Friday, July 30, 2010

In Which I Give Back

Earlier this week, my good (and hilariously insightful) blogging friend Johnny Virgil put up a post about his suggestions to me via Twitter about what I should do for my alloted one framed picture for my desk at work. We've recently moved into a brand new building and the powers that be are limiting how us cubicle monkeys are allowed to decorate our padded walls. Given the freedom to have one framed picture on our desk, I was faced with a difficult decision not all that different from the time that Indiana Jones had to choose the Cup of Christ from the various options of drinkware protected by the Last Knight. I had to choose wisely.

Johnny Virgil suggested I get a picture of William Shatner as Captain Kirk for my desk. After telling him that I am more of a Star Wars fan, he kindly suggested a picture of a reclining Chewbacca knowing that the preferred choice of Slave Leia wouldn't be work-appropriate. After giving it a few days and wracking my brain for other ideas, and in the end not having thought of anything else better to display on my desk, I decided to just go for it.




Even though I'm not a big fan of Star Trek, having the cool gaze of JT on me all day was pretty relaxing. The next day, though, I switched it up.




After all, what's better than a wise Jedi Knight (albeit the one responsible for the failure in training of the individual who would become Darth Vader) to suggest that I use the Force when taking calls?

The reaction of my co-workers is a bit mixed. Most people think it's hilarious that I chose to frame a picture of Captain Kirk or Obi-Wan Kenobi instead of my wife, while others just don't seem to get it. Everything at work these days is serious and it often feels like there is no opportunity to smile or laugh about things. If I can be the guy who can introduce a bit of laughter to their day, then so be it. Better than them laughing at me directly.

I think I'm going to continue this trend. I've got a new picture lined up to display on my desk today (Mr T) and for my shift on Saturday (Chuck Norris). I'm not sure how long the interest in this will last, or how long I'll get away with it before management catches on, but we'll see. 

And no, before you ask, in my conversations with Johnny Virgil (whom you should seriously check out if you haven't already), the option of putting a picture of The Boss on my desk wasn't brought up. And yes, she's okay with that.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In Which I Give Up

"Hello, and thank you for calling. My name is Mike. How can I help you?" I recite my practiced greeting for the hundredth time so far this week, somehow managing to keep my voice chipper and upbeat.

"Yes, hello?" demands a gravelly, deep voice. To my seasoned ear, I can tell it's an older man, most likely in his late sixties or early seventies.

"Sir?"

There's a lengthy silence. "Hello, Sir?" I ask again, louder this time. There's still someone on the line; I can hear an emphysemic wheeze every few seconds.

"Yeah?" he replies loudly. "Who is this?"

"This is your bank, Sir. My name is Mike."

"Well, aren't you going to greet me or anything? Or thank me for calling?"

"I'm sorry if you didn't hear me the first time, Sir, but yes, I do thank you for calling. How can I help you?"

He grumbles angrily, seeming to chew his words before spitting the correct ones out. "I want to check on my account, and see if a few checks have cleared."

"Okay, Sir, I'd be glad to help you with your account this morning. Do you have-"

"This morning?" he yells, cutting me off. "It's friggin' half past twelve! Don't you have a clock where you are?"

I wait a moment before responding. It's going to be one of those calls, I can tell. "I do have a clock, yes, and you are correct. I suppose that it's technically afternoon now."

"Technically nothing!" he cries. "If it's past twelve o'clock, it's afternoon. Didn't you go to school?"

"I apologize if I misspoke, Sir. Do you have your-"

"Where am I calling anyways? Where are you located?" he wants to know.

"I'm in a call center in central Maine."

"Should have guessed. Nothing but rednecks and white trash up that far north."

Letting the insult roll off my back, I push forward. "Sir, can I have your account number so I can help you today?"

"Don't you have it up on your screen? I entered it in when I first called."

"I'm sorry, Sir, but your account number didn't come through with your call."

"I'm not giving you my account number. How do I know you really do work for the bank? How do I know that you're not some fool trying calling me up to scam an elderly man into give out his account number?"

"Well, Sir, to be frank, you called me. Therefore that is your guarantee that I work for the bank. If you prefer not to give me your account number, I can look up your account by your debit card number or social security number."

Silence. More wheezing, and the whisper of an oxygen tank. "D'you really think that if I'm not going to give you my account number, that I'd give you all of that instead? You've got to be crazy!"

