Monday, February 28, 2011

Rest in Peace, Snaky or Slither or Whatever They Were Calling You This Week

Today, my six-year-old called my attention to the fact that, while our pet snake had crawled out from under his rock earlier in the evening, he no longer seemed to be moving. Being a six-year-old, he wanted what he feared to be confirmed before he would believe it. So, once I reached into the cage and nudged our little reptilian friend and he found didn't slide around the cage like he usually does, I had to make it official.

"Yeah, he's dead," I told him.

Time of pronouncement 5:32 PM.

The next hour or so in my household involved a lot of crying. Other than our dog, they had never really had another pet before. We caught a praying mantis once and fed it bugs consistently, but it seemed to be having problems from the beginning and only lasted a few days. They never had the chance to name it or become attached to it. It was more of a science experiment than a pet.

I saved the snake from getting stepped on at work as I walked out of a fried chicken restaurant one day last October. He stayed with me in a bag for the remainder of my day and then I brought him home for my sons to see. I fully expected to release him in our yard or even a nearby wooded area. But my sons wanted to keep him and my wife surprisingly consented. The little brown snake whose name was changed regularly had been with us for about five months.

While I knew my boys wouldn't exactly be happy about the snake's passing, I hadn't expected their sorrow to be so profound. We spent some time remembering what we liked most about Snaky (his original name) and discussing the most respectful method of disposing of his remains (they immediately rejected flushing him down the toilet, but I figured I'd at least throw it out there).

To conclude the night, a very small yet tasteful prayer service was held in the backyard, a hole was dug and an impromptu cross was made out of wooden kitchen skewers and electrical tape to mark the grave. The tears subsided and my sons began to speak of how much longer the snake had been able to live in our care than he would have been able to live in the fried chicken restaurant and how they will miss watching him devour earthworms whole. Eventually they got back to their activities, playing video games and fighting with one another about whose turn it was to play which video game.

With the passing of the most recent addition of our home behind us, I pondered how my boys had just grown up a little. No matter how small (six inches to be precise), my sons had just faced the loss of a family member. They took their time to express their grief, remembered the good times and moved forward, wiser for the experience.

And me? I went over and paid a little extra attention to my dog. I sat on the floor and scratched him behind the ears. Then I took his head in my hands and went nose to nose with him to let him know how I really feel.

"Hey buddy," I said to him. "I swear, if you up dig that snake up and eat it, I will kill you."

Weekly Features to Ring in the Madness

As we close out February and prepare for March, we have a new batch of weekly features to prepare.

As you may have heard, a big event here at Transformer Generation Dad will be taking place during the month of March, our inaugural Geek Tournament. I decided on sixty-five items with significant geekiness and paired them up. However, as with the NCAA tournament, there are some worthy contestants who had to be left out. This week's top 5 list is compiled of the best of the rest:

5. The Harry Potter Books - Perhaps their initial appeal and intention for children and the mainstream nature of the movies they have spawned caused me to leave this off.

4. Army of Darkness - The selection committee and I decided we could only go with one of the movies from the Evil Dead series and it ended up being Evil Dead 2, though I seriously respect Bruce Campbell's performance in this film.

3. The Bone Books - A classic tale of fantasy and magic in graphic novel form. I'm a big fan of this nine book series.

2. Office Space - I still shout, "PC load letter?! What the f--- does that mean?!" at work when the printer or fax machine gives me problems. Then I look around for someone to get the joke while I listen to crickets chirping. While I think this has a lot of geek references but it also is enjoyed by a lot of people who are not at all geeks. When on the bubble, mainstream acceptance did more to get contenders excluded.

1. The Legend of Zelda - When a game that altered the face of video gaming gets left out, that makes me a sad panda. However, the only reason this hallowed title was left off is because there was a stronger candidate from its own series, The Ocarina of Time, which completely blew previous RPGs out of the water.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is the train cake that my sons made for my birthday. It's impossible to reproduce because one of the special ingredients in it is their love for their father. You can also taste a mild hint of resentment of my authority in there, but they don't even realize they it yet and you can only taste it if you're really paying attention.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that when you peruse the Geek Tournament brackets, you can come up with sixty-five completely different items that you think should have been listed instead of what I have. No repeats either, but sixty-five completely new things.

This week's nemesis is any business that I happen to pass buy that still has a "Go Bears!" sign somewhere on it. I get it, you wanted to capitalize off their success and act like you were paying attention to their performance to attract customers. But at least take the damn thing down now and stop reminding me about what happened.

