March 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 66 (Kleenex assault, dirty socks, suspicious Siri and more)

--- 1 ---

Here's a tip for other married men out there. If your wife's about to sneeze and you toss her a box of tissues, be sure that you don't hit her in the nose with the box. Yes, this happened to me the other day. But on a positive note, the surprise of getting hit in the face with a tissue box curtailed my wife's urge to sneeze.


--- 2 ---

I don't know much (actually nothing) about dirty sock syndrome in home air conditioners. While three different A/C guys suspected this was a problem with our system, they had differing opinions on what to do. A/C guy #1 recommended a $970 UV light system. A/C guy #2 was somewhat frightened and said he would never live in a two story house because it's impossible to fix A/C problems and recommended calling an out-of-town expert to take a look. A/C guy #3 fixed the problem in about 10-minutes at no additional charge above the standard service call fee.

This isn't really what causes dirty sock syndrome [courtesy:]


--- 3 ---

Now I'll show you some clean socks. My seven-year-old daughter was excited the other day when we both wore our stripy socks. I'm not usually one to post feet pictures on social media. (Don't really want to see other people's feet!) But this moment was worth capturing.


--- 4 ---

Sometimes my daughters like to get down to business on their computers. They look like two little telecommuters.


--- 5 ---

Once in a while spam makes me laugh. Just like with my email accounts, once in a while I'll visit the spam comment folder on the blog just to make sure there's nothing legitimate in there. This one was especially funny:

"Today, while I was at work, my sister stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a 30 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone! Also visit my web-site; [link]"


--- 6 ---


All iPhone owners should know never to trust Siri. On March 20, I told my daughter it was the first day of spring. She said, "Really?" So I told her I'd prove it by asking Siri. Well, here's what Siri said.

Apple needs a new calendar



--- 7 ---

That wasn't the only suspicious seasonal Siri-ism. I also asked "her" what the first day of winter is. This answer was even crazier. Since when does winter start after Christmas? And what does it have to do with Kwanzaa?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.


March 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 65 (Dirty beds, feline vintner, lemon face and more)

--- 1 ---

Do you know what I do as soon as I walk into a hotel room? Yank off the bedspread and shove it aside. When I was a teenager I worked in hotel and recall that the housekeepers didn't wash the bedspreads regularly. Yuck! I've been creeped out by hotel bedspreads ever since. During our mini spring break vacation last week, the hotel beds also had large useless decorative pillows and crazy bed runners which also wound up in a heap on top of the bedspreads.


--- 2 ---

At the end of our trip last Friday afternoon, we visited a vineyard for a wine tasting and lunch. But for our baby, the best things about the winery were the cat and the grass.


--- 3 ---

Imagine a classroom full of hyper second graders all sitting on inflatable balls instead of desk chairs. My older daughter's teacher gave her students the option of bringing in balance balls. She said research shows that sitting on a ball helps kids focus. Sounds chaotic to me with kids falling all over the place. But we're letting our daughter try it since there seems to be a fitness benefit of having to try to balance all day long.

Sit on it!


--- 4 ---

When I saw that my daughter was a couple of chapters into Charlotte's Web, I was a little worried about how sad she'll be when she gets to the end. So I said, "This book may be kind of sad." She replied, "Daddy, I already know the spider dies. I peeked ahead."


--- 5 ---

It's fun to watch our 17-month-old try new foods. She puts so much thought into whether she likes the taste. For some reason we let her lick the inside of a lemon. And guess what-- she liked it!


--- 6 ---

Every year during lent I try to give up the same thing: time. Spending more time in prayer means less time for everything else. And that's usually a good thing. This year I'm also making a point to read the daily Mass readings. It's helpful to have a priest in my pocket, as I wrote about last year.


--- 7 ---

Are people even more careful around wood chippers if the machines have scary names? The other day on the highway I was behind the "Intimidator." Intimidated, I was.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.


Read more ...

March 17, 2014

Homily Humor: You Be Jesus

It's not necessary for every homily in Mass to start with a joke. But sometimes it helps. One of the deacons at our parish began his homily with this story that he said he'd heard recently.

