Thursday, August 31, 2017

My nephew leaves for college today

So I'm offering him some parting, favorite-uncle advice on here even though he's probably not what you'd call a devoted member of the Read Uncle Jake's Blog Every Single Day Club.
1. Lie low for a while. Get your bearings. Meet lots of people. Learn how to find the positive in every new person and every new situation.
2. Develop these habits now because you'll use them over and over on every new adventure your life takes you on.
3. Make it a priority to find the quietest corner of the quietest library on campus so you'll know exactly where to take yourself when you need to concentrate.
4. Also make it a priority to find any and all private bathrooms on campus.
5. Because sometimes all you'll want more than anything in the world is to poop in peace.
6. Peanut butter and jelly is always a perfectly acceptable meal.
7. Creamy, not chunky.
8. We're not savages.
9. Do your homework as soon as you get home from classes every day.
10. There is no dread-filled panic as profoundly deep as the one you will feel at 11:07 pm on a Tuesday when you realize your paper on Information Age existentialism didn't write itself while you binged on Friends reruns all evening.
11. Never schedule classes before 9:00 am. After you graduate you'll spend the rest of your life getting up at 6:00 to trudge off to work until you die. So enjoy your last waning years where you can still get away with sleeping in.
12. Plus you'll leave yourself an emergency catch-up-on-your-homework cushion each morning if you didn't do your homework when you got home the day before.
13. Like I told you to.
14. "Despacito" is not allowed to be your song-of-the-summer-before-college memory for the rest of your life. Pick something less commercial and more personal.
15. NOW. Before it's too late.
16. Because -- like your prom theme -- it will come up in conversation more often than you'd expect.
17. You will eventually think that your roommate is weird.
18. He will eventually think the same about you.
19. Always remember that the true fact is he is actually way weirder than you.
20. He will probably snore.
21. Or fart when he thinks he can get away with it.
22. So will you.
23. This is called bonding.
24. Febreeze.
25. Roommate bro dates are not a bad thing.
26. You're gonna be living on top of each other anyway, so you might as well be friends in the outside world too.
27. No homo.
28. Call your parents.
29. Often.
30. And text them.
31. And call them.
32. And your sister.
33. And your grandparents.
34. ESPECIALLY your grandparents.
35. You can keep communicating with me just by trading inappropriate memes.
36. I still care about you and how you're doing in school, but I can get all that information from your mother. I really just want more inappropriate memes.
37. Get at least two college jobs: one related to your major so you can have meaningful experience on your résumé when you graduate and one in the dorm cafeteria -- it has short shifts, it's an easy way to make petty cash and you're going to be in the cafeteria around that time anyway.
38. But don't broadcast this strategy on social media because the other kids will see it and try to get those jobs before you do.
39. It's an ugly, cutthroat world out there.
40. Always make sure your backpack is fully zipped when you're traveling between classes. I helplessly watched an expensive chemistry textbook plummet into a rushing river as I was crossing the bridge above it in The Great Poorly Zipped Backpack Disaster of 1987.
41. I was out like 50 bucks and half a semester's worth of lecture notes.
42. Plus I already sucked at chemistry. So this was a pretty epic setback.
44. Get a credit card. Use it only to buy stuff you know you have the money to pay for. Pay it off in full and on time each month. Without fail.
45. This will show the banks you're responsible with your money (and don't think they don't talk to each other) and it will help you build a good credit rating.
46. Good credit can eventually get you more buying power when you're an adult, easier approvals when you rent your first apartment, more options when you buy insurance, and lower interest rates on your car loans and mortgages.
47. Always. Pay. Your. Credit. Card. Bills. In. Full. And. On. Time.
48. You're a good kid. You're actually an awesome kid. Our whole family is so proud of you and who you are and everything you have the potential to become that we probably not-so-secretly burst into tears sometimes just thinking about you.
49. You're gonna do great things. You're also gonna do mistakey things and maybe even catastrophically stupid things. But never forget that you can come to any or all of us if you get into trouble or you need help or even if you're just lonely and you're kind of hoping one of us will drop everything and drive four hours just to see you and take you to dinner. Because we will. And we hope you know we will, without question. We will always have your back.
50. Inappropriate memes.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

This is my favorite thing on the entire Internet right now

I also just like saying "avuncular"

My little (well, little 6'75") nephew leaves for college tomorrow. And while I feel I have not yet completed my sacred avuncular duty to fully corrupt him before he heads out into the world, I have done something much more useful for him: a 529 college savings plan.

