Friday, February 29, 2008

In The Land Of Peat And Honey

Tonight several of us are off to a tasting at a nearby restaurant, with twenty single malts available for comparison. Surprisingly, our wives are less enthusiastic about this than one would guess.

"You're going with H., and O. to a Scotch drinking contest?" my Lovely Bride asked skeptically.

"It's not a contest," I said. "It's a tasting."

"It'll turn into a contest," said O.'s wife.

"That's a hurtful comment," I said.

"You'll be hurting Saturday morning," said the Lovely Bride. "Make sure you have cab fare, okay?"

"Don't worry, E.'s driving." E. doesn't drink.

"Perfect," said O.'s wife. "The Three Stooges won't have any incentive to be responsible."

"Why is E. going to a Scotch tasting?" the Lovely Bride asked.

"Because we're so much fun to be with?" I suggested.

"More likely because he's afraid he'll have to help raise our kids if you get killed in a car accident," she replied.

Even I recognize the folly of an outing like this on an empty stomach. H. and I have therefore made plans to eat at a different restaurant beforehand.

"Let me get this straight," said the Lovely Bride. "You're going to gorge yourself on liver and onions and then dump Scotch on top of it."

"I wouldn't put it quite like that," I said.

"Was my statement accurate?" she asked.

"It's your tone. You're being hurtful again. Why can't I have a hobby?"

"Most people don't consider cholesterol and liquor hobbies."

"Most people don't have my refined sensibilities."

"I have a lot to get done tomorrow," she said. "Do not come home and start singing if I'm asleep."

"I offer you the gift of music and this is the thanks I get," I said.

"The thanks you're going to get is a night on the couch."

"Our boys love me," I said.

"Maybe," she said. "Parental imprinting is genetic, though. Don't be too impressed with yourself."

I reached over and gave her a smooch on the cheek. "You're my snookums," I told her.

"I'll leave a blanket out for you," she said.

UPDATE: We tried: Clynelish 14 year, Glenkinchie 12 year, Cragganmore 12 year, Dalwhinnie 15 year, Oban 14 year, Talisker 1o year, Talisker Distillers, Caol Ila 12 year, Lagavulin 16 year, and Johnny Walker Green. The Glenkinchie, Dalwhinnie, and Lagavulin were my favorites but I don't like a ton of peat. The Talisker 10 year tasted like moose.

The evening began with prime rib and a side of lamb chops and ended with karaoke. Don't ask.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Field Of Nightmares

My youngest son's friend was over today after school.

"Want to go see the girl's basketball game tonight?" I asked. This year's team is better than any other high school basketball team I've ever seen, of either gender. Their style of play is what you'd expect if Dean Smith choreographed Stravinsky's Firebird.

"I can't," he said. "I've got a fantasy baseball draft tonight."

"No, that's not until a week from Sunday," I told him. Like last year, a group of fathers and sons are forming a fantasy league.

"This is a different one," he said.

"Who's running it?" I asked.

"Some guy," he said.

"Who?" I asked again, suddenly more curious.

"Some guy in North Carolina. I found out about it on the internet."

"A grown up?"

"Yeah. I think he's retarded though."

"What are you talking about?" I demanded. "You're playing fantasy baseball with a retarded adult from North Carolina you met online?"

"Yeah," he repeated.

"Do your parents know about this?"

"Not yet," he said. "Why?"

Just then his dad arrived to pick him up. "Are you going to the game with Snag?" he asked.

"He can't," I said. "He's got to get home for the fantasy league draft."

"What league?" his father asked.

"The one he's in with some guy he met in a chat room," I said.

"Huh? You make less sense than my kid." Turning to his son he asked, "What's he talking about?"

"Tell your dad," I encouraged.

"I'm going to join a league this guy's running. And it wasn't a chat room."

"Who?" asked his father. The conversation was starting to sound familiar.

"A retarded man in North Carolina," I offered helpfully.

"No," my friend said, glaring at his son.

"But. . . . "

"No. No. No. No. No."

"But. . . ."

