The Five Tacos

My son hit me up with a question yesterday morning that kinda threw me.

Halfway through his pancakes he looked up and said "Dad . . . what's for dinner?"

The reason it threw me is two-fold. One, he's never asked me about a meal ahead of time, though he is very quick to criticize the meal that is being served, and two, as my dad will remember, I used to ask that question of him almost every morning.

It's possible some of my genetic code is finally creeping in.

I don't know why I was so concerned about the evening menu before I'd finished my bagel.

I don't remember ever having much part in the final decision making. But I do remember asking the question.

Just about every day.

My answer was a lame one:

"I don't know . . . something with ground beef."

It had been grilled chicken the night before, and grilled salmon the night before that, so to even everything out, this night was either going to be pork roast . . . or ground beef. And I'd already gotten the meat out of the freezer.

He didn't respond . . . or I couldn't hear his quiet little murmur . . . but the silence hung for a while until it was finally broken by my wife's suggestion that we have tacos.

That was a pretty good suggestion. We hadn't had tacos in a long time.

We used to have tacos a lot. Almost once a week.

Like, my favorite step-son story is one night when we were having tacos I cut up a bunch of carrot sticks and put them in the center of the table.

His jaw dropped and he looked angry and confused.

"What're these?" he screamed.

"Vegetables." I said.


I never made vegetables on taco night again.

But the point being . . . we used to have a taco night.

We don't anymore.

I don't know why . . . everybody loves tacos . . . and they're easy make . . . and they're so good.

The problem with tacos, aside from always having two or three shells left over that get stale, is a problem of quantity.

Proportion is a big thing to me.

No one is allowed to go hungry . . . no one is allowed to throw away food.

It's a creation of my own sense of Zen.

There are two foods that I can never quite get proportions correct. The first, obviously, is pasta.

No one but my mother-in-law knows how to correctly distribute pasta. I'm okay with that now. There are great mysteries in life that are much better if they're not explained.

But I should be able to successfully negotiate the amount of tacos for three people.

Let us start with the basics: What makes a taco?

Meat: Of which I've already proportioned 1.25lbs. Which seems to be the perfect ratio for all ground beef dishes (hamburgers, meat-balls, burrito-bowls etc.) If there is any left over, it goes straight into the eggs the next morning.

Cheese: Extra sharp cheddar in block form. The pre-shredded stuff, well I know a lot of people who swear by it, but I think it tastes like nothing, and if it tastes like nothing, why put it on stuff.

Color I guess.

Lettuce: Romaine or Ice burg. No fancy schmancy substitutes as we will later learn.

Extras: Onions, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, for this particular night I quickly pickled up some jalapeños.

It's a recipe I made up myself: 3/4 cup water, 1/4 White Vinegar, tbsp salt, tbsp sugar, a clove of garlic, 2-3 large jalapeños sliced up. Boil the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic. Add the jalapeño slices, cooked until the bright green becomes a muted olive color.


You've got freshly pickled jalapeños in about ten minutes.

I call it: Quickled Jalapeños.

Patent pending.

And they're balls out ten times better than the stuff you get at the supermarket.

Okay . . . last but not least . . . the shells.

The purist will tell you to get corn tortillas, fry em with oil, add the bend in the last minute.

The super ultra-orthodox purists will also insist on making your own tortillas.

I haven't had a full time job in 18 months, and I still don't have that kinda time.

Pre-made shells are the way to go.

Each box comes in a pack of 12 shells. If there are three of you that means each of you gets four tacos. Or if one of you is nine, who will not be able to eat more than two, then he gets two and the rest of you split the other ten.

That's five tacos each.

But tacos aren't like hot dogs. There are no quantitative rules of consumption.

With hotdogs, one is never enough, and two is too much. This is why people get married. To have another person eat that extra half a hotdog.

It's in Leviticus.

But tacos change from night to night, day to day, year after year, drive thru to drive thru. Like, I could put ten Taco Bell tacos down in less than a quarter of an hour and still wish I'd ordered that extra thing of nachos.

That's not too gross. A taco bell taco is 156 calories, so ten of them doesn't even meet my 2,000 needs.

But at a fancy restaurant, I can usually gobble down three. There's rice and beans to think about.

Homemade tacos are another animal.

You can't precisely prep, but you can maintain a certain buffet style flexibility, and then you have to track your progress throughout the meal.

The First Taco:
This one you inhale. Two bites, all gone. You don't feel any different, in fact now that the salt has hit your lips, you're slightly more hungry than you were before.

The Second Taco:
This one you don't actually inhale, and this is where the cheese is starting to melt and the heat from the jalapeños are kicking in and you've kicked out your elbows and are ready to dig in.

The Third Taco:
This is the gourmet taco. This is the one you've prepped with all the trimmings. This is the one you take your time with. You chew around the edges to get all of the different combination of flavors, your hunger starts to feel satiated and you feel more like a delicate consumer rather than a trash compactor.

When you're finished with the third taco, it's time to take stock. How much of each of the ingredients are left? Do you need to shred more cheese? Do you need to cut more lettuce?

In this particular case, I . . . for whatever reason . . . thought that the purple leafed romaine would be just fine. After months of eating kale, everything else is so tasteless, but I was plainly informed that it tasted funny and my son was loathe to take another bite. Thank goodness the lettuce was on top and it was an easy fix.

So we don't need any more lettuce.

The Fourth Taco:
The question here is . . . will there be a Fifth Taco? If the answer is yes, then you have to restrain yourself from loading up everything into the shell. If the answer is no, it's time to squeeze that processed shell to near the breaking point. Do not let the shredded cheese or the Quickled Jalapeños go to waste.

Patent pending.

Also . . . do not ask your life partner which taco they are on.

The answer will only make you feel disgusted with them or disgusted with yourself.

The Fifth Taco:
There really shouldn't ever be a Fifth Taco. It's not healthy. It's probably not even all that sanitary since you've been eating with your hands. And you're not really hungry anymore.

I mean, you're kinda hungry, like after an entire bottle of wine you're kinda sober, but you really shouldn't be driving anywhere.

And because your gluttony has sorta grossed you out already, you're gonna feel some pressure to inhale the Fifth Taco like you inhaled the First one.

You know what . . . don't.

Chill out. Take a sip of beer and make eye contact with the rest of your family.


You might not even feel all that obligated to finish it. And if you don't wanna . . . then don't . . . you won't be breaking any rules.

And if you do finish it . . . good for you . . . celebrate by taking a nice walk around the neighborhood.

Check the mail.

Do some deep knee bends.

Post Script: Last night I didn't go for the Fifth Taco. I hit a perfect equilibrium halfway through the Fourth and reminded myself that there is just enough meat, shell, and lettuce left for a nice taco salad which I will be eating for lunch today.

TBT: Water Water Everywhere

Today was the day of the first break-in at the Watergate Hotel.

It's also the day the McDougalls were convicted of fraud in the Whitewater scandal.

That's like a Throw Back Thursday Two-Fur.

I'm loving these little history lessons cause it makes me go back and relearn a pieces of a history that I'd either all but forgotten or never really understood in the first place. For instance, I know the word Watergate, and that it had something to do with Nixon doing bad stuff, lying or whatever, and that there were missing tapes, and a Deep Throat, and that the jig was up as soon as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman got involved, but that's about it.

I also knew the word Whitewater, which had something to do with the Clintons being . . . well . . . the Clintons.

Like . . . you know something shady went down, but you really can't put your finger on it.

Don't feel bad. Kenneth Starr couldn't put his finger on it either.

That's all I'm gonna say about where Kenny puts his finger.

And whole thing was overshadowed by where Bill puts his cigars.

So on this day, 1972, a couple of guys break into a hotel room, which happens to be the headquarters of the Democratic National Campaign, take some blurry photos, and install some listening devices.

Okay . . . that's bad.

But the funny part, is those particular listening devices don't work and need to be reinstalled, confirming what my dad always says about "Never going cheap on three things: Alcohol, Electronics, and Women."

Tricky Dick and Slippery Bill should really take my dad's advice.

Anyway, its funny because they broke in again a few weeks later and got caught.

And, seriously, they got caught with cashier's checks from Nixon's reelection campaign fund.


Word to the wise, if you're gonna do stuff like that, take your $25,000 check to the bank first.

It's just common sense.

And speaking of $25,000, that just happens to be Bill Clinton's yearly salary (as Attorney General of Arkansas) when he and his wife and their pals, John and Susan Mcdougall invest in a little creekside property called Whitewater.

It actually was a pretty good investment, seeing as how there were tons of white people migrating out of MotorCity Land, and heading south to NASCAR country.

How could you go wrong selling water front vacation homes to to displaced white people who don't want to pay high property taxes?

Deregulation is the answer to that question my friends, deregulation, and a whole lotta fraud.

Okay, so this is gonna get tricky, but stick with it, I promise I'll make this fun for everyone.

Lets start with my second favorite movie "It's A Wonderful Life."

Remember how Jimmy Stewart got stuck running the boring old Building and Loan?

That sucked.

