miércoles, marzo 30, 2005



You saw it here first, Mole!

(Liza, please make sure Mole sees this)

Wanted: DQPS

I need a drag-queen personal shopper.

Not for me, mind you. I’m not exactly one for flashy clothes, I don’t do justice to any designer handbags, and I’m far too klutzy in normal shoes to even attempt a walk in heels. I need a DQPS for Ms N.

Ms N is a fashionista. She knows her stuff when it comes to style – she can look at a handbag and determine instantly what shoes best bring out its inner beauty. She can scan the racks at any clothing store when the new lines come in and without so much as breaking a sweat isolate the passing fads from the garments that will endure. She has a quality that I can’t quite put into words, but if I could the words would probably be French.

I, by contrast, am fashion-blind. I look at the clothing stores and see racks and racks of garments that all seem pretty much the same. I go apparel shopping with all the gusto I can muster, but eventually I get overwhelmed and wind up spending my time figuring out which of the round racks spin fastest. (FYI: Tightly packed racks don’t lose as much of their kinetic energy as sparser ones – swinging garments slow down the spin.)

This would not be a problem if I was a regular guy who paid no intention whatsoever to buying his significant other gifts that she’d like, use, and/or appreciate. In fact, were I the type who thought a big-screen TV or a bowling ball pre-drilled to my finger size constituted romantic gifts my life would be much easier. Ignorance is bliss, after all. Until you come home one day to a bowling ball in your big-screen TV, that is.

Alas, I have been cursed with good intentions. So I try. And it doesn’t always work well.

What am I to do? I don’t get what makes a handbag fashionable. I don’t get why one pair of shoes accents an outfit while another pair – though very similar – fails to compliment the message the designer was intending to send. And I don’t get why you can’t match black with blue. But I want to buy gifts for someone who does get all this stuff. I want to be able to give her gifts that make her feel as special as she makes me feel.

Herein lays the need for a drag-queen personal shopper. Apparently drag-queens are very much in tune with the world of fashion. They have a sixth sense, it seems, that your average man does not possess. What gives them this extra sight, I do not know. They are able to reach into the deep recesses of their minds somehow and tap into something deeper. I suspect it might have to do with the tightness of their tuck-unders.

I don’t know if I have it in me to fill the Straight Guy role on Queer Eye – I would look good for the end of the episode and then gradually regress to something similar to what I am now. Plus I’m not sure how I’d feel about Carson peering in on me when I’m changing. I’m not sure which is worse – him trying to flirt with me or him not trying to. Yet just because I am less inclined to join the fashists myself doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice Ms N’s wants and wishes.

Ms N left La Cage Aux Folles enamored by the shoes the guys wore. She pointed out their handbags and I could hear a touch of jealousy. They had attained enlightenment, they had reached fashion nirvana. That’s who I need helping me when it comes time buy her gifts.

So now all I need to do is find some guy named Marla. Perhaps then my good intentions can yield good results.

martes, marzo 22, 2005

Ms N, You Are Wonderful

Thank you very, very much.

domingo, marzo 20, 2005

I win! I win!

Sure enough, Spongebob moved back into the wheel this weekend. When I got home on Saturday he had moved all his stuff out of the sky box once again and was sitting on a cushion of wood chips and bedding fluff inside the wheel. He is a stubborn little bastard. I, on the other hand, am a stubborn big bastard.

To continue the little game we’ve been playing, I dumped his bedding back into the sky box and let him once again schlep everything back into the wheel Saturday night. If nothing else, it gave him something to do with his time since he obviously won’t be exercising. I had a bigger trick up my sleeve, but I also had four kids in the house that night so I had bigger things to deal with.

“Enjoy this night in the wheel,” I told him in an almost evil-supervilliany way, “for it will be your last.” Mwah-ha-ha crossed my mind, but I'm pretty sure I didn't make that laughing noise out loud.


At this point I think it’s not too off topic to discuss how little issues can quickly escalate into big ones. I mean, in all reality if someone makes an abrupt lane change right in front of you and drives off, they didn’t really do anything to drastic to you. Yet until they leave your sight they are the focus of all of your ire. You begin to reason that the main reason why mankind hasn’t solved its more important challenges like curing cancer, reducing the effect of poverty and starvation, and, of course, a making fat-free doughnut, is because that asshole is keeping all the really, really smart people from getting to work safely.

