12/29/09

Balls.

I am typing this on one of my two favorite Christmas presents. I've been saving for one of these for over a year, and my wife's christmas gift was the difference between what I had and what I needed. So yeah, I'm a Mac now. As least as far as my portability goes. I'm still a PC in most other aspects of my life, like at work and when I have to sit down and pay bills. So far I'm digging it, other than some weirdness with the keyboard layout (Apple thinks DEL is Backspace) and some flakey wireless connectivity I'm still trying to iron out.

Anyway, I love it so far.

Of course the day after Christmas, we were driving around in Wilkes-Barre and the A/C compressor seized up, and the only place open on a late Saturday afternoon the day after Christmas was a Sears Auto Center, so I brought the car over. The guys there were great -- even though they couldn't fix it, we poked around for about an hour and determined exactly what the problem was. I tipped them $20, then snipped a wire that kept the clutch from engaging, and that let us get home.

Yesterday I spent most of the day sitting around waiting for the garage to call me. The definition of "extra money" is "what you have right before shit breaks." I really wish it could have happened last month instead, but if it had, I probably wouldn't have a new computer right now, so I guess it was in the cards.

Current estimate is approximately $800-900 bucks, and unfortunately it's not as easy as saying "It's winter, who needs air conditioning?" and simply forgetting about it until June, because apparently when the bearings in the compressor clutch go south and the car is making a noise like a 55 gallon drum full of marbles being pushed down a cobblestone road, it also tends to get extremely hot. Not only does this spell almost certain death for the fan belt, it also has the unfortunate side effect of making the heater smell like BO and burning hair, which is no good for anyone. At least the quick fix at the Sears store let us drive home without being forced to smell burnt armpit the entire way.

My second coolest present was a set of BuckyBalls. I received them from my good friends who always get me something either funny and useless or cool and useless every year. If you've never seen BuckyBalls, (which I never had until I received them), check out this video:


Awesome right? So I immediately opened the package and placed the perfect cube on my desk:


After about an hour, I was a master at this. I could do exactly none of the things in that video, and I couldn't even get it back into the little cube it came in. I was going to shoot a video similar to the one above to show off my prowess, but I didn't have time. Instead, I give you the "after" picture:


Once I got done picking the tools out of it, I promptly lost one ball somehow. I have no idea where it is, or what it's currently stuck to, but it seems to have simply disappeared into whatever alternate universe buckyballs come from. Since you can't make the cube without all 216, I decided to write to the company and ask about getting one ball replaced. Here's their reply:

From: Buckyballs [mailto:getbuckyballs@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 10:53 AM
To: johnny virgil
Subject: Re: You've probably been asked this a million times..

Johnny,

We're so happy to hear that you've had such a great time playing with our balls. What a bummer you're missing some... lost balls are no fun. We do have great news for you though, you can
click here to purchase a set of 10 replacement balls so you'll never have to worry about missing balls again. In the meantime, enjoy playing with the balls you do have.

Thanks!

Bb

So I officially love this company and you'll all be happy to know that my new balls are on order.

On a completely unrelated topic - it's apparently newsworthy that Rosie O'Donnell has a new "partner." Unfortunately, this has caused her to be in my face more than usual, which is not a pleasant state of affairs for me. But since I notice things, being forced to stare at her horrific visage every time I turn on the TV or open a news site has brought something to mind: Is it just me, or does her smile make her look like she's trying to gnaw a tough piece of gristle off an antelope haunch?




Gah. That's just scary, if you ask me. It could be from too much botox, I'm not sure. What I do know is that I can almost hear her low growl from here.

I hope everyone has a great new year, and had a fantastic NYE. Ours was pretty mild, other than the scalpings. We had dinner with friends, drank a bunch of sake, watched Inglorious Basterds, paused the movie mid-scalp at 11:55, popped a bottle of champagne, watched the ball drop, had a short toast and went back to the movie. Good times.


12/24/09

Pay Etenchen!

This post will be multi-faceted. (I originally mistyped that as mulit-faceted, but that's an entirely different thing.) As you guys know, I have been writing this blog for quite a while, and I've been writing in general since before the internet was even a gleam in Al Gore's eye. I dug around a little and found this incredible story my mother had tucked away from when I was 7 years old (click to make bigger):



If you look closely, you'll see I made a "mestake" with my paragraph spacing, but all in all, a riveting piece of fiction, wouldn't you agree? And it was fiction too, as you can probably tell by the teacher's added note.

I also found this finely wrought winter scene among the stories:



It's clear that at some point in my young life I stumbled on naked blue aliens making metallic snowmen somewhere close to my house, and subsequently repressed that memory.

Obviously, my writing is marginally better than my artwork, so with that in mind, here's a little piece of geek fiction I wrote a long time ago:


“No! This can’t be happening NOW!,” John said, his fingers flying over the keyboard. “I think the whole database is corrupted. Nick’s going to kill us.”

“What about the backups?” Terry asked. “I did a full backup of that server just last night - we should be able to restore from optical.”

“Do you know how long that will take? This stuff was supposed to be done by 4 at the latest,” John replied. “But if we have to do it, we need to.... Damn!”

“Now what?”

“I think we just lost our server connection. Let me try to log off and log back on....Nope. I can’t connect to it. If the SQL box went, we’re toast. Maybe it’s just the NIC in my machine.” John wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans, and hit the power button on the front of the computer.

“Uh, John, I don’t think so. Look around. We lost all the other workstations too,” Terry said, as the room full of computers began popping up dialog boxes.

“Let’s try killing the rest of them before Nick calls in,” John said, as he stood up. “I’ll start in this room - you go down to the vault and bounce the server. Check the RAID controller, and make sure it’s working. If the first drive dropped dead, see if the rest have cut over. It should’ve kicked in automatically, but maybe something’s screwed up. Remember last month when we lost that unix box during the brownout? You know how the power is around this place.”

“Yeah, it stinks,” Terry said, shaking his head. “I keep telling Nick we should have a line conditioner in here, but with all the cutbacks it’s always last on his list.”

“Well, this might change his mind. Load the last set of backup cartridges while you’re down there. That way we can mess with the restore from here.”

“Will do,” Terry replied, heading off in the direction of the vault. He paused at the door. “Maybe you’d better call him.”

“Yeah, I will. Unless you want to do it.”

“No way. Not me. Not tonight,” Terry said as he walked out the door.

John finished shutting all the workstations down, sat down at his desk and picked up the phone. He dialed a number, took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Hello, Nick? Yeah, it’s me, John. We’ve got a potential problem down here - No, no, nothing too serious yet. We just wanted you to be aware that there was a problem...no, I don’t think it’ll screw up tonight -but we’ll keep you posted. Uh huh. Yeah, I know you can’t - that’s why we went to this system in the first place. No, I don’t think that’s necessary. I -- hello? Hello, Nick? Are you still there?” John put the phone back in its cradle, and rubbed the back of his neck. Great, he thought. The old man was coming down to the control room.

