Note: This entry is a bit of a departure, both in tone for me, and content for this blog. Please, let me know what you think – but go easy on me.

I put the shirt in my hands down and looked up at the clock – twelve thirty-five. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been there, but I felt more tired than I thought I should. Looking down at the box in front of me, I took a quick inventory of its contents. Maybe fifteen shirts, five or six pairs of slacks and some red shoes were neatly resting in the plastic bin. As I closed the two interlocking lids, the page-a-month calendar caught my eye, and I momentarily thought that it seemed unseasonably cool for May. I shook the thought and lifted the box onto an identical model. I had grown the pile to four containers, and started thinking about how I would get them to fit into the back of my car.

I stood up and started to head back towards the bedroom. To my left, on the granite counter tops were two boxes of tissues, a box of Efferdent and a can of cranberry sauce. “What an eclectic mix,” I thought to myself. I tried to connect the items in my head, to make sense of their placement and existence. Unable to do so, I relented to the realization that it would be a mystery never solved. I checked the clock again, wanting to make sure that I was home in time for Danielle’s dinner. The minute hand hovered at two hundred ten degrees, while the hour sat calmly between twelve and one. I walked past the massive collection of yarn, wondering how eager the Salvation Army would be to take them off my hands, realizing fully that I certainly couldn’t do anything with a hundred pounds of spun thread, and try as she might, neither could Danielle.

Turning the corner, I opened the closet and took down another sweatshirt, carefully placing it in another green-topped plastic bin. After what seemed like fifteen minutes, I closed another full box, picked it up and carried it down the hallway to the foyer. I set it beside the other four, and walked over to the grandfather clock. I could still remember the first time I saw it twenty years ago -a stately piece of furniture, tucked into a prominent corner of the living room, just to the left of my grandfather’s standing lamp. I examined the intricate brass work on the dial, taking in the same details I’d studied a thousand times before. I could still see the scratch on the date-wheel that I’d put there when I was thirteen, trying to set the time and date accurately. I looked at the large pendulum, and noted that some dust had accumulated on the weights. I made a note to wipe it off... next time. The clock looked back at me, constantly reminding me of the time – twelve thirty-five.

I walked down the hall to the living room, and looked out the sliding door to the trees outside. The robust colors were starting to show, and two or three of the less-fortunate leafs had already made their way to the ground, their summer dance over, and their fall spectacle cut short. How apt. I turned around, deciding I’d had enough of unit 310. As I walked out of the living room, I briefly thought about some upcoming appointments I had, and what the next few weeks would look like for me, at once coming to the all-to-obvious conclusion that they’d be busy – par usual. I glanced at the T-Bones calendar across the room, noting that the May special was a free children’s meal with purchase of two full-priced meals - worthless, on several levels.

I looked around the room one more time. Everything was exactly where it should be, exactly where it would be the next time I came back. I flipped off the last light over the entryway, took a deep breath, and stepped back into today.

I tug the door shut behind me, pull out key DL2, and latch the dead bolt and then the handle. I place the keys back in my pocket and walk down the hall. Like always, I steal a quick look over my shoulder, a quick glance back at the apartment where time stands still. I check my watch – six oh-one.


Can you imagine?

I respect people who work. I know this sounds strange, but I’ve always held people who work for a living in high regard – regardless of where they work or the job they do. I think it’s a character thing, really. I think that those willing to put forth the effort of going to work should be rewarded. It’s why I don’t generally support welfare as an institution for more than short-term support.

That said, I expect those who are in a particular job to do their very best while they are “on the clock.” It’s how I approach my day in the office, and it’s what I expect out of others. For some, this means really working at accomplishing a project, for others, it means improving a system or piece of data, and for others still, it means providing the best customer service possible. I try my hardest to treat those serving me with the utmost respect. Just because someone’s bringing me a coffee doesn’t make me the master and him the slave.

With this in mind, I’m infuriated at the complete disaster that customer service has become in the past few years. Clerks who talk on their cell phones while you’re trying to buy a Snickers, rude employees at the movie theater and my personal favorite, cranky tollbooth collectors. I try and make a point to drive through the booths that are staffed – even if I have correct change – so that I can have some human interaction during my trip and offer a friendly “hi,” and/or “have a good day.” Almost invariably, they grunt at me to move on, even if there’s no one in line behind me.

