Wednesday, March 31, 2010


In these hectic times, nearly everything can be said in an abbreviated way. For instance, saying "vaca" instead of "vacation" allows you to save time when you want to tell your coworkers, "I'm a pretentious ass."

The ultimate form of shortening is the acronym. With acronyms coming out the YY*, it's hard to keep them straight. I was reminded of that when I read the headline, "FBI gives cops critical info: how to spot an IED"

IED: Improvised Explosive Device

IUD: not an IED.

* = Ying Yang

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This Is Why News Is For Crap

Today I read the headline (which is how I get 80% of my news): "Health premiums could rise 17% for young adults." Do you feel yourselves getting healthier, young people? Soon you'll be swimming in so much healthiness, you'd be able to cut it with a knife (if that wasn't considered an elective surgery HHS is going to try to scare you out of).

I read the article, and it didn't say anything I haven't been saying for months: giving away free services to old people is going to cost young people a lot. Allowing everyone who's about to die to spend other people's money fighting the inevitable never has been, is not now, and can never in the future be deficit reducing. Given our national demographics (marauding bands of old people getting ready to consume our productivity like so many locust in an arrogant, egotistic attempt to buy themselves a few more hours of life because they are terrified of the godless universe they've imagined for themselves), telling the populace that other people's money can keep them alive longer is like telling an alcoholics convention that liquor has been shown to eliminate remorse.

There was nothing in this article's analysis that couldn't be done before last Sunday. Actually, I bet the analysis was done before last Sunday, but the news agency sat on the story so it didn't have an effect on passage of the bill.

Those who think something like this would never happen are either adorably naive or blissfully ignorant. Newsweek tried to kill the Monica Lewinsky story (which, as all honest Americans know, was about a president committing a felony, not about sex). You Fox News haters in the audience need to stop arguing that Fox is bad and start arguing why Fox is any worse than the rest. If you think the mainstream media is somehow above the partisan fray, Dan Rather has some forged memos he'd like to sell you.

Ultimately, the question that I am asking myself is this: how many more of these stories are we going to see now that "health care" has passed?

As I end all "old people" posts, I'll repeat, "It's time to tell old people that, if they can go on a cruise, they can go to an office."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nominal and Real

My nominal midterm grade of F is actually a real midterm grade of B.

I had a phone interview today where the guy asked, "Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone you didn't get along with?" and all I could think about was Tito. Since my blog has more new followers than Justin Bieber (of whom, before I read a news article last week about how he's the new hawtness, I was blissfully unaware), the best Tito stories can be found here and here. Since I could think of nothing else, I figured I had to go with it, but I left out the part about our relationship being irreparably damaged by my dissing his favorite college basketball team.

This has turned out to be a Larry King post, so I'll finish it off in the appropriate style: no one does funny better than Tom Snyder!

Seacrest out.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mailbag - Strangers Edition

Most of my blog traffic is generated by people searching for "world's youngest grandma" or "pirate nicknames." Now there might be a new search term luring in the unsuspecting: "life coach."

Steve recommends that I stay focused on "the best interest of the person you are working with." I agree. The problem comes when the tutoree thinks he's benefited by something like watching me do economics or math problems, while I would contend that's a waste of money. But I can't make him do anything he doesn't want to.

ErnieBern wonders, "How exactly does one become certified in coaching life??" Based on my limited research, being certified is as flaky as life coaching itself. Basically you find someone who has made up his own rules, and when you pass his regulations, he certifies you. So if anyone wants to get certified as a life coach, leave your contact info in the comments and I'll certify you, cheap.

LilVic suggests that I "lay out the expectations of both student and teacher." That's something I think I'll do from now on. Being a hard-ass probably will also keep my customer number down, which is something I'd like. Too many of my tutorees have been flakes whose moms hounded them into meeting with someone. I enjoy the session when the tutoree wants to be there.