I laughed at Dave Barry’s observation of two men in Florida who refused to back down when their lanes were merging together, instead opting to crash their cars into each other. They were doing less than five miles an hour. As he said, it was the world’s most avoidable accident. Yet just last week I decided at the last moment not to recreate that same scene on the onramp to the Vine Street Expressway. Two lanes merge into one before joining the highway. During rush hour, cars alternate yielding so as to create a zipper effect before forming one orderly line. As I was about to take my rightful place in line the guy in the next lane sped up and started tailgating the car behind which I was supposed to be. There are concrete walls on either side, so one way or another only one car can make it to the expressway at a time. I’d be lying if I said the thought of ramming him into the wall on his side didn’t cross my mind. I mean, after all, think of all those AIDS sufferers out there pining for a cure. Besides, my bumper was in front. Yet fiery explosions don’t occur at those speeds and I’m sure my insurance rates would go up. Alas, I relented and allowed him the lane, but not without expressing loudly my opinion that he had many rectal qualities.

I was in the line of cars outside my daughter’s school waiting for my turn to drop her off. The tardy bell was about to ring, but we were all held up by this one kid whose mother insisted on talking to him for endlessly before letting him shut the door.

“C’mon, Dumbass,” I said aloud. I truly meant it in the nicest way possible.

Emily looked up and said, “That’s Christian!” The name rang a bell.

“Isn’t that the boy you like?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. She really, really, really likes him. Oops. I’m not supposed to be calling him that – at least not until after they go out on a date.


Spongebob held his ground. He looked at me as if to say, “Do your worst, big man, but the wheel will be mine!” Either that or, “I wonder if you have food.” It’s hard to catch subtle nuances from a hamster’s facial expressions.

Today was cage cleaning day. I took him and put him in his ball, then took the cage apart and cleaned it. Then, in a surprise move that he was not expecting, I put the pieces back in the box, grabbed my receipt from Monday, went back to Pet Smart, and returned the cage. I got a new one – same price, mind you – that does not have an Xtreme wheel.

Tonight he is sleeping in the sky box. I left it empty; he pulled all of the bedding and food he wanted with him up there himself.

Point. Set. Match. I win.

viernes, marzo 18, 2005

"To my knowledge, I don't know."

- Sammy Sosa, in testimony to Congress on steroid use in Major League Baseball

Then I woke up ...

This morning I discovered the Spongebob had, indeed, kept his bedding and food in the sky box! I was a bit worried last night, as he had taken two cheekfulls of seeds with him into the wheel and emptied out up there, but this morning that was all there was in the wheel. The funny thing is that he was trying to run in the wheel with the seed still in it. He would start to run, the wheel would roll, the seeds would tumble underneath him, and he would get tripped up. He’d stop for a second, then start up again and repeat the process.

Yep. He’s stubborn. And stupid. I reckon my secret fear that the hamsters of the world might someday combine their collective cunningness and collaborate to overthrow mankind appears to be moot. I still have my eye on those squirrels, though.

jueves, marzo 17, 2005


Spongebob used to be my favorite hamster.

When we still had Spongebob and Snowball in the same cage, Snowball was the pushy arrogant one and Spongebob was the one I felt sorry for. Snowball won all the arguments and hoarded all the food. He eventually kicked Spongebob out of the penthouse. You’d walk in, look at the cage, and there would be Spongebob up on a shelf surrounded by a little circle of bedding – the pittance that Snowball hadn’t taken up to his fortress of solitude. He’d give you that look as if to say, “Do you have any idea what I have to go through here?”

Monday I went to Pet Smart and got him a new cage – Xtreme tubing and all – and set him up with his own place to live. This cage has a penthouse apartment that he could call his very own, plus a neat wheel contraption at the top that rotates around vertical axis while he runs. His first night in he ran and ran and ran. All was good in the world.

Then I woke up. The next morning I discovered he had taken all the bedding and food he could find and carted it up into the wheel, wherein he made his new nest.

After work Tuesday I stopped by Pet Smart again to pick up a little hamster house. It was a big wooden arch that would provide him with something to hide under and something to chew. I dumped his nest out of the wheel into the main part of the cage, put the arch over it, and reassembled the wheel. He was obviously very curious about the new addition and was all over it. As I was heading off to bed, I glimpsed a nice little serene moment – Spongebob curled up asleep next to his new little home.

