Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Baby Story Part 2

We recently had our second doctor’s appointment of the pregnancy which was highly anticipated as it would be our first chance to see the baby (via ultrasound) and hear its heartbeat. We were led into a room with an ultrasound machine and a pleasant operator we will call Judy. As Judy dispensed the “belly jelly” and began manipulating the produce scanner over my wife’s abdomen, the wall monitor came to life and I was struck by two things:
1.      The emotional gravity of actually hearing the heartbeat of your first child cannot be overstated.
2.      General Electric was the manufacturer of the machine producing the image.
The second fact was apparent thanks to the enormous logo. If I am not mistaken, the GE seal was proportionally larger on screen than the fetus itself. The GE sponsorship was so prominent on the machine, photos, and DVD I felt like my unborn child was a NASCAR driver. I half expected to Judy’s forearm to reveal a “GE 4 Lyfe” tattoo.

I understand a manufacturer wishing to identify its machine, but if you are going to watermark my fetus with your logo, I at least expect some compensation. Furthermore, are they hoping this will increase sales? Are there a large number of expectant mothers who are able to choose their pre-natal care based solely upon the model of imaging equipment? Do they think someone is going to look at our ultrasound pictures and say, “Wow! We need to find a doctor with a GE ultrasound machine because the one our doctor used made my kid look like a ferret brandishing a pair of maracas!”

I hate to burst their marketing bubble, but unless I see a tag identifying the machine as the “Miscarriage 4000” I could care less who made it as long they take my insurance. I was tempted to make a note of the specific part number and remark to the operator that I noticed she was using a GE L74200-R and wondered if she had experienced any of amniotic refraction issues common to that hardware revision.

Once the ultrasound was completed, we were whisked into an exam room where a nurse asked if we would like to participate in a genetic study. I naturally assumed that we had qualified based on our conspicuous intelligence and enviable physical characteristics but it turned they will take anybody who was “in a family way.”

We were left with an 11-page document that began with the sentence “This consent form may contain words that you do not understand.”  As the form continued, they would attempt to explain complicated terms by translating them in parenthesis. For example, the word “authorize” was translated as (give permission for) and the word “disclosed” was translated as (shared).

Now, I have no idea whose responsibility it was to identify which words required translation and which words would be discernible to the common citizen, but they need to be let go. How is it that “authorize” made the cut but “chromosome abnormality” and “amniocentesis” are self-explanatory? 

There is also a section where they assure participants that their “blood will never be used to create another human being” which I am pretty sure was taken verbatim from a Ben Affleck movie.
Needless to say, we were apprehensive until they told us we would make $50 which is apparently the exact amount of money necessary to overcome our fear of being confronted by our child’s genetic clone.

On a final note, I have a “Dad Tip” of my own: If your wife is in her first trimester and has been experiencing uncontrolled weeping, do not rent Big Miracle thinking it will lift her spirits. It won’t.

---------------------------Spoiler Alert--------------------------------

For those who do not know, Big Miracle is the 2012 film starring Drew Barrymore that is based on the rescue of a family of whales in Alaska. Universal Pictures has some explaining to do because it is more than a little misleading to throw around the term “heartwarming” and “miracle” in a film where the baby whale dies from contusions and starvation. It was like watching Rabbit Hole if all the roles were played by marine mammals. Perhaps a more accurate title would have been “An Attempted Whale Rescue With Acceptable Casualties Given The Circumstances.”

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Power of Suggestion

Since it was launched in 2010, Google’s auto-complete function has been providing fascinating insights into the collective search habits of millions of Internet users. This is made possible because the algorithm attempts to predict the as-yet-un-typed portion of your request based on geographical location, language, and popularity. This is why typing the word “clothing” causes Google to suggest a search for “clothing stores.” Statistically speaking, the majority of Internet users who started with the word “clothing” ended up clicking on links to “clothing stores.”

Because the online zeitgeist is constantly shifting, it is possible that you will not even receive the same suggestions for same question on different days. As a bonus, one can begin typing a common phrase and, technologically speaking, take the collective pulse of the nation. So on August 16th of this year, I captured the following results....

