The other day I was surfing the digital waves of the internet when I
found something interesting, maybe even amazing. A rather large,
flashing banner displayed along the top of my current swell informed
me that, “If this banner is flashing, you have already won!”. No way!
Me? Oh, yeah. All I have to do is enter my email address so they
can send me the prize information.

Of course, I didn’t win (and no, I didn’t really think I had). These sad
attempts at trickery are rampant on the net these days, rather
they border a favorite web page or clog my email like so many
leaves in a storm drain.

To me, they are generally just an annoyance. To those not so well
versed in technology, they can make the internet a confusing, annoying
hell. Sometimes, they just piss me off.

It’s not like I don’t accept advertising as a necessary evil. We are
bombarded with it every day on TV, on the radio, in the mail,
along the side of road, plastered on our favorite sports figure,
on our children (You think I’m kidding? Check
this out.), and more. It’s just that deliberate lies, intended to reel in
the gullible or confuse the technical deficient, are just
plain wrong.

Should laws to used to enforce this stuff? My normally
laissez-faire attitude is taking a beating because, at some point,
it needs to stop. My email is not the community dump.
The internet should not be a playground for
these companies to molest us with one useless product or another.
Save that for late night television and
QVC. At least then, a simple
turn of the switch or press of a button can relieve us of this anguish.

Maybe we could all reach a compromise here. Spammers, agree not
to outright lie in your advertisements. We’ll agree to occasionally take
you all out back and beat you with a stick (preferably a big stick).
Heck, we’re still getting the raw end of the deal.

by | Categories: technology | No Comments

I’ve come to a conclusion, a conclusion that every store in the world
has yet to grasp: personal credit card swipe machines are useless –
totally and utterly useless.
You know the kind. Stop by the cash register of any store, be in
Best Buy,
Sears, or
and an innocent looking grey or black box awaits a quick slash of your plastic,
just peering at your card like a hungry animal.

Life (at least life in the middle to late nineties) used to be simple.
Ring up my order, grab my plastic, and hand me the paper to sign.
The transaction between myself and cashier was quick, simple, and
largely the same from one store to the next. If you are lucky, they
may even glance at your signature and comment that you look nothing
like you do on TV. Debit and check cards were in vogue – as well they should be
(what is this cash thing I keep hearing about, by the way) – and
all was well with the world.

The ever present push of technology, however, spoiled this simple concept.
Someone, somewhere had the brilliant idea of taking the card swipe away
from the cashier. I’m not real sure on the reasoning here. Was
that act of card swiping just too complicated for the average cashier?
If so, who would think that the average consumer, without the aid of
literally hours of training, would be up to the task? Think
of all the time you’ll save. Yeah, right.

That someone didn’t realize that the average consumer is an idiot. Ever stand
behind someone trying to figure one of these things out?
Despite the fact that they exist in nearly every store in
existence, I’m almost willing to swear that everyone in front of me in line
is seeing them for the first time. They stare at the contraption like

Pandora’s Box
, tempting its evils to be unleashed.
You can almost hear the thought process:

“Where do I slide the card? Do I slide it up or down? Oops, I must have
flipped it around wrong. Nope, maybe I had it right the first time.
What’s this – a question? Is $3.86 ok? I think so. Let’s see, I had
a pack of gum, a bottle of water, and that magazine explaining that aliens
really do exist. Or was it two packs of gum?

“How would I like to pay for it? There are so many choices. I could
put it in on my credit card but the hubby might get upset. I could use
the debit option but I’m not sure what that does. What about my gas card?
Can I use my gas card?”


At this point, the cashier normally snatches the card from the patron
and completes the transaction for them; rendering the little machine
worthless. I happily beam from the back of the crowd.
Thank you, kind sir or madam for ending this travesty.
The machine itself sulks – its impotency revealed for all to see.

Cashiers seem so relieved when I appear to have a brain (note that appearing
to have a brain is normally as close as I often get) and seem to have a clue
how to work the machine. Pause ever so slightly while looking at the display
and a long digit of the cashier is almost certain to work its way in there,
prompting you along, eagerly forwarding this transaction towards
the next.

The fact that every store has a different one, each with its own tricks
and nuances doesn’t help the matter. I’d sign on the digital dotted line
if only I could see the display through all the ink that is written on it.

The department stores, grocery stores, and this and that stores of
the world need to stand up and declare that these things are useless –
totally and utterly useless. Your cashiers don’t like them.
Your customers don’t like them. You were duped. The eskimo bought the
refrigerator. The only result is a social experiment that we all
live every time we make a purchase. Take them away and lock them away
with the other failed ideas of the century, like

by | Categories: thoughts | 4 Comments

Ring of Fire

Aug 20, 2002

During the monthly pregnancy check up with the OBGYN today,
my wife and I were confronted with an issue we have often discussed:
or no epidoral;
drugs or no drugs.

