The Blogging Affairs Desk

When It’s Good, It’s Good, When It’s BAD, It’s Better…

Last One Out, Hit The Lights!

I’m closing down The Desk.

It’s been a sweet ride.  By far, in my nearly ten years of blogging, The Blogging Affairs Desk has been my most successful attempt at shouting to the masses from my cyber-soap box.

It’s been swell.

But my domain name … whatever you wanna call it…. thing is expiring in about 30 days and WordPress makes it exceedingly difficult to re-register it.  Exceedingly.  I mean, dude, come on, I’M TRYING TO GIVE YOU MONEY!

Which is kinda the trend on this blog anyway… over the last few years.  My struggles with trying to GIVE PEOPLE MONEY have been documented far and wide.

So yeah, I figured it’s kinda time to move on to something else.  I haven’t really had much motivation to keep writing, I’ve abandoned my post over at IRdC; it was hard enough to keep THIS blog up to date, let alone churn out an article once a week for an entirely separate blog.

And I’m waist deep in training for not one, but at least TWO triathlons coming up later this year.  Couple that with work picking up, I just don’t have the time, nor the energy to sit down and churn out the quality work all my readers have come to expect from The BAD.  It’d be a disservice to put out anything less.

So yeah, with that, I’m snapping the desk lamp shut, powering down the workstation, packing up my box of shit and leaving this site to decay like unattended grapes on the vine.  Sure, I could go out with flare, like The Good Doctor did, but I hate messes, and well, my wife would be sorta pissed.

Too soon?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my take on life as much as I enjoyed sharing it. You can still follow me on twitter, by the way, for my 140 character-at-a-time takes on life.

It’s like a condensed version of The BAD, right in your pocket.  If you’re not poor and own an iPhone.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have fifteen hours of “Parks and Recreations” saved on my DVR that need to be watched.

…Just kidding.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Gonzo Journalism, Not Enough Time, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Burning Down the House

We have a fireplace.

It’s the first place I’ve ever lived in with a fireplace as an adult.  When I was a kid, living in New Hampshire, we had this enormous fireplace where my father threatened to toss my toys into if I didn’t pick up after myself.  I remember many winter nights with a roaring fire, mom and dad on the couch with a drink each, and me on the rug in front of the fire with my plastic green army men that my father would in turn step on the next morning, cursing and pitching each one into the fireplace to meet a melty-end.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve craved a fireplace.  There’s something awesome about a giant flame in your living room that you can watch.  Put on any tv show, any at all, and it won’t compare to a good, well-built fire in your fireplace.  Hell, I can’t even put the tv on and have a fire at the same time.  I think it’s disrespectful to the fire gods.

So last night I had a fire going.  Ang suggested it actually, because it’s been bitterly cold around here lately.  I had some wood and some materials to burn, so fuck it, let’s have a fire.

Ang was in the kitchen making a stew and I started to load up the fireplace.  If you’ve never built a fire in a fireplace, let me break it down for you:  You need to start a base of crumpled newspapers.  Take one sheet of old newspaper and crumple into into a loose ball.  You can’t crumple it into a tight ball because oxygen won’t get inside the material and allow it to burn fully.  Instead you’ll just get little burning balls of material that won’t spread the fire.

So after you’ve crumpled up a dozen or so balls of newspaper you then set up your wood base.  Small pieces of scrap wood work best, because they’ll catch easier than say a whole log.  A log requires a lot of heat to burn through, otherwise the fire will patter out long before the log is fully engulfed and have a chance to provide you with a lasting fire.  Scrap wood will burn quick and through, generating that log heat.

After you get a good small fire going, with lots of red and orange flames, add one log at a time.  A log should be about 12 to 16 inches in length, maybe 4 to 6 inches in diameter.  Wait til the first log catches and add another.  With two logs burning, you should have enough flame to last you about an hour.  Add logs as appropriate, never letting the fire burn down to just embers.

Oh, and an important tip: make sure your flume is open BEFORE you do any of this.

But it wasn’t the flume I forgot to open last night as I started my fire.  It was the materials I was burning.

It’s somewhat bad practice to burn anything other than wood and paper in the fireplace, however I’ve burnt boxes from Xmas and last night a shoe box that was taking up room in my closet.  I had built up my fire with too much material to begin with, starting with that newspaper base and then some chunked up portions of plywood that we had once used to stiffen up our bed when we couldn’t fit the boxspring in our old apartment.  I had used three sections of this chopped up plywood to make a small A-frame in the fireplace, with the paper underneath everything and the shoebox under the two pieces making the “roof” of the A-frame.

Obviously everything caught, and burnt fast.  Before I knew it, flames were licking out of the metal screen and onto the hearth.  Thankfully we don’t have a mantle.

Ang, becoming concerned with the amount of smoke and brightness of the fire took one look at the fireplace and immediately bailed out of the house.  The smoke detector started to go off which led the dog to freak out.  Meanwhile, I started to fill up the smallest fucking measuring cup we own with water to help knock down the flames.

After about five attempts with the measuring cup and a scorched finger later, the materials in the fireplace were soaking in about an inch of water, crackling, pitching embers out of the flume.  I waved the smoke away from the smoke detector and Ang came back in.

If I could see through the smoke, I’m sure I would’ve seen Ang giving me that look that every wife spends hours a day perfecting; that “you know you fucked up, right?” look.

I cleared my throat, eyes burning a bit, finger tip throbbing.  “Uh, I’m gonna go do those dishes…”

February 6, 2010 Posted by | Blogging Couple, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, The Great Indoors | , , | 1 Comment

FNG

FNG (Military Jargon, noun, pronounced Eff-En-Gee): Inexperienced personnel that requires extensive training and supervision; Fucking New Guy, see also: Rookie.

Where I work there’s a high rate of turn over.  People come and people go like the breeze.  Of course, as a product of this, we’re always getting a new guy who is absolutely clueless as to what’s going on.

I come back from being away for pretty much a month to find in my office this kid.  And by “kid” I mean this guy is 18 years old, fresh out of where ever he came from, complete with teenage acne, patchy facial hair and a lack of eye contact.  His stature is smaller than my 120 lb, 5’4″ wife.  My waist line is probably the same as his chest size (32 inches).  He looks lost and confused, stuck behind my desk like a wadded up bad idea that didn’t make it to the trash can.

Jesus.

“Who are you?”  I ask.  He gives me his name, not with a lot of confidence but not exactly whispering it either.  I ask him what the hell he’s doing in my office and he tells me that he was told to come here so I could help train him, make him the man that I am.  I smile, pull my hoodie off from my head to reveal my vacation Mohawk, drop my bag and walk to down to my little room where I change clothes and use the bathroom.

I find out that one of my superiors has passed the buck to me to train this guy.  He, the superior, sugar coats his reasoning to me as I’m standing in front of him with a frothy toothbrush hanging out of my mouth.

“Jim, you’re the best we got in your department.  I don’t have the time to sit down and show this kid the ropes, it’s up to you.  He’s your pet now.”  I’m told.  I reply back that I already have a 50 lb Labrador that thinks it’s a lapdog, I don’t need another.  As he walks away, my superior curtly tells me to “get it done” and not in the ironic Larry the Cable Guy way either.

So I come back to my office and I’m looking at this kid.  He tells me his name and I tell him mine and we go from there.  He has a lot of questions about me (which I sort’ve fend off), about our work (which I try not to be negative about, but I don’t sugar coat it either) and what’s to be expected of him.  To this I tell him:

“Just show up on time, ready to work.  Have a good attitude even in the shittiest of situations, be prepared to take criticism, and learn from your mistakes.”  All generic advice, but advice I should probably learn to take as well.

