Thursday, July 31

King Friday

There comes a point when you just need to let it go. A time when you need to realize that things have run their course, grown as far as they can grow, and perhaps most importantly -- a time when you can actually damage the integrity of the good things you once accomplished when you were in your prime by the way you begin to mishandle them now that the iron is starting to cool.
The question is -- how do you know when that time is?
If you love something, how can anyone have the right to tell you to stop? Especially if you've had success with it. But at the same time -- when it becomes the thing that you're known for -- are you really in the best position to know when it's time to step away?
What it it's the only thing you really know how to do?
Think for a minute about George Carlin. The reason that his recent passing was so tragic was not only the fact that he was a unique and thought-provoking talent, but that even after 40 years performing on stages, albums, television, or movies -- he could still bring it. Carlin was taken from us when he still had something to give.

I feel the same way about George Clinton, who still to this day (at age 67) tours the country with various incarnations of the P-Funk all stars and still regularly plays high-energy shows that tend to go on for like 3-4 hours straight (last time I saw them live, the club turned on the house lights in an effort to try to hip George to the fact that it was time to go).

But then there are people who draw it out too long. People who overstay their welcome, and start in some ways to o erode their own credibility as it becomes clear that they're more interested in holding on to their celebrity than they are in doing quality work. Think about the last year or two Dan Rather was anchoring the news, or Dick Clark -- who will have to die on the set before he'll let them take Rockin' New Year's Eve away from him.

But it's not always about age. Some career paths have shelf lives. Some things in life burn faster than others. Pop Music stars, TV actors, Athletes -- these things tend to come and go like shooting stars streaking across the night. There's a certain coldness in that fact, wherein talented people find themselves unable to recover from the weight of their previous fame, or able to parlay it into longstanding success (child stars, one-hit wonders), leaving them scraping for ways to hang on or reinvent themselves -- but as generations pass, tastes change.
It's just a fact of life in pop culture.
It's even worse in sports, where careers (and the celebrity that comes with it) are at continual risk of ending prematurely because of injury, the skill of your peers, or even the success level of the team you play for. Professional athletes (especially in this country) are like livestock. We love them when they pull the plow, but once they start showing signs of aging, we either chop them up and grind them into feed for the rest of the animals, or put them out to pasture to grow old peacefully -- depending on their level of success.
Which brings us to Brett Favre.
Think back for a second -- If you aren't a Packers fan, was there anything more insipid and annoying than like the second, third, and fourth weeks of man love heaped on Brett Favre once he announced his retirement from the NFL?

Look, the guy was an amazing quarterback -- and last season's playoff run proved that he could still play the game at a championship level, but when he decided to finally hang it up after 15 years, the timing just seemed right. He wasn't injured, he wasn't a loser -- He was just going out on top, a winner bowing gracefully to the passing of time, passing the torch.
And then, all this crap happened.
Now Brett wants to come back. Now Brett can't make up his mind. Now it's not his broken down body, but instead it's the team that's keeping him away from the thing he loves. The Packers say they've moved on -- but because former backup Aaron Rodgers is a largely unproven commodity, and more importantly -- because he's not Brett Favre, the fans in Green Bay are going apeshit trying to hold on to the past.

The whole thing is honestly kind of sad. I mean, he was an amazing player and totally entertaining to watch -- but Brett leaving was the storybook ending. It was like the way that Michael Jordan should have retired, except that it's turned into exactly the way Jordan retired -- hanging on too long, defending his right to remain famous -- expecting some sort of credit for his time and accomplishments.
Which, had Jordan or Favre been fired from their jobs might have been different.
But they hung it up. They decided to stop. They told us that they still loved to compete, but their bodies couldn't take the strain anymore. They had given their all; their blood, sweat, and tears to the game -- and now, after conferring with their families, their teammates, god, or whoever -- had come to a place where they were ready to enjoy their success. Spend time with their kids, maybe commentate on a few games on TV, or hawk a few consumer products.
But then they come back like a month later and say -- "Yeah, that was all a lie."
So what you're saying is that your body isn't broken down? Now your kids don't need your attention? What, did you come across some extra blood, sweat, and tears underneath the couch cushions that you thought you'd given to the game but now realize you didn't?

And I don’t want to hear all this team politics bullshit either. If you didn't want to quit, and the team was pushing you out for whatever reason -- then I've got two words for you: Joe Montana. Sure it was weird seeing him in a different uniform for a few years, but did he go whining to CNN? Did he complain and act like he was some sort of victim of circumstance?
You look bad here, Brett.
Bad because you had your hero moment, because you stood on top of the hill and told us that you'd slayed the dragon and saved the day -- and it was now ok to go on with our lives. Then six months later you're back on that hill, saying "Yeah, there's um ..this other dragon we didn't originally know about?"

And you have to say each sentence like it's a question? With an upwards inflection at the end? Because you need us to buy into it but you're not sure we will?

Think about it -- when you heard they were putting out a new Mummy movie, were you so excited you couldn't sit still? Or were you more like, "Oh god, another one?" That's you, man -- You're The Mummy 3. The one that's set to cheapen the other two (and considering how bad the second one was, that's really saying something).

The twist here is that the fans in Green Bay are so brainwashed with your southern bumpkin/makes a billion dollars a year but can't be bothered to effing shave that they'll line right back up to go to the theater with you. And don't kid yourselves -- this isn't going to go away. The first bad play Aaron Rodgers makes, the first interception he throws -- it's not like people are going to be like "You'll get it next time, just rub some dirt on it!"
No way. They're gonna be calling for Brett Favre.
And for what? So that when he makes a bad throw or makes a mistake you can console yourself by saying "That's just Brett being Brett?" How about when the new strategy features giving their new stud running back getting the ball 25-30 times a game, will you feel better about Brett being the one to do that (especially if he keeps doing that annoying little fake throw thing afterwards?)