This week's lesson learned is to buy beer in thirty packs as often as possible. Don't get all high and mighty about the quality of such beers. When you haven't kept an eye on your stash for a while and you start to get low, the thirty pack is a life saver. After all, the best friends are the ones that are always there for you.

This week's equation helps you figure out how bushy and out of control your eyebrows (E) are going to be when you get older:

This can be calculated by taking the number of kids you have (k) and multiplying it by your level of affinity for evil geniuses (v) then dividing this product by the sum of your likelihood of performing self-grooming (g) and your spouse or significant other's attention to your hygiene (a) multiplied by the average number of hours of sleep you get per night (s). This should then be multiplied by your age in years (t).

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is: "Han will have that shield down. We've got to give him more time!"

Stay tuned for the launch of our Geek Tournament! It will be posted within just hours from now. Check back often and vote regularly. New match-ups will be posted every few days.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Like Stinky Cheese

It is a well-known fact that many things become better with age. Fine wine develops a robust and satisfying tone. Certain varieties of cheese blossom into their highest point of flavor, though the ones in the back of my refrigerator don’t seem to be of any of those varieties so I should probably get around to throwing those out. Certain items of clothing become so much more comfortable the older they get that they have to be thrown out in the dead of night in an undisclosed dumpster halfway across town just to prevent their retrieval from the trash.

“Honey, how did my favorite shirt get in here?” the husband asks his wife unwittingly as he pulls his Max Headroom Coke shirt from the garbage and throws it right back on despite the large hole in the left armpit that isn’t just on the armpit anymore but spans across most of the chest and despite its immediate proximity to old coffee grounds for the period (however brief) of its attempted disposal. And don’t think he doesn’t notice the coffee grounds. On the contrary, he is pleased and feels the resulting stain will add even more character to the already impossibly awesome shirt.

Advanced age is so synonymous with character these days that people actually pay more for things that have been distressed. Retro toys that are made the old crappy way and possibly with lead-based paint are more expensive than newer toys made with modern methods. Jeans come with rips and holes already in them (though I prefer to make the holes in mine the old fashioned way, by playing tackle football in them too often or carrying an overstuffed wallet in my pocket for several decades). Furniture is made with preexisting cracks and divots in the surface. I have a very cool looking dining room table that my kids need to set a flat object on top of in order to do homework. We manage. All for style.

So, as I turn another year older today, I’m not concerned. The extra wrinkles next to my eyes when I laugh add character to my face. The few gray hairs I’m beginning to find should provide me with a distinguished look ala comic book genius Reed Richards. The sounds my joints make remind me of that cool wooden door on that one building on my college campus. The fact that I can’t remember which building it was makes me eccentric and interesting. All the experience and side effects of age really just give me added quality.

So here’s to another year. I’m not another year older. I’m another year more distressed. I’m more valuable now than I ever was.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's About to Get a Little Crazy Up in This...

Loyal readers of Transformer Generation Dad, I am sending out a call to service. In the coming month, I will need your assistance more than ever before. We are about to undertake a massive event that will absolutely depend on reader feedback to be successful.

The month of March makes me think of one thing: March Madness…and drinking while listening to Irish rock on the 17th. Okay, two things, March make me think of two things. The most significant and lasting of these is March Madness (though I’ve had a few hangovers that might put up a good argument). The NCAA men’s basketball tournament provides entertainment for sports fans and prognosticators around the globe.

As talk of the tournament has begun to heat up over the past few weeks, I decided that creating a tournament of my own would be fun. No, it wouldn’t be a 3-on-3 round robin played on the hoop attached to my garage, although I’m game for trying that this summer if anyone is interested. I was thinking of match-ups between things that the readers of this blog would take seriously. It would be a tournament of all things geeky, or nerdy if you so choose.

With this dream in my head, I began compiling lists. At first I thought I might have difficulty selecting sixty-four different items to begin a tournament with. But shortly I found myself with more than enough and appropriate categories began to make themselves clear as divisions. In fact, there was so much material to work with that, just like the real tournament, some notable and arguably worthy contenders had to be left out.

Allow me to say now that I am neither deeming this tournament the definitive list of all things geek, nor deeming myself the definitive geek (or Dungeon Master, if you prefer). I am just a man trying to make my way in the universe (two points if you get the movies reference, five for the character) and I just happen to be the one who decided to create this particular tournament, so I (and a few close personal consultants) get the final say. Difficult decisions had to be made, decisions that will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I’ll be damned if we didn’t keep moving forward.

