A Twist Of Fate
December, 2007 Entries
As seen in Cry, Yuma! Featuring Troy McClure and Huh? The Pothead Monthly Magazine

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(12/31/07 - 11:59 PM)
Almost... almost... almost...

(12/30/07 - 10:34 AM)
Finished changing over all of the websites to be Unix-friendly today (hooray for case-sensitivity! Pfffft) to accomodate the new server. It's looking like next week all of my sites will be live on a new server (except for this one - not sure what's happening there.) I'll keep you posted as to when the new Heath N' Wanda site goes live.

I also sent an e-mail to my Dad's real estate agent with a proposition. What if we allowed him to be a dual-agent? The contract reads that 5% of the comission goes to the selling agent, and 5% goes to the buyer's agent. In this scenario, this means that he would be eligible to receive all 10%. But hey - I'm not that nice. So, I threw him a curve. I said that I would allow him to be my agent, if he would agree to take a 6% total comission. What this means is that:

- My Dad and Step-Mother save 4%
- I get an agent who's at least intimately involved in the transaction, and is now highly motivated not to screw this up
- The agent gets 1% more than he otherwise would, because since he nailed my Dad to the wall, I WILL get another agent as a matter of nothing more than spite.

Hopefully, this guy has at least enough sense to see the positive aspects of this. But I don't hold out alot of hope.

(12/29/07 - 10:23 PM)
Went to Dad's today and helped him install a ceiling fan. The fun part was that he had a plastic box in the existing location, so we had to replace that with a ceiling-fan acceptable box. The really really fun part was that we got to work in a four-inch round hole, with about three inches of clearance space between the 5/8" thick gypsum and the insulation in the vaulted ceiling. I got so much drywall in my eyes, I thought I was seeing snow all over the inside of the house, but it just turned out to be the dust on my retinas.

Dad also gave me some of his old machinist's tools today, which is keen because I can use them at work. Even though my Dad is a pain in the butt at times, it's still nice to know that I'm using something that he used for all those years. There - I'm done waxing nostalgic.

(12/28/07 - 11:42 PM)
After talking with my accountant (do it!), my attorney brother (Dad got hosed!), my insurance agent (no extra fees - it's covered under your homeowner's and umbrella policies - do it!), my real-estate guru boss (you'd be stupid not to do it!), I went to the bank tonight. My bank guy, Ed, said the same thing - do it! Jeez, it's like these people are paying for it, and not me. Here's the rub: I can only get a home-equity loan because it's vacant land. As such, I will be subject to a a whopping 8% interest rate (7 1/2% if I go with a ten year term - and that ain't happening) adjustable every five years in a baloon-style. This makes my monthly payment about $200.00 more than what I would have ideally liked.

Decisions like this can be life-altering, and I want to make sure that my wife doesn't feel too stressed out over our financial situation. I know I will, but I also know that I can rein that in too. I just don't want to burden her unecessarily, so I don't know. She said go for it, but I worry that she's too nice to say no. Still, I have to believe her - she's my wife. She's just too damn keen for my own good sometimes.

(12/27/07 - 11:04 PM)
Found out that my Dad is selling his land in Missouri today, and I was more than a bit shocked. About ten years ago, he had purchased a home site in a subdivision on a point on Table Rock Lake in Missouri. Three years later, he was able to purchase the adjoining lot, and also was among a group of individuals who petitioned the Army Corps of Engineers to allow them to place a boat slip in the lake for water access. Apparently, you can't just chuck a dock into this lake, and the restrictions are pretty rigid. In fact, there are no more docks allowed in the section that he is in now, and many lakes down there have dock permits shut down permanently.

So, the appeal of this property is that it is across the street from the lake and has a boat slip about five houses down the way, complete with canopy, parking lot, light, fish cleaning house with running water, etc. This makes the double-lot that much more appealing when coupled with the boat slip on a closed section of lake. Further (for those of you who don't know) Table Rock lake is akin to a major league fishing lake. In baseball team terms, Candlewick Lake is like the Podunk Harpies while Table Rock is like the New York Mets. Are you starting to see the appeal? I sure did.

