The Random Yak

One Good Thing: Not Attacking Myself in Public.

Filed under: Frivol,Just Yaks,One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 11:25 am on April 23, 2010

(Another good thing: not losing to myself in public…)

Today’s Random Thought/One Good Thing brought to you by: the two-headed bobtail lizard of Australia.

Once again, BBC News has published the glorious truth that nothing of note goes on in the UK of a Friday.  Or anywhere else in the world, apparently.  “The Big Picture” of The World as We Know it boils down to this: sometimes the bobtail lizard has babies with two heads.  And sometimes those heads don’t like one another very much.

The twoheaded bobtail (a variety of skink – which might explain the negative attitude, since skinks are notoriously bad-tempered) was “rescued” by a reptile park (U.S. English, read “zoo-like place where animals live in captivity”) in Perth, Australia.  The heads share control of the creature’s back legs, but seem to have completely separate brains.  The larger head also seems less than fond of its conjoined twin, and has attacked it from time to time.  Probably for waking it up for bathroom visits in the middle of the night.  (I told you…no coffee after nine!) Or something.

So if today’s not going well for you, and you’re looking forward to 5:00 because nothing else seems to be going your way, take a moment and ponder the fact that you’re not a short-lived, two-headed skink attached for life to half a creature that wants to kill you just because it finds your potty habits inconvenient.  Makes the rest of it seem a little brighter, no?

You’ll Believe it When What Freezes Over?

Filed under: Christmas Alliance,One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 10:44 am on December 7, 2009

(Note: this morning’s post is brought to you by Global Warming.)

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, anticipating a 7am conference call with clients on the East Coast.  Hearing that last night’s rain had not ended, I went back to sleep, confident that I could wake up at 6:55 and call in from the home office – after all, the beauty of phoning it in is that no one cares knows if you’re still in your pajamas.

At 6:55, I tumbled out of bed, stumbled into sweats, and made my way  to the home office at the far end of the house to keep from waking Yak the Younger and The Random Spouse.  But as I picked up the telephone and started dialing, I happened to turn and look out the window.

And almost dropped the phone in surprise.

Because the pair of light-up Christmas deer Yak the Younger and I installed on the front lawn last night were standing in half  an inch of snow.

Not unusual, you say?  Happens all the time in December?

Not in Sacramento.

That’s right, Sacramento.  California.  Land of sunshine.  Land of fruits and nuts (our biggest export – most of them direct to Washington, D.C.)

And today, we had snow.

Setting the phone on the desk, I hurried back to the other end of the house to wake the Random Family.  I spent enough years living on the East Coast to know “sticking snow” from snow that won’t last, and ours had already started to melt away.  I didn’t know whether the Family would share my enthusiasm for the white carpet that covered the lawn, roof, and cars, but I knew two things for sure:

It was better to risk the wrath incurred in waking them than that of having let them sleep and miss it; and

I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being accused of hallucinating snow in Sacramento.  This doesn’t happen but once in a decade or so.

Yeah, I needed witnesses.

And got them.  Yak the Younger grumbled a little when I opened his bedroom door, but quickly sat bolt upright when I told him to look at the snow.  (He’s never lived where it snows, so this was a somewhat startling first.) Even The Random Spouse – not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination – got up to peer out the window and bemoan the lack of working cameras in the house.  (Yeah, that’s a story for another day.)

By the time I write this entry, all of the snow has  melted, leaving nothing but freezing rain and memories in its wake.  But I’ve still marked it down as an early and much-appreciated Christmas present.  Just last night, as Yak the Younger and I put up Christmas lights on the front of the house, I thought about how much I missed the white Christmases of my college years.

I know the white stuff brings inconveniences galore, from windshields that need scraping to driveways that need much, much more, but I’ve always loved watching it fall, and for all-out beauty nothing beats sunshine sparkling on a recently-frosted world.  (Plus, I haven’t lived in it for over a decade now, so I’m far enough from the nasty bits to romanticize them away.) No sunshine this morning, only a mizzling rain, but in a pinch even that will do.

With a Christmas tree in the living room, lights on the roof line, charity gifts delivered, a pair of glittering deer on the lawn, and my shopping almost completed  – with over two weeks to go until Christmas, I’d already figured out that The Christmas Spirit came calling early this year.  All I needed was a little fall of snow.  And this morning, against all odds, I got it.  In California, where it doesn’t snow.

