2.21.2010

Attack on the Black Van

From the spam folder:
Hi,
I am a British soldier currently in Afghanistan. I am with the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery in Afghanistan1. We hijacked a suspected Van painted black between the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Door gunners sitting behind machine guns in the Black Van2 tried shooting at our direction but we lunched a combat backup attack3 on the Black Van none of the Taliban survived the attack.

We discovered other currencies including US dollars of about $ 16 million loaded inside the Black Van with so many types of machine guns. We want to move this money out of this place, before we declare other items in the van to the international press. This place is a war zone you will keep our share pending the end of our assignment here in Afghanistan.
We will take 70%. You take 30%. No strings attached, just help us move it out of Afghanistan, Afghanistan is a war zone. We plan to use secured logistics courier to ship the money out in a large box.4
If you can help to receive the box for us, I will send you the full details. Kindly send me an e-mail signifying your interest including your most confidential telephone/fax numbers for quick communication also your contact details. This should be a secret and must be a secret between us.5

Respectfully,
Gen Sir David Richards (right)


1. Well, if he claims he's a soldier, who am I to argue?
2. The capitalization is a nice touch. I feel this distinguished "Black Van" could probably do with a trademark symbol as well.
3. If you "lunched an attack" does this mean you called in a fleet of Schwans trucks?
4. Shipping money out in a large box=brilliant!
5. Lips=sealed

2.17.2010

Sociopathic bosses and you

I got this article in an email message today. It's titled "Our fascination with sociopathic bosses." It sounds kind of severe, but I clicked the link and started reading. According to the article, a sociopathic boss is someone who can be charming when the occasion demands it -- usually with customers, clients or friends -- but who, in the workplace, are domineering, angry and verbally abusive. They publicly humiliate employees and show little tolerance for people who make errors, often firing them on the spot.

It sounds pretty heavy to attach "sociopath" to anything, especially to a person who is supposed to be in charge of other people. Given the definition above, my last boss fits the bill.

I haven't written much about what happened at my last job. I treat it sort of like Fight Club. The boss in question was in charge of a team of employees, and we were rolling along until summer, when the wheels began to wobble. They fell off by the time fall came around. I think I put up with a lot more than usual because we got away with a lot. Don't feel like facing the noise? Sure, take a sick day! We did birthday lunches at nice restaurants and we sort of all did our own thing and as long as the money was flowing the contract was good, he was good with us. If funding was cut or a customer didn't see the need to continue with our work, things got ugly. I witnessed more than one explosion with more than one person on the team. I was never the direct target, but the public humiliation affected everyone at some point. It was hard to receive but almost worse to see someone else get pummeled. We had meetings twice a week and the running joke was that someone would inevitably have a turn in the barrel.

I learned a few things (HR is not your friend, for one). I might revisit the last two years and write a book. I made a few good friends and I got a pay raise. I even picked up some minor software skills. It wasn't all terrible but I'm glad someone showed me the door when it was determined that my "skill set" was no longer required. It was time to go anyway.

Trappings

If we do move to another house, one of the things on the to do list is to declutter. I have entirely too much stuff. I know the general rule is that you get rid of something every time you buy something new, but I don’t. I still like some of the old stuff. I might still wear it, or need it someday. That’s the worst kind of thinking. You get into remembering what you spent on something, and whether you might use it again over recognizing that the few times you do use it aren’t worth the space that it takes up to store when it’s not being used.

How do you weigh what you need against what you want? How you weigh what you actually need over what you think you need? People are so spoiled sometimes. In almost every house I have seen online, the master bedroom includes a massive corner soaking tub. It’s like a requirement now. How many people actually use those to take a bath? How many people like that tub because they like the thought that they can fill it up and soak if they want to, even if they actually hop into the shower every day instead? I would rather have a bigger shower (or his and hers toilets) than a whopping corner tub, but apparently it’s become a standard.

I was going through my jewelry box the other day. I used to wear necklaces a lot more than I do now. I still kept the ones I had. I still like them. I have shoes I don’t wear but keep because I like them. It’s silly. I should have a room just to display the things I like but never wear. I have a few phones that I switched out before they died. Some of them probably still work. I should probably sell these things on eBay and make some of the money back, but that becomes another task. Every time you get something new, it incurs an obligation of maintenance and storage. Even my daughter is going through this. I don’t want her to start off with the same bad habits, but every time she has a birthday or Christmas comes around, everyone is very generous.

