Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I'm gonna be a star!

Last week, I was on the Rochester paper's website perusing the news when I saw a link to taking part in their annual Oscar contest. In it, you pick the winners from 6 major categories (Best Pic, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Director). You also pick what you think will win for Best Foreign Language Film as a tiebreaker. I've participated in the contest the last couple years or so. I followed the link and saw that I only had one day left in which to make my picks. So I hurriedly (is that a word?) made my picks and submitted them. I basically picked the performances that were favored to win (Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, Martin Scorsese, Jennifer Hudson, and "The Departed" for Best Pic, though some thought "Babel" or "Little Miss Sunshine" would win). I realized that in order to have a good chance at winning, I would need to pick at least one upset. I elected to pick Alan Arkin over Eddie Murphy. I had heard rumblings that he might not be able to get enough votes due to many in Hollywood thinking he's an a-hole as well as the release of the movie, "Norbit" (which critics have eviscerated).

Murphy was still favored to win, however. For the tiebreaker, I picked "Pan's Labyrinth", the consensus choice to win. I watched the show on Sunday and didn't think much of my chances even after Arkin won. I felt that someone else probably picked the tiebreaker correctly ("The Lives of Others" actually beat "Labyrinth").

Me and Dori went out to eat after work yesterday afternoon (I had Taco John's, she brought Chinese to the restaurant). She then went to pick up some groceries while I headed home. I listened to our voice mails. One of them was from the Post Bulletin. At first, I thought it was another call regarding renewing my subscription (see entry from yesterday). But no, this guy said that this was regarding the contest. He said that 5 people were 6 for 6 on the regular picks with none of those 5 correctly picking the tiebreaker. He said the names of those 5 people were put in a trucker's cap, no, just kidding, some other kind of hat and what do you know, my name was picked. Nice!! He said they had about 300 entries and almost all of them picked Murphy as Best Supporting Actor.

There are two prizes, well, actually three. The first is a $100 check that is to be mailed to me in the near future. The second is (are you ready for this?) 2 movie tickets a week for every week over the next year (that's 104 movie tickets!) I like!! I'm to receive those in the next week or two as well. The third "prize" is my pic in the paper. I've never had my pic in the paper. The guy on the phone asked if I could come in this morning to get it taken. I said, "Absotively posilutely".

I went to their offices this morning and their photographer came out to obtain me. We went upstairs to the newsroom and (you ain't gonna believe this shit) there were people using typewriters! Not only that, but their phones were all rotary! What the fuck?! The only thing missing were all the guys wearing mustaches and women wearing flowery dresses. Talk about "I love the 70's"!

(Pic from "Zodiac". I'm looking forward to seeing it this weekend)

I'm just kidding. But wouldn't it have been wicked if their newsroom looked like it came right out of 30 years ago? That would've been "Twilight Zone" territory. The photog asked me if I wanted to go to a mirror before getting a pic taken. I said, "Yes" and headed for the men's room. It wasn't to make sure I looked alright (I knew I did :P). I went in there to practice smiling, you know, to make sure that my smile would look genuine (not fake). I tried for a couple minutes and finally came up with something decent. I was taken to the "portait studio". The lady told me to sit on a stool that was placed in the studio. She took a few test shots and then began with the real thing. I thought of all those movie tickets and for some reason, a smile came to my face. As she took the pictures, the photog said, "Nice...nice...that's great." (I'm sure she says that to everybody). After that, I was debriefed by the Lifestyle editor of the newspaper and was free to go on my way. My pic is scheduled to be in tomorrow's paper. Needless to say, my life will never be the same.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

School Days

When I was in the 1st grade, I pushed another kid on the playground (I can't recall why. Perhaps he told me that he was a NeoCon). A playground supervisor told me to go to the principal's office. I had no idea where it was, but headed into the school. I stopped at the drinking fountain and drank water from it for about 20 seconds (needless to say, I was procrastinating). One of the teachers said, "Hi" to me. For some reason, I had no desire to ask that teacher where the prinicipal's office was (I knew that going there would not be a fun experience). I realized that this teacher had no idea what had just happened with me outside, so continued walking. I strolled around the school halls for about 10 minutes until it was time to go back to class and no one was ever the wiser. I guess you could say I got away with one. High-five!!

Poor Baby

Eddie Murphy was so devastated after losing the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award to Alan Arkin he stormed out of the ceremony, according to press reports, including Roger Friedman of Murphy was the favorite to win the Oscar, which instead was awarded to Little Miss Sunshine star Arkin. The 45-year-old tried to downplay his disappointment telling US Weekly, "It's fine. It happens. It's OK." But shortly thereafter, Murphy and girlfriend Tracey Edmonds left the show and didn't return. Murphy missed out on his Dreamgirls cast mates Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose performing songs from the film, as well as Hudson's win for Best Supporting Actress.

