August 30, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 36

--- 1 ---
The first day of school every year proves that my daughter is not destined to be as introverted as her dad. Sure, she's reserved like her parents. But our little second grader, who's not so little anymore, is always excited to go back to school. When I was a kid I generally dreaded going back to school. It's not that I didn't like school. I just feared the uncertainty and the forced social interaction.

--- 2 ---
Before school resumed this week we had to outfit her with some new footwear. After trying on several pairs, she finally didn't hate these:

They're Nikes, but thankfully they weren't as expensive as Air Jordans. (Do they still make Air Jordans now that Michael Jordan is halfway to 100?)

Can His Airness still do this? Courtesy: Wikipedia

--- 3 ---
My daughter and her new teacher have something in common. They are both cancer survivors. Unfortunately, being a cancer patient and/or survivor is hardly an exclusive club. But hopefully it'll help them form a nice teacher/student bond.

--- 4 ---
Who's the advertising expert who came up with this? 

I'm no math genius, but even I know that a 28-ounce bag of cereal is twice as much as the 14-ounce size. Does anyone actually read this on the label and get excited? I don't want to complain though. Cinnamon Toast Crunch (or its Malt-o-Meal equivalent) is about the best tasting cereal out there.

--- 5 ---
One of the smartest things ever added to self-serve gas pumps was the ability not to receive a receipt. Who wants all those little pieces of paper cluttering up their car? And don't forget all the people who drive off with their receipt still sticking out of the printer on the pump. But I needed a receipt the other day since I also purchased a car wash. Just my luck, the printer was out of paper, so I had to walk into the Exxon/7-11 to ask for a copy. The first words out of the cashier's mouth were, "Would you like to try a hot dog or a cheese taquito?" No, thanks. Poor guy, does he have to say that to every single person who walks in?

I just wanted a receipt, not a stomach ache. Courtesy:

--- 6 ---
While we're on the category of things I don't want to eat, why is it always such a big news story when fast food restaurants come up with some ridiculously unhealthy concoction? A few weeks ago it was some sort of taco wrapped in a waffle. Now this week some other chain is putting french fries on its burgers. That's almost as crazy as Bill Cosby's "bacon burger dogs" on The Cosby Show.

Just say no. Courtesy: NBC News

--- 7 ---
I think my mechanic needs a nap. I asked for a tire rotation, but according to my bill, he gave the car a "tired rotation" instead. As one my Facebook contacts said, I'd gladly pay $20 for a tired rotation if it made me less tired.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

August 26, 2013

Birthday Business

It was the hollowest of birthday greetings. My big day was a week or so ago, and I couldn't help but laugh and shake my head when I glanced at my email and checked my voicemail.

The first email was from my dentist. Yes, the guy who cleans my teeth (or at least looks very quickly at my teeth after the hygienist cleans them) sent an auto-generated email greeting with this subject: "Birthday greetings from your dentist."

The body of the email said:

Dear Adam,
Birthdays are good for you.
Statistics show that people who have the most live longest!
We hope that the coming year will be filled with health, happiness and success.
Happy Birthday!
Your Friends at [office name]

Of course, when a business wishes you a happy birthday it usually wants something in return. At the bottom of the email was a link encouraging me to refer a friend to the dentist's office. Also, I'm curious as to what statistics the email is referring to. People who have the most really live longest? Birthdays, maybe. But money and possessions certainly aren't the path to eternal life. I guess my dentist has never heard the old joke about how you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul.

To the office's credit, there was another link to click if I wanted to "not receive this type of email from us in the future." Though I have a long history of firing dentists, including once doing so over the phone while on the way to my appointment (that'll be a future blog post), sending me a silly spam-like birthday email is not a firing offense. 

That wasn't the only business birthday greeting I received in my inbox. My bank sent this classic:

Dear Adam,
Customer Number XXXXXXXXXXXX
They say age & money are two things you're never supposed to ask about. So we'll just be polite and say: Happy Birthday, Saver. Here's to being another year old and savings-wiser. 

