Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There Really is Tolerable Children's Music Out There

Ever since the Kid was dropped off by that stork we have been very lucky to receive all sorts of great gifts for her. Clothes, toys, books, furniture; all kinds of neat things that she will probably have to work most of her formative years at a Kathy Lee Gifford sweat shop to earn enough to repay the favors. One of her favorite gifts arrived very early on and is still one of the favorites: a compact disc of children's songs.

This single compact disc has been in circulation in my wonderful wife's car for over a year. This single compact disc has made many a long car ride bearable. It has the power to bring her out of a crying fit so quickly, you would think it was laced with Benadryl. It has songs so catchy that you don't mind that they get stuck in your head all day (the wonderful wife might disagree with me on that one, but she' s pregnant and cannot be trusted). Let me tell you, I have heard a lot of children's music recently and it's not all good. I am certain I will hear a lot more children's music in the future and I hope it gets better. (please, let it get better)

But this set of songs are different. They are actually good. They have great structure. The melodies are interesting and challenging -- not too simple that they become boring, not too difficult that the Kid doesn't get it. The have good themes to them. They aren't mindless nursery rhymes put to music sung by a chorus of kids (gag). But most of all, they're fun. I love singing these songs along with the CD while we are driving to the store together. The Kid is starting to learn the words, and she has already learned the hand movements we made up to go along with a few of them.

Now, this is no ordinary CD. This is a Laurie Berkner CD. Don't know who Laurie is? You must not have a kid under the age of four. Allow me to (as Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA would say) "drop some science": Laurie is a singer/songwriter who will soon out sell even the venerable Raffi. How is this possible, you ask? Check out some of her music on the Noggin Channel's website -- she has a few songs on the "Jack's Big Music Show" program. You'll probably like them even if you don't have a kid.

We were given the CD by my wife's friend, Shannon, who grew up in the Deep South with my wonderful wife, but now lives in New York. She, along with their friend Melissa, had the good sense to suggest that we ought to name the Kid "Shalissa" after them. Or "Melannon", but no one is named "Melannon" nowadays so that just didn't seem right. Shannon, as it turns out, happens to work for Laurie. (cue the "revelation" music)

When Shannon gave the CD to us, it was before the kid even showed up and I remember thinking, "boy, that's a wierd name for a children's CD: Bumblebees and Googleheads." Well, you can't judge a CD by it's jewel case. I am so thankful for this CD that when Shannon visited our house on Monday, I gushed about how great Laurie is, and how much the Kid loves her music, and how we don't travel anywhere without it. I must have blabbed about it for what probably felt to her to be a long time. So long that Shannon called a day later to tell us that she is sending the Kid some more Laurie in the mail.

Thanks Shannon! The Kid and her doting parents appreciate it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Talking Like a Pirate

My sister-in-law has recently confessed her fascination with pirates to me. I don't exactly understand what the draw is, but it seems that others share her affinity with the pirating people. She has even taught my kid how to cover one eye with her hand and say "ARRRGH".

Nice. Can we focus on the alphabet, please? How about the numbers 6-10? No? Pirate-speak? Fine. At least you are playing well with my kid.

Well, this post is in Adair's honor. I'd like to direct her attention, and the attention to anyone else so afflicted with this strange obsession, to this website: I am sure that you will find this interesting. I don't, but I also am not a huge fan of bananas, so what do I know.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My kid is ridiculous cute... part two.

I love Ikea.
Ikea is one of my favorite furniture stores.
Ikea is one of my favorite kitchen hardware stores.
Ikea is one of my favorite decorating stores.
Ikea is one of my favorite stores.

This past weekend one of my favorite stores had a very good sale on champagne glasses. The glasses aren't very nice, just very cheap. How cheap, you ask? I'll tell you. The glasses are so cheap, you could have that romantic drink by the fireplace and toss away a pair of glasses every night for a month and it would only cost you seven bucks. In February. Yep, that's right, at twenty-five cents a piece, I had to get to Ikea immediately.

