Thursday, May 31, 2007

There's No Stopping the Boredom

Is it just me, or has the Internet become more boring lately? I have a list of about six or seven websites I frequent when my head feels like it's going to explode from all the boredom around here, but I think I've seen everything there is to see on those websites, and now there is nothing left to do but wait for the boredom to kill me.

My morning routine:

Going through those websites usually takes about fifteen minutes. Then, throughout the day, I go to Wikipedia about twenty times. As I sit here working, thinking about nothing, my brain comes up with things I want to know more about, like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, "Perfect Strangers," or copyright law (all things I have really looked up). Honestly, if the work were more intellectually stimulating, I wouldn't have so many things my brain wants to look up on Wikipedia. (Actual sample day: ten hours of clicking on dots and dragging them a few inches to the side.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Little Boys Are Frustrating

Our son, Articulate Joe, became a little boy on Sunday at about 9:45. I don't know what changed inside his head, but now he likes to hit everything and everyone and anything he can pick up he will throw across the room. We were sitting in sacrament meeting and everything was fine, but then Crazy Jane got out a flannel board and Articulate Joe kept running over to her to mess up the pieces and then run away. I asked Persephone if he would be okay in Nursery. She asked why. I tried to sign to her the letters "J-E-R-K," but when I try to sign letters to her she ends up just guessing every letter except the one I've signed. When we came home from church he started picking up Crazy Jane's toys when she wasn't looking and then throwing them.

What happened to our helpful boy, the one who liked to carry things upstairs, set the table for dinner, and help make any recipe?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"I Am a Brilliant Boy"

I felt smart for about a day or so after getting five As last semester. Then I read some of Nonplussed! (yes, the title has an exclamation mark) by Julian Havil.

Even though Julian tells us in the introduction that "none of it is beyond a committed senior high school student," I repeatedly find myself amid glassy-eyed scans of pages of mathematical formulae that seem to indicate there is a way to compute π by a type of ring toss game involving a baguette, which made me revise my estimation of the intelligence of both the average carney and the average Frenchman. Julian either hangs out with an entirely different type of senior high school student than I did or his idea of "committed" might be a little too enthusiastic.

The good news is that filling a book with math formulae takes a lot of pages, and not actually reading those formulae makes the pages go by quickly, so I'm getting through the book at a pretty good pace. If only I could find about two hundred more books just like this one, I could get back on track for my reading goal. As it is, this will be my worst reading year since at least 2000. I guess those 5 As came at a price.

Title from The Rentals' song "Brilliant Boy."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Jane Eyre

So here's my take on Jane Eyre: Grace Poole has ONE job to do, but she's continually screwing it up. I mean, when your boss says, "Grace, all you have to do today is make sure Bertha stays locked up," you probably shouldn't allow her to run around the house with candles. So first Bertha lights Edward's bed on fire, and Grace keeps her job. Then Bertha tears Jane's wedding veil, and Grace keeps her job. Then Bertha burns down Thornfield Hall, but as soon as Jane comes back on the scene with her inheritance, they hire back Grace Poole. Man, whatever union Grace Poole's a member of, I have GOT to see about joining it.

Maybe the book is a little different. I will admit, I have not read it, which proved to be a problem when I read The Eyre Affair. I didn't know which plot elements were original and which were the result of Thursday's middling, and which were fictitious elements created by Jasper Fforde. The entire time I was watching this movie, I was waiting for Jane to move to India and marry St. John, which is what I thought happened.

Even before seeing this movie, when I planned out my reading schedule for this year, it was on the list. This was going to be the year of the Victorian novel for me. I was going to read a bunch of Bronte, Austen, Dickens, Collins, Thackeray, Trollope, and Hardy. However, school is taking too much of my time, so most of those books have been bumped indefinitely. But someone who's read Jane Eyre (and remembers it--so Persephone need not respond) should let me know if Grace Poole really has that much job security in the book.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mitt Romney and Decision: Indefinite

I want to tell you why I’m hesitant to jump on the Mitt Romney bandwagon, and then tell you why I think there shouldn’t even be a Mitt Romney bandwagon yet.

I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which is the official way we’re supposed to say “I’m a Mormon” these days). While lots of members I know are excited about a fellow member running for the presidency, I don’t feel it. In fact, I kind of don’t like the idea.