That was very kind of the bank to include my customer number to ensure that I wasn't receiving a birthday greeting from a scammer. Just like with the dentist's office, this email from the bank was silly but not a firing offense.

The third amusing birthday wish came via voicemail. It was from the salesperson at a car dealership where I purchased a car about 16-months ago. He said something like this:

Hi, Adam. This is [name] from [dealership name]. I sold you a [model] a while back. I'm calling to wish you a happy birthday and to let you know that if you have any car needs, please give me a call since I would be happy to help you again.

The first thing I thought was, If I already need a new car after only 16 months, then I certainly wouldn't go back to the same place again. But the car's fine. So once again, this is not a firing offense.

There's just something awkward about a business trying to send birthday wishes. It's like using the birthday as a ruse to hit you over the head with an advertisement. 

Businesses like to take advantage of holidays too. I used to live in a neighborhood where every 4th of July, an insurance company went around and stuck a little American flag in the front of everyone's yard. But before you salute this patriotic gesture, I should point out that each flag had an advertisement for the company attached to it. Isn't that discourteous to the flag to stick an ad on it?

It's similar to how in the months after 9/11, so many businesses started using flags in their ads. While some business owners were sincerely being patriotic, others surely had purely profit-driven motives.

By the way, Tuesday is LBJ's birthday which is a state holiday in Texas. Is anyone going to visit his gravesite and drop off an ad?


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August 23, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 35 (Vacation Edition)

--- 1 ---
We packed up the two kids, an Odyssey full of food and stuff, and headed west for a mini family vacation last Friday. I wasn't brave enough to take the family cross country to Walley World, so instead we just went about 40-miles west to Lake Travis for a few days. (Does 40-miles even count as going out of town?) We stayed at a lakefront vacation condo. Well, it used be near the lakefront, but the lake is about 45-feet lower than it's supposed to be thanks to the drought.

--- 2 ---
My face brightened as we checked into the condo when the clerk said, "Do you like beer?"  I said sure, perhaps expecting him to pull out a complimentary six pack as a welcoming gesture. But actually he was asking if we like deer. So he gave us a condo with a back door/windows overlooking the shuffle board court which also doubles as a deer feeding area. Every morning and evening a herd of deer showed up right outside our back door and waited for people to feed them deer chow (corn) which the office sold for 50-cents a bag. It was a little strange having deer stare at us every day. But we got used to it.

Our backdoor view
Deer-watching position

--- 3 ---
To amuse our children, I bought a bag of corn and we participated in the feeding one day. The deer were very gentle eating out of my hand. But they left me with a gross handful of deer spit. Even though this was a sanctioned feeding (based on whatever authority a condo association has), the idea of feeding wild animals still made me uncomfortable. Doesn't this upset the balance of nature?

Where the deer and the antelope play (minus the antelope)

The deer were fun to watch for the first couple of days. Then after that it was like Oh great, the deer are here again. (I italicized since my iPad doesn't have a sarcasm font.)

--- 4 ---
The condo had some interesting decor. Check out the black fixtures in the master bathroom. I nicknamed the toilet La Toilette Noir. The bathroom had mirrors on three of its walls. So it was a little creepy to be, ahem, doing your business and looking around to seeing yourself in all directions. By the way, if you ever stay at unit 2004 in The Shores at Lake Travis, the toilet in the master bathroom keeps running unless you jiggle the handle.

La Toilette Noir - Don't forget to jiggle the handle

--- 5 ---
One of the more adventurous things we did on our vacation was dine at a restaurant called the Gnarly Gar. Why was it adventurous? We had to scale this perilously steep ramp (with a baby stroller) just to get in and out of the place. It may not look steep in the picture, but they should give every diner a souvenir safety harness and other rock climbing gear. 

