Friday, December 07, 2007

Special Hanukkah Treat

It's Hanukkah time again and we are hip deep and enjoying the heck out of it. We've been pretty busy, so our evening is usually candle lighting, presents, bed. But everyone is having fun, so I guess it's OK. The only real setback is that I have not been able to find Hanukkah candles in Escondido. No. There's nothing special required to make them Hanukkah candles. It's just that when they are labeled thusly, you know they are the right size for the menorah. Instead, we have used birthday candles and thin tapers and I've just melted the heck out of the bottoms to get them to stay standing. Still, it seems that we haven't been doing Hanukkah right. At least we aren't according to East Coast grocer Balducci's. They have some products that would be "Delicious for Hanukkah" that I hadn't considered. See for yourself.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Book Meme

This meme comes courtesy of net friend barbie2be. It seemed like a good way to resume after my NaBloPoMo break. Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you've read. Italicize the ones you want to read. Don't alter the ones that you aren't interested in. Harass me in the comments about my culture or lack thereof.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee).
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch 22 - Heller
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones's Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

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Friday, November 30, 2007


That's right. This is the end of National Blog Posting Month. I no longer need to post every single day. I'm going to try to keep to every week day, though. I wonder if I have it in me. Let's see if we can keep the momentum going. I'll close the month with a laugh, a brag, and warm toasty waffles.

The Laugh: I was giving Josh a snuggle last night and we were talking about something that had disappointed him. Still, it had turned out well, all things considered, and I told him to count his blessings. We began to count in unison. One. Two. Three. "I'm counting my blessings," I told him. "Are you?" "No." He said. "I'm counting sheep."

The Brag: Maya just got the results from the first part of the Math Competition in her class. She came in third place in the calculator event and FIRST in the mental math! Woot! There are three more events. She can pick one out of all the ones in which she finishes in the top three. She'll represent her class in the school wide competition in that event. If she wins that, she'll go on to the district event.

The Waffles: Today was waffle day at work. Every month or so, they set up a few waffle makers, make up some batter, and put out fresh fruit and juice for us. Then you make your own waffle creation. It's not exactly on my diet, but the aroma was too good and I succumbed. I made a pumpkin spice waffle with caramel sauce. At least I left off the whipped cream. Yummy!

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Too Disorganized to Organize

This is a lame cop-out post. I have miles to go before I sleep. So, I shouldn't be writing at all. But I promised myself I'd do a post a day for the month. And it would certainly be lame to fall short just now. Some of the overloading is my own doing. I need to get more organized. I've been listening to Covey and trying to get my mind around his concept of a Fourth Generation Planner. The basic idea is to extend your TODO list from daily to weekly. Decide what roles you play that are important to you like father, husband, employee, mentor, member of the community, etc. Then figure out what things you want to do to fulfill those roles for the week. Place the ones that have to happen on specific days first. Then place the others. THEN you can break those things down into a daily list. It sounds easy. So why can't I do it?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two More to the List

OK. I forgot about my experiences with FedEx while we were on the run from the fires. That was another customer disservice nightmare. And as of yesterday we can add a local heating company to the mix.

Our furnace has been off since we evacuated. I shut off the gas and the pilot before we left. She-who-is-wise wants to have a professional give it a tune-up and relight it. Unfortunately, the weather is now cold enough at night to need heat. So, I did some searching and found a local guy who got good reviews on and set up an appointment.

I had to work from home that day because they all give a window of times. Well, he missed the first time, but he called to let me know. I went from 9-1 to 2-4. At 3:50, my phone rang again. He was on an emergency job. He wasn't going to be able to make it. Apparently, it is possible to have a heating emergency in a restaurant that trumps a home with no heat. He wanted to reschedule me to the following day. Grrrrrr. I explained that I had to stay home from work one day already and couldn't really do it again. He felt badly about this and said he would come by when the emergency was over and he would give us a discount. Would 7 or 8 work? Fine. I asked him to call my cell before he came and one of us would bail out of rehearsal and get home to let him in.

At 9 p.m. he still had not called. So, we bundled under the blankets for another night. Had he called, been super apologetic, and offered to do the work for free, I might have given him another shot. But he stood us up three times in one day, the last after finding out he made me miss work for nothing. You'd think he would at least call.

That's the mildest of my bad customer service stories. Tune in next time for FedEx, as that one seems like it is complete. Each of the other three has gotten additional info since I last posted.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Texas is Scary

I heard a news story this morning that reminded me that Texas is another world. Before you read any further, listen to the 911 tape. At first, it starts out amusing. Mostly because you can't picture that it could go where you think it is going to go. The guy starts out by reporting a robbery in progress at a neighbor's house. It turns weird when he says "I got a shotgun. Uh. Do you want me to stop 'em?" The rest of the call is about the 911 operator trying to keep this guy from going out there and shooting. It ends with the 911 operator ordering the man to put the shotgun down and lay on the ground so that the arriving officers know he is not a threat and warning him not to shoot anyone else because there are plainclothes officers on the scene.

Here's the story. Two men rob a house in broad daylight. A neighbor sees it and gets angry and grabs his shotgun. The 911 operator tries to talk him out of going for a confrontation. The man is of the mindset that if he goes outside to get more information, he will have no choice but to bring his shotgun, yet he refuses to wait in his house, even though he knows officers are on the way. Since the police don't arrive quickly enough for him, he goes out and takes matters into his own hands. He shoots and kills both burglars.

His mindset is scary. "If I don't shoot them. They will get away with a crime. I can't let that happen." His neighbors seem to support him.

"We stand behind the man for protecting his neighbors and his own home," neighbor Lauren Malone said.
If you watch the video clip, another neighbor says "It's a war." In Texas, 'stuff' is more important than 'life', unless that life is not yet born.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Death of Customer Service

I am sure I've ranted about this before. I may have to dig through the archives for links. But it is no secret. Wanting customers to be happy seems to be a thing of the past for many companies these days. I have three stories from the last few weeks alone that have my blood boiling. And when I rant, I rant long. So, I'll be breaking each story into its own post. The three targets of my ire? Hewlett Packard, Kodak, and Manhattan Beach Toyota. HP is annoying for its absolute hypocrisy. "Making the computer personal again" my fanny. Kodak is typical, but still disappointing. And the Toyota dealership took advantage of us while we were distressed over the wild fires and in an urgent situation. They probably screwed us the most. When all is said and done, we can vote. Maybe I'll do a "Who screwed me more" poll.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Truly Blessed

We were at YMCA Family camp for Thanksgiving again. We always have such a good time there. And, in spite of the fact that it is the ymCa, the religiosity is kept to a minimum. The camp director read an Emerson poem instead of a benediction. Maya sang a variant on "Simple Gifts" in which we revised the lyrics.

Tis a gift to be simple.
Tis a gift to be free.
Tis a gift to be with friends and family.
And when we come together in a place that is dear,
We make special memories that last through the year.

After that, each table does their own blessing. We were sitting with some new and open-minded friends and it was decided that Josh would lead us in prayer.

"Thank you for good cheerment. Thank you for justice and willing of turkey."

Amen, Josh. Amen.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

An Easy Way to Help

A friend forwarded me this breast cancer link. It's one of those sites that makes a donation for every X clicks. In this case, they are giving free mammograms to those who cannot afford them. They aren't getting the click thru traffic they wanted. So they are on a pace to give fewer than their maximum. I'm guessing they are hoping people will purchase stuff once on their site. I just clicked the free button and ask you to do the same. Thanks!

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Home Stretch

There's only one week left to NaBloPoMo and I have managed to keep with it. This is easily the longest blogging streak this blog has had. I still need to find a way to write the longer posts that are in the backlog. Perhaps I'll break them into chunks. Who knows. But thanks for supporting me this far. It's been a lot of fun.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Feel Good About The Bad Parts of Our History Day!

