Valentine’s Day Consideration Weirdness

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For the first time since fifth grade, I got to buy a box of small cardboard valentines for my own kid to give out. Of course, the ones pictured above aren’t the ones I bought for my kid. They’re the ones I bought for myself.

And I admit, I’m lying about the Transformers ones. It’s not my first time. I bought those Transformers ones like two years ago when I had no kids. I still have no idea why, but maybe one day my kid will come to me in desperate need of throwback 1980s FREAKING HOLOGRAM Transformers Valentines, and I will save the day.

It really all boils down to that: I dream of saving the day.

So there the wife and I were in the Target aisle, sweating out this huge, critical joint-parental decision of What Valentines to Buy Our Kid. And we weren’t the only ones. Parents (and kids) were hardcore muscling each other around, vying for a prime spot to consider their options. It’s seriously as competitive and picked-over as a Hallmark on Mother’s Day or the pharmacy store on Christmas Eve.

Also, it’s worth mentioning my kid is seven months old. He can’t even give out valentines. He can’t even close his mouth when the dog comes at him full tongue out. Well, actually he seems to open it on purpose. But anyway, why are we even there at all. It’s more of an existential zen thought than it is a question.

Oh right. Baby Valentine’s Brunch, which is a bunch a babies in a room dressed in red sweaters, heart headbands, and bowties. I know it sounds lame, but my kid looked bomb and I ate a grilled breakfast burrito that had potatoes on the inside AND ON THE SIDE. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Anyway, back to Target, where we’re considering arguing our options:

Jake and the Neverland Pirates: What even the crap is this.

Ninja Turtles: No, I want those for my collection, unless you want to buy two boxes.

Mello Smello: Oh hell yes, Mello Smello Valentines! (See above Ninja Turtles explanation.)

Batman: This isn’t “him.” It’s just not his personality. It’s too dark.

Spongebob: Ehhhh.

Hellscape Mickey Mouse: (That’s what I call Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which always features Mickey and friends against a desolate, empty hellscape of boxy computer art.)

We begrudgingly settle on hellscape Mickey Mouse — moreso because other parents are starting to breathe down our necks at this point.

Next consideration strangely-intense argument: are we going to sign the Valentines “Love, Brian” ? Does he sign that to everyone or just to the girls? The wife suggests a fancy “XO, Brian.” I suggest he should just sign Brian but dot the i with a heart. The wife stares at me oddly for a disturbing amount of time.

Fortunately, we have our decision made for us when we realize the Valentine already fills in the word “From.” The whole dotting the i thing is never ever ever mentioned again.

Also for our Valentine’s Day consideration weirdness:

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Lunchables makes Valentines, yo.

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You know how Lunchables makes a half-hearted pretense of being somewhat healthy? I mean, not really, but you know how they make a pretense of being somewhat at least “lunch-like?”

Here, they wildly do away with all of that. They just give you random chocolate chips and a scoop of neon pink cake frosting. It’s liberating. It’s radical. It sugar — and absolutely nothing else, six different ways.

You get:

– Gummy worms
– Crushed bits of Oreo
– Chocolate syrup

I rate this combination “terrible” because in no way do gummy worms pair well with chocolate syrup, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with crushed cookies.

And in the other:

– Pink stuff
– Graham crackers
– Chocolate chips

I rate this combination “slightly better” because of the pink stuff, the dippability (not a word) of the graham crackers in said pink stuff, and oh those random, weird chocolate chips. I like you. I do.

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I would have preferred an easier way to eat all of this. Well, really, I would have preferred to not eat any of this. But I did for you. For “the blog.” I would have preferred more actual “things” like gummy worms, and not just a big gob of chocolate syrup and crushed cookies. Still, there’s something just so “no fucks given” about this, and I have to says Props, Lunchables.

The Priest of Woodland Creatures

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My son is the priest of woodland creatures. That’s what he looks like to me. The wife said it first. She gets full credit. If I don’t give her full credit right here and now, I’ll hear about it later.

We put him in his sleep sack, a winter garment for sleeping, which zips onto him and drapes down like some sort of ceremonial robe. It has pastel raccoon and deer patterned on it.

