Month: July 2014 (Page 1 of 3)

Home Again

It was an incredibly long week, but also an incredibly fast week.

Thanks to all of those in Kansas City who helped me out in some way over the past week. Whether you offered me lodging, legal advice, companionship at lunch, a beer and room on your couch to watch the Royals, or just moral support, it was much appreciated.

There were parts of the week that were very good. I saw several relatives I had not seen in a long time. It was good to catch up with some, and really just begin to get to know some others. Our memorial activities were small, but still fine ways to remember my dad.

Others weren’t so great, though. My dad was always a bit of a mystery to me. That’s not a huge surprise given that most of the last 30 years we saw each other occasionally at best, and not at all for nearly a decade. I never harbored ill will toward him. We just went different directions for a variety of reasons. This week I learned things about him that elicited sadness, anger, and left me dumbfounded. It’s unsettling to discover that a person who provided half of your DNA had a profoundly unhappy and difficult life.

I’m not big on regret, and I would not change most of the aspects of my relationship with my dad that were in my control. I do wish, though, that he had found more joy, success, and comfort in his life.


I’ll be gone for a couple days.

As many of you know, my dad died last week. I’m off to attend his memorial service and begin the process of dealing with his estate.

I’ve debated whether to write much about this. It’s no secret my dad and I were not close, and had not been for many, many years. Other than my wife, few know the details of why that was the case. That’s not because there’s some dark story behind it. It’s just because we both made choices that set us in different paths, and, eventually, we were no longer in each other’s lives.

I’ve written down many thoughts over the past few days. Whether I share those with you or not, I’m still not sure. It seems weird to have kept so much in for so long and then share it here. Then again, that’s kind of what I do here, share, right?

So I guess we’ll see is what I’m saying.

Anyway, expect no new posts until Thursday, at the earliest.


We’ve hit double figures. Friday, M. left the world of single digits behind and entered the realm of the big kids, the drama of the pre-teen years, the marketing target of the Tweens. That’s right, she’s now ten years old.

As is our family custom, this was the year for a big party for her. And she was the first girl to break the monopoly Monkey Joe’s had on our family’s birthday parties. She invited five girls over Saturday for a pretty snazzy soirée. It began with a trip to the pool, where they splashed around and ate pizza. Then it was back to our house for decorating their own cupcakes (blue velvet!) and presents. Next up was a nature scavenger hunt in the neighborhood. Storms were rapidly approaching1, so we hustled them into the garage where each girl made her own tie-dyed t-shirt. They had some time playing in the house before we kicked a movie on for them. Around 10:30 we killed the lights and all six girls, amazingly, calmed down and “camped out” in the basement.

They were up promptly at 7:00 Sunday morning and were soon racing around the house screaming and yelling while we prepared them a rather kick-ass breakfast. By 10:15, all the girls were gone and the house was quiet again.

It was, actually, quite a nice time. The girls talked a lot and loudly, of course. One of M.’s classmates actually talks more than her, which is kind of amazing. But they had fun, were well behaved, and there wasn’t any drama. Other than L. crying in the morning because they were excluding her. 2 But that will happen.

And what about M., my oldest? I’ve realized in recent months that she reminds me in many ways of myself as a child. She absorbs information like a sponge, and is not shy about sharing it if prompted. Or not prompted. Doesn’t really matter. She tends to be argumentative if she believes she’s right and is reluctant to let someone else have the last word in a dispute. It’s so annoying to me, but, now I realize, that’s because I was that kid when I was her age. I fear had I not been an only child, I would have been as bossy as she is to her sisters.

I realized this because lately S. has been telling me to “just stop talking” to M. when we’re arguing. M. will say something, I’ll say something in response, she’ll say something back, and before I can get another word in S. is shushing me. M. and I have butted heads a lot in the last few years. I think it’s helpful to realize that it’s because she’s so much like me. Maybe it will help me understand and tolerate her better. Maybe…

But on to the good stuff. As I said, that girl is like a sponge for information, and will regurgitate it in great detail if you give her the chance. I’m laughing thinking of the day last spring when her class watched a movie. On the way home from school, I asked her what the movie was about. Four minutes later she was still detailing all kinds of obscure plot points as I giggled and her sisters rolled their eyes.

