Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Annual Exercise in Futility

Update: Today there were 2 small sections of my lights out - brand new friggin' lights! I jiggled one and they came back, but the other section shall remain a permanent part of the display. The lighting gods are having a blast with me!

Every year around this time, Christmas lights throughout the world (or at least at my house) decide whether to continue living. This rule applies equally to new strands and those that are 10 years old.

But it’s not as simple as the lights are working or they’re not. Christmas lights have a special, built-in ‘tease factor,’ designed to remove every remaining molecule of Christmas Spirit from your body. There’s always that one strand that works perfectly when you plug it in to test it. Then, just after you’ve completed your hair-raising climb on the roof and risked life and limb to put them up, you climb down the ladder, congratulate yourself on getting back down alive and go plug the lights in. And what happens?

It’s never an entire strand. That would leave you the obvious solution of replacing it. But these lights are tricky! Only HALF the strand will light, and of COURSE it’s going to be the one in the middle where you nearly teetered off the roof trying to put it up! So, you move your ladder back into position, climb back up, nearly fall again and perform ‘Homeowner Troubleshooting Step #1.’ Homeowner Troubleshooting Step #1 is ‘Jiggle the damn thing.’ This rule is applied universally for every failing component of the home (one variation is the swift kick). It also precedes Step #2 (Unplug and plug it back in) and Step #3 (Read the instructions).

What HTS #1 accomplishes with Christmas lights is to cause a brief flicker – just enough to give you false hopes. And since you know the lights are plugged in and Step #3 must be avoided at all costs, you jiggle the strand again. If you’re on the ‘nice’ list, it may actually work. Apparently, MY name has been left off the nice list since I started putting up Christmas lights.

I had one strand that worked fine when I tested it. Then, thinking I would fool the system, I tested it again. AHA! The second time, it didn’t work. So I jiggled it a little (see HTS #1). Half the lights came on. When I jiggled again, all the lights came back on. Again, and the OTHER half went off. Again and, well you get the picture. But that wasn’t enough! Another strand was only half-lit, too! I suspected a fuse was the problem, so I replaced both fuses on the strand and…IT MADE ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE!

So, I skipped all the way to HTS #23a: Replace all the damn lights! I got all-new lights and all of them tested fine right out of the box. And you know what happened? After I put them up, a 2-foot section DIDN’T WORK! I guess these lights decided to give me a break because a few jiggles fixed the problem and it hasn’t happened since I installed them – yesterday.

But it’s still 2 ½ weeks ‘til Christmas and I’m not taking any chances - I’ve decided to hack the nice list!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Rats on the Barbie

It was a beautiful spring day and I went out to clean the gas grill so I could cook a few burgers and corn-on-the-cob. Following along was my faithful dog Peabo, a medium-sized mutt of indeterminate breed, though we suspected there was some kind of terrier or schnauzer in him. In fact, we used to have him trimmed in the schnauzer fashion, except in the places where he didn’t grow enough fur.

With my scraper, wire brush and Peabo by my side, I approached the grill. Lifting the lid, I was shocked to see a rat (yes, a real live one) perched on top of the grill - seemingly undisturbed by my interruption. Immediately, I closed the lid and began formulating a plan to rid the world of one more disgusting rat. Since I didn’t want to walk away and let the rat escape, I would have to make do with the only tools available: a scraper, a wire brush, and a gas grill.

Because I'm a guy and because I had fire at my disposal, I quickly discarded the scraper and brush in favor of frying that rat's ass! With the lid closed (folks, don’t try this at home!), I cranked up the gas and hit the ignition. WHOOSH! Flames leapt out of every ventilation hole and I knew I had that rat right where I wanted him – fried to a crisp! But that’s not what happened. Mr. Rat and two more of his pals found a way out (through the same ventilation holes), hit the ground and scattered.

I never even had a chance at those rats, they were moving so fast. But mild-mannered Peabo (who had never harmed a living thing in his life except for one very unfortunate frog) was suddenly transformed into the rats’ worst nightmare. Shortly after hitting the ground, one rat found himself being scooped up in the dog’s mouth, shaken and beaten to a pulp on the patio! By the time I got the rat away from Peabo, the other two had escaped, never to return.

Careful to avoid any contact with his mouth, I praised Peabo, rewarded him with a treat - and took the family out to eat!

