Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Retarded experiments, from the archive

I have a pretty strong curiosity. I wonder about something, then obsess about it until I find an answer. Been that way my whole life. In these wonderful days of the interwebs, I can usually find an answer pretty quick. But sometimes, there are questions that mankind has yet to answer. This leads me to doing some pretty stupid things, which I like to call Retarded Experiments.

For example, one time in high school chemistry class, we were doing some experiment that involved these little beads. Calcium something-or-other. These things were super absorbent, and if you left them sitting out, they would get little pools of water around them from absorbing the moisture from the air.

So the young curious Umbrella was wondering something. No, not what would happen if you stuck them up your ass. But now that you mention it... No, I wondered what would happen if you immersed them in water. This had the potential for awesome written all over it. I asked my teacher, and he said, "Why don't you try it and see?"

Hell yeah. This is why chemistry class ruled. You could blow shit up. So I grabbed some of the beads, and put them in a beaker with some H2O (that's water for you non-geniuses).

They just sat there. No explosions. No boiling. Nothing.

That was anti-climatic. But, what would happen if you put them in hydrochloric acid? My teacher was on the other side of the room, but I'm sure he would have said, "Why don't you try it and see?" So I did.

It happened instantaneously. I didn't know so much smoke could come out of such a small beaker. Plus, it was pretty stinky. I was praying it wasn't toxic, and had to get rid of the evidence. I quickly dumped it down the sink, and turned on the water.

This just made everything worse. At this point, the gig was up. The room was full of this smoke, and we were forced to evacuate. Just one of my many one-day suspensions in the science wing of the school.

However, that's not a true Retarded Experiment. Most average people don't have access to hydrochloric acid and whatever those beads were. No, a true retarded experiment can be conducted by any idiot with an unhealthy imagination. And alcohol. Usually a lot of alcohol is involved.

The one I want to discuss happened at a tailgate. We were drinking, grilling, throwing the football, and generally having a good time. It was starting to get close to kickoff, so it was clean up time. We were getting ready to dump the coals from the grill, when I wondered...

What would happen if you put an unopened ketchup package on hot coals?

We had forgotten to bring ketchup to this tailgate, so someone had made a run and taken some from a nearby McDonalds. I asked my question aloud, and suddenly, everyone wanted to know the same thing. In my mind, I could see the ketchup getting hot, boiling, pressure building inside the packet, and then BOOM, an awesome explosion of molten ketchup flying everywhere. This was gonna rule!

Now I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid. I know that molten ketchup will probably hurt like hell. So I made sure everyone stood back a bit. I didn't want my curiosity to maim anyone but me. I threw a packet on the coals, and waited for the awesome to begin.

I waited. And waited. And waited some more. No explosion. Apparently, whatever they use to seal the package shut has a lower melting point than the boiling point of ketchup. So all it did was ooze ketchup all over the coals. You could feel the disappointment hanging in the air.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the only thing hanging in the air. One thing I didn't account for is what ketchup burning on hot coals smells like. It's hard to describe, but my guess is that if Satan was lactose intolerant, and ate a bunch of lasagna, this is what his toilet would smell like. Horrible. Now everyone was pissed because these stink molecules were stuck in their noses.

To this day, I'm not allowed to get near the grill with ketchup. And that happened over five years ago.

Remember to always check your D cells

Work sucks, and is kicking my butt right now. I'm trying to make up for the unpaid days off. So I was working pretty late last night. I'm tired, I head out to my car, turn the key...

Dead silence.

Once again, I am the master of the self-jinx. Earlier in the day, I was discussing my daughter going away to college. We decided it would be best if she left her car with me while she is gone. I mentioned it would be good since I only have one car, and if anything happened to it, I would be screwed.

Same. Fucking. Day.

I was the only car left in the parking lot, so finding a jump was out of the question. I ended up hoofing it home. An hour and a half.

I wake up this morning bemoaning how out of shape I am. I wasn't about to do that walk again. So I went back to my roots (i.e. poor) and got on the bus. And that's when I remembered that being poor sucks. I used to ride the bus when I was a kid. You get to meet some really cool people. By cool, I mean freaky, and by people, I mean mongoloids.

The guy who decided to carry on a discussion with me this morning was one of these. He was wearing a shirt that was a spoof of the Survivor logo, but it said Redneck instead. Outhunt, outdrink, outburp indeed. It's not like I couldn't tell from your dental work. He had only one front tooth, which was several shades whiter than the rest of his teeth, and stuck out at about a 45 degree angle. I am not making this up.