In order for me to satisfy my shopping urge, I needed to take my lovely daughter with me. Shopping with her is not simple. IF you can get the kid into the shopping cart (or "buggy" as they say in the Deep South), you normally are on a rigid time limit before meltdown occurs. In order to keep Her Highness satisfied, happy, appeased, occupied, one would need three arms. That is, IF you can get her into the cart.

One of the things that I have been doing in order to get myself into better shape is taking my sweet kid for hikes around the local mountain side. The trick to getting an 18 month old kid to hike is to never let her feet touch the ground. That's right, you heard it. Don't let the kid do any walking on her own. It's not that she wouldn't enjoy walking the trail; trust me, she would. She would probably enjoy it too much. So much we would spend too much time pointing at and naming every leaf on the ground, every tree, every bird. Let me assure you that each animal/vegetable/mineral that she names makes me one proud papa, but we are doing this for me as much as her. To keep the hike at a reasonable pace I have decided to use a "backpack carrier" that my friend, Fig, gave me after his kid grew out of it. Her Highness loves the backpack carrier. She calls it the "pack".

Ok, thanks for sticking with me here...
That digression explains how I was able to deftly maneuver the winding aisleways of Ikea, with two free hands to push a cart load of cheap-o champagne glasses as well as several other well-priced goodies. My very cute kid sat in the backpack carrier during the entire trip through the store, not just the first hour, but also when we sat through the long checkout lines, and then even longer while we went back into the store for some post-shopping snacks. Not only did she last the 85 minutes or so, she was happy.

You just can't beat that with a stick. My kid is ridiculous cute.

Friday, November 25, 2005

National Shopping Day

Today will be short as well. We spent the morning traveling to the local mall, driving a little out of our way to check out a tag sale first. The tag sale was a bigger score than the mall, but the play area and mini train ride was a big hit for the kid.
Sidebar: please take this time to read the "Decline of Western Civilization" post from the archives... the problem still exists and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight. In fact, the syndrome that has plagued females has caused a seemingly new trend -- sweat pants with the thong. *gag*
I need a moment to recuperate.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving = Diet Amnesty Day

Happy Thanksgiving all! I hope that you enjoy the day, don't have to work, get to spend it with family and friends.
and don't forget... Thanksgiving is Diet Amnesty Day -- the day when all diets get tossed out the window until Black Friday. Black Friday is actually named for "the day when all diets resume."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fatty McButterpants goes on a diet

