How to Curmudgeon

So I noticed this morning that my gray chest hair is slowly beginning to overtake my dark blond chest hair.

In any other forum, that might be TMI, but this is my forum and in my forum there is no such thing as too much information.

Now . . . to some . . . gray chest hair might seem like a terrible thing.


More gray?

That means that one day I'm gonna die.

But existential crisises aside, I found myself to be pretty pleased.

See, if my body starts doing old person things, then it's finally starting to catch up with my old person personality.

I totally get how some people can be gender confused, cause I've alway been generationally confused.

I just never felt like a young vibrant guy.

I mean, I played one on stage from time to time, but even the centrifical force of the entire spinning of the earth isn't enough to help me get out of bed. I don't like to "do" things and my answer to everything is "no", I don't like people touching my things and the one thing I've ordered for breakfast hasn't changed in twenty years (Chicken fried steak, light gravy, hash browns, sourdough toast, if you must know.)

And it's not the I have an "Old Soul" as the spiritualists might call it. Nope. I was just born a grouchy old man, and now my chest hair has finally conceded.

Being a curmudgeon is different than being an adult, or an older person, a senior, or a retiree. Being a curmudgeon takes a certain skill. It takes a certain know-how. And it's more than just barking at people or letting go of farts that linger for entire afternoons. It's a calling. A manifest destiny.

But it's not just a one shot. You can't just be cranky once in a while. You gotta feel it. You gotta become one with your lower chakra. You gotta be okay with lonliness, for if there is anything curmudgeons hate . . . its other curmudgeons.

Yet . . . if you too see nothing but dark clouds and squish your face together when blinded by the silver linings, and feel as though you're only half way there, then today's How To Tuesday is for you:

Step One: Strong Opinions about Everything.
There is not one topic ever uttered outloud that you don't feel strongly for or against. And it absolutely does not have to toe the party line. In fact, it can't. You have to be both hard core fundamentalist and absolutely disgusted with hard core fundamentalism. You have to be the most outspoken Libertarian while screaminhg for the government to tax the shit out of the rich. You have to believe it is a god given right to own a gun as long as you use that gun to aid in second trimester abortion.

Step Two: A Chronic Injury that can Predict the Future.
Do you have a trick knee that can tell you when it's going to rain? A lazy eye twitch that signals another earthquake? A scar that flares up when Voldemort is angry? I, myself, have a herniated disc that tells me in the morning whether or not it's a good a idea to get out of bed. It hurts whenever I'm gonna have a bad day. And it always hurts.

Step Three: An Outdated Piece of Technology the You Rely Upon.
Do you have movies on betamax that you don't have anywhere else? How about a watch that is also a calculator? An 8-Track in your car? How about an AM radio? You absolutely get points for a phonograph or a Wulrizter, but you lose points for vinyl. (I don't make the rules, vinyl's cool, and you can't be) Not only do I have a micro-disc player (if you don't know what that is . . . you never will) but I also rely upon a totally outdated Sure SM58 when I perform. The thing is, they keep making them, and I keep buying them.

Step Three Point Five: Have an outdated skill.
I can replace the water pump of a Ford 289 in under ten minutes. God willing . . . I will never have to do that again.

Step Four: Your Christmas List is not a Mystery
You like underware, socks, and golfballs. I like the new Stephen King book and Scotch. You can't get me enough of either of those things. And if somehow I get the same scotch from two different people, it means that their love for me is equal.

Step Five: You don't hate EVERYBODY
Hating everybody is boring. And just shy of sociopathic. No . . . you don't hate everybody . . . but there are people that you do hate. And you hate them so much your hands shake and you begin to stutter everytime you come across them. People that clog the aisles of grocery stores. People that write checks at grocery stores. People with too many kids to handle at grocery stores.

Basically you hate people at grocery stores.

People that don't know where they're going and don't pull over to read a map.

People that don't know how to read a map.

Now, I personally don't hate people that get up early and mow their lawns. Good for them. I shouldn't be still in bed at 11:45 anyway. I also don't hate kids playing on my lawn, but I am a little disappointed that my rose bushes have yet to bloody any of them.

Step Six: Overseason your food
My grandpa use to dowse stuff in Lawries (Straight up MSG), my father in law has to add salt to every dish. My dad uses hot sauce on everything from eggs to angel's food cake. I like garlic salt. Grosses my wife out, but I can't get enough of the stuff.

And speaking of gross food,

Step Seven: A dish no one else will eat.
One word. Brussel Sprouts.

Step Eight: An unvaried wardrobe
Once I've found a thing I like, you can get me like, twenty of them and I'll be happy. Not just sorta happy, like, super happy. My wife found a plain white T-Shirt from Costco seven years ago, which happens to fit snuggly and adds length to my gekko-like torso. It's the only T I've ever owned that doesn't pop above my belly button when I raise my arms.

I now have nine of them.

I will wear them everyday and in just about every social situation. It's is cold I'll put on a jacket. If it's warm, I'll take off my socks, if it's professional, I'll put on something else.

I've have the same dress shoes for twelve years.

There is a single black button up shirt that I wear for almost every performance. The cut is perfect, so why go with anything else. We're scouring the internet for different colors.

Thing is, curmudgeons don't like fashion, really, at all. We don't like spending time thinking about what to wear or what we look like, and why would I care what that dress makes you look like when I'm perfectly fine with you being naked? Especially when my calculator watch is telling me we're almost late?

Lastly: Know when to not Curmudgeon.
When your wife stands between you and the football game, it's not because she wants to ruin your night and it's not because she doesn't realize the game is on (she knows), it's because she needs a little bit of attention. Give it to her. Same goes for helping your son with his homework. Same goes for unsolicited advice from your father-in-law, and same goes for Girl Scouts in front of Safeway.

Those are the times when you can smile and give someone your attention, for they probably deserve it.

Same does not go for Green Peace at Trader Joes, nor for the guy behind you who only has two items in his grocery basket is huffing and puffing because he's in a hurry.

If he was in such a hurry he shouldn't have spent so much time at home picking out his shoewear.

He can wait.

And if he keeps huffing and puffing . . . then it's time to get out your checkbook.


When Jesus Calls Five

Watching a DVD, snuggling with the wife. {Phone Rings}

Direct quote from Joann:

"That better be Jesus Christ!"

I get up, cause, well, who knows?

I grab the phone and look at the caller ID.

I shit you not.

Jesus Christ

"It's Jesus calling . . . and he's local. Do I let the machine pick up?"

"OMG. Answer it."

"Kay . . . Hello? . . . Jesus?"

But nothing. There was no sound at the other end of the phone, nor was there any heavy breathing, nor was there any of that white noise to suggest that Jesus was going to come on any minute and ask me about how much I would like to reduce the APR on my Visa card. I must have waited too long to pick up. Jesus has left the call.

Now, you may be suprised to know that a midday call from Jesus Christ isn't all that unusual. Part of our deal with Comcast is that we get Caller ID, but they have the right to sell our phone number to every telemarketing agency in both this world, hell, and the kingdom of heaven.

Lotta telemarketers in hell.

But most likely, when Jesus Christ comes up on our Caller ID, it's probably some donation drive for some local church with Jesus Christ as the first words in their title.

But . . . you know . . . like . . . what if?

It occured to me that in that moment I was totally unprepared for a phone call from Jesus, and although we've finally decided to get rid of our landline, it's very possible that Jesus reads this blog regularly and my cell phone number is listed on my website for any Messiah to take advantage of.

Now, after giving this like a whole twenty minutes worth of thought, I want to share with you five things you should know/say/do when Jesus comes calling for you.

Step One: Act like nothing is wrong.
A phone call from Jesus is a lot like getting pulled over by the highway patrol. You know you must have been doing something illegal/sinful, but you're not sure if it was speeding or you have a tail-light out or your registration might not be up to date because you've left that sticker sitting on the kitchen counter for like months now. A phone call from Jesus isn't as scary cause there are no flashing lights, and he's most likely not carrying a gun (unless you live in Texas), but all the same you're gonna panic and start listing off sins and trying to remember if masterbation is an Old Testament no-no or a New Testament no-no and "why god why?" were you so foolish as to index your bible in the science fiction section of your bookcase when it clearly belongs the the autobiography shelf.

Just remember, you don't know why Jesus is calling yet, so don't give anything away.

Be cool.

Say something like: "Hi Jesus/Officer." Smile. "What can I do for you today?"

And it never hurts to show a little cleavage.

Step Two: Getting to know Jesus.
I'm sure you have lots of questions. "Will there ever be peace in the Middle East?", "What's your stance on abortion?", "Did my dog Sparky really go to live at a farm in the country? And if so, do I get to see him again in Heaven?"

