Monthly Archives: December 2007

I’ve got a headache THIS big

Boy, you ever have one of those days when you just can’t accomplish anything? It’s like the tiny ship of your soul is bounced from one storm to another and never finds purchase on any solid ground. There has been so much correspondence both verbal and written running through my mind today that it has officially given me a huge headache.

The whole thing started at 8am when I opened my work email. What to my wondering eyes should appear but a note from management that, while perfectly reasonable in its content, made me wonder if they really understood anything about how the department works? Long story short, the missive made me wonder if *I* was being blamed for something largely outside my control. It also made me wonder if I was going to be held accountable for things that were totally outside the scope of my work. Was this the first sign, I thought, that rather than narrowing the scope of my position as developer it was actually going to expand it into things completely outside my purview? And more importantly, would I spend a fourth sentence saying the exact same thing for a fourth time using different words?

In short, in one fell swoop half of my optimism drained away into the gutter. Optimism is such a delicate flower. It has now been over two weeks since the last time I spoke to management about the current reorg. In any other circumstances I’d chalk this up to the holidays but I’ve seen movement in other areas of the company; clearly change is under way. I’ve even heard bits involving my department but it seems clear that whatever’s happening doesn’t require my input. Perhaps I’ve had my say and I’m no longer necessary or perhaps the changes don’t involve me, but I’m getting edgier by the day. I’m still officially reserving judgment but I cannot remain unrestrictedly optimistic.

During the lunch hour I broached a topic with the wife that resulted in an extremely protracted and extremely heavy conversation on the topic of interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, for the most part I can’t really reproduce the results here; it’s one thing to broadcast your own innermost thoughts to the world but wives tend to prefer to speak for themselves. She did, however, ask one very good question that I can answer: “What exactly are you looking to get out of friendship?” That, I thought, is a damn good point. Why exactly do I care about any of this? What is the result of success and how do you know when you achieve it?

The answer, of course, is a complicated one. It first must be understood that the goal of any friendship isn’t really something you can dictate. You can’t expect to find someone to walk the Appalachian Trail with you among those with 6-month-old babies at home. No matter what your goals are, they have to be compatible with the person on the other end of the handshake and in many cases, you have to take what you can get. For ease of analysis I think we should first break friendships down into at least four easy categories:

Category 1: The Fred and Barney Friend (FAB)
As outdated as the reference is, there were no better friends in the universe of Honeymooners-copycat-animated-sitcoms than Fred and Barney. These two fought together, played together, schemed together and generally looked after each other like brothers. Even if they hadn’t worked together they would have been fast friends for life. Fred could have called Barney at four in the morning to come help fix a leaky pipe or at the last minute to go out to dinner together with the wives. While they weren’t the only friends the other had they were certainly the default option for whatever was going on. The FAB friend is also the one you call to complain to when your spouse does something stupid or the first person you tell when he finally buys you those diamond earrings. Your FAB friend also generally throws your baby shower or bachelor party.

Category 2: The Recurring Outside Work Friend (ROW)
One of the things that defines a friendship for me is the effort one puts into meeting ‘outside the bounds of convenience’ and generally this means outside work. The ROW friend comes over to watch the big game and goes bowling occasionally but isn’t typically the ‘default’ option if no one else is available. You might call your ROW at four in the morning but only if all other options have been expended. Your ROW will probably ask if someone is throwing you a shower but find it’s already being planned. If you work with your ROW then you’ll commiserate with them about work issues in great detail but you’ll also be aware of their non-work interests.

Category 3: The Work Friend (WF)
As you might expect the work friend’s interest in you ends more or less when the foreman pulls the birds tail and he screams to signal the end of the work day. Little effort is made to meet outside work except at work-related functions but discussions about work could be quite detailed and in-depth. You’d typically never consider calling your WF outside of work hours no matter how many pipes break because you probably don’t have their phone number.

Category 4: The Occasional Work Friend (OWF)
Lowest of all on our hierarchy are those with whom we relate only when fortune throws us together by chance. OWFs may exchange words in the hallway on the way to the loo or lunch together in the breakroom but no attempt is made to seek the other out. You won’t call an OWF for emergency plumbing needs because chances are you don’t know their last name or their phone number.

So, now that we’ve got the categorization out of the way, what was the question we were asking? Oh yes, what’s the goal of all this friendship crap? Obviously enough, the goal is to have as many friends of the highest grade possible. (This makes it sound so logical and antiseptic; it’s so flattering isn’t it?) Right now I consider myself as having 4 somewhat weak ROWs, one strong WF and countless OWFs.