Then I woke up. The next morning I discovered he had taken all the bedding and food he could find and carted it up into the wheel, wherein he re-made his new nest.

Between jobs on Wednesday, I ran back to Pet Smart and got a new hamster thing – this time a sky box! I figure it has the height and seclusion he wants (why, I’m not sure – he lives alone!), it’s easier to clean, and it doesn’t leak like the wheel. I dumped the contents of the wheel back into the cage, saw that he was exploring the sky box, and went to work. When I came home he hadn’t moved any bedding, but he was running happily in the wheel. All was good in the world once again.

Then I woke up. This morning I discovered he had taken all the bedding and food he could find and carted it up into the wheel, wherein he re-re-made his new nest.

I dumped the contents of the wheel (hamster excluded) into the sky box and rearranged the layout of the cage a bit. He went in and inspected the sky box again – this time with his familiar things put inside, and seemed to like it. For now. Emily even reported that he was emptying his cheeks up there, not filling them as he would to take everything away.

I have no idea what will be awaiting me when I get home, or when I wake up tomorrow. I just know that Spongebob is not making that ball into a permanent nest. It’s turned into a battle of the witless. Ms N says that I am bound to lose – that Spongebob is more stubborn than I am. I still say I will prevail.

One thing for sure, Pet Smart will come out of this a winner.

miércoles, marzo 16, 2005

The Unhappy Ending

I witnessed one of the worst displays of customer service I have seen in a while yesterday. There was a very unfriendly exchange between a waitress, two managers, and a customer at, of all places, Friendly’s.

At the center of the dispute was a Happy Ending sundae. This name always makes me smirk – not only is it an extra offered at an Oriental massage parlor, it is also a dessert item at a family restaurant. Insert banana-crème joke here …

The family – a father, mother, 5-ish year-old daughter, and toddler – at the table next to mine had finished their meal and ordered dessert. The toddler was not going to eat a full sundae and the mother only wanted something small, so she wanted to take the sundae that came free with the kid’s meal and buy a scoop of ice cream for the kid. The waitress brought her a full-size sundae. At the end of the meal, the waitress presented them with a full-size bill – her sundae was charged at it’s full menu price.

I didn’t hear the original order, but I heard the ensuing discussion. Both the father and mother insisted that the waitress offered the option of the mother taking the child’s dessert. The waitress insisted that she gave them exactly what they requested. Since the desserts were eaten, the opportunity to send the food back had already expired. The father, however, wanted the bill to reflect what they thought they had ordered. It got slightly heated, and she left to get a manager. First came the assistant manager. She seemed confused by the whole deal and was no help. She left to get the store manager.

The store manager also got into a lengthy discussion with the family. The idea of charging just for a scoop came up. Apparently a single scoop of Friendly’s ice cream costs $2. The father said he’d pay that, but the manager said she couldn’t do it. At that point, the issue came down to 70 cents and principle. The manager wouldn’t budge. The guy finally said, “OK, you go away and I will pay this bill, then I will never return here again.” He paid, they left a tip (which surprised me, considering all they went through), and walked out.

The first thing that bugs me about this is that the waitress was also our waitress, and since she was avoiding the area during the managerial assistance we were delayed getting our dessert orders in. Second, and I guess more important, is that the manager had an opportunity to make a customer happy by taking less than three bucks off a bill, and instead entered into a somewhat heated argument in the middle of a restaurant full of customers. I would contend that the drop in tips and diminished likelihood of return of some of those customers – myself included – will, in the long run, cost the store and it’s employees more than three quarters.

I know it did, as I dropped a buck off the tip I would have left. That was, after all, a long unFriendly wait for dessert.

martes, marzo 15, 2005

The Replacements Have Arrived

As previously reported, Goldfish Bob swam towards the light and went to the big pond in the sky. I was surprised he lasted so long, especially since he arrived at I time where the last thing I was expecting to be was a fish owner. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. I expected less to be lunch for a shark or to be trampled to death by a rampaging elephant, but owning fish was very low on my list of expectations. His first week was spent in a vase until Ms N so kindly brought up an old fish tank.

On Sunday we ventured to Pet Smart to browse for possible new occupants of that tank. Yesterday we went in with cash. An hour and $51 later, we left laden with supplies and two new additions to our family. Rainbow the betta fish and Hoover the bottom-feeding algae-eater came home with us. As did betta food, water treatment, a filter, hamster accessories, and a new hamster cage.

