Monday, June 28, 2010

Novel Adaptation

Two nights ago I was sitting on the couch, roasting. Our couch is like one of those pillows that disobey the laws of thermodynamics, somehow taking heat from your body and intensifying it threefold.

I moved off the couch to the floor. Slight improvement. I took off my shirt, then my undershirt. From there it was just a logical step to get completely naked.

Then the itching began. Isn't there something called heat rash? I think my back had it. Luckily the carpet selected by our management company is derived from burlap sacks, making it ideal for scratching.

This was how I came to be writhing on the floor naked. (If this were a picture-heavy blog, I'd probably throw in a snapshot here. Sorry to disappoint.) My wife came across me in this position and said, "If they made a movie of The Metamorphosis, you could play the part of Gregor Samsa."

Friday, June 25, 2010

"I Saw You the Other Day Leaning Against a Post"

Title courtesy of John Lee Hooker's tutorial on finding work, as told by George Thorogood.

Some people share and some people don't. There are those who tell you everything about their entire lives (like two or three high school classmates now responsible for nearly 40% of all Facebook status updates), and then there are people like Super-Hot 111 and me.

I know, I know. "How does a guy who doesn't share end up with a blog?" I've told you before, dude, by accident. I don't mind sharing my pointless musings, but when it comes to things I feel are important, I don't really want to know anyone else's opinions, so I don't bring the topics up.

Not everyone is this way. I was on a newspaper editorial board with a guy who would introduce himself by saying, "My goal is to be the next Mark Twain." This left me dumbfounded. To me, such a lofty goal should be treated like Voldemort's name or the language of Mordor: it's never fit to say out loud. (Doubling the nerd references in one sentence is NOT one of my goals, it just happens.)

For this reason I have secret goals. Going to graduate school was one of them. My wife and I knew we were going, but until I had been accepted by at least one school, we told people, "We might end up going to graduate school; we're not sure." My biggest life goal I've only ever told to four people, two of whom were mistakes to tell. Chances I will randomly blog about this goal: pretty slim.

I'm not saying don't have a goal. Go ahead and have the goal, let it drive your actions, but never talk about it so you never have to explain why it didn't happen. In 40 years if I run into the newspaper guy again, the first thing I'm going to want to ask is, "What happened to the Mark Twain thing?"

Anyway, that's just a long, boring way of making sure all my readers are too bored to continue reading this far into the post, so fewer people will see when I say I'm currently looking for work. And the only reason I mention it now is to explain why I'm very busy for the next few days. My interviews have picked up, which is probably good news. Right now there are three particular jobs for which I'm contending.

  1. Incredibly low-paying, highly-demanding job in a very shaky sector of the economy.
  2. Pretty decently-paying anonymous job for a ginormous multi-national corporation with a brazillion employees.
  3. Sort of high-paying job I'm not quite qualified for (but I might be able to bluff my way into).

Obviously, for blogging purposes, 1 and 3 would be best. Job #1 would give me plenty of fodder for "I want to stab somebody in the neck" posts, the kind I specialized in at my last job. Job #3 would be fuel for an unending stream of "I'm just moments away from being discovered as a sham" posts, which have a certain appeal for the reader (though not for the writer).

Is it just me, or does it seem that one of the unwritten rules of blogging is, "What's good for my blog is bad for me (and vice versa)"?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tiny Thrill-Seekers

Standard economic theory says risk-averse people must be compensated for the risk they are asked to bear. Then how does standard economic theory explain THIS?

Hot Wheels sells a "mystery" vehicle for the same price as the known vehicles. You can spend 97 cents for a car you KNOW how much you value, or you can spend it on the crap-shoot car. The only explanation is for Hot Wheels to think its typical consumer is risk-neutral. Well-developed sectors of the economy (stock options and insurance policies, for examples) would argue otherwise.

As does my picture. Look closely: the mystery car on the left has been taped shut, and the one on the right is half-open. Hot Wheels shoppers obviously want to know what their 97 cents are buying.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The K-Mart Standard

When people want to talk about something being really nice, they call it the Cadillac of [whatever they're talking about]. Pecan pie is the Cadillac of pies, University of Utah is the Cadillac of community colleges, and Mercedes-Benz is the Cadillac of automobiles.

