05 November 2009

Totidem Verbis

I realize by posting this entry I risk a major case of the pot calling the kettle black (or however that saying goes), but I feel this subject needs to be broached. I speak of our ostentatious dispositions to utilize pedantic and neological morphemes whence non-convoluted locutions suffice (ha!). In other words: speak and write simply.

I do reiterate, mia culpa, on this one, but for what it's worth, I suppose my real gripe is not the use of more diverse word choices so much as the motive behind them. I've read enough peoples' papers and reports to tell when someone is just fluffing their paper with complex lexicons simply to sound brilliant (which inevitably it doesn't). This plague isn't just limited to the average college student who wants to dazzle their professors, it's frankly the whole of the academic community. Have you actually ever read many academic papers? They're terribly written with the most jargon-filled mazes you could imagine.

One of the worst tendencies is the random use of Latin phrases. The language is dead folks, let it go. You know how in some languages they have one word to describe a very complex concept? Latin isn't one of those languages. It would be one thing if we were actually cutting down time and energy, but we're not. I caught myself today almost saying modus operandi. I stepped out of the room where I was, slapped myself, and then walked back in and continued my conversation.

Let's look at some common Latin phrases and think about the benefit of their use by timing the difference in saying each in Latin and then in English:

Tempus fugit (.95 seconds) = Time flies (.93 seconds)
Semper paratus (1.35 seconds) = Always prepared (1.34 seconds)
Quid pro quo (1.34 seconds) = Tit for tat (1.12 seconds)
Ergo (1.06 seconds) = Therefore (.88 seconds)

And the list could go on ad nauseum. The benefit of using the Latin? Well you sound smarter, but you might end up a persona non grata because you also sound arrogant. Not to mention, on average your will be speaking .11 seconds longer per Latin phrase. Multiply that by some made-up number that is meant to represent how many time you'd use those phrases in a day and then multiply that by 365 and then multiply that by an average adult life, divide by 60 and then 60 again and we're talking over two days of extra talking because of your flair for Latin. Absit invidia, but I wouldn't want to lose so much time when I could be sleeping, eating, or even listening to others.

In all honesty, I have a bona fide interest in the fun complexities of our language (or in this case another language), I just think we should go simple when we can and when personal entertainment allows it. And for what it's worth, I hope you take this cum grano salis.

04 November 2009

American Psychos

I got rid of my dog.

Yes, to the credit of a number of pessimistic, gloomy, antagonistic, naysayers in my life (yes, you told me so), I decided my undeniable urge for independence was being stifled by a cute little hairy thing with a curly tail (I mean I had to feed and walk him at least twice a day).

For those who are genuinely concerned about my dog's 20, Parker found a great home with a young couple who have a Husky named Hunter. After Hunter savagely attacked Parker for coming in on his turf, they actually became great friends and played for 90 minutes while I imagined my life without the adorable hair ball.

Let me be clear, I love my (well, their) dog. He was a wonderful pet and taught me some great lessons about tenacity, Houdinism, and anger channeling. When he wasn't destroying my wood molding, flip-flops, area rugs, computer cords, books, magazines, table legs, couch, papers, dryer sheets, socks [insert breath], pillows, doggie gate, toilet paper, belts, carpet, dress shoes and blankets, he was a heck of a good time. He was adorable like no other dog I've ever seen, and had the uncanny ability to piss me off like I thought no living being other than my sister when she was six and cut up my Smurf shirt to make a super hero costume could ever do.

Now that he is gone, I've realized that I was missing the down time, and while I can't wait to have a family of my own, that will be the end of down time, like forever. One day it won't be a puppy destroying things, it will be a little man or lady spawned from my own genetics, pushing my buttons like only a blood relative can do. Not only will they have teeth and claws, but opposable thumbs and brains more devilish than any dog.

The other day I was driving by the dog park we used to frequent, and I glanced over to see if any of our doggy "friends" and their "parents" were there. As I turned back from my strained gaze and swerved back from on-coming traffic, I didn't see any dog I recognized. Continuing on my way, I had to laugh at the enjoyable six months I spent with Parker the puppy.

