Herbietown - Because Every Epic Midlife Crisis Has a Beginning

Ugly Sweater Contest

I went to a family Christmas party last week in Tennessee.  The theme was “Country Christmas” but I’d been calling it “Redneck Christmas” in hopes of offending my mother-in-law.

There was a prize for the person with the ugliest sweater.  I was determined to win it.  So, the morning of the party, I went to Walmart.  I thought for sure they would have a huge selection of ugly Christmas sweaters, but there was nothing.  I wanted to ask a salesperson to help me, but it’s hard to talk to a salesperson when you’re shopping ironically.  The best I could find were silk Santa boxers.  Hilarious, but underwear costumes aren’t really appropriate for a family party.

I left Walmart and drove to Target.  Target had nothing.  I got angry.  Where does one go to buy ugly clothes?  Don’t these stores want to serve their customers?  (Gap didn’t open for 2 more hours.)

On my way home, I saw a sign for Kmart.  Yes!!  I swerved across 3 lanes of traffic and pulled into the parking lot.  If anyplace has ugly sweaters, it had to be Kmart.

Wrong again.  They had some Christmas-themed clothing, but nothing that would even get me an honorable mention in an ugly sweater contest.  Distraught, I went home, rounded up the family and drove to Tennessee.

We crossed the border from Georgia and got off the highway.  I had hoped we’d find a thrift shop along the route, but all I could see were houses with rusty pickup trucks growing in the front yard.  

Then we rounded a turn and came upon a general store.  There was a huge sign advertising college football memorabilia.  The clouds parted.  Angels emerged, singing the Hallejuah chorus.  I was saved.

5 minutes later and $20 poorer, we were on on our way to meet my mother-in-law and her family.  Approximately 73% of the individuals at the party were Georgia Tech graduates.  Here’s a picture of me with my mother-in-law: 

UGA

Sadly, I didn’t win the contest.  The judge’s son won for dressing as cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation.  Apparently they were impressed with my effort, but decided that anyone wearing a UGA shirt can’t be a winner.

Whatever, obviously it was rigged.  The consolation prize is that I can wear this sweatshirt every time my mother-in-law comes over.

UPDATE:

This is what happened when I played the UGA fight song on Apple TV

MumbyUGAFIGHTSONG

Cars and Sweatpants

61005I recently paid off a massive student loan. The loan had started at $75,000 and the interest rate was an unconscionable 6.5%. I had been paying $750 per month for the last 6 years, plus a few big annual payments, and now finally it’s gone. I’m not debt-free (not even close) but I do have an extra $750 burning a hole in my pocket every month.

I know I should put that straight into my children’s 529 plan for college, or start applying it to my other student loans, or make extra payments on my mortgage, or start a rainy day fund, or just fucking kill myself.

I don’t want to do something safe and responsible.  I want to spend.  And above all I want a new car.

My 6 year old Subaru Outback isn’t cutting it anymore. It gets me from point A to point B, and it is fully paid for, but I live in Atlanta now. Atlanta is a car town.

In Connecticut, my Subaru fit me perfectly. 4WD meant it got me around in the snow, and the hatchback was perfect for our growing family. It was a practical car to own. Tons of people had Subarus.

In Atlanta, I am ridiculed for my Subaru. My new friends pull me aside and ask “what is the deal with your car, man?” They want to know if all Subarus come with Hillary 2016 stickers. My sexuality has even been called into question.

And it isn’t even practical anymore. The 4WD is useless here. I don’t need the hatchback either as we have a Honda Odyssey.

So why not just trade in the Subaru and get an Audi or a BMW? It’s simple, I don’t want an entry-level luxury car. Then I’m “the guy who couldn’t afford the 5-series.” I’d rather be “the guy who doesn’t care about cars.” It’s a real dilemma.

The longer I wait, the less likely I am to splurge on something I can’t afford. Which is good, since my brain knows the right answer is to drive that Subaru into the ground.

Last weekend I decided to splurge in a different way. I bought a pair of sweatpants for $88.  My new sweatpants are thick and luxurious and soft and I would wear them every day if I could.

I don’t care if Lulu Lemon got famous making yoga pants for women. Good for them. I’m secure in my manhood. I mean, come on, I drive a Subaru.

Some Clarifications

Tons of reactions to my recent post about Obamacare in the Deep South. I’d like to clarify a few things.

First, not everyone in the South is racist. Not even close. One of the things I’ve been surprised by is just how cosmopolitan and worldly Atlanta is. Most of the people I’ve met, both at work and at home, are open-minded, intelligent and interesting people.

