Monday, December 31, 2007

Year End Thumbs Up From Shegazelle

Not only am I "intelligent life", but now I'm sporting new duds to prove it. Thanks for a great year of food for thought!

A Time to Live, And A Time to Die

2007. In just a few short hours, it's officially history.

Truly history, in so many ways.

A year of births-a precursor of great things to come.

Like MyndFood. It was birthed in 2007. And I think we all agree that it bears the early fruits of true literary greatness.

And Jamie Lynn Spears' child. Well, it wasn't born in 2007, but it was conceived; and it's received enough news attention to last two or three lifetimes. But truly a momentous occasion for all humankind. Imagine: another Spears-a true gift to each and every one of us! At some point, you think they'd outlaw Spears children. First, the mothers have consistently proven that they're profoundly incapable of rearing them. And they grow up to be psychological train wrecks. The Spears family, frankly, is the only American institution that is more entertaining than the Big Bird lady on American Idol.

Oh-and speaking of entertainment, in 2007, Americans reached new heights in quality entertainment. In 2007, Borat received a Golden Globe award for his work in "Borat: Cultural Learning's for Make Benefit Great Nation of Kazakhstan" (which was originally released in Nov. 2006, but close enough to 2007 for this post; especially since MyndFood wasn't around then). Need I say more?

All in all, truly a year of great beginnings!

It was also the year of may tragic deaths.

Green Valley Development, the business that Dad and I partnered in (along with Shane, for a time), gasped it's last, shuddering breath in 2007, and finally expired, after a long, painful decline. I promise-I'll tell you more about that in coming posts.

Merv Griffin, the legendary entertainer passed away this year. As did Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani Opposition leader, and former Prime Minister of Pakistan. And Saddam Hussein (well, actually he died on December 29, 2006, but since, as I've already stated, we weren't around then, I'll take literary license and include him here).

But no death so profoundly affected us this year as did Anna Nicole Smith's. No one has so captured our hearts (well, not since the Big Bird lady on American Idol), like Anna Nicole Smith.

I'll admit: I am profoundly fascinated with Anna Nicole Smith. I have never seen anyone turn such an overabundance of nothing into an entire lifetime of celebrity. She had no talent. She was (forgive me Lord for speaking ill of the dead) not particularly sharp (that's a nice way of saying that she was a classic blond). She wasn't really very pretty at all. She wasn't wealthy (despite her pathetic attempts to con some old, dying man into believing she loved him). Yet she continuously made the front page of virtually every disreputable news rag available. It's unbelievable. For that reason, I felt she deserved a place in these hallowed halls of history.

And so as we take a moment to collectively reminisce-looking back at the happy newness that 2007 brought, as well as the sad (and not-so-sad) departures of the past year, we look forward, in wonder and anticipation, at what 2008 might bring.

I know that, for me, I intend on using the blank canvas of 2008 to paint some new paths for my life-dreams I've always had but never actively pursued, will perhaps be born this year; and the dark clouds of past failures that have hung over me for far too long will die this year, at the hand of new successes that crowd out those dank memories.

What, I wonder, will 2008 hold for you?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

American Entertainment

Those of you who know me personally know that I have three real hobbies. Well, I guess you could say two. Depends.

I'll go with three.

Music. Reading. Writing.

Or, you could say two. Music and literature.

Doesn't matter. You get the point.

Of the three, the third I get to practice here in cyberspace-and have the unbelievable pleasure of knowing that you, continuous readers, come here regularly (or semi-regularly) and read.

The second I practice daily. I read constantly. It's been my undying love from the time I was four or five. I've spent countless nights awake, all night, locked in the tight embrace of some fictional place, unable to break free, even to rest my aching eyes.

And it's true love-love at first sight, really. I can't recall the first book I ever read, but I can tell you, it must have been incredible, because it birthed a deep eternal love for the written story.

And it's been true to me; it's never let me down. I can't say for sure, but it must be, I'm sure, better than any drug or drink. It's a high that never lets you down.

Buy you probably already know that about me. I can't say for sure, but my guess is that I've written enough here that you know that I'm a sucker for a great story.

You probably don't know all that much, though, about the first on my little list of hobbies: music.

The truth is, I stumbled upon music by accident. Well, I take that back; the seeds were probably planted back in third grade. How old are you in third grade? Eight? Mother and Dad drove me and Nan down to Los Angeles to find a saxophone. I don't know for sure whose idea it was for me to play the saxophone; I can't recall ever having an intense desire to play the thing. Nevertheless, down to LA we drove, to some used instrument shop that Dad knew of. Mother and Dad (as I recall) didn't have much money at the time, so in hindsight, I'm humbled by the fact that, ultimately we settled on a moderately used Bundy II alto saxophone (the same model, I'm told, that my earliest musical idol--Kenny G--plays). I don't know for sure how much they paid for the thing, but it can't have been extremely cheap.

I played in the elementary school band. I don't remember much about those days, other than the fact that I was the youngest guy in the band, and I always envied this one rich girl whose parents had bought HER a bassoon (ours must have been the only elementary school band to have a bassoon; 17 saxophones, 15 trumpets, 12 trombones, 3 timpani, and a bassoon).

I learned to read music there-a valuable lesson, I guess (although, I'm not all that great at it now). I continued to play through junior high and high school. I was decent-never fantastic. Although, for one year, I was really, really good. My senior year in high school I joined the jazz band-a group of reasonably accomplished musicians, at least for high-schoolers. And I realized that I WAS good. For two reasons. First, early on, I'd also developed a liking for the drums. And I started hacking around on them at church. At some point, apparently, I developed some level of skill. And the jazz band was the first band I'd ever played with that actually had a drum set. They found out I could play, and asked if I'd take a hack at playing part of the time. I said sure. But they wouldn't let me play all the time because, when I wasn't playing the drums at church, I was blasting on my saxophone. And, almost by accident, I'd learned to play improvisational. In fact, I was the only guy in the band that could play a decent improv solo on the sax.

But that was really all just goofing around. I said music happened to me by accident. Music as a real love did. When I was probably 13 or so, the youth director at church asked me, on a fluke I guess, if I'd sing a solo in church. I was stupid enough to say yes (I'd never sung in church other than as part of the congregation). I found that I liked it.

Ultimately, Shawna and I were asked to take responsibility for the Music department at church. I bought a keyboard, and taught myself (with some help from a few extremely accomplished pianists) to play the piano (rather, I'm still LEARNING to play the piano). I take music seriously.

So, as you can imagine, although I'm not a regular viewer, I've always been fascinated by American Idol, a show on FOX that every year catapults some previously unknown talent to musical stardom. It's billed as America's greatest talent show. Musical stars-to-be go on the show and compete against each other for the chance at a record deal with a major record label.

I've toyed with the idea, from time to time, of trying out for the show-particularly after I heard that last year one of the finalists was the music director from some Mid West church, and got on the show (I guess) singing some gospel song.

I never have though for a number of reasons, not least of which being, what are the chances that America's next idol will really be some guy from a small town in California who only sings gospel music?

Not likely.

But a guy can dream, can't he?

And then, this evening, I was surfing about on the Net, and came across this post that really says a lot about America's favorite show. Or maybe it just reminds us that we Americans just want to be entertained.

It's the story of one woman's wait to audition for the show. It's fairly innocuous, but telling all the same. Go read it. It'll surprise you. Or maybe it won't, especially if you've ever seen the show (or even clips of it over on YouTube).

You see, it's a reminder that the show isn't really about finding America's next top star; it's about entertaining Americans. And sometimes, it's more entertaining to play footage of an overweight woman, wearing a Big Bird outfit, who has no musical talent whatsoever. Or maybe of an overly made-up teen girl, who has mediocre talent at best, breaking down and crying when the rude host of the show brutally ridicules her. Or an Asian college student from Stanford University that can barely speak English, who butchers a popular pop song, but butchers it in a style that the camera loves.

No, the show is about ratings; about attracting viewers--viewers who want nothing more than to be entertained--every week. And so sometimes true talent is pushed aside to make way for true entertainment (although, whether or not this is true entertainment is questionable).

But it reinforces my decision (does consistent inaction qualify as a decision) NOT to try out for American Idol.

Although, maybe now I should. Because, at least now if I'm booted, I can say it was to make way for Big Bird!


I spent some time tonight going through my BlogRoll (if you're not familiar with it, I encourage you to scroll down a bit; there's a section there in the right hand sidebar that's called "Blogs I Like." There are some fantastic blogs there).

