Friday, May 25, 2012

That's How Customer Service is NOT Done!

Today was like a Polaroid picture of customer service gone wrong.  It started at McDonald’s, the one in Duncansville, PA, which has always been notorious for poor customer service.  I can’t count the number of times they’ve given me the wrong order, missed food, overcharged me, undercharged me, made me wait, etc.  I try not to go to this one, but sometimes a lack of time and/or a hungry tummy necessitates it.

This morning I arrived and saw a line of probably five or six other vehicles ahead of me.  When I pulled up to the ordering station, I gave my order and then sat for at least three or four minutes, waiting for the cars to move.  My order was $7 and some odd change for an egg McMuffin meal with a large sugar-free vanilla iced-coffee (570 calories for those wondering).  When I got to the payment window, the lady there didn’t even look at me, instead shouting “six oh four” at me.  I handed her the money, not quite sure how my meal had suddenly become cheaper, but she took it and handed it back and said NOTHING.

When I got to the food window, I looked at my receipt and saw one of the oddest orders I’ve ever seen.  Breakfast burrito - no sauce, cup of ice, large unsweetened tea w/ Splenda, and an apple pie.  Seriously, who gets that?  If your order is that complicated, you need to park and go inside.  It’s no wonder these people get your order wrong.  While in college, I worked in the computer room of a mail processing plant, and one of my coworkers would always go to McDonalds and do this crap.  He’d pull up to the window, start by saying he had two separate orders, give them mine (usually a number 1 or 3 or whatever with a Coke), then proceed to give his – a Big Mac with no pickles and extra sauce, a Coke with no ice, etc.  Every time he’d do this, I’d cringe and then inspect my food for human saliva before I ate it.  I stopped going with him after a while, deciding that it was in my best health interests to pack my own lunch!

Anyway, this morning the girl goes to hand me my food, and I tell her the order is wrong.  I tell her what I ordered, and surprisingly she has it right there and ready and hands it to me.  She utters a half-hearted “sorry,” and then I take it and go on my un-merry way.  I mean, it’s a good thing I caught the error; otherwise I would have been eating that other person’s strange meal.  As I mentioned before though, this isn’t the first time they’ve screwed things up.  The last time I was there, a week or two ago, I had to sit for over ten minutes while they made new hash browns.  They made me pull up to the little white line, and finally the scruffy-looking, tattooed, brute of a WOMAN comes out with two bags in her hand, then asks me what my order was, then tells me she’ll be right back as she delivers the bags to two other vehicles who were forced to wait behind me.  I sat there, wasting gas in my idling truck for another two or three minutes, and then finally she returned and gave me my food.  No “sorry” or “thanks” or “have a nice day” or anything.  When I finally got to my office, I opened my bag and noticed that they did give me an apple pie.  I’m not sure if this was done on purpose for making me wait or by accident, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it were the latter.

So then I’m off to my doctor’s office for a routine lab appointment.  My appointment was scheduled for 8 AM, and I arrived at 7:52 AM.  I walked in, and the little kiosk to sign in was being used by this extremely loud and obnoxious older woman who obviously had never worked a touch-screen kiosk before.  I stood behind her, waiting patiently, only then to have the lab nurse come out and ask if everyone there had signed in.  Naturally a different woman who had arrived before me hadn’t, despite the HUGE SIGN ON THE WINDOW, so I was polite and allowed her to sign in ahead of me.

I don’t get my doctor’s office, who happens to be one of the bigger “Medical Associates” offices in the “Blair” county area.  They’ve installed these horrendous touch screens that they require everyone to use, and these touch screens are 1: unresponsive, 2: not programmed to clearly indicate what you should do, and 3: difficult for even me to read.  They require you to scan in your insurance card using an awful little card scanner attached to the side on a desk, and even after you scan them, the image takes 5-10 seconds to display on the screen.  Now I’m a pretty tech-savvy guy.  I’m the IT Manager of a small business, and I know more than the average Joe when it comes to these types of things.  But these kiosks even have confused me at times.

And so imagine being 50.  Or 60.  Or 70 or 80!  You get the picture.  Most people that go to the doctor on a regular basis are elderly.  These are the same people that take a half hour to vote.  How in the world are they expected to check in using these kiosks?  I mean, my mom uses a wheelchair when she’s out and about, and these things aren’t even low enough for her to use them.  Even if she were standing up, I don’t think she’d be able to figure them out.  You can pretty much assume that, if you get stuck behind anyone born before the time of microwaves (first sold in 1947), you’re going to be waiting about 15-20 minutes, especially if they are a first-time user.

So my appointment was at 8 AM.  I arrived at 7:52.  I finally got to sign in at 8:07.  I was called back by 8:10, and I was out the door by 8:15.  Fifteen minutes to sign in, 8 minutes until my blood was taken and I was on my un-merry way.  That, my readers, is BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE.  Where was the receptionist?  Oh, she starts at 8:30.  The lab opens at 8.  If you go to the lab, you MUST use the kiosk to sign in.

And then a little bit later today, I received an email from a technology company I’ve used in the past to outsource programming projects.  It’s a pretty big technology company for the area, probably the biggest, and it rhymes with “stink”.  Go figure.  In early April I requested a quote for some minor programming changes to a PHP system they developed for us several years ago.  I received a response that day from out account rep saying she’d get me something in the next week or so.  Nearly a MONTH later, in early May I still hadn’t heard anything, so I emailed our account rep again asking about it.  She finally responded TODAY.  Seriously?  I can’t even fathom taking nearly two months to get someone a quote for 16 hours worth of work.  I’d be fired in an instant.

I could go on and on and on and on and on about bad customer service, but I promise I’ll end here.  I just don’t get it.  Why don’t people take pride in their jobs or their companies?  Why don’t they pay attention to customers complaining and griping?  Maybe I should just stop drinking sugar-free vanilla iced coffees altogether.  But should I stop going to the doctor??

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Busy Summer Bees!

Summers are always busy.  It’s the way life works, I guess.  All winter long you sit in the house, watching the falling snow (or lack thereof) in the freezing cold temperatures.  As soon as it warms up though, you are itching to get outside and go for walks and fix up your yard.  And then all the summer activities begin.

Last weekend was a busy one.  We started our Saturday waking up at 6:30 AM for a 5K at the Blair County/People’s Natural Gas Ballpark.  This was my wife’s third 5k, and my zeroth.  Seriously, my son and I just sat in the stands and watched.

Someday I will run one with her.  I really try not to make excuses for myself, and I was to the point last September where I could do a 5k on my own in under 40 minutes, but then I gained a little weight back over the winter and then sprained my ankle severely a couple of months ago by stepping in a hole in my back yard.  As you can tell from my last post though, I’m back to running again, so maybe by this September I’ll be fit and able to do one with her.  Hopefully!

Anyway, my wife and four-hundred plus others ran around the outfield of the ballpark, then took to the streets outside, did a few laps, and then ran back inside to finish.  She didn’t do as well as she would have liked, but it ended up being a quarter mile longer than the 3.11 miles.  I guess they really REALLY wanted the runners to have the opportunity to run laps inside the ballpark.  Anyway, it was a nice experience both as a spectator and as a runner, as my wife would attest.  She was one tired little lady afterwards, but Daddy and Adam were proud of her!