I am so pleased that she continues to share my love of books. We’ve been going to the library once a week and she is normally allowed to get 4-5 books. One day she had read three of them before bedtime. And these were all 190-ish page books. She probably watches too much TV and we let her spend too much time on the computer. But I think that time reading balances that out somewhat, and develops her mind in ways that will be so useful later in life.

I’m thankful that she enjoys school and, normally, attacks it with a gusto. This was her first year taking the state skills tests at school. She was off-the-charts in almost every category. I hope she doesn’t lose that passion for and appreciation of learning.

Although her over-the-top qualities drive me crazy sometimes, she is a terrific friend. She’s loyal and supportive and wants to share every moment of joy with the people around her. I hope she has many more years of that before she picks up my cynicism and sarcasm.

While her need to be the center of attention bugs me sometimes, I do like that she’s not afraid to be a leader. She’s the kid who comes up with the rules for the game. She’s the one who explains how something works to others. She’s the one who spreads information so no one is ignorant. She just needs to learn to pick her spots a little better.

Honestly, she’s just a good kid. She makes me a little nuts3 when she tries to parent her sisters, or when she whines, or when she gets moody. But all of her flaws are normal flaws common to most of your homes. She’s nice to people, she’s cheerful, and she’s pleasant to be around. When she’s not butting heads with her dad, she’s normally in a pretty good mood.

  1. I was thinking of my 10th birthday on Friday and remembered my small party had to hustle down to our laundry room because there was a tornado warning in the midst of the party. I took my new goldfish with us. 
  2. Still one of my favorite things L. has ever said to me, when she was only three or four, “They ex-cwuding me.” 
  3. Or a lot nuts. Whatever. 

⦿ Friday Links

Time for our (now) usual roundup of things I read over the past week.

First up, a rather interesting history of Autocorrect. It focuses more on the early development of the tool rather than our current, constant need for it in the age of touch screens.

The Fasinatng … Frustrating … Fascinating History of Autocorrect

Next, an interview with Hall and Oates, who are still performing and making new music. It bums me out that they never seem thrilled about their success or about their lives at their commercial peak. I remember reading another interview with them a few years back where Hall insisted that their careers weren’t fun, but rather a lot of extremely hard work.

Hall & Oates: ‘I hated being a Daryl doll’

You may have seen this story already, but a cargo container containing nearly 5 million Lego bricks sunk off the coast of England in 1997. Pieces are still washing up on the shore. Naturally there are collectors who specialize in finding them.

The Cornish beaches where Lego keeps washing up

Crazy things can happen when you hit the wrong key on a computer. Like, briefly, changing history, for example. One man’s story of how his inadvertent keystroke affected how the world responded to a horrific disaster.

Count to ten when a plane goes down…

Whatever happened to Tom Emanski, star of ESPN commercials?

Pitchman: How Tom Emanski Changed the Sport of Baseball – And Then Disappeared

Finally, the New York Times dives into one of the biggest mysteries in baseball: why doesn’t anyone throw the screwball anymore?

The Mystery of the Vanishing Screwball

Friday Vid(s) – Songs Of The Summer

Following up on the article I linked to last week, debating whether the concept of a “song of the summer” was out-dated, here are my two picks for the song of the summer of 2014.

“Girls Chase Boys” – Ingrid Michaelson
Unlike Iggy Azalea, this song is being played everywhere from Radio Disney to pop stations to our local, “cool music for middle-aged hipsters” station. So I’ve been hearing it a lot. And it’s thoroughly delightful. While “Fancy” may speak more to modern sensibilities, this sounds like it could be dropped in any era and still be a hit. Bonus points for parodying one of the most recognizable videos of all time, too. She pulls off the smart girl in glasses thing nicely as well.

