Five for Friday

Mother nature is helping us ring in the new year with sunny skies and a foot and a half of snow. I took a walk this afternoon - armed with a camera - so all ya'll could see my wintry neighborhood. Here are my favorite photos from the chilly stroll.

Hopefully, the fire department doesn't need this any time soon.
You'd be scared too if you saw me driving around in this.
Welcome to Narnia.
Really, they mean it.
One trunk, two tree tops.

I'll be posting some of the other shots on facebook. Those of you that are friends with me there can check them out.


Blogging for the attention impaired

This may not come as some great surprise or amazing revelation: I have ADD. Or at least that's what the psychiatrists told the parents of the fifth grade version of myself.

I often think that I was misdiagnosed as I do possess the ability to concentrate on certain activities for absurd lengths of time while managing to shrug off any pending distraction. Other times, I'll start something when OOH SHINY!

On most days (even good days) it doesn't take much to lure me away from focusing on the task at hand.

I'm going to go off on a tangent here - and it might appear like I'm chasing squirrels but I assure you it is both purposeful and relevant.

The wildly successful and hilarious blogger Jon Acuff posted an invitation on his blog to work with him in writing his third book. He asked his readers to fill in the blanks: “I’m a __________, but I want to be a ___________.”

That is an easy answer for me. I'm a data analyst but I want to be a writer.

And for those of you who knew the younger version of me - the freshly diagnosed with ADD kid - you would know that the school aged Nic hated writing. The last thing I wanted to do was put pen to paper and the practice of typing was torture. In fact, I refused to spell my name with a "k" because that extra letter took too much effort.

Yet now, as a grown man in my 30s, I want to be a writer. Which leads us all back to my penchant for all things except what I should be doing.

Blogging is the perfect medium for the ADD brain.

No one with a sane mind spends several days writing a single blog post. Mosts posts (at least in my corner of the interwebs) contain no more than a few hundred words - at most less than two thousand. It's not a massive time sucking vortex that consumes all parts of your waking life. If you get distracted - no one cares. You can change topics and themes at whim. And you can always go back and change things. There is a method to blogging - but it's not an exact science.

Yet I feel that keeping a blog is not the end result for me. It's a great outlet to speak my voice, but it's not a calling. It's fantastic practice in the art of prose, but it's not the object of my hopes and dreams. I want to explorer that strange intersection where faith and pop culture collide. I want to inspire, encourage, and entertain.

And most importantly, I feel like God has placed in me a story and it is up to me to figure out how that story will be told.

Here's where I get distracted. I've tried to write a story with more significance than what will fit in a blog post. I have opened up MS Word and began plunking out the beginnings of a tale with substance. In a few instances, I've made significant progress. Yet each time, I get distracted with a bigger and better idea. Or I get bored. Or I completely forget about the project like drivers in North Idaho forget their winter driving skills every time it snows. If you were to peek inside the My Documents folder on my computer, you'd find the skeletal remnants of abandoned stories. All started and never finished.

I'm hoping to change that with the new year.

But I'm not insane. I'm not doing the same thing the same way while expecting a different result. I've been planning. And plotting. And practicing. And presearching. (Really, I meant "researching," but all the other words started with a "p" and I can't resist a healthy dose of alliteration.)

As of January first, I will be starting a new project. But that's only part two of my goal (part three if you include the prerequisite work I've done). The first part was building a better habit. If you haven't yet noticed, it is the 30th day of the month and I have posted 30 different blog posts this month. After my Five for Friday post tomorrow I will have (for the first time in my history of blogging) posted something every day for an entire month.

This is new for me, the practice of writing something every day. Now I've built a month long habit to continue. I've found a good rhythm increasing my odds for success in writing my new project. I have someone to (hopefully) keep me honest - my sister-in-law, who is a talented writer with a handful of completed projects to her credit.

Now for the bad news. Now that I've found a steady pattern for posting new stuff here, I'll be translating that effort to my new project - which won't be for public consumption. That means there will be less new content on this blog - but I'm still aiming to keep a two to three posts per week pace.

We'll see how this all goes. Data analyst by day, daddy and husband by evening, and writer at night. It might make me crazy (crazier?), but it could turn out to be wonderful.



Wii Fit judges you. It says stuff like "you're shaky" and "quick reactions aren't your thing, are they?" If you gain weight from one day to the next, it asks you to explain the reason for the weight gain. If you need to reel in a prodigious ego, play Wii Fit. It will make you feel old and overweight.