You may think I'm being some sort of elitist with this talk. Well, for your information, I was born in the Ozarks. I've got enough hillbilly blood in me to be my own cousin. However, I got away from all of that.

To complete my white trash morning, I went to Wal Mart to get some baking soda to clean my terminals before I put the new battery in. Any day I end up in Wal Mart is a bad day indeed. There's a reason Wal Mart bingo was invented.

I found 12 of these in about 5 minutes.

I was worried that my comments and email would be filled with angry rednecks over this, but then I remembered that they don't know how to use computers, so everything's good.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Golden Umbrella, the hangover edition (AKA meandering and slow to the point)

On the 2nd day of my unpaid vacation, I decided to be productive in a different manner, and start searching for the newest winner of the Golden Umbrella award. As painful as this process is under ideal conditions, doing it with a headache, and a hangover that got worse as the day progressed, it was a chore. Apparently my proclamation of my good health was premature. Plus, my internet decided to choose this exact time to act like a giant turd. Which reminds me...

One thing I didn't factor in is that if you spend a day intaking nothing but fluids, then the output of your body will be pretty fluid as well. I discovered this fun fact at about 1:00, 1:20, 1:45, and a few more times after that. My body obviously didn't approve of this experiment.

As for the award, I was thinking about changing it to something a little less wordy, like the Gumbies or something like that. But the more I thought about it, the less I liked it. First of all, it reminds me of a time when Eddie Murphy was still funny, which makes me depressed. Second, I absolutely HATE the trend of throwing a "-y" or a "-ie" at the end of a word, and voila, instant award name. Since we have determined through extensive scientific research that this award stands head and shoulders above all other awards out there, it should stand apart in name as well. So you're stuck with the lengthy name.

As a little look behind the curtain, here's how I try and find winners. I do searches for people's interests which would theoretically make for good writing. However, this is not the case. You would be surprised at how many people who list "being awesome" as an interest are anything but. One guy actually had "air guitar" listed as an interest right before "being awesome". Unfortunately, he didn't list irony as an interest.

So let's get to a site that is indeed "being awesome". This weeks winner is a tag team effort written by a couple of dudes named Cheez and B Harris. The blog is called Arguably Useless. First off, the banner is a pic from The Big Lewbowski, so that is a giant plus right off the bat. They discuss things like music, sports, and movies. I like all of those things. I'll even let it slide that they didn't list Nation of Millions as one of the best rap albums.

And now for the rules that we all know and love. In order to be added to my esteemed 'Winners of "Umbrella's Blogs That Don't Suck" award (AKA the Golden Umbrella)' list, you must make an acceptance speech in the comments section. I've been pleasantly surprised by the speeches so far. I shouldn't be, because this is pretty much the biggest award you can win on the interwebs. But I'm glad the winners are enjoying this prestigious award. So congratulations Cheez and/or B Harris. Here is your award. Feel free to put it on your site.

Even the Dude would be honored with this

Retarded experiments, the day after

Well that was interesting. My mother used to always say that boredom was the sign of a weak mind. In other words, find something to do. So while I was sitting at home, I decided to see what would happen if I combined an all day bender with no food. Kind of like a science experiment. It takes a lot to get me drunk. I can go all day if I maintain a steady pace, and just keep a nice buzz going. Will the lack of food change things? I would say let's go to my notes, I gave up on my notes early.

So for anyone who wants to try this at home, here are my observations. First of all, the buzz came much quicker than normal. Granted, I was drinking bourbon first thing in the morning, so I don't know if that had anything to do with it or not. However, it took quite some time before I felt shitfaced. This surprised me. It was probably about 6:00 before I really felt drunk. However, when the drunk hit, it hit hard. That was probably the drunkest I've been in several years. It's been a long time since the bed was spinning.

Interestingly, I didn't feel hungry all day. It wasn't until I went to bed that I felt hungry, but I didn't want to get up. Also, I woke up in the middle of the night starving, and with bad chest pains. I'm assuming this was some sort of indigestion. Either that, or I had a heart attack.

Amazingly, I'm not in too bad of shape today. I have a splitting headache, but after a little breakfast and coffee, I'm not on top of my game, but I'm certainly functional.

