Monday, April 30, 2007

I Swear To Tell The Whole Truth…Yeah, That’s The Ticket!

Well, today is National Honesty Day. I guess it’s the day where we are supposed to come clean and be honest. We Catholics just call that confession, but I’ll play along since there is a lot of stuff I have been carrying around and need to get off my chest. I promise to observe the true intent of the day and be completely honest…more or less.

First off, I need to confess a few things to my coworkers. When Jeff Gordon wins a race, they like to give me a hard time when I arrive in the office the following Monday morning. I’ve always played along and laughed warmly with them. What they don’t know and what I need to be honest about is that after they are done ribbing me, I sneak outside into the back parking lot and start breaking wooden pencils to vent my anger. I also release a primal scream like Captain Kirk does when he’s stranded on the planet Genesis after being abandoned there by Kahn (uhhh, or something like that, not to be too specific). It doesn’t really help in any way, but it sure is dramatic. I also need to be honest and admit that whenever I bet my coworkers $5 that they can hit me in the part of my chest that has been numb since surgery, I have to retire to the restroom to whimper and massage my bruises. I guess I now have to give that money back? I’m sure it’s the honest thing to do.

It’s time for me to be honest about the juice stain on the living room floor. It turns out that Lucy and Ethel weren’t really to blame as originally thought. I was helping them pick up toys in there one day when Tavares’ ‘Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel,’ which appeared at the beginning of the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ movie, came on the radio. I decided it would be cute to teach the girls how to do the dance that Cameron Diaz did to that song but I made rear end contact with the juice cup, sending it spilling all over the carpet. Speaking of music, I’m also going to be honest about the fact that despite my previous assurances otherwise, I do indeed sing the high parts of Bee Gees songs to help me relieve stress. Go ahead and try it, it works very well. For some reason though, whenever I sing like that while driving, people think I’m yelling and cussing at them.

I wasn’t being so honest when my wife asked me what makes Danica Patrick so attractive. I told her that men think she’s hot because she drives a racecar. Well, that wasn’t so true. Men would think she was just as hot if she drove a school bus. Of course, I don’t feel that way. OK, I wasn’t being honest there. I do think that way. I have no idea what other men think. Boy, this honesty thing does feel better. One of the secrets I’ve been carrying around for the longest time is about something that happened back in high school. I promised my friend that I wouldn’t tell anyone that she stalled her brother’s automatic transmission car. However, I just couldn’t help myself and had to tell everyone. Seriously, how do you stall an automatic? Of course, I denied ever telling anyone. Yeah, I have no idea where she is now. She hasn’t spoken to me for the last 17 years.

There a few things I haven’t been honest about that actually aren’t bad. I alluded to it a few days ago, but now want to admit that I did invent the at home latte machine. Wow, I can finally take credit for it. I also created the concept of Starbucks for a project I had to do back in the 7th grade. And to think, Starbucks only paid me $250 for it. Why is it I feel like I ended up on the wrong end of that stick? I feel like a hand touching a cup of coffee that doesn’t have one of those cardboard cup protector things around it, which by the way, I invented too. Since I’m on a roll, I need to tell you that I also created the idea of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.’ My initial choices for hosts were either Alec Baldwin or Don Imus. Man am I glad ABC talked me into going with Regis. Finally, I am so proud to be able to confess to blogsville that after so many years I can now take credit for creating downloadable music. Ooooh boy, maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that. Yeah, since the recording industry will probably come after me now, I should go ahead and tell you that New Coke was my idea too. Please, be gentle.

My heaviest burden is felt at work. For four years, every good idea our office has come up with has been mine. Since I am such a team player, I’ve allowed all of my coworkers to take the credit. OK, I have to be honest again, that’s not true. I’ve been trying for four years to bribe my coworkers with a free lunch so that they would give me their ideas. Maybe I should start taking them somewhere a little nicer than McDonalds as the best idea I have been given so far is to start having crazy suspenders and bow tie Mondays. I seem to be the only one participating and can’t shake the feeling that it was all a big joke.

Well, I feel much better having celebrated National Honesty Day by being so honest with all of you. One last confession though, I made most of this up because I had nothing else to write about today. Hmmm, on second thought, maybe honesty doesn’t feel so good after all…trust me…although I guess I’ve given you no reason to.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Repost Sunday: The Staff Meeting – Tips For Survival and Success

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy.

And I needed the refresher...big staff meeting on Thursday!

Anyone in an office setting has had to endure a staff meeting, some weekly, some monthly or some quarterly. I recently sat in on a monthly one and thought it might be good to review ways to get out of a staff meeting with your dignity (not to mention employment) intact. Like all things in life, some parts of the meeting interested me and some did not. It’s not how we conduct ourselves in the meeting during the moments that interest us that make us good office folk; it’s what we do when bored out of our skulls that really showcase our character.

I’m sure everyone has doodled during a staff meeting. Heck, if Ronald Reagan could doodle while President, I’m sure it’s ok for the rest of us! If you are going to doodle, getting into the habit of nodding every 45 seconds or so helps you to be perceived as interested in what is happening. The same exercise can be used when daydreaming. No matter what is happening, when the rest of your colleagues laugh, do the same. Just make sure that you gauge the enthusiasm of everyone else’s laughter prior to committing to yours. Don’t respond to your colleagues’ chuckles with a hearty ho-ho. I did this once, it wasn’t Christmas and it was a dead giveaway that I was about thirteen miles from where everyone else was in the room.

You should always size up the physical aspects of the room you will be conferring in. Doing so allows you to avoid the one spot in every conference room where no one wants to sit - the chair directly facing the sun. When you aren’t totally paying attention, the worst thing to do is sit there squirming and constantly adjusting how you are sitting because all of the sun’s power is being concentrated directly and solely into your eyes. Speaking of eyes, I did learn one good technique to convey interest even though you have no idea what is going on. If you require glasses to see, simply take them off. Then when you look at whoever is conducting the meeting, you appear to be making direct eye contact with them even though you can barely distinguish their face from the wall clock behind them. I’ll give you credit though since they both have faces.

Some long meetings have beverages or snacks provided, but if the meeting is of a lesser duration, it can pose some challenges. Even when there are snacks, it can be awkward because you don’t want to appear to be a pig and reach across everyone several times to partake in the provided provisions. I have personally found that bringing a PEZ dispenser or tin of mints into the meeting serves many purposes. It lets people see that you are the kind and sharing type and it provides a tiny snack in its own container that can be passed around easily and cleanly rather than having everyone touch the food. A PEZ dispenser can hold 12 pieces of candy and most mint containers hold at least 25, so plan ahead based on the number of attendees that are expected in the meeting.

If you eat during the meeting, chances are you will drink during the meeting, if you haven’t already. Caffeine in the bladder is a ticking dirty bomb waiting to go off. If the necessity to lessen the amount of liquid waste in your system arises, go! Granted, I am not a doctor, but I have seen one on TV. I recommend strongly against holding it, as squirming is not an attractive quality. Just make sure that when you excuse yourself from the meeting you let someone know where you are going so no one mistakes your exit for you wanting to go check your voicemail or stocks and sports scores online. That all being said, there is one scenario where you should hold it at all costs. Now I am no career counselor, although I have seen one on TV, but if your boss is the one individual between you and the door, just stay put.

Also, be respectful of your superiors and colleagues and silence your cell phone. It can be hard to remember sometimes, but try to make it a habit of checking that your phone is on vibrate. You don’t want to turn it off though because then you’ll miss important text messages from friends. When you have annoying or revealing ring tones like ‘The James Bond Theme’ or Johnny Paycheck’s ‘Take This Job and Shove It’ (just to randomly snatch two out of thin air), you really want to make sure your phone is off. Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), no matter how tempting it may seem, don’t draft your next blog post under the guise of ‘taking meeting notes.’ That rule should be self-explanatory – you can’t fully focus on your blog post.

Well, there you have it - a few tips to help you get through your next staff meeting. In case my boss or anyone from work is reading, all of these scenarios and tips are fictional, completely fictional. While I’m sure they have happened to someone, they have not happened to me.

Now, back to the meeting…diversification, uh-huh, uh-huh…market share, yep, I agree…2007 goals, uh-hmmmmm…

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 4-28-07

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason it never makes me look good. I hope that knowing about at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 4/22/07-4/28/07.

! I learned that spending $500 on your sick cat equates to one extra week of life. Funny, I had thought that the money wouldn’t bother me.

! I learned that when one of your fish dies you had better get it out of the tank before your young daughters see it and you find yourself explaining about fish heaven, which somehow turns into a discussion of Finding Nemo and The Incredible Mister Limpet.

! I learned that giving myself a haircut only seemed like a good idea at 3 in the morning when I was deliriously tired and wanted shorter hair, not 8 in the morning when I’m standing in front of the mirror. Does Hare Krishna mean anything to you?

! I learned that in the grand scheme of things, getting to work extra early for a change doesn’t really help you impress the boss when he isn’t there. Sending emails to him and your coworkers so that they know what time you arrived only helps to give you a bad nickname containing words like ‘brown’ and ‘kiss.’

