Friday, July 8, 2011

Athletes and Artists Are Not Character Role Models

Tiger Woods
Tim Tebow
Britney Spears
Lindsay Lohan
Michael Phelps

They're artists and athletes, not role models. While you can admire their drive, ambition, work ethic, singing ability, athleticism, guitar-playing, ball-throwing, etc, don't make the mistake of expecting perfection. Wouldn't kids be better served with a dose of reality? "Sure, she's beautiful and has a lucrative recording contract, but she's lonely, struggles with depression and drugs and makes bad decisions sometimes."

Phelps may be an Olympian, but all that proves is he can swim faster than other men in his age group. It doesn't mean he's a model of emotional stability and moral fortitude. We don't pay these people to teach us values, we pay them to perform. They have talents and they've worked hard to develop them, and, as a result, are financially successful. Doesn't make them a math whiz or a poet, or a particularly moral person. Celebrities demonstrate drive and discipline in one area of their life, and beyond entertainment value, their actions have no bearing on the rest of us.

Politicians are a different story. They are chosen by citizens, or appointed by our elected representatives to create, interpret and enforce laws and public policy. If they have the power to tell me what to do with my money, body and personal property, then they need to walk the talk.

Eliot Spitzer
John Edwards
Tom DeLay
Anthony Weiner

The above are just a few of the recent scandal perpetrators in public office. These guys sold us a bill of goods, and deserve to be punished. Regardless of where you stand on the violations in question - misusing campaign funds to cover up an affair and illegitimate child, frequenting prostitutes, violating ethics rules, bribery, or just outright lying and stealing, these activities were condemned by the very people who committed them. If one of us were caught doing the same they would lead the charge to lock us up and throw away the key.

So spare me the tirade against Tiger. I don't care what goes on between him and his wife. And tell Tim Tebow to keep his opinions on family planning to himself. But, please keep me informed if Tom DeLay wants to wash that grey right out of his white-collar, and I sure as Hell need to know if Rod Blagojevich puts a U. S. Senate seat on eBay.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Greatest Non-Story Ever Told

What the hell is wrong with the Washington Post these days? I swear that paper is turning into a bunch of hacks! First we had Ruth Marcus' patronizing and naive take on the new TSA regulations "Don't touch my junk? Grow up, America."1 And now we have Ian Shapira's piece (of crap), "Telling a mother's story through her Facebook status updates."2

While Marcus' op-ed is offensive, because she is utterly dismissive of the public outcry over our government's violation of our Fourth Amendment rights, the Shapira piece sinks even lower, because it literally takes aim at the craft of journalism. It is, quite simply, one of the most ridiculous excuses for "writing" that I've read lately. It's certainly not news, and it falls so short of analysis that I can only assume he's having sex with his editor (and he must be really, really good). Otherwise, how else could this guy get his "work" (I'm taking liberties with the term) published in a national forum like the Post?

Now don't get me wrong, the circumstances unveiled via Shana Greatman Swers Facebook postings are tragic, and I certainly do not question the depth of her family's loss. Reading her thread reduced me to tears, and I challenge anyone to get through it without having a similar reaction. But to be brutally honest, there was nothing particularly special about this woman, or her family. Why were they singled out for national attention, when plenty of human tragedies unfold each day in cancer wards, domestic violence shelters, refugee camps, foster homes and other places where people go when there's nowhere else to turn for help?

Unfortunately the answer is simply that Ms. Swers' Facebook page was linked to Mr. Shapira's. He literally stumbled across her untimely death via his wife's Facebook news feed, decided to copy and past her status updates with a few annotations, and call it an article. The result being that Ms. Swers' story was catapulted to the national stage in one of the most crass examples of how "who you know" can make you famous.