I know. I should just be full of the good wishes of the season. I should
be thankful for what I have. And I am. I have a great wife. I have a
great family. I have a great home. I have great friends. I have a great
job. I was lucky enough to be mostly spared from the fires. So,
everyone, have a Happy Thanksgiving and appreciate what you have as I
appreciate all of you. I'll rant about our whitewashing of history
another day.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It Shouldn't Be This Hard To Help

Yesterday, I went to give blood. I became eligible again on November
15th, but hadn't had time until yesterday. The closest blood drive to me
was also one of the biggest. It was the San Diego Blood Bank's Chargers
Blood Drive. You could donate blood, meet your favorite players and
watch live entertainment. I figured it would be crowded and busy, but I
also figured it would be well staffed. Still, I didn't have a ton of
time, so I figured I would call and make sure I could work it into my
lunch break. I asked if they had openings for walk-ins. Yes, they did.
But could I just walk right in? Could I do this on my lunch hour?
Absolutely. Great! I'm on my way.

It took me 10 minutes to drive to the drive, which I thought was pretty
good. Until I tried to park. Sorry. This lot is full, but you can go to
the other side of the convention center. No worries. Same distance.
Other side. I got to the other side and saw a man waving an orange flag.
Can't park here. Convention center is full. You need to park down the
street at the mall. I should have realized I was screwed at that point
and cut my losses. Of course, I didn't. I went to the mall and circled
for ten minutes until I found a just vacated spot. Then I walked the ten
minutes back to the convention center and headed over to the
registration desk. There was no line. Perhaps I overreacted? I was told
you take walk-ups? Ah. Thank you. She gave me a program for the
entertainment, a list of rules for donating, and a number. 1090. I was
then told to head to the ballroom for the seating area. The white board
in front of the corral said "Numbers 680 and lower". Uh-oh. The
volunteer there looked at my number. Apparently, I had about a two hour
wait before my group was called. Once that happened, I'd go to another
room to get typed and blood pressured. Then I'd get questioned about
whether or not I had traveled anywhere that would disqualify me. Then I
would go to a final holding area where I'd get put on a table and
drained a pint. Crap. I was looking at three hours minimum. If I had
thought to bring work and a cell phone, I'd have called the office and
toughed it out.

I went back to the front to see if they had any appointments for later.
Maybe I could come back. Nope. They weren't doing appointments. All
right. Could I keep my number and just walk right in if I came back and
had missed the call? She couldn't promise me anything. I could certainly
come back, but I might have to wait two more hours then.

I left and walked the 10 minutes back to my car and then had to fight
lunch traffic to get out of the mall. I wasted about 90 minutes and all
so I could fail to help anyone. How very satisfying. I'll clearly have
to find a smaller scale event after the holiday.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Warning! Danger Will Robinson!

This morning, a friend forwarded me a couple of interesting and troubling security articles. Safe surfing may no longer be enough. And given that we are just dropping into online shopping season, I thought some of this info might be good to have.

The first item, found on Wired, is a new twist on an old hack. Malicious users are embedding encrypted redirect functions in flash banners. You don't need to click the banner. You just have to visit a site that displays it. It then redirects your browser to an anti virus software site where software is installed seemingly no matter what you do. Security providers are working on fixes for this, and I'm curious if changing your flash settings will help. Any security workers out there want to comment?

The second item, from Network World, seems a little less easily classified. The article is vaguely written. The gist is that a math error on a chip could create serious security vulnerabilities. The author references the math error that plagued Intel chips back in 1994. I think he is saying that if such a math error occurred on newer chips, it would be exploitable. I'm not sure whether or not he has found said vulnerability. But this bears watching.

And, finally, in the "are they really that stupid" category, we have the NSA. In another Wired
story you can read about the government's new cryptography standards. The standards themselves are a good thing. The component of the standard the NSA is championing is less so. The NSA wants us to adopt an algorithm into which they have a back door. That way, they have a skeleton key to decrypt the messages from the 'bad guys'. Who decides who the bad guys are? They do. Well, them and the President. And of course, they would never use it on law-abiding citizens. And there is no way they could be infiltrated by a terrorist or industrial spy. So, none of us should lose the slightest bit of sleep over it. Right?

I'm pretty sure the crypto community at large will reject NSA's approach, but how many need to adopt to worry us?

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Monday, November 19, 2007

"The Mist" is Closing In

I know Halloween is behind us and that is usually horror movie season. But isn't that just like Stephen King? Just when you think the terror is over, bang! That's when he gets you. I have a feeling that his latest offering, The Mist is no different. Follow that link for trailers, a synopsis, and other behind the scenes goodies. Those of you who know me know I don't go for the mindless gore sort of horror movie. That's why this one appeals to me. The kind I go for deal with the way the people react to what is going on. "The Mist" seems like a cross between "Lord of the Flies" and "Pitch Black". Something is out there and the trapped people know neither what it is nor how far it has spread. Can they escape? Can they even survive? From the trailer, there appear to be enough people left alive to create some interesting dynamics. This is not the usual handful of survivors to be picked off one at a time. I'm sure some will be picked off. Probably several. But it appears to be more about how easily they turn on one another as the situation breaks down. It's as much a study in human nature as it is a horror film.

This, to me, is King's strength. Can he scare the bejeezus out of you? Sure he can. Look at "The Shining". I had nightmares for weeks! But he can also create morally challenging situations and make his characters squirm through them like in "The Green Mile" or "The Dead Zone".

In "The Green Mile" you have what appears to be an innocent man convicted of murder. He certainly doesn't seem capable of violence. But he is black and in the South. And he is a giant. He also has the power to heal others by taking their suffering into himself. The main characters are on the horns of a dilemma. Their job is to carry out his execution. But how do you kill someone who is gentle and innocent? Beyond that, he has the potential to save so many lives.

In "The Dead Zone" a man gains the power to see into the future, seemingly unerringly. He warns people and those who listen are saved or helped in some way. How can he be sure he'll always be right? How can anyone who listens? And what happens if the only way to prevent loss of life is to take someone else's life? Is killing one to save others morally good? These are the kind of questions I like to see people struggle with.

Which brings us back around to "The Mist". If the world is ending and everyone is going to die, does it matter how you treat others before you go? Do you have the right to force your beliefs or morality on them?

I know a few of you out there are far more avid horror buffs than I am. So, who is going to go out and see The Mist by Stephen King? Don't worry. Whether or not I get paid for this ad doesn't depend on how many of you say yes. :)

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wanna Be Depressed?

Then rent Beyond the Gates. The original title it was released under was "Shooting Dogs". It's not a new film, but we only just picked it up. It tells the story of a technical college in Rwanda that turned into a refugee camp before the 1994 Rwanda massacre of the Tutsis by the Hutus. The movie was grim, distressing, and brutal. But I also felt it was manipulative, in a way. I am not trying to suggest that the Tutsis deserved what they got. The massacre was brutally savage, and that is made abundantly clear in this film. Where it falls apart is that it suggests that the Tutsis have always been victims of the Hutus and this is just a bubbling over of a long standing repression. The history is much more complex than that, but the focus of the movie seemed to be "Hutus are, and always have been, evil savages." I am incredibly sympathetic to the Tutsi plight, but I would have been even more so with more of a nod to history and an understanding of the motivations of the other side.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007


Songza sounds like it must be a song pizza or something, doesn't it? But it is not. It's another online jukebox. This one allows you to search for and play specific songs by specific artists. The twist is that it searches the internet for the songs. So, it may find people covering the songs or other variations on the content. Thus far the interface is pretty limited. You can search by keywords. There is no distinction between artist or song title keywords. The search results are sorted by 'quality'. Quality is measured by the number of people who have rated the sound quality of the track with a thumbs up or down. When you click on a selection, you have four options; play, rate, share, or add to play list. Play and rate are pretty self explanatory. Play list is too, but it does not seem to save from session to session. I have yet to determine if it is possible depending on cookie settings, but there is no login mechanism to allow you to save. The share feature seems to be the interesting one. Clicking on that gives you an assortment of options for how to share the song. You can send it to a friend, watch it on YouTube (if it exists there), embed it on your web site, or just link to it. Still, if you need to hear a particular song RIGHT NOW, this may not be a bad way to go. I'll be watching this one with interest.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Funny On Leave

Since I'm actually blogging again, I haven't had time to find pointless funny videos. If something occurs to me, I'll likely just post it. But as a 'bit', it feels played out to me. It was a way to keep my blog active at a time when I couldn't spend any time on it. I'm sure I'll find things. In the meantime, look for a second post today (Ooooooh!) as I don't think a post about not getting a post counts as a post. And now, before I go, let me just say a word that I feel has been under represented in this update. Post.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

38 Questions Meme

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night?

