooo many diapers!!!)

But, I'm not the only man who changes diapers these days. Whereas back in my Dad's day women changed most of the diapers, today the diaper-changing duties are more evenly split. (Note: I didn't say completely evenly split, just more evenly split.)

That's why it's so frustrating when I go out to a restaurant or store and they don't have a diaper changing table in the men's room.

We need diaper changing tables in every men's room. Why? If not, where am I going to change that baby's diaper? On the bathroom floor? In the bathroom sink? Hey, if I have to I'll change that poopy diaper right there on the restaurant table! Is that really what you want?

Diaper changing tables should really be in every restroom. They don't really take up that much room, and the benefits are tremendous. Or, I could just let the smell of my baby's poopy diaper just waft through the entire restaurant. ("Waiter, my soup smells a little funny.")

Sometimes it's amazing how wonderful it can be to see a pull-down table hanging from a wall!
Many establishments put the diaper changing table in the handicap toilet stall. While this is not optimal, it is better than no diaper station at all. Why isn't it optimal? Well, for one thing there is a greater chance of not having access to the diaper station because someone is using the toilet in the stall. There is also the fact that a diaper table in a toilet stall brings you in closer proximity to Poop of Other People (also known as "P.O.O.P." for short.) You never know what you're going to get when you are around P.O.O.P. The toilet could be clogged, or there might be P.O.O.P. smeared all over the toilet seat. (I've got a story about that, but it will have to wait for another day.)

That said, a changing table in a toilet stall is still preferable to no changing table at all.

Especially infuriating are those times when there is a diaper station in the women's restroom, but there isn't one in the men's restroom. Come on, people! This is 2016! Men change diapers today! Having diaper changing tables in women's bathrooms but not in men's bathrooms is basically saying, "Changing diapers is women's work." And while my Dad might have wholeheartedly agreed with that statement, if I were to utter that sentence out loud....? Well, let's just say that it wouldn't go over very well.

I don't like changing diapers, but I am well aware that my wife doesn't like it, either. And, as a husband and father, it is my responsibility to help my wife and children in any way I can, even if it means dealing with P.O.O.P.

Times have changed. Diapers have been changed. (Sooooooooo many diapers!) I know, because I've changed them.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Going For the (Imaginary) Gold

Poor Katie Ladecky.

I feel bad for her, having to settle for all of those silver medals. Yes, I know it's an honor just to compete in the Olympics. And I know that getting a silver medal is an amazing achievement, and getting several silvers even more so. Still, I can't help but be sad for her not being able to get a gold. She never really had a chance.

You may be wondering what in the world I'm talking about. Of course Katie Ladecky won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio. She won several of them! But, where she never stood a chance was at the Fake Olympics. At the Fake Olympics, my daughter won all the gold medals.

We've been watching the Olympics as a family, and the kids have really been enjoying it, especially Thing 1 (my eight year-old daughter) and Thing 2 (my six year-old son.) And not only have they been watching the real Olympics, they've also been competing in the Fake Olympics.

Thing 1 had a pool party for a church activity the other day. When I went to pick her up she excitedly said, "Katie Ladecky won five silver medals! She was great."

"Oh, and who won the golds?" I asked.

"I did," she said, matter-of-factly. She continued, "I was swimming with Katie Ladecky, and Michael Phelps, and that guy with the gray hair. It was really fun!" (Ah, back when his choice of hair color was the worst decision Ryan Lochte had made.)

My daughter with two of her many gold medals.
(And, apparently, she got the beads because she set a world record!)

A few days earlier Thing 1 and Thing 2 were wrestling a bit and pretending to hit each other in slow motion. "What in the world are you doing?" I asked.

"It's a new event. Underwater boxing!" was the reply. (Hmmm...underwater boxing? Yes, I think I'd watch that!)

The kids found some little toy gold medals, and they've been wearing them around. Thing 1 asked, "Daddy, can you put this medal around my neck? And sing the Olympic song when you do it?"

I replied, "Bom, bom, bom-bom, bom. Duh, duh, duh-duh duh, duh, duh," as I slipped the medal over her head.

My son has won plenty of gold, too!

As we've watched the Olympics, I've been impressed by the enthusiasm my kids have shown for the participants. Especially my boy, Thing 2. A race will start and he'll giddily jump up and down while shouting, "AmewicaAmewicaAmewicaAmewicaAmewicaAmewica!!!" (He has some trouble saying the letter "r.") I've tried to teach him the old, familiar chant of, "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!" but he keeps going back to "AmewicaAmewicaAmewica!"