From there we went to the Blair County Arts Festival at Penn State Altoona, although by that time my son was ready for a nap and was rather grumpy.  We walked around, saw some ducklings at the pond, checked out the craft vendors, and ate some of the carnival-style food (hot dogs, gyros, fries, shaved ice).  We typically go every year, although when my son fell asleep with his head on my shoulder, our little excursion ended rather abruptly.  If you live close to the area and have never been there, I suggest you go next year.  They usually have it during the middle of May.

Later on that night we went to see the Avengers at the drive-in in Portage.  My son, who will be three in a couple of weeks, did fairly well for his first big-screen movie.  There were times when he preferred to inspect the parts of the car he’s never able to while strapped into his car seat, but for the most part he sat and watched the movie.  He loves the Marvel characters, and the scenes with Hulk especially caught his eye.

Drive-ins never quite amount to the same viewing experience as watching in a movie theater or in your own home, mostly because people never can seem to follow the headlight rules, and you inevitably have someone parked near you who is blabbering away about “Dina and Tina,” as was the case with us that night.  Still, we enjoyed the movie, are looking forward to seeing it on Blu-ray at home, and now we know that our son can possibly, hopefully, maybe sit through a movie in a real movie theater.  Fingers crossed!

Over the course of the next couple weeks we are visiting relatives in northern Pennsylvania, hoping to check out the Kinzua Bridge/Sky Walk while we are there.  If you don’t know anything about it, check it out:  It's a very interesting part of Pennsylvania history.  We also have an aunt’s wedding shower that my wife and mom are attending, my son’s birthday, and then in July we are heading to the beach for a week.  Fun times ahead for certain!

Of course, this doesn’t really leave me much time for writing and blogging, but that’s OK.  I realized after an afternoon spent on the golf course a few weeks ago that I actually do look better with a bit of a tan--not so sick and zombie/vampire-like.  I think I need to build a patio out behind my house so that I can sit out there on the weekends and evenings after work and write to my heart’s content on my tablet, rather than sitting inside at my desk.  Heck, maybe I just need to buck up and sit in the grass for the time being.  Anything is better than being inside on a pleasant summer day.

Even though I'm more of a fall/winter type of person, I'm really looking forward to this summer.  I’m not naturally fond of being too busy, but that’s because I sit on my butt watching TV too much.  Luckily the summer TV schedule has me feeling rather blasé (with the exception of Big Brother and True Blood), so hopefully we’ll get outside and enjoy life a little bit.  Maybe dust off and tune up the bikes, or perhaps make an impromptu weekend trip to Pittsburgh or NYC or Delaware.  Maybe we'll check out a zoo or roadside attraction as well.  Whatever it is that we end up doing, I’m looking forward to it!

So how about you?  What fun things have you planned this summer?  Any suggestions?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Running in the Rain

I remember being a young child and watching my dad work in the rain.  Whether it was cutting up firewood or building some addition onto his magnificent, Frankenstein-like house, the rain never seemed to stop him.  When he was finished, he’d come inside, shirt and hair soaked, acting as if the inclement weather hadn’t interfered with his plans one iota.  Now when I’m outside working on something or cleaning up my yard, I head inside as soon as the raindrops start falling, thinking my dad must have had quite a bit of determination to stay out there during a storm.

I think I understand why now.

Today I ran a little over two miles in the rain.  I wasn’t going to go, but I told myself that the rain was just an excuse, and so I pushed myself and went.  It started as a light mist, but by the time I had my first mile in, it was coming down pretty hard.  My shirt was already soaked, and I figured I might as well finish what I’d started.  My clothes would be just as wet after one mile as they would after two.

Running in the rain isn’t quite the same as riding a motorcycle in the rain.  I’ve done plenty of that in my life, where each drop feels like a slightly subdued bee sting.  It’s even worse when a storm sneaks up on you unexpectedly, especially when you are wearing just a t-shirt and darker-tinted sunglasses.  Not only do you have to deal with the piercing raindrops, but you have to clean your glasses, watch for huge puddles and pooling water, and hope your tires don’t lose traction.  Not fun.  Probably the only thing worse than riding in the rain is hitting a bird, which I had the misfortune of doing a few years back.  Luckily he hit my chest and not my face, and I was wearing my riding jacket and was only going about 30 mph.  I stopped rather quickly, turned in disbelief and watched the thing flop on the ground once or twice before it died.  I can't even recall hitting a bird in a car I was driving, yet somehow I managed to hit one while riding on my motorcycle.  Very strange encounter indeed, but I digress.

No, running in the rain is quite different.  It’s very empowering, knowing that you are out there, denying yourself excuses, pushing your body to its limits while water trickles down your nose and off of your earlobes.  You still have to watch your step, as the pavement can become slippery and you run the risk of taking a dive.  It’s an added challenge, too, trying to best your last time while enduring through the pounding raindrops.  I can’t say my two-mile time was any better today than it was on Friday, and my cool-down was abbreviated significantly.  My feet seemed to also hurt at the top just below my ankle, probably because I was inadvertently altering my stride to avoid falling.

But boy did it feel good.  Not to sound too much like Rob Lowe’s character, Chris Traeger, from Parks And Recreation, but if you ever need a quick pick-me-up moment in life, especially on a dreary, rainy day, put your running shoes on and go for a little jaunt.  I promise you it’s quite exhilarating, and you'll feel like a totally different person when you've finished, knowing that, yeah, you just did that!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Terminator Got Him!

So the actor who played John Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is missing.  Nick Stahl, who also starred in Sin City, The Thin Red Line, and Disturbing Behavior among countless other films, played an adult John Connor, once again trying to elude the Terminator model T-X with the help of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inferior T-101 (800 or 850 series for all of you Terminator buffs).  I liked this movie, almost as much as T2, although it didn’t do quite as well at the box office as the first two and was essentially just one big chase scene.  Anyway, apparently Nick Stahl’s estranged wife reported to police that she’d last heard from her husband a week ago, and they believe drugs and/or alcohol may be a factor in his disappearance.

I don’t mean to make light of what could be a very serious and sad situation, but wouldn’t it be just absolutely crazy if Nick Stahl met his demise from an actual Terminator?  I mean, we know NASA and the SETI program (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) are constantly sending radio and video signals into space hoping that intelligent life out there will receive it and communicate back.  Perhaps they sent out Terminator 3, the signal found its way into a wormhole, and it was recovered by intelligent machines on Earth a couple hundred years from now.  Not knowing the movie was a fictional tale, they created a time machine and sent back a Terminator to take Nick Stahl out, thinking he would someday lead a resistance against them.  Highly unlikely, but theoretically possible?  Maybe?

The biggest question is whether or not time travel is possible.  And, surprise, it is!  I’m serious.  It’s been proven.  Einstein theorized it.  You see, as an object’s speed approaches that of light, time dilation occurs.  Time dilation is basically the difference of elapsed time between two objects moving at different speeds.  So if humans could build a spaceship that travelled at the speed of light, and an occupant of that ship and someone else both had a stopwatch, and they both started them at the same exact time, the person’s stopwatch on the ship would be behind the other’s.  Depending on how long that person in the ship travelled, that person could have aged 9 years as opposed to the other's 10.  Likewise, gravity and the mass of objects can affect the speed of time in a similar manner.  In space, time moves more quickly, because there’s nothing of substantial mass slowing it down.  Picture heavy people walking slowly through the mall while skinny people zip around from store to store.  Not really the same scientific principle, at least I don’t think it is, but you get my point.  Maybe that's why bigger folks tend to die earlier--because they age faster.  Just one more reason I need to shed a few pounds!

