Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Fine Art of Naming Your Children

It's taken me a while to name my sons.

No, I don't mean their actual names.  Those were picked out before they were born.  THAT would be weird.  I'm talking about their pseudonyms, what I call them when I refer to them online (i.e. on Twitter, Facebook, this blog, etc.).

Why do they need pseudonyms, you may ask?  I'll tell you, Oh Inquisitive One.  Because I'm paranoid.  I refuse to allow my sons' real names, or any images of them, to be available on the internet.  Their identities are not to be public knowledge.  I know, I know, that sounds paranoid, doesn't it?  It is; reread the third sentence again.

Perhaps I am overprotective.  The other day my eldest son and I went to the mall for some final Christmas shopping.  (On a side note, we got all of our shopping done BEFORE Black Friday.  I may be paranoid, but I'm not a masochist.)  He's a very loving kid and has so far spent too much of his saved money on us.  Once there, he asked if he could look elsewhere in the store for something for his brother while I shopped for Mrs. Write.  I froze.  Indecision is my middle name, as anyone who knows me will attest.  Choosing an entree at a restaurant is likely to induce heart palpitations in me.  And here was a biggie.

Granted, he IS 12, and quite mature for his age.  He knows all the safety rules, as I and his mother have drilled them into him for years now.  And, last but certainly not least, I know his mother would say yes.  He is smart, trustworthy and a damned good kid.  Unfortunately, when situations like this arrive, I instantly picture that tiny, 3lb., 2oz. preemie I first laid eyes upon over twelve years ago, instead of the preteen he actually is.

After staring at him for what had to be a full two minutes (everyone in the family is used to my indecisiveness by now), I said "Yes,".  We went over the rules again; he repeated every guideline for talking to strangers, staying away from exits and bathrooms, keeping his cell phone handy, etc., etc.  Then, biting my lip with trepidation, I stood perfectly still as he went off in a different direction from me, my little guy growing up, shouldering responsibility, taking another step toward manhood before my very eyes.

Yes, I did follow him the whole time.  I'm indecisive, but still paranoid.

Anyway, on to their names.  I know my real name is visible on my Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.  It's not like their names are a complete mystery to the world. They attended public school until three years ago.  But, when that school requested permission to publish their pictures -the ones already in the school yearbook- on the school's wesite, I checked the "NO" box.  There's something about the internet.  While the yearbook will most likely be read only by other students, anyone could see their pictures online.  Anyone.  Any creep, pervert or child molester.  No, I don't think some random stranger is going to see their picture and come looking for them.  (But, I don't discount it, either.)  I stand by my decision, however.  Just the idea of some sleazy freakazoid fapping to my son's picture gets my blood boiling.

This lead me to my current quandry: What to call them when telling stories about my family online?  This IS a blog about being a SAHD, after all.  It would be weird if I never mentioned having children, I think.  However, every "nickname" I came up with was already used by another SAHD blogger. Thing 1 and Thing 2?  Taken.  The Little Bugs?  Used.  Fric and Frac?  Nope, sorry.  Even the nicknames we call them in real life are used on other blogs.

So, I did what I always do when at a quandry: I asked my wife.  (Yes, there are no pictures of her on the internet, either; I KNOW someone would be fapping to them.)  She pointed out that our youngest some is pretty sloppy while his older brother is, by contrast, quite fastidious and particular.  Once told this, the names became obvious; we even said them together: Oscar and Felix.

"Oscar", my nine-year-old, has no concept of picking up after himself.  He could drop a $20 on the floor and not look back, figuring someone will eventually pick it up and hand it back to him.  It's not for a lack of trying to teach him elf-reliance, but he's having none of it.  I remember a Parent-Teacher Conference back before we took up homeschooling in which Oscar's teacher asked if we could convince our son to hold off pulling his pants down until AFTER he got through the bathroom door.  He absolutely doesn't care if his underwear or butt is showing, and just last week went to his Occupational Therapy appointment sans socks, because he "forgot to put them on".

