Monday, February 27, 2006

Talking to Strangers

Wow, I have had my first official comment posted by someone I don't know! But it couldn't have come at a worse time, as I am beginning to reassess my loquaciousness.

You see, here is the process I go through with people: I am introduced and am quite taciturn. They take a liking to me and we become friends. The friendship softens me up and I start saying whatever I feel like saying. They say, "I didn't know my new friend was so retarded," and our friendship quickly ends.

Just this week I have seen the signs of the old familiar pattern at church and at work. I can be fairly popular for a few weeks, but never much longer than that.

Isn't a blog the ultimate form of loquaciousness, the non-famous way to reveal way too much information? Celebrities call up Oprah, but the rest of us go running to our keyboards. If Tom Cruise weren't Tom Cruise, but instead had remained Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, his anti-everything ravings would be nothing more than a seldom-frequented blog. And I know seldom-frequented blogs.

Why are humans so unable to deal with the concept of obscurity? Why do I have a systematic revulsion to the notion of being nothing more than an unattended tombstone? I went into work one day and thought, "Fifty more years of this?" and within a few months I had quit.

So some stranger has read my blog and I think I am achieving success. But I'm no Tom Cruise. Tom Mapother, maybe, but not Tom Cruise.

Friday, February 24, 2006

New County!

First new county of 2006: Socorro County, New Mexico!

This was my 18th county in New Mexico (54.5%), and my 635th county overall (20.2%). But the story behind getting there was almost as good as getting there itself.

The conference ended before noon yesterday and we did not have to be at the airport until nearly five. Our options were: a) sitting around the hotel with Tito, and b) going for a drive. Four of us loaded into the car and headed south of Albuquerque.

After crossing into Socorro County, we continued on a bit to see the Very Large Array (VLA) Telescope, which we had been told was in City of Socorro. However, it is actually very far outside town, and we would not have enough time to get there and still make our flight. So our driver (who was NOT me, okay?) thought maybe we should drive out to the west side of town where the roads end and then just keep going. There was a mountain out there (Socorro Peak, approximately 7260 feet) and the general idea was to see if we could drive to the top of it.

We made it about 1/10,000th of the way up. That was when the rental car came to rest atop a rather large rock. We had to get out of the car and jack up the side, then reach under and dig the rock out.

When we got the rock out from under the car, we posed for pictures with it.

This was when we noticed it was covered in fluid. So once we freed the car we made a stop at Wal-Mart to buy some engine fluids to replace those lost on the rock, fashioning a funnel from extra conference agenda (already plural--look it up) found in the car. Then we had to speed back to Albuquerque, where we were lucky to make it to the airport on time.

I am tentatively scheduled to go back to Santa Fe in seventeen days, and I will do my best to work in a trip to Los Alamos County. However, the coworker with whom I am going, Tito, is decidedly less cool than the coworker who stuck the rental car atop the rock in Socorro County. It might take some world-class bargaining, and I might have to agree to eat at Los Mariscos again. Anything for counties, baby.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Nuevo Mejico

Last week I got to go on my first real business trip. I had been on business trips before, but they were always less-than-exciting and not too far away. But last week I got sent from Kansas to New Mexico, which, I have on reliable authority, is the land of the bean and the cod. It is rumored that the Lowells talk only to the Hodges, but the Hodges talk only to God. Those damn Hodges, all holier-than-thou. Someone ought to take them down a peg.

But I digress. The point was, I got on a plane and flew to New Mexico, where, instead of eight hour days, I got to work twelve hour days, and have all my mealtime bogarted by the guy I was with, and watch some movie with Morgan Freedman and Monica Potter, where Monica Potter ends up being a double agent. Not only that, but a double agent who wants to kill the runner-up in the world’s-cutest five-to-eleven-year-old-girl competition (second to Dakota Fanning). What the hell is that about? Monica Potter can’t play an evil person. Look at her. Does she look evil to you?

But again a digression. Here is the point of this posting: I had been warned about a particular restaurant in Santa Fe. The guy I was with, Tito, loves the place and makes whoever he’s with go there. The last guy to go with him got horribly sick from the food, probably because it is a Mexican seafood place and there is no sea anywhere near New Mexico. (And I know because I’m a cartographer!)

Well, he went the day before me, so I was hoping he would eat there the night before I arrived and we wouldn’t have to go there once I showed up. However, we finished our work at five and he said, “Do you have any place in mind for dinner?” I said, “I don’t know,” hoping that maybe he would leave me alone for dinner, but he said, “There is one place in town that I highly recommend.” Sure enough, within moments we were pulling into the parking lot of a liquor store. He had turned too soon. We circled the back of the liquor store and were at Los Mariscos, which must be Spanish for “Don’t Even Think About Ordering Anything That Doesn’t Have Shrimp In It.”

