Sunday, October 31, 2010

I've almost made it through my first week in my new role as a QC team member.  Almost.  I've been working on these page reviews off and on for just over 7 hours now.  Other off and on work includes a paper due in the morning for my Psychology of Love class (Just try to say that without Barry White's voice in your head.) and some coding for my other job. I'll likely get about 2 hours of sleep tonight, if I sleep at all, what with the deadlines looming in the morning.

My head is wobbly, my fingers are SCREAMING, and I've had more caffeine than any human should ever be allowed to have, but there's a big smile on my face (not a caffeine related smile. No, really!).  While I hope to avoid spending next weekend this way, I'm pretty okay with how this week went.  Lost sleep tonight equals time with my family over the last few days, time I wouldn't have had at my previous job.
 
Life happened this week in the form of a funeral, a play, a couple of parties, and Halloween (with its requisite anti Trunk or Treat rant).  A flexible schedule may mean that I'm zombiefied every Monday morning, but if it means I get to take part in life as it happens, that is okay by me.

The zombie look is in now, anyway.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dear overworked faithful,

I want to begin this letter by saying that I appreciate the work you do for your various congregations.  You tirelessly plan fun activities that bring your fellow church members together in fellowship. You are sometimes reduced to begging to get people to bring a salad or a batch of cookies to an event.  You often stay late after an activity ends to clean up the messes left by others.  You have a hard job.  I know this.  There is not enough green jello in the world to make me want to do this job. 

Except on Halloween.

Every other month of the year, I'm praying to my Father in Heaven in gratitude that I'm not the one who has to plan the pot lucks and the campouts for my congregation.  October comes, and I'm lobbying for a seat on the committee.  Why the annual change of heart?

Trunk or Treats.

(Aside to Mother Load readers who are not familiar with the phenomenon of the Trunk or Treat, it is an activity held at a church or other venue in which children can do their trick or treating from car to car instead of from house to house.  The trunks of said cars are often decorated, and prizes are sometimes given to the most creative, most scary, etc.)

I don't have a problem with trunk or treating as a concept or even as an activity.  Okay, I think the name is ridiculously twee and don't like to say it out loud if I can't help it. (This is probably because I didn't think of it myself first.) But the actual event is fairly fun.  My trunk is never decorated other than in the, "Oh my gosh, when was the last time you cleaned that thing?!" theme, but the kidlets don't seem to mind as long as I have candy to share.

What I find hard to stomach is when a trunk or treat becomes something my husband has referred to as a "trunk or street." (Blast! Another clever phrase I didn't think of myself!)  That is, when a trunk or treat becomes a direct competitor with traditional trick or treating.  Either you go to the church and hold out your bag to your fellow church goers, or you pound the pavement the traditional way.

I think in areas like the ones where I grew up, where Mormon children are few and far between, this kind of choice has little impact on the community as a whole.  In my elementary school in Lawton, Oklahoma (Go Sullivan Village Vikings!), there were exactly 4 children who went to my church. I was one of them. The other three were my siblings.  If our family had decided to leave our house on Halloween night and head on over to the church for a trunk or treat, people in my neighborhood would simply have developed the mistaken belief that Mormons don't celebrate holidays and would have gone on their merry ways to the other homes on Dorchester Drive, collecting candy and enjoying the night air.

Not so in Utah.  When the majority of LDS families are celebrating the holiday at the church, in many cases, entire city blocks go dark.  People of other faiths then find themselves with bowls full of candy and no one to give it to, or they're out on the sidewalks with their little ones, ringing doorbells that never get answered.  Every now and then, they might encounter a cutesy sign inviting them to "come on over" to the church to get some candy.  For reasons kindly Mormons don't seem to understand, that is not always a choice their fellow community members want to make. Maybe they have strong beliefs in opposition to our faith. Maybe they've had a not so pleasant run in with a not so pleasant Mormon.  Maybe they're just shy. (But really...should it matter why people don't want to come to our church?)

