That's Just Grate

I have something of an adversarial relationship with our cheese grater. For some reason, applying force to food with my hand an inch or two away from a series of sharp metal edges frequently results in loss of blood. And last night it happened again. I now have 3 or 4 scars on my hands courtesy of our graters.


Still, it's worth it for the deliciousness of cheese (and, in the case of a couple of those scars, homemade hash browns).

To Blave

Last night Sam fell asleep on our bed, and I carried him downstairs after a few minutes. When I picked him up, he said "ee boo er," which reminded me of that scene from The Princess Bride.

PetEx

All the comings and goings of pets in our household this year has given me an idea. I think it would be interesting to create a pet exchange for people who are tired of their current one and would like to try something different. Obviously many animals become stressed when their environment changes too much, so you don't want one poor cat going to a different family every week. But if you have a giant tortoise, for example, chances are it's going to outlive you anyway, so maybe switching it up every few years would be nice. And it gives you an additional threat when you buy the puppy and tell your kids they better feed it or you're getting rid of it.

Dewey, you fool! Your decimal system has played right into my hands!

Tonight we went to the library to get Sam some new books. We ended up going to the branch I went to as a kid. As soon as I walked in, the first thing I noticed was how small it seemed. It had probably been 12 years since I had been there. In no time at all we had 15 books to check out, including a couple I had been wanting to read for a while (one of these days I'm bound to find Waldo). So it was fun to remember that I don't always need to buy a book to read it, and that it's enjoyable to just be around so much knowledge.

Taste Test Results

They may like toothpaste, but in a taste test one out of one mouse preferred the chocolate. And now he's enjoying the snacks in mouse heaven.

Who Needs a Lap Dog?

Seriously, who says reptiles can't be cuddly? He sat there watching TV with me for quite a while.

Monty Python

I would like to introduce the newest addition to our family:

A friend of my sister needed to get rid of her ball python at the same time I was considering a new pet (but then, it seems like I'm always considering a new pet). So I decided to take him. Katie didn't object too much.

At any rate, we need to give him a name. So far the best suggestion is Monty; can you beat that?

Takin' All Bets

Well, my mouse adventures continue. I guess I never explained that the area where I work has undergone a lot of development lately, so land they had been roaming is now full of buildings, driving them indoors. So it’s not that I work in a filthy place.

Anyway, last night one of the little critters got into my desk again. This time it was my tube of toothpaste that was victimized. We’ve had that happen before; apparently they either really like toothpaste or they are increasingly concerned about their oral health. Last time I caught the mouse with chocolate, so this time I decided to bait two traps: one with toothpaste and one with chocolate. We’ll see if his sweet tooth or his desire to whiten his teeth wins out. Any predictions?

Check Mate

I like to pretend that I'm a person of above-average intelligence. I guess everyone does, really, so maybe I'm just being delusional. Anyway, one thing I feel I should be good at but am not is chess. I have known the rules since I was little, but maybe I just never played it enough to develop any real skill at it.

I’m honestly not sure I have ever won a game. When I was in Korea I learned how to play Chinese chess. I later taught it to someone else, and he beat me his very first game. I guess sometimes our role in life is only to make others feel better about themselves.

Movin' on Up

My friend Todd is looking to buy a condo. He has seen a bunch of them and is trying to narrow things down, so for fun our family went with him last night. When we got to the first place, we found that in order to get to the elevator we needed a code to unlock the door. The code appeared to be among the information we had, but it wasn’t working. Eventually we accidentally buzzed some guy in his apartment who was kind enough to instruct us on getting in. So we went upstairs and found the place, and nobody was there to let us in. The tenant had promised to be there until 6:30, and we got there at 6:43 (although we had surely been standing in the lobby at 6:30 and saw nobody leave). After a few phone calls between realtors, we were told the tenant would be there after 8, so for the time being we moved on.

The second place we went to also required a code to get in the door, but this time there was a lock box outside that the realtor could open to get a key. But I guess realtors are in the middle of changing their key system, so it took forever to get it working (eventually Todd figured out the problem—way to go, Todd). Once we got in the door we walked up the stairs to the third floor, only to find ourselves confronted with another lock. After trying what we thought was the code, we realized that we needed to just take the elevator up. So we went back downstairs, found the elevator, and everything was fine from then on (except that when we went back to the first place there was still nobody there).

All in all, it was an interesting experience, and the realtor (who is my cousin, and helped Jer buy the house we’re living in now) said that by the time we are actually buying our own place, we’ll be pros after seeing so many places with other people.

Dumb Foam

It's been a while since I've made an embarrassing confession, so here we go. Every day I pass what used to be the 49th Street Galleria (then the Fun Dome, then some pet center) and is now an empty building. I am a little ashamed to admit that miss it. Sure, it was generally a place where stupid teens hung out doing stupid things, but there was a time when I fulfilled both those requirements (whereas now I can only meet the latter). I actually had some good times there. So next time you drive by the ghostly, mirror-windowed relic, I hope you'll spare a moment or two to contemplate the evanescence of youth. Or at least think about that one time you cheated at skee ball.

Plumbing the Depths of Success

On Saturday Katie cleaned the bathroom. And when she cleans, she cleans. Things end up looking all shiny and sparkly like in a commercial. So it was disappointing when that very night our tub clogged and was left nearly full of standing water. We decided to let it sit all night and see if it drained.

The next morning it had only drained a couple of inches, so we knew things were bad. I couldn't even put any drain cleaner down there until I bailed with a bucket. So I emptied the entire tub (Katie was mortified at the horrible ring it left) and put the drain cleaner down there. No dice. Later I tried a fancy gel kind of drain cleaner. That also didn't work. I jammed a coat hanger way down there and wiggled it around to see if I could find something. Nope.