! I learned that despite their assurances otherwise, my four-year-old twins will not keep it secret that I let them watch 4 movies and have 3 snacks last Saturday night so that I could watch my race in peace.

! I learned that most people think it is inappropriate to feed little children Elvis’ fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It’s a shame too because they really enjoyed them.

And lastly,

! I learned that you are truly off the beaten path when you come across a ‘town’ (and I use the word very liberally) that allows zoning for a mansion, a trailer home, a BBQ joint and a crematorium on the same block. If we only knew which of the last two that the smoke was coming from.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tidbits, Trash And Leftovers

I started jotting down a lot of different things over the last week that I intended to become blog posts, but they never made it. So, I figured I would just post them all today in lieu of anything else. Grade A ‘round file’ material I’m sure this will all be…

Shop Talk
I was treated to another great philosophical discussion at lunch yesterday. We began talking about many different things and it ended with In The Office Two Times A Week Guy calling someone a ‘nut hole,’ which is apparently the combination of a nut job and an a—hole. It doesn’t seem to be as offensive and we all took to it immediately. After lunch, we continued the discussion (which means we tried to talk Female Coworker out of going to HR because we kept saying nut hole in front of her) as we attempted to explain that a nut (as in nuts and bolts) really does have a hole. Because that is true, it means a nut hole is a real thing, kind of like a donut hole, only the opposite and with much less mass. This led to me saying that if we were going to start using hardware pieces as substitutes for cuss words, we were forgetting to call someone we don’t like a ‘screw slot,’ which of course is the slot at the head of a screw. The conversation then further proceeded (some might say degraded) to which description (nut hole or screw slot) should be applied to men and which to women. I’ll let you figure out what we decided...but I did win the prize for being the first person to work nut hole into conversation in front of our boss.

Brush With Celebrity
I swear on almost everything that is just shy of being holy that I drove at least four blocks towards work yesterday morning along side of a truck that was being driven by Charlie Daniels. Why he was in Chino, California is beyond me but that is inconsequential. In my excitement upon arriving to work, I told two of my closest coworkers that I was just at a stoplight with Charlie Daniels. They were obviously awed by my good fortune until they laughed and said ‘this would mean a lot more if we knew who he was.’ I knew just what to say, so I told them it was the genius that recorded ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia.’ It didn’t help. Had I told them about the soccer mom in the Escalade that looked a little like J-Lo, maybe I could have earned their respect.

Great Charity Idea?
Inspired by the celebrity-infested wreck of a telethon that was American Idol the other night; I sat down and started sketching out some rough ideas for another charity event. Since the city won’t give me a permit for elephants again and Alec Baldwin won’t return my calls, I think I settled on the next best thing. How about an arm wrestling match as a fundraiser? Phil Donahue vs. Oprah. The only problem is that Oprah would probably send Gail or Steadman or Dr. Phil to handle the match and they’d mop the floor with Donahue. Seriously folks, those last two sentences are what kept me up last night. I just liked the idea of Donahue taking on Oprah…

Is That A Joke?
Driving home the other night, I noticed the license plate frame on the car in front of me. It said ‘Alumni – The Betty Ford Clinic.’ My first thought was that it was a joke. I’m used to seeing ‘my kid is a star student at Dan Quayle Elementary,’ but the Betty Ford license plate frame is a little different. I am very proud of this person if they are indeed alumni of The Betty Ford Clinic, but I wonder if they had to purchase the frame at the Betty Ford Clinic Store or if it was part of their graduation.

Psychic Tendencies
During lunch earlier this week, Female Coworker expressed her appreciation of TV psychics. Our discussion then turned to how easy it could be for me to act like a great psychic. Notice I didn’t say ‘to be a psychic,’ just the ability to act like a good one. After all, I’ve always been good at performing (people are still buzzing about my 7th grade portrayal of the jumpsuit-era Elvis) and being a TV psychic is half performance. I shall now demonstrate my psychic like abilities…

I’m sensing a lot of things out in our audience today. I will now attempt to feel and reveal the thoughts of some of our visitors here today.

First off, I’m sensing that there is a man…or a woman in our audience here today who has blonde hair…or brown. That man…or woman is thinking about a relative…or friend of theirs who has since passed on…or is still with us. I’m sensing that you miss this person…or perhaps you hate them. That person is celebrating a birthday today…or recently…or they will have a birthday later this year.

The next person I’m sensing in the audience today is older…maybe younger…perhaps middle aged. They have unfortunately recently suffered a great loss…received a tremendous blessing…have had nothing new happen to them recently. This person wears glasses…or has perfect vision…could be blind. They are presently unemployed…no, just got promoted…maybe they just retired. This audience member has joined us today to connect with a lost loved one…is here with friends…had nothing better to do and received free tickets while standing outside earlier today.

See how easy it could be to pull off the psychic bit. It’s the same approach I’ll use if I ever become the manager of our office. I’ll just speak in generalities and try to cater to everybody. So, have a great weekend…or a bad one…whatever works for you…

Thursday, April 26, 2007

See What I Just Did…Kind Of

As an office dwelling sub-middle manager with two four-year olds who think they are in their mid-40s, I can’t brag of having the most exciting lifestyle. Reading and talking about other’s exploits in blogsville lately have made me realize that there are times I could or should live vicariously through someone else for the thrill I think I’m missing. It’s rather efficient when you think about it. I would get to enjoy others' cool experiences without ever leaving my home. You know, that might be described as lazy more than anything else, but we’ll ignore that for now.

Living vicariously through someone could be the next big frontier in entertainment (aside from pairing Celine Dion with Elvis on American Idol apparently. If I’d had a gun when I saw that last night I would have shot it out in defense of The King’s honor, but I guess that’s what happens when it was decided not to sign Elvis’ estate over to me). Vicarious living is practically the poor man’s virtual reality.

I could create a fee or license to live vicariously through someone else’s adventures. But what rights could be extended to both parties involved? Does a fee or license actually give the ‘vicarousee’ (the person who sits and watches) the rights to claim having done what the ‘vicariouser’ (the doer) actually did? Do both parties have to sign agreements of conduct and liability waivers? By signing, does the vicariouser forever lose the right to brag about what they did like spray painting the name of their girlfriend on the town water tower? Does the vicariousee pay ahead of time for the bragging rights or after? Can they pick beforehand what they would like done? If so, chances are that the vicariouser would not be spray-painting the name of his girlfriend, but rather the name of the vicariousee’s girlfriend. This has the potential to get confusing, but I’ll let someone else figure out the logistics. I’ll be sure and let you know what they find out.

As you can see, like genetic cloning, stem cell research and which was the better Darren on ‘Bewitched,’ there a lot of questions involved with living vicariously. Perhaps I would be the right person to ponder and then some day (like when I have nothing else to do) determine the answers to these questions. Maybe I will enter the field of vicarious experience brokering. It might be a little slow at first, but once the word of mouth gets going, I’m sure it’s bound to take off. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and this may turn out to be the next big thing I’ve been searching for. I could make a living pairing up people who do stuff with people who want to talk about doing stuff.

Have you ever wanted to brag about the rush of skydiving but are too scared to even approach an airplane? No problem, I’ll hook you up with an experienced skydiver, you can watch what he does from the safety of the ground and then you get an hour of one on one time as he explains his sky dive to you. I’ll even Photoshop you into his skydiving photo and just like that, you can amaze your friends and coworkers with the skydiver’s, I mean your, skydiving exploits.

Does that cute secretary in the corner near the elevator make your heart cry ‘humina, humina, humina?’ Not a problem. I’ll get someone to wine and dine her (my professionalism prevents me from cutting costs and dating her myself, sorry), describe the evening and provide a doctored tableside photo of the two of you so that you will be the envy of the guys in the office.

Imagine being able to tell people you are meeting for the first time that you have met former Presidents, invented the riding lawn mower, sang with Wayne Newton, were the inspiration for Forrest Gump (actually, that might not be anything to brag about), did all of Burt Reynolds’ stunts in ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’ won the Indy 500, scaled Mt. Everest, swam with sharks and created the at home latte machine. Through my incredible service, you’ll be able to describe these events and more as well as have the photos to prove it. Just think what this will do for your social life.

Now if I can just find someone to loan me the money to film an infomercial and record a set of instructional DVD’s to explain my vicarious experience brokerage. On second thought, I’m pretty busy right now. I guess I could just pay someone to do all that for me and I’ll take the credit.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It’s National 'You Get Paid For Covering Up For An Idiot Day’

Well, that’s not the ‘official’ name for it. For you fans of The Office, I wished all of the various Administrative Professionals in our building a Happy Pam Beasley Day, but it didn’t really get the reception I was hoping for. The official name for today is Administrative Professionals Day, I think. My Administrative Professional usually helps me with stuff like that. She spends a lot of time covering up after me, so to speak. It’s not that I don’t do my job well; it’s just that I tend to do my job quickly with an emphasis on ‘volume of productivity with the utmost expediency without regard to actual competency,’ which by the way is the name of the self-help book I’ve been writing.

