Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Falcon, this is Blue Raven. The goose has nested. Repeat, the goose has nested." - Bender, Futurama

The Mrs. and The Boy hard at work on a gingerbread house. Unfortunately, the Pugsley Zoning Commission decided the whole affair was substandard and needed to be dismantled. And eaten. Whenever The Mrs. and I were out of the room.

So, Christmas has come and gone. The highlight of Christmas Eve for me is watching the young ‘uns tear into the presents like a crew of howler monkeys with attention deficit disorder. The Boy had been bursting at the seams since first light, Christmas Eve morning. Opening presents on Christmas Eve, for us, allows us to spend Christmas Day the way it should be spent, by stuffing ourselves with turkey and ham and falling asleep on the couch spending it in relatively quiet contemplation with the family.

The Boy got presents that he loves, Pugsley was just thrilled that the wrapped up thingies under the tree weren’t decorations, but were actually things that he could have and play with, after his sweaty, grubby little fingers managed to rip the wrapping paper. The Boy patiently waited his turn. The Mrs. graciously accepted the socks and new mop I got her.

Perhaps the most vexing present that The Boy got this year was a set of walkie-talkies (long on his list). As I put them into their charger, I looked in the owners manual and saw that I would be violating FEDERAL LAW if he used them without a license. Reading further, there were a few low power channels that he could use lawfully.

I went to the FCC website and looked up, and found that The Boy would be unable to use the walkie-talkies until he was 18. I looked a little further, and found that if I got the FCC license, The Boy (and any other blood relative of mine or The Mrs.) could use them in glorious 16-mile-range full-power mode, emitting enough electromagnetic spectrum energy to changes people’s genetic code up to at least 10 miles away.

He waited until they were fully charged, and then we used them today. Verdict? He loved them. What had been drudgery (bring the trash cans back in) became a mission with the walkie-talkies.

Me: “Red Dog, Red Dog, do you copy?”
The Boy: “Base, this is Red Dog. I read you.” He is standing ten feet from me.
Me: “Red Dog, please get the trash cans. Bring them back to home base.”
The Boy: “Roger!” With that, he ran, complete with a full share of glee, to do something he normally grumbled about.

The walkie-talkies have a feature that allows them to scan through the available frequencies to eavesdrop listen to other people’s conversation. Nothing. Dead air. We live next to a sizable subdivision, so there must not have been many other kids who wanted walkie-talkies for Christmas (or, perhaps there were no other Dads that mistakenly purchased serious radios).

The Mrs. corrected me. “No, honey, all the other kids got cell phones for Christmas.”

Instantly, I knew that she was right.

I was glad, however, that The Boy was happy with his silly little “push to talk” walkie-talkies and that he and I could communicate. Heck, I even had a conversation with The Mrs. (codename: Supreme Commander) on them. Fun. And useful. On one errand when The Boy was out of earshot I asked him to get gloves in addition to the trash bag through the magic of Marconi’s invention. This day, The Boy didn’t complain a bit about the work.

The biggest magic, though, was in the amazed expression on Pugsley’s face when he saw the first toy under the paper – it was as if he was kicking himself for falling for this trick, again, and that sometime, somewhere, he’d get The Mrs. and I back, perhaps when he chooses a nursing home.
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere, leave you for dead?"- Clark Christmas Vacation

The Boy, after having had a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past, finds himself embroiled in the “who broke the tree” scandal of 2005.

The Mrs. has not one, but two tires with slow leaks on her car. That doesn’t bother me overly much, since I don’t drive her car, and the last time I checked The Mrs. has two good legs and can walk. Seems to bother her a might more.

I could have taken the easy way out and had the tires repaired, but upon further inspection the amount of tread left on these tires isn’t really measureable by tools that exist outside of certain government laboratories buried deep under huge mountains where they’re working on a race of cyborg-coyotes to keep the sheep population under control.

Rather than spend the (I’m guessing) three hundred bucks or so on a couple of tires for The Mrs., I had a perfectly good set of tires waiting in the garage. Snow tires. Metal-studded snow tires.

Studded snow tires are probably illegal in Texas year-round, though (through careful Internet search, consisting of me remembering a rule that was once true – which is way lazier than actually looking it up) they are legal in Colorado year-round. Not that it matters, since, to quote one of The Mrs. favorite movies, snow tires in Texas are “like television on a honeymoon. Unnecessary.” The bright side is that the local cops would probably not even know that they’re illegal, but The Mrs. would give me hell if she got a ticket.

Me? I have a set of needle nose pliers.

