Monday, November 30, 2009

In Which I Get Confused

Early last week, I tweaked my back. I don't know how I did it, all I knew was that it hurt pretty badly. The ribs in my back are apparently prone to getting twisted (who knew that could even happen?) as this has happened more than a couple times, so I have on hand some pretty heavy duty pain killers and muscle relaxers. It's one of those injuries that just works itself out over a couple of days, and the only way to get through it is with those medications.

Of course, like anyone who takes narcotics for pain, I got a little loopier than normal one evening. I had supplemented the Tramadol I had taken with a few Tylenol, and I was feeling pretty loosey-goosey. The Boss was home from work, and was in the living room watching something on TV, and I was finishing up my shift in my office. The two rooms share a wall.

I was minding my own business, listening to the murmuring of the TV through the wall, when I heard sirens. Sirens are pretty commonplace now that we live near the city, but this was loud. It sounded like it was coming from the next room. My narcotic-addled brain thought, obviously, that it was coming from the TV.

"Hey," I called out, leaning back in my chair.

"What?" she replied, a touch annoyed at being distracted.

"Are you watching COPS?"

A pause.

"No, you know I hate that show! Why would I voluntarily watch COPS?" she asked.

"Well," I stammered, "I heard the sirens on the TV and thought that the only show it'd be on would be COPS."

There was a longer pause this time.

"Mike?" she said gently.

"Yeah?"

"Those sirens are in real life, honey. Coming from outside."

"Oh," I said, dejected. "Never mind, then."

They sure sounded real.

---

Happy Monday, folks.

PS. I finished the NaNoWriMo challenge a full two days early! Final word count is 50,144. The story is far from finished, and will probably take another 25,000 to 35,000 words (at least) to wrap up. I'm taking the month of December off to let the story percolate, and I'll resume work on it in January. Thanks to all who encouraged me!

Friday, November 27, 2009

In Which I Am Thankful

You might think it odd that I'm writing a post about what I'm thankful for on the day after Thanksgiving. I'll agree that it is a bit unorthodox, but then again, so am I. When I was thinking about what I was going to write about for this post, I realized that if I went the traditional route, I'd be listing off all the things that most of you wrote or read about a lot this week already. Don't get me wrong, I truly am thankful for family, friends, my health, my job, my wife, and all those other things that make life worth living (including you, my readers), but I didn't want to do that. I started to think about some other things that I am thankful for.

Specifically, things I am thankful to not have.

I'm thankful that I no longer have a job in retail that requires me to be to work really super fucking early in the morning the day after I eat way too much of a food that makes me exceedingly sleepy. As if fighting the insane crowds and stampedes of people rushing around trying to get the choicest of sale items wasn't bad enough already. My sympathies to those who have retail jobs, because today is going to suck for you. I've been there before, and I'll never do it again.

I'm thankful I that I don't have an intestinal parasite, because I don't like sharing my food.

I'm thankful that I don't have the gene that makes me turn into a werewolf*. That would really cramp my style. I'm sure there would be times where being able to change into a wolf would be cool, but I really just don't like the taste of kibble.

I'm thankful that I am not in stuck in a rogue helium balloon, floating somewhere over Fort Collins, Colorado, because that would be fucking scary. And then I'd probably be so worked up about it that afterwards, I'd vomit into a Tupperware container while sitting in front of the cameras during a live television interview. How embarrassing would that be?

Most of all, though, I am thankful that I am not the guy in the bottom center of this Gap advertisement:




Having to sit through a long photo shoot, posing with my mouth open less than a foot away from a baby's ass? No, thank you.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Enjoy the leftovers, and have a good weekend.

*Yes, I went to see "New Moon" with The Boss. I survived... barely.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Which I Give A Fair Warning

From: wouldntyouliketoknow@gmail.com
To: masterbaker@rr.com
Date: Tuesday, November 23rd at 7:14 AM

Dear Sir or Madam,

Recently, I was made aware through an anonymous tip that you have developed a food product that combines the flavor and consistency of a plain donut and the shape of a muffin. The tip I received detailed a specific concern about this business endeavor of yours, and I wish to address that concern through this e-mail.

The issue is not of the product itself, but rather the name you have chosen for it, "Muffnuts". It is undoubtedly a clever and catchy combination of the words "muffin" and "doughnut", but the abbreviated sections of these two words have secondary meanings.

