Archive for January, 2010

Baby Names and Silverware

So, my wife and I are expecting a baby in May. As you might expect, we have been busy saving money, painting, cleaning and otherwise preparing our humble little nest for the arrival of the bundle of joy. Ok, that is totally not true, unless watching DVD’s and eating ice cream counts as “preparing the nest.” What we have been doing, instead, is arguing about names. Or, more accurately, avoiding arguments about names while watching DVD’s and eating ice cream.

It is odd that we would argue about this because generally my wife and I agree on most things. We pretty much spend our time trying to force decisions onto the other person (“what do you want for dinner?” “I dunno, what do you want?” etc.), so if one of us goes to the trouble of coming up with an idea, the other person will usually appreciate the effort by readily agreeing to it. There have only been two decisions I can remember that we actually disagreed about.

The first was when we were registering for silverware. We went to a store, snagged one of those cool scanners, and marched to the silverware department with the intent of clearing that item from the “To Do” list. Then, to our surprise, we each had a strong opinion on the matter.

The Megger was interested in silverware that was, primarily, entertaining. “Different” and “funky” were important criteria in her selection process – I like to joke that she wanted to buy forks with no tines just because they were trendy. That is an exaggeration, but she wanted silverware that would be striking and make an impression. My concern was with functionality. I figured that I would be eating with this silverware for many years, God willing, and I wanted something that wouldn’t annoy me while transferring my food from plate to mouth. Cool, I thought, was a transitory thing and I didn’t want to be stuck with non-useful silverware once its hipness had expired.

So, every pattern that I recommended was too boring for The Megger, and every pattern she recommended gave up too much of its usefulness in pursuit of art. Eventually, we had to give up and go home. In time, we were able to strike a balance and select silverware that was both attractive and useful, but both of us were surprised that the other had been so stubborn on that issue.

That situation appears to be recurring with the process of choosing a name for our unborn child. I tend to prefer names that are time-tested and traditional, where my wife prefers names that are a bit newer. My concern is that, with many of the new names, they are also very trendy, so every kid in school is going end up with the same “different” name.

My wife, on the other hand, believes that many of the names I prefer are boring. People have been naming their children the same old names for years on end, so why repeat such unoriginal thinking? Can’t we turn the page and choose new names with at least a possibility of being interesting? It’s a fair point.

My counter is that if everyone’s child has a trendy name, then to use an old-fashioned name is somewhat trendy and different. So far, she’s not buying it. But, to her credit, she’s much more motivated to resolve this dispute than I am. So far, our conversations about this topic have gone as follows (I will not print the names we actually discuss to avoid the complications that might result):

Megger (flipping through a name book): Let’s talk about names.

Me: Ok.

Megger (pointing to a name in the book): How about this name?

Me: No. I hate that name. It sounds weird.

Megger: Ok, how about this name?

Me: No, a kid I went to school with had that name and he picked on me.

Megger: Hmm, ok. How about this name?

Me: That name is too popular now.

Megger: Fine. How about this one?

Me (emitting some form of offensive gas): Meh.

As you can see, my wife is being extremely patient, while I am not really participating in the process. In fact, admittedly, I’m being a bit of a prat. Perhaps it is because my friends have all told me that as soon as the baby is born, I will turn to my wife and tell her that any name she wants is just perfect. That could be it, but I think I am too stubborn for that situation to be likely (the oddsmakers in Vegas have taken it off the board).

It is also possible that I am just nervous about having a healthy baby and to agree on a name would be to commit too much of myself in case there is some problem. This theory is bolstered by the fact that my wife and I can’t even agree on a nickname for the unborn lad (I prefer “Bronco,” you know, because he kicks a lot and because it’s funny). If fear is my reason, however, it is clearly idiotic (no surprise when dealing with me). If there is to be some issue with the baby (God forbid), then I doubt that I will take any solace in the fact that there wasn’t a name involved.

