Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No Brains but Lots of Guts

I write what I am about to write in the hope that no one thinks I am making fun of suicide. Suicide is not inherently funny and what I am motivated to write is about a particular person who chose to end his own life, not the action, itself. He seems to have had other problems besides decision making so please, pity him in the appropriate measure. But this is not about suicide per se so, if you wish to accuse me of insensitivity, please do so realizing that I am generally insensitive, and that this one post is not the best example of that insensitivity.

An article in the newspaper caught my eye this weekend. Sadly, a gentleman in Indiana, feeling he was wronged in a financial matter, went into a real estate office, took hostages, released them and then killed himself. This is not all that news worthy (though there are hundreds of articles about it online, and I'm sure that the families of the hostage taker, and of his hostages, and everyone in Valparaiso, Indiana who have to realize that their small town needs something to put it on the map, would see this as a real news article). But something in the article really got to me (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/26/us/indiana-hostage-taking-ends-in-suicide.html) .

Read it and then come back. I'll wait.

OK, then, did you catch it? I'll quote the problematic paragraph:
"Chief Michael Brickner of the Valparaiso police said the man shot himself twice in the head. "

I don't know much about suicide but it seems to me that a guy who shoots himself in the head twice is either incredibly committed to the cause, or has the worst aim, ever. I can only imagine (and I hesitate to do even that) what must be going on after that first shot -- wouldn't ANY shot to the head bleed profusely? Wouldn't it hurt like heck? Wouldn't it make someone think twice about firing again, if he even still had the capacity to think and pull the trigger?

Isn't that idea of "two shots" usually what lets the TV cop know that this wasn't suicide and he has 46 more minutes to figure out whodunit before the local news comes on? I'm not even making any jokes about this because (ok, here comes a little one) I just can't wrap my brain around this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I fear that I am not-so-slowly losing my mind. I hope that this blog will serve as my own personal "Flowers for Algernon" site where I catalog what I'm thinking and feeling so that science, after I'm but an empty (yet good looking) shell of a man, can learn something about when that thing sets in. I forget its name. Oh, right, senility.

Yesterday something troubling happened -- I misplaced my keys. Many people misplace keys but I'm generally not one of them. My neuroses have served me well, driving me to put my keys back in a particular place. And I really think I did so. But an hour later, they weren't there. I tore the house apart and then my daughter looked in a separate part of the key holder, 5 inches above where I am sure I put them. And they were there. That is troubling enough but in the midst of this, I couldn't find my phone. I hadn't plugged it in and it wasn't any where around. Again, tear the place apart and then a child asks if I looked under some napkins next to where I was sitting the whole time. And guess what -- phone. Under napkins, next to me.

Later that evening, I realize I can't find my old phone (I need to move pictures off of it so I was sure I left it next to the desktop). I still can't. I know when and where I used it yesterday but then there is the blank; I am sure I put it back by the computer but it isn't there. And this morning, I walked into work having left the car head lights on. I have never done that before. Four lapses in 15 hours. This is not good.

Have there ever been things lost? Sure? I once couldn't find my glasses, and it turned out that as I bent over, they fell into a particularly soft pile of laundry so I didn't hear anything. Many years ago, I had ordered some Chinese food and was sure I cleaned it up -- I even had a neighbor come over and give the apartment a once over to help me spot any cleaning yet to be done and she didn't see any garbage left. But a couple of hours later, a bag of leftover Chinese food was sitting in the middle of the room. So this is not unprecedented.

But honestly, I'm worried. I seriously think my brain is turning into Swiss cheese and the world is lactose intolerant.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Non Complete Cause

One of the things that lets me know that I have made it is that I have a seat in a local poker game. Sure, other things like a mortgage and lower back pain are also subtle signs of my being one of "them" but being able to say that I play poker with 'the guys' really drives home for me that there are guys who are not completely ashamed to be affiliated with me. At night.

Let me tell you about this game, because as poker games go, this one is something special. You have a population of between 4 and 9 (depending on the number of people who show up. You see, that's how we compute population -- by counting the people) and we play a few standard games. We usually start at 9pm on a Saturday night and go until between 1 and 4 depending on the demands of Sunday morning and the food that has been provided. Hot dogs and pretzels or chips are often the local fare though we have had variants on steak and burgers as well. One game even had pizza, then later meat, and then way later, pizza again. Beer, water, soda and liquor are available but don't take this as an invite. This is a closed game and I'm on the inside while you are not. "Deal" with it. HA.

The buy in is between 3 and 5 dollars and the ante is a nickel. Chips run as follows: white is 5 cents, red is a dime and the blue/black chips are a quarter. So a big raise is anything over 10 cents. Understand this -- I'm a teacher so for me, maybe a quarter raise is a chunk of my salary, but I'm playing with people who negotiate deals with more zeroes in them than I can figure (assuming that there is a positive integer before the zeroes) and yet they worry about a nickel raise. Some of these guys could easily call a twenty cent bet but if the cards aren't just right (or, in at least one case, if they actually know their cards and know they can't win) they fold. That's class. These guys could play in games based in folding money but they play in the spare-change league and take it all very seriously. These games, meeting once every god-knows-when are a highlight for me.

