Friday, January 30, 2009

The Greatest Show

Hi Everyone. Looking at the comments from yesterday's post, it appears that maybe I haven't discussed the circus before. This surprises me. Anyway, figured I'd do a circus post today to explain point #3 on yesterday's post.

My dad was the P.E. and Health teacher at my elementary school. The school was affiliated with the local university, so he was both faculty at the college, and an elementary school teacher. One of the unique things about the college was that it had a circus. One of the only two universities with a college circus (I think). So my dad decided that he would start a circus at the elementary school as well. 

I think this highlights the difference between me and my dad. I come up with things like "wouldn't it be great if we changed the way that bananas are sold?" and then I do nothing. My dad does things like starting circuses. 

So from 2nd grade - 8th grade, I was in the circus.  The circus traveled to nursing homes, and the mall, and halftime of basketball games to perform. So being in a circus leads to an interesting childhood. Having a dad that started the circus and loves going to other circuses really opens your eyes. 

My mom likes traveling to big cities. My dad doesn't. So my mom learned that she could convince my dad to drive her to the big city if there was a circus in town. So most of our vacations were scheduled around the circus.  We've seen a Russian circus, other kids circuses, a few Asian circuses, Cirque (more times than I can count), we've been to juggling conventions, we've been to the Ringling Brothers museum. The list goes on and on. I think there was actually a 'soul circus' at one point, but I can't back that up. We would also do street performing during family vacations. Mostly juggling outside with a hat on the ground for donations. 

Oh, and then there are the clowns. My dad was the director, ringmaster guy of the kids circus for 20 years. It went from 60 kids to over 200 per year. To show their appreciation, the parents of the kids in the circus would always buy my dad clown figurines. So my house always had an obscene number of clowns. And keep in mind that about 50% of clowns are sort of creepy looking. My mom was not a big fan of the clowns. Or the G.D. Clowns, as she liked to call them. 

My dad wasn't just a circus founder/director guy. He found a little-known loophole in the college circus, that allowed faculty members to perform in the circus. So well into his 50s, my dad performed in the college circus. I'm pretty sure there were about 100 college undergrads and one AARP member.

I could go on and on about my circus life, but I've gotta get going. Kate's flying into town today, and I've gotta get to the airport. Oh, and my parents are watching a movie about tight wire walking tonight. I can't make this stuff up. 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My 25 Things

All you you Faceback users out there have probably seen something new popping up in your news feed. Apparently some genius started this whole 25 things nonsense. For the non-Facebook users out there (Kate) this is how it works: You type out a list of 25 random facts about yourself, then you tag 25 of your friends to do the same thing. And they tell two friends, and they tell two friends. So far I've been tagged a handful of times to post my '25 things' list, but have resisted. It's not that I don't want to share information about myself. I think this blog makes it pretty clear that I don't mind sharing details about me. No, the reason why I've resisted is that it sort of has a chain letter quality to it. Chain letters always stopped with me. I don't like asking other people to do things. So I thought that I could just post my 25 things here, and then if people on Facebook bug me to post my 25 things, I'll just send them here. And if I'm lucky, they'll be from South Dakota or Montana and we can cross those states off the list. On that note, we've had our first visitor from West Virginia...just thought y'all would like the update.'s my list of 25 things about me:

1. I wish I had more exciting celebrity encounters. All I've got is sharing a plane with the big guy from P.M. Dawn and meeting Phyllis from The Office at the airport.

2. I don't ever get 'full'. I just run out of food on my plate. I think this is a problem.

3. I've worn way more spandex than any man ever should. Between 8 years in a circus and 4 years of cold weather running, I've had more than my share of tights-wearing. 

4. I went an entire semester of college without wearing pants on Sundays. This meant going to Taco Bell in my boxers.

5. I'm not very good with colors. Another way to put it would be to say I'm Red-Green colorblind, but I like my way better. This led my elementary school art teacher to think I was special. 

6. I watch Oprah pretty much everyday. Even though I don't like her. My thought here is that if she's going to brainwash half of the country, I wanna know what she's telling them.

7. Even though I'm surrounded by technology all the time, I'm fascinated by fax machines.

8. I'd probably buy more flowers if they had more masculine names. Posies, daisies, petunias...who came up with these names?

9. I don't think I've ever been punched in the face. Always wondered what it would feel like. Not enough to try it.

10. I've run six marathons. I know why I ran the first one, but have no clue why I ran the last five.

11. I really don't like loose change. Or any paper money, for that matter. 

12. I'm the only person I know that has no interest in going to Hawaii. Ever. 

13. Every time I fill up Gilbert's bowl, I wonder what his dog food tastes like. Not enough to try it, but I am curious. 

14. If I've heard a song three times, then I most likely know all the words. 

15. I started playing golf because it was the only sport where I could beat my dad. Then he got good at that. 

16. During conversations, the first thing that jumps into my mind is always something smartass. If I respond with something serious, it's probably the second or third thing that came into my mind. 

17. I went to space camp. Nerd.

18. I do several impressions. My favorite is Mel Gibson's daughter in What Women Want. Kate hates that impression. Come to think of it, it is pretty annoying.

19. If I had to pick my top 5 bands or artists, the list would include Jim Croce, The Beatles, 2Pac, Elvis, and Harry Chapin. I have no idea if it's a coincidence that they're all dead (or partially dead). Numbers 6 and 7 are still alive, but probably not for much longer (Willie and Dylan). 

20. I don't know how to cook much of anything. I've taken Home Ec, a cooking class, and watch The Food Network. Still got nothin. 

21.  I hate being late for anything. Even if it's an arbitrary ETD that I picked out of the sky. Kate hates being on time. I don't think either of us are going to budge on this one. 

22. I'd lift weights more if there weren't so many strong people at the gym.

23. I want to own more power tools, even if I never use them.

24. I feel productive on trash day if I remember to take the trash out. It's not much, but it gets the day started off on the right foot.

25. I wish I enjoyed reading books, but I really don't. Sorry Mom. 

So there's my 25. Now stop asking me to post these on Facebook. And if someone asks you to post your 25 on FB, you can steal any of mine that you want.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Lady on the News

The local news anchor on the 11:00 AM news hates her job. I can tell just by looking at her. For the first 55 minutes of this hour-long broadcast, she's pretty much just going through the motions. Murder here, layoffs there, peanut butter recall somewhere else. Blah blah blah. But then something amazing happens. She does a complete 180. All of a sudden, she's animated. She does some impressions, wears costumes, and just has fun. It's time for the Hot Spot. That's their version of the Hollywood update where they tell me all I need to know about celebrity gossip. Actually, I already know most of it. Between what I learned on TMZ the night before, what I learned from borrowing my mom's copy of People Magazine, and the gaps that Hoda and Kathy Lee filled in an hour earlier, I'm pretty much caught up on my celebrity gossip. Yet I still tune in most days to watch the local news lady. It just sort of makes me happy to see her go from disgruntled employee to Suzy Happyface during the commercial break. 

Now that I think about it, her behavior isn't really all that strange (except when she was wearing the replica Flavor Flav clock). Work is basically a series of tasks that we have to do. We like some of the tasks and we dislike some of the tasks. I don't really buy into the whole "find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life." I'm not buying it. If everything about work was fun, they wouldn't have to bribe you with a paycheck. So my theory is to really enjoy the tasks that you like to do. Prove that you're really good at doing that task and maybe someone will notice and then you'll have a job that revolves around said task or similar tasks. I'm not quite sure how to manage the tasks that you don't enjoy. You could avoid them altogether, but that's probably not a good strategy. The lady on the news pretty much just goes through the motions during the tasks that she doesn't like, and that's not a very good approach either. Hmm, I'll get back to you on how to handle those. 

Anyway, this got me thinking about my job and which tasks I like and which ones that I don't like. When I started my list of stuff I really like doing at work, I realized that it wasn't really work tasks that I was listing. It was stuff like 'coming up with new avatars for people' or 'trying to work random words into conversations on conference calls' or 'making prop bets about how many times someone would say some word during some meeting.' While all of these things are really fun, they aren't really work tasks. If I was to list these things during my performance review, I doubt they would result in a big raise or promotion.