(courtesy of IMDB)

All the News That's Shit to Print

I've subscribed to the Rochester newspaper for most of the time that I've been in Rochester (since 1997). I liked keeping up on the local news and what was going on with Minnesota's pro sports teams. Once a week since '97, I've also been getting Entertainment Weekly. Last fall, I received an offer from Time magazine to get their periodical for a full year for $19.95 (that's 37 cents an issue). I opted to go for it. They focus a little too much on politics,

but, nonetheless are a good read in the bathtub. After a few weeks of getting Time, I decided to quit the paper. I could afford to get all 3 items, but the paper just has so much crap in it (flyers, tons of advertising in the paper itself, the food section (no offense, Mags), most of the classifieds, letters to the editor that are Pro-Bush, etc). Plus the paper is really too unwieldy to try to read in the bathtub (a magazine is much easier). One ish of Time is cheaper than one day of the paper. I like!!

The paper (the Post-Bulletin) has been trying to get me to renew at a "special" rate, but even if it was free, I don't think I'd take it at this time (a week's worth of papers is a lot of wasted trees). It's kinda funny, though, because now I'm not aware of recent events that have happened in our area (such as the merger of the two major movie theatres we have in town). But, big whoop. "News" like that doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Magic Pen

When I was in grade school in the early 80's, one of the coolest things to come out was the Bic 4-color pen.

Just take a gander at these features:

Write with 4 different colors combined into one great pen.
Satisfy your need for multiple ink colors in one pen.
BIC 4-Color Pen features black, blue, red and green inks.
Enjoy a quick “clic-changing” ink mechanism.
Experience over 2.4 miles of writing ink.

Let me tell you. When I saw the commercials for this thing as a youngster, I HAD to have it. I mean, fuck, it's like 4 pens in one! Oh, you wouldn't believe how proud I was the first day I took it to school with me.

Tom: Hey, Chad. Check out this pen.

Chad: Yeah, I've heard about those things.

Tom: Look, I writing in blue ink right now. See? But now I want to be like our teacher and use red. *click*

Chad: Cool!

Tom: And now I want to use green. *click* Look, I'm writing my name in green. I'm a Martian.

Chad: Radical! How much was that?

Tom: 2.99

Chad: Wow! My allowance is 50 cents a week. How long will it take me to save up for one?

Tom: Um...let me see. I'm gonna use black ink to figure this one out. *click*

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Attack of the Stones

In the summer of 2002, I was working at the Mayo Clinic as a telephone operator (transferring calls to various departments, paging doctors for patients). All was going well in the early evening until I started to feel a rather sharp pain in my lower back.

I had felt some low-level pain in that area a few times in the past week or so, but nothing like I was feeling at the moment. I tried to work through it, but there was just too much pain. I told the lady I was working with about it and called one of my bosses at St Marys who said I could go.

The great thing about working at the clinic is that if you get sick, you're never too far from a doctor. The telephone office was located on the 20th floor, so I took the elevator down to the subway level and walked from there to the Baldwin building (where urgent care is at). It wasn't too far of a walk, but the pain became so excruciating that I had to stop from time to time. A doctor walking in the subway noticed this and sought help. With great effort, I was able to make it to the urgent care desk. I was really grimacing, though. I explained my condition and they asked me to sit in the waiting area. I actually laid down on one of the couches in the waiting area and a few times, audibly groaned in pain. I was fairly quickly taken to an office where a nurse asked me questions. The pain continued. A nice doctor saw me for a few minutes and assured me that I would get some pain medicine right away. Shortly therafter, I was given a shot of morphine. It took awhile, but the pain did start to subside. I was told that urgent care didn't deal with such extreme cases, that I was going to be transported to the ER located about a mile up the road at St Marys. I was put on a cart and taken to a waiting ambulance.

I had never been in an ambulatory vehicle before. Though I was in pain, I made sure to take everything in. The trip from Mayo to St Marys took only a few minutes.

Once there, I was taken to a bed and given an IV (I get woozy at the sight of blood, so turned away when they did the injection). A short time later, I had x-rays done as well as some other tests. I didn't know what it was that I had. A doctor took my case and told me after the tests came back that I had kidney stones.

One of the nurses in the ER said that many women have said that the pain of having kidney stones is worse than that of childbirth. The IV continued to work its magic and I was eventually given some Vicodin and sent on my way. The doctor said it would take time for the stone to pass through my system, but that the pills would help in the meantime. I was encouraged to drink as much liquid as possible to make the stones pass faster (The stones probably formed because I had been getting a crapload of exercise over the past few months, but not drinking enough liquid to replenish my system).

I rested for a few days. The pain would get bad in the evening and the pills usually took about 45 minutes to take effect, so once the pain started, I was pretty screwed until those 45 minutes were up. I tried to take the pills earlier and earlier, but I still had moments of big-time pain. While I waited for the pills to take effect in the evening, I would read in bed, mostly comic books, Star Wars comic books, to be exact, like this one:

The latest Star Wars movie, "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" had come out just a few weeks before my stone pain surfaced, so in a nod to that movie, I named my sickness the "Attack of the Stones". Pretty clever, I thought.

A week later, the pain began to subside and then pretty much went away. However, I hadn't yet passed a stone (I had been told to urinate in a strainer so that the stone could be saved for later analysis).

Who knows? Maybe I had passed it. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come.

Yes, my kidney stone pain appeared to be a thing of the past (thank God). I was off to the Stone Clinic to meet with Dr. Erickson.