It's like this whole movement that's popped up lately looking to "save" Mister Rodgers.

The story goes that PBS will be changing from daily episodes of Mister Rodgers Neighborhood that they broadcast to a single episode to be broadcast on weekends. PBS is doing this to make room for new shows, but fans across the web are protesting -- putting together a petition to try to keep the shows reruns in daily rotation, saying that

"This unfortunate decision essentially silences the special nurturing voice of Mister Rogers in the daily lives of today’s children."
Which I would be in total agreement with, if Fred Rodgers was still with us.
The thing that made Mister Rodgers Neighborhood so cool was that every day at a certain time he'd open up the door and hang out with you. It never really felt like a show -- it was more like visiting a neighbor that your mom was cool with who let you play with his toy train and actually listened to your little kid problems.
It was valued time, because of the way Fred Rodgers brought it to life.
I swear to god, every time Mr. McFeely showed up with the mail, I was like "Dude, drop the mail and scram -- you're cutting into my time here." Because you just knew every moment McFeely lingered around was just one less minute you were getting in the land of make-believe. But no -- that camera hog just stuck around, hoping for cookies and tea, talking Rodgers into field trips where we'd watch some asshole make a piano for half an hour.

But the best thing about Mister Rodgers was that there always came a point where you clearly realized you'd outgrown him. Not that you didn't need a reassuring voice in your life, but that you'd learned what you needed to learn from him -- and were ready to try it on your own for a while. Ready to let Rodgers be some other little kid’s neighbor while you moved on to your own experiences.
It wasn't a breakup, it was a graceful goodbye.
Remember after September 11th when we were all reduced to emotional rubble and there he was -- telling us that the important thing now was to make sure that our kids were able to understand what was happening? Like someone threw up the bat-signal and he showed up not looking to blame or retaliate -- but to patch up the hurt and make sure that everyone was ok?
He was real. Not some celebrity making an appearance -- but Mister Rodgers, your neighbor.
Of course the word neighbor doesn't mean the same thing that it used to. Seriously, there's no way in hell I'd leave my kid alone with a shut-in who played with toy trains and puppets in today's world. Which is why it's hard for me to feel compelled to be a part of a fight to keep a show like that on the air -- especially since the majority of the re-runs are set in a world that my son barely recognizes.

And I guess in the end that's my point. There is a time to let go. There is a time to grow up, move on, and evolve. There will never be another George Carlin –- but when you think about it, that's what they used to say about Lenny Bruce, too.
Let it go, Brett. Just let it go.

[Listening to:  The Scorpions"No One Like You" ]

Wednesday, July 30

Nobody Listens to Turtle

Lately at the office I've been finding myself working on projects with people that I don't normally work with. New product release type stuff that's got me hobnobbing with the R&D crowd a lot more than I ever really have before. It's sort of odd, because I've worked at this place for almost three years now and I've come to realize that there's a whole mess of people here that I've never even seen.

On the one hand, this means I've got to go through a whole new round of figuring out where people's offices are, building alliances, discovering who the "difficult" signatures are, and pretending to not notice a whole new group of people staring at my lip ring.
But on the other, it means I'm gonna have a chance to make up a whole new list of nicknames.
I don't know if other people do this as much as I do, but I tend to give pet names to the people I have to deal with on a regular basis. These aren't the kinds of nicknames you share with the people you give them to -- because they're usually based off inside jokes, and many of them aren't very flattering.
But that doesn't mean that they aren't terms of endearment.
For example, I started calling my former downstairs neighbor "Slammy" years ago because of his continual habit of slamming every door between his car and his apartment whenever he left or came back. He'd drive up and SLAM the door on the car, check his mail and SLAM it closed, open his door and then SLAM it shut. You'd come home from work and walk by his door only to be caught off guard by a sudden barrage of racial slurs and obscenities he would randomly shout at his Television loud enough to be heard through the door.

Truth be told, Slammy kinda scared the hell out of me for a while there.

Of course we eventually did meet and shake hands, and he turned out to be a pretty nice guy. He still slammed doors and hated the anchorman, but he was also quick with a wave hello and would even hold the front door open if he saw you carrying lots of things up the steps.
But I never once considered changing the name.
I mean, how could I? It's Slammy -- you know, the scary dude who lived across the hall from the Fighting Stoners, downstairs from Hat Guy and myself.
Now that I think about it, they probably had a name for me that I probably don't want to know about either.
So with all that in mind, here's a quick list in no particular order of the nicknames I've given several my coworkers that they don’t really know about.
  • Crazy Ivan
  • Bolo Yeung
  • Hopalong
  • Shreve
  • Chemistry Hottie
  • Slingboob
  • Darth Roy
  • Skeletor
  • Not Alix
  • Jesus Fish
  • Ashanti
  • The E-Harmonizer
So now that you've seen mine, the question is -- who are yours? Because I know I'm not the only one who does this. It's not like they're gonna see, and I give you my word that I won't tell, so spill it. Present jobs or past, loved ones or enemies -- it doesn't matter. I want to hear them all.
Well, except the ones you have for me.
..Or do I?.
[Listening to:  The Sex Pistols"God Save the Queen" ]

Tuesday, July 29

The Truax

Once upon a time I worked for an advertising agency. It was a small family-owned office that catered to industrial clients like conveyor belt manufacturers, industrial-grade metal wire suppliers, and sewage-treatment plant equipment companies. On the one hand, it's sort of weird to think that companies like this would need advertising -- but when you're one of three or four companies that sells high-dollar equipment and raw materials to oil companies or city governments and the goal is to become a long-term contracted supplier over a series of years, every edge counts.

