Friday, December 31, 2010

Zoo Sign.

**Credit where credit is due: my pal Rosenrosen made a sign similar to this one, and hung it up in her cube at work in an attempt to prevent people from bothering her. I stole her idea and modified it to suit me.

The North American Boden (praecantrix misellus)

Native to the wilds of Hummelstown, the North American Boden is easily startled once you get its attention, and has been known to react violently to stupidity and the threat of taxation. Selectively deaf, it is only able to be safely approached by people whom it does not dislike. The Boden has been known to slay its victims with a barbed tongue and rapier wit; its mean-spirited sarcasm is often mistaken for humor.

The Boden responds well to "Top Gear**,"70's arena rock, British comedy, and subtitled films. It also enjoys McVities Milk Chocolate Digestive biscuits, icy-cold cans of dietCoke, and dark beer. If you don’t have any of these to offer, then please observe from a distance, and quietly back away.
**BBC "Top Gear," not the shitty American version.

Happy Christmas from the Douchebag Family

  I have been thinking about Christmas newsletters. You know, those long-winded and boring letters that some people tuck in to their Christmas cards where they tell you all about what they've been up to during the past year.
  It seems to me that if I cared enough to know about your husband's promotion or your son's hockey league or the family trip to Mexico, I might have called you up at some point during the year to chat. But I don' I didn't.  There seems to be a new twist to the Christmas newsletter: the Year End E-mail. Maybe this is not a new thing, but this is the first year I received one. This one involved each member of the family listing the top five things that happened during the year, and came with a PowerPoint photo slide show of the year's best photos attached.
  It seems that you send this out to everyone in your address book, with no regard to whether or not they might actually give a shit about what happened to you this year. I would think that one would want to be at least a little selective, a little considerate, when sending out something like this. I have email addresses of businesses in my address book, and I'm reasonably certain that Bank of America, LTD Commodities, and eBay aren't terribly interested in my family's lists of of the top five occurrences from the past year.
  I would enjoy receiving Christmas newsletters, in traditional paper or electronic format, if EVERYTHING that happened during the year were discussed. Like how the Mexico trip resulted in dysentery and your daughter's very first dose of the clap on account of that terrible business with the Mexican border guards, or how your husband's hemorrhoids got so bad during tax season that you had to spend hours on the Internet tracking down those special ice trays that make ice cubes shaped for rectal insertion. Your struggle to rid your home of bedbugs would be an interesting topic, as would the day you lit the gas grill with the lid closed and burned off your eyebrows. The zenith would be the newsletter in which you announce your impending divorce and/or sex change, although you could only do that once. That's a PowerPoint slide show I'd be interested to see.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


A few years ago, when I worked in a fun department, we were informed that the intranet site was going to be updated, and they wanted a short biography for each person on staff. My co-workers and I each collaborated on one another's blurbs. We weren't allowed to use them, of course. I found my bio in my email archive today, and decided that it's a shame it's never been published.

"Short, squat, and gruff yet lovable, Linda startles easily. She is not as dim-witted as you think. She likes to swear. When you leave after speaking to her, she makes fun of you. It is rumored that she collects dust. Has 17 confirmed kills in the field.

Once had 4 GI Joe torsos, a pack of gum, a baby starling, 16 marbles and 1 very rare replica of Tom Selleck's moustache removed from an unmentionable area by a veterinarian after a long night of binge drinking Mad Dog 20/20 and doing body shots off a very confused elderly couple.

Nickname: "Butch", "Babs"

Favorite Song: "A Country Boy Can Survive"

Favorite Quote: "Milk, milk, lemonade, around the corner fudge is made."

Marital Status: Yes

Children: Two (Inadvertantly purchased with Marlboro Miles. She thought she was getting a commemorative Dale Earnhardt collector's plate.)

Hobbies: Huffing paint fumes, BMX bikes, Fistfighting, Scrapbooking."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sweet Leaf My Ass.

I am sick to bloody death of paranoid pot smokers.

Disclaimer: Everything I'm about to say is wholly anecdotal and based on limited personal experience with dope-smoking fucktards. I have no empirical data with which to back up my claims and accusations, no scientific studies with caged monkeys or lab rats or control groups or placebos. It is based solely on my own observations. Furthermore, I'm not interested in debate. I don't care what anyone else thinks about this particular subject. You want debate? Go somewhere else.