If you're just starting in Wii Fit, there are a few things that must be completed before you're allowed to play games where you flap your arms like a chicken or awkwardly swing your hips to support virtual hula hoops. You must enter your birth date and height. Then the balance board weighs you. The board checks your ability to balance evenly through a series of tests and mini-games. Once this is completed, the game makes a few snaky remarks before giving you you're weight, BMI, and Wii-Fit age (a hypothetical number based on your real age compared to how poorly you performed in the preceding tests).

Christian's first day with the Wii Fit was today. Age and shortness given, tests taken, results received. After completing the tests, the game told Christian that he was unbalanced. No surprise. I read the game's sarcastic dialog aloud to Christian.

"It says: 'Balance isn't your thing, is it. Do you find yourself tripping over things?'"

Christian answered, "No..."

A benefit for parents of kids with aspergers, they're horrible liars. After a brief pause, Christian admitted the truth about tripping. He looked at the TV, back at me, then back at the TV. He hung is head in the closest thing to embarrassment that an aspie kid will ever know.

"Yeah. I do." He said.


Recapping the films of 2010

Someone with way too much time on their hands (and an abundance of creative energy) created Filmography 2010: a compilation of the most memorable films of 2010. It's not an exhaustive list of every movie released over the past year, but I can't think of any that were missed. There are some great movies in this list... and some that should be forgotten. This cinematic mashup sounds confusing, yet is strangely compelling. Watch it.

And if you want to know what all different movies were used, you can find a chronological list from the video's creator HERE.


Awkward Christmas Presents

My parents had a tradition that they would always stuff new boxers/underwear into our stockings for Christmas morning. It's one of the Casey family traditions Bekah and I are continuing with our kids. (I'm not sure if my brother is passing this tradition along, but it wouldn't surprise me if he is.)

But there is a difference between what we're doing and how my parents operated. Bekah and I pick out sensible undergarments for Zu and Christian. My folks were more adventurous. The boxers my parents picked out always had an element of silliness. Like a billiards theme, or a Christmassy pattern.

There is one pair of boxers that stand out in memory. It wasn't that crazy with first inspection. On Christmas morning I found nothing unusual about the blue and white checked pattern covered with miniature bunches of bananas. I wore them just like any other boxers with no reason for concern.

Months passed.

Summer arrived and I was commuting from Everett to Marysville for a 3pm to midnight shift at Albertsons. After a hard day pulling freight off trucks and stocking the dairy cooler, I drove back south and collapsed into my bed. It was a humid night and warmer than typical for the Seattle area, so I cracked the window and laid in bed reading for a while, wearing nothing but my boxers. When I finished reading, I turned the lights off and climbed back onto my bed. I had no use for blankets as it was still warm in the apartment and the breeze from the open window was helping me relax.

Not only was it warmer than normal in my bedroom, it was also brighter than normal. The lights were all off. The TV wasn't on. The street lamp in the parking lot below our apartment wasn't shining. No candles burning. Sunrise was still a few hours away, yet there was something noticeably luminous in the room - almost lit up enough to read. I could not figure out why it was so vividly brilliant in there.

Then I noticed it. My boxers were glowing. Months had expired since pulling them out from my stocking. Any other gift I got that Christmas was probably forgotten or taken for granted. Those boxers had been worn dozens of times without any recognition of abnormalities. Yet, on that warm summer night, I found myself standing in the middle of my bedroom with the fabric around my waist being the sole source of luster.

But if you think it couldn't get worse, you're wrong. On closer inspection, I discovered new details that had been previously unnoticed.

The bananas were located on the blue squares in the checkered pattern. The white squares contained words visible only when glowing: "BITE HERE."

I'm not sure if my parents knew of this hidden message. Part of me wants to believe that they never would have bought them for me if they knew those words would appear when the lights went out. But the possibility that they had full knowledge of (and failed to disclose) what those boxers would do is disturbing.


The Social Nativity

Merry Christmas to friends and family both near and far. I hope you are making the most of your day. And if you're taking a break from the festivities to surf the web, thanks for making my blog a part of your escapism.

While you're here, enjoy A Social Network Christmas.


Five for Friday

Tis the day before Christmas, and after a day of travelling, a return to work, house cleaning, and more holiday scheming than probably reasonable... I'm tuckered.

So, I'm keeping today's post simple. Something to help indulge in yuletide cheer. These are my five all-time favorite Christmas songs.

1. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: Written by John Mason Neale. It's the most traditional carol on this list with origins in the 8th to 12th centuries. Of the traditional set, it's one of my favorites because of the somber melody and down-tempo rhythms.