This rant is being brought on by a series of events that happened to me last night at Best Buy. I was going to buy a new external portable hard drive for me to back up my files on my home computer to, so that I can take them off-site for storage, should our apartment burn down. (This is the very VERY best advice I can give you, the home computer user… back up your data on a Western Digital Passport hard drive, and then take that hard drive to a different physical location than your home. You’ll thank me if you have a fire or lighting-induced power surge.)

I got to the checkout line, which had five or six people in it, and waited my turn. There were two people ringing people out, both somewhere between 16 and 20, (the further away from those years I get, the harder it is to figure out someone’s age who’s still there.) The one young woman ringing up people’s purchases was really being efficient. She was moving people through her line brilliantly, while maintaining a friendly demeanor. The other guy was making a fool of himself. He would barely acknowledge the customer in front of him – with money in their hands – because he was talking to another post-adolescent girl wearing a BAE shirt. I crossed my fingers and hoped to get the efficient woman so I didn’t have to stand there like an awkward third party while I purchased my hard drive. Before you ask, the Best Buy in Salem has one of those bank-inspired common feeder lines, so I didn’t get to pick who ended up ringing me up.

“Can I help you?” Crap. Checkout guy, Chris, his nametag said, called me over. I sighed and walked over.

“So, are you going to go?” Chris inquired of …. let’s call her Stacy. Probably not her name, but let’s run with it.

“I don’t know, he’s being such a jerk about it. I told him I’d rather just hang out at home, but now he’s all pissed at me, and won’t answer his phone.” Stacy was obviously having some trouble with her gentleman caller, whoever he might be.

“Well, he’s being wicked rude. You should just tell him that you don’t want to, and that’s it. That’ll be $119.99.” Chris finally acknowledged my existence. “Don’t go.” And promptly forgot about it, as he continued his conversation with Stacy.

“I don’t know,” Stace (I like that, Stace. Let’s stick with that monosyllabic nickname) replied. You could tell she was torn over whether she should go to this mysterious whatever-they-were-talking-about.

Chris looked at me as I held out three Best Buy gift cards. I had them from my birthday, Christmas and something else, and was about to get a free hard drive. “Oh, a handful of gift cards, huh?” He was thrilled. Really.

He continued talking to Stacie as he went through the process of swiping my cards. I paid slightly less attention, but even a dog who’s hard of hearing could have figured out that the scenario was pretty bleak for Chris. Chris has a crush on Stace (still sticking with the nickname, here), who was probably a good friend of his since middle school, but Stacy (back to formal names) was dating the super-popular football captain or something, who treated her like crap, but drove her around in his awesome BMW. Chris was doing everything in his power to convince Stace to dump the loser by doing everything except saying “dump the loser,” and failing miserably.

Somewhere in this ridiculous teenage drama, Chris stopped swiping the gift cards, and just listened to Stace as his heart yearned to tell her how he cared about her, how he’d treat her like a goddess, and even let her sit on the handlebars of his schwinn.

“Hey, uh.. Chris,” Uh, oh.. I opened my mouth. “Listen up, Romeo. My wife is waiting in the car for me, and I should get out there before she dies of starvation. This young lady isn’t going to leave her boyfriend for you. She considers you a girlfriend, not a boyfriend, so would you mind at least cutting your losses and finish ringing me up so I can leave without talking to your manager about what a lousy job you’re doing?”

Chris blinked, swallowed harder than he had to, and swiped the third card, never once making eye contact with me. Stacy sort of sauntered away from the checkout line, but not too far - she was very suddenly and inexplicably interested in the rebate slips attached to wall behind her. $10.50 back on DVDs via mail in form? What a sweet deal. The silence was bliss.

Chris quickly put my receipt and drive in a bright yellow Best Buy bag (Turn on the FUN.. Best Buy!) and dropped it checkout table without so much as a word of thanks.

I picked it up and offered a polite “Thanks, man,” and winked at Stacy on my way out. I could clearly hear him utter “jerk,” under his breath.

I mean really, can you believe how rude some people are?