People who smoke pot get weird and paranoid and annoying. They develop a special type of narcisism wherein anything and everything anyone says or does can somehow be interpreted as a personal slight. Because dope-smoking also fries a fucktard's short-term memory, their recollections become half-assed and distorted, so that when they choose to throw past events back in someone's face, they're forty-nine shades of wrong.

You take a fucktard who is predispositioned to depression, and you give that fucktard some pot. The pot enhances the depression, so that its width and breadth and depth increase exponentially. Then you take the fucktard to the doctor, and the doctor gives the fucktard some antidepressant medication. (Which, more than a few studies have shown, are remarkably ineffective in the majority of patients and have no more effect on the clinically gloomy than sugar pills. This is true, look it up.)

Pot is a depressant, as is alcohol. I think that physicians should be required by law to test mopey fucktards for drugs. If they are found to have drugs in their stupid systems, they should be informed that perhaps their outlook would improve if they laid off the depressants. However, there are no kickbacks from the pharmaceutical companies in that approach.

Antidepressants change people, never for the better. So you take a paranoid mopey fucktard with a bad memory and then you throw some Prozac or Zoloft or whatever on top of it, and they seem to get pissed off. Their interests change, their likes and dislikes change. Their personalities are altered.

Then you have a dope-smoking fucktard who was mildly annoying but had some good points and rearrange their personality with the magickal anti-glum pills, and you're left with someone you probably don't want to know.

You might get to the point where you don't want to be around that person very much, and you might discuss this loudly and abundantly with other people who know the fucktard. Then the fucktard might go and commit suicide in the woods with a box cutter so that you're left feeling guilty for the rest of your stupid life.

Or worse yet they don't pick up a box cutter and off themselves, and you're stuck listening to their ridiculous dope-smoking antidepressant-addled bullshit nonsense.

I can't decide which is worse.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pondering Dawkins.

I've been thinking a lot about the notion that the world would be a better place without religion. I was watching Ben Stein's documentary "Expelled," which addresses academe's treatment of researchers who study Intelligent Design, and it set me thinking. I've heard the anti-religion sentiment from many camps, from journalists to academics to entertainers. Citing the many atrocities committed in the name of one god or the other, it is supposed that eradicating religion would enable humans to become more civilized and stop lobbing bombs at one another.

I reckon there is a preponderance of evidence supporting this viewpoint, between the Crusades and the Inquisition and the entire history of the Middle East. One could argue, however, that there have been just as many horrors inflicted by one group of flag-waving humans on another group of flag-waving humans that were not motivated by religion. Pick your communist government as an illustration of this, given their fascist tendency to kidnap, imprison, and murder dissenters. The National Socialist German Worker's Party is also a fair example of this; you may know them as the Nazi party.

Buddhists and Hindus also seem to put a rather large whole in the "religion is responsible for all the bad things in the world" theory. Admittedly, I am not a scholar on such things, and there very well could be some horrible atrocities committed at some point in history in the name of the Buddha or Ganesh. In any case, I can't recall any recent instances of groups of pissed off Buddhists bombing shopping malls or abortion clinics. Also consider that there are many religions not only are non-violent, but also are responsible for much of the charity in the world. Do a Google search on the outreach ministries of the Mennonites and review the long list of community services the church provides. The Salvation Army? Great organization, outstanding charitable guns.

Acts of war and terrorism, whether committed in the name of a god or a political party, seem to stem from the very human desire to achieve some kind of perfect state. Whether the result one seeks is heaven or a perfect society, it seems that once a group of zealots are whipped up in to a fever about the possibility of perfection, they will maim and kill anyone they see as an obstacle to its attainment. If you're a Muslim, infidels stand between you and your 40 virgins in heaven. If you're a Christian in the Middle Ages, dirty Muslim heathens befouling the Holy Land stand between you and the Perfect Kingdom of God. If you're a Nazi, Jews, Gypsies, retards, and other assorted imperfect human detritus stand between you and Utopia. If you're an environmentalist, whaling ships, loggers, and people driving large SUVs stand between you and a perfect, pristine planet. Combine humankind's desire for perfection with a propensity for smug self-righteousness along with some faith, ideology, or creed that accommodates both, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

I'm of the opinion that eradicating religion would not make the world a better place. Making a civilized, rational, and concerted effort to contain zealotry in all its forms, however, would probably work to the benefit of everyone.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I wrote this for a co-worker who is actually not yet dead. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
_____________, affectionately known as "Bear," was recently dragged across the river Styx by the icy hand of death after an incident involving a power surge and a sex robot.