He's becoming an expert, too. The other night they were showing the pole vault. He had never seen anything like that before, and he was fascinated. I explained how it worked. "Yay! He didn't knock the bar over! He won!" The next night they were showing the high jump. Thing 2 watched for a minute, then declared, "Oh, it's just like the pole vault, except without the pole!"

The kids love their fake gold medals, and they've expressed a desire to win real gold medals. As parents, we have to skate that fine line between being encouraging and being realists. I said, "You know how you think 15 minutes is a long time to practice your piano lessons every day? Well, to win a gold medal it takes a lot more practicing than that. A lot more practicing!"

"Okay," they said.

So, when you're watching the 2032 Summer Games from Anchorage, Alaska (global warming, y'all!) be sure to keep an eye out for my kids. They'll be the ones on the podium winning the gold for Underwater Boxing!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Privacy (Ha!) of the Bathroom

Where do you go to get away from it all?

The beach? The mountains? A cabin by a lake out in the forest? A quiet desk in a secluded section of the library? There are many places we might think we could go for some privacy, but for most of us the one place we can really count on to get away from it all is: the bathroom.

Yes, the bathroom. No one bothers you in the bathroom. It's the one place you can go where no one else follows you, where no one else talks to you, where everyone leaves you alone. It's the one place where you can enjoy total and complete privacy from everyone you know, even your kids!

Ha! Ha! I'm joking, of course! If you are a parent, you know that there is no place you can go to get away from your kids. Not even the bathroom.

This was drilled home to me (once again) the other day. We had just returned home from an exciting evening out (probably grocery shopping), and I went to go to the bathroom. I had only gotten as far as shutting the door and had started to reach to undo my belt when Thing 2 (my six year-old son) started pounding at the door, asking if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean.

Of course, as bathroom incursions go, that one was pretty tame. For one thing, he pounded on the door instead of just walking right in. That is good. With time, patience, and a lot of coaching (possibly including electro-shock therapy) the older kids can be trained to not open the door when you are in the bathroom. And if that doesn't work, you can always just lock them out.

Toddlers, however, are a totally different matter.  Sure, you can lock them out of the bathroom, but at a price. If you lock a toddler out of the bathroom, they are free to toddle unchecked throughout the house.

I am currently at an awkward bathroom stage with our kids. We have two children who need constant adult supervision, Thing 3 (our 20 month-old toddler girl.) and Thing 4 (our three month-old baby boy.) If The Wife is home, it's okay if I lock the bathroom door, because she can be in charge of the toddler. But, if The Wife is not home, I'm left with a quandary. I can either 1) close the door and hope that the toddler doesn't get into the cat food, turn on the dishwasher, or fall down the stairs. Or, I can B) leave the door open and invite the toddler into the bathroom with me for our own private little poop party.

Usually, I'll choose option B, mostly because I need the door open in order to hear Thing 4, the baby. So, that leaves me sitting on the toilet with a toddler running around toddling through the bathroom. This, obviously, is not ideal, but it's a small bathroom and I can usually still reach her if she tries to get into things she's not supposed to get into.

My main problem comes when it's time to get off of the potty. The other day she saw me reaching for the toilet paper, so she came over, shouting "Paper! Paper!" and tried to "help" me get more toilet paper. Also, there is a great need for speed when closing the toilet lid and flushing. (Little kids find the twirling water fascinating, and would love to reach in there and splash around a bit.)

As difficult as things are with my toddler, I have it easy compared with my sister-in-law (Auntie K) and her little toddler (we'll call her "Hazard.") As an adult, one of the best times to make use of the bathroom is when the little ones are sleeping. Unfortunately, Hazard doesn't nap much. So, for Auntie K bathroom time is also adventure time. Shower time becomes a "fun" game of "shower curtain peekaboo" and also "dodge the shampoo bottles." Oh, and don't worry, "toilet bowl peekaboo" is also in play.

The Adventures of the Toddler in the Bathroom!
(There is no escape!)

Auntie K has tried the closing the door option, only to have little fingers reaching under the doorway like the alien in the movie Signs. There is no escape from a toddler, not even in the bathroom.

