May 31, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 23


Today's edition of 7 Quick Takes Friday is brought to you by the letter B. That's B as in bikes, books, bees, bees (different kind), babies, baptism and barbecue.

--- 1 ---
Bikes: I can now cross a major milestone off the list for my six-year-old daughter. Over the weekend, she mastered riding a bike without training wheels. There was some divine intervention involved. We took her to our church's parking lot on Sunday and Monday afternoon to practice. Now she's a pro and wants to go bike riding with me all the time. So I had to dig my bike out of the garage, dust it off, inflate the tires and reacquaint my rear end with the seat.
 
--- 2 ---
Books: It takes more than a strong voice to sing in the church choir.  (No, I don't sing. Not even in the shower.) But my family did help the choir with some heavy lifting on Sunday afternoon. The church bought new hymnals to replace the ones that had been in use for 15 years. So a small but enthusiastic group of volunteers removed all the books and replaced them with 500 new ones that the church bought. Boy was I sore after that.

--- 3 ---
Bees: Something else was abuzz at church Sunday afternoon. One of the priests warned us about a HUGE bee's nest hanging from the side of the roof. Apparently these bees showed up and moved in all in the course of one day. Check out that big black blob of bees in the photo. I don't mind bees too much, but don't get me started on wasps.




--- 4 ---
Bees (Spelling): After reading about recent rule changes in the big national spelling bee, I feel compelled to reflect own my on brush with spelling fame and fortune, circa 1981. Well, there was neither fame nor fortune, but let me enjoy the moment anyway. Our fourth grade glass had a spelling bee, and my good friend and I were the last two people standing. The new word for him to spell was cartoon. He slowly said, C-A-R-T-O-O-N. I immediately thought, dang, I'll get a harder word and he'll win. But in a strange twist of fate, a couple of seconds after saying the letter N, my friend had a Dan Quayle moment (several years before the "potatoe" incident) and added an E, knocking my buddy out! So I spelled it correctly and won the fourth grade spelling bee. But I haven't spelled competitively since.
 
--- 5 ---
Babies: Wow, my seven-month-old daughter is sneaky. At that age, babies put anything and everything they can get their hands on into their mouths. On Memorial Day, we were innocently eating breakfast at the kitchen table. My wife was eating a bowl of Chex cereal and holding the baby in her lap. Suddenly in the blink of an eye, the baby swatted her hand on the edge of the bowl, dumping the cereal and milk into my wife's lap and on the floor. After being momentarily stunned, we lunged for the paper towels to clean up. Accidents happen, right? Or maybe this was all part of the baby's secret plan. As we started to clean up, I looked up and saw that she had a piece of Chex cereal in her little hand was licking it. So I have to give her credit for creating a diversion to get her hands on the cereal (that she's not old enough to eat).

--- 6 ---
Baptism: Two days earlier, our little cereal snatcher was baptized. I don't usually post family photos here, but for your viewing pleasure, here's a picture of her chilling out at the post-baptism party.



--- 7 ---
Barbecue: Here's the funniest Tweet I saw this week, courtesy of the Braves beat writer at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Is there really such a thing as Miami-style ribs? I grew up in South Florida and have never heard of that. If Miami is known for ribs, then France must be known for its French fries and French dressing. Bon Appetit.
 
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May 24, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 22


--- 1 ---
The most emotional stories from this week's tornadoes in Oklahoma are those of the teachers heroically trying to protect their students. One particular interview the morning after the storms caught my attention for a couple of reasons. Of course, it was amazing to hear one teacher describe how she huddled on top of her students on the floor of a bathroom as the tornado hit.

But the interview also made me uncomfortable in the way that the network sort of created a live television stunt by reuniting the teacher and one of the students in the middle of the interview. Clearly the teacher, the student and his mom would have preferred to keep chatting among themselves, but the reporter had to kind of coax them back in front of the camera. Check it out (but don't watch if you aren't prepared to cry):


--- 2 ---
I know that my daughter's first grade teacher would do anything she possibly could to protect her students. I felt that way after the Connecticut school shootings last year and again after this week's weather tragedy in Oklahoma.

--- 3 ---
My daughter has a way with words. We could write a book with all her funny quotes. The other day we gave her some pineapple slices to eat, and she said, "These taste like a toot!" The fruit was fine, and usually she loves it. But I think it clashed with the flavor of the liquid antibiotic she had just taken.

--- 4 ---
I did a double take in the parking lot of the church/school where I occasionally go to daily Mass during lunchtime. I had to take a closer look (and then snap this photo) to see if the word "only" was really misspelled. And sure enough, it was:


You can sort of tell that someone tried to "erase" the lines and convert the E back to an L. It kind of looks like the painter didn't have all the correct stencils either.