"Felix", on the other hand, is a neat freak.  His toys and games have to be put away in a certain order and place.  He always dresses in the same manner, including rolling the tops of his socks down (don't ask) no matter the weather or outfit.  He likes his plate, cup and silverware in a certain position, and often picks at his food if it isn't arranged a certain way on the plate.  Bear in mind, he never actually complains about any of these things if they aren't right. And, if asked, would deny that he does any of them.  My favorite story involving Felix and his fastidiousness takes place on Christmas Day, 2001.  Both boys were fans of Monsters Inc., so we secretly decorated their room while they slept with MI curtains, rug, blankets (they were heavy sleepers), throw pillows and the entire series of Happy Meal toys arranged on their windowsill.  The next morning, Felix wakes up and wanders into our room, asking for breakfast.  "Don't you want to open presents first?" we asked.  "No, we are apposed to have breakfast first!" he insisted, completely unaware of the new setup of his room or of his little brother happily playing with the toys.

So, there you have it: Oscar and Felix.  My boys.  They drive each other, and their SAHDad, crazy.  Crazy with love.  I wouldn't trade them for the world.

Friday, November 20, 2009

You think pimpin' ain't easy? Try homeschooling

I don't really enjoy being a "Learning Coach". That's my title as a homeschooling instructor, at least here in Ohio under K12's system. They provide a teacher and Intervention Specialist (more on that in another blog); I'm more of a facilitator for their education. I can't legally be called a "teacher". Don't get me wrong: K12 is a great program, my kids are wonderful, and I understand how important and cool it is to teach my children things they never knew before and will carry with them throughout their lives.

But I'm burnt out. The first year we homeschooled, I was all gung ho. It was hard, because we started mid-year (in January), due to having just moved and waiting for the public school to release my son's records (we had to call a lawyer and threaten to sue; way to stay classy, public school system). But, I got an entire year's worth of education in by June that time.
The next year, everything went well. We had a full year to work with, I had the program and schedule all figured out, the kids were starting to realize how much better homeschooling was than the gulag... sorry, I mean public school, it was great. All the required meetings and extra classes -weekly "Class Connects", monthly teacher conferences, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Spanish classes, Title I, etc.- took up a lot of the time I could actually spend teaching. But, all in all it was a good year.

Now, this year. The kids don't want to be in school and would rather spend their time playing video games or with their new friends. Hell, I feel the same way, except my new friends are Facebook and Twitter. The constant auxiliary stuff is making it hard to teach. Mrs. Write's new job lets her work at home; but, as she spends a lot of it on the phone (actually via the internet, which is kinda cool), we have to be extra quiet. Money is tight, so my lovely wife and I must both work, on top of housework, chores, and, of course, teaching. My oldest has hit puberty and my youngest is showing the signs (hairy legs at age 9! Gah!), meaning moodiness and rebellion.
Teaching has become more of a responsibility than a pleasure.

That feeling of a job well done, of making an impact on their lives, has faded. Now it's: Wake up, make breakfast, do dishes, start lessons, pry the young one -nearly in tears- to class, trudge through lessons, make lunch (in total silence, as Mrs. Write's office is next ot the kitchen), convince kids that lunch is OVER and to go back to classes, go to work, come home late, Mrs. Write is still working so keep perfectly quiet, at 11pm do laundry and run dishwasher, relax in front of TV or computer for an hour, check over lesson materials for tomorrow, wake up, make breakfast, lather, rinse, repeat.

Like I said: burnt out. And every article or blog I read about staying motivated is full of the same empty advice or platitudes. "Remember how much this means to them", "Think of yourself as a superhero", blah, blah, blah. You know what would make me feel motivated again? Winning the lottery so I can stop worrying about money and bills while I try to teach a reluctant, moody and distracted nine-year-old History that even I don't care about.
On top of all that, I have only been posting one article to my Examiner account a week, instead of the required four. Meaning, after seven weeks of employment, I have seven articles instead of twenty-eight. And this is the job I wanted.