(He didn't look quite this scary when I saw him).

He was basically gonna review my x-rays and give me some tips on what I needed to do to avoid another attack in the future. I actually felt pretty cool walking into the Stone Clinic, like, hey, I survived stones, man. Party. There were a couple older people in the waiting area with me. I met with the doctor and he said that the x-rays did still show a stone or two in my kidneys, but that if I was pain-free, it is quite possible that the painful one had passed. He said stones can stay in the kidney for years and not be a problem. He recommended that I try to eat more fruits and vegetables in the future to avoid another attack. In particular, he told me to drink lots of water. "Drink more water, damn you! Then you wouldn't have these problems." I left the clinic feeling good. Went home, opened the fridge, drank some "high-quality H20".

A few days later, I started to get the most uncomfortable feeling. Even after going to the bathroom, I felt as if I still had to urinate. And not just urinate a little bit, but like I had to go really bad. You may not believe this, but I think I almost preferred the pain of the stones over the constant feeling of needing to urinate. Thankfully, I did get some relief when I was sleeping, but otherwise, it was mighty uncomfortable.

I set up an appointment to be seen in the internal medicine department at Mayo. The doctor said this happening was most likely due to a stone getting further along in my system. He said it should pass soon. The only other options were to have surgery to get rid of it, but he didn't recommend that. The bummer is that there wasn't anything I could take for the urinary discomfort while I had had the Vicodin to lean on for the excruciating pain that had occured before. So I waited it out. Needless to say, it sucked.

Finally, one evening, still using the strainer, something not liquidy came out.

It was the stone! I was free! And with that my bogus adventure was over at last. I turned the stone in for analysis and promised myself to drink as much water as possible in the future, anything to avoid a sequel of '02's attack.

All you youngstas, please listen, when in doubt, drink more water.

"More water, damn you!!!"

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Last Sunday night, me and Shanon went to LaCrosse and saw Vince Gill in concert. I saw him on this same tour in October in St. Paul and liked it so much that I jumped at the opportunity to see him once again performing the new songs that he recorded for his 4-CD set called "These Days" (as well as some of his greatest hits). I wrote extensively on the 3-hour show back in October (you can find it in my archives). The show this time was much the same, though even better since we were in the 9th row. Here is a pic of the 15-piece band he had on the stage with him:

After the intermission, Vince came out onto the stage by himself and sang a couple songs with just his guitar. One of them he hadn't performed last fall. It was called, "It's Hard to Kiss the Lips that Chewed Your Ass Out All Day Long". Oh boy. Did the crowd love that one. We are so used to him singing longing ballads like "When I Call Your Name" and "I Still Believe In You" that it was a nice break to see him sing something so light.

Below is a pic from the "bluegrass" section of the show:

Here is a pic of Shanon applauding at the end of one of the songs:

It looks like he's about to cry, don't it? He actually did shed a few tears after I took this pic. He can be such a woman sometimes...

As Vince was singing the last song of the night, I left my seat and went right up to the stage to take a couple pics up close.

Fantastic show. Though my favorite music is no longer country (I like 80's, Prince, Chris Isaak, and Tori Amos a little bit better), I'll always have a special place in my heart for Vince. His music was the soundtrack to my life during the 90's, a time when I was in college, had major depression, recovered from it, had my first girlfriend, graduated, you name it. His music always takes me back to those formative days.

What's in a name?

In late 1999 and early 2000 (before they relocated to Young America), I worked at the Western Digital rebate center. People would call in asking about the status of their rebates. I received quite a few calls from people who were irate that they weren't getting their rebate(s) for one reason or another (many would swear for emphasis). But I had an easy out since I could always transfer the call to my supervisor, Mylene (she answers phones for the cable company now). And if the caller gave her problems, she could transfer the "irate" to her supervisor (Scott). Most of the calls weren't too bad, however, and there was actually a decent amount of time for me to go internet surfing. I found some of my favorite websites during this time, ones that I still visit to this day. I was introduced to:

Ain't it Cool News - Harry Knowles, a 35-year old Texan, runs this site that gives you early reviews and previews on all the cool movies coming out.

The Onion is my favorite news site.

Hollywood Elsewhere is written by Jeffrey Wells. He usually has the best scoop on movies that are just about to be released. He's really fussy when it comes to movies, though (he couldn't stand the "Lord of the Rings" movies).

On Monday mornings, I would always go to Entertainment to find out how much money the weekend movies made.

And Rotten Tomatoes collects reviews of the newest movies to give you an idea of what the critical consensus is for films hitting theatres.

It was also during this time that I put on a lot of weight, not least because I liked to frequent the Burger King located just a few blocks away from my work. If they were having a 2 hamburger, 2 fry special for 2 dollars, I was in, no doubt.

One of the most memorable calls I took at the rebate center was a guy calling in from Canada. I asked for his name and this is what he said, "Hiscock...H..I..S..C..O..C..K...Hiscock". I had to stifle a laugh there for a second. I looked it up and sure enough he was in the database. And not only his name, but at least 2 dozen people (mostly living in Canada) whose last names were also Hiscock. After the call, I told my supervisor, Scott, about it and he was quite amused.

