Road Trips: When The Brain Makes Something Out Of Nothing

Super Ultra Mega
Getting married is a rite of passage. Rites of passages usually signify a transition from one life stage to another. But, not always. Jim may have grown older but has defined growing up his own way. He’s been a toy-tech, the voice of Optimus Prime and Cobra Commander and has played more video games than that spoiled cousin you had growing up.

Last week, I went out west for a pretty awesome trip. And, for the first time in almost a decade, it wasn’t to San Diego Comic-Con.

Celebrating 25 years together since high school, my wife and I took a week to visit the Grand Canyon and make a few stops along the way.

But while the destinations themselves are great, it’s the 2118 miles there and back that can get kind of miserable. You see, there’s a whole lot of nothing on the road between Texas and Arizona, just like in the Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoons. Around the time I came to this comparative conclusion, I saw a real coyote sniffing the ground just off the road. In my head, I saw this coyote walking bipedal, wearing an Acme Bat Suit. I laughed to myself and shared this incredibly hilarious thought with Karin, who thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard.

Okay, that was a lie. But she did chuckle. A bit.

It’s a Good Stupid – A Little Behind in Pop Music

I don’t listen to popular radio much. I like to think I’m slightly more discerning than to listen to songs that are currently well-liked; I’d rather listen to songs that used to be well-liked but are now only remembered as Pandora fodder, thank you very much. But I also think it’s important to get in touch with what’s happening in the Top 40 (they still have that, apparently…and let me tell you, that Ryan Seacrest is no Casey Kasem) if only to remember why I like music that is largely off the grid.

It’s because, for the most part, the grid is ridiculous.

For instance, there’s some sort of hiccupping swoop-thing that far too many singers are suddenly finding irritating ways to work into their songs. I hear it in the new Maroon 5 songs “Maps,” which I actually find pretty damn catchy—except for the capital-S Swoop. I don’t like, even as I sing it over and over. And over. In that sense, and in so many others, I end up irritating myself. It’s like the sound you make when you swing a child (in a swing, I mean…not by their feet) and it has no place in pop music, no matter how many times Adam Levine bleaches his hair and marries supermodels.

Swing a kid if you want to Swoop, Adam.

I really tied all of that together nicely, didn’t I?

Kids in the Kitchen

Eat, Play, Shove
The husband has traditionally gotten a bad wrap as being a terrible cook. This stereotype most likely comes from the fact that it’s true. To help us along, author and culinary instructor Danielle is here to teach us a thing or two about making a meal without making a fool of ourselves.

Today we are going to do something a little different. Instead of me just writing about the recipe that my child made last week, I am going to show you the recipe as my son makes it. For this little number I so kindly volunteered my 13 year old. He was not too happy about it and is more than a little camera shy. So, you will not actually see his face in this video, but you will hear him and me talking throughout the making of the recipe. Guess I need to tell you what he’s making huh? Ha.

Ty will be making Hamburger Rice for your viewing pleasure today. This is the third time he has made this recipe, which is why I chose it. I knew he would be more comfortable. The recipe can be found in the video as well below.

5 Pick-Up Lines I Have Used, and How Hard They Failed

We've found us another dumb white husband. Please welcome Clayton Smith to DWH. He'll be writing a column called Do You Have This In Awkward? We'll have a bio and everything for him shortly but in the meantime we have this: Clayton is a Midwestern writer who once erroneously referred to himself as a national treasure. His most endearing trait is his inability to listen to reason. He is not entirely sure that yetis don't exist. He writes books and plays, mostly.

Here's his first post. Enjoy.

Meeting women is hard. We are not good at it. Any guy who tell you he is good at it is likely under the influence of psychotropic vanity. 

Frankly, the fact that some of us eventually end up in long-term relationships is shocking beyond belief. How I came to be married to an extremely cool woman is a complete mystery that I've decided not to delve too deeply into, lest I tip her off that she's made a terrible mistake. Suffice it to say, I did not lure her in with any of the following pick-up lines, taken directly from the Guide to Clayton Smith's Awkward Social History:

D.I.M.: Backyard Archery Target

Did It Myself
Being handy is expected of a husband. In fact it’s written into most state wedding licenses because they don’t expect you to read the whole thing. Some husbands are naturals and for the rest there’s Scarydad. He’s always been handy and he’s here to share his tips on everything from appliance repair to gardening to yard art worthy of any dumb white husband.