This construction works the other way, too, but instead of Cadillac, you can use K-Mart. Everyone immediately knows what I mean when I say Giant is the K-Mart of grocery stores. If, by some bazaar chance you are unfamiliar with K-Mart, let me quickly recount my last K-Mart experience.

Jerome and I walked over to K-Mart to buy a garden trowel. The gardening shelves had been depleted like the water aisle of a grocery store when the forecast calls for a quarter-inch of snow. We found two styles of trowel, neither with a price. We went looking for an employee. None in gardening. None in electronics. None in intimates. (I doubled back through intimates to make sure.) We saw a pole bearing a sign indicating a scanner was nearby. There was no scanner. Eventually we were back at the registers, where we did manage to find an employee, at the only open register. We got in line and she said, "I'm not open." Her register light must have only been on because she was practiced at the art of deception. I had to ask, "Where should I go?" K-Mart is evidently pursuing a policy of not looking too needy, and they are doing it masterfully.

Last week I had a similar customer service experience in Borders and thought, "This place is the K-Mart of bookstores." And then I took the kids to Sears (owner of K-Mart, by the way) and found this wonderfully confusing pricing scheme.

That's I, Robot for both $9.99 and $12.99. Talk about first-degree price discrimination! I guess I reveal to the woman at the register which price I want to pay. But first I'd have to find an open register that isn't just fake open.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cheesecake Pictures

My wife is a good sport. She has allowed me to have a cheesecake picture of her as my cell phone wallpaper. That's not a problem so long as my phone doesn't fall out of my pocket during a potato sack race at a ward picnic, which it did last Saturday.

Anticipating the starting gun...

...and still anticipating, evidently. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by displaying my Usain Bolt-like starting speed.

Crazy Jane brought my phone to me and said, "Someone found your phone in the grass." Super-Hot 111 asked, "Who found it?" Crazy Jane had no idea. Didn't she just TAKE the phone from the lady?

Obviously, no one came up to talk to us about it (which is what my father would have done). All we know is some anonymous ward member now has a better idea of how hot my wife is.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup Blogging

While watching Greece v. Nigeria, I saw a Nigerian player from the Bolton Wanderers named Danny Shittu. If he had a lot of incredulous friends, he'd have to spend all his time saying, "I Shittu not."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Way Back When

Today I was reading a book to my boys about a hippopotamus getting ready for his first day of school. In one scene he's at a shoe store, sitting in a chair, while a hippo with a moustache wearing a tie is kneeling down by his feet, surrounded by shoe boxes.

A Random Stranger: A long time ago, shoe stores used to have employees who could help you.

Articulate Joe: I know that...because I've seen it in books before.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Even My Kids Get My Hilarity

Crazy Jane: What's the first rule of soccer?

A Random Stranger: I don't know? Don't talk about soccer?

Crazy Jane: [hysterical laughter]

Monday, June 14, 2010

Is There Nothing He Can't Do?

A "friend" at my previous job started a joke once by asking me, "What do Barack Obama and Jesus Christ have in common?" I said, "What DON'T they have in common?" He said, "Well played."

Community organizer, serial autobiographer, college football reformer, baseball commissioner, basketball agent--the guy does it all. (Except for protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, but hey, pobody's nerfect, right?) Today we can add to the list: medical doctor.

Not only can he declare seafood safe to eat, he can promise "things are going to return to normal" while simultaneously promising he's going to "leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before." Doesn't returning to normal mean being the SAME as it was before? I wonder if his speechwriter was the same guy Kang had when he said, "My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball, but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." Why talk to Americans like they're intelligent when a five-second platitude keeps the base writing checks?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm Hilarious

TODAY AT CHURCH:

A Random Stranger: That's a nice watch you've got there.

Former Home-Teaching Companion: Thank you. I love it. My ex-girlfriend gave it to me.

ARS: Well, at least you got something out of the relationship.

FHTC: No, we're still good friends.

