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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Life Lessons: Transportation

My car is falling apart. Not an expression, literal duct tape failures.

And I usually hate new cars. Across the board, I look around the parking lot and think, 'what a bunch of shit. Who borrows money for a lame Pontiac?'

But for once, there's a new car I love. The Scion xB. If I was given the opportunity to design an econo-box, I'd do something very similar.

My ex hates them, but how is that not a selling point?

But I can't afford it. It's very reasonable as new cars go, but too much. The girls liked it on the test drive, probably not least because the AC worked. But this is where they get to see that Dad loves the car, wants it, but isn't going to sign up for five or six years of hardship to pay userers not to tow it off...

Book Wagon

Another trip to Foozle's, where Mo digs the covered wagon.

And where I bought the book I'm reading. My daughters loves them some bookstores, makes me proud.

Disco Pants and Haircuts

Em loves these shoes. I don't even know where they came from. I wouldn't buy such things.

Mo likes to stomp around in them too, somtimes, but I have to talk Em out of wearing them on trips where we'll do serious walking. Or she'll end up with Saturday Night Blisters all over.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Spam Can Be Good

So I don't care much for myspace, but I got this sent to me there.

I brushed out the web address of the porno site that generated it. I'll worry about their copyright when they worry about whether I rattled their cage or not.

Still, it's not such a bad thing, boobs in your spam box. Better than another jive for Viagra and OxyContin.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Closet I Keep My Kids In

This is autism for you. I keep this whole suburban house going, and Mo would rather read in the closet of her bedroom.

Em even caught on to the idea, and she's not autistic.

Maybe More Than Adequate

We downgraded the Great Mall to being merely adequate when Jeepers closed. But now it's open again.

Except they say it's 'Zonker's' now. The employees appear to have the exact same shirts without the Jeepers logo. Go figure.

Still, as exciting as that is, now that we've done Worlds of Fun, looking at the little roller coaster, it's no Mamba.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My Shitty Car

I wish I knew how to re-glue the ceiling cloth in a car when it's falling on my damned head.

I haven't had a car payment in over ten years because I hate having a car payment. But my '88 Buick is pushing me hard.

I can't handle the ceiling on my head, the cloth falls but nothing outside the factory can re-glue it.

The air conditioner worked at one time, but it would require illegal CFCs to recharge it. Well, if not illegal, it seems silly to put freon in a leaky system.

And thent here's the damned door. I need more duct tape, the electrician's type isn't doing the job.

How do people manage car payments? I can't afford to breath as it is, but people around me manage to make a car payment on budgets as tight....

I Am Not A Hippie!

Here's proof. Just because I wear my hair long and think micro-houses are cool does not mean I'm a hippie.

I don't think you should have to pay taxes on your income. I think trade unions hurt workers as badly as they hurt corporate assheads. I think that with the exception of aluminum and maybe PET (2-liter) bottles, recycling is environmental terrorism.

More than all that, I don't think Communism looks good on paper. It only looks good on a shirt I was too fat to wear when I got it umpteen years ago. A shirt I cut the sleeves off of because I couldn't accept being to fat to wear such an awesome shirt.

I still couldn't wear it, I was too tall as well as too fat to wear the shirt. Maybe Communism could have starved me down to where I could wear it, but I wasn't a victim of Communism. At least not that much of one.

Mo now sleeps in the shirt.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tiny Houses

Okay, so I hear this story on the radio the other day, about a guy who lives in a 70 square foot house.

70. Two digits.

He's not poor, he's just weird.

So then they start talking about the 'tiny house movement.' Yep, they claim to be a movement. Though everyone I see moving is part of the bigger-if-shoddily-built-house movement.

But I went to the web site of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. And I caught myself digging these things.

I remember back when I was married, we'd tour these mega homes and get all slack-jawed at them. Or even modestly larger homes, something we tried at one point to move to, but our dump wouldn't sell.

But I struggle with keeping up with the housework on the house I've got, what's the huge benefit of having yet anothe toilet to scrub? Another room to vaccum?

How much of my house do I really occupy and use? Almost none of it. I need a hallway why? To connect rooms that could be put together differently so you don't need a hallway.

