…And Z is For Zoo!

Today is the final day of April, which means it is also the final day of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Unlike last year, I managed to go 26-for-26 in 2016! (pause for applause) I shall finish up the challenge by discussing my trip to the zoo.

Last week, the Cutlet’s kindergarten class took a field trip to the Washington DC National Zoo, and they asked for parent volunteers. Wanting to spend some extra time with my daughter, I volunteered, although I didn’t realize what I was actually signing up for.

I figured the entire class would travel together on a pre-determined schedule, and I’d just be along to lend a helping hand and keep track of the kids. Instead, each parent was assigned two children – my daughter and another student – and we were pretty much on our own.

My first thought was, “So I’m singlehandedly responsible for the well-being of a child I’ve never met?” My second thought was, “What if this kid is a prick?” Fortunately, Aaron was not a prick. He listened well, and he and the Cutlet got along nicely.

We were supposed to pair with another parent, but when we got off the bus, there were so many children there, (apparently it was a very popular day for school field trips) that we got separated from most of the others. Undaunted, we headed off to see the animals.

We didn’t have enough time to see everything, but we hit the key areas: The giant pandas, the ape house, the small mammal house (the kids were really excited to see the naked mole rats), and the cheetahs. The kids were pleased to learn that they would serve as a suitable meal for a cheetah.

I may have broken the rules a little. We were specifically told not to buy the kids anything, but they were behaving well, so I splurged on some ice cream. I know, I’m a real rebel. At least, unlike some of the parents, I was able to get us back to the bus on time.

All in all, it was an excellent day. I got to skip work and spend some quality time with my daughter. What more could I ask for?

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was Z and the topic was “Zoo.”

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A Birthday Treat for Mrs. Cutter

Today is Mrs. Cutter’s birthday, so in her honor I will post this video by her favorite 1980’s boy band, New Kids on the Block!

A discussion on Facebook today revealed that her favorite member of NKOTB was Joey McIntyre. One of her friends then pointed out that I bear somewhat of a resemblance to Joey.

That jean jacket is FIRE. (Image source)

That jean jacket is FIRE. (Image source)

I realize that those of you who don’t know what I look like will have no way of judging whether or not this is true. But now I fully understand why Mrs. Cutter was attracted to me in the first place: I’m simply a stand-in for her childhood crush.

Since I’m sure everyone is now curious as to what Joey looks like today, here’s what I assume is a more recent picture:

I guess he’s aged okay. It could be a lot worse.

Anyway, here’s to another year of Mrs. Cutter! Hope she’s had a good day, and that tonight turns out even better!

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was Y and the topic was “You Got It (The Right Stuff).”

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X-Amining the X-Men Movies

The final trailer for X-Men:Apocalypse was released last week. There had been speculation whether or not Wolverine was in the movie – most people suspected a cameo similar to what we got in First Class – but the trailer confirmed his presence. It doesn’t appear as if he’s heavily featured, but he is expected to show up for at least one big fight scene.

I had a brief discussion with a friend over the merits of the First Class movies vs. the original X-trilogy. We both agreed that the First Class movies are superior. The first two were excellent, and early reports on Apocalypse are good as well. Meanwhile, the originals ranged from okay (X-Men), to very good (X2), to crappy (The Last Stand).

However, I’m not sure they could have made the First Class trilogy if they hadn’t started out with the originals. (Aside from the obvious problem that about a third of Days of Future Past features the original cast.) Remember that when the first X-Men came out in 2000, comic book movies weren’t nearly as mainstream as they are today. As strange as it seems now, the general public wasn’t all that familiar with the X-Men, so they had to introduce the basic concepts: Mutants have emerged, humanity fears them, Magneto wants mutant supremacy, the X-Men want to stop him.

They also wanted Wolverine – the most popular character in the comic – to be heavily featured, since they (correctly) assumed that he would be a marketable movie character. But his presence in First Class likely would have distracted from the key story of First Class: The divide between Xavier and Magneto.

