March 31, 2013

An Introvert's Survival Guide to Easter

Being an introvert adds some unusual stress to what is otherwise the holiest day of the year, Easter. There's nothing more powerful than Mass on Easter, although Christmas Mass is a close second. But for me there's a lot of unnecessary worrying involved. (Side note: For help dealing with unnecessary worrying, check out the book I mentioned a few weeks ago.)

Let's set Easter aside for a moment. In general, I need the following parameters to be met no matter where I'm going in order to remain calm:

  1. Early departure: Wherever I'm headed, I want to leave early. You never know what unexpected delays you'll encounter on the way, such as traffic delays, flat tires, bad weather, road closures or anything else.
  2. Early arrival: #1 helps to ensure #2. If I'm going anywhere that has a specific start time, why would I want to walk in at the last second? I'd much rather get there early, even if it means having to squat in the car for a while. Why squat in the car? Because, of course, an introvert wouldn't want to get anywhere too early. Yes, I know. I can't have it both ways.
  3. Known destination: This one's much easier now that we live in a GPS-guided world. If I don't know where I'm going, my phone will tell me how to get there, as long as I'm not using Apple's map program! Thank goodness for Google Maps on the iPhone. Before everyone had GPS, there was nothing worse than a group of people getting in the car and starting to drive somewhere but realizing that nobody knows how to get there.
  4. Known parking accommodations: This is an interesting one for me. I don't mind parking farther away from a destination if I know that the far away spot has adequate parking. Let me explain it another way. I'd rather park in a more distant lot where I know there's going to be a space instead of enduring the extra time and uncertainty of circling closer parking lots hoping there's going to be a space. A restaurant or any other destination that doesn't have adequate parking (or some other good option to get there like mass transit) is going to be less appealing to me. That doesn't mean I'll totally avoid it. But I'll be less desirous of going.
  5. Available seating: If I'm going somewhere potentially crowded, I don't want to have to wander around trying to find a seat. The good thing is, if I've followed #1-4 above, then chances are good that I've arrived in plenty of time to be able to find I seat.

So what does this have to do with Easter? Well, Easter Mass (and other Christian church services, I'm sure), are always extra wildly crowded thanks to all the CEOs in attendance. You know, those are the people who ago to church on Christmas and Easter Only. I'm happy that they are there and hope they'll decide to come back next Sunday. But it makes driving to Easter Mass, finding a safe place to park (especially with two small children) and getting in the door and seated extra stressful for my introverted brain.

But of course, it's all worth it. Have a joyous Easter.

March 27, 2013

True: Disney Distress

I wasn't planning on blogging during Holy Week, but current events compel me. First, the truth about my inaugural Is It True? post: I really was stranded on the It's a Small World ride at Disney World back in the 80s. But the Alcatraz story sounded exciting too, didn't it?

Anyway, the main reason for this post is to say that I'm not the only one who's ever been stranded on It's a Small World. I just found this story from NBC4 in Los Angeles about a man who was stuck on the Disneyland version of the ride, sued and was awarded $8,000.

Of course, there's nothing funny about the man's medical issues. But what is amusing is that the story makes a point to say that when the ride broke down, the song kept playing over and over again (just like I said).

Watch this video, if you can bare the advertisement first, and notice that at the beginning of the story, the news anchor can't help smiling when she says the song played over and over.

The lesson here is that when the It's a Small World ride breaks down, the first thing Disney should do is turn off the music!
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March 23, 2013

Is it True? Tourist Edition

There's an old party game where everyone says or writes two interesting or unusual things about them, one true and one false; then everyone has to guess which story is real. So here's a blog version of "Is It True?" These are two vacation stories, and it's up to you to figure out which one is real.

#1 Disney Distress

When I was around twelve years old, a friend's family invited me to go with them on a weekend trip to Walt Disney World near Orlando. (It was a driving trip since we lived about 200 miles away.) 

My friend and I were free to roam the Magic Kingdom on our own and had quite a distressing experience on the It's a Small World ride. Disney describes this ride as embarking "On a whimsical boat ride past a jubilant confection of singing children from around the globe." Others describe it as an extremely slow boat ride where they play that annoying song over and over and over. If you don't think this song would get on your nerves, try playing this video from an unknown person on You Tube a few times in a row. The song starts around 20-seconds in:


So here's my unusual and distressing experience. All the boats stopped, and we were stuck in the middle of the ride for a long time. The song kept playing (over and over and over!), and the "jubilant confection" of dolls kept dancing for what seemed like about 20 minutes. Eventually, the song stopped but the dolls kept dancing for a while longer. Employees (or as Disney calls them, "Cast members") were walking from boat to boat letting people know there was a mechanical problem and they were working on it.