So my conclusion is that short term, it doesn't make much of a difference. However, by the end of the day, you will definitely feel the effects.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Retarded experiments

As part of the failing economy, everyone at my office is required to take 5 unpaid days off this quarter. I took one today. Because I have nothing better to do, I decided to see what would happen if I didn't eat anything all day, and drank a bunch. I'm pretty fucked up. It took me about 20 minutes to type this, including editing. I'm going to hate life tomorrow. Why did I do this? Fuck if I know.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The first step is admitting you have a problem

I have a confession to make. I am a reality TV junkie. I know, someone of my intelligence should be above this. But this stuff is like crack to me. I watch the good ones, the bad ones, and everything in between.

The reason I bring this up is because people that know me know I watch this crap. And last night, the new season of The Amazing Race started. I really dig this show. I get to travel vicariously through it. And it's always good for a few mind fucks along the way. (Side note: Blogger's spellchecker informed my that mindfuck is actually two words. Who knew?) Anyhow, there was a pretty awesome scene in the opener. And the people I work with were claiming that it was the funniest thing the show has ever had.

That's a mighty big claim. And it got me thinking. What are the best ever scenes, in terms of hilarity? I could do some research, but that involves work, so these are just off the top of my head. Keep in mind, my sense of humor may differ, but here is Umbrella's list of the six best moments from The Amazing Race, hopefully with linked video awesomeness.

6. The Broken Ox. Colin and Christie were fucking machines this season. They were absolutely dominating this season. Yeah, Colin could be kind of a dick, but most champions are. However, this task destroyed him. One of the great epic meltdowns. This caused them to finish last on this leg, and spawned one of the best lines in the show's history.

5. Everything's Better With Midgets. Yeah, I'm going to hell for laughing at this, but if you don't want to be mocked, don't go on TV. Hell, I was laughing again watching it just now. This might be rated too low.

4. Jackasses Leading Jackasses. OK, apologies for the clip. Go to the 2:45 mark to begin the awesome. If you haven't figured it out yet, introducing animals usually brings comedy gold. Seriously, pissed off donkeys rule. Especially when they're pissed off at people who are dickholes.

3. The Cheese Stands Alone. From last night's episode. Pretty funny, but only third on my list. This is only a partial clip. Seriously, were those carriers made of balsa wood? Having the locals drinking beer and laughing their asses off was a nice touch as well.

2. A Complete and Total Barf-O-Rama. My brother will argue to the death that not only was this the greatest Amazing Race moment, but the best reality moment as well. It's definitely a contender. It builds the drama. It has comedy on several levels. And just when you think the joke is done, BAM, the epic punchline. Bonus points for Jon being from my hometown. And, it gives me another excuse to use the PUKE label.

1. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. But for my money, this is the best. A classic meltdown. People chucking food. I think I would have lost it too. This was just a purely evil mind fuck. Seriously, if you ever want to see two people simultaneously have nervous breakdowns in completely different fashions, this is it. And some of those people had deadly shots.

There you go. If you watch the show, and you can think of one I forgot, let me know.

Honorable mentions without clips: The Jewish frats marching, the dye fight (a blatent ripoff of the tomato fight), Mirna's accents.

People that annoy bar bands

As my loyal readers know, I play in a band. This is my 3rd band I've been a part of, and we are beginning the process of playing in dive bars. I have no delusions of glory. I enjoy playing the dive bars. However, as with any job, there are occupational hazards. So next time you go out to your local club to see live music (and I know you will, because you are cool like that), don't be one of these guys.

1) People who yell "Freebird" - Aaahahahaha. That's hilarious. It's still as funny the 1000th time I've heard it as it is the first. It doesn't matter if I am playing punk, techno, hip-hop, someone will yell this before the night is done. I've used a new technique to head this off at the pass. I just say "Sure, here is our version of Freebird", and play whatever song is next on the set list. Note: If you are in a biker bar, this may be a serious request, not a hacky joke. Tread carefully. On a related note...

2) People who yell "More cowbell!" - Seriously, you guys are so funny. A real knee slapper, that one. I actually want to get a cowbell, and let the idiot who yells this play along. You know he will act like Will Ferrell and look like a total douche. If I ruin his chances of getting laid, then that's a good thing. I don't want people like that even having the tiniest of possibilities of reproducing.

3) People who spill drinks on our gear - Yes, I realize that the speaker looks like a table. Bonus points for those who bitch about wasting five bucks. I feel really bad that our $300 monitor, which is now smoking and arcing, just put you out $5. How inconsiderate of us. Next time we'll bring coasters.