These are very important things to know . . . but even though Jesus is a slice of the Trinity Pie . . . he's also the human slice and you have to grease the skids a little bit like this was a blind date.

Humans love talking about themselves, so get the ball rolling with something personal, but not too deep.

Like . . I wanna know how he feels about Christian Rock. I mean . . . like . . . there isn't a girl alive who doesn't swoon over a song that's been written about them (lovingly), but Jesus was a huge fan of irony, word play, and metaphor, and though Christian Rock songs are beautiful, the sentiment gets a little stale after the first stanza.

We know he likes long walks on the beach, but how does he feel about smooth jazz?

Step Three: Show a little respect.
I know it's a Saturday afternoon, and you're pretty much done for the day, and being omnipotent, there's a very good chance that he already knows what you look like naked, but . . . you know . . . put a bra on.

For Christ's sake.

Step Four: Listen to what he has to say.
I imagine that Jesus's voice is probably nice and deep. Like Sam Elliot or James Earl Jones. So it may be a little freaky to hear him tell you that he is, in fact, your father, or something as innocuous as 'The Dude Abides' it's important that your don't get lulled by the tone and miss the words enitrely.

If you find yourself spacing out, grab a notepad and a red pen.

Remember: Jesus's words should always be in red.

A pink highlighter will do in a pinch.

And try to get the spelling and phrasing exact. We all know what can happen after two thousand years of misinterpretation.

Step Five: Be prepared that it's a wrong number.
Now I don't kow how to put this delicately, but even after two millenniums, there's a good chance that his carpals and metacarpels haven't totally heeled after that whole nailed to the cross thing. It's very possible that he hasn't upgraded to the iPhone 4s yet and doesn't have Siri to auto-dial for him. Which means, in all likelyhood, since you haven't been to church since god knows when, that he hit 773 instead of 733.

Yeah, that could be really embarassing for him, so, him being the Messiah and all, you might want to cut him a little slack.

I'm sure you're feelings might be a bit hurt . . . to have direct evidence that Jesus wasn't, in fact, taking an interest in you. But you gotta remember, he has a kingdom to run and the entire population of earth to save, and he probably hasn't even started his Christmas shopping yet and there are places even Amazon won't deliver to.

And C'mon.

You get to spend the rest of the afternoon on the couch with your beautiful wife, drinking wine and eating some gooey spinach dip with chewy sourdough chunks while your healthy son is out riding his bike instead of playing video games.

Hell . . . you might even get lucky later.

God has already done you a solid.

So wish him a nice day and get back to your wonderful life.

And if you really want to honor him, go ahead and grab some scented oils and give your wife a foot rub.

Jesus loves footrubs.

[John 12:3]

The 40ft POST: R-E-L-A-X

That was the tweet from QB1 Aaron Rodgers to the Packer Fans.


It seems to me to be a fitting response to fans, fantasy nuts, and anyone who has ridden the tsunami of the 2014 season. So far this season we've been plagued with controversy, off the field nonsense, and just about every team playing in mysterious ways.

A buddy of mine (whose team happens to sit right on top of our ForReals League) likes to point out that the first four weeks of the season are just about figuring out 'What's What."

"All you want to do is to get out of September with a 2-2 record and enough pocket change left over to buy the first round of beers at Dave and Busters."

End Quote.

I spent this space last week highlighting my Jedi-like vision on Darren Sproles who everyone poo-pooed and I just thought was going to be the bees-knees this season.

Yet, thanks to pure Wait. . . Dad? performance, I wasn't finished brushing the dandruff from my shoulder when he got two carries and two catches for a total of 50 yards and his 52 point week 2, sunk below double digits in week 3.


I also pontificated on the so-far durability of Arian Foster, ouch, how good his handcuff (Grimes) was going to be . . . and how much good fortune I had that I was forced to choose between two top 15 RB's this week (Sproles or Joique)

Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I also thought we'd get to see some serious Brady/Gronk action. Wrong. Some serious Cleveland play. Wrong. Rodgers and Nelson lighting up the house. Nope. And the best one, I compared the Giants to the Raiders. I don't feel bad about that one, but still, wrong.

And then there was the long view. I totally thought that there was going to be a ground and pound movement among the league, but it's been all "Throw First and Ask Questions Later." And all the biggies are either out, or in McCoy's case, getting 1.1 yrds per carry, hell, even Tannehill threw 43 times last week. Lynch is still a beast, though. And Demarco Murry too.

Then . . . I also wrote about how nice it would be to not have any domestic abuse on the table for a least a week and the second I heard that little swoosh that tells me my post has gone through, Dwyer gets arrested.

Gotta admit it. I'm a little terrified of putting any words down for fear of ruining lives.

Can a jinx run that deep?

Yes, my conscience tells me, Yes it can.

But I'm gonna relax about that. There's very little evidence to suggest that a mostly unread football blog has that much negative power associated with it. So we'll just gear up for the final week in September and order another round.

The Karma double check. Now we've all seen the State Farm commercials where a bunch of insurance nuts are immitating Aaron Rodgers' TD celebration. The "Discount Double Check" has been a thing for a few years now, though I gotta admit, it's more of a sgnal to me that it's time to get up and pee.
And we also know that celebrating an enormous play is not only a way to rile up the crowd, but also helps in the intimidation factor. Football is, after all 95% physical, 7% emotional, and 12% butterscotch ripple.
(if you caught that Willie Wonka reference, you get to hang with the cool kids in the back alleys of hell.)
Anway, Stephen Tulloch, a defensive lineman for Detroit, sacked Aaron Rodgers on a big down and then jumped up into the air to mock Rodgers' trademark move . . . hit the ground and tore his ACL.
The reason why this is big news is because it solidifies the fact that there is a God, and he's not particularly fond of douche bags.
See you next season Stevey.

Okay, the big stories loading up this week are the back-up QB's being let out of the stable. Bortles, Bridgewater, Carr (who was one throw away from handing Brady his hat), Stanton, and of course, Mr. Kirk Cousins who rolled out there like he'd been secretly been getting first team reps since March.

The quarterback position is unquestioningly the hardest role in almost all of professional sports (leaving out Serena Wiliams' shoewear) and being the back-up guy has to be the most terrifying. It's like a 42nd street nightmare (or dream come true) and I for one love to root for the underdog.

This weekend we get to watch as entire careers face an almost impenetrable brick wall, or (in the case of Kirk Cousins) maybe get to watch a few stars be born.

That's soap opera stuff right there.

Lot of discussion on the Peterson, Rice, Mcdonald, Dwyer cases. Not so much left on the Josh Gordon plate til week 12 (so loong, soo loong), so we'll table that stuff for now.

Brandon Marshall wasn't quite the limping monster her was in week 2. Get well soon. Arian Foster is having existential conversations with his hamstrings (Prot-Tip, please don't tweet your MRI with your SSN so visible this time, 2011). Get well soon. And lots of LB's with broken fingers, which makes the mock-discount-double-check even that more dangerous. Get well too.

The sad down was Dennis Pitta, the TE for the Ravens, the man on the cusp of a career year as Flacco's security blanket. It's one thing to get injured. It's one thing to get injured and lose a season. But the loss of two seasons for the same fractured hip has just gotta be devistating. That's some terible pain right there, and even more terrible physical therapy to follow. Here's to 2015.

The Raiders were so close. So close. And man that would have been cool. Taking down the Partriots on a day where Darren McFadden had positive yardage. Streater went down and Moore wasn't there to take up the slack, but the defense made Brady squeemish, so we're just gonna put that in the moral 'Win' column.

And what's going on with the Niner's?

Can't tell you.

Don't know.

They don't let me in the meeting rooms any more since I stole that maple donut from Anquan Boldin.

It was a pretty good day for Kaepernick, and pretty neat day for Crabtree, but their secondary was lit up and though I was hoping to see a monster shoot out, a 14-23 loss didn't quite fit that bill.

Can't wait for the Eagles to get to town.

There's gonna be some serious offense going on.

ForFuns Team (2-1) 1st place.
ForReals Team (2-1) 4th place.

Just like week 2 I had one good day and one terribly mismatched day. I'd like to think that I was suprised, but I wasn't.

My questionable pick, Arian Foster, didn't play, which at the start of Sunday morning, didn't feel like it was going to shut down my team. I just slide Sproles into Foster's RB spot and waited for the magic to begin.

You might think it was a terrible idea having two Eagles RBs in my starting line up, but together they gave me 56 points week one and 76 points week two. What could go wrong?

Washington's defensive line, is the answer to that question.