When Terry came back, John was still sitting with his head in his hands. He looked up hopefully.

Terry shook his head. “We’re in serious trouble. The whole thing is history. The main SQL box won’t even power up again. And the clustering was effed up, so even though the backup server is up and running, the data isn’t there. We’ve got a ton of restoring to do. Hey, what’s wrong with you?” Terry asked, seeing the look on John’s face.

“He’s coming down.”

“Now? Tonight? Jesus, he’s gonna be pissed.”

“Tell me about it. We’ll be lucky if we don’t end up on the assembly line in the factory. Hell, we’ll be lucky if he doesn’t fire us outright.” John sat up in his chair and rubbed his temples. “Well,” he said, “let’s load up a restore and see what we can do.”

A minute or two after the restore kicked off, Nick stormed into the control room, slamming the door behind him. “What the hell’s going on here? Don’t you realize how important that data is? I thought this system was supposed to be foolproof.”

“Nick, you gotta understand, it’s about as foolproof as we can make it,” John said. “We need new equipment. This stuff is old, and we’ve been pounding on it for quite a few years.”

“Old? We bought it less than 4 years ago!”

“Yeah, but in the computer industry, 4 years is like – “

“We don’t have the cash, and I’ve told you that before. We never had these problems with the old paper forms system. It was slow, but at least it couldn’t crash. Now what the hell am I going to do?” Nick asked, pacing the room. “ I was counting on that data.”

“We’re restoring it now,” Terry said, avoiding eye contact with his boss. “But we’re not sure how long it’ll take. These optical disks are slow, and there’s a pile of data. The transaction logs are brutal. The database seems like it gets bigger every year.”

“How long?”

“Looking at the percentages, maybe four to six hours if nothing goes wrong.”

“I can’t wait that long. I have to leave in less than two, and I need that data with me.”

John stood up and took a deep breath. It wasn’t often that he was forced to go against his boss’s wishes. “Fire me if you need to sir, but I have to tell you -- it’s just not going to happen. There’s no way we can get the data off these disks in time.”

Terry piped up. “If you let us buy that SAN solution like we --”

John shot Terry a warning glance that shut him up in mid-sentence, then continued. “I think we need to look at other possibilities. Maybe you could do without the raw data this one time. Bring the sat phone with you, keep in touch. Hell, maybe we could even tether the laptop to it. We might be able to send you hourly status reports, shoot the data over as we restore it. It won’t be as easy as having the whole thing with you, but at least it’s something. What do you think?”

Nick thought it over, and his expression softened a bit. “It has been a while, hasn’t it? What the heck, I’ll give it a shot. His expression hardened again, and he glanced back and forth between them. "But I’m warning you, if this thing isn’t fixed by the time I get back, you’ll both be out of a job. And I want a formal disaster recovery plan, and I want it on my desk first thing Monday morning. And schedule a quarterly DR test. Understood?”

Terry and John nodded humbly, and set about their repairs.

Nick walked over to the phone, and dialed the hangar. “Hello? Yeah, it’s Nick. Hook up the team and bring the sleigh around to the front of the computer building. Of course I want Rudolph in front! What are you, an idiot? Right. Yes, I know it’s short notice, but I need the extra time. We’re having some computer problems.”

He hung up the phone and turned to John and Terry. “Well,” he said, grabbing his satellite phone out of his desk drawer, “it looks like we do it the old-fashioned way this year.”


Merry Christmas, everyone. Hope you all have a great holiday season!

+++


Mr. & Mrs. JV tree, 2009.
(featuring my mother's childhood train)

12/21/09

Vomiting pinwheel girl? E-mail me.

That right there is something I never thought I'd type.

I read through the stories again, and while there are many great entries, I'm going to have to say it's the mental image of the vomiting pinwheel girl rolling down the hill and the crazed dog following that actually made me laugh the most.

On the other hand, just the sheer brass balls of the dude who posted about the bus-stealing, riot gear-inducing Chinese drunk fest has wormed its way into my shriveled, black peach pit of a heart. If there hadn't been video proof, I think I would have thought the entire thing was made up. Master Waster, you also get style points for a well-written inner dialogue, although I think we've all had the same conversation with our inner voices on occasion. Usually, my inner voice is way drunker than yours, but still, good story. Also, props to Cory and his naked Cat in the Hat. My memories of Dr. Suess will never be the same.

So here's what I'm going to do -- the martini glasses go to the vomiting pinwheel, and the other entries I mentioned get a mystery prize of my choosing. So shoot me an e-mail with your name and address and I'll get them out in the next week or so. Congratulations, and I'm sorry. That apology is really for the consolation prize winners, because they'll probably end up with something weird and useless.

To everyone else, thanks for playing along. You guys are great!

12/18/09

Damn, people. You're lucky to be alive.

Those are some crazy-assed stories! Regardless of which comment I pick, I will need to see this chinese bus-stealing video. I just want to get that out there right up front.

I'll try to pick my favorite story by the end of this weekend. It's going to be a tough choice, no doubt about it. I may have to pull together a team of professional drinkers to see if I can get some sort of majority rule.

In other news, a buddy of mine dropped off a bunch of old wooden water skis a couple of weeks ago. He just purchased a little camp in the Adirondacks, and he wanted me to make him something out of them. So here's his Christmas present:



I'll be back shortly with the announcement of the winner, and maybe a Christmas story if I can think of one....

12/16/09

Hey, Liver! It's almost Christmas. Buckle up.

It's time for a little holiday cheer, I think. I am using up the last bit of my vacation starting right now and I don't have to go back to the office until Wednesday of next week and that's just fine by me. They are gutting the building and most of the construction is on my floor, so it's almost unbearable anyway. Not to mention that the place is so full of frickin' construction workers that you can't hear yourself think in the cafeteria since all those guys seem to be permanently set on 11. Just today, for instance, I heard a conversation about vagina from about 60 feet away, and that doesn't happen every day.

Usually.

Anyway, to kick off this little vacation, I'm planning on having a nice martini tonight. I love martinis -- even the ones the purists don't consider martinis. I love traditional gin martinis, Americanized vodka martinis, dirty martinis of both types (blue cheese stuffed olives, please) appletinis (when I'm wearing my tight purple t-shirt) and even espresso chocolate martinis.

Basically, if you call it a martini, load up one of those ridiculously unstable glasses with some kind of kickass alcohol, chances are very good that I'll drink it and like it. Of course, the problem with martinis is that they get right on top of you. They will ride you face-first into the dirt before you know what happened, especially if you go light on the food and weigh 150lbs soaking wet like I do. I've found it's generally a good idea to have one or two and then quit for the evening and switch to something else. I can't even imagine a "three martini lunch" -- I would never make it back to my car, let alone my desk.

