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, January 30, 2008

"Mr. Spock, have you accounted for the variable mass of whales and water in your time re-entry program?" - Kirk, Star Trek IV


The XT-14 on the way home. Shiny. Very XT-14

I should start off with the obligatory, “I love Pop Wilder.”

I do. But the man didn’t have much skill when it came to building/assembling/making stuff. I had to bite my tongue more than once while he was assembling something or other that he’d bought for Ma Wilder and was preparing to assemble, say, a pottery wheel. The problem was he was assembling it in such a fashion that it became a device only slightly less dangerous than a chainsaw in the hands of a crystal-meth-crazed rabid cat.

Speaking of cats, my theory is that Poe didn’t write the story “The Pit and the Pendulum” with a cat as the protagonist since the cat would have batted at the shiny blade as it went past. Just thinking . . .

Anyhow, I think that Pop Wilder fundamentally hated putting things together, since we didn’t carry all that much liability insurance, and he was concerned that my Pinewood Derby car might fragment into a thousand pointy wood shards moving at some multiple of the speed of sound as it went down the track. This combined with the round-trip distance of nearly 100 miles to the Pack meeting and the prevalent -40°F temperatures in January when I grew up were the reasons we never put together a Pinewood Derby car.

So, when I was working with The Boy, it was the first time that I’d been a part of Pinewood Derby.

I didn’t go onto the Intrawebs and buy a whole bunch of exotic tools to machine my wheels to tolerances of 1/1000 of an inch, or even lubricant made from the ear wax of elves. I did however, go to the Scout Shop and bought a book and scale for about $10 (American).

The first point is the car should be as close to the weight limit as possible. This is so that it is classified as an SUV and will thus be safer in the event that it crashes, or perhaps that Galileo was wrong and that heavier things actually fall faster than lighter things.

The Boy corrected me:

Father, in reality the “heavy” mass is so that more momentum (mass times velocity) builds up while the car is on the rampy part of the track and before it hits the straightaway. More momentum is good, since that kinetic energy can then be used to overcome the frictional forces at work in both air resistance, rolling frictional resistance of the tire on the track, and the frictional resistance of the wheel against the axle. Of these components, the frictional resistance of the wheel against the axle is likely most significant. Lubrication of this interface between components is critical.

Well, um, okay. See, and I thought friction was the result of your wife meeting your ex-girlfriend. Do I have a lot to learn.

On The Boy’s advice, we polished the axles.

The Boy and The Mrs. painted the mighty XT-14, covered it with shiny lacquer, and it was time to weigh it in. Before painting, the XT-14 had been just slightly underweight on my crappy scale. After painting it was dead on.

On the designated day, The Boy and I took the car in to turn it in

On the “test” scale, the weight was perfect (5 ounces).

On the weigh in scale, the weight was 5.1 ounces.

After shaving off a 2x4’s worth of wood, we finally checked in the car. Now, our major problem – how to get to sleep before race day?
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Ask any racer, any real racer. It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning's winning." - Dom, The Fast and the Furious


Finally, the Pinewood Derby is here.

What’s the Pinewood Derby, you ask? The Pinewood Derby is the Superbowl® and World Series™ of Cub Scout-dom all rolled up into one sweaty, sticky, glob of chewy goodness.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re seven. And, you’re a boy (if you’re not, unless if you’re transgendered, then, hell, I have no experience here). And there’s some sort of competition. And that it involves cars. And you get a trophy if you win. Hint: Boys love cars more than they love their mothers. They love them more than they love Santa. That Jesus guy? Heck, he’s just a bit scary.

The Pinewood Derby happens (like a Paris Hilton arrest) every year. Each and every Cub Scout is entitled to put together a car to race in the Pinewood Derby. At the Pack meeting they handed out the Pinewood Derby kits at the end of the meeting. The Boy looked at me in the sickly-green glow of the dashboard lights as I drove him home from the meeting, and made a solemn vow. “I’m going to win first place.”