A nice reminder that ours is a God of miracles, and that they’re in season at this time of year.

So I know this comes a couple of weeks before its time, but I’m going to say it anyway:

Merry Christmas to all, and God Bless us, every one.

Time Waster Wednesday: Cake Wrecks

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 11:29 am on October 14, 2009

Many of you have probably seen this before.  I admit, I lurk at Cake Wrecks.  Okay, in the interest of full disclosure: I read Cake Wrecks from my favorites menu, not even on my Bloglines feed.  Yeah, I go there for real, almost every day.

It’s a train wreck of massive, sugary proportions, and if you spend even ten minutes in the archives, I defy you not to become hooked.  It’s like potato chips, oreos and bacon: there may be people out there who can handle walking away after one little piece…but I’m sure I don’t want to know them.

Go to Cake Wrecks.  Enjoy the afternoon.  Don’t blame me for the consequences.

Good Fences Make Good Children, Too

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 11:47 am on September 4, 2009

Two weeks ago I rebuilt a fence.

Not a whole fence, just a section – and I didn’t replace the uprights (trust me – that’s another post) – just a part that had fallen down and partially rotted away.  The section had fallen into disrepair , and I’d promised the neighbors (who live elsewhere, so the house next door sits vacant most of the year) that I’d handle the repair.

So two Saturdays ago I woke up early, left The Random Spouse and Yak the Younger sleeping away and took the truck (yet another post…but yeah, that’s what I’m driving these days) to the local major-mega-home-improvement-warehouse-store, where I passed over the prefabricated fence sections in favor of uprights, cross-braces and nails.  Yeah, I was going to build a fence. (more…)

‘Tis a Gift to be Simple

Filed under: Just Yaks,One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 1:27 pm on November 25, 2008

…’tis a gift to be free…

‘Tis a gift to live in a nation where a day dedicated to giving thanks to God for His many blessings exists as an institution, accepted even by those who have forgotten its origin.  Indeed, despite the famous history of the speech President Lincoln assumed the world would little note nor long remember, most people barely remember the other proclamation Lincoln made that same year.  The one that begins:

“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation of Thanksgiving led to the establishment of the holiday that now marks the beginning of what many refer to as the “holiday season” (despite retailers’ increasing tendency to creep backward to October) and which even those who refuse to acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas might better term “the Season of thanks.”

Earlier today, our friend and ally David at Third World County challenged each of us to answer the question: “To whom are you thankful for the blessings in your life?”  I respond to his call as follows:

I am grateful to God for making me more grateful, more humble and more dependent upon Him than I have ever been before.

I am grateful to The Random Spouse for enduring my consistent failure to improve upon the deficits in my character, and for loving me even when I seem determined to prove myself unlovable.

I am grateful to Yak the Younger for demonstrating, on a daily basis, how to “become as one of these” and for making me want to become a better person, that I may also be a better example for him.

I am grateful to The Random Maniyak for the support, friendship and consistent reality checks that only a true friend can provide.

I am grateful to The Random Parents and The Random In-Laws, for not just one lifetime worth of lessons, but two.

I am grateful to The Random Father, though he is not here this year to hear me say so, because he told me to watch everyone, to glean from each what is good and admirable, and to also learn to avoid their mistakes.  I may not have perfected this lesson, but I’m working on it.

I am grateful to those who call me friend, whose friendship I treasure far more than they probably know.  (For that, the fault is mine.)  They are at once too few to forget and too numerous to do justice to in so limited a space.

The economy may be sitting in the tank, the sky is cloudy, and the forecast calls for rain, but I approach Thanksgiving with gratitude and appreciation.  I know to whom I am grateful, starting with the Creator who made the day and for whom the day was made.  Simple expressions of a simpler idea, perhaps, but then Thanksgiving has never been about complexity or commercialism.  It celebrates our freedom and our gratitude to the Creator God, who while we were yet enemies, “hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

For which, I am grateful.

One Good Thing: Patience

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 12:05 pm on July 9, 2008

The LORD is trying to teach me patience.

I have learned many lessons, but this one seems the hardest.  Yaks are not patient by nature (we are merely slow and stubborn), and even among yaks I’m less patient than most.

It has taken several weeks for me to realize that my current circumstances amount to more than happenstance, and that facts and people whose presence requires me to learn patience haven’t just landed randomly in my path.  At last, however, it seems the situation has passed beyond what I could ignore.  The conclusion, inescapable:  I am to learn patience (immediately…)

The facts that conspired to help me reach this conclusion?