UrbanDictionary.com states that the term "muff" is a slang word for the vagina. And of course, it is common knowledge that the term "nuts" can be used to refer to a man's testicles, or to use another slang word, a man's balls. Therefore, with naming your product "Muffnuts", the result your hard work and culinary trial-and-error, you are essentially calling it "VaginaBalls". Not quite the image one would prefer to have in mind when they are about to ingest a tasty snack, if you ask me.

The combination of the two foods into one doesn't exactly lend itself to an easy name, short of the one you've already selected, but I highly suggest brainstorming to come up with a new one. "Muffnuts" is not really a proper name in today's generation for sale of a food item. Unless, of course, you intend on marketing and selling this product specifically to people with cunnilingus or tea-bagging fetishes. Then by all means, keep the original name.

Please heed my suggestions to avoid any potential embarrassment or loss of clients.

Respectfully yours,
Anonymous

Monday, November 23, 2009

In Which I Am A Writing Fiend

First order of business: I've got a guest post going up at Moonspun's place today, where I talk about the things I both love and loathe about Thanksgiving. Considering my plans for Thanksgiving this year, which includes lots of extended family crammed into my uncle's extremely small house, with two large, excitable dogs and two screaming babies, this post should ring pretty true. I hope you'll go over to Moonspun's place and check it out.

---

Also, I don't think I've mentioned it here specifically, but I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year. If you're unfamiliar with this, it's similar to NaBloPoMo (where you post every day for 30 days), but instead of posting every day, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days. That works out to be about 1,667 words a day, which is easily attainable if you make yourself set aside the time to do it. I've been keeping just ahead of the word count for pretty much the entire month thus far, and I've got just over 11,000 words left to go.

When I first started, I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep up with it. Like everyone else that I've known who is doing this, once you get past a certain point, the words just keep coming. A good portion of what I've written so far practically wrote itself, my fingers barely moving fast enough to type them out. I don't think the novel will be complete at just 50,000 words, but that's not ultimately the point. The premise behind it is to get your mind in the habit of just writing for the sake of getting the words down on paper, and worrying about all the editing once the first draft of the story is complete. NaNoWriMo has been a great tool for me as a writer, more beneficial to me than anything else I've tried in the past.

If you are interested, click here to go to my NaNoWriMo profile, where you can read a synopsis of the story and track my progression throughout the month.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Which I Hold It In

This past weekend, The Boss and I went up to my parents house. We had promised them a game night a couple months ago, and were finally making good on our promise. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon with the plans to stay the night after watching the Patriots game (don't even get me started on the outcome of the game. It's still a sore subject).

After we played a few rounds of Uno and before dinner was to be cooked, my mother decided to make some muffins for breakfast the next morning. She is a master baker after all, and often takes any excuse she can get to bake something. She has been on this kick lately of trying out new recipes, and I thought nothing of it until the muffins came out of the oven. They smelled good, but different than I expected them to. I wandered into the kitchen to investigate.

"Something smells good," I commented.

My mother set a tray of muffins on the counter. They were a light golden brown and speckled with what appeared to be cinnamon.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," I said. "What kind of muffins are they?"

"They're donut muffins," she said, as if such a thing was commonplace. I had never heard of donut muffins.

"Really?" Perhaps I sounded a little too excited. The prospect of a donut-muffin hybrid was exciting, though.

"Yeah, they're supposed to have the consistency and flavor of a plain donut. It's a new recipe."

"Interesting! I'll have to try one when they cool down a bit."

"They're awesome," my dad chimed in as he entered the room. "They taste just like a donut."

The kitchen fell silent for a moment, and my mother worked to remove the muffins from the tray and put them on a cooling rack. They really did smell wonderful, more like a donut than a muffin.

"So is 'Donut Muffins' their official name?" I asked.

"No, we like to call them Muffnuts," my dad said. There was pure innocence in his voice.

"Yeah, Dunkin' Muffnuts," my mother added.

It was all I could do to not burst out laughing. I bit my lower lip and stared at the floor for a while. The name itself is funny enough, but what really sealed it is the fact that my parents have no idea what they're saying. Their complete and utter innocence about it just makes it hilarious*. The Boss and I laughed pretty hard over it later that evening, giggling in the dark as we tried to go to sleep.

It's like when a little kid swears or performs a rude gesture in public. It's funny because they have no idea what it means or what they are doing. Like the time my 93-year-old great-grandmother talked in length about how she spent the afternoon petting the neighborhood pussy, mentioning how scruffy and smelly it was. "Pussy" to her meant cat, of course, but that word has an entirely new meaning in this day and age.

