Friday, April 29, 2005

Broadening the horizons of household appliances

Last night the GF and I made dinner. Not terribly interesting on its face, I’ll grant you. It wasn’t mind-bogglingly complex or overly difficult to make – just some salmon filets and mixed vegetables. What made the dinner so much fun was how we cooked the salmon. We obviously had many options; frying, backing, even grilling on Mr. Foreman. But the GF had a recipe that on its face looked bizarre, so bizarre that I couldn’t help but try it – we cooked it in the dishwasher.

Yes, that staid but sturdy member of the household appliance family. Little DW had probably never dreamed of rising up above his humble beginnings as a collection of plastic resins, hunks of steel sheet and lengths of three-wire grounded copper cable. He had been raised for a single purpose – cleaning off all my food scraps, coagulated cheese, and ensuring that each glass was sanitary for use in the next meal. Yes it was hard work, but DW took to it with a panache and verve unseen in the rest of my appliances such as the diva-esque refrigerator (“Treat me with the respect I deserve of I’ll leave the freezer door open a crack and ruin all your frozen veggies! Oh that had better not be tap water you’re putting in here, where’s the Evian?”), the manic-depressive microwave (“There you are! Ohmygodit’sso-goodtoseeyouhowhaveyoubeenyouknowwenevertalk-anymoreIlovecookingvegetablesforyouitfeelssofulfilling-suchaRUSH!!!HeyywhereareyougoingIknowthefood’sdonebutIthought-wecouldhangoutokayyou’rebusyIknowCallme?Please?Ohgodhehatesme…”) and the lonely cuisinart (“Is there anybody out there? Hello? It’s kinda dark in this cupboard. And it’s been about 6 months since we chopped up those almonds…Anybody?”). It was a mutually beneficial arrangement – I got clean dishes and DW received a steady supply of Jet-Dry.

Yet the GF took one look at DW and saw something more. Being the empath she is, she saw that he aspired to greater things. So she found a recipe where you wrap the salmon filets in aluminum foil and fold up the edges tight to keep out the water. Then she just put the packet on DW’s top rack and ran the cycle (even with soap! I never knew DW could multi-task like that!). When the cycle was done, so was the salmon. It came out tender, flaky, and scrumptious. Quite the feat, needless to say I was very impressed.

Of course, we made the veggies in the microwave, because I think he would’ve been inconsolable had he not gotten some credit for the meal.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A bull in a china shop would've caused less damage

Today is “take your child to work” day. When it first started, I kind of thought that the idea was cute. Back then of course it was “take your daughter to work” day, inspired by the idea that girls would benefit from being exposed to the workplace at a young age. This would emulate all the benefits that the little girls working in Chinese textile mills see every day, which explains why their kids do so much better than ours in school. I think we could do the same thing just as easily by shackling all children to sewing machines for 10 hours one day and making them sew camisoles for Kathy Lee, but that’s just me.

Anyway, the day has gone from a day of watching daddy work (“So, you mean you sit here all day? You don’t get recess?”) to a carefully choreographed dance where folks from HR lead little groups of children on tours of the building, and try to keep them from getting hurt, lost, or downloading porn onto company computers. All the while ensuring that the kids never see their parent’s actual job (which, let’s be honest, is probably for the best as it avoids disappointment on both sides).

At my company, much talk had been made of the “special guest speaker” we had brought in just for the occasion. It turns out that we had gotten one of the official mascots of one of the local professional sports teams to come in. The act of said mascot was presumably to dance around, do handstands, and jump through flaming hoops. But in our conference room (where we had set up the whole event) the ceiling was a little lower than the mascot estimated. So when she jumped up and did her handstand on one of the tables, her foot caught one of the lights hanging from the ceiling and sent it crashing to the floor. Nobody was hurt (one of the HR folks actually caught the light before it hit the floor), but I expect that story to be one of the highlights when the kids all compare stories tomorrow.

I wish I had been there to see it. Of course, I really wish I had seen the flaming hoops part more, but the look on the mascot’s face must’ve been priceless. Well, the look on the mascot’s face was probably the same as it always was, come to think of it. But the look on the HR manager’s face would have been just as good.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Aliens never pay their parking tickets anyway

For the past month or so, I’ve been receiving weird phone messages from an obviously computerized voice telling me to call a number about “an important situation”. Early on, the voice said they were looking for “Myte Buglyybtlre” and that he should call them as soon as possible. Since my name in no way could be misinterpreted as that, I assumed that I was receiving calls from outer space, and that they were looking for one of their alien brethren who had somehow become misplaced somewhere between Endor and that left at Albuquerque that always confused Bugs Bunny. I paid the calls no mind, erased them from my machine, and went on with my life.

But I recently started thinking about poor little Myte. Trapped on this crappy planet with no flibbertigbies to speak of, a severe shortage of flumixxtiewhitzits, and a dangerously high proportion of gutwumltigxxshivews in his immediate neighborhood. I started wondering if perhaps his friends back on the mother ship had been in orbit for so long that they had intercepted and viewed “E.T.” on one of the premium satellite channels. Were I an alien, I’d imagine my opinion of humanity would be somewhat skewed by the obvious evidence that all friendly visitors from outer space were chased through the streets by men with flashlights and large key-rings, only to be tortured and thrown in refrigerators.

If I were an alien dad, I’d be concerned that my little Myte had tried to phone home on multiple occasions but we had been on the phone ordering Thai food (studies have shown aliens don’t have voice mail or call waiting). In that case I’d just start calling every available phone number in the book to see if anyone knew what had happened to Myte. And I’d use 1800-COLLECT because Carrot Top is revered as a god in alien culture (aside: Now, don’t judge - look how some humans down here view Dr. Phil).

Given these realizations, I knew what I had to do. I had to call the number and let the aliens know that Myte was doing fine, and in fact he had become an artist specializing in salt stains where his recent work “
Still Life with Female Human Genitalia” had proven very popular under a local freeway overpass.