Banking sucked.

But Building and Loans (which eventually became Saving and Loans) were pretty much the back bone of the post WWII America. The greatest economic expansion ever seen by any country that didn't have 'Empire' as it's last name.

But it was like super boring.

Basically, a Savings and Loan (S&L for short) would loan people money to buy houses, for which they would collect a modest interest rate, and then they would open savings accounts, for which they would pay even more modest interest rates and use the difference to pay for ZuZu's cough medicine.

(That was an It's A Wonderful Life reference . . . try to keep up.)

Anyway, it's literally the financial version of watching paint dry.

And it was really hard. There were so many rules. Like, they couldn't invest in commercial real estate, and they had to get all kinds of approvals for things, and there were actual people paid to make sure that the S&Ls weren't selling properties back and forth to jack up the prices and cash in on commissions.

But the 70's was like totally the "Hey man, let's chill out" decade.

Let's give small business owner Jimmy Stewart a leg up. Maybe give him chance for him to insulate that drafty old house of his.

So we chilled with the regulations a bit. Thanks Carter.

And okay, so yeah, there were a few bad apples. The kind of people that would sell properties back and forth jacking up the prices and cashing in on the commissions. But you know . . . things happen.

Now if you don't know what that last paragraph means, it's actually not that complicated:

Say I buy a house for $10,000.

Cool. I gotta house.

But instead of paying my first mortgage payment, I sell it to my brother for $15,000.

That's cool. I give my agent $1,000 and keep the remaining $4,000.

Except my brother is now paying $15,000 for a house that's really only worth $10,000.

And I feel bad about that cause I'm a good brother.

So the next month, before he makes his first payment, I buy it back from him for $20,000.

His agent is also my agent, so he gets another $1,000 and my brother gets $4,000 for all his trouble.

Now for a while I can use my $4,000 to pay the mortgage payments on a $20,000 dollar house that's really only worth $10,000, so in a year or two I run out of money and my brother agrees to buy the place for $25,000.

Now banking becomes exciting! My agent is making $1,000 a month and my brother and i are each making $4,000 every two months.

And so on and so on.

And, even better, if everybody does it, well, then all the values of all our houses go up.

Woo . . . freakin . . . hoo!

Unfortunately, we call that rapid inflation.

Which is bad.

So to slow that down, the Money People decide to increase interest rates.

The modest interest rates that the S&L's were charging go up, as do the more modest interest rates that they are paying out, and hopefully ZuZu's cough gets better.

Except, because people and corporations are cheap bastards, now everyone wants to save and nobody wants to buy, and the S&L's income is far less than it's payment obligations and after a few years . . . whammo!

Everything drops like a rock and the S&Ls fold. Costing the taxpayers billions.


Okay, so back to the creekside property called Whitewater (see, I told you this would be fun). The Clintons and the McDougall's buy the place assuming that property values are gonna rise and they can supplement Bill's meager $25,000 income by selling the land off bit by bit.

Unfortunately, they sorta missed that window between relaxation and increased rates, and ended up losing their investment.

Or did they?

See the McDougalls weren't quitters. And they happened to own a few S&Ls. But even though regulations were relaxed, it wasn't like the government totally repealed the entire Glass-Steagal Act.

That wouldn't happen for another fifteen years. Thanks Bill.

John McDougall couldn't actually borrow more than $600,000 from his own S&L, so he kinda sorta funneled money from his "friends" to make it all look legal as he traded properties back forth to himself.

It only gets sticky because the Clintons were "friends" and Hilary was the lawyer would handled those contracts.

Her part was essentially sorta kinda legal. But John's wasn't.

So he went to jail.

But don't worry . . . Bill pardoned him on his last day in office . . . so everybody wins.

Now the moral of the story might be that there are cheaters everywhere. But if that in anyway surprises you, I'm actually astonished you were able to read this far without visual aids.

Nope, the parallel between these stories is that the guilty parties weren't the perpetrators. The Clintons weren't actively defrauding the financial institutions any more than Nixon donned a ski mask and broke into a hotel.

But when the light shined down, they shredded papers and burned evidence, erased tapes, and back pedaled away from the truth for years, in the Clinton's case, decades.

Yet, if you follow the trajectory you'll notice that Watergate lead to Nixon's complete downfall, while Whitewater got smoothed over and essentially forgotten about.

See, we're getting much better at hiding our frauds and the people paid to pay attention are getting worse at finding them. And it doesn't mean the end of all civilization, though it's hard to ignore the Doomsayers, I just think it's important to go back and look once in a while. A reminder of the past so that we're not collectively doing the same stupid stuff all the time.

Throw Back Thursday shouldn't just be all about mullets and denim jackets.

It's your civic duty.

Sex and Cilantro

So I had a very serious post slated for today.

In light of the Duggar scandal, I was going to make some poor tasting jokes about sexual deviance in repressed cultures. I even had a note pad full of my scribblings on essays from Freud to Kinsey, the histories of the Babylonians to Fundamentalist Muslims, and I even found this wonderful post from the Center for Morality in Public Life making the case that society crumbles when people concern themselves with sex for pleasure instead of procreation.

Lot of Roman references.

Love them Romans.

Anyway it was all going to boil down to the fact that it's getting time to have "The Talk" with my own son. The Victorian in you is probably thinking he's way too young for "The Talk", but I'm sorry to tell you my friends, it's the internet age, and he's already being exposed to dirty words and naked girls by the kid down the street.

I can't tell you how much bad information comes from the kid down the street. He's the kind of kid that will be the first on the block to tell everyone the truth about Santa Clause, that there are worms in Big Macs, that you can catch Ebola from climbing trees, and that cops can shoot you whenever they want. He also knows all the bad words.

Thankfully, and I have no idea how I did this, but I raised a kid who is not only suspicious of the kid down the street, but he's also pretty fearless when it comes to asking me to clarify things.

He's already heard me utter most of the bad words anyway.

The Talk is going to go pretty easy.

I'm actually more worried about his mom.

(That's a joke. Her and I have The Talk all the time.)

Actually . . . not ALL the time . . . wait . . . why am I telling you this?

Anyway, it was going to be a good post. Funny, a little ruthless, some cringe worthy comments, and a few of those dirty quips that make you fell embarrassed because you laughed out loud in a public space and can't explain to the person sitting next to you.

But I was having a hard time getting going. Part of it was anger. Part of it was disgust. Part of it (and this is going to sound weird) but part of it was sheer disappointment.

Why do religious people have to be such a f$#@ing nightmare?

Seriously, can't we have one god fearing person, claiming to be a good role model, who isn't a total shit storm?

You got the Dali Lama and some might say the current Pope, but his pre-Pope stance on homosexuality keeps him out of the running.

Martin Luther King maybe. Unless you were married to him and weren't immune to the clap.

A case could be made for Jesus himself, but just imagine the scandal if Josh Duggar ran into a jewish temple screaming at everyone and overturning furniture.

No lie . . . it's in the bible.

The problem is what a psychologist would call "Cognitive Dissonance"

Holding two competing thoughts in your head at the same time.

"How to claim moral superiority when the Supreme Being is clearly a sociopath."

I may have just written the title of my next book.

It's that dissonance that leads to repression that leads to an explosion of deviance. Unless you're a writer for the Center for Morality in Public Life, to which my response would be: "Pick up a f@#$ing newspaper!"


Anyway, pissed and frustrated I did the only thing one can do when one is pissed and frustrated, I went into the kitchen and opened the fridge door and stood there for a while.

I wasn't hungry, I just needed some 'me' time and I'd already used the commode.

Inside the fridge is a bag of basil and cilantro that I got from my mom's herb garden.

Thanks Mom.

The basil, both green a purple varieties, I turned into the most amazing pesto sauce a few days ago.

Pesto is pretty easy. Basil, Garlic, Parmesan Cheese, Pine Nuts, Salt, Olive oil . . . puree. Although I adjust that recipe based on whim and the availability of Pine nuts.

This one, I substituted pine nuts with sesame seeds (you get the salt without that piney aftertaste) and I also used my handy dandy Garlic salt grinder from Trader Joes instead of the fresh garlic cloves.

When you use fresh garlic there's a spicy acidity that I personally love, but it can overpower the simple dish. I went with the dry stuff, which made my wife roll her eyes at me, but was later forgiven because the subtlety of the dish was off the hook.

She's not as enthusiastic about experimentation as I am . . . but she's just as hungry.

So now I've got this cilantro.

Cilantro is a whacky herb.

It's pretty easy to grow, although, speaking of sexual deviance, it doesn't live very long, and unlike Onan of the old testament, it has to drop it's seed on the ground quickly if it wants to survive.

Onan dropped his seed on the ground because he didn't want to impregnate his dead brother's widow.

Poor Onan.

And that is why you can't masterbate.

Poor you.

But the wackiness of cilantro doesn't end there.

In order to get all it's herbalicious goodness, you gotta clip it while it's still very young, which Freud says could be dangerous.

But once you've got it . . . what do you do with it?



That's pretty much it.