"Don't you know anything about internet safety?" he asked. "What the hell are you thinking?"

"I don't know."

"Obviously. Does he know who you are?"

"No," said my son's friend. "I told him I'm twenty-three."

"What?" his father asked.

"You know. Twenty-three years old."

"Great plan. Does he know where you live?"

"I told him I was in China," said the boy, getting nervous.

"Get your damn jacket," said his dad. "We're going home."

"Does this mean I can't be in the league?"

"No. No. No. No. No. You're spending the night working on an essay about staying away from freaks."

"Oh man," he sighed, reaching for his jacket. He and his dad left.

"You," I said, looking at my son.

"I didn't do anything," he protested.

"Good. Don't."

"Jeez, you guys make a big deal out of stuff."

"When we have to," I said.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Animals Behaving Badly

Friend of Befouled Pinko Punko raises the important question of unbridled moose libido. Regrettably, that is not the only instance of throwing caution to the wind.

A review of recent scandals:

Muskrat Love
















Sam and Suzie Muskrat with a little public display of affection. Looks sweet, doesn't it? After all, they're married, right?

Sure they are, but not to each other. See you in court, Romeo and Jezebel!

Got My Eye On You



















Here we see superstar Fly macking some barely legal post pupa. Can you say child support for 800?


Foxy Lady


















Hey there Honey, thought you'd burned these old cheesecakes? You can't escape the internet!


Hollyweird


















Typical movie star wallowing in liberalism. Try loving America for a change, traitor!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

It's All About Teamwork

I am not a morning person, to put it mildly. Waking up before 7:30 a.m. puts me out. Imagine the glee when my middle son had a basketball game across town at 8 o'clock this morning. That meant a 6:00 a.m. alarm.

"You're freaking kidding me," I said to my Lovely Bride last night, except I didn't say "freaking."

"I've got a class," she responded. "What am I supposed to do?"

"How about drop out of school?" I answered, not unreasonably.

"Boys, avoid your father tomorrow," she told the kids.

When one isn't used to waking up early the fear of sleeping through the alarm leads to overcompensation. By 4:00 a.m. I was awake and no mind games or prayer were going to put me back to sleep. By our 7:00 a.m. departure a hot drill bit was working its way through my head.

Fortunately the team my son was facing had mothers who'd developed cheers, loud cheers. As God is my witness, they started chanting before the game started.

"There's going to be an incident here," I warned our coach.

"It happens," he replied, not without sympathy.

We lost the game, barely, after climbing back from almost a twenty point deficit. With ten seconds left we missed two free throws and a rebound to lose by one point. My kid was almost in tears but he made a point of shaking hands with the other team and then walking across the court to thank the referee.

"Good man," I told him afterward. In the middle of things it's hard not to hope for a win but in the end I don't really care. I love to watch them play.

"Whatever," he said.

"Good man," I repeated, making sure he was looking at me and knew I meant it.

We got home and I told the boys I needed a nap before the next game. Upstairs, I pulled a pillow over my head and tried to sleep. Soon I heard the unmistakable sound of a punch, followed by a scream, followed by one kid chasing another. I got out of bed.

"Children," I said. "I love the pitter patter of your feet on the stairs and your voices are music to my ears. I'm almost embarrassed to ask you, but could you be just a little quieter so I can rest before we spend the rest of this delightful day together?"

"Of course, Father," they said in unison. "Anything for you."

More or less.

When I got up again it was off to middle son's second game. His team has a remarkable ability to play up or down to the opponent's level. This afternoon it was down. Behind almost immediately, that's where they stayed until my kid jacked a three pointer to get within reach and then, with nine seconds left, one of his teammates made a twisting, improbable layup to go ahead by two points, pulling off a come from behind victory for a team not exactly known for come from behind victories.

From there it was off to my youngest's tournament. All I wanted was a one easy game to watch, win or lose. Four periods later it was overtime, two minutes of brawling, on the floor basketball, until my boy got up to the free throw line, hit one of two, and his team held on to squeeze out a victory.

