Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who Am I?

Happy late Father's Day as well as happy late everything else since I last entered a blog. It's been a while because I don't like forcing things. Well, that and I'm lazy. So I've been waiting for something unusual to happen. It happened on Father's Day.

I called my grandfather to wish him a happy Father's Day. The man's one of the oldest in his nursing home and likes to remind me of how much I don't call, but I love him probably more than anyone else in my family. (I know, my inconsistent phone calls prove it. Well, you should see how rarely I call the rest of my family. Never said I was a saint.) So we get to the small chit chat stuff and I tell him about the guy who owns the place next to me. He was renting it out but has decided to move back. The guy tells me his wife is still teaching in another state and as he starts to tell me the name of small town she teaches in, I finish it for him. So he looks at me all confused as if I were a stalker that had been going through his trash. I quickly explain that my grandfather lives in a small town in that area so I'm familiar with the town names. This puts him slightly at ease. My grandfather then offers his tales of similar stories.

He tells me of a man at the nursing home who wanted my grandfather to tell him about the city he used to live in 20 years ago. I guess the guy was from there as well. Then my grandfather tells me another story of how he was recently introduced to a man at the nursing home with the last name of Baker. He told me that when he met the man, he told him that he used to be a Baker too. Now at first, I thought my grandfather meant "baker" as in the profession, but my grandfather has never baked a thing in his life as far as I can remember and our last name is not Baker so I got a little confused. He goes on to explain that his great great grandfather (or somewhere around there) was an orphan boy by the name of Baker. He lived with a family and decided to take on their last name. From then on, my family line was no longer known as the Bakers.

To be honest, I like my last name. It's almost a source of pride. My cousin has all girls as far as I know, and my only brother is gay which means he probably won't be having any children. So my son is the only one to continue the family name, and I just learned that it's not even our real family name. A small and petty thing considering a family is a family no matter what the name reads. But still.

My grandmother was big into her genealogy before she passed. It drove my grandfather crazy. He got no pleasure of tracing family lines and was very reluctant to talk about his. The information I got about his family line was sparse and given to me by my grandmother, so when my grandfather does offer information, I treat it like gold. A while back, he sent my son an arrowhead he claimed was made by his great, great, great grandmother who was full blooded Souix. I took that information and tucked it away. Now I get the Baker story. I guess I'm not shocked that someone in my family line was adopted. It happens all the time. But it does make me wonder about this new family name and where we started.

Oh well. To be continued, I hope. As for now, I'll sign off. Baker. Out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Maybe I Should Have Thought This Through


I use to be on several social networking sites. You know, the fancy name for websites such as MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Friendster, Yahoo! 360, Netlog... you get the point. And as everyone knows, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. There are cyber bullies, cyber stalkers, sexual predators, and US congressmen. I, myself, had problems in the stalker area (not me as a stalker but the other way around). So I decided just to shut them all down.

Awhile later I would get friends asking me if was on this site or the other site. I would say no and after a moment of their disbelief, shock, and inability to comprehend why anyone would not be on a social networking website, I would briefly explain what happened. Their answer was always the same: they have protections set up for that. Sure they do. I know it. But even if you cannot access that person's page without their permission, you can still discover if they are a member of that site. So then I got an idea.

It's not that I was in withdrawal of not being able to read stupid status updates of who was doing what every minute of their day. It's not that I hadn't just lived more than a year and survived without being on any social networking website. It's just that it appeared that no one else was willing to go back to the days of emails and phone calls to send info anymore. It appeared that if I wanted to know what was going on about a few things, I had to be a part of the group. Still, I didn't want my name popping up on a search, so my big idea was to make one up.

I created an alter ego complete with profile picture, date of birth, and hometown. I, of course, had to let my friends know what I was up to so they would accept this stranger as a friend. It felt kinda good to be in the loop again and it was kinda fun to do it with an alter ego. Then I heard about a contest.