So looking at my actual work tasks, there's plenty of stuff that I enjoy. An old friend has come back into my work life. A couple of years ago, I was posting frequently on our corporate blog. I started out with some pretty basic corporate-speak, but eventually started writing the kind of stuff that I write here. I think there was one post about Snakes on a Plane, and I know there was one about Chris Hanson on How to Catch a Predator. I went through a pretty serious How to Catch a Predator phase, actually. We even had a group Halloween costume with me as Chris Hanson, and then the rest of the cast (Predator, Tween Girl, camera guy, boom mic operator). Anyway back to the work blogging. My company is in the middle of a blog throwdown with another company (sort of like my throwdown with Heba, but not quite), so I'm back to blogging at work again, and I'm loving it. Yesterday I posted about an email that I got about a rabid raccoon loose in my neighborhood and today I posted about Gov. Blago. I don't know if anyone reads my work blog or if my Blago blog helps us sell more widgets, but I really enjoy doing it.

So there's my sage work advice. Break your job down to a series of tasks. Identify the ones that you like, and try to do really well at those. Deep stuff, I know. Oh, and even though I'm blogging at work again, I promise I won't neglect YIFY. If you've got some work tasks that you like (or dislike) feel free to share with the group. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Biggest Loser - Home Edition

Several of our loyal YIFY readers have asked for an update on my at home edition of The Biggest Loser. Or maybe I should call it Throwdown: Nate vs. Heba. I dunno...still working on the name. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, there's a post on here called 'food and drink' that describes my deathmatch with Heba

Oh, and I should also state that this is not a healthy living or follow my weight loss blog. I don't really know what kind of blog this is anymore, but I know it's not that. But since I'm exactly 6 weeks into the challenge, and since it's weigh-in day (for both TBL contestants and me) it seemed like a decent time for an update on how things are going.

The Stats
Heba: First 6 weeks on the ranch - Lost 41 pounds and was down 14% of her body weight. Damn, I really should've looked at this before challenging her to a duel. I mean all of this stuff is online...I could've known beforehand what I had to lose. I think my disdain for her 'character' on the show clouded my judgement here. I didn't realize that she actually did really, really well, especially in the first six weeks. Maybe I should've picked another competitor. 

Nate: First 6 weeks on plan - Lost 32.5 pounds and down 11.5% of body weight. So yeah, I'm pretty much getting my ass kicked. Stupid Heba. I also realize that anyone with a firm grasp on high school math could figure out my starting weight and current weight with the data provided above. I don't really care. If anyone really wants to take the time to calculate percentage change, then go for it. Damn, I just realized that my goal weight would put me well short of Heba' weight loss in both pounds and percentage terms. Really should have done some more research on this.

The Other Stats
BMI: I never really figured out why TBL doesn't do some kind of BMI calculation on the show. Seems like it would make sense. Anyway, since they don't do this, I can't compare to Heba's performance here. Since my scale tells me what my BMI is even when I don't want it to, I've added a new tab on my spreadsheet for this. Yes, I do have a multi-tabbed spreadsheet keeping track of this stuff. I know, I'm a nerd. Anyway, my BMI has a percentage change of 20.4% in the past 6 weeks. I've put in a solid 3 minutes of research on BMI. Some people think it's a great metric, others say it is completely flawed. I've found that when I do healthy things my BMI goes down and when I drink beer and eat pizza it goes up. So if it's a flawed metric, it seems to be consistently flawed.

Drinks consumed: 0 
Times when I thought a drink was a good idea: 6 (and counting). They are:
 1. RJ's Dirty 30. It isn't everyday that RJ turns 30. He also only drinks about once a decade, so I would've liked to be there for him. I was sick at the time, which helped me just say no to the nice bartender
2. Panthers playoff game. First because it was a fun atmosphere for drinking. Later because they were getting beat like a drum.
3-4. Couple of work trips. Just always seems like a good idea.
5. Flight from Indy - Charlotte. Was sitting on the front of the plane next to a man that smelled like garbage water. I was convinced that a mini bottle of just about anything would smell better than that man. I almost ordered a drink just to open the bottle and smell it. 
6. Sunday - Was cleaning my house after the completion of the downstairs ceiling popcorn scraping. This meant like 6 hours of cleaning, including dusting off all alcohol bottles that were covered in ceiling dust. That made me thirsty. 

Most ridiculous thing that I've done so far: I took my scale as a carry-on during my last flight

Best diet-related quote by a family member: My mom. Direct quote "so am I just supposed to serve carrots and water at our Super Bowl party, or what?"

Editor's note: I'm not just eating carrots and drinking water.

So there it is. I'm 8.5 lbs and 2.5% Heba after 6 weeks. 19 more weeks to go, although we'll start to reintroduce some drink and not so good for you food in another month or so (in small doses). I think she's hearing footsteps. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

The House Effect

I just watched House on Fox. I love that show. Kate's not a very big fan. She likes it, but doesn't like it when the patient coughs up blood or has blood come out of somewhere else where blood isn't supposed to come out. And that happens on pretty much every episode. I can say that with complete confidence, because I have watched every episode. USA likes to have House Marathons for 24 hours at a time, and I'm usually good for about 16 of those hours. I find it ironic that they call it a marathon, since it leads to me having a sedentary lifestyle on House Marathon days. I doubt this is what the Greeks had in mind.

Anyway, all of my House watching usually leads me to think that I have some kind of strange, undiagnosable disease. Probably something flesh-eating. This always happens. Every time I watch this show, I end up thinking something like "when was the last time I went to the doctor" or "maybe I should get that checked out." So this is The House Effect - watching or reading or doing something enough that it begins to alter your thoughts or behavior. Here are a few other situations where this seems to happen for me:

Country Music - I usually only listen to country in the summertime. But since I haven't landed on a single good radio station in Charlotte, I've been listening to country in January. Anyway, whenever I listen to country for more than a half hour, I usually end up thinking something like "I should write country songs - that would be a pretty easy job" or "I should probably go to church." The church thing might not be so obvious, but 78% of country songs say something like 'get on my knees and pray' or 'church on Sunday' or 'faith in heaven above.' 

Tyler Perry Movie Previews - I say previews, because I haven't actually seen any of the movies. But when I see the previews, I always have the urge to dress up like an old African American woman. Either that, or it makes me want to add Big Momma's House to my Netflix queue. Did y'all realize that they made a Big Momma's House 2? Were there really a lot of unresolved plot lines leftover after the original Big Momma's House?

Working in a Nursing Home - So this one is Kate's contribution. She says that working in a nursing home makes her think that everyone (myself included) has MRSA or dementia. It also seems to give people (my wife) some kind of special medical training where she thinks she can diagnose things or out-doctor the doctors on Discovery Health. That last one was my contribution, and it might seem kind of mean. But keep in mind that Kate called me tonight and said that she started reading one of the Twilight books. So I could've written a whole post on what it's like to be married to a 15 year old girl, but I'm not going to do that. 

Eating at a Chain Casual-Dining Restaurant - Always makes me want to talk to Kate more. Usually when you see couples at (insert Applebees, TGIFridays, whatever) they are pretty much just sitting silently, staring at each other. We don't really do that, but I'm usually analyzing the menu, trying to determine how I can get the most possible food for the least amount of money. Not because I'm super hungry or broke, but because it's the most efficient. But the silent couples around me make me think that I should just start talking.

Watching the News anytime in the past 3 months - Makes me want to start stockpiling food and various other supplies for the end of days. I realize that the economic news is fairly bleak. I get it. The mail that the 401k people send me can tell me that. But the news is over the top. You don't need to bring Jim Cramer on the evening news for me to know how bad the economy sucks. Cramer's appearance doesn't help or hurt the economic news, it really just makes Brian Williams look more handsome. That one was for my mom.

So those are the five or so that I could think of in our limited time together. If you have any other examples of stuff that you watch or listen to or do that alters your thoughts or actions, let me know via comment. 

And please don't use the valuable comment space to defend the Twilight books. You're not gonna change my mind on that. And I won't fight fair. I'll just come back with something like "Go clean your room, Kelsee. And stop texting your BFF."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yep, these are my readers

Hi Everyone. Sorry for two days without posting. I have no excuse, but I'll try to make up for it with a decent one here.

