February 26, 2009

The Great Divorce

I'm starting a little side blog.

I'll still contribute family-oriented stuff on this one, but by having another one I won't have to worry about a couple controversial rules established by the manager of this blog. Namely:

1. Each post deserves a minimum of 3 days non-compete status to allow people to comment before another post--which has to be written by the other person, because it's their turn--can be created.

2. Don't write anything that weirds out my literal-minded sisters.

I hope you will keep Rebecca and I in your thoughts during this difficult time in our BR (blogging relationship).


February 21, 2009


I finally got around to learning how to attach videos. Here are a couple to get your free membership started. If you like what you see, be sure to check out our platinum membership. For only $5.95 a month you will have unlimited access to all our funnest, coolest, and WACKIEST videos! We also have the silver and gold packages, and the free package is the coal package.

Here's the deal with this first one. One of Ollie's and my favorite songs to listen to together is Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order. Our favorite part of the song is robot part that comes on at 5 minutes, 33 seconds. Oliver is always requesting the robot part and we are both seasoned robot dancers. Anyway, so one time when listening to it, he saw me doing the classic robot move where you crook your head 90 degrees, lift one arm up and let the lower part of your arm swing like a pendulum. When he saw this he tried to mimic by leaning the upper half of his body over and freezing. It was so funny. This video doesn't do it justice since he's only doing it halfway, but it's all you get with the coal membership.

Robot Dance from Christian Bell on Vimeo.

This second one is of Manute Bol making good use of New Mexico's canal system.

Canal Boarding from Christian Bell on Vimeo.

February 17, 2009

It's hard to punish while laughing

Oliver is like a brand new car. For the first two years it's totally maintenance free. You simply fuel it and spend the rest of the time enjoying how fun, easy, smooth, novel, and beautiful it is. It's there for you when you want to spend time with it, and does its own thing when you're busy with something else. Then one day it starts making capricious noises and not responding to your handling like it used to. You realize you have to get serious about oil changes and the like.

It was sometime between the time when Rebecca seriously scolded him for messing with the fax forbidden machine for the 800th time to which he responding by running toward me laughing and yelling "I BERRY NAUGHTY!" and the first of many times he responded to an executive order by saying "No, I have to go sleep," followed by immediate fake snoring, that I realized our warranty period was up.

Here are some other favorites.

I hear him yelling in his room "I'm duck (stuck), I'M DUCK!. No don't do dat. Don't do dat foot!" I go in to see what the problem is and find him sitting on his bum, pulling back against the blinds cord that has wrapped around his foot. His struggling backward had pulled the blinds all the way up and he was at the end of his rope.

He will request something and repeat it over and over in escalating decibles until the request is favorably met. Neverthetheless he apparently still felt his reasonable demands weren't being considered with due gravity and haste because he started adding "RIGHT NOW!" onto the end of said demands, even the first version.

In the same vein, the other morning after I got him up and crawled into bed to warm myself by the 400 degree pregnant lady furnace, he ran into the room, refused to come duddle and demanded. "I want o-meo (oatmeal)" I want o-meo, Daddy." I tried to coax him into a few minutes of pre-breakfast duddling, but he got louder and added the "RIGHT NOW!" So Reba got up to take care of him, but he had already made clear who he wanted to be served by so he yells (while pointing a stiff finger). "NO MOMMMY! NO MOMMY! GO SLEEP!"

He's still a very responsible lad though. Most nights and many nap times come with him saying "I wan go sleep." before the servants even suggest it. When this time comes he dashes around the house picking up 6 or 7 cars and trucks and Sammy Shark to sleep with. He must have inherited one of his parent's literal-mindedness and respect of limits, while lacking his other parent's McGuyver orientation, because sometimes, when in his open toddler bed, he'll yell about some car. We go in there and the trouble car is on the floor 2 feet away, but he doesn't think to get it himself.

He also tells us the second he has a stinky diaper. He finds the nearest Diaperchanger and says "I need da diaper change." He also often adds the perfunctory "WOOF, P.U., you dinky!" he learned from his mother. Anyway, tonight I heard him grunting, then he runs up to me and tells me he needs a diaper change. I tell him to tell his mommy. I see him go tell Reba (who's on the phone). She tells him to go tell his daddy. He takes a few running steps toward me again before realizing he's being suckered and stops and screams (in that loud, crying scream that ushers in all ingenuous toddler meltdowns) "I NEED DA DIAPER CHANGE!" and flops down on the floor before his laughing but guilty dad rushes to stop the tidal wave before it gains momentum.