Un-Secret Service

So, Danielle have been married for over a month now, and Delta Force has been keeping their distance. I appreciate that, because it’s nice to have a honeymoon phase, you know?

A few weeks ago, I got to see one of the top candidates for President answer some (likely scripted) questions, as Rudy Giuliani came to Nashua for a “town-hall meeting.” First off, there is nothing “town-hall” or even “meeting” about what happened. It was a campaign stop, and he got to shake some hands and win some votes. It worked, from what I could tell of the other people sitting in the ball room at the Crown Plaza Hotel.

Mayor Giuliani’s entrance was pretty interesting. They blasted some music as he entered and shook some hands, and then faded it out as he took center stage to give a 20-30 minute monologue on health care and terrorism. I found it interesting that he’d put the two together, but I didn’t argue. It was entertaining, at the very least.

About the time the Honorable Mayor got to asking questions, I saw some movement among the darkly-suited men around the edge of the room that I had assumed were working security. They started sweeping the seats with their eyes; I could tell they were looking at faces. They seemed to settle on one guy in the middle of the right most section of chairs. They started talking back and forth and then fanned out around the back of the room. One of them over towards the left wall started fishing in his pocket for something, and came out with a handkerchief. It looked monogrammed, but I was a bit far away to see it in any detail.

“And so we will rise to that challenge, as Americans, as a nation not divided by..” the Mayor was going on about something really important, but I was positive what was happening in that room was more important than foreign policy right now. As the agent over on the left wall went to put the kerchief back in his pocket, I saw the insignia, a dark grey D and a green F overlapping. Delta Force.

I knew I had to get the guy they were watching out of there safely. His life depended on it. These Delta Force guys don’t quit, and they wanted this guy for something. I was briefly concerned where the secret service was, and how they had been subdued without anyone noticing, but after thinking about it, I decided that plot holes weren’t worth contemplating.. there was evil afoot.

The agents tightened their perimeter, slowly and cautiously. As far as I could tell, the target had no idea he was in danger. I scanned the room quickly - there wasn’t any way out without going through at least two Delta agents. I looked around the stage the mayor was on. He wasn’t being protected in close proximity.. maybe I could grab the guy and get behind the stage.. there had to be a door there, as that’s where Giuliani had come from. There would likely be agents back there, too. I started to panic for the guy. There was nothing I could do without sacrificing myself as well. My stomach tightened, and I started to get cold. I needed to do something – anything – for this guy, but there were no options. He was going to die, and I was going to be helpless to stop it.

One agent walked down the aisle and stopped at his row. I couldn’t believe how brazen they were being. I knew these guys were ruthless, but right here, in front of everyone? Most people, even people in that immediate area, were still focused on the candidate. “In fact, if they did say that in that report, then they’re wrong. It’s important that we know that the State department has an obligation to the American people to..” he continued his message. I watched, horrified, but unable to turn away as the agent scooted past people in the row of seats to end up right next to the target. The man, whose fate was now sealed, turned up to look at the agent, and he knew it as well as I did. It was over.

Everything at that point happened in slow motion. The agent bent down towards him, no emotion present at all in the steel grey eyes of the trained killer. He reached into his jacket, and paused for a second, as he must have been getting a better grip on his sidearm, or maybe it was stuck in the holster he was using. He started to slowly move his hand out of his jacket, but it was behind the target’s head, so I couldn’t see it. I braced for the gunshot and the consequential screams. I winced, and heard “Sir, you seem to have dropped your wallet in the lobby. Here it is. Have a good night.” Then, like the well-trained operative he was, he walked out of the row, down the aisle, and the rest of them pulled back, resuming their original positions around the wall.

I sat in stunned silence. They didn’t kill him. I sat back in my chair, blinked, and then took a bite of my sugar cookie with a pie chart of Pentagon spending waste on it. It wasn’t a very tasty cookie.

Once the Honorable Mayor had answered his last question of the evening, the emcee cranked out Rascall Flatts’ verion of “Life is a Highway,” as the mayor shook hands and made his way towards the door. As we filed out the back of the room, and walked away, one of the agents winked at me.

I just kept on walking.