So, I talked with my Dad, and learned that his Realtor basically screwed him with a 10% listing for what inevitably equates to 15 months which is absolutely nuts. Oh, and he got them to accept the possibility of dual-agency which is a HUGE no-no. But if you don't know any better, you'd never know that. I just wished that he had called either myself (a former real estate licensee) or my brother (an attorney, familiar with real-estate law.) But, he didn't, and now it is what it is. I also wished that he had checked into his salesperson's background - this is huge. The guy he chose must have simply been manning the phones that day, because compared to his peers in the office, he's a bad joke with no discernable punchline. He was an auto mechanic and then a firefighter, and now he wants to sell homes. Translation? 'I'm totally out of my element, I'm changing careers, and I hope that you'll be my guinea pigs so I can learn something at your expense!' Then he also had this quote in his biography (which was almost enough to make me puke):

"I moved to the area in 1996 from Topeka, KS. I have spent all my years here as a Professional Certified Mechanic and a Volunteer Fire Fighter. I am now looking forward to a much bigger challenge, finding or selling your dream. Whether it be land, home, buying or selling 'Let The Fireman Quench Your Fears of Buying or Selling Your Home or Property on or Around the Table Rock Lake Area'."

This is where I would say "WHAT THE F%*@?!" if I didn't respect Grandma Marilynn so much. As such, you all get symbols. But you get the picture. Jeepers...

So, we're thinking about buying the property as a long-term investment. In the past ten years, the property has increased in value at 12.959% per year, which is a pretty stellar track record. I just wonder what this will cost me and, moreover, what it will do to our lifestyle.

(12/26/07 - 6:55 PM)
Finally, after fretting about work all weekend I was able to go in and do something about it today. And not a moment too soon. Stress is going to make an early corpse of me yet, at this rate.

I recevied my new replacement copy of Jane Rubino's fourth book today, so good news there. Guess what I'm doing in twenty minutes?

Last night, I finished Richard Matheson's short but memorable work, "I Am Legend". You may be aware that this is now a major motion picture (in theaters everywhere!) starring Will Smith. You may not be aware that this book was originally published in 1954, and has seen the big screen twice before: "The Last Man On Earth" starring Vincent Price and "The Omega Man" starring Charleton Heston. 'Oh, those movies', you say. Indeed, the very same.

This book is short; really short. Yet in a mere one-hundred and fifty-one pages it manages to pack in alot of introspection. While not an entirely modern read, it must have been sensational in its time. Certainly, even in this day and age, it was interesting.

For those of you out of the loop, the book centers around the entire population of the Earth either dying, or becoming vampirical. All but one man, that is. His is a lonely and emotionally plagued existance, and we take the seat in third-person omniscient (now with no height restrictions!) to watch him as we might an exotic aquarium fish.

The book was good, and I can recommend it for two reasons: It wasn't overly long, and it was a fairly unique story.

If you enjoyed this book, you might also enjoy:
"Waiting" by Frank Robinson
"To Your Scattered Bodies Go" by Phillip Jose Farmer

(12/25/07 - 10:53 AM)
Greetings, all! Plinky the House Elf here. Once more, benevolent Master Heath has left me without thought to toil in his absence on a project that no one cares a whit about. I feel obligated this time, however, as the repair of his compu-whoozit was apparently quite costly. Apparently water is not good for a computing machine. How is anyone supposed to remember all of these things? 'Don't eat pine needles'; 'Big boys don't pee in their underwear'; 'Never vote for a Clinton'; 'Stop looking in my window, you perverted little... whatever you are'. I mean - is there a manual somewhere that I missed? Because I'll read it. Just point me in a direction.