As far as solemn vows go, I’m not really sure that seven-year-olds do well at making them. I made one at seven, and it involved the girl that lived next door, kissing, and, well, at seven I wasn’t especially imaginative.

But our job was to build a Pinewood Derby car.

Okay, there are several theories about Pinewood Derby cars. The first theory is that the father locks the kid out of the woodshop and then uses the most advance machining tools in the universe to create a car that would rival anything made by a team of scientists and six billion dollars of frothy, frilly government dollars. The second theory is that pop digests yet another beer, points the Cub Scout in the general direction of the wood shop (your house has one, right??) and says, “have at it.”

Since I don’t want to spend all that time myself in a potentially futile attempt to kick the butts of a group of 7-12 year-olds, and I’m not sure that my insurance covers the “Mr. Wilder, did I get that right? You let your seven-year-old child run a band saw?” level incident, I attempted to go for the final theory:

that Pop and Boy work together to create a car that The Boy feels is his. When it crosses the finish line, he’s proud if it wins. And he is proud if it loses. Because it’s his. And, not mine. I’m not sure that I wanted to lose to a bunch of snot-nosed brats. Because then I would have to go and curl up on my bed and cry.

Me? I won’t lie to you. I wanted the damn thing to win.

So, armed with a block of pine, a bandsaw, a drill press, a rotary cutter, a belt sander, and an ample supply of router bits I waited. And, finally, I saw it, the design, the drawing.

Frankly, it looked like the hideous 1980’s Trans-Ams©. When we finished it that way, I was worried it would talk to me, like KITT™.

I asked, “Is this what you want it to look like?”

The Boy responded, “Yes.”

I took the block of wood and put it into the band saw (this is a mistake, by the way, since there are other things you should do first) and cut out the smooth contours of the XT-14. The XT-14 is the name that The Boy had picked a week previously. “Why do you want to call it the XT-14?” I asked innocently.

“Because it’s the XT-14. Duh.”

Okay, I’ll never know why it’s called the XT-14. But, that’s its name.

So, The Boy sanded, and The Mrs. helped The Boy paint, and the XT-14 was born.

It turns out that there are about a bazillion web pages out there that give you tips in order to get the fastest car in the Pinewood Derby. Some will sell you books, powders, crèmes, and other nostrums (including a Pinewood Derby Voodoo Doll) that will ensure your car will win. As I totaled up the dollars, it looked likely to me that you could spend upwards of every dollar that Bill Gates has ever seen to build a completely, totally, ultimately awesome Pinewood Derby car.

So we . . .

(To be continued on Wednesday. Don’t you feel cheated?)
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"I fight honking traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes onto the cloven hooves of people like you."- Al, Married, With Children


”Ready for blastoff, Mr. Wilder. Let’s kick the tires and light the fires.” – Our Astronaut Pugsley.

I drive in Houston every day. Each and every day, I wonder, “Where the heck are all these other people going to?”

I know in Southern California they would probably laugh at a Houston commute, since I heard it takes sixteen hours to go six blocks to see Paris Hilton dedicate the latest Pez® dispenser at the Beverly Hills Taco Bell©.

But Houston? It’s not like anybody even remotely famous lives here, except for ZZ Top. (I think the whole ZZ Top living in Houston thing was on a dare, like their beards, or like the time I agreed to co-author the Constitution with James Madison.)

Traffic in Houston is worse than traffic at the Cheetos™ bowl at a party with Britney Spears and Rosie O’Donnell. Oh, sure, it’s not all covered with all the orange cheese-polymer goodness (especially around the nostril area) as Rosie and Britney, but it’s busy nonetheless. And, in a statistic I made up specifically for this post, I must note that there are more cars on Houston roads than Britney has babies. I know that sounds like a truly incredible figure, but made-up statistics don’t lie.

