The Holes Keep It From Exploding

Two nights ago, I was tasked with baking potatoes to go with dinner. Having never cooked a potato before, I decided to use Google to see how long to bake a potato in the microwave. Surprisingly that’s not an easy question to answer. Google returned hundreds of links, and no consensus on cooking time.

One site listed “10 Steps to Bake a Potato in the Microwave.” Step 1 was “pick out the right potato.” What? I’m about to cook a potato, let’s assume I’ve already picked it out. This isn’t speculative potato cooking. I’m not planning for the future. No one reading an article about cooking a potato needs to be reminded to get a potato. There is literally only one ingredient.

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What’re you lookin’ at, ya hockey puck?

I’m not going to list all the steps, for reasons, but one of them was “place the potato on a microwave safe plate.” If this was written in 1983, I would expect an explanation of what makes a plate microwave safe, or maybe a referral to another article on microwave safety. I assume, however, because I found this article on the internet, that it was written after the invention of the internet. I also assume that anyone who has ever used the internet, ever, has at least fifteen years experience using a microwave. Furthermore, the presence or absence of a plate has no impact on anything related to the cooking of the damn potato!

The article didn’t get to cooking time until step 6, and it said, “Choose a cooking time that is right for your potato,” with no reference chart. I’m not making any of this up. Why would you do that? Why would you a) write a stupid ten step process for baking a potato in a microwave, and b)not include the cooking time.

So here are the steps you actually need, if you ever  want to bake a potato in the microwave:

  1. Wash a potato and poke it a few times with a fork.
  2. Nuke it for five minutes. Turn it over and nuke it five more minutes.

Alternative cooking directions:

  1. Wash a potato and poke it a few times with a fork.
  2. Put it in the microwave and push the button marked “potato”

Feel free to bookmark this site if you’re worried you’ll forget. If this were an actual cooking blog, you could refer to the comments section for examples of people who substitute lemon soaked cauliflower for the potato or prefer to use a Dutch oven on stones heated in a conventional oven in lieu of a microwave. This is not that kind of blog, so keep your opinions to yourself.

42

I dislike most sports, but I love baseball. My love of baseball is driven by my love of statistics. Hot dogs and tepid domestic beer are okay, but it’s the math that moves me. Some days, I’d rather read the stats than watch the games. From April through October, I’ll be absorbing RBIs, ERAs and batting averages.

My favorite people at the ballpark are the ones who bring a pencil so they can fill in the box scores. When a guy brings a pencil to the ballpark, he means business. Not only is he keeping score, he’s creating a historical record of the game.

42Today, I want to share with you the most important statistic in baseball. Every year, every team in the MLB will win at least 60 games and lose at least 60 games. What happens in the remaining 42 games is what decides everything in the regular season. That’s a mathematical fact. So why’s the season 162 games long? It’s too much. A 42 game season would be perfect. Then the teams with the best record in each league should play in a best of seven World Series. Forget about Division playoffs. Those are the most predictable games in all of sports. We could even have three 42 game seasons each year.

If the season has to go beyond 42 games, why stop at 162? Why not just play all year. Life could be one never ending season of baseball. It kind of already is for baseball fans. It’s 6 months of baseball followed by a month of watching teams you don’t like in the playoffs, then 4 months of solitude and depression and one month of spring training. I’d be more likely to go sit at a Texas ballpark in January than August. Maybe the teams could move south in the winter and north in the summer. It’d be like a travelling show.

I know. I know. Baseball is sacred. It’s very nearly the same today as it was in the 1860’s, and we mustn’t discuss changing it, even in jest. But they’ve added teams, and added more rounds to the play offs. They’ve added, taken away and re-added instant replay. So all I’m saying is let’s maybe think about changing the duration of the season so every game matters. It’s just a thought.

Genius in a Bottle

Midlife. I can feel the second half of my life slipping away, one boring moment at a time. It feels like Sunday afternoon. The end of the weekend. I want to go on vacation and get drunk for five days and maybe never go back to work, but in reality I’m just going to sit on the couch and wait for the sun to go down. The clock won’t stop. Monday’s coming. Except in this case Sunday afternoon is midlife and Monday is the grave. I may not die Monday morning, but almost no one lives to see lunch time.