My boys were both stopped cold. As was Jordy Nelson, Joique Bell, my kicker, and my entire defense.

I'm renegging on my lazy approach to the starting defense. I'm streaming here on out.

I've also come to the conclusion that my handcuff approach didn't pan out. At all. Hrumph. Remind me about that next July.

My ForFuns team lit it up though. So I got that going for me, but the ForReals Team is a bit of an enigma now.

Shout out to my brother, who goes into last week 0-2 and at the bottom of the pile, loses Adrian Peterson, grabs Cousins and some various dream-boats and turns his Week 3 team into the highest scoring team in the league. He rolls into week four in the No. 6 spot and only a few points behind the league leaders.

I go up against him this week, so now would be a good time for everyone to heal and get back to their week 2 awesomness.

I say that not only for my own sanity, but for the humanitarian greater good.

Also, shot to the old man for rolling with Victor Cruz after benching him last week. That took some serious testicles and now I understand why my underware never seems to fit right.

I've been gored by the Week 4 Bye's in my ForFuns league, Harvin, Floyd, Giovanni and some linebackers, but I've got an eight person bench and have been stashing, so I'm not too worried.

The biggest question mark is whether to go with Kaepernick or Cutler against my brothers' Cousins, but I'll make that decision when I know more about Vernon Davis and Brandon Marshall later on in the week. I will probably role with Colin simply because the Niner/Eagles game will be freakishly fun to watch if I do. (Kaepernick&Crabtree vs McCoy&Sproles on the same fantasy team)

Beers on me.

Okay, with that said:

High scoring game SF vs Arizona? (14-23) and nope.

Lamar can't catch a break? More like Lamar can't be caught (15-108)

Victor Cruz wears Donnel's jersey to fool Eli into throwing his way? (Didn't need to 5-107-1)

Arian Foster shares the field and Grimes goes for 75 yards? (Yes, but not in a good way and it was Blue, who went for 78)

No matter who I pick (Sproles or Joique) it'll be wrong. (Two-Fur, Picked both, both wrong)


75 total points in the San Francisco Eagle's extravaganza.

The Raiders win in London.

Not a single player goes down this week with a season ending inury.

I will hear commentators talking about the possibility of Johnny Manziel leading the Browns after the week 4 bye at least 13 times.

My brother beats me, but only by 13.5 points.

That's it for today . . . 

And remember . . . never settle for flimsy celery with your hot-wings. That shit ain't right.


Do not . . .

I repeat . . . 

Do not microwave your iPhone.

I know that kinda sorta sounds terribly obvious, but there was a hoax that made the rounds claiming the new iWave feature that allowed users with low batteries to charge their phones in seconds by microwaving them.

"Only stupid people would believe that." you say?


Cause you've like never been conned? Or flashbanged into believing something too good to be true? You've never eaten a fad diet, or bought an expensive piece of equipment that was obsolete before christmas? You've never taken a multi-vitamin or shopped at Whole Foods?


"Okay." You say. "Maybe I do own shoes that are going to correct my posture and maybe, just maybe, I've prayed to a God for personal favors . . . but there's no way I would be duped into microwaving my iPhone."

You say.

Let me tell you a little story.

It's the winter of 1989.

The Oakland Athletics have just beaten the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Nothern California is still cleaning up ofter the Loma Prieta earthquake. I am thirteen years old, picking up the guitar for the first time, and ten months away from starting highschool.

The movie I couldn't wait to see?

Back to the Future 2.

And I've got two words for you:

Hover Board.

And I was super excited.

See, back in those days, there were like thirty channels on the TV.

A lot of those channels were scrambled. See, the cable came in through the wall and had to pass through a cable box that would scramble or unscramble certain specific channels. It wasn't like today where you just get a blank screen-shot from Comcast telling you that you need to subscribe, no, no, no. 

Audio would come through, but the video would be all phazed and blurry.

We had various packages throughout the years, but I remember not having HBO, SHO, MAX, or any of the other biggies cause 1989 wasn't a big cable priority.


Every blue moon or so, the biggies would give you a free preview weekend, so you could see what you're missing. There was no way to tell, so you have to check the channel once every two or three hours.

The Playboy channel never unscrambled. Which I think is why there is an entire generation that thinks the sound of Rianna's voice is sexy and who also find Picasso paintings so aluring.

They're just imitating the porn of our youths.

So it's winter 1989.

And not only does HBO unscramble for this one magical weekend, but I also get to see a documentary on the filiming of the new Back to the Future movie.

And still two words.

Hover Boards.

During an interview with the director, Robert Zumekis, was asked where they got the hover boards.

He said that the technology has been around for a while, and they are available in Japan, but in America, partental rights groups have kept them off the shelves thinking they were too dangerous. There's a good chance that we might be seeing them in time for christmas this year.






Hover Boards by Christmas.

Now I was not a stupid teenager. No one has ever acused me of being gullable. And I was right then learning about electro-magnetism and as anyone who has tried pushing two positively charged magnets together, you know that they repell one another, so it stands to reason that we should have devoloped hover technology based on repelling gravitational force by now.

I still think that.

Yet at thirteen, I thought that there could be no greater application of an anti-gravity technology than a hover board.

It was so obviously simple.

So obviously needed.

Christmas was only a month or two away.

So I raced in to tell my dad.

He listened very politely to my breathless excitment and then told me, very affectionately, that someone was yanking my chain.

I had the utmost respect for my dad.

But I didn't belive him.

The director of Back to the Future just said that Hover Boards might be available this Christmas.

I'll just have to keep it to myself then.

I mean, c'mon. If we can use lasers to play music, surely we can harness enough electromagnetism to glide a skateboard over the surface of the sidewalk.

I waited silently for weeks. But no word of Hover Boards.

I saw the movie and was kinda disappointed. I was at that point where gimmicky film making (using Michael J. Fox to play his children) just looked stupid to me.

But here's the thing.

I didn't give up hope on the Hover Board.

Even when Christmas came and went, I still had this secret dream that it would become a reality soon enough.

I don't remember when, or if, there was ever a point at which I sorta let it go. It was probably gradual. It was probably highschool or girls or facial hair.

Though I gotta admit. Twenty five years and I'm still just a little disappointed.

But flash forward those twenty years.

And teenagers are putting their iPhones in microwaves.

Cause y'know why?

Cause we now live in Science Fiction.

My super-flat-super-wide-HiDef-plasma TV is insanely better than the wobbily projector TV used in Back to the Future 2. Okay, maybe cars don't fly, but billboards are digital, items from the 80's can be found in antique stores, almost all of human knowledge is available on your cell phone via space, and do you really want shoes that tighten themselves? Really?

I can tell you what would be rad though.

If I could charge my cell phone in a few seconds by putting it in the microwave.

I mean, microwave energy can excite the DihydrogenOxide molecules in order to heat my cheese and bean burrito, how much is it to ask for them to also send a little love to my lithium ion battery?

We've perversly trained this genteration into believing that any major problem they have with anything will be solved as soon as the next generation model is out of beta-testing.

And what bigger problem do they face than a dying cell phone?

When they read the ad about the new iWave function, they don't think that that might be a joke.

They think "FINALLY"

And whammo. Now the internets get flooded with pictures of burned out iPhones.

Except, most likley, those pictures are just as chain yanking.

This is the internet after all.

Those news articles you read about kids actually putting their phones in the microwave, are just as staged as the iWave ads. Those kids probably bought new phones and put their old ones in the microwave, waited 'till it popped enough to look all burnt out, took a picture of their old phones with their new phone and uploaded the photo to instagram which was immediately picked up by file sharing sites and once, given a few days to go viral, becomes the human interest story on your lazy local news network.

Which . . . if true . . . makes me very angry that I don't have my hover board yet.

Following Panama Five

The stereo in my wife's car is pretty lame.

In my youth I might have torn the whole thing out and spent a month's salary installing something with some serious backbone. Now, however, I wouldn't even know where to begin, and since NPR doesn't require 12" woofers or a five hundred watt amplifier, I've just left it as is.

Factory direct.

Sometimes though . . . a song comes on the radio that just needs to be cranked.

Sometimes it's cheesy and embarrassing (see: Pat Benetar, Kelly Clarkson and the occasional Taylor Swift) and the windows need to be rolled up and no eye contact is to be made.

Sometimes it's classic, something Motown, and you want to roll all the windows down and show that you're really not some incredibly white chick in a champaign colored SUV.

And sometimes . . .

Sometimes it's Van Halen.

Van Halen needs to be cranked.

Especially the David Lee Roth years.

It's a moral imperative.

"Jump", "Hot For Teacher", "Everybody Wants Some", hell even The Kinks cover "You Really Got Me" require full throttle on the decibel meter.

