Friday, November 25, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Turkey-Fueled Rant about the Dangers of Free-Market Capitalism

Ahh, thanksgiving.  It's one of those few exceptional times during the year in America where we can come together with our families and indulge in our own cultural traditions.  Some families watch football, some play football.  Some fight over who gets to break the wishbone.  Almost everyone is in a turkey coma.

There are very few real secular traditions in American culture.  And thanksgiving is probably the last remaining bastion of real tradition that we have left.  I love the holiday, and I think the only people who don't are turkey lovers.  And I don't mean "lovers of eating turkey".  I mean people who marry turkeys.  Yeah, Them.  Weirdos.

But the great American free market knows that people are enjoying themselves and seems to want a piece of it.  Because every single year, the openings of their stores encroach more and more on our celebrations.

Take, for example, Target, which opens its doors this year at midnight on Black Friday.  Yes, you read that right.  Midnight.  Toys R Us?  9pm.  NINE PM.  Most people who read this will think, "Who wants to shop at 9pm after eating an entire gaggle of bearded geese?"  And you're right.  Seriously, who wants to do this?  I really want to know.  Think about it - you have to either cut your celebration short, or start earlier, or whatever to get some sleep so that you can make your way down to your target to get a $350 40'' TV.

Simply put, that means that for people who will show up at midnight on Black Friday, shopping is more important than family.

Ok, but what about the counterargument?  Yes, we might be moving our celebrations for shopping, but it's for a good cause - buying things cheaply (especially during a recession) so that we can spread joy on Christmas.

Believe me - I get the whole, buying things cheaply deal.  But if your budget is so tight that you have to get up at midnight to go and buy $350 TVs, perhaps you should reconsider spending so much money in the first place?  You know what they say, buy one, get one half off isn't really a deal unless you planned on buying two to begin with.  Otherwise, it's just a ploy to get you to spend more money.

And spreading joy during Christmas through material possessions?  Look, I'm all for buying awesome stuff for your kids and making them happy, but why compromise one holiday for another simply for savings?  Personally, I'd rather pay a little more if it means I get to celebrate Thanksgiving normally, and without nap breaks so I can get to Target at 12 midnight.

*steps off soapbox*

But hey, the great thing about America is you're free to do whatever you want.  Just don't come crawling to me when you don't have any money because you chose to forgo American tradition for what companies WANT you to think is American tradition.

Just another reason why the free market is a bad idea.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy thanksgiving, everyone!

Biggest things I'm thankful for?  My loving and doting wife, and my healthy and beautiful child.

Enjoy yourselves everyone, and five bucks to the first one to hemorrhage internally from a turkey overdose.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Invasion of the Banichki Snatchers

Russia is a strange land.

A strange land where people don't celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December.  And think fish eggs are a delicacy.  And wear live bear cubs on their heads.

"Don't ask about the carpets". 

But a largely un-highlighted aspect of Russian culture is what I call the Native American mentality.

Probably the largest complaint that Native Americans had about the White man wasn't that we viciously killed and raped and destroyed their entire homeland with little to no regard for the original inhabitants of the land.  No.  It was that we didn't use all of the parts of the Buffalo when we killed it.

However, if, instead of Spanish and English colonists, the first settlers were Russian colonists, I think they would have gotten along a lot better.

For example, it is well documented that Russians will reuse grocery bags as trash bags.  Ok, that's not too weird.  I remember doing that too back in the day.  Also, they will wash out the "Banichki" (or small containers) that they get their pickled olives, tomatoes, watermelons, mushrooms and herring in from the grocery store.  (Yes, they WILL pickle all of those items)  They then use them as a kind of Tupperware, or a coin collector/piggy bank.  Or, in a pinch, as a little hat.  Russians are also known to save and dry out used paper towels.  While definitely classified as insane, I realize this is not unique to the Russian culture.

But probably one of the most outrageous things I've noticed that I've never seen before is when they save Styrofoam meat trays.  That's right, that yellow thing the meat comes in.  They will save and wash this and use it for a serving dish or a non-permanent cutting board.  

