December 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 53 (Glitter vs. anthrax, java monks, Little Tikes/big pain and more)


--- 1 ---

'Tis the season to open Christmas cards with extreme caution. Glitter on a card is like a non-toxic holiday version of sending someone anthrax in the mail. Seriously, when I open an envelope and I see something like this, I pull out the card very carefully and try to make as little contact with the glitter as possible:

You know what happens. Once you get some glitter on your fingers, then you scratch your face and have sparkles on you and everything else you touch. These cards leave behind a trail of glitter that never seems to go away. Why can't Hallmark make a Christmas card with glitter that actually stays attached? And before you go all bah-humbug on me, I appreciate each and every Christmas card I receive. I just handle some more delicately than others!

--- 2 ---

Sometimes the most exciting Christmas present for a child is the box in which the gift was shipped. My two adorable daughters (one is 7, and the other is 14-months) have spent many hours playing inside this box. I cut out a window for them (it's good to have light and oxygen), and my wife added little curtains.

--- 3 ---

I'm shocked that I had never heard of Mystic Monk Coffee until I received a bag of it for Christmas this year. These guys are cloistered, contemplative Carmelite monks who make some darn fine coffee:

I'm an introvert, quiet, Catholic, a coffee-lover and am enrolled in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. These fellas are my kind of monks!

--- 4 ---

Especially around the holidays, it's nice to know who's at the door (we don't have a peekhole) or if the UPS guy left a package but didn't ring the doorbell. So I added a front door camera last week, and the owner's manual had some hilarously-phrased and typo-riddled warnings. Here's a sample:

DO NOT this product to carry out any illegal activities such as sneak preview, and etc. SecurityMan shall not be responsible for any consequences of illegal conducts made by users.

I posted all the funny ones over here. Check them out for a good laugh.

--- 5 ---

The holidays always bring out my inner Ninja. The (early) Christmas dinner our our house last Saturday night was almost a repeat performance of last year when the nickname of Dish Ninja was bestowed upon me. There's just something about a house full of guests, a big dinner, piles of dirty dishes and being an introvert that springs me into action.

--- 6 ---

I'm less interested in springing into action when it's time to put things together. But it's my duty as a daddy on Christmas. Please tell me I'm not the only person in the world who thought it was a pain in the you-know-what to assemble this simple-looking Little Tikes Sandy Lagoon Water Park.

--- 7 ---

What a nice surprise on Christmas Eve. At dusk, a couple of our neighbors went out and lined our entire street with luminarias.

--- P.S. ---

It's always great to see so many extra people at Mass on Christmas. But how can we encourage them to come back on Sunday?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary, and have a happy new year.


December 25, 2013

The 12 Muppets of Christmas

Merry Christmas. Here's my favorite Muppets Christmas song from 1979. Click to enjoy:


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December 22, 2013

Wall, tree and other stumbling block

These may be the funniest product warnings I've ever read. This week I installed some security cameras outside the house, mainly because our front door and windows aren't conducive to seeing who's there when the doorbell rings.

I practically fell on the floor laughing when I read the "Restrictions" section of the owner's manual. Here's a verbatim transcription of the funny ones, typos/missing words/bizarre language and all. Brace yourself.

DO NOT place this product too close to medical equipments.
1. Radio waves might potentially cause breakdown of medical electrical equipments and might cause incidents.
2. Place the product at least 22cm from the heart pacemaker. Radio wave potentially influences heart pacemaker and thus leads to respiratory disturbance. 

DO NOT use this product to monitor equipments or activities that are relevant to one's privacy.

DO NOT this product to carry out any illegal activities such as sneak preview, and etc. SecurityMan shall not be responsible for any consequences of illegal conducts made by users.

DO NOT put the plastic package bags in reach of children or babies. Young children can choke on these items if they put them into their mouths.

DO NOT plug the AC adapter into the outlet in improper situations.

[Here's my personal favorite:]

DO NOT use it aboard; please abide by the airway's provision. It might influence communication aboard and the flying apparatus if departing from the airway's regulation. This will result in accident, possible death and severe physical hurt.

DO NOT put the camera in quaky paces.