So in the spirit of responsible drinking, I think I'm going to have a little contest. The prize is a brand-new set of 4 of these guys:




That looks pretty damn festive, am I right? This prize was donated by CSN Stores, a company that sells all sorts of glassware and cookware, both bar-related and not. All I had to do was mention them in a post for some glasses, and I thought they'd make a neat giveaway. So there ya go. I'm a man-whore for you guys. Oh, and martinis. I'm also a man-whore for martinis.

But in all seriousness, I get offers like this all the time, and if the company looks sketchy or the product ridiculous, (assbrella, I'm talking to you) I'll pass. In this case, I spent about 30 minutes on their site looking for a good holiday giveaway, and they have a ton of bar-related stuff. If you are looking for a wine rack, or any other wine-related stuff, it's a great place if you happen to be in the market. We've actually owned this one for years, and it's perfect for a random kitchen corner where nothing else would fit.

So what do you have to do to win these? It's easy. In the comments, you have to tell me the stupidest/funniest thing you ever did while drunk. Or tell me why you quit drinking, since those two things seem to go hand in hand most of the time. The contest will end Friday at 5pm, and the post that makes me laugh the hardest will be deemed the winner. Extra points if you were shaken or stirred.

So go to it. You know you want to. Come on, confess to Johnny. Tell me about your walk of shame, or the time you were arrested wearing nothing but a tiara, I won't judge you. I may or may not have a picture of myself sliding down a steep set of stairs on my stomach, is all I'm saying. I was bruised for a week after that one.

12/8/09

Want some advice? Don't love the ocean too much. It doesn't love you back.

And with that line, Mega-Shark vs Giant Octopus really got rolling.

The best part of the movie had to be the story. No wait, it was the special effects. Or maybe it was the acting...sorry, I don't know where in this steaming pile of awesomeness I should start the tour.

After some deliberation, I've decided that there is just no way I can review this movie. It's too horrible and yet unintentionally laugh-out-loud funny. I simply cannot do it justice.

I fully intended to give you an actual serious review. I did. I swear. I even sat through the entire thing and took notes. That's how dedicated I was to this idea. Instead, I present you with my notes. You can make your own judgement.

It starts with stock footage. The stock mountains. The stock glaciers. The stock under-sea life.

A fake ice slide occurs, to show us that fake ice slides are always occuring:



A nefarious government helicopter drops a low frequency active sonar device. LFAS. The helicopter pilot inexplicably yells "Holy crap!" and then flies straight into an ice wall and explodes.

A fake mini-sub is watching a pod of whales lose their shit because of this LFAS. In this sub are Debbie Gibson and some fat guy who has no business in a mini sub:


The whales are crashing into the ice walls, confused by the sonar.

Suddenly you see:



A drawing of Mega Shark and Giant Octopus! Behind a wavy piece of bathroom privacy glass!

Debbie makes her combo scared/disbelief face:



Someone shoots a bb-gun at the glass (what it looked like) or it got hit by a whale (what actually happened) and they're free:



....and they drift down to the ocean floor, somehow still alive and not frozen to death.

Cut to an oil rig, where there is a mystifying conversation about peeing on a co-worker and something about how Japanese custom frowns upon that. Then, this happens:


Now we're back in Cali, on the beach with the fat guy and Debbie. There's a beached whale with giant chunks taken out of it. I'd like to interject here that Debbie looks like a washed up stripper:


Also, there are some of these:


Then she steals a giant prehistoric shark toof out of the blubber:


Next we go back to Tokyo where a guy who looks like substitute Sulu is interrogating one of the oil platform guys.

Then we're flying somewhere on a fake jet:


Just so you know, this face:


is what happens just before this:


Then Debbie gets fired for trashing the sub and goes to see Sean Connery. Well, not really. It's just some old Sean-lite Irish guy who is an "ex-navy paleontologist guru," and they play with colored water in test tubes and computers with pretty graphics and then he tells her that what she has is a giant prehistoric shark toof.

So then SubSulu flies in to Cali and meets up with Sean-lite and Debbie and they put two and two together, and discover that he has a giant octopus to match their giant shark.

"The polar ice caps are melting because of our thoughtlessness." Debbie says, staring wistfully out to sea. "Maybe this is our comeuppance."

Then they climb into their car with the Obama Change bumper sticker and drive away.

And then we're in a battleship, with the crazy captain who looks like the love child of Hunter S. Thompson and Dr. Cox from Scrubs:


He's tracking the Megashark, but then suddenly it's swimming right at them at 500 knots, and it's not leaving a wake:



That's some awesome special effects right there. As is this:



Of course, Coxhunter's orders from Washington are to destroy the Megashark, which he does. Just kidding. He only thinks he does, and then the shark eats the battleship and his acting career is over.

Then Subsulu, Debbie and Sean-lite get abducted by Government agent Lorenzo Lamas, who can't admit he is no longer Renegade and so still has a pony tail and a coating of grease:

They aren't really prisoners, he just needs their help - and taking people at gunpoint is obviously the best way to get help from people who actually want to help.

At this point, things got dicey, and I stopped taking screen shots and just started jotting down random thoughts as the movie unfolded. Favorite quotes, observations, questions. Oh yes, I have questions.

"They don't rest. They just kill."

Debbie Gibson, Super Scientist. She's making octopus and shark pheromones to lure them together to capture them, but her experiments fail, I think because mixing test tubes full of water tinted with food coloring really doesn't make pheromones.

I thought for sure Subsulu was gay. Then he and Debbie did it in the storage room. My gaydar must be off.

Yay! Good pheromones. You know how I can tell? Because it's no longer food coloring in water, it's the stuff out of a green glow-stik.

Oh, I see. They are trying to draw them in with "breadcrumb trail" of pheromone droppings.

"What, may I ask, is your trap exactly?" "Oh you can ask."

Oh, Lorenzo. It's been too long. Only Bill Shatner rivals you in the overacting department. Or maybe Coxhunter.

And then a fighter plane is slapped out of the air by a tentacle.

"We're going into their world now.. Their pond..."

Cartoon experimental mini-sub again.

Hey, it's a 500 knot shark. (faster than a jet, she says.)

To make the sub go faster, you just have to lean forward in your seat really hard and look serious. Who knew?

Oh shit. It just ate the golden gate bridge. As far as I can tell, its entire diet consists of planes, battleships and bridges. That can't be good for your digestion.

The octopus is still in Tokyo. "Our military has only succeeded in angering it. My god. What have we done?"

OK. The navy wants to nuke them and not capture them, but you knew that.

"I suggest we get some rest and reconvene. Nothing can be accomplished in this state of exhaustion." Yeah, let's take a break while all this shit continues to go down.

Oh no! Dream sequence! Kissing SubSulu! Seeing stuff that only we saw from our omniscient standpoint!

Debbie's breakthrough! Get them to kill each other! Just say no to nukes!

"They were frozen in battle." Wait, how fast did this ice age happen? It's not like Pompeii for fuck's sake.

"They are natural born enemies. They chose to stay and fight to the end. A hate stronger than their combined survival instinct is our only hope."