At any rate, Master Heath is once more preparing his shocking visage for a trip abroad into the real world. I'm certain that he will, as always, stuff his already ample frame with 40+ percent more Christmas cheer than is good for even the most health-unconscious pregnant female grizzly bear preparing for hibernation after a lean year. Then he'll come tottering home like a bloated meat-sack, park his ass on the couch, and break wind until he passes out in a pie and cheese induced haze. And stop breaking wind at this point, if we're all lucky. Thus far, we have not been.

Perhaps then he'll remember that he forgot to give me a present of any sort, and show deep concern and contrition as he hands me something well thought out and truly reflective of my deserving.

Or - more likely - a pack of crazed hyenas will attack from the North wearing Power Rangers regalia. Either way, I would be ever so happy.

So here I sit, typing this message to no one. Taking care of a cat that uses me alternately as a toy for his amusement and a sexual object - ostensibly for his amusement as well, I suppose. Oh, look! Here's the little guy now. Hello, Cheyenne. Did Master Heath remember to give you your present this morning? Eh? What... what are you doing? Don't look at me like that. No, stop! Oh, the halitosis! Ow! Stop it you heathen beast! I AM NOT A TOY! DID YOU HEAR ME! I AM NOT A... Stopppppppppppppppppppppppppppwegjjgk se bhsrtdfbnhftdftdftdftdftdftdftdftd bnhrtgrwioty64390yrghvbfm';mr

(12/24/07 - 11:12 PM)
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house... yadda, yadda, yadda. Got royally spanked playing "Balderdash" at Mom's tonight with Wanda, my brother and his wife. My wife made up something about raccoons that about made me pee myself, and we all learned the true meaning of Christmas is located somewhere near the furculinium. Probably.

(12/23/07 - 5:10 PM)
James Magnuson's book, "Windfall" poses a surprisingly simple question: What would you do if you found seven million dollars? And what would you do to keep it?

In the footprints of Poe's "The Telltale Heart" and Hemingway's "The Old Man And The Sea" and " The Pearl" comes a story about a simple man, with an average family, on the verge of constant financial ruin in light of day to day events.

The tale surrounds a professor, and his spiral into the darker depths of the human spirit in his vain attempt to keep what is not rightfully his. As the story progresses we see him dissemble not only himself, but his small circle of friends and family as well.

On the whole, this was a well written book. It poses fundamental questions about our instincts versus our better judgement, but is a bit too dark in places. There were a couple of times where I found that I simply could not read anymore; my empathy too strong with this poor soul as I myself wondered what it must be like to experience the mental strains that he was.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychology, or to anyone who enjoyed the aforementioned books by Poe and Hemingway. If you're seeking a lighthearted afternoon read, then this is probably not a book for you. If you're seeking something different that focuses on what it means to be truly human, then knock yourself out.

(12/23/07 - 09:18 AM)
Let's talk about boogers. I never went to college in any serious sense of the term, but I had always imagined writing a doctoral thesis on my theory about boogers. Okay that's not entirely true but it sounds alot better than saying, 'I was deeply contemplating nasal mucous deposits in my spare time', doesn't it?

Specifically, it seems that a ubiquitous trait amongst children is to pick their noses. Presumably, this is due to a glaring lack of instilled manners, or perhaps the generally agreed upon shortage of facial tissue or the like in their general vicinity, coupled with their desire to not stop whatever it is they're doing.

But what if it's something more than that? Even adults (yes you do, so don't deny it) still do this. I once had a boss who did it with aplomb, apparently unaware that others around him: A.) Had eyes; B.) Could see his hands because they were not invisible. My hypothesis is this: What if this action is something that is programmed into our brains for a reason? Specifically, people were not created with a facial tissue dispenser in their hip. More specifically though, what if it were the body's way of taking in minor impurities intentionally to thereby build immunity to said airborne impurities within the body? To me, this makes alot of sense. I have yet to see a child who does not eat his own - well, you know - without a second thought.

Harvard Medical Journal, here I come!

(12/22/07 - 11:18 PM)
A couple hours at work today turned into five. Then Wanda and I went out for dinner in the fog.

