Friday, December 30, 2005

I Got Wood - A Year In Review

With a catchy title like that, I'm not sure I wanna finish. I'll do my best though I'm not feeling very prolific at the moment. I sit here on my sofa, notebook on lap, and the wafting delights of a baking banana bread (courtesy of yours truly) along with a year full of memories struggling to be recalled by my feeble brain (which suffered innumberable loss of cells between the ages of 19 and 29).

Sprizee and Egan moved over to Typepad (I think that was this year). The transitions were smooth and they both continued to provided our community with interesting material to read, comment on, and discuss outside of the blogging world.

Ramblings of a Literary Mind and BMOC online (Jill and Brian) move forward with wedding plans which come to fruition on 2006. Jill is a great gal who is smart and makes a mean pumpkin pie. Brian is a tall accountant whose knowledge of baseball is immense and brings an interesting twist to the idea of the list.

Michael and Jennifer were married and though still separated by a country and an ocean, are two extraordinary people whose determination and passion will bring them together for good before long. Michael is one of the most brilliant writers and though schooled and raised in England, knows more about American politics and history than most people born and raised here in the USA. I for one will be proud to have him here in our part of the world and wish both Michael and Jennifer a lifetime of love and happiness.

Jessica changed the name of her blog and got accepted into college. Here's a young girl with spunk and style that you just can't help but like. A keen taste in music and a nut for theater - I'm looking forward to seeing here on the great white way one day but whatever she chooses to do, I am certain she will be successful.

Wishing for Fiction and Human Under Construction were added to the Blogs I frequent section this year as both have a unique style that always leaves me wanting more.

Joy recently retired and even more recently changed the look of her blog. Joy is an interesting woman whose blog chronicles a life journey that to me shows someone full of courage, passion, and a zest for life. I am so glad to have occasional exchanges with this delightful lady and look forward to her further adventures.

Corndoggerel recently declared himself on a hiatus. I hope it isn't for long because I only recently learned of his blog and he and I have so much in common that I want to get to know him better.

A Raid on the Inarticulate is another new find and one that I've been riveted to so much that I've gone back and read every post. This blog is definitely not one that will appeal to everyone but I highly recommend this blog anyway. Though largely about a spiritual journey, there is so much more here - a human journey that I find fascinating.

Are we there yet? A mostly political blog and always interesting.

Kate and Melissa continue to blog very infrequently but both are special people whose words just ooze with warm and fuzzy.

Melika went on hiatus this year but not before gracing us with her brutal honesty and Aussie charm and wit. I hope that whatever Melika is up to, she is happy and I hope to have her back in 2006.

That's the short of it on blogs. For me in 2006, a 30 year old dream came true, I got to visit Hawaii. I need not say more on the subject as there are 10,000 words plus pictures elsewhere on this blog that chronicle that journey.

Late in 2004, early in 2005 I was stricken with Vertigo which was attributed to a virus. Though it eventually went away, it was a scary time for me but also changed my life in ways that I can't even begin to explain.

My friend Janine went through brain surgery to resolve a seizure condition but the surgery was not successful and she is now gearing up for another brain surgery in a few weeks. Janine and her husband (my pal Rob) are the parents of 5 wonderful kids and have had their share of difficult times this past year. However, they are models of faith and devotion that deal with these times with grace and courage. I ask for your thoughts and prayers on their behalf as they continue on their journey.

In January, a google search for "vertigo emetophobic" led someone named Puck to my blog.

In February, my friend and (interim) priest of my church, Susan's daughter battled cancer - again. She won! Prayer does work. The Pats won the Super Bowl, The sweet logo found it's way to the top of my blog, Hunter S. Thompson took matter into his own hands (R.I.P.), and a nasty cholesterol reading was the kick in the ass I needed to get back on the exercise bandwagon.

March brought a new president to our college. Dr. Carole M. Berotte Joseph took the reigns as the 4th president of our college and brought with her a new hope for a future we all long for. Also in March, I very bravely posted an old photo my me and L.L. Cool J that brought some interesting dialogue. I fell in love with my iPod in March of 2005, went back home to Brooklyn for my friend's 40th birthday and spent some time with family, and Terry Schiavo's life came to an end by circumstances beyond her control.

April saw the death of comedian Mitch Hedberg, I taught a class on Saturdays - which absolutely sucked, I discovered the beauty of Clorox wipes, I finally went to The Sunnyside Cafe, I wrote alot about Gnomes and Michael and Jennifer got married.

In May, I did the Walk for Hunger, an amazing 20 mile walk to raise money and awareness for the hungry and an incredible spiritual journey which proved to me unusually challenging thanks to 8 miles of rain to start it off but that only made the challenge and it's completion more memorable. I had my 200th post in May, Egan inspired me to express my true feelings for those tacky ribbon car magnets, Kate made the quote of a lifetime - "While I am not a huge fan of Matt Damon, he played a clueless guy perfectly!", and I posted this (while laughing):
<Non-Sequitor of the Day, make that Lifetime
So I'm chatting it up with my pal Hatch when pretty much out of nowhere the following came from her mouth, "My nephew's balls are so much smaller now." [giant pause as I look in disbelief at the soundwaves my ears just picked up] "He had a hernia in his testicles and they were huge, disgustingly huge. [yet another pause of bewilderment as sympathy begins to roll on in to the mix] He had an operation and now he has normal balls for a four month old boy." [cringe, just plain cringe].


In June of this past year, I saw Mimi Rogers bare breasts in a movie (The Door in the Floor), I attended a funeral for a man my own age leading to moments of introspection, Janine had brain surgery, Michael Jackson got off (again), my favorite of my photoshop efforts with "Goth Baby" was posted, my brother got married which brought me back to NY again as best man - twas a fun weekend which I elaborated on here and even posted photos.

July's big revelation was going to Bugaboo Creek Steak House for the first time, I failed to recognize my own friend at a bar, I discovered through some unscientific blog quiz that I am 39% idiot, I fell in love with Sudoku, Victoria turned 7, I blew up tw0 bottles of wine (thanks to my 39% idiot factor, not intentional), and received a photograph of my car going through a red light the month before in NY ($50 down the drain).

In August I learned of one of my high school classmated passing, I went to Hawaii and wrote extensively about the trip for all of you here in Bloggerville, I posted a "Greatest Hits" post linking to some of my favorite posts, and Spammers began invading my blog through comments.

In September I saw a stick insect in my backyard while grilling, 9/11 - four years later and still bone-chilling, Hurricane Katrina changed our country, I learned about the creepy yet entertaining subservient chicken, and relived my childhood thanks to a colleague.

In October, my pool won Also, I fell in love with "Iced Passion Tea" (sweetened and shaken over ice of course), I saw the musical Hairspray, I saw Bruce Springsteen in a masterful solo acoustic performance, it rained for 10 days straight here in Boston/MetroWest, and I posted some jowlers, of me.

In November I revealed a Public Restroom Anxiety Story, a further glimpse into my neuroses, I had my 300th post, Goth Baby went mod, I did my first impression of Jack Mulhall - which entertained wildy the likes of dearest Stephanie and the ever so lovely Dr. Watson, I had an unusual tryptophan experience, again entertaining the likes of dearest Stephanie and the ever so lovely Dr. Watson, baked an exraordinary Pecan Pie, and revealed my TAFKAC symbol to the blogging community,

And here we are in December. I am grateful to all of you here in bloggerville, for my church community, and for my family and friends. I think and pray for those who were and are affected by all of the natural disasters of the last year, most notably the Tsunami in South Asia and Hurricane Katrina. Also, for our soldiers who continue to protect our freedoms while risking their lives.

May you all get everything you wish for in the coming year.

With Love,
Chris

Oh, I almost forgot, we put wood floors in our house. I got wood!

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Absent Minded Professor

My work out and shower left me quite awake at the top of this day (Monday 12/26) and it was 2am before I felt tired enough to fall asleep. This all had me worried because my alarm was set to ring (actually it doesn't ring, it plays the radio) at 5:45am!

Fast forward to 5:45am and the dutiful alarm does its duty and I spring out of bed and ready myself for back to work. At 6, Victoria's alarm sounds and I get some breakfast ready for her and then both of us get ready for the day ahead; Lucy is already at work amidst another torturous overnight shift (the woes of being a nurse).

So we scurry our way through the morning preparations and exit near 7am where since school is out this week for Vickie, we head to her day care facility where she will stay busy. With the facility just up the road, we are there in a few minutes and find no cars in the driveway and no lights on in the building and yet further inspection (the doors were locked) led us to believe the facility had not yet opened. Considering it was still the left side of seven, though barely, we hung around for about five minutes before panic began to set in (with me). I said to Vickie that it may turn into a take your daughter to work day - so we went back home to grab some keep busy gear (some books and DVD's) and then came back to see if day care had opened yet - it didn't. I called their number hoping to get an operator or recorded messages and then it hit me that there were signs posted all over inside the place that I've ignored over the last two weeks and that those signs must have indicated that they would be closed on this day.