2. What were you doing at 0800?
Running on an elliptical machine.

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Taking out the trash and recycles.

4. What happened to you in 2006?
I landed a great part in "Guys and Dolls"

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?
Sometimes you need someone to say "No. Don't do that!"

6. How many beverages did you have today?
So far, about 3 litres of water and a can of Pepsi

7. What colour is your hairbrush?
Why do I need a hairbrush. I don't have any hair.

8. What was the last thing you paid for?
Eating too much Mexican food. ;-)

9. Where were you last night?
At the theater checking up on a show that opens Friday

10. What colour is your front door?
Not sure what color I'd call it. I suppose pale yellow with dark green trim?

11. Where do you keep your change?
In my pocket.

12. What’s the weather like today?
Sunny and warm.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavour?
Coffee and Heath Bar

14. What excites you?
Seeing the kids I work with grow and improve

15. Do you want to cut your hair?
Again, what hair?

16. Are you over the age of 25?
I hope so. Otherwise I had my daughter when I was 15!

17. Do you talk a lot?
I've been told so, which must mean I don't. Otherwise, how could they have gotten a word in edgewise to tell me so.

18. Do you watch the O.C.?
Nope. I don't watch much TV period.

19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
I know several Stevens, though all of them go by Steve.

20. Do you make up your own words?
Frequently. If I can't find the right word, I may verbize a noun to get my point across.

21. Are you a jealous person?
A bit. I try not to let it rule me too much.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’
April. That could be a fun meme. How far through the alphabet can you go naming someone you know personally.

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’
Kevin aka Uncle Slug

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list?
For calls, it would be she-who-keeps-us-organized. But I did get a text message from Aunty Sam this morning.

25. What does the last text message you received say
"Birthday girl"

26. Do you chew on your straw?
Only on rare and bizarre occasions.

27. Do you have curly hair?
Not on my head.

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to?
The kitchen to do the dishes.

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life?
Nobody. If they get to that point, they get ousted from my life. Karma was.

30. What was the last thing you ate?
4 mini gingerbread dudes.

31. Will you get married in the future?
I hope not. That would mean something bad happened to the marriage I already have.

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?
I'm not sure if I have seen a movie in the last two weeks. The most recent movie I enjoyed was "Wild Hogs"

33. Is there anyone you like right now?
I like lots of people. If you mean romantically, well, just my wife.

34. When was the last time you did the dishes?
An hour ago, but I have to finish them.

35. Are you currently depressed?

36. Did you cry today?
Nope! Nor yesterday.

37. Why did you answer and post this?
Because barbie2be is my friend and I appreciate her not tagging anyone. That kind of consideration deserves to be rewarded.

38. Tag 5 people you want to do this survey.
I'm going to follow barbie2be's example and not tag anyone. If any of my readers want to do it, they can either volunteer to blog it or just do it in the comments.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Guy's Only Doin It For Some Doll

Actually, not just some doll, but a very specific doll. You see, I was in a production of "Guys and Dolls" as I'm sure I mentioned. Well, some real romance has come out of the fiction. And I was there! Well, sort of. Sky Masterson is getting married. Not to Sarah Brown, of course. She's all wrong for him. Nope. He fell for a different Mission Doll. They started dating a little over a year ago. I knew that Cathy liked someone in the cast, but she pooh-poohed all my guesses. It turns out my first guess had been correct. It was Bob, our magnificent romantic lead. I still razz her over the fact that she LIED to me. But that's neither here nor there. Or, that was then, this is now. Choose your favorite cliche.

Last Friday night, we had a karaoke party for a friend who was visiting from out of town. It was a last minute thing and Bob and Cathy were gracious enough to alter their plans to join us. What can I say? That's what we theater nerds do when we get together. We break out the CDs and sing show tunes. And you thought my last cliche was bad. Don't worry. I lowered the bar to help ease the guests who were feeling self-conscious. I made a sight-unseen attempt at Highway to Hell. I rocked. But this is not about me. It's about romance.

Bob got in the queue and sang "Always and Forever" to Cathy. She leaned over while this was going on and said, "This is a big deal." Things were too crowded for her to elaborate assuming she had time, which she didn't. Bob, that sly dog, made sure to leave some instrumental at the end so he could dance with his lady love. It was sweet and touching. If it sounds cheesy, that's just because my writing is not doing it justice. But trust me. It was incredibly romantic. Earlier today, Cathy filled me in on why it was such a big deal. He proposed when they got home! He had the evening planned out. They had gone to dinner and a show. He amended his plan to fit in Lori, our friend from out of town.

So, I just want to be the twenty-seventh (or so) to congratulate them both. They have both been through a lot and each deserves the other. So it's nice to see them get their happy ending. Cathy is now giddy and walking on air. Ok, she's usually giddy, but she is even giddier now. Congratulations again!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Holiday Fatigue

I'm exhausted and it hasn't even started yet. I'm looking ahead to Thanksgiving and then Hanukkah and the Christmas and it is all too much already. There are other things I want to do with my time, but it seems already to be spoken for. I know. This makes two holiday whines in rapid succession. I should just pop a Valium and pipe down. I think it is partially a 'fire hangover'. Our lives were thrown totally out of whack by the fires. And now that we are just about settled back into a rhythm, it's time for the holiday chaos to ensue. Anybody else out of sorts? Or is it just whiny old me?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

How Kind Do You Have to be to a Volunteer?

As many of you know, I do community theater. We are all volunteers. Nobody gets paid even a little bit. Our compensation is the satisfaction of a job well done and a couple tickets for our friends to see our work. So what do you do when people want to volunteer their time, but their skills and/or standards don't meet your quality standards? How do you tell people who have a "this is good enough" attitude, especially when it isn't good enough, that they have to let someone else help? Not the most fun seven hours I've spent. But the show will be ready on Friday.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Bit Like...

Christmas! Yes. You thought the ellipsis above might be a misleading tease. You expected a play on that old chestnut. But no. I really said Christmas. Now, I know the stores are trotting the holiday merch out earlier and earlier, so it does not surprise me to see all manner of decorations already available. However, I was driving down the street and saw not one, but two houses already fully decorated for Christmas! Come on, people! We haven't even celebrated the fictionalized, romanticized accounting of how we took the Native Americans to the cleaners. I have yet to have my tryptophan-hindered, post-Turkey-gorging hike. Do you really need three giant, inflatable, light-up snow globes on your lawn obscuring your house from view? I wish my camera was working so I could take a picture for you. I may have to retaliate and start decorating for St. Patrick's day. You know. Beat the rush.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007


Who knows what Rolling Stones song that is from? That's right. Shattered. It's also a fitting reference to my morning. There was a broken switch in our kitchen light and ceiling fan. I had made one unsuccessful attempt at fixing it and discovered that I needed to replace a specialized piece. Well. I had that piece and today was the day for the repair. I made one minor miscalculation. I should have removed the bulbs and the glass shades that surrounded them. That way, when the housing slipped and fell, it might not have been too heavy for the wires that were the only things between it and the ceramic tiles. Shadoobie! That's what I said when it hit the floor and shattered. Honest.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Funny the 13th - Jason Lives

He's not in this video or anything, but he lives. Somewhere. Today's funny is another classic. It's something that James over at Aces Full found when he was working at the BCC Media Center. It's a Lenny Bruce cartoon called "Thank You Mask Man". Put your headphones on as there is some language.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Definition of Irony

In case you haven't heard, racist idiot Don Imus is coming back to radio. To make room for his show, WABC has fired Ron Kuby, a civil rights lawyer, who had a popular talk show. My favorite quote from the article I saw is this one: "He gets my job, and I'm told about the high price he paid," Kuby continued, his voice rising in disbelief. "He's paid? What about me? The press release ought to say, `Ron Kuby has paid a high price for Don Imus' mistake.' He gets $20 million, an eight-month vacation and my job." I can't add anything that tops that.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I'm a Moron - Therefore You Can Trust Me!