I just hope my parents don't share that name with the general public or try to market them for their business with that name. I'd hate to have to be the one to break it to them what their clever name really denotes in today's generation.

And for the record, yes, I tried one. Muffnuts are fucking tasty.

Happy Friday, folks. Enjoy your weekend!

*For those of you who are confused as to why this is funny, click here (potentially NSFW).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Which I Take A Trip

Brittany from Notes From The Grove is taking a couple of days off to spend some time with her husband, who just got back after a few months of basic training for the military. I'm guest posting over at her place today, so head on over there to check it out!

P.S. I've switched back to the not-so-great Blogger comment system, so if you don't see any of your comments on the last two posts, that is why. My apologies to those who didn't like the IntenseDebate system. I'll be holding out for Blogger to make their comment system better on their own.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Which I Can't Make Up My Mind

I don't often write posts about a bunch of random things, but when it came time to sit down and write this post, my mind couldn't settle on just one topic to write about. I hemmed and hawed, more undecided over what to do than Brett Farve ever was about whether or not he's going to retire. In the end, just like Farve has done many times, I decided to just go for it, and see what happens.

  • If you're a guy, chances are you've had this happen to you quite often, but I suppose it could happen to the ladies, too. You'll be walking along, say in your apartment building or at the office, and encounter another guy that you've seen around before but don't really know. Because you've seen him a few times before, the obligatory head-nod won't suffice for an acknowledgement. You will invariably wait for him to say something first, but he is thinking the same thing. Both of you will smile at each other, and just as you pass, you'll say, "Hey there." The other guy, expecting you to say something else, will respond with, "Good, and you?" You'll quickly say, "Good" so as to not further embarrass him, as his was clearly not the right response to what you said. You'll pass each other before there is any chance for awkwardness. 
  • Whenever The Boss and I go out to eat, I choose a seat with a good view of the people around me. I like to people watch, as I'm sure most of you do, too, and there are many opportunities to do so at a restaurant. You'll see the guy who eats messily with his hands (if you're in Maine and you  see this, that'd probably be me), the woman who clearly hasn't looked in a mirror in a while, the table with the noisy kids, and the couple holding hands across the table looking lovingly at each other (that'd most likely be The Boss and I). Out of all the things I've seen (some horrifying, some disgusting, mostly not), my favorite thing to watch is when they drink their beverages, specifically through a straw. With women, I sometimes find it strangely erotic, but men almost always look ridiculous. Especially the guy who picks up his drink, not knowing where his straw is but doesn't look down at it, and fishes around in the air for it with his tongue (just for the record, that'd also be me). You'll also see the person who lifts their drink up, thinking the straw is aiming for their mouth, but they end up stabbing themselves in the cheek or chin, or having it go up their nose. This shit is priceless comedy, and I laugh every time. 
  • I always keep scrap paper on my desk, so I can scribble a quick note here or there throughout my work day. I don't often use it for work-related purposes, but rather to write obscenities that I wish I could say to people or to draw pictures of stick figures that are in the middle of a horrible accident. At the end of the day, if it's been a particularly rough shift, the paper resembles something you'd see in an evidence locker after the police search the home of a suspected serial killer. 
  • Also, I've been thinking that I may need to up the dose of my depression and anxiety medications.
  • I came across another gem of an Internet ad. It's another holiday-themed ad, like the "Halloween Yourself" one I posted last month, but this time, it's about Thanksgiving. Have a look:

  • These people are getting creative. What's next in this series of holiday-themed cartoon makers?  New Year's Eve Yourself? Easter Yourself? How far will this go? And I don't know about you, but I'm curious as to what that chick would look like as a turkey. Just sayin'.
That's all I've got for you guys for today. Hope you have a happy Monday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In Which I Make A Change

It's no secret that the comment system on Blogger sucks. There's no option for threaded comments, a blog author can't reply directly to individual comments, there are issues with browser compatibility... The list goes on. And on. And then on some more.

Fed up with it, I asked people on Twitter earlier this week for some advice on a third-party comment system application. I received some good insight, and after weighing the pro's and con's, I decided to give IntenseDebate a try. I'm not sure how I'm going to like it, but ultimately, my opinion of it doesn't matter.