(12/21/07 - 11:13 PM)
I was verbally destroyed by a customer today. A customer who either forgets everything we tell her, or is just out and out lying to me. Either way, she called me to let me know how pissed she was that she had not gotten her parts on time. I let her know that, while we were certainly not excusing it, we did lose almost FIVE days due to engineering errors on the prints - one on the dimensions (pretty important) and one on the heat treating process (the engineer asked for something in a combination that not only doesn't exist, but cannot be done.)

She let me know that even with that aside, it was still my fault. That I clearly did not know my own business. That she did not get a good feeling from talking to me, as she felt that she was being lied to, and we were only making excuses. I once again let her know that yes, the components were late, but that I was also stating the reasons so that she could understand. Why was I saying this? Because to open the conversation up, she said that it seemed to her that we had "just given up on her parts, and stopped working on them." I asked the obvious question: What made her say that? She replied that our Expediter had let her know that he did not intend to deliver the components next week. I said that this made sense, as we had been told that no one would be in their facility over the holidays. I was also thinking that unless the building was some kind of heretofore unknown Transformer-esque being, that there was no point in delivering to a vacant building as opposed to a person. She retorted that she had just told my Expediter that there would be someone in the building, because they were so far behind schedule. And here comes a funny part - she then re-iterated that even though engineering had cost us five unecessary days, that we had proved that we still did not know our business, because "If you're running deadlines that close, you're not doing a good job." Oh, the irony! (If you missed it, read those last two sentences again.)

Now the schpiel began about how their company had a "Do not quote with" black list, and how we really did not want to find ourselves on it; but we were dangerously close to being there, as we had clearly shown a blatant lack of desire to deliver parts on time. I politely retorted that I hoped our record thus far would stand on its own - 100% on-time and 100% quality to date. No late parts, no rejects. She said no, that didn't matter - this was now, and clearly we were showing how inflexible we could be. Inflexible? Really?

"Hello, pot - heeeeeeeeey! How'ya doing? Remember me? Yeah, that's right - the kettle! How you been, baby?"

Then, she mumbled - alot - about how dishonest we were, and about how she had only called to "get a good feeling", but now had an even worse feeling as I (reading between the lines here) was less competent than even my inferiors within the corporation.

Then she hung up on me.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can be articulate to a fault in a pinch; that diplomacy is something I can turn on and off with a blink. And baby, I had it going full blast. But when you're in your own little fantasy world, apparently it has no effect on you. This woman was like my Kryptonite.

Merry Christmas!

(12/20/07 - 09:47 PM)
I finally got to see the Simpson's movie tonight. It was a nice way to end an emotionally devestating day. Plus, I got to see Bart's lil' yellow doodle, and Homer flipping a double bird. What's not to love?

(12/19/07 - 11:32 PM)
Thorazine, it turns out, is not a periodical devoted to the life and times of the Norse God of thunder - who knew? Although, I did figure the "Sexiest Bachelor" issue could prove a bit socially awkward.

(12/18/07 - 11:17 PM)
I found out that Jane Rubino had a fifth book, that was in the works when her publishing company went bankrupt. This was bad for alot of obvious reasons, but mostly because it's almost impossible to get a publisher to pick up a series in mid-stream (it ended up being self-published, and is still available as an on-demand publication.) I know this is true in this case, because Jane herself told me. On a whim, I e-mailed her to see about getting a signed hardcover, and unbelievably, she not only e-mailed me back, but she offered to send me one for free (a generous offer, which I declined - I wanted to pay for the book.)

How cool is this lady?

(12/17/07 - 07:22 PM)
I am now officially cranky. I finished a book last night, in the hopes of receiving the next one in the series today. I received the next one today, but there was just a slight problem with what I received, versus what I ordered. Specifically, the spine was detached from the rest of the book. That's a pretty big something, wouldn't you agree?

So instead of reading Jane Rubino's fourth book (as I really looked forward to tonight), I am in the midst of returning it while simultaneously attempting to find another copy in the condition that I had actually expected. There is exactly one available in ABE Books-land, but it's twice as expensive as the one I received today. It's a good thing that I like her.

