2/28/05

Saco de Toro

I get about 15 pounds of catalogs every day in the mail. I am pretty sure that over half of them are from Victoria's Secret. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I only wish they existed when I was a kid. Back then, we had to make do with the underwear section of the Sears catalog (those nursing bras with the flap were hot, am I right?) or find the waterlogged Playboy mags that the big kids left decaying in the woods.

Did you ever notice that in all the Victoria's Secret catalogs they airbrush the nipples out? All the models have the breasts of female comic book characters. Honestly, I don't know what the big deal is. Hey, that little patch of skin is a different color than the surrounding skin! And-oh-my-god-it-has-a-protuberance! Quick! Get the airbrush before someone sees it for God's sake!

Anyway, back to these 15 pounds of catalogs. Once in a while, I order things from this place called Sportsman's Guide. As a result, I get a weekly catalog from them too.

As I'm thumbing through it this afternoon, I notice that they've got one of their big sellers prominently displayed on page one -- the venerable dried bull-penis walking stick. Incidentally, right next to it, they're showcasing a new addition:



A bull scrotum suspended between two nicely capped posts, for only $49.95.

In the description, they state that it "makes a wonderful candy dish." Another suggestion is to use it for "displaying a dried floral arrangement." Personally, I think the absolute best thing to do would be to fill it up with nuts. That's some serious fucking irony right there, my friend.

As I'm sitting there wondering who it is that actually buys this crap, I also start thinking about who must have pioneered the process to begin with. To me, at least, there doesn't seem to be any sort of rational thought progression from bull penis to walking stick.

"Hey Cletus, look at the size of the crank on that there bull! It's gotta go three foot long! [LOGIC GAP YOU COULD DRIVE A TRACTOR THROUGH] I could make me a real nice walkin' stick outta that!"

The funny part is that in the small print, it warns against using it in the rain, as it "may absorb moisture." They don't actually tell you what will happen if it does absorb moisture, but I'm guessing that absolutely no good can come of it. Does it start to smell funny? Does it go limp? Do cows start following you around? The possibilities are endless.

Here's my credit card. I'll take two. And hey, can you throw in one of those nutsacks?

Sweet.

2/27/05

Happy Valentine's Day, You Dick.

A comment on Carly's blog about saving a note from her young son (so she would have something to take the edge off when he turned 17 and wrecked the car) reminded me of something my mom did for us before she passed away. One year, for Christmas, she gave us our own scrapbooks. These were things she collected over the years, from the time we were toddlers scribbling on newspaper with crayons, to when we wrote articles for the high school newspaper. She had arranged them chronologically, and some of the stuff was hilarious.

This past summer, when I was showing some friends all my early "creations" I stumbled on something I hadn't noticed before. A decorated folder that I had mistaken for a picture was actually stuffed with hand-made Valentine's Day cards.

I'm not sure if they still do this in the first grade or not, but to avoid turning it into a popularity contest, it was a rule that everyone had to give everyone else a card. No exceptions. Boy or girl, you gave them a card. It didn't matter if you hated them or liked them. You gave them a card.

These were "cards" only in the most generous terms. Most of the time it was a folded piece of paper with a heart and a "Happy Valentine's Day" on the outside, and a "Have a happy day, your friend [insert name here]" on the inside.

This was my favorite:

Front:




Inside:



Apparently, in the first grade I was a dick. Who knew?

2/26/05

Previously, on LOST: WTF?

Can anyone clue me in as to what the hell happened on "Lost" this past week? It's not that I missed the episode. I watched it. I even understood most of it, though doing so required the use of my exceptional deductive skills. But I have no idea what any of the Korean characters said. The reason I have no idea what they said is because the people at ABC are a bunch of inept douchebags.

The episode focused on the two Korean characters -- a husband and wife, plus a few other Korean characters that were involved in explaining their back story. How they ended up married, on that particular plane, etc. As you would expect, they speak Korean. As you would also expect, the producers of the show thoughtfully provided English subtitles for those of us who like the show, but as typical Americans, don't speak Korean. These thoughtfully provided subtitles allow us to understand what the hell is going on.

ABC, in their single-minded dedication to providing the latest in Accu-weather forecasts, provided a scrolling update that was so detailed in its coverage of the current weather situation I fully expected to see a rolling counter that was keeping a running tab as to how many snowflakes had fallen to the ground so far.

In an effort to make sure that they had our full attention, they made the scrolling letters 2 inches high, all upper case, and white. You can see what's coming, right? They also took extreme care to place them directly over the Korean subtitles, which, unfortunately, were only about 3/4 of an inch high and the same exact shade of white.

So instead of a gripping dialogue between a corrupt father-in-law telling his new son-in-law to kill the foreman of one of his factories, I got:



Evil Father-in-law: THERE IS A WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING TO THURSDAY EVENING UNTIL 6:00AM EST

Son-in-law: SNOW IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP WEDNESDAY NIGHT-WITH PERIODS OF SNOW EXPECTED TO PERSIST THROUGH THURSDAY. THE SNOW MAY BE HEAVY AT TIMES.

Needless to say, it sucked the drama out of the scene.

This continued, non-stop, throughout the entire episode. It wasn't so bad as long as there was no Korean chit chat, but when there was, it was completely maddening. I realize that it's a weather advisory, and some people might actually care, but you'd think that by now they'd have the technology to realize I'm 200 miles from where this particular weather is, and right at that moment, I didn't give a shit about anything other than what these two guys on my TV were talking about.

Now for a little rant.

I don't know who the marketing fuckstick was who came up with the brilliant idea of putting pop-up advertisements for other shows on during the show you're watching, but he should be strung up by his testicles and flayed with a rusty cheese grater. They are the most annoying things ever created. (With the possible exception of the woman in the next row who clips her finger nails for 30 minutes every morning. Honestly, I think she has to be clipping into bone at this point.)

The WB has adopted these damn things wholeheartedly. Some of them literally take up half the screen. I realize the reason they are there is because too many of us are completely skipping the commercials with our DVRs, but these pop-ups are annoying enough to make me seriously consider not watching television again, ever.

The worst, most ridiculous offenders are the ones that pop up to tell you what you're watching right then. You could be watching The Simpsons, and suddenly a tiny Bart runs across the bottom of your screen being chased by tiny Homer, followed by the text You're currently watching The Simpsons on Fox. No kidding, assknob. If your typical viewer is so stupid that he or she doesn't know the name of the show they're currently watching, then we've reached a new low in the devolution of the television-viewing public. Given the sheer number of reality shows on the air right now, I think this is entirely possible.

Case in point: That GEICO commercial with the newlyweds in the house that's too small -- how many of you got sucked in by that?

I'll admit it. I thought it was real the first time I saw it. I was thinking, You've GOT to be kidding me! I thought they had finally bottomed out. But the point is, I believed it. The fact that I could believe such a show could actually get on the air means that something is seriously, frighteningly wrong -- either with television, or us.

I think I may just stop watching television completely. I realized the other day that most of my favorite shows are animated. The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy, Futurama, Venture Brothers, The Tick -- they're all cartoons. I'm not sure what that says about me. Giving up TV would give me more time to write, but in a way, I'm guessing it would just be trading one glass teat for another.

2/24/05

My Pretty Pony

OK, so I'm a huge Stephen King fan, and I love just about everything he's put to paper. I realize that some people think he's a hack, but they are usually just misinformed. Most of the time you mention Stephen King to a non-fan, they say "oh, I don't like that scary stuff" or "His stuff is too bloody for me." Well, those people have never read Bag of Bones, and almost to a person don't realize that the movies The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me were both Stephen King short stories.

Anyway, I must have mentioned to someone that one of my favorite Stephen King short stories was called My Pretty Pony. This story is basically about the passage of time, the kinds of time that exist, and how it seems to speed up as you get older. It's not a particularly uplifting tale, told by a grandfather to his grandson, but it's well written, and haunting in its own way. It always reminds me to grab on to every moment that I'm on this planet, and to make my best attempt to not let life just slip by while I'm busy not noticing.