It's been recorded by a slew of artists (somewhat of a Christmas album staple) including Sufjan Stevens, Sixpence None the Richer, Sugarland, Kendall Payne, and (my personal favorite rendition) Chasing Furies.

2. Blue Christmas: Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. Originally recorded by Ernest Tubb but popularized by Elvis.

Other versions have been recorded by Lady Antebellum, Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, and Face to Face. The best (in my opinion) came from indie rocker Bright Eyes.

3. Happy X-Mas (War Is Over): Written by John Lennon and recorded by Lennon with the Plastic Ono Band. While this remains both one of my favorite Christmas tunes and my favorite Lennon song, I feel compelled to admit I like the various other versions by other artists better.

And there are several other versions. The Polyphonic Spree, Sense Field, Street Drum Corps, Thrice, and Hot Rod Circuit have all recorded their own take on Lennon's classic, but the best comes from Canadian Sarah McLachlan.

4. Sleigh Ride: Composed by Leroy Anderson in the mid 40s then recorded by The Boston Pops Orchestra. Lyrics were added in 1950 by Mitchell Parish. One could argue that this is more of a wintry song than a Christmas carol as the lyrics never mention any specific holiday, and a birthday party is the only lyrical celebratory reference. But this song defines my standard for Christmas music.

This is also common fodder for holiday themed albums with versions from a wide variety of artists including Debbie Gibson, Relient K, KT Tunstall, and Squirrel Nut Zippers. However, my favorite rendition is found on the one Christmas album that seemed to be constant on my parents record player when I was little. It's the album that introduced me to this song and still buries me in nostalgia every time I hear it: from Amy Grant's 1983 A Christmas Album.

Finally, my absolute top pick of all...

5. 2000 Miles: Written and Recorded by The Pretenders. Lyricist Chrissie Hynde claims it's not a Christmas song, but it does (with advantage over Sleigh Ride) mention Christmas. And snow. And singing kids. So even if it was never intended to be a Christmas song, it's close enough for me.

It's been recorded by KT Tunstall and Coldplay. While I adore the Coldplay version, the original recording from The Pretenders can't be beat.

Now go listen to some Christmas music, and have a wonderful holiday weekend.



We don't do Santa in this house. Not because we're morally opposed to all things Santa, we just don't see thee point. Now that Christian has been diagnosed with aspergers, we're glad we made the decision to exclude Santa Claus from our Christmas traditions.

Aspie kids take all things literally.* They often have difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality. They have a hard time translating acceptable practices and rules from one situation to another, so they would have a hard time understanding why it's OK to pretend that Santa is real, but it's not acceptable to pretend that there's a vicious invisible dragon that follows you around and will eat people you don't like.** Trust is also an issue; it is essential that parents develop trust between themselves and their aspie kids. As they don't understand why it's fine to pretend in some situations but not others, they wouldn't understand why you the parent how lie about Santa and not lie about other things. If you lied about Santa, they are more prone than other kids to believe you lie about everything.

Just to be clear, we weren't intentional about avoiding all things Santa because of Christian's prognosis. We had scratched the jolly fat man off our holiday to do lists long before Christian received his diagnosis. Now that we know he has aspergers, that decision is a relief now knowing that we don't have to undo anything we've done in past Decembers. And never has the effects of that decision been more apparent than this past weekend.

I took Christian to the Dollar Store so that he could use his own money to pick out presents for those that will be celebrating Christmas with us. We spent an hour wandering the store, looking at the hodgepodge selection of goods. I tried my best to convince him that Grandpa doesn't need any finger traps, or that Uncle Dan probably doesn't want a ceramic ballerina figurine.

When we got to the check stand, the cashier did his best to interact with Christian. He complimented Christian for being a big boy doing his own Christmas shopping. But then he touched the Kris Kringle topic.

"Do you know what Santa is bringing you for Christmas?" the cashier asked.
"Huh?" Christian's reply.
"Santa Claus. What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?"

I had to translate. I repeated the cashiers question, omitting the Santa reference. Once it was rephrased in a way that Christian could understand, Christian rattled off his answer with exuberance. The cashier looked at me as if I was weird. I can't imagine why.

* Sometimes, I let my sarcastic side slip in light of Christian's clumsiness. After he's spilled a glass of water or accidentally knocked over a stack of books, I've said, "Good job, now you get to clean it up." And he gets mad at me every time because he made a mistake and I shouldn't tell him 'good job' when he does something bad.