I almost had a record-setting day with Hoover. Hoover’s reaction to panicky situations is to adhere himself by the lips to a nearby surface and hold on with all his might. When I dumped the water he was in through the net so I could transfer him to his new home, he clung to the side of the cup. The water poured out of the cup, the fish did not. Now, most fish flop around wildly when not in water. Hoping for this, I held the cup top-down above the tank so he could fall in. Nope. I tapped on the cup hoping to scare him off. Nope. It crossed my mind that the only thing that might make him let go would be his own demise. That would be two pets killed in three days (one record) and a pet killed before it made it to it’s cage (another record). It wasn’t until I submerged the cup in the tank that he finally let go and swam away. Records averted.

Then came the hamster cage. We got two of the little rodents right after Christmas – Snowball for Emily and Spongebob for Alex. They are both males and after a while male hamsters get territorial. There is a risk that two males will fight viciously over territory, but that didn’t exactly happen with us. In our case, Spongebob became Snowball’s bitch. Snowball would take every morsel of food and almost all of the bedding up into the top compartment of the cage, and Spongebob was left in a cold corner with a tiny circle of woodchips around him to mark off his territory. Whenever Snowball would enter the common area, Spongebob would leap up onto the bars of the cage and climb away. It was a sad, sad sight that had to change.

We got Spongebob an Xtreme Critter Trail kit complete with a slide and an external wheel contraption that rotates around a vertical axis while the hamster runs through the wheel. I put him into the new cage and closed the door; he spent the next four hours trying to chew his way through the bars to get back out. Apparently he doesn’t appreciate the coolness of his situation. This morning when we got up we looked at his cage. He drug his bedding and food out of the main compartment and turned the wheel into his new home, thereby removing any possibility of using it for exercise. And the fat bastard needs the excercise.

Emily asked if the fish were male or female. I have absolutely no idea. It’s hard to tell with fish. The hamsters are easy – their nads are so huge that if humans were similarly proportioned we’d be packing bowling balls. Ms N and I realized how easy it is to tell with sharks during a visit to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. That was actually kinda freaky. I told her I didn’t know and said for the sake of simplicity I was assuming they were male. “Darn,” she said, dejectedly. “That means I’m still the only girl in the house.”

One sex-assumption-change operation later, and Rainbow became the second.

lunes, marzo 14, 2005

R.I.P., Goldfish Bob (2005-2005)

Our first family pet fell into the clutches of the icy grip of death on Saturday. Goldfish Bob, who was one of a couple dozen feeder fish given to all the girls in my daughter’s Girl Scout Troup at a function, passed away (presumably) silently in his tank while we were away. When I left for work that morning he was doing his normal fishy thing – chasing his reflection in the corner of the tank – but the chase was over when I got home. Now, as Ms N says, he sleeps with the fishes.

I wasn’t expecting to be a fish owner, but now I’ve got the tank so I might as well use it. Today we are off to the pet store to buy Bob’s replacements. Not that you can replace a fish like Bob, who was a cherished member of family for upwards of three whole weeks, but there’s a hole in our hearts to fill and I found two fish that I can get for five bucks. I’m getting an algae-eater – a bottom feeder. I initially thought about naming after the guy my ex ran off with, but I’ve decided instead to name him (or her) Hoover. The other is a betta fish who is yet to be named. Unless the kids have a better idea, I’m going with Sushi.

As for Saturday, I was the first to notice Bob’s demise. We had just come home and the kids went dashing into Emily's room to see how Spongebob and Snowball, the fat-ass hamsters, were doing. During my trek through the kitchen I noticed that Bob was a bit less upright than normal.


I broke the news to the kids. They both took it well at first, then Emily acted up just enough to trigger Alex. It reminded my of that Futurama episode where Bender was fitted with an empathy chip that was tuned into Leela’s emotions. She was disappointed, he was disappointed. She then broke down, he then broke down. Ironically, that episode also involved a pet getting flushed down the toilet.

After they finished the home-cooked meal I made them (OK, it was McDonald’s) we gathered around the toilet to have a small memorial. I held him in the net above the tank.

Emily spoke first. She briefly and sadly mentioned that he was a good fish (are there bad ones?) and that he will be missed. Then it was Alex’s turn. I was curious to see how is first ever eulogy would go.