I don’t like mixing business with religion. There are some church members who seek out Mormon businesspeople when they need some service, but I nearly go to the other extreme and try to do my business with non-Mormons. I know, it’s stupid. I end up being an anti-Mormon Mormon (which is easier to say than Anti-Nephi Lehi). But if I have a plumbing problem and I call a guy who does a really terrible job, I want to be able to think, “That guy’s a jerk.” If I have a guy from church doing a really terrible job, I have to suppress my frustration and say things like, “Hey, do you think maybe you can do a little better?” And what if he cheats me out of money?

I felt this way before I even found out about these two stories, but they just confirm my feelings: I have a brother-in-law’s brother who got screwed over in business by a church member, and when I was a missionary I had a ward mission leader who had the same thing happen to him. I don’t want to get to a point where “any unkind feelings” I might have would be a problem (and those of you in the know understand what I mean) [touches nose and winks one eye exaggeratedly].

So when I can I avoid doing business with Mormons. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I roll. And I know you’re thinking, “But you’re not going to get screwed over.” Trust me, you will eventually get screwed over. This is America we're talking about here.

My wife is hesitant to join Team Mitt for a different reason: she doesn’t want two years of news stories like, “Mormons used to have tons of wives!” or, “Lots of Mormons stockpile food like whack-jobs!” And what type of answer would Governor Romney give if he was asked the infamous MTV question Bill Clinton received in 1992: “Boxers or briefs?” I’m all for being a peculiar people, but can’t we just keep the peculiarity on the down-low and try to fit in? I’m not saying I’m going to drink near-beer and Dr. Pepper, but why do we have to draw attention to the things that people ridicule, anyway?

My brother-in-law (he of the unlucky-in-business brother) has been on Team Mitt for ages now. I haven’t, but I must admit I’m warming up. I didn’t want to vote for a guy just because we go to the same church, but if I agree with him on the issues, I’ll support him. I don’t know too much about all the candidates yet, but I know I agree with Romney more than I agree with McCain and Giuliani, and I also know that McCain and Giuliani are jerks who can’t keep their pants zipped up. As is Newt Gingrich. And Fred Thompson seems to me like he’s going to fall over dead in October 2008, leaving us without a candidate at all. So Romney is gaining ground in my estimation. (Like anyone cares.)

Now, I just finished reading a Byron York piece in National Review online that basically read like he was really trying to say, “Don’t worry, ‘Christians’: the Mormon’s not really winning,” and that was offensive to me. And it’s also offensive to me that there are about eighty evangelical “Christians” in this race (including my senator Sam Brownback) just because they are all scared to death of a Mormon president. I hate anyone who runs a campaign based mostly on bigotry. If I were a Democrat I’d hate anyone running on a “Barack Obama’s black” platform, and as a Republican I hate anyone running on a “Mitt Romney’s Mormon” platform.

Actually, I don't have to be black to hate a race-baiting candidate, and you shouldn't have to be Mormon to hate a religion-baiting candidate. Brownback and Huckabee should be offensive to all Americans.

Now, at the end of the Byron York column he started talking about how important Super Tuesday is, and my brain read the word “February” and it thought, “What month is this?” because now that I’m in the work force, all the months are the same. Well, my brain said, “May,” and then it thought, “May comes after February.” And that was when I first really realized that we are analyzing polls for a primary election that isn’t going to take place for nine months.

Nine months! [My wife got mad about what I had written here and demanded that I remove it. -Ed.] How does anyone expect to keep people excited about him for nine months? My engagement was only three months because I understood that it was impossible to keep my wife excited about me for nine months.

A smart man would allow Rudy and McCain to bash each other for a year and then step in and say, “Let’s get some leadership in here.” I had a whole long bit I wanted to say about how the 24-hour news cycle has contributed to this perpetual election craze because it’s their biggest draw, and about how it would be comparable to allowing sports commentators to decide that March Madness should be three years long, but my bus is about to come and I’ve got to be on it or my wife will be pissed I missed it. So here’s my conclusion.

Against my reservations, I’m finding myself falling into Romney’s camp, but I still think it’s ridiculous to be running for president for two years.

"Paranoia Paranoia / Everybody's Comin' to Get Me"

Lately I've been wondering about my friends. I mean, are they really my friends? What if they are just people who can't stand me but are polite enough to not tell me? If they were polite people who hate me, how would they be acting any differently than they do right now?