Clearly, there’s a vacuum of leadership at the top of the food chain that I’ve always found impossible to fill. I didn’t realize until somewhat recently why this was the case and as usual it was my wife who pointed out my stupidity. Before I get to the direct stupidity we should make a clarification on the ROWs. I describe my 4 ROWs as somewhat weak ones only because they have other commitments. I can’t ask any of them to go out at the drop of a hat because they have kids or other ‘stuff to do’. Clearly people have their own lives. Every one of them is deserving of more of my attention but circumstances simply don’t make that possible.

Ready for the stupidity of which my wife so kindly reminded me? Years ago when I still worked in the office one of my WFs invited me over to the house to watch a movie. For whatever reason I evaded the request. Not long after I evaded a second similar request and as a result my WF devolved slowly into an OWF. As you might have observed, months later I was on here bitching about not having any friends. Again and as usual, I allowed my discomfort of doing something new to keep me from achieving my goals. Just like the library story yesterday, I was complaining about a situation that didn’t actually exist. People are making every effort to promote themselves up the chain but I’m actively smacking them on the head and sending them back down the ladder. WTF was I thinking? Anyway, enough of that; lesson learned I guess. I’m never turning down another invitation again, even if it’s one of those “Holiday Decorating” parties where you have people over to put up your Christmas tree for you.

Several hours of that later I got an IM from one of our remote employees who, despite the holidays, is obviously a bit depressed. I spent half an hour trying to put a positive spin on his somewhat glum situation but to little effect I’m afraid. I’m happy that he at least found someone to talk to for a while. I’m half expecting an IM right at midnight tonight since his plans seemed to be to sit home alone for the final day of the year. Sadly most of that is beyond my power to help but I can at least listen.

Lastly and most frustratingly I was informed today that the cube I intended to use while in the office got assigned to another employee. So unless I can weedle a proper cube out of HR I’m stuck at home forever. Well, not strictly speaking I guess; one of the ROWs offered to let me set up a TV tray in his cube. He may need a promotion for that one.

So after all that… and writing all that… I’m kinda worn out. But my headache is gone. Apparently it’s good just to vent hot gases from your head once in a while… anyone know a good trepanner?

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The Day in Brief

I wasn’t going to post a personal entry for today until my wife gave me a reason to. We should go with the day in order though so we’ll get to that at the end.

Yesterday I mentioned a bit of my life I’d been neglecting so early this afternoon I went for a stroll around the neighborhood. I took the GPS along and about 349 feet into it I reissued an old lament that my wife and I often discuss. Down in our part of the suburbs the new neighborhoods all include sidewalks as the houses are built. It’s great if you want to walk anywhere in the neighborhood but eventually you’ll come to a point where you find yourself thinking of a Shel Silverstein book. The options at that point are to either walk in someone’s yard (which I find rude) or walk on the edge of the street. The latter is a bad idea and will be illustrated in a story once I’m done with this one. Anyway, further in my walk I reminisced that when I was a lad you could actually walk to places. You could step out of your front door, put foot to pavement and walk somewhere totally different from your house. It was flippin’ brilliant. After about another mile I realized that I’d been complaining for 2 years about a situation that wasn’t actually true. The library and a liquor store and a pizza joint are just 3 miles that-a-way. Forty minutes later I was ceremonially touching the flagpole as proof of concept. Sadly it was a Sunday so I couldn’t buy a fifth of vodka for the walk back home but the point is simply this: I’ve been complaining about the fact that there’s nowhere to walk from home when in fact it’s just not true. I’m not sure how often I can bring myself to walk the 6 miles round trip to the library but the fact is that it’s available. Reality listened to my complaint and retroactively addressed it.

Ah, yes, you’re asking for the story about walking along the side of the road. Alright, fine. When we lived in our previous house I used to take these crazy walks around the ‘block’ of our neighborhood out in the country. A large part of this was along the edge of the street with no sidewalk and just a drainage ditch along the side. About 80% of the way through my walk I misplaced a step, turned my ankle and pitched straight into the ditch in a most graceless manner. About 30 seconds later as I sat in the ditch wondering if I’d make it home or not, a lady stopped to ask if I needed assistance. I refused and shook it off after about 5 minutes and hobbled home. A few months later the wife and I were driving down a similar country road and what should we find but a man sitting in the ditch obviously in distress. We stopped and gave him a ride back home. Apparently he was having some sort of sugar situation but the point of this rather long story is that somehow the wheel of karma had turned and we repaid the kindness paid to us just months before. Anyway, the point is: don’t walk along the side of the road.