Seriously though, all of this time travel stuff has been scientifically proven through tests over the past fifty years.  That being said, travelling backwards through time is still up for debate.  Not only could it create time paradoxes, where an effect of an action in time could potentially alter its cause, thereby nullifying itself, but the math and science and theoretic proposals behind it just aren’t really there to substantiate it.  Yet.  I mean, when I consider the instance above, it seems to me that the person in the spaceship has actually traveled backwards in time, because he’s a year younger than the other.  But he didn’t travel backwards in his own time, and perhaps that’s the sticking point.

The thing is, though, there is so much about the cosmos that we have yet to decipher.  We’re still chasing the existence of the Higgs boson, the particle that scientists believe is responsible for mass.  I tend to look at it all as if we are all still cavemen, writing on the walls of our caves with mud and poop and having not the tiniest inclination that the sun is a huge concentration of burning gases or that some day little children will walk around with iPads flinging cartoon birds at pigs in the same way we spear our dinners.  There’s just so much we still have to learn, and that will never change.  As scientists continue to work and study the fundamentals of our existence, all we can really do is sit back, take in all they tell us, and maybe write some crafty stories and scripts like Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Terminator that lean on both the proven and unproven theories.

As I was thinking of new ideas for a novel about a year ago, I read a story about how metamaterials are being used to create cloaking devices.  Metamaterials are man-made materials created by meshing together certain elements in a way that the material itself behaves as a whole rather than as a sum of its parts.  Scientists have found that light travels over the threads of the material entirely rather than through it like it does through a thin cotton T-shirt.  If you cut a hole into the metamaterial, light still travels around it and not even through the hole.  Thus, if you put something into that hole, that object becomes invisible.

Now taking this thought one step further, if light bends around this object, and time moves at the speed of light, could time bend around this object as well?  I’m totally oversimplifying the idea there, but apparently other scientists thought along similar lines and used metamaterials to test the theory.  They found that time still does travel through metamaterials even though photons pass right over and around them.

These results, seemingly disproving time travel, were discovered after I’d already finished the rough draft of my novel, but I was a “sharp tool in the shed” and had included in my novel references to a fictional sub-atomic particle as well that worked in conjunction with metamaterials to make time travel possible.  My novel, Paradox, takes some fictional liberties with all this and relies more on the action to tell the tale, but if you are curious or want to check it out, an excerpt is below.

In the meantime, we can all just wonder, can’t we?  I think that’s one of the things that makes humans so remarkable: our imaginations.  I can’t imagine dogs and cats sitting around contemplating about time and space and how they interact with each other.  My in-laws' dog, Candy, seems more interested in figuring out how he can get into every trash can in the house.

And hopefully Nick Stahl is just hanging out somewhere, playing it cool, safe and sound.  But, if the Terminators did get him, well, I suggest we all better stock up on lots of guns and ammo.  And liquid nitrogen.

An excerpt from my novel, Paradox:

As his mind raced with the implications of being a suspect in a campus bombing, a strange ticking noise began to emanate from near the door.  The sound was odd, like a tap-tick-tap-tick-tap-tap-tap.  It sounded a little like the second hands of several clocks moving out of synchronization, but he looked around the door and didn’t see anything.  In fact, the room was very drab—gray-painted cinder block walls, a thin, high window with steel mesh on the outside of the glass, the large mirror, the table, and the two chairs.

The odd noise continued—quiet and ominous—and Jon stood up and walked the few feet over to the door.  He had no idea if people on the other side of the mirror were watching him, but nobody came rushing in the door, and so maybe they thought he was just stretching and nobody else heard the sound.

Jon listened by the wall, then by the door, then by the edge of the mirror, and he couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly where the sound was coming from.  It’s source seemed to be inside the room—definitely not outside—but each time he moved, the sound seemed to come from somewhere else.  Was his mind playing tricks on him?

As he moved back closer to the table, he noticed that the sound was getting gradually louder.  He also felt a breeze, like a fan, blowing behind him.  The ticking-tapping sounds began to intensify, and Jon realized that the breeze was actually more of a sucking feeling—like a giant invisible vacuum was pulling the air into the middle of the room.

Jon took a few steps back, and as he watched in awe, a tiny orb of light began to appear in the space in front of him, floating in mid-air between the table and the door.  The sound became louder—so loud that anyone outside would have definitely heard it—and the orb began to both grow in size and become brighter—like a tiny little star forming in the middle of the room.

Jon scurried back into a corner, both amazed and terrified at the sight before him.

As the air began to be feverishly sucked into the middle of the room, Jon felt himself begin to be pulled as well.  It wasn’t strong like a tornado, but it still brought his horror to an entirely new level, and he hunched down and stuck both his arms out onto the adjoining walls to support himself.

The orb grew and grew, and it began to shine with such intensity that he was blinded.  The sound became deafening, and Jon closed his eyes and tried to cover his right ear into his shoulder—fearful that if he moved his hands from the walls, he would get sucked in.

When the sound became so loud that he thought his eardrums were going to shatter, it suddenly ended with a dull pop, and the light and vacuum vanished just as quickly as they had appeared.

Jon opened his eyes, unable to see at first because the light had been so blinding, and he blinked them several times before he realized that someone was in the room.  He rubbed at his eyes, and as his vision finally began to return, he shrank back in horror.

Standing in front of him was the gunman in the strange, shiny, grey-black suit.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Don't Make Me Mad!

Last night, after a nice and relaxing forty-five minutes at the park walking and playing in the little playground there, I went home and did some self-reflecting.  It wasn’t easy, considering my son’s energy must not have been fully expended by that point as he was jumping on the bed and hitting me with pillows.  But as I sat there, mindlessly watching Celebrity Apprentice that I’d recorded on the DVR and fending off multiple polyester-filled missiles, my thoughts turned to that of self-assessment.

I realized that I really couldn’t be happier.  Sure I could always use more money, a bigger house, and a better wardrobe.  I’d love to get an in-ground swimming pool.  Heck, I’d love to just quit my job and spend hours and hours every day with my son, relaying to him the abundance of mostly useless knowledge I have stored up in my noggin.  He’ll be three in a couple of weeks, and sometimes I feel like I’ve missed a lot of opportunities with him being in daycare all day long.  Then again, there are some dads out there that travel for work, only seeing their kids a couple of nights a week, and those guys miss out on a lot more than I do.

But yeah, I’m a pretty happy guy.  I don’t have many problems.  I mean, yeah, I could always be in better shape.  We are planning a trip to the beach this summer, and a couple of my trip companions are concerned about their beach bodies.  I think I’m personally less concerned with my body image as I am with my overall health.  As far as my physique goes, my son says I look like the Hulk.  I laugh, thinking I probably look more like the Blob.  Hopefully my skin doesn’t have a greenish tint to it that I’m not aware of.  And I hope he doesn’t dwell on the rare times I get angry.  Everyone gets upset every once in a while, some more often than others, but I try to limit it as much as possible around him.  I don’t want him growing up in an environment where yelling is normal and accepted.  I try to laugh and be humorous with him as much as possible.  I’m also a pretty mellow guy by nature, so that helps.

