virtual children by Scott Warnock

Talk is cheap… but it’s not disappearing just yet

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It’s a pretty regular occurrence lately. I’ll be in one part of the house, and I get a text from another part. Now, I know you think that I’m a high-paid blogger, living in a mansion that requires long-distance intra-abode electronic communications, but the truth is that my living arrangements are modest, with all parts reachable via shout, if not slightly elevated voice. [Read more →]

animalsBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten dog one-liners

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10. To err is human, to forgive, canine.

9. My wife wanted me to help her start a dog collection, so I gave her a couple of pointers.

8. I’ve had no luck at all trying to teach my dog to dance, because he’s got two left feet.

7. I’m pretty sure that, if dogs could talk, their most common phrase would be, “Are you gonna eat that?”

6. When I took my dog to the flea circus, he stole the show.

5. A German shepherd craps on my lawn every morning, and today he even brought his dog.

4. I tried to teach my dog how to fetch, but he just doesn’t get it.

3. I lost my dog, and I don’t even have collar ID.

2. I went to our local zoo, but all they had was a dog in a cage — it was a Shih Tzu.

1. My dog has been sitting outside in front of the snowman for an hour, just waiting for him to throw one of those twigs.

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

health & medical

Oh, hell no

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Sometimes something seems like a good idea, and then it seems like the worst idea ever.

I’ve been going to Moffitt in Tampa for all my cancer fun. It takes some time to get there and back. Every time I have an appointment I plan for a three hour minimum trip. I call it the three hour tour (if only it would end with me stranded on an island). I’ve been happy with my care there, minus a couple of hiccups and the very long time that it takes to get certain appointments.

That being said, when my oncologist at Moffitt suggested that I didn’t really have to drive there for chemo if I wanted to get the infusions somewhere in St. Pete, that sounded great. I could get my heart checked at Moffitt and get my port put in, then go to the oncologist in St. Pete who had previously been at Moffitt and now had her own practice. This all seemed like winning to me. Cutting my commute by two thirds sounded like a no-brainer.

As soon as I had the port placement scheduled I called the St. Pete office to schedule chemo. It doesn’t work like that, of course. First you have to get a consultation, and I couldn’t get that until a week after my port was put in. The first warning bell went off when the appointment setter said that it might be a week “or so” after the consultation before I could start chemo. This was due to checking with insurance, time it takes for meds to arrive once ordered, and available openings. I should have told her to forget it and I should have just called Moffitt. I want to get this over and done and move on. I did not call Moffitt. I just said: “Ok.” Sigh.

I waited for the consult, which was today. As I pulled up to the “cancer center” I began to feel like this was not the place for me. It’s in a sort of strip mall. When I walked in, every ounce of my intuition screamed “NO!” There were dirty (yes dirty, like scuff marks and smudges) walls. The chairs were older than the office chairs at my kids’ underfunded public school. The carpet was dingy, the “art” was mismatched and faded. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe I sound like I’ve got a case of the first word problems. Maybe I do. In my experience, though, environment is always a reflection of something, and that something is usually not good. I looked at that uncared for space and connected it to the care that would be given to me. Beyond that, as a chemo patient your immune system is a mess. You can get infections or illnesses so easily. It really should be the cleanest joint in town. There was a giant TV, though, constantly playing local news (cheerful as ever), so there’s that.

Being the nice midwestern girl that I am, I waited to see the doctor anyway. I thought that it was possible that she would be wonderful and thorough, and that the back of the office would be tidier. My blood was drawn and the girl did a great job, it was painless. Then I was led into an exam room. It looked the same as the waiting area, though cleaner. The doctor was lovely. Young, great hair, very professional attire that she probably got at Banana Republic or Ann Taylor. She mostly said the right things. She joined the practice 9 months ago. The doctor she joined has been there 25 years. I mentioned the environment of the office in what I think was a light hearted way, and she said that sometimes the crooked pictures on the walls distracted her while she talked with patients. “But,” she reflected, “the important thing is that our infusion area is comfortable, nice recliners.”