So I called the number this morning. It turns out they were actually looking for a guy named Mike Little who had an unpaid parking ticket in Chicago and the computer voice just couldn’t figure out how to pronounce it. Needless to say, I was really disappointed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Lost Sheep seeks part time employment, has own bow and explosive arrows

I read an ad in another one of the quirky trade magazines I get here at work that I think is a promo. Country Music Television (CMT) is searching for someone to fill the position of "Vice President - CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute". Apparently, whoever gets the job gets paid $100,000 to make a few promotional appearances, write the Dukes of Hazzard Blog for CMT, and actually watch the show. But the best part is that you get to actually drive the General Lee!

Man, when I was a kid I had six or seven General Lee Matchbox cars, because all the jumps and stunts I would have them do in the dirt invariably ruined the paint and decals, requiring constant replacement. I never really understood how the real General Lee was always shiny and clean when my matchbox cars would get filthy after the first botched jump over the “river” (i.e. mud puddles in the backyard). I also had a bunch of Sheriff’s department cars (which usually suffered even more abuse than my General Lees), Uncle Jesse’s pickup truck, Boss Hogg’s Cadillac convertible, and Daisy’s Jeep with the eagle on the hood.

Anyway, I’m totally thinking of applying for this “job”. I wonder if I’d get to hang out with Tom Wopat, John Schneider, and Representative Cooter. Not to mention all the other questions…Would I get my own Flash? Are Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane even still alive? How did Hazzard County afford a budget to replace 2-3 Chevy Caprice’s every week, not to mention insurance premiums? Must’ve been a lot of money to be made in moonshine I tell you what…

Monday, April 25, 2005

Avast ye swabs, Mary be a salty dog...arrrr.

A quick update on my homey the Salty Virgin Mary. This morning on my way into work I noticed that the first weekend after her appearance has resulted in the number of candles, flowers, pictures, etc multiplying by a factor of five. A significant portion of the underpass is now filled with various mementos and offerings. It’s crazy. There are still guards there providing security, although I’m not sure whether they are private security, police, or IDOT workers. Another interesting point that has been made is that despite a near-constant rain all day Friday, the image is unchanged. Depending on what time I get home tonight I’ll head over and get updated pictures for ya’ll.

Needless to say, all this is only increasing the traffic in my neighborhood. I’ve started wondering whether or not IDOT is eventually going to have to wash off the image just to keep traffic under control. I’m sure they were hoping beyond measure that the rains this weekend would wash it away and take care of it for them. But now the stage is being set for a fun “dialogue” between those who want to keep traffic moving and those who still want to see the image. I’ll keep ya’ll informed as events happen.

Two more interesting SVM notes to mention. First, if you do a yahoo search for “pictures of the chicago overpass with the virgin mary” my blog is the third mention – right after stories posted by the local NBC and CBS affiliates. But I totally kicked ABC’s tukkus. (In your face ABC 7!) And thanks to J.Bro for mentioning my little docu-blog on the image on Althouse’s blog. I never thought I’d ever have that many people looking at this thing ever. Now about half of my page views and visits are from Althouse referrals. Sheesh. The power of a law professor…

CORRECTION: It was, in fact, J.Bro and not Theo who recommended this blog on the Althouse blog. That should have been fact-checked and I apologize for allowing Dan Rather to ghost-post in my name. Mr. Rather has since been re-assigned to other duties.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I wonder if they'll play Vitamin C's "Graduation Song" at the ceremony?

With my upcoming graduation from business school this June, I have found myself becoming way more involved in planning for said event. This is probably due to either a late-year rush of grad-school nostalgia or that I allowed myself to be sweet-talked into joining the graduation committee. Yeah…probably the latter.

One of the weirdest things that happened was receiving emails reminding me that the photographer will be on campus for yearbook pictures on such-and-such a date. Upon reading it, I thought to myself “Yearbook pictures? For business school? Why?”. I mean, sure I have good memories from my experience there. I had a good time, met some good friends and all. But…seriously…a yearbook?

As hard as I try to imagine it, I can’t picture what you would put in it. I mean, there are only about five student groups on campus, no sports teams, and no real student life pictures (unless they had photographers stalk us like paparazzi “Here’s Jason leaving from the Jewel with a bag of bananas! Here he’s taking out the garbage! Here he’s making out with Tara Reid at the Viper Room!”). So as far as I can figure out it’s going to consist of pictures of the graduates…and maybe faculty…and that’s pretty much it. Pretty dry stuff.

Even so, let’s say it was the coolest yearbook ever - maybe something like a pop-up book or a choose-your-own adventure theme (“You find yourself facing off against the most convoluted essay question in your Finance mid-term with no idea how to answer the question. How do you answer? To write an answer consisting of nothing but formulas and engineering schematics, turn to page 28. To answer with an essay on why Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton’s friendship went sour, turn to page 76. To feign an epileptic seizure in hopes of getting an extension, turn to page 101.”) – what exactly would be the point? I mean am I expected to run around at the graduation week events, pleading with people to “Sign my yearbook!” like Melissa Joan Hart in “Can’t Hardly Wait”? I think I’d just lose all credibility. Not to mention, what would people write? It’s not like we can get away with the generic affirmations we used in high school like “BFF”, “See ya in English!”, and “Quit following me or I’ll have the court find you in violation of the restraining order!”.

In the end, I chose not to have my picture taken. I’m also not going to get a B-School yearbook. Nor will I get a class ring, or a letterman’s jacket, or dumped in the cafeteria garbage can by the class bully. (But we did have prom last weekend, come to think of it. But *this* time I had an actual *date*!). Regardless…grad school is *so* much better than high school.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Relax, the gay liberal media have better things to seduce than your children

One of the hardest things about growing up is seeing the conditions of your youth with the context and hindsight of adulthood. I grew up in small towns all my life, mostly in one town in particular called Morris in MN. In many ways it was a stereotypical small town: just under 5,700 people, lots of churches (thirteen I think), county fairs with mini doughnuts and multiple buildings for livestock, small town stores with very little in the way of inventory or selection, parades down main street in the summertime where people on floats threw candy to the kids (occasionally *at* the kids), the whole nine yards.