Probably the saddest thing about this piece is that Shapira missed a terrific opportunity to use Ms. Swers' story as a platform to talk about a variety of larger issues, not the least of which being the disease which struck her down at such a young age. For those who can't stomach the read, Swers passed away roughly one month after the birth of her son from peripartum cardiomyopathy. As someone who just had a baby six months ago, I can relate to how frightening this is, and was surprised that I knew virtually nothing about the disease. I may have seen it mentioned somewhere in my various pregnancy books, but when I learned that it occurs in one out of every 1,300 - 4,000 deliveries, and is most common after age 30, I thought: "Holy cow! Why didn't anybody tell me about this one?!!"

Pregnant women are bombarded with information about what to eat, which activities to avoid, and the various risk factors for everything from drinking coffee and eating Brie to sitting in hot water for too long. Yet, this not-so-rare disease was relegated to the back burner. And why is that? Well, don't hold your breath for Mr. Shapira to tell you. He goes no deeper that to provide a link to the NIH website, as I have also done.

And if women's health is just not Shapira's cup of tea? Well, supposedly he specializes in covering the impact of technology on social communications. So I ask: how the hell did he miss this golden opportunity to explore the role of social media in the grieving process? I've often wondered what happens to a person's Facebook, Twitter, eBay, email, blog, and other online accounts after they die. Do the survivors simply delete the accounts, or leave them up as a memorial to the deceased? What if the next-of-kin doesn't have the password? Can a grieving relative have the accounts removed from the public Internet, but preserve the data, so as to sift through the digital effects of the departed's online life once the initial shock and pain of loss have lessened? Surely there is a larger story here about how Facebook impacts the grieving process - a story that might actually benefit the bereaved by giving them some anecdotes and concrete advice about how to go about handling or dismantling their loved ones' online persona.

Unfortunately for us, Mr. Shapira decided not to dig any deeper. That he then felt justified in participating in a self-congratulatory Q&A session about how he "wrote" (again taking liberties with word choice) the piece is beyond appalling to me. He seems to think what he's done is so cutting edge, but really it's just a copy and paste job. As someone who once aspired to enter the field of journalism, I can only say that Ian Shapira is proof-positive that talent plays a minimal role in the hiring process.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Dish Tale

The sounds of a running tap, stacking plates and jangling flatware come from the kitchen. My husband is at it again. He's "cleaning up." And while this should fill me with pride, gratitude and a sense of calm, it tends to have the opposite effect.

I think a lot of people know what I mean when I say this. There are certainly many spouses, room mates and domestic partners who do an excellent job tidying up in the kitchen, but mine still needs some micro-management, er um, supervision.

As I sit in the living room, trapped by the nursing infant in my lap, my mind races through the possibilities. Is he hand-washing the good knives? Will he remember to wash the handles, or does he still think they "don't really get dirty?" Or maybe he's placing the non-stick surface of the frying pan against something sharp and abrasive? And what about those crystal champagne flutes? I picture them crushed under the iron weight of a dutch oven.

Suddenly I hear a sound that truly makes me shudder - the dishwasher being opened. No doubt I will find any number of atrocities the next time I peer inside. Delicate plastic containers, remnants of last night's clean-up efforts where a half cup of berries found themselves swimming in a six-cup Tupperware bowl and a drumstick was crammed into a far too narrow square box, will be carelessly placed on the lower rack, directly above the heating element. Forks and knives, un-rinsed and caked with thick, fatty sauces, all crammed into the same compartment of the silverware tray alongside nested spoons, stacked three deep. And my personal favorite: cereal-encrusted bowls, laid face down, so as to take up the maximum amount of precious top shelf real estate. I'll have to reorganize the entire load before I run it.

But seriously, what gives? How is it possible that a highly intelligent homo sapien with higher math skills far superior to my own can be so utterly lacking in spacial awareness? If I ask him what he was thinking when he used the entire top shelf for the three-piece food processor, his reply will be some sort of indignant grunt about efficiency and "not wanting to hand-wash." Never mind the fact that this little stroke of laziness, er um genius, will require an entire week's worth of coffee cups to sit idle in the sink.

So I wonder, if efficiency is the goal, what's next? Will I find the cactus wedged in between the dinner plates, so it can get "watered" during the rinse cycle? Picturing this makes me chuckle out loud, which gets my husband's attention.

