Tuesday, December 26, 2017

'Twas the Day After Christmas

'Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
All the garbage was strewn on the floor and the couch;

The stockings, once hung by the chimney with care,
Were down on the ground, contents flung everywhere.

The children were still nestled snug in their beds,
Asleep, with their favorite new toy by their heads;

And Momma and I, still in need of a nap,
Were staring at wrappings no longer a-wrap.

Looking over the living room, so full of clutter,
That I thought it was hopeless and started to mutter;

There was paper, and boxes, packing peanuts, and more,
There were those stupid twisty ties-- all over the floor.

Then, all of the sudden, I moved like the Flash,
And gathered up garbage to throw in the trash;

The Wife and I picked up and swept with the broom,
And worked 'til we'd cleaned up most all of the room.

When what to my wondering ear did appear,
But the sound of the garbage truck rumbling near;

With a little old driver, all bearded and thick,
That he looked, for a moment, like a grungy St. Nick.

I gathered my bags and I ran to the street,
For I knew that the garbage truck I had to beat;

'Else I'd live in a house full of garbage all week,
And if it sat around that long, no doubt it would reek.

I stuffed bags in my dumpster, one, two, three, and four,
And when I thought it was full, I stuffed in several more!

I filled it so full I could not close the top,
It was bursting with garbage; it was ready to pop.

Then the truck it approached, and it was sort of smelly,
It picked up my trash and dumped it into its belly.

And dropping my empty bin back to the ground,
The truck pulled away with a loud revving sound.

And the driver yelled out as he left in a streak,
"Merry Christmas to all! I'll be back here next week."

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Family Christmas Form Letter

Does anyone ever look forward to writing the family Christmas letter? It's one of those things that starts nagging at the back of your mind as Thanksgiving approaches, and stays there until either you get it written or it's New Year's Eve and you can free your mind by declaring "not this year, but maybe next year." (Then the whole cycle starts over again next Thanksgiving.)

It shouldn't be that hard to write a family Christmas letter, should it? It's not like it's ever original. You could say the exact same thing every year, with the exception of the kids' ages, and no one would ever notice. (Except maybe for Aunt Beverly. She's a stickler.)

So, to fix this problem, I have created the easy solution: a form letter you can use every year! All you have to do is fill in the names, ages, and a few other simple details. It's simple and effective!

The family Christmas letter doesn't have to be difficult. (Or any good.)

To use my Family Christmas Form Letter, all you have to do is put your personal information in the blanks between the brackets (these things: [    ].) That's it!

So, without any further ado, here is the SlowJoe40 Family Christmas Form Letter:

Dear [friend, family member, casual acquaintance, random person],

Merry Christmas! [Happy Holidays/Happy Hanukkah/Festive Festivus, or other salutation] I hope all is going well for you and your [family/significant other/cats/imaginary friends]. We are doing [great/fantastic/better than you].

We had a wonderful year! We did [Exciting Thing #1]! We also did [Exciting Thing #2]. And, we also did [Optional Exciting Thing #3]. It sure kept us busy this year!

[Child #1] is [ ? ] years old now. Time sure does fly! [He/she] [is in ? grade/will start school soon/just got married/just got engaged/had another baby]! [He/she] really is becoming a mature young [man/woman].

[Child #2] is [ ? ] years old now. [He/she] is doing great [at school in ? grade/at work/with his/her wife/husband]. [He/she] really enjoys it. [He/she] likes to [favorite activity] and [other favorite activity].

[Optional: Child #3 through Child #?? (Just make sure you don't forget any.)]

[Wife/Mother] had another big year, taking care of all [specific number of] children, and working on [job/hobby/community service/church calling], and [job/hobby/community service/church calling], and [job/hobby/community service/church calling] [Note: Must have at least three items listed in order to be doing an acceptable job as Wife/Mother.] It sure keeps her busy, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

[Husband/Father] keeps busy with [job]. He also spends time doing [hobby/household project/church calling]. [Note: A second hobby/household project/church calling is optional, but not necessary.]

We send you our warmest greetings and best wishes this holiday season. May you have a [Merry/Happy specific holiday] and a Happy New Year!

[With Love/Sincerely/Seasons Greetings],

The [    ???    ] Family

(Wasn't that easy? You're welcome!)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Wrapping Up Christmas

Another Christmas is about wrapped up. Wrapped up pretty and tied with a bow. Which is more than I can say for the presents I wrap. (Not so pretty, and I don't use a bows.)

I am not good at wrapping presents. It is not in my skill sets. First of all, I have a hard time guessing how much wrap I should cut off of the roll. I either end up with wrap about one inch too short to cover the present, or enough wrap to wrap around the present twice (or three times).

My biggest problem comes when the present is covered and it's time to fold up the corners of the wrap. Can't do it. Well, that's not true. I can do it, I just can't do it and make it look good. It ends up in a big wad, or the underside of the wrap is showing, or the foldy point of the wrap is so big it wraps more than halfway around the present again. I've been shown how to fold these corners, but I just can't seem to grasp it. (Just like I've been shown how to raise and lower window blinds, but do you think I could raise or lower them in such a way that the bottom of the blinds are level?)(Umm...no.)

And then, there are the bows. The Wife has tried to show me how to wrap bows around presents. And, she's also shown me how to make the end of the ribbon all curly and pretty by running a pair of scissors along it so that it curls on the end. I'm just not very good at it. She wraps the ribbon around the corners of the boxes, but I always get confused as to how to do this. And, as far as curling the ribbon with scissors is concerned, it just seems to me to be another way to hurt myself with scissors. (I guess if I really wanted to live on the edge I would learn how to curl ribbon while running with the scissors.)

I blame my mother. My Mom was visiting this fall near The Wife's birthday, so I thought, "Great, she can help me wrap presents so they will actually look good!" Wrong. My Mom was as bad at wrapping as I was. Once again heredity rears its ugly head.

It didn't always used to be this way. Once upon a time, I used to get positive-ish comments about how I wrapped things. (Looking back, they were probably condescending positive-ish comments, but positive-ish nonetheless.) Remember, I was single until I was 40. As a single man, the only real objective of wrapping presents is to cover the presents so that the receiver of the gift can't see what the present is. (I'm not sure why this has changed since I got married, but it has.)