He was born in 1973 to Bob and Shirley _________ in ________, Pennsylvania.

Bear was a 1991 graduate of ________High School, and a graduate of the University of ________, where he majored in drinking, falling in to shrubbery, and harrassing exchange students. Bear was a member of the water polo team, and had many funny stories about wet socks, Uzbekistanian pornography, and van-clearing flatulence.

Bear is survived by: his parents; two brothers, Chet and Botetourt; a retarded uncle who will outlive the whole family; his imaginary wife, Agnes; his dog, Tom; his cat, Cat; and his sex robot, Sparky.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be sent to the ___________ Institute for Furthering Sex Robot Technology.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Relational Integrity

I've been asked, recently, about when I might be posting a new blog. I used to write a lot, taking whatever nonsense was whirling about the old noggin and composing it in to some sort of postable blog-type-thing. Many of these blogs began as snippets of an email conversation, usually with my pal Rosenrosen, or germinated from seeds sown in the midst of some rant.

For several reasons, I am not very often in the sort of situation which used to lead to a blog. For starters, the powers that be at my job at Swirling Vortex, Inc. disbanded my department and moved us to another area. Many of my best blogs are descriptions of, or at least were inspired by, workaday conversations with those co-workers. After the move, those conversations became few and far between.

Emailing with Rosenrosen is also limited, since went back to school full-time and has limited time during the day. We used to get some really good material from student loan industry publications, as well as a financial aid listserv (such as the time we decided that the creator of the web site had killed and stuffed his mother, a la Norman Bates, as well as his first and only date, and had an army of "children" made up of Cabbage Patch and My Buddy dolls.)

The part-time job, while sucking up my free time and probably killing of little bits of what's left of my soul, has provided a bit of blog fodder, but many times can I bitch about doughy fat girls making messes in the changing room? It might have been slightly funny the first time, and even that is debatable.

I recently got a new position at work. It's a lateral move so there is no raise involved, but the job allows me much more autonomy. The previous position involved much updating of tracking databases and third-party scheduling, which I hated. Now I'm back to a much preferable arrangement, which is being given a task and then allowed to go and do it with little interference.

One of these tasks is attempting to alter Access databases. I am not a programmer; I can write SAS queries and I can use AQT to find and update data, but that's about it.  Now I have to learn how to do shit in Access using Visual Basic. I think about it a lot; I sit around and think about why none of my queries seem to work and what I might be able to do to change that. There's no blog in any of that, the shit is boring. I myself alternate between falling asleep in my new fancy roomy cubicle and wanting to throw the laptop off the catwalk before skipping up to Human Resources to ask may I please have a job now for someone who's stupid, please? Hyuk.

That's it; that's why the blogging has dried up. That's all the time I have for this rubbish now; I'm going to sit around and think about the relational integrity between the tables in my database and how it relates to their key values.

Udo Unleashed

Udo is too big for a stroller; Udo is four. I know he's too big, because I get a lot of that "look" from other mommies, which is a cocked-eyebrow/sneer sort of look which says, "Well, aren't just some kind of a lousy mother with a great big kid like that in a stroller?" I get this look a lot.

However, Udo also thinks it's high-larious to run away from Mommy. Udo thinks that Mommy should operate on Udo's timetable, and not her own. So when Mommy tells Udo to "just stand still and wait a minute," he gives her a black look and pisses off to do whatever it is he's itching to do.

This is why Udo has a leash. Udo got a baby leash last weekend, because we were on the way to Swirling Vortex, Inc.'s annual company picnic at a local amusement park. I didn't particularly want to lose Udo in the crowds (although there are days…), and as I stated, he's too big for a stroller.

We purchased the baby leash at the K Mart, and I strapped Udo up in the parking lot.
"What is this seatbelt?" asked Udo, frowing. "I don't like this itchy seatbelt."

"This is a seatbelt for naughty boys who don't listen. Naughty boys who don't listen and run away have to wear an itchy seatbelt," I told Udo.

