This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bad Jokes

My daughter is reading a list of riddles and bad jokes, and I'm having fun coming up with better answers.

Of particular joy was "How is a crossword like an argument?"

The "right" answer is "one word always leads to another."

My kids preferred mine: "If you don't have a clue, you can't finish either..."


Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Car Doesn't Corner Well

Our discussion topic, Gentlemen, at today's meeting of the "Men Secretly Meeting To Discuss Their Feelings, Although We'd Rather Be Caught Dead Than Admit We Have Them When Women Are Around" club is coping when our children live down to our lowest expectations.

In particular, last night I loaned my car to my teen aged son.

As a family, we had been out at the tennis courts hitting some balls around, and when we got home, one of my daughters announced that she'd left her sweatshirt at the courts. Now, understand, the courts are less than a mile from our house, on the remotest of NH back roads the whole way, and my son has had his learners permit for over a year now. What could POSSIBLY go wrong? And yes, I know all of us first-time-fathers-of-teenaged-drivers can answer that question with a litany of fears (and the experienced fathers of first time drivers just rolled their eyes and snorted a rueful half-laugh at my naivete), but the truth is that sooner or later the kid's gotta solo, and there are far worse places I could have started him. The autobahn, for instance, or on the Indianapolis Raceway.

Still, in fairness I should report that he made the trip down and back completely safely. He then proceeded to make a decision that was ill advised. My son has never put a car into a garage before. I'd just assumed that he would come back home and park the car in the driveway, where it had been when he started his journey, and then come ask me to put it into the garage, but apparently his brain, addled in a way that only adolescence or severe doses of narcotics can, decided to "do me a favor" and put the car away.

Unfortunately, no one ever explained to my son that the phrase "drive the car into the garage" does not mean "drive into the actual building", and so with the best of intentions, my son did significant damage to my less-than-one-year-old Toyota Prius, to say nothing of the garage, his pride and my blood pressure.

But here's the key, gentlemen: We're fathers. We need to be prepared for certain little bumps in the road, things like pregnant girlfriends and scientific curiosity satisfied by taking apart our brand new iPad to see how it works, leaving us with a pile of random, unidentifiable parts that do not behave in the slightest way as an iPad is advertised to. And the endless series of car repairs we're going to have to shell out for between the time our child becomes old enough to get his or her learners permit and the time, three months later, when they stop driving our car after it gets repossessed to pay our delinquent car repair bills.

In fact, experienced fathers whose younger children reach driving age learn to budget their finances more creatively, as follows:

Mortgage 20% of income
Food 7% of income
Clothing 5% of income
Misc spending cash 2% of income
Utilities 12% of income
Car repair 273% of income
Savings Yeah, right. As if.

Then, by the simple step of making sure you begin earning slightly over three times your current income, you can keep in the black. And here's a tip: Some auto repair shops will give you a discount if you agree to the simple expedient of having your paycheck automatically deposited in their corporate account.

But to be momentarily serious here, here's the truth: My son has probably cost me somewhere on the order of $1,500 and $2,000 with that one little mistake, and if I take the proper fatherly perspective, I'm happy to pay it, because he did not, in the process, lose a limb or a life (his or anyone else's), and if this little mishap causes him to be a more careful driver throughout his life, and never succumb to the standard teen-aged belief that they are bullet proof and a better driver than the morons who actually get into accidents, in short if this accident saves his life later on, then a few thousand dollars will have been a price well worth paying.

You will not, however, catch me admitting that to my son. At present, he's sitting at home wondering what new and creative punishment I'm going to administer when I get home. Images of thumb screws and bamboo shoots are probably going through his head, along with the fear that I may come home and have decided to disown, disinherit, or simply disembowel him. And while it may make me a bit of a sadistic S.O.B., the truth is that this day or two of sweating is a far more effective punishment than any I could dream up.

So, to sum up, what lessons have we learned today? First, that a good father expects these sorts of events and thus doesn't let it divert him from the path of good fatherhood. Second, that sadism can be an important (as well as rewarding) part of good parenting of teen aged children. And third, that finding some excuse, any excuse, to never let any of your children get drivers licenses is perhaps the single most profitable investment choice you can make.

Copyright © July 2, 2010 by Liam Johnson.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Two Recent Headlines

I occasionally see humorous headlines, but rarely two really good ones in such a short time period, so I thought I'd share them.

