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FYI: I’ll be on vacation the last two weeks of the year, so after Friday, Dec. 20, there will be inconsistent (if any) entries showing up here. I’ll be back at work on Jan. 6, and then we’ll return to the regularly scheduled program.

personal comments edit

Not a lot has gone on lately, so I haven’t updated the site. For some reason, writing out how I watched syndicated reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond and had chili dogs for dinner doesn’t sound like something I need to do. But now you know, so stop complaining.

I went to lunch yesterday at my friend Colin’s house. I mentioned him in my last post when I was talking about how I really can’t stand little kids but his kids are cool. Anyway, went to lunch over there and sort of had a little bit of my faith in humanity restored.

See, he’s got two kids - one’s 4 (Peter) and the other’s 1.5 (Tim). I think. I’m guessing at the ages because, well, I don’t remember these things (hey, it takes me a while to remember how old I am). Normally, I would not be amused by the antics or the things kids like this say and do. But certain things struck me.

For example, Colin’s wife, Kathy, was talking to me and telling me that Peter was “acting out” and she couldn’t figure out what was going on. Turns out, what she called “acting out” was him doing things like talking out of turn and not being polite. (Obviously I wasn’t there all day, but that’s what I saw.) Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s something I just assume a little kid like that will do. But it seems that can be controlled, and I find that very interesting.

Another thing: Peter was eating lunch and asked “May I please be excused to go potty?” Huh? Jenn’s niece usually just mumbles something incoherent that rhymes with “bathroom” and then whines a little and runs for the toilet. This was perfect English I was hearing. Unbelievable!

This all started me thinking, and I’d like to bring forth my (now very solid) belief: One of the prime reasons children in this country are gibbering idiots is bad parenting.

That’s right, bad parenting. It seems to me, at least by looking at these two tykes, that if you pay attention to your kids and teach them well, they may just act like the responsible human beings they’re supposed to be.

I’m not saying there’s no issue with the school system or anything else, but I think this is pretty conclusive evidence that it begins in the home and trickles out from there. Even if you have a pretty crappy school, you can at least grow up with the basics and some good common sense if you have a good parental environment.

I was considering writing an open letter to parents everywhere, right here in the blog. I may still. But for now, let’s leave it at that.

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This weekend was reasonably eventful. As always, let’s start at the top and work our way down, so the entire weekend can be savored by you just as it was by me.

Friday night Jenn and I went to Jenn’s niece’s preschool Holiday Program.


Let’s just get this out in the open right now: I don’t find small children cute, entertaining, funny, or otherwise interesting in the least. I can probably count on one hand the number of people whose kids I find cute. And the “little kid things” that kids do… eh. I don’t really care if your kid mispronounced a word or said something that you found funny. Chances are, I’m not going to. You want your kid to impress me? Have him/her speak to me in full, understandable sentences, in a coherent fashion, enunciating words so it’s clear what they have to say. That’s what impresses me. (My friend Colin’s kids freaking rule. Cute and intelligent. That’s good kids, and good parenting. I’m down with that.)

Anyway, the program… It was 20 minutes of a bunch of preschoolers not remembering the words or motions to a bunch of songs I’ve never heard before. I didn’t know what they were saying about two-thirds of the time, and I wasn’t amused.

I got dinner out of the deal, though, so I’ll call it even.

Saturday morning I took my car in for the 15,000 mile service at the dealership. Oil change, etc. One of the things I wanted them to check was the rear window washer fluid squirter doesn’t squirt so much as it just dribbles the washer fluid down the window. The front ones work well, what’s up with the back one?

Turns out, that’s the standard functionality for the thing. Dribbling. The service guy was surprised by this, too, but such is life. About $150 later I was on my way.

Saturday night the Winter Hawks put on quite a show, shutting out the Seattle Thunderbirds 5 - 0. That put our goalie, Lanny Ramage, as the record holder for most career shutouts in the Winter Hawks franchise. Pretty cool. That game was also the yearly Teddy Bear Toss, where you throw a stuffed animal out onto the ice the first goal the Winter Hawks score. This year they collected 4,275 bears, which is the record for the most bears yet. That was quite a sight to see, and the game rocked. I left the arena stoked and ready for Sunday’s game.

Sunday. Mmmmm. This is a horse of a different color.

A little family laundry to air out, here: My granddad (mom’s dad) is pretty cool. I think so, at least. He makes me laugh and he’s always doing something interesting, from digging gold out in the sticks to going down to Mexico to get all of his dental work done. He is, above all, known for his rather creative gifts, most of them involving wood products of some nature manipulated via jigsaw. Every once in a while, though, he goes on these kicks of “I’m not getting anyone anything, I hate any holidays and all gift giving.” This, friends, is one of those years.