Well, that's enough of my ranting. I promise the next post will actually be funny, if the nice attendants in the loony bin let me use the internet. Hey, maybe the anti-psychotic drugs will make me see things in a totally different light and I'll be even even funnier. I am kind of curious what purple tastes like...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Trick or Treat! As long as you aren't starving...

So, we took the boys trick-or-treating last week. Actually, we went twice, in different neighboring communities. I know that sounds unethical, but they were towns we lived in before, and our neighborhood doesn't do anything for Halloween. Oh, technically they schedule trick-or-treating for certain hours on a certain night, but, as we discovered last year, nobody actually does it. Kids all dressed up, little plastic pumpkins at the ready, and not one house in the area giving out anything.

At the risk of sounding prejudiced, I guess it's just a cultural thing. It's okay to walk around with with giant pants hanging off your ass, a sparkly hat cocked sideways on your head and big, clumping workboots a size too big for your feet, but putting on a costume and meeting your neighbors, sharing a little candy, laughter and joy, that would just be weird.

Ahem. Sorry. I'm, still a little ticked off about last year. Halloween is my and Mrs. Write's favorite holiday. Anywho, THIS year we traveled back to our previous hometowns in the Columbus area (I figured we would go twice to make up for last year: 2008: -1; 2009: +2. The score is now even). The kids had a blast. People in Pickerington and Westerville are awesome! Everyone loved their costumes, put together by Mrs. Write and I for under $20... combined. Much candy was given out, with no old farts handing out apples, raisins or peanuts, going on about "Nature's candy."

I hated that as a kid. "Nature's candy?" I'm pretty sure that's weed, lady. Which I don't doubt you HAD to be smoking to think kids would gladly accept an apple on freakin' Halloween! Mrs. Write admits she and her brother used to go back to those houses at the end of the night and throw the apples at the offenders' front porches. Cruel, yes; but they deserved it.

The only low note on this fine SamHain? Trying to be a little more socially conscious. Trying to teach the kids a moral lesson, we signed up to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. You may have seen those little, orange boxes with the coin slot on the top. Both boys got one, and politely waited until the candy was given out before asking "Would you like to give to UNICEF?" They were all prepared with an explanation of where the money went and what for. Unfortunately, the almost unanimous reaction to this was anger, scorn, and even a telling-off.

Okay, people. Here's where I rant. It's not as if you've never heard of UNICEF. They ran the commercials al the time when I was a kid. They've been around forever. I know you probably aren't carrying change around in your pocket, but just how hard is it to dig up a quarter for a kid trying to do a little kindness during one of the greediest holidays of the year?

Man, people suck. Anyway, after a couple blocks of this nonsense, we reluctantly had the kids turn in their boxes to us, carefully explaining that it wasn't their fault. The kids were a little upset, worried they might have offended people. My youngest can be a real people pleaser. As Mrs. Write walked a little ahead of us, I clarified: "Some people just suck," I told them. This made them feel better.

At the end of the night, they had collected a little over a dollar from twelve houses. UNICEF has set up a partnership with Coinstar, so we dropped in a bunch of our change, plus the dollar or so the kids collected. It's a good cause and so convenient there's little to no effort involved (right up my alley!).

We tried to do this so the kids could learn a moral lesson, especially meaningful on a day when candy and compliments are handed out so readily to those who already have it in abundance. And what lesson did my kids walk away with from this?

Some people just suck.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My family has a secret language

Every family has a secret language, and yours is different than mine. "But wait," you say, "my family doesn't have one." Yes, you do; you just don't realize it.

I'll give an example: Earlier this week, my wife and I were extremely busy, scurrying to and fro trying to get the house in order. She works long hours and I have my hands full with homeschooling and maintaining our Amazon account, so some aspects of housework get shunted aside until we have a free moment or two. Passing her in the hallway -I just having finished a load of dishes and she with a bottle of Fantastik and a cloth, off to clean something or other- I threw her a glance and said "Olive juice." Without missing a beat, she returned the look and grin and replied with the same.