Any super-geeks out there may refrain from flooding my email inbox with complaints and criticism regarding what has been left out and disagreements with the seeding. Aw, who am I kidding? Go ahead and send me emails. It will actually be flattering to know people out there are reading this stuff. Just please refrain from tracking me down and showing up on my doorstep to argue your case in person. While I would also find this flattering, the disturbing nature of it would leave me unable to appreciate it fully.

In the end, sitting in my “war room,” the participants were agreed upon, the seeding was tinkered with and the tournament was finalized, including a play-in game. The four major brackets are to be as follows:

  • Movies
  • Video Games
  • Toys and Games
  • TV and Books

(Note: the pairing of books and television in a combined bracket made me cringe, but the numbers on it made sense, so just go with it.)

You have hereby had fair warning, loyal readers. Come March 1st, the Geek Tournament will be underway. The matchups will be legendary. The results will be fast and furious with each group of games being posted and available for voting for only a few short days. Voting can take place here or on Transformer Generation Dad’s Facebook page, or both if you prefer the Chicago method to voting. I also plan on posting a downloadable bracket that you can print out and write in by hand (you old fuddy-duddy).

In fact, should you complete a bracket and send it to me in some manner (only email, that’s the only acceptable manner) the top few contestants shall receive Transformer Generation Dad t-shirts! Yes, free t-shirts! I know!

So, prepare yourselves for Geek Madness! Nerd Madness? Mad Geekness? Geek Nerdness? Okay, the title has yet to be worked out, but be ready for March 1st when it all begins. Tell your friends and your acquaintances and even people you don’t particularly care for to check back here early and often throughout the month of March. It’s going to be fun.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Alien Documentary

The following is a portion of the transcript from a popular nature documentary show which aired regularly on Xagmophoid-3PR, a planet that orbits the star Eridanus. It was narrated by a well known member of their species, Klaximoph-12 whom humans would most readily equate with George Clooney.

On the evening of 118.4517-14, the Xagmophoidians sat (or took a relaxed position which most closely resembles what humans would refer to as sitting but due to the vast differences in their physiology cannot be described accurately in the limited space available to us) in front of their viewing screens. They watched in wonder as the fifth and final installment of the series covering a curious race of creatures (with only two arms, poor things) who were classified as the third most dominant species on a far way planet called Earth was shown...

The human species is a curious subject to watch age. Despite gaining sensory input on a daily basis, it does not seem to employ any of the new data into behavioral adaptation.

For instance, as we watch this particular male subject arise from its slumber and retreat to its designated waste deposit facility, it does not lower the mounting ring after performing its duty, despite the fact that failing to do so has repeatedly activated the aggression glands of its mate. It would seem that this threat to its survival is completely ignore by the human male.

Furthermore, observe as the subject drinks from the container of small brown liquid it procures from its eating station. Each day, with its first sip, the subject recoils in pain. Apparently, the temperature of the liquid upon its initial arrival is so extremely high that it causes the human physical pain.

Scientists once theorized that this was done purposely to exfoliate the outer layer of membranes from its food receptacle organ. However, after watching multiple humans over years expelling air across the surface of such liquids in order to prevent such injury, that theory has fallen by the wayside. Instead it would appear that only males past a certain lifespan participate in such impatient and reckless behavior after having learned as larva to avoid it.

Such regressive behavior is carried on throughout the rest of the male’s day. While piloting his rolling transportation craft, he does so at speeds far exceeding those deemed safe. Also, he tends to take the same path to his destination despite expressing obvious frustration through a myriad of gestures and exclamations.

The human male’s destination is then a completely new study in repetitive destructive behavior.

Watch the side of your screen where you can see the readings of the human’s plasma pressure levels and brain waves while at his place of work. Every interaction during this span of the day causes a significant increase in plasma pressure and a significant decrease in brain wave activity. This is something that has proven to be detrimental to the long-term health of their species.

The only times that the humans take a break from this behavior, they participate in one of two activities. Either they stand outside of their workstation entrances and inhale some manner of toxic material from a small paper cylinder or they retire to a mass feeding station where they consume a mixture of grease, animal fat and blended animal byproducts. Both of these activities seem to have just as much of a serious long-term health impact upon the human as the rest of their day at their workstation.