Thing is, I can't find the equivalent level of competitiveness in other areas, especially softball. I recall a scene from WKRP (maybe from this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6aLb1NVTAc&feature=player_embedded) in which an outfielder sat in a lawn chair and there was a keg available at first base. I'm not saying that I want a real keg-league which demands 16 ounces for every base, but I don't want even "moderately fast pitch." I want to enjoy the game but still play as hard as seems reasonable. And I don't want the games at 8AM on a Sunday. I want to get a pick-up game going with a bunch of like-minded guys (moderately lazy but who love the game) who all want, on a Sunday mid-day, to spend some time in the sun and maybe, sweat a tiny bit. The game is serious without being grave. The banter is good-willed and amusing and hot dogs are readily available. Each swing counts, but the overall experience is fun. And maybe, a full wetbar in between second and third would be nice, too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Time is it?

Many people have come to me and asked "Hey Dan, what's your take on the Time Magazine cover with that big kid nursing?"

OK, no one has asked me but I read that a lot of other people online are putting their unsolicited two cents in and I figured, why not spout off on something I have no control over nor vested interest in? If those other self-proclaimed experts can get quoted simply because their opinions can be accessed via google, then why can't I? So I'm ready to put down exactly how I feel so all of you looking for a ready voice of reason to latch on to (HA!) so you can avoid personal responsibility in formulating your own opinion will have someone to quote in your Facebook status updates.

Here it is:

What's the big deal?

Maybe you don't know, but I am currently seeing a woman who is heavily involved in breastfeeding education. Actually, I'm currently seeing a pile of papers, my car keys and a banana, but I am not married to any of these. I'm married to that woman I referred to a bit earlier. She embodies many of the best traits of the papers, the keys and the herbaceous Cavendish but doesn't often sit on my desk at work which is especially convenient because I don't have a desk anymore so she would be keeping someone else company were she to perch on what used to be my desk.

But I digress.

Fact is, I never had any really thoughts about nursing before marriage and children and now, it seems perfectly normal for a child to nurse until 3, if not older. I could cite biblical or anthropological precedents about it but I won't. Do I think the cover was an affront to anyone? Sure -- the kid's positioning was wrong and the value of skin to skin contact and private mommy-child time was compromised by the physical distance, the poor latch and the presence of the photographer. Also, standing up would, to my mind, not be good for anyone's back. And to have the kid standing on a chair? What is he, an acrobat?

So there you have it. Show a kid nursing. Who cares. Let a kid sleep in my bed. Who cares. You want to know a secret? When I go to visit my parent's house and want to shmooze with a parent or sibling, my parents' bed is still a comfy and central place to hang out. Now, if Time wants to take a picture of me asleep on the bed, that's fine. They can do an entire photo essay about people who like their parents and appreciate good parenting so that the masses who feel it is more appropriate to be estranged from mom and dad starting at age two can be offended. Nursing at age 3 is somehow bad but Toddlers in Tiaras isn't child abuse? Parading the Olson twins across the aither wasn't more offensive than showing a kid having lunch? Movies like Kick Ass which have profanity and violence all around them are somehow more acceptable than showing a little kid doing what little kids have been doing for thousands of years?

Please people, get some perspective.

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's the Stupid, Economy

I think that most everything I know about economics comes from watching TV and movies. I mean, I get the basic stuff like "dollars is good" and "if you paint my house I won't kill your dog" and I have a sense of some of the bigger ideas like "dividend checks help pay for my dry cleaning" but beyond that my general attitude about the economy is that if ignores me, I'll ignore it.

The movie "Trading Places" is a constant tutor, introducing me to ideas like "sell something you don't have when the price is high so you can buy a lot of it with that pretend money when the price is low." True, I'm not clear on all the details but any insight I have into the Futures market comes from that movie and it's a sequel, "Back to the Futures Market." I don't know exactly how the story-lines mesh but the life lessons are clear.

Another movie with has taught me about money is "Brewster's Millions." Richard Pryor has 30 days to spend $300,000 so he can inherit 300 million. Or something like that. Of course, the economy has shifted in the 30 or so years since the movie came out. In the movie, only a certain amount could be spent outright. A huge chunk had to be lost through poor investing. These days, I could write a check for private school tuition, buy a piece of kosher steak and be done with the expenditures. And as for the poor investments? They seem to be rather easy to come by, at least for me.

Apparently the movie "Boiler Room" has something to do with money but I haven't seen it because I don't like boilers. If you can think of any other movies which can teach me about the economy, please feel free to leave a comment with the title and the underlying economic truth so that I don't actually have to watch the movie. Don't suggest anything by Fellini. I'm allergic.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bagel? What's a bagel?

I have been thinking about bagels this morning. I happen to subscribe to the etymological theory that the word comes from the Hebrew, b'igul, in a circle. I have neither a basis for this belief nor any particular reason why I would subscribe to that idea. I just like it because of the coincidence.

I happen to think that the same etymology can be applied to the beagle, for the same reasons.

My daughter ordered an "everything bagel" this morning and I was a bit disappointed. Sure, there were poppy and sesame seeds, toasted onion and garlic, and even salt. But is that "everything"? If I were to state my undying love to my bashert and insist "you mean everything to me" would I be limiting my eternal affection to those same toppings? When I order a pizza with everything, do I want a pizza with salt? Or, or, for that matter, do I want a pizza with romantic entanglements?

A more conventional etymology of the word bagel suggests that it develops from older Germanic words meaning "ring" so when that romantic fool got down on one knee and proposed, he might have presented his beloved with a bagel and offered her everything but might have only intended for that to include such savories as toasted garlic. If that's the case then I think that people might want to refigure alimony as related to "alimentary." Or just get rid of the dog.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


No no no no no. No no, no no no no no. No. No no no no no -- no no no no .

No no no no no no; no no no no no no. No no no (no no) no no no no no no no no no no no no no. No no!

No no no no? No no no no no no no no no, no no no no no...no no no no no.