Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The importance of face time

Face Time is a built-in app on the iPhone whereby one can video chat with a fellow iPhone user. It’s possible we use this feature more frequently than the regular ol’ phone audio because our respective parents would prefer to see their granddaughter rather than just hear her. They couldn’t care less about us, honestly. I don’t even make an appearance in the majority of our Face Time sessions, and spend most of them shirtless while washing dishes. (I am usually close to naked around the house. I am always hot here.)

These calls offer varying degrees of success, and by that I mean they are almost always unsuccessful. For example, we attempted to Face Time with my dad last week and it kept freezing. When this happens, it typically freeze-frames on your worst possible expression. So our daughter became frustrated that Pop was not answering her and confused as to why his funny face was stuck. At least with my parents, we can quickly come to a mutual decision that it isn’t working and end it.

It’s not so easy with my in-laws, and they have a faulty router that makes freezing the norm. My wife has taken to saving the pictures of the awful freeze frame shots of her mother, and has created a collage entitled, “Nanie’s expressions.” Regardless of how not well it’s going, my in-laws always want to try again, and their router will always fail again.

Because that’s the thing with Face Time—you need to be on an Internet connection to use it. Or so we thought. We Face Time-called my in-laws last week. They were driving home at the time, but my mother-in-law decided to pick up the call anyway. Now, I don’t know if the new iPhone updates allow for Face Time on 3G, or if this was a total fluke, but wouldn’t ya’ know it—it worked. The phone sat on the kitchen table in front of our daughter as this ensued:

Mother-in-law: AHHHHHH! IT WORKED! WE’RE DRIVING! Hi baby girl! We’re driving! Can you believe this?

Father-in-law: HA, HA, HA! It’s a miracle! How’s my baby girl doing? We’re driiiiiviiiiing … do you see us driving, honey? We seeeeeee youuuuuuu! We’re in the car. How is this happening? Talking to his wife … Hey, show her the car. She wants to see the car.

Mother-in-law: Tony, STOP! It’s a red light. I can’t believe this … how is my girl? Did you have a good day at school today?

Daughter: I—

Father-in-law: HOW’S MY GIRL? Do you see us driving, honey? I don’t understand how this is happening. Mike—how is this happening? We are driving …

Me: From the kitchen sink. I don’t know, Da—

Mother-in-law: Tony, you missed the turn! Are you even paying attention? Wait, hold on, honey … Talking to her husband … Did you give him the papers before? Because I don’t see them here. Where are your glasses? The light is green now, ugh! Anyway … How is my honey, doing?

Daughter: I’m doing go—

Father-in-law: I don’t know where the papers are. I can’t believe we are Face Timing in the car, HA HA! How is my honey? Did you show her the car?

This proceeded all the way until they arrived home, at which point we were all treated to a play-by-play of them trying to find the keys—which my father-in-law had somehow misplaced on his way from the car to the door—to open the door. When they finally arrived inside, the call switched to WiFi and subsequently froze.

Note: This column appears in the 11/1 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/2 issue of the Peoria Times.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spam email of the week (Pt. II)

Subject: Hello

Of course the subject is "Hello." "Hello" is a topic of conversation and not a mere salutation in Spambot Land, where the money is free and the rivers flow with the blood of the identity-less.

I am Ms minnie how are you!


hope you are fine and in perfect condition of

Actually, Ms. Minnie, if you really want to know, I have been battling some acid reflux -- do you not follow my blog? -- and recently my jaw started experiencing this weird, sharp pain and also my toe nails are just ... they're not healthy, is all I can really say there. Overall I am fine though, thanks.

please do not be upset by receiving this email from me as we never
meet or know each other before.

What upsets me, mostly, is that sentence. Listen, Ms. Minnie -- if you're going to send out emails to people you don't know and are already anxious about this becoming a source of frustration for them, the least you can do is come correct with the grammar, y'namean? "as we never meet or know each other before ... ?" I want to physically remove that "sentence" from this email and set it on fire in the desert and leave it there to rot and then pour gasoline on the ashes and burn it again. No, I'm not upset. Please continue.