This is a very curious way to spend one’s day and our scientists have puzzled over its purpose for decades.

On rare occasions, a human has been discovered who does not follow this pattern. It would seem that some humans continue to behave in way that the child to adolescent members of its species have. These unique subjects continue to spend free time on hobbies that induced positive reactions as fledgling humans. They are seen to turn the corners of their mouths upward more often despite gravitational resistance and regularly participate in positive social interaction.

Often, it has been observed these sort of subjects participate in their workstation activities in a manner that is difficult to distinguish from their leisure activities.

But the path of such rogue subjects, whom have been referred to by the other members of their own kind most commonly as nerds and geeks, is not easy.

It would appear that, not being the norm, these subjects are ostracized by the rest of the human species. Despite often being more intelligent, they are commonly ridiculed and repressed. Most often, the behavior that most resembles child-like behavior is done behind closed doors or only with subjects who have already proven to the rest of the group tat they are like-minded.

While these subjects thrive in groups of similar subjects, they are far outnumbered by the rest of the human population, which is decidedly sluggish and miserable. It was for this exact reason that our Galactic Mercy Killing Initiative had decided several ages back to eradicate the humans from their planet. The surface space and resources that would be saved would have allowed numerous other, more progressive species to thrive.

However, the strength of the seemingly underground movement of more adolescent-like humans has caused the annihilation deadline to be pushed back. Our scientists have reasoned that should humans begin to show a higher rate of nerd-like behavior over the next several years, their species may be worth sparing for further study.

It is for this reason that the adopt-a-nerd program has begun. Stay tuned to learn how you can anonymously contribute to the fostering of this fascinating sub-species.

Also, after the break, we find out more about the Earth species our scientists now intend to turn their mercy killing efforts toward. An especially odd, four-legged species known on Earth as Zebras.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Err is Human, to Forgive is Divine

I’m in no hurry to have my sons grow up. There is still way to much for them to experience in childhood. There are Nerf wars yet to be fought and trees yet to be climbed. There are many seemingly endless summer nights of swimming and firefly catching to be had and lots of Lego sets that I still need an excuse to buy.

That said there are ways that my sons are growing up that I definitely enjoy the benefit of. Potty training is quite possibly one of the best things that ever happened to me. I like that they can communicate coherently to me what hurts them when something happens. I’m proud when they hold their own fish and release it back into the lake. While I miss reading to them regularly, the sight of the two of them sitting on the couch silently with books open on their laps warms my heart (and my six-year-old still mouthing the words as he reads is pretty cute).

But for all the ways they have grown up, they are far from being men. This is a good thing for now. No bills, no jobs, less complicated relationships, fewer worries. Manhood is something I have been trying to prepare them for on a daily basis, but I know they are far from grasping what adulthood really means.

Tonight, however, my eight-year-old will take a very important step toward becoming a man. Going to a Catholic school, he participates in the sacraments. Tonight will see him make his first Reconciliation. For those who are unsure, this is also known as Confession. You know the scene in those movies where the guy goes into the little booth and closes the door and tells the priest with the thick Irish brogue all the terrible things he’s done because he’s just met someone who makes him want to turn his life around? Yeah, that’s Reconciliation.

While my son has no murders on his conscience to confess (that I know of), this is still a very important event and I’m very proud of him for preparing for it seriously. He is going to stand before God, admit what he has done wrong and ask humbly for forgiveness. If that’s not being a man, I challenge you to tell me what is. (On a side note, I refer to manhood not because I am sexist but because biology has already determined that my sons will not grow up to be women. The positive attributes I discuss here are also part of being a strong, confident woman. Trust me, I looooove the ladies.)

Regardless of what you believe, whether or not there is a higher power or how exactly that higher power in manifested, there is still wrong and right. I have always been taught, and firmly believe, that a man, when he realizes he has done something wrong, recognizes his fault, admits it and asks for forgiveness from the appropriate source. At that point he has exposed himself to the will of that being to either forgive or hold a grudge. It is not for him to determine anything past that point. He merely sets himself at the foot of the wronged and leaves the ultimate decision in their hands.

This is obviously very hard to do. We all like to be right or at least not have anyone else know we are wrong. So when my son goes in and asks God for forgiveness today, I hope he understands the significance of what he is doing. And I hope he carries this through to the rest of his life. He can start by asking me for forgiveness for punching me in the groin that time when he was four. I can still feel it anytime I think about it.

