Saturday, May 31, 2008

Out with the Old, In with the New

Today, seven years to the day (if I recall correctly) since I drove it off the Chevrolet lot in Provo, the Fobmobile left our family to go to the big used car lot in the sky. Either that or the big used car lot in Kirkland--I'm not too sure where exactly the Kia dealer will be taking it.

Although the new car is more literally a Fobmobile than the last one, having come Fresh Off the Boat from Korea and then into our hands after a week of being stuck in the port of Tacoma (had to get its immigration papers in order), I think this new car will be called the Foxmobile. Foxy's name is first on the loan paperwork because she has slightly better credit than I do (though the dealer assured us that we both have impeccable credit, thank you very much), and at any rate after seven years of driving a car named after me it's time she had her turn.

The Foxmobile is a 2008 Kia Rondo. We decided on the Rondo because it seats up to seven people but is one of the most fuel efficient vehicles of its size. It's sort of a cross between a large station wagon and a small van, with just a touch of SUV thrown in. It's really not very large on the outside, but has that extra room on the inside for cargo on road trips or for giving people a ride without making them feel like the children's car seats are on the verge of shoving them out the window. We were close to getting a Mazda 5 instead, but we liked the fact that the Rondo is less minivanny and, with rebates, a couple thousand dollars cheaper. We'd been planning on buying a one- or two-year-old used vehicle, but the Rondo has only been around for a year and we couldn't find any used '07s that were more than a couple hundred dollars cheaper than we could get a brand new one.

As you can probably see, you wouldn't want to drive around with six full-grown passengers on a daily basis nor would it be possible to do so and also have anything more than a little duffel bag in back, but we can certainly fit a fifth person in comfortably (like when we're staying with my mom this summer and don't want to leave her stranded at home while we go gallivanting about Utah), and it's nice to have the seven-person capacity as an option.

But the absolute best feature of all, that which we've lusted after for seven years now (and honestly, all my life)?

Power locks and power windows (with remote entry, to boot). Welcome to the twenty-first century, J-Fob family. Or at least the last decade of the twentieth.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Birthday Reflections and Self-Evident Truths

Today was Little Dude's second birthday. We had a nice little family party with balloons, presents, veggie burgers, and a very cool bus-shaped birthday cake that FoxyJ made.

One year ago we celebrated LD's first birthday with yummy food and cupcakes and a few friends. Besides the additional company, the big difference last year was that, even though I helped out with the barbecue, I was technically a guest. Foxy and I had been separated for a couple months at that point, with plans to divorce. For LD's birthday, though, we played the role of happy family, not to fool our friends who were very aware of our current situation, but because the role came rather naturally to us, all things considered.

I have a very distinct memory of sitting on the floor during the party, watching the kids play while Foxy chatted with the adults. I looked around and thought, "This is my home. This is where I'm happy." As far as I can recall, that was the first time since moving out that I really questioned whether being divorced is what I really wanted. I had questioned to the point of obsession whether it was the right decision, but until then I was fairly convinced that it was what I wanted, speaking strictly of selfish motivations.

Wary of making a rash decision I'd regret later, I didn't act right away on that thought. I let it sit for a few weeks and in the meantime paid close attention to how I felt when I was with FoxyJ--we had an arrangement during the separation where we were having family dinners together at least twice a week, and then there were the drop-off and pick-up times on the weekend as well. I was far from miserable in my newfound bachelorhood, enjoying above all the time alone it gave me, but I was surprised to find that I felt even happier when I was with Foxy and the kids. I found that, all questions of morality and religion and responsibility aside, I actually liked the life I'd had and chosen to leave behind.

The next question to answer was whether Foxy was happier with me or without me, and after a bit of trial time she decided she could live without me just fine, but if she had a choice she'd rather not. It's nice when things work out that way.

It's strange now to think about how different things were a year ago. Objectively I recognize that less than a year after reuniting it's premature to make any sweeping conclusions about the longterm success of our marriage, but speaking subjectively and in the moment it's hard to imagine anything other than the us that exists now, to imagine that it was ever in question or that it ever could be. I'm a complete person alone but I'm completer with Foxy and the two of us together with our two children feels to me like a self-evident truth that stands at the center of the universe.