I accepted my position as a victim of my own ignorance and carried on to work with daughter in tow. After a brief stop at Dunkin Donuts for my morning coffee, we made it to where I work only for me to realize that I didn't have to be at work either as we were closed for the federal Christmas holiday observation.

I remained a bit depressed at my absent mindedness but got over it quickly as the rest of the day just went on.

Christmas Day Productivity

Christmas Day was rather productive, as far as productivity and Christmas goes. The sounds of Victoria awakening in anticipation of the fruit of Santa's overnight visit was enough to get me out of bed grateful that it wasn't still pitch dark out.

I gave an eToys catalog to Vickie several weeks ago and asked her to circle all the toys she liked and then I would send Santa the catalog and leave the rest to him. Fortunately for Victoria, Santa was happy to have the heads up and served up seven of the requested items along with an old classic on dad's recommendation.

All three of us opened our presents and then Lucy, who just got home from an overnight shift (the woes of being a nurse), went for some sleep, Victoria became dedicated to parenting "Max", her Tomagotchi kid, and I prepared to go to church.

When I returned home I began readying myself to cook the Turkey that Lucy received at Thanksgiving from her job. After cleaning the bird carefully I prepared a delightful herb butter which I rubbed vigorously under the turkey's skin as well as the outside in hopes of a lovely brown color in addition to some wonderful flavor. P.S. - The turkey ended up delicious complemented by some candied yams with mini-marshmallows.

After dinner, Lucy had to ready herself for another night shift (the woes of being a nurse) so I got Victoria to taker her bath, floss and brush, and read before beddy-bye.

Once that was all behind me you would think I'd take advantage of some rest and relaxation - but no, not me. Having a lazy day in terms of physical activity and movement, I was in grave danger on leaving my 10,000 steps a day in the dust. So...it was down to the basement and onto the treadmill where I knocked off about 2 miles while listenting to Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company CD.

I then came up to the kitchen and realized that the lovely ceramic tile was in dire need of a cleansing - so out came the Hoover Floor Mate and clean the floor I did. I love this product!

With the floor clean, I returned to the basement and flipped on the TV while knocking out another 1.5 miles on the treadmill and working up a bit of a sweat thanks to speed and incline. I hit my 10,000th step just minutes before midnight and celebrated with a large red plastic cup of Gatorade followed by my previous post and then a shower.

So now you know.

Fighting for the King

The article below was in the Sunday Boston Globe. Yet one more oddity in this world of oddities.

Jab, right cross, checkmate: Chessboxing seeks an audience
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times December 25, 2005

BERLIN -- Martin ''Amok" Thomas is jabbing a right, but Frank ''so-cool-he-doesn't-need-a-nickname" Stoldt is as elusive as a ribbon in the wind. He can't be hit.
Time!

The gloves come off, and the men hurry across the canvas to the chessboard. (You heard it right.) Amok took a couple of body shots, and he's breathing hard, but he'd better focus. That Stoldt, though, everyone in the gym knows he's this warrior-thinker, slamming the speed clock, cunningly moving his queen amid unraveling bandages and dripping sweat, daring Amok to leave him a sliver of opportunity.
Time!
Velcro rips. Amok slides back into his Everlast gloves, bites down on his mouthpiece, dances around the ropes. His king's in trouble, and his punches couldn't knock lint off a jacket. Stoldt floats toward him like a cloud of big hurt.

Such is the bewildering beauty of chessboxing. That's one word, as in alternating rounds of four minutes of chess followed by two minutes of boxing. Victory is claimed in a number of ways, some of them tedious, but the most thrilling are by checkmate and knockout. The sport's godfather, Iepe ''the Joker" Rubingh, believes that chessboxing is destined for the Olympics.
''It has enormous potential," Rubingh says. ''Chess and boxing are very different worlds. Chessboxers move around in both. It's extremely demanding, but extremely rewarding. It's all about control over your physical and mental being. The adrenaline rush in boxing must be lowered to concentrate on chess strategy."

Some will snicker. The Joker knows this. But he is not deterred.
Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis is a devoted chess player. Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, another heavyweight champ who recently retired, has a keen intellect, and knows what to do when a queen sidles toward his king. That's the kind of brawn and brain a clever marketing guy like the Joker thinks he can turn into success, not the novelty kind of success, but genuine prime-time, Caesar's Palace spotlight success.
''I'd love to get them together," the Joker says of Lewis and Klitschko. ''What do you think they want -- $30 million?"
Without marquee names, however, there is a potential drawback. Will people buy a beer and a hot dog and watch bare-chested smart guys in colorful satin shorts play chess? They will, the Joker believes, if the match coincides with the possibility of a knockout or spilled blood.
The World Chess Boxing Organization, founded by the Joker, 31, and some business partners, held its first European tournament in Berlin in October. Five hundred fans attended as Bulgarian Tihomir ''Tigertad" Titschko became the new champion.
Titschko peers over a chessboard as thought he's trying to deconstruct the theory of relativity, and he hits like a big man who just found out his girlfriend is cheating. He defeated Andreas ''D" Schneider, a German actor in dark trunks who punched well but succumbed in the ninth round to Titschko's blistering chess attack, described as ''the Dragon variation of the Sicilian defense."
Chessboxers use words like ''aesthetics" and ''arduous." They ponder performance art, science, philosophy; they study grids, angles, and buried meanings in obscure books. The rules might be considered simple: Eleven rounds, six of chess and five of boxing. The first round is always chess. ''That's because," says the Joker, ''if you go down in boxing there is no chess." A one-minute pause between rounds allows opponents to slip on and off gloves and for the chessboard to be moved in and out in the ring. If all is equal on the chessboard and the boxing scorecard after the 11 rounds, according to the rules, ''the opponent with the black pieces wins."

Players are required to wear headphones during the chess part of the match. ''This is so no one in the audience can yell out, 'Hey, be careful of the knight on E-6,' " says the Joker.

The inspiration for chessboxing came to the Joker in 2003 after he glimpsed some dark realism in a comic by Enki Bilal. ''It's a futuristic story, and there's a guy watching TV," says the Joker, ''and on TV is a kind of chessboxing match."

''We're too focused on defining sport in one way," he says. ''Look at the old Olympics and the ancient Greeks. They had poets in the games, but in our society we want to divide things. I don't like borders. You try to tell a story through a game. Look at Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, or Bobby Fischer playing the Russians in chess."

Wouldn't it be the ultimate marketing coup to arrange a chessboxing match between Lewis and Klitschko? The Joker smiles at the possibility. Then, another thought: ''Look at Russia, Ukraine. They're chessboxing nations and they don't even know it yet."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holiday Season at Work=Food, Food, Food!

It seems every single department or division has to have their own version of a holiday party in which exhorbitant amounts of calories are consumed by the exact same group of people over and over.

I ate a gingerbread man today.

The spirit of the holiday is almost completely negated for me by the increased difficulty of doing simple things like going to the grocery store.

You can purchase a scumbuster this holiday...makes a great gift!

Have you been watching "Deal or No Deal!" this week? Never has there been such a dressed up display of greed in american popular culture - and I absolutely love to watch it.

Cable Television has finally provided an outlet for an entire 60 minutes dedicated to a competition among "gingerbread artists".

Yes, I still love Sudoku.

In the words of the one and only Telly Savalas as Kojak..."Who Loves You Baby?"

I Do!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Balls to the Wall

Ah the delights of witnessing your own stupidity through the eyes of hindsight. Here is the exact text of a follow-up email I sent to the VP/CIO of our college regarding a quote on some new computer equipment we are purchasing for student labs:

From: Daniele, Christopher
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 9:40 AM
To: Mr. CIO
Subject: Computer Quote/Dell

I forgot to mention one thing – I really feel strongly about losing ball mice in favor of optical. Aside from working better, the optical mice free us from the aggravation of stolen balls.

Chris


Good thing his sense of humor is as strong as my lack of initiative in proofreading. His reply completely avoids the stupidity and goes right to the point while highlighting something smart about my previous email. What a guy!:

Dear Chris – yes, they are optical. And thanks for your note about the network cards. Best - Mr. CIO

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Beer that Saved Thanksgiving

Thanks to Cordoggerel for pointing out this really entertaining story. Enjoy!