Do you have ANY idea how many studs are in a snow tire? 116 was what The Boy counted. It took me seven minutes to get the first one out, and about fifteen for the next seven. After a while, I got good at it and could get a few a minute, if you ignored the whole “bleeding blister in the palm of your hand” thing. I finished two in about an hour and a half, and (since we lived in Alaska where we used the darn things nine months of the year) the snow tires are already mounted. On the good rims.

Now what exactly do I do with 232 metal studs?

Okay, now for some Christmas-y thoughts:

A Brief History of Christmas
as submitted by
John I. Wilder
in partial fulfillment of
English 9

So, what is Christmas? To many, Christmas is a day spent with bad hair from getting up so early so that they young children could rip and tear wrapping paper like rabid wolverines on a pork roast, and then fall over in a toy-coma. To the Romans (the Romans were a nation of people who invented bread like Roman Meal®, pizzas, and spoke with English accents) Christmas was known as the great hangover, since December 25 marked the day after their big party, Saturnalia. Why they named their big party after a car produced by GM and aimed at single women is a mystery lost to the ages.

While we may think that modern people like Britney Spears have taken partying to the absolute ultimate possible, the Romans would have kicked her out of their parties for being a wet blanket and keeping her knickers on too long, and for the whole “cutting off all her hair” thing. Romans knew how to party, since they also invented “dancing on the table with a lampshade on your head” which would have been impossible without the Romans because they also invented the lampshade and the table. And dancing, which if you ever saw “Footloose” is just evil, primarily because of Kevin Bacon.

Saturnalia involved a whole week of revelry, where many a table was trod upon, and many a patrician was cited for CUI (charioteering under the influence). At the end of this holiday was the next big holiday, the celebration of Sol Invictus (Latin for Salt Lake City).

The celebration of Sol Invictus was on December 25, and again probably involved a lot more drinking, dancing, and other naughty stuff, like cheating on your taxes.

This all stayed the same until 1813 when people looked around and saw that it had been over a thousand years since anybody had even seen a Roman. Everybody figured they were finally safe, and decided to stop celebrating Sol Invictus, since Salt Lake City hadn’t even been found by Lewis and Clark yet.

An entrepreneur named Dillards Von Walmart then decided that if he had a catchy enough gimmick, he could turn the whole Sol Invictus day into a shopping bonanza. After attempting the celebrations of Zoroaster, Crom and Mithra, in addition to having a ludicrous name, Dillards found himself nearly broke. That left only the Christians. Von Walmart decided to name the new holiday “Christmas.”

Supported in popular culture by a poem (“A Visit from Texas Chainsaw St. Nicholas”) Dillards Von Walmart and his hunting buddy, Eddie Bauer-Macy, had hit a goldmine when they started selling Action St. Nicholas (with extra chainsaw gore action). The next year, shoppers were lined up around the corner attempting to purchase inexpensive brass knick-knacks from China. The only missing part to the our modern-day celebration of Christmas was Santa Claus, who, as we all know, is a transdimensional being that eats the souls of small children.

Hmmm, wonder why I didn’t get an A on that paper?

Regardless, Merry Christmas to all!
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"My first letter of rejection, and I haven't even started my novel yet." - The Tick, The Tick


The Boy, opening Christmas presents last year with his shadow.

At Christmastime since the invention of the Xerxes® machine by the Greek philosopher Plato Edison in 1843, it has become a holiday tradition that friends send out a general letter with their Christmas card. The letter usually tells what happened to them and their family in the preceding year.

As a rule, they leave out the really good stuff like, “Sharon and I were drinking heavily and got into a fistfight and the cops showed up while we were attempting to recreate the Spock-Kirk duel on the planet Vulcan scene from the episode Amok Time using a lawn edger and a claw hammer as weapons while clad only in mud covered underwear in our front yard. It was the best day ever.”

Instead you get little snippets and outtakes of the life that the family had, omitting most tragedy but bringing you up to date on what’s happened in the lives of their family. But, you already knew most of that stuff since you called them after you got into a drunken reenactment of an A-Team fight between Mr. T and Murdock and some Amish people that were in danger of being held hostage by rich industrialists with your uncle because he was hogging the Cheetos™.

As a general rule, I like getting those letters – little press releases from friends far away.

Also, as a general rule, The Mrs. and I haven’t written Christmas cards and sent any out since, oh, 1997. If you’re still waiting for the ’98 card, don’t give up hope. I bought them on sale at Wal-Mart® after Christmas in 1997 (cards are super cheap then), and they’ve been packed somewhere since before I moved to Alaska. Note that I live in Houston now. One day I might actually find them, and become organized enough to send a note out.