On the way to the park, Udo sat in the back seat muttering to himself, as per ususal in the third person.
"This is a seatbelt for naughty boys who don't listen. Udo doesn't like this itchy seatbelt for naughty boys. Udo wants to take it off."

Once we were in the park, Udo temporarily forgot about the itchy seatbelt, what with all the merry mayhem and chocolate-y joy. I did not, however. Let me tell you something about child harnesses and the reactions they elicit: they piss people off. Evidently some people, and I'm guessing childless people who have never dealt with stealthy, willfull four-year-olds, have some kind of ethical problem with leashing up a child.

I have one thing to say to these people, who glared at me all Sunday afternoon: YOU JUST KISS MY ASS!!! I'll bet you'd be the first ones to call my skills as a parent and worth as a human being in to question if old Udo over there were to slip my grasp, run away, and end up so much child-killer fodder. So fuck you and your looks self-righteous reproach, you sad, barren gits!

Eventually, the novelty of the park wore off and Udo began to notice the itchy naughty seatbelt again. This is mostly because he kept making attempts to run away, which were thwarted by the leash. Udo would make a mad dash, reach the end of the tether, and be jerked backwards. I'm guessing this is uncomfortable, and probably a little humiliating to boot.

It was a hot day, and Udo got tired from all the walking and sweaty from the itchy seatbelt, so I threw him a bone and removed the harness. He promptly ran away, of course, because he is Udo and "naughty" is what he does.


Today my friend Rosenrosen asked if I purchased the re-release of Def Leppard's "Hysteria." I have "Hysteria" on disc, thank you, and have no intention of adding any funds to the Def Leppard coffers by purchasing their poxy re-release. I don't care how many superfun bonus tracks or live performances they included in the "bonus" disc. Rosenrosen claims the bonus disc is actually good, with some interesting live covers. There's an Elvis cover, however, about which she said: "It doesn’t sound like Joe, I have no idea if he’s even singing it. It’s horrendously off-key, and sounds like someone’s drunk Aunt Alice singing bad karaoke at $5/dozen Wing Night at the local Publick House."

This last made me snarf my dietCoke.

I lost a lot of respect for the old DL when I read about some feud they were having with other cheesy metal bands like Dio and Poison. Where does one cheestastic rock bank get off claiming they're better than another? Where's the justification? They all had big perms and made silly faces whilst playing their guitars. So some of them know a few more chords than others; big deal! More to the point, how can anyone get mad at Ronnie James Dio? He looks like a troll. A little long-haired sword-carrying troll who lives in your baseboards, flashes you the evil eye, and steals all your buttons.

Between the feuds and claiming not only that they were never a hair band but also that they were never even a METAL band ( I own 'Pyromania' and I beg to differ,)'s all a bit off-putting. Old Joe must be going through menopause, the way he shoots his mouth off about what a great band he has vs. how much everyone else sucks and seems to be bitter and angry about...something. He should take some B-vitamins and go lie down until he comes to terms with the fact that he's no longer relevant.

I understand why Def Leppard is repackaging and re-releasing their old stuff; there's a recession going on. They all maintain residences on several continents, and they've all got alimony payments plus plastic surgery and wig maintenance fees and lots of other rock-god expenses so I'm sure they need the cash. However, they've gotten all the money they're ever going to get from me. Especially after that last stinker of an album.

It hurts my heart, really, because I do love the DL. I really wish these old rock guys would learn to age gracefully instead of morphing in to sad, ranting, botox'd, bewigg'd parodies of their former selves.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cookies and the Magic Hat

Once upon a time, there was a leprachaun named Cookies. Cookies had a special Magic Hat, and she loved it with all of her little green heart.

Cookies’ Hat was very old, and very magic. It was decorated with all manner of trinkets and baubles, and had been given to her by her dear old elven Granny when she was just a wee bit of a leprachaun still making green wee in her wee green nappies.

Cookies wore her Magic Hat only one day in the year, and that was on St. Patrick’s Day. On that day, Cookies dressed in her finest green suit with her best green jewelry and her best green shoes, and donned the Magic Hat.

Cookies’ magic Magic Hat her extra-special magical powers, and when she wore it she could run faster, jump higher, sing louder, and drink more green beer than any little green leprachaun ever has throughout all time.