SMASH!
SMASH!

Some days my inner voice screams in frustration. I want to flip my desk and hurl my chair through a window. I want to SMASH a Chris shaped hole in the sheetrock and drive until I see an ocean. I want to be anywhere other than where I am, doing anything other that what I’m doing. When I feel like howling, I drink until the howl becomes a sarcastic aside. Rum quiets the beast.

Midlife Transition
Midlife Transition

This isn’t coming from a place of regret. I’m okay with the life I’ve lived so far. The screaming in my head is the sound of unbridled optimism crying to be released. It’s potential energy demanding to become kinetic, like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones stuck in a tiny silent elevator. I want to release my potential in the next forty years. I want to find my peak. I want to see things, to create things. I want to let the rum soaked genius out of the bottle.

Baby Steps Back to the Dark Ages

Jacob’s band instructor insists on using Christian religious music for competitions and performances. This really rubs me the wrong way. They even lost points at UIL because religious music and iconography aren’t allowed. They marched this season to “O Come O Come, Emmanuel” and “Ode To Joy”, and they had a stained glass prop to reinforce the point for anyone who didn’t recognize the tunes. Monday night is their first formal concert, and they’re performing “Ave Marie”.

We’re talking about a public school, as in tax payer funded, secular place of learning. It’s also a pretty diverse school, with Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Atheist students. Heck, the church closest to the school is a mosque.

I’m not bothered because the band instructor is religious, and I understand why he loves spiritual music. It’s beautiful music that I would love to hear… in a church or a mall or on the street corner, but not in a school or at a school sponsored event. My objection to the music is purely political. I believe religion in every form should be strictly separated from government run institutions. I believe that doubly so when we’re talking about schools. I want my son to go there and get educated, not indoctrinated.

The separation of church and state is one of the great things about the American system. I celebrate our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom to worship or not worship as we please. I’m on the fence on churches not being taxed, but I’m okay with it if it keeps religious leaders from exerting control over our legislatures, courts and schools.

Jacob gets really upset and Lisa gets very quiet when I complain about this. I know this topic makes people uncomfortable. I recognize that there are people who want their children to have their faiths reinforced at school. For those people, there are private schools.

I realize we’re just talking about music. To my knowledge no one is preaching at school. Also, Jacob is a religious kid. He goes to church twice a week, and he’s super involved in his youth group. It’s not Jacob I’m worried for. It’s allowing a specific religion to slip a toe in the door. It’s that it’s only ever a single faith that sneaks in, and the fact that it’s our faith doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

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I am usually the first to object to a “slippery slope” argument. I know it’s unlikely that “Ave Marie” in Band will lead to creationism in Science or the virgin birth in History. But I am comfortable saying that any educator who turns a blind eye to one will be more likely to turn a blind eye to the other. The celebration of a single faith, even through song, in a public school, to me represents the first little baby steps toward acceptance of religion in the public schools, which itself represents the first little baby steps toward acceptance of religion in government. If you wonder how it turns out when churches take on political power, Google Dark Ages or Islamic Revolution in Iran. Science suffers. Art suffers. Progress stops.

Alright, I’ll step off my soap box and wait for the hateful comments from the good shepherd’s sheep. But someday, when your grandchildren tell you to wear a veil before leaving the house, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thirty Days of Thanks… You’re Welcome.

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Ba Da Ba Da Da, I’m lovin it!!!

Day 1: I am thankful for fat Asians. I hope to live to see fat Indians and fat Africans.

Day 2: I am thankful for candy corn. Until I eat a second piece of candy corn.

Day 3: I am thankful for that old man I saw at the Post Office who was wearing ladies spike heel dress shoes. Let your freak flag fly old man!

Day 4: I am thankful that Sasquatches are so good at hiding.

Day 5: I am thankful for that commercial where the guy just keeps saying “enchiladas” over and over.

Day 6: I am thankful for rhymes to help me remember which kind of snakes are venomous.

Day 7: I am thankful that XM Radio won’t start playing Christmas music until Nov. 17. So you can all just calm the hell down.

Day 8: I am thankful that I went bald from the top down and not the bottom up.

Day 9: I am thankful that someone put the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special on YouTube. For years I thought I’d dreamed that.

