The Famous J Blog

Feb 07

Pet Parade

Charlie loves dogs. Loves them! They’re his favorite thing in the whole world. Seeing a dog for him is the highlight of his day. If we’re driving around and he sees a dog out the window, he’ll immediately point and say “Doo!” which is his version of “dog”.

But for the next ten minutes or so, he’ll keep pointing in the direction he saw the dog, and occasionally saying “Doo!” Which I guess is his way of saying, “I swear! There was a dog right out the window! I saw him with my own eyes! He was right there! Man, did you get a load of that?! A dog! What a world we live in!”

So, we were of course very excited on Charlie’s behalf that today was the annual Barkus Pet Parade sponsored by Purina® Beggin’ Strips™. And in fact, he was very, very excited. This was our second year, and this year was even more explosive than the first time.

We got out of the car and immediately saw a few dogs, which he was very excited about. Lots of pointing and saying “Doo!” As we got closer to the scene of the parade, the crowds got bigger and there were literally hundreds of dogs around us. You can always tell when Charlie is really, really excited because at some point he stops smiling and just looks around with wide eyes.

That’s what he was doing for most of the parade. There were just too many dogs to point at. He did point at the people on the fourth floor throwing beads out the window, and at the gigantic inflatable dog that someone was walking around in. Other than that, he was just taking in the scene.

The only things that marred the scene was the 30 degree weather and the inevitable drunk Hoosiers elbowing their way in front of us to better get at the cheap plastic beads being thrown our way.

Next year will be even better. For starters, we’ll have Gus along with us, and we’ve decided that we’ll actually be in the parade with the great Toby.

Feb 05



Feb 03

“Headline of the Day: “McDonald’s Fries the Holy Grail for Potato Farmers.”” — NY Time article about awkwardly worded headlines

I love these. Another good one: “Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim”

Feb 02

Nerdy Gift of the Day

Embarrassing as it is to admit it, um, I kinda want them..

For a young person, The Wizard of Oz is about the most terrifying thing you can see.  This seems way more terrifying.  Though way cooler.

ht For a young person, The Wizard of Oz is about the most terrifying thing you can see. This seems way more terrifying. Though way cooler.


Feb 01

Class War -

Long, depressing article. Unless you have a government job, in which case it’s a long, triumphant article

Jan 31

Date Night

Due to a sudden family crisis with the babysitter, Mrs. J and I ended up with a free evening minus Charlie. Additionally, I had just come into some money. So we decided to hit the town and have a proper Date Night.

It’s one of those deals where you don’t really realize how bad you need a night to yourselves until you get one. I was really excited all day Friday in anticipation.

First stop on Date Night was the fabulous Sidney Street Cafe in lovely Benton Park. We’d been there once before, and decided to see if the place had gone to hell in our absence. You’ll all be pleased to know that it hasn’t. It was, in fact, terrific.

We had the Veal Dumplings, which were served in this sweet and sour sauce that made me realize what a shabby imitation the usual Chinese restaurant sweet and sour is. It’s like the first time I heard the original Marvin Gaye version of "How Sweet It Is" and I realized what how shabby and pathetic the James F. Taylor version is, and how ripped off I’d been all those years by radio stations who played that garbage when they could be playing the song as sung by someone with a pulse and a functioning pair of testicles.

Man, I hate James Taylor.

Okay, where was I? Right. Sidney Street.

The other starter was the bleu cheese puffs, which were literally lighter than air. That’s right, I said “literally”. They had strings attached to them to keep them from floating up to the ceiling. The beignets just melted in my mouth.

For the entre, I opted for the strategy as laid out by Economist and gourmand Tyler Cowen. He suggests, when you go to a nice restaurant, pick the item on the menu that seems the least appealing and get that. The thinking being that at the nicer establishments — which Sidney Street certainly is — everything on the menu will be delicious. He’s of the opinion that people tend to get into a rut and would benefit from expanding their horizons. By picking the least appealing item, you’re guaranteeing you’ll get something interesting.

So I got the rabbit with rabbit meatballs. Cruel? You bet. Tasty? Absolutely! Though honestly, no more so than chicken. The only difference being that rabbits are quite a bit cuter than chickens.

I had never had rabbit before, but I might have to try it again. See! That’s how Prof. Cowen’s strategy is supposed to work.

All told, the food was delicious and highly fattening, the service was excellent, the ambiance was great.