It has occurred to me as I write so much every day that this blog really is using up all my good smalltalk material. According to that stupid ‘how to work a room’ book the key to smalltalk is having your source material ready. So if you read this blog on a daily basis it’s just possible that I may find it impossible to talk to you as I may not have anything left to say.

Lastly, I have to note what made this exceptionally trite post for the day worth writing. It should first be noted that my wife’s relationship with this blog is a somewhat strained one. She seems to appreciate many of my highlight posts on topics of interest to the masses but classically she’s not a fan of many of my more mundane babbling about books and various other crap. As a consequence she has ignored the last month’s worth of posts since I’ve waxed unnecessarily personal. This evening, for whatever reason, she took a peek at some of my more recent posts and after her perusal said, “You are such a good writer, I don’t understand why more people don’t read your blog. You have a way of making even silly, everyday things sound interesting.” I was flabbergasted. I’m not sure she realizes what a compliment that is but I thank her for it none the less. I have to say that much of the appeal may be because she actually LIVES with the person whose innermost thoughts are dancing across the page but I’ll accept her kindness just the same.

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Promiscuity: An Evolutionary History of Sperm Competition Chapter 1

I recently recommended Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation to someone and was reminded that I had Promiscuity waiting for me on the shelf upstairs. Over the next few posts I’ll jot down a few notes and afterwards boil those down for your perusal along with a few of my personal observations. It should be noted that these posts will likely be extraordinarily graphic and thus not recommended for the faint of heart. That said, they should at least be interesting but don’t expect it to hang together like a proper narrative since I’m just going over my notes not retyping the whole text.

Chapter 1

The Greeks, due to a surfeit of dead male soldiers to dissect had a really good idea of how the male member worked. The female form, however was a different story since dissection of a woman was strictly forbidden. Having observed various ob-gyns over 10 years of marriage it seems clear to me that not a lot has changed in the past 2000 years. The text admits, for example, that science currently doesn’t know what physical function the clitoris performs. My wife, however, says SHE has a pretty good idea.

Erasmus Darwin introduced the concept that males in a species have secondary sexual characteristics such as large plumage displays or dangling wattles to attract females of the species in his 1792 text Zoonomia. In the 1960s, Bob Trivers postulated that the showiness of these displays is inversely proportional to the male’s involvement with the young. To offer proof by anecdote, the peacock has a tremendous sexual display but his responsibilities end immediately after he inseminates the hen. Inversely, the male magpie invests heavily in his mate bringing her food throughout the entire brooding process and he is virtually indistinguishable from his hen.

In 1937 Geoff Parker introduced the idea that this competitiveness may even happen at the level of individual sperm. Parker examined dungflies, a species in which the female is approached by several males and noted that as a female approaches a patty several males wrestle for the opportunity to mate with her. It’s in the female’s best interest, Parker argues, to be inseminated by as many males as possible. Similarly, the male is best served who can not only inseminate a female but protect her from insemination by others. At the same time males who can fight through the attempts of other males to keep females to themselves have an advantage. What results is an arms race between males who attempt to protect their mates from intruders but also to overcome the defenses of others. Meanwhile the female benefits as long as multiple males assail her honor. And to help her make the distinction the female has evolved all manner of chemical and physical processes to put the competing sperm through the wringer to select only the best.

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Crazily Eventful Day

Since yesterday crawled by like a half-frozen earthworm it seems only fitting that today was just stupidly full of epiphanous moments.

