September 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 40

--- 1 ---
Gotta love a nun with a sense of humor. Last Saturday our family attended the grand opening/fundraising event for the Dominican Sisters of Mary's new convent in Georgetown, Texas. It also served as a good recruiting opportunity too. During the speeches, one of the sisters said, "We don't just want your money, we want your daughters!"
--- 2 ---
There was a young comedian in the crowd. Near the end of the speeches and before the BBQ was served, the sisters sang a song. A boy who looked to be about ten happened to be standing next to us and said, "Enough singing, people are hungry out here."

--- 3 ---
Have you ever been in the wrong place at the right time? Since we arrived a little late (even Google Maps GPS makes mistakes) to the Dominican Sisters' event, we had to stand outside the tent during the presentations. There was a big crowd, so we weren't the only ones who didn't get a seat. We figured when the food line opened up, we'd probably be among the last in line since all the people in the tent would get to go first. But suddenly when the speeches ended, the catering lady pointed right to us and said, "Let's start the serving line right here." 
--- 4 ---
My daughters got their picture taken with their favorite sister. That would be Sister Elizabeth Ann. She has a great memory and always remembers my older daughter's name in the rare times when they've seen each other over the past couple of years.

--- 5 ---
What happened to the good old days when you could toss a frozen dinner in the microwave and pull it out a few minutes later when it was done? Check out these ridiculous instructions for what should have been a simple kids' meal. Is all this really necessary?

--- 6 ---
My older daughter has rattled off a zillion priceless quotes over the past seven years. The other night she said, "I don't have a headache, but by head hurts."

--- 7 ---
About once a year I get this same junk mail postcard from a local plumber. I'm always tempted to call him and ask him when his worst plumber will be in my area. Maybe that would be cheaper!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

September 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 39

--- 1 ---
Would you like some orange juice with your soft, silvery metallic alkaline earth metal? My 7-year-old asked if she could have "barium" for breakfast. I'm no chemistry expert (there's too much math involved), but I don't think that's something you're supposed to eat. Then I listened a little more carefully. She actually wanted a cereal that she calls "Berry Yum!"

Barium: It's (not) what's for breakfast (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

--- 2 ---
We entertained our daughter on Saturday night by having a pretend indoor camp out, complete with hot dogs and s'mores. The fake campfire she made out of construction paper was clever, but we also wanted something a little more realistic. There's no way I was going to use our fireplace on a hot Texas summer evening. So I added the fireplace channel to our Roku. Here's a short sample. This is about as exciting as the yule log channel at Christmas.

--- 3 ---
When someone takes your picture while you're eating, you can almost always count on having some weird or unflattering expression on you face. Well, that happens to dogs too. While I was watching the Braves game on TV the other day, they showed video of a guy and his dog sharing a hot dog since it was "Bark-in-the-Park" day at the stadium. I snapped a picture with my phone and happened to catch this frightening expression on the dog's face.

It's a dog eat (hot) dog world

You can see the whole video here.

--- 4 ---
Great line from the priest as Mass last Sunday: "The subject of our prayers should be the object of our lives."

--- 5 ---
The priest also told a funny story (that didn't sound original) about a teacher asking his class of kids what the difference is between ignorance and apathy. Nobody in the class answered, so he asked again and received blank stares. Finally, the teacher singled out one student and asked him what's the difference between ignorance and apathy. The kid said, "I don't know, and I don't care."

--- 6 ---
I wasn't planning on turning July's rant about how an introvert survives a haircut into a recurring series, but unfortunately I have garnered more material. I was trying to mind my own business while getting my hair cut on Monday when the lady said, "Sir, you have beautiful hair. Usually you have to pay for that color, but yours is natural." Ugh!

--- 7 ---
I don't even remember what question I was asking my iPhone when Siri gave me this amusing response: "I don't see Queen Elizabeth in your contacts."