"Olive juice?" you ask. As a kid, I read in a children's magazine (I forget the name) a list of words and phrases that look like something else to a lip reader. "Olive juice" looks exactly like "I love you." It's our own, silly way of saying I Love You. Why say that instead of the actual words? Hell, I don't know. But it's part of our Secret Language. Try saying the same two words to another person, and 99% of the time, they'll look at you with confused look on their face.

The Secret Language isn't comprised only of short phrases. It can utilize single words, long phrases, or whole sentences. We've watched a lot of the same movies, TV shows, etc., and a lot of our Secret Language consist of quotes. Some of these apply to our life, some are just memories of funny situations we fondly remember, and some are just nonsensical, thrown out to give everyone a giggle. For years, all my wife had to say was "Ekky, ekky," and I, unable to stop myself, would respond "... ekky-ekky-PTANG-zoom-boing-z'nourrwringmm!" (Fifty internet points if you can name the reference.) I was like Cartman from South Park when anyone started the intro to "Come Sail Away".

All four of us play World of Warcraft, as well as Magic: the Gathering, AD&D*, and plenty of other geek entertainment. Sometimes we'll have whole conversations laden with in-jokes and names from these games, leaving any eavesdropper with the belief he is having a stroke. Example:

Me- "Where is your Tauren?"
Son- "In Org, doing Alchemy until Warsong Gulch opens up."
Neighbor- "What?!?"

Son #1- "ChannelBall!"
Son #2- "Memory Lapse!"
Grandpa- "Do you smell hair burning?"

And so on...

Now that my wife and I have discovered Dexter, our conversations are sprinkled with the kind of lingo and phrases usually reserved for death row inmates. We're watching Season 3, which, as far as we can tell, ratchets up the hot and sweaty sex a few notches. This next Secret Language phrase requires some set-up. Dexter's girlfriend, Rita, is portrayed by actress Julie Benz. She was also a regular guest on Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and it's spinoff, Angel, playing the vampire Darla. Darla was also the name of a character in one of our favorite movies: The Crow. One scene in The Crow, uttered by a character named Skank, was "He's upstairs, bangin' away on Darla!" Whenever Dexter's girlfriend appears, either half-naked, naked, or screwing the main character, one of us is required by matrimonial law to announce "Bangin' away on Darla!"

I know... we're sad people.

What is the point of a family's Secret Language? Nothing, really. But, it's a bond, a way of sharing memories and feelings common words just can't convey. It's a way of letting one another in on a joke, or forbidden knowledge without others comprehending. It's ours, and that's all that really matters.

*Yes, I know there is NO Advanced Dungeons and Dragons anymore. We play with the old 1st and 2nd edition books, so that's what I call it. Deal with it, nerds.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Of Cats and Men (or, "I Can Has Fans Please?")

I admit it. I love those stupid lolcats. I know, I know, it's lowbrow humor. Yes, the whole site is based around a lame internet meme. They still make me laugh.

Heck, I've even added captions to a few myself. What got me thinking today were the pictures I submitted. Being cat owners, we have dozens of pictures of Magic, our feline overlord. In fact, a picture of her was my previous profile pic on this blog, as I abhor having my picture taken. Recently, I was forced to sit still for the camera in order to be hired by Examiner. (Sadly, that is my idea of "smiling"; I honestly thought I had a smile on my face when my wife snapped the picture.) I've since adapted that picture (by inverting the color scheme) for use on this blog, Twitter, Facebook, et al.

The point I'm getting to (there is one, really), and what got me thinking about the weirdness of life is this: The number of captions my cat's picture has received is far more than the number of people reading my blog, Examiner articles, facebook news and Twitter combined.

This bothers me.

Granted, most of the buzz for Magic came from a shot of her, asleep on my bed, with a copy of Fight Club* by Chuck Palahniuk on her belly. The idea for this shot was my wife's; I claim no responsibility for it. In fact, I thought it would not look funny at all. As usual, she's right and I'm not. As of this writing, there are 52 "lol's" based on that picture, none of them written by me. Some of them are damn funny, at least in my opinion, such as this one, this one, and especially this.