My post was really about 1 guy who I met that I suspected was letting racism drive his opinion of Obamacare. I wasn’t even sure that was true, I was just raising questions. And I certainly wasn’t intending to suggest all Southerners are racist.

I did extrapolate and write about broad cultural themes like the defiance that seems to permeate the mentality of many Southerners. I believe that exists, in the same way that San Francisco is permeated by a sense of the power of technology and New York is permeated by a sense of opportunity and hard work. It doesn’t mean everyone is racist, I’m just making some general observations.

Second, I don’t believe that anyone who opposes Obamacare is racist. That’s crazy talk. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to oppose Obamacare that have nothing to do with race. It will be expensive to provide health insurance to millions of Americans who didn’t have it before. Giving the government a larger role in healthcare could result in DMV-like mismanagement, as evidenced by the disastrous rollout of the website. And there are some serious questions about the President’s prior claims that people can keep their existing health insurance.

All that said, I wish the Obamacare haters would make their own proposals or at least acknowledge that the health care system doesn’t work well today for many millions of Americans. Denying that there is a problem is ignorant and foolish.

Third, I am not a liberal. Most of my new friends here in Atlanta think I’m a flaming left-wing crusader. I may be socially liberal in the sense that I strongly support gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, women’s reproductive rights, gun control, and measures to deal with climate change. But I also believe in things that many conservatives believe in, like reducing our debt.

Many people identify with a political party as if it were their favorite sports team. They use terms like “we” and “they.” When Obama makes a gaffe, people sometimes send me emails to gloat, the same way I would send a disparaging note to Red Sox fans if their team lost. It’s crazy. I’m a citizen of the U.S. first, not a “fan” of the Democratic party. I don’t consider politics a game.

I tend to vote for Democrats because the social issues are so core to my beliefs and I just can’t get past the blatant bigotry of many Republican positions (e.g. Boehner’s refusal to support the anti-discrimination bill that the Senate just passed). But my support for Democrats doesn’t mean I take their side on every issue.

So don’t put me in box!

That is all.

Obamacare in the Deep South

article346153_confederate-flagI talked about Obamacare with some real Southerners last night.

I mostly listened, figuring this would be a good chance to get inside the heads of some real conservatives. These were intelligent, well-educated people, the type who I thought would be least likely to just repeat what they heard on Fox News.

The overriding sentiment seemed to be that health care works just fine as it is. The conversation went something like this:

“If you can’t afford a doctor, you go to the emergency room. You still get health care. I don’t see why we need to change anything.”

“But then you get an enormous bill and you end up having to declare bankruptcy. Don’t you think there’s something wrong with that?”

“You don’t understand how it works. Listen, I didn’t have insurance when I was in my twenties. I hurt my hand and I went in to see a doctor and had him look at it. He said he could fix it but that I would need to fill out this paperwork and go see this doctor and all this nonsense. I said no, tell me how much it will cost for you to fix it right here, right now. We eventually agreed on $250.”

“And what if instead of needing a cortisone shot in your finger, you needed treatment for a serious disease, and you couldn’t afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars? Would you still feel the same way?”

“Look at my cousin, he had a brain tumor and he didn’t have insurance and he just went into the ER and they took care of him. Doctors and nurses and people that start hospitals – they don’t care about money – they just want to help people.”

The problem here is obvious. This guy doesn’t see that there is a problem when 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance. He sees nothing wrong with the ER solution, where sick people without health insurance just go into the ER to receive care, and end up declaring bankruptcy when they can’t pay their bills.

I explained that bankruptcy ruins your credit for 7 years and how difficult that would make it to get a mortgage. His response: “come on, these people couldn’t afford a house before they got sick.”

“These people.” I’ll come back to that in a minute.

He offered his own alternative to Obamacare: 2 systems. One would be for people who can afford health insurance and would be stocked with doctors and nurses and professionals who “care about making money.” The other would be a government system, with lower reimbursements and fewer service offerings, for people who can’t afford health insurance. It would be stocked with doctors and nurses and professionals who don’t care about money.

He likened it to education. Private schools for people who can afford it, and public schools for everyone else.

I asked him if he thought there should be a permanent upper class and a permanent lower class. He said no, that everyone should have the same opportunities but that there shouldn’t be extra artificial steps put in place for the privileged. Not sure what that meant.

There was a racial undertone to the conversation that is hard to describe. “These people,” he said. Maybe my imagination was running wild. But it seemed like this guy thought President Obama was trying to steal money from white people and give it to black people.

I hope I was wrong.