Advanced rock climbing/restaurant entrance
Anyway, like some other restaurants on Lake Travis, the food at the Gnarly Gar wasn't too good, but the attraction was that the entire restaurant sits on a floating dock, and children can feed their leftovers to this ravenous school of hungry catfish.

The fish that ate our leftovers (and everybody else's)

When these fish die, they should perform a necropsy and see what effect french fries and nachos have on marine life.

--- 6 ---
My seven-year old daughter's favorite part of the vacation was her bedroom. Her room in the condo had two twin beds in it. And she absolutely loved having me sit on one bed and her sit on the other while we tossed bean bags (and occasionally a balloon) back and forth to each other. The truly special daddy-daughter moments in life don't need to be elaborate. Sometimes the simplest things are the best and most memorable. 

--- 7 ---
Appropriately, the nearest Catholic church to our almost-lakefront condo was called St. Mary, Our Lady of the Lake. It was a small and very welcoming parish when we attended Mass on Sunday. Right before it started, the pastor walked in, got everyone's attention and asked if there were any visitors so he could exchange witty banter with them in front of everybody. Of course, as an introvert I did not raise my hand. While I would have been good at the witty banter, I don't like to draw attention to myself. But my wife decided to out us by raising her hand. However, the priest didn't see her since we were sitting near the back by the cry room. But I learned a valuable lesson. The deacon's homily was all about how being a good Christian means not sitting back and being comfortable but constantly stepping out of your comfort zone. Touche'.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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August 16, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 34

--- 1 ---
A chairman's job is never done. The other day, my seven-year-old heard me mention something about being chairman of our parish's pastoral council. She said, "Daddy, what does a chairman do? Do you set up chairs?" So I told her yes, quite often I do set up chairs before our meetings!

--- 2 ---
Last weekend was the sales tax-free holiday in Texas, and every year I have the same routine: I stay as far away as possible from stores. Let's face it, I hate shopping all year long. But it's especially painful when stores are crowded. If not for the Internet, I'd never buy anything.

--- 3 ---
Fans of The Facts of Life and Three's Company must be really disappointed when they get to my blog. I was looking at my page stats and some of the search terms that have led people to this site. Strangely enough, there are people in cyberspace who actually do web searches for pictures of Mrs. Garrett and Mr. Furley. But it must be a big letdown when all they find here are a Christmas post and the post about my middle school French teacher who used to dress like Mr. Furley. C'est la vie.

--- 4 ---
Every time I see this billboard in the Austin area, I always think of Phil Hartman's Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer bit.

Courtesy: The Austin Chronicle

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer - Courtesy: The Baltimore Sun

Don't you see the resemblance? Anyway, I have passed by one of these billboards regularly but never knew anything about the guy until this week when I discovered that a couple of local media outlets have done stories about him. There probably aren't too many attorneys/rock stars/tennis pros out there. 
--- 5 ---
The family and I will be packing up the minivan and taking a little vacation soon. But I won't tell you exactly when we're going just in case you are a burglar. Also, I won't mention anything about having a rottweiler, a doberman and an attack-trained toucan guarding the house. And what about land mines in the yard?

--- 6 ---
If I were a rooster, I'd be the bird on the right:

--- 7 ---
Speaking of introversion, I finally remembered to do something on Facebook that I've been forgetting to do for several years. A few days ahead of my birthday this year, I deleted my birth date from my profile so Facebook will no longer remind my "friends" about the big day.
Call me crazy, but it was way to overwhelming for my introverted taste to suddenly get inundated with "Happy Birthday" posts on my wall. Sure, I appreciated people's well wishes, but it always left me with the awkward feeling of not knowing what the rules of etiquette say about acknowledging dozens and dozens of birthday posts. Do you have to reply to each one individually? Do you have to hit the like button for each one? Or is a single "Thanks" post sufficient? This year I won't have to worry about that.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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August 13, 2013

My Daughter's Hidden Secret

My daughter turns seven on Friday, or at least that's what I thought. The other night she decided to let me in on a little secret. She was in her bed and having trouble falling asleep after a busy day. So I sat down on the beanbag that's next to her bed and told her I'd stick around until she fell asleep.