I was once the ‘new guy’ too, and probably shared this kid’s ridiculous sense of nervousness.  Two months ago this guy was probably busying himself with Xbox and skateboards or whatever it is kids do now-a-days.  Now he’s showing up to work with his first very own real apartment that he’s just realizing that he has to fully furnish.

True story, when I dropped that bit of knowledge on him, he looked like I just hit him in the chest with a baseball bat.

“You mean they don’t furnish the apartments?”  He asked.

“Well, I mean, some they do, but usually not.  I mean, there’s going to be appliances and shit, but-”

“Like a blender?”

“What?”

“You said appliances…”

“Yeah, like a stove and a fridge…”

“Oh.  So like a couch?”

“No, that’s furniture, that’s not an appliance.”

“Oh.”

Wow.

I’m ten years older than this kid, so I can’t talk to you like I grew up in the ‘old days’ but seriously, I was kinda-sorta on my own by his age, living a few states away and getting by just fine.  I didn’t know how the world worked then, and even now I only have half a clue.  The difference between Me Now and Me Then is that now I know where to look for answers to life’s questions, like ‘when can I contribute to my IRA again for 2010’ and ‘How fucking fast does a cheetah run?”

I go to Google.

This kid hasn’t figured that out yet, and it’s up to me to show him.

It’s an amazing amount of responsibility, and it’s not a task I feel like undertaking with my usual blasé approach .  The last time I took a kid under my wing it resulted in him going overseas to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden.  Do I want to be responsible for telling this kid’s parents that their son got shanked by some opportunistic jihadist with a hatred of corn-fed Americans and a love of sharp knives?  No.  Absolutely not.

That and I don’t want this kid to pick up my bad habits, which I’m sure he will anyway.  I don’t want him to have my sour attitude or my apparent lack of serious maturity.  As another one of my co-workers put it, when they learned I was going to be sitting on this egg of an FNG until he hatched into a productive member of our team: “He’s going to learn all the bad things you do, but hopefully, he’ll learn all the good things you do around here, too.”

It’s just a process that I’m becoming all too familiar with.  It’s a cycle, because likely, in 6 months, this kid will have moved on to bigger and better things, and I’ll be walking into my office to stare at the next little fucker that’s come down the line.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Around The Office, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Smells Like Children | , | Leave a comment

TidBits: Snowed In Edition

On Friend Requests:

I have this guy I used to be best friends with growing up.  In high school we sadly parted ways.  He went with one crowd and I another – that shit is real elementary, it happens to everyone.

I literally hadn’t heard jackshit from this kid in close to almost ten years, and suddenly, as soon as I turned my Facebook account back on, I get a friend request from him.

I know what you’re thinking, or perhaps even saying to yourself:  “Who cares?”  I care.  That shit fucked me up a few different ways because one, I like to keep my “friends” on Facebook to a minimum; it keeps the News Feed clear of unneccesary crap as well as limits the amount of information about me that gets out there.  The other reason why the friend request was bothersome was because it was nothing more than just the request.  No attached note or message saying “hey what’s up, I’d love to reconnect, we had good times” or anything.  Nothing asking me about what I’m doing now-a-days, just a blank “add me” button to stare at.

I was friends with this guy for like… five or six years.  And by “friends” I mean basically sleeping over at each other’s houses every other night.  We were inseparable, we did everything and went everywhere together.  When he slipped on a patch of ice and broke his ankle as a kid, it was I who ran and got help.  And he couldn’t take two seconds to pound out one sentence to go with his request?

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I have a high expectation for people, or maybe I’m just a prick, but either way he should’ve/could’ve asked how I was doing in the very least.  No, what he was doing was just trying to inflate his Facebook “Friends” numbers and turn around and shit all over my News Feed.  And I ain’t havin’ that.

So I took the intiative and sent him a message telling him how I felt (by now I had received two of the same request, I had ignored the first one a few days ago) about his seemingly ambivalent approach towards me.  I was a real ball breaker, with the hopes that he won’t bother sending me another request.

Does it make me an asshole, yes.  But at the same time it saves me from two days of awkward conversations that peter out into me inevitably deleting him.  I’m just trying to save myself time and aggravation.

On Televised Violence:

I’ve been keeping half an eye turned towards Mtv’s Jersey Shore (read my review at the IRdC here), and was recently informed by my wife that a female character nicknamed (presumably by her pimp) ‘Snookie’ was physically assaulted at a bar after running her mouth – and it was caught on tape.

Of course I had to watch the footage.

If you haven’t seen the web-only footage (Mtv won’t air it, more on that in a sec), basically the diminutive skank with a love of trucker hats is standing on a bar stool and calling out some asshole who keeps stealing her and her friend’s pre-paid shots of booze.  She goes on a five minute long, insult-laden tirade on this guy, putting her hands in his face and coming within inches of assaulting him first.  The guy has enough and cracks her in the face with a straight punch.  He then (kinda) hustles out of the bar while a small army of guidos (kinda) chase him outside, where he’s met by the local constabulary.

Do I condone what happened to Snookie?  No.  Do I think she kinda asked for it?  …Maybe.

Either way, Mtv had decided that on it’s televised episode, they wouldn’t show the actual punch.  Instead, they black out the screen but give you the audio.  The audio consists of shit-talking abruptly silenced by the sound of a handclap, followed by a chorus of “ooooh”s, followed by a bunch of bleeped out cursing.  The shot comes back in with the assailant in retreat and Snookie on her side, crumpled up like a bumper after a head-on collision.

My beef is this:  Mtv won’t show a random stranger, who happens to be a dude, striking a female he didn’t know, in a public place that served alcohol.  They will however, show a promo for their other ultra-trashy reality television program “Teen Mom” where one of the teen mothers backs her baby’s daddy into a corner and slaps the shit out of him in anger.

And I’m not talking about like, one slap here.  I’m talking about taking this dude (who’s admittedly bigger than her) by the throat, slamming him into a corner, striking his chest multiple times, and then cracking him across his jowls.  Mtv has no problem airing this, let alone using it in the commercial for the next episode.

It’s a double standard.

I think it’s far worse to show domestic violence than just regular, standard violence.  I think it’s also a bad idea to show violence of any kind that’s centered around rearing a child, on a show that’s decidedly marketed towards teenage women, oppose to “Jersey Shore”‘s demographic which is conceivably slightly older in age.

Hey Mtv:  Just because it’s chick-on-dude violence doesn’t mean it’s ok to show it.  Just because the guy’s bigger than the girl doesn’t make it ok either.  That young woman on the show (Amber is her name, I watched a few eps this morning…) is psychologically unbalanced and dangerous.  You have untold amounts of footage of her crying in her car, on the phone, and in public places.  What makes you think it’s ok to air footage of her acting out in violence towards the father of her child?

It’s bad enough that there’s a stigma out there that men can’t be abused by their partners, but please don’t add to it and make it seem like it’s “normal” because it’s not.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of men take physical abuse from their spouses or girl/boyfriends in silence, because they’re afraid no one will understand them.  It’s a real problem.

So next time, how about you run that same stupid PSA text from that episode of “Jersey Shore” over the next episode of “Teen Mom” ?  It’d make up for running those Kid Rock videos back in 2002.

