Do NOT ask Marilyn

One of my secrets is that I am a regular, no, religious reader of the Sunday Parade magazine that comes with our paper.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Parade magazine. I think it’s crap. But I’m addicted to it. I must read it. I feel uncentered, unbalanced when I don’t.

First, there’s the inside cover page of celebrity gossip, usually mixed with a dose of political nonsense. (Did you know David Hasselhoff is starring in “The Producers”? You do now!)

Then there’s Howard Huge, Born Loser and other completely unfunny comics. In Step with James Brady is a great way to get the most superficial and irrelevant information on the latest teen heartthrob. And the cherry on top is Marilyn vos Savant’s “Ask Marilyn” column.

She’s a “brilliant” woman with the highest IQ ever reported, or so she says. Apparently she was once listed in the Guiness Book of World Records and plenty of articles have been written about her. [Wikipedia entry]

Anyway, her column this week has the most idiotic question and answer I’ve ever seen. Basically, imagine a plastic tube that is six inches long and six inches in interior diameter. It is laying horizontal from left to right. Then stick a three-inch-diameter ball in one end and another in the other end. The question asks if one could get the ball on the left to come out the right and vice versa.

Her answer? Yes, you can do that! Just remove the ball on the left and pull through the ball on the right. Then put the removed ball back in and pull it through the right.

Oh, that’s brilliant! Just take the balls out! It’s like going to the doctor and saying, “Hey doc., it hurts when I do this.” And the doctor says, “No problem! Just stop doing that.”

Please, people, stop asking Marilyn.

It’s in the cards

One thing that always impresses me is how there are levels of quality to everything, even if we don’t realize it.

Maybe quality isn’t the right word; craftsmanship is probably better. For example, I just bought some playing cards. You know, a deck of cards? The ones I got are 100% plastic. They don’t rip, tear, or warp. You can wash them. They’re great.

Of course they cost more than regular old paper cards, but the craftsmanship is worth it.

What’s interesting about this is that this is true with anything. Sure, there are always low-quality things that are just fine. But then there are the high-quality versions. Cars, woodwork, paper, cards, glasses, food — it’s true for everything.

Anyway, I find this interesting. I like noticing how oblivious we are, usually, to issues of quality and craftsmanship. And then every once in a while you find something and you think, wow, someone really put some thought into this.

Cold hard cash

So our house has a basement apartment that we rent out. When we first moved in, there were a couple of young men living there. They came with the house, thanks to the generous tenant laws in D.C. The two men were lovers and clearly this was their first experience living on their own.

At first, they seemed fine enough, but soon they became problematic. Late payments, late parties, demanding, rude, and so on. At the time, we were renovating the house and my wife was pregnant. It was a hectic time.

Maybe I’ll offer up a post describing the Hell we went through with them — eventually leading to eviction — but for now, I’ll just say that we’ve had better luck since them.

Our current tenants, a grad student and her chef-husband, are nothing like our first renters. Perhaps the most striking difference is that not only do they pay their rent on time, they pay in cash. Cold hard cash. Green. Money. Bills.

The first time, it was a slim envelope of 100s. Occasionally 50s and 20s work their way in, but usually it’s just 100s.

Tonight, it was thick floppy stack of 20s. “What the Hell am I going to do with this,” I thought. Put a rubber band around it and carry it in my pocket? Peel off 20s to hand to the valet, as if 20s are my pennies?

Well, what I will do with them is put them through the ATM. But even that will be a bit of a chore. You can’t just stick an inch of 20s into the machine. The envelopes can be only so thick. So I’ll have to make multiple deposits.

Oh, there are worse things, I know. But who carries a stack of cash around? I almost never have more than $10 in my wallet. In fact, I don’t even write checks any more. I use credit cards for most payments and Quicken for most bills.

Cash rarely, if ever, enters my mind. I wonder if that is common, and if so, if that’s part of the reason the national savings rate is the lowest its been in 70+ years. That would be since the Great Depression. Could that be a sign of things to come?