So I stole the title of this post from Bill Simmons, who runs The Sports Guy on If you haven't read his blog, you should. Actually, I'll back up a bit. If you like sports, pop culture, and sophomoric humor (and want them all in the same place) then you should check it out. If that isn't your brand of whisky, then that's okay too. Anyway, Simmons ends all of his Mailbag posts with that line. He usually picks the most ridiculous question that he receives that week, leaves it for last, and then answers it with "Yep, these are my readers." An example would be a question that he got a couple weeks ago that was something like "Hey Bill, if I hook up with the swivel-headed lady from the Southwest Airlines commercial, would that count as a threesome?" I warned you about the frat-tastic humor that is The Sports Guy. I don't really have a mailbag post, but I thought the title would fit this topic and because it would help for search engine optimization. We'll get to that a little later.

When RJ and I started this blog, we debated on what the appropriate metrics were to measure the success of the blog. We went back and forth with some of the more qualitative metrics like 'funny comments' or 'does the blog make us laugh'. We also wanted to look at some of the quantitative metrics like 'unique visitors' and 'referral sources'. Since we wanted to track some of the numbers, and since it was sort of work-related for us to learn something about web analytics, we had our friend Ben (another Running Club member and loyal YIFY reader) set us up with Google Analytics, so we're able to track all sorts of fun stuff about who is visiting the blog. So this post is about some of the fun data that I've looked at since the blog's re-launch about a month ago. Here we go:

There have been 3,417 visitors in the past month. I thought this was pretty cool. I think about 5% of those people are family members, 10% are coworker friends and clients, 80% are from Kath's blog, and 5% are randoms that found the blog accidentally because of some google search. More on the randoms later. The 3,417 number is accurate, my percentage breakdown is just a guess.

There have been visitors from 46 states. Shame on: Montana, West Virginia, Mississippi, and South Dakota. Not cool guys. I mean, I've driven through all of your states and you haven't visited my blog once? Especially you, South Dakota. I think I spent a whole day at your Mount Rushmore and Wall Drug back in '92 and you still won't give me any blog love. Poor form. So if any of you know people that live in any of those four states, please send them the URL so we can have global (or domestic, I guess) domination. You can lie and tell them it's a funny video or an e-card or something. I don't care how you get them to the blog, just do it. I could be mean and say something about the lack of electricity or internet connectivity in those states, but I won't do that. 

There have been visitors from 40 countries. There's plenty of room for improvement here. My analytics report is a big map of the world and the countries change color once I've had a visitor from said country. So if you know anyone from Greenland or Russia, let's start there. That would be the fastest way to color the map, since most of the other big countries have already visited. There's also plenty of room for improvement in Africa. I've had visitors from South Africa and Malawi, but the rest of the continent is there for the taking. So if y'all want to join the Peace Corps and then visit the blog while you're traveling, you have my permission. I'm trying to settle on a goal here for global domination. There are apparently around 195 countries in the world, but that seems like way too many. I think I'm going to go with either the number of countries that are in the United Nations, or the number of countries that won an Olympic medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Okay, scratch that. Google tells me that there are 192 countries in the UN, and we aren't going to get that many. So we'll go with the Olympic thing. That number is 87. So if you know anyone living abroad, send them to the blog. This can be our own little Epcot Center.

Lots of funny keywords. I think this is my favorite part of the web analytics. I look at which search terms people use on Google than brings them to the blog. Then I think about how disappointed they'll be when they end up here instead of something more relevant. Here's a sample of some of the search terms people have actually used in the past month:

guy on guy action
fat machine
has Suzanne Wong left househunters on HGTV
Ebert and Roper
Do your intestines really stretch to the moon
hippie eyewear
homeless hippies
hotel black light test
when is it okay to unfriend someone
grocery store tucamcari new mexico
exchanging numbers with a guy
Bob Ross
I think this is my favorite thing to look at. If you used one of these search terms and found this blog, then welcome. Feel free to look around. I just feel bad for the dude looking for a grocery store in Tucamcari, New Mexico. I mean, I only mentioned Tucamcari once and it somehow ended up in the guy's search results. I think that means they probably don't have many grocery stores there, but that's just a guess.

So that's the end of tonight's post. If you think it's sort of creepy that I'm looking at this kind of data, think of it this way: you're pretty much reading about all of the mundane details of my life when you're visiting this blog, so I think it's a fair tradeoff for me to know where you're coming from. Even if you're looking for grocery stores in Tucamcari.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Inconvenient Name

I was thinking about writing a really positive, uplifting post tonight. But I'm sick. I think I've got bird flu or some kind of peanut butter SARS or whatever the news is telling me about. So that means another grumpy old man post.

I'd like to slap the man (or woman) who came up with the term 'global warming'. Not the person who came up with the actual concept, because that's pretty brilliant. I'm by no means a crunchy granola hippie, but I do believe in the concept. I made it about halfway through Al Gore's movie before slipping into a wine-induced coma. That was a couple years ago, so I don't really remember much about the movie. My logic is that if you do enough bad stuff for long enough, then bad things will probably happen. So I'm not mad at the people who developed the concept. My beef is with the term namer. Unless of course it's the same person. Then I wouldn't know what to do. I'm torn like an old sweater. 

So here's my beef with the term 'global warming'. It's unseasonably cold in Charlotte (check local listings). And I think it's pretty damn cold everywhere else too. So now every time it's really freaking cold I have to deal with two things: 1. The fact that it's really freaking cold, and 2. The fact that some local weather person is going to report the temperature and then some local news anchor is going to make some stupid joke like "so much for global warming" or "jeez Larry, what about this global warming that everyone is talking about." Just shut up. Seriously. Not funny. Just annoying. If they just would've called it something like 'global climate crisis' or 'impending wrath of Mother Nature' then I'd only have to deal with the cold, and not the unfunny local news banter

This got me thinking about Manwich. Yes, the canned sloppy joe sauce. I know, we switch topics pretty quickly here, so try to keep up. Anyway, Manwich recently changed their jingle. It used to be:

(Jamaican Sounding Guy Singing)
Momma don't ya make me another meatloaf/
forget the Mac 'n' Cheese/
I want some fun piled on a bun/
I want a Manwich please.

And their new jingle is:

(Annoying kids singing)
Hey you don't have to be a man to love manwich/
you don't have to be a witch either, it's true/
You just have to love a fun tasty dinner/
And wearing some of that dinner on you.

So Manwich is now using valuable jingle space to address the fact that their name is not literal. I wonder if this is because they were getting lots of calls to their customer service center with inquiries from women. Or maybe they were finding that only men and wiccans were purchasing their product. I can't think of any other reason to get rid of the best jingle and replace it with this garbage.

It's not just the global climate crisis and delicious sloppy joe paste that have inconvenient names. I'd like to submit Benjamin Franklin Plumbing into evidence as Exhibit C. What is Benjamin Franklin's connection to the plumbing trade? That's all I think about when I hear their commercials. Their tagline is something about Ben being the punctual plumber. I did a solid four minutes of research on Franklin tonight, and I can't find anything about plumbing or punctuality. He did invent the flexible urinary catheter, but that's a bit of a stretch. Flexible Urinary Catheter would also be a pretty awesome band name, but that's beside the point. The point is, their name doesn't make any damn sense, and I think they know it. That's why they end their commercials with another pop culture reference (that has nothing to do with Franklin, plumbing, or punctuality). The end of their jingle is as follows:

(guy who sounds like Tommy Tutone)
Benny's the punctual plumber/
866 - That's his prefix/
Then 8675309

I don't get it. Ben Franklin has nothing to do with plumbing. Ben Franklin has nothing to do with Tommy Tutone. Tommy Tutone and his song have nothing to do with plumbing. What the hell is going on here?

