Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Birds of War Follow Up

This is going to be a short catch-up post.

Did you know that birds are the rabbits of the skies (and the lions of the skies, and the foxy ladies of the skies - truth be told, not much else owning the skies, so the birds have to shoulder a lot of responsibilities)? And by this I mean they produce multiple sets offspring every year?

A while ago I documented how some had taken control of my old grill, which led to my new grill (which brings me a tremendous amount of happiness), but left me with an oversized bird's nest on my patio? It had been a while, so I assumed those young ones were no longer so young and had moved on. I was wrong. Last night while firing up my new grill, I opened the old one to see if the Birdie McFlyer family had moved on, but there was a new set of gaping maws looking at me. Apparently my sister will have to wait a little longer for her hand-me-down, and I'll have to wait a little longer to have my patio back.

Vermin from above

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Outsourcing my stress

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't- You're right."  - Henry Ford

This phrase from the guy that made the first car is thrown around in a ton of circles. Its meant to inspire you to do your best, believe in yourself, and all that crap. Its pretty much a Rah Rah type deal and up until now I was tired of seeing this phrase everywhere on the internet. After some thought though, I think Hank may have been saying "Know your limits, save yourself the stress (and potential humiliation), & let someone else do it."

The reason I've been pondering about this phrase and not spending more time watching the  "Look at me Now" video and celebrating Busta Rhymes return is because we are starting the process of destroying our kitchen and rebuilding most of it from the ground up. This project is going to require some labor hours from me on the demolition side. We are going to tear out a wall and everything. Furthermore being the great husband I am, I even offered my wife to try and do a lot of the rebuilding part myself. I'm not a stranger to doing manual labor and building stuff around the house. About 2 years ago I finished off my basement and so far all the walls are still standing.

It looks better than this trust me.

Well it was the "try" part that made my wife tell me one of the greatest things she's ever said to me. "If you end up doing the kitchen yourself, sure we will save a bunch of money. But if you do something wrong, I have no one to get angry with but you. If we have someone else do it for us, I can yell at them." Bless you Honey. This phrase has taken so much stress off of me on this whole project. Now I can focus my efforts on destroying whatever I want and not have to worry about putting anything back together. And, while this isn't the manliest thing to say, I don't know if I could do the job the right way, on time, and without killing anything either. Now I didn't say earlier I was a wizard with manual labor, I just said I was not a stranger and I know my limits.

So thanks Mr. Ford for your words of wisdom. I'm not sure if you would approve of me taking them out of context but hey at least I am applying them.

Also I'll be sure to keep up with the pictures, posts, and progress of this monster.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A citywide backhanded compliment

St. Louis was recently named the 11th best place in America to raise a family. I actually found this a little offensive.

Being a transplant to this fair city -- I originally grew up in Northeast Ohio. Lebron wasn't the first person to get out while the getting was good -- I don't bring all of the home-town bias most metropolitan area residents bring with them to the city. I'll spare you all my detailed rant on why St. Louis isn't quite as great as everyone here seems to think it is, I'm just content that all of the World's Fair talk has died down now that it's been more than a century since it was here. Just because I don't think St. Louis is the end-all, be-all of towns doesn't mean, however,  that I like someone calling the place I raise my kids a great place to raise my kids.

To me, calling somewhere a nice place to raise kids is an outright insult. It's on par with saying someone is a nice guy or that a girl has a good personality. None of those things are bad. You'd hope that a guy  is a nice guy or that a girl has a good personality or that your city is a great place to raise kids. You just don't want that to be a defining characteristic. Because that means they are boring. If someone is awesome you don't call him or her nice, you call him or her awesome. If a city rocks, you don't say it's a nice place to raise kids. New York rocks. Boston rocks. San Diego rocks. No one has ever said those were great places to raise kids. They say awesome things about them.

I recognize this list was put together as a means to drive web traffic or sell magazines, but I seriously doubt its accuracy. State's Exhibit A - Washington, D.C. is the number one place to raise kids. I'm not sure if they are talking about the Washington that once had a crack-head mayor, the Washington full of powerful men who like to tweet their junk, or the Washington that used to always have the second highest murder rate (behind of course East St. Louis).  State's Exhibit B , we were number 2 on this list just last fall, which was really like being number 2 on the number 2 list. That must have been a quick turnaround. Nonetheless, it really rubs me the wrong way.