I don't read every blog, every day. In fact, I don't read many blogs every day. But on occasion, I'll scroll through the various blogs I have listed. Tonight I was doing that, and came across a fantastic post called "If I Kiss You Where It's Sharp" over at 6YearMed.

6YearMed, for those of you who've not read it, is the well-written account of one woman's journey through medical school. I read it often-not because I'm all that interested in medical school (although, I must say, at times it seems interesting), but because Danielle, my favorite med-school student, does a fantastic job of telling her story in a way that seems applicable to the lives of her readers.

I think you'll find that I'm right.

So, hop on over and read the post. You'll like it-I promise!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Quote of the Week

Loss and possession, death and life are one, There falls no shadow where there shines no sun.

-Hilaire Belloc

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Megan's Story

Megan had struggled with her self-esteem for much of her adolescent life. She'd had weight issues, and felt like she didn't fit in. In fact, throughout her seventh grade year in school, she felt like an outcast.

She transferred to a new school in eighth grade. Within three months, she had a new group of friends and felt like she belonged. She lost 20 pounds and joined the volleyball team.

And she had a boyfriend.

He was the cutest boyfriend she'd ever had. He was 16 and he had a pet snake. His name was Josh.

Josh said that his family had no telephone; Megan had no idea where he lived. Their sole means of communication was through MySpace.

Their relationship was a whirlwind of MySpace chatter over a number of weeks. Megan's mother was a little concerned--what parent wouldn't worry about her daughter developing, over MySpace, such a close relationship with an unseen boy? She asked a local law enforcement agent to try to find out whether or not Josh was legitimate, but there wasn't much he could do in the way of tracking Josh down (such is the anonymity built into MySpace).

But Megan's mother didn't worry too much. The boy was, after all, unseen-he presumably lived too far away to pose a physical threat to her daughter. And Megan was happy--happier, in fact, than she'd been in quite a long time.

Until suddenly, one day in October of 2006, a few months into Megan and Josh's relationship, Josh began to send Megan critical, scathing messages-messages criticizing Megan's treatment of her friends; messages expressing some doubt, on Josh's part, as to whether or not he wanted to continue the relationship (because of her poor treatment of her friends).

And then, on October 16, 2006, Josh sent a final message to Megan-a message that said, in part, "the world would be a better place without you."

Megan, sobbing ran to her bedroom closet, and emotionally broken, hung herself with a belt. He mother found her there a few moments later.

Megan Meier was 13 when she died, broken-hearted and confused, believing that a 16 year-old boy named Josh Evans, whom she loved, now hated her, and wished her dead.

Six weeks later, Mr. and Mrs. Meier, Megan's parents, found out that Josh didn't exist. He was a virtual alter ego created by Lori Drew, a woman who lived four houses down from the Meiers' whose daughter had felt shunned by Megan.

She created the fictitious MySpace profile, she confided in other neighbors, to "mess with Megan." And mess she did.

Mrs. Drew later said that she felt that the hoax had contributed to Megan's suicide, but that she didn't feel "as guilty" because she found out that Megan had talked of suicide before.

Then, in November of 2007, over a year after the horrific events (the hoax wasn't made public until recently at the request of FBI agents who were investigating the incident), when the Meiers began to tell their story, a blog popped up on the internet. The blog, called "Megan Had It Coming" purported to be authored by Lori Drew originally contained posts (the posts have since been replaced with a single, uninformative post, calling into question the blogs authenticity) called "Set The Record Straight", "Who's Really At Fault", and "I'm Lori Drew".

As I paged through the stories about Megan on the Internet (originally sent to me by perpetual reader, April), my heart went out to Megan's family. The pain that they feel must be unimaginable. And it must be exceptionally hard to see their daughter's death cheapened by the fact that the relationship that she took her own life over wasn't a real relationship at all; it was a hoax contrived by an angry, bitter acquaintance.

And I was incensed and angry at Mrs. Drew's apparent nonchalant attitude regarding the whole affair. I could not-and still cannot-bring myself to accept her clear disregard for the devastating consequences of her actions.

But my strongest, and most lasting, reaction is that this is an admittedly tragic and troubling example of the phenomenon that I spoke of in my original MySpace post.

I said, in part:

At times I fear that we'll ultimately become a society that's incapable of
functioning unless we're behind a computer monitor in some virtual world.
Another example of progressive technology rushing us right into the dark ages.


But, I'll do my part. I'll not partake. And maybe-just maybe, it'll catch on.
One here and one there will get tired of living that shallow, digital life, and will
re-emerge, blinking, rubbing their eyes, into the bright sunlight of this, the
real world, amazed that there is such depth out there! That's what I hope for!

The saddest part of this story is that-real or not-Megan took her own life over a boy she'd never physically met, whom she'd never actually spoken to, whom she'd even only known VIRTUALLY for a matter of weeks!

This virtual world has become the foundation--indeed the very fabric of--far too many relationships. Megan placed her entire self-worth, and apparently her total psychological well-being, in the hands of a phantom acquaintance.

Which brings us to the real-and startling-truth: that phantom relationship, in which she'd invested the whole of her emotions, was not a relationship at all. Because a relationship is something real, something almost tangible, something largely indefinable, that exists between two individuals. It's based, largely, on real connections, some physical, some emotional, some mental-but REAL connections, grounded firmly in reality and truth. In the absence of that reality and truth, without those connections, any semblance of true relationship is no more than a sad facade.

Megan's relationship, then, with Josh was no relationship at all, in that it was built on a surreal foundation; there was no truth, no reality, and consequently-regardless Megan's perceptions-no real relationship.

The most fearsome thing, though, is that every unseen acquaintance that one meets on MySpace results in no more than a phantom relationship. Because in the absence of those real connections, those inarguable realities, one can never be sure that all is what it seems. Those unfounded relationships are as weightless as air-able to be moved by the slightest gust of whim.

I am ever more convinced that MySpace relationships have all the substance of a balloon: seemingly full, but really consisting of nothing that can't be redirected with the most minimal effort, or that won't escape given the slightest bit of real pressure.

Those aren't the relationships that I'm looking for. I prefer the weightier, well-founded relationships, based on truth and reality; relationships that are immovable and impregnable to outside forces.

This, my friends, is why I grieve over MySpace

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Here's wishing each of you a wonderful Christmas. I hope that yours is filled with joy and laughter, no matter where you are or whom you're with.

Thank you for YOUR gift to ME this holiday-that is, thank you for your consistent readership! It means the world!

I love you all!

Christmas With The Rights

We left early (at 6 AM) for the airport. Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11:10AM, and it’s only a ninety minute drive into Boston from our house, but-what with it being Christmas eve, and with the inevitable Massachusetts holiday weather, and with the general holiday shuffle, we wanted to play it safe. After all, we’ve not seen Gramma and Gramps since they left Boston two years ago.

I should have known right away that the day wasn’t going to go as planned. As soon as the garage door went up, I knew that our ninety minute drive was going to take twice as long. The snow was coming down in white flurries of thick cotton, piling up on the grass, in the driveway, on the street. Dad hollered at me as soon as he saw the snow (he gets a little too stressed out sometimes): “Eric! Where’s the snow shovel!”

I scrambled out of the car, and ran out back; the shovel was in the backyard-right where I’d left it. I dug around in the slush on the ground and found it (right against the fence). “It’s right here Dad,” I yelled, as I slipped my way back to the garage.

I helped him shovel a path to the street, and we finally got the car out onto the street. Just as he put it into drive, Andrew (my little brother; he’s six) hollered: “Wait!”

Dad slammed on the brakes; my iPod fell to the floor, and Mom screamed (she’s a little paranoid about Dad’s driving).

“What?” dad yelled. “Why’d you yell like that? We’re all right here!”

“I left Grammas angel in the house!” Andrew said. “I told her I had a special gift for her! Can I please go back and get it?” Andrew loves Gramma. She collects angels, and so for Christmas this year, Andrew made her an angel. He found a decorating magazine that someone had left outside of the grocery store. He shuffled through it, and found cutout pattern of an angel. He spent hours tracing the thing on a piece of paper. Then he colored it and cut it out. He finished it a week ago, and keeps it in a shoebox up on the top shelf of the closet.

Dad grudgingly let him go. “I’ll be right back,” Andy said as he jumped out of the car; and slipped in the slush in the gutter, and fell down-right there in the street, making a mess of his clothes.