Opinions vary widely on the uses and effects of the various available

birthing drugs
. An epidoral isn’t the only choice but it looks to
be the best, providing comfort to the mother without passing much of the
same along to the child. Some drugs, which aren’t accompanied
with a big nasty
that they stick in your back, can be
even scarier – offering
side effects
that two prospective parents can fear even more than the upcoming pain of

But to me (and seemingly to her as well), an epidoral is still a
very scary proposition. The idea of losing the feeling in the lower half
of my body gives me the creeps. There are other minor side effects
and risks as well (and did I mention the size of that
It will, however, take the pain away.

It comes down to her decision and her decision only. I’ll only offer an
opinion – no pressure and no judgement. I love her and want her to be
comfortable with the experience and comfortable with what she does to her
body. I’ll be there to hold her hand, regardless of what she decides.
If she does choose a natural childbirth, I’ll leave the other hand free to
block the random swings and curses that originate from soon-to-be
mother of my child.

Incidentally, the title of this blog refers to
a clever little moniker for the feeling a woman gets during birth.
Supposedly, you can get a simulation of
this sensation by grabbing the insides of your mouth and
stretching the two sides in opposite directions for several seconds.
Yikes, I bet that hurts.

by | Categories: family | 7 Comments

Grinding the World

Aug 20, 2002

Play a game enough and it can invade your thoughts, tormenting your
brain with its twisted visions.

“Hey you could grind that light post over there, do a quick transfer, and finish your grind over on that fence.”

“Would you need to manual between the two or can you clear the gap?”

This was quite close to a conversation that the wife and I had
the other day, after a couple of long sessions of
Aggressive Inline
for the
Yes, a conversation
with my wife.

For those of you not familiar with that game in particular or
inline skating lingo, we were discussing some features of the
roadside as if we were still performing impossible stunts
on our pretty black box of gaming, not driving along to our

Aggressive Inline is a game that fits into the extreme sports
genre, one that includes such great games as
Tony Hawk
SSX Tricky.
Basically, you have a huge assortment of tricks that you can perform,
some realistic and some not so realistic. A game level consists
of a single, often quite large, environment for you to explore as you
see fit. Each level comes fashionably with a set of objectives, often aquired
from various in-game characters littered across the landscape, and your
job is to go about accomplishing them.

Accomplish one of these objectives and the level often changes in
some way – for example, at one point you sink a cruise ship, providing
a whole new area to explore. Accomplish another and an entirely new
level may be unlocked. It quickly becomes a twisted game of trial
and reward. Think of a donkey chasing the carrot on
a stick and you’ll have a good sense of what this game
can do to a person or, in our case, the both of us.

It hasn’t helped that the wife has been happy to join in.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that she wants to play.
I suppose some part of me is happy that her experience
with Aggressive Inline and its spiritual predecessor, Tony
Hawk, has given her a taste of my hobby and a taste of why
I play games in the first place. However, the fact that
she does play has provided extra incentive to continue
my habit. It is sweet that we can share some quality
gaming time together but, in reality, it is more like
one addict trying to help another.

But play too much and it can play with your head, blurring the real
world with the fancy antics of the video world.
(Hmm, anyone interested in building my neighborhood
with its in-game editor? I’d love to grind my neighbor’s car.) I
just hope this doesn’t happen when I begin to play the
Super Mario
game. Lord knows where I may stick my butt.

by | Categories: games | No Comments

I, like most of
audience, have been hearing
a lot about the upcoming player’s
on August 30th. I’ve
been a baseball fan who has followed his
Orioles nearly since birth
but when I attempt to reflect on the upcoming event, I can’t help
but think “who cares?”

Really, who cares? Why should I care about the players? Why
should I care about the freakishly rich owners? Why should I care
about the sanctity of the “game”? It’s just a game, after all.
There’s a little bat, a ball or two, and some pieces of rubber
to run around on. I flip on the T.V. and there they are, playing
backyard ball on center stage, swinging the little stick and hitting
the little ball.

This little game that wants to be called America’s pasttime
has some major things wrong with it this time of year.
September begins the time of fan apathy. The hopes of early
summer are already gone for most of the league and, by relation, most
of the fans. I suppose the fans from New York may mourn the loss of
World Series but should the rest of us? We knew the
would likely win it anyway – we knew it last year (beautiful loss, by the
way) and we know it will likely happen again and again in the years
to come. The playoffs in baseball are just a synonym for getting the
richest teams together to have a party of sorts. The difference
between the haves and have nots in baseball is the equivalent of a
homeless man peering into the window of a coffee shop. The rest
of the league stares at the glorious play of the few from the

But that may be the least of baseball’s problems. Football, a model
of modern sports, is back. There couldn’t be a more serious
competitor for average sports fan. Who will win the Super Bowl
this year? I don’t know. I really don’t. Everyone who thought
the Patriots would win it last year put your hands up.
(Those of you in Boston can put them down. We all know you didn’t really
believe it even after it happened.)
Talk about parity and talk about intrigue. Oh, and people get to
tackle each other, hard. Can it get any better?