The irony of some search suggestions is only apparent when they are juxtaposed against one another:

If one were to compare the 4th most popular result for each search they would almost seem to answer each other. Apparently men can’t understand the emotional complexity of the feminine mystique and women can’t understand why they are still attracted to someone incapable of understanding them. It is also worth noting that both sexes find the other to be “mean.”

Some search strings may seem wildly disconnected at first but may contain a common thread:

Once someone has obtained enough easy money they can afford neckties, having obtained said neckties they realize that do not know how to tie them, this realization exacerbates their sense of alienation amongst their new peer-group leading to depression and suicide. Once deceased they will be able to reach their target weight with minimal effort.

Searching for the converse, however, just seems prideful:

While the rest of the world is seeking out a quick payday in a clip-on tie, these people have run out of realms to conquer. This is evidenced by the fact they have enough spare time to play Pokemon and Skyrim while attempted a Hawking Reverse Windsor Knot.

The next phrase I entered returned a rather grim digression of importance:

In a presidential election year, I was unsurprised that Google’s first recommendation involved candidate selection. From there things took a dark turn. I can only pray that these people do not comprise the majority of registered voters. If you do not possess the comprehension skills necessary to decide whose Tweets you wish to receive, you may not be mentally prepared to participate in the electoral process.

As for Skyrim question, the answer is irrelevant as you will ultimately die alone.

My foray into meaning and purpose was rather dispiriting as well:

How quickly we go from validating our continued existence to whether or not to keep check stubs. Is there really nothing occupying the space between those two concerns? I am starting to think that Google should editorialize a little on these suggestions because I hate to think that the same people are responsible for both searches. I can just picture some guy lowering a pistol from his head as he mutters to himself, “That was a close one, and to think I almost threw those stubs away!”

As for the Skyrim question, please see above.

Sometimes Google’s algorithm can be so accurate it manifests itself as a form of technological clairvoyance. For example, when I began typing the phrase “how should I tell my…” into Google it returned these suggestions in descending order:

The progression is as logical as it is uncanny. Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, girl is forced to consult the Internet for suggestions because her deadbeat boyfriend can’t stop playing Skyrim long enough to participate in a mature conversation.

As a side note, when asking Google how to tell your parents you are pregnant the first result is Yahoo! Answers and the prevailing wisdom alternates between “they should be seated” and “you are not mature enough to procreate.” All sound advice.

The research for this has taught me two important things:
1.       People rely too heavily on the advice of registered users of Yahoo! Almost every single question returned Yahoo! Answers as the highest ranked authority. While this is not always bad, I am not sure that I would take career advice from someone named “PimpCheetah3” who selected a hamster holding a bong as their profile pic.
2.      I need to invest heavily in the company that produced Skyrim because apparently its importance to human existence is only narrowly eclipsed by democracy and self-preservation.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Baby Story (Part 1)

Recently my wife and I discovered that we were expecting our first child. As a part of this process, we both attended her first major doctor’s appointment of the pregnancy. While the ratio varies from practitioner to practitioner, I would estimate that within our 2 ½ hour appointment were we able to squeeze in about eight minutes of face time with the doctor. The rest was evenly divided between the waiting room and the insurance “hard sell.”

The “hard sell” consists of being taken into a small office where a cordial account representative informs you that their organization’s concern for your fetus is eclipsed only by their willingness to enforce a strict payment schedule. As with any life changing decision, you are not without options:
1.      Agree to evenly distribute the total predicted costs of a textbook vaginal delivery over the next seven months while being constantly reminded that this fee excludes unforeseen complications, foreseeable but unlikely complications, and inconsistently-occurring potential complications that have not yet been assigned a billing code. Also, none of this covers actually being in the hospital.
2.      Pocket the money, find an instructional YouTube video on midwifery, and begin chipping away at your spouse’s resolve with statements like “I know you like Dr. Bowmen, but I am not even sure East Dakota University has a medical school…” 
There was a also a surprising moment where the representative leaned over conspiratorially and informed us that while insurance does not cover ultrasounds for the specific purpose of determining the child’s gender, “a situation could arise whereby a medically-necessary test happens to reveal the gender.” I was unsure if the rep was simply suggesting we shouldn’t rush to pay out-of-pocket because our curiosity might be satisfying in the normal course of treatment or hinting that we could save $400 by embellishing my wife’s genetic risk factors.