DO NOT use the camera in complex environment, the obstruction of stumbling block will affect the electromagnetic wave and influence the receiving range. Wall, tree and other stumbling block might absorb, reflect the electromagnetic wave, and influence the receiving range.

DO NOT use the camera in the places which are covered with metal. The around metal, such as elevator and cabin, might shield the electromagnetic wave, and result in inability to receive signals.
And here's a bonus from the "Quick Start" section of the manual:

NOTE: Before mounting the cameras, please do a quick reception quality test before mounting the cameras.
I laughed so hard reading this manual that I practically had a respiratory disturbance!

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December 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 52 (UPS graveyard, unsinkable Teatanic, Santa takes 5, and more)

I'd like to suggest a new slogan for the city of Mesquite, TX. Instead of Real. Texas. Flavor., how about Where UPS Packages Go To Die.

On Wednesday I finally received three packages that were ordered with second-day delivery during the first week of December. But the big ice storm in Texas a couple of weeks ago seems to have crippled the delivery of any UPS package that happened to be routed through Mesquite. These packages took quite a bit longer than my UPS package in October that was on a train that derailed in the Mojave Desert.  

I guess I should get to know my daughter's classmates' parents a little better. Last Friday evening we went to a kids' Christmas party at the home of one of my daughter's friends from second grade. I had no idea until the small talk started that the friend's father and I are coworkers. He telecommutes, and we had never heard of each other!

At the party there was a reindeer food bar where the kids assembled bags of food to spread on the lawn on Christmas Eve. When did this tradition start? I've always heard of people leaving out milk and cookies for Santa. But food on the lawn for the reindeer?

We don't "do" Santa in our household. But we did attend Breakfast with Santa at our church last Saturday morning. It would be too predictable for me to post a picture of my kids on Santa's lap. So instead, I snapped a picture of Santa's photographer sitting in the big guy's chair while he was on break.

Santa said he needed a break to call the North Pole and make sure things were going smoothly. But I think he probably had to use the jolly old elf's room.

'Tis the season for office Christmas parties. That's no fun if you're an introvert. This week I had two Christmas lunch parties on consecutive days. Ugh! Actually I had an okay time. But I have to live up to my reputation as an introvert and say that I would have been just as happy to cower in the corner by myself.

One of the parties had a white elephant gift exchange. The gift I opened first (and nobody stole) was a half-pound box of loose tea and a "Teatanic" tea infuser which was quite amusing. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

I was surprised to see a $150 price tag on the back of my framed Bugs Bunny baseball print which I moved from my house to my office this week. Many years ago I worked for Time Warner and, as I recall, received a Christmas gift in the form of a deep discount at the Warner Brothers Store. I hate shopping, so I browsed quickly and found this. I don't remember how much I paid, but it certainly wasn't $150. I like Bugs Bunny but not that much.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary. And have a Merry Christmas!
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December 14, 2013

Christian Fellowship at Costco

[The following is a guest post from my wife, reprinted (with permission!) from her Facebook page.]

I cried as I started up my car, humbled by the loving action of the lady who jumped out of her car to help me unload my Costco purchases. 

"I've been there," she said as she let me put the baby into her seat. 

And then there was the lady who stopped to tell me my baby was so joyful and smart and then told me about her grand kids and great grand kids - I love that! 

I told her, "God bless you!" 

And she said, "How did you know I'm a Christian? I'm 72 years old and I just found out who Jesus is!" 

We hugged and laughed! I'm so grateful for random fellowship at the Costco!
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December 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 51 (Holy cookies, voice of God, creepy Dora and more)

My daughter is one step closer to Jesus. She and the other second graders going through religious education had their first reconciliation last night.

I told her in advance it would probably be a lot less stressful than my first confession which, as a convert, was only eight years ago. She was nervous, but she did alright. And it was a nice perk that she and her classmates received these angel cookies baked by my wife who happens to be their religious education teacher.

