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

Best of The BAD: NYC 101

Another ‘Best of’ this was originally posted this past summer after reading an article in the NYTs about twin blonde-haired sisters trying to “make it” in NYC as college grads.  The article, aside from making me shake with rage, seemed to be sympathetic towards two white chicks living on the UWS, spending their days baking cookies and hanging out in Starbucks waiting for oppertunity to just waltz right in through the front door.

As a former NYer, who literally had to eat cat food off of crackers for sustenance at one point, I thought I’d inject my feelings on the article, which was originally title “Surviving NYC”.  So here it is, rebroadcast for your enjoyment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go give my wife the wake up pipe.

Enjoy.

***

It seems that nothing much in the news or in the world has gotten me very fired up lately.  Boston sports is pretty much a numb limb; an arm lifted high for so long that the blood’s drained out of it, and the body proper can no longer tell what the fingers are doing.  Politicians from both sides of the political spectrum have been sniping at each other with the typical deft of an over grown four year old.  A war toils on in a waste land, etc etc etc.

So this morning – Sunday – I was flipping through the Times, when I came across this article.

If you don’t want to wade through three pages of mind numbing and frustrating bullshit, I’ll sum it up for you.  The Barry Twins, Kristie and Katie (aww) have been “struggling” to find long-term work in NYC for the last 18 months, and are starting to get discouraged by their lack of results.

Freshly out of college, the Ohio transplants have degrees in Journalism, which is akin to having a degree in Latin or VCR Repair.  It’s a useless degree in a field that shrinks daily in size like a puddle under the sun.  They aspire to be sports broadcasters, tv talk show hosts, or anything else related in the field.  According to the article they’re “flexible.”

They’ve submitted untold resumes along with freshly baked cookies.  They sit in bars or Starbucks, whining about how ‘tough” getting work in NYC is.

I don’t know where to begin.

I’ve read the article three times now, and each time I get a little more bullshit.  The first time I read through this slapped together feature piece, I thought it was a satire; some fiction to help illustrate the effects of our economy and rising unemployment rates on college kids finally entering the real world.  The Twins share an apartment with their college-attending brother and his artist friend on the Upper West Side to the tune of  nearly 3000 dollars a month.  One of the twins works three nights a week as a bar tender and rakes in 800 bucks.  The other used to bar tend, before getting fired for keeping the music “too loud.”  Now they spend their days browsing job posts on craigslist, sucking down 6 dollar Starbucks coffees, and playing the saxophone on subway platforms not for change, but for business cards.

It’s almost adorable, the naivety.

The second and third times I read through the article, I was just making myself more and more upset and flustered.  I mean, really girls?  You pull in 800 bucks a week, working three nights at a bar, and you’re not even really cute.  You should count your blessings on that alone, where the average 24 year old out-of-towner probably pulls in a fraction of that amount busting his or her ass at three jobs for a total of 60 hours a week.  I should know, because I used to be one of those 24 year olds.

The UWS apartment?  It’s a “cozy, fourth floor walk up.”  I lived in East Bumfuck Queens in a 1000 dollar a month hole in the ground with slits for windows that had a total square footage of a public bathroom, and smelled just as bad.  Starbucks and drinks at the bar?  I ate cat food off of saltines for a period of time, because I had no money.

I actually considered mugging people.

The Twins come up with cutesy ideas to try to get noticed, like sending home-made cookies with resumes, and the aforementioned sax playing for business cards.  Bitches, lesson one about living in NYC:  Cute doesn’t cut it.  NYC is the majors, it’s serious chemistry with all the charm of a dead hooker.  People literally live and die by the decisions they make in that terrible gray piss-soaked metropolis, and you’re sending cookies to HR reps?

Here’s how that’s likely going over:

HR Rep:  Hey, what the fuck are these?  (smells) Cookies?  And what’s this they’re stuck to, a resume?  Huh, not much on here to work with.  Well, I guess I’ll stick these in the break room, maybe someone will eat them.

