Friday, August 29, 2003

I'm so clueless

Somedays I even amaze myself.

My youngest daughter had wrist surgery this morning. Took my oldest daughter to school (I made her drive with only ONE hand on the steering wheel, breaking every rule she knows. It drove her nuts. Tee hee.) and then home to pick up my wife and youngest daughter, then off to the surgery center (all out-patient stuff). My wife has filled out the pre-surgery check list, and we sit in the waiting room, waiting. My wife hands me the clipboard and her book and says she's going to find the bathroom. Great. Of course, my first thought is that as soon as she's out of sight, they'll call our name.

She hadn't been gone ten seconds.

So my daughter and I follow the nurse back to a little room (with too much furniture and way too many chairs, no two alike) to fill out some more paperwork and sign some releases. Her first question: "Do you know the name of your doctor?" Hmmm. Stumped me already. She says a name and I say "That's the guy!" I recognized it from posting the check in the checkbook when we paid the deductable. A few more questions that I fake my way through, and by this time, my wife has tracked us down. Saved! She answers the rest of the questions and I make her sign the paperwork.

They head back to the changing room and I go back to the waiting room/lobby. As I sit back down and get ready to open my book, I happen to glance up. Across the room is a guy from my church. The minister of education to be exact. His wife had twin boys eight weeks ago and they just came home for the first time yesterday. So as I'm looking at him, I'm thinking "who's having surgery? Is something wrong with one of the boys? It's not his wife is it? I hadn't heard that anything was wrong?" All this goes through my head in about the time it takes to blink.

I walk over to him and shake his hand and ask, "What are you doing here?" He says, "I'm here to see you."

Then it hits me. Duh!

He's a minister. That's what they do. They visit people who are in the hospital (or people who are having surgery). It never occurred to me that he was there for US. He stayed and visited until my daughter was in recovery.

In case you wondered, she's doing fine. Just a little groggy at the moment.

  • |

    Thursday, August 28, 2003

    What's it all about, Alfie?

    And if you know the reference, you were probably born by 1965.

    Here lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking (is that the same as admitting that I wasn't before?) about all sorts of things: politics, race relations, human nature, nature, religion, morality, patriotism. It's funny how much of what we believe about the world is based on assumptions and inference. Our first-hand knowledge is finite and is limited further by what we allow to filter through our paradigms (did you have to use that word?). Yet we still manage to form opinions on every topic imaginable. Based on what? I can't speak for you, but when it comes down to it, much of my worldview is based on faith.

    The question is, faith in what? There is a thing in science called the Unified Field Theory, or TOE (Theory Of Everything). Science hasn't been able to define what TOE is, but only hypothesize that it does exist. To achieve TOE, you must develop a single theory which explains all phenomenons of space and matter in all disciplines of science. As you can guess, this is not an easy thing. But what if you could develop a TOE for life itself? Something that explained all of humanity and history within a single concept? (Is the answer to the meaning of life really 42?) What would such a theory contain? And when it comes down to it, wouldn't you have to take such a theory it on faith? That's what's been working on my mind.

    I'll have more later, but what are your thoughts?

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2003

    Try it, you'll like it

    The light poles at the end of the street consistently sport the latest come-ons from the scammers. Today I saw a brand new one: "Viagira for sale".

    Now, I know what Viagra is, but I've never heard of this Viagira stuff. Hmmm. Must be new. I wonder what it's for?

    You know, it's pretty sad when you can't even spell the name of the product you're trying to rip off.

    "Slick, you put up them signs like I told ya?"

    "Sure 'nough, boss. I got 'em all stapled up, jus' like you wanted."

    "Well, dag nab it! Why ain't the phone ringin'?"

  • |

    What ARE you doing?

    Do you ever catch your kids doing something that's just bizarre? We Aardvarks go to bed pretty early (at least by modern standards). We shoot for having the kids in bed by 9:00 and we usually call it quits between 10:00 and 10:30. The day starts at 5:00 AM, and I need all the beauty sleep I can get.

    So last night, we put our youngest to bed about 9:00. She had an oboe lesson yesterday evening, so we weren't on the normal schedule as far as homework and baths and such. My wife and I sit down to watch the early news and sometime around 9:30 we hear one of the kids get up to use the bathroom (not an unusual event, as you probably know). At 10:00, we've seen enough of the Terrell Bolton coverage, so it's off to bed.

    As I walk by my youngest daughter's room, I notice she's on the floor beside her bed. That's odd. (d'ya think?) So I go into her room. She's kneeling over her lap desk, with a pencil in her hand, working homework papers in the dark with just her night light for illumination. "What are you doing?" "I forgot I had this homework, dad." "What kind of homework is it?" "Math." "How much do you have?" She shuffles the papers for a second or two. "12 problems." "Why don't you just go on to bed and we'll get you up a little early and you can just finish them in the morning." "Ok, dad" And she proceeds to hop back into bed like there was nothing unusual about doing homework in the dark. I tuck her back in, and go on to bed just shaking my head. "What?" my wife asks. "You'll never guess what YOUR daughter was doing."

    At least she was TRYING to be responsible. Now if we could only get her to try during normal hours.

  • |

    That's my girl!

    I was sitting in front of the computer last night catching up the checkbook to see exactly how much money I don't have. My oldest daughter was sitting on the couch playing around with her new calculator (a TI-83 graphing model). Yes, that's right. She was entertaining herself with a calculator.

    So I'm working away and about every 30 seconds or so I hear a

    "Coooooooool"

    or a

    "Sweeeeeet"

    or an

    "Aaaaaawesome".

    I couldn't help it. I got the giggles.

    "You are SUCH a nerd!" I told her.

    "No, dad. This is really cool! Did you know I can do ____?"

    Ah, my sweet child, how the apple has fallen so close to the tree.

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    Chief Bolton

    In his press conference yesterday said, "I didn't know why I got fired." Now I think it's obvious that what he meant was that he wasn't given a SPECIFIC reason for his firing. But I have to tell you, my first response on hearing him say this was "And that's the reason you had to go."

    He's either very disingenuous or profoundly clueless. Take your pick.

  • |

    Tuesday, August 26, 2003

    So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye

    Terrell Bolton, Chief of the Dallas Police Department has been FIRED.

    It's long overdue. This guy is a case study in what's wrong with affirmative action. The only reason he was on the command staff of the previous chief is because they needed another black guy. He was promoted well beyond his grade without any exceptional merit on his record (other than being a kiss-up). Looks like they filled a quota to me. Then, when the old chief leaves, the selection committee basically says "It's time to give a black guy a chance". So once again, Terrell gets promoted over more senior and experienced people to a position he holds no particular qualifications for, just because he's black. If you've ever listened to him speak, you quickly realize that he's in over his head. His biggest concern has ALWAYS been covering his own behind. Instead of arguing with facts, he gets mad when challenged and tries to make it an issue of skin color.

    One of his first acts after he was promoted to chief was to get rid of most of the senior command staff and bring in his own people (more people of ALL colors who were lacking in qualifications). Let's see, if YOU were incompetent, wouldn't you want to get rid of all the people who would recognize this right away? That move cost the city millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements. Then you have the fake drug scandals, the hiring of officers with questionable backgrounds (over the recommendations of the interviewing officers), and the recent release of the crime statistics (which are through the roof). No wonder officer morale is at an all-time low and turnover is through the roof.

    The handwriting has been on the wall for some time. The mayor, Laura Miller, has publicly expressed her discontent with his job performance. Just this last week, several of the area black "leaders" threatened violence if the mayor (who happens to be white) forced out Chief Bolton. In their world, it's impossible to criticize a black man without being a racist.

    I have a tip for them. If you didn't spend so much time trying to protect black men who are incompetent, it would make it much easier on the rest of the black men who ARE competent. They wouldn't feel like they constantly had to prove themselves and could get a lot more accomplished with a lot less effort.

    Personally, I'm hoping that Chief Bolton's replacement is a black man. Just as long as he's qualified.

