Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Defense of the Shopper's Card

It's 2013, so I shouldn't be surprised companies have been thinking of ways to enhance their customer's experience. What I wasn't prepared for was a shift away from marketing, data collection and tangential savings associated with using "reward cards".

Yesterday my wife got an automated phone call from our grocery store, Wegmans, alerting her to a recall from a product we had recently purchased. My first thought was "how the heck do they know we bought Polly-O string cheese?" and then it hit me? We used our Wegmans shopper's card during check out... that card is registered to Liz's cell phone number... Wegmans' computer registered the recall and cross referenced it with those who purchased the product in question and we got a phone call.

BRILLIANT! I've always appreciated the savings associated with using similar cards, and I've long recognized the companies themselves were getting something out of the deal as well. This was the first quasi-magnanimous act I've ever seen though. Wegmans could have done what every other chain I've seen do, and posted a sign above the Polly-O so next week we may see it when shopping. But this was a beautiful example of being proactive and using technology to better the experience of shopping at Wegmans. Other chains may be doing something similar, and I hope they are. But three cheers for Wegmans and using what could be a very one-sided marketing tool for something more!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

First Annual Father & Son Phillies Trip...

This past weekend, my brother, father & I traveled to Toronto to watch the Phillies take on the Blue Jays. This was the first annual Phillies Father & Son trip (, organized by my brother. For those who attended, it was a great weekend filled with many laughs & great times watching some fantastic baseball. The following is a recounting of the trip… I hope you enjoy. Early Thursday morning, Joe & I left Billerica, MA on our way to Syracuse, NY where we were picking up Richie & Richard Petrarca (our longtime friends & neighbors from West Grove). The trip to Syracuse was uneventful, Joe and I caught up on things, listened to some good tunes as we booked down the Mass Turnpike, cruising along in Joe’s minivan. At various rest stops we had to beat the women off with sticks as they saw two fine gentlemen exiting the high performance vehicle that is a Chevy Mini-van. “No, that’s not a Ferrari, it’s a Chevy… common mistake.” Once we hit Syracuse, things really started to get interesting. We performed, what can only be described as a drive-by pickup when we got the Petrarca’s. In an effort to reduce the cost of parking, it was determined the outdoor parking at the Syracuse Airport was the cheapest place to leave a vehicle for a couple of days. Joe & I had to loop through the airport and on the way out, slow down long enough for Richie & Richard to jump the fence with their bags, enter our mini-van and then bust outta there before the local 5-0 caught wind. Syracuse airport has since installed these signs to keep motorist alert. En route to Canada, with illegal parkers on board, various stories were told, many laughs were had. With what would be a recurring theme for the weekend, Richie began to treat us to Richie’ism that are now classic. I will sprinkle those quotes in throughout my story, starting with this one: “What are Canadian gangs like? Do they have them, like Benny & the Jets?” ~ Richie Petrarca At the Niagara Falls border crossing we ran afoul of the Law, eh? After reviewing our passports, asking us a litany of questions, wanting to know what we had to declare, do we have any weapons, etc., the crossing guard (they love being called that!) felt we were a threat to O’Canada’s national security and sent us over to the main building for a vehicle search with complimentary body cavity search thrown in. Apparently, four dudes traveling in a mini-van are on Canada’s watch list of shady characters… or, just possibly, and I’m going out on a limb here, he felt like we weren’t taking him seriously when he asked if we had any weapons and Richie flexed his muscles and said “besides these guns?” … I shit you not. We find ourselves standing in the customs building, having been herded into a line of miscreants that moved at a glacial pace. Joe was understandably upset as this was totally screwing up the excellent time we were making. What made the entire exercise even more entertaining was the fact we were the only Caucasians in the entire building. I think Canada is racists, I mean, I know why we were in there, but everyone else was a family of East Indians or from the Middle East. Shame on you Canada! I guess the ACLU doesn’t have a strong presence up there. I’ll tell you another group of people that Canada hates, older gentlemen with full bladders! Mr. Petrarca needed to use the bathroom something fierce, but the Cannucks wouldn’t let him until we had processed through the line. For God’s sake people, I can see his eye balls floating!!! And then, just when he’s about ready to drop trough right there in the middle of customs, we are cleared to use the facilities and he is directed to a door that was right next to where our car was parked? Are you kidding me? When he got out of the car and said he had to go to the bathroom, he was told “Oh, you’ll have to go inside and ask them.” Shame on you again Canada… shame on you! Joe: “Come on! Stay in your lane while driving!” Richie: “Joe, it’s a Socialist country, they share everything, including the driving lanes.” After answering some more questions by the Canadian authorities, we were allowed to leave with the Queen’s blessing. Now, fully into Canada, all those in our vehicle started to notice some “oddities” about Canada and her people. Namely the fact they’re all sticks in the mud without a creative bone in their bodies, but perhaps I’m putting too fine a point on it. Specifics you ask for?
  • Instead of the universally accepted yellow or white traffic lane paint, Canada has decided to rock the boat and use a form of orange that burns your retinas. I understand the basic principle, we were in a construction zone at the time, but for us ignorant Americans there was a moment of panic when we thought we had crossed into some sort of French-speaking zone of the highway or something as equally nefarious.
  • The names of Canadian stores and restaurants… zero creativity or liveliness. “The Beer Store” sells beer. “The Brick” is a home store. “The Keg” is a steakhouse & bar (not sure on the steak connection there). “Pizza, Pizza, Pizza” sells pizza. “Wal-Mart, eh?” sells everything.
  • Conversations from average Canadians are boring and without emotion. Actual overheard statements:
    • “That play would have been awesome if he had caught it”, said without any inflection and a very drawn out cadence.
    • “Mayo makes burgers & everything else better”, clearly a falsehood on a massive scale. What makes it all the more astounding is they said it with a straight face and again, without any inflection. How can anyone lie like that without being animated?
“What’s a hockey stick for?” ~ Kurt Ladley (Note: You could hear hearts exploding in the bodies of any Canadian within earshot of that comment.) We got to the hotel, which was built into the Rogers Centre (Note the Socialist spelling of Center…) The Rogers Centre was formally known as the SkyDome and is truly a modern marvel. Our room faced into the stadium, so from our bedroom we could watch the baseball game. Very cool! Apparently they’ve had some trouble before, so a waiver had to be signed that we wouldn’t do anything lewd while in the room… not a problem! At this point all we wanted was to meet up with our dad & uncle who had flown up to Toronto together and were going to meet us at the hotel, and then grab a beer posthaste! Thus began our near constant consumption of Molson Canadian… or as it’s known up there, simply as Canadian. (Demonstrating once again the inability for anything remotely exciting or creative from Canada! Walk into a bar in the US and order “an American”. The bartender will look at you like you’re retarded. An American what?) The following day, the group present (Dad, Joe, Uncle Rich, Richie & Richard Petrarca and myself) all headed to the top of the world via the CN Tower in Toronto. Quite the view from the top of the tower, as you can imagine. Afterwards Joe & I enjoyed what can only be described as the most un-sweet, nasty lemonade ever created. Wait to go Canada… you’ve ruined another American classic for me. From there we toured the Hockey Hall of Fame, which was very impressive. I highly recommend you take the time to visit if you’re ever in the area, hockey fan or not, it’s pretty cool. One of the more notable attractions is an interactive one in which you can take shots on a goalie. The goalie is projected onto a movie screen and the computer determines the speed and trajectory of your puck and if it’s a goal or not. To scores were: Joe – 0 Goals, Cha – 0 Goals, Richie – 0 goals… Uncle Rich – 1 goal. He was just as surprised as we were. The next attraction was even cooler. You suited up as a goalie, got into the net, and a video of Wayne Gretzky would shoot pucks at you from various angles, with various speeds, etc. This was truly