Here's the scenario: you're at the mall with a friend, and a guy comes up to you. He recognizes you from a class you had together where you would make small talk because he wanted to talk and you were too nice to say, "Stop talking to me." So this guy gets really excited that he's run into you, and he talks and talks because that's what friends do, right? And he asks what you're doing and you give a sort of general answer. He asks where you're going and you don't quite tell him because you know he's going to want to go with you. And the friend with whom you went to the mall, your real friend, is watching this and can totally tell what is going on, and you are hoping that friend is nice enough of a person to not say something, because that would be embarrassing and would hurt the other guy's feelings, and there's no reason to do that. He's not malicious or anything; he's just a guy who's gotten the wrong end of the stick. He thinks you're friends and it's too late now to tell him otherwise. So after a while he says he's got to go and you should call him, and you sort of lead him to believe you will without actually saying you will (because you won't and you don't want to lie) and then he leaves and your friend says to you, "Who was that?" and you say, "Oh, it's just some guy I had a class with once."

That's me. I'm that guy you had a class with. And you're waiting for me to take the hint and leave you alone.

I read once about a study (I'll have to look it up and find a reference for you) that showed that optimistic people were delusional and pessimistic people were realistic. Basically they asked optimistic people if someone else liked them and the optimistic people said yes. They asked pessimistic people and they said no. The pessimistic people were more often correct. There is a greater chance that someone who seems like my friend actually doesn't like me than that they really are my friend.

Why does this matter? I don't know. It's just frustrating. It seems like it's becoming worse, but I don't know if I'm getting more paranoid of if people are disliking me more. I'm self-conscious about things I didn't used to worry about. I think it's because I've gone to work with people who disapprove of my family (too many kids too soon), my politics (not enlightened enough), and my religion (not consequence-free enough) and make their disapproval known. Then I think, "If someone thinks that and feels strongly enough to say it, imagine how many people I know think that but are too cowardly to speak up?" So now I think everyone hates my family, my politics, and my religion, and I think I'm closer to the truth than when I went through life thinking those things didn't matter to anyone.

A good writer would be able to tie this thing together with a closing sentence or two.

Title from Harvey Danger's song "Flagpole Sitta."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New Counties

On our weekend trip to Saint Louis, I ended up with 25 new counties. My wife and daughter got four new ones, and my son got 10. But who cares about them? This blog is all about me, and I got 25 new counties. And here they are:

1) Cape Girardeau MO, 2) Bollinger MO, 3) Scott MO, 4) New Madrid MO, 5) Mississippi MO, 6) Alexander IL, 7) Pulaski IL, 8) Ballard KY, 9) Carlisle KY, 10) Hickman KY, 11) Fulton KY, 12) Lake TN, 13) Obion TN, 14) Dyer TN, 15) Pemiscot MO, 16) Dunklin MO, 17) Clay AR, 18) Stoddard MO, 19) Butler MO, 20) Carter MO, 21) Ripley MO, 22) Wayne MO, 23) Reynolds MO, 24) Iron MO, and 25) Madison MO.

I got two new states, Tennessee and Arkansas, my first new states in nine years. That moves me up to 31 states. I'm done with 93 counties in Missouri, which moves me over 80 percent. Aside from the two states I've finished (Utah and Arizona), there are now three states that I'm at least 80 percent done with: Virginia, New Mexico, and Missouri. My total for the year is now 125, and my overall total is now 862 (27.5%). Planned trips for the rest of this year would bring another 75, which means I should get my 1,000th county sometime towards the end of next year.

My wife and kids got Jefferson MO, Franklin MO, Gasconade MO, and Osage MO, and my son also got Howard MO, Cole MO, Moniteau MO, Morgan MO, Pettis MO, and Johnson MO. My wife is still in the low 500s, my daughter in the low 400s, and my son is approaching the mid 300s.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"I'm Out of Here"

Today's my last day at work for a week, so I probably won’t write any blog postings between now and then. So what better way to close out the week than with a grab-bag of worthless crap that nobody cares about?

  • I was in the library last night and I was so gassy I thought I was going to explode. When I finally got the fart out, though, it wasn't that big at all.
  • My work is moving e-mail to the new server, which means if they weren't reading all my e-mails before, they definitely are now. Hi, fellas!
  • This weekend I expect to get 24 new counties and two new states! On Monday I'm planning on going to Tennessee and Arkansas. I can feel the hillbilly within stir, and he is growing his hair out into a mullet.
  • I decided I'm not going to check my grades until next week. At first I thought I would do it on Monday, but now I think I'll try to wait until Tuesday night. I could have ended up with five As, I should have ended up with four As and a B, but now I think I might end up with two As and three Bs, because I'm just that stupid.

Title from the catchphrase of Doug on the old MTV show "The State."

"It's Such a Cliche"

If you want to pronounce this post's title the same way that the actress does in About a Boy, you'll put the stress on the first syllable of "cliché."

