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

Why Being Late for a Wedding Can be a Good Thing

There was that air of tension for a brief second where I knew, before she even said it, that we were going to have to turn around.

My wife Ang and I were on our way to my Cousin Jaime’s wedding in Maine this past weekend.  I’d been at a training school for work all week and on Friday after school we took off to Maine.  Everything was fine.

But sometime during the night, when the temperatures in Southern Maine dropped down below zero, Ang’s Prius decided to do what any wild beast would do in those temperatures a have a fucking stroke.  The next morning, the (thankfully) less expensive of the two Prius’s batteries had shit the bed.  We found this out half-way to the wedding.

First off, a compliant:  Who the hell has a late-morning wedding?  When I woke up that morning, obviously not knowing what time the wedding was, I called Jaime’s father Uncle John (she probably refers to him as “dad” but…) to ask what time the wedding was.  I was shocked that at 9 in the morning he told me it was at “eleven, but you might want to get there at 1030ish”.  Damnit!

So we rushed, got showered and dressed at my mom’s house a few towns over and took off.  We were halfway there when I realized I didn’t have any dashboard read out.

If you’ve never piloted a Prius before, it’s all digital read outs on the dash.  No dials.  At first I thought I had the little dimmer switch turned down for some reason, but that wasn’t it.  Then I thought it might’ve been an optical illusion produced by my polarized sunglasses and the sun or something, and when I pulled my shades down, all I saw was black.

The car was still running though, and we pulled over to the side of Main Street to see if it was something we could fix if we just turned the car off and back on again.  I pushed the ignition button and got no response.  Queue panic from my wife.

God bless her, but if anything happens to her car she wigs out.  So now it’s all tense, we need to be at this wedding, very little time to spare and Ang says “turn back to your mother’s.”

Fuck!

We get back and, knowing nothing about cars, let alone Hybrids, I start googling “Prius + Problems + Cold Weather” and get a bunch of Toyota forums about people in high altitude/cold weather areas having significant ignition and battery problems with their Priuses(i?)

Ang takes the more direct approach and calls the dealership from where she bought the car directly.  After a few minutes of on-the-phone diagnostics, we discover that one of the two batteries the Prius runs on is likely dead or close to it.  We need to get to a dealership, stat, to replace said battery.

So about ten minutes going the opposite direction, we get to a dealership and all is taken care of.  By the time we’re back on the road, the ceremony is definitely over.  We can still make the reception, which I guess is at the same place as the wedding.

At this point, I should tell you about the funny feeling I get when I have to deal with my extended family.

Things have always been a little awkward with my dad’s side of the family, even from when I was a kid.  I don’t really understand why this is, and I simply accept it.  The family is large and I hardly know any of my relatives except the “cool ones” who have achieved this status either by showing some signs of kindness towards me or just by giving me butt-loads of cash during the holidays.  Whenever I come around, I feel like I have nothing to say, and things suddenly become very awkward.  Instantly, the tough-talking, ass-kicking, moderately successful man with the swagger of a guy who gets paid to knock people out is diminished to that clumsy, mush-mouthed 13 year old from fifteen years ago any time my Aunt Peggy comes around.  I can’t explain it.

We pull up to the reception hall and I’m instantly relieved that I listened to my wife’s advice and didn’t wear my three piece suit to this thing, and instead opted for a cashmere sweater and slacks: nearly everyone was in denim and sweatshirts, save a few adults who managed to put on some business-casual button-down shirts.  The only ties were being worn by members of the groom’s wedding party; they were dressed in rental black and red three pieces and looked more Ska band than Groomsmen.

Likewise, bridesmaids were dressed in some sort of Katy Perry-like tube dresses and black lace fingerless gloves with red lace accents.  My cousin did look gorgeous in her white wedding gown, complete with a pair of black and white Ray-Ban Wayfarers.

Oh yeah, and everyone was shitfaced.

As soon as we walked in, I was greeted by the bulk of my extended family.  Hugs were had all around, our gift was taken from us, and slowly, like a spreading pool of blood, the awkwardness set in.

First I had to apologize about a million times for being late.  Next I had to explain why I was wearing hiking boots and not decent shoes (I had forgot to pack them) when nearly everyone else was in loafers at best, gym shoes at worst.  To compound things, the inevitably and albeit obligatory questions about my mother and father started to surface:

“Is your mom going to make it?”

“How’s your father?”

“What’s going on with them?”

