Mar 20 2010

Vintage photo of MadMania’s founder, c. 2002

Spring 2002, a long time ago.

I was out of work–me and everyone else but two people from my old job were laid off right before Christmas.

I’m standing in downtown Kansas City. The photo is super-grainy because we are using a 1.2 megapixel Kodak I got from the aforementioned job. The camera was as big as a medium-size hardback, and just as heavy.

I don’t know what’s in my jacket pocket there, but it’s probably clove cigarettes. I had started smoking right before Christmas; Heather and I couldn’t afford to get each other a real present, but she insisted I at least get something.

Besides, the tobacconist’s was right next door to the toy store.

I grew the massive goatee during that time, and I finally trimmed it a few months after I started my current job. The long, tangly hair stayed for another 6 years.

It’s pure Providence I got hired at all: in addition to the hair and the goatee, I wore all black to the HR interview.

I wasn’t teaching Sunday School yet–that was still another year off, and so was giving up cigarettes.

The taste for cloves still lingers, though; I put them in pie filling, French Toast, and every autumn and winter I make hot spiced cider.

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Jan 15 2010

The Truth

A few years ago my daughter, Ally, who was seven at the time, came back to my office.

“Dad, I want you to tell me the truth,” she said seriously.

It’s always scary when one of your kids says that.

“OK,” I said.

“There’s no Santa Claus, is there?”

I took a deep breath and told the truth.


“There’s no Easter Bunny either, is there? Tell me the truth.”


Of course then I had to explain everything, and I asked her not to spoil it for all the other kids. As far as I know she never did. A year later she and I overheard someone asking their small child if she was excited about Santa coming. Ally looked at me and gave me a knowing smile and a cheezy wink.


A couple of weeks ago my friend’s four year old daughter came home from preschool.

“My teacher said there’s no Santa Claus,” she said.

My friend shifted uncomfortably, hoping to avoid the imminent conversation.

Then his daughter said, with an air of finality:

“She’s not going to get any presents!”

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Dec 4 2009

My Christmas List 2009

Once again I have been asked to provide a Christmas List. You would have thought that people learned after reading last year’s, but you would be wrong. To you readers who did not specifically ask for or hint at what to buy me for Christmas, don’t buy me anything: this is strictly for your amusement.

You might wonder why I don’t just refrain from giving a list and thus thwart those very generous persons, but the answer is this: I have some stubborn relatives  (which is probably where Heather gets it). Besides, I like to buy people things, and it aggravates the heck out of me when they won’t give me a list either.

At the very least, you deserve something that is hopefully well-written, interesting, and humorous to read.

So at any rate, whether you buy me a thing or not, please enjoy the list. You may notice some repeats from last year. For the repeats that you do not notice, thank you very much for those nice gifts.

MadMan Dan’s Christmas & Birthday List 2009

Delicious Monster. As I have mentioned ad infinitum, I love books. New books, old books, handmade books, you name it. Thankfully, I did receive both shelves and shelving materials this past year. What does this have to do with monsters of the yummy variety? Delicious Monster is software that helps you organize your library, and keep track of your books, especially if you have a habit of loaning them out and forgetting to whom you loaned them. Or even worse, loaning them in and not returning them.

Dress shirts. You don’t want to see me topless do you? I didn’t think so. I just need some long sleeve, button up dress shirts, in either black or green. Neck is 15-1/2 – 16, and the other numbers inside my shirt say 32/33.

Bowler derby hat. The older I get the more I like old things; first it was the handmade journals, then it was the book press to hand-make journals with. Now it is the now-archaic custom of wearing a hat. My favorite is the Belfry Deuce-Stingy Brim Bowler.

Lamb Shanks. No, there is no hidden irony in this request. I really want lamb meat. The reason is that since last Christmas when I first made O So Glorious Irish Lamb Stew, I have been addicted to the dang stuff. Problem is, lamb meat is expensive and hard to come by. At least one day of my typical week goes like this:

Heather: What do you want for dinner?

Me: Irish Stew!

Heather: We can’t afford Irish Stew. Besides, Piggly Wiggly doesn’t have any lamb meat.

Me: Fine. I don’t want anything. I’ll just starve to death.

Set of 36 Marking Punches. Now that I am starting to acquire tools with which to fix things around the house, it would be nice to have some way to mark them with my name and lucky number.

Wireless X-Box 360 controller. Come on; what am I going to say about this? Um…I need this to pwn n00bs. Happy?

Digital Innovations SkipDr. Motorized AutoMax Scratch Repair System. Someone in my house keeps leaving discs out and they tend to get kind of scratched. Someone told me he came to an unhappy end and drowned in the creek, but I could see him if I peered in.

1.1 Liter MSR Stowaway Pot. Someday I hope to eventually go on a backpacking trip that doesn’t start out with me going to the hospital with heart problems. If that ever happens, I would use this pot to cook up some amazing stew.