In Houston, it’s not like you can get on the road and drive at 4AM (that’s 6:53PM, metric) and not see a bazillion people sneaking around. Oh, sure their lights are on, but it’s long been my theory that if you’re up at 4AM you’re sneaking. Don’t ask me why I’m up that early. I’m sneaking, too.

Why in the heck are there traffic jams outside my house at 4AM? Are there that many morning DJ’s (or, similarly, serial killers) in Houston?

I don’t think so. However, I have a theory.

Houston is the energy capital, really, of the world. If it is sticky, oily goodness, well, somebody here owns it, pumps it, buys it, boils it, or sues somebody who does one of those things. I’m thinking that all of the Chevron-Mobil-Texxon-Amoco-BP© employees are given bonuses just for driving around so that they use all the extra gas. Heck, they might pay their employees to drive to the pumps and pull the gas nozzles out and lovingly pour the gasoline over their heads while writhing to the song from “Flashdance” (which, if they’re smoking, will be all too true).

Actually, since I’ve never seen an Exxon® accountant wearing gasoline-soaked legwarmers or a Lexus™ with body parts in the back seat, I think there may be something else at work.

See, Houston is flat, and outside of work, there’s little to do here. Really. Sixty-seven million people (I think that’s right) live within a quarter mile of me and they have nothing to do. Nothing at all, except work. So, the only possible solution the human mind can come up with for this conundrum is: road trip to the Whataburger© at 4AM.

Also, Houston drivers appear to know only one speed – 95 miles per hour (300x10^6km/sec), and apparently feel that the turn signal is a vestigial appendage on a car, useless for anything whatsoever. The Mrs. and I, when driving around town are often passed by a (insert luxury car name here) at the only speed (95 MPH), which then has to implement driving maneuvers suitable for a WWII fighter pilot to stop for the red light 10 feet ahead. We look at each other, “Texas drivers,” we say, and nod in the unison reserved for people who have lived together so long that their DNA would say that they were perhaps cousins.

I think people drive around here aimlessly because they have nothing else to do, whatsoever. They get in their cars and just drive and drive and drive, paying tolls, and most importantly, cutting in front of my car while I try to get that empty spot while I’m heading for the tollway

Dang. I hate those guys. But I can cut them off if I speed up to 95 MPH.
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Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Failure Entertainment is not an option." Gene Kranz, Apollo 13

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The Mighty Saturn V. It’s almost as long as a lecture in economics presented by Al Gore when you know you get free, cold beer after he’s done yakking about carbon offset credits.

The Wilder family again returned to the Johnson Space Center this weekend. It came as a surprise to me.

The Mrs.: “Let’s go to Johnson Space Center.”

Me, sitting on couch, still groggy from just getting up: “Hmm. That’s a surprise.”


The reason it came as a surprise is that last year The Mrs. absolutely hated the trip. For her to suggest it? Incomprehensible.

I hate taking the blog into sequel territory. Heck, I might be played by Owen Wilson and The Mrs. by Jessica Simpson, and the plot would revolve around our attempt to repel invading aliens who want to make Earth into a giant Pez™ factory. But, since we went back, what the heck.

Last year, when I paid, I bought a year-long membership. The membership cards have an exciting picture on one side of rockets slipping the surly bonds of Earth, and a space-suited astronaut with both hands up in the air, as if he’s proclaiming that Neil Armstrong did manage to break the plane of the end-zone at Tranquility-Cola® stadium, and that he’d scored a moon-touchdown. I’ll be darned if the membership cards don’t imply that membership at Space Center Houston is fun.

Did I mention they spelled our names wrong? Wailder? Sheesh.

Since it had been a year, I checked the expiration date on the card, and found that they expired tomorrow, so, technically it had been only 364 days. They were yet valid.

Anyhow, we loaded up our car in typical speedy Wilder fashion (which is to mean that we left somewhere after lunch) and set off for Johnson Space Center.