I would appreciate your input on it. Is the new system any easier for you to use? Was is more complicated? Any comments, negative or positive, I'd love to hear it.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, November 13, 2009

In Which I Promise I'm Not Stupid

If you asked any of the people I talk to on a daily basis at work, they'd tell you that I ask a lot of stupid questions. Obviously they aren't stupid to me, as I wouldn't be asking the questions unless I  absolutely needed to. The caller doesn't understand why I have to ask them, though, so I'm automatically categorized as an elementary school drop-out with pudding for brains. There are so many people who don't understand why I am required to ask such obvious questions, and if only I had the time and patience (or desire) to explain HIPAA laws to every person I spoke to, they'd know that the guy they're talking to isn't a royal idiot, but instead is trying his hardest not to violate a federal law. 

You see, when gathering demographic information a caller who identified himself as John, I have to ask him if he spells his name J-O-H-N or J-O-N. It's not that I don't know how to spell his name, but that there are two common spellings, and I've got to make sure I'm accessing the correct patient file so I don't violate anyones confidentiality rights. The guy on the phone won't understand this of course, and will think this is the stupidest question in the history of questions. That is until I ask him to verify the spelling of his last name. Is that S-M-I-T-H?

Parents calling their pediatrician's office also think I'm an idiot. I ask for their whiny brats date of birth, and they only give me the month and the date, completely leaving off the year. Apparently it's a stupid question to ask them what year they were born in, because obviously I should just know that through some form of trans-phone-line osmosis. Perhaps I should just pick a year, any year, because treatment options don't often change because of a patients age, right? (Answer: WRONG)

Another example is when I ask for the address of a patient, most people for some reason don't realize that I need the entire thing. That includes street number and name (with spelling, if you're kind), apartment number (if you have one), city, state, AND zip code. Telling me, some random guy that for all you know is on the other side of the country, that your address is "154 Main Street" simply just doesn't cut the mustard. Thus, I'm forced to ask you what the city, state, and zip code is, turning one question into two. This may seem incredibly stupid to the person on the other end of the line, but there are probably a couple hundred thousand Main Streets in this country. Am I supposed to just magically pick the right one?

Even when it doesn't pertain to confidentiality, I still get the "you're stupid" attitude. A lot of people think I am the World's Biggest Asshole when I ask them what kind of doctor they are looking for, when they call their local hospital's physician referral department. I just don't understand the attitude over this one. I mean, it's not like we're back in the 1700's and there is only one kind of doctor: the kind that uses leeches,  practices blood letting, and founded the Cross-Your-Fingers-And-Hope-It-Works technique. This is the 21st century, and we've got more different specialties of physicians than even a Münchhausen would need. Why should I know which one you need? 

I wish there was an easy way to explain to people that I'm just trying to do my job. It think it's part of human nature to generally assume the worst when we encounter something we don't understand, just like it's always easier to remember a negative experience. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of people that I talk to that are pleasant and cooperative. It's just hard to remember that when 75% of the people you deal with fit in the "Condescending and Downright Mean" category. 

Do any of you encounter people like this in your job?

Hope you all have a good weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Which I Need To Get Out More

As many of you know, I've been working from home for about two years now. I've got my routine down to a science, and I try my hardest to stick to it because my job sucks the life out of me through my eye sockets, and every little thing, like having a routine, helps. Having plenty of distractions on hand helps, too, which was a large reason why I starting this blog. By immersing myself in my Reader, killing time on Twitter, or writing new posts, it's easier to ignore the fact that I'm slowly being reduced to a puddle of goo by the parasite that provides my paycheck.

Staying inside my apartment for a majority of the week and not getting a whole lot of interaction with the Outside World has affected me, and there is no sense in denying that. No matter what I try to do to keep my brain on the positive side of the spectrum while being home all the time, there are times where I force myself to stop and take a look at what I've become. Sometimes I don't recognize myself, and it's those times where I know I need to get out and be around people for a while. Those of you who spend a large amount of time at home will know what I mean, and you'll agree that during those times, it doesn't matter what you do or where you go, so long as you're no longer captive inside those same four walls.

Having spent so much time at home over the past two years, I've sort of become an expert on knowing when it's time to step on out into the light. In case you were wondering how to tell, I've narrowed down the quite extensive list to just ten things one should look out for if they're afraid they spend too much time at home.