I’m proud of you little man, and I love you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's a Dog Sleep Dog World

I admire someone who can stick to his principles despite seemingly insurmountable odds. When you can face adversity and remain firmly grounded in the fundamental aspects of your self, it commands a certain amount of respect. Many great men have bent to the will of others when under pressure, loosing sight of what they truly held as a priority.

Not my dog.

My dog likes to sleep. He likes it so much that he will be damned if he is going to let anyone or anything get in the way of it. Sleep, to him, is the greatest good and he will not be lured from the path of righteousness.

So committed to his craft is my canine friend that I once actually slid him across the room in order to get him out of the way of something I needed to do. His reaction to this was to remain on his side, lift his head and stare at me while I pushed him (thank God for wood floors). Once the move was complete, he went right back to his position and promptly began snoring again.

While some of you may confuse this with stubbornness, I assure you it is more than that. My dog doesn’t just lie down somewhere and refuse to move. He achieves slumbering perfection wherever he goes. I have watched squirrels leap over his prostrate body as he lay in the sun without the slightest twitch. He growled quietly at a large group of sparrows that had surrounded him on one occasion only because one happened to confuse the tip of his tail with appropriate nesting material. Even then, he remained outstretched and held his position once the hairs at the end of his tail were left alone. I challenge you to have this level of versatility with the things you hold dear.

Yes, my dog’s laziness knows no bounds. He knows his priorities and injects them wherever and whenever he can: on his designated bed cushion, on a small pile of dirty laundry, in the grass outside, on a square of sunlight cast on the hardwood floor from the window, immediately in front of his food bowl immediately after eating. There are no restraints on him. He can make himself comfortable anywhere.

I sometimes imagine he’s actually meditating when I discover him laying perfectly still somewhere. I wonder if his doggie mind is clearing out the stress and worry of the day and returning back to a clean slate. If this is the case, my rotund, furry little Zen master has surely achieved Nirvana a thousand times over, which truly makes me jealous.

Then again sometimes I stumble upon him (literally stumble upon him because I didn’t notice him sprawled out in the middle of the hallway) and fear that his advanced age has gotten the best of him and he has passed in his sleep (which is, undoubtedly how he will eventually go…no chasing cars for this one).

But then he snores inward and lets out a deep breath and I know that neither of these possibilities are true. He’s just sleeping.

Well I say, keep it up, hairball. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to be awake or go for walks if you don’t feel like it. Being a dog is what you make of it. It isn’t all playing fetch and begging for food and Master, I missed you so much. You’re not hurting anyone else so stick with what makes you happy. Be your own dog. Don’t succumb to societal pressures. Fight the establishment. Swim against the stream. Don’t let the Man keep you…up.

Monday, February 21, 2011

You Can't Have Too Much of a Good Thing...Until You Have

Sometimes, being a grown man involves practicing self-restraint. I try to avoid doing this as often as possible as my ramblings regarding trips through the toy and video game aisles of my local Target can attest, but every now and again it becomes a necessity.

Recently, while attempting to put some folded clothes away (another thing I try to avoid as often as possible…that is both the folding of clothes and the putting away of them) I realized that some self-restraint needed to be administered by yours truly. Immediately.

It has come to my attention that I have too many t-shirts. That is a statement that I never thought myself possible of making, but I have realized that I have so many that I sometimes find myself coming across a t-shirt I have not worn in over a year. I get to the bottom of a drawer and see an old friend staring up at me and I remember all the cool places I have worn it. Then I am overwhelmed with guilt by the fact that I have left it to wallow in obscurity at the bottom of said drawer, crushed under the weight of the t-shirts that have been the recipients of my attention more consistently. You can only imagine the guilt I feel over this.

Thus, I have vowed to never put my cotton-blended friends or I through this ever again. I have instituted a 2011 ban on purchasing new t-shirts for myself. I will not bestow my favor upon newer shirts while these old friends who have put in their time wait and hope for the day they will be pressed against my hairy chest again, knowing that day may never come.

Admittedly, there are a lot of more important things I could ban from my lifestyle. I could vow not to buy new Lego sets until the old ones still sitting in boxes are built. I could establish a ban on eating cookies for breakfast (not Cookie Crisp, though, because it is an important part of a nutritionally balanced breakfast). I could swear off pop/soda or lower my sodium intake. I could decide that I have been too quick to cast judgment upon others and vow to take the time to be more open and accepting of the behavior and life challenges of my fellow man. But the t-shirt ban seems difficult enough, so I’m going to just use this as a stepping-stone to better behavior.