529 plans are investment accounts designed to provide tax-free -- TAX-FREE! -- interest when the dividends are used to pay for qualifying educational expenses including tuition, fees, books and even room and board. There are hundreds of 529 plan options, all administered by the states -- so there are varying regulations regarding everything from investment allocations and reallocations to qualified plan administers to offset eligibility for financial aid. But 529s are ultimately a smart way to invest in and save for the education of any child in your extended family.

My financial adviser didn't tell me about 529s until my nephew was four, but I immediately opened an account for him and started auto-depositing $25 a month into it. Then I waited until my niece was four to open one for her just to keep things even. Then a different financial adviser told me to merge the two accounts into one to possibly help the pool of money accumulate more interest, so now my niece and nephew are obligated to have a grueling dance-off to see how to divide the combined earnings.
But look how much I've saved for them over the last 14 years. And I still have seven more years of deposits to make until my niece graduates from college.

I don't mean to sound like an infomercial, but if you have kids of almost any age in your extended family, talk to a financial adviser and start throwing a few bucks a month into a 529 plan that's right for your financial situation. You may not be able to send the kids to college corrupted by every tasteless joke you've ever heard, but you can potentially give them a financial cushion for their real education.

CedaRound: The home of lacerated oral soft tissue

Downtown Cedar Rapids was -- and still is -- a convergence of waterways and railroad tracks. Which -- like with many towns -- made -- and continues to make -- it a hub of commerce and manufacturing -- along with irritating parentheticals set apart in dashes.

The biggest manufacturing plant in downtown Cedar Rapids today is Quaker Oats, which makes many different brands of cereal but thankfully makes no parenthetical commentary in blog posts. As such, the entire downtown area is awash almost daily in an effluvium of cereal smells, some general and some very specific. Today was one of those very specific days. I drove through downtown Cedar Rapids on my way to the gym this morning and as I passed the Quaker Oats plant I was immediately transported to the world of watching Saturday-morning cartoons in my jammies, making a fort out of the couch cushions, and lacerating all the soft tissue in my mouth with spoonful after delicious spoonful of ... Crunch Berries.
Yup. My town smells like Crunch Berries on a regular basis. I hate to brag and yell and gloat, but MY TOWN SMELLS LIKE CRUNCH BERRIES ON A REGULAR BASIS. Your stupid town probably smells like poop or dirt or feet. And if you're having a bad day in Cedar Rapids -- like that one time you had to park three whole car lengths away from the door to Hy-Vee -- all you have to do is take a quick drive through downtown -- with your windows up or down; the magic of Crunch Berries knows no barriers -- and just take a few deep breaths. Your Crunch Berries therapy is fast-acting and refreshing and calming ... and FREE. No parentheticals required.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Because "lotters will be shot" kinda rhymes, and that's totally faggy

Community challenge:

Troll Joel Osteen HARD on Twitter until he blocks us all, which he apparently has spent the day doing instead of ... oh, I dunno ... HELPING anyone.


I try to maintain a pretty strict policy of not listening to the cast album or reading the plot or knowing anything else about a show so I can enjoy it tabula rasa the first time I see it. I even try to audition for shows under that policy -- having zero clue what I'm doing, basically -- so I can enjoy them fresh when I see them if I don't get cast. Which is why the witness testimony from the Fun Home Audition Massacre of 2017 has been sealed by a federal judge until 50 years after my death.

In any case, I recently read a New York Times profile of Ben Platt, the star of Dear Even Hansen, and without warning it pretty much blurted out the entire plot of the show without even a hint of a spoiler alert. So since I know it and since there's no chance I'm going to see it anytime soon, I'm relenting and listening to the cast album now in violation of the natural order of the universe. And so far I find it kind of ... meh -- and very redundant in the way every song by The Police sounds the same. But I'll give it a few listens. Then I'll very hopefully be able to make sincere "Waving Through a Window" references so I'm legitimately caught up with the modern landmarks of Broadway.