And so, we have a holiday in which a tradition has been abandoned by a majority, sometimes without so much as a mention to any who are not of their faith, and the cohesiveness of a community suffers as a result.  A dear friend of mine had 100 trick or treaters at her door last year.  This year, she made up 120 treat bags in anticipation of the rush.  10 children rang her doorbell.  Everyone else was out at the church, a church she is not a member of. 

Her daughter in law took her daughter out for her very first trick or treating outing, only to be met with darkened door after darkened door.  She had no idea her neighborhood had other plans for the evening.  She had not been invited to them.

Activities Committee members, I implore you to think of the quiet impact these activities are having on your neighbors.  Think of the people who set out on Halloween with their children, only to find themselves excluded and forgotten.  Think of what it must look like to them when the members of the majority religion in an area choose to pack up their toys and go.  You surely don't intend to exclude others, but in removing yourselves from your communities, you surely do.

I'm not out to end the trunk or treats.  I'm just asking that you consider holding them on a different day of the month.  I will be forever grateful to the Activities Committee chair in my own church who has planned our little congregation's trunk or treats on a day other than Halloween each year she's been in the position.  She hasn't made it an either/or proposition. 

Maybe in writing this, I'm like the guy who raged against the clock because he wanted to preserve the tradition of the sundial. Maybe I'm like the print journalist who rages against the blogger because the medium has changed.  Maybe trunk or treats are about progress, and my children's children will wonder why we ever roamed the streets in search of candy in the dark.

Maybe.

Or maybe I'm just a Mormon who remembers what it was like to embrace the diversity of a world outside of Utah and wishes those around her would do the same inside the state.

Yours humbly,
Sarah Clark

Friday, October 29, 2010

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Mom, today I learned that even though these aren't actually "cookie diapers," as we previously misread them to be, the first impression will keep us from ever buying them. Ever.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

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Mom, today I learned that Kindergarten Halloween parties are just as fun as they were when I was a kid.

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And just as rewarding for me as they were for you!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday marked the beginning of a new Mahalo adventure for this blogger.  A couple of weeks ago, Susan, the head of the Quality Control department asked if I'd be willing to consider a job on the QC team whenever Mahalo next expanded its pool of writers.  After learning a bit more about the responsibilities and the perks of the position, Richard and I agreed that it sounded like a great opportunity.  I let Susan know and then settled in to wait.

I didn't have to wait very long.  Only a week had passed when the official job offer came to me via email.  I had a week to finish up my last writing projects before shifting roles.  I sent a mature and dignified response to the offer, closed my laptop, stood up from my desk and screamed, "SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!  They like me! They really, really like me!"

As it turns out, elation was short lived.  It was quickly replaced by anxiety.  I've spent the last couple of days poring over the new spreadsheets and reviewing previous QC notes and making my own spreadsheet to help me with checking and scoring pages...and doing everything else I could think of to avoid actually checking that first page.  Today, I've run out of arbitrary prep work and have no other choice but to get down to the business of editing text, computing scores, and, in some cases, assigning rewrites. 

It's not a mentally taxing task, but as a writer, I know how writers often feel about their work.  Even if it's 500 words about the various means of cultivating eggplant, we take our work pretty seriously.  "My writing is my SOUL," a writer might say. "How do you put a score on someone's SOUL?!"

I'm making this easier on myself by remembering that standards, scores, and the QC team are the things I like most about Mahalo.  In an internet full of mediocre content farms employing writers who are happy to just slap pages together for a share of the ad revenue, Mahalo stands out for its commitment to quality.  Any time I ask a writer to redo a page they've completed, I just have to think of that, and the task won't be so hard.  If I still find it hard, I can always take the matter to my immediate superior: my cat, Quill, who monitors my work from the space between my laptop and the wall. 

After reviewing my first page, we had the following exchange. 

Me: "Overall, it's pretty good work. I saw a few formatting errors that were easily fixed, and I corrected a couple of typos.  However, I had to mark down for two instances of bias in the second section.  What do you think?
Quill: "Meow," which can be translated to mean, "The numbers don't lie, Sarah. You have to send it back."

Seriously, who's going to argue with a smart cat like that?

Houson, we have an lolcat in the house.