Deck the Halls With . . .Hey! That's not holly!
By Gene WeingartenSunday, December 18, 2005; W32

As a professional cynic, I am not the type of person who has warm holiday stories with which to regale people during the Christmas season. But this year, Providence intervened. Gather 'round, kiddies, and hear the true tale of the beer that saved Thanksgiving.
Every year, my wife and I give a Thanksgiving feast for family and friends. This year, two days before the event, we noticed that there was a small pool of water in our basement, beneath the furnace. We called our friend Mark the Contractor, whom we call every time something goes wrong in our house. This is because I was born into the Jewish culture, and for all our many fine qualities, Jewish men are not known for the ability to fix things (with the exception of Arnold Rothstein, who fixed the 1919 World Series).
When I told Mark that there seemed to be a leak from the furnace, he gave me a certain look we Jewish guys are pretty familiar with by now. Apparently, "a leak from the furnace" is about as likely as a blown fuse in the toilet. Who knew?
Mark patiently explained that what we had was the opposite of a leak. The water seemed to be bubbling up from beneath the house. When I asked him to guess the source of the water, he reached his hand into the puddle and extracted something delicate and diaphanous. It resembled an embroidered 17th-century French doily but turned out to be toilet paper, at which point Mark immediately went to wash his hands, both of the water and the problem. We needed a plumber, he said, and departed rather quickly, I thought.
Enter Steve the Plumber, who diagnosed the problem as a blockage in the main sewage line from our house. He tried to snake it out without success. He encountered mud. This was bad news, he said: The main line out of the house seemed to be broken.
Okay, I said, cheerfully. Fix it!
Steve, who, like Mark, is not Jewish, found this hilarious. He said that, in all probability, our front yard would need to be dug up by a backhoe in a procedure that could take many days and cost many thousands of dollars. In the meantime, he explained, we could not run any water or flush any toilets.
"B-but I have to cook for 15 people!" my wife said.
"W-we can't poop?" I said.
"If I can't shower I am definitely going to lose my job," my wife said.
"W-we can't poop?" I said.
(It is a measure of the gravity of the moment that the "thousands of dollars" part hadn't even registered.)
At this point, my wife and I sort of collapsed against each other, slack-jawed. Steve's eyes filled with pity and empathy. Here we were, three ordinary people at the bottom of a stairwell in the heart of a city in the capital of a great nation, on a pebble adrift in the cosmos, staring Hell in the face, as a somewhat unpleasant aroma began to permeate the house. In a moment like that, you either lose your humanity, or you find it.
"Steve," I said resignedly, "would you like a beer?"
This seemed to surprise and delight him. He said, sure. As we sat there wordlessly, drained and defeated, our Thanksgiving in shambles, our plumbing -- both mechanical and personal -- in peril, Steve took a long, deep slug. Then he bolted upright.
"I refuse to give up!" he bellowed. There was a chance -- a slim chance, he said -- that pure, brute force and a Biblical-size deluge could blast open a new route to the city sewer line. It was crazy, but it might work.
Steve strode down the basement stairs to the foul hole in the ground and commanded me to turn on both spigots in the sink, run the shower and activate the toilet, again and again, flushing like the wind! Over the hole he stood like a human colossus, and, with an ordinary plumber's helper, began to plunge that drain for all he was worth. I flushed and Steve pumped, his body a machine, a piston, a modern-day John Henry, a stool-drivin' man. Soon, there came a huge sucking sound, like a rhino dropped from a helicopter, swallowed by a swamp.
And this house was clean.
"This is the greatest moment of my life!" I yelled. Then I added, because my wife was still in the vicinity, ". . . except of course for the birth of my children."
And so it was, kiddies, that Thanksgiving was saved. As always, we had a great meal followed by football in the park, a yearly event where increasingly creaky middle-aged men try to prove they are still in their studly prime. The winning touchdown was scored by Isabella Achenbach, who is 12 and weighs in at 72 pounds.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com.
Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Here I Are

I've been quite wrapped up in end of semester business which has kept me away from here for far longer than I've wanted.

Some of the items of potential interest that have taken place follow:

  1. The president of the college threw a holiday party. Considering that I had to teach that evening and there was free food at the party, I called Lucy, asked her to pick up Victoria from after care, and crash the party so nobody needs to deal with dinner. So my family is mingled in with a bunch of colleagues and we're all eating, talking, and having a good time when the president decided to briefly address the crowd. To capture our attention, she uttered a few excuse me's while making the peace sign with her hands. Just at the point where the room quieted down, my 7 year old with her precision timing shouted at the president, "hey, we made that sign in my school to be quiet." The crowd roared with laughter...
  2. I had previously offered an extra credit assignment that I knew the students wouldn't like much but there would be a strong payoff, up to 100 points. The assignment was to write a term paper. The class is a Computers & Technology class which covers alot of Microsoft Office and students just don't expect to write a paper - so I threw them a bit of a curve here and made one thing clear - plagiarism is absolutely unacceptable and though this is an extra credit assignment, any plagiarism will result in a final grade of NC (no credit) requiring that the class be repeated. Sadly, but sure enough, I'm reading one paper and the first paragrpah is clearly writtten by the student. Then I read sentence one of paragraph two which is coherent, passable English - my first clue. So I go to the advanced screen on Google and type in the fist sentence and found that my ignorant student's paper was an exact duplicate, including references, of a paper on the web. What an ass!
  3. Last Tueday evening I go into my classroom to give my final and in big red dry erase ink on the board it says, "D A N I E L E R U L E S". How nice it is to be appreciated!
That's it for now!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cold Ride

I get to work this morning and as I approach the entryway, I notice that someone has their bicycle parked outside. Somebody actually rode their bike to work or school. Oh wait, you all may think this is no big deal but it just so happens that the temperature out here this morning is a balmy 7 degrees farenheight. That's seven, 7, siete, setje, between six and eight, single digits, 25 degrees below the point where water (and humans) freeze!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Which Disney Character is my Alter Ego?



You scored as The Beast. Your alter ego is The Beast! But that is only a name... you are kind hearted and sweet, people just misunderstand you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Casey on the Mound

I am standing at the circulation desk chatting with librarian extraordinaire Nancy when her attention is diverted by something going on behind me. Of course being the curious one I turned around to find a young man in mid-windup about to throw the pitch of his life.

I continued to watch for some time amazed at the delivery, which looked as if a right-handed pitcher had a gun pointed at him and a threat to pitch lefty or suffer the grim consequences. It looked like an uncomfortable contortion but Casey, the young man, seemed more pleased with each of his imaginary pitches (nothing like a full windup to maximize velocity).

A previous encounter with Casey (whose name I was unaware of at the time) left me aware of his odd behavioral issues but there was something extra special (and funny as hell) about his bounteous joy derived from a self-perceived perfect pitch. After observing an inning or so of action, I called Casey over and told him that I was impressed with his pitching form and desire to practice but that it might be distracting to the other student in the library who are trying to study. I suggested that if he wanted to continue to practice, which I did my best to encourage (no sense in breaking the kids spirit), that he should head down to the gym.

Without missing a beat, he grabbed his essentials which included his lime-green fanny pack, an invisible mitt, and a never ending supply of “invisi-balls” while he made his way downstairs with new hopes and dreams of the perfect pitch just beaming from his usually confused facial expressions.

I returned to my desk to resume the rigors of my current workload and laughed for some time at the whole thing. About half an hour or so later, Casey comes sprinting back into the library visibly winded from his complete game shutout and retreated to a nearby table where he spent the rest of his time staring intently at his backpack.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

MSN Hard Up for Cash?

I'm just sitting here at my desk minding my own business. Doing a bit of research and came across a news story on MSN I wanted to read and first up at the top of the screen was the following ad:



Is it really necessary? All-righty then...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Last Five

The last 5 CD's I've Listened to:
1. Brad Paisley-Time Well Wasted
2. Elvis Costello-The Kojak Variety
3. Emmylou Harris-Stumble Into Grace
4. Phil Collins-Testify
5. Phil Vassar-Shaken Not Stirred

The Last Five Movies I've Watched:
1. Miss Congeniality 2
2. Are We There Yet?
3. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
4. National Treasure
5. Spanglish

Last 5 Books I've Read:
1. Two For the Dough - Janet Evanovich
2. 4th of July - James Patterson
3. One For the Money - Janet Evanovich
4. Joel - Joe Sonnenberg
5. The Invitiation - Oriah Mountian Dreamer

Last 5 (non-blog) Web Sites I Visited:
1. www.diomass.org
2. www.basementtechnologies.com
3. www.walmart.com
4. www.splenda.com
5. www.fox25.com

Enough wasting time, I need to read the Sunday paper. Good Night!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Toys You Just Gotta Have...NOT!

So I am surfing the net and I run across this bizarre toy. I am not a big fan of toy guns of any kind including cap guns, water guns, or just plastic shaped like a gun. I am a supporter of the right to bear arms but I don't think we should be shoving the stuff in our kids faces and hands - it's just not alright with me.

So I come across this gem and wonder what could be going through the head of the design team.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

TAFKAC

How can anyone ever forget when the great musician Prince Rogers Nelson, commonly referred to a Prince rebelliously changed his name to an unpronouncable symbol and was from that point referred to a TAFKAP, or The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

About a year or so ago, things were hectic here in academic computing land as a result of some system "upgrades" that made the logon process for our students a bit tricky. As the main support guy, I got lots of calls and people coming up to my desk. There was so much activity, I began to grow tired of hearing my own name and decided that I too would change my name to a symbol and see how that worked out.

Well, like Prince, I am back to being called by my given name but I thought you all might enjoy a peek at self designed symbol I was once know by.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Attack of the Earworms!

I don't recall who sent this article to me but I came across it today and really got a kick out of it. I like to call my friend Hatch and plant an earworm then hang up - lots of fun!

