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Archive for November, 2010

So, I am at home visiting the family for Thanksgiving.  My wife, and three kids braved the crazy airport scene to arrive in California where most of my family resides.  If you can avoid LAX, I highly recommend it.  We landed at 8:45 pm and did not get out of the airport until 10:15.  Here is the thing, we got all of our bags at 9:20.  It took us almost an hour just to get out of the airport, CRAZY!  The bizarre thing is that I was born and raised in LA, but now this place feels like a foreign country to me.

If you are from the Midwest, which now I must say I am a Midwesterner (You have no idea how sad it is to write that.  I am even looking at it now and thinking if I should erase it, but sadly, I can’t, the Midwest is my home now. Sad clown), you should consider a trip to LA for the experience.  I promise you, the city will not let you down.  It starts with the flight into the airport, where you will see more lights on the ground then possibly anywhere else on the planet (and I have been to a lot of the planet).  When you arrive, you will see every walk of life; black, white, hispanic, asian, muslim, greek, jews, gentiles, you name it, they will be there.  Also, foreign languages will be spoken all around you.  When I go to the grocery store near my mom’s house, the dominant language by far is Spanish.  You might find that odd, I find it very cool.  The bottom line is, despite having way too many people, too many cars, traffic at 3am, and times of smog that could kill a canary, I love LA.  However, I now must say, great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here.

Alright, now that was a huge digression.  I want to talk about family, my family, all of my family.  On Thanksgiving we ate at my Dad’s house. 

This picture is nothing like dinner at our house. First of all there are no ribs in the picture. Secondly, there is no can-shaped cranberry sauce (A must have. Don't eat, but must have). And who eats fresh green beans? Where is the green bean crap?

At the house were my father, stepmother, stepsisters and their families, my stepbrother and his family, my sister and her kids, my cousins, my family, some random people I didn’t know and my mom.  There was like 35 of us.  The dinner was planned and hosted by my stepmom and it was a great time.  There were babies everywhere and multiple generations.  We shared stories, laughed, and ate; we ate a lot.  Looking around the gathering I couldn’t help but think to myself, this is who I am, this is me.  All of this is what has made me who I am and if you are like me, I would encourage you to embrace that fact.  Your family and my family has made us who we are today.

My sister who tells a story of my father’s arrogance.  She says, “Am I right? He is arrogant!”  My father notices that no one is disagreeing with her.  Everyone in the room doesn’t say a word as everyone looks at each other and bust out laughing because we all know it’s true.  Even my mom chimes in on how my father has the ability to smooth talk his way through any situation, fully expecting to get his way. – this is me.

We share how my mother used to make all of us stand in line at the grocery store as she headed back into the store to find more items.  If she came back and we did not hold our position, or if the checker made us move, she would get mad at us for not standing our ground.  Always stand your ground. – this is me.

My father talked of not knowing his father and being raised by his mother.  It is very clear that despite not being raised by his father that he did not take that path.  He broke his cycle, and became a father to his kids, all of his kids.  You see, my sister’s dad is not my dad, nor my older brother’s, and obviously not my stepbrother’s and stepsisters’, but you wouldn’t know it in that room.  He may not be the father by blood, but he is father by action. – this too is me.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I hope you spent the time with your family.  Maybe it was stressful, maybe it was joyous, maybe your drunk uncle got out of control again, but remember this:  Your family has made you who you are, some for the good, and some for the bad, but all you, and if you take a moment, you will see the little origins of you in the faces and actions of your family members.

I could go on and on with family stories from this weekend, but what I will remember most is that we may not be the Brady Bunch, the Cleaver’s or even the Cosby’s, but we are truly the Modern Family.  They made me who I am.  And remember this, if your family is the best at pushing your buttons, you shouldn’t be surprised because they are the ones that installed them.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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I went golfing with my father, brother and stepbrother yesterday.  It was awesome.  So awesome we are going to try to do it every year.  The funny thing is we all complained of the cold.  I live in Wisconsin, so it made me laugh because the temperature was about 60.  I now know why I hate Wisconsin winters so much, I clearly have a California weather gene.  I’m just sayin …

I’m Just sayin … (Part II)

