Friday, April 21, 2006

Lunch catered by the Varsity

Our company had a great first quarter so they sponsored lunch for the entire company provided by The Varsity. They show up in a grungy truck and hand out greasy chili dogs and hamburgers and fries. Yum.
Three chili dogs with onion and mustard, a plate of fries and a Pepcid later, and Matt is a happy camper.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Quit hitting your kid

This will be a very straightforward post, because I don't feel like dancing around the subject.
Quit hitting your kid.
I don't care that he is a maniac.
I don't care that she screams in public.
I don't care that you feel embarrassed.
Get over it.
Get over yourself.
Count to ten.
Take the kid out of the situation.
Distract them.
Learn better parenting skills.
Get yourself into anger management.
Quit hitting your kid.

I was at a restaurant tonight with my wonderful wife and our four month old baby. Aside from being the biggest kid on the block, he is an angel. We shower him with love, affection and attention and I think that is 100% the reason he is such a good kid. He fussed a little before the meal arrived, and it wasn't any big deal. We expected it, it was almost his bedtime and I knew that if I just held him close, rocked him a little, he would be easily soothed.
I was right. We pay attention to him, we meet his needs and then some. He went to sleep and there was nary a peep from him the rest of the meal. I brag, I know, but I am a proud father.
Of course our boy is more portable than most -- he is still only four months old, and a nap is almost like party time to him, so getting him to fall asleep was no challenge.
But the fact of the matter is that if he couldn't be soothed, and he screamed his head off, it wouldn't ever cross my mind to smack him the way the lady next to me smacked her son tonight.
Quit hitting your kid.
It seemed to be her birthday dinner. Accompanied by her husband, their three kids and one set of grandparents, our restaurant neighbors were enjoying their dinner. As the evening wore on, the kids were allowed to get up from the table and weave in and out of the chairs, under the table and through the aisles. This was allowed to persist until the mother reached her end. She reached behind her to grab who she obviously thought was the worst offender, jerked the thirty pound kid up by his shirt collar into swatting range and spanked the boy.
I barely noticed that the kids were fooling around at the table next to me. It might have had something to do with the great food, the wonderful company, or the engaging conversation we were having, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I have kids. Since Big Sis showed up on Planet Earth almost two years ago I don't bristle at the sound of whiney, screaming kids. Not anymore. It's like her arrival changed my tolerance towards kids being kids. Lucky for Big Sis.
Since the kids weren't bothering me, (and as far as I could tell weren't doing anything they weren't already allowed to do,) corporal punishment and child abuse just didn't seem to be necessary in this situation. And in this shameless, public way that mother punished her kid, I don't think that she agrees with me. I am sure that she felt it was the right course of action for the situation. The way the kid cried, I can't imagine how it could have been.
Why do you have to hurt your child?
Why do you have to humiliate your child?
How can you be so unfeeling?
How would you like it if someone who weighed six times your own weight smacked you on your ass? Can you imagine a half-ton gorilla chasing you around whenever you did something wrong? You probably won't do anything wrong ever again, right? Maybe so, but I am sure you would think that there is a better way to teach that.
Quit hitting your kid.
Find the better way. Its out there. It may not be the easy way, but it's worth it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Now I understand why she didn't answer her phone.

Not long ago I tried to call my sister on her phone but the number was disconnected. I just figured that no one told me that she switched services or that she's now sharing a line with her boyfriend. No big deal, I'll find out what her new number is eventually, right?
In the true spirit of this blog, I just found out that my sister was mugged recently. It happened a few weeks ago I guess, I still don't have the whole story.
The part I heard goes something like this: on the way home from my friend Archie's sister's birthday celebration, two hoodlums rode up on bicycles to my sister, KB, and her friends. They ripped KB's purse off of her arm and rode off with it.
There were witnesses, but none who responded to her pleas for help. She called for people to help her stop the two robbers, but no one would assist her.
KB is, to my relief, safe and sound. She has replaced her phone too, so I expect her to call me and explain this entire event to me soon.
Details to come.