Finally, Purple Cow became a follower (let that be an example for the rest of you deadbeats!), so either she wasn't tricked into coming to my blog, or she has an incredibly low threshold for following a blog. Either way, it pads my stats!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tough Love

I have fallen off the tutoring wagon since moving last summer, and only had my first session yesterday. It raised some issues I can't quite answer, so I thought I'd share them here and ask for feedback. After all, I now have 18 followers.

Take sufficient time to ooh and ahh at that figure. I'll wait for you in the next paragraph.

Okay, here's the deal: the tutoree is paying me, so does that mean he sets the agenda? Or is tutoring enough like being a life coach (my secret fantasy dream job) that I can run the show?

In Kansas I ended up with some regular customers: a male college senior in calculus, a female college freshman in algebra, and two grade-school girls in math and English. With the grade-school girls, it was obvious that I was in charge. I explained their homework and then they did it while I corrected as needed. With the college kids, they brought their questions to me and we worked through them together, then they did a few on their own to make sure they got it.

I had a few other one-off customers, and they tended to be more flaky. I just don't know how much utility they can get out of watching me do economics problems.

Yesterday's tutoree was a watcher. He has a midterm, so he wanted to work through his last problem set. But he ended up just watching ME work through his last problem set. Considering that the professor had already given him the answers (and detailed solutions, not just numeric values), I don't see what he wanted to gain from meeting with me.

So my question is, should I be more aggressive and run the thing a little more like a boot camp? Just this morning I read in Richard H. Thaler's Winner's Curse about the conflict between our current and future selves. We all take actions now to limit the freedom of our future selves, such as saving money in a time deposit, setting an alarm clock, or contracting to buy insurance. Does that mean that my tutorees make appointments with me because they want someone to make them learn, so I should feel comfortable with making them a little uncomfortable?

I've got a lot to learn before I hang up my life coach shingle.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mailbag, Ad Hominem Edition

Because, apparently, that's how I roll.

Nathan writes:

ARS, based on your prior posts I'm convinced that offering my opinions here will be inviting a full scale attack, but I feel I must at least express my perspective. Your list makes sense and is witty, but I cannot fundamentally agree that trying to reform healthcare is "idiotic", even if this smoker seems to be. I had a similar experience last year, though on the opposite side of the divide, when a member of our church who is currently unemployed and who suffers from chronic bad health sent me a forwarded email screed encouraging me to swamp the White House servers so as to send a message to that "Communist Obama" that we patriotic Americans reject his meddling in our private lives with his "socialist" healthcare reform. I could only think, "What a cognitive disconnect!"

I'm touched that Nathan thinks I'm capable of a full-scale attack. Lately I've felt like--in the intellectual department, at least--I can barely get it up. (I said "in the intellectual department," mind you.) I wracked my brain trying to remember if I've ever attacked Nathan on my blog, but my brain was not up to the task, so I did a Google search instead. It turns out that the following exchange happened once:

  • I once linked to a news story about the global warming summit in Copenhagen that made use of the phrase "happy ending" and I made a sophomoric joke about massage technicians.
  • The news agency replaced that story with another, so my link and joke no longer made sense.
  • Nathan commented about how the link and joke didn't make sense, and I made another joke about Nathan being on the look-out for massage-themed news items.
That hardly seems full-scale. The only other argumentative exchange we've had has been when Nathan wrote, "While I recognize that your article aims to disparage both parties and thus your slight of the Democratic Party, which you call the 'Democrat Party' a la Bush and Fox News, may be deliberate, it also suggests that you've taken sides," and I replied, "I just wonder how a party that uses 'super-delegates' thinks it has claim to the word 'democratic'." I'll spell my position out more clearly: I refuse to call something as undemocratic as the Democrat Party by its preferred name. That's not a personal attack, and it's not ginning up any guilt by association with "Bush and Fox News," it's just my take on the arrogant paternalism of a political party.