** Christian understands that he's not allowed to tell his momma what I got her for Christmas. But I wanted to include him in my scheming. I gave him the instruction to tell Bekah (is she asks) that I got her a Shake Weight for Christmas. "But you didn't get her a Shake Weight," he told me. "I know," I explained, "but it would be funny if you told her that." "Why?" No mater what I said, he couldn't understand the humor behind intentional deception to make a person think you got them something they'd never want.


Time Warp

When I take a day of paid time off, I need to make a few arrangements to ensure my daily reports continue in my absence. Normally, this isn't too difficult. Some of it I can unload onto other admin around the building, but most of it can be completed by my closest associate.

When I got my promotion, we hired a replacement to fill my old position. In training him, we purposely taught him how to do 75% of my job and 100% of his job so that he could back me up when I need a break and I could support him in return. And, since we share an office, it's easy for us to seamlessly blend some of our duties. Yet there are some things (due to time, scheduling, and access constraints) that he's not able to handle when I am gone.

The biggest gap that he can't cover are my morning reports. Business needs dictate one of the two of us are staffed during late afternoon into the evening; when I take vacation, there's no one staffed in our cubicle during the morning hours. There is a report that he and I update throughout the day and the first thing I do every morning is send out the completed report for the previous day. Then I restart the same report with the current day's data. This is all done before my cohort arrives. In my morning reports, the previous day's data is due early in the a.m. but the other half can wait until later in the day. So those two parts are to be split between my office mate and someone else.

Before I left for work this afternoon, I tried my best to explain the division of labor. When I let him know who was covering the "previous day" portion and that the "current day" was the only extra effort he'd have to make, we had the following conversation:

Me: She's going to do yesterday's report tomorrow so that you don't have to.
Him: Didn't you do yesterday's report this morning?
Me: I did yesterdays, but tomorrow that was two days ago. Today is tomorrow's yesterday.
Him: So who will do today's report?
Me: She will. All you'll have to do beyond what you normally do is create today's report.
Him: Isn't she doing that?
Me: No, she's doing yesterday's with today's numbers. You'll do the new report tomorrow.
Him: With today's data?
Me: Right. Only with tomorrows data. Because tomorrow will be today.

And he understood what I was talking about.


The 24 Christmas Special

Jack Bauer is back and interrogating a villainous terror suspect: Santa Claus.


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Here are the fruits of our interior decorating efforts. Candy from the gingerbread houses and sugar cookies, the kids' lil people nativity, and a few other random shots.

Your pictures and fotos in a slideshow on MySpace, eBay, Facebook or your website!view all pictures of this slideshow

Plus, a little hello to the far-flung family from JJ, Zu, and Christian.


This is Christmas

It set in this evening.

Christian and I spent the morning hunting and gathering Christmas presents, then I taught him how to wrap presents in a wrapping marathon this afternoon. I'd say we had a wrap battle, but I fear the pun may be lost.

Bekah's present was nearly impossible to find. The few stores I searched through yesterday were all sold out. One of the stores called a couple other retailers on my behalf and only one store had it in stock, but was in the process of selling their last of that specific product. I looked on Amazon, but the price online was double the most expensive local option. On a whim I returned to a local shop this morning - one available. It came in off a shipment overnight. As I was paying at the register, the store received a phone call asking if they had in stock the item I was purchasing. "Just sold the last one." I'm a lucky man.

My wife loves me. She returned from the grocery store with a half gallon of eggnog. I'm enjoying my first glass of the season as I write this.

Bekah introduced Chloe to Bekah's favorite winter tradition, crab dinner. The girls had crab this evening and the boys had french toast. But before you pity the dudes of the house, I should mention that this batch of french toast was the best I've ever made (and perhaps the most delicious I've ever tasted).

Then we finished the night by baking and decorating sugar cookies.

All this with Christmas music playing in the background.

It set in while I was dancing around the kitchen listening to June's version of Wonderful Christmas Time: this is Christmas.

Not that it's the advent season - that I've known all month. No sudden revelation require. Nor was the light bulb a realization that Christmas is one week away. I can read a calendar.

My eureka was wholly different.

We were making lasting memories. This is Christmas. This is what my kids (hopefully) will remember.

And yes, I know the true meaning of Christmas. I'm not trying to overlook the wondrous significance of Jesus' birth. But there's got to be something that Christians, atheists, and faiths of all kinds can share.

So whether you're celebrating a savior of men or a savior of retail profits, whether your family lights a menorah or gather's around a decorated tree, whether you're opening presents or performing feats of strength, there is a tie that binds. We should be united in an effort to create enjoyable memories for our loved ones.