Last Friday, I came into work, and standing on my mousepad in front of my computer is this:



My Pretty Pony.

I promptly named her "Bitchslap" since she was pretty hot -- in a pony kind of way-- and also had some ink. Whenever you combine tattoos with platinum blonde hair, you have a recipe for one tough bitch, even if her tats were just lollipops and hearts. I took her off the mouse pad and placed her on my monitor, right next to my pewter spiderman. (Don't ask.)

When I left for the day, I forgot to take her with me. On Monday morning I walked in and sat down, said 'sup to Bitchslap, and began my day. Around lunch time, I headed downstairs for a quick bite, and when I came back ten minutes later, her hair was braided. I know she didn't do it herself. I had no idea who gave me the damn thing to begin with, and also no idea who braided her hair while I was at lunch. The pony-giver was messing with me. I was beginning to think I had a stalker.

The braid wasn't a good look for her, I think mainly because she doesn't have the cheekbones to pull it off. She reminded me of the bull-dyke pony in a lesbian-pony prison flick, if there were such things, and I were actually predisposed to viewing them. In addition to it making her look all butched up, from the side it looked like she had a broom sticking out of the top of her head, which would not do.

I took her down off my monitor, all the while realizing that it probably didn't look too normal for a grown man to be playing with a pretty pony at his desk during lunch, but I succeeded in furtively unbraiding her hair. Since it was lunchtime, I managed to do it without anyone walking by and seeing me. She was back to her normal, sultry, yellow-gold self in no time.

Yesterday morning, when I walked into my cube, this was on my desk:



OK. Someone is spending money on me*. The first time it was funny, the second time it's starting to get a little weird and creepy. But I'm good with it, and call her Violet, because it's the first thing that occurs to me. I stick her on the monitor next to Bitchslap. She doesn't look tough, but she's tougher than me, because there's no way I would have anything, even flowers, tattooed on my ass. The more I looked at her, the tougher she got. At least as tough as Bitchslap, if not more so, I thought. I now had two pretty (albeit tough) ponies, and the top of my monitor was starting to look decidedly gay.

Even then, I realized something wasn't right. Those two, just sitting there next to each other, like best buds. It bugged me until today, when I discovered what was wrong. There wasn't any conflict to this story. Two ponies, kinda the same but different colors, yadda, yadda. Where's the back-story in that, for chrissakes?

I looked at them again, and thought I saw something deep in their doe-like, painted-on pony eyes. I thought it was a simmering anger, maybe even....resentment. No, that wasn't it.

Hatred? Could what I was seeing actually be hatred?

Yes! It was hatred. These ponies aren't friends, I realized.

For god's sake, they're obviously sworn enemies!

What was I thinking?

There was only one way to fix everything:



I feel much, much better now. My monitor is no longer gay, and all is right with the world. Added bonus -- I got my own version of that hot, 'pony-on-pony-action' prison movie after all.

Go on, tell me it's not hot. Just look at it.

*As it turns out, someone told me they give these things away in Happy Meals. It all makes sense now. Well, not really.

2/22/05

In and Out at Steve & Edie's

One thing I love about where I live is that you still have a little bit of "local color" around, in that there are quite a few small businesses owned and operated by local residents. About a mile from my house, there's a little corner store called Steve & Edie's. Supposedly, it's the longest continuously run store in the area. It's been an on-going business since the 1800's, and it's always a great place to go if you need a 6 pack, a propane tank, a jar of peanut butter and a quart of oil and don't feel like making the 20 minute trek to the closest convenience store. Once in a while, I'll stop there and grab a quart of milk on the way home.

The last time I was in, the girl behind the counter asks me if I want to join the milk club. I ask her if that means we'd meet once a week at the grange hall and talk about milk, but she just smiles nervously and obviously has no idea what the hell I'm talking about. I decide to join, and she writes my name on a little 3x5 card, and sticks in in a yellow plastic box. She explains that after I buy 10 quarts of milk, I get one free. Awesome. Free milk.

I stop in there maybe once every two months, so it's going to take me a long time to get any free moo juice out of this deal.

My wife does the same thing, stopping by every once in a while for this or that. Last week she stops in buys a few things, including a quart of milk. When she puts the milk on the counter, the girl says, "Are you in the milk club?"

My wife says, "I don't think so, but I'm pretty sure my husband is."

The girl then asks, "Do you know his name?" My wife looks at her to see if she is serious. She is. "Yes, I do, actually. His name is Johnny," she answers.

The girl then asks, [and I am not making this up] "Are you his wife?" Again, my wife looks at her to see if she is serious. Again, the answer is yes, as a heart attack.

My wife replies jokingly, "No, I'm really his girlfriend, and I'm just pretending to be his wife in order to steal his free milk."

Nothing. The girl just stares at her in puzzled silence.

"Yes, I'm his wife," she finally says, not able to stand it any longer. The girl smiles, obviously relieved, and bags the milk.

It's that kind of place.

Last Saturday, as we're driving by good ol' S&E, I decide that I want to stop in and pick up a bag of flour to make some pizza. I walk in and realize I don't have any cash on me. I look at the counter, and praise-be-to-god, Steve & Edie's has entered the 20th century. Not the 21st mind you, but I'll take what I can get. A credit/debit card swiper has appeared. The cashier proudly informs me that I can now use my debit card. I grab my flour and some yeast, she rings them up, then takes my card and swipes it.

Beep, Beep, Squonk.

She swipes it again.

Beep, Beep, Squonk.

She swipes it once more. Same thing. She looks at me like I'm trying to pass a counterfeit fifty, and asks me if I have a different card, because "this one isn't reading correctly."

First day with the new machine. Sweet Jesus, I am so screwed.

I give her another card, knowing the outcome before she even tries it. I knew that sound. That was the sound of busticated machinery. Either that, or something isn't set up right. She tries the card, and gets the same series of noises.

I ask her if it's connected via satellite or modem. She looks at me like I just asked her to name the capital of Uzbekistan. I can't imagine that it's satellite, since there's no new dish on the roof.

I ask her if it uses the phone line. She says she doesn't know, but she can tell me that the little light on the phone lights up when this thing is first turned on.

Good enough for me.

I tell her that there's probably no dial tone, so it can't connect and send the card information. She looks at me skeptically, picks up the phone and listens. Then she yells toward the back room, "Maureen! Are you on the phone?" Maureen yells back that no, she ain't.

I ask her what she hears. She says she hears nothing. I ask her if I can take a look. She says sure, go ahead.

I'm deeply and seriously committed to my flour at this point. I will not leave this store without it, even if I have to tuck it under my arm like a football and leap head-first out the side window.

While all this is happening, customers are piling up. There are three irritated gentlemen behind me, all Carhartt and Marlboro box, and my wife is still waiting in the car. It's been about 15 minutes so far. I know that she cannot possibly be happy. I keep expecting to hear the car start up and pull away.

I find myself on my hands and knees behind the counter, tracing through what looks like about a dozen ancient telephone lines, none of which appears to be connected to anything. I immediately rule out the old dusty 4 pronger, and concentrate on the RJ-11 connectors. I plug one into the back of the card reader, pick up the receiver and listen. Nothing. I try the next one. Nothing. Third time is the charm, and I get a dial tone. Someone had plugged the wrong phone line into the card reader.

"OK, try it now," I tell her, standing up and brushing the accumulated crud off my jeans. She slides my card one more time, I hear the modem connect, I hear some squealing, and her face lights up. My sale went through. The people in line behind me applaud. (actually, I'm lying. They didn't really applaud. However, I'm pretty sure one of them muttered, "bout fuckin' time" under his breath, if that counts.)

I fully expect I'll see about 6 charges for it when I get my statement at month-end, but it's OK.

I have my flour. Pizza Will Be Made.

As I leave, I look at my watch. In and out in a little less than 20 minutes.

Believe me, you can't buy that kind of convenience at just any convenience store.

Beep, Beep, Squonk.