So I don't think it can be said that expressing opinions on my blog gets you a personal attack. The only people I really blast are the ones who leave foreign-character comments with links in them. Those people, I feel no qualms telling you, I hate with the intensity of a thousand suns.

But about the specific points. I didn't say reforming health care was idiotic. I applied the "Idiots" tag to a post about a variety of things, one of which was a man smoking cigarettes. But yes, this particular health care "reform," which ignores elementary economic principles and fundamental rules of accounting, is idiotic, now that you mention it. But that's a far cry from blanketing all reform as "idiotic," as you charge.

Also, I don't see the "cognitive disconnect" supposedly embodied in an unhealthy proponent of small government, unless you are arguing that people should only advocate those positions which financially benefit them rather than those which they find morally right. I would say your unhealthy friend's opposition to the new law highlights the depth of his political principles, not the brokenness of his brain.


O.K., my questions: First, don't you already pay for unhealthy people's healthcare anyway, when your premiums go up so as to cover all the other unhealthy folks out there?

No, not really, because the chronically unhealthy can't get insurance or pay the higher premiums themselves. Also, under the old system I could decide to pay no premiums at all by not having insurance. Now that decision has been removed by requiring coverage under threat of penalty.

And what's so logical about a system whereby emergency rooms function as the primary care system for the poor? The solution being offered in the Congress is stupid, but the status quo is stupider.

When things are free, people use too much of them. One way to lower the consumption of the "free" good is by increasing the "costs" of using it. The unpleasantness of a trip to the emergency room, to some extent, limits its usage. Emergency rooms do their jobs: provide emergency care to those who really need it. Poor people shouldn't expect anything more than that, just like they shouldn't expect $80-steaks when they go to the soup kitchen. We're keeping body and soul together, not providing a cultural experience.

As I wrote before, I dislike that the "health care" debate was not called what it truly was, which was an "insurance entitlement" debate. Opposing "health care" makes it sound like you want people to be sick, but opposing an insurance entitlement is an economic decision that doesn't require self-identification as the spawn of Satan. Along those lines, the entire debate has been de-legitimized with talk of "the poor." As Thomas Sowell and Steven Landsburg, among others, have shown, and as I explain further in my review of John R. MacArthur's You Can't Be President, there is no such thing as "the poor" in America. There are those who are "poor right now," but the entire notion of a permanent underclass that will go from cradle to grave uninsured is bogus. Michael Ramirez, editorial cartoonist at Investor's Business Daily [shout-out meant to satisfy copyright law], shows us just who the uninsured are:


It seems that the fundamental divide here falls between people who would prefer to trust the market to help provide their healthcare and those who believe that a third party (the government) should try somehow to intervene. Such intervention is already widescale in all realms of life, and I for one don't mind. I'm glad to have a third party involved. Politicians, whom we elect after all, would not be in charge but bureaucrats, who already decide things now.

Even if we ignore the argument about whether bureaucrats are currently too involved in our lives, I don't agree that merely pointing out their current existence is an argument for the expansion of their oversight. Postal employees exist, but that doesn't mean they should pick my religion. Those who advocate an expanded role of government in health care tend to forget that government won't just regulate the professionals; government will also regulate the users. This law was sold on the strength of hard-luck stories about insurance companies denying care, but at least in those scenarios the individual could appeal to government. To whom do we appeal when the denier of care is the government itself? (And the argument that the government won't deny care is unacceptable, as it completely ignores the real world.)

Almost home:

Finally, a genuine question: why is "socialist" a pejorative? It seems the word is supposed to elicit a visceral response of revulsion. I for one wish we had to guts to be more socialist. It is stupid that Kansas can't balance its budget because the Republicans will not consent to raise sales tax and the cigarette tax, but they are willing to chop education further. It's o.k. to pay taxes for services I cannot fund on my own and that the market cannot perform, equitably, any better.