Oddly enough, The Wife actually welcomes the toddler joining her in the bathroom. She says that if Thing 3 becomes more familiar and comfortable in the bathroom, it will help when it comes time to potty train her. I guess that makes sense, and if it works, I'm all for it. I'm for anything that will hurry the kids out of my bathroom and into their own bathroom.

I'm just looking for a place to get away from it all, if only for a few minutes. Someday, hopefully, I'll be able to have some privacy in the bathroom. (A guy can dream, right?)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Way Back When: Explaining 8-Track Tapes

These kids today and their music!

Kids today can just speak the name of a song into a small, handheld device, and that device will instantly sift through thousands and thousands of songs and immediately start playing the song that was requested.

When I was a kid, we listened to music via 8-track tapes.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about 8-track tapes and how aerodynamic they are when flung through the windows of moving cars. (See: Ka-chunk! Fwing!) But, most people not old enough to remember the Jimmy Carter administration still don't understand what it was like with 8-track tapes as the main source for music.

An 8-track tape could contain one album, or about 12 songs. An 8-track tape is slightly longer, twice as wide, and four times as thick as my iPod. My iPod contains about 12,000 songs. That's a bit of a difference.

iPod vs. 8-track

There were two main types of 8-track tape players. Many cars came with 8-track tape players installed in their stereo system. Or, there were portable 8-track tape players, which were about the size of a toaster and were powered either by battery or a plug-in power cord.

8-track tapes were tough and macho. To play an 8-track tape you would literally shove the top end of the 8-track cartridge into a corresponding rectangular hole in the 8-track tape player. You would slam the tape into the player as far as it would go, and the player would make a loud "ka-chunk" sound, similar to the sound of a car door shutting. About half of the cartridge would still be sticking out of the tape player, but once you heard the "ka-chunk," the tape player would engage and your 8-track tape would start playing music.

A clunky old 8-track tape.

And when you were done with the 8-track tape, you would yank it out of the tape player. It would "ka-chunk" again on its way out.

But, that's not the only time an 8-track would "ka-chunk." Sometimes it would "ka-chunk" right in the middle of a song!

Most people are familiar enough with vinyl records or cassette tapes, which have a "Side 1" and Side 2" of an album. That wasn't the case with 8-track tapes. Instead of being divided into sides, 8-tracks were divided into four programs. (Program 1, Program 2, Program 3, Program 4.) Each program contained one-fourth of the album. And, each time the 8-track made the switch from one program to another, it would make a loud "ka-chunk" sound. (Personally, I never understood why they called it an "8-track." With the four programs, I thought it would have made more sense to call it a "4-track." But, as usual, no one consulted me.)

The problem with dividing an album into four equal parts is that it's usually not feasible to divide a bunch of songs into four sections that are exactly the same length. As a result, one of three things would usually happen. 1) Right in the middle of a song the tape would switch from one program to another, causing a loud "ka-chunk" to interrupt the song. 2) One of the four programs would have a bunch of blank space at the end of it. Or 3) The artist would put part of a song in the blank space at the end of a program so that music would play continually and there would be no blank space. (That's what ELO did here with the "Sweet Talkin' Woman (reprise)" at the end of Program 4.)

"Sweet Talkin' Woman" is at the beginning of Program 3, but then they added a small section of the song (a reprise) at the end of Program 4 to fill the blank space created from trying to divide all the songs into four programs.
Also, there was no fast forward or rewind with 8-track tapes. The closest thing 8-tracks had to fast forward was a button that would switch the tape between any of the four programs. For example, if you had just listened to "Mr. Blue Sky" on Program 4 and wanted to hear it again you would have to push the button to change programs until it landed you again into Program 4, but you would have to listen to all the other songs in that program before you could get to the one you wanted.

It all sounds very confusing, and at times it was. Today's music listeners can never understand how jarring it was to be listening to a song and have a loud "ka-chunk" appear right in the middle of it. (I guess the closest comparison would be listening to a song on your phone and then having a phone call cut the song off.)

Nostalgia is a pretty big thing these days. Vinyl record albums are making a bit of a comeback. Some of the crazy fashions and hairstyles from the 70s are on the rebound, too. But, I don't think we ever have to worry about the return of 8-track tapes. They were always a bit too clunky and "ka-chunk-y" for anyone to ever want a reprise.

