Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twas the night before...

... the night before. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. All is right with my world. I hope the same for you. Merry Christmas!

Pants 'n'at

Drew has really enlarged his vocabulary the last few weeks. Unfortunately, for the last few days, he's concentrated on a few that I wish he wouldn't. Today, he held court in the back of the van; a toddler Shecky Green; the pre-K George Carlin; a diaper-wearing Dane Cook. His routine is simple. He likes to stick with the classics.

"Mr. Stinkerpants!" then he laughs uncontrollably. "Poopie pants!" He laughs. Clay laughs. He has won over his audience. "Poopie poopie". The two little goofballs are rolling on the floor (*they're safely in their government mandated child safety seats and not really ROTFL-ing). He makes his big finish, "Hello Mr. Stinker-Poopie pants!" Finally, I've had enough.

"Alright, alright. Drew, knock it off!" Nancy says, "Just ignore him. Clay stop laughing at him". Drew tries a few encore "Poopie pants", but fails to get the ovation he wanted. Finally, thankfully, we sit quietly listening to Christmas music when Clay says, "Well, at least now he knows how to say the word pants".

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Amazing Mr. Claus

On Sunday, we had Christmas: Part I. Part I is "Baba and Gigi Christmas". If you don't know, Baba and Gigi is the anglicized way of saying Grandma and Grandpa in Ukrainian. We also have "Home Christmas" (Part II), ""Uncle Pete & Aunt Karen Christmas (Part III), "Papa Duke and Grandma Rose Christmas" (Part III, which is usually actually December 25th), and "Gran Christmas (Part IV). By December 27th, I'm usually ready for some Easter eggs. I'm Christmas-ed out. Not to say I don't enjoy every minute of it. I just goes on longer than my self proclaimed "Mike's Birthday Week Celebration", which comes around every fourth week of September or so.

Anyway... after Christmas Pt. I, we decided to go look at some Christmas lights. As we were heading out of my parent's driveway, I heard the local fire trucks blaring their sirens. I knew that it was Santa's night to ride the truck. We drove over a block pulled over, and waited for St. Nick to drive by. It was 14°. It was windy. He was riding on top of the fire truck. For a guy who lives at the North Pole, he looked pretty damned cold. The kids loved it as he drove by and they waved and screamed. What could be better; fire trucks, sirens, flashing lights and Santa.

We decided we'd check out the local Griswald house and drove to the other side of town, which took all of four minutes; maybe. You can find it because the amount of electricity it uses make an audible hum as you get within four or five blocks. We've driven past this place before; in previous years and earlier this year. The kids were excited and we slowly drove up the the house. Then a very un-Christmasy thought went through my head. "Oh, shit! It's Santa! ...and Mrs. Claus!"

Yes, as we pulled up in front of the house Santa himself and the lovely Mrs. Claus came up to great us. I immediately hear the gears turning in Clay's head, "Hey how did he get here so fast? Where's the fire truck? Why wasn't she with him on the truck? Why doesn't he have glasses like he did four minutes ago?!?"

Quickly, I jump out and say, "Santa! Wow, those firemen really got you here quickly!" Santa looks at me like, "Dude, have you had too much eggnog tonight? Should you really be driving?" Before he can say anything I say, "Man, we just saw you riding on the fire truck on the other end of town and you beat us here!" Santa suddenly remembered that he had just arrived. I also reminded him that he needed to drop off the boys' presents in Virginia. Luckily, he regained his memory about that too.

That Santa, a little forgetful but awful fast.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Adieu, MacWorld

".... and I want to go to MacWorld in New York." April 1999. That was the final request I made when negotiating for my new position at work. I was pretty happy. I received a raise; I got to work in a funny looking five-sided building; I was being paid to buy cool stuff and play with it and tell someone what I thought; but best of all, I was going to MacWorld. For someone like me this was a dream come true. It was my Haj; my pilgrimage to Lourdes; my quest for the Northwest Passage.

For three days the Jacob Javitts Center would be turned into Apple Xanadu; a glass domed Macintosh pleasure palace, full of wonders. Printers. Scanners. Graphics cards. Free stuff! Ahhh, free stuff. My reward for my journey through the maze of Microsoft reps, software vendors, magazine subscriptions and electronics vendors.

After making my way towards the giant Apple "Think Different" banners; there she was. Her siren's song as powerful as those who called out to Jason and Odysseus. She, in her white Apple polo shirt, beckoned me to hear her seductive song. "Would you like an Apple sticker?" she sang. This was the song I had waited so long to hear.

I was struck dumb. She blinked then finally, I replied, "C-c-can I have two?"


It was like I found the Holy Grail, The Ark of the Covenant, and the Golden Fleece all at once. What more could I possibly ask for? Wait! "Where did you get that cool orange digital clock?" I asked.