Baseball, if you go through with the strike, just get it right this time
around (here’s a enlightening
to start with). If you want to sacrifice the present for the future, do it.
Throw the baby out with the bath water. Wipe the slate clean and
begin anew. For heaven’s sake, look to other
sports in the US and implement a salary cap.
This would be the third strike in the last ten years.
By your own accounting your number of chances is up.
This time figure out something both sides can live with
before baseball fans figure out that they can live without you.
But get it right. Just get it right.

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In My Underwear

Aug 13, 2002

On Saturday, the wife and I attended our second Christian concert, that of
Nichole Nordeman.
Those who have been following along closely (ok, so none
of you accept my wife – hey babe!) might note that our
Christian concert also featured Nichole Nordeman. It isn’t a coincidence.
There were two main differences this time around, however.

The first major difference was that Nichole was the headliner this time. We
got a full set; not just the four or five songs that an opening act is allowed.
The second difference was the major change in venue. When she opened for
Steven Curtis Chapman, she did so at the
Hershey Arena,
admittedly not the largest or nicest venue in the world but an arena
just the same. This time we were off to
River Valley Ranch, a small Christian camp that has weekly, Saturday night concerts. Seating this time around was probably around 1000, not 12000. This time there was no giant stage, raised high to allow the people in back a chance to peek at the
performers. Nor did the stage contain racks of equipment and music
instruments. No, this time it was a quaint stage, a single piano, and
Nichole herself; a change in venue indeed.

I’ve seen few performers multiple times and I don’t think I’ve ever seen
a singer perform in both a large and small venue. The differences were
stark, to say the least. Gone was any glitz or glamour that accompanied the
arena performance. Also gone was any nervousness in her mannerisms.
This was her concert, her piano, and her voice. It had to carry the day
without the aid of a drummer or any backup instruments whatsoever. And
it did. The concert was intimate, well worth the money paid, and, most of all,
a great opportunity to worship God outside of the church walls.

So where did the title of this blog come from? I can certainly attest to the
fact that Mrs. Nordeman did not perform in her underwear. That doesn’t mean
that others were so, um.., lucky. During the break between the opening act
and Nichole, I needed a visit to the bathroom. In the case of the ranch,
you had a choice of a couple of port-a-pots or some bathrooms across the way.
I choose a port-a-pot. There wasn’t a line, only a small boy milling about
by the door of one of the bathrooms.

The boy occasionally attempted to open the locked door of the bathroom,
aiding the discomfort of his young sister stationed inside. A little time
passed and a mother appeared at the bottom of the hill,
looking a bit impatient.
The boy must have mentioned this to his sister, prompting her to reveal the
problem: “Mommy, I have poopie in my underwear.”

To which the boy replied, yelling down the hill to his mother, “Mommy, she
has poopie in her underwear.” Mom rolls her eyes. It’s going to be one
of those days.

The funniest thing about the exchange was the total lack of panic in the
young girl’s voice (I know I’d be pretty panicked if it was me who had poopie
in my underwear; shew, clean – at least at the moment). There was no shame
at all. She was just stating a fact, a fact that I don’t believe she knew
was relayed across great distances. It was just another thing that happened
that day, like getting the sniffles or finding her favorite toy.

It’s this kind of stuff that reminds you what it will be like to be parent –
no rest stops, no time off from the kids. 24 hours a day of nuture and
problem solving thrown into the mix with helpings of love.
It’s a bit ironic that God choose a Christian concert
to remind me that we’ll always need His help. There will be days like that
in store for Jenn and I, despite the fact that the poopie thing was
not on the sign up sheet. At least we’ll know who to lean on.

by | Categories: music | 2 Comments

Blogging Away

Aug 10, 2002

I’ve come to the conclusion that blogging is fun, if not at least an
interesting little diversion. Placing a couple of thoughts – be
they be funny, boring, or what have you – out on the web for
public perusal is certainly an interesting form of expression,
even if “public perusal” generally means just a couple of
friends and (very) assorted family.

The simple act of recording a thought, normally
without any real plan of action, often leads to a facinating
result. Sometimes I share an opinion. At other times,
it’s a recent experience.

Often I start writing and just “go with it”. A recent post about
I was reading was supposed to compare and contrast the
bathroom habits of the wife and I (I’ll save this one for later;
I’m sure everyone will be thrilled to read up about it) and
actually ended up being a book review. Sometimes I just want
to write. This can result in something entirely
or the
useless musings
of a man who may be closer to insanity than anyone thinks.