Maybe come 2012, if I haven’t bought a new t-shirt (and the world doesn’t end as per the predictions of the Aztec calendar) I will be inspired to create all kinds of other changes for the better like exercising more often or eating brussel sprouts. Until then, the t-shirts are the closest I will come to making a positive life change. Yay, me!

Please note the language I chose at this point because I chose it very carefully. I specifically said that I will not purchase new t-shirts for myself. I will, of course, still gladly accept any gifts in the form of t-shirts. Also, should the opportunity arise to get a free swag t-shirt, this is perfectly within my self-imposed guidelines.

Thank God for loopholes.

Happy Anniversary!

I'm sure I don't have to tell you (obviously I'm not sure of that or I wouldn't be writing this post) that, as of Sunday, Transformer Generation Dad is one year old. This is cause for celebration. I honestly never thought I'd keep this blog going for a full year, but 307 posts later, I'm still writing on a near daily basis.

Thank you to all who have been stopping by to read. It certainly isn't the most heavily read blog out there, but I'm proud to be able to look at the stats at see that we have a steady and loyal readership. I know I thank you for reading all the time, but I hope you know I mean it.

I'm reminded of several times in my life when the weight of moments whose significance I had underestimated hit me:

During my college graduation ceremony, I just wanted to be done with school, but as I realized what was happening, pride welled up inside me. I felt ten feet tall suddenly while walking up to get my diploma, which normally would have caused me to feel very self-conscious like everyone was staring at me, but it was a good feeling this time.

When my first son was born I expected to be moved, but the enormous swell of emotions and instant bond I had with him was infinitely more than I expected and it repeated itself just as strongly with my second son. When each of them developed the ability to actually call me dad, a whole new wave of love and connection came too.

I had always thought of age as a number, but on the eve of my thirtieth birthday, I felt myself overwhelmed with panic. The dread of getting older snuck up behind me. Similarly a week or so later when my wife threw me a surprise party and I saw people there I hadn't seen in years, I was touched by how many people were willing to come out and party on my behalf.

Reaching the one year milestone of this blog comes nowhere close to comparing with any of those moments. It just reminds me of them. Hey, at least I'm honest.

But in all seriousness, I do find myself walking around with my head held a bit higher. I consider myself having passed a threshold into legitimacy that only doing something for a full year allows.

I encourage you to scroll down the left hand column and check out the blog archives. In particular, I recommend the third person posts from the Posts in a Nutshell section and some of the selections from The Hit List which are the most read posts of all time here. For those who weren't with us from the beginning and even for those who were, I thought it might be interesting to read the very first post here. It serves as a sort of mission statement for Transformer Generation Dad and I think its sentiments still ring true.

So, again, I extend to you all my most heartfelt thanks on taking any time out of your life to stop by here and read TGD. I can only hope it's enhanced your days in the slightest way. A special thanks goes out to my sons for providing me with so much inspiration and to my wife for so often editing the drivel that I type out and helping me shape it into something meaningful.

Here's to another great year ahead.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekly Features Include Missing Jack and Killing Zombies

During this time of year, when I’m sick of winter and spring isn’t quite here, I used to be comforted by an old friend of mine. This year, he’s no longer around to distract me through these cold, gray days and I miss him terribly. So, I have decided to start our weekly features with the top five things I miss about Jack Bauer:

5. His Scratchy Voice – Sure, Keifer Sutherland can still be heard endorsing Bank of America, but his promotion of their “Keep the Change” program just doesn’t compare to his shouting demands of, “Tell me where I can find (Marwan/Hodges/Suvarov/etc.)!” I have to turn instead to Christian Bale’s performance of Batman to get my angry, scratchy voice fix.

4. I Want to See What Else is in His Bag – That brown satchel Jack carried was the closest thing this decade to Adam West’s utility belt. I think it had the same dimensional properties as Ramona Flowers’ bag from the Scott Pilgrim series.

3. Jack Never Found Love – One of the hardest things to come to grips with is the fact that after losing his wife in the first season, Jack was so close to finding love again so many times, but never did. I thought he had something with Agent Walker, but, alas, it was not to be. Damn Russians!

