Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Resolutions

It's the time of year when everyone starts to think about making resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. I don't really get into the New Years celebration of counting down and banging pots and pans but I do like making resolutions.

Last week my son asked if I was going to make any resolutions again this year. I told him I was and he said something to the effect that there is an entire galaxy of empty and unfulfilled resolutions I have set in my life. Thanks for noticing bud. At least I'm not alone. Every year I set goals and I usually accomplish very few of them. Despite the poor track record I won't stop trying. Just like Paul Newman in the boxing scene of Cool Hand Luke I will keep getting up after each blow even when everyone is telling me to stay down.

My goals for 2009 are:
1-Run a marathon in under 4 hours
2-Get 100 Followers on my blog
3-Graduate from College (19 years after enrolling)
4-Grow something besides squash in my garden
5-Be able to dunk a basketball in a game again
6-Pass legislation requiring identical twins to have the same name
7-Make some kind of low budget short film (I've been threatening to do this for over 20 years)
8-Dig myself out of the Hiroshima debt crater I'm in
9-Teach my family to perform the Duel of the Fates song from Phantom Menace
10-Become part of the Fed so I can print all the money I want without any consequences

These might seem lofty or unreal to some people but I just might accomplish one or two of them in the next 365 days. Now that I've laid out my plans I hope you are inspired and will set some goals for yourself for 2009. So tonight when you hear that lame song about forgetting your acquaintances remember to make some resolutions. Come on, it's cool and every one's doing it!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Years ago I was vacationing in Italy. The group I was with attended several dinners that featured background music performed by live musicians. During the meal they would come around the tables and play the violin and serenade you and basically sit on your lap and make faces until you tipped them. It added some ambiance to the meal but it was obnoxious.

I haven't always been a big fan of tipping. I guess I'm just cheap. I actually don't mind tipping when someone provides good service but I hate being expected to tip at some fast food places where they have a tip jar at the register or at a buffet where you serve yourself and an employee occasionally comes by your table and asks if everything tastes good.

When I go out to eat with a large group of friends the waiter usually informs us that the restaurant will automatically add a 15% gratuity for the entire group. I think the servers get shortchanged when this happens since most groups I've been with would usually tip better than that as long as the service is decent. Years ago I went out to eat with a large group of extended family members. The server that helped us took orders for nearly 20 people in our group and never wrote one thing down. She got all the orders right from memory and we were amazed with her service. She obviously got a good tip.

My son recently got a job playing the piano in an upscale restaurant. He plays background music and is paid exclusively by tips. He has learned that some people are more generous than others. One guy called him at home and requested that he learn his girl friend's favorite song since he was going to propose to her at the restaurant and wanted to have that song performed during his proposal . My son learned the piece and performed it during this special moment and everything seemed to go well until the couple finished their meal then walked out of the restaurant and didn't even tip him. I guess I'm not the cheapest tipper after all.

I feel bad for servers, hair dressers, and other hard working people who rely on tips as part of their compensation for the service they render. I'm sure many of them could tell horror stories about the tight wads they've encountered over the years. I think one of the biggest tipping offenses is when people don't tip bloggers. Many people don't realize you are supposed to or even know how. Experts recommend that is customary to comment and give feedback on the posts, refer friends, check out their other blogs, and of course actually tipping them with cash is always appreciated.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Role Models

About 15 years ago I was reading a leadership book by John Maxwell and he mentioned the account of of a young man who worked his way up from nothing to become one of the great success stories of our day. The man was OJ Simpson. The book was obviously published before OJ got into trouble with the law. I really used to like OJ prior to his widely publicized criminal activity. Over the years I've seen many role models and examples fall from grace and as a result I've been more hesitant to look up to people as examples for fear of being let down.

In our society few people look up to people like mother Teresa and Gandhi but instead they idolize Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and other celebrities. I know it's easy to bash celebrities who's scandalous lives are regularly featured in the news but I'd rather not do that now. Today in the holiday spirit I'd like to give some props to some positive examples who have inspired me over the years.

One of the coolest stories I have seen involves Dick and Rick Hoyt. Rick has cerebral palsy and he and his father have competed as a team in hundreds of marathons and triathlons over the years. No only do they participate in these events, but they compete with impressive times. They are amazing. If you haven't seen them before I have included a video link here.

After thinking about it I've realized there are actually many people who's examples we can emulate. They don't have to be famous to be a role model. They are often friends, neighbors and family members. At this time of year I am especially grateful for the the ultimate example of how to live. This role model is free of scandal and is the perfect example. We can follow him without fear of being let down. Thank you Jesus. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Requests Anyone?

I have recently attempted to increase the quality and quantity of posts on my blogs. It can be hard work coming up with a topic. Sometimes I feel like Bob and Doug McKenzie of The Great White North trying to come up with the topic of the day. I'm sure many of my posts sound as eloquent as theirs too eh?