Speaking of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman has said that after the upcoming Wolverine 3, he’s done playing the character. We’ll see if he really means it (Shoving enough money in an actor’s direction can often make him reconsider), or if they have to figure out how to replace him. Would they be worried that fans wouldn’t accept a different actor playing the part? It didn’t hurt the Spider-Man franchise, but people were never that into Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Peter Parker.

If they did replace Jackman, I hope they go with an actor of appropriate height, since in the comics, Wolverine is about 5’4″ tall. He’s somewhat a hero to all the short people out there, so it would be nice to see that reflected on the big screen.

Of course they could always take the revolutionary step of making future X-Men movies without Wolverine. It seems unlikely, but these movies seem to be licenses to print money, with or without Wolverine. Either way, we’re probably going to get X-movies until the end of time.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was X and the topic was “X-Men.”

 

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The Great Outdoors

Haven’t had much time in front of the computer today, so this post is going to be abbreviated. I’m attempting to write it from my phone while sitting at Nationals Park watching a baseball game.

What I’m currently looking at

My team at work eschewed the office in favor of going on a hike today. We walked along the Appalachian trail in Northern Maryland. Not too tough of a trail, and there was some nice scenery.

It was pleasant getting outside and taking a break from the normal monotony of office life. It just would have been nicer had the weather cooperated. 

The temperature was a bit chilly and there was a sporadic drizzle. Fortunately, I was dressed appropriately and I didn’t feel too wet or cold, but a sunny day still would have been preferable.


Since I apparently didn’t get enough of the chilly temperatures, I’m now outside watching baseball. Not a pleasant night for it, but I’m bundled up.

Back to the office tomorrow, so my post should be a little more detailed. You can decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

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Casting My Ballot

It is convenient that the “V” day for the Blogging From A to Z Challenge happened to fall on election day in Maryland, as it provides me an easy topic to write about.

A few weeks ago, I received my voting instructions and sample ballot in the mail. Ever since, I’ve been meaning to do some research on all the candidates to figure out who I’d cast my ballot for. As mentioned, I already decided to support Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary race, but there were other offices up for grabs too. Since I feel it is my civic duty to cast a well-informed vote for these positions as well, I wanted to at least have some idea who deserved my support.

Of course, there’s a big gap between meaning to do something, and actually doing it. As of this morning, I hadn’t done any research, so I spent about half an hour today trying to look up the various candidates on the internet in hopes that some of them stood out as vote-worthy.

Some candidates don’t exactly have a large presence on the web. For some of the senatorial candidates, the best I could find was a YouTube video of them talking about themselves and their beliefs. (In some cases, I’m not sure they realized the camera was on.) Thankfully, for less prestigious positions like Board of Education, the local papers did a decent job of summarizing the candidates’ positions.

Once I decided who to vote for, I headed to the polling place. I was hoping that by going in the middle of the day, I’d avoid waiting in long lines, and I was correct. One thing that did surprise me was the use of paper ballots. Instead of a computer touch screen, I actually had to fill in a circle with a pen. The future is not here, I guess?

I turned in my ballot, put on my obligatory “I voted” sticker, and headed back to work, satisfied that I did my part to keep our democratic system working smoothly.

Now I just hope that all my candidates win so that I don’t have to move to Canada.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was V and the topic was “Voting.”

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Unhealthy

It seems that I’ve fallen ill. My throat is sore, my glands are swollen, and I’ve developed an inability to speak in anything besides a whisper or a quiet, coarse mumble. I was hoping that I was immune to throat-based sicknesses, but this is proof that I am still susceptible.

A little over ten years ago, I chose to have my tonsils removed. It really wasn’t a difficult decision. I was experiencing increasingly frequent bouts of tonsillitis, which not only left me feeling sick much of the time, but it was also affecting my sleep. My swollen throat caused me to snore, which was a poor combination with a fiance who has an irrational hatred of the sound of snoring.

I consulted an ear-nose-throat specialist who pretty much cringed when he looked down my throat. In my experience, it isn’t a good sign when a doctor cringes, but he said that the problem could be rectified with a simple tonsillectomy.