Attack of the earworms: No, we’re not talking about the latest Halloween movie: In this case, “earworms” are songs that get stuck in your head so firmly that you yearn to get them out. We recently ran a report about the study of sticky songs, conducted by University of Cincinnati marketing professor James Kellaris — and hundreds of readers responded with lists of their own most pernicious earworms, as well as their tried and true methods for removing them (such as drowning them out with the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song).
Several pointed out that the term “earworm” goes back to the German term “Ohrwurm,” with the same meaning. A goodly number of people said they welcomed having the music in their heads, and a similar number said they were plagued by earworms and felt relieved to hear that there were other sufferers. Here’s a sampling of the feedback:
Brian Stolte, Richmond Hill, Ontario: “I was in Home Depot on Saturday looking for screws, bolts, etc., and that annoying song, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ (you know ... ‘I love you, baby, and if it’s quite alright, I need you, baby, to warm a lonely night. I love you, baby’ ... etc.) was on the store PA system. Well, long after that cheesy song was over I found myself humming, singing and whistling it. Another shopper — very embarrassing — caught me. I then went to another aisle and I was looking for some other items and another guy next to me was humming, singing and whistling it. He realized I caught him and he quickly scurried away in embarrassment.
“Needless to say, that song was playing in my head all day and night Saturday, all day and night Sunday, and all day yesterday when I was at work in downtown Toronto. I couldn’t get rid of it. No matter how hard I tried. I tried Zeppelin, Petty, Floyd, Genesis, Sabbath ... nothing worked. I had let some colleagues in on my story because they were wondering why I was singing it, and I wanted to know if they knew who played it. One of them knew immediately it was Frankie Vallie.
“With that new knowledge and the Maple Leafs blowing a 2-0 lead to Atlanta, at some point last night the song left my head ... until today, when another colleague mentioned Home Depot!!!
K.C.: “I lived a personal hell for an entire summer years ago because of one song, and occasionally do still lapse into this most dreaded of earworms. Same song — 30 years later. It falls into the category of the Top 40 number you wouldn’t be caught dead listening to at home. And the song is ... (I’m almost afraid to type the words) ... ‘Kung Fu Fighting.’
“I’ve never actually known who sings it, nor do I care to know for fear of having to hunt that singer down at some future point.
“One other springs to mind but to a lesser degree — the always irritating ‘It’s My Party’ by Lesley Gore.
“Thanks for the chance to vent these demons. I only hope it doesn’t backfire and they will come back to haunt me once again. I’m putting a garland of garlic around my stereo tonight just to be safe.”
Pam: “I have been tormented by intermittent and varying songs stuck in my head for a couple of years now. It bothers me when I have to study for exams, and it is horrible because it is impossible to avoid music since it is played in every coffee shop, department store, restaurant, gym, even in friends’ cars.
“If I try to ‘hide out,’ I end up hearing hold music when I make phone calls. I have been on various types of medication for obsessive compulsive disorder, but none of them help for this problem. If you find a ‘cure’ for earworms, please let me know!”
Tricia: “When I was in the sixth grade, I had an earworm stick with me for nearly two days. When I told my art teacher about it, she said that you could be rid of it singing a different song. She said that if you hum the theme song from ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ out loud, while you focus on something, like looking at a picture or reading a sentence, the song will vanish. You’ll distract yourself long enough to not think of the song, but something else. It really works. To this day I use that point of advice she told me. Even my friends do, too.”
F.P.: “Got an earworm? Here’s how I get rid of them. When that annoying song is running through your head, take a deep breath, relax, and picture the song playing on a turntable, in a cassette deck, CD player, on the radio or television, whatever — then picture yourself with a sledgehammer, smashing the offending device and its song to smithereens! It’s the ultimate satisfaction!”
Catherine: “The only time I get an earworm is during a major exam. The only way to get rid of it is to listen to the worm for a bit, and then switch back to concentrating on the questions.”
Brendan, Toronto: “The absolute best way to end an earworm is to end the song in your mind. It doesn’t have to be a big KISS-type finish complete with ‘flashpots,’ although these are the most fun. Just simply ending it at a logical place will do. ...”
Nancy (Hakima) Biddle: “My remedy I learned from my dad, is to sing ‘God Save the Queen.’ It works, trust me.”
Susie: “Finally I have arrived at a solution for mine. The tune changes from time to time, and whatever it is, I give it a big production. In my mind I picture a sound stage with full orchestra, and then, like in the old musical movies, I allow it to play with full emphasis. Finally, as it comes to the end, there is a complete ending with the last strains fading away, and the song does the same thing ... gone, at last! “Until the next time, that is...”
Bob K.: “I usually find that if a song is stuck in my head, looking up the unknown lyrics and singing them when I’m home alone helps a lot. ‘Yellow Submarine’ has been stuck in my head for years, unfortunately, so I’m going to look up the lyrics right now and see if that helps.”
Alan Boyle replies: If you want to try this solution, there are many places on the Net where you can look up lyrics — I hesitate to name just one, but any search engine should bring up a selection.
Several song titles that weren’t mentioned in the original article or in the feedback above came up repeatedly. The squeamish should avoid reading the next paragraph.
Multiple votes for most pernicious earworm were cast for: “This Is the Song That Never Ends” ... “Sponge Bob Square Pants” theme ... “Copa Cabana,” by Barry Manilow ... “My Sharona” ... “Meow Mix” jingle ... “The Hamster Dance” ... “I Dream of Jeannie” theme song ... “Hey Jude,” by the Beatles ... “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” ... “Pina Colada” ... “American Pie” ... “Tom’s Diner,” by Suzanne Vega ... “I Drove All Night,” by Celine Dion ... “Without Me,” by Eminem ... and no doubt others that I just couldn’t bear to look at.
Update: I just couldn’t resist adding this follow-up observation from C. Towne of Las Vegas: “The great author Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story called ‘The Ultimate Melody,’ which I recommend to anyone suffering from earworms. Believe it or not, it could be worse. By the way, no one mentioned my (least) favorite: The obnoxious little song from the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride at Disneyland.”
Actually, “It’s a Small World After All” was included among the top 10 earworms in the Live Vote on the original story, so I didn’t think I needed to bring it up again. You can still register your vote for the song — or other notorious earworms from the University of Cincinnati study.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005 - The Photos, The Pie Recipe

This pie to the left is the "Bourbon and Chocolate Pecan Pie" that I made (completely from scratch) for Thanksgiving. It was my first attempt at a pie completely from scratch and I am proud to say it was quite successful. I got the recipe off the food network web site and offer it here to all of you with a strong recommendation. When gathering ingredients at the grocery store, though determined to make the pie crust from scratch (which was successful), I did think ahead to the possibility of error and bought some prepared crusts. The truth is that some of the premade products out there, such as pie crusts and pastry dough, are quite good and are a good time saver.

I posted all the photos taken by my camera over at my flickr site which can be viewed by clicking here.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving 2005

It's been a hectic week but today is about giving thanks. So, thank you - to all of you here in Bloggerville who read my blog, write blogs that I read, read, write, and heck - how 'bout some 'rithmetic as well!

Here in MA we are having our first snowfall accumulation but I am fortunate to not have to prepare a meal today thanks to Linda of the Jeffrey's. This will be our third Thanksgiving with the Jeffrey family who so graciously open their family gathering to us - they are one fine, fun bunch.

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday.
Chris

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Getting in Touch with My Feminine Side

BRIAN MOLKO!
You are Brian Molko, the lead singer of Placebo.
You're the most androgynous of the bunch, so
much so that some are STILL not convinced
you're actually a boy. Even your *voice* could
concievably be a woman's. i mean, just look at
Cher. You're girlier than HER, anyway.
Interesting Fact: You're so sexy it hurts.


Which Androgynous Rocker are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

In My Previous Life...

Human Under Construction listed these 4 sites where you can find out what you were in your past life. Since I simply can't recall those years, I decided to give all 4 of them a go; here are the results:

I. The first site...

Your past life diagnosis:
________________________________________
I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation. You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Germany around the year 1025. Your profession was that of a teacher, mathematician or geologist.
________________________________________
Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Inquisitive, inventive, you liked to get to the very bottom of things and to rummage in books. Talent for drama, natural born actor.
________________________________________
The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
The world is full of ill and lonely people. You should help those, who are less fortunate than you are.
________________________________________
Do you remember now?

II. The second site...

Same exact setup/response as the first one (see above).

III. Quizilla had two such quizzes, here are the results:

(The first quizilla quiz)
Human... Normal and the adverage person. You had a different life and had that second chance you may just have wished for. Make it worth it!

What were you in your last life?

IV.
(The second quizilla quiz)

You were a Bohemian artist/poet in your past life! You may still be one now, but I'm talking about
the late 1800s type. You did a lot of dreaming, a lot of drinking, and maybe even a little creating now and then. You believed above all in the right to do your own thing, which, in your case, was usually drinking yourself into a stupor and waking up the next morning in a tiny bed crammed with six or seven other people of both sexes. If you were lucky, you even got a hermaphodite. Unfortunately, it was the hermaphrodite who killed you, when s/he accidentally shoved you off the bed and you suffered a fatal head wound.