I think sneezing violently eight times in a row just temporarily surpassed trump as the thing I hate the very most in the world.

How did civilization not die out entirely in this era of procreation-repellent attire?

(Note: Shoes are sold separately on page 442.)
(Also note: When I posted this on Facebook, it did not recognize any of the faces in this photo as people in my friends list.)
(Also also note: WHEW.)

How to make congealed product snot. And prevent blemishes for free!

1. I didn't know hair-product containers could melt into deformed shapes in your Dopp kit in your gym bag in your hot car.
2. Only gay men say "product."
3. Only gay men and men over 70 say "Dopp kit."
4. I now know that hair-product containers that melt in your Dopp kit in your gym bag in your hot car leak melty hair product all over everything in your Dopp kit.
5. Then it congeals into snot-like grossness.
6. Product.
7. Dopp kit.
8. Also: When someone leaves his or her (we have private showers at my gym) (or do we?) (I'll never tell) blemish control apricot scrub in the gym shower, I'm going to spend my day without the heartbreak of blemishes.
9. But my toothbrush is still gonna taste like congealed product snot.
10. Dopp kit!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in '16."

This POS "president" claims defiantly that Twitter is his "modern day presidential" channel for getting his unfiltered messages to the American people on his schedule and on his terms. He's tweeted a lot of his usual toddler vomit in the last 24 hours, but not once in that time has he used Twitter to even show a passing interest in acknowledging the human scale of suffering and devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey -- or even in offering the thoughts and prayers that everyone knows he doesn't think or give. Yet he's used Twitter to announce that he'd pardoned a convicted racist and murderer who is coincidentally a political crony, to endorse a book that was ghost-written for someone who is also coincidentally a political crony, and to brag about a 10-month-old election win.

There is no clearer manifestation of his combined arrogance, ineptitude and catastrophic failure as a human being.

I finally picked my script-highlighting colors

Moral concern: I'm pretty sure that highlighters purchased from the back-to-school aisle were meant for respectable, upstanding, proper-educational, non-trumpy-grabby literature.

Practical concern: How am I supposed to hold my script until we're off book?

I've been in bed all day with a monster headache

And I haven't accomplished anything I'd intended to do today -- like maybe go for a training run or something since I'm running a 10K in a week -- but my language geek book arrived this afternoon so you'll know where to find me serif you're looking for me.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

We're here. And we salute you.

For all the irrational hatred and the isolationist hypocrisy and the manipulative demagoguery our pathological failure of a president and his ethically grotesque party are using to tear this country apart morally, socially and intellectually ... for all the ignorance they've perpetuated and the lies they've parroted to shore up their base ... for all the ugliness and hostility and racism and sexism and phobias they've unleashed from the dungeons and the shadows and the basest instincts of humankind in the last weeks alone ... they've ironically and unintentionally and no doubt regrettably inspired something quite beautiful: a mass uprising of love and support for every person they vilify and every minority they oppress and every demographic they scapegoat in their bloodthirsty quest to dehumanize and destroy us all for their own gain.

And if you're a trans person -- especially if you're trans military personnel -- we want you to know we're here.

There are legions of us who have been and who currently are and who will continue to be your friends and allies and champions with no judgments, no condemnations and no barriers. We may not have been as visible to you as we'd have liked in the past out of consideration for your privacy or lack of a forum to communicate with you or out of concern that we might inadvertently say or do something awkward or uncomfortable or insensitive or even uncloseting around you. But we're here. And it is now our moral and social and just simply human imperative to make sure you know who we are.

Whether you're just coming to terms with your need to transition, beginning to comprehend the emotional and physical and social journey ahead of you, taking the first tentative steps in changing your persona and your presentation and your name, or standing bravely and confidently and proudly at any point on the transition continuum ... our primary interest in your trans identity is that you are safe and healthy and happy and treated as the human -- the FULL human -- you are.

We may never fully comprehend the extent of what your personal or collective journey has entailed -- and we may ask a lot of questions both out of curiosity and a sincere need to better understand where you've been and where you're going.

But we're here. And we stand with you as proud and grateful citizens and in our public restroom and at the dawn of a new sense of community. And we want you to know we are profoundly grateful for your service and we love and respect you just as you are. Or just as you need to be.

We're here.