First, when Olympian Walter Dix runs in a race with Tyson Gay and the result is close, you end up with this gem: "Tired Gay succumbs to Dix in 200 meters" (link to article at Reuters for as long as it lasts).

The other one is actually old, but I was only pointed to it two days ago. Back in 2008, in a Colorado State Senate election that seemed more like a competition between breakfast vs. lunch, multiple sources had "Bacon Beats Fries!". Here is a link to one site that has a screen shot of the results.

Both amused me, so I thought I'd share.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Cute Story

I'll warn you right up front, this one isn't intended as a humor essay, it's just a cut/sad/poignant story about four-year-old Liam, my son. And I'll also warn you, mere text probably does not convey the situation sufficiently, I'm writing it up as much to remind me of the story in future years as to try to convey it to others.

* * *

As many friends and family members know, Liam has a few small medical problems, including a sensitivity to Gluten (a protein found in wheat and some other grains) and Casein (dairy protein), and so we have to keep a strict "CFGF" (Casein-Free, Gluten-Free) diet for him.

In recent months, he's taken to telling people what he can't have. He likes to tell waiters and friends at picnics "I can't have dairy or wheat". In text, it does not convey just how cute this is, coming out of his little mouth, especially since he doesn't really grasp what those things actually ARE and how they make up various foods, just that those are the components he can't have.

Anyway, two nights ago, we were at the local 99 Restaurant, and as so many restaurants do, they now have a gluten-free hamburger bun available. This is approximately equivalent to serving a nice thick juicy filet mignon on a paper plate with plastic utensils, in that the bun doesn't taste quite so much like a hamburger bun as it does like a cross between sawdust (for taste and that subtle dry, sandy feel you just can't fake) and cement (for density).

Nevertheless, Liam likes it when he can get one of those, because it gives him the chance to eat a burger like his siblings do, in hand, in a bun, so when we have the opportunity, we order it for him that way, making sure to emphasize that dairy is also a problem, so to please not put cheese or anything similar on the burger.

So, when the food comes out, Liam's burger has cheese on it. We notice this as they are about to put it down in front of him, so they take it away and Liam barely notices. After all, two of his sisters' entrees had not yet come out, so he was not the only person not yet served.

It took them about 5 minutes to cook another burger, and out it came and they set it in front of Liam and he began to prepare to eat it, having Mommy put ketchup on it, starting to pick it up, but I was suspicious. Understand, taste is not the only way to differentiate gluten-free baked goods, they also have a look that can best be described as "plastic model of food in diner display case". Without gluten, yeast doesn't really make the bun rise so much as kind of anemically swell, with about the same appetizing look as the mumps.

So I asked the waitress, who looked at it, said "I'm not sure, I stepped away and didn't actually watch them make it, but you're right, it doesn't look right, let me go check." And so we had to grab the burger away from Liam as it was literally a second away from his mouth as he was going in for his first bite.

As you might imagine, Liam was not happy about this. He'd been complaining about being hungry (in a very polite way) for a while, and he'd finally received his food, and Mommy & Daddy were taking it away. He started crying, so I got up and picked him up to hold him and try to distract him while the harried waitress (quite as annoyed as we were that the kitchen couldn't get a simple allergy-important order correct) hurried off to rectify the situation and make sure it was done right this time.

So I'm talking to Liam, trying to get his mind off of things, and he's sobbing in that heart-breaking "What did I do? I'm sorry for whatever it was! Can I please have my food?" kind of way, and so to try to make him understand, I explained that the burger had had the wrong bun on it, and that it would make Liam sick, and so they were going to go make him one that wouldn't.

And then, to try to engage him in the conversation, I said "You know why, right? What is it you can't have?"

And in the sort of pathetic, sobbing voice you just can't fake, Liam says "My hamburger?"

Words can not express the mixture of emotions at that moment. A titter swept the table, as everyone else was fully expecting Liam to respond "dairy and wheat", but for me, there was nothing funny about it. All I could see was the anguish in my son's eyes, knowing that he was still hungry, his food had been taken away, and for some reason Mommy & Daddy had cooperated with taking it away. And this little boy, who had been so polite about being hungry, was not throwing a tantrum or demanding his food, but merely sad because for some reason he couldn't fathom, he might have been deemed unworthy of his meal.

The most tragic moment of his life? If so, he'll be a lucky boy. Still, in that moment, a poignant reminder that we can't protect our children from all of the little pains of life. There will always be life's hamburgers.

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