ARS: Oh. That's cool.

FHTC: But I really like this watch. Thanks for noticing it.


LATER THAT SAME DAY:

Passing Ward Member 1 (to FHTC): Do you ever watch that show NCIS: Los Angeles?

FHTC: No.

PWM 1: You look just like the main character in that show.

Passing Ward Member 2: You mean G. Callen?

PWM 1: Yeah, doesn't he?

PWM 2: Yeah, he does.

FHTC (to ARS): He doesn't have as cool of a watch as me.

ARS: That's really saying something, because you have no idea what type of watch that guy has.

FHTC: I don't need to.

ARS: He could have a midget tied to his wrist who yells out the time, but you're still confident your watch is better.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

I was looking through a slideshow of lame ads from the past (because that's what passes for news these days), and I came across this idea, which is not lame at all, but totally awesome.

I don't think it requires a special type of bacon or pancake. I think it just requires a griddle and ingeniousness.

I have bad luck with trying out recipes I find in random corners of the Intertubes (like Maria Bamford's Big Fat Cow), but this looks great enough to overcome my hesitancy. Provided we own a griddle (I'll have to check with my wife about that), watch for my review of bacon pancakes, coming soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Just How Random Is A Random Stranger?

Purple Cow has given me more awards than a grade school science fair. Either they don't have very many high-quality blogs in Greece or she just thinks my blog is fantabulous. Either way, I now have to share ten random things about myself.

  1. To answer the age-old "is it live or is it Memorex?" question, if my blog post was written at 12:27 PM, I wrote it before and scheduled it to post in the future. Why 12:27? Because that's my birthday, fools!
  2. If I'm on the telephone and standing on a tile floor, I'm also aligning my feet in geometric patterns with the tiles.
  3. Before a geographic knowledge competition in college, I intentionally chose the most ridiculous outfit I could so it would be more disheartening to my opponents when I defeated them. (And I did defeat them. Soundly.)
  4. I received undergraduate credit at five different schools, and was accepted and enrolled at a sixth one that I ended up not attending.
  5. Once at a job interview the manager asked me, "What are you willing to do for the company?" I said, like a good potential wage-slave, "Whatever is required of me." The manager pressed, "One of your responsibilities will be an hourly inspection of the bathrooms to make sure everything's in order. What if one time you checked the bathrooms and you found they were covered in feces?" I said, "Well, obviously no one would enjoy that, but since it can't stay that way, I would clean it up." The next week I was hired, and a few days later I discovered that the manager's "hypothetical" situation was actually a recurring problem faced by the store. Despite my interview answer, I did not, in fact, clean it up. I pretended I didn't know about it and a co-worker with the same responsibilities later found it. When he told me about it later I pretended to be surprised.
  6. In first grade our teacher had us all sit on the rug in a circle and share what we'd done the previous weekend. I had to fart, so I waited until everyone was laughing at someone else's comment and I let it rip. The laughter didn't completely cover the fart noise, which sent the room into hysterics. I laughed along at the mysterious farter. Then the smell came. It was so bad we had to go outside for an impromptu five-minute recess. The teacher pulled me aside and said, "Next time you have to do that, ask to be excused to the restroom." I said, "What are you talking about? It wasn't me." I don't think she was convinced.
  7. When completing my college application essay, I had to write it long-hand. I didn't have a dictionary available, so I left appropriately-long blanks for words I didn't know how to spell, figuring I would use a friend's dictionary. (I put in a letter or two to jog my memory, so instead of "officially" I wrote "of ially".) I procrastinated until the final day to mail the essay, then I quickly sent it in without fixing the spelling problems. I didn't remember any of this until I opened my acceptance letter and I thought, "Holy crap, I dodged a bullet there."
  8. The summer before first grade I fell off the roof of the school. A teacher came out, saw me, yelled at me for being on the roof, and went back in, leaving me lying on my back. I've hated that woman ever since. She turned out to be good friends with my mother-in-law.
  9. I once had a girlfriend who wrote a letter to me (from a different state) that said, "I went to a concert and the singer sang a song that totally reminded me of us. I'll have to send you a copy of it." A few weeks later she sent me another letter (from a different country) wherein she broke up with me. I've often wondered what the song was that captured the essence of our relationship so perfectly.
  10. I followed a blog that became private, but I know someone who knows someone who knows the blogger, so I had the one-degree-of-separation person finagle a blog invite and now I log in as that person and read the blog.
  • BONUS: My previous work had a huge fight over IM. When the dust settled, we were allowed to keep it. My screen name went through some changes, from Handsome Pete to Dr. Leo Marvin to Roger Podactor to Teddy K to Señor Spielbergo to Navin Johnson to Turd Ferguson, which is why the blog tag for posts that are about me is what it is.