  • |

    Ooo, ooo, that smell

    Something stinks over at Jordana's place. Have you ever worked with someone who always smelled bad? I have.

    There was a lady who worked in our payroll department who had some traumatic things happen in her life. If I remember correctly, a close relative (her sister, I believe) died and her husband left her at about the same time. As you can imagine, it hit her pretty hard. Anyway, shortly after this happened, her coworkers started complaining that she smelled (and some days of the month smelled worse than others, if you know what I mean). The best we could figure is that she just stopped bathing. Her supervisors had to cousel her about bathing and using deodorant about every six months or so.

    Eventually I moved far enough up the corporate ladder that her boss wound up reporting to me. One day he came into my office and said something like, "Boss, what are the rules about firing somebody because they stink?" I didn't know, so we asked HR. Turns out, you CAN fire someone because they stink, but you have to give them a chance to shape up first. So, even though she'd been told numerous times to bathe and/or use deodorant and/or see a doctor (to determine if it was a medical condition), we had to counsel her again. Only this time it was accompanied by a written warning. It wasn't long before we fired her. I felt bad, but I had to consider the working conditions of all of the other people in her area.

    We wound up throwing out her chair when she left. No one else would sit in it.

  • |

    Monday, August 25, 2003

    Dante's inferno

    I called the fire department yesterday and turned in my neighbor (behind us) for burning in the alley. I didn't really want to, but I didn't want my storage building (about 6 feet from the alley) or my house burned down either.

    This guy is probably in his mid fifties and usually works outside without a shirt (which by itself is enough to gross my daughters out). Let's just say if I happened to flip over to COPS some night and saw a scruffy, beer bellied, old dude without a shirt, I wouldn't be shocked if it was my neighbor. Half of the alley is technically still my property, but the city has an easement for phone and power lines. It's the homeowner's responsibility to keep it from getting blocked. My neighbor says he's just cleaning up the alley and clearing out some of the trees that have grown up. Now, call me crazy, but I never noticed the alley having a lot of trash in it before he started "cleaning it up".

    It used to be he would just burn stuff in his yard. Since we live in the city limits, this isn't legal, but it was his yard, so even though I didn't like it, I just let it go. Then he started chopping down the trees on his side of the alley and burning them. My wife talked to him one day and told him she didn't like him burning. He just shrugged it off. The next time I was mowing, he motioned me over. I shut off the mower and he proceeded to tell me how he's fixing up his place and how burning put nitrates back into the soil and was really good for it, and did I want any ash for my yard, and did I want him to take out my trees too, and how he didn't mean to upset my wife but he figured I would understand about what he was doing since I was the man, and how he was going to buy sections of privacy fence to put up once they went on sale.

    Hold on. Back up. He just insulted my wife. Dismissed her opinion because she was a woman. This is the 21st century, isn't it? (looks at watch) I told him that I agreed with my wife and I didn't like him burning either.

    "Oh, I'm always careful" he says. "I always start watering the area the day before" he says. "I always stay out here with the hose when I'm burning" he says. It's obvious that he's not going to stop burning.

    That was last fall. He's burned half a dozen times since then. One time, the heat killed several tree limbs about 20 feet above where he was burning. Another time, it burned a patch of grass a couple of feet on my side of the fence. When you have a guy who likes to burn things living behind you, you really don't want to tick him off. So I haven't turned him in. Until yesterday. My oldest daughter comes to me and says, "Dad, he's in the alley burning stuff again."

    I live in Texas. I don't know what it's like where you are, but here in Texas, IT'S STILL SUMMER. You know, 100 degree days and all that. It's been hot for the last two months and we haven't had what you'd call a big rain event in a LONG time. So it's hot. And dry. And this fool is out in the alley burning crap.

    So I called the non-emergency number for the fire department and gave them his address. About 45 minutes later, my doorbell rings. Guess who? Yep. Zedikiah Hatfield himself (actually, I don't know his name, but that one seems to fit). "Did you call the fire department on me?" Hmmm. I could say no, but he would never believe me, and anyway, why should I lie? "Yes I did." "Why didn't you just come talk to me?" "Well, we did that before and you didn't seem to get the message, so I figured maybe you'd listen to the fire department."

    Zedikiah was pretty hot (literally and figuratively) when we started, but I think he was calmed down a little by the time we finished. Once again I heard about how burning helped put nitrates back in the soil and made it more fertile (um, they sell that at Home Depot. It's called FERTILIZER). About how he was just trying to clean up the place and how much his home value had already jumped (if you drive down his street, HIS house is the one dragging down the neighborhood values: cinderblocks in the yard, dead cars in the driveway, high weeds and junk piled everywhere) because of what he was doing. Blah, blah, blah, blah. He just kept going.

    I told him I didn't like it. That it could get out of control no matter what he did in the way of precautions. That it SCARED my children. That there were other ways to get rid of the trees in the alley besides burning them. That it was illegal. That it was especially dumb to do it in the middle of the summer. I forget what all I told him to tell you the truth. We talked for about 15 minutes on my front porch.

    I don't think he really heard much of what I said. Just like the first time. I told him I wouldn't turn him in again if he would keep the fires SMALL. And that if I thought they were too big (which by my definition is ANY fire), I was going to come over and tell him so. (Great. So now I'm an accomplice) I have every expectation that this won't be the last time his burning is an issue.

    So now I'm back to where I started, worrying about ticking off a guy who likes to burn things. I don't think the guy is going to intentionally burn down my house, but you never know. When I got home from church last night, the first thing I did was check out the back windows to see if my storage building was still there. Yep. Still standing. Hmmm. I changed the battery in the smoke detector just last week so at least there's that.

    Last night, my oldest daughter said, "Dad, I was kind of scared when that guy came to the door. I thought he was going to fight you or something." I told her not to worry.

    I think I can take him.

  • |

    The week of pain

    Has begun for my youngest daughter. This morning we went to the orthodontist and she was fitted with a rapid palate expander. I'm the lucky guy who gets to tighten the screws twice a day. Friday she has minor (it's all relative to who it's happening to, isn't it?) hand surgery. It's tough being a kid.

  • |

    Friday, August 22, 2003

    Cogito, ergo sum...Spiderman!

    Let me start off by saying I'm not the most coordinated of human specimens. I was average height and fat (just around the middle) through my Junior year in high school. And I was a band weenie to boot. It wasn't that I didn't LIKE sports, it was just that I sucked. Anyway, I grew six inches the summer before my Senior year without gaining weight. So I went from being this average round dork to being a tall skinny dork in the space of a few months.

    The only problem I had with being tall and skinny was that people expected me to be more coordinated for some reason. When in fact, I was less coordinated than ever. By the time I got to college (2 years after I graduated from high school) I had progressed to the point where I could do a little running, and maybe play a little touch football without looking like a total geeber. In college, I took a tennis class and a raquetball class and did some jogging and weights. By my standards, I was A STUD.

    For some reason, that's what got stuck in my head.

    Oh yeah, baby. I can lift these rocks. No problem. Sure I can run three miles. See you there. Meet you for raquetball? Bring it on.

    But I'm not in college any more. Haven't been for quite some time. About six or seven years ago I started to realize, "Aardvark, you're turning into an old man." Maybe it was the pulled hamstring and pulled groin I got the last time I played church league softball (whaddya mean I gotta warm up? You think I'm a wimp?). Whatever it was, the years of desk jockying have made me soft to the point where now, with any type of physical activity, my wife's first words are, "Don't hurt yourself." What could she mean by that?

    About seven years ago, my wife and I took a bunch of the teenagers from church to a TCU football game. They've got stuff to do outside the stadium on game days, and we got there early enough to check it out. One of the things they had was a "fly wall". It's basically a big piece of velcro on an inflatable wall. There's a platform in front of it that's inflatable too and it's about two feet off the ground. The idea is to put on a velcro coverall and bounce off the platform and up against the velcro wall (preferably spread eagle for maximum grip) and stick there.