What were you in your last past life?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Love Divine

I wrote this poem on 10/15/2004 and am not sure why it took until now for me to share it with the masses. In fact, only two or three people other than myself have seen it until now. Those of you who have read this blog since the beginning know that I have a love and fascination for the Haiku form of poetry. I recall sitting at my desk at work during some down time and just fiddling with some words and counting syllables when the idea for a long form poem of several stanzas where each stanza is written in the Haiku syllabic (5-7-5) form. Here is what I ended up with:


Love Divine

I thought I knew Love
But I'm certain I was wrong
My heart's been broken

I weep in silence
Pain and anger overwhelm
Lost for the moment

I search for answers
I need reasons to believe
Please Lord, answer me

Through prayer I seek hope
Through hope I seek renewal
Through renewal, Love

Real Love, inspired love
and I shall be completed
my heart filled with love

Friday, November 18, 2005

CREEPsville

I’m at my desk and a colleague comes by to discuss baseball and the general state of the free agent season. Both being Yankees fans, we began discussing them and the re-signing of Hideki Matsui. All of a sudden, a student (who from past experiences I know is both a Yankee fan and a bit odd) zips over to us and makes himself a part of our conversation. Normally I wouldn’t oppose to this all that much but it did seem to indicate that either we were too loud or he was carefully tuning in to our conversation once the Yankee antenna (baseball cap) that my colleague was wearing came into his view. What made this particularly uncomfortable was the oozing creepiness of the student. There are a number of on campus stories that document his oddities and though I know he is a “special needs’ case, to which I am sensitive both as an educator and a human, but folks, this kid is CREEPsville with a capital C R E E P.

So, I acknowledge the kid’s presence and welcome him (reluctantly) to the conversation (against my better judgment) but he just starts pulling things out of a hat – both figuratively and literally (he kept reaching inside his fedora). My colleague rolled his eyes and bailed leaving me to fend for myself in a conversation that was rapidly degenerating into reason to run #268. I politely attempted to excuse myself and then walked away from my desk with a random sheet of paper in my hand with the intent of looking like it and I had a purpose for leaving. Off I go and about 10 minutes later return only to find kid creep still sitting next to my desk apparently having kept the conversation going with my chair and my return found him ready to resume chatting with me.

At this point I masked my fear with a sense of busy frustration and told the guy that I really needed to get back to work. The kid finally walked away in his usual dazed trance-like trot as I began to sort through email while contemplating what I might have for lunch.

About an hour if incident free procrastination led to my usual lunch time walk to Whole Foods Market. As I get about 100 yards or so away from the campus, I heard the sound of footsteps running feverishly in my general direction. I turn to look and it was psycho student running top speed with his back pack pouncing up and down, his umbrella flailing about, and his left hand firmly planted on top of his fedora to keep the wind from blowing it away. I took a side step before cautiously proceeding while nut case miraculously came to a full stop and regained his composure in an instant positioning himself to walk beside me and without missing a beat picked up the baseball conversation where we left in more than an hour before. Being the polite, yet terrified gentleman, I resume the conversation while trying to devise an escape strategy (seems like escape strategies are becoming a recurring theme for me) from the nut next to me.

I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out my cell phone, flipped it open, and proceed to have a conversation with nobody. The strategy seemed to be working because after a minute or two the my stalker strayed onto a parallel path a short distance away reluctantly allowing me privacy for my call (while keeping me close enough to stalk) and apparently he had no problem continuing the conversation with the handle of his umbrella – or so it seemed. I continued my fictitious phone call as I/we approached the first of only two streets to turn off before the current road comes to an end. I noticed the nut turned up off the first street happily agreeing with his umbrella handle about whatever they were discussing. I continued speaking to nobody on my phone for half the way up to the next street before putting the phone away and crossing my fingers that kid cooky was not going to slip out from some shortcut and continue his reign of terror. Happily, I made it all the way to my destination where I enjoyed some yummy Indian food (including the best Samosas I’ve ever had). My walk back to campus was brisk and free of the insanity I had already survived.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I Got Ga$

The Hess Gift Card pictured at the right is the fruit of my labor in researching the answers to a bunch of nonsensical word origin trivia that was on my wife's company newsletter. It was nice to receive $10 worth of gas for doing something that was at least modestly entertaining (as well as somewhat geeky). Hey, I do geeky things all the time for nothing so at least this time I was rewarded.
Anyway, I stop at the Hess station because I needed gas. Actually it was my car that needed the gas, at the time, I had plenty of my own which I can only assume was the result of some spicy Thai food I had for lunch but hey, that's for another post (or not).
I first stop at the pump and insert the card and was told by the little display that I needed to bring the card inside to an attendant. So, I walk on over to the attendant and hand him my card and say "I'd like to use it on pump number 3". The attendant then takes my card and with uncertain authority swipes it through a computer terminal after which he offers a befuddled gaze and yelps "25?" I'm thinking and recall the newsletter saying that the prize was a $10 gift card but perhaps I got the grand prize for getting all of them correct or being first, or some other justification that may allow me to accept 25 dollars worth of Hess product. So after I say, "OK", the young and evidently clueless attendant swiped the card on yet another electronic device and pushed a sequence of numbers before calling for help from the other attendant.
So while all of this is going on, the "other attendant" was trying to help another gentleman who was attempting to pay for gas that he had already pumped but much to the chagrin of the confused attendant who was attending to him, there appeared to be no evidence of gas being pumped on the pump (#2) that he pumped from. The two attendants consult each other which is quite remarkable to witness as the level of unintelligible utterances was only believable because I was there to witness it. Anyway, the attendant who was helping me gave me back my card and said that I should go to pump my gas.
After obediently filling my tank, which came to $22. and some change, I returned to find that the other guy who was trying to pay for his gas was gone, and both attendants were waiting for me with a hearty apology for all the confusion, and $2. and some change to cover the difference from the aforementioned "$25." I graciously accepted the cash and was on my way. Once back in the comfort of my own car with the sounds of Dishwalla blasting through my crappy speakers, I was starting to regain my ability to think and ration with intellect and began to put the pieces together as to what just happened at the Hess station.
The way I figured it, the guy who was trying to pay for his gas probably pumped $25 worth of gas from pump #2. I arrive before him to the attendant and when my gift card was first swiped, the "25" yelped by my attendant was likely the reading from the pump of the other guy - the beginnings of all the crazy confusion - the rest is history. The only thing question that remained was whether or not my gift card, which as you may recall was returned to me, had been charged at all. I was pretty confident that those attendants simply handed me back my card and never charged it. Of course, either way I was ahead because between the gas I pumped and the change received, I had gotten $25 worth of Hess product for my $10 card. Curiosity got the better of me today as a result of my telling this story to the doctor of all Watson's downstairs. So I dialed the toll-free number on the back of the card and sure enough, there is still $10 of value on the card. Enough said.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Telephone Call

I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when my phone began to ring. Considering that there is usually a phone on the desk that I am sitting at and occasionally it rings, I thought nothing of answering it (in my usual pleasant voice). Here is the conversation that proceeded to piss me off for a brief time:

Me: “Good afternoon, this is Chris speaking. How may I help you?”
Bitch: “Do any of your computers have FireFox on them?”
Me: “No, we use Internet Explorer exclusively.”
Bitch: “Really? Why?”
Me: “We are a Microsoft shop.”
Bitch: “Internet Explorer has problems sometimes.”
Me: “As do most software products. It’s been quite stable in our environment. In fact, we’ve had quite a few complaints from users of FireFox and Opera when accessing our online services.”
Bitch: “Well, do you like FireFox?”
Me: “May I ask, with whom am I speaking?”
Bitch: “Oh! What’s the difference? I am just asking…
Me: (cutting her off, raising my voice, and losing all pleasantries) “Excuse me! You call here, ask question after question, refuse to identify yourself, and on top of that you cop a nasty attitude? Have a nice day!”

Then, I hung up on that bitch and proceeded to have a terrific rest of the day.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Can You say BadAss?

Ever the sucker for blog thingies, I saw this one on Michael's site and had to try for myself:

You're Jack Burton.
The Pork Chop Express.


Which B-Movie Badass Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, November 11, 2005

Chilly and Silly

The temperature today finally speaks to the time of year which amazingly leaves only 13 days until Thanksgiving. I had an early preview of the effects of Turkey as the cafeteria had a "Turkey Dinner" as the special for lunch yesterday. Dr. Watson, with whom I shared the lunch time ritual of eating with on that particular day decided on a Turkey Sandwich. Actually, Dr. Watson felt only like half a Turkey Sandwich was sufficient so the other half was gently, and kindly placed on my Styrofoam tray just beside my large container of Vegetable Bisque; which was quite delightful with its hints of curry and creamy yet rustic textures.

Anyway, before I took bite #1 of the tender and tasty turkey treat, I was bouncing off the walls with sharp comedic wit and the vigor of a young pup. However, after the half turkey sandwich was completely consumed, the tryptophan quickly entranced me into a lethargic state leaving me open to ridicule by both Dr. Watson and her dutiful sidekick Stephanie. Fortunately, the arrival of a colorful colleague, the one and only Jack Mulhall, was my saving grace.