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Mom, today I learned that when I told Quill he'd have to get a job if he wanted different food, he took me seriously.  Apparently, he's training for the circus...or the internet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm doing things a little differently today.  Instead of a YouTube video filled with music or kittens or questionable decisions, I have decided you need to see something a little closer to home.  My home, to be more specific.  My bathroom, if you want to get technical.

The video I would have shown you has been postponed until next week, and in its place, I submit to my readers and fans a true story.  "Haircut: A Story of Hope."


It was late October, 2010. Hard times had come upon the Clark household. Richard's usually loyal and hardworking hairdresser had shirked her hairdressing duties for an appallingly long time. Hair grew from his scalp like a tangled forest of overgrown shrubs and threatened the back of his neck, dark brown tentacles reaching ever closer to his shoulders.

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Day after hairy day, Richard remained optimistic. His hairdresser had always come through for him before. Surely she would find the time to rid him of this vile nest atop his head. Maybe it would be today...or...today...or...today. Weeks had gone by, and the smile had begun to waver. A few weeks more, and he had begun to harbor thoughts of firing his absent hairdresser.

"You know," he said to her on the evening of the 26th, "I could just pop on over to Super Cuts..." Her look of alarm silenced him momentarily.  Richard then apologized for having entertained such a thought and accepted her promise that the haircut would occur that very night, no matter what obstacles she might face.

A more unforgiving man might have laughed at her promise and left her for a hot pair of scissors at a salon, but Richard was moved by the earnestness of this woman and vowed he would give her one more chance.

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The fact that she was cute and in the habit of preparing him his favorite foods for dinner may have influenced his decision somewhat.

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Kissing may also have been a factor.


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Whatever the case, Richard chose to stay at home and wait patiently for her in the appointed place.  He felt the stirrings of hope within his chest as she finished her night's work and descended the stairs into the lower floor of their home.  This was it!  He would be burdened by the weight of his hair no longer!

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The cheery buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz of Sarah's clippers was sweet music to Richard's ears, and he felt his soul lift and lighten as tufts of hair, so much hair, found their way to the floor beneath his feet.  This was the feeling of life! This was the feeling of FREEDOM!

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About halfway through the haircut, Sarah stopped and surveyed her work.  "You know," she said, thoughtfully, "if we stopped here, you'd look like almost every boy I went to high school with.  90s hair is bound to make a comeback within the next few years.  Want to get a jump on it?  I could leave it like this..."

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Richard replied that he would give the matter deep thought and get back to her the next time she cut his hair.  For now, he preferred her to plow on ahead.  And plow she did, removing layer after layer of stubborn hair from his head.

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The most stubborn of this hair resided in the Cowlick of Lost Dreams and Many Tears, but Sarah persevered, battling the hair demon with her Clippers of Destiny until it was no more.

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And then, just as soon as it had begun, the haircut was over.  Richard, emboldened by his new look, adopted his most sultry expression and asked Sarah if there might be anything he could do to repay this generous favor. His eyebrows waggled provocatively, the corners of his mouth turning up in a scandalous manner.

Sarah, her eyes twinkling, smiled back and said, "Hot chocolate sounds lovely."

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"SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!"

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Mom, today I learned the people at the Driver's License Division have a sense of humor.

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This is the line for the number you take to get into the actual line.

Monday, October 25, 2010

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Mom, today I learned that someone bashed in my driver's side door while I was in class today.

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The damage was so bad, I couldn't even get my key to turn in the lock.

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Then I learned that that had less to do with damage to the door and more to do with the fact that I was trying to open the wrong minivan.  THIS is MY driver's side door.  (Chip off the old block, wouldn't you say, Mom?)

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, tell my younger sister, Carla, about today's Outrageous News story.  She's been through a lot in her 32 years, and a blow like this could threaten her very life, a life she has lovingly devoted to the Man of Steel.  She is a Superman fanatic in the truest sense of the word.  I submit the following:


So, the story (which we are NOT sharing with Carla) is that DC Comics is unveiling a new version of Superman who resembles Robert Pattinson, of Edward Cullen fame, in the graphic novel, "Superman: Earth One."  This reimagining of Superman involves hoodies, skinny ties, and low cut man jeans.  It also relegates the Man of Steel to brooding hipster status, trading muscles for moodiness.  That's right.  Smallville's own is going to be a brooding, skinny pretty boy.

