December 29, 2011

Christmas with the Kerns -2011

Here's the tales of the Kerns' Adventures in December :

Earlier in the month, Melissa wanted to go to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge Tennessee. It was a couple of chintzy towns full of restaurants, hotels, go-kart tracks and T-Shirt shops along a single road in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, but it has a great charm to it when it's decked out for Christmas. Loads of lights along the strip, and some snow on the beautiful 30 mile mountain pass to get there.

Blue Ridge Mountain Pass 01 Snow on Blue Ridge
Pigeon Forge Patriot Park Christmas LightsPigeon Forge Patriot Park Christmas Lights2

We took Matthew to the Ripley' Aquarium there, which he loves, and for the first time, we visited DollyWood - Dolly Parton's Country theme park. (I have to admit, when I think of Dolly Parton and Mountains, my first thoughts aren't of a family-friendly park, but it was very nice.) Christmas at Dollywood

It was seriously cold that day, and after Matthew and I rode our first Coaster (the incredible Wooden Twister "THUNDERHEAD"), we (and most of the other guests) made a Bee-line to the entryway gift shop to pick up hats and gloves for everybody.

Christmas Week, we had a bit of a scare. Crispin the Kingsnake got out of his cage again.

WALL-E and the King Snake
He stops eating in winter sometimes, and there's nothing quite like the smell of a dead mouse that's been left, uneaten, under a basking lamp all day, so I assume that in my haste to dispose of the mouse, I probably didn't double-latch the cage top. We searched in vain all afternoon, but not a trace of him. We knew he'd have to come out soon for some water at least, so we just let him be.

Two days later, Matthew spotted him coming out of the linen closet and slinking down the stairs. Before I could grab him, he slithered back INTO the linen closet, where I thought I had him. But apparently he can climb up that 3 feet to the first shelf. I saw that all the shelves in the closet were wire, so he could get as high in it as he liked. So started a very amusing 7-MINUTE CHASE, with him slinking over every towel, sheet and pillow, me furiously taking out all the linens I could, and him wiggling free to the next shelf just as I get back. Eventually, the closet was emptied and he had nowhere to run, so I had him back in the cage, and locked the lid tight this time. So we had THAT as an early Christmas gift: No longer fearing putting our hand under the tree or sitting on the couch.

Christmas Eve, we were preparing to go to our church service, where I'd be singing in the choir. Unfortunately, Melissa was having some digestive issues and we reluctantly admitted that she would have to stay behind. This was the first Midnight Mass that she has missed since she was about 12, so it was quite a sad moment. (She even went to it when she was on strict bed-rest while pregnant with Matthew.) Since she was staying, and I had to go, her parents stayed behind to take care of her, and I went with our friend Shawn. It was a very nice service, and our singing was great, but I missed having her out in the congregation. I hated the fact that she was missing out.

By the time I got home it was past midnight, and I got her ready for bed. But before I said goodnight to her, I picked up "Flamingo's First Christmas" and read it to her. She gave me that eye-roll and incredulous grin that she still hasn't lost, as I read each page and showed her the pictures.

Christmas Day, Melissa and I woke around 10:30, apparently the folks had satiated Matthew by giving him their gift-a Lego "Alien Defense Command Center". That kept him occupied enough to let us be for a little while. Around 11am, we all moseyed into the (now Snake-Free) Den and opened gifts.
Kern Tree 2011 Xmas Ornament- CrackerBarrel Xmas Ornament-F&F

Mel's friend Dawn got her this TOTALLY MELISSA ornament! Xmas Ornament-Mel's Shoes

Matthew got loads of Lego Sets, a remote control helicopter that shoots pictures, and a Nintendo 3DS. Mel's parents got him a telescope, since he often goes out at night with binoculars to look at the stars. (Now all he needs is a leg-cast and a murder across the street...) Matthew'sGifts Telescope Cats love Helicopters

Melissa got me some shirts (I never shop for clothes myself) and a nice gift card for Fry's Electronics. I got Mel tickets to see Jeff Dunham, and a little project I've been working on. She watches movies on Netflix or DVDs from our collection most of the day. We have a HUGE number of DVDs, and I usually have to pick an arm-full of them and bring them into her room for approval. So I had the idea of digitizing our entire collection, to make it easier for her.