I saw a slideshow of a man who lives in a small apartment. He actually had several items he didn’t use, but kept for aesthetic appeal. The entire space under his bed was used for storage. Every inch of the space was packed, but organized in a way that it looked interesting and not cluttered. From that show I clicked on another one featuring a family that lived in a yurt. They had internet access but used an outhouse. I like the idea, but no thanks. For most of my time in Korea, the work sites only had portapotties and if I never have to use that or something like that again, it will be a-okay with me. Aside from the plumbing issue, I wonder what it must be like to carefully choose the things you need, get rid of the things they replace, and skip buying most of what you want in the interest of space, time and money.

2.15.2010

Drive by shopping



My husband and I have been browsing homes online for a few months. We won’t be buying anytime soon, so it’s really just a tease. It’s so easy to do now. No more squinting at grainy postage stamp images in the newspaper. No more abbreviated descriptions (4 BR, GRT VWS! FXR UPR—it’s almost like text speak before texting even existed). No more tedious trips to a realtor’s office where you head to the parking lot to pile up in their people hauler and knock on doors to invade other people’s homes.

It’s sort of fun to just look from the comfort of your own home. You don’t even have to be a serious buyer, you can just browse. You can comment on people’s kuntry kozy kitchens or general d├ęcor. We saw a house that had been built in 1980, but with an interior that harkened back to the late 60’s and early 70’s. I’m talking metallic wallpaper in the bathroom, people! Even the TV was cubic and bulky. It might have even had a dial.

We decided to do some drive bys and wound up checking out three houses. The first was in our current town. This was one my husband had fallen in love with. It had everything you could imagine—a media room in the basement, a stone patio with an outdoor kitchen, and a hefty price to insure that you would be nowhere but at home, subsisting on Top ramen and tap water. We turned onto the street. “It should be right here,” my husband said. “The directions say it’s right here.” We kept driving, winding down a small hill, until we found the (pretty sizeable) house. And there, right behind that house, facing in the same direction, was another sizeable house, which looked to be the same exact floorplan, but done in brick facing instead of stone and siding. The online pictures were clever enough to disguise the neighbor in the rear, but seeing it for myself was all we needed to say no. “They’ll never get what they’re asking.” I said. You can fix a crappy kitchen or a bathroom covered in hideous wallpaper, but you can’t do anything about someone else’s house in your backyard.

We went to the next house on the list of favorites. “Hm. Giant power lines right across the street. Hm, is the backyard right against that road? Hm. Next.”

The last house was one that I loved. It was sort of in the middle of nowhere, which is about 3 inches from the interstate when you looked at it on the map shown online. You could get there by way of a two lane road that took you through rolling farmland and small town living. “It’s the county’s commuter secret!” touted the realtor’s ad, which must have been code for “It’s in the middle of B-F nowhere.” The hermit in me loves this—open land, and no people for miles and miles. We found the house, and it looked about the same as it looked online but moving there meant taking the little two lane road every single day. “Probably not so good when it gets snowed in.” I said. And also, “Sort of inconvenient,” which is code for “Too far away from Target.” Unsaid: There are two little homemade crosses on the side of the road. In two entirely different spots.

Three houses was all it took for me to want to quit looking. Everything looked better online; none of them seemed right, which is both depressing and satisfying. My husband can click through the photos of that dream house knowing that there is another one directly behind it. I can look at that house in the middle of nowhere and know that I have to travel a lot more than 3 inches to reach the interstate.

2.12.2010

Victory


Something about this Playboy interview is funny. We have people hoping it’s some other influence speaking (drugs, alcohol, insanity). Please, please, they say, let this guy not be that big of a DB.

So he apologized in concert. When stuff like that happens, I almost would rather have the person own the crazy. “Yeah, I said it. And?” I prefer that over some ol’ bull™ (phrase courtesy of Micki) “Oops, let me shut my piehole and disappear for awhile” comments or sending up some tweets like the twit you are in order to do some instant damage control.

Some highlights I found funny:
He’s got a “pass,” as in a pass into the black people world. Oh-kay then. Is this like the opposite of Eddie Murphy going undercover into the white people world?

His penis is not just a member, but a Klan member.

Some black girls could possibly break his heart like a white girl would (Kerry Washington, I’m looking at you?)

