Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Spoils

I won a drawing at work. The prize was a spiral ham, also referred to as the "Victory Ham" or the "Prize Ham." Winning this contest makes me feel oddly proud and nostalgic.

Maybe it's because I recently listened to "The Road" on audiobook, or because I barely escaped a layoff. I can't take these ridiculous feelings seriously, of course, so I make jokes. I tell Wendy that for Christmas this year, the children can have real ham rather than photographs of ham that were cut out from a magazine. With the bad economy and looming apocalypse, these types of jokes are inappropriate, but I can't help myself.

Whenever I open the refrigerator and see the Prize Ham, I put my hands on my hips, spread my legs, and puff my chest out like a Turkish Pasha. "Behold!" I say with a booming Yul Brynner voice and a quick wave of the hand. "The Ham!"

I will be cooking the Prize Ham later today for our Christmas Eve dinner. As I do so, I will pretend that my musket is leaning against the log cabin wall near my coonskin cap. No bear jerky and canned leeks for Christmas this year. We'll be eating the Prize Ham.

The children will sleep well with full bellies as they dream of pulling walnuts and oranges from their stockings.


Friday, December 17, 2010

White Elephant Gift Exchange

Apart from telling a story about a bad beat in poker or a tough loss in fantasy football, the only surefire way to get everyone in the room to pay attention to you is to start a sentence with, "At my company's white elephant gift exchange..."

At my company's white elephant gift exchange, I brought a Lego Seattle Space Needle. This is a gift that Max has been wanting for years. When he saw me wrapping it, he asked with a Cindy Loo Hoo look, "Who are you wrapping that for, who?"

I explained the idea of a white elephant exchange. He kept asking questions, so I broke down the rules for him:
  • The gift should cost about $20, no more
  • The gift should be recently purchased, not pulled out from under a bed
  • Each person gets to choose between taking an opened gift or opening a new one
  • A gift could only be taken 3 times
  • The first person to draw gets to make the last swap
Max encouraged me to employ the strategy of bringing home the Lego Space Needle. "We can all build it together, and then we can put it maybe in my room."

There were 30 participants in my Digital Publishing group, and I got the number 5 draw.

The first few people picked awful gifts -- a lidless butter tray, a Santa Claus tea set, a lava lamp -- so I decided to make Max happy. I opened the Lego Space Needle. There, I thought. Max will be happy. No one else will want this.

The number six picker grabbed the Lego Space Needle, and it was locked down with the third pick by the person who went ninth.

Really? A Lego Space Needle?

Unfortunately, that's the end of the exciting part of the story. I opened a package of Kentucky bourbon, kept it until the number 29 picker nabbed it, and ended up with a Family Feud game for the Wii.

When I picked up the boys from art class, the first thing Max said was, "Did you get the Space Needle? Did you?"

"No, but I got a game for the Wii!" I said, perhaps a little too excitedly.

"But we don't have a Wii," he said, hangdog style.

I was hoping he wouldn't bring up that particular point.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thoughts on Matters Outside My Sphere of Influence


The Colts are done. And I don't mean just for the year. This is the end of their run as a perennial championship contender.

How do I know this? Special teams stupidity. They've turned into one of those undisciplined teams. They hit out of bounds and show the kind of discipline lapses that makes you think "Cincinnati Bengals."

Their coach, Jim Caldwell, the same guy who led the Colts to the Super Bowl last year, has finally started to put his imprint on the team. And it's a weak imprint.

Sure, they've had some bad injuries at safety, running back, and receiver--the fourth string strong safety is the bizarro Troy Polamalu. But the Colts' biggest weaknesses are in two areas in which they're at full strength. The defensive tackles are getting pushed around in one-on-one blocking, and the offensive line still can't open holes for the running game or protect the passer.
To quote Jack Dawson, "This is bad."


A few months ago, I was eating lunch with an old friend from grad school. We had a fun chat trying to find some common political ground. He's a neoconservative who claimed that the problem with George W. Bush was that "he was too liberal."