And you can't really serve it up for parties because it turns out that a good portion of the population has certain receptors that make the fresh herb taste like soapy bitterness. It's actually genetic. The gene that inhibits the enjoyment of cilantro is OR6A2.

You could turn a homosexual straight easier than getting an OR6A2 carrier to go to Chipotle.

It's as if god intended some people to like it and some people to not.

But there's hope.

Because . . . internet.

All I had to do was to type in Cilantro and Recipes and I was flooded with hundreds of different options. All shapes. All sizes. Different types of meats. Different types of non-meats.

If you know what I'm saying.

Most of the recipes were for salsa or guacamole, and salsa-guacamole, and guacamole-salsa, and one might think that the definition of a cilantro dish is between one salsa and one guacamole, but there were lots of other ideas too.

Some of which didn't sound all that good to me, and some were just variations of mixing cilantro and butter, and some were . . . well . . . deviations I didn't necessarily want to participate in, but I don't think anyone was harmed. As long as it was consensual, everyone can have a good time.

There's no cognitive dissonance there. Especially if no one can see you click.

The internet can be a wacky place for choice and taste, but it's a godsend for the curious, and a much better place for information than the kid down the street.

Now the recipes I will be trying out this week include a Cilantro Pesto, a Cilantro Lemon Sauce, and for myself alone, a Cilantro Ginger Hummus.

Love my hummus like I love them Romans.

I will report back next week.

I'm not sure if my son is going to like any of these dishes. He may or may not be an OR6A2 carrier, which is fine by me.

And since it's food we're talking about and not repressed sexual urges, I would feel perfectly comfortable experimenting on my sister.

But I'll probably be experimenting on my wife first.

Not because I'm the moral majority.

I'm just a damn good role model. Even if I don't know how that happened.

HTT: How to Un-Insanity

There's that old adage that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

A quick web search will tell you that that was said by Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Oscar Wilde, and Arthur Fonzarelli.

I made up that last one.

But still. Couldn't nail it down, but I'm guessing it was an Einstein quote, for no other reason than that was the first one Googled.

The first time I heard the quote was at a business conference in a speech delivered by a Regional Director that I was not, nor ever became, very fond of.

The kind of person that uses terms like Paradigm and Synergy.

You do have my permission to use those terms . . . but only if you know exactly what they mean . . . and only once per speech.

Anyway . . . what struck me the first time I heard the quote was that the Regional Director whom I was not, nor ever became, fond of, was talking about the company that was both growing and successful and I couldn't help mentioning to the person sitting next to me that maybe she had the wrong room.

Cause the quote swings the other way too.

A better definition of insanity is futzing with something when it already achieves perfectly wonderful results.

Sure you can focus on getting "Better" results, and for that . . . yeah, I guess . . . go ahead and change things, but if your current results are pretty good, you might wanna consider this idiom first:

"A sparrow in the hand is worth a thousand sparrows flying"

which is the 6th Century BC equivalent of:

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"

Which is attributed to J. Capgrave in the 15th century AD, though I could've sworn that that was a Benjamin Franklin quote.

Poor Richard and his Almanac.

If you heard it, then you probably heard it there first.

Anyway, a third definition of insanity might just be chaos.

And by chaos . . . I mean clutter.

My garage is insane. The emails gathered up in my Yahoo account is insane. The amount of love, time, money, effort, sweat and actual blood that I've spent in trying to grow a tomato . . . off the hook.

So this summer I'm on an Un-Insanity mission.

Clear out the clutter and find Nirvana.

I don't mean the state of mind, I mean their '92 album: Nevermind.

It's here somewhere I just know it.

I started this morning with Unsubscribing from all the telemarketing emails that go to my Yahoo address.

There were 356 unopened ad campaigns from companies like Shutterfly, DIY, and of course my favorite, Atlantic E-Cigarettes:

Little do they know.

Turns out the 356 emails were the result of only eight highly aggressive groups, and it really took less than ten minutes to remove myself from their lists.


Last week I tackled all the papers that were waiting to be shredded, and shredded them.

Now I can concentrate on my tomato plant.

I really don't know what it is about home grown tomatoes. I've hated tomatoes most of my life, and yet now I have this yearning to raise the perfect BLT.

It's true. People can change.

We had one good year for tomatoes. It was 2007, and ever since, we've failed.

We've failed by doing everything we were supposed to do. It's insane, but nothing we were supposed to do worked. So this year, I basically said "Screw the wild outdoors" and have begun growing a few plants in my kitchen.

Which is not something your supposed to do. Not enough light. Not enough humidity. It'll make your house smell like poo. Can't do it. It'll undermine thousands of years of agronomy knowledge. Your father in-law is disappointed in you.

But it's been a week. And the plants are looking pretty damn good. Buds are popping out all over.

It's working. I won't have the definitive answer until I bite into that sandwich, but I will keep you posted.

So here's the "How To Tuesday Lesson"

It's short, so pay attention.

Sometimes the best way to Un-Insanity, is to do something you're not supposed to do.

Maybe a little insanity is the quickest way to the sanest you.

Lindbergh's Moxie

Today is the day that Charles Lindbergh landed safely in France after being the first person to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean in a plane all by himself.

That was 1927.

Nearly 90 years ago.

Mind blowing statistics being what they are and all.

It's much easier to cross the Atlantic now.

By jet plane of course.

I just watched a documentary about a woman who tried to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat.

Not the greatest of ideas, but she certainly had Moxie.

Moxie is the thing people had back in 1927 instead of courage. Lindbergh had moxie. A whole lotta moxie. And he was an interesting fella.

Fella is what dudes were back in 1927.

So he wins the Ortiz Prize by becoming the the first person to cross the Atlantic in a plane all by himself. Which made him a super super iconic rockstar matinee idol moral giant near-religious icon. We don't have those any more here in 2015. We prefer our idols to have flaws.

Flaws sell better than virtues.

Then he spent most of the Depression flying around the U.S. and Europe to drum up enthusiasm for air travel. Of course there was the whole bit of his son being kidnapped and murdered, revolting, and then Europe exploded into warfare and he was sent over to inspect German and Soviet Aircraft, and the Germans gave him a medal. The U.S. was not at war at the moment, so we were pretty cool about the whole thing.

That's pretty much where his narrative gets fuzzy.

We didn't know how to sell flaws back then, but we certainly knew how to (re)write history. We've been doing that ever since there was such a thing as writing. So Lindbergh gets honored by the Germans, he's clearly a Nazi.

He also said some stupid things about the Jews.


He was against the war, but biographers believe it was communism he was against, not fascism he was for.

Then there was the whole eugenics thing.

The belief in cultivating a superior human stock.

It had been suggested as early as Plato that maybe the human race might wanna consider breading themselves like race horses. It was popular among feudal aristocrats and it only took a few hundred years before realizing that marrying your sister was a terrible idea. The theory got picked up again after Darwin's evolution and Mendel's theory of inheritability became a thing. And then it got really going when the Nazi's decided that being tall, blonde haired, blue eyed, and conspicuously humorless was clearly the model for human perfection.

I had a friend who had been mountain climbing in Europe who marveled at his German counter parts. He told me stories about how they'd be climbing all day, and the Americans were tired and nearly broken, while these 6'4" machine-like German climbers would be smoking unfiltered cigarettes and didn't even look out of breath.

He actually said this:

"Damn dude, I hope we never have to go to war against these guys."

I squinted at him.

"We did dude.  . . . Like twice."

My friend wasn't a believer in Eugenics, he just had a temporary moment of awe.

Lindbergh was an isolationist and a believer in Eugenics. He didn't want the U.S. to get involved in the war, and he thought there was such a thing as human perfection.

We should all allow ourselves a few misfires.

But he did get caught saying some stupid things. And then because he just assumed he was right he never backed off. The history that was (re)written about him wasn't very flattering.

We like to raise our heroes with enthusiastic fervor.

We like to bring them down in the same manner.

We're weird.

What we didn't know then, but we do know now, is that there is more genetic variation in a handful of ants then there is in the entire human population.


You look at anyone else in the world and you might as well be looking in a mirror, as far as genetics are concerned.

The only real differences between 5'10" me and my 6'4" German cousin is that he can climb a mountain, and I'm smart enough not to invade Russia.

Eugenics has a super modern push now too. Not that we are in the process of state sanctioned breeding (just yet), but we're getting remarkably close to a time when we can start picking traits at birth. We are also getting close to where we can turn certain things on and turn certain things off like an Englishman flipping a switch and waking up Brazilian.

We might see stuff like that in our life times.

And you gotta be a little curious as to what set of Nucleic Acids will make Billboard's Top 50.

Athletic or cerebral?

Left handed or right handed?

Do gentlemen prefer blondes?

Does size matter?

You know . . . the really important stuff. And the problem is is that we are so genetically un-diverse that such tinkering could theoretically wipe us out in a few generations.

We actually have to mingle more.

Funny how Lindbergh, the first man to cross the Atlantic in a plane, making transcontinental mingling possible, was just a little bit racist.

But he did have Moxie.

