Friday, February 27, 2009

The Siege At the Residence Inn

I remember when I used to have good ideas.  It really did used to happen, but it’s been a while (measured in years now).  Recently, I thought it would be marvelous to stay in a fun hotel while our house was packed up for our long-awaited move to the Northwest.  This kids could play and we could have some good family bonding time.  Well, both of those things happened this week, but not entirely the way I envisioned.  Here are a few highlights/observations:

  • Pushing the button on the elevator is, in fact, the most important task any of us will ever perform.  I learned this because I watched my four little people fight over that little button as if pushing it would end the school year or cause it to rain Go-Gurts.
  • I’m gonna need a pediatrician to explain how kids can so freely transition from the hot tub to the ice-cold pool without the slightest shiver or slow-down.  It doesn’t work that way for us old people.  And I’m pretty sure my efforts to keep up with them knocked a few months off my life.
  • So I saw ALL of my kids slip & fall down while running next to the pool, and 3 of the times it happened directly in front of the sign that says “NO RUNNING.”  There must be something really wrong with me, because this was kinda satisfying.  If only our kids could immediately see the results of their huge mistakes – like when they don’t brush their teeth for a week or date convicted felons.
  • The breakfast buffet was fun, but I had to explain to my petite 5 year-old-princess that she had to eat something other than just a plate-full sausage.  And we all learned that sugar-free syrup tastes exactly the way you’d expect it to taste.
  • The most memorable moments happened pretty much all night on Sunday.  This was when 3 of the 4 kids . . . got sick.  At 3 in the morning I called the front desk to report the . . . uh . . . mess, the guy who answered quickly asked if I needed a wake-up call.  I told he, “Thanks, but I’m already awake.”  He didn’t laugh.  Then I got to ask him how to “clean things up.”  He, being a guy, told me that the housekeepers didn’t come in until 7 and to, and I’m not making this up, “COVER IT WITH A TOWEL.”  Of course, being a guy, that’s exactly what I did.  The Mrs. HTF was unimpressed.

Anyway, it was a memorable time, and I guess the point is to make memories, however hard they are to clean up.  And sometimes those memories are better off covered up with a hotel towel.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Demystifying Financial Vocabulary (with buffets, tissues, and pants with big pockets)

I heard something today about a “financial crisis.”  Sounded pretty serious . . . but it’s probably not that big a deal.  It can’t be nearly as big as deal as when the writer’s strike cut short Lost last year and CANCELLED 24.  We all know that in the last 5 months or so we’ve been treated to a whole new vocabulary of economics.  Here at HTF, I’d like to help the readers understand a bit what all of these fancy terms mean.  So I peeled open the latest BusinessWeek for some ideas and found:

  • 401K:  This is where your retirement savings has been sitting (in quick-sand).  The “tax code” (a government document that is roughly the thickness of my bed) says that you’ll be penalized if you touch the money in there before you’re 59 and a half.  That’s cuz it’s supposed to be for when you’re much older.  However, if you look at your recent statement you’ll discover that there’s not enough money left in there to go to the buffet at 3:30 PM anyway.
  • GDP (Gross Domestic Product):  This is kinda the measure of what we are worth (in dollars) as a country.  It’s a shrinking number though.  Ecuador is actually considering buying our country and selling the good pieces on e-Bay.
  • Subprime:  This term refers to people with negative credit scores who were given loans that absolutely no one ever thought they would pay back.  This is quite similar to “borrowing” a Kleenex from somebody.  You’re never gonna return the thing – it’s a gift.  On the topic of borrowing money with no plans to pay it back until well after the next ice age – see US government.
  • Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs):  This was an excellent idea, since, of course, it originated from fast-walking guys in pinstriped suits in New York.  The idea was basically that if a bank had a loan that it knew would never get paid back, if you put it together with thousands of other similar worthless loans the total would be worth a ton!  And people bought these things because they were tied to houses (the loans, not the people, but that would’ve been better for the economy…), and obviously, housing values would double every couple years.
  • “Get credit flowing again”:  This is a term used so frequently by politicians and people without visible legs on TV that it deserves some explanation.  (which you should probably get from an even better source somewhere)  The idea is that banks need to open up and start lending lots of money again, because that worked so well last time.
  • Bailout:  This term used to refer to jumping out of a plane that was going to crash violently and explode so that you would crash slightly-less-violently to the ground in a different parking lot.  That’s roughly the same thing it means today except this time you get to crash with billions of your friend’s dollars in your pocket.  (hint: have big pockets)