I will be waiting for your mail because i
have something VERY important to tell you,

You know what, Ms. Minnie? I'm just going to say it -- if it were THAT important, you'd tell me now. Forget this.

Seriously though what is it? The secret to life? JFK? Biggie? TELL ME I CAN WORK FROM HOME MAKING $5,000 A MONTH, GO AHEAD SAY IT! You win, I am emailing you back now. Where should I send the email? I have never done this before ...

please write to me through my
private mail box

Sounds nasty. This email is from "miine4lov@gmail.com" but I'm supposed to reply to "mine4love@gmail.com." Which one is your private mail box -- the one that is bullshit or the one that is bullshit? Now I am upset. I don't usually curse. My toe nail just cracked in half. I will have to get back to you later.

*Hat tip to Don D. for the spam*

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spam email of the week

Subject: Very important to you! is not spam

I know we call this feature "Spam email of the week," but this email, according to this email, is not spam, so my apologies. It ended up in my junk mail folder and it was sent by contato@casaemail.com.br, or if you prefer, fonseca.dir@terra.com.br -- those are just too many dots -- and which are both people or things I am unfamiliar with. Nevertheless, not spam. And not only is this not spam, it is very important to me. ! I am therefore assuming this is about my family or fantasy football team(s).

Hello, I would like to offer you the best email list today on the market,

ARE YOU EVEN SERIOUS RIGHT NOW? How lucky am I? The best email list on the market? I don't know what I did to deserve this -- other than periodically check my junk email folder to see what dumbass nonsense was in there -- but my hard work has obviously paid off.

Just a few questions: a) What constitutes the best email list? Is it better than the one I currently have, which features all of my aunts and uncles and a few people I haven't spoken to in a long time and people I don't recall meeting at all but somehow they got in there? I mean, I have my uncle Tom's WORK email on there, and he doesn't give that out to just anybody. Your list is better than that? Hard to imagine. Also, b) what is an email list? Is that like, for sales or something? I am not in sales. This is not important to me. c) How did I get on your email list? I don't know who you are and I don't like you and I am not in sales. Please take me off. After you send me the email list, obvs.

please visit our website and good sales

Is that a terrible sentence or a salutation? If the latter, it feels sort of old timey to me. I picture two men in top hats walking down the street in 1900 ...

Man 1: Good day, fine sir! Tips top hat, notices man is opening the door to a window store. And good sales!

Man 2: Good day to you, too, my good man! Tips top hat, notices man is opening the door to a top hat store. And good sales!

Man 1: Thank you! But I mop the floors here.

Man 2: Please visit our website!

Man 1: What does that mean?

Man 2: I do not know.


I actually clicked on this link as it was embedded into the email and it did nothing. And by nothing I mean absolutely nothing; like it didn't even pretend it was going to open a page or whatever. This made me think that maybe some firewall was preventing it from opening and destroying all the hard drives in our office. Or it could be there are just too many dots in there, as I had previously feared.


One word. And no, thank YOU. This was indeed very important to me, in the sense that it was useless and annoying and I wanted it to go away immediately.

Anyway, thanks everyone for stopping by today, and good sales to those who enjoyed it! To those who did not -- you are a terrible salesperson and I hope you get fired. No offense.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The lil’est slugger

We signed our daughter up for Lil’ Sluggers baseball on Saturday mornings. This was a risky move on the heels on Soccer Tots last fall, during which she had an all-out meltdown in five of the six sessions. Nevertheless, it’s important she remains active, and even more important I move forward with my plan of imposing the sport of baseball on her whether she likes it or not. It is my responsibility as a father.