Is it just me or when you go home you walk through a time warp and the family dynamics become that of when you were a kid?  I’m a grown-ass man with kids, but when I am home I can’t help but wonder why it’s Thanksgiving and my mom has not made my apple pie yet.  I may throw a tantrum soon.  Wrong? Yes, but true.  I’m just sayin …

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So, I am married to an emotional being.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to make fun of her or claim that she is some crazy b&#$! or something, because she is not.  I love her to death.  I say that mostly because it is true, and partially because she reads my blog.  She actually doesn’t read my blog regularly, I don’t know why.  She reads it in batches and is never up to date.  For example, recently I told her that I was going to the bathroom and she asked “Because you have to go, or because you need a break from your family?”  At first I was confused by this response, then I realized, wait, that is from my blog (see Everyone Poops …).  So, I clearly need to make sure that what I write here does not get me into trouble.

Ah fuck it!  If I can’t say it here, I shouldn’t say it at all.  Pardon the language, but that is how I feel.  I digress.

As I was saying, my wife is an emotional being.  This is an issue.  It is an issue mainly because I am not.  Now, I am not a robot, but let’s just say that I could vacation on Vulcan and have a good time.  If you have no idea what Vulcan has to do with emotions, than you are a better person than I.  It also most likely means you were having sex in high school, while I was not.  Once again, I digress.  It’s not that I can’t be emotional, it is just that under most scenarios, I do not find emotions helpful.  Let me paint a picture for you of an actual exchange between my wife and I.  Now, this exchange is true in nature, but not true in fact.  In other words, the following conversation has never actually happened, but if you were to exchange the topic for just about anything else, it probably at one time or another has happened in my home:

HER: “Hey Love, can we talk?”

[Note: NO conversation that begins with “Can we talk?” is ever good.  If your wife ever opens up a sentence with “Hey, can we talk?”  “Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen!” cause you are in for a bumpy ride.  If you don’t know where the “…linen” quote is from, again, sex in high school.  It’s called trade-offs.  My point is, as soon as she says “Hey” I know that the next few moments are not going to end well for me.]

ME: “Sure. What’s up?”

HER:  I’m tired.  I am sick of being tired.

ME:  You should try to get more sleep.

HER:  I can’t get more sleep.  I have too much work to do.  Between work, the kids, the house, making food, cleaning … and you, there is not enough time in the day.

ME:  Then you should cut out some of those things so that you don’t have as much work to do.  I could even help out more.

[Note:  Did yo notice that last sentence?  You see I am not an idiot.  I know that my wife works a lot and I can be a pill sometimes.  So, I am offering to help.  I am a great guy! Right?  WRONG! Let’s continue]

HER:  “I can’t just stop doing things!  Those things are important to me.  I do them because they are important to me, my family is important to me.  And because of all the things that need to get done, I am stressed about stuff and I don’t get enough sleep.”

[The following line is a rookie mistake.  I know it every time I say it, but I can’t help myself.]

ME:  Then what do you want from me?

HER:  I just want you to listen!  God!  Why are you such an ass!

ME:  Sorry.  Umm, I hate to change the subject, but do you know where my tool box is?

HER:  It is probably in the garage.  Why?

ME:  Oh no reason, I just need to go drill a hole in my skull.  I am pretty sure it will take me to a better place then the rest of this conversation.

[And scene]

OK, the last part never actually happens, at least not out loud.  So, here is the thing, and I know at least half of my reading audience is thinking “Why can’t you understand?” and the other half is screaming “Preach it brutha!”, but this is a story more about me than her.  You see my wife is an emotional being, but I am a problem solver.  In my mind, I have absolutely no idea how listening to a problem will ever solve a problem.  Just because you name a problem does not make it go away, it’s not Rumpelstiltskin (OK, if you don’t get that reference, then you just need to read more.  That or watch more cartoons).  However, for emotional beings, just talking about a problem makes them feel better.  I will never understand this, but it’s true.