So even though when viewed in a vacuum the products in our ads were kinda dull -- the commissions that my boss would pull down were nothing short of staggering. Not that I got to see any of them (it was one of my first jobs out of college, and although I eventually wormed my way into doing bigger and better things, I was essentially hired as a runner) -- but that there was always a lot of motivation to do whatever was necessary to keep these big whale clients happy, no matter how last minute or outlandish the request might have been.

One of the most memorable of these experiences was when the conveyor belt people called and asked us to help him woo a potential logging company client by finding a suitable high-volume printer and distribution house for a children's book written as part of a community outreach/PR project.

The book, called The Truax -- was written essentially as a rebuttal to a Dr. Seuss book called The Lorax.
The Lorax, as many of you may remember -- spoke for the trees.
The Truax, on the other hand -- spoke for the logging companies.
The story was that although commercial logging has always been a staple industry in the Pacific Northwest, the overall image of logging companies was taking huge hits to its public image not only at the hands of pro-environmental groups, but from eco-friendly cartoons, toys, and literature that would literally have the bright eyed children of loggers coming home from daycare or elementary school saying things like, "Why does daddy hate the earth so much?"

The Truax was a cute enough book, and I suppose there was a certain sense of logic to the thing -- but even as I worked on the project I couldn't help but ask myself if this was really all that great of an idea.

I mean, My parents read The Lorax to me when I was a kid. I saw the cartoon. Maybe things would have been different if I'd grown up in logging country, but I never really saw it as an attack towards any specific industry, even with that catchphrase about the trees that the Lorax guy kept spouting off. If anything, The Lorax to me was a rant against urban sprawl -- which is not only a danger to forestland, but to loggers as well when you think about it.
Which always made the idea of logging companies calling out Dr. Seuss seem really dumb to me.
I mean really, what do you gain by attacking a kid's book? How much benefit does a major corporation earn by trying to correct the social impressions of preschoolers? And in the end, is it really enough to balance out the cost of looking like a complete killjoy to the rest of the world?
It's something I like to call the PETA problem.
Is there anything out there that people -- and I'm talking about rational, educated, ecologically concerned people here -- is there anything more universally despised than the public efforts that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals make in the name of their cause?

And it's not like any of us out here are pro-animal cruelty -- but between all their publicity-hound grandstanding protests and flying off the handle at things that aren't really any of their goddamn business (remember when they got all mad at the veterinarian who put down the critically injured horse at the Kentucky Derby?) -- PETA ends up doing a lot more harm than good when it comes to their cause.

In other words, because PETA's public image is so utterly annoying -- it's hard not to sometimes think that all animal rights activists are like that, and dismiss (or even oppose) their ideas wholesale because of the attitudes and actions of a relatively small percentage of their total population.

A good example of all this is the recent slew of controversies that have popped up in the media and around the web surrounding the recent Pixar animated film Wall-E.

At first it sounds kinda silly. I mean, it's a kids movie. A (perhaps overly) sweet-hearted love story told over the backdrop of a cautionary tale about the effects of our continuing reliance on technology. Think the second half of Bambi mixed with a healthy dose of Idiocracy (without all the references to handjobs and hookers).

It's an entertaining film. One of the better ones Pixar's put out in a while (which is really saying something when you think about it). You leave the theater uplifted, your child spends a good part of the next few days talking in a robot voice -- what's not to love?
But people are pissed.
Specifically, fat people.
For those of you who haven't seen the film -- one of the main establishing points in the plot is that the Earth has been neglected to the point of over-pollution as a result of never-ending urban sprawl and consumerism at the hand of the Buy-n-Large corporation. At some point, it was decided that there was simply too much trash -- so people boarded a giant spaceship, headed off into space for a "temporary" pleasure cruise while an army of Wall-E bots cleaned everything up in preparation for their eventual return.

Unfortunately, over the course of the next 700 years -- all but one of the Wall-E's has broken down and died -- leaving the earth only kinda clean with only one lonely little robot to try and fix the remaining problem.

Meanwhile, generations of humans have come and gone aboard the giant spaceship -- generations who's every need and whim is cared for by an army of robots to the point where the human race has essentially regressed into little more than pudgy toddlers in floating high chairs that have no idea how to care for themselves anymore.

In the real world, we call this an allegory.
But that hasn't stopped people like Slate's Daniel Engber from calling foul.
"Wall-E is an innovative and visually stunning film, but the "satire" it draws is simple-minded. It plays off the easy analogy between obesity and ecological catastrophe, pushing the notion that Western culture has sickened both our bodies and our planet with the same disease of affluence. According to this lazy logic, a fat body stands in for a distended culture: We gain weight and the Earth suffers. If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!

But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They're weak-willed, indolent, and stupid.

..It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the "obese lifestyle" is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink "cupcakes-in-a-cup," whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there's only so much that can be done about it."
And Engber's not alone, either. Fat bloggers across the web are lashing out against the use of fat jokes in a children's film (and yes, I'm calling you fat. Not because I'm a heartless bastard -- but because you opened the door, lardo).

See, now you're more than just an overweight person with vulnerable feelings. Now you're an advocate. Now your blog entry is a statement of position. Now you're fat in an official capacity. It's hard to wonder if that's really what you wanted when you wrote that response to the movie, regardless of how genuine and heartfelt it was.