    Now, I'm there with a bunch of teenagers. What do YOU think I'm going to do? That's right. Suit up, baby!

    My wife, who's been keeping up with our kids, makes it over about the time I'm getting the coveralls zipped up. "What are you doing? Are you nuts?" she says. "I'll be fine," says I. "You're gonna get hurt," she says. "Don't worry," says I.

    It's my turn, so I get up on the platform, take a running jump and flip upside down with my back to the wall. Cool. I'm stuck hanging upside down. I can just imagine what those teenagers are saying..."for an old dude, he's pretty cool." Heh, heh. The attendants rip me down without any problem and as I'm walking off the edge of the platform (can you see it coming?) I trip on the edge and stumble FACE FIRST towards the pavement. Just in time, I manage to put my arms out and save my nose. Of course, in the process, I gouge a gash in my palm from a loose rock. It's only about 1/4 inch deep by about 2 inches long. And bleeding. Profusely.

    I don't recall my wife's exact words, but they were along the line of, "You're not getting any sympathy from me, buster!"

    Now why would she say that?

  • |

    It's not a bug, it's a FEATURE

    We got our new phone books Thursday afternoon.

    What's the FIRST thing you do when you get a new phone book? (after looking at the picture on the front cover, of course)

    You look up your name to see if they got your number right. Right? Right.

    For the THIRD year in a row, we're NOT EVEN IN THE BOOK! Now this wouldn't be a surprise if we had an UNLISTED number (like I'm gonna pay extra for that), but we don't. Just your normal, everyday, garden variety, telephone customer. Nothing special for me (well, ok, I DO have caller ID. But that's it!).

    My wife is irritated that we're not in the book. She wants people to call her. Me? I couldn't be happier. I hate talking on the phone.

  • |

    Let me backtrack a little.

    The other day I got a little bit snarky about the latest AOL land-fill project (also known as free cd-roms). Dawn left a comment that said
    ...I signed up in 95 and I still have AOL. So I would be one of the dumb ones...
    Hmmm. That wasn't what I meant to imply at all.

    I don't have a huge problem with AOL, or people who use it. If I did, I'd have a problem with ME 'cause I have CompuServe at home, and it's owned by AOL (something about getting $400 off a new computer several years back). I had AOL (since 1996) before I switched to CompuServe (in fact, it shocked me that I could still get the $400 deal, since I never really left the AOL umbrella). And yeah, I signed up via a promotional diskette. But that was the mid 90's and few PCs came with internet software pre-installed.

    What I don't get is why the same promotion STILL WORKS today. When I bought my last PC in early 2000, it came loaded with software for about four different internet providers. All you had to do was pick the one you wanted and run it. So the question is, can you buy a new computer without AOL already installed on it? You couldn't three years ago, and if every name-brand PC comes with AOL pre-installed, who are the people AOL is marketing to? There can't be that many (unless I'm crazy, which isn't outside the realm of possibility), which is why I think the AOL promotion is dumb.

    Besides, Dawn was my very first reader (that I can identify). No WAY am I gonna insult her.

  • |

    Thursday, August 21, 2003

    I don't think I'm nervous

    I have a bad habit. Well, at least I'm TOLD it's a bad habit. Doesn't seem so bad to me. I do it all the time.

    Wow. I just realized I could leave it there and let you speculate. Hmmm. What could it be? No telling what people might think I'm capable of.

    Anyway, whatever you were thinking, that's not it.

    I bounce my leg. Left leg, right leg - doesn't matter. At a pace of about 200 - 240 times a minute. That's a lot of bouncing. I don't even think about it, it just happens. "Are you nervous?" people ask. Not particularly. "Why do you do that?" I've got no idea.

    It used to drive my wife nuts. Especially in church. I wouldn't even know I was doing it until she would reach over and grab my leg to hold it still. Of course as soon as she grabs one leg, the other leg takes over. "Stop it," she'd say through clenched teeth. "Sorry," I'd say (in my best 'aw shucks' tone of voice). She's gotten used to it over the years, and now just leans over and whispers, "slow down boy." That's probably why my family has a pew to itself on Sunday mornings.

    It can be embarrassing in public. One time I was at Taco Bell, sitting in a booth with a couple of coworkers. They were on one side and I was by myself on the other (wonder why?). We were just eating and talking and having a normal lunch when the lady sitting at the booth behind me says, "Excuse me. Are you shaking? 'Cause if you're not, we're having an earthquake." My friends found it quite funny (oh, they would!). I had to concentrate to keep my legs still the rest of the time.

    When we were on vacation this summer, we went to church with my brother. My niece and her husband attend the same church and it's small enough that they only have one adult Sunday School class. The room for Sunday School had folding chairs. I guess I bounced my leg the whole time and didn't think anything about it. After all, in folding chairs it's not like you're connected or anything. My niece's husband (who was sitting behind me) said after class, "Man, I thought we were having a tremor there for a while, but when it kept going I realized it was just you shaking the floorboard my chair was on."

    Just be warned. You sit close to me, you'd better take your Dramamine.

  • |

    Driving update

    I mentioned sometime back that I'm teaching my oldest daughter to drive. School started on Monday and since she has to be there early for marching band, I'm the one who gets to take her. Not a problem, but I'll be getting to work 30 minutes earlier for the next couple of months. Anyway, she's been driving my wife's car which is an automatic. She's gained a lot of confidence (by managing to NOT hit things) and has been doing well.

    Wednesday morning I handed her the keys to MY car and told her to drive. My car's a stick.

    "Dad" she said. No, that won't sound right in your head. More like, "Daaaayaaaaud" (she is a native Texan, after all). "Are you sure?"

    "Yeah, I'm sure. You can handle it. C'mon, it'll be fun."

    We live on a hill and I park facing uphill. "Pull forward a little bit so I can get in" I say.

    VVVAAAAAARRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM. Lurch. Lurch. Stall.

    The car did manage to move a couple of feet (away from the curb), so I got in.

    "You've got to work the gas and the clutch at the same time, sweetie. Not the gas THEN the clutch."

    After the rough start, she drove the rest of the way like a champ. She drove again this morning, and probably will every morning. Now if I can just convince her that she can change gears without looking at the gear shift.

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2003

    How stupid do you think I am?

    No. Wait. That was rhetorical. (Hmmm. Sounds like a good contest, though)

    I picked up my newspaper this morning and the bag had one of those extra promotional thingys that we sometimes get. Oh, boy! What is it this time? More shampoo? Or lotion? Or a disposable razor? Nope. Not even something as useful as the occasional feminine hygene product. I am now the proud new owner of a NEW AOL 8.0 PLUS cd-rom.

    Hold me back.

    These things must do some good or they wouldn't keep producing them, but for the life of me, I can't figure out who in their right mind would sign up for AOL as a result of receiving a FREE cd-rom.

    Oooh, look Martha! This thingy here is FREE. Why, it must be good, dontcha reckon?

    In my mind, the people that would be the most likely targets are the people least likely to have a computer in the first place.

    The insulting part, though, is the marketing ploy on the cd-rom case. 1045 FREE HOURS it blasts. "For 45 days" squeeks the small print. Now how many hours a day do most folks stay online? I don't know, two, three, five, eight. Maybe ten even? I think I spend a good chunk of the day online, but it doesn't get anywhere near that. So let's see. 1045 hours divided by 45 days. Hmmm. That works out to 23 hours 13 minutes and 20 seconds online PER DAY for 45 days straight. At least they're figuring you'll have to shut down sometime (if you're running Windows that doesn't seem to be a problem). Yessir, just stay offline for 46 minutes and 40 seconds a day and it's free. If a judge sentenced you to 1045 hours online in 45 days, the civil libertarians would be shouting "Cruel and Unusual Punishment." Hey, that's not a bad idea (make a note).

    Now, who do you suppose in marketing was the genius who decided 1045 was the magic number. Why not 1000? Or 1001 if you wanted to say "more than a thousand hours free!" Why not 1080? Go for the whole 24/7 enchilada. Nope. 1045. Maybe it wasn't a marketing guy who made the call. I can see where one of the legal weasels might make them leave a cushion for some arcane reason.

