Monday, September 28, 2009

Parenting tips from Ian

Today: How to buy cigarettes for your underage daughter

(Based on actual events)

* Don't tell the grocery clerk that they're for your daughter. Really. How hard is that?

* Request beforehand that your daughter not react to the purchase by jumping on your back and squealing, "THANK YOU!!"

* Take a good look at your daughter. Yes, she could pass for 18. Yes, she's wearing college sweats. But the acne on her face would flag her even if she was 40.

* Don't ask your daughter if she wants a pack or a carton without making sure she knows the difference between each.

* Get your stories straight in advance. When the clerk inevitably asks for your daughter's ID, it hurts your case to say, "It's in the car/at home" simultaneously.

* "I've got cash" is not a proper response to an ID request.

* Now that you've been denied, drive to Kum & Go and try again. Corrupting your offspring shouldn't be the exclusive domain of the superintelligent.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New rules, (almost) all-sports edition

Rule #136: Best of the weak
"Plays of the week" sports highlight reels must comprise actual thrilling plays; context should not be necessary. These feats of athleticism should halt me in my tracks when shown without sound in a crowded gym, not require explanation with 25 SportsCenter one-liners. I'd rather see an acrobatic, one-handed grab by a podunk Division III team down 95-2 than some pedestrian touchdown pass that makes the list because the Giants happened to be behind when Eli Manning threw it. Leave the contextual plays for compilations where they make sense. Such as, "Best upsets of the Patriots."

Rule #137: Articulame
Anyone who earns a living as an American professional sports commentator must be able to pronounce all 26 letters of the alphabet. If there's an H in Houston - and last I checked, there is - I want to hear it. Otherwise, to 'ell with you!

Rule #138: QWERTYOIL
Keyboards in public computer labs must be wiped clean at least once a year. I appreciate having access to this machine, but the keys look and feel like my face did when I was 14. And yes, that's what she said.

Archive of rules less new than these

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wanted: A smart conservative

Here's a conversation I'd like to have:

Me: "I'd like to see universal health care in the United States. Short of that, I'd like to see a public insurance option offered by the government, as a way of making insurance cheaper and more honest across the board."

Conservative: "I agree that we need reform, but a public option is not the way to do it. I say we enact more oversight on private insurers, possibly through a government-appointed board, and offer tax credits for consumers dedicated toward purchasing a plan on the free market. Speaking of free market, I'd end restrictions on interstate commerce to ensure that Americans could really find the best price possible on their insurance policies."

Instead, the conservative response goes something like this:

Conservative: "I don't want Obamacare! It's socialist. He's just trying to get government into every aspect of our lives. No death panels! Get your government hands off my Medicare!"

Here's another exchange I'd entertain:

Me: "I suspect that a lot of opposition to President Obama is steeped in racism, be it conscious or subconscious. I feel this way because so much of it relates to his alleged origins (i.e., birth certificate, alleged Muslim madrassa) and supposed ideology (association with Rev. Wright, supposed move towards socialism, communism, fascism) more than any real political issues. There's an ugly undercurrent to Obama's opposition that seems more personal and threatening than the norm and isn't particularly grounded in reality."

Conservative: "I understand how it must look. There's a lot of frustration out there among conservatives, and the fringe among us has taken perhaps the most vocal and visible stance. And while I can't deny that some of it does play on deep-seated prejudices, some of it does have legitimate roots. I'm sorry that our frustration and our meanest elements have drowned out what are genuine grievances. We are concerned that Obama's policies on the bailouts and health care amount to more government control than we are comfortable with. We don't think the free market would benefit from increased government influence. A public insurance option would not level the playing field, but instead thwart free competition by running insurance companies out of business. The bailouts, in my view, gave the Obama administration de facto control over General Motors and top financial institutions. These big-government actions are not exactly the stuff of Stalin, but are of concern to those of us who favor smaller government."

Of course, no one will have any of that.

Conservative: "There's nothing racist about it! That's all you liberals ever do, cry racism. Nice try at class warfare. And way to parrot all those talking points you read on Daily Kos every day. You liberals you liberals you liberals you liberals you liberals you liberals and your socialism."