And that dear readers, is why I am cranky.

(12/16/07 - 08:33 PM)
I finished Jane Rubino's third book, "Cheat The Devil" and once more Ms. Rubino does not disappoint. How in the world this woman is not a household name is beyond my ability to fathom. Once more her writing remains fluid to the point of being seamless, never dull, and pleasurable to read.

This book centers on a series of murders that occur within the Catholic Parish of St. Agnes: A parish on the decline. Cat is confronted with several former call girls who have returned to the fold of Catholicism after their life-errant, only to be found dead in a manner that is both disturbing and unique in its complexities.

Cat follows the obivous, the not so obivous and - let's face it - often accidental leads to somewhere all too close too home. Her relationship with Victor Cardenas is jeopardized by speculation, and it is up to the two of them to overcome both the situation - and themselves - before it divides them permanently.

I have to say, I had my suspicions about the culprit, but they did change periodically through the book as more red herrings were tossed out than in the alternate endings to the movie Clue. This is a good thing (as was the movie, Clue, for that matter.)

I recommend this book, and the others once more, to anyone who appreciates the Stephanie Plum series by Evanovich, or to anyone who simply enjoys a well-plotted mystery from a different point of view.

My only disappointment? I ordered her fourth book, "Plot Twist" over a week ago, and it still has not arrived. That, and that I cannot thus far locate a signed copy of her fifth book to round out the series. This issue in particular I am working on with all due diligence, however.

(12/16/07 - 10:32 AM)
How do you solve an unsolvable problem? I have one. I was approached to do a web site for the daughter of a guy whose site I had done some time ago. I got a feel for what was required, and then laid out what I could and could not do in no uncertain terms, even trying to steer this individual another way if that's what it took. Anymore, I don't do websites because time just isn't there to give them the attention they deserve, and after the last one, I promised myself I was done. Plus, I don't need the money it brings - I'd rather have the scarce free time. But this sounded straightforward enough when I was done, and as a favor to her Dad, I said I'd do it.

The problem is, as time goes on, I don't think she's getting what she wants. What I mean is, already I've been asked about a CGI/PERL application, graphic arts, and constant updates - all of which I tried to make clear I do not do. I can do them, but I am also certain that it would not be done as efficiently as possible, and not in the timeframes desired - and certainly not in the cost structure proposed. The last thing I need right now is to be tethered to a web site. With other commitments it's just not feasable.

So, I want to give her something she is happy with - and cost is a definite factor - but I don't think this is going to happen, nor end well. What do I do? >SIGH<

(12/15/07 - 11:17 PM)
Hosted Christmas with Wanda's family today. On the whole, it was a busy day. I got up early, got alot of stuff ready (and then Wanda took over because I had to shovel, take the drop to the Salvation Army, go buy a new shovel for the one that broke while I was shoveling, clear off the truck so my brother could come and borrow it [which was interesting, because I hadn't touched it since August, and there was about four inches of snow and - mostly - ice encasing the poor thing]) and do some other things. Without Wanda, no one would have eaten because everything took twice as long as I thought it would.

(12/14/07 - 11:21 PM)
Getting ready to host Christmas tomorrow.

(12/13/07 - 10:48 PM)
My grinder told me a story today. He had hear it on the radio. It went something like this:

Somewhere in Massachusets, a man was selling Christmas trees in a lot on the side of the road. Someone was offended that he was selling Christmas trees, and not more religion-neutral Holiday trees. The tree seller would not relent, and so apparently a lawsuit was proposed. The media got wind of this, and the tree seller, not wanting the trouble of a lawsuit, decided to comply with public opinion and sell Holiday trees. He divided his stock the next day, placing about one half of the stock on either side of the lot, segregated by an opening. On one side, he placed a sign that read, "Christmas Trees - $50.00" (or some such price.) On the opposing side, he placed a second sign that read, "Holiday Trees - $100.00". It wasn't long before a pattern emerged. In the aftermath of the events, the media interviewed the man. He said, "I'm kind of surprised. The Christmas trees are moving really well, but I haven't sold a single Holiday tree."