Needless to say, we were a half-hour later leaving than we’d planned. Andy, or course, had to change his clothes, but all of his good underwear were packed, so Dad had to unload his suitcase. He finally got dressed, then set out to find the special angel. It was nowhere to be found, and Andy was in tears; Dad was yelling about it probably being right where Andy had left it-which was obvious, and probably didn’t need to be pointed out at the moment. Mom, in her motherly way, finally shooed Dad back out to the car (“go warm the car up honey; we’ll be out in a minute”), then shushed Andy, and dug through his bag. It was right there between the pile of Archie comics and the Darth Vader light saber; Andy had forgotten that he’d packed it. We finally loaded up-late-but the way I figured it, we’d be right on time for the flight.

Of course, I’d forgotten we were driving into Boston. It was slow going all the way in, but traffic moved at a steady clip for most of the way; I-85 was surprisingly uncluttered for the day before Christmas (probably because of the horrible weather; who in their right mind would stray out into a snowstorm unless they had to?).

But just as we got into Boston, traffic came to a screeching halt. Dad’s spirits plummeted immediately. He started grumbling about stupid people, and traffic, and dumb women rubber-neckers. “It’s Christmastime for God’s sake,” he grumbled. “We’re supposed to be spending quality time with family; instead were stuck out here on the freeway, right smack-dab in the middle of a traffic jam…” He trailed off; I think he realized that he WAS with family, and that the only reason it wasn’t quality time was because he wasn’t allowing it to be.

It turns out that the traffic was stalled for six miles. Earlier in the morning, a delivery van had overturned on the slippery freeway. It turns out, the van had been carrying a load of animals for delivery to a medical research lab up in northern Mass. About 200 animals had escaped in the accident (mice, rabbits and 4 monkeys). The folks from PETA found out about it, and scrambled up as many whacked out animal lovers as the could, and they went down and had a “die-out” in the middle of the Mass Pike. These nut-jobs laid down, right there in the middle of the freeway, all up and down the pike, and acted dead, to protest the use of animals in medical testing. Of course, they gave no thought whatsoever to the 200 animals that were left to freeze to death out in the blizzard. The TV crews loved it. I think every media outlet within fifty miles must have scrambled up a crew to head out to the Mass Pike to report on the “left-wing nut jobs” as my Dad likes to say.

At any rate, we sat there in the snowstorm, stopped on the freeway, listening to the radio announcer interview “dead” PETA supporters lying in the snowy freeway. Some guy in a big rig next to us saw my dad gesticulating, and left his truck to come over to our van. His heater wasn’t working; he wanted to know if he could sit in our van with us, where it was warm, and listen to the news. We said sure.

Finally-after almost two hours of no movement, the highway patrol showed up, and started arresting the protesters. They hollered and screamed (the radio reported it all); one of them, reportedly, even took his clothes all off, screaming about “poor helpless rats…freezing to death”. The highway patrol arrested him naked-left his clothes right there on the interstate!

Suddenly, though, traffic was moving! The driver of the big-rig scrambled out of our van, and jumped back into his truck. Dad took off, left the big rig in the dust. He left the interstate at the next off-ramp; a mistake. At the bottom of the ramp was a detour sign, with an arrow pointing right (away from the airport, and our flight, which was scheduled to leave in a mere 67 minutes now). Dad started flipping out again, yelling about stupid roadwork, and the department of transportation. Mom pulled out a map, consulted it for a few minutes, and said, “Clyde,” (that’s Dad’s name) “go left here, make a left two blocks up, then take the curve to the right and it’ll put you on RT 40.”

Dad grudgingly followed her directions. He’s learned that, as difficult as it is to listen, she’s usually right when it comes to directions.

Forty minutes later we saw the airport off ramp; planes were taking off and landing, one after another, off to the right of the highway. Andrew watched, fascinated; he’s never been on an airplane, and he’s been talking about the trip for months.

We screeched to a stop right in front of the domestic departures entrance. A guy in a security guard uniform came running up (I think he thought that Mom might pose a serious risk to our national security), but as soon as he saw Dad’s face, he froze. We started to scramble out of the van; Dad threw open the drivers door-and a Holiday Inn shuttle van drove right into it! We stood stunned as the door went scraping down the street.

Dad stood and stared at our van-absent a drivers door; mom cried silently. Andrew said, “that was so cool” under his breath; I shushed him. The security guard helped Dad pick up the door. Strangely enough, if you stuck it on just right, it would latch. They put the door on, and, we pulled the luggage frantically out of the rear of the van. We checked the luggage curbside and Dad screeched off in the van (he climbed in through the passenger door) to find a parking spot.

We got all the luggage checked (to the right flight-we double-checked considering our day thus far), and about that time, Dad came huffing in. The clock showed that it was 10:57; our plane left in 13 minutes, and we had to make it down the concourse.

We ran.

I could almost hear the tick-tock, tick-tock of the clock as we raced past the bookstore, past the barbershop, and past the little café (it had a cool name: “Runway 38-Right”). Dad almost screamed when we got stuck behind a group of about 50 old folks. They shuffled along slowly in their green vests and hats decorated lavishly with souvenir pins. One old lady was carrying a binder that said “Laramie Wyoming Chapter AARP-Annual Singles Trip: New England.” An old man in brown wool argyle pants and strange black shoes (the left one had a really thick sole) kept trying to hold her hand. She swatted him with the binder.

We made a left turn around a corner-and came screeching to a stop. The line at the x-ray machine snaked left-and-right, left-and-right, and left again, for almost as far as the eye could see. Dad slumped against the wall, gasping for breath. “It’s hopeless,” he panted.

The PA system came on: “Last call for passengers Clyde, Gayle, Eric and Andrew Peterson for United flight 308, with service to Phoenix Arizona. Please come IMMEDIATELY to gate 87A; your flight is preparing to leave.”
Andrew yelped when he heard his name. “That’s us Mom!” he exclaimed. “They’re gonna leave without us!”
I looked over at him; a tear dripped from the corner of his right eye.

“It’s OK Andy,” I said. “They‘ll wait for us; they have to.”

Mom found some agent who let us cut to the front of the line. Then a guy in a red hat pulled up in a little cart. “Right this way, folks,” he said. “I’ll get you there!”

He didn’t.

We raced down the long stretch of gates, swerving to the right to miss clusters of people. And as he swung a hard right into waiting area for gate 87A, we watched the huge jet taxi away from the gate.

My dad jumped off of the cart. “Ma’am!” he called to the gate attendant. “That’s our flight! Can we PLEASE get on?”

“I’m sorry sir,” the lady said. “The flight has already left. Once it’s gone, there’s no way we can call it back.”
Dad said some unkind things under his breath. The gate agent ushered us back to her desk, and booked us on another flight for 4 that afternoon.

“Now, we’ve got you all booked. Why don’t you just have a seat right here,” she said, “and rest while you’re waiting.”

We slumped down in the waiting area-five hours into the worst Christmas Vacation ever. Dad grumbled under his breath; Mom held her head in her hands; Andrew wept silently; I looked across at the couple sitting across from us.
“What’s your name, Son?” the old man asked kindly. He was missing a finger on his left hand.

“Eric Peterson,” I said. “We’re trying to get to our Gramma and Grandpa’s house in Duluth Minnesota, but our flight just left without us.”

The old man chuckled. “Join the club,” he said. “Ours left without us too! We overslept this morning, and were late for the flight. We’re going to see out grandkids for the first time ever! My name is Albert Right. This is my wife Edith. Good to meet you son.”

Mom introduced herself and Andy. Dad even calmed down enough to reach over and shake their hands.

Mr. and Mrs. Right began to tell us about their grandkids (1 and 2 years old; one boy, one girl). They we’re really nice people, and Andy and I almost forgot about our terrible morning.

Until the lights went out.

They flickered twice, then suddenly we were left completely in the dark. Andy (he’s a little afraid of the dark) scrambled out of his seat and fell. We couldn’t see him, but we heard the thud, then heard him crying. The emergency lights flickered on-and we saw Mrs. Right holding Andrew, patting his back as he sniffled and snorted.
We sat for a moment in the dim waiting area, not sure what to do. A few moments later, we heard a mechanical voice off to the left: “The snowstorm has turned into a blizzard, and has knocked out power to the greater Boston area. Our emergency backup generators will be up shortly, but we regret to inform you that all traffic-by road or by air-has been restricted until 6 AM tomorrow morning. We will go from gate to gate handing out blankets and pillows, and the restaurants will be open all night so that food is available, but we’re going to be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together.”