I couldn't go down to 70 square feet. That guy doesn't truly live in 70 square feet, because he has to go to his Dad's house to shower. Plus, he's nuts to live sans basement in the Midwest.

And maybe I kid myself that such a structure would cure me of my packrat ways.

I know the NPR types who were pimping these things think of them as environmentally friendly, with their composting toilets and other hippie gear, but using less resources means more money for a gas guzzling pickup to tow your portable house behind, right?

Using less resources to get the same job done is what capitalism is all about, man.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Worlds (and Worlds) of Fun!

And then some.

I'm so not a Disney Dad, but this is something I've wanted to do forever. Back before Mo started having seizures, I used to take the girls to Jeepers when I could. Tame rides, inside a shopping mall rides, but the kids dug it, and I would fold myself into the rides as well.

The first neurologist who saw Mo after that, and this was five years ago or so, said no more amusement park rides.

For other in competences we fired him, but for that, I'd be tempted to hunt him down and break his kneecaps. Because when I mentioned it to her most recent neurologist, the doc looked at me like I'd expressed faith in magnetism, and said that there is nothing conclusive in the literature linking thrill rides with seizures.

Stress lowers your threshold if you have epilepsy, and positive stress is still stress. People seize around events like weddings more than they do about grocery shopping, for instance.

Those of you (both of you) who were reading this stuff I write back in February know that Mo’s seizure threshold was seriously jeopardized when I promised her a return to >Jeeper’s for her birthday and a bunch of assholes closed it down and soaped the windows without clearing it with me first.

So Saturday, we lived the dream. The weather was perfect, so perfect I’d have believed we were in Anaheim if I had seen any anthropomorphic mice. We started tame, the Fjord Fairlane, basically a set of chairs on ropes that go around. Then I took Mo to the Mamba.

Her first real coaster, a proper roller coater you could never put in a mall. Not even Mall of America. I hadn’t been to Worlds of Fun since the days I worried Reagan would draft me and send me to Nicaragua, so I’d never been on this one. The bad ride in my day was the Orient Express, which was unfortunately dismantled last year. I don’t mind them adding new rides (the flagship one now is an inverted deal call the Patriot, where your feet dangle as you do loops on the wrong side of the track). Awesome to have new kicks, but to me, you add rides, you don’t replace them. I want the Zambezi Zinger, the Shish-Boomer, the Scream Roller and most of all the Disoriented Express back, damnit!

The other thing I noticed
The line was pretty bad for the Mamba. Not as bad as at the Patriot or the Spinning Dragon, new rides are always two kites and a bottle rocket to wait for. (Yes, Fancy Dirt, I’m winking at you.)

But still, plenty of teenagers making out in the line ahead of us, and I wasn’t sure if Mo could hold it together for twenty minutes like that.

She did, but it was more like forty minutes. The line moved pretty good until someone blew chunks. They had to shut it down to clean off about four seats splattered with something off-white. I wondered if I should have taken a slot towards the front of the trains instead of the tail. I picked the rear because it seems to whip you a bit harder. Might be a myth, but it’s not as far out as magnetism, right?

Front seats can be cool too, because when you’re getting dropped down that first hill, you’re already about vertical before the chain lets go, which is a scare of its own. Plus, if someone vomits, you don’t get a 70 mph puke pie to the face.

So then they took the Mamba down to put a third train on. I’d never seen this done before, always wondered. I mean, now that I’ve seen it, it’s pretty obvious.

But that was still more time the line wasn’t moving. Mo was about to pop a gasket, but she did amazingly well. I think she knew she was about to get the 9-year-old equivalent of that first rail of blow at a frat house during rush week.

Boy howdy. You’d think being 275 pounds or so would keep your ass in contact with a seat. Turns out, it also takes bars, belts, restraints. The Mamba starts with a 205 foot drop, and it’s easily the fastest coaster I’ve ever been on. At one point, when I was going through one of those turns that look like the support beams are going to decapitate me, I looked over to Mo. She looked like this was the best test drive ever, and Dad should totally buy this car.

