Friday, June 23, 2017

Some Great Reward

I have a vague notion that I should not participate in rewards clubs at stores. They will get my information! They will harvest me and sell me! I will become a cog in a meaningless machine--well, more of a cog than I already am. I will be only my data, my likes and dislikes. My shoe size and proclivities. My preference for romaine over iceberg. And my open contempt for savoy cabbage.

So I don't participate in any rewards clubs--although now that I think about it, that is not true. I have a card thing for Petco, because that is Where the Pets Go, and surely a place of pets means me no harm and would never rise up against us. Oh and BevMo, because I enjoy receiving a 5% off coupon once a year that I have never once remembered to use (and 5% doesn't even cover the tax!) So apart from those two--no clubs!

But the real reason I eschew these clubs is to disappoint cashiers.

Look, I know the poor cashiers are forced to ask me to sign up for the club. They get a bonus or something.

"Are you a club member? No?! Would you like to join?"
"No."
"No? It only takes a minute!" they say as they get the sign-up form ready.
But I am wise to them. No, I say. I will not join your club.

One hardware store in particular, I always make a point to go to the same cashier, because he asks me so plaintively, every single time. And I always say no. In fact, last time, he even responded with "Well, I am just asking, sir," as if I had wounded him to the quick.

It is also great to waver about signing up for a club when there are people behind you in line, possibly holding ice cream or other frozen confectioneries. Only take a minute, you say? Great! I will just stand here writing my name and address incredibly slowly while these people's ice cream melts. The people behind you in line in this situation are within their rights to murder you in cold blood and kick your body around the town square or other local landmark.

Monday, June 05, 2017

four-foot tall rastafarian-themed banana

I felt that my daughter just hadn't spent enough time around carnies in her young life, so to remedy that situation, we took her to a carnival this weekend. The type of carnival that springs up in a parking lot this time of year. Possibly I had forgotten this, but it turns out carnivals are incredibly expensive. This one had tickets for a dollar each, and one ride on the ferris wheel was five tickets. That means it was 15 dollars for my wife, daughter, and me to ride the ferris wheel for maybe 4 minutes. While you can't put a price on not knowing exactly how safe you and your family are, that still seemed a little steep. Even the midway games, with their aggressive barkers, were three to five tickets a go.

Note that I did not try any of the games, much as that seemed to rankle the barkers. And I somehow convinced my wife that even though the four-foot-tall rastafarian-themed stuffed banana was charming hanging there in the booth, it might lose its charm in three and a half weeks when we exiled it to the garage to gather dust and possibly be savaged by raccoons. Besides, it seemed a little racist.

But I tried to see it through my daughter's eyes. Not the four-foot tall rastafarian-themed stuffed banana, but the carnival itself. Was a carnival still a place of magic and wonder? Were Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway hiding from Mr. Dark somewhere? The Magic Mirror Maze was now a three-dollar fun house that she popped out of in about thirty seconds.

I guess when Adventure Time is on demand and Mario Kart beckons on the 3DS, the carnival is not what it used to be.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Crushing Weight of the Truth

I participate in a trivia league. It's fairly well-known. You participate in a match each day of the season--answering questions and ascribing points to each answer, competing against another nerdo like you, in a a series of ranked divisions. Like English soccer leagues, there are promotion and relegation between divisions.

While this is truly a great way of making matches competitive, it also brings home in no uncertain terms, just how dumb you are. And I am plenty dumb. The divisions are ranked from A to E. I am currently in D. I briefly soared as high as C, when the wax abruptly melted from my wings and I plummeted Icarus-like into D, where I have remained--not quite the worst, but close.

This trivia league can bring you moments of elation, when--in a very unlikely pull--you remember what a Scalene triangle is. But it can also bring on very weighty bouts of self-loathing. Just the other day I failed to correctly answer this question:
A 2017 animated film subtitled The Lost Village is a reboot not connected to two previous films from this decade that also feature what characters?
The answer is, of course, The Smurfs.

Now, I watched hours and hours of The Smurfs when I was a kid, and played Smurf Adventure on the ColecoVision more than anyone really should have, and yet I couldn't get the lost VILLAGE hint. Although to be fair, I consider the new Smurf films to be out of continuity, and the fact that they completely ignore the Gargamel/Smurfette dichotomy recognized globally by Smurf Scholars means they cannot be considered canon.

I said Minions. Minions?! What the hell is wrong with me.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Owl Dream

Last night I had a dream that there was an owl in the house. If you're like me, you probably have a couple of thoughts when you hear that someone dreamed about an owl.

First, alien abduction. That's just a given. You dream about an owl, that means you had a bunch of jerks from Alpha Centauri messing with you all night and you wake up thinking about an owl because it's a cover memory they left you with instead of letting you remember all their cool space stuff.