Speaking of Archie...
I am playing him in my fantasy baseball league this week. Gateway Archrivals vs. Scooby's Snacks (that's me). Wish me luck! ...I'll need it.

I bought a new mower, and I bought it at Sears with pride.

It took a few years, but my mower finally died.
My father-in-law delivered this push lawnmower to our house a week after we moved into it back in 2003. A brandless mower with a Briggs and Stratton 4HP engine, it was the epitome of a no frills lawn tool. No bag, small deck, but it cut the grass so how can you complain, right?
It was his back-up mower even then, with miles and years of wear on it. The choke no longer worked, so on cold days you really needed to negotiate with it. It wasn't quite dead back then, but it was close. Frankly, it was Undead. This mower, beyond all my estimations lasted through three hot-lanta summers. It cut all the weeds in my lawn indescriminantly, just like any old blade of grass.
Good mower. Nice mower. DOWN MOWER! DOWN!
Here we are in 2006 and I haven't mown my lawn yet. Not that I haven't tried... my zombie mower has just decided to not run for more than 4 seconds unless you kneel down by the discharge and continually press the primer bulb. Yeah, that's safe.
So, fueled by the embarrassment that is my yard, I headed to my computer to do my research. I was able to quickly list out all the features I needed and some of the thinks that would be "nice to have". I shopped as many home and garden websites as I could and decided that, for everything I wanted in a mower, the Sears Craftsman series would be in my budget.
I wanted a mower with a 21-22" deck, side discharge, rear bag, 6.0+ horses and a 12" rear wheel. I knew exactly what I wanted. Of course I checked out the Snapper, Toro, and John Deere models, but paying $600-$800 for a lawn mower just wasn't high on my priority list. Sears would have to do.
I mentioned my decision to a friend who immediately panned Sears. Actually his words were, "Are you kidding? Everything at Sears sucks."
I said, "but it's the Craftsman model."
"Yeah," he says, "that's what I mean. Sears sucks. It all breaks. You are wasting your money."
Interesting. If you ask anyone over the age of 40, their opinion of Sears is completely the opposite. Reliable, effecient, cost-effective. A company that stands by it's products. Even if you have a problem, they take care of it.
Ask someone under 35, and you get the same response my friend gave: don't waste your money.
What happened to people's opinion of Sears? Sad really. I am right at that middle age where I could go either way. I don't think that the Craftsman product is the best on the market. But I think that it is the best for the money. I remember Craftsman products in my Dad's workshop, and I remember reading the Sears catalog as a kid.
When I think of Sears, I think of a true American company. I think of my parents, and how I look up to them. I think of the times I have shopped there in the past and received a fair deal and good products. There you have it; that's where I am shopping. Boy I hope that mower was made in the U.S.A...
Anyway, Easter Sunday came and it turns out the mall is open. The store was probably running short-staffed and it probably worked out in my favor. I navigated the store to find the row of lawn mowers, picked out the one I wanted and was ready to buy. Even better, the model I wanted was on sale for an extra 30$ off. Perfect.
I tackled an overworked salesman and he rang up my mower, handed me a receipt and shooed me off to the "merchandise pick-up" department.
It turns out that they didn't have any more of the mower I paid for. As an apology for not having what I already purchased, the manager upgraded me to a model that cost 30% more than what I paid. I got all the features I wanted except one (the side-discharge), but in addition I got a self-propelling mower. Neato.
The best part was I didn't have to ask for the compensation. He just offered it. He made it easy.
Thanks Sears. I'll be back. But first, I am gonna tell my friend about how I made out like a bandit.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

2000 visits!

In just 75 days, this page has received another 1000 visits! That's 13 visits a day! Ok, that's not that much. Some days are better than others.
A lot of the recent traffic has been due to the Fantasy Baseball 101 articles I have written. People are always looking for an edge when it comes to this pasttime, and the internet is one way to get it. I hope my articles were helpful. Find them here: Rookie, Draft Strategy, Stadiums, Draft Strategy II, and The Market.
I still get a surprising number of hits because of people looking for info on "Nobody Jeans", which sends people to my "The Decline of Western Civilization" article. I also see a lot of people searching for "Dehydrated Water". Funny.