It may not have been a racial thing. But under the surface there was a real resentment to any kind of change that could undermine his position in society. I think that resentment is part of the Southern psyche. Let me explain.

140 years ago, southern white men could own other people. They ran plantations and lived a life of relative luxury. Then the intellectuals from the North protested and tried to get them to change their ways. So they rebelled. They lost.

Now, even a full 140 years later, every attempt to change society is an affront to their way of life. Even if they see the moral problem of slavery, they still resent being told what to do. And even if the proposed change will help them, like for example by protecting them from being denied care for pre-existing conditions. Any attempt to change things is an attempt to take away their freedom.

Is it worse when the proposed changes come from a black President? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m connecting dots that don’t exist.

It may not be a racial issue. But there is definitely a certain defiance that permeates Society down here in the deep South. It’s the same defiance that drives some people here to fly Confederate flags.

It is fascinating.

I Hate Facebook

hate-facebookI hate Facebook. Like, I really HATE it.

This is a new phenomenon.

I used to love Facebook. It used to make me feel connected to hundreds of people from my past. It gave me a creative outlet to express my thoughts and feelings. It was a great way to waste time.

But lately I’ve changed my view. Lately, it’s driving me fucking insane.

Every update makes me crazy. My heart actually starts racing and I yell at my computer or my phone as I scroll through an endless wasteland of self-serving minutiae. Pictures from exotic vacations taken by people with no children. Annoying declarations of love that make me sick. Political tirades that are cut-and-pasted from cable television. People just generally sharing how awesome their lives are, clearly just managing their tidy public image.

It makes me sick. It makes me angry. It makes me jealous and hateful and cynical.

I read somewhere that depressed people have no interest in the newspaper. They don’t care what’s going on in the world around them because they are paralyzed by a destructive downward spiral of negativity and hopelessness. I haven’t been in the best mental place lately but I’m still a voracious news junkie. No, my wrath has been turned on a new form of media – social media.

I wish people were more sincere in their Facebook updates. I wish they shared what is really going on inside their heads, a fuller picture that reflects the good and the bad.

Or maybe people are doing that and they just suck.  Maybe people really are just insanely boring. Hey look at me, I’m on vacation, aren’t you jealous! Hey look at me, I am super successful in my career! Hey look at me, I just ate this delicious dinner! Hey, look at me, look at how beautiful my family is in these posed shots we just took!

Am I guilty of this? Until recently it wasn’t unusual for me to post 5-10 things a day. I just looked back at my feed and almost every post held some value for the reader. At least in my mind. Call me out if you want to but I’m sticking to my guns. I am interesting.

So is Henry. My friend Henry is perhaps the only other consistently interesting person in my entire Facebook feed. He posts links to great articles on a wide variety of subjects and he is playful and sincere and interesting. Almost never self-serving. I love his stuff and almost always click through. He adds value to my life and I appreciate it.

Everyone else, you suck. Stop trying to project an unrealistic image of how amazing you are. Just be yourself. And if you don’t have anything interesting to say, say nothing.

That is all.

Oh, this sums it up far better than I could.

Happy Anniversary, Greta

OREOinMILK1I got married to Greta Herbert 9 years ago today.

If I had wings, she would be the wind beneath them.

If I were a planet, she would be the Sun I revolve around.

If I were a glass of milk, she would be an Oreo cookie.

If I were a magnet, she would also be a magnet.

If I were a hungry fat guy, she would be a Twinkie.

If I were Barack Obama, she would be Michelle Obama.

But I’m none of those things. I’m just another guy. A scrawny guy. A selfish guy. A guy with a growing gut and skeletor-like fingers. An obsessive perfectionist with an addiction to the Internet. An anxiety-filled introvert. In short, a total nutjob. I’m not exaggerating. It cannot be easy to be married to me.

Somehow, despite all of this, she’s stayed with me.

I have single friends who question the value of marriage. They hear married guys constantly complaining about their wives and they wonder why anyone would want that life. They cherish their freedom. They love being able to meet new women and not be tied down.

I listen to these single guys and I laugh and joke with them. But I like to think that I have a twinkle in my eye.

Greta is that twinkle.

Danger

weiner-underwearOn the one hand, your private life is your private life. Your professional accomplishments are what should matter. To each his own.

On the other hand, Carlos Danger.

Carlos. Danger. The fact that he led with the name “Carlos” is precious enough. I think of Zorro for some reason. And then he goes and picks “Danger” for the win. As if to say, just in case you’re not getting what this is, my last name is… Danger.