Since Parker is no longer a part of my life, I thought I would take this time to reflect on the crazy Oregonian dog-owner world that almost took me (We are legion?). The following are a few memorable crazies encircling my life as a Single Puppy Parent at the dog park:

Lady 1: [in a frantic tone] "Does anyone know where her mommy or daddy is? Where are her parents!?"
Me: [Internal monologue] Holy crap! There's a kid here in the dog park whose parent's abandoned him or her. I better help! [I look up and realize she's talking about a dog] Lame.

Lady 2: [Talking to my dog] "Well hi there, aren't you cute! These are my kids, Bernard and Willie. They are really friendly and love to play! Do you want to play with them?" [My dog, not understanding a lick of English, walks away]. "Well guys, I guess you'll have to find another friend to play with."

Lady 3: (yes, by the way these were all ladies) "I just bring Princess (the foofy little dog sitting on her lap that didn't look entirely unlike its owner) here so she can feel a part of things (Princess didn't give a hoot). She doesn't like to play with other dogs, well, not since a little run-in she had with a mean old Bichon when she was a puppy (mind you the dog looked ancient, so the fight had to have been at least a decade ago.)."

And since making fun of other people isn't fair without a little for myself:

Me: "Parker, are you hungry? Parker, are you hun-gry? Are you? [blank stare from dog] Yes you are, you're hun-gry!"

Me: [absolutely about to blow a gasket] "Did you chew up the rug!? [blank stare from dog] Look at this! Did you do this! Did you? [feeling persistent, after no answer at all] Did you chew up this rug!? You're going into time-out!" (yes, I did have a time-out for my dog)

In the end, pets are great. They allow those of us who live alone to talk out loud without feeling too crazy and they serve as an explanation for spooky sounds in the night for those who get scared sometimes (not me, of course). They drive us to the edge of homicidal acts, but then make everything better after a few licks and some snuggling. Sometimes, groups of unsocialized dog "parents" get together to socialize their dog "children" at parks. The awkward, eccentric outcome is to be expected, I guess I'm just okay with not being a part of that scene anymore. I've got a ton of photos, some great chew marks on items around my house and a bunch of fun stories. Gosh, owning a dog was great!

Here's to you Parker!

19 August 2009

Emphasis on the "Unquote"

Back in the day (like three or four years ago), I used to get a little ruffled when people would talk about so called "quotes" from famous people.

"There is this quote I love," they'd begin, with a twinkle in there eyes, as mine would contort to match the grimace forming on my face. The reason for my miff was the improper usage of the word "quote" which would have been more properly represented as a "quotation."

Oh the simpler days.

Little did I know that while I was fighting a crusade against people who were hacking the ends off words, a far deeper crime was happening. The travesty of which I am speaking is not the use of the word "quotation," but the very foundational and blatant overuse of "quotation marks" (for instance, that instance was unnecessary) themselves.

Driving around on any given day, you can see them in use in a variety of signs and posters. I've come to the jaded conclusion that why they are in use on many of these signs and posters, is just as much a mystery to their authors as it is to me. One recent example is at a sushi restaurant I frequent. The sign, advertising their lunch deals states that the deals are available "Mon. to Sun." Who they are actually quoting, I'm not sure. Worse even may be the "finger quotations" that fly around at any given gathering of human beings.

"I don't know, I guess people just think they need to use them somewhere, so they just stick them in where it feels good," said Francine Ramsey, president of the International Quotation Regulation Council (IQRC), in an interview I conducted for this post.

In 1964, Ramsey, along with two Russian physicists invented the double quotation mark commonly used today. The breakthrough, which was a bit of a loss for the Russians, whose alphabet does not use quotations, was a self-proclaimed "perfectly balanced syntactical equation cap." Since their discovery, more than four decades ago, Ramsey has lead the way in promulgating the use of the "useful" marks. Admitting that sometimes quotations are overused, Ramsey compared the marks to other, less fortunate punctuation.

"At least it's not like semicolons," Ramsey explained. "I mean, Bill Stewart over at the National Assembly for the Increased Use of Semicolons can't get people to touch those with a ten foot pole; it's pretty sad!"

According to Ramsey, recent talks with the trendy computer maker Apple, have centered around removing semicolons completely from keyboards. In fact, quotations are so far on the opposite spectrum in modern script, that according to a 2008 IQRC study, conducted in conjunction with the FDA, as many as 65 million Americans may suffer from a sort of "compulsive quotation disorder."

During our interview, Ramsey explained that from the IQRC's perspective, overuse wasn't necessarily such a bad thing. In tough economic times, the high use of homemade signs, which inherently contain more improper usage of quotation marks, keeps the royalties coming in.