Alright, that's about all for today. I'm pretty much out of time here. That four minutes of research on Ben Franklin didn't help. Time to tend to my bird flu. Maybe a manwich would help.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On Profanity

Everyone who knows me probably knows that I have a bit of a potty mouth. I'm not really sure why. Maybe I can blame it on being a golfer. The little white ball can do really frustrating things, and swearing on the golf course is generally accepted. Which is ironic, since it's one of the few sports that actually has rules against bad language. Anyway, I want to work on cleaning up my language a little bit. I would've made it a new year's resolution, but A) would've broken it when the colts lost and b) it's going to take some time and probably some exceptions for me. So the new plan is to clean up my language by the time I turn 30 (15 months and counting). I think that for the most part, people over 30 shouldn't use bad language. Here's my current exception list. It's broken into two part: 1. People who are always excluded from this no swearing after 30 policy and 2. Times when it's okay for everyone else to break the rules.

People who should be allowed to swear whenever they want

Military and Retired Military People - This isn't blind patriotism or something like that. They just seem to be really really good at it. I'm guessing that there's some sort of swearing class during basic training, but all the research that I've done (An Officer and a Gentleman, Top Gun, Stripes) hasn't shown any formal classroom swearing lessons. Anyway because I think it's an art, and military people are great at it, they get a free pass.

British People - They can say whatever they want. It just sounds cool.

Really Old People - I think I'm going to go with 75 or 80 as the minimum age for this category. Much like British people, it's just fun to listen to old people swearing. Also, if we take away the naughty words, all they'd have left are words like davenport, trousers, and supper. And the elderly won't get a free pass here. If they want to retain their swearing privileges, they'll have to give up their racial slurs. Your kids and grandkids will thank you for it. 

Rappers and Comedians - They would sort of be grandfathered in here. Sort of a tools of the trade kind of thing. Come to think of it, there aren't many rappers older than 30 anyway, so it's a pretty small group. I just think that any profession that requires rhyming should have the entire language at their disposal. Otherwise we'll end up with rap songs talking about truck, itch or bass. And I think those are the key elements of country songs.

Doctors and Lawyers - Only the kind that are like the ones on TV shows and movies. Come to think of it, if you're in a profession where there are television dramas depicting your profession, you can swear. If it's entertaining enough for a television show, then it's probably stressful or scary so we'll let you swear. So I guess cops and firefighters are okay.

Times when everyone else can swear

Extreme physical pain - sort of self explanatory. Also covered would be death of a loved one and getting a not so good diagnosis at the doctor's office. Oh, and losing your job is on the list too, but only if swearing is directed at your former boss. 

When you're driving - had to put this one in here for Kate. Come to think of it, I should probably add in 'anytime Angelina Jolie is mentioned' but that one would lead to constant swearing at the Pitt-Jolie household, which wouldn't be good for Pax, Zahara, and the rest of the crew.

Something happens that is going to cost money to fix - This would include losing something that needs to be replaced, getting in a car accident (already covered by previous rule), homeowner mishaps, your pet eating something he shouldn't (but don't swear at the pet), and running over stuff with your mower. I probably should come up with a sliding scale for how much money the fix would take that makes it okay to swear. Something like if the cost of the fix would be more than you make in two hours of work, then it's probably okay to swear. So if it's two hours of salary or two hours of work to fix whatever is broken, then you've got the green light. 

When hanging out with friends from high school or college - Please note use of the word friends. If you are just around high school or college acquaintances or classmates, then you probably shouldn't swear. It's either a chance encounter or a reunion. Either of which requires you to put yourself in the most positive light possible to show how awesome your life is. This means no swearing. If it's a guys/girls weekend with your actual friends, then swearing is okay. 

When blogging - Just wanted to give myself the option.

Okay, that's my list. Feel free to add on via comments. I won't disagree with anything you add, as it would make it easier for me follow the rules. But nothing is coming off the list. I have fifteen months to adjust my behavior, or I guess I could just become a rapper.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Feeling Old

Hi Everyone. Short post tonight. Everything that I've read about blogging says that it's better to do frequent, short posts instead of really long-winded stuff. Yeah, we'll say that's why this is a short post, instead of the real reason (me = tired).

So usually about once a day something happens that makes me feel old. Usually it happens during the morning or in the middle of the day so I forget about it before blogtime. Today it happened to be the last thing I heard on the radio, and we all know how hard it is to forget the last thing you hear on the radio. So the best radio station in the indy area (WTTS - friend of the blog) has a time capsule feature where they feature a different year every day. Pretty basic stuff - here are the pop culture events of the year. Play a few songs from the year. Talk about movies that came out during said year, etc. Usually it's sort of a history lesson - something from the late 70s or early 80s...nothing that I'd really remember.  Anyway, tonight the time capsule was a bit different. The time capsule year was 1993. Most of the stuff that they were talking about and the music they were playing are things that I remember. No big deal, until I realized that if 1993 was a person, this person would be a junior in high school and would have a driver's license. Yeah, all of that stuff really happened 16 years ago. This scared me a bit because it doesn't seem like it was that long ago. And what scares me more is that the voice in my head started saying things like "it seems like it was just yesterday". I then made fun of the voice in my head for using grandpa expressions like this. Yes, I even have a smartass voice in my head that makes fun of the regular head in my voice. I should probably get that checked out. Anyway, here are some of the things that made me feel old from the 1993 time capsule:

Radiohead, Crash Test Dummies, Counting Crows, and Alanis Morissette. Not that I am a die hard fan of any of these bands, but I do remember the videos for all of their songs, and this makes me feel old. Mr. Jones would be like 50+ years old now. I can't back that up, but if he was in a bar staring at a yellow-haired girl 16 years ago, then he's not young anymore. I always pictured him being in his mid 30s when the song came out. Mostly because Adam Duritz referred to him as Mr., and anyone with that title is over 30. At least in my head. 

Philadelphia/Streets of Philadelphia. Yep, that was 16 years ago. Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks look exactly the same. Well, Hanks looks a bit better than he did at the end of that movie, but you get the point. Also, I always considered Streets of Philadelphia to be 'over the hill Springsteen.' I'm a little too young for Bruce's prime to be considered my music. I was negative 5 when Born to Run came out, and still in Kindergarten when Born in the U.S.A. and Glory Days came out, so I couldn't really claim this as my music. So yeah, Streets of Philadelphia always seemed like past his prime Boss to me. And past his prime boss was 16 years ago. And now he's back with some good music. I don't know if this should make me feel old or make me happy about Bruce's resilience. Maybe I should just stop thinking about it and enjoy his new music.

End of Cheers/Beginning of Frasier. So this one does feel like it was a long time ago, so I was okay with that. What made me feel old is that it was the kind of time capsule fact that you always hear on oldies stations. Like there's always something about I Love Lucy or Happy Days on one of those time capsules. Then they follow it up with some song from Martha and the Vandellas. Hearing that time capsule fact on my radio station about a time that I remember vividly made me feel old. It made me think that maybe the music from this era is considered oldies.

Okay, that's all for now. Lester Holt just told me that the maximum age for the MTV Rock the Vote inaugural ball is 35. That makes me feel better.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stacking Cats

Hello Friends. I've done a lot of soul searching lately. I've realized that most of the posts on this blog are about stuff that annoys me. I think I probably need to change that. Yeah, I could be more positive and talk about all of the great things in this world. But instead, I think I'll change it up by writing about something that annoys my wife instead.

Now as a loyal YIFY reader, you probably know that Kate is fine with most things and most people. There are only a couple of exceptions. Kate's stuff I don't like list is much shorter than mine. It's basically just cold weather, Angelina Jolie, and what I think is called dimensional analysis. 

If you've never heard of dimensional analysis, that's okay. Actually, I'm not sure if that's the term I'm looking for or not, but that's what we're going to go with, because it's late and I'm sick of looking at stupid math and physics websites. Stupid Google. If you figure out what the hell I'm talking about and want to tell me what the actual name for it is, that would be lovely. Anyway, the thing that annoys Kate that we're going to call dimensional analysis is something you probably hear everyday without paying much attention to it. It's basically when some type of commercial or newscast or discovery channel type program tries to explain how big or grand a specific number is. Something like: "We produce over 1 billion pounds of trash a day. How big is a billion? Well, if you had a billion cats and you stacked them on top of each other, they would stretch to the moon and back four times!" It usually involves stacking, or laying end to end or time. So hopefully now you know what I'm talking about.