The Wedding Crashers

On Saturday, June 9, I was married to the love of my life, Danielle. I figured I’d share some of the details of this special day with you. I arrived at Atkinson Country Club at 10:00 in the morning with my best man, Josh Drumm. There was a low-hanging fog around the main clubhouse where the reception was to be held. The fog and the morning quiet added an ominous feel to the cool morning.

It felt good when I stepped out of the car. My previous 60 day stint in jail for not paying my excise tax was behind me, and I was about to trade my freedom for love, very unlike what happened in jail. The warden said he loved me, but he didn’t mean it, because he never let me blog from prison. I tried to cry a lot and claim that I was a celebrity, but he still wouldn’t let me leave. Danielle, on the other hand - I was pretty sure she meant that she loved me. I went inside, never noticing the Sikorsky above.

I took a quick walk around the facility. I had never been there before, so I thought it would be wise to acclimate myself to the building. I found the bathrooms, and then the other bathrooms before finally locating the third set of bathrooms. I proceeded towards my Groom’s suite so that I could use a different bathroom. I found the soaps to be of varied sizes and shapes, but they smelled funny, like Lewis Black.

My tuxedo fit like a glove, except that it had a jacket, pants, vest, shirt, shoes, socks, and cufflinks, but no gloves. I put it on anyways, and then headed out to hang out with the rest of my groomsmen. I came out to find them all sitting around talking in hushed tones. I headed over to chat with them, but Doug got up to meet me.

“Steve, I don’t know how to say this, but uh.. well.. I’ll just come out and say it,” Doug was stammering, I knew something was wrong. “Remember at the Rehearsal on Thursday, when Delta Force showed up?”

“Yeah, they were on a recon mission,” I remembered the camouflaged elite soldiers all around the gazebo. “But they should be long gone by now.”

“Well, Steve, they’re not gone. Delta Force is back, and they’re prepping for an assault. I’m sorry, man, but it looks like if you want to get married today, you’re going to have to fight for it.” He turned around hand handed me a Heckler & Koch MP5. “Be careful,” he said “NATO rounds are expensive. Good luck, man.”

I regarded my groomsmen once again, and saw they knew what I had known the instant I heard the name of that elite group of soldiers: there would be no marital joy today, just death and destruction.

“Hey! It’s starting to rain outside,” James was pointing out the window towards the few gentle drops of water cascading from the sky. I looked past the rain, and saw a rustling in the bushes. It wouldn’t be long with the rain, I knew. As the precipitation picked up, I knew their fate was sealed. If there’s one thing that the most highly trained, elite group of soldiers is afraid of, it’s a light rain. It feels all gross when your outside in flak jackets and assault gear and you get wet, and they HATE feeling 'all icky.'

I walked outside under the awning with my MP5 and switched off the safety. I looked around and set the weapon down on the railing. This fight was over -there would be no bloodshed today. I heard the helicopter spin up, and saw it start to lift from the extraction point. It banked left and flew down the 18th hole fairway before dipping over the rolling hills of the Atkinson Country Club’s championship course.

“Hey, there!” I turned around to see Sandra, our wedding coordinator smiling behind me. “Since it’s raining, we thought we’d move the ceremony inside to the Farview side of the ballroom.” I nodded my assent and rolled my neck from side to side. “Guests are being seated, so you may as well head on down. We’ll be getting started shortly.” I turned around to see Derek heading downstairs to start escorting, his M16 still slung over his shoulder. I called over to him, and while he didn’t acknowledge me he must have heard, because the next time I saw him, he was unarmed.

I turned to Josh who looked me up and down. “Show time,” he had the smirk of victory on his face. We headed downstairs, and took our place beside Jed, the pastor from our church who was performing the wedding.

The ceremony and reception were both beautiful, and except the ninjas and that one giraffe, went amazingly smoothly. We had a great time, and seeing all our friends and family together to celebrate our marriage was truly heartwarming.

A great big special thanks to everyone who could make it.

We’re off to our honeymoon in a few days, but there’s been some rumoring of increased Delta Force presence in the region. It rains every afternoon, though, so I don’t expect a problem.


The dark side of Microsoft support...

