Saturday, April 23, 2005

#35 - Saturday TV

It's Saturday morning in the Woody household. Although the morning is waning, only one Woodyette - the older one - is awake yet. The smaller one must be having another growth spurt.

Now, when I was a kid, Saturday morning invariably meant vegetating in front of the venerable Boob Tube. You name it, I watched it. I'm not ashamed to admit that in my Saturday-induced sloth, I watched everything from Magilla Gorilla to Josie and the Pussycats (I grew up with co-ed siblings and some sacrifice on my part was expected). The primary reason I have mush for brains today is because I memorized the entire stable of Warner Bros. cartoons.

Woodyette Number One wandered out to the TV room and asked to watch...

Rachael Ray.

I kid you not. Rather than watch some made-to-dumb-down-kids TV fare, she would rather watch one of the Food Network divas in action.

She's been somewhat obsessed with Ms. Ray of late, probably because her "$40 a Day" show takes her to so many neat locales in the country. My youngster loves travel shows, and equally enjoys cooking shows. Her Rachael Ray fixation, then, is no big surprise. Personally, Ray's kilowatt grin is a bit much for me after a half hour or so, but I do enjoy her "30 Minute Meals" show... good stuff!

(On a related note: Mrs. Woody and I are back on our modified Dr. Phil's "Rapid Start" program for awhile... Suddenly even Emeril's cooking is starting to look good!)

Anyway, and most unfortunately for my daughter, Rachael does not appear on the Saturday morning radar. She had to settle for "Blue's Clues" and "Rolie Polie Olie" instead.

I must say she's taking the disappointment well.

UPDATE: Baby Sis points out my failings as a speller of childrens' shows. I blame "Magilla Gorilla."

UPDATE II: Also "Gigantor."

UPDATE III: Rachael is on in the afternoon! Saturday is saved!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

#34 - Found Another One!

Thank goodness for Dave Barry's blog. Apparently there's a whole slough of International Days of which I've never been aware. Dave points us to another one.

International Respect for Chickens Day

It appears to be sponsored by an organization calling itself "United Poultry Concerns." This bothers me somewhat. In my experience, your average fowl has but one concern, which is how to stay one step ahead of the axe. Here's the money quote, though:

Chickens are cheerful, intelligent birds. The mother hen tenderly cares for her chicks, and roosters protect their families and flocks.

Huh. I must admit, my own experience with chickens has been anything but deserving of respect. In fact - and here I must apologize to family members who thought they'd safely put this experience behind them - we used to raise chickens.

My Dad was the world's greatest armchair hobbiest. He would find something to obsess over, read everything he could find on the subject, ask as many people at work as would talk to him about it, then rally the troops to implement the scheme. We tried livestock twice. Once with rabbits, and again with chickens. In each case, the objective was a noble one: we would raise the livestock as a means of supplementing our food stores. Rabbit, when cooked correctly, is actually rather delectable (tastes like watered-down chicken, of course). The chickens would be layers, then eaten when they could no longer provide our daily cholesterol pellets.

The problem, of course, was in (literally) the execution. When the time came to actually need to off the animals, Dad always developed cold feet. He had been raised on a farm as a boy, and I guess he figured it would be a simple matter to just go out, club the bunnies, skin 'em and fry 'em. He would spend days preparing us mentally for this traumatic experience. Then, when he thought the time was right, we would have this conversation around the dinner table:

Dad: So, I was thinking that we need to get those rabbits killed so we can try some rabbit stew for dinner. Greg (shooting a bemused glance in my direction), think you can handle that?

Me: Beg pardon?

Dad: All you need is a good baseball bat. You have one, don't you?

Me: Baseball bat?

Dad: (wondering how this genius could ever have sprung from his loins) Yes, son. A bat. You do have one, right?

Me: Um, yeah...

Dad: So, just take the rabbits out one by one, club them with the bat, then chop off their heads with my hatchet. Might want to wear old clothes since there's likely to be some spatter.

Me: Ummmm...

Ultimately, of course, we sold the rabbits.

When Dad announced that we were going to get fresh eggs every morning, we all - simultaneously - gave him the same reaction:

"You're kidding."