"Socialist" is pejorative because socialism is wrong. It denies the basic freedom of man, placing one man, the social planner, above his peers. Socialism is based on a right which man never gave his government because man never had that right to give: the right to steal. If I cannot take from my neighbor to pay my bills, I cannot charge my government to do it for me. Socialism is insidious because it uses the aura of legitimacy attached to government to cover the basic theft it propagates. We teach our children stealing is wrong, but we devise clever socialist schemes whereby we receive things from the work of others, irrespective of their will to provide them, and convince ourselves no stealing was involved. Socialism is wrong because socialism is theft, and as long as "theft" is pejorative, I hope for the sake of society "socialism" remains, as well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Further Thoughts on Smokey McSocialist

Yesterday I went to see President Obama speak and I waited in line next to a guy who was wearing a "Health Care Now" button and smoking cigarettes.

Point 1: The fastest improvement that man can make to his current and future "health care" is to quit smoking. It doesn't require arm-twisting in the House, reconciliation in the Senate, or the involvement of anyone besides himself.

Point 2: Would I have been out of place telling him to quit smoking? He probably would have thought so. And why? Because he is free to live his life how he wants. So why is he trying to remove that same right from me? I want to live my life without paying for someone else's health care. According to his (presumed) thinking, he should have the right to smoke, but I shouldn't have the right to not be burdened without my consent. That makes no sense.

Point 3: His support of "Health Care Now" in effect MAKES his smoking my business. And his vegetable consumption, and his exercise participation rate. In short, every personal decision he makes now factors into my tab. If he thinks he has the right to stick me with his health care bill, he's given me the right to tell him he can no longer smoke. The fact that he has not already quit smoking on his own is an indication that he doesn't want someone else to tell him he can't smoke.

Point 4: Again, no one in America is lacking "health care." When was the last time you saw someone with an untreated injury lying in the street? It doesn't happen. Pointing out that Americans do happen to die with alarming regularity (number of Americans born since 1776 who are not expected to end their lives in death: zero) does not mean there is anything wrong that requires a massive entitlement program to correct it.

Point 5: Insurance is a business decision. It was invented for those who want to diversify their risk portfolio. It's not for everyone. What you pay your insurance company is the cost of removing your risk, NOT the cost of the services you use. If your insurance raises your premiums and you pay it, you must value the removal of risk even more than the new, higher premiums. Comparing insurance spending to health care costs and then saying "insurance companies are making profits" is meaningless. All that means is people fear illness more than they actually become ill. How does that somehow indicate a "health care" problem in America? What that REALLY indicates is that we don't get sick as often as we should, given our fear of it.

Point 6: If rising health care costs is a problem, changing who pays for it is not a solution, and completely removing the users from the costs of their use is a perfect formula for skyrocketing costs. The president's proposal is the surest way to raise health care costs further and faster.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, Ou La Mort

The president came to speak about "health care" at my school today. I went, hoping we'd boo him off stage.

It didn't quite happen that way. But I did yell at him, which you can watch here at the 27:15 mark. (Turn the volume way up; I was on the other side of the arena from him.)

For those of you who care, here's a transcript of our exchange:

OBAMA: You know, the naysayers said that Social Security would lead to socialism, but the men and women of Congress stood fast and created that program that lifted millions out of poverty. There were cynics that warned that Medicare would lead to a government take-over of our entire health care system.


As preparation for my presidential confrontation, I warmed up by arguing with a volunteer outside. She allowed a pro-"health care" woman to stand next to the building with her sign, but directed the opposition to the designated protest area. ("The government thanks you for your dissent." - Army official to Lindsay Bluth) I asked her why and she said they were there with "an agenda." I said, "So is she. Her agenda is to bankrupt the country." The volunteer said, "If you express that opinion inside, you'll be removed." I said, "I'll be removed for expressing an opinion?"

After that impromptu civics lesson, I went through security, where I was branded a religious fanatic because I had a vial of olive oil on my keychain. They took the vial away.