So I have an idea how I can give back to my vast group of blog followers. I'd like to return the favor to all 6 of you and let you request what topics you'd like me to address. Please use the comment section aka "my tip jar" to list any topic you'd enjoy having me write about.

I am also open to any general suggestions you may have about my blog unless they entail me hitting the "delete this blog" button on my settings.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rip Off Car Repairs

A few weeks ago I heard one of Jerry Seinfeld's jokes that I really related to. He mentioned how when his car breaks down it is customary to pop the hood and try to pinpoint the problem. He then said unless there is a giant on/off switch under the hood that just happens to be in the off position then he is screwed. That totally describes me.

I have never been much of a mechanic. I even struggled maintaining my own bike as a kid. When I go to Pep Boys or Auto Zone I usually buy things like air fresheners, sponges, and glass cleaner. I see other men lugging in oily car parts and talking in code language to the guys behind the counter. I know they are just putting on a show because they have a low self esteem and are intimidated by me.

I can actually name several parts of my car that are found under the hood. I can locate the battery, air filter, windshield wiper fluid reservoir (my favorite part), the radiator, and that big metal thing that burns you if you touch it. Aside from these parts the rest is just a bunch of confusion. I cold probably make repairs to the space shuttle as easily as I could my own car. Fortunately my repairs have been kept to a minimum recently unlike other times when everything seems to break simultaneously.

I used to hate it when I had to take my car to a mechanic because I never knew if they were taking advantage of me. You've probably seen the equivalent of "To Catch A Predator" that dateline does on car repair scams. A mechanic can tell within a few seconds of conversation if you understand cars or not. It's kind of like how a dog can sense if you are scared of it. It reminds me of the scene in Vacation when Clark Griswold's car breaks down near the Grand Canyon and he goes to the local gas station. When he asks how much the repairs will cost the red neck mechanic just smiles and says "How much you got?" I hate the vulnerable feeling of not having the automotive knowledge needed to know if you are being ripped off.

Several years ago I learned that the husband of a coworker was a mechanic. At times he would come to our house to work on ailing vehicles. I tried to use those moments to teach my boys about being a man. I would point out the tires and windshield wipers to them as he worked on the car so they would think I was in on the repairs. Over the years he has fixed my cars many times and does great work for much less than other mechanics but the best part is that I can trust him. He gives me the old broken parts after making repairs and actually shows me what he did. One of my little boy's called him "Car Fix" and the name sort of stuck.

Having a good mechanic is as important as a good lawyer or family doctor and I happen to think that Car Fix is the Thomas Moore of the car repair industry.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Facial Hair 101

Facial hair is a gift. Some guys look good with it and others don't. I'm one of those who don't and that's why I only dabble with beard growing once a year around Christmas time. The problem with being clean shaven all the time is that when you do start to grow some scruff everyone makes a big deal out of it. To avoid the attention and questions I just tell people I'm growing it so I can audition for the role of Tevye in Fiddler on The Roof.

I have categorized and given a brief summary and examples of the 11 most common facial hair styles. For your viewing pleasure I have even included some visual aids which was no small task considering how difficult it is to import more than one picture into blogger.

1) The Original Moustache-This look was more popular in the 70's and 80's and was glorified by Tom Selleck. Today it is mostly sported by law enforcement officials.
2) The Goatee/Van Dyke-Is more popular today. This look was originally made popular by Satan then by Rembrandt paintings. Today it is a favorite of Stone Cold Austin and Jim Rome.
3) The Handle Bar Moustache-This is an ugly style but I won't say that to Hulk Hogan's face. If you let it grow really long and thin it out you have it's cousin which is...
4) The Fu Man Chu-The kung fu master look is especially beneficial if you are trying to get people to snatch pebbles from your hand.
5) The Stubble Beard-Don Johnson of Miami Vice and George Michael made the 5 o clock shadow beard popular.
6) The Full Beard-James Brolin has the best full beard I've ever seen. It is a full look yet it's trimmed and clean looking.
7) Mutton Chops-Also known as the reverse goatee. This is a nasty look that is achieved by only shaving the immediate chin area. Wolverine fits the description.
8) The Chinstrap-This one gives me the chills. Captain Ahab and Abraham Lincoln sported this look as does Mose from The Office. It's basically one long side burn or a uni-burn.
9) The Long Beard- Also known as the ZZ Top, the Civil War General, the Castaway, or homeless look.
10) The Soul Patch-This could also be called the hairy lower lip or "oops I missed a spot for an entire month." Thank you Howie Mandel.
11) The Waxed Moustache-Salvador Dali and Rollie Fingers take this look to the limit. It should only be appropriate if you are a member of a barbershop quartet.