Hmm, that makes me think Maybe I’ll stick those 20s in my mattress. Might come in handy one day.


Tonight for Sammy’s bedtime, I sang her “Waltzing Matilda” from a book of Australian poems. She enjoyed it, but was a little confused.

“What’s a billabong?” she asked.

“It’s water; like a pond,” I said. I finished the poem and kissed her forehead. “Good night. Love you.”

“Love you too, daddy,” she said.

I closed the door and went to take care of some chores – dishes and the like. After a few
minutes, I heard singing from
her room.

“Billabong, billabong, billabong, billabong, billabong water. Sheep at the billabong, billabong, billabong. Sheep, water, billabong.”

Hey, if it works, go with it.

Long time, no post

Ok, I’m a bad blogger. Sorry for the long delay since the last post, which itself came after a long delay before the previous post.

Quick story: I’ve come up with a “motto” for my daughter, Samantha. I have her repeat after me, “No whining, no crying, no fussing, no fighting.”

She’s got it down pat. “Hey Sam, what’s our motto?”

“No whining, no crying, no fussing, no fighting.”

She’s so good! Except, when she’s not. The other day I was trying to get her dressed and for whatever reason, she was not cooperating. She was overtired and very weepy.

“Sam, now what’s our motto?” I asked encouragingly.

“I DON”T WANT A MOTTO!” she cried back.

Laughter streamed from the other room where my wife was working. Hilarity indeed.

Worst ice cream ever

Sammy says we need salt, butter, and chicken to make ice cream. “That’s what the letter says,” she advises.

By the way, cake: “salt and pepper and that’s all.”

I think I’ll skip dessert.

Finally, a post!

Okay, sorry… it’s been a while. I have a few amusing stories, but this is a quick post.


Great word. Fantastic word.

Wiper blades

Okay, I know this is trivial, but I bought some new wiper blades yesterday and they are so frickin’ cool! They were kinda expensive… $20 each (the basic ones are like $6), but these Bosch blades are designed to appear like a single flexible unit. They don’t have any brackets. It’s like a wand of rubber. Link

They perfectly conform to the windshield, and they even have this little cap that encapsulates the attachment arm.

They are just too cool. And they work great too.

This isn’t an ad, it’s just a really cool, really well designed thing I came across.

Wiper blades have made my day.

Kids bounce

Cynthia and I took Sammy to this park this evening. It was chilly and we (that is, Sammy and us) had the requisite standoff about wearing a coat. We finally settled on a fleece with a yellow slicker overcoat. I swear, we should use three-year-olds for work stoppage negotiations. They are intractable. Although I would guess they might crack under the offering of chocolate milk and cookies.

Anyway, we went to the park and had some fun. Sammy, much like me, isn’t exactly the social type. She’d rather play with people she already knows. Since her mummy and daddy were the only ones she knew, we became her default playthings.

So, we played hide and seek, tag, etc. As we were leaving, I was racing Sammy down the park. We were supposed to touch four trees in a row.

I gave her a two-tree head start and then took off. I touched the first tree, then the second. As a bore down on the diminutive three-year-old, she looked back to see where I was. As she did, she veered into my running lane. I tried to jump over her, but as she teetetered back and forth, she pinballed off my thigh. She started to go down, so I contorted my body backwards and tried to pick her up as I fell. But I couldn’t maintain my balance. She landed on her face and skidded forward. I bounced off her and fell on my shoulder.

Cynthia started shouting at me. I bounced up and picked up a dirty and stunned Sammy. Three, two, one… wahhhhhh!

As Sammy screamed into my ear and tears streamed down her cheeks, I reassurred her that everything was okay. Cynthia calmed down once she realized Sammy wasn’t broken.

By the time we walked the block and a half home, Sammy was ready to go back to the park. That’s my girl!

Fresh bread

One of my favorite things about colder weather is how much more enjoyable it is to cook, since I don’t mind heating up the house by running the oven.

Today is bread day. Sammy helps me measure and then it’s the smell of fresh bread all afternoon. Is there anything better?