Most disturbing is this photo of my cat. Of the 12 "lol's" made from it, one was flipped and possibly Photoshopped, then added to lolcats' sister site TotallyLooksLike. So, according to the internet community, my chubby, lazy, basically useless housecat is not only more popular than my articles on parenting and homeschooling, but also puts one in mind of Beyonce? The world is a messed-up place.

Now, I have no delusions of my own potential for popularity; but, c'mon! I'm being upstaged by a cat! An animal that craps in a box and licks her own butt to get clean. What do I have to do to draw in readers? Crap in a box and lick my own butt clean. Then again, taking a look at the bumper crop of reality TV stars in the world today, that's probably my best bet.

Well, since we're on the subject of reading really mucked-up stuff into a simple picture, I bring you this:

This is an E. L. Fudge cookie from a pack recently devoured in my home. See the little elf? His name is "Elwood". Looks innocent enough, right? Well, take a look at THIS:

See how the immoral, insidious corporate monsters are trying to turn our kids gay? Or, if they're girls... ummm... straight? Never mind, I'm on a rant and have no time for logic or reason. And if that above image doesn't send chills down your spine, then take a look at what it says on the back of this so-called "cookie":

"Dunk head first"? That's absolutely disgusting!

Anywho, i have a ton of dishes to do, and they aren't going to do themselves (stupid Jetsons and their stupid lies about stupid robot maids...). See you soon.

*Warning: This link reveals spoilers. Don't read it if you like surprises, like I do.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm on Facebook! Whee?

As part of my job with Examiner, I have to promote myself and my articles. Normally not one for social networking, either online or in r/l (real life), I joined Twitter, then Facebook. MySpace comes later.

The problem is, I have been too busy to post anymore articles, which makes posting anything to those sites meaningless, and leaves me feeling too guilty to take time joining any others. Added to that is the vile temptation provided by Mafia Wars on Facebook, and us rejoining the insidious World of Warcraft.

Between homeschooling, housework, Amazon and Craigslist, I barely have enough free time, and I have been wasting it on Facebook. Tonight I need to re-focus on my Examiner articles. Anyone reading this, please check out the articles I have written, maybe leave a comment. It would do a lot for my self-confidence.

Now, how much is a getaway car and machine gun?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How men shop.

I went to the grocery store today. Not by choice, mind you. The idea was to hit the library; I had a few things on hold and a couple that needed to be returned (i.e. overdue). The library is actually a treat for me. I'm a voracious reader and love movies as well. Considering I'm not into sports, gambling, dating or anything else associated with the average male, the library is where I want to be.

Considering I am raising and homeschooling two autistic sons, the peace and quiet of the Columbus Library is nirvana for me. So, when my wife suggested I spend a little time there today, I jumped at the chance. It was only after I had showered, made breakfast for everyone, gotten dressed, had on my shoes with one hand on the doorknob that Mrs. Write ensnared me. "Can you stop at the store and pick up a couple things?"

My heart sank. First, I hate the grocery store. I'd rather clean the cat's litter box* than shop for anything. Second, my wife has a rather subjective idea of "a few things". As suspected, she handed me a list, a wad of cash, the credit card and a stack of coupons. I actually ended up spending three times as long at Giant Eagle (or "Jaunt Iggle" for my friends in Pittsburgh, and "Roc" for my old AD&D group) than at the library.

There were nine things on the list, including toilet paper and all the candy for trick-or-treaters this Halloween. You know, "a couple of things," Plus, I had to pay part of it in cash and part with the credit card (don't ask), and hand a small stack of coupons to the cashier. Oh, and did I mention that Mrs. Write, who has a mind like a calculator, figured out that the candy bars in the checkout lanes going for 2/$.99 were actually cheaper than the bags of candy, per ounce. Meaning I had to park the cart in an unused lane and pick out 100 candy bars ("At least four different kinds," as per instructions). During this, customers kept queueing up behind me, thinking the lane was open, despite the sign being turned off and the "This Lane Closed" sign prominently displayed on the conveyor belt. Not to mention the odd looks and suspicious glances from the employees. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am a large and hairy man, the kind from which women tend to shelter their children.