"What's so funny?" he asks.

"Oh, I was just thinking about your bizarre dishwasher loading skills, and it made me realize that I wouldn't put it past you to stuff a houseplant in there with the dirty dishes."

"Why would I do that?" he asks with mock affront.

"Well, you know, so you can check 'watering the plants' off your list when you run a load of dishes."

"Hey! That's actually a really good idea! I wonder if it would work?"


Note to self: Move all plants out of the kitchen. If they aren't in his line of sight, they should be safe. Better yet, buy one of those baby slings so I can get back to dish duty, stat!

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Well, I am afraid I was too harsh on the local baby furniture purveyor that I blasted in my last posting. Their third-party delivery firm was prompt and courteous, and the order was filled without mistakes or complaints.

I was also too quick to judge about their payment policy. I wrongfully assumed that they were already protected by my having paid a deposit on the furniture. When I dug a little deeper, I learned that this particular store follows proper credit card consumer protection protocols by not keeping any record of cardholder data from previous transactions.

Having written about this very topic for one of my clients in the high-tech security sector, I should have known, or at least suspected, that this was the case. No merchant worth their salt would keep that kind of data laying around, because of the liability. Furthermore, the payment card providers (VISA, MasterCard, AmEx, etc) demand that merchants strictly adhere to this policy.

That said, I want to highly recommend Lullaby Baby ( in Columbia, MD. They have terrific merchandise, knowledgeable (and patient) staff, and are the antidote to tired superstores like Babies-R-Us. I'm also really enjoying my experience shopping online at The Natural Baby ( The owner is extremely helpful (and also patient, especially with aging parents), and knows the answer to just about everything you could think to ask about her product lines.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Retail Needs Therapy

I make an effort to support small businesses, rather than large, national corporations, and I'm willing to pay a little more for their products because, generally, independent companies offer higher quality and greater selection. In most cases they also offer better customer service, which is why I will continue to shop at Indoor Furniture in Columbia, MD. They get it. They also handle their own deliveries, so product does not get lost or damaged, and customers only deal with one merchant.

Unfortunately, what inspired me to bang out this rant was an experience with a local, independent baby furnishings store, which shall remain unnamed because I want to give them a chance to fix the situation. Back in December, we ordered a crib and dresser set, along with a painting and a nightlight for the baby's room. To-date we've only received the painting. I know that it takes time for things to come into stock, especially with the snow, so I have not been in a big hurry. However, when I got the message that the furniture had arrived, I promptly called back, expecting to schedule a date/time for delivery.

Instead, I was told that the store itself does not handle the actual delivery. This is done through a third party, and I would now need to wait for their call before I could actually schedule a time to receive my order. Then the clerk asked me when I would be available. I wasn't annoyed yet, so I gave her a range of days and times. The clerk proceeded to inform me that she could not guarantee that her delivery firm would honor any of my preferred delivery times, however, she was prepared to accept my final payment for the entire order. Eh?

When I stated that I expected to actually receive the goods before paying (they already had a deposit and my card number, so it's not like I wasn't committed), the clerk explained that, unfortunately, the furniture could not be delivered until the store received my payment in full. Oh, and by the way, she was very sorry, but the nightlight was still en route, because her supplier forgot to ship it.

I find this frustrating on several levels. First of all, in a two-part transaction I do not want to pay for something until I receive it. What if it's damaged, incorrect, or incomplete? If I've already paid-in-full, what is my recourse? Secondly, when you call me to schedule a delivery time, be prepared to actually schedule the delivery, especially if you want to get paid. Do not tell me that I have to coordinate the actual transaction with a third-party, and (yes, it gets worse) include a warning that your delivery firm might drop the ball and not call, so if I don't hear from them in the next two days I should call you back. Seriously? WTF?!

I realize that the world has bigger problems than these, but given the state of our economy, one would hope that customer service might take a higher priority. Sadly, that has not been the case for me when purchasing large items from area vendors.