"I apologize, Sir, but I am going to need some information from you to be able to assist you today. If you're not comfortable giving me that information over the phone, perhaps going into your local branch would suit you better."

"Oh, the people at my branch are idiots. Shouldn't you just have my info up on your screen?"

"No, Sir, nothing comes up unless I enter in something to search by, like your account number or debit card number. One last thing I can try is looking up your account by your name. Can I have your name, Sir?"

"Franklin," he replies, and grinds out a series of wet, seemingly productive coughs.

"Is that your first or last name, Sir?"

Another pause. "Does it matter?"

At this point, my patience is all but eroded away. I somehow find one last shred of it, and grab hold tightly. "It does matter, yes."

"I don't think it does. I just think you are incompetent and useless."

I put my phone on mute and sigh heavily. I lean back in my chair and take my glasses off. "I'm sorry you feel that way, Sir, but if you refuse to give me the basic information that I need to access your account to help you today, then I will have to refer you to your local branch."

"So what you're saying is that you are refusing to help me. Is that right?"

"No, Sir, that is not-"

"Okay, fine. Thanks for wasting my time." The phone rustles and clicks for a few moments, and it sounds like the guy is getting ready to hang up. I'm just about ready to disconnect on him myself when he decides to leave me with one last thing to remember him by. 

"DROP DEAD!" he yells. 

*click*

I roll backwards in my chair as if I was struck by something. Who knew that an old, O2-tank-wielding decrepit, grumpy man could muster such an outburst? For that call, though, it was the icing on the cake.

I bet you wish you had my job, now don't you?

Monday, July 26, 2010

In Which I Make Some Changes

I mentioned briefly last week that I'm going to be bringing about some changes around here. I've felt like I've been in a bit of a writing funk lately, that things have felt a little stale (you can agree, my feelings won't be hurt), and I think a handful of some small tweaks and adjustments here or there will help to give me the jump-start I need. I've got a few ideas, but to put some of them in action, I'm going to need your help.

See that section of the sidebar over on the right side of the page, under the Geek icon? Where I've listed a bunch of Reader-Selected Favorites? I originally posted that list way back in February 2009, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. I don't want to sound egotistical when I say that there have been a lot of well-received posts since then. I know of a handful that I had a blast writing, but to be true to the title of "Reader-Selected," I'll need you (that means you, too, lurkers) to tell me which ones you've liked best. So for the first part of my revamp project, if you would't mind, please take a look through the archives and list a few of your favorite posts here in the comments, or send them to me in an e-mail. Updating that list will be a major help to freshen things up.

The second thing I'm going to be doing is introducing a Comment Of The Week feature. Once a week, I'll select my favorite comment  from one of the week's posts and feature it on the sidebar. The stuff you guys say in response to what I write always makes me laugh, and what better way to pay homage to the best readers a guy who writes a blog could have than by honoring them individually? I'll show the comment you made with a link to the original post, plus a link to your blog (or Twitter or Facebook account, whichever). How do you get featured, you ask? Just leave a comment! You can only be featured once a month, and before you try it, no, I don't take bribes. Just do your best to make me laugh 'till there is colostrum coming out of my nose, and I'll do the rest. To see who was selected as the first featured Comment Of The Week, check out the new addition to the sidebar!

The third thing on my To-Do list is to finally update my blogroll. The list of links I've got up there now is massive, and quite frankly, there's a bunch on there that I'm not sure even exist anymore. I'm going to weed out the dead links and remove the links to blogs that I don't follow anymore, and put some new ones up for the people who've been following me more recently that I've also added to my Reader. This will likely take me the longest to do, but just like waxing that little patch of hair between my eyebrows, it has to be done sooner or later.

I'm sure that with a little bit of elbow grease and some dusting off of the proverbial shelves, I'll feel refreshed. I've asked a lot from you, my readers, in this post, and I want you to know in advance that I greatly appreciate your help here. You are often the driving force that keeps this ol' boat afloat and in motion, and for that I am truly grateful. 

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In Which I've Heard Enough

"Can you hold this?" I hold out the half gallon of milk I just bought as I sit down behind the wheel of the car. We're heading home from work and stopped off at a convenience store along the way. There's tons of cereal at home to eat, but no milk.

"Sure," The Boss replies. She takes the milk from me, and I buckle in. 

"I wish milk wasn't so expensive," I remark after we're on the road for a minute. "I'd drink milk more often if it didn't cost so much."