Christmas Server
I put a Network Attached Storage (NAS) server on my Amazon Wishlist, mostly for a reminder for myself, but my parents actually bought it, and it arrived two weeks before Christmas. I saw this coming together, so I put some DVD-Ripping software on the list, which was quickly bought for us by my aunt and uncle in Florida just a few days later. So for 2 weeks, I've had our old computer dedicated to ripping our DVD collection to the new network server. It takes roughly the same amount of time to rip as it does to watch them, so I get a short stack of them done each day. By Christmas, I had over 100 movies, ready for her to just click and watch, straight from her PC! It made her smile, so that made it all worth it.
Our DVD Collection

I'm back at work, having no vacation days left (FMLA will do that to you), but I think all the work this holiday was worth it. I did the bulk of our shopping by Amazon (Free 2-day shipping is SO worth the annual price of Amazon Prime!), and I got a lot of packages out this year, so I am pretty impressed.

Hope everyone had a great year-end!

November 29, 2011

Matthew's Great Idea: The Store

Dinnertime conversation with my son, Matthew (9):

M: I'm going to open a store in my room!
C: Your room? That kind of limits your potential customers.
M: YOU guys can buy stuff! Grommy and Granddaddy and you and Mommy.
C: What kind of stuff are you selling? We already bought the Yankee Candles and ButterBraid Bread from your school fundraisers and Popcorn for your Cub Scouts.
M: I'm selling my own stuff.
C: The toys and stuff WE bought you? We already paid for it once already, why would we pay YOU to have it back?
M: Well, there's some cute stuffed animals that Mommy would like, maybe you could buy it for her? *pause, stare*
C: You mean that you're going to charge your mother money to have a stuffed animal that she probably bought you herself?
M: She'd like some of them.
C: No. You're not even going to tell your mother this. You want to sell something? You can start a lemonade stand, or God forbid, do some CHORES, help out around the house and we'll pay you an allowance.

He didn't like that idea. But he persisted. At bedtime, he set this little flag (the one we bought him at Medieval Times) in a bucket outside his door and reminded me that his shop was open.

Greed? Sloth? Not honoring thy Father and Mother? I'm not sure which Commandment and/or Deadly Sin to lecture him on first.

November 05, 2011

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted...

Hey folks! Melissa and I are back from our week's vacation. Well, we were back last Saturday, but it took us a week to get back on track here, with the jetlag and everything.

Yes, you read that right, we actually took a plane. And with a wheelchair like Melissa has, that's a REAL HOOT, believe you me.

They See Me Rollin'

I had to do a lot of homework to make sure we were able to keep this wheelchair on the plane, and make certain it was still operational when we got to our destination. I had to verify that the batteries were a certain type, the weight and dimensions were within specs, and I even put together a sheet of instructions, labeled "HOW TO DRIVE THIS WHEELCHAIR" in large, friendly letters and taped it to the rear so the ground crew would be SURE how to move it. So it took a lot of pre-planning, but it did pay off, and we had the chair in working order once we de-planed.

As some of you may know, we actually had to miss our own ALS Walk to take this trip. It was nothing serious, as I said, we weren't in the hospital or anything. But some friends (who would prefer to remain anonymous) put together an awesome vacation package for us as a gift, and since it was kind of a time-share thing, we had only certain days that we could do it. It was a hard decision to miss the Walk, but I knew you all would understand.

But a big thanks goes out to all of you who braved the chilly morning air and walked for FIVER'S FLAMINGOS! ALS Walk 2011 - Flamingo Sign Thanks to everyone's awesome efforts, we raised nearly $8000 for the ALS Association of Georgia! Good job you guys!

But back to the vacation. We actually flew out to Los Angeles! It started out a little rough though. There was a LOT to pack up, and we were late getting to the airport. We missed the cut-off by 15 minutes, so they had to bump us to a later flight out. Not a huge deal, but we lost our nice well-planned seats and were stuck in the middle of a row. BUT the people around us were very nice, and the staff were quite helpful. We de-planed, but it took a while to get our wheelchair out from the cargo hold and up to the terminal. Then it took a while LONGER to get our baggage, as it had been sent to a completely different airline. And then it took another couple of HOURS until we could get a handicapped accessible van to take us to our hotel. We didn't get into our room until about 3:30 AM PACIFIC time (6:30 AM our time), so needless to say we were completely exhausted.

Because we got in so late, our plans had to be set back a day, which was all right I suppose. We really needed to sleep in, and besides, LA was strangely covered in FOG, so we really couldn't do much. We spent most of Saturday adjusting to the new timeframe and having lots of Room Service delivered. Los Angeles - Fog Los Angeles - Room Service

We tried something different this time around and hired a Travel Consultant to plan a Wheelchair-Accessible Itinerary. This was a wonderful thing!l. We had a rented Wheelchair Van and a driver/guide to take us everywhere, and that took so much of the usual stress off me that *I* actually got to relax on a vacation! The guy's name was Frank, and he was a Godsend--very helpful and patient with us.