He assured us he was not, and set us to work preparing to become chicken ranchers. To this day, I have no idea whether we were really even zoned for keeping poultry in our backyard, but others had done so, and I'm pretty sure that was the extent of Dad's research. We built a coop under one portion of the house where an upper bedroom overhung the garage by a few feet. We fenced it in with chicken wire, built some nesting platforms, and waited for Dad to procure the pullets.

Naturally, no sooner did we have the chickens safely ensconced in their new home than we realized this was going to be another disaster in animal husbandry. We had five hens. At least, we assumed they were hens because one or two of them actually did lay an egg or two apiece. And that was it.

I don't remember exactly how long we had those blasted birds. I do, however, remember spending copious amounts of time fighting with my siblings over whose turn it was to muck out the coop. As far as I could tell, that was the entire breadth of their output. We put food in, they pushed muck out. No eggs, just chicken scat. We also spent more than our fair share of time chasing the stupid birds all over the neighborhood. They seemed to be masters of escape, and if they made it over the back fence, we had an uptight neighbor to deal with.

Finally, Dad realized the experiment was doomed to fail, and made plans to rid us of the chickens. Former Idaho farm boy that he was, his first instinct was to eat them. "No problem," he announced. "You just wring their necks, pluck their feathers, and broil 'em." So, naturally, when the time came, we had another conversation. I was readier this time:

Dad: Well, son, we need to...

Me: Forget it, Dad.

Dad: (feigning surprise) What do you mean, "forget it?"

Me: Exactly that. If you think I'm going to pick up one of those feathered menaces, wring it's neck, chop off it's head, and pluck it, you're out of your mind.

We briefly considered having one of the neighbor boys do it. They were an interesting set of teenage brothers that lived across the street and Dad figured should have landed in jail before now. Surely they would be interested in a little creative neck-wringing? But when even they turned us down, Dad knew he was licked. In what seemed to me to be the opening of a really bad made-for-TV movie, we found ourselves one day driving our old Volkswagen bus out to a nearby chicken ranch - a real one - and releasing them just outside the fence.

That was, fortunately for us, the end of Dad's attempts at animal husbandry. Oh, we kept birds for awhile in the old chicken coop. Parakeets, mostly, as I recall, but they all died or flew away, and the coop slowly disintegrated over time. But our careers as animal ranchers of any kind died when the chickens were deported. My experiences with the chickens enhanced my later experience with domesticated turkeys in Guatemala, but that's a story for another day.

The web site for International Respect for Chickens Day encourages us to "show the world that chickens are people, too!"

Right. I'll go pop one in the crock pot right now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

#33 - Peace Disturbed

So today was International Noise Awareness Day. I had no idea such a day existed, but then I also learned just the other day that some sap put together a day to celebrate trees for cryin' out loud. Like, Euell Gibbons came back from the dead to worship his favorite meal, or something.

As I pondered the implications of a day dedicated to being aware of noise, I admit to being just a bit flummoxed... How does one adequately address noise in a world where... um... what is it, Sweetheart? Daddy is blogging... Your sister did what? Go see Mommy, please. Daddy can't answer that right now.

Where was I? Oh, noise awareness. Right. Anyway, I was wondering how in the world one could possibly not be aware of noise. Especially here in sunny Southern California - traffic capitol of this world and every new planet they're discovering around stars that could have ours for lunch. While I admit I can pretty much ignore most traffic noise, those doggoned traffic reporters that fly overhead at all hours of the day and night can always get my attention. In fact, one of those turkeys flew (har!) overhead just a few hours... what now, Sweetie? Daddy is really busy right now... No, I can't make your sister stop doing whatever it is she's doing. Didn't you talk to Mommy? And what did she say? Alright, then. Why don't you try that? Thank you, Sweetheart...

Sorry. Let's see... I was talking about traffic helicopters. At least, I think I was. Oh, well. No matter. The issue here is Noise Awareness. I tend to feel that this is tantamount to kids asking why we have a Mothers Day and a Fathers Day but not a Kids Day. Every parent has this conversation. I even remember asking my Mom about it, and she gave me the standard Parental Answer: "Honey, every day is Kids Day." We never liked this answer, but I understand it now. Especially when my kids are... Sweetheart! Please stop yelling at your sister! That's not helping anything! No, I'm not yelling at you! Well... yes, I am! But I'm the Daddy! Your room, please, and close the door!