I could go on, so let me know if you want more.  Hopefully you have a much greater understanding of macroeconomics now – perhaps enough to work in the US Congress.  So until next time – Happy Landings!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chick Fil-A, Katy Perry, JT’s Backup Dancers and A Sandwich to Die For

A peek into the mailbag yesterday revealed a litany of questions from an alert reader.  So I’ll do my best to answer them here, sit back and read along . . . this one is a bit of a wild ride:

Dear HTF,

Q. As you know, March Madness is quickly approaching.  Any chance that I may beat the elementary school set in the Pope Family & Friends Tournament?  Is it possible that I may beat the Specks?  All of them?  What about just Jspeck?  I can beat him, right?   Or do you think I’m going to just completely fall apart during the semi-finals again?

A. (first let me mention that all HTF readers are invited to participate in the tournament, drop me a note if you want in)  The short answer to your question is that the only way you have a shot of beating everyone, Specks and 3rd graders included, is if you are actually enrolled in an elementary school and have never seen an entire basketball game in your life.  Seems to be the formula.

Q. Will I ever become a backup dancer for Justin Timberlake?

A.  While this is something we ALL aspire to, we should probably reset expectations a bit.  The lottery would be having your Facebook friend request accepted by one of the backup dancers and/or a close relative of one.

Q.  Will Northwest Airlines ever respond to the complaint letter that I sent them about the fact that they rerouted me to Detroit for no apparent reason other than they must have thought it was funny because I had no coat? 

A.  I actually made a few phone calls on this one and found out that you’re only partially correct.  Yes, they sent you there because you had no coat, but the other reason was that it’s part of the Stimulus Package (and awesome rock band name).  REALLY?  Yes, really.  The new super-secret plan is to reroute planes to the cities hardest hit by the economic collapse in hopes that the passengers will spend money on necessities like bad airport food, books that they’ll start but never finish, luggage carts that charge you like $10 and then give you a quarter back upon return, and yes . . . coats.

Q.  Will Katy Perry and Travis McCoy ever get back together?  How can you tell her apart from Zooey Deschanel?  Does Zooey scare you as much as Katy does?  Do you think they could be the same person?  What do you think would happen if Travis dated Zooey instead?  Would Katy get mad?  Do you think she would freak out and chase down Travis like she does to that guy in that Hot ‘N Cold video?  Wouldn’t that be cool?  Don’t you just want to write “Zoey” instead of “Zooey” and “Katie” instead of “Katy”?  And don’t you just want to pronounce their names “Zooooo-ey” and “Catty”?  Do you think you could call her “Catty” with a straight face?  Actually, “Katy” also is close to “Kitty.”  I hope I never meet her.  I don’t want to accidentally call her “Kitty” or “Catty.”  Hey, will the price of kitty litter ever decline?

A.  I was going to use my Phone-A-Friend on this one, but they didn’t answer, so I’ll totally get back to you after we pay off the National Debt.

Q.  If you had to come up with a MS Alias, what would it be? 

A.  Yoda (thought long and hard about this I did)

Q.  What is the deal with all of the peanut butter recalls?

A.  Haven’t you heard?  Jelly threw down a massive misinformation campaign against PB because he ignored a perfectly reasonable Request for Flair on Facebook.

Q.  Can I give a shout out to the person who thought up putting peanut butter together with chocolate?

A.  Yep.  You’re welcome.

Q.  Will there still be other opportunities to make fun of Blago?

A.  Oh yeah there will be.  That hair can’t stay away from the cameras, and that mouth won’t stop saying bizarre things until you weld it shut.

Q.  Speaking of fun hair, should I set up a Facebook fan page for Richard Engel’s? 

A.  Only if you’re going to add one for mine as well.

Q.  Why does Chick Fil A taste so good? 

A.  Those particular chickens are exclusively fed peanut butter and bacon for their entire (albiet short) lives.

Q  When will I spot another sea turtle?

A.  Right Now

Q.  Which has the best shot at the Oscar for best short film (live action):  Auf Der Strecke, Manon on the Asphalt, or Spielzeugland? 

A.  While those were all great short films (the shorter the better) in which I understood every word, I’m going with this lady’s performance instead.


Future Pope Family & Friends Tournament Champion/Backup Dancer for Justin Timberlake (who loves Richard Engel’s hair & Chick Fil A, but not necessarily in that order.  Waffle fries always trump glossy hair.  Always.)