These things get used all the time. Especially on some kind of math or science TV show that's probably designed for tweens. I think the one that gets used the most has something to do with your intestines. Something like "if you were to remove your intestines and lay them out end to end, they would reach from New York to Texas" or something like that. I don't think they ever specify if it's just the large intestine or if it's both the large and small. They don't really cite their sources on those shows.

Editor's Note: If you're wondering why I'm watching some math or science show that's designed as informational for tweens, please refer to earlier post about the lack of good cartoons on TV (especially on the weekends). 

So they've got these dimensional analysis things for just about everything. They seem to be especially popular with diseases and radio commercials. You know, stuff like "in the time it takes you to read this blog post, three people will die of lung cancer, four from heart failure, and a third of a person from bird flu. In the commercials or whatever they usually just limit it to one illness or cause of death. I think if they laid them all out in one commercial it would probably be more powerful, but might be overwhelming. 

So I've always heard these things and really haven't given them a whole lot of thought. I just shrug and say okay when the guy on TV tells me that Jello has sold enough pudding in the past 20 years to fill Lake Michigan.  Kate, on the other hand, gets just about as upset at these as she does when Angelina is on the cover of People Magazine. I'm trying to figure out why. I guess I could ask her, but she's asleep, so I'll just speculate. That'll make for better blog materiel anyway. At first I thought it was just basic skepticism. Maybe she didn't believe their math. Or maybe she figured that the people who come up with these comparisons just realize that nobody can really stack cats to the moon, or lay Twinkies end to end which means nobody can really call bullshit on them, so they just throw out some ridiculous comparison and call it a day. The theory that I've landed on is bringing together two of her top dislikes: dimensional analysis and space travel. I guess I should've mentioned space travel earlier in my list of things Kate doesn't like. But she basically thinks that space travel is dumb. Trust me on this one. So my theory is that since most of these dimensional analysis things involve stacking things, and the big stacks usually end up somewhere in space (the moon, mars, sometimes the sun) she's annoyed mostly because they are talking about space travel (sort of) which, as we previously established, she thinks is dumb. 

Wow, I just realized that the last sentence was really long. I could fix it, but my blogging time is up for tonight. Besides, if you stacked that sentence end to end, it would reach all the way to the moon, or at least all the way to the stack of cats, which reach the moon. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Few Good Ideas

Hello Everyone. We're starting another consecutive posting streak. This makes two days in a row...big time stuff. 

Today I heard a commercial for the Invention Submission Corporation. It was something about calling with all of your great ideas and then they would help you get a patent or something. I think they might somehow be affiliated with that guy who wears the suit with all of the question marks on it (Matthew Lesko) but I can't back that up. Anyway, I thought about calling them with all of my invention ideas, but then thought that A) what's going to stop them from stealing all of my ideas and B) Making a phone call...that seems like too much work. So instead I'll just use today's post as my invention submission corporation. If y'all want to steal my ideas, that's okay. I probably won't get around to doing whatever you need to do to make money off of inventions, and I'd rather they just get invented. So you can have the money, just send me a prototype or something. Here are my (your) inventions. I could probably use some help with some of the product names:

Electrocuting Baby Doll- Yeah, this one definitely needs a new name. So the basic premise of this one is that it's a baby doll that provides an electric shock when you touch it. Like a Cabbage Patch Kid with a taser built into it or something. It would have a couple of uses. The primary use would be for training dogs or other pets of expecting first time parents. Basically training the dog that it's not cool to touch the little humans. It wouldn't be such a strong shock that it would do any real harm to the dog, but enough to keep it from touching the baby again. Oh, and if you decide to steal this idea and then find out that the expectant parents with pets market isn't quite big enough to make a profit, I guess you could expand and maybe require all registered sex offenders to take one of the dolls as well. You could turn up the voltage for them. Their addresses are already online so you could just go door to door. 

Screw-Off Chicken Bucket. So this one is basically just a screw-off bottom of the paper buckets that are used by KFC, Bojangles, and other fried chicken places (check local listings). Within the screw-off bottom, they would store plastic silverware, napkins, and maybe some plates. I just think it makes more sense to have this as part of the bucket, instead of requiring chicken buyers to take an extra bag just for napkins, silverware, and other things. Why not just put these things in a false-bottom, screw-off portion of the bucket itself? I think one of the reasons this one hasn't made it to market yet is because most people probably think there is a better overall chicken delivery system than the bucket. I mean, if the bucket went away, then so would the need for the yet to be developed screw-off bottom. It's one of the few foods that is delivered in bucket form. But I guess the bucket isn't really going anywhere, so you can borrow this idea and give it to KFC if you want. 

Vibrating Television Remote - I guess it doesn't need to vibrate, it could beep or flash or something else. But we needed to call it something, so I'm going with vibrating television remote. Anyway, this one is for when you're switching between two television shows. I mean, one of them is obviously the primary show, but you've got a backup that you are switching to during commercials of the primary show. The vibrating television remote will notify you in some way when your primary show has returned from commercial break. This way you don't get caught up watching your secondary show and forget to return to your primary show. I know that you're probably going to say something about DVR or whatever, but think about it this way. The two TV show technique is often a trade off between two TV watchers. Take right now, for instance. I'm trying to watch the Steelers-Ravens Game, but Kate is not really interested. She wants to watch the series premiere of 'Toddlers and Tiaras' on TLC. If you're not sure what that is, you're lucky. It's a bunch of scary looking five year old pageant kids and their overbearing parents. So think of it this way. I'm probably going to give in and she'll have primary control of the TV (Toddlers and Tiaras). I still want to get in as much football watching as possible, without overshooting the commercials on TLC (which would somehow be my fault), hence the vibrating remote. I could watch my full two minutes of Football and then the remote would tell me when it's time to return to Toddlers and Tiaras. Oh yeah, I'd be living the dream. 

So go ahead and steal one (or all) of these ideas if you want. Like I said, just send me a prototype or something. If you've got any inventions that you'd like to share, please post as a comment. I promise I won't steal them...if I won't call the number to submit mine, I doubt I'd submit yours. Unless they're really good.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Own Little Fantasy

First off, I need to address the obvious - my consecutive days with a blog post streak. It ended yesterday. Sorry about that. But I did have like 21 days in a row with a post, so I think that's pretty good. Besides, yesterday was RJ's day to post. Also, I flew back to Indy yesterday and it was just a little too cold to think. Really, I think it's too cold to do anything here. But I can't use that excuse all weekend, so here's a fantasy football post.

I play fantasy football. I guess you call it 'playing' even though it feels a lot more like work. Fantasy football involves spending lots of time on the computer (something I do at work), doing research and making difficult decisions (things I do at work) and watching television (something I do at work). So yeah, it's sort of like work, except that it only pays off about one out of every three years. 

And the payoff isn't all that great. I mean, when you consider how much time you put in researching players on teams that you really don't care about, your hourly fantasy football rate is well below minimum wage, even if you win your league. I got second place in my league this year and made $60. When you consider that I spent about 3 hours/week watching football, another hour/week setting my lineup, and about 15 minutes per week coming up with a team name, I think I made about $1/hour. Fantasy Football is basically sports gambling for men whose parents wouldn't sign the permission slip for real gambling. It involves all of the analysis and decision making, without the potential for major financial loss or gain. 

My favorite aspect of fantasy football is coming up with a team name. Actually, coming up with several team names. This season I switched my team name every week. It usually had something to do with the current news cycle at the time I set my lineup. Since most of the season took place during the presidential campaign, my team names included Bristol's Baby Daddy, Lipstick on a Pig, and The Sad Grandpas. It'll be like a little time capsule from the 2008 presidential election. There were a few other team names that probably aren't blog-appropriate. Come to think of it, they probably weren't work fantasy football league appropriate either, but it's a little too late for that now. 

If it wasn't for fantasy football, I think I'd underestimate just how physical the sport is. I mean, it seems like halfway into the season, half of my team has some sort of injury. Maybe that's why I play fantasy football instead of regular football - less chance of serious injury.