She finally quieted down, but then we had a really funny conversation. It went something like this:

DAUGHTER: Daddy, I'm thinking of telling you and Mommy a secret.

ADAM: Okay.

DAUGHTER: I will wait so I can tell both you and Mommy. Or should I tell you first?

ADAM: Well, do you want to tell me now?

DAUGHTER: Daddy, you decide.

ADAM: Okay. Since I'm sitting right here then you can tell me now.

DAUGHTER: I'll tell you, and then you can tell Mommy later.

ADAM: That sounds good. After you fall asleep and I go back to my room then I'll tell Mommy.

DAUGHTER: But then you and Mommy can't tell anyone else. 

ADAM: Don't worry. Remember, you should always feel comfortable talking to me and Mommy.


ADAM: So what is it?

DAUGHTER: Well, I think I'm going to wait and unlock the secret when I turn ten.

ADAM: Oh, so you don't want to tell me the secret for three more years?

DAUGHTER: [She thought about it for a few seconds.] Okay, the secret is that I'm actually nine-years-old.

ADAM: [Laughter] Really? How long have you been keeping this secret?

DAUGHTER: Since I was six.

ADAM: But you're six right now, and you're turning seven on Friday.

DAUGHTER: [Laughter] Actually, I will be turning ten. 

ADAM: [Laughter] Then you'll probably be the smartest kid in second grade this year. I'll let Mommy know. Goodnight.

DAUGHTER: Goodnight.

For the record, I was in the delivery room and have her birth certificate. She is turning seven on Friday.

Courtesy: Texas Department of State Health Services

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August 12, 2013

Show Yourself the Money

Is your state sitting on a pile of cash with your name on it? Mine was. Actually, a couple of different states where I lived had unclaimed property (cash) that belonged to me. But now those funds are safely stashed in my own bank account.

I highly recommend checking with your state's unclaimed property program as well as the national Missing Money site about once per year, especially if you've changed addresses frequently; and search for variations of your last name if it's commonly misspelled.

Since I have been a "permanent" resident of Texas, Florida and Michigan at one time or another, I check all three. A couple of years ago, my name popped up on Florida's unclaimed property site for an $80 overpayment I had apparently made to an apartment complex in 1999. Thanks to my previous career in TV news, I had probably moved two or three times by the time the complex tried to send a refund. So eventually the money was turned over the state.

I didn't think I had much of a chance of getting the money back because in addition to proving my identity, the state of Florida also required documentation to prove that I had lived at the apartment complex. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't have records that go back that far. I even contacted the apartment complex (via email like a good introvert), but the management said they only keep records for three years.

But if this happens to you, don't give up. Send the state as much info as you can find. Based on my proof of ID and promise that I really did live there, Florida sent me a check many months later. It probably helped that I have an uncommon name. If my name were "John Smith" then it may have been harder to prove.

Earlier this year, I searched the Texas unclaimed property site and discovered a bigger chunk of change with my wife's name on it. As most parents know, you get a zillion bills after you have a baby. Somehow or other, we overpaid a biller by about $400. Yikes.

We sent in the claim information and then forgot about it for a few months until a check arrived in the mail the other day. Of course, I'd rather not have overpaid anything in the first place. But these things happen.

Photo courtesy:
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August 9, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 33

--- 1 ---
I rolled out a new look on the blog this week. Props to Jenna Riley Design + Creative.

--- 2 ---
I need to add a new category of people whose phones ring in church.  At daily Mass on Monday, an older gentleman's cell phone rang while he was on his way back to the pew after receiving communion, and he actually answered it and talked for a few seconds. Keep in mind, this was a daily Mass with no music. So the church was otherwise quiet at the time.