So when "Panama" comes on as I head to pick up my son from school, regardless of the insufficient system, I'm rolling that dial up.

. . . and the tree was happy.

But then something weird happened.

After the song was over, I had kind of forgotten that the sound was maxed and suddenly I've got Hootie and the Blowfish telling me to Let Her Cry at a very awkward volume.

Now, I totally get the fact that serious DJ work has been usurped by the ubiquitous and freakishly cheaper iTunes Shuffle, but how hard would it be to create a basic playlist?

It can't be that tough.

Or . . . and more probably . . . someone was just asleep at the wheel.

Someone young.

Someone who thinks anything produced before 2007 is all just the same.

Anything pre EDM is just nonsense.

(For those of you who have had hair on your unmentionables for longer than six months, EDM is a catchall term for Electronic Dance Music. House, Rave, Dubstep, somewhere between disco and industrial and The Grateful Dead. It's the new thing. Well . . . maybe not the NEW thing. It's just the stuff to take drugs to and make bad decisions with. Glow in the Dark Hula Hoops have replaced lava lamps and a new generation has a morning-after pill.)

But still?

Hootie and the Blowfish following Van Halen?

Now I'm not Hootie Hater. Any band that can streamline a bunch of pop hits for a few years and spend the rest of their careers at Celebrity Golf functions deserves an A+ in my book.

But Let Her Cry is just not the right tune to follow Panama.

Did QuestLove teach us nothing?

(Again for the over thirty crowd, QuestLove is the drummer for the experimental HipHop band 'The Roots' and is now the band leader for Jimmy Fallon's late night TV show. His book "Mo' Meta Blues" spends chapters talking about the art of DJing and is a must read for anyone who wants to learn how to put two songs back to back)

There are five directions you can go with following any song. Go harder, go softer, switch genres, go classic, go modern.

There may be others too, Questlove was all about tempo cause he's a drummer, I prefer to stay in key or because I have a terrible sense of humor, go super annoying, either way, this is a Five list, not a keep going until I run out of ideas list.

So since I spent the better part of my youth (when I wasn't replacing car stereos) doing what my generation did, making mix tapes, I think I am ultimately qualified to find songs that should follow this Van Halen masterpiece, and consider this my resume if you are looking for a DJ for your radio station.

Number One: Going Harder
That's pretty wild jump to go from Panama to something that screams louder, so my suggestion is to go with something in the alternative section from my native 90's era. Nirvana's "Smells Like Team Spirit" would fit nicely. It starts with the undistorted ultra recognizable F to Bflat to Gsharp to Csharp, then lights up your tweeters as Dave Grohl's drums kick in.

Number Two: Going Softer
David Lee Roth has just told you to reach down between his legs and ease the seat back. You can probably guess that although it will be quite the drive, it's probably not going to end well, so here I think we need to consider Cat Steven's "Wild World" It's soft, poignant, and kind of like a melancholy Jiminy Cricket on the shoulder of the girl who is riding shotgun.

Number Three: Switching Genre's
In the 80's Van Halen was clearly in the Heavy Metal category, but I didn't think they belonged there then, and I certainly don't think they belong there now. No, I think I would call them - maybe - something like - Power Pop. Somewhere between David Bowie's Glam Rock of the 70's and Warrant's Glam Rock of the 80's.  They definitely gave the late 80's hair bands their look and feel, but I think they deserve a little more cool credit than Nelson or Winger. Anyway, we're in party mode, so I things we need to jump straight to Black Eyed Peas' "Lets Get it Started" Yeah, that feels right. Ending David's yell of Panama and rolling smooth with Furgie's faux soulful "Let's get it started . . . in here ear ear ear." And the bass keeps running runnin and running runnin.

Number Four: Going Classic
If you want to go classic here, you've only got three options following Van Halen. Clapton, Hendrix, or Townsend. (Some people might wanna add Page . . . boo) A solid Clapton pairing would be "Sunshine of Your Love" instantly recognizable, and if you're Van Halen fan, you'll know that Clapton is the one guitar player Eddie stole the most from. I'm a Hendrix guy myself and am tempted to go with All Along the Watchtower (A Dylan tune, so a two-fur), but tinkering with my own playlist, Crosstown Traffic is a much better fit. I didn't find a Who tune that worked right sonically, but thematically, Behind Blue Eyes, cause if anyone know what it's like to be the bad man behind blues eyes, it's David Lee Roth.

Number Five: Go Modern.
I'm really really tempted here to go with Adelle's "Rollin in the Deep" That kick drum line is just so bad ass, but for some reason I just can't visualize an eighteen year old Adelle being the kind of girl Roth is singing about . . . however . . . Pink on the other hand . . . not only is she the kind of girl that's riding into the night with David, she's probably driving. "Blow Me (One last Kiss)" is both a sonic and thematic pairing of perfection.

*Bonus Track
Now remember, I've got cheap speakers cranked up, as would you, and it's as important to shock the listener just to make sure he's paying attention, and it's also important to recognize Panama as not just a girl gone wild, but also as a equatorial nation.

Is if you're gonna go nuts . . .

go with "The Girl From Ipanema."

And let hilarity ensue.

TBT: Taking a Shot

So yesterday I met with an old coworker.

I hate to call him that, cause not only did we spend gobs of hours fooling around with coffee and tea, we kinda got paid to do so.

He also created some of the most beautiful tracks  on my album, found just about all the other artists involved, and calmly put up with my nonsense when I simply couldn't live with something and had to redo it.

The hours we spent together (and there were lots of hours over three years) felt more like play than work, so for the rest of this blog I'm just gonna say he is a friend.

Anyway, so an old friend calls me up and wants to know if I could meet for lunch the next day and talk about the coffee business. And I'm like "Sure . . . of course . . . lets do this."

Boy was I excited.

He owns a small coffee roasting business and might have an opportunity to expand exponentially. I won't go into details, cause they're not mine to share, but let us just say that his concern is quality control vs bottom dollar economics.

Something I know well.

And yes . . . it felt really good to share.

I hadn't taught retail mechanics and training methods or even thought about something as esoteric as a Profit and Loss Statement in a very long time.

I spent a decade and a half mastering a skill that I have no use for right now.

Wicked weird.

But thankfully, it's all still there rattling about, it just happens to have to share space with venue preferences and the lyric stylings of Rascal Flatts.

The reason I bring this up for ThrowBack Thursday is that despite the fact that I only have two cups a day and haven't compared a Guatemalan against an Aged Sumatra in 15 months, I'm still a coffee and tea guy.

I still love the stuff.

I still love talking about the stuff.

I absolutely still love teaching the stuff.

And I still got it.

I mean, imagine the great high school quarterback waking up to find that he's 38 years old, two cars, two kids, hot wife, and still has the arm strength to chuck it down field with pinpoint accuracy.

That's some cool stuff right there.

What makes ThrowBack Thursdays fun is looking at the old pictures of ones self. The odd clothes, the massive hair, the Teen Beat poses, the 'What was I thinking?' and of course the 'Who is that guy?'

But part of being an artist is the constant aching struggle to find an objective identity in a purely subjective medium.

So in fact . . . looking at my yellow pad filled with notes on production and distribution and corporate structures and long term objectives . . . I realized I know more about the man I was then than I know about the man I am now.

Which is perfectly fine.

I'm not a man in crisis and I don't have any plans to change course.

Adventure isn't about chasing the calm waters, it's about trying to catch the wave. But if I do find myself shipwrecked somewhere down the line, at least I know where to swim.

The 40ft POST: It's the Little Things

I don't know how you decided to spend most of your Wednesday morning, but I spent it chasing down my neighbor's dog who had escaped from her own treacherous back-yard.

I know what you're thinking.

"But Josh . . . you hate dogs . . . you're scared to death of them."

Yeah . . . alright . . . but Penny is just a little thing and I kind of felt compelled to make sure that my son's friend's dog didn't get eaten or run over or swiped.

And speaking of little things . . . I lied before . . . I do know how you've spent your morning. If you are anything like 97% of the Fantasy Football community, you spent this morning chasing down every waiver-wire, long-shot, handcuff you could get your grubby little fingers on.

Am I right?

Of course I am.  Because every stud on your roster went down. Like . . . not even metaphorically . . . we're talking 'hit the ground and stayed there.'

Now if you're wondering why I chased a dog around the cul-de-sac rather than restocking my line-up, is because, for the first week ever, my team stayed healthy and scored big. I doubt it will last much passed Sunday morning, but right now I feel like Ric Ocasek surrounded by supermodels. And the reason I didn't have much bench woes either was because of this little guy:

Darren Sproles.