Seriously, our Administrative Professional is just that. No not administrative, she’s professional, very professional, in fact, unnervingly professional, it could border on non-human like professionalism. She is by far the most professional individual in our office or that I may have ever had the honor of working with. Not to take anything away from her but perhaps part of that is due to the fact that I worked for myself for 5 years and could not begin to even come close to characterizing that ‘era’ of my life as professional. Unless you consider naps, trips to McDonalds and Barney Miller reruns professional. How our AP is able to put her head down and work through everything we do (or don’t do) in any given day is beyond me. Truth be told, she keeps this place running smoothly practically single handedly.

When she’s not correcting our work, she’s busy reminding us that we are in an office environment where our clients can often hear us, especially when we are talking about them. I think one of her most challenging days to date was when all the men in the office ended up talking and laughing as men tend to do in the hallway outside of all our cubicles. Our topic of conversation? Why women of course, but not just any women, we were discussing as a forum (and then arguing over) our favorite leading women from 60s, 70s and 80s television. For the record, I still think Mary Tyler Moore in her Dick Van Dyke Show days was much hotter than Marcia Brady ever was. Our Administrative Professional let us have this heated discussion for about an hour and then she ever so politely came back and reminded us of where we were and what we should be doing. None of us complained, none of us got angry at her, we all just looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and scurried back into our little work boxes.

Then there was the day we all decided that it was appropriate to yell out all of the song titles we could think of that contained the word ‘night’ in them. I have no idea how she got through that afternoon. This went on for at least three hours and we got very competitive. Completely undeterred, our AP managed to continue answering the phones and transferring all of the callers waiting for us into voice mail. Looking back, I still think it’s a miracle that she has never been injured during our rubberband-paperclip-slingshot games. When those start up, no one above the height of a cubicle wall is safe. You have to give us credit though; none of us has ever tried to use her as an administrative shield. That’s not to say that we haven’t thought about it, but it’s all about the baby steps.

Our Administrative Professional even takes the time in the morning to make coffee for the office, though she doesn’t always partake. To illustrate her level of professionalism, this would be the perfect time to exact her revenge and slip something into the coffee, but she never has. Although, a few people are out sick today…

Regardless of the fact that it isn’t in her job description, she makes it a habit to check our work for errors. Unfortunately, this seems to take up a majority of her day. Well, looking for the errors does not, but having to walk to each of us individually to advise us of our errors does. I am a little concerned that it seems like she spends a disproportionate amount of time going over my errors with me. Unfortunately, my coworkers have noticed this too. I just calmly explain that it is due to the fact that I work faster and therefore get more actual work completed than they do; thereby increasing the chances of me having more errors. Sadly, that is a chance that I apparently never fail to take advantage of.

Being the thoughtful group that we are, our boss presented our Administrative Professional with a nice potted plant and a card this morning. It was only when she opened it that half of us realized we forgot to sign it. To make up for this, I risked the wrath of HR and gave our Admin Professional a big thank you hug and explained from the bottom of my heart how grateful I have been to work with her for the last three years. She thanked me and then walked out of my office mumbling something that I couldn’t quite make out…

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ain’t She Sweet?

To many men, I’m sure that the old idea of a pistol-packing mama is pretty cool. Add to that the fact that the PPM is a former Miss America and the deal gets even sweeter. Oh, did I mention that she was crowned Miss America in 1944? The AP ran a story the other day that no matter how hard I tried, I could not resist. It seems the former 82-year-old Miss America caught a thief trying to leave her farm and managed to shoot out the intruder’s tires. The best part of the story (and the part that I’m sure will get mentioned on Saturday Night Live this weekend) is that she had to balance her .38 pistol on her walker as she fired the shots. Woo hoo baby, does it really get any better than that?

In light of all the recent beauty pageant contestants being defamed for various activities, it’s so refreshing to see one that can actually be heroic and worth celebrating. I’m not sure if this beauty queen is always packing heat or just happened to have her gun holstered in her walker, but after already having farm equipment stolen from her barn, she was prepared this time. You know, the last time I went shooting, I did miss a couple of targets. I’m sure I could get my health insurance to spring for a walker in order to help improve the accuracy of my shot. If you’re anything like me, and we all know none of you are, you might be thinking if she’s such a good shot now at 82, she must have been a great shot back in her prime, like around 1944. Hmmm, makes you want to watch the 1944 Miss America pageant a little closer now doesn’t it.

We always think that Miss America is only capable of singing, dancing, maybe juggling, prancing around in a bathing suit and waving and smiling for the cameras at public appearances like the opening of new shopping malls, Crazy Ed’s Used Car and New Stereo Barn and the commissioning of new battleships. Perhaps we have gravely underestimated what our current and former Miss Americas can do.

I say it’s time to alter the Miss America Pageant to make it more modern for our times. Heck, isn’t it now broadcast on CMT for bejeweled crown’s sake? You know, target practice would be right up the CMT viewer’s alley. If the great teacher that is television has taught us one thing, isn’t it that whatever we see on TV is the only indicator of what’s cool, acceptable and necessary to fit in? Yes, of course it is. That’s why we need to make the Miss America contest more closely resemble reality TV – the barometer of our times.

On the first night that the contestants from around the country converge on Atlantic City, they should all be told after dinner that whoever is voted the ugliest by her peers will be sent home that night. It’s cruel, but I’m sure it will make great TV. The rest of the women will be allowed to stay in the Miss America house unless they lose competitions, or ‘challenges,’ held throughout the week leading up to the big telecast. One challenge will be the ability to cross a major thoroughfare with one of her high heels broken. Does anybody remember the 1980s video game Frogger? I kind of picture it being like that.

Another contest will be a singing competition where everyone has to perform a Captain and Tennille classic (don’t mock, there may be more of them than you think) and then be judged by teachers who wear ascots from America’s most prominent performance colleges, if there are such things. If not, any three people from the slots closest to the doors of an Atlantic City casino will do. Finally, they will have to be paired with a professional athlete or mathematician in a ballroom dancing competition. There, I think I covered all of the staples of what makes television good. Oh wait, I forgot Oprah. Yes, they have to appear on Oprah and say something just wild about themselves.

These challenges will whittle the competition down to the top ten where of course the winner will be selected by phone voting participation. But here’s the catch, the phone numbers can only be dialed in India and the former Soviet Block. The winner will be revealed and crowned Miss America the next day during a live 7-hour star-studded television event. Presenters, performers and seat fillers shall include A-list celebrities like Fred Willard, Sherman Helmsley, the voice of the Geico Gecko, Donny Most, Alec Baldwin’s daughter, Pope Benedict, The A-Team and Battlestar Gallactica’s Dirk Benedict (no relation), fishing pro Hank Parker Junior, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Celine Dion. The new Miss America will immediately be signed to a Broadway contract to star in my fledgling musical production of ‘Welcome Back Kotter,’ starring Squiggy as Horshack.

And that folks is why I still have yet to be offered a TV development deal. Did I mention the dancing flamingos marching to GI Blues?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sing It Like You Stole It!

For those of you who may not be aware, this week is National Karaoke Week. Oh, if only Sanjaya could have survived just one more week on American Idol. They may have honored him during the telecast or at the very least pretended he has the potential to maybe, possibly have talent. I will say this though, he has nice hair (and by nice I mean a lot), if that’s what you’re in to. But enough about Sanjaya, this is about celebrating National Karaoke Week!

I thought it would be nice to come into the office this morning while celebrating the week to get everyone excited about it. I put a smile on my face, tried to get my voice in tune, or on key or whatever it’s called and strolled into the office singing ‘Take This Job And Shove It,’ because it was the only song that came to mind. It was brought to my attention that it wasn’t the most appropriate tune for the workplace. I calmly explained that it is National Karaoke week and I was merely celebrating the holiday. Figuring that another song might erase the work faux pas I had committed, I started singing Eric Burden’s ‘We Gotta Get Outta This Place,’ as it’s a 60s rock anthem. Apparently singing about escape wasn’t appreciated either. Not to be stopped, I started singing a few bars of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’ Go figure that a prison tune isn’t acceptable at work either. Feeling defeated but not deterred, I walked away humming ‘I Fought The Law And The Law Won.’ Who would have guessed that management knew that one, too? I decided to celebrate by myself in my cubicle by singing ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song).’ Since most people only know it as the Pina Colada Song and not by its real title, I got away with it. Happy Karaoke Week to me indeed.

While I am certainly no golden throat, I would like to think that I can carry a tune at least for a few minutes. I was born with a deep baritone/bass singing voice. OK, I wasn’t born with it, but it did show up after puberty. However, I have discovered over the years that there is not much space in this world for a boy that can only sing all the low notes for old Temptations’ songs like ‘Can’t Get Next To You’ and ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone.’ It goes over great as a momentary laugh for friends and coworkers, but not as a paying gig. It also doesn’t work well in Karaoke as I stand silently waiting for the one line in each Temps song that I can handle. It’s kind of like the way Andy Kaufman used to perform the Mighty Mouse theme song on Saturday Night Live. Only when I do it, I’m not trying to get laughs.