So, back then I was widely known for wrapping presents in newspaper. It made perfect sense to me. I already had the newspaper. It was cheap. I didn't see the need to spend money on wrapping paper. (Americans spend more than $117 billion* dollars on wrapping paper every year.) [*86.2% of all statistics on this blog are numbers I made up.] I didn't see the need to hand over my money to the wrapping paper consortium.

Plus, I used to be creative with my newspaper wrapping, often incorporating the pictures from the paper into the wrapping. I remember the sports page having a large close-up front-page picture of football coach Bill Parcells in mid-yell. I wrapped the present in such a way that the present was a festive, angry Parcells. And nothing quite says "this present is pretty lame" than a present wrapped in a full-page picture of former Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag.

My brother, holding up the gift I wrapped in newspaper with a festive photo of football coach Bill Parcells.
(Parcells is probably yelling at my brother because of that ugly Packers hat.)

And, I didn't stop at newspapers. One year, I wrapped a bunch of my presents in plastic yellow Nestle Quik containers. (At least the presents that would fit into a Nestle Quik container.)(And you'd be surprised at what you can stuff into one of those things.) In fact, I often would (and still do) use things like old cereal and Pop Tart boxes to put presents in. (Obviously, knowing what I think about wrapping paper, you can guess my feelings about the 13.2 billion* dollar "gift box" industry.) The Wife's comment this year was, "I can't believe how many presents you wrapped in cereal boxes." I like to use cereal boxes because they are already on hand, and they can add a little mystery to easily-guessed common-shaped presents like books, DVDs or CDs.

But, my attitude toward wrapping with newspaper changed a few years ago. My brother and his wife asked my nephew what they should get me for Christmas that year. He said, "Let's get Uncle Joe some wrapping paper, so he doesn't have to wrap all his presents in newspaper." And thus I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the hands of the wrapping paper conglomerates.

Soon enough I'll have to wrap this year's presents. Maybe I'll have my oldest daughter help me. That way we can determine if she got her present-wrapping skills from her Mom or from my Mom.

Edited from a post originally published on 12/27/2010.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What Do You Want For Christmas This Year?

"What do you want for Christmas this year?"

That's the big question, isn't it? We'll get asked that question many times over the course of December, and we'll probably ask it ourselves to several people. It can be a tough question, or it can be an easy question. Some people know exactly how to answer it. "I want an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!" And some people have no idea whatsoever what they want. In her letter to Santa (as dictated to my wife) my three year-old daughter said, "Please bring me a present, not a froggy. I want a froggy and a toy dinosaur and a toy lion in the present." (I'm honestly not sure if she wants a froggy or not.)

Merry Christmas to all!!!

So, what do I want for Christmas this year? Not much. Just a few things like:

*I would like an end to partisan bickering, so that members of both parties could spend more time working to continue to make this nation a wonderful place to live instead of calling each other names and worrying about getting re-elected.

*I would like the Minnesota Vikings to win the Super Bowl this year. (Just one championship. That's all I'm asking for! C'mon, if Tampa Bay can have a championship why can't the Vikings?)

*I would like automatic computer updates that update at convenient times for me, and don't mess up my computer.

*I would like all television commercials to be rated "G." I shouldn't have to have the "birds and the bees" talk with my seven year-old because of an advertisement during a timeout in the basketball game.

*I would like some egg nog.

*I would like good health for me and my family. And my friends. And other people, too.

*I would like world peace.

*I would like lettuce to taste like bacon.

*I would like to be able to tell my children something once, and have them hear me and do the thing I wanted them to do after only telling them one time.

*I would like happiness for me and my family. And my friends. And other people, too.

(I don't want to be too greedy. I'll settle for any one of these things.)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Santa Is a Jerk: Re-Watching Rudolph

Christmas is approaching, and that means our old favorite Christmas shows are on the television again. Shows like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We've all seen it, and we all love it, right?

But should we?

Recently, I gave this classic another look. Things have changed a bit since this show was made back in 1964. The North Pole of Rudolph's world is full of grumpy, sexist, and discriminatory jerks. It really is quite jarring, especially after viewing all the nice, friendly, happy folks who inhabit the North Pole in the movie Elf.

So, I thought I'd take an in-depth look at Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer using the old running diary method. I recorded the show on my DVR, then I sat down for a minute-by-minute review. Here's how it went:

00:00--I start the DVR and the show is already going. It was supposed to start at 6:00 PM, and that's when I set it to record. But apparently the fine folks at CBS decided to start it at 5:58 instead. You'd think the networks and the DVR people could get their times straight.

00:01--I start with the Narrator Snowman rolling along in the snow telling us all what's what. (I'm a bit jealous of his fancy facial hair.)

01:00--We are first introduced to Santa. He is grumbling about not wanting to eat. And Mrs. Claus is nagging at him to "eat, eat, eat!" because no one wants a Santa who isn't fat. (I don't like to use the word "nag," but there is no question that it is the word that best describes what Mrs. Claus is doing.)

2:12--The Narrator Snowman starts singing the song and the opening credits begin to roll.

3:30--Our first commercial break. (Rudolph is sponsored by Target.) (There's a deer hunting joke in there somewhere, but I'm not going to make it.)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! Don't be a jerk, own it today!

6:06--We get our first glimpse of Rudolph's famous red nose.

6:20--Rudolph's dad, Donner, is immediately repulsed. "How can you overlook that!" he exclaims. What a jerk.

6:44--Santa comes to congratulate Donner on the birth of his son. He sees Rudolph and quickly shows himself to be a jerk, too. "He'll never make the sleigh team with a nose like that!" Santa snarls.

7:55--Donner decides the best approach is to hide Rudolph's nose, afraid of the shame it will bring to himself.

9:38--We are introduced to Hermey the Elf. He is not good at making toys and doesn't like to do it. He is yelled at by the Elf Boss. "WHAT!?! You don't like making toys?" The Elf Boss yells at and mocks Hermey.

10:19--Hermey declares that he wants to be a dentist. He is once again mocked by the Elf Boss and all the other elves. Apparently jerks abound at the North Pole.