I did a double-take. It was more than a double-take. I squeezed my eyes closed, shook my face to clear the cobwebs, and then popped my eyes wide open like a sharecropper who just saw a UFO. "Too liberal?" I suppose it depends on how you define liberal. If you're a hardcore right-winger, "liberal" can mean anything that's stupid or pretentious or sissified or ineffectual, and George W. Bush fits into a couple of those categories, so there you have it.

The tea party movement drives me nuts. You know, if a bunch of right-wingers wanted to join forces and complain about how George W. Bush and a Republican Congress inherited a budget surplus and ran wild with deficit spending while the Republicans were in power, I'd be impressed. But when Obama took over, the nation's economy was in a horrible downwards spiral in which another Depression certainly wasn't out of the question. THAT is the time for government to run up a deficit. Instead, the tea party "movement" took hold, housewives started fretting about "socialism," and everyone pretends teabaggers are something other than right-wing partisans who are pissed off that they lost political power.

I'll start following politics more closely in the run-up to the 2012 election cycle. Right now, it's too painful. The crazy faction of the Republican party took control, so that leaves me with the Democratic party. Power to the people!

To quote Jack Dawson, "This is bad."


AMC is on fire, with Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Yes, those are the three best shows on television right now. Their only miss was Rubicon. I had to stop watching it because the plot wasn't moving forward and the characters weren't interesting or likable. Think 3 Days of the Condor, only without Robert Redford or Faye Dunaway or Max Von Sydow, and no tension. Just spies walking around a gray building whispering spy things to each other.

But I was talking about good things.

Oh, I'm not in the mood. Let's go back to problematic shows. Like the fatally flawed Boardwalk Empire on HBO. Steve Buscemi is just wrong as the lead. The Nucky character needs to be played by a James Gandolfini/Michael Chiklis/Ian McShane type. There's still enough there for me to keep watching -- the two WWI vets in particular are engaging -- but it's mostly forgettable. It could have been great.

Front-handed insult

I assume that's the opposite of a back-handed compliment. Anyway, you know how jarring it is when you introduce two close friends, and the friends hate each other? That's how I felt when I read Mark Twain's quotes on Jane Austen:

"Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book."

"It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death."

"Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

At first glance, Twain appears to be criticizing Jane Austen. But look at the quotes more closely: Every time I read "Pride and Prejudice"... See? He likes her! He really likes her!

Burger King

The boys really wanted to go to Burger King after basketball practice for some reason, so I used Maps on my iPhone to find the nearest Home of the Whopper. Everything was going fine until a bag lady sitting at the next table started talking to me.

"HEY! Are those your sons? HEY!!! How old are they? You're a good father!"

I tried to be polite and told her that they were twins, and they were seven years old. And then I tried to talk to the boys, but she kept talking.

"HEY! You're such a good father. I have eleven kids. I'll bet you remember the bottle days!"

I asked her where her eleven kids were.

"They're all grown up. Your boys are great. HEY BOYS! I hope you listen to your father. He's doing his BEST for you! HEY! Did you hear me! Your father loves you!"

Luke nodded. I quietly started asking the boys about what they were going to get their mother for Christmas, but the conversation was cut short.

"HEY! HEY! HEY! I wish I could go back to the days you're in now. It's a great time. You love your kids, don't you!"

Luke and Max were eating slowly, french fries one at a time. I asked her how old her youngest kids were.

"Five and seven. You- Why is that boy wearing a hood? I can't see his face!!!"

This conversation went on another twenty minutes. I felt bitter stress. Each time I thought I had successfully ignored her, "HEY! HEY!" Finally, mercifully, the boys finished eating and I scooped up the trash and ushered Luke and Max out of the Burger King, hoping to avoid the inevitable "HEY! Can you help me out?" conversation.

No such luck.

Bag lady, if you're reading this blog, I did not appreciate your rude interruptions.