As a former frequenter of the Karaoke scene, I have picked up on the songs that aren’t the best to perform publicly, especially in front of people that know you. The worst part is that I learned this from my own experience. Without a doubt, the first song on that list has to be ‘Copacabana’ by Barry Manilow. I can actually trace my failures with the fairer sex back to the first time I performed this song publicly. Notice I said the first time I performed it. I am a very slow learner. I did ‘Copacabana’ with a couple of my friends and we actually had choreography. We sounded like wounded Geese and apparently looked like them, too. Helpful tip: never do the ‘who shot who’ chorus with your finger pointed in the shape of a gun. It’s not cool, it’s not hip and anything that would be done in the front lounge of a Vegas casino in the mid 60s should never be repeated in front of a high school or college crowd. In hindsight, I still think we made a good choice in performing that instead of ‘I Write The Songs.’

I also regularly used to perform ‘To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before’ with a friend. I had to sing the Julio Iglesias part. This always frustrated me since Willie Nelson’s part is much more challenging. ‘All My Ex’s Live In Texas’ was another regular one for me. That is until someone once asked me if I was aware that I was tone deaf after performing it. I explained that I wasn’t and was told that I should be. That Saturday night was the last time I performed that one. When I did Tammy Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man’ as a joke, I was told it was the best I ever sounded. That Saturday night was the last time I performed that one.

I’ve since retired from the Karaoke scene, but in light of this week’s holiday, I might have to return to performing again. I practiced Joe Cocker’s version of ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’ in the office’s restroom before lunch. The acoustics are pretty good in there and it seemed like a good place to sing it. Unfortunately, my voice needs a little more conditioning and another guy from our office walked in while I was practicing. To save face I quickly switched back to ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’ I have always found that the verse ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’ is very effective in getting people to leave me alone.

Now I gotta go. I have to prepare to meet our HR department tomorrow for violence and harassment in the workplace counseling. I wonder how that happened…I guess I’d better start practicing the verses to ‘All You Need Is Love’ and ‘Give Peace A Chance.’

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Repost Sunday: Whoa, That Was My Nipple!

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy.

After all, it is Earth Day, so what better way to celebrate than by recycling, right?

After my last post, this one just seemed to fit right in for today...

Don’t let the title fool you, this post is pretty clean, unless of course you are squeamish at the sight of blood. Our story begins on a December night two years ago. I was sitting in the ole recliner with Ethel on my lap watching ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ when my heart skipped a beat (well actually, several beats). When that happens, it’s time to head to the friendly local Emergency Room for a quick electrical shock to get the heart rhythm back to normal.

Knowing that time was of the essence, I showered, called in to leave a voicemail for my boss that I’d be out the next day and ate a quick meal consisting of steak, salad and pie so that I could head off to the ER. The ER staff greeted me, told me how they vaguely remembered me from my last four visits that year and proceeded to start my IVs containing medication that hasn’t worked yet to correct my irregular heartbeat. Along about the 4th hour of waiting for the meds to kick in (about 2AM), the doctors came in and said that it was time to be knocked out for a few minutes so that they could shock me back into rhythm. I told the doctor it was probably a good idea since I have horrible rhythm, two left feet and almost everyone I know denies my existence when I hit the dance floor. Perhaps this is because I learned to dance while making fun of the way other people danced. To describe my dancing you could say it's something between a wounded penguin and the way Joe Cocker moves when he sings. OK, I guess I strayed a little off course.

Prior to the anesthesiologist coming in to tell me that he’d be the one putting me to sleep (which I translate as presiding over my brush with the unknown), a nurse came in to shave me. I calmly explained that I had showered prior to coming in to visit her nice hospital and I didn’t see the relevance of a five o-clock shadow when correcting heart arrhythmia. As her English was a little hard to understand, I don’t think she appreciated my joke. She indicated that she needed to shave my chest. This puzzled me as it’s not like I’m Sean Connery or Austin Powers and the middle of my chest is already barren thanks to my first open heart scar. Again, my complaints and concerns went unnoticed.

The nurse took out her construction grade non-lubricated razor and started scraping (not shaving, mind you) away. What happened then was a blur of flesh and blood highlighted by intense, albeit brief pain. I looked down at my left nipple only to see that it was bleeding…and gone. It was as if I was lactating blood. As I began to ask the nurse for something to soak up the blood, she noticed my concerned and puzzled look, not to mention my squirming. She stopped me and said ‘oh, did I cut you?’ The only answer I could muster was a mumble accompanied by a grunt and a point of the finger in the direction of my bleeding nipple-stump. Realizing the sensitivity (or extreme sensitivity) of the moment, she attempted to alleviate my fears and concerns with a simple ‘oops’ and a sheepish grin. Sadly, it really didn’t help.

All of the doctors and nurses were now gathering which means sleepy time and shocky time are fast approaching. Feeling a little embarrassed at the proceedings so far, I asked for a blanket to place over my nipple-stump, as I sure as heck wasn’t going to place a band-aid or other sticky substance over it. Then they knocked me out and cranked me over like a dead battery. It’s funny because I always remember them using paddles on TV, but now they just use pads that are very, very sticky. Now I know how a fly stuck on flypaper feels. For the record, wheeling the crash cart into the room in case I try to pass over to the great beyond should really be done after I’m asleep. It doesn’t boost my confidence level seeing it before.

I then remember mumbling that I wasn’t asleep and I didn’t want to be shocked while still awake. After several minutes of this, the doctor became annoyed enough with hearing it to the point that he finally said ‘uh, we shocked you about eight minutes ago.’ I felt a little stupid but then began to think if I was so out of it then maybe my nipple cutting was an anesthesia-induced dream. I confidently looked down at my left nipple only to discover it had bled through my blanket and the guilty nurse was peeking into the room. Finally, I was discharged from the ER without my nipple, dignity or an apology from the nurse.

What made me remember this tale? Well, it’s very cold today and those are the times that I notice my ‘loss’ the most…

Friday, April 20, 2007

Getting To The Heart Of What Makes Me Tick

This is about 3 days worth of blogging space for me, so I am posting it today. I’ll post again on Sunday or Monday, so feel free to read it in chunks if your attention span is as short as mine is. What was I talking about again?

I was recently engaged in a very interesting conversation with one of my favorite bloggers, Mist1, about the role of the animal kingdom in human cardiology. Translated= putting animal heart parts into humans. I decided to write about my somewhat non-humaness. It got me thinking about all of my heart related stuff and since my therapist told me it’s been almost two years now since my surgery and that I need to get over it, I figured what better way than to blog about it, right?

For those of you who may not be aware, in June 2005, I had my second open-heart surgery to replace my bad aortic valve with a nice shiny artificial one. The ring on the picture to the left is now a foreign object deep within my chest cavity. How they got it there is another story entirely, but I tend to wrap my arms around my chest and curl into a fetal position when I think about its installation (for lack of a better and more humane description) and that makes it hard to type, so I’ll write about that some other time…maybe.

The choice of whether I was going to get a pig valve or the artificial one was entirely mine to make, although I didn’t have a lot of input from my cardiologist or the surgeons. So, like any semi-literate person, I took to the internet to educate myself about the pros and cons of animal or artificial valvization (I made that up, but boy it sounds scientific, doesn’t it). Consulting the interweb was my first mistake. Not only did I read lots of testimonials by patients who went through the surgery who thought it appropriate to describe what the removal of their chest tube felt like, but I also found actual footage of the surgery itself. I’m not normally squeamish but I don’t think I could close my eyes for about a week and a half after that.

If I went with a pig valve, I would have to have had surgery in another 15 years to replace it, but I wouldn’t need to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. I had many concerns about getting a pig’s valve that I could not find addressed anywhere on the interweb. The concerns might seem trivial to you, but as someone deciding whether to have pork parts sewed into me, let me assure you that they were important to me. My first concern was whether or not I would smell like bacon on a hot day. What would happen to the pig who ‘donated’ the valve (most likely without its consent)? Would that pig then get an artificial valve to replace the one it just had removed? Does the rest of the pig’s heart just get BBQ’d with an age-old slow smoking process? Isn’t there a cleaner, more well respected animal that I could select from? If I decided on a pig valve, would I then take on a pig’s characteristics over time (besides the aggressive eating, which I already seem to have)? Would filthiness all around me not bother me? Would I rather play in mud than take a swim? Would the knowledge of my piggyness cause my friends to call me Hammy, Porky or Oinky? Would my speech become peppered with phrases like ‘whole hog’ or would I start to stutter like Porky Pig?

Perhaps I could choose a dolphin’s valve. Surely, this would improve my ability to hold my breath longer or eat fish whole. It might even improve my entertaining skills. How about a cow? If a bovine has several stomachs, would I adapt over time to have several stomachs too? Then I could eat nachos across the street from my office and not have to walk 4 miles just to burn off the 1300 calories from them. Mist1 suggested something small like a rabbit’s heart. My only concern with that is if a heart that small could efficiently pump blood to my extremities, like my feet for instance. Think of the sad irony if I lost some of the use of my feet from this and then could no longer aspire to perform the bunny hop on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ I guess that’s more of a moot point since I am neither a dancer nor a star.