Along the way, The Mrs. kept pointing out places where they have food. See, that’s The Mrs.’ problem: she’s subtle, and expects me to pick up on her tricky clues, things like screaming, “I’m hungry, you worthless piece of monkey snot!” We ate.

Finally arriving at the Space Center, we flashed our soon-to-expire identification cards at the guards, and they waived us in without paying the $5.00 parking fee. Finally, being treated like VIPs!

We walked through the turnstiles in a likewise imperious manner. That’s when I noticed that, not only were we visiting almost exactly a year apart, but also I was wearing the same shirt. A quick sniff of the armpit region indicated I’d at least washed at least once since.

Last time we hadn’t let The Boy and the (then) stroller-bound Pugsley go into the great big play area. We were saving that for the end, but by the time we got to that point all we wanted to do was leave. This time we hit it first. Taking their shoes off (for some reason, smelly socks are considered more hygienic than soles of shoes) they entered the maze of tubes with a vague space-theme. Upon exiting, I tried to get Pugsley to put on shoes that belonged to some other child. The shoes I picked were at least the next size larger so they would have lasted for, oh, maybe four more years, but that gained me no points with The Mrs. For some reason she wanted Pugsley to get his own shoes back.

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Kid shoes. They all look alike. Don't they? Help me out here.

We then managed to play several simulations of docking the Space Shuttle into the International Space Station. Note: there is a reason that seven-year-old boys aren’t astronauts: they giggle when they destroy $100 billion worth of orbiting space hotel.

We finally made it to the big tour – the whole reason I’d wanted to go to the Space Center: The Tour.

The Tour took us to Mission Control, past the NASA space-deer, past the tanks of liquid nitrogen that the Apollo scientists had convinced the government that they need in the ‘60’s, scale mock-ups of anything that has ever flown, and finally to see the real-deal, the Saturn V.

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Space deer.

About the liquid nitrogen – I imagine that the scientists had put it down in the budget: “Item: Liquid Nitrogen, Quantity, 50,000 gallons, Purpose: Testing of Materials for Space Conditions.” In reality, I bet they just spent their lunch hours dunking bananas and flowers in the liquid nitrogen and then shattering them with government-requisitioned hammers.

It’s what I would have done. Never give nerds too much money to play with.

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The Unabomber, looking into the massive engines of the Saturn V.

Anyway, after about eighty minutes on a little tram, we finally got to go see the Saturn V, encased in a huge garage. This Saturn V had originally been meant to fly as Apollo 18, but without Tom Hanks. It was magnificent, and awe-inspiring, seeing what those 1960’s geeks did when they weren’t seeing what freezing their TV in liquid nitrogen did for their reception.

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Hmmm, is leakage an option?

The Tour, however, was long, and dreadfully dull. It’s fun the way that government would set it up if there was a Fun Advisement Agency. Finally, we escaped the tour.

We decided to hit the gift shop, and I advised The Boy to not buy a bright pink NASA pen or a NASA shot glass, but rather save his $4.32 until he had enough to buy that compass he wanted from the Boy Scout shop. We went home.
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Word has it that some astronauts are familiar with these . . .

I’ve been to several Space museums: the Smithsonian, the Alamogordo space museum, and the Kansas Cosmosphere all are vastly superior to Space Center Houston.

Oh, Space Center, I tried to love you, but you’ve managed to make the heroic struggle for mankind to lift itself up into the cosmos boring and tedious.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Well, it's made from very expensive material. They have to find exactly the right kind of goat." - Frasier, Frasier

Moose eating shrubbery. Not Houston.

There I was, walking behind her.

Furry hat. Furry gloves. Heavy parka. Scarf. Shivering.

One of the things that amuses me about Houston is that people get really, really prepared for winter. I think that it’s because it is a good way to go buy lots of expensive stuff.