I can't stand when people say "the almighty dollar." To me, it's just like they said, "And just so you know, I'm a total idiot."

The first time I heard it was in fifth grade. There was a boy in my class who, by all accounts, had his grandfather do all his homework. (I don't want to tell you his real name because he could end up reading this and thinking I'm crazy, just like how Scott Fujita read my post a couple months ago and thought: "I've got to get the crazy guy calmed down so he doesn't start stealing my garbage.")

Anyway, Mark had his homework done for him, and most of his thinking done for him, too. We were having some class discussion and he just kept referring to "the almighty dollar," and I remember thinking two things: one was, like Inigo Montoya, "That word; I do not think it means what you think it means," and the other was, "So now you're bringing your grandpa's arguments to class, too?"

I was involved in a cantankerous anonymous debate on the local newspaper's website yesterday, and when I checked back in today to see if anyone had written anything else, someone had thrown in a reference to "the almighty dollar."

Other things that I instinctively take as an admission of idiocy: smoking, drinking alcohol, disobeying basic traffic safety rules, having tattoos (ESPECIALLY visible ones), denying the Holocaust or September Eleventh, having dramatic parenting sessions in public places such as Wal-Mart or the library, and swearing (especially when it's used only as a way of saying, "I'm pretty cool, so we should be friends").

Title from the lady whose husband was shagging his secretary in About a Boy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Human Nature

On the recommendation of a professor acquaintance of mine (I'd call him a friend but I think he wouldn't want to be associated with my pedestrian political views) I've checked out of the library the book White Eagle, Red Star by Norman Davies. I asked him to recommend a book about the Polish-Soviet War and so now here we are. Yes, I'm such a loser that I sought out an Eastern European history professor and asked for a book about the Polish-Soviet War. Try to move past that.

Anyway, I was looking through the book last night, reading the Polish pronunciation guide in an attempt to figure out how to say Kosciusko, studying the maps, and glancing at the photos, when I saw one particular picture. I don't remember the guy's name right now, only that he looked like a twelve year old playing with his uncle's Soviet military uniform. But the photo caption informed me that the people thought he was a demon.

"What the hell is wrong with people?" I thought. "He just looks like some innocent kid." I think that is what always disturbs me about pictures of Mao or Stalin or Hitler: they were just ordinary people. There's a picture of Stalin in Davies's book that makes him look like a college kid who grew a moustache on a dare and he is barely keeping a straight face for the picture his buddy took before he shaves it off. But he killed millions of people. Maybe he was killing someone off camera right then. But he's smirking, and there is nothing in the photo to distinguish him from anyone else. If Stalin and Hitler and Mao could behave the way they did, then ANYone can behave the way they did.

For another class I'm reading All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein right now, and the same thing creeps me out about the Holocaust: Hitler didn't go around killing Jews until he passed out from exhaustion. As far as I know, he probably never actually killed a Jew himself. And that's what makes the Holocaust even worse. It wasn't one guy who went nuts; it was a bunch of ordinary people who said, "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea right now." I don't care how "charismatic" you are, it can never account for an entire nation trading in their humanity for twelve years and acting like animals.

Not even like animals. When people go bad, they are worse than animals. What animal kills because it likes to? I'm no expert on the animal kingdom, but all the animals I know about kill to defend themselves or to eat what they've killed. The Third Reich wasn't the German nation acting like animals; it was the German nation becoming worse than animals. And the only things worse than animals are humans. They were becoming human.

So on what basis should people have faith in humanity? People are not naturally moral. Right now, within ten miles of your house, lives a man who would do unspeakable things to your family if he only knew where to find them alone.

Then how do we account for human goodness? People do nice things all the time. But it's not in their nature. The way I see it, man is mortal and evil. God is immortal and good. Man is not naturally good, but can play at being good, like how kids play at being adults. When man is good, he is playing at acting like God. Just like how kids know what to do as adults by playing at being adults, so man prepares to be like God by playing at being like God. And it has to be that good is not in our mortal nature or else how do evil people remove it? No species on earth can remove part of its nature. I can't decide to lose an arm or the ability to think complex thoughts. But people can decide to be evil, which must mean that they are not naturally good.

Anyway, that's my reaction to Nazi and Communist barbarism.

"Lucky Pencil" My Ass!

I took my first test with my new lucky pencil today, and I'm wondering if maybe it's not so lucky at all.

My test-taking with lucky pencils dates back to my time at Brigham Young University. I had a pencil I had bought at the bookstore, and every time I went to the testing center completely unprepared, if I took the test with that pencil I somehow passed.