Then there were the pros and cons of becoming the $60,000 man (after all the medical bills are tallied) if I chose the artificial valve. Perhaps my biggest concern with that was being perceived as too fake (get it, artificial, fake – trust me, you’ll laugh about that later tonight). Would I lose some of my human-like qualities if I went with the mechanical valve? Would I become more of a cyborg? Really, by definition, I could be considered a cyborg. Knowing myself as well as I do though, I would take it too far and ask to be dressed like Darth Vader or Cylons from the original Battlestar Gallatica (Borgs from Star Trek were too ugly). Heck, I’d just settle for Vader’s or the Cylons’ voices!

I could imagine how excited my friends would be to brag about their friendship with a real cyborg. Just like plastic surgery though, once I consented to mechanical implantation within me, would I be able to stop there? Would I ask for technologically enhanced vision or muscle strength? Would I ask to be able to lift my enemies off the ground by crushing their necks? Would I want better lung capacity so that I walked around breathing like Darth Vader? I might ask to be able to receive email in my head rather than the computer. I’d also like to be taller. Then there’s the fact that I would need to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life and that I might tick, sometimes loudly. Clearly, I had a decision to make.

After much introspection, I decided that my desire to become a cyborg was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I was so excited with my choice. The burning question of whether or not my tick could be heard was answered before I even opened my eyes after surgery. The first time I was almost coherent, I remember hearing something inside of my head that I had never heard before. It was a very mechanical ticking sound, almost like the sound of hitting keys on a keyboard. This probably helped me wake up quicker, but as I did, I discovered that they had not mechanically altered any other part of me.

It did not take long to realize how different it was going to be living as part human and part machine. By the time I was ok to leave the hospital, I was already very annoyed at the sound of…well, me. The novelty of the ticking wore off very quickly. A few days after getting home from the hospital, I had to go have my first blood test. I could hear the older guy in front of me ticking, so I asked him when he had his valve replaced and he had a surprised look on his face until he heard mine tick. I still can’t fall asleep easily at night because I constantly hear the ticking (ticking, ticking, always ticking...). There were a few side affects that I did not anticipate. For some reason, I like to listen to Helen Reddy’s version of ‘Delta Dawn’ daily now and I am very, very attracted to stainless steel. It’s almost magnetic, like love at first shine or something. I can just sit now in front of a stainless steel piece for hours just gazing into its smooth and shiny surface. This has me scared (and scarred, but who cares about semantics).

There have been some interesting situations because of my valve. A different doctor wanted to do an MRI on my head to see if there was anything in there causing some difficulties I was having. Now that didn’t sound right, did it? He decided not to proceed out of fear that the magnetic power of the MRI could yank the valve right out of my chest. Boy am I glad he remembered that! I wanted to buy a scale that would also monitor body mass or body fat, but the label said it could not be used for anyone who has an implanted device. That was fine with me since I was able to get another scale much cheaper that didn’t exclude people with artificial components. Although I have not flown since surgery, I have had the opportunity to walk through a metal detector and flash my implanted device card. As soon as the detector went off, I showed the officer my card and explained why. I think I overwhelmed him with my story and he gestured me right through. In hindsight, it was probably the keys that I forgot to take out of my pocket.

Because my valve can be heard by others in a silent room or by anyone who places their head upon my chest (obviously a small group), there is the potential for a lot of fun. Although for some reason, people look at me oddly when I tell them to place their head upon my chest to listen to what makes me tick. I am eagerly waiting for the time when a member of my company’s upper management is with me and my coworkers in a quiet conference room or elevator. Everyone I work with has been instructed to say ‘I don’t hear anything’ whenever that upper manager finally questions whether or not anyone hears that ticking and asks what it might be.

I am not, however, looking forward to the time I enter a federal building or airport and am accused of carrying (or being) a bomb. I just don’t think the excuse ‘oh, that’s just my chest,’ is going to cut it. I have also thrown my wristwatch down in disgust several times after realizing that what was bugging me was my valve and not what I perceived to be my unusually loud watch. Now, I own a digital watch. It’s funny how people still ask me if the ticking will ever go away. All I can say in response to that is, ‘if it does go away, I’ll certainly be the last to know.’

So there you have it, that’s the story behind what makes me tick, literally. Assuming I live a few more years, hopefully I’ll get used to it. I certainly don’t wish to grow old mumbling about my ticking. Now I’m off to try and be fitted for metal arms so that I can finally pick up the cubicle next to mine and move it about 20 feet before I go Alec Baldwin on any of my coworkers. A cyborg needs its space people!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Well, My Burial Plans Just Went Up In Smoke

I got all excited for the possibilities of my ashes a few weeks ago when Keith Richards admitted smoking his father’s cremated remains. I thought it so exciting that I even blogged about it, but then again, I’ve blogged about space junk, toilets, dead deer, airline barf bags and Fred Willard at one point or another, so that’s not saying much. Then I read an AFP News story today about a scientist who says we should stop cremating our dead. He claims that it contributes to global warming in some boring, scientific, ozone, carbon related way. If I wanted to be able to thoroughly explain it to you, I would have paid attention in science class instead of making top-ten lists all the time.

I guess this is the type of news you’d expect as Earth Day approaches, but now I can’t pass away safe in the thought that some old rocker somewhere will smoke my remains for the heck of it, only to brag about it to a tabloid years later. That’s too bad because I had already started making a list of potential candidates. Heck, I even stipulated there would be a $25 Applebee’s gift certificate to whoever found my charred artificial heart valve among my ashes. It could be used to make a ring, earrings or a fancy napkin holder, unless surgeons recycle that type of thing. Maybe they use it in constructing a half man half machine prototype or they put it in the pig whose valve they just took out to place into a human, but more about that down the road.

What could we do to still dispose of our deceased and not slap dear Mother Earth in the face you ask? Well, the same scientist says that we should all be buried in a cardboard box under a tree. That way, we can all gradually become compost and fertilizer. It’s bad enough being called a piece of @%#%$ in life, but in death? That’s too cruel. It also means that I can’t use my second burial option now either. If cremation proved to be too expensive, I asked that my body be placed in big plastic bags that were filled with lots of foam peanuts and fastened with those plastic rings that hold six-packs together so that I could be floated down the river and into the sea. That’s pretty harmless, right?

Now I have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how I want to be thrown out, I mean disposed of, I mean preserved. Geez, how do you say not buried or cremated? I’ve already thought about being frozen, but I’d be afraid that my family wouldn’t be able to resist using my frozen block to cool their drinks during our annual 4th of July get together. After all, a frozen person would be pretty big and since I’d already be there, they would get the best of both worlds: a huge chunk of free ice and they would still get to celebrate with me (I’ve always loved fireworks).

Perhaps I could be preserved and mummified like us Catholics did with all of our 800 year old saints (I watched a special about it late one night when I couldn’t sleep. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to go back to bed when it was over, either). I could be dressed in my favorite Dale Earnhardt shirt and propped into my favorite seat at the California Speedway so I could enjoy racing even in death. The same could be done with me in my LA Clippers Jersey so I could forever sit at Staples Center and watch my Clippers play. The only downside is that even mummified, I would probably still completely decompose before the Clippers when the NBA Championship.

Of course, in both of those ‘burial’ options, I will need to get some type of health or safety clearance, which will probably be pretty costly to obtain. What does mummifying go for these days, anyway?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Mutual Admiration Society Otherwise Known As My Office

Yesterday was the first day in quite some time that all of us were in the office. Boy do I wish we had cameras following us around. I just about used up all of my last special notepad that has my name on it writing down everything that went on. By the end of the day, my coworkers were saying ‘I have soooo much to blog about now’ along with me. It was a great blogworthy day. Ha, I fooled them though. I waited an extra day to post this.

Of course, yesterday started with all of us sitting around figuring out which former employees didn’t return their company issued digital cameras when they left the company. I must tell you that I still have mine, but then I haven’t found a new job yet…

As the day went on, we all switched back and forth between complaining that we didn’t have enough time to get our jobs done and talking in my office. No, I don’t think the two things are related. We also took an early lunch (about 11) and got back just after 1PM. Lunch may have been the highlight of the day. In attendance were new guy, female coworker and in the office two times a week guy. As soon as we got to our usual dive, we noticed that social oblivious guy from our staff was eating there with one of his clients. We politely said hello and then took our own table. As soon as we sat down, we realized that we all now had nothing to talk about since the client and that coworker were a mere two tables away and social oblivious guy and our clients are all we have to make fun of…I mean speak highly about.