St. Louis, I think it is time for us to stand up and be something more than "a great place to raise kids (because nothing good or bad ever happens here)" or "a great baseball town (because there isn't anything else to do)" and give ourselves SOME sort of identity. Everyone hear thinks we've given Toasted Ravioli and thin-crust pizza to the world, but no one outside of the bi-state area has ever heard of them (or would eat them if they had). People have heard of the Arch. That's it.

I don't have all of the solutions right now. Maybe we try to get The Hangover 3 be filmed here and actually have it be funny. Maybe nobody wears pants to work next Tuesday (unless you are a "nice" or have a "good personality" -- then you should probably keep your pants on). Maybe we divert the commercial traffic from the Mississippi and make it one big "Fifth Coast" beach party. Whatever we do, we'd better do something fast, or all of our kids are gonna move away once they grow up and no one will be left to hear us talk about how awesome it was when Poison and Motley Crue used to come to town every summer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Being Decent Finally Pays Off

As you may recall, a few weeks ago I lost the use of a dear friend in a fit of compassion (What's that you say? You don't recall? Well look right here.). At the time I was disappointed that after a few thousand years of being removed from the meat production process I no longer had the necessary chops to provide for my brood, but was really mostly depressed because it meant I was going to have to go a summer without grilling or at least grilling easily.

 As part of my conceding some adorable baby birds deserved a shot at growing up to poop on things, my wife assured me a new grill would be in my future. With that, I started fantasy shopping about several new models, and I had some very basic criteria.

  1. I wanted it to look pretty. I'm trying to get my patio together, and while my old grill was functional, it wasn't very attractive to anything but a family of birds.

  2. I had to have a solution that would heat up quickly so I could grill during the weak with our schedule, I've only got about an hour and 15 minutes to cook, feed, and clean the kids before bedtime. This pretty much ruled out a charcoal grill.

  3. I needed something bigger. On my current grill, I just didn't have enough room to cook enough food to feed my whole family at once.

  4. It needed to be movable. I want to store it next to the house, but I need to be able to pull it away before lighting it. The new patch of siding on the back of the house gives testament to the lesson I learned last Father's Day.

This weekend, the piper finally got paid and I got a shiny new grill for Father's Day.

We like the shiny. We'd also like our patio to look like this (it does not currently).

I looked into some gas/charcoal combos but couldn't find any that were reviewed very well and ultimately decided that if I needed to do charcoal I could use my firepit but that this bad boy (with nearly twice the grilling surface of my old one) would work out fantastically. I also liked that this one included a vegetable steamer you could put in or take out (I recognize it's a gimmick, but if I recognize that I don't have to feel like a rube) and as we all know I like to get my health on (or at least like to feel I have the option to get my health on, knowing full-well that before too long I'll be trying to steam bacon in there).

This grill did admittedly have mixed reviews (which would normally put me off) but most of the reviews were about how hard it was to put together. Since I was going to buy it already assembled, I didn't care, and I felt OK with the rest of the write-ups I saw.

After having cooked one meal on it (which included fresh veggies, hot dogs, brats, and a couple of Daddy Day porterhouses) I'm pretty stinking happy so far. It got up to temperature in no time, it responded to my temperature changes, it had all sorts of room for me to use, and the food turned out great, which is no small feat for me. Also, since it was hugely discounted, I got to get an insanely expensive grill for a moderately ridiculous price, which is always nice (I like to know how rich people feel sometimes. Sue me. That'll just give me something else to check off of my faux-rich guy bucket list).

Final grades: The grill gets a Cuban with Smoked Provolone, those birds get a Cuban with Swiss, and the store experience gets a Reuben (the guy was a little weird, and they didn't have the cover I wanted).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hail to the Dad

As Father’s Day Weekend is literally hours away, I am sitting here writing this article. With Dad’s day upon us and this being a blog about a Fatherly Alliance, it would be a bit stupid not to post something about being a Dad. It would be the equivalent of Mr. Hanky not coming on Christmas.