The normally bowtied and blazered Mulhall was casually dressed in jeans and running shoes and talking faster that a speeding bullet, which in my turkey haze was almost dizzying, about odd topics such as the joys of a computer program called "Respondus" and a miracle of modern technology known as the "smart board." Upon his exit, I bailed for the crisp cool fall air and took a brisk walk hoping to emerge from my tryptophan coma.

My return to the campus eventually had me back visiting the office of Community & Corporate Education where Dr. Watson and Steph were more than ready to dish out another round of mockery about the effects of turkey on my existence but I jumped right into an impression of Jack Mulhall which left the room in a state of hysterical laughter. It was then that I knew I could move on with the rest of my day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Blog Thingie with a Twist

I was perusing blogs and saw an unusual form of the good old fashioned blog thingie where you respond to a set of questions. This was referred to as a "Visual Meme" where you type a question/statement into the google image search engine and post your favorite of the pictures from the first page google feedback.

Here are mine:

1. Your Home Town (City and State)

2. Where You Live Now (City and State)

3. Your Name

4. Your Grandmother's Name (I used my Paternal Grandma)

5. Favorite Food (Pizza)

6. Favorite Drink (Beer)

7. Favorite Smell (Wood Burning on a Cold Day)

8. Favorite Song ("What do all the People Know?")

Monday, November 07, 2005

300th Post - Goth Baby Goes Mod!

For my 300th post I thought I'd bring back a beloved character, Goth Baby. In this incarnation, our young child revisits the "MOD" era of the 1970's and sports quite an afro.

Thank you to everyone whose ever read any of the 300 posts, I hope you keep coming back for more.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

An Example of 2 People with Greater Problems than I

I heard about this on Howard Stern on Friday. Very sick indeed!

Lover really stuck it to him - twice
By JOSE MARTINEZ, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, November 4th, 2005

A Pennsylvania man yesterday testified that an ex-lover really stuck it to him - using Super glue to attach his penis to his belly and then sealing his rear end shut.
Before a Westmoreland County jury, Kenneth Slaby detailed the shock of waking up with a misplaced member and a burning sensation in his nether regions.

"I woke up in extreme pain," he said. "My whole groin area was on fire."

The 58-year-old grandpa pressed charges against ex-flame Gail O'Toole after she manhandled his manhood during their May 2000 encounter.

O'Toole pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and has already served six months' probation.

Now Slaby is looking to score $30,000 in a civil suit that accuses O'Toole, 56, of "outrageous and inhumane" acts after a night of dancing.

An attorney for O'Toole said Slaby consented to having his genitals glued and that he suffered no permanent damage.

"This is a case that should have been left in the bedroom," said attorney Chuck Evans.

But Slaby contends O'Toole was dishing out some painful payback for their earlier breakup. The couple dated for 10 months in 1999.

He said O'Toole waited until he was asleep to put her Super glue scheme to work. He said she smeared gobs of the sticky substance onto his penis and backside, and applied nail polish to his hair.

Slaby said he woke up to a horrifying discovery - and a screeching woman.

"'I'm tired of your lies,'" Slaby said O'Toole screamed at him. "The veins were popping out of her neck."

Stuck without a ride home, Slaby said he walked a mile to a convenience store to call 911. He then had to wait four hours at a local hospital before medical personnel could put his penis back in its proper position.

But at least Slaby got off a lot easier than John Bobbitt, whose penis famously was hacked off by his wife in 1993 as he dozed.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Public Restroom Anxiety Story

So, this past Tuesday (11/1/05) I went to the restroom at work. On the Wellesley campus, I like to use the one on the third floor just outside of the IT department because it is a one person private restroom that tends to be a bit cleaner that those in heavier populated areas of the campus. Plus, the privacy factor goes a long way toward not having to deal with some of the various public restroom anxieties (just many of many anxieties I struggle with) that torture my mind regularly.

I had a pretty short to-do list upon entering the rest room but the shake up began instantly when I noticed that my sense of smell was receiving urgent information about the last usage of this same restroom, and let me tell you – it had nothing positive to say.

My anxieties kick in pretty good at this point because now I fear that if somebody is outside waiting or sees me leaving this restroom before they enter, I am going to have to take the blame for the odorous reminder/remainder of the John Doe who went before me. How brutally unfair, especially since my brief stay was scheduled to be a stand up affair.

All of this worry and anxiety about false accusation brought on yet another anxiety making it all the more difficult to take care of the business at hand, which of course was my number one priority.

I scoped out the place and saw no opportunities to quickly recirculate the air as there were no windows, ventilation, or air freshening devices or products. I did frighteningly notice and oddly crispy off-white paper towel dangerously balanced on the edge of the garbage pail seemingly contemplating whether it should fall out onto the ground or into the waste receptacle with the rest of the white trash.

I realized that I needed to get on with my business because any more time in here could potentially justify to anyone who may be waiting that I may have been guilty of creating the big stink. I simply had to hope for the best, not the easiest of tasks. In the position that I was in, a slight movement could trigger an automated flush and blow my meager escape plan. After closing up shop, I carefully reached over to the automated sink until water was flowing so that the sound of the flush would be drowned out by the sound of the running water. I washed and dried my hands, blew my nose, and made several gestures to myself in the mirror before initiating my exit.

I carefully reached for the handle and before turning it to unlock the door; I placed my ear to the door to see if there was any indication of human presence on the other side. I then slowly turned the handle while keeping my thumb in front of the pop-up lock to dampen the sound. I continued to slowly turn the handle and carefully open the door while peeking out at the visible portion of the hallway and hoping for a clean getaway. Once the door was open enough to exit, I peek around the blind spot, then down the hall and when I saw that the coast was clear, I ran to the stairwell and escaped to the fourth floor where I resumed my work day and left my moment with insanity on the floor below.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

10 Financial Urban Legends

I am a big fan of urban legends and folklore and all that stuff. I read the article below on MSN and found it iinteresting and thought I would share it with all of you...enjoy!

Writing checks in red ink won’t prolong the float, and yes, you really do have to pay income tax. Here's a look at these and other lingering myths…
By Bankrate.com

Every now and then you read about a retiree snookered in a Nigerian bank scam, or some nitwit marched off to jail while still insisting the income tax is illegal, and you just shake your head and wonder who could believe that guff. Unfortunately, a lot of people.

Just ask Barbara Mikkelson, co-founder and researcher at Snopes.com, a Web site dedicated to the destruction of urban myths. Mikkelson spends a lot of time getting to the bottom of financial tall tales that she encounters.

So does Catherine Williams, vice president of financial literacy at the nonprofit credit counseling agency, Money Management International. Williams has a slew of oddball beliefs folks have shared with her during the company's educational seminars.

"We get into situations where we can't pay our bills, and we become like 3-year-olds: the 'dog ate my homework' routine," she says of Americans' willingness to latch onto urban legends. "We want to believe there is some excuse, and something will bail us out of still owing the money."

Legends and tall tales
It doesn't help that rooted in many myths is the tiniest grain of reality, she adds. The trick is extracting that truth. Check out this collection of legends:

Myth No. 1: You can float a check longer if you write in red ink. The theory is that a bank's equipment can't scan red ink, so it takes longer to process the check. Poppycock, says Williams. The color of the ink makes no difference. "However, gel ink doesn't image well, which makes it difficult to verify the signature and the check," says Tracey Mills, of the American Bankers Association. "As a result, the paying bank cannot authorize the transaction, and chances are the check will be returned to the creditor or merchant." Then, instead of getting some extra time on the float, you are socked with a returned-check fee.

Myth No. 2: You don't have to pay income tax -- it's illegal. Only foreign income is subject to Uncle Sam's cut, the story runs, and there's a form you can file to exempt yourself. But no one will tell you about it. The truth is, there is no form. You'll get arrested if you don't pay your taxes. "I have this flat spot on my forehead because I'm constantly striking it with the palm of my hand," Williams says. "Somebody has way too much time on his hands, usually because he's either done something illegal or he hasn't followed the rules of the game. So he looks for something that might get him off the hook for a period of time." Sorry, Charlie: You must fill out your IRS forms before April 15.

Myth No. 3: I'm under 18, so I can't be held accountable for a debt. (Variation: Credit-card debts are wiped out when you turn 19.) Spring-breakers love to use this one to justify running up a cruise or resort-hotel bill on their credit cards. This one is only partly myth, because it is true that people younger than 18 cannot sign a legally binding contract. So they can't take out a loan or sign a credit-card agreement. "You are legally an infant until you are age 18," Williams says. However, credit-card companies will allow a minor to have a card -- if an adult has co-signed the agreement or added the minor to their account as an authorized user. So someone will pay -- the adult who signed on the dotted line.