"We can get more milk if you want to drink it," The Boss says. "I've got no problem with that."

"No, it's alright," I reply. "Whole milk is what I prefer to drink, and that shit's just way too expensive. I can deal."

"Okay, if you say so."

"Yeah. Want to know something funny, though? When I was younger, I used to think that 1% or 2% milk only contained 1% or 2% of actual milk... As in there was a very small amount of actual milk and the rest was just... water and stuff."

"Seriously?" The Boss asked. 

"Seriously. It wasn't until I really read the label that I found out it they were referring to the percentage of milkfat it contains. Before I learned that, I was seriously considering a career on a dairy farm. I mean, if milk sold by the gallon was truly only one or two percent of actual milk and the rest was just additives, dairy farmers would be making a buttload!"

"Considering what milk is to begin with, I'm surprised it's as expensive as it is," The Boss said.

A pause. "What do you mean?"

She turned to look at me, her face dead serious. "Colostrum."

"What?"

"Colostrum," she said simply... As if it were a perfectly normal thing to think about. 

"No!" I cried. "No! Cow's milk isn't colostrum!"

"Well, technically..."

"No!" I said again. "That's gross!"

"Colostrum isn't gross," she argued. "It's a perfectly normal thing that mammals produce in late pregnancy."

"Yes, I know what colostrum is. It's just gross. Stop calling my milk 'colostrum'. Please"

"Why do you think it's gross?" The Boss wanted to know.

"Does it matter?" I ask. "I think it's gross. Shouldn't that be enough?"

A beat. "No, I'm just curious."

"Fine. I find it gross because colostrum is normally produced shortly after giving birth. And you know what else happens after giving birth?"

The Boss doesn't reply.

"The afterbirth gets delivered. That's what. I, and I don't think I'm alone here, associate the word 'colostrum' with the grisly carnage that is freshly delivered placenta."

She just shakes her head. "That's not as gross as you make it out to be."

"Afterbirth isn't gross? It sure as hell isn't appetizing!"

"Still-"

"Still nothing. I don't want to be thinking about a pile of steaming placenta when I'm drinking a glass of milk. And furthermore, it doesn't matter if you don't think it's gross. You grew up on a farm and had to keep the mother goats from eating their placenta after delivery. Good for you. I think you calling the milk I'm going to be drinking colostrum is gross, and if I ask you to stop, you should stop."

"Fine."

"Besides, how would you feel if I said the rice you were eating looked like a pile of maggots?"

A defeated silence. "I would probably not appreciate it too much."

"My point exactly."

"Okay, then," she conceded.

"Good."

Silence reigns for a few moments. We arrive home and get out of the car. The Boss looks at me, smiling, and hands me the milk.

"So when we get inside, do you want me to make you some placenta cookies to go with a glass of ice cold colostrum?"

---

Such is married life, when you know each other's hot topic buttons.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Which I Reveal The Truth

There were a lot of good guesses to my Guess The Truth post that was up earlier this week. I had a lot of fun writing the post, and more fun reading all of your guesses as to which one was the one true statement out of them all. To set the story straight once and for all, here's the truth about those statements I made.

  • I do only shave once a month, but I have never shaved my balls. For the record, I don't ever intend to shave my balls. That area is just way too sensitive to risk a nick here or there. Besides, I've already given myself a paper cut down there, and that was bad enough. LIE.
  • I despise the taste of vomit. It is one of the worst tastes on Earth. LIE.
  • I actually don't write fake Post-It notes to myself to make it look like I'm busy at work, but I think I'm going to start to. Seems like a good idea to me. LIE.
  • I don't wear camouflage underwear during hunting season. I don't wear underwear period. Just kidding. LIE.
  • Wearing sunglasses at night would just be reckless. LIE.
  • While boring someone to tears seems like a fun thing to try doing, I don't think it'd feel rewarding to actually succeed it doing do. LIE.
  • Believe it or not, I actually did do the Pee-Wee Herman dance once. Just once, though. It was in front of family and it was totally spontaneous, and no one has forgotten it. Thank God this was before the age of cell phones with cameras. TRUTH.
  • No. Never. Brushing one's teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniels? Not only is that wasteful, it'd make you smell like an alcoholic. LIE.
  • I rocked out to "Kokomo" as a kid, but it was far from my favorite song growing up. LIE.
  • I did write a letter to then-President Bill Clinton, but I didn't ask for his daughter's number. I asked for a picture of his dog. LIE.
So there you have it, folks. The truth is out there.

