Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve At Last

... and time, once again, to make some New Year's resolutions.

And why not? Sure, a zillion polls tell us no one takes NYRs seriously. That they're all broken by January 2, if not sooner.

But DIH believes in making them anyway. St. Paul urges us to "put on the new man" every time we open our eyes and spring or stumble out of bed to face another day. How often does the culture we live in offer St Paul a little support? Not too often, I'd say.

So take advantage of the opportunity and give the "new man" a try. Personally I've always wanted to wake up a completely different person, so I'm going to give it all I've got.

Um... okay, so , resolutions. I have one so far: check the calendar. I spent all day yesterday thinking it was Tuesday. Consequently missed my Wednesday afternoon hour in the adoration chapel. This happens more often than I'd like, and probably accounts for the angry glares I get whenever I set foot in the chapel. Sorry, guys. Will try to do better in 2010.

Another resolution: stop talking to self in shower. Realized yesterday my daughter is listening to every word. Could spell trouble.

Hmm.. I seem to be running out of steam on the "new man" front. Must give this some more thought.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stock Tips! Travelers' Tips! Underwear!

We are off to JFK airport for the flight home. I wonder if they'll insist on checking everyone's underwear. In light of the recent terrorist attack- botched, thank God- on that flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, DIH is prepared to make a few predictions for the New Year. Get 'em while they're hot, investors, the early bird gets the worm and all that:

1. Victoria's Secret will have a record-breaking year. They will introduce a new line of traveler's lingerie that will be guaranteed to dazzle the eyes of the entire Homeland Security department. One peek and the most case-hardened agent will beg for more. Tip: smile sweetly and say "Only if you promise to let me catch my flight, handsome."

2. Fruit of the Loom, on the other hand, will show disappointing sales, as travelers of the male persuasion give up on underwear altogether. Which they've always wanted an excuse to do, and now they have it.

3. Look for special deals in catalogs such as Brookstone and LL Bean Travel Edition.

4. Other specialty catalogs aimed at folks in the terrorist biz will emphasize flame-retardants. Unfortunately they will not also emphasize stupidity retardants. Sigh.

5. Makers of Mormon underwear are holding their breath.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This might be the only chance I get today to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Remind me to tell you about today's family feast, which will consist of some of the most fought-for, hard-won Italian sandwiches that ever existed.

Right now I must try to maintain the delicate balance of letting my daughter do the kid-Christmas thing and not waking up the whole house. Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Family gathering #1 yesterday. It was also a big-deal foray into Manhattan before Christmas. And I must say, we got our money's worht.

It's a special moment watching you child's face the first time she sees a man being led away in handcuffs by police. I remember my first time. What a moment that was!

And that warm feeling you get when you see a beautiful chocolate lab suddenly going nuts in Penn Station. I love the way drug-sniffing canines get so happy and excited when they get a whiff of illegal stuff in a passerby's bag. Really, you would have thought someone had just pulled out a favorite tennis ball and a Chukker.

And perhaps most special of all: when a former governor of New York walks into your restaurant. This is a real learning opportunity for your fourth-grader. "Look, sweetie-- that man was Governor! Say, 'Merry Christmas, Governor!' Good girl! Okay, now he's a few yards past us. Now we say, 'What an idiot!' A little more softly though. Well done, darling!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas, Part 1

Here on LI. We were lucky- we timed our trip right between two blizzards. It's interesting to hang out with people who think a "white Christmas" would be romantic. You wonder about people like that.

Today is the foray into the City. We are meeting up with the spouse's extended family for an annual lunch hosted by a generous uncle. I was going to dress up for this but then I remembered the joys of walking across town in December, so I will adjust accordingly.

OK, let's be honest here: Does anyone out there ever think "extended family gathering today" followed by "oh goody"?

If so please contact DIH and tell her your secret. Or, as usual, she will settle for a few of the pills you're popping.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Find Your Happy Place

For better or worse, Yahoo has published yet another "happiness" poll. This one ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia, from number one happiest to most miserable.

I don't know about anyone else but DIH was not in the least surprised by the results. Number One Louisiana, for example. Come on, they have New Orleans. And they don't call it "The Big Easy" for nothing. A few years ago Po Bronson wrote a book about how to find out what you should really be doing with your life. One of his conclusions: Avoid New Orleans. People there are just too happy, to the point where they lose all ambition and decide the only way to live is to just sit back and relax. Try forcing yourself through night school with that attitude.

Number Two: Hawaii. Is anyone surprised by this? Anyone? Anyone? Is that the sound of crickets chirping I hear? Thought so.