I won't bore you with more details, but we had a great time, and we are SOOOOO thankful to our friends who helped put this together for us. We hardly had to pay for anything! (Which is a great relief, since we just ran out of Insurance-covered nurse visits, so we're paying all out-of-pocket for the rest of the year.) We missed seeing everyone at the walk, but this was an opportunity that we couldn't pass up. So I hope you all forgive us. We're glad to be back now, and finally caught back up on Eastern Standard time (and I'm nearly caught up on the work I missed).

October 13, 2011

US Pissed-OFFice

Trying to keep my composure, but I am wanting to tear the Post Office a few new orifices today.

Last week, a friend Priority Mailed a piece of equipment back to me. It never arrived. There wasn't tracking or insurance on it. But I know it was an honest mistake, and I forgive him. I found my peace with it, because so many good things have happened for Mel this year, and we have received so much kindness from people, that a mistake and being short a piece of electronics really didn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

Then I got a message from Kelly, a co-worker of mine from the Florida branch. Melissa and I had planned on being in DisneyWorld this week, but we had to cancel it because her parents were no longer able to accompany us, and neither was our friend Shawn. (I can take care of Mel OR Matthew, but not both.) But we had purchased non-refundable tickets for the after-hours "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party" event. So I asked my friend Kelly if she would like them, since she and her husband have two elementary school-age kids and they live only an hour away from the park. She agreed and I mailed them out last Friday.

Today I get a message from her.
Kelly: "Um, what night are those tickets for?"
Me: "Tonight. Didn't it have the dates on the letter the tickets were attached to?"
Kelly: "... The letter hasn't arrived."

*Headdesk* Headdesk*Headdesk*

I didn't track or insure the letter. It was just a couple of plastic cards and it was going First Class to Florida. No reason to believe it would have any troubles. How could it? Millions of pieces of mail find their way to me every year with no problem. Medical Bills and credit card offers mostly, but also a good amount of junk mail and a seasonal Victoria's Secret catalog that thinks it's going to "Christie Kern" (I've unsubscribed three times). But when I need something to reach me, or for the one letter I've sent in 6 months to reach it's destination, the post office has somehow failed me twice in two weeks. Costing me a few hundred dollars between them.

So now I'm putting that Zen Peace I found earlier to the test. If it really didn't matter in the grand scheme for one letter, the same should hold true for two. And I should be able to forgive myself as easily as I forgave my friend, since both were simple mistakes. Right?

I'll let you know how it goes.
My friend is still beating himself up about the item being lost, and sent me an email. I reiterated that I was pissed at the Post Office, and not at him. I am really at peace with this overall. And here's why:

I just got a letter yesterday saying that I had $1100 left in my Medical Flexible Spending Account, and my Insurance said it was empty long ago. So I was able to put a nice sized payment on a hospital bill. Free Money! (Well, I paid into it, so it was my money to begin with, but still, FOUND Money!) Little lifts like that happen to us every few months, either great, thoughtful gestures from friends, or some favorable karmic random happenstances, and that's what keeps us going.

September 26, 2011

Off the Top of My Head

I'm not sure who it was who said "How am I supposed to know what I think until I write it?" but it really holds true.

Sunday morning, despite a weekend of bad sleep, I woke up and went to Church with Matthew. (I'm in the choir, but I only attend every other week, alternating with her parents in order to leave someone home to take care of Melissa.) One of the men I know there was getting coffee ahead of me and asked how things were going. I shrugged and said that sleep was difficult for both of us.  "You know, I really do feel for your situation," he said. "I mean, if you are up at 3AM and need someone to yell at, you know I would be there."

My response came out immediately: "No, I don't need to yell at people. I can always yell at God. He's a good listener. He'll sit there and take all of it until I yell myself out, and say 'You know what? I'm sorry, it's not really your fault.' "

It was one of those sentences that takes the Cerebral Bypass route straight to your mouth, skipping the toll roads of Upper Brain Function Junction. I've never talked about God like that before, but after some consideration, it actually does sum up my overall thought about God's place in the tragedy of Melissa's disease.  I don't believe God comes down to Earth and individually gives people ALS or Cancer or what have you.  Disease is a universal biological phenomenon, so if I believed that God gave Melissa ALS, I would have to believe he individually creates ALL diseases, right down to Scooter the classroom hamster's liver failure to the spots on Mrs. Wilson's rosebush.  And I just don't see God as such a micro-manager, he's probably more of a "Big Picture" kind of God.