Some people aren’t, though.  A couple of months ago, during the early evening hours, I just happened to look out the window and saw some guy pull over on the side of the road right across from my house.  He got out, walked around to the other side of his car, dragged a six-year-old kid out of the back seat, and began “paddling” him senselessly.  The kid was screaming and crying, and the guy tossed him back in, then came back to the other side and did the same with what appeared to be a four-year-old.  At that point I was up, down the hallway, and was standing outside my front door with my arms crossed, glaring at him.  He glanced over at me with a fury-filled, beat-red (as opposed to beet-red) face, said absolutely nothing, got in the car and sped off down the road as if nothing had happened.  I can’t say it was child abuse, as he did only smack them on their behinds, but there was something in his demeanor and the viciousness of the paddling that made me think that wasn’t the first or last of his temper.

I guess some people just aren’t meant to have children.  Perhaps conception was an accident, or maybe they were just careless.  Maybe a sixteen-year-old female, on the advice of her thirty-two-year-old mother, told her boyfriend she was taking birth control but wasn’t, hoping to get pregnant so that she could force him and his family to pay child support, just as her mother had done before her.  Or maybe they really did want kids, but their own upbringing was so screwed up that they don’t know how to raise them.  Or maybe a parent just snapped, just one blue-moon moment where that guy just couldn’t take it any longer, but instead of working through his anger calmly on his own, he unfortunately decided to take it out on his kids.  Who knows?

Some people turn their anger inward on themselves.  They wallow in their misery, hoping for a pity party from anyone who will listen to them.  Some of these cases may be legitimate illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder, but many just seem to live their lives crying “why me?” while the world passes them by.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve read Facebook posts or Tweets by people complaining about their lives or their problems.  I feel so sorry for those people—not because they have love-life issues or that they are crazy busy while suffering from a migraine.  I pity them because they use social media to air their problems, because they don’t seem to have anyone else in their lives to talk to, and because they refuse to focus and see all the positive things in their lives rather than dwelling on the negative.

I’m sure those same people would look at me and say, “Well, you don’t know me, Ryan.  You don’t know what I have to deal with.”  But that’s the unequivocal and grandiose problem and answer right there.  Why are you comparing yourself to me?  Why do you think the grass is greener in my lawn?  Yeah, I did use Scott’s TurfBuilder, but I did it because I had a huge dandelion problem—not to play Keeping Up with the Joneses.  Yeah, possibly I make more money than you, but there are a lot of people out there that make a lot more money than me.  Yeah, maybe I don’t have your health problems, but I’ve had my fair share of them—including a broken skull, ruptured appendix, etc.  We could go back and forth all day, and what would it accomplish?  Would you be any happier?  Probably not. 

Take a serious look at your life and ask yourself what you have to be thankful for.  I’m certain you’ll find more than you realize.  And when you do, embrace it.  Cherish it.  Open the curtains and the windows and breathe in a nice big breath of fresh air.  Go for a walk or even a run if you are physically able.  I think you’ll find, if you do that, that your life really isn’t all that bad.  And if you really do have a serious issue in your life that you are dealing with or need to deal with, perhaps that newfound positive vibe will help you tackle it.  Because I can assure you, the “woe is me” attitude won’t.

And remember, being angry at the world doesn't solve anything either.  Not only does it raise your blood pressure and put you at risk for serious health issues (like getting your butt kicked), but it wastes your time and energy that could be better spent enjoying life or improving yourself.  Besides, you look pretty silly with that angry face.  Right?  Yeah, who are you kidding?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weird Bodily Stuff

Fresh off of a nice long weekend, I’m back with some stories and observations that may not be for the faint of heart.  All of these tidbits are recent news articles dealing with the human body and its odd and unusual behavior.

First off, we have this guy:

He apparently encountered a nice little surprise while visiting a Washington state Wal-Mart.  While shopping in the garden section, he bent down to brush a stick off of some mulch and was promptly bitten by a rattlesnake.  He was rushed to the hospital, and he may eventually lose the feeling in two fingers.

It’s incredible to me how something so small can inflict so much damage.  I’m not really afraid of snakes, but I tend to stay out of areas where they may thrive.  When I’m working in my yard, I’ll be certain to wear high-ankle, steel-toed boots and jeans rather than trotting around in sandals and shorts.  If I see a snake, I’ll just stay clear of it.  Of course, if I’m shopping in Wal-Mart, I’m not expecting to run into any snakes, so yeah, this would totally freak me out.  The article says he stomped on the snake to kill it.  I’m just wondering how it got in there.  Did it hitch a ride in the mulch?  Maybe it heard they had a special sale going on goldfish.  Wal-Mart really does sell everything, doesn't it?

Spiders are the worst for me.  The other day I was sitting in my bed, watching TV, and I saw a flash of black on my left upper arm at the edge of my sleeve.  I looked down and saw nothing, but just as I turned my head back, I saw a spider jump back out from under my sleeve and onto the exposed part of my arm.  Man, I freaked out like a little girl!  I bolted upright, swiping at my arm until it landed on the bed sheets.  I recall doing a little dance.  Twisting my shirt all inside out.  I think I screamed.  After I'd recovered, hahaha, I squashed the spider in a napkin, although the thing was crazy fast and was half-way down the bed before I got it.  I wish I could have captured it all on video.  I don’t know if I’d consider myself an arachnophobe, but I get a little antsy around every spider I see, thinking it may be a brown recluse and that I’m going to be bitten and lose my fingers or hand.  I swear I must have looked over my arm thirty times that night.  And I think I’ve even passed down my fear of critters to my son, because while most little boys play with or are at least interested in bugs and snakes, he gets freaked out by them as well.  And my wife?  Well, she called me into the bathroom a week or two ago to kill an ant.  Yeah, an ANT!

And that’s just spiders.  Imagine being that poor girl from Georgia with the flesh-eating bacteria that’s already taken her leg and will probably take both of her hands.  Why are our bodies so fragile?  I’ve seen quite a few stories about people losing limbs or being horribly disfigured because of necrotizing fasciitis and other ghoulish germs.  It makes me totally understand how people could become agoraphobes.  Then again, somehow that rattler got into Wal-Mart.  What’s stopping the spiders and snakes from getting into their houses or the flesh-eating bacteria infecting a paper-cut or some other innocuous scratch?  It makes me want to know how much those bubble-boy bubbles cost?  Not that I'd get one.  But I AM curious.

Ewww…enough of this subject.  Next we have this article:

I just had to laugh when I saw this.  Kids actually were thinking that hair constantly hanging over one eye could cause a lazy eye.  Seeing as how this hairstyle is so prevalent today, I guess I could see why people would worry.  I mean, they say that if you don’t use it, you lose it, right?  =P  The article itself goes on to poke fun at all of the emo boys and girls who frequently style their hair in this fashion.  I did a Google image search of “lazy eye”, and I swear nearly a quarter of the people have comb-overs and/or bangs that hang over one eye.  Obviously people will style their hair in this fashion to hide their condition, and so naturally it’s going to seem more common for these types of people.  It just cracks me up that some kids out there actually believe the backwards logic, that the cause was due to the effect.  Silly emo kids!  I also have to wonder if emo kids who actually have lazy eyes ever considered hanging their hair down to cover the stronger eye, so that perhaps it would begin to wander as well in the same direction as the first.  Seems like it would be reasonable logic to them, doesn’t it?