“He looks like a woodland creature priest,” the wife says.

I don’t even know what a woodland creature priest is, but it would most definitely be a baby. A baby with a perfectly round, cherubic head and sparkling eyes. And with fat little cheeks, which the critters would all relate to — fat cheeks are for foraging, for storing away acorns, and for hiding absolutely disgusting curds of formula for later spitting up on just-washed shirts.

Now, if can you picture it, the sleep sack would allow him to “float” through the woods. I know that sounds kind of creepy, but it’s a lot less creepy than trying to picture him walking with those ham-hock baby thunder thighs he’s got going on at seven-months old.

He would hang out in the woods after everyone else went to bed. He would spend time among the chipmunks and hedgehogs, anointing them and absolving them of things. He would address the various spiritual concerns of squirrels. He would visit the sick rabbits and sit with them. He would teach foxes and lead them to Jesus.

In the mornings, when I wake up to sounds of baby babble — which I’d always previously thought was him talking to himself — I’d know it was actually a prayer for the raccoons, although I don’t know why anyone would ever pray for them.

And I don’t know why foxes would need Jesus.

I do know this however: raccoons know how to undo bungee cords, even a cleverly-designed interlocking labyrinth of them clamping a trashcan shut.

Drinks Weird Sodas

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It’s Friday. It’s 3pm. Stop working, sit back, and read about me trying not to barf. This is the BEST kind of post for an afternoon like this, and you know it.

So a few weeks ago, my friend gave me a batch of weird sodas for my birthday. I’ve decided to “live blog” it. I drank them in the order of which I least dreaded them.

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Brownie Root Beer was the first one I drank, the only safe one. I drank the entire bottle. It was delicious. Nothing ominous about this one, except for maybe the words CONTAINS MILK. I generally find milk to be “A BAD CHOICE” since it sometimes makes me cramp up and cry for hours, but in this particular instance, it came in peace.

This soda takes the “caramel” and “cream” parts very seriously. This doesn’t have the chemically root beer flavor I’m accustomed too — instead it’s a very rich, creamy, affair. No terrible aftertaste. I like it.

Little did I know, this will be the only thing I like.

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Soda. Seems weird but harmless enough. I went into it naively, expecting to like it.

First sip: this is weird, mindfucking. Tastes like peanut butter…and then jelly…and then what can only be described as “chemical cardboard” — no wait, that’s the peanut butter flavor. No, maybe jelly. God, I don’t know what this is or what this tastes like.

At this point the brain just goes “yuck, dude.”

Second sip: “saltwater brine shrimp.” I don’t know where this flavor profile is coming from, but I think it’s my brain’s way of saying stop fucking drinking this shit.

“Seriously, not kidding, dude,” it says.

Third sip: I really really really hate this. At this point I cannot describe it as anything other than pink fluid awfulness.

Little did I know, this will be the only one I made it to three sips with.

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Moxie. Moxie claims to be Moxie the oldest continually produced beverage in the United States. It has entire fan clubs online. It has a notorious taste that people pride themselves in acquiring. Hence, the name, it takes a certain amount of moxie to drink this. I was excited to try it and find out just what that notorious taste was.

First sip: EDIT: First millisecond of first sip — Oh gee, this is good, a cola — ACCCKKKKKKK AAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGG SICKKKKK IT TASTES EXACTLY LIKE STOMACH BILE. I’M NOT KIDDING.

It’s extremely bitter. Bottom contents of your empty, writhing stomach, praying to the porcelain Gods bitter.

Second sip: Umm, the back of my throat is doing that tightening thing that happens before you puke. I have a rock of a stomach (except for milk; milk is bad) so I’m certain I won’t puke, and that my throat is only doing that because of the brain/bile association.

To be safe, THERE IS NO THIRD SIP.

Little did I know, that feeling of nausea would not go away.

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Buffalo Wing Soda — with the nausea I’m currently experiencing, I can’t even begin to describe the extreme hesitation it took me to bring this to my lips. I took the tiniest sip humanly possible. I really don’t even know what it tastes like because I’m still battling my inner demons with that Moxie soda.