Three games, a total point spread of four. It pretty much killed me. Except, getting home I found my oldest had cleaned the house and started making dinner.

"Dad, I need you to get me to tennis next weekend," he said as his brothers tore upstairs to shower and change. I looked around the house, sinks polished, dishes put away, floors mopped.

Not a problem. Not a problem at all.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Seventy-Two Days And Counting

Hard as it is to imagine in this bleak and cold landscape, baseball is in the air. My youngest son is in a clinic put on by a former major leaguer and once a week we make our way to the workout facility with a handful of other kids. Hitting, pitching, the theory of baseball; it's as interesting to the parents as it is to the children.

The only downside so far has been the need to buy the boy a new bat. To put it more accurately, another new bat. The guy running the clinic watched my kid swing a few times and said, "I hate to tell you this, but it's a couple inches too long."

After considering and rejecting any number of sarcastic and wildly inappropriate replies, I resigned myself to yet another expenditure. My consolation is that Coach P. found himself in the same predicament. Misery loves company. I guess that's why I hate to be alone.

It's going to be different year. P. and I are coaching together again this year. My son's best friend's dad, E., is coaching this year too, with M., the college-age sister of yet another kid from the neighborhood. So there you have it. For the first time since they started playing sports my son and his buddy are going to be on different teams. At first I thought they were going to cry but they've gotten past that to the trash talking stage.

Trash talking isn't confined to the boys, of course. E. threatens to draft a kid we're hoping to pick up. P. tells him in return we're going to draft M.'s brother. E. replies, "If you guys screw me, I'll kill you." We all laugh.

Much of this conversation takes place at the clinic while our boys are running through their drills. At one of these M.'s mother was there too, as well as the mother of the boy we hope to get. They sat next to us, talking about books and trying to ignore us until P. started a long story about a potential coach in a soundproofed panel van with a lost puppy and a pocket full of Kit-Kat bars.

"If we could pass our background checks, so could this guy," I said.

P. started giggling and so did E. and so did I and finally one of the women turned to us in disgust. "I couldn't stand boys like you in high school and you're not any better now," she said.

We snickered some more and turned back to watch the clinic. Our players, they're a year older, a year bigger, a year more coordinated, a year more serious. They're still kids, though, and when it was my son's turn in the batting cage he started to skip across the floor, stopped for a moment when he realized we were watching, then grinned and skipped the rest of the way while I thought, God, I love this game.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

North By Northwest

I met a new woman this weekend. I love her madly. When I ask for advice, she gives it. When I ask for quiet, she is. She doesn't criticize me. We never argue. If we disagree, she's the one who changes. I expect our relationship to last a long, long time. The only drawback is she's a machine.

Did I need a new GPS? No, I suppose not, if you're talking about "need" in the sense of food or oxygen or shelter. If need, however, means what my children say it does, then yes, I needed it in the worst way, the way it is when money is burning a hole in your pocket and you're itching to blow it on a bender that can only end in sorrow and regret. For some people this feeling leads to criminal charges and a head full of pain. For others, to ill-advised wars. In my case, a GPS.

Fortunately, I had gift cards, the result of a trade with my two youngest kids for an old iPod and the promise of a new baseball glove and shoes. After dropping my oldest at tennis it was off to the big box, the two younger ones in tow. We strolled around nonchalantly, acting as if we had nothing particular in mind, but I knew what I wanted. Pressing my face against the glass case, I grunted and hooted until the salesperson unlocked it and handed me my future.

And that's what I have. I program in a destination and that's where it tries to take me. It's a metaphor for my life, really. If I give it my work address, that's where I end up. If I program in the beach, I go in circles, never getting any closer. It's not my new friend's fault. "Turn right in 90 yards," she says, notwithstanding that's just a dream. She's doing her best, trying to take me where I say I want to be.

The other day my middle son asked me, "Do you love your GPS as much as your TV?"

I told him, "A man doesn't love anything as much as his first big screen."

We'll see.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Like An Angel From Heaven

The Snag family equivalent of Talented and Gifted.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Duck, Duck, Goose

Well, well, there seems to be a goose on my grave and as the old saying goes, if you can't make pâté you might as well advance the meme.