“Goshen 97” – Strand Of Oaks
A somewhat dull video for an absolutely scorching song (with an assist from J. Mascis and his always epic guitar work). This out-of-nowhere song by Indiana native Timothy Showalter would be a sure-fire summer hit if the rock radio of our youth still existed.

On Throwing Things Out

As promised, the second of two nostalgia-focused entries.

Last week I spent some time cleaning out our attic and some boxes in a basement closet. I don’t have a ton of old stuff left around. I purged much of it when I moved away from Kansas City 11 years ago. But there were still a few boxes with fun memories of my youth in them.

The biggest box contained all my old Star Wars and GI Joe toys. Nothing was in collectable condition, so I decided to unload them on the girls. Now, keep in mind that they’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies, nor any GI Joe cartoons. But they happily played with them for hours and hours. Seriously, it was the best behaved they have been all summer. I should have done this weeks ago! Some of the novelty has faded, but L. especially loves playing with the Millennium Falcon, the X-Wing fighter, and the GI Joe F-14. I found one GI Joe action figure separated into two pieces. Apparently he stepped on a land mine or something.

Another box contained an over-flowing scrapbook that I started during the 1980 American League Championship Series and World Series. All kinds of other random sports memories are crammed into it. I didn’t look through it too much, but I did find a few gems in my brief investigation.

First, I found the stat sheet my 1984 Little League coach handed out at the end of that season. This was a good year, as we went 14-2 and won the championship series two games to one. It was also my first year in a tougher league, and as usual when I was on the bottom half of the age bracket, I struggled. I hit just .229 for the season. But, I wasn’t afraid to take a walk1, and managed to get an impressive .485 on base percentage. I was ahead of my time! Throw in the fact that I could run down about anything hit to center field, and Billy Beane would have loved me. Had I not been 12/13 and about to enter eighth grade, of course.

Also in that scrapbook was the Kansas City Star Fall TV preview section from 1985. On the cover? Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas from Miami Vice. No wonder I saved it!

The impetus for this process was a sister-in-law’s impending yard sale. For years I’ve held on to a massive box of CDs. This thing is huge; it’s damn near impossible to pick up, so I kept it on the floor of our basement closet. After much deep soul searching, I decided to go ahead and send 95% of the disks to the sale. Most of the songs I still listen to are already on my hard drives. And it’s been years since I went down and dug out a disk to rip a song that I was missing. I was far more likely just to buy the track from iTunes or Amazon than waste time going through the box. And I figure with the impending age of streaming music, anything I want to listen to will never be that far away.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel some pangs of doubt when I handed the box over. There was a lot of time and money put into amassing this collection. It was especially difficult to decide whether to give up my large collection of Pearl Jam import singles. But, again, they’re all on my hard drives already, and I can find most of them quickly on Rdio when I need to. So they all went.

After the review, I saved just a handful of disks. All my Pearl Jam live albums. Some by local bands that I knew would be tough to track down if I did want to listen to them in whole some day. And then a handful that are in my “all time favorites” list. Hopefully the rest find a good home.

Probably the funnest thing about digging through that box was seeing how my tastes changed over the years. There were plenty of “pop” artists in there. There was still a lot of early 90s R&B. 2 A small pile of jazz disks. Some cheesy soundtracks probably purchased to have around in case girls liked them. And then loads and loads of “alternative rock” artists.

As with any time I decide to either pitch or give away stuff, I struggle with the accounting behind the transactions. I think of how much money went into buying these disks/clothes/books/etc. and what their worth is now. As with the Star Wars toys, nothing in these boxes was rare or in pristine condition. The value today is almost completely based on my memories of their time in my possession. This CD helped me through a rough time. I read that book during one of the best summers of my life. And so on.

I suppose the bottom line of this exercise is, since I got my own credit cards and income during and after college, I’ve always bought too much stuff.

  1. Or maybe I was afraid to swing. I don’t recall. 
  2. I had sent the bulk of those disks over a few years ago for another yard sale. 

Looking Back

The first of two nostalgia-laden posts. My apologies; I’m a writer in my 40s. I can’t help myself.