Once again, I would like to give a big, super, awesome thanks to my neighbor Cathy for providing the 8-track tape for the photographs.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Playing the Man Card

We recently went on vacation. It was a long drive of 2,270 miles, and I drove them all. (Well, almost all. At one of our stops I stayed in the motel room while The Wife drove to do some shopping. So, at least 2,250 of those miles were driven by me.)

Why did I drive it all? Am I afraid of my wife's driving? No. She's an excellent driver. (Really.) The reason I drove it all is because it was the manly thing to do.

I'm not the manliest of men. I'm not good at fixing things around the house. I'm not much of a mechanic. I'm not big into guns or muscle cars.

One of the few Man Cards I can play is the "Driving Long Distances" Man Card. My "Driving Long Distances" Man Card is an ace (or at the very least a king.)

Every man has different Man Cards that they can play. My father-in-law and mother-in-law went with us on that same trip. He had some eye surgery a while back, so she did all the driving. His "Driving Long Distances" Man Card is probably a 2 or 3. But, that's okay because his "Knowledge of Guns" Man Card is an ace, and so is his "Surviving the Apocalypse" Man Card. (My Man Cards for those two categories are probably in the 3 or 4 range.)

There are a lot of different Man Cards. And I don't have a particularly high score in many of them. Man Cards such as:
The "Hunting" Man Card
The "Mechanic" Man Card
The "Motorcycles" Man Card
The "Cooking On the Grill" Man Card (Another ace for my father-in-law.)
The "Tools: Owning and Knowing How to Use Them" Man Card (My Dad definitely had an ace!)
The "Playing Golf" Man Card
The "Growing a Beard" Man Card
The "General Hairiness" Man Card
The "Street Smarts" Man Card
(I'm pretty low in all of those Man Cards.)

The "Muscles" Man Card.
(This is not a self portrait.)

But, there are a few Man Cards where I have a respectable card:
The "Sports Trivia and Knowledge" Man Card (I used to have an ace, but since getting married, having kids, and not spending all my time watching sports, I'm probably down to a queen or a jack.)
The "Book Smarts" Man Card
The "Hiking" Man Card
The "Playing Sports" Man Card (I don't have a face card here, but I'm doing respectable for still playing basketball at age fifty forty-ten.)

There are a whole lot of Man Cards, but at the end of the day, most of them don't really matter a whole lot. (Come on, is it really a big deal that I can't grow a good beard?) However, there are a few Man Cards that do matter.

I'm just hoping to do okay with my "Being a Good Father" Man Card.

Friday, August 5, 2016

7 Reasons Not To Have a DVD Player In the Car

Modern technology is great, isn't it? Twenty years ago if you had told us all the things we could do with our phones we would have been amazed.

But, sometimes we end up with technology that we don't really need. We don't need Belty, the smart belt. (It tells you when you need to lose weight.) No one needs a quesadilla maker. (If you can't make a quesadilla without a quesadilla maker, you'd better just stick to Pop Tarts or eating out at Taco Bell.)

And nobody needs a DVD player in their vehicle!

When The Wife and I were at the car dealership, looking to buy our first mini-van, the salesman came to us with a worried look on his face. "I'm sorry," he said in a tone usually reserved for doctors about to give bad news, "but the van you've chosen doesn't have a DVD player in it." He looked devastated, but The Wife and I smiled and gave each other a mental high five. Little did the salesman know that not having a DVD player was a major selling point for us. We signed the paperwork then and there!

At this point I should say that many people do have DVD players in their vehicles, and they like them. And there's nothing wrong with that. I just don't want one in my car. Why? I have my reasons. In fact, here they are:

1. Kids need to look at what's around them.
One of the best things about a long drive is looking at the scenery. There are mountains, lakes, trees, and landmarks to be seen, but the kids won't ever notice them if they spend all their time focused on Buzz and Woody.

2. Kids need to learn how to self entertain.
Another fun aspect of a long road trip is the family togetherness. You get to sing songs together, or play the alphabet game, or count the state license plates. The road is a good place for kids to use their imaginations, not just stare blankly at yet another screen.

3. Minimizes screen time.
Don't the kids have enough time gawking at screens at home? Between television, movies, phones, and computers, kids spend an enormous amount of time looking at screens. Give them a break.

4. One less thing for kids to fight about.
Face it, do the kids ever agree on which movie to watch? If you don't have a DVD player, you won't have to listen to, "I want Frozen!" "I want Incredibles!" or "I want Cars 2!" for the entire trip. (And if you have a kid who is requesting Cars 2, my sincerest condolences.)