Also, just to note—this is not intended to poke fun at people with amblyopia.  It’s a serious condition that not only causes vision problems but also can cause self-esteem and psychological issues.  Rather, I’m poking fun at the naïve people who believed it could happen due to the way they comb/style their hair.  Making fun of people’s disabilities is wrong no matter how you do it.  Unless they are just dumb.

OK, so back to all of this silliness, finally we have this lovely piece of art:

I remember reading about this a few years ago when the guy was first building it, but it just made news recently again for going on display in this museum in Australia.  I love crap like this, pun intended.  It must take one messed up, insanely creative mind to think of something so disgusting.  Ummm, yeah, I want to build something that will shock the world.  I know, a machine that creates poop!  You have to wonder where this guy was when he thought of this.  I know I personally do some of my best thinking while…

Anyway, the museum itself is host to a bunch of other freakish pieces of art, and one patron described the work there as “confronting.”  Gee, you think?  This museum also had a "vomit room" at one point.  I’d love to go check this place out, and my wife would agree, so we’ll add it to our bucket list.  It reminds me a little of the show “Oddities” on the Discovery Channel, which is about the Obscura Antiques & Oddities store in New York.  The owners collect and shop around for some very bizarre items, many of which are human oddities, bizarre medical instruments, etc.  Every time we watch it my wife thinks she knows the patrons, saying, “that guy went to Stuyvesant” or “that chick was one of my mom’s customers at her nail salon.”  It makes me think my wife hung out with some really strange people before moving to Pennsylvania.  I also just have to shake my head about the Stuyvesant comments.  If you don’t know, Stuyvesant is a high school in Manhattan very close to the World Trade Center area in Battery Park City, and dozens of famous people have graduated from the prestigious school.  My wife never fails to let me know all the celebrities that went to her high school, including Nobel winners, famous authors, musicians such as Thelonius Monk and actresses and actors such as Lucy Liu, Paul Reiser, Tim Robbins.  One of the Beastie Boys was rumored to have gone there, but alas it is not true.  Sorry, babe!  But hey, the former coach of the New Orleans Hornets went to Hollidaysburg!  At least my school had one celebrity.  Sort of.

I digress.  Back to the poop machine, I just have to wonder what this guy’s thought process was when making this.  As he’s building each component, obviously studying the science and technology required to make poop, he was probably so proud of himself.  That’s one guy whose life’s work has gone down the crapper—and he’s damn proud of it!  Seriously though, if this guy was interested in a poop machine, I have a two-year-old who is great at it.  Making poop, that is.

Friday, May 11, 2012

You Breastfed Your Baby How Long??

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day that we should all shower our moms with praise.  Well, maybe not the moms in my last post, who obviously should NOT be getting Mother’s Day cards or presents this year.  Those moms should have their mom-licenses taken away from them, actually.  But for all of those good moms out there, the ones that have nurtured us and watched us grow from little babies to the fine and upstanding adults we are today, you all should get a giant THANK YOU!

Even the moms who haven’t been the greatest still deserve your praise.  They did bring you into this world.  Sure, some moms maybe haven’t done the greatest job raising their kids, and others may have fought psychological or emotional or addiction problems and put you a distant second or third on their priorities list.  In those instances, yeah, maybe they don’t deserve the praise that others do.  That’s a decision you have to make for yourself.

But with Mother’s Day springing up this Sunday (I can’t believe it’s the middle of May already!!), how clever was it for Time magazine to post their article on attachment parenting.  If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, I have to ask if you even use any of the social networking sites, because the cover of the issue has been posted a gazillion times.  So if you have indeed been living under a rock, here it is:

Now I have yet to actually read this article.  That being said, I’m astounded by some of the comments I’ve seen posted under various online articles pertaining to this and more specifically relating to the subject of breastfeeding itself.  OK, first of all, I get the fact that nearly everyone thinks this kid is way too big to be doing this.  And really, he does look older than 3.  More like 5 or 6.  And the fact that he’s on the cover of a magazine probably isn’t the smartest thing to do.  Yeah, this kid will probably get teased for years over this when he's older.  Maybe Mitt Romney's grand kids will even shave his head.  Perhaps mom should have covered his face, rather than having him pose in such a silly manner.  So yes, I see why the picture could be somewhat disturbing to some people.

What I don’t get, however, is the vile, negative, hate-filled comments that this has spawned regarding the act of breastfeeding itself.  I just have to weigh in on them, because these comments show a side of humanity that is rather detestable, in my opinion.

People are saying that breastfeeding a child this old is child abuse.  Others are trying to sound intelligent by citing science, indicating that the mother is to blame and saying the oxytocin released during breastfeeding is making her not want to stop.  They are saying that kids who are breastfed too long will have separation disorders and psychological problems.  I saw one person say that, if this is natural, animals would be breastfeeding long after they do.  For that guy, just do the math, buddy.  I’ve seen kittens nurse from their mothers for up to six months after they are born, and at least three months is typically recommended.  Considering that a cat’s life expectancy is only 13 years, if you compare them to humans in America with a life expectancy of 77 years, well, kids would stop nursing anywhere from 1.5 years to 3 years old.  That being said, I once had a cat that was nearly a year old that continued to nurse from its mother.  Using that dude’s logic, a six-year-old could still be breastfeeding.  Yeah, check your math at the door, pal.

I just don’t get all of the hysteria about this though.  Why is breastfeeding after the age of twelve months so wrong?  Pediatricians, the World Health Organization, and millions of other experts around the world recommend that a mother breastfeeds at least until the child is a year old.  After that they say it can continue as long as they want.  There is no specific recommended time to wean a child.  Those are the facts, and those are the ONLY recommendations out there given by doctors.

Saying that breastfeeding past the age of two is somehow wrong is inane.  I’ll bet if the Pope or if Ronald Reagan or JFK or Tupac rose from the dead and stated that mothers should breast feed until a child is four-years-old, at least a third of these people spewing vile comments would reverse their opinions.  The fact is, it just seems wrong to them because they haven’t done it or seen it.  It’s just like people’s intolerance toward different races and cultures and homosexuals and the Dutch.  Yeah, baby!  They’re different, so they are wrong.  Yeah, and what makes you so right?  Your charming good looks?

And for all of those people that say that breastfeeding has some sort of sexual connotation to it, you have quite the imaginations.  Sure, like in that movie Shoot ‘Em Up, there are some people out there that have breastfeeding fetishes.  There are also some people out there that have fetishes about fully-clothed women getting stuck in the mud.  Or wearing full-body casts.  The point is rather moot if you look at it that way.  These are most likely the same people that don’t want women breastfeeding in public.  As if the sight of a woman’s breast is just unholy.  Really?  I hate to break it to you, people, but half the population has them (over half if you count all the obese people), and nothing is going to change that.  Some of these people also probably don’t think Muslim women should wear burkas.  So you want women covered up, but not so much that you can’t see any part of them except for their eyes?  Which is it, folks?  Make up your minds!