Yet I also knew that Morris was in some ways different from a lot of the small towns in the area because we had a small university there called the University of MN – Morris. It was a bastion of liberal arts, a tiny little haven of arts, culture, and intellectual thought. Kind of the "UC Berkeley" of the U of M system. I hung out there a lot as a youngster, between piano lessons in the music center, summer programs for “smart kids”, and just wandering through the science buildings. It is probably because I spent so much time on campus as a kid that me and my friends grew up thinking that Morris was a fairly liberal town.

Well, today I was reminded how wrong I was when I read
in the Star Tribune about how a bunch of local elementary schools are canceling trips to go see a children’s theater show at the U because it apparently is being produced by the gay liberal media. The school board member that is quoted as insinuating that the play is obviously promoting the gay lifestyle? Yeah, that was my 5th grade math teacher. It was her room that we all went into to watch the coverage of the Challenger disaster when it happened becuse she had a television. Needless to say, I never realized how small-minded she was until now. How she drew some of those conclusions is beyond me. Ah, the bliss of small-town paranoia...

Urgh…I’m so glad I don’t live there anymore.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Virgin Mary is my homey

Some of you may have heard about the image of the Virgin Mary that popped up under a freeway overpass in Chicago this morning. What you may not have heard about is that I live only about a block away from that overpass. So after work today I wandered down with my digital camera to see for myself and try to document as much of the experience as I could for those of you who have never participated in your own viewing of a potentially holy image.

The pictures follow, but I'll tell you about the trip first. All afternoon there have been hundreds of people walking through my neighborhood. All heading for the overpass. As I fell in with them, I noticed that there were all sorts of people there. Lots of Latinos, some old Polish folks, young yuppies (like myself), all sorts of races ages, and family situations. Of course, there was also the hysterical evangelical shouting across the street about how "the truth wasn't in Mary, it wasn't in Buddha, it wasn't in Mo-Hammed, it's in JESUS!" And something about how we're all going to hell. Pretty standard stuff.

As I got closer, I couldn't really see anything. I was expecting something huge, but as I got inline I could see the top of the picture and it did look like a little face peeking out of a rain poncho. There was a wall of barricades set up about 4 feet in front of the image, and those who wanted to get close could wait in line to pass by it in a little "chute" between the barricades and the wall. While those who had less patience pushed up outside the barricades, held up their cameras and took pictures, and then hung out and talked with their friends or called them on cell phones.

As I got closer to the start of the chute there was a woman there taking signatures to keep IDOT (Illinois Dept Of Transportation for you out-staters) from power-washing the image. I signed. What the heck.

The ground in front of the image was covered in little votive candles, pictures, flowers, and at least one full-fledged Icon. Plus pictures of Pope John Paul II and such. I didn't have a lot of time to peruse the image, as they were trying to get folks through there pretty quick. But I got a few good pictures which I've posted below.

Here were my takeaways. First, people take this stuff really seriously. I didn't really get it until I saw parents of kids who were obviously cancer patients, people who were crippled, etc. go up and touch the image. Second, everyone was really well-mannered. There wasn't a single rude person, everyone said "excuse me" when they were trying to get through the line to leave. And once, when I sneezed (it being allergy season and all) I must've gotten about a dozen "bless you's". I figure they must be pretty powerful given that they were said right in front of the Virgin Mary.

Maybe I'll never sneeze again for the rest of my life. Cool.

Me in line. Early. This will take a while. Posted by Hello

Lots of cops there to keep traffic moving under the overpass and make sure things didn't get out of hand. Note, that guy is not a chicago cop, he just wandered into the frame and looks a little like what I expect Woody Harrelson to end up turning into in about another 5-10 years... Posted by Hello

I'm about half-way through the line at this point, just about to turn into the chute. Note, people are still coming in droves. Posted by Hello

Security. Actually a few seconds earlier he was gawking at the picture just as much as everyone else. Posted by Hello

A picture of this guy playing football with his kid just outside the line. It was neat to see all the families hanging out and playing together as they waited in line. Posted by Hello

Here is how the crowd was split up. On the left is everyone clamoring behind the barricades in front of the image. To the right are all the people in line behind me. Posted by Hello

Here is right where I entered "the chute" leading through the viewing area directly in front of the image. Note all the votives. Posted by Hello

Here you can see the image pretty clearly and all the offerings that have been left. Note the huge Icon that someone has left in the lower left hand corner. Posted by Hello

For comparison purposes, here's a picture from earlier today that I got off Yahoo!. Note the much less impressive collection of candles at the base. I think this was taken about noon on Monday. Posted by Hello

My shot almost right in front of the image.To the left you can see the edge of the little Pope John Paul II poster, and beneath you can see the tops of the flowers. Posted by Hello

Here you can see people admiring the image as I was leaving the viewing area. From this angle it looks particularly Mary-like. Posted by Hello

The cop is talking to two guys from IDOT (I think) or the city (could be). They were the ones making sure things didn't get out of hand. Posted by Hello

This is the clearest shot I could get because I used the flash. Yeah, I can see the face peeking out of the hood. Posted by Hello

Another picture of the crowd. Note the version of the Mexican Flag with the Vision of Guadalupe (or something, I can't remember what it's called exactly) in the middle instead of the eagle eating the snake. Posted by Hello

More pictures of people there... Posted by Hello

This is a better picture of just how many people had gathered around the image. Posted by Hello

On my way out, I noticed there were still lots of people walking down to get in line... Posted by Hello

As I was leaving, in fact, there was still a long line of cars coming down the Kennedy exit, presumably to visit Posted by Hello


Hee hee hee...