1.  I have recently come into contact with a number of people who (for various reasons) cannot learn and cannot absorb instructions for more than a short period of time.  The fact that I must deal with these people in my personal and business lives means that I find myself spending approximately 15% of my life explaining, re-explaining and attempting not to chew the heads off people who really do need my help and honestly cannot help the fact that they can’t learn either from experience or instruction.  (Yes, these people do exist, and they’re not slackers.  No, for various reasons I can’t just ignore or dump them – they are mine to help and they do appreciate the assistance, though they remain blissfully unaware of their instructional deficits.)

2.  Objects around me have begun breaking down, each of which possesses a unique (and different) time-delay in the circumstances of its repair which necessitates me waiting on it being fixed or replaced for varying amounts of time.

3.  A long-awaited project finally seems to be bearing fruit, but due to the nature of the project (subject of a post to be named later) it will take at least 2-4 months to know whether or not it’s going to go.

4.  I’m scheduled for surgery at the end of July which will put me flat on my back and out of commission for two to four weeks, “with optional eight-week recovery period” and a mandate from the doctor that I not lift anything heavier than a coffee cup for ten weeks.  At least.  (And I’m betting the coffee cup part was just to avoid full-scale mutiny. That or the hospital is out of caffeinated I.Vs)  In other words: no, you can’t work, you can’t garden, you can’t exercise or go rock climbing.  Just lie there and pretend to be useful.

5.  Oh yeah.  I threw my back out last weekend.

There are more, but that’s a good representational offering.

Independently, each seems merely a series of unfortunate events designed to teach me to wait, to rest, and to hold my breath for at least a minute before responding to the same question for the hundredth time.  In sum, however, they begin looking like something very different.  Something bigger than me, and bigger than the individual parts.

It looks like God reaching down and saying “ok, Yak.  Listen up.  Got an important job for you, but it’s going to require pacing yourself, interacting with people, and not biting the heads off the little beings I love so much.  In other words, patience.”

Something I have in infinitely short supply.

I’d love to end this post by stating that I’ve made great strides, discovered previously unknown fountains of glowing love for my fellow man, or stopped wanting to pitch the broken coffee maker over the balcony.  To fill you in on the secret to peaceful inner focus and the delightful, sunny attitude with which a “light-hearted, humble and giving Christian” meets the world.  Heck, I’d like to tell you I wasn’t tempted to say The Words We Do Not Say the last time I had to repeat myself to a Third Party Who Shall Remain Nameless (primarily because the name I’d call him isn’t nice) the last time I had to give instructions I’d given ten thousand times before.

But I can’t.

I woke up this morning only slightly less ornery than I was yesterday, and most of that was due to the fact that the air conditioning was working.  Although I have come to realize that I’m in training for something, I feel the way a kindergartener on his first tricycle might feel at the start of the Tour de France:  It’s easier to give up than to persevere, and I’m not going to win this thing no matter which option I pick.

But even as I realize I’ve fallen (and I can’t get up) before the starter’s gun, I realize that something does differentiate me from the kindergartener.  Two things keep me on my feet.  The fact that the LORD brought these circumstances together to teach me something, and the fact that He has never once abandoned someone once he gave that person an assignment to complete.  The fact that I stumble simply means He will pick me up again, and He will keep on lifting me to my feet long after I have passed beyond the strength to rise up on my own. 

I doubt I will ever have the patience He would wish for me.  Not because I won’t try, and not because He cannot give it to me, but because my stubborn nature will always be a stumbling block against which I must fight.  Still, I’m willing to try, and with His help I might even reach a place I’d never achieve alone.

So LORD grant me patience – and give it to me NOW.

Or if not, I’ll set one foot in front of the other and stretch a little farther each day, remembering that the journey is mine and the people and circumstances you set before me are intended to teach me through opportunity, not to harass me into failure.  Bit my bit, help me become patient.  For that is One Good Thing.

One Good Thing: Paper Clips

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 10:43 am on July 3, 2008

Complete the following sentence:  The last time I paid attention to a paper clip was ………

Yeah, I said “basically never” too.

While attempting to fall asleep last night, I found myself pondering paper clips.  (Welcome to my world.  It’s scarier than yours, and most people limit themselves to short visits.)  I use them almost every day, in one context or another, but I realized I hadn’t ever really thought about them – except to the extent I cursed their absence or blustered over the ill-conceived notion that I could fasten fifty pages with one of the small ones.  (Note to the wise: you can’t.)