 I actually did try real football once. I made it through one week of football camp before my freshman year of high school. I only made it five days because I had philosophical differences with the coach. As a 6'3'', 230lb incoming freshman, the coach thought I'd be on the offensive line with the rest of the really large people. But it was August, and all of the linemen had to practice in full pads and do lots of running. I saw the kickers and punters, and they looked like they were having way more fun. They were even practicing right next to the water fountain, which was a huge plus. When I made my case for joining the kicking squad, I think the coach said something like "a boy your size should be doing something a little bit more manly than being a kicker." He was probably right. But I decided to join the golf team instead. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Miami Fat Machine

Matt Lauer told me something this morning that I almost couldn't believe. But then I remembered that it was Matt and that he's always honest with me, so I just decided that it must be true. The story was about the fittest and fattest cities in the United States. The part that I couldn't believe is that Miami has been named the fattest city in the country. Stop shaking your head in disbelief. Matt said it. It must be true.

I usually go to Miami once or twice a year. I don't think I've ever seen a fat person. I take that back, I have seen fat people at the Miami airport. There are usually some fat tourists in straw hats and Tommy Bahama shirts making their annual pilgrimage to Miami to get on a seven day binge on the Royal Caribbean Buffet of the Seas, or whatever they call cruise ships these days. But those people don't live in Miami, so I don't think they count in the survey. Other than the cruise ship crowd, I don't think I've ever seen a fat person in Miami. No fat people on the beach. No fat people out at the bars and restaurants of South Beach. No fat people in Coral Gables. Where are they?

Well, they must be there, because Matt said so. I can't think of a worse city to be fat in. First, there are all of the beautiful people out on the beach and at the clubs of South Beach. That would probably get annoying. Also, the humidity would really be a drag. I sweat from the moment my flight lands in Miami to the minute I return, regardless of my weight at the time. Even the airport is sweaty. The floors are always sticky there. As soon as I get to Miami, I feel like I just got done with a run, or like I'm RJ, or like I just ate dinner at Fogo de Chao and have the meat sweats. Okay, probably enough talk about sweat. 

Probably the worst thing about being fat in Miami would be that you basically have no excuse. If you live in Green Bay or something, you can blame it on the weather and the fact that you can't leave the house for like six months. But the weather can only be an excuse in Miami for the 20 minutes every afternoon when it rains. There also seems to be plenty of exercise opportunities there (nice parks, gyms, the ocean, bike paths, etc) so you can't use that excuse. I don't think they can use my typical alcohol excuse either. Going to a bar in Miami means buying a $200+ bottle of booze (the only way you can get a table), so I don't think there are a lot of people getting fat off of potato skins and other glorious bar food. And you can't just be bulking up to have some extra warmth for the winter. There is no winter.

So I'm trying to figure out how Miami can be the fattest city. There are plenty of cities that should be fatter, including: Philadelphia (cheese steaks, winter), Chicago (deep dish, winter), any city in Wisconsin (their state food is fried cheese, winter) or most of Texas (really big steaks).  Sure the food in Miami is good, but it isn't fried cheese. 

I thought Miami's expanding waistline might be economic. Maybe the fact that their economy is in the toilet is causing people to switch to cheaper, less healthy food. But then again, cities like Las Vegas are just as bad economically, and they also have casinos and cruise ship-inspired buffets.  And declining home values should lead to less dessert at TGIFridays, right? I think I learned that in my econ classes.

My next thought was that maybe it has something to do with Miami's sports teams. The Dolphins were way better this year than they were last year, and the Marlins were decent. So my theory here is that better sports teams = more people going to watch their games. And there's no way to eat (or drink) healthy at a professional sporting event. But I really doubt that an improved football team can really explain this phenomenon.

So all I'm left with is that either 1) The survey is BS or 2) Matt Lauer is lying to me. I don't want #2 to be correct, so if you've got another theory, please let me know. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

At the Movies

I wrote on my hand today that I should write about movies, so I'm going to go ahead and do that now. Otherwise I'll take a shower and will no longer have this brilliant idea documented anywhere. So here's my movie post.

My parents watch more movies at the theatre than anyone I know. Granted, I don't know that many people, but they watch lots of movies. My dad will watch pretty much anything. He's a big fan of the Action Summer Blockbuster genre. You know, those movies that used to be comic books back when there were comic books. But he'll also see anything that my mom wants to see. She was a librarian and watches everything that was based on a book that she read. Based on those two rather broad categories, they pretty much have 12 of the 16 screens at the theatre covered. Oh, my mom will also watch anything that features Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood, or any other male lead who could be named the AARP Sexiest Man Alive. Just had to get that in there, even though I know I'll get an angry phone call or email tomorrow morning. Sorry mom.

I think the data point that best explains my parents' dedication to the movies is the fact that they used to wake up at 4:00 AM on Sunday mornings (back before DVR) to watch 'At the Movies' with Siskel and Ebert or Ebert and Roper. That's dedication. They also have a very stong relationship with Netflix. Since they see everything that makes it to the theatre, their constant pen pal relationship with Netflix usually covers everything that  doesn't make it to the theatre (documentaries, etc).

Netflix probably loses money on their relationship with my parents. It more than makes up this loss with us (mostly Kate). Kate is very particular about the type of movie that she will watch. Here are Kate's rules. I'm making these up as I go, but have about six years of data or so to support this:

1.  Has to be a romantic comedy. I've found that most movies in this genre are neither romantic or funny, so I'm not sure how they came up with this label, but I digress.

2. Running time under two hours. There are some attention span issues that are the culprit here. I believe those were mentioned in a previous post about road trips if you're scoring at home.

3. Either the male or female lead has to be someone who starred in another movie that she has previously seen and enjoyed. This one is difficult, because it rules out anyone starring in their first major motion picture.

4. The male or female lead cannot have starred in a romantic comedy that she disliked. This rules out a lot of movies.

5. Movie cannot have a 'bad' ending. Bad = any loose ends. Funny story on this one. Now that Kate is back in Indy, I'm going to a lot more movies (with my parents, of course). We saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the other day. Instead of asking me questions like "how was the movie" or "would I like it" her first question was "How did it end?" It's a three hour movie and her only real question was about the ending. So yeah, I think this rule is valid.

6. Movie cannot have anything to do with Angelina Jolie. This is probably the most important rule. So you can copy and paste it into the #1 spot if you want. I think this rules out Brad Pitt movies, Billy Bob Thornton movies, and Jon Voight movies. It actually rules out movies that have trailers for Angelina Jolie movies.  Kate likes pretty much everyone. She's the nice one. But there's something about Angelina Jolie that really makes Kate angry. When a trailer for an Angelina Jolie movie is on TV, it is usually followed with "ugh, that freak, go drink some blood" or "ugh, what is she doing in another movie, doesn't she have like 18 babies to take care of" or "ugh, gross. I don't like her. I think she's a vampire." Not a big fan.

So those are the rules for new movies. For DVDs, we're pretty much limited to John Hughes movies made between 1983 and 1993. So my choices are cinematic gems like Uncle Buck, She's Having a Baby, Home Alone, Curly Sue, and a handful of other movies that I've seen a dozen times. Our Netflix queue pretty much looks like it would if I was in a coma for the past 15 years and was from Chicago. Awesome. 

My movie tastes are somewhere between those of my wife and my parents. But I'm usually too busy to go to the movies. This TV isn't going to watch itself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Potpourri for $1000, Alex

So it's about 11:30PM (check local listings), which means I have to hurry up and post to keep my consecutive days with a post streak going. I've been driving in my car by myself for the past five hours. I tried to come up with topic for tonight's post, but all I ended up with is a lot of random thoughts that aren't really connected to one another. So tonight's post is just going to be a list of things that I thought about tonight on my drive.

1. With all of the funny stuff that happens on a daily basis in our country, there's no way that what Bob Sagat/Tom Bergeron put on ABC every Sunday night is really a comprehensive collection of America's funniest home videos. Somebody had to be taping some of the really funny stuff, they just didn't mail in the tape. I don't have a video camera. If I did, I'd probably use it. I think I could find something funnier.