On The Holidays:

I wish Xmas was over with already.  I have all the gifts wrapped, trees up, lights are plugged in and I’m broke.  I’m really broke.

After paying all the bills and getting the last minute items shipped out, my bank account is tapped and it’s still like, ten days before my next paycheck.  I’m thankful that I’m on vacation for the next few weeks, because I’m not even certain that I’d be able to afford to put gas in my truck right now to make the commute.

I’m exaggerating obviously, but money’s tight, and that’s no joke.  The Holidays are rough on people for different reasons; maybe you’re broke, so broke you can’t afford gifts for Xmas, maybe you’re away from family, maybe you’ve lost people this time of year?  For all the joy the tv says that this time of year is supposed to bring, there’s a lot of long faces in the crowd.

It seems too, that The Holidays get longer and longer every year.  And I’m not talking like, they start decorating the stores earlier, I’m talking about how I seem to be ready for them earlier and earlier each year.  This lends itself to me sitting in front of the tv, watching the days tick by.  When I was a kid, this would be because I couldn’t wait for Xmas to get there, because the tree would be surrounded in a wall of wrapped boxes.  As I’m an adult, it’s because I’m just ready for all this shit to be over with – I’m waiting for the day AFTER Xmas, where I can wipe my brow, look at my bank account and sigh in a little relief.

Thank god Google’s been kicking ass in the stock market, that’s all I’m gonna say.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Smells Like Children, The Great Indoors, Why Am I Watching This? | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fat Lil’ Fucker

Lately, I can’t really comment on health and fitness.  The holidays are rough even on the most ultra-religious Nazi fitness fanatic.  Every where you turn there’s home-baked this, chocolate-dipped that.  Hell, just the other night, Ang and I made like 50 M&M cookies to bring into my work (full disclosure, I didn’t know I was supposed to leave some behind, naturally, I got an earful of this all week).

So I haven’t exactly been on my game.  As I was wrapping up work this past week in anticipation of my holiday vacation, I wasn’t really able to get over to the gym as much, if at all.  I feel lethargic and weak.

To help combat this, however, Ang and I have been doing hikes out in Nickerson State Park, with loaded packs on our backs.  These aren’t grueling hikes up the sides of mountains by any means, but at least it’s SOMETHING.

***

So last night I was in the local Shaw’s, getting some quick stuff for a carb-y meal of chicken parm; chicken breasts, angel hair pasta, sauce, the whole bit.  I get to the check out and I’m standing behind this guy and his 12 year old kid.  At first glance this kid looks hypoglycemic, badly stretched skin, yellow in color, eyes are simply dark colored dots poked into the middle of his face.  There’s one of those little dividers between his dad’s groceries and what appears to be the kid’s own purchase:  a small mountain of candy.

I’m not talking about a couple snickers bars and a thing of M&Ms, I’m talking about the hardcore candy, that stuff in the red packaging that’s glistening in sugar: gummy worms, sour patch kids, swedish fish, etc.  The stuff goes for a dollar a pack I believe, and in the end, this kid was buying over 15 dollars worth of the stuff.

In the mix as well, a few packs of gum, you know, because he needs something to do with his mouth between stuffing handfuls of confectionary into it.

I looked at the dad, who was non-pulsed by the scenario.  And that scenario was this:  The kid probably managed to roll off of his fat ass long enough to clean his room, and daddy threw him a Jackson as a reward with the promise that he could spend it on whatever he wanted.  Obviously dad must’ve seen the inevitable purchase of weapons-grade candy, because he was cool as shit about the purchase.

Literally, as soon as he finished paying for a bunch of small groceries (which I would’ve loved to have seen) his kid stepped up and paid for the candy with his own wad of greasy ones.  I must’ve had a horrified look on my face because the cashier glanced at me, then the dad before taking the kid’s money.

I felt like I had to be a responsible adult.  I felt like I had to say something to this father, that he was allowing his kid to kill himself.  To me, this was no worse than allowing your kid to buy a 30 rack of Ice House and pound the whole case down before heading out to school.

How was the father allowing the kid to get this out of control? Where was the authority?  I mean, easily, had it been my little butterball and he started grabbing up bags of candy with his little Vienna Sausage fingers I would’ve slapped that shit out of his hands real quick.

“No!” I would’ve yelled.  “No fucking way, no, if that’s how you’re going to blow your wad, then obviously you don’t deserve this money,” and yoink, there goes his allowance.

The whole scenario was so outrageously irresponsible.  Giving a kid money, allowing him to make a poor purchasing decision with no immediate repercussions, as well as allowing the kid to consume easily 200 times his daily allotment of sugars in one sitting reminded me of how, as a nation don’t deserve a public health option.

How hard would it to have been to be the dad and be like “no, you’re not buying that” or even “ok, you can buy candy, but how about you pick one of those bags and put the rest back.”?

No, instead dad is setting his kid up for failure.  At this rate he’ll be a diabetic by 22, his teeth will have rotted out by 28, he’ll have complications from all his medical issues by 35, and likely be in the grave by 60.  And by the looks of things, this isn’t just a snapshot judgement; the kid probably weighed around 140 and couldn’t have even been in his teens yet.

***

Did I end up saying anything?  No.  I knew that it would just create trouble, an awkwardness in the Shaw’s that would likely get me banned for life.  I kept looking at the dad, the cashier, the kid and then down at my own food in utter disbelief.  At one point my mouth opened to be like “hey…” but I knew I’d be swinging at a bad pitch, so I just clamped it and watched father and son waddle off like two human peanut M&Ms.

As my wife said after I told her the whole story when I got home “James, there’s nothing you can do – you probably would’ve gotten punched out by the dad.  Think of it like this:  That kid will be dead in a few decades, and there will be more air for us to breathe.”

December 17, 2009 Posted by | Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Out and About, People I Hate, Smells Like Children | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fuck Comcast 2

After spending literally an entire afternoon on the phone between Comcast and their third party contracted E911 people, I finally got our landline set up.

To put it another way, I spent roughly 6 hours attempting to outfit our new apartment with a technology that’s been around since 1880-something, can be replicated with two soup cans and a string, all to save myself 30 dollars.

Yeah, I’d have killed myself too.

The drama starts here:  I fucking hate Comcast.  If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area where you have another cable/internet/phone provider, good for you- you don’t know the levels of aggravation myself and nearly 5 million other Comcast subscribers are subjected to nearly every day.

By talking to my neighbors and co-workers, all of which HAVE to be Comcast subscribers (we do have the option for DirectTv and Fios – Verizon’s DSL service, but Comcast is the only service available on Cape Cod that provides high-speed internet access through coaxial cable) our experiences are shared; frustratingly confusing and hard to navigate automated menus when calling into customer support, inattentive customer support reps with a habit of buck-passing the customer once they realize there’s it’s not their department’s problem, tech service that usually leaves things more messed up than before they showed up, etc.

“It’s like dealing with a company manned by 14 year olds,” spoke a co-worker who also has felt the strain of having to deal with Comcast.  “I’ve had them for five years, and no matter what, they’ll fuck something up as soon as I call them,” he explained.

All I wanted to do was set up a landline at our apartment.  Because of some sort of geographic anomaly, we can’t get cell service where we just moved to, so we need a dedicated phone line that works.  Ang is on the job hunt again and it makes things a little hard if potential employers can’t reach her by conventional means.  I work in a field that requires me to be “on-call” 24/7.   I pitched the idea to my bosses that I could be reached at home via email instead of by phone, but my bosses felt that the “old ways” were better.  So a phone line was what I got.