Second, I am totally going to die. While that is provably true, I don't think the owl in my dream meant me any harm. Owls, of course, call your name right before you die, which is another owl thing, besides pooping mouse bones and licking tootsie pops. This phenomenon has been well documented in Scooby Doo episodes, so must be true.

But as I get further away from the owl dream, I wonder if the owl wasn't actually the charming Bubo the owl from Clash of the Titans, whom anyone would be pleased to have in their dream, what with the chirping and mechanical head rotation and all.

Also, in the dream I shooed the owl out our back door, and later I saw it hanging out with some blackbirds, although it was unclear whether they were bird friends. Maybe they were networking, although I did not see any finger foods or coffee. And at another point in the dream there was a cat, like a lynx or a bobcat or something. It was basically Wild Kingdom in my dream is what I'm saying.

I hope we all learned a little something here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Merge

I am a dad, so I think about certain things a lot. Elvis Costello. Cargo shorts. And merging.

Merging is fraught with peril, as we all know. You're counting on someone to do the right thing, to uphold the social contract. And yet, so often, some filthy youngster breaks that contract--the very thread that holds our fragile society together--and fucks it up for everyone.

But I want to tell you, this morning I had a merge so pleasant, so perfect, that it restored my faith in humans as a species.

All the ingredients were there for disaster: a UPS truck. A minivan with butterfly stickers on the back window. An Uber. You were merging from the right, minivan with butterfly stickers, and I admit it--I doubted you. I was sure that at some point during the merge you would hit the brakes for no apparent reason, or panic and bail out into another lane, screwing everything up. And you, Uber guy--you were inexplicably not on your phone, and did not make alarming feints or attempt to outlast the minivan in a battle of wills.

No! Everyone performed their roles beautifully, and we slid zipperlike into the lane with such nonchalance that I could have sworn I heard--just for a second--a heavenly choir. singing our praises.

And I thought maybe I could stay in this moment forever, appreciating its perfection. But in the end I still had to go to work, and some troglodyte cut me off at the next light.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Better Off

A couple of weeks ago, I went skiing for the first time in a while. Let's be generous here and say 28 years. The last time I had been before that, I was about 16 years old, and I managed to knock myself unconscious and had to be pulled down the mountain on one of those little ski-patrol sleds with a severe concussion. It was not like the movie Hot Dog: The Movie at all. More like that movie Awakenings which I am pretty sure is about Robin Williams annoying coma patients until they break out of their fugue state to tell him to shut up. Too soon? Maybe.

I figured it was time to take my daughter skiing, since she is seven and hopefully still able to zoom down the slopes with zero regard for her own personal safety, as I was wont to do when I was seven. Hopefully she will not follow the same arc that led me to potential brain damage, but I don't want to enforce my world view on her.  So we drove up to a cheapo ski place to enjoy the crazy amount of snow we have gotten here in California this year. Predictably, my daughter was not that interested in skiing, but did follow through with a half-hour lesson and could probably be enticed into further slaloming if it involves candy and/or extra video games.

I spent the first couple of hours at the ski place playing with her and her friend, hurling them around on innertubes, and watching them take lessons, while my wife and our friends were off humiliating themselves on the slopes in their own ski lessons. 

Then it was time for me to join in the EXTREME ACTION of radical downhill! That's what the green circle and nearly-flat slope mean, right?

And surprisingly it all came back to me pretty well. The balance and skiing part I mean, not the traumatic memories of a ski popping off and hitting me under the chin, so I lay prone and lifeless in the snow for an unknown period of time, although those did come back to me as well. I didn't fall off the chair lift--in fact I didn't even fall down once, though as I mentioned the slope I was on was pretty close to flat, so nothing much would have happened anyway.

And I realized I forgot how much I enjoyed it--the skiing part, not the unconsciousness part. I could give the unconsciousness thing a miss, honestly.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Various Weird Things

I've always liked the supernatural. And when things get really terrible, these things become very appealing to me. I'm not talking about those jerks who go wandering around old mental hospitals at night with sweet night vision gear--no I'm talking about happy enclaves of believers like on the Fortean Times forums. I can easily lose several hours in the It Happened to Me forum, reading about such mysteries as a handwritten note that appeared to be in the poster's handwriting... Could it be that some people have very similar handwriting? While that is arguably possible, it is much more likely that someone has invented a time machine and the poster availed himself of said time machine, just to travel back in time and mess with his own head.