It tasted…tangy though.

Second sip: I decided to man up and just take a big gigantic swig of it, for science. AND I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS IS. Spicy barf? Tangy orange ranch? God, kill me.

There is no third sip, so alas, the world may never find out exactly what that flavor was.

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Finally Bacon soda. I don’t know if I can do this. It smells like Bacon Bits. Liquid bacon bits, liquid death, whatever.

First sip: Oddly, it’s not bad. It’s not drinkable but it’s not making me cry. Its has this super salty-soy-doing-an-impersonation of corn-syrup-glazed-pork vibe going on about it, but at this point, I’m willing to rate that as a positive.

Still. THERE IS NO SECOND SIP.

EDIT: About an hour later after compiling down all of my thoughts here, I went ahead and took another sip of the Moxie, after reading a bit more of the raving Amazon reviews. Like, to see if I could do it.

Final word: AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHACCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCK.

No.
no.
no.

Life Confessions: One Time I Bought My Dog a Coat

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One time I bought my dog a coat. She is not the kind of the dog that needs to wear a coat.

She is not a floofy thing. She is not a rat thing. She is not a dust ruffle thing. She is a mutt mixture of poodle and beagle thing, barrel-chested and part grizzly bear thing. She looks like the owl in The Secret of NIMH. (No she doesn’t — inserts the wife here — quite emphatically.)

She is a little brown dog — a plain brown dog — the kind of dog that if you put a bow in her hair, it will somehow make her look worse. When we first got her, I posted her puppy picture and an anonymous internet commenter said she looked like she smelled bad. I deleted it, but he wasn’t exactly lying. She is the kind of dog that looks like she smells bad.

(NO SHE DOESN’T — inserts the wife here — although we often laugh and tease the dog about that comment.)

Again, she is not the kind of dog that needs to wear a coat. And yet, I bought her one last year, right before the supposed polar vortex.

Let me go on a tangent for a moment. Remember when the Weather Channel was a pleasant, muzak-playing slideshow of temperatures and five-day forecasts? Now it’s a mutated, deformed beast of its former self. I consider it one of the scariest websites there is, next to Fan Fiction Forums and WebMD.

For instance, if I go to WebMD, I’ll come away convinced I have Esophageal Cancer when I only have heartburn. And if I go to Weather.com to read about the rain, I’ll come away doomsday-prepping for a monsoon.

That’s how I ended up buying the dog a coat. I was certain we were all preparing for The Day After Tomorrow conditions. I was certain we were all going to insta-freeze. The weather forecasters all acted like it was going to be the thousand-year storm of sub-artic hell. Having not grown up in a particularly cold-weather region, I bought it. I bought it literally. I mean, I bought the dog a freaking coat.

Go ahead, tease me. Around here, I regularly got off school for less than a snow-flake. Some kids fondly remember their epic snow days — I remember mine as sludge-rain days.

I also did my True Marylander Official Duties during an Official Freak the Fuck Out Weather Event, up to and including:

– Buy a gallon of milk
– Toilet paper, yo. Lots of toilet paper.
– Fill up the gas tank
– Buy enough food to survive World War III
– Buy the dog a coat

The thing is, I didn’t just get any old dog coat/sweater-vest thing out of the junky pet section at TJ Maxx. Dude, I went NUTS and bought a fully-insulated, waterproof, polar-fleece coat WITH A BUILT-IN TEMPERATURE GAUGE ON IT.

Why?

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Whyyyyy?

I’ve been making her wear it outside lately just to get my money’s worth out of it. Poor dog.

Oh My God, the Browser MS-DOS Games. My Own List.

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Last week, the Internet Archive put up over 2,000 MS-DOS games you can play in your browser. It feels like I’ve found the thing that’s been missing in my life. I’ve found some significant, formative piece of myself that I almost forget existed.

By thirty-four years-old, I’ve re-visited and re-claimed most of my childhood nostalgia; I’ve collected back my Ninja Turtles figures and fired up the old Nintendo more than once. And yet a huge chunk my childhood went completely obsolete and unreachable. Because unlike albums that were issued to CD or VHS tapes that later came out on DVD, those old computer games didn’t make the leap to newer formats. They just stayed there forever on those floppy disks.