Are there any sensible conservatives left, or am I just going to have to keep talking to myself?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The rules are back (But I'm not quite yet)

Rule #130: One way to cut health care costs
When health care reform passes - and it will - administrators have a right to deny it to anyone who protested against it. OK, maybe that's too harsh, but it's very, very likely that not all among the thousands upon thousands who have mobbed every free health care event across the country in recent months have been raging socialists. This suggests that at least some of those who reject reform on financial/political grounds will be among the first in line when health care becomes more affordable. Quite possibly because the need overrides the only-in-a-vacuum ideals of the free-market fetishists.

Rule #131: Us Weakly
It's one thing to refer to you and your spouse as "we" when describing your day. But saying that "we were dilated" during childbirth is pushing it just a bit.

Rule #132: Republicans Party like it's 1969
Now that Ted Kennedy has died, aspiring Republican humorists must move on. It's 2009; time to at least move on to the 1970s. Your politics are stuck in 1980, so I know you can do it!

Rule #133: Super Size Seethe
Enough! With! The! Upselling! The other day, I went to a large bookseller to purchase a magazine with cash. Something to read during a solo lunch. But before I could plunk down the money, I had to endure a pitch for a store card ("Save 10 percent right now! That's 30 cents!") and was asked for my e-mail address (try spelling ianmcgibboney for someone who's never met you). Yes, she was nice, and it's not her fault, but it's overkill.

Same deal with electronics. If you want to sell me an extended warranty that costs nearly half of the price of the product, ensuring that the store's crack squad will take care of the device if it malfunctions, at least know what you're selling. If you think an Apple laptop goes well with pie, I won't be inclined to rely on you for tech support. So don't bother asking.

I understand that a basic rule of sales is, "Don't sell one when you can sell two. And don't sell two when you can sell a whole set." But that's also crack-addict logic, and it doesn't take into account all the times I didn't buy precisely because I don't care to recreate the experience of my worst dates. No means no!

Rule #134: ACORN nuts
No matter how much you wet your pants with glee over the latest ACORN scandal, it isn't going to result in President Obama's impeachment. Sorry. But I'm sure that's not why you care. I'm sure it's all about protecting this country from voter fraud. And that your sudden 180 on this issue is strictly from hindsight.

Rule #135: Brady's Bunch
ESPN must quit beating around the bush and propose to Tom Brady. SportsCenter has been a round-the-clock valentine to the Patriots quarterback this weekend. Yes, he's won multiple Super Bowls. Yes, he's back after a year on the sidelines. But he's not the best. The Patriots beat the Bills because of a lucky fumble. Brady is 7th in the QB ratings this week, below Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Brodie Croyle...and three others. Brady's among the best, sure, but Brees is infinitely more fun to watch, and makes for a more interesting interview. Let's at least wait and see how Brady stacks up this year before all the love letters. Otherwise, it just seems like you're living in the past, ESPN.

Brady is humble about himself. It's time for the pundits to catch up.

Rules archive

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Pretty serious setback

Yesterday, immediately after the publishing of my previous blog, my laptop folded for the last time. Cause of death: an apparently unbeatable spyware-induced Trojan horse virus, exacerbated by years of declining performance and physical deterioration. Also, my fist.

Figures. Several months ago, my mom offered me several hundred dollars for the express purpose of buying a new computer. I declined, saying I didn't need one (I'm famously frugal: this 2004 Averatec laptop was a secondhand gift I got in 2006, and was literally splitting apart at the seams). I instead used some of the money for more immediate needs and returned the rest. More recently, I spent most of the past two weeks with a fully functional laptop and not blogging. And just when I had several blogs ready to go, BAM! Again, figures.

I think I can still salvage some of my files, but my laptop's a mostly useless blob in its current form. It had a fine run. But its demise leaves me in an uncertain situation regarding my Internet needs. Every new computer I've checked out so far is well beyond my price range at the moment, and public labs aren't particularly convenient. Employers generally frown on blogging on company time, so there goes that plan. I don't want to vanish altogether, though, so I'll have to figure something out.

I'm just too much like MacGyver not to.

A guide to understanding (anti-education) parents

The ongoing flap over President Obama’s scheduled speech to the nation’s students has to be the saddest, most desperate action yet. Numerous school districts (including both in my current city and my hometown) will allow parents to opt the children out of the speech, during which they’ll apparently convene in another room with talk radio to keep them company.