Ever since my senior year in high school, I’ve been a fairly regular blood donor. Not just because I like the free cookies, but I feel like it’s a relatively easy way to contribute something to help people. It started with doing the bloodmobile when it came to work or school, and then blossomed into a full-scale once-every-few months thing at my local Lifesource center. With one exception where I was rejected for low iron I’ve never really had a serious problem.

Because of this I think that Lifesource has become infatuated with me. They have always tried hard to get me to schedule my next appointment before I leave from one, but then, they started calling me at work and at home to leave reminders of upcoming appointments. To be honest I’ve started to feel a little bit like I’m being stalked. But I could still deal with it.

However, yesterday I got a call from them that crossed the line and revealed just how desperate they were getting. When I picked up the guy on the other end informed me that “there had been a motorcycle accident” and that they needed me to come in “in the next day or two” to help the patient out. I was somewhat taken aback by the weirdness of such a statement. It seemed to imply that if there had been a motorcycle accident, one of the following scenarios was playing out:

1) There was not a single unit of Type A- or Type O blood at any hospital in the entire city, because all said units had been devoured by ravenous packs of hungry vampire weasels disguised as hospital orderlies
2) The accident victim has very discriminating taste in blood, and has specified that he only be given the “fresh squeezed” variety, absolutely refusing any of that frozen “from concentrate” crap. Pulp is optional.
3) My blood has some sort of hallucinogenic properties that I am otherwise unaware of, and hospitals are offering it as an option for surgeries that they can then charge a premium for. The doctors tell the patient “You know, we could give you some blood from the fridge. But we’ve got this one guy over in Bucktown…his stuff will get you sooooooo high. The first unit’s free, but the next one’ll cost you…unless you bring a friend.”

Of course, by the time I had actually figured out that the whole motorcycle accident story was bogus, I had already made an appointment for this evening. Oh well, I missed my appointment last weekend, so I guess I owe it to society to give another pint of my non-eaten-by-weasels, fresh squeezed, no-pulp, no-filler, 100% Columbian, low-calorie, gets-you-higher-than-Woody Harrelson-on-a-Wednesday lifeblood.

Still, I worry a bit about what sort of techniques Lifesource will resort to next. I just know my next call will be from Mr. T or something.

Monday, April 18, 2005

I have no idea what Denmark smells like

There once was a time when I considered myself to have a pretty decent sense of smell. I attributed this to my somewhat-but-not-ridiculously-larger-than-normal nose. I didn't claim to be some sort of bloodhound, using my heightened olfactory abilities to hunt down evild'rs and the like. But I did think that my smeller was at least as good as everyone elses. Recent events however have me questioning my "smellf confidence" tho. It started when the GF and I attended a wine tasting sponsored by the business school. She was phenomenal at identifying very subtle nuances of smells, rattling off words like “fruity”, “dusty”, and “woodsy” that were perfectly appropriate to the wine we were trying out. I, on the other hand, found myself completely overwhelmed and with a single exception (where both the GF and I said one wine smelled like bacon) I could really only identify the smell of wine. This was a little disappointing, but I chalked it up to the GF somehow having a better “nose” for wine due to growing up in Southern California, what with the close proximity to the vineyards than I had growing up in North Dakota and Minnesota where we have no real wine industry to speak of.

But last week she also told me that there was a weird “mildewy” smell emanating from my bathroom. This was news because I had never smelled anything mildewy in my bathroom before. In my paranoid state, I theorized that perhaps mildew spores from my bathroom had overcome my olfactory receptors, or worse, had persuaded them to join the other side. Now my nose was being fed misinformation by the traitorous agents of evil residing in my sinus cavities! And where would it end? I mean if the mildew receptors could be so easily won over, what about the others? Would the smoke receptors switch sides and tell me that the smell of my condo burning down around me was the scent of fresh cut grass? Would I wear dirty clothes to the gym, thinking that the rancid boy-yuk smell emanating from them was actually the smell of laundry fresh from the dryer?

In any case, I’ve now declared war on whatever is causing the smell in the bathroom. I’ve tried several things in an effort to fix the problem, but it hasn’t worked yet. I’ve replaced the towels and the bath mat, and yesterday I ran the shower curtain through the washer twice because the GF could still smell the smell. If that doesn’t fix it I’m going to have to start tearing out the tub or replacing drywall. But it’s okay, I have a DIY book from Home Depot so I’ll figure it out.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I'm like Oprah!

I'm the first to admit that I know nothing about how the internet works. I mean I know the basics but due to my continued evolution into a grownup I just no longer have the time to go in-depth into all the technological advances that make it happen. I'm usually happy to just puddle along emailing friends and perusing my favorite websites without harming those around me. I had heard of things like javascript, wireless routers, etc., but never really paid much attention.

As it turns out, I'm already a victim of this lasseiz-faire attitude I've developed. I've not even been writing this for 6 months and already I've been syndicated! Apparently, companies out there exist to copy and republish various blogs. Including mine! Go figure. I suppose I just sit back and wait for the big checks to start rolling in now that everyone will want to reproduce my nonsensical babble for distribution to the masses. Yep...just waiting for the check...waiting...waiting...nothing yet...tell you what let me get back to you on that.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I hate business travel

I made it back home last night. Finally. I know you were probably all worried that I had died in a horrible air accident.

Well I *almost* did. As I said yesterday, my flight out from O'Hare had "mechanical difficulties" forcing us to make an emergency landing in Detroit. For those of you who have never experienced an emergency landing, it starts off with the plane nosediving as they try to lose altitude rapidly. Thankfully, the pilot only waited a minute or two before coming on and telling us that we were not going to die. Why they wait to tell us until after they start the decent I don't know. I think they were waiting for someone to scream "We're all gonna die!" before doing anything. I considered it...