"It's not like Xerox, we're not going to lose our trademark," she said. "I'm just glad we aren't facing extinction like some punctuation," she laughed gazing out her office window toward a neighboring office building sign that read: "Space Available "Built to Suit." "

"I'm making $500 a month for each of those giant marks," she said smugly, "and that office was where The AND* was based before they had to close down when the Millennials decided the symbol looked too "loopy."

My time with Francine Ramsey made me decided on the need for a little education. So, to you 65 million Americans who may be afflicted with a compulsive use (or misuse, as it were) of quotations marks, this part's for you:

According to my research, which consisted of a 0.29 second Google search entitled "usage of quotation marks," and the content from the uncontested source for all worthy information, Wikipedia, there are five cases in which quotations should be used:

  1. In direct quotations (duh).
  2. When citing irony (e.g. His "superior humor" escaped me.)
  3. Indicating unusual usage (e.g. She said she was taught "real good.")
  4. Titles of artistic work (uh huh)
  5. Nick names (e.g. Jesse "The Body" Ventura)
The biggest problem people run into (and the source of 80 percent of Ramsey's loyalties) is an attempt to emphasize a word using quotation marks, rather than the appropriate italics. Wikipedia notes that this can lead to a misinterpretation that the author is intending irony or an unusual meaning rather than their intended emphasis. "Real" leather therefore begs the question as to the definition of real, just as ""Silence" please" causes us to question the librarian's definition of silence ("I can't even breathe?").

While I run the risk of posting this and being forever "judged" for my quotation use, I believe the post is important, and somewhat overdue. This post alone cost nearly $200 in royalties to the IQRC, think how much businesses across the country are blowing on the misuse of this "valuable" punctuation mark.

At least I'm not worried about cutting off words anymo'

*The Ampersand's National Delegation, a now bankrupt 501(c)(3) non-profit designed to expand the use of the ampersand (&) in day-to-day writing.

30 July 2009

IQ Drops with Groups of 435

Well, it's official. Government has yet again proven that a group's intelligence quotient drops substantially when said group is numbered at either 100 or 435, is housed in a large, white, domed building, and has its own staff large enough to invade a small country.

According to the NY Times, as of today, the Cash for Clunkers program, so brilliantly designed by Government to pay people for getting rid of perfectly good gas-guzzlers has gone broke. Yes, less than one month since enacted into law, and a mere four days after becoming effective, the program has apparently used up all of its funding.

Now here's the thing. It's not that saving the environment isn't important, and it isn't like Government doesn't have an extra 1 billion bucks (which was the program's funding) to throw around to save the environment at a time when countries like California are shutting down for lack of funds. It just seems silly that anyone would conceive of such a foolish program. I had to find out more.

I decided to call Barry Schmitzer, director of the newly formed government agency over the program, to ask some questions. It was hard to find his phone number, considering his office first opened on Monday and was closing up for good this evening. I finally found him by searching the DC Craigslist under Rental Office Space. He had listed his name as Sarry Bchmitzer, but I managed to see through his clever pseudonym. When I did finally get a hold of Barry, he only had a few minutes to talk before they disconnected his phone line.

Me: "Thanks for talking with me Barry."

Barry: "Well, it's better than talking with all those people who aren't going to get their rebate, but if the phone beeps, I have to see if it's someone calling for the Craigslist ad."

Me: "I completely understand."


Barry: "Hang on."


Barry: "Sorry, wrong number. ...Where were we?"

Me: "So you're telling me before the program went broke earlier today, if I had bought a 1984 Chevy Blazer for $800 (which is an actual Portland Craigslist entry from today that I accessed while looking for Barry's contact info) a year ago, left it in my garage while I continued to drive my real car, I could have traded it in (before the program went broke today) for $4500 toward a new car?"

Barry: "Yes."

Me: "But, isn't it kind of sad that the program is already broke?"

Barry: "Are you kidding? I got paid upfront from bailout money for a two year job that lasted four days... Oh wait... please don't quote me on that."

Me: "Sorry, I'm blogging live here."

Barry: "Crap."

Me: "So, is Government looking to spread this program into other sectors?"

Barry: "Absolutely, you'd be surprised how many Americans have old dishwashers or microwaves, or laptops that aren't Macs. My newest idea is to-"


That was when the phone line was cut off. I hope Sarry was able to lease his office space.