I have three words for DC Comics right now: No.  Also?  NO!  And finally, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Long time readers of this blog know I'm no fan of the Twilight series of books and movies.  I taught the relationship of Bella and Edward as a cautionary, "What not to do" example in the teen relationships groups I ran while working with troubled adolescents.  I attend the movies as a quiet heckler, counting the number of times my eyes roll back into my head and awarding myself with dessert if the number exceeds 100 (it always does).

I have no love for Bella Swan, whom I see as a codependent damsel in distress with no personality of her own outside of her relationship with a man, but it is her vampire boyfriend, Broody McBroodsalot, whom I find the most annoying.

Here's my impression of Edward Cullen:  "Bella, I love you. I know I've just met you, but your blood smells really good, and I want to drink it...like...a lot. Also, I hate myself.  This will become a theme.  I hate myself for that, too.  I hope you don't mind that I treat you like a child and I creepily watch you while you sleep without your permission and disable your car and get my vampire sister to hold you against your will so you can't see your friends.  It's all because I love you...and because I hate myself, and you know...haters gonna hate. Excuse me, I have to go smolder and brood and be emo now.  Gosh, I hate that I do that."

Sigh. And this is the direction DC Comics has decided is the right one for Mr. Clark Kent.   DC, if my sister gets wind of this and you break her heart, I will personally hurt every single person involved in this project.  Superman himself wouldn't be able to save you.

He'll be too busy wallowing in self loathing and shopping at the Gap to hear your cries for help. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mahalo Moment: Halloweeeeeeeeeeeeeen!

Mahalo is in crazy Halloween mode this month, and we writers have been tasked with updating and improving most of the existing Halloween pages.  One look at Mahalo's main page is a good indication of why. It's Halloween central over there!  (Psssst...the page on pumpkin seeds was my update.  You're welcome.)

I know Halloween's a trending topic right now, so Mahalo is featuring the pages they know people are looking for, but secretly, I think the VIPs over at headquarters are just super stoked for the big day.  There's nothing like costumes and the promise of candy to bring out the kid in even the most mature of web developers.  "And we'll have candy corns and cupcakes and spooky music, and I'm going to be a pretty, pretty princess!"

I think I've learned this week that I'm influenced quite a bit by the pages I write and edit.  I had decided not to roast pumpkin seeds this year, citing a lack of time, but writing a page on all the easy and delicious ways I could do it has changed my mind.  There are three carved pumpkins at my house already, but I'm going to be buying two more just so I can try some of the recipes on the how to page.  (Seriously, did anyone else know you could season pumpkin seeds with curry?  If yes, will you kindly explain why you kept this information from me? Hmmmmmmm?)

The same thing happened when I wrote a page on how to make perfect sushi rice.  There was a sushi run shortly thereafter.  Ditto for a page on grilled salmon.  Of course, I wrote three pages on "Glee" actors this week and still have no desire to watch the show, so maybe it only works for food.

If the Glee actors ever appear on a cooking show, I'm in big trouble.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

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Mom, today I learned that I look hot in black and white.



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Super duper hot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stupid Product: Falcon Carseat Carrier

Today's Stupid Product had me in a bit of a quandary for quite awhile as I tried to write this post. I could see this was a Stupid Product, but it didn't really scream stupid. Usually when that happens, I write the review both ways, calling the product a Stupid Awesome Product. However, the Falcon Carseat Carrier doesn't in any way fit into the Awesome designation.

I almost want to create a brand new category for this one. I think I'd call it a "Nice Try" product. The makers saw a common problem facing mothers of babies and attempted to resolve it with an invention. I have to give them credit for seeing a need and trying to fill it. Unfortunately, they just didn't fill it very well. Nice try, guys.

The problem the manufacturers were trying to address involves infant carseat/carriers. These are the small carseats with handles which are meant to hold babies up to 20 pounds. The handles were invented to fool tired, overworked mothers into believing these things could be used to easily transport a baby wherever mom might be going. Anyone who's had to lug one of these around for more than five minutes knows they're heavy, bulky, and hard to maneuver.