awesome! Here I could let my mad goalie skills shine and shut down all who would dare question my ability to stop anything thrown my way. I stepped in first, selected the hardest difficulty setting (All-Star Pro Super Fantastic Might as Well Just Call Him “The Wall” Setting…) and let the pucks fly. According to the computer, I was 5/5… I stopped everything! According to reality, I may have let a few slide over the line. But who am I to argue with a highly sophisticated machine like that? “Joe Carter” ~ Richie, but then repeated by everyone on the trip. You had to be there… We were now posed with a very serious dilemma. We had a ball game to watch from our room that night, and beer that needed to be consumed, but at $36 (Canadian) a six-pack (Again… I shit you not) we could ill afford to consume more than two beers a person. What were we to do? After asking random folks on the street where we could acquire beer in Toronto, we were directed to the train station where a Liquor Control Board or some other Communist sounding institution was located. Why a train station? I have no clue, but that’s where the LCB was. And unlike the LCB in the States, this LCB sells beer, not just bust up bars for serving minors. (Anyone remember the Olive Branch at 17th & Market? ;-) ) Richie, Joe & Myself entered the LCB as three lonely guys looking for brews and exited heavily weighed down gents with a couple of cases worth of six-packs between them and about a 1 hunge lighter (still cheaper than the six-packs at the hotel). We hailed a cab back to the hotel and what ensued was an event I will not soon forget. Picture this: Hotel room, copious amounts of beer, a partially working ice machine down the hall… but where to put the beer and keep it cold? The obvious answer is the bath tub, but that’s Filth McNast considering three dudes had showered in it that very morning. It’s often said that in times of desperation, true genius and men show their color and such was the case in my brother, Joe O’Connor. To witness a eureka moment is something of a religious experience. Joe stood in the room for a second, looking around for what he could use. It was as if I could see the moment when his plan came to fruition in his brain, a spark was seen behind his eyes, his fingers snapped and we all jumped into action! Joe removed his suitcase from the closet, he issued orders “Richie, go grab some large trash bags from the maids cart I saw in the hall way! Cha, go wet some hand towels down! Dad help me clear out this suitcase!” What were we doing, delivering a baby? I didn’t know, but I knew I had to follow his directions. I rushed off to the bathroom, wet down all the hand towels I could find and returned to the room. Richie came bounding into the room with trash bags in hand and a 3-foot Thai maid screaming obscenities at him. Joe promptly lined his suit case with the trash bags, and after a thoughtful injection by Richie, modified his original plan and put his entire suitcase into the trash bag, thus forming a watertight seal, resistant to leakage. We staked the beers, dumped the ice, I put my wet hand towels over the top to form a cooling vapor barrier. Everyone in the room stepped back and starred in awe… we had created something beautiful. McGuiver would be proud. Acting on instinct I gave Joe a ball point pen, a rubber band, a paper clip and a piece of Uranium. He created a low yield device, but that’s a story for another day. The room was ready, the beer was cold, all that we needed was a crowd… and a crowd we got! Arriving that day were the other members of our Father & Son Baseball Trip. Thus completing the entire cast, the attendees were:
  • Charlie O’Connor
  • Joe O’Connor
  • Cha O’Connor
  • Rich Miller
  • Richard Petrarca
  • Richie Petrarca
  • Jim Quinlan
  • Matt Quinlan
  • Steve Ladley
  • Kurt Ladley
  • Jack Sullivan
  • Ian Sullivan
All of these fine gentlemen were jammed into Room 420 of the Renaissance Rogers Centre, Toronto. The game started at 7:07PM, Cole Hamels was ejected from the game, Joe Carter was blamed for everything that went wrong, we had pizza and wings from Pizza, Pizza, Pizza, the Phillies lost 6-1, and we all waited for Saturday when we’d be sitting in the bleachers enjoying the game with all you could eat hot dogs and other goodies. The evening was a lot of fun, some great stories were told and jokes told. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a comeback win for the Phillies, but I guess you can’t have it all. The following day was “game day” for us. We had tickets to the afternoon game and were sitting in the all you can eat section. Canada does a lot of stuff incorrectly, but they hit the nail on the head with this “all you can eat” section. For an extra $10, you get all you can eat: hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, peanuts & soda. It’s amazing how many hot dogs you can eat when they’re free. A gentlemen’s wager was placed, stating Richie would eat 9 hot dogs before the third inning. In turn he would get our admiration and a bottle of Tums. Apparently that wasn’t enough, so the fictional sum of $3000 was put on the table, to which he quickly agreed. Apparently he was not aware it was a joke number, because before consuming his 9th hot dog, he wanted to see the funds. When no one in the crowd was able to produce $3K on the spot, he promptly refused to eat the last hot dog. Although he constantly reminded us that he could have done it if wanted too, but he wasn’t going to because he wasn’t getting paid… Guess we’ll never know Richie… I guess we’ll never know. Tsk…tsk…tsk… During batting practice, the majority of our party jammed the front row of our section, directly overlooking the bullpen. Shouts for autographs, playful taunts to Chan Ho Park for his effeminate finger wave & further cajoling for Richie to eat the 9th hot dog could be heard for all of batting practice. Two homeruns were hit to our section, the first was retrieved by Matt Quinlan, and I have to say the 7 year old he beat out for it looked pissed! Just kidding Matt, it was a clean grab. With the second homerun… well that was just a thing of beauty. I giant “CRACK” was heard throughout the park when Carlos Ruiz hit that ball. All heads in the stadium turned as one to follow its path, and who to their wondering eyes did they find waiting for the ball to be delivered into his outstretched hand? Me! It was a move worthy of Swan Lake… I looked up, gently reached my hand out with no thought to how fast that ball was travelling, and waited with perfect patience for my prize to be delivered. At the moment the ball hit my hand, time froze. I looked left and saw faces with unabated jealousy hoping I’d miss. I looked to the right and saw women dropping down on one knee to propose to me (sorry ladies, you couldn’t possibly compare to my wife). In front of me, my travelling companions were beginning the shouts of congratulations… and all of that shattered in a second when the ball hit my hand and blinding pain shot up my arm, my thumb swelled immediately to the size of my calf, the ball dropped and rolled a few feet. I pushed aside the nausea that was welling up inside me, reached down and picked up my pride and the baseball of the ground. So much for the ungloved catch of the century… maybe next year. Now this was the ball game we came to see, and apparently the Phillies got the memo because they proceeded to trash the Blue Jays. With a resounding “schwack!”, the Phils defeated the Jays 10-0. As was expected of us Philadelphia Fans, we were sore winners and shouted obscenities at all the Toronto Fans letting them know how poorly their team played, and if any dared to shout back we offered creative ways for them to go fornicate themselves. I’m just kidding! We were gracious guests in their house and did not in any way, shape or form embarrass ourselves or the City of Philadelphia. Riding the high of our big win, the entire party decided to visit Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant in Toronto. If you ever get the chance, I recommend you go. It’s a mini-museum to the Great One, has awesome food and some of the most talented wait staff in all of Toronto. The crowning achievement of the menu was a 15-layer chocolate cake that has to be seen to be believed. It comes in on a flatbed truck, is lifted via forklift onto your table and comes with a complimentary heart bypass surgery courtesy of the Canadian Healthcare System. After downing our various dinners and sharing the cake with the entire table, we proceeded into the lounge to imbibe even more Molson’s Canadian. I think we would have stayed there all night, but alas it was an early morning rise for many to make their return journeys back to the United States. With a heavy heart we departed the restaurant knowing this meant the end to our first trip, but discussions were already underway for next year and the location has been chosen. Provided the Phillies are playing a weekend series and according to our local Swami (Joe), they are, the trip will be to Pittsburg, PA. Details will follow, but for those you’ll have to check out the Phillies Father & Son trip website. The trip was a wild success, I think everyone had a great time and will be coming back next year. Thank you all for attending and I look forward to next year! Peace Always My Friends… - Cha