Sadly, Peabo left us a year ago - just after Christmas. He piddled and pooped in our yard (and in our house on rare occasions) for 17 years! Peabo, wherever you are now, the rats are terrified!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Oh My God, The In-Laws Are Comin'

I just found out last night that almost all of my wife's family will be visiting for Thanksgiving. It's a really good thing I get along with them!

The bad thing is now I have to paint another friggin' room which we already painted 2 years ago, but my wife never really liked. Consequently, between griping, taping, painting, griping, job searching, griping and studying, I won't have much time for blogging.

Maybe after Thanksgiving I'll dish on the In-Laws (and sleep under the back porch? I don't think so!). Or maybe I'll tell the story of Peabo, the amazing rat dog!

Stay safe everyone - think to yourself 'WWSD' (what would Steve do?). Then do whatever the hell you want, 'cause I don't really care :).

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Can I Punch You Now? Good!

Does anyone else wanna beat the crap out of that Verizon guy? You know, the one who shows up in the middle of your shower with a phone to his ear, saying “Can you hear me now?” The ads were funny at first, but now they’re just plain annoying. Kinda makes me miss Joe Isuzu.

Maybe I’m the only one, but to me this “Mr. Verizon” ranks right up there with the Energizer Bunny (I’ve got an M-80 with your name on it, bunnyman!). But moving beyond the annoyance factor, I’m even more disturbed by the underlying message: “No matter where you go, we will find you!”

I love technology. In fact, I was making a nice living in the field until I voluntarily left the BEST JOB I EVER HAD SO I CAN SITONMYASSALLDAYANDWRITETHISSTUPIDBLOG! Sorry - I lost control there for a sec.

Anyway, the promise of cellular technology companies is that you can be in touch no matter where you are. This sounds fantastic, but look at the other side. Imagine you’ve just gotten within camera range of an elusive moose. You move very carefully downwind, avoid snapping twigs, even alter your breathing to keep from spooking your quarry. Then all of a sudden this goofus steps out from behind a tree. “Can you hear me now?” I guarantee Verizon would be looking for a new spokesman, to appear in other remote places like Soho.

People, we don’t need a cell phone to hike in the mountains, go white-water rafting or get saddle-sore at the dude ranch. But someday the wireless companies will make it all possible! The only advantage to this is the ability to immediately call for help if you get in trouble. But that takes some of the excitement away, doesn’t it? If you know you can make a phone call and have a helicopter pick you up, doesn’t that kind-of ruin it? Even worse, your boss will know where to find you – and believe me, he will!

Here’s my advice: Find a remote location that absolutely no pager or phone signal can reach. Tape a brochure to your monitor and tell everyone at work you’re going there on vacation. Then enjoy your trip to Disney World, free of interruption! It’s safe, your kids will love it, and you won’t need a helicopter!

Oh yeah - and leave your cell phone at home.

Monday, November 01, 2004

To Vote or Not To Vote

I wanted to be funny today, but I couldn't figure out how to apply my warped humor to the subject matter. So if you want a laugh, re-read the Sunday comics or something...

I remember how proud I felt at the age of 18, when I made my first trip
to the voting booth. I couldn't even tell you who was on the ballot. I
was just exercising my right as a new voter to have some say in how the
government was run.

Back then, it seemed that Americans were united - not in support of a
particular candidate, but in their belief that voting was an important,
personal act. In school we learned about the democratic process and
the awesome freedom we had to choose our leaders and shape our own

Nowadays, political parties treat your vote as a means to an end
rather than the personal choice it's meant to be. In some cases, they
resort to pressure and intimidation to get people to vote their way.
Why? I'll give you 2 reasons: 1) They don't trust you to listen and
make an intelligent, informed decision and 2) They're more interested
in winning than in earning your respect and trust. This win-at-all-
costs mentality is hurting America - in business, in youth athletics and
especially politics.

It's no wonder that some Americans would choose to stay home on
election day. If they go to the polls, will they be pressured to vote a
certain way? Will they be ridiculed if they don't make the 'correct'
choice? How do they know their vote will be properly counted? It's much
easier and safer to avoid the hassle!

So, why vote? I'll tell you why: Your vote is the most powerful thing
in your possession! Every adult American has the same number of votes -
one. This doesn't seem like much, but can you think of another thing
that all Americans have in equal proportion? And if your vote doesn't
mean anything, why are the politicians and special interests spending
millions of dollars to win it?

