August 29, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 87 (Sugarless WHAT?, crazy cursive, creepy canine and more)

--- 1 ---

Boy did I jump to the wrong conclusion when pulled some junk mail out the mailbox the other day. It was a folded up brochure wrapped in clear plastic, and it was obvious that there was some sort of sample product inside. The brochure was pink, and these words immediately caught my eye:

It also said, "Look inside for free samples." A pink label and "Carefree" could only mean one thing: Carefree sugarless gum, right?

[Courtesy: shopwell.com]

 

Wrong! It was a sample of "feminine products." Oops. Maybe the gum people and the feminine products people should sue each other for trademark infringement.

 

--- 2 ---

Every time I go to the dentist, I always wonder if the staff adds talking points to patients' files so they can bring up topics while making conversation, making it sound like they really remember things about people they only see every six months. While I was in the chair on Tuesday morning, the dentist "remembered" that we both have toddlers the same age.

 

--- 3 ---

Guess who's back on the air? Well, it's not actually the air; it's a podcast. I've been a frequent listener of Relevant Radio during my morning commute for the past few years. And former Morning Air host Sean Herriott just launched a podcast called Catholic as a Second Language. Check it out over here.

 

--- 4 ---

My older daughter's third grade class is going to learn cursive this year. I know some schools don't even teach it anymore. I learned it in the second grade, and I remember taking issue with the teacher because I didn't like the cursive capital Q. Who decided that it should look like the number 2? When I look at this picture, all I see is a 2, with an extra long tail.

[Courtesy: handwritingforkids.com]

 

--- 5 ---

She's also going to learn typing in the third grade. That's a lost art too. I mean, everyone types on computers, but how many people are actually doing it by the book? For fun I took a typing test on the web the other day and scored 54 words per minute. I was disappointed and thought I should've hit 60.

 

--- 6 ---

As a hard core introvert, I should win an award for surviving three kid parties in the span of two days. We had to go to one on Friday night and then two on Saturday. Our kids had a good time, and I made adequate small talk and made it through the weekend.

 

--- 7 ---

My toddler had plenty of toys to play with at one of the parties, but I was a little frightened by a small toy dog that she picked up. I saw that it had an on/off switch, so I turned it on figuring it would bark or maybe wag its tail. But instead, its eyes lit up in an eerie green color. My daughter liked it, but I wondered if it was one of those toys that tries to get you in the middle of the night.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

August 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 86 (Birthday bungles, warning labels, orange slippers and more)

--- 1 ---

It's insincere enough when businesses send generic happy birthday emails to customers. But sending the exact same message year after year is really bad form. Just like last year, this year I received happy birthday emails from my dentist and my bank. At least my dentist's office changed up the language:

 

My bank, on the other hand, sent the exact same verbiage as last year's birthday email:

 

--- 2 ---

Pathetic as it may sound, as an introvert I removed my birthday from Facebook a couple of years ago because it was too overwhelming to get so many happy birthday messages all on the same day. Are you supposed to reply to each message individually and say thanks? Or is "liking" each message sufficient? I don't have to worry about that anymore. My birthday came and went quietly on Facebook again this year, just the way I like it.

 

--- 3 ---

Something really rare happened when I opened up our mailbox the other day. It was empty. It's unusual not to have a single piece of junk mail. The letter carrier (Is that what they are called? Do people write letters anymore?) must have had an easier day if there was no junk mail for anyone in the neighborhood.

 

--- 4 ---

Here's one for the silly warning label file. This was in the instruction manual for one of my older daughter's toys:

So if you aren't supposed to use an extension cord for electrical items, then what exactly is the purpose of an extension cord?

 

--- 5 ---

I love it when my Catholic life and my baseball fan life collide. It was Catholic night at the local minor league baseball game the other day. More importantly, it was my toddler's first time at a baseball game.

 

--- 6 ---

When my toddler was especially cranky the other day, we handed her some Veggie Sticks to snack on to see if that would cheer her up. She threw them on the ground in protest. But then she immediately bent down and picked them up. She probably thought, "Hey, wait a minute. I may be mad, but I still want to eat those!"