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A call to arms...

As I was dropping Lily off at the CDC today I was reminded yet again how much I can’t stand people. Not all people, just those who think they’re special and rules don’t apply to them. You know the type, you see them every day and you don’t say anything to them, even though they’re breaking the rules and setting themselves apart from you and I. Let me give an example:
  • The person who pulls up to the front of a building, ignoring the ample parking spaces available but would require them to walk a few hundred feet, put their blinkers on and get out of their car. Hey lady/bud… who the f’ do you think you are? You think we all don’t want to just pull up and not have to park and walk? It’s raining out, I’m carrying a small child and I just had knee surgery. But guess what? I don’t pull up and just throw my blinkers on because I’m not an asshole and rules apply to me. Plus, you’re blocking traffic now! But what do you care, you’re special and can do whatever you want. I’m sorry for not immediately recognizing your magnificence, I probably should have genuflected when you walked by. Can you forgive me?
  • On military installations it’s illegal to operate a cell phone while driving, yet most people ignore the GIANT SIGN that says so and continue to talk. It gets even more comical when Security Forces pulls them over and revokes their driving privileges for a month. Those caught get so indignant, screaming and yelling at the poor cop. Hey dip shit, had you followed the rules of the road you’d be fine, go buy a Bluetooth! I mean by now isn’t it obvious you can’t plead ignorance to the law? That defense didn’t work so well for Darrel Strawberry when it came to paying his taxes, what makes you think the cops have any compunction about taking away your driving rights? Stop thinking that sign meant everyone BUT you had to hang up your phone and the world will be a better place.
  • Those who just throw their cigarette butts on the ground. As a former social smoker, I know at one point I was guilty of this, but even then I realized how disgusting that was and would ash out my cigarette and put it in my pocket or something else until I could throw it out. Littering in general baffles me. I’ve been behind people while driving who throw cups, wrappers, etc. out their windows. You…have…got…to…be…kidding…me. Is your piece of shit Neon so immaculate inside that keeping an empty McDonald’s cup within its sacred confines until such a time as it can be properly disposed of, would in some way bother you? I swear upon all that’s holy, should I witness you littering I have no problem embarrassing you, no matter how public the location, I will cause a stink. I find littering to be the ultimate end-state of laziness. If you’re so lazy as to litter, it’s almost a miracle you aren’t too lazy to breathe, eat or drink. In fact, that’s a damn shame you aren’t too lazy to breathe… problem solved.
Those are just a few small examples, I’m sure given the time I could come up with a dozen more, so could you. What I’m really driving at is this… why don’t people like you and I ever say anything to these royalty among us? Am I partially to blame for their lackadaisical view towards rules and regulations? Do I need to start calling folks out when I see them doing something “wrong”? I think we do, and as a matter of proving this, I am going to start doing so right now. This is a call to arms people, it’s up to all of us to put “special” people in their place! If you see someone displaying flagrant disregard for established social conventions, breaking the law (no matter how minor), or generally just being a dick and not caring about their fellow man… then call them out on it! Do it in an intelligent manner so as to not lower yourself to their level, say something like:
  • Excuse me Princess/Prince, I realize you think that’s acceptable, but you should not be doing (fill in their offense here). I’m willing to let this one slide as a show of my benevolence, but do it again and I will have to fart in your general direction.
  • Um… I know the hippie commune you were raised in would have no problem with (fill in their offense here), however here in America, that’s unacceptable. Please rectify the situation immediately before I call in Steven Segal to kick your ass, he’s looking for work and will gladly do it. (Pause for a moment and then with as much disgust in your voice say…) Hippie… ( then slowly turn and walk away)
  • (In your best Russian accent) A comrade! Glad to see the ways of the old country haven’t died off completely! It’s so refreshing to see (fill in their offense here) still happening, I had thought when Mother Russia fell into the shitter I would never see that again!
  • (This next one works best in a highly public place, like a mall, sports stadium, or elementary school. Scream at the top of your lungs while flailing your arms about…) F#($ YOU!!! F#($ YOU!!! How could you possibly (fill in their offense here) do that? (Then launch into a string of mutterings that are nigh unintelligible, start pacing back and forth vigorously and smacking your head. Repeat until the offender has rectified their offense. Works every time.)
Anyway, enough on that subject. Just remember to start calling people out when they’re not doing what they should be, I think you’ll find it cathartic. In fact, I can’t wait to start. I’m going to go find someone doing something wrong and yell at them! Peace Always My Friends!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Life as a Temp Exec...

I have been ripped from the comfort of my day-to-day job and been made to fill in for a colleague while he is out for a few weeks. I'm reprising my role as Executive Officer to the Stars and find myself longing for the days of the 15th MSG back at Hickam AFB. It wouldn't be a terrible temporary duty aside from a few key factors that frankly, I simply cannot get past.
  • I have been addressed in emails as "Temp Exec". Are you f'ing kidding me? So you took the time to look my name up in the email directory, filled it in the To box, and yet you address the body of the email to "Temp Exec"? I'm sorry, I didn't realize we were addressing one another by strict categorization of function versus the universally accepted name standard. So if it's function we address each other by, I will reply to you my "Temp" colleagues:
    • Dear Contracted-out Civilian Secretary…
    • To the Waste of Flesh in Cube 1211…
    • Mr. I'm Overpaid and Underworked Yet Complain All Day About How Busy I Am…
    • Ms. Nauseatingly Stupid Comment Woman…
  • I am sitting in a new location for the next few weeks and consequently am being bombarded by the sounds and conversations around me. I have been moved to what I can only describe as the secretary's pool. And before I begin, let me state for the record I have nothing against secretaries, administrative assistants, etc. because after all, that's basically what an executive officer is… a glorified secretary. HOWEVER, I do realize now why certain people are guided by councilors to careers like secretary, because their mental acuity is unable to compete at the real-world level. I have heard some of the most insanely stupid comments in the past 48 hours, I worry my IQ is actually decreasing the longer I sit here. Can that happen? As an example of some of the things I've heard…
    • "Was St. Patrick a real Catholic saint? I mean, his only claim to fame is driving the snakes from Ireland, so by that measure, shouldn't the Pied Piper be a saint too?" This was after she asked if her cane could be considered a shillelagh for the day and how Saint Patrick was actually not Irish (which is true), that he was in fact Italian (which is wrong, he was Welsh). At this point I very nearly leapt over the cubical wall and bludgeoned her with her "shillelagh", Irish style.
    • I overheard a long dissertation on the merits of the electronic cigarette (see my Christmas post to know how I feel about those who sell the e-cigarette.) and whether it would be allowed in our work area. Word to the wise, if anyone around me starts smoking the e-cig at work, I'll e-ash in their coffee and e-burn them with an e-lit e-cigarette. Where do we work, Philip Morris? You don't smoke in work anymore, electronically or otherwise.
    • Another woman insists on talking with a fake British accent. I don't know if she recently watched Harry Potter or something, but she answers the phone with a jolly English " 'ello!" Then switches into her muddled New England/New Jersey abuse of the English Language. Pick an accent and stick with you "Merry ole Tart!"
    • Someone came into my Hanoi Hilton sized cube no less than 3 times to tell me about the same meeting that was scheduled for tomorrow "that conflicts with another meeting". I thought I was in the Twilight Zone, at one point I asked her, "Is this the same meeting you told me about 2 minutes ago and then 5 minutes before that?" To which she replied, "Yes." From the look on her face, I knew she didn't find anything wrong with the situation. What are you waiting for, do I need to signal back in semaphore that the message was received? Be gone from my cubicle you colossal dolt!
I could go on, but what's the point? I'm stuck her for the next two weeks, I might as well make the best of it. I will say this does wonders for my ego, it's nice being the smartest person in the world if only for a little while. Peace Always My Friends!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BlackBerry at the Post Office

I was in line at the Post Office the other day, contemplating what crime against humanity would require such a payment from karma as to necessitate going to the Post Office, when my super hearing overheard a conversation from the current patron in the USPS Batter's Box. Standing in front of the counter was a woman who I would generally classify as a snobbish soccer mom or an uptight urban professional who was trying to act more important than she really was. How did I come to such a scathing characterization with so little data? Perhaps I should detail my assessment and see what you would think.

The woman at the front of the line was dressed well, designer jeans (thanks go to my beautiful wife Lizzy who has taught me how to recognize designer jeans), a Banana Republic-type sweater, a Tiffany's bracelet dangling off her wrist, a least ¾ carat diamond studs in her lobes, a Gucci watch on the other wrist, a new Blackberry Curve hanging off her waist and what looked to be Coach "sneakers" on her feet. I realize this may sound like I was "checking her out", but I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is, I observed all of this in a matter of seconds and filed it away for later use. Years of super-spy training have honed my senses to this degree of sophistication, and I routinely catalog my surroundings. Just ask Liz, she'll oft times look at me and ask "What?" because she knows I'm dissecting something in my head and if smack-talkery is about to ensue... she wants in on that action!

Now the person has been accurately described, let me detail what she was doing. This is where it gets good. The Postal Wonder was talking to the unsung hero in uniform, the USPS Clerk, and asking him if she could mail the package in front of her. "What's wrong with that question Cha?" you ask, nothing I say, except for the fact it was a freaking FedEx box! Destruct-o of Common Sense was standing there with an opened FedEx box, an empty FedEx form and was asking, nay demanding help from the United States Postal Service Clerk that he either help her fill it out and package it or do it himself. I shit you not.