2. My Life is Simpler by Comparison – Every time I started to feel overwhelmed with having to get the kids to school, get to work, get things done around the house and attend special events, I would watch Jack as he simultaneously watched people he loved kidnapped, tracked down nuclear devices, dealt with the emotional heartbreak of his estrangement from his daughter and still kept it together enough to save the world and hunt down the evil mastermind of that season’s nefarious plan. Suddenly, the pile of dishes in the sink didn’t seem so daunting.

1. My Torture Techniques are Getting Rusty – I used to be inspired to new levels watching Jack. Now I seem to be in the rut of shooting kneecaps, breaking a few fingers and occasionally cutting one off to get the answers I want. Sure it’s effective, but where’s the creativity?

This week’s cool-ass thing you will never own is a pet loon. This federally protected (from humans, but not so much from muskies) species of bird would provide the ultimate sound to fall asleep to at night and wake up to in the morning. A simple backyard pool would provide a virtual cage, seeing as it relies on flight to travel long distances and needs a lot of space to take off. Fines would be an issue, however, and keeping it secret would be tough.

This week’s sign you are a nerd is that you have more than one piece of Boba Fett collectable memorabilia on display in your home. So everybody has an action figure of a replica helmet of the universe’s favorite bounty hunter, but that shelf with the blaster and the original Slave 1 toy right next to them takes it to a new level.

This week’s nemesis is zombies. Not even real zombies, but the ones in the game I’m currently playing, Plants vs. Zombies on the Nintendo DS. I have lost countless hours of productive activity trying to eradicate them. They’re just so much fun to maim.

This week’s lesson learned is that if you decide to put up a Nerf hoop for your kids, do it as far away as possible form your room. When the morning comes that you’re trying to get a little extra shut-eye while your kids are bounding around making even as little noise as possibly while playing indoor basketball, you’ll thank me.

This week’s equation was thought up as I listened to the band my brother-in-law who is a senior in high school is listening to and recalled the band I was listening to around his age:

Finally, this week’s Star Wars quote is: “You know, I think that R2 unit we bought may have been stolen.”

Thank you for reading, everyone. Check back later for a special commemorative post and even more thanks.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Son's Venture Into Philosophy Revealed My Lack of Pride

As children, we struggle to solve the riddles of the world around us. We seek answers to life’s toughest questions. We desire knowledge to soak up into the sponge that is our brain. We seem to need to fill the space and so we constantly ask why. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? We ask these things in order to figure out the world around us. When the person we ask doesn’t have the facts readily available, we are a little disappointed.

My sons have asked plenty of questions like this and, in the age of the Internet, Wikipedia and Google, I can always tell them that we will look up any answer I can’t provide them immediately. With the growing prevalence of smart phones I can even start that process immediately. There is almost no waiting for an answer to any question.

But lately, my eight-year-old has been asking questions that he knows have no single answer and he seems to be learning a lot about the world and his loved ones while doing so. He has taken a rather existential approach to seeking information.

“Ask your uncle and daddy the questions you asked me the other day,” my wife instructed him.

“Alright,” he said then gave a deep sigh, nonverbally preparing us to explore the deepest recesses of our being and discover that which makes us truly ourselves. “What is food you hate the most in the whole world?”

“Candy corn,” his uncle answered.

“Now, what is your favorite food?” he asked next.


“Okay, so…(pause for dramatic effect…what if they made pizza flavored candy corn?”

We were instantly stricken silent. My brain felt like the proverbial computer who has just encountered something so contradictory to its programming that overload was imminent.

My six-year-old, ever the pragmatist, tried to help, probably seeing the intense look of confusion on our faces. “You wouldn’t eat it. It’s still candy corn.”

“But it would taste exactly like pizza, not like candy corn,” chimed in my wife.

The emotions of Ewwwww and Hmmmmm alternated on their uncle’s face. “I don’t think I would eat it,” he finally said, but didn’t seem to even believe himself.

The next round of questions was then posed. My eldest son asked his younger brother, “Who is your archenemy?”

I’m proud of my younger son’s straight-forward, honest demeanor. I appreciate that he can see things for what they are. He answers most questions quickly and confidently, sure of who he is. That’s how he answered this question, but even more than the matter-of-fact way he answered it, the answer itself made me proud.

“The Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings,” he announced quickly.

“And what is the thing you want the most?” his older brother then asked.

“Nerf guns.”

“So, what if the Packers and Vikings wanted to give you a bunch of Nerf guns?”