Girls, don’t whine that in 18 months you’re not getting any bites on that ‘dream job.’  ESPN is not going to come knocking down your door because you’re the next best thing since white bread.  You have to work and earn your place in the pecking order of NYC, you are owed literally nothing.  Yes, you have friends, according to the article, that hook you up in various ways, so utilize that.  It’s called “networking.”  You meet people who know people and you keep adding them to that list.  You don’t sit on your ass all day baking treats and scanning job listings online.  You beat the pavement, you wear second hand clothes and you sure as hell don’t live ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE!

I’m almost willing to bet that they won’t even look for work outside of Manhattan.  I bet they’ve never been to Queens.  They went to Brooklyn to check out a trendy hipster bar, once.  And they probably took a cab.

The comment thread has been 50/50 where people are either supportive of the girls, or bleakly realistic.  A lot of would-be NYers, (like myself) have weighed in with their own experiences, detailing how the city eats people alive.

Again, I did three years, one of which I was pretty much on my own.  I started off by staying at a dorm while I was taking classes near Fordham, then moved into a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with two other guys I knew from school.  I basically turned the living room into my own room, which sucked because every morning I had to turn it back into a living room again.  When that situation fizzed out about two years later, I got the aforementioned apartment in Queens while picking up work at a generic office building.  I had my own little broom closet sized office and I wore a suit every day to the tune of 11 bucks an hour with no health insurance.

But it all came to an end and I realized I couldn’t do ‘this’ anymore so I packed my shit and went back home.  And here we are today.

I admire these girls for having the balls to at least try, and I don’t necessarily blame them for being so utterly naive.  There’s no class in college that breaks it down for soon-to-be-grads.  No one to stand there and be like “oh hey, by the way, this degree isn’t going to mean jack shit in the real world.  You’re going to be bussing tables til you’re about 29, so try to keep your head up.”

NYC is for self starters and these girls certainly have the potential, however they need to head in the right direction and pay their dues.  There’s doctors and lawyers who have been living in NYC for the better part of twenty years who don’t have an UWS apartment.

My advice to The Twins:  Dye your hair brown, cut out the cutesy self entitled bullshit, stop going to Starbucks (coffee at the diner down the block is like 65 cents, there’s little to no waiting, and you won’t be surrounded by smug assholes.  This is where the real NYC winners tend to gravitate towards.  Starbucks is for tourists and college kids), and start getting guys to buy your drinks for you at bars.  You’re both female; there’s no reason why any woman in New York City should be buying their own drinks, unless she’s an ultra feminist lesbian.

Move to Brooklyn, there’s plenty of nice places for half of what you’re paying in rent, close enough to the city that you’ll be actually forced to take a bus some places.  And for the love of Christ, stop sending out cookies with resumes.

February 14, 2010 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, People I Hate, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , , , | Leave a 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

Sins of a Dog Owner

It’s Xmas morning when the following takes place:

It was roughly like 0930 and the wife and I had opened all our gifts, put coffee on, and were in this post-Xmas morning glow.  That kinda awe when you realize that the other person got you way too much awesome shit.  It was during this period when I decided it would be a good idea to take the dog for a quick walk.

The schedule we keep Ivy, our yellow lab, is in two parts:  She’ll get me up between 0600 and 0700 to be let out to pee and eat breakfast.  While this is going on, I’ll feed the ferrets and get my bearings.  I’ll work for a bit, either in my office or in front of the tv and usually by 0900-1000 she’ll want to go outside again to take a big shit.

Since living at our last place, I’ve neglected to put Ivy on a leash.  I hate leashes, I think they’re a pain in the ass.  Ivy isn’t the type of dog that ‘walks you’ instead of you walking her, but she does tend to dawdle at every piss-soaked piece of sidewalk between here and where ever we’re going, which sucks when it’s below 30 degrees outside.  Without the leash, I can keep walking forward (and keep warm) and she’ll usually catch up once I’ve gone maybe fifty feet ahead.

This is also ideal for when Ang and I go hiking.  Ivy can sniff whatever she wants and we can keep up our pace.  We seldom run into other dogs on the trails, but if we do, usually they’re unleashed too, and never does anything negative or “bad” happen.

So where we moved to, we’re a bit out of the way in a sleepy neighborhood at the end of a cul de sac.  We have a front yard and a long dirt driveway and 4/5s the time, Ivy’s really good about staying within those confines.  But lately, she’s taking her liberty too far.