Once we got on the ground, we sat and waited while an army of mechanics trooped through the cabin to the tail of the plane. Then we were told they couldn't fix it and that we'd all have to de-plane so they could start booking us on alternate flights. I got on a 10:30 flight on Northwest - but it was already 9:45 and the Northwest flight was departing from the "other terminal". I was given a little hand-written ticket and told that I could either take the free shuttle over to the other terminal (which might take days, according to the service folks) or just go downstairs and take a cab. I chose the latter, obviously, and dashed off to the taxi station figuring that the quicker time would be worth the $2-3 it would cost me for the tab to drive me the quarter-mile.

But was I ever wrong. The cab companies at the airport have figured out that they can make money hand-over fist running people from terminal to terminal, and actually charge $26 (plus tip) for the privilege. And of course, you have to pay it, because it was already 9:47 so there's no way the shuttle will get you there on time. It also turned out that the other terminal is apparently about 5 miles from the first one. So I pulled up to the other terminal with about 1 half-hour before departure.

Then, naturally, I had to go through security again. But not without first discovering that the paper ticket I'd been given at my old flight is not actually a ticket, but rather a voucher that I have to exchange for a boarding pass at the front counter. So I got out of line at security, ran and got a boarding pass and returned to the line, where I was placed in a special line for security with other passengers from my flight. While all the other checkpoints were *empty* we were held like cattle waiting for slaughter while Detroit's finest tried to decide just how late they were going to make us for our flight. First, they took the boarding passes and ID's for everyone in line *at once*. Because apparently it helps expedite things if you shuffle people's tickets like a Vegas blackjack dealer. Then, they had to find another 20 people to watch us go through security (I thing they needed to train the new recruits on the best way to provoke passengers into air rage).

Once everyone was there, we ran all our worldly possessions through the x-ray machine and went through the metal detectors, just like usual. But then, I discovered that apparently said x-ray machine and metal detectors were either decoys (which they were using to try and attract actual equipment like duck decoys) or purely decorative (to give the "illusion" of security). I know this because once on the other side everyone's bags were hand-searched (ah, so *this* explains why they needed to find all the other people) and we were all wanted and patted down. I wouldn't minded if the one patting me down was Catherine Zeta-Jones, but no, I was assigned a scruffy troll-like creature who proceeded to slap me around like a Canadian clubbing a baby seal. Then they gave me my ticket and ID and sent me merrily on my way.

Only it wasn't *my* ticket, which I discovered as I was riding the escalators down to the main terminal level. I had to go back upstairs and wrest it from the grubby hands of a complete stranger before flying back down to the terminal. Ordinarily I would have just pretended to be him but he was on a different flight and I had no desire to go to Boise, having limited interest in either potatoes or militia groups.

By the time I made it to Newark and picked up my rental car, things were looking up. I was hustling up I-95 heading around NYC through the Bronx (thinking maybe I'd have a celebrity sighting of J.Lo) when I ran smack into the worst traffic jam ever in the history of man. I reached the Bronx at about noon, and by 4:00 I had driven a grand total of 5 miles. It was inhuman. Most disappointing was that there really didn't seem to be any real cause of it. No road kill, no car broken down, no parade of topless showgirls from Atlantic City protesting wage disparity compared to their counterparts in Vegas, nothing. We just started actually moving once we hit Connecticut where I believe gridlock is illegal, which probably explains it. I finally pulled into the Stamford Fairfield Inn at about 5:00 or shortly afterwards.

The trip back yesterday wasn't as exciting. But that's probably for the best.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Well after my plane nearly crashing and getting diverted to Detroit where gate security tried to secretly replace my boarding pass with some other guy's, I then found myself stuck in traffic in NYC - I figured I averaged less than 1 mile per hour for over 5 hours. How do people do this?

Anyway, I'm staying in Stamford tonight, and am *very* glad that I decided to pack a change of emergency clothes. Of course, I got to experience a "Stop and Shop" today in order to pick up toiletries, but that's a whooooole other posting and I've only got 30 minutes at the public "work station" here at the good ol' Fairfield Inn.

I'll fill ya'll in tomorrow on all the adventures...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Leaving' on a jet plane

Wednesday will, sadly, be postless as I am leaving on a 6:30 am flight to Newark airport for a day trip to meet with some suppliers of hinges (including those hinges on laptops that make the screen part hold in any position between fully open and fully closed - I'll bet none of you have ever thought about the fact that there are actual hinges that do this before!).

Anyway. It's going to be a long day driving from Newark out through Connecticut until I fly out of Hartford. But I'm sure I'll have many adventures to share when I get back. Wish me luck that I don't get lost or fall foul of some obscure New England driving laws that we don't have in the midwest.

I'm different! No...I'm *more* different!

Okay, you are walking through a pet shop and you see two cute little puppies staring at you from the cages. They look at you with their irrepressibly cute "come here and let me lick your face off because I love you so much" faces. You feel something welling up inside you. That feeling is:

1) "Gosh, I've always wanted a puppy to fill up that cold and empty feeling inside me since my last boy/girlfriend left me for the swimsuit model/rock star. I'm going to buy one"
2) "I wonder if I could train the Shih Tzu to mop my floor by jumping in a bucket of Mr. Clean and running around the linoleum without crossing over onto the good carpet?"
3) "Do you think they're devising a plan to to rise up and take over the pet store like in Amistad?"
4) "They look lonely. But nobody wears white until Memorial Day, so how could anyone coordinate them into an outfit? I bet they'd find a good home faster if they were blue or purple or something to match outfits of all seasons..."
5) "Whoa! Man those are some freaky lookin' monkeys dude!"
6) "Uh oh...shouldn't have had that circus peanut and licorice smoothie..."

Well, needless to woman in West Fargo apparently thinks so too. This raises an interesting question - Why is it that in order to be "cool" and "attractive" these days you have to be "unique"? I'm as American as the next guy, but it just seems like our fascination with individuality is getting out of control. I mean, look at the lengths celebrities have to go to these days - particularly those who have always relied *entirely* on their uniqueness for their fame (as opposed to, oh, say "talent"). For example:

1) Boy George
Old (Uniqueness): Is he a boy or a girl?
New: Did he scalp himself or just spill a gallon of nail polish on his head?