And before you start looking at me as some pariah -- let's get some things straight. I'm pushing 250. It doesn't look all that great on me, either. In fact, the last time I went swimming with friends, I was told that I had an "epic belly." It hurt to hear, but it's not like I could argue with them. I'm not medically obese, I'm no candidate for the staple -- I'm just a guy who loves chili fries and recreational drinking a lot more than I like going to the gym.
And for the record, I'm not proud of any of this.
But you know what else? I have absolutely no interest in protecting my right to be this way. If anything, I'm fighting a continual battle to escape it. I don't want to be like this, and I can't imagine anyone who really would if they had the choice. I realize sometimes there are genetic factors involved that make the struggle tougher, but does that really mean that these people want to be that way? That somehow they've accepted their fate, and now demand fairness and equality of treatment and media representation because of it?
God I hope not.
Look, there's a huge difference between the media championing beanpole-thin supermodels and six-pack abbed guys as the only path to happiness and an animated film using people who have become so bloated with sloth that they can't stand up on their own without the help of machines to suggest that perhaps it's time to lean society back towards an agrarian lifestyle. But one doesn't beget the other. I would love to be one of those guys who is like 5-10 pounds overweight and feeling bad because I don't look like the hulks that hang out at the freeweight section in the back of the gym.
But I've got a lot more work to do than that.
So if you want to protect someone from mean ol' Wall-E and his bully attitude towards fatties, how 'bout standing over here and taking those slings and arrows for me? Because when you get right down to it -- I'm the one he's gunning for.

Pixar wasn't saying all those girls who wish they looked like the models on TV but can't find a way to burn off that last 5 are going to doom the planet to ruin. Pixar was pointing the finger at me with my remote control, my comfy couch, my lime-flavored Tostitos and salsa watching I Love Money while my gym membership lingers unused and ignored. The guy who's got a fridge full of something called Vitamin Water, but no vegetables. The one who's actually listed Wii fit as a "pro" when it came to trying to decide whether I should save my pennies for a Playstation 3 or the new Nintendo system instead.
Pixar's trying to get through to me.
And I want to listen. I want to get back to the way I looked when I was doing the River Run every year. I want to get back to the point where I'm using this blog to rant about the jerks who hog the bicep machines in the gym instead of describing in detail my dream strategies for stealing food from my coworkers at lunchtime.
And it's gonna happen. I'll figure it out eventually.
But until I do I'm not gonna stand up in front of all my big-legged brethren and rally them to action like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. If anything -- I'm gonna do everything I can to get out of those ranks, as quickly as I possibly can. Because being fat sucks. Honestly, there's no pride in tempting heart disease, no glory in having to shop at "that end" of the store, or not being able to run across a playground with your son as much as you'd like.

These are not things I'm in any way willing to defend my right for, regardless of how much it stings my pride to see my bad habits and appearance lampooned in movies and TV.
It's like so many of us have no problems putting on that pounds,
but can’t help losing our sense of humor somewhere along the way.

[Listening to:  Clutch"A Shogun Named Marcus" ]

Monday, July 28

Radio One

I've been out of the game a bit while I try to finish up the move into the new digs, so to make it up to everybody I went back to the most tried and true method I've ever known.
..I made you a mixtape.

[Listening to:  (Hed)PE"Crazy Legs" ]

Friday, July 11

Beggars Canyon

Have you ever gotten like this?
                        ..Maybe I should explain.
See, one of the cool things about the company I work for is the way they seem to embrace family units when it comes to hiring. The manufacturing wing of the place is a constant buzz of activity and noise, but it's also apparently a fairly active hotbed of employees hooking their sons and daughters up -- not only with jobs, but with each other as well.
The way I know this is that a bunch of the bigger extended family groups who work here all bring
in food and gather around the big tables in the café for this huge sort of family picnic every Friday.
But unlike the office potlucks I've become used to over the years where people bring Corningware dishes filled with various items mixed with cream of mushroom soup -- this is an all day affair where the mostly pan-Asian staff here comes in early, plugs in a variety of rice cookers and crock pots so they can simmer homemade dishes to the perfect temperature by lunchtime.

And I'm not talking about handed-down recipes or quick-kit dishes here. A lot of these folks are first and second generation. A lot of them don't really speak English. I'm talking about homemade Polynesian, Vietnamese, Filipino and Chinese food that's literally sitting there cooking with no one guarding it at all.
I can't even begin to describe how incredible the aromas are.
As a guy who spent many of his formative years mooching food off his Italian best friend's family, an arrangement that Gristina's grandmother once said was a "wonderful compliment to her cooking" -- there's few things more second nature to me than taking a spoon and you know, making sure the flavor was OK.
Something I obviously can't do here.
I mean, who knows -- maybe I could; the families that hold these lunches seem pleasant enough, but they don't know me from Adam -- And there's a world of difference between offering the kid who's always at your house an extra plate of pasta and having some honky you've never seen before sneaking bites of your lunch between meetings.

The obvious solution here is to figure out where these people work, start hanging around there, turn on the charm and see if I get some kind of Eddie Haskell deal where I'm actually invited to the next picnic and then chowdown to my heart's content --- but there's still a language barrier to deal with, leaving me without a clear path to follow or any hot and delicious food on my plate.
But then I noticed something. Something that gave me hope.
Because when you take look around the rest of the cafe, you quickly realize that you're not the only one wrestling with this problem.

They're easy to spot. The maintenance guy picking at his salad. The sales specialist staring disappointingly at her Lean Cuisine tray while continually stealing glances towards the homemade Mongolian Barbeque spread that's going on literally two tables away.

The more you look at them, the more obvious the solution becomes. The more you begin to wonder why it wasn't the first idea to come to mind. Because when you have a room filled with hungry people and food they can't have, you have a cause. A single thread that pulls everyone together.
What we need to do here is get organized.
I'm serious. Just because I can't communicate with these people verbally doesn't mean that one or two of us couldn't create some sort of diversion while the rest of us run up and steal as many bowlfuls of szechuan beef as we can carry.

I can see it now. An innocent Outlook meeting request. A low-lit conference room. A scale model of the cafeteria area set out on the table, surrounded by a small group of fat people plotting the perfect commando raid.