When it comes to tragedy  like this, I am reminded of the words of Dr. Peter Venkman who said "Sometimes, shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who you gonna call?"

August 19, 2011

Dragon*Con Tips 2011

After the good response to my Dragon*Con Tips set last year, I thought I'd make an attempt at making some of it into a short PSA for DConTV. Since I don't have Flash animation skills myself, I put the word out to some friends.

Much to my surprise, J Griffin, a former co-worker of mine from UGA who used to animate spots for Cartoon Network, answered the call. I thought a simple text-with-photos style would be easiest, but J had other ideas. BRILLIANT ideas.

So without further ado, here's the finalized video that DragonConTV just released. (Animation by J, Editing and Text by me, Photo credits from PhotoGnome, AmazingTito and others on the pictures' Flickr pages, and music by me as well. )

(Any chance I get to use the "Packhorse Productions" logo is a good one!)

August 10, 2011

The Arranged Marriage

A few weeks ago, some good friends of mine posted a link to a CNN editorial about parents' inability to control children in public places ("Permissive parents: Curb your brats"). While everybody agrees with the need for discipline, I have to take exception to many of the author's points.

If you're the kind of parent who allows your 5-year-old to run rampant in public places like restaurants,
...we want to kill you for letting your brat ruin our dinner.

Or our plane ride. Or trip to the grocery store. Or the other adult-oriented establishments you've unilaterally decided will serve as an extension of your toddler's playpen because you lack the fortitude to properly discipline them, in public and at home.
With an opening like that, you wouldn't expect anything of real substance in the remainder of the article,and you would be right. This is a spleen-venting rant, pure and simple, that is more suited for a personal blog or distilled to a single angry Twitter post. You wouldn't expect it to be posted to and have the author flout his experienced journalistic credentials in the masthead of the article.

As a counterpoint to the bile towards parents with difficult kids, he offers nothing but platitudes and worn-out generalities:
we know you don't discipline them at home because you don't possess "the look." If you had "the look," you wouldn't need to say "sit down" a thousand times. If you had "the look," you wouldn't need to say much of anything at all.
He goes on to trot out such useless gems as "Spanking should not be completely off the table" and bemoaning cases where kids "are not put in check" for their behavior.

I absolutely agree that "The Look" is the crown jewel of parenting; a sign of real success that gently reminds the child of a carefully-built set of discipline tactics and constant parental vigilance. But situations where "The Look" is all that is required is the Horatio Alger story of parenting, a Steve Jobs among a sea of regular computer programmers. Sure, you see it from time to time, hear about it from people, but the simple fact that it gets noticed is BECAUSE it is so rare to find. A Gold Standard to aspire to, surely, but every parent who fails to instantaneously switch off a child's behaviors with a theatrical flick of the eye should not consider themselves a failure.

If parenting were simple, there would be a singular training manual for every situation, and every bit of advice would instantly work for every child, parent and situation. However, here in the real world, things are a bit more complex. ( currently has 96,235 listings in it's "Parenting and Family" section.) The most important factors to take into account are the unique personalities of each parent and child involved. Children are NOT blank canvasses on which parents can paint whatever they want, each child has their own personality to throw into the mix. Any parent of multiples can tell you that methods that work for your first child will not work for future siblings without significant modification.

Parents and Non-parents alike have to accept a simple, cardinal truth:

Parenting is an ARRANGED MARRIAGE.

You cannot choose your children based on which temperament would best fit with your personality and parenting style. You have to change yourself and create a system on the fly to make a system where both you and the child can flourish. (Or at least stay sane.)

I am a parent of a child with ADHD who often has behavior problems, so I am directly in the sights of Mr. Granderson's blanket accusation, calling all parents of non-angelic kids lazy or "spineless". Like most parents, I dedicate a good amount of my week to taking care of my offspring, and this includes not just direct interaction with them, but also planning of their activities and constructive discussions about improving their behavior with fellow parents. Like many, I spend a good bit of money for Matthew to see a counselor on a regular basis, and have spent hundreds on parenting and behavior books.

I am in constant contact with his teacher, and have developed a Behavior Plan with many involved parties at the school so we can coordinate our efforts and methods in order to be more effective. Thanks to all of this, my son's grades and behavior has improved significantly. Like many, I am very mindful of him being a nuisance to others in malls or restaurants and try a number of tactics to curb bad behavior, that have been laid out in our books or discussed with the professionals.