My youngest didn’t hesitate. “I would take them and then shoot them all with darts.” This included a pantomime of the actions he would take and a lot of shooting noises.

“But what if the guns had the Packers and Vikings symbols on the side?”

This time, even my six-year-old paused, but not for long. “Then I would take the guns, shoot them with darts and then break the guns and stomp all over them.”

Well met.

The question came to me next. Partially as a joke because he had just come up in conversation, I answered that Justin Beiber was my archenemy. My hatred here comes form the fact that one of my son’s friends once saw a Beatles coffee mug I was drinking from and thought it was a Justin Beiber mug (two side notes, 1: this was made into a third person story Making the Cut on this very blog; 2: that kid has not been invited back to our house since).

“What is the thing you want the most?”

My wife answered (accurately I might add) that I would want a lake house in Minnesota. I agreed and the final question came, asking what I would do if Justin Beiber gave me a lake house in Minnesota and I answered almost as quickly as my six-year-old.

“I would fish every day and you would hear from my boat on the lake: Like baby, baby, baby, oh! Like baby, baby, baby, oh! I thought you’d always be mine!”

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Brush With Puffy Foam Death

My sons have been participating in some epic Nerf gun combat as of late. Most of these have occurred with their uncle while I am at work. They each select two guns, equip them with their favorite rail attachments and load up their magazines to capacity. They have even taking to staging these battles after dark with the early sunsets and using the night vision scope my eldest son received for his birthday. Their tactical prowess is impressive. One acts as cover, while the other stealthily moves from room to room through the house, scope to his eye, in an attempt to discover an errant sock or elbow sticking out from behind the place where their uncle has taken cover before he opens fire.

For the past few weeks, my sons have been regaling me with war stories. They even reenact the one in a million shots in slow motion, including low pitch grunt as foam impacts skin and being thrown to the ground from the force of the dart. I listen and I laugh and tell them how awesome that sounds. Needless to say, I wanted in. And beneath my patronizing response to their stories lay a jealousy and a longing to have a shot at Nerf glory for myself.

So, when they forced me (I mean really twisted my arm) to promise that I would engage in conflict with them on Thursday night, I jumped at the opportunity. It was just the chance I was looking for to display my extensive training and test in real time some of the techniques I’ve learned through the many hours I have logged playing Call of Duty.

After my boys selected their weapons, I chose form the still abundant selection of remaining guns. I was happy going lightweight weaponry and stocking up on ammo. I retreated to my headquarters in the basement, armed with the Recon CS-6 with red dot site and 30-dart drum magazine and the Alpha Trooper CS-18 with ACOG scope and included 18-dart drum magazine. Just in case, I tucked an extra 18-dart extended clip into my back pocket. Then, in the darkness, I waited, concealed behind couch cushions.

One of my weapons from

I left my red dot site activated, knowing it would give away my location, but for a greater purpose. They found me easily in the dark basement, as I planned and retreated after I spent only a few foam rounds to scare them off. Now, I advanced up the stairs, set the red dot site in the kitchen and proceeded to hide in the dining room, behind the table. When my sons advanced past me and focused on the red dot site in the kitchen, I figured I had the drop on them. Triumphantly, I leapt up from behind the table and began to fire at their backs.

This is when it went south. I severely underestimated the firepower that they had decided to tote around. My six-year-old, without even a sound of surprise, spun around and aimed his Longstrike CS-6 sniper rifle at what couldn’t have been more than a shadowy outline with the steely reserve of a hardened veteran. The very first round he fired hit me squarely in the left eye.

The death of me from

My reaction was to run into the other room and shield my face. My sons met this with relentless pursuit and a barrage of darts to my back and butt that seemed to extend well beyond their magazine capacity. When I made the tactical error of curling up in a ball on the living room couch, my six-year-old’s seemingly harmless decision to sheath a sword on the back of his vest become more clearly ruthless. It wasn’t until after they had spent all of their ammo that they fell back to their headquarters in their bedroom where they could access the ammo box. As they went, they kept their muzzles pointed at me and retreated backwards up the stairs.

Meanwhile, I unfolded from my defensive position, wiped away my tears (shed due both to blunt trauma to the eye and instinctive fear) and dragged myself back down to the basement to lick my wounds. From that point, on, I resolved not to underestimate my sons’ bloodlust. I would need to position myself somewhere I had an avenue of escape to the bathroom where I could run in and lock the door without fear of them seeing their father cry.