I even bought a chump picture. $8 for a fucking 5x7, and it’s not even a good print?

Still, her maiden voyage. We did the Timber Wolf later, Em’s first big coaster. So I got a shot of her. She lacks Mo’s Zen when it comes to near death experiences. In fairness, being an actual wooden coaster, the Timber Wolf is a very rough ride, one that may seriously send me back to the chiropractor. Plus, it’s loud, it sounds like it’s flinging itself to splinters while you ride it. When it was over, I asked Mo, roller coaster or no-thank-you?

“Roller coaster. ROLLER COASTER!!!”

So we did the Boomerang. This ride is pretty cool, and in its way economical. The thing that was awesome about he Orient Express was the loops. The Boomerang has about the same loops but without the straight-aways. Plus, as the name implies, you go forward then backward, and if a reverse loop doesn’t scare you, then you must be my youngest daughter.

We did tamer things too. The Hexapus (they say it’s an Octopus, but I counted, and it has SIX arms), the Flying Dutchman (I was glad to see that angry Dutch people haven’t forced a name change in these political times), the train just like the zoo has, a merry-go-round, etc.

I really wanted to do the Rip Chord. It’s the best hybrid between bungee jumping and skydiving I’ve ever seen, but it’s $25 extra, plus a long line, plus I’m not sure they let nine year old kids on with their freaky looking Dads who want to explain that its therapeutic in a way...

It was almost a perfect day. We got off the Viking Voyager (which I always think of as the Nestee Plunge), and my 18 month old nephew wandered off. My first reaction was, of course not, he’s right THERE. But he wasn’t. Or there, or there. Half an hour, halfway across the park, we finally hooked up with the kid and the Security people who found us equally hard to locate.
was all the high school boys who had popped $80 for giant stuffed animals their dates were then obligated to cart around. Yes, it’s a great big frog with googly eyes, but she doesn’t think it’s significant, I wanted to tell these boys. That, and buy a tube of Clearasil!

But then, it wasn’t’ their $80, it was Dad’s, so they wouldn’t have understood what I was talking about...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

For Mom

I could write a long, sappy Mother's Day post, but I'm not going to. Mom doesn't have a computer, doesn't understand why anyone would want the internet in their house, and so would never, ever see it.

But Mom, you could email back and forth without spending 39¢ on a stamp.
Oh, but my mailbox doesn't cost $30 a month.

She's not afraid of computers, she used them in her job until she retired a few years ago. She has about as much interest in the computer that was in the nurse's station as she has in blood pressure cuffs. What, she'd want a souvenir of when she had to intubate patients?

But she is an awesome Mom. It'd be stupid of me to say I wouldn't be here without her; that's true for everyone except maybe Steven Bray (who was born in a different Version of Earth).

But I was mowing Mom's lawn when I had my heart attack. It was her giving me CPR, calling 911, etc., that saved my ass. She's bailed me out of lots of things, spent, lent and given an embarrassing amount of money over the years, but nothing stacks up to giving me another shot at messing up my life.

So I made this card. It's a real card, run on 80lb card stock off the Indigo at work, so it has all the Hallmark touches but with a buckaroo lobster on the back.

Is 36 too old to be 'making' my Mom a card?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Not Covered in Med School

So I went running out the back door hollering at Mo for leaving the house alone. She's a flight risk, something people laugh it when they don't have visual aids.

She found something on her way through the grass, something she was chewing on. I thought it was a squirell, gross, and while she was in time out, I put antibacterial crap on her hands, had her swish some Listerine in her mouth, called the doctor to see if I should worry.

When I caught up to her, I'd told her to spit it out, and she spit out clumps of white hair.

The doc called back to say squirrels are probably safe, at least it wasn't a bat or a skunk.

I started thinking, how much tail did I see? No bushy thing, but maybe dead squirrels get to having limp tails.

It's a possum.

I called the doctor back, and even he had to get online and do some research. It turns out, kids eating raw possum is not a hot lecture topic in med school, but he called me back to say that it's not impossible for a possum to have rabies.