The following is a list of purchases gone wrong in the past three years:
  1. Bought a new bed from Mattress Discounters. Mattress arrived without the box spring. Good thing I took the entire day off work, because after arguing with the delivery personnel, and making multiple calls to the retailer, I had to wait six more hours for them to show up with both parts of the bed. Why this was so difficult, I cannot say. It seemed like a no-brainer to me, especially given that I had a receipt for a complete mattress set!
  2. Pool table from the now-defunct Champion Billiards arrived with the wrong felt and wood finish. After much grumbling on behalf of the delivery folks, and more time off work for me, we received the correct table.
  3. Booked the Clipper City Tall Ship for our wedding. They required a 50% deposit. We paid with a check. They went out of business, and we lost the entire deposit (over $3K).
  4. Purchased a wedding dress from Columbia Bridal and Tuxedo. Dress shop called to schedule the final fitting three weeks before the wedding. I took a half day off work, only to be told that it was a "mix up" and my dress wasn't even in the store. Did I get a discount, or a break on the alternation charges? Heck no!
  5. Furniture retailer, Scan, went out of business before filling our order. Fortunately, the manufacturer received partial payment prior to the bankruptcy, so they agreed to fill our order. Item arrived twelve weeks later, on top of the eight weeks we'd already waited.
  6. Furniture manufacturer went out of business before filling our order. Fortunately, the retailer (Indoor Furniture) was happy to refund our money, and it worked out to be a no-harm, no-foul situation. I include this example, simply to illustrate how frequently, even under the best of circumstances, various elements of the supply chain fail to make good on their promises.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cranky...and Scared

Now that the cat is out of the bag, meaning we've notified our families, I can speak freely about my current condition: Pregnant. That's right, you heard correctly. I am growing my very own human in my uterus. The baby started out as a mere blastocyst, but has graduated to fetal status, meaning that it now tumbles freely in the amniotic fluid, making faces, flexing its limbs and mainlining nutrients straight from my bloodstream.

So far this process hasn't been too difficult. A little queasiness and fatigue in the first trimester, some headaches that continue to bother me, especially in the evenings, and most recently, a stretching and pulling sensation in my pelvis. None of this surprises me. It was all explained in the myriad books and articles I read as soon as I realized my monthly cycle was suspended for the foreseeable future.

As far as I'm concerned, the pregnancy is the easy part. My body pretty much knows exactly what to do. Sure it takes a little longer for me to show, this being a first pregnancy and all, but I have faith that all those hormones (the ones standing around in hard-hats, puzzling over blue prints) will be able to figure out how to get my inflexible pelvic bones and my grumpy intestines and my uptight abdominal muscles to make way for the temporary new addition.

This baby was planned, in the sense that Cranky and I knew what we were doing when we stopped using "protection." That said, we have the usual concerns. Mainly about how parenthood will forever change our lives. Diapers, sleep-deprivation, crying, spit-up and breast-feeding, all packaged with what other parents have described to me as a total loss of independence and a constant sense of worry and, in some cases, even guilt. These things scare the living [expletive] out of me.

Certainly there will be tender moments, first words, steps and smiles, and brief respites of peace while the baby sleeps, and I've heard the experience can be incredibly rewarding, but for someone who gags at the sight and smell of human excrement the thought of being a mom is, well, daunting at best. Sometimes I wonder what exactly I was thinking.

There are generally two schools of thought on the cost-benefit analysis of human reproduction. The first one, (to which I admittedly have belonged for many years) is the hard-nosed, nobody-forces-you-to-become-a-parent, lack of sympathy route. Having kids is over-rated, given the state of the world today. Far better to work on developing oneself, live a fulfilling life, and possibly even give back in some manner. Besides, who needs the "Mommy Wars" when society still balks at extending full equality and civil rights to women, gays and minorities?