4) People who want to come up and stage and sing with the band - I used to be OK with this, as long as it was a hot chick. Then I discovered that they are even more annoying than anyone else. Look, there is a reason we are up here, and you are down there. You suck. I'm not drunk as you are, so you will have to trust my judgement. I'm pretty sure the people came to see some decent music, not a drunk frat boy. Also, anyone who starts coming on the stage, I don't know what your agenda is. You may be a harmless drunk, you may be a psycho. While I am playing, that is my house, and I will treat you like an intruder.

5) People who want requests, but don't know the song - I love this one. Here's the scenario. Random drunk person comes up, asks us to play some song. I don't know the song, and I tell them as much. They are convinced I know the song. They sing the first line, hoping to jog my memory. I still don't know the song. I ask for more words. They repeat the first line, as it's the only words they know. Or better yet, they try and hum some of it. Most of these people couldn't even hum "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and make it recognizable. Look, you can ask me 100 times, but if I don't know the song, I don't know the fucking song.

6) People who treat the wait staff like dicks - We get invited back if people are spending money. Also, the managers usually aren't there late at night. Therefore, they get their feedback from the crew working. If you piss off the staff, they will be mad, and we may not get a favorable review. Why do you think every hack band on the planet asks you to tip well? Out of the goodness of our hearts?

7) People who get all chatty while we're trying to get our gear off the stage - This is a tricky situation. On the one hand, fans are what make or break a local band, so they have to be treated well. On the other hand, there is another band playing after us, and they are waiting for us to get our shit out of there so they can get going. You don't want to get the reputation as a difficult band to work with. Our band alleviates this by having me, as the singer, mingle with anyone who wants to talk while they get the gear off the stage. However, this is how singers get tagged with the DIVA label. Screw it, I was a drummer in my last band, I've done my share of carrying shit.

8) People who ask for free shit - There is a reason we are selling CD's, T-shirts, stickers, etc. This is how we make money. Bars don't pay crap. We sell more stuff at shows than at any other time. It's how we pay for that amp that just got a pint of beer spilled on it. Our buddy at the merch table gave that hot chick a free shirt because he's delusional and thinks it will get him laid. Besides, we're gonna take that out of his pocket. You are not a hot chick. Just because you are dressed like a slut, doesn't mean you are hot. It's not going to work.

I'm sure there are a million other things, but these are ones I have encountered multiple times. I could make a separate list about club owners and their clubs, but only 0.1% of the population would get it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Golden Umbrella go Braugh

I'm coming to you live from Not Tucson to bring you this week's award. Yes loyal reader, even though I am miles away from home, I am using my break time to lug my laptop around looking for a wireless connection and post this. That is the type of dedication that you have come to deserve, and I intend to deliver. Unfortunately, I don't think you deserve the dedication that involved me getting up earlier than the 3 fucking o'clock I had to get up and post this. That's just crazy.

Speaking of dedication, I don't think you realize what the average nomination process involves. It goes something like this...

1) Check emails and comments for good candidates.
2) See emptiness.
3) Cry.
4) Grab bourbon.
5) Start looking through hundreds of blogs.

This is where I want to stop. Have you ever looked through this many blogs? It sucks. Most of them are horrible. It just sucks the soul out of me. It would probably break a lesser man. That is why step 4 is so important. But you know the old saying, "You've got to kiss a lot of frogs to find one who will suck your dick." I'm pretty sure that's how it goes.

Which brings us to this week. In honor of my traveling on the day of the award ceremony, we are going to have a first. That's right, the Golden Umbrella is going international. This week's winner comes from the country that gave us red headed boxers, potato famines, and whiskey. Mmmm, sweet whiskey. Buckle up people, we're going to Ireland.

Govstooge is the author of the autobiographical blog The Uncivil Servant's Rant. It's a blog about her trials and tribulations at work. Seeing as my own blog got its humble beginnings as a blog bitching about work, I can relate, even though I have no idea what a civil servant is. It's very educational. For example, I am learning how to swear and insult in Ireland from this site. I'm just dying to call someone a luddite today. Plus, she brings the funny in her posts. A very worthy winner.

So back to the rules. As usual, in order to be added to my esteemed 'Winners of "Umbrella's Blogs That Don't Suck" award (AKA the Golden Umbrella)' list, you must make an acceptance speech in the comments section. You can look at the past winners to see the type of quality you are up against. But you wouldn't have won if I didn't think you were up to the task. So congrats Govstooge, and stop by to accept your award.

This will look good surrounded by green

Thursday, February 12, 2009

At last, my weakness revealed

My boss decided to show up at work today at 1:00. He's never been the model of early arrivals, but this is pretty late even for him. His mom has been very ill lately, and I guess he was at her place cleaning up her puke.