It didn’t look comfortable to me. It looked dark. It looked scary.

She introduced me to the nurse in charge of the scary room. The nurse didn’t even look at me. She just took that moment to tell the doctor that she wasn’t feeling well and list her symptoms.

At the desk as I was leaving the receptionist said that they would call me after my drugs had been approved, ordered and delivered. “If you don’t hear from us in a week or maybe a week and a half, give us a call.”

Say what? If I don’t hear from you? Should I be expecting you to just forget about me?

I replied that if I didn’t hear from them in a few days I would be calling, because I just wanted to get past this. I said it with my nice girl smile, and everyone smiled back.

I was already thinking that they wouldn’t need to order anything for me at all, I just had to settle it in my mind. I called someone who works in the oncology field and has been through this herself. We were 100% in sync. No chemo at this place, not for me.

I called Moffitt as soon as I got home. Hopefully I’ll get a call back tomorrow to schedule my chemo there. More three hour tours to come, but at least I know the care is good, the physicians have high standards, and someone does a good job tidying up at night.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingsports

Top ten horses least likely to win next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes

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10. Appaloser

9. Not-Very-Thorough-Bred

8. My Little Pony

7. Night Mare

6. Tripod

5. Seattle Stew

4. It’s A Grand Old Nag

3. Feckless Equus

2. Shouting Myself Horse

1. Sean Spicer

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Mr. Sean goes to Washingtonpolitics & government

Why Trump is so very Trump: a step-by-step analysis

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Shortly before the presidential election, I wrote if we had a Trump presidency, it would most resemble that of his fellow dark horse candidate Franklin Pierce: “Like Trump, Pierce was surrounded by chaos. (Though, unlike Trump, it wasn’t usually of his creation.)”

So far, so good.

It’s hard to remember sometimes, but from a historical standpoint Trump took office during an unusually stable moment in America’s history. We are a nation that’s fought two World Wars, suffered a handful of economic freefalls, seen our President die in office on eight occasions, had the British burn our capital, and for a time splintered apart completely.

By comparison—and this is no way ignores numerous massive problems, such as the fact you can’t refer to our nation’s infrastructure without using the word “crumbling”—America right now is a lazy summer day.

Of course, America doesn’t feel like a lazy summer day: nope, it’s the middle of winter and we’re freezing to death on the tundra, yet somehow simultaneously getting hit by a category 5 hurricane at the same moment the killer bees attack.

In what may be the biggest understatement of all time, there appear to be aspects of Donald Trump that could prove challenging to a successful presidency. Understand: most presidents have qualities or experiences that threaten their ability to lead. Pierce himself witnessed his son die in a train accident shortly before taking office and promptly went on to be a truly miserable Commander-in-Chief. However, we have also seen presidents overcome absurdly long odds to find success, as Lincoln’s struggles with depression and F.D.R.’s battle against polio didn’t stop either from being a great leader.

But if a president had depression and polio and refused to seek treatment for either condition and insisted on making fun of other people with depression and polio… well, that’s our Donald. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingeducation

Top ten prom themes for 2017

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10. At Least I Can Vote In the Next Election

9. I’ve Had My Fill of Clearasil

8. Give ’Em Enough Grope

7. Hide That Flask and Dance!

6. Journey to the Center of My Pants

5. Goodbye Textbooks! Hello Minimum Wage!

4. Fifty Shades of Bunting

3. 100 Seniors Standing Around a Ballroom Texting

2. Abstinence Makes the Hard Grow Fonder

1. You’re Not In the One Percent, So Why Even Bother

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingpolitics & government

Top ten things Donald Trump said during his commencement speech at Liberty University

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10. “Relish the opportunity to be an outsider. You can be outside of so many things these days: a decent-paying job, the health care system,…”

9. “Betsy DeVos was going to be here to give a commencement speech, but she forgot how to read.”

8. “Liberty University ranks among the greatest institutions of higher learning, right up there with Trump University and Hogsworth.”

7. “I am amazed how many people are here today — there must be fifty or sixty million of you!”

