Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sick people

Last year I was able to buy a most coveted new toy, my Canon 40D Digital SLR camera. I'd been wanting one for a while and was able to talk my wife into letting me get one after we lost a number of photos on our trip to Sesame Place with the kids. There is no greater tragedy in life than losing 100 pictures of your kids with Elmo, Big Bird, Zoey and the Cookie Monster.

As a direct result of my new purchase, I wanted a new place to house all of my wonderful new photos. It was something I probably should have a done a while ago as a second backup to archiving old photos on DVD's. I've been a bit of an amateur photography buff for a while since I bought my first digital camera, a one megapixel Olympus 360 with no zoom and a 64 MB memory card, about 10 years ago and I've been picture crazy every since (Oh how times have changed; the 40D, while not even close to the most amount of pixels you can get, is 10 megapixels and I have 6GB of combined memory). So, I opened a "Pro" Flickr account so I could share the photos more readily and have a nice backup just in case.

For those of you who don't use Flickr, the site allows you to put permissions on photos to limit who can see them. For the most part, minus several risque photos from our pre-children Putnam Investment party days, most of my pictures are public.

They also have a stats section that shows you which photos are being viewed. Out of curiousity, I check it every once in a while. From about 9 months worth of checking this information, one thing has become abundantly clear to me, if it wasn't already.....

People are sick.

Of the most viewed public photos, here are the most popular.

1. Viewed 107 times. Why, you might ask? What is the incredible draw to this seemingly PG-rated photo? The answer.....the name. The file name is "strapon". The inflatable item you see this woman holding is actually a gag strap-on item which is made to resemble a my penis. So, there are people out there searching for "strapon". Is Flickr really the best place to be looking for this? I can name have heard of many sites which might be better suited for this type of search.

2. Viewed 19 times. I can kind of see the draw on this one. People are probably accessing the pic from a thumbnail and don't realize what's "under the drapes" so to speak.

3. Viewed 17 times. I've removed the top part of the photo to protect the innocent. I don't understand the draw on this one as much. Apparently there is a large group of people looking for pictures of transexuals with penises shaped like horses?

4. Viewed 14 times. Named strapon2, enough said.

It is just scary to think of the people that live right under our noses. With this in mind, it is no wonder why my wife changed the name of her blog to exclude our last name.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Toy Story

Like many parents, my wife and I struggle with clutter. Having children effectively doubles the amount of crap you have in your house. To put the amount of toys in our house in perspective, last year I purchased a bin (something like this) to house some of the thousands of toys we have received and bought over the last 3+ years. First of all, no, the size of the bin is NOT an exaggeration. I think this is the exact one I bought and yes, it is meant for garden tools. Secondly, the “thousands of toys” are NOT an exaggeration either. No, we haven’t received and bought thousands of toys, but many of the toys have many pieces, so when you add them all together, thousands is an accurate number.

To put our clutter into further perspective, the bin isn’t even close to big enough to hold all the toys. And these are just the ones that are actually in the play area, not counting the ones that are strategically hidden in closets upstairs. The “play area” will be defined as the 3 room area including our great room, living room, and another room which I will call the play room (the room that houses the bin). The play room is actually the original dining room in the house (evidenced by the fact that there is an obvious dining room light fixture which I’ve yet to replace even though I constantly bang my head on it). But given the small room size and a later addition to house making it a common travel path between the main entrance we use and the kitchen and stairs to the upstairs bedrooms, we use another room on the opposite side of the house as our dining room. The 3 room placement also allows us to block out the more dangerous parts of the house (kitchen, bathrooms, stairs) from our adventurous 15 month old son, Dominic (see exhibit A here).

Now, despite our best efforts, I see no way that we’ll be able to slow the seemingly exponential onslaught of the toys we receive on a regular basis.

The problem I have isn’t birthdays and Christmas. Yes, I cringe when my children open a present which contains more than a single piece which is bound to find its way into the nether regions of a couch or the black hole that is the bottom our toy bin (Fast forward days later to hear the screaming pleas of our 3 year old daughter Sofia when she can’t find that one small piece that she MUST bring to school that day as my wife and I are already going to be late for work and now must choose to spend the next 15 minutes searching for said piece or drag her kicking and screaming into the car).