Many of you guessed correctly, but the first to guess it was The Shanner of Attention. Congratulations! Shoot me an e-mail with your address, and I'll mail you your autographed Mosaic print. 

To the rest of you who guessed it correctly, good job! To those of you who guessed incorrectly, well... you weren't far off. Just about all of the other statements are things that I'd probably do. Short of shaving my balls. I have to draw the line somewhere. 

Thanks again to all who participated. I like doing things that require reader involvement. I've got a couple of things up my sleeve that (once I work out the kinks a bit) I'll be revealing here in days to come. 

Congrats again to Shanner!

Monday, July 19, 2010

In Which I Tell A Lie

I've been a little starved for new blogging material lately. I don't know if it's been all the warm weather we've been having recently, or if I've just been going through a normalcy streak (I pray it's more of the former than the latter), but I need to do something to get myself out of this funk. And as I've done a few times in the past, I'm going to ask for your involvement. 

I'm going to make a series of statements, a majority of them false. It's going to be your job to pick out which one of them is true. The first one to guess it correctly wins! Just what, exactly, do you stand a chance of winning? The first to guess correctly will get an 5x7 autographed print of the Badass Geek mosaic that I unveiled last week. Neato!

Sound like a deal? Here goes:

  • I shave my face only once a month, but shave my balls weekly.
  • I secretly love the taste of vomit.
  • I sometimes write myself fake reminders on Post-It notes so I appear busy at work.
  • I wear camouflage underwear during hunting season.
  • I wear my sunglasses at night.
  • My secret goal in life is to actually bore someone to tears. 
  • I once did the awkward dance Pee-Wee Herman performed on a bar-top in moon shoes to the song "Tequila" in the movie "Pee-Wee Herman's Big Adventure".
  • Before I leave I brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack.
  • My favorite song until I turned 11 was The Beach Boys classic "Kokomo."
  • I wrote a letter to then-President Bill Clinton and asked him for Chelsea's phone number.
I think I threw in enough curve balls... but then again, I'm not always the best riddle-maker. Good luck!

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, July 16, 2010

In Which I Mix Things Up

Have you ever been talking with someone that you aren't threatened by, and all of a sudden, while mid-conversation, you start referring to that person with a name that isn't theirs?

Oh, man. I don't know how I do this, but I do it a lot

I have two landlords for the apartment I lived in for the past year. They are husband and wife with different enough names where there shouldn't be any reason for the confusion. For the past year that we've lived here, it's always been the husband who calls us whenever there was a need to or when they were returning our call. And every single time (and I do mean every time), I refer to him at least once by his wife's name.

For example, take the conversation I had with him just this week:

*Phone Rings*

"Hello?"

"Hey, Mike, it's Vince the landlord."

"Oh, hey, Vince! What's up?" I silently congratulate myself for getting his name right.

"I was just calling to see when would be a good time to fix that broken screen in your window. I have some time this afternoon and wanted to get that taken care of."

"Sure, no problem," I said. "This afternoon would be fine. Neither my wife or I will be home, so just let yourself in."

"Okay, that's what I thought. Just wanted to make sure it'd be okay."

"Oh, of course. Thanks for doing that for us, Pat, I appreciate it."

A heavy pause. 

Fuck, I thought to myself. I did it again!

"No problem, Mike. That's all I wanted, so I'll let you go."

Don't call him by his wife's name. It's not Pat, it's Vince. Vince. VIIIINCE. "Sure thing!"

"Alright, talk with you later!"

"Okay, goodbye, Pat!"

*Click*

This, coming from a guy who talks on the phone for a living. 

I probably continue referring to him by the wrong name because I'm so fixated on it. It's hard to get out of my own way sometimes, but luckily such episodes of misspeaking are generally forgivable. Even if he got his feelings hurt, he could get back at me by calling me my wife's name. Fair is fair.

What was the oddest thing you've said or done this week?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Which I Look Back

When it comes to my computer, I like to keep things organized. I have folders for just about everything I do, that way I know exactly where to look if I'm trying to find something. Back in early 2008 when I started this blog, I created a folder to have a place to put the images I upload. Over the 28 months that have gone by and the 450+ posts that have been posted since then, I have amassed 243 pictures.