Five for Friday

As we descend deeper into the holiday season there is one song I'm sure you've heard by now. And if you haven't yet, there's still eight days to go before the day that begins the traditional 12 days of Christmas.

By no means is this my favorite carol. It's cheesy and prone to lampooning. These days, the only versions I can stand to listen to are those that don't play it strait. Either through parody or creative interpretation, these are five of the most entertaining versions of The 12 Days of Christmas.

1. I shared this last year, and it's worth a repeat: Straight No Chaser's 12 Days (with nods to Rudolph, Toto, dreidels, and the art of wassailing)

2. Christmas can't be complete without a nod to the humor of Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) of the Great White North. And beer.

3. Comedian Randy Lubas (who sounds like Adam Carolla) appeared on The Bob and Tom Show to rant about what kind of crazy person it takes to pull of the gifts of the twelve days.

4. This next one should be a cautionary tale. Do Christmas sober. It's better for all involved.

5. Finally, for my wife's favorite version of the song John Denver joins The Muppets.


The Fu Man Verdict

Since the end of No-shave November, I've been walking around with something I never thought I'd do: a fu manchu. Or, as a coworker calls it, the trucker stache.

But the verdict is in. The only thing Bekah liked less than the fu manchu were the mutton chops that was originally paired with it.

Even though (with this mustache) I feel 17% tougher than I really am, it sadly has to go.

Speaking of Bekah... She has a new blog post. Check it out.


A good week in footbal

In case you haven't yet noticed, sports isn't a common topic on this blog. Despite growing up in a home where professional athletics dominated programming on both the TV and the radio, I myself am not much of a sports fan.

Sure, I enjoy going to hockey games or heading out to watch arena football. I miss playing soccer and tennis, and I'll jump into a casual volleyball game if given the chance.

But as far as the daily happenings in the wide world of sports? I don't pay that much attention. But there are exceptions.

In the NFL, there are two teams I will always root for: the Seahawks and the Lions. There are two teams I will always cheer against: the Raiders and the Broncos. Beyond those four teams, I really don't care what happens.

But there's a guy at work that I regularly talk to (one of the biggest Seahawks fans you'll ever meet) who rarely has anything to say that isn't sports related. He's a cool guy and we get along, so I do my best to have a decent understanding about what's going on so that I can hold a competent conversation with him.

This is the first week that I was excited to skim through the sports headlines.

Despite the Seahawk's loss, it was a good week for the NFL. Just to recap:

The Metrodome collapsed (I've watched that video over a dozen times and it never gets old)

About that last one...

Nolan Carroll is a class act. If you've not seen his post-game interview, go watch it now. I can wait.

The man is tripped while running down the field (both apparently and admittedly purposeful), suffers a minor injury, and his response: it's just "water off a duck's back." Carroll spoke as if it was no big deal. Completely humble. Completely grateful his team won. Not in the slightest worried about the actions of Sal Alosi. Unwilling to place blame.

That is true sportsmanship. The NFL needs more players like Nolan Carroll.


Christmas music for the soul

This is perhaps the nerdiest (and most awesome) thing I've ever seen a church do.


Forecasting Christmas

We're less than two weeks away from the jolliest day of all, and I can't help but ponder the possibilities. This may or may not be a widely known secret, but I've always wanted snow for Christmas. And not just a trace amount of snow or an insignificant couple of inches, but the you-could-possibly-lose-children-or-small-pets-in-your-yard depths of snow.

Growing up in Seattle, I saw more drizzle falling on Christmas Day than any other kind of precipitation. And the few Christmases I spent in Cheyenne were always brown. My tenure in Coeur d'Alene have introduced me to more snow during the holiday seasons than I'd ever lived with, but I still dream big. I'll keep dreaming until I get snow deep enough to swim in.

After the inland northwest set a record this year for the snowiest November in recorded history, I thought that the odds were in my favor. This was the year that I'd have snow drifts as tall as my SUV. Then December came. And with the month that is home to the official start of winter came warmer weather.

The (more than) two feet of untouched snow pack covering our yard has melted into a soggy rain whipped and slightly trampled crust of pathetic looking remnants of snow. Now, I'm beginning to worry. Depending on which meteorologist you believe, the forecast for the next couple of weeks are up for debate.

So what will it be?

Are we going to have a white Christmas? Or a wet Christmas?



Two of my favorite smells in the world are brewing coffee and freshly popped popcorn. Two of my least favorite smells are burnt coffee and burnt popcorn.