Ten Signs You Spend Too Much Time At Home:

  1. You can walk around your entire house in the dark with your eyes closed, maneuvering around all the clutter and junk your family has left around without disturbing any of it.
  2. Your weekly laundry is made up mostly of pajamas, underwear, and socks.
  3. Putting on "nice clothes" means you put on a t-shirt without any stains or holes in it, and a pair of jeans.
  4. When people ask you how you style your hair, you hold up your hands and wiggle your fingers.
  5. You've built a close relationship with the dust bunny, Henry, that lives under your desk. 
  6. You know what time of day it is by the angle of the sunbeams coming in through the window.
  7. You know how many steps it takes to get from where you are to any given place in the house. 
  8. You can find a beat worth tapping your foot to in the sound of the dishwasher. 
  9. You know what day of the week it is more by the pair of underwear that you're wearing than by the calendar on the wall (and they are not Day Of The Week underwear). 
  10. The general mood for the day is set by the quality of your morning bowel movement.
It's sad but true: a bunch of these are actually true for me. It's how I knew I had a problem on my hands, and part of what is spurring me to put more effort into looking for a different job that gets me out of the house. The job market sucks around here, like I'm sure it does everywhere else, but I'm trying.

For those of you who are at home a lot, are any of these true for you? What other signs can you think of?

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Which I Put Up With It

"Alright, boss. Reports are coming in stating that REM stage is complete. Our deadline is approaching."

"Did you hear that, guys? Let's get to work!" The Foreman bellowed. "Frankie, get the Dream Sequencer warmed up, and put on queue the one about the blonde newscaster again. John, take Albert and Rick down to the the Lower Peaks and get ready to open the pipelines. Make sure your radio is on and don't open 'em up until you get the green light from me this time, okay?

"You got it, boss!" Slapping on hardhats, a trio of men ran hurriedly out of the Central Command office. The man named Frankie sat down at a computer terminal and tapped his fingers on the desk, waiting impatiently for the system to boot up.

"This one has a decently high success rate," Frankie said after a moment. "Not as high as some of the other one's we've got, though. History shows that we've played this one a lot recently. Are you sure you want to put on this one again?"

"Yeah, we're gonna stick with the newscaster one," The Foreman said. "I've got a report here from Daytime Monitoring that states the prevalence of the subject in day dreaming episodes has jumped 19% in the past 24 hours. We're going to play on that and hope we get some results."

"You got it," Frankie said. He keyed in his password on the terminal and tapped in the command to queue up the requested sequence. "Loading... and buffering, 7%. Green light should come in about three minutes."

The Foreman's radio crackled. "Hey, boss? John here. Copy?"

"Foreman, copy. Go ahead, John."

"Yeah, we've got a slight problem down here. Ambient temperatures have caused some below-surface contraction. We'll need a few minutes to get things up to ground level."

"Roger." The Foreman furrowed his brow in thought. "Has Albert had training on the agitator yet?"

"Let me check." The line hissed with static as John left it open. His voice was muted as he presumably turned his head away to speak to Albert. "Hey, Albert!... Albert!.... Have you trained on the agitator yet?... What?... I said, have you trained on the... You have?" There was a burst of noise as John fumbled with his radio.

"Yeah, boss. Albert just got certified. Want me to send him up?"

"Green light," Frankie announced.

The Foreman held out an index finger out to Frankie, signaling him to hold on.

"Okay, yeah. Put Albert on the agitator, and make sure that you and Rick put on your harnesses and secure yourselves. We don't want another accident like what happened with Lorenzo."

"Sure thing."

Frankie looked up at The Foreman. "Buckle down?"

"Buckle down." The Foreman took a seat next to Frankie, and they buckled themselves in to the harness straps that attached to the seats. A low moan resonated through Central Command, and the floor started to shake and rumble.

"Albert here." The dashboard radio spat static. "Agitator powered up. Commencing surface-level agitation."

"Hold on, boys," The Foreman said.

The office jumped and shuddered like a plane in turbulence for a few seconds, and finally rolled to one side. The built-in balancing system kept the office level and stabilized as the terrain shifted. Another series of low moans echoed through the office. The Foreman, keeping an eye on a bank of status monitors, waited for the system analysis to fall within workable parameters.

The Foreman grabbed his radio. "That's enough, Albert! Cut it!" As the rumbling and shaking faded down, he looked over at Frankie for confirmation. Frankie gave him a thumbs up, and The Foreman gave back one of his own.

"Showtime, Frankie." Switching on his radio again, he yelled, "John! Rick! Open 'em up!"