Occasionally I will browse through them when I'm feeling nostalgic. Sure, I've got copies of all those images uploaded online to Photobucket (since I had to host them to post them), but I feel good knowing that I've got them safe and sound, nestled into their own properly labeled folder. Perhaps I'm a little OCD about it, but I don't think there's anything wrong with having a system.

I was taken over by one of these waves of nostalgia recently... and then I was struck with an idea. I'm sure you've seen those photo mosaics, where the image of someone or some thing is made from strategically placing related images of that person or thing as if they were pixels? As (probably more clearly) explained in this Wikipedia entry? I thought I'd find a way to do that with the images I've collected over the years, and see what I could make.

Here is the result:









Impressive, eh?

I honestly didn't expect it to turn out as well as it did. I didn't think I had enough of the right pictures, or the right colors in those pictures to make it work. For what I had to work with, I think it came out pretty awesome.

If you're interested in trying this out for yourself, I used the freeware program AndreaMosaic (PC only, sorry Mac users). It's an easy program to use, and considering what it does, it works very quickly. Be sure to share your results!

P.S. You can view the full-size, high-resolution version of the Badass Geek Mosaic by clicking here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

In Which I Think I'm Smarter Than That

I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom over the weekend, and after I got bored of flaring my nostrils and making weird facial expressions to myself in the mirror, I started looking aimlessly around the bathroom and thinking to myself. Yeah, the trash needs to be emptied... I thought. I wonder if The Boss knows how many Q-Tips have not actually made it into the trashcan and rolled behind the toilet instead... Why do they call them sanitary napkins? Even though they might be super absorbent and leak proof, I wouldn't want wipe my face with them... That clump of hair in the shower looks like a Beanie Baby.

Pretty standard thoughts if you're a guy like me.

After brushing my teeth and rinsing, I was drying my hands when my roving eyes caught on the labeling on the package of toilet paper sitting on the shelf above the toilet. Take a look:




Whoa. Wait just a minute. You mean to tell me that twelve double rolls equals twenty-four single rolls?

Thank you so much for clearing that up, Kleenex. Thank you for enlightening me and for making me feel like I'm getting such a good deal. Thank you for explaining what the concept of 'double' is. I wouldn't have been able to figure that out myself, considering I flunked out of elementary math when I was a kid. I mean, I only have ten fingers. I wouldn't be able to count that high.

Amazing.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Which I Mourn

We are gathered here today to recognize the passing of our treasured, much loved, and sweet friend. She may be gone from this world, but she will forever live on in our hearts and in our minds. To keep true to her wishes, this ceremony will be a time of remembrance and a celebration of her life.

Truth be told, I didn't know her for very long before she passed. In fact, she and I had only met just a few hours before she suddenly went missing and was later found void of life. In that short period of time, though, she greatly affected my life, filling it with joy and anticipation of great things yet to come. I will always remember her fondly for that.

Most of you know her simply as Bell, but her full name was Blue Bell Ice Cream Sandwich (with extra chocolate chips!). When we met early in the afternoon at the ice cream social held at the office, I knew my life was going to change. And how quickly it did! Those following hours were a whirlwind of mouth-watering emotions... Excitement, surprise, hunger... She was the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak afternoon, which makes it all the more tragic how soon after our meeting that her life was cut short.

You see, my friends, my break was over shortly after meeting Bell, but I didn't want to miss out on what was sure to be the highlight of my day. I carefully unwrapped her and gently placed bite marks on her, marking her as mine so no one else could claim her. I then placed her back in the wrapper, folded over the edges, and hid her in the back corner of the freezer in the break room. There are two refrigerators in the break room, and I hid Bell in the one that always smells kinda funky, thinking that that would be enough, that she'd be safe there behind the ice cube trays and that ancient, frostbitten Hot Pocket.

Little did I know that there was a serial killer lurking around, a cretin who was sneaking around, murdering clearly labeled or otherwise claimed lunches or snacks in the two fridges. On the same day that the serial killer savagely took Bell away from me, he viciously drained an innocent pudding cup, and consumed an unsuspecting energy drink. As I was reeling from the shock of finding her gone, reports came in of a missing banana. A search party had just been formed when I found Bell's wrapper crumpled up on the floor near the trash can.

How could someone do that to her? I asked myself. She had never done anything to anyone, except to bring the promise of an awesome dessert to one guy's lunch. I was emotionally shattered when I found Bell 's remains lying there, violated and used up, nothing to remember her by but a few chocolate chips still clinging to her wrapper. In an effort to console me a coworker offered me part of her ice cream sandwich, but I politely declined. Without my Bell, it just wasn't going to be the same.