So, the university I work for just bought a whole bunch of licenses for Microsoft Operations Manager 2005. This software promises to make a good portion of my job easier. A lot of my time is spent monitoring about fifty servers, and tracking down any errors they report and trying to correct them. MOM 2005 promises to alleviate, or at the very least expedite this process. I was psyched about getting the software setup, as I've had it running in our test lab for a while, and it seemed to be running well, and delivering on what it promises to do.

I started to install the software in our production (that means "real") environment yesterday and immediately hit a snag: the service wouldn't start after install. I tracked down some KB articles (the Knowledge base, or "KB" is where Microsoft pastes relevant support information) that seemed to fix that specific problem. I moved on to the next phase, which is to deploy the agents to the client servers (the ones reporting back their status).

This phase failed as well, and I decided to call Microsoft support, which we have a contract through. Now, please keep in mind that this chronology took the better part of two days. I did other stuff, too, so don't think I'm slow, but enterprise level software issues are more complex than "I can't print." So, I dialed up 1.800.MICROSOFT and had a lovely chat with a fellow in New Delhi called Ambros, or maybe it was Annbro, I'm not really sure. He then put me in the hold queue to talk to a support engineer - Annboy didn't know a thing about MOM, he just wanted my name, phone number and e-mail address. Maybe he'll call me for a date later... I need to figure out how to decline politely.

I was on hold for about 25 minutes, when I got through to Dennis, who sounded like he was in Texas, or at least grew up in Texas. "Hello, this is Dennis. Can I get your case number please?"

"SRX576189247832," I replied.

"I'm sorry, that's not a valid case number," underneath the deep San Antonio accent, I'm pretty sure I detected a hit of annoyance.

"Well, I'm pretty sure that's what Annasoy gave me at the call center. Let me read it back to you." I re-read the number to him, and it turned out to be identical.

"Nope. Sorry. Thank you for calling Microsoft, have a great day," on the surface it was polite, but it reeked of sinister intent.

"Wait!! Wait... Can't you just look it up or something? I was on hold for 25 minutes, and you're just going to hang up on me?"

"Sir, that's very difficult for me to do, and we have a lot of customers calling. We're busy."

"But I'm a customer too. I'm sorry I wrote it down wrong," why was I apologizing? I was the injured party here.

"Fine.. hold on.. what's your e-mail address?" I gave him my e-mail address, and heard some clicking. "Okay, here it is. Your case number is SRX576189247823." He said the last two digits like a frustrated sheep farmer scolding his livestock - he knows the sheep doesn't understand, but scolding it makes him feel better. It made me feel like investigating Red Hat. "Make sure you write that down correctly this time. It'll save all of us a lot of headaches, okay?" I didn't reply. I was secretly hoping a satellite would fall on his building or something.

"Okay, I see you have a problem with MOM 2005," he was starting to sound cheery. Maybe the script he was working from said [SOUND CHEERY HERE], or something. We went back and forth on the problem for a good hour or so, during which time he insulted me every way you could insult a systems engineer. From the mundane "did you check the documentation," to "I've never seen an AD environment so totally screwed up. You must be an idiot," I tried to take it all in stride.

In the end, it turned out that the problem was a DLL file that had been corrupted and was messing up the authentication mechanism for network login. A perfectly legitimate problem to call support about, and one that very few people could have solved without intervention from Microsoft.

"Okay," Dennis paused for dramatic effect, "it looks like we solved your problem. Try not to screw it up again, you mentally incapable plebeian." Dennis' conclusion was terse at best. "Thank you for calling Microsoft and have a great day."

"You, too." Why was I saying that? I didn't want this guy to have a great day. I wanted him to get the intestinal flu. We hung up, and I just sat there stunned for a minute. The rest of my day passed uneventfully, but I was emotionally scarred pretty deeply.

I'll never forget Dennis, my gracious Microsoft techie who helped me realize that the answer to "Where do you want to go today?" is "To your office to beat you within an inch of your pathetic life, you condescending jerk."


ह ह! थिस इस सिल्ली...

ई हवे अब्सोलुतेल्य नो आईडिया वहत थिस सय्स!


No officer, I didn't see that...

