Luckily for the Cat, we needed gas.

As we set out to return home after a two-week long summer vacation that would ultimately add more than 2,800 to the family mini-van’s odometer, the blinking gas pump on the dashboard warned me I couldn’t be picky about where to buy my gas. ‘Just get some’, the blinking pump seemed to say, ‘and make it soon’. Among the handy features of our van’s digital control center is the ‘DTE’ or ‘Distance Till Empty’ display. It was telling us we could make about 25 miles, but in the past, DTE has been known to be a bit on the optimistic side. Regardless, we cruised the 14 miles down Route 41, and found a convenient Texaco station waiting for us at the junction of our next leg, heading east on I-70 towards St. Louis.

Luckily for the frog, we hit a lot of bugs.

Thank goodness there’s no criminal penalty for killing bugs. The gooey mess of bug splat marks on our van’s grille, hood and windshield were powerful evidence of my ongoing multi-state vehicular bug-killing spree. I don’t just hit bugs by accident; I frequently swerve to aim for them. Anyway, so while the gas was pumping, and my wife was in the store buying cold drinks and ice for the cooler, I grabbed a squeegee and started washing the bug guts off of the windshield. As I lifted the wiper blade, I felt something touch my left hand. A tiny frog, about the size of a quarter, brushed my hand as he hopped off the wiper blade I lifted. Before I could catch him, he squirmed beneath the hood.

Despite all the training gained during my previous career as a gas station pump jockey, I hadn’t been doing much under the hood checking during our roadtrip. But as I imagined the little frog getting tossed out onto the highway and in a real-life game of ‘frogger’ once we got underway, I decided to do the Christian thing and go in after him.

scared catI’m not sure who was more startled, me or the cat. But as I stood there holding the hood up, we stared at each other for a moment and shared a simultaneous, ‘Holy-shit’, type of moment. It wasn’t a kitten, but not full-grown either, just an orange and white teenage cat. The cat acted more quickly than I could, wisely taking the opportunity to give up its seat on top of the battery and get the hell out from under the hood. It bolted into a storm drain underneath the gas station driveway.

The woman at the gas station helped me look for a little while, but that cat wasn’t coming out of that pipe any time soon. I dropped the little frog near the pipe entrance, being that he was the cat’s savior and all. I called back to the bed and breakfast we had left, but they weren’t missing any cats. The kids say that they had seen the cat walking the streets of Arrow Rock the previous day. When or how he crawled into my engine, I’ll never know. I’m just thankful we needed gas, and for the frog, because I would have hated discovering the cat at some later point during our 1000 mile return trip home.

So remember. Wash the bugs off. And check under the hood. Always.

Purple People Eaters Avoid A Shutout

Will Casey, Purple People EatersThings were looking grim for the Purple People Eaters tonight as they took a soggy field for a mid-week makeup game. Never a dominating team, the PPE make up with enthusiasm what they lack in precision. Not ones to get down about it, their season has been a string of often painful losses, but they’re having fun and that’s what really matters, right?

Will’s having a great time and is playing well, but just hasn’t been able to seal the deal in the scoring department. It can be very painful watching from the sidelines. Balls that are mere inches from the goal, so close they’d roll in with a mild gust of wind, somehow manage to avoid crossing the line. Some days it seems like these boys couldn’t hit water if they were kicking the ball over the side of a boat. Unable to just run out on the field and punch it in the net for them, good parents say, “Great shot!”, while thinking to themselves “How did you miss that?! You were right there!”. It can really hurt.

The competition wasn’t making things any easier tonight. Sporting mean looking black t-shirts and taking orders from their jar-head coach, they scored at will against the out-of-sync PPE, 2-0, 4-0, 7-0, their score climbed, our pain grew.

Having recently heard another player mention their dad had offered to pay him a reward for each goal he scored, I checked with Jenny to see if she had any problem with that, and being that she didn’t I offered Will a cash incentive plan, $5 for the first goal, $10 for a second, $15 for a third, etc… After learning last Saturday that a ‘near-miss’ wasn’t gonna earn him a cent, Will took the field with dollar signs in his eyes tonight.

breaking away...And finally, it happened. Breaking away at mid-field, he found no other player except the goalie between him and the big bucks. The sideline is on their feet, ready to congratulate another ‘almost’, but this time, instead of sending a roller just outside of the post, he lofts the ball in the air, over the goalies head, and dead center into the net with an authoritative kick that was destined to hit.