I would let her out but stand by the door “just in case” she decided to follow a scent too far into the woods around our house.  Many times I’ve been putting on a sweater and slipping into my boat shoes after waiting for up to ten minutes by the door (which is my self-imposed time limit) to hear her jingling collar coming up the driveway through the darkness.  Where she went, who knows, but at least she came back.  This is definitely problematic.

So back to what I was talking about on Xmas morning.  I again, forgo a leash because I figure we’re gonna go out, come back, all within like ten minutes.  None of the few neighbors I have would likely be out and Ivy can run around in the snow drifts, do her dirty business, and we can get back to play with all the shit I got for Xmas within those ten minutes.

Of course when we get to the end of the driveway, the old miserable lonely cunt next door is out there with her 400 lb German Shepherd, a dog that needs to be groomed worse than Joaquin Phoenix’s face.

Obviously I don’t like the woman.  I’ve had minor interactions with her before and she’s awkward and annoying.  She’s preachy like an old spinster would be.  She keeps her equally long driveway entrance blocked by parking her Buick right at the end of it.  Her giant Shep is aggressive, but leashed.

So as we come around the bend in our driveway, of course Ivy see’s him.

She doesn’t have issues with other dogs, usually.  Usually she just ignores them.  But this other dog starts yanking on his leash and barking.  And being that I have Ivy off of a leash, I kinda trot up along side her to grab her collar in case she decides to go bluddy loony tunes all of a sudden.

I greet the woman with a hearty “merry xmas” and she says nothing.  Her dog is barking and freaking the fuck out.  I bring Ivy close so they can sniff each other in the hopes the dog relaxes and we can all move on.  Instead of saying “merry xmas” back or even “good morning” she says in this bitchy tone:  “Don’t you have a leash.”

Notice no “?”.  She spoke it like a comment or an order.  I try to play the role of a plaintive dog owner and instead of going into a big long thing about my personal belief’s regarding leashes, I just say “ah, yeah, but I couldn’t find it and she had to go,” and to this the woman says “you know, ___________ (our town) has leash laws, you could get fined and your dog could get taken away by animal control.”

That last bit, to me, sounded like a fucking threat.  I smile, wish her a merry xmas again, and pull Ivy away up the street so she can do her business, literally putting this miserable woman behind us.

The next thing is that Ivy typically doesn’t just shit “anywhere.”  She goes out of her way to find someplace where people typically won’t walk.  Although this might be on someone else’s property, it’s practically never on their front lawn or driveway, but more along the sides of the property, in a tree line or in some bushes.  I have no personal hang ups about this at all.

So as Ivy bounded into someone’s yard to sniff out a patch to poop on, this woman comes around the corner with her shepherd.  She’s looking at me, and then looks over at Ivy, who’s in a squatting position, right on this neighbor’s front lawn.  She couldn’t have picked a worse time to deviate from her normal pooping procedures.

I smile some dumb smile, shrugging my shoulders as if to say “what can you do” and fully prepare myself to get a tongue-lashing from this woman at best, and and at worse, the cops called on me.

“That’s not right,” she says to me.  I have to agree.  Ivy finishes, shakes, and comes trotting back to me.  We leave.

“You’re not going to pick it up?!”  She calls after us.

My number one sin as a dog owner is that I’m not a poop picker-upper.  We don’t live in a built up area, Ivy doesn’t shit where people would normally walk.  Even though this particular time she shat right in someone’s front lawn, there was snow covering every thing and the shit would be gone within 24 hours, I’m sure.  I’m not one of those people who carry little baggies with them where ever they go just to bend over and carry dog shit with them until they find a receptacle.  Sorry, I won’t do it.

If that makes me a bad dog owner, then fine, whatever.  But I’m not mistreating my dog, I’m mistreating the people who live around us, there’s a difference.  As someone once said: the more time I spend with my dog, the less I like people.