Easy enough:

• look up page 123 in the nearest book

• look for the fifth sentence

• then post the three sentences that follow that fifth sentence on page 123.

Always a pleasure to follow orders. Let's see, carry the 2, divide by 17, remember "i before e" . . . okay, here we are. Fresh from the previously unpublished poem by T. S. Eliot, "Effluent Non Grata":

(e) Licenses may be issued only upon successful completion of the required examination and submission of proof of sufficient experience, proof of general liability insurance, and a corporate surety bond in the amount of at least $10,000.

(f) Notwithstanding paragraph (e), the examination and proof of experience are not required
for an individual sewage treatment system professional who, on the effective date of the rules adopted under subdivision 1, holds a certification attained by examination and experience under a voluntary certification program administered by the agency.

(g) Local units of government may not require additional local licenses for individual
sewage treatment system professionals.
Thanks to Jennifer for shining a bright light on the glory that is my existence. It's hard to know whether it's better to know me or to be me.

Time now for my regular afternoon bout of uncontrollable sobbing. In the meantime:

Duck,

Duck,

Duck,

Duck,

Goose.

That is all.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where In The World?

Today was my niece's birthday. Not exactly, but it was her birthday party. Not exactly that either, but it was the only day my family could get together to celebrate it.

She's a sweetheart and I was quite disappointed her parents forbid me from getting her an air rifle. Instead we gave her a keyboard, one with an extremely generous volume control. Air rifle, keyboard. Either way they shouldn't have much trouble with chipmunks in the backyard.

After I reminded my niece the only way to get a hamster is to ask for one at least one thousand times a day, conversation turned to my mother's trip. None of us have heard from her since she left. Between the postal efficiencies to be found in developing nations and Grandma's Luddite approach to technology, that's not surprising. Still, a postcard once in a while wouldn't kill her.

"Where is she now?" asked my youngest son.

"A Turkish prison," I said.

"Grandma's in prison?" asked my niece.

"Probably. Did you ever hear the story about how she shot me?" I replied.

"No," she said.

"Ask your mother someday," I said. "It's too traumatic for me to discuss."

"Where is she really?" asked my middle son.

"I don't know. Petra, Jordan I think."

"Where's that?"

"Far away. Where I wish I was."

"Uncle Snag's weird," said my niece.

"Blueberry pie," I said, pinching my lips together.

"You're weird, Uncle Snag," she repeated.

She's a smart girl.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

During much of my glorious military career I was stationed at a joint services training facility, with Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines all sharing space, albeit somewhat uneasily. The base wasn't operated by my branch, which meant there were only a handful of our officers there, which meant when they needed someone to hang out with, well, better an enlisted person from your branch than an officer from another.

Fortunately, we usually ended up with good commanders. My captain was typical. He'd entered the service through his college's officer training program, planning only to fulfill his commitment before using his engineering degree in the private sector, and then found to his surprise he liked the military. While he necessarily kept some distance, at least to the degree required by our similarly relaxed battalion commander, it wasn't at all unusual for officers, NCO's, and junior enlisted to get together on Friday night at the club.

The captain and I hit it off pretty well. As far as I knew, there were only three people stationed there who read for fun and he and I were two of them. My roommate was the other. I won't pretend we discussed Nietzsche late into the night, but every once in a while it was nice to talk about something besides sports and the military.

Not long after my roommate got his discharge, the local high school contacted the captain and asked him to judge a science fair. Our base was a big fish in our city's small pond and someone must have discovered he was an engineer. That's when he tracked me down.

"Snag, you want to help me out?" he said, after explaining what he'd been asked to do.

I once threw a chair across a room after getting a particularly distasteful order, which resulted in little more than a glare and a slammed door from my immediate boss. I wasn't compliant but I was hardworking, and because that was a rarity at that place and time, I got cut more than my share of slack.

Even so, I could tell this request wasn't really a request. Besides, it meant I got to spend the afternoon away from the base. What the hell.