Of course, that doesn’t apply to Granddad’s girlfriend’s family (Grandma’s dead, before you ask, so that part is kosher). Her family gets gifts of all shapes and sizes. It’s just his own family that he won’t get gifts for. I, and the rest of the family, not only find this peculiar but also frankly irritating. One would think “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” right? Treat everyone equally? Not here, man. We’re getting the short end.

I do not want to imply that I am entirely gift-driven. I don’t care one way or the other. What outrages me (and everyone else) is the unfair/unequal treatment. If anything, one would think that he’d be looking out for his own first and foremost, but that’s not what’s going on here.

Anyway, Granddad’s idea this year was that he’d get everyone together and have a holiday meal on him. Okay, I can handle that. I’m down with the food thing. Since some of the family lives in Washington and some live in northern Oregon, a halfway point needed to be chosen. This was to happen on Sunday at 11:00a.

Here’s where the fun begins.

Granddad chose a restaurant he likes called “Spiffy’s” in, uh… Chehalis? Centralia? I can’t remember. Milepost 68 on I-5 - you can’t miss it. There are only four things there: two gas stations and two places to eat. One of those places is Spiffy’s.

Not knowing what to expect, I started asking around to the various family members that had eaten there. Folks laughed when I asked about “Spiffaria’s” and asked why I hadn’t already eaten at the “Home of the Brown Lettuce.” That didn’t bring my hopes up any, but I tried to be positive.

My parents, Jenn, and I all set out for Spiffy’s around 9:00a. We were told it takes about two hours to get there, so we figured we’d get there right on time.

We pulled into Spiffy’s parking lot at 10:15a. So much for the two hours. Forty-five minutes until everyone was supposed to be there, and we’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. We drove around the two gas stations and the other place to eat (“The Mustard Seed”) and then went back to Spiffy’s when we realized there was nowhere to visit.

Spiffy’s needs a new roof. And a new sign outside. Maybe some new blinds and a paint job.

I think you see where I’m going.

Interestingly enough, Granddad and his girlfriend were already there. Guess we’re not the only ones who found that two hours was an hour too long to drive.

We went in, early as we were, and got seated in the back. On the way, I was treated to read the “Scripture of the Day” on the wall in the entryway, got to browse the stack of Jeff Foxworthy tapes by the cash register, and walked past the buffet.

We’ll get back to the buffet in a minute.

The room we were seated in, besides being unheated, had a full waiting station (cash register, milk/coffee dispensers, etc.), an organ, and a podium. Apparently this was some sort of multipurpose affair. We took our seats and made small talk until others started to arrive.

As people arrived, the trend seemed to be “everybody stand up and run to the door and greet the person coming in rather than making the person come around.” That got to be tedious, so I stopped greeting. I’m sure that was perceived as unsociable or rude, but I really don’t care. You get what you get, and that’s that.

Folks showed up I didn’t even remember. My granddad’s sister? I think I’ve seen her like twice ever. Jenn mentioned that she didn’t know anyone, and I was like, “Hey, now you know what it’s like when I go to every event with your family - thousands of people who show up that I don’t remember and will probably never see again.” That’s what it’s like, too - complete melee.

People, of course, also fawned over the children in the group (kids of my cousins… what does that make them to me? like, second cousins or something?). In light of my thoughts on how children don’t amuse me, this part of the thing didn’t have any draw for me, either.

Once things settled down a bit, we got menus to order off of. It turned out, most folks were having the buffet.

Ah, the buffet. “Home of the Brown Lettuce” accurately describes everything in the salad bar. I would not be surprised if this was leftovers from last week’s buffet. The hot foods had enjoyed some serious time under the heat lamps, and the gravy had a nice skin on it that you couldn’t readily puncture with a fork. In fact, the only things that looked decent were the baked goods, but I wasn’t in the mood for solely baked goods at the time, so the buffet was out of the question.

Instead of the buffet, I ordered a seafood pasta dinner. (Hey, dinner started at 11:30a, and by my clock, it was damn well 11:40a!) I didn’t want the salad so I substituted clam chowder. Jenn ordered the chicken cordon bleu with a baked potato.

A while later the waitress came back and said they didn’t have baked potatoes that early. Jenn was a little disappointed but got fries instead.

Shortly after that, the waitress brought everyone’s salads (for those who got the salad). At that time, she told my dad (who also ordered the chowder) and I that they were out of clam chowder, so we had our choice of chicken noodle soup or cream of rice. I don’t really like either, especially because both usually have huge vegetables floating about in them, but I picked the chicken noodle.