So obviously he's been spending a lot more time in the penalty box (the bathroom) lately. It used to really upset him, but now he spends his time trying to open the door handle and yelling "I wan open dis DOO-ER!"


It's never fun to try to explain your own poor attempts at humor, but I want to make clear that I was making fun of myself in citing my ill informed reasons for going into the construction industry. I don't really think the construction industry is full of dumb people, and by saying so I would be including myself in that group. That's part of the joke. Also, remember I'm now in the window cleaning business, which is the only business less glamorous than construction (excluding the ranch hands who inseminate cattle all day).

February 15, 2009

Very Long and Very Boring

I'm restricting my tv watching to Comedy night and Lost from now on, so you may see a sharkier side to this blog for a while.

First, I'd like to apologize to all my down home fans for how cocky I look in our blog's title picture. I think the true cause was the sun and not feelings of awesomeness.

Now onto business.

The last few years have changed my worldview. Let me lay a bit of context before the narrative. I have two sides to me. One is anti-establishment. It's in my nature to take the less-beaten path and discover loopholes in the system, ignore rules I disagree with, cheer the underdog, and to feel a little gross about trends. But another side of me is thoroughly pro-establishment. When reading accounts of whatever oppressed group rebelling against the Man, I side with the oppressed morally and logically, but sometimes have to fight a defensive feeling of the Man, as if he is my true people somehow. I naturally sympathize with boss over union, cop over detainee, corporate defendant over small plaintiff, etc. Up until recently I reflexively trusted institutions and the heads that ran them. Not sure why this is, but growing up in a highly conservative place in a very authoritarian religion (and I use the A word in a very neutral, factual way, not a pejorative one), in a white-male dominated society probably has something to do with it.

So back to my leading statement. I've come to the conclusion that when it comes to macro issues, people (and most institutions) just don't know what the hud they're talking about. None of them. At least no one that you or I have conversational access to. In other words, if they are talking to you, you can go ahead and feel safe discounting everything they say. And most people don't even know what they are talking about on specific issues (e.g. Why is my car making this noise, who would win a fight to the death between a mountain lion and two timber wolves? Or what's the history behind every last American Jew being liberal or behind every last comedian being an American Jew?), but that's a discussion for another day. Most of us (again, on a macro level) lack vision and follow the program believing that the small, elite cadre of folks/institutions manning the helm have command of all the facts and are maintaining a steady course. I include myself in all this, of course. I know this isn't anything original. Commentators from Rand to Huxley, from both ideological poles, have been voicing one or another iteration of this from the beginning. But I hadn't personally experienced it yet in a big way, and I think that's what it takes for something to really take root deep in your psyche and conditioned responses. The road to my revelation began as I took a job with the nation's largest home builder*. I was about to graduate college and had developed a very recent interest in business, but had no knowledge of specific paths. A friend introduced me to the booming construction industry. They needed people with a superficial business education and a deep and wide knowledge of military history, so I signed on. My very well-reasoned rationale in taking this job was as follows:
-It was the only interview I had done so far and they offered me the job.
-The pay was much more than I ever expected out of college, since shark wranglers start out between 8-9 dollars an hour (not including bite pay).
-I thought "what kind of people work in construction? Dumb people. I'll be running the joint in 2 weeks."

I took the job. I was immediately struck by the enormous salaries and artificially inflated titles belonging to lower and middle managers of mediocre talent and education. My family can attest to my intense interest, from the age of 5, in the salaries of different jobs, so I thought I had a decent sense of what folks on different tiers in different industries made. But this industry wasn't anywhere near fitting my template. How could a director with GE/Siemens/Walmart/3M, someone with an MBA, muy experience and responsibility for 90 people make a total of 175K when a Pulte "VP" with little formal education, responsibility for 25 people, makes a total of 400-500K in a relatively unsophisticated industry. Didn't pass the smell test. I was working in Southern CA in the tract home building business in 2005. In other words, I was at the height of the height of the height of the bubble. I was standing on top of a jenga block tower, that were on top of a sugar cube pyramid, that was on top of the highest possible centimeter of the bubble. Everyone around me was buying as many houses as they could, and as expensive homes as they could get loans for. 85% of your friendly conversation with the average person was how they had made 70k in their house in the last 6 months. It was just crazy. Otherwise smart people were getting interest only and ARM loans and telling you that there was absolutely NO risk. None. It was just a free lunch. A free buffet. At the Siz.