These weren’t the usual questions asked out of absenteeism.  No, they knew exactly what’s going on with my mother and father and the nasty separation/divorce.  The know all about my father’s self-exile to some remote campground out in NH and my mother’s slipping sanity.  They just wanted the gossip.

“Oh, I see your mother all the time at the Shaw’s” one of my aunt’s said.  “Awesome?”  I say in return.  I mean, what else can I say?   Then Jaime finally made her way over.

Blitzed, she punched me in the chest and with thick tongue said “you missed the wedding, ass.”  I felt about >< this tall.

To make matters worse, her younger brother Josh, whom I haven’t seen in YEARS swings by and gives me a hug.  I don’t recognize him and it’s not until later that Ang points him out to me.  Again, I feel about as tall as my boot laces.

We eventually sit with a pair of watered down beers at a table away from my family.  Joining us is a remote friend of Jaime’s whom she used to work with, and her husband Greg.  The woman (I can’t remember her name) came across like Sarah Palin (she disclosed that she went as Palin for Halloween this past year) only drunk.  Both couples had a lot in common and I could see Ang and I becoming this couple in roughly five years.  I kinda wish now I had gotten their contact info.  They were cool.

After nursing our one beer each (we had no cash for tipping at the open bar, and I felt like a shitheel for not tipping on the two watered down Natty-Ice’s) and eating some finger food, we left, promising we’d see everyone at the “after-party.”  Obviously, we didn’t intend to be at the after party.

The more distance I put us between my family the better I felt.  I knew the night before this wedding wasn’t something I wanted to really be a part of, but out of love for my cousin, who I treat more like a distant sister, I manned up.  For forty minutes.

In the end, being late for the wedding should’ve come across as some sort of omen; being late should’ve told us to phone it in, send out the gift via certified first class mail and send a heart-felt apology letter.  It would’ve been easier on my psyche.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Hate, People I Love, Shameless Self Promotion, Those Crazy Politicians | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Good Out of the Bad

Last night I posted this on my Facebook wall:

“I know I’ll catch shit for this: that earthquake was the best thing that could happen to Haiti.  There, I said it.”

On it’s surface the comment reads somewhat callously.  White guy in New England who’s never experienced an earthquake of any kind, let alone in the middle of a third-world country, making a snide remark about how likely the event IMPROVED the infrastructure of the tiny shared island nation.

However, I assure you, Glen Beck I am not.

No, what I wanted to do was set a trap; a trap I knew that my highly reactionary wife would step right into and spring, which would lead me to writing this article.

Within a few hours of me posting my comment, she fired back with some CNN.com article describing the death and destruction in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capitol.  I’m sure she sat there, on our tattered couch, laptop on pillow on lap, in smug satisfaction as she clicked “send” thinking to herself “I’ll show him.”

Ah, huh.

No, obviously even without an Act of God Haiti is a tragedy.  A country run by General Who-Knows as he’s known to the local population, and Who-Cares by anyone living outside of it.  It’s a nation who shares an island with the Dominican Republic, which if you’ve ever had to live next door to Dominicans, you should know how dreadful a situations that is anyway.

The infrastructure of Haiti is piece-meal at best.  Is it any wonder that when an earthquake a whole point higher on the Richter Scale hits San Francisco, everyone in the Bay Area shrugs it off with a chuckle, but when an earthquake of slightly minor proportions hits Haiti, there’s a triple digit deathtoll (now quad-digit as of pub-time -ed)?

That’s because Haiti is literally being held together with corrugated steel, mud and straw bricks and chicken wire.  These poor people live in the minimalist of conditions, and I’m not talking about exposed brick and white space.  They have NOTHING.  They have our thrown away clothing on their backs and wobbly tables with nails sticking out of it to eat off of.  Their literacy rate hovers around the same numbers as my body fat percentage.  Of course we shouldn’t be surprised when there’s a significant loss of life in Haiti as the result of a natural disaster.

Why is this “good for Haiti” then?

Because when was the last time you even THOUGHT of Haiti before this earthquake hit?  As an American, sitting at home on the world wide web that you take for granted, reading blogs about the battle between Conan O’Brien and NBC, until yesterday you didn’t give two shits about Haiti or it’s people.

Don’t worry though, it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, but it does tend to put things into perspective.  These people, who would lose their homes even on a gusty day, have real problems.  You know what the biggest problem in my life is right now?  Fucking Comcast.  A cable company who I feel is screwing me over around every corner.  In Haiti, they don’t even have cable!  Over half the population doesn’t even have electricity or running water, for chrissakes!