A woman had two sons, one in first grade, and the other in the third grade. She made pancakes for breakfast on a Saturday morning. She ended up with an odd number of pancakes, and both of her sons were whining that they wanted the last pancake.

The mother saw this as an opportunity for some spiritual learning. So she explained to them how Jesus would have reacted in this situation. She said that as an act of sacrifice and love, Jesus would have let his brother have the last pancake.

After hearing this story, the older boy turned to his brother and said, "Okay, you be Jesus so I can have the last pancake!"


Read more ...

March 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 64 (Elevator ovulator, presidential potty, pepperoni milkshake and more)

You'd think this introvert wouldn't be going back to the mall any time soon after last weekend's adventure. While the purchase of the communion dress for my older daughter was a success, some baby clothes my wife bought at the Macy's didn't fit. So we were back at that crazy building full of stores a few days later. I will say that going back on a weekday was far less chaotic. But I'd still rather stay home and hide in the corner.

Pregnant women only give birth inside elevators on sitcoms, right? At least that's what I was telling myself as I was on a very crowded, very slow (to the point where people wondered if it was broken) elevator with a very pregnant woman on Tuesday. She acknowledged after the fact that it was an "anxiety-incuding" situation. Fortunately nothng else was induced.

You know it's spring break when within just a few hours after school lets out, your kid is alredy bored. My poor seven-year-old was especially cranky on the first day of spring break. So I put my arms around her and said, "I'm going to hug the crankiness out of you." She responded, "Daddy, you're hugging more crankiness in me!"

I took the week off to hang out with the family for spring break, and we sneaked out to the Texas Hill Country for a couple of days. Rather than bore you with obligatory vacation stories, I'll just show you a picture of my 17-month-old sitting next to a giant stuffed bear outside a toy store and a photo of the outhouse where President Lyndon Baines Johnson went potty as a little boy:

Okay, bear with me (slight pun intended) for one more spring break vacation photo. My brother in another state occasionally hangs out with a daschund (don't ask), so I snapped a picture of this amusing welcome mat in his honor:

I wonder if my older daughter has a future in advertising. After eating pizza one day, she drew this (but I'm a little worried about the drink which includes chocolate chips and pepperoni-flavored bits):

What part of the fish does the loin come from?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Read more ...

March 9, 2014

An Introvert's Guide to Shopping at the Mall

If this really were a introvert's guide to shopping at the mall then I'd only have to write one step:

1. Are you crazy? Don't go to the mall!

I pretty much never do since I hate shopping in general. And if you put a bunch of stores all together in one giant building full of people then, well, that's just never going to appeal to me. But sometimes as a husband and a father I have to take one for the team. Yesterday was one of those occasions.

My older daughter will be receiving her first communion in a few weeks, and all the girls are supposed to wear white dresses. So my wife's been taking her dress shopping lately, but they hadn't found anything. Not too many stores seem to be selling first communion dresses. Since yesterday was a rainy day, we decided to make the dress shopping a family affair.

For first communion dresses someone recommended Burlington Coat Factory, a store where I've never been. Actually that's not exactly true. Several years ago I did have to go to a crime scene behind the Burlington Coat Factory, but this was the first time I'd ever been inside.

Based on the name of the store, I wondered if it would be funny to walk into the Burlington Coat Factory and ask, "Do you guys sell coats?" But then I envisioned the employee responding in a sarcastic tone, "Gee, sir, I've never heard that joke before." So I kept my mouth shut.

Anyway, once inside we walked about a quarter of a mile to the left and found several racks of girls' dresses conveniently located under a big sign that said "MENS (sic) COATS" which I found quite amusing. In fact, coats seemed to be a very small part of what was actually for sale at Burlington Coat Factory.

I don't know anything about fashion, but these aren't men's coats.

My wife found a few dresses and took our future communion recipient into the dressing room to try them on. I hung onto our (almost) 17-month-old and quickly scanned the store to figure out what section would be the most entertaining and least perilous for her to stumble around in.

The "furniture department" had about a dozen or so of those tiny ottoman/storage containers and several floor-level mirrors. Perfect entertainment for a baby and daddy.