This immediately caused me to start questioning my initial assumption. Was she either a snobbish soccer mom or an uptight urban professional who was trying to act more important than she really was... or a new possibility, was she in fact a runaway from some home for classy dressed idiots? Let's break it down:
  • Snobbish Soccer Mom - She was wearing the appropriate uniform to be sure, right down to the Tiffany's bracelet that is issued to all wealthy soccer moms. I needed confirmation that she was in fact driving an oversized SUV which she probably left idling in the parking lot to be sure, but one thing kept throwing me off. What in the name of all that's holy would require S.S.M. (Snobby Soccer Mom) to necessitate a freaking BlackBerry? Where there Emergency Action Messages being distributed for the PTA? Did Esteban the Pool Boy text her so much that only a full QWERTY keyboard would suffice for her little love tryst? Or was she trying to be "kewl" like her daughter and keep up with the latest Facebook BlackBerry application? See how out of place that BlackBerry is? OBTW, for those who are interested, I nailed the SUV assumption on the head. It was a Toyota Sequoia and she did keep it running. Sometimes I scare myself...
  • Uptight Urban Professional Who Was Trying to Act More Important Than She Really Is - Again, the uniform works, the clothes scream "this is me relaxing, but really I'm used to wearing a power suit" and the Professional persona would explain the BlackBerry. Because we all know, anyone who is anyone and in business has a BlackBerry. If you don't, you're not really as important as you think you are. But why, oh why, if this woman was in fact a professional in some capacity, did she think that FedEx and the USPS were the same company? Is she so far removed from the happenings of daily commerce that she mistakenly believed that once things are sent to the mail room, they all go to the same company and end up at their destination? Has she never studied the FedEx business model, it's required reading in just about every Business or MBA program in America. I almost felt the need to confiscate her BlackBerry, she obviously wasn't supposed to have it, perhaps she found it laying around and liked it's shiny nature.
  • Escaped Idiot in Nice Clothes - This appears to be the only logical conclusion. Somewhere there is a village searching for her. Don't worry, I did my civic duty and went home and post on Craiglist her description and her last known heading in the Lost and Found section. I'm sure by now someone has picked her up and returned her to her home.
Well, I suppose that enough for today, but before I go, remember this my BlackBerry toting friends: people are watching you. If you fail to exhibit the correct behavior, someone is going to suspect that you too are missing from your home.

Peace Always My Friends!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shoe Orgy & Zits Extreme

I have nothing terribly important to talk about today, more a question to my readers and a consumer product warning for those using a certain TV advertised acne removal system.

First, my survey... My wife and I are a wonderful match on so many levels.  We tend to complement each other and make an awesome, some would say "championship worthy", Cranium & Catch Phrase team.  But one area we have always differed on is the neatness of our closet.  My question is this, are we unique in this closet discord?  Or is this a common marriage "issue" that will plague us for all eternity?  Observe...

Exhibit A - My shoe rack

Very organized, shoes are with their opposite pair, everything is lined up.  One can easily find the exact pair of shoes they're looking for.

This picture illustrates two things: 1) It's a testament to my neat, orderly, somewhat anal nature and 2) I clearly need more shoes.

Exhibit B:  Liz's shoe... floor? ...heap? ...what is this?

It's like some sort of mysterious and probably illegal boot orgy.  I half expect some lovechild of Stuart Weitzman & Marc Jacobs (probably a black leather pump with a 3 inch heel) to come crawling out.  What the hell is this chaos?  I can hardly wrap my head around it!  How do you find anything in here?  The lighting isn't the greatest in there either, so chances are you're going to have to pull out at least 3 different shoes just to find a match.  Wouldn't some organization make Liz's life easier?  Am I alone in this thought?

We're never going to see eye to eye on this are we?  Just like my belief that the new Battlestar Galactica is the single greatest show ever created and her misguided and blasphemous belief that I'm wrong, this closet shoe disaster will never reach a mutually agreeable solution.  I suppose the only thing we can hope for is that our love and understanding will prevail as it always has.  Liz will smile and shake her head at her overly organized husband, I will laugh and hug her ever closer while I silence the screaming from every fiber of my being that demands I get down there and straighten up her shoes.  We're a regular Dharma & Greg aren't we?

My second message today is BUYER BEWARE of Practiv!!!  We've all seen the commercials, Jessica Simpson, Sean Combs (Come on, did P. Diddy really have to do an acne commercial?  What the whole media mogul thing was slowing down?)  Lindsay Lohan... the list goes on.  Apparently the makers of Proactiv own the souls of half of Hollywood and are calling in their markers.  If you've seen the commercials you'll be familiar with the "overnight, miracle refining mask that zaps zits and makes the disappear...overnight!"  I am calling your bluff Proactiv... BULL SHIT!  Here's MY true-life Proactiv story:

At some point over the course of yesterday, I started to develop a small, but noticeable pimple on the side of my forehead.  As I don't recall rubbing fried chicken grease on my forehead, I was somewhat surprised, but hey... these things happen.  Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I thought, "Hey, what the hell.  Let's apply just a dap of this miracle refining mask and tomorrow my pimple will be gone."  Does anyone want to take a guess at what DIDN'T happen while I slept last night?

What started as a small, manageable, barely noticeable Duke of the Zit Fiefdom transformed over night under the refining mask's protective covering.  Whatever that crap is, it apparently helped stag a coup because that Duke became the full-fledged King Zit-a-Potamus over night!!!  Make zits disappear my ass!  That crap should be renamed from "Refining Maks" to "Reddening & Engorgement Crème".  New slogan: "If you want to be noticed, for all the wrong reasons, just a dap of our Reddening & Engorgement Crème will ensure people can't stop staring at what was previously only a slight imperfection!"  

Shame on you Proactiv, shame on you Jessica Simpson, shame on you P. Diddy and most disappointing... shame on you Lindsay Lohan.  I had thought that a star of your moral caliber would only endorse something that was truly miraculous and worthy of your Blessed Lohaness.

Let's look at the before and after photos shall we?  This was me before my zit appeared:

 And this is me after the Proactiv:

Granted, that was the post-Vesuvius eruption that happened mid-day today, so it had gone down somewhat, but my righteous anger remains the same!  Now my brain is cranking away, could it be the refining mask only works when used in conjunction with all the chemicals from Proactiv?  So do I have to use the entire product line, all those scrubs, washes, toners, etc. to achieve the desired effect?  Are there any chemists out there willing to test this theory of mine?  I'd be willing to buy you a cup of coffee to prove my hypothesis and then we can jointly file a class action lawsuit.  Hit me up!

Well, that's all for now, but remember Octo-Mom (Nadya Suleman) that no amount of plastic surgery & in vitro fertilizations will ever make you Angelina Jolie... so I think it's best if you stop now.

Peace Always My Friends!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

'Tis the Season to be Jolly

We find ourselves once again on the eve of Christmas, a time of year generally fraught with shoppers rushing to and fro in a last ditch effort to grab that perfect gift at the best possible price. Tragedy struck early this year, with a Wal-Mart employee being trampled to death on what was truly a Black Friday for that man’s family. On the opposite side of the country, we had a shooting at a Toys-R-Us (can’t do the backwards “R”… I’m sorry.), and what was the saddest fact of the shooting, was the indignant response of the shoppers who had to put their orgy of consumerism on hold while the police conducted their investigation.

I don’t bemoan Christmas shopping, in fact I love it. I do 90% of it online via, and for the remainder I trek to the mall. I don’t dread the crowds, I reveal in it. I choose to make the most of shopping for Christmas because it’s supposed to be a fun event; it’s supposed to make us feel good purchasing gifts for our loved ones. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to a deep, dark, possibly perverse joy I get out of Christmas shopping… that being, I love seeing humanity at it’s worse and knowing I’m just a little bit better than most of the ignorant, malcontent masses who would as soon trample me to death while shopping than take a moment to hold open a door, or say “excuse me” on their way to the register as they step over my carcass. I know this smacks in the face of the Christmas spirit and I should gain no joy from watching society’s decline, but it does make me feel a little bit better knowing that so long as I continue to treat my fellow human beings as just that, human beings, there is still hope someone else will do the same.

So that being said, I do have one major complaint that I noticed this Christmas season, that while not directly related to Christmas shopping itself, was made all the more annoying by the large crowds. My question is this: When did malls in America turn into a freaking Middle Eastern bazaar? Can anyone tell me how the Persian mafia infiltrated every mall in America with their kiosks, running down the centerline of what used to be spacious walkways? Is the Department of Homeland Security aware of this? (That’s not a racial joke, it’s a joke about inferior products that could possibly harm U.S. Citizens…) I know everyone is just trying to make a buck these days, but these leeches need to be burned off ASAP! I can think of no more annoying act then constantly berating me with a “Sir!!! SIR!!! Do you have a moment?” as I walk through the mall. No, I don’t have a moment, and no I don’t want a freaking sack of beans that can be micro-waved and put around my neck to loosen sore muscles! Back you unholy spawn of Satan!