Obviously the kid in the picture above isn’t breastfeeding for nutrition.  He's probably doing it for comfort more than anything.  He eats solid food unless he has some medical problem we don’t know about.  That being said, you have to wonder if the obesity epidemic in America is related to so many people’s negative impressions of breastfeeding into toddler-hood.  We give MANUFACTURED formula and start shoving food into the mouths of our children when they are so young, it just makes you wonder if we are training our kids at an early age to eat Eat EAT.  Maybe we’ve got this all wrong.  Maybe if we did exclusively breastfeed children until they were eighteen months old, they’d grow up with a different perspective of food.  I was never breastfed, and I’ve been a bigger guy most of my adult life.  I look at my Vietnamese in-laws, who are as thin as can be, and I see them only eating rice and fresh meats and fruits and vegetables.  When we visit them, I’m always craving chips or cookies or something to snack on, which is a rarity in their house.  I don’t know if they were breastfed or not—not really the kind of question you ask someone, especially your mother and father-in-law—but I can assume that Similac and Gerber weren’t readily available in Vietnam in the 60s.  It really makes you wonder about the state of our society when people are in an uproar about breastfeeding children too long.

Finally, I just have to say this.  I’m proud of all the moms out there who stick to their guns and breastfeed as long as they can.  Frankly, it’s nobody’s business but yours, your child, and your doctor.  If you’re all cool with it, do it.  And if you are one of these people that has a problem with it, keep your opinions to yourself.  Feed your kids crap when they are a year old and watch them have obesity-related health problems later in life.  Then just don’t complain about the state of our Medicare and Medicaid and government programs that are stretched to the limits by people whose belts are, you got it, stretched to the limits.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I’m So Glad I Had Normal Parents

All kids need parents or guardians or people to raise and guide them.  Statistically speaking, kids who grow up in stable households tend to be better off than kids who don’t.  And if you ask how I know this, well, I know this because I know everything and you should listen to every word I say.  =P  Seriously though, it’s pretty much common knowledge that kids with a father and mother or a mother and mother or father and father (don’t discriminate, people) tend to do better in life.  And while not ideal, even single parents are better than nothing.

Except for the people mentioned here.  Their kids would probably be better off without their parents.  I’ve heard and seen and smelled bad parenting—not my own, of course, who were probably the best a kid could ask for given the state of society today—but these folks are by far some of the worst.

First we have these grandparents from last week who decided to connect their granddaughter’s Power Wheels to the back of their SUV and go for a ride.

We’re all probably still wondering why this girl’s father left her under their watch, as he even told police that he believes his parents have chronic alcohol problems.  But does it surprise you that these grandparents were drunk?  It doesn’t surprise me.  In fact, in the winter after it snows, I watch idiots in my neighborhood fly down the road on sleds hitched to the back of vehicles.  Perhaps those guys are drunk as well.  Who knows?  But drunk or not, this takes a serious lapse in judgment to think that this girl is somehow going to be safe doing this.

So next we come to this lovely couple:

Police say they were spotted pulling out of a liquor store parking lot, and that the dad was, you guessed it, drunk.  OK, maybe alcohol does play a factor.  I still don’t buy it, though.  Alcohol makes you say and do stupid things, but these people seem to be crossing over the line—no, scratch that—stepping into the black hole of stupidity.  I mean, I’ve watched friends urinate in public, fall down, run down the street naked, black out, etc., but I’ve never heard any of my inebriated friends make the suggestion of strapping children to a car and driving down the road.  Seriously?

And finally we have this lady:

I still don’t get the tanning craze.  Tanning is HARMFUL TO YOUR BODY.  Why don’t these people understand this?  Aside from that glaringly obvious factoid, what on earth would possess this mother to just leave her kids in the car while she runs in to go leatherfy herself?  Heck, I won’t even leave my son in the car when I’m pushing the grocery cart back to the cart caddy thing at supermarkets.  I push him in it, then we both walk back to the car.  And he’s almost 3!  Leaving a 6-year-old and a 10-month-old baby?  I’m just stunned.

Maybe this is so shocking to me because, when I was young, I was sitting in my dad’s truck with some neighborhood friends, and I yanked down on the gear shift and started driving it down our rather steep side yard.  My brother and another neighbor were in the back shoveling out top soil, and luckily my brother jumped out and ran down the truck quick enough to get inside and slam on the brakes.  By the way, if I’ve never thanked you for saving my life that day, thanks Jim!

One of my favorite shows on Showtime is Shameless (the American version—haven’t seen the British version).  I can say, though, that when I first starting watching it, I found some of their antics hard to believe.  Now I wasn’t a privileged kid growing up.  My parents struggled to make ends meet, and I ate my fair share of hot dogs and boxed macaroni and cheese, especially when I was around nine or ten and my dad lost his job.  But we were never like the Gallaghers on Shameless, stealing, struggling, doing anything we could to survive.

As I got older though, I began to realize that it was MY family that was abnormal.  Just about every kid I knew in high school and then in my college days had some strange history or odd relative or whatever.  The girls that I dated were probably the biggest eye-openers for me, with families so dysfunctional that nearly all of them had a sibling that had spent at least a month or more in jail, others with severe mental and emotional problems, etc.  Now that I look back though, I think that perhaps those other families really weren’t all that strange.  Maybe it isn’t that uncommon for people to fake illnesses to collect social security checks or run scams or whatever.  Maybe my family was the odd one out, and as I grew up and was raised “right” by my parents, I ended up being the strange one, following all of the rules like a good and honest American citizen.

I guess I’m still that way today, although maybe not quite as naïve as I was a decade or two ago.  It still drives me nuts when people fail to use turn signals and litter and all that stupid irrelevant stuff that I really shouldn’t care about.  Seriously, I just got my first speeding ticket LAST YEAR, and you wouldn't believe how upset I was with myself.  In my opinion, though, if you are going to have a country with laws and rules and regulations, let’s abide by them.  Otherwise, let’s give anarchy a test-drive and see how many of these former law-breakers survive.  I’d like to think that Darwinism would take over, and that the smartest and strongest would persevere while the lazy and weak would slowly disappear.  Hopefully I’d be one of the persevering ones!  Then again, the way our country works right now, the ones that are thriving are the ones with the most money, and all of those people that do skirt around the laws are really just trying to make ends meet, much like the Gallaghers on Showtime.  By the way, doesn’t that dad who strapped his kids to the car in the picture above look like Ian Gallagher?  Maybe just a little?

But in effect, it seems to me that capitalism begets crime.  People want money to buy things, or get by, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it.  Then again, just about everything else begets crime.  Anarchy, socialism, communism, love, power, greed, and about a million other things.  It’s human nature, it seems.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could just put little computers or nanorobots in our heads that would weed out all of the bad thoughts that cause us to want to break the rules?  If you like that idea, or are horrified by it, check out my book, Project Utopia.

I digress.  I’m not even really sure I have a point to this post, other than to say that if you are drinking and you are stupid, don’t decide to go spend quality time with your children.  And if you have children, please take care of them.  Don’t leave them in cars while you run errands.  Don’t be a selfish jerk like so many others in the world.  There’s enough of those people already.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pass the Glow Sticks, Flipper!