For a relatively simple object, the paper clip has a surprising versatility.  It clips papers.  It fastens cloth (useful when a dressmaker runs out of pins) and it amuses small children for hours.  Once, while visiting The Random Father’s law office, I entertained myself by fashioning a six-foot chain from one-inch paper clips.  Upon hearing “time to leave,” I stuffed the clips back down into the clip holder, where The Random Father later discovered them (and spent a significant number of non-billable hours undoing five minutes’ work).

But I digress.  It occurred to me that I have no idea who invented the paper clip, or when, or why.  Like so many other useful-but-overlooked daily objects, my paper clips lived their lives in semi-useful obscurity (I confess to a preference for staples, but when I need a clip, nothing else will do), noticed only in absentia.

So first thing this morning I Googled “paper clip, history” and learned the following Random Facts About Paper Clips (with a tip of the horns to Wikipedia):

1.  The first paper clip patent was issued in 1867.  The clip was invented by a man seeking a better way to attach labels to garments and textiles.  (Hopefully not permanently.  I have enough trouble dealing with the tags in the back of my shirts.  Can’t imagine having a paper clip back there too.)

2.  The wire paper clips which make up most of the paper clips used in the United States originated in Britain (kind of like … the United States), where they were marketed as “Gem clips.”  (Not that they look like gems.  Or have the value of gems.  Or shine like gems.  But you can make necklaces out of them, so I guess it works.)

3.  A Norwegian named Johan Valer patented a paper clip design which omitted the final wire turn (basically a largely useless wire square) :


but which nonetheless made him a posthumous hero in his native Norway, where a commercial college erected a giant paper clip in his honor.  (Ironically, the giant clip follows the modern design of the “Gem Clip” and not Valer’s more limited offering.)

3.  During World War II, the Nazis had to ban the wearing of paper clips when Norwegians began using them as a symbol of national unity – proving that banning patriotic symbols results in the development of new ones, and not the hoped-for abandonment of freedom and national pride.

Not a bad history for a little twist of wire.  From fastening clothes to fastening papers to symbol of resistance and, ultimately, a giant, ironic testament to someone who almost got it right.  Take a look in the desk drawer.  Bet you find at least one.  And if you’ve got papers around, that is One Good Thing.

 Trackposted to Pet’s Garden Blog, Leaning Straight Up, Democrat=Socialist, Maggie’s Notebook, and Right Voices, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

One Good Thing: Box Spring Lining

Filed under: Just Yaks,One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 6:51 am on July 2, 2008

Every day, I attempt to find and extol the virtues of at least One Good Thing.  Some days I do better than others, and some days I don’t manage to post, but I always try to appreciate something between sunrise and sunset.

Some days, the appreciation comes a little earlier.

Those of you with beds that sit off the ground (read: futon-on-the-floor owners will have to take my word for it) understand that such beds typically come with either a mattress or mattress and box spring combination, consisting of springs and other squishy substances (yeah, that’s the technical term) covered in a liner or other fabric.  The purpose of this fabric, not surprisingly, is to keep the insides in and the outside out, and under ordinary circumstances that’s exactly what happens.

This might not shock you, but on My Side of the Mountain we frequently encounter less than ordinary circumstances.  (more…)

One Good Thing: Or is it Two?

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 11:58 am on June 26, 2008

For today’s Good Thing, we turn to the book of Ecclesiastes (yeah, I heard your eyebrows raise – bear with me).

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”  (Ecclesiastes 4.9-12, NASB)  (more…)

One Good Thing: Free Will

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 11:29 am on June 18, 2008

Sitting at the dinner table last night, Yak the Younger initiated a conversation about King Solomon, which led to an extended conversation about predestination, free will and the way they work together. 

(Statistically, 5% of you understand why.  The rest might want to ponder the following: If Solomon, as the son of David and Bathsheba, is in the direct line of Christ, and if King David had the free will to act or not to act on his improper impulses, what would have happened if David had suppressed his sinful desires?  Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.)

This prompted more than an hour of exceptionally pleasant conversation, which essentially distills down to the following:

1.  Our free will is not negated by the idea of predestination or God’s overarching plan for the universe, any more than an ant’s free will is negated by the fact that I can sweep it off the table or place obstacles in its path if I choose.  Within its sphere, the ant makes its own choices (whether or not it has awareness of my existence) and possesses the complete, unrestricted ability to elect any of the available options – just like the rest of us.