I’ve never lived in a city where people take spending copious amounts of money so seriously. There are stands at the mall where you can get your poodle waxed while you shop. In the same mall you can buy a battery-powered-remote-control-toaster made of crystal and titanium along with that bigfoot-skull (made from a real bigfoot) mug you always wanted (I think that’s all at Neiman-Marcus©).

When you’re done shopping? You get a freshly-waxed poodle. Those are the best, because the water beads up on them.

I digress. I was following this woman who was prepared for a climate as cold as Hillary Clinton would expect if she showed up at a First Amendment Rights Foundation dinner.

Did I mention it was 40°F out?

Heck, that’s t-shirt and shorts weather. Me? This being a work day, I was forced to wear my corporate-drone-weasel-wear. I had my shirt-sleeves rolled up, kind of my way of putting it to the man. Call me a rebel if you must.

The woman I was following was shivering against the cold.

I haven’t worn a jacket in Houston this year. I think I used the heater in my car once, and that was because The Mrs. indicated she couldn’t hear the radio over Pugsley’s chattering teeth. In my defense, it wasn’t that cold, Pugsley was just gnawing on some lead-covered toy from China™.

It doesn’t get cold in Houston. It gets hot in Houston. Winter in Houston is when it is slightly less hot.

Yet, people get very excited when it gets slightly less hot here, perhaps it’s the expensive outfits, perhaps it’s just that, heck, the whole rest of the US is under sixteen feet of snow, so let’s pretend we have winter, too.

But, we don’t.

The nice thing is that you can get a diamond-encrusted Lexus© SUV with titanium-studded snow tires. Looks good when you drive by it while you’re mowing the lawn.

In January.
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

"You're losing blood." - Jack Bauer, 24

Houston on a winter morning. No steam was harmed in the making of this blog.

For the past several months, I’ve been nearly in constant pain, and not all of it from the thought of the Spears’ genome being propagated across the planet.

It seems (or so the doctor tells me) that human beings are filled with squishy stuff, sort of like Jell-O® in a skin-colored plastic bag. The doctor looked very somber when he told me it wasn’t even good Jell-O©, but rather the Jell-O™ your grandma made that had bits of fruit cocktail in it. Those, he explained, were organs. Then he snickered.

He further went on to explain that bones were, well, like bones, but they were connected by pieces of spaghetti called “nerves”. These nerves, apparently transmit a signal just like a wireless router, except there is no Internet in my elbow. Something about FCC regulations.

After all this hopelessly technical stuff, the doctor gave me several prescriptions. He also said, “You ever hear the joke about the guy who goes to the doctor and says, ‘Hey, Doc, it hurts when I do this’?”*

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Well, this pain is your punishment for bad humor.”

Most of my ailments come from either blunt force trauma (being smacked by something) or my allergy to stainless steel blades being embedded in my fingers. Makes ‘em swell up and bleed. Consequently, I rarely go to the doctor without some appendage being swaddled in a towel, and The Mrs. looking at me to see if I’ve lost 10 or 15 pints of blood.

This time, it was just pain. The Mrs. kept telling me that I should go see a doctor, since she gets tired of listening to me whine for three months.

I generally believe that my body self-repairs most things, and the things it won’t self repair, well, the medical community isn’t really all that good at fixing most of them. Call me a cynic, I’m just not at all sold on medicine being much more scientific than a music video. Consider stuff I’ve heard on salt during my lifetime:

“Salt Good For You”
“Salt, America’s Silent, Salty Killer”
“Salt, Cure for Cancer”
“Salt, Reason for First Gulf War”
“Salt, Does a Body Good”


Me? I think that if medicine can’t invent a contraception gun that we can use to go and shoot anyone who has ever been near anyone with the last name of “Spears” or “Hilton” then the whole field may be overrated. Except for the part of the field that made the pain pills I just took.

Those guys are okay.