First I called Comcast’s shitty customer service hotline and was greeted by a pre-recorded message from Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Stein, two people who have probably the most annoying, mouth breathing voices on the planet, each welcoming and thanking me for calling Comcast.  After five minutes of verifying certain information, like the last four digits of my cell phone’s number and pressing a bunch of buttons to talk to a human being, I finally get a hold of someone in the phone department.

I explain my case and site how apprehensive I am about taking on the service, given my and Comcast’s track record/rocky relationship.  I tell them that I’ve had numerous experiences where I’ve received sub-par treatment on both ends of the service, both from the office folks I speak to on the phone and from the techs in the field (I made sure I brought up the fact that the last tech that came out to do our cable/internet install completely fucked up our internet).  I shrewdly asked if there was any way to get a better deal on the price of adding a phone line.

“Well,” this woman starts.  “Right now you’re paying 120 dollars a month for just cable and internet, adding the phone service will bring you to 140 and change.  You’d be paying 20 dollars more a month for a 40 dollar a month service,”

“A phone line is a 40 dollar a month service?”  I hear my father’s voice coming out of my mouth.

“Yes sir,”

“Says who?”  I ask.  There’s a pause.

“Well, says Comcast, sir.”

So according to Comcast, they’re going to charge me 40 dollars a month for a technology that’s widely available ANYWHERE.  They say they’re going to “save” me 20 dollars a month if I bundle the cable and internet together with a dedicated phone line.  How the hell is a phone line 40 dollars a month?

I asked this, in polite terms.

“Well sir, you get unlimited long distance in the domestic US and Canada,” great, so I’m going to be paying for “unlimited” long distance that I’ll never use (I plan on prank calling Canada at least twice a week now -ed).

Granted I have one parent in Maine and another in Florida, I talk to them mostly from my cell phone, which I’d do from work if I really needed to chat with them.  Mom uses email just as extensively as I do, and 9/10s the time that’s how we communicate.  My father, still uses a phone for most of his communication, but even then, I call him once every two weeks for a 30 minute phone call from my cell phone.

“Ok, so, what if I don’t want unlimited long distance?”  I ask.  The woman seems baffled by this.

“Well, you could opt for the local only service, but that’s only going to cover you for your own town; any calls made outside of ________ will cost you 5 cents a minute.”

“Ok, that’s fine,” I say.  I really only need the device to receive in-coming calls, and really, what’s 5 cents a minute if Ang needs to reach me to tell me to bring home milk?  She starts to back pedal.

“Sir, um, it can get costly…”

“Do you think it’ll run me more than 40 dollars a month?”  I ask.  She corrects me and tells me that I’d only be paying 20 dollars a month, on top of my cable and internet.  “Ok, well do you think it’ll run me more than 20 bucks a month?”

“I don’t know sir.  But we’d have to send out a technician to set up the phone system in your house for that service, and since it’s an analog install, we’d have to charge you a technician’s fee, which is by the hour.”

“What’s the tech fee?”

“Twenty-five dollars an hour,” Jesus!

In the end, I opted for a self-install with their stupid unlimited long distance.  I don’t see myself carrying on like the babbling idiots in the commercials for Comcast’s unlimited long distance plan; some woman jabbering into a phone as she walks around her house.  I see an old, battered table top model from Kmart sitting on the counter, receiver tethered to its base by some tangled plastic chord.  I see the thing ringing once or twice a month, maybe.  Ang and I have already discussed that we’re not handing out this number to anyone other than my work, her work, and select few other people.

So with the little phone modem thing on order, and committing myself to paying out the ass for something I hopefully won’t need in the foreseeable future, I get a voice mail about an hour later.

“Mr. N, we’re from Comcast and we see you have an order in for our dedicated phone line service,” says the cheery foreign call center worker.  “We need you to call in and activate the device for E911 service before we can ship it out to you.  Please call us back at 1-800….”

Ok, not unreasonable, but I’m just curious as to why the woman whom I spoke to on the phone earlier couldn’t have handled this when I ordered the goddamn thing.  Plus I have to listen to the message again because the person who left the message sputtered out the number to call so quickly in a mushy-mouth way, that it’s hard to hear.

What I find out is that the number given is the central Comcast customer service number.  Awesome.

Back to navigating around Shaq and Ben Stein’s voices, back to another maze of automated options.  I finally get a hold of someone and explain the message I got.  They seem just as baffled by it as I was.

“Well sir,” some black college kid says, “let me put you on hold so I can figure out what’s going on here… did they give you a confirmation number?”  And they did, and given my past experiences with Comcast, I know to write this number down.  If you ever have the unfortunate experience of dealing with Comcast, WRITE DOWN YOUR CONFIRMATION NUMBERS!  Believe me, it’s the only way you’ll get anything done in a timely manner.  I was once on hold for 35 minutes just so the fucking idiot on the other end of the phone could look something up for me.  I nearly bled out from my wrist wounds.

So he comes back from putting me on hold and instructs me to call an 866 number that will take me through an automated process in setting up the E911 system.  I balk.

Being a cop in my former life, I know all about the E911 service.  It was introduced pretty extensively right at the end of the last decade by local police so that if you should call 911, and not be able to talk into the phone (sick and dying, hostage taking, etc) they can instantly see where you’re calling from.

Yes, it’s exactly like Caller ID, and half the time it doesn’t work or will fault and send out a signal to the police station if there’s a power surge, causing the cops to show up unexpectedly at your front door.  This is highly problematic if it’s Geisha Night.

So I ask if it’s necessary that I go through this step.  The gentleman I speak with says that not only is the E911 service an FCC regulation, but they can’t ship me the modem until I go through with the task of setting it up.

He assures me it takes less than 5 minutes and they only want to confirm my address.  He says it’s just pushing buttons on my phone and he’ll be happy to transfer me.

Sigh, ok, fine.

I sit on hold and here a few clicks.  I’m disconnected.  Apparently Leroy doesn’t know how to transfer calls.

If I had been holding a gun, I probably would’ve fired it into the ceiling by now.

I call back, hi Shaq, hi Ben; I know the number combination to navigate back to a human being by heart now (2-1-2-2-4-0).  I get a different service rep on the line now and explain the situation, AGAIN, asking if I can just get the number to the place I need to call to set this shit up.

“I’d be happy to transfer you,”

NO NO NO NO….. just the number please.

I get it, hang up.  My brow is drenched in sweat.

I call and get some fucking mish-mash of instructions that I guess are for technicians and not for an average Joe like myself to hear.  I’m confused so I just start picking options blindly, including mashing the ‘0’ key to talk to an operator.

“Sorry, we cannot provide that service at this time,” says the computer.

I finally wade through a bunch of bullshit and get to an option that will let me speak to a human.  I excitedly press the button.

I get some bored sounding housewife who starts reading through a script, prompting me to say “yes” in certain fields.  I stop her, and start to ask a question about the install, because I was unsure if I was pressing the right options and if she could confirm what I had done and make changes if something was really fucked up.

This of course takes her for a loop.

She stutters, there’s a long “uhhhh”

Long story short, I was worried that I might have tied my cell phone number to the account as well, which could result in me not being able to make calls with my cell, which is kinda a big deal to me.  I ask if she can go back in there and see if I tethered the two numbers inadvertently.

“Uh, I can’t do that, I’m not authorized.  I’m going to have to send this back to Comcast and have a service rep remove that information for you,” wait what?