Growing up, I never really contemplated being a Father. My “Real Dad” was a bit of a d-bag and I never really knew him. He and my mom divorced when I was very young and in turn, I was raised by my mom, by herself, on a Catholic grade school teacher’s salary. My mom was sort of a jock, so I grew up playing all the sports I could handle. I am very happy about that and feel that I was one of the more coordinated kids around.

However, this isn’t about Moms. It’s about Fathers. And lucky for me my Mom got re-married when I was 12 to the guy I call my Dad (no quotations needed). While my Mom could do her best to explain things, there was truly a need for some male influence in my life. It came just in time as I was heading into a high school 70 miles away from where I had lived my entire life. My Dad taught me cool stuff like hunting (gun & bow), fishing, splitting wood, general construction, normal household fix-it stuff. What’s funny is that while I was working my butt of with my Dad and hating a lot of the work at the time, it has helped me in life as much as my education.

So, now that I am a father of 2.5 kids (2 of which are girls, .5 of which we’ll find out in Oct), I think about being a dad all the time. I blog about it… not well, but I still do it. I’d like think that it might help my kids understand where I was coming from a bit easier when they can read. I never really had any experience with helping raise kids throughout life, much less navigating a sea of estrogen like the one I live in now. I am doing the best I know how to do for my wife and girls, but it’s a learning process that I have to constantly adapt. I am trying to figure out as much about Fathering as they are about growing up. It’s tough to balance when figuring all this out: When is it ok to joke with them? When do you be stern with them? How do you tell them “No” without being negative? It’s a constant battle in my head and I fear turning into the d-bag “Real Dad” was. It’s working out in my favor.

This weekend I will get to go out and golf a bit which is awesome because I haven’t gone out yet this year. Its cool that I can get out and do this just because I have kids and my wife is pretty cool. Then for the rest of the day I will be hanging out with the family and it’s this part I am more excited about.

So what I have been trying to say for the last 40 line of text is for Father’s Day on Sunday keep in mind the reason you are golfing, boozing, or whatever without your kids is BECAUSE YOU HAVE KIDS. Without them you wouldn’t really be a dad and wouldn’t be so cool.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Controversy in the Crib: A Children's Book Review

We will review anything at the Suburban Father Alliance. And while we are no strangers to book reviews (more like acquaintances who shack up once a year) we’ve never reviewed a children’s book on the site. The main reasons for this lack of content is because we get tired of reading the same sunshine & roses kiddie books over and over and over to our children. By the time the kids have moved on to something else, the only thing we want to do with the book is set it on fire.

Enter the recently published, highly-anticipated, even higherly criticized “Go the F**K to Sleep.” However since this is the outhouse  outpost for fatherly content on the entire surface of the internet, we felt it was our duty to effectively pass judgment on this literary work (also my mother-in-law works at Barnes & Noble so I get a good discount).

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="389" caption="All this fuss over a little book"][/caption]

Disclaimer: Before you get all up in arms about me classifying this as a Children’s Book, I will admit & warn that the book is about 65% adult humor and 35% kid stuff and pictures. So if your kid can read, you will have to explain what a bunch of 4-letter words mean.

Also, I will go about reviewing this on 2 fronts: 1) a Dad and 2) a Dude.

Dad Review
The premise of the book is really simple and almost brilliant: Pick a topic that will resonate with parents (“sleep” in this case), pick a word that rhymes with a bunch of other words (also “sleep”), use a bunch of profanity, pass it off as a children’s book, create controversy, and reap the benefits. Simple formula. The book is really no more than a bunch of words kind of jumbled together, no flow, and a lot of bad language. Of course my kids (none of which can read) saw the book and wanted me to read it to them so I was able to substitute some of the off color words with others and read it to them. However, they got bored with it because the underlying message is just “go to sleep.” Nothing to really keep them intrigued. Also the pictures are borderline disturbing. They depict kids sleeping with lions and one kid has a parachute coming off of his/her head and is descending into a farmer’s field. Trippy and strange. The one plus is that this book does seem to grab some inner dialogue that we experience as parents when we are frustrated and tired when our kids don’t want to go to bed. So as a Dad, I am giving this book a Pulled Pork on the Sandwich Scale. Wait till it gets released to DVD or whatever the equivalent is in the book world and just spend your money on some books your kids are actually interested in.

Dude Review
This book is hilarious. This guy uses the F word and everything in a book that looks like it was meant for children. Man I wish I would have thought of that. This guy is a genius. I give this a Amighetti's Special.