2/21/05

Lawyers, Guns & Money

So I'm doing my taxes, and as usual I'm getting completely screwed over by NY state. Somehow, this happens every year, no matter how much money I have them take out. I'm wracking my brain, sure that something is wrong. I owe them close to a grand. I had to have missed a deduction or three.

TurboTax helpfully offers to give me some examples of other deductible expenses as well as a list of things I should not deduct. I think, "OK, TurboTax, hit me with something I haven't thought of. Earn my $39.95 + electronic filing fee."

So I click the little 'See Examples' link, and here's what I get:



Apparenty, claiming the payout of illegal kickbacks as an expense is a big no-no. That shit will get you audited my friend.

So I'm wondering -- do crime bosses do their own taxes? Is that the issue here? Why not put 'drug mule expenses' or 'meth lab set-up costs' on the Do Not Include list?

I'm pretty sure that anyone who is actually paying out illegal kickbacks is 1) Not doing their own taxes, and 2) not going to claim them as deductible expenses.

The thing that scares me is that somehow, this has become an actual issue worth noting in their examples list. It means that somewhere along the line, someone called up Intuit's help desk and asked about it.

"Yeah, tech support? I was wonderin' if I can claim this 50 large I hadda pay to get this big construction contract. As an expense, like."

"So you're asking me if you should claim the payout of an illegal kickback as an expense?"

"Yeah."

"Well, Sir, I am not supposed to give tax advice to customers, but in my opinion, fuck no."

So has TurboTax lost their shit? Do I need to switch to TaxCut next year? They are good enough, they are smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like them. And I hear that they can put some pressure on the state if you cut them in on a little piece.

2/20/05

Crush my Grandma for $13,999.00

If you ever read comic books when you were a kid, you probably still remember when Superman proposed to Lois Lane. The first thing ol' Supes did was get her a ring. But it wasn't any ordinary ring, oh no -- not for the boy scout in the blue tights. To prove his undying love for her, he actually created his own big-ass diamond by crushing the living bejeezus out of a hunk of coal. In comic book land this resulted in a perfectly cut, precisely formed diamond, because as kids we all knew that diamonds are formed deep in the earth as a result of coal being pressurized, but also as kids we didn't know they actually had to be cut.

Well, guess what? I'm pretty sure Superman is holed up in the UK, because it turns out there's this company called LifeGems that will crush the crap out of your loved one and turn them into a diamond that you can wear forever. Well, technically they crush the crap out of your loved one's ashes, since they need the carbon to make the diamond.

The geek in me thinks this is pretty cool, but the rest of me (granted, there's not a whole lot left after you extract the geek) thinks it is Pretty Fucked Up.

I mean, what if your grandma was like mine? 4 feet 11 inches of bony-assed, tough as nails attitude? Not a lot of ashes there to compress, you might think. Turns out this isn't a problem. They can extract up to 100 diamonds from a single "average" individual, so she still should be good for at least a carat or two. And this shit is not cheap, either. I'm betting most people probably go with one or two stones, tops, and then get the rest of the ashes back in a LifeGems-branded doggy bag of some sort.

I find the whole concept extremely disturbing. My wife happens to like antique and vintage jewelry. With these things in circulation, buying antique rings and necklaces would be an entirely different process.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes, I'd like to see that setting in the third row, and that larger stone in the loose diamonds bin. The canary colored one to the far left."

"You mean Edna? She's been with us for quite some time. She'd look lovely in that platinum setting."


I mean, that's just weird.

You can also have anything you want written inside the diamond via some sort of laser ID process. So years from now, someone could pick up a really nice diamond ring in a antique store and unbeknownst to them, it could have a laser inscription that says something like, "On your finger lies squeezed Mabel, and her two cats, Sidney and Pookums." I'm not kidding about the cats either, because the other weird thing is that they will do this to your pets.

Once you had it appraised however, then you'd know. And if the Sales Consultant at the Macy's cosmetics counter happened to comment, an awkward conversation would be hard to avoid.

Sales consultant: "Oh, I just LOVE your ring! It's beautiful."

You: "Thanks so much. It's made from the cremated remains of some woman named Mabel that I never knew. Oh, and her two cats."

Sales consultant: [insert hurling sounds here]

Still, If you absolutely must do this to someone you love, I guess they are your go-to guys. It's weird, it's spooky, it's pretty strange. But I suppose it beats carrying around a vial of their blood on a necklace, like so much Billy Bob Thornton.

----------------------------------

Please note: If I should die before I wake, I do not want anyone to do this to me. I thought long and hard about it, and I'm pretty sure I would be totally weirded out in the afterlife. Plus, that jewelry cleaner stuff smells like cat piss.

2/18/05

Warning: Non-funny post

Someday, I'm going to host a fresh air kid. I think it's sad for a kid to grow up and never experience the wonders of the wilderness. I went to a concert in the city a few months ago with a buddy of mine, and the area was pretty run down. In between a couple of boarded up row houses, there was a small, fenced-in lot covered in scrub grass and broken glass. A few scraggly trees and some bushes were growing towards the back. My buddy looked at me and said, "That's the woods to some 8 year old who lives around here." That really struck a chord with me. I had woods to play in when I was growing up and I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Across the street from the house I grew up in, between the houses of two neighbors, there was a path that led to the woods. It was our path, and we took it for granted -- we knew it would always be there. After school, my brother and I would change out of our school clothes and go across the street to get Markie, and then go play in the woods. At the time, I don't think we really understood the concept of land ownership. The fact that this land actually belonged to someone never even crossed our minds. We were only 8 or 10 years old, after all. We figured it was someone else's only if it was fenced in and we couldn't get to it.

We built forts in the summer and went sleigh riding in the winter, and we shared our woods with the other kids in the neighborhood. We were the "little kids" of course, living in constant fear of the "big kids" who would sometimes chase us through the woods and then tree us like raccoons. The woods were simply a part of our lives, like school and home.

I remember when the trailers came, bringing string and sticks and orange vinyl ribbons. Just before dark every night, we pulled the sticks up -- we had seen them before and we were smart enough to know what they meant.

We hid them in the woods we knew like our own backyards; The woods we wanted to keep. We put them under an old piece of plywood behind The Big Hill. That's what we called it because that was its name -- we didn't really think about it. It wasn't really a hill, it was more of a sandpit - a trail up the back and a sandy, U-shaped cliff in the front. In the summer we jumped off it, hitting hard and rolling and getting sand in our sneakers and hair. We threw dirt bombs at each other, and sometimes had contests to see who could run up it the fastest.

Dave Cardella broke his leg there, and that brought the hill to the attention of our parents. For a while we weren't supposed to play there -- they said it was too dangerous. We went anyway, always remembering to empty our shoes before going home, but they always knew. In the winter, we skidded down it head first with plastic sleds under our bellies, trying to see how far we could go. The Big Hill belonged to us, too.

We collected the sticks for weeks, and brought them all to the same place. We got caught in the end. One of the surveyors got Markie, and Markie told him our names and where we lived. The surveyor had told him that we were all going to go to jail. Markie was younger and I think he really believed it.

We were punished of course, and spent the entire summer listening to the beep-beep-beeping of the bulldozers and dump trucks as they backed up. We could hear it happening, but we couldn't stop it. We sat by the curb on our side of the street, watching the trucks drive up and down the dirt road that used to be our path.

A part of us died that summer. Markie moved away, and we moved shortly after. Before Markie left, we went back in, walking along the ruts and tread marks that turned our path into something monstrous. We wanted to see, if somehow, any of our woods had been spared. The big oak that was growing on the edge of the field, the one that we climbed and carved our initials in. Our tree fort, which was nothing more than a platform where we sat and talked about stuff important to 10 year olds.

I remember a heavy feeling in my stomach that made me want to cry, and a feeling of disorientation. I remember thinking how strange it was that not one familiar landmark remained, and that I couldn't even picture where our tree used to be.

It was like our woods had never existed, except in our memories.

For the three of us, they exist there still.

2/17/05

So What's Up with the Pee Shiver?