So what he's saying is, they basically hung around getting colder and colder, and their fight got slower and slower until it looked like a fight on Walker, Texas Ranger, and then they went into suspended animation somehow.

"Neither has followed a consistent pattern." "Yeah, but somehow it makes sense."

annnd...then he quotes Julius Caesar.

The people actually driving the sub? Perfectly still. The people in the back? Bouncing around like they're in a washing machine.

"I want that commander on report!" "That commander saved your ass!" "He should have done it in a more timely manner!"

Emergency turbos activated? Subs have emergency turbos? I'm seriously expecting someone to yell "the engines canna take any more, Captain!"

"We must remain optimistic," he says, looking like he has to shit really bad.

Nuclear subs are driven by one guy with a joystick. Who knew?

"Captain, I'm picking up a massive underwater disturbance. Two bogies. Hard to say what they're doing."

Oh, apparently, they're fighting. From what I am seeing on my TV, I would have sworn they were fucking. And why does it sound like a little kid splashing around in the sink?

"Who has the upper hand? It's impossible to tell. It's just a massive sound." Of a kid splashing around in a sink.

Ooooh, sharky just bit off a tentacle and got hisself inked. The tentacle is back again. Now it's gone. Now it's back.

Could have sworn the captain of the Japanese sub just said there was a massive disturbance in the vicinity of hairy slut. No wait. It has to be something else. OK, I rewound it three times. They are heading towards hairy slut. Case closed.

Everyone in the sub gets tossed to the floor, all the emergency lights go on, there's smoke, all sorts of beeping...and what does the captain yell? "Something hit us!"

Giant Octopus handled that sub like a loaf of french bread.

I just saw Debbie's "O" face.

It's the fight to the death!

"Looks like they finished what they started 18 million years ago."

Oh no, Subsulu is dead.

Debbie is sad.

No wait! Subsulu is alive.

Debbie is happy.

Epilogue: Beach blanket conversation with Debbie and Subsulu.

They're kissing again. Subsulu is so gay in real life. It's like watching George Takei after he came out.

Suddenly, Sean-lite is there. They are needed by the government to chase other newly thawed giant creatures in the north sea. As a team. How romantic.

Roll credits!

Awesome. Go watch it right now.

I'd watch it again, but I have to watch Frankenfish.

12/6/09

These things just happen.



Which is why my wife rarely asks me to cook dinner when she's not home.

12/1/09

Random stuff.

OK, I saw this Virgin Mobile commercial last night and it freaked me out.



First off, I don't know about you, but if I were planning on having some sort of disgusting crotch-rot conversation with my mom, I probably wouldn't do it in public. Secondly, how does your mom know about your rot to begin with? Did she catch a whiff at brunch last Sunday and ask about it? I'm glad you're airing that thing out, and "the smell means it's healing," because the alternatives are too horrible to contemplate. If you let it get out of hand, it could result in.. oh, I don't know...maybe something like your mouth falling off your face and sitting there on a locker room bench like some kind of masochistic pocket pussy. Maybe something like that.

Jesus, that chomper is going to give me nightmares. Or sex dreams. I'll let you know which way it tips.

Has anyone seen the trailer for this new Disney DVD called "Snow Buddies?" How shitty does this movie look? Not just from a plot standpoint, but from a production standpoint, too. The CGI in the e-trade talking baby commercials is heads and shoulders above this horrible mess.

In every trailer I've seen, the dogs are basically just standing there with their lifeless, shark-like eyes fixed forward, like they are waiting for a doggie treat (since they probably are). Only their mouths are moving. Nothing else on the face moves -- no eyes, no eyebrows, no nothing. The whole effect looks like it's from 1987. Hell, knowing Disney, maybe it is. They probably outsourced the animation to India.

Speaking of lifeless and sharks, I saw this movie in my Netflix Instant queue, and the title alone made me laugh, so I'm going to watch it and write you guys a nice review:



How can I not? It has both Debbie Gibson AND Lorenzo Lamas. The only way this could be any more awesome is if the Shark and Octopus turn out to be David Hasslehoff and Gary Coleman.

Of course just finding a picture of that movie led me to some other "recommendations" like this one:


I absolutely love the look on the black dude's face. He's like, "OK, you guys set me up in a sweet beach house with a hot chick wearing a bikini. What's the catch?"

I'll let you know how these experiments in cinematic splendor turn out.

Other stupid shit I've noticed lately:

Apparently Americans are either too dumb or too lazy to figure out how a roll of tape works, and so now we have to have individual, pre-cut, dispenserized pop-up tape. There's even a video showing you all the things you can do with pop-up tape. Of course, it's all the same stuff you could do without pop-up tape, unless you only had one hand (or maybe had two but one of them was busy with the S&M virgin mobile thing.) Then pop-up tape is probably pretty cool.

Also, am I alone here in hating the Snuggie? Let me clue you in. Here's what the Snuggie is: A crappy polyester robe with no belt, that you wear backwards. That's it. Go to Target, buy a nice XXL fleece robe and wear that backwards. You'll be warmer, and you'll be the only one in your neighborhood with a plaid Snuggie, plus you won't look like a monk who escaped from Renfaire.

Even worse, now they have snuggies for dogs. And if you act now, you can get in on this BOGO deal:



Lastly, it's become obvious to me lately that Vietnam has many problems --foremost among them, their economy. They are suffering from accelerating inflation and a widening trade deficit and a general devaluing of thier currency, which I recently learned is called the Dong. So Vietnam, I have some advice for you. The first step in fixing your economic mess is obvious: Rename that shit. I'm just saying that nobody takes you seriously when you offer to pay for dinner and then whip out a pocketful of Dong.

Tell you what -- If our economy ever recovers, I'll even take you all out for some nice Vietnamese food. Or as you call it, "food." There's probably, what? 10 or 12 of you left over there? I think we probably owe it to each other to have some grub, play some tunes and get shitfaced. What do you think?

11/24/09

Can I get a hog snout with that?

I hate going to the dentist almost more than anything. Maybe not as much as I hate public speaking, but it's a close second. I haven't had a cavity in probably 20 years, but I still hate it, even if it's only for my 6 month cleanings. I go religiously, however, since I know that the longer you put it off, the worse it will ultimately be.

Unfortunately, my regular dentist decided to retire and he sold his practice to some new guy, who I'm not sure I like. Suddenly, I have all these teeth on some sort of "watch list" - which I assume is like the one Homeland Security has for suspected terrorists, except this one's for radical bicuspids and suicide molars instead. The teeth that have made his list all contain 20-year-old fillings that he thinks need to be replaced because of tiny fractures he can see in the enamel. He wants to replace the existing fillings with that composite stuff, which supposedly holds the tooth together instead of wedging it apart, like the old silver fillings do. It sounds logical but I'm not sure I'm buying it.