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

An Introvert's Guide to Buying Sunglasses

(This method probably won't work for you unless you hire someone forgetful to mow your lawn.) I don't know anything about fashion, but it's really important to me to have a pair of sunglasses to reduce the glare when I'm driving. It's always devastating to walk out to my car after work on a hot Texas afternoon and discover that my sunglasses aren't in the car.

I don't need anything pricey. In fact, cheaper is better because sunglasses tend to break rather easily the way I'm always shoving them in and out of pockets, etc. So shopping for inexpensive shades  means making the dreaded trip to a big box retail store and standing in front of the sunglasses carousel like a moron looking in the little mirror attempting to figure out which pair is the least uncomfortable and looks the least ridiculous.

A gift on my doorstep?
But not anymore. Several years ago I had a sunglasses epiphany which has forever changed how I buy them. One hot summer day I discovered a pair of sunglasses outside our front door. Seriously! Our lawn service had been there earlier in the day, so we figured that one of the mowers accidentally took off his glasses and left them out front.

No problem. We thought perhaps the lawn guy would realize his sunglasses were missing and he'd come back. So we left them out on the front step, but a couple of days later they were still there. My wife called the lawn company to let them know and told them we'd leave them out there so the rightful owner could come back and grab them.

The sunglasses sat outside our front door for days. And days. And a few more days. I think the lawn service had even come back two weeks later to mow again but didn't pick them up. Eventually we had to do something. Had this been an item of significant value we would have called the police and filed an abandoned property report. But these were just a regular old pair of cheap shades. Or so I thought.

Eventually I brought them inside and thought hey, I wonder if these would fit me. They had been outside for quite a while, so I gave them a thorough washing in the sink, slapped them on my face and voila! They fit perfectly and worked really well for driving in the sun.

I don't know if there's anything in Texas statutes about "Finders keepers, losers weepers," or "Possession is nine-tenths of the law," but we undoubtedly had given the owner plenty of time to claim them. (You'll understand why nobody came back for them in a moment.)

Eventually I started to realize that there was something unusual about these cheap lawn-guy sunglasses. They lasted a long time without breaking. Finally when they broke I feared it was time for the horrid trip to the store. But, wait. I liked this pair so much that I looked at the brand name on the stem (Ztek) and plugged it into the web to see where I could buy another pair.

Suddenly I figured out why the lawn guy never came back for them. These weren't just sunglasses. They were safety glasses! Companies buy them cheaply in bulk. So whoever left them probably just grabbed another pair out of a box when he got to the mowing company's office the next morning.

Fancy packaging
Now I buy them online in a three pack for just a few bucks whenever a pair breaks so there's always one pair in my car, one pair in my wife's car and a third pair floating around for other outdoor activities.

I have no idea what this means, but I can proudly say that the sunglasses I wear every day are made from impact-resistant polycarbonate and meet the ANSI Z87.1 & CAN/CSA Z94.3-07 standard. Can your shades do that?

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September 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 38

--- 1 ---
If your bank warns you about a potentially-fraudulent charge on your credit card, it's usually a high dollar amount at a merchant hundreds or thousands of miles away, right? Well, my bank called last weekend to verify that my wife or I really made a purchase in the amount of -- brace yourself -- $12 at the grocery store down the street! I don't know what sent up the red flags on this one. But I couldn't help laughing when the bank called.

--- 2 ---
I keep reaching for my belt to touch something that is no longer there. For several years I've worn a Fitbit pedometer. But finally last week I upgraded to the Fitbit Flex wristband which is far more convenient. But old habits are hard to kick. I keep reaching for my belt to make sure the old Fitbit is still there. But of course it isn't. I guess this is similar to those phantom pains that surgery patients have.

My new wrist accessory
--- 3 ---
What's the big obsession with Greek yogurt these days? I'm only bringing it up because we happened to have purchased the Chobani yogurt that ended up getting recalled last week. Luckily, our 7-year-old took one taste and immediately knew it was bad and spit it out. Then we heard about the recall later that day. I don't know what's so exciting about Greek yogurt, but it seems to have taken over more shelf space at stores than the regular kind.

Danger: do not eat!