10:40--While all the elves but Hermey get a break, the Elf Boss yells, "Finish the job or you're fired!"

11:22--Donner covers Rudolph's nose with what looks like an oversized olive. When Rudolph complains, Donner tells him, "There are more important things than comfort!" And, "Santa can't reject you now!"

15:38--The Elf Boss leads the elves as they serenade Santa with the song, "We Are Santa's Elves."

15:45--While singing the song, one elf hits the other over the head with a hammer, because nothing is funnier than a little hammer-on-elf violence.

16:20--The song ends and Santa is unimpressed. "It needs work," he says gruffly. I thought he was supposed to be jolly!

16:35--"WHAT!?!" is the reaction by the Elf Boss when he finds out Hermey didn't sing with the other elves.

17:05--"You'll never fit it!" the Elf Boss bellows to Hermey.

17:30--Hermey climbs out the window to run away. Unfortunately, there are no good dental schools at the North Pole.

18:00--Coach Cotton is here to teach the reindeer how to fly. He seems nice enough, and even says he wants to be the friend of all his students.

18:10--Rudolph, with his nose in the oversized olive, begins to make friends with the other reindeer.

18:58--Rudolph meets Clarice, a beautiful doe who immediately seems taken with him.

19:55--Clarice tells Rudolph she thinks he's cute, which sends Rudolph in an excitable tizzy.

20:22--Unfortunately, in his excitement the olive falls off Rudolph's nose, exposing him to everyone as a freak.

20:45--Santa vehemently disapproves of Rudolph and his nose. "Donner, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!" he chides.

21:05--Coach Cotton proves to be yet another North Pole jerk as he bans Rudolph from joining in any reindeer games.

22:30--Hey, what do you know? Someone at the North Pole isn't a jerk! Clarice tells Rudolph that she likes him, glowing nose and all.

23:30--It doesn't take long to find another jerk. Clarice's dad forbids her from having anything to do with that red-nosed freak.

23:45--Rudolph decides it is best to just run away. He quickly runs into Hermey, and they bond in their mutual misfitiveness.

29:38--Rudolph and Hermey run into Yukon Cornelius. He is, apparently, the only male in the North Pole who is not a jerk, so he must be a little crazy.

30:05--To prove he is crazy, Yukon Cornelius licks both ends of his pick.

33:55--After escaping from the Abominable Snowman, Yukon Cornelius once again licks both ends of his pick. (I don't know why, but I think this is my favorite moment of the entire show. Maybe this proves that I'm crazy.)

34:29--Rudolph's Mom and Clarice say they want to go search for Rudolph. Donner puts the kibosh on that, saying "No, this is man's work!" Donner isn't just a jerk, he's a sexist jerk.

35:21--Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius land on the Island of Misfit Toys and meet the sentry, the Charley In a Box.

Here's Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, Narrator Snowman, Abominable Snowman, Charley-In-a-Box, Santa and Clarice, all available for sale at Amazon.com!

37:42--We are introduced to some of the misfit toys, including a spotted elephant and a train with square wheels. Among them is a water gun that shoots jelly. Why in the world is that toy on the Island of Misfit Toys? I would pay good money for a squirt gun that shoots jelly!!!

40:05--Fearing that his nose is getting his friends in trouble with the Abominable Snowman, Rudolph heads out on his own.

41:00--During the commercial break there is an ad for Halos, those cute little oranges, which features a psychotic little girl leaving a stuffed horses head in her dad's bed to send a message to him that she needs more Halos. Here's a link: (I find this a bit disturbing.)

44:45--Rudolph arrives back at Santa's village to find that his Mom, Clarice, and Donner are all missing because they went out to search for him. Is Santa concerned? Not about Clarice or Rudolph's Mom. Selfish Santa only worries that "without Donner I'll never get my sleigh off the ground." (Yes, he's still a jerk.)

46:05--Rudolph goes to the cave of the Abominable Snowman, where he finds the lost Donner party. (They have not yet resorted to cannibalism.) (Yes, I know that's a lame Donner Party joke, but I just couldn't help myself.)

47:50--After the Abominable has captured Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius come to the rescue.

48:55--Hermey practices dentistry (literally) by pulling all of the Abominable Snowman's teeth.

49:30--Yukon Cornelius wrestles the Abominable Snowman over a cliff to their seeming death.

49:58--Back at Santa's workshop, Santa, the Elf Boss, and Donner all give half-hearted apologies.

50:45--What's the best way to make friends with an Abominable Snowman? Apparently, pull out all of his teeth and throw him over a cliff. The Abominable is now so friendly that he helps put the star on the top of the Christmas tree. "Lookie what he can do!" declares Yukon Cornelius.

51:20--We finally see Mrs. Claus again and, once more, she is trying to force Santa to eat and get fat.

52:20--A winter storm is so fierce that Santa declares that he is going to have to cancel Christmas.

52:20--Santa finally decides to fully accept Rudolph for his differences. Why? Because he has grown and realizes he was being a jerk? No! He finally accepts Rudolph because he figures a way he can use him for his own best interests!

53:00--Donner continues to prove himself to be a jerk. He says, "I knew that nose would be useful someday! I knew it all along!" No one believes him. (The jerk.)

54:30--Mrs. Claus force-feeds Santa one last time.

57:51--With Rudolph leading the way, Santa picks up the toys from the Island of Misfit Toys.

58:30--Isn't Santa supposed to deliver toys by going down the chimney and placing them under the tree? So why exactly is he having elves throw the misfit toys out of the sleigh in mid-air as they are flying through the sky? Seems a little harsh, doesn't it? (Personally, I think this Santa is still a jerk.)

So, there you have it. I really don't think this version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would fly (figuratively speaking) if someone tried to make it today. But that's okay, because it's been deemed a "classic." We'll still be showing it to our kids and grandkids for years to come. And they'll all wonder why everyone was such a jerk back in 1964.

Edited from the original post on 12/15/15.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Tale of Two Billy Joel Concerts

On April 23, 1984, I loaded up in a car with three of my high school buddies and made the long drive from our home town of Arimo, Idaho to the big metropolis of Salt Lake City, Utah. Why? Because Billy Joel doesn't perform concerts in Arimo, Idaho.