*The actual punchline is that the doctor replies, “Well, then don’t do that.” This was the actual advice I got from the Doc. I think I like this doctor.
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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Yes, sir, Captain Tightpants." - Kaylee, Firefily

Houston, reflected. If I only had a mirror, I could reflect it again and again until it was itsy-bitsy teeny, perhaps small enough to reach the critical density to make an itsy-bitsy black hole. I always worry about that when I go clothes shopping, so I never look in those creep three-way mirrors. I just get worried that I might collapse in on myself. Or that my butt might look big.

I sat down after lunch.

When I described this situation to The Mrs., I asked her what the worst possible noise you could hear when sitting down was. The Mrs. said, “Riiiiiiiiiiip.”

Right. Not so good.

It all started at lunch.

I was being good, and went to work out at lunch rather than bury my head in a vat of grease and pasta bunch of e-mails. Working out at lunch removes a lot of strain from the day, and it generally makes me feel like a velociraptor in a room full of fuzzy kittens. So, after grappling (I originally typed in “grapping” which, for whatever reason, Spellchecker® seems okay with. I think that the people at Microsoft™ just made up a bunch of comon typo werds and inserted them so that the bossez of the world could sit around and snicker at the typos while they bathed in champagagagne, or whatever they do in the afternon) with cardio equipment, I showered and headed back to the office. Must not have dried my legs off sufficiently, because when I sat the material in my slacks stuck to my thighs.


Yup. My pants had split a seam right at my hiney.

The first thought you have is, “Hey, maybe nobody will notice.”

If you have a functioning brain and have ever worked in an office, you realize it only takes ONE person to notice, then EVERYONE will hear. Heck, I remember one time a boss (a LONG time ago) went to the bathroom and came back with a six-foot tail of toilet paper tucked perfectly into the dead center of his back. His office was right next to mine, so, when he sat down and found that he had acquired a Charmin™-based appendage, he immediately showed up at my office door, face a bit red form embarrassment.

“How ‘bout them (insert football team here)?”

I never let him know that I saw him bouncing back to his office like a sixty-year old Tigger with a paper tail. Also, I didn’t tell anybody in the office. Heck, I’m not sure I liked anybody in that office. But, remembering John Wilder’s Rule that it only takes ONE person to notice, then EVERYONE will hear, now his temporary additional limb is now preserved for history.

I grapped my stapler and headed for the bathroom.

I stapled the seam on my pants shut using about sixty staples, cleverly avoiding stapling the sleeve of my shirt to my pants heiny-holding area..

Immediately, I grapped my car keys and headed to buy some more pants.

“Umm, gotta go . . . be right back.”

In the anonymity of a Houston mall at lunch, it’s not so bad if the seam cuts loose, but the glittery metallic flashes from the staples might have been hard to explain.

I purchased a pair of new pants, of exactly the same color (but two sizes bigger in the legs) because I didn’t want to explain that I’d ripped the seat out of my pants. That would also get around in the office.

Back at the office on the escalator, it felt exactly like one of the staples had detached itself from my pants and, using all of its stapley-sharpness, had embedded itself in my underwear.
It’s not easy to check if you have a staple in your underwear on an escalator and not get noticed. Just trust me on that last one.
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Sunday, January 06, 2008

"Politics is the only thing more boring than blood samples." - Baltar, Battlestar Galactica

Houston on a winter’s morn. No horses were harmed during the filming of this picture.

It’s been pretty dull ‘round here for the past few days. Thankfully, we don’t live in New Hampshire or Iowa. If we lived there, I could easily see that Hillary would be in our kitchen advising us on what meals we should eat if we want to qualify for her health care plan, Huckabee would be presiding over prayer before the meal, and Fred Thompson would be sleeping on the couch. No doubt, in my spot. Something tells me that Romney would eat all the peas. I don’t trust him for that reason. Obama would be in the background, vaguely saying that he was in favor of apple pie. Ron Paul? He’d be deleting TaxCut™ from my computer since he was going to abolish the IRS. (Nice Idea®.)