I really apologize about that. I truly did intend to have a meaningful discussion of what apparently has become important enough to merit having an International Day dedicated to it. I wonder if they've managed to get this message out to those twits who somehow believe I like their over-bassed thumpa-thumpa music while they're driving neck-and-neck with me on the freeway. Unfortunately, these guys always catch up to me when I'm driving my Honda, which has no air conditioning and forces me to drive with my windows down. You can just imagine how much I appreci... Sweetie! What?! What do you want now?! You two are screaming like banshees in that room and the entire neighborhood can hear you! Settle down and quit making so much noise!

Um, lessee... I keep losing my train of thought... Oh, yes. The boom-box crowd. Really, I don't understand how these guys can function at anything above the level of your average paramecium, given the amount of nerve damage they must... WHO'S SCREAMING? Did someone get hurt? How? On the bunk bed ladder?? WELL, GET OFF OF IT AND LET YOUR SISTER CLIMB DOWN!!


Anyway, go read up on International Noise Awareness Day. I'm certain it's incredibly important, but I'm having a hard time getting behind it. I mean, it's not like I'm a party animal, or anything, and I certainly don't go around polluting the neighborhood with a lot of racket.

All things considered, it's pretty quiet around here.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

#32 - My Poor Sister...

This sort of thing would never happen with the Woodyettes.

No, in the Woody household, that same scene would involve Harry Potter. With two (count them: two) Hermiones. And it wouldn't be "Candy Man." It would be "I Am a Child of God."

Context is everything.

Monday, April 04, 2005

#31 - Tax Relief

I haven't filed my returns so late in years. Really, since I got into using SpeedyTax, or TurboAudits, or whatever the heck software I'm using these days, I've been filing my returns as early in February as possible so I can get those crucial refunds into my atrophied checking account. ("Atrophied," I guess, is the wrong word. It gets plenty of exercise. "Emaciated" is, perhaps, a better fit.)

The problem is that, somehow, mysteriously, I wasn't able to find last year's file. You see, one of the real benefits of using the same software every year is that they can read last year's file directly into your current return. So, when they ask you all those Big Brother questions about what deduction you took in support of pygmy water buffalo research the previous year, you don't even have to look. The computer already knows all that.

The trouble, of course, is that last year's refunds bought last year's new computer. Now, I'm darned certain that I went through all the hoops of transferring all my files from the old machine to the new one. I am, after all, a techie in my professional life, and I know how to do such things. Still, when I installed the new tax software this year, you can imagine my panic when I was completely unable to find anything even remotely resembling last year's return. The panic grew when I was also unable to find my printed returns!

Anyone who knows me recognizes my genius for organization. My files are immaculate. This means that when I put a file away somewhere, it doesn't matter where because it will always be there. The trick is that I generally have absolutely no idea where "there" is from one year to the next. So, okay, I'm not a genius. In fact, I'm not organized enough to be the village idiot, so forget the "genius" line. You never heard that from me.

Needless to say, I searched high and low (and everywhere in between) for those files. Nothing. Mrs. Woody and I traditionally have that money spent (virtually, anyway) two or three months ahead of filing, so we really needed to get our taxes done. Soon.

In a true act of desperation, I turned to the IRS's web site for help. I was relieved to find that I could order a copy of my return for last year because I filed it electronically. Technology finally comes to the IRS! Glory be! I dialed the number listed on the web site, picked my way through their menus, and then began the real nail-biting stretch: They said the copy would be mailed anywhere from 10 to 14 business days later, and that would put me this close to April 15!

Fortunately, they lied. I got the copy sometime over the weekend and filed our returns last night.

I am, as you can imagine, relieved. I am also, as you might expect, chiselling my return directly onto my computer case, rather than rely on some ancient 6 month old magnetic media. I will also staple my paper copy directly to my stomach in a waterproof bag so I can keep it with me until next year. Or maybe I'll just burn a copy onto a CD and keep it in my lock box...

Nah. Where's the fun in that?