This morning I finally wrapped up my review of the old posts here on the site. I won’t promise everything is completely cleaned up. But the number of posts with unreadable HTML segments smack in the middle of a sentence should be fairly low.

I didn’t read the posts closely while going through this exercise. I’d still be working had I done so. But a few observations from reviewing 11 years of writing.

  • I begin a lot of posts with the contraction “I’ve…”. I noticed this because in many of those posts the apostrophe had been converted to the code that tells browsers to insert an apostrophe. So I had to replace them often. Anyway, now I have a complex about it and will do my best to not begin posts with that contraction again.
  • I watched a lot more TV in the first, say six years, of the site than I do. That’s not a surprise in many ways, given our current cable-less state. But even when we were still rocking the whole Uverse package, it’s been years since I sat and watched hours of TV the way I did back in 2003-08. Probably a good thing. Although not all those hours were with kids. S. and I used to watch a lot of TV together. We spend most of our evenings working on computers or reading now.
  • I didn’t do a complex study of how the tone of the site has changed, but it clearly has. I think in the early days I was trying hard to be funny and carve out a niche as some kind of humorous social commentator. I imagine I was reading a lot of blogs that had that general tone and I was just mimicking it. And I wonder if some of my current tone is informed by writing for a paper and having to stick to the no-nonsense, all facts AP style. Granted there’s plenty of nonsense here still. I think the way I present said nonsense has changed, though.
  • Another big change, and this is mostly on me, is a different feeling in terms of the site being a community or conversation. In the early days I referred to this site as an online postcard to my friends scattered around the county. Since I allowed comments in the early days, I think that often turned into a multi-person discussion, even if just one or two friends added their thoughts to a post. Blame comment spam and my annoyance with it. Also, though, our lives have all changed a lot in the last 11 years. Those of you working now often have fancy titles before or after your names, where you were just employees or “associates” a decade ago. And most of us have added spouses and kids, so free time outside of work can’t be spent coming up with witty comments for my silly blog posts. Besides, that time is taken up posting witty comments to Facebook and Twitter, anyway! We’ve all changed a lot, my friends.
  • I write about politics a lot less than I used to. Many reasons for that, none of which we need to go into now. I would imagine even folks that see the world through the same ideological perspective as I do are thankful I’m not writing 3500 rambling words about this issue or that anymore.
  • It amused me greatly to read my posts about the various changes in look or platform for the site. Always so excited about the fun opportunities the latest change brought. Always to be rehashed 18 months later when I made the next change.

Running this site is one of the most consistent things I’ve done in my life. I started it two weeks into my marriage, and in my first week living in Indianapolis. I didn’t become a father until a year after the site’s first post. I’ve known a lot of you much longer than that, but time, distance, and circumstance means I see you all way less than I used to.

I don’t know how many of you read this regularly. I always imagine a certain friend is reading a specific post and taylor it for them. But even if no one is reading, it still scratches an itch that I have. I imagine the next 12 months will bring another round of life changes for me, as the girls go off to school and I look for a way to become at least a semi-productive member of society again. Given what this site means to me, don’t expect it to disappear just because I’m not spending 90% of my time at home with a computer handy.

Fair Visit

I suppose I owe you a few notes from Monday’s trip to the 4H fair. That’s why we’re here, after all, right?

I looked back and, unfortunately, our last trip to the fair two years ago fell in that missing gap in the site’s history. So I’ll apologize if I’m repeating details. If I can’t remember them, I doubt any of you will, either.

Luckily it was about 20 degrees cooler than two years ago. It was still a warm 85 or so, but not being in triple digits went a long way toward us enjoying it more.

While waiting for the cousins to show their pigs, we toured the other animal barns. We found our old friend from two years ago, Megan the pygmy goat. And Megan is now a mom! She had little Mallory with her. Our M. was kind of delighted by that.