Only once I was safely disarmed of my dangerous salad dressing ingredient was I prepared to see the Leader of the Erstwhile Free World.

And then after I saw TOTUS, its Reader-in-Chief came out.

Don't think of the shakiness of the video as poor quality; rather think of it as adding immediacy, like an episode of Lost (a show I've never actually seen, but I am aware that it has a shaky camera).

The president's two largest applause lines:

  1. 1. I'm going to make insurance companies give you free preventive care.
  2. 2. I'm going to make it so you can stay on your parents' insurance.

I didn't see anybody overcome by the fabled Obama Swoon, but the lady in front of me jumped around like a Prince Is Right winner. And there was a whole lot of her to get moving around, if you know what I mean.

So blurry, I might as well have faked it on a sound stage in Burbank.

I'd like to point out--futilely, no doubt, but still--that this isn't a question of "health care," it's a question of "health insurance." Insurance is not tantamount to care. No one in America can't get necessary care. Until science comes up with a way to do away with "the big T," in statistics-speak, everyone will end his life by running up against a health issue that kills him. That's not a bad thing.

One woman had a sign that said "Graduated and Uninsured." So why doesn't she go buy insurance? I'm sure she'll say something about not being able to afford it, but then why doesn't she have a sign that says "Graduated and Not Living in a Mansion," or "Graduated and Not Driving a Ferrari"? I don't go around advertising all the ways in which I economize, so why does she? But the highlight of the day, aside from totally burning the president with my zinger (Did you notice how he didn't even muster a comeback? Double burn!), was when the guy in line next to me, with a "Health Care Now" sticker on, smoked two cigarettes during the wait. Stay classy, socialists.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Soaked Up Philly Like a Sponge

Sponge. That's a fun word. And that's what I was as I spent the first half of the holidays in Philadelphia, seeing how we could have been living if I had taken the offer from Temple University instead of coming to Graduate U. like I did. The verdict: I was a jackass to turn down Temple. But we all already knew that. What you really come here for is sub-standard cartography done with obsolete software.

First, the statistical summary: I visited a new state (New Jersey), a new state capitol (New Jersey's in Trenton), three new state highway 52s (New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania), a new state high point (Delaware's at Ebright Azimuth), my sixth out of the nine largest American cities, 24 new counties, and I completed the counties of my fifth state (Maryland).

On Friday we drove to my sister's house near Richmond. Our kids love their cousins, but usually end up in at least one argument per visit. As far as I know, it didn't happen this time. My brother-in-law DVRed the Super Bowl for me, so I finally got to see it. It turned out New Orleans won.

Saturday we all went to Williamsburg together. Because of the ridiculously-steep homeschoolers' discount we got, I wasn't as angry about the parts that sucked as I otherwise would have been.

Tired of hearing guides casually slip in the fact that 90 percent of what we were seeing was not original, I told my brother-in-law, "When we tour the capitol I'm going to ask, 'Is this where Patrick Henry actually said "Give me liberty or give me death"?' and if she says no I'm going to yell out, 'What the crap?!'" But our tour guide was the stern grandma-type, and when she told us that the entire building above the third brick course from the ground was a reconstruction, I just nodded politely. (Also, it turns out the session of the House of Burgesses wherein Henry gave that speech wasn't even meeting in Williamsburg.)

At the end of the day, my sister's family headed back home and we went the other direction, crossing Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel, and then Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, much to the delight of my children. We drove through two of Virginia's most-remote counties and then I got the final four counties in Maryland, completing my fifth state (Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Delaware, and Maryland), before spending the night at Sleep Inn of Lewes, Delaware.

Quick plug for Sleep Inn: surprisingly nice rooms for the price. Too bad this was one of those times where all we did was check in, sleep, and check out.

Sunday morning we took the Cape May-Lewes Ferry across the mouth of Delaware Bay.