Whew, hopefully this particular reader is out of questions for a few minutes enjoyed the responses.  Remember to send your questions/comments into

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Poorly Behaved Tornados, “The Never-Ending Derby”, and Please Hide the Scissors

I’m sitting in the always welcoming Kansas City airport right now so I thought I’d share a bit about my whirlwind trip from Seattle to St Louis this weekend.  For those of you who haven’t been following along at home, I’m living in Seattle, while the family has been in KC trying to sell the house.  This has taken WAY longer than we anticipated, kinda like when you’re in a meeting and have to go to the bathroom . . . bad.  Finally I couldn’t deal with it anymore and the family is moving out west on March 1st.  Anyway, these weekend I schemed (a word I’d like to use WAY more than I do) to surprise the kiddos while they were in St Louis visiting their cousins there for the last time.  Here are the highlights several things that happened this weekend as 3 adults and 9, mostly really small, children had a ball:

  • Traci (otherwise knows as the Mrs HTF) and Krista (her twin sister) ventured to the airport late at night to pick me up.  Krista must’ve been feeling quite powerful in her Dodge mini-van because she cruised in the lane restricted to huge buses.  I rushed over to hurry and get in before we were run over without being noticed.
  • The kids were genuinely surprised to see me – Braeden had to do a really-sleepy-double-take and Allison looked pretty scared when I burst out from under the covers…happily that was followed with a happy hug.
  • Somehow the kids, in some kind of coordinated attack, all forgot that I was still on West-coast time that first morning and decided it would be a good idea to wake up early, turn on the video games loudly, and scream at the TV.  There are worse ways to be woken up, but I’m having a hard time thinking of any right now.
  • We took the kids to the YMCA so the mommies could do a 45 minute “spinning class” that somehow lasted over 2 hours as the mommies realized that the kids were taken care of, and most importantly, nowhere near them.IMG_0589
  • We got to go to my nephew’s Pinewood Derby, which began 30 minutes after it was supposed to, and still hasn’t ended.  Somehow my daughter squeezed 2 naps in while sitting on my lap.  There were 17 boys, and they each had to race each other, at least twice . . . you do the math.  But Ryan did awesome and his car won the “Sportiest Design” much like our dented mini-van.  This photo, somehow, was the “scoring system:”
  • When we got back from the derby we found these priceless images.  Yep, the three-year-olds had combined their significant intellectual prowess and decided my Allison’s pig-tails were way too long and would look better if they were each clearly different lengths.  FYI – prior to this the pig-tails reached her shoulders.  In the second picture you see chunks (technical term) of hair along with Hershey-Kiss wrappers – a natural combination.  This, of course, is not the first time this has happened with our girls.  I should just cut the girl’s hair like mine . . .

IMG_0608  IMG_0609

  • Remember how Mary Poppins could sing a song and the room would clean itself up – well, our 9 kids have the exact opposite impact on a room when they enter.  After less than 10 second it appears like a poorly-behaved-and-angry-tornado was there. 

There is, of course, a lot more I could add, but those were some of the bigger memories.  We’ll miss being so close to the cousins.  Despite the chaos, there’s no where else I’d have rather been this weekend, but then again, I’m already bald, so I didn’t have much to lose.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

There’s Nothing Quite Like A New Office, Especially This One

One of my favorite things about most of my jobs is that I can never be precisely sure what my day is gonna be like at work.  Pretty much all I can be sure of is that I’ll show up at the office, and we’ll go from there.  Well, today, even that part didn’t work out right.  Yesterday was our office move where they moved us from one building to an adjacent building.  I arrived this morning expecting to see the new office consisting of a desk, a lamp, a phone, a monitor, and my little box of fun (which is about as fun as a box containing files, pens, books, and a notebook can be).  As I approached my new office for the first time I was greeted by this taped to the door:


I glanced at it and figured they had some problem with the furniture or something.  But when I opened the door my jaw dropped.

I HAD BEEN MOVED INTO SOMEBODY’S STORAGE CLOSET.  If you think I’m exaggerating, check out the non-comprehensive list of special things in my new office:

  • A huge box of lanyards with badges for some marketing conference and like 6 keyboards
  • A tree
  • No less than 5 USB hubs
  • Roughly 13 rolls of serious tape
  • Multiple boxes of Marketing goodies including pens, flashlights, notebooks, binder clips . . . etc.
  • A SERVER, and I’m not talking about they guy who brings your nachos at the restaurant, I’m talking about the computer that puts off more heat than a walrus on a treadmill
  • Rolls and rolls of posters
  • A plastic tub full of Gatorade bottles
  • Stacks of VHS tapes (I didn’t know those still existed) that I don’t want to know anything about
  • Tons of misc office supplies
  • Somebody’s old, grey sweat pants
  • AND BEER . . . that’s right, there were multiple cases of beer cans of various brands, and the fridge was full of ‘em too