2) Flava Flav
Old: Wears a massive clock around his neck and a crazy hat
New: Wears Brigitte Neilsen around his neck and a crazy hat

3) Courtney Love
Old: Brash and rebellious young rock star - married Kurt Cobain
New: Professional fashion faux-pas - used to be married to Kurt Cobain, remember? REMEMBER!?!?!

4) Jennifer Lopez
Old: Fly girl with a great butt
New: Covered in bling, but still "from the block" - claims to be a musician, actress, *and* fashion designer. Will be announcing election as Pope later this week.

Sigh...remember the simpler times when all it took to be weird was to wear funny glasses, eat Life cereal, or be Canadian?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Actually, I hate Wal-Mart more, but still

It appears that I’m the last person to read about the Best Buy customer who got jerked around by their installation department that he decided to pay his fees entirely with $2 bills. Before I go any farther, I have to confess that I loathe Best Buy. I think they are a pack of yipping vampire hyenas that lope across the American retail savannah trying to drain the blood of its fat and ignorant herds of wandering consumers. My stance on Best Buy may shock some of you who are aware of my strong love for any business headquartered in Minnesota. This is why I choose Caribou Coffee over Starbucks, Target over Wal-Mart, Dairy Queen over Baskin Robbins, 3M over whomever-they-compete-against-but-sheesh-can-you-think-of-a-particular-company-I-sure-can’t.

Admittedly, I used to be a supporter of Best Buy until repeated exposure to the absolute ignorance of their staff and complete and utter failure to train any of them in what makes a particular product with the extra money finally cracked me when one of their “ASS-ociates” actually removed the stereo I was buying from my cart and took it away because I wouldn’t buy the service plan. The dialogue was priceless:

BB Ass: [Blocking exit from the stereo aisle with his body] So, do you need a service plan with that?
Me: Um…no, not really, thank you.
BB Ass: Really? Because it’s only $50 for three years.
Me: [Pausing to consider whether I could get up enough speed to run him over with the shopping cart in the mere 2 feet separating him from the cart] I’m really not interested thank you.
BB Ass: Why don’t you want to buy the service plan?
Me: [Thinking I’ll try to use logic] Well, I think it’s a waste of money to buy insurance for a brand new item that is already covered by a manufacturer’s warranty anyway.
BB Ass: [Activating his built-in logic shield] Well, that doesn’t cover everything you know. Like these CD changers? They break all the time.
My Friend: [Gives me a look] So, you’re saying that this stereo is going to break? Are you selling bad merchandise then? Why sell it if you know it’s going to break?
Me: [Understanding “the look”] You’re right, hey thanks for telling me buddy. Now I just won’t buy it at all. You’ve saved me $300 bucks, thanks!
BB Ass: [Not understanding the look at all…actually, not understanding much of anything by that point and realizing he needs to get help] Is it that it’s too much money for the service plan? Let me go talk to the manager about it…

At that point the BB Ass reached down and took the stereo out of my cart, turned around and walked back into the electronics department. My friend and I just looked at each other and then decided to leave. We left the empty cart blocking the aisle too, so that the BB Ass could deal with it. I just lived with my old stereo for another couple years. And it was fine, but that’s probably because it didn’t have a CD changer to begin with. If it had one, I’m sure it would have tried to kill me in my sleep.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Apparently, it's not "Good Enough" anymore

What is happening on Sesame Street? As someone who practically grew up on “the street” (along with Mr. Rogers, the Electric Company, and 3-2-1 Contact) I appreciate the way that it taught the sometimes-harsh truths about life. It communicated such ideas simply, smoothly and never tried to gloss over the rough edges. Ideas such as:

1) If you’re not very good at something but want to do it anyway – take precautions (e.g. Super Grover wearing a helmet because of his inability to land without crashing)
2) If you have a secret that isn’t a “bad secret” and try to go around blabbing about it, people will probably not believe you anyway so why not just treasure it as it is (e.g. Big Bird and his “imaginary” friend Snuffy)
3) Just because someone is cranky and mean and unpleasant to those around him, it doesn’t make him a bad person – sometimes he can be a good friend too (e.g. Oscar the Grouch and Slimey)
4) People die sometimes, and that’s okay if they’ve lived a good life (e.g. Mr. Hooper)
5) While letters and numbers are filthy rich and generously share their wealth, punctuation marks are miserly skinflints who don’t care of anyone knows how to use them properly (I mean, how many episodes were sponsored by the semi-colon? Zero. That cheap bastard.)
6) Finally, the nobility of Eastern Europe is crazy about numbers.

Needless to say, I’m a bit concerned that SS is becoming so obsessed about being cute, harmless and cuddly that they are wussifying our children. The latest case in point – they are
changing Cookie Monster so that he eats fewer cookies – because they are concerned about obesity. So instead of his “C is For Cookie…” song, he’s now singing a new song about how cookies are “sometimes food” (to be eaten…”sometimes”, get it?). And he’s going to be gorging himself on a wider variety of foods now including…vegetables!

Let’s think about why this is going about the problem entirely the wrong way. First off, when you are 6, you have no restraint. If you are offered a cookie, or a whole plate of cookies, you are not going to practice self-restraint and say “No no mother, Cookie Monster says that cookies are only a 'sometimes food' and I had one yesterday. But thank you for your generous offer, may I have a nice fresh salad with just a dash of vinaigrette instead?” Of course not. You are going to dig in with both fists until they are all gone or are taken away, which you would resist with great force or throwing of tantrums.