Well folks, that's it. I just wanted you to know what if you were planning on buying a clunker, you're probably going to be out of luck... At least for now.

If you really want to make a change though, considering buying a clunker anyway. Get some of your friends to also. If we get enough people to jump on the band wagon, drive them around as much as possible and ultimately widen the hole in the ozone layer, perhaps Government will initiate it again.

Maybe in desperation they will even increase the credit. What's $4500 on an $800 clunker when we could go for say $10000 on anything with wheels? For now, stay away from large groups of 100 to 435, I hear they hurt logic and reasoning.

27 July 2009

Adventures in Single Puppy Parenthood: Double Vision

I have decided to expand my Single Puppy Parenthood segment into a mini-series (since frankly puppies tend to provide endless material for blogging). The summary of today's installment: Two puppies have the energy and destroying power of a thousand burning suns.

This weekend I was doggy sitting Parker's brother, Bennie. The words "crazy hellish experience" have a whole new meaning to me.

Let me one-up my previous entry, by saying that being a single puppy parent of one is nothing compared to a single puppy parent of two (that's a SPPOT [pronounced like a dog named Spot, but with a drawn out "p"]). Admittedly, the experience wasn't that bad, but on Saturday afternoon when Bennie relieved himself on my floor for the fourth time in 60 minutes, I was a little put out.

This afternoon when I came home at lunch, I let one dog out at a time to go to the bathroom (after learning the hard way that going together didn't work at all). Parker did his thing, but then Bennie had a decidedly hairier time. I put Parker back in his kitchen prison and took Bennie out of the bathroom (after preventing myself from learning the hard way they couldn't be together during the day). As soon as I closed the door with Bennie, Parker (wanting to play with his brother) commenced his FREAK OUT routine of whining, crying and breaking down what was supposed to be the unbreakable doggy gate.

I should mention that it was about 100 degrees today, so as my dog began to freak out inside, my blood began to boil and the sweat began to run. With all the noise inside, Bennie of course couldn't focus (he has major ADD, not that I am judging) and do his thing. After a few minutes of no peeing, I decided to come back in. Dripping wet, I cursed at my dog and decided to let him out so he and Bennie could play a bit. As Parker bounded out of his now-broken mega gate, Bennie got so excited, he began to (of course) wizzle on the floor. I immediately picked him up (while I was still dripping wet) and took him outside. I'll give you one guess what happened.


We went back inside, have not achieved anything, and with Parker again FREAKING OUT, and with my sweat now causing pools to form wherever I stood. The minute I walked back inside, I'll give you one guess what happened.

Bennie peed on my floor.

I grabbed him to stop him and took him outside again. I sat him down by a bush where he pees a lot, and guess what happened?

Nothing, he had apparently peed it all out.

As I now faced the serious danger of either drowning in my sweat or beating my dogs to death, I decided it was time to do two things 1) Grab each dog by the scruff and put him in his kennel
for the rest of the afternoon(for their personal safety more than anything), and 2) get off as much clothing as possible to cool off(don't try to imagine that one).

I cleaned up the pee and sat in front of the A/C vent on full blast for the next ten minutes before putting on a clean undershirt and polo to go back to work.

Stay tuned for another installment in the life of a SPPOT.

23 July 2009

Oregon: The Land of the Slow and Calm

Have you ever worked in a customer service-type setting where a customer was very angry? Did you notice that as you remained calm (and maybe even got calmer as you went along), that the customer's anger escalated? I've always prided myself on being able to stay cool, but it seems like we as a people tend to act like that. When we are frustrated, and the other person doesn't validate us by responding with equally frustrated cues, we tend to explode.

It appears that I am the customer, and the whole of Oregon drivers are the smug little customer service reps who stay calm (darn them).

Their tranquil driving methods are making me more and more "assertive" in my driving.

Since moving to Oregon (which I absolutely love, and highly recommend), I have noticed that most drivers here are on a whole other wavelength from me. Growing up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, it was eat or be eaten on the roads--in the which, I was a tiger of the interstate and a lion of the back roads. When I moved to Utah, I enjoyed what I would simply call "dorky driving," and relaxed a bit. Oregon drivers are a whole new experience. The following are real (and frequent) occurrences:

Situation One: I get to a red light, and the car in front of me is 15 (really two or three, maybe) car lengths from the car in front of them. I really don't understand this. At first I thought the would be going for a rolling start to get going--wrong--it's just space, and they seem to like it.