I encourage all of you to vote on Tuesday. But first, think about
what's important to you. Listen to the candidates and vote for the ones
that best represent your values and beliefs. It's a simple concept.

Don't be a means to an end - be an American.

Friday, October 29, 2004

I'll Have the Turkey, Thanks

Here's what I heard on a New York talk radio station yesterday: "Stop smoking, or we'll buy your next 2 cartons of cigarettes!" Huh? The ad was for a product that supposedly gets people to quit. Does this make any sense to you? Seems to me they're really saying "If you can't stop smoking using our product, you don't deserve to live. Prove to us that you are such a loser and we'll pay to help turn your lungs into charcoal!"

I was outraged by this ad, but later got to thinking it's not a bad idea. Apply this principle to other vices and you might have something! Drug and alcohol rehab centers should offer the same guarantee. Why not give away a case of Jack Daniels or a few vials of crack to the people who can't kick these habits? If they really are hopeless cases, what else is going to cheer them up? Just take away their car keys and any weapons they may own, give 'em what they crave and send them on their way - to your divorcee's house!

Now, before I start getting death threats, let me say that I wrote the last paragraph to point out the ridiculousness of the smoking ad. I think putting free drugs and alcohol into the hands of addicts is totally wrong, with the exception of former mayors.

Oops, back to the smoking ad. I say 'cold turkey' is better - it's free, and you can always use the money you saved during your self-delusional attempt at kicking the habit to buy more cigarettes!

Note: For all you sticklers out there - No, I wasn't in New York. I was listening to Al Franken (think of a slimmer, funnier, left-wing Jewish Rush Limbaugh with thick glasses) on Air America Radio. The ad actually stated they would buy your cigarettes, then later mentioned they would send you $100 to buy cigarettes should their program not work for you.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

They Got it All Wrong!

*Updated with new content - read it now or I'll send Leo Sayer to your house!

I hope those Red Sox are happy! They took from us the one thing we've been able to count on for 86 years! Throughout generations - wars, depressions, terrorists and bad '80's music - we've always counted on the Boston Red Sox. To lose.

People say the 'curse' has been lifted, but what happens now? The World Series is over and we have to move on, a little less sure of our world. There's no telling what negative effect this will have on us all - especially the folks in Boston. My thoughts are with you, Bostonians.

Speaking of Boston - or I should say NOT speaking of Boston...During FOX's coverage of the game last night, there were several 'cutaways' to a bar filled with Red Sox fans, drinking beer and cheering their team on. The only problem is that the bar was in New York! I guess there just weren't that many bars in Boston filled with Red Sox fans :).

My question is, if you're stupid enough to cut away to a bar in a town other than Boston during a Red Sox game, why in the world would you choose New York? Didn't the Yankees just lose in spectacular fashion to the Red Sox? And what self-respecting Boston fan would be caught anywhere near a New York bar to watch his team play?

Now, maybe you can see what I'm talking about with this curse thing. The ripple effect has begun...

*Update: Today I was informed that the reason FOX showed Boston fans in a NY bar (a sad day) was that alcohol sales were not permitted in Boston area bars. Yep - only drunken, out-of-control fans are good enough for FOX! It was a smart move on Boston's part - they got their most hard-core, partying fans to go wreak havoc in NYC (accomplishing what the Yankees themselves could not, heehee).

And the ripples continue...

Monday, October 18, 2004

Fried Banana Puddin'

You just can't beat the NC State Fair for down-home, artery-clogging edibles! Apparently, there's just not enough fat in most foods to satisfy the NC palate. In order to rectify this, we tend to dump whatever food is handy into the deep fat fryer. And guess what? It works!

Walking around the Fair yesterday, I recognized many of the favorites from previous years - fried dough, deep-fried twinkies and candy bars (you haven't lived until you've tried a Snickers bar fresh out of the fryer). These are very popular, but there were some new players in town this year. I'm not sure if the deep-fried cheeseburgers (really, I'm not kidding!) were new, but it was the first time I'd seen them.

My favorite new fair food was the Fried Banana Puddin'. This is a deep-fried banana served corn-dog style on a stick with a small cup of banana pudding for dipping. Or if you prefer, you can have your 'nanner' cut into chunks for easier handling. Either way, it's full of potassium! OK, it's mostly fat, but there is some potassium in there (not that anyone cares). I thought the 'FBP' was delicious and it got me to thinking about the possibilities. There must be hundreds of foods just waiting to be rediscovered as deep-fried delicacies!