There they are. Ten random facts about A Random Stranger. Although I doubt this award is going to get me any pecan pie; I've been getting it too much lately.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We Loved With a Love That Was More Than Love (But Less Than Hot Monkey Sex)

I've been given a blog award from Purple Cow, a woman who is continuing the Aussie invasion of my life that began with Jessica Watson, Scott Westerfeld, and Jack Russell. Acceptance of this award requires me to list ten things I love.

  1. Wisdom. I love the accumulated knowledge that makes life easier. For instance, I've found that watching episodes of The Simpsons and reading P.G. Wodehouse novels are effective as anti-depressives.
  2. Friends. I don't have many, but the ones I have are pretty okay. I've come to accept that there are people in the world who know what's wrong with me, but they're all right with that. These are the bozos I've inducted to the All-Married Man's Club.
  3. Kids. My kids, specifically. (Most other people's kids I can't stand.) My kids are hilarious. Crazy Jane is good for witty absurdist humor. Articulate Joe is good for pure-hearted sports and machinery loving. And Jerome Jerome the Metronome is good for silly arguing ("You're nuts!" "No, Dadda's nuts!" Ad infinitum).
  4. Economics. As long as good economics work isn't completely erased from existence, it makes me hopeful that someday the columns of Paul Krugman will be seen for the swill that they are.
  5. Reading. I don't really know why, but I always feel compelled to be reading. I'm usually in the middle of four or five books at a time (right now: 1.Mostly Harmless Econometrics by Joshua D. Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2.Thursday Next in First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde, 3.The New Testament by St. Paul, et Al., 4.Fathers As Patriarchs by Grant Von Harrison, 5.The Mortal Messiah, Book 1 by Bruce R. McConkie), and I usually have a replacement picked out before I finish one. I'm never NOT in the middle of a book. I wasn't always this way, which makes me wonder if one day it'll stop, but until then I have stacks of books on the floor next to my bed.
  6. A mythical thirst-quenching beverage I've yet to discover. Like the ancient mariner, I will probably wander the earth with my fate somehow phantasmagorically linked to its discovery. Apple juice is pretty good, and so is Sprango (four parts Sprite to one part mango juice), but neither is what I need. My wife says she'll give my tombstone the epitaph, "I wish there was some sort of thirst-quenching beverage." If it exists, when I find it I will love it like Joanie loves Chachi.
  7. God. I should probably include a shout-out to the Omnipotent Deity of the Universe. He's (usually) got my back. (The Pixies would agree with my assignment of God's place on this list.)
  8. Creativity. Making something new that people will want to see is a great feeling. Having to sit in a cubical editing a spreadsheet nobody cares about makes me want to stab somebody in the neck.
  9. Sports. I can really get into semi-pro lacrosse. I have favorite teams in the Bundesliga and in the Arena Football League. I have complete preferences in all major North American sports, so I have a rooting interest in any possible match-up. My sons have inherited my love of all sports, with the added feature that as soon as they see a sport on the computer or the TV, they want to start playing it immediately, with whatever equipment they have on hand.
  10. My wife. She's great.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The All-Married Man's Club: Summer Convention

Erik came to town last week to see a friend of his he likes better than me, and he decided to abuse my famous hospitality by staying at my place. I taught him that my hospitality is not so much famous as infamous by making him sleep on a leaky air mattress. But he got the final laugh by not sleeping the entire time he was here, instead keeping me up until five in the morning talking.