I thought this was just a passing fad, no sensible consumer would stop to be sucked in by the Sirens mystical call, but alas I find more and more kiosks are popping up. Who is buying this crap? Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the ignorant, after all there was a time in my life when I too succumbed and found myself $54 lighter and holding some inferior moisturizer under the mistaken belief that it was for Lizzy. I remember it like it was yesterday, the date in fact was 8 June 1973. The Cubs had just won the World Series, I was standing in the International Market in Waikiki, a child ran by chasing a hoop with a stick, a dog barked somewhere in the distance… and before I knew it, Ms. Israel 2003 had put a dollop of some hand crème on the back of my hand and was massaging it in. What was most peculiar was I don’t even remember approaching the kiosk, it was as if I had swam too close to a vortex and was sucked in without consciously realizing what had happened. In the span of mere seconds, my credit card was out and she was placing the crème in a bag. I remember her trying to up-sell me something else, and that’s when the She-Devil’s curse was broken. I quickly came around and said with a resounding, albeit somewhat uncalled for shout, “NO!” Perhaps I’m so hard on these purveyors of annoyance because I know personally of their reality warping powers!

What really strikes me is the variety of these kiosks and their multitude of wares. The following are some of the ones I’ve observed, while the names are not official, if you’ve seen them you know what I mean:
  • The Hot Iron Hair Straightening Machine (from Hell) – These guys have what is obviously just a regular hair iron, the type that is two flat surface that open like salad tongs, but somehow it’s now deemed “miraculous” and they stand at their kiosks “clapping” the hair iron shouting “Miss… Miss!!! CLAP CLAP” as they chase you through the mall. These guys would see Liz and immediately feel the money hairs on the back of their neck going “woo-woo!”. Look, just because a woman has curly hair doesn’t mean it needs to be straightened you f’tard! And one look at Liz should tell you her hair isn’t meant to be straightened as it would be a crime against nature. How do I know this? Well unbeknownst to many, Liz straightened her hair two years ago around Christmastime. She just wanted to see what it would look like, and I have to admit she looked amazing, but the Baby Jesus in our nativity set started to weep. There are just some things you don’t do.
  • The Dead Sea Moisturizer (from Hell) – This was the shifty type I fell for. Look, moisturizer from the SALTIEST PLACE ON THE FREAKING EARTH probably isn’t going to help with eczema. Sorry, but it’s true. And if I’m not mistaken, isn’t that a bottle of Johnson & Johnson Lotion you’re squeezing into that container? I’m pretty sure I’ve used Johnson & Johnson Lotion before and it didn’t do the trick, so unless that’s some sort of mystical container of added moisture, this sale is going nowhere fast. Here’s an idea, why don’t you go back to the Holy Land and let me know if the general situation has improved. I’ll be here waiting for your report.
  • Fake Hair Extensions (from Hell) – for some reason, these are always sold by young Asian women, Korean I think. And they always have them in their hair, and I gotta tell you, it looks so natural! I mean, the way they flow, you can barely see the gigantic piece of plastic that acts as a clip. And the color? It’s amazing how beautiful a blond hair piece looks in a dark haired Asian woman. I’d never guess it wasn’t natural. Is any girl above the age of 13 buying these pieces of clip-on crap? They look like they came out of the “Prostitute’s Survival Kit”, all that’s missing is the cab fare and the obligatory can of mace. Stick with the nail parlors and leave the hocking of bad wares to the Middle Easterners.
  • The Microwaveable Bean Bag (from Hell) – this has got to be the cheesiest of crap that is being sold in malls today. Some enterprising individual stole their grandmother’s door draft stopper and said “If I put this in a microwave, I can then claim its warmth has healing properties!” And voila, we have this latest monstrosity. These chaps will jump out from behind concealment to try and place their snake-like shawl of nasty death around your neck. This borders on assault and I’m surprised every time I see these people and they DON’T have two black eyes. If they try pulling that crap on me, I’m opening up a can of Kung Fu whoop-ass on them!
  • The Electric Cigarette (from Hell) – this is the funniest by far of all the goods in our Persian Marketplace. The guys selling this device, and it’s always guys, look like Euro-trash at a club. They stand around the kiosk “smoking” their electric cigarettes in the most effeminate, latently homosexual of ways. They blow puffs of fake smoke into the air and try to entice the consumer with a much more subdued approach. Instead of shouting out catcalls to the passersby, they instead let their inherent coolness draw you in. You’re compelled by some cosmic force to approach and say “My, what is that? Are you so cool you’re smoking in doors?” These guys take the cake for being the cheesiest of cheese. Imagine the Butabi Brother’s from SNL’s Night at the Roxbury fame, these gents are about as classy and use some of the same moves. News flash, smoking isn’t cool, and hasn’t been since the FDA killed off Joe Camel. Those who smoke do so because they enjoy it, and have long accepted the fact a cigarette hanging out of the corner of their mouth is not attractive. What could possibly make smoking even more un-cool? Make it electric and replace the Marlboro Man & Joe Camel with Raj Rashid & Mohammed Mutari. Bingo, you’ve succeeded!
Will it ever end? Will stores like Banana Republic & Macy’s soon be replaced by a mall filled with nothing by kiosks of crap? Reminds me of the way Starbucks used to expand in the early 90’s. Don’t turn around or your favorite store could be converted to a Starbucks. President Elect Obama ran on a ticket of “Change” and “Hope”, well my “Hope” is for a “Change” at malls, a change back to the malls of old when you could shop without fear of being attacked by over achieving kiosk workers. I need to come up with a snappy response for when they attempt to open a sale, maybe something along the lines of:
Purveyor of Evil: “Sir, Sir? Can I ask you a question?”
Bastion of Consumer Goodness (Cha): “I believe what you wanted to say was ‘May I ask you a question’, to which the answer is no. However I would like to point out by saying ‘May I ask you a question’ you have in fact already asked me one, without first validating you were allowed to.”

Let them chew on that idiosyncrasy of the English language and then swiftly make my exit. Yes, I quite like that response, and to those who are so inclined, please feel free to use it during your last hurrah into Shopping Mecca this Christmas season and throughout the New Year!

Peace Always my Friends and remember, when we eventually pack up and move back to Hawaii it’s nothing personal, we simply hate winter. ;-)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Birth: Part 2

We left off last time with a real cliff-hanger! Lizzy was fully dilated, the doctor was in the room, Cha was breathing into a paper bag in an effort to not hyperventilate, things were going according to plan! As I remember it, the OB sat down on her stool and examined Lizzy while a nurse positioned herself opposite me on the other side of the bed. Apparently things were fairly well along, because after one look she told Liz that she was going to start pushing on the count of... Woah! Wait a minute here, we're pushing already? The doctor squirts some extra virgin olive oil over the exit area to help ease the passage... maybe it was mineral oil, I could be mistaken. As she's doing her massage/exam, I venture a glance and can't believe what I see. There is a little skull down there!!! It's not much, but I can see a baby's head and it has hair!!!

So here we find ourselves, starting to push, baby on the way. This is where all those episodes of E.R. when babies are being born are going to come into play and payoff for watching them instead of going to class while in college. The good doctor set a rhythm for Liz, breathe, push, exhale, etc. And in less than 20 minutes, like 5-6 push "sessions", BAM!!! Lizzy pushed Lily Kathryn out into the world! Those Abs of Steel really paid off, Lizzy was so in shape she was reading US Weekly during the pushing and didn't even break an upper lip sweat! It was really quite a sight!

At this point, I'm staring down at my newborn baby girl. She's completely covered in Vernix, there is some blood, the disputed mineral/olive oil, etc. Basically she's a hot mess, totally disgusting looking, but I am immediately and completely in love with this kid. She's pretty blue though, and the umbilical cord was wrapped around her throat on the way out... she's not screaming, she's not making any sound whatsoever. Dad has his first moment of real panic in regards to his new daughter... WILL SOMEBODY SLAP THIS BABY!?!?! I mean, I don't want to do your job doctor lady, but shouldn't she be making some noise about now? As it turns out, I had no reason to worry, once they cleared Lily's little throat she started to scream and all was well. She immediately started to "pink" up and was briefly placed on Mommy's chest before being taken to the warming tray. She had a lot of fluid in her chestal area, so I went with her and stayed while the nurse worked her magic. Lily's little baby hand held onto my pinky finger the entire time, what a grip! 7 pounds, 6 ounces! Wow, I'm officially a dad now. :-)

Wait a second... I'm a dad now? Holy Jebus... what do I do? I have a moment of panic, I mean I've never changed a diaper before, I'm not ready for her to start dating yet, do I have enough life insurance, what the hell do I do now? Luckily the nurse is still driving this crazy train, she proceeds to clamp Lily's umbilical cord and wash her off. Lizzy is being taken care of by the OB, and I'm left to stare at my two girls. I swear this all happened so fast it's surreal. I'm sure Lizzy would disagree with me on the time frame, as she felt the contractions, but it was done and over with before I even had a real comprehension of what was happening. I'm told the same experience holds true for children as they grow up, so Dad's to be, remember it starts with the birth. Time get's progressively faster the second your child is born. Not to geek out here, but it's like some sort of Star Trek space-time continuum thingy... sorry, that was pretty geeky.