Luckily, she seems to like baseball naturally. She has a baseball tee set in the backyard. Yes, it is pink, since “apparently every manufacturer in the world feels the need to gender-specify.” (- Wife) She also has a glove, which is also pink because I simply could not find a regular kid’s baseball glove. All the other (boys) gloves had pictures of Transformers or Spongebob Squarepants on them because: baseball. It is no longer possible to purchase a normal baseball glove for a child, fyi.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, she does enjoy hitting off the backyard tee, so we figured this could possibly translate well into her becoming a genuine Lil’ Slugger. The first session was a couple of weeks ago. It turned out our daughter was the only girl in the class, something I actually did not notice until my wife mentioned it when we arrived home. I was proud of myself for not noticing, thinking I’ve successfully reached the point where I do not judge Lil’ Sluggers based on gender alone. Upon further consideration, I realized I didn’t notice because I actually could not distinguish whether several of the kids were boys or girls.

One of my major concerns about these classes is that they are run by teenagers. I have no problem with teenagers (not true) except that they don’t have much experience with 3-year-olds. Especially my 3-year-old. She will run away as you are talking, and I doubt that’s something a teenager deals with on a day-to-day basis. Her coach for Lil’ Sluggers put my mind at ease somewhat when he said he’d been playing baseball his whole life. He then, however, in giving a broad overview of the game, described runs as “points.” I think he did this because he felt the kids could relate to points better than runs, but I almost pulled her out of the class right then and there.

To my surprise and delight, she has really taken to Lil’ Sluggers. I don’t want to say she’s the best Lil’ Slugger—there’s a lefty who comes dressed in full uniform who hits the ball fifty yards off the tee and who is either on steroids or 6—but she is definitely the lil’est. And she’s hanging with the boys. When she hits the ball off the tee, she feels the need to chase the ball down before she runs the bases because she doesn’t want anyone else to have it. Once we work that kink out, we may have something.

Better yet, there are kids in the class who are even more distracted than our daughter. There is one kid who I’m not sure has participated in anything yet; he just runs around in circles near the tennis courts. This makes me feel good for some reason. Still, our daughter has the attention span of a falling leaf, so I’m unsure how long the fun will last. It’s also the reason I doubt baseball will translate well for her as she gets older—And that's why they call it a double-switch ... hey, where did you go?—and why I want her to experience it now.

I mean, who knows if she’ll ever grow up to become every girl’s dream—a big slugger. For now, this will work.

Note: This column appears in the 10/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/26 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spam email of the week

Subject: Auto insurance (9/17/2012)

I work at a weekly newspaper, so it's important I'm up to speed (pun) on the latest news re: car insurance. Also, FINALLY someone has the wherewithal to include the date of the sent email in the subject header. I mean, is that so hard to do? Like many people who use email, I am not able to sort my email by date, and thus I am frequently saying things like, "Argh! Where is that email from whoever about whatevs from Tuesday the 23rd? WHY IS MY DEFAULT EMAIL SORT SETTING ON 'CAT MENTIONS' AND HOW DO I FIX IT?"

Our company is part of a platform of nearly 37 million people,

Whoa, slow your roll, playa! Not even a greeting? No, "Hello Beloved," or "To my sincerest" or "DEAR NEWSPAPER?" I'm offended.

Okay I'm over it. Go on with this thing about your company being part of a platform, which doesn't mean anything or make sense.

mostly United States and Canadian based.

Cool. Like many, I don't want to be dealing with no ASIANS. Continue.

What we do gives us the ability to present our end users with a first choice when they look for anything on any of the major search engines.

That is very specific and explanatory. I like how what your company does gives it the ability to do something. A lot of companies are like, "We do this," and I'm like, "Okaaaay. But does it give you the ability to do something?" No response. Also, what about the end users? What if the end users try to search something on the Internet and they don't get a first choice? I hate when I Google something and the first choice that comes up is the 107th choice.

But wait. If I understand this correctly, and I don't, what your company does is provide auto insurance quotes to Internet users who search for anything. So I could be like, let me search for "home remedies for acid reflux," and then BAM -- auto insurance quote that I didn't even need or want, and I still have acid reflux. This seems like a thing a lot of people would want and like.

We're looking for a preferred source to send our users searching for auto insurance in Glendale and surrounding markets.