"Yes sir, I'd love to," I said. "It would be a distinct honor and a privilege to serve with you."

"Why are you always a smart ass?" he asked.

"Duty, honor, science, sir," I replied.

"Get your stuff and let's go," he said.

When we arrived at the high school we were introduced by the principal, who was serving as the third judge. The projects were arranged around the edges of the gym and we meandered from one booth to another, making small talk with nervous students and parents and marking down our evaluations on the score sheets we'd been provided.

Maybe every science fair is like this. There were projects involving dryer lint, and electricity, and levers, and rocks. And then there was the Project.

"What's this?" asked the captain, coming to a stop before an intricate and professional looking poster.

"This is Janet's," said the principal. "She's one of our stars. She's going East for college."

Best as I could tell, Janet had cured cancer in white mice using an acorn and a paperclip. Extensively documented, photographed, replicated, and referenced.

The principal continued, "We expect big things from her."

"No shit," I blurted, prompting the captain to punch me in the shoulder.

Janet was nervous but confident. Her parents beamed as she told us about her dream of being a medical researcher. After talking with her for a few minutes I had no doubt she could be whatever she wanted.

We finished taking in the rest of the entries but it was perfunctory. Unless this city was some sort of statistical anomaly, something I very much doubted after having spent two years there, Janet had trounced the competition. The scores were tallied and handed to the science teacher.

He looked at them. He glanced up and looked at the scores some more. His eyes darted nervously around the room and then looked at them some more. He sidled over to the principal, whispered something, and handed over the scores.

The principal looked at them. He glanced up and looked at the scores some more. His eyes darted nervously around the room and then looked at them some more.

Finally he cleared his throat and announced the winner. It was not Janet. The winner was a kid who'd collected a jar full of molecules or something.

Just like in the movies, the crowd gasped. Janet gasped. Her parents gasped. Most of all, the captain and I gasped.

"Who'd you vote for?" he asked me under his breath.

"Janet. How about you?"

"Janet."

The principal was across the room, congratulating the winner. The captain caught his eye and waved him over. He came, reluctantly, stunned and more than a little upset.

"I don't know what happened," said the captain. "We both gave Janet first place by a long ways. Who did you pick?"

"Janet," said the principal, his brow furrowing. "Hold on a minute." He found the science teacher, grabbed the score sheets, and came back to us.

It only took a minute to figure out what had happened. Somewhere between the score sheets and the final tally, someone had transposed numbers. Janet's score had been awarded to the wrong person.

"Now what?" asked the principal. "I can't take it away from him." He gestured toward the announced winner, whose proud parents were photographing him in front of his entry.

"We could blame it on Snag," said the captain.

"Thanks a lot, sir," I said.

"Don't worry, I do it all the time," he said. "Why do you think the colonel's always giving you funny looks?"

The day kept getting better. "Can you say she won a special prize?" I asked. "Make something up and then you can tell her later you didn't think it was fair for the others to try to compete against her."

"Lie to my students? That might work," said the principal.

"Are you always this sneaky?" the captain asked me with a combination of suspicion and respect.

"I live to serve," I replied.

"Maybe I really should warn the colonel about you," he said.

The principal shushed us and strode to the front of the room. "Listen up. I've been keeping this a secret so I wouldn't affect the judging. This year we're giving the first annual Principal's Award. It goes to the project that does the best job of considering a problem in a new way. I'm happy to announce the winner is Janet."

The science teacher looked at the principal with his own combination of suspicion and respect but joined everyone else in applauding wildly. Apparently Janet was as well-liked as she was talented.

The captain and I gathered our things. Before leaving we stopped to congratulate Janet and her parents. They thanked us for our time and we wished them well.

On the way back to the base the captain asked, "Have you ever pulled this sort of thing on me?"

"Sir, your question is undermining my morale," I replied.

"Knock it off," he said.

"Okey-dokey."

"What?"

"Okey-dokey, sir," I said.

"Much better," he said. "Want to get a beer?"

"Yes sir," I said, snapping off a salute as best I could in the cramped confines of his car.