The medical questionnaire portion was well executed by the nurse practitioner. After all, there are only so many ways a woman can be asked if she uses “recreational drugs” without seeming accusatory. The only time I participated during this process was when she glanced toward me while asking my wife if “she knew who the father was.” I was tempted to reply that we had met a mere fifteen minutes ago in the parking lot where I often come to troll for emotionally-vulnerable women, but a withering look from my wife convinced me that my most valuable contribution would be silence.

I am reading several books that promise to prepare expectant parents for what lies ahead. One contains intermittently-placed margin notes called “Dad Tips” that serve as a constant reminder that the publisher is long overdue for a revision. One suggestion was that I purchase “high quality VHS tapes” to capture the birth. I half expected a chapter on twilight sleep.

There was also a very stern warning against “forcing air into the vagina” of a pregnant woman as this can cause an embolism. Since this warning appeared under the “intimacy” section of the book I can only assume there is an area of carnal recreation I am blissfully unaware of. Up until that point I had never considered the reverse feature on my shop-vac as an instrument of seduction. Are there really guys that walk into a the bedroom and say, “You know honey, the kids are asleep and I still have a little compressed air left in this can after dusting my keytar.”

Saturday, August 18, 2012


As many of you are aware, the meme has become quite the Internet phenomenon because it attempts to convey an underlying truth in a humorous manner. While musing over what these memes would look like if the humor was removed and we were left with only the underlying truth, I decided to create a series of depressingly-realistic E-cards. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


When Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets in 2009 she captured the world’s attention. Only the second woman to give birth to octuplets in the US (and the first where all 8 survived longer than a week) it seemed to be a miracle. Of course, this elation lasted only briefly once the press realized she was already a mother of six who had been artificially inseminated by a now disbarred physician while receiving public assistance.
Apparently, Miss Suleman had been injured during a 1999 riot while working as a psychiatric technician at Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, California. She received $168,000 between 2000 and 2008 and has reportedly been on and off welfare since then. Determined to support herself, Nadya has attempted a number of careers including:
  • Traveling Stripper
  • Professional Oprah Winfrey Guest
  • Starring in Adult Films With Unnervingly-Specific Themes
  • Posing Topless for British Magazines With Low Circulation Numbers
  • Online Panhandling
Her latest foray is dating for money through What’, a website whose commitment to meaningful emotional bonding is surpassed only by its design aesthetics. For $500 you can take “Octomom” on romantic evening and learn all about woman attached to the uterus has captured the attention of a nation. Many have criticized her asking price as being too high, but to be fair finding a babysitter for 14 children probably eats into her profit margin (plus if she were to drop them off at a friend’s house it would have to be temporarily rezoned as a childcare facility).

Despite myself I feel sorry for this woman, because other than repopulation she does not seem to have any clear goals in mind. She knew she wanted her own offspring militia; she just had not worked out the semantics of feeding them all.

Much has been made of her disability claim, but without knowing more details it is hard to make that call. I imagine that it is entirely possible to sustain a debilitating injury during a violent riot at a mental hospital, but it is curious that after 8 years it had healed enough to allow her to pole dance for singles. The welfare money is more troubling since she is receiving government assistance for children she paid handsomely to bear. In some ways this would be akin to purchasing a Ferrari and then panhandling for the gas.  