I don't even care if this story is true, it's funny while also being a sad testement to the situation of the legal profession today (no offense to my brother or wife, who get fed and clothed by said profession.) I just find it ironic how much power the criminal element posesses in today's legal system, and also how nuisance lawsuits seem to bestow undue power into the waiting hands of those all too willing to exploit it for personal gain rather than using it as a tool for justice as it was originally intended.

We are soooo doomed.

(12/12/07 - 08:58 PM)
I'm sitting in my office tonight, and working on a quote that would be alot easier if the engineer of the components didn't have such a God complex, when behind me I hear a rip-roarin', throat-clearin' jamboree. And there he was. Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

Without so much as a hello, he bellowed in an irritated tone, "When you gonna get the toilet fixed?"

Friends, I had no clue what he was talking about. So, I said, "I have no clue what you're talking about." See how clever and inventive I can be during sitiations of extreme duress?

"The toilet in the back," he replied, clearly annoyed at my lack of intimate knowledge of all things porcelain. "It's broke - hell you can see the crack goin' clear up the front. It's been cracked, and leaking, but now it's really cracked, and leaking all over the place." Then he went on to explain to me in exquisite detail about how a toilet mounts to the floor, and how making sure the screws are not too tight, but not too loose either, is really a lost art now posessed by arcane priests who make ritualistic blood sacrifices, and Martha Stewart.

I let him know that I was, heretofore, unaware of any waste-disposal cataclysms. But that, he could rest assured this evening, that I would contact our plumber immediately and get it rectified. Further, I would put a happy little sign on the door to let errant urinators and all individuals desiring to launch a mookie-log know that this throne was verboten. I thanked him for his bringing the issue to my attention, and this seemed to placate him enough for him to at the very least return back from whence he came.

Why does this man feel that everything is a personal affront to him? And, moreover, why does he seem to decide that I am somehow personally responsible for the lack of usable bodily waste disposal areas?

(12/11/07 - 11:07 PM)
After being dumbfounded by Jane Rubino's second novel, "Fruitcake", I sought out her other titles (three, in all), ordered them, and they began arriving on Saturday.

"Death of a DJ" was her first book, and so I began there. This book hits the ground running with a device that I don't often see - a solidly built backstory that is supposed to feel seamless to the reader, as though they had been reading about the main character, Cat Austen, for years. And I'll be damned if she doesn't pull it off without a single wasted word.

The book opens with the interview of a shock jock, a bizarre concept, and the subsequent murder of said shock jock. I won't regale you with a basis for plot - the aforementioned is pretty much it, in a nutshell. What I can say is, this mystery was a bit too transparent for my tastes. The mystery bit aside, this is still a strong first offering from a writer - the plot is tight, the characters have depth and fell like people you know, and the book flows and is well written.

I'm actually quite looking forward to reading her other two books, beginning tomorrow. Once more I want to stress that if you want to support a truly underappreciated author, purchase Rubino's books - you will not be disappointed. Or any poorer, for that matter. For the price of a paperback (plus shipping) you can own a signed hardcover with a limited print run at less than half the cover price. How cool is that?

(12/10/07 - 11:43 PM)
It took four days to read, but I finally finished Richard K. Morgan's most recent work, "Thirteen". I have to say, Morgan is the sort of author who you think you have pegged, only to have him surprise you with his next offering. To be more specific, I loved his first book, "Altered Carbon"; his second book, "Broken Angels" was so-so; "Market Forces", while imaginative and well received, just wasn't for me; "Woken Furies" finally felt like a well-plotted continuation of his first two novels - and now, "Thirteen".

Mr. Morgan, I applaud you. This book, while a bit lengthy, never seemed to lack anything; never stopped flowing. The story was tight, the premise was interesting, and the characters were interesting as well.