I’m five bucks lighter tonight, but I can’t imagine having spent the money for anything better. Will is, of course, just flying. But he’s also calculating. I had to explain that the raising pay scale for each goal started at $5 again each game and wasn’t cumulative for the season. I’m expecting an angry call from his agent.

Chris’ Top Ten Milestones for Congress on the Internet

or… Highlights and Lowlights for the Hill on the Net

  1. Senator Robb accepts e-mail (late ’93)
    Hill staffers still haven’t forgiven him


  2. Senator Kennedy launches web site (May ’94)
    How’s this for an easy to remember URL?


  3. House Republicans restrict access to Committee Minority sites (6/96)
    Hill web becomes a political weapon


  4. Animations abound (early 97)
    Waving flags, flying letters, & Rep. Traficant ‘Bangin’ Away’


  5. Write-Your-Rep & Web Forms (early 97)
    Attempting to stem the e-mail flow with zip lookups and web forms


  6. Daschle Tree Cam (11/97)
    It’s not just about politics, and a tradition is born.


  7. Starr Report goes Online (9/98)
    Hill servers grind to a halt under the weight of the demand


  8. Senate get hacked, twice (5/99, 6/99)
    Senate staff access restricted as a result


  9. 100 Senators Online (3/00)
    Illinois Sen. Peter Fitzgeral makes it unanimous


  10. Senator Clinton’s Day One Web Launch (1/01)
    Sen. Clinton launches site on day one, fastest yet.

Disagree? Don’t sit there stewing about it, tell me! You’ll feel better…
Then go write your own list 🙂

© 2001 by Chris Casey
Delivered at American University’s Forum on Congress and the Internet, 5/4/01. (see the video)

CaseyDorin Internet Productions wins Pollie award for Best Use of Flash Animation

Pollie Award CaseyDorin Internet Productions was awarded the Pollie award for ‘Best Use of Flash Animation’ by the American Association of Political Consultants at their awards luncheon held today in Washington, DC for their work developing Senator Ted Kennedy’s campaign web site, As campaigns further develop their use of the Internet, it is a certainty that they will continue to seek to find new ways to deliver their content and communicate with voters. The web site utilized Flash animations as the site introduction early in the campaign, and in an innovative interactive map.

CaseyDorin Internet Productions wins Golden Dot award for Innovation

Golden Dot Award CaseyDorin Internet Productions was awarded the Golden Dot award for Innovation at the seventh annual PoliticsOnline conference held today in Washington, DC for their work developing the mobile edition of The Innovation award is given to the nominee who has “developed and utilized the best new ways for conducting election campaigns which, if emulated, would enhance American democracy”. As campaigns further develop their use of the Internet, it is a certainty that they will continue to seek to find new ways to deliver their content and communicate with voters. The mobile edition reached more than 10,000 subscribers, delivering updated news and information directly onto their handheld computers as quickly as it was available on the web site.

Lessons Learned in a Rat Suit

My Official Pizza Time Theatre Name TagNot counting work as a paper boy, my first real job was at Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater in Huntington Beach, California. I was on the brink of turning 16 when I obtained the necessary work permit from my High School and took a job in Chuck’s kitchen making pizza.

For those who are unfamiliar with Chuck E. Cheese and his restaurant, allow me to provide some background. Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater is an arcade, populated by a cast of characters led by a large Rat named Chuck E. Cheese, that also serves some food to kids who return briefly to the table between visits to the ball room and their parents who wait for them. The place is a parent trap designed to keep the kids giddy with excitment with their hands out to be refilled with game tokens courtesy of the folks. Waiting for the pizza provides plenty of time for the youngsters to play games, and eating the pizza provides some parental distraction so they can play more games.

Chuck E. Cheese The pizza was actually pretty good. Toppings for each one were weighed to ensure just the right about was used. And while taking laps in the rotating oven, the pizzas would be monitored for any overly large cheese bubbles which were promptly popped with a poker if they grew too large. And although it dominated, pizza wasn’t the only thing on the menu. I had my first French Dip sandwich courtesy of Chuck.