My son still has issues, however, and sometimes outbursts happen in public. So by the author's judgment, despite all my efforts, I am "spineless" and lazy. You would think that given the author's long history covering sports, he would know better than to participate in such parental "Armchair Quarterbacking". You can never know all the facts of the situation. Maybe the kid has Asperger's Syndrome and this is a GOOD day by contrast. Maybe the parents are divorced, or one of them is dying of a terrible disease. The fact is that you CAN'T know, and making a snap-judgment and instantly assuming that you know the cause of bad behavior AND just how to fix it is just as insulting and unfounded as the man who hasn't ever played football yelling instructions to his team's quarterback on the TV. And it's just as helpful, too.

Sometimes the child's purpose for misbehaving is to get the parent to leave, and the best action is to stay and make them learn that you cannot be controlled. Parents do not bring misbehaving kids to public places to "parade their undisciplined children around like royalty", most of us just try to get them back home as quickly as possible. Just because a child might be screaming for Ice Cream doesn't mean his parents are always buying it for him. Quite the contrary, that kind of outburst is a sign that his parents are refusing to give into his demands. BEING a good parent and telling your kids "No" is often what causes public outbursts. Kids are smart little manipulators and they know parents are more likely to give in if a tantrum is thrown in a public setting, so it is important to stay strong and bear the stink-eye looks from spectators in order to improve behaviors in the future.

Outbursts happen and sometimes there is just no helping the situation. Simply spanking him or taking him out of the situation is NOT the answer. With many kids, spanking only encourages hitting and violent outbursts from them. He mentions "I have seen a small child slap her mother in the face with an open hand, only to be met with "Honey, don't hit Mommy." Most times this is not the cringing reply from a weak parent, but a measured, calm response to violent outbursts that is strictly prescribed by child psychologists when the knee-jerk reaction to spank the kid raw on the spot has failed in the past. Gandhi's method of countering violence with steadfast calm looked like folly to outsiders as well, but it got the job done in the long term. This brings us to our second cardinal truth:

Parenting is a long game.

We are sorry for the 2-minute distraction from your cup of Starbucks and your morning paper, but get over yourself and think of the parent for a minute: You may be witnessing a short scene in a multi-day attempt for a kid to wear down a parent's resolve, and that parent has to endure and stay the course for however long it lasts. Behavior is NOT as simple as "Getting the Discipline in early" as the author suggests. Kids never let you rest on your laurels, so the establishment of good behavior early in their lives is never a guarantee for smooth sailing from then onwards. Some kids are like the Raptors from Jurassic Park, constantly attacking their fences and testing for weaknesses to exploit.

These parents are usually their own worst critics, and they beat themselves up enough if their kids' behavior in public causes some stares, but these events happen IN PUBLIC, which means that in the end, they have just as much right to be there as you do. The moment you walk out of your front door, and INTO "Public", you risk being exposed to kids behaving badly, homelessness, depressives, greed, hunger, unemployment, intolerance and hundreds of other downers that might take you out of your self-imposed comfort zone for a few minutes, but that is REAL LIFE. The author is quite right, there ARE Adults-Only cruises, flights and other places for a reason. And I wouldn't be surprised if many of the patrons of these are parents themselves, taking a short break from the constant struggle and responsibility of raising a child. And who could blame them?

Parenting is an unpaid second job that is unappreciated by most everyone at the time. Sometimes glimpses of a person-in-progress are not pretty. It is a grueling decades-long struggle to mold these kids into productive members of society and not every moment of that struggle is palatable. But every moment of parental toil and frustration is worth it if the final product is a well-rounded, happy member of society.

July 17, 2011

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Spoilers! (Finally!)

Now that Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is finally out in theaters, I can finally come clean about something that has been going on for years: I deliberately stopped reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" halfway through because I thought the ending of this series would be more EPIC in the Theatrical Release.

Since then, I have painstakingly avoided HP Discussion groups, ran the other way when the topic of conversation turned to HP, even programmed filters for LiveJournal and Facebook that would hide HP-related posts. I might have even ruined a couple of friendships because people misinterpreted some of these actions. (If you are one of these, I hope this explanation might start a healing process for us.) But I knew it would be worth it in the end, all the build-up and hard work and self-imposed media isolation would pay off in a fully-visualized, surround-sounded, Industrial-Light-And-Magick'd finale to the biggest book-and-movie phenomenon of my era.