I was able to come full circle with this call from 2000 when I worked at the cable company in 2006. At the cable call center, a person's name and address automatically come up when they call in (the number they are calling from is matched with their account number from the database and brought up). Well, this guy calls in from the States and the computer screen says his last name is, "Hircock". Again, I had to stifle a laugh and shook my head. My last name used to be Dick, but Hircock. Come on! After the call, I showed the customer's account to a bunch of amused coworkers and we all smiled, wondering how in the world someone could live with such a ridiculous name.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley are all adherents, but what is it specifically that Scientologists believe? Here are the central tenets of the religion (along with my comments):

A person is an immortal spiritual being (termed a thetan) who possesses a mind and a body.
(I'll go along with that)

The thetan has lived through many past lives and will continue to live beyond the death of the body.
(Sounds good)

Through the Scientology process of "auditing", one can free oneself of "engrams" and "implants" to reach the state of "Clear", and after that, the state of "Operating Thetan". Each state is said to represent recovering the native spiritual abilities of the individual, and to confer dramatic mental and physical benefits.
(Interesting. The word "auditing" usually has a negative connotation)

A person is basically good, but becomes "aberrated" by moments of pain and unconsciousness in his or her life.

What is true for you is what you have observed yourself. No beliefs should be forced as "true" on anyone. Thus, the tenets of Scientology are expected to be tested and seen to either be true or not by Scientology practitioners.
(Ahh, but what if my "tenets" don't match up with yours? Can we still be friends?)

Psychiatry and psychology are evil and abusive practices.
(You just lost me)

Scientologists protesting:

They also have a "disconnection" policy, in which members are encouraged to cut off all contact with friends or family members critical of the Church.
(Apparently their beliefs aren't strong enough to withstand scrutiny)

These last two points cause me to conclude that they're rubbish.

What do you guys think?


One afternoon when I was in the 4th or 5th grade at Rollingstone Elementary, I was outside with the rest of the kids for our lunch recess. Some kids were on the jungle gym, others were playing four square, still others were on the swings. I was just kind of roaming the periphery of the playground deep in thought about something.

All of a sudden, a red rubber ball (like the one pictured above) rolled right by me. No one appeared to want it, so I picked it up and kicked it as high and as far as I could. I watched it go pretty high, then start to descend about 50 feet away from me. It looked like it was gonna land pretty close to one of the playground supervisors, Mrs. Schlink. I watched closely as the ball landed on Mrs. Schlink's bespectacled face and as it did, the force of the ball actually knocked her glasses off and they fell to the ground, cracking. Some of the children began gathering around her to see if she was alright and wondering who it was that did it.

I then did what any normal 10-year old boy would: started whistling and walked slowly towards the jungle gym as if nothing had happened.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


At the age of 14, living with my dad and siblings, I was in the BMG music club (that's where you get an introductory shipment of several cassettes for almost nothing and then have to buy a few for regular price later on). I remember how happy I was when I received two Eddie Murphy tapes by mail (one is pictured below).

I knew about Eddie from Saturday Night Live and had been looking forward to hearing his act uncensored. I specifically remember listening to these recordings in my dad's bedroom in the house we had back then across from Gabrych park. Everybody was out of the house that afternoon, so I didn't have to worry about my dad or siblings "catching" me listening to it. If you didn't know, Eddie did a lot of cursing on those tapes, every word imaginable, actually. Funny stuff, but I had to be careful when and where I listened to it.

Another tape I had that was pretty explicit was Prince's "1999". I recall listening to this one on my headphones while dad was taking us to a "house of worship" in Hokah. One of the most squirm-inducing tracks was the one called, "Let's Pretend We're Married" (I'm sure you can guess what some of the lyrics were for that song. If you can't, go here and see for yourself).

I bought a lot of tapes back then (I had a paper route, so had plenty of money in which to do so). My dad said one day that he didn't want me buying any more tapes, that I had enough (he didn't know anything about the explicit tapes I had, by the way). Well, it's true I probably had more than 100, but if I couldn't buy any more cassettes, then all I'll have is older recordings. I did try to follow his wishes, however, and not buy any more music, but the soul seeks freedom, so I finally gave in and bought one. The tape I bought against my father's wishes was (you can laugh if you want to) DeBarge's "Rhythm of the Night".

Very shortly thereafter, I moved in with my mother, so my dad's restrictions became irrelevant.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Proceed with caution: This post deals with BM's (or lack thereof)

That's right. I've not had a BM for close to two weeks. So yesterday, I decided to take matters into my own, not like that, you dirty devil. I had some fiber capsules in my kitchen cupboard, so I took one out and injested it. The label said that it typically takes 12 to 72 hours for it to take effect. Yow! But that's fine. I didn't want to take a laxative.

I went to LaCrosse yesterday with Shanon. We ate at Happy Joe's Pizza and then went to Vince Gill's concert (we had seats on the main floor, in the 9th row! I'll post pics at a later date).

The pic below is from yesterday's show (courtesy of the LaCrosse Tribune):

Well, the capsule didn't bring me relief yesterday. I didn't mind too much, though (I didn't want to be on the toilet while Vince was singing his patootie off).