“No no, no, its fine, don’t worry about it, let’s just move forward with this, and if it’s a big deal, I’ll deal with Comcast later,” I say.

“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t go forward with this install, if there’s a chance we could be cutting off 911 services from a cell phone it’s a big deal.”

“But I don’t think I screwed up that bad, let’s just get this over with so I can get my fancy modem and we’ll all just have a great day after that,”

“I’m sorry, I can’t, hold please,” and the line cuts out.  Suddenly there’s Shaq and Ben Stein again.  Motherfucker.

I hang up.  At this point I’m so mad that I nearly want to chop a tree down with my bare hands.

I wish I weren’t so dependent on Comcast for everything – like some sort of battered wife with no one else to turn to, so she keeps going back to the abuse.  I could opt for DirectTv but if we can’t even get cell service, what makes me think I’ll be able to get a satellite feed where we’re at?  We’re literally surrounded by trees and lobster gear.  There’s Verizon, but I don’t want to use DSL, and from what I understand the service isn’t that great either.

Then I read this article in the NYT this morning. 

I got half a chub.

In short, this guy and his hot wife dropped about five bones on a Mac Mini, a wireless mouse, keyboard and some extra cables and gave their cable company the fucking heave-ho.  They get all their television and movies through the computer and internet connection, circumventing the cable company (except for the internet access, which by itself is roughly 40 bucks a month.

He justifies the largely one time expense as being a cure-all to subscribing to a cable company for 140 bucks a month with not much to show for it except for a bunch of unwatched channels.

He gets the shows he wants and pipes in his Netflix feed seamlessly over WiFi.

It’s a little something to get used to, he explains in the article, but well worth it.  He ends up freeing about 1600 dollars a year.

Though, I’m sure he’s not stuck in a hole in the middle of the woods with no cell reception, either.  Another problem, this option isn’t really viable for sports enthusiasts who have to watch the game.  The writer’s solution:  Head to the bar.

This option echoes conversations regarding cable television (and subsequently its service) for years:  why is the customer paying out the ass for a bunch of shit he doesn’t need?  On one of my old blogs, I suggested that cable companies perhaps start custom-tailoring customer’s channel options, allowing the customer to purchase unlimited access to whatever and however many channels they wanted, for a low price, say, a dollar a channel, 5 dollars for a premium channel like HBO.  Being that local channels are all digital now this idea is even more advantageous to the cable companies, because it’s nearly guaranteed that people will want at least the local channels, plus grab up a few of the other channels too (for me it’d be Discovery, Vh1, NatGeo, AMC and Food Network, plus the locals).

But using the internet to get around the cable company is a do-able plan with the right materials, anyway.  Ang is by far a bigger proponent to watching television online, as she watches a few of her favorite shows (Dexter, Desperate Housewives, Family Guy) on sites like SideReel.com and Hulu.  As for myself, I’m more into purchasing stand alone episodes of my favorite programs (American Dad, 24, Sunny) on iTunes.  My argument is that there’s better picture quality, though sidereel – which is largely ad-free oppose to Hulu – isn’t bad, it’s just smaller.  Either way, even a season’s pass to one of my favorite shows on iTunes will run me maybe 40 bucks, which is a fraction of the cost of my cable bill.

In the end, I called back the third party E911 service number and followed the fully automated maze without talking to a human and without entering my cell phone’s number.  I completed the process in just fewer than 15 confusing minutes.

I let about a half an hour go by and I called back Comcast.  I got through to a service rep and asked if he could confirm that the device is now being shipped since I completed my end of the deal with the third party service.  The rep on the phone said that the unit was shipped earlier this afternoon and I should be getting it at my office’s address by Tuesday.

I breathed out.  Ok.

Hell, maybe the next place we move to, we’ll just cut out tv, cable and internet all together.  …I know, big talk, right?

December 12, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Hate, The Great Indoors | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

350 Million People CAN be wrong….

So I restarted my Facebook account over the weekend, but only out of necessity.  You see, when we moved into our new digs, we neglected to check our cell phones to see what kind of reception we would be getting with the place until after we signed all the paper work and checks, etc.

Turns out, we’re lucky to get one bar, by the windows.  Usually it’s no bars or the dreaded ‘no signal’.  However, both those options are better than “searching….” being displayed, because while ‘searching’ for a signal, your phone traditionally uses more battery power, as it tries to boost it’s internal antenna to grab a signal it thinks is just out of its reach.

We’ve been getting by just on internet alone.  Thankfully having wifi enabled phones allows us to connect to our internet connection at home, so our iPhones aren’t just expensive paper weights that I drop 175 bucks on a month.

The problem becomes when one of us is home and the other is out and about running errands or working.  There’s no way to make a phone call or send a text to the person who’s away because there’s no cell reception.  We found this out relatively quickly on one of our first nights at the new apt when I ran out to the store to get milk, and Ang wanted me to pick up Nilla Wafers and paper towels as well.

Without ‘Push’ notification, email on the iPhone only updates every 15 minutes, meaning I could’ve gone to the store and came back in the amount of time it would’ve taken me to get the message if I wasn’t constantly refreshing my gmail (Apple offers MobileMe, which for a subscription price of 100 bucks a year, you get Push and Cloud features)

There’s the option of getting a traditional landline, an option I’m still giving deep consideration to.  My job somewhat dictates that I be accessible at all hours, and if I don’t have a working phone, it’s an issue.  My company actually provides free (1980s era) cell phones to employees who don’t have or can’t afford a cell phone, they’re that serious.

The problem with a landline is that it’s going to cost an arm and a leg down the line.  Comcast (our cable and internet monopoly provider) offers a deal where if you get cable, internet and a phone line you only pay like 100 bucks a month, oppose to just having cable and internet (like we do) and paying 110-120 bucks a month (like we do).

The rub is that after 6 months, Comcast jacks the price of the service up to 140 clams, leaving you either with the option to get rid of something, or pay out the ass.

I spoke with the installation tech who hooked up our cable and internet at the new apartment about the offer and this is what he said:

Call and speak to a customer service rep,” he suggested while speaking in an Irish brogue.  “They can sometimes set up deals with customers, like extended contacts for a certain price per month, that sort of thing,”

“But, what if I don’t want to pay the corporation, … maybe I’d rather just deal with the man on the street?”  I hinted.  He grinned a gnarled grin that only someone with a knowledge of the British Isles could love and brushed off the obvious attempted bribe.

Sorry, it’s not the same as it used to be, where we could just program the box to give you free HBO or Pay-Per-View, it’s all monitored and regulated by dispatchers now, sorry.  But seriously, give them a call, and see if they’ll work with you.  They’re more inclined to make a deal, because it’s money in their pocket in the long run,” and he has a point.

Though, he did fuck up the install, requiring me to call Comcast later that night from the end of the driveway.  While some phone jockey gave me instructions on rebooting our modem and changing out the signal to our wifi, I had to place my phone in the dirt and run back and forth from our apartment to take the necessary steps in ensuring our computers had proper internet connection.  So what does he know, really?

The next option we briefly explored was using Skype, the Voice Over Internet Protocol service that let’s people video chat for free around the world.

Skype would’ve been a great fix-it option if it weren’t for the fact you need wifi to make it work.  Due to AT&T’s business practices, apps and services like Skype can’t make calls on the infamously bogged down 3G Network.  Calling out from home would be no problem, since there’s wifi there; it would be making calls to home where we’d need to find a hotspot someplace.