For the first time in my life, I saw my Dad cry. Mom slumped down in her seat. We were supposed to be in Duluth Minnesota, with Gramma and Grandpa in just a few hours. Instead, we were stuck here in the Boston airport-on Christmas eve, with an old guy with only four fingers on his left hand, and his wife.

Mr. and Mrs. Right laughed. “This is going to be so much fun!” Mrs. Right said. Andrew looked up at her, unsure. Mom stared at her as though she’d been left here by an alien spaceship that had left a little too quickly.

“C’mon boys!” Mr. Right said. “You ladies, go over to that little café down on the left, and get some hot chocolate and whatever food you can; we’re gonna have ourselves a Christmas dinner right here!” he said. “Edith, let me have those gloves.”

We guys headed off-to search for decorations. It took us an hour or so, but we finally found what we were looking for. Dad found an abandoned ladies left boot in the men’s restroom (I’m not sure what a lady was changing her shoes for in the men’s restroom). Andrew and Mr. Right dug up an Austrailian Tea Tree from a planter down the concourse. I scavenged some frosted mini wheats from some lady. And we borrowed a few ornaments from a garland in front of the barbershop.

We carried our booty down to where Mom and Mrs. Right were sitting. They’d found Christmas dinner: two Styrofoam containers of chicken nachos, a tuna salad sandwich (on toasted wheat bread), and some sliced turkey and cranberry sauce that they’d had left over at the restaurant from their Christmas party earlier that day.
“Before we eat dinner, let’s decorate the tree,” Mrs. Right said.

Dad and Mr. Right were laughing about some hunting story that Mr. Right was telling him. Andrew was helping Mrs. Right and Mom set out the food. I borrowed Mr. Right’s gloves (with one finger missing), and planted the prickly tea tree in the boot that Dad found. Mrs. Right and Andrew strung the mini wheats on a piece of string that Mom had in her purse, and wrapped it around the tree. Dad hung the two ornaments that we’d found on it.

“Looks kinda bare, don’t it?” Dad asked.

“Ah. Hang those gloves on it too,” Mr. Right said. I did.

We sat back, strangely content, and looked at our Christmas tree, and the makings of our Christmas dinner. Mr. Right chuckled quietly; Dad joined in.

“It’s missing something,” Andrew said quietly. He rummaged around in his carry-on bag, and pulled out Gramma’s angel. He reached over and pinned it to the top of our Christmas tree-the best Christmas tree we’ve ever had.
And right then I knew that THIS is what Christmas is all about. Not the mad scramble to buy all the right gifts for everyone on your list. Not the rush of travel to try to see all the people you feel obligated to visit. Not the stress of cooking and decorating, double checking your list to make sure nobody was left out, buying and wrapping, and griping and yelling when all doesn’t go exactly as planned.

No. It’s about making the best of what you’ve got; spending time with your friends and family-with those you love-no matter the circumstances.

And that’s the story of my best Christmas ever-Christmas with The Rights.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Party On!

Shaniqa and I threw a Christmas party tonight (perhaps a "first annual" thing). I'll not write too much about it, as I forced everyone at the party to listen to one of my stories; I figure I'll spare them the dialogue here.

Maybe, though, we can convince Shegazelle to post a party recap here! I know that I'd love it! And I'll bet you all would as well!

A highlight of the evening was a gift exchange. Participants were charged with making the most creative gift that they could, without actually buying anything. My favorite was a PowerPoint presentation that Shegazelle created. If you ask me, you can't get any more creative than that.

I've posted a link to a download of the presentation here. Enjoy! I'll actually treasure it forever (although, it's not exactly complimentary).

The winner, though, was a pair of "Cleaning Shoes" that Adam created (Phillip was the lucky guy who got to take the shoes home).

And my own personal favorite part of the party was a gift that Mother gave me. Deanna gave her the idea, she says. But she went and made me a pair of adult-sized, flyless, elastic-waisted, camouflage pants. I honestly almost cried!

I've posted a slideshow of pics from the party here. Enjoy!

And all you readers who came, tell me what you thought! I certainly hope you all enjoyed it; we sure did!

Thank you all for coming! And thank you, Mother and Dad, for allowing us the use of your home! We love you all very much!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Justice for All

I asked a few days ago for your thoughts on the Michael Vick verdict. For those who've forgotten, he received 23 months in a federal penitentiary for his role in a dog-fighting ring in Virginia. I posted about it a few months ago (when he first plead guilty); I didn't really weigh in on the issue as much as I contrasted the public outcry associated with Vick with the lack of interest in another football player who, a few years ago, while driving under the influence of alcohol, struck and killed another motorist.

My point was that we're desensitized to drunk-drivers killing other motorists. So when we hear about it, it doesn't really affect us. Perhaps we tsk-tsk a little, and make the comments we're expected to make, but we really don't pay much attention-and we certainly don't cry out for the perpetrator to be sent off to prison for the rest of his life; we don't scream for the "death penalty"; we don't hope that wild animals will feast on his carcass for all of eternity (all things that I've heard associated with Michael Vick).

But then we've already hashed that out, haven't we? If you want to read more, hop over to the archives and read the post; some fascinating comments there.

The question of the day is this: is 23 months sufficient? Is it too long?

I was surfing around on the net and came across a story at ESPN online from a few days ago. The writer made a statement that was really telling, I think. He said this:

In the months since Michael Vick pleaded guilty for his
role in a federal dogfighting case, Vick should have been trying to impress
federal officials with his honesty and contrition. It would have reduced his
time in prison considerably.

Instead, Vick flunked a drug test, lied about his drug
use and failed a lie-detector test on his role in the executions of fighting
dogs that failed to perform.

In his sentencing hearing Monday in Richmond, Va.,
Vick paid the price.

It seems as though Mr. Munson, over at, doesn't really care all that much whether or not the punishment is appropriate for the crime; he's bothered by the fact that Vick neglected to "butter up" the judge into levying a lighter sentence!

It amazes me! The chatter isn't "he got what he deserved" or "that's not nearly long enough"; it's "if he'd acted a little nicer, been a little more respectful, been a little more endearing to the judge, he'd have got a little easier deal".

Our society has become so politicized. It's disgusting.

But then that's not my point either.

A handful of you provided your thoughts on the verdict; your comments were insightful and enlightened, but they did span the spectrum. It doesn't seem that there's any consensus among folks who care; just as many feel the sentence is adequate, as feel it should have been longer, as feel it's much too long. It's bizarre. I have to think that, had the case been tried before a jury, it would have ended up, after long and arduous debate, in a hung jury.

But, what do I think?

I like animals-am disgusted by violence toward them. I think that those who purposely perpetuate violence against animals-particularly for their personal enjoyment-deserve to be dealt with harshly.

But I also try to put things in perspective (a virtue that seems to be lacking anymore). For example, if a few dogs are worth 23 months, how much more is a human life worth? Infinitely more, I would imagine; but then, how many stories have you heard of folks who've killed--either purposely or accidentally but negligently--who haven't received more than token punishment-a slap on the hand?

So here's what I think: I, frankly, was surprised when I heard that the sentence was 23 months. I'd had an internal, silent wager going on in my head, and the consensus among the many voices up there was that he'd end up with 6 months in a light-security pen somewhere, with time off for good behavior; some probation; a hefty requirement for community service (perhaps filming free commercials for the ASPCA); and a fine of $1 million or so.

Not that I think 23 months is too long; in fact, when I think about it, it seems right. But it doesn't seem to be in perspective. It seems stiff compared to so many of the sentences that we hear about anymore.

If nothing else, perhaps we, as thoughtful members of society, can take this as a lesson: remember that it's easy to grow apathetic when we hear horror stories in the news each and every day. And when those horror stories become commonplace, we cease taking notice, and sooner or later, the punishment doesn't matter anymore. And then we hear of some new crime against humanity, and the outcry is huge. And because of that outcry, the punishment is swift, and severe (and, perhaps, appropriate).

And so this is the lesson: don't ever grow apathetic; don't allow yourself to become desensitized. If a few dogs equate to 23 months, then each and every time you hear of a human life taken, or a child molested or abused, or a spouse beaten or terrorized, cry out. Make your voice heard then. If we are going to demand justice for an animal, let's demand it, too, for each and every human that deserves it.

Morning After

Recuperation makes me restless.

Despite the mind-numbing, sleep-inducing Vicodin, I slept only about four hours last night (that's my typical night, so not to worry); I alternated between reading, surfing the web, writing and eating.