 

--- 7 ---

One more funny moment, courtesy of my toddler. It was a little frightening when I stuck my feet into a pair of bedroom slippers and felt something wet and squishy inside. Don't worry, it's not what you think. All she did was stuff little mandarin oranges into my slippers.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

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August 16, 2014

Fantastic February and other third grade follies

With my oldest daughter now in third grade, I've been sharing with her some memories of my own third grade experience back in the day. How can I politely describe my third grade teacher? Quirky. Eccentric. And, uhh, interesting.

Here are a few of my fleeting memories from the third grade.

Halloween Horror

First, to give you a visual perspective, here's a picture of my third grade class from October 1979.

 

I'm in the front row, second from the left. Why was I the only boy in the front row? No fair! I'm not sure what my costume was supposed to be, but you can see the mask on the floor in front of me. The teacher (she's in the upper right corner) made us take two pictures - one with our masks on and one without masks. The girl next to me couldn't take off her mask because it was attached to the rest of the costume And yes, the kid in the back row really is dressed as confederate leader Robert E. Lee. I suppose that wasn't considered offensive back in '79?

Fantastic February

Every class did a play on the stage in the school's auditorium. My third grade play was called Fantastic February. I don't think this was one of those canned school play scripts that teachers typically use. I think our teacher wrote it herself. Strangely enough, I still remember the lyrics to the song we sang at the beginning of the play:

Fantastic February, it's frolicsome and fun.

There's lots to tell about it, you'll hear from everyone.

We'll start at the beginning, and carry right on through.

And if you listen carefully, we'll enlighten you.

Here's the basic premise of the play: There was a large easel at the front of the stage with a piece of poster board for each day of the week. So when the number one came up, students would perform a quick skit or explanation of something historical or otherwise noteworthy that happened on February 1. Then someone who was in that skit would take that day's poster board off the easel and put it on the ground, and then there would be a skit for February 2, and so on.

The only skit I can remember was one where another student and I carried a surfboard and explained a world record wave that hit on a particular day in February.

But my big memory of that play is how a friend and I sort of screwed up everything. After the final dress rehearsal the day before the play, the teacher asked me and a classmate to pick up the poster boards and put them back into place on the easel. In our third grade minds, we didn't think about making sure the posters were still in the proper order or facing the right way.

So in the middle of the play, the teacher had to do some scrambling because the days were out of order. Oops.

Arachnophobia

The teacher had a pet tarantula which lived in the classroom. No, it didn't roam free. It lived in a little cage, and the teacher would feed it, water it and pull it out from time to time. She'd hold it in her hand and sometimes let the students pet it.

I wish I could remember the tarantula's name, but I'm stumped. I even asked another former third grader with whom I'm connected on Facebook. But she had no idea.

The students' interest in touching the tarantula pretty much fell along gender lines. Most of the boys were happy to touch the giant, hairy spider; most of the girls declined.

I can't imagine that in modern times a third grade teacher would be allowed to have a pet tarantula in the classroom.

Adult Programming

One day the teacher decided to make a list on the chalkboard of everyone's favorite television shows. Maybe it was some sort of survey lesson. Anyway, she went around the room and asked each of us for our favorite show. I don't recall what the other kids said, but their answers were children's shows that you would've expected third graders to watch.

When the teacher asked me, I threw her a curveball for an answer:

Teacher: Adam, what's your favorite television show?

Adam: Meet the Press.

I definitely surprised her. How many eight-year-olds watch Meet the Press? But she wrote it down on the board and went on with the rest of the exercise. I did actually like to watch the news when I was a kid. But I'm not sure whether I was trying to be realistic with my answer or if I was just being a wise guy. Probably both.

Bare Chest

One day my school uniform T-shirt had a small rip near the collar. Several of my classmates noticed it and were asking me about it. I told them that since my shirt was torn, I was going to rip it off and throw it away as soon as I got home. I even demonstrated how I was going to do it by grabbing the top of the shirt with both hands and pretending to pull where it was ripped.