What I need to do is to take the process seriously by buckling down and coming to the table with name suggestions of my own. I’m sure that once I actually buy into the process, we’ll come to an agreement pretty quickly (we always do) and then we can move on to the painting, cleaning, and saving that must be done. Ok. We have a plan. First, though, I think there’s a little chocolate chip left in the freezer.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 28 Jan 2010 4 Comments

The Need to Achieve

Look at that. Do you see that? Right there. I did that. Me.

Achievement is something that everyone craves. We want to have the ability to point at something we’ve done and have our effort in that area noted and appreciated, even if it’s something that only we look at and appreciate for ourselves. For example, my father plays the game Free Cell on his computer, and he writes down the number of every game he conquers. Now, this could be so that he doesn’t inadvertently repeat a game, but I suspect it is more likely so that he can look back at the sheets and sheets full of game numbers, and feel like he has accomplished something.

Companies see this need in people and the games they produce sell that feeling of achievement. In online role playing games, like World of Warcraft, there are tasks that need to be completed in order to increase the level of the player’s character. Some of these tasks are repetitive, even boring, but players will log hours online to complete those tasks. It’s not because any of these players burn with the desire to have their character get to the18th level, but because having an 18th level character represents a certain amount of accomplishment in the gaming community.

This extends into the area of hobbies as well. People collect things, for example, and feel like if they can just collect that next thing – that rare baseball card or car they have always wanted – they will be fulfilled. It’s a desire that burns in the collector’s soul, yet somehow that’s not what happens.

When that long-desired item is finally collected – or the online game character attains the highest possible level – there might be a fleeting moment of euphoria, but once the euphoria subsides it is decidedly anti-climactic. There is an empty feeling at the lack of challenge that lies ahead. I think that this might be related to the fact that, once we have grown up, many of the achievements that were fulfilling to us as children (collecting baseball cards, etc.) are not as meaningful to our adult minds. So, even when we achieve our goals in those areas, there is still an empty feeling.

I think this unfilled need for achievement is a product of our modern, affluent society. We spend our leisure time “relaxing” night after night, and those days stacked with a lack of productivity gnaw at our souls.

Visit a nursing home and you might see several elderly people sitting in front of a television, passing the time. There is nothing they need to do, so some of them do nothing. This is a depressing thought, but is it really that much less depressing than what many people do in their own living rooms every night of the year? Sure, they might break up the sedentary periods with commuting to work, or going out to a restaurant, club, or movie; but a movie is really just television on a larger scale, with the added bonus of butter-flavored grease on the popcorn.

Other people drink, or take drugs, because those chemicals take the brain away and allow people to avoid thinking about the drudgery. Junk food does this as well. Much like a tap from Cesar Millan on the shank of a barking dog, a quick jolt of sugar lifts the spirits enough to distract the eater from boredom; but as soon as that sugar high passes, the boredom returns and it is off to the fridge for some more chewable entertainment.

It seems to make sense that the earliest people didn’t have to worry about an unfilled need to do something productive. For them, every hour of every day was so full with the task of survival – hunting or gathering food, discovering fire, that sort of thing – that by the time the caveman’s eyes shut, he was happy just to have made it through another day. Granted, the caveman still painted pictures on the wall – much like my father with his solitaire game, he still wanted some record of his achievement.

But, what do to for those of us lucky enough to have such trivial problems as “what am I doing with my life?” I suppose that one option would be to find a career that provides a sense of importance. After all, if you go to a party and try to relate the story of your last great success underwriting an insurance policy, people – even your coworkers – are going to nod politely while looking for an escape route. Unless you are firefighter or some other form of professional do-gooder, you will probably feel the need to find something outside of the daily office grind to provide a real sense of accomplishment.

There are several options available. Religion, politics, charity work, and fantasy sports all help people fill the hours after dinner and before bedtime. But, in my humble opinion, the easiest thing to do is to get a pet (well, unless you are allergic, in which case my lawyer would like me to instruct you in no uncertain terms NOT to get a pet). In and of itself, unless the beast has escaped and is running free in the traffic of your local streets, owning a pet is a stress reducer. Even the small tasks of feeding, brushing, walking, or just sitting and patting a pet matters to the animal. You are making an effort, and it is making a difference, if only to the dog or cat, and making a difference is what matters.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 14 Jan 2010 1 Comment

I’m back. Full of rust, but back.