She deserved better than what she got. She deserved someone who would cherish every moment, someone who would savor each bite, taking the time to note all the individual flavors. Instead, she was rapidly consumed by the lowest of office life forms, a person who considers all food put in the fridge to be fair game, a person who would never fully appreciate something as wonderful as Bell was.

An investigation to find Bell's consumer has begun, but for now we must resign ourselves to the fact that she is forever gone. If Bell were able to speak to us today from beyond this world, she would ask us to remember only the good times, and to request that we move on with our lives knowing that she is in a better place now.

As for me... well... I've met someone. In a moment of serendipity, she came into my life when I was at the lowest point of my despair over the loss of Bell. She lifted me up and supported me through what was a rough period in my life, and it's because of her that I had the strength to deliver this eulogy today.

What's that, you ask? Her name?

Reese. Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

---

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In Which I Am Drugged

I don't watch a lot of television, but it seems that lately every other commercial is about some new prescription medication. They tell you all about how much better you can feel, or how much longer you can live by taking this new drug, and at first it sounds good. Promising, even... but then they get to the side effects.

For the latest sleep aid, they promise you that you'll fall asleep fast and stay asleep. Just be aware of the fact that you might start doing shit in your sleep, like cooking a five-course meal, driving your car across town, or registering for a break dance competition. They also advise that you might experience intense urges, specifically of the gambling and sexual nature. Maybe it's just me, but if I have to worry about all of that, I'll just pop a few Benadryl with a shot or two of whiskey instead. Bam. Problem solved.

For the drug that can help lower your cholesterol, they promise results in just weeks... so long as you prepare yourself for the inevitable side effects of burping uncontrollably and excessive gas, blurred or double vision, sweating, and fatigue. Considering that I get all of those symptoms from eating a bowl of chili, I'll save myself the co-pay and just cut out all the fatty foods in my diet and start exercising more than once a month.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking prescription drugs. I myself take prescription medication daily to help control my allergies and regulate my immune system. It's just that there are so many commercials and advertisements out there these days where it feels like one can't be expected to live a healthy and fulfilling life without at least one prescription drug to help them get there.

Here's another thing. Who the hell comes up with the names for these drugs? Sure, it's likely more pronounceable than the name of the medication itself, but some of the names are just ridiculous. Onglyza? Viagra? Boniva? Restasis? Lipitor? Flomax? Abilify? Some of the names out there sound like they'd be better off as names of planets. I bet that every pharmaceutical company has a group of people who just sit around and come up with fucked up names for their newest drug.

And that got me thinking. Here are some made-up medication names that I came up with:

For your seasonal allergies, try Gahbleshusone!




For male impotency, try Potentizine!




For those pesky sexually transmitted diseases, try Prophylaxole!




For mild to moderate depression, try Nopressionale!




For the Münchhausen, try Placebocide!




As always, talk with your doctor to see if any of these drugs are right for you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

In Which I Take A Break

There will be no new post today, folks. Sorry for causing any disappointment, but I think (and hope) you'll enjoy what I've got for you instead. It's really the only good Fourth of July story I've got, and I told it first back in 2008, just a few months after I started this blog. To give myself a small break from things here for at least a day, I'm going to be a bit lazy and re-post it here today. 

I'll be back on Wednesday. Enjoy.

---

When I was in the sixth grade, I had finally come out of my shell enough to make two good friends. For the sake of anonymity, I'll call them Alex and Tim. We were pretty much inseparable throughout the school year, and they both lived close enough to me where we could still hang out during the summer time. It felt good to have some real friends, because prior to them, I didn't have any.

A few weeks after school let out for the summer, I got an invitation in the mail to Tim's birthday party. His parents owned a summer house on a lake, and the invitation was to camp out at the lake house for a few days. I learned that Alex got the same invite, and quickly begged my parents to let me go. Tim's birthday happened to fall on July 4th, and we heard rumor that there was going to be fireworks. Alex and I finally got the approval from our parents, and I waited impatiently until July came around.

The day finally arrived, and my parents drove Alex and I to Tim's lake house. I couldn't wait until my parents left the driveway. I had never had time away from home with friends before, and this was going to be great. Excited as I was, I was also very nervous (As an aside, I believe this is the origin of my nervous stomach problems). Tim's parents must have noticed my nervousness, and they quickly made me feel at home.