I’ll not argue the undeniable wisdom in letting Iowa and New Hampshire have an inordinate share of deciding who the presidential candidates will be, especially since it keeps Fred from drooling on my couch pillows. It just doesn’t make any logical sense, anymore than letting American Samoa and Bangor, Maine go first. Me? I think they’re just selfish.

Thankfully, our democratic process allows us only to elect attractive candidates who speak well nowadays, since we all know that ugly tall people who are a bit gawky would be horrible leaders. Especially if they had a name that polled very low, like “Abraham.” Thankfully, NBCNN would never let us have a leader with a loser name like “Abraham.” (Important disclosure: I voted for John C. Fremont.)

I digress. I used to be very interested in politics from when I graduated college to when I moved to Alaska. Politics (as I’ve said before here) then got very distant. From the vantage point of Fairbanks, on the edge of the immense wilderness that is Alaska, I could see that the squabbling of a bunch of sleep-deprived Senators and pandering Representatives was as significant as a schoolyard argument over whose dad could win in a fight. For the record, if the other dad is a Green Beret, I’ll educate my son, that, no, Dad can’t win ‘em all.

Alaska made me politically calm.

Alia S. Wilder came home the other night, said that her (19 year old) friend said, “This is the most important election of your life.”

The Mrs. and I looked at Alia, and said, “rrrrrright.” There’s a reason we both said that and gave Alia our cynicism in stereo. We both had felt, once upon a time, that our votes could make a difference. Our candidate, if elected, would keep his word on occasion about raising taxes, and would not get caught in an embarrassing sexual scandal involving office machinery and nubile young interns.

Frankly, nothing actually occurs in Washington of any use unless there’s a major emergency. Then aides talk to other aides and figure out how to fix it and get the Senator out of the bathroom stall so he can pretend to read the emergency thingy that they wrote for him to put forth as a bill.

Me? I think the most fun I could ever have was being one of those interns. Heck, (True Fact© coming up) one time a state representative called the place I was living in college. My roommate was his aide. He was wondering what the heck a certain farm thingamajig was. Since I was the only one he’d know that had actually been near a farm one night while stealing a goat for a sacrifice a bit later on, he asked me. Me? Influencing state politics when I was 19????

This should have been a clue. Also, I should have lied and messed with the outcome of the bill in question, making the farmers have to irrigate using Coors© beer or something. That’d show ‘em, listening to a 19 year old.

So, Fred, Mitt, Ron, Barak (Barack? Is that Klingon?), Mike, Hillary, and all the rest, good luck.

Me? I’m voting for a Washington-Jefferson ticket. I think those dudes have what it takes.
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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

"It's a hood. Just like the one they put over my head." - Kate, Lost

Pugsley suffers a “wardrobe malfunction” such that we are no longer allowed to broadcast Super® Bowl™ MCMLXXV® from Casa Wilder©. We will have beer Tostitos™, though.

As you can tell, I was busy saving the world from International Terrorists Who Actually Are Bluetooth Earpiece Wearing American Yuppies® and was unable to write Sunday’s column.

Actually, The Mrs. bought me the neatest present ever, on a lark when she was in her hometown Wal-Mart® in North Somenamelessmidwesternstate. It was a hooded sweatshirt.

As a rule, I don’t wear these all that often. The hoods tend to get in the way of my long, flowing locks of blonde hair, and not create the shadows I require to frame my chiseled visage. Okay, the real reason is, since I had the blue sweatshirt that I got in sixth grade that was exactly the same color as Spock’s tunic on Star Trek® (tiny bit of geek thrill), I just hadn’t gotten one. Pull over sweatshirts without hoods advertising the crappy football team I love? A zillion or so, and I wear them all the time.

The Mrs. got home and tossed the shirt to me.

“Is it mine?” I gasped, as breathlessly as someone being given the Heimlich© Maneuver by Britney Spears as she attempts, not to save me, but to get that Cheeto® I just ate.