This morning as our eldest and I stumbled about checking on the status of GC17VPJ I realized that I was neglecting one of the legs of the metaphorical 3-legged-stool that is my life. Lately I’ve been keenly attentive to the 1/3 of my life related to personal/interpersonal goals and I’ve also been forced to pay a bit more attention to the 1/3 related to my work. In the hubbub, the remaining 1/3, my physical health, has been allowed to go by the wayside. My diet has completely gone to hell and it’s been three weeks since I last went out and roamed aimlessly about the woods getting a bit of exercise. It occurs to me that the other 2/3 make little sense if this one is allowed to slip so it’s time to get back onto the straight and narrow. Then I wondered to myself as I wandered about the woods, “Why in the hell am I using this ‘stool’ metaphor to describe my life?” It quickly dawned on me that it was a leftover from a conversation I’d had a few days earlier about work. This person’s stool metaphor had been floating about in my head and was reused for something else completely quite against my will. Neat how that works when you can trace the lines back to their place of origin. Only slightly later I was caused to remember that at current job minus 3 the exercise bit was not really a problem because I had an insane lunchtime walking partner. I remember with relish those 2-hour lunches when we would walk 6-8 miles over hill and dale; exercise is clearly not a problem when you have a hyper-motivated person to walk with. I quickly calculated my odds of finding another even half-motivated partner (<10%) and those of getting the old partner to work in the office again (<50%) and became somewhat pessimistic but determined to carve out some time anyway.

At 5 we had dinner with some of the wife’s school chums; I have to say that I’m always in awe of what good friends she has in these people. For the most part I try to just stay out of the way in these situations but I have to admit they’re nice people but a bit difficult to relate to in many ways. They swapped random stories for an hour or so until it was time for the Chris Rock concert downtown at the Murat.

The ‘warm-up’ comedian was supremely unfunny as they always are but the introductory musical act was “Biz Markie.” Mr. Markie was revelatory to me on several levels but the first of which is the fact that I don’t know shit about music. During his 30 minutes on stage he played bits of about 25 songs and until he got to the very end of his set I can’t say I’d heard of a damn one of them. Based on the reaction of the crowd around me though I was in the vast minority. I did find myself somewhat puzzled as to what talent the man was actually displaying however. From a purely practical point of view he seemed to be merely operating electronic equipment on a stage; he didn’t sing or perform in any visible way until the final song. His ‘scratching’ was annoying and served only to fill time while he changed from one song to the next. The crowd was effervescent in their praise of his performance but I failed to see the value in merely playing recorded music. All THAT said, I was not untouched by the urban undertones and Terpsichore moved me to “grove” in my seat in what I thought a highly amusing manner but my wife quickly arrested my attempts to “get down” by tendering her assessment that my dancing was, and I quote, “awful.” Looking at those around me it seemed evident enough to me that that was the point but apparently my “awful” was not of an appropriate subtype.

Secondary to the aesthetic principles of Mr. Markie’s performance I realized something about myself that I don’t really pay much attention to. Despite my outward appearances of stoicism and a general “stick in the mud” attitude, it’s just possible that I am, in fact, a wild, outgoing party person at heart. It seems that as the months creep by my reserve in front of the world is slowly lowered and that by the time I’m 50 I’ll be completely unstoppable. I realize that this is hard to imagine but as each month goes by it seems like I do something new that I would have considered unthinkable in previous years.

It was about that time that I was reminded of a time years ago when my wife was a bridesmaid in a wedding and as such she had to go out and dance with the wedding party. But because there were 4 bridesmaids and only 2 groomsman (I was merely a guest at the wedding) she was going to be left with another bridesmaid as a partner. Well if there’s one thing you can say about us it’s that we CAN NOT dance. Our best attempt at dancing is more of a non-rhythmic, uncoordinated swaying. Anyway, my wife was terrified; all we talked about for weeks was about how she did NOT want to dance and she knew I was too scared to dance with her so what was she going to do? This was going to be awful. Well, the wedding came and went and the reception came and suddenly it was time to dance and my wife slunk coyly onto the dance floor ready to try her damndest to look inconspicuous on the dance floor by herself. It was at that point that something snapped inside me. As terrified as I was, I was not going to let my poor wife stand on that dance floor by herself and feel horrible while I could do something about it. So I crept up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder and when she saw who it was her face just about exploded in a dozen different flavors of surprise. We did our un-rhythmic, uncoordinated swaying in front of a few hundred people and the world did not explode, nobody laughed, but my wife and I enjoyed ourselves immensely just for the sheer joy of being there for each other. I actually consider that one of the defining moments of our lives together and we still do our un-rhythmic, uncoordinated swaying at weddings today.