A while back, I bought a sweet bow and arrow set off my brother-in-law, who in turn used the money to buy an even sweeter bow for himself. It works this way: he acquires a weapon of some sort, practices to a level of proficiency that justifies upgrading his equipment, then sells the old and buys the new. I’ve been the happy recipient of some great lightly used equipment over the years. Sometimes I’ll upgrade too but even when I do I typically keep the old stuff. Someone once told me that if there wasn’t a deadly weapon within arm’s reach at all times, then you didn’t have enough deadly weapons around. I tend to believe this sort of advice, mostly because it justifies the ownership and constant procurement of badass stuff.

When I got home I set up a few plastic bottles along the fence and took some shots. It was immediately apparent that I would need some sort of a backstop to keep from porcupining my neighbor’s house.

I assumed he wouldn’t like that very much and might even have reason to register a complaint with the homeowner’s association; and nobody wants that. I have read the charter, though, and know for a fact that there is no rule expressed or implied that says I can’t shoot a bow and arrow in my own backyard-- or anyone’s backyard, actually. Our homeowner’s agreement is surprisingly silent on matters of bowmanship. However, despite having the legal upper hand, I decided to just be a good neighbor and build a backstop for my arrows.

Why you don’t get a hobby.

“Why don’t you get a hobby?”

Ah, how many sitcoms plots have launched with those words set as a countdown? Because you’ll get trapped in an ice fishing shed. Because you’ll get trapped in a submarine built in the basement shower. That’s why you don’t get a hobby.

Maybe your wife has asked you the same question as she saw you sitting comfortably on the coach watching the highlights from the week’s highlight reels. Maybe she doesn’t realize that sitting was indeed the world’s first hobby. Sitting is a luxury that ancient man could not afford and we honor them with our appreciation of sedentary ways.

But, if that’s not enough, we now have this.

Colin Furze has a hobby. He builds things. Pretty awesome things actually. Retractable Wolverine claws. Magnetic boots that allows him to walk upside down. And now there’s this the world’s largest fart machine.

If the trigger isn’t a large finger I’m calling it a missed opportunity. 

He’s built it and now he’s going to put it on the cliffs of Dover behind a giant ass and aim it at France. Why France? For one he’s British and also because screw France. If there’s any nation that deserves the world’s largest fart blown their way I don’t think there would be much discussion at the UN. Everyone would say France and France would just sheepishly nod.

If all goes well the trans-channel fart should have already occurred and France has no doubt surrendered. Watch it here.

My point is this. This fart cannon is the everest of hobbies. Hobbies have just been taken off the board. Nothing can even compare to this. Why even try?

“Why don’t you build a model?”

“Fart cannon.”

“Maybe you could restore an old car.”

“Fart cannon.”

“We could start walking every evening.”

“Fart cannon.”

What hobby could even hold a candle to this? And wouldn’t holding a candle to it be extremely dangerous? It’s best to just sit.

Read Ben's latest comedy Dystopia Inc. #1: The War Room today.

D.I.Yep I'm an Idiot

I climbed on the corner table. Short, and square, it fits perfectly between the couch and love seat. Exactly the right height for installing the new blackout blinds we brought home from the hardware store. Most afternoons, the sun beams directly through our westward facing windows. The temperature, brought down to comfortable levels during the day by air conditioning boxes, can be all but eliminated in a few short minutes of glare.

I raised one of the side brackets to the top corner. I marked drill spots through its holes with a pen. Holding a screw against the ink dot with one hand, I tapped the head using my hammer to give me better purchase when drilling it in. My wife got pulled into the kitchen to help one of the minions with something or other, so I decided to continue on with the project by my own muy macho manly self.