Friday, August 25, 2017

85. Year. Old.

"85 year old" is the most meaningful, relevant compound adjective you could come up with to describe a racist convicted criminal in a tweet you send just as the biggest, potentially most deadly hurricane to hit American soil in over a decade makes landfall?



Flashback Friday: Art Isn't Easy Edition

Chicago Art Institute. 2011. We may not have been smart enough to stand in decent lighting, but at least I was mart enough to flex when I knew there was a camera pointing at me.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Seizing the day

I was supposed to leave this morning for my annual summer vacation to visit friends in D.C. and stay at their best-porch-on-the-planet beach house in Rehoboth, DE, but I had to cancel a few weeks ago due to work issues. A lot of cool things have popped up on my calendar here in Cedar Rapids this weekend though, so I'm more or less OK with missing my trip.

But I still missed work this morning thanks to a rough descent into a bipolar depressive episode that started last night. I talk a lot about being bipolar on here and on social media, and every time I think I should stop someone messages me out of the blue to thank me for being so open and honest about it. Enough people have confided in me the stories of their struggles with mental illness that I sometimes worry I won't remember everyone in my mental checklist of kindred, struggling spirits. I've developed close, supportive friendships with a lot of these people though, and our check-ins and conversations and even drives across town just to give hugs are so dear and so valuable to me that I'll probably never stop talking about my own struggles.

So here's this morning's report: I woke up at 6:00 in a motivational black hole with a fiery headache and enough disorientation that I knew enough to skip the gym -- which is huge because some days working out is the only thing that keeps me human -- and to let my boss know that I'd come in after lunch, if at all today. Then I went back to the kind of non-sleep that feels like you're staying awake getting more and more exhausted compounded by the stress of feeling worried about getting more and more exhausted. But when I woke up around 11:00 my head was clear enough that I could look at the episode objectively and summon the coping and pushing-through skills I've learned over the last decade and I showered and ate and made it to work, where I've been surprisingly productive ... albeit profoundly exhausted.

So to all the people I know who are dealing with mental illness and to all the people I don't know who are dealing with mental illness and to all the rest of you curious enough about my struggles today to have read this far: You will fight this battle all your life. You will get meds that don't work, you will get meds that actually make things worse and you will find meds that you'll notice start to make improvements ... though you'll spend ages waiting cynically for them to fail you. In the mean time, learn what helps you stabilize yourself and what helps you push your way out of the wet wool blankets and the rolling fogs that trap you. As soon as I felt coherent this morning, I texted one friend who right now is in a bottomless depressive episode so we could both not feel alone in our struggles and I texted another friend who as far as I know is not having an episode just so I'd know that someone who deeply understands what I'm going through is at the very least thinking about me. And then I picked out a shirt that says carpe diem on it and I know that it's totally goofy bordering on stupid, but if I'm wearing a shirt that means something to me on a certain day or in a certain situation, I feel compelled to go out in the world and show it to everybody. 

And after what my head put me through this morning, I need everyone to know -- no, I need to SHOW everyone -- that I'm seizing the hell out of the rest of my today.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Eatin' Chinese in a strip mall

Six words: honey black pepper chicken with noodles
Six other words: watching teenagers try to use chopsticks

And they're off

I have clearly reached that Certain Age where my entire Facebook feed is filled with first-day-of-school pictures of my friends' kids -- or, thanks to the all-ages relationships one forms in the theater world, of kids I consider to be my friends. So happy first day of school, everyone! I hope this school year is a wonderful one for you, and I sincerely hope they learn you good.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

That I can tell you

Pro tip: Use pink and glitter if you're gay

Today's moment of pure, ridiculous joy: Kristin Chenoweth sings "Veronique"

You want to know what brings me pure ridiculous joy on the stage, in my car and dans le rue? THIS does. This gorgeous, inspired, culturally literate, perfect little theatrical montage of brilliantly silly ridiculousness from Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Cy Coleman's brilliantly silly -- and just plain brilliant -- musical On the Twentieth Century.

From the virtuosic coloratura runs to the not-having-sexual innuendo of "she close the door/and start the Franco-Prussian War," this piece is The. Perfect. (Non. Sondheim.) Showtune.

And I may or may not have listened to it on repeat for two hours last night as I folded a towering mountain of laundry.