You see, the SS folks have it all wrong. It’s not the kids that you have to tell not to eat so much; it’s the parents we have to crack. When I was a kid, we had cookies in the house about as often as we had holiday figures breaking and entering to leave presents. And then they were homemade, so they didn’t last long. And god forbid we ever had candy. We had to make our stash from Halloween last for the entire year (up through at least the summer, at which point all we usually had left were those weird taffies with the orange or black wax paper and no other markings - you know, the kind of candy given out by those who hate children and want to make us suffer by giving out the D-list candy). These days, candy and cookies are ubiquitous. We need to start adjusting grown-up shows to emphasize the point to stop giving you kids so much candy. I would looooove to watch an episode of NYPD Blue where Sipowitcz beats the tar out of some fat kid's dad yelling “You’re turning your kid into a fat slob you &*#&ing piece of %&$#!!! Give him a @*#&%$# carrot next time!”. Or, better yet, imagine an episode of ER where Dr. Carter has to tell a mother “Your son isn’t ‘big boned’ ma’am, he’s suffering from a severe Chips Ahoy overdose. Do you know where he could have got them?” and then calls social services when she confesses she “keeps a stash in the kitchen – next to the cuisinart”.

But alas, it’s probably not going to change. Oh well. Maybe they’ll at least have Cookie Monster use correct grammar and say “Me eat fewer cookies”. But I’m not holding my breath on that one either.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Popularity is fleeting

In the one hour after I posted the post for the day, I had 20 hits on the site. Crazy. And it appears they are almost all random folks just clicking on the "Next Blog" link up in the Blogger bar. A bunch of people from Europe and Western Australia and such. Go figure.

I'm sure this is just a fad and that all will be back to normal tomorrow.

Strangers in a stranger land

Seeing an article on the death of Prince Rainier of Monaco made me start thinking about those funky differences that sometimes occur between a place name and the people who hail from said place. Apparently, people from Monaco are called Monegasques”, which frankly makes me think of monkeys. Similarly, the term “Cypriot” (referring to someone from Cyprus) strikes me as a derogatory term for someone of lesser intelligence – probably because it’s so close to “idiot”. “Neapolitan” of course, was someone from Naples way before it was an ice cream flavor, and so on, and so on.

Come to think of it, many of the places I lived don’t really even have names for “someone who comes from this place”. Particularly, city names are really lacking. Maybe it’s that only urban areas above a certain size are significant enough to come up with a new term for someone-who-comes-from-there. I mean Minneapolis has one (“Minneapolitan”) but St. Paul doesn’t (that I know of). So logic would dictate that a city would need to be at least as big as Minneapolis to “name its people”. Or, maybe it’s just that people from St. Paul are just more humble. Maybe is when a community has some sort of defining quality that natives want to call out about themselves to the world. For example “Texan”, “New Yorker”, and “Parisian” all refer to places people are proud to be from. But I can’t think of terms for someone from Erie, PA; Gary, IN; or Detroit, MI. Of course there is “Clevelander”, but I think that’s more because people from Cleveland take a weird sense of pride in their squalor.

It gets trickier for states though. I mean once we’re talking about a state, one would think that everyone would have a term from someone from there (even someone from St. Paul is a “Minnesotan”). But the names themselves aren’t always a clear derivative. Originally hailing from North Dakota, I know to call myself a “NoDaker” rather than a “North Dakotan” (although both are appropriate, the former term is more familial to natives). But what does one call a person from Wyoming? Utah? Maine? Could they be compounded with other adjectives about the person? Is a jazz bassist from Wyoming called a “Wyomingus”? Would you call a person from Maine with an unnatural fear of islands a “Mainelander”? Is a prostitute from Idaho called an “Idahoho”? If so, would Hostess file a lawsuit for trademark infringement? Or maybe Santa?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Feeling burned more than "the" burn

Yesterday I received a packet from a supplier of hardware that contained a DVD of various installation videos, showing how to install various hinges, gate latches, etc from that company. I’m not sure what to expect. But I do consider it to be a bit of a sign of just how insane I have become that I’m actually even considering taking it home and watching it. If I watch it tonight I’ll try to give you all a nice review in tomorrow’s post.

For those who are curious, I did go to the gym yesterday afternoon. However, I was very disappointed to discover that I was not able to get my physical unfitness assessment done. This was because the guy who I talked to yesterday was full of lies and told me yesterday that they would be able to do it that afternoon (Monday). But it turns out that one needs to schedule an appointment for the assessment. I felt violated. But I made the best of it by doing the only piece of exercise that I knew how to use – the treadmill. The last time I actually worked out in the gym I used one of those, so I figured it would be safe for me to do it again. So I did that for a half-hour (with a 12% incline because I’m super tuff!) and then wandered around trying to familiarize myself with how the rest of the equipment worked. But I didn’t really feel that I needed more cardio. So I wandered over to the weights equipment area. This was filled with strange, frightening looking machines that looked like stuff straight out of Dr. Caligari’s closet. I thought about trying to figure them out, but thought better of it since I didn’t really know how much weight was safe to use and how much would snap me in half like one of those unusually long and skinny Cheetos you sometimes find in a bag and wonder aloud how a Cheeto that skinny could have survived the bagging and shipping process without snapping.

In the end, I did some basic stuff with dumbbells that were probably lighter than I could have used. I’m not sore today at all. Oh well, at least I didn’t snap in half.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What makes it a "revolution" anyway?

It has been over two years since I worked out on a regular basis. Something about grad school just sucks your energy away, particularly when you’re also working full-time. Because of this, my body has started to resemble a potato (regardless of how you spell it). Granted, I’m not going to be mistook for Mr. Potato Head anytime soon, but given where I as two years ago I’ve made significant progress. I realized that no matter what the media told me my current exercise regimen of web surfing, Discovery Channel viewing, and cubicle jockeying was not cutting it anymore.