I balanced the electric screwdriver on top of the window using one hand to hold both the bracket and the screw in place. I bumped into the glass (probably with my gut) followed by the sound of a loud thunk. My fingers shifted and dropped both the bracket and screw. I’m certain a few choice words were uttered as is my usual modus operandi when dropping things I shouldn’t oughta drop. I remember looking down to see where they went and noticing something strange about the screwdriver. It wasn’t on the floor. Not rolling off the edge of the table either. Instead, it stood upright, held by the bit end disappearing into my bare foot.

“Honey.” I didn’t shout. I simply spoke in a loud voice to directly communicate my urgency. “I need your help.”

She peeked her head around my leg and squeaked, “Oh my god.”

“Yeah… Um, you’re going to have to pull that out for me.”

Rise Up From The Ashes

The Grind
It’s difficult to imagine a time in history before the cultivation of the mighty coffee bean. It was most likely bleak and everyone was cranky. Thankfully, we live in a civilized time where our biggest problem is choosing our favorite bean and brew that gets us through our day. Doing this through bleary eyes is a challenge but Jason is up to it.

The other day I hopped on over to En Fuego in Murphy, TX in order to satisfy my craving for a nice Macanudo Court. While there I got to talking to the owner, and asked if there was a comparable cigar to my beloved accompaniment to scotch (I drink Laphroaig, if yer buying.) He told me there was a very flavorful Nicaraguan cigar that came quite close, and was one of his personal favorites. He then explained how the cigars just taste better there for him, as the soil is quite volcanic. Now, knowing what really sets Hawaiian coffee apart from just about all others, I casually mentioned that Nicaraguan coffee was probably pretty damn good as well. Well, the floodgates of information just POURED out of this guy upon my making that assumption. He told me that he usually needs sugar or Splenda in his coffee –a confession that likely made me grimace a bit- but the intense flavor of Nicaraguan coffee meant such additives were unnecessary.

Needless to say, I was very interested in getting a hold of some of this coffee.

LED Lighting Payback - It’s Time To Switch!

The Gadgeteer
It’s a man's job to be curious. Exploring and prodding the world to determine what is best, what is safe and what should be feared. In pre-history this man would be in charge of the stick used to poke maybe-dead things. Today, it’s Todd’s job to seek out the latest gadgets, gear and technology that could make all of our lives easier/cooler. 

I’ve been watching and waiting, biding my time, and it’s finally here. I’m so excited! Who wouldn’t be? It’s time to switch to LED lights! If you’re not quite sure about making the switch yourself, then read on.

I’m a lighting freak. I was in wholesale lighting sales back in 1995 and through that I learned quite a bit about lights. I care about lumen output and color temperature more than most people. I learned about light pollution and proper use of task and accent lighting. I sold every size and variety of light bulb and light fixture available.

Read, or Be Stupid: Ready to Kill by Andrew Peterson

Reading is important. It makes you less dumb, it improves your memory and it makes you less dumb. We want to encourage reading so we'll be posting book reviews here from time to time. Check them out and read, or be stupid.

Get it here
The Book: Ready to Kill

The Author: Andrew Peterson
The Gist: Bestselling author Andrew Peterson is back with a heart-stopping fourth installment of his wildly popular Nathan McBride series. When a mysterious note referencing a top-secret US operation is tossed over the wall of the embassy in Nicaragua, Nathan McBride and his old pal Harv are called out of retirement by CIA Director Rebecca Cantrell and sent to Central America. Cantrell wants the situation resolved quickly and knows that Nathan is the man to do it; after all, he has a history with the place. The jungle he and Harv are about to land in is the same one that Nathan barely escaped with his life decades before, an ordeal that left him physically and psychologically scarred. To make it out alive a second time, Nathan will have to face down his own demons and square off with a ruthless killer who learned from the best, Nathan himself.

The Review: The Nathan McBride series is one of those series that I pick up and read no matter what I have on my reading pile. I love this series and everything about it.

Eat, Play, Shove, WRITE

Big congratulations are in order for Danielle of our Eat, Play, Shove column. She has released her first book. Here's Danielle to tell you all about it. Be sure to give her a "way to go" in the comments.