Also somewhat unsettling: Paranormal Date. Unclear whether it is possible to date an actual paranormal entity, and I did not go so far as to sign up and find out. While it might sound nice to step out with the ghastly spectral apparition of a Civil War widow who forever haunts the site of the battlefield where her beloved Obediah gave his life, wailing eternally for release from this hell, maybe just try hanging out in the produce section of your local supermarket and meeting a nice living person instead. Not that I'm telling you how to live your life. If you want to date a poltergeist, that is just fine and I support you. But don't think you are bringing it home for the holidays. Not under my roof.

Bonus weird link: I present you with a headline that is either fantastically good news or really terrible news, depending where you are: Testicle Eating Fish May Be Migrating.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fruit Dystopia

Look, I am not saying genetic engineering is a great idea. I'm not not saying it either--I wouldn't be adverse to a few extra appendages or mystifying superpowers. Of course not.

What I am saying is that there are 21 seeds in this honey tangerine. Twenty-one! It's demonic.

I would be willing to settle for 4, maybe 5 seeds in this delectable citrus treat. 10 is the absolute maximum. But twenty-one?!

Let's get to work, Monsanto.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Tales of Adventure

Did you think I was gone again? I know, I have disappeared for years at a time in the past, and you wondered Where did he go, this gentle superman? Was he ever here at all--was he in fact just a fever dream I had one day because I ate something unspeakable from the back of the fridge?

But not this time. I return to you after mere weeks away, with tales of adventure.

What happened was I went to London for about ten days. This involves flying on airplanes. And, excitingly, I flew into London on the day of a crazy windstorm, so our plane got to circle Heathrow several times, dipping and rising sickeningly as the winds whipped about us. Very close to reaching-for-the-bag. (and on the return trip, the flight attendant confirmed that there was much barfing on that particular flight.)

Most of my time in London was spent visiting relatives, which was mighty fine. I am of the first generation in my family to be born in America, so pretty much all the family is in England, and I see them only rarely when I can make it over.

And because I traveled only with my two sisters, who returned to California before I did, I got a rare few days of walking around London alone. Well, alone if you don't count the thousands of tourists also walking around. And because I was alone, I could pick anywhere I liked.

I went to Highgate Cemetery, where (among many others) Douglas Adams, Karl Marx, and Malcolm MacLaren are buried. I went to Shepherd's Bush kind of by accident and failed to find Mick Jones's old squat (and got into a QPR-supporters-only pub where I managed not to get beat up.) I went and saw T2 Trainspotting in Leicester Square and told drunken British types to shut up during the film.

Also while I was in England, I managed to get on British radio. I listen to a podcast called Mystery Hour, in which delightfully English people call in with random questions and other delightfully British people call in with answers. And the delightfully British host calls people "prunes" when he feels like disparaging the quality of their questions. My seven year old daughter finds this hilarious.

So I called in with a somewhat dull question (about Scrabble)--but this was only a pretext to get the host to call me a prune, so my daughter could hear the podcast. And to my surprise, not only did I get on the program, but the host did indeed call me a prune.

I played the podcast for my daughter when I returned, and while she agreed I was a prune of the highest order, she also said I was "the best dad" for doing it, and moments like that are pretty good.

If you are interested in hearing my terrible voice, you can get the podcast for free here. It's the March 2nd episode.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Alternator Facts

Update: I did not maim and/or kill myself fixing my dishwasher and now I wander around the house telling my wife about the other things in the house that I could probably fix. Of course, I have no intention of actually doing any of those things, and my success with stunningly simple dishwasher was followed almost immediately by almost setting the house on fire with the toaster.

No, this self-congratulatory preening is simply the price my family must pay in the rare occasions that I fix something correctly, and will soon fade as I fail spectacularly at trying to clear a drain clog or something similarly humiliating.

Also, karma reared its ugly head soon after my dishwasher success and the alternator in my car died. Conveniently, this occurred when both my wife and daughter were in the car and we were a good 60 miles from home. And indeed, the car completely died when were about halfway home in backed-up traffic on Highway 1, that scenic highway favored by car ads, where one might drive along breathtaking ocean vistas when one is not aware that their car might die at any second.

As it happened, the systems in the car started to fail as I approached a huge backup of cars and, knowing the feeling from years of driving shitty cars, I pulled onto the shoulder and willed the car to make it to that turn-off about 500 yards ahead. Somehow it did make it, just as all the power failed, and I pulled the non-powered, quickly locking steering to a remarkably safe spot on the side of a side road.

The rest of the story involves tow trucks, battery-packs, and 800 dollars.*



*And of course, when I told my coworker my tale of alternator woe, he was kind enough to listen politely until the end of the story before pointing out that I could have merely opened up the alternator and replaced the "brushes" for about 50 dollars.

So now my coworker is dead.

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