I agreed, and for the low cost of a $100 insurance co-pay, I was tonsil-free a few weeks later. The worst part of the procedure may have been the immediate aftermath.  As I sat in the recovery area, the surgeon described the operation to Mrs. Cutter. When he likened the process to cutting through wood, Mrs. Cutter began to feel faint, and nearly passed out. Naturally, all the nurses turned their attention to her, while I was left dazed and nauseous. I also threw up because my body doesn’t deal well with anesthesia.

Once healed, I was hoping to be the picture of perfect health. I thought the absence of tonsils might make me near invincible. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Too many sleepless nights and too much exposure to small children has prevented that from happening. But at least until now I’ve managed to avoid strep throat and other tonsil related illnesses.

I’m no longer hoping I can avoid getting sick. Now, I’m just hoping that my voice comes back.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was U and the topic was “Unhealthy.”

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I Am Not My Brother/I Am Not My Sister

The Cutlass woke up early this morning. Lately, Cujo has been the more frequent early riser, but he was apparently tired today. Fortunately, I was able to get the Cutlass out of her crib without waking him up. Often times, when one is awake before the other, I’m not so lucky.

Cujo wasn’t very hungry at lunch time. The Cutlass ate at least a little bit of everything I put in front of her, but Cujo rejected everything besides the fruit, and he didn’t have very much of that.

The Cutlass is on antibiotics. We noticed her eye was snotty for a few days, and the doctor confirmed that she had pinkeye. So four times a day, we need to put drops in her eye. She’s been surprisingly okay with the process. We’re hoping that her brother doesn’t start leaking out the eye, because we have a feeling that he might not be so receptive.

At nap time, the Cutlass seemed tired, but Cujo – likely due to his later wake-up time, didn’t show much inclination to sleep. Unfortunately, whether she liked it or not, the Cutlass wasn’t going to sleep immediately, because it can be tough to sleep when the person you share a room with won’t stop talking to you.

When we went into their room to wake them up, the Cutlass sprung up immediately. Cujo continued to snore away.

At dinner, he liked the matzoh ball soup, but hated the gefilte fish. She enjoyed the carrots, but didn’t try much of anything else. Both liked the cake.

The Cutlass wanted to play in the backyard. Cujo wanted to play in the basement. Cujo wanted to look at pictures. The Cutlass wanted to read a book.

I realize that we’re not giving either of you exactly what you need. For better or worse, there will always be times when you’re treated as a unit rather than individual people. We need to do what’s best for both of you, even if that isn’t best for either of you.

I just hope that in the end, you each get what you need.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was T and the topic was “Twins.”

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Analysis of the Soda Machine Selections at the Office

My office now has a soda machine in the kitchen area. Even better, the sodas only cost 25 cents! Yes, you read that correctly: 25 cents! For only a quarter, we can get our daily fix of carbonation.

How could anyone possibly complain about cheap sodas? Well, I’ve found a way. Here’s a quick look at the selection available.

Coke

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This is an obvious choice, as Coke is pretty much the all-American soda. If you’re not going to have Coke, then there’s no point in even having a soda machine.

Coke Zero

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Many people are going to opt for diet soda rather than the regular kind. Coke Zero is a good choice, since I think it’s far superior to Diet Coke. Things seem to be going well so far.

Diet Coke

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Do we really need both Coke Zero and Diet Coke? I mean, I prefer CZ, but I’d manage if they only had Diet Coke. I don’t think anyone feels strongly enough about one or the other that we needed to have both.

Diet Pepsi

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Really? We need to have Coke Zero, Diet Coke, AND Diet Pepsi? Who the hell decided that we needed three different diet colas in this machine? Were there a three-person soda committee? Did each have a preferred diet cola and refused to concede that others might be superior?

Diet Dr. Pepper

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Okay, a little variety is nice. I’ve never been a fan of Dr Pepper, but it’s at least a little bit of a change of pace.