I didn’t get it at first because I know someone with the last name “Dangar,” and it’s pronounced with a hard G. So for some reason my brain didn’t read Danger, but Dan-gar. After seeing a few headlines, realization finally dawned, and I was gleeful.

Anthony Weiner might now be my answer to that stupid question: “Who would you most like to have a beer with?” It would be so fascinating to throw back a few brews and just pick his brain. I’d want to do it in Vegas or somewhere out of the country, so I could have the best shot of getting actual truthful answers out of him. And I would want there to be lots of good-looking women around, so I could see him in action, in his element.

I would definitely tap him whenever I needed a new name for something. A new business, product, kid, whatever. He is clearly skilled in this area. He should pursue a career in it.

He’ll need to do something to earn money, because there’s no way he’ll pull off a political comeback. It’s just never going to happen.  Must be a terrible feeling to know that you made such an irreversible mistake.

And your poor wife. Why does she stand by him? What is that? I can’t fathom it.

I guarantee that Carlos Danger gets more write-in votes than Anthony Weiner. I would be one of them if I lived in NYC.

And this.

Guvmint

GuvmintI know why people from the South hate the government. Their government sucks.

The DMV situation in Georgia is totally fucking absurd. It literally takes 3 hours to get to a window and begin speaking to an agent. Who has that kind of time? The lost productivity alone should easily justify spending more money to hire more workers.

The DMV’s in Connecticut are not like this. You can get in and out within 30 minutes. You don’t need to take an entire day off from work to handle some administrative bullshit. You can go on your lunch break.

How do people stand for this? It’d be such an easy victory for some enterprising congressman to introduce a bill which doubles the number of DMV workers in the state. We have elected representatives for a reason, to fix nonsense like this. Who would possibly disagree? It would be a rounding error in the overall budget.

One poor government service makes the rest of the government look bad. Because of the example set by the DMV, people assume that anyone working for the government is a lazy, inefficient freeloader out to steal their hard-earned tax dollars.

Maybe I’ll make a run for office and clean up this mess.

CHOP ON, CHIKIN LUVERZ, CHOP ON

I caught a Braves game last week with a large group from my company. Good times. I always enjoy the American pastime. I especially love seeing how the locals customize their ballpark. For example, Turner Field has mist stations to keep everyone cool in the hot Atlanta summers.

tomahawk chopWhat I wasn’t prepared for was The Chop. During a rally, the crowd stands up and starts swinging their arms up and down, simulating a tomahawk chop. They also do a whooping chant, Ooooo oh oh ooooooo, ah oh, oh ah oooooooo.

It’s insane.

What are you supposed to tell your children when they ask what The Chop means?

“Daddy, why do we move our arms up and down like this?”

“We’re intimidating the other team by pretending that we’re going to scalp them.”

“Daddy, what’s ‘scalp them’ mean?”

“Scalping is the act of cutting off someone’s scalp, the top part of their head. Europeans used to offer bounties for dead native Americans, but carrying around dead bodies was too hard so they just chopped off the top part of their head and carried that back to collect their money.”

Not exactly the conversation I want to have with my 5 year old.

It’s fun to have traditions and chants, and I recognize that many people don’t even know what they’re chanting. But isn’t it just absolutely astounding that in 2013 we are still doing this? It’s the total cartoonization of native American culture.

The team encourages it. There are tomahawk graphics all over the stadium and they move up and down during rallies, to get the crowd to start chanting.

chop onEven the sponsors get in on the action. There is an enormous statue of a cow in center field, from our good friends at Chick-Fil-A. We know they like to take every opportunity to advance good clean Christian values. The cow is wearing a sign that says “CHOP ON, CHIKIN LUVERS, CHOP ON.” As if God himself gives you permission to denigrate the savages.

A colleague suggested a good analogy. Imagine that the Nazis won World War II and now controlled all of Europe. The mascots for the soccer teams would be named after Jews. So instead of the Braves and the Indians and the Redskins, we’d have the Steinbergs and the Rosensterns and the Goldbergs. The crowd would have some sort of chant that sounded like a gas chamber filling up, and everyone would just sort of go along with it because most of the Jews were dead anyway. Chick-Fil-A would drop a million bucks to put up a big cow with a sign that says “GAS ON, CHIKIN LUVERS, GAS ON.”

It’s not that far-fetched.

Fun vs. Pretty

“You look pretty today. I like when you wear your hair up.”

“Thanks, Mom!”

“Why don’t you go under the water?”

“I don’t want to go under. My hair will get wet and I won’t look pretty anymore.”

“But you’ll have fun.”

“I’d rather be pretty than have fun.”