I found this out while at work all weekend, where I desperately ran around my office’s property in the dead of night with my phone out in front of me, trying to locate the strongest unlocked wifi signal from the surrounding houses so I could steal some bandwidth and call my wife.

Hint:  If your wireless network is named ‘linksys’, I’m pretty sure it’s being abused by some dude parked out front of your house right now with a laptop full of porn.

So, tired of emailing back and forth, which in this day-n-age without Push Notification is similar to communicating by message in a bottle, Ang suggested I open the dusty crypt that held my old Facebook account, reactivate it, and use the chat on there.

The Facebook iPhone App isn’t bad, and I don’t have a real beef with it.  Its minimalist, like how Facebook used to be, easy to navigate and its chat feature is similar to the iPhone’s SMS/MMS screen.

It was a gut wrenching decision, honestly, because I wanted to leave Facebook behind me.  I’m 28 years old, and in my humble opinion, I’m in the waning years of online social networking.  I use Twitter extensively, because there’s no real bells or whistles to it; I post something that’s on my mind, or post a link to this blog, and let it ride from there.

With Facebook, there’s too much required involvement.  I have to ‘poke’ back everyone that pokes me, even if I don’t want to.  Someone’s bound to send me some virtual gift that I sure as hell don’t want, but will have to comment on, lest I look like a fucking Scrooge.

There are too many people for me to keep in touch with as ‘friends’ only because they’re associated with people I interact with.  I don’t want to get status updates (and subsequently the notifications regarding a status I commented on from people I don’t even know) from the wife of a guy I work with, because she decided to ‘friend’  me after raiding her husband’s friend’s list and wanted to pad her own numbers.

I can’t reject her request, because then I’ll hear about it from the guy:

“Dude, be friends with my wife,” I don’t even know her name!  I just have the unsolicited knowledge that you two like to ‘do it’ doggystyle!

And speaking of  the people I work with,  I’d like to keep most of them at an arm’s reach distance.  I can’t unfriend them, because again, I’ll fucking hear about it in real life.

And that’s really the point: when I got rid of Facebook, the biggest reason of all was to reduce the amount of ridiculous , unnecessary drama that was bleeding into my life.  With anyone with a set of ovaries who posted on my wall, I’d be grilled by my wife and her Spetznas-like interrogation tactics.

Have you ever been waterboarded while trying to make pancakes for breakfast?  It sucks.

But wanting to be able to at least text with my wife meant more to me than dealing with Facebook and the bullshit associated with it.  Fuck it, I thought, who cares?

Within 24 hours I was back to checking my News Feed every twenty minutes.

Fuck you Facebook.  Fuck you.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Around The Office, Blogging Couple, Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Hate, People I Love, The Great Indoors | , , , , | 2 Comments

My Brush with Grad School

About a week ago, I got bit by some bug of ambition.

I don’t recall exactly where I was or what I was doing, but suddenly it became very clear to me that I wanted to attend grad school.

Way back in the early years of 2006 I graduated college with a BA in Criminal Justice (nearly double minored, by the way…) and since then I’ve been of the mind that it was “good enough” to have just a bachelors.

But honestly, and this isn’t anything you don’t already know, a bachelors isn’t jack shit anymore.  It’s nice to have, but really, who doesn’t have a bachelors in something?

Today’s bachelor’s is yesterdays high school diploma.  It’s sad AND true.

So maybe that’s what I was thinking when I set into motion a desire to do more with my education.

According to US News and World Reports, the percentage of master’s degrees being earned online is roughly 7%, up from 2% just two years ago.  Add to that the fact that I work a steady job that puts me in front of a computer for at least eight hours out of every 50, going the online degree route was an ideal choice for me.

I know what you’re thinking: DeVry or Phoenix or any one of those “cyber universities” is as legit as a doctorate from Mickey D’s U.  I agree.  So my search consisted of actual stone-and-mortar universities that had an online “distance” learning apparatus.

To my surprise, a lot of major colleges are getting into this online gig, because it’s another way to make money.

See, colleges and universities see it like this:  We have a prospective student who’d LOVE to come to our school, can afford it, but lives in Indo-China.  Let’s set it up so he can “attend” classes, earn his degree, and more importantly, still pay us for his education.

It’s simple economics.

I learned early on in my collegiate career that you don’t technically have to attend classes, just as long as you have a course syllabus, get your papers in on time, and show up for the midterm and final.  Being in the classroom for lectures is just bonus.

So I settled on a school that was both prestigious and local: Boston University has an extensive master’s program in Criminal Justice, and since I already hold a degree in that arena it was a natural fit.

What also spurred my decision was that my employer offers Tuition Assistance, which from what I understand is fairly easy to apply for, as a few of my co-workers sing it’s praises with their own online college experiences.

Little did I know, however, what the school wanted in “tuition” and what was being offered for “assistance” were two figures far apart.  BU wanted just over 30 grand to attend their grad school for just under two years.  If you broke it down by semester hour, it was something like 500 bucks per hour.

And I don’t fault BU for those numbers.  Ranked in the top 20 schools by US News and World Reports, their grad school is prestigious stuff.  Just to be able to say you hold a graduate degree from Boston University should open doors like saying “Open Sesame.”

Now on the other hand, my company’s “Tuition Assistance” would only cover me for roughly 4500 dollars A YEAR.  This is a generous amount of money, however it does lend to people setting their sights lower.

I get paid a decent amount of money, which I’m somewhat horrible at budgeting, which in turn is frustrating because I like to consider myself somewhat financially savvy.  My rent gets paid, there’s always food in our house, our cars always have gas, and our pets are always able to get the care they need, should it arise.  However, I’m also still paying off 25 grand in student loans, a 300 dollar a month truck loan, my and my wife’s cell phone service, which I’m sure if we had cheaper phones, wouldn’t be too much of a problem, a growing credit card bill, utilities, food, etc…

I can’t rightfully expect to take on a new loan.

But BU wasn’t having it. They wanted me, and subsequently my money.  They sic’d their attack dog on me, this dude name Andre.  Andre was very excited when I told him my background.

“Whoa, so you already have your bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from John Jay?  That’s a good school, I know them.”  I thought he was blowing smoke up my ass, and maybe after all he was.  No one knows about John Jay except for hardcore CJ types; FBI guys, NYPD brass, etc.  On my old truck I used to have a “John Jay College of Criminal Justice” alumni sticker on the back window.  It would actually get me out of tickets.

“That place though, real ghetto,” and that’s how I knew he knew SOMETHING about the school.  The “campus” if you can call it that, is broken into various buildings, only two when I attended (it’s since expanded into other buildings) one of which was a renovated public high school.  It was pretty gross.

He continued “and right now you’re _____ ________ (my current job) and you used to be a cop for four years?  What was your GPA like when you left John Jay,” and here’s where I thought it would be over for me.  I didn’t try very hard in the end of my collegiate career.  I was going to classes just to sleep in the back of the room with my tattered John Jay ball cap over my eyes.  I never participated in class discussions, I had a bad attitude.  At the time I was working part time for a local Police Department, so I had this feeling that a bunch of civilian MBA holders couldn’t tell me dick about real life police work.

So my grades somewhat suffered.

“Uh, 2-point-something?”  I said.  I figured there’d be a pause and he’d go into the whole “well I’m sure there’s a school out there that’s right for you…” speech, but he didn’t.