Perhaps this is why I've talked about our marriage here quite a bit less in the last year than I did before that. In the past my talking publicly about our reasons for getting and staying married has led some people to believe that I was opening the topic for public debate. How can I debate truths that are self-evident to me? Thankfully, when it comes to matters that affect only our family, I don't have to. So long as the same truths are self-evident to me and Foxy, we're good.

At any rate, I'm happy to have spent today with my son, my daughter, and with a woman who makes creative cakes, who folds origami boat invitations for our daughter's upcoming going-away party, who writes thoughtful posts on the seemingly miraculous birth of our son and how that fits into a world where similar miracles are denied to others, who answers just about every random trivia question I throw at her (and knows what she's talking about 95% of the time), who gets annoyed with people who ask how I feel about being a "Mr. Mom" but is empathetic enough to understand the cultural norms behind such sexist terminology and judge not the people but the norms, who cooks mostly vegetarian because the meat industry is destroying the environment, who regularly exposes me to cool foreign and classic films that I might never have heard of if not for her, who has now qualified twice to be in Jeopardy!'s contestant pool, and most of all who continues to love me despite my personal shortcomings, my eccentric obsessions and time-consuming hobbies, my inability to express emotions in a healthy way, and my passive-aggressive tendencies. I look forward to celebrating LD's twelfth and eighteenth and forty-ninth birthdays by her side.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Typos (A FobRant)

Believe me, I understand typos. Even though I obsessively read each blog post two or three times before publishing, I know the occasional typo sneaks through here. There are situations, though, where they should not exist. Among these are professionally published books. Nothing takes me out of fiction more than having to mentally reconstruct what the narrator meant to say, and nothing is more useless than a textbook that obscures the facts it's trying to teach in language that forces the reader to guess.

The situation where typos are unacceptable are in teacher feedback on class assignments. I'm not talking about simple misspellings here, where the student knows exactly what the teacher is saying, but rather the exclusion of key words that completely change the meaning of your intended message, like saying "You have included discussion of the Keller’s ARCS model of teaching model" when you meant to say "You have not included discussion..." (Notice I'm not complaining about the redundant model here.) Besides confusing the student, such thoughtless oversights send a clear message that you are rushing through the grading process and not paying much attention. I understand that it takes a long time to grade--I decided not to be a teacher largely because I got burnt out from grading 80 12-page papers in the course of a week--but that's an inevitable reality of teaching. It sucks, but you're the one who chose the career. If you'd given my paper just a little more attention, you might not only have missed that typo, but you might have noticed that I did in fact discuss Keller's damn ARCS model of teaching model.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Another Interview

The holiday season killed the momentum on several of the interviews I was doing for my series of straight spouse interviews on Northern Lights, and I haven't managed to get very many of them going again since then--as much due to my own busyness as to theirs. Miki Biddles, though, has been kind enough to keep going steadily through the interview and I've finally managed to put all my questions and her answers together and post them. Enjoy.

Friday, May 16, 2008


A couple weeks ago FoxyJ checked out The Prestige from the library. A very cool movie, but the first thing I thought when I saw the cover was "Hey! It's Batman versus Wolverine! And look, there's Alfred!"

Then shortly after that Ken Jennings posted about "superhero crossover" movies where actors who have starred in superhero movies show up together. Besides The Prestige, Ken alluded to Wonder Boys as the movie that made one of his blog readers proclaim, “Holy smokes, Spidey and Iron Man are doin’ it!” So of course I went right to the library website and put Wonder Boys on hold.

As it turns out, this movie has more than superhero sex that should have made me like it more than I did. Besides having some great performances by Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., and Katie Holmes (Batman's girlfriend, by the way), this film has the Mr. Fob advantage of being about writers and writing. Once I realized this, I was excited--I'm a writer, so maybe this movie would somehow speak to the depths of my soul and tell me something wonderful and profound about writing. Perhaps it was this high expectation that left me feeling most disappointed in the movie with the aspects that had anything to do with writing. I don't know what it was* specifically, but it felt to me like a movie about actors pretending to be writers, not a movie about writers.