Apple Brood. What the heck is Brood? It’s this malt-flavored soda pop that’s bottled in Lebanon. Yes, that Lebanon. I don’t know where to order it; right now I just have to buy a few bottles here and there whenever I go to eat at the Habashi House.

Blackthorn bush. Blackthorn is a shrub that grows in the UK, and the Irish use it to make shillelaghs. I intend to do the same thing, but the stuff’s so hard to get ahold of. I tried to grow my own, but it’s too hard. It’s also known as Sloe-berry or by its Latin name, Prunus Spinosa. Where can ya get it? Kick me if I know.

The Oxford English Dictionary. What’s so special about this dictionary? It’s the dictionary. Every word in the English language dating back to the time when Beowulf was the new hot item. This thing is 20 volumes, weighs in at about a Brazilian pounds, and costs about 1,000 bucks. So don’t buy me it. I mean it. So why did I list it? Because how can you not list an item that you have to say in the drooly Homer voice?

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Dec 26 2008

An Amazon Christmas

I love Christmas. In fact I would have to say that this is my favorite time of year. Not because of the presents that you give and receive, but because this is the time of year that I get to see extended family. Now, my family are not Amazons as the title indicates; I just thought I would start this blog by telling you that I love Christmas.

On to the real reason for this post.

My Dad lives in North/South Carolina and every year we anticipate the presents that he sends our way. This year was no different and when THREE boxes arrived I thought, “How did he know that I was such a good girl this year?” I unboxed our gifts and was amazed to find a total of 18 presents all from the Amazon store. “Wow, I was a really good girl this year and I am my father’s favorite middle child!”

Christmas morning, after working my shift from 11pm to 7am I arrived home anxious to see what I had received from ‘Santa’. Now even though my usual schedule consists of coming home and going straight to bed I knew that the girls couldn’t wait that long. (Okay, neither could I) So we all gathered in the living room and Daniel, my husband, started passing out gifts. In our household we open gifts one at a time so that we can enjoy each others surprises. We had gotten through about half what was under the tree and Daniel passed me my next present. As I tore into the wrapping paper I got a funny feeling of deja vu. There in my hands was the exact same book that I had just unwrapped a few minutes before.

Hmmmm? Maybe, Daddy hadn’t realized that he had ordered the same book while shopping online. That is okay because I can return it and get a different one later.

ON TO MORE PRESENTS! We continued on and it seemed that there were a lot more presents that were the same shape and size as each other.

You know how you try not to get duplicate presents for those  you buy for? Well, that is all fine and dandy as long as the store you buy them from doesn’t mess up and send duplicates for you. Amazon decided that it would make our Christmas twice as much fun by sending us a double order of presents from my father. It was great!! Now we just need to decide what to do with them.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas that they you have a great and safe New Year.

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Dec 24 2008

Merry Xmas

When I was a kid I was taught that this was a disrespectful way to write Christmas, but it is simply a contraction–the X is the Greek letter chi which stands for Christ, the same way it does in the acrostic IXOYE.

According to the Wiki, its use dates to at least the mid 1500s.

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Dec 18 2008

My Christmas List

Recently I was held at gunpoint encouraged to write a Christmas list. It made Heather LOL*, so I have decided to share portions of it. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, I don’t want any of you to be blessed, and therefore I have removed all the info about where to buy–this is strictly for your amusement.

*LOL seems pretty dumb to use when someone literally laughs out loud, eh?

MadMan Dan’s Christmas List 2008

Look, buddy, or buddy-ette, whoever you are: I already told you not to get me anything, but the very fact that you are reading this shows that you have chosen to ignore me.

So fine, go ahead and buy me something.

I only want you to be happy.

If you’re still with me after the previous denials and passive-aggressive statements, here is the list. Just so I don’t have to custom-type this for each person (everyone wants to buy me presents, you know), I am lumping everything I want on here, big or small, reasonable or unreasonable.

In fact, you have probably bought me some very nice things in the past, for which I did not write you a nice thank you card.

You can still stop reading.

But I only want you to be happy.

I have included prices just so you don’t waste a bunch of time looking for something just to find it is either:

a. too expensive and who does this MadMan guy think he is?

b. too cheap and is he trying to make me look cheap?

1. Book shelves. Good ones so as to hold lots of books. I need book shelves because I have so many books. I swear, it would be cheaper at this point to get addicted to heroin, because they have free programs to wean you off of the stuff, but there’s no cure for book addiction. My current bookshelf contains books, which are stacked in such a way as to hold up more shelves, which in turn hold up more books.

2. Plunge router. Just in case I don’t get bookshelves for Christmas, I need a plunge router so I can make book shelves.

3. Bench vise. What guy doesn’t need a vise? Also, you can use it to make bookshelves

4. TV Set. I don’t want a new TV. Really. I was so content with my old one. I don’t need HD, I don’t even watch television—broadcast or cable. But I have an X-Box and a DVD player, which I enjoy very much. Or did, rather. The viewable area on my TV is now so thin it makes Yao Ming look like Mini-Me. At any rate, don’t buy me a TV; that’s dumb, they’re expensive, and I’m not asking you to.  If I can’t play X-Box, then I will be forced to read books, which I don’t have nearly enough of (see 1 & 2).