About three hours later, my wife and older daughter emerged from the dressing room. I'm exaggerating a little bit. It was more like 15 minutes. Alas, the dresses they tried on didn't work out. My wife said someone else told her the other day that Sears had just received a big shipment of first communion dresses. Perhaps they're on display somewhere in between the lawnmowers and the Die Hard batteries. Of course, Sears is in the mall, and I already knew it was possible we'd be going there.

But first we made short detour. Both of us needed watch batteries replaced, and rather than going to one of those horrible kiosks in the middle of the mall, we swung by a store near the mall called Batteries Plus. I know what you're thinking. Nobody wears watches anymore, right? Actually, I don't; I'm already surrounded by cell phones, computers and clocks all day long. So there's no need to wear one more thing that tells me the time. But once in a while I go to a place where cell phones aren't permitted. So in that rare case, it's nice to have a watch on.

The kids were comfortable in the car, so my wife stayed with them while I took the watches into the Batteries Plus. The clerk tried to talk me into a special where for every $10 worth of light bulbs you buy, they will replace a watch battery for free. So he encouraged me to buy $20 worth of bulbs. No, thanks. Then I realized why the store was pushing light bulbs. They changed the name of the place to Batteries Plus Bulbs.

Remember when people used to wear these?

After that it was off to the mall, a place that makes every introvert cringe. There were no first communion dresses in the Sears, so the next stop was the Dillard's. My wife and older daughter spent some time in the dressing room while I tried to stay one step ahead of our little one's doom. Rather than happily standing around and playing like she did in the coat store, she kept trying to make a run for it (dangerous when you've only recently learned how to run) out of the Dillard's entrance and into the mall itself.

We planned to hit the Macy's next, but first we had to go to two of the most terrifying places in a mall for an introvert: the food court and the bathroom! There's just something about crowded mall food courts that makes me very uncomfortable. The restaruant counters never have defined lines, so it's never clear who's actually waiting to order and who's just standing around waiting for their food to come out. And of course it's nearly impossoble to find a table. Plus when you do find a table, you can guarantee that's it's going to be dirty.

However, in this case we actually found a table right near the Chick-Fil-A counter where we got our food. And after some quick work with a napkin, the table was far less disgusting than it was when we got there. We didn't talk much while eating because how are you supposed to carry on a conversation with that loud food court sound all around us? You know what I'm talking about. But if not, I recorded 10 seconds of audio for you. If this clip makes you cringe then welcome to the introvert club:

I'll give malls credit for something. Like airports, they are a good place for people watching. While eating I was observing a teenage employee of a restaurant called Wetzel's Pretzels. He must have drawn the short straw because he was assigned to standing in the sea of people and offering free samples to whomever walked by. I could tell he was an introvert like me and was not very comfortable having to be the free sample person. Poor kid.

After eating, everybody but daddy had to go to the bathroom, so I was on my own to stand around in the food court and wait for my wife and kids to take care of business. I found a good spot for an introvert: leaning against a railing on the outskirts of the food court with a lovely view of a zillion people. Actually, the photo doesn't capture the true level of crowdedness. What you see here is only about one-eighth of the entire food court.

Next up, Macy's. Surely there'd be first communion dresses there. Nope. One of the clerks who was a fellow Catholic and happy to talk about first communion dresses said they only sell them online. But she gave us a good idea. She said that there was a dress store on the first floor of the mall right outside the Macy's.

The dress shop was appropriately called The Dress Shoppe. The place was small, crowded and hard to walk around in. But there was a great selection of first communion dresses. Hat tip to the Macy's lady. My wife decided to bring both kids into the dressing room (the baby was getting cranky), and I certainly didn't want to wander around The Dress Shoppe by myself. So I went out into the main mall area to wait.

I have to give credit to the mall designers. It was smart to put a husband waiting area right outside the dress store:

However, I didn't sit. I decided to pace back and forth to impress my FitBit. My family was in the store for what seemed like an eternity. I was hoping I could "spring forward" a few hours early just to make time go faster. But it was worth the wait. They finally came out with a first communion dress. I'd show you a picture, but guys don't get excited about dress shopping, you know.