Caffeine Free Diet Coke

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Are you f***ing serious? Caffeine Free Diet Coke? Caffeine Free Diet Coke is not a soda, it is an abomination against humanity! On the bright side, it gives me an excuse to bring up a story from my past.

Back in my little league days, parents would be responsible for supplying post-game sodas for the team. (Do they still do this? Or do kids have healthy post-game drinks these days?) The sodas would be supplied on a rotating basis, so the quality would vary depending on which parent was buying.

When it was my mother’s turn, I’d insist that she got flavored sodas from Acme supermarket, because those were the bomb. I’d also ask her to reserve me a grape soda, because I loved grape soda. Heck, I practically subsisted on the stuff throughout my childhood and teenage years.

After one game, the post-game sodas were Caffeine Free Diet Coke. I remember drinking it and thinking, “This is awful. Are we being punished for not playing better?” (We weren’t an especially good team, so maybe?) When I’m an old man and my memory is gone, I’ll still likely remember how disappointed I was to have Caffeine Free Diet Coke as the post-game soda.

TL;DR: This is an awful choice for the soda machine.

Fanta

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They really threw a curveball on us here. After so many diet sodas, they veer way off the beaten path and give us orange soda. Normally, I’d applaud them for providing some variety, except I hate orange soda. The stuff is disgusting. For me, if you want a flavored soda, it’s grape or GTFO.

Sprite Zero

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I’ll admit it: I kinda like Sprite Zero.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was S and the topic was “Soda”

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Awesomely Obscure Songs: Ridin’ Low

Every so often, I discuss songs which I have always liked, but for whatever reason, never became big hits. Some of them are by famous artists, some are from lesser-known musical acts.

Ridin’ Low – L.A.D.

With previous Awesomely Obscure Songs, I’ve provided a little history about the song, but this one was tough. There’s not too much information about the song or the group L.A.D. on the internet.

I did learn that the song actually reached #1 on the New Zealand music charts. You’d think there would be more information about it, but apparently, the Kiwis don’t write too much about their popular music.

I don’t recall how the song even came to my attention. I seem to remember first hearing it on a CD owned by one of my college roommates. I don’t believe it was an official L.A.D. CD, but rather some sort of compilation. Years later, I remembered liking the song and downloaded the MP3. (Kazaa FTW!) For some reason, the MP3 incorrectly attributed the song to late 90’s Mexican-American rap group Lighter Shade of Brown. It’s a shame they didn’t sing the song, because I was able to find a little bit of information about them. (At least they have a Wikipedia page!)

Regardless, it’s a catchy little feel good tune about cruising around in a car with a girl. It’s the kind of song that makes me wish I still had a convertible.

What do you think? Should Ridin’ Low have been a hit or does it deserve its obscure status?

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was R and the topic was “Ridin’ Low”

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Quack!

At 19 months of age, the twins are still working on their talking skills. They both say various basic words like “more,” “mama,” “dada,” thank you,” “yes,” and “no.” As is often the case, the girl is ahead of the boy verbally, as she’ll also semi-regularly use multi-word phrases like “I love you,” and “let it go.” (The Cutlet has a Frozen microphone which plays Idina Menzel’s signature song, and the Cutlass has begun to sing along with it.)

Cujo has not proven as adept. We were slightly concerned, but at his last doctor visit, the doctor told us that if he uses animal sounds appropriately (making the right sound for each animal) then they count as words spoken. At first, he wasn’t always getting them right – quite a few animals quacked – but he’s usually pretty accurate now. It’s really kind of cute when he grabs his stuffed duck and starts running around the room going, “Quack! Quack!”

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that my children are good at making sounds, since making animal sounds is one of my skills. I’m now optimistic that if the apocalypse does come, and my family is forced to hunt for our food, we’ll be in decent shape. Of course this plan hinges on the Cutlet developing into a skilled archer, but I’ve already gotten her started with a Nerf bow. I figured The transition to shooting animals with real arrows shouldn’t be too difficult.

So bring on the apocalypse! The Cutter family will be ready!

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was Q and the topic was “Quack.”

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