Now hopefully your wife let you watch TV on Monday cause Eagles vs the Colts was not a game to miss, and I'm not about to give you a play-by-play, but two things were clear: Sproles is a top ten running back (#1 in my ForFuns League, #4 in my ForReals league) and he was criminally underutilized once the shiny new toy (Jimmy Graham) came to New Orleans.

Uncle Chip knew it and picked up Sproles for a song. (Most likely something from The Grateful Dead's back catalogue)

Thing was, the second I heard the news of the trade, I started salivating a little. A turbo charged humming bird in turbo charged offense plus three years of bed rest in an RBBC. How is he not gonna light shit up?

But the overwhelming analyst opinion was . . . well . . . meh.

He's gonna get like 6-8 carries a game and is really only a late round handcuff if you can nab Shady in the first round.

And in every mock draft I participated in (of which there were way too many) he got chosen after kickers.


Everyone had to know something I didn't.

Which I'm cool with. Again, this is only the fourth year I've watched football with any regularity. In the grand scheme of things, I'm barely out of diapers, so in all honesty, I felt a little ashamed for my early season enthusiasm.

Now in my ForFuns league, Sproles goes in the 8th round, just about the time everyone's loading the bench with possible flex players. I honestly didn't notice at the time because - if you remember - I accidentally lost my 3rd round pick due to wifi issues and a stupidly timed queue filled with line-backers, so I hadn't even filled my roster yet.

But in my ForReals league, I was the guy who nabbed Shady and I spent the entire draft crossing my fingers that I could get Sproles late enough not to look like a dreamy eyed jackass.

And there he was. 11th round. And now he sits, nestled on my bench, and creating a whole new problem . . . which we'll get to in the fantasy portion of The 40ft POST.

Okay . . .

Of course the big news in football right now is domestic violence and child abuse. I'm sorry, but I can't really write funny things about either of those two.

Lesean McCoy tipped his waiter 20 cents for . . . in his words . . . "Not being respectful" and got called out for it on Twitter.

Having been in the retail/food business for over fifteen years, I would like to tell all multi-millionaires something that they probably don't know.

Waiters live off of tips. And when they see a well dressed man in an expensive car, they know that if they put on the shine, they might have a chance of eating something other than Top Ramen that night.

Because of that skewed economic tilt, are only three reasons you get bad service.

One: You happened to catch the guy in a bad moment. Maybe his car broke down, or his dog died, or his girlfriend is sleeping with her cousin. The poor dude's heart just isn't in it. Show the love, tip him big.

Two: He's at the end of a very long day and is punch drunk. Imagine, McCoy, running into Carolina's front seven, not 23 times over the course of an hour, but 423 times over the course of ten hours. Send him to the locker room with a crisp Benjamin.

Three: You're being such a dick-head that he's given up the hope of taking his best girl to the movies and just wants to salvage a little dignity. You gotta self actualize that one, but his body language should be much easier to read than Seattle's pass rush.

Anyway, it's your call.

Honestly, I don't know anymore. Bad teams beat good teams. Good teams beat better teams.  I thought it would be fun to see if Brady was gonna light it up with a healthy Gronk, but we're still on hold. I thought it was going to be fun to see what kind of RB Moreno was gonna turn out to be after going on a tear week one. Ouch. The Niners were finally gonna have a chance to see what their offense could do when they had a full length football field to work with (commit penalties, apparently). And Seattle was going to prove how unstoppable they are.

I forgot how confusing life can get for a Pacific North-westerner when the temperature rises above 76 degrees.

So this week we'll continue with our Brady/Gronk watch . . . cause why not? Let's also see what Cleveland can do now that they've handed Brees a 0-2 start to the season. (If you remember I called a good day for Hawkins last week) Can Foster stay healthy with that many carries? Will Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson continue to do aaronrodgers/jordynelson/things all year long (oh, please please please) And lastly, will the Giants offense usurp the Raiders as the most difficult thing to watch in sports?

Again, not really gonna touch this one. You're already well aware of those players that are gonna be warming the bench, although, a hurt Brandon Marshall is statistically better than a healthy Brandon Marshall, and my brother pulled off the trade of the century scoring the Texan's defense for a yet to be hurt Knowshon Moreno.

That's some Jedi stuff right there.

The one that actually broke my heart was poor Mark Ingram. He was finally getting the call. He was my second round pick in 2011 before I knew there was such a thing as an RBBC, and though he never scored for me, I've been rooting for his success ever since. : (

As for the bad decisions part. Two Pittsburgh running backs caught with a hooker and a bag of weed on their way to the airport = Funny. But that was two weeks ago. Everything else since then has been terrible . . . just terrible.

Someone needs to send Johnny Football back to Vegas or I'm not going to have anything to write about.

Hmm. Well. That was interesting. The Raiders got toasted (but played hard like Rudy) and you gotta feel just awful for James Jones who had two fumbles all of last year and now has two fumbles in one single play. I'm still rooting for them though.

And the Niners vs Chicago. Or as I liked to call it "The 3nOut Penalty Bowl" I guess the key to defeating the Niners is to hammer the offensive line until Kaepernick throws the ball to your corner back, and an injured Brandon Marshall. Don't think that tactic will hold water by the end of the week, and I expect to see a lot more of Gore/Hyde when they play against Arizona. But Kap is still the man and I'm gonna preach that all season either way.

ForFuns League (1-1) 4th place
ForReals League (2-0) 3rd place

So I had one miracle fantasy day, and one bed wetting day. Pretty typical. I probably should have gone with Joique Bell instead of Golden Tate for my flex, but it was against Carolina and I figured Stafford was gonna have to throw it a lot. But who in their right mind would put Bradshaw in for Forte? Or Sanu in for Hurns prior to Green's turf-toe? Anyway, no real regrets.

Except one:

Now there are a lot of theories as to how to draft and deploy your defense. You can draft early hoping to chase down Seattle 2013, or you can just wait til the second to last round. Now there is not much per/game statistical difference between the top 12 (unless you had Seattle in '13) so I prefer to go with the lazy crowd and pick 'em last.

Now if you're with me and the rest of the couch potatoes, there are two strategies you can implement. Since there is little statistical difference over the whole year, you could just stick with what you got and weather the ups and downs . . . or . . . stream defenses in and out based on tasty match-ups.

The problem with sticking with one team, even though it's the safest bet,  it's also terribly boring.

The problem with streaming match ups? Well . . . if you're anything like me . . . you guess wrong an awful lot.

Like last week . . . with Miami . . . in my ForFuns League

They gave me negative points this week.

And my ForReals Green Bay defense didn't fair much better.

Had I stuck with Cleveland (the team I drafted, I'd be in 2nd place instead of 3rd.)

So I've decided for the rest of the season to just chill with the match-up chasing.

Unless someone offers me Seatlle '13 for Grimes.

And speaking of Grimes . . . that takes us to a much heated debate over the usefulness of using a bench spot for your superstar's handcuff. A lot of analysts are against the idea, wasting valuable real estate for someone who might never get the call. A lot of analysts are bullish on the idea because if your stud goes down, you've got a lottery ticket locked and loaded.

I believe it's entirely situational. What I look for with a handcuff are two things. Injury probability and offense situation.

I learned this by picking up Michael Bush in both 2011 and 2012. In 2011, he was the back-up RB for Darren McFadden. Run DMC goes down, Bush comes in, rocks the house. The following year, Bush goes to Chicago to punch TD's for a tired Forte, Forte goes down, Cutler throws to Marshall. Bush keeps sleeping. Same guy . . . different outcome.

So flash forward. I snag Arian Foster in the third round. One of the top running backs in the sport and has had a year off to rebuild some cartilage. But if he goes down . . . and lets all cross our fingers that he doesn't . . . not for fantasy reasons, but for human ones . . . if he gets injured, then the RB behind him is going to get a lot of carries.

That guy was supposed to be Grimes. Third year in the league, second year with the Texans, lit it up in the preseason. His lottery ticket chances are sky-high. But then this week, while letting Arian take a nap after a very long day, Grimes gets some carries, goes nowhere, and then the other back-up, Blue gets some carries and does more.

If Arian goes down (god forbid) what are we likely to see? Rookie Blue light it up? An RBBC with the hot hand that does no one no good. Or was I right in grabbing and storing Grimes?

Could be a thing to watch. Dad grabbed Blue about thirty seconds after the Raiders cried uncle, so thankfully I don't have to agonize over blowing two bench spots in a futile juggle for percentages.