--- 5 ---
This slide show of clever corporate logos and their hidden messages caught my attention the this week. I've always thought the hidden white arrow in the FedEx logo was cool:



But it's silly that they included the NBC logo in the slideshow. The caption actually said that the peacock in the logo is, "Easy to overlook." Really? If you can't spot the peacock in the NBC logo, then I think it's time to visit the eye doctor:




--- 6 ---
From the celebrity lookalike file: I've often wondered why I've never seen retired pitcher and future baseball hall-of-famer Greg Maddux and Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza in the same place.

Greg Maddux
Chris Cillizza

--- 7 ---
Tomorrow my seven-month-old daughter is getting dunked. Well, not exactly. The priest will just be pouring the water over her head. We'll have some interesting baptism stories to tell in our little family of four. Two traditional water-pouring baptisms as babies (wife and younger daughter); one emergency hospital baptism on day two of life (older daughter); and one full-immersion conditional baptism as an adult (me).

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May 20, 2013

A Priest, a Cruise Ship and the Kentucky Derby

What do a priest, a cruise ship and the Kentucky Derby have in common? Well, probably nothing. But I thought of all three during Mass this past Sunday.

In his homily, our pastor said that before Mass he was in the sacristy getting ready when the sacristan noticed him wringing his hands. So the sacristan asked him, "Are you nervous?" The priest said, "Yes, even after 20-plus years of doing this, I'm always nervous right before Mass."

He said he usually worries that suddenly he'll forget what to say. Then he went on to say that his biggest ongoing fear or nightmare is that one day in the middle of Mass, someone will stand up and yell at him, "I don't agree with what you are saying."

That's when my mind drifted a little bit. (Yes, I confess to zoning out a little bit during the homily on occasion.) Hearing the priest say he has the same nervous fears before every Mass reminded me of this story I heard on NPR a couple of years ago. I don't follow horse racing, but it was still a fascinating story.

Tom Durkin, the guy who'd been calling the Kentucky Derby and the two other Triple Crown races on NBC Sports for a decade, was retiring because the stress of the job was taking its toll on his health. He said for three months every year, he would walk around with a pit of fear and worry in his gut.

He said calling the Kentucky Derby was the same level of stress a baseball player (now he was speaking my language!) feels while at bat in game seven of the world series with a 3-2 count, two outs, a runner on second and his team down by one run.

Also, he said he had nightmares all the time about suddenly not being able to see the horses during the race (spray paint over his binoculars, the lenses of the binoculars falling out during the race, etc.).

But his funniest nightmare (can you call a nightmare funny?) was this one: As the horses were coming down the stretch, all of a sudden a giant Norwegian cruise ship was sailing down the track and obstructing his view of the finish line.

Yes, it sounds like it was definitely time for him to move on. But hopefully our pastor will stick around for a few more years.

Tom Durkin  (Courtesy: NPR)





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May 18, 2013

Raillery with Reid

I wonder if new Astros president Reid Ryan remembers my joke from about 12 years ago. I had kind of forgotten about it myself, but all the headlines about his new job must have jogged my memory.

Let me set the scene: I was participating in an off season tour of the Dell Diamond which is the home of the Round Rock Express minor league baseball team. Nolan Ryan is one of the owners of the team, and his son Reid was the president and was among those credited for helping to bring professional baseball, and an impressive stadium, to the Austin area.

As the tour guide was leading a few of us fans along the way, a door opened up and out walked Reid Ryan right into the middle of our group. It looked like he was in a hurry but did the right thing and stopped to quickly make nice with the fans.

I spoke up (I'm not an introvert when I have a joke) and asked him, "So, do you time this out perfectly and walk out that door right in the middle of every tour group to impress the fans?"

Some of the other fans laughed, and I think Reid appreciated the joke too. But he didn't offer me a job on the spot!

Reid Ryan (Courtesy: mlb.com)


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May 17, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 21



--- 1 ---
It should be no surprise to hear that introverts prefer to do business via email (or text) rather than over the phone.  So it really bugs me when a business encourages you to contact them by email, but doesn't actually help you by email. This week I started having some trouble with a the Keurig Mini coffee maker that I keep on my desk at work. Nothing major, but they've been good in the past about replacing products when there's a problem. So I sent an email and received an immediate automatic response which basically said, "We're sorry you're having a problem. Please call us for help." Gee, thanks, but if I wanted to talk to you on the phone, I would have called in the first place.

--- 2 ---
I had a similar experience while checking online for how to replace this key. Apparently, I need to be gentler when I start the car. Anyway, I perused some locksmiths and car dealers on the web. I submitted a few online inquiries and only received one response which was just as helpful (sarcasm font) as the Keurig response above. The moral of the story is: Don't even offer customer service by email if you aren't actually going to try to help by email.