Monday, April 10, 2006


This past weekend I experienced my third tornado since moving to the Deep South. This was, by far, the closest call.
When I first moved down here, within the first few months we had a tornado touch down pretty close to where I was living. It wasn't really that close -- I was never in any danger, but I had a great view of the town, and the storm, below my apartment on a hill. I was amazed by the color of the sky, the noise of the storm, the force of the wind. I was drawn out to the deck to watch the funnel cloud in the distance, but I couldn't see it. Friends watching the story unfold on the television threw a fit when they found me outside standing alone in the storm. I didn't realize how dangerous the storm could be.
During that same Spring, on a long drive home visiting my Wonderful Wife while she was working in Raleigh, I got caught in a flash storm. On a long stretch of empty road I found myself barely able to drive 10 miles an hour because the rain was coming down too hard. I was acutely aware of the green colored sky and scanned the radio for news of the storm. What I could hear through the static of an AM Radio station confirmed what I already knew to be true: a tornado was near. As the hail started to fall I finally found the shelter of a gas station's roof. Feeling brave, I got out of my car and headed into the store for some snacks. Sideways falling rain had be soaked before I made it to the store's entrance.
I still haven't had a bad experience with a tornado, thank goodness, but this weekend was a lot closer than I ever want to come again.
I spent the past weekend at home with only Little Sis to keep me company. My Wonderful Wife took Bubba to San Francisco so that they could attend the wedding of one of her best friends. Little Sis and I had a great time all weekend, but that is another story all together.
At 3:30 AM on Saturday morning, the tornado siren went off. It was a complete coincidence that I even heard it -- earlier that night I decided that it was warm enough for the first time this year to open the bedroom window. I am a pretty heavy sleeper, but that sound woke me up. I didn't exactly remember what the siren was for at the time so I dozed off. A few minutes later I sat straight up in bed when I was awakened by the familiar sound of hail. I remembered what the siren was for. The wind was picking up, noisier than I remember the usual thunderstorms being. It was actually so loud that I felt my heart race a little.
Calm down, I told myself, what is it that I have to do here? Go get my kid.
I quickly entered her room and scooped her up in my arms. As I was turning to head downstairs, I stopped and grabbed her sock monkey. I am not sure if I grabbed it for me or for her. I gave it to her. Still (mostly) asleep, she hugged it instinctively, and I held her tightly with both arms.
Down two long flights of steps to the basement. Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall.
At the bottom of the basement staircase I stood for a moment listening again to the sound of the wind pushing against my house. The noise of the tornado was getting louder, closer. I look around for a good hiding spot and decide that the best spot is actually at the foot of the staircase, where both corners of the basement are fully below ground.
The lights flickered once and went out. Not great. Losing power made the storm feel even closer. As if it was an answer to my failing nerve, the lights came back on. We are going to make it.
We live in a twenty-year-old house. It is a great home, lots of character, and not outdated feeling since we changed some of the paint and removed all the wallpaper. With some of the updates we have done, it is sometimes easy to forget that it is that old (with all the recent development in the area, twenty years is ancient). This storm made the house sound weak and thin. It was as if that house was at the chiropractor and the storm was cracking every old bone in the house. The wind was relentless and it rattled walls and windows for twenty long minutes.
Then, without flourish, the storm quieted down to where I could barely hear it over the quiet rainfall.
With Big Sis still (mostly) asleep, I loosened my lock-grip on her and stood up. Exhausted, I carry her up the stairs back to her room. Laying her down in her bed, her eyes immediately flip open. "Watch Tee-Vee?" OK, kid. Whatever you want. I am too spent to argue.
I brought her into my room, set her in the middle of my huge bed, resting her head on thick king-size pillows. She looked tiny under the enormous down comforter. "Watch Tee-Vee?" You got it, kid. But it's gonna be the Weather Channel... hope you don't mind.
Five minutes later, forty-five long minutes after I had first heard the siren, the T.V. was turned off and we were both quickly asleep, safe out of the path of the storm.