All in all, quite a successful All-Married Man's Club meeting.

Eight years ago we stopped in to see them when they lived in Utah. We decided to recreate the scene, and I defy you to guess which picture is from which visit.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

You've Made a Powerful Enemy

Don't get on my bad side. Just look what happened to Helen Thomas.

Next on my list: how about our pin-head president and his condescending insistence to avoid substance when a sound bite will do? So far his response to the oil spill has ranged from threatening to remove BP from the clean up (followed by a quiet admission that he has no alternative) to saying he's looking for "whose ass to kick" (because oil is intimidated by a man trying to appear powerful) to today floating the opinion that he would have fired the BP chairman if it were up to him. The man has never had an opinion he thought he maybe should keep to himself. Case in point: his detailed interview regarding where LeBron James should play basketball next season. Don't like that one? How about his opinion on replay in baseball? Or on a BCS playoff? Just don't expect him to say anything about D-Day on D-Day. After all, it takes time to meddle when not meddling.

Well, since my blog has been proven to be able to take down the high and mighty, taking out someone this low and impotent should be relatively easy. My blog can do this in its sleep.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Date Night at the Grocery Store

You know those blogs where you read all about the blogger's high-rolling lifestyle? This is one of those blogs. Hot on the heals of our last date night, this week we went to the grocery store together.

As soon as we got there, I had to take a leek.

Then I felt like scratching my nut sack.

Finally, I found the candles that were specifically for Baby Jesus.

Ricky Bobby would be proud.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

I'm Deeply Sorry (That I Have to Apologize)

What's the deal with famous people who want credit for apologizing without actually, well, apologizing? Helen Thomas said this week that Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine," and she didn't stop there. Next she said Jews should go "home" to Poland and Germany. Funny thing about the last time they were "home"--it wasn't so hospitable.

When she realized that her anti-Semitic comments betrayed her anti-Semitism, she pulled out a celebrity non-apology. It seems her comments "do not reflect [her] heartfelt belief." Then how did they make it from her brain to her mouth? Was she reading a cue card like Ron Burgundy? Or maybe she felt pressured into it because of the raucously anti-Jewish surrounding crowd (at the White House Jewish Heritage Celebration). Those are really the only two ways I can think of that a woman would say something that doesn't reflect her heartfelt belief.

Would Helen Thomas the reporter allow an interview subject to get away with such a half-assed apology? Sadly, the truth is "it depends." If it was someone who she thought was "right" on politics, probably. And that's why journalists have no credibility.

Besides, I thought she retired, like, ten years ago?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Lyric Interpretation

From "'Round Here" by Counting Crows:

She says it's only in my head

She says shhh I know it's only in my head

How much of this is she saying? Is she saying it's in the narrator's head, or it's in her own head?

And what does the "shhh" mean? Is it the narrator's response to what she's saying? Or is she prefacing her declaration that it's only in her own head by shooshing the narrator, sort of like when a representative starts a speech with, "Madam Speaker, the House is not in order"?

So many questions. Luckily I think Adam Duritz isn't up to much these days, so maybe he'll leave a comment and clear this matter up for me. But while we wait for that, feel free to leave a comment with your own interpretation. Maybe in a few days I'll remember to do so myself.


PS: I always thought the name of the band was The Counting Crows, like avian accountants. It turns out (according to Wikipedia) the band's name is Counting Crows, like what a bored person might do when faced with a murder of crows. (Knowledge of the correct name for a group of crows courtesy of years of smart-assedness.) This is the exact opposite of The Smashing Pumpkins, which is named for smartly-dressed gourds, not for a youthful Halloween prank.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Deadly Gas Pedals vs. Not-So-Deadly Gas Pedals

When Toyota's gas pedals stick, the Transportation Secretary would have you believe it's the result of a Japanese cabal to kill you and everyone you care about. When one of Secretary LaHood's cars has a sticky gas pedal, though, it's a minor issue that is taken care of on the sly.

I will end, ala J.Walter Weatherman, with, "And that's why you don't let your regulators become competitors."