But here's the thing. I'm sticking with Grimes. Coach O'Brian has stated publicly that he doesn't like the RBBC approach and much prefers a single person carrying the rock. That minimizes the RBBC fear a bit. (Only a bit, because coaches lie all the time) And although Blue might be a nice stash, Grimes has more experience on the field and in the league. I think Grimes, despite the show against the Raiders, is gonna be the man.

And who knows?

I might be right . . . just like I was with Sproles.

And speaking of Sproles . . .

My late round McCoy handcuff that has outscored the leading back twice in two games and is currently sitting on my bench.

I have the best problem right now. I don't know whether to start him this week as my flex and have two Eagles RBs in my line up, or go with the safe guy (Joique Bell) who I drafted seven rounds earlier and who is pretty much guaranteed to give me an honest stat line.

Send me your thoughts.

and speaking of thoughts . . .


Hoyer settles down, Hawkins has a big game. (Close)

Arian Foster goes for 200yrds and 4TDs (138 and 1)

Victor Cruz ruins Dad's day by being benched and scoring big (Nope, good call dad)

Golden Tate outscores Megatron (Tate 5-57, Calvin 6-83) Coulda been close though.

Everyone holding Gordon is an emotional wreck (OMG 10 weeks is so long!)


49ers vs Arizona turns into the high scoring shoot out we've been screaming for.

Lamar Miller can't catch a frigging break and Daniel Thomas scores.

Victor Cruz switches jerseys with Donnel and Eli throws four picks.

Arian Foster learns how to share and Grimes goes for 75 yards.

NO matter who I pick with Joique or Sproles, it will be wrong.

That's it for this week. Remember: Keep your friends close and your enemies away from the nachos.

HTT: How To Shopping List

Having spent most of my thirties as a very happy cog in the coporate American machine, if there is one thing I know a lot about; It's Lists.

Lists are the most essential first step in a little thing we like to call productivity.

One might begin with a basic 'To-Do' list for something as simple as daily chores. Then the list will progress to sub-tasks required in order to fullfill the original task. (ie: 'Fix Drawer' might include things like 'Find Screwdriver' and then result in a sub-orbital task such as 'Clean Garage')

In order to master the task of List creation, it is important to remain focused and fluid. Specificity is key here. You can't just put 'Write Novel' or 'Make Wife Happy', those things require too many variables. Instead you might create a list that starts 'Open Word Document. Type Chapter One at the top of the page.' or 'Pick up flowers.'

And be cautious. Lists can get addictive. You'll know you're hooked when you start adding things to your lists that you've already accomplished, just so you can have the instant gratification of crossing things off.

Now in my working life, which consists of many different roles, I make a lot of lists. As a blogger, I have a set of blogs that I want to write daily. As a writer, I have lists of certain chapters that need to be edited/rewritten. As a musician, I have several lists like Booking Inquiries, Marketing/Promotion, Reheasal, Website Maintenance (of which there are five seperate sites), Equipment Maintenance, and Financial Budgeting.

Being an artist is not for the weak kneed.

But my most important job, "House Daddy", requires at least a journeyman level of organizational competance.  There are chore lists (of course), errand lists (of course) and the main list which has a significant impact on Health, Wealth, and Harmony;

The Shopping List.

Now in my past life, the shopping list consisted of what I felt like having for dinner that night and picking up the things I didn't already have. My wife would do a weekly, sometimes bi-weekly shopping spree that would start with a list of two or three things in her head, balloon to about seventy-two items that she thought might be nice to have (depending upon how hungry she was shen she left) and result in her forgetting at least one of the three things whe went out to get in the first place.

We led a very inneficient life, but we both worked 40 hours a week, so we had more money than time, and as long as there was wine and a frozen pizza available, life was good.

Now, we simply don't have that luxury (and wouldn't trade back for it if we could), so it is of paramount importance that our shopping lists become so precise that not a single banana is allowed to go bad.

Sounds scary, but once you get the hang of a few simple principles and watch your food budget go from $200 a week to $60 and you realize you're eating better and feeling better than you ever have before, well, it becomes more addictive than crack.

For today's How To Tuesday, I'm gonna break down a few simple steps to get you going.

Step One: The Running List
Because we are a complicated Go-Go-Go society, we have a tendency not to plan for the things we need, but to plan for the time that we go shopping. Like . . . on Thursdays, I've got two hours between picking up my son from school and taking him to soccer practice. We will go shopping in those two hours. We'll get home, I'll make a list by looking into the fridge and the cupboards and we'll head to the store.  If he's good he'll get a donut.

The problem is that list will not include any of those things that run out at odd times. It won't include dish soap or sandwich bags or eggs. This inefficiency leads to two or three more trips during the week which is expensive (so many donuts) and the real cause of global warming.

However, if you keep a running list going. Then the likelyhood of tertiary Winco visits become fewer and far between.

But it's not that easy. You can't just write stuff down anywhere, so on to step two.  

Step Two: Consistency and Accessibility.
I hate Post-It notes. I mean they're a lovely invention and all, but they pile up, fall away, and promote this systematic clutter that I'm pretty sure is responsible for the mortgage crisis.

No, to keep a good running list, it needs to be in the same place, all the time, available to all, near the fridge, and with working pens within arms reach.

For example: My wife and I keep a little paper note pad, with a magnet on the back, stuck to the freezer door. The junk drawer (which holds all our pens) is located directly facing the fridge. One needs only to turn twice to write 'Garlic Salt'

Do not use a dry erase board. First, you can't rip off a sheet and take those with you to the supermarket (so you end up making a second list of your first list and end up depleting the rainforrests anyway) and second, those pens dry out fifteen minutes after you first start using them and you end up with a white board that still has a note to remind you to check the mail for a package you received years ago.

I've experimented with going digital. I can, for example, create a list on my phone that will automatically update on all of our gadgets, and alert me when I am five hundred feet from a grocery store, but the technology is still just a bit clunky when a paper and pen will do just fine.

Now comes the tricky part,

Step Three: Teaching Your Wife to List
My wife is very smart, very capable, and when it comes to paying bills or updating our Netflix queue, very organized. So for the life of me, I have never been able to figure out why she rejects lists in almost all forms.

I mean, she'll leave notes on my wallet of things whe wants me to do, so I know she knows how to write and the essential parts of micro-management, but despite the fact that her shopping MO has consisted of buying too much and forgetting what she came for, she just won't participate.

But one day, I figured it out.

Pay attention now, because this gem of information can save lives:

The reason she refuses to List - is because - if she has a comprehensive list in her hands - then there are entire aisles of the supermarket that she has NO REASON TO GO DOWN.

A comprehensive list strips her of joy.

The joy of discovery.

The joy of inspiration.

The joy of scented candles and low-fat brownie mix.

Doesn't that sound terrible? I mean if someone asked me to write a song about a very specific thing in a very specific key, using very specific imagery, at a very specific tempo . . . well . . . I'd do it . . . but I'd hate it.

And the good news is, is that what's required at this level, is speed, efficiency, and cost maximization. The very things I absoluetly love. So by taking on this particular responsibility, I've made us both happy.

The other good news is that once you've been married for a while, the majority of your conversations will usually be about the daily minutae of your lives. She's rarely gonna talk about existential moments while watching plastic bags being tossed about by the wind, but she will absolutely say something when you're running low on butter.

Repeat after me: "Put it on the list."

Now because no one wants to  live in a loveless marriage, go ahead and add things like "Please" "Thank-you" and "Your hair looks really good today."

Step Four: Planning meals
Now I have to feed three people (including myself), on three different time schedules at least three times a day. That's 63 meals a week. Sounds crazy/difficult, but lets just assume that you've mastered at least a bit of your homemaker skills, have lots of different recipes using the same ingredients and pretty much have an idea of the usual dietary staples.

Go canned where you can, beans, tuna, shredded chicken. Go dry when available, lentils, rice, split peas. As for vegetables: Purple cabbage, kale, carrots, brocolli, and cauliflower last a really long time (not like spinach or zuchinni which never seem to make it a whole week, and fuck mushrooms all together). Fruit will kill you. So no more than two or three of any type and only one or two types per visit (unless you have a special occasion that requires something exotic (like water melon slices for soccer games)

If you've maitained the list all week, then you should have a good idea of the last minute add-ons to get you through till Monday. 

Step Five: The Budget
After you've got you list, take a few minutes and jot down how much each item usually costs and then add up the total. This should give you a general idea of how much you're planning to spend, if you are over budget and need to erase a few things (are you really gonna eat those peaches?) or, if you've had a good profitable show the night before with generous tips, maybe a few luxury items that you hadn't considered (NY strip steaks on Wednesday. Mmmmm).

The budget will guide you through a lot of the decision making processes along the way, so it's handy to have.