It’s funny, on paper, my wife and I should never work, but we do.  Although I can do without emotions much of my life, they are important to the world and to me.  Much like politics, having extremes can bring things closer to the middle where things belong.  She also just keeps me in check.  She is not afraid to tell me I’m an ass sometimes and that’s a fact.  I’m also a little afraid of her.  A healthy fear, I think, but I am fairly certain that although I am more than twice her size, she would kick my ass in a fight.  I’ve seen her angry.  If you know her you might not believe me, because she is a sweet person, but think Hulk, probably not green Hulk, but gray Hulk (again, high school).

So, to all you emotional beings out there, stay emotional.  But don’t forget, in the long run, problems should never stay problems, they need to be solved.  So, make sure that you keep that problem solver in your life, they serve an important purpose.  And I am learning, as a problem solver, that a hug may not solve the problem, but it will sure make life a lot happier and make life less like high school, if you know what I mean.
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My oldest son had his first karate lesson yesterday.  It was a free trial with him and the instructor.  He gets three more lessons at a reduced rate, then if he wants to continue he will join a group.  During the lesson, he could not contain his excitement.  His entire body was smiling.  It was fun to watch.  I have decided that one of the perks of children is getting reminders of “pure” joy.  It is like the first time you do something you always wanted to do, like riding your bike, your first Christmas, Disneyland or sex, it’s amazing how exciting it is your first time.  Actually, probably not sex, that is more awkward and generally gets better once you know what you are doing, but maybe that’s just me. [awkward pause]  Anyway, it was fun to watch.  Possibly the greatest perk to being a parent is seeing joy in your kids.  Not funny, but true.  I’m just sayin …

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Required reading for EVERYONE.

So, I do not use public bathrooms, at least for #2.  Never have, never will.  If you see me taking a poop in a public bathroom, I can guarantee you I was seconds from messing my pants.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m weird, I get that.  I do not blame people for using the public bathroom, but for me there are too many issues.

The first issue is cleanliness.  Do you know where most people have been? Exactly.  Just gross.  And this in spite the fact that the toilet is possibly the cleanest surface in the house.  Don’t believe me?  See Mythbusters episode 135: Hidden Nasties.  I don’t care, if it ain’t my toilet seat, or a close family member’s seat, I don’t trust it.

Secondly, privacy.  I want the illusion that no one is in ear shot of my business.

Third, privacy.  I sometimes go to the bathroom just to get some time to myself.  Especially at home with my three kids.  And no Isaac, it is neither a spectator sport nor a group activity.  I don’t know if you have little children, but my 3-year-old still doesn’t understand why I need to go to the bathroom by myself.  It is also a great place to get caught up on fun light reading.

Finally, like parents having sex, I would prefer the world not know I actually do that.  I also feel this way about the world.  I do not want to know that you poop.  I don’t care what the classic literature says “Everyone Poops”.  I do not want to know that you poop.

So, here is ONE simple rule I have for everyone that chooses to poop in a public bathroom:

Never, and I mean NEVER leave the stall while I am in the bathroom.

That’s it.

I get that you gotta go, but I do not want to put a face with what I just heard, smelled, and experienced of whatever you were doing in there.  I just don’t.  Bring a magazine, take a pencil to write on the wall, hum your favorite tune quietly to yourself, plan your day, but whatever you do, do not leave that stall until I have washed my hands and left the room.  As far as I am concerned, this is common courtesy.  I’m just sayin …

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So, what would you do if you knew you were going to die before the age of 50 and the last 10 years of that life would be in various stages of dementia?

I teach introductory biology at the college level.  Every year about this time I am finishing up the genetics portion of the class, specifically inheritance.  We talk about dominant versus recessive traits and what they mean for diseases, such as Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s Disease is determined by a dominant gene.  What this means is that if you receive the defective gene from your mother or father, you will have the disease.  This is in contrast to a disease like Sickle Cell Anemia which is a recessive disorder, meaning you must receive the defective genes from BOTH your parents.  If you have Huntington’s disease (a dominant disorder) and you have children, there is a 50% chance that your child will also have the disorder.  It would be like flipping a coin, heads your child has the disease, tails they do not.