That pencil had to be retired because its eraser was used up, but it's still in our kitchen pencil can. I replaced it with a mechanical pencil from the Moorpark College bookstore. It is called a Sumo Grip and I love it, but the last time I used it on a test, for my Money and Banking midterm, it didn't hold the lead well. Every piece of lead got pushed back up into the pencil.

I wanted to replace it with another Sumo Grip, but finding a specific brand of pencil is hard to do. We went to Office Depot and I ended up with a Zebra M-301. Today I used it for the first time, on my Social and Political Philosophy final. And I don't think I did well. And this is different than my International Trade midterm where I thought I failed it but really I aced it. This one I really did poorly on.

For instance, on one of the short answer questions I had to list three things and then write about them. I knew the three things, but by the time I got to writing down Thing #3, I couldn't remember it. (I'm sure it helped that KU scheduled this final to begin at 7:30 am.) I waited until the end of the test trying to remember, and then I had to make something up that I hope he doesn't read too closely. Thanks a lot, Zebra Pencil Company. I might have to go buy another pencil before my next final on Thursday.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Can You See Me Now?

My naked phone answering is going to take a hit now that Persephone's brother sent us a webcam for instant messaging. We got it set up yesterday. Now I can quit my job and provide for my family by running a subscription webcam site. Except I'm pretty sure I don't really have anything that people will pay money to see. So maybe I'll turn the basic webcam business plan on its ear and charge people money to keep the feed disabled. I'll just post a picture of myself in a bathing suit with a warning: "If you don't want to see me answering my e-mail naked, you'd better pay $19.95 a month." Step Three: profit.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Thing About Blogging

My wife likes to watch "CSI." All the time. And I don't. But she watches them as a way of having something to do when I'm supposed to be doing other things, and I watch them as a way of having something to do when I'm supposed to be doing other things. So lately, as the semester has wound down, I've been watching a lot of "CSI."

A couple of weeks ago we watched one episode wherein two CSIs were talking about the need for human contact and the Gil/Horatio/Mac character said something about how people don't just need exposure to other people, but they need to be listened to. Having access to other people without ever having them listen to you does not fulfill that human need.

That's why people blog. Because they have things to say and no one to listen to them. And a blog is a way of thinking that someone is "listening" to you, even though no one really is. What percentage of blog postings are never read by anyone other than the poster? I bet it's a pretty large percentage.

Now, lots of commentators write about how people are more narcissistic these days, but I don't think the reason for blogs is anything near that bad. There are people who think their pathetic lives matter, and then there are just people who want to talk about their pathetic lives. I think most bloggers are in the second group. I know I am.

It's been a problem of mine my whole life. I want someone to talk to, and there's no one. And I think God is trying to keep it that way. I've been put in solitary confinement, basically, and all attempts at breaking out have been stymied.

I think I would have been a better missionary had I had someone to talk to. But instead I had companions who hated me, district leaders who were unapproachable, zone leaders who were scared, parents who didn't want to hear anything negative, a girlfriend who left, and a mission president who told me (this is as near to an exact quote as I can construct ten years later): "So you don't want to be in Wisconsin? Well, I don't, either. Wouldn't it be great to all be in Brazil? But someone has to be in Wisconsin, and what makes you think that you're so special that it shouldn't be you?" And it was at that interview that I quit being a missionary. I stayed on my mission, but I was no longer a missionary.

I've got kids who never let me talk and a wife who falls asleep while I'm talking. My friends and family are embarrassed when I try talking with them, or when they read a blog posting like this one. So it's just me. I feel like a homeless man ranting on a street corner and the people I know are the frightened mothers who are trying to get their seven-year-old sons past the man before their sons ask questions that will encourage the ranting. "Don't look in his direction, Billy. Don't ask him to explain himself. Just throw some change at him and maybe he'll leave us alone." While I continue to spout crackpot opinions.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Vocab With a Vengeance!

Another word with two different pronunciations depending on its part of speech: rebel. When used as a verb the stress is on the second syllable, but when used as a noun it's on the first.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

That's How I Roll

I hope this works. Today in the UDK someone called in and said, “I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself.” That prompted me to make this picture:

Since I’m sharing funny quotes, I checked this book entitled Nonplussed! out of the university library yesterday and it features the Groucho Marx epigram: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

Super Bowl XLI

Well, I finally got around to watching the Super Bowl last night. It turned out that Indianapolis won. So let me be the last man in America to say, "Congratulations, Colts!"