Our kids liked it, Jerome the Metronome got his diaper changed on the high seas, and when we landed, I was in my 34th state: New Jersey.

We stopped for lunch in Deptford (how would one say that name?). Our kids were adamant they needed to eat at an Olive Garden, but the Olive Garden parking lot was completely full. Like Prom-Night full. So we went to Red Lobster.

What the hell is the matter with Red Lobster? It's become a place that white trash people use as their "fancy occasion" restaurant. Everything sucked about it, and I don't know if it was because Red Lobster has gone downhill or if it was because we were surrounded by New Jerseyans. (What's the demonym for New Jersey? I don't care enough to look it up.) Red Lobster lured us in with a banner advertising lunch specials that didn't exist, and then they seated us between the family that's so overweight they can no longer walk, and the family with the methed-out single-mother teenage daughter. But the experience expanded my lexicon when I decided a good code-name for white trash people is "blanco basura," or "B.B." for short.

Seriously, though, New Jersey, you're alright. Crazy Jane said, "I know Vermont is called 'The Green Mountain State,' but I think New Jersey should be called 'The Green State.'" I said, "Well, New Jersey's nickname actually is 'The Garden State' because a long time ago, it was very rural and covered with farms." She said, "I think it still is beautiful like a garden." So there you have it: my daughter's delusional.

That afternoon we arrived in Philadelphia and, since the people with whom we were staying lived out of town, we went to Valley Forge.

About our Philadelphia accommodations: a friend of ours told us we could stay with her parents, and completely out of character for both of us, Persephone and I took her up on the offer. So we arrived at the house of total strangers and said, "We're your house guests for the next few days." Our family came away from the experience having had a good time, but who knows what they thought.

Tomorrow: the dramatic conclusion of our Philadelphia vacation. Will we yell at each other? Will we eat cheesesteaks? Will we get hustled by a Chinese lady on the street corner?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

ARS--Flashback: May 25, 2007

I keep starting each year meaning to read Jane Eyre, and I keep having to bump it due to scheduling conflicts with school, so I still need someone else to tell me if Grace Poole really has as much job security in the novel as she does in the movie.

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, but 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.

Follow up: I read The Eyre Affair without having read Jane Eyre, so until I saw the movie, I didn't know how much of the story I "knew" was from Bronte and how much was from Thursday Next mucking about in the plot. It made the movie more exciting for me, like when I accidentally read a "spoiler" of the last Harry Potter book that said Hermione dies at the end.

Monday, March 08, 2010

ARS--Flashback: May 7, 2007

I love this story.


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 does 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, March 07, 2010

ARS--Flashback: Apr. 25, 2007

Isn't it touching that I used to think my life would have a better part coming up soon?

Now a Major Motion Picture

When society gets off its ass and finally gives me the recognition I deserve by making a movie of my life, I'm pretty sure that the last seven years or so will be completely omitted. They might have a little something about being a missionary, and then the next scene will be far into the future.

This part of my life, the part I'm living today, is completely unnecessary in terms of the overall development of my life story. I could have stayed in bed all day today and nothing would be different. But instead I had to come to work, where everything sucks, walking to the bus in a drizzle, and then riding the bus with some stinky guy.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

ARS--Flashback: Jan. 4, 2007

Scenes from a domestic disturbance. I told the responding officer that I fell.

Random Bliss

Persephone says my blog has gone from "funny" to "sad." My response: so has my life. But since that would just be a continuation of random sadness, here now is some random bliss.

I am thinking of changing my IM screen name. At first I was "Handsome Pete." ("Ay, that's Handsome Pete; he dances on the boardwalk for nickels. Pete, ye got a customer!" - Sea Captain McAllister)

Then it was very briefly "Señor Spielbergo." ("Get me his non-union Mexican equivalent." - C. Montgomery Burns)

Now, for a long time (nearly a year, actually), it has been "Dr. Leo Marvin." ("Dr. Marvin! Dr. Leo Marvin!" - Bob Wiley)

But I am getting a little bored being Dr. Leo Marvin. So I have three new options to choose from.