We fast forward a bit to Lily's first feeding, and for those considering breast feeding, I highly suggest taking classes and having a vast amount of patience! Turns out Lily didn't exactly take to breast feeding like we had hoped and consequently we needed the attention of quite a few nurses. Things to remember about breast feeding:
  • Quitting isn't an option, no matter what the new Dad is thinking.
  • Formula is not the same as breast milk, which every nurse agreed on, except one. "It's okay, just give her some formula, it's all the same really." Um... no not exactly Nurse Withoutaclue, but thank you for that suggestion.
  • There are many ways to skin a cat, same is true with learning how to breast feed. Each nurse, aside from "Retard-O the Lactation Consultant Wonder" described above, had a method to her madness. At one point, we literally had Clarita the 3-foot tall Filipino nurse with a syringe in one hand and a small catheter tube running down Lizzy's chest into Lily's mouth. She would squirt a drop or two of formula to get Lily started and then she's pick up with the breast feeding. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.
  • Try to schedule your delivery for the one week a year that the hospital's lead lactation consultant isn't off island at a conference.
The next few days were passed in relative peace and harmony. The birthing center was undergoing construction, but due to our VIP status, we were able to remain in our room the entire visit. Oh, you hadn't heard about our VIP status? That's right, it was a regular Jolie-Pitt circus, with Lizzy, Lily & I the center of attention. You know how the media gets when a celeb baby is born! All kidding aside, it turns out that Lizzy's boss is married to the head honcho of the hospital we were delivering at. A single phone call apparently elevated Liz and I to celeb status and as such we got the royal treatment! It was a wonderful experience and we were most thankful for the attention. Having said that, I have a few requests for our next high-profile delivery:
  • I realize it's an Adventist hospital, but can we do something about the menu? It's a somewhat Vegan approach to dieting the Adventists take, so if it looks like meat, guess what? It's not! I was forced to conduct clandestine food run missions, sneaking all manners of contraband into the delivery ward. If I ever have to hide a nacho bell grande platter in my pants again, it will be too soon!
  • While the construction didn't bother us too much (very thick and heavy doors!), the closed off hallways presented a problem for the contracting mother. We could walk up and down the same 30 foot section of hallway only so often. What about treadmills in each delivery suite? Just an idea.
  • Hire another anesthesiologist! If we had to wait another minutes, I was pretty sure Liz was ready to climb out of that bed, and in-between contractions, hunt that dude down, drag him kicking and screaming back to our room, and run the line herself. At one point, I saw flames licking out from her nose and could smell the brimstone. Thankfully before the portal to hell could fully open, Van the Man (a.k.a. the anesthesiologist) showed up, but another doc on call or present at those high birthing times would be helpful.
  • What is with the TV Remote for Neanderthals? I understand the idea of simplicity, but this thing had one button and was wired to the bed. You could hold the button to turn the TV on, or push it repeatedly to cycle through the channels. Do you know how many times I had to get up from my chair next to Lizzy's bed to change the channel back one as opposed to cycling through the entire lineup? It had to be at least two or three times! Chances are most pregnant women and certainly the fathers, have the hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity to handle a regular remote. Again... just an idea.
Now came the time I had anxiously awaited, the time to leave the safety of the hospital and take our new baby home. First step was to figure out the car seat and get her situated. Granted, at this juncture in my fatherhood, I have the car seat down, I can get Lily in and out of it in a few seconds, but that first time??? At one point I thought the hospital was going to call child services. It was like trying to do public Chinese math, I wanted to just throw a blanket over the entire seat and tell the nurse that she was secure. Not only did I have to figure it out, but it was a test, they weren't going to let me leave until they verified I had it right. No one told me there was going to be a final!!!! I haven't slept in like 2 days, I'm running on bits of fast food that I was able to sneak in and equally outlawed diet coke, I need a shower so bad I could scream and you want to quiz me on this??? I was definitely not prepared for this, turns out though I nailed it on my first try. TAKE THAT COMBI!!! As fate would have it, we had Nurse Withoutaclue doing our final inspection, so truth be told, it could have been completely wrong and no one would have known.

We made it safely home and were in the elevator when we had our first stranger ask us, "My God, she looks like a newborn, how old is she?" I swear Lily flipped that guy the bird, maybe it was just her flexing her fingers, but I'm going with the bird. She's already inherited her father's panache for answering stupid questions. So, into our apartment we go, I put Lily's car seat on the kitchen table and take a step back. As I look around the apartment, I realize that things have changed forever. As corny as it may sound, everything was different. I saw the family room differently, it was no longer my center for video-gaming excellence, it was now a nursing area courtesy of the recliner and a play area for tummy time with Lily. The bedroom was not just a place to crash and read while Lizzy was asleep and me with my miner's headlamp to not keep her awake, now it was a changing room and nursery for Lily. The bathroom... well actually the bathroom was pretty much unchanged in this new light of fatherhood, I was still master of that domain. I fully expected to continue doing my best thinking in that room, where do you think I penned this entry? ;-)

Here we are, almost four months later and I'm still finding it surreal that Lizzy and I are parents. Lily is an amazing child, she's growing at an incredible rate, she's making so much more noise now, the foundation of basic speech. Her eyes following people and things as they move and she's starting to realize that it's her own hand when she slaps herself across the face (perhaps the funniest thing I've ever seen! While her nervous system was still working out the kinks, she'd have these erratic movements and hit herself across her face/head. She'd then have this look of "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?" Absolutely hysterical.). Point is, I can't believe just a few short months ago, I was rushing home from work to pick Lizzy up. A few short months ago I was sweating an ultrasound. A few short months ago Lizzy whispered to me, "I'm pregnant". A few short months ago, everything was different, but I can't even imagine what it would be like without Lily now. All that happened, in just a few short months.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The South Rises Again

Greetings my dear avid readers! Once again I find myself crossing the Pacific en-route to Hawaii, this time for a quick few days. The Air Force, in their infinite wisdom and bean counting ways, decided that attending S.O.S. (Squadron Officer School) while I was moving to Boston was not an option and as such I have to go back to Hawaii to file some papers, pick up medical records (that are all computerized I might add…) and the get back on a plane heading east. Our tax payer dollars at work my friends… I have not forgotten about finishing up the story of Lily’s birth, it will be done in the next few days, but before I forget, I needed to relay my Alabama story.

For those who didn’t know, I was separated from my family for the past five weeks while I attended the required professional military education course, called S.O.S.. The school is located at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL. This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the cultural brain trust of the South. The last time was four plus years ago for another military course. I am sad to say, the greater Montgomery area has not experienced the great leap forward in human evolution I had hoped for. Let me paint a picture for you, perhaps I’m being too harsh. I will let you decide.

For those who have never been, the Gulf Coast region, of which I consider Montgomery to be the most northern part, is hot… I’m talking Africa hot. Humidity is taken to a whole new level, and due to some ecological process that borders on black magic. This humidity breeds bugs the size of which, that will carry away most children under the age of 9. I say most children; more accurate would be to say children NOT of the Gulf Coast region as those children are too large to be carried away by anything short of a flatbed truck. (More on that later) So we’ve established it’s basically a hot, bug infested mess in and around Montgomery, which by any traveler’s guide is not a desirable environmental description. It also has the pleasure of catching every crappy weather pattern that hits Florida, the Gulf Coast, Texas or get’s pushed down by the jet stream. If it’s raining in any part of the country, a few days later it will be raining in Montgomery… and then it will get really hot… repeat cycle non-stop.

Now onto the people of good ol’Montgomery, simply stated, they’re big. Really big! I say this less for comedic effect and more from sadness. While I was visiting the area, the State of Alabama enacted a policy/law that will charge overweight workers for what used to be free healthcare. It’s gotten so bad that the state realized the only way to motivate people was by squeezing their wallets. But in the average citizen’s defense, it’s almost impossible to remain at a healthy weight in the Gulf Coast region. The cuisine simply does not support it! I defecate you not, McDonald’s adds a level of grease to their products that cannot be found anywhere else in the United States. I’m not talking about just burgers, I’m talking about everything! Things that are normally a safe bet such as chicken sandwiches, milkshakes and salads, all contain this added grease. When you’re handed a McDonald’s bag from the counter or drive through, you have approximately 50 seconds to remove the contents before the grease has seeped through enough to cause structural failure of the bag! If McDonald’s were the only culprit, I would say no big deal, avoid Mickie D’s, but they’re only following suit of their local restaurant brethren. The term “Soul Food” I believe was originally meant to mean a comforting type of food, things that reminded you of mom’s cooking. I believe it actually denotes all that’s left of your body after consuming year’s worth of such food! It’s like traveling to a third world country in some ways, you could reasonably expect a period of time to acclimate your body to the local cuisine… I mean I would expect a few days of painful bowel movements if I was suddenly forced to eat grubs, mashed bark or some type crap. Same deal in the South! I would eat dinner out with my flight mates and spend the next three hours praying for death on the toilet while generating copious amounts of upper lip sweat! Long story short, I feel sorry for the people of the region, granted what you eat is your choice and no one makes you eat that way, but the options available for healthy eating are slim and none. It’s going to take a lot more than the state government taxing fat people to solve this problem.