At least that seems to be the premise behind a web site that was advertised in my Google ads. I'm probably not supposed to make fun of the advertisers, but sometimes I can't help myself. I'm not sure what switch I tripped, but I got a block of "Get Rich Quick" links. Most are not worthy of comment, but is begging me to mock it. Apparently, this guy has gotten burned frequently. These bitter experiences now make him uniquely qualified to tell you which ones are legit. Because, you know, fool me 37 times, shame on you. You can't get fooled again. Sounds like this guy decided he'd had enough of being beaten and it was time to be a joiner. Wonder how much he gets for each person that signs up. Personally, I like the little pop-up that is not a pop-up on the page. "Get The Free SECRET Scam Report Before They Stop Me From Revealing The Truth." Wow! He is in possession of true facts so startling that people want to shut him up. What's more, they somehow have the means of suppressing the truth! I'd write more, but I have a link to follow! Hurry, before THEY take away your computer!!!

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What About Tigers and Bears?

While I can't speak of those, I can speak of lions. The mountainous variety. It appears the fires have roused one from his normal habitat. He was spotted (no that would make him a leopard) at Maya and Josh's school on Sunday. That means recess and lunch are back indoors again until they figure out where it is. I told the kids that if they were outside they should stay with a group and then make sure they are right in the thick of the group as it's going to pick off the stragglers if it goes after anyone. Mind you, I can't imagine a mountain lion creeping up on a noisy elementary school recess, but it's not worth the risk, however slight. The story was pretty well covered on our local news. If you click on the video link, you'll get to see the kids school and their principal. You'll also get to see dramatic footage of a completely different mountain lion. I want to know how they got the camera on his head.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Stories From the Fire - Tragic Loss

All of the losses in the fire were tragic. Some were more tragic than others. This is a story of one of those losses. It's easy to argue after the fact over whether it was avoidable or not, but no amount of second-guessing can bring back the dead. The casualty numbers were very low for a fire of this magnitude, but even with low casualty numbers, somebody is going to know someone who died. Sadly, she-who-has-had-a-pretty-rough-go did. One of her coworkers at Rincon Middle School lost her life in the fire. This article gives a decent account. For those who are wondering, they lived in an area that was overrun in about 15 minutes time. All we can do is speculate, but the best guess is that they thought they had a minute or two to grab a couple last things. They were wrong. And lest you think they had a lot of time, their next door neighbors did not have time to evacuate either. They survived by huddling in their swimming pool. Imagine sitting in 52 degree water and watching your house burn to the ground.

The principal of their school, John Centofranchi, was really excellent in the face of crisis. He kept in touch with all his teachers during the fires and sent out word to them when the first rumors of Vicky's death surfaced. He kept on top of the story and made sure they heard the confirmation from him before it hit the airwaves. He also did a tremendous job of making sure there were support personnel on hand to help students and teachers deal with the grieving process. The teachers had a meeting the day before students came back where all the rumors about what happened were dispelled. While I am saddened by the loss, it is comforting to know that the students and teachers are in such capable hands and are well supported as we try to rebuild our community.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fall Back

I am not a fan of daylight savings time. I'll grant you, it made today into a very productive day. I was up early and accomplished all kinds of stuff. The extra hour was good for that. However, we now start the season wherein it is dark when I leave for work and it is going to start getting dark when I leave. I may have to go out for lunch just so I can see the sun. Gone is my ability to do yard work after I get home. Admittedly, I didn't do a lot of that, but I liked having the option. Where do you all stand on DST?

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Friday Funny 12 - NOW on Saturday!

Not a new clip, but I heard Frank Caliendo has a new series coming out. He's an amazing impressionist and he always cracks me up. I hadn't seen this routine before, but it's a good one.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

The NEW Fantstic Four

While we were in Denver, Uncle Joe had a Halloween party for a few of his friends and invited us along. We had packed costumes for the kids, but not for me. Joe gave me the option of being a leprechaun or a 20's detective. Josh felt I should be "20 detectives", but the outfit didn't fit me. So, I went with the leprechaun. She-who-didn't-want-to-play avoided the whole thing, but I thought the combination of costumes: Joe, Maya, Josh, and I made for a fun super team. I present to you, "What If The Fantastic Four Were From Europe?"
The NEW Fantstic Four
Click the photo to go to the whole Flickr set.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

All Right. I'll Do It.

My friends have convinced me to sign up for National Blog Post Month or nablopomo for short. By signing up for this, I have agreed to make a post each day for the month of November. That means I have to do weekends, too. And Thanksgiving. What do I get if I succeed? The same thing if I don't. NOTHING! So, why am I doing it? No clue. Possibly because I am susceptible to pressure from friends. Maybe I'm just a girl who can't say no. Except for the girl part. Perhaps I am hoping to kick start my blog into regularity. Think of it as fiber supplements for my blog. Click on the badge below if you want to sign up. Know what I get if you sign up? That's right. NOTHING!

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Now THAT is what I call teamwork

She-who-does-not-do-well-with smoke has developed some respiratory issues surrounding the fires. We have returned home, but she has something of a chest infection and is losing her voice. Also, her patience. The night before last, we were trying to get the kids to bed. Josh was not getting out of the tub so she raised her voice to let him know she meant business. He got out before she got to three. Maya was not getting in bed after being told multiple times. She was told very sternly to do so. I gave Josh his clothes but he was dawdling getting dressed when she went to check on him. "Josh," she said, "I'm losing my voice and don't want to shout at you. Can you please get dressed?" He was sympathetic to her plight. "Want me to do the shouting for you, Mommy?"

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Lighthearted Update

Nothing has really changed firewise since the last update. Our house is still inside the fire perimeter but not burning. We are still unable to find a few of our friends. Most of Escondido is still evacuated, but not all of it. The main change is that some of the rest of the city is coming back to life. My office is open and I am working remotely reading requirements specs. People are returning to their homes as the Santa Ana winds have died down. The air quality is still incredibly poor. So, no point in rehashing that further. Let me tell you about my nephew.

Ian is seven months younger than Josh. My sister and brother-in-law had been keeping him away from the news because they don't want to freak him out. Well, they had been watching PBS when the news came on. They figured PBS news would probably not be too upsetting, but they led in with the fires. And he saw them and picked up that they were in California.

Ian: Mommy, are those fires?
Sam: Yes, they are.
Ian: In California?
Sam: Yes.
Ian: Doesn't Uncle Bri live there?
Sam: That's why Daddy and I have been watching the news.
Ian: Does Uncle Bri have tools?
Sam: (hesitantly) I'm sure he has some...
Ian: Oh, that's all right then. Uncl Bri can just build them a new house.