The makers of the Falcon Carseat Carrier decided the solution to this problem would be to invent a strap that could be fitted to the carseat and worn over the shoulder of whatever person drew the short straw and had to carry the carrier around. According to the website, the makers see this as an alternative to setting up a stroller.

I guess you could say it's kind of like a purse I once had. I could hold it by the handles or I could attach the strap and go "hands free." The difference between my purse and an infant carrier is a whole lot of heavy duty plastic and a small human being. Adding a strap to my purse did not carry with it the threat of permanent damage to my neck, shoulders, or spine.  The Falcon Carseat Carrier may make a carrier hands free, but it doesn't make it any lighter.

Here's the Falcon in action. The best I can guess is that this is footage taped for a commercial for the product, but the commercial was never actually made, so they just posted this on YouTube in order for all that work not to go to waste. I love that they left in the direction the filmmaker gives to the actress. Couldn't possibly have edited that out, could you, buddy?



If you're as observant as I am, you'll have noticed that the woman in this video frequently had her hands on the carrier as she walked. You'll also have noticed that she's not going on any long hikes or walks with the carrier. She's moving from building to car/car to building, the way most mothers do. For these quick transports, hooking an arm under the handle of the carseat is surely not that hard, and it wouldn't cost a mom $20.

Anyone who thinks we moms want to heft one of these carseats for more than 10 feet at a go has obviously never had to do it for long periods. I think the makers of this product should try walking a mile with the weight of a baby and his carrier threatening to separate their shoulders from the rest of their torsos. I'm willing to bet that after a quarter mile, they're going to be offering the baby as a future indentured servant to anyone willing to let them borrow a stroller.

We're all about learning here.

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Mom, today I learned how to get brownie points with my son's kindergarten teacher. Totally bringing this to parent teacher conferences next month. "Well, hello, Mrs. Freedman. I hope I find you feeling fine on this fall day. The foliage is fairly festive. Feel free to feast your eyes on this photo of some family fun with fabulous food in the shape of the letter 'F'. What? Michael's your favorite student? Fantastic!"

(Thanks to my cake cutting daughters, Miriam, Cate, and Evelyn, for fashioning such a fine F from last night's dessert.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back in June, I posted a video from Improv Everywhere titled, "Food Court Musical." Today's video is from the same improv group, and it's just as silly. After 8 viewings, I find myself fighting an overwhelming craving for a fruit smoothie. I'm also wondering why nothing this cool ever happens where I shop for groceries.

I guess I could take matters into my own hands and stage a musical in the produce section at Reams. I just really want to keep shopping there. I'm not sure I'm ready to sacrifice that much for my art.  Maybe I'd do it for more fans...

Either way, this is cute and unexpected.  Hope you enjoy it!

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Mom, today I learned that the person who made this sign didn't read through it like a teenager would. Also, there are several boys at my church who are super stoked about the dance.

Monday, October 18, 2010

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Mom, today I learned that if I'm ever faced with a ninja ambush, I want my husband's coworkers on my side!

(Thanks to Jenn P. of Provo, UT, and Rachel W.of Lindon, UT, for posting amazing words around the office and for being generally awesome all the time.  I am, indeed, flabbergasted by their awesomeness...and they didn't even know I was secretly planning my ninja ambush!)

In a down economy, when many of us are scraping to get by, it's good to know there are still rich and entitled people who look down their noses at the common man and believe the rules of the world do not apply to them.  Why is this a good thing?  Because when the long arm of the law catches up with them, all of us poor folks get to share a laugh.

The law caught up with Jessica Nicole Hincapie early Sunday morning, when she was arrested for disorderly conduct and insisted to the police that they would surely get in trouble for arresting her, what with her status as a rich person and all.  Hincapie got into a cab fight (those happen?) with another woman outside a country club and was taken into police custody.  This happened despite her efforts to threaten and intimidate them with her voodoo rich person powers.