2. If anyone tells you that they were in the band in high school, but that "band wasn't like it was at other was cool at their high school" - they are lying. Nothing against the band. I'm sure you had fun and there were great people in the band, maybe even some lifelong friends, but band was not 'cool' at your high school. It's high school, so probably football and cheerleading were/are/always will be what the cool kids do. Unless you're going to Grambling, School of Rock with Jack Black, or Juilliard, the band is not cool. And I think one of those is a college and another doesn't really exist.

3. I think that blogging is the equivalent of the safety school for people who want to write a book or start their own business. It lets people write stuff or potentially make money without having the risk of either of their top choices. I'm still not sure about the making money thing. At last check, Google tells me I've made $11.83 on this blog. Not quite enough to retire on. 

4. People always talk about wanting to drink a beer with the president. Or wanting to play basketball with Michael Jordan. If I was going to play the "pick and celebrity and pick an activity" game, I think I'd go grocery shopping with Jessica Tandy. I came up with a few reasons why...a) I always feel out of place and uncomfortable at the grocery store, and Jessica would help me fit in b) I enjoyed watching Jessica grocery shop during Driving Miss Daisy, so I know she's good at it c) when people swap their celebrity encounter stories, I don't think anyone could top grocery shopping with Jessica Tandy. It would replace meeting Phyllis from The Office at the airport. And yes, I realize that Jessica has passed away. 

5. I've rethought my dream job. Previously I was going with two jobs - Host of Man vs. Food during the winter (basically just traveling the country and overeating to get my picture up on the wall at random diners) along with annual The Biggest Loser contestant in the Summer. I always thought the two would go together really well. But I thought about it tonight and decided that my heart would probably explode. So now my new dream job is "Guy who comes up with conference room names for companies." Every office has conference rooms. All conference rooms should have a consistent naming theme. I think I can come up with awesome conference room names. Can't find that one listed on CareerBuilder right now.

6. There should be some sort of rating system for gas stations so that you know at the time you pull of the interstate if it is the kind of gas station where you feel like it's okay to use the bathroom. They've got plenty of extra space on those blue highway signs. They should use that space to give some sort of star rating to the gas stations. Or maybe somebody could write a book/list of gas stations with clean bathrooms. This would make my life so much easier. Kate holds me personally responsible if I stop for gas and it turns out to be a dirty gas station. How am I supposed to know this when I get off of the interstate? All I see is the gas station logo on the sign and maybe a billboard. That's really not enough for me to make an informed decision.

7. Nobody seems to know why "Virginia is for Lovers." I've heard the slogan for years, and nobody can give me a good answer to this one. I asked the guy behind the counter at the dirty gas station, and he couldn't help me at all.

That's pretty much all I thought about tonight on my drive. I also had thoughts like "I forgot to DVR The Biggest Loser tonight" and "Why didn't I fly to Richmond instead of driving" but those aren't really blogworthy

11:47 EST. The streak is still alive.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Hotel Test

This is going to be the second travel-themed post in a row. I hope y'all don't mind. Since I'm traveling right now, it's the only thing that I can think of to write about. I promise this isn't turning into a travel blog. I'll try to change it up tomorrow and write about dogs or church or bananas. 

I'm a bit of a hotel snob. A shrink would probably tell you that it has something to do with my childhood. Hotels growing up meant one of three things: 1. A campground 2. The pop-top of a Volkswagen Vanagon 3. A Motel 6. The Motel 6 was only on special occasions. Usually on New Year's Eve in Tucamcari, New Mexico. I can still hear my dad's advice as we got into bed: "kids, keep your underpants on." Oh, the memories.

So now that I travel for work (and sometimes for fun) I can be a little picky about hotels. There are certain things that I look for in a hotel. I just did this subconsciously until one of my friends pointed out that I was just applying my own hotel test. The hotel test is the criteria or set of criteria that you use to determine if the hotel is somewhere that you are willing stay. Please note that this is not my idea, but I feel compelled to share the concept with all of you. Idea creator(s), you know who you are.

You can establish all sorts of hotel tests. I have surveyed at least a handful of people and would like to share some of these hotel thresholds or tests with you:

Interior Room Entrances: This one is pretty self-explanatory. If this is your hotel test, it basically means that you rule out staying at any hotel where you enter your room from the outside world (sorry Motel 6). I can understand this one. I think it also dovetails off of the "won't stay at the kind of hotel where people live" rule. Think about it. When you're eating at a Cracker Barrel and look over at the adjacent hotel and see someone bringing it groceries, they are probably entering from an exterior entrance. I guess people do live in hotels with interior entrances, but they are usually professional athletes or guys going through a divorce. Anyway, I understand the interior room entrance rule, and I think it's a good one.

The Map: This one isn't quite as obvious, but I love it just the same. Creator of the map rule (you know who you are) thank you for developing this wonderful threshold. So here's how it works. If, upon check-in, the guy at the front desk pulls out a map of the hotel (and a colored pencil) and then draws the path that your car should take to get to the appropriate entrance, then this is a hotel that you won't stay in. This rule is a little more strict than the interior room entrance rule, as most map hotels do have rooms that you can enter from the inside.

Room Service: Another brilliant rule created by one of my friends at work. The law, as it is written, requires that all hotels must offer room service. This does not mean that the rule creator (or rule follower) will order room service during their stay, it simply means that the hotel has to offer it. It makes sense if you think about it this way: in order to offer room service, the hotel has to have a kitchen. If the hotel has a kitchen, then that means some sort of regulatory board (other than the Elevator Certification Board) has been in the hotel and has given at least the kitchen a thumbs up for cleanliness. It follows then that the rest of the hotel probably follows the same standards of cleanliness.

The Fluffy White Comforter Test: Also known as the Kate test. This is Kate's requirement. She wants to stay only at hotels that have fluffy white comforters. When I called her today, her first question was "How's your Hotel?" When I said it was just okay, her second question was "What kind of comforter is on the bed?" Much like my overall hotel snobbery, Kate's bedspread/comforter rule was established early in life. Kate's mom was apparently ahead of her time. She had a fear of foreign stains on bedspreads long before Dateline/Primetime/20/20 began doing their hotel room black light tests. When Kate was young, the first thing that her mom would do when they checked into a hotel room was to wildly strip the comforter off of the bed, making sure that nobody touched it. Because it's difficult to predict the color and fluffiness of the hotel comforter prior to check-in, I typically use the interweb and do the virtual tour of the hotel to confirm the color and fluffiness of the comforter prior to making a reservation.

The Indoor Pool Test: Also known as Kate's Second Test. This one isn't a deal breaker for Kate, but she does look favorably upon hotels with an indoor pool. Keep in mind that in our 100+ nights of staying at hotels with an indoor pool, I think she has actually used said pool twice. That said, she just likes it being there, and gets all excited when I tell her that the hotel has a pool. It's one of the few times that Kate acts like a seven year old kid, which I think is funny. Maybe you had to be there. It's a valid test just the same.

I'm interested to hear if any of you out there in blogland have hotel tests of your own. Post them as comments if you are comfortable sharing. And don't just say that you use star ratings. Those things are always inflated...sort of like star ratings on Star Search. Those things were really bogus. Did anyone ever receive less than three and a quarter stars on that show? Okay, I'm rambling now. Time to tuck myself in under my fluffy white comforter.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Front of the Plane

As many of you know, I travel quite a bit for work these days. There are pros and cons to work travel. Some of the cons include having to shave (if I'm meeting with clients) and being away from home. Some of the pros include getting to visit some interesting places, having HBO in hotel rooms (giving me an opportunity to be exposed to new favorite shows like True Blood and In Treatment), and frequent flier miles. When I lived in Indy, the frequent flier mile thing wasn't really a big deal. The Indy airport isn't a hub (or even a mini-hub) for any airline. So I basically had miles on every airline, but not enough to get free trip anywhere. Now that I'm in Charlotte, I live in a hub city. This means that every time I fly somewhere, I'm flying on the same airline. So I'm building up all of these miles, and then comes the best benefit of all: the front of the plane.