Five or six months after I started the job, the bubble popped. But many of us in the industry bought the line that it had just sprung a temporary leak which needed to be patched before we could resume inflating it and filling our backyards with more pet white tigers and lazy rivers. Other big home builders started laying off. We were assured that Pulte had never had a losing year or done layoffs in it's 55 yr history. We were safe. In fact, this would probably benefit Pulte, as we were a more sound and fiscally conservative company and would surely grab market share from the other clowns. Then Pulte started laying off. Our brilliant and candid (truly, I'm not being sarcastic) CEO predicted it would bottom out and start to climb in summer of 07 ish. Every dept. thought it was the safest. No business can operate without finance. Salespeople are the moneymakers. You can't get by without superintendents to build the homes. Customer Relations has to always be around to service the warranties, etc (even I knew this last one was ridiculous. "Ok Board, who we gonna keep? The crew that builds the product, the crew that sells the product, or the crew that services the product for free after we've been paid for it? Hmm, better save the last one. Yep, definitely them."). Everyone was wrong. After each layoff the brass would tell the troops "wow, that was really tough, but you are left because you are the best and now we are 'right-sized' through at least... (fill in with some distant future date)." Then another unexpected round of lay offs long before said date. Same speech. Then another layoff. Repeat cycle ad infinitum. I think I saw 4 or 5 of these rounds before jumping ship. You know the rest of the story. Sub-prime mortgage meltdown, financial sector meltdown, credit meltdown, employment meltdown, consumption meltdown, world meltdown. A few people were honest and smart enough to admit they didn't know where all this was heading. They didn't have a Ph.D in finance, economics, organizational behavior, and political science, and even if they did, they still would be wrong more often then right. But most people actually think they usually understand what's going on and can accurately predict where things are going. In other words, 99% of what I heard experts and laymen say in the last 4 years has been bogus. Then you have a few other fairly recent institutional failures.

Clinton and Monica.

Clinton and 9/11.

Bush and Iraq.

Kindly Democratic congressmen/senators making possible the dream of every low-income person living the American dream of having a hummer and a $600,000 mortgage.

All the top financial firms in America buying as many of these sub-prime mortgages as possible.

Then people fall for Sarah Palin.

Then people fall for Barrack Obama. (who I happen to like so far, minus the recent stimulus, but still think most peoples' initial reasons for supporting him were akin to Beatlemania).

Then you have most of the media making complete fools of themselves and selling their last ounce of credibility.

Government, big business, big media, and a lot of us common folk made bad choices and now we're in a huge mess. How does that happen? I guess we all think someone else is driving the bus and that person must be a very competent, and if enough people are doing something it must be ok.

So, what have I learned from all this. I trust government far less. I trust conservatives far less. I trust liberals far less. I trust big business far less. I trust experts far less. I trust laypeople not at all.

I still love people and life and think this is a great world. I just think 99 out of 100 people are talking out of their bums 99 out of 100 times.

*Measured in terms of units sold, not revenue earned. More specifically based on units sold on 2/27/05 in Topeka, Kansas between 4 and 5:13 pm. Pulte Homes Inc. takes no responsibility for the repetition of the referenced claim, as such assertions are prone to a thousand interpretations and only used in recruiting and training to impress impressionable minds. Please destroy this after reading and try to forget we ever spoke of it.

February 10, 2009

Marathon Weekend

I don't know if it's that we know Oliver is on to the fact that his life is about to change drastically or that we are just wanting to soak up every minute we have left with just the three of us (My OB scheduled my c-section for March 17th- a St. Patty's baby!), but we did some serious recreating this weekend. Starting Friday with raking leaves in the yard (after about a 3-month delay), a mall outing which Oliver loves for all the hot air balloons displayed there, and then going glow bowling on Saturday, and finally on Monday to Albuquerque's amazing kids' science museum. Needless to say, we were all a little tired come Monday and Oliver showed us by throwing a fit at our last stop at the museum- the bubble tank that he wanted so desperately to submerge Chick Hicks (from Cars) in.