Ms. Hincapie cited the fact that her father had bought her a Toyota Corolla with cash as her proof of being well moneyed. I'm shocked (SHOCKED) the police didn't immediately bow down in the presence of such enormous wealth.  I know if I met anyone whose father could do that, I'd be snapping a camera phone picture and selling it to the tabloids so that I, too, could someday buy a car of my very own. 

I think it's safe to say that Jessica is one of those people who, if confronted by my thoughts about her, would say something like, "Well, your kids are going to be serving my kids burgers at McDonald's."  I'm one of those people who would respond with, "Why would you let your kids eat at McDonald's?" 

Someday, when this blog is world famous and I'm so rich that other people are buying me midsized Japanese cars, I'd like to set a new standard for the things rich people are too rich to do. I know I'll be too rich to join a country club.  I'll probably be too rich to get into cab fights.  For sure, I'll be too rich to demand special treatment from the police.

I'll never, ever be too rich to snicker over stories like this one.

Friday, October 15, 2010

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Mom, today I learned that the Salt Lake powers that be have a different definition of "entire" than I do.

What's interesting to me is that a relatively tiny amount of information was enough to equal "more than I ever wanted to know."  As a Mahalo writer, research is a large part of my job, so I'm quite literally learning something new every week.  This week, I learned where gelatin comes from.  Huuuuuuuuuhhhhhh. (That's the sound I make when I'm trying not to vomit.)

Maybe you already knew that gelatin is derived from the process of boiling animal bones, skin, and tendons.  I, on the other hand, had never been made aware of such a fact.  Prior to this week, when I ate jello, I thought gelatin came from a plant of some sort...maybe a grain or something that had been milled into powder form (like cornstarch).  Maybe it came from a mythical, wiggly, multicolored gelatin tree under which Bill Cosby sits to take his summer naps.

I learned the unwelcome truth while writing a page on National Gumdrop Day.  Another bit of information I didn't know?  There's a National Gumdrop Day.  Also?  People make cakes with gumdrops in them (blech!).  And?  Some varieties of gumdrops are made with gelatin...from animal bones and skin and tendons.

Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh.

When my husband reads this post, he's going to laugh at me for two reasons.  A) Because he's always known where gelatin comes from.  He's just smart like that.  B) Because I'm grossed out by the thought of it, yet have no problem whatsoever chomping down on the cartilage attached to my chicken bones, a practice that gives many close to me the heebie jeebies.  (Really, though...the cartilage is the best part!)

While I wasn't ready for the jolt of my new found knowledge, I do think it's an important thing for me to know. (Thanks, Mahalo!)  I once embraced a vegetarian lifestyle (for a whole week as a teen), and if I ever choose to do that again (it's actually quite likely), I'll need to choose my gumdrops from the pectin category and avoid all things gelatin.

Giving up cartilage is going to be a lot harder...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pics, but it didn't happen?

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Mom, today I learned that despite irrefutable photographic evidence, this never happened...or so says Michael.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stupid Product: Potty Fishing

As I typed the title of this post, I imagined the visual that would greet most mothers (okay, and maybe some more observant dads).  Anyone who has had an inquisitive, toilet loving toddler AND a careless older child who forgets flush in the same house at the same time knows the horror that combination can produce.  Luckily for us, this product is not related to that in any way (except for the presence of a toilet, I guess). 

I'm deeply sorry for the visual and the possible dredging up of long buried mommy memories, but the product is called Potty Fishing. There wasn't much else I could do.

The Potty Fishing, uh, gift set(?) consists of 5 components:

*A "water themed" mat. (Yeah. It's blue. Wow.)
*A small fishing rod. (For an infant.)
*A bowl with which to create the perfect bathroom fishing hole. (Easily the cheapest part of the set.)
*4 plastic fish (Because making live fish watch a man do his business would be inhumane.)
*A do not disturb sign. (Silence! The king is on his throne! Playing with his...toys.)

This product highlights something I will never understand about some men. What is it about the bathroom and the things we do in it that are so fascinating that men need to be in there for 30 minutes at a time? I have bodily functions just like everyone else, but when I need to use the facilities, I get in, get done, and leave. I don't linger.  I'm not in there long enough to even think about fishing, much less participate in the activity.