On November 29, 2017, I loaded up in the mini-van with my wife and made the long drive from our family home in Santaquin, Utah to the big city of Salt Lake. Why? Because Billy Joel doesn't perform concerts in Santaquin, Utah. (And because my wife loves me very much.)
My golden ticket!

For some reason I was in Salt Lake City with my family on April 6, a little more than two weeks before the concert. Tickets originally went on sale much earlier, and I had heard they were sold out. But, a few more seats opened up behind and off to the side of the stage, so I went to the ZCMI Center mall and purchased four tickets for $15 each. (I had to borrow money from my Mom until the other guys could pay me back.)

Yes, I didn't just keep the ticket, I kept the darn receipt!!!
(I definitely have some hoarder tendencies.)
Tickets went on sale in mid-February and, unbeknownst to me, my wife purchased a couple of seats. She then spent Valentine's Day peppering me with cryptic emails featuring quotes from Billy Joel songs until finally revealing that she got us tickets to the concert as a Valentine's gift for me. I don't know how much she spent on the tickets. (And I probably don't want to know.) But, I do know that we spent $15 (the cost of a ticket in 1984) just to park the mini-van.

It was a Monday, and we got in the car and left for Salt Lake as soon as school was out. We were three seniors and a sophomore, and the Billy Joel concert was one of the biggest events of our lives. We clenched onto those tickets as if they were made of gold.

It was Wednesday, the day of the concert, and I couldn't find the tickets. I frantically searched the house, looking everywhere I thought the tickets might be, and many places I didn't think they'd be. Eventually I gave up and sheepishly texted my wife at school (she teaches junior high math) to see if she knew where they were. She quickly texted back that the tickets were digital. When she explained to her students why she got a text from me in the middle of class, they laughed, and one of them said, "That sounds like something my grandpa would do." (It's not the first time I've been compared to a grandpa.)

After the concert the four of us spent the night "sleeping" on the living room floor of the brother of one of my friends. (Thanks, Raymond!) And then we ditched school the next day. We were rebels living on the edge!

My wife's parents came to our house to babysit our kids, because we couldn't just ditch them. (Thanks, Grammy and PopPop!) After the concert we raced home as quickly as we could. We felt bad for keeping Grammy and PopPop up past midnight, and we needed to get some sleep ourselves because my wife had to teach school the next day. We have responsibilities, you know.

No, they weren't the best seats. But, any seat at a Billy Joel concert is a great seat!!!
(I don't have any pictures from the 1984 concert. Back then there were no such things as smart phones, just dumb phones with long cords and no cameras.)
The concert was fantastic!!! Billy Joel sure knows how to put on a show! We were just four rows up, sitting right behind his piano, so we had an incredible view as he came onstage and pounded out "Prelude/Angry Young Man." Sure, when he was away from the piano at the front of the stage our view wasn't as good, but when he left the stage at the end of the concert he walked down some stairs right in front of us as my friend Chuck screamed like a madman. It was a great concert!

The concert was fantastic!!! Billy Joel still knows how to put on a show! He didn't get up and run around as much as he used to, opting to spend most of the night at the piano. (He is 68 years old now, after all.) But, it was still a great performance. Sure, we were in the nosebleed section, but enjoying the show next to the love of my life was incredible! As Billy was singing "She's Got a Way" and I sat there with my arm around my wife, I actually started to tear up a little bit. It was a great concert!

So, if I had to do it all over again, which concert would I choose? The answer is obvious: both! (You may be right. I may be crazy.) (But it just may be a lunatic you're looking for.)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Christmas for the Rich and/or Idiotic

When I was a kid I loved going to my Grandma's house and looking at her Christmas catalogs. She'd always have the Sears catalog, plus catalogs for JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, and something called Spiegel. 

My favorite sections of the catalogs were, of course, the toys, and also the NFL section, which included clothes, bedding, garbage cans, and other knick knacks with the logo of your favorite team printed on them. (Some items would only have a few teams available. If they didn't have the Vikings, I would get upset.)

I miss the Christmas catalogs of my youth. But that's not to say I can't be entertained by the catalogs of today. The other day we got a catalog in the mail for something called "Hammacher Schlemmer." According to the blurb on the cover, it is "America's Longest Running Catalog," and it has been "Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 167 years."

The Catalog of Useless Expensive Junk!

almost threw it straight into the garbage. I'm glad I didn't. It actually was pretty fun to peruse. (It had been quite a while since I'd enjoyed a good perusal.) Here's some of the fun stuff I found amid the 88 pages of useless crap:

1. The Hand Carved English Rocking Zebra-- The cover featured a picture of a zebra riding horse. Eventually I found it inside the catalog.
Everyone needs a rocking zebra!
The rocking zebra is, of course, hand-crafted and has "a real horse hair mane and tail." And, it "will not tip over even during the most enthusiastic rides." What a great gift! And it only costs $9,000!!!

Wait….Did you say $9,000? Yes, I did.
$9,000? Seems reasonable.
So yes, you could spend your $9,000 on a nice used car, or you could buy a rocking zebra.

2. The Electric Kazoo-- Not everything in the catalog is as useless and expensive as the zebra. I mean, who doesn't need an electric kazoo?
That wonderful kazoo sound can be amplified at long last!
If only they'd had this technology in the 1970s. Instead of forming the Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne could have formed the Electric Kazoo Orchestra! (I have a feeling music will never be the same again.)

3. The Darth Vader Pancake Maker-- Many people like pancakes. Many people like Star Wars. Why not combine the two?
I find your lack of syrup disturbing.
It even comes with a "built-in five-setting thermostat" so you can choose between light and dark pancakes. (And whatever you do, don't underestimate the power of the dark side.)

4. The Darth Vader Toaster-- Of course, if you think the pancake maker isn't Darth Vadery enough, you could always get the toaster.
"Toast, I am your father."
It's great that the toaster looks like Darth Vader, but it's too bad the toast doesn't. If you could somehow combine the pancake maker and the toaster, I just might buy it.