Which turns out not to be genetic.

Go figure.

HTT: How to Farmer's Market

I read a little bio of Alice Waters a day or to ago. If you don't know who she is, she's the gal who started the whole food movement in Berkeley in the 60's at her restaurant Chez Panisse.

Not to be confused with Alice Walker who wrote The Color Purple.

I always get those two confused. I'm sure there is some mnemonic that I could figure out, but who's got the time?

Anyway, Alice Waters started the whole food organic locally sourced thing.

Hooray for that.

I am not a champion or anything. My devout lust for double cheese burgers frozen and shipped from Brazil would make me a hypocrite, that and there are so many whole food concoctions that I think are just over priced and revolting.

I have certain food rules that don't fit within anyone else's ideology.

The things I prioritize: Price. Freshness. Taste. Whatever the hell I'm in the mood for.

The fourth one wins out most of the time.

The no no's: No Substitutions. No shopping at Walmart.

If I can't have gluten . . . I'm not eating bread. Simple as that.

If I can't have sugar . . . I'm not drinking a mocha.

If I use mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes it's only because my mashed cauliflower recipe is f%$#ing delicious. Same thing with refried beans, lentils, split peas, and chickpeas instead of rice, corn and tater tots.

Yes to delicious alternatives, no to wheat free crackers.

And if I want tater tots, I'm eating tater tots. That's all there is to it.

As for the Walmart rule, that was a really hard on to swallow, cause their freshness and prices are unbeatable. But in order to do so, they have to actively screw everyone involved in production, distribution, and retail.

If you ever want to lose sleep, watch a documentary about Walmart. Anyone will do.

Even Ayn Rand would be mildly disgusted. She  . . . like 45% of all Walmart employees, was also on Food Stamps.

No joke.

And I'm sure she hated every socialist second of it.

But we all gotta eat.

Anyway . . . back to food . . . one of the things that meets (sometimes exceeds) my criteria is the Farmer's Market.

Thanks in part to Alice Waters (the one who didn't write The Color Purple) Farmer's Markets are just about everywhere.

And I gotta say . . . once you get over the smell of snobs, they're pretty amazing, and I thought for today's How To Tuesday I'd give you a few tips on how to make your Farmer's Market Experience a good one.

First: If you can, walk to it.
That seems a little above and beyond, but you'll be surprised how brisk you feel on a perfect Tuesday morning, with the sun shining and a cool breeze a-blowing. Treat it like your daily exercise and it's a two-fur. Plus, it'll keep your purchasing to a minimum.

Second: Bring you own bag.
You're gonna have to get in the habit here in California anyway, might as well flex that muscle now so you can brag about how much of a model citizen you are. Your friends will envy you. Everyone wants to be a model citizen.

Third: Bring cash.
You don't have to. They all take Visa now. Hell . . . even I take Visa. But you're at an open air market in the middle of an industrialized nation, it's nice to feel provincial once in a while.

Fourth: Do not buy a damn thing until you've walked the entire market.
I know . . . the strawberries at that first booth look delightful . . . but can you really be sure those are your best bet? I promise there are going to be raspberries and cherries and all kinds of wonderful fruity delights all over the place. You've made the time already. Don't make a single commitment until you seen all the fish in the sea.

Case in point: Today I found a booth selling fresh Kale. $2.00 a bundle. That's a little less than double what I usually pay, but the stuff was greener and crispier than I'd ever seen so I was tempted to jump the gun. Had I done so I would've missed the third booth that had even fresher greener kale  for $3.00 for two bundles.

We eat a lot of the stuff, so yeah.

So take a long loop, see what's there and for what price. Make a list and then go shopping.

Lastly, let yourself be tempted by the farmers.

Ask them what's good.

They literally can't wait to tell you, and their suggestions are always out of this world. I picked up a pound of sugar peas that you can eat raw with the skin. Amazing. I will be sautéing them with a little olive oil, salt, garlic and serving them with some barbecued salmon tonight.

It's not hard to win at life.

No substitutions.

How'd That Get in There?

I've never gotten the hang of absentmindedly listening to music.

We had a barbecue last weekend over at the house and the first suggestion (a good one) was that we put on some music.

I was confused.

I never put on music.

Cause if I put on music, I'm spiritually obligated to listen to it.

I could spend all morning on a single note.

And not to do anything else.

I can drive and listen to music. My radio has six channels and of the six, three are Pop stations, One is classic rock (by which I mean 80's and 90's), one is Indie, and the last one is National Public Radio.

So my scanning basically goes like this: Pop, Pop, Pop, Nirvana, Bootleg Nirvana, Terri Gross.

I have an FM2 setting, but I don't go there very often. That setting I leave for one Classical Music Station for when I 'm in the mood.

You gotta be in the mood.

There's also an AM set of settings. Thanks to my brother, I am now interested in sports talk. Good god how the world changes.

But getting back to the listening of music, what happens, for me anyway, is overtime a song comes one, I have to listen to it.

Have to.

And because it's more an intellectual pursuit than an emotional one, I get just as must pleasure from a shitty song as I do out of a well crafted one.

(Not really, but you know, sorta)

And since getting air play is sort of the pinnacle of a songwriters career (and me being a songwriter) I have a certain amount of stock invested on what gets played and why.

Now I know it doesn't work like this, but I always invasion this perfect ladder of steps before a song gets played on the radio.

First the band's gotta know how to play.

Then they've gotta know how to write.

Then they gotta know how to record. The track has to have polish, sizzle, that 'certain something'

Then someone who knows what to do with that sort of track gets it on a major label, then the marketing department (who love the song BTW) gets rolling and ships the song out to hundreds of radio station whose DJ's they been intimate with, and then the DJ's put the song on heavy rotation and stars are born.

Doesn't that make perfect sense?

None of that is true though. You could skip through it all if your brother is a DJ. You could claw your way up each rung of that ladder and find you're nowhere but where you started.

Except now you're broke.

Anyway, because of the very unstable relationship between what I would like the world to look like, and what it actually does look like, whenever I hear a song on the radio that is just terrible, to cheer myself up I play a little game.

A little game called "How'd That Get In There?"

I heard one such song this morning. I won't name names . . . because I didn't bother to get any . . . and though the song was terrible (and mildly insulting on an artistic level) . . . who knows . . . it could be the next big thing.

I hate looking stupid in retrospect.

The song failed the first two of my criteria. The band didn't know how to play (and the singer probably shouldn't be let near a microphone) and they certainly didn't know how to write.

Short, non-dynamic, melodic phrases, and the kind of lyrics written by boys who have only yet begun dreaming about sex.

Not pointing any fingers.

I too was such a boy.


But, the song, albeit lame, was recorded seriously. There's a major sonic difference between a recording that is made for $25,000 and one that is made for $250. This song was recorded in the upper regions, produced, balanced, compressed, sizzled, radio ready.

How'd that happen?

No idea. The song had to have been performed in front of people with money. Like real money, not like daddy or mommy money . . . big time producer money. Someone had to really love this song.

Or maybe they loved this band. But to play the game . . . I've got to answer this question.

How'd that get in there?

And by 'in there' I mean on the radio.

And the answer I think, is that this band is killer live. You don't have to really know your instrument to deliver an exciting experience and maybe these guy just light up the house. They probably have lots of Likes on Facebook and have proven reliable on tour. They get picked up by a major label because of that energy and are sent straight to the studio to capture some of that magic.

Only trouble is is you can't hide from a tape recorder.

What sizzles in a 2,000 seat house is really tough to catch and time is uh ticking.

Marketing has already gone full swing and the group needs a song for the airwaves.

They decide that their regular act is too edgy for Pop Stations and try out the ballad written by the bass player back when he was fourteen or so because it doesn't have any Eff-Words.

Worked for the Goo-Goo Dolls. Why not us?

They've got the money, they've go the producer, they've got the studio, they've got the song, now all they got to do is make it playable.

And they tried really really hard.

Good for them.

Nobody listens to the lyrics anyway. Why would they? You don't have to sing it . . . you only have to sell it. There's a good lad. Now finish your diet Dr. Pepper and get back into the booth.

The producer gets all he can from the band and then sends them out to pick up some KFC.

Any trip to KFC will take about three hours.

Why they always run out of chicken is the third greatest mystery known to man.

But three hours is enough time to apply some studio magic (sizzle) to an otherwise unremarkable track.

Cut. Print. Package. Ship.

Did you get extra crispy? No? Well go back. Let the adults get some work done.


Okay . . . so first question answered.

But then the song takes one of those metal punk ballad turns . . . where the vocalist pushes it up an octave and really gives the song some raspy meat.

He really should not have done that.

He doesn't have those notes.

He especially should not have done that four times.

The question here, is why would anyone let him do that? There had to be four or five guys in the band, anyone of them could've said something.

Did he not hear himself?

Possible, but I find that odd because when I track my own voice, every quivering quasar is amplified.

I know when I don't have a note. Mostly.

So the only explanation is that the vocalist either didn't know, or he just didn't care. I think he didn't know.