I was up and down all night; feeling abandoned and lonely in this recliner in the front room by myself. Bored out of my mind.

But enough of that; you don't really care to hear about my "recovery"; what you do want is gruesome pictures.

And the truth is, it's pretty ugly looking. It swelled up quite a bit over night, and it bled a bit.

And, unfortuately for Katie, it's a far cry from "surprised" looking; although "beat-on-by-Mike-Tyson" should prove just as pleasing to her.

So, enjoy!

Christmas a la Woodlief

Tony Woodlief has an editorial today in the Wall Street Journal about reclaiming Christmas.

It's a fine read, and I urge you all to take five minutes out of the busy holiday rush today to read it-to remind yourself what Christmas is really all about.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Uplifted I

It's done.

Kind of uneventful, actually. As it turned out, I spent about 4 hours lying in the pre-op room, waiting for the surgical team. They were running behind; their day started early with a surgery just like mine, but on a young girl who'd had Ptosis (that's the fancy medical term for "droopy eyelid") since birth. Her surgery went long--not sure why--and it pushed the surgeon's entire day out.

So I arrived at about 10:45, and sat there in this goofy hat, with strange red dots on my face, until about 2:20, when the anesthesiologist finally came in and mixed me up a double dose of his super potent concoction, and sent me off into oblivion.

I came to (well, kinda came to) in the surgical suite. They brought me up-still drugged out, but just not as deep, so that they could have me open and close my eyes; blink and roll my eyes in various directions. That was the strangest feeling-to be awake, knowing that they've got your eye cut wide open, feeling them tug and prod, singe and suture, but not really caring. The truth is they could have amputated my arm, and I think that, in that drugged out state, I would have watched, detached but interested, as they hacked away.

At any rate, the surgery was relatively uneventful; all went well according to the surgeon (although they couldn't isolate the problem that causes this case to be unique, which is cause for some concern). The doctor says that he thinks he has it, but if not, we'll have to go back in within 2 weeks to try to fix it.

Now I look like I've been in a bar fight (sorry; no surprised look yet Katie). The eye is black and blue and swollen beyond belief.

It doesn't hurt terribly, but it DOES hurt. And it's VERY irritating (The swelling and itching; they had to shave my entire chest-HA, no; I'm joking!). But all in all, it's not too bad, except for that I'm tired and I can't see well.

So I'll postpone my baseball post until tomorrow or Saturday. Until then, please don't leave!
Stick around; laugh at the pics of me!

Today's The Day

I planned on posting last night, but I fell asleep abnormally early. So my brilliant-and insightful-post about steroids in professional baseball will have to wait until tonight (assuming my pain-medication addled mind can put together cohesive thoughts).

Yeah; I'm having eye surgery today. The web says the recovery is not NEARLY as painful as it looks, but they've given me a prescription for two-weeks worth of Vicodin.

So, depending, tonight's post will either be thoughtful post of the typical MyndFood variety, OR it'll be the drug-induced, psychedelic ramblings of a Vicodin saturated mind.

Either way, it's sure to be fun!

So, come back this evening. And I apologize for the lack of meat over the past few days!

I'll not let it happen again (well, it won't happen again soon, OK?).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Another Great Search

I was browsing through my site traffic reports this morning, and came across a search string that someone had entered at Google that directed them to MyndFood.

I couldn't resist telling you about it.

Someone went to Google and typed in:

katie baboon

That just resonated with me, for some reason.

I'm REALLY curious to know who it was! Do they know Katie, I wonder?

Monday, December 17, 2007


Late last night, on the way home from town, I mentioned to Shawna that my stomach was upset.

I've battled, for the past year or so, with a stomach condition that's forced me to drastically modify my eating habits. The condition is more of a nuisance than anything else-definitely not serious, but on occasion, when I eat something I shouldn't, it grumbles and complains a bit. And sometimes, when it's really angry, it "irregulates" my bowels (I can't believe I'm telling you this).

Lex, of course, being the observant, insightful, six-going-on-sixteen year old that she is, perked up. Ever eager to be of assistance she said, "Dad, you know what you need?"


"You need some of those poop raisins."

"Poop raisins?" I asked. "Do you mean PRUNES?"

"Yeah! They'd help your stomach, wouldn't they?"

It's hard, I've found, to be an effective parent to someone who prescribes you poop raisins from the back seat.

Me: "Lex, did you clean your room like your mother asked you to?"

Alexis (with a thinly veiled smirk): "Dad: never mind that. Have YOU had your poop raisins today?"

It keeps me humble.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Droopy I

This Thursday, I'll become some doctor's art project. I don't think I've ever had surgery before (Mother, is that correct?), but I'm not concerned.

Don't fret folks; it's nothing major. My left eyelid droops. Badly (as you can see in my horrid mug shot). It's to the point now where, quite often, it hinders my vision.

I visited an Ophthalmologist, and after a bit of frustrating doctor shuffling (in keeping with the long-running Baglin tradition of odd and exotic maladies, my eye couldn't have a droop of the typical variety; it droops in a manner never before seen by any of the doctors who pulled and prodded at my poor, sagging eyelid), they've determined that they're going to have to hack the droop out.

So Thursday's the day. I need to find an eye patch now. I don't have to wear one (sunglasses are sufficient, they say), but there's something strangely cool about wearing an eye patch. I've never really been considered an edgy guy; in fact, by and large, I'm a lotion-using, sweater-wearing, violence-hating, alcohol-avoiding, shopping-loving, oft-bathed sissy. And most of my acquaintances know it. So I'm thinking an eye patch will do something for my image (particularly amongst my more "manly" friends).

I wonder, though, if the eye patch will be more effective at "manning" up my appearance, or the nasty black-and-blue eye, with a string of nasty-looking stitches running across to top of my eye?

At any rate, as I said, I'm not particularly concerned. But I WAS surprised. The actual numbers are irrelevant, but I was compelled to ask how much the surgery was going to cost (insurance will pay for the bulk of it, but I still have to pay a small percentage). Suffice it to say that it was quite a bit more than I'd expected (for an outpatient surgery done in a surgery center). And frankly, my portion of the surgery was going to cost more money than I was going to be able to scrape up in the foreseeable future.

I learned, when we were in business for ourselves, and only had a high deductible, major medical insurance policy (and thus paid for most of our medical expenses out of pocket), that if you offer to pay many medical service providers at the time of service, they'll give you a significant discount--even over the insurance price.
So I asked what the cash price would be.
The surgeon's scheduler did some rough calculating on the back of a scrap of paper, and finally quoted me a number that was approximately 20% of the original price. I thought I'd heard her incorrectly, so I asked her to repeat herself. She laughed and said it again. The cash price was an 80% discount (how's that for gazelle thinking, shegazelle?)!

I sat for a moment with a stunned look on my face. She stared back at me with a concerned look on her face. I think she took my silence for disapproval, because she looked down and scribbled some more on her paper.

"What kind of man are you?" she finally asked me.

"What?" I responded. "What do you mean, 'what kind of man'?".

"Well, do you handle pain well?"

"Oh," I said. "Yeah, pretty well. I mean, I'm not one of these guys who won't take pain medication because they need to prove their manhood, but neither do I cry at the mere thought of a splinter either. Why do you ask?"
"Well, if that's still not quite reasonable enough for you," she said, "we can do away with the anesthesiologist, not put you to sleep, and just give you local anesthesia. Do you think you could handle that?"

"Um...I don't know," I said. "Do many people do that?"

"Oh, no," she said. "Nobody does; but it can be done, and it would save you another $1,200."

"Well, would the surgery be painful if I did that?" I asked.

"Oh yes. It's a pretty painful, and very uncomfortable, surgery. I wouldn't recommend anyone not going under for the surgery, but you looked like you wanted to save some more money, and that's the only option."

I laughed.

"Thank you for offering," I said. "But that doesn't really sound like an option. As much as I'd love to save the additional $1,200 (our portion of that would get me a great start on a new MacBook Pro), I'm not THAT kind of man."

She laughed. "I didn't think so," she said.

What did she mean by THAT?

So, I go under the knife this week, having saved myself enough money (on my portion alone) to buy myself a MacBook pro almost twice over. That's amazing, and shegazelle: I certainly hope that you're proud of me!