Personally I'd be the one championing the Red Dawn approach, wherein we all just run up in a single group, yell "Wolverines!!" at the top of our lungs and then just start eating as much as we can off their plates until they beat us back -- but seeing as this is a company full of engineers it only goes to figure that they'll probably want some sort of fancy-schmancy coordinated attack. But to be honest with you, I can't just sit here and sign off on some cockeyed plan that leaves our boys stranded on those beaches without air support.
No, the only way to do this is through the front door.
Biggs, Wedge -- let's close it up. We're going in, We're going in full throttle.

[Listening to:  Foo Fighters"Breakout" ]

Thursday, July 10

Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Week to Stop Sniffing Glue

So I just finished my second cup of coffee for the day -- and by cup, I mean travel mug, which at 16 ounces a go roughly translates into 2 regular cups of coffee per, which for those of you playing at home (Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?) means that I've had four cups of coffee since waking up this morning.

Not the best thing in the world for me I know, but it's a habit I've had forever -- and unless Dr. Drew Pinsky locks me in a house filled with porn stars, has-been actors, and at least one Baldwin brother, I don't see it going away any time soon.
But here's the thing: I kinda want another cup.
Although it probably doesn't sound like it, I've actually cut my coffee consumption waaay down from where it used to be a couple of years ago, and my two travel mug line is something I've kept pretty solid for a while now. But for whatever reason, today I'm thinking that I could easily do with another hit.

But I know myself better than that -- I'll pour a full mug for myself, have like two sips, and then be done with it. Which essentially means that what really happened is that somewhere along the line today I shorted myself about two sips worth.

In other words -- I probably didn't fill the mug all the way to the top enough, and now the junkie accountants living in the pleasure centers of my brain are raising hell. The annoying thing about it is that it's sort of a pointless jones. It's not like two more sips worth of caffeine at this point are gonna do anything to push me over the line at all -- but I'll be damned if I'm not going crazy for it.
Basically this is my system telling me that I'm not high enough.
I don't know about you -- but I'm not sure that this is all that good a thing. I mean seriously, am I really so well-calibrated that I'm actually able to quibble over fractions here? Do other junkies do this? I mean, is there a guy out there calling his dealer saying "Yeah, I need like -- part of a pill -- could you cut that up into slivers for me?"

I mean, I don't do drugs -- so I don't really know, but I can't imagine that dealers give out partial refills like the ones you sneak at the gas station when you're getting a soda from the fountain. There's no such thing as a spoon and a half of smack, is there?
I mean, these aren't Flinstone vitamins were talking about here.
I'm probably gonna hold off and power through without this extra little smidge I'm jonesing for -- but man oh man, is it gonna be a beast if I don't get some Thorazine food in me pretty soon.
Because no matter what this little widget says, I really
do want a little bit more (and a glazed donut -- to go).

The Caffeine Click Test - How Caffeinated Are You?

[Listening to:  Odis"Feel" ]

Wednesday, July 9

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

"I'm sorry that my penis broke your phone."

[Listening to:  The Clash"Know Your Rights" ]

Tuesday, July 8

There Will Be Surfactant

One of the things that's been keeping me really busy lately is the work that I've been doing "on the side" for the packaging department here at our company. The team there is made of three engineers, one of whom a few months ago had a loved one pass away and took some time off to grieve. During that time their workload continued to pile up, so they asked my boss if they could "borrow" me to help them clear out some of the projects they had that were backing up.

What started out as helping them knock out extra paperwork has bloomed into spending almost half my workdays in various labs and cleanrooms running pouch sealing validations, polymer stress testing, and all sorts of science-minded stuff that I would have never, ever guessed that I could be interested in.

Essentially, the engineers plan out a package design, work out all the particulars, negotiate with suppliers, get samples, define a packaging process and choose the equipment to use -- and then they turn to me and say:
"Before we can go live with this, we need to test it -- so can you validate 500 samples of these .. by Friday?"
Eager to prove my worth to the company, I said yes a couple of times and was able to come through with results -- and now it's like all I do anymore.

It's not a bad thing -- it's different tasks all the time, I've become sort of an unofficial part of a team of actually cool people, and there has been talk of perhaps bringing me on as an official member somewhere in the future -- which could not only mean better money, but actual upward mobility (which my current gig doesn't really provide).

At the same time, getting to actually step away from the cubicle and get your hands (literally) dirty with the things this company is actually doing has put me a lot more in touch with what some of the documentation work I do actually relates to -- which was always sort of a problem before.
Or to put it another way, even though my job is to write manuals
for the things we make -- I don't really know what half of it does.
The bad part of all this is that despite my newfound sense of work-nerd enthusiasm towards all these new responsibilities, the fact remains that there's a long list of reasons that my career path never really involved words like "scientist" or "engineer."

Lets put aside my laughably bad math skills for a second and focus instead on my utter lack of experience when it comes to working in a professional laboratory setting. I mean, I do my best -- but it's not the kind of thing I've ever really been good at, even at school.
True story, I once bought a science fair project off another student.
She was in physics, I was taking chemistry -- but there were no subject matter restrictions, so when I saw her throwing her project out, I ponied up $10 -- retyped the report, and turned it in a week later.
I got a B on it.
But here, working for a federally regulated medical technology company I can't really get away with such shenanigans, so I have to do stuff the right way -- and clearly all of my slacking off and flirting with Melissa Schmidt when I was supposed to be doing lab work has cost me a little bit when it comes to my sense of ..finesse when it comes to doing this part of the job.

Like the other day -- I drop in to the office to see what they need me to do, and I find out that there's good news and bad news. The good news, they tell me is that all the various testing I've been doing on the new polyethlyne bags they wanted to use to deliver one of our intravenous saline solution products has yielded solid results.