I wish that list was a creative writing exercise, but instead that is a catalog of the highlights of my new office.  I could barely pull up a chair to my desk.  It was like I was the victim of a tremendous corporate prank (good name for a rock band).  I’m told that whoever the “owner” of the office is will be cleaning it out soon, but they can’t figure out who that person is . . . and for good reason – would you fess up to it?  So until it gets sorted out I have perhaps the most interesting office at the company.  And in case you don’t believe me, here are a few photos, remember – the room was supposed to be totally empty:

          IMG_0549  IMG_0552


So if you’re in the neighborhood, please be sure to stop by.  You can leave new stuff (whatever you like) or take a little something for your office.  As for me, I’ll try not to be too troubled about being officed in a supply closet.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

HTF Makes The List He Didn’t Know Existed, But Now Is A Big Fan Of

Last night before I crashed I jumped online to see how many of you kind folks stopped by the blog that day.  (Yes, I track that kind of thing, call me whatever evil names you choose)  And I saw a little spike in traffic and I found out it came from a site called  I’d never heard of it, but did some not very difficult sleuthing and found out that this SUPER COOL BLOG EDITOR LADY PERSON had linked back to the post about church dances.  Here is the link to the little blurb.  And here’s screenshots:


Totally fun.  Anyway, thanks to Emily W. Jensen and to all of you for reading HTF and telling your unsuspecting friends.

Much luv.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Everything You Need to Know About Getting Your Groove On At A Church Dance

A song came on the radio while I was driving home the other night that I can only remember ever hearing at church dances growing up.  Brought make some interesting memories…  (my church had monthly dances and I went to almost all of ‘em in spite of, . . . well. . . just keep reading.)  In fact it got me thinking about stuff I learned/remembered from those hours of stress interrupted by moments of exhilaration and/or extreme embarrassment.  Here are a few things that popped in my head from my teenage years at church dances (and I note that a few my readers are actually girls crazy kind enough to have danced with me at some of these events, so you can call me out for stuff that’s not entirely accurate):

  • It’s very important to show up late . . . at least an hour late.  Or else you’ll end up in the gym alone with 20 chaperones and some lemonade (great name for a rock band).  It’s guaranteed that no one in the gym will physically move until 30 minutes before it’s over – no matter how loud the music plays.
  • Whenever it was a “bad dance” you blame it on the “crappy music they played”
  • Girls actual do sweat perspire – I really had no idea until I went from MC Hammer (fast-dance) to Alphaville (slower than slow-dance) with the same girl
  • No matter how hard you stare at the back of a girl’s head she won’t walk over and ask you to dance
  • Bad dancing is really, really contagious.  It should be like a wicked cough – you gotta just cover that stuff up with a huge towel or something.  But instead, we would fast dance in large groups and mimic each other.  Guess it’s easier to jump off that cliff when everyone else is doing it.
  • Some of the worst church dance moments were when you realized, perhaps through no fault of your own, that you were standing all alone without a friend in sight.  At this point you just start walking, determined, . . . with a purpose that you really didn’t have.
  • The metal chairs lining the walls of the gym are REALLY hard and they get even harder as you contemplate your next “move”
  • Success at church dances was very binary – either you bonded with your new forever soul-mate OR it “sucked” (again, blame the music)
  • There actually are people who are TOO COOL TO DANCE.  I’m not sure how they got that cool, but they’re out there.
  • I am not able to spontaneously make myself stop sweating after a frightening display of non-coordination to an Erasure song.  AND this skill was particularly lacking when the girl who’s head I’d been staring at all night actually did ask me to dance.
  • Has there ever been anything more important than who you danced with on the last song?
  • I never really did learn how to dance, despite some energetic, and sometimes violent, attempts.  I pretty much just kinda “get my wobble on.”  But despite my total assumption – most of the girls really didn’t know either.  I just assumed they were born with that, kinda like how guys are born with an uncontrollable urge to laugh at the noises their bodies make.

So I probably made it all sound a bit worse than it actually was.  Thank goodness for patient friends who perhaps brought me along for entertainment purposes while they contemplated their next “move.”  (yeah, I know I already used that phrase, but it works)  And there were even girls who said “yes” – which never ceased to leave me stunned for a few seconds.  A couple years ago I stopped by a church dance, and I found that pretty much everything I had observed hadn’t changed a bit.  I did totally enjoy those nights though (except when the music was bad of course) – so here’s to church dances!

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