So, at least he is not worried. And he has an inflated sense of my abilities. But, just now I can live with that.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Settling in to Evacuee Mode

Wednesday night and the Sox are up 4-1! Oh, and our home is still in fire danger. Some people are being allowed to move back in and the winds have died down a bit, but that has caused things to shift. We still have some friends that are unaccounted for, but by and large our community is safe. If you look at this map you can see the latest estimates of fire perimeter. It also shows active and controlled burns. To see our house, check the box next to zip code 92027. Zoom out 1 level. Then center the screen on the red homes near Oak Hill cemetery. Roseann Ave is NNW of there. We are just inside the red shaded area, which is inside the estimated fire zone. With any luck, the shifting winds will turn it back from us. More tomorrow. But since I can't do anything about it, I am trying to avoid the news stations and focus on locating friends. That and watching the Red Sox. From in Denver.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Still Safe - Update II

The situation at home is still very much in flux. After spending a night in Long Beach and looking at the various places north, south, and west of us that were burning, we decided we needed to get out of California. The air quality is too bad for us. I'm having trouble breathing, and if we stayed much longer, she-who-has-dipped-into-her-emergency-supply-of-prednisone may have been headed for an ER trip. So we used priceline to find the cheapest fare to family and ended up with the Denver folks. We are staying at the Fairfield Inn in Southeast Denver. There is no truth to the rumor that we chose Denver so we could see a World Series game. In fire news, our neighborhood has thus far been spared, but the fire to the north and the fire to the south of us are supposed to merge tomorrow. The largsest fire is still only 1 percent contained. More as I know it.

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We're Safe

For those who have seen the fires and are wondering what is going on, we are safe. We've been evacuated, but as far as we can tell, our neighborhood is not in the current fire path. As long as the winds don't change, we should still have a home once the fires are contained. We have evacuated from two locations and are currently in Long Beach. However, there are fires to the north of us, just above LA, and to the south of us in San Diego. We'll llikely be on the move again today as we try to get out of the smoke zone. The particulate count in the air is six times normal and we are all feeling it in our respiratory systems. I'll post more when I can. If you want to see the information we look for locally, here are a couple of good links.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Funny Goes to Eleven

There's a website called How it Should Have Ended. It takes shots at popular movies with lame endings. It also has a few melanges like the clip below which talks about alien invasion from the perspective of several popular movies.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Depends on Your Definition of Covered

Lets hear it for the health insurance industry! Hip-hip hooray! anyone interested in donating to my health bureaucracy telethon? Didn't think so. Why is that? Could it be that they spend countless dollars figuring out how to avoid paying you? Granted, they must save more than they spend otherwise all that would be left is perverse pleasure. And while perverse pleasure can be fun, it doesn't buy a Mercedes...

I got to talk to a "Customer Service" person yesterday. When I switched jobs, my health insurance switched. I still have most of the same doctors, but when you switch insurance, if you have recurring prescriptions you need "prior authorization" before refilling them. Now, pardon my ignorance, but if I show up at the pharmacy with a written prescription, isn't that prior authorization? I certainly didn't write the prescription myself! Someone had to authorize it before I filled it. My money is on the guy who signed it.

I walked into CVS after jumping through all the necessary hoops to get a couple written prescriptions I have been filling monthly for the last year at the same pharmacy. I handed over the new insurance card. The technician took down the information and explained that the doctor would have to authorize them to the insurance company. Apparently, they need a verbal from the doctor. His signature is not good enough. I imagine this is an attempt to talk the doctor into prescribing a cheaper, less effective medicine. I explained to the pharmacy that the aforementioned hoop jumping used up my buffer and that I was all out. I needed to pick the medicine up later that day. I gave them my cell and told them to call if there were any problems.

I was unable to get back that day, but they didn't call me. I had no reason to suspect anything was amiss. I sent she-who-was-going-to-near-there to pick it up on her way to get the kids at school. I know you will all be shocked to learn that they were not ready. What's more, the technician claimed to not have our insurance information. They were still waiting on authorization for one of the prescriptions and thought it could take up to three more days. But they weren't done. The prescription that was authorized had a maximum quantity of 1 per day. My prescription was for 1.5, so they couldn't fill that. They were able to get the prescription broken into two, though. I could have a prescription for a month's supply at one dosage and a month's supply at half dosage, though. I'd just have to make a co-pay for each.

She-who-was-now-late-picking-up-the-kids bounced the ball back into my court and said she would check back later. My job was to call the insurance company and ask them WTF? The conversation went something like this:

ME: So, why do I need the person who wrote the prescription to tell you that it is, in fact, his signature on it?
HER: It's just a medication that we need prior authorization on.
ME: So, the fact that I have been getting the same prescription filled every month for a year is not enough proof that it is authorized? Especially since he reauthorizes it every month?
HER: But WE have never talked to him.
ME: And you are worried the pharmacy is dishonest?
HER: No. We just need authorization.
ME: Beyond the written prescription on the special copy proof paper that only medical professionals have access to.
HER: Yes. He needs to call us.
ME: Because that is much harder to fake than the written prescription...
HER: I'm sorry, sir. But we need authorization.
ME: Well, I need medicine. And I can't wait another three to five days.
HER: Oh! The authorization just came in. The pharmacy should submit it again and it will be accepted.
ME: That's a fortuitous bit of timing.
ME: Now about the other prescription.
HER: Yes?
ME: Why is that not covered?
HER: It is covered, sir.
ME: No. A dose that has already proven ineffective for me is covered.
HER: I'm showing here that we authorized this...
ME: As two separate prescriptions. I have to pay two co-pays. One prescription has one strength pill and the other has the same pill at half the strength.
HER: (pleased that I get it) Yes, sir. Two prescriptions.
ME: But if it's the same medicine, it is not two prescriptions, is it?
HER: We only cover a quantity of thirty in each dose.
ME: So, if there were 4 different doses, I could pay 4 co-pays and get 30 of each?
HER: Well, you'd have to get your doctor to prescribe...
ME: And this doesn't strike you as bogus at all?
HER: What do you mean?
ME: If I'm taking the same thing at two different strengths, it really isn't two prescriptions. If I take an extra strength Tylenol and regular strength Tylenol, are those different medicines?
HER: Well, no, but...
ME: This is just a way of scamming me out of twenty-five bucks because you want to say that you cover something, but don't really want to cover it.
HER: It is covered, sir.
ME: Then why am I not paying one of the amounts listed on my card?
HER: There are quantity limits on...
ME: Right, right. Quantity limits.
*long silence*
ME: So, that's it, then?
*long silence*
ME: I guess I have to go pay two copays for my prescription.
HER: (happy to be back on script) That's correct, sir. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Why do they always offer more help when they haven't really given any help that could be added to?

ME: Yes. I would like you to relay a message to your superiors. I realize you were just doing your job, so I don't blame you for enforcing their rules. However, I'd like them to know that I do not like this insurance at all. I am going to change at my earliest opportunity. In fact, I am going to tell my company to drop you as a provider.

When she-who-went-back-for-the-meds returned. There were only two prescriptions and two co-pays. And the quantity was for one and a half tablets. :)

The evil part? We are about to do open enrollment at work. My insurance will change as of November 1st. We had already decided to ditch them. I had nothing to do with it. But it was fun pretending I had. :)

There you go, Bill. How's that?

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Guess You're Right

I dropped Josh off at before school care on my way to work on Friday and held out my arms for my customary goodbye hug. He ran at me full bore and bonked me in the gut with his forehead. "Hey! I wanted a hug, not a head butt!" Josh had a sensible answer. "That's not your butt, silly!"

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Funny X - The Unknown Funny

More classic comedy. I don't have much hope of beating most of you to the punch on the latest viral stuff. So, I have to think of what has amused me in the past and find it. This is a twist on the classic theme, as it is a classic comic on a contemporary show.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Very Innocent

This is a little dated already, but it stuck with me. For those of you who don't follow sports, the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden just had a huge sexual harassment judgment go against them. They need to pay a former employee $11.6 million dollars! Follow this link for the whole story or read on for my thoughts and excerpts. And for those out there who like to cast aspersions on the accuser, this woman, Anucha Browne Sanders, has some pretty impressive credentials. She was a vice president of marketing for the team and was making $250k per year. She was a respected college athlete as well. Her problem? She didn't like team president and former NBA great Isaiah Thomas calling her "bitch" or "ho"...