And we here in the Twin Cities are pleased as punch that Minnesota falls at #26. Dead center. Smack in the middle. Life here is kinda good and kinda not-so. But we're not complaining, nuh-uh. It's not so bad, and that's good enough for us. (but we can't suppress a little chuckle seeing Wisconsin is #29.)

And she is most definitely not surprised that NY-NJ-CT make up the bottom three happy places. No one in his right mind in NY would describe himself as "very happy." It would only make people talk. Also no New Yorker is ever going to yield one iota of his God-given right to kvetch whenever the mood strikes him. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Here's the list. Find your happy place.

1. Louisiana
2. Hawaii
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Arizona
6. Mississippi
7. Montana
8. South Carolina
9. Alabama
10. Maine
11. Alaska
12. North Carolina
13. Wyoming
14. Idaho
15. South Dakota
16. Texas
17. Arkansas
18. Vermont
19. Georgia
20. Oklahoma
21. Colorado
22. Delaware
23. Utah
24. New Mexico
25. North Dakota
26. Minnesota
27. New Hampshire
28. Virginia
29. Wisconsin
30. Oregon
31. Iowa
32. Kansas
33. Nebraska
34. West Virginia
35. Kentucky
36. Washington
37. District of Columbia
38. Missouri
39. Nevada
40. Maryland
41. Pennsylvania
42. Rhode Island
43. Massachusetts
44. Ohio
45. Illinois
46. California
47. Indiana
48. Michigan
49. New Jersey
50. Connecticut
51. New York

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bells, Bells, Bells!

Okay, Now I Need Some Eggnogg.

On second thought, forget the nog, just give me a large rum, quick.

Are Deer Stupid Or What?

The Key to a Successful Social Life

One of the main social features in DIH's life is the school carpool line. Every afternoon the moms line up their minivans in the parking lot, stick a number in their windshields and wait for their assigned kids to come tearing out and hop in the car. The system works, usually-- I've only gotten the wrong kid once.

In warmer weather the carpool lane is a hub of social activity. Moms turn off their engines and venture out, and catch up with all the news: whose kid has head lice,which teacher is handing out tough grades but good cookies, etc.

In winter it's different. Way too cold to hang around a parking lot. I mean, really, minus three? It's insane.

But yesterday one mother braved the cold. I watched in awe as she climbed out of her Expedition and went up and down the rows of cars, chatting with everyone.

By the time she got to me I could no longer contain my curiosity. How was she keeping up a schoolyard social life in this weather? "What's your secret?" I demanded.

She glanced around. Then she leaned towards me and said in a low voice, "Long underwear. Sam's Club, eleven bucks- changed my life."

Well since DIH is all in favor of changing her life, today I intend to hit Sam's Club. If you see a short red-haired woman out in the cold occasionally tugging at her waistline, that will be me, in my new armor.

Monday, December 14, 2009


On Saturday the Holy Family Crusaders 4th-5th grade girls' basketball team played the team from Good Shepherd. I forget what they're called. It's not "sheep" or "flock," I'm pretty sure of that. All it said on their jerseys was "Good Shepherd." So much for the fear factor.

We played them at the gym of Holy Name of Jesus School. HNOJ has an enviable parish setup. A new building with a huge vestibule, perfect for after-mass socializing; a library, a "fireside room," (has a gas fireplace- nice!), a "youth room" with overstuffed sofas and big-screen tvs, even something called a "handbell room." Plus the school, of course.

The one thing they apparently felt the need to skimp on was the gym. It is tiny. Parents who want to watch their kids play basketball must squeeze themselves against the walls to keep from being called as extra men on the court. When a ball goes out of bounds it lands in the lap of a lucky spectator. If the spectator is unlucky, it lands in your face.

For DIH nothing quite brings back the old school memories like getting smacked in the kisser with a largish ball. As I recall it happened to me in every major sport. I've been nose-busted by volleyballs, basketballs, soccer balls, you name it. And I never even played any of those sports. The ball just seemed to find me. When I think about it it's no wonder I never played team sports. I was always on the injured list before the season started.

Anyway. HF played GS with glorious results. Out 4th graders kicked the c--p out of theirs. Not bad for a team from a school that doesn't even have a gym. Not to mention a "fireside room." Or a handbell room, or even a handbell.

What we do have is killer instinct. This is no easy achievement for a group of mostly polite little blonde girls from stiffish German Catholic homes. The woman coached the fourth graders last year spent the first six weeks teaching them not to say "oh excuse me" every time they bumped into another player. They still have a ways to go, of course; only one or two of them know how to steal a ball, and they probably feel guilty about it. But still. Progress is progress.