I remember feeling similarly about Finding Forrester, which like this was a great movie but felt somewhat artificial to me as far as representing anything like the world of writers that I know. Is it just that these are particular representations of a larger topic that I have a particular experience with, and because the particulars don't match up it seems fake to me? Or is it that they just don't do a good job of being movies about writers? My friends who (like me) are pretentious enough to call yourselves writers, have you seen movies about writers that rang true to you? Have the rest of you had similar experiences with movies about some other subject in your personal domain?

And is this why I was also disappointed by Unbreakable, which everyone told me I'd love as a comic-book fan, but ultimately felt like the work of an outsider to the genre?**

*After writing this post but before publishing it, I've figured out what I don't like about the portrayal of writing in either of the films mentioned above. In both writing is made out to be this magical process that somehow transcends the experience of mere mortal non-writers, but I don't know any writer for whom this is the case. You come up with an idea, you force it onto paper (or onto the screen), it's crap, and then you work and work until it's less crap than it was at first. There's nothing magical about it.

**Notice how I nicely brought the post back to the theme of superheroes, which is what I'd started with but otherwise had nothing to do with anything? Isn't that wonderfully literary of me?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Common Sense Wins in the California Supreme Court

(at least for the moment)

This makes me happy to be moving to California. Really, I don't see how anyone could see a same-sex marriage ban as constitutional in any context.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vote 2008!

As FoxyJ hinted at recently, we're starting to think about getting a new vehicle. Our Chevy Cavalier has served us well for the past seven years, but we're ready for something newer, bigger, and hopefully more fuel efficient. More specifically, we're looking for a vehicle that (a) has power locks, windows, and remote entry; (b) has more cargo space for road trips, room for two car seats and a third adult passenger for when we give rides, and possibly for two car seats and a booster (this is not an announcement--I'm talking about sometime in the next five years here); and (c) gets more than the average of 23 MPG that our current car gets--not just so we can feel smug about being environmentally friendly, but so we can cut down on gas costs and most importantly contribute less to global warming. The problem is that (b) and (c) conflict. As of yet they don't make hybrid vans, so our options are a bigger sedan that gets better mileage or an efficient minivan that gets about the same mileage as what we currently get. It's a tough call because we don't technically need a van, but it sure would be nice to have that extra space.

What do you think? Should we be more Earth-friendly and get one of these hybrids:

Toyota Prius

Toyota Camry Hybrid

Honda Accord Hybrid

or should we be slightly less Earth-friendly and get one of these vans:

Kia Rondo



Foxy points out that we don't drive much and will probably drive even less in Davis, so it's not like we'd be guzzling all that much gas in either case. But I really like the idea of a car that gets 45 MPG. Any thoughts?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

For The Record

A conversation at the grocery store this morning at 6:30:

CLERK: Okay, here's a trivia question.
MR. FOB: Um. Okay.
CLERK: What's the name of Donald Duck's fiancée?
MR. FOB: Daisy?
CLERK: (Overjoyed) No! Daisy is his cousin. His fiancée is Daffy!

I didn't argue because it was 6:30 and because I don't argue with people I don't know, at least not in person. But let it be known publicly in my passive-aggressive way that he was wrong and I was right. Daisy is Donald's girlfriend; Daffy is a male duck, which in theory would allow him to be Donald's fiancé (I didn't hear whether the clerk was pronouncing one or two e's), except that Daffy is owned by Warner Brothers and Donald by Disney. Not even Romeo and Juliet were that star-crossed.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wisdom from Mr. Fob

Whenever you have to choose between doing it now and doing it later, just let someone else do it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

For My Birthday Girl

(As a sidenote unrelated to FoxyJ's birthday, this song featuring FOB singer Patrick Stump was supposed to be on the Roots' latest album but when it leaked a couple months ago longtime Roots fans cried "Sell out!" and the band pulled it off the album, except for the iTunes version where it appears as a bonus track. I bought the iTunes version just so I could get the song. Sell out or no, it's a cool song.)