Here are some ideas I had as my cholesterol spiked to an all-time high:
  • Deep-fried apples with caramel sauce - My favorite idea. Just peel and core the apple, ok?
  • Spaghetti with deep-fried meatballs - OK, maybe not.
  • Deep-fried bagels with lox and/or cream cheese - Just to prove it can be done.
  • Deep-fried pork ribs - Seems like this would be a huge hit in pig country!
  • Deep-fried ham biscuits - I can't believe they haven't tried this. They sell thousands of ham biscuits at the fair!
  • Deep-fried fudge - Hey, it worked for the Snickers bar!
  • Deep-fried PBJ - OMG, this could be big!

I may even start a restaurant for families that hate their mom's or dad's cooking. Instead of eating another boring, tasteless, nutritional meal, pack it up and bring it to Steve's Fry-All! I'll dump it in the fryer and in minutes your family can enjoy the rich, fatty flavor that completely obliterates the original taste! And if you don't like it, I'll just throw in some bananas and open a can of pudding. That's what I call good eatin'!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Keeping Salaries In Line

Today I'm going behind the scenes to reveal the secrets of corporate performance appraisals. This information will help you understand why it's best to suck up to your boss, even when everyone else hates you!

Here's how the system works: 1-2 times a year, your HR department sends out the form managers will use to confuse and disappoint everyone but the very best brown-noser in your organization. The rating system looks something like this:

1 - Miracle Worker (MW): Performs miracles daily, including weekends and holidays.

2 - Miracle Potential (MP): Performs miracles occasionally and may hang around after hours.

3 - Average (A): Rarely if ever performs miracles and has a watch alarm set for quittin' time.

4 - Needs A Miracle (NM): It's a miracle if this person shows up for work.

There are more specific criteria, but you must arrive at an overall rating similar to one of the above. Simple, right? But try to be nice and submit all of your direct reports as MPs or higher - even if they really are - and you'll be laughed out of the review meetings.

When it comes to handing out ratings and raises, HR departments follow guidelines drawn up by drunken former congressional committee members. Their interpretation of performance data shows that Average workers make up the majority of the work force (60% or so), followed by Miracle Potential (25%) and Needs a Miracle (14.9999%). This means you can only have a Miracle Worker (.0001%) if there are at least 1,000,000 employees in your organization! In other words, pigs will fly in a frozen hell before you see an MW next to your name (unless it's a typo).

The problem with the system isn't the formula, however - it's the way companies contradict themselves when it comes to handing out the ratings. See if you can spot the inconsistencies in the following examples (if not, you were born to lead a company):

Company X claims to hire only the very best people. In order to accomplish this, they would need to hire Miracle Workers! Sounds good, right? But remember the formula - only 1 in a million can have this rating. This means that if you hire a Miracle Worker, you must also hire 600,000 As, 250,000 MPs and 149,999 NMs to make your numbers!

Company Z told their managers that they only want 1's and 2's working in their organization, so naturally all the managers had to be fired! Not really, but I think you can see the problem here. If you somehow manage to build a team consisting solely of MWs and MPs, you get to tell some of them they're Average and compensate them according to the A criteria. Since these people aren't stupid (the reason you hired them in the first place), they'll see through your poor attempt to spin the data according to the company line and immediately begin updating their resumes.

I think we've all learned a lesson here: Update your resume now! And if you somehow manage to score the evasive MW rating, let me know. I'll have 2 tickets to Flying Demon Pigs On Ice waiting for you at will-call!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Keep That Whistle In Your Pocket

I try to stay away from political stuff here, but a NY Times article caught my eye and I can't resist...

Who wouldn't want to go to work for Uncle Sam now? Losers and bleeding hearts - that's who! President Bush has made it clear: He won't tolerate further protections for federal employees who blow the whistle on their superiors and co-workers. Can you say party time?

Now, federal employees can do whatever they want and get paid for it. If someone blows the whistle, they will be punished and possibly fired! This is a can't-lose proposition, folks! Jump on the gravy train now because once the masses figure it out, all the good jobs will be taken.