There are a few reasons for this. First of all, he looks exactly like this guy, whom I've always hated. Has that guy ever not been a dick in any show he's been in? Seriously. He's a dick. Second of all, these are cracks my old dentist never mentioned, which I find a little suspicious. Even if they really are there, he apparently didn't think they were an issue. So I'm trying to decide if this new guy is practicing progressive dentistry and trying to fix small problems before they become big ones, or if he's practicing progressive bullshit because he has a new building to pay for.

I think he suckered me in though. He already knows I hate that place more than anywhere else on earth, but as much as I hate the thought of him drilling old fillings out, I hate the thought of someday breaking a tooth and being faced with a root canal and a crown even more. The bastard has me cold.

There was a new receptionist too. While she was swiping my credit card, I looked down at the counter and noticed a stack of the new guy's business cards sitting there. Up until that moment, I hadn't known his name. Turns out it's Dr. Moreau. I asked the receptionist if he had his own island and if she thought maybe I could get some quick tail work done next time, but she just looked at me like she was going to call the cops so I let it go.

In other news, I went to a fantastic rock show on Saturday night. We drove down to PA to see the reunion of The Badlees. You might remember them from the late 90's when they were signed to Polydor. They had a video on VH1 and a couple of pretty popular songs. (You can check out the videos on that link to jog your memory.) My buddy Pete is/was the lead singer, and they have a new record out, so they're doing a couple of shows to promote it and have a little fun. You can sample the new tunes here at CDBaby. Check it out if you get the chance. (There's a kick ass tune on it called Anodyne that I can't get out of my head.)

As for the show, all the guys were in top form, and the new songs sounded fantastic live. It's been five years since they shared a stage, but it was like they never stopped playing together. Jeff, their old rhythm guitarist, apparently found Jesus and doesn't play the devil music that much anymore -- so Aaron Fink from Breaking Benjamin was playing guitar with them in his place. We saw a lot of old friends and had a great time.

The funniest thing was the Pottsville PA crowd. Holy crap. I don't think any of them have changed in the last twelve years. The same hair, the same clothes, the same Yuenglings. It's like the land that time forgot down there.

It was a blast from the past, that's for sure. I haven't stumbled into a hotel room at four in the morning in a longggggg time. I had almost forgotten what that was like.

I kinda miss it.

11/13/09

Hanna-Barbera got it wrong. Who knew?

It's been an interesting week. I was working from home last Friday and while I was in my office, I heard a crashing noise. I was on the phone and figured one of the cats had knocked something over, so I didn't think much about it.

About a half hour later, Jesse, our Siamese, limped in to the office and sat there on his back legs like a woodchuck. I picked him up and flipped him over and instantly knew what happened. He had jumped up on the top of the blazing wood stove, apparently not knowing that hot=pain.

All the tough outer skin on his paw pads was blistered off and hanging, and underneath was swollen, red, raw skin. Just looking at it made my feet hurt. So I immediately called my boss, logged off and drove him to the vet. She had to clip the blistered skin off of 3 of his feet, apply ointment and bandages, and give him an antibiotic. All to the tune of $250 bucks or thereabouts.

That's not the bad part. The bad part is that we have to change the bandages twice a day for about three weeks, give him antibiotics and keep him secluded from the other two cats because he isn't supposed to scratch around in their litter. Instead, he gets to use this horrible shit made from compressed newspapers that looks exactly like rabbit food pellets (except they're grey) and is about as absorbent as it sounds, which is to say I might as well fill the litterbox with m&m's.

He's been amazingly tolerant of the whole twice-a-day procedure, and his paws are healing up nicely. The pain medication makes him think he's invincible, and he beats the hell out of his feet -presumably, because they don't hurt. The drug also turns him into a crazy wild beast who won't sleep and is determined to chew his own legs off, so we've stopped giving it to him.

The problem we have now is that his paws dry out and crack and start to bleed, so we've been pretty religious about changing out the bandages. We feel horrible that this happened, and it's partially my fault for leaving the kettle off the top of the stove -- but still, he has to take at least part of the blame. The other cats never did that shit, and he's supposed to be the smart one.

I know you're all thinking, "Who cares? We don't want to hear about your cat. Entertain us! That's what we pay you for!"

With that in mind, there is one funny thing that came out of all this. Every time we change his bandages, he does this for the first five minutes:



And I laugh my ass off. Every single time. I'm mean.

11/11/09

Watch this space.

Two things that made me laugh out loud in the last few days -- first, this incredibly well-targeted e-mail that I received because of my "ahead of the curve" blog. (click for larger image):



I only have a few comments about this:

1. Their users are clearly effed in the head.

2. The reviewing editors need to cut down on the weed when they are doing their reviews.

3. I am totally getting a Top Science Blogs banner for this place.

Secondly, today I bought a practice test from a place called Cert FX to study for a Blackberry server exam I have to take before the end of the year. This was an actual question, which I did not change in any way:


I think they are outsourcing their dev to Gungan City.

Sorry. Geek joke.

11/8/09

Doctor my eyes.

Are all eye-doctors a little crazy? Is there something about spending most of your work day in a dark little room with your face three inches from someone you just met 30 seconds ago that eventually makes you turn into some sort of white-coated psychopath who wants to collect skin suits? Or is that creepiness factor the main reason you became an eye doctor to begin with? I'm just curious because it seems like every time I get my eyes checked at a Lenscraft or a Dinapoli because I can't get into see my regular eye doctor, I end up with one of these fruit loops.

The dude who ended up doing my exam looked like a 60-year-old version of John Denver, including the "rocky mountain high" part. He kept making stupid jokes and then chuckling at them, which really didn't do much for my confidence in his professional abilities.

At one point he said, "Wouldn't you like to see better, Johnny? Wouldn'tcha? I'll bet you would. I can do that for you!" Then he laughed like a mad god. Or like Willy Wonka. Actually, maybe that's the same thing.

A little while later, as I was sitting comfortably with my left ankle resting on my right knee, looking through the machine at some light he was blinding me with, he leaned in whispered, "Put your legs to either side and let me slide in there." I felt so dirty, but I did what he asked. After all, he was paying for it. No wait, that's not right. I was paying for it. Dammit.

Anyway, all I wanted was for him to get on with the exam because I was on my lunch hour and quickly running out of time. Also, his breath smelled like he had pastrami and coffee for lunch, and I was sick of breathing that shit in. Since his face was so close to mine, it was still warm when I smelled it. After the first couple of times he exhaled directly into my nasal cavity I started holding my breath. I'm sure the stars I was seeing from the oxygen deprivation helped the accuracy of my test results.

The entire procedure was a comedy of errors, but I walked out of there with a piece of paper that I could barely read that had something approximating my presciption written on it. There are few things about this piece of paper that I immediately realized:

1. I'm old. I need both reading glasses and driving glasses. In other words, bi-focals. I'm just going to find an old pilled-up grey cardigan and start wearing it to work with my polyester slacks. I'm thinking I'll get one of those fake gold chains to hold my spectacles, too. Maybe a fedora.