After about twenty-five awkward moments of silence, female coworker admitted that she is thinking about getting the lap band surgery for quick weight loss, which is apparently not a belt that you can pull tighter whenever you want to eat less. This was followed by in the office two times a week guy telling female coworker that she was a fat a$$. Yes, right in front of new guy and me. To refresh your memory, this was the same male coworker who once referred to female coworker as the big lady carrying a death stick because she smokes. New guy choked on his lunch and I tried to get out of our booth since I was seated precariously between female coworker and in the office two times a week guy. Female coworker reacted in a very civil manner, given what had just occurred, by unleashing a string of F-bombs that will forever be referred to by me and in the office two times a week guy as ‘carpet-bombing.’ The fact that I started referring to female coworker as a B-52 Stratofortress certainly did nothing to smooth the situation. She unleashed another carpet-bombing that prevented me from explaining that the Stratofortress was the bomber that was used for our carpet-bombing in Vietnam. Lunch finally ended with me telling new guy how best to phrase the written statement that I am sure will be requested from all of us by our HR department. Our solid relationship as a team was further cemented when I stopped to refill my beverage on the way out of the restaurant only to notice that my coworkers were now half way across the parking lot. Those inconsiderate @!#%@$#$@!!!!!

After lunch, in the office two times a week guy came over to my cubicle while I was mumbling how disgusting it was that I had to clean my computer mouse. He sat over my shoulder undeterred while I took my mouse apart and by navigating the web with my keyboard's arrow keys, he showed me the website where we plan on ordering lots of work toys like USB Port Nerf Rocket Launchers and annoying sound machines. Why yes, our boss was gone at the time, why do you ask?

After we determined what we wanted to order from the website, in the office two times a week guy took a phone call from one of social oblivious guy’s clients and needed to transfer it to social oblivious guy’s extension. He politely asked us all for social oblivious guy’s extension and female worker shouted out in the office two times a week guy’s extension. When in the office two times a week guy realized it was his own extension and said something, we all prepared for another flight by the Stratofortress. None of us were disappointed.

Other than not working, the late afternoon led to a discussion about collagen injections for lips with the ladies in the break room and a conversation in the office two times a week guy had on his speakerphone. The break room discussion about lip enhancement was very enlightening and we all agreed that most celebrities who get it end up looking like the love child of Mick Jagger and Carly Simon. When the news program that was on in the break room showed the fire at Johnny Cash’s house, I told everyone to look quickly at the burning house and asked them if they saw the ring of fire. Sadly, the joke didn’t go over very well. I happily got to hear two times a week guy have a discussion on speakerphone with his girlfriend. I now know his nickname but promised I wouldn’t tell anyone…and that he can call me Mikey.

The day ended perfectly after our boss complimented female coworker for having the highest numbers of all four offices in our division. Though I don’t care much for competition, I can tell you that I was ranked third for our division, but it’s not important that I finished third. Just so you make sure, finishing third isn’t important to me. You got it? Yes, I finished third…no big deal though. Where was I? Oh yes, female worker just couldn’t stop bragging about her outranking us, so new guy made a very fake and sarcastic award to present to her (he’s going to fit in very well). Our boss even got in on the action and called the entire office together to present it to her. We gave her a hearty round of applause and as female coworker wiped the tears from her eyes, we yelled that now she could knock it off. She won; we admitted it and we’d better not hear about it again.

That is pretty much a typical day in our office. Despite the surface hatred, we all seem to like and trust each other. As I left yesterday, female coworker and in the office two times a week guy were contently talking and enjoying each other’s company. In fact, I only heard four carpet-bombs. I just wish I knew who stole all of my business cards and I wonder when new guy will decide to come back to work…

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ring Of Fire

A company named Toto in Japan has some explaining to do according to Reuters. If you’re like me, you love a good toilet story. Yeah, I’m not sure that came out the right way, sorry. The company manufactures high-tech toilets. Don’t worry; the phrase high-tech toilet is new to me, too. Some of the features of their toilets include warmed seats, blow drying bidets and even air purification. Hmmm, all of these features being operated within a bowl that contains several gallons of water? Yes, their customers have been having problems with them. Almost 30 of their toilets have recently had problems with smoking or worse, fire. Fortunately no one has been injured (although would anyone really report having their backsides burned by a toilet) and the company is offering free repairs.

Now I thought that mankind had reached its technological peak when the singing mounted bass was unveiled, but the warming toilet definitely sits atop the technology throne (sorry, it just seemed so appropriate). You have got to want to reward the smart scientists who looked upon the conventional toilet one day, providing they weren’t sitting atop it, and decided to figure out ways to enhance it. Did they put the toilet in front of a blackboard and start writing down ideas and improvements on their science pads (which I think are the same as legal pads, with the exception that they were bought at one of the science supply stores like Beaker Depot or Test Tubes and therefore cost more)?

You know that the first thing mentioned was the dreaded cold toilet seat first thing in the morning. Really, when you give it a lot of thought, it’s amazing that something like this was ever invented. If everyone involved with the project was proper and well mannered, no one would admit any bad experiences they had suffered while on or around a toilet. Without the scientists’ experiences, no one would know what could be improved upon. I suppose the general public could send letters into the toilet manufacturers with their complaints or suggestions, but can anyone name the manufacturer of their toilet…without peeking? I said peeking

The bidet is the thing I’m the most interested in. Until a coworker corrected me, I thought that it was a miniature beret, perhaps to be worn by a pony. I guess I really hadn’t thought it through. I also used to think a bidet was the fancy way of spelling and pronouncing ‘Biddy,’ but I called a biddy that once and it took two weeks for the ‘purse welts’ to heal. At any rate, the thing looks like a water fountain and apparently, it’s meant to wash parts down yonder. Well, that’s assuming that what I really saw was in fact a bidet and not a true water fountain. Either way, I don’t think I can ever drink from the public water supply again.

If you are wondering when these techno-toilets will arrive in the US, my guess is that it is now several months later than when originally anticipated. I can’t possibly imagine that Home Depot and Lowe’s are as excited now to begin stocking toilets that burn and smoke. It might be great for the gag shop in your local mall, but not for the discerning American public’s arse. Whoever thought that walking up to the bathroom door when someone is using the facilities and yelling ‘light a match’ would take on such a different meaning. But then I guess the discussion on bathrooms and toilets in our society has always been a ‘hot’ issue…

Monday, April 16, 2007

Insomnia Man

Considering that I couldn’t come up with anything else for today and in light of the feedback I received when mentioning Insomnia Man on Friday, I thought I would delve deeper into the life of Insomnia Man. This will be somewhat different from my usual posts and embarrassingly; THIS is my longest post to date.

Insomnia Man (IM because I’m too lazy to type the full name) was a sheepherder until being laid off in the late 90s when computer software and technology made it possible to count sheep more cheaply and efficiently than a mere mortal could. This disturbed Insomnia Man deeply and disrupted the ebb and flow of his life, but he found work not long after in a local office complex. He would spend his days in his drab mono-colored (coloured for any of my European readers) cubicle staring at a computer monitor listening to the incessant droning native to the office environment while pushing papers and taking things in and out of manila folders because that’s what he saw those around him doing. Due to the lack of excitement he was used to on the sheep farm, he would often fall asleep at his desk. IM could get away with this because he always had plenty of manila folders on his desk and was never seen not clutching one. This daytime sleeping made it hard to fall asleep at night and before too long IM became a full-fledged insomniac. Well, that’s what he believed after seeing that he had a few of the same symptoms as an insomniac does on the internet. Perhaps he was too quickly convinced that he was an insomniac because he thought it made him a candidate for disability until he was laughed out of his company’s HR Specialist’s office. This made him bitter and agitated which further deterred his ability to sleep.

The insomnia didn’t bother IM too much at first because it made it much easier for him to sleep through his workday and that made the workday pass much quicker than if he actually worked straight through 8 consecutive hours. IM would spend his nights learning foreign languages by watching their infomercials or enjoying his TiVo’d episodes of ‘The Wonder Years’ (don’t we all have Winnie Coopers or Kevin Arnolds in our past). One night while craving a Chalupa, he took to the streets to find a Taco Bell. It was at this time that he witnessed his very first crime. At least he thought that the guy was breaking into his neighbors house until he called the police and they discovered that it was his neighbor’s Father-in-law trying to get back into the house because he locked himself out while house sitting. Never the less, the adrenaline rush he experienced while thinking he was foiling a criminal act now and forever would be in his blood. It was only a bonus that his neighbors later dropped the charges against him.

IM now knew what he must do. He would use his sub-super powers to prevent evil in his city by finding crime in progress and calling the police. Sadly, IM was not smart enough to realize that the crime would be over by the time he reported it. He upgraded his cell phone plan, bought a digital camera and while his wife slept one night, he assembled everything he would need to fashion his own superhero costume, although he disliked the term costume as he felt it belittled him and referred to it as his ‘Superuni.” He later realized he had no talent for combining words and just stuck with ‘My Uniform For Deterring, if Not Repelling, Because I Can’t Really Fight, Crime.” One night after driving himself to the emergency room to have his fingers removed from the cape he had accidentally sewed to them, his Uniform For Deterring, if Not Repelling, Because I Can’t Really Fight, Crime was finished.