“Ok, well we’ll need your transcripts to verify, but yeah dude, you look good to go, we just need you to get this package filled out and we can get the ball rolling.  The only downside is that this all needs to be completed by Dec. 20th.”

Which at the time was about a month away, with Thanksgiving in the way and college finals quickly approaching; If I remembered correctly, most schools wrapped on the semester about 15 days into December, so really, when you looked at it, I had maybe two weeks.

Not a problem.  The hardest part would be to get those letters of recommendation.  BU actually wanted me to get an LOR from an old prof from my old school.  This was going to be problematic.

“Uh, I graduated in ’06.  I wasn’t exactly like, class president or anything,”  Andre understood.

“Just get me something, by any means necessary.”  What the hell did that mean?  Was I being told to just fake an LOR?  I mean, I could, and no one would know….

So I was getting pumped; Andre emailed me all the stuff I needed to get done and by when and I whipped out the ol’ credit card and gave him the non-refundable 70 dollar application fee over the phone, plus another 25 dollar (again, non-refundable) fee to get my official transcript from JJC sent over to him.

I felt like an idiot then, and I still do now.

When I finally told Ang, my wife, all of this, she was less than pleased.  She knows we’re comfortable, but bringing on new debt, a lot of it at that, was something she wasn’t on board for.  We discussed it over the next two days, and I realized she was right, especially after I saw how little the Tuition Assistance was going to be.

What compounded things further was that my company is going to be sending me to a two week training seminar in January that I’ve been dying to go to for the last two years.  The start of this seminar and the start of my online classes was the same week.  So I’d be two weeks behind before I even started.  Not good.

But this doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the idea of getting a graduate degree altogether.  When more time and money free up, I’ll probably re-float my interests.  Maybe I’ll send Andre a nice email asking him to hold my application fee and transcript in a folder someplace, so I can revisit BU in the future.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | Around The Office, Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Not Enough Time, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , | 1 Comment

TidBits: Your Online Newspaper Sucks.

In this issue of TidBits I focus the topics on various online newspapers, oppose to being all over the road, like I usually am.  Enjoy:

 

Huffington Post: I was first introduced to HuffPo back during the 2008 elections, because they seemed to have a more indepth (and far more liberally slanted) reporting on the campaigns than the New York Times did.  This is because unlike The Times, HuffPo is a fucking tabloid.  A tabloid, not in the sense of layout, but a tabloid in the sense that everything they publish is utter garbage and a glorification of shock-media.

Go to their site and likely on the front page “above the fold” you’ll find some colorful headline, with shocking allegations/implications/ramifications.  I’m sure today, 20NOV09, it’ll be something like “OPRAH QUITS!” or “GOLDMAN SACHS QUITS!” You get the idea.  The only people that should be quitting Huffington Post though are us.  Really, stop reading this trash.

Below that, you’ll likely find a headline involving a mass shooting, police dash board video of a 1oo mph car crash, or kittens.

The only real redeeming aspect of Huffington Post is it’s ‘Entertainment’ section, where on occasion they’ll post NSFW photos of quasi-famous people from European magazines.  If not for this section, I’d never known that Lady GaGa has pancake titties.

That being said, the Entertainment Section is rife with even more shit I don’t care about, to wit: Amy Winehouse BACK in rehab.  Lindsay Lohan looks strung out and too-skinny.  Some European model is doing coke on a yacht in the Mediterranean.  Levi Johnston’s cock is out for everyone to see, etc etc.

The worst crime perpetrated by Huffington Post, by far, is it’s line up of guest bloggers.  It seems that anyone under the sun, myself likely included, can submit their blogs and they’ll run on HuffPo.  A lot of these blogs are maybe 400 words in length, baseless, whiny, complainy, and ultra liberal.  And when you sprinkle into the mix CELEBRITIES, well, hold me down Jethro, let me beat feet over and see what the likes of Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and fucking-a-christ Fitty Cent have to say about topics including and not limited to: The Environment, television, and polar bears.

We all know that if you give a celebrity of any size caliber a mouth piece they will talk non-stop on subjects they know little about.  They will regurgitate talking points garnered at parties and shit they heard on Keith Olberman two nights ago.  They then turn around and fill up space on Huffington Post with the same shit, so that simple-minded office drones (like myself) stuck in front of a computer all day, will read that shit and puke it back up during a conversation with our spouses, co-workers and mistresses.

JUST BECAUSE GEORGE CLOONEY SAID SOMETHING, DOESN’T MEAN IT’S RIGHT!  He’s a handsome man, no doubt, but that doesn’t make him Jesus.

Slate: Slate strikes me as the type of online magazine that only people who want to pretend they care about important shit read.  If you scan over it’s front page there’s a splash of multiple graphic-headlines along with a side bar that represents the latest stories to appear on Slate, called “The Slatest” which is fucking cute.

Scrolling over the tops of the subject columns, you get drop down menus from the latest articles being written in each subject matter.  What really catches my eye are the “explainer” articles, where someone asks a question regarding current events (my favorite so far has been “What makes a gun a ‘cop-killer’ gun?” to which I would’ve simply answered: “It’s ability to function, now go back to pulling the curlers out of your hair, Maud.”).  I like these because it allows me to peer into the psyche of my fellow readers, and see exactly how shallow it can be.

Who gives a rat’s ass about “Which Way is Best for a ‘Twilight’ Vampire to Drink Blood’ or “What Makes a Prison State-of-the-Art?”  I have answers to both:  Through a straw and Rape Whistles, that’s what.

I think my biggest hangup with Slate is it’s over all redundancy.  On their front page alone, I can access the same article five different ways, six if it’s still listed on the “Slatest” side bar.  This only reeks of lack of content, which is why I normally only pump my brakes here once a day.

If it wasn’t for Farhad Manjoo, I would likely take Slate off my bookmarks.

Cape Cod Times: I don’t want to make this personal, I really don’t.  That would hurt my objectivity as well as credibility, but seriously you fucks, that sunrise submission I sent in was TIGHT.  And when you compare it to the other crap that was submitted, it makes me feel like someone down in whatever basement at the CCT has been busy jacking off all over everyone’s mail.

Here’s the back story:  The CCT asked for reader submissions of photos of sunrises and sunsets.  I submitted the following photo:

A few weeks later I checked back and saw that they posted the top 15.  Surely I was going to get SOME mention in the top 15.  That pic I took, with my iphone no less, was sick.

But no.  Out of the 15 they picked, maybe 4 or 5 were better, and after that, maybe 6 total were worth the effort.  The rest, including one taken from someone’s couch out of their picture window, blew King Kong Kock.

Now to the rest of your site – it’s terrible.  I understand you’re the only daily on Cape, but c’mon dude, you guys are fucking terrible.  It’s not like you have any real competition, except for the little dinky local papers, like the Ptown Banner, Barnstable Patriot, etc.  But c’mon, make the effort.

Your stories are half researched at best, and usually filled with speculation from your editorial staff.  You run incomplete articles that virtually amount to nothing, except a huge waste of time.

For instance, for the last month or six weeks, you’ve been running the same story about how some fire lieutenant is in trouble with the town offices in Bourne.  You can’t report why she’s in trouble, or under what circumstances she’s being investigated for, yet you run the story.

It’s fucking gossip dude.

Your Police and Fire Notes are often stuff you guys grab off the scanner.  Shooting here, stabbing there, car accident on 6… big deal, it’s so fucking repetitive that I want to go down to your printing shop and instruct all of you on the phenomenal waste of paper you’re generating.