And we won, damn it. GOOOOOOOOOOO CRUSADERS!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What DIH Is All About

DIH is all about making people feel good. So as part of her mission, she offers today's weather forecast for her home town.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Lat: 44.89 Lon: -93.22 Elev: 834
Last Update on Dec 10, 7:53 am CST

A Few Clouds

-4 °F
(-20 °C)
Humidity: 71 %
Wind Speed: SW 8 MPH
Barometer: 29.84" (1012.6 mb)
Dewpoint: -11 °F (-24 °C)
Wind Chill: -19 °F (-28 °C)

There. Now don't you feel better?
Unless you live here, too.

One More Time

I can't get enough of Straight No Chaser. Can't wait to get their album!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Snow Day

There was no school today due to the global warming. Ha! Just kidding. It was a snow day. Sophia and I played with the Nintendo Wii, made a big pot of chili and a spice cake, and, the biggest news, we made our first loaf of bread together. It was stunning success.

Now we are going to reward ourselves with ravioli and P.G. Wodehouse. And hope the forecasters are just trying to scare us with the wind chill figures.

Copenhagen? We Have A Problem

Minus ten with the wind chill and snow drifts covering the car.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Straight No Chaser Does It Again!

Let The Misery Commence

There is nothing quite like word of an impending blizzard to spur DIH into action.

For example. Yesterday she bought rock salt, de-icing fluid, and enough butter and sugar to make roughly 200 pounds of cookies.

This is the only way she knows how to deal with Minnesota winters. Bake a lot of goodies and run like a maniac on the treadmill. (That way it all evens out.) By the time spring arrives, she's too exhausted to care. And the prolonged sugar coma is an easy way to pass the time.

Winters are long in my part of the world. Every year I ask myself, Why did they decide to build a city all the way up here again? I suppose it has something to do with the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi being a few miles north of town. But really, is that a good enough reason to stay? We're not really worried that the Canadians will send a flotilla down to New Orleans, are we? Let somebody else keep an eye on the Canadians.

The first major snowfall of the season is expected to begin this afternoon. DIH will keep you posted.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Mystery Solved, I Think

Lately I've been having a string of nightmares. The nightmare, in fact. You know the one I'm talking about (and no, it's not the naked one). It's that dream where you're back in college, and you walk into a room to take an exam. All of a sudden you realize: You can't take this exam-- you skipped all the classes! And all the reading! You're screwed!

You feel the panic rising in your chest. Then you remember: hey, how do you think I got into college in the first place? That's right, I can b.s. like nobody's business. I can bluff my way through this exam. Problem solved!

Then they hand out the papers. And you realize b.s. won't work this time. Because it's a science test. And you can't b.s. science. You can't. You actually have to know stuff.

At this point DIH usually wakes up in a cold sweat.

This morning, however, the cold light of dawn (well actually it's still dark here in Minnesota until about 10 am, but the metaphor still holds I think) brought a whole new light to bear on this classic dream.

Maybe you can b.s. your way through a college science exam. Look at the Climategate crew. Everything you need to learn about faking it is right there.

Incomplete data. Faulty- no, let's call them daring- computer models. Stacked juries, rigged "peer reviews." And to give the whole thing real scientific authenticity, get a few gorgeous Hollywood stars to speak up for you. Actors know everything about b.s. That's how they make their living. There's gold in them thar hills!

So the next time you have that "oh no I never finished college because I failed my science requirement" dream, take a tip from Michael Mann and Phil Jones. Try this in your dream: Rig your data. Hire Gwyneth Paltrow to tell the world how important your fake data is. Then make a documentary film about it. (This is a lot easier than it sounds- anyone can make a documentary. Just ask Laurie David.) Cute polar-bear shots go a long way in the scientific community, trust me.

DIH promises you will wake up a new person.

A champion liar. Maybe an Oscar winner. Or even a Nobel Prize winner.

Hey, come on- it's happened before.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sounds Minnesotan...

... and hey, he was born in Duluth. A little holiday cheer.

But I guess it's too late to tell Bob to lay off the weed.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Why Anyone Would Hug A Tree I Cannot Imagine

The tree is up. Against all odds, I might add.

Our enormous fake pre-lit Christmas tree is now standing in its appointed place in the corner of the living room. It took about five days to a)find it, b) drag it down from the attic (seriously, it's a big tree), c) put it together and d) get all the lights to work.

Naturally the last part was the tricky part. The one that had four adults and one child scratching their heads for hours while the pointier tree branches scratched our fingers to ribbons. The one that sent a grown man up to his study, clutching his chest and pressing his fingers to his carotid artery.