5. The Selfie Toaster-- But, what if you're one of those weirdos who doesn't like Star Wars, but you do like to have things imprinted on your toast? It's okay. Hammacher's got you covered.
Who wouldn't want an image of themselves burned into their toast?
This looks like fun, but as The Wife points out, it wouldn't do me any good. In order to burn an image of my handsome face onto my toast, the Selfie Toaster would make my toast darker than I like. (The Wife and I are always changing the toaster settings. She complains that what I eat isn't toast, it's just warm bread.)

6. The 8' Inflatable Elsa-- Perhaps you'd like a giant inflatable Disney princess in your front yard?
Do you want to build a snowman?
Because, if you're like me, what you need is another reason for your kids to ask to listen to the Frozen soundtrack one more time.

7. The Bearded Beanie-- If Elsa has turned your town into a harsh, frozen winterscape, maybe you'd be interested in a stocking cap with a built-in beard?
For those times you want to look like Zach Galifianakis.
The ad says, "Though comfortable and soft, the beard imparts a machismo only the most confident can exude." (Dang, I wish I had written that sentence!) (Or was confident enough to exude machismo.)

8. The Pinchless Electrolysis Hair Remover-- However, if you are opposed to facial hair, Hammacher has something for you, too.
Just don't get it confused with your light-saber.
She looks so happy, doesn't she? You would be too if you had your own magic wand with a "harmless electrical current" that "destroys the germative hair cells and dermal papilla, preventing hair from ever growing back." (I didn't even know I had dermal papilla, let alone ones that were germative.)

9. The Single Handed Barber-- But that's not the only hair removal item Hammacher offers.
Too bad there's not a 'before' and 'after' picture.
The Single Handed Barber. Call me crazy, but I think there are some things that it's okay to use two hands to do. Cutting your hair is one of those things. I really, really, really would like to see a picture of someone who has used this item on themselves. It can't be pretty.

10. The Walk By Scrabble Board-- What's better than the family fun of playing a board game together?
Look! I got a Double Word Score for "LAME!"
Have you ever been playing Scrabble and thought, "This is great, but it would be so much better if I could play while standing up." I didn't think so.

11. The Handcrafted Hippopotamine Sofa-- Have you ever wanted to sit on a hippopotamus? Who hasn't?
It's a hippo! It's a couch! It's a hippo and a couch!!!
Wow. Like most people, I have always dreamed of having a life-sized statue of a hippopotamus in my house. And, like most people, I enjoy sitting on a couch. Unfortunately, taking a look at the picture, it doesn't look like a very comfortable couch, does it? It doesn't look like you could slouch on it very well, and I think we all like to able to slouch on a couch. Still, it would be a pretty impressive piece of furniture, and for only $95,000 it would be well....

Wait...what!?! $95,000??? You've got to be kidding, right?

Yes, that's right: $95,000!!!
For $95,000 you could buy a new car. Or two. Or three. Or four. For $95,000 you could buy an entire fleet of five Toyota Carollas (starting at $17,230) and still have almost enough left over to buy a Hand Carved English Rocking Zebra!!! Is anyone buying hippopotamus couches for $95,000? How insane is that? Why not give the money to charity? Or give it to me? I am officially flummoxed.

And, those are just a few of the many items that can be found in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog this year. (For more fun, go to hammacher.com) I found it very entertaining, and I hope you did, too. And now, I'm off to have some breakfast. Should I have a Darth Vader pancake, or some selfie toast?

[I originally posted this on 12/1/2015.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Biscuits Are Different Than Spoons

Advertisers make a lot of outlandish claims, like "Red Bull gives you wings," and "our tacos are made with real beef." So, I was a bit skeptical when I saw this:

It's on a billboard, so it MUST be true!
The billboard says, "Biscuits are spoons you can eat." Despite my trepidation, I was very intrigued. Why? Well, I like biscuits. And I like to eat with spoons. So, using a biscuit as a spoon could be a good thing. (One less dish to wash!)

I thought I should give it a try.

So, the next time I went to have a bowl of cereal, I decided I'd try to eat it with a biscuit instead of a spoon.

It didn't work so well.

I tried to scoop up the cereal with the biscuit, like I usually do with the spoon, but all it did was push the cereal around. None of the cereal actually stayed on the biscuit. I ended up with cereal all over the table and a biscuit that was a bit soggy from the milk. Yes, I could eat the biscuit, but I couldn't really use it as a spoon.

Maybe if I had tried to eat soup instead of cereal the biscuit would have been a better spoon. But even then it wouldn't have been optimal; it's very difficult to slurp a biscuit.

So, once again I am forced to come to the conclusion that an advertisement has made a false claim. They tried to pass off a lie as if it were the truth. It's almost as if advertisements were fake news before "Fake News" was a thing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

19 Reasons to be Thankful

Thanksgiving is almost here and it's time to start thinking about the things we are thankful for. (Yes, we should think about these things even without the Thanksgiving reminder. Sometimes we just need a little subtle reminder in the form of a giant turkey dinner.)

1. I'm thankful for shoes. As I write this, my feet are cold. But, I know if I go put on some socks and shoes my feet will get warmer.

2. I'm thankful for cheeseburgers.

I'm thankful for melty cheese! 
3. I'm thankful for cows. (Because I like cheese. And burgers.)

4. I'm thankful for parking spots. You don't realize how much you appreciate an open parking spot until you drive around for fifteen minutes looking for one.

5. I'm thankful that egg nog is available in the stores for Thanksgiving. You haven't truly lived until you've dipped your leftover-turkey-on-a-roll sandwich in your egg nog! (Okay, I've never actually tried this. Yet.)

6. I'm thankful for malls. Without malls what would I do if I needed to buy myself some shoes, get the wife some jewelry, and exchange an old video game for a new one all at the same time? (While eating a pretzel!)

7. I'm thankful I've never been banned from a mall. How would I take care of my Orange Julius fix if I couldn't go to the mall?

8. I'm thankful that my nine year-old is not yet a teenager. She is starting to act like a teenager, which is pretty darn scary, but the transformation isn't complete.