Or something like that.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Out and About, People I Hate, Puppy Tales | , , , , , | 1 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

Tid Bits: Runner Snob/Social Networking/The Power Company

Tid Bits is a new thing I’m going to try.  In short, it’s basically ideas or short articles that I couldn’t flesh out enough into full length pieces, so I’ll just throw a bunch of them together in one post, each roughly 500 words or less.  Think of it like a stew made up of left overs that were too good to throw out, but not really enough for lunch.

If it turns out to be a successful idea, I may run it once a week.  We’ll see.  First up:

Runner Snob:

I do a lot of running, usually on open roads dense with mid-morning or afternoon traffic.  This is hazardous, however I feel a greater threat to my body from running on a treadmill.  Don’t ask me why, the answer is too long to explain, just take for granted it has something to do with joints, tendons, muscles, etc.

So I road run.  Road Runners are a select breed that I like to think of as a cross between urban bike messengers, rebels with nothing to live for, and fighter pilots.  We take somewhat calculated risks, where if our calculations are off even by a fraction, it could result in a delivery truck running over our legs, or worse, some idiot texting and driving pulling out from a side street without looking both ways, causing you to flip over their hood and into their windshield, spilling your skull-guts all over the blacktop like a pinata at your girlfriend’s cousin’s quinceanera.

But being a road runner also makes you a terribly obnoxious snob while out running.  The reason is many-fold, from having to deal with other pedestrians whom have no clue how to give way to someone running past them (that stupid half step, lean in, lean out, don’t-know-which-way-to-go dance) to sighting massive Peopalo (half person, half dumb water buffalo) crossings where these dumb herd creatures stand on city curbs, usually grazing from a bag of microwaved popcorn with vacant stares, waiting for a crossing signal to change.  They’ll step right off the curb in front of you, even as you give them a “head’s up!” from a distance of 15 feet.

At best, you break your stride, and have to dart around them like a nimble… something or other.  At worst, you plow right into them and fracture your rib cage on their massive, sagging arm.

Yes, running makes me a pretentious asshole who wraps himself in over-priced spandex, with some dangling piece of Apple electronic from my ear.  I wear ridiculously futuristic-looking sunglasses and running shoes that resemble one of P. Diddy’s outfits from 1999.  But I’m still better than you, “you” being the fat lazy piece of shit mucking up my run by simply standing there dressed in some frumpy overcoat with coffee stains on it, mouth agape, getting fatter off of the car emissions and farts from their fellow peopalo.

Social Networking:

I was in my local GNC yesterday and I happened to run into the wife of a guy I work with.  We had idle chatter; the bullshit about the collective knowledge that Venn Diagramed into what we both knew.  She then hit me with this:

“I haven’t seen you on Facebook lately, what’s up with that?  Did you unfriend me?”

Jesus, this stupid drama never ends, does it?  One of the cardinal reasons I dropped off the FB Radar was over dumb conversational topics like this.  First off, my life is far too important to be spent worrying about what others online think about me, secondly, I found that I spent too much time dithering to the point of brain numbness on each and every person in the known universe’s fucking Facebook page.  The endless updates streaming in from people I hardly spoke to in High School let alone in real life, the advertisements from Wendy’s, Lamborghini, and RockStar Energy Drink, all of which I gladly subjected myself to by clicking the “I’m a Fan” button.  I was sick of it, all of it, and most of all I was sick of the inevitable real-life interactions with people that seemed to center on fucking Facebook.

I looked at the woman, and with probably a look of total hatred, I explained that I killed my Facebook page.

“Really?!”  Genuine surprise.  “Good for you, I wish I could,” and it hit me, quitting Facebook, especially when you work a pedestrian job such as behind the counter at GNC, was like trying to quit smoking.  I mean, what else were you going to with your free time, when no one’s in the store, but to log on to your Facebook Account and endlessly click “refresh”?

I went on to explain that one of the bigger reasons I got out of Facebook’s grasping control over my life was because of the pointless arguments I was getting into with my wife.  The constant insecure “who’s that writing on your wall?” and “Did you ever sleep with her?” questions were enough to make me want to put a bullet through the giant fucking monitor that is my entire computer.  It wasn’t worth it anymore, life was/is simpler without the faceless corporate dickwad Facebook looming over everything I do, say, touch and make.