The internet is a wonderful and horrible thing. Just about any question you have can be answered with a few clicks of a keyboard and mouse. Granted, you will almost definitely get conflicting information, and you are never are 100% certain that what you are reading is the truth, but the advice is usually pretty good once you learn to separate the obvious BS from the plausible.

For some reason, yesterday was the day that I decided to find out just exactly what has been going on in my body for approximately the last 30 years. Apparently, a large number of males get the pee shiver. Not every one of them, but a fairly sizable sample. If you don't know, a pee shiver is an involuntary shiver that runs through your entire body usually right at the end of a pee. It's like a body quake - some sort of urine-induced seismic event. You don't have any control over it and you aren't really cold, it just happens. Until yesterday, I had no idea why. For years I theorized. I drew diagrams. I conducted interviews with the best minds in the scientific community. All to no avail. The pee shiver remained a mystery.

My own personal theory had to do with a drop in body temperature due to losing that large, liquid heat sink. Plus, everyone knows you lose something like 80% of your body heat through your head, and I figured just the act of hanging it out there could drop your core body temperature like 10 degrees, minimum.

So long story short, I never even thought to look it up. I was happy with my hypothesis, and it wasn't really a topic that came up in casual conversation on a regular basis. I didn't have to worry that someone would come up to me at a party and say, "That taco dip is great, isn't it? So. What's up with the pee shiver?" and then think I was ignorant when I had no good answer for them.

I resolved to get to the bottom of this mystery. I got back to my desk, and I didn't want to use my work PC to look up "pee shiver" on google (spies are everywhere) so I dropped myself an email to my home address to remind me to do the research when I got home, which I did.

Are you ready?

Nobody has ever studied it.

There are some theories, yes. But nobody has ever conducted an actual scientific study. Amazingly enough, the pee shiver -- this mystery that transcends time and space -- is not considered important enough to warrant an actual scientist doing any actual research.

So basically what I'm saying here is that my hypothesis holds as much water (so to speak) as anyone else's. If you're curious, here's the most plausible explanation I could find*:

The autonomic nervous system controls the body's involuntary muscles, including the digestive tract, heart, and bladder muscles. It also regulates your body's temperature control, making you sweat to cool off and shiver to warm up.

During urination, the autonomic system can get overstimulated. "In addition to the messages the system is sending to your bladder, it may also communicate with other areas," Cross notes. Hence the shiver. 
This phenomenon can be a real health problem for some men: They can pass out at the urinal when their autonomic system cues a drop in blood pressure!

I can tell you this. I would not want to be the poor bastard that passes out in front of the urinal in our men's room. He would have to burn his clothes. Plus, people would be stepping over him to relieve themselves, because it's every man for himself in there. Nobody is about to spend any extra time in that hell hole just to pick up some pee-covered unconscious guy with his crank hanging out and drag him out of the way. Trust me, he will be peed over.

Something else just occurred to me. That new guy, the one who pisses with his legs spread and both hands placed high on the wall like he's being busted for possession? He might do that because he has really bad pee shivers, and he's afraid of passing out.

I won't judge him. I won't pee next to him, but I won't judge him.


* With a single Google search. In five minutes.

2/15/05

I Did Not Sign Up For This

Note: For those of you who know me personally, think of this blog entry as being written by someone else. We'll all be better off.

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When I got rid of my stupid “whole life” insurance policy, and switched to a term life policy, I decided it was time to start getting an annual physical. Way back in June, I scheduled one for some time in November. The doc's office called me in early November and cancelled it on me, because it turned out the doc wasn’t going to be in the office that day after all. The only time they could reschedule it for was Feb 14, the National Day of Love. I accepted it, thinking that it would get me out of work on time, and it would allow me to swing by the drugstore and pick out a nice card, assuming that I was going to procrastinate the way that I usually do with holidays of every sort.

That was then. This is yesterday.

So I get to the doctors office, and the nice lady weighs me, takes my temperature, checks my blood pressure, makes me pee in a cup, sucks a couple vials of blood out of my arm and brings me to an examination room to wait for the doctor. She tells me to strip down and put on the examination gown, with the opening to the back, please.

I look where she’s pointing, and all I see is something that looks like a disposable paper tablecloth at an all-you-can-eat lobster shack.

I ask her if that was the “gown” and she says yes, everything is disposable now. I joke that maybe after my examination is over, I can take it with me to clean my car windows, but she is all business. "Just unfold it and put it on," she repeats, and then leaves the room.

"OK," I think. "How hard can this be?"

Well, it turns out that it is harder than I thought. I get undressed and pick up the tablecloth. I unfold it, put it on, and it looks like this:

Clearly, something is wrong. I take it off again, and figure out that it is so thin, I hadn’t unfolded it all the way. I finally get it on the right way, and I look like I am wearing a sandwich board on a NYC street corner, except that the front of the sign is blank, and the back of the sign is my ass.

I sit down in the chair to await the arrival of my doctor. The moment I sit, the paper gown splits from my knee to my crotch, and now it’s covering nothing at all, front or back. I am about a second away from just wadding the whole piece of shit up and sitting there in my undies, but no, the nurse said to wear the gown, so I am going to wear it, goddammit. A few minutes later, the doctor walks in, shakes my hand, and starts laughing because this paper gown is just hanging completely off me. I say, “Yeah, I know. I’m a slut.”

He has a folder as thick a telephone book, and it turns out it’s my complete medical history according to every doctor I’ve ever seen in my entire life. He starts going over it, item by item. After about 20 minutes of this, he whips out the stethoscope, listens all around, and then tests the reflexes. He asks me to lie down on my back on the examination table, so I comply. He then does all the other doctor-like things: pushes on the stomach, looks at the feet, throat, teeth, fingernails -- basically the same things you would do to evaluate some sort of livestock you were going to buy.

I sit up, and he says, “OK, lets check for hernias and what not.”

Be warned. It’s the “what not” part of that sentence you want to watch out for.

I do the turn-the-head-and-cough thing, which is a little awkward and uncomfortable, but expected. I mean, every guy who ever went to public school had to do this bit for gym class pretty much every year, at least where I went to school. On the other hand, we never actually had to get a permission slip or anything, so it quite possibly could have been one of the gym teacher’s pedophile drinking buddies dressed up in a white lab coat and stethoscope. We’ll never know for sure, so it’s best not to dwell on these things.

Now -- my doctor knows I’m into building furniture, and one of his hobbies is also restoring antiques and doing a fair amount of woodworking, so he’s talking about ways to refinish a table, what finish to use on it, whether to spray or brush, etc. etc. All this time, he’s talking, I’m answering, he’s doing his examination, and all is well. The conversation is bouncing around pretty neatly between woodworking topics and medical topics, and I’m only half paying attention, because I really don’t like to talk about woodworking unless it has something to do with chair-making, which is a pretty specialized form of furniture making.

I'm also not talking much because he’s digging around in my crotch area, and if you’ve ever tried to hold a normal conversation with someone you barely know while they are rolling your left testicle around between their fingers like they are testing a plum for ripeness, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

So I hear him say something about being almost done, then hear him say something that ends in “…start my screening a little earlier than most doctors.” Then he jumps back to some furniture-related topic, but interspersed in the conversation is something else that sounds suspiciously like “...and put your elbows on the table.”

That part catches my ear, so I start paying closer attention. I realize that he's got a tube of something, a fresh pair of latex gloves, and he’s got the jellyfinger. He's motioning for me to turn around.

I did not sign up for this.

Now he’s telling me to take a deep breath, and at the same time, talking about his oldest son who is a ski-racer. Trust me. Right then, I did not give the tiniest flying fuck about his kid, his family, his furniture restoration business, his experiences spraying shellac or his boyhood in Vermont – none of it.

My single, all-encompassing thought was:

When you shook his hand, were his fingers big or small? Dammit man, THINK!

I am violated.