But! “He makes great music!” People say. I am not that much of a fan, sorry. That father-daughter song is cree-pee. From the lyrics:
Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers

I would like to take a shower now, thanks. Could you imagine a woman’s version about little boys turning into men who turn into lovahs and then daddies? Could you come up with an entire song about that? ICKKKK! Who makes that connection and goes, "I know, I'll write a song about it!" and then puts it to music? Ick, I say!

I’m not all that outraged that this man wouldn’t find me attractive (or specifically, his penis). No really, I'm not. I think the people who get mad are the same ones who are mad that none of Tiger Woods’s mistresses were black. I mean what is the problem, here, exactly? I’m missing out on a cheater? A publicly known DB wouldn’t be that into me? It feels like I've won without even trying.

2.08.2010

This just in


From my work email inbox:
Due to the weather conditions, there will not be a bagel delivery tomorrow (Tuesday).


Well, that settles it, I'm staying home tomorrow.

2.07.2010

Snow Daze


Even if you don't live in the D.C. area, chances are good that you have heard about the blizzard (mmm, Dairy Queen) that hit the mid-Atlantic states. Even my cousins in Italy have heard about it, so if you haven't, where have you been?

Anyway, my biggest complaint:
The nonstop news coverage on Saturday. The local NBC station decided it would be wise to do a full day of news weather reports. They pre-empted the Today show. Now I realize missing the Today show isn't the end of the world, but we got to see Pat Collins walking around D.C. with a yard stick telling us how deep the snow was. We had others grabbing handfuls of snow to tell us the consistency. We had footage of the Dupont Circle snowball fight. After the snow lands and the numbers are counted, there's not much else to say. You get the standard "Take breaks so you don't have a heart attack while shoveling" and "Beware of the killer icicles" warnings, you get snapshots of unplowed roads, and that's really about it. By late afternoon, you could tell the reporters and meteorologists were struggling to rephrase things already stated multiple times. This is a really lame complaint, and it's nothing new. Any kind of weather is a big deal and snow seems to be the biggest. I have learned that adults are just as giddy as kids when snow days are involved.

The good: The power didn't go out. My husband shoveled. The alley behind the house is plowed (as of a few hours ago). We live directly across the street from a huge shopping center, so there's no real need to hoard milk, bread and rock salt and no need to drive. The Federal government and my daughter's daycare are closed, so I can probably skip work without providing much explanation.

2.06.2010

And the subpar film celebration continues...



Well, we watched another gem last night. If you ever wanted to make 89 minutes feel like three hours, watch Megafault. It's the cinematic equivalent of that old saying, "I spent a week in Philadelphia one night."
Disclaimer: feel free to insert any other city you wish to disparage. No offense to anyone who loves Philly, it's the city I heard used in the joke. It's a great town. Cheesesteaks! Brotherly Love! Too much pandering, you say?

This movie contained not just one, but two big names (Brittany Murphy and Eric LaSalle) and (amazingly) they were on screen for most of the movie. I actually think it's genius to have Eric LaSalle in a disaster movie. The guy always looks surprised (which worked well on ER too), so when you have a bunch of scenes involving surprises in the form of the ground opening wide under your feet, and you need someone to convey the shock of it all, he's your guy. Here's where the movie diverted from my general disaster movie plot theory--there was no love interest or romantic tension that would lead you to think that the two leads would live for today and find a few moments of tender luuuuv makin' (or even just a stolen passion-filled kiss. There was an expert, there was the bad seed trying to do right, and the military people (evidently there was no budget for military consultants, judging from the uniforms and vehicles in the movie). There was also a husband, a kid who seemed to exist to look cute and/or exhausted and there was a trucker who believed the best way to deliver his lines was to shout all of them. There was a bad script ("There's an earthquake on our tail," was one of the lines) and bad special effects galore.

I don't know why we watch these things. Maybe we're masochists? Because we like wasting time? I got some good laughs, so it wasn't a total waste. I do remember turning to my husband to say, "I hope this wasn't Brittany Murphy's last movie."

2.01.2010

Less than meets the eye



One of the things my husband and I love to do is to purposely watch bad movies. I'm not talking about blockbusters (that are actually really awful) like Armegeddon. I'm talking about Mockbusters like "Snakes on a Train." No, that wasn't a typo. Snakes on a Train, people. Someone took it upon themselves to make a bad movie out of a movie that everyone knew was a bad movie.