--- 3 ---
St. John Vianney is my pal. Last Sunday was his feast day, and it's also the name of the church in the Austin, Texas area where I went through RCIA and received several sacraments back in 2005. St. John Vianney is the patron saint of priests. It always fascinated me that he was apparently not very bright but was very dedicated to the faith and sometimes spent 16 to 18 hours a day hearing confession.


--- 4 --
If God had wanted us to use the metric system, he’d have given us 10 apostles. (Credit to @JimSichko) As a confessed math hater, all I can say to that is: Amen.

--- 5 ---
Imagine you're standing over the washing machine and see this label. What would you do?

This is the first time I've encountered an item of clothing that only used the symbols to explain the care instructions. Usually labels include the text too. So I had to look it up on the web. In case you're scoring home, this label says you should:

  • Wash in cold water on the permanent press setting
  • Do not use bleach
  • Iron (dry or steam) on low
  • Do not dry clean
  • Tumble dried on low

--- 6 ---
Lookout below. Whenever I use a certain communal restroom during the workday, I'm always prepared to duck and cover. It's nice that the bathroom has this automatic air-freshener that belches out a squirt of perfume every few minutes. But did they have to put it right above the sink so that the spray rains down on you?

This thing will get you when you least expect it.

--- 7 ---
Quick, what kind of animal is this?

My nine-month-old is starting to take interest in some of the (non-choking hazard) Little People toys that our older daughter used to play with (and still does). For years, this animal has puzzled us. It has the snout and tail of a pig, but it's painted like a cow. It must be some sort of cross breed.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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August 8, 2013

The Undercover Father

It always fascinates me to see parish priests wearing civilian clothing.  It's a nice reminder that priests are people too. In addition to their holy orders, priests have the same earthly responsibilities that the rest of us have.

It's pretty rare for me to see the priests at my parish in regular clothes. But it was quite common to see the priest at my last parish out and about on the parish grounds in shorts and a t-shirt at certain times of the day because he was an avid jogger and dog walker.

Of course, whether a priest wears the garb or civilian clothes when he's off duty is up to him, I suppose. I think it was Fr. Rocky on Relevant Radio who once said that he very rarely goes out without his priestly duds on because regardless of his schedule, he's a priest 24/7 and should always be available to whomever he may see.

I heard a funny story once about a priest who was shopping at the grocery store and ran into a family with a young child. The kid was really surprised to see a priest anywhere other than church and said, "Wow, do you get to go to the movies too?"

One of my favorite things I like to ask priests is how differently strangers treat them away from church depending on whether they are actually dressed like a priest. It's probably quite similar to a police officer. If the cop is driving in a marked police car on the highway, everyone else around slows down. But if the officer is in an unmarked car, nobody treats him or her any differently.

So let's say a priest is dressed in his official clothing and is buying a few personal items at the store. People who see him will probably automatically be on their best behavior, be more polite and sit up straight, etc. But if the priest is in regular clothing, people who don't know him won't treat him differently than the other people in the store.

Once when I asked a priest about this difference in treatment, he said he always makes sure he's dressed like a priest when he gets a haircut because the barber shop gives him a holy discount!

It must be amusing for priests to see the way people react to them based on what they are wearing. But isn't it also sad? Shouldn't we always be on our best behavior and treat everyone with respect?
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August 3, 2013

The Pope Who Quit (Not Benedict!)

Is it weird to recommend a book before I've even read it? When I heard that Relevant Radio was going to interview the author of a book called The Pope Who Quit, I obviously thought it was going to be about Pope Benedict. But boy was I wrong.

The full title is The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation by Jon M. Sweeney. When Pope Benedict stepped down earlier this year, we all heard in news stories that the only other time a pope had quit was back in the 1200s. But I had no idea about the wild details behind Pope Celestine's rein.

Here's the publisher's description:

The riveting story of Pope St. Celestine V, the pope who retired from the papacy.