"Good," he said, returning the salute. "You're buying."

May I Have Another?

Conference today. Yippee!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From Each According To His Ability

Groundhog Day is all well and good, but around these parts the continuing presence of winter is determined by whether Snag sees his shadow. I can assure you he does not. How could he? The goddamned sun hasn't been out in three goddamned months.

Not that I'm irritable. Notwithstanding my family's lies, I'm as easygoing as ever, floating along on a lifeboat of denial and bourbon. I get up, go to work, spread my special brand of sunshine around the office, and come home to the welcoming arms of my loving children.

My favorite nights are those where they need assistance with their homework. Nothing like firing up the old frontal lobe and digging into some book learnin'.

"Need help with that, son?" I ask my middle child.

"Yes."

"Let me see what you've got."

"It's math. I'll wait for mom."

When I was in high school my hair reached almost to my waist. My 10th grade geometry teacher had a poster on his wall of George Washington with a crew cut. The poster's caption said, "Beautify America. Get a haircut." Since then math has not been my strong suit.

I tell him, "Mom's got class herself tonight. It's me or nothing."

He weighs the pros and cons for a minute before deciding I might be slightly better than nothing. I grab the worksheet and look at it. He's learning how to graph functions.

"Hmm," I say, cocking my head like a dog watching Masterpiece Theater. "Do you have your book with you?"

"You don't know how to this, do you?" he asks sadly.

"Sure I do. It's just been a while. Give me a minute to figure it out."

I claw through the pages looking for an example while he mutters under his breath about math being a waste of time.

"No it's not," I say with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. "Think of it as a puzzle."

"I hate puzzles," he tells me.

"Well, you need to understand it anyway," I say, while continuing to search for an example. Finally I find one and start scratching on a piece of scratch paper.

"Don't you even know which way the x and y axes go?" he says.

This prompts my oldest son to look up from his own homework, some kind of topographical computation. It hurts my head to be in the room with it. "That's why you need to get mom to help you," he tells his brother. "Dad doesn't know anything."

"I do too," I protest.

"Like what?" demands my youngest, working on his own assignment. Having recently been the beneficiary of my help, he's understandably skeptical.

"I'm good at English," I say.

"Which is even dumber than math," says my oldest. For a straight A student he's got one hell of an attitude.

"Oh, burn," exclaims my youngest, apropos of nothing.

Meanwhile my middle kid is getting increasingly frustrated. "Do you know this or not?" he asks.

"Hold on," I say, turning back to the problem. "See, you mark a point here and another one here and another one here. Then you draw a line through them."

The boy stares at the page and then at me. "I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a straight line, not an arc," he says.

My oldest slams down his pencil. "I'll show him. You're driving me crazy."

I must be if he's been provoked into helping his brother. They consult briefly and the middle one returns to his problems, newly enlightened.

"Hey buddy, how's your homework going?" I ask the youngest in an effort to redeem myself.

He gets a panicked expression and throws himself over his book. "No!" he wails.

"Why don't you make dinner?" the oldest says to me. "That good chicken recipe you have."

"Yeah, that one's great," says the youngest.

"Make the pasta too," the middle one tells me. "I like that."

They're patronizing me but it's better than nothing. I get to work on the food and by the time it's ready their homework is done.

"Thanks, Dad," they say.

"No problem, guys," I tell them. "I'm always happy to help."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

United Nations Of Moose

This blog was recently honored to host a somewhat disturbingly intense debate about moose conjugation. Guests included Kathleen, Billy Pilgrim, Mendacious D, fish, Brando, Chuckles, mdhatter, and Mandos. It was as if the Algonquin Round Table magically transported through time, with Jennifer echoing Dorothy Parker's little known interest in Alces americanus.

Beyond giving me perhaps more information than I needed about the psychology of my virtual friends, the discussion heped me realize how little we really know about Brother Moose. Earlier explorations of the glamour and despair that mark both sides of forest life only scratched the surface, failing to consider the role of moose around the world.