The second school of thought is the having-kids-is-the-most-important-thing-you-can-do approach. I've always had problems with this, because I personally felt like my child-free life was quite important (thank you very much), and certainly what could be more important than pursuing one's own happiness? Not to mention, my deep-seated belief that having kids is actually one of the more selfish things a person can do. Sure, nurturing a new life is a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice, and if you do your job well, you'll produce a polite, productive member of society. One who may even go on to greatness. But at the end of the day, the real drive behind human reproduction is to perpetuate the parents' DNA, and thus secure their success as biological organisms. Important to the individuals? Yes. But in terms of impact on society? Certainly no match for a spot on the Supreme Court, or finding a cure for cancer.

Compounding my ambivalence is my belief that the reality in which we live places far more value on career ambitions, personal achievement and the accumulation of wealth than on motherhood, primary education and homemaking. Basically, I've always been suspicious of motherhood. It seemed like a trap for women–a way of committing us to the janitorial, support role, rather than the leadership, decision-making role to which I'd always aspired.

Now, faced with the inevitable, I find that I have good days and bad days. Good days where I'm filled with an inexplicable inner peace. A sense that my life is unfolding perfectly, and that my little passenger is going to expand my world, rather than limit it. That Cranky and I will experience more love than we could possibly imagine, and that we're embarking upon an adventure which will give our lives new meaning and perspective. Then there are the bad days. Days where I feel helpless and filled with resentment, and every bit of well-meaning advice chafes like a painful reminder of the trap into which I've fallen.

What pulls me out of this funk is the realization that motherhood doesn't have to be a trap. All this time I've lived by my own rules. Adopted conventional norms when they fit, broke from tradition when it became oppressive. Why should this new role be any different? I chose a direction, arguably one that is traditional for women, but at the end of the day it's just a general heading and no two people ever reach the exact same destination in life. If I can trust my body to deliver a healthy baby, then why not trust myself to forge a path through motherhood uniquely suited to me?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cash for Clunkers = Junk

I'm rather amused by the "Cash for Clunkers," or Car Allowance Rebate
System (CARS) program. It's already out of money, and representatives
from Michigan (on both sides of the aisle) are lobbying hard for more
funding. In case you are not familiar with this gem of an idea, CARS
provides consumers with vouchers worth thousands of dollars towards
the purchase of a new, more fuel efficient, car. It sounds good in
theory, right? Get the gas-guzzlers off the road, stimulate new car
sales, give the downtrodden American people a new toy, etc. But, like
most "incentive" programs, scratch beneath the surface and you will
find that this program is only designed to benefit one group: new car
manufacturers and dealers.

Basically, the program encourages consumers who have paid off their
car loans (because one must hold the title "free and clear" to
qualify) to hand over their perfectly functional vehicles (CARS
requires trade-ins to be in "drivable condition") for less than their
market value (trade-in value on the old car is limited to its scrap
value, since all "clunkers" must be destroyed). In return the consumer
gets to assume a new debt on a depreciating asset. Just what we should
all be doing in a down economy.

Then there's the "environmental" argument. CARS will help clean up the
air, and force American consumers to adopt greener transportation
technology. Well, there's a little phrase, popular in
conservation-minded circles, that goes "reduce, reuse, recycle." Note
that nowhere in this phrase are the words "buy new." Truth is, it's
far better for the environment to extend the life of manufactured
products. By scrapping all the trade-in vehicles, CARS is robbing the
marketplace of valuable used vehicles and components. This wastes
resources (just think of how much energy and raw materials are used in
the production of new cars), and robs consumers of affordable product.

And finally, what about all those small businesses who buy, sell and
repair used vehicles? There's an entire industry, called the
automotive aftermarket, which relies on used cars and car parts for
its bread and butter. The aftermarket industry employs thousands of
people, and is supported by a massive supply chain that includes
manufacturing and re-manufacturing, shipping and distribution and
retail infrastructure. Should all these businesses, and their
employees, wither on the vine so that the Big Three and their dealer
networks can blunder onward?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Old Chub: The Not-So-Silver Bullet

Some of you are already familiar with my writings on Old Chub Scottish Style Ale. If not, you may wish to read an earlier piece published by Gone magazine under an erroneous byline (due to the editor's inability to figure out WordPress).