LET ME BE THAT SOURCE. Again, I work at a newspaper, so it only makes sense that I'd be on the front lines of providing Internet search engines a place to find auto insurance quotes. In fact, let's do this now. When are you in the office and in what time zone?

I’m in the office weekdays from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific time.


Yours truly,

Mike Beale     
Service Analyst, SPS Search     
Phone: (877) 709-6971, ext.  1194

Mike Beale is a service analyst for SPS Search, although this email is from mikeb@ngportal.net. Also, I called the number -- really, I did -- and per the recording, the company's actual name is "SPN Search," which, whatever. I also dialed the listed extension, which led me to one of the creepiest away messages I've heard in some time, and which failed to mention an actual name. I detected a sense of irony that a company claiming to specialize in search engine results cannot nail down a name for itself, but I wasn't sure if that was actually irony or just weird, so I Googled "irony" and now I have a different car insurance company, so the day was not completely wasted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The strip mall right-of-way, where everyone is wrong

The Arizona strip mall is a phenomenon unlike any I have ever seen. It is also the most dangerous place in the world.

Let us begin with the strip mall itself. If you have a business in the West Valley, you exist in a strip mall. The only free standing structures in this state are houses, so the only way to be sure you’re not in a strip mall is to find a bed. Unless you’re in a mattress store, in which case you’re definitely in a strip mall.

This is all well and good I suppose, except that there is no way of knowing what stores are in a strip mall unless you drive into one. Driving into a strip mall, however, does not come without risks. That is because the dyslexic child engineers who designed strip mall parking lots here did so in the most confusing way imaginable.

Here is my experience driving in any strip mall here: I am driving safely. Here comes an intersection. It looks like I don’t have a stop sign here but let me just be cautious because … yep, they blew their stop sign. I guess pick-up trucks with eight wheels have the right-of-way regardless. Okay, I will continue to drive straight, and here is another intersection. This parking lot has a lot of intersections for a parking lot. Anyway, I must not have a stop sign at this one because I didn’t have one at the last one and I am going straight, so to have one here would make no sense—nope, this time I have a stop sign. I will wait. Looks like this elderly woman thinks she has a stop sign even though she doesn’t. I will wait here until she realizes it. BEEP! MOVE WOMAN! Okay, I should be fine if I continue to drive straight to my destination … wait, the road is turning? STRAIGHT DOESN’T EXIST. Is this one-way? There is a car coming at me head on. I better park before I get killed. Uh oh, SPEED BUMP.

This frequently experienced scenario, however, does not even account for my least favorite part of strip mall driving. That would be driving along the strip itself, the road by the store entrances.

Obviously, this is a high foot-traffic area, and I have always exhibited the proper caution while driving. This is also, however, a road, made of asphalt, so it becomes increasingly frustrating to account for pedestrians bursting out of stores and into the street without so much as a passing glance.

It’s like a video game, really. Trying to drive the strip mall strip while avoiding pedestrians who walk right into the street. Some don’t even pick up their head up until my bumper is an inch away from their thigh, and then they have to nerve to look at me like, “Can I walk here?” And I’m like, “I’M THE CAR. PICK YOUR HEAD UP.” Then I wait there as they walk as slow as humanly possible back to their monster pick-up truck, at which point several other people have left the store and are crossing, and I can never leave.

Oh, and this must be done while avoiding the obnoxious guy illegally parked on the strip with his hazards on because his wife is “just getting one thing.” All of this makes for a fantastic experience, where the only “right” of way is your own.

Note: This column appears in the 10/18 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/19 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Spam email of the week

Subject: Funding Request From Kelcarter Investment Limited

Here is an email from Kelcarter Investment Limited that is desperately seeking to loan me money. If I remember one thing from the street smarts I obtained growing up and living near a street, it is this: ALWAYS trust when someone is trying to give you money. It should be mentioned, however, that Kelcarter Investment Limited is not a thing that exists. I Googled them and nothing of that name came up. I mean, you have to really not exist for Google not to return something, especially considering that is a great name for a band. Nevertheless, I will not hold their nonexistence as a company against them for the time being.