After reviewing all these fashion statements I just might consider having a hairy face more often than once a year.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Super Heroes

When I was a little kid my favorite cartoon was Super Friends. Aqua Man was my favorite. I'm not sure why since he is the least cool superhero and I have always hated water. Even as a kid I noticed that Super Friends was a little bit formulaic. In almost every episode they would find themselves in the villain's trap and would say "Getting dizzy, must contact Hall of Justice... or getting weaker must reach bat utility belt...". I also loved the narrator's customary segway "Meanwhile over the Mohave Desert... " The only negative was the inclusion of the Wonder Twins and Gleek. They were an abomination and didn't belong with the cool superheroes. As much as I disliked them I have to admit I have been guilty of doing the "form of a woolly mammoth/form of an ice shield" routine with friends to get our powers to activate over the years.

Most guys like superheroes. You can come up to any guy on the street and ask him what super powers he wishes he had and he will immediately share several answers. Girls on the other hand will just roll their eyes and think you are stupid. Growing up I could probably only name the most popular ones like: Superman, Batman, Hulk, Wonder Woman, The Fantastic Four, Captain America, and maybe a few others. Anyone who really knows superheroes would considered me a poser since I have never purchased a comic book and probably only know 1/10th of the actual superheroes that exist. The main comic book publishers are DC, Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse and they have created hundreds of characters over the years.

Most people probably hadn't heard of Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, Daredevil, Hell Boy, Elektra, or the Phantom before movies came out about them. I've been surprised to learn that some movies were based on comic books because they don't fit the typical superhero mold and there is nothing comical about them. Some of the darker ones are Blade, The Punisher, Spawn, Watchmen, Judge Dredd, etc. There have been some good superhero movies over the years. I've ranked my all time favorites below:

The Matrix (Neo may not be thought of as a traditional superhero but he flies.)
Iron Man
Batman Begins/The Dark Knight
Spider Man
Superman (Although the continual sequels just kept getting worse)
Hulk (The most recent one)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Tree Decorating

It's interesting to see how some people take holiday traditions so seriously. I remember Christmas the year I got married. As newlyweds we had to negotiate and compromise some of our traditions. It was interesting to see who had the dominant Christmas gene and ended up getting their way with the following questions. Does Santa wrap presents and put them under the tree or just arrange them on the couch cushions? Can we open a present on Christmas Eve? and the biggest one of all, should we have a fake or real tree?

I have participated in the fake tree vs. real tree debate for many years and with many people. I have learned that most people take less offense if you make fun of their mother than they do by expressing your tree preferences. I also call this debate the symmetrical beautiful looking safe tree vs. the sappy shedding needles fire hazard Dr. Seuss looking tree. I guess you can tell my preference. Even though I am an artificial tree enthusiast I will be the first to admit there is something unnatural about dusting and assembling a tree but I think they look much nicer as long as you don't get the really cheap ones. I know that a real tree also has a nice smell to it but the smell alone is not worth the trade off of your Christmas tree looking like a cactus or a bush.

Some people are so distracted by the holiday spirit that they don't realize that there is a right way to decorate a tree. The first step is to string the lights. Please don't use giant outdoor lights on an indoor tree! Do not wrap the light strands tightly in circles around the tree like you are trying to tie someone up. The lights are the foundation of a well decorated tree. I'm pretty sure I have OCD when it comes to tree lights. In the past I have taken them off and started over and rearranged them several times until it "felt" just right.

Ornament placement is an important part of a good looking tree but many people mess it up. Hang larger ornaments down low and smaller ones up higher up. Any ugly ones that you feel obligated to use can go around the back where nobody can see them. Symmetry and spacing are crucial so I don't let the kids do too much of the decorating and when I do I will usually rearrange them when they are not looking. By the time I'm done decorating our tree it looks great, but my kids are a little bit scared of me. It's ironic that someone with such enthusiasm for holiday decorating can give off the same vibes as Ebenezer Scrooge and micromanage the fun out of it.

Once the tree is decorated I turn off the other room lights and just sit down and just watch it while listening to Christmas music. This is a beautiful time. I enjoy it while I can because it is guaranteed that one of the sets of lights will burn out a week or two before Christmas. I cherish the time I spend reverently basking in the light of this sacred and beautiful symbol because after December 25th it is just a depressing, presentless, pain in the butt mess to clean up and put away.

I realize that in the past I have been too judgemental of other's trees and decorations. This year I think my heart finally grew a few sizes bigger as I watched my kids attempt to help me decorate our tree. I have been a Christmas tree elitist all my life and it has taken me a long time to chill out and understand that people who string popcorn or hang tinsel from their trees deserve to have a good Christmas too no matter how bad their trees might look. Just because my tree looks better than yours doesn't mean you can't enjoy yours. Merry Christmas.