A local radio station was giving away tickets to an event if you went to their page and submitted a poem. Others could read them and vote on them. The one with the most votes won. Pretty simple. I thought, "why not" and submitted a poem. Then I got to thinking, what if I win? How am I going to claim the tickets when I am not the person I said I was when I submitted the poem?

Luckily for me, I didn't win so I didn't have to figure out how to remedy the situation. But it did get me thinking about the possible limitations I may have placed on myself with my brilliant idea of this alter ego. I suppose there maybe things I miss out on to protect my identity, then again, I missed out on them for over a year not being on the sites in the first place. Not a bad trade off I suppose. I guess there's always a virtual farm that needs tending somewhere.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Couple of Lucky Ducks


I married a woman with allergies. We're talking seasonal, environmental, animal, and food. So I suppose it should not have been that much of a surprise when my children were born with all of these allergies. Now, as parents, we've handled the food allergies. We've taken care of the environmental and seasonal allergies with pills. It's the animal allergies that present the most difficulty for us. Obviously we don't have a house filled with animals or even any animals at all. And that's where the problem is. That's exactly what my kids want; a house full of animals.

They beg, they cry, they plea for pets and we have to remind them that their allergies just don't permit us to bring animals into the house. They counter with the fact that their grandmother has a cat and that doesn't bother them when they are over there. We counter with the fact that every time we enter someone else's home who has an animal, it's instant red eyes and runny noses. And so the debate continues.

A week ago Saturday, my son was signed up to attend a program at the local animal shelter. The program was designed for children to read books to dogs, make a craft and get a free a book. Scratch that. The program was designed to get children into the animal shelter so that they could see all the animals there and pester their parents into buying them a pet. But it seemed like a neat activity and it was free. Double bonus. I couldn't attend so I sent the rest of my family knowing in the pit of my stomach that the next time I saw them, they would be accompanied by a pet.

Later that day, I did see my family again and much to my surprise they were pet-less. Not drama-less, but pet-less. It seems that they did find a cat that they would like to take home. My wife explained that the cat was a older cat, but very friendly. He was de-clawed and neutered and only needed his rabies shots. In addition, he was free. So my family opted to have a visit with the cat in a visitation room were animals and their potential new families have some quality time together. These rooms see a lot of animals in them each day and are not cleaned between visits, meaning a lot of animal hair and dander lying around. So they go into the room with the cat and a few minutes later my son is screaming that his eyes are burning as if someone just splashed his eyes with Louisiana hot sauce.

Now my wife has a situation on her hands. The kids think that by seeing the cat, they are going to get the cat, my son's running around, clawing at his eyes, begging for the pain stop, the animal shelter lady is frozen in shock not sure what to do, and my wife does not know if his allergies are acting up because of this cat or the dog hair in the room. The animal shelter lady offers my wife the option of taking the cat's blanket home to see how our son does with it. If he's okay, then he could be reacting to the dog hair. If not, then it's most certainly not the right cat for us. The problem is that my wife decided to wait to see me and tell me about it, forcing me to make a decision on the issue.

The kids are crying, begging for an opportunity to have a pet. I try to use the allergy argument again but that doesn't help. I decide to visit the cat myself to see how bad it really was. We entered another visitation room and they brought in the cat. He was cute enough but was shedding as if he had a severe thyroid issue. The animal shelter lady explained that it was that time of year when animals shed and we could get a special brush to help with it. The problem I saw was that the cat was black and white and his hair appeared to be magnetized to my children's clothing. Not only could we have animal allergies on out hands, we could also have my wife running around the house vacuuming three times a day. Which ultimately means more work for me as well.

So, to make a long story short, I agreed to take the blanket home, left it in the car, convinced my son that this was not the right cat for us and returned the blanket the next day. My son worked through his feelings about the cat and started talking about the day he would find "the right cat." He eventually stopped talking about pets altogether and I thought the issue was done. I was wrong. Flash forward to this weekend.