Until very recently, our television was not equipped to bring in any image from outside our house. We own a TV, and we can watch movies, but we don't "have TV." When I tell people we don't have TV, though, they respond like I'm admitting to psychologically torturing our children. And it's a moot point, anyway, because Persephone bought some classy "rabbit ears" and we now can watch PBS and CSI--I mean, CBS.

But for two years now, I've been unable to watch the Super Bowl. Which is just as well, because I had stopped watching TV on Sundays back when we still had the option of watching TV on Sundays. I haven't seen a new episode of "The Simpsons" in about four years, even though it is my all-time favorite show. (Those who continue to watch "The Simpsons" tell me I'm not missing much.)

Last year I was pretty upset that my favorite team, the Steelers, was going to win the Super Bowl when I couldn't watch, so my parents recorded the playoff games and sent them to me withOUT the express written consent of the NFL. I watched each game as soon as it arrived.

This year, though, my parents had moved to Saint Louis and did not get DirecTV there, so I had to have Persephone's parents tape the game and send it to me. This took a little bit longer. I don't think the tape arrived at our house until March. And then I've been pretty busy with school and whatnot, so it wasn't until last night when I was supposed to be writing my term paper for Money and Banking that I had time to watch the game.

So here's my take on Super Bowl XLI: man, did the Bears suck or what?! I mean, when you bill yourself as the consummate run defense, you probably shouldn't allow a team that's known for lights-out passing to run over top of you like you're a stalkerazzo. And given the Bears' offense, the only chance they had of winning the game was if Peyton Manning got sick and died early enough in Media Week that his corpse was completely petrified before game-time. And as we all know by now, that didn't happen.

Two additional thoughts: trailing by two scores in the fourth quarter, Chicago had the ball and got a holding penalty, so they had first-and-twenty from their own eight, and they ran a draw play. I said to my wife, who couldn't care less, "When you're the quarterback and they tell you to call a running play on first-and-twenty, you should know that they think you suck." Persephone said, “What?” and then went back to reading a book by Laurie Halse Anderson. (The one with the twisted pencil on the cover. The cover picture is a pencil that's all twisted up on itself in a big twist. I think it's called, The Pencil That Couldn't Stand Up Straight.)

Second issue: does Peyton Manning really need a free car? I thought he was slightly better compensated than that? Is he driving his grandma's Gremlin to practice every week? Do the Colts give him a bus pass instead of a kajillion dollars? He's one of the best-paid players in sports, he's got endorsement deals, and he undoubtedly won some sort of Super Bowl bonus from his team, but his MVP award came with a free Cadillac. Like he doesn't already own every Cadillac he wants to own. It seems crass for them to give away a free car to a millionaire. Persephone thinks it might be left over from when football playing was a job, not a lottery ticket, but in these days when every professional athlete has about eighteen of his own charities (Peyton Manning's Half-Way House for Unwed Criminal Mothers), why don't they make a contribution to his charity instead of giving him a car he won't even remember owning the next morning? They could still put the Cadillac logo on the screen; I wouldn't mind.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"She's Like, 'So Whatever'"

I'm listening to an Internet radio station here at work, and right now they've got me listening to Avril Lavigne.

Update: I went to talk to Tito this morning. He told me he sent the e-mail because of my attitude. When I asked what he had against it, he said he didn't have to tell me because I knew. When I asked him who he was that I had to justify my attitude to him, he said he was affected because I destroyed morale and hindered teamwork. When I asked him if his e-mail facilitated or hindered teamwork, he said it did not affect teamwork because it was a personal issue. When I asked him how my undefined attitude affected teamwork but his specific e-mail didn't, he saw no inconsistency.

Other topics that came up between us:

  • He didn't bother to ask if his perceptions were correct because the purpose of the e-mail was just to convey his perception, irrespective of if they are correct.
  • I can't be trusted to answer questions, anyway, because last year I posted a sign outside my cubicle that said, "If You Can Read This, You Shouldn't Be on the Phone." When he asked me what it meant, I said it explained itself. He felt this was a lie because the sign was "obviously" intended for him, since he would start a phone call, step out of his office door, and have his conversation basically in my cubicle. When I said today that it was intended for whomever found it applicable, he told me I hide behind legalisms, which is another reason I can't be trusted.
  • When I told him that he had evidence that his perceptions were incorrect because before he sent the e-mail he had a potluck signup sheet come across his desk that said I was bringing in brownies on Wednesday (ASIDE: how asinine is this entire issue?!), he said he couldn't take the signup sheet seriously because what others had written made the sheet appear to be a joke. When I asked if I'm responsible for what others write, he couldn't answer that question.
  • When I asked, "What would it have taken to not receive this e-mail?" he said, "You know."