Oliver gave these a thorough run-through before we scooped them up.

Christian sat and made these for Oliver one night. Can you guess "who" the blue car is?

Look who's a dipper, just like his Daddy! Oliver downed almost the entire basket of bowling alley french fries and he really couldn't get enough sauce.

I just wanted everyone to see Christian's incredible form. He won the first game, I won the second. He had some amazing strikes that night.

Oliver was also quite the bowler and would literally leap and shout for joy every time he sent the ball down the lane. I haven't seen him that excited in months.

They had this exhibit where you ride this bike out on a high wire. The worker tried to convince me to try it, but my fear of heights is just greater than the thrill this ride might have provided.

February 8, 2009


In answer to your questions, yes I was cuffed, patted down, finger printed and detained in jail for a while when a routine longboarding-on-campus ticket turned into an old warrant for not paying a long-forgotten vehicle registration ticket in another city a year or two before. Don't think running didn't cross my mind, but this was the same campus cop who had given me my first longboarding ticket, so that wouldn't have ended well for the very recognizable 6'4 longboarder. Back at the station they told me I had to pay $300 bail to avoid spending the night in jail. I thought for a minute and and told them I wanted to spend the night if it meant me not paying the money. I was in need of a non-social good night sleep anyway and it seemed like one of those rare win win situations. They seemed surprised at my answer because they didn't say anything for a few seconds and then rambled in cop jargon i couldn't really understand about something that made it sound like I would have to pay no matter what. I think I only had one phone call so I called the only type of person i knew would 1. be sure to answer their cell phone, and 2. Have access to some sort of parent-funded banking account: a freshman girl. That was the right answer and I was bailed out that night.

Now onto Oliver's latest:

Out of nowhere he started saying "That's a beautiful car!"


Rebecca was changing his diaper the other day, and when she bent down to dispose of the old diaper, but before he had a new one on, he started peeing and the pee shot right onto his face and into his mouth. No one would particularly enjoy this, but Oliver's a pretty finicky little fellow, and he was not seeing any humor at all in the surprise self sabotage. For the next little while he made disgusted faces and whined and showed his severe disapproval of both the taste and the unexpectedness of the thing.


Every time we tell him we are going somewhere (which always makes his day) he says, "Ya, let's go to Natey's house!" (his 5 yr old Utah cousin who paid special attention to him over Christmas, and who Oliver calls on the phone every week or so). He misses Natey big time.


We were at the mall a couple days ago and I decided it's time to add a second car to his CARS collection. So I took him in the Disney store, he found the cars and he started begging/ordering me to open the Chick Hicks car. I told him we had to buy it first, so we bought it, the women opened it, handed it to him, and he runs a few feet, hoists Chick into air and shouts "Dun, dun, DUN!"


When I get on him about doing something naughty sometimes he'll try to pass the buck to whichever car he is holding (usually Lye-ming Coo-een, i.e. lightning mcqueen). "Oliver don't do that, that's naughty" "Ya, Lye-ming that's naughty!"


His Sammy shark must be manic depressive because Oliver is constantly comforting him in the softest, highest voice.


We were watching a nature show where a grizzly bear had a fish in its mouth and I said "that bear is eating that fish." Ollie replied "I know, he's eating SAMMY!"


Even though his shoes are usually set out in the proper order, he manages to put them on the wrong feet 90% of the time. It is too odds-defying to be an accident. I really think he recognizes the left and positively thinks it goes on the right foot and vice versa.


He still LOVES to cuddle and is often saying "I want cuddles." or, when one of us is under a blanket, "I want be nice and cozy" and then he'll crawl right under the blanket with us.


Sometimes we'll hear him yelling loudly and authoritatively and closer inspection reveals him reprimanding something, always inanimate (like the water on his just-washed hands, or his own finger), saying over and over "NO, GE OWA HERE (get out of here), GE OWA HERE, GE OWA HERE WATER, GO PWALAY (play), GO PWALAY WIT CARS."

February 3, 2009

Down by the River

We were cooped up all weekend long with some sort of stomach bug, so by the time Monday rolled around, I HAD to get out. We decided to make a family night out of throwing rocks in the river, one of Oliver's all-time favorite things to do.