I keep waiting for Ke$ha to admit that her auto-tuned singing, atrocious rapping, dumpster diving fashion, and raunchy lyrics are all a big prank for some mockumentary (ala Spinal Tap or Joaquin Phoenix's fake mental breakdown). I know this will never happen, but inside I want it to be an act because I find it hard to believe anyone could truly be that horrible.

Wii bowling. Surprisingly, I'm just as good bowling on the Wii as I am bowling in a traditional alley. Simply put - I suck. My son, however, he Wii bowls like a pro. He's six.

My wonderful wife found 2 liter bottles of holy water (aka Mt Dew) on sale for 78 cents each. She's stocking up. This is why I love her.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The tree went up last Sunday along with our nativity and the rest of the decorations. The stocking have been hung and the scents of cinnamon clove candles are filling the air. Two weeks to go, I think we're ready. What about the shopping? Oh, wait... we haven't started that yet.


Five for Friday

This is the last Christmas list. I promise. On a lighter note, this list is probably the easiest to appease. This is the list for Bekah and the kids, in case you happen to be the type that shops for them.

1. Bekah is a coffee addict. The best gift anyone can give her are one pound bags of coffee (whole bean, we have a grinder). She usually drinks Starbucks, but is willing to drink any brand of coffee.

2. Bekah is flexible when it comes to home brewed coffee, but she is faithful in her choice of lattes. Grande triple shot (sometimes venti quad shot) cinnamon dulce latte, extra hot, and only from Starbucks. You can help support the latte habit with Starbucks gift cards.

3. Christian has two big areas of interest: dinosaurs and superheroes. Any gift involving either of those realms of fascination would be perfect.

4. Zu is our princess, and she loves dressing up in princess clothes. And to be fair, she will play and dress up in any pretty dress or costume. If you're looking for dress up clothes for Zu - look for the ornate. She'll live inside her own fairy tale.

5. JJ is probably the most difficult of the kids to shop for as he doesn't really play with toys. He'll pick them up and carry them around. He'll hand it to you, tell you what it is, then demand it back. Balls and toy cars are the two things he gravitates toward, but he loves hats. He'll put anything on his head - buckets, bowls, my hats, boxes - and walk around the house as if he's parading a new fashion statement. Get him a funky hat and he'll enjoy that far more than any real toy.


Double Standards

News came out yesterday about a high school student facing expulsion for bringing a gun to school. Allegedly, she had been out hunting and left an unloaded rifle in her trunk. She turned herself in when she heard that there were dogs on school grounds sniffing around for contraband.

Sounds fairly black and white. Many schools have a zero-tolerance anti-weapon policy, and there is federal law (Guns-Free Schools Act) that legislates these kinds of incidents.

But this story has other complications. Elsewhere, news sources are reporting that the student in trouble is an honor roll student and a varsity cheerleader. Now that we have a face to go with the story, the interwebs are up in arms. People are complaining about the fairness of the zero-tolerance aspect, arguing gun rights, and demanding leniency for this 16 year old girl. There's the claims that enforcing the policy is "idiocy." One online commenter posted something along the lines of it not being common sense to ruin this young girl's life over a simple mistake.

Now, I don't want to start a debate over the second amendment. Nor do I want to argue for or against the logic in the consequence of this girl's actions.

I do however have a simple question. What if it was a different student? What if it was the same situation - an unloaded rifle inadvertently left in the trunk after a hunting trip, willingly admitted to school officials before the police discovered it... but instead of it being a pretty cheerleader with straight A's, what if it was an average student that didn't participate in any extra-curricular activities? What if it was a troubled kid from a broken home? What if it was just the quiet kid that kept to himself and rarely interacted with his peers?

If it was any student other than a popular girl with a stellar academic record, would we have heard about it? Would it have been so newsworthy? Would there be the same demands for leniency?


The Coffee Habit

My wife is an addict. She can't go a day with out a cup (or seven) of hot black coffee. This doesn't bother me. I adore the aroma of brewing coffee filling the house and I enjoy an occasional cup.

But my wife has a problem. No, she doesn't drink too much. I jest about her her being a coffee addict, but I know people whose java addiction is a serious issue that makes Bekah look like a recreational user. Bekah's complication is not the rate of her consumption.

Her dilemma is the quantity of mugs used during the course of a day. She'll brew a pot, start sipping her first cup and set it down somewhere to carry on with the rest of her day. An end table, the kitchen counter, the bathroom, window sills, on top of the TV in our bedroom - she's fairly indiscriminate in where she abandons her cup of coffee.

One of two things happen: either it's lost its warmth or she forgets it's existence. Either way, she pulls a new mug out of the cabinet and pours a second round (or third... maybe fourth).