Do pray for me though, if you will. It seems that my particular brand of droopy eye is just strange enough that they're not completely certain that the surgery is going to do the trick. Apparently, since my droop has good days and bad days (some days it's worse than others), there's some measure of risk associated with the surgery. It seems that there's a possibility that, post-surgery, on days that the pre-surgery droop would have been BAD (like the picture), my eye will look normal; conversely, on days when the droop, pre-surgery, would not have been noticeable, I might not be able to close my eye all the way, and I'll walk around looking perpetually surprised (well, 1/2 surprised, as it'll only be my left eye that I can't close).

One way or the other, should you see some guy around in the next few weeks, strutting about with an eye patch over his left eye, be kind, OK? Let me have my fun!

All I Want For Christmas...

Dear Santa:

It's been awhile; sorry, I'm not much of a letter writer. I know it's kinda short notice, but I wanted to send you a letter, as it's looking like you're gonna be my only hope this year (the rest of the family has been hanging out with shegazelle, and reading Normal is Broke...she's turning them into tightwads; except for Rick--he was already a tightwad).

At any rate, I wanted to send you a list of things I'd like this year (all of them should be doable, I think, since I haven't asked you for anything for a few years). I saw you last week at the mall; I tried to come sit on your lap and tell you all this in person, but one of your elves (the kinda skinny, short guy, with the really bad complexion and nasally sounding voice) said that I was "too big". What a jerk. Maybe you can have a talk with him, let him know that his behavior doesn't really embody the spirit of Christmas.

Anyways, these are listed in no particular order (as I'm sure you'll bring them all).

•A new MacBook Pro: I finally visited the Apple store, and I'm in love. By the way, if you want to save a little money, talk to Andrew; he got one for $700.

•Laser hair removal: the face should be enough. I HATE shaving, and Shawna says that facial hair makes her want to pour Simple Green on my face, and dip my head in a mop bucket. I priced it out; $3,000.

•A new queen sized matress: I only get charged for 1/2 of this one because it's for Shawna too. Her back's been killing her every morning (shegazelle isn't the only one with a crummy matress). We have a Eastern King bed now, but we don't want to replace it with the same size. First, do you know how difficult it is to find an Eastern King sized comforter in California (I actually fixed that; I cut 8 inches off of the side of the matress. Come to think of it, maybe that's why Shawna's back hurts; I cut it off of her side)? Second, if we replace it with a queen sized bed, I'll get a nightstand! I don't have one now because it won't fit in the room with the massive bed.

•Personalized plates: I'd LOVE to have "MYNDFUD"! I'm not sure whether it's available or not, but I'm sure you know someone at the DMV.

•A book: not just ANY book; a signed Stephen King book. It's the one author I love who's missing from my signed book collection. A first edition, first printing of "The Stand" would be fantastic, but any will do.

•Yamaha Motif: I'd LOVE a baby grand piano in gloss black finish, but unless your budget this year includes a new, slightly larger house (or a significant remodel to our existing home), I'll have to settle for the keyboard. But oh, what a keyboard! It's a dream! Imagine: playing a keyboard that I DON'T have to beat on to get the sustain pedal to work.

•More books: basically, all of the books listed on my Amazon wishlist (except for the textbook about psychiatric conditions; Shawna added that one--a hint I think--but I don't think I need it; neither do I).

•A flag lapel pin: I've noticed that people who wear American flag pins on their lapels end up on TV quite often. Not that I really care to be on TV; but it would be cool to be that famous. It seems that flag pins are the ticket.

•An iron: ours has some strange scum on it, and it keeps ruining my shirts.

•A new straw cowboy hat: mine is falling apart, and Shaniqa absolutely LOVES the thing. A replacement would REALLY make her day.

•A "Lucky Charms" t-shirt. I've always wanted one--I don't know why.

•A new suit: I'm one suit poorer since a family of moths (I think I know who invited them, but I'm not saying) chewed random polka dots into one of mine. I tried to repair it, but a Sharpie doesn't do a very good job of covering moth holes). So, I'm thinking something in charcoal grey, with a light chalk pinstripe.

That's about all I can think of at the moment. If I come up with anything else, I'll let you know. Otherwise, I'll see you in a week or so.

Thank You,


PS: Gentry said to remind you about the "weal" gun and the skatebowd. And Lex said to mention something about a bedroom set; she said you'd know what she was talking about.

OH: I don't know if you've got "PJ" in your rolodex; it's short for:
Paul Green, Jr.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Reader, Katrina, sent me a note with a link to a news video today that seemed apropo.

It's a pretty insightful video; the guy has a good point--blogging can VERY EASILY become a rant about topics that interest only the writer.

Can't embed the video, but heres a link to the thing. Go; check it out; comeback and tel me you think!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Laughing Out Loud

I'm tempted, for the first time (I think) in my blogging career, to use LOL in a post. In fact, I'm going to.


I stopped in to check on the blog a few minutes ago (blogs require a great deal of personal attention and care, you know), and read through my post from last night. It was actually a very good post (I'm certain you'll agree). But I got to the end, and literally started laughing out loud; I was almost ROFL (that's Rolling On the Floor Laughing for all you old folks who still speak king's English; get with the program!). Because, the last lines of the post were:

"...simply take three handy-dandy MyndFood cards, and give them to
three different people whom you believe will appreciate the blog. Convince them
to come, and to use sellulite. OH!

THAT would make me happy."

WHAT?!?! What does "...convince them to come, and to use sellulite. OH!" mean? I've wracked my brain, and I have to say that the sleep-deprived mind comes up with some strange stuff!

No excuses! Honestly! If I were inclined to provide an excuse, I'd simply go in and change the post, and you'd be none-the-wiser. But I found that the final lines of the post added a certain degree of mystery--something that has been missing from many of my posts.

And frankly, for some reason, it's the funniest thing I've read in weeks! Every time I read it, I start cracking up!

So I'm going to leave it!

But I WILL say that I've only slept about 3.5 hours per night the last few nights (various obligations, as well as some hefty work commitments), and so I reckon my mind, by 11 or so last night, was in a Diet-Pepsi fueled fever state, and a few neurotransmitters mis-fired.

And created the most humorous line ever to show up on a blog (well, at least on this blog)!

Now: what in the world is "sellulite"?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

By The Numbers

I was talking with a colleague the other day about my career. He knows that, among other things, I have aspirations of writing professionally someday, and he made mention of my writing.

I thought that he was talking about documents that I've written and circulated in the business arena. He clarified though. "Your blog is really good," he said.

I was surprised. "You read it?" I asked.

"Sometimes. It's very good. You really are a good writer," he said. "I really liked the post about the sheriff calling about your car!"

And that, folks, is why I do this. NOT because I'm looking for words of affirmation from you, my readers (although I certainly enjoy them). It's because this is my training ground; this is where I cut my teeth, and where we, together, determine whether or not I've got the stuff that is required to be a commercially viable writer.

If you've read MyndFood for any length of time, you know that my highest personal aspiration is to publish someday--a full-length novel, preferably. But I also recognize two things: first, that to write a novel requires a continuous, diligent effort-a rigorous work ethic; second, that a good novel has to have readership in order to truly be successful.

So, for practice, I do this. I come here regularly, and try to formulate logical sentences, and entertaining and thoughful prose and essays. So that I'm accustomed to the creative grind. But I also pay attention to the score; that is, I watch my readership trend. How many different visitors do I have daily-that's REALLY the indicator of success.

Think about it: at the risk of sounding like one of those MySpace users that I spoke of previously, the greater the number of consistent visitors, the better a job i'm doing. Because it means that you, dear readers, are telling other folks about MyndFood, and they become consitent readers, and the mini-cycle continues itself.

And so, the visitor trend is important to me, because it tells me whether or not I'm getting closer to publishing a good story.

I'm currently working on my Christmas List (to post here), but I'd like to request the following right now: if you aren't sure what you're gonna do for me for Christmas, simply take three handy-dandy MyndFood cards, and give them to three different people whom you believe will appreciate the blog. Convince them to come, and to use sellulite. OH!

THAT would make me happy.

Tick Warning

I hate it when people forward bogus warnings. I've even done it myself a couple times unintentionally...but this one is real, and it's important. So please send a link to this warning to everyone on your e-mail ldistribution ist.

If someone comes to your front door saying they are checking for ticks due to the warm weather and asks you to take your clothes off and dance around with your arms up, DO NOT DO IT!! THIS IS A SCAM!! They only want to see you naked.

I wish I'd gotten this yesterday. I feel so stupid.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I heard on the news today that Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for the part that he played in the dog-fighting fiasco that I wrote about some time back.

I'm curious: I have my opinions about how suitable this is as "punishment", but I want to know what you think. Comment, if you will; let me know, your thoughts.