There was much to do while at the lake house, but it was raining when we first got there so we all went into Tim's room until the rain passed. We read, played with Lego's and boardgames, and talked incessantly. The rain didn't stop until sometime during the night, so we weren't able to sleep in the tent that night. The next day was bright and sunny, and so the fun began.

We spent as much time as we could outside, and we acted as much as we could like 11 and 12 year old boys do. We went swimming for a while, and then went out in the boat to go fishing. We noticed, and talked about, the group of girls camping on the other side of the lake. We refused help from Tim's dad when setting up the tent, and then realized we had no clue what we were doing. We felt empowered when night came, and we were allowed to light our own sparklers. We burped and farted loudly, and we teased Tim's younger brothers. We ate too much and drank too much, and we complained of sore stomachs until the birthday cake was brought out.

We shouted and yelled excitedly when the fireworks started. We got reprimanded for being so loud by Tim's parents. We laid on our backs with our heads on our hands, watching the fireworks leap into the sky, the smoky path behind them briefly illuminated with its colorful explosion. We used our flashlights to send Morse Code messages to the girls across the lake. We clapped loudly as the fireworks ended, in the traditional chaotic flurry of explosions and spiraling pyrotechnics.

We stayed up late talking, whispering between ourselves about who we had crushes on and which teacher we hated the most. We got scared by strange noises in the woods, and pretended otherwise. We slept for a few hours before the sun came up, and made plans to go out on the boat to see the girls across the lake.

The next morning, we got up and ate breakfast, and made ourselves presentable. We piled into the boat to go see the girls across the lake, but we chickened out halfway there. We went fishing for a little while, and played pranks on the guys buzzing around the lake on jet ski's. We would wait until they would zoom by, and then yell something loudly to get their attention, causing them to turn around too quickly and flip over. That made them very upset, and got back to shore as quick as possible when they started to come near us.

We were overtired from sleeping too little, so the rest of the day was pretty low-key. The rest of the time at the lake house passed all too quickly, and before I knew it my parents had arrived to take me home.

I remember talking to my parents on the way home about how much fun I had, mentioning everything I could think of. I talked so fast that I tripped up on the words, constantly having to pause for a breath and to repeat myself so my parents could understand me. The July 4th camp-out became something of a tradition, and "us three guys" would have two more summers together before high school would start and take us in different directions. As with most people I grew up with, I haven't talked to either Tim or Alex since before graduation. I hope my old friends can look back at those times, and remember then with as much fondness as I do. Those moments of freedom and childhood rebellion are one of the best memories I have of my life, both as a child and as an adult.

Life has changed so much in the years since then, and during the times when I feel just how incredibly small and insignificant I am in this world, I like to be able to remember the moments where I felt so unstoppable.

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Hope you all had a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Happy Monday (and Independence Day), folks.

Friday, July 2, 2010

In Which I Stifle

Remember the post I wrote a few weeks ago about my cubicle neighbor with the language barrier issue? The one who orphans prepositions with apolmb? 

Well, folks... She's struck again.

I was sitting at my desk yesterday, reading during one of my breaks. I was pretty engrossed in my book, ignoring all that was going on around me... At least until I heard my cubicle neighbor raise her voice. 

"No," she said, sounding pushed to the limits of her patience, trying to instruct someone over the phone on how to do something. "Use your mouth."

Now, I'm not one to eavesdrop on other people's conversations, but that particular statement made me put my book down. She had my full attention now. I stayed still and continued to listen.

"No," she said again. A heavy sigh. "Your mouth.... No, you're doing it wrong! Use your... No... your mouth."

She was putting a pretty heavy emphasis on the word "mouth". Her thick Brazilian accent must be hard to talk around sometimes, but to her credit she did sound like she was trying her best to correctly pronounce what she was meaning to say. 

It went back and forth a few times with the person on the other end of the line, and each time she'd say the word, she'd pronounce it with more exaggeration.

"Mouth."

"Mowth."

"Mmmowwth-uh."

At long last, she got it.

"Use your mouse," she said finally, drawing out the word like a snake.

Apparently she was instructing someone where to click to perform a function within a particular computer program we use. I could understand the confusion on the other end of the line. Most computers these days don't require oral input of that variety. Besides, even if you are doing it with your mouth, is there really a wrong way to do it?

Have a good and safe holiday weekend, everyone.