“You’re what, 27?”  I asked her.  She nodded.  “You’re too old to have a Facebook anymore, I’m sorry.”  And with that she agreed as well.  And that’s another reason why I gave it all up.  I’m a married 28 year old male, Facebook shouldn’t have a role in my everyday life anymore.  I’m not a college kid or a young upstart looking for a foothold into a career.  I have a stable job that allows me to pay all the bills and rent and have a little left over at the end of the month to do the things me and the wife like to do.

But I know she, this wife of a friend won’t give it up, the same way I know this guy at my work will likely never stop smoking, try as he may.  His (our) job is too stressful and has too much downtime for him to go out and get a quick smoke.  It’s a rollercoaster, where we’re up and down so frequently that he can only decompress by taking a few lonely drags out on the smoker’s deck.  At night I walk by, and there he is, alone, leaned up against a wall, dragging away looking at his feet.  I honestly feel fucking sorry and sad for him, but I know he won’t let go of the little white dick until he’s moved on to something that’s a lot quieter and completely different.

This girl, this wife of a friend from work, will not let go of Facebook for the same reason.

The Power Company:

Kudos to Nstar, our local electric power regulator.  Bravo for being on scene so quickly and doing such a thorough job last night when apparently the power went out in our neighborhood at like, 3 am.  I don’t know much about the details, as I was able to sleep through most if the hullabaloo, but my wife on the other hand, could not.

This translates into me hearing her tell me all about with, in that way a woman wearing curlers and shaking a rolling pin, would tell it.

I do remember some of it, though, particularly the part where because the transformer Nstar was working on was affixed to a telephone pole that sat directly in front of our bedroom window, they shined a 1000 watt spotlight into our bedroom for three straight fucking hours.  So thanks for that.

But part of my problem, that I hear about at least weekly, is my ability to sleep through most anything.  This is true, and I attribute this fact that I even slept through my own birthing.

Somewhat True Story:  When I was born, doctors thought for a second I was stillborn, but suddenly I awoke, rubbed the peach-fuzz stubble around my mouth, yawned, blinked my eyes, and looked around the room.  Immediately I asked if someone was going to the store, and if so, could they pick me up a litre of Canada Dry ginger ale and a Snicker’s bar.

Fast forward to the age of 7 or 8, and my parents decided to take me out to a stock car race.  I was fast asleep in my dad’s lap, no earphones on, by the fourth lap of the first race.  I even slept through a massive crash where two motorists were severely mangled, and a fire truck was called on scene to yank out whatever body parts they could separate from the wreckage.

I’m a heavy sleeper, which is irksome to my wife, who fears that any moment, members of the Atlanta Falcons are going to storm into our apartment and presumably start a pick up game in our living room, using our dog’s disembodied head as a ball.

If I learned anything about Nstar firing the planet-evaporating death ray from the Death Star into our most sanctimonious chamber at the oddest hours of the deadest part of the night, it was that I should probably set the alarm on my phone as well as my bedside alarm clock, in case this happens again when I have to work the next morning.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Around The Office, Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Hate, People I Love, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fat Fucks

Recently I was someplace, maybe I was in my truck or in Ang’s car, and saw what appeared to be two medium sized dogs fighting inside a pair of oversized sweat pants.  These pants were making their way slowly down the street, as the dog on the left seemed to be getting the upper hand on the dog to the right, and then the tables would turn, and the dog on the right would over take the dog on the left.
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Then I realized that I was not watching two medium-sized dogs fighting while trapped in a pair of sweats; I was watching a morbidly obese woman saunter down the thoroughfare, presumably towards her next feeding.

I gagged a little, yeah.

You don’t have to watch the news or hear the health warnings to realize that our country is literally crumbling under its own weight for the last thirty sum-odd years.  Obesity has been the plague of our nation the way starvation plagues Somalia, and economical instability plagues Russia.  Every country has its problems and I assume that being a nation of rollie-pollie’s sure as hell beats a nation run by tribal war lords.