Some nights I've come home to find several mugs filled to varying depths littered through out the house. Other nights I've discovered a collection of mugs by the sink, waiting for me to load them into the dishwasher, each filled with some quantity of room temperature coffee stewing inside. And, on rare occasions, I've found mugs filled almost to the point of overflowing and cold - poured but not a single sip taken.

I'll admit, Bekah is improving. She's down to one or two mugs used on any given day. And to her credit she is a busy mommy. If you've read her facebook status updates, you may have experienced second-hand weariness in realization that she accomplishes more in a day than should be humanly possible. She keeps our kids safe and alive. If a pot or two of coffee is required to make all of that possible, I won't complain. Even if it means I have to scavenge the house to make sure there aren't any mugs left lingering in places they best not stay, I won't complain.

Until now.

Our dogs are hyperactive. Spastic freakazoids. If autism could be diagnosed in canines, both George and Nita would be worthy candidates. They're cute, adorable, and quirky with raw cookie dough for brains.

What do two mentally impaired dogs have to do with Bekah's coffee problem?

Bekah is at work, the kids are in bed, and I'm sitting at my computer to watch an old episode of Glee. The dogs are running around the living room behind me, wresting and doing whatever it is skittish dogs do when they're restless. They've been fed, they're happy, and occupied.

That is when I heard some lapping. I didn't leave any water dishes out for the dogs, but even if I had, they would be in the kitchen. This sound? It was closer. Much closer. I swiveled my chair around to confront the suspicious sound to find a sheepish looking Nita. Back legs on the arm of a couch, two paws on the end table, head positioned above a tall brown mug, furry muzzle dripping with a dark liquid.

Bekah left a half full mug out today. Nita found it and indulged.

Nita spent the next dozen minutes chasing ghosts from the living room to the kitchen to the dining room to the living room to the kitchen to the... Around and around in hurried circles. Then she wandered around for a few minutes like a drunken sailor while George watched with curious amazement. Finally Nita plopped down at my feet and looked at me as if waiting for some form of compliment.

Good news: caffeine has no long term detrimental effect on schnoodles. Hopefully, Nita doesn't develop a problem.


Pandora and the ever-present Jack Johnson

This cannot be said enough. I (heart) Pandora radio. It is my sanity at work. (ps, if you poke your head into my cubicle and see me with headphones covering my ears, there's a 90% chance I'm plugged into Pandora.)

Rare is the suggested song that I don't care for and have to give a thumbs down rating. But there are some songs that work their way into playlists that leave me in puzzlement. But it works. It is radio that lets me dictate the music it plays.

Yet in all its curiosities, Pandora is not a perfect system.

There is one artist that Pandora seems to treat as an omnipresent figure of the music kingdom. Jack Johnson.

The first playlist I created was intended to be upbeat, happy, summertime music. Reggae, hip-hop, and ska. I created the custom station with the following seeds: Wyclef Jean, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Five Iron Frenzy, Cake, Toby Mac, Flobots, 311, and the Long Beach Dub Allstars. When Pandora slipped in a Jack Johnson song, I thought nothing of it. Jack's neo-hippy/coffee-shop vibe fit in with the beach-side variety of tunes that I programed into the the virtual brain that controls Pandora's stream of music.

For my second station, I wanted something mellow that was safe for work in case i wanted to listen to Pandora at work without my headphones. The seeds: Switchfoot, Coldplay, The Fray, OneRepublic, Fountains of Wayne, Need to Breathe, and Jason Mraz. Yet again, Pandora seemed to find Jack Johnson as a suitable suggestion for this list. I can see how one might see some logic there - even I would argue Mraz and Johnson are contemporaries - but Jack wasn't the type of artist I was hoping to hear.

The third station is where it got weird. I only gave Pandora two seeds to work with: Smashing Pumpkins and Our Lady Peace. Something heavier. More kick. More bite. A few songs in and what do I hear? A Jack Johnson song. This is where I first began to think there is a grievous error in the way Pandora filters its song selection.

My fourth custom station has an electronic bent station. Music that will keep me awake and focused. Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim, Timbaland, Justice, Benny Benassi, The Crystal Method. And (according to Pandora) Jack Johnson. Really? Is there any way to escape the sounds of Johnson's hapless strumming and high-as-a-kite vocal style?

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, I've attempted to create a holiday music station. Songs of glad tidings and great joy. And... Jack Johnson (Pandora's choice - not mine).

I have a theory - that Pandora and Jack Johnson have some shady agreement that guarantees a Jack Johnson is suggested to every Pandora subscriber regardless of their musical interest.