2. The results are based on crap. He was constantly asking me questions like, "Which is better? A.....(flick) or B?" and they were both exactly the fuck the same. "Uh...they look exactly the same," I say. So he says, "Which is better? A.............(flick) or B?" like I didn't hear him the first time. After he flips it back and forth three more times, each time asking me the same question (only with longer pauses between the words, like I have suddenly become Norwegian and don't have a firm grasp of the English language), I just pick one randomly, because that's the only thing I can do to get out of that Groundhog Day pastrami loop from hell. I also loved the question "Are the letters clearer or just darker and slightly farther away?" WTF.

3. It's going to cost me an ass-ton of money. I looked around at the frames they had available and the prices on them started at $400 and went up from there. That's before they even have lenses in them. The thing I don't understand about this racket is that the frames don't seem to be any better in quality than the ones on my $20 dollar sun glasses. The reason I was in there to begin with was because I was cleaning my glasses and the weld between the lens and the nose piece broke. That's bullshit, right there, considering those were $200 frames and my $20 sunglasses are still going strong. Also, if you don't want the old lady bi-focals, you have to spring for these progressive lenses which run about $700 bucks without the frames. I still haven't gone back to pick out glasses yet, due to the sticker shock and the pastrami. I mean, holy hell. That's halfway to laser eye surgery. Maybe I'll just squint for another 6 months and save up some more money for that.

I'm thinking of trying one of those internet places where you can pick out frames, input your prescription and your pupil to pupil measurements, and they make the glasses and send them to you -- all for about $60. I'll probably end up looking like this:



It worked for my replacement hot tub cover is all I'm saying.

[update: Just as an experiment, I ordered a couple of pairs from Zenni. One pair of progressives and one pair of single script sunglasses. Total cost: $80.75. I'll keep you posted.] *update* - I cancelledthe Zenni order because they were on a slow boat from china and ordered from 39dollareyeglasses.com instead. They weren't 39 dollars, but I did get brand name progressives for about a hundred bucks.

10/31/09

10/27/09

No, this isn't the new post. Well, it's new, but not part II

Just wanted to mention that today is John Cleese's birthday. He's 70 years old, which is what - seven in dog years? I don't know, my dog math may be off. Either way, it makes me feel old because I grew up on Monty Python's Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers and the MP Movies.

I am 100% certain that quotes from "The Life of Brian" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" are taking up valuable brain space that used to contain Linear Algebra, Calculus 1-3 and French.

I say this because I can remember none of those things even though I spent five years and an enormous amount of my parent's money to learn them -- yet on the other hand, I can quote from the Monty Python movies and the Flying Circus skits for hours on end.

Coincidence? I think not.

Oh well. (Dad, I'm sorry. Next time you come over we'll sit down and watch the Holy Grail together. You're a really religious guy -- it should be right up your alley.)

Anyway, if you are as big a fan as I am, check this out -- the BBC is releasing a remastered box set of the Fawlty Towers series. Even though it was only on for a short time, it has to be one of the funniest sitcoms ever made. They are also having a facebook look-a-like contest where you can submit photos of yourself as one of the characters and win some sweet prizes. It doesn't look like there are any submissions yet, so your odds are probably pretty good even if you just put on a fake mustache and stand around looking British while someone takes a picture.

"When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England. "

Yeah. That was from memory.

Dammit. My wife just put a bucket on her head. Now I've got to get into the fish tank and sing. And nobody even said "Mattress." WTF.

10/11/09

I'm off pizza for a while.

Has anyone else seen this very disturbing commercial for Tabasco sauce? If there are two things I hate, it's creepy pepperoni slices that look infected, and barbershop quartets. You know what's worse than either one of those things?



Creepy pepperoni slices that look infected singing barbershop music, that's what.

This commercial not only made me swear off pepperoni indefinitely, it also made me re-swear my original swear-off of all barbershop quartets, which, as it turns out, was a very good decision back when I made it the first time. I mean, really -- has barbershop music ever sold anything?

Doubtful. Ear plugs, maybe. Or straight razors.

The other thing that immediately jumped into my mind when I saw this commercial was that these four guys auditioned for this. Somewhere, some time, an ad agency or a video production company held open auditions and these guys were the best lip-synching pizza boils out there. There were probably 30 other guys who couldn't get this part. That just makes me sad. It also makes me glad I have my job.

Even at first glance you can tell they are clearly insane pizza boils, what with their bulging eyes and gigantic, soul-devouring grins -- and I am 99% sure that one down on the tip of the slice is actually doing something dirty underneath his cheese:



I can picture the director during the shoot:

"Number four! Look more savory! Number two, for the love of god, you're lip syncing like Ashley Simpson! Three! Good job, good job. Sell it! BELIEVE that you're singing pepperoni brought to the surface of the pizza by the Tabasco sauce. Own the role! Own it! Great job! Number one! Give us your O-face! YES! That's it! That's it!"



Here's the video, if you haven't seen it.

Sleep well. And just a word of advice -- stick to the mushrooms. Tabasco has no adverse effect on them as far as I can tell.

9/30/09

I'm sure they're glad to have me back.

My first instant message of the day from the help desk:

Support: I forwarded you an e-mail issue. Yoonjie can send e-mail to Ming Ming but Ming Ming can't reply. I don't see anything in the logs. Any thoughts?

Me*: Yes. Here's my first thought - Should cartoon teddy bears be allowed to have e-mail?

*in my mind.

9/26/09

Everybody is Sick. It's not just me.

Yesterday I had the day off from work, which is probably a good thing because as I said in my last post, I'm sick. I decided that I would lay around all day and stream Netflix, since I didn't really feel well enough to do anything else.

When I first turned on the television, I couldn't believe my eyes. I saw a stage, two burly security guards, and two black dudes beating the hell out of each other, and a cheering studio audience. One black dude was wearing tight black pants and a muscle shirt (and was completely devoid of muscles) and the other one wasn't wearing a shirt at all, and had about 8" of his underwear showing because his pants were so low they were about to fall off.

WTF? I thought to myself. Is this the sort of shit stay-at-home moms get into when their kids are at school?

Apparently, it is.

It got weirder. The bouncer guys broke up the fight and then the two black dudes started talking smack to each other. They were both flaming homosexuals. Turns out one was a stripper/pole dancer and the other was a ballet dancer. They were lovers. Why were they cat-fighting on television?

Because the ballet dancer slept with the pole dancer's sister, that's why. Normally I wouldn't know what's required to get the sister of a gay pole dancer to put out, but apparently a square meal is all that it takes.

I learned all this in approximately 20 seconds. Then I realized with horror that I was watching Jerry Springer. I guess it's been a while since I've seen this show, because I didn't remember it being one step away from a boxing ring. All that was missing were the ropes. I certainly didn't remember bouncers, and a studio audience that was basically one step away from a full-scale riot, but I guess that's what it's come down to. The episode was called "Dancing Queens" which was clever and also very, very obvious.