2.  We cannot foil God’s plan – or interfere with His predestined plan for the Universe – by the independent exercise of free will.  To continue with the ant analogy (shamelessly stolen borrowed from the Maniyak, to whom credit is both due and given) : Suppose there is a grain of rice sitting on the table, near the ant, and I intend to remove the rice from the table.  My ideal plan may involve the ant taking the rice with it as it treks across the table.  The ant is fed and the rice is removed, and all benefit.  If the ant chooses to ignore the rice, however, that does not limit – or even impact – my ability to ensure its prompt removal.  I can sweep it away with my hand, pick it up, let the cat eat it, ask Yak the Younger to remove it - my options are many, and God’s options infinitely more than mine.  If God intends for something to happen, it will happen, regardless of whether or not one or more of His created beings chooses to cooperate.

3.  Although we cannot use our free will to prevent or inhibit God’s plan from taking place, we can refuse to play the part God would prefer us to play.  Portions of the Bible refer to the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.  We cannot foil him – we can only deprive ourselves of the opportunity to operate at our highest possible level and to fulfill our highest potential.  We do this by refusing to seek Him and by operating on our own, “free” will rather than by using that will to choose to do what He would have us do – which may or may not agree with our personal desires at any given moment (but which many Christians will tell you will come to agree with our personal desires if, over time, we continue to subordinate ourselves willingly to God and to seek His plan for our individual lives).

Free will gives us a license to do great good or great evil.  It also makes us responsible for our choices.  A community of beings which lacked free will could not love and understand God nearly as well as those who possess the ability to reject Him.  A created being which cannot choose will never understand the quality of choice.  As C.S. Lewis points out: a bad man does not understand what it means to be bad, because he has never tried to be good – we understand temptation more by resisting it than we will ever understand it by giving in. 

The same is true of free will.  We learn to appreciate it when we make choices – not when choices are made on our behalf.  And I believe that we appreciate free will the most when we choose to subordinate it to the higher will of God, because only then can we begin to see His love and His plan operating in our lives.  We do not see God’s miracles nearly as clearly when we operate on our own understanding.  When we hand our lives over to Him, however, he pours His miracles into our lives to provide us with concrete, irrefutable evidence of His power, His presence and His plan.

This is possible only because He also endowed us with the free will to choose.  And although many people make the wrong choice, electing to live in darkness rather than opening their eyes to the light, recognizing that we have this power through the grace and mercy of an omnipresent God who wants us to choose Him freely rather than subjugating us by force is indeed One Good Thing.

One Good Thing: An Extra Day

Filed under: Just Yaks,One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 4:33 pm on May 14, 2008

When people asked The Random Father how he was doing, he generally responded, “Well, I’m not looking at the bottom side of the top side of the box!” (Statistically, 37% of you don’t get it.  Take your time.)

Now, some might dispute whether or not that statement actually represents the best possible state of being, but for those of us attempting to enjoy our limited circuits around the sun, each day of life offers another opportunity for joy – as well as the chance to avoid stepping in it as badly as we did yesterday.  (Statistically, 85% of you will manage at least a C.  Statistically, 8% of you found the preceding statistic humorous.)

But if every day is a gift, an extra day is truly something special.  Consider: the opportunity to live one more day than you thought you had.  What would you do with it?  Would you spend it working?  Playing with family?  Reading a good book?  Would you laugh and pray more, and cry less?

I hope you would.

As it happens, I just realized that today is an extra day.  All day yesterday, I thought it was already Thursday.  I did my Thursday work, looked forward to Friday work (which does differ from the work I do the rest of the week, but that’s a different blog) and pushed through the Thursday exhaustion.  I emerged from the fog late Thursday afternoon, victorious over another working week – only to discover what the rest of you already knew: yesterday wasn’t Thursday.

It was only Wednesday.

At first I felt let down.  Disappointed.  Cheated by time.  Tomorrow was supposed to be Friday.  The day I do something different from the norm.  The day I look forward to digging in the garden and playing in the pool.  The week hadn’t just sneaked up on me, it had pounced with all its temporal fury, dragging me backward into a Thursday redux.