But I survived. What’s more, I ordered dessert and stuck the company with the tab. And I was seated on a bench made for children, about four inches higher than all the other benches in the place. So it was like I was the King of Los Mariscos. Viva El Rey!

I could never live in New Mexico, though, because, as I realized as my plane was approaching Albuquerque, I do not own the required number of broken-down vehicles to park in my yard. The glint seen from the air over Phoenix is the reflection of swimming pools, but the glint seen over Albuquerque is from cracked car windshields.

And another thing: the airport burrito place seems to think they could crap on a plate and call it authentic Mexican food. My burrito came “enchilada-style,” which to them meant, “open a can of green chiles and dump half of it on top. Oh, and don’t feel any need to drain the can first. You don’t have to, because it’s authentic.”

And Albuquerque doesn't have an “airport.” No, sir, it’s a “sunport.” As in, “Honey, this place must be as sunny as Phoenix--the airport’s called a sunport! Let’s spend our vacation (money) there!”

And no new counties! I only got three counties (Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Santa Fe) but I first went to those counties in 1996. I was just thirty-four miles from Los Alamos County, but I couldn’t take the rental car because Tito was watching my back. But the first time they send me to Santa Fe by myself, that’s the second place I’m going, right after the sunport but before Los Mariscos.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Pressure of Blogging

I don't know if I can take all this pressure. Now that I have a blog, I feel like I have to come up with something interesting to put on it every day. After all, I don't want to let my reading public down.

But I know that there is no reading public. Just my wife's friends who are good enough of sports to humor me. And I only got my blog through an accident, so it's not like my hopes and dreams of blogging fame are being crushed.

My user profile has only been checked a few times, and nearly all of those checks have been by me or my wife. In fact, once I checked to see how many people had viewed my profile, and that number was actually LOWER than it had been a few days before. Someone viewed it, didn't like what they saw, and contacted the authorities at blogger.com to get the view annulled, like Britney Spears's first marriage. The one to that guy from Seinfeld.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bigot Is As Bigot Does

The State of Kansas has a tourism slogan which states, "Kansas: As Big As You Think." I don't know how their PR firm convinced them to play up the biggest complaint most Americans have against the state ("It takes so long to drive across Kansas!"), but somehow the tourism board has sunk millions of dollars into convincing you that it does, indeed, take forever to drive across Kansas.

So what? Most people don't know their state tourism slogans, and I would wager the same would hold true for most Kansans. Unless you try to recoup some of your confiscated taxes by ordering a tourism brochure, when would you see it?

But here is something you do see a lot when you're in Kansas: bumper stickers that have changed the state tourism slogan into a condemnation of the unenlightened views of the common Kansan with, "Kansas: As Bigoted As You Think."

From where I stand, it seems to be saying this: "You have a concept in your head of how bigoted the people of Kansas are. Well, you're one hundred percent right, brother! These people are downright intolerant! If you're not a Kansan, give silent thanks to Mother Earth; if you are a Kansan, hang your head in shame and get one of these bumper stickers."

An interesting argument, considering the definition of the word "bigot." As purloined from some dictionary website, the definition is:

bigot n : a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own.
And what of that word "prejudiced?" It means:
prejudiced n. 1a. An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. 1b.A preconceived preference or idea. 2. The act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions. 3. Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion.

So in the final analysis, a bumper sticker which, on the surface, appears to be a condemnation of bigotry, in fact does not work without the reader's innate bigotry. You have to have a "preconceived judgment" of Kansas for the bumper sticker to validate it. What it really says is this: "You've got bigoted notions about how bigoted Kansans are. For some reason, your bigotry is to be condoned while their bigotry is to be condemned. Down with (certain forms of) bigotry!"

Why not get a bumper sticker that says what they really mean? "Kansas: I Don't Agree With Them"? What would be wrong with that?

The problem is that a sticker like that would only point out the two sides of the debate, without saying which side is "right." What they want is to paint one side as ignorantly opinionated. To that end, they are quite successful, but not exactly how they wanted to be.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

EMERGENCY: I Feel So Violated

So I was sitting at my desk, typing away (probably on something non-work-related), when suddenly over my shoulder there comes a coworker we'll call Debbie, since that's not her name. If her name actually were Debbie, I'd call her Angela, but since that's her real name, I'll stick with Debbie.

Debbie quite unexpectedly came to see me because she was eating a cookie. I thought maybe she was walking around, seeing everyone. Nope, just me. And when she gets to my desk, the cookie isn't even halfway gone yet. So I'm in for a somewhat lengthy visit.