9. I'm thankful for apple fritters.

10. I'm thankful for freedom of the press.

11. I'm thankful for the men and women who serve (and have served) in our military. Because without them we wouldn't have freedom of the press (or a lot of other freedoms.)

12. I'm thankful for fuel gauges. Think of how many times you would have run out of fuel if it weren't for fuel gauges.

Runnin' on empty.
13. I'm thankful for music. Sometimes singing a song is the best way to get through the day. (Even if you can't sing well.)

14. I'm thankful for shirts. (Because no one wants to see my belly.)

15. I'm thankful for home-cooked meals. (Because sometimes you get tired of eating out.)

16. I'm thankful for restaurants. (Because sometimes you just don't feel like cooking.)

17. I'm thankful for YouTube. It's good to have somewhere to turn when you need a tutorial on how to install a new toilet, or if you want to watch a crazy music video from the 80s.

18. I'm thankful for dishwashers. I'm very glad I don't have to wash all those dishes by hand.

19. I'm thankful for people. Yes, every once in a while it's actually a good thing to have interaction with other people. People are the best. (Sometimes.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Television Is NOT My Babysitter (Usually)

No, I'm not using the television as a babysitter! I would never do that. I'm far too responsible as a parent to just turn on the television, plop the kids down in front of it, and ignore them for several hours. That's not me. I'm better than that.

Now, I might sit them down in front of the television if they ask for it politely. I always try to reward politeness, so if they say "please" and "thank you," it can't hurt to give them what they want, can it?

And maybe I'll turn on the television if the kids are climbing all over me but I have something that I really need to get done. Distracting them for a few minutes while I get some vital chore done is worth it, right?

If they're screaming and fighting with each other, letting them watch a show isn't such a bad idea, is it? It's certainly better then letting them hit each other and get in toy tug-of-wars because they don't want to share. Television brings unity and happiness.

Television: It's a wonderful tool!

Besides, television is educational! It's not like I'm letting them watch nasty things Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or CNN. On those rare occasions I flip on the television, I only allow them to watch wholesome, educational programming, like Reading Rainbow or Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood or WordWorld. They learn things when watching these shows, so it's a good thing when I let them watch all day long, isn't it?

So, no, I don't use the television as a babysitter. Instead, I use it as an educational tool to help teach my kids unity and manners, and I do so for hours and hours and hours at a time! What could be wrong with that?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Who Eats Gas Station Hot Dogs?

Every time you go inside at the gas station you see them. They are rotating in their display case. They've been cooked (probably), or at the very least warmed. They are waiting to be sold and eaten. They are the gas station hot dogs.

Who eats these things?

There they are, ready for you (or anyone else) (or everyone else) to grab!
They're slimy. They're greasy. And, worst of all (or is that wurst of all?) they're out there in the open where anyone can touch them! Have you taken a good look at the customers inside a convenience store? Are these the type of people you want having free and open access to touch your food before you eat it?

Now, having said that, I don't really think these openly displayed hot dogs get touched very often. I have never caught anyone touching a gas station hot dog that they weren't purchasing. But, the fact that they're out there in the open where anyone could touch them is enough to keep me away. 

I don't think I've ever even seen anyone buy one of these gas station hot dogs. They must sell them to someone, or they wouldn't have them in every gas station. Maybe people only buy them when they are the only customer in the store, too ashamed to let someone else see their purchase.

And while I won't eat a gas station hot dog, I might eat a gas station burrito. The tortilla around the meat might make enough difference, depending on how hungry I am. And I definitely would be willing to eat a gas station sandwich that is wrapped. As long as that wrapping keeps the unwashed masses from touching my food, I'm just fine.

No problem!
But, I'm not going to be having any of that jerky-in-a-jar by the cash register. If the jerky isn't individually wrapped, I'm not eating it!

Interestingly enough, while I won't even consider eating a gas station hot dog, I eat gas station donuts all the time! The donuts are behind a little see-through plastic door. Someone could touch all of the donuts just as easily as they could all of the hot dogs. And yet, I grab my tiny piece of wax paper, wrap it around the donut (or apple fritter) of my choice, and have exactly zero qualms about eating it. Why the difference? Am I putting that much faith in the use of the donut wax paper? Is it the fact that the donut isn't as slimy as the hot dog? I'm just not sure.

No, there won't be any gas station hot dogs for me! I'll get all my food through the fast-food window, where I know the food preparation conditions are pristine and all of the workers wash their hands at least twice a day, whether they need to or not!

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Perfect Getaway...to Walmart?

I have a secret that I'm going to confess to you. It's a bit shameful and embarrassing. It's not something I'm proud of. I don't really understand why I do it. But here it is:

Sometimes I'll escape the world by going to Walmart.

I know what you're thinking: Walmart? Really? Let me answer that first by saying that there are (at least) four Walmarts between where I live and the nearest Target, which is a half-hour away. The one hour round-trip drive to Target can't compete with the ten minute round-trip to Walmart. (And for those who think I should be more manly, Cabela's is an hour and a half round-trip.)

But still, Walmart, you ask? Walmart is a place you go on purpose? To get away from it all? Yes. Yes, it is.

The place to go to get away from it all?

Let me explain, if I can. I'm a stay-at-home Dad. (Not a Mr. Mom!) I have four kids, including two children under the age of three that require near-constant attention. If I can get thirty minutes to myself by going to Walmart because we're out of dishwasher soap, then by heck I'm going to take advantage of that!

[Before you feel too sorry for me, I should point out that my wife works full-time as a junior high math teacher. She deals with hundreds of kids a day, then comes home to our four kids and me. I hope she finds an occasional escape at school, because she doesn't get nearly as many "girl's nights out" as she deserves! (Not even to Walmart.)]

So, what do I do on my Walmart getaways? First of all, I have to get the thing (or things) I went there for. Walmart has just about everything, so anything can be used as an excuse to go. The other day we needed some light bulbs, so I used that as the reason for my Walmart trip. Once I had the bulbs, I was free to hit some of my regular spots. I'll stop at the DVD section and look at television show seasons that I might be interested in, but probably can't afford and wouldn't have the time to watch anyway. I'll browse down the book aisle and see if I can figure out how many new books James Patterson has written and released since the last time I was at Walmart. (Usually at least three.) I'll glance down the toy section to see if there's anything there my kids might like, and smile when I see toys they already have and think of how much fun they've had with them. I'll look at the egg nog (if it's the right season) and probably determine that it's just too expensive. And I'll get some bananas. We always need bananas (because the ones we had either have been eaten or gone bad.)