Without all my testing, they tell me -- they'd never have known that when packaged in the bags, the chemical composition of the solution slightly changes when it undergoes sterilization, rendering it useless.
They don't know why it happens, they don't know what it turns into -- but there's
no money in selling mystery goo to hospitals, so it's back to the drawing board.
When I ask what the bad news is, they smile and motion towards the 500 bags of solution samples that I've prepared, assembled, tested, and sterilized -- and tell me that they need to be emptied out and disposed of as soon as possible.

So I get a cart and lug the stuff from the offices to the lab in the other building, toss a bunch of them in the sink, take out a safety knife, and start poking holes.
Next thing I know it's Muppet Labs
Suddenly saline is going everywhere, and I'm standing there like an extra in a porn movie, doing everything I can to duck and cover while still trying to figure out which of the stabbed bags was the fountain.
But of course, all of them were.
Apparently one of the issues they found with the bags (that they conveniently forgot to tell me about) was that when you sterilize it, the solution expands. So even though I was now trying to be a lot more careful where and how I was cutting the bags, the problem was still the same. Contents under pressure are gonna get on Dan, and apparently there's not a hell of a lot he can do about it.

So I'm flipping the bags over, turning on the water, trying to cover them up with paper towels, anything I can think of to minimize the spray -- but it's all over my arms, it's getting on my shirt, it's all over the floor, and not for nothing -- but all I can think of is the words "the chemical composition changed slightly" along with the opening sequence in every comic book and 50's horror movie I've ever seen, wondering just how long it's going to be before my mutant powers begin to manifest themselves and show.

Look, up in the sky -- it's a salt shaker, it's a soap dispenser, it's..
Saline Solution Man!
He can increase the size of your breasts while he waxes your car. He smells like Jergens and leaves a snail trail wherever he goes. Watch as he vanquishes evil with his unstoppable "stingy sensation in your eye" attack.

Starring Will Smith as "Dan" -- a single father and non-threatening black man who's world is turned upside down the day he is asked to "empty the bags."
Now all I've got to do is think of a catchphrase -- something snappy, like:
Your reign of evil ends here, know what I'm saline?"
[Listening to:  XTC"That Wave" ]

Monday, July 7

The Yellow and Black Attack

Me = Death Metal -- Headphones/Volume Control
You = Christian Rock -- Computer Speakers/Full Blast
Hey coworker? I'm glad you've got a hobby and all -- but seeing as I've taken the extra steps necessary to not shove all this ..Satan down your throat, the least you could do is turn the other effing cheek so I don't have to hear any more fucking Underoath today.
Because I've got speakers too, and we can totally do this if you want.

[Listening to:  The Hunger"Vanishing Cream" ]

Saturday, July 5


Honestly, these two haven't been much help with the packing at all.

[Listening to:  N.E.R.D."Yeah You" ]

Friday, July 4


There's this place I sometimes go, a retreat from the usual. Most nights it's the same story as anywhere else. Drink specials, flashing lights, dance music, barflies. People come and go, a bell rings when someone gets a good cash tip, and at a quarter to two they turn on the lights and try to shuffle people towards the door. The prices are good, the people are cool -- but when you get right down to it, it's a sleepy little bar.
Or at least it was, until the swingers found it.
There's an underground swinger's club that's been around town for years. Sort of a loose gathering of couples looking for other couples to swap and play with. The thing is, when you hear the idea -- your mind goes one of two ways with it. Either it's the sexiest, most open-minded thing you've ever heard -- or it's kinda gross.

And to be honest, when you get right up face to face with it what you get is a little bit of both.

All in all the people seem really nice -- most of them come off as upper middle class or quietly rich who are looking for a safe way to have a little fun. When you talk to them you get the impression that the majority of them are the kind of people who spent the first half of their careers breaking their backs for someone else and learning the ropes before striking out on their own and making it rich.

Interestingly enough, that seems to be the way they approach relationships as well.

From what I can tell, the group is largely made up of second marriages. Trophy wives. A lot of the couples reek of new money. The kind of rich people who busted their ass to get to a six figure income but now that they've made it they don't know what to do with it all. So a lot of them wear it. Silicone is abundant. The mens watches are ornate, made of precious metals, and are designed to survive extreme ocean depths regardless of the fact that many of them will probably never get that opportunity.
It's kind of like a country club mixer, with cleavage.
As a spectator on the sidelines, it's a fascinating thing to see. Each night has a theme to it, usually directed towards a certain brand of fantasy or clothing. So one night might be a "naughty schoolgirl" thing, while the next might require fishnets and spiked heels. Nothing's required, so the flavor comes from seeing how far individual couples are willing to go with the idea, and how they react to the others who do, and the ones that don't.

In other words, on fishnet night you saw a number of women wearing fancy fishnet stockings under varying lengths of skirts, depending on their comfort level. For some of the women, it didn't seem like a big deal at all. For others it seemed to be an odd and exciting novelty, but it was impossible to miss the looks on their faces when later in the evening one wife came in wearing a fishnet catsuit, with essentially nothing on underneath it. Her body was a work of surgical enhancements, so the results looked like they had essentially jumped off the pages of some men's magazine -- but in this odd little group, it was the equivalent of the local PTA having a pot luck where everyone is asked to bring their your own casseroles, and then one mom shows up with a plate full of lobster.

In fact, that's sort of the endearing part about the whole thing, because even though these aren't the most "normal" people you can find, there’s no way to escape the fact that these are still married couples -- and no matter how much latex and leather gear they may have on during a given evening, the fundamental rules apply.