And that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

My 9-year-old niece had a big smile on her face when she said she’d rather be pretty. She was kidding but I think there was a degree of truth in it. To her credit, she was doing handstands and somersaults within a few minutes of getting in the water.

Pretty vs fun. It really got me thinking.

Until women start prioritizing fun over pretty in their daily lives, they won’t live up to their full potential. They’ll be missing out on whole swaths of experience. Being desirable will always be important, but it would be better if fun were desirable, wouldn’t it?

That’s where men come in. I think we need to do a better job prioritizing fun over pretty, too. I’m reminded of the Mad Men episode where they discuss the Coke commercial with the Bye Bye Birdie song.

Peggy gets upset that about the idea of stooping to sexuality to sell products, claiming that women won’t be persuaded to buy Coke products by a sexy woman. Don yells at her “You get how this works don’t you?” and explains that women will want to be considered as desirable as the other women on TV.

Don understands human nature and how to sell products.

We need to harness that kind of cynical knowledge of human behavior and go after the root cause. We need to change the definition of “pretty.”

And why not? Magazines do it every day.

So how do we change the definition of pretty? It starts with prioritizing fun. Encourage your daughters to play sports. Discourage them from cheerleading on the sidelines. Show them, by your example, that they can do everything a man can do, and have fun doing it. Teach them to use their imaginations and to follow their passions, even if it leads them into traditionally male areas. Most of all, have fun.

And men, well, I can’t tell you who you should be attracted to. But I can tell you that pretty fades with age.  Fun lasts forever.

Peepee on the Beach

“I have to go peepee, Daddy!”

Those can be the 6 most annoying words in the English language, when said at the right time. It’s usually when you’re out at a restaurant and the food has just arrived. Or when you’re driving in the car and home is about 15 minutes away.

Good parents are vigilant about bathroom breaks. Every time there’s a good bathroom opportunity, you take it. You force everyone in the family to go. “But I don’t have to go peepee, Daddy!” “You don’t have to go, but you have to try.” That gets them at least 50% of the time.

Yesterday, Charlie made his announcement on the beach. The closest bathroom was back up at the hotel, with a mile of sand in between. Not to mention a despised sand-rinsing operation. No, going back to the room was an emergency situation reserved for #2.

So my wife says “Ok Charlie, you can go in the water. Come on now, hurry, hurry. Daddy’s going to take you in the water.”

Charlie runs down the beach to me and starts to wade into the water.

“Daddy, can you hold my hand? Because I’m a little bit scared.”

“Sure, buddy, I’ll hold your hand.”

We walked until the water was about 3 inches high. Then Charlie abruptly stopped, released my hand, pulled down his bathing suit, and starting peeing. No warning whatsoever. He did it like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Did I mention that the beach was crowded with people?

I was about to yell “No, Charlie! Stop! We have to get deeper!” but before it got out of my mouth I realized it was too late. And it was too cute.

My wife immediately jumped up with the camera and snapped a few shots. As you can see, I tried to distance myself a bit from the situation. I don’t think anyone bought it.

peepee

Foursquare Time Machine

Foursquare just launched a new feature called The Time Machine. It’s a pretty cool visualization of your check-ins over time. At the end, it spits out a graphic with your stats.

I love Foursquare. I’ve been using for the last 3 years, to use Fred Wilson’s words, to “database” my life. I’m pretty sure that makes me a giant geek. But I don’t mind. I now have rich data about all the places I’ve been in the last 3 years. And that is cool.

Here’s the graphic:

foursquare-the-next-big-thing

Let John Oliver be John Oliver

john-oliverJohn Oliver needs to be himself.

It is too weird watching him do the show in the exact same format as Jon Stewart. “Welcome to the Daily Show, my name is [John Oliver], my guest tonight…” And, “Here it is, your moment of Zen…” There is no reason that he needs to use the exact same words to introduce various segments. It feels too forced.

More importantly, the news and jokes seem to still be written in Jon Stewart’s voice. I can’t stand that.

John Oliver is clearly the funniest of the comedians on the show. Sometimes he is funnier than John Stewart. But only when he does it his own way. The writers need to start writing for John Oliver.

They should take inspiration from this segment on gun control, which was brilliant:

I’m hopeful that they will figure this out and let John be John. There are only 7 weeks left so they better get moving.

Vacation Anticipation

Westin Hilton Head

“A vacation is like love – anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.”  ~Author Unknown

I am about to leave for vacation.