Bear I mind, I'm no monster or predator. On the whole, I'm a quiet, thoughtful person who loves his family and thinks kittens are cute. It takes a lot to raise my ire, and that only if my family is threatened. But, I LOOK like a psychopath. After having my picture taken for my first college I.D., my friend Brian looked over my shoulder and said: "Hey, you look like a rapist!" Everyone came over to look, and the general consensus amongst a group of people I barely knew or hadn't yet met, was that my picture belonged on America's Most Wanted. The hell of it was, they were right.

Anywho, back on track. So, I spent a long period of time at the grocery store today, most of it in a rush because, on top of everything else, I was instructed to be home by noon as Mrs. Write had errands to run. *sigh* So, armed with a foul temper and time in an institution I abhor, I took to observing people around me to relieve stress. Something I've noticed before yet still never fails to amaze me, is how the average man shops for groceries.

Have you ever noticed that men absolutely refuse to use a shopping cart unless forced to by their spouse? I've never understood the reason for this. Is he afraid of looking feminine by pushing a shopping cart? You'll see some guy trying to carry eleven items, including a case of beer and four bags of chips, using only his hands and a lack of comprehension for the law of gravity. Or physics. To this individual: you don't look manly just because you used your big, hairy hands instead of a cart. You just look stupid. And don't get me started on the basket. A guy would rather circumcise himself (or, worse, sit through a "Sex and the City" marathon... *shudder*) than even acknowledge the grocery baskets exist.

Secondly, coupons. Why the hate for coupons? This isn't regulated to men only, but they are the more verbal opponents of those little, innocuous slips of paper. I'll be checking out five items and paying in cash, while some guy behind me, trying to fit 37 items on the conveyor (in the 12 Items or Less lane), while simultaneously talking loudly on his cell phone about all the hot wings he ate last night and how he had diarrhea for hours afterward. Then, when I hand the cashier a couple of coupons, this guy has the audacity to sigh loudly and comment on it to his cell phone buddy. Look, this isn't the 1970's. The cashier can scan the coupons as fast as he could scan your Preparation H. It will take all of fifteen seconds, max, to run my coupons through, but I'll save five bucks or more. And where do you have to be, really?

You get the same reaction to credit cards. Why the hate? It's not like the cash register jockey is going to haul out that old monstrosity with the carbon paper, you know, the one that looks like a miniature meat slicer? I run the card through the card reader (oooh, technology scary), punch in my PIN, and we're done. Hell, half the time it's faster than cash.

Lastly, the actual shopping. I hate the grocery store (granted, not as much as a clothing store, but there's enough material there for another post), but at least I do it right. Most guys go in without a list, even if their spouse wrote one up for them. Sorry, but I'd rather do it right the first time. When you go to the store with the instructions to pick up some food and drinks for dinner, and come back with a case of mac n' cheese and a case of Miller Light, she's just going to send you out again. You know it, I know it, and she knows it. Your ploy won't work. Looking incompetent will not get you out of shopping. Shell just make you do it twice.

Trust me on this. I know. So get ti right the first time. And use a cart for chrissakes, you look like a doofus.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm Gainfully Employed! (Sort of!)

Well, it's only been two months since my last post. At this rate, I'll be up to daily posts in about two-and-a-half years. Stay tuned!

Those of you who read my last post (still holding steady at zero) may be wondering what our situation is. Heck, I'M wondering myself. We got the van back and it's running pretty well. The guys at R. J. Wheels in Polaris did an excellent job. The van is still a piece of crap, but it gets us from Point A to Point B.

We've officially ended our relationship with eBay. Their new rules quite simply favor the buyers and screw over the sellers, and the fees are ridiculously high. Anything we sell online goes through Amazon or Craigslist.