I've got a pretty iron stomach. I can brush mold off of food and eat it with no problems. I can drink an insane amount of alcohol, and keep it all down. Changing nasty diapers doesn't bother me in the least. But the slightest hint of puke, and it's game over for Umbrella. I am a classic sympathy puker.

As an example of this Achilles heel, let me tell you a story. Quite a while back, when my oldest daughter was pretty young (5 or so), we were driving to northern Arizona to spend Christmas with my ex's family. When the oldest was young, she had a horrible problem with getting car sick. Every trip was an adventure. One of the things we read was that sitting the child in the front seat will help prevent them from getting sick. It makes sense, it's hard to throw up when you are being smothered by an air bag.

So she was sitting in the passenger seat, I was driving, and my ex was zonked out in the back. We were approaching Flagstaff right as an old fashioned blizzard was hitting town. I don't drive in snow very often, so I was driving a bit slow, and really focusing on the road. All of a sudden, my daughter turns to me, says "Daddy, I'm going to be sick," and before I could respond, promptly barfs all over me.

I reacted as if someone threw acid on me. Warm, stinky, bile-filled acid in various states of digestion. I did everything I could to create a multi-car pileup as I swerved off of the highway. Apparently, the yelling and reckless driving woke my ex up. She must have thought she lost her mind as she woke up to me jumping out of the car, stripping on the side of the highway, in a blizzard, no less, while my daughter was crying. I had chucked my clothes as far away from me as I could, as I washed my skin with the snow. By this time, she had gotten out of the car, and was looking for clean clothes for my daughter. She looked over at me and asked if I was OK. Let's see, I'm standing on the side of the road, wearing nothing but boxers in the middle of a blizzard, while fighting my gag reflex and/or frostbite. I think it's safe to say, I'm pretty fucking far from OK.

It was pretty much a recreation of this scene, except with puke. And in the snow. And I probably overreacted more. And I'm way sexier. But other than that, it was exactly the same.

Also, as an aside, I am going on a business trip tomorrow, so I don't know if I will get a chance to post the Golden Umbrella before I go. I have to admit, the pickings have been slim this week. But I do have a frontrunner. If anyone wants to nominate a worthy site, let me know via comments or email.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Loose ends

This isn't going to be a very coherent post. I'm just updating some things that are still hanging.

It appears that my brilliant idea for my profile picture isn't going to work. I began some investigative research, and I have yet to find a urinal high enough that I could squeeze under. All of the other concerns are still in play. I may have to break down and get photoshop to do some 21st century magic to make this work.

For only the second time in the history of this blog, I wrote a post that got an unexpected amount of feedback via email. The first one was my rant about blogspot, which apparently touched a nerve, both positive and negative, with a lot of people. The second one was my recent tales about my daughter's Academic Decathlon. I checked my email yesterday, and found quite a few comments about this post. "Oh great" I thought. "I've got a bunch of irate parents and/or kids pissed at me for making fun of the dorks." However, I was quite wrong. They were from parents of a team in California, and they really LIKED it. And this isn't just any team, it's only the defending national freaking champions.

So I was very pleasantly surprised by this turn of events. But then I got to wondering. How in the world did they find my site? I know, you're thinking "Umbrella, you have readership in the thousands, the odds are high that one of them would have a kid involved." Ah loyal reader, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but my readership is not as high as the quality of this site would indicate. I don't advertise my site around, so I'm quite clueless as to how they stumbled upon this particular rant. Let's face it, parents of genius children are not exactly the demographic that my writing is slanted towards. So if any of you have stuck around and are still checking this out, let me know how you found this site either via comment or email. The curiosity is killing me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How to be a TV weatherman in three simple steps

With the current economy and job situation, I will provide a public service. Yes, I am going to give you the skill set needed to be a TV weatherman. Follow these steps, and you're well on your way.

1) Look pretty.
2) Act so perky that even Rachel Ray will ask you to tone it down.
3) Be a complete fucking idiot.

For three days, all I have been hearing on the local newscasts is that it was going to snow this morning. Look, I understand being a weatherman in Tucson must suck. You have to come out every day and say "Sunny, nice weather", and make it sound interesting for 10 minutes. That's why they all use all those meteorological vocabulary words to explain what is going on. Complete waste of time. Just let me know if I need a coat, an umbrella, or if the wind is going to make me sneeze. That's it. Quite wasting my time and let's get to sports.