Unfortunately, my demonstration was too real. I accidentally ripped my shirt all the way down to my navel. I don't remember whether the teacher found me another shirt to wear for the rest of day or perhaps she safety-pinned it back together. But she sent me home with a note for my parents that went something like this:

Adam had a small rip in the top of the shirt. While demonstrating to another student what he was going to do with the shirt when he got home, he made it much worse.

Unnoticed Upchuck

One day in the middle of class, the guy sitting next to me suddenly threw up right on his desk. The teacher didn't even notice! She just kept on teaching. I raised my hand, and so did the student sitting on the other side of the vomiter. She still didn't call on us right away. Finally when she did, we both shouted, "[Name] just thew up!" Back in those days, vomit in a classroom was nothing like the big biohazard that it is today. So the teacher sent the kid to the nurse's office and called the janitor in to wipe off the desk.

Stone Soup

In class we read the children's book Stone Soup. As a fun project, the teacher designated a day when we were really going to make stone soup in the classroom. Everyone was assigned to bring something real to go into the soup. Then the teacher provided a stone which dropped into the pot. Then we all got to eat a bowl of stone stoup. I hope she washed the stone first.

Second Grade Bonus

Here's a bonus story from when I was in second grade. In the back of the classroom there were large windows and a door which opened up to a walkway and fence behind the school. The teacher attached a small wooden house to the fence and said it was for our pet squirrel. Every day the teacher would go out there and put a couple of peanuts on top of the little house. And sure enough, a squirrel would run up and grab the nuts.

In reality, it was probably a different squirrel every time. But we all thought it was the same squirrel that always visited our class. The teacher decided to let the students pick a name. We discussed it and took a vote. All the boys voted to name the squirrel Peanuts. All the girls voted to name it Peanut Tina. Since it was a tie, we gave the squirrel both names.

Conclusion

I hope my daughter's third grade year is free from confederate flags, on-stage errors, giant spiders, news programs, shirtless boys, vomit and dirty soup. But it's okay if her class has a squirrel.

 

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August 15, 2014

7 Quick Takes Vol. 85 (Holy children, school spider, yellow pages and more)

--- 1 ---

It's official. My oldest daughter is now a third grader. And the most exciting thing about it is that she's in Catholic school this year. It's nice to have her in an educational environment that's focused on faith. I'm jealous (apologies to the tenth commandment) and wish I could enroll!

 

--- 2 ---

Fortunately for my daughter, she already has a pretty good grasp of the prayers she'll be expected to learn in school this year. She even spotted a typo while reading the Creed. I'm quite sure that Jesus did not ascend into "heave."

 

--- 3 ---

I've been telling my daughter things about my third grade year way back in the day. My third grade teacher was (hmmm, how can I say this politely?) rather quirky. She had a pet tarantula which she kept in the classroom and let the students pet it. I could write a whole blog post about some of the odd things that happened when I was in third grade. Stay tuned.

 

--- 4 ---

As for my younger daughter who is rapidly approaching the age of two, she definitely has a the potential to have a good prayer life ahead of her. If you hand her rosary beads, she'll say, "Hail Mary God" over and over.

 

--- 5 ---

We could have used some prayers on the way home from the orientation meeting at my daughter's school last week. In the same stretch of rural two-lane road we encountered loose horses blocking traffic, a large branch in the middle of the road which slithered away as we approached (big snake!) and finally, a huge farm vehicle heading towards us taking up both lanes. I wasn't interested in playing chicken, so I pulled off into the grass. As the vehicle passed, I looked way up at the farmer behind the wheel to give him a courtesy wave. And I figured he'd do the same since I was nice enough to get out of the way. But he didn't even look.

 

--- 6 ---

I thought I was having a bad flashback the other day as I pulled up to our house and saw a new phone book on the front step. They still print phone books? And who is "they" anyway? This one went straight from the front step into the recycle bin. I should have taken a picture of it for Throwback Thursday or sent the phone book to the Smithsonian.