Like this one night I was hanging out, talking with the bartenders when a guy came up and ordered a shot of Patron silver. The bartender sorta shrugged and said, "We just ran out of Patron, can I get you something else?"

The guy paused a moment to consider it, at which point I kinda jumped in and suggested he try the Cuervo 1800, which is actually (in my opinion) smoother than the Patron. It doesn't bite quite the same way, but it's actually a better tequila to sip on. I bought a round for the two of us and he sort of agreed that it was good (probably didn't change his mind, but it was a good enough introduction).

His name was Richard. His skin was a dark charcoal brown, accented around the eyes and mouth by thin lined graying hair. He owned a fitness instruction company and was doing really well with it, but his original love was playing the saxophone.

Immediately we launched into musician blather, which almost always takes the same tack. We talk about the kinds of things we like to play, yapped about equipment for a little while, and then launched into the part of the conversation I like to call "the brag" -- where one musician tries to outdo the other by listing all of the people they've worked with/played with.

All musicians do this, and what's more -- all of us lie. Not that we make up stories out of thin air, but that we take the smallest connection we might have actually had with a musician in real life and turn it into something bigger than it actually was. So that night that your band opened up for a group that featured the guy who used to play bass for Teddy Pendergrass becomes the day you jammed with Teddy Pendergrass, and if necessary -- the story about how you almost got into Teddy Pendergrass touring band, but the timing was bad. The key is to mix in just enough of your true stories so that it's hard to tell which is which.

So in short, Richard was a sax player from New York who played in a bunch of the club bands back in the day, and may or may not have played a few gigs with Marvin Gaye when he was really young. He would have stuck with it and gone pro for real, but he got married to his girlfriend and had a couple of kids. Eventually he got into personal training and started his own business, and when they saved up enough money he decided to live the dream and relocate to Florida.
It was at this point that his wife showed up.
Standing well over six feet tall with heels on, it was hard to miss Alonda walking through the crowd. She was working a tight black party dress that barely made it past her hips. Her body was lean, but her hips swayed when she walked in a way that was impossible to ignore. It also didn't hurt that she was almost a dead ringer for Khandi Alexander of CSI and News Radio fame (who I've always thought was hot) except that her hair was cropped shorter and curled into tight ringlets.

It was an incredibly sexy look, except that she wasn't wearing it as such. Women have a way of doing that sometimes -- they know how to combine elements like clothing and makeup to where it works in the mirror, but when you get out into the real world it's just an outfit.

It also didn't help that her eyes were pensive, and she seemed distracted even as she smiled and shook my hand. Richard boasted about her modeling past, and recounted highlights of our conversation as a way of endorsing me as someone worth talking to. I cracked some lame joke that got a momentary smile from her as Richard ordered another round for us all.

But just as soon as we were introduced, old friends and other conversations moved close enough to pull us in different directions and it seemed like we were gonna end up as just one of those shared-drink friendships that happens so much in places like this.

So later on when Alonda sat back down next to me I was honestly a little bit surprised. Especially since Richard was nowhere to be found. When asked about that detail, she rolled her eyes and motioned to a spot behind me, where Richard was actively talking to a young black girl sipping on a dark cocktail through two little red straws.
"She seems cute." I said
"They’re all cute." She answered.
Not being a part of the life, it seemed odd to me that there would be a problem with this sort of thing. But it was clearly weighing on her. And in one sense it was hard to argue with it. She was clearly the most striking woman in the whole place that night, decked out lot more than she probably needed to be for the event they had going on – and yet here was her husband chatting up someone who in comparison was exceptionally plain.
She was however, younger.
We started talking about it, but it seemed like she wasn’t really talking to me. It was like she was working through something in her mind, asking and answering questions of herself that I would never get to hear. She talked about their marriage with pride, of the two daughters they’d raised, of the success the business had gained. But she missed modeling, and often wondered what would have been had she stayed with it.

I told her she could go back to it, that she looked amazing. She smiled at that, and thanked me for the compliment – but you could tell her mind was somewhere else. She probably heard compliments all the time – from guys like me.
But the voice she really wanted to hear them from, the one that really
mattered – was standing across the room, complimenting someone else.
[Listening to:  Jay Brannan"Soda Shop" ]

Thursday, July 3

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Evening

"Yeah, this was a really bad choice of words for a Google image search."

[Listening to:  Subkulture (feat. Celldweller)"Erasus" ]

Wednesday, July 2

Don't Say Sí, Say Oui

So I'm moving. To be honest, everythings moving. Legal battles, tax debts, employment status -- there's just all sorts of things happening at once. The antebellum is gonna rock, but right now it's utter Guadalcanal just trying to keep all the plates spinning at the same time.
That being said, I'm totally jazzed about the new digs.
Not that I haven't loved everything that my apartment signified and all the wonderful and inappropriately loud memories that have originated there -- but I think there's such a thing as staying somewhere too long.

It's gonna be an interesting switch though, because I'm going from a privately owned quadraplex in a quiet neighborhood to a corner unit in a large complex in one of the busier areas of town. It was a choice I made consciously, because I was looking for a place with more features and a better commute -- but you never really know what you're in for with the shared dumpster/community mail-stop set until you've been there for a while.

The other thing is that to get the features and location that I wanted, I had to shell out more money while surrendering a hunk of square footage. I don't think it will be that big of an adjustment for me --
But I gotta tell you, I'm a bit concerned about the way my roommates are gonna handle it.
Because in addition to losing the only home they've ever really known since I got them, the new pad will be the first time the cats get to experience carpeted floors (the current digs are hardwood). Now don't get me wrong here -- they're both housebroken, and generally pretty good about keeping their messes where they are supposed to be, but this was all prior to moving into the place where the floor feels like a ball of yarn.
So we'll have to see how things go with all that -- but until then, it's all about the anticipation for clean dishes. Yes friends, I'm back on the dishwasher bus. Stupid as it may sound, this is a huge deal for me. I'm all about push-button cleansing, the white noise, the steam that flies out when you open the door, the me not having to do it by hand anymore -- I swear, it's like frikkin' Christmas.