Finally after what seemed like about an hour, the workers had to help each stranded passenger climb out of their boats to a hidden walkway and out a secret back door of the ride to an employee-only area. Then they walked us all back around to the main part of the park.

So is it true? Was I really stranded in Disney's It's a Small World ride?
#2 Adrift at Alcatraz

When I was about twelve or thirteen, our family took a really great vacation to San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. During that trip, we did the famous tour of Alcatraz Island, the former prison that used to house the worst-of-the-worst offenders. 

Alcatraz Island (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

To get to and from the island, you have to take a boat ride on the Alcatraz Cruise. The ride to the island was fine, and the tour was very exciting.

It was on the boat ride back where we ran into trouble. History (and the tour guide) tells us that no prisoners ever successfully escaped from Alcatraz because the current in San Franciso Bay was too strong to swim. Everyone who attempted to swim to freedom was pulled out to see and ended up drowning.

I wasn't sure if we were going to make it either because the engine malfunctioned on our boat. The workers were running around frantically trying to fix it as we slowly began drifting toward the Golden Gate Bridge and, presumably, out to sea to meet the same fate as many daring prisoners. I don't know why they couldn't just drop an anchor and stop us from moving.

Finally, after what seemed like an hour, a couple of Coast Guard rescue boats showed up and   
were able to stop our wayward vessel. The rescuers helped each passenger climb from the tourist boat onto the Coast Guard boats for our ride back to shore.

So is it true? Was I really stranded on a boat in the choppy waters off Alcatraz Island?

Only one of these harrowing stories is real.

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March 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 14

[Note: 7 Quick Takes Friday will take a break next week on Good Friday. See you in April.]
--- 1 ---
The same funny priest known for his hilarious explanation why he was late to Mass had another funny one from the pulpit this week. At the beginning of daily Mass on Monday, he processed to the altar and said that while walking over to the church, the youth director handed him a doctored-up version of the now-famous image of Pope Francis checking out of his hotel after becoming pope. The caption said, "Oh, that's right. I checked in under a different name."

--- 2 ---
Waking up too early sometimes has its perks. On Tuesday morning I flipped on the TV as I was about to fire up the coffee maker and happened to stumble upon live coverage of Pope Francis' installation Mass. Sometimes the secular media's coverage of this stuff is a little off. But I appreciated the great input from papal expert George Weigel who's been serving as an analyst for NBC news. Last year we had the pleasure of attending an event where Mr. Weigel was the keynote speaker.

--- 3 ---
Speaking of coffee, our consumption of this alluring beverage has increased exponentially ever since we bought a K-cup machine. It is now too easy and too convenient to make a cup of coffee. It certainly costs more than regular coffee, and I'm sorry if the K-cups aren't environmentally friendly, but we sure do love them.

--- 4 ---
Have you ever noticed that the most thorough cleaning and de-cluttering that you ever do in your home happens because you have visitors coming over? We did some wild organizing on Saturday morning in preparation for some friends visiting. And as soon as they left I said, "Great, now we can go back to living in squalor!"
--- 5 ---
The next day was St. Patrick's Day, and it came and went with little fanfare in our household. But after Mass, we did make a point to watch one of our favorite Veggie Tales DVDs called Lessons from the Sock Drawer. It includes this really great story of St. Patrick. Watch it with your kids and enjoy:

--- 6 ---
The best thing about keeping an emergency weather radio in your bedroom is that it will wake you up in the middle of the night. And, the worst thing about it is also that it will wake you up in the middle of the night. Tuesday was one of those nights where we heard the dreaded alert tones over and over thanks to severe thunderstorms. I do want it to wake us up if there's a tornado coming, but I don't want it to wake us up for every passing shower. I know I can't have it both ways. Believe me, I won't complain when it saves our lives.

--- 7 ---
The first and hopefully only episode of Law & Order: SWU (Special Wasp Unit) was a cliffhanger. But now I can report that it came to a dramatic conclusion on Saturday evening. Yes, three days later. The suspect was spotted on the wall outside our guest bathroom upstairs. I discharged three shots from my weapon (wasp/hornet spray with a 27-foot stream), and the offender was pronounced dead a few minutes later. He was laid to rest with a decisive flush of the toilet. The end.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

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March 20, 2013

Quick Elevator Humor

Those awkward silences in life are even more painful when you're an introvert. Don't get me wrong. We like silence and basically want to have it almost all the time. But there are situations where there's an expectation of conversation. At these times I reach for a handy social crutch: humor. Of course, there's always a risk that the joke will fall flat.