--- 4 ---
One of the hardest things to do is love your enemies. Praying for them and forgiving them isn't so easy either. Check out this post I read on September 11. It's a good (and tough) lesson for all of us.

--- 5 ---
If you're Catholic and looking to deepen your faith, I'd like to suggest prayerfully considering enrolling in the Brown Scapular as my family and several others did at our parish last weekend. EWTN has a good description online of what this is all about.

--- 6 ---
Our enrollment took place on same day the pope called for a day of fasting and prayer for Syria. My wife snapped this picture on the way into the chapel. If that isn't peaceful then I don't know what is.

--- 7 ---
Who wants to touch the basket? For years I've been stumped by the book Baby Touch and Feel Pets. My older kid used to "read" it (and eat it), and now our baby has been playing with the book. Each page has an adorable animal on it, and part of the image is textured so you can feel the animal's fur or skin. But what's with this page? Why did they put the textured part on the basket instead of the kitten? Which one would you rather touch?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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September 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 37

--- 1 ---
We ate at a holy restaurant the other day, but it was hardly a religious experience. Actually, it was a holey restaurant. Part of the dining area was cordoned off with signs that said, "Pardon our dust while we make building repairs." The manager said a neon sign caught fire and burned a hole in the roof. My observant seven year old noticed that the hole was right above our table!

--- 2 ---
I'm on the lookout for good Rosary podcasts. I like the one I downloaded from a place called Rosary Army, but occasionally I have problems with it. The commute home from work is a great time for this important daily prayer. But I prefer to have it on a podcast since it's sometimes too hard to concentrate while driving. I was about to tell you my brilliant idea of making a steering wheel cover with Rosary beads built in. But I just did a web search and discovered that millions of people have already thought of this.


--- 3 ---
I know all parents think their baby is the cutest one in the world. But mine really is!

--- 4 ---
Are you ready for some gripping reality TV? I pressed record on my phone video cam and handed it to my 10-month-old so you can get an idea of what her life is like for a few seconds. You'll get a decent view of her feet and Michelin man legs.

--- 5 ---
There are some sentences in which it's especially bad to misplace a modifier. I heard this on the radio the other day: "The president is making the case for attacking Syria for using chemical weapons in Sweden."

--- 6 ---
I saw an advertisement for an "Extreme Flag Football" league for kids. What do you think they do to make flag football extreme? Maybe there's barbed wire on the flags.
--- 7 ---
People will try to wrap just about anything in bacon these days. I read a news story about a new bacon-wrapped car. Too bad the exhaust doesn't smell like bacon.
Courtesy: USA Today
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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September 2, 2013

Rinse and Spit

I am the George Steinbrenner of dental patients. He went through many Yankees managers; I've been through more than my fair share of dentists. The good news is that I've now been seeing the same dentist for several years. But I've taken a long and winding road to get to him.

The first reason why I used to change dentists so often has to do with my previous career. When I worked in television news I lived in five cities over a ten year period. Obviously when I was only living in the same place for a year or two, I rarely went to the same dentist more than a couple of times before I was forced to find someone new.

I moved to the Austin area in 1999 and have been here ever since. Unfortunately, during my first few years in town I had to tell a couple of dentists to take a hike. If I'm remembering correctly, the first dental office I went to here was a chain called Castle Dental. It was conveniently located near both my home and workplace, so it seemed like a great choice. But I only made it through two appointments before I gave Castle the old heave-ho.

My first visit was fine, but then Castle really ticked me off six months later. The hygienist was doing her thing, and there was nothing out of the ordinary happening. When I finished, I was expecting the dentist to come in give me a quick exam. That's how it always happens, right? When the hygienist is done with you, the dentist takes a look.

However, the hygienist handed me my chart and told me to give it to the receptionist at the front to schedule my next cleaning. Wait a second. Why was she sending me out? The dentist hadn't seen me yet.  

I said, "I haven't seen the dentist yet." She replied, "Everything looks good, so you really don't need to see the dentist today. But if you still want the dentist to do an exam, you will need to schedule a separate appointment because he's not here today."