He didn't need radio confirmation to know that they had heard him. He grinned as the status monitors showed that all systems were go. He unlatched his harness and leaned forward in his chair to give Frankie a high-five.

The dream sequence plays through, and just as the screen fades out to black, an alarm sounds. The Foreman reaches back to the desk and silences it.

"Deadline met. Another successful run. Good work, guys!"

---

"Mike, it's time to get up." The Boss shakes my shoulder gently.

I groan and roll over, and throw the covers off. It felt too early to be awake. "What time is it?"

"Quarter past seven. We've got stuff to do this morning, remember?"

I do remember. "Oh, right." I yawn, get out of bed, and stretch.

"Wow," The Boss says after a moment.

"What?" I asked, still in the throes of a good stretch and rubbing my eyes.

"Good dreams last night?" I follow her eyes down to my crotch.

Good ol' morning wood.

I smile. "I guess so."

---

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, November 6, 2009

In Which I Am Out Of My Element

Last weekend, The Boss and I got what we thought at the time to be a great idea. With it being the first few days of the month, we thought we'd turn over a new leaf and try to make a point to get some exercise every day. The Boss suggested that we go for a hike somewhere instead. Maybe one of the mountain trails in the area?

I thought about it for a minute, and remembered this short 1/2-mile hiking trail on a mountain nearby. I had hiked the trail a number of times growing up, but hadn't been there in a good ten years or so. I looked it up online, and found some directions on how to get there. It was about a thirty-minute drive, and once I convinced The Boss that it would be a good starter hiking trail, we grabbed a couple of waters and got in the car...

... And promptly got lost. The directions I had written down were wrong, and our GPS couldn't find the place we were trying to get to, which, in hindsight, makes complete sense because mountains don't often have street addresses. We had been driving for about forty minutes before The Boss made me pull over and ask for directions. I spoke to a kind lady at a gas station, and she gave me a map and drew out on it where we needed to go.

We found the road she directed us toward with no problems at all, and were happily on our way to the trail, until the pavement ended about two miles down. We bumped and jostled our way down the road at a blistering 10 miles an hour, avoiding huge rocks and potholes, trying not to slide off the road in the loose dirt, and cursing the name of the woman who told us to take this road meant for big 4x4 trucks or SUV's when our little Ford Focus was clearly visible in the parking lot.

We had been driving on the dirt road for about ten minutes when I had a thought.

"Wait a minute," I said. "What if this is like in those horror movies, where the kind old lady convinces these two gullible schmucks to drive down this dirt road, come to find they are going the wrong way, only it's too late and they trapped and doomed to be made into wax sculptures by her creepy, malformed son?"

The Boss shot me a look that could melt steel and said, "Not. Funny."

Finally, the dirt road changed back into pavement, and we came to the road that the hiking trail was off of. The kind lady at the gas station had suggested we try one of the gated trails that the maintenance vehicles use to get to the top of the mountain to work on the transmission towers. Somehow forgetting that this was the same lady who sent us on that horrible dirt road, we found the gated entrance, decided it looked decent enough, and started hiking.




The trail wasn't too rough to start with, but after about ten minutes of walking, it started to get steeper. And steeper. And steeper still. I didn't have a pedometer on me, but I figured that even with taking a few short breaks to catch our breath, we should have reached the summit of this half-mile trail within thirty, maybe forty minutes of heavy walking. There was no end in sight just yet, and we didn't want to be quitters, so onward and upward we went.

After an hour of hiking and still no summit in view, The Boss and I started to get wiped out. Granted, we don't usually do this sort of thing, but even despite that, we thought we could handle a 1/2-mile trail. We had clearly gone further than half a mile and passed through some pretty miserable terrain, but we had no way of knowing how much further it was to the top. We contemplated turning around, but I didn't want to quit having come this far already. The Boss stayed put for a minute while I powered on through the next part of the trail, and at long last, reached a clearing. I called The Boss on up, and she joined me at what we called The Half-Ass Summit.





We planted our asses on the rocks on The Summit and rested for a while. Seeing the views from as high up as we were, it was clear that we had gone further than half a mile. We'd probably gone further than a mile or maybe even two, having been on the trail for over an hour at a pretty good clip, and there was still a long, long way to go until we would have reached the actual summit of the mountain. We were obviously on the wrong trail, thanks again to the kind old woman at the gas station.