Step Six: Planning Your Route.
Now if you're a budget ninja like me, you have probably noticed that different things cost different amounts at different places. Also, there are certain items on your list that can only be found in one place. For instance, in order to maximize my monday list yesterday, required a visit to four different stores.

That sounds nuts, but hear me out. The probiotic smoothie for my little prince's GI tract is only available at Whole Foods, where a bundle of wilted Kale costs $4.50. Winco has fresh sprightly Kale for $1 along with 95.7% of all the other things on my list. Whole Foods is on my way home from Winco, so there's no gas lost. Costco is the only place that sells the tuna and salmon steaks and chicken breasts that I like, and it too is on my way home.

Don't skip on the things you like. You're a princess and you should treat yourself like one.

But you can aleviate a lot of pain and frustration simply by marking down all the places you need to go and creating a simple circuitous route.

And you may even get lucky. Yesterday I noticed that there was a Sprouts located between Winco and Costco and was able to find the smoothies I wanted, plus some of the vitamins at a much cheaper price, which saved me a trip to Whole Foods and the Vitamin Shoppe. And saved me about $26.


Step Seven: The Shop
With your list and budget in hand, go to town, and keep a running tab in your mind. When me an my dad used to go shopping we would make a game of guessing how much the total was going to cost so that we could know which stuff was going to grace our pasta salad. If we did good, then we could upgrade to the cheesy top shelf salad dressing and if we were really good, there might be artichoke hearts involved.

I freaking love artichoke hearts on my pasta salad.

And when my mother-in-law taught me how to make them from scratch . . . I wept . . . for there were no more worlds to conquer.

Once you've got a running tab, you can begin to challenge your budget a bit. Feel free to overindulge in the meat aisle if you found a sale on your favorite apples. And also double check the items thatyou expected to find at another store, you might be surprised when you do a little price comparison.

For instance, I came in $40 under budget on this last spree by making little adjustments as to where I got what, and saved myself twenty minutes by avoiding Whole Foods all together.

Last Step: Trust the List.
It's a good list. You've worked hard on it all week. Don't second guess it or you'll end up with too much milk or an extra bunch of bananas. Example: We - for some odd reason - kept double buying frozen peas - and ended up having to make all kinds of recipes that included peas. And now my son won't eat them anymore.

The List is The Thing.

Go forth and be merry.

Five Things You Need to Know About Common Core Math

So I saw this video about a girl bursting into tears over having to do her math homework.

Which made sense cause we all know how much girls like to cry and how bad they are at math.

(Thats a joke: In fact girls are criminally better at math than boys right up until highschool when hormones kick in and all bets are off. Also, my boys cry a lot.)

So this could have easily been my son on Tuesday night.

Except it wasn't him crying,

it was me.

And I was crying because I am a thirty-eight year old father of two. I have been in charge of multi-million dollar budgets (addition/subtraction/multiplcation and division), I have built everything from furniture to entire stage sets (geometry/architecture) and I scored in the high 600's in the math portion of my SAT's (that used to be a good number).

Ten years ago, I actually received a letter from my step-son's teacher thanking me for not only understanding the math cirriculumn, but using algebraic techniques that not only helped my son get over his math hump, he also used my techniques to help other kids in the classroom.

In fact, when I was in the eighth grade, my teacher actually let me teach in front of the class on a regular basis.

And yet.

And yet.

I was totally confused with my son's fourth grade math homework, which involved nothing more complicated than rounding up.

Freakin lost. 

And if you Facebook, or Reddit, or YouTube on a regular basis, you know exactly why.

Common Core Mathematics.

It's the new thing. It's the new math. It's going to make us more competitive with the Chinese.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I thought for today's five I'd highlight five particular things to know for both yourself (because who wants to be out of the loop?) and especially for the young parents whose darling children will be competing with the Chinese in 2034.

Here are five things you need to know about Common Core.

Throughout the United States there has been a concern that our children aren't learning math at the same rates. It's taken entire commitees to discover that the boys and girls in South Central were simply not getting the same kind of instruction as their Beverly Hills counter parts.

Go figure.

It also wasn't limited to the LA area. Apparently there were all kinds of discrepencies among different counties, different states, and the US as a whole when compared to nations like Canada (Where the Oil Comes From)

It's especially problematic because Economists believe that understanding mathematics will be key in the new technology age.  Also, if you can't count your money, why work?

So the structure of our previous system lacked three major components. Common Standards (What does Johnny need to know by the 4th Grade?) Common Approach (Thad Vanderbilt III gets the same homework as Cletus Hatfield) Common Metrics (How do we know it works if we can't test it?)

Super simple.

First part is the Common Standards. If you simply map out mathematical learning - from first grade to donning the cap and gown - you can build a very precise ladder - from addition to differential equations - in about a half hour.

The second part is Common Approach. First you take the top teaching techniques from all the wealthy schools, the highest rated approaches from studies done by the best colleges, and then copy the Chinese. Mash that all together and you get the best way to teach math.

Now . . . as it turns out . . . the best way to teach math (based upon the above criteria) is using spacial and applicable worldly concepts (pictures and words):

Such as this: Johnny needs to know how to multiply 42 X 76.

That's hard.

But what if we tell Johnny that he has forty-six friends who owe him $72 each?

Johnny likes Pokemon cards and is gonna want to know how many he can buy.

That's a lot of Pokemon cards, Johnny. A lot of Pokemon cards.

Draw how many Pokemon cards you wil get, Johnny. Draw.

So, supposedly, what math was really missing was visualization, verbalization, and greed.

Okay, fine, I don't necessarily agree, but my degree is in Musical Theater, so there's that.

The last step is Common Metrics. Testing . . . that's what Metrics are . . . testing.

Add that all up and yet get a cirriculumn that can't lose to the Chinese.

What could go wrong?

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW PART THREE: How they f@#ked it up (Part One)
Two words: Metrics and Marketing.
First . . . metrics. Developing a system on a foundation of current testing methods sounds really really good on paper. It's the scientific method at it's best. Formulate a hypothesis. Test the hypothesis. Share your results. Implement the new system. Good stuff.

But it's a fallacy.

Cause that's not what they're doing.

They're formulating a hypothesis based not on a good idea, but on the limitations of the testing methods. It doesn't work in science, it doesn't work in business, it really really super really doesn't work in art.

There are simply too many variables to account for. Especially when you can't account for human learning variation, and environmental and socio-economic factors. Obviously, we're going to have to know if it works, but that's a problem for 2034 when our children reach the marketplace. What is needed isn't a rigid system based on predefined testing methods, but a fluid one, using a non-metrics based hypothesis, and accounting for child learning variation.

I just saying that you can't honestly test a classroom/school/county/state/country, but you can test an individual. Start there.

The second fallacy is Marketing. Somehow, after the Bureaucracy Dept. finished with their assessment, they handed it to a Marketing Dept. to communicate.

This is the exact language of what my fourth grader is expect to learn:

"Developing understanding and fluency with multi-digit multiplication, and developing understanding of dividing to find quotients involving multi-digit dividends"

In short, he needs to know how to multiply big numbers and divide big numbers.

English is a very cool language. And there are times when specificity is important, just like right there with my use of 'specificity', but . . . and I shit you not . . . one of the paragraphs used the term "Generalizable"


Yeah . . . um . . . that's not a word.

I mean . . . it can be . . . in a Shakespearean sort of smashing things together, but you don't get to do that unless you're either The Bard or a Hip-Hop mogul.

What I'm saying is . . . generalizing really . . . which I am able to do . . . so the overall generalizability of this next statement should be pretty easy . . .

If you can't communicate simply, how exactly do you expect anyone to get it?

Okay . . . so let us be generous and assume that the problem of not having a common standard is an important one to address.


Can we agree on that?

Now let us also be fair and say that they did their homework and Common Core Mathematics is going to be the solution to that particular problem.

Hey, maybe it's not how I was taught, but maybe it's much much better. Maybe it's faster and maybe once our children develop the understanding of fluency of dividing to find quotients involving multi-digit dividends, they'll move out of the house sooner.

And let's be frank, no system, I don't care who you think you are, no system is without problems in the early stages. None, not one, can't happen, stop dreaming.

It's too early to tell.

Maybe, just maybe, it's revolutionary.

And that would be radical.

(See what I did there? With the Revolutionary and the Radical? I kill me sometimes)

But even with all that in mind, there is one massive, glaring, 'I can't believe you didn't think this through first' problem.

The simple fact is . . . I don't understand it.