They seriously expected me to schedule another appointment if I wanted to see the dentist. I had never heard of the hygienist's cleaning and the dentist's exam not happening at the same time every six months. What if the hygienist missed something that the dentist would have caught? Now they wanted me to disrupt my work schedule and make another appointment. Sorry, Castle, but you're fired!

Rather than picking my next dentist at random, when I was due again in six months I asked a few coworkers for a referral. One gave me the phone number of her dental office and said how great they were. That sounded good to me. But I only lasted a couple of appointments there too.

Here's what happened. My appointment was coming up in a day or two when I received a call from the dental office. They said that there was some sort of scheduling problem and asked me to reschedule my appointment for the following week. That was kind of annoying, but things happen, so I agreed to push my visit back one week.

On the day of my new appointment, there was a severe thunderstorm moving through. The office was about 20-minutes away in normal weather, so I left early. As I was about halfway there, my cell phone rang. It was the dental office. They were sorry to tell me that something came  up with the dentist and they would have to cancel my appointment an reschedule. Are you serious? They cancelled my first appointment, and now I was on the way to the rescheduled appointment in the middle of a monsoon, and they cancelled on me again. Sorry, but you're fired. 

Yes, it's true. I fired my dentist over the phone while I was on the way to my appointment. The receptionist on the on the phone offered me an appointment the following week. I said no and never went back. For the second week in a row, I had juggled my work schedule in order to accommodate the appointment. And while the storm certainly wasn't anyone's fault, I'm sure it contributed to my quick decision to cut the dentist loose.

At this point it was time to go back to the random method of picking a new dentist. I happened to notice that there was a dental office in a small shopping center right down the street from my neighborhood. Despite the creepy bear rug on the floor of the waiting room, I was satisfied with this dentist for a couple of years. But it didn't last much longer. I'm happy to say that I didn't fire her. She retired and sold her practice to another dentist. I just seamlessly kept going to the same office with a new dentist as if nothing ever happened. But this dentist didn't last too long either.

The "new" dentist at this location suddenly announced that she was moving out of state and selling the practice. This was starting to remind be of those "cursed" restaurant locations where restaurants never last very long before going out of business.

The third dentist at that same office made a few changes. He retired the bear rug and added a patriotic theme and name to the office. You see, he was an Army veteran.  In fact, he served in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. I've always jokingly wanted to ask him if he pulled our soldiers' teeth or the enemy's!

Anyway, after a few years, the Army dentist moved his practice to a bigger and better location down the street, and I've been going there ever since. I really appreciate that the hygienist and dentist don't force a lot of conversation on me. I was just there for an appointment a few weeks ago, and for the most part, they just asked a some routine small-talky questions, like this:

How is the family? [Fine, thanks]
How is your summer going? [Fine, thanks]
Have you had enough of this hot weather? [Yes]

Maybe they noted in my chart that I'm an introvert so they remember to keep the chatter to a minimum. That's a good way to keep my business.

Now, as a bonus, here's Weird Al Yankovic's song "Cavity Search," sung to the tune of U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me."

(Lyrics courtesy of

Listen to the Muzak
Hearin' people scream
Sittin' in the waiting room
Readin' crappy magazines
With a toothache
This is it, pal
Root Canal

My molars are impacted
I'm gettin' gum disease
I'm gonna need some fillings
Got twelve cavities
Can you help me
Have mercy
Doctor, please

My teeth are a fright
Got a huge overbite
Numb me, drill me
Floss me, bill me

You jab at my nerve endings
It's driving me insane
Just give me nitrous oxide
Shoot me up with Novocaine
 Help me out here
'Cause I'm in severe

Please stop for a bit
Let me rinse and spit
Numb me, drill me
Floss me, bill me

You validate my parking
I think that I'm okay
But you make one more appointment for
A week from Saturday
'Cause you came upon
A little problem on
My x-ray
Oy vey!

It's getting absurd
Well, I hope I'm insured, now
Numb me, drill me
Floss me, bill me

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