For now, the Intrawebs will have to do to serve the same purpose. The nice thing is that it doesn’t cost all that much (after the computer, the cable Internet connection, the electricity to power the computer, the computer desk, etc.) to send one out. It’s nearly free!!!

I’ve never written one of those letters, but I thought, Intertubes, that you deserved my best shot, so, here it is:

In January The Mrs. and I almost saw something cold, but it turned out to be condensation on the exterior of a beer can. This was reported in the local news as the “Great Houston Ice Storm of 2007.”

In February, I made national news when an astronaut allegedly drove from Houston to Florida to “have a talk with” The Mrs. The Mrs., thankfully, was in Houston. Is the astronaut in trouble? Depends.

In March, we spun ourselves into cocoons so we could hurry and do the whole chrysalis thing and get to April and pay taxes. In April, we paid taxes. Yay, taxes!

In May, The Boy got out of school. We got a note of thanks and good luck wishes from the teacher, and then she promptly retired. She is 22.

In June, I discovered that The Mrs. gets bit cranky (and sweaty) when the air conditioner breaks. I could not really understand her pain from the office. Complainers always bug me. It was only out for a month, sheesh. (This is an Actual Fact®, not a Made Up Fact like most of mine.) I also had The Medical Exam That Dare Not Speak Its Name, and was thence banished from beer for a month.

In July, August, and September, we just sweated and powerwashed various things, except that during August, our skin melted. The Boy also figured out how to transmute his horrible bad credit (it seems he bought 14,403,200 homes in Southern California at an average price of $695,000 on an allowance of $4.00 a month, but the variable intrest rate really suckered him into thinking it was a good deal) into a fifteen billion dollar Federal Reserve Bank bailout that will make him nearly as rich as Vladimir Putin's maid.

In October, we still sweated, but were tired of powerwashing.

In November it was announced that I was first runner-up in the Nobel Peace Prize thingy. If Al Gore gets drunk or they find nude pictures of him (it would be more likely to find those pictures of Bill, sadly), I am expected to continue on with his duties (PowerPoint® presentations – I’m such a wizard with the clicky thing) for the remainder of his term. My PowerPoint© presentation is titled “An Inconvenient Paris Hilton.”

Okay, now you see why I don’t write those letters. But I like getting them, especially if you’ll throw in those juicy tidbits about how your Mother-In-Law threw mashed potatoes at and then disowned your husband because he refused to turn off the lights when he left the room.

Yeah. Those are the parts I want to read.

Happy Pon-Farr!
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Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Your toys are fun to touch. Mine are all sticky." - Ralphie, The Simpsons


Pugsley, looking happy. It’s nice to be two, warm, and surrounded by bubbles in the bath. Me? I never give him the bubbles, that’s a The Mrs. touch. Plus, no boo-boo kissing without blood being present.

I felt a little inspired, since the mood struck tonight after drinking beer and moping incessantly about my lost youth and hair listening to a Chia® Pet™ commercial and decided to do something a bit different. I realize that in the last post, I talked about some of the Christmas gifts I never got, but yet yearned for. Here I’ll wax a bit on the ones that I got that, despite the incredible commercials, really, really, sucked. Enjoy!

Radio Shack™ Space Patrol® Walkie-Talkies - Okay, in the commercial, the kids that had these things looked like they were having a ball, maybe infiltrating a Soviet© command center to steal Steve Austin’s Bionic® pancreas back. Me? No younger brother, my older brother was driving, and there were no other kids growing up within fifteen miles of me. I got the walkie-talkies. And who could I talk to? My buddy Rock while we pulled the flight data recorder from the Soviet MiG that we shot down with slingshots and BB guns? No. I could tape the transmit key down, hide one of them and spy on my parents while they talked about how damn old Reagan was (apparently, very). As long as I wasn’t more than ten feet away.

That puzzle with the plastic sticks and the plastic orb - Hate to tell you, I enjoyed that. I enjoyed watching it burn in the fireplace one night. The box was okay – it held the toys I liked for Christmas pretty well.

Clothing - Okay, I know that I like that stuff now, but back when I was in third grade it was very, very cruel to put those overalls into that big box. I’m thinking that the socks were just adding insult to injury. Doesn’t that pretty much mirror the feelings of children, well, everywhere?

Stretch Armstrong© - Stretch Armstrong® was a toy about a guy that apparently had the superpower of being very stretchy. Which might have been good if he were a Romanian gymnast or a stripper, but in the context of a toy was lame. About the best thing that Stretch ever did was kill G.I. Joe™ in a fight over who got to drive the G.I. Joe© SuperAdventurePatrol®. As I grew up in a place that constantly got to -40°F, I did finally discover the only really cool thing about Stretch Armstrong™, in that if he got to about -20°F or so, the liquidy stuff that made up his insides froze solid, whereupon you could hit him with a hammer and crush the stuff, making a nice, meaty thump. Eventually the stretchable skin breaks on the shards of the frozen, liquidy stuff, and you find out that Stretch is filled with a purple goo. That was neat. He had a wonderful death scene.