So, after discussing with him, I quadruple bagged the possum and stuck it in the garage refrigerator. I get to call animal control tomorrow and see about having it tested. They're going to ask me if it bit Mo, and I'll have to explain that she did the biting.

Then I have to call them back, because they're going to hang up on me as a prank...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bear Hugs

Mo’s school hit the Natural History Museum in Lawrence today. I had to go, I wouldn’t miss this one. Of all the field trips I went on as a kid, the only thing that approaches it for vivid memories is Kaleidoscope (Hallmark’s way of co-opting children into the Greeting Card Industrial Complex), and maybe Exchange City (where I got to be a DJ—so damn cool, I wanted to be Johnny Fever).

When I went with Em’s class last year, I was shocked to find out I even remembered the smell of the place. I can picture the biggest of the walruses like a photograph in my childhood memory. Granted, any Cabela’s has a more ambitious taxidermy display, but there wasn’t any such place when I was a kid and there were no field trips to sporting goods stores that I recall.

Cabela’s also lacks walrus.

Most of the kids wore official school shirts, presumably so we wouldn’t lose track of a bunch of third graders who blended in with the college students at KU. It was unnecessary; you could spot our kids a mile away: they were the only kids without white iPod chords coming out of their ears (even ears also pressed to a cell phone).

I think I must not be alone in remembering this as one of the best field trips ever: the first fifteen parents get to go free, the others have to pay a very nominal fee (presumably to offset the cost of booking an extra bus). I responded pretty quickly and I had to pay. I don’t think there was an adult on hand who had more than three kids to look after.

Mo really bonded with the bears. ‘It’s a polar bear! Polar BEAR!!!’

I’ll just have to remember to watch her if I get her someplace like Yellowstone where the bears are still breathing...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

But Is It Art?

Took the kids to the Nelson...again.

We're museum junkies. But I only recently found out the Nelson is cool with pics as long as you can figure out how to disable the flash on your crappy digital camera.

Unlike the Kemper, which basically has a team of underpaid Art Institute students waiting to tackle you as soon as you show a camera int he building. I guess because it's more a modern art place, maybe there's copyright to enforce, Rothko to pay.

Or maybe the KCAI kids need the exercise.

Anyway, Em got the idea to pose, so...


David Allen Coe is a Friend of Mine

I set up a MySpace account. I don't remember doing it, but when I went to see what it was about, I found out I already had a page.

But Tom was my only friend.

So I joined and added all my cult friends. Then I added some chicks with hot pictures for their profile. Then I added everyone else I know (turns about they're pretty much already there, I'm the latecomer to the party).

Then I found the bands. And added them. And then I started looking for people I'd never in a million years care about. David Allen Coe, for instance, who I wouldn't know from the liquor store cashier if it wasn't for Tim Wilson's 'I Liked Country Better Back When It Was Ugly' tune...

But he accepted my 'add,' so I guess he's my friend now.

Selling Crap

Last weekend was city-wide garage sale day. This is one of the best ideas I've ever seen come from a Chamber of Commerce: you can have your own garage sale any old time, but two Saturdays a year you get every junkyard dog and compulsive dickerer in a 100 mile radius passing by.

This is a big improvement over the traditional garage sale, where you put up signs people ignore, then spend the whole day selling nothing, the whole traffic flow being neighbors who wanted to see what you'd been hiding.

I've never participated before, partly because I'm such a ridiculous packrat.

But a few years ago I saved up overtime to buy a digital piano and signed Em up for piano lessons. It's a nice one, touch-sensitive, weighted keys, the full complement of pedals, fewer voices than most keyboards but the ones it has are more realistic than average. Basically, it trumps an upright in being easier to move and you don't have to have it tuned. At the time, I paid around $1400 on sale at Mars, some traditional music stores had similar offerings priced closer to $2000.

I've been torn about bringing it upstairs. Mo loves to tink atonally, but she also likes to put apple slices in VCRs. I feel moderately better having a $1400 dust collector than having a $1400 piece of abstract food art.