But the producer should've known . . . right? I mean this is a guy who makes several thousands of dollars an hour. People bank on this dude.

Or gal.

Could be a gal.

And there are three reasons she/he might have for letting it slide.

I'm not gonna do the whole he/she thing anymore. It's silly.

Okay, reasons for letting it slide:

One: She didn't hear it. Which sounds crazy, but it happens. Happens all the time. I once got into an argument with this producer (who had literally won a grammy the night before) and was trying to point out a popping noise where they had tried to punch in a vocal line.

It was really sloppy work and it took me ten minutes of playing the passage over and over before either the producer, the engineer, or even the vocalist heard it. None of them heard it, yet to me it was like listening to a leaf blower fire up on a Sunday morning.

It got fixed, but badly, and I can still hear it on the recording to this day.

Two: The producer didn't care.
Check was already cashed.

Three: (Most likely) Maybe they assumed an epically failed note displayed passion.
That happens sometimes too. Sometimes a particular take is just so immediate and present that the few mistakes within it are left in.

Can't argue with that logic.

But, well, with the rest of the vocal track inebriated on compression and auto-tune, they gotta know that whatever nuance they were challenging themselves with wasn't happening.

Or not.

I think that's what they think they did though. They left the terrible sour notes hang because it said "Edgy" or whatever.

Now I don't think the song is going to be a hit. And not because it's not good, which it isn't, but because it doesn't have a memorable hook. I've been writing about it for over an hour now, and I can't remember a single thing about it.

I will probably never hear it again.

And now you know why I can't listen to music blithely.

I could spend all of Monday morning on a single note.

And now I have.

How Blogs Go to Die Five

This will be my 646th post.

Which sounds like a lot, but when you do something (almost) every day it shouldn't be surprising how quickly the words add up. In retrospect, I could've written 645 songs, eaten 645 double cheeseburgers, written two-thirds of the pages of a Stephen King novel.

He must type really really fast.

I can type pretty fast, but I still need to watch my hands in order to do it.

Stenography is not on my to-do list.

Anyway, I was reading book about (among other things) evolution and extinction, and I was surprised to learn that nature is more artist than engineer.

The more we learn about the fundamental rules of nature, the more we realize there isn't any fundamental rules.

If nature needs to get to the other side, it doesn't just cross the road.

Nope. It, like a mad scientist with billions of years to just waste, experiments with every possibility.

Walking . . . okay . . . how many legs to you need?

Flying . . . sure . . . how many wings is that gonna take?

Big, little, rolling, drifting on the wind? What's more efficient, big fat me or an air-borne disease?

(Answer: The Airborne Disease . . . but it's eventually gonna need a host . . . which is where big fat me comes into play.)

And you would think that with all that crazy mass of experimentation, there'd be no way for Nature to learn from it's mistakes (hopefully like an artist does), but as it turns out, most of your DNA is junk DNA. Does nothing. It is the result of billions of failed attempts. Yet there it sits. Lurking in Nature's memory just incase the world changes and we need a refresher course.

Who knows? Maybe you'll need a tail at one point. You've got the instructions in every little cell in your body to make that happen.

So this morning, I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast while sipping my coffee, eating my eggs, and they guests were talking about the death of the Blog. How it started, how it blew up, how it went professional, how it became marginalized by by micro-blogging sites, and how blogs (just like this one) are no longer building audiences and just contributing to the background noise of the internet.

That's kinda sad.

And just a little worrisome. But it makes total sense. And I can track my own blogging timeline with the evolution and eventual extinction of blogs as a whole (don't panic, I'm not giving up yet), but I thought it might be fun to do today's Friday Five and take a look back at the sequence of events, how and what I learned, and maybe peak into the future.

Day One: The Primordial Ooze of Castle Park
A blog is a called a blog because it is a "web" "log" A diary with universal distribution. Take some inner thoughts, post them on-line, create a conversation about them.

It was to create dialogue.

Which is exactly what my first post was about. I wanted to create a log during the creation of my second album and encourage people to follow a long, and more specifically weigh in. I didn't have a marketing budget, so I thought this might be a fun way to generate a little buzz. I wrote about the process of crafting songs, how I got ideas, how I hit walls, how I got into the studio, and inevitably what I might be thinking on a particular day.


As it were.

It was inconsistent, and poorly edited (oops), but a unique style was settled upon (I said "unique" . . . not "good" :), and it was meditative in a way that brought focus to what I was really working on . . . which was an album.

Day Two: The Cambrian Explosion of Commentary.
If you're not a paleontologist, and why would you be, then you'll be excited to know that the Cambrian Explosion refers to the era when nature just blew the roof off it's earlier conservatism and went hog wild with inspiration. Flora, Fauna, killer bees and great white sharks.

This is where my blog got wild.

You might not know this, but even I get bored with talking about myself all the time, so to keep it real (as it were) I starting poking around the rest of the world, applying my voice to stuff other than my self.

This is where I started to learn "funny." Where there were no walls, no limits, and there was so much oxygen in the air I could pump out all kinds of thoughts on any subject I felt like typing out.

This is where I get funny for the first time . . . ever.

Day Three: The K/T Boundary, The Extinction of the Dinosaur, and the beginning of "Wait . . . Dad?"

So the K/T boundary refers to the geological boundary between the Crustacean Period and the Tertiary Period. Why they used "K" for Crustacean is a book in and of itself.

I will not be writing that book.


Anyway, there is a thin line of silt in the rock formations that contains a buttload of iridium, which doesn't exist much on earth. It's very heavy and has long ago been eaten up by the earth's core.

Comet's however . . . lots of iridium . . . and that thin line of soot just happens to be the line at which we no longer find dinosaurs.

Big Comet ergo killed the Triceratops.


Anyway, my big iridium filled comet came the day I decided to pursue art for real. I put together a five year plan. Studied all the kinds of things I've done that worked (warm blooded, hides under ground) and jettison all the stuff that didn't (bloated brontosaurus bodies and the sound of T-Rex clapping).

This was serious business now. I need to generate daily content, get clicks, edit stuff. Look professional. Build a following. Get ready to drop an album on a waiting and voracious audience.

Go man Go.

Day Four: Mammals . . . Who Woulda Thunk?

Mammals really shouldn't be a thing. We need things to be just right. Not too cold, not too hot. Lots of food, lots of water, pleasant views. It's a miracle that we got this far.

In putting together content, I hedged every bet that I could see. Read books on indie music, studio production, live performances, blog writing, generating traffic, how to be controversial, but not too controversial, and mastering the social medias Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Whateverer.

"Whateverer" is not actually a thing.

I just made that up.

But the plan was pretty self assured. All I needed was for a single right set of circumstances to go my way. It might have seemed like junk DNA, but like a vestigial tail, I was ready for whatever.

Or Whateverer.

And just as I got rolling . . . well . . . I actually just kept on rolling.

I kept rolling like a tumbleweed, and not the snowball I imagined.



Experiment here.

Experiment there.

Waiting Waiting.

Kind of like jumping out of a plane, with God holding your rip-cord, while the best you can do is enjoy the feeling a weightlessness and not concern yourself with the ever approaching surface of the earth.

And then the strange thing happens . . .

Day Five: The Six-Fingered Man.

What could one possibly do with six fingers on one hand?

Play more piano? Would it help with opening pickle jars? Is it in anyway an advantage when it comes to consumption or procreation?

Freak show, or just fun at parties?

So one of my little experiments goes viral. And of course, it is in no way connected to any of my other stuff, so God was tugging on the rip-cord, but the shoot hasn't deployed yet.


So it leads to a conundrum of evolution.

What do you do with a sixth finger?

I mean, it's cool and all, but how many eggs you wanna toss into a particular basket?

I could move this blog over there, and in doing so, would have to write differently, would have to focus more on the controversial than the humanistic. Not sure if I'm cool with that.

Not even sure it would work.

And what of the the rest of the stuff. The stuff that has to stay in my name. What do I do with all that?


Actually the particular conclusion is pretty obvious. Gotta just wait and see.

Darwin waited 40 years before publishing his thoughts on evolution. I think I can wait till June.

See you again on Monday.

Towne Center Books

So my lil guy just began reading the 4th Harry Potter Book.

He's seen all the movies. Like a lot a lot, but he's just now getting to that age where there's a certain fascination with the written word.

I hope he becomes a reader. Two reasons: One, my personal library is getting out of control, and two, I would really be hella pissed if I'd wasted all those hours reading "Th Cat in the Hat Comes Back" out loud to him before bedtime.


I wouldn't be pissed.

Okay . . . maybe a little pissed.

Anyway, we had to steal my mom's copy of the 4th book because our's disappeared somewhere, or has yet to be unpacked from our last move. (It was nine years ago, but there are still some boxes yet to go.)

Probably what happened is we loaned it out to someone, forgot who, and never got it back.

That . . . is perfectly fine by me. I like the idea of books with a particular sense of wanderlust. If I need to read something, I've got family and friends with other libraries like mine, I've got several wonderful local libraries within bicycle distance, and if I absolutely need to read something right this second, I've got an iPad or a quick walk to Barnes and Noble.