All the year long, Cookies longed for that special day when she could don her Magic Hat once more. One St. Patrick’s morn, Cookies jumped from her wee green bed with glee.
“Hurrah!” she shouted. “ ‘Tis St. Patrick’s Day today, and I can once again wear me Magic Hat!!”

Cookies took the special key from the special box atop the special bureau, and ran to where her Magic Hat was kept. She slid the golden box from behind the wee green toilet in to which she passed her green wee. She placed the key in the lock and turned, turned, turned the key until the lock clicked.

She opened the lid of the box, slowly opened the lid…

“Ah, begorrah!!” shrieked Cookies. “Some wank has gone and stolen me Magic Hat!!! Pogue mahone, to be sure!!!” Cookies threw herself upon the cold green lavatory floor and began to weep.

Just then Cookies’ best friend Poo the Druid knocked on the door. “Ah, Cookies! Come out and show us your wonderful Magic Hat, why don’t you??” he called.

“Oh, Poo, sweet friend Poo,” Cookies wailed as she flung open the door to her wee green house. “Some wicked person has gone and stolen me Magic Hat!! Oh, Poo!! Whatever shall I do???”

Poo sat on a stump to think, because that is what Druids do when they are perplexed. After a bit, he said,
“I think I know the scoundrel what stole your Magic Hat, my dear Cookies,” he said. “But I cannot tell you until you tell me that I am pretty.”
Druids are clever and wise, but they are also very vain and very insecure, and need constant reassurance.

“Oh, clever Poo”, cried Cookies, clapping her hands with delight, “of COURSE I shall tell you that you are pretty!! Why, you are the prettiest Poo on this wee green island! You are the prettiest Poo in the whole wide WORLD!!”

This pleased Poo the Druid, so he said, “I’m afraid, sweet Cookies, that your Magic Hat has been taken by the Evil Bear.”

“Oh, dear,” moaned Cookies. “I shall never be able to get me lovely Magic Hat back from Evil Bear, for he is so wicked and diabolical!!”

Evil Bear lived in a cave in the heart of the forest, and he did not like anyone. He did not like Cookies, or her Granny, or Poo the Druid, or anyone else on the island, or even in the world. Everyone was so afraid of Evil Bear!!

Poo the Druid said, “Cookies, you must be a brave little leprachaun, and you must journey to the center of the forest and get your hat back from Evil Bear! If you do not, he will surely do something rude and horrible in your hat!”

“Oh, no,” cried Cookies. “Not that!! Not in my Magic Hat!!”

“That’s right,”said Poo gravely. “If Evil Bear befouls your Magic Hat, then it will no longer be Magic. It will be ruined and nasty FOREVER!!”

“However shall I get it back?” asked Cookies.

Poo pulled a Magic Stick from the folds of his robes. “Take this Magic Stick to Evil Bear’s lair,” he said.
“You must stand at the mouth of the cave and shout, ‘Evil Bear, I have a surprise for you!’ When Evil Bear comes out of the cave, poke him twice with the Magic Stick. This will confuse him, and then you can run in and grab your Magic Hat.”

“Oh, THANK you, Poo,” said Cookies. “I will go right away!!”

Cookies walked in to the forest, and after a day and a night, she reached Evil Bear’s cave. She stood at the mouth of the cave, clutching lovely Poo’s Magic Stick in her wee trembling hand.

“Evil Bear, Evil Bear, I’ve got a surprise for you,” she called. Evil Bear lumbered out from his cave, wearing a cross expression and little else. “What do you want, you horrid little leprachaun?” he growled.

Cookies shut her eyes, took a deep breath, and poked Evil Bear twice with Poo’s Magic Stick.

She waited a moment, and then opened her eyes. Evil Bear was still standing there, but he did not looke confused. He looked angry. “What the hell do you call that??” he growled.

“I came for me Magic Hat,” said Cookies in a small voice.

“I haven’t got your stupid hat,” growled Evil Bear.

“But lovely old Poo the Druid told me that you took it,” cried Cookies.

Evil Bear sighed loudly and rolled his eyes. “What would I want with your stupid hat?”he bellowed. “Do I look retarded??”

Just then, Poo the Druid flew overhead on his broomstick. Atop his head was perched….