I went to the doctor for my yearly, wife-imposed visit to my doctor. I probably would not go if it weren't for my wonderful wife, unless of course i had a limb falling off or i was bleeding from my eyes. It's always good that she sends me, but I just wouldn't choose to go if it were up to me.
I wouldn't choose to go because normally the doctor finds something wrong with me. This time was no different. It turns out that i have ridiculously high cholesterol and I was given three months to straighten it out before I would be "put on the pills." I would be advised to take a daily cholesterol-lowering medication for the rest of my life.
So there I was: overweight and hungry, worried but not knowing exactly why, feeling angry and not knowing at what. When I made it to the doctor's office they weighed me in at about 255 pounds (i don't know exactly how much over 250 I was because once they moved the counterbalance to the "250" marker i turned my head up in embarrassment). I am guessing 255 because i think it is reasonable based on how little she tapped the single pound weight to the right.
The photo you see on the right is of me a few months earlier. My head had become this round basketball shape to match the medicine ball i carried for a belly. I had started to lose my chin and had trouble seeing my own shoelaces. I tried to ignore it, but it was even starting to get difficult to pick my kid's toys up off the floor -- bending over was tough, and I was just generally out-of-shape. I had tried to get into shape a few years ago and went to the gym fairly regularly. The problem was that the trainer I had didn't understand my body, by eating habits or my workout goals; frankly, I didn't understand them either. Going to the gym, taking the supplements and following the "diet" for about six months left me frustrated and about 10 pounds heavier than i was. I am certain that I did put on a decent amount of muscle mass but I was still disappointed in the results. Two pregnancies later (honey, it is NOT your fault, it just made it easier for me to EAT EAT EAT), I ballooned up to my 255-ish frame. And there i was, at the doctor's office. TA-DAA!!
So, I didn't know what to do to fix my problem, but I knew I had to do something. I was angry that I let myself get into this situation at all, but worried that I might be out of control and spiralling towards an early demise. But I ain't no River Phoenix... I can kick. Food ain't the boss of me.
Today, about 10 weeks after that doctor visit, and about 7 weeks after I started a strict diet and excersize, I am now 30 pounds lighter. I weighed in this morning at 222.5 pounds. I have been that weight now for about two weeks; my first plateau, it seems.
How did I do it? Simple. Eat right and work out regularly.
OK, I'll explain it a little further. "Eating right" means cutting out the crap. Stop snacking on crap, stop drinking crap, stop picking crap up from the fast food restaurants. Cut the Crap. No more sugary snacks, no more non-diet sodas, no more desserts. I didn't need it anyway, no matter how much i wanted it. But enough about what NOT to eat. Everybody knows what NOT to eat. The question is, "what the heck is GOOD to eat?"
That is where it got a little tricky. The latest fad in dieting is the Atkin's low-carbohydrate diet. That all makes sense because it eliminates the foods that turn into simple sugars in the body and forces the body to work harder to process the food it takes in. There were two problems with that: no one, not even body-builders, needs that much protein, and since I am "high-cholesterol" I cannot live on animal products alone (meats, dairy, eggs, etc.). The Atkin's diet is a high-cholesterol nightmare. A single egg has more cholesterol in it than I should eat in one entire day. If I had cheese and sausage on that croissant along with that egg, I'd be killing myself even faster.
So where do you turn? Again, it's simple, and we learned it in grade school. Remember the "food pyramid"? Yep, that's it. You are supposed to have only a little bit of what was on the top of the pyramid and a whole lot of what was on the bottom. Guess what is up at the top of the pyramid: fats, meats, dairy, etc. And what's at the bottom? Whole grains, breads and other carbs. Surprised? I was.
There are three things that makes it work:

  1. What is in between the fats at the top of the pyramid and the grains at the bottom are the Fruits and Vegetables. Those are the things that your diet should really be made of.
  2. Portion size is extremely important. The correct portion size for your meat serving is the size of a deck of cards. Know how many Porterhouse Steaks are that size? None of them are. After a while you get used to eating smaller portions. At a restaurant, get into the habit of boxing up half your meal immediately instead of at the end.
  3. The biggest thing is exercise. None of this works unless you are exercizing every day.

You have to do it, it doesn't take long, but you do it because it feels good after you are done. Before I start running in the neighborhood I dread it. I make excuses for myself on why I can't go out this morning (rainy, cold, my joints ache, I was up late, I have to go to work), but I go anyway. Don't let the excuses get in the way, I tell myself. Once I am back, no matter how tired I am, no matter how much my joints really do hurt, it still feels good.

Thirty pounds later I am happier for starting. I can see my shoelaces again. I can pick up my kids toys off the floor. I see my chin again (although I hide it behind a huge Van Dyke in the winter). And I am not done yet. I want to break the 200 barrier. I entered college at 180 and if I can get below 200 I would feel like I did when i finished college. I was a good size back then. Maybe then I will change my photo on the blog.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Old blog posts appear on my new page! E-GAD!

I have taken some of the old content from a blog page on My Spaces and dropped it onto here. I like the layout and the formats much better here. I can also edit a lot of the HTML content, if i ever figure out how to do that... heh.
So, there are some new "previous posts" that existed on the old site, that I figured were good enough to include on here. No big whoop. Have some coffee. We'll talk.