On top of it all, there seems to be a general culture of ignorance that prevails down there. I realize this is coming from the jet setting world traveler that I am, and most folks I’m talking about would think I’m a snob, but I believe the majority of educated folks would agree with me. While folks are generally very friendly, I can’t take that away from them, the simplest of requests are usually greeted with blank stares or outright bewilderment. For example: a large group of folks go to dinner as a whole because the Air Force mandates they do something outside of the classroom. The 13 individuals arrive at one of the local eating establishments and inform the host/hostess that we’d either like a table for 13 or break us up, really we don’t care, and whatever is the fastest solution is the right one. The next 3-4 minutes of stares, and less than pointed questions are enough to drive Gandhi to start swinging. “Well do you need a booth?” Um, I’m pretty sure you don’t have a booth for 13 folks, but shit I’m game! Let’s see it! “Oh no, we don’t have a booth that big. Do you want to eat at the bar?” Ma’am/Sir, I’m pretty sure the bar you’re referring to is right over there, and from my vantage point it looks like there are 6 seats in total, only 2 of which are open at this time. And so it would go until my flight would actually start re-arranging tables for them to make it easier on everyone. Like I said, the folks were always friendly, but for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, can we get someone with an IQ higher than my shoe size up here to seat us?

What makes it all so sad is the best thing that can be said about Montgomery, AL, neigh the entire state, is a semi-retarded fictional character that hails from Alabama and is portrayed by Tom Hanks. Even when Alabama tries to do something right, they find a way to mess it up. For instance, Montgomery brought a minor-minor-minor league team to town and built them a stadium. Okay, not bad, modern folks enjoy sports, a night out with the family… oh wait, something is odd about this stadium. I’m going to go read the “historic” plaque on the wall. Let’s see, this stadium, isn’t actually new, it’s built around and part of an old civil war prison for northern soldiers. WTF? Did I just step into Andersonville or something? Someone call the German Chancellor (do they even have a Chancellor?), are they playing soccer at Dachau now? For God’s sake people, some parts of history were meant to be torn down, not made into an outfield with fireworks the third Thursday of every month! So while all the locals are cheering for their team, I’m squirming in my seat awaiting the 7th-inning “Yankee Hunt”, when anyone from north of the Mason-Dixon line has to stand in the outfield and run toward home plate, if they make it before the locals catch them… well they get to stay, otherwise they’re tarred and feathered. Oddest 7th-inning stretch ritual I’ve ever seen… can’t we just sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”?

So was any part of the past five weeks worthwhile? Sure, the people I met, my brothers & sisters who wear the uniform of a United State’s Serviceman/Servicewoman, that was worthwhile. I thought I was pretty hot, but compared to what they’re doing day in and day out, I’m not so sure about my place in the grand scheme anymore. One guy I met is patrolling the North Korean border in an A-10 Warthog, from there he’s heading to Afghanistan to protect our Army brother’s who are on the ground. He’s a real hero. Another new friend of mine flies a C-17, taking critical supplies into both theaters so our troops as well as the local population get the necessary goods when they need it. He’s a real hero. A fine intelligence officer I met worked her butt off over three days, basically non-stop, to collect, analyze and report on a terrorist and his cell. Her and her team’s report lead to the bad guys capture before his suicide bombs went off, saving countless lives. She’s a real hero. Not to get preachy here, last thing I’d ever want, regardless of how you feel about what we’re doing in Afghanistan or Iraq, make sure you thank a service person next time you see them. They’re facing new threats, things that have never been seen before, and we’re facing an enemy unlike we’ve ever known. Whether you realize it or not, people like my new and now lifelong friends, are saving lives everyday… lives of people you’ve never even heard of, and some days they’re saving your life without you even knowing it.

I missed my family something awful, I can’t believe how much Lily has grown in the short time I’ve been gone, I have a lot of catching up to do! Liz was Supermom, taking care of Lily like a champ! We’re all looking forward (well I assume Lily is…) to settling down in Boston, can’t wait to be done living out of a suitcase! Poor Lily, I swear every time she wakes up, it’s in another zip code! She looked at me last time as if to say, “Dad… did you guys steal me or something? Are the cops on to us?” Pretty soon we’ll be settled and opening our doors to visitors, can’t wait to see you!

Peace Always my Friends, take care and remember, no matter who you plan on voting for, Obama or McCain, the folks down south are more concerned with the Auburn game then the election!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Birth: Part 1

I realize Lily Kathryn is almost 2 months old, but I think it's important to record for posterity her birth, at least how it unfolded in my eyes.

It was a bright sunny day, things started out normally, I had gotten to work, Liz was at home preparing for her day, no reason to suspect that today would be "The Day". I had finished clearing out my emails from the night before, was half-way through my cup of morning coffee when lo and behold, Liz called me. "Babe, I think my water broke." HOLY COW! No warm up, no pre-amble, just WHAM! My heart starts racing, I'm fidgeting in my chair, I can't believe it, I'm going to be a Dad here pretty soon! Okay, let me run through my mental checklist:
  • Is Liz okay? Yes, she's not having contractions yet.
  • Are our bags packed? You know it!
  • Did I wear clean underwear today? Why does that matter?
Okay! Time to go! I tell my boss, he reminds me to calm down, breathe and not to speed on my way home. Right, like any of that is going to happen! I'm so excited I'm giddly like a little girl at a Hannah Montana concert. I leave work, fly home to Liz, bust into our house expecting to find a woman in the throws of labor... but Liz is just getting ready for the day, totally calm, cool and collected. My first order of business, run down to the local McDonald's and get Baby Momma an Egg McMuffin, sans the Canadian Bacon and Papa Bear a new, delicious Chicken Biscuit and iced coffee. Note: This is Egg McMuffin #1 & Chicken Biscuit #1

Breakfast has been consumed, the OB's office has been called and the general consensus of the office staff is Liz and I don't have a clue what we're talking about. Her water has not broken, it's just some "discharge" and we're to go there for a test of some sort.

Liz and I drive from Honolulu, past the hospital were to deliver at, to the OB's office in Kailua. First a Physicians Assistant tests Liz and determines that yes indeed, her water broke. The OB, not believing the test, decides she must test her as well and determines that yes indeed, her water broke. Apparently all those years of fancy medical training don't mean a whole lot, two labor rookies out-smarted the good Doctor! Score one for the parents-to-be! Interestingly enough, Liz still isn't having contractions at this point... so what do we do? The Doctor advises us, "Oh no, you're going to the hospital! You're having a baby today!" En route to the hospital, we decide it's going to be a long day and should probably get some food in our bellies and some magazines for mom. We stop at the McDonald's near the OB. That's Egg McMuffin #2, while I opted for the Susage Biscuit #1. A quick stop at Long's Drug Store for some magazines and we're off to the hospital!

Check in goes very smoothly, we're placed in a lovely birth suite, a nurse takes Liz's & the Baby's vitals. Everything is looking good, still no contractions. It's approximately 1130 now, Liz and I settle in for the long-haul. Liz stays in bed, we watch some TV, discuss larger life issues, oh look Rachel Ray is on, decide on some last minute birth plan points... and we're still waiting. Under advisement from the OB, we're going to start inducing labor around 3 pm, as Liz's water broke, we need to deliver within 24 hours to reduce the risk of infection.

The OB starts the Pitocin at 3 pm, on a slow drip. The first 30 minutes, no reaction. The first hour, not much. One hour and thirty minutes? HOLY SHIT! I have never seen my wife is such pain and it was not cool. Find me a doctor with an epidural kit and make it snappy! Apparently at that very same moment, two other, very selfish and self-centered women decided to go into labor at that moment and have diverted the anesthesiologist from his true task of helping Lizzy and unless something changes, I'm poised and ready to bust into those other ladies rooms and drag him out and into ours! Liz is being a trooper though, we're doing our Lamaze breathing, finger massages, ice chips, WHERE THE HELL IS THE ANESTHESIOLOGIST?!?!? Okay, stay calm Cha, remember it's Liz going through the labor!