For extended family, limiting crap on birthdays and Christmas is difficult. As expected, gifts are relatively low priced, they don’t have lists to go off of like grandparents and immediate family might have, and they also have next to no idea what your child already has. And I’m not bold and rude enough to ask people for receipts. It would be great to trade in the countless copycat toys we get, add up a few items and get something that the kids might really use. Instead, we’re left keeping these toys, and gulp, perhaps re-gifting them down the road. Hypocritical, I know, but perhaps the next recipient can actually enjoy it and if we just suck it up and open them, they’ll just get lost in toy bin oblivion only to turn up untouched in your local landfill.

While we don’t need any more toys, what kind of person would I be to deny the grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. etc. their right to buy your children the toys that get them the “Red Rider BB gun best present ever” look on these occasions. Fine, I get it….no problem.

The PROBLEM is the presents they receive on other occasions. Grandparents use EVERY possible occasion as a reason to buy more presents. Some are bearable, particularly Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween. Others….not so much. These include 4th of July, Arbor Day, Labor Day, and “I haven’t seen you in two weeks and must shower you with gifts” Day. Besides the fact that we’re two toys short of the entire play room wall falling into the backyard, the gifts received on these occasions are inevitably……crap. We’re not talking the GI JOE with the Kung Foo grip that the grandparents sold their pork belly options to buy. These are the Christmas Tree Shop, Job Lot, Flea Market, Jane Doe’s Yard Sale not worth the 50 cents you spent on them…..crap. Put it this way, I would need to use more than my fingers and toes to count all the Valentine’s Day stuffed animals Sofia and Dominic have.

I have discovered that through years of evolution grandparents have adapted and their bodies grow a sort of hearing buffer which keeps them from hearing the constant pleas of their sons and daughters to STOP BUYING TOYS FOR YOUR GRANDCHILDREN!

And grandparents are also cunning creatures. They have discovered new ways to slip toys through parents’ toy blocking nets. One tactic uses the child against the parent. Give children a toy they love before the parent notices it and good luck telling the child that the toy needs to stay at grandma and grandpa’s house. Pictures of Charlton Heston holding a rifle come to mind.

The second tactic that I’ve recently noticed involves the sleepover. Apparently, grandparents have interrogated Columbian drug lords to discover their smuggling secrets. Packing up bags for two young children to stay at their grandparent’s house for a night has been known to require a U-HAUL rental. Grandparents have learned that packing up the bags for you for the journey home allows strategic placement of toys at the bottom of suitcases and diaper bags.

Let me finish by saying that Sofia and Dominic’s grandparents love them very much, take every opportunity to babysit them and if this is the only complaint I have about them, then I should consider myself lucky.

This is the best picture of the toy bin I could find. In the picture are Nana (my mother), Jackson (my nephew) and my daughter Sofia.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

People learn to cope in hard economic times

Apparently, Americans have their own "stimulus" package......

Click here

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elephant Seals Club

No, I'm not selling large objects to club adorable sea creatures with. And no, I'm not writing a conspiracy story about a secret elephant unit used in surgical military strikes by former President Bush.

In response to Sundry's recent post and subsequent comments by myself and my wife, I am forming the Elephant Seals Club. Fellow fathers, husbands, and engaged men, this club's sole purpose will be to counteract the wrongs we, as men, have suffered through over the years at the hands of our women. We Elephant Seals (large lumpy creatures who snore through our children's late night stirring, the only perk some of us seals have) will be breaking down the marriage myths that kick us in the balls and steal money from our wallets.

First order of business will be the "Engagement rings should cost two months salary" rule that our wives and girlfriends love to quote. Far be it from me to try and squash this myth that has been so deeply embedded in our significant others' brains. Instead I propose that we perpetuate a new tradition to counteract this travesty. We need to demand equality! NO 4C'S WITHOUT HDTV!

Our women get their "two month salary" ring when we get engaged. And what do we get? Years of compounded interest on said ring. I propose that we, as men, deserve equal compensation for said engagement. From now on men will get an electronics item(s) equal to cost of this ring. In the spirit of amendments to the US Constitution and future fallen comrades, I chose not to be specific on said electronics item as technology changes faster than my 3 year old daughter's mood.

Think of how much money you spent on that engagement ring. Then go to your favorite electronics store's website and see how big of a TV that money can buy. It's huge, isn't it? Can't fit it in the living room? Remember that exercise room with the treadmill and elliptical contraption your wife made you buy that's been collecting dust for the last 5 years? Two words---- Craig's List. Even better, use that money for the 7.1 surround sound system that your new TV desperately needs. You'll have that "something is missing" feeling without it. It's like eggs without bacon, golf without cigars, or sex when your wife is sober.