6. “You aren’t going to let other people tell you what you believe, especially when you know that you’re right. You don’t need a lecture from Washington on how to lead your lives. That’s how each and every one of you should lead your life, and I know about this stuff because I’m from Washington.”

5. “Can you keep a secret? Oh, sorry, for a second there I thought you were all Russian.”

4. “Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic. Just ask Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, or Crooked Hillary.”

3. “I’m really glad to be here today at this phenomenal evangelical Christian university. No Muslims!

2. “Can anybody tell me why the Democrats never get blocked from doing anything? — Why is it always obstruction of just us?”

1. “Today you end one chapter but you are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life. Now you must go forth into the world and turn your hopes and dreams into action. America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers. The future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics. The future belongs to the people who follow their hearts no matter what the critics say because they truly believe in their vision. Carry yourself with dignity and pride. The more people tell you it’s not possible, that it can’t be done, the more you should be absolutely determined to prove them wrong. And always have the courage to be yourself. You have to do what you love. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling a bit bloated, ’cause I just ate about a pound of fortune cookies!”

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

educationvirtual children by Scott Warnock

Vouchers and school “choice” — take a good look

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You’re probably hearing more lately about vouchers and what’s called “choice” approaches to schooling. Have your antenna up and look carefully into what these education approaches are about — and what they do to children. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmusic

Top ten least popular songs at funerals

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10. The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”

9. The Three Degrees’ “When Will I See You Again”

8. Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”

7. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”

6. Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”

5. Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To”

4. Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”

3. Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy”

2. Amii Stewart’s “(You Better) Knock On Wood”

1. The Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love”

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

Motion pictures of everything

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My dad found an old grainy video of my brother and me when we were about 7 and 8 years old doing – what else? – some wrestling on a lawn. He had it converted from 8 mm to a DVD and titled it “Yesterday.” [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythinggoing parental

In honor of Mother’s Day, top ten worst pieces of advice my mother gave me

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10. When I was young, my mother said I could be anything I wanted to be and that the sky was the limit – which is why I gave up on my dream of becoming an astronaut.

9. My mother always taught me to fight fire with fire – eventually leading to my being booted off our local volunteer fire department.

8. My mother always advised me to quit while I was ahead – and to this day I’ve never won a race.

7. My mother said I should never run away from my problems, and once my problem was I was being chased by a bear.

6. My mother always told me, “You can’t blame a guy for trying,” but the police totally disagreed when they arrested me for attempted murder.

5. My mother told me that sixty was the new thirty – so now I have a one-year suspension on my driver’s license.

4. My mother always said that, when I grew up, I could be anybody I wanted to be – leading to my being arrested for identity theft.

3. My mother told me to always give 100% – which is why I nearly died at last year’s blood drive.

2. My mother said my life goal should be to light up the room wherever I go – and now I’ve been charged with arson.

1. I told my mother, “When I grow up I want to be a man,” and she replied, “Don’t be silly, you can’t do both!

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

ends & oddhealth & medical

Three weeks out

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Three weeks ago today my right breast and 25 of my lymph nodes were removed. Man, did it hurt. It’s getting easier, as far as the pain goes. The strangest part, physically, is that when it doesn’t hurt there is an emptiness. Having air where there used to be this part of me is a strange and sad adjustment to make. It feels ghostly, is that a word? The strangest part, emotionally, is coming to terms with that surgery being just the start.

People talk a lot about fighting. All these war references seem misplaced after a bit. You see it especially with breast cancer. We are all referred to as “warriors” pretty regularly, and we are doing battle with boobs. They make tee shirts that say: “Yes, these are fake. My real ones tried to kill me.” Some women begin to resent and hate their breasts and their bodies when they get breast cancer. I can’t relate.