Topics that did NOT come up between us:

  • Tito is a total douche bag.
  • He's got a things for midgets and goats.

Title from Avril Lavigne's "Skater Boy." Interpretation (that the narrator is telling us of a girl who says, "So whatever," as opposed to the narrator voicing an opinion that a girl is herself "so whatever,") possibly incorrect.


I've tried to not talk too much about where I work aside from the general comment here or there about how we're going out of business, but I have to write about this.

Where I work, like lots of workplaces around America, has food. People are always bringing in food and leaving it out for everyone to share. Bagels, doughnuts, cookies, cake, or ice cream. They bring these things in because they want to bring them in. No one is making them do it.

Now, when I've worked other places I worked with adults. People bring in food to share and they are not surprised when people eat the food that's been brought in. That's how food is shared in the modern world.

Here, however, I work with children. They monitor who is taking how much, who doesn't bring in food often, and who doesn't say thank you enough.

On Friday the idiot I've referred to in the past as Tito brought in ice cream and root beer, and he sent an e-mail to let everyone know. Well, not EVERYone. Instead of using the e-mail mailing list that had all employees on it, he added individual names so he could notify everyone but me. Later that afternoon I heard people talking about it. I thought my e-mail might have had a problem, so we looked at the addresses listed on someone else's received copy and saw that I was not included. So I said, "This is going to be the best tasting root beer float ever!" And I went next door and ate some.

When Tito left for the day, he sent this e-mail to me:

[my name]-

I would like you to know that I specifically chose not to invite you for root beer floats because your actions to date indicate that you do not care to contribute towards non-company sponsored treats, at least that I am aware of. There are many here within the company who choose to bring in things unannounced (or otherwise) or contribute towards them but it is my understanding that you have consistently chosen to do neither. While I certainly respect that that is your decision to make, I believe that it would be responsible for you to not participate in the consumption of those sorts of treats made or purchased by the others. If the reason for your presumed lack of participation is financial, I think I speak for everyone by saying that no one would make an issue about that (but it would be appropriate for you to at least explain that that was the case).

I understand that I may not be aware of some or all of the contributions you have made, I'm not asking for a list or proof and I certainly don't in any way claim authority to prevent you from helping yourself to this or other items brought by our co-workers. I simply ask you to "do the right thing."

[Tito's real name]

Technical Supervisor, Quality Control

Now I ask you: what the hell am I supposed to do here? I want to quit, obviously. This place has mistreated me since before I even started working here. I moved across the country to work here and then when I showed up, they said they weren't going to hire me. Then three months later, they changed their minds. But I feel like I can't quit because that would be ungrateful of me. God helped us get this job and this job helped us move out of California and go to school full-time, which were my two major goals two years ago. But where is the balance between ambition and humility? Isn't all ambition driven by the notion, "I deserve better," but isn't all humility driven by the notion, "Who am I to want more?"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

The weather in Kansas has been crazy today. At least according to my mother-in-law in California. She called to tell us about the tornado that destroyed Greensburg, Kansas, and she asked if things were bad here. Then my father-in-law told her to tell us to get in a tornado shelter.

But the weather was pretty nice here. It was a little windy, but not bad. When Persephone went to get her hair cut I took the kids to the park. It wasn't until late this evening that it started getting stormy. NOAA says we have a tornado watch in effect for our county right now, but we're the edge of the affected area.

I'm just hoping the weather gets scary enough that they cancel church tomorrow, but not scary enough that it actually hurts anyone.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Saucy Beefeater

According to the wikipedia page for sloppy joes, a sloppy joe served without any bun is called a saucy beefeater. Isn't that a perfect pseudonym? I think that will be my new stage name should I ever undertake a professional wrestling and/or porn acting career. My nom de plume, however, will remain Harlow Thromby.

Two Weeks to Go

The semester is almost over. Right now I have four As and a B. Three of the As are just about locked up. One of them requires me to still do well on the final. And the B is very nearly an A, so a good performance on the final can put me over the top. And that final is on the last day of finals, so it gives me extra time to study. So, overall, I've got a good shot at getting five As. I'm pretty excited about that.

After my last final we're going to Saint Louis for the weekend. We're sticking my parents with our kids and we're going to a hotel downtown for, um, light conversation. Yeah, that's it. Light conversation. Then that Monday we're going to get 24 new counties in the Cape Girardeau area. We'll go to Tennessee and Arkansas, which will be new states for me, Crazy Jane, and Articulate Joe. Persephone's already been to Tennessee once, but Arkansas will be new for her, too.