I took a picture of the true summit of the mountain from where The Boss and I called it quits. You can just barely make out the transmission towers that mark the top of the mountain, and gives you a good idea of how much further we would have had to hike to reach the end of this trail:



It took us about a half hour to make our way down from where we stopped. We were exhausted and sore, but mostly glad to be done with the goddamn thing. We continued to curse the name of the lady at the gas station the entire way home, who either had no idea of what she was talking about, or got her kicks by sending what seemed to be unexperienced and overweight hikers on the worst roads and trails possible.

The real kicker, though? Once we got back to the car and had driven down the road (not the dirt one, we're not that stupid) about a mile or so, we saw a sign that said something like "Mountain Hiking Trail - Summit 1/2 mile".

I would have screamed if I hadn't been so completely exhausted.

We learned to important lessons that day. Never take directional advice from someone who smirks, and the next time we want some exercise, a few laps around the local mall would do just as well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Which I Announce

After a few days of hemming and hawing and contemplation, The Boss has finally chosen the winners of the 2nd Annual Fall Season Give Away. I know that some of you are pretty excited to see the results, but if you haven't seen the submissions for this year's contest, click here to take a look.

Without any further ado, here are this year's winners.

For Photography Category, the winner is Sandy, with this picture of this old cultivator in her yard:




Here is what she had to say about it:
The photo is taken in one of my rock gardens. The plant is a cotoneaster. In the fall I love the red berries because it’s some of the last color in the garden. It is sitting beside an antique cultivator that came from my husband’s grandfather’s farm in Warren, RI. Paul actually remembers walking behind the cultivator as a little boy with his grandfather behind him as the cultivator was being pulled by one of their horses. I love the color of the lichen as a contrast to the red berries.
The runner-up in this category is Cheryl, with this photo of her granddaughter:




Here is what she had to say about it:
It epitomizes to me the excitement and fun of the fall and the cuteness of little girls. The farm had a goat pen and we petted the goats just before taking this picture. The colors of the pumpkins, the grass and her jacket are so vivid (despite being sort of an overcast day) and she is just such a cute subject (yes, I am unabashedly biased) and it all worked. I had finally been able to get her hair into pigtails for the first time and she just has the look of innocence and childhood in her eyes. For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime shot.
For the Pumpkin Carving category, the winner is Amy with her awesome Badass Geek-themed pumpkin:




The runner up in this category is Natalie, with this great piece:




Congratulations!

Sandy and Amy, feel free to browse the galleries on my photo site and pick out an 8x10 print. Cheryl and Natalie, please do the same to pick out your 5x7 print. Please e-mail me your selections, and I'll get them out to you soon. Don't forget that you can trade your prize for some design work, so let me know if you'd like to do that.

Congratulations again, and thank you to all who entered for being a part!

Monday, November 2, 2009

In Which I Am More Than A Bit Curious

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the daycare facility that shares a fence with my apartment building. With only about a hundred and fifty feet spanning the distance between the backyard of the daycare and the window of my apartment, I had no choice but to put up with the noise of the children playing and yelling next door. I suppose I got used to the noise, just like someone living near the interstate inevitably gets used to the sound of passing traffic. When I was forced to be away from my apartment during my allergy fiasco, it'd be safe to say I didn't miss it one bit.

When I returned to my apartment about a month later, nothing had changed. The sounds from the daycare drifted in through my office window just like it always had. I got accustomed to it again, but then one day, all was quiet. It was quiet the next day, too. By the third day of peace and quiet, I realized that the daycare had closed.

From open for business to closed and boarded up, all in a couple days. No lights on inside or outside, a constantly vacant parking lot, and a For Sale sign in the front yard. Closed.

Being of a curious mind, I began to think of reasons why it had closed so suddenly. It wasn't like they gradually went out of business, as parents (for whatever reason) pulled their children from the facility and moved to a different one. One day they were open, and the next day they were closed. What had happened?

Did the state's Health Department shut them down? Had the property been foreclosed? Did the people who ran the place get fed up with taking care of screaming kids all day and opt for a sudden career change? Were they running a covert sweatshop in the basement, making those cheap party favor toys you see for sale in grocery stores?

So many questions, so little answers.

As for me, I'm enjoying the quiet. There is a downside to it, though. Without the noise from the daycare to drown them out, the grunts and screams from my amorous neighbors now waft through the walls.

Can't win 'em all, I guess.

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The winners from the Fall Contest will be announced on Wednesday!