For years I had dreamt about the front of the plane. I had no idea what life was like in rows 1-4. I always wanted to go up and use the first class bathroom, but the pre-flight announcement tells me that I should use the lavatory in the main cabin. The announcement actually says something about it being a safety reason why people in coach can't use the first class bathroom, but I had my doubts. My theory was that they had fancy soaps and hand towels up there, and they're afraid that us savages back in coach would steal all of their fancy products. My theory also included a bathroom attendant and a toilet made of gold. As you can tell, I've spent many hours in coach, just dreaming of what was going on in front of the mesh curtain.

So now that the airline decided that I've flown enough to now sit in the front of the plane pretty much every time I fly, I can tell you that there is no golden toilet. There's not even a fancy soap. The first class lavatory is pretty much the same as the one in the main cabin. And it's still a federal offense to tamper with the lavatory smoke detector. So that's a bit of a disappointment, but the other aspects of rows 1-4 are pretty stellar. There are plenty of things that I could talk about here: the free drinks, the bottomless basket of snack food, the warm towel that I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do with. I'm not going to focus on these things, although I do need to discuss the bottomless snack basket briefly. For a few years, I thought that Funyuns had disappeared. I hadn't seen these delightful half potato chip half onion ring treats at either gas stations or grocery stores. Turns out that Funyuns are alive and well. I think the airlines actually bought all of the world's Funyuns and are stockpiling them in a hanger somewhere. For first-class consumption only. I find this sort of ironic, since Funyons always seemed a little white trash, yet they are served in fancy pants first class. Ironic and delicious.

But my favorite aspect of sitting on the front of the plane is the fact that it's where all of the flight attendants hang out when they want to hide from the annoying passengers. It's like there little break room, right across from the unimpressive first class bathroom. So I do what any other person would do and I listen in on their conversation. They spend most of their time talking about the annoying passengers back in coach, like the little kid who spilled his cheerios or the lady who wouldn't turn her damn cell phone off when it was time for takeoff. I guess they figure that since we're sitting in the front of the plane, that we probably also look down on those coach heathens. Or maybe they just don't think that anyone would be eavesdropping on their conversation. Either way, it's pretty entertaining. In addition to talking about the annoying passengers, they also spend a good deal of their time talking about their schedules. I have no idea what they're talking about, but it's fascinating. They have like their own language that only other flight attendants understand. Like some remote island nation or twin talk or something. I heard something about having a double turn then a quick flip and a hard stop for a pass-through. For a minute I thought they were talking about a figure skating routine, but then they said something about LAX, so I knew it was fight-attendant speak. 

In addition to this anthropological study, I also like to observe the reaction of other front-of-the-planers when they see me sitting among them. Most of the other front of the planers pretty much look how you think they would look. There are three types of people on the front of the plane: 
1. Businessmen and women. Usually wearing nice suits and annoying blue tooth earpieces
2. Morbidly obese people who need the extra room
3. Women (40-65) wearing some sort of costume jewelry, too much lipstick, and some sort of fur or leather product. These women didn't get the memo that flying is no longer elegant or an event, and that it's now more like a greyhound bus experience.

And then there's me. I typically go with my standard work from home attire. This means hoodie, puma workout pants, and baseball cap. Mostly because I like being comfortable. I do put a bit of a twist on this...I pull the baseball cap down a little lower. I do this because it's what the celebrities do. I watch TMZ pretty much every night, and whenever they catch a celebrity at the airport, s/he is always dressed similar to my WFH outfit, and usually has a baseball cap pulled down really low. I'm guessing that this is so nobody recognizes them. So I go with the same look. It's my way of staying comfortable while still giving the impression that I might be important or famous. Judging by the reaction of my fellow front of the plane passengers, I think about half of them think that I'm famous, while the other half just thinks that I'm lazy and probably don't belong on the front of the plane. The other half would be correct.

So that's what life if like in the front of the plane. Sorry if I ruined the mystery, especially about the lack of a gold toilet. Oh, but if you ever having a craving for Funyuns, now you know where you can get your fix.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fries With That

I got a haircut today. I know, that's big news here. Third haircut in the six months since I moved here. My hair cutting person (I refuse to use 'stylist') didn't ask me if I wanted to buy any of their product. When the cut was complete, I thanked her for not asking me if I wanted any gel or conditioner, or whatever else they're selling. She seemed a little surprised by this, told me that I was welcome, and then told me to please not call corporate and tell on her for not making a mid-cut sales pitch. I promised that I wouldn't tell on her, and that I was truly thankful that she didn't follow the script. The script usually starts mid-haircut, when you're most vulnerable with "Do you use any gel or product in your hair?" Regardless to the answer to this question, they are going to follow that up with whatever product they are trying to push this week. As you can tell by today's interaction, I'm not a big fan of the script.

It's not just the haircut place, I also get the script at places like Jiffy Lube. Just like with the haircut script, the Jiffy Lube script starts mid-transaction. Your car is up on the big magic lift, and the guy comes in with your air filter. He then shows you the air filter, and says that it's 'black' or 'pretty dirty.' I think this depends on his perception of the customer, and whether or not you know anything about cars. He then asks if you want him to replace the air filter for $10 or whatever it costs. I've tried out a few responses to this question, but haven't landed on a favorite yet. I've tried:

"No, I'll change it myself, thanks for pointing this out" (clearly a lie)

"Have you guys ever had someone come in and found a clean air filer?" (probably a little too smartass)

"No, but I'd like to speak to a manager, because I bought an air filter here 3,000 miles ago. If it's already bad, then I must have received a defective air filter and I'd like to talk about compensation." (a lie, and probably too dramatic)

I never buy the air filer. At least not from them. Probably because of how they are forced to ask me. I'd probably be more willing to give them an extra $10 if they just said "hey man, business isn't so great, could you spare an extra $10?"

It's not that I am a complete ass. Well, maybe I am...let's try that again. It's not that I don't enjoy speaking to retail or service-based employees. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. I just don't like being asked to buy other things while I'm buying something else. I'm actually pretty loyal to my favorite customer service representatives. There's the ex-con looking checkout guy at Lowes who always looks like he's going to murder someone. I always go to his checkout line and then ask him something like "Your shift almost over?" or "Ready to get out of here?" It doesn't matter if he's only got ten minutes to go until he leaves or if he just started his shift, he always gives the same surly, disgruntled response, and I love him for that. I actually think that he's about one bad shift away from snapping and taking people out with a ban saw. I think that maybe I go for his line every time so I can witness this freak out. That's beside the point. The point is that I do enjoy speaking with my checkout people and other service-oriented employees, as long as they don't try to sell me more stuff. I like crazy Lowes guy because I know he's just going to scan my stuff, put it in my bag, and go on hating life or plotting a crime. There's no chance that he's going to try to get me to sign up for a Lowe's card, or ask if I found everything okay. What kind of a question is that? Did I find everything okay? What the hell...if I didn't find everything, are you going to walk away from your checkout desk and help me find stuff? If I didn't find something, I wouldn't be checking out. I also always go to the same checkout girl at the grocery store. She's really good at scanning items, especially multiple scans if you are buying more than one of the same product. She'll do a double (or even triple) scan while tossing the other similar items into the bag without even looking at them. I frequently complement her on her bagging and scanning technique. I didn't really need to go off on that tangent, I just didn't want y'all to think that the only checkout people that I like are potential murderers like the Lowes guy.

My dislike for this mid-transaction sales pitches sort of goes against what I actually do when I'm working. My job includes coming up with new ways for companies to sell you more stuff while you're already buying something else. I justify this contradiction with the distinction that the cross-sell and up-sell strategies that I come up with at work are all about online transactions. I'm okay with that. If I'm buying something online and during the checkout process there's something about "you might also be interested in this" I'm alright with it. Maybe it's because I'm not required to talk. Or maybe it's because I just want to feel good about what I do for a living. I'm not sure which it is, I'll ask crazy Lowes guy and see what he thinks.

This distinction has actually caused me to move away from human interaction whenever possible. I use the ATM-looking thing at the movie theatre, and use the self-checkout machine at the grocery store if I'm only buying a few items (or if multiple item scanner girl isn't working). 

So that's all I've got for now. No, I don't want to mega-size it for $0.39, I don't want a four week trial subscription to Entertainment Magazine, and I'm not interested in the extended warranty.  And I won't call corporate if you don't even ask.