The next weekend we'll go to Des Moines, which will be a new state capital (and new state capitol) for all of us. Also 13 new counties. Then maybe the next weekend we'll go to Red Cloud, Nebraska (13 more new counties), and see the Willa Cather Historic Site. Because I'm down with My Antonia and O Pioneers!

Don't worry, though, we're not going inactive. We'll go to our ward on Sunday morning and then leave for our trips. I'll move my work schedule to Wednesday through Friday.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Awards Dinner Report

So I went to the department awards dinner last night. Here's how everything went:

Firstly, I felt like a fraud the whole time, because I was sure someone was going to try to talk economics with me and I was going to say something horribly, embarrassingly wrong like, "Supply slopes downward." I have a way of getting in public settings and not talking, and that never goes over well. They invite you to a party because they expect you to party. So I would have to party.

Secondly, several of my professors failed to recognize me at first because I was in a suit. While I may never wear a suit to class, I also don't wear garbage bags or potato sacks. I should be recognizable. Once recognized, I was asked by one of my professors what I thought of someone else's work that had been presented in class that day. I said, "Well, I don't know." He said, "No, you can be honest. We're the only ones here. I thought it was bad."

Thirdly, many of the students I met there thought I was a graduate student. This is no doubt because I'm about eleventy-billion years old. Actually, one of the guys in the graduate program thought I was on the faculty. (As a side note: yesterday I volunteered to be in charge of administering the professor evaluations in one of my classes. I had to go down to the department office and pick up the forms, then come back to class and run the thing since the professor had to leave while we did it. When I got back one of the students said, "[A Random Stranger], you just look like you should be in charge of a class." Again, because I remind him of his grandfather, only older, probably.)

Fourthly, the food was really good. But then, I'm pretty easy to please in a culinary manner.

Fifthly, I ended up getting two awards. One is a scholarship and the other is a scholarship award. I don't know what the difference is, or why I got two, or why I even got one. But they add up to be a nice amount of money, I think. Not "retire to Saint Barts" money, but pretty good nonetheless.

So that's my update. I ate at a table with three professors and a woman from the administration and I think they were sufficiently weirded out by: 1) my failure to drink wine, seeing how they were all vinophiles; 2) my married status; 3) my bechilded status; 4) my employed status; and 5) my ability to down water like a thirsty camel. Although by the time they got to the awards, I thought I was going to wet my pants. Then they finished and I was going to sprint to the restroom, when another professor stood up and gave an award to the first professor. By the time I got to the urinal and drained the main vein, my kidneys were aching.

All in all, it was enjoyable and I don't think I embarrassed myself too badly.

Nobody Takes Me Seriously

One of the guys here at work has a trivia calendar. Last week the question asked us to name the industry award given among British publishers. That got us to thinking about why our industry doesn't have an award, and if it did, what it would be called. So I decided to institute a peer award. I drafted up the ballots, devised the rules, created the ballot box, and notified the eligible participants. The reaction has been one of ridicule and scorn. One guy is particularly opposed to the idea. He has hinted at having put a non-ballot item in the ballot box, he continuously smirks and starts sentences that he ends prematurely so we all know that he is thinking something critical that he won't say, and when I passed around a pot luck sign up sheet he wrote down that he will be sick that day.

Why can't people just have a good time? Why do they have to ruin everything about working here? So now I can't even TRY to make this not such a worthless place to work? In the past week this guy's asked about five times, "Whose idea was this?" Then he continues to refer to it as "the thing [the company owner] sent around last week." No, she didn't send it around; I did.

So people suck. Most of the time. At least the ones I work with. Nothing has made me more of a misanthrope than my tenure here. However, I've also got a nice story about people NOT sucking. Here it is:

I know a woman who told me yesterday she has a fan club. I'm not quite sure on how it happened, but somehow she has a following of people who've never met her who have begun a fan club in her honor. They are having a celebration this weekend, thousands of miles away. They will have party favors that are this woman's favorite things, and they will have bracelets that are branded "WW[her first initial]D?"

And all this time I had my sights set so low. I just wanted three things from my UDK column: fan mail, a Free-For-All call, and to be one of the five most-e-mailed stories of the past 24 hours. (That Free-For-All call continues to be elusive.) It turns out random people can just get fan clubs. I'm not saying this to disparage my friend. She's a completely deserving subject of a fan club. But how she GOT one is still a wonder. I don't have a fan club. I don't have crap except a peer award that no one is taking seriously.