Debbie: I'm just walking around since I'm eating a cookie.

Me: Good deal.

Debbie, looking into my trash can: So, you had Mexican food for lunch.

Me: No, Tony did.

Debbie: And he used your trashcan?

Me: No, I finished it off for him.

Debbie: Oh, I see.

Me: Good deal.

Silence.

I recognized that she was not taking my "good deal" for what it was, namely code for "leave me alone now," so I would have to come up with something else to say, since the cookie was a large one. So I asked her a work-related question, hoping that, by the time she finished answering, the cookie would be gone and she would leave.

Now, I was sitting with my feet up on my desk, between Debbie and my computer. This is vital. If you don't remember this, the whole rest of the story is pointless, so don't screw it up! Feet on desk, between girl and computer.

My question regarded something on my monitor. Debbie wanted to take the mouse and navigate around the screen some. So she leaned way across me and RESTED HER BOOBS ON MY LEGS. Not just brushed them up against me, which maybe she wouldn't have noticed, but used my legs as a prop for her boobs. She had to have felt the easing of the burden, recognized what was happening, and backed the hell up. But no. They stayed on my leg for several minutes.

Once she had the screen showing what she wanted to see, she lifted her boobs from me, but rested her elbows on my legs and held her chin in her hands while she talked to me. Then it was back to the boobs for a while. The cookie was long gone by now, but my shins were still unwillingly getting to second base.

I don't go around laying my dong on people in the office, no matter what food I'm eating. As a matter of fact, I manage to get through almost every day without touching anyone. So much so, that I distinctly notice when I do touch someone at work, like touch a hand while transferring a heavy object, or run into someone, or receive a hug when I've been terminated.

Of course, I don't have boobs, so maybe I just don't understand. Maybe they're as receptive to touch as the shoulder blade, so she didn't even feel my leg under there. They do seem like they would get in the way of a lot of things you would try to do, like carrying a stack of books.

So I don't think I can say anything about it. But if Debbie ever ends up straddling one of my body parts, I think I'll have to speak up.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hey, Kid, You Wanna Buy a House?

So I opened up an Internet page to read some news headlines last month, and while I waited for some vital article to load (it might have been about Nick and Jessica), I noticed an add that said something like, "$200K Mortgage for $598/mo.!" So I clicked on it.

I just wanted to see what their interest rate was so that, on the outside chance that society implodes and houses come into my price range, I could be an informed buyer. And it wasn't like it was some weirdo penis-growth e-mail; this was a legitimate news source I was viewing.

Over the next several pages, nowhere did it tell me how I would actually go about getting a two-hundred-thousand-dollar mortgage for only five hundred ninety-eight dollars per month. It asked some questions about what type of home I was going to buy and when. I made it clear that I did NOT have a house in mind, I did NOT have a price, and I did NOT have a timeframe. This was informational only; this was not related to any real-world sale. Once my vital news story loaded (Nick wants to date someone like Jessica Alba, while Jessica is trying to find a Kevin Federline type), I closed the mortgage lender window and went on with my day.

Within hours, the phone calls began.

I came home and Persephone asked, "Did you call someone about a home loan?"

Me: "No."

Seph: "Because we got two calls today about 'that house you're looking to buy.'"

Me: "I looked online, but I said I wasn't going to buy a house."

As the weeks have passed, the callers have become more incessant. They are like cell phone salesmen in the mall: they just want to give you as many cell phones as they can before their kiosk goes out of business. I thought they would stop pestering us if we ignored them, but it's been quite the opposite. The longer we go without fielding their calls, the more desperate they are getting.

Two days ago I came home from work and there was a message: "It looks like we're going to be able to help you out with that loan you'd like."

Now we've been approved for a mortgage we've never applied for. I wonder if maybe we should buy a house, just because. Maybe two or three. Before their kiosk goes out of business.

Stickin' It to the Man

I am conducting a test of my remote-posting abilities. Of course, this is on company time. Using company Internet resources. So everyone give a big shout-out to my employer, who should probably remain nameless.

If this works, I will probably shift all my workday activities away from productive enterprises and just devote myself to blog maintenance pretty much full-time. Until I get sacked. Then I'll have to wait in line for a computer down at the library, where the homeless perverts do their Internet surfing. Here's hoping that, should it come to that, I develop a pungent stink like they have, since said stink has been proven to keep home mortgage lenders from calling. Honestly, not one of those guys has had a home mortgage lender call them EVER, while I get three calls a day.

If this test post works, I shall tell you of my humorous experiences with calls from home mortgage lenders, experiences which must be meticulously documented and distributed for the viewing pleasure of no one other than my wife's friends, who have taken a healthy pity for my readerless blog.