    Anyway, I've (obviously) already got an internet provider, so this cd-rom is of no use to me. If AOL really wanted to be helpful, they could at least send a cd-rw that I could use again (I know, I know. It doesn't work that way, but this is my rant so leave me alone). On the plus side, it looks like I won't have to go shopping for my mother-in-law's Christmas present.

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    Tuesday, August 19, 2003

    How do you do that?

    Ok, if Dawn claims to be a card carrying member of the Computer Retarded, what does that make me? I've spent exactly ZERO time really learning about HTML and all the behind the scenes stuff. Most of what I've done is parrot what I've seen other people do. They use strikethroughs? Hmm, look at the source code and figure out how they did that and then do the same. It doesn't mean that I know what I'm doing, just that I can copy with the best of them.

    What I need, though, is for someone to tell me how to do that whole

    "see the rest"

    "hide the rest"

    thing. I've looked at the source code, but I'll not try it without someone else's advice, for fear of really mucking up the works.

    I haven't needed it before now, but for some reason I got inspired on a topic and wrote a novella (ok, that's an exaggeration, but it is over 3,000 words). Maybe I was just channeling Bill Whittle or something, but I'd like to give people the option of not having to read the whole thing unless they want to.

    Anyway, if you could give me some advice, It'd be much appreciated.

    My email is on the right.

  • |

    The big time

    Or not.

    Yesterday, the ol' hit counter hit the 1000 mark. Mostly thanks to Susanna over at Cut on the Bias linking to my post from Friday. What was even better is the fact that the puppy blender linked to one of Susanna's earlier posts, so I probably got some bleed over from folks who went to Susanna's site and looked around and found the post linking to me.

    I have to say that all of this is still new enough to me to still be exciting. I mean people I don't know are reading what I write. How cool is that? I can see how this stuff can go to your head and make you feel way more self-important than you really are. Anyway, I have to keep reminding myself that it's NOT all about me (yes it is, you fool! What are you saying?) and that the reason I started this blog in the first place was not to gather attention (well, maybe a little) so much as to have some sort of creative outlet.

    Thanks for coming by, and a BIG thanks for those who leave comments. The feedback is priceless.

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    Monday, August 18, 2003

    Have you seen me?

    I am terrible about keeping up with old friends. Especially ones that have moved away (or I've moved away from them). I've always been bad at this. Thank goodness I married a woman who has this together or I wouldn't get Christmas cards from ANYONE. I got to thinking about this after reading this entry over on Curmudgeonry.

    Growing up, I had two best friends, and odd as it may sound they were best friends with each other too. It's unusual that you can get three boys who are close and not have two of them click and leave someone as odd man out. But that was the case with the three of us.

    Blake Reuther was the athelete. He played little league and peewee football. He was also girl crazy. One year when we went to church camp, it must have been the summer before the seventh grade, Blake fell head over heels for a girl from another church. He spent every spare minute talking to her or just hanging around close to where she was. When he wasn't with her, all he did was talk about her. It drove me nuts, but that was OK 'cause we were friends and that's what friends were for. Two weeks later it would be the same thing, just with a different girl. Blake's parents owned/managed motels. They had money, or at least I thought they did. His dad owned a purple Lotus Europa and that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. On Blake's birthday, I would spend the night at his house and we would go to the county fair and see the rodeo or the circus or whatever the big entertainment was for that year. Every year I would have to fend off his clingy little sister. She was about six years younger and just wanted to be around us older kids. We let her hang around most of the time 'cause she needed the attention. So did Blake. His mom had problems. To this day, I don't know if she had a problem with alcohol or prescription drugs or migraines or depression or mental illness or some combination thereof. When she felt social, she was always pleasant to be around, like a normal mom. But she would have days (or weeks) that she wouldn't get out of bed or just stay in her room with the door shut and yell at anyone who made any noise. Blake's dad compensated for this by working a lot and as a result, the kids were left to fend for themselves. The Reuthers moved when Blake was a Freshman in high school and I quickly lost touch. The last I heard about Blake was that he became an architect and lived in Redding, CA. That was over 10 years ago.

    Carey Barnett was the brain. He was good with math and science and loved to play games that involved strategy and planning. His dad was the preacher at our church, and more than one Sunday, Carey and I got called down from the pulpit. "Boys stop that and pay attention." Our favorite game to play in church was one where you made a circle with your thumb and forefinger and placed it where the other guy could see it. If he looked at it, you won. If the other guy could stick his finger in the circle without looking at it, he won. It always started out subtle and then got out of hand. Never with any noise, just a lot of motion. Carey was the youngest of four. He had three older sisters, but I only knew the one who was immediately older than him. If I remember correctly, Paula was reasonably attractive. She took us to the beach one day. As I recall, God had blessed her with some bountiful gifts. Ahem. Ok, moving on. Carey's birthday was December 27th. I would spend a couple of days at his house after Christmas. I always got him TWO gifts 'cause a lot of the time, he just got one combined birthday/Christmas present. He never complained, but I knew it bothered him. I usually got him games. He always won. I'm pretty good at games and win more than my share, but Carey outclassed me in about everything we did. Like I said, he was a brain. He raised rabbits in the back yard. We ate them one day for lunch. I must say, that was a little weird. His mom always made breakfast and we all sat down together. They served coffee or tea for breakfast and I was expected to belly up just like family. No excuses about just being a kid. Carey also had a distorted sense of humor and like to draw squiggely cartoons and flesh them out by narrating them in funny voices. He wore glasses and looking back, I guess he would have been a nerd, but we didn't know that word in the 70s. The Barnetts moved to Turlock, CA when we were in high school. I got a few letters and saw Carey once when they came back to visit, but that was it. Last I heard he was going to college in CA and studying something like engineering or physics. That was 20 years ago.

    I've Googled the names a time or two, but have never found a good lead. I'd love to find them, but at the same time, I'm scared to death I will. I know that makes no sense, but we're dealing with emotions here, not logic. I think it's the guilt over not staying in touch.

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    Friday, August 15, 2003

    A penny saved

    My boss sent out a memo this morning telling us to not print anything on the color printer unless it was approved by her. All internal reports should be in black and white. Seems the upkeep costs for the color printer have been increasing pretty rapidly. I don't have anything that prints on the color printer, so this doesn't really affect me too much. In fact, it doesn't affect anyone who works for my boss very much. I can tell you why the color printer has been using more paper and ink. It's pretty simple really. We've expanded our sales staff and increased the support staff for our service department. As a result, we're doing more sales pitches and have more clients receiving service reviews. Both of which are done in color. And rightly so. The usage of the sales department and the service department is probably about 90 - 95 percent of the total color printer usage. I don't think the company will see a lot of savings from this cost cutting measure, but that doesn't mean it's not worth trying. As for internal reports being black and white, that'll work until one of the owners decides he needs to see his graphs in color.

    I'm used to seeing cost cutting measures. Been seeing them all my working life. As a corporate drone, it was pretty much an annual event to be called into a meeting to discuss ideas for cutting costs. Everyone had to submit at least two suggestions. No idea was too wild, no area off limits, we had no sacred cows. Right. While we may not have had any sacred cows, I found out over the years that we did have some sacred sheep and a goat or two. One year my suggestion was to quit paying a car allowance to the 50 or so executives who didn't use their car for company business. We basically paid them $6,000 to $8,000 a year to drive back and forth to work.