I wrote a book. Okay you knew that. Let’s start again shall we. I published a book! There that’s better. Yup, I finally published my first book and it was a huge day! I never knew that publishing a book could be so exciting, frustrating, or exhilarating. I was torn between throwing my computer and hugging it on a minutely basis. In the end I hugged it. In fact I hugged everyone. I would hug you too if I could. I know I’m mushy, but releasing a book out into the world will do that to ya.

Now I know you want to know all the deets on the book so let me lay it all out there for you.

Title: Guided

Series: The Jade Ring Series book 1

Author: Danielle Young

Genre: YA Paranormal

About the book:
Jo is a descendant from the most powerful Wiccan family the world has ever known and is destined to be more powerful than those before her.

But she doesn’t even know it. As her powers awaken Jo discovers a threat to her family line.

Protected by her best friends, and GUIDED by her Angel protector, Jo must learn to harness her powers and discover her family secrets before time runs out.

More than her life hangs in the balance.

In case you were wondering I am currently working on a paperback copy, so it will be available soon.

Yukon Jackin’ with the C. Horse

Forget your weak music and worse drink, all dead taste and restraint soulless of force
Life is a fifth of Yukon Jack, 
-Neil Young and the eternal Crazy Horse

It was a well past midnight on a Tuesday night in the early/almost spring of 1996.  I was peacefully slumbering away when I was rudely awakened by the brazen ring of my newly installed, immediately hated telephone. Not opening my eyes or lifting my head from my pillow, I readied myself for the delivery of a first-class ass chewing when that great, timeless no-quite-in-time THUMP and THROB hammered through the phone and into my ear and rabidly waking, excited brain.  The reedy, quaking voice on top with some simultaneously choking and swinging guitar all at 120 decibels sealed the deal:  this was live Neil Young with the greatest garage band in the history of the universe, the one and only Crazy Horse, destroying some brain cells in the early morning air right now. I was immediately awake and absolutely crushed that I wasn’t there. 

Out For Vacation

There once was a time where the word “vacation” meant spending luxurious days in the land of rest and relaxation, where time slowed down and I was able to taste the Welch’s. This is no longer the definition for me.

“Vacation” might still be the term used on my timesheets, but the correct term is now “family trip.” Which I recently went on, and I was not able to take the time to taste the Welch’s.

This is not an anti-kids rant, merely an observation that what you get back from them in love and adoration, comes at the price of frenzied micromanagement and exhaustion.

CONVENTION HOW-TO: Risky Business – Surviving “Client Dinners” At San Diego Comic-Con

This is the third in an Ultra Mega Super series on attending conventions (part one, part two). As a nine-year veteran of San Diego Comic-Con, I hope to share some insight. Especially if you’re heading out to the Con next week for business.

For a lot of people in geeky industries, SDCC is simultaneously exhausting work and glorious boondoggle. In my case, I spent almost a decade working the two booths of a major toy company, which I will refer to as Shmasbro to protect its anonymity. The Shmasbro booths take up a huge amount of space in the San Diego Convention Center and require a lot of people to operate, so many that they would invite people from their advertising and production partners to help out. A few coworkers (who were required to go) dreaded the idea of mingling with nerds, while fun coworkers volunteered every year. (You all know who you are!)

For me, it was 5 special days out of the year to spend amongst my own kind.

Light Bulbs and Dinosaurs

Superman has Lex Luthor. Idiots have Reason. I have light bulbs. For eight years in our new home it seems I never changed a light bulb. For the last three years it seems I’ve changed one everyday. So when it came time to replace the light bulbs in the living room, I upgraded to LEDs. If they last 25 times longer than a normal light bulb, these should last me until next Tuesday.

As I folded the ladder, my wife came in to the room, fresh out of bed and stared at the lights. “Those are really bright.” 

Having spent 40 dollars on 4 light bulbs, I immediately went on the defensive. “They’re 60 watts. I had 40’s in there, but I went back to 60’s like before. Remember?”

She didn’t remember. “They were never that bright.”