My family and I were about town and we stopped in to look at a tractor supply store just for the heck of it. It's the type of store that can meet all of your hardware or lawn care needs. This particular weekend, they also offered a little something extra. In the middle of the store sat several pens filled with baby chicks, baby geese, baby ducks and baby turkeys all for sale and waiting to be taken home. Now we don't live on a farm and I was not sure if I needed a permit to even buy one of these animals but after talking to some of the other families looking at the baby birds it became clear that I did not. I don't remember walking into someone's home to find a pet duck waddling around the living room so I was confused as to what it was that you did with a pet duck. They explained that they would raise the duck for a month or two and then release it in the park.

Now this made sense. There would not be any allergy related issues, the ducks would stay in the garage and we would release them in a couple of months. They did tell us to buy at least two of them as they would get lonely and squawk all night if they were by themselves. So, of course, my children were excited. We were not in a position to purchase them immediately, but discussed the possibility of returning later that weekend and sealing the deal. I fully expected our family to be the proud owners of two ducks by Easter.

As Saturday was drawing to a close, I asked my wife when we were going to get the ducks. She pointed out that neither of the children had brought up the issue and had seemed to have forgotten about it. She was right. Not a peep. Another bullet dodged. But this is surly not the last of it. Right now their attention spans are something we can manipulate but later, I'm sure, I may be writing about the newest member of the household, and God only knows if it will have fur, feathers, or scales.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Almost a Flasher


Last night was the big concert. My wife and daughter went out and got their hair done as well as purchased new outfits for the occasion. I'm assuming that the outfits are due to the fact that the mega superstar they were going to see had already seen them in all of their other outfits. Whatever. It was my daughter's first big concert so more power to 'em. Any hoo, this left me and my son with a boys' night out. But what should we do?

I had learned, earlier in the week, about an establishment in town who was organizing a flash mob for this very night. For those of you who don't know much about flash mobs, they are a group of hundreds of random people who ascend on a predetermined place at a predetermined time. They'll stay for a short period of time, maybe doing something maybe not, and then just leave as quickly as they showed up. This group was hoping for about 500 people to show up outside of the big concert before it started, have everyone freeze in random poses, hold those poses for three minutes, and then just jet. Basically, the whole idea is to amuse and confuse. And trust me, if I could have a motto that would sum up my goal in life, amuse and confuse would be it.

So at this point I'm excited. I've never been a part of a flash mob. Plus, it provided an opportunity to be, in a small way, part of the big concert the rest of my family was going to. I was concerned that my son would not be able stand still for three minutes, however. He barely can stay still for three minutes when he's asleep. He was talking about the different poses he was thinking about freezing in for a couple of days though, so I figured he was psyched about it. Then my wife reminded me of another option we could do with our time.

My son's school was hosting a fathers reading to their kids program that very night at the very same time the flash mob would be doing their thing. There would be cafeteria hot dogs and the kids would get a free book. My son, of course, was pretty excited about the free book. So now I'm stuck with a decision that could further my goal of amusing and confusing but leaving me looking like an ass of a father, or sharing a cold hot dog and a cheap book with my son because I know that's what he'd rather do. I know you're probably thinking that this was no choice at all. It was a no-brainer and the fact that I even had to think about it makes me look like a bad dad. Well I did think about it, so sue me. Deep down in my heart though, I knew how we would be spending our evening.

So we go get our hot dogs, bag of chips, and warm bottles of water. We pick out a book from a table filled with Clifford, Dora, and Scooby-Doo related reading material. We do our craft and head out. My son, who's not quite old enough to get the whole flash mob thing, asks if there is still time to do the freezing thing. I explain that it's already over and he tries to console me by saying that next time we can skip the book and go freezing.