    My boss calls me up and says, "AARDVARK ARE YOU NUTS? You can't just take away someone's car allowance. That's like cutting their pay!" What I heard was, "Baaaaa!" (must have been one of those sacred goats)

    What he meant but couldn't say, of course, is that the cost cuts weren't supposed to come from the EXECUTIVES, only the peons. One year, the emphasis was for every store to save a postage stamp a day. That was the year we started paying for the president's country club membership and dinners at the most exclusive restaurant in town (typical bill for 8 people $2,000 to $4,000 depending on the wine order). They cut out quarterly department luncheons about the same time they instituted off-site executive 3 day retreats ("We'll get more done without the interruptions"). The topper for me was the year that raises were capped at 2% - 3%, but we spent $50,000+ putting a colored gravel design on the roof (between the towers) so the CEO would have something nice to look at out of his window. On any given year, whenever the cost cutting measures were announced, our department led the way. "Aardvark, we need to set the example." We led by example all right. Problem is, no one else in the company followed.

    Believe it or not, I didn't start out cynical. It takes years of experience to develop this edge. Whenever I'm accused of being too cynical my response is, "Cynicism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition."

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    Thursday, August 14, 2003

    Vote for me. Please.

    Eleven Texas State Senators have left the state of Texas to keep the Senate from voting on a redistricting plan for US Congressional seats. They've been in Albuquerque since July 28th. There are a few things about this that I don't understand.

    Texas is not a right-to-work state. At my old job, if an employee failed to show up and failed to call in sick for three days, they were considered a "voluntary term". We didn't have to fire them, and they didn't have to tell us "I quit". Their actions were proof enough. The Senators say they are still representing their constituents when they are in Albuquerque. Fine. But while the Senate is in session, the required location for representing your constituents is in Austin. My boss never cared how much work I did from home (or any other location) as long as I was at my desk from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. I know you can't "fire" elected officials (although, in California, evidently you can) but it seems wrong to me to not show up for work and not lose your job.

    The absent Senators say they are concerned about diluting minority voting rights. When you say "minority voting rights," my mind translates this as "the rights of minorities to vote". Cool. Who could be against that in this day and age? Evidently, I need a new Political Speak to English lexicon, because that's not what "minority voting rights" means. Minority voting rights means that minorities have the right to elect someone of THEIR choosing to represent them. To ensure this, we create districts with a "majority" of "minority" voters. Confused? It gets worse. The whole concept is based on the presumption that if you LOOK DIFFERENT from me, you CAN'T REPRESENT ME. Only blacks can represent blacks. Latinos can only be represented by Latinos. This is true, because all black people think alike and all Latinos think alike.

    No. Wait. That would make me a racist. Anomaly detected. Logic overload. Stop all thought processes immediately. Switch to Emotion Drive. Feel the guilt of your white ancestry. Ignore anomaly. Continue.

    Now, say you have a district with a 55% Latino (can't find Latin on the map for some reason) and 45% Caucasian (Serbs and Croats mostly) mix. This district elects James Robert William Sanchez (but you can call him Jim Bob Billy for short) to represent them. No problem. But if you redraw the district to 45% Latino and 55% Caucasian and they elect Jim Bob Billy Sanchez again, you've still potentially diluted the voting rights of the minority since they are no longer the majority. Doesn't matter that Jim Bob Billy got elected both times. Next time it might be Joe Whiteguy, and by definition, he can't represent Latinos. What does matter is that minority voters have the "right" to majority districts.

    So while the absent Senators are highly concerned about minority voting rights, they seem to have no concern at all about diluting the voting rights of everyone else.

    The mayor of Fort Worth is elected by the people of Fort Worth. He doesn't get to decide what happens in Dallas or San Antonio. Nor do the people of Dallas and San Antonio get to vote for who is mayor of Fort Worth. Kim Brimer is the State Senator for Fort Worth. His primary concerned is to represent the citizens of Fort Worth. If his primary concern was for Houston or El Paso, he wouldn't be doing his job and he wouldn’t be reelected. Likewise, the citizens of Houston and El Paso should have no expectation that Senator Brimer is their guy. Because 11 of 31 Senators chose to break quorum, all business in the Senate has been stopped. This means that Senator Brimer, my Senator, isn't able to represent me. His vote is MY representation. No vote = no representation. In effect, MY VOTING RIGHTS HAVE BEEN DILUTED because my Senator CAN’T VOTE. Hmm. So instead of having the guy I elected represent me, the missing Senators (by their actions) have assumed the mantle of determining what all Texans should or shouldn't do - WITHOUT PUTTING IT TO A VOTE. I didn't vote for them (since they don't live in my district) and I can't vote against them (same reason), but they think it's OK to represent me and millions of other Texans not in their districts. How is this right?

    Of course, you can dismiss everything I just said, 'cause I'm a white guy and what do I know about suffering and discrimination and being denied my civil rights?

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    Worms

    Network was down much of the afternoon being de-wormed.

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    Wednesday, August 13, 2003

    Somewhere out there

    Dawn over at Altered Perceptions had a little trouble navigating in downtown Detroit the other day. Turns out that in about a month, she'll have to do it all again. Silly me, I assumed that since she'd been there once, the next time would be a snap. Not so. Evidently Dawn is a little bit light in the navigational skills department (or as she puts it, Geographically Retarded).

    I think it's interesting that people are wired so differently. I can usually keep my bearings pretty well (but not always) whether I'm indoors or out. Other people do well indoors but not outdoors (and vice versa). Others are more like my wife (and I assume, Dawn) and are easily turned around in unfamiliar territory. The fact that my wife used to do orienteering with her high school ROTC group just amazes me. She claims that as long as she has a compass and a map she's ok, and I guess (since we don't own a compass) I'll have to take her word on it.

    When we're at home, we sometimes have conversations that go something like this.

    "They're building a new restaurant over on Whoosits Street." Accompanied by an arm pointing in some direction.

    "Are you sure it's Whoosits Street?" I say. "Cause if it's Whoosits Street that's over there," and I point to a direction that's 60 degrees different from the one she's pointing to.

    "Yes, I'm sure it was Whoosits Street, and it is too over there."

    "No, Whatsits Street is over there, Whoosits Street is over here."

    And so on. It used to be that I couldn't let it drop and had to prove I was right (ok, so I wasn't very smart back then). One of the benefits of mellowing with age (and painful experience) is that now I just let it go. I know what she means, and who cares if her arm isn't calibrated correctly?

    For the first few years of our courtship and marriage, I used to confuse the heck out of my her by not always travelling the same route from point A to point B. "Shouldn't you have turned back there?" she'd say. What used to drive me crazy (but doesn't so much anymore. Life's too short) is when we were at point C and instead of driving directly to point A she would first drive back to point B. She didn't know how to get from C to A, but she could get from C to B and from B to A. So what if they were the long sides of the triangle?


    After 18 years of marriage, I still hear the occasional, "Are you sure you know where you're going?" The difference now is that sometimes when I say, "Trust me," she actually does.

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    Tuesday, August 12, 2003

    Low wattage

    I drive by my old place of work every morning (on the way to my current job, not to throw rocks at the building). Occasionally I will see someone I know. This morning I saw a guy I had completely forgotten about. Let's call him Barney, as in Barney Rubble, 'cause that's what we used to call him. We called him Barney for three reasons. First is that he looked a little like Barney: stocky barrel shaped torso, short arms, short legs and a head that was too large for his body. His neck was so big (or his shirts were too small) that he commonly left his top button undone and tied his tie with a really BIG knot to try to cover it up. Secondly, he laughed like Barney Rubble. There's no easy way to write it so you'd understand if you don't remember. Hyuk, yuk, yuk, yuk is the best I can do. Lastly, he wasn't exactly what you would call a bright or clever guy. He worked hard and could follow instructions and in so doing, managed to do pretty well for himself in the corporate world.

    His problems started when he got promoted to management. None of us could believe it. How would you like Barney Rubble to be YOUR boss (although I never worked for him directly, many of my friends did). We figured it was because he had put in his time (paid his dues, so to speak) and it was, more or less, his turn to be promoted when a slot opened up. Being management meant that he was expected to solve his own problems and that was something he was ill equipped to handle. Before, he could always go to his boss and be told what to do, now HE was expected to know what to do. Rather than ask for help or advice from the people who worked for him, he would try to bluff his way through like he knew what he was doing.