Dear Valued Partner,

Presumptuous, although it's good to know SOMEBODY values me as a partner. Just kidding babe, love you, smooches!

We will like to be a financial partner in your business transaction.

How did they know about my potential business transaction? I didn't even know about my business transaction. This is crazy. That said, yes -- of course you can be a partner.

The weird thing is, I think I can safely say I have never in my life been an active part what could be described as a business transaction. Granted, my idea of a business transaction is one that occurs in a high-rise office conference room where a suitcase full of money changes hands and/or a gigantic check is doled out and there are a lot of people there taking pictures. And then the transaction is really not what it seems because the guy with the money TAKES OFF HIS MASK! BANG-BANG GET HIM, HE WENT THAT WAY! CAR CHASE!!!!!

Anyway, my inability to become a part of a business transaction is probably a major reason why I am here making fun of spam emails on a blog.

Moreso, we are ready to facilitate and fund any business that is capable of generating Three(3) to Ten(10) Percent(%) annual return on investment (AROI) depending on the fund you are requesting.

I would like a loan of $150,000 at 0.0% interest to start my company that manufactures pillow cases that don't turn yellowish-brown when you sleep on them. I plan to generate anywhere in between 0-35 percent annual return on investment, depending on whether or not I am the only person who turns his pillow case yellow. I hope I qualify!

I have to say that I always enjoy the parenthesis after a written number that includes the numeric digit, just in case you are an idiot that cannot process words, in which case you couldn't read any of the email anyway.

Please contact me with your funding requirements/BP for review for a possible business collaboration on williams@kelcarterinvestment.com
I await your response and your Business Plan

Oh, so what, you want like, something in Excel? Pfft. Forget it.

Williams Smith
Chief Executive Officer
© 2012, Kelcarter Global Investors Limited.
Email: williams@kelcarterinvestment.com

Your name is Williams Smith? It's like you guys aren't even trying anymore.

In conclusion, this is an email from Williams Smith, the CEO of a company that doesn't exist but wants to loan me money. Also, this email actually arrived from Robin.Hughes@wvinsurance.gov, which is a company that sort of exists ... in West Virginia. I hope this has all been as worthwhile for you and as it has been for me. Smooches!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Neighborhood watch, a smart investment

There is a foreclosed home on the corner of our block. I know it’s foreclosed because there is a Martin Luther-esque piece of paper taped to the front door that reads, “This house is foreclosed. BACK OFF. Love, Bank.” At least that’s what I assume it reads—I’ve never actually read it because it’s all the way across the street. Nevertheless, in today’s modern age, I do believe taping a piece of loose-leaf paper to a front door remains the best mode of communication regarding the status of any freestanding structure.

Anyway, there have been a lot of rumors about what is happening in this house. I have heard squatters were living there. I have heard the neighborhood kids ransacked it and set up their own independent government headquarters. I have heard Tupac lives there. Everything I have heard has come from neighborhood gossip and I have believed all of it.

I have, therefore, tried to remain on guard. Not because I necessarily care what happens to this house, but because I think it’s important to keep out of our neighborhood the type of people who would rob and/or live in an abandoned home. Especially considering that not so long ago, the foreclosed house right next to ours was robbed. They pulled the range from the wall, leaving behind an exposed, leaking gas line. Were I a person with the understandable habit of lighting up the occasional backyard cigar, I would have likely exploded the entire block. So that was comforting to discover.

Last week I was out front and I noticed some suspicious activity happening by this house. Two men seemed to have gone in the backyard, and there was another man in a pickup truck across the street observing while talking on his phone. I wasn’t sure what to do. I considered confronting the pickup truck, but I saw the guy inside and he was huge so I was like, “Better play it cool.” Should I call the police? Hello, police? This is Mike. There are some people looking at a house. Please send backup. I’ll try and stare at them for as long as can.

As usual, I did nothing. I told my wife about it when she arrived home soon thereafter, and she was captivated and impressed by my story about how I saw something and didn’t do anything.