I've been wondering whose voice would be the best to play God in the movies or on TV. Some shows have used a British-sounding voice for God. But I think a deep voice works better. If James Earl Jones hasn't played God yet, he should. He could use his best CNN voice:


Of course, Gorge Burns knocked it out of the park as an elderly, unassuming (yet all powerful) God back in 1978 in Oh, God!:

I like when we get cold weather in central Texas, but it's been a little out of control lately. Since the week before Thanksgiving we've already had the threat of three or four winter storms, and last week into this week we went through a stretch of many days with no sun and temps rarely getting above freezing. I didn't even know my daughter's little weather station had a snowflake warning (with a dreaded exclamation point!) until it popped up the other day:

It was really weird to see the sun while I drove to work on Tuesday morning after all those cloudy days. I actually had to fumble through my bag and find my trusty pair of  impact-resistant polycarbonate sunglasses that meet the ANSI Z87.1 & CAN/CSA Z94.3-07 standard.

(Shameless promotion of my sunglasses post)

The bitterly cold weather didn't stop my family and many others from attending a luncheon at our church last Saturday to raise money for the victims in the Philippines. If I heard correctly, the organizers ended up selling 400 plates of traditional Filipino food for $10 each. The proceeds went to Catholic Relief Services for distribution in the Philippines

Check out these totally creepy Dora the Explorer toys I saw the other day:

We've watched plenty of Dora in our household in the seven years I've been a parent. Dora is not scary at all, but for some reason these half Dora/half animal toys really creeped me out. They were weird in the same way that it's kind of weird on Sesame Street when Elmo imagines he's something else and they make a Muppet with his features on a different animal, like this  Elmophant:

Half Elmo/half elephant squirting an Elmo/mouse hybrid (Courtesy:
I amused my seven-year-old the other day by playing on my phone the opening credits from old TV shows from the 50s and 60s. She thought the funniest opening theme was Green Acres. To her credit, when I showed her the opening from Gilligan's Island which she had never seen, she immediately recognized it as the subject of a Veggie Tales parody called Larry's Lagoon. Here's a trailer which includes some of the parody scenes:


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

The Tales of Shamus McSqueekenstein

This is part two of the story-writing game that our family played over the long Thanksgiving weekend. If you haven't read Of Mice and (Baseball) Men, you may want to check out that one first.

My adorable daughter, age 7, suggested that we play the game. Everyone grabbed a different colored marker and we passed around a piece of poster board. The first person wrote a sentence to begin the story. And then when it was your turn, you had to read the previous sentences and add on to the story until it (finally!) came to an end.

Here's what the group came up with on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Yes, I'm aware that we misspelled "squeak" throughout the story! And be sure to check out the original images and artwork below.

It was early in the forest and no one was awake except a little grey squirrel named Squeeky. You probably think that the squirrel's name is Squeeky because it squeeks, but actually he was named after his great grandfather Shamus McSqueekenstein.

Squeeky felt free exploring the forest climbing with great energy trees after trees, branches after branches, with no worry in the world. Skiing in the mountains and riding bicycles were some of Squeeky's favorite hobbies besides looking for nuts and squeeking little noises that a squeekster does.

Squeeky loves squeeking so much he did it every minute, but his big sister did not like his squeeking. His big sister's name was Squawk. She didn't like squeeking so she would sit on the highest elm tree and squawk in a mean voice.

Squawk saw Squeeky in the tree closest to their house. She thought they would have a contest to see who was the loudest. And they could make lots of money if they recorded the contest with a camera and posted it on You Tube. They thought by using the bicycles the noise would be deafening, and people would think of a great explosion ravaging the forest with force.

Pondering on how to make the most and loudest noises, Squeeky and Squawky decided to get big speakers that would be so loud the trees in the forest would shake. They started to begin the squeeking and squawking and siming and smoring , it turned out that Squwak won!! :(

Well, Squawk wasn't satisfied with the amount of noise. "It's not loud enough! I need it louder!" So she made a gigantic NASA sized amplifier to blast the whole forest. "MMMMMMM BOOM!"

The rest of the animals emerged from their homes with ear muffs. "What are you doing?" they asked with frustration. The other animals said, "You crazy squirrels, it is winter and we're supposed to be hibernating."

Then all of the forest animals formed a circle and began to tickle their squeekers. "Ha ha ha ha ha. Stop."