Granted, defending what is essentially a suppression of free speech and education is a difficult ordeal. After all, it’s a new notion that schoolchildren should avoid listening to the president. So they’ll do what they always do when excusing the inexcusable: couch it in defensive terms. See, they’re just doing it for the children!

We already know what Obama is going to say to our students: "Stay in government indoctrination schools so that you can become a good citizen of me. Socialism. ACORN." But what parents are saying is less clear. Here is a translation guide for today's festivities:

“It’s up to me as a parent to decide what my child can handle.”
“I couldn’t name my child’s teacher or find their school on GPS, but this is going too far!”

“I don’t want my kids brainwashed.”
“I don’t want my kids brainwashed by anyone other than me.”

"I don't want my children exposed to socialist propaganda."
"I don't want my children exposed to a smart liberal president."

“I don’t want my kids indoctrinated.”
“My kids are such blank slates that I’m a failure of a parent.”

"I don’t think Obama should give this speech when parents aren’t around."
“I don’t want my kids seeing for themselves that Obama is a compassionate, reasonable role model, and not Satan incarnate. They might decide I’m wrong, then who knows what else they’ll start questioning?”

“The presidential speech is not part of the typical curriculum.”
“I thought No Child Left Behind was supposed to remove thinking from classrooms!”

“Obama is out of line in addressing America’s schoolchildren.”
“I cut class the day every other president did it.”

“Obama is just trying to recruit new votes for 2012.”
“I totally fucking suck at math, unless - oh noes! - Obama plans to lower the voting age to 12. He would do that, the traitor.”

"We don't know what he's gonna say!"
"The text has been available since yesterday! Next excuse?"

“How dare the president address the nation's schoolchildren? He's just going to turn it into a political push for the health care reform and socialism, such as.”
“I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, but just like with the 2008 election, the teabagger parties and the health care town hall heckling, I have to pretend my hatred for Obama is based on something other than race and deliberate ignorance.”

Monday, September 07, 2009

A modest proposal: Employers' Day

If we have Labor Day, shouldn't we also have Employers' Day? After all, big corporations and businesses also make the American economy what it is, and it's only fair to honor them too.

I'm sick of all this whining by laborers that enough hasn't been done to end centuries of oppression at the hands of their bosses. Yes, things were terrible once, and flat-out unspeakable at times. But you have your freedom now: official work hours, safety regulations, occasional union rights, the freedom to get a new job if the old one isn't cutting it for you. You even have your own holiday! The excuses are over!

Oh, and it's not my fault my ancestor made your ancestor stay at work after losing several fingers at that meat plant in 1906. I don't feel guilty about it, so let bygones be bygones!

I propose, in the spirit of fairness and balance, that the U.S. adopt an Employers' Day weekend. A time to celebrate everything that our business leaders have done to so benevolently offer livelihoods to the common people. A stretch of rest for our most burdened CEOs, who would otherwise never have time for that quick, impulsive overseas jaunt.

When could this weekend fit into our calendar? How about the first week in August? And yes, it would last a whole week, because America's business barons have worked too hard for a mere one day off. But lest bottom-line losses be a concern for that week, U.S. workers will be graced with a mandatory double-shift schedule each day, bathroom breaks optional. Not only will this ramp-up in production allow bosses to breathe easier on the decks of their yachts, but it will serve as a stark reminder to workers as to how bad things could really get. It will also make them all that more grateful for Labor Day a few weeks later. Everyone wins!

This message brought to you by the American Dream Corporation.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


I've been almost too sick to function this past week. And by function, I mean work rare daytime hours and entertain my visiting mom. I completely lost my voice for several days and, at one point, I couldn't sleep for more than an hour without leaping straight up to catch a breath. Did I mention that point came halfway through a 2-day, 12-hour driving spree? Well, it did. I eventually saw a doctor, who put me on - no joke - 10 pills a day. Pills are bad enough on a good day (and must they all be zeppelin-shaped?!!), but only in the past 12 hours has it not been a horrible chore to swallow. I lost as much as six pounds just from lack of eating.

Fortunately, I'm finally getting over all that, and I've got some great writing in the pipeline. The ideas have been building up in my mind to the point of discomfort, and at some point they will eventually leach out. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what's happening in the rest of my head too. Oh, I'm sorry. Too much information?

Well, get used to it. Because I'm back!