ANYWAY, random reminiscences aside, the reason that has anything to do with anything is because of a yet unintroduced third couple at the concert. In addition to the friends we had dinner with we picked up a third couple from my wife’s school at the show. The husband in this couple is a good friend of my wife’s and he’s actually the reason we’re here to see Chris Rock in the first place. Rock is apparently one of his favorite comedians so this is all primarily for his benefit. Not long into the performances it’s clear that his wife is NOT having a good time. If her facial expression isn’t enough to make it clear her statement of, “I’m going to need alcohol to get through this” seals the deal. The practical lesson I take from this is to reaffirm one of my general rules: as “the spouse” your primary job in these situations is to make sure that your spouse has a good time with her friends. So basically, no matter how crappy a time you may be having, make sure your spouse doesn’t suffer because of it. I would say that I fulfilled my responsibilities in that respect this evening despite the fact that I found the content of the main event somewhat trite and cliche. What was more entertaining than the performance was the audience’s response to it. They were particularly boisterous and it’s hard not to get swept up in the energy of that many people in such a tight space so personally I’d have had a hard time being a wet blanket no matter how hard I tried. Apparently some people are a lot better at it.

Lastly and least importantly, I got home in time to see the end of the Patriots/Giants game. I’ll save you all my vituperative rantings about the Patriots but suffice it to say that when a Gucci-wearing prettyboy like Tom Brady goes down in history as the quarterback of the greatest NFL team of all time it’s time to shut off the fvcking TV for good. What a crock. But that’s a post for a different day.

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Bored, Bored, Bored Incredibly Bored

Except for a few brief moments of amusing chitchat this afternoon today has been unbelievably boring. How bored, might you ask?

Well, boring enough that this evening I updated my MySpace page with actual information. Yeah, that boring. No, no, stop laughing, it gets better. In a fit of randomness I looked up some people from my high school graduating class. I have to say that they grew up to be a lot more normal looking than I would have guessed. And also boring enough that I’m not sure what else I can say of even partial interest… um. Wow. This IS dull.

No, wait, I think I have one. I was amused today during a bit of chitchat at the way in which things I say have a tendency to stick with people. For example, I made a comment months ago about gift giving and how one should only give a gift if it’s truly meaningful and not merely for the act of going through the motions of giving a gift. Well, my chitchat partner made reference to that statement from months ago and I was embarrassed in the sense that I didn’t remember having said such a thing. Clearly it’s something I would say but I’d forgotten the specifics. Very sad when you forget your own rhetoric. Similarly, I made an obscure callback to one of my well worn stories to someone else and they recalled what I was talking about without repetition. It seems evident that other people have a much better recollection of other’s stories than I do. It’s somehow very touching to me to think that people I talk to are walking around with little bits of me sticking in their brains.

Then I start to wonder who’s sticking in my brain. I hear the echo of Mrs. Timmons in 6th grade, “Lying makes your guts turn green!” she’d bellow. My grandmother moves through the house singing, “… and a whippoorwill high on a hill… let out with a blue note… and pushed it through a horn… until it was born…” Grandpa and his WW2 story, “I was in Greenland and all I saw were these planes doing bombing practice on a rock”…. the war was pretty boring to hear him tell it. A story of a man smuggling bibles to China runs through my mind… A man tells a story of how when he was a child he was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds and at the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved his testicles… all this crap wandering around in my head too. It makes one wonder where “I” end and “they”, those cranial invaders begin.

Oh, I was also invited to a wedding. Yes, you heard that right. *I* was invited to a wedding. Not “my wife was invited to a wedding and I’m coming along” not “my girlfriend has planned a wedding with me as groom and I’m required to attend” but little old me. Yes, I know I’m overreacting but I’m determined to take this as a touching gesture so shuddup about it. Only one problem … see paragraph three above. New baby? I’ve got GREAT gift ideas. Birthday? I’ve got some AVERAGE gift ideas. Gift just for the hell of it? My idea kicks ASS otherwise I wouldn’t give a gift at all. Getting Married? No clue what to get you. Yeah, none. I’m going to need to think long and hard about this as I don’t have a ton of time to fart around.

Alright…. so as it turns out that wasn’t NEARLY as boring as I thought it might be. Well, not for me anyway. For you probably but heck, nothing I can do about that.

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Into the Office – 12/27/07

Well today I drove in to the office and stayed there all day. For those of you doing the math, that’s an hour and twenty minutes or so round trip and 7 hours actually in the office. In exchange I think I managed about 30 words with a real person. That’s a pretty crappy rate of return but since absolutely EVERYONE in my sphere of immediate influence was out of the office today by some unpleasant holiday miracle, not a particularly surprising one.