As I watched, whatever they were talking about devolved into another bitchslap-fest, and that somehow turned into some sort of surreal grudge-match dance-off, because the one dude started doing very angry pirouettes and the other one started riding a pole and doing jiggly things with his ass that made me want to dig my eyes out and then I couldn't take another second of it and I could feel my mind melting inside my skull and I was desperately clawing at my chest for a non-existent radio mic to call in a major airstrike on the entire studio.

Daytime TV sure isn't what it used to be.

9/23/09

The Hungerfords vs. Those Stupid Witches

I'm baaaaack. Just like the herp.

We had a couple of great days, weather-wise. The first day, there was absolutely no wind. It was dead calm. Beautiful blue skies. The weather couldn't have been more perfect.

The lake itself -- well, not great, but not too horrible. When we arrived, there was a family of five just launching. They were spread out between a canoe and a couple of kayaks. They paddled out and were having a great time. I didn't notice it, but my wife told me that they had some sort of tiny dog in one of the kayaks -- a chihuahua or something. They were quite a ways ahead of us when we finally got the canoe on the water, but when it's still like that, sound travels. You can literally hear a spoken conversation from across the lake. We didn't have to listen to their conversations to know their whereabouts, however. Why? Because the poor dog was howling like someone was holding a blowtorch to his nuts. He was terrified of being in a kayak. I'm not sure if the thing eventually stroked out or if they just stowed it below decks, but after about an hour it stopped. Luckily they were only there for a day trip, so we didn't have to listen to it very long.

We paddled out to one of the nicer sites and when we got there it was in pretty good shape. Nice and clean, no trash in the fire pit, no wrappers (of any kind) on the ground, etc. The one bad thing about this particular site is that it has no state-sanctioned pooper -- you have to bring a shovel. Amazingly, people don't get that. So I always check out the site beforehand to make sure there's no fly-covered piles just lying out in the open, because seriously, sometimes there are. At least cover it up with some leaves, people. Anyway, this time there wasn't. I couldn't figure it out at first, since it was still only a couple of weeks after Labor Day, but then it all became clear. A few hundred feet down the trail I stumbled on to this:



Yes, it's the super duper grouper pooper. You can't really tell from the picture, but there's about a bushel and a half of shit and tp piled up behind that cross member. Not only that, but they hacked giant notches into two live trees to hold it there. I'm not gonna lie. It was pretty nasty, and again, way too close to the water. People are fucking idiots. The next morning my wife woke up and said, "Oh my god. Last night I dreamed that for some reason I sat on that thing and lost my balance and fell backwards. It was horrifying."

Turns out it was also the last week of Canada Goose season. So there were a couple of yahoos down at the marshy end of the lake motoring around in a flat-bottomed boat chasing geese with semi-automatic shotguns. Unfortunately, because it was so still, all we could hear between the frantic shotgun explosions were the two of them yelling inane shit to each other over the sound of the motor. Followed, of course, by the indignant honking of pissed off geese that circled the lake and settled down to be shot at again. Geese are stupid. But I guess that's what I get for going camping during hunting season, so I can't complain too much.

Here's a shot from our second morning:



Whenever we go camping, we always bring our friend Jack. He's a bit of a black sheep, who was born of hoary nights, when lonely men struggled to keep their fires lit and cabins warm. He also does a great job facilitating fascinating conversation. Here's an example:

Me: What's that show you watch that I can't stand? The one with the stupid witches? Why is that show always on? Always. Is there some all-witch-all-the-time TV channel I don't know about?

Wife: Hey! Don't bust on the witches - I know it's a stupid show. I don't know why I watch it -- I got sucked in while I was on the treadmill. Besides, it's better than that ridiculous show you watch.

Me: What? Venture Brothers? That's not ridiculous, that's genius.

Wife: No, not that one. The other one. The Hungerfords.

Me: The Hungerfords? What the fuck is that?

Wife: You know, Hungerfords. The one with Meatball. And Fries.

Me: Meatwad? Do you mean Meatwad? And Frylock? Are you talking about Aqua Teen Hunger Force?

Wife: Yeah. That one. Stupidest thing on TV.

Me (almost pissing myself from laughing so hard): Meatball? Fries? The HUNGERFORDS?

Wife: Shut up and pass the Yukon.

She made a good point, though. Then we talked about astrophysics and string theory.

On the way home we stopped at an antique store in Warrensburg. While my wife wandered inside I decided to go grab a slice of pizza a few doors down since I was working on a couple of packets of cream of wheat I had eaten approximately 6 hours ago. I walked in and saw a nice cheese pie in the display. An old guy came out from back and asked me what he could get for me. I told him I'd take a slice and a can of mountain dew. He reached into the case to take out a slice and that's when I saw his hands. They were black. And not for any expected and normal reason, like, for instance, he was born a black man. No, this guy was white. But only racially. When he turned around to put the slice in the oven, I noticed his elbows were also black, and he had dirt packed into his neck creases. Then I looked down at his feet when he walked away. Apparently, he had opted to simply walk the excess length off his dark brown pants because they had about six inches of frayed material just dragging on the ground. And then I noticed that his pants had actually started out as tan.

I watched him handle my pizza with his bare, dirt-blackened hands as he tossed it in the oven. I watched him rub his nose right before taking my slice out of the oven and tossing it onto a paper plate. While I was waiting, a woman came in to bum a cigarette from him. She was shaking pretty badly, and had a horrible head cold. After about 5 minutes of listening to them talk, I realized she was there not only to bum a cigarette, but to start her shift.

I almost didn't eat it. Almost. I was soooo hungry and it smelled soooo good. So against my better judgement, in a feeble effort to take my germaphobic bull by the horns, I just ignored my other senses and chowed down.

So now have a nasty head cold. I tell myself I caught it from my wife, but If I don't post for a couple of weeks, assume I succumbed to the filthy pizza flu.

After I ate the pizza, I wandered down to the store to find my wife. I did eventually find her, but first, I found this treasure:



I am pretty sure it's Sammy Davis Jr.

In a thong.

It haunts me, and I hope it haunts you as well.

I immediately sent a picture of it via text message to my buddy Mark and said, "I think this original oil painting would look fantastic hanging in your living room on the wall behind your couch."

A few moments later, I got a reply that said, "I'd pay half to make that happen."

Unfortunately, it was out of my price range.

That's probably good, because if that thing had been less than fifty bucks, it would most likely be somewhere getting framed right now.



9/18/09

The best part of waking up..

....is Folgers in your cup.



In your cup. NOT on your desk, keyboard, mouse, lap, shoes and floor.



In your EFFING CUP.

Is that too much for me to handle? Apparently, yes. Yes it is.

Damn your retarded packaging and your creepy-weird crystalline structure, Folgers.

My keyboard is still crunchy and smells vaguely like the floor sweepings at Dunkin' Donuts.

9/15/09

A two day work week doesn't suck.