 

--- 7 ---

I can't believe this week marked the twentieth anniversary of the worst strike in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. I was living in Florida at the time and when spring training rolled around in 1995, I bought a ticket to see what would have been the first regular season MLB game using replacement players. As I recall, the strike was called off a day or two before the game. While it would have been an interesting game to attend, I'm glad it didn't happen. Play ball.

[Courtesy: espn.com]

 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

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August 8, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 84 (Silly signs, seat settlement, Mario head and more)

--- 1 ---

Several amusing signs caught my attention the past week. First, I can't help buy wonder exactly what message the person who lives here is trying to send. A "Welcome" sign and a "Warning! No trespassing" sign on the same home? I'm not sure if I should barge in without knocking or turn and run far, far away.

 

--- 2 ---

I saw this next funny sign outside a restaurant. It was easy to spot "free booze" from a distance. Then when I got closer I saw the "false advertising" comment. That would be a fun but challenging job having to come up with something funny on the sign every day.

 

--- 3 ---

These signs for kids' sports leagues look funny right next to each. The one on the right is for flag football, and the one of the left says, "Extreme flag football." How do they make flag football extreme? Maybe the flags have barbs on them. Later I saw a sign for "Extreme cheerleading." Maybe it's just cool to add the word extreme to everything.

 

--- 4 ---

My soon-to-be eight-year-old daughter asked me how old she has to be in order to ride in the front passenger seat in the car. I told her she had to wait until she's at least 13. She didn't mind. I told her how when I was a kid, my brother and I used to fight over who got to sit in the front until our parents came up with a system of sharing. We had weekly shifts in the front seat.

 

--- 5 ---

That's similar to how we settled our wild battles over who got to pick what to watch on TV and who had first dibs on the TV guide. Get the details over here.

 

--- 6 ---

I was sad to learn of the death of longtime Braves broadcaster Pete van Wieren. He was the last living member of the big three Braves announcers, along with Ernie Johnson and Skip Caray, that I grew up watching since about 1980. They were a perfect match. Pete was the level-headed knowledgable one, Ernie was the folksy grandfatherly type and Skip was the irreverent uncle. Pete's death prompted me to finally read his autobiography that he wrote in 2010.

[Courtesy: amazon.com]

 

--- 7 ---

There's only one pitcher in Major League Baseball who's "brave" enough to wear the new protective cap. Other players have joked that Alex Torres of the San Diego Padres looks like Super Mario from the video game or Dark Helmet from Spaceballs. But my daughter had a different assessment while we watched the Braves play the Padres online recently. She said it looks like he has cell phones stuffed into the side of his hat.

[Courtesy: tumblr.com]
[Courtesy: wsj.com]

 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

 

 

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August 5, 2014

Ask Bob: A lesson in patience

Dear Bob,

My brother and I always fight about what to watch on TV and who gets to read the TV guide first to see what's on. How can we resolve this?

--Adam in Palm Beach

This is a letter I should have submitted to the television Q&A columnist at The Palm Beach Post back in the 70s or 80s.

This came to mind recently as I was thinking about how in our household we only have one TV (okay, there's a second one, but we never use it), and it's centrally located downstairs in the family room. Watching TV is not a big part of my or my wife's lifestyle, and so we're trying to pass along that same trait to our two young daughters.

Sharing one TV is easy for my kids now. They're six years apart, and the older one is happy to watch the toddler-appropriate shows that our little one enjoys. But sharing a TV or TV guide wasn't so easy for me and my brother.

When I was growing up, for a while our parents had their own TV in their room, and my brother and I got to share the TV that was in the den. We had some battles, verbally and occasionally physically, over who would have control over the TV. My brother was, and still is, three years older. But I don't think that justified giving him first choice of what to watch.

So our parents came up with a TV time share plan. My brother and I would alternate weekly. If it was my week, then I got to choose what we watched. Don't get me wrong, sometimes we wanted to watch the same thing. For example, we never missed an episode of CHiPs or The Dukes of Hazzard.

But during his week, my brother did watch some things that I had to sit there and suffer through. For example, I wasn't a fan of Magnum p.i. or Star Trek, but those were among his favorites.