France
























The French Moose (sometimes referred to as the "Freedom Elk) has always played a large role in continental cuisine. With their delicate touch and devotion to the good things in life, they have traditionally been employed as sauciers in many of the country's Michelin starred restaurants.

Here we see Pierre waiting for his mistress at the annual Jerry Lewis film festival.


Japan


















Many are familiar with Tom Cruise's role as a fallen American introduced to the ancient traditions of the samurai. Less familiar is that these Japanese warriors have always been trained in the Way of the Moose by a silent and shadowy group of black-antlered monks.

In this rare photograph, Jiyuu
, an Imperial Master, prepares for battle.


Tanzania
























As Bureaucrat of the Jungle, the African Moose is responsible for overseeing the administrative tasks related to the annual Great Migration of the Serengeti. His unmatched skill at watering hole politics makes him a feared predator.

Akida is shown here conducting inventory.


Germany



















Much of Germany's militaristic history can be attributed to die Elche. Trained from birth as ruthless and efficient killing machines, these bloodthirsty monsters leave behind nothing but tears and smoldering ash.

In this historic photograph, Elsa invades Poland.


Canadia


















Abundant natural resources and a long history of social welfare have created a vibrant Canadianan hospitality industry. Nevertheless, many remain unaware that Molson began as a backwoods distillery run by moose on the run from the prohibition era United States.

The Honourable Peter "Peaty" Boggs is shown at his swearing in as Minister of Beverages.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fright Night

My youngest had homework tonight. He was supposed to make a list of the ten things that scare him the most. I'm not sure I always understand modern education. Teaching him fear is one thing I can do better than any teacher. But there you have it.

He started easily enough. Death. Death by burning. Death by falling. Death by suffocation. Living alone. ("Me too," I said to this last. "Please, please, please don't throw me in that briar patch.") Near the end, however, he ran into trouble. Fortunately my friend E., my oldest son, and I were there for him.

"Okay," he asked, "what else should I say I'm afraid of? I need one more."

"The Federal Reserve," I said.

"The mayor," said E. "He wants to raise your taxes."

"Pancakes."

"Cape buffalo," said my oldest. "The most dangerous animal on earth."

"That's stupid," said the youngest.

"Oh sure, if there was a Cape buffalo in the kitchen you wouldn't be scared," I said.

"There's not," he said.

"But if there was you'd be scared. Put it down."

"How about magma?" said E. "That's pretty scary."

"Or Komodo dragons," said the oldest. "They eat goats."

The youngest was trying to ignore us.

"Bankers can be frightening," I said. "So can the Trilateral Commission."

E. nodded. "Lingonberries too. They're bad news."

Our suggestions were coming fast and furious.

"Cookbooks. Especially ones written by celebrity chefs."

"Pakistan. And North Dakota."

"Buskies."

"Your dad before he's had his coffee."

"Mom when she's studying."

"Al-Qaida."

"Bears. They can smell the menstruation."

"Holy water. It burns."

He was wearing a resigned expression, waiting for it to end.

"Phlegm."

"Oh, good one. Phlegm's scary. "

"Venomous butterflies."

"Cover bands."

"George Bush."

"Bingo night."

He considered that one momentarily.

"Toast."

"Michael Jackson."

"Photosynthesis."

E.'s phone rang. His wife was calling.

"Hi, what's up?" He listened for a moment.

"I'm helping Snag's kid with his homework." He listened again. By his expression she didn't appear to think this was a good idea.

"Sorry buddy, gotta go," he said, hanging up. "Think you have enough suggestions?"

The boy looked at him with haunted eyes and shrugged.

"Don't worry, we can take it from here," I said.

As E. left the youngest started writing.

"What are you putting down?" I asked.

"Never mind." He finished and packed his homework away.

"Don't be too scared. Daddy loves you. Just watch out for Cape buffalo. I saw one in the backyard fighting a bear."