So . . . anyway . . . we borrowed this book from my mom, and when it was opened out fell an old coupon from the original purchase.

If you remember your year 2000, you might recall that the release of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire was the most important thing that happened.

I think there was some sort of election too. Something about Florida and Chads.

Chad is such a weird name.

But the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the first time the HP books created a media circus. Kids dressing up as wizards and lining up to purchase books. Local news agencies doing delightful feel good stories on the power of the written word.

Of course someone always has to roll out some bible thumping ass-hat who claims children shouldn't be reading stories of witchcraft.

: )

In particular note, I'm a pretty lenient whatever goes parent.

I would not however read Genesis out loud to my nine-year old. He's way too young for that level of incest and smut.

Just . . . saying.

But back to HPGF (Which is the texting version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and how I will write it from here on out), the coupon that fell out of my mother's copy was from one of those small independent bookstores that the heart of every town needs.

This one was called Towne Center Books.

A lot has been written about the death of the town bookstore. There's too many books to fill everyone's needs, so the megastores replaced the little guy, and then the internet happened and killed the megastore.

Thanks, Al Gore.

How a few of the little guys survived is beyond me.

So I was pretty delighted to look online and see that Towne Center Books, in the heart of Pleasanton is still alive and kicking.

We need more of those.

Lots more.

Though, gotta admit, I'm pretty hypocritical. Of the three indie bookstores in my home town, I've only been to exactly one of them.

For shame.

And this from a man who spent a few years managing a book store.

And who also reads at least fifty books a year.

For shame.

And who also calls himself a writer.

I really don't know why god isn't striking me down right now.

I deserve a little smiting.

But Towne Center Books doesn't need my business, it's humming along nicely on it's own. And I would probably go there more often, but it's far away, and the only coupon I have is expired.

HTT: How To Field Trip

My son's class has gone on a lot of field trips this year.

Some of them have been pretty cool. Some of them have been the exact same field trip he took in the third grade and the second grade. Suffice it to say, he's been to the recycling center four times and has lost all ability to care about California's water crisis. He only perks up if there are weapons involved, like the Native American Museum.

Not laying blame, just pointing out the facts.

Anyway, field trips days require a certain gravity that is unlike any normal days.

First of all is the schedule:

The bus leaves at particular times and returns at particular others. This matters only because the times vary widely. The last field trip he was supposed to go to had a pick up time at 6:45 am, and didn't come home until 5:30pm. Screw that up and you could ruin everybody's day.

So it's important to be very accurate with you calendar.

Second of all is attire.

This isn't just a normal going outside thing. There might be necessary footwear. If they are gong to be outside, do they need jackets, hoodies, ball-caps to cover their little noses from sun damage? Are they hiking? Do they need pants? Or will shorts do fine?

I personally would rather freeze to death than deal with the possibility of lugging a useless sweater around all day in the hot sun. But because my own particular boy refuses to participate in the obesity epidemic, layers are key to his well being.

Thirdly is lunch.

Not just any lunch, cause it's brown bagging it time.

The normal reusable lunch box will find itself becoming quite a drag during a long afternoon and may end up being left or lost, so in places where we are usually so eco-friendly, we have to go disposable.

Also, there needs to be a few more snacks available because he eats more when he's out and about, I will refuse to miss an opportunity to get a few extra calories in his system.

Turkey sandwich, Apple Juice, goldfish, and an extra packet of graham crackers, along with a sports bottle filled with filtered water. Playing 'cowboys and indians' at a Native American Museum is very thirsty work.

Actually, I think they're less into cowboys and indians and are focused right now on ninja assassins and thwarting the Illuminati at every turn. Still . . . arrowheads are arrowheads.

And lastly . . . as The Clash would ask . . . "Should I stay or should I go?"

Being the housewife that I am, it would seem obvious that of course I attend any and all extra curricular, school sponsored activities, but, I gotta be dead honest:

Most of the time they kinda suck.

Not so much that the field trip is boring or even dreary. To a nine-year-old, out in the world, they're pretty fun. But for a thirty nine-year old, who has done and seen things, it's kind of "Okay . . . whatever."

And there's always three or four moms who eye me with suspicion.

Like "Who the hell is this guy? Why doesn't he have a job? Why is he wearing the same white tee-shirt every day?"

The answer to the third question is that it's not the same white Tee-Shirt, it's actually 11 different white Tee-Shirts and I wear them because they're comfy, fit nice, and I don't have to spend a single firing synapse trying to match colors.

I try to engage in the conversations at each rest stop, or while the bus is at a red light, but for the most part, they only wanna talk about their children.

Their children are boring.

Like . . . really boring.

I don't know what I'd do with a boring child. But sure as shit this blog would not be nearly as funny.

And their lives are just a succession of pit stops. School, soccer, clarinet lessons, pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, gym, taking the beemer to the shop . . . again, yoga, Grey's Anatomy, getting tipsy on half a glass of chardonnay.

Volunteering for the church.

A multi million dollar tax free Christian compound the size and breadth of Disneyland, and they can't pay a kid minimum wage to brew coffee or set up tables.

C'mon. That's a little funny.

So I spend the entire field trip being quiet. And feeling a little awkward. Which in turn makes my son quiet, and a little awkward.

And to be honest . . . I think I have totally skipped my generation's parenting philosophy.

It's callous of me (maybe), but I am under the firm belief that anything my son does that doesn't require my supervision is top notch.

Go, boy, go. Come back when you're hungry. Or when it gets dark outside.

Why are you asking me? Look it up on YouTube.

Is it bleeding? No? Then you're not hurt.

A case could be made that that is the reason why my son's not boring. Thin perhaps. And maybe a little misguided when it comes to the dangers of the Illuminati, but not boring.

Air Gaps

Our dishwasher is broken.

Actually . . . no it's not.

But it is acting a little funny, pouring water out of that spout from the top of the sink. It's not suppose to do that and we're gonna have to call a guy.

Actually . . . no we don't.

For those of you who don't know what that spout is, which included me until I looked it up this morning, it's called the "Air Gap"

See . . . your dishwasher grabs a bunch of hot water, pours it all over your dishes, along with some soap, and then pumps all the dirty water out into your disposal.

But there is a problem with a direct dishwasher-to-disposal system.

Water likes to travel down, but it also has no problem with traveling back up, which means in times of floods, or clogs, or a destabilization of the earth's magneto-sphere, that gross sewer water can climb back up and wreak havoc on your anti-bacterial lifestyle.

Enter the Air Gap.

A little valve the creates a space between the hoses so that ooey, gooey water can flow out, but not back in. It's a neat little system. And easy to fix with a wrench and an old tooth brush. There might be a little pipe cleaning involved too.

No biggie.

I haven't done it yet, but I'll get to it before Thursday.


Anyway, it's not the first time I'd heard the term "air-gapped." It's also used to describe a computer that hasn't been connected to the internet before. The virtual boy in a bubble.

Air gaps are part of our national heritage.

Did you know that we don't really live in a Democracy? Who woulda thunk?

A democratic system is where everybody gets to vote for everything (sorta).

We don't do that.

Our system is set up so that we vote for a select few people who vote on some things. It's called Republic (for which it stands), and the idea is that there is an Air Gap between the mob and the deciders. It means that during a time of crisis, cooler heads may prevail.

It doesn't always work like that of course. This isn't the kind of air gap you can fix with a wrench and an old toothbrush. Squeaky clean isn't safe either. In fact, you actually want a little bilgy backsplash to bubble up once in a while.

Ivory towers offer a pretty view and all, but it's important to get down in the muck for a little perspective.

What I think our system is missing is National Air Gap Day, where we all get together, with our proverbial wrenches and old tooth brushes and scrub out all the effluvia gumming up the works.

I guess the hard part is getting to agree on which part of the flow is hot-soapy goodness, and which part is half chewed chicken fat and raw sewage.

Maybe, instead of a day, maybe we need a fourth system of government. Air Gap Cleaners that sort of steer the national debate.

The Supreme Court should appoint the members of Air Gap and it's mission isn't to come up with stuff, it's mission is to decide what things we're NOT gonna fight about this year.

Like the liberals have to shut up about high-speed rail and the Republicans are forbidden to talk about God.

Can you just imagine?

It wouldn't solve particular problems, but it would be a step in the right direction. A clean regulated flow, rather than everybody blowing out their mouth holes what they should be blowing out their butt holes.

We could probably get this done by Thursday if we really put our minds to it.

"The World's Guy" Five

So every afternoon when picking up my son from school I happen to chance upon NPR's broadcast of "The World"

It's a show about what's going on in places other than here.

I don't listen to the show that often, because the news around the world never seems to change much.

As in . . . it's always terrible.

The world is a scary place.

But I catch the tail end of the show which is usually focused on sports and music.

Did you know that there are people who actually play Cricket? They have leagues and everything.

The music is pretty fun, though I have a sinking suspicion that most world music is influenced by Paul Simon's 'Graceland' and not so much with the native traditions.