He’s STILL talking to me, telling me about how I have to get my wife back on skis, and how it’s a great winter sport, blah, blah, blah, all the while I’m getting probed and prodded. I’m completely amazed. I’m sure he does this every day, but I certainly don’t. This is my first time, and I’m already pretty sure I would prefer respectful silence, or at least some soft music and candles. It’s literally like he’s conversing with someone in the cafeteria, or in line at the bank.

I’m answering him the same way you would talk to a casual acquaintance that you don’t really like if you happened to run into them in the grocery store -- you do the standard thing and feign polite interest while you plan your escape.

“Yeah….Right…..Gotcha……Uh huh. Know what you mean…Yeah, no kidding.”

I cover them all. The only part of that standard conversation that I couldn’t use was the kicker -- the part that goes, “Hey, It was really good seeing you! I gotta run.”

As conversation closers go, that part is usually way more effective if the person you are talking to doesn’t have their finger jammed in your ass up to their last knuckle. Just so you know in case it ever comes up in the grocery store.

So it’s all over, and he still wants to talk furniture. I’ve got a really bad case of jelly ass, so I’m not interested. I’m nodding, not talking much. Finally he takes the hint, leaves and lets me get dressed.

I pay my bill, and get the hell out of Dodge. I stop at the drugstore on the way home and pick up a Valentine’s day card for my lovely wife. I hadn’t procrastinated as badly as I had feared, since I did manage to pick up her gift the week before.

When I get home, we have a nice dinner, drink some good wine, exchange gifts and then watch a little TV. By that time, it is close to 11:00, and I have to get up at 4:30 for work. Contrary to our romantic plans, we both fall asleep.

It wasn’t until I got thinking about it today that I realized that I got more action at the doctor’s office on my way home from work than I did last night. It was truly a Valentine's Day to remember.

Or forget.

Yeah. That's the one.

2/13/05

A Pirate Story by Dan (and Johnny)




Once upon a time, there was a pirate ship that was inexplicably full of holes.



On this ship were three pirates, one with a tall electric-blue pimp hat, one sitting in a salad bowl fastened to the highest flag, and one with a black cookie sheet nailed to his head. There were no sails. There were, however, three flags, each one sporting the image of a bowling ball with 4 small hearts attached. The pirates were all on the same bowling team, you see, and they were sailing to a far away bowling alley to win a treasure in a tournament.



The captain of the pirate bowling team, upon spotting the official bowling ball tree, changed into his brown bowling shirt and had some guy in a two-tailed Daniel Boone hat row the top half of his torso to land, using only a gigantic granite boulder and a baseball bat.

Once on land, the captain didn't see a bowling alley.



All he found were dashed lines in the sand that led him directly to a giant X. Totally bummed, he changed back into his electric-blue pimp hat and pink shirt, you know, to cheer himself up. This was no bowling alley, but he was a pirate captain as well as a bowling team captain, and he knew what you were supposed to do when you saw an X in the sand. He wasn't sure exactly how he was going to use his wind sock as a shovel, but he was going to try. He had to hurry, because he was being chased by some black dashed lines -- and they were closing in fast!



He dug and dug with the wind sock, and eventually he uncovered a brown rectangular thing with a green stripe. Thinking quickly, he killed the other members of his bowling team, so that he could have the treasure all to himself. To throw the coppers off his trail, he changed into his electric blue pimp shirt, because he knew if there were any witnesses, the cops would be looking for a pink pirate pimp. He hauled the brown rectangular thing with the green stripe onto a completely different boat with way less holes. Awesome. Less holes.

In honor of his crewmates' valiant struggle and ultimately grisly death, he poured some malt liquor onto the sand, spray-painted two of the flags black, and had two tears tattooed under his left eye, one for each dead crewmate.

Then the pimp pirate captain sailed home and shared his rectangular thing with the green stripe with all his bitches. When they asked him where he got da Bling, he lied, and told them that he won it at a bowling tournament.



The end.

For the original version, click here.

(Thanks, Carly -- you're a good sport!)

2/11/05

IM an idiot.

We use instant messaging quite a bit at work, and it really does save a lot of time. You can get questions answered quickly when you're on the phone, and it is really handy for those important 'back channel' conversations while stuck in long conference calls. Here's an example. A year or so ago, a friend of mine and I were in the same meeting. The Project Manager was an idiot. We were expounding on that fact. It went something like this:

My Friend: "If this dickhead says 'synergy' or 'drill down' one more time, I'm going to break my pencil off in his neck."

Me: "Yeah, I hear ya. What makes it worse is that he doesn't know what 'synergy' means. He keeps talking about it like it's a bad thing."

My Friend: "I dare you to talk like Smoove B."

Me: "Don't dare me. I'll do it."

My Friend: "I dare you."

Me, talking out loud like Smoove B: "We will have 2 servers -- one at each location. There will also be redundancy."

[Then we both hit our mute buttons instantly, so we could laugh silently until tears ran down our faces. Yeah. We're professionals.]

My point here is that due to this multitasking, you may have several windows up on the screen at any given time. You could be IM-ing three different people, while simultaneously writing an e-mail and participating in a conference call. Additionally, you're usually having vastly different conversations in each. You are multi-tasking your ass off, and one slip can cause you to type something into the wrong window. Let me give you another example.

Please note that under no circumstances did this happen to me yesterday.

In one window you could be, say, talking to an upper-management type about encrypted SMTP routing, and whether the ASP you are outsourcing to expects a secure connection for X12 application messages.

In another window you can be talking to a coworker about his new 55” HDTV.

The conversation could possibly unfold thusly:

Upper-Management Type to Not Me: “So what you’re saying is the application is currently generating mail messages that are sent via SMTP, but they’re not encrypted because they never leave the network.”

Not Me to Upper-Management Type: “Yes, exactly. We have a forced route from the gateway that will conditionally deliver the message directly to their Exchange server when it sees something come in from that domain.”

Co-worker to Not Me, in another window: “I just bought this TV."

Upper-Management Type to Not Me: "So did Tony's network diagram look accurate to you?"

Not Me, replying to Co-worker, but inadvertently typing in window belonging to Upper-Management Type: "DUDE! That thing is fucking AWESOME!"

Upper-Management Type to Not Me: Um, OK.

[conversation ends]

So you can see where things can get confusing. If you're a moron.

Hook your horse to the Bitchin' Post.

I'm glad yesterday finally ended. It wasn't a fun day. It started with just trying to get to work. We got 5 or 6 inches of heavy, wet snow, and I was amazed our power wasn't out. The wires and trees were hanging heavy with it.

I leave for work at 5am, so it's still completely dark. I get the snow blower running, and commenced the Blowing Of The Snow. I have a pretty long gravel driveway, probably 120 feet long, and so I didn't see the tree right away. Turns out, a birch tree about 5" in diameter fell from the weight of the snow, and dropped directly across the driveway.

Dammit.

I tried to move it -- it wasn't that big, but it was still connected to the 3 feet of the trunk sticking out of the ground, so no dice. So back into the house I go, to get the bow saw. I figured that starting up the chainsaw at 5am might not please my neighbors, and even though I was already using the snow blower, I didn’t want make them hate me any more than necessary.

On my way out, I use the side door. Since I'm not coming back in that way, I lock it before I close it. My glove has a stupid nylon drawstring with a plastic clip on the end. Of course, I manage to slam this in the door.

Dammit.

I leave the glove dangling, and go around to the front door, clomp through the house, re-open the door I just closed, and retrieve my glove.

It’s definitely one of those mornings. I saw through the trunk of the tree, move it, and continue cleaning the driveway. Next thing I know, I’m pulling the “go forward and do damage” handle, but the snow blower has decided that it no longer wants to go anywhere at all. There is a suspicious lack of tension on the transmission mechanism. I look down, and the cable connected to the handle, the one that is also supposed to be connected to the bottom of the snow blower, is just hanging there in the snow.

Son of a BITCH.

Luckily, I find the bolt still connected to the cable, and manage to screw it back on.