Squeeky was mad, I mean frustrated, but just then the squirrels' mom came out of her hole. "CHILDREN," she said, "Be quiet!!!  And Squeeky, be nice and you can do this again." Sure enough, the next time they did that, Squeeky won!!!

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December 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 50 (Pie lady, desperate yogurt, mad muppets and more)

Ugh. This is the last thing I wanted to see on the way home from a heavy-eating Thanksgiving weekend out of town:

Yes, indeed, this gas station along I-35 purports itself to the be "The Original Fried Pie Shop." Who wants to eat fried pie right after Thanksgiving? Blech! For kicks I looked it up online later. Actually there are "original" fried pie shop locations all over Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri according to Nancy the Fried Pie Lady.

Much like their yogurt, the Chobani people are laying it on a little too thick. I received this card in the mail in which Chobani's president says it's not business as usual unless he knows I'm still a customer. He's still trying to win me (and thousands of others) back after nearly poisoning (hyperbole) my daughter with fizzy, moldy yogurt and then giving us a free replacement that was already open and leaking.

While making cereal for me and my 7-year-old daughter the other morning, I playfully asked her, "Why does Mommy always buy us separate milks?" She replied, "Because I'm addicted to lactose-free milk!"

It's not as funny as my meal with a Muppet dream, but I did have another interesting one recently, which is rare because I almost never remember my dreams. In this one, my family was attending Mass at a new Catholic church. We were in the cry room because of the baby but came out and jumped into the line for Communion. But our line somehow never got the front and just circled back into the pews. I asked someone nearby why we didn't received Holy Communion, and she said we were sitting in the Episcopal section of the church. Weird.

If you don't keep up with popular culture, even Sesame Street can confuse you. I saw a skit the other day that was sort of a parody of Mad Men but with Muppets. I've never seen Mad Men, so I didn't understand it. 

It's also difficult to keep up with water cooler conversations when you don't watch much TV or see many movies. While I'm sorry to hear that Paul Walker died in a car accident, I must confess that I had never heard of him or Fast & Furious before.

The Christmas tree is up, but my kids aren't worried about being naughty or nice for Santa. Call me old fashioned, but shouldn't children be naughty or nice for God instead?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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December 2, 2013

Of Mice and (Baseball) Men

While recovering from Thanksgiving dinner overdose at a family gathering on Thursday night, we played a story-writing game suggested by my seven-year-old daughter. Each person grabbed a different color marker, and we passed around a poster board. The first person wrote the opening sentence to a story, and whenever it was your turn, you had to add a sentence. Then the poster went around and around until the story was finally completed.

The group came up with an, uhh, interesting story about a princess, mice and baseball which I will share with you now. I've cleaned up the spelling a punctuation a bit in my transcription. But you can see photos of the original text below.

The Magic Mice

Once there was a princess, and she was very beautiful. She had curly brown hair and brown eyes. She had a little sister who liked to eat and was good at playing peek-a-boo. She loves screaming boo hoo, and all the mice would come from their hiding holes to listen to her screams.

She decided to invite the mice to a baseball game, but the mice were afraid that the baseball stadium would have mousetraps. But the princess checked online and discovered that the stadium DID have mousetraps. The princess picked up each mouse and put it up into her curly hair to keep them safe while her sister watched and laughed. Oh, how everyone laughed and giggled! 

The princess now decided to find something more interesting to do to attract more attention; she lifted her magic wand that was given to her by a magician and out came a... guess what? Out came a tiny, adorable little puppy! The princess scooped the puppy up first and accidentally knocked her sister down. It turned out she was okay, but her mom said, "Say sorry to Amy, (which was her sister) and please share!!"

Her little sister took a turn with the wand and accidentally turned the mice into baseball players. When all the people in the stadium saw this, they laughed and sang, "Take my mice to the ball game, magically give them a bat, make them into players with a glove and a hat, we don't care if they ever get back..."

"Ole'," screamed the crowd. Suddenly, the ghost of Harry Caray appeared and sang, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Everyone sang along and when it was over then the princess took her sister and her mice... I mean baseball players... home (and lived happily ever after)!

We played a second round of the story game the next day. When I get around to transcribing that one, I'll share with you the tale of Shamus McSqueekenstein.
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