Of course you can't have light without darkness -- and there's plenty of that to be found just a few steps away in an adjoining closet where my brand new washer and dryer live.

See, I know lots of people who love doing laundry. The warm clothes out of the dryer, the aroma that fills the room -- I even know some people who claim to like the process of folding clothes because they find it sort of relaxing like tai chi or something.
I on the other hand, fucking hate it.
You know what I like? Giving my clothes to the laundromat and coming back a day later. But those days are over. Now if I look like crap it's gonna be my fault.
..And no amount of clean dishes is gonna cover that up.
[Listening to:  Dry Kill Logic"Hindsight" ]

Tuesday, July 1

The Trepak

The music they play when you're on hold waiting to talk to someone at the IRS is Tchaikovsky. And not even good Tchaikovsky either -- just snippets from The Nutcracker.

Aside from the hilarity that comes with the realization that the music you're forced to endure while waiting to give your money to George W. Bush so he can fund his war was composed by a Russian homosexual -- it's hard not to wonder if there's more at play here than just having something audible on the line to let you know that you're still in the queue to talk to one of their super-helpful phone representatives.

Because as much as I adore the work of Russian composers (my all-time favorite is Stravinski), the thing that sets them apart from other classical music is the way their sweeping melodies are repeated and built on top of each other. Or to put it another way, The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy starts out nice enough, but by the time you get to the end of it Tchaikovsky is literally hitting you over the head with the notes.

In fact the entire Nutcracker Suite (which most people have grown numb to because of the way it's become a Christmastime standard) is a study in taking one musical theme and then just repeating it over and over and louder and louder with more and more instruments jumping in to thicken the sound. Composers call this practice crescendo, and when you're watching a ballet it can be an exciting thing because it's usually a cue for the performers to pull off a special or difficult move -- but when you're on the phone and all you hear the same 10 notes over and over you sort of lose that connection to the dynamics of the piece itself.

In other words, the IRS has picked the most annoying part of the song to play, and they crank that fucker up to 11. Every now and then a recording comes on thanking me for my patience and asking me to continue to hold -- but aside from that it's just death by Glockenspiel literally daring you to stay on the line.
To put this in perspective, imagine that Fergie was on a stage singing "My Humps."
Not because it's a great song (because it isn't) but because like many famous classical pieces, it's a recognizable theme.

So Fergie and her huge ass is up there doing her thing, singing and dancing around to the music of the band -- but then in the middle of the song, she breaks it down to where it's just her voice and maybe a bassline groove going while she sings "My Hump, My Hump, My Hump, My Hump" and motioning for the crowd to clap along in rhythm. You've seen it before at concerts -- a little change in the dynamics of the song, something to get the crowd involved.

But then a spotlight comes on and Beyonce comes out on stage to rousing applause, and joins in singing "My Hump, My Hump, My Hump, My Hump" And people who like that song would be all like "this is amazing, can you believe this!?" and you think it couldn't get any better -- until the remaining former members of Destiny's Child come out and join in. Followed a few minutes later by Rhianna, and The Pussycat Dolls -- and the next thing you know it's like a pop music supergroup on stage providing you with the ultimate in one-time concert experiences and you're texting everyone you know and telling them that they're totally missing out until the crowd starts applauding again and you realize that Snoop Dog is up there, followed by 50 Cent, and the Mormon Tabernacle Boys Choir, Insane Clown Posse, The original cast of Mama Mia, and then a video screen drops down and there's clips of New York firefighters singing it, various famous athletes, Jared from the Subway commercials, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Coochie-Coochie girl Charo, Kevin Eubanks and the Tonight Show Orchestra, and a host of highschool marching bands in full dress uniform all repeating "My Hump, My Hump, My Hump, My Hump" over and over and over at the top of their lungs.
That's what it's like when you cut a Tchaikovsky ballet down to a single theme.
Which is exactly what you get to hear while you're waiting to talk to a live human being at the IRS.
It's kind of a strange sign of the times I suppose. I mean everyone I know now has a cell phone. Which means when you call them, 99% of them know who you are when they look at the number that appears on the screen. And of course we all know what happens then -- they either decide to pick up or not.

A cellphone call going to voicemail these days could mean a variety of things; the person is driving, they're on another call, they're in a place where they simply can't talk right now -- but because we all have cell phones too, everyone in the world is also knows that when you get a call on your phone from someone that you don't really want to talk to at the moment (or ..ever, depending on who it is) that the standard move is to let it go to voicemail.

In fact, most people I know don't even check the messages you leave -- choosing instead to just call you back and say something like, "You called?"

The weird thing though is that when you call someone on a cell and you get voicemail, you kinda know that more often than not it means that they didn't want to talk to you, even though they easily could have. But as long as they call back eventually, we let it slide. People are busy, and sometimes phone conversations take time away from other things you need to do.
So why is it when you're stuck on hold for ages that it becomes so utterly infuriating?
How is it that getting shuffled off to voicemail by a friend isn't anywhere near as annoying as having to wait for extended periods of time to talk to someone who is essentially obligated to (eventually) pick up the line?
Is it because you know you can't call up the IRS and say "Hey it's me, hit me back?"
Or it is because somehow you just know that somewhere in Washington all the customer service representatives are sitting around a computer watching the counter next to your name, laughing and placing bets on how much longer you'll sit there before you finally boil over with frustration and hang up?
..Two guesses who came out on top of that little wager.

[Listening to:  Element Eighty"Guntruck" ]

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