The rest of the night offered ice cream from Dairy Queen, a rented copy of Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel (whatever the hell a "squeakquel" is), bath night, jamma time, and off to bed. So in the end, the choice was simple. Either three minutes of standing in place or a whole evening of interaction with my son. Almost a flasher but always a dad.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nobody's Fool


First off, happy April Fool's Day. If you've been pranked today, all I have to say is, "What the hell!?" Come on people! It's April 1st. It comes around every year. You shouldn't be surprised. Anything someone tries to tell you, sell you, or do to you today should be taken with skepticism and disbelief. Every "I'm pregnant", $100,000 scratch ticket, and "I'm having a heart attack" should be ignored. Make your woman cry (you're bound to sometime today anyway). Disregard the money (you were broke when you woke). Let your father-in-law die (he secretly hates you and you know it). At least you won't look like a fool on a day intended to make everyone look like a fool. Instead, spend your time trying to think of new ways to screw with people today. Because today, you get a free pass as long as you invoke the "It's April Fool's Day!"

Which leads me to my own thoughts about screwing with people. I would bet that where ever you are, at least if you're in the United States, you have a store that has its own loyalty card. For those of you who don't, loyalty cards are designed to keep you shopping at that particular store or chain of stores. They offer sales, double coupons, points for crap you don't need or want. Whatever they can think of. The grocery store chain in my neck of the woods has its own gas stations. For every $100 you spend on groceries, you get ten cents off each gallon of gas on your next fill up with your loyalty card. You can rack up your points and earn up to a buck off each gallon on one fill up. If you don't happen to have your card with you at the pump, you can punch in your phone number and it will give you the discount based on your points.

A colleague of mine mentioned that she was buying gas and knew that she did not have enough points to get the ten cent discount, so she entered her parents' phone number and scored a thirty cent per gallon discount off of their points. She said that they don't use that brand of gas so their points are usually wasted. Made sense to me and it got me thinking. I would bet that almost anyone in town would have a loyalty card...

Which brings me back to screwing with people. I wonder how many random phone numbers I could pull from the phone book would yield some cool discounts for me at the pump? Now with that said, I could really only do it today and invoke the "April Fool's Day" rule. If I continued it throughout the year, it would become my own ethically challenged curiosity experiment. Besides, I only have two cars and I just filled both of them up. To make this into a cool April Fool's prank, I would need to enlist thousands of people to try this today and report back on their results. Seeing as this blog only has one follower at this moment, it doesn't look as if this will be the year.

Maybe next year...

Is eBay Broken?


There is a big concert coming to town and as any good parent would do, I tried to purchase two $70 tickets so my daughter could go. As we all know, these concerts sell out in 15 minutes so I was left without any tickets. I spent the next week scanning the radio dial listening for contests to win some tickets. I found a radio station that played a three second montage of three song clips by the artist. You had to be the 15th caller and correctly identify all three songs. I figured that I had no chance in hell of being the 15th caller much less identifying all three songs.

Luckily for me, the radio station had teamed up with a local news station and if you watched the late night news, they would give you the answer to all three song titles that would be played for the next morning's contest. So, like any good parent, I stayed up and watched the news, wrote down the song titles, and set my alarm so I would not miss the contest. So I woke up the next morning and battled it out with 500,000 other people all trying to be the 15th caller. And wouldn't ya know it? I got through. So I'm on the phone with the DJ, I give him all three song titles, he tells me I've won, I do my happy parent dance and life is good. Woo hoo! That was in December. Fast forward to last night.

My home phone rings and check the caller ID. I don't recognize the number. I got an unlisted number 'cause there are just too many crazies in the world. So I'm thinking it's got be a friend of my daughter's. The guy on the other end asks if it's me and I say yes. He tells me his name and I can't quite make it out. Obviously, this guy knows who I am and I'm supposed to know who he is. Now I don't want to be a jerk or an ass and tell this guy that I can't remember who he is so I play along like a Hardy boy piecing together clues in a lame attempt not to hurt this guy's feelings. The first thing he asks is if I'm going to the concert. I say my daughter is and he goes on to tell me how he heard me on the radio three months ago winning the tickets. As he continues, he mentions his wife's name and some other info that sets off a light bulb in my head and I now know who I'm talking to.