It used to be that girth was a sign of wealth; the fatter you were the more money you had to spend on luxuries such as food and drink.  Look at King Henry Tudor, he weighed in at over 400lbs by the time he died of a collapsed lung and gout.  Sure, some of his weight came from sustaining a jousting injury, but back then, what did you do if you were stuck in bed all day besides eat huge turkey legs and fuck the shit out of virgin maids?henry_viii

Our country, despite its rocky fiscal 2008, has been living high off the hog since World War 2, and it shows.  Progressively, every generation since the Greatest Generation, has gotten a little bit fatter.  I don’t have numbers to support this, but be rest assured its likely true.  Why?  Because Grampy Hank didn’t have a fucking Xbox waiting for him at home every day after school.  He had a little something called “Chores.”

Kids today (as I shake my fist from my porch) are not nearly as physically active as anyone who’s 25 or older today were.  This is largely due to school budgets chopping after school sports and the advent of social internet media.  Instead of going down to the park to hang out, chase girls, climb on shit, kids as young as 11 or 12 are going right home from school, logging on to their Myspaces, Facebooks, and Twitters, and doing what kids for generations have been doing after school – gossiping with their friends about school bullshit, minus the healthy dosages of Vitamin D and the basic physical activity of simply loitering.
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It’s a shitty state of affairs when while watching Sunday afternoon football I see an ad urging kids to play outdoors for a minimum of 60 minutes a day.  Holy Hot Fuck.

Ang and I are not planning on having kids, but let’s say we were – I’d absolutely refuse to allow my children to come home from school and log on to a glowing screen.  Fuck that.  Unless that kid has a project or paper due the next day, his ass is changing out of his “school clothes” into his “play clothes” and running around the yard, street, vacant lot, whatever until dinner’s ready, which will consist of steamed vegetables,  chicken, rice and protein shakes for everyone.

And this brings up my next topic:  The Fat Tax.

You might’ve heard of the Fat Tax or “Sins Tax” in passing recently, but the idea is hardly new.  The Fat Tax would increase the amount of money individual consumers would be paying on sugary foods or foods deemed to have little-to-no nutritional value.

To say I’m for this tax would be obvious, although I can see its drawbacks plainly.  First, who the hell is in favor of a tax on ANYTHING, especially in our slowly recovering economy.  Secondly, it’s widely known that the biggest purchasers of “bad-for-you-foods” are people in the lowest income brackets.  Why?  Because like an addictive drug, you craft your ware to be cheap and addictive to keep uneducated people and their spending dollars from straying away; you set your hooks deep with flavorful concoctions manufactured and sold at little cost.

Why do you think McDonald’s has a dollar menu?  You can feed a family of four dinner tonight for as little as fifteen dollars.fat-kits-eating-mcdonalds

Not to knock McDonald’s, as I’m a shareholder; I know its hypocrisy, however I want to make money on the backs of the dumb and poor too.

Another argument against the Fat Tax is that “good food” is also “expensive food.”  This line of reasoning isn’t baseless, as anyone who wanders into a Whole Foods will tell you.  You want organically grown brussel sprouts?  That’ll be 1.99 a lb, oppose to the “regular” sprouts, which are .99 cents a pound.

“What the hell is the difference?”  I asked my wife one day while grocery shopping.

“The organic ones don’t use harmful pesticides,” she explained.  Oh, but, … I mean, if we wash these spouts in the sink after we buy them, aren’t they just as good?

I didn’t bother asking that question, but to me it seems clear:  There’s already a “tax” on good-for-you foods, why not tax the bad-for-you-foods too?

Soda is a big one.  I heard a proposal the other day that suggested a penny an ounce tax on sugary-sodas, meaning, that 20 ouncer you get out of the machine at lunch time would cost you twenty cents more.  It might not seem like a big deal, hell, what’s an extra quarter going into the machine going to cost you, that’s less than a postage stamp.  But think of it over time, and think of it on a macro scale, where out of 265 million US Citizens, over 85% of us consume sugary beverages every day, multiple times a day.

Right next to kicking fast food, kicking soda was the worst.  When I committed to my diet and weight loss plan at the beginning of the year I immediately took notice of the withdrawal symptoms I was having as little as 48 hours without a carbonated caffeine drink.  I was irritable, sweaty, panicked, shaky and dry-mouthed.  No matter how much water I would drink, I was still thirsty.