Situation Two: It appears that not only do many Oregonians obey the speed limit (ha!), they seem to feel that driving about five miles under is the optimal speed. You can always auto-profile these types. If you come up behind an old model Volvo station wagon, any type of VW (except those little Golfs), or a Subaru (which alone represents 33 percent of all cars in Oregon), you know you're going to be in trouble. They chug along, as I, infuriated from behind, flail my arms at them and get a little too close, hoping they'll notice a speed limit sign (or pull off) and go faster.

Situation Three: The last major thing I've noticed is the tendency for two cars, driving side by side (on a road that has only two lanes going either way), to go the exact same speed for miles. Has anyone heard of the passing lane? The funny thing, is it seems like the car on the left is trying to pass, but the other car is already going five under the speed limit, so the car on the left doesn't want to go too fast when passing.

The three of these behaviors have amazingly turned me into a far more "assertive" driver than I have been in years. I say "assertive" in quotation marks, because frankly I freak out from time to time and end up getting a little aggressive (but let's just keep a secret between you and me). The irony of the situation, is I really dislike drivers with aggressive behaviors. Tailgating alone is one of my least favorite things (as a passenger, don't you always worry you're going to end up in the guy in front of you's back seat?). Not to mention that I consider myself to be a pretty courteous person. I even let a nice man and his son into my lane the other day. That has to be worth something?

I suppose if I'm going to stay here a while (which I am). I'm going to need to learn to drive more calmly. Maybe I just need to get a Volvo station wagon, and suddenly I will be chill. If I don't downgrade from fast and furious to slow and calm, I may instead need anger counseling. If that doesn't work, you may be reading about me in the paper one of these days... ""Assertive" motorist decapitates Volvo station wagon driver with Racquetball racket."

21 July 2009

An Organic Rant

So I'm just wondering, on any given day, how much inorganic material do we actually digest? I don't really get where we came up with using the word "organic" to describe food that is supposedly more healthy. I'm pretty sure every kind of tomato in the food store (that's my Jersey-talk for grocery store) is carbon-based and therefore organic... am I off base?

No? Good.

I mention this topic, because last night while I was enjoying an episode of Arrested Development (the best show not on TV), I decided to have a snack. I went to my kitchen and pulled out my 75 gallon tub of animal crackers from Costco. As I was enjoying the drawings of animals on the front of the package (who, based on their cooked-on smiles, were clearly unaware when they were tossed in the oven to seal their grins on permanently that they were cookies that were going to be eaten) I noticed on a bright blue banner, hanging in the sky over my soon-to-be-digested animal friends, that read "organic." Aside from spitting the cracker out immediately simply based on principle, a gawked at the notation like it was alien. Who ever heard of organic (or inorganic for that matter) animal crackers? What would that even mean, and moreover, why are they even called crackers, they are COOKIES for goodness sakes!

Organic animal crackers is like selling fat-free lard, or a healthy steak. No! I want to eat inorganic cookies that are bad for me (although incidentally I don't know what inorganic cookies are made from...)! That's why I'm eating cookies and not crackers, or the carrots, celery or almonds in my kitchen.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, "organic" foods must qualify under the following conditions:
  • Toxic pesticides are not used
  • Soil fertility is maintained and replenished using natural methods such as crop rotation, fertilizer crops, composting etc.
  • Regular soil and nutrition analysis are done to test soil fertility and food quality
  • Natural methods of topsoil management are used to ensure minimal soil erosion
  • Organic farmers aim to preserve and protect natural wildlife, vegetation and water systems
  • Organic farmers are concerned about the loss of a variety of species
  • No genetically modified seeds are used
  • Organic growers collect seeds from the plants in order to preserve biodiversity
Now, based in as much fact (but mainly unfounded personal opinion) as possible, I'm going to talk through the merits of the aforementioned points to decide whether or not my animal "crackers" really need to be organic:
  • Toxic pesticides are not used (well thank heavens! but then again, wouldn't I be dead by now if toxic pesticides were used on my inorganic food? Once more, inorganic food wouldn't attract pests anyway, so no pesticides would need to be used. No merit here.)
  • Soil fertility is maintained and replenished using natural methods such as crop rotation, fertilizer crops, composting etc. (yeah, not so important to me. No merit.)
  • Regular soil and nutrition analysis are done to test soil fertility and food quality (see comment above.)
  • Natural methods of topsoil management are used to ensure minimal soil erosion (why bother, we can just haul in more top soil from the rain forests?)
  • Organic farmers aim to preserve and protect natural wildlife, vegetation and water systems (we've got plenty of that stuff in Africa)
  • Organic farmers are concerned about the loss of a variety of species (ditto from above, in conjunction with the rain forest)
  • No genetically modified seeds are used (so what you're telling me is my crackers are genetically inferior and could never make it at GATTACA?)
  • Organic growers collect seeds from the plants in order to preserve biodiversity (that sounds like a lot of work)
So to conclude my scientific inquiry into the merits of organic food, let me just say, organic is dumb.