Today I decided to take another, so took a look at the directions to be sure it was alright to take 2 in a 24-hour period. What do you know. It said that one is supposed to take 5 (!) capsules at the first sign of irregularity as opposed to the 1 I took yesterday. As Chef from South Park would say, "Aww, fudge it!!"

Friday, February 16, 2007

The First Time

Even though I was 22, as of late 1993, I still hadn't ever really drank any alcohol before (I'm not gonna count the times when, as a child, my dad let me have a sip of his Schlitz Malt Liquor). At the time, I was in my 5th(!) year of college and living across from Goltz Pharmacy in Winona. I had made some friends and was thinking about trying some boos. I asked Jim (the resident expert on such things) what alcoholic drink would give me a buzz the fastest. He said the best at a reasonable price would probably be Mad Dog 20/20.

So me, Jim, and another friend, Brian, walked to Third Street Liquor and made our choices. I did pick MD 20/20 and walked back home with it.

The three of us sat at the kitchen table and began ingesting our liquers. I took a few drinks. I swear, in just a few minutes, I felt this sweeping wave of bliss come over me (Jim had said that if one hadn't really had alcohol before, it wouldn't take long for it to take effect). I was euphoric and so relaxed that I actually laid on the floor for several minutes. It was a good feeling.

I don't really have any other remembrances of drinking much after that, though, other than a New Years' Eve here and there. But this story has got me thinking... Maybe I'll buy an MD 20/20 in the near future and see if it still has the magic touch.

I did return to the Third Street Liquor store a few years later. My brother, Matt, was now living across from Goltz, wasn't of age yet, and wanted me to pick him up some of the good stuff. I agreed. His choice of poison: several 45 ounce bottles of Colt 45.

Scary Movie

In early 1991, I was introduced to the writings of Stephen King. I wasn't up to reading a full novel of his, so opted for the book, "Skeleton Crew", which contained more than a dozen short stories.

The first story in the book was a short novel (more than one hundred pages). It was called, "The Mist" and it was quite creepy. Here's the plot:

After a violent storm attacks a town in Maine, an approaching cloud of mist appears the next morning. As the mist quickly envelops the area, a group of people get trapped in a local grocery store, among them, artist David Drayton and his five-year-old son. The people soon discover that within the mist lives numerous species of horrific, unworldly creatures that entered through an inter-dimensional rift, which may or may not have been caused by a nearby military base. As the world around them manifests into a literal hell-on-earth, the horrified citizens try desperately to survive this apocalyptic disaster.

I read the first half of it one afternoon before having to leave to go to work at Sammy's Pizza (I worked in their kitchen). King's writing was so descriptive that I still chilled a bit walking to work thinking about what I had just read and looking forward to finishing the story. I went on to read many more of his works and would have to say that he is probably my favorite writer.

I had heard rumors for years of the possibility of a "Mist" movie, but nothing ever seemed to come of it. Finally, there was confirmation last year that Frank Darabont (the director of two brilliant King adaptations, "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile") had agreed to go ahead with filming "The Mist". Now filming, I look forward to seeing what I imagined more than a decade and a half ago finally come to life on the big screen (it will be released this Thanksgiving).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

After Life

I've only been to a church two times this century. Both were for weddings (my brothers' and my cousins'). From time to time since moving to Rochester 10 years ago, I've thought about going to a house of worship. Not because I want (or need) to increase my faith, but just to socialize a bit, hear some nice tunes, and listen to an uplifting sermon. The religion whose beliefs seem to most match my own are the UU's.

Here are some of their beliefs courtesy of Wikipedia:

UUs believe in complete but responsible freedom of speech, thought, belief, faith and disposition. They believe that each person is free to search for his or her own personal truth on issues like the existence, nature, and meaning of life, deities, creation, and afterlife. UUs can come from any heritage, have any sexual orientation, and hold beliefs from a variety of cultures or religions.

To affirm and promote:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

There is a UU congregation in Rochester. Perhaps one Sunday morning if the mood strikes me, I will finally attend one of their services. It's just that they only meet on Sunday mornings and, oh, how I love to sleep in on the weekends! I only hope that God understands.


True Love

I love my dog.

Yeah, I know. Who doesn't love their dog? But many people have dumped potential suitors because they didn't like their dog (or cat). Many people seem to think that their pet loves THEM when really they probably just give you attention so that they can get food. Check out more details on this here.

Excerpt from above link:

They dance with joy when we come home, put their heads on our knees and stare longingly into our eyes. Ah, we think, at last, the love and loyalty we so richly deserve and so rarely receive. Over thousands of years of living with humans, dogs have become wily and transfixing sidekicks with the particularly appealing characteristic of being unable to speak. We are therefore free to fill in the blanks with what we need to hear. (What the dog may really be telling us, much of the time, is, "Feed me.")

Monday, February 12, 2007

Charter Part II

In October of '05, I was ready to take calls on my own at Charter Communications' call center. Us newbies were not put on the main floor quite yet. We were assigned to a kind-of holding area called Center Ice. It was a little quieter than the main floor with less distractions and there was always someone in there to come to our aid if we had any questions while we were on the line with someone.