Just for amusement, let’s recall those 30 words: E gets credit for 10 words as she saved the company 41 cents by delivering something to me by hand rather than mailing it. I think I could have squeezed a few more words out of her ever-smiling countenance if I’d thought to mention that she can just save them up ad infinitum and I’d pick them up on but I wasn’t quick-thinking enough to manage that one. The other 20 words go to T as he accosted me literally as I was walking in the door this morning. T is one of these people who could strike up a conversation with a tree and the tree would have a comprehensible response. It is, frankly, an amazing talent. I’m *SO* jealous. I did get a chance to do what I call the ‘accidental conversation termination dance’ though. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Conversation starts unexpectedly, generally across some distance
  2. Subject A approaches subject B and conversation continues
  3. Subject A senses a lull in conversation and takes it as a hint that the conversation is over and begins to leave.
  4. Subject B begins speaking again so A dashes back to B so as not to appear rude or disinterested
  5. By the time A arrives back at B, B has stopped talking and the conversation really is over

I really must stop doing that as it’s most embarrassing, especially since it generally only happens with people you don’t talk to very much anyway and might actually be offended by the maneuver.

Alright, enough of that. The office silence was certainly not a problem today. I heard all manner of interesting background tidbits including a complete inventory of all the Christmas gifts received within a 10-cube radius, detailed instructions and FAQ on how to pay a citation online and the hardware requirements of an entire department. All in all, much more interesting than the Leave it to Beaver reruns I’d get at home.

On returning home, however, I found chaos and a general miasma of pissed-offedness. It is too early to draw a causal relationship between going to work and the death of domestic bliss but things were clearly not in a good form. Children were being obnoxious and demanding, adults had headaches, crap littered the areas I had picked up just yesterday. Only hours later did everything return more or less to normal. I guess we’ll see how things go when I finally make it out of the house again on the 8th. *grumble*

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Random Thoughts for 12/26/07

On the 22nd it seemed like I was going to be off forever. Now that it’s over it seemed to pass in a flash. That said, I’m looking forward to having something to do tomorrow since I did absolutely NOTHING over the past five days. I’m going in to the office tomorrow for an entire day so it’ll be neat to see if I tolerate it well or go utterly insane. Since I expect only about 5% of the staff to be in it’ll be even more sepulchral than usual. Really must take some noise and some headphones.

I had a protracted online conversation last night and at one point the statement that “it’s easy to give advice” floated across my IM and it seemed contextually appropriate given a couple of the posts here in the past week. My response, of course, was to agree completely. Yes, it’s damn easy to spout general advice to the absent masses. But I guess sometimes you just have to say things out loud; these posts delineate my philosophy on all manner of big, important topics and that philosophy seems to work for me. Your mileage may vary but I have a hard time believing that at least half of my burblings aren’t generally applicable. No warranty is expressed or implied though.

Today is the day after Christmas and about 2pm I realized why this is my FAVORITE day of the year. Yes indeedy, it’s the day the Christmas tree comes down. I’m a creature of habit and having this big obnoxious decoration in the living room for a month is surprisingly annoying. So let us officially celebrate that the family living space is plastic tree free!

Lastly, I failed to mention that the in-laws give cash gifts for Christmas and for the first time in… well, ever, I had no clue what the heck to do with it. I’ve apparently come to the point where there’s nothing left in the universe that I want. I can’t even justify buying items from my wishlist anymore as I’m so behind on my reading. After scrubbing my mind there just isn’t anything else. For about an hour I was planning to give it to until my wife forbade it under the “that’s obviously a scam” theory. Perhaps it is but it appeals to me on some odd level to loan a furniture maker from Paraguay $150 to expand his business. In the end I sent the wife to the spa with it but I still wonder about those third-world people trying to better their lives. Perhaps one of my readers has a suggestion for a good charity that would accept an occasional contribution?

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Christmas 2007

This year Christmas in our household started at 6:30 in the morning, a full half an hour earlier than last year. By 7:15 the festivities were as good as over and by 8:30 our youngest was officially ‘over it’ and having us read the same books as usual. Our eldest has made it to 9:30 at least without reaching the point of complete apathy. For my own information next year I’ll record the material transactions of the day.

Our youngest, in addition to the usual holiday miscellany got a few items to feed her obsession with Mickey Mouse. Specifically a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse playset and Mickey and Minnie plush toys. The eldest asked for items related to dragons so she got a few books on the topic and a pair of plastic models and lastly a low-end MP3 player. I officially congratulate my wife on keeping the holiday relatively sane this year (at least as far as the kids go).