I will eat my organic animal cookies, despite their "challenged beginnings," because I am a nice person, and wouldn't deny them their destiny. That said, next time Costco or anyone else tries to tell me how I want to have my top soil managed, I'm going to write a very long letter to Barack.

And another thing, "free range," animal products are a total joke. Don't believe me? Look it up online. You're not going to see me buying free range animal crackers ever, it's a farce, and I wouldn't degrade the memory of those little smiley rhinos by imagining they lived a pre-consumption life any better than they actually did.

20 July 2009

Adventures in Single Puppy Parenthood

I've been blog-negligent for almost six months now, but I think it's a reasonable hiatus. You see, I recently took a new job in a new city, which means one obvious thing: it was time to complicate life by getting a dog.

Yes, I am a single puppy parent. Now in being a SPP (pronounced like "sip" but with less emphasis on the "i" and more on a hard, long "p"), I don't wish in any way to mock single child parents (SCP, [which is pronounced like "sickp" without any strange emphasis or elongation of the "p"]), whose challenges I'm sure far outweigh mine. That being said, having a child does have some advantages.

Children are (at least in most cases) allowed in stores. I've been buying a lot of stuff at PetSmart and Home Depot just so I can let the little guy out of the car when I run errands (incidentally he has a thousand toys, and I just finished installing a third edition on my apartment).

My reasoning for getting a dog was flawless: I'm going to be in a new place without roommates.

Yep, that was about it. I just knew I wanted to get a dog. I did a lot of research into what kind I wanted, and when I found the right one, I did the obvious thing again: I called my best friend in Oregon (where I was moving) and asked him to go pick up the dog for me so that when I got there I would have a new puppy to greet me. My thought process circled around the idea that by having a dog while I was getting situated, we could get used to the place together. I have to admit some of the logic in the above sentences may have not been terribly sound.

In the past couple months I have fallen in love with Parker the Puppy (I even thought of starting a blog about our adventures, but then remembered that I was a negligent single blog parent of this blog (that's a NSBP [pronounced in a way that I cannot articulate with our phonically-challenged alphabet]). I sat down to write this entry about a month ago, but as I typed the letters w-w-w-dot-b-l-o-g-s-p, suddenly there was a whole other kind of pee going on in the room. I jumped up and ran at Parker to stop him from urinating on the rug. All the commotion which was supposed to stop his flow so I could carry him out, instead cause him to run, with the flow continuing down the hall. Needless to say, I didn't get back to the blog.

It's not all bad potty jokes though. The second week I had him, we were out for a very early morning bathroom run (early as in 5 a.m., run as in when he had to go it was a mad dash to get him out). His tummy was still getting acclimated to his food, and as he squatted (lovely mental image, right?) his not-so-solid bowel movement was interrupted by the rapid escape of methane gas from his button. The resulting sound (and propulsion, I like to imagine) caused the little dog to leap several feet in the air from fear... Now that was a hard laugh to come back from.

The aforementioned peeing and pooping in the house has luckily come to an end (although yesterday I did find a petrified present in the guest room when I was moving something that hadn't been moved in several weeks). Parker's new trick (among many that will ultimately cause me to turn pre-maturely grey) has been an escape act.

I came home last week to find Parker waiting for me inside the door. No big deal, except for the fact that he stays in the kitchen during the day, under the impermeable (or so I thought) gaze of a baby gate, and so shouldn't have been at the door. It appears that at four and a half months old, Parker can jump and climb more than twice his height to freedom (and a fair supply of naughty things to chew on.) Over the next few days I rigged everything I could think of together (including flipping my coffee table on its side) to heighten the gate and keep him as a daytime hostage.