I also manage to avoid tossing any gravel or stones through my car or house windows, but I do a great job of getting some of the smaller branches of the birch tree tangled in the blower mechanism, so that’s fun. I don’t want to stick my hand in there while the motor is running, but if I turn the motor off, the headlight goes out. So I do the in-between thing and use the little plastic shovel tool to dig around in there until I get it loose.

Finally done, I go back inside, set the coffee to brewing, grab a quick shower, throw on my work clothes and get back in the car. When I get to the end of the driveway, there’s a 4 foot high bank of snow that the plow guy thoughtfully deposited while I was getting ready.

FUCK.

Back to the house.

Back to the garage.

Back to the snow blower.

Back to the house to change into dry clothes.

Back to the car.

Finally. I’m off to work.

No power when I get home, though. I surrendered, started a fire in the woodstove and went to bed. Finally came back on about 3 in the morning. Gotta love living in the boonies…..

I figured today had to be better.

2/9/05

A new one on me....almost.

I drive on the highway 2 hours a day. I know from littering slobs. I've seen almost everything thrown out of car windows. Cans, bottles, McDonald's bags, coffee cups (full and empty) and at least two times each day, I see my personal pet peeve, lit cigarette butts. This annoys me to no end. Number one, it's a disgusting habit, and number two, at least put the damn thing out on your tongue or something before tossing it out the window. That little glowing thing at the end is actually hot, assknob. When it comes in contact with other flammable stuff, it tends to set it to burning too. I'm going to get my lights punched out some day because I'm always laying on my horn and flipping people off when they do this, and they probably have no idea why. They do it out of habit, and don't even think about it. Once, I actually got out of my car at a redlight, picked up the cigarette the person in front of me tossed out the window, brought it back to their car and said, "Hey, you dropped this" and handed it back to them like it was a glove or a wallet or something. They enjoyed that. Seriously, I would support a law to make cops give out tickets for this.

OK, I know I went off on a tangent. I'm back now.

So basically, what I'm saying is, I haven't seen a lot of shit thrown out of people's windows.

You think that's a typo, but it's not.

On my way home from work today, I saw someone about 5 car-lengths in front of me roll down their window and let loose with...wait for it......a loaded diaper. I only know it was loaded because when it hit, it bounced a few times, then exploded like a short-fuse poop grenade. I watched it tumble to the side of I-87, then goosed my car to pull up even with them, and sat there until they noticed me. I just stared over at them with a disgusted look on my face. (OK, I admit I also mouthed* the words "fucking slob," but I'm sure he probably didn't pick up on that unless he was either (a) a lip reader, or (b) really, really used to people calling him that.) The guy looks at me and holds his nose, as if that makes it ok to toss a half-pound of fresh baby shit out of a moving car during rush hour.

I don't have any kids, so I really don't know the relative levels of olfactory foulness that baby poop can attain, but from what I hear it can be pretty bad. That fact notwithstanding, I have some advice for him, on the extremely off chance he's reading this post:

Dear Poop Flinger:

Next time Bubba Junior drops a freshie in the car, follow these steps:

1. Pull over.
2. Trundle your fat ass the 4 steps necessary to reach the back of your piece-of-shit car.
3. Undo the Bungie cord holding your trunk closed.
4. Drop the diaper between the bumper jack and that Hefty bag full of empty Coors Light cans.
5. Re-Bungie.
6. When you get back to the trailer, take it out and throw it in the fucking trash.

That way, it can be properly placed with the other 4,275,000 tons of disposable diapers that are trucked to landfills each year. That, my friends, is a lot of poop.

We really need to do something about this. I'm thinking corks.

*Am I the only one who does this? Why don't I actually use my voice when trying to communicate through 2 panes of safety glass and a 75mph wind? Instead, I move my mouth like some kind of idiot Marcel Marceau. Maybe it has something to do with making sure it's slow enough so the offending party has a better chance of lip reading it. I always thought a great idea would be a voice to text converter, and a programmable LED scrolling sign. Hit a button, say what you want, and it displays it on the passenger-side window.

2/8/05

Kitty Porn

After being away in Florida for two weeks, our three cats were incredibly happy to see us. Other than a quick check by some friends to make sure they still had food, they haven't seen a human in what I think must seem to them like 2 or 3 cat years. Our oldest cat, Ginger, a female, was especially glad to see us since she gets picked on mercilessly by the other two when we aren't around. She is squirrelly, skittish, and has what seems to be a permanently damaged personality. I think all of her problems date back to her kittenhood, or more specifically, back to the portion of her kittenhood spent with us.

She was a tiny Turkish Van. I know that sounds like a VW Bus full of hookahs, but it's not. She was barely eating solid kitten food, and we were hoping she wouldn't starve to death. We almost brought her back to the store. The first couple of nights, she cried incessantly on the floor next to the bed, because she was too small to climb or jump up. As a result, my wife would pick her up and place her on the bed, insisting that the cat sleep between us until she was old enough to be left outside the bedroom with the other cats. This was fine with me, as it shut both of them up and allowed me to get some much-needed sleep.

Somewhere around the third night, I was sleeping the sleep of the dead. Contrary to my expectations, I had gotten almost no sleep the previous two nights, since I kept worrying that I was going to roll over in my sleep and crush the life out of this new kitten. Plus, she purred like a 100hp Evinrude outboard. Even so, I was bone tired, and drifted off immediately.

On that night, a bad thing happened. Oh, not what you think. I didn't crush her. Well, physically anyway -- it's a distinct possibility that I may have crushed her emotionally.

My wife had also been having a hard time sleeping, and this night was no exception. She is normally a restless sleeper, and on this particular evening, the reason she couldn't sleep was because the kitten was purring too loudly, and I was apparently dreaming something that was causing me to chew gum in my sleep. I heard none of this -- I was out like a heavyweight boxer on the losing end of a Tyson roundhouse right. Comatose.

My wife kept poking me with her elbow, and telling me to stop, but I kept right on snapping my gum, refusing to wake up and roll over. Instead, I just went on blithely dreaming about bubble-gum and Britney Spears.

Actually, I am not sure exactly what I was dreaming about, but I distinctly remember when I was jolted fully awake. It was the exact moment that the kitten, apparently pissed because my output was wholly inadequate, clamped down hard on my left nipple. I sat straight up, with the kitten hanging off my chest, and screamed, "HEY! THE CAT IS SUCKING ON MY TIT!!" I frantically pawed at my chest until the cat fell off, and then examined my mutilated nipple. Slight abrasion, a few teeth marks, nothing to indicate permanent physical damage.

Emotional damage -- well, that remained to be seen.

My wife, doing her wifely duty, almost pissed herself laughing.

The first thing I did after the Unfortunate Incident was to get out of bed and put a T-shirt on. A really thick T-shirt. The second thing I did was tuck it into my underwear. The third thing I did was tell my wife that were definitely keeping this cat.

Neither one of us got much sleep that night. One of us would snicker, and then it would turn into a giggle-fest of immense proportions.

"......thought you..were chewing gum....."

"...bit me...wasn't...getting any...."

[five minutes of insane laughter]

"....can't believe you didn't wake up...."

"...nipple....still has teeth marks..."

[five more minutes of insane laughter]

I'd like to think I formed a permanent and lasting emotional bond with my cat that night. I'd like to think so, but I'd be wrong. In truth, it's more likely that I scarred her for life, and the memory of me screaming and tossing her off my chest will be with her forever. That probably explains why she runs away from me when I don't have a shirt on. I don't think she wants to do it anymore. It breaks my heart.

Still, it's good to be home.

2/7/05

Superbowl....that's football, right?

I'm not what you'd consider a sports fan. It's not that I don't like sports, it's just that I don't like watching people I don't know play sports on TV. There is truly nothing in the world more boring to me with the possible exception of browsing the bargain rack at JC Penney's with my wife.

I would gladly trade my 14 ESPN channels for one music video channel that actually played music videos. I would consider it a good trade even if all they played was Tony Basil's "Mickey Mickey" video over and over, 24 hours a day. I think I have inherited some anti-sports female recessive gene from my mother's side. I would say it was a gay gene from my great uncle, but he knows way more about sports than I do.