Regardless, the legend of the Chub lives on aboard Kaleviopoeg, a 40' sloop (that's a single-masted sailboat for those who don't know) notorious for its role in off-shore adventures (see SpinSheet pg. 52). Before embarking upon this year's "Sailing Adventure" the skipper suggested an audition for potential new crew by way of a leisurely Sunday afternoon sailing excursion. Seeing as I have a proven track record aboard said vessel, my presence was requested to assist with the "evaluation" process.

As I packed my gear that morning I went down the list of required items: sailing gloves? check; sunglasses and hat? check; sunblock? check; water? check; beer? hmm. Captain Danger, or Cap'n D as we call him, usually lays in a 40-day supply of his favorite thirst-quencher, Coors Light. However it's always wise to bring a little something extra, so that one does not impede upon the captain's provisions...might need to stop at the liquor mart on the way.

Londontown Wine & Spirits, conveniently located a stone's throw from Edgewater, MD's famous Londontown Marina, is a well-appointed package store. They carry all the usual brands of swill, along with a fair selection of micro-brews. Nonetheless, I was quite surprised to find four six-packs of Old Chub lurking under a thick layer of dust on the middle shelf of the "American Exotics" section.

You want to test the mettle of your crew? Arrrgh! The Chub will separate the men from the boys, I chuckled to myself as I pulled out a sixer.

At the register, the cashier inspected my purchase with genuine wonder.

"I didn't know we sold this," she mused. "In fact, I don't think we've ever sold any of it. Is it any good?"

"Umm. Well...I wouldn't go that far," I said, coyly. "I'm not sure how your distributor got you to stock this stuff, but I wouldn't renew your order, if you know what I mean."

She gave me a grim, but appreciative, nod, and completed the transaction.

Ten minutes later we boarded Kalevipoeg, Chub wrapped in a brown paper bag and stashed deep in my backpack. As the skipper introduced the crew I gave them all the once-over to determine who should go first.

We cast off, and were soon under sail. Once things settled down, the captain handed up some cold Coors Light with sandwiches, and I seized the opportunity to slip down the hatch to the galley. Furtively, I extracted the six-pack from my bag and lifted the lid on the ice chest.

"What have you got there lassie?" queried Cap'n D.

"Well, it wouldn't be an audition without some Old Chub," I replied.

"Oh! The Chub! That's a fine idea," he agreed. "Why don't you put some of that right on top, where people can get to it."

We shared a mischievous grin, and arranged the cans in an appealing display. Sure enough, just as we finished, one of the new guys (we'll call him "Phil") climbed down the companionway.

"What have we got here?" Phil asked, peering at the cans, glistening atop a cascade of ice cubes.

"Oh, just some Old Chub that Blanche, here, was kind enough to bring," offered Cap'n D. "If you're nice to her, she just might share!"

Phil turned to me with a big grin. "Really? I can have one?"

"Why sure! I brought them for everyone, but you might want to let them cool down a bit," I said.

He nodded in agreement, and we all went top-side to wait until the magic moment when the Chub reached the perfect temperature.

Forty minutes later Phil had an icy can of Chub in his mitts. He was giddy with excitement and flush with gratitude as he took his first sip. We all stared at him in expectation.

"Umm. Not bad," Phil said cautiously.

"You know you have to finish that," intoned Cap'n D.

"Oh, I fully intend to," Phil replied, as he took another brave swig from the can.

Phil grimaced and set his beverage on the counter. "I'm going to have to drink that one a little more slowly, I think. It's awfully strong."

We nodded gravely, and gave him a look that let him know he wasn't off the hook.

"I'll just take it up with me and keep working on it," Phil assured us.

"Well, that's the test of a true sailor," Cap'n D stated resolutely. "The crew member who finishes his Old Chub. Yes, indeed."