I love weird and strange news.  I can never get enough of it.  And so when this story caught my eye today, I had to have a little fun with it.

So, it’s a shame that the dolphins died.  I can’t say I know much about dolphins, which is surprising because I seem to know just about everything according to my wife.  I do know, though, that these dolphins were asking for it.  I mean, I was at this rave.  My son and I went for a little while.  If you don’t believe me, here’s proof:

Yeah, check out those moves.  Anyway, so while I was there, I spotted those dolphins.  I don’t know if they were ingesting heroin or other drugs, but they sure seemed to be into it.  I even snapped a picture of one of them…

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oops. I made a mistake. So what?

My wife says I’m neurotic.  Not extreme like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory, but definitely treading into the realm of abnormality.  She says I tend to gripe and dwell on things that most people would just overlook.  She does have a psychology degree, and she is my better half, so I can’t disagree with her.  Even if I had reasonable, verifiable evidence to contradict her, I wouldn’t.  I know I’m neurotic.  Stupid things get to me.  And by stupid, I mean STUPID.  I’m bothered by stupid mistakes.

The other day I received an email from a local TV station that is notorious for their on-air mistakes.  Yep, anchors looking at the wrong cameras, fumbling over words, technical difficulties.  “You stay classy, San Diego.  I’m Ron Burgundy?”  You name it, it happens.  I actually wrote a letter to their producer several years back asking why they had so many mistakes, and I received a very vague and unapologetic response about “live TV” and blah blah blah.  That didn’t surprise me.  I don’t know why I torture myself by continuing to watch their news.  I get most of my daily updates through my mobile devices anyway.  All it takes is Twitter, the Scanner Radio app, and some selective Google News searches, and I know just about everything going on in the area.  Mr. Information I am.

But this email I received the other day was for a contest for Mother’s Day, and it piqued my interest.  The winner would receive a gift card for like $500 from a local jewelry store, and all I had to do was finish the line “My Momma Says…” with some witty or profound advice I received from my mom.  Well, I had a great little story to enter about my mom, and so I clicked on the link and began filling out the form.  Here’s the story:

When I was little, maybe eight or nine or so, my momma said that when I had emptied an ice cream container, I should put it in the sink.  Her reasoning was that any residual ice cream left in the container would then melt, and then we could easily wash it down the drain.  So, as any good eight-year-old would do, I proceeded to throw all the empty ice cream containers into the sink.  A few months passed, and then my mom began to complain about people putting ice cream containers in the sink.  With an exasperated tone, she would say, “Why can’t people throw these into the garbage?”  Seeing her frustrations, I began throwing the empty cartons into the garbage, as any good eight-year-old would do.  After several weeks of that though (as I’m typing this, I’m realizing how much ice cream I ate as a kid!!), my mom began to complain that the garbage bags were always leaking because people threw ice cream containers in them.  So yeah, I was one confused kid!  We laugh about it today, and of course now I realize that my mom wanted me to RINSE the containers BEFORE tossing them, but I never picked that up when I was little.  Anyway, it was a good story of advice gone wrong, and I wanted to post it in this contest.

So I get my info and the story all entered into this website, and then I come to this part:

My mom does not like having her picture taken.  If I posted it along with my story, she’d kill me.  Seriously, she’d make sure I ended up in a garbage bag like those leaky ice cream containers.  So, before I’d even started into this thing, I had noticed the line that reads “Photo not required to qualify for contest.”  Cool.  Good thinking, TV station.

But alas, my reminiscing of heartfelt tender moments was short-lived.  I had entered under the assumption that I did not have to post a picture of my mom.  However, notice the little asterisks by the fields?  Yes, you guessed it.  You HAVE TO POST A PHOTO to submit.  Ummm…OK?

Now I realize this is a minor mistake, but I just closed the website and didn’t even bother.  I guess I could have put my face on there, or perhaps some beautiful scenery, or maybe even a picture of melting ice cream like this:

But instead I just got so frustrated with the site that I quit.  I mean, if they can’t even get the submission portion right, how do we know they’ll get the selection portion right as well?  As a side note, I’d entered a contest of theirs before, one that required users to vote on a picture submission, and it had quickly become apparent that people were cheating by using fake names and email addresses.  The site was also very quirky to begin with, as if the TV producer’s eighty-year-old father-in-law was the webmaster.  I’d inquired about the validity of the results through their contact page, and my notions were again dismissed with a vague message.  To that end, I hadn’t had much confidence in this particular contest to begin with.

Mistakes happen.  Maybe this wasn’t even a mistake.  Maybe they did want random photos, or maybe there was a link somewhere to send a paper submission.  Who knows?  Who cares?

Well, I guess I do.  I mean, this is something so minor, so frivolous, so not worth getting worked up over.  Right?  Well, let me ask this.  If you are the owner of a vehicle, say a beautiful 2012 Dodge Charger, and you’re cruising along on a straight portion of rode and decide to really give it some gas, well, maybe you should care.

Here we have a mistake on such a level that a major vehicle manufacturer had to issue a recall.  Yes, recalls are issued all the time, but this one seems rather important.  Like urgently important.  Like get your freakin’ car to the dealership ASAP.  Because if you own a Dodge Charger, let’s face it, you’re going to drive it fast.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  But if this little fuse overheats, and you are driving fast and lose control, you are going to look like this:

My point is that mistakes cost us.  Some major.  Some minor.  But they do, and especially in the corporate world.  Yet it astounds me how often they happen.  Even as I’m typing this, I received an email about SEO Training with this posted in size 50+ font on the left side:

OK, crappy computer company that sends me newsletters every couple of weeks.  You do know it’s May, right?  I’d love to go to your training, but I’m not quite sure I trust the technology in the time machine you’re going to have to use to conduct this seminar.  And, uh, what’s up with this link?  You just sent this out to probably hundreds of current and prospective clients, and you couldn’t even edit the link properly?  This link was the most apparent thing on the page.  And you missed it?

I don’t know.  I mean, at the firm I work for, I produce a huge annual report for clients filled with statistics and charts and tons of information.  Yes, it has occasionally had mistakes in it.  But we’re talking about hundreds of pages of text.  And I’m the only one involved with it.  I don’t have an editor or a proofreader.  And mistakes happen.  We learn from them and move on.  In my case, I’ll fix them, recreate the PDF files, and upload them again to the clients who have purchased the reports.  Case closed.

Some people don’t even admit to them though.  A few years ago, when online banking was bleeding edge technology, my bank had a web form for users to add in new payees.  On the form it said, “Please setup your new payee below.”  I read this line over and over, for weeks and weeks and weeks as I added all of my payees, and then I finally emailed them, saying, “Please edit your verbiage on your website for setting up new payees.  It’s ‘set up’ and not ‘setup’.  The word ‘setup’ is a noun meaning a plan or an arrangement.  ‘Set up’ is the phrasing you need in this instance.”  That, by the way, is a common error among IT people who throw the two terms around like Frisbees.  Nobody must have caught it, however, and it was like that for months—even after I sent the email and received a reply thanking me for pointing out the error.  I would have thought that our local TV station producer worked there if the bank weren’t a multi-billion-dollar asset institution with corporate offices in Buffalo.  I mean, the fix was literally a two-second edit of HTML, and it remained like that forever.  They probably didn’t even read my email.  Either that, or they thought of me as some neurotic English teacher or something.