Star Wars® Figures - Tiny. Not as cool as G.I. Joe®. The worst part? My parents refused to buy me the six thousand Stormtroopers® (retail value: $48,000) that I said I’d need to correctly recreate some of the totally cool movie scenes. Stupid parents.

Any Toy That Includes Out-Of-Scale-Elements - Okay, this is a general category, but a pet peeve. The Boy recently got a set of toys that included a Saturn V rocket, some astronauts, and the space shuttle. The only way any of the astronauts could have ridden either the Saturn V or the shuttle into space was by hooking their bulky, diaper-covered butts on the outside and ridden them like horses into space. The Boy (properly) scoffed at these, though The Mrs. didn’t quite seem to get it. Carry on, The Boy, I’m scoffing too.

The four-foot-square fuzzy carpet checker board - Mom, Dad . . . really? Checkers the size of dessert plates? What were you thinking, that I was going to play checkers with a race of giant troll overlords that were coming to invade?

Okay, that was about ten years worth of therapy right there. I’ll omit the time I had to negotiate for my sixth birthday present, and then cough up for shipping. Mostly, though, Christmas was a magical and wonderful time. The food was good, too.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"And that is how Peggy Hill saved Christmas." - Peggy, King of the Hill


Christmas magic – seems to work best on those of us who want the least, or, like Pugsley, are easily impressed. Pugsley thinks it’s cool when I burp.

It’s Christmas. Again. That just seems to keep happening to me, nowadays.

When I was seven, Christmas seemed, well, a whole year away each and every day, but yet there the toy commercials were, taunting me with the stunning killing effectiveness of Kung Fu Grip® when employed by a skilled G.I. Joe™. Not to mention G.I. Joe’s© really cool science-fiction-y gear (batteries sold separately) which looked neat enough that you could almost imagine that he could defeat the Russians all by himself if only he had the opportunity, and if G.I. Mom© would buy him batteries. The evil toy companies would run these commercials in summer, when Christmas was still decades away.

Now I get the pleasure of participating in shopping for things for The Boy and Pugsley. They are (thankfully) as simple and to the point as a sailor on leave.

Pugsley is easiest. He has no idea why we put a tree up, and is just amazed that we don’t keep that pretty thing up all the time. In the morning, he scurries to make sure it’s still there. The boxes with colorful paper and ribbons underneath? More decoration! When he figures out that there are things in them for him, he’ll be thrilled to the point of Toddler Pleasure Seizure (The signs of TPS are a toddler so happy that he locks all his muscles and quivers with joy. TPS even has a charity and a motto – “Remember, you can help stamp out Toddler Pleasure Seizure by stealing a blankie.”). It’s easy to make Pugsley happy: just buy some colorful, fun, lead-free toys . . . oh, wait, this just got more complicated . . .

The Boy is slightly more complex. The Boy is finally to the age (7) where he can think of things that are hideously inappropriate (electromagnetic field detector, oscilloscope), extraordinarily expensive (new electric guitar signed by the Def Leppard® with genuine photocopied letter of authenticity) or both (trip to England to explore for ghosts in the Hellfire Caves, night vision goggles). Fortunately, with The Boy there’s a middle ground of things that can be purchased that are squishy, gross and/or techie enough to entertain him, yet cost less than a Federal Reserve Bank intervention to stem housing price declines because Paris Hilton moved into your neighborhood.

Alia? She has a list. Mainly reasonable.

The toughest puzzle to solve is The Mrs.

I think that I’m pretty sensitive to the feelings of The Mrs., because I love her, but for the life of me I cannot understand her. For those of you who say, “Hey, John Wilder, if you are sensitive to The Mrs., you should understand The Mrs.”

To those of you who said, that, well, pfft. Also, just remember that when a cat jumps onto a stove that’s 500°F (7°C), the cat is certainly sensitive to the feeling of the thermodynamic disequilibrium driving a heat flux and the resultant energy into its paws and making it scream like Hillary Clinton when Dorothy kills her flying monkeys. A cat just doesn’t understand why our roster of presidents might be Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Frankly, neither do I.