    One of the consequences of being incompetent was that he tended to focus on the little things ('cause he understood them) rather on the important things. His piece de resistance (sorry, can't get the accents to work in blogger) was a two page policy memo detailing the fact that since there were two working days between the preliminary month end close and the final month end close, thereafter the first day after the preliminary month end close would be known as "DAY ONE" and the day prior to the final month end close would be known as "DAY TWO". We had closed every month the same way for at least the last ten years and his memo did nothing to change that. The only person ever confused about month end was Barney, and he figured if he was confused, others may have been too.

    And to think that some days I actually wonder why my cynicism is so high.

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    Oh, I get the message

    cut on the bias is one of my daily reads. The other day, she (being Susanna at COTB) mentioned that her brother Alan had a blog, so being the naturally inquisitive guy that I am, I went and checked it out. LOVED IT. Theosebes is now on my "must read daily" list. I think I've left comments on at least five posts in as many days. Hope he doesn't think I'm becoming a pest.

    Anyway, today Theosebes links to a FoxNews (ah, them again) article about "message" clothing for girls (teens and preteens). T-Shirts with messages are nothing new, but now the pants and shorts have sayings plastered across the derierre. A lot of the "messages" are innocuous. I mean it's hard to get too worked up over sayings like "trouble" or "spoiled" or "brat" (although I'd just as soon not have people looking at my daughters butts, thank you). It's the clothes that say "sexy" or "juicy" or "delicious" or worse that are redefining the bounds of poor taste. With daughters aged 16 and 12, I think I'm especially sensitive towards these sorts of things. A few years back, tight shirts with "porn star" embossed on the front were all the rage.

    I'm fortunate because my kids are probably bigger "prudes" (for lack of a better word) over this sort of stuff than I am. They're pretty much self policing (if not, my wife would as soon kill them herself as let them out of the house wearing anything that said "juicy" on it). My oldest daughter sees this kind of stuff at school and typically says something like, "Might as well put 'Slut' or 'Easy' on your butt. And then they wonder why so many get pregnant."

    My question is what kind of parent allows their children to buy such clothes? Or worse yet, what kind of parent buys these clothes for their children?

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    Monday, August 11, 2003

    No, really, don't hold back

    Ran across this piece by Bob Davis on Dennis Miller from the Sunday Star-Telegram (aka the Startle-Gram). Now, I'm not a big Dennis Miller fan, but I'm also not a big Dennis Miller hater. Let's just say I'm a Dennis Miller agnostic. With that said, I was astounded that the paper would print such a mean spirited, nasty piece attacking not just Dennis, but pretty much any conservative.

    The column was labeled as satire (although I think parody was more of what Mr. Davis was after by imitating Dennis Miller's style, which, in all fairness, he did rather well), and after reading it, I had to go look up the word "satire" to see if it still meant what I thought it meant.

    Satire. noun. 1. A literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule and scorn. 2. Trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly.

    Yep. It has plenty of ridicule and scorn. Didn't find much wit and irony (although that's probably just a matter of taste) but there was sarcasm aplenty. I guess it could be considered satire, if you thought Mr. Davis was exaggerating his talking points to show the absurdity of taking such positions, but I didn't get that sense at all. My feeling was that Mr. Davis was taking his best shots while trying to cover his behind by saying it was satire. Kind of like someone who talks trash about you behind your back, but wants you to believe they were just joking when you catch them.

    Let's look at a few examples.

    I hate to rain on Miller's little right-wing parade, but aligning with that little cable news outfit just as his career is circling the drain sounds as opportunistic as selling brown shirts at a Rush Limbaugh convention.

    Rush Limbaugh supporters = nazis. Nice.

    Can't he see what those Fox News cats, who are otherwise known as the Bush Fedayeen, are all about? I haven't seen so many angry white males since Hee Haw was canceled.

    Conservatives on Fox News = Bush Fedayeen = Radical fanatical supporters willing to die for their leader/cause. Clever way to say conservatives = terrorists. I guess a Taliban reference would be too old to still be trendy. Also a conservative = angry white male (self fulfilling prophecy after reading this piece) theme and the Hee Haw reference to make sure you associate conservatives with ignorant rednecks and hillbillies. The only thing missing is a nod to the shirtless goobers on COPS.

    This cable cabal is run by Roger Ailes, who was muddying the political waters and playing the race card for Richard Nixon when Miller was still getting wedgies in junior high.

    Nice way to provide the patina of racism without actually making the accusation. After all, every one knows conservatives = racists. No need to actually prove it.

    Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Cal Thomas and Neil Cavuto are just a few of the network's anger-heads. I haven't seen that much finger-pointing and neck-vein-bulging since Newt Gingrich lost his job while House Speaker Ahab was still pursuing Moby Bill Clinton.

    Angry white male redux. New theme: Clinton was unjustly persecuted/hounded by rabid, maniacal partisans. Those evil conservatives are ruining the country.

    Hey, cha-cha, this type of material goes more over the head of the average Fox viewer than a pinata at Verne Troyer's birthday party.

    Fox viewers = slow witted dolts. If people watch Fox, it must be because they're not smart enough or sophisticated enough to grasp what the rest of the networks/media are telling them.

    Of course, in the final analysis, Mr. Davis' little hatchet-job can't be biased because it didn't come from Fox. Can you imagine such a piece getting past the editors if the subject wasn't a conservative? Me either.

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    Friday, August 08, 2003

    All I got was this lousy T-Shirt

    If you've come for the new words, scroll down to yesterday's entry. If you've already seen the new words and came back anyway...well, there's no accounting for taste.

    I've always been somewhat of a smartass. Some days are worse than others. I had a boss that used to tell me, "Aardvark, I'd rather have a smartass working for me than a dumbass."

    The problem with being a smartass is that it's not always paired with the ability to know when to keep your mouth shut. I guess that's where the "ass" part of smartass comes from. One of my most egregious examples of poor timing was when I worked as a corporate drone for Marconi Hut (not the real name, but you can figure it out). Every fall we had the United Way drive (most of which is blog-fodder for another day) and everyone who gave got that year's United Way T-Shirt. The last day of the drive was typically designated United Way T-Shirt day and all employees were encouraged to wear their UW Shirt. This was before "business casual" dress codes and this was the one day a year we could wear jeans and tennis shoes (except for the many Saturdays and Sundays we donated to the cause).

    This particular year, the Executive VP in charge was extreme old-school ( I HAVE THE POWER! )and didn't approve of jeans in the workplace. Ever. So the UW T-Shirt day memo came out telling us to, by all means, wear our UW T-Shirts, but under no circumstances were jeans or tennis shoes allowed. Like I'm going to wear a suit with a T-Shirt? Or wear a T-Shirt over my white shirt and tie? The sheer stupidity of it all set me off.

    So I penned a memo for my compatriots announcing alternatives to UW T-Shirt day, like "T-Shirt and Toe Shoe day" or "T-Shirt and Toga day" or "T-Shirt and Tutu day" with the appropriate reasoning behind each one. Very similar to what I did below with the *SEXUAL words. I was so proud of that memo and the laughs it brought from my employees/coworkers, I even shared it with my boss.

    BIG mistake. He was not amused. Looking back, I can't say as I blame him. If my spoof had gotten back to the big dogs, I probably would have been given a nice security escort to the nearest exit. I don't remember his exact speech, but it contained the phrases, "know when to let things go" and "what the hell were you thinking?"

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    Thursday, August 07, 2003

    What'll they think of next?

    Well, it wasn't enough that people were heterosexual or homosexual or bisexual, the latest terminology is metrosexual. Why stop there?

    Here are a few additional designations we could use.

    FLYSEXUAL: Characterized by an strong urge to join the "Mile High" club. A smaller group can be identified by an eerie attraction to Jeff Goldblum.

    SPYSEXUAL: Easily identifiable by the bulge of their Walther PPK. Known to speak in nonsensical code: "The red goose is in the barn." Members of this group may like to be called Boris or Natasha.

