The ManMobile III

With a child on the way, my vehicular needs have changed somewhat. According to local law enforcement, I need a vehicle that can secure a child seat without the use of bungie cords, rope or cargo netting. Consequently, I’m in the market for a new ManMobile. Before I get to my car search, allow me to share the fates of the first two ManMobiles:

The ManMobile I: True to it’s namesake, this truck died like a man. It met its demise in a violent crash on I-90, allowing me to cheat death for the fifth time in my life. This truck really took one for the team, as The Captive Lion and I were able to walk away completely unscathed from some seriously twisted wreckage. To honor the memory of that truck, I haven’t wasted a day since. (Caveat to that statement: Entire days spent playing video games and watching TV don’t count.)

The ManMobile II: The vehicle I’m currently driving, it will be honorably discharged in the coming weeks for its trade-in value. It’s been a damn good truck, and I’ll be sad to see it go. I just wish I could end our relationship in a more fitting manner, perhaps with a fiery explosion of some kind. Thankfully, there’s still time.

And now, here’s a partial checklist of the features and criteria I’ll be using to evaluate prospective vehicles for the title of ManMobile III:

  • First, would it survive multiple rollovers at 70mph… as it will likely be asked to do so.
  • Is there the requisite clearance and elbowroom needed to fire a bow and arrow out of the driver’s side window?
  • Does it look menacing in the rearview mirror of a slow-driving senior citizen? This one is very important to me.
  • Can the speaker system provide quality audio output over a wide swath of my musical interests? (Monster ballads, AM talk radio, John Denver’s Greatest Hits, etc.)
  • Am I likely to be mistaken for a total badass when behind the wheel?
  • Are the tires big enough that I can drive over curbs and medians with impunity?
  • At any given time, I am either flooring the gas or the brake with maximum force. Will this truck be compatible with my everyday driving style?
  • In a one-on-one, head-on collision with a random other vehicle, am I most likely to be the sole survivor? (This includes tanks, cement mixers, and school buses.)
  • If I’m heading in their direction, will walkers and joggers feel compelled to get off the road out of concern for their safety?
  • Can this truck handle the payload of the eight tons of baby accessories I’ll be routinely transporting everywhere I go?
  • Should I leave the house wearing my Darth Vader voice-changing helmet, is there ample headroom available to accommodate this attire?

Since this is such a major purchase, I’d hate to forget to check something important. Zillionaires, is there anything I left out?

The Birthing Coach

Having completed three minutes of squat thrusts, I blow the whistle around my neck signaling to my wife that it’s time for her to change stations.

She dutifully proceeds to the next station, where she is to perform 100 reps of Kegel exercises. I monitor her activities, but truthfully, this is one exercise where I can’t tell if she’s actually doing anything. Nevertheless, I offer encouragement through the usual workout clichés…

Me: “Feel the burn!!”

Me: “That’s it. Push yourself!”

Me: “Ok, ten more reps… on my count: 1… 2… 3…”

And so on. This is how we spend our evenings, in intense physical training. You see, I am the birthing coach, and I’m transforming my wife into a birthing prizefighter.

At first I was unsure of my role. Once I agreed to become a coach, I immediately scheduled open tryouts so that I could handpick the members of my birthing roster. We had a weeklong tryout and evaluation period. Regrettably, I had to cut a few players, but I encouraged them to work hard, and to tryout for the team again next year.

Sadly, the team wasn’t together for long. As I was preparing my playbook prior to our first practice, I did a little research, and I found out that “birthing” isn’t a team sport. Go figure. This was good news for my wife, as she was going to have a tough time cracking the starting lineup. Now, she’s the star player of my team.

It worked out well. True, with a one-man roster it makes it impossible to hold a decent scrimmage. Instead, we focus on running crisp drills, putting in solid workouts, and perfecting our offense. That’s right… I tend to focus on offense more than defense. I do try to run intense practice sessions, but I simply don’t have the requisite fire to stress defense. I’d probably have to transform myself into the Bobby Knight of birthing coaches to pull it off, and the last thing my wife needs is for me to hurl a chair across the delivery room.

Anyway, I need to get back to my wife’s workout. I noticed that she slacked a little bit on that last station with the medicine ball. We both know what that means: She just bought herself a second round of wind sprints at the end of practice.

Sweet One, Gonzaga

Allow me to quote Nancy Kerrigan: “Why, why, why? … Why meeee? Why meeeeeeee?”

That’s pretty much how I feel right now. Seriously Gonzaga, what the hell happened last night?

You blow a 17-point lead? You allow UCLA to score the last 11 points in the game? Losing is one thing, but is it necessary to put up one of the biggest crunch-time collapses in tournament history?

At the same time, I’m not at all surprised. Humiliating, history-making losses are commonplace for any sports team I choose to openly root for, especially in the post-season.

And one more thing, after the game ended, I flipped over to NBC hoping that an episode of The Office would make me less enraged. Naturally, it was a rerun, which served as the icing on top this horrific evening.

It’s a good thing I keep a flask in my desk. That’s the only thing that’s gonna get me through the rest of the day.

Wireless Is The Next Big Lie

As you are reading this, there is a very good chance I’m also online, scouring the Net. Just like yours, my signal is dashing from machine to machine, hopping networks, and jumping firewalls. Our digital selves seem to have more freedoms than our physical selves. In the virtual world, we are free from many of the constraints of travel, time, and custom. It is my hope that by experiencing these freedoms even in their distorted digital manifestations we will yearn for them in our civil societies. The Internet will be a major catalyst to a more progressive and enriching world, not just as a tool to organize but as a testing ground for ideas and innovations that make our lives better. It all sounds so perfectly amazing, right?