Anyway, they were doing a story about Futbol, and the anchor introduced a person he referred to as "The World's Soccer Guy."

And it took me a second that he was referring to The World as the show, not the world as the World. And in that second I thought how awesome it would be to have that as your professional title.

Like "The World's Mathlete" or "The World's Podiatrist."

I've decided that I now have a new goal in life. I'm gonna be "The World's Guy" in some fashion. Here are the Five things I think I can bring to the table:

The World's Patrick Swayze Guy:
I could report on and officiate for all Patrick Swayze related activities. From mullet judging to compiling famous quotes. I could inaugurate "Dirty Dancing Month" (Which is August BTW), deliver the commencement speech for "The Outsiders" reunion, and act as the final authority for any Patrick Swayze movie remakes. The answer is no. No you cannot remake that movie. The decision is final.

The World's Weapon Manufacturer for Kids 6 and Under:
I like to toot my own horn when it comes to a lot of things, so I won't stop here. When it comes to designing and developing small arms solutions for children I am the undisputed master. From swords and shields to axes and battle wear my son has battled everything from zombies to demon hordes to ninja assassins to dragons to rogue wizards, and has emerged completely unscathed.

The World's Hot Guy:
I know my Scoville units. From salsas to sauces, I can teach the world how to add just the right amount of heat so that the food's flavor comes through but your whole face doesn't burn for three days. In fact, the only thing I'm lacking from a world domination viewpoint, is a good hot-wings recipe.

The World's Plant Killer Guy:
Undisputed champion

The World's Amateur Offseason Fantasy Football Guy:
You know what I did this week? I actually watched the first night of the NFL draft. Why? Cause ever since my brother passed me the Fantasy Football Crack Pipe I can't seem to get enough information into my head. There are four more months before anyone should be reasonably thinking about anything football related and yet I check the NFL app on my phone more than I check my email. And that's not to say I can put any of that information to good use. I can't. But I shit you not, I've actually considered doing a weekly podcast next season. I'm really not certain if I can be stopped.

TBT: Joan

This particular day, just about 580 years ago, Joan Of Arc lead French forces in the battle of Orleans to a stunning victory over the English. She was right around twenty years old.

By the time I was twenty, I could, um, well, change the oil in my car and strum a pretty mean F chord. I couldn't get a dog to follow me, let alone an entire battalion of Frenchmen.

She also did it wearing a suit of armor.

I don't think I could, even now, wear a suit of armor and do much more than fall over.

I don't even like wearing pants.

She was born around 1410, poor, and by the time she was twelve she claimed that she had visions of angels and good old St. Gabriel, so we can easily imagine someone saying "All right then . . . let's get this girl a suit of armor and a sword!"

Angels back then were nothing to mess around with.

We have Ritalin now, but I can't say that that is a giant progressive leap from sending crazy children off to war. Who knows what the French would've done if they'd had drone strike capability back then. We might all be eating more escargot.

Anyway, after a couple of key victories, Joanie was captured and put on trial for heresy.

Not for killing people, or for suffering from what we now know to be delusions of schizophrenia, but because she dressed like a boy.

Apparently the suit of armor wasn't such a good idea.

Back then a girl could bath in the blood of her enemies, but pantaloons were out of the question.

It's in the bible, right after the commandment "Thou shalt not don comfortable footwear."

She was found guilty of the man-clothes thing, but promised really really hard that she wouldn't do it again.

But she totally lied.

And did it again.

And so they burned her at the stake.

We don't burn people at the stake any longer, we just give them reality TV shows and make fun of them through Twitter.

We have no class.

If we did, we'd be lighting Bruce Jenner up like a candle right now.

If you're unfamiliar with who that is, he's a strange looking man who wants to be a strange looking woman. No more pantaloons for good old Bruce. But his reality TV show is set to launch this summer, which is great news for all those people who champion the cause of releasing gender and sexual roles from the bondage of the "boy meets girl" narrative.

Or something like that.

I champion that cause too.

But quietly.

And only because I am a champion of simplification as well.

Creating very specific labels for the taxonomy of human experience I'm sure is essential for some, but I find it exhausting. Identifying the gender I was born with, the gender I want to project, the gender I am now, the gender I may one day want to become, the gender I am during transition, and the myriad of genders whose naughty bits I would like to touch, and so on and so on, these things are incredibly important in the evolution of social acceptance and self awareness, but I'm gonna be honest . . . it makes for terribly dull conversation.

Though to be fair, if I had control of the label maker, whales would be fish.

I don't care what hole they breath out of, they live in water dammit.

Tomatoes would be a vegetable.

For obvious reasons.

The point I'm arguing isn't for a step backwards, where we all sit and stew in our own little pots, but for three or four leaps forward where no one can crash the party because everyone's invited.

Except the French.

For obvious reasons.

On Printing Money

The U.S. government is in a financial crisis and leading us off a cliff.

Surprise surprise.

Ron Paul wants to help you do something about it.

Surprise surprise.

Actually, I'm only sorta kidding.

Neither of those are surprising nor particularly true.

They feel true, though. They definitely give us something to talk about. Maybe even debate or argue about. The position will definitely generate lots of user clicks, which as someone who cashes in on user clicks, makes me smile.

But does it make me smile?

I'm not really sure.

This is story is going to be a bit round about, so I won't be particularly hurt if you click somewhere else. I'm still trading pennies at this point.

Anyway, I was searching for something worldly to talk about today and as I was scouring the news for something funny, or tragic that I can spin into funny, I kept coming across the same click-bait article in which Ron Paul (Godfather of the Tea Party Movement) wants to tell me about a horrifying crisis that looms on the horizon and what I can do to protect my family's fortune and health.

I couldn't find anything funny about the terrible deaths on the Mediterranean Sea, or Bruce Jenner's sexual re-orientation, and believe me, I tried . . . so I decided to give Ron a whirl.

I watched the whole 20 minute video. Which would normally lead to a joke about wanting my life back, but let's be honest . . . it's not the dumbest thing I've ever done.

Anyway . . .

He is very concerned.

The US has been printing money like gang-busters, which we all know can lead to the sort of inflation that caused the Great Depression here, and lead to WWII over in Europe.

He didn't mention Nazi's, but he was thinking it.

Printing money out of thin air is a terrible idea.

He's right on that point.

But the chart he kept pointing to showed a staggering increase in money printing since 2006. A chart I couldn't find anywhere else on the internet. Like anywhere else. I don't know where he got the chart, so I can neither confirm nor deny it's validity.

I kept watching anyway.

He talked a lot about being concerned. He talked a lot about his 22 years in the congress. He talked a lot about me needing to take this very seriously. And he talked a lot about that one time he got to take a helicopter ride with Ronald Reagan.

There was an entire scene with him narrating a clip of him holding a hundred dollar bill up to the light. I used to do that too to check for counterfeit bills. It was a good reminder that I hadn't held a hundred dollar bill in a while.

And at 19 minutes and 45 seconds he wanted to sell me a book.

A financial book from the Porter Stansberry Financial Research Group.

The Porter Stansberry Financial Research Group that was indicted and convicted of financial fraud. Can you imagine how terrible you have to be in order to get the SEC to actually do something about you.

Pretty terrible.

But people can change . . . I guess.

The book is only $100 and it's not available on Amazon. I checked. And since I don't have $100 for discretionary spending, I'm not gonna be able to tell you what's in it. You'll just have to buy it yourself.

Okay, all joking aside, I think we can be adults here and just agree that it's a terrible scam for the kind of people the just wanna make good decisions about what to do with the future of their money.

Which brings us round bout to what was really on my mind which one of the subsidiary projects I've been working on, which is satire.

I got a gig writing satirical articles for an online news magazine and have been both successful and having a blast with it.

For instance . . . this blog has generated about 27,000 views over two years. It's a labor of love, but not an income generator.

My first satire post? Over 100,000 views. And by the end of week three, I've gone over 1,000,000.

Not too shabby one might say.

But I put up an article last week that was my most successful to date with 8,000 shares on Facebook and I discovered something that . . . well . . . kinda horrified me.

See, I thought I was being funny. And I was. I can churn out pop-culture humor with the best of them. But the problem with this kind of direct satire is that my most popular work is the stuff that's so close to reality that people don't know it's not real.

I'm riling up people based on their prejudices and fears.

I'm looking for cheap giggles and instead . . . inciting riots.

No . . . I haven't incited a riot. Not even close. So far I've only had one person rage about how terrible my take on a subject was, and three or four people correcting my grammar.

I spelled "The Deer Hunter" as "The Dear Hunter"

The funny part was I did that on purpose.

Couldn't help myself.

Anyway, I'm sort of stuck in the middle. I love writing these things, I can pump out two or three a day if I wanted to, but my success is hinged on how nefariously I defraud the public.

Which makes me feel bad. Not like Ron Paul selling fear and snake oil, but telling lies to generate clicks isn't exactly a nobel effort either.

I haven't an answer for myself yet.  I guess the day will come when my conscience catches up to me, and that will be sooner than later, I can't sleep if I'm feeling amoral.