Life in the kitchen wasn’t bad. I would come to work in the standard uniform; a baggy red and yellow shirt over brown pants covered by a brown vinyl apron topped off with a plastic red derby, and churn out pizzas by the dozen. Pizzas for the customers, a mini-one for myself on break, and special ones for family and friends with hidden notes or an unexpected anchovy buried in the melted cheese. I worked this pizza building assembly line until my shift was done, and went home to do homework, satisfied that I had served mankind.

As a parent trap, one secret weapon that Chuck E. Cheese’s employs is the birthday party. By getting kids to demand that their birthday be hosted at their favorite Rat’s restaurant, Chuck E. can count on platoons of partygoers to spend hours pumping tokens into games that feed a gambler’s addiction by rewarding tickets that can be exchanged for worthless plastic trinkets. “But Mom, I only need 75 more tickets to get that plastic spider ring!!”. Such a party package would include pizza, a cake, some tokens to get everyone started, and a personal visit from Chuck E. Cheese himself.

Rat at the Party! On weekends the quiet life of a pizza builder could be turned upside down by a party host looking to put somebody in the rat suit. I often found myself yanked off the pizza line and told to suit up, to become Chuck E. Cheese and visit a birthday party and wander the game room for a spell. On busy days, when partys were stacked up, I’d just stay in the rat suit, cooling off in the walk-in freezer, sucking a lemon slice, and taking stock of what the experience was teaching me.

And now, after years of reflection, I share these lessons with you dear reader in the hope that if you ever find yourself in a rat suit surrounded by small children that my experience will serve you well.

  1. You Don’t Need to Smile – When visiting a birthday party wearing a rat suit, you can count on being asked to pose for many photos. That’s what you’re there for, you are a walking furry photo op. Years of conditioning and saying ‘cheese’ will naturally lead you to smile when a camera is pointed at you. Don’t bother! You’re wearing a big plastic rat head! They can’t see you’re face and that’s good because no birthday child wants their photo taken with a pimple faced teenager from the kitchen. I don’t know how many photo albums I’m in, hidden behind a plastic rat face with a frozen grin, but if you could see me behind it, you’d see the contorted faces I created just for the occasion.
  2. Hold Onto Your Tail – If you don’t, some kid or kids will be glad to hold onto it for you. More than likely they’ll decide to see how fast Chuck E. can run backwards as they drag him all over the restaurant by his tail. Don’t let this happen to you. Keep a firm grip on your tail in your left hand at all times. [note: This lesson has apparently been learned, the rat suit of today is tail-less, perhaps Chuck E. met up with that farmer’s wife]

    Mr. Munch Button

  3. Don’t Pick a Kid Up – Because if you pick up one, they’ll all want to be picked up. I actually learned this lesson in the Mr. Munch suit (a purple Cookie Monster rip-off that eats pizza). I was walking the game room as Mr. Munch, surrounded by a pack of kids, when one angelic little dear looked up at me and sweetly pleaded with outstreched arms, “Pick me up Mr. Munch”. Like concert security plucking a rock groupie from the crushing crowd behind them, I picked her up in my furry purple arms and lifted her high above my head. And the moment I put her down dozens of synchronized little arms reached into the air, and voices shouted as one, “Pick ME up Mr. Munch!!”. Mr. Munch ran like hell for the kitchen.
  4. Handshake Revenge – Not every youngster will be struck with awe in your presence. Some, like the tail pullers described above, know you’re just a sad sack kitchen worker inside that rat suit and they seek only to torment you by pulling your tail, trying to trip you or knock your plastic head off. Already well on their way to a life of crime, youngsters such as these are screaming out for some discipline. But it wouldn’t go well with Chuck E’s image for him to be scooping mean kids up and giving them the beatings they deserve, and so when in the rat suit you really just have to take it. But there is one thing you can do. Offer your hand to one of these kids to shake, I guarentee you they’ll take it, and then bring the brat to his knees in a furry knuckle-grinding grip he won’t soon forget. The wide-eyed hooligan isn’t likely to bother you again, and just may have been scared straight thanks to Chuck E.’s caring clench.

I probably learned a few other things in that rat suit, but these are the ones that have remained the most clear to me to this day when I am now myself a parent who is sometimes caught in the rat trap. I left the employ of Chuck E. Cheese’s to continue my teenage career as a cashier at the local movie theater, but that’s another set of lessons.

Class dismissed…

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