  • "Navin R. Johnson," the inventor of the Opti-Grab.
  • "Lloyd Dobler," future kickboxer and Diane Court's loveable harmless stalker.
  • "Roger Podactor," the man who died because he found Captain Winky.

Of course, I could always just become not bored with my current name, so that gives me a fourth option.

So how's that for "not sad"? I've got to do something, because last night when I was about to go to the bathroom for the last time before getting into bed, Persephone told me not to come back unless I was happy. But when I tried to sneak my book out of the room and said, "See you tomorrow," she threw a My Little Pony at me. (Crazy Jane likes to tuck her toys into our bed during the day, so when we turn the covers back at night, we discover a treasure trove of ponies, dolls, and Mr. Potato Head limbs and organs.)

Vote now: Marvin, Johnson, Dobler, or Podactor!

Follow Up: I briefly changed it to Teddy K ("Teddy K knows my name!" - Carter Duryea), but people thought I meant Ted Kennedy, so then I changed it to Turd Ferguson, which is how this blog ended up with all introspective posts being labeled as such.

Friday, March 05, 2010

ARS--Flashback: May 15, 2006

I wouldn't blame you if you read this Greatest Hits blog post and thought I was a dick. You'd be correct.

Amateur Laboratory Testing

So that woman I work with, the one who laid her boobs all over me, turns out to be--sit down for this one!--a freak.

"How so?" you ask. She's one of those people who favors animals to humans every chance she gets. One co-worker was recently expressing concern for a friend of hers who was reentering an abusive relationship. The boob wack-job, though, upon hearing the story, was concerned for the battered woman's dog. At no point in the story was the dog threatened, but a woman being beaten in fact hinted at the specter of an animal being beaten in theory, and that was truly horrifying.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent her an e-mail that said I wouldn't be able to make a meeting time because I had a previous commitment to beat my dog. She came over to my desk to berate me, then left fuming. Others warned me that she did not tolerate jokes of this nature. So a few weeks later, when talk turned to "what would you do if you had a million dollars," I said I would buy abused animal shelters and turn the animals out into the streets. She came over to me and grabbed my face, a hand on each cheek. I said, "You're invading my personal space!" She backed off, but ever since then, her attitude towards me has been decidedly cooler.

So today I was taking a leak in the bathroom, and right in front of me was some sort of cleaning agent, and the back read, "Harmful to humans and domestic animals." I took the bottle over to this woman's desk and showed it to her, saying, "Your domesticating your dog has weakened it. If it were wild, it would be able to withstand this chemical." She said the wording was probably the result of some law that required them to not mention wild animals unless they tested it on wild animals. I said, "Well, I could do them a favor and take it home with me and conduct some tests on wild animals in my backyard."

She failed to laugh. Which just goes to show, some people are completely crazy, because that was funny.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

ARS--Flashback: Apr. 20, 2006

Every time I had to go to New Mexico for work, I'd get home from the airport at 10pm, kiss my wife hello, and then plug the toilet with the most massive turds ever. I mean, seven-flush turds. It was unbelievable. That's the only part of those business trips I miss.

New Mexican Cuisine

Last week I was in Santa Fe again. Tito was there again, and so was another coworker, Arty. Since there were three of us, I couldn’t do my own thing with impunity the way I did last trip. Instead of two people who were eating alone, it would be one guy who wasn’t eating with “the group.” So the first day we went to lunch and Tito blazed a path to Marisco's. We arrived at eleven-thirty, but the place was closed. The sign said they opened at eleven. We didn’t know if they were closed for the day or just operating on a looser interpretation of “eleven” than we had.

That night, after I blew off the “group” and ate by myself at Red Lobster, Tito and Arty went back to Marisco's. Still closed. Tito was so distraught that he then went looking for their second location downtown, where he got lost. We work for a map company. He gets lost with stunning frequency.