And I was right, it was truly Capital-E Epic! All the plot twists and resolutions and the finale were so incredible, my tear-stained cheeks were hurting from smiling so much by the time the credits rolled. NOW I CAN FINALLY TALK WITH ALL OF YOU ABOUT THE ENDING!!! Wow, I am SO relieved. So I'll start the discussion with some of the biggest surprises in the ending of Deathly Hallows:

(1) Voldemort's revelation that HE was Harry's father! Gah! All the Semi-Oedipal Complexities that this introduced brought the story to a COMPLETELY different level!

(2) After all that searching, "Rosebud" was the name of Dumbledore's Wand! Who would have guessed that the last word to escape his lips as he fell from the tower was an expression of love for something so simple.

(3) The scene at the end when Hagrid is walking away at the train station, and the Polyjuice Potion wears off! OMG, what?!?! Who would have thought that all this time, HAGRID was the real Keyser Soze!

(4) I should have known from that first scene on the train in "Sorcerer's Stone" that Harry's "Single Serving Friend" sitting next to him was a figment of his imagination!

Harry was a boy all alone in the new Wizarding World, with a vault at Gringott's full of coins, but he had no friends and no purpose. So Harry's subconscious invented Ron Weasley, a churchmouse-poor dullard who would always need rescuing--someone who would always need HIM. Someone with a large, loving family with both parents very much alive and doting upon him, and many siblings that actually cared for him and each other. All the breadcrumbs were there in the books, if you looked hard enough.

"The first rule about Dumbledore's Army is... you don't talk about Dumbledore's Army." How awesome that Harry/Ron took a simple Dueling Club and turned all it's participants into revolutionaries willing to sacrifice themselves at his whim!

(5) Butterbeer is made of Wizards! I suppose they DID have to do something with all the bodies piling up around Hogwarts. I mean, imagine all the deaths that they swept under the rug, in a place where they arm untrained children with an obscene amount of power, and a slip of the tongue can change a simple incantation to float a feather into a spell that removes all your bones? Is there no Wizard version of OSHA that would regulate such a dangerous environment, when Magical Creatures and Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers are crippled, driven mad or gone Evil every couple of years?

WOW. It's such an amazing feeling to finally be able to talk openly to all of you again!! Please feel free to ping me on messenger or invite me to HP Discussions or viewing parties again. I'll definitely want to be together with like-minded people to celebrate when Deathly Hallows Part 2 comes out on DVD!

July 11, 2011

Dinner Conversation with Matthew (Age 9)

Matthew (Out of nowhere): Dad, is Cancer what makes people's hair fall out?
Me: It's the cancer TREATMENT that does that. Doctors use small doses of Radiation to kill the cancer cells, and losing your hair is one of the side effects.
Matthew: (Pause) can cancer sometimes be good?
Me: Nnnnnno. Cancer is not good, it can make you very sick and even kill you.
Matthew: But what if... do people get fleas too?
Me: Um, yes, they can get fleas.
Matthew: Then it would be GOOD to have cancer, because if you had fleas, you would know where they were, without all your hair in the way.
Me: Sure, I hadn't though of that. But while there are a few good points to not having HAIR, Cancer is always a bad thing.
Matthew: Like not having to wash it?
Me: Or comb it. Like my friend Justin, that we saw today?
Matthew: Was he the one with all the PROBLEMS?
Me: What?
Matthew: You know, when we were playing that zombie game today, he kept having problems getting the zombies. Not like me, I got most of mine.
Me: Ah, that sort of problems. Sure, I think we all had our share of those kind of problems. The dead were walking, it WAS the apocalypse, after all...

June 02, 2011

Have You SSSsssseeen Me?

WALL-E and the King Snake

Listen up, ladies and gentlemen. Our fugitive has been on the run for 30 hours . Average slithering speed over carpet and stairs barring injuries is 2 miles an hour. But he is likely too large to squeeze under weatherstripped doors and windows, he is likely still in the house somewhere.  What I want out of each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every obscured corner, couch, closet, open box, plastic bin, bathroom and cat box in that area. Checkpoints go up at each room. Your fugitive's name is Crispin the Kingsnake. Go get him.

Dear lord, please let us find him. We tore up our room and took everything apart last night ,but no luck. I fed him at 10pm on Tuesday night and I must have not latched the top on both sides.
We tore up everything in a 3-room radius that was on the ground, or reachable by him last night .I've been meaning to clean out our room, but not like this. 

As you can imagine, it took a little convincing to get the night-nurse to stay last night, given the circumstances. I told her "Honestly, this is the ONE place in the house that we can conclusively say that the snake IS NOT. Here's a towel, you can put it under the door once you close it. But this guy has been trying to escape for three years, so I don't think he'd be sticking around here."  Eventually, she agreed, amid some nervous laughter.