About an hour later the wind picked up, and we were heeled over with the sails close-hauled. Our speed over ground was close to seven knots, and Phil was at the helm. He seemed to have forgotten all about his Old Chub. Unfortunately for him there are only four spaces in the cup holder on the binnacle, meaning one cannot leave a drink idle for long without someone asking about its status.

"Uh, Phil? I know you're driving and all, but what's going on with the Old Chub?" I implored. "Surely you don't mean to tell us that you don't like it?"

"Well, if someone will take the wheel I can try to finish it off," he said, still game for the experiment. "It is very good."

No one believed him, but Cap'n D's son, Evan, was more than happy to drive so that Phil could finish his beer. Phil took another slug of the Chub, and winced as he swallowed.

"Ok. You win. It's not very good. In fact, it's bloody awful," Phil conceded. "Can I pour it out now?"

I sighed. "I suppose you can, but it might well cost you your berth to Block Island."

Phil looked around, shrugged and tipped the can toward the drain. "I give up, nothing is worth drinking this swill. You people are crazy!"

"Arrrrgh, if you be suffering from the grog, you can't possibly stand the watches," growled Cap'n D.

"That's right! 12 hours on, 4 hours off. It's a grueling pace we keep aboard Kalevipoeg," I agreed.

Cap'n D and I shared a look of mirth, as Phil shook his head in a combination of confusion and disgust, and climbed back up the companionway. Needless to say, we never heard from Phil again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dr. No and the Sunken Sunglasses (or Where There's a Will, There's a Way)

The other day, while loitering at Edgewater, MD's famous Londontown Marina, I witnessed an amusing spectacle. One of the slip holders, a skipper we refer to as "Dr. No," was anxiously pacing his deck, and peering down at the murky waters of Glebe Bay.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I lost my $500 sunglasses over the side a minute ago. They just flew off my head and went in over there somewhere," he explained, looking hapless and pointing to a spot in the murk just to the left of where he was standing.

While Dr. No despaired over his glasses, Rosie, his fair (and incredibly tolerant) love interest, voiced her desire to "wrap up" for the day. The couple had just returned from a pleasant day sail on the lovely Chesapeake Bay, and Rosie, not being much for the great outdoors, was ready to head back to civilization and spend a quiet evening with the good doctor.

Little did she realize Dr. No does not give up that easily.

"Rosie! Hand me the net with the telescoping handle!" he ordered. "I bet if I drag it along the bottom I'll be able to scoop them up in no time."

"Do you think they sank right away, or could the current have carried them off?" I asked.

"Hmm. Good point. I hope not. Let's give it a try," he said, and dipped the net in as far as it would go. Sadly the handle was not long enough, and the net didn't reach the bottom.

"Damn it! I'm going to have to jump in," Dr. No proclaimed.

"Mike, this is foolish. I'll just buy you a new pair!" said Rosie, growing more impatient by the minute.

Dr. No, ignoring his gentle companion, began to strip down to his shorts. I turned away for a moment, and heard a splash as he went over the side.

"Oh! It's cold! And I can't reach the bottom," he sputtered, arms flailing as he attempted to tread water.

"Well, yeah. Your boat draws almost seven feet, so I assume the depth is somewhere around eight or nine..." I offered by way of explanation. Rosie and I exchanged a look.

"Good point. Maybe if I use the net now, I'll be able to get them...Rosie! Hand me the net again!"

Rosie, looking downright perturbed at this point, thrust the net over the side.

Dr. No began methodically dragging it back and forth across the bottom. Scrosh, scrosh, scrosh went the net, coming up empty each time.

Just then I noticed a sinister looking disturbance on the water, indicating a school of fish being pursued (and eaten) by a much larger fish, or fishes. The school was heading right for the fearless doctor, but he was so intent on his netting that he had no idea.

"Uh, Mike? There seems to be some activity coming your way," I warned.

Just as he turned to look, a large fin cut through the surface, sending smaller fish skittering in all directions with much flipping and splashing.

"What?! Oh shit!" he cried.

"Really Mike, this is insanity! Can we just go home now?" Rosie pleaded.