The last day we finished a little early and headed back to Albuquerque. I suggested we eat lunch at Sadie’s, since past statistics indicated I had a 100 percent chance of sitting next to Lily on the plane again, and it would be awkward for me to say, “I’m still ignoring your restaurant suggestion.” So we headed to Old Town, where I remembered Lily saying it was.

Lily was wrong. Or I remembered wrong. Or both, but not neither, because Sadie’s was, in fact, NOT in Old Town. Actually, it was quite distant. So we ended up parking and walking around looking for another restaurant. There are few things so soul-crushingly awkward as being a tourist with two guys from work. Finally, a woman in a gift shop suggested Monica’s El Portal, so that was where we went.

Here’s the problem with “authentic” cuisine, and with the whole “anti-corporate” mindset in general: people want all the benefits of big business without actually involving big business. For instance, everyone wants unlimited chips with their meal, but only large chains manage to sneak the cost into everything else all over the country. Mom-and-Pop places give you a thimble-full of chips for free, then charge a dollar-fifty for each additional thimble. I don’t begrudge them this—I understand why it happens. But the guys I was with, after spending three days trying to outdo each other’s distaste for chain restaurants, complained vociferously about the stingy chip service. Drinks, also, were non-refillable. More complaining. Meanwhile, they took the occasion of actually having me at a meal with them as an opportunity to stick me with the bill for all three of us. “You’ll get reimbursed,” they reminded me, as if it made it okay. Somehow, though, reimbursement didn’t make it okay enough for THEM to pick up the tab. And while I was being given the bill, the waitress took away my last sopapilla. I was going to eat that!

The good news was that I didn’t see Lily at the airport, so I didn’t have to explain the Sadie’s fiasco. But I DID manage to sit on the airplane next to a sixty-year-old woman in a hot-pink cowboy hat. Somewhere in America there is a girl who thinks, “I’ve got the coolest grandma EVER!”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

ARS--Flashback: Feb. 2, 2006

Ah, nothing's more entertaining than an awkward story involving giant boobs.

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 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.”


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.

Follow Up: After "Debbie" got fired, I had a dream that we went on a business trip together and ended up having sex. It was totally gross, but even though I knew it was a dream and I could end it by just waking up, I couldn't wake up. It is easily the grossest dream I've ever had.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

ARS--Flashback: Jan. 2, 2006

I don't feel like writing my blog for a while, so I'm going to do what most entertainers do in this situation: a clip show. And since I'm starting it off with this paragraph of filler, I can claim it contains "new material." Today I begin with my very first blog post. If you don't like it, you can kiss my ass.

Losers of the World Unite!

I've always had some thoughts about bloggers, most of them unkind. And now here I am, a blogger myself. But given how I have been sucked into this thing quite by accident, I think I should be a little more forgiving of other bloggers. I mean, there's no telling how many of them are just normal, well-adjusted members of society (such as myself) who took a wrong turn on the Information Super Et Cetera and ended up being a blogging nerd.

You see, the first person to get sucked in was my wife. Her friend created a blog, and my wife, who doesn't want her real name used, so I'll call her Persephone, wanted to post a comment. In the process of registering, she had created a blog. I laughed at her. Then I wanted to comment on HER blog, and now here I am.

How many of the world's blogging nerds were similarly suckered? Thousands, I hope. Because the only other explanation for the blogging explosion--that everyone thinks someone else is REALLY going to care about their views on the World Trade Organization, or just how great a particular episode of Star Trek: Next Generation was--spells doom for modern society.

Yet, I now have my own blog. So should I water-down the criticisms? Probably, but I'm not one who usually does the things I "probably" should do. Like washing my hands upon finishing in the restroom: probably should, usually don't. Even when I know I'm going to be eating a sandwich. So criticism, full speed ahead!