I'm focusing my efforts on government agencies that waste the most money (unfortunately Halliburton doesn't count), because those folks know how to live it up. Of course, once I'm in I'll be happy to share my knowledge with you. Just send me a blank check - Uncle Sam and I need the money to dispose of all those $99 whistles!

Quote of the Day:
Last year the IRS said I owed $2000 in taxes, so I sent in a Black and Decker circular saw and told 'em to keep the change! -- Jay Leno

Friday, October 01, 2004

He Said, He Said

Shaq and Kobe have proven there's no playground big enough to separate them. They're on different coasts, for god's sake! Now they're fighting over who sleeps with strange women on the road and how best to ensure that these women stay quiet (They must've skipped that class at rookie orientation).

Our shock and outrage over the Kobe affair lasted almost a full 20 minutes. Bring the subject up now and people will say 'Yeah, that was shocking and outrageous! You wanna order Chinese for lunch?' But this Shaq/Kobe thing is escalating. It's not so much outrageous as it is, well, FUN!

It's entertaining to watch two supposedly grown men who can't manage to do what they regularly expect from women all over America: Shut the hell up! They can't even set an example! How are our young people ever going to learn to manipulate, deceive and quietly get some on the side with these morons as role models?

I'm hoping this one lasts awhile. Who needs to buy tickets to a game when you can watch all this fun for free? Just keep your own 'hush money' in the bank, sit back, relax and enjoy the feud!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

SUV Owners Suffer New Disease

Drive around any parking lot and you're bound to start thinking someone painted the parking space lines all wrong, or that they're invisible to everyone but you. But when you look more closely, you'll notice that the nameplates on the vehicles parked in these spaces usually say something like 'Suburban', 'Excursion' or 'Hummer.'

There's nothing wrong with large SUVs unless you count the fact that they're guzzling precious fossil fuels at double or triple the rate of, say, a Sherman Tank. No, the problem lies with the folks who buy these gargantuan 'family' vehicles so they can navigate the mean streets of suburbia through waist-high water in living room comfort.

I have no scientific data to back my claim, but I believe owning or leasing a large SUV renders you incapable of inserting your vehicle into a parking space without touching or straddling the border lines. In an empty lot, the first SUV driver can't help but encroach on at least 1 additional space! Not a problem when the lot is empty, but when large numbers of SUVs converge (and they will, count on it) it creates a domino effect. In defiance of all natural and mathematical laws, a posse of 8 SUVs can tie up an entire lot intended for 100 normal cars!

My solution to this problem is simple: Require SUV owners to pass a test! If they can't get all four tires between the lines of a single, normal-sized parking space on the first try, they should never be allowed to drive one again. They must also articulate the need for a 3-ton vehicle to drive their kids to and from school.

If you already own one of these behemoths and don't meet the above criteria, don't worry...you'll recoup your investment by installing running water and renting it out as student housing!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hurricane Doofus

Help Wanted:
Hurricane Field Reporter
The Weather Station is looking to replace one of its reporters who is now a human kite somewhere over North Carolina.

Qualifications: Must have a death wish. Must be capable of withstanding 100+ mph winds (120+ preferred), be an expert at dodging flying shingles and look good while doing it. You will be subject to a wind tunnel test and a dodgeball game in which you will face 50 people using catapults while being sprayed by a fire hose.

Educational Requirements: The less you know, the better.

At the Weather Station, we take storm coverage seriously! That's why we sacrifice, er, employ only the finest for our storm coverage teams. Please submit your resume and references including your minister, physician and next of kin.

What's the purpose of these live broadcasts? The people being most affected by the storm are hunkered down trying to stay alive and they already know what's happening. With no power, do they really benefit from Mr. Doofus standing out there on camera? And why are hurricanes an acceptable risk? No one puts on an asbestos suit and reports from the middle of a forest fire!

What I really want to see is a storm reporter get lifted into the air, use his microphone cord as a tether and report live from inside the actual storm. This may actually be the next competetive move by the networks - allowing their people to be swept up by the storm and reporting on conditions as they fly through it (MY idea - if you steal it I'll sue you!).

Risking peoples' lives to deliver storm news is crazy. We have the technology to put cameras into outer space and on the surface of Mars. Couldn't we deploy remote cameras and weather instruments to the most dangerous spots? What we really want to see is floating buses and buildings being torn apart! Why can't the reporter be inside, monitoring feeds from cameras recording the greatest devastation?