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“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now / From up and down, and still somehow / It’s cloud illusions I recall / I really don’t know clouds at all” – Joni Mitchell

Day 10: I am thankful for a cloudless day. Why are ALL clouds shaped like penises?

Day 11: I am thankful that Siri converts all of my spoken requests into something that would require a Navajo Code Talker to translate.

Day 12: I am thankful for one hour every two years for those signs that say “watch for ice on bridges” all year round.

Day 13: I am thankful that we don’t live on the timeline where the first President to control the atomic bomb was a vicious man-beast called Hairy Ass Truman.

Day 14: I am thankful for children, without whom all of my cool electronics would be made by giant ham-fisted adults.

Day 15: Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor!

Day 16: I am thankful for TV shows that suck after the first season for allowing me to take my free time back. I’m looking at you True Blood.

Day 17: I am thankful for The Neil Diamond Christmas Album. Not just because I love Neil Diamond, but because a Jewish guy singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is a special kind of selling out that should be celebrated.

Day 18: I am thankful that in a cave somewhere, there are two Templars who still know how to get, how to get to Sesame Street.

Day 19: I am thankful that they started playing Christmas music on the radio last weekend. Happy ThanksChristmas everyone!

Day 20: I am thankful for thongs most days, but the one I’m wearing today is riding up.

Day 21: I am thankful that Rick Perry is ready to leave Austin and start his new career as the front man for the Journey Christian cover band Don’t Stop Believin’.

Day 22: I am thankful that all the times in my life when there was only one set of footprints in the sand happened a few hours after I’d eaten a bunch of refried beans.

There is a man a legend tells/ who stands for what is right/ Like Wyatt Earp he never shirks/ or cowards from a fight.
Lobo means wolf.

Day 23: I am thankful for 23 of the 38 episodes of Sheriff Lobo.

Day 24: I am thankful for the ever present and unexplained connection between rednecks and wolf iconography.

Day 25: I am thankful that I never saw my Mommy kissing Santa Claus. That’s just really, really wrong.

Day 26: I am thankful that alcohol helps me understand for a few hours how regular people think all the time.

Day 27: I am thankful that “No Shave November” has made Thanksgiving as ugly as it is tasty.

Day 28: I am thankful for pumpkin pie for distracting everyone while I eat the pies that don’t suck.

Day 29: I am thankful that Santa Claus has proven that obesity is in no way linked to mortality.

Day 30: I’m thankful November isn’t 31 days long. Maybe next year we can do this in February!

Passing 41

I was just wasting my work day on Pinterest, when I came across a quote from “The Great Gatsby”, my favorite novel. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” That’s a great writing prompt.

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Today is my 41st birthday. In my twenties I used to read “The Great Gatsby” every year in the week leading up to my birthday. Near the climax of the book there’s a moment where Nick Carraway remembers that it’s his birthday. He’d been so caught up in everyone else’s drama that he’d forgotten. He says, “‘I just remembered that today’s my birthday.’ I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.” I loved that bit. So every year I read it, right through the drudgery that was my twenties, waiting to see that stretch of menacing road at thirty. That bit of the road is now well behind me, and I’ll say it wasn’t as menacing as Nick led me to believe. After thirty, I’d out grown Fitzgerald. I was older than the protagonists of most of his stories. I still have my well worn copies of all of his novels and short stories. They sit on my shelf as dusty memories of my own private jazz age.

Now safely in my forties, I find myself passing every new birthday feeling generally blah. This morning I went for a run. It was nearly eighty degrees, humid and still. I thought how much I can’t wait for the Fall. I love my morning runs in the Fall, especially those first mornings when it’s in the fifties and the sidewalks are littered with leaves. That’s when I come alive again.

So seeing that quote from Fitzgerald hit me right in the feels. That’s exactly where my mind was this morning and into today. I’m not feeling blah because it’s my birthday, I’m feeling blah because the summer has once again overstayed it’s welcome. My birthday isn’t the new beginning I’m waiting for. It’s the first sound of the breaking of the chrysalis. And it’s not menace up that road at all. It’s Fall. Just up the road is life’s crisp new start. And when it comes, you can bet your ass I’ll be running right through the middle of it.