It was a good day of family togetherness, and I am very excited and proud that my daughter will soon receive first communion. God is good. (It must be true. We saw it on a license plate on the way home from the mall.)



Read more ...

March 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 63 (Nice ash, cemetery humor, icy grammar and more)

--- 1 ---

I have to give credit to the social media universe for its creativity on Ash Wednesday. Using "#ashtag" as a hashtag was brilliant. After going to Mass at noon on Ash Wednesday, I did my duty and Tweeted a picture of my ashes, although I opted for an extreme closeup.

Looks less like a cross and more like the state of Texas.


--- 2 ---

I always brace myself before reading secular news stories about Pope Francis. It's great that the media is paying attention to him, but all too often I see stories that jump to wild conclusions based on the things he says. And sometimes I wonder where reporters get their "facts" about the Catholic Church. One story in a major newspaper said that deacons are "lay members" who assist with Mass. Uh, no. Fortunately they corrected the error a few hours later.

--- 3 ---

I hope I'm wrong, but this ad I saw in a church bulletin last weekend sounds kind of creepy and mysterious:


--- 4 ---

Right next to that ad was more of a regular-sounding ad for a local cemetery. I guess there's stiff competition in the burial business. (Some of these jokes practically write themselves.)


--- 5 ---

What did central Texas do to deserve seven different ice/sleet/freezing rain storms all in the same winter season? Quite often we go an entire winter without anything cold falling from the sky. Here's my older daughter heading into school on the cold and windy day before this week's ice storm.

Daughter dressed for the cold (or to rob a bank).


--- 6 ---

With the winter we've had, you'd think kids at my daughter's school would notice if they stepped outside without their jackets and sweaters. But, no. Check out the lost-and-found rack in the school lobby. See anything you like?


--- 7 ---

I received this email alert from the local police department the morning of the ice storm. I can't figure out if this is Texas twang or poor grammar. Maybe they should have said, "Drive careful, ya'll."


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.


Read more ...

March 5, 2014

Lent 2014

Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.

Read more ...

March 2, 2014

7 in 7: Topic Dump

[This is the last day of 7 Posts in 7 Days, thankfully.]

As I plotted out what to write about over the past seven days, several things didn't make the cut as full posts. Here are a few of those stray topics:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T while Eating

A funny thing happened when I worked in TV news in Detroit back in the 90s. There was BBQ lunch in the city somewhere to raise money for a prominent charity, and the guest of honor was the legendary Aretha Franklin.

The TV station sent a staffer to shoot some quick video of the event. During part of the time the video was shot, Aretha happened to be eating chicken wings. After all, it was a BBQ. Later in the afternoon, her publicist called the newsroom and asked (rather sternly) that we not use any video of Aretha eating chicken wings. I can understand that. Doesn't everybody look like a slob while eating chicken wings?

[Courtesy: Wikipedia]


Eat, Drink and Be Rainy

When I was in college in the early 90s, I took a really interesting sports management course as an elective. One of the guest lecturers was the general manager of the Lakeland Tigers, the Class A minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.

He told us a funny little business fact about rain delays. As many baseball fans know, when rain delays the start of a pro baseball game, the home team makes the final decision on whether to postpone the game. The general manager told us that the team would always wait to call off the game until the concession stands had reached a certain level of sales. Sneaky, huh?

[Courtesy: Wikipedia]


Jocks and Jills

One weekend in the early 90s, a few college buddies and I drove from Florida up to Atlanta to see a Braves game. While in town, we found a sports bar called Jocks and Jills; so we went in to hang out, drink some beer, eat some food and probably make too much noise.

While we were there CNN/TBS sports reporter Craig Sager walked up to our table and asked how the food was. I turns out that he was (and still is) a part owner of Jocks and Jills. He hung out with us for a little while (and as a mass communications major at the time, I tried to hit him up for a job!), and he may have even given us an extra pitcher of beer or an appetizer on the house. I don't exactly remember.

The one thing I do remember is that he was not wearing one of those loud suits that he's known for wearing on TV these days.

[Courtesy: Wikipedia]


(See a list of other 7 Posts in 7 Days participants here.)


Read more ...