I might have a pretty bad sense of humor . . . but I've got a pretty good compass . . . and there will always be better ways of making money than just printing it.

HTT: How to Auto-Shop

Finding a mechanic is a lot like trying to find a best friend.

You're not looking for a one night hook-up, you gotta find the guy that will share his last beer with you.

And you need references.

That's all I'm saying.

Anyway, this morning while taking our Urban Assault Vehicle in for a tune-up, we were excited to find out that our favorite auto-shop has reopened. They had changed ownership a year ago, and promptly closed due to bad management, and now have reopened with the good ole boys.

In the interim we really struggled to find the right place.

We tried the dealership first, just assuming that if anything, they would have the parts in stock. Not only did that never happen, the also charged us arms and legs for the kinds of simple things I could've easily done myself, but chose not to. They were also too neatly quaffed for people who spend a portion of their days underneath engine blocks.

Actually, the worst thing about taking you car into the dealership is when you drive up and you're immediately approached by salivating salesmen with their gelled hair and monstrous wrist watches and who invariably look at you like a side of beef they can't wait to strip a loin off of.

Is that what it feels like to be a woman?

I need a bite of chocolate just thinking about it.

After we gave up on the dealership, we tried one of those stand alone auto-shops with a friendly name.

Honest Engine.

Which we found out later was short for "We Honestly Don't Give a F@#&"

Once when I took my son to a skatepark, I accidentally left the headlights on and drained my battery and though it's not the dumbest thing I'd ever done, it was getting late and I was hungry.

I called up the shop the was across the street from the park and asked if I could get a jump start.

They quoted me $100.


I thanked them for their time and politely demurred seeing as how I had clearly called an escort service by mistake.

Jump-start, oil change, lube-job, front-end alignment. They were probably getting their prices from Craigslist ads.

My wife invariably came to the rescue and all it cost me was a hamburger and a promise to empty the dishwasher.

Anyway, our fine friends at Made in Japan are back in business and boy are we relieved.

And I thought for today's How To Tuesday I'd give you a little glimpse of what I look for in a best friend/autoshop.

First is good work. How can you tell? Actually you can't. This is why you need references. But there are clues.

How fresh does the coffee smell? If they've got a cappuccino bar set-up and you get a gentle waft of a Costa Rican deep roast from the Tarazzu Region, big clue that their focus is not on crank cases.

Nope . . . what you're looking for is a Mr. Coffee and a few styrofoam cups one of which has to have teeth marks on the rim.

Another good clue is that the mechanic has to hunt a peck on the keyboard. No fancy schmancy typing class for this fella.

Second, how do they talk to you? People with very specialized levels of information come in two different categories: Simple and direct (Good), Jargon filled gobbledegook (Not so good)

For instance, I just got a call from our guys and he told my wife that the need to check out the transmission and told her the price. She asked me real quick if that made sense, it did, and we're good to go.

On the converse, our chums at Honest Engine gave me a very long monologue on the dangers of letting a timing belt go over 120,000 miles.

Which is true.

Honest to god.

But my car doesn't have a timing belt.

It has a timing chain.

Whole different animal.

Had I not known that, he might have honestly walked off with $1,000 of my money.


Last but not least, is that you gotta know how the game is played. You are supposed to go in for one thing: a tune-up, an oil change, checking the brakes, and there is a 90% chance that they're gonna find something else that could use repair.

A good shop does this because they love you and want you to be happy and safe. A bad shop does this because that's how they keep they're mistresses from calling their wives.

Now, you should have a good idea what the extra work might be. For instance, last time I drove the Urban Assault Vehicle, I noticed the transmission felt rough.

So I get the secondary call that they need to do some transmission stuff, I'm already ahead of the game.

But you don't have to have a cursory understanding of auto mechanics to tell the difference. It's all about the tone.

A good mechanic will say something along the lines of "You're transmission's rough, it's gonna cost XXX dollars to check it out and fix it."

Straight . . . to the point . . . unapologetic.

A shady McShaderson will be all like "Gee, lady, I'm really sorry about this, but we noticed that your driver's side air bag hasn't been waxed in awhile and we really recommend having it buffed out every thirty or so weeks and it's only gonna be XXXX amount of dollars."

They know if they're selling you something you don't need, you can feel the hair gel oozing from you mobile phone.

Finding a good auto-shop is tough, and expensive, and sometimes a little heart breaking, but if you love something, don't let it go.

Like ever.

Field of Dream

I was supposed to be doing computer stuff yesterday but my date fell through, so I joined my wife in some good old fashioned backyard maintenance.

And boy did it need maintenance.

If my yard had been a human being, it would be 45 years old, no job, 372 pounds, and living in it's mother's basement.

Not that is was repulsive, it hadn't started peeing in jars or anything, but it's not where you'd want to start the tour.

So many things had to go.

First were the weeds. Over in one corner, by our bedroom window, weeds had sprouted to Jurassic proportions. It was the only place where the sun isn't blazing 24/7 and the ground cover remains relatively moist.

In the far corner, just as an inverse example, in one of our raised garden beds, with very expensive soil and organic fertilizers, I had to remove and entire layer of dead dried out weeds that had tried their best and failed miserably to grab hold.

No wonder my tomatoes didn't make it last year. That particular patch couldn't even grow dandelions.

Of the nine years we've lived here, we've only planted stuff five times, and of those five times, only once has any plant produced enough fruit to make a decent sized salad. God clearly did not put me on this earth to have anything to do with the soil.

Crazy part is, is that I can't wait for the drought to end to plant again. It's never worth it  . . .  but it's totally worth it. I should have my medication adjusted.

Another big thing that had to go was our lovely old bench swing.

When we got it, it was quite the pinnacle of luxury.

It had nice soft seating, a large top cover for shade, took very little energy to get it to sway back and forth, and it was pretty.

For the first two years I would go outside with a book and some wine in a plastic cup and spend an hour or two devouring trashy novels and sipping iced chardonnay through a straw.

That my friends . . . is living the dream.

But the neighbors cat also love that bench swing, and eventually ripped holes in the shade screen and covered the plush seats with nasty outdoor cat hair which wouldn't wash off.

And then the sun got to it.

The sun out here is a bit of an enigma in that it powers a good portion of our energy usage, but will set fire to ants without the aid of a magnifying glass. Anything left outside will not make it past the first few weeks of June.

God only knows what happened to the cat.

So as I sat down on the swing to take a mild break from weed pulling, the final vinyl ripped down the middle and turned the backyard bench swing into a useless skeleton of rusty aluminum. Oh well.

What also had to go was the lower branches of one of our shade trees.

Joann caught it first, seeing that the benches had been laying gently on the cinder block wall, but not so gently that it wasn't actually crumbling the brick.

Nature is pretty amazing that way. So I got to do the man thing and bring out a saw and made quick work of the destructive branches.

Only thing was was that the branches fell on the other side of the wall and I had to walk around the corner and throw them back over. That doesn't sound so bad except that I was wearing a sombrero that I got from Chevys for my birthday some decades ago. I could just imagine what passing cars might see with this sweaty white guy walking around the neighborhood with a sombrero and a saw.

That's the stuff that nightmares are made of.

But I made it through.

Anyway, the last bit to go was our back yard lawn.

What once was this lush emerald green landscape has become a patchy brown area of desolation somewhere between the surface of the moon and the football field of an underfunded high school.

I actually did love that lawn. I kept it watered. I kept it mowed. I sat and drank coffee on Sunday mornings and watched my father-in-law sprinkle it with seeds and fertilizer because he couldn't help himself.

It survived when nothing else would and was the home of badminton courts, water gun fights, and countless kiddie pools.

And now it's finalizing it's life.

Which made me think as I was taking a break under my sombrero after having dismantled the bench swing "Why did I want a lawn in the first place?"

And it hit me very easily.

We put the lawn in during our first summer here. I discovered that I was not the guy to do it very quickly so it was contracted out and probably the best decision we've ever made. Though I didn't do the work, I do take credit for the design (both the concrete and the shape of the yard, and I drew it out in such a way that it could make the best use of the space.

The best use of the space for all the things I mentioned above, plus the perfect amount of length across, that I could one day play catch with my son, who at the time wasn't even a year old.

I had this dream that we could go out into the back yard and play catch.

Cause that's what father's and son's do.

They play catch.

Now anyone who knows me, or knows my son, knows that his interest in baseball, lasted exactly one season.

That's it.

On season.

He hasn't picked up a glove since.

Which, if you were a cynic, sounds sad.

But in the cool spring breeze under the shade of my sombrero staring at the patchy brown field, I found it rather beautiful.

See, I designed that place, spent the last of parental donated cash to build it, watered it, mowed it, let my father-in-law do what he needed to do with it, all to experience the ephemeral moment of father and son, out in the yard, tossing a ball back and forth.

And we did that.

We did that every day for six months.

It was awesome.

And maybe sure, it's over now, and maybe I'll never get it back, but it can never be taken away.

So you know . . . totally worth it.