20 checkout lanes! (At least two of which are open.)

You never know what might happen at Walmart. You might see a neighbor or an old friend and get a chance to visit. You might see one of those "people of Walmart" and get a good laugh. You might be one of those "people of Walmart." (The other day the song "Fox On the Run" by Sweet started playing over the intercom, and before I knew it my head was bobbing up and down and I was loudly singing, "I--I--I--don't wanna know your name," as I pushed my cart through the store. Hopefully I'm not going viral somewhere as "Singing Walmart Guy.")

And, hey, you obviously don't need to get dressed up to go to Walmart.

Now, I know that Walmart isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think of getting away from it all. Normally you might think of the mountains. Or the beach. Or the spa. Or the lake. Or the cabin. But, next time you need a getaway, maybe you should think of Walmart. It's close. It's convenient. It really is a great value. (And, they have bananas. You always need bananas.)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sleep: The Final Frontier

Sleep: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Parenthood. Its five year -- ten year --twenty year --lifelong mission: to explore the inside of your eyelids, to seek out sleep wherever you can find it, to boldly snore where no one has snored before!

[Wait. Did you say lifelong mission? Really? Lifelong? Shouldn't it be just "five-year?" By the time your kids are five years old they should be sleeping through the night, so the parents should be able to sleep just fine, right? Are you trying to tell me that your children can effect your ability to sleep for the rest of your entire life?!? That's something they certainly did not put in the brochures! I didn't know I was signing up for that!]

Sleep is something we definitely take for granted as single people. Before you become a parent, your thoughts on sleep are basically, "Sleep? Yeah, I'll catch some of that whenever. It's no big deal. There'll always be time for sleep later." Hah! If only you knew! When you are a parent, that far-flung future known as "later" doesn't actually exist, and it probably never will.

Sleep? Why would I sleep when I could be climbing on the couch and knocking the mirror off of the wall?

The ways in which a child can keep a parent from getting that much-needed sleep are numerous:
Talking to their stuffed animals.
Peeing the bed.
Pooping the bed.
Barfing the bed.
Jumping on the bed.
Clicking the light switch on and off in rapid succession.
Pounding on the door.
Pounding on the wall.
Climbing up the wall.
Waking up their sibling.
Climbing on the furniture.
Knocking over the furniture.
Making too much noise.
And, oddly enough, being too quiet.

And when the kids wake us up, we'll do just about anything to get them back to sleep. The other night The Wife and I piled sleepless kids in our bed with us and watched an episode of Reading Rainbow about comedy. (Because when it comes to making people laugh, the first person I think of is LeVar Burton!) Later, I sat in the living room at 3:30 AM feeding my baby pop tarts as he forced me to play with a fidget spinner. (And if I wasn't playing with it the way he wanted me to, he most certainly would let me know.)

Of course, once kids become teenagers we don't need to worry about them anymore, and we can count on a peaceful sleep every night. (At least that's what I really hope will happen, even though reports I've gotten from people who have been through it seem to disagree.)

There's a lot of talk about the zombie apocalypse. I don't think it will happen, but if it does, it won't consist of the undead, it will be a zombie apocalypse featuring sleepless parents slowly going through their daily motions without any visible sign of higher brain functions.

Kids daydream about all kinds of fantastical, wonderful things. Parents daydream about sleep. It truly is the final frontier.

Friday, November 3, 2017

How NOT to Eat a KitKat Bar

I'm not saying there's a right way to eat a KitKat bar. I'm not saying there's a wrong way to eat a KitKat bar.

But, yes, there is a wrong way to eat a KitKat bar, and this is it:

The KitKat bar pictured above has four separate wafer bars. Those wafer bars are supposed to be broken apart from the others, with each wafer bar eaten one at a time. You don't believe me? Look at the picture on the package. It shows one wafer bar, not four! Because you are supposed to eat the KitKat bar one bar at a time.

Still don't believe me? Think of the jingle. It goes, "Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that KitKat bar." Did you catch that? It clearly says, "break me off a piece," not "take a bite or two." A KitKat bar is supposed to be broken off into individual wafer bars and eaten that way. 

Anyone who could eat a KitKat bar like this shouldn't be trusted. They should be shunned, avoided, and possibly reported to the authorities. Who knows what they might be capable of doing? For heavens sake, these people might even attempt something so fiendish as taking a bite of the Left Twix and Right Twix at the same time! We're talking total disregard for the laws of nature! Could they even go so far as to take the two cups from a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and eat them simultaneously? Blasphemy!

What kind of monster could do such a horrible thing?
I apologize if you find these images troubling, but the only way to stop this kind of behavior is to address it head on. We, as concerned citizens, must do all we can to make sure all Americans eat their candy the correct way from this moment forward!

Gimme a break, indeed!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fun Size vs. Mini Size

Are they making the Halloween candy smaller every year? It sure seems so.

To be fair, I do have large hands.

 It used to be (a long, long time ago) that no one ever gave any thought to what size a candy bar was. Candy bars came in whatever size they came in. Some were bigger than others. The Three Musketeers bar was bigger than an Almond Joy, but that was okay. They were all "full-sized" or candy bar sized. Size didn't really matter.

But then someone decided that smaller candy bars might work better for times like Halloween. They started off calling these shrunken candy bars "Snack Size." It made it sound as if a full size candy bar was some kind of large meal no one could ever finish in one attempt, so instead they were offering smaller bars that people could eat as a "Snack." And, it worked. People loved the "Snack Size" candy bars, which were usually one-half to one-third the size of a regular candy bar. They were a great size to give away for Halloween, and you could eat two or three of them without feeling too guilty about it.

Full-Size, Fun-Size, and Mini-Size. (Eat them all and you'll need to Exer-Cise.)