He went downstairs to watch TV while I started dinner, glad I could once again help my children with their academic and emotional growth. If he doesn't get an A on this assignment I'll visit the school personally. If that doesn't scare him nothing will.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Open Your Books

The Lovely Bride's winter break has ended and she's returned to school. This has two immediate negative consequences. The first is the impact on the family economy, which we can fortunately handle. The second and more important is the impact it has on the time I spend with my children. More of that good for all you math whizzes. I have therefore prepared a syllabus for the home schooling curriculum I plan to offer as an alternative. This semester's offerings:

1. A Brief History of Meat

An historical overview of the butcher's art with emphasis on the loin and hock. Students will be expected to compare and contrast beef, pork, and lamb. The second half of the semester will focus on the cultural differences among schnitzel, moo shu, and churrasco. (2.0 credits; 2150 calories)

2. Introduction to Foot Rubs

Meeting daily for twelve weeks, this course will examine a variety of foot rub techniques. Special attention will be paid to the peroneus longus tendon and the region immediately surrounding the fifth metatarsal. Feet will be provided. (3.0 credits; pass/fail)

3. Martinis For Two

An in-depth exploration of the relative values of gin and vodka in this classic drink. Olives will be the primary garnish but students will be expected to be equally versed in the use of cocktail onions. May be taken concurrently with Introduction to Foot Rubs. (2.0 credits; lab course)

4. The Wonder of Me

Snag's life will be traced from early childhood to the current day. Field trips will be used to develop an appreciation for his humble beginnings and his meteoric rise to fame. If scheduling permits, Snag will attend one class session. Please, no eye contact. (5.0 credits; prerequisite - Sycophancy II)

Monday, February 4, 2008

The More Things Change

My mother started her trip yesterday. I asked her to bring me a Killing Fields refrigerator magnet from her stop in Cambodia. I collect magnets, because I'm cool. My family can look at our refrigerator and recall each and every vacation we've taken together, memories that are otherwise firmly repressed.

Before my mother left, she took the Lovely Bride and me out for dinner in honor of my birthday. It's an opportunity for a nice meal and some time away from my children. Needless to say, the kids are outraged by this.

"Why can't we come?" demanded my oldest son as we were getting ready.

"Because then it wouldn't be a present. It would be a punishment. They start with the same letter but mean different things. Punishments are bad. Presents are good, unless a stork brings them."

"Now why would you say that?" asked my Lovely Bride.

"It's true. Do you want your son to get some girl pregnant and spend the rest of his life flipping burgers?"

My youngest son piped up. "It would be better than your job."

"Which proves my point," I said. "Just because I love you doesn't mean you weren't an accident."

"I thought I was adopted," he said.

"Not yet," I replied. "We can't find anyone to take you."

"Is there a reason you deliberately antagonize your children?" asked the Lovely Bride.

"I've built up a hard shell of cynicism to protect me from their slings and arrows," I said.

"How come you're so weird?" asked my middle son.

"Voilà," I said to the Lovely Bride. "Now you see the violence inherent in our family system."

She eyed me suspiciously. "Why does that sound familiar?"

"I was on Dr. Phil last week," I said. "The whole neighborhood was talking about it and you couldn't be bothered to watch."

The middle son rolled his eyes. "He's being dumb again, mom. It's from Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

"That figures. Your father has an unhealthy obsession with that movie," she said. "Anyway, if the neighborhood's been talking about him again I don't want to know why."

It's interesting how often she refers to me in the third person when I'm standing right there. She claims it's a psychological distancing mechanism. Go figure.

"Will you at least bring me some leftovers?" asked my oldest.

"Probably," I said.

My youngest saw his opening and pounced. "Once again, mom and dad love my brothers more than me."

"We love you all the same. Just in different ways," I said.

"What does that mean?" he asked.

"You're the most different so we love you the most differently."

He paused long enough to consider this that the Lovely Bride and I were able to slip out to the car and back out of the driveway. We picked up my mother and went to the restaurant. When I requested a Killing Fields magnet she turned to the Lovely Bride and said, "He's always been irritating but I think he's getting worse."

Being a parent is pretty much the same, no matter how old your children may be.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Snorkelers For Obama

You'll never guess who I ran into this weekend.