Meanwhile, my wife and I just spent a billion dollars on some ultra super special secret crazy Lock & Locks.  Which are like Tupperware on PCP.  Why?  I'm not sure, but I think we came up with the reason it was "for Sammy's food".  In retrospect, I think some Pickled Tomato Banichki might have been a good alternative.

Disclaimer: I am not saying that I don't understand WHY they save everything, I'm simply pointing out that it is strange from an American ultra-consumerist perspective.  I don't think I need to say it, but I will just for good measure: I understand the historically limited availability of household goods in Russia.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rubbing it in

I just wanted you all to know.

At the time of this writing, says that Philadelphia will be 51 degrees and raining.

"And I still have to drive through Philly Traffic!"

And while it's a short week, and everyone's excited for the wonderful turkey explosion that will likely occur in your oven, you can't help the fact that it's cold.  And rainy.  And because of the cold, your joints are probably hurting.  Also, it's flu season, so you could very well be getting sick.  Oh, and don't forget all those presents you'll have to buy all your friends and family, draining your budget for people you love, yes, but don't lie.  There's probably some people on your list that you can't stand. 

There's an NBA lockout, so you can't watch basketball.  And there's nothing good on TV because it's Thanksgiving week and Jon Stewart and the entire cast of Parenthood/Modern Family took the week off. 

Nothing to do but sulk.

And think about how Bill and his entire family are here:

This reminds me of Wayne's World and the Star Trek Theme Song
trying to get some landing gear action while sipping a motha-fuckin' daiquiri. 

Sorry, everyone - I'm a little excited.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lessons in Fatherhood Passed Down

There are a few times in my life when I remember my dad being an AWESOME dad.  One was when he bought an entire comic store's worth of Magic: the Gathering cards and would periodically shower us with new packs randomly.  That's not to say that I played or still play Magic: the Gathering.  No, I'm way too cool for that. 

Another time was when he stood up to my principal in high school when I said some really, really, deplorably embarrassing stuff.  He saved my ass from some seriously bad punishment, and I actually never expected how vigilantly he defended me.  His usual response was, "you got in trouble, you deserve your punishment".

But this whole Penn State disaster made me start thinking about the other major time when I remember my dad being a great dad. 

I was in 6th grade, and my dad was stationed in Italy for two years.  I went to a school that was on the military base there, and every military base has an intricate system of teachers that are all sort of shifted around between all military bases.  Going to school in a military school is very, very interesting.  You'd be best friends with a whole group of awesome kids, and the next month, you're totally alone, because all those kid's parents would move away to their next deployment. 

Growing up like this is tough for kids.  Especially overseas, where there's such a shallow pool of friends or support, and their parents are usually caught up in whatever job they're doing for the military.  So the kids are usually pretty misbehaved. 

So teachers there are all pretty haggard, what with the constant changes in their classrooms, and overall troublesome kids. 

My science teacher in 6th grade was Mr. Science (definitely not his name).  I remember him being a total geek, and I constantly made fun of him, but in a 6th grade sort of way - nothing mean or malicious.  I would be rebellious because he was teaching us stuff I already knew, like why temperature changed throughout the year.  Or how plants grew.  And even though I was rebellious, I could tell I was his favorite student.

I could tell this especially when we were in a computer room, and he was teaching us the basics of computers.  I had already pretty much mastered MS-DOS, so I was acting up again.  He came behind me while I was on the computer and put his hands on my shoulders in a really weird way, which made me shudder, and try and wriggle free.  Then he said, "Why won't you ever let me touch you?" and I don't remember what I said, but I remember being freaked out.  I don't remember if he touched me before, but I'm pretty sure he did.  In any case, this was DEFINITELY a touch with a creep factor of 10. 

I told my dad about it, and he basically went into his room with a missile launcher and blew the guys head off.  Mr. Science was fired almost instantaneously because of the firestorm my dad caused.  I think he even got the Commanding Officer of the base (the military equivalent of the Mayor) involved. 

I don't remember many instances of him defending us from the outside world, or many instances at all where I'd say my dad set a good example in any remote way, but I'm glad that there were these two situations. 

Especially now that I'm raising my own kid in a world with grimy assholes like Sandusky.  And now, apparently, Bernie Fine.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Post Involving Star Wars References and Vodka - Win

In the near or distant past or future we may or may not be going on a business or pleasure trip to a land either very far away or extremely close (problem, potential house robbers?).