Wow. We're lucky to be alive. Danielle and I went to Jared - "The Galleria of Jewelry" to look at wedding bands. The store was decent enough, and the staff was pretty helpful, which is nice, especially since everything in a jewelry store costs a hundred billion dollars. They offered us a tour around the joint when we first got there, which was kind of awkward because the store is decently sized, but it's not THAT big. I mean, you can see from one end to the other and recognize people across the room. They didn't bring us over to the free cookies and coffee during the tour, which was minus points in my book. We didn't see that until the officer sat us down to debrief us.

Anyways, so we spent some time (and by some time, I mean over an hour) looking at rings for Danielle. We tried channel set, prong set, plain, pretty, ugly, large and small rings, and even one that looked kind of like a Buick hood ornament. We eventually got it down to two - both channel set. We decided to take a break from that and head over and look at men's rings. I was even more finicky than Danielle, and ended up trying on about 25 rings. I had it decided down to two white gold jobs when the front doors slammed open and the first shot rang out. I think the bullet lodged itself somewhere in the ceiling above me.

"Everyone get the [expletive deleted] on the floor!" I grabbed Danielle and pulled her down to the floor with me. Ironically enough we'd been through this once before - in a Stop and Shop of all places. I had a lot of thoughts at that moment, and as much as I'd like to say they were focused on how I could be a better person if I got out of this, I really only thought about two things - "this wicked sucks", and "I hope we don't get held up too late to get to dinner." I was really hungry, cut me some slack, okay?

The security guard was a lot of help, because he laid down about 10 feet from us, and tossed his gun on the floor away from him. A model of bravery and valor, that guy was. Anyways, there were two quite stereotypical robbers in the store, both dressed in black with ski masks on. I'll refer to them as Bossman and Lackey, because one of them was clearly in charge, and the other reminded me of Teller from Penn and Teller. Bossman shouted "hurry up," and pointed towards the luxury watch case. I didn't have a good view of Bossman after that, but I assume he went to try and take some diamonds and other assorted gemstones. Lackey hurried over to the watches, where I had a good view of him, and dutifully shoved the handle his pistol into the case to break it open. Unfortunately for him, the case isn't made of glass, so the gun popped out of his hand and slid onto the floor.

It didn't go far, so he picked it up - looking more awkward than frightening - and tried again. The case gave way with an unpleasant snapping sound, and then he was hunched over the case, presumably taking some Tag Heuer watches, and other assorted fine timepieces.

"Time to go - now!" Something must have set Bossman off, because he had a panicked tone in his voice. Bossman left the store quickly, but with more grace than you'd expect a masked robber to have. Lackey on the other hand, stumbled out of the store and tripped right at the door. Someone snorted, like they were trying to hold back a laugh. Lackey must not have liked that, because he shot someone towards his left and then walked out. Bummer for that guy on the left.

The next half hour was as uninteresting as the parts of Law and Order that they don't show you. We answered questions about what we saw - or didn't see - multiple times. All in all, it was a pretty deflating experience. When a jewelry store gets robbed, isn't the SWAT team supposed to drop through the ceiling lights and secure the perimeter with snipers and canine units? Did Hollywood lead me down a false path? Is life really this procedural? Man, next they're going to tell me that you really can feed a mogwai after midnight.

Well, after that we paid for our rings and their lifetime service plans and left the store. It was hard to get out of the parking lot with all the police cars and the coroner van and stuff, but one nice officer moved his car so we could get through. Then we went down the street to Cactus Jack's and had some barbecue chicken.

All in all, not a very eventful evening. But we did get free cornbread, which is sweet.


He never saw it coming...

So, my car is living a double life. Some days it thinks that it is a mild-mannered family sedan. Other days, it thinks that it is a sports coupe. The truth is that it's a capable family sedan that has enough zip in it to be fun to drive when you find that oh-so-very-rare piece of road that is both twisty and devoid of traffic enough to be able to actually drive, instead of just plod along like I spend 40 minutes of each day going to and from work.

Today, I got out of work right on time, but because it was still fully light outside, instead of an evening twilight, it felt like I had gotten out early. I'm potentially in the market for a small printer stand or table for my new printer, because it's a bit larger than my old one (it has a scanner built-in.) I wanted to see what Furniture World was offering, because they've been hiring people to stand around Salem for the past month with signs that say "NEGOTIATE" and "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS". I thought it would be worth looking at some tables, but found out that their "INSANE DEALS" weren't even remotely a good value. For instance, one end table that I liked was "discounted" to $150. No thanks, I'll just use the box the printer came in.