I give Sidney Street a whopping Five Dog Heads:

The movie portion of Date Night was Up in the Air. We’d been meaning to see this for a while. And not just because about half of it was filmed in and around St. Louis. In fact, the hotel in “Northern Wisconsin” was the Cheshire Inn, which is about three blocks from my first apartment in Dogtown. But also, we’d also heard it was good and totally got robbed at the Golden Globes by that hack James Cameron.

Well. I haven’t seen Avatar (and that ain’t the half of it) so I suppose I can’t really compare the two. But Up in the Air was very good. George Cluny was at his George Cluny-est. There’s just something so compelling about the guy. Interesting story. I also like how it gives you a glimpse into the life of someone doing something so alien from my life, the man who travels almost 100% of the time. And fires people. What a soul destroying job that must be.

Was this the best movie to come out in the last 10 years? I don’t think so, but it was very entertaining. I found myself forgetting my surroundings and getting drawn into these people’s lives. Always a bonus.

My favorite scene was the shocking surprise ending when you discover that “Up in the Air” was actually a sled. I totally wasn’t ready for that.

When you have kids, it’s hard to make it out to see movies like you want. We’ll probably see three or four movies this whole year, unlike the three or four we’d see every month when we were still dating. So it puts a lot of pressure on the movie you’re seeing. I find myself shaking my fist at the screen before the previews, muttering, “I won’t see another movie for like five months. You’d better be worth it!”

Well, this movie met expectations. I give it four Dog Heads. Worth checking out.

So that was Date Night. Thanks to my Mom and Dad, and the nursing staff at Gus’s hospital for making it possible!

Jan 27

For the Pet Owner Who Has Everything. -

Words fail me.

Jan 21

A Request

I’m doing some research on diets. If you have ever been on a diet of any kind, I would like to talk to you. If you lost a bunch of weight, I’d like to hear about it. If you didn’t lose any weight, I’d like to hear about that too. Whether you’ve been on dozens of diets or just one for a few weeks in college. Low-carb? Low-fat? Nothing but citrus fruits and beef jerky? I’d like to pick your brain about the experience.

It’ll only take an hour, and it will hopefully be entertaining for everyone involved.

Coffee will be provided

If you’re interested, please drop me an email. I can be reached at: Or leave a comment here.

Jan 14

Medical Simulation Models - This is one of the freakiest collection of pictures I’ve seen lately.

Freakiest part: we’ve actually had one of these in the office. A prize to the first person who figures out which one it is!

Jan 05

Charlie Update

Today’s Charlie Update is about talking. So far, he understands about 20 words or so, and he says about 7 or 8 of them. Things like “dog”, which sounds like “duh”, or “bath” which comes out sounding like “buh”. And some monosyllables that we’ve taken to mean “Gimme that thing” or “Man, you people are really bumming me out.”

But the big one, the one he’s really in to, is “Oh, no!”. He says it all the time. If he weren’t so clumsy in general, I would think he’s intentionally dropping things, so he’ll have an excuse to say “Oh, no!” and point at the thing he dropped.

He gets behind it, too. Like when he’s pilfered my cell phone and runs off with it. When it slips out of his hands, he’ll say, “Oh, no!”, really spacing out the words, adding special emphasis to the “no”.

He says it so often, he’s stopped saying several of the other words he had been saying. My theory is he’s been practicing, and he’s not going to say anything else until he’s really nailed the “Oh, no” thing, ‘til he’s got it down pat.

Now, I’m a somewhat competitive person, but I don’t think I have it in me to be competitive about my kids. In the nature/nurture debate, I come down very solidly on the “nature” side. The kids are who they are, and if someone else’s kids are doing something better, well, that’s just how it all worked out. No sense getting worked up about it.

But still. This talking situation has me, if not worried, at least somewhat concerned. I keep hearing from the other parents whose kids are around Charlie’s age about all the wonderful things they’re all saying. I’ll read the occasional facebook status update saying something like, “This morning my son pointed at a homeless man and said, ‘That man didn’t make very wise choices, did he?’”

That might be a bit of an exaggeration.

I suppose I am justified being a bit tense about talking. Autism runs in the family, and late talking can be a signs of autism. But I know enough about autism to know that Charlie is not autistic. He just smiles too much. He’s too engaged with the world.

But really, it’s more like that movie Parenthood, where Rick Moranis has the kid who’s learning French and how to play the cello, and Steve Martin has the kid who likes to butt things. With his head. What if Charlie’s the head-butter?