The last week at work has been great. The primary benefit of a vacation isn’t the actual vacation itself, it’s actually the period of time leading up to the vacation. Annoying things become much easier to tolerate, like traffic, or coworkers who don’t bathe. Knowing you’re about to leave makes everything instantly better.

I’ve been feeling like a huge weight has been lifted off my back.  I’m still incredibly busy at work and there are tons of problems to solve, but they don’t feel quite so overwhelming this week.  The stress is already melting away, making me more effective at work, and happier.  I almost want to continue working because I feel like I’m on a roll…key word being “almost.”

We are headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Our hotel is right on the beach and there’s a pool, too. I’m looking forward to getting lost in a good book (Cloud Atlas) and I plan to make some epic sand castles too.

We’re doing the entire vacation on Starwood points. The only downside is that we’re staying at the same hotel chain that I often use for work trips, so I worry that I won’t really feel like I’m on vacation. Hopefully it feels more resort-ey than the Westin in San Francisco. And how could it not?

The sleeping arrangements should be interesting. We have a suite but it doesn’t have separate rooms. So we’ll have to wind down at 8p when our kids go to sleep. I’m picturing lots of nights sitting up in bed, drinking wine with my wife, and typing on the computer. Greta has challenged me to write a short story during this trip.

We’ll see about that. 

Seth Rogen is High

seth-rogen-photoI heard Seth Rogen on Howard Stern yesterday. It was a great interview. One of the things he said struck me the wrong way though. He criticized Zach Braff for going to Kickstarter to finance a movie.

In his view, that was “taking advantage of those people’s, you know, emotional dependence on what you love, on what you created, to ask them for money, to give them more of it.” He believes that financing a movie should be a business decision made by people who make business decisions.

I couldn’t disagree with him more.

Financing a movie through Kickstarter could allow the creative people more license to make what they want to make, rather than be controlled by the people who want to make money. If fans of that movie want to finance that kind of creative activity, so be it. No one forces a fan to turn over their hard-earned cash on Kickstarter.

I’m not saying that business shouldn’t influence movie-making or that it hasn’t created a flourishing environment for movies. The creative and business forces need to partner to finance the expensive projects in a sustainable way. And Hollywood has definitely found a way to make great movies in a sustainable way.

But sometimes I get tired of the same plots repeating themselves, the same actors getting recycled, the same tired ideas getting financed. Hollywood uses formulas to decide what to fund and sometimes it shows through on the screen.

Kickstarter_Logo

With Kickstarter, there is another way to finance creative endeavors, one that enables artists to find a market for their work through different means. One that brings real people into the creative process and gives them a say over what gets created. I am hugely excited by the possibilities enabled by Kickstarter. I am also jealous of the guys who thought it up and made it happen.

There is room for both models.

I’ve only backed 1 project on Kickstarter so far. It was for a children’s book called “Erf” about the beginnings of life and evolution. I gave something like $15 and the creators of the book added my name on a special thank you page in the back.

I’m sorry, Seth Rogen, but you’re wrong on this one. The only thing I can say in your defense is that you were high when you said it.

Here’s the whole interview, the section on Kickstarter beings around 27:00. (this link will probably only work for a short time)

Internet Privacy

I’m not sure how I feel about the government tracking my every phone call, my every Internet search. I hate the idea that someone can snoop in on my life whenever they please, for no good reason. I know what you’re thinking, here’s a guy who willingly shares practically every detail of his life through various apps and websites, so who is he to complain if the government wants to maintain a record of it?

My data is my data. I own it. I have a right to know who is tracking it and when. Once I know that, I can make a choice whether I want to share. I share as much information as I share because I get something in return for that sharing.

Facebook gives me the illusion that a guy with 3 kids can have a social life. Foursquare offers the occasional coupon and validation that my pathetic errands are digitally meaningful. And Herbietown provides me with widespread fame and recognition.

Is national security different? If someone told me that my information would only be used against terrorists bent on destroying the United States, there is almost nothing I wouldn’t turn over to enable the government to catch them. And I understand that it isn’t really an opt-in or opt-out situation. Either we’re all in or it won’t work.

My problem is that I don’t believe all situations are so cut and dry. The government could easily start to use that information to go after other crimes. And there are other crimes for which I would not willingly turn over my data to the government. Like the war on drugs, which I think is a stupid use of resources. Drug abusers need treatment, not prosecution. And recreational drug use among responsible adults is not something I have a problem with. (Before you get all uppity, when was the last time you drank alcohol?)

prohibition

If only there were some way to ensure that the data could only be used for certain purposes, this whole data capture thing could work. Unfortunately we won’t ever be able to ensure that. Inevitably some J. Edgar Hoover type will get control and everything will go to hell. So I would willingly give up some level of personal security for the freedom to control my privacy online.