5. Roll of cowhide leather. With said leather, I will use it to make books. No, I’m not kidding.

6. Griffin Technology iTalk iPod voice recorder. I have a long commute: it’s an hour each way. I have a lot of time to think, but no safe way of writing down my thoughts. However, I have an iPod that I love more than life itself. Griffin makes the best voice recorder attachment, and it would allow me to record thoughts as I have them.

7. Books. Have I mentioned how much I love books? The current form factor we use was invented over 2,000 years ago by the Romans, who called it a codex. But not just any old books: specific old books. And some new ones, too. However, I realize that books are expensive, which is why, despite my love of books, I rarely buy myself new ones.

a. The Oxford English Dictionary. This thing is 20 volumes, weighs in at about 5o pounds, and costs about 1,000 bucks. So don’t buy me it. I mean it.

b. My Word Is My Bond. By Sir Roger Moore. Yes, that Roger Moore.

c. Be the Coolest Dad on the Block. By Simon Rose. In point of fact I already am the coolest dad on the block; I just need this book so I can see if this guy is copying me.

d. You’ll Have That, Volumes 1 & 2. By Wes Molebash

8. Blackthorn bush. Blackthorn is a shrub that grows in the UK, and the Irish use it to make shillelaghs. I intend to do the same thing, but the stuff’s so hard to get ahold of I decided to grow my own. It is also known as Sloeberry, because it grows sloe berries, which the Irish use to make sloe gin and get likkered up. Even further, the shrub is also known by its Latin name as Prunus Spinosa. The Latins used it to make daggers with which to stab caesars. The only place I have found it available in America is, and it runs about $20.

9. Bottled beverages. No, not those kind of bottled beverages. Simply soda in bottles with bottlecaps; it stays the fizziest. The following are available from. I’ll be your best friend for a single bottle, so there’s no need to overdo it.

  • Apple Beer. Beer like root beer, not like beer beer. But with apples.
  • Coca Cola. Yes, plain old Coke.

10. Movies on DVD. Yeah, I know my TV’s broke, but maybe I could come to your house and watch movies?

  1. Murder By Death. It has Peter Falk in it, so you know it’s good.
  2. Samurai Jack Season 1.
  3. Empire of the Sun.
  4. Much Ado About Nothing. Yeah, the one with Keanu Reeves.
  5. Young Indiana Jones Chronicles Volume II
  6. Father Goose. The Carey Grant classic.
  7. White Christmas. So I like a musical; you wanna make something of it?
  8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Buy one for yourself, and I promise you will love it. You deserve it.

11. Bowler derby hat. I can’t join the Stan Laurel Appreciation Society without one. My favorite is the Belfry Deuce-Stingy Brim Bowler.

12. Computer vacuum. I work on computers. A lot. They are usually full of dust, which is full of dead human skin cells. After a lot of research I think I found the perfect one: Metropolitan Vacuum(R) DataVac(R) 3-In-1 Cordless Computer Vacuum.

13. Swissbit 1GB USB Swiss Army Knife. Best knife in the world. If you’re an I.T. guy anyway. Which I am. Good luck finding the thing.

14. Seagate or WD 7200rpm external 250GB USB/FireWire hard drive. This is more of a need than a want. However, it’s like $100. Still, a $5 gift card to [redacted] would be just fine. Really.

15. Tow hitch for my car. Several years ago one of my awesome in-laws bought me a 14 foot aluminum V-bottom boat. I love the thing, but I got no way to haul it around. Hence, the tow bar. What does it cost? Heck if I know.

16. Coleman 1 Watt 3-AAA LED flashlight. Model # 2000000986.

17. USB to IDE/SATA hard drive adapter. Again more of a need than a want. Runs about $20. Any brand is fine.

18. Black Jeans. I need jeans, I love black. Any brand is good, size 34w x 32l. Regular fit or loose fit—no bell bottoms or boot cut. Oh, is that too specific for you, Mr. I Like Hippy Jeans? Fine then—don’t buy me any jeans. I’ll just run around butt nekkid.

Still stumped? Find my choices morally objectionable? Did I mention you don’t need to get me anything? I mean, the economy is in the toilet, you know.

But I just want me to be happy.

I mean you.

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Dec 10 2008

Review: Best Coffee Ever

Dunkin’ Donuts.

I tried it last year when my brother brought some over for Christmas, and it is easily my favorite, beating Starbucks, Folgers (though the deluxe Folgers beans are very nice), and Eight O’Clock coffee (also nice).

Comes in grounds or beans, regular or dark, and runs about $7 for an 12oz bag. The only downside to this coffee is that it completely ruins you on cheap Folgers coffee.


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