In fact, she was delighted by pretty much everything. While C. and L. were rushing around in excitement, M. was nearly bursting with happiness. Each time she saw something funny, to her city eyes at least, she would burst out laughing. A pig starts squealing loudly? Laughter. A turkey gobbles at her? Laughter. A rooster crows at her? Insane laughter. As we approached the “Rabbits/Poultry” building, she turned and screamed at us, “There are rabbits and chickens in there!!!!!” I love it when she’s totally into a moment like that.

Speaking of into the moment, L. had no fear around the pigs. When Uncle John came by, she said she wanted to get in the pen and pet the pigs. These are big, fat pigs, too, not cuddly little pot bellied pigs you can keep as pets. But he crawled in with her and she happily pet the snoozing porkers. He asked M. and C. if they wanted to get in, too, and they quickly, nervously shook their heads.

He looked at me with a smile on his face and I said, “Those are my girls. L. is clearly her mom’s kid!” Not that S. raised pigs growing up, but she was in 4H and didn’t grow up with the city kid fear of farm animals I had.1

We saw some sheep being shorn (sheared?) and L. also delighted in the piles of wool laying on the ground. The wool was being judged in the hall where the crafts and food was being judged. As we walked through that area, L. snatched a handful off the table where it was being held for judging. She proudly showed off her “sheep’s fur” the rest of the day. Sheep’s fur…We need to get these kids out more.

The girls had fond memories of the milkshakes from two years ago. They were still gigantic, I’ll guess 22 ounces at least, still delicious, and still cheap: just two bucks. Quite the bargain, although they melt quick and when you’ve scarfed down that much ice cream that fast, stomach distress of some degree is pretty much guaranteed.

As for the pig judging, well that was a new experience. We got in to see the end of the first section, when the pigs themselves are judged. As you would expect, that went over all our heads. I guess the judge knew what he was doing, though.

Later, the kids came back and were judged on their showmanship abilities. The oddest part of that is they are supposed to keep eye contact with the judge at all times while keeping their pig under control. So each kid looks completely crazed as they try to keep their heads aimed toward the judge while doing their best to keep half an eye on their pig. All the kids looked mentally exhausted after their 10 minutes in the ring. Or pen. Or floor. Or whatever it’s called.

Oh, and M. laughed like a maniac when she saw one of the pigs on the floor taking a dump while he was waddling around the floor.

Her final contribution to our mirth on the day came when she heard that there are “domestic” breeds of animals. We explained that means the breeds come from here in the United States rather than from overseas. But no, she insisted, “Domestic means tamed! They’re tamed pigs!” Followed my more laughter.

That kid laughed a lot on Monday.

  1. I always have to defend myself by noting my cousins and uncles deliberately scared horses I was riding, ensuring I was thrown off, or sent me to feed the meanest goats on my summer trips to my farming relatives. I had legitimate reasons for my farm fears. 

Week Past – Week Ahead

Three-and-a-half weeks of summer left.

What an odd week this past one was. Monday and Tuesday it barely reached 70, with the lows at night touching the upper 40s. When it did warm up, it stayed below 80 until Saturday. Needless to say, there was no pool time last week.

It looks like it’s going to be more normal this week. We may even have our first 90 degree day of the year tomorrow! But after next weekend, another spell of “fall-like” temps is supposed to roll into our part of the Midwest.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s been the weirdest weather year ever since our massive snow storm / arctic freeze that began on Jan. 2. The girls were still wearing coats to school in mid-May. The day before C’s birthday we had hail/sleet off and on all day. And while our summer has been pleasant, it certainly hasn’t been the typical Midwestern summer full of hot, humid days.

We have a busy week ahead of us. In the next hour or so we’re headed up to a county fair to watch the girls’ cousins show their pigs. It’s always fun to take city girls to teh country. I say that as a city kid who spent parts of each summer in the country, partially delighted, partially terrified by the animals and environment. We’re hoping for some serious pool time the rest of the week. We’ve been in the water twice this month, not counting swim team stuff. And a certain daughter of mine hits double digits in age at the end of the week. She has a part planned for the weekend and is already making sure everyone knows that this is her “special week.”

It could be a long seven days!

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