Maybe I'm the one who has it wrong, but I'll be damned if I'm going to sit there and watch another minute of Mr. Doofus leaning and squinting into the wind trying to operate his little whirlygig. Hmm, that sounds a bit like another activity...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Tales from Techville

All of us techies have stories to tell and I'm no exception. Here are some true stories from the land of techies:

This one was related to me by my friend, who was in charge of the company-wide XP rollout...
Corporate User: You can't install that on MY PC!
My Friend: No problem! Show me the receipt in your name and I'll move on.

Only my final response is made up - it's what I wish I had said...
Me: You'll need to open a help desk ticket for that.
Female User: Well then, do I need a ticket to go the bathroom too?
Me: Yes please, so we'll know when to activate the spycam.

This Sr. Tech never lived it down...
Sr. Tech: Why won't this #*&@#! CD Writer work?
Other Tech: Try putting the CD in with the label up next time.

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's an executive who thinks you're his slave...
Senior Director: My laptop is broken and I need a new one!
Tech: What happened to it?
Sr. Director: I don't know - all I did was drop it on the floor. NOW GET ME ANOTHER LAPTOP IMMEDIATELY!!
Tech: Since you asked so nicely, I'll get on that right away. What shall I tell your VP when I ask for approval?

This tech was new to our company and thought he knew everything, except what they teach in beginning Novell classes...
Tech: I'm a CNE*, I'm a CNE, I'm a CNE, I'm a CNE! Did I mention that I'm a CNE?
Me: Wow, that's great - you must be so proud!
Tech: I'm a CNE! How am I going to get this PC working with no operating system? Also, I'm a CNE.
Me: Make a boot disk, then you can boot up and load the software over the network.
Tech: And HOW do I make a boot disk?
Me: You're the CNE - figure it out!
*CNE = Certified Novell Engineer

Personal experience, though my responses weren't nearly this diplomatic...
Programmer: My computer won't start!
Me: What happened?
Prog: Well, my Zip Drive quit working and I tried to fix it.
Me: How did you try to fix it?
Prog: I deleted the IDE disk drivers from my computer - and some other files in the system directory.
Me: That makes sense. How 'bout I spend the next 3 hours working on your PC?
Prog: Umm, OK.
3 Hours Later...
Me: There you go.
Prog: Wow, and my Zip Drive is working too! How did you fix it?
Me: I ignored all the other tech support calls for the building so I could concentrate on your problem. Freeing my mind in this manner enabled me to come up with the solution.
Prog: Really?
Me: No, I just connected the Zip Drive to the correct port on your PC.

More Tales from Techville in the future!

I found a terrific book on ADD, but got distracted after the first few paragraphs!

Does This Mirror Make Me Look Fat?

Yesterday I was checking myself out in the mirror after a shower (snicker if you will, but YOU do it too!)...more on that in a moment.

I found at a very early age that no matter how slender I was, I could push my belly way out to look as though I was carrying a bowling ball (or a small child) under my shirt. Even in college when I was doing 300 sit-ups a day, I could turn my chiseled abs into an orb roughly the size of a pumpkin (unfortunately, this requires much less effort than it used to). Then, in a flash I could return my belly to its original size and shape (this requires MORE effort now).

I bet you can guess that I was performing my belly routine in front of the mirror. Further experimentation with slouching shoulders and a droopy face made me look even more out of shape. On the flip side, thanks to my re-commitment to cardio and weightlifting, I can pull it all in, stand up straight and look even more fit than I actually am!

As I stood in front of the mirror, chanting "before", "after", "before", "after", I had an idea: I could be a BEFORE and AFTER model! You know, like the supplement ads you see in the Enquirer where the guy looks like a total slob, then in the after pic looks like a muscular slob with a wax and dye job wearing tan-in-a-can. Well, I can look WAY worse and WAY better than HIM (I mean worse in the before picture and better in the after pic, smartass). What's even better is I can make this transformation instantaneously!

My next step is to market myself. I'll need some good "before and after" pics and a list of supplement and excercise equipment companies. You can get Christie Brinkley and other celebs to promote these things, but THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL TO BEGIN WITH. To really sell this stuff you must create the illusion of success. That's where I come in...