The wife got what she all but ordered for herself. I think the total count was one skirt, one wrap, four shirts, one pair of shoes she REALLY liked and one pair of shoes (that I picked out without her knowledge) that she really hates. On the whole, the satisfaction level is still pretty high. For my part I came away with a lapdesk and two pairs of jeans (my wife says she chose “a wash that a a young person might wear” but for my part they’re just blue and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all these pants [who needs 4 pairs of pants?]). Our eldest picked out a Hallmark Snoopy ornament on behalf of the youngest and my wife ended by raiding a few items from my ever-present wish list.

At any rate, I’d say Christmas wasn’t totally over the top but still more than I’d bother with if were up to me. We have yet to visit the in-laws so no doubt we’ll still manage to end up with much more crap than we actually need.

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What makes a good Husband??

Note: This post is an extension of a previous (and more vitriolic) post that covered the same basic topic earlier today. I find this version to be a bit less abrasive but significantly more preachy. Take it for what you will…

As I was sitting in the family vehicle waiting for my wife to come out of yonder shopping establishment I heard one of those idiotic jewelry commercials on the radio. It seems, gentlemen, that a lot is riding on this year’s Christmas present. If you don’t make it down to Jared or the Shane Company before the day ends then you might as well forget any hope for a happy new year. And you can be assured that on December 26th when your honey goes back to work she’s going to be telling ALL her friends about what a crappy husband you are if you don’t get her something in that ‘little burgundy box’… or is it light blue? Well, whatever the case, it had better be a little box and it better be colorful.

So to hear the local purveyor of high-cost, low-sentiment gifts tell it, the difference between a ‘good’ husband and a ‘bad’ husband can be found in how much he spends on you. It seems that the criteria for a proper marriage are all forgotten in the glitz of the latest ‘bling.’ Initially I thought this was all a bunch of marketing hype and that nobody could honestly think that way. That was until I mentioned this to my wife and she confirmed the awful truth. Apparently this *IS* the way some people think. So when the woman in the Jared commercial says, “I just want a man who’ll get me something from Jared,” that’s really someone’s idea of a good husband. Listen, I’m no expert but if that’s really the case then your standards are too damn low. Prepare yourselves for what I like to call: Rob’s Christmas Rant. You can thank those damn jewelry commercials for the topic.

OK, ladies, a good husband comes in three parts and none of them have anything to do with his wallet… or his pants… or his ‘bod’ or anything else. After you’ve been married 40 years all that crap goes south anyway so it’s not really worth worrying about it. No, what you need is a man who…

1. Listens

Of the three parts of marriage, listening is the easiest to do but also the most often screwed up. So, ladies, you just got home from a long and annoying day at work. Your boss gave you an impossible assignment and your co-workers were a bunch of helpless morons. Being a woman the first thing you want to do is talk about it; you want to work through the day in words and settle things in your mind. Not because you expect immediate answers but because talking about it makes you feel better and it’s therapeutic. The average husband comes home, generally with the same issues, and all he wants to do is go hide in the garage or on the computer or in front the television. So when you get home you tend immediately to go in different directions.

The difference between ‘good’ husband and ‘bad’ husband is simple. Good husband listens to what went on in his wife’s day. He participates in the discussion, offers insight and provides help where he can. He offers information about his own day and commiserates where possible and sticks with it no matter how long it takes because his wife’s happiness is important to him. Bad husband… well, he turns up the TV when you start to talk or says, “I have work to do, we’ll talk about it later.” Bad husband puts his own needs over those of his wife and often doesn’t even make an effort to listen to what’s going on in his wife’s life.

2. Thinks

The second part of being a good husband is the most complicated and almost every husband screws this up at least once in a while. Ladies, you need a husband who, when he does something, he takes a moment to think about how that impacts you. This is best illustrated by example. A good husband realizes that when he works late, he’s making his wife work late too, especially if you have kids. Similarly, he knows that when he fails to do his part around the house it’s generally the wife who has to pick up the slack. He knows that marriage is a zero-sum game and every liberty he takes is balanced by a sacrifice from you. The husband you want recognizes this and does whatever he can to make sure you don’t have to sacrifice your life and happiness because of his own selfish endeavors.