Plus, there's the bath you take selling a used instrument. I've never sold even a cheap guitar I didn't eventually wish I'd kept. And the only logical way to sell the piano is on eBay. Except when I bought the piano, I was so convinced Em would be taking lessons through high school: 'We won't be needing these boxes!'

But when I was saving for this thing, if I'd found a practically new unit for half what even an aggressive discounter like Mars charges, I'd have snatched it. So I put the thing out for the city wide garage sale, which is basically the next best thing to eBay.

A couple of people sniffed around it, and the ones who knew what it was didn't think $800 was out of line. But if you're not in the market for such an instrument, it's an $800 dust collector, marked down from $1400.

So I brought out a bunch of other stuff to make my piano look like it was part of a garage sale. Well, a driveway sale: my garage is gross even as garages go.

Em brought out a few things from her room. Mostly stuff that wasn't worth selling, she's her Father's daughter on the packrat front. I had to convince her that skates she's outgrown to where she has to fold her toes under to jam them on was a good item to sell.

Mom came down to help, and when we went to pricing stuff she'd ask me, 'how much do you want for this?' and I didn't have an answer. But 'free to a good home' isn't much of a fund raiser, so I guessed at what a 'fair' price for a broken, scared, written-on table that was a bargain at Target a few years ago should be. I forgot about those compulsive dickerers.

Dog cage, hasn't been used since we had Brooklyn, cost about $90 new, but the pad and tray are ruined and long gone. It's a little bent up. $10, I thought, would be fair.

We hadn't had as many customers as Em had hoped, just a lady who paid her 50¢ for a recipe box Em had actually marked as 15¢ out of pity for the waif selling impossibly junked toys. A guy comes along and parks his car in the middle of the street (by park I mean he stopped and got out, leaving his door open and making it impossible for anyone to get by), and came trotting over to the dog cage. Checked the door to make sure it worked, and went back to conference with his frau.

'I want the dog cage,' he calls to me. 'In case someone pulls up. I've seen it happen.'

Okay, a motivated buyer. I only still had the thing because I hadn't dragged it out to the curb for the trash man.

Then he wants to dicker. I let it go for $8, feeling kind of sorry for a guy who will block traffic for something like that. Then, after he left, I realized my mistake: if I'd marked it at $20, he'd have talked me down to $15. I'd have made twice as much and he'd feel he got an even better bargain.

No kidding, my next door neighbor had two bags of golf clubs someone had given her in hopes they could be rid of them. She had nothing in these things, put $10 on them. Two people talked her down to $7 thinking it was per club, and after she'd already made $14 off individual sticks a guy dickered his way to $25 for both bags of leftovers, even though they were originally priced at a total of $20!

People is dumb.

Anyway, two people asked about my truck. I hadn't put a for sale sign on it. All I did was pile some brush I couldn't fit in my trashcans in it. The second guy to ask about it, though, was serious.

I like having a truck. Very handy when I (rarely) realize I need to take stuff to the dump, or (even less often) buy some furniture or a stove. But, always wanted one, and the price was right, I got it as a gift. It was my daily driver for about six years, and my main expense was a rebuilt transmission.

The down side is it's a single cab, and me and the honyocks take up enough of it there isn't room for Mug. I rationalized that it was handy when I needed to haul shit, but since I got another gift horse (an ’88 Buick even longer in the tooth, but with enough room for a family), I only drive the truck about once a month. It’s good to have a backup when you’re driving a car that is almost old enough to drink, but I have a 2-1/2 mile commute, and my insurance is coming due.

So this guy offers me $300 for the truck. I know, a pickup that runs is worth $1000, that’s the redneck gold standard, but with five years of absurdly low interest rates, Billy Bob can do better than a ’95 F-150 with 170,000 miles, a busted radio, a bumper used to take an impression of a Lincoln Mark IV...

Well, he can if Billy Bob is willing to have a payment, something I’ve resisted for years.

Plus, a couple of cars I’ve decommissioned over the years have sat in front of my house with ‘for sale’ signs for upwards of a year. One I sold for $40. So do I want this truck sitting around until I just feel luck the kidney guys will take it for free? Plus, I cut my car insurance bill almost in half by dropping it.

Anyone want a piano?