That said, with great power comes great responsibility. I would not want to be in President Obama’s shoes right now.

Pirate’s Booty

“I’m hungy for beakfast, Daddy.”

“Ok, buddy, what would you like?”

“Pirate’s Booty, pease.”

“Well, we don’t eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast. How about some Cheerios?”

“No! I’m ONLY hungy for Pirate’s Booty. I will NOT eat ANYthing else!”

And so my day begins with a Pirate’s Booty inspired temper tantrum.

Not that I blame the kid. Pirate’s Booty is unnaturally delicious. The light fluffy cheese, the finger lickin’ goodness. I want some, too.

But I can’t teach my children to start their day off with junk food.

“Sorry buddy, but we don’t eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast. You know that.”

“Mommy lets us.”

Where did he learn to lie? There’s no way she lets them eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast. Is there?

“Well Daddy is in charge right now, and Daddy doesn’t let you eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast.”

“But Mommy sometimes lets us!”

Really, Greta? Really?

“I don’t think Mommy lets you eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast. But I don’t really care. Because Daddy is in charge right now, and Daddy says you have to eat something healthy.”

“No fair!”

Ah, fairness. Now we’re onto something I can understand. As a child, my sisters and I fought constantly. I hated it when my parents resolved our arguments with solutions that weren’t fair. “But that’s not fair, Mom!” I would complain. “Well, life isn’t fair, Chris,” she would respond.

I rarely prevailed in changing my parents’ decisions, but I did graduate from childhood with the desire to make life more fair. I am still trying. I gravitate to conflict situations. Like when little boys who think they can start the day with Pirate’s Booty.

NFW, little man. Your brother is eating Cheerios, you will eat Cheerios.

And he did.

An hour later, my slumbering wife woke up, and this happened:

piratesbooty

My Sisters Tried To Make Me A Better Man

signWhat I remember most about my childhood camping trips was getting yelled at for not helping. My sisters would gang up on me if they thought I wasn’t contributing equally with the cooking, cleaning, getting water, etc. They thought my mom favored me, and overly praised me for doing the minimum. It was an excruciating meme.

“Chris isn’t helping.”

“Mom! Chris finished putting up the tent and now he thinks he’s done helping!”

“Mom, Mom, Chris didn’t clean the dishes!”

It was brutal. They thought they were turning me into a better man, a modern man. They thought that perpetually reminding me to help would break down the core essence of my evil manhood and reshape me into a pliable woman-pleasing future husband.

They were explicit about this. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase: “Chris, you’re going to make a great husband one day.” They said this all the time, right after forcing me to do laundry or clean the dishes or some other task that they didn’t want to be the exclusive domain of women.

To a certain extent, it worked. I look down on backwards husbands who believe their wives should do all the housework. And I have all the skills. I know how to do laundry and clean the dishes and dust the shelves.

Though I believe in a 50% split, in real life the division of labor between me and my wife typically works out so that I’m doing the more traditionally male tasks. I earn the money, I take out the garbage, I mow the lawn (usually) and I manage most of the finances. She feeds the children and keeps up with the laundry and does almost all of the cooking. I’m not sure how it settled out that way, but it has.

I feel guilty about it. I really do. My mom and sisters ruined me. Every time I come home from work expecting my wife to make dinner, I hear a still small voice inside me, reminding me that I should be doing more to contribute. But I’m so tired and she’s a much better cook and it’s just so easy. So I let it go. As long as we do roughly equal work and everyone is happy, then I don’t need to worry about it.

We went camping over Memorial Day weekend and I was reminded of the psychological torture that I endured at the hands of my sisters. I could practically hear their voices inside my head reminding me to keep working. I kept wondering if everyone was looking at me, judging me for not helping.

I went with Greta’s parents, her siblings and their families. My brothers-in-law were both there. You might think that a couple of southern boys would be more, uh, traditional when it comes to the division of household labor.

But these good ol’ boys are anything but traditional. They did everything. They pitched the tents, cooked the meals, did the dishes, played with the children and planned the activities. And they had big smiles on their faces the whole time.

Me? I put up the tent and unpacked the car, but I was useless with the food situation. My wife had done all the shopping and packing so I felt that was her domain. As I watched the other husbands preparing the meals I just sat there, useless. How am I supposed to help when I don’t know where anything is?

And when I do help, I expect to receive lavish praise. Perhaps this is because my Mom would praise me for helping out in unexpected ways, and I am still searching for her approval?