Anyways, so as I was heading home down Route 28, I was stopped in the first position at a red light. A guy in a Chrysler 300M pulled up next to me, and had this "I drive a better car than you" look on his face. Actually, I think he mouthed the words at me. I usually let this kind of crap go, because I'm a mature adult (most of the time.) This time however I just couldn't take it. Maybe it was because "Ms. Red" (the woman at Furniture World actually called herself this) wouldn't make a good deal on an end table, or maybe it was because UMass Lowell is going to start charging for parking, but all I knew is that I wanted to win at something.

I pulled the shifter to the left and shoved it backwards. First gear. I shifted my gaze to the left and watched the light for the intersecting street - it turned yellow. I put pressure on the gas and held the engine at two thousand revolutions. A quick peek to the right to see Mr. 300M, and he's gearing up, too. I had lost the element of surprise.. this was going to be tougher now. I checked the light again, yellow fading to red. I ticked off two seconds audibly, and pushed the accelerator down. Green.

I didn't squeal off the line, so I gave it more gas and shoved the stick forwards into second gear. I heard an engine pick up noise, and knew it wasn't mine. I pushed the accelerator the last inch it had to the ground and pounded the gearbox up to third. I flashed my eyes right and saw the 300 surge forward and start to get ahead of me. I checked my speed and watched the needle slide effortlessly past fifty....

And then I backed off. I popped the stick to the right back into "D" and let the accelerator spring back up into neutral.

The 300 roared past me as it lurched into a higher gear (apparently the Chryslers don't shift smoothly - they should work on that.) I leaned back in my seat and just watched him keep going. I counted off ten seconds quietly to myself and watched the car pull out behind him. The display of blue strobe lights was immediately impressive. As I drove by, I waved a polite good-bye. The guy in the 300 didn't notice - he was too busy getting his license and registration ready.

I had just come from this direction and passed by as the officer was setting up shop. I turned on my left blinker and waited for a green arrow. When it finally came, I pulled my gentle and unassuming family sedan across the intersection and headed home.


Don't let me fly your plane.

As most of you are aware, I've been getting pretty into Microsoft Flight Simulator X, which is a pretty cool game except for the the fact that it completely overpowers even beefy computers, of which mine still qualifies, if only barely.

I've been getting bored of the simple formulaic missions I've been rehearsing and playing for the past few months. Generally, they go something like this:

1. Take off from airport A.
2. Fly towards airport B.
a. Land at airport B
3b. Crash, and kill lots of virtual people.

I'm tired of it, because 3b isn't happening as often anymore, and since this game doesn't feature planes with guns, landing is pretty boring. I've even gone so far as to tell the simulator to fail an engine (or two) during flight, and have something catch on fire.. all while leaking oil and fuel. Those instances lead to a lot more 3b scenarios.

Anyways, in an effort to make the game more interesting, I decided to make up a game of sorts. I started at Andrews AFB in Maryland (where Air Force One lives) and flew a helicopter to the White House, landed on the south lawn, picked up the President, flew back to Andrews, changed planes into a 747-400 (similar to Air Force One) and then revved up the engines to head towards Crawford, Texas.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten to change the simulator settings, so about 20 minutes into my flight towards Texas (I had just gotten the beast of a 747 level) I lost engine 2.. and 4. Now, this wasn't a big deal, because 747s have 4 engines, and I still had 50% power, which believe it or not, is enough to stay in the air, so I found a nearby airport on the map and went to turn towards it, except nothing happened.. because I had lost hydraulics. I was still trying to get some backup power when the plane blew up. I always forget the fire.

Anyways, now virtual Dick Cheney is in charge.

Good for him, he's earned it.

Uncle Sam always gets his...

So, I decided to do my taxes today. Now, you may not be aware of this, but I absolutely loathe doing my taxes. I find that it's one of life's great injustices that the government not only takes my money, but makes me do poorly documented, confusing and downright tedious paperwork just so that they can take it. You can argue with me and say that we do these things so that we can get a refund, but I usually owe, so forget you and your logic. I think the least they can do is to figure out what I owe for me. With everything going electronic, they could probably do this pretty easily, you know. After all, both my W2 and my 1099-INT were available online. I also e-filed.