DIH has come to the conclusion that Christmas trees hate us. Come on, be honest- can anyone look back on his childhood and say "Ah, those beautiful evenings when we put up the Christmas tree, when peace reigned in our homes and Dad most certainly did NOT scare the c--- out of his kids by exhibiting behavior and language no child should ever see from an adult at close range!"? Anyone? Anyone?

No, I didn't think so. DIH can still feel an asthma attack coming on at the sight of a strand of Christmas lights. To this day she has to fight the impulse to flee when the tree makes its way down the attic stairs.

It's no good saying "well, Christmas lights are so much better today! I mean you don't have to replace a whole strand if one bulb goes out anymore!" Sure, it may be true. In theory. But there are still these mysterious brown-outs and blinks no one can account for. And to every red-blooded American male, every blink is like a slap across the face with a chamois glove. His pulse quickens; he sets his teeth; his hand goes to the hilt of his sword. Show me the man who does not look on the Christmas tree light as his natural enemy. I want his secret. Or at least one of the pills he's popping.

Anyway, now that we have all the lights working- and not even our electrician friend can explain why-- we figure we'll have to keep the tree up until they burn out. just to make it worth the struggle. I may not even put any decorations on it- I'm afraid to touch the wrong branch at the wrong time and knock the lights out of commission. Which would necessitate running away from home pronto.

Sigh. Some things never change.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

So That's What Happened!

Make Mine A Large-- And Keep It That Way

Via the New York Post:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A 38-year-old former Miss Argentina has died from complications after undergoing cosmetic surgery on her buttocks.

Solange Magnano, a mother of twins who won the crown in 1994, died of a pulmonary embolism Sunday after three days in critical condition following a gluteoplasty in Buenos Aires.

Close friend Roberto Piazza said the procedure involved injections and the liquid "went to her lungs and brain."

"A woman who had everything lost her life to have a slightly firmer behind," he said.

"Panda Bars"

I got a robo-call from my daughter's school on Friday. I have come to dread these robo-calls; they're always bad news. Like , "Surprise, your kid has the day off because the pipes burst." And I do not mean, the bad news is the problem with the pipes.

Lately, though, they've been about heartbreak. This call was to give me the details on the wake the church was hosting for a young man who died. A kid, really, barely in his forties; seven lovely children and a beautiful wife. One of those things that make you wonder. Is there a God? DIH's would have to be, Yes. So, proceed to the next question: Is He doing drugs? And finally, WTF?

Anyway, the call informed me of the time and place of the wake. Then it added "All families are asked to bring three panda bars. Please drop them off at the church."

"Panda bars"?

I played the message a second time. No; no, not panda bars. "Panzer bars"? It sounded more like "panzer bars."

Since even a social incompetent like yours truly would hate to screw up at a wake, I had to find out what a panzer bar was, quick.

The only clue I had was "bars." What kind of bars did one serve at a wake?

In DIH's family of course the answer is simple- we are an Irish family, after all- but this is sober Minnesota.

Bar cookies?

This answer brought its own confusion. Why would anyone care if the food served at a wake was a bar cookie or not? What's wrong with -- I dont' know, name it. Drop cookies, rolled cookies, cutout cookies, little teeny pastries with drops of jam in the middle? And what about Oreos? What's wrong with Oreos?

Well. As this was the Thanksgiving I had vowed not to lift a finger in the kitchen, I would have to find bar cookies at the store. So I drove to Sam's Club.

The only thing that could possible qualify as a "pan of bars" (as I had by now translated the robo-call's message) were brownies. Which I almost bought. But then I thought, Shoot, everybody's going to bring brownies. There aren't any other bars here. What do I do now?

Answer: I bought three trays of regular cookies, then dropped them off at the church under cover of darkness. If anyone was going to take the heat for bringing non-regulation "pans" to the wake it wasn't going to be me.

At the wake I did a little sniffing around. "Panda bars?" I murmured as I passed through the crowd. "Anyone? Anyone? Panda bars?"

A fellow exiled East-coaster-- well, okay, Ohio, but at least it's east of here- stopped me. "I got that call too. It means 'cookies.' Sometimes 'batch of cookies.' It's another one of those Minnesota things. Like 'hot dish.'

"So why couldn't they just say 'cookies'?" I said. Not adding, of course, "YOU KNOW LIKE ANY OTHER FREAKIN' NORMAL PERSON??!!"

She shrugged. "You know how it is."

Yeah, I know. You betcha.