I don't watch baseball, golf, tennis, basketball, hockey, curling, football or any other sport on television, or in person. I know very little about any of these, and know less about the people that play them professionally. I am fine with that. I will admit that I actually understand the rules to baseball, tennis, golf and basketball. In fact, I've played baseball and golf with some measure of success, and tennis and basketball with almost none. On the curling thing, I might be able to fake it, but only if I were the guy with the broom. Hockey, well...I'm pretty sure all you have to be able to do is skate, have an above-average kidney punch, and hit people in the face with sticks.

When it comes to football, however, I am completely clueless. I've somehow managed to reach middle age without having the slightest idea what is going on. The announcers just confuse the hell out of me.

I flipped on the game tonight for a few seconds to see if I could catch some of the half-time show, but I guess I was too early or too late because it wasn't on. I stared at the screen for a while to see if I could figure out which one it was -- early or late -- but after about 30 seconds, I gave up. The announcer said something about New England having the most sacks. I'm not completely sure what he meant by that, but I think it has something to with how many times the quarterback had been hit in the crotch so far. Let me give you an example of the depth of my football knowledge.

Here is what I know: In football, unlike baseball, there is usually a set amount of time for each game. I only know this from waiting for pre-empted programs to come on after the game is over. I don't have to wait as long as I sometimes do for baseball, which can apparently go on forever in total disregard for any and all previously scheduled programming. I also know that there are two teams in each football game. I also know that the teams are usually different colors.

That's it.

So assume for a moment that I am sitting at home on a sunday, and I turn on the television. For some strange reason, as I'm flipping channels, I actually notice that there is a football game on.

I watch the screen carefully.

After a few minutes, I am able to discern that Team 1 consists of red guys, and Team 2 consists of blue guys. I watch the television for a few minutes more.

I see some guy in a striped shirt blow a whistle, and the red and blue guys stop trying to kill each other for a second, and line up facing each other. Then one guy screams some stuff, someone tries to throw a ball, and they attack each other again.

Strategically speaking, I can make more sense out of the battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies than I can about what is going on in a football game.

The worst thing about this is that I fall flat on my face in casual sports conversations. I started out attempting to learn just enough about any big game to be able to fake it for a few minutes, but that was too painful, so now I just admit my weakness. If someone says "Who do you like in the big game? The fortysixers or the bluewings?" I usually say, "Um, that's [football/baseball/basketball/curling], right?" Followed by a weak laugh. I've stopped getting invited to superbowl sunday and world series parties. I don't have any idea why people go mad in march, or exactly what it is they are mad for. I still get the occasional pity invite from my friend Troy, but he doesn't really understand the depth of my aversion.

Put it this way -- I actually hate the sound of sports announcers and crowds coming out of a TV. Any TV. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. When my personal television is the one in question, it's almost as if it's been defiled. After my Dad leaves my house on Thanksgiving, I feel compelled to get the Lysol out and scrub the sports residue off the screen.

On the other hand, I have much more free time than the average joe. I have time to read novels, make furniture, workout, go backpacking and screw around with things like these here blogs.

Anyway, whoever you rooted for, I hope you made big money on it, because that is the only reason I could think of to even care who wins.

Thinking about it now, I'm pretty sure my sports hormone deficiency is the major reason my wife married me. I'll have to bring that up someday when I'm bored out of my skull in JC Penny's. I'll let you know how it goes.

2/4/05

Oh, the Horror?

Christian Slater, Tara Reid, and the italian guy with no teeth at the fresh pasta store in West Palm Beach. What do all these people have in common you ask? They have all managed to scare me in one way or another today. Let's start at the end and work our way forward.

My wife's grandfather wanted to go get fresh raviolis for dinner tomorrow night, so we drove him over to this little italian hole in the wall to have it made. The place is the size of my cubicle at work, and had roughly the same level of cleanliness, only, you know, without the cheetoh dust ground into the rug. We walk in, and there's a pleasant looking young woman working the big pasta machines. She's making spaghetti, and it's coming out of the machine and mostly falling into a five gallon plastic pail. When it's done, she takes it up and starts combing it with her hands -- rather an interesting process, really -- and pretty soon it's hanging in a very neat bundle.

I notice that the last 5 inches of it also happens to be hanging on the floor, next to her sneaker. She sees it too, and those strands don't make it to the table. So I'm thinking, OK, maybe this place isn't so bad. Then her mom comes out from the back, and greets us with a big smile and an italian word that sounds like that brand of frozen pizza that nobody really thinks tastes like delivery except for the people on the commercial and the people in prison for life.

It's right about then that I realize that the health requirements for food related businesses on the Florida coast must be much more relaxed than they are in New York. Nobody in the place is wearing the gloves or hairnets. Now, I know that those are really just there to preserve the illusion of cleanliness, and that it's just as easy and convenient to scratch your ass with a glove on as not -- probably more so -- but let me live the lie, will you?

She and my wife's grandfather converse in italian for a few minutes, and apparently whatever it is that they talked about shouldn't take more than ten minutes, and the only reason I know that is because she said the "ten minutes" part in english. Before that, they could have been talking about ravioli, or she could have been inviting him to partake of a lap dance, I have no idea. But since he didn't follow her into the back room, and no phone numbers or cash were exchanged, I'm pretty sure it was about the ravioli.

So we hang out for a while, and I continue to watch the pasta being made. The pasta girl switches the nozzle on the machine, and sets up a wooden frame with a screen stapled to it directly below the nozzle. The machine starts making cavatellis, which look like small, tight shells up close, but look like albino deer shit when they're being squeezed out of a 3 inch nozzle ten at a time across the room. They're hitting the screen, and most of them are staying on. To her credit, the ones that bounce onto the floor go in the garbage. I'm pretty sure it was only because I was watching, but again, I like to preserve the illusion. The mom comes out again with all the raviolis on a screen in a big pile. She leaves them on the work table, and returns to the back room.

Shortly thereafter, the proprietor came out. He was a small, balding italian gentleman with a gigantic nose and huge ears, and a major crop of wild hair residing in each. He gives us a big smile, and I notice the man is not sporting the center teeth on top or bottom. I also notice that he's not wearing the expected gloves either. He DiJournos us as well, and in the time it takes to cross from the back room door to the tray of raviolis, literally a distance of about 12 feet, he manages to (a) rub his nose, (b) stick his pinky finger into his hairy ear and wiggle it around a bit, and (c) cough into his hands at least twice, and (d) scrounge around in his crotch for some reason. (thankfully, from the outside of his pants.)

He then proceeds to flour up, and start stacking our ravioli into a nice cardboard box, handling every single one in the process. And nobody but me appears to have any problem with this. It must be an Old Europe thing, like how it's ok for everyone in church to slurp wine out of the same chalice, or for the french to not bathe and just cover up the stink with expensive perfume. I know it won't kill me, and I know I've eaten much worse stuff while backpacking, or even visiting the local McDonalds, but I've never actually had to WATCH the high school student spit on my fish filet.

In retrospect, I guess it's a step up from the flaming transvestite at my local pizza place back home. He doesn't wear gloves either, and you really have to wonder where his hands have been. But you're way better off if you don't.

So that was Horror Number One. Not really horrible, but still, kinda gross.

Later that night, my wife and her grandmother wanted to see "The Phantom of the Opera." I really couldn't take that much singing and dancing while I'm stone sober, so I opted for the only other movie that was playing at the same time, "Alone in the Dark." This was Horror Number Two.

This movie scared the shit out of me. It was so incredibly bad, I was scared for the future of the entire horror film genre. It scared me that it was even made. This total hunk of flaming crap movie has really just solidified a few things in my mind. One, Tara Reid is looking like ten miles of bad road. Two, her acting abilities make Christian Slater look like Marlon Brando. At one point, I would swear on a stack of bibles that she was reading a teleprompter. She sounded more woodenly fake than Carmen Electra presenting at an awards show. Three, this movie really shows how far Christian Slater and Tara Reid have fallen. The entire movie just reeked of quiet desperation. I was embarrassed and saddened for both of them.