Apparently, Isaiah didn't like her initially and was abusive and degrading toward her. But he warmed up to her and then started hitting on her. She complained to team ownership and was fired. There's a lot of "He said, she said" in this case, but there are some things that are not in dispute. In deposition, Isaiah was asked if it as acceptable to curse at a woman in the workplace. That's a pretty easy question to answer. Unless you are an arrogant moron. He responded that "a white male calling a black female a bitch is highly offensive," Really? How about a black man calling a black woman a bitch? "Not as much." So, there's your credibility in a nutshell.

Don't worry, he was smooth on other issues as well. Isiah explained a controversial 2005 hug with Browne Sanders like this: "I went to give her a kiss on the cheek and she recoiled in such a way that it made me feel uncomfortable, and I said, 'What? No love today?'"

She also got some heat from at least one star player because she wouldn't break rules for him. When asked to remember a heated exchange with Browne Sanders after she wouldn't give him free tickets to a home game, Marbury made one thing clear: "I didn't call her a black bitch. I called her a bitch." Yeah. That can't have helped the case either.

With evidence like this, you have to wonder why they didn't settle out of court.

After the verdict, Isaiah asserted that he was "innocent. Very innocent." Is 'very innocent' like 'slightly pregnant' or 'most original'? When you have to add words to qualify your innocence, especially in light of the undisputed items above, you can just give it up. Admit you made a mistake and that you have a lot to learn and move on.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bullet Point Updates - A REAL Post!

I haven't posted anything of substance of late and if I wait until I post the updates to start posting new stuff, then the blog will remain a once-a-week funny clip server. That's no good. So, I'm going to give abridged updates on my life. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or in private mail.

  • I started a new-new-new job at the end of August. You read that right. I am on my third job since leaving Cymer. It has been a long, hard summer. Each of the three jobs I left, Cymer and the two others, I left of my own free will, but not necessarily on my own terms. Well, that's not true. The terms were my own; they were just not the choices I wanted to make. They were each better than the alternatives available to me at the time. I just wanted better alternatives.
  • Those events left me pretty depressed. Searching for a new job took up a lot of my free time, such as it was. I didn't take very good care of myself. As a result, I am in need of a weight loss jump start. So, I'm back on the program again. Eating well and exercising. I'm trying to keep my calories reasonable. With the whole "eat well and exercise" plan, I'm down 8.2 lbs in 3 weeks.
  • The new job rocks! I'll post more about it later, but I'm at a company called DivX. I'm a Senior White box Test engineer. We're called ourselves QA Developers since we bridge the gap between the two realms. The corporate philosophy is reminiscent of the early days at Foliage. The people are cool. I'm working with interesting technology. And they actually expect good things from me. It's a huge boost to my self-esteem.
  • Theater stuff is rocking again. I am now the Artistic Director of Patio Playhouse and am directing a fairly ambitious youth theatre production. We are working on "The Pirates of Penzance". We aren't doing the youth version, either. We are doing the full on show. So far, it is a great experience. She-who-is-a-great-complement-to-my-skills is my assistant director. We also have a kick butt music director and an amazing young choreographer. More as it develops.
  • I missed a lot of news stories that I wanted to comment on. Most of them are no longer topical. One that I feel I need to is Senator Craig. I know that there are very few people out there who are buying his lame ass story, but I was still bothered by it. His excuse for touching feet with the other guy is that he has a "wide stance". I don't care how long your legs are, the distance you can spread your legs is limited by the material at your waist, because that is what will be around your ankles. Try it. I couldn't get my legs close to the edge of my stall, never mind into the next one. So, his pants had to be up to pull off this stunt. So, there is no way he was using the stall for its intended purpose.
That's not all the news from Lake Wobegon, but it's a darn good start.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Funny IX - Number Nine. Number Nine. Number Nine...

Classic comedy from one of my favorite duos of all time. The video quality is not the best and the audio is slightly out of synch, but they still make me laugh today.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Funny VIII - In D

Today's funny is a clip I saw while attending the symphony last weekend. They had a big screen above the orchestra and the conductor was introducing each piece with a little history or information. Then he'd show a video he found during his research. For the "Barber of Seville" he played some Bugs Bunny. For Pachelbel's Canon, he played this.

I've also got a couple of bonus clips this week because he showed us some other cool Pachelbel videos to further point to its pervasiveness.

Here's a rock guitar melange of Pachelbel:

How about hip hop? Here's a Korean version complete with dancing.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Funny VII - Seven Easy Funnies

Mario vs. Master Chief. Wonder who wins.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Funny VI - Six Funnies Laying

I haven't blogged much since starting the new job. I'll try an update this weekend. I may even have a new Karma story!!! Meantime, here is an animated history of popular net phenomena. How many do you recognize? I got about half.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Funny V - The Funny Strikes Back

Here is a clip from a comedy troupe that I enjoyed, though they never made it big. They had one Comedy Central special and then faded away.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

Last night, the community theater where we spend most of our free time, Patio Playhouse, held our annual awards banquet. There was food, entertainment, and of course, awards. The competition was pretty fierce this year, and I am proud of the many friends of mine that won. The show I helped produce took home 3 awards, including best ensemble. And I think you may know the person who won "Best Actor in a Minor Supporting Role".

I was surprised, pleased, and humbled at the same time. I fumbled through my acceptance speech, having never given one for an acting award before. So, I'd like to take this time to thank all the people who made this award possible.

First off, I need to thank She-Who-Deserves-Thanks, as well as Maya and Josh. They were supportive and encouraging throughout. Josh and Maya learned all my songs and practiced them with me daily.

I need to thank Mary Bright and Richard Brousil, my directors. They believed and me and gave me one of the juiciest part I've ever had and I ran with it. They gave me the latitude to make the role my own and reigned me in when I went too far afield. And they helped me achieve things musically that I never have before.

I also want to thank the rest of the cast. The mission band, the Hot Box girls, and the gamblers. You were all great to work with an fun to play off. Special thanks have to go to the leads in the show. All of you were larger than life. Bob, Sara, Kevin, and Kris; you all gave so much. And of course, we can't forget the orchestra, especially Emily, Dan, Richard, and She-Who-Gets-A-Second-Mention. I had a habit of changing things up, but they stayed right with me and made me look good. In my mind, Guys and Dolls will always be tops! Thanks again!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friday Funny IV - The Goblet of Funny

Today's clip is another of my favorite old comedy sketches. Watch as Dave Foley struggles to remember the name of a well known Orson Welles movie...

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Make Memories for Those Who Can't

This is another sponsored post, but it's an easy one for me to speak positively to. My grandmother died of Alzheimer's disease almost 10 years ago. It was painful to watch her go. It was even more painful to realize she had been gone a while and we never noticed because my grandfather covered for her so well. When he died, her last link to reality went as well. She lingered on for a number of years, but she didn't recognize many of us. She had rare lucid moments, but most of the time I doubt she even knew we were there. I remember her trying to read the newspaper out of habit. I say trying because it was upside down. It was hard to go visit her, but we knew she needed the company, even if she didn't know who we were. So we went and we watched as she slowly forgot how to do everything she ever learned.

Research has come a long way in the past 15 years with respect to treating and delaying the onset of symptoms, but there is still nothing remotely like a cure. So, if my giving a plug to a worthy charitable cause raises a few extra dollars, I'm OK with that. But you don't need to give money to help. You can volunteer your time as well. You can spread the word. You can get educated. The Alzheimer's Association has a lot of good data on the science behind the disease, dispelling myths, and even information for kids and teens. I personally like this link which lists 101 activities to do with a person with Alzheimer's.