A few years later, our parents decided that we were old enough and responsible enough to have TVs in our own rooms. So you'd figure the sharing problems would be over, right? Wrong. Every Sunday, our local newspaper, The Palm Beach Post, included it's own version of TV Guide called TV Post.

Once we had our own TVs, we used to fight over control of the TV Post to see what was going to be on. Sounds silly now, but it was devastating if my brother had the TV Post in his room with the door closed when I wanted to see it. And, vice versa. Eventually we attached it each week to the outside door of a closet in the hallway between our rooms so we'd no longer fight over it.

One of the best things about being the first one to read the TV Post that week was getting to read the Ask Bob column. Bob Michals was the newspaper's TV columnist and answered readers' questions "about television past and present." I found a scanned image of the Ask Bob column on Google from Sept. 26, 1987. Here's what bob looked like:

 

He answered some hard hitting questions that week. Speaking of Magnum, p.i., Nancy Oliver in Lantana asked Bob if the actors in the show were Vietnam veterans like their characters. According to the all-knowing Bob, none of the actors had served in the military.

Apparently many people had been writing to Bob with their theories on how the producers of Mr. Ed got the horse to look like he was talking. Mimi Heberlein from Jupiter supported the peanut butter-on-the-gums thoery. Nancy in West Palm Beach was also pro peanut butter because a Universal Studios tour guide told her so. Bob got pretty fired up about it in that week's column:

Ah, Bob was so wise. The next time my kids are arguing about something, maybe I'll just think, What would Bob say?

 

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August 1, 2014

7 Quick Takes Vol. 83 (Tea tsunami, legal honey, little LaRussa and more)

--- 1 ---

Some restaurant servers have the worst luck. When our family ate out the other day, my wife and I both ordered iced tea to drink. It took a while for the waiter to bring our drinks. He apologized and, with a good dose of self-deprecating humor, explained that as he tried to fill one of our cups, the little nozzle popped off the big vat, and the tea started gushing out all over him. For his sake, I'm glad it happened out of view of the customers, unlike the poor server who had a major, splattering tray accident near my table a few months ago.

 

--- 2 ---

I appreciated the waiter's sense of humor about it. And he scored extra points (tip!) by being very attentive to refilling our drinks. He was almost overattentive. At one point, I took one sip of my iced tea, and suddenly there he was with a pitcher to top off my glass.

 

--- 3 ---

Sometimes the simplest things amuse me. I noticed that the label on the jar of honey in our pantry says the honey is "true source certified." I couldn't help but wonder how they verify that it's real honey. Maybe they have a bee on staff in the factory that sticks its antennae into each jar and confirms that it's legitimate.

 

--- 4 ---

As a Braves fan, it was quite exiting to watch the Baseball Hall of Fame induction speeches on the internet last weekend. I've only been to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY once back in the late 1980s when I was a teenager. Now I have the itch to go back.

 

--- 5 ---

My (soon-to-be) eight-year-old daughter watched part of the induction ceremony with me. Her most interesting comment was that she thought managerial inductee Tony LaRussa had the same hair as her baby sister. That's funny, but I don't see the resemblance.

Tony LaRussa [courtesy: ABC]
Not Tony LaRussa

 

 

--- 6 ---

I thought both my daughters loved playing with stickers, but not anymore. It seems that my oldest has outgrown them. I gave her some stickers the other day, but she said she doesn't like stickers anymore "because they fall off."

 

--- 7 ---

I'm not afraid to ask priests the serious, hard-hitting questions about the Catholic faith. I was involved in a discussion with our pastor and new associate pastor about how some people dress very casually for Mass. Someone else mentioned that he always wears a suit and tie to church, and that got me thinking. So I asked the priests, "Do priests gradually forget how to tie a tie over time, or is it something that you never forget how to do like riding a bike?" They got a good chuckle out of my question. The associate pastor, who was recently ordained, said that as soon as he and his fellow seminarians became transitional deacons, they all wanted to burn their neckties since they'd never need them again. But they donated them to Goodwill instead.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

 

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