    KNEEHISEXUAL: More of a geriatric group than most. Characterized by excitement when in close proximity to support hosiery. Others in this category are drawn to Herve Villechaize, Gary Coleman, and strange men with names like Gimli, Dwalin, and Dain.

    LOBOSEXUAL: Characterized by an attraction to loners. Known to stay out late and howl at the moon. Becomes amorous when listening to Warren Zevon or Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs.

    PHONOSEXUAL: Known for their propensity to pay $5.00 per minute for conversations with slow talking strangers. Also rumored to be extremely fond of electronic devices which can be set to "vibrate." Others in this category feel the need to share their most intimate details with unseen parties while shopping at the grocery store, riding public transportation or waiting in line at the bank.

    CHRONOSEXUAL: A group never seen without either a Franklin or a PDA. Tend to become aroused precisely on schedule, usually Saturday night at 12:13 AM.

    NOGOSEXUAL: One of the more difficult groups to classify as there are few easily identifiable outward characteristics. Their life philosophy can be summed up as, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Many people are unhappy to realize they are in this class and have been known to take measures to change, ranging from a mild blue pill fetish to a drastic bionic overhaul.

    LETTEROSEXUAL: Long believed to be just a myth, this group does in fact exist. Primarily associated with the phrase, "Dear Penthouse, I never thought that I'd be writing to you..." Chances are you'll never know anyone in this category, but may have a friend who has a friend who knows a guy who knows one.

    SWEATEROSEXUAL: Known for their attraction to pink cashmere or blue angora. Tend to own the complete works of Ed Wood and framed photographs of Fred Rogers. Most populous in Northern climates, although the indoor variety are occasionally spotted in Southern malls and office buildings.

    CHEDDAROSEXUAL: (Censored for content).

    NETROSEXUAL: By far, the largest of the groups. Known for their large pr0n collections and surreptitious habits, many have perfected a technique known as "monotyping" or more commonly "typing with one hand." Adherents of this group spend many hours online in search of an elusive gratification, which no one has yet found, but is still widely believed to exist.

    BETTEROSEXUAL: This group doesn't actually exist although most people believe it does. No matter what you get, this group always seems to be getting more or a better variety/quality than you. All of your friends belong to this group. So does your barber/beautician. And the garden club. And that guy at the Jiffy Lube. That homeless guy you gave $1 to this morning? Yep. He's one too. Many people mistakenly believe that they can join this group by frequently changing partners only to realize that they used to be in this group but just didn't know it at the time.

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    Wednesday, August 06, 2003

    Se habla English?

    Most of the billboards close to my house are now in Spanish. It makes me sad.

    Now, I have nothing against Spanish. I know lots of fine folks who speak it fluently (I'm not one of them) and I say more power to 'em. It's just that I think, seeing how I live in America and all, that if you're in the old U S of A, you ought to do your best to speak English too. When I see people on the news that have been here for 10 years (or 20 or 30) and still need an interpreter, it bothers me. It tells me that they're not really here to be a part of the whole American experience ('cause they can't really experience much if 90+ percent is unintelligible to 'em), they're just here 'cause they're not somewhere else.

    I think part of it is related to Mexico's class structure (like I'm an expert). In Mexico, there's not much of what we'd call the middle class. You either have, or you don't have. If you don't have, chances are, you'll NEVER have. It's not the rich Mexicans that come to the US to find jobs. Problem is, when the poor Mexicans come they bring their class structure mentality with them: "I am poor. I will always be poor. All I can do is menial labor." And to be sure, the types of jobs these people find when they get here don't do much to offset this class mentality.

    But, you see, that's not the way things work here in America. You might start out poor, but with some sweat and ingenuity and a little bit of luck, you can make a lot of money, and be successful and own things that only the richest in Mexico can afford (I started out poor and haven't done too bad. How's that for an example?). But in order to have a chance for that, you are going to have to learn to speak English like the rest of us. That's the first step up. Most immigrants (legal or otherwise) grasp this concept eventually. Some never do. Why go to the trouble to learn English just to work in the laundry or in the yard or on the roof? And so they doom themselves to ALWAYS working in the laundry or in the yard or on the roof.

    I can't fault the advertisers for advertising in Spanish. They're just trying to sell their products. But in the process, they're helping to keep a large group of people on the bottom rung of society by making it easier for them to avoid learning English. Like I said, it makes me sad.

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    Things I should blog about

    Kobe Bryant
    Gay Episcopalian Bishops
    Summer heat (104-105 today)
    Howard Dean
    Liberia
    J-Lo and Ben

    Whumph. For some reason, these topics just drain me. I have opinions, to be sure, but just can't muster the juice. Maybe another time.

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    Sheesh!

    What a day. It's just been one thing after another after another. To top it off, I think my desk is stacked higher now than when I started.

    Well, back to it. I'll post when I can.

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    Tuesday, August 05, 2003

    Get that, would ya?

    My leg has been vibrating (occasionally) since last night. Not the normal, bounce up and down, vibration that I'm famous for (note to self: future post), but the tingling buzz of a vibrating pager or cell phone. Now, it's not on that scale, mind you. I have to be sitting (or standing) still before I can feel it. On the side of my left leg just above my knee.

    Bzzzt. Pause. Bzzzt. Pause. Bzzzt.

    Probably a muscle spasm caused by a renegade nerve. Which, naturally, leads straight to the fear of some debilitating degenerative nerve disease (heh, heh. He said degenerate). What are my other options? God? Is that you? Maybe it's some cosmic telemarketer or one of the Q Continuum playing practical jokes. Yeah, that's the ticket.

    I first noticed it when I sat down at my home PC. My leg was next to the computer desk and I felt this vibration. What in the world could be causing that? The printer was off, so that's out. The monitor shouldn't have any moving parts. It's gotta be the PC. Great. Just what I need - PC problems. By this time I've backed away slightly from the desk and bzzzt, I feel it again. In my leg. Which isn't touching anything. Hmmm. At least it's not the PC.

    Anyway, it's a rather strange feeling owning a vibrating leg (now stop that! I know what you're thinking). I'm the first on my block. After seeing AI (last week at my brother's. Hated it, in case you wanted to know), it's making me wonder if I am a real boy after all.

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    Epson 1660 Photo Scanner

    Went to Staples last night with the missus. Sold out of the 100 pack CD-Rs on sale for 14.95. Drat. Excuse me, will you be getting any more of these in? No? Drat.

    On to look for the TI-83 graphing calculator (in purple, dad!). Only had black on display. Excuse me, do you happen to have any more purple ones in the back somewhere? Yes, I'll wait. (Wander over to the scanners) OOOoooo! Nice scanner. Don't see any more in boxes. Oh, look. The tag says clearance. No wonder it's so inexpensive ($103!). 1600 X 3200 resolutions. Aaahhh.

    What's that? You only had blue TI-83 in the back? Fine, we'll take blue. Say, about this scanner. Do you have any more or is this your last one? Yes, we'll wait. Dum, dee dum, dee dum.

    Oh, that's your last one, eh? Don't suppose you still have all the accessories? Sure, we'll be right here. (Insert mindless humming)

    Great, you have the accessories! We'll take it. No, we don't mind waiting while you disconnect the anti-theft devices.

    Three minutes later, we're checked out. Had to restrain the wife from tripping the teenager blocking the exit (he wasn't blocking it intentionally) by pulling his baggy britches down around his ankles. (we already knew he was wearing black boxers, so what's the big deal, she wants to know?)

    Went home. Installed the software. Rearranged computer desk. Hooked up hardware. Test scan worked perfectly. Sweet!

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    Monday, August 04, 2003

    It's the law

    Don't miss the letter today in support of Bob's letter from Friday.

    Gregory Taufer (his friends call him Greg-O) one-ups Bob by invoking Godwin's law. Thanks for playing.