“Oh, POO,” shouted Cookies, “wherever did you find me hat!?”

Poo laughed as he soared overhead. “I took your blasted hat, and now I am MAGIC,” he cried. “Now everyone must tell me I am pretty for ever and ever and ever!! Ah- HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAAA!!!!!”
He swooped downwards as he laughed, and smacked head first right in to a tree. Poo’s head shattered like a rotten Halloween pumpkin, and the Magic Hat was torn to bits.

“Oh, woe is me,”cried Cookies. “Thieving Poo has crashed his broom!”

Evil Bear sighed in a most irritated way, and cut Cookies in to ribbons with one swipe of his giant paw. Then he fed her meat to his dog, and made a very nice necklace from her bones.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Virtual Arnold Ziffle.

Last fall my sister talked me in to playing Farmville on Facebook. “That’s stupid,” I said. “I’m not wasting my time on that nonsense.”

Oh, just go create a little farm so you can send me gifts, she says.

Eight months later and I’m level 36; I’ve got a plantation-sized farm with four cow sheds, one super-size chicken coop, a horse barn, a nursery barn (for all my calves and foals,) one manor house, two cottages, a castle, a giant windmill, a greenhouse, a school, a library, a general store, an open-air market, a replica of Stonehenge, countless fruit-bearing trees, and a boatload of livestock (cows, chickens, sheep, goats, reindeer, llamas, pigs, turkeys, ducks, geese, swans, cats, and even penguins.)

It is a monumental waste of time. To be fair, though, I think that I can prove that I rule Farmville and Farmville does not rule me because I plant my crops in accordance with my schedule. I choose what to plant based upon when I know I’ll be available to harvest. I wasted more than a few Farmville coins on withered crops before I began to time my harvests with my schedule. This, you see, is what you call ‘effective time management.’

I was supposed to write a non-fiction piece on Shirley Jackson for my husband’s magazine project. I did the research, wrote notes, and worked up the general structure of the thing in my head. I even have an opening paragraph. It’s not done, though, because time that would have been better spent on this was frittered away on my stupid virtual farm. When I was not tending to my virtual fish, that is.

About a month ago my sister announced that Farmville was eating up too much of her time. “I’m going to sell everything and quit,” she said. Isn’t that just typical? Someone gets you hooked on something, then turns around and stops doing it themselves. This must be what an addict feels like when all their friends start to sign up for rehab.

Ass Burger.

     My son Udo is an odd little bird. He is, by far, one of the most good-natured,loving, and joyous individuals I have ever known. The world, to Udo, is a fascinating and magnificent place. He's like a puppy, or someone who's just found the Lord.

     Joyful Udo is also rather weird. He's always had a tendency to develop intense fascination with oddball things, like ceiling fans, or heating vents, or satellite dishes. Currently he's obsessed with foreign money. He's interested in what countries call their currency, what the bills look like, how one writes the symbols for that currency, etc. This makes him apt to say things like, "How do you draw the symbol for a yen? Is it like this (draws in air) or like this (draws in air?)"

     My biggest fear for Udo as he entered school was that the school experience would break his little spirit. A fair assumption on my part, as it has a tendency to do that to most children. More so for Udo, however, as soft little hearts are easier to break. My fears were realized on the first day of kindergarten, when Udo was suspended from school for purportedly informing a little class mate, "Today is a good day for you to die."

     Trumped up charges, I still maintain, as Udo doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and when asked couldn't even come up with a definition of the word "die." I suspect he was either coached to say it by another student, or he took the fall for whichever kid actually uttered the phrase. In the post-Columbine world of education, however, an adult does not need to witness a behavior in order for a child to be punished for it, and Udo is so very eager to please that he will confess to anything and he was suspended for a day.

     His school career, while not always quite so traumatic, has not been easy. He has a very difficult time staying on task, whether the task be a worksheet or a group lesson or gym class. Truthfully, he's a bit of a spazz. There's nothing wrong with being a bit of a spazz, unless one's spazzmo tendencies cause one to fall behind in school.

     Fall behind he has, our Udo, so that parent/teacher conferences became increasingly dreaded affairs. "Oh, good! It's conference day! Now I get to go sit in a Montessori chair and listen to the teacher tell me how much my kid sucks!" He's in the first grade, and he's behind in nearly everything, especially in math. He cannot, it seems, grasp the basic concepts.