"No, no, not yet! I'm going to try to dive for them," Dr. No insisted. "Keep an eye on that activity for me, will you?" he said to me.

He flung the net back on board, raised his arms over his head and took a big gulp of air before submerging. A few seconds later he bobbed back up empty handed. The school of fish were moving away, but a quick look at Rosie's face was proof positive that Dr. No was far from safe.

Undaunted by Rosie's scowl, Dr. No continued to dive for the glasses, coming up at least three more times with nothing.

"Mike! Can we please give up this nonsense, and go home!" Rosie demanded.

"Hold on...just one more try, and then I promise we can leave," he said with conviction.

Dr. No took a big swallow of air, pumped his arms and legs to propell himself out of the water, and dove with all his might for the muddy bottom. He stayed down for awhile. Rosie and I exchanged looks of concern. Suddenly our hero shot to the surface with a triumphant grin...but no sunglasses.

"I touched them! I touched them! I know where they are!" he shouted with glee. "Come on, Rosie. This time I know I'll get them."

Rosie, recognizing the futility of arguing when he was this close to victory, resigned herself for the inevitable.

Once again Dr. No took a lungful of air and dove for the bottom. He emerged moments later with a big grin, clutching his sunglasses.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How to Weed out the Bad Ones

The Five Points of Success
A few years ago I examined my dating choices, and came to some conclusions about where I was going wrong. Amazingly, after applying these simple criteria, I found (and married) someone very special. This checklist can also help evaluate potential new friends and business partners.
  1. Valid drivers' license. This state-issued, photo ID is the cornerstone of our society. Without it there is no bank account, no voting, no utility accounts, no entry to bars, and worst of all, no way for them to drive you home when you've had one too many (see below). Furthermore, the seizure or revocation of a valid drivers' license is often the result of an arrest, or worse, a criminal conviction.

  2. Registered vehicle. Unless they are European, or living in Manhattan, there is no excuse for not having a functioning, street-legal vehicle.

  3. Place to live that is not shared with a parent, sibling or ex. This one is very important, because, much like the vehicle, you do not want to get stuck carrying out the relationship exclusively on your own turf.

  4. Full-time, or otherwise gainful, employment. If they can't hold down a job, how can they possibly commit to a partner? Then there's the whole money thing...

  5. College degree. This one is optional, as there are many hardworking and intelligent folks who didn't make it through the ivory towers of academia. However, I do find it a good indicator of the person's ability to obtain the other four points.
The Five Points of Failure
Unfortunately, the Five Points of Success are not always foolproof. Many times you'll meet someone who outwardly appears normal, only to learn rather quickly that they are, in fact, broken on the inside. This list is intended to help expand your evaluation of an individual's fitness to be considered for a long-term romantic partnership. Note also that the inability to take responsibility for bad decisions, and a sense of entitlement when requesting help from others (sometimes referred to as "immaturity") are other indicators that one or more of the Five Points of Failure is likely present in the individual.
  1. Substance Abuse. My criteria differs slightly from the standard definition given by orgs like AA, which I find to be far too restrictive and all-encompassing to the tune of "you drink (a lot) = you need help". I look for lying about drinking/drug use, dramatic personality changes during drinking/drug use, unwillingness to engage in activities without drinking/drug use, inability to stop when the situation calls for going to work.

  2. Emotional Problems. People who need multiple prescriptions to feel happy, or classes to keep their fists to themselves. If they are still in counseling, I'd assume they are not ready for a relationship.

  3. Dishonesty. Enough said.

  4. Unresolved Romantic Entanglements. If they are still in contact with the ex, and the situation is such that the ex cannot know about, or ever meet, you, run (don't walk) before you need to take out a restraining order.

  5. Money Problems. Characterized by spending and living beyond their means, requests to borrow money which turn into guilt trips and/or resentment if they are denied, and massive piles of debt resulting from poor decisions. These types often express the desire to rush into co-habitation. Look for an eviction notice or a bounced rent check if you hear an ultimatum like "If you don't let me move in, then it's over, because you don't *really* love me."