Maybe I’m obsessive compulsive.  I just like to think of myself as a professional perfectionist.  When I’m sending out emails and correspondences, I proof-read them two, three, and even four times.  Even if they are just going to a few people.  And I type really freakin’ fast.  Like 120+ words per minute fast.  So fast that when my wife hears me typing, she jokes that I’m “fake-typing.”  Seriously, I typed this whole post in less than five minutes.  OK, not seriously, but I do type so fast that it’s not all that uncommon for me to have misspellings or grammar mistakes, which are mostly typos.  But I proof everything.  I make sure that if I’m publishing my work, it’s not shoddy.  Especially if it’s a one-page newsletter or a site that thousands of people are going to visit.

Do people just not care anymore?  Is it laziness?  Are others typing way too fast?  Are there deadlines that need to be met?  I don’t know.  You tell me.  Just make sure that if you write your response, you proofread it first.  Otherwise I’ll just erase it.  Or complain about it to my poor wife.  =P

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wow Lady…er…Man…er Person, what have you done to yourself?!?

So my wife says I need to include more pictures and funny anecdotes into my blog.  Here you go, Lisa.  These are for you:

Most of you probably saw the pictures of the mom who was charged with taking her daughter to a tanning salon.  If you didn’t, here she is:

Wow.  OK, is it just me, or does she look like William H. Macy?  Also, a random tidbit for all of you parents with toddlers who love Curious George, did you know that William H. Macy is the narrator for many of the episodes?  Yes, Frank Gallagher himself explains away the misadventures of the Man in the Yellow Hat and his furry little friend.  Something just seems wrong with that.  It’s like the actor who plays Mr. Noodle in Elmo’s World also played a recurring serial killer on CSI.  Talk about the opposite of typecasting!

I also can’t help but notice that this lady looks like my son after he’s eaten a chocolate candy bar.  He’s got chocolate plastered all over his face and hands—not quite sure why he can’t seem to get it into his mouth—but we go through tons of Wet Naps after he gets his treat.  I digress.  This lady also looks like beef jerky.  I just want to know who is telling her that she looks great with that raw-hide, cocoa complexion.  There should be a law for tanning salon owners like they have for bartenders.  When you have a few too many, you’re shut off.  Especially for this lady, because if she keeps this up, her face is going to melt off like the Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Next we have the transgender couple accused of calling in the bomb threats to the University of Pittsburgh.  What a lovely-looking couple:

I’m not going to criticize these people for their choices to change genders.  I’m sure that these people--that all transgendered people for that matter--struggle with their genders and their identities throughout their lives.  I could not imagine making that decision and then actually going through with it.  Unless we can stand in their shoes, we have no idea what adversity they face both inside and out.  Kudos to them for being true to themselves!

That being said, uh, LOOK AT THESE PEOPLE!  The male, Seamus Johnston, still has the hands and hips and face of a woman.  And the female, Katherine Anne McCloskey, well, all I have to say is that even if she were still a he, he/she’d be one scary dude!  Like Andre the Giant’s little sisterbrother.  Yikes!

I guess the FBI returned their computers to them.  The article in our local newspaper lists Vinco as their place of address.  I’ve been to Vinco.  A state trooper gave me a ticket for going 75 MPH in a 55 MPH zone on Route 22 last year on the way home from Pittsburgh, despite the fact that I had just set my cruise control at 68 MPH and the highway switched from 55 to 65 only a few hundred yards in front of where I was pulled over.  Anyway, I pled down to speeding in excess of 10 MPH before the magistrate—and I still think the whole thing was a scam because that trooper was allowing EVERYONE there to plead down to 10 MPH/2 points.  Again, I digress.  I had to drive through Vinco to get to the district court, and I’m not even sure the town has a traffic light.  My point is, if these people live there, they have to be the most popular people in town.  It’s kinda like Port Allegany up in northern Pennsylvania.  It’s a tiny town, but there’s a strip joint there called Busty Heart’s Place, home to the world famous Busty Heart with breasts that require 46H cups to hold them.  I have family that lives in Port Allegany, and when we were visiting a few years ago, we saw Busty (had no idea who she was at the time) walk into the Sheetz store.  We couldn’t help but stare at her and the two beach balls that were haphazardly covered with a size XXXXXXXXXXXL T-shirt.  Only then did we learn that she’s been on all sorts of shows and is wildly popular.  Shortly thereafter, I was in a business meeting talking about Port Allegany, and one of the guys I was meeting with actually referenced Busty Heart’s Place.

So back to this couple, I can only imagine the publicity they get living in Vinco.  They have to be the local celebrities.  Who knows if they actually called in the bomb threats or not, but I’ll bet they’re pretty good at clearing out rooms and buildings with just their presence alone.  Why do this to yourselves, people?  I mean, perhaps I don’t know enough about what it takes to switch genders, but it seems to me as if Seamus hasn’t had enough testosterone therapy and Katherine hasn’t had enough estrogen.  At least shave your head, Seamus, or maybe grow some facial hair.  And Katherine, uhh, well, I don’t know what to tell you.  You went from an ugly man to a really ugly woman.  Maybe get a wig or something?  I’d love to meet these two, though.  They seem like fascinating people.

Which brings me to my final observation:

This transgendered lady was ticketed for using a ladies restroom at a hospital in Dallas.  I guess she went in, did her business, and as she was leaving, she heard a woman say, “That’s a man.”  She was then chased down by a police officer who gave her a ticket.  The police department is still investigating the incident.

Ok, in defense of the police (which is rare because I generally have a negative impression of all police, especially state troopers who sit on Route 22 in Cambria county), this lady really does look like a man.  I would hate to be a cop in today’s society.  With so many transsexuals and transgenders out there, how in the heck would you know what to do in this situation?  The world is crazy, has always been crazy, and will always be crazy, but I also think that people are far more sensitive than they were thirty or fifty years ago.  Why did that other lady feel so compelled to chase down a police officer about a man using the women’s restroom?  One of my cousins just accidentally did the same thing a week or two ago.  It happens.  And I mean, seriously, if this dude really was a perv dressing up as a woman just to sneak into women’s restrooms to spy on other women, don’t you think he would have put a little more effort into actually making himself LOOK LIKE A WOMAN?

Why in the world do these people do these things to themselves?  You’ve got women tanning to the point that they look like living turds and people switching genders but obviously not getting enough done to make them actually look like their new gender.  Is it a sickness?  Again, I’m not talking about gender identity disorder, which I believe to be a real illness.  I’m talking about people that alter their appearance to the point where they look like absolute freaks.  I mean, if you’re going to switch your gender, do it Chaz Bono style and really make yourself look like that fat guy that always hung out by the keg at every college party you ever went to.  Don’t do it half-assed.  And really, if you feel like your natural skin color is just revolting and you need to alter it, why not just get a tattoo or three or a hundred?  At least then you won’t be dying from skin cancer in two years.

Like this guy:

I've always loved his look.  He was a performer in the Jim Rose Circus I saw back in 1994.  That's the way to do it.  Go all out, men/women!  You know, in another life, I’d do this.  No seriously, I would.