     Because of this, at the school's urging Udo was evaluated by the professionals from the county's intermediate unit. He has, evidently, ADHD with a smattering of Asperger's Disorder. This last was confirmed by the psychiatrist he will now see regularly. The county people were hesitant with the Asperger's, definite only on the ADHD, but the doctor says he's most certainly got it.

     The psychiatrist said that I was to read as much as possible on ADHD and Asperger's. "The more informed you are," she said, "the more vigilant you can be, so that you can identify behaviors as manifestations of the disabilities." I like this lady, perhaps solely because she said this while explaining that Udo's main problem lies in his thought processes: "His's a mess in there."

     So now this is my project; I read about Asperger's. The more I read, the more I realize that Udo is, in fact, quite the little Ass Burger. (I have noticed, in reading about this disorder online, that some families of afflicted children refer to them as "aspies." You will never hear me use this term, and if anyone ever refers to my son as an 'aspy' I'll correct them. In our house, it's "Ass Burger." )

     Asperger's Syndrome was identified in the 40's by Dr. Hanz Asperger. He called it something else, but his name was assigned to it in the 80's when another researcher re-published some of his case studies. The syndrome belongs to a larger classification of disorders called PDD, or Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Autism is also classified as such.

     Asperger's was recently included as a part of the "autism spectrum," apparently much to the chagrin of those who identify themselves as Ass Burgers. Previously it was identified as its own specific disorder, but the Grand High Council of Psychiatric Pooh-Bahs who publish the Big Book of Spotting Nutters (I've taken some liberties with the names of the entity which publishes the psychiatric standards for diagnosis and the name of that publication as I can't remember what it's really called; I like mine better) have decided otherwise. The Ass Burgers, it seems, don't want to be lumped in with those at the helmet-wearing, pants-wetting, droolcup-carrying end of the spectrum, and I can't say I blame them.

     Asperger's is characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior, poor gross motor skills (clumsiness,) and preoccupation with a circumscribed area of interest. Like ceiling fans, for example, or foreign currency. It tends to coincide with other psychological disorders like ADHD, obsessive/compulsive disorder (OCD,) anxiety, and depression. Detectable onset of Asperger's is much later than that of autism, as Ass Burgers tend to have average or above average verbal skills.

     The diagnostic criteria for Asperger's are: there must be qualitative impairment in social interaction. In Udo's case, this is illustrated by his tendency to 'parallel play.' When he's on the playground with his classmates, he plays NEAR them, but not AMONG them. There must also be restricted, repetitive stereotypical patterns of behavior, like persistent preoccupation with certain objects (like ceiling fans.) This may also include repetitive motor mannerisms (flapping, twiddling, twitching, etc.) or inflexible adherence to routines or rituals (think OCD.)

     When diagnosing a child like Udo, it must be shown that these behaviors cause a significant impairment in social/occupational areas of functioning. Udo's dreamy preoccupations with whatever his current obsession may be has been a great hindrance to his school performance. It must also be shown that there has been no "clinically significant" delay in language or in cognitive development.

     Udo meets these very nicely, I'm afraid. As I follow the psychiatrist's advice and read as much as I can on the subject, the more I find myself thinking, "My God...that's Udo!" It's all rather heart-breaking.

     The good news, according to what I have read so far, is that many Ass Burgers have positive outcomes when they receive help for their parallel disorders (like the ADHD) and social skills training to help them learn how to function in the world. Little Ass Burgers grow up to be Big Ass Burgers, who remain eccentric, but learn to take the mess in their heads and make it work for them.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Three Cops and the The Stig.

"Top Gear" is my favorite television program. Hosted by three fey middle-aged British men, the show involves test driving supercars, timed celebrity laps, and ridiculous challenges like racing buses and driving across Viet Nam on a moped. The show also features a "tame racing driver," someone in a white jump suit and helmet known as The Stig.

I watch the Stig driving Aston Martins and Zondas and Bugatti Veyrons around the test track and I think to myself: "God, I'd love to have a go at that!"
The driving, that is, not the Stig. I really, really would.

Being an American, I am wont to declare my affection for and allegiance to things by purchasing a decal and placing it on my car. Therefore, I have a die-cut Stig decal on the back window of my big black Dodge which proclaims: "I AM THE STIG."