Very early the next morning, my wife and I were awoken by sounds from across the street. My wife jumped up, looked out the window and said, “They’re robbing the house!” I sprung into action and called the police.

Police: Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?

Me: Actually, could I have the non-emergency line? Wait, this might be an emergency. There’s a robbery in progress, I think.

Police: Yes, that would be an emergency. What is the address?

Me: I don’t know. It’s across the street from my house.

Police. What is your address, sir?

Me: My address is __. But I want to reiterate the robbery is not happening here. Please don’t send anyone here because my daughter is sleeping.

Police: What is the description of the suspects?

Me: Talking to wife. Babe, what do they look like?

Wife: I don’t know. It’s too dark.

Me: It’s too dark.

Police: Rolling her eyes, something I can strangely sense over the phone.

They sent a police officer. He arrived at our door about twenty minutes later and informed me that the house in question was going up for auction that day, something he discovered by reading the piece of paper on the front door. The people I had seen the previous day were probably potential investors, and the noises could have been auction reps clearing some things out. Nevertheless, he assured me I did the right thing by calling the police. I went back inside and finished my yogurt and granola, confident that potential investors learned their lesson about stepping foot into my neighborhood.

                                                                     And HE is an idiot.

Note: This column appears in the 10/11 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/12 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Spam email of the week

Today's email comes courtesy of what might be the dumbest name in the history of fake names. Today's email comes courtesy of MR. ALEX GOOD WILL. That's Mister Alex if you're nasty, and Good Will is two words and also the opposite of the kind of will this email invokes. His email address is goodwillalex@ibibo.com and this went out to me and, among others, postmaster@keris.or.kr, which are addresses that are surprisingly absent from my contact list. I probably met them both at some party and don't even remember. Hey, we should totally make a money transfer together some day! Cool, no doubt! Get at me next week! or whatever. Anyway, so what's this email about?

Subject: PAYMENT

You're boy here is about to get pizz-aid. Just for sitting here at my desk. The American dream.

Re: Bank Payment Notification/Wire Transfer Approvals

That is the first line of the email. It couldn't be more official if it had a seal.

We wish to inform you that you have been recommended by my Bank, to pay you the sum of US$2,500,000.00
_ _ _ _ _

Conference room, top floor of a skyscraper in London

Bank: Mr. Alex, please email one ... shuffling through papers ... Mike Kenny, and inform him we are recommending, to ourselves, that he receive from us $2.5 million.

Mr. Alex: Okay, makes sense. What if he seeks to know why?

Bank: Shit, I don't know. Tell him ... "which is based on the understanding and current proposed legislative payment agreement" or something.

Mr. Alex: That's good, that's good. You can't argue legislation.
- - - - - - -

By the way, that sentence makes absolutely no sense, but I am tempted to use it against my mother-in-law in conversation to see if works.

Mother-in-law: What's the deal with this new healthcare plan anyway?

Me: Well, the problem with it is that it's based on the understanding and current proposed legislative payment agreement.

Mother-in-law: I tell ya', those dang politicians ... the whole lot of them!

Our Bank

This bank's name is: Bank, fyi.

as a member of the financial services compensation scheme

I like how they tried to sneak in a little honesty there.

established under the financial services and market act 2000 as at 31 Dec, The Bank is subjected to pay all outstanding debts within the European Economic Areas and Deposits denominated in all currencies and treated alike.

What has two thumbs and lives in the European economic area of Arizona and once loaned a European Bank called "Bank" $2.5 million? This guy! I guess. I also greatly appreciate how this terrible, nonsensical writing is disguised as formal legalese.

To ensure we carry out our normal payment procedures accurately and to help in continually improve our services and interest of security; we therefore demand that you send your proper identity to confirm your person as the beneficiary. We shall also require you to confirm your acceptance to receive funds.

I like how it's on me to ensure that Bank carries out its procedures accurately ... and I do that by forking over my identity and confirming my acceptance to receive funds, which is a thing that doesn't make sense. That said, I will do that.