Dear Reader,

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and I’m sorry about that. For the last few months of 2009, I just couldn’t write. But, 2010 is a new beginning, so I hope we can leave those dark times behind us and start over. Deep breath, fingers on the home row, and:

For Christmas, my wife bought me an Amazon Kindle (a portable electronic reader that enables the user to download books and read them on a screen). She explained that since I love to read, and I love gadgets, it seemed like the perfect gift. I hadn’t really expected to get one, as it seemed extravagant to spend money on a Kindle when I can just read paper books, but I have enjoyed it so far. The books themselves seem to be much less expensive (as you would expect, since the publisher doesn’t have to print them), so maybe it will work out in the long run.

Of course, there are some differences between the Kindle and regular books. For example, I recently accidentally deleted one of my Kindle books.

You see, the little joystick button wasn’t responding, so I did what all users do: I clicked it a bunch of times. Then, I helplessly watched a menu pop up with an option to delete the book, and poof, it was gone. There is no recycle bin for the Kindle, so that sucker was gone. I suppose it’s the equivalent of accidentally dropping a real book into a fireplace, or leaving a bag of newly purchased books at a movie theater (which I did this past year).

I suspect that my Kindle scenario confirmed the fears of people who are uncomfortable using computers. Most people who are not comfortable with computers think that by just clicking around, they will accidentally delete all of the gold from Fort Knox, or otherwise do some form of permanent damage. I usually try to reassure these people that they should feel comfortable clicking around because, no matter what, whatever they do can usually be fixed pretty easily.

As proof of this, I would like to say that my problem was fixed easily. I simply re-purchased the book…

…Like any sports fan that enjoys watching gutsy players, I was really sad to see Wes Welker go down with a knee injury this past Sunday. Welker is such a little dude (for a pro football player), and there have been so many times during his Patriots career when he has been simply crushed by a defender. He’d get popped and I’d think, “Oh, he’s got to be hurt,” only to see him jump up and jog back to the huddle. In a way, although I’m sure it must be frustrating to Welker, I’m a bit glad that it wasn’t a defender who dealt him the injury (if he HAD to get hurt, that is).

Players like Welker are very rare, and it has been a joy to watch him these past few years. I hope he is able to return to his status as the toughest tackle dodger in the NFL…

…Staying on the topics of sports, my prediction is that the Sox will be just fine this year, assuming that their pitching steps up. Hopefully Dice-K will live up to his potential.

Jason Bay was a good player, but he tended to disappear against good pitchers, so I thought he was overpaid by the Mets. In 5 years we will be happy that the Sox didn’t make that commitment to Bay. I think that his replacement, Mike Cameron, is going to be fine in the outfield and he should provide a little bit of pop, although it will be frustrating to watch him strike out 135 times.

I’m not sure why the Sox signed Marco Scutaro, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I would have been happy simply re-upping Alex Gonzalez, but Theo never seems to be happy when someone comes in and actually does the job at short. Orlando Cabrera and Gonzalez (twice) have come in and been just fine, but Theo threw them away for Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, and now Scutaro. I hope this time it works out.

Also, I’m sorry to see Mike Lowell, if he stays, take a smaller role. Lowell projects himself as a classy guy and it was a joy to watch him play. I understand that it was probably time to move on, but still, I hope he gets traded and gets a chance to play every day. Hopefully his replacement, Adrian Beltre, will flash some leather around and contribute at least some with the bat.…

…Ok, I am going to shift gears away from sports and get serious for a moment. I lost my brother Jim in November, after a brave and terrible 5-year fight with melanoma. Jim was much too young and he left behind a family and friends who miss him desperately. I want to ask everyone to please, please get a dermatology screening for yourselves and for those you love. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it could save your life. Also, as the song says, use sunscreen.

If even one person beats the disease because he or she caught it early, my brother will know, and he will be glad (he was competitive like that).

Thank you for the time,

Tim

The Day to Day Grind Tim 07 Jan 2010 4 Comments