But hey, my ferrets need ass wipe too, so… keep up the good work.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Gonzo Journalism, Out and About, People I Hate, Shameless Self Promotion, Why Am I Reading This? | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reviewed: Modern Warfare 2

Kazakhstan: a hellish frozen tundra that would easily be confused with some other planet rather than a former communist bloc satellite country of the Soviet Union.

But alas, being a member of the super secret and elite Task Force 141, you don’t exactly get to pick and choose which locales “they” send you to.  You might be freezing your ass off in the Permafrost today, sweating it on in the narrow funnels of death that make up the shantytowns of Rio.

Infinity Ward’s beyond-anticipated “Modern Warfare 2” dropped this week, and I finally got my hands on it, though not my own copy.  No, for my own, I’m apparently going to have to wait for Xmas.

“Ang, I need to know, are you going to get me Modern Warfare for Xmas?  Cuz if you’re not, I’m just going to go and buy it – right now” I said with half a foot out the door, pointed in the general direction of the mall.  At 28 years old, I don’t get excited for new games like I used to when I was a seldom-bathing college kid eight years ago, but when a massive game, one you’ve been dying for since this time LAST YEAR finally hits the streets, it’s like a crack fiend finding a lonely rock in the bottom of his pocket after going dry for a few hours.

“Yeah, I am going to get it for you,” my wife says from next to a cutting board where she’s working some cucumbers into the evening’s meal.

“Ok, well, would you be interested in getting it for me NOW… and you know, it can be an early Xmas gift?”

“No,” she chops into the cuke hard with finality.  “I imagine it’s going to be such a pain in the ass to get that game for you around the holidays that I refuse to have you go and get it for yourself, no.”

I frown.

“Or, ok, you can get it, or I can get it right now … but you can’t play it til Xmas.”

Ah, the bitch!

Though, procuring the game will be easier than she knows.  After a month and a half after any major game’s release there’s going to be plenty of used copies in circulation, thanks to the numerous fanboys who consume a hot game like “Modern Warfare 2” in its entirety a few short hours after purchase and move on like a pack of locusts.  Hell, I would imagine now, even after a few short days since its release there’s bound to be a used copy at the local GameStop.

However, I don’t know if I can last that long – “til Xmas”, ugh.

But fortunately for me, a guy I work with has a cooler wife than I, who let him go and get it, and he brought it into work so at lunch we could all crowd around the giant tv in our lounge and watch the Suburbs of Washington DC get pulverized by Russian regular army.

As you can tell, MW2 takes its queues from mostly war fantasy, oppose to the earlier incarnations of the “Call of Duty” franchise which were mostly settled in and around historically-accurate World War 2.  The trend to break away from the oversaturated WW2 shooter market started in 2007 with Infinity Ward’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” where the franchise went for a more current events-type look and feel.  Between the two games, MW and MW2, there was “COD5: World at War” which borrowed heavily from MW’s graphic’s engine to bring players familiar with the franchise back to WW2 with an updated look.

And that brings us to the technical aspects of MW2:  It doesn’t look much different from MW in the aspect that the surroundings and people all share the same rendering.  Sure, character outfits have changed and you’re engaging Brazilians oppose to Arabs in some respects, but the character movements and interactions don’t fall far from the original MW tree.

However, along with the storyline what does get an improvement is the arsenal of weaponry that’s available to the player, along with the ability to double fist small arms (an ability that was grossly missing from the first MW, but can be found in just about every other shooter available).  The old standby’s like the M4 and Kalashnikov are present, but sniper rifles with attached thermal imaging scopes to old clunky side-by-side shotguns are at the player’s disposal as well.

The storyline is a lot darker and slightly more convoluted as well.  Early on, like in all “Call of Duty” games (the Modern Warfare titles still apply, even though the COD has been largely dropped) you’re introduced to your playable character, and brought to a shoot house, or tactical assault mock-up, where pop-up targets present themselves for engagement.  Your sure-footedness in this section will allow the game CPU to suggest a level in which to start the campaign.

An interesting twist that Infinity Ward brings with the latest chapter of Modern Warfare is the addition of civilians.  In previous shooters the player is encouraged to shoot at just about anything that moves with little in the way of consequence.  Hell, hit one of your own guys and he stumbles, but picks himself up and carries on with the mission.  Maybe says something smart about your aim (or lack there of), or in the very least identifies himself as a friendly.

But no more, as I found out after laying down an entire magazine of digitized 5.56mm from my tricked out M4 in the shoot house; in the earliest of stages of the game you can fail by blasting a steel cut out of a little booger-picker holding an ice cream cone.  This game-play element introduces us more hardened virtual trigger pullers to the real-life aspect of Rules of Engagement.

But in the actual mission game-play of the campaign, whacking a civilian has little to do with you failing.  I mean, don’t go targeting them, but if one or two civvies get in the way, well… didn’t they know there was a gun fight outside?

One of the more disturbing and darkest parts of the game happens earlier on as well.  As a member of Task Force 141, you infiltrate an underground Russian crime ring and stage a massacre at a local Russian airport.  Infinity Ward gives you the option of skipping out of this early mission with a disclaimer that says something to the effect of “hey, this is going to get real nasty” but I wonder who among us is going to skip?  And doesn’t that disclaimer only entice the gamer into seeing what all the fuss is all about anyway?

I consider myself to be an avid gamer where nothing really upsets me as long as it’s pixilated- many  video game hookers from Liberty City  have fallen to my sociopathic tendencies.  However, selecting the “play thru” option and being forced to march ankle deep through politically-inspired civilian carnage blackened my soul.  You have the option of not firing a single round into the crowds of people scurrying for their lives, but just to watch the event unfold made me want to put the controller down and walk away for a bit.

Parents with kids who have, up until this point managed to convince you that Rated ‘M’ games are ok for them to play after school, be cautioned.

The question that seems to get asked more and more frequently regarding violent video games is “how far can they go, and are they willing to go that far?”  I’d hope to think that Infinity Ward has reached the wall.

But it is all just fantasy, as are the missions with the Army Rangers that center on the aforementioned attack on DC.  The intensity of the house-to-house fighting was truly the most thrilling game-play experience I’ve had in a long while.  As implausible as an attack launched by the Federated States of Russia seems, the plot device does ring of certain truisms; stolen technological hardware allows the Russians to jam our NORAD satellites and cloak their advance towards our seaboards.

But then there’s a fair share of military fantasy as well:  Super Secret Special Forces globetrotting in denim jeans and load-bearing vests, shooting their way through civilian-lined neighborhoods.

The game is challenging and goes beyond the mindless trigger pulling.  Whole missions hinge sometimes on just one shot, while others are a frantic and deadly cat-and-mouse chase over shantytown roof tops as a militia of Brazilian Irregulars advance on you – and you’re unarmed.

Unfortunately we don’t have an Xbox Live account here at the office, so I can’t personally comment on the online play.  When I interviewed a few co-workers who have already purchased and played the game online, the general consensus orbited between ‘dope’ and ‘fucking awesome.’

While “Modern Warfare 2” doesn’t break any new grounds visually, it’s an inspired and above average offering for a genre that’s easy to write off as spent.  What MW2 manages to do is up the ante for shooters further, at the same time toeing the line of what is considered acceptable for battle-hardened gamers (and good taste), while featuring content that goes well above and beyond my long awaited expectations.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Around The Office, Blogging Couple, Getting Older, Why Am I Watching This? | , , , | 1 Comment