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.


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.


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.


The best part of waking up..

....is Folgers in your cup.

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


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.


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


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.)