Only this morning did I realize what had actually happened.  Repeating Thursday didn’t represent a punishment, it offered an opportunity.  An extra day.  24 additional hours to try and “get it right.”  Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (if you haven’t seen it – see it.  I won’t say more.) I mistook the chance to live an extra day for the obligation to slog back through something that I had made not worth repeating.  Note: “I had made.”  Instead of taking the day that God had made, and the opportunity to figure out something new and exciting to do in it, I turned the error into something I had made – with fairly standard and fully foreseeable consequences.

Twelve hours remain in the extra day, and I intend to use and try to enjoy them all.

And the next time you find yourself cowering beneath the fax machine, whimpering “it’s only Wednesday, it’s only Wednesday,” pull yourself together, take someone you love for an ice cream, and celebrate the fact that you’ve received the gift of an extra day.  One you didn’t know you had, and one you’d better choose not to waste.

Because an extra day is One Good Thing.

One Good Thing: Hippo, Birdie, Two Ewes

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 3:41 pm on May 9, 2008

I no longer need to tell most of you that as a rule, we don’t pay much attention to birthdays on this side of the mountain.

I also don’t need to mention that I believe in the suspension of rules for anything from legitimate cause to “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

In light of that, I’ll take this opportunity to wish a very, very happy fourth birthday to The Random Niece, Anna Paola.  (Last name omitted.)  Princess Anna’s party commences at one o’clock this afternoon, and will doubtless continue, in one form or another, until everyone passes out from exhaustion or a sugar coma.  (Place your bets.  Personally, I’m hoping for ”sugar coma.”)

Although I’m not fond of birthday parties held on my account (Note: the foregoing has been a message from the Yak Department of Massive Understatement) I bear no ill will toward other peoples’ parties (provided the recipient/honored guest actually requested or wanted the celebration).  I may not like people throwing parties for me, but I do like giving presents to others, and if I have to attend a party in order to deliver said gift, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Where the kids are concerned, giving a group of children the opportunity to run around, in the presence of cake, balloons and assorted party games and activities, is not only a parent’s duty but also a pleasure (at least, if properly organized).  Fortunately, The Random Spouse and I also agreed that such events were best held away from The Random Domicile, where someone else could handle the major setup, cleanup and cooking activities. 

For those brave enough to hold their children’s birthday parties in their own homes …  We who are about to die at the mere thought do, indeed, salute you.

Whether held at home or in the relative safety of a park, pizza parlor or other child-centered birthday locale, a child’s birthday party is a happy thing.  The birthday girl (or boy) starts the day with a party-inspired glow that lasts (at least) until the last present transforms into a beloved gift surrounded by a growing pile of shredded paper and sticky ribbons.  Granted, one or more parents may end up on the verge of a nervous breakdown at the pile of dishes dripping with half melted ice-cream, the taffy ball stuck to the edge of the good carpet or the *cough* mess left by the kid who ate four corn dogs right before spending twenty minutes in the bouncer (with foreseeably unpleasant results). But at the end of the day, no matter how much stress went into the planning and execution, most of us know we’d do it all again – and will – because of the joy on the little face of the birthday child who stands, balloon and bear in hand, waving goodbye to the sticky but satisfied friends marching back down the walk.

For despite the tearful moments and bouncer-inspired cleanup, making your child happy with a birthday party of his-or-her choosing is, indeed, One Good Thing.

Happy Birthday to The Random Niece.


One Good Thing: The Delete Button

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 4:54 pm on April 30, 2008

An Open Letter to all the spammers out there who, not being satisfied with the traditional trackback/comment spam, have developed spiders and other bots designed to register their disgusting websites with comment names and identities, in order to blast this and other blogs with spam that would curl the hair of the most recalcitrant yak:





I periodically review the “active commenters” list, gleefully deleting all of the *cough* adult-and-drug-related ‘authors’ registered to comment on the blog  (some of which would end up deleting themselves, regardless of content, because my language filter would ban even the commenter names).  While a few of your spambots actually do a relatively convincing job – at first blush (pun intended) - at creating faux commenter names that might belong to a real (Note: not the same thing as “legitimate” – ed.) website, somehow I can always see you sneaking around the edges.

Case in point:  I’m not sure what pearls of wisdom “AdultEntertainment4U” intended to contribute to the comment section of this blog, but not knowing is a sacrifice I decided I’m willing to make.  No, I didn’t go to check out the website attached to the comment name.  Because somehow, I don’t think drinking a beer and watching a football game (though that definitely qualifies as entertainment for many adults) is what (s)he had in mind.