This big guy, Mike, who sat in front of me, had been consigned to Center Ice for several months, not because he was bad, but because the retention area (trying to keep customers to stay with Charter) had no desks open for him yet.

I worked a 9 to 5 shift during my time in this area. There weren't too many calls that came in in the morning. The afternoon was busier. Since my lunch breaks were now 30 minutes (instead of an hour), I couldn't really drive off to my secret location to walk any longer. However, one of my favorite things about the call center is that they had an exercise room. In it, there was an elliptical trainer, a sit down bike, one of those big blue balls, and a treadmill. I usually hit the treadmill twice a day. I walked about 12 minutes each time I was on it while watching something on the TV that they had in there. I also sometimes used my breaks to go online and check my email.

There were three types of calls that we generally received. One would be people whose cable went out due to technical difficulties. I would not hesitate to give them credit for that day's service and set up an appointment for a tech to come out and look into it ASAP.

The second type of call would be people who wanted to pay their bill by phone or who wanted to know what their balance was. And the last major type would be people who wanted to order pay-per-view movies. Included in this type were horndogs who called in from all over the country to order "sexually explicit" movies. They usually ran about $9.99. Most of 'em didn't seem to care which movie they bought, just so long as it showed some flesh.

I didn't get too many angry callers. It was always funny, though, hearing other people in the center start raising their own voice. It was obvious that they were trying to reason with an "irate" person. Many older people didn't like having to go through all the prompts to get through to a live person (one time, after I said my greeting, a lady asked, "Are you real or is this a recording?")

We were encouraged to try to get customers to upgrade their packages if possible. For example, if they already had all the movie channels, ask them about the internet and vice versa. We were given a small commission for getting someone to upgrade.

By November, I was ready to sit with the big boys (and girls) out on the main floor. I got a seat right next to the help desk. Out there, if you had any questions, you had to raise a 2-foot long blue styrofoam cylinder that said "Charter" on it. You would ask the customer to hold and then raise your stick in the air for all to see (some of the shorter girls stood up to make sure that the supervisors could see that they needed aid). Mike, now out on the floor, would sometimes wave his stick around and around all over the place (I was too timid to perform such theatrics myself).

I got a nice repreive from Charter over Thanksgiving of '05 when I went with my wife to Las Vegas (for the first time) to visit my in-laws for a week. Pretty much all 17 of us who were originally hired in September were still working there and doing well. We were one happy family. But as the winter came, discontent would rear its head and our class's numbers would steadily decline.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


My two favorite TV shows are both Emmy award winners. The first was a comedy introduced in the spring of 2005. It only ran for 6 episodes (that's all NBC initially ordered), but I immensely enjoyed the humor and characters, in particular Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute. Things didn't look too good for the show in the summer of '5, however. Thankfully, NBC ordered a full season of it for the '05-'06 season and I was able to enjoy many more eps of the show. It's now in its 3rd season and won for Best Comedy at the Emmys last fall. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "The Office".

My other favorite show has been on for several years. And I was hooked on it from the start. It premiered on September 5, 2001 (yes, less than a week before you-know-what). It ran for a couple years, but couldn't seem to find an audience. CBS thought it to be a worthwhile show, however, and kept renewing it. It won for Best Reality Show at the Emmys in 2003, 2004, and 2005. There was speculation that it would lose this past fall to "American Idol", but...didn't happen.

won for the 4th consecutive year.

I like it a lot better than "Survivor" (there's less backstabbing and a lot more going on since contestants are traveling all over the world instead of being stuck on a crummy island solving puzzle games). It's just a much more "positive" show. I'm looking forward to seeing the All-Star edition which starts up on February 18th.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I love Confucius

Confucius say, virginity like bubble. One prick - all gone
Confucius say, baseball wrong. Man with four balls not able to walk
Confucius say, war not determine who right. War determine who left
Confucius say, man who fight with wife all day, get no piece at night
Confucius say, it take many nail to build crib, one screw to fill it
Confucius say, man who keep feet on ground have trouble putting on pants
Confucius say, passionate kiss like spider web, soon lead to undoing of fly
Confucius say, man with hand in pocket feel cocky all day long
Confucius say, squirrel who runs up woman's leg not find nuts
Confucius say, man with tight trousers is pressing his luck
Confucius say, man who eat crackers in bed wake up feeling crummy
Confucius say, do not drink and park, accidents cause people
Confucius say, man who run through airport turnstile backward going to Bangkok
Confucius say, boy who go to sleep with sex problem on mind wake up with solution in hand
Confucius say, man who live in glass house, should change in basement
Confucius say, man who fart in church, sit in own pew
Confucius say, man who leap off cliff jump to conclusion
Confucius say, foolish man give wife grand piano, wise man give wife upright organ
Confucius say, man who sits on stool smells like shit
Confucius say, man who masturbate, only screwing himself
Confucius say, man with hand in pocket all day not crazy, just feeling nuts
Confucius say, man who have last laugh, not get joke

Latter Day Saints

Religions are an interesting thing. There are so many, all with differing points of view. For example, when you hear the word Mormon, what comes to mind?

