February 27, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 110 (UPS MIA, club dancing, Nixon baby and more)

ONE: Do packages really get lost in the mail? I purchased something from Amazon, and it disappeared inside a UPS warehouse. Really. I was expecting to see "Out for delivery" in the package tracking, but finally several days after the box made it to a UPS warehouse, the tracking said that the package "could not be located." At that point, Amazon sent a replacement via rush delivery. Weird.

TWO: My brother spotted a U-Haul rental trailer being pulled by a Penske rental truck. Isn't that awkward? That's sort of the equivalent of a UPS truck delivering a package to a FedEx store or the driver of a Coke delivery truck drinking a Pepsi while behind the wheel.


THREE: I don't know exactly what goes on inside the "billard culb" (sic) with the dual typos in its sign (as I wrote about last year), but I have an update on what happens out front. My family stumbled upon quite a sword-swingin' performance in the parking lot as we were leaving an adjacent restaurant. Here's a quick look:


FOUR: It's unusual to see a manufacturer purposely cover up its own logo on a product. I have a Keurig Mini coffee maker in my office, and it was recalled due to the possibility of it spraying hot water on people. Keurig sent a "repair kit" which is a piece of plastic that covers the front handle and, strangely enough, hides the Keurig name.

FIVE: My eight-year-old daughter made an observation that mirrors how I used to feel when I was in school. She's always been an advanced reader, but this year she discovered that it's not as fun to read when it's a book that you have to read for school. I can relate to that. It's a lot less appealing to read a book when you are forced to do it.

SIX: Enough time has passed that it's now safe for me to admit that as I kid there were many times when I resorted to reading the Cliffs Notes instead of the actual books that I was assigned to read. It was just way too tempting to read a handy 40 page summary of Great Expectations instead of the 3-gazillion page original. It was always amusing that Cliffs Notes were marketed as something to read in addition to the actual book. Yeah, right!

SEVEN: The cashier at Target asked me for my date of birth when I bought a bottle of over-the-counter cough medicine. I was born during the Nixon administration. Do I really look too young to buy cough medicine? I gave her the correct year but said my birthday was January 1. I hate to lie, but isn't it an identity theft risk to say your date of birth out loud in front of a bunch of strangers?

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.


February 20, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 109 (Flourishing Flowers, Bea or me, sugar flurries and more)

ONE: Any Valentine's Day without vomit and diarrhea is a success in my book. Last Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of the Great Valentine's Day Stomach Virus which crippled my entire household in 2010 (not counting my youngest daughter who wasn't born for two more years).

TWO: On a happier note, I'm glad that the flowers I gave to my wife are still alive. Giving flowers is a nice gesture, and it's always the thought that counts. But it's disappointing when flowers croak just a few days later.

THREE: I had a funny feeling that I was starting to come down with something last Sunday evening as I was leading a couple of communion services at the county jail. By the time I got home that night my voice was shot and I sounded a lot like Bea Arthur. Then on Monday I could barely talk at all. Luckily I'm an introvert and I like to keep quiet.

Bea or me? [Image credit: Wikipedia]

FOUR: The overall sickness passed, but I still had a lingering cough for a few more days. And of course, as soon as I sat down at Mass on Ash Wednesday I had a tremendous coughing fit. I can't stand that feeling of being somewhere quiet and trying to fight off the urge to cough.

FIVE: As Lent began, I decided to give up the same thing this year as I have for the past few Lents: time. I want to spend more time praying and less time doing other things. Hopefully I can do better this time.

SIX: Need a little sugar with your coffee? I had a little accident with the sugar container.

SEVEN: I'm working on a new post for Austin Catholic New Media which has something to do with this verse that somebody received in a text message.

Stay tuned.

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.
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February 13, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 108 (RIP W&D, communist cutout, holy heart and more)

ONE: It is with great sadness that I announce the loss of a couple I've been with for 15 years. Yesterday an installation crew hauled away my Kenmore washer and dryer. I've known these appliances longer than I've known my wife. They've lived a good life, but the cost of recent repairs finally prompted us buy new ones. I snapped a few farewell photos. Remember way back in the year 2000 when washers and dryers used to have knobs and dials?

TWO: Now I'm convinced you can buy absolutely anything on Amazon. While searching for something unrelated, I stumbled upon this item for sale.

I have no idea why anyone would want a cardboard cutout of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. But if you're interested you better hurry. There are only eight left in stock.

THREE: Tomorrow's Valentine's Day. Even though it's named after a saint, there usually isn't anything religious about this particular holiday -- until now. My wife bought religious Valentine's Day chocolates for me and some other family members. Each wrapper has a Bible verse on it. Very clever.

FOUR: Now that one of the big flower-buying occasions is upon us, my offer is still out there for someone to take my "Out-the-Door Flower Shop" idea and make it happen. Flower buyers around the world will thank you.

FIVE: We went to Houston last weekend to visit some relatives, and on the way home my wife spotted a billboard for a master-planned community called "The Falls at Dry Creek." Is that actually possible?

SIX: While in Houston we attended Mass at Saint Thomas More Church. During the announcements at the end, the priest said that a parishioner disappeared while covering the war in Syria in 2012. He asked for everyone to pray for the missing man and his family. By mentioning this here, I'm asking you do the same thing.