Last night, it was the lead story for the third straight night. I wasn't falling for their ploy. I remembered back when El Nino was going to devastate Tucson. They were trying to get us to get sandbags, and to board our windows, etc. I was actually worried about this. Then they day of the storm came, and we got a little wind. No damage reported, nothing. To quote Jay, "TV weatherman are so full of shit."

So I wasn't biting this time. My lady friend still watches TV news. I don't. I usually get all my info off of the interwebs, like God intended. But my kids were with their mom this weekend, so I spent the weekend hanging out with her. This involved my subjection to the TV news. I told her that they were full of shit, and she disagreed. She argued that would be unethical. I countered with "This is local TV news, ethics are the least of their concerns." Seriously, they dangle this shit out in front of us like worms, waiting for the baby birds to snap it all up.

So I wake up this morning, ready to check out the layer of frosty white goodness (ew, that could be misinterpreted as something gross) straight out of a Bing Crosby music video. Heck, from the sound of what was hitting my roof all night, these must have been the biggest snowflakes in history.

All I saw was wet. Yep, nothing but rain. It really wasn't even that cold. I turned on the TV with the sole purpose of them saying "Hey, we fucked up. Sorry." Of course not. They were still pimping that there was going to be rain/snow all morning. Give it up dudes. You're not fooling anyone. It was sunny, and somewhat cool. Not exactly a blizzard in the making.

The thing that made me laugh the most was when they were talking about school closures. They said that there weren't any yet, but they would let us know if there were any. If any of the schools closed because some dipshit on TV said it was going to snow, then I think the people in Washington that want to blow up the public school system may have a point. Luckily, our educators are not as stupid as the TV media.

It's actually tough always being right. It takes a lot of surprise out of my life.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Tampon jokes + Eazy E reference = Golden Umbrella award

Folks, it's that time again. I am marvelling at my own consistency for keeping this up for two consecutive weeks. Yes, it is Friday's awarding of the Golden Umbrella award.

I think I sold myself short last week by comparing it to the Golden Globes. I think it is actually bigger than the Nobel Prize. Seriously, think about it. The winner of the Golden Umbrella doesn't have to fly across the world and spend several hours in a monkey suit surrounded by pretentious assholes just to get the award. As far as I'm concerned, you can accept it drunk in your underwear. The defense rests.

Before I get to the winner, I have some announcements to make. Paul, last week's inaugural winner, showed what true champions are made of. Not only did he make a nice speech, he upgraded my award. Now THAT is what I'm talking about. Since my HTML/Photoshop skills are horrible, I'm stealing his work. That's what the interwebs are about, right?

This is me while trying to do that fancy blogging

So thanks to the efforts of Paul, I'm going to add a new requirement to the winners. Before I add you to my esteemed 'Winners of "Umbrella's Blogs That Don't Suck" award (AKA the Golden Umbrella)' list, you must make an acceptance speech in the comments section. I don't care if it's as simple as "Thanks" or "You suck", or you want to express your views on the forced occupation of Tibet. It's your moment of glory, and as the winner, I know you have the ability to string a few words together to form an interesting/funny/ridiculous thought.

Without further ado, let's get to this week's winner. I've spent an embarrassing amount of time going through blogs, and the success rate has been very poor. However, I found one that has Golden Umbrella potential. This weeks winner is GynaGirl, author of The Wacky Adventures of GynaGirl. GynaGirl was a tax collector, but gave up that life of gluttony to make the world a better place by becoming a nurse. That act of philanthropy is why she is this week's winner.

Yeah right. I could care less if she ate babies. She wins because she brings the awesome to her posts. Tampon jokes? Check. Poop references? Check. Plus, she's a musician, which will automatically earn bonus points. My only complaint is that she doesn't post very frequently. I guess she is choosing quality over quantity. Whatever, I was not put on this earth to question genius. I was put here to find it, and spread it to the masses.

So congratulations GynaGirl. Please stop by and accept the new and improved Golden Umbrella award.

How can you turn down something with "Prestigious" in it?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Revenge of the Nerds (an epic tale, or just a long winded ramble)

I mentioned that I was busy last Saturday which prevented me from making the Super Bowl party as awesome as normal. The reason was that I was at my daughter's Academic Decathlon competition. And let me tell you, what a way to spend a Saturday.

What is Academic Decathlon? Well, it is a competition involved ten events, but they're all academic. I'm not going into all the details. If you're interested, look here.