At the close of the tumultuous Middle Ages, there lived a man who seemed destined from birth to save the world. His name was Peter Morrone, a hermit, a founder of a religious order, and, depending on whom you talk to, a reformer, an instigator, a prophet, a coward, a saint, and possibly the victim of murder. A stroke of fate would, practically overnight, transform this humble servant of God into the most powerful man in the Catholic Church. Half a year later, he would be the only pope in history to abdicate the chair of St. Peter, an act that nearly brought the papacy to its knees. What led him to make that decision and what happened afterward would be shrouded in mystery for centuries. The Pope Who Quit pulls back the veil of secrecy on this dramatic time in history and showcases a story that involves deadly dealings, apocalyptic maneuverings, and papal intrigue.

Sounds more like a mystery novel than a history lesson, doesn't it. And it's pretty funny that the author wrote a book called The Pope Who Quit just about one year before another pope ended up stepping down.

After hearing the interview, I bought the e-book version, but it may be a while before I get around to reading it. I have a stack of books (hard copy and electronic) that I've been meaning to read. But with work, baseball season (how could I possibly read a book while there's a Braves game on?), parenting and the fact that I can barely stay awake once our two young kids are asleep, it's a challenge to find any time to read.

But I promise you that one day I'll read this one. Perhaps you should too. Even if you aren't interested in Catholicism or papal history, this one sounds like a good read.

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August 2, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 32

--- 1 ---
Every time a new smartphone rings, a portable GPS dies. What a great line! I heard it in a story on Marketplace about how smartphones are reducing the sales of GPS units and point-and-shoot cameras. I wonder how some of these GPS makers will stay in business. But, I suppose that video didn't really kill the radio star, did it?

--- 2 ---
It's been a banner year for class action lawsuits in the Adam Introvert household. I barely even remembered that we were part of a class against Sprint for its early termination fees when a $70 check arrived in the mail. Earlier this year, we received $100 from Honda regarding gas mileage claims. The extra influx of cash is always nice, but I'd rather just have things work properly.

--- 3 ---
It was fun following the World Youth Day events in Brazil thanks to the frequent internet updates from a group of teens from our parish in attendance. Maybe you'll see them if you look really, really closely at this aerial image of the three million people on the beach for the pope's Mass last Sunday.

Courtesy: ABC
--- 4 ---
It's interesting the way the secular media reported on the pope's press conference during his flight back from World Youth Day. I'm not a theologian, but I'm pretty sure that everything he said was consistent with Catholic teaching. Maybe he just has a more conversational and relatable way of explaining things. Incidentally, it's quite obvious that the pope is an extrovert and loves to be among people. I'd be a lousy pope since I'd hide inside the Vatican all day.
--- 5 ---
Have you ever tried explaining baseball's non-waiver trade deadline to a child? For the second year in a row, my daughter, who's almost seven, overheard me mention it and asked me what it means. I told her that sometimes a team will want another team's player. So they trade players and switch uniforms. She was cool with that part. But I totally lost her when I said that teams can still trade players after the July 31 deadline as long as they clear the waiver wire.

--- 6 ---
I don't know if my daughter will grow up to be a baseball fan, but sometimes she enjoys hanging out with me when I'm watching a Braves game on TV (via Roku) or my phone. She must have been paying attention when they played the Mets recently, because I found this at the top of our recycle pile this week:

I appreciate that she's incorporating baseball into hangman, but I'll have to work with her on the proper use of an apostrophe. 

--- 7 ---
Can you smell me now? Put your nose up to the screen and see if you can smell the cuff of this shirt.

Before leaving for work on Wednesday, I carefully dropped my coffee mug into a pot that soaking in our kitchen sink. Some of the water from the pot splashed my cuff. The water itself wasn't a problem, but I wondered if my shirt would smell like dirty dishwater.

So I grabbed the Febreze and squirted my cuff a couple of times. Big mistake. My sleeve smelled perfumey for the rest of the day. I tried to keep my hand in my pocket as much as possible at work. I would have been better off smelling like the previous night's pasta sauce.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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