So save your money. I mean it. Don't even rent the DVD. I didn't go in expecting much, and I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to B horror flicks -- I love them. But I probably wouldn't watch this movie again unless the entire point of doing so was to get ridiculously drunk and make merciless fun of it. You do get to see Christian and Tara roll around in bed for about 15 seconds, and apparently Christian Slater has sex with his Calvin Klein navy blue briefs on, because they are clearly visible in the shot. Either that, or it was a blooper. Given the utterly fantastic cinematography in this movie, which is more likely? I'm not really sure. He always struck me as a weird dude.

2/2/05

On the Lighter Side

I've been told my posts are too long to read. Well, here's a short one for all you MTV Gen-X, ADD-afflicted bastards.

I have a two-way pager that pushes down news, stocks, sports, entertainment and other assorted snippets. One of these snippets is called "On the Lighter Side" and it normally consists of stupid/amusing news stories about burglars getting caught because they fall asleep in the house they rob, or the bank robber who writes the money note on one of his own deposit slips, or in the excitement, pulls his finger-gun out of his pocket by mistake -- you know the kind of thing I'm talking about.

Every once in a while, I find myself wondering who the hell picks these stories. About a week or so ago, I read this:

On The Lighter Side:
A Romanian man had his testicles ripped off by his wife after she accused him of having an affair.Fifty-year-old Aurica Marinescu from Constanta managed to call an ambulance before he passed out. Doctors at a local hospital managed to re-attach his scrotum after a ten hour operation. He said: "We were at home when we started to fight over a so-called relationship I had with another woman. She got so angry that she grabbed my scrotum and ripped it off. "I wouldn't have said she was a strong woman but she was furious and she seemed to have superhuman strength in her anger. The pain was incredible. "

First of all, yeah, no shit. I'll bet the pain was incredible. Just thinking about it makes my testicles want to crawl back up into my belly in some sort of primal, fear-induced retreat. In fact, I normally have to whisper phrases like "testicles ripped off" in order to avoid alarming them unneccesarily.

Secondly, I keep wondering why the hell his scrotum was right out there within easy grabbing/ripping reach. If I'm going to start up some sort of "other woman" conversation with my wife, and I think there might be even the slightest, remote chance that any measure of scrotum ripping is going to happen, you can bet that I will be fully clothed, and have at least a table between us.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I didn't see anything "Light" about this story. It still makes me cringe when I think about it.

I can only assume that the person they have in charge of picking these stories is a man-hating, militant lesbian feminist of some sort. Or maybe not. There's always the possibility that she just thinks castrated Romanians* are funny as hell. Who's to say?


(*Note: Romanians are not enemies of the Federation. You're thinking of Romulans.)

2/1/05

Brain Slugs from Outer Space

This week we’re visiting the grandparents in West Palm Beach. The condo they live in has a rule that says if you’re not over 55, you can’t live here. Seriously. Even if you inherit the place you have to wait. Most of the current residents beat this limit handily.

There’s a dude here who is 92 years old – just last week he passed his driving test. They make him take it every year now. I’ve driven with this man before. He has glasses an inch thick, and has zero peripheral vision. To look left or right, he has to turn his head a full 90 degrees. He is also Very Italian, which means two things: He talks with his hands, and he has to have eye contact with you while he's talking. But the rear-view mirror doesn't cut it. No eye contact by proxy -- it has to be the real deal. This guy will sometimes forget that he's driving, and turn around and look directly at you while he's speaking.

It is slightly unnerving to say the least. He brought us to the airport once, and we ended up going the wrong way down a one-way road. Luckily it was 6 am and there was only the one tractor trailer coming the other way. I believe I actually screamed “HOLYSHITTHERESAFUCKINGTRUCKCOMINGDIRECTLYATUS!!"
in a car full of old people. I now know first-hand that there is at least one other way besides a "Grande" Starbucks triple-shot espresso to go from half-asleep to wildy, heart-poundingly awake in a matter of seconds.

Normally, (traffic near-misses aside) things move a little slower here. We were in line in CVS today behind a guy who was paying for his entire 34 dollar purchase in quarters. These babies weren’t wrapped, either. I think he had brought them to the store in a sock. Then he didn’t believe the clerk charged him correctly for his purchases, so he had to stand there and go over it with her for an additional five minutes. I know what you're thinking, but this was not your classic crazy homeless person. He was well-dressed, in that singular West Palm Beach old-guy way -- you know, bright pastel polyesters, white belt, no socks, loafers -- although he did have his pants pulled up somewhere north of his armpits, so there was something going on there.

Sometimes I think old folks do stuff like this for laughs. They have nothing else to do, so they jump in their cars at 7 am, run around on the roads going 34 in the fast lane...or they'll do things like head to the drugstore to buy 50-dollar electric razors with their sock change. Then they go back to their old-guy club houses and compare notes with their friends over a mint julep.

I was waiting in the car at another store and a little old lady squeezed her gigantic Cadillac into the tiny spot next to me. She pulled in at full speed, missed my car door by about a millimeter, slammed on the brakes and came to a stop about an inch from the car parked in the spot in front of her. She took a swig of her big gulp, slapped The Club on the wheel, opened her door into the side of the truck parked next to her, jumped down off her telephone book and tottered away. Amazing.

Shopping down here is an experience, especially if Spanish or Haitian aren’t in your official list of languages that you understand fluently. The entire area is pretty surreal. I never saw so many high-rise condos, tin-roof shacks, and multi-million dollar homes so close to each other. There must be 5 pawnshops within a 6 block radius. I suppose when you have that many expensive residences nearby, it's convenient to have an extra-quick place to fence the goods. That way you don't have to carry them so far.

It seems like I never get any sleep while we’re here. We’re sleeping on a pull out sofa bed that is about two inches shorter than I am, and the condo is about a block from the railroad tracks. Starting at about 11pm, a train goes by every hour on the hour all night long. That sounds bad enough, but the streets are arranged like this:



There’s some crazy law here that says the engineer has to blow the train whistle and ring the train bell at EVERY SINGLE FUCKING INTERSECTION. There's about 30 blocks of this, so the clatter starts to fade in slowly, then the horns and the bells start. These get progressively louder, until they seem like they are actually in the room with you, then they fade out again in reverse order. This whole sequence takes about 3 to 7 minutes, depending on how long the damn train is. And because of this, you can't sleep with the windows open. I do not understand why they have the windows OPEN when it's hotter than hell outside, but then close the windows when it finally starts to cool off. And they refuse to turn on the air conditioning under ANY circumstances. It's like a badge of honor or something. Of course, the old folks all take their hearing aids out at 8pm, so they’re good to go.

Speaking of that, after about 3 days of the TV being THIS GODDAMNED LOUD ALL THE TIME, EVERY SECOND OF EVERY GODDAMNED DAY you start go to a little nuts.

I was reading a newspaper article this afternoon about what types of interrogation techniques should be considered "torture." They were talking about a technique that uses sensory overload to break you down and make you spill your guts. The CIA uses sleep deprivation, alternating temperatures, extremely loud noises and bright colors, all bombarding you at the same time in order to weaken your resolve and make you talk. This is apparently not suitable treatment for scumbags who have actually tried to kill our soldiers.

I realized as I was reading the article that sleeping on this sofa bed in the heat and humidity, listening to incessant train whistles combined with Wheel of Fortune cranked at insane decibel levels is eerily similar. The only thing preventing me from spouting fictional military secrets is that the food here is way better.

I actually went to the drugstore today to buy some ear plugs. The only kind they had were the silicone blobs that you use to plug up all available surfaces in your ear, thus blocking out everything – noise, air, water, you name it. The only problem is that they feel really, really disgusting, kind of like you have a cold tongue in each ear. And they stick to your pillow, and your hair. But they allow me to at least get some sleep, although I do keep having weird dreams about brain slugs from outer space. I’m not sure why.