So that’s it. It’s a book with cuss words and it is just over average on the humor scale. Once you’ve read it once, you’ve read it 100 times. I will say that once my wife has the new baby, I reserve the right to review this as a sleep-deprived Dad.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Art is a Process

We here at the Suburban Father Alliance take our craft seriously. This stuff doesn't just write itself. Anyway, we thought we'd take a minute and let you peek behind the curtain on one of our late night pre-production discussions.

John: I am trying to get something together for Friday. When are you leaving for your trip?
Jamie: Tomorrow. I'll definitely write about it when I get back. Sucker. Suckery sucker.
John: I don't go anywhere other than my pool. So I don't think people will want to hear my review on the [neighborhood name withheld] Pool
Jamie: What did those jerky guys think? I don't see our names on their website.
John: What about the jerks and the website?
Jamie: Did they like the review? Have they started showering us with merch yet?
John: No we got offered a tour.
Jamie: I'd look great in a jerky cycling shirt. How far away are they?
John: Labadie, Missouri. It's out where the hoot owls f' the chickens. It's around Washington/Eureka/Wildwood.
Jamie: Is it as far out as where they say stuff like "It's out where the hoot owls f' the chickens"?
John: Yes. I still think we need to go out there. Also I think we need to plan something big for Father's Day.
Jamie: I'll be in Wyoming all week. It's pretty far out. Want me to f' an antelope?
John: You'd do that if it wasn't Father's Day.
Jamie: Nope. Butt too high, run to fast.
John: Obviously you've never read Born to Run. You can chase those f'ers down
Jamie: I can barely run and run, let alone read and run.
John: You are probably wearing the wrong shoes for that.
Jamie: I don't care if it is after Easter, I'm not wearing white shoes. They don't slim my feet enough. I've already passed on the Fred Flintstone feet to my kids genetically. I'm not also passing on questionable fashion sense by example.

John: Yeah, you have never read Born to Run. All you need are some leather sandals.
Jamie: Go write Born to Run 2. I'll finish the first one in time to edit it.
John: There might be some copyright issues. FYI, I am also reaching out to my network of bloggers and asking the ones with children if they would like to break away from writing about running shoes and give us a try.
Jamie: Wasn't [buddy's name withheld] supposed to write something for us?
John: He probably wants a handwritten note inviting him. ALSO there is an issue with the t-shirts.
Jamie: Not enough room for your moobs?
John: I am working in it though. something about DPIs. The DPIs on my moobs are fine.
Jamie: What is a DPI? [waiting, waiting] Nevermind, you've already bored me.
John: Not sure. All I know is the image I had was 72 DPI and it needs to be 300 DPI. So our Digital Marketing team is working diligently on that.
Jamie: Oh, that DPI. Still don't care. Let me know when the stepladders come in. I may need you to send the sample to Wyoming next week.
John: Wait we are making stepladders now? This wasn't on my goals and objectives sheet. Do you need it for humping that antelope?
Jamie: BTW, I'm gonna blog some of this tomorrow. You can release your next.. um, release Friday. Or next week. Whichever. Oswald out.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Humanity vs. Dinner

We here at the Suburban Father Alliance take our grillin' seriously. It's not just about making food -- it's about being manly, providing for our families, taking on the elements. With grillin', like with every other manly pursuit, our tools are important to us. I've been using the same grill for 7 years. It's been through 2 apartments, 2 houses,  9 roommates and approximately 1,500 lbs of dry chicken. I know how long it takes to warm up, I know where the hotspots are, I know how much beer to pour on my veggies to keep them lubed up and not burned.

Unfortunately nature joined forces with the humanity of my wife and kids to prevent a successful 8th barbecue season for me and my grill. On Monday of Memorial Day, I had marinated the pork. I had cut up my veggies. I had my grill potatoes prepped and ready to go. And when I opened the lid to my grill I ran into the wrong hungry mouths.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="374" caption="Oh sure, they start out looking like this."][/caption]

I'm not the sort of man who would burn off a nestful of baby birds just so I could overcook some pork. I will totally admit to at least considering it, but since the family was outside, even if I had wanted to seriously consider it, it just wasn't in the cards. On the plus side, I had just scored a firepit the week before and had some wood in reserve, so I got to go all caveman on it and cook up a monster dinner on some open flames. Actually turned out pretty well. I was an Eagle Scout, dammit.