The Early Showing -- a preview of RENT

I guess that sometimes I get to be the first to find things out, like how fine the contemporary rock opera, "Rent", works as a film. I had the opportunity to attend a preview showing of the movie "Rent" last night, the conversion of the Broadway musical, which was a modern day version of the opera, La Boheme. You probably already knew that.
The last musical I had seen on the Big Screen was "Chicago", and although it was real good, i had trouble shaking my feeling like we were watching a film of a stage production. "Rent" works differently because it plays better as a movie, where it just happens that the cast of vagrants, hetero/homo/bi-sexuals, addicts and HIV+ bohemians sometimes bust out into song instead of just speaking their mind. Normally we would all think that this would be very strange and maybe a little off-putting is this happened in real life, but since the songs and music RAWKS it makes it seem okay. Sure, you notice that people are singing rather than speaking, but the music matches the emotional weight that the themes carry, and well, it just works. All right, there are times when it's a little distracting when one of the lead characters is singing so dramatically while riding his bike that you are more worried that he will hit a New York pot hole and spill off his bike, but whatever, the rest was great.
For someone who has the entire script memorized, down to every lyric and musical note (no, I don't know the dance moves, so don't get cheeky), I did find it distracting that some of the script was actually spoken rather than sung as it was in the Broadway musical. Once I realized early on that this was the way it was going to be, I recovered quickly and found that I enjoyed what this interpretation brought to the story. By reinventing some of the visual elements for the screen, it was easier to see the depth in the characters, easier to see that their depravity was curtailed by some regret, easier to see that their losses and stife were eased by the sense of family that the band of outcasts had. This was all in contrast to the view that you get from only listening to the music or from seeing the musical from 150ft away in the enormous Fabulous Fox Theater.
At that distance, you can't see the emotion the way you need to in order foryou to truly appreciate the characters. The film, up close, makes the characters more human: you see the pain on Mimi's face as she suffers with her addiction; you see the love that Maureen and Joanne have for each other in the midst of their arguments; you see the loneliness that Mark feels while everyone around him couples-up. The film, up close, draws the connections between the characters, the story and their relationships that the musical, from great distance, struggles to make.
For someone who already likes the show, I would highly recommend this film. Leave your strict interpretations of the musical behind, because you will not get a word-for-word rendition of the stage script here. For someone who has not seen the show before, I can only tell you what I saw in the theater: the girl who sat next to my beautiful and very pregnant wife cried uncontrollably for the last half of the movie. My broker tells me that her reaction may not be typical of future results, but I have a feeling that others will feel the same.

On a side note: Did anyone find it funny hearing Roger singing about a Blaze of Glory when he looked so much like Jon Bon Jovi? (thanks, Elise)

Also: Roger standing on top of the desert mesa during the "America at the Millenium" song seemed too contrived, but it did show the extreme juxtaposition of his current situation vs. his previous and future homes.

One More: I missed the sub-focus on the homeless... "honest living, honest living"..., but I liked the repetition of the Life Support meetings. That worked well for developing the HIV theme throughout the movie, while pulling the friends closer together.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Funny -- I am one of the first to know about this. And i don't have much to contribute...

I got an email from my friend, Sheila, this morning. It went something like this:
"Hi friends, I'm emailing you with some information about a new project I'm involved with at George Mason. We created a digital memory bank to collect stories from those affected by this year's hurricanes: Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in particular.
I know that most of you were not in harm's way, but you might have participated in a fundraiser or known others who traveled to the coast to volunteer. We have not begun to nationally publicize this project yet, because we want to get as many contributions as possible before showing it off to the media. So, we need your help—and that of your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers—to make this important project a reality. Feel free to forward this along to others. Below is some information about the project that summarizes what we are doing.
Have a happy Thanksgiving.Thanks for your help! Cheers, Sheila "