Recent example: I was in an elevator at the state Capitol and had to lug a huge trunk full of materials that were used during an event. I was taking up quite a bit of space with this trunk in the crowded elevator. So I thought I ought to say something. Quick, Adam, come up with a joke.

I channeled one of my favorite comedy films and said, "I feel like I'm hauling John Candy's luggage in Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

The first reaction from my fellow elevator riders: dead silence. I thought, Oh no! Nobody got the joke. But suddenly, after a few seconds, another passenger blurted out, "Those aren't pillows!" which is, of course, a famous line from the same movie.

Thank you, elevator guy, for bailing me out.


(If you aren't familiar with Planes, Trains and Automobiles then this probably makes no sense. A word of caution: the film is NOT family friendly.)
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March 18, 2013

Shortcut to the Ten Commandments

Can you name the ten commandments in order? While my six-year-old's been learning them, I realized how unlikely it would be for me to be able to rattle them off in the correct order. If she's going to learn them -- and she has -- then I better make sure I know them too. So I reached back to my schooling days and will share with you the Adam Introvert style of learning.

I survived (academically) from elementary school all the way through college by finding totally unrelated trigger words that would help me memorize whatever fact I needed to know. I know this is not the best way to learn things since it's kind of similar to how a parrot learns to talk. But it works for me.

For this exercise, I'll use the text of the commandments straight from the USCCB website (which happens to be a handy companion to the Priest in My Pocket). Based on the Adam Introvert Memorization Method (AIMM), the easiest way to learn them is to associate each number with something in the commandment, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual meaning.

Here goes, but please keep in mind that not all of my memory cues are suitable for kids:
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March 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 13

--- 1 ---

So where were you when the white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel? My wife and kids were kind enough to pick me up at work and take me out to lunch on Wednesday. While we were sitting at the table finishing up, my iPhone vibrated with a breaking news alert about the white smoke. It wasn't until I was back at work a little later when Pope Francis was introduced. I had to multitask and keep one eye on my work and one eye on the papal coverage on the internet. Thank goodness (and more importantly, God) for modern technology. What a powerful moment.

--- 2 ---
I also had my eyes on the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday, the first day of the so-called Smoke Watch. I took that day off to help out with the kids since it's Spring Break and my wife had to go to the dentist. So we made it a family trip and I entertained the little ones in the waiting room where the dentist's office conveniently had a TV tuned to live coverage of the Cardinals taking their oath before the voting began. Unfortunately, the network dumped out of live coverage and went back to regular programming once the doors closed. But thankfully in this age of 24-hour media access, we were able to watch the Smoke Cam via smartphone. Later on Tuesday, while waiting to get my hair cut, the first puff of black smoke emerged.

--- 3 ---
While we're on the subject of the dentist and the barber, these are two places where as an introvert, I wish I could keep the small talk to a minimum. Sure, I'll be polite and chat a little bit. But in these situations, once the hygenist and the barber start doing their thing, I really would prefer to just sit there and let them do their job rather than maintain an ongoing dialogue. It's less of an issue at the dentist because you can't talk with bunch of equipment in your mouth anyway. But when I'm getting my hair cut, I just want to sit there in silence and not engage in an indepth conversation while I'm a captive audience.

--- 4 ---
Later that day, our six-year-old blurted out something about the devil. Actually, it was deviled chicken, and we wondered where in the world that came from. She said, "It was on the Rachael show." When we were at the dentist earlier watching the Vatican coverage on TV, I stopped paying attention as soon as the network went back to regular programming. But my daughter didn't. The regular programming was The Rachael Ray Show (never seen it), and she was cooking deviled chicken. That's quite a rough television transition going from coverage of the papal conclave to a chicken recipe named after the devil. (Okay, so maybe it's not really named for the bad guy downstairs.)

From the Pope to deviled chicken (Courtesy:

--- 5 ---
I loved growing up in Florida and having easy access to Atlanta Braves spring training games since I lived just a few miles from their old facility in West Palm Beach. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I read this Baseball Nerd blog about the potentially precarious future of spring training in Florida. As a kid I always perceived the Grapefruit League games as mainstream, while the Cactus League games in Arizona were something inferior. Apparently, the tables have turned. 

--- 6 ---
I saw a Tweet from a Braves fan who was very angry at some of the players for not taking the time to sign autographs and supposedly openly laughing about how they ignored the fans. Of course baseball players making millions should appreciate and be respectful of their fan base. But I also recognize that baseball is their job and sometimes they really do have to walk away from a hoard of autograph seekers and get back to work, even during the more casual atmosphere of spring training. This wouldn't have been a problem for me, though, because even though I've always been a huge baseball fan, I was never into seeking autographs. Since I'm an introvert, standing around in a crowd of people screaming to get the attention of players was never appealing.  Maybe those particular Braves players are introverts too.