Other times, it’s much more difficult to recognize the spammers who who and what they are.  After all, hXxxGo83nNNxer has nothing to do with sex, drugs or *cough* lifestyle enhancement products.  I’m sure that individual has nothing but positive, mentally stimulating dialogue to add to the conversation.


Delete, delete, delete.

Delete, to the tune of 37 spammer comment names since the last time I checked (which, granted, was about a month ago).

The good news? We rest easy, confident in the knowledge that another battle in The Spam Wars has gone to the good team.

This message, and the positive outcome it contains, is brought to you by The Delete Button.  For all your one-stop spammer-eradication needs.  Also known as One Good Thing.

Trackposted to Conservative Cat, Right Truth, The World According to Carl, and The Yankee Sailor, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.  

One Good Thing: Work

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 7:11 pm on April 29, 2008

Many people think they don’t agree with the title to this post.

Some consider work something to avoid at all costs, while others merely find the prospect frustrating or distasteful.

I submit, for your consideration and ultimate (if grudging) approval, that all such people actually have it wrong. (more…)

One Good Thing: Ladybugs

Filed under: One Good Thing — Random Yak @ 5:44 pm on April 27, 2008

From time to time, I like to pick up old things, brush off the dust and marvel at the fact they still work.  Apparently that works here too, so I’m reinstituting the daily One Good Thing (though statistically, 98.3% of you know I’m not likely to get it done every day)

A few weeks ago I released live ladybugs in my rose garden as part of the ongoing War on Terroraphids.  (Some of you might not appreciate the threat terroraphids represent to a rose garden, but take my word for it, they can nuke a rosebud faster than just about anything other than grasshoppers – for which I bring in the SEAL team of biological pesticides: the praying mantis – but that’s another blog.)

Some time later, I noticed a few ladybug larvae making their way along the roses. A good sign, because it means the ladybugs stuck around long enough to do their job and to leave a second generation in place for later in the season.  For those unfamiliar: ladybug larvae look nothing like ladybugs.  They resemble tiny black alligators with orange-red spots, and the unwary regularly mistake them for pests.  After crawling around for a while, the larvae make little orange-spotted cocoon-like structures on the leaves of plants, where they cling for a week or so and then emerge as .. yep, ladybugs.

Normally, you don’t get to see the ladybug larvae making their little cocoons, or even the cocoons themselves, but we apparently had such a large hatching that the little guys had no choice but to stick themselves to every available surface, including the leaves of the corn plants in the vegetable garden.

Flash forward to Saturday.  Not the best day on record, as I had to spend an otherwise warm, sunny and generally beautiful day going through my father’s old legal papers in an attempt to recreate his tax deductions for the past couple of years.  (Combine the incomprehensible state of his files with the expected reaction to locating old family photos and artifacts stuffed into said files, and you can imagine it wasn’t a great afternoon.)  After several hours of this highly entertaining activity, I bailed out and headed for the solace of the garden. 

While standing over the corn, watching it grow, I noticed movement on the leaves.  Not the wind, but rather little quirky struggles coming from the multitude of ladybug cocoons – all of which apparently decided to hatch at the same time.  As I watched, half a dozen ladybugs worked their way free and settled in to dry their shells in the afternoon sun. 

Plenty of ideas went through my head as I watched them sitting there.  Some related to me, others (many admittedly anthropomorphic) to the not-so-little bugs. (Aside: Biggest ladybugs I ever saw.  Makes me wonder what was in all those aphids.)

I could relate them all, but I probably don’t have to.  (If you’d understand, you already do, and if you wouldn’t I’d only sound cliched.)  Suffice it to say I felt a lot better after watching them sun themselves than I did a few minutes before, and that while this wasn’t the first time I’ve seated myself in the garden “simply to watch” it also won’t be the last.

As killers of aphids, ladybugs beat chemicals every day of the week and twice on Sunday, but that isn’t the only benefit they provide.  Try not to smile at their purposeful, busy attitude as they bumble around looking for something to munch.  Don’t let yourself appreciate their colorful shells or notice the fact that just about everyone likes them.  Better not watch a child light up when one lands on his-or-her shoulder and crawls around for a moment before taking flight (And no, it’s not worried about the fire.  They figured that one out long ago.).

Because if you do, you might just have to admit that ladybugs are One Good Thing.


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