Neato. A project! Problem is that I don't have much to say about the Hurricanes except that a) we had great weather in this area as a result of those storms, and b) my Fantasy Football League suffered because Deuce McAllister (runningback for the Saints) and his team didn't have the focus to play very well. That is, he didn't play well until Deuce's season-ending injury left me without a running back and only the great weather to comment on as a result of the Hurricanes. Here is the rest of the info she passes on:

"The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and the University of New Orleans, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, recently launched a new historical project—the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank: Preserving Stories from Katrina, Rita, and Wilma We are working with other organizations in the hurricane-stricken areas to preserve the history of the devastating hurricane season of 2005 by creating a permanent digital record of the events and the responses to those events.
Among other things, we are asking people to contribute personal accounts and recollections of their experiences with the storms of 2005. Those experiences, individual and collective, need not have been where storms came ashore, nor do we expect them necessarily to be heroic or harrowing personal tales. These can be very short or much longer recollections about how you, your friends and family, or your co-workers were affected by the 2005 hurricanes. If you choose, you can submit your account anonymously. We encourage you to visit the site to read examples of contributions people have already made to the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank.
In addition to personal recollections, we also created a repository of digital images, where people can easily place the pictures they took or received of the hurricanes, their aftermath, or the recovery efforts. The memory bank will also collect audio, moving image,text, or .PDF files that may be uploaded to this site. The site includes a set of basic instructions about how to submit your digital materials. Note that placing any of your material on the site does not mean you lose control over your materials. You still own them; in contributing them you give permission to the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank to display them on our site and collect them in our digital archive for use by future researchers and historians.
We hope to foster some positive legacies by allowing the people affected by these storms to tell their stories in their own words, which as part of the historical record will remain accessible to a wide audience for generations to come.
This project builds on prior work by George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, and other partners such as the Library of Congress and the Red Cross, to collect and preserve history online, especially through the ECHO ( project and the September 11 Digital Archive ( It is part of a growing practice of using the Internet to preserve the past through “digital memory banks.”

Yep, still nothing of value to say.
Actually I have one other comment -- I will probably be in the market for a car soon and now will only consider buying a new car. I would have, in previous years, only wanted to buy used because of the huge cost savings, but now that I have heard the horror stories of flooded-out cars being resold by unscroupulous or uninformed dealers, I will stick to a new car.

Gas prices have finally come below two bucks a gallon also. It's about dang time.

Yeah, I am pretty sure that the digital archive doesn't need to hear from me.

Nobody Tells Me Anything -- Day One: The Justification

Matt here, generally uninformed. Glad you have found me here.
I live with my wife, daughter and soon-to-be-born son in the Deep South, far from my family. We have infrequent visits with the family, each of which ends much too soon, but we try to call enough to make sure that we keep up on the family events. But for all the phone calls, it happens much too often though that I am "the last to know". I have a feeling that I am not the only one out there that suffers from this same dilemma. Here's how it usually goes:

I am talking to my mom the other day and at the end of the conversation she says, "Oh, and by the way, your cousin, Kathy, is pregant. Did I tell you that already?"
"No, Mom. That is definitely news to me. That's great though! Three is a magic number," I answer.
"Oh and one more thing -- Ted died." Ted is my grandmother's former second husband. Long story. Skipping to the end of that story, no one in the family is wrought with grief at Ted's passing. Trust me, it's a long story.
"You're kidding! Mom, when did this happen?" I ask.
"Oh, I don't know, a few weeks ago. I am surprised you hadn't heard...," she trails off.
"MOM! Of course I hadn't heard! Nobody Tells Me Anything!"
"That's funny," my mom says, "when I told your sister, she said the same thing."

And there you have it. The beginning of the blog. It's as good a place to start as any. Let this be the place to go for information that you would not have normally known. Or, if you think that you have a bit of news that I would greatly appreciate catching up on, feel free to let me know.