Polygamy? Utah? The HBO show "Big Love"? I decided to find out what exactly it is that they believe. I headed over to Wikipedia. Here is a summary of their main views (along with my comments):

We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
(Cool. I believe in ghosts, too)

We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
(I suppose that's possible)

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
(Jesus will save me. That's a theme that runs through many religions)

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
(The third's my favorite. I take a bath virtually every day. My wife never does...sinner!)

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
(What about women? You have to have a penis to preach the gospel?)

We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
(I don't see too big a problem with this)

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
(Speaking in tongues tends to freak me out, but that might just be a personal thing)

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
(Some of the Bible is good stuff, but damn, God really has some anger management issues in the Old Testament, innit?)

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
(I spose)

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
(Yeah, but when? We're not getting any younger here)

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
(Sounds like a plan)

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
(But what if these "rulers" start taking away civil liberties and become war mongerers? Do we still have to obey them?)

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
(Nice. I have problems with the "chaste" issue, however. I know that masturbation is strictly forbidden by you buggers)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I watched the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday evening. When that huge sheet went up in front of Prince while he played his guitar, I thought that looked awfully sexual (phallic).

It looks like many others felt the same way.
Don't get me wrong, though. I love Prince and thought the whole show was wicked cool.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


In the late summer of '5, the job I was working at IBM (through Manpower) was moved to Dallas, Texas. Needless to say, I was out of a job (unless I wanted to live in Bush country). Since I received a few weeks notice, I did have some time to see what was out there. The pickins were a bit slim. I ended up settling on Charter Communications (our local cable company). Their call center employs around 200 people and is located on the north side of Rochester. 17 of us were hired and started 3 weeks of training in late September.

During the first week, our trainer, Sherry, went over some of the basics, like how signals are sent from a satellite and eventually come into your home for your entertainment pleasure! We also learned about broadband since some of the people would be working on that side. Most of us were hired to take calls on the cable side. We got an hour lunch each day. Most people went to the restaurants that were located nearby (Fazoli's, Wendy's, McDonalds) during this time. I drove about half a mile to a residential settlement and walked for about 40 minutes. I walked in this particular spot because that is where I walked when I worked for SNG Research in '04 (I usually try to get a half hour of exercise during the day, especially if I'm gonna be sitting at my job the whole time).

That first week was pretty easy. I was still mourning the passing of our Saint Bernard a few weeks prior, but was dealing with it pretty well. The second week we learned how the phones worked and listened to some of the calls that people were taking out on the floor. I was no stranger to working at call centers (in '99, I worked for the Western Digital Rebate Center until their operations were moved to Young America in the summer of '00). We started taking calls at the end of the second week and, though I was a bit nervous, quickly caught on. The pay for this job was less than the one I had prior, but anyone who worked for Charter did receive free cable (an $80-plus value for all the channels). Also, there were quite a few hot girls that worked at that call center. I could get used to that.

One of the most memorable days during that training period was when a Showtime representative talked to us for about 20 minutes about their programming. She said Sho had a few notable series (Weeds, Sleeper Cell), but were probably more known for the explicit content they showed late at night. She explained that this programming was known as soft porn (unlike hardcore, the male member and physical penetration were strictly off-limits). A few girls in the room were noticeably disappointed when they found out that they wouldn't be able to partake of a dude's frank and beans in the privacy of their own home. Such is life.

At the end of the third week, all 17 of us (10 girls, 7 guys) graduated and were ready for the next step. Who would go on be exemplary call center employees? Who would quickly fall to the wayside?

I will continue this story in the next few days.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007


In 1998, I went to Disney World, finally got to see GB in concert, and got a Saint Bernard. During the year, I worked several different jobs. In the early part of the year, I worked for Express Personnel at the Government Center (basically entering child support payment information). I also worked part time at Premiere Video. Later in the year, I spent every other weekend supervising 3 developmentally disabled individuals.

Some of the movies I went to in the spring of '98 included "Spice World" (yes, you read that right), Robert Duvall as "The Apostle", "Blues Brothers 2000" (not very good), "Sphere" (not at all good) with my friend Brian Chadbo, Adam Sandler in "The Wedding Singer" on Valentine's Day, Spade in "Senseless" at the cheap theatre (where it belonged), "The Big Lebowski" (very strange movie), Snipes in "U.S. Marshals", Leo in "The Man in the Iron Mask" (his first movie after "Titanic"), McConaughey in "The Newton Boys", Bacon in "Wild Things" (very cool flick), Travolta in "Primary Colors", the 20th anniversary rerelease of "Grease", the remake of "Psycho", Cage and Ryan in "City of Angels", Aniston in "The Object of my Affection", "Major League (3): Back to the Minors", and Swayze in "Black Dog".

The big summer movies got going with "Deep Impact" starring Morgan Freeman as the President of the U.S. The fun continued with "Bulworth", "The Horse Whisperer", "Godzilla" (what a piece of crap), Chris Farley's last movie, "Almost Heroes", Sandra Bullock in "Hope Floats" (boring), and the first of the great movies of the year, Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show".