My wife is back to the Mystery Shopping/Auditor thing, but I haven't the time, due to my homeschooling duties, housework, and my NEW JOB! Yes, someone actually hired me for something. Scary. I am now the "Stay-at-Home-Dad Examiner" for in Columbus. They expect me to send in a minimum of four articles per week. As usual, I am falling behind. So far I only have three published articles, which you can view through my profile page link above and under the title of this post. I would have linked all three, but i figured there were enough links in this already. (I just recently figured out how to make this link thing work; I'm not very tech savvy, I'm afraid. As a result, everything post anywhere is riddled with links like Amy Winehouse is riddled with STDs.)

I have also published two Topics pages on Cracked, one about Internet Comments and one about The A-Team. As you can see, the Internet Comments one was posted before I figured out how to link URLs. I'll have to fix that one of these days.

On a side note, right before the car was finished, our hot water tank broke down. Seeing as how most of our $$$ went to getting the wheels out of the shop and making the house payment, we haven't been able to get it fixed yet. That's no biggie, though. I just LOVE hauling four or five pots of hot water up a flight of stairs two or three times a night so my family can take baths. Luckily, or unluckily, for me I never really like baths. No, I'm not a filthy pig, I just prefer showers. The idea of wallowing in your own filth, in a pool of water filtered through your own butt hairs, never appealed to me. A shower always feels cleaner to me. Now I'm enjoying the natural way of getting clean: ice cold showers. Whee!

Last, and most certainly least, I am now a member of Twitter. This is something I swore I would never do, but the Examiner expects its correspondents to promote their own articles. Seeing as how I get paid based on the number times people view my articles (hint, hint, Hint, HINT, HINT) I figured I'd try Twitter first. Next comes Facebook and MySpace, when I find the time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yes, I'm still alive.

Well, I did say in my first post that it might be six months between updates. Actually, it's closer to nine. Wow, that's pretty bad. Granted, I have been busy: trying to get an eBay business off the ground, working as a Mystery Shopper (more on that later), getting the kids back to classes (remember, we homeschool, so most of my day is eaten up by that), and trying to keep the house clean and running efficiently.

So, how has all that been going? Terrible. Our eBay account got hacked, draining our linked Paypal account, leaving us with no money available to ship items, so that came out of our household money. I would be more surprised by this, but it happened once before, many years ago. That time we had a pretty established name on eBay; this time it was just starting up. So, to hell with eBay, Paypal and their lousy security.

The Mystery Shopper thing? Pretty interesting, and somewhat lucrative as a part-time income for a stay-home Dad. Just sign up with one of over 200 companies online, including Corporate Research International, Marketforce, Gapbusters (if you love McDonald's), and so on. Then, once you have an account with one or more, pick and choose which jobs you want and when you want to do them. What do you have to do? Just follow the guidelines for the job you've chosen, usually going to a specific store or restaurant, interact with an employee or two, buy something, and head back home. Last, fill out an online report, scan/photograph any receipts or relevant paperwork, and send it off to the mystery shopping company. They compile the results and pass them on to the store or restaurant.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? It was, until my van broke down. The axle on our Ford Windstar actually snapped. Not only is this going to cost us around $900 to fix, but we're without wheels until it comes back. I've had to turn down nearly two weeks' worth of jobs, including some I'd already scheduled. The main drawback to mystery shopping is the initial overhead: you spend money out of your own pocket during the shop (or, as the call it, "audit"), then wait for your paycheck to come in. Most of the jobs you take reimburse you for your purchases -up to a certain amount- and pay a fee for performing the work. Generally, the jobs pay 2:1 ratio, if you spend ten bucks at McDonald's you get around $20 back.

So, in my situation, I've spent about $100-150 in the past four weeks, with no return yet. That wouldn't be a problem, if two of the three companies I work for didn't operate through Paypal. I may never get paid. As for school, dealing with lost jobs, towing the car, negotiating with the mechanic (who has been very accommodating so far), and busing it everywhere, it's been hard to get any teaching done.

And don't get me started on housework.

On a bright note, my wife found this in a bag of cherries she bought a couple weeks ago:

Yes, that's a cherry with a wiener. The ever-elusive male of the cherry species. I call it: The Dinglecherry. Yes, I am childish and sophomoric, thank you.