The last thing I could try, thanks to a suggestion from my dad, was to use a plunger on the tub. Presto! The clog was dislodged, and I scrubbed the tub so Katie wouldn't have to again. Sam got his bath before bedtime, and all is well.

Shortcut

Here is the cemetery near our house:


There's a nice path for me to run on without fear of being hit by a car:



Except some people seem to think it's more efficient to cut through the cemetery (yellow) than to drive around it (pink):



It is worth disrespecting a cemetery to cut maybe 30 seconds off your drive? (Though in truth the slower speed probably prevents this.) Am I being just as disrespectful by running there?

All the world is waiting for you

This morning I have the theme song from the Wonder Woman TV show stuck in my head (Katie has been getting them from Netflix). This song is the epitome of the decade the world would love to forget. Can you think of a worse theme song?

Doppleganger

Did you ever have a friend who shared your name? What was it like? Did one of you use a truncated version to differentiate between the two of you? My name has rarely even cracked the top 100 most common male names, so I don't run into another Joel terribly often. But there was one other one I knew in my junior high. Mostly we would pass each other in the halls, each saying "Hi Joel" at the same time. Now that I think about it, that was pretty much the extent of our friendship.

More or Less

Given what I do for a living, it should come as no surprise that I have my share of neuroses about the English language. For the most part I appease the grammar demons at work, so I don't sit around picking apart errors in the speech of others in casual conversation. But there's one thing that has really been bothering me lately, and because I'm not aware of a proper term for it I'm going to call it "null measurement." It's measuring things by the wrong term. For example, someone might say "twice as cold." There's no such thing as a measurement of cold, only warmth or the absence of warmth. So you are really talking about something that is only half as warm. It's the same with "ten times less." Does that mean one tenth? I have no idea. But I ran across that term today on the Popular Science website, and it seems like in a scientific context it's especially important to be precise.

Family Matters

Right now our neighbors across the street are having some sort of family function. So far there are 18 vehicles parked at and around their house. Before long we'll be unable to get out of our driveway. If nobody hears from us by Monday, send help.

Healthscare

I've been thinking a lot lately about the so-called healthcare debate (much as I try to avoid it—I mean, even the monsters on Sesame Street are talking about it), and it's easy to see the viewpoint of both sides. Everyone wants affordable healthcare, but one side thinks that to keep costs down you have to involve the government, and the other side thinks you have to let the market regulate itself.

In reality, however, the only way for the health system to recover is for each American to do three things:

First, get off the couch. Getting 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week would make everyone healthier. You start to see the benefits right away, and there's less chance of your future involving lengthy discussions including words such as "statin" and "monstrous."

The second step is closely related to the first. It would help us all if, every day, we each tried to eat something that is still recognizable as coming from some sort of plant. I'm not saying we should all go vegan (I believe strongly in the bacon group), but it could hardly hurt us to get some fruits and veggies into our lives.

Finally, we need to stop suing the pants off of each other, especially when it comes to medical problems. Sure, if your doctor sews your leg to your shoulder and your arm to your waist, you have a legitimate complaint (though you may want to have someone else sign the forms if it's your writing hand that is now wearing a sock). But if you got a scar from your brain tumor removal, the doctor still saved your life, so get over it. I'm told that one reason doctor's office visits cost so much is because malpractice insurance is horrifically expensive due to the sheer number of suits.

If everyone followed these guidelines, it would ease a large portion of the burden from the healthcare system. People would still get sick, but the obesity rate would go down, as well as treatment costs for all the associated diseases. The lessened demand on the system would result in lower costs. The only way to fix this is for us all to fix ourselves. Otherwise, the government is going to keep trying to force their solutions on us. And frankly, it would cost less than a trillion dollars a year to make us all eat broccoli every day.

Today's Coinage

Today's new phrase is "burning the dollar bill at both ends," used to describe the time of year when you have to start using the furnace at night and still need to use the a/c during the day.

The Mouse and the Grouse

During my lunch today I went out back to our warehouse, where I usually make phone calls, and I noticed a mouse sitting by the back door. I think it was injured, because even when I tried to prod it out the door with a broom it was reluctant to move. I ended up sweeping it into a long-handled dust pan and putting it out back. It probably won't survive, but if it hangs around inside it will be killed for sure. Besides, I've had enough parasite-ridden visitors to my snack drawer over the past couple years. And I'm not just talking about that guy with the tapeworm.

Hooked

Yesterday I went fishing with my dad. Apparently I don't have enough chances to develop patience in my daily life, so I seek out voluntary opportunities to do it. Anyway, for the last couple years we've been using float tubes which look something like this:


For some reason, sitting in the water like this always makes me need to go to the bathroom. So after a while, I decided to head to shore for a pit stop. I had not been having any luck up to that point, so I decided it wouldn't hurt to leave my line in the water while I did (although it turns out that, unknown to me, you're not allowed to leave a pole unattended without a special permit). At any rate, when I came back, I climbed back into the tube to find that a fish had hooked itself. I don't know exactly what the moral of the story is. Be more lazy?

Dreams within Dreams

Last night I dreamed that I was pushing a piano. I lost control and it ended up down a flight of stairs, but it ended up perfectly intact. Then later on in the dream I ended up outside my car as it drove off, driverless, miraculously avoiding a collision as it careened through an intersection. I'm sure a psychoanalyst would have some obvious insight about feeling like I have no control in my life. Anyway, I also remember thinking it would make a good blog entry. Even in my dreams you people won't leave me alone...