The first night at the campground, the entire crew went on a hayride. I stayed back with my 9-month-old, who was sleeping in the tent. While they were all gone, I cleaned up the campsite and did all the dishes from dinner. No one asked me to do it, but I saw they were left and I thought it would be a nice surprise. I couldn’t wait for everyone to return and see what I had done.

But I got nothing. No love whatsoever. No one even acknowledged that the dishes were clean. It was so deflating. What’s the point of helping out if you don’t get any recognition?

In the end, I think I do my fair share. But my lack of desire to take orders and my unreasonable expectations regarding praise must make it infuriating to be married to me. Sorry sisters, you failed in your mission!

Homesick

ilovectSometimes I get a little homesick.

I’m probably not supposed to admit that.  Schoolgirls get homesick.  But it’s true.

When I come home from work at night, I don’t really feel like I’m home.

At first I thought it was because I was accustomed to a 90 minute train ride to decompress, and my 20 minute drive wasn’t enough time to make the transition from work to home.  But that’s not it.  Then I thought maybe it was the fact that all of our furniture hadn’t arrived.  Or that the neighborhood is still under construction with 5 new homes going up all around us.  Or that the boys haven’t started school yet.

Those are probably all contributing factors, but none of them really tell the whole story.

My wife likes to remind me that, except for a short summer abroad in Spain, I’ve never really lived outside of New England.  And she’s right.  If you consider New York part of New England, which it isn’t, she is absolutely right.  I grew up in Connecticut, spent a summer in Boston, went to college in Vermont, lived in New York for 3 years, went to grad school in New Hampshire, and then returned to Connecticut.  All of those places were within easy driving distance to where I grew up.

Not that I’ve ever been the type to return to the safe haven of home every weekend.  Not even close.  But perhaps knowing that I could made all the difference?

Maybe.

I think it’s more likely that those places have always been familiar to me.  And I could branch out from them slowly.  I had been up to Vermont skiing a million times when I started college there.  New York is an easy train ride from Connecticut and I had a network of friends and old classmates always nearby.  Not here in Georgia.

My network here consists of colleagues from work, 1 friend from business school and 1 friend from college.  Actually my college friend just moved to Houston, so I don’t even have that.  We’re totally on our own down here.  It feels like I’m living in another country.

I love traveling to other countries, so you would think this experience would be pleasant.  But it’s not another country, and it doesn’t look like another country.  All the stores are the same as anywhere else.  Chain restaurants and chain grocery stores and chain clothing stores – except for the gun stores, the Chick-Fil-A’s and the ridiculous number of churches, this could be any town in America.

I was in New York last week on business, just a day trip, and it really drove the point home to me.  I took a taxi from LaGuardia to Times Square and passed a dozen familiar places, but suddenly I was an outsider looking in.  All the things I hated about New York receded into the background–the lack of light, the garbage on the streets, the in-your-face commercialism–and all I saw was a vibrant city.  A vibrant city I had voluntarily left, just so I could make a few extra bucks.

“What have I done?” I thought.

Home is wherever my family is.  That’s what I had convinced myself of.  And it’s true.  But that’s not all home is.  Home is a place where you feel comfortable, where you have friends and shared experiences, where you feel safe.

And that will take time.

 

The Renaissance on Sewell Mill Road

Most of the homes around here in Marietta, Georgia are in subdivisions.  Most of the subdivisions have names.  Like Heritage Oaks, Beverly Hills Estates, Brownmoore Manor, Stoneoak Pointe or Chastain Enclave.

I live in “The Preserve at Lost Mill Trace.”

But there are places that are worse.

Exhibit A: “The Renaissance.”  Here’s what the houses in “The Renaissance” look like:

renaissancehouse

And here’s how they market them:

The last two remaining homes in this exclusive enclave of 25 executive estate residences in the heart of East Cobb is presented by Olympia Homes. These million dollar homes are for discriminating buyers desiring luxurious details, timeless quality and old world craftsmanship with a distinctive European flair. Once you’ve seen The Renaissance, nothing else in prestigeous [sic] Cobb County will compare!

The decorations surrounding their subdivision entrance are the BEST in East Cobb.  Instead of lion statues, they have murals.  Of the Renaissance.  Apparently they had major problems with vandalism so now there are cameras trained on each mural with big warning signs.

murals

renaissancehouse1

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corp5a_detail

What do people do when they drive past this neighborhood?  Do they turn green with envy at the obvious sophistication of the entrance?  Is this what people consider desirable?

Or do they do what I do: laugh uncontrollably?

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