"Over at the EarthLink booth, aisle 6, I think. They have a whole box full and their giving them away."

"There's more stuff? Free!?!"

That's when my quest for free stuff at MacWorld really started. I got pens, pencils, clocks, stickers, books, silly putty, cups, lanyards, candy, food, calendars and every other piece of wonderful Apple-related crap you could think of. Every night I would take my treasures back to my hotel room, lay them out of the bed and gaze upon them. This was the best job ever!

2001 was the pinnacle of my free stuff orgy. In addition to all the normal booty, Apple gave away a free mouse to everyone at the keynote speech. This same keynote, that through some clerical error, I was given a VIP badge and was allowed to sit right up front to worship at the altar of Steve. Steve's keynote speeches were part rock concert, part liturgy, and part Christmas morning. If you've never been to one, you'd never really understand.

It got even better when later that day as I was on my quest for free stuff, Steve himself walked right toward me on the exhibition floor. As he passed he game me that little knowing "Get the f*@# out of my way!" look. I did. The air was electric for a moment and was then gone as he went on to be annoyed by the several thousand others who were in his way. It was the best day ever!*

(*of course not including our wedding day, birth of children, romantic dinners or other days my wife would be upset about)

My last Macworld was 2002. It was cancelled in New York soon after. And now, 2009 might be the last MacWorld in San Francisco. Nancy and I thought it might give us an excuse to visit San Fran in the next year or two, but it looks like now the Bay Area can only entice us with mild weather, good food, beautiful scenery, and cable car rides.

It's the end of an era. I still have lots of pens, posters, a few stickers, my orange EarthLink clock and even an egg or two of Microsoft's silly putty. But a world without MacWorld will be a little emptier, at least for me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How WTAE Stole Christmas

Christmastime is here and there's nothing better than sitting around the old HD LCD and watching family Christmas programs. I especially like the classics; "A Charlie Brown Christmas", "Rudolph TRNR" (which is kind of disturbing on many levels) and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Through the Christmas magic that is the FiOS Digital Video Recorder, we can even watch them a second or third time. Joy to the World!

The other night "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (HTGSC) was on our local Pittsburgh ABC affiliate, WTAE. The story is a little hard to follow for a 5 year old and impossible for a 2 year old; especially since ABC cuts to a commercial every two and a half minutes. That's not WTAE's fault, but I'd rather have someone sponsor the show with limited commercial interruptions. However, WTAE does control their news tease; you know the "Snow's coming, the world is doomed; film at 11" thing.

We watch as the Grinch starts stealing the Who's; not The Who's; Christmas. (If he tried to steal The Who's Christmas, Pete Townshend would beat him over the head with his guitar and Roger Daltrey would kick his Grinch-ass six ways to New Year; but that's a different story). So during a commercial break, Clay asks why the Grinch is doing this and all the other million questions a 5 year old has at Christmas. The commercials end and we turn our attention back to the screen. But first, channel 4's Wendy Bell comes on with a very important new tease: "Santa's Helper mugged outside a local mall, film at 11", she says almost cheerfully. Try explaining that to a five year old.

It's already bad enough that I can't watch a football game with Clay without him singing "Viva Viagra", but what were the people at WTAE thinking? I wrote them an email asking exactly that question. So far, no reply. Tonight we watch "Santa Claus is coming to Town". What will they tease tonight? "Local man bags 12 point Rudolph, film at 11". "Police crack down on Ho Ho Hos in Hill District, film at 11." "Global warming melts North Pole, 247 elves unaccounted for; presumed dead, film at 11". Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Goodbye PittGirl

After living in Virginia for 22 years, I was really excited to move back to Pittsburgh last year. Even though we came back to visit several times a year, Pittsburgh had changed a lot since I left. Where was Joe DeNardo? What the hell happened to nighttime radio on KDKA? The Parkway North?!? My wife saying she was going to work on Liberty Avenue would have had a whole different meaning 25 years ago. And don't even get me started on the Pirates; the Buccos of Succitude. How was I, a stay-at-home dad, going to rediscover my hometown?

Then Nancy discovered a local blogger. She was funny, smart, hip and she made us see Pittsburgh through her eyes. We'd get on the phone and the first thing we'd say was, "Did you read PittGirl today?" Her's became one of our favorite sites to visit. I shared her hatred of pigeons, her love of local media and her hope that this would be the year the Pirates would finally have a winning season.

A couple of weeks ago, she had to quit abruptly. She had her reasons and we respect them, but are still sad. But I'm glad that we had a friend to show us what a great place the 'Burgh is, even if for a short time. Thanks PittGirl! We'll miss you!