And if he is, so what? It wouldn’t do anyone any good to pretend otherwise. Despite what you might have heard in after school specials, if you dream big dreams, believe in yourself and do your best, there are still limits to what you can accomplish. There’s only one starting first basemen for the Cardinals, and that guy almost certainly won’t be your son, no matter how much he believes in himself, no matter how hard hard he tries.

This shouldn’t be an excuse to give up, just be realistic. All that time he spends working on baseball could have been spent working on something he really might be good at. There’s hope for everyone, just so long as you figure out where your strengths are and work with them.

But still. Given the choice between “fluent in French” and “good at head-butting”, I have a preference. It’s not head-butting. That’s just not a strength that’s easy to work with.

I was able to temper my concern by noting to myself that parents are prone to being somewhat — I don’t want to say “deluded”, exactly, just that they can let the excitement of parenthood lead them to believe things that might not have happened.

It’s easy to do. When kids learn to talk, they start out saying total nonsense. But sometimes they’ll say nonsense in the vicinity of something and it just coincidentally happens to sound like the thing they’re in the vicinity of. Like if a one year old says “guh guh” near the trash can, the more excitable parent might say, “Wow! She just said ‘garbage’! My daughter is a genius! Harvard here we come!”

But at some point, the nonsense becomes real words. And it’s a gradual transition. They don’t just go from baby talk to reciting Shakespearean sonnets. Usually.

Well, I was chewing over that, trying to decide if maybe we need to start figuring out how Charlie can coast on his winning personality. I mentioned all this to my mom. She said not to worry too much. She noted that when I was a baby, besides being extremely happy, I was completely unexceptional. And I managed to get it all turned around at some point. Frankly, I wouldn’t say I truly came into my own until I was about 28 or so.

Some people really are late bloomers. Maybe Charlie’s one of them. Or maybe not. In either case the time to start worrying hasn’t gotten here yet.

So that’s the story with Charlie talking. I suspect he’ll get it all sorted out when he’s ready for it. He’s very independent. He wants to do his own thing. You learn language by listening to people and he’s not interested in listening to people right now. He wants to chase the dog around, run around the house, steal the remote. And if he drops it, then he’ll get to practice his favorite line.

“Oh, no!”

Dec 31

St. Louis 2nd-hardest city to find work -

Fortunately I don’t know anyone silly enough to try to find a job around here.

To All Those People…

…who read this story and had a chuckle, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. There are people dead here, and you’re giggling about it because the city where it happened is called “Espoo”.

For shame.

Dec 29

Catching Up

So, posting has been extremely light on account of me finishing up graduate school and getting that business degree. On top of working. And moving. And having babies. So I have this big pile of news stories I just haven’t gotten around to reading. I made a big-ass Word document and just started cutting and pasting onto the end of it. It’s over 300 pages long.

But I’m graduated now, and I feel like Burgess Meredith in that one Twilight Zone episode where he survives the nuclear blast and realizes he now has time enough to do all the reading he wants to.

One of the stories I read is this Wired article about Craig’s List. I hadn’t read a whole lot about it, and I’m glad I waited until I graduated before I got around to it. Because these people managed to make an Internet juggernaut while doing about 70% of the things they said at business school you should not do. And not doing things that you should do.

Liking having a marketing staff. They don’t have one. And that’s just for starters

Like the man says, read the whole thing. Craig’s List is way more interesting than I’d thought.

Dec 27

Freaks and Geeks, finally!

So, I’ve been watching Freaks and Geeks. It’s that show that I heard someone somewhere go all bananas over at least once every three months for the last ten years of my life. And finally, finally, I’m getting around to watching it.

Totally lives up to expectations. Seriously, yo, if you haven’t seen it, make it happen. Click here and order the dang thing!

I know it means something different to just about everyone who watches it, but it means something for me especially since A) I was a total geek in high school, and B) the show takes place in 1980, which is the year I started school.

As I might have mentioned before, I grew up in exurban Kansas City. Everyone at my grade school, without exception, was really nice. Once people got into high school, though, apparently things changed. I remember when J the Second Grader had to go to the high school, and the place absolutely terrified me. There were high school kids smoking cigarettes out in front of the place, and I swear I saw graffiti on the lockers. I’m not kidding! I saw it! Some of it — you really might want to sit down for this — had dirty words! I think someone might have written the F word in one of the bathrooms!

So the eponymous Freaks, I’m familiar with those people. They still terrify me to this day.

As for the show, I’m only on episode 5, but as of right now, I give the show four and a half Toby Heads. It’ll have to earn the last half a head in these last episodes. Here’s hoping it ends strong!