I have certainly had a love/hate relationship with my body (when I was skinny I wished for curves and then when I wasn’t skinny I wasn’t happy with that either. It wasn’t until my late thirties that I realized I usually looked pretty great and needed to stop caring). It took having cancer to make me feel genuine love for my body. I didn’t get mad at my body. I didn’t feel like an angry warrior. I felt sorry. I have apologized to my self so many times since my diagnosis. I’m so sorry that I didn’t do better and know better. I’m most sorry that I didn’t love my body. I didn’t appreciate it, I insulted it, I didn’t take care of it. I’m not angry with it now. I love it now. I see it now as such a gift. Every day in this body is a gift. Some crap life lesson that we all know is true and never spend two seconds to think about until we are knee deep in the quicksand.

Apologies aren’t getting me anywhere with this body of mine, though. Not so far. And there are so many miles left to go before I rest easy. I’m maybe 20-25% there. I just did this hard thing, and all of these people showed up and fed us and cared and asked and helped. I was so grateful, and then at the same time I wanted them to stop. I wanted to remind everyone that they should maybe come next time instead, when maybe it will be worse. There is so much more to come. I now have two kinds of cancer. About 3% of women get thyroid cancer after they get breast cancer. Most of those 3% get it way after, but I couldn’t wait. I’ve never had any patience. So, this thyroid will probably be removed as well. Those appointments start soon. They want to focus on the breast first, and I have been doing the same (mentally, I mean). I am up to like 6 or 7 doctors now (including naturopath types). Last week I had four appointments in three days and afterward I just crumbled. I had started to feel a little better physically, feel like I was accomplishing something by healing from surgery, and then I realized that my sprint turned into a marathon turned into a triathlon. Is there a kind of race that you run for life?

Life is now the strangest mix of desperately trying to let myself feel joy in every possible moment, being ever diligent about my food and supplements, my doctor’s appointments, treatments, meditation and exercise, and trying to provide my family with the care and love that they need and deserve. I just keep thinking that I want more more more. More of everything. More of this exact life. I don’t think anymore about what I might have done differently. I would take more of exactly this forever.


Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmusic

Donald Trump’s top ten favorite songs

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10. Crazy (by Patsy Cline)

9. Back in the U.S.S.R. (by The Beatles)

8. You’re So Vain (by Carly Simon)

7. Crazy (by Seal)

6. What’s New Pussy Cat? (by Tom Jones)

5. Electra Avenue (by Eddy Grant)

4. Catch a Falling Czar (by Perry Como)

3. Crazy (by Gnarls Barkley)

2. Urine My Heart (by Rod Stewart)

1. Putin on the Ritz (by Taco)

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

The silence of the Warnocks

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So I come home from work early and my little guy is playing video games again. Again. I go right into the usual bawling about how he plays video games too much and my wife although she states her agreement with me again — again! — comes up with the excuse this time that I only saw the video game-playing because I came home early. That line of logic – if I came home later that would have meant he’d been on it longer! — drives me to rage. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingends & odd

Top ten United Airline excuses

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10. “We had no idea he was a doctor, because he wasn’t wearing scrubs and a stethoscope.”

9. “Our slogan is ‘Fly the Friendly Skies,’ but we were still on the ground.”

8. “All publicity is good publicity, as long as they spell your name right – and that’s ‘Airlines, with an ‘s’.”

7. “Our in-flight entertainment system was on the fritz, and we wanted to provide our passengers something with a bit of drama to it.”

6. “Of course we think United employees should get preference; after all, they’re United employees!

5. “He refused to return his tray table to its full upright and locked position.”

4. “We had no idea other passengers would use their cell phones to take footage of the incident – that’s on them!

3. “We offered him accommodations in an overhead compartment, but he refused.”

2. “The day before I gave the order, I massively shorted United Airlines stock.”

1. “Why do I get the feeling any excuse I give just won’t fly?”

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingreligion & philosophy

Top ten lines from a joke you should tell at Easter Dinner today — or on Monday a day late (since this post is a day early)

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10. Tom, Dick, and Harry are in a VW when they have a head-on collision with a Mack truck.

9. Suddenly, they find themselves walking across these white billowy clouds towards these pearly gates.

8. As they start running towards the gates, St. Peter swoops in and says, “Wait a second, you can’t just come buzzing in here like you own the place!…”

7. “…You have to prove you learned something on Earth, and we have it boiled down to one question: What is Easter?”