Watch and listen. Because it WILL be on the test.

Monday, August 21, 2017

This is literally my favorite thing on the Internet right now

Still not ready for prime time

Is Scott Baio's understudy still on TV trying to spin his failure at healthcare reform into a foolproof guarantee of tax reform or has he finally moved on to leg day?

I've been folding laundry and listening to show tunes all night and I just wanted to know if it's sane -- er, safe -- enough to turn the TV on again.

One script, five highlighter color choices

Total eclipse of the dumb

"That's awfully bright, Bart. I mean Barron."

You can't be racist if you can't see colors anymore.

If you can't look at the eclipse, at least look rakishly handsome

These glasses make it impossible to see the camera and take a proper selfie. And these clouds make impossible to see the damn eclipse.


I just managed to spill my protein shake all down my front, on my seat belt, in my lap, on the steering wheel, in my cup holder, in my stick shift well, down the side of my seat, and deep in the crevices of my emergency break. My car is going to STINK on the next hot day.


Do you like the shirt I totally randomly picked to wear on this totally random day?

The color is a sunny orange-yellow that's partially eclipsed by shadowy blue-gray stripes. It's most certainly not a metaphor for anything and I certainly would never wear an abstractly themed shirt to match the events of -- again -- a totally random day, not that those things are even considerations for anything. I just like this shirt.

Also: I'm partially eclipsing the sunny orange-yellow wall behind me in this selfie. Which is just a totally random observation. Enjoy your totally random day. I know I will. Because I like the totally random shirt I'm wearing.

It's today! Get ready!

For the memes, I mean.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Grammar trivia:

A gazebo of racists is called a "coward."

Back to my long-neglected bed

I've been sleeping on the couch next to my mom as she slept in a recliner recovering from shoulder surgery since July 3. But she's finally been given the all-clear to sleep in her bed again, so I'm finally returning to mine ... which has been slowly buried under a mountain of clean laundry that I didn't feel in a rush to fold over the last seven weeks. And instead of folding it now, I naturally just pushed it to one side of my bed and photographed it to post on my blog.

And yes, that's a new space kitty T-shirt from Walmart at the foot of the pile and do not judge because I'm sure there are plenty of weird hobbies you have that are keeping you single at 49 too.

3.37 miles right out of the gate!

So I've run this route that I mapped only in my head more times than I can remember, and I somehow convinced my lyin', gullible self that it was just under four miles. Now that NikePlus has humiliatingly debunked that once-sacred historical lie, at least I finally know I wasn't TOO off.
(And don't tell this to anyone I've implied to that I've been training outside, but this technically was my first run where I actually propelled myself through time and space on actual pavement; all my training so far this summer has been on an elliptical machine. I don't know why. It's just what I've been doing.)
Anyway, I just ran 3.37 miles at a 12:08 pace. Without stopping, which I don't normally count as good or bad since I've trained for all my half and full marathons with the Jeff Galloway run/walk training method. But for a first actual run I choose to see it as a good thing, seeing as how I'm running a 10K in two weeks. ACK!



Saturday, August 19, 2017

Why I had a good day

1. I took a big ol' nap at noon
2. Cherry Diet Coke
3. I went to a big outdoor dog party with some friends
4. And some dogs
5. Dog selfies
6. Peanut butter and jelly
7. More Cherry Diet Coke
8. I saw a brilliant play called Constellations that was directed by a brilliant friend and that starred a brilliant friend
9. I picked up my One Man, Two Guvnors script while I was there and I am SO EXCITED
10. I totally pulled off a striped shirt with swordfish shorts

Heel never learn to spell


Our dogs are STILL not tired

Bridget joined two Chicago friends and their dog and me what the heck one other bonus dog this afternoon for Barks & Brew, a dog-party-in-the-park where there were SO! MANY! OTHER! DOGS! TO! SNIFF!


We learned the hard way that three-men-and-three-dog selfies are as impossible to take as a trump presidency, but I tried ... um ... doggedly and partially successfully to get a three-man shot in front of a Where the Wild Things Are mural and after 97 tries I got a three-dog-and-me-in-my-Snoopy-shirt shot in the car on the way home. And that's the leash I could do to commemorate our day.