Please indicate correct telephone number, address and receiving Bank details.

"Yo, bank, it's Mike. Listen, Bank, in London or whatever, is going to be wiring $2.5 million into my account later today due to the uh, legislation or something. Long story. Anyway, I just sent them the routing number. So just an fyi-- ... what? What do you mean I don't have an account anymore? I no longer exist, you say? Tell that to my canker sore! Seriously though, what are you talking about?"

Further inquiries about HSBC Bank could be ascertain on Tel: +44 700 592 1528 ext 1

That is the worst telephone number I have ever seen. It's like, literally the first part of the number is something that doesn't exist on phones. Please send us your identity. If you any questions please call: fork68, the symbol for wind, 88645-12121=, hit number lock twice, then breathe lustily into the receiver until someone picks up. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The perils of positive reinforcement

I frequently receive email forwards or notice Facebook statuses from my elder relatives that refer to how much rougher and thus better things were when they were growing up. Things like, “When I was a kid the only video game we had was called GOING OUTSIDE!” Or, “Click ‘Like’ if you had one of these growing up!” and it will link to a picture of a beat-up station wagon or an alcoholic father.

I usually can’t roll my eyes hard enough when I come across these things because they’re really quite silly. Nostalgia can indeed cloud perception, and the things they pride themselves on were almost certainly luxuries by their parents’ standards. The implication is that we, and certainly our children, are going soft, and 30 years from now we’ll be a nation of fat, whiny, privileged brats who will be under China’s rule.

I don’t believe that to be the case. Look at me. I played video games as a kid and now I’m 34 and can almost change a tire. That said, these type of anecdotes are not entirely bereft of wisdom or merit, and if I ever find myself agreeing with a particular old school sentiment, it probably involves the rearing of children.

Case in point: our daughter. She is amazing and I love her, obviously, but she is a handful. “Handful” is a nicer way of saying “if you are not firm with her, and don’t follow through on promises/warnings, she will absolutely, positively walk all over you.”

It is truly astounding to witness how quickly a child inherently learns how to manipulate, and our daughter has nailed it already. If she had a resume—and she should have one because she needs a job—manipulation would be her greatest skill. (She is also proficient in iPhone 4.)

Our daughter will read a person’s personality and internally process the best way to use those characteristics to get what she wants. The best way typically involves her flipping the heck out until the other person relents. Unfortunately for her, her mother is an unnerving rock of I-don’t-think-so, and she has taught me well. Suffice it to say, our daughter’s shenanigans do not fly at home, and it is not unusual for us to casually go about our household duties amidst the anguished drone of a child getting the opposite of her way.

This is not the case in daycare/school, which has become cause for concern. It seems like every day I pick her up I am treated to some account about how she didn’t sleep, listen, play kindly, or all of the above. I’m like, “Okay, so what was her punishment?” And they’re like, “Gasp! We let her color while eating pancakes.” My wife recently picked her up with that same familiar feedback, and as the teacher was detailing the drama, our daughter was eating a bag of Cheese-Its as happy as could be. My wife, restraining herself, responded, “Okaaaaay … then why is she eating Cheese-Its?

School doesn’t “do” timeouts. They also don’t seem to withhold treats because of behavior. The school believes in “positive reinforcement,” which is nice in theory. It’s not so nice when our daughter is a hot mess because no one had the wherewithal to be firm with her. She is immune to positive reinforcement. If you try to positively reinforce her she’s like, “Pfft. This is my class now.”

Now I don’t know who to be upset with when I pick her up—our daughter or the school. Is this what regular school is like now, too? It makes me yearn for the good ol’ days when Catholic nuns would smack your hand with a ruler for answering incorrectly, and when positive reinforcement meant backup troops IN VIETNAM. I experienced neither—and thank God because I’d be scarred for life—but still. I think we’ve gone soft.

                                              HAHAHAHAHAHA ... SO TRUE, SO TRUE!

Note: This column appears in the 10/4 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/5 issue of the Peoria Times.