--- 3 ---
Introverts are lots of fun at parties (as long as we don't have to stay very long). I saw this clever pie chart on the Introverts are Awesome Facebook page.



But for me it would be a little different. I'm not worried about practicing conversations. I think the purple section should be the amount of alone time needed to decompress and recharge after a party.
 
--- 4 ---
Boy was it a shame that our pastor had to apologize from the pulpit. He said that some people were so angry and offended by him asking them to participate in the parish's capital campaign that he felt the need to apologize. Wow, it's sad to think that people were actually rude to him about it. If people don't wish to participate, I would recommend just saying, "No, thank you."

--- 5 ---
"It's time for Mr. Yucky Medicine." That's what my six-year-old said the other day before downing a shot of cherry-flavored cough medicine. Do the people who make cherry-flavored medicine actually think children will like the taste? Whatever the medicine tastes like without the flavoring must be really bad if the yucky cherry flavor is an improvement.

--- 6 ---
It's always amusing when your Amazon order falls just a few cents short of the $25 free shipping threshold. There are many websites out there where you can search for "filler" items in the exact amount that you need. That's how I acquired this lovely (sarcasm font, again) "GANZ by Laura Kelly Me & My Peeps stick-on character" for only 79-cents. The only other 79-cent item I found at the time was some crazy weight lost patch. So I opted for the "stick-on character" and gave it to my daughter. She was not impressed.



--- 7 ---
When I heard about the death of  Dr. Joyce Brothers this week, the first thing I thought of was baseball. Makes sense, right? Of course, I'm talking about what I think was her most notable accomplishment. I loved the scene in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! where she appeared briefly as a baseball commentator along with Curt Gowdy, Tim McCarver, Jim Palmer, Dick Vitale, Mel Allen and Dick Enberg. That was brilliant comedy right there. And it reminds me of how much I don't like having three announcers calling a game at the same time. Just imagine seven.





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May 11, 2013

Living in the Moment

The story of the butterfly and the big fat woopey cooshin (sic), alog with numerous other butterfly-themed letters, crafts, drawings, sheets and curtains, now adorn the room of a five-year old cancer patient at the Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin.

Haleycurls for Hope Foundation
My six-year-old daughter, who's an amazing cancer survivor, likes to help out other kids who are going through the same thing she used to go through. So for her birthday party in 2011, instead of gifts she asked people to make a donation to the Haleycurls for Hope Foundation which was established in memory of a little girl she knew from their many hospital and clinic stays.

The money raised was used yesterday to decorate the hospital room of a little girl who loves butterflies. It was an honor for our family to be there and help bring joy to the girl and her family. We hadn't previously met them, but there's always in instant bond whenever we meet other families with children who have (or had) serious illnesses.

Here's a quick news clip from yesterday's event (sorry about the advertisement).


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May 10, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 20


--- 1 ---
Don't spike the football when you're killing flies. (I wonder if that would fit on a t-shirt or bumper sticker?) One morning this week, my six-year-old daughter spotted --gasp!-- a fly in our kitchen. It landed on on a chair, and the nearest makeshift weapon I could find was a Kleenex box. So I sneaked up, whacked the fly with the box, and it dropped, well, like a fly. We both saw the fly on the ground, presumably near death. It's not always easy to get a fly on the first try, so my kid and I celebrated with a demonstrative high five. But the fly must have been playing dead because as soon as he saw us gloating about his demise, he got up and flew away. I nailed him a little later with bug spray. So the moral of this quick take is: make sure the fly is really dead before you dance on its grave. 
 
--- 2 ---
How in the world did I miss the story from a couple of years ago about the Major League Baseball prospect quitting the game to become a priest? As a Catholic and a baseball fan, I should be ashamed for not hearing about this until now. Maybe I should mention it at my next confession. Anyway, it's a really remarkable story.

He used to swing a bat; now he swings censer.

--- 3 ---
Here's a great gift idea for the Catholic baseball fans in your life. Check out this baseball Rosary that my wife saw in a store recently. She didn't buy it for me, however, because I use a smartphone app instead of actual beads.


--- 4 ---
I cringe a little bit every time I hear my parish's opening announcements at Mass. They always say something like, "Please make sure your pagers and cell phones are in the silent mode." Pagers?!? Does anybody really carry a pager anymore? If so, please send it to the Smithsonian so they can put it on display next to a VCR.

--- 5 ---
It's nice to know that my daughter is paying attention to life's lessons. I think her spiritual knowledge is far ahead of the average first grader. The other day she said, "I think if I ever take the vocation of marriage, I should marry someone like [classmate] because he believes in God." Amen!

--- 6 ---
Whenever I hear about class action lawsuits against major corporations, I always assume the members of the class end up with about 50-cents each after all the legal fees are deducted. So it was a pleasant surprise last week when we received $100 from the class action settlement with Honda regarding our (former) Honda Civic Hybrid.