Myth No. 4: My hotel key card has my credit-card information. The ramification is that you'd better clutch it tightly or a con will decode it and rack up a big bill. This urban legend has an actual source: the police in Pasadena, Calif. A fraud-detection team had honed in on one such hotel key and notified each other before verifying whether it was standard practice in the industry. It wasn't, but they didn't find out until after the information leaked to the public and spread like wildfire. The Pasadena Police Department now has devoted a page to this accidental myth at its Web site. It says, "Detectives have contacted several large hotels and computer companies using plastic card key technology and they assure us that personal information, especially credit card information, is not included on their key cards. The one incident referred to appears to be several years old, and with today's newer technology, it would appear that no hotels engage in the practice of storing personal information on key cards." Luckily, the news has risen only to the annoyance level throughout the hotel industry, says Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. "It seems to crop up in 18-month cycles. But people are still staying in hotel rooms." The manufacturers who churn out these magnetic-strip room-key cards employ three embedded and encrypted tracks. Most hoteliers use track three, which contains locked information listing the guest's room number and check in/out dates. The remaining tracks -- if supplied by the hotel's property-management system -- provide additional, limited guest information like a folio number or name to identify guests at point-of-sale terminals located throughout the hotel. "Worst that ever happens to me is the key stops working promptly at 12:01 and I have to go to the reception desk to get back in my room," McInerney says.

Myth No. 5: Boycotting a few gasoline brands brings gas prices down. Poor Exxon and Mobil. They often show up as the bad guys in a mass e-mail urging Americans to avoid their pumps on a particular day. Its easy-to-understand language makes the plea plausible. The trouble lies in the fact it's too simple -- and economics don't work that way. For starters, gasoline is what's known as a fungible commodity -- if one company has an oversupply, it sells it to a competitor. No matter who you buy from, the basic supply numbers remain the same. Furthermore, prices at all the non-boycotted outlets would rise, thanks to the temporarily limited supply and increased demand, making the original prices look cheap by comparison, according to Snopes.com. Besides, the industry is too large for a boycott of two companies to make a dent, says Stephen Ciccone, University of New Hampshire assistant professor of finance.

Myth No. 6: It's better if you don't sign the back of your credit card. Some well-meaning pigeon decided one day this would protect him from identify theft. Unfortunately, in the real world, it only "protects" you from having the merchant accept your payment at the checkout counter, says Mills. Not to mention that an unsigned card in the hands of fraudsters is much easier to use for unauthorized purchases. They can just sign the card themselves. Then their signature will always match the receipt signature.

Myth No. 7: You can make a pile of dough by helping a foreigner solve his money problems. "Hello, my name is unpronounceable, and I need to get money out of my country. Will you let me use your bank account?" is the gist of this e-mail plea. It's called the Nigerian bank scam, and it's among Mikkelson's favorites, mainly because the number of people asking about it is huge. "It is impossible for the average person to figure out what is going on unless they know there is such a thing as a Nigerian scam," she says. For one, the back-story changes constantly to reflect current events. Expect a new variation every time a foreign leader dies or is deposed. Presently, Yassar Arafat's widow is supposedly seeking help moving his secret bank account out of enemy hands, and the sergeant who found Saddam Hussein's hidden gold wants help keeping it out of insurgent hands.

Myth No. 8: You can now opt out of having credit bureaus give your information to anyone who asks. Just call (888) 567-8688 and give them the Social Security numbers of everyone in the household in a single call, says the message. But hurry -- you only have 60 days to take advantage of this ability. The credit-reporting bureaus are working hard to debunk this one, if only to stop people from calling that number. It merely connects you to an operator who can help you opt out of receiving pre-approved credit offers. Keep in mind that if they weren't allowed to give out credit information on you, they wouldn't exist. The grain of truth lies in the fact that companies are required by law to inform their customers of their privacy policies. (Remember the flood of confusing legalese that showed up in your mailbox from every department store credit card prior to July 1, 2000?) If you don't want them to sell your personal information, you must call them directly -- one by one -- to halt the practice.

Myth No. 9: You can buy your way out of points on a speeding ticket. If you pay a bit more than your fine actually is, the state will send you a refund check for the difference. Don't cash it and they can't assess points because the transaction isn't complete. Hmmm, sounds good -- a way to circumvent rising insurance rates for a mere $5. But when Mikkelson checked into it, she discovered the popular e-mail advice originated in Australia. Maybe it works for Aussies, but Americans aren't so lucky.

Myth No. 10: Hotel Bibles often have $100 bills tucked into them. Heard the one that Gideons leave $100 bills in their hotel Bibles to reward folks who turn to the Good Book? Mikkelson rejoiced when she actually discovered such a treasure during her honeymoon -- and found out a few hours later that her new husband was pretending to be God. The only thing Gideons leave behind is the book.

Monday, October 31, 2005

26 Thoughts/Memories about and/or on Halloween

Zodiac signs and Halloween are not related (Zodiac=stupid, Halloween=neat fun).
Years ago, I recall a time trick-or-treating and a bird pooped on my hand. I continued to trick or treat after wiping my hand on the back of my costume.
X still marks the spot.
Witches always scared the crap out of me as a young boy.
Victoria was a Ballerina this year.
Underneath the costume there is a human being.
Telling scary stories is a lost art. Boy there were some scary ones back in the day.
Somewhere in Brooklyn there are bound to be kids throwing eggs and spraying each other with shaving cream.
Right now, Wolfgang Van Halen might potentially be contemplating why he is named after a virtuoso pianist when his dad is famous for playing guitar.
Quiznos subs are delicious but don't travel well.
Pennies instead of candies? I say, what about penny candies?
Only day of the year that it's okay to take candy from a stranger.
Never open your front door to a Jehovas Witness unless you plan on berating them.
M & M's (all varieties) are my favorite halloween treat.
Last time I trick or treated, Jimmy Carter was president and I was too old to be trick or treating but really wanted the free candy.
Krisy Kreme glazed donuts are a little bit of heaven right here on earth.
Jimmies? I prefer the term Sprinkles.
I can say without a doubt that Rosemary's Baby is the scariest movie I ahve ever seen.
Happy Halloween!
Grease is the word.
Frere Jacques.
Every little thing she does is magic.
Don't eat the yellow snow or the apple with the razor blase.
Can't believe how four years have passed since I've gone to Haunted Happenings in Salem.
BOO!
Arctic Bob - it's anickname for a good friend of mine who I had a lot of fun with thelast time he, I, and our significant others at the time went to Salem on Halloween. He's going through a tough time right now so let's all send him good thoughts.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

First Snow and Jowlers

Today we had the fist snowfall of the season. No serious accumulation but snow none the less. Here is a photo I snapped outside of my front door:




Jowlers - have you seen this website. I'll include their introduction paragraph here so that you get a sense of the insanity of the photos you are about to view.

Welcome to Jowlers.com!
This site is a place for you to upload and browse a unique type of photo that we like to call the Jowler. These fun pictures are created when the subject of a photo shakes their head really fast while the picture is taken. So, enjoy these unique expressions and if you feel up to it, take a few of your own and post em up.

So, without further ado, here are my jowler photos (taken by my 7 year old daughter):




Thursday, October 27, 2005

Today's Bits

I've been sick the last few days. I took some time off from work to get some work done in the house but a cold of sorts took its toll and left me in bed for about 16 hours between 8:30pm on Monday and 4:00pm on Tuesday. I'm not 100% yet but getting there.

Congratualtions to the Chicago White Sox for their World Championship victory and the Houston Astros for getting to the dance.

Thank you to Harriet Miers for bailing from the Supreme Court nomination. Wether or not it was really her choice to bail, she'd have been bad for the job so I'm glad she won't get it.

I'm not yet sure whether I'm more frightened at the TomKat pregnancy or the Brooke Shields one. Ah, who am I kidding, TomKat is far more frightening.

Imagine the reaction of the first person who ever formed a scab after a serious wound.

I am really angry that Kyle was eliminated from America's Next Top Model. Tyra, what gives?

From the Reuters newswire:
NEW YORK - Problem drinking may dampen both a man's sex life and his chances of having children, according to a new study.
Researchers in India found that men being treated for alcoholism had lower testosterone levels and more sperm abnormalities than non-drinkers did. They also had a far higher rate of erectile dysfunction (ED) — 71 percent, versus 7 percent of abstainers.
Some past studies have suggested that heavy drinking can take a toll on men's reproductive health. One recent study found that couples had a higher miscarriage risk if the man had consumed 10 or more drinks a week around the time of conception.
Commentary:
Last I checked, India was overpopulated. Perhaps it might be a good idea to just keep the men in India drunk at all times.

Monday, October 24, 2005

It's Just Really Bad Weather

Alright everyone, there have been an unusual number of "natural disasters" this past year, the weather has gone bonkers, and yes - even people are dying. However, this has nothing to do with the bible, armegeddon, or the second coming. People, this is simply really bad weather (or mother nature finally going through menopause).

So, if the inclination to utter (other than for sarcastic or joking purposes) something of the sort that we're all doomed, etc. etc...don't - or I will personally kick your whiny ass!

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Boss is The Boss!

After seeing Bruce Springsteen on his solo acoustic tour last night, I feel like I have been born again. Yes my friends and/or readers, I have been born again into the magic that the music and poetry of Bruce Springsteen has brought to me and so many others. My spirit was renewed – I have been baptized once more.