Around 7 pm, Van The Man (a.k.a. the Anesthesiologist) arrives to administer the epidural. Liz is having regular, hard contractions right now, so in between those moments Van goes to work, I hold Lizzy as she leaves over, bending her back. This puts me in a prime position to view the entire epidural process.

Now I've seen babies being born and admittedly it's a disgusting thing from a purely physical standpoint. But ichor and blood don't affect me, I can see it all day and I don't feel a moment of wooziness. Watching Van stick a needle into Lizzy's spine? My ass is on the floor. I start getting light headed, I've got cold sweats, my hands are quaking but I tell Liz it's her and her contractions, and my knees are shaking like a maraca. If Van doesn't hurry the heck up, Daddy is going to be nursing a concussion from hitting that hospital floor from 6 feet up! Thankfully Van finishes his work and I can collapse as gracefully as I can into a nearby chair to regain my composure.

As the epidural begins to take effect, Liz and I settle in for what we were told, would be a long, uneventful night. The direct quote was, "You'll sleep through the night, sometime tomorrow morning when you wake up, you will deliver a baby!" Sweet! We could use some sleep, it's been a long day and we should get our rest. Is there time for another McDonald's run? Nah, we'll skip it tonight.

It's approximately 9:00 PM now, Liz and I get ready for bed and drift off to sleep. Around midnight the nurse comes in to check Lizzy & the Baby's vitals and matter of factly asks, "Has anyone checked to see how dilated you are?" It's interesting to point out, that the only check on Lizzy's dilation was done at 9:00 AM in the OBs office. We're now 15+ hours later, all Pitocin'd up and no check. The good nurse puts her glove on, reaches under the blanket and I watch as her eyes jump out of their socket as she quickly pulls her hand back and starts shouting for someone to call the OB. Lizzy is 10 centimeters and Lily's head is poking through!
The next few minutes, maybe 40 in all, are somewhat of a blur. The doctor got there in record time, the room was transformed from a dimly lit sleeping chamber to a delivery room with the bright lights of Fenway Park, I swear nurses starting crawling out of the room's cabinets, towels were being rushed in, warming bed was being calibrated... it was quite the site to behold. Through it all, Liz and I were just kind of staring at each other like, "Is this really happening???"
How will it play out? Will the epidural keep? Is that a mustache on Carlita the Nurse? Is the baby going to be okay? Tune in next time Bat-friends for the thrilling conclusion!

Peace Always My Friends!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Baby Diaries: Chapter 7

Once again we find ourselves in the OB's office, this time for our bi-monthly checkup. Everything is going splendiferously and I decide it's time to fulfill my role as "Guardian of Courage" and grill our doctor on her birthing techniques. Now why would I, who admittedly knows nothing about labor delivery, proceed to ask a trained medical professional on how she does things? Simple answer is because our Lamaze Nazi told us we had to and frankly I'm afraid of her. The moment I became terrified of her was when, during our third Lamaze session she proceeded to berate all those present for not asking our OBs a certain list of questions. "I can't believe, and quite frankly I'm appalled, that you haven't asked these questions yet!"

Let's pause here for a second and analyze that statement. Okay, everyone in the Lamaze classroom who hasn't had a child raise their hand? Okay, seems like everyone but the Lamaze teacher is raising their hand. So let's go out on a limb here and just assume then that the parents to be HAVE NO FREAKING CLUE on what to ask their OB. So is it really fair to be "appalled" that we haven't asked questions we didn't even know we had to ask? And for the record, aren't we, those who are present and taking your little Lamaze-he-he-breathing-love-fest already ahead of the curve? What about all the other yahoos out there breeding without taking your 6-weeks till a Lamaze Guru correspondence course? Shouldn't you be "appalled" at them? Hmm??? But I digress...

So as I pull out the notebook with questions to ask, our Doctor kindly shakes her head and says, "Oh, I see you're taking Field Marshal Rommel's class?" Apparently we're not the first to traipse into her office with a list of completely insane questions. I politely apologize and mumble something about "I have to do this or she's going to make me cry in front of the class" and our good Doctor says it's okay, to fire away.

What followed can only be described as the most frank and "truthiness" conversation I've ever had with a doctor. It was like an episode of "Point/Counterpoint", where on one hand we had Hippy-Earth Mother "facts" and on the other we have years of tried and true Medical Science. In my mind this is a grudge-match of epic proportions! The winner will decide whether our child's birth is set to the tunes of wind pipes and running water or that of fetal heart monitor's beeping.

Question #1 – What's your policy on episiotomies? (For those who have never had a child, that's "cutting down there" to get the baby out)

- Lamaze Stance - never needed... all one has to do is take their time during labor, massage that area prior to birth using oils, and breathe properly.

- Medical Stance - not done routinely, but if the baby is in distress we'd do it.

+1 to the Medical Side - seems like common sense to me... plus neither of us is too comfortable with those pre-game massages.

Question #2 – What positions to you deliver babies in?

- Lamaze Stance - you need to be sitting upright or in a "gravity" friendly/neutral position. Squatting is the preferred method by most primitive cultures so it should work just fine for us.

- Medical Stance - whatever works for you, we'll do. If you decide to squat though, I'm not laying on the floor under you to try and catch the baby.

+1 to the Medical Side AND

+1 to the Lamaze Side for their Gravity friendly/neutral argument. Scientists have been working for years to find ways to negate gravity in an isolated environment on what we like to call the Planet Earth. Apparently Lamaze techniques allow one to suspend the laws of physics and deliver a baby is zero-G... I am so impressed I am speechless.

Question #3 – What's your take on fetal monitoring? All the time or at various intervals?

- Lamaze Stance - It's intrusive and not necessary. The argument for monitoring the baby is to see how the baby is "tolerating labor", which is ridiculous because, and I quote, "babies love labor".

- Medical Stance – I'm okay with intermittent monitoring, but if it looks like your baby isn't doing well we're going to monitor it continuously. After all, our only concern is yours and the baby's health.

+1 to the Medical side - I appreciate the focus on Liz & the baby's health and not on some unsubstantiated & irrational belief that babies love being squeezed through an opening the size of a grapefruit into a remarkably cold and bright world.

Question #4 – When is it too late for an epidural?

- Lamaze Stance - (They won't even dignify that question with an answer...)

- Medical Side - it's really never too late, but if you wait too long it may not go into effect or you may be over the worst of it.

+1 to the Medical Side - in all fairness, Lamaze may have a great argument, but with them not answering our repeated inquiries I have to assume they've taken a vow of silence on the subject.

Question #5 – After the baby is born, we've been told you should place it right on the mother's breast to feed. That means don't clean it up, don't give it their Vitamin K shot or the antibiotics to prevent blindness, etc. What say you?

- Lamaze Stance - State law mandates the shot & antibiotics to be done within one hour. Do not give your baby up until 59 minutes and 59 seconds. The antibiotic gunk they place in the baby's eyes make it difficult for him/her to see you and can cause irrevocable harm in parent-child bonding!!!

- Medical Stance - Sure, we can do that, and let the baby breast feed for a bit if you like. I wouldn't wait the whole hour to give the baby their shot or antibiotics. The baby is basically blind, they can only see about 5 inches in front of their face anyway... so will the antibiotic really change that? And the Vitamin K is a necessary blood clotting agent; some babies develop internal bleeding in their brains from being squeezed through the birth canal. I don't think you want to risk a brain hemorrhage.

+1 to the Medical Side – damn it smart doctor lady! It's not even fair, the way you beat up on Lamaze like that! Come on!!! The Lamaze movement is over there in the corner crying because you keep shooting them down with your so called "logic" and "common sense". Have you no shame?

So let's add up the scores… we've got a real barnburner here… Medical Arguments are up 5 to 1 over Lamaze Arguments. Damn, so close Lamaze, but once again concrete medical science has won the day.

Just to recap:

On the Win side of the score box we have:

And in the FAIL column we have:

Perhaps "fail" is too strong of a sentiment, after all multitudes of women have delivered healthy babies using Lamaze techniques and are die-hard, ardent supporters. So what if I amend that to say, "On our list of choices, we tend to lean towards the OB's stance"? Yes, I like that better. For those choosing to go whole-hog into Lamaze, I commend you and admire your ability to stick with the program! Liz and I are taking some of your lessons to heart and will apply when necessary, but like everything else in life, too much of one thing isn't necessarily good. So for those other choices that present themselves during delivery, we may be swing towards the Doctor's point of view. Don't take it personally Lamaze, you've done wonderful things and remember it's not you… it's me.

Peace Always My Friends and remember, a bulb syringe is just as effective at clearing out Mr. Mucus Plug's nose if he refuses to take the decongestant I left on his Lamaze pillow.