Of course, if you can donate time or money, that would be great. The Memory Walk is a nationwide event. Odds are good that one is happening in a town near you. So, if you want to get involved, sign up now. The graphic above will take you to a page where you can enter a zip code and find out when and where your local walk is. I found two near me here in SoCal. One is in San Diego on October 27th and the other is in San Marcos on October 28th. From there, it's easy to sign up, donate, or even become a team Captain. If you don't live here, just go to the web site and enter your zip. I found four walks within 30 miles of my parents' house.

So, get out there and walk, donate, or just spend time with someone with Alzheimer's. It may not be easy, but very few things worth doing are.

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A Papaya Free Week

It's been a very weird week for us for a number of reasons. The main one is that Maya has gone to her first sleep away camp. She has been away for weekends before and overnights, but never a whole week. We sent her to the same camp that we like to go to for family camp on Thanksgiving and Mother's Day. The staff there always do a great job at family camp, so we figured she'd have fun. Even though we haven't seen her and only one of the ten pre-addressed and stamped envelopes we sent her with have surfaced, we know she is having fun. How do we know? They have a camp photographer who snaps hundreds of pictures a day and posts them to a web site where we can log in and view them. Of course, lame-o that I am, I get all mopey when I see the pictures and I miss her. Josh misses her, too. He's only asked where she is a couple of times. Tomorrow, we pick her up at a family cook out where she will show us all she has done. If you want to see the photos, private mail me and I'll send you the link. I don't think I am allowed to post it.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Comment Roundup

Some things crept into the recent comments that I wanted to follow up on, but I didn't think any of them deserved a full post. So, I am hodgepodging.

* James had a good point about the Pay Per Post model. He wondered if your earnings dropped if you were too negative and your credibility dropped if you were too positive. The way I had planned to combat that was not to take offers that I couldn't speak to sincerely. But that may not be enough. After all, nobody sees me bypass an offer. Given this thought, I am now planning to do some work for them for free. If they ask for a positive tone write-up and I don't feel positively, I'll write a negative tone review and just not accept the offer. What do you think?

* The fruit fund raiser post brought up some interesting points on two topics. I had originally been complaining about the pervasiveness of unhealthful choices in our culture. But my suggestion opened the whole school/group fund raiser issue. I don't think many of us like these fund raisers. Parents don't like peddling overpriced crap for the pittance that comes back to the school. Friends and neighbors don't like being guilted into buying it. The alternative is just to beg for money, but that can be more awkward. So, what is the solution? How can we transform the fund raiser model into something that supports the local economy, gives the school an adequate return, and gives the donor a feeling of satisfaction with their donation?

* Steve wants me to recrunch the numbers with the current six game lead for the Red Sox. Consider it done. The Sox are 76-50 and the Yanks are 70-56. That puts the Sox slightly over 0.600. They have been fluctuating around that for some time. If they continue to play 0.600 ball for the rest of the season, they will go 22-14. If they only win half of their games, they will go 18-18. So, we are likely to finish with 94-98 wins. That means the Yanks need 95-99 total wins to beat us. Therefore, they have to win between 25 and 29 of their remaining 36 games. That translates to a low end winning percentage of 0.694 and a high end of 0.806!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Idea Worth Sinking Your Teeth Into

Like most of our population, I'm a bit overweight. Obesity is something of an epidemic here in this country. And yet, all of our school fund raisers seem to have candy or cookie dough or some other fattening item in them. And even though I love Girl Scout Cookies and think the program does teach the girls many valuable lessons, I once commented to She-Who-Sometimes-Agrees-With-Me that they ought to sell Girl Scout carrots or something. Then they are learning and promoting health. Enter the Fresh Fruit Fundraiser! You sell oranges, grapefruits, apples, and tangelos. You can sell them as gift baskets or sell them directly in bulk to people. The gift basket method seems to me the better way to go. Unless someone is planning on some mad baking or juicing, a 20 lb box of fruit seems excessive. I suppose a bunch of people could go in on a single box, but that dilutes your fund raising opportunity. Still, it seems like a step in the right direction to me and I intend to suggest it to the PTA this year.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

BriWise Advertise

That's right! This space is for rent. I am trying out a service called Pay Per Post. The concept is that they get money from advertisers and give a portion of it to you in exchange for writing an article that meets a set of requirements. I'm just getting started, so I haven't seen all the types of requirements yet, but they seem to be on the order of number of words in the post, links the need to be included, and the type or tone of the post.

There was some controversy when they first started out because people weren't disclosing the fact that their posts were paid advertisements. That's been cleaned up with the advent of the disclosure image you see at the bottom of the post.

Another thing I like is that it seems like they are trying to integrate into normal blog flow. For instance, you can't take more than 2 offers per day, you have to have non-advertising posts between each of your advertising ones, and your blog has to have a minimum of one regular post every seven days.

Now, before you get too excited, obviously there are some factors about your blog that play into things. Your Google page rank determines what level of offers are available. You will also get feedback rankings (number of tacks) based your sponsored posts as well. Did you do the bare minimum to qualify? Or did you take to the spirit of the task as well?

On the other side, there are also opportunities for advertisers. Pay Per Post is trying to use targeted marketing to drive traffic to advertiser sites. This is an extension of the Google Ad Words model. The difference is, the ads are not random. People only post the ads that fit into their interests on their site. This eliminates one of the amusing Google Ads quirks. If I write a post complaining about President Bush, my banner suddenly contains pro-Bush ads. With PPP, your opportunities are restricted to the categories you selected when you signed up.

I am guardedly optimistic about this. It seems like a nice way to have my blogging habit earn me a little side cash. I don't have any visions of retiring on my PPP income, but if it allows me to buy a toy or two once in a while, it will be worth the effort. It gives me a chance to practice a different style of writing, and I enjoy that whether or not I get paid. This just allows me to justify the time.

If you are interested in signing up, I have a widget on my sidebar. I do get paid for referrals, but in spite of that, I don't want people rushing to sign up just for that. The referral fee is $15 and is contingent upon the referee having a qualified blog and writing a post. So, you can't just have all your friends sign up and then quit.

My advice is to wait and see. I'm going to make a go of it and report my progress. That way, you will have more details and can make a more informed decision. It doesn't cost anything to sign up, so this seems to be in a different class of internet offer than "Shoot the mugger and get a free iPod", but it's better to be safe than sorry and I am happy to be your guinea pig.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Funny III

Here's an animation called "Gopher Broke" that I found on It's like YouTube, but a bit newer. It's hosted by DivX, so it is supposed to support DivX content formatting as well. I'm just starting to explore it, but you may need a DivX plug in to view this.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Extra Secure

I love the Security system at my office. It’s fun being a contractor. You get to jump through meaningless hoops so someone else can feel like they are effective. There are a number of excellent rules and regulations here. For example, every day all contractors enter through the side door. You can tell who the contractors are because they all have red bordered badges to contrast with the regular employees blue. They stop at the security desk to check in. Security click a button on the screen next the contractor’s name. How many of you think that does something? Perhaps it checks the employee in and activates their badge? Keeps them hones about their hours because they check in and out? Nope. It just acknowledges that they stopped by the desk. In order to prove that you checked in, they have to put a round sticker with a red C on it on the back of your badge. The sticker has day of the month hand written on it. It’d be impossible to circumvent this system. Well, maybe Tom Cruise could do it in the next MI movie.


The best part of the whole system is that it is possible to go out through a door that you are not allowed back in through. The first such place I found was the patio of the cafeteria. It was a nice day, so I went to sit at a cool and shady table while I ate. None of the doors would allow me back in. To add insult to injury, the patio is surrounded by a tall iron fence to prevent outsiders from eating with us without security clearance. The gates leading out through this fence are locked and not badge activated. I was trapped on the patio until someone opened the door for me, which by the way is a security violation. No piggybacking allowed.