What is Huntington’s Disease (HD)?  Huntington’s is a disorder that affects the nervous system.  People with HD will lose muscle control, and most noticeably, loss of mind control.  They will eventually develop the characteristics of someone with Alzheimer’s and then die.  Currently there is no cure.  Once symptoms begin, the life expectancy is 10-20 years.  Symptoms can begin as early as age 20.  Although there is no cure, the test to determine if you have HD is relatively simple.  As a matter of fact, we simulate testing for HD in the introductory biology lab.

So, why am I writing about this?  Well, every year I ask my students a simple question: If one of your parents had HD, would you want to know if you have it?  There is a 50% chance that if your parents have HD, you will develop it as well.  I generally get a 50/50 split on those that would want to know and those that would not, however, if a students wants to know if they have HD, the reason is always the same.  I have paraphrased the most common reason below:

“I would want to know if I have HD because I would live my life differently.  I’d have more fun, do the things that I want to do, knowing that I would die in the relatively near future.”

And my response is always the same:

“Why aren’t you living your life that way NOW?”

So, my question to all my readers out there is; “Why aren’t you living your life that way NOW?”

I am always amazed at the number of people that I meet that are miserable, I mean just plain miserable.  They hate their jobs, they hate their marriage, they hate people, and in general they hate their life.  Don’t get me wrong, I hate people, but I don’t hate life.  I love my life.  It is not perfect, but there really isn’t much I’d do different if I knew I were to die tomorrow.  Actually, that is not true, if I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I certainly wouldn’t spend it at work, but if I knew I was going to die in 10 years, I don’t think I would quit my job.  I like my job.  Trust me, my life is not perfect, but I can honestly say that I would not plan drastic changes for my life.

What I think the Huntington’s Disease question does is make you think about how you are living your life.  Are you living a life that you are proud of? Happy with?  Or, like my students, would you make drastic changes if you knew you would die in 10 or 20 years?  Do the people in your life know that you love them?  Are you making choices that make you happy, or are you waiting for the world to be different so that you may reap its benefits?  Trust me, if the latter is you, wait no longer, because the world ain’t changing.

If you believe in God, are you right with Him?  If you don’t believe in God, are you OK with that?  How will people look at your life after your gone?  “I can’t say much about Frank, but one thing I do know, is that man loved to sit on the couch and watch TV.”  Will this be you?  Funny thing is, that is partially me, and I am OK with that.  The bottom line, are you OK with things, knowing that one day you will die?  I’m not saying eat, drink, and be merry, but be right with yourself, and be happy with where you are NOW, for tomorrow we die.
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If I die tomorrow after posting this blog, know this, I died pissed.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in what I wrote above, it has more to do with the fact that I HATE irony.  If I die tomorrow, you know what people will be talking about, this stupid post.  I am almost not going to post this for that very fact.  So, if I do die tomorrow, and you are being interviewed about this post, here is how I want it to go down.  “Excuse me miss, it is my understanding that you read Brett’s post before he died?  How did that make you feel?  Was it eery?”  Here is what I want your response to be:

“Post, what post? Ohhh, the one about dying?  Yeah, that sucked.  No, not that part about him dying, but the post.  It just wasn’t his best.  He even bragged about it as one of his favorites.  Honestly, I just didn’t get it.  I did like the post about the McRib though.  Mmmmmm, McRib.  As a matter of fact, I’m heading to get one now.  Gotta run.  Peace!”  [Give your back hand of the two-finger peace sign and bounce].

Then the McRib has it’s best-selling year EVER!  How could you not think of me every time you saw the McRib.  Pure Awesomeness!  I’m just sayin’ …

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So, this week McDonald’s has brought back the McRib. Now for those of my readers that actually know me, you know that I can throw down some barbecue. People have raved about my homemade BBQ sauce and I have even barbecued for a wedding. There is a camp in California (Calvin Crest) where the program coordinator has been trying to perfect my sauce for the last 12 years. My mom, who is an expert, although would never admit it, is starting to use my techniques in her Q. She won’t admit it, but that is a fact.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. The McRib is back. The sauce is lacking, it has a tangyness that is weak, the pickles and onions are lackluster at best and the bun can be a tad pit rubbery, and I LOVE IT!