“I love you Bob,” he said. Then, after what I’m assuming was an appropriate time in his mind but was more like the time it took for him to reconfigure the frown on his face into a more excited expression of boyish enthusiasm, he blurted out, “I wanna’ flush the toilet!

viernes, marzo 11, 2005

Bush's Iraq Exit Strategy (From The Onion)

"We'll go through Iran!"


Between the "arial bombardment retreat" and the stop in Syria for "replenishing and refueling," this is one of the funnier things I've seen this week.
Oh, and I couldn't resist chuckling at this headline:
"Could Hillary Clinton
Have What It Takes To Defeat
The Democrats In 2008?"

jueves, marzo 10, 2005

MAC Daddy

I just had it out with my bank … again. My main account was running a bit low (by a bit, I mean very, very, very low), so I was definitely keeping track of my purchases. After paying for lunch with my debit card I knew I had 10 cents left in the account and no outstanding transactions. All good.

After work, I stopped by an ATM, which, since I have been living in the Philly area for a while, I still call a MAC. MAC, or Money Access Center, was the name used for all ATMs until recently. Big colorful MAC signs would be posted around any ATM machine in the area and, since MAC flows off the tongue better than ATM, that became the term used by all. When I was coming out for college, a person in the administration building was shocked that I had no idea what a MAC was. “You don’t have MAC machines in Alaska?” she asked incredulously. She started to explain what it was, and I pipe in, “Oh, like an ATM.” Yep. Same planet, different worlds. MAC hasn’t been used officially for years, yet people from this area still “tap MAC” to get money.

So there I am MAC-ing away. I walked to the bank and it was a drive-up machine. I got some funny looks from the driver that pulled up while I was there, but hey, I was in line first. Anyways, I transferred money into my account and got a receipt that said “Available Balance: $60.10.” Happy to have increased my funds by 60,000%, I went on with my day. My next stop was the store for a drink and a few snacks before going to my night job. Out came the debit card and $4.68 later I was on my way.

This morning my bank balance alert said $-35.58. Huh?

Hello online statement. The bank failed to post the $60 deposit as available funds until this morning, even though their receipt (and the debit card authorization) said the money was available. They also failed to post the lunch and store purchases until today, but they put holds on the account for their amounts. Since not enough funds were available, I got hit with a $31 NSF charge on, of all things, my lunch.

So I call the bank. It took some persuasion (read: talking like an asshole), but the customer service agent reversed the charge. Yet she refused to say it was an error. According to her, the refund was a “courtesy refund.” The bank has a policy about courtesy refunds that is similar to instant replays in football. If I have another issue in the next 6 months I am not allowed a replay, no matter how bad the call is.

Oh, and the refund to the account doesn’t credit until tomorrow morning. I’m out $31 until then. Ugh.

viernes, marzo 04, 2005

Some of my writings ...

Dave's Bad Night (from the inbox)

Dave works hard at the plant and spends two nights each week bowling and plays golf every Saturday. His wife thinks he's pushing himself too hard, so for his birthday she takes him to a local strip club. The doorman at the club greets them and says, "Hey, Dave! How ya doin?" His wife is puzzled and asks if he's been to this club before. "Oh no," says Dave. "He's on my bowling team."
When they are seated, a waitress asks Dave if he'd like his usual and brings over a Budweiser. His wife is becoming increasingly uncomfortable and says, "How did she know that you drink Budweiser?" "I recognize her, she's the waitress from the golf club. I always have a bud at the end of the first nine, Honey."
A stripper then comes over to their table, throws her arms around Dave, starts to rub herself all over him and says, "Hi Davey. Want your usual table dance, big boy?"
Dave's wife, now furious, grabs her purse and storms out of the club. Dave follows and spots her getting into a cab. Before she can slam the door, he jumps in beside her. Dave tries desperately to explain how the stripper must have mistaken him for someone else, but his wife is having none of it. She is screaming at him at the top of her lungs, calling him every 4 letter word in the book.
The cabby turns around and says, "Geez Dave, you picked up a real bitch this time."

Overheard at work

"I share a birthday with Jay Leno and Saddam Hussein. What do you expect from me?"
- Mike, my outspoken co-worker

miércoles, marzo 02, 2005

I never knew that I never knew ...

... that the plural possessive form of tooth is "teeth's."

It's amazing what one can be taught by the wavy red line of spell-check discontent.

martes, marzo 01, 2005

Ahem ...


OK ... I feel better now.