Briefly, I considered joining the Dance Dance Revolution exercise craze that seems to be
sweeping the nation. But considering my complete lack of coordination I suspect that my getting involved with a game that required that much foot action would only result in aggravated injury. I know, I know – if 10-year-old fat kids in West Virginia can do it I should be able to hack it as well. But I’m still hesitant…because my center of gravity is much higher than theirs…and…um…stuff. Plus, it’s a vinyl floor mat and is supposed to be played in stocking feet! If that’s not a liability issue then I don’t know what is. I mean I know how far I can slip across my hardwood floors in stocking feet only (about 8-9 feet depending on how much velocity I get up running down my hallway) so I can’t imaging how unstable I’d be on surfaces as near frictionless as vinyl.

Speaking of foot-activated video games, how is it that DDR becomes a global phenomenon, whereas Track and Field for ye olde Nintendo NES is barely a blip on the radar of popular video game culture? Doesn’t anyone recall the old “
Power Pad” accessory that you could use to actually run races against computerized communist opponents? Admit it, if you know what I’m talking about you totally cheated anyway and pounded the pad with your fists while kneeling next to it in order to achieve speeds in the 100 meters that not even a pimped out ’78 Cutlass could reach. My theory is that Track and Field failed because it was too much like exercise. I mean everyone knows that track and field events are “athletic”. Plus, T&F doesn’t feature the additional benefit of providing entertainment for bemused onlookers. I’m convinced that DDR is so popular not because it’s fun, but rather because it lets your friends make fun of your complete lack of coordination while preventing you from retaliating with physical violence (because then you’d lose the game).

Anyway. Given that DDR won’t work for me and that I’d only succumb to the temptation for cheating were I to Ebay for T&F, I joined the gym that work sponsors yesterday. I’m going in this afternoon for my “fitness assessment” and first workout, which I suspect will consist of them putting me in a giant hamster wheel until I vomit blood and start tumbling over and over like a load of forgotten laundry in a dryer. Should be fun stories galore to share tomorrow. I can’t wait.

P.S. – I found
this story while searching for a website about the Power Pad. I laughed.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The King is dead...and no, I don't mean the Pope

Yesterday I thought I would try doing a web search for this blog. Idle curiosity, perhaps, but probably also a teensy weensy bit of ego, I admit. I think it’s similar to the “one man’s search for validation of his existence” theme made popular by popular culture and great film (“Page 73, Johnson, Navin, R.! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book every day!”). I was also inspired by the fact that someone found this blog by searching for the term “dora's adorable pet shop fire lucky turtle” in Yahoo Search. Frankly, I don’t know who you are Mr./Ms. Internet Searcher, but I have to respect your specificity in your search terms. Come to think of it, it sounds like they could have been searching for lyrics to a Japanese pop song, too but that is neither here nor there.

Needless to say I was a little disappointed to discover that according to Google, I don’t exist, but John Q. Public was able to find me on Yahoo. This I found to be very interesting. Why was it that the search engine almost universally regarded as being the pinnacle of human innovation of the 21st Century could so completely fail at finding my collection of random musings and otherwise useless verbage when the perennial also-rans Yahoo (and even Ask Jeeves for the love of Pete!) not only knew of me but could give you a complete review of the blog’s entire life? I’m a little disappointed, and also somewhat chagrined, because I have a friend here at work who always used Yahoo Search almost exclusively, and I gave her much grief for it. Oh well, at least MSN Search doesn’t…AAAUUUGGGGGHHH!!! Holy cow, even MSN Search finds me! It even gives the blog as this only result!!! Well dip me in chocolate and call me a creamy nougat center…

So how does one fix this? Who does one call at Google to let them know that they are broken? Well, it turns out that there isn’t a person to call, but Google does have a
site you can use to submit URL’s to be added to their system. I’ve already filled out the form, so we’ll see how long it takes for them to come to their senses and recognize the overwhelming mediocrity that is this collection of musings. I’ll let you know how long it takes. I’m still disappointed though…it’s like the day I found out the Easter bunny wasn’t real.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Perfect for those long, rest-stop-less drives

One of the fun things about working in my office is the overabundance of weird trade magazines floating around. Because we sell stuff from a variety of different markets, we have subscriptions to some oddly named and slightly pervy-sounding periodicals such as MAN (Modern Applications News) and Rubberworld. What’s more, sometimes the cover stories from these magazines are not your run-of-the-mill ad copy.

For instance, I passed by a copy of the March edition of Non-Wovens Industry that showed a geriatric woman playing tennis, aggressively returning a forehand shot. From the picture itself, I assumed that the issue would be talking about advances in sportswear for aging athletes. But no, the cover instead proclaimed a story called “The Adult Incontinence Market”. It turns out that when you write an article for these magazines, you’re allowed to go on and on and on in the most extreme detail possible. Apparently, once we all get old we lose complete control of all urinary functions whatsoever, and unless the non-woven fabric industry gets its act together, all the earth will be covered with people wetting themselves and their loved ones within the next 10-20 years.

The article itself is massive, outlining all the future advances and innovations coming to the “AI” market. It’s a good thing too, because now I’m scared to death of accidentally peeing on strangers when I hit 70 ("Hello young lady, I'd like to renew my drivers license please. Um...uh-oh...oh dear, sorry about that."). I find myself thinking, “How did pioneers survive without non-woven adult incontinence products? Did they rely on ultra-absorbent beaver pelts?” until I realize that most pioneers probably died of scurvy, were trampled to death by buffalo herds, or were swallowed whole by the now-extinct prairie boa constrictor long before “AI” became an issue.

My question after seeing all this was – did that woman whose picture they took for the cover story know what the picture was for? Because if I were her, I’d be a little piqued (not unlike the models who posed for the billboard PSA’s on domestic violence who are now suing the city of New York because the city left the ads up too long and now the models' friends think they actually did beat their wives). I mean she's out there showing the world that grandma's still got game, and probably was all excited that she was going to be in Sports Illustrated or something, only to find herself a front-page example of humanity's struggle against "leakage". It just serves as a reminder to all models everywhere - always read the small print. Something to remember before you start your modeling career, people…

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