I could get used to this. Until the middle of October, I'm only in the office two days a week. I hope we get some great weather, because we plan on spending most of it in the woods and on the water.

Normally, when we go camping right after Labor Day, we never know what we'll find.

Well, let me rephrase that -- we know what we'll find will be disgusting, but we never know exactly what it will be. Sometimes it's piles of crap (human, dog, goose, etc.), sometimes it's used condoms, sometimes it's just a pile of empty beer cans or a pile of not-so-empty pampers.

I can see why you don't want to be packin' out the pamper poop, but why can't you carry out a can that weighs next to nothing empty when you carried it in full? And you have a canoe for god's sake. Take it with you. It makes me want to kill someone. Anyway, we've seen it all over the years.

Or we thought we had. This was entirely new:



Seriously, that's the nicest homemade pooper I've ever seen. Just sitting there in the woods. It was sanded smooth, polyurethaned, and stoutly bolted together. Someone clearly put some thought into this. I'm 99% sure most of that thought consisted of "I'm not walkin' all the way the eff up there."

I say this because there's an "official" state-sanctioned-and-installed pooper up the trail from the beach, not 500 yards from this one. Apparently that was too far to walk for the Labor Day crowd, because they brought their own and set it up within spitting distance of the campsite. Unfortunately, it was also within smelling distance. But, still. 'A' for effort on the construction. Solid 'F' for being a pack of lazy slobs.

I know it wasn't put here by the rangers because one, there was no hole. Well, on the top there was -- because otherwise it would have been a pretty bad design -- but underneath, no. It was just sitting there on flat ground, covering up a large mound of turds and paper. Secondly, it was only about 20 feet from the water, and any sudden downpour would have resulted in poop-slurry pouring directly into the lake. Rangers were not responsible for this. They'd have to clean it up, and they weren't going to like it, but they were not responsible for it.

Now lets talk about the wind. The wind never stopped. From the moment we put the canoe in the water to the moment the sun went down, the wind was blowing steadily at about 30mph. It was the sort of wind you'd normally associate with the jersey shore, except it was more like the jersey shore in November. It made it uncomfortable to sit and read, it made it hard to cook and made it a lot of work just to keep your canoe pointed in the direction you intended it to go. It was blowing hard enough that it was picking up sand from the beach and blowing it in our faces. It was not pleasant. It was not relaxing. The only good thing I can say about it is that it was blowing the pooper fumes away from us, so I never had to cover the box with a garbage bag or anything.

Something else happened too -- we think it may have been because of the wind, but a seaplane landed at the far end of the lake and then proceeded to take leisurely (and extremely loud) tour around the lake -- at about 4 knots. Normally this lake is very quiet, which is one of the reasons we go there. You might hear an outboard motor maybe once a day. I think they have a 3 hp limit on rowboats, but most of the people who use this place lean toward canoes and kayaks. Let me tell you -- a seaplane, even at trolling speed, is not a quiet machine. I kept asking my wife if she dared me to strip naked and strike a Bigfoot pose on the shore, but she wouldn't.

Because the water was so riled up from the wind, it was very silty. Because of this, it pissed off my water filter, which kept plugging up. It was taking me forever to get a liter of water. Unless you want to boil your life away, you have to filter your water because there are beaver dams nearby, and I'm sure the water contains more than its fair share of giardia cysts just biding their time.

We brought a small insulated bag cooler the first day, so by the second day, all those ziplock bags of ice were now ziplock bags of water. A short time later, we needed some water for cleaning something and had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: "Use some of the melted ice water in the bags."

My wife: "Good idea. We could use it for drinking too, if we have to."

Me: "Yeah, but it'll probably taste like freezer."

My wife, completely serious: "Well, that's gotta taste better than beaver."

OK, maybe it's funnier when you've been drinking Yukon Jack.


Sunset, September 13th

9/12/09

How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

The first day on my vacation, I woke up. Then, I went downtown to look for a job. Then I hung out in front of the drugstore.

No, that's not true. It would have been preferable, but it's not true.

The first day on my vacation, I woke up. I went downstairs to scrape paint off the porch with a heat gun and putty knife. Then I passed out.

The second day on my vacation, I woke up. I went downstairs to scrape paint off the porch with a heat gun, putty knife and a respirator. Then I passed out in front of the TV.

The third day on my vacation, I woke up. I hobbled downstairs to scrape paint off the porch with a heat gun, putty knife, knee pads and a respirator. Then I passed out in front of the TV.

The fourth day on my vacation, I woke up and regretted it. I crawled downstairs to scrape paint off the porch with a heat gun, putty knife, knee pads, rollerblading wrist braces and a respirator. I looked like some kind of psychotic exterminator. Then I passed out, but I don't remember where.

Basically, I dealt with 500 square feet of this:



That picture shows about 11 feet of a 70 foot-long porch. Trust me, the entire scraping process sucked ass. I have to say this though -- I give the utmost credit to people who do this sort of work day in and day out. It's a lot harder than sitting on your ass all day moving bits and bytes around, that's for sure.

On day five I rented a sander and vibrated two holes in the side of my thumbs, so the next day I added band-aids and gloves to my dashing ensemble.

On day 6 and 7, I painted.

On day 8, I watched the sun blister the paint, and I seriously thought about just burning my house down and starting over.

On day nine I said fuck it and celebrated my wedding anniversary, and my wife and I took the convertible out and ended up in Lake George on a lake cruise and I decided that the porch was done until spring.

Today, since it was cold, I turned on the heat for the first time this year. I was greeted with a screaming, grating noise that sounded like a squirrel trying to get out of a blender. I tracked it down to the power vent on the furnace. When I took it apart, the fan inside looked like this:



So that's where I've been. Wow. It really has been a while. In part, I blame Twitter. I think we have to break up. It's cramping my style. I mean, if I actually had a style.

Here's the other thing: I've been working on "the book." I hope to get something put together by Christmas, but if I'm writing there, I'm not writing here, so bear with me. I've got some childhood stories that I'm dying to tell, but part of me wants to save them for the book. (You know what they say about free milk and a cow. But you guys would buy it anyway, right?)

On a completely unrelated note, I saw these smug bastards just sitting there in Lowe's this afternoon:



I think they may be coming for me tonight after I go to sleep. I like how their expressions say "No, no -- Don't get us wrong. We're definitely gonna kill you. But we're gonna have some fun with you first."

One last thing: Over there on the right, I've had a link to a blog called The Sheila Variations basically since I started blogging in 2005. I loved her writing style from the first read, and I still do. Sheila is a stage actress, a fantastic (and prolific) writer, and..ok, I admit it. I might be a little jealous of her talent. Anyway, her brother Brendan e-mailed me asked me to pass along a link to his new band, so I said I would. It reminds me a lot of Paul Westerberg. Check it out here if you get a chance, and let him know what you think.

I'll be back soon, but this is September and I have some backpacking to do. So, maybe tomorrow. Maybe early next week. (I'm like herpes. You never know when I'm going to flare up.)