But I got through it, and after about two weeks I could care less about soda.  Now if I split a Coke with Ang… a real Coke, mind you… I can feel my teeth buzz, dare I say, throb from the high sugar concentration.  I can’t believe I used to pound a 12 pack or more a day of that stuff.
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Let’s go back to that fat woman I described a little while ago:  No one gets that big, America, no one.  Sure, some people are just big people, whether it’s genetics or glandular diseases or by some means that can’t be controlled.  Hell, my Uncle David weighs in at over 300lbs, however, he’s also 6’7 and built like a bank vault door.

No, that woman walking down the street in the shock-loaded elastic waist sweats, with the visible dark stain running down the middle of her back because she was exerting herself beyond her normal means by having to move her vast body a short distance, did that shit to herself.  She’s likely poor, under educated, and had parents that didn’t care about her enough to prepare her a home-cooked meal once in a while.  Instead she never learned to take care of herself and figured that why should I learn to cook when the fine people at McDonalds (ticker: MCD) will cook for me, and it’s only pennies a day…

With the likelihood that government provided health care will go national it’s unlikely that she’s even insurable with a private company, so as a tax payer I’m going to be paying for the eventual quadruple by-pass surgery she’ll require to jumpstart her car battery-sized-and-colored heart sooner or later, plus the inevitable fee the fire department will charge for knocking down a wall to her apartment to extract her via crane and sling.

Tax it, tax Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Lays Potato Chips, anything delicious and would cause a reasonable person to vegetate on the couch in front of an episode of “Two and a Half Men” and stuff their faces uncontrollably for hours on end.  But turn around and give tax break incentives to those of us who are spending money on joining a gym (tax incentives would work like a Subway Card, Jared:  You’d have to get the card punched by a gym employee min. once a week, and turn that card in with your tax paper work) or buying healthier foods.  Make smoking cessation programs tax-free or put tax credit incentives on those as well.  Consider it a rebate on the cost of the program if completed successfully.story2

How about age restrictions on fast food?  Or how about just not letting them stay open 24/7?  Unless you work third shift as a cab driver, why the hell are you going to Taco Bell at 4 am when Last Call was three and a half hours ago?

Ride a bike to and from work more than once a week for a month?  You get a government issued gas card for 50 bucks.

The point I’m trying to make is, yeah, tax the shit we don’t need, but how about throwing a bone to those of us who have already been keeping a healthy lifestyle?  Positive reinforcement works just as good as negative.

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Out and About, Shameless Self Promotion, Smells Like Children, The Great Indoors, Those Crazy Politicians | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fading Art

To talk about my handwriting, particularly on my own blog which is online – where things are typed obviously, makes little sense.  But then again, here in the last few innings of 2009, talking about handwriting altogether seems a tad peculiar.

Handwriting is the fastest fading art in the modern world.  No longer is it being taught in schools past the second or maybe third grade.  And why should it be?  Most kids between the ages of say 6 and up can readily navigate a computer and probably type faster than most 50+ year olds, especially on a phone or other portable device.

So why handwriting?  Why do I care?

Because my handwriting sucks, and so does everyone else’s.

Take for a second, and think about the last paper check you signed.  For me it was for this month’s rent and as I look thru my check register at all my passed written checks, I notice how terribly juvenile my handwriting looks.  This observation comes just before the realization that some bank teller somewhere is looking at my check and trying to figure out if I wrote the amount for 875 or 813?  This makes me very self conscience.IMG_0169

It used to be that handwriting was a staple in school curriculum up until you reached high school.  Ask your parents and they’ll tell you that penmanship was something they probably stressed out over in the same way kids stress out about algebra and school shooters today.  Penmanship and handwriting were studied and practiced, and a person was often judged by their hand written words.

But with the advent of technology, especially in the classrooms, little emphasis remains on proper handwriting.  It was reported in an article in Slate that teachers spend as little as ten minutes a day with third graders on their penmanship.  Often, teachers will give handwriting workbooks to students and let them go it alone, not either taking or having the time to go into how to make a proper uppercase cursive “S”.