Now, because of this earthquake, developed nations like the US, Canada, etc are going to be flooding Haiti with supplies like food and fresh water, electrical generators, man power to remove rubble and debris, medics and doctors to treat the sick and wounded.  We have fucking firefighters flying out from California, the closest thing we have to a third-world-like government, to help the Haitians.

So yeah, I’m sorry that it took an act of God to get Americans, let alone the rest of the world, to lift their heads out of their asses long enough to pay attention to a backwards country, but I tend to be an optimist.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Shameless Self Promotion, World Wide Events | , , , | 2 Comments

TidBits: New Year’s Edition

Comcast, again:

Honestly, their website sucks.  I’m actually finding this more often than not:  Companies will hand the reigns over to some third-party website people who take all the stress of maintaining a reliable website off the hands of the company, and in turn, make things absolutely hellish on customers.

To wit:  I’m trying to pay all my bills (online of course, …I haven’t bought a book of stamps since like, 1996) and when I get to Comcast’s site from clicking the link in the email, it brings me to the log-on screen I’m familiar with.  I pump in my info, and then I’m brought to another log-on on screen.

This log-on screen tells me that I’m logging into ‘My Sign-In’ which will keep me logged into “all of Comcasts other great sites!”, what these are I have no clue, but apparently my log-in information is still the same, so I pump it in AGAIN, and am brought to a screen that tells me “account cannot be access because user has failed to make account secure.”

Ooohkay…. what?

I’ve been an unfortunate subscriber to Comcast for over two years now, and I think they’re giving me a heart attack on purpose.  It seems that any time I alter my service just a little bit, all sorts of wild shit gets fucked up days or even weeks later.  You’d think a company as big as Comcast (they just BOUGHT NBC from General Electric for chrissakes,) would have their shit together enough so where a customer like myself logs in, all their information would be right there in front of them, and not be led about the nose through a maze of log-in screens only to find out that for some reason they don’t have your account information.

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to GIVE money to some one or service, and not be able to do so.  I wish I could just not pay it, and be like “fuck you and your website,” but then they’d just shut our shit down.

By the way, from all the button clicking and navigating around that site, there appears to be no way to confirm or “secure” the account, resulting in my having to call them eventually later today.  Great, now I get to spend half an hour later today dealing with some prick on the phone just to give them 150 bucks.

I still don’t understand why I don’t just cancel my account and live without all this bullshit.

Other Movie-Goers:

Last night, in celebration of our one year anniversary, Ang and I went out to the local theatre to see “Sherlock Holmes.”  We never go to the movies, which was puzzling to me until last night.

I forgot about how when you go out to the movies, usually there’s going to be other people there, and these people are usually not very considerate of other movie goers.

I’m one of those types of people who like to get to the theatre a little early, get soda and popcorn, get good seats, and have the conversation while the stupid movie trivia is playing on the screen.  If you haven’t figured out by now from reading all my blogs, I’m sort’ve anal-retentive about shit.  I like to be comfortable long before the movie or even the previews start.

So imagine the bullshit rage I flip into when people show up late, stumbling through the dark after the house lights have dropped and there’s shit on the screen.  Imagine me going for my pistol when those asshole make a a bee-line for the seats directly behind us, and then engage in some stupid conversation.

It started off brilliantly: we arrived ten minutes early, got our snacks out, settled in.  There were only two or three other couples and everyone was spread out.  We had seats on the left hand side, back-middle, where we’d be able to take in the whole screen without being overwhelmed.

Then this family of five came in, two adults three children, all of them yapping.  Nothing had started yet, so it wasn’t a big deal, but they sat directly across the aisle from us.  Aggravation level is at about a 3.

The lights drop, more people shuffle in under the wire, aggravation level rising to 5, like, come on people, get it together.

Then, at the start of the “Iron Man 2” trailer, these three girls show up, late teens, early 20s, and sit DIRECTLY BEHIND US, put their feet up, and start fucking talking about whatever conversation they had started in the parking lot outside.  Aggravation level now around an 8.

We get up and move, making a big deal about it.  I’m wearing a mohawk and skinny jeans, and want to say some shit to these people like a skanky punk would, but I don’t, I just show them my ass as we shuffle out of the seats.  We take seats further down and on the right hand side of the aisle, slightly too close to the screen, so I’m craning my neck up, being bombarded by all the wild shit going on on the screen.  Aggravation level at critical.

In my heart of hearts I wish I had a plank of wood with nails in the end of it to brandish at idiots.  Maybe a cricket bat or something.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Hate, Smells Like Children, Why Am I Watching This? | , , , , , , | 1 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

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