Picture me in 'before' mode on the screen. The announcer says "In 20 minutes, the all-new 'CyberGym' will transform this grotesque genetic failure into Al Roker!" "We'll check in with Mr. Before throughout our brainwashing, er, infomercial. Later, we'll show you the amazing result!" Testimonials from celebrities and low-lifes who never even saw the product follow, with shots of Mr. Before (me) working out scattered among them. Then at the end, the FINAL REVEAL! There I stand in after mode, looking studly with mostly-naked women pretending to adore my fine physique. "Folks, we'll let the results speak for themselves. With enough money, YOU can have these women, too!" the announcer says, "But buy a CyberGym anyway - because we said so!"

Granted, this won't work on everyone, but the ovine masses will snap 'em up like popcorn. Later, as the dust settles on Mr. Neverstoodachance's CyberGym, he'll be watching me slouch for the camera while the TV announcer says "Say hello to Mr. Pre! In 20 minutes, our all-new "InstaMuscle" herbal supplement will transform this grotesque..."

Ahh, a dream fulfilled - combining job security with natural talent! Well, I'd better get back to my before and after excercises - I'll see you on HSN!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Urban Lawn Care

Whew! I can rest easy now, knowing that my lawn has been aerated. For those of you who live under a rock, aerating your lawn is of critical importance! In fact, you should stop reading this RIGHT NOW and go aerate your lawn. Otherwise, you'll be excluded from the impromptu neighborhood discussions that take place regarding lawn care. AND you'll be encouraging the terrorists who are out to deny you the freedom of aeration through intimidation and fear.

Basically, aerating your lawn is like working out at the gym for 2 hours when you really don't feel like going. If you don't work out, it's like going to the gym out of shape and working out for 7 hours. To properly aerate, you need an 'aerator.' This machine looks like a 300-pound torture device, which it is. It resembles a tiller but it's 18 times heavier and has a sort of roller with long metal tubes sticking out of it in the back. These tubes perforate the ground, leaving little holes and dirt plugs that look like terrier poop. To aerate, you lower the rear of the machine, then engage the roller. If you're not paying attention when you do this, your arm will become detached at the shoulder and hitch a ride on the aerator as it moves away in tank-like fashion. To stop, you simply pry your arm from the engage handle, which (you guessed it!) disengages the roller.

Now comes the fun part - turning around. Aerators are designed to make this as difficult as possible. If you've played defensive tackle or dabbled in sumo, you can lift the back of the aerator and turn it by pivoting on its front wheels. Otherwise you must lower the rear wheels (which raises the roller off the ground) to maneuver into position. Your best bet is to do long runs, zig-zagging back and forth until you finish a section of yard or puke, whichever comes first. Don't even try to go around a curve or tight corner with the roller engaged - remember, your neighbors are waiting for a good laugh and you needn't give them the satisfaction.

Once you're done and recuperating at the hospital, you'll look back on your experience with pride - knowing you're done aerating for this year and your lawn will still look just as crappy as it did before! BUT, your neighbors will respect you and you'll proudly stand (once you're discharged) among them as you all wonder why in the world you didn't hire a sumo wrestler or avoid aerating altogether. So, get out there and AERATE TODAY!

room 237 at the county hospital

Friday, September 03, 2004

Hey! Move Over!

One of the biggest adjustments I've had to make since moving to NC has been my driving style. OK - I didn't really change my style, because I REFUSE to be like all the other NC drivers. I miss the in-your-face style of the Northeast - you're all trying to get somewhere in a big hurry and if someone gets in your way you're expected to honk, gesture, cut them off and scream (with the windows down for full effect). The really cool thing is that other drivers who witnessed the 'infraction' (and a few who didn't) will join gleefully in honking, gesturing, etc. until the offending driver gets the point.

Here in North Carolina, you're allowed to stop your car in the middle of the street to have a 10-minute conversation with your neighbor who is out walking his dog - because what you have to say just can't wait until your car is in your garage 100 feet away. The bizarre thing is that the 16 motorists stuck behind you will wait patiently until you've finished your conversation. If they know you (or your neighbor), they might even get out of their car and join in the fun! Now, some of you are thinking "Ain't that nice? I wish we had that kind of community where I live!" I encourage all who feel this way to head up to NJ and try it out - PLEASE! That way we won't have to deal with you ever again.

Actually I'm a 'share the road' kind of guy. Unfortunately, this doesn't fly in NJ. Shortly after moving there, I was driving on a busy highway and noticed someone trying to make a turn to get onto the same road. In my cluelessness, I slowed down and motioned for the other driver to pull onto the road in front of me. This shocked him to the point that he could not move, and the horns started sounding behind me. By the time he snapped out of it, it was too late. The horns kept blaring and the guy I tried to help stared daggers at me as I passed.