I wish I spent more time on my handwriting growing up; I never had good penmanship and was often frustrated by the sight of my over-large, shaky script.  As I grew older I became more accustom to typing, being able to type over 20 wpm by the time I was 11 or 12.  The biggest hang up for me, as a kid, was the lack of being able to get the pen or pencil to move fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

I’d be leaned over a sheet of paper, the kind with three sets of lines: two bold lines that marked the top and bottom of the “train tracks” you were supposed to follow, with the dotted center line that told you where to keep your lower case letters from being confused as upper case, and drag the tip of my ever-dulling lead pencil in jagged rough print, and then eventually into fake-feeling, albeit faster loopy script.

I never liked how it looked and was embarrassed about presenting hand written narratives to teachers, even though I loved to write and was desperate for some sort of feedback from those who read my stuff (this explains why I blog).  What made matters worse was how easily my hand would cramp up after extended hours of writing.  How many of us sat at our kitchen tables shaking out our wrists as we plunged headlong into another hour of a “Treasure Island” book report?

As I got older and as school curriculum changed, less emphasis was put on book reports.  I noticed also that I took less guff from teachers for my handwritten work (up until my freshman year of high school, my “grade” in handwriting was my lowest grade ever earned, at “C-“) as I’m sure more and more students were like me with their terrible penmanship that teachers grew to tolerate.

“Can’t fight the technological tide,” I’m sure they said to themselves as more middle school-level book and science reports were turned in neatly typed.

My penmanship slowly atrophied into what it is today: a smooshed block-print and cursive hybrid.  When I write longhand, half my words are written in a chicken scratch slashing, letters at the beginnings of words usually standing alone printed, taller, bigger than the rest of the letters in the word, which tend to be smaller, crunched together in a squiggily scribbled text.

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If I write something down and come back to it later, I seldom can read it word for word, it’s mostly like some sort of alien shorthand or place holders.  I’ll recognize a few letters and get the gist of what I meant.

This is especially frustrating for my wife, who’s left scratching her head at the personal note I left her regarding a need for milk, bread and dog food from the store.

My own signature is something that leaves more to be desired.  I often scribbled out my name on important documents with a kind of bloated confidence and dismissive attitude.  Big “J” with an over-sized loop, scribble-scribble-scribble, big “C” with a stab for a dot, followed by two loops and a long left to right streak which is supposed to look like an “N” and the rest of the spelling of my last name, which is only five letters long.  The end result is nothing to be proud of and a piss-poor representation of my father’s name.

Yet, both my parents’ signatures are easily identifiable and easy to read, letter for letter.

One of my wishes (along with a billion dollars, my own Iron Man suit, and a fully outfitted gymnasium for my exclusivity) is to relearn penmanship and become less dependent on typing.  I wish schools taught handwriting more completely and with greater emphasis on correct form.

Hell, I don’t even think kids today know how to read in cursive anymore.  I sure as hell have a hard time with it.  Before she died, my Memere would send me the occasional hand written letter, in cursive, and I had to guess at what half or more of it said.  In return I would email my mom a letter to Memere and have her deliver it in hand.  But then I realized that was kind of insulting and drawn out, and decided to just call Memere instead.

If schools have to lump penmanship in with arts classes then so be it!  It is an art form, a dying one at that.  With more children learning how to text on a Qwerty keyboard on their little flip-phones, hand writing is wasting away faster than Glen Beck’s grip on reality.

It’s too late for me as I’ve grown past the point of refining my fine motor skills- those dexterous muscles at the tips of my fingers that allow for perfect penmanship.  With age those muscles tend to wear away in favor of major muscle groups that do the grabbing, squeezing and slapping.  But it’s not too late for your kids, if you have them.  Sit them down for an hour every night after they finish their homework and Lima beans and have them write out a page in a book long hand.  When they start to complain that their hand hurts and that hand writing is pointless – everything is typed now-a-days – encourage them and at the same time explain that you’re not teaching them a skill to get ahead, you’re teaching them a vanishing form of artisan ship.

I wish someone had done that for me in fourth grade.

September 19, 2009 Posted by | Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Shameless Self Promotion, Written Works | , , | Leave a comment