Paul Green, Jr.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Jenna Calls Home

Reader Katrina told me about this video (I think she's and avid Ellen watcher). I watched it and had to post it here.

I thought it was endearing.

Forgive Me, For I Have Sinned

Most mornings, on my way to work, I stop at the same gas station to buy an orange juice (I'm trying to cut back on the Diet Pepsi; the dental hygienist told me that "it's gonna rot your teeth out"). And each morning I have to wait in line behind two or three teenagers, all buying the same thing: chewing gum.

It's some new gum--a product called "5". And, apparently, it's the new craze. If you've read MyndFood for any length of time, you know that I feel that, aside from MySpace, chewing gum is the most dangerous thing we face as a society.

And each morning, as I stand there in line, I grieve silently over the inevitable societal decline that'll come along with this new gum chewing craze. I see clean-cut, well-mannered teenagers unwittingly purchasing the very product that'll be responsible for (if MySpace doesn't do it first) a drop in grades, ditching school, tagging and gang affiliation (on another, related note: I found out today that Lex has been chewing gum; explains a lot...).

And, as I stand there watching, I wonder: what is it about this stuff? Why are these kids so attached?

So, I bought a pack.

That's right folks; for the first time in years, I bought a pack of chewing gum. Just to experience whatever it is that's pulling at the kids.

It's not that great. In fact, the gum is gross. It's so strong that you have to gargle with saltwater after chewing just to rid your mouth of the aftertaste. And I only chewed a single piece-just to see what it was like. But now I feel terrible; I feel like I've betrayed you, my loyal readers. And society as a whole.

So, I'm sorry; please forgive me. Only a single piece from the pack was chewed, and I considered giving the rest of the pack away, but on second thought, in the interest of doing my small part to save our society, I built a bonfire in my driveway, and burned the rest of the pack.

A Retraction--Or Not

I hereby rescind my comments on my prior post. Or maybe I don't.

Alexis has, in fact, been ditching class. But I've subsequently been duly informed that I'm not taking it seriously enough. Apparently, common consensus is that I should punish her and leave it at that. The fact that I am concerned with the REASON why she has been ditching, and that I'm hesitant to simply punish her for it is indicative of my obvious inability to effectively parent.

The truth of the matter is, folks, Alexis has never had problems like this before. She went to Kindergarten and Preschool at a private school, and she did well; she was never in trouble, didn't ditch, had a good attitude, and really enjoyed school.

Now, she's gone to a public school for first grade; and school bores her. So she ditches.

I don't argue with the fact that she SHOULD NOT DITCH CLASS. But I DO question the idea that, instead of attempting to understand, I should merely punish her.

Alexis is headstrong, impetuous, and can be downright bratty. But she's also intelligent, and curious, and enjoys learning and being with people. So I'm hesitant to simply accept that this is and indication of her inevitable degeneration into juvenile delinquency.

And so I ask you this: is it possible that she really IS bored? Is it possible that the new school isn't challenging enough? And so she's not quite as connected, and her mind wanders?

It's a question, and if, in asking it, I'm crucified because I'm not authoritarian enough (that is, if in asking, I have the "wrong attitude" as I've been told I do), then so be it. But I, for one, am more interested in understanding the why of the situation (and attempting to rectify it, assuming it's something more than Alexis simply being cut out of some substandard moral cloth), than I am in driving her into submission through punishment.

So, I guess I don't rescind my comments. I simply ask you to accept that, sometimes individuals can degenerate into behaviors that are inappropriate out of pure innocence. And, as a parent, you can take one of two tacts: punish them into submission, or try to understand why the individual is behaving in that manner; and, if possible, correct the circumstance.


Lex has been ditching school. It's not abnormal; it's a chronic problem, I hear, amongst teenagers.

Lex is 6. She's in first grade.

When Shawna picked her up from school today, Alexis' teacher asked to speak with Shawna for a moment. She told her that lately, Lex and one of her friends have been asking to use the restroom within a few minutes of each other. The second girl will ask to go two or three minutes after the first leaves. Of course, they're given permission.

And they're gone for twenty or thirty minutes. Sometimes the teacher sends another student out to search for them. They're nowhere to be found, but they're watching because they show up just moments after the searcher leaves the class.

And she disappears sometimes between classes. Some of the students in the class go to another room for a portion of their day (they work in an advanced group-reading or math, I think). And often, she and her friend just don't arrive at the destination classroom. And 20 minutes later, when they finally do show, they tell the teacher that they had to go to the restroom.

The teacher was very concerned, Shawna said. She acted as though this is the first step out on that slippery slope to juvenile delinquency, and that in mere months, Lex will probably be in a juvenile detention facility somewhere.

I understand that ditching class isn't right. And she needs not to. But I'm not sure that it's quite as bad as the teacher makes it out to be. Shawna asked Lex why she does it, and she said because school is boring. She does OK, though, so I don't think it's keeping her from learning.

Frankly, I'm not sure what to do. There's a part of me that wants to punish her for goofing around outside while she's supposed to be in class. But then there's a part of me that's concerned that the class simply isn't keeping her connected. And I could punish her, and force her to stay in class, but then I'd be using school as a method of punishment. And that simply can't be productive.

And I don't want to tell her that I ditched my way through college. There were some courses that I only went to the first session of in order to find out what days I'd need to show up for the exams. And I did OK.

Most of all, though, I don't want to crush her spirit. I don't mean that in a "let them be free-spirits" way. But, she's a strong-willed individual, and a natural leader, and I want to cultivate that in a constructive manner. But our educational system isn't set up to cultivate leaders; it's set up to train followers. So I don't want to wring that out of her by punishing her excessively for something like this. But she also needs to understand it's not right to leave class-even if it is boring.

Parenting isn't easy, is it?

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Real Santa Claus

I'd assumed Lex and Gentry knew there was no Santa.

Not so, apparently.

Gentry asked me today: "Does the weal Santa Claus live in the mall in Fwesno?".

What's a father to say to that? I considered telling him no, that this guy was just a fill-in. That the "weal" Santa Claus was out of pocket this year (doing a brief stint in a Federal pen after an FBI sting operation revealed he was skimming the kid's gifts, and selling them on eBay). That seemed a little too traumatic.

So I opted to tell him the truth.

"No, Bubs; that's not the real Santa. The REAL Santa is the one you saw at Christmas Tree Lane last night."

What can I say? I'm a chicken. We'll let Shawna clear it up.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Technical Difficulties

For some reason, Blogger has ceased notifying me via email when you, faithful readers post a comment here. And so they, consequently, don't get forwarded to my Blackberry, and they sit there, unacknowledged, out in cyberspace, just waiting to be digested by the hungry masses.

So, don't be frustrated or upset if your comments don't show up right away. I'll beat Blogger's door down looking for answers.

On another, related note: apparently Blogger is discriminating against some of you. I've been told by a few of you (some of you amongst my favorite people), that your comments never come through.

I apologize for this, and will endeavor to convince the unnamed, faceless techies at Blogger that people DO, in fact, post to my blog. They just aren't letting the comments through.

Just keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Strange Friends and Christmas Songs

Andrew, a friend from high school, stopped by MyndFood tonight and left a few comments. He stopped by, in part, to tell me that he's opened up a blog somewhere out in cyberspace.

Andy truly is a strange character; fun, but exceedingly strange. Now that I think about it, everyone that I went to high school with, who is a MyndFood reader, was either strange or madly in love with me (yeah, you know who you are) when I knew them.

Even those readers who were in love with me were weird.

Come to think of it, most of the folks that I know personally who read this blog are weird.

This post probably isn't going to do much for increasing my readership, is it?

...what was I talking about?

Oh-Andrew: he's started a blog (using his new, $700 MacBook). And his first post is pretty good: it's about Christmas (which I enjoy), and music (which I love).

Of course, he's ruined "Christmas Shoes" for me (and for that, I'll never forgive him. Because how much more Christmasy can you get than a rich, aristocratic guy, giving the poor kid in line ahead of him money to buy the only pair of shoes in the store that'll fit his dying mother, for Christmas, so that she has shoes to wear when she passes?).

At any rate, stop over and take a gander. You'll enjoy...

...if you're weird.


Reader, Adam, called me and told me about this story. I didn't believe him, but it's true. It's an horrendous ailment, and too horrible to imagine, but watch the video. I'll warn you, please preview it before you allow your children to watch it; it doesn't have questionable content, but sight of the tumor is haunting (NOTE: There are additional video installments that you can watch, linked from the story).