Blogging about blogging, particularly since I’ve only been doing it for
a short while, is sure to create some type of gap in the
time-space continuum; irreverance exposed. But it’s my space
and I’ll write if a wanna.

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The Sky is Falling

Aug 6, 2002

Ever have one of those days (or nights, in my case)?

After some cheerful “veg” time in front of the TV with the wife, I decided to go
upstairs, check my email, and maybe even write my next
That, however, was not meant to be (at least not right away).

I first knew something was wrong when I felt something “squishy” under
my bare foot just outside the kitchen. Anyone who owns a pet just knows
that this is a bad sign. (As a side note, the squishy game is something the pets and I play together every once and a while. Both pets eagerly await the
arrival of our
new child
, as I’m sure the he or she will happily join in and
probably teach them a thing or two in the process.) It seems that our cute
little kitty cat left me a present; a present that must have begun with
no small amount of hacking (again, those who own a cat know the sound).

While attempting to wipe away my cat’s little work of art, a trip up the steps
by my wife revealed that the kitty had been hard at work, obviously attempting
to turn our hallway into her own personal gallery of the grotesque. It wasn’t
really all that bad. After all, two cat pastries is hardly a surprise
anymore (why have one when you can have two) and it probably serves
me right for snickering about a
friend’s post on the same subject
earlier today. Oh Lord, what was that sound?

It came from my left. Did I really want to lift my head from the cleaning job
at hand to see what was the matter? Hey, what happened to the flower pot that
used to sit on the window sill? When did the floor of the kitchen become
the inside of an Indian teepee? Who fertilized the tile? Oh, there’s the flower
pot. It’s now over there. What used to be planted in there anyway?

It’s funny how just a couple of events can break up a perfectly good, and
perfectly peaceful, routine. A couple of bad events in succession
can make it seem like the world is quickly becoming unraveled; even if,
in truth, those events create only minor inconveniences. Maybe I should appreciate simple silence, like the quiet outside of my window right now,
a bit more and maybe I should appreciate the cat’s cute little purr each and
every time. After all, the next noise she makes could be much more

by | Categories: thoughts | 3 Comments

A Question About Sex

Aug 3, 2002

The wife and I have our first disagreement with regard to our unborn child:
we don’t agree on whether or not we should discover the sex of the
child early.

The wife, bless her normally impatient self, doesn’t want to know. To her,
it seems, finding out the sex of the child during the birth is part of the
experience and part of the surprise. She worries that they might be wrong –
even in this day and age they can’t tell with 100% accuracy – and looks
ahead to the shower where she could end up with mountains of baby clothes
that happen to be the wrong color.

I, despite my normally patient nature, want to know. Medical science has
given us a chance to discover facts about our unborn child that would make
even our parents jealous. To me, it is part of the surprise, rather we find
out now or later. I want to dream about the patter of little feet and have
an idea about the shoes those feet will be wearing.

One proposition that was born from this disagreement is an interesting
one indeed. Let’s both be happy. The doctor can tell me but not her.
She will remain in the dark while I sit on a secret that I’ll just be bursting to
share. Somehow I just don’t think this one will work out in the end.

When it comes down to it, the answer is really irrelevant.
I’d be just as happy throwing a football around in the backyard with a boy
as I would be throwing a football around in the backyard with a girl.
It really, honestly, matters little to either of us. We are just happy to
get the chance to have one at all, even if we have to wait nine months
to find out the color of its socks.

by | Categories: family | 3 Comments

Toilet Treasure

Jul 30, 2002

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the toilet lately – and not for why
you’d imagine. It seems that my habit of reading on the can has
grown a bit worse because of a recent purchase: Uncle John’s
Bathroom Reader –
Plunges into History.

Plunges into History is a book specifically created for perusal on
the porcelain bowl. It’s basically a collection of short stories of 1 to 3
pages that can be read individually. In this case, the stories themselves
are packed full of interesting little historical tidbits – normally taking the
humourous route of storytelling when available.

Some of my favorite topics include the perks of the black plague and the
“Dirty Secrets in the History of Hygiene”; let’s just say that you don’t
want to know where the phrase “getting the wrong end of the stick”
originated. Each story is well written and I get something out of each
one. Sometimes its just a laugh but one day it may the winning answer
in Trivial Pursuit.

My only problem with the book is the fact that the individual writers don’t
get any credit for their work. The book is rather gargantuan for one
of its type, clocking in at nearly 500 pages, and it is obvious that more
than one writer contributed. However, no measures are taken to present
to the reader the authors whose time and effort went into digging up the
neat little facts at hand.

Regardless, the book comes highly recommended. It has kept me glued to
my seat, so to speak, and that is quite a task when I’m busy with other
business. Not since I was being potty trained did I learn so much within
the walls of the bathroom. Take that as you may.

by | Categories: thoughts | 1 Comment