He's a reclusive little thing, so he'll likely hole up for a few days until he gets hungry again.

And I know that's not the most comforting thought.

May 12, 2011

Truth in Anagrams

A few years back, I had this brief obsession with Anagrams. I found a few that were truly incredible. Sometimes, they would reveal some secret insight into the subject.

For Microsoft:

A semi-true assessment of me:

Other Notables that I found:
  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident" ==> Withheld to feeblest enthused voters.
  • "The Monica Lewinsky Scandal" ==> Wild con man cheats sneakily *AND*
    Many kind ethics allowances.
  • 'Melissa Theresa Petrey Kern' ==> Restless prime Yankee-hater
  • 'A Pirate's Life For Me' ==> Afloat Empires Rife
  • April 18, 2011

    Of A Cappella and Disturbing Math

    As a birthday gift, former A Cappella compatriots Craig, Justin and I set out to Athens, GA to see UGAPALOOZA, the annual spring A Cappella invitational concert put on by the UGA Accidentals (My old college group). I haven't been back to these since 2007 so it's been a while.

    Our tickets were incredibly FRONT ROW CENTER. I could not have asked for better, and I happened to bring my new Digital Camcorder for just such a lucky break. I recorded about every-other-song due to conserve battery, but I got a load of good performances:

    And to top off the evening, they announced their "traditional closer", a simple little song called "Blessing" written by my old Accidentals Director Paul Tate. (It was originally meant as an on-stage warm-up/sound check, but it works at the end too.) Then they asked any Alumni in the audience to come up and sing it with them. Didn't have to ask me twice. I shot up out of my seat, handing my coat and camera to Justin, who thankfully was able to sort out how to work the thing:

    What a rush! Brought back a lot of great memories of singing back at UGA. I shook some hands of the guys and congratulated them on a wonderful show. They were very friendly and one asked me when I was in the group. "From 1992 through '98," I replied.

    The guy's eyes went wide for a brief moment, but quickly softened out of politeness, and we kept talking for a few more seconds. But underneath, my mind was thinking "Oh crap. 1992 was 19 years ago now. Most of these guys were BORN about the time I arrived here at UGA." This was followed briefly by "I am older than dirt that was found under the fingernails of dinosaurs."

    The Accidentals have come an INCREDIBLY long way since I started back then. My bunch of Accidentals were the first to make a studio album, the first to participate in competitions, I built the group's first web page. Back then, the group was still very much an extension of the Glee Club, which is great in itself, but it didn't have the current music vocal sensibilities that you see today. A medley of "Open Arms" and "Faithfully" by JOURNEY was considered "Progressive" back then, even though the songs were not at all current. We had no microphones back then, so soloists and Vocal Percussionists (yours truly) had to blow out their voices to be heard over the rest of the singers.

    It was a pioneering time for us, and it was exciting to be a part of a group that was evolving so quickly. In the years since I've graduated, the Accidentals have continued to grow in skill and popularity. Our counterparts from the Women's Glee Club, "Noteworthy", have come into their own and even were honored by being included on one of the "BOCA - Best of Collegiate A Cappella" CDs. And now there is an independent mixed group in "With Someone Else's Money" that is quite a group themselves.

    As we drove home listening to the Accidentals' latest CD (which is incredible), I thought that maybe knowing my age wasn't all bad. It gives me a greater appreciation for what they can do now, given the scope of my knowledge of the group's past.

    April 13, 2011

    On Puns and Planning

    As a format, the well-designed pun is made by careful planning, sometimes for long periods of time. Melissa named our cats "Oscar" and "Mayer" as a set-up for the pet Weiner dog she wanted. Whereas I still want to own a donkey one day, just so I can tell people it's name is "Ho-Tay."

    March 20, 2011

    Filming Starts on THE HOBBIT (Finally!)

    Production of The Hobbit is finally set to begin today after months of delays. The two films are expected to pump around $1.5 billion into the New Zealand economy.

    Friction between director Sir Peter Jackson and the New Zealand actors' union over pay and conditions delayed production last year, and Jackson's hospitalisation earlier this year pushed filming back again.

    Jackson's assistant Matt Dravitzki says everyone involved is now looking forward to some action.