The guy on the other end used to be a good friend but through starting families, moving and life we lost touch. I haven't seen or heard from this guy in literally five years. Now he calls me up out of the blue asking if I'm going to a concert. Then it happens. The reason he called. He wants to know if I would pick up some souvenir crap from the concert for his daughter and meet up with him sometime later so he could get the stuff and pay me back. In all of my excitement of figuring out who the hell was on the other end of the phone without sounding like a jackass, I said sure. Then it occurred to me that I had never given this guy my new unlisted number so I asked how he got it. He tells me he contacted his mother who contacted my mother-in-law who relayed the number to him. The guy went through some trouble to get my number. Obviously he really wants some souvenir crap. We hung up after I told him I'd call him later to set up a time to give him the stuff.

It got me to thinking about the concerts I've been to. I'll buy a t-shirt or whatever just because I'm there. But if I really want some souvenir crap I can always go to that person's website and buy it there. If not there, then on eBay. But not this guy. I've now got to send my family with extra money to buy his crap that they're expected to lug around through a crowed arena just so his daughter can have an 8x10 glossy because he didn't have the fortitude to watch the evening news, memorize the three songs, do the scavenger hunt, call up and sing the artist's songs in falsetto or whatever lame contest the radio stations run to crank up their ratings.

Don't get me wrong, I would have told him I would gotten the stuff anyway. It's for his daughter and this was his good parent act. I commend the man for that. But he's not the sharpest tool in the shed. Resourceful, yes but not bright. If he figured out a way to get to me, how many of my other past friends might come out of the woodwork and try the same thing? Especially if they hear that I'm sending my family to this concert with a shopping list for this guy. What kind of friend would I be to deny their children some souvenir crap since I told this other guy I would?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you try to call me over the next couple of days... I'm not going to answer.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bloging About Blogs


I was reading my friend's blog the other day, the first and only blog I've ever read, and as I was discussing it with her, she mentioned that I should start my own blog. The first question I asked myself was "Why?" Why would I want to start a blog? The truth is that I don't totally get blogs.

I understand that blogs are like journals or diaries: a place where one can vent their thoughts and feelings in a healthy cathartic manner. Trust me, if blogging is your way to release enough stress and frustration that you stop choking your kid or stop donkey punching your girlfriend, then I'm all for it. But there's a technology piece added to blogging.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm behind in the world of technology. I hardly ever text for example. It takes me forever to type out and send my message. I feel it's a better use of my time to call the person, say what I need to say, get the response and respond back if need be. I hang up, and all is well. The other side of it is that, when I get a message, I have to use my secret decoder ring to decipher what it is they are trying to say. I caused a lot of problems reading my first text and misinterpreting lol for "lots of love." It ended awkwardly. It was probably how the term "bromance" came to be. But I digress.

Journals and diaries are personal and meant for the writer's eyes only. Blogs are intended for the world to read them and even respond to if someone felt led. This adds other layers such as, how may people are following your blog, do they like what you have to say, has your blog been nominated for anything and if so, how many votes do you have? I find it odd that this medium in which some people use to relieve stress could possibly be the source of stress. But that's just me.

The other thing that makes me scratch my head is the information age in which we live. The internet is a great source of information such as the betting line on sports or sexual fetishes from shoe sniffing to barn yard animals. The thing that gets me is that we have decided that all information is important. Take Twitter or Facebook updates for example. I came across a post of an acquaintance the other day that read, "Just dropped off my boyfriend, now I'm picking up my dogs." I wanted to reach through the computer, grab her by the collar and make her explain to me why I should give a flying fuck. It made me want to post an update of my own that read "I just had a bowl movement and am confused because I don't remember eating corn."

So I get the irony. I'm blogging about not understanding blogs. I'm posting my thoughts about too many people posting needless thoughts. It reminds me of the saying, opinions are like assholes: everyone has one and most of them stink. Blogs are our new assholes and they are now out there for all to smell and reply to.

To be continued... maybe.