Our soup arrived around the time everyone was finished with their salads. I got two cracker halves with mine, and the soup had not stayed in the bowl too well, coating the outside of the bowl, the package of crackers, my spoon, and the saucer. I cleaned that up and ate the three vegetable-free bites of soup.

Around halfway through my soup, the waitress came back to tell me they didn’t have any noodles in the place (though three of the 10 dinners they offered were pasta). Great. I switched my order to the halibut dinner, same as my dad ordered. Misery loves company, right?

I finished my soup about the time the food started arriving (for those who didn’t get the buffet; the buffet eaters were almost done eating by now). A few folks got burgers (which turned out a bit dry, with lots of “filler” material on them) and Jenn’s chicken came. Sadly, the chicken seemed to have done its time under the heat lamp, too, and was bound to give her cotton mouth. There was sort of a dicey “cheese sauce” on there that looked like hollandaise, but we couldn’t figure out what it was. Either way, not good.

Dad’s halibut showed up and he started to eat. By this time, everyone’s got something but me, and I’m pretty hungry.

Fully 15 minutes after everyone’s gotten their main meal, I finally got my halibut.

I think I made out better than most folks because it was actually okay. There was a lot of it, and it seemed just a little dry, but I wasn’t expecting much. Dad liked it, too, so I think we were the only two reasonably satisfied folks there.

After everyone finished eating, we got booted from the room because a new party was coming in at 2:00 and we needed to be out by 1:00.

We left, and out in the parking lot everyone exchanged gifts. Well, not everyone. Lots of people. In the back of my parents’ car seemed to be gifts for everyone in the family. I mean, a huge pile of presents. People ran madly back and forth through the rain with their soaking packages, loading up cars and getting things moving. From my view in the backseat, I noticed two things: First, everyone had gifts for my Granddad. I found this sort of hypocritical, since no one did anything but complain about Spiffy’s. Second, when we left, our car was empty except for two or three very small packages. Everyone else seemed to have problems getting their trunks closed and so forth. I guess I feel like we got the short end of that whole deal.

Oh well. It’s over now, and that’s what matters.

That evening at 5:00p we went to the Winter Hawks game and watched them get totally trounced by Spokane. So much for the unstoppable feeling from the night before.

To close off Sunday, we watched a rockin’ episode of Alias. They’ve finally involved Marshall, the tech guy, in the missions, and that’s a lot of fun. I love that show.

And now it’s Monday. I took my car in to get the repairs on it started and when we called the car rental place, they didn’t know I was supposed to have a car. That figures. We got it set up, though (the rental chick, Carolyn, was kinda hot), and now I’m driving a 2002 Chevy Impala. It’s a little odd, considering it’s so big compared to my car, but it’s better than the Babemobile.

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Maid In Manhattan is the story of a hotel maid, Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez), who meets a rich politician, Christopher Marshall (Ralpf Fiennes). He doesn’t realize she’s a maid, they fall in love, she gets exposed, they fall apart, then they come back together.

That’s pretty much it.

Maid in Manhattan is the epitome of formulaic filmmaking. I could have written this myself in my spare time at work by printing out Cinderella and changing the names. Not ten minutes into the show, you can see what roles everyone plays in the story and you know exactly what’s going to happen. If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a thousand times. As such, I won’t go into the plot. You know the story already. If you don’t, you’ve been living in a cave.

What I will say is this: It wasn’t as bad as all that. I mean, as far as Cinderella stories go, this was an okay rendition. I’m not a big J.Lo fan, so I’m not giving extra credit that she was in it; pretty much anyone could have played any of the roles in this thing and it’d still have come out the same.

This was definitely a chick flick. Jenn walked out thinking it was pretty good. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I do think she liked it more than I did. After all, she is the proud owner of way too many Julia Roberts DVDs.

I saw it for free on a sneak preview and I’m glad I didn’t pay the full evening price for it. I could maybe see going on the matinee for a lunch date or something, but in the end, I’d say wait until it comes out and rent it. Save your money and go to Die Another Day instead.

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I went in this morning to get the estimate on the damage from the sideswipe on Friday. The body shop guy looked at it, noticed that it spread from one panel (my rear bumper) onto a second panel (I got nicked on the rear driver’s side panel, too) and let out a low whistle. I didn’t find that a good sign. My tail light on the driver’s side was also cracked.

In the end, the repair cost tallied up to $1067.38. Thank goodness for insurance, is all I have to say. The tail light alone cost like $200 to replace.

I’ll take it in Monday to have them start work on it. I’ll be getting a rental car, which is good. Last time I had to get my car fixed I ended up driving The Babemobile (which has since been sold off). I can only hope I don’t end up in some stupid Ford Escort.