Why am I ranting about all of this? I had to mail a letter at work today. The mail pickup is at the reception desk. I walked out to the lobby and dropped it off, completely forgetting that my badge does not allow me in through the lobby. Further, the receptionist is not allowed to open the door for me. So even though I just walked out that door for the sole purpose of putting an envelope on a tray, I can’t go back in. She looked at me without a hint of pity and said “You have to go around”. So, I walked out the front doors, down the far end of the building in the hundred degree heat, and back in through the unlocked doors. I then walked past security, which saw my red bordered badge and never bothered to check for the scarlet C. I then got the customary snub from my star-bellied, er, I mean, blue-bordered colleagues, and finally made it back to my desk. Well, I feel better.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mathological: Red Sox are Choking Edition

I'm not sure that I've coined a new term. Someone must have thought of it before. But here at BriWise, "Mathological" will now be used to refer to any attempt to mislead with numbers. It's part of my campaign for a more statistically aware planet. Yesterday was a topical attempt since I had been comparing job offers and was hoping to help others in the same boat. Today is a little more frivolous. As a Red Sox fan, current sports events just feel like history repeating itself. The Sox are choking again. They were up by 10 games at the All Star break and here it is, barely a month later and the lead is down to 4. It's inevitable that we implode and the Yankees overtake us, right?

Well, there's perception and then there is reality. Let's look at the numbers

W L Pct
Boston 71 47 0.602
NYY 67 51 0.568

Now, how have they performed since the Al-Star break?

W L Pct
Boston 18 13 0.580
NYY 24 08 0.750

Which of those percentages looks closest to the season average? At the break, the Sox would have been 53-34 for a percentage of 0.609 while the Yankees were 43-43, for a percentage of 0.500.

If we apply those percentages to what they have done since the break, we see that the expected value of Sox wins was 19. So, they are certainly close to the pace they were setting before the break. For those who don't want to do the math, 19/31 = 0.612. The Yankees, conversely, played a mediocre first half and only won half their games. That means, they should have been expected to win 16 games. They won a full 50% more.

Does this help us predict anything? Of course not! If it did, we wouldn't need to play the season. But it does suggest that the Sox are not choking. They have lost 4 of their last 7. So, the immediate impression is that they are doing poorly. The Yankees, on the other hand, have caught fire. They are not as bad as the data of the first 86 games suggests, but they are not as good as the data of the last 32 either. How do I know? Let's look at more numbers!

If a team was to play 0.750 ball for a season, they would win 121 games. That hasn't been done in the modern era, which is a fairly large sample size. So, while it is not impossible, it is statistically unlikely.

That doesn't mean the Yankees won't catch the Red Sox. With 44 games left, if the Sox continue playing with consistency, they will win 26 or 27 more games, falling a little shy of the coveted 100 win plateau. Let's say 26 for the sake of argument meaning they would end up with 97 wins. The Yankees need to win 31 of their remaining 44 to overtake the Sox, a winning percentage of 0.704. Not impossible, but, again, statistically unlikely.

This isn't meant to cheer anybody up. Just a little numerical reminder that the Sox are not choking. The Yanks are surging. So, lay off and stop stressing all you doom and gloomers!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Beware of Math

Comparing job offers is often a challenge. No two job offers are equal, even if they have the same dollar value attached. They are further complicated by the fact that different people value different things. For example, would you accept a lower salary for more time off? What if the salary discount subtracted more than the weekly value of the extra time? This is further complicated when you add contracting offers into the mix. Screw apples and oranges. It’s more like trying to compare a tropical fruit cup with a New England fruit cup with another New England fruit cup that somebody picked all the grapes out of. When you are a contractor, you get an hourly rate. You get no paid time off, but you do get paid for every hour you work. You also get a bump if you go into overtime. That means that the way you compare things is going to vary depending on what assumptions you make.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you are comparing two jobs. One is a $30/hour contract and one is a $50k a year job. To get these into the same units, we need to annualize the hourly rate. How do we do that?

  1. Multiply it out times 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year.

30 dollars/hour * 40 hours/week * 52 weeks/year = $62,400 per year

Looks like a better job, no? This will tell you how much you would earn with no overtime and no time off. How realistic is that? Let’s take out the holidays since most companies will not let you work on holidays.

  1. Same as 1, but subtract the holidays since you won’t earn anything for those. Let’s assume 10 holidays as that seems typical on average. That’s the equivalent of 2 weeks of business days.

30 dollars/hour * 40 hours/week * 50 weeks/year = $60,000 per year

Of course, you aren’t allowed to take vacation under that scheme. So, if you are looking to compare, should you take unpaid vacation and see where you come out?

  1. Same as 2, but subtract out the vacation days you don’t get. More and more high tech companies are standardizing on 3 weeks to start. That brings us down to 47 weeks.

30 dollars/hour * 40 hours/week * 47 weeks/year = $56,400 per year

Starting to get close now, isn’t it? And what if you get sick? Can you take time off? And how will you pay for medicine and such?

  1. Same as 3, but we are going to remove a week of sick time and a conservative $500 per month to cover the difference in having company health insurance and having to be self-insured.

30 dollars/hour * 40 hours/week * 46 weeks/year - $500/month * 12 months/year = $49,200 per year

Now, all of a sudden they are similar. If we start adding to the salary with things like bonuses, tuition reimbursement, flexible spending plans, etc, it starts to far outpace the contract position.

The problem is that whole analysis is biased toward normalizing for benefits. If your goal is to make as much money as possible and assume some risks for yourself, then you may want to calculate for averages and maximums and may make some assumptions for overtime. You could probably calculate an annualized income of $70k.
What does this all mean? It means you need to decide your priorities and goals before you start searching. And you should do the math yourself. Other people will give you their takes on the numbers. This is not out of a desire to mislead or be malicious. They are just doing the math from their perspective. Do your homework. Set up your assumptions. Then do your comparison. Just realize that it is a subjective comparison. There’s nothing wrong with being subjective when you are the subject. After all, you are the one who needs to live with the decision.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Funny II

I may try to make this a regular thing. I'm going to look for amusing videos to plug in here and give you a new one each Friday. Here's a great bit from one of my favorite comedy groups of the 80's; The Frantics!

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How to Waste an Hour

Step 1: Be tired.

Step 2: Pop “Dark Side of the Moon” into your computer’s CD drive.

Step 3: Play in Windows Media Player in full screen mode with visualization on.

Step 4: Wipe drool from keyboard when you come to

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Not Blogging For a Few Days

My folks are in town and we are scheduled to the hilt. I even took a couple unpaid days from work so we could really run ourselves into the ground. Here's the schedule. Sea World today and tonight. Legoland tomorrow during the day. Kid Improv performance and Andrews Sisters tribute performance back to back tomorrow night. Saturday morning is the Renaissance Faire, where I am the Sheriff and Faire spokesperson. Saturday night is improve performed by the adult troupe I lead. They fly out early Sunday and I do another day of Faire. So, if there is blogging time in there, I'll do it. But don't hold your breath. ;)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Acrostic Fever!

Not too long ago, Maya discovered acrostics. For Valentine’s day, all her close friends were given acrostics of their names. She also did it with birthdays and other card giving holidays. Here’s an example of her work:


Well, Josh decided that he, too, wanted to make cards like these. He decided this just in time for Mother’s Day. Here, then, is the best Mother’s Day card She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has ever received.


Naturally, we had to ask questions about it. Most were self-explanatory. Here is the oral translation he gave us. Morkr = Marker. (Guess what art supply has been renamed in our house?) Terifik is Terrific. Histre is History. Ebnokshis is Obnoxious. And Rose is Rose. Interesting sentiments. But that left one out.

Mom: But what is Obishus?
Josh: Mommy, YOU’RE Obishus.

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