Imagine if you will, listening to songs you know, songs you’ve heard so many times you can feel them whether or not they are actually playing. Imagine hearing those songs you are so familiar with as if you were hearing them for the first time. There is an air of familiarity in the lyrics, but that is the only familiarity. Oddly, the song doesn’t take on a new meaning (it was still written for the same reasons and inspired by the same things), but the way you interpret the meaning of the song has completely changed and thus, the song now means something different (and/or something new) to you and makes you feel something different.

I would suggest that there are very few people who can single-handedly command the stage solo in a cavernous arena filled with 15,000 manic devotees. One single performer and a performance that left everyone overwhelmed with an individual experience that will easily remain imprinted in their minds. Dare I say that very few can create the level of intimacy that Springsteen was able to create ambience by virtue of his performance.

Shows like this, at this stage in his career, also serve as a reminder to those who’ve jumped on board during the Born in the U.S.A. breakout period that Springsteen far from being just a rock and roll star. No, this is the type of show to put these folks to the test and see if they truly are fans of what Springsteen represents: a poet, a performer, a musician (during this show he played electric and acoustic guitar, electric and acoustic piano, organ, harmonica, banjo, ukulele, and harpsichord). These are songs about the common man written and performed by someone who clearly appears to have an understanding of the common man. For me, there is a very strong sense of bonding. One sense of this performance for me was the feeling that Bruce was just hanging out and having a few friends over to chit chat about the stuff that’s been on his mind and the way he sees the world; it really does on some level translate into a deep, moving conversation with someone who actually cares about the stuff he talks (sings) about.

Enough of the sappy stuff, let’s get into the set list...

1. Idiot's Delight (unreleased, co-written with Joe Grushecky)
This is a new song that I heard for the first time here at the show. Bruce sang this through a vocal effect that added “grit”. Check out the first verse:
I met up with St. Peter
He was working at the pearly gates
He said I can't let you in now son
You're going to have to wait
So just sit back and take it easy
And kick off both your shoes
And grab yourself a beer
While I watch the evening news
You really gotta love the imagery of St. Peter watching the evening news (could it be research?) and telling someone waiting to get in to heaven to chill out and have a beer.
2. Across The Border (from The Ghost of Tom Joad)
“…Tom Joad” is one of those albums that is often overlooked or forgotten about. It’s not the Springsteen album you go running to because you just can’t get one of its songs out of your head. However, there is a central theme, or at least a central point of inspiration which in all honesty was never totally clear to me until tonight.
3. Devils And Dust (from Devils & Dust)
4. Long Time Coming (from Devils & Dust)
Both, off the latest CD which inspired the nature of this tour, really came to life in a live setting. It was most interesting to see how these and the rest of the songs from Devils & Dust played out after listening to the CD quite a few times. The stories and characters were given richness and depth as a result of the arrangements and Springsteen’s ability to tell stories to a live audience.
5. Sinaloa Cowboys (from The Ghost of Tom Joad)
I had no recollection of this song and can only tell you here that is was on “…Tom Joad” after looking it up on the Internet. Only Bruce can be bring up a meth-lab in a song and still get you to understand the plight of the human characters.
6. The Fever (from 18 Tracks)
7. The Promise (from 18 Tracks)
Today I found out for the first time that “18 Tracks” is not just the subset of the “Tracks” boxed set that I always thought it was; guess I’ll have to make a purchase. The arrangement of Fever performed on the electric piano was impossibly outstanding. Springsteen introduced the song as “one of those annoying fan favorites” before completely reworking the song into something completely new and fresh.
8. Johnny 99 (from Nebraska)
An unusual rendering of a great song from a great album. From what I read, the vocal effect was created by singing through a harmonica microphone. In fact, during the song, I thought he was singing “Dead Man Walking” until I was able to decipher some of the lyrics through the vocal effect once I got used to it.
9. All I'm Thinkin' About (from Devils & Dust)
This reading brought the CD version to life as Springsteen exploits his vocal range beyond the familiar to create a backdrop for a fun, yet strong lyric.
10. Brilliant Disguise (from Tunnel of Love)
My favorite song from Tunnel of Love-I recently learned of, and heard, a cover version of this song performed by Elvis Costello. The Costello version is a totally unique rendition that for me stirs up variation in the complexity and make up of its main characters. Tonight’s rendition stood fairly true to the original as the acoustic setting punctuated the tone of the lyric.
11. I'm On Fire (from Born in the U.S.A.)
Very unusual version of what already is an odd song.
12. Reno (from Devils & Dust)
The highlight of an amazing evening. I love the storytelling and the live setting (along with the two video screens) punctuated the song with facial expressions that just added to an already great song.
13. When You’re Alone (from Tunnel of Love)
As this song ended and Bruce started the piano intro to Racing in the Street, Springsteen offered an unforgettable moment that ended in laughter for all, including Springsteen himself. In fact, he was so caught up in laughter that he laughed right through the intro to the song. At various points, there was a seemingly drunken fool clapping so far out of time that it echoed through the otherwise quiet arena. Apparently enough was enough as Bruce himself requested that the person clapping “please refrain and get with the program. Follow along with the people around you…get a clue.” (to paraphrase the Boss) We were laughing particularly hard at this because we were freely commenting on our disgust for the same nut just moments before.
14. Racing In The Street (from Darkness on the Edge of Town)
15. Lost In The Flood (from Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ)
More than 30 years after its release this song, it seems as though time and experience are not enough to keep the past from haunting us into the present. Quite stunning.
16. The Rising (from The Rising)
17. Darkness On The Edge Of Town (from Darkness on the Edge of Town)
Very different arrangements.
18. Jesus Was An Only Son (from Devils & Dust)
Finally a classing Springsteen “rap” not jut before,, but during the song. A terrific piano piece that offers a look at what Jesus living a human life might be like.
19. Two Hearts (from The River)
Terrific version of a great song. Same fire as full band version with a lot less overhead.
20. The New Timer (from The Ghost of Tom Joad)
Three (more) words: Bruce played harpsichord.
21. Matamoros Banks (from Devils & Dust)
A very brief break followed this song which was true to the CD version and highlighted by a brief rap that attached significance to its lyric.(encore)
22. I Wanna Marry You (from The River)
Springsteen came out with a ukulele claiming “size don’t count” as he plucked through a fun version of this song ending it with “I'd be proud if you would wear my name, hyphenated!”
23. Waitin' On A Sunny Day (from The Rising)
“Band-free sing along version of song gains acceptance among fans,” says reviewer Chris Daniele.
24. The Promised Land (from Darkness on the Edge of Town)
25. Dream Baby Dream (unreleased cover song-originally by “Suicide”)
Nobody knew what was going on, everybody was stunned. There was a very brief moment where several of us thought (as my pal Steve noted) that he might be reaching out for Courtney Cox to get up and dance with him. But Bruce was just once again reinventing himself ending the show leaving us, definitely me, wanting more, loving what was given, and looking forward to whatever may come next.

I am exhausted now and must rest.

Updated: Sunday 10/23
Now that I've had a moment, albeit a brief moment, to rest, I wanted to let you know of two web sites that I view often and both of which I used as reference for the post above:
1. The Official Bruce Springsteen Web Site... www.brucespringsteen.net
2. A highly respected and very popular site for all things Bruce... www.backstreets.com

After alot of thought, I still feel like I heard Bruce sing "Dead Man Walking". My only concession for not moving further with it is that it has yet to appear on a set list either before or since. Of course, that doesn't mean it didn't happen, it just lends creendence (as do obvious other things) that I'm clearly out of my mind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

26 Thoughts that Popped into My Head Just Now

  1. Advance to the next line, I’ve nothing witty to say here.
  2. Believe it or not, I actually put thought into this.
  3. Crap! We’re three in and nothing yet.
  4. Deliver something to laugh at already...or at least something to think about.
  5. Evil are those who let your children out of school at 3 o’clock
    while you must work until 5.
  6. Forever trust in those whose first claim is that they can not be
    trusted.
  7. Go somewhere you’ve never been every so often.
  8. Hatred hurts the hater worse than the hated.
  9. I have no idea what I’m doing at this very moment.
  10. Just for argument’s sake, concede – just once.
  11. Kissing the ass of those who like to have their asses kissed is the least satisfying use of the term kiss that could ever be possible.
  12. Laugh every day no matter how difficult it may sometimes seem.
  13. Most of the time, your first instinct is right.
  14. Never second guess yourself unless you are absolutely sure that your first guess might be wrong.
  15. Optimism is crucial – more so now than ever.
  16. Pickles don’t seem nearly as popular as they used to.
  17. Queen is one of those bands who you can go years without listening to, then listen to them, love it like crazy, then not listen to them for another couple of years.
  18. Relocation will often change your perspective on the things around you.
  19. Smile – even when it hurts like hell to do so.
  20. Take a minute every day to be thankful for everything you have.
  21. Understanding is one of the hardest things to understand.
  22. Validation need not come from others if you truly believe in what you are and how you act.
  23. Wish for things that positively affect the world around you.
  24. X marks the spot.
  25. Yesterday is in the past, Tomorrow may not come, What are you going to do today?
  26. Zealous behavior is far more productive than jealous behavior.