So many movies to argue about!
5. Don't have to pack the DVDs.
Packing for a long trip is stressful enough without having to remember to bring all the DVDs. And if you're like us at all, you'll already be using every square inch for underwear, pajamas, snack food, and beach towels. Just leave the DVDs home.

6. Don't measure distances in number of movies needed.
Saying things like, "It takes three movies to get to Grandpa Bob's house," or "Disneyland is just a five movie drive away," sound pretty silly. Besides, it depends on the length of the movies. A seven-movie drive might be the same as a three-movie drive, if those three movies are Lord of the Rings movies.

7. Not a distraction to other drivers.
Admit it, when you pass a car with DVD players a-going, you try to see what movie it is that they are watching. You might even slow down and drive along side them to get a better glimpse. You may even get a little judgmental. ("Are they really letting their little kids watch Deadpool?") It's amazing there aren't more accidents caused by these close-driving DVD lookie-loos.

So, there you have it: seven very sound reasons why you shouldn't have a DVD player in your vehicle. Of course, you may decide that you want one anyway. That's totally up to you. Just don't blame me when you get sideswiped by the guy trying to figure out if your kids are watching Monsters, Inc. or Monsters University.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Washington Has Gone To Pot

Washington has gone to pot.

And when I say that, I'm not talking about Washington D.C., the city and the politicians, who are circling their way down the toilet to the lower reaches of purgatory.

No, I'm talking about the state of Washington, which is literally going to pot.

My Mom lives in the great Pacific Northwest, in the beautiful state of Washington. We try to visit her often, but packing up four kids for a several hundred mile road trip isn't easy, so it had been three years since we had been up to visit her.

A lot has changed in those three years.

I first noticed it as we were leaving Mom's house to go check into our motel. There, right next to the Auto Zone, I saw something that made me do a bit of a double take. I took another look, and sure enough there it was: a pot shop! (And not just any pot shop. This was a pot shop called "Pot Shop.")

No, they don't also sell pans.
Since I live in Utah, I had never seen anything like it. As I continued to drive down the road, I saw more pot shops.
The Legal SuperStore! (Hmm...do you really want to get legal advice from someone in a marijuana superstore?)
Sometimes, there were even two pot shops in the same classy little strip mall.
The one pot shop, "Canna Zone," tried to be clever with their name. The other, nope. They're just "Pot."
And yes, there really are two different stores in one strip mall. "Canna Zone" has the big spot on one end of the strip mall.
Plenty of parking at the Canna Zone!
While "Pot Zone" is tucked in the corner next to The Ministry of Ink.
Nothing says "classy" like boarded up windows outlined with St. Patrick's Day lights!
After looking for a bit, I found seven pot stores within two miles of my Mom's house! Meanwhile, here in Utah, if I want to get some pot, I have to.....umm, I have no idea what I would need to do to get pot in Utah. I've never actually tried. (To be honest, I've only been offered marijuana once, and I wasn't in Utah at the time.)

So, I made it past all of the pot shops to our motel. But, there was still some pot waiting for me. No, Cheech and Chong weren't sitting by the pool. However, in the big display case full of travel brochures that is in the lobby of every motel, I found this pamphlet:

Do I really need a map, or can I just use Siri?
I'm a map guy, so I was interested what a cannabis map of Washington would look like. I wasn't completely surprised to find that the map wasn't even close to being at regular scale. It's like someone who had been visiting the pot shops decided to draw a map to the pot shops.

I did learn a few things from the handy "dos and dont's" section of the brochure. Such as:
Do: Purchase Cannabis in a legal pot shop.
Don't: Consume Cannabis and drive.
Don't: Light up right in front of a police officer.

Did you know they are considering changing the name of the Space Needle to  the "Spaced Needle?"
(I'm sorry. That's a really bad joke. Please accept my apologies.)
While we were in Washington, I didn't partake of the pot. I didn't shop at any of the pot shops. (I had four kids with me. Are kids allowed in the pot shops? That's something they didn't mention in the pamphlet.)

I'm curious to see what Washington will look like the next time we visit. My guess is that at least half of these pot shops will be out of business. It's new and exciting, so everyone is opening shops, but as things settle down, only the people who really know how to run a business will stay in business.

But, I could be wrong. There might be even more pot shops the next time I visit. After all, they do call Washington the "Evergreen State."