It took me a couple more times to figure out that drivers in NJ didn't want my help. They'll wait for the tiniest opening, cut someone off and risk their lives rather than accept charity. But somehow, it works. In 5 years of commuting 30+ miles each way, I can remember only 2-3 serious highway accidents. This is good because if there's an accident on a NJ highway, your best bet is to get off at the next exit (assuming you can get there), get a motel room and wait 'til the next day to get back on the road. (Tip: Back-roads don't work when there's an accident in NJ because 1,000,000 other motorists are all trying the same thing!)

Given a choice, I'll take NJ driving any day. It's easy to allow for traffic patterns and plan your trip accordingly. The problem in NC is you don't know how many 'conversations' and pokey-left-lane-drivers (a great way to commit suicide in NJ) you're going to run into. Sometimes I drive on I-95 in NC just to get a taste of what I'm missing. You see, I-95 is how everyone in the Northeast gets to Florida (they all go there eventually), so there's bound to be a bunch of 'Yankees' on it at any given time.

Maybe I'll head over there today. It's always good to be among horns - and friends :).

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Malathion gets a bad rap.

How I miss the old days when the fogger would come through my neighborhood, spreading the poison which kept us mosquito-free. Of course, we had disfigured animals, babies with 3 heads, etc., but we could walk outside, confident in the fact that the peskiest of pests had been eradicated.

It ain't so simple anymore. Morris County, NJ has one of the best mosquito control divisions in the country. Teams of biologists head out into the forests (yes, they have those in NJ!) and fields to search out and destroy mosquito breeding grounds. I don't ever remember getting mosquito-bitten in NJ. Maybe they're afraid of the Teamsters.

Anyway, the result of all this science in NJ is that ALL THE MOSQUITOES COME TO NORTH CAROLINA! That's right - we plow, plant, cultivate, spray and even lobby to keep our tobacco plants healthy, but god forbid we should lay one finger on a mosquito! The first year I was here, all the neighbors said the mosquitoes were the worst ever. Since then, it's gotten worse.

I'd gladly ask my wife (who works for a living, unlike me) to kick in an extra buck or two in taxes each year if the city, county or state would step up and do something about the damn mosquitoes. Already, birds and horses in remote parts of NC (where people keep their gun by the door and their teeth in a jar) are getting infected with West Nile, encephalitis and god knows what other skeeter-borne diseases. And what do we do about it? We WARN people!! Yeah, that always works. So I'm thinking of buying stock in Off and Cutter, since I keep a 55-gallon barrel of Deet on the porch to dip my daughter in when she goes outside to play.

Maybe when our babies' heads swell up like melons we'll do something about it, like bring back Malathion. Hmm, swollen heads or 3 healthy ones - you decide.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I'm a Tar Heel, woo hoooo!

Well, not really. I currently live in the great State of North Carolina, where they have 4 main religions: NASCAR, College Basketball, Barbeque and Christianity. It's not uncommon for folks to claim membership in all four, but you don't see the NASCAR and Basketball people hanging out together - at least not in public.

NC is also famous for hurricanes and their lesser counterparts (not to be confused with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes, who don't even rate Tropical Depression status), which seem to find our state with regularity throughout the late Summer and Early Fall. In the last 2 weeks alone, we've had 3 storms come through Central NC. Now we have Frances on the way. It keeps things exciting, but I can do without so much excitement!

So, what do I do? In terms of State and Federal Income tax, absolutely nothing. It seems I've found the best tax dodge in the world - and it's LEGAL! It's called...drum roll, please...sitting on your ass at home writing web logs while your wife works to support your family! No, I'm not happy about it, but my attempts to find work over the past year have come up empty.

In my previous life in New Jersey, I was a successful PC/Network tech, network administrator and manager of a technical group. What happened? I gave up my awesome job to move to NC so my wife could take an even more awesome job! Which leaves me here, studying the Microsoft books and taking exams (free retakes from Pearson Vue, woo hooo!) so I can prove to the world that 2 years out of the work force don't make me stoopid.

Well, those are my ramblings for today. If you enjoyed them, feel free to comment. If not, keep your opinion to yourself :).