--- 7 ---
Let's end this with some quick (and respectful) papal humor. For some reason one of Johnny Carson's old Carnac the Magnificent jokes always stuck with me. Remember when Carnac would hold the envelope up to his head and mystically say the answer to whatever question was sealed inside? On this particular instance, he said the answer was "John Paul, Ivory, Dan Quayle." They opened the envelope, and the question was, "Name a pope, a soap and a dope!"

Courtesy: Wikipedia

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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March 14, 2013

Law & Order: SWU (Special Wasp Unit)

Our household is on a heightened state of alert. No, not for severe weather or burglary. Late yesterday afternoon our six-year-old said she saw -- brace yourself -- a wasp in our house.

If that doesn't sound too worrisome to you, then you've obviously never heard my theory on bees and wasps. I'm not an entomologist, and I acknowledge there is absolutely no scientific basis for this theory. But hear me out. Here's all you need to know about bees and wasps:

If a bee flies near you (as long as you aren't disturbing its nest), just hold still and it'll realize you aren't a flower and fly away. Bees don't like to sting people since it results in their own death. Wasps, on the other hand, like to sting people for fun, and that's what they want to do all day long.

So with that frightening (albeit flawed) fact in mind, you can imagine how we felt knowing that one of these sting-happy insects may have rudely invaded our home.

As soon as I got home from work, I reluctantly armed myself with a twenty-ounce can of wasp and hornet killer, and headed upstairs where she thought she saw the wasp. I had my phone in my pocket just in case I needed to call for backup. With my weapon drawn and finger on the trigger, I cleared each room much like the way police officers go through a home to make sure there's nobody there:

Master bedroom -- Clear!
Master bathroom -- Clear!
Playroom -- Clear!
Baby's room -- Clear!
Older kid's room -- Clear!
Guest room -- Clear!
Guest bathroom -- Clear!
Closets -- Clear!

I did the same thing in the rooms downstairs but didn't find the suspect anywhere. So I started to think through all the possible scenarios:
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March 13, 2013

Bird Cam

In this era of 24-hour connectedness, it's almost too easy to follow the papal conclave process at the Vatican. But if you aren't monitoring the Smoke Cam atop the Sistine Chapel, this bird will chirp (or Tweet) as soon as a new pope is elected:

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March 12, 2013

A Period Piece

Over the last few years I've cured myself of a longtime addiction. Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling? No, not that kind of addiction. It's a point of punctuation. I no longer double-space after typing a period.

Double-spacing is simply the way I had always done it. When someone at a previous workplace pointed out that this style is no longer accepted, I balked and said, "But I've been double-spacing after periods since I was little boy." And that was true.

Sometime in the late 70s my parents gave my older brother a Sears brand manual typewriter. I don't have an actual photo, but it looked just like this:

The school I attended at the time offered a typing class, but only for the older grades. So I learned to type on my own just by playing around with this blue beauty whenever my brother would let me. I'm not really sure who told me to double-space after a period, and I'm sure I had no clue that this was a mono-space typewriter (the whole reason for double-spacing back in the day). But that's the way I did it then and all the way up until a few years ago.
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March 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 12

--- 1 ---
Have you ever heard of Alan Ames? We attended a healing service of his last weekend; it's actually the second time we've heard him speak. He has quite a compelling story. People all over the world come to him seeking healing. But you never know whether your healing will be physical, emotional, spiritual or maybe something else. You should check him out if he comes to a parish near you.

--- 2 ---
Now let's transition from a healer to a "magician." I read the other day that illusionist David Copperfield was on a plane that had to make a very frightening emergency landing due to mechanical problems. So if this guy can supposedly make the Statue of Liberty disappear, why can't he magically fix an engine problem? I remember the story from a few years ago when Copperfield and two others were mugged at gunpoint while walking late at night after a performance in Florida. Even though he had his wallet, keys and cell phone in his pockets, he pulled out his pockets to show the robber that they were empty. Slight of hand, for sure.

--- 3 ---
I'm on a roll with these transitions, so now I'll go from a magician to a beautician. (Although now I've already ruined the joke.) Once I was getting my hair cut in a new place, and the woman cutting my hair had a funny little sign on the shelf next to her barber's license. It said, "I'm a beautician, not a magician!" (Don't hate me for the exclamation point. It was on the sign.)