IM was now free to patrol the streets at night looking and listening for crime. He found that the longer he went without sleep, the harder it was to walk or drive straight and trust what he was seeing. Unfortunately, he missed more crimes than he prevented and was asked by the authorities to stop searching for crime after striking a group of elderly women leaving a bingo game one night. In time, the police dispatchers stopped taking his calls and then became further irritated when they had to dispatch officers nightly to get him off the yards of the town’s citizens. It turns out that those Neighborhood Watch programs really are effective. But then, how difficult is it to spot someone in a mask and cape with big ‘ZZZZs’ on their chest peeking in through your neighbor’s window.

Times were tough for IM. Then when having to go to the grocery store for his wife one day (despite his insistence that he needed to try and sleep during the day because he did really important stuff at night like Elvis used to), he realized that he actually did have an almost superpower. The bags under his eyes had become so big that they repelled the sunlight allowing him to not have to squint, just like the pro athletes who paint black streaks under their eyes before they compete. Now he could seek out and report crime to the authorities in the daytime too.

Insomnia Man patrolled the local streets day and night unsuccessfully for over 20 years. Then one day his social security check began arriving and his wife retired. She insisted that they buy a motor home and travel the country (mostly to escape the constant ridicule for being the wife of the sleepless caped idiot). While driving the motor home, he fell asleep at the wheel driving through Needles, California and was hospitalized for 8 months. Ironically, that day driving and the ensuing 8 months was the best (and by best I mean only) sleep he had experienced in 23 years. After recovering; they retired to Florida, took up lawn bowling and he now falls asleep at 3PM everyday while watching ‘The People’s Court’ in his recliner.

It’s still a sore subject for him when his grandchildren make fun of Insomnia Man. Except for the one grandchild who is afraid of sleep and found Insomnia Man’s Uniform For Deterring, if Not Repelling, Because He Can’t Really Fight, Crime in his grandfather’s attic one day…

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Repost Sunday: Welcome To The Hottest Club In Town

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy.

Wow, what an explosive week this has been and we’re only half way through it! North Korea apparently successfully tested its first (if not second) nuclear device. For some reason, this has generated a lot of press. In many of the stories I’ve read, there is a mention of North Korea joining the “Nuclear Club.” I’ve never heard of that club before so I did a little of my hasty research and wanted to share it with you.

The Club (as I’ll refer to it) is about as exclusive a club as you can join. There area very few select members and to gain entry, you have to have nuclear capabilities. So naturally, this is one club that you are not easily kicked out of. After all, if you possess nuclear weapons, chances are no one is going to approach you and ask you to turn in your key to the clubhouse, so to speak. The members are the US (club founder and I presume President), Russia (second to join and by longevity and sheer warhead numbers, VP), Britain (very few estimated warheads, but as America’s buddy, they get to be Club Secretary), France (Treasurer), China (Club member), India, (Club member), Pakistan (followed India in when no one was looking), North Korea (got in only because they figured out the secret knock) and possibly Israel (they say they are a member and as I already mentioned, this is a club with credentials you really don’t want to question).

It nearly killed me, but I was able to get my hands on a pamphlet for the Club. Except for the fact that half the Club hates each other and the US and Russia have a love hate relationship, the Club looks like a lot of fun. There are pools, tennis courts, an 18-hole Arnold Palmer designed golf course with the world’s largest sand trap (courtesy of repeated underground atomic testing) and the obligatory 50,000 square foot nuclear research facility. I hear the food is excellent though and they play bingo every Wednesday night.

The odd part about the Club is that most of the members don’t usually pal around together so the clubhouse is usually as empty as the Big Brother house during its last week. Hey, there’s an idea if anyone from CBS is watching (or Saturday Night Live, if you take it to the other extreme). Since it’s hard to top Big Brother All-Stars, why not Big Brother – Nuclear Style. The members of the Nuclear Club could all be sequestered in the same house for several weeks and one by one vote each other off. Wouldn’t the alliances be great? Something tells me that America and Britain would form an alliance on day one and get everyone voted off but France and then ultimately betray and evict France. When all the former “house guests” return for the final vote (assuming they all didn’t nuke each other), Britain would be voted the winner since everyone hates America. OK CBS Network President Les Moonves or Lorne Michaels, I can be contacted via the email address located under my links list…

So the Nuclear Club has another member. Whether or not Kim Jong Il chooses to take advantage of the Club’s perks remains to be seen. The bottom line is he and North Korea have joined the Club and now no one can take away their membership. I guess membership truly does have its privileges, especially when that privilege is the ability to wipe your real or perceived enemies off the face of the earth. When I get a little older, I’ll just follow in my Grandfather’s footsteps and join the Elks Club, thank you very much.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 4-14-07

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason it never makes me look good. I hope that knowing about at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 4/8/07-4/14/07.

! I learned that it is possible to pay the Vet $500 and still be able to leave his clinic without knowing why my wife’s cat lost the use of her front paw.

! I learned that when I am smoking meat on the BBQ and it is a rather windy day, I should close the sliding glass door to the patio. Or I need to have a very strong scented Yankee candle ready and burning before anyone else gets home.

! I learned that when I am trying a new sleeping medication for the first time, I should not answer a call from work at 3: 15 in the morning. This is especially true if I do not wish to be taunted about my incoherence during that phone call for the remainder of the week!

! I learned that I need to make sure from now on that I hard-boiled the eggs before Lucy and Ethel color them. I also need to verify that all eggs have been found after the Easter egg hunt.

! I learned that my niece wasn’t wearing a belt that had a squeeze toy attached to it so it would make a sound when you touched her tummy. Apparently, it was my nephew holding the squeeze toy in his pocket. I hate being so gullible, especially in front of the in-laws.

! I learned that Thursday was not casual day at work after I showed up in cargo pants an untucked shirt but that Friday was when I showed up in a shirt and tie. For you regular readers, I guess I got a taste of my own medicine.

And lastly,

! I learned that you know you are in the middle of nowhere when you see a street called Whispering Spur and you notice that just feet from there is a red barn with a sign reading ‘Cow Town USA Square Dancing.’ I was tempted to enter the building and ask for an order of dose-e-do to go.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Top Ten (And A Half) Things To Do When Suffering From Insomnia

I post a Top Ten and a Half List every Friday. Why ten and a half? Because I don’t want to be accused of stealing a great idea, of course…So, here are the top ten (and a half) things to do when suffering from insomnia:

11. Lie in bed and daydream about sleeping.

10. Drive around your city taking note of all the 24-hour fast food drive-thrus and then visit both of them on successive nights.

9. Sew a mask and cape and patrol the streets at night enforcing the law and repelling evil as Insomnia Man. Remember to recreate the bags under your eyes on the mask.

8. Grill up a steak and try to learn a foreign language by watching foreign soaps or infomercials.

7. Edge the backyard.

6. Apologize to the neighbors for edging the backyard.

5. Wash the cars (after all, there won’t be any water spots caused by the sun).

4. Apologize to the other neighbors for washing the cars, as well as the authorities when they arrive to answer both neighbors’ disturbing the peace calls.

3. Visit my blog. Better yet, visit my blog and leave a comment complimenting me on my witty writing. You can leave a comment about the lack of my witty writing skills, but I can’t guarantee that I won’t delete it.

2. Call your coworkers around 3AM and when they or their angry spouse answers, apologize and say that you dialed the wrong number in a deep eastern European accent.

And the number one thing to do when suffering from insomnia is:

1. Grab something exciting to read like a dictionary or the directions for your refrigerator and read until…

Thursday, April 12, 2007

China Sounds Like A Nice Enough Place

After reading a story by the Associated Press, it sounds like China is taking steps to ensure that they put on a good and proper Summer Olympics next year. The story says that Olympic organizers there want to ban bad manners, spitting, run-down housing and nonsense English. If they successfully implement these bans and the International Olympic Committee ever adopts them, Los Angeles can kiss their chance at the 2016 Games good bye. Parts of L.A. excel in every one of those categories!

The story says that the newest ban is the crack down (is it me or do the words crack down and China make anyone else thing of Tiananmen Square) on badly worded English. China fears that people or signs that butcher our language could be an embarrassment for them. There are currently English worded signs in Beijing that make no sense to anyone, with the possible exception of Yoda or Sylvester Stallone, and the country hopes to work on getting that stopped and will even have a phone line for people to call if they spot poorly translated signs. Taxi drivers in Beijing are being required to pass English tests so that they can keep their licenses. I wonder if the phrases “So, where ya from,” “Yo, the meter is running” and “Hey, anyone call a taxi,” will be covered on the test.

I don’t know about you but it seems awfully nice of China to want to be so accommodating next summer to those who speak the English language. While I don’t keep myself too current on world affairs (or men’s fashion or the works of P. Diddy for that matter) and can’t recall actually studying in school, I always thought we never got along with China. Well, relations must not be too bad now. They are focusing on the use of correct English in Beijing and they keep sending our zoos Pandas, so things must be going pretty well. I guess they can take France’s place at our next world diplomacy slumber party. “I have like an announcement every one, we’re letting like China join our like clique. Like is that OK?”