This movie predated modern reality TV, but really foreshadowed what was to come (though, in this case, Truman had no idea he was on camera, at least not in the beginning). Carrey proved he could be just as effective in a drama as in a comedy.

I also saw Disney's "Mulan", Michael Douglas in "A Perfect Murder", Norm McDonald's "Dirty Work", Harrison in "Six Days Seven Nights", the "X-Files" movie, Eddie Murphy in the very childish "Dr. Doolittle", and Clooney in "Out of Sight".

I somewhat reluctantly went to see Bruce Willis in "Armageddon". I had heard it was crap, but it was making a lot of money and I was curious to see what the fuss was about. Well, it was crap. The biggest problem is that there were too many fuckin cuts. The camera wouldn't stay still for more than 2 or 3 seconds. What a piece of shit! For a while, it looked like it was gonna be the top-grossing movie of '98, but thank God it wasn't.

Other movies I went to over the summer included Mel in "Lethal Weapon 4", "Small Soldiers", "There's Something About Mary" (good, but not as funny as I was hoping for), "The Mask of Zorro" which I saw with Art fart in Winona, "Mafia!", "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later", "BASEketball", Spacey as "The Negotiator", "Snake Eyes" with Art in Winona (one of my brothers' friends, Justin, was at this screening. We caught up a bit before the show started), and the worst movie I've ever seen in a theatre, "The Avengers".

This brings me up to August 21st. I'd been a fan of Leslie Nielsen since the "Naked Gun" movies, so went to see his new movie "Wrongfully Accused" that day. It wasn't that great, but at least I got a few chuckles. Some of the movies I saw that fall: "Simon Birch", Damon & Norton in "Rounders", Jackie Chan & Chris Tucker in "Rush Hour" (part 3 is due next summer), Streep in the chick flick "One True Thing", and the semi-scary "Urban Legend".

One movie I had been looking forward to seeing for some time was the Robin Williams movie, "What Dreams May Come". The tag line on the poster was quite provocative, "After Life, There is More". We went to it one afternoon and were totally enthralled. It's no wonder it won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects (they were fantastic). Very heartfelt movie about death and what quite possibly comes afterward.

As October came, I went to "Pleasantville" with the Artmonster, the CG "Antz", Will Ferrell in "A Night at the Roxbury", Ian McKellan in "Apt Pupil" at the cheap theatre with Art (who nodded off a bit during this one), Eddie in the not very funny "Holy Man", "Rushmore", "Bride of Chucky" (I wasn't the only one getting married this year), Kidman and Bullock in "Practical Magic", Robin Williams again in "Patch Adams", Pitt in the 3-hour "Meet Joe Black", Cate Blanchett as "Elizabeth", Adam Sandler in "The Waterboy" (my mom took me to this on my 28th birthday), "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" (crap), "A Bug's Life" with Art in Winona (not as good as "Antz"), "Babe: Pig in the City", Jerry Springer in "Ringmaster", Gwyneth in the very good "Shakespeare in Love" (it didn't deserve to win Best Picture, however), "Star Trek: Insurrection", and then came a fantastic thriller from Sam Raimi called "A Simple Plan".

It takes place in Minnesota during the winter. It has some fantastic twists and makes you think about what you would do if you found hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around one wintry afternoon. It didn't come to Rochester, so I actually drove up to the MOA (Mall of America) to see it in December of '98.

As the year wound down, I saw the CG "Prince of Egypt", Hanks and Ryan in "You've Got Mail", Nolte in "Affliction" (I saw this with my mom in Rochester), the WWII-set "The Thin Red Line", and "Life is Beautiful", another (very touching) WWII-set movie.

My favorite movie of the year was also set during World War II (in fact, all 3 of these "war" movies were nominated for Best Picture). The one that touched me the deepest was also the top-grossing movie of the year and its director (Spielberg) was no stranger to my best-of lists. Like "Schindler's List", this is one that I haven't really revisited, but its power still resonates.

Yes, I am talking about "Saving Private Ryan". I went to this on my own in the summer of '98. The opening battle at Normandy will haunt all those who view it and should make any who are pro-war re-evaluate what it is they stand for.

When the movie was reissued later in the year for awards consideration, I went to it again. I strode up to the lady cashier and said, "I'll take one to "Saving Ryan's Privates".

Friday, February 02, 2007

I'm Super! Thanks for asking!!

Yep, it's that time again. Super Bowl Sunday is almost here. I'm a fairly big football fan, so always look forward to watching the big game. However, many of the commercials are entertaining as well and one of my all-time favorite singers, Prince (there are reports he has a bum hip these days), is gonna be doing the halftime show. Given that I don't want to miss any of the game OR the commercials, when the hell am I gonna get the chance to go to the bathroom without missing anything? In the past few years, I would hit the "head" during kickoffs or at the beginning of drives. That usually works well. My favorite Super Bowl commercial of the last decade is the Reebok Terry Tate one.

I'm hoping they'll be at least a few that are half as good as that one.

I'll probably be rooting for the Colts. Dori, who is originally from Chi-town, will obviously be rooting for Da...well, you know.

Have a great weekend all!!