Of course, over the years, full-sized candy bars have gotten smaller and smaller. And the same thing has happened to "Snack Size." In fact, most companies have changed the name of these smaller bars from "Snack Size" to "Fun Size." Apparently, they aren't big enough to be considered a snack anymore, but they are still fun! The "Fun Size" bars are now only about one-fourth the size of a full-sized bar. But, people still love them. "Fun Size" is fun!

Three "Fun-Size" bars atop a full-sized one.

Unfortunately, someone decided if shrinking bars down to "Fun Size" was a good idea, how about making them even smaller? So now they are offering "Mini-Size" candy bars. The "Mini-Size" candies are less than half as big as the "Fun Size." They're about the size of a fingertip!

Two "Mini-Size" candies on top of a "Fun-Size."

In fact, the "Mini-Size" are so small that I don't think they should be called candy bars--they're too small to be considered a bar! You can call them candies if you want, but they aren't worthy of being called candy bars. These things are about the same size as a Hershey's Kiss. No one calls a Hershey's Kiss a candy bar.

And, like a Hershey's Kiss, the "Mini-Size" candies are hardly worth the effort to unwrap. If you are larger than a standard elf, your hands will be so much larger than the "Mini" that it will be difficult to grasp the wrapper to unwrap the treat. The candy is so small that I wouldn't be surprised if the wrapper weighs more than the actual candy!

Sometimes I'm tempted to not even bother unwrapping these little things.
This needs to stop now! If left unchecked, the candy companies might keep making their candies smaller and smaller, until they are the size of Pop Rocks. (And I don't mean a package of Pop Rocks, I mean as small as each individual rock that pops.) How long until they start individually wrapping each Smartie?

We need to say no to the "Mini-Size" candies. Don't buy them. Don't give them out as Halloween treats. "Fun Size" are acceptable; full size is preferable. Sometimes size does matter!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Yes, Kids Live Here

If you ever come to visit me in my home, one thing will become evident very quickly: Yes, kids live here.

It's pretty obvious as soon as you enter my house. In fact, you might not be able to get the door open because of all the toys in the way.
None of these are my toys. They all belong to the kids.
In fact, when you come into my house, you just might ask yourself, "Just how many kids does he have? Two? Four? 93?"

We really do have a lot of toys in our living room. Why so many? Well, kids play with toys, and when they are playing with toys they are less likely to be getting into trouble or hitting me in the crotch. (I don't like getting hit in the crotch.)

With some people, you walk into their house and wonder if anyone even lives there. Has anyone ever walked on that carpet? Has anyone ever sat in those chairs? Is this a museum or a house? Meanwhile, when you walk into our house it literally looks as if the alphabet has vomited all over the inside of our front door.

Perhaps it was a dictionary explosion.
The living room isn't the only place where it is evident we have kids. If you manage to get past the toys and make to the bathroom, you might see something like this:

It's either the toilet paper roll or a mummy from an episode of Scooby-Doo.
To be honest, that picture isn't from my house, it's from the home of my wife's parents. They don't have any kids at home, but an occasional visit from the grandkids leaves results like this.

I'm sure there are ways to have kids living in a house without it being apparent that kids live there. I've seen some people who do it. I have no idea how they do it, though. Do they follow kids around with a vacuum all day? Do they hire a professional maid service? Is it cleaned by a singing Disney princess and her troupe of woodland creatures? 

I don't know how they do it. But I do know one thing: if you come to my house, you'll know that kids live here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We're Stuck With Stickers

Kids love stickers. I don't know why, but they do.

Parents, on the other hand, are not nearly as fond of stickers. This time, I do know why. Stickers stick to things. They stick to things they shouldn't stick to. They'll unstick from things they should be stuck to. And then they'll restick to yet more things they shouldn't be stuck to. If you have kids, there is a good chance that at least once a week you will have a sticker stuck to the bottom of either your shoe or your foot, depending on if your around-the-house preference is barefoot or shod.

If a kid sticks a sticker to your kitchen table, it will remain stuck to your table henceforth and forever, unless you sand it off or scrape it off with a screwdriver. Either way, it's going to leave a mark.

But if a sticker is supposed to stick forever on a piece of paper or toy, it will peel off by itself in a matter of minutes. Somehow the stickers know.

And why is it that I have to put the stickers on new toys? Shouldn't they come with the stickers already attached? A while back one of our kids got a Happy Meal toy, and the instructions looked like this:

No Happy Meal toy should have 16(!) assembly steps!
Yes, there were 16(!) tiny stickers that they wanted me to peel off and place on the little toy truck. And I couldn't just put them anywhere; they had to be placed in very specific spots on the truck. Nevermind that me and my big sausage* fingers have a difficult enough time just getting the stickers off of the paper, let alone getting them placed squarely in the tiny spots they are intended for. [*That's link, not patty. (For the most part.)]

Luckily for my kids my wife was there, and she was able to get all 16 stickers in their proper places. (Her fingers are not nearly as sausagy as mine.) But still, couldn't they have just had the toy come with the stickers pre-stuck?

Stickers stuck.
A few years ago we got a toddler bed. (It was for one of our toddlers.) According to the pictures on the box, the plastic headboard of the bed had a big picture of Elmo on it. In actuality, this was not the case. Upon opening the box and going through the parts of the bed that needed to be assembled, we found a large sticker of Elmo that we were supposed to affix to the headboard. Okay, fine, no big deal, right? We placed the Elmo sticker in the proper place on the headboard.

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for our toddler to discover the fun of peeling stickers off of things. Before long he had ripped Elmo's eye down to his nose. We tried to reaffix Elmo, but he was never quite the same again.

Elmo needs some cosmetic surgery.
Maybe I'm crazy, but I have to think if Elmo had been pre-affixed at the factory, my toddler wouldn't have been able to give him a (literal) face lift.

Of course, most stickers we deal with aren't the size of a headboard. Most stickers are tiny, and come at us 20, or 50, or 100 per page at a time. They'll stick to your clothes. They'll stick to your floor. They'll stick to the wall. They'll even stick to your face. (Let's just hope you notice it before you go in for that big job interview.)


And if you don't, let's hope your interviewer has a soft spot for rainbows, or hippos, or hippos under rainbows. If not, you might find yourself in a sticky situation.