Making it easy, here are the four parts to my Christmas list.

The Wearable
The Readable
The Playable
The Unbelievable

Next Friday, I'll post a list for the kids. Hopefully, my wife won't spoil any surprises by reading that post.


Five for Friday: the last of my list

Every year, if you're anything like me, there's something you really want for Christmas but know there's no conceivable possibility anyone you know would ever buy it for you. It's the kind of gift you'd pee yourself in shock and excitement if you actually found it in one of the gift boxes wrapped under the tree on Christmas morning.

For me, that type of surprise would happen with one of these five options. This is my last Christmas wish list: the unbelievable.

It's the cheapest (most affordable?) item on this list, but it's this kind of swag that makes my wife roll her eyes in realization that she married a huge nerd.

2. Tickets to see David Bazan on 1/21/11 at The Red Room in Kennewick.
And since the concert is on a Friday night with a 3 hour drive back to our house, it would make a nice weekend getaway for Bekah and me. That present wouldn't be complete without a one night stay at a Kennewick hotel (perhaps the Clover Island Inn) and overnight babysitting for the weekend.

3. A Yeti USB Microphone (THX certified)
Do you know how much blogging mayhem I could unleash if I had a studio quality microphone next to my keyboard?

I go stir crazy without music playing. That should be a widely known fact. A lesser known fact (and one I am not ashamed to admit) I like to sing in the shower.

As a former DJ with visions of re-entering the DJ entertainment profession... this is my dream machine.



"Daddy," Christian said on the way home, "herbivore means plant eater. Why do they call plant eating dinosaurs herbivores?"

"By calling a dinosaur an herbivore, you're calling it a plant eater. They both say the same thing."

He didn't like my explanation. "Then why don't scientists just call them plant eaters?"

I ran through a mental list of possible reasons. Because it's one word instead of two... It's easier to say... Neither option sounded adequate. "Because saying 'herbivores' makes them sound smarter." That was my final answer.

"Oh." Christian mulled my words for a few brief second. "Then I must sound really smart. Do you know what this dinosaur is called?"

I turned my head to look back to where Christian is strapped into his car seat. He's holding up papers that have been colored, cut up, and taped together into a vaguely dinosaurish shape that resembles a genetic crossbreed of an armadillo, a turtle, a porcupine, and a chicken with an absurdly neck.

"No, I don't."

"It's a attackasaurus." Christian voice boasted with self prescribed sense of genius.

"It is?"

"Uh-huh," he said, "and it's gotta beak. They call it attackasaurus because it can attack anything."


"The attackasaurus is pretty cool, huh?"

"Yes, it is."

Christian continued describing the attributes of attackasaurus: armored scales, feathers, weaponized tail. It a rambling bit that blended in with the Christmas music playing on the stereo. Christian doesn't always speak to be heard. Mostly he talks because it's physically impossible to stop unless he is eating or sleeping (which he sometimes talks during both of those activities). He'll even talk when no one is there to listen. With this knowledge of the way my son functions, I knew that he had imparted his most important information. With the quickening pace of his speech and shrinking effort to enunciate, I also knew that the rest of the babbling was talk for the sake of noise.

Until he had another question. "Do you know why they call it a attackasaurus?"

"Because it will attack anything?"


"Oh." Pause. "Why?"

"Because it has has spikes on it's back. And it can curl up into a ball and roll around. And it runs super fast. And it has sharp claws. And big teeth. It can swim, and fly."

In case my sons creativity has left you scratching your head, picture the this: take the most wicked awesome features of all of your favorite dinosaurs (plus some you've never heard of), stick them in a blender (perhaps splice some DNA), and dump it onto a sheet of paper with the whims of an imaginative six year old armed with crayons, markers, scissors, and scotch tape.... The finished product is the attackasaurus.


Of Bearded Men

I never intended to participate in No Shave November, it just kinda happened that way. Really. I promise.

A small collection of my coworkers were observing the razor-less month. They called it "Novembeard." 10 days into the month, one of them asked if I would participate with them. After a minute of pondering, I realized that I hadn't shaved since the Friday before Halloween... Why not? Only another 20 days of no shaving.

But I can only take so much. I'm a living disparity as I hate to shave but I also hate not being clean shaven. Now that November is over, this man's beard is shaggy enough and starting to itch. I'm ready for a trim.

It should also be noted, my colleagues that celebrated Novembeard with me are also honoring the 12th month with Decembeard. And they're following that up with Janu-hairy. Upon invite, I declined. There's a line that must be drawn, and that is it.