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    Let this be a lesson to you

    I just got back from 11 days of vacation. I had a boss once, who would have said that if you could afford to take that many consecutive days away from your job, you obviously didn't have enough to do. He wasn't kidding. I learned a lot from that particular boss. Mostly of the "things not to tell/do to your employees" variety. He once sent me to help a coworker by saying, "Go help Boudreaux (not his real name, but you probably guessed that). That boy would need help falling down stairs."

    His peers called him "Dr. No" because he shot down every idea the first time he heard it. The topper for me was the time that he'd given me a problem to solve. I came up with a nifty solution and documented it and took it to his office to present. He not only told me no, he called me an idiot in the process. (It's one thing to be called an idiot by someone who knows more, but when the village idiot says it...) The VERY NEXT DAY, he stops in my office to tell me he's solved the problem and proceeds to describe MY solution. I pull out my documentation and say, "like this?" He looks at it and says, "Yeah, that's what I had in mind." Fortunately, I had enough political savvy to keep my mouth shut (for once).

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    The cat's in the cradle

    Went to Chili's the other night with my family. In the booth next to ours was a little girl (4 years old - tops) and a middle aged man sitting across from her. The guy could have been the dad, assuming he started late in life, or may have been the granddad, assuming he started early in life. Anyway, as we were being seated, I noticed the guy was helping her color the kids menu, and I thought, "Hey, would you look at that. A little father/daughter quality time."

    We ordered and while we were waiting for our food, I kept noticing this guy (kind of hard not to, since we were seated about twelve feet apart, facing each other). They had ordered before us and he was keeping the little girl occupied by coloring and talking to her. When the food arrived, he made sure the girl was going to eat (not a given, as most parents can attest) and then proceeded to pull out his cell phone. He spent the rest of the evening eating and talking (glad I wasn't on the other end of THAT smack fest) on the phone. He made at least three calls while he was eating. I couldn't tell the specific nature of each conversation, but I can tell you they were of the "hey, how YOU doin'?" type, not the "I've got urgent business that can't wait" type.

    Strangely (not really) enough, the little girl's behavior, which up until now had been perfect, began to deteriorate as she fidgeted and fussed. He may not have intended it, but she was receiving the "I'm not interested in you" message loud and clear. Too bad the guy couldn't have waited 10 more minutes to make his calls.

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    Saturday, August 02, 2003

    Comments

    Are now enabled. Let's see who cares.

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    Friday, August 01, 2003

    Dear Editor

    Do you ever read letters to the editor and worry that these people live in your neighborhood, or worse yet, teach at your kid's school?

    Here's one I found in the Columbian (next to last one).

    "Bush should be replaced" by Robert H. Travis

    When our former President Bill Clinton committed perjury with regard to a stupid sexual situation, the power and the money and the Republicans banged the drums hard until he was impeached.


    Bob (I can call you Bob, right?), let me see if I can clear something up for you. If I tell you that you're a genius, that's a lie. And while telling you you're a genius may not be the right or ethical thing to do, the consequence for doing so is the erosion of my good name and a loss of trust for the future voracity of my words. If, however, I tell you that you're a genius WHILE UNDER OATH IN A COURT OF LAW, not only is it a lie, it is PERJURY. This carries an additional LEGAL penalty (am I going too fast?). It doesn't matter what the lie is about (say, like a stupid sexual situation, or the color of your Aunt Mable's teeth) if you have SWORN to tell the TRUTH, it still counts. Regular people who have perjured themselves can be fined and jailed. People who hold public office can also be IMPEACHED (which is a fancy word for a formal indictment). People found guilty of the act for which they were impeached can be removed from office. Hence, while Clinton was impeached, he was not found guilty (which is not the same as being found innocent, by the way) and was NOT removed from office.

    Now I believe that President George Bush is lying to the American people on a daily basis, and not one word has been mentioned about impeaching him. Does this strike anyone as odd?

    We don't impeach office holders who lie to us (that's all the government would have time for if we did), we impeach office holders who commit crimes (like, let's say, sexual assault or PERJURY). Therefore (stay with me Bob), thinking that GWB lied to you is NOT AN IMPEACHABLE OFFENCE, since he has not been under oath. That's why it's NOT ODD that no one has been talking about it (except for a few nutjobs. No offence intended).

    When Clinton committed his "crime," no one lost their lives. When Bush makes his claim about Iraq being the "imminent threat," hundreds of American, British and Iraqi people die and still there is no call for impeachment.

    Clinton did not commit a "crime," he committed a crime. "Crimes" are those things that people THINK should be illegal, but really aren't (like, I don't know, walking around with your head up your ass or lying to your mother). Crimes, on the other hand, are things that actually ARE illegal. See the difference?

    It is a sad state of affairs when a man is powerful enough to start a war because he wants to, and he gets away with it, isn't it? Has the time not come to find another candidate, be they Republican, Democrat or independent, to replace this dangerous and powerful man?

    You left out the part about the Oooiiiillll. Oh yeah, and Halliburton, and the trilateral commission, and the Carlisle Group. You'd better hope John Ashcroft doesn't read your letter! Nice touch, by the way, including the Republicans on your list. That'll throw 'em off the scent.

    I've taken my steps today to make sure my voice is heard, and I'm involved in defeating the Bush machine in 2004. You should be, too.

    I too am taking steps to make sure your voice is heard. That way everyone can hear what you think.

    Bob, you're a genius.

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    Terry Goodkind

    Went to the library before leaving for the West coast, and snagged a pristine copy of Naked Empire (released 7/21, the day I checked it out. How's that for timing?). Read half of it on the plane trip out and the other half on the plane trip back. Now I understand the necessity of the last book, Pillars of Creation. Pillars was such an aggravating read because it didn't have any of the characters that I cared about until the last 50 or so pages and even then, the story wasn't advanced through their eyes. Naked Empire wouldn't have been nearly as good without Pillars laying the groundwork, though.

    Hopefully, Terry Goodkind won't fall into Robert Jordan's pattern of having every other book being somewhat disappointing because all it does is set up the next one. IMHO (as opposed to IMAO, which is something else entirely), both of these guys need to get their series wrapped up in the next couple of books before people's interest wanes (my wife, for instance, stopped reading RJ after about the seventh book).

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    Can I help you?

    Today is the first day of the sales tax holiday in Texas. I'm glad I don't work retail anymore.

    When I graduated from college, I had a choice of becoming a retail store manager (with my pick of any store except for the mall stores) or starting at the bottom rung in my chosen field of study. I chose the bottom rung and never regretted it.

    My last three years of college, I worked every weekend and every Friday night (and several other nights as well). I hated not having a life outside of work and school (well, there was this girl that I married...that part was good) and I got to the point where I hated customers. They either thought you were lying to them to get them to buy something or they thought that you didn't know what you were talking about.

    A typical sale went like this.

    Me: Well sir, to do what you want, you'll need one of these and one of these and then depending on your setup, you may need one of these.

    Customer: Wow, all that? I thought I could just buy this piece here (almost always the cheapest item).

    Me: You will need that, but that won't connect to what you have without the others.

    Customer: Nah, I'll just take this. I think it'll work.

    Me: All right then, let's go ring it up.

    What I'm thinking at this point is that this guy is going to go home and realize that he needs the other item(s) after all and either:
    a) return the item he bought 'cause it won't work by itself (which means I made no commission for trying to help him)
    b) go to another store to buy the item(s) he wouldn't buy from me 'cause he's too embarrassed to admit he should have listened to me in the first place
    c) come back and buy the items(s) he should have bought the first time.

    Even scenario (c) wasn't always a pure win for me. Half the time when they came back, I'd be busy with another customer so they would buy from one of the other salespeople. Good for the store, but no money in my pocket. The rest of the time, I'd get the sale and the commission, but get dinged by my manager for having such a low dollar-per-ticket average (Aardvark, bring up that productivity!).

    I'm a low key, mellow guy, but I pretty well stayed pissed off working retail (at least there towards the end). It was time to get out. On the positive side, I now have a much better understanding of how to be a good customer and have a higher tolerance for salespeople who try.

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