3. Acts

All too often men think that the third part of being a good husband is all there is to it and spend too much of their effort here. Ladies, you need husbands who realize that the outward physical and material acts of affection are merely the icing on the cake. A diamond ring is fine but until your man actually loves you enough to sit down on the couch and listen to you rant about your day, all you really have is a bit of jewelry. Further, the man of your dreams needs to realize that the gift is not nearly as important as the sentiment behind it. Those $10,000 earrings are nice but would they mean more to you than jewelry box he spent six solid months making for you?


When my wife got back to the car we talked about the commercial and I asked her what she thought of as the ‘perfect husband.’ As usual, she merely flattered me with her selection but in the end she settled on the simple definition of: “a friend.” I think there’s a lot of truth wrapped up in that simple statement. Good married couples may not start out friends, she says, but they end up that way. Each considers the needs of the other and does whatever they can to make sure those needs are filled.

Selfishness leads only down a path of resentment. One partner harms the other inadvertently by their selfishness and the other resents it. They in turn take some small revenge and the cycle continues until everyone’s miserable. Luckily though, kindness rolls downhill just as fast. For example, if I make a special effort to ensure the house is in order when her friends come over then she might respond later by making my favorite meal unexpectedly. Feeling the benevolence from that I do her another good turn later and before you know it we’re falling all over each other trying to please each other. Doesn’t that sound like fun? And to think it all started with such a simple act that took an hour out of my day.

More important, perhaps, than any of this is the mere act of kind, simple, honest communication. For example, my wife told me that she related the story of our second date to one of her friends recently. In the story the waitress comes and takes our order but for whatever reason I refused to look at her. When the waitress leaves, my wife asked me, “Why didn’t you look at the waitress?” My wife’s friend was aghast at this. “You asked him that and it was only your second date? He must have really liked something about you to stay with you!” Most people, it seems, would have just decided that I was some kind of weirdo and never bothered with a third date. My wife on the other hand, asked me about the problem and helped me correct it. The same concept works in the other direction as well but the point is simply that you can’t expect your life with someone to get any better unless you tell them when things bother you. If you’re watching a movie and he gets himself a bowl of popcorn but nothing for you then saying, “Honey, I’m kinda hurt that you didn’t offer me any popcorn” is wonderfully effective. To a large extent we shape our mates; if you expect him to help more around the house then tell him so. If you expect her to keep the kids busy while you mow the lawn then tell her. Good spouses aren’t born, they’re made.

These things, I suspect, you will find much more beneficial to your married happiness than any amount of Christmas bling. And you can tell the jeweler I said so.

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What makes a good Husband? [shorter, ruder version]

As I was sitting in the family vehicle waiting for my wife to come out of yonder shopping establishment I heard one of those idiotic jewelry commercials on the radio. It seems, gentlemen, that a lot is riding on this year’s Christmas present. If you don’t make it down to Jared or the Shane company before the day ends then you might as well forget any hope for a happy new year. And yes, you can be assured that on December 26th when your honey goes back to work she’s going to be telling ALL her friends about what a crappy husband you are if you don’t get her something in that ‘little burgundy box’… or is it light blue? Well, whatever the case it had better be a little box and it better be colorful.

To be honest I was ready to dismiss all this as marketing hype and go on until I remembered one of my wife’s stories. I’ll spare the details but the point seems to be that there really are people who think this way. Apparently their lives are so chock full of great stuff that they need those $20,000 diamond earrings just to put that final cherry on top of the sundae. Do doubt that’s how the people in the commercial felt when they get their small but colorful boxes.

Of course we, the normal people of the world, all know those yahoos are nuts. They’re not putting diamond earrings on top of a wonderful marriage to ‘commemorate their journey through life together’ as one TV commercial puts it. They’re putting on something sparkly and expensive-looking to distract onlookers from the garbage heap that is their life together. No woman in her right mind would rather have a diamond than 5 hours a week of her husband’s undivided attention. You can pile up all the gold on the planet but in the end there’s nothing more valuable to your spouse than the time you spend with them in frank and honest communication. Don’t buy a bunch of gaudy gifts this Christmas; instead ask “How was your day?” and then sit and wait for the answer. When she tells you, commiserate; try to help if you can. Relate similar experiences. Try to share uplifting points from your day. When your spouse is having a bad day it’s your job to lift her up and make it better. In other words, be a friend. There are no words a woman wants to hear more than “How can I help?” after she’s had a rough day. Those 4 words can be a comfort to her for the rest of her life. The words, “I got you those earrings you wanted” will comfort her for about 60 seconds.

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