Anyways, I was looking through the 1040A (why they can't call it something friendlier is beyond me) and realized there was a help line 1.800.829.1040 (ha! get their little joke in there?) I actually found this to be very helpful, as I had a question about the deduct-ability of my pension contribution to the MA State Retiree System. I called them, and got someone on the phone that spoke English very well, and lacked any accent whatsoever. I asked if I could deduct that on line 12a.

"Well, no, but you're not likely to get audited, so no one really cares," replied the woman - Linda, I think her name was. Needless to say, I was stunned virtually speechless. I couldn't say anything except mutter a flaccid "excuse me?"

"Well, the difference it will make in your taxes is pretty minute, and our computers won't catch that, because it's not a documented item. It's an unqualified plan, but it probably shouldn't be, so you should be fine."

I think I stammered out a "thank you," but all I really remember is hanging up. I went back to the form and put 0 in line 12a. I finished up my return and wrote a check out to my dear Uncle Sam. Even now, I'm not sure whether I'm more stunned that the IRS has a technical support line, or that the people staffing it are aiding and abetting tax evasion.


Minor flooding

So, I'm sitting in my cube today, and Tony, our resident IT Security expert, who helps me break into other people's offices (a story for another post) hollers over to me and asks if I drive a gold Camry.

Me: "No, I just bought a red one, you know this. I've driven you to lunch in it."

Tony: "Oh, yeah. Well, there's one in the parking lot that's getting pretty flooded."

I walked over to the window behind my cube, and sure enough, there was a ton of water in the parking lot, and it was seemingly rising as we looked at it. The water was up to the midsection of the front tires, and was touching the very bottom of the door.

We looked at it for a while, and just kind of laughed, especially when someone parked further down and got out of their car. What kind of person knowingly parks in a HUGE puddle, and then gets out and steps into it.. with sneakers on?

We were waiting to see if the car would start to wash away (which probably doesn't happen until the water is 3 feet deep or something) so Tony had a bag of popcorn he popped in the microwave and we just kind of sat there and watched it. I should mention that my boss is out for a week, so we really aren't working too hard.

Anyways, so then the police show up (someone must have called them) and start radioing back and forth to headquarters. Eventually, some guy comes out and opens the door, only the find water IN the car. What a bummer for that guy. His reaction was great though, because he totally flipped out on the cop and started yelling that they should have called him sooner. The officer didn't seem impressed and just told him that it wasn't their responsibility.

He was able to drive the car away, but man.. that's going to smell in a few weeks. It probably didn't help his demeanor that his loafers were totally submerged in icy/slushy water.

Well, that was entertaining. I'm going to eat my lunch.

This one's all true...

Okay, so I thought that I might want to start out with some fantastic story about how this came to be, but I decided that just this once, I'll be totally honest on this blog.

During our small Bible study last night, the subject of blogging came up. Don't ask how Jesus and blogging go together - as hard as I try, and I can't make that juxtaposition work. I maintained that my life was too boring to support an actively read blog, and that I'm not intelligent or witty enough to post my musing and observations (read as: temper-tantrum filled rants) online. It was wasn't interesting enough.

Anyways, Ben said something and it tipped me off that there might actually be some merit in creating a blog that was streteched a bit.. or a lot. What if we took our lives as they are, and adapted it for the silver screen? Change whatever parts of the true story you wanted to make it interesting, you know? Hey, most people do this on here anyways, I'm just admitting to it.

So, I suppose that's the point of this blog - to entertain you. There are a a few ground rules. If you're going to read it, please drop me a line now and again. You don't have to do it often, but I'd like to know someone's reading it besides Danielle (my beautiful fiancee who can be found here and here.) Also, parts of each post will actually be true. My goal is to make them moderately believeable here, so I need to have some element of truth. While I expect that you will provide some element of a suspension of disbelief, I'll also try and keep all stories plausible. That is, we won't have aliens coming down to rid the world of the evil sea monsters in here.

So long as we understand each other, I'm proud to present: my completely false, and utterly without merit blog.