On the bright side, she has an upcoming dance single that was co-written with Adam Barta called “Sexy Party”. The idea is to jumpstart her music career thereby restoring her self-sufficiency. Although the lyrics have not yet been released, I have taken the liberty to speculate:

Adam's Verse
Baby, I can already tell
That you’ve got what I need
Obvious financial desperation
And 14 mouths to feed
How ‘bout we take this back to my place
And see just what happens
Cause in just 9 more months
 I’ll be timing your contractions
Baby don’t get so depressed
When they hatin’ on your fertility
I just want to make your dependents
Divisible by three

Octomom’s Verse
Boy, I recognize that look in your eyes
And what you want to do
I ain’t been this close to a man
Since I last held a test-tube.
I hope you got a steady job
And your coverage is paid in full
Cause tonight I’m lookin’ to satisfy
More than my deducible
Maybe you can walk me back
To my Ford Econoline Van
You’d look real fine in the captain’s chair
You and me holdin’ hands

Girl you got it going on
You steady on my mind
Put them 14 kids to bed
Cause it’s sexy party time!
Pass me some more of that Pedialite
And leave your cares behind
Nobody judges a single mom
When it’s sexy party time!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Exxon Prophet

I recently pulled up to an Exxon station and noticed a CD taped to the gas pump I was attempting to use. It was in a clear protective case and the label indicated that it contained both audio and an electronic book called “Understanding Eternity” by someone identified only as “David, the Lord’s servant.”

Upon returning home I placed the disc in my laptop, double-clicked it, and fully expected my e-mail account to start sending Canadian porn to everyone in my address book. Instead, I was subjected to a voice of such indescribable resonance and timbre that I felt compelled to post an audio sample. I have never heard someone’s speech modulate so wildly during the course of a single sentence. It is almost as if he is reading a children’s book, but remains unsure of whether or not the audience plans to disembowel him at its conclusion.
Curious as to whom this fascinating individual was, I checked the data tag on the electronic book (better known as a Microsoft Word Document) and determined that his last name was Neal and he had authored his sermon on a Hewlett-Packard. After a quick Google search, I was directed to where I discovered an impressive cache of his essays. Even more delightful, was the site itself which featured articles like The Dangers of Christian Message Boards and Prayer Circles: Straight Out of Witchcraft (your move N.W.A.).

The “About Us” page credits the site’s existence to ex-Baptists Gary & Lisa Ruby, who apparently had an unpleasant experience at Plainville Baptist Church in Plainville, MA. According to The Rubys, Plainville Church was founded by “a family of multi-generational black-magic witches” and uses “mind control techniques” on children while “placing implants in them.”  The congregation seems to have a rather aggressive member retention policy as Lisa is convinced that after leaving the church “Luciferian witches” sent “evil spirits” to afflict her and her husband.

I located the alleged coven’s website, but none of their upcoming events listed a pre-teen black mass or the satanic toddler hour. On the other hand they did seem a little heavy-handed with the “nursery provided” tag when service times were listed. To be fair, I imagine newborn warlock implants is a topic best broached after the new member potluck and not on the website.   

A few of the articles were labeled adults only and contained frank discussions of human sexuality. One article entitled The Marriage Bed: License for Sodomy, insisted that any form of oral copulation (even amongst married heterosexuals) was a “vile affectation” and deviated from “the natural use of the woman.” Another article warns that “Satan especially "rewards" those who engage in Tantra-inspired sex worship (oral congress).” This would of course explain the longevity of Sting’s career.

It appears that the only thing Gary and Ruby despise more than mouth lovin’ is witchcraft; which is apparently rampant in the following places:
  • Harry Potter Novels
  • Third editions of the Scofield Study Bible
  • Yoga
  • The marketing of essential oils
  • Michael W. Smith’s Christmas album
  • The Left Behind series
  • The Playstation 2 game Forever Kingdom
  • Late 90’s Amy Grant concert footage
There was also an article entitled “Mocking God for Fun and Profit” which turned out not to be a study-at-home course but a scathing rebuke of the website which features Christianity-themed cartoons. I followed several links to examples of “blasphemy,” but found only tepid Biblical humor and one pretty solid joke featuring Satan on a first date.

While the Ruby’s strike me as rather alarmist, I suppose it is possible that I need to leaf back through my collection of Carmen and Ray Boltz albums to make sure I haven’t overlooked any runes in the cover art. It is unclear whether The Ruby’s are attempting to create their own church, but with strict rules against movies, video games, and fellatio I have no doubt potential congregants are in for a good time.