The truth is the Net is only a fraction of how cool it can and will become. We will continually have to wade through crap in order to get there. First we had to put up with AOL disks. Then came email spam. Remember pop-up ads? Or spyware. Did you ever get a virus? We’ve overcome a lot already. But I’ve found the next myth, the next hoax, the next lie that we need to dispel: wireless.

First off, I don’t like the term. Wireless. It takes eight letters to say something doesn’t exist? And it’s always going to be second banana to “wired” because it has bought into the paradigm in which “wired” products are the norm. I think that “wireless” should be the standard and gadgets with wires should be called “teathered” or “immobile.” That’s what so-called “wired” products really are. We need to start using terminology that is based in the technologies of 2006 and not 1950.

To me, you call a human a human, not a tailless monkey.

And it’s not just our vocabulary that needs an update. Modern product designers should be ashamed. The amount of cords and wires it takes to run an average media setup is ridiculous. There is a whole intestine-looking tangle of cords behind my entertainment center. I’ve often said that I think the only people still making money hand over fist in the product hardware business are the cord and wire makers.

So needless to say, the concept of “wireless” sounds fantastic to me. I don’t even need to see the flop. I’m all in.

In fact, I’ve already purchased quite a few “wireless” products. Pretty quickly, however, I found out that wireless often means something very different than an average person’s definition of the term. For example, it would seem obvious that “wireless” means “without wires” as in this diagram:

But, sadly, that is often not the case. Usually “wireless” quite simply means “differently wired.” You need a dongle for that, a power cord for this, and an ethernet cable just for good measure… or spite. All to be “wireless.”

Here is my xbox wireless adapter, for example.

In this case, “wireless” means “two wires.” I am actually surprised they went so far as to put the word “wireless” in the product name. This thing can only go a matter of five feet from an outlet. Immobile, not wireless in my book.

And what do I tell my friends when I trip on one of these cords? “Sorry guys no basketball for me. I biffed my knee when I tripped on my wireless adapter’s cord. What’s that? Yeah, I’m ok. I’ll just chill around the house and listen to audio cassettes on my iPod. I never weened myself off tape hiss, man.”

The Dream Team

We had a major breakthrough last night.

It came after yet another loss to a vastly inferior team. After every match of Halo 2, the Zillionaire platoon lands in the post-game lobby with our opponents, presenting us with an opportunity to review our stats while the other team criticizes us for our horrible play.

For The Captive Lion, this is his favorite part of the match. For him, the outcome of the game is truly irrelevant. As long as he can deal a clever insult to the opposing team in the post-game lobby, that’s all that matters. And the more handily we’ve been beaten, the more The Captive Lion seeks to avenge our loss with witticisms. If one of us leaves the post-game lobby early, The Captive Lion actually becomes upset that we didn’t give him enough time to deliver an insult to the other team. Sadly, this is not an exaggeration.

Solo, on the other hand, spends this lobby time obsessing about our stats. Not our actual wins and losses of course, but rather how many “headshots” he tallied during the game. Once he’s carefully reviewed his own stats, he then examines those of his teammates, taking time to point out their killing deficiencies relative to his score. For good measure, he’ll then urge them to “step it up” in the next round.

Lastly, Krusty generally uses the break in the game to fetch another beer or to make fun of The Captive Lion, as these two seem to spend more time taunting each other than our opponents.

As the other team simply laughs at our dysfunctional display, I’m left in the unfortunate position of being the only one actually bothered by the fact we lost a very winnable game to a very sucky team.

Back to the breakthrough I spoke of earlier… At the start of the next game, I resisted the usual urge to bark orders or attempt to formally organize the team. I simply said the following:

The Centaur: “Alright guys, let’s just stick together here… within reason.”

Solo laughed at how low my expectations of teamwork had sunken. But, by tacking on the “within reason” part to my request, it gave a little latitude to The Captive Lion. He still mocked me for trying to implement any semblance of strategy into this affair, but I think he sensed the compromise I had put forth. He didn’t have to march in lockstep with us… he just had to generally act like he was part of our team. I afforded him some room for creativity, and the option to freelance… all I asked was for him to not wander off like a teenager trying to avoid being seen with his parents. (And yes, that metaphor is entirely appropriate.)

Once The Captive Lion was on board, Krusty and Solo followed suit. Lo and behold, functioning as a team, we won easily.

While a win was nice, it was the next match that served as the inspiration for this post. During the game, Krusty manned the turret, and suppressed the other team’s movement with heavy machine gun fire. Once they were pinned down, Solo easily picked them off with the sniper rifle. I guarded both their positions, preventing any sneak attacks. And The Captive Lion was free to tactically clean up anyone that was left, knowing he was well-covered by his teammates. The final score, 50-19, was easily the most dominating win we’ve ever had. And it was all the product of teamwork.

A funny thing happened once we started winning. Suddenly we found ourselves on the receiving end of praise from the other team. In victory, we now could act as gracious winners, or, as you might expect, insufferable jackasses. (This wasn’t an option before.) We no longer felt the need to single out our weakest player, and berate him for his lackluster performance. The best part though? I don’t think I’ll have to spend future games imploring my teammates to regroup, cover each other and focus their taunts on the other team.