[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="But then they start eating all of our delicious horses."][/caption]

The scorecard at the end of the day? A family of birds have a home for the summer. My sister will probably get an old/new grill at the end of the summer. And a little birdie told me I may be getting a grill upgrade for Father's Day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

And you want to be my latex salesman...

Disclaimer 1: I am not looking for a new job. Ijust  thought the topic would be a good one for you damned lazy college kids that just entered the real world. So, this article is geared towards you, but universally practical nonetheless.

Disclaimer 2: Please consider out body of work before actually following our advice.

Disclaimer 3: I am completely jealous of you damned lazy college kids.

Writing a resume is a fine balance of many things: 1) Communicating how great you are without sounding like a pompous jackwagon. 2) Making what work you have done seem important and 3) using words in the English language that only exist in graduate level text books and other people’s resumes. It may seem like a complete pain to write and put together your resume, but it doesn’t have to be. A resume is a chance to not only impress potential employers, but use it to challenge yourself with how good you can make delivering pizzas sound.

Communicating how great you are without sounding like a pompous jackwagon:

I’m sure in your days of college and possibly high school you had no problem communicating the fact that you were awesome. Whether this inflated sense of self came with the help of delicious libations or not, you more than likely flaunted it, puffed up your chest, and grunted like a tennis player to say “Hey everyone! Come see how good I look!” Now that you are in the world of the unemployed, it doesn’t quite work that way anymore. You need to effectively (and modestly) put on paper your accomplishments. There are a couple easy ways to do this. 1) Quantify your successes whenever possible. Examples of how much money you brought in or raised for something or a percentage you ranked against a group of people work good here. It gives potential employers a really good indicator of what you can do. 2) List out any charity activities you have done. Your work history may just be mowing lawns for a summer here and there. So, beef that resume up with Charity or Volunteer work you have done. It shows employers you care about stuff other than yourself.

Making what work you have done seem important

This one is a little tricky at first but is probably the most fun of the 3 rules to write. This is where you get to constructively adorn what ever work history you have with fluffy clouds and rainbows. Take for example the Mowing Lawns job I pointed out above. What most would put on their resume:

-          “Mowed lawns as summer job. In charge of keeping appointments on schedule and making customers happy”

This is ok but when you constructively adorn with Fluffy Clouds and Rainbows it could look like:

-          “Responsible for the meticulous grooming of 15 prestigious landscapes and fully accountable for being on time, on task, and ensuring 100% customer satisfaction.

This sounds so much better and it only takes a couple more words to complete. So don’t think of writing a resume as a chore, think of it in terms of a creative writing challenge that you can secretly find a little humor in.

Using words in the English language that only exists in graduate level text books and other people’s resumes

Resumes are a dumping ground for fancy words that no one in their right mind would use in passing. However, its pretty much industry standard to talk pretty so run with it. A couple of tips here would include:

-          Do not use the same verb or adjective twice on a resume. I have never really seen this one written anywhere, but it’s a rule of mine. Bill Gates made right clicking a word and getting its synonyms easy for a reason: to help you not sound like a redundant moron.

-          Use big words and corporate jargon.  You are new to the work force so I will tell you that people sound smarter than they really are. There’s no reason you can’t either. The way they do this is by using words that you don’t hear all the time. When you use words like “synergy, transcending, strategic and visionary” you are only making yourself look great. Keep it up.

So that’s my basic rundown of how you can spice up you resume. There are a ton of online resources that can help you with formatting and such, but I thought I would focus a little more on the actual content.

Online Resources:

Sorry, you are on your own for this one. I don’t want to promote a site I haven’t used. And after al,l you need to get rid of that Damned Lazy College Kid label and do something for yourself.

In closing and in all seriousness, if I can stress a couple things no matter what advice you use: Keep your resume updated. I update mine (disgruntled or not) every 3-6 months. It's a good way to look back and see if you are growing personally and professionally in your job. Finally, and most importantly, don’t be an idiot and lie about your experience. It doesn’t help anyone to fib on this because sooner or later you will be caught and you will look like a complete butthead.