I kid you not, he escaped every time (but boy was he happy to see me when I got home).

By the end of the week I was looking into the varying costs between placing a "for sale" ad in the classifieds and hiring a dog hit (the hitter would have probably been a pit bull named Spike).

I even tried just letting him out one night...

Without getting into details, let's just say the results were disastrous with casualties ranging from flip-flops to carpets. When the weekend came, I went to Home Depot (where I could actually take the delinquent child in) and bought two pieces of wood paneling to heighten the baby gate. And then I forgot them in the cart while I was loading the dog and the shingles for my third edition into the car.

I got all the way home and later that night realized what I had done. I went to another Home Depot (to avoid the embarrassment of trying to find two pieces of scrap wood I had asked them to cut and paid $0.49 each for) and got another two pieces of wood. It's now Monday night, and after at least three runs, Houdini appears not to have figured it out.

While I admit (and apologize) to having rambled in this blog, it wasn't even in one sitting that I have written on and on. Since I began this entry sometime earlier this evening, I have paused to watch Parker chase a fly around the house (I don't think he got it, but man was he focused), to scold him for jumping on my bed, to play a quick version of WWF Royal Puppy Rumble and to go for a potty walk. How I get it all done and still manage to blog, I just don't know.

All I want to say now is the next time you go out with friends at night, or run for a fun weekend at an exotic getaway, or even as you leave to run a few afternoon errands that your naive life affords you, remember there are those of us who aren't so free because of the decisions we have made. Yes, I am a single puppy parent, and yes, I am looking to get out of that status... but not by getting rid of the puppy (if you know what I mean).

DISCLAIMER: I love my dog very much, and am thrilled to have him. Purely for the dramatic-nature of this blog, I have chosen to accentuate a few, well, dramatically-natured events. Parker is the more sustainably cute thing I have ever encountered and I recommend pet ownership to anyone with patience, love and a physical inability to do harm to small animals no matter how much they may piss you off when you are tired and just want to relax.

UPDATE (21 July 09): Less than 24 hours after posting, he did it. Parker "Houdini II" the Puppy managed in one leap to rip the new wood panel off the baby gate and escape. I considered how to continue to rig the gate, but opted for what I'm going to call the full-blooded American approach: buy a bigger, more expensive gate that has no guarantee of working. I went to three pet store in the vicinity to find a new gate. $90 later, I am yet to figure out exactly how it works (it's child-proof, so it might take me a while), but once I do, Parker will be behind bars for good.

16 January 2009

Can You Hear Me?

I am a little hard of hearing. I'm not afraid to admit it. It's somewhat sad that someone my age can't hear everything a friend or colleague is saying from a few feet away in a noisy room.

"Your dog bought a motor home in Fiji? How much did he pay?"

Do you remember those ads on TV that showed two older people in a fake restaurant having a fake conversation and the one guy is straining his ears to hear his fake wife over the clearly fake background noise? Suddenly a silver-haired man in a white doctors coat would walk onto the set holding a tiny skin-toned piec
e of tortellini that promised to filter out those noises and magically select the person or persons you were supposed to be hearing and pump up their volume. I don't know how old I was when I started noticing these ads, but I remember thinking as I played with my dinosaurs, "I need to get me one of those."

Sometimes I have heard that people who don't hear well tend to talk very loudly, but that's not something I've ever had a problem with (well except for when I'm in a smallish room with my mother's family; then we all just tend to get louder and louder). But maybe it's not that they can't hear, maybe just like how I was born without the ability to hear well,

"The doctor is going to rent a clown to ease the trepidation where!?"

some people were born without the ability to control the volume of their voices,


This seems like a very reasonable answer. It also seems that just as my hearing problem only arises in certain circumstances, like a busy room, perhaps the same applies to the voice-volume-control-impaired (VVCI).

For example, my former roommate only seemed to be VVCI when talking on the phone. We can be in a quiet room talking, and as soon as he answers the phone, it's like he's shouting to someone across the street. "YEAH CHRIS IS HERE TOO. YOU WANNA TALK TO HIM?" The benefit, of course, is that I never have to guess at what he's talking about.

This evening I stopped at a new barber shop to try it out. I was very happy with my surroundings as I awaited a stylist, and then suddenly, I realized that I knew a lot about the guy getting his hair cut across the way.