Perhaps men who need 30 or more minutes in the bathroom are in there because their endeavors in the realm of toileting are a bit more, ahem, significant than an average #2. To this I must ask: Wouldn't introducing an activity like fishing only distract from the goal? Wouldn't it be better to focus on the task at hand? Wouldn't daily fiber be more effective?

This bit of product silliness can be yours for a mere $19.95, so at least it's not terribly overpriced.  However, you could probably make something similar out of things you have lying around the house, so it's still not much of a value.

I will say that were this a product marketed to parents of potty training children, it would have been published under the Awesome Product label.  This kind of thing is just what moms need to keep their potty learners on the potty until nature makes things happen.  If you buy it for this purpose, I won't look down on you.  If you're a man and you expect me to think well of you for using this, I can't help but disappoint you.

And you won't get a cookie for going on the big boy potty, either.

(Thanks to Mother Load reader, Andrea F., of Queensland, Australia, for today's Stupid Product idea.)

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Mom, today I learned that at night, this looks more like a chalk outline of someone who fell from a very tall building than a "walk path" sign.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You've Gotta See This: Kid History

Today's You've Gotta See This video came to me via the Twitter feed of one of my favorite humor writers and movie reviewers, Eric D. Snider. If you're not reading his stuff, you need to be. Right now. Because he's awesome.

While I doubt Mr. Snider has ever been a Mother Load reader (but a girl can hope, right?), he is definitely a Mother Load inspiration. Snider was a newspaper writer who took his work online, so I can relate to what he does, and when it was time for me to move the Mother Load to a blog format, it was his site that helped me find ideas on how it could best be done.

I was able to share all of this with the man himself earlier this year and thank him for many hours of laughter and the chance to learn a little bit about how to build a great site. Pics or it didn't happen? Well, then, here you go! (You may want to shield your eyes from the combined glory of Richard, Sarah, and Eric. Fair warning.)

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But wait! This is a You've Gotta See This post.  I should show you the video Eric linked to in his tweet, shouldn't I?  It's an adorable little film that dramatizes a well known event in a family's history...as told by the children who have heard the story many times.  This is cute and funny and well worth a few minutes.  After you've watched it, feel free to gaze lovingly again at the picture above.  I will be.

Maybe it's subliminal.

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Mom, today I learned that the only thing I see when I spot one of these campaign signs is a can of chewing tobacco. I also learned that one should not google the words "chewing tobacco" unless one really wants to see a bunch of toothless, cancerous photos.

Monday, October 11, 2010

And hairy?  Don't answer that.

Last week at Mahalo, this blogger wrote absolutely nothing. Of the roughly 15-20 hours of work I'm expected to turn in to meet my minimum requirements, I completed exactly zero hours.  And I still work there...in good standing...still a rock star in my own world.

One of my favorite things about working for Mahalo.com is the opportunity to take things a week at a time.  With a schedule like mine, that's about how I have to live my life.  Last week was not conducive to writing anything other than angst filled poetry.  Last week came at me like an unusually hungry zombie, devouring my brains until they dripped from my eye sockets and ran races down my cheeks.  (Some might call those tears.) This week, I have oodles of time to write and a brand new outlook.  Next week, I'll probably have two tests and a paper due, a rash of unexpected appointments, and a poorly timed meltdown.  All of that will happen with or without the recommended hours of sleep needed for proper human functioning. (Without.  Definitely without.)

Fortunately for me, when I have a week filled with brain eating zombies of mass destruction, I only need to send an email to Greg (Ah, Greg...how do I appreciate thee? Let me count the ways...in chocolate...and cash.) and say the following: "I want the week off."  No explanation is required, but I usually give him one, the better to make him grateful for his own life.  He says, "Cool. Get some rest.  See you next week," and my week off is secured (and I start amassing chocolate and cash for the day I deliver it all at his feet in adoration).

Maybe I should let him know now that I anticipate zombie attacks the week of Thanksgiving.  And Christmas.  And New Years... 

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Mom, today I learned that this is what Evelyn thinks I look like.  I guess I need to smile more.  And shave.