Perhaps we should be concerned about the rest of the bans being put in place for the 2008 games. Think about it, no spitting and no bad manners. How’s that going to affect us Americans in Beijing? And I’m just talking about the athletes. How are our gymnasts, swimmers and equestrian competitors supposed to vent when they lose without bad manners? Can you imagine an American Olympic baseball team that takes the field and does not spit? Well, that’s like having an Olympic games without suspending an American or Canadian runner for failing a steroid test or an Eastern European judge who gives high marks to anyone from the west. Darn it, the whole thing just violates the spirit of the Olympic tradition.

I applaud China for going to the lengths they appear to be going, but let’s hope that the games aren’t too polite. Why it wouldn’t feel right traveling to another country and not getting lost because you can’t understand the signs or anyone you ask for directions. For me, the best part of the Olympics has always been the chance that I might see two athletes from different countries cause an international incident that sets the rest of the world on edge. Am I going to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing you ask? No, my passport was just revoked for some reason…I'm sure it had nothing to do with me submitting "Goodness, Gracious, Great Wall of China" as the 2008 Summer Games theme song.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

That Could Have Been My Gambling Money

We have a cat. OK, my wife has a cat that I became co-owner of upon my marriage. Figaro, or Figgy or &@#!# as I often call her was born in my wife’s backyard 16 years ago. Needless to say, she is part of the family. At least that’s how I felt after she adopted me 5 years into marriage on that fateful day when she decided not to hiss at me anymore when I attempted to get into bed. The relationship I have with Figgy now is wonderful. I get to clean up whatever emanates, leaks or is projected from either one of her ends. She makes a mess and then looks at me knowing that I will lower my head and clean up after her. Whoever thought I would become a cat’s B-tch. On a similar timeline, she finally decided to acknowledge the existence of Lucy and Ethel a few months ago; mind you, that’s four years into their lives. In fact, she even sleeps some nights in Ethel’s bed, which has caused severe mental anguish and an inferiority complex for Lucy. I deal with that by explaining that Lucy was much more popular than Ethel was. It’s worked well so far.

Prior to a scare we got last night (hence the reason for this post), the closest that ole Figaro came to bodily injury or giving us a scare was when she would fall asleep on top of the couch and fall off. As we were too busy watching TV, we would know she fell off by a sudden thud and meow. We would look over the couch only to find her shaking her head before trouncing off to pout at my laughing at her. Last night as I went to bed, I found her in Lucy and Ethel’s room crying out to me. She could not get up and when she finally did, she was dragging one of her front paws. There was no sign of pain so we assumed that at her age she might have had a stroke.

She was taken to the vet today for examinations and tests and we expected the worst. Several hours later, we were told that she didn’t appear to be dying, to the best of the doctor’s ability. It’s assumed that she does have a leg injury and we were sent packing with three different medications and instructions to call the vet every day through next week. Obviously, I was relieved when my wife called me with this news, until she said that we essentially paid $500 to be told that Figaro could come home and that we really don’t know what happened. Let me recap, $500 for no real answer. So, if the vet used the words, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong,’ to describe her condition, it worked out to $100 per word. I gotta tell you, I used to be a freelance copywriter and never even got a quarter of that per word. Apparently, I was under charging.

Now I know that veterinarians are very important and offer a great service and that Figgy’s diagnosis could have gone either way, but that’s a lot of money for a guess. I could have gambled that money and had a chance to at least make some of it back. Well, not in roulette, which reminds me to tell you that you should never bet NASCAR numbers when playing roulette. It’s not that I’m cheap, unless you consider it cheap to buy only pregnant fish so that I get about 10 for the price of 1 or having my wife cut my hair. Although in her defense, she’s really good at it and it’s hard to mess up the short and spiky look.

Even though they weren’t grand plans, I did have hopes of using that $500 other ways. I could have gotten new tires for my truck since they’re almost as bald as Patrick Stewart is or bought eggnog in bulk next Christmas and so I could freeze it to enjoy the whole year round, thus eliminating my annual nasty mid-June withdrawals. I could have purchased about 8 gallons of gas here in Southern California or hired a really cheap lawyer to contest my paternity of Anna Nicole’s child. I might even have been able to buy a door for my office cubicle or a sport coat that actually fits me. That money could have been used to finance my Off-Broadway production of ‘Welcome Back Kotter the Musical.’ I’ve been working on getting Squiggy to play Horschack, it’s pure genius. Lastly, I could have paid that guy Jimmy back for the money I borrowed last time I was in Vegas. After all, I’m going to have to answer my phone and front door eventually.

I’m glad to know that Figgy will be with us for a while longer and that she might even regain the use of her front paw. Every time I’m bending down to clean up her regurgitated dinner, hair and hourly litter box deposit, or when I find myself sleeping on the edge of the bed so that she can be comfortable, I’ll remember the best $500 I ever spent…Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about. Well the names have all changed since you hung around, but those dreams have remained and they're turned around. Who'd have thought they'd lead ya (Who'd have thought they'd lead ya) Here where we need ya (here where we need ya). Yeah we tease her a lot cause we've got her on the spot, welcome back, welcome back, welcome back, welcome back…

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Deadliest Job In The World?

I don’t care too much for reality TV, with one exception. I thoroughly enjoy watching ‘The Deadliest Catch’ on the Discovery Channel. The show follows a handful of crab fishing boats out of Alaska. These fisherman face peril at virtually every stage of their jobs and when you consider the stormy seas they sometimes have to navigate, even getting to their jobs can be dangerous. In just the first episode this season, one boat already sank, and these aren’t little weekend pleasure boats. They are huge boats that keep the crews on the ocean for a few weeks at a time.

Why do I care enough to write about crab fisherman today? Because every time I watch them in action, I can’t help but feel somewhat like I am less of a man because of my job. I can’t say that I really risk life or limb when I leave for work in the morning. Yes, there are a few times when female coworker is having a bad day that injury becomes a real possibility, but that danger is negated by the rest of us avoiding her and sneaking out to lunch whenever she has to use the restroom. Still though, it’s not the same as reporting for work in a major storm on the high seas with only the quickness of the US Coast Guard standing between me and my maker should something go terribly wrong. If female coworker snaps, I only have HR as recourse and they don’t have cool helicopters.

Let’s compare my job with that of a crab fisherman’s. I drive to work and the worst thing that could happen then is a minor fender bender because you can’t drive to or from work more than 5 miles an hour Monday-Friday in Southern California. And if I did have a fender bender, it would probably be my fault anyway because I’m such a late braker. It really puts things in perspective when I have to put on a tie for work instead of rain slickers or a life suit. When I get to work there are no slippery decks or choppy seas. Yes, I may accidentally clip a file cabinet while walking down the hall, but the worst thing that ever happened when I did that was my watch breaking. Do I grind up bait every few hours? Not in my office. I get to shred paper every now and then, but there’s no blood or fish scent. Unless I cut myself and someone decides to reheat salmon for their lunch, but the chances of that happening simultaneously aren’t as great as you might think. In my office, there is no chance of being washed overboard. Although we do occasionally have to wash the dry erase board. Comparative level of difficulty on that one: .001. While the brave crab fishermen risk being hit by a several hundred pound crab trap as it’s moved by crane onto the deck, I just have to make sure I don’t bump into anyone in the break room in a way that could be misconstrued as sexual harassment.

My job doesn’t get me grimy from setting up fish bait or emptying King Crabs out of traps. The only time I get dirty at work is when I might break my ink pen (usually my fault), have to change the printer toner (which I usually do incorrectly causing it to get all over me) or rest my arms anywhere that the nightly cleaning staff might neglect to clean, like my desk, for example. No, I don’t face injury with virtually every step or tick of the clock like crab men do. My greatest opportunities for injury would actually leave me too embarrassed to admit that it even happened. For me, there is the ever-present threat of having my pride wounded by a coworker when we begin to exchange barbs about our work performance. Yeah, that really showcases the testosterone. Yes, I could burn the tip of my finger or knuckle on our industrial sized copy machine when it jams and I’m sent to open up the machine and retrieve what’s left of the jammed paper, but there’s no adrenaline rush with that. Believe me, I’ve tried. Once after grabbing the jammed document, I jumped out and down, whooped and hollered and attempted to give everyone high fives, only to be asked to settle down and get back to work. Could I accidentally strangle myself picking up my office telephone? Only if I’m not paying attention, and happen to be spinning when I pick it up.

Surely there must be some similarities you say. OK, just humor me and say it once. Why yes, there are similarities. Thank you for asking. My cubicle is about the same size as the crewmen’s bunks. Actually, now that I’m really thinking about it, their beds might be larger. Dang it! OK, here’s a good similarity, we both get paid for what we do. Wait a minute; they get paid much better for just a few weeks of work than I do for a whole year.

I guess after thinking about the inadequacies I feel because of my job, there’s only one thing to do to make me feel like more of a man while earning my pay. I’m going to begin wearing rain slickers to work everyday. You know, crab legs sound pretty good for lunch tomorrow…