Maybe because it is hyped up, or maybe because it is offered for a limited time only, or maybe because it is laced with cocaine, I don’t know, but I get excited every year for it. Why? I don’t know. It is NOT quality food. For many of you, it is the Shamrock shake, also offered for limited time only, but people go crazy over that shake. It is the exact same shake as the rest of them, but with mint flavor and green food coloring. I don’t get it. I am confident that McDonald’s has a deal with the devil, an employed shaman, or crack dealers that add tiny bits of cocaine to their food items. The latter would at least explain how kids get hooked on the stuff and why I get excited over the McRib. Nonetheless, I will be getting another one today. Who’s with me?

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I wonder if limited time only is everything.  I love turkey.  Do you love turkey?  If you don’t it might mean that the person who is cooking it for you makes it dry.  I don’t like dry turkey, but good juicy turkey is the best.  After Thanksgiving, who doesn’t eat turkey everyday for at least a week.  However, the year after Thanksgiving, who eats turkey? No one. Turkey needs a new agent, or maybe it has the same agent as the McRib where Limited Time Only is everything.  I’m just sayin …

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So, yesterday was election day.  I wish I had more time to give this post the attention it deserves, but it is either a quick post or no post at all.

Our neighbor has a “Vote Pro-Life” sign.  I hate it.  I hate signs in the yard in general.  I also hate bumper stickers.  Not the funny ones, but any bumper sticker that tells me any information about you.  I don’t care about you, and I especially don’t care how smart your kid is or who you plan on voting for, but I digress.  The reason I bring up the sign is because I think voting for anyone because of ONE issue is asinine.  I will NEVER vote for a person because of their stance on abortion, but people do, and I don’t get this.  First of all, no one, neither Republican nor Democrat has touched Roe v. Wade, but most of all, how can an entire politician be summed up by one political stance?  I also find it fascinating that many that are pro-life are also pro-death penalty.  People say, “I’m pro-life because murder is wrong and I am pro death penalty because murder is wrong.” WHAT !?!?  This kind of hypocrisy sickens me.

The other issue I hate are people who vote their party.  How does this make sense?  Are you telling me that ALL Republicans are right and ALL Democrats are wrong, or vice versa?  This is stupid.  If I told you I was Democrat and pro-life (a stupid phrase by the way) would your head explode?  Think about it, who isn’t pro-life?  We are all pro-life, unless we are psycho, just differ on the role of government in the woman’s womb.  Huh? I wonder if we can call pro-choice people Tea Partyist, because they want to reduce government in the womb?

My whole point is that the system is broken, people are crazy and stupid, and no one truly knows what is going on.  This makes me sad, because at the end of the day, people are either voting with little information about the candidates, voting blindly for their party, voting based on who Fox News tells them to vote for, or are not voting at all.  And one wonders why things get so screwed up in this country.

And why does running for election require so much money?  Are you telling me that with the “free” technology of the internet, one could not get their message across to millions of people without spending millions of dollars?  Here is a simple campaign reform: No one is allowed to spend more than $50,000.  Third party commercials/advertising is illegal.  Major parties can still hold conventions to select a candidate.  Anyone found to accept money from outside sources will be disqualified.  Debates are paid for by a government fund and each candidate gets to run ONE 20-second commercial also paid for by a government fund.  Simple.  How would this NOT work?  Eliminate money, and maybe, just maybe, we will get politicians that will do what is right and not try to placate their money sources.

I’m sick, just sick with our current system, and no I am NOT a communist, I just think we are smart enough, we have the technology, and have evolved to do better.  Just my opinion.

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Do you read the Harry Potter books?  Remember when there was a new Minister of Magic (or something like that) and when he got in office there was this talking painting that told him all the secrets of the previous Ministers?  His response was like, “Why wasn’t I told about this before I took office?”  And the talking painting asked him “Are you going to tell the next guy all this?”  I think there is a talking painting of George Washington in the Oval Office that tells each President secrets.  Remember when Obama said he would make government transparent.  I think painting George has told him some crazy stuff, and Obama’s reactions was, “Shoot, I can’t tell people this.”  What other explanation is there for EVERY president NOT doing what they said they would.  There is a talking painting in there, I know it!  What other explanation can there be?  I’m just sayin …

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