The sad part of this story is that the moron involved got away with the money he intended to steal. The happy part is that he made the news, and now I get to tell you about it. Morons are my bread and butter here at the Mother Load, people. This Thanksgiving, I will be sharing my gratitude for them just before I dig in to my turkey and ham.

Mmmmmm...ham. What was I saying?

Aha. So a man in Phoenix got the bright idea to hold up a Circle K and, not wanting security cameras to reveal his identity to police, he got the even brighter idea to put a plastic bag over his face to hide it from view. As you're probably guessing, because you are not a moron (and you read the title of this post) the robber nearly suffocated on his disguise, prompting him to rip it off and reveal himself after all.

I often ridicule movies which feature bumbling criminals I consider unrealistic.  People like this make me want to personally apologize to every studio in Hollywood.  The Wet Bandits in "Home Alone" may not have been the brightest crayons in the box, but I think they'd have understood a thing or two about keeping their airways clear for, you know, air.

Grabbing a plastic bag from my cupboard, I see where the robber got confused.  This one has a warning label that is vastly underestimating the potential for stupidity in the criminal community.  It reads: "WARNING: TO AVOID DANGER OF SUFFOCATION, KEEP THIS PLASTIC BAG AWAY FROM BABIES AND CHILDREN."  I see a robber vs Wal Mart lawsuit in the near future, don't you?

If you're in the Phoenix area and you hang around with stupid people, click the link above to the full story and check out the pictures of the robber's face.  If you recognize him as one of your buddies, you'll probably find him inside the house, running with scissors, mixing bleach and ammonia, and fashioning his ill gotten money into wings so he can fly off the roof.  Just tell him there's a stranger who wants to offer him some candy down at the police station.

Monday, October 4, 2010

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Mom, today I learned that writing a word backwards is supposed to make me want to buy stuff.

Friday, October 1, 2010

(Author's note: Mahalo Moment is a new feature on the Mother Load which will chronicle my adventures as a Senior Guide for Mahalo.com.  Expect about six posts a month on the humorous side of online writing.)

I have a couple of good friends who've just been hired to write for Mahalo, and there may be a few of you out in readerland who took the information I sent your way and have signed on to write as well.  Both of my buddies have expressed concern that their writing time for a typical Mahalo page is, at this point, abysmally slow.  I've reassured them that learning the ins and outs of page writing takes time, but they WILL get faster.  I write about a page an hour because I've had a chance to practice and perfect my technique.

So what did I do immediately after sharing that encouraging bit of info?  I took hours and hours to write a page that I should have been able to complete in 45 minutes.  The upside? I'm not even annoyed about it.

How can this be?  Why is it that I, Sarah, self proclaimed rock star of the online writing world (and president of my own Mahalo fan club, members totaling one), can be happy with a performance such as that?  Because of Claude.  *LOVE*

The topics for half of the pages I write each week are allowed to come from my very own brain. Somehow, the folks at Mahalo aren't frightened of what might from such a dark and twisted place, and so far, I've not given them a reason to be. As much as I'd like to write a page on how to buy presents for Sarah Clark, I've restrained myself...for now.

That said, I can't deny that the opportunity to get paid to write about my favorite things is actually pretty cool. There's a little surge of adrenaline every time I realize the site doesn't have a page on something I consider a part of my identity. Such was the case when I wrote my first page this week on French jazz composer/arranger Claude Bolling *LOVE*. (Yep, that's a link to the page. Check it out. The Mahalo peeps tell me I'm not required to link to them, but seriously...I spent hours and hours on this page. If you don't read it, I will cry.)

There are pages I can write with a detached and professional manner and then there are pages like that one.  So special is this man to me that the only way I could do justice to his amazing legacy was to write, rewrite, edit, and polish until the page was absolutely perfect.  There may also have been quite a bit of YouTube watching and screen stroking and frequent breaks to sigh deeply and become a quivering puddle of abject love. 

If you're concerned that my husband will be jealous to hear about this 80 year old composer's effect on me, just know that he's been a quivering puddle of Claude love since he learned I was going to write the page and will probably not reconstitute until I write something boring about taxes.  Fortunately, that's next up on the writing agenda. 

That page will take me a half hour, tops.