My oldest daughter went through a goth phase when she was in junior high. She didn't want to participate in anything, her grades sucked, wore black, the whole nine yards. I'm pretty sure a lot of this was her response to my ex leaving, and the subsequent divorce. But I didn't like it at all.

When she was ready to start high school, I was determined to put an end to this. I told her that she was required to join at least one school event every year she was in high school. I didn't care if it was a sport, band, debate, chess club, whatever. I wanted her to get involved. I thought this was a brilliant plan.

She had other ideas. She complained, bitched, moaned, and generally acted as if I had asked her to prostitute herself so I could have beer money. However, I am a rock, and I didn't budge on my stance. In her final act of defiance, she decided to pick something she would be an utter failure at, in hopes I would change my mind. The club she picked, you guessed it, Academic Decathlon.

But a funny thing happened on the way to showing up her old man. The subject matter that year was the Renaissance. One of the by-products of her goth phase was that she gained an interest in art. Slowly, she started getting into the studies for this topic. And because the club was fairly new for her school, they only had seven kids in it (nine is a regulation team), so she automatically made the team. She worked pretty hard at it, and off they went to the regional competition.

Both she and her team got slaughtered.

Sophomore year, and the subject was China. She had been getting into Asian cultures for the last couple of years, so she decided to stay on board for this topic. Once again, she worked hard, studies vigorously, and had high hopes going into regionals.

Both she and her team got slaughtered.

By her junior year, she had grown out of her goth phase. She was growing into a woman, and even joined a couple of other clubs at the school. She played one sport, and her grades were starting to come up. The topic this year was the Civil War, which is something I studied extensively. Finally, something I could help her with. She and her team would come over to my place, we would order pizzas, and they would study while I helped them out. Their goal was to have someone, anyone, win an individual medal in any event. We were confident that this was the year.

Both she and her team got slaughtered.

Senior year, and the topic is Latin America. Once again, everyone is working hard. Once again, confidence is high. She and her best friend had been at this for four years, and they were sure a Hollywood ending was in store for them. And it seemed to me like a million years ago when I had that youthful optimism, instead of my bitter pessimism. Tucson sure isn't Hollywood.

So that is where I was sitting on Saturday, for the fourth year in a row. I love my daughter, and I will support her in damn near anything she wants to do, as long as it is legal, but I have to say that I would rather spend a day getting my teeth drilled than sit through that freak show. It starts off with something called Super Quiz, which isn't too bad. It's kind of like a game show. Each team member sits at their table, and they ask a multiple choice question. If they get it right, their team gets a point. Each member gets five questions, and for the whole team, it is a total of 45 questions.

However, these questions are damn near impossible. I graduated college summa cum laude with a degree in electrical engineering. I am far from stupid. But listening to these questions make me feel like an absolute moron. It amazes me how many these kids get right.

Most of the kids dress like idiots. They wear stupid hats. I've seen kids with Spock ears. I've seen guys wearing hula skirts. Imagine a room full of Urkels. I'm not even exaggerating, this is what it's like. It's absolutely ridiculous. I'm just grateful my daughter and her school don't do this.

Then they have a couple of hours of break while scores for all the events are tabulating, and the awards are determined. We usually bring some cards, and play cards while this is going on. The kids are usually burnt out at this point, since they've spent the last two days taking tests, giving speeches and interviews, and writing essays for the competition.

Then it's back for the awards ceremony. There are ten events, 3 divisions, and the top three in each division get a medal. Yes, that's 90 awards given out. Consider the fact that the one school in our region that has won every year (and even went to nationals last year) wins about 80 of these medals, and it makes for a long day.

So I was watching Super Quiz this year, feeling stupid, when I noticed something strange happening. Her team was doing OK. The kids were getting 3-4 questions right per turn. They were lurking near the top. However, the team that wins every year pulled away at the end, my daughter's team struggled late, and when the final results were shown, they finished tied for fifth. Considering the highest the school had ever finished was 15th, this was a major accomplishment, and the kids were thrilled. Unfortunately, only the top three teams in this event get an award, so they were still shut out.

On to the awards ceremony. My chronically messed-up back was starting to rebel after sitting in the bleachers for so long. I was zoning out while the annual parade of winners from the school that always wins was going on. Then something bizarre happened.

They called my daughters name!