SEVEN: This Sunday I'll be heading to the county jail for my monthly volunteer duty assisting with communion services. Please consider praying for those behind bars and their families.

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.
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February 6, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 107 (Delicious sharing, cheesy ranch, chocolate nuggets and more)

ONE: I like to read some of the bogus blog comments that get snagged by my spam filter. This one really cracked me up, typos included:

"Great site. Lots of helpful information here. I'm sending it to a few buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you on your sweat!"

Maybe "sharing in delicious" is one of those cool sayings that kids say like "awesome sauce." And it was nice of the person to thank my sweat.

TWO: During the announcements at the end of Mass on Sunday, the priest introduced his mother who waved from a pew all the way in the back of the church. When my family stopped to say hi to the priest and his mom after Mass I said, "Father Craig, you work here. You can get your mom a better seat!" It turns out that she works a job where she was on call and needed easy access to the door if she needed to duck out and answer her phone.

THREE: I can relate to that. When I was first exploring the Catholic church about 12-years ago, I worked for a law enforcement agency and had frequent on-call duties on many weekends. It was very stressful sitting in Mass knowing that I might have to run out the door to answer an urgent call and possibly have to leave. It happened a lot.

FOUR: Last week I mentioned the yogurt that was still on the shelf at Target almost one month past its expiration date. About a week later we needed to buy yogurt again. To the store's credit, there was nothing expired on the shelf. However, the first couple of packs of yogurt I saw were only one day ahead of their expiration date.

FIVE: You can slap either some ranch dressing or cheese on just about any food and some kids will eat it. But I hadn't thought of trying both until my two-year-old asked for some ranch on her macaroni and cheese. What will she ask for next, chocolate syrup on her chicken nuggets?

SIX: I'm always exited when the Super Bowl ends because it means there's just a few weeks to go until the start of spring training. Baseball has always been far more appealing to me.

SEVEN: Please check out my latest post for Austin Catholic New Media over here as I unveil plans for the prototype church cry room of the future.

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.


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February 4, 2015

Wails from the Cry Room: A Design for the Future [ACNM]

What's the least desirable place inside any church to attend Mass? The cry room, of course. Spending time inside a cry room is a little bit like visiting a mini war zone or taking a trip back to the wild, wild west.

You step into a crowded cry room and immediately feel, and sometimes smell, the angst in the air. Kids are flailing and screaming. Cheerios and other snacks are being dropped and stepped on. Toys are flying through the air. Children are putting each other in headlocks. Noses are running aplenty. Dirty diapers and other sticky things are all over the floor like like popcorn and candy in a move theater. And sippy cups and bottles are spilling left and right. (Don't let the spill-proof label fool you.)

Some parishes give their cry rooms happy names or even name the rooms after saints. (That's a stretch.) At least that is classier than calling it something more realistic such as the Cain and Abel Room.

At this point you may suspect I'm a cranky get-off-my-lawn curmudgeon with no children. Not at all. I have two little girls, and my wife and I love bringing them to Mass every Sunday. Read on and perhaps you will have a few laughs.

I would like to propose to you the cry room of tomorrow -- a place where future generations of Catholics (and the design can be adapted for other faiths) can avoid the present-day pitfalls of the place you go during Mass when your kids go crazy. It's called the Cry Room 3000, or the CR 3000 for short.

The standard design of the CR 3000 will include the following features:

Double Airlock Doors

Perhaps you've seen these in banks. In order to access the CR 3000, you have to pass through two sets of doors. Whenever crying children are huddled together in one place, at least a couple of kids are bound to make a run for it. The double doors will help prevent escapes by safely confining your little fugitives long enough for you to take them back into custody.

Climate Control

The temperature in many cry rooms I've visited seems to be uncomfortably warmer than the rest of the church, regardless of whether it's summer or winter. Maybe it's just the stress that increases everyone's body temperature and makes the room unpleasantly warm. It's essential that the CR 3000 will have a separate climate control system that will automatically maintain a temperature five degrees lower than the rest of the building.

Vacuum Robot

"Thou shalt not bring food or drinks into the church." In cry rooms that may be the rule people ignore the most. Every parent of small children knows that you need to have an emergency supply of snacks on hand at all times. This results in those snacks being dropped, spit out and crushed all over the cry room. The simple solution for the CR 3000 is to have a Roomba robot vacuum automatically deploy 15-minutes after Mass to clean the floor. The system also will be able to detect when there is a severe amount of crumbs and spills and send the robot out during Mass in emergency situations.

I know what you're thinking. Some babies and toddlers are afraid of vacuums. Just paint it like a puppy or kitten and the kids will love it.

Stain Proof Everything

Whatever it is that gets spilled in cry rooms is sure to stain any surface. So the furniture, floors, walls, windows, doors and ceiling will incorporate the same technology used in stain-repellant clothing. Whatever the children try to smear, smudge and spill all over the place will simply roll off the surface and get sucked up by the vacuum robot later.

Odor Control

Near the ceiling of the CR 3000 will be an automatic air freshener dispenser that will release one squirt every ten minutes. The device also will be able to detect unusual spikes of odor in the air (during severe diaper blowouts, etc.) and activate sooner as needed.

[To read the rest of this story -- and trust me, you don't want to miss it -- click over to Austin Catholic New Media.]


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