Last weekend, we watched "Transmorphers: Fall of Man." The title reminds you of two things. The obvious one--"Transformers." It's like a phonetic switcheroo. You have to think for a second when you say "Transmorphers." It's a word that doesn't even make sense. There is nothing I know of that "transmorphs." Okay, never mind, Google taught me that a Java geek would know about this. But for the other 99.99999% of us, it makes no sense. Next--"The Fall of Man." Well that implies something else, eh? The "Rise of the Machines" maybe?

The "star" of the movie is "Bruce Boxleitner." I actually knew who this was because my sister and I used to watch The Scarecrow and Mrs. King. The most memorable episode involved a helicopter crash where the tail rotor was clipped and the chopper went this way and that on screen. My sister and I were in hysterics. Whoever made this movie probably remembered it too, because there was a scene where something eerily similar occured.

I realize the people making these movies have to know that they're making a bad movie. They skimp on the acting, the writing, the special effects and the sets. It's barely a step above Sweding. They usually have one or two familiar faces among the cast, to be the "draw." Don't get too attached because the draw pulls you in and generally dies shortly afterwards--I guess this is how they rein in the budget even more. Why pay a C or D lister the big bucks for a full feature when you can get a handful of movie extras for pennies? (I realize I just gave away what happened to old Bruce, but trust me, he wasn't key to the plot.)

Characters of such flicks usually include:
-The young fallen hero trying to redeem himself (may have been booted from the military, divorced, fighting a drug/drinking problem or dealing with general down-on-his-luck-edness)
-The female love interest in skimpy clothing
-The highly capable town sheriff
-The scientist/expert/genius/brainiac who can confirm and explain the madness as it unravels
-Somebody in the military who is responsible for the problem and/or tasked with alerting the president
-The nameless extras with minor roles who exist only to be killed off when the monster/virus/computer/mutant/robot/alien/meteor, comet or asteroid/natural disaster strikes/spreads/attacks/hatches and erupts from one's chest or abdomen/goes rogue/spawns/refuses to open the pod bay doors/destroys the city/poisons the water supply/corrupts every system connected to it.

Google revealed that the "film" I watched was actually a prequel. There is a "Transmorphers" movie that shows what happened after Skynet was activated the machines took over. It was also available on Netflix instant watch, but my husband needed a breather. He just can't take these things in large doses. We still have yet to finish "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" starring that other major acting great, Debbie"Deborah" Gibson.

The task at hand

I know I have been slacking lately. I haven't been writing. I've been doing everything BUT writing, actually. I did almost all of the laundry over the weekend. I sorted out some things to be donated. I bought two bags after a bit of a bag buying hiatus (and sent 5 to the donation pile). I took the sheets off the guestroom bed and remade the bed. I have been busy with everything but...writing.

Having a laptop is a curse and a blessing. It can go anywhere in the house that I go. Wifi means internet everywhere. It means I could sit down with good intentions and wind up surfing the web. I will make the rounds between email, message boards and Facebook and go through the loop until something new registers. I need an intervention.

I can watch Hoarders and fold clothes (this has been a weekly habit), I can watch Netflix and Hulu, and the thing is, I will likely never catch up with the things I want to watch. There are a ton of TV series that I mean to watch and don't because by the time I get to it, they are two or three seasons in, and I am left in the dust. Online you can find these series and OD, instead of a 7 day break, you can gorge on the stuff, one episode after the next. I recently found a link to Madmen (thanks to my BFF) and I started in on that one. I claim to not watch TV but I guess I do. I try to accomplish other tasks, like cooking (set the laptop on the counter and go to town) and chores (set the laptop on the bed or dresser and fold clothes) so I don't feel too bad. Those are sort of mind numbing activities anyway, so it's alright if I accompany that with a bit of entertainment.

Writing requires my full concentration. I can't deal with noises or knowing that someone may need me to do something for them. I need a space to myself and a block of uninterrupted time to accomplish anything. I envy people that can focus on writing with a TV blaring or sitting in a Starbucks for the day. I can not. I often say that I couldn't have gone to college anywhere but where I went and make it out in 4 years because I am too easily distracted. It's like the world is run on distractions--commercials, multiple links on the internet, applications that can provide entertainment over the drudgery you're experiencing. I know some of it is my own fault. I don't want to write because sometimes it feels like a chore. Sometimes I feel like I won't finish what I know needs to be done, so I put it off for another day.