By what may be just a strange coincidence, I have been pulled over by cops more times in the last six weeks than I have in the 22 years I've been driving. Cop #1 pulled me over one night as I was on my way home from my part-time job. I'd crossed over the center line a few times, apparently, and he wanted to see if I was drunk. He asked me some questions and checked my information, thankfully not making me get out of the car and do a sobriety test. Cop #1 sent me on my way telling me to drive carefully.

Cop #2 got me for going 52 in a 35. This was not very Stig of me at all, I feel, as one does not really reach a true state of Stigness until the needle hits at least 65. Nevertheless, Cop #2 issued me a ticket. The cheaper kind of ticket that didn't result in the points on my license; the one they give you and make it seem like that hundred bucks it's costing you is a big favor. It was my own dumb fault, as there's a speed trap on this stretch of road every Saturday morning. There's always one of those weird keyboardy-looking radar things set up alongside the road, a fact which on this particular day completely escaped my attention.

Cop #3 pulled me over for a 'rolling stop.' You know what I mean, where you slow down to a near stop, but don't stop completely. It was at one of those intersections where no one ever comes to a complete stop because it's a stupid place to have a stop sign. 500 people probably roll through this stop sign on a given day, but evidently it was my turn to get a ticket for it. Second verse, same as the first; cheaper ticket, no points, hundred bucks and a tug of the forelock. "Thank you ever so much for not giving me points or a bigger fine or shooting me, officer sir."

I don't know if it's the decal that's getting me in trouble. One would have to assume that in order to know about the Stig, all three cops were the sort of fellows who watch BBC America. Somehow I think the odds are against that. And if they do watch, and they are fans, you'd think that rather than inciting them to pull over and issue tickets they'd be saying "Go, Stig, go!" while waving their little clipboards.

My husband says it's because I drive too fast, but he drives like an old lady so what the hell does he know?
In any case, as of late I have been mindful to stay between the lines, watch my speed, and come to a complete, lingering stop. How dreadfully UN-Stig.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rosenrosen and the Curse of Family Ties

When I first met Rosenrosen, my political views leaned decidedly to the left. She was, and still is, very conservative. Somehow, though, we managed to hit it off.

I voted for Clinton twice, but during his second term when he said, "We all need to tighten our belts," and then proceeded to start pulling on mine even though he'd promised that only rich people would see tax increases, I began to rethink my stance. Most of our political discussions, though, had me pro-labor and her pro-business and ended in good-natured name-calling. Somewhere around about the time of the disputed Bush/Gore elections, in which I hesitantly voted for Gore and she voted for Bush, Rosenrosen issued forth a prophecy. "You know, hippie," she said, "Your son is probably going to grow up to be ultra-conservative."

"Oh, shut up," says I.

"No, really," she went on, "I can see it now. You'll be sitting around the breakfast table in a tie-dyed t-shirt listening to NPR and flipping through the "Utne Reader," and he'll be there in an oxford shirt and a tie with a copy of the "Wall Street Journal." He'll be like Alex P. Keaton!"

Then she walked away cackling.

Nowadays, age and responsibilities have changed my outlook; my political views now fall in the general vicinity of Margaret Thatcher, a scoche to the right of G.W. and slightly to the right of Hitler. A classical conservative, I think they call it; fiscally conservative and socially ambiguous. Nevertheless, it seems that Rosenrosen's prophecy regarding my son has come true anyway.

He is not wont to wear oxford shirts and ties, but he DOES read the financial pages. He's developed an interest in the stock market, takes note of the rise and fall of the price of things, like gas and milk, and follows politics. I noticed when he was about ten, and he piped up from the back seat,"Oh, boy. Gas has gone up ten cents since last week!" He rolled his eyes, muttering, "Well, that's just GREAT."

In some ways, it's a good thing. Early interest in stocks and bonds is probably a good indicator that a child may be a financial success, and buy his mommy a new house and an Aston Martin. I was thinking I should give him some seed money and open him up an e*trade account.

On the other hand, he could turn in to a nervous wreck and develop an ulcer by the age of 13. He may go prematurely bald, and stalk around the house shouting incoherently at the Bloomberg Business Report while drinking Maalox straight out the bottle.