Second order of business: The Wedding Registry. Find a copy of that wedding registry. Don't fret, it's still out there somewhere. Whether online, in a box in your attic, or under 24 hour surveillance in a safe deposit box (picture the puzzle box in the DaVinci Code), it still exists. Your wife lets go of wedding memories, including all her notes and lists, like we let go of old sporting goods and power tools. I mean, really, we still might use them some day, right?

Carefully scroll down the list of items on the list. Check off any items that you, yourself, actually wanted. There are probably a few, perhaps a coffee maker, or maybe you were able to sneak that Bar-B-Que tool set, with case included, on the list and have your best man buy it before your wife had time to remove it. Oh, and if you put check marks next to anything made of china or crystal, please stop reading this, go home and find the box your wife is keeping your balls in and kindly reattach them.

As you'll probably notice, 95% of the things on that wedding registry you could really care less about. In response to this next travesty, we will be sending out envoys to Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, and other stores we love to get them to openly promote wedding registries. No more will we need to fake a smile to be courteous to those who buy us $50 salad plates which in their best year will be used once, and could be replaced by perfectly decent and unbreakable plates at the local bargain store for $1 each. Instead imagine the feeling you'll get when you open your shiny new 18 volt power drill, or that surround sound receiver with HDMI switching you've been craving.

It is time that we take back our rights as men! It is time to end Elephant Seal suffrage!

Picture this beauty in your living room. No longer will you need to use the zoom function on your DVD player for porn.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gridiron Greats

Times are really tough. You're making $15,000,000 a year in average annual salary and another measly $20,000,000 a year in other odd jobs. You've got a playmate girlfriend, houses in Malibu and Aspen, a penthouse apartment in Manhattan, 10 cars you purchased for over $100,000 each, $2,000,000 in bling. Now, how can you be expected to contribute $15,000 (.1% of the annual salary for those scoring at home) to help some deadbeats.

Some of your co-workers have the nerve to ask you for money to support these deadbeats. I mean, really, what did they do to deserve your charity? Who cares if they paved the way for you to make your cagillions bazillion dollars? Why does it matter to you if retired workers from certain departments have an average life expectancy of 50 years? Why is it your problem if many of them are struggling to stay off the streets, or stay out of rehab, or jail, or walk? Who cares that you'd probably be bagging groceries, or dealing drugs, or killed in a driveby shooting if it wasn't for these deadbeats? Why is that your problem, right?

The Gridiron Greats fund was founded in 2007 by former Green Bay Packer great Jerry Kramer to help former players with financial assistance and social services. Kramer auctioned off his replica ring from Super Bowl I and raised $22,000 to raise money to start the fund. The Board of Directors includes former NFL great Mike Ditka, Gale Sayers, and Harry Carson.

In early December, Matt Tirk, a center on the Minnesota Vikings, sent out a letter to all of the current players in the NFL asking them for some support to help the Gridiron Greats fund. The letter asked players to donate a portion of their December 21st game check to help the fund. Tirk himself pledged $50,000 for the cause.

Of the nearly 1,700 players in the NFL, 20 responded. No, that's not a typo. Two-zero. I can't seem to find the actual dollar figure that the 20 players came up with, but it is less than last year when the figure was around $300,000. Last year's salary cap was $116.7 million per team. I'm not going to run around the web for hours finding how much each team spent under the cap, so for argument's sake, lets say that about 85% percent of that money is actually spent. Most teams spend a majority of the cap money and unlike baseball there isn't a huge disparity between the highest and lowest. There are 32 teams in the NFL, so after failing to calculate this with my calculator without getting that annoying "E" on my calculator, and finding that even a piece of legal paper wasn't big enough to calculate it manually, and finally plugging the numbers into a spreadsheet, that comes to $3,174,240,000.

For arguments sake, let's say each player donates a tenth of one percent of their salary, that would provide a rather large donation of $3.17 million dollars. To put that in the context for the 2 or 3 people that might actually read this (one of which is my wife), if you were making $50,000 a year, one tenth of one percent would equate to a donation of $50. And of course none of this factors in the other money brought in by star players in their huge endorsement deals.

Every week we have to listen to the next scandal involving an NFL player. Whether it's Michael Vick getting his rocks off by killing dogs, or "How to shoot your NFL career in the foot, literally" by Plaxico Burress. Maybe this the perfect opportunity to boost the NFL's image a bit by donating a very modest amount to a worthy cause.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NFL - No Fun Learning

In light of a recent rant I had as a comment for a recent entry in my wife's blog, Mom et al, I thought I'd make it the subject of my first blog post. I'd suggest reading her post as a prologue. It made me look back to see how teaching has changed over the years.