There’s no way to definitively list the must-play games available on the archive. I’d argue there is no such thing. So many of these games act as demonstrations for what computers can do — or would go on to do. As games, most of them are dull, yet as historical artifacts, they’re marvels.

There’s also just something unique about the way we interact with computers. Just as our browser history would reflect some primal element about ourselves, the games we once interacted with on the computers reveal an interesting imprint. Therefore, there is no single list of games you must play — there is only our nostalgia, oursevles, and maybe our parents’ seedy connections to pirated floppy disks. (Hi Dad.)

Here is my list:

1. Oregon Trail

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Everyone has this at the top of their list. At first I thought our collective nostalgia for this was boring and predictable, but then I played it the other night with the wife. Holy shit. It’s still so so good. It teaches you about geography, history, budgeting, planning ahead, and most importantly, dysentery.

I was way too cocksure when we came to the first river in the game. Confidently, I exclaimed, “always ford it,” and pressed with A to ford it without any hesitation. I lost all our sets of clothes, an ox, AND drowned the wife. Well, crap.

Bottom line: This game still rules, listen to your wife and take the ferry, and some day I’ll have to brag to you of my God-like hunting skillz.

2. Leisure Suit Larry

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I didn’t know this until just now, but apparently Leisure Suit Larry still exists. It’s an active series with new games that still come out. It’s an adult-themed game, where you can do stuff like have sex with a prostitute, contract a sexually-transmitted disease and die shortly thereafter. This fate may be avoided by buying a condom at the convenience store. This is all, of course, in barely-above Atari-grade graphics, which would have been on a neon green monochrome monitor.

I shouldn’t have been playing this game in 1988 when I was eight years old. I wasn’t allowed to play it. The game even had a rudimentary “parental control” on it that made you answer five general knowledge questions that kids wouldn’t know the answer to, before letting you into the game. It’s true that I spent more time playing that trivia game trying to get into the game as a child than I did actually playing the game. Most of my nostalgia, sadly or fortunately, is for that.

3. Life and Death

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Before the Internet made us all experts at diagnosing our illnesses, there was this game. It was a hospital game where you evaluate, diagnose, and operate on patients. And in this game, everything always led to abdominal surgery. Having flu-like symptoms? Abdominal surgery. Having stomach pains? Abdominal surgery. No one got out of that hospital without abdominal surgery.

And really, no one got out of that hospital. I killed every last patient. That was the fun part. I’m not even sure there was any other goal to this game.

4. Avon

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This is a text-based game. I’m not even sure if it was THE text-based game I played, but I can’t remember anything about it, and for some reason, the word Avon sticks out. But yeah, text games evoke a certain kind of nostalgia for me — even if that nostalgia is actually a grim reminder that I wasted away HOURS of my precious, dwindling childhood playing this shit.

5. Trolls

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Likewise, I’m including Trolls in the hate-nostalgia category. The acid-neon graphics could make your eyes bleed eternally in a Lisa Frank afterworld. My dad had snagged this game from his seedy underworld of pirate computer gaming (it looked like Shredder’s lair in the Ninja Turtles movie, I liked to imagine.) He got it for my sister, who was a Class-A Troll Fanatic (I’m certain that’s a real categorization.) Anyway, I hated trolls and STILL played the hell out of this game, which in turn, made me hate trolls even more.

6. Avoid the Noid

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I’m pretty sure I never got past the first level of this game. I’m pretty sure I never got past the second floor on the screen there. That was probably the biggest thing about these games — most were unplayable for a myriad of reasons. Gaming was like the Wild West with no quality control and no instruction manuals.

7. Girlfriend Construction Set

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Another text-based game, another game I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to play. As one reviewer put it best, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll lose at Strip Monopoly, you’ll put up with this jealous bitch and her dumb friends, you’ll remember the adventure forever.”

In fact, that review sums up every last MS-DOS game, ever. You’ll remember the adventure forever.