And, oh my god, let me tell you how awful it is to pack for said trip.  Ready?  Commence whining.

You never realize how much stuff you need for a child until you're trying to pack it into one suitcase.  We've been packing for 3 days (or rather, we had been packing or will be packing) prior to our departure.  And just for feeding the little Sarlacc we've spawned, we're probably using up a good 900 pounds of our 50 pound per suitcase limit (by the way, thanks for that awesome aspect of flying, airline industry).  And because he constantly throws up on himself, or pees everywhere, or has explosive, projectile poop making for a deadly gauntlet of fecal matter, we need to bring 7000 changes of clothes for him, just for the week (or day, or three months - insert anti-Joe Pesci vagueness here) that we're going to be gone.  We mitigated the feeding issue a little bit through the purchase of a Magic Bullet, vigorously endorsed by our insane nanny (who, by the way, apparently has been enlisted to act as a cosmic counterbalance to all people who do not like talking).  However, I'm not entirely convinced TSA won't think this is some kind of terrorist item and force us to part with what our nanny has dubbed "the manifestation of freedom in America". 

We pre-checked in for the flight, and dropped $100 just for the luggage (without it even being weighed).  I'm still having trouble sitting down from the experience.  I'm excited for that moment in the airport where we're hastily rearranging our underwear to get under that ridiculous 50 pound limit.

But, to be honest, I'm slightly excited, because I've been given a mission: figure out a way to pour out the water from a water bottle and fill it back up with vodka without opening the top.  Why?  Two reasons.  First, I don't know if you knew this, but I'll be traveling with Russians.  They like vodka, and they don't like paying $10 a shot for it.  And when I say "They", I really mean "I".  And reason #2?  It's like I'm an awesome 1920's gangster, trying to smuggle alcohol.  It's a ridiculously cool feeling.  I just want to see if I can do it.

I figured out a few possibilities: remove the label, cut a tiny hole underneath where the label was, pour in the vodka through a paper funnel, put clear duct tape over the hole, and replace the label.  This only works half way, and looks like crap.  Or, poke a tiny hole in the cap and do essentially the same thing.  This works slightly better, but the problem could be if the rent-a-cops at the entrance decide to investigate even remotely, it's easy to see that hole, and the smell of vodka is pretty potent.

The last resort, I think, would be to wear loose sweatpants and stuff water bottles into socks underneath the sweatpants.  They just ask you to remove items from your pockets, not to take off all your clothes.

I'll let you know how that goes (or went).  But in the meantime, Enjoy your Thanksgiving!  I've scheduled a few filler posts to provide your daily dose of Borscht during the time we may or may not be gone or here. 

Until then!  or'll never know!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sammy Learns Some Physics

Guys!  GUYS, I gotta tell you something. 

So last night, I was out for a walk with Sammy.  You know, that kid I've got.  This one:

"Happy Birthday...Mr. President"

And we're walking in the dark because WTF, Earth, it gets dark at 5pm.  So I'm blabbering to him about the cars and the streetlights, and he's basically just playing with his hands or making Goo goo sounds. 

Then, all of a sudden, a helicopter flies overhead, and I say to him, "Sammy, look at the helicopter!" and he looks skyward to see the lights of the helicopter pass over the trees and stares at it for a couple seconds as it flies past. 

We both sit there for a bit while the sounds of the helicopter die out and in those few seconds, I'm realizing I'm having my first "moment" with my kid, where he's listening to me, and it seems like he's REALLY understanding what I'm telling him. 

This is important because he usually pretends like he DOESN'T understand.  Like when he's in his walker and doesn't understand "no" when you tell him he can't put his hands inside the trashcan or open up the drawers, or tip over plants.  If you tell him it's time for bed, he sort of looks at you and thinks you're saying "Hey, time to play!"  If you tell him he needs to be careful standing because he doesn't know how to walk yet, he thinks you're saying "let's see if you can run across the room!"

So I took advantage of that moment after the helicopter passed when he was listening to me to describe to him the detailed physics of how helicopters can stay in the air.

Surprisingly, this is not it.