--- 4 ---
My first reaction upon hearing Dennis Rodman's ridiculous comments about North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un being a great guy was this: Even Ozzie Guillen of "I love Fidel Castro" fame probably shook his head and thought Rodman is crazy.

--- 5 ---
Speaking of crazy, what a terrible move that would be if the Texas Rangers squeezed the legendary Nolan Ryan from his CEO job. That would be almost as big of a PR disaster as if the Atlanta Braves ever dumped Hank Aaron from the front office.

--- 6 ---
This isn't nearly as silly as the Nubrella, but this ad for the Freeloader child carrier seems weird to me. Isn't this girl a little too old to be carried around all day?


--- 7 ---
I saw a couple of really funny business slogans on trucks recently. One was for a dog training/obedience school. Under the name of the business on the truck it said, "Sorry, we can't train husbands, wives or kids." On the back of a plumber's van it said, "***t happens. When it does, call me."

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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March 5, 2013

Get to the Point!

This story I read about the obsessive use and abuse of the exclamation point in writing reminded me of a great story an old journalism professor told me more than 20-years ago.

The teacher was a grizzled, retired newspaper reporter; he said he got his first part-time newspaper job while he was in high school. After finishing his first story, he handed the draft to his editor to review. The editor read it carefully, sighed heavily and then put a blank piece of paper into his typewriter.

On that blank sheet, the editor typed six exclamation points, like this: !!!!!!

He pulled out the paper, handed it to the young reporter and said, "This is your supply of exclamation points for your entire career ahead as a journalist. I suggest you use them more sparingly."

Lesson learned!
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March 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 11

--- 1 ---
I like to say that I never get sick. Unfortunately, having an attitude like that makes things extra miserable on those rare occasions when I do get sick. And boy did I get sick. The major symptoms of what turned out to be a persistent fever, a sinus infection and brochitis hit me late last week, and I had to miss work early this week. I hate calling in sick from work. I think the last time I missed work due to my own illness was more than a year ago. Of course, as a parent I occasionally have to use sick time to take care of the kids. But when it's my own sickness, I feel so defeated when I can't go to work.

--- 2 ---
While I was wallowing in my own sickness at home on Monday, we had a quite a wind storm, and it knocked down part of our backyard fence. Aside from the general hassle of having to get it fixed, it's also just my luck as an introvert to have to coordinate the repairs with two different neighbors.

--- 3 ---
As if being sick and having wind damage weren't enough, we also lost electricity. As soon as it went out Monday afternoon, I used my smartphone to report it online and was quite surprised when I saw this (Keep in mind that I was reading this on February 25 around 2:30 p.m.):

How would they know literally five minutes after the power went out that it was going to take about 20 hours to fix? Luckily, the power came back on about six hours later. But we were prepared for the long haul and bundled up the baby and the six-year-old for a night without heat.

--- 4 ---
So what else could have possibly gone wrong on Monday? How about a fire scare? With the power out, we decided to venture out in the windstorm to go pick up dinner and bring it back home. As soon as we opened our garage we encountered a very strong smell of fire and a haze in the air. Our neighborhood had a fairly close call with a wildfire back in 2011 at the same time as the most destructive wildfire in Texas history, so people who live here are justifiably sensitive whenever they smell smoke. Neighbors were venturing out looking for the fire and alerting others just in case. Some people may have been packing a bag or two in case of evacuation. Fortunately, the odor was from a grass fire several miles away, but the strong winds were carrying the smoke in our direction.
--- 5 ---
We tried our best to keep our six-year-old entertained during the power outage. It's was a good teaching moment and an opportunity to thank God for what we have. Also, I wished her a (pretend) Merry Christmas. After all, it's not that often when you get to pull out the Christmas candles in February.

--- 6 ---
Speaking of Christmas, I thought of Frank Sinatra as I was updating my work voicemail greeting to let people know I was out of the office Tuesday. With the bronchitis and sinus infection, I was having a hard time getting through entire sentences without becoming winded. It reminded me of a version of Silent Night that Sinatra must have recorded late in his career when his health was deteriorating. You can tell he wasn't able to hold words for very long. But of course, it's Frank Sinatra so unlike my voicemail greeting, it still sounded good.

--- 7 ---
I need to get something in here that isn't about sickness or the weather. I heard a segment on Relevant Radio Wednesday afternoon where guest Barbara Nicolosi noted the vast difference in dignity and humbleness between the Oscars show (which of course I didn't watch) and the live coverage of Pope Benedict's final audience. Excellent point! I had a similar thought in 1997 comparing the images of the funerals of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa:

From Wikipedia: Princess Diana's funeral procession

From Mother Teresa's funeral procession

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
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