So, other than the cherry, that's my sob story for this month. Between car troubles, working through the summer (and now picking up a part-time job in the evenings to pay for the repairs), school, travelling, and whatnot, I've barely had time to work on this blog. On a side note, I just got hired by in Columbus as their "Stay-at-Home Dad" correspondent, which means more work for me, but getting paid to do it. Yay! I think.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Feeling Hairy and lazy. Perhaps I should shave for a change.

This is my first post in a month and a half. Why, you may ask? Because: I'm lazy. Anyone who read my first post (at this moment: nobody!) will know this. How lazy am I? I'll give you an example.

I play World of Warcraft (no, that's not the example; bear with me... ). Those familiar with the game, or with MMORPG's in general will have heard of Guilds. For those outside the loop I'll try to explain briefly. Granted, brevity is NOT one of my strong suits, as you might notice after reading my post about homeschooling. In an Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), a guild is a group of players who form a kind of club. They generally have a name, their own private chat channel, a shared bank of goods, and so on.

The guild I joined was named ProcrastiNation. This speaks volumes about my personality. I had been booted from my previous guild because i took a couple months off the game when real life got too busy. The officer who recruited me said that wasn't a problem. "Look at our name", he said, and we shared a hearty virtual laugh. After joining, I discovered I could not use some of the guild's features, such as the Vault (the aforementioned shared bank), the ability to recruit others, and others. This was new to me. After putting it off for a while (hint: ProcastiNation), I finally got around to asking a guild officer why this was. She informed me that i had to register on the guild's external website, link an e-mail, and perform a few other tasks. I replied that this was a ridiculous amount of hoops to jump through for a guild named -need I remind you- ProcrastiNation. They stood firm, so I left.

So, let's recap. I joined a club on a video game, who's name was synonymous with being lazy. I joined because their guidelines for attendance were incredibly lax. And I quit because it was too much work. I should be ashamed of myself, but that requires more introspection that I'd like to spend. On a side note, I actually started this post a week ago. It was saved as a draft, and just now re-opened, eight days later.

Lazy, I tell you.

On to a topic less self-flagellating, what say? My wife (who submitted the vending machine comic a little while ago, which I love) suggested I start a section of this blog dedicated to weirdness. not weirdness in general, mind you. I find enough of that in my day-to-day life. No, I'm talking about the kind of weirdness someone mistakenly took time to chronicle. I mean the misprints, errors in judgement, typos, misplaced headlines and other silliness people put into print.

I was inspired by a feature once carried in Maxim magazine, back when it was still funny and more than sixty-odd overpriced pages. This feature was called "Found Porn", and showcased ads, books, periodicals and products that could easily be construed as pornographic. This was one of my favorite parts of the mag, and reminded me of another fond memory of a once-humorous entertainment: "Headlines" from the Tonight Show. I've already gathered (i.e. either found or been handed by my wife; I'm too lazy for research) several items of weirdness, and will be putting them up for the world to enjoy.

So far, that includes myself and my wife. Get with the program, people.

The problem I'm encountering in this: What to call this feature? I can't use Headlines, firstly because it's already taken, and is a misnomer. Half the stuff old Smilin' Jay holds up are pictures or ads, not headlines. Found Porn is both copyrighted and too narrow; not everything I've gathered is a sophomoric attempt at puerile sexual humor. A lot of it is sophomoric in entirely different ways. So, until i either come up with a name or someone reading this suggests one, I'll just call it "General Weirdness".

Once again, get with the program, people.

We live in Columbus, Ohio. This first installment is a flier from a local Mexican restaurant named Tacorriendo. It is unaltered and not Photoshopped (I'm too cheap to buy Photoshop):

Excuse me, waiter. Come se dice "barf bag"? Thanks.

I'm all for truth in advertising, but in this case ignorance is bliss. I love how each is a little worse than the last. Stomach? Okay, that's not too bad. Tongue? Well, people eat tong- What? Intestines!?! Why, god, why?

Now that I've brought a little weirdness into your life, and ruined your dinner, I bid you adieu, or however you spell that in your weird moon-man language.