Her team was sitting on the other side of the gym, directly across from us. It was funny to see all nine of their jaws drop in unison. They were looking around in complete disbelief. She told me later that they were also zoning out, and they weren't sure if they misheard it. Since nobody was going up to the podium, she finally headed over there. Yes, my daughter, the poor grade having, school hating, social misfit, had just won the first medal in her school's history. I was completely speechless, and I don't think I've ever been happier for her in my life. Heck, even typing this now several days after the fact is making me giddy. She had won a silver medal for her interview.

She had a huge grin that couldn't be blown off of her face with a grenade. All of her teammates were just as excited. I was trying to be cool, but I was so excited, so I was fidgeting around like a toddler with a bladder problem. It just couldn't get any better.

Except it did. A little while later, she was announced as the silver medal winner in the math category. It was so cool to see the bounce and confidence in her step as she went to the stage a second time. It truly was like something had changed in her. I just wanted to yell to everyone, "That's my kid!" One of my all time great moments as a parent.

We went out to dinner afterwards, and she was absolutely beside herself. It was really strange to see her all giggly, and smiling, and genuinely happy. I can honestly say I haven't seen this side of her since she was a little kid. It's such a nice change from the moody, gloomy teenager.

So I guess I need to change my disclaimer. This is about as happy feel-good story as it gets.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Thoughts from a broken hearted sports fan

My first words after the game ended? "We should have went to the sports bar."

Yes, I chose to have a Super Bowl party at my house last night. My friends and family put undue pressure on me, and I caved. Unfortunately, I caved on Saturday, not giving me much time to prepare. I had previous commitments on Saturday (which I may post about later), so I had to get everything ready on Sunday morning.

I got up early, and headed to the grocery store to get the necessary goodies. I wouldn't be cooking this time, since I usually prep everything the night before, so my guests would have to suffer with pre-packaged snacking. Sucks for them.

The first thing I noticed was that the store was FILLED with people wearing Cardinal gear. Let me state, I have lived in Tucson since 1996, and lived in the Phoenix area for many years before that. Of all the time I've lived in Tucson, I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen people wearing Cardinals crap. On the one hand, I guess it's good that after all these years, people are starting to support the team. On the other hand, I hate bandwagon fans. If this were an SAT question it would go along the lines of "Bandwagon fans :: Sports fans as Child molesters :: Prison inmates". They're all members of the same group, but the second ones want to anally rape the first ones. I guess I just feel like these new fans haven't suffered through the shitty times to be able to truly appreciate the good time (singular) with this team.

Secondly, I made a couple of errors in execution of my shopping plan. The first one was listening to my kids, who insisted that you can buy white board cleaner at the grocery store. They were wrong. The second one was my fault completely. A classic rookie blunder. I was loading up the cart with various beer and alcohol when one of the stockers came up and asked, "Is it almost 10 yet?" I thought to myself, "What a weird time to end a shift", and responded, "You've got a couple of hours still." He continued to look at me like I was a retard when it dawned on me. In Arizona, you can't buy alcohol on Sunday before 10:00. I completely spaced this one, and now I was going to have to go back out on a second trip.

After the post-10:00 alcohol and office supply run, I set up our gambling board. This is another Umbrella Super Bowl party tradition. I go to the websites of the casinos, and come up with the ridiculous prop bets they have, and write them on the white board. All the guests pitch in some money, we all make our bets, and winner takes all. Even the casual fans really get into the game when a bunch of money is to be won.

People showed up, and I was a wreck. This was as nervous as I think I have ever been for a game. That is very unlike me, and it was pissing me off. Unfortunately, I think it was pissing everyone else off too, because I was pacing around like a caged tiger on meth. Obviously, I needed to drink more.

As for the game, unfortunately, it went as I thought it would. I thought the Cardinals would play tough, but the Steelers would win it. It still sucked, knowing that it was THIS close. The play at the end of the first half was a killer, and everyone that watches football knew it immediately when it happened. It was a pretty somber halftime at the Umbrella house.

We all know how the game ended, and I was unusually bummed out by this. And somehow, apparently my cable company showed about 30 seconds of porn right after the Fitzgerald TD, and I missed it. I had a house full of people, and nobody saw it? How is that possible? (Edit: I found out it was only on the standard definition signal. Us high-end HD bitches missed the fun). To add salt to my wounds, I ended up getting 2nd in the gambling pool. The winner? One of my older daughter's friends, who's hair coloring scheme reminds me of Pepe Le Pew. And to top it all off, after everyone left, I managed to blow my diet for the first time ever by downing a bag of Doritos (who had the best commercial, BTW). Oh well, at least I learned a lot about the Power Up Gambia mission from the back of the bag.