--- 7 ---
In other happy Honda news, I'm pleased to report that my wife's minivan has all of the necessary rivets in its airbag. Last week I grumbled about having to take it in for the airbag recall. But I only had to wait around long enough to drink two cups of coffee in the waiting room before the mechanic determined that our airbag was fine. But I don't plan on ever using it.

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May 5, 2013

The Butterfly and the Big Fat Whoopie Cushion

There's a budding young comedy writer in my daughter's first grade class. (Keep reading, this one's worth it.)

As a happy and healthy cancer survivor, my daughter likes to raise money for charitable organizations that help other kids going through some of the same medical challenges that she once faced. One year, her birthday party was a fundraiser for the Haleycurls for Hope Foundation which was established in memory of a little girl my daughter knew from their many hospital and clinic stays.

The money raised at this party is now going to be used to decorate the hospital room of a young patient suffering from a serious illness. The little patient loves butterflies, so last month my daughter asked many of her school and church friends to make butterfly decorations and write letters of support to the girl.

Most of the letters were simple yet very sweet. But one little boy wrote a hilarious butterfly story, and I'm going to share it with you. I'll try to transcribe this exactly as it was written:

The butterfly and the big fat woopey cooshin by (Name)
Wonce there was a butterfly that just came out of its cacon. So it had to start looking for food. So he whent every whear to find food. So first we went to the park but he could ent find any food. So he whent to a nearby school. So he whent to the cafetiria he found food but he didn't like it. So he whent back to the park. This time he thout he found food but it was a woope cooshin. So he bit it and it went fabert! The end.

Is that brilliant, or what?

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May 3, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 19


--- 1 ---
The "Reply All" button in email programs should come with a stern warning. When you click it, maybe it ought to say something like, "Are you really, really sure you want to reply to all 300 recipients of the original email just to say 'thanks'?"
   
--- 2 ---
The family minivan is going back to the Honda dealer tomorrow for recall work. Apparently, a robot on the assembly line may have forgotten to put a couple of rivets into the airbag mechanisms of about a zillion vehicles. While I'm happy to get this potential problem fixed at no cost, it's still a pain to have to leave the car there all day. I hope the robot was severely reprimanded (if that's permitted in its union contract).

--- 3 ---
Now I know why Wyndham calls some of its hotels, "Microtel." I had some out-of-state relatives visiting last weekend, and they stayed at a nearby Microtel. My six-year-old wanted to see their hotel room. Clearly the "micro" describes the size of the rooms. It also was really funny that the room had a little shelf and cushion under the window directly on top of the A/C unit. The hotel actually considers that an extra sleeping area (maybe for a tiny person). You can see it on the left side of the photo. Notice the giant mirror behind the bed, too. I suppose that's an attempt to make a little room look bigger.

Courtesy: MicrotelInn.com

--- 4 ---
Sometimes clever advertisements just don't work. I regret not taking a picture, but on the outside of the elevator door at the Microtel (I'm sorry to keep picking on them), there was an advertisement for the Round Rock Express baseball team showing a full-sized picture of a player in uniform. But they didn't plan this ad as well as they could have. You know that little circular emergency keyhole that's on the doors of elevators? Well, this little hole was right on the face of the baseball player. Whoever paid for this ad should get a refund. You'd think if nobody spotted this problem sooner, perhaps the person who physically intsalled the ad should have noticed this and said something.

--- 5 ---
If I were an elevator repairman, and you asked me what my job is like, I'd say, "It has its ups and downs." It's an old joke, but I happened to stumble upon this interesting Wall Street Journal story (using that joke as the headline) the other day. Clearly this lady did not design the elevators in the Ramada hotel in Atlanta back in the early 90s.

The Elevator Lady (Courtesy: Wall Street Journal)

--- 6 ---
I sure was proud of my daughter for breaking this mirror. Well, sort of. She and a friend from first grade were playing upstairs in her room and, somehow, broke her mirror. My wife heard the girls at the top of the stairs quietly conspiring that they would say that they didn't know how the mirror got broken. But by the time they got to the bottom of the stairs, my daughter must have remembered the Ten Commandments and immediately admitted that they were playing some sort of pushing game and were both responsible for breaking the mirror. Score one for the truth!


 
--- 7 ---
Post-game Gatorade bucket dumpings and shaving cream pies are getting out of hand. This one from the Washington Nationals broadcast got a lot of attention since it was the reporter's first day on the job.
Courtesy: Washington Post
I guess I'm okay with an occasional Gatorade dumping of a football coach after a really important victory (which used to be the only time this stuff would happen). But now it seems to have invaded the sacred baseball world and not a day goes by without someone idiot trying to be funny and interrupt his teammate's post game interview. Give it a rest, fellas.

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