I grew up hearing stories from my parents about teachers hitting children with rulers, etc. I, like my wife, had a couple “desk dumpers”, and one particular teacher who was especially adept at hurting the child psyche by way of extreme embarrassment.

Teachers like these are far less common nowadays. Sure, there are still some abusive teachers out there, but they're far less prevalent. While abuse has most likely gone down, I think the changes have also gone to the extreme in many cases. While I don't have an extensive study to back up my contention that this kind of abuse isn’t as common, let's face it, nowadays if a teacher tells a kid he has bad breath, a nationally televised lawsuit would ensue with lawyers pulling expert witnesses linking the child’s ADD (don’t get me started on that) with poor oral hygiene.

My mother is a 2nd grade teacher at my former and most likely my children’s future elementary school. She has to run the gauntlet to do anything fun in her class.

It's the day before a holiday, you want to give the kids a break by showing them a movie, let's say…..Finding Nemo (no, it’s not a coincidence that I chose a movie which has an underlying theme of a parent that can’t let go). NOPE! It's not educational. Now, I can understand not wanting frequent usage of time to be spent on non-educational things. But what's wrong with giving the kids a little fun…..occasionally; especially the day before a vacation where, let face it, the kids aren't really focusing on their school work anyway. They're staring at the clock waiting for the day to end. I don't know about you, but from what I see, the same thing happens to adults at work. Nothing gets done at my workplace the last two weeks of the year. I have flex days every other Friday and when it falls on the day after Thanksgiving, I move the day because I WANT to work that day. Why? Because it's a wasted day off. We don't do anything anyway, and usually get out early.

When I was in elementary school (again, the same one), I remember long holiday parties with chocolate laden treats as far as the eye could see. I even recall my mother talking about parties for her class well after I left. She used to make some famous treats for parties, particularly chocolate covered spiders (thin pretzel sticks bunched together covered in chocolate) and Buckeye Balls (small ball of peanut butter covered in chocolate). I've seen kids who were in her class 15-20 years ago commenting on Facebook about them in the school’s “alumni” group. So, last month I was talking to her about the class Christmas party and asked her if she made the chocolate covered spiders (although for obvious reasons I think these used to be more of a Halloween item). NOPE. Can't do it anymore. No sweets at parties.

Now, I realize that the school system or the school itself put these rules in place, but let’s face it, you know it was in response to the parent of some lactose-intolerant kid who was outraged because his/her child would be irrevocably scarred for life with memories of crying in the corner while scores of smiling children were sucking down a lifetime supply of milk chocolate covered treats.

Kid’s sports kill me nowadays. "We don't keep score because it could hurt some of the kid’s feelings". Or, “everyone should get a trophy so no one feels left out.” Oh my god, shut the f@#$ up. There is something to be said about learning good sportsmanship and how to deal with disappointment. WAKE UP, your kid is not living in Utopia.

Let me preface my next point by saying that I am an atheist. I was raised catholic, but haven’t gone to a church service that didn’t involve someone getting married, renewing their vows, being christening into the church, or sadly dying since I was probably 8 years old. I’m not getting into a religious debate here. You are a devout Christian, Jew, Red Sox fan? And this isn’t meant to come off as confrontational (but it probably will)….good for you (oh, and I am a Red Sox fan by the way). It’s not a bad thing to have faith; I just choose to not have faith in this particular realm.

Okay, now that I’ve got the obligatory “anti-religious debate clause" out of the way, when did freedom of religion mean you can't celebrate it in front of people who celebrate a different one? What's wrong with having a Christmas tree (okay not really religious, but a symbol of Christmas nonetheless) or a Menorah or a f@#$in' Festivus pole for all I care in the classroom as long as everyone in the class is represented? Don't restrict it, CELEBRATE IT! Use it as an opportunity to teach kids about our country and the different religions of their classmates.

I cringe sometimes thinking about having to deal with some parents when our kids go to school. Parents are way too sensitive about things. Nothing is about taking responsibility for raising our children; it’s about whom else is to blame for ruining our children’s lives.

Sofia and Dominic at their most recent graduation. I say "most recent" as they have one every year. While I think it's cute in daycare, I always chuckle when I watch the scene in "The Incredibles" where Mr. Incredible rants about his son's graduation ceremony. "It's not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade. It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional... ". It kind of sums up the feeling portrayed in my entry.