“Yeah,” The Mrs. replied. “It’s for you.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I love you,” The Mrs. replied, accompanied by a chorus of ‘awww’s’ from our studio audience.

It was a black, hooded sweatshirt that had the logo of a fictional United States government agency, the Counter Terrorist Unit emblazoned on the right man-chest part (the Counter Terrorist Unit is not to be confused with the Terrorist Counter Unit, which is a group of rogue accountants that attempts to find and count the number of terrorists, including Rosie O’Donnell, and then, umm, well, report the number using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles©. Don’t even get me started on the Federal Incorrect Grammar Investigating Team).

On the back, in huge yellow letters ‘CTU’ is likewise emblazoned. Side note: I love to use ‘emblazoned.’ It makes me feel embiggened.

CTU, if you’re not in the know, is the fictional agency that Special Agent Jack Bauer works for on the show 23, er, 24. If you haven’t seen 24, the premise is that one Special Agent, in the course of 24 episodes that chronicle the hours of a single day, can:

    Save the United States from Certain War,

    Come Back from the Dead (and not the Grateful Dead, but no-heart (and not the band Heart) dead) not once, but twice,
    Continually complain that “We don’t have time for that,”

    Never, ever go to the bathroom (I know that you’re saving the world, dude, but everybody’s got to pee sometime),

    Have his daughter chased by, most improbably, a cougar,

    Have anyone he cares about fired, killed, or killed and then fired, or fired and then killed,

    Overcome heroin addiction,

    Kill and/or torture anyone, including old nuns, if they get in his way, and

    Run around in a hooded sweatshirt that seemingly makes him invisible when he sneaks on an airplane, or, in general does anything that might arouse suspicion, but only if the hood is up. I plan on using this feature when I don’t want to take out the garbage.

Perhaps the best feature of the sweatshirt, however, is the mystical powers that it holds over people who have never seen or heard of 24. They look and read the title on the jacket, which implies that I work for (or at least have a blood relative who is willing to steal government stuff, and, really, don’t we all have that relative?) a super-cool government agency charged with doing Counter-Terroristy sorts of things, like sneaking around with my Invisible Hooded Sweatshirt powers.

Okay, Internet. It’s time for a true Internet confession. See, it’s been a while since I ran the forty in less than a minute or two, or nap somewhere after twenty. It’s been even longer since I was in the sort of shape I hope that anyone who works for a super-elite government agency charged with making sure that Yuppies with Bluetooth® Earpieces don’t blow up southern California is in.

But it’s still really, really awesome to walk into Taco Bell® wearing one of these suckers and watch how fast the eighteen year olds behind the counter snap to attention and make my darn Nachos Belgrande© (I think that they’re called Nachos Belgrade in Europe, because the Belgrande isn’t a recognized unit of measure – they have metric tacos over there). They even gave us extra cheese. It’s also really, really fun to walk around and see the service you get at a pharmacy. Heck, I think I could even jump over the counter, stab the clerk’s brother in the knee, and then exclaim “I’m running out of Claratin™.” I bet I could get a second box then. Well, truthfully, if I did that without the sweatshirt I could get the Claratin©, but the clerk wouldn’t thank me for the service to my country over her brother’s gagged sobs. See, I stabbed him in the knee, but I don’t like loud noises, so I gagged him first. They teach that in Counter Terrorism School.

The Mrs. and I love to watch 24 together. It’s one of our “must see and sometimes smirkingly mock” television shows. This was, darn her evil soul, a really cool, really neat, really thoughtful sort of “I love you” present, you know, the kind that I never manage to get for her.

Darn her.

Perhaps I’ll just wait until The Mrs. is asleep and bind her and torture her until she tells me what a neat, fun present would be to get her. I’ll use my hood, and she’ll never even know who it was, because that’s what true love does. Heck, I’d even stab her brother in the knee.
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