It's not the way I was taught. It's not how I have taught. And because it's inclusion of spacial and verbal approaches (which again, we've already agreed might be revolutionary) is a total reimagining of mathematical constructs, what am I to do? Because I haven't been taught this method, and because I don't have the answer key, and the language is ambiguous at best (sheer nonesense at worst: See Marketing Dept.), I simply have no frame of reference with which to help guide a nine year old through it.

I can't help a nine-year-old with his fourth grade math.

And neither can you.

I am a firm believer that parental guidance is essential to learning development.

And Common Core has left me out in the cold.

First things first, parents: Don't panic. Don't get angry. Don't get frustrated. Don't yell at your kid.

I made those mistakes on Tuesday and it didn't help anyone.

Start with what you do know. You know the actual math, right? You know how to multiply, you know how to divide, you know how to round-up (if you've forgotten, YoubeTube it).

Find the answer first.

Next, there are all these weird lines, and graphs, and pictures to draw. If you're lucky, your child will have started some of that in class and you can look at the previous work and make some educated guesses as to what the correct application should look like. If you're not lucky, pour yourself a cup ofchamomile  and sit down next to your child calmly and let him or her describe as best they can what they think they need to do.

Get as far as you can together.

You probably have an overacheiver, so they might be horrified to leave something blank, but in your firmest hand and a ball point pen, write this on his/her unfinished problems:

"Hi Teacher, I'm sorry, I don't understand what is asked for here. Would you please be so wonderful as to email me a PDF of what the finished product is supposed to look like?"

Do not be afraid to do this. Teachers right now are getting very angry letters and phone calls and sometimes even some major verbal abuse over this . . . so trust me . . . they know. And a polite engaged parent, even one that is totally lost, would be a godsend to them.

So that's what you can do.

But what can Common Core do?

The answer is like totally super simple.

Can't change it. Can't amend it. It's the result of millions/billions of dollars worth of research, political manuevering, training and implementation. It's what we've got to work with, so giddy-up.

No . . . the solution is something easier:

Stop sending it home.

That's it.

No more Common Core homework.

Leave it in the classroom where a trained specialist can guide our children through it.

You have my kid for eight hours, and I get him for another eight.

Your job is to teach him Common Core, my job is to teach him EVERYTHING ELSE.

I'm not even being smarmy about that, and I'm not kidding. From what I've seen of the homework and the school work, there's so much redundancy imbedded into it that it would not take more than five mintues to remove 50%.

Just remove some (not all) redundancy by simply scanning through the verbage to edit out a good portion of the ridiculously worded questions, and you've just turned a year long method into a light afternoon and then schedule some field trips. Any teacher with a liberal arts degree can do this in five minutes and still have half an hour to work on their abs.

Also, imagine this: What if in the last hour of the day, the teacher hands out the sheet that was originally intended for homework?

He tells the students to start working on the sheet and to raise their hand quietly if they have a question or don't understand.

If only a few hands go up, Great! Then the teacher can guide those children with their individual needs.

If a bunch of hands go up, Great! Then the teacher knows that either his method of explaining the concepts was disfunctional or that the work in general was too ambiguous (read: nonsense) and he can try a different approach right there with the entire class and send a polite letter to the Common Core Marketing Dept. and tell them that question 42 on page 76 should be rewritten.

He can even offer some suggestions.

Awesome, right?

And the "No Homework" rule doesn't have to apply forever. It only has to apply till this generation starts procreating, which if you watch MTV at all, is gonna be like six months from now.

And if you're the kind of teacher that just can't get through the day unless they know those kids are doing something productive in the afternoons, assign something else. Make 'em read a book, make 'em write in a journal, make 'em learn a new chore (please start with mowing the lawn, please).

It really doesn't matter to me.

But if you stop sending Common Core home, you will alleviate almost all of the emotional conflcit that goes with implementing a new system without training and guidance and BONUS: Having the system communicated through a single filter (ie: a trained professional) you will be able to see more clearly which parts work and which parts don't, which will enable the entire system to react and adjust much faster.

It's like a win-win-win.

Now if you don't take this advice then you've got a serious problem.

A serious problem.

First, the backlash to Common Core is already gathering steam. The system is making parents crazy and Senators are being hate-mailed. It puts parents and children at odds with the entire educational system and not only will it be smooshed in it's infancy, but there will be also a small substrate of children whose entire mathematical understanding will be in chaos.

Don't take this super simple advice and Common Core will exacerbate the very problem it was trying to solve.

Take it, and we might just have a chance to beat the Chinese at whatever it is we think we need to beat them at.

Please share this blog with every parent and teacher you know.

Or don't.

I'm a blogger . . . not a member of an educational think tank.

See you in 2034.

TBT: Getting Saucy

Today we embark on a grand tradition of canning tomato sauce for the rest of the year.

Funny thing is, I didn't even know people still did that, but apparently, yeah . . . it's a thing.

I was lucky enough to get indoctrinated during my first year as an honorary italian.

It started innocently enough. I was fascinated by a little antipasti dish of pickled vegetables that my mother-in-law  seem to always have available at the dinner table.

Actually, the first shock really came when I discovered that it was possible for people to eat dinner at the same time. We did breakfast in my family.

Anyway, I waited quietly as a dormouse until I caught her in the kitchen; vegetables mounded on the counter along with a very large canister of salt and the biggest bottle of vinegar I had ever seen.

I inched forward.

"Can I . . . cccccan I , , , , help?"

"Of course!"

Knowing it was my first time, she was very gentle and let me slice the carrots.

"Maybe a little smaller." she would say.

"Maybe a little thicker." she would say.

"No, I don't think you're ready for the eggplant. Maybe next time." she would say.

But I studied hard and I learned fast.

And when tomato day finally came around, I felt like I was ready.

A little history: It turns out that tomatoes actually originate from South America. Can you imagine italian cooking without tomatoes? The entire Roman Empire must have lived off of nothing but olives, cheese, and wine (later referred to as "The Blood of Christ"). I think Columbus deserves his own day, not for discovery, but for marinara.

So canning tomato day is here once again.

And there are a few particulars that are always gonna be:

First, it's gonna be a hot day. Every year we push it further and further back into the calendar and every year god doesn't care and pushes the temperature in to the high nineties.

About halfway through the tenth crate, the flies start swarming. In the fifteen years I've been making and eating and canning these vegetables, I have never seen an actual fly get into the jars, so I'm pretty sure it's not a health thing, it's just the universe's way of testing our dedication.

They're like our little Isaac.

The process is simple. We wash the tomatoes while Giulia preps the work station. We find a comfortable chair and a sharp knife and a large bucket for the castaway parts.

We begin to slice.

First the heads-into the bucket. Then the headless tomato gets halved. Then, with the gingerest of angled cuts, we remove the spongy white center and any green still left in side - into the bucket. Then the outsides, with the skin and flesh, we cut them into sections and toss those sections into a large colander and season with salt.

While the worker bees are slicing, the matriarch busies herself with washing and boiling the jars and every few minutes adding more salt to the tomatoes we just finished salting.

"Mom! I already put the salt!" my wife will say.

"Okay . . . okay." Giulia will reply before deciding to add just a little more.

This will happen seventeen times before lunch break.

Now in our home kitchen, my wife makes me nervous while watching her cut anything.

I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the way she holds the knife. Maybe it's the way she chops down instead of sliding across. It's definitely because she doesn't seem to know what to do with her other hand, and how distracted she gets when it occurs to her that the car insurance bill is due three months from now.

But when it comes to tomato day, she's a machine.

Every year I'm in awe.

I have tried to keep pace with her, but it's like tomato day is her secret super power. She can carry on two conversations, while simultaneously giving her sister shit over the phone for never arriving on time or at all, and not looking at her hands once.

I, on the other hand, have spent many years in the kitchen honing my deft ninja skills, I have focus and drive and the sharpest knife at the table, yet she can still out cut me two to one.

She's uncanny with her canning.

(Sorry . . . couldn't resist that one)

As the colander fills, and the salt is added on top of salt, we start scooping the fleshy bits into the freshly cleaned jars. A little bit of basil, a little bit of salt, a tight seal on the lid, and we break for lunch as Giulia places the filled jars back into the boiling water for a final bit of disinfecting.

Lunch today will be my new recipe (split pea soup with chicken and kale).

After lunch we will cut up whats left of the bits. Shoo away a few more flies and begin the clean-up.

The backyard tables will look something like a crime scene and we'll all be sticky and covered in goo.

"Ma! Take a break." my wife will say.

But Giulia will just wave a hand at her as if patting the head of an undisciplined but favorite child.

She might mumble something in italian.

I think it's a silent prayer with two meanings:


Oh Lord, let this sauce bless our tables for the year to come.

and second.

Dear Jesus, get these people out of my house so I can take a nap.