    The Hobbit is to be shot at Jackson's studios in the Wellington suburb of Miramar and on location around New Zealand.
    From TV.NZ

    Most of you probably know about Project Fiver, our petition to get Melissa cast as a Hobbit Extra in the film, and they agreed to bring her over! We have kept in contact with the production crew in New Zealand, and they are still dedicated to bringing Melissa over to be a Hobbit Extra, like they promised. So sometime later this year (most likely) Melissa will be flying halfway around the world to be part of this incredible production.

    Again, I have to thank all of you who brought us to this point--who put the word out about Project Fiver and spread the Petition far and wide. Everyone's efforts added up to changing the world, just this little bit, to let Melissa have this small honor that she deserves so much. Thank all of you for all your help and love.

    January 28, 2011

    F$*# You Wachowski Brothers

    Dear Wachowski Brothers,

    You created one of the best sci-fi action movies in THE MATRIX back in 1999, pioneering whole new areas of visual effects and branding "Bullet-Time" cameras. It was truly an accomplishment in cinema, not only entertaining, but visually awe-inspiring and driven by a tight script with an engaging story. "The Lobby Scene" set the bar for years to come, and continues to see life a as a test reel for selling Home Theater Systems.


    Then you returned with Matrix Reloaded. You opened up hundreds of sub-plots and dropped visual cues that thousands of us pored over like a bunch of paranoids reading an anti-government manifesto. But you also spent half of the movie giving back-stories and dialog to characters we would NEVER SEE AGAIN in the final chapter. And then there is the gratuitous "Orgasm Cake" sequence. I don't think I ever met anyone who liked that scene. How much of your budget was wasted making a fly-by CGI wireframe of a vagina for that? Couldn't that have been better spent on something like... oh I don't know, hiring writers? Or getting acting lessons for "PERSEPHONE"?

    I'm not going to even go into REVOLUTIONS because I'm not quite there in my therapy sessions yet.

    Oh, hell with it, I have to say this. THE FINAL ULTIMATE BATTLE between Neo and Agent Smith, you have thousands of replica Agent Smiths just standing around while the original fights him Mano-a-Mano "Because they have all seen the outcome". BULLSHIT. It was a craptacular ending to a trilogy that was TWO MOVIES TOO LONG.

    You want to see how to make a memorable Over-the-top Sci-Fi Action Movie ending? Take a look at Endhiran - India's Sci-Fi Blockbuster:

    You see that?!?!? How could THEY get everything so right and you suck so incredibly. Both parties had obscene amounts of money thrown at them, and you somehow got it so wrong that most of your fanbase was scrambling for ROOFIES on their way out of the theater to try and RetCon their memory of it.

    I wanted your heads in a duffel bag, and then you go and re-make SPEED RACER into something so eye-rapingly unwatchable that I fashioned my Twizzlers into a makeshift noose.

    Really, were you TRYING to cause whole scores of NEW people to have epileptic seizures? Were you and that Star Trek director being paid by the Lens Flare or something?

    In conclusion: I am a grown man now. I have forgiven my father for playing baseball with me exactly once during my whole childhood. I have forgiven bullies that picked on me because I have seen what losers they became later in life. But I will never forgive you for utterly screwing up something that caused so much hope and joy and anticipation and running it immediately into the ground before pissing on it enough to put out any single ember of awesomeness that might have survived.

    To paraphrase Douglas Adams, I hope that if you ever try to direct another movie, your own lower intestine, in a desperate attempt to save humanity, rips itself out of your respective abdomens and strangles the life out of you both.


    January 12, 2011

    Running on Ice - Atlanta Highway Edition

    Welcome to HothLanta

    ...A sudden climate shift in the south has shut down the city, making us ripe for invasion by imperial troops. The rebels defending the city's power generator are being routed by AT-AT walkers...

    Yeah. 6 inches of snow in a city with probably THREE salt/plow trucks total. Temps continue to stay below freezing and streets are just sheets of ice. I have a doctor's appointment to get to this afternoon, and I'm worried. Our driveway is a 45-degree incline, but is fairly clear, but our street slopes down and we're right in the middle. Even if the main roads are clear, I'm still worried about small patches of black ice. Some of the highways look like the "GAME OVER" screen from a particularly bad TETRIS player.

    And when downtown atlanta looks like this:

    ... I'm still worried. Melissa only has a few days of her pain meds left, and I need to see the doc in person to get a hard copy of the prescription. Night-Nurses haven't been able to come in all week, probably won't be able to until Sunday night, and it's worn me down, along with the weather. I took a sick day yesterday because I felt totally horrible. took two three hour naps, aided by Tylenol Cold - Nighttime Formula, and feeling marginally better today.

    Wish me luck, offer prayers to Saint Christopher (no relation) for my safe return.