But the point I was trying to get there before you interrupted me was this: I have no idea (at all) of what The Mrs. wants for Christmas. The Mrs. has told me (several times) that she has pretty much everything she needs, and doesn’t want much more. The Mrs. has also proven this the past few years when I bought her things she didn’t need, or hasn’t yet used, yet has been happier than a tick in BBQ sauce (I’m attempting to adopt some minor Texas colloquialisms to blend in with the natives, although I’m not sure that ticks are endemic to BBQ sauce, or would even prefer it to, say, ketchup). I think it makes The Mrs. happy just watching the rest of us being happy. Darn her for that. She’s taking the high road and not letting her feelings be swayed by material items.

Me? I just want a electromagnetic field detector, oscilloscope, new electric guitar signed by the Def Leppard® with genuine photocopied letter of authenticity, a trip to England to explore for ghosts in the Hellfire Caves, and night vision goggles.

I’ve been waiting for this stuff since summer. When I was seven.
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Sunday, December 09, 2007

"Do you still do magic tricks?" - Sally Sitwell, Arrested Development


An electromagnet made out of 40’ of copper wire, some steel, and a car battery charger. Why would I make this on a Sunday night on a whim? I’m the Dad, that’s why.

I went to The Boy’s regular Cub Scout meeting, as I generally do, since it makes up for the Scout meetings I missed as a kid. I’m so ready to get my Bear badge.

I think Scouting is, well, super, but The Boy is enthusiastic to the point of being a fascist. The Boy gets concerned that some sort of Scout Police will put him in Scout Jail for not having the proper socks. Me? I tell him that “official” uniform for seven-year-olds has some leeway. He is not so sure, and I’m thinking the bulk of his bad dreams involve being kicked out of Scouting for having the wrong socks.

This particular meeting the Den Leaders had decided to do an activity involving magic tricks. They had downloaded pages from a Scouting resource page on teh Intrawebs and had tucked them away for the meeting. Immediately prior to the meeting, the Den Leaders read through the magic tricks that the Scouts were to learn, which involved taking the integral of cos(sec(tan(x))) dx/dy from -1 to 480 and adding their age, taking the logarithm, and dividing by six and discovering that they had the proof for Fermat’s last theorem. That’s magic.

The Den Leaders decided that might not work with seven-year-olds. I timidly noted, “ummm, I know some magic tricks . . .” There was little response – I worried that I had overstepped my “observer” parent bounds.

Finally, the meeting ended up at the point where it was time for the magic tricks. The Den Leader said, “Need anything?”

Gulp. I was on. “Two (wink), er, one paper towel.”

He came back with two paper towels. The Cubs were a rowdy, unruly group of sweat and noise. I began to slowly shred a paper towel while stuffing the bits from one hand into the other. Noise continued. I hadn’t died this bad on stage since I did a Howard Cosell imitation during third grade at the talent show.

I kept to my guns, and gradually put all the shredded paper into my left hand. With a flourish I “accidently” dropped a wad of paper out of the hand full of shredded paper. One of the Cubs unwadded it, showing it to be an intact paper towel.

Okay, I’ve never been used to being the object of adoration, much less abject worship. Suddenly the Cubs were fully in my grasp. I fell back on the “disembodied” thumb trick. They ate it up. Something nice about being seven, when you believe that a buddy’s Dad might, just might have the ability to take ripped paper towels and make them whole again.

On the way home, The Boy asked if I had to cut my thumb off to make it come apart like he’d seen. “What? No. It was a trick. My thumb’s fine.” At a stop light I showed him how I did the trick. I’m not sure that he believes me yet that I can’t mend anything broken through sheer mindpower alone and dismember my own limbs at a whim. As a parent, it probably is a potent weapon if your children think that Dad’s hands might detach from his body and strangle them on any given night. Keeps ‘em on their toes.

Which, really, isn’t so bad. At seven, it’s not too bad a thing to believe that your parents are capable of really amazing things, rather than them being the really big fourteen year olds with cars and mortgages that they are.

Tonight, though, The Boy came up to me and demanded I make him a magnet for his “Super Compass 34000” and wouldn’t leave until I decided to try it.

I learned that if you took some steel and exposed it to periodic induction you could make not only an electromagnet but also a permanent one. I tried an old DC power supply, but being impatient I took my (car) battery charger that kicks out 2 amps and hooked it up. Not only does it make a really strong electromagnet that can pull your fillings out at 3 feet, it makes a very hot electromagnet.

A permanent magnet? Not so much, yet. If I can’t make it work with another bit of effort, I think I’ll just tell The Boy that it’s because he’s wearing the wrong socks. If he gives me any static, I’ll just send my disembodied thumb to take care of him.

Because I can do that, you know.
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Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Busy. Tired. Blah. More later, and hopefully not all based in id.

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