And you get the picture.

At that moment a stylist called me up right next to him. Over the next five minutes I continued to hear all about his life. To make matters worse, because of the "background noise" next to me, mixed with the buzz of the trimmer, the TV and passing traffic, I couldn't hear anything my stylist was asking me in her awkward attempt to spark conversation with a hearing-impaired 26-year-old.

"Am I going out with a winner to the fight?
No, I didn't know there was a boxing match this evening."

"No, I've never seen bald eagles sing the National Anthem, but it sounds like you had a great time at the Olympics with Kim Jong-il. Did he look well?"

While I doubt my hair stylist actually hung out with such a comrade, I felt compelled to give her a nice tip for trying to amuse me. She did have to listen to that guy's story and frankly she didn't get anything that made coherent conversational flow out of me.

13 January 2009

When the Small Take on the Large . . .

Imagine with me, if you will, the nation of Estonia. You probably know what continent it's a part of (probably), but could you point it out on a map? Visualize for just a moment, what countries is it nestled between? It is land-locked or coastal? Deserts, forests, beaches or glaciers?

No go? I didn't think so.

For those few of you pursuing International Relations or some other "worldly" study and who do know a thing or two about Estonia, shut up. This is only my object lesson, and I will get to the point in a momen

Now imagine if Estonia, using its vast $28.7 billion GDP and bottomless population of approximately 1.3 million people, decided to wage war on the United States (with a GDP of $13.8 trillion and population of just over 303 million). Now we aren't talking guerrilla warfare here, this would be a full-out, head-to-head siege over the Atlantic (yes, Estonia is to the east of us). This would be like Estonian President Toomas Ilves
(yes, that's pronounced Two-mas) getting onto every major television station and calling A
mericans a bunch of pansies who couldn't hit Estonia with a bomb if we tried (incidentally most of us couldn't--find it to hit it that is). It would be like their version of Chuck Norris making a movie about how he kicked the American Chuck Norris' trash. It would be like the Estonians trying to make a car that rivals our own--well--the Japanese cars we call our own. It would be like the Estonians claiming they invented basketball, football or any of the other sports our now-obese society has dreamed up. It would be like them claiming that Barack Obama's birth certificate was actually from a little hospital in Tallinn (that's the capital).

Now I don't mean to be a cultural chauvinist, but basically it would be an outrage--nay--a blaspheme. A country whose size is a fraction of ours, egging us into a fight and believing that they could win? The concept gnaws at my very sense of right and wrong. Even more sinister, once we did kick their trash, they would probably believe that as the dust settled they would have the European Union, the UN and NATO (incidentally pretty much all the same people) on their side, because after all, they were smaller and they were just "going along minding their own business." I hope you are as heated about this little tiff as I am, but frankly, it isn't my point. Suffice to say, idiocy would have reached is climax if such a thing were to happen, and clearly, despite any international cries of foul toward our actions, after the mini-war was over (in like three seconds once we actually found Estonia), the former-Republic would be little more than a whole in the Earth in which half the Baltic Sea would be draining (yes, it boarders the Baltic Sea).

Before anyone gets huffy or ups
et about my genocidal object lesson, let me get to my real point:

Pedestrians, most of you weigh about 150 pounds. My car (or any car) and I (or any average p
erson) weigh about 5200 pounds together (mostly car). That means you are a fraction my size (with the car--please no jokes). If you try to take us on with that daring "I've got the right of way in this crosswalk, so just try and hit me because I have the right of way and will sue you until your grandchildren are paying for my grandchildren's college" glare as you confidently stride into the street, you will die.

No matter what the law says, no matter how many so called "right of ways" you had, no matter who feels it was my job to stop (or even if the UN itself comes in to defend you), if I'm five yards out and coming fast, you are going to end up like Estonia, a whole in the ground.

So next time you are out walking or driving, be courteous to drivers and pedestrians alike. Break when you can and remember, frankly, the U.S. doesn't want to kick Estonia's trash, but a few less Estonians wouldn't really make anyone too sad now would it?

(Disclaimer: I have nothing against Estonia nor any Estonian. I do not condone genocide in any form. Estonians are a lovely people and I adore their country for what Lonely Planet dubs as its "lush woodlands and resplendent coastlines" (yes they have woodlands, lush ones actually).

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