6. Tom thinks about it for a while, then says, “My aunt and uncle come over, and we have turkey and cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie,….Pilgrims!”

5. Saint Peter pushes a button and Tom disappears down this fiery chute.

4. Dick’s sweating now because he’s next and there’s that fire there, and he thinks for a second, then sings, “Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells!” – Saint Peter pushes the button and he’s gone.

3. Harry, also sweating, says hopefully, “Well, it has something to do with Christ’s death.”

2. St. Peter considers this, smiles, and says, “Well, so does Good Friday; let’s be a little bit more specific.”

1. And Harry says, “There’s this massive rock, Jesus rises from the dead, He rolls back the rock, steps outside,…[pause]…and if He sees His shadow…”

art & entertainmentbooks & writing

An Interview With Rebecca Schuman

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Rebecca Schuman’s new memoir is a fast read with a long title: Schadenfreude, A Love Story. Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For. The book offers an engrossing look at the author’s adventures in the liberal arts, graduate training, and much more. Schuman’s memoir takes us from the Pacific Northwest to college back East, and then on multiple excursions to Germany where she has a chance to be reminded that her literary love, Franz Kafka, wasn’t German even as she immerses herself in a language that bamboozles her in comic, yet thought-provoking, ways. The book grabbed this reader, and I was eager to return to it every chance I got. Toward the end the narrative moves to graduate school and the anguish of an extremely competitive academic job market where we know that well over a hundred applications can greet each new tenured slot, particularly in the humanities. Since completing her PhD and failing to land such a dream job, Rebecca Schuman has built a substantial online readership writing about academia for Slate. More recently, she has returned to Germany as a subject “in the accusative case” in spunky columns at The Awl. In the middle of Schadenfreude, it occurred to me that it would be fun to interview Rebecca Schuman, and the author was kind enough to respond to these questions. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingreligion & philosophy

In honor of Easter, top ten favorite Bible quotes

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10. “And God created light, and saw that it was good. Then God created man, and saw that it was hilarious.” – Genesis 12:5

9. “As ye sew, so shall ye rip.” – Galatians 6:7

8. “And the Lord said unto John, ‘Come forth, and receive eternal life.’ But John came fifth, and only won a toaster.” – Leviticus 12:18

7. “Then the three disciples went to Mount Olive, but before they could, Popeye swooped in and beat the crap out of them.” – John 3:18

6. “Many are cold, but few are frozen.” – Matthew 22:14

5. “Then Doubting Thomas asked, ‘If we’re all God’s children, what’s so special about Jesus?’” – Mark 11:16

4. “And God said unto Abraham, ‘Be not mistaken, and doubt not that widescreen is the best.’” – Sony 16:9

3. “Thou shalt not raise thy hand to thy child. It leaves thy groin unprotected.” – Corinthians 9:7

2. “The lion and the lamb shall lie down together, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.” – Deuteronomy 13:3

1. “In the beginning, there was nothing, and God said, ‘Let there be light.’ Then there was still nothing, but now you could see it.” – Genesis 12:5

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

Phones and drugs and rock & roll

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With three teenagers, I’m getting on the other side of it – could it be this column may have run its course?! – and now I feel I have some hard-earned perspective to provide to people just starting this kid-raising bit. One of my starters: Keep them off the phones as long as you can. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingends & odd

Top ten unanswered questions

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10. Where does it say Humpty Dumpty was an egg?

9. Do gun manuals have a “Trouble Shooting” section?

8. If a man is talking in the forest and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?

7. If someone with multiple personality disorder threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

6. Why does mineral water that has “trickled through mountains for centuries” go out of date next month?

5. If a firefighter’s business can go up in smoke, and a plumber’s business can go down the drain, can a hooker be laid off?

4. Doesn’t expecting the unexpected make the unexpected become the expected?

3. Why don’t autobiographies ever end with the author writing a book?

2. If an indoor shooting range is burning, what do you yell to raise the alarm?

1. On a scale of 6 to 2.3, how much do you hate not being confused?

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.