The thing that's most amazing to me is the fact that the tumor is operable; it can be removed. But, for 37 years, Jose Maestre, 51 (the gentleman with the tumor) has refused the operation. Why? Because he's a Jehovah's Witness; and the operation would require a blood transfusion; and Jehovah's Witness' have a belief that blood transfusions are explicitly forbidden by the Bible.

So he's elected to bear the burden. And, over the 37 years, the tumor has grown-so that it's now 15 inches long, and weighs 12 pounds.

It's incredible, I think, to have a belief (right or wrong; that's not the issue here) that's so deep seated, that you choose to live a life of inconvenience, and discomfort; possibly pain and humiliation; even danger, as the tumor has begun blocking both his sight AND airways, and he can hardly eat.

I wonder: what must it feel like to believe in something so strongly? I've never been put to a test like that-never had to sacrifice so much, and bear such a burden for so long.

And I pray I never have to. But if I do, I wonder, what will I do?

What would YOU do?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

For Love or Money

What is the modern American man looking for in the ideal mate?

Beauty? Humor? Intelligence? Class? Sophistication?


If money's on your list, and you don't happen to be hegazelle (who is married to the soon-to-be-richest woman in the US, if her savings habits are any indication), then I came across some additions to your little black book tonight.

The article, in Forbes, lists the 20 Most Intriguing Heiresses (many of them single and available, guys). Topping the list is Vanisha Mittal, daughter of Lakshmi Mittal, Indian steel magnate, and founder of Mittal Steel. Lakshmi is worth a hefty $51 billion (yeah, with a "B"). Vanisha has become something of a legend because of her wedding. The weeklong bash, paid for by her father, is reported to have cost $60 million, with performances by pop star Kylie Minogue.

Then there's Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg. She's not only heir to a ton of money ($11.5 billion), she's also a world-class equestrian, vying for a spot on the 2008 US Olympic Equestrian team.

Then there's Hind Hariri, the youngest child of Lebanase construction tycoon, Rafik Hariri, who died in a 2005 car bombing, leaving his fortune to be split amongst his children (and making, for a brief time, Hind the youngest member of Forbes' World Billionaires list.

But here's my point: as neat as it must be to be amongst the world's elitest heiresses, it must also be lonely. Because, truthfully, how many real opportunities are there for Hind Hariri (the young, fabulously wealthy girl) to find a real spouse? You know, one who loves her-not for the money, but because of who she is.

I guess to me it's a bit of a double-edged sword, to be a such a wealthy young lady. To have anything you desire at your fingertips, but to never be sure that the one you love loves you back for all the right reasons.

But then, maybe it's a worthwhile trade.

One thing is certain, any of them are a better choice than Paris Hilton (the only heiress that the American Media seems to care about).

And, yes...

...I'm still alive.

MySpace Makes You Dumb

Those of you who've read MyndFood for any period of time know that, while MySpace fascinates me, I'm not a fan by any measure. I pointed out in a previous post that, in my opinion, MySpace is more dangerous than bubble gum, because it's socially degrading; it's a social network of superficial friendships.

But then, you've read that post already (I hope).

I came across an interesting story today though that I think adds another plank to the "MySpace is Dangerous" platform.

According to ABC, a Fresno State professor has found that there is a correlation between the use of MySpace and grades. The study found that 72% of MySpace users experienced drops in their grade point average within the last year.

What does this say about MySpace? It seems to me that, not only is MySpace socially degrading, it's a particularly effective "dumbing" agent.

Think about it: 72% of MySpace users now get lower grades than they did one year ago. That's a huge correlation-impossible to ignore. I won't pretend to understand why. I WILL say, though, that while I'm not a MySpace user, I've had (particularly through my previous post) opportunity to interact with a number of them-both personally, and via comments on MyndFood. And given those interactions, I have to say that I concur.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Fortune

Found this picture out somewhere on the internet. It's a real fortune.

It was definitely meant for me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Apple Store

I hate the Apple store.

They just opened one in our local mall.

That's a lie; we don't have a local mall.

We do have a local stoplight. Sometimes on Friday nights, we go down to the intersection, and watch it change colors.

The mall is in Fresno, about a thirty minute drive from here. They did open an Apple store. I went in the weekend they opened, and I decided I'll never go back. In fact, we were in the mall a few weeks ago with Misti and Adam (friends of ours), and Adam, a proud iPhone owner, asked if I wanted to walk down to the Apple store with him, while the girls went to Forever 21.

I thought for a moment. Forever 21 is, in my estimation, a swap meet specializing in women's clothing. It's a too-large store, overstocked with shirts and skirts and pants and hats-and even underwear, all bargain priced (so they say). They've got rack upon rack pushed together so tightly that you have to walk sideways through the store.

And their dressing rooms are like a drive-through car wash. They've got an attendant that stands there at the entrance to the dressing rooms. She corrals those poor souls who need to try on a shirt or pants into a single file line, pushes them through as quickly as possible. She marches up and down the line of dressing room doors, barking like a drill sergeant: "Room 3: are you finished yet? You've been in there almost two minutes!"

" you have this in a size 6?" a timid voice asks from room 3.

"I'm certain we do, ma'am. But I'm not your gopher. Now hurry-it-up."

OK, that's a little extreme, I'll admit. But I wait outside while Shawna goes to try on a shirt, and I watch that woman herd those poor hopeful customers into and out of the dressing rooms, and I feel pressure. I find myself talking to myself under my breath: "Hurry Shawna, hurry! Oh my goodness! She's going towards Shawna's dressing room! She hasn't been in there THAT long, has she? Oh Lord, I hope they don't yank her out and throw her, half-dressed, out into the store. She'd be so embarrassed. Oh Shawna, please hurry!"

And the customers there! My wife aside, the vast majority of the girls that shop there are teenagers, walking around the store, glassy-eyed, some microwave computer beaming out messages, taking control of their mind, creating absurd purchasing impulses. For example, the last time I was there, I saw an African-American girl walk into the store and stop abruptly, just inside the store. Her face went slack, her eyes glazed over, and she started walking, with this lurching gait, toward the center of the store. She stopped at a display of cheeky slogan t-shirts. She pawed through them for a moment, and finally came up with the one she was looking for. She walked over to the register, and jumped into line. I was curious, so I sidled up behind her, hoping for a glimpse of the shirt. I finally saw what it said as she laid it up on the counter. "Blondes Have More Fun."


So I try not to go there anymore (especially since the last time I was there, their mind control somehow drove me to spend $183 on a royal blue, one-piece shortsuit; a bright red, waist-length pea coat; and an orange t-shirt that says "Department of Connections" on it).

You would have thought I'd jump at the Apple store. But I didn't. I chose, instead, to take Lex and Gentry to the play area. A dangerous proposition, under any circumstances (you have no idea how much pain 15 or 20 children can inflict). But definitely a better choice than Forever 21, and preferable to the Apple store.

Not because I don't like the store; I do. They've got the coolest stuff. I'd LOVE to have an iPhone myself-not that the Blackberry isn't great; it is. And, in a few days, when I publish my Christmas wish-list here, you'll find that a MacBook sits proudly in the number one spot this year.

But the Apple store: It's an intimidating place. The folks who work there are all cut out of the same bolt of cloth. They're very strange, in a cool way. Most have weird looking glasses that I'm certain they got from their aunt (who was the 1963 homecoming queen), but look incredibly stylish on them. They wear Converse, and strange tight black jeans. And they don't comb their hair.

And they scare me to death.

I occasionally sit on the edge of the fountain just outside the Apple store, and try to build up the courage to walk in. And just as I feel I'm ready, I spy the sign: "Genius Bar." What is a flabberwocking Genius Bar?!?! What do you order at a Genius Bar? I haven't the foggiest idea. Genius juice (with the wheat grass additive)?

So, instead, I sit and stare wistfully at the strange teenager, with the uncombed hair, tortoiseshell glasses, beat up Converse, and pocket protector, and watch as he explains in lofty technical terms to a swooning forty-something guy in Dockers and a blue Polo (who already has his credit card out), how the memory compression, combined with the high speed mother-sound card, and increased internal RAM storage capacity, make for a noticeably superior audio-visual experience on the new 17.1" MacBook.

And beg you who are braver than I: please, oh please, visit an Apple store near year this Christmas season, and purchase that coveted MacBook (the one with the impressive mother-sound card, memory compression to die for, and ungodly RAM capacity-all making for a heavenly computing experience).

And send it to me.