Carl Marsalis is a genetically modified human being. Specfically he (and those like him) have been genetically regressed to posess all of the long since extinct volatility and capacity that humanity once posessed in its hunter-gatherer phase some twenty-thousand years ago. It wasn't such a hot idea, it turns out.

Now "Thirteens", such as he and others like him are dubbed, are shunned like pariahas and feared like demons. Maraslis in particular is a hunter of those like him. After completing a mission with extreme prejudice, he gets himself tangled up with a factionalized legal state of the former U.S. that isn't too keen on anything that isn't Jesus, and is thrown - indefinately - into prison.

Enter COLIN agents Tom Norton and Sevge Ertekin. They pop him from prison like it's an everyday thing for a mission that even Marsalis is wont to comprehend: A thirteen is on the loose - and he's crazy, pissed, and killing what seem to be random people.

Marsalis elects to assist in return for his freedom, and the web of deceit, intrigue and plot go very deep into the storyline.

This, I feel, is Morgan finally hitting his stride. Yes, he's been inventive before - very much so. Yes, he's written critically-acclaimed books before. But this book finally feels like a total package worth noticing, and I highly recommend it.

If you like this book, you might also like:
"Beggars In Spain" by Nancy Kress
"Neuromancer" by William Gibson

(12/09/07 - 10:18 AM)
Today, is a monumental day. A day that shall ring throughout the ages as both significant, and pointless. Today friends, I unveil a blog first - a sub-site devoted to one single string of storyline over the months that this blog has been in operation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, RuPaul & George O'Dowd - I proudly present, The Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles. Now, whenever your little heart desires you can access the entire thread by clicking on the link that I will be installing at the bottom of each and every monthly page, as well as the master blog page. You can re-live your favorite moments of advice, mischief and general disarray. I hope you will enjoy reading it a hell of a lot more than I enjoyed living it. When (not if) new stories arise, they will be summarily added to tickle your fancy, or your itchy trigger finger.

Enjoy, dear readers. Bask, and enjoy.

The Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles

(12/08/07 - 11:32 PM)
We had our company Christmas Party (yes - we still call it a Christmas Party, not a "Holiday Party") tonight at a restaurant that's about two minutes from our home, is always packed, and where we had never eaten before. Which, in hindsight, was too bad because everything was better than good there.

We had two large tables set aside for our group, but amazingly all but three employees showed up, and so we usurped a couple of outlying booths directly next to the tables reserved for us. As the latecomers trickled in - the bosses son, our Expediter and his girlfriend who had come directly from his seventy-two year old grandmother's wedding (you go, girl!) took one booth. The second booth was occupied by our cleaning girl, the sixteen-year old daughter of one of our part time employees, and cousin to our Shipping/Receiving Manager. She had brought her boyfriend (who I had never met, and seemed very nice) and they sat down.

I felt a chill go up my spine, looked up, and there he was, like a geriatric ninja - Mr. Phillips Screwdriver himself, with Mrs. Phillips Screwdriver in tow. Oh, no! I thought. Our cleaning girl, who has never spoken to this guy is going to get stuck sitting with him. This will not be good.

Sure enough, he chose the only open option, and he and the missus seated themselves on the outside of what I now liked to think of as the booth of doom. The kids were trapped, and for the next two hours would be regaled with overzealous, Grandpa-Simpson-esque stories that went nowhere. "Now, the important thing to remember was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the stlye at the time. We were looking for turkey; or, as they were called in my day - a 'walking bird'..."

Sure enough, in no time at all I looked over, and Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was clearly empassioned and regaling her with some story or another. As he did so, he invaded her personal space, all the while ignoring the huge-eyed look she was telegraphing as she shrunk into what remained of the space between her and the wall. This did not deter, however. Oh, no - not in the least.

How she managed to survive two full hours of this was beyond me. I'm sure psychotherapy cannot be far behind.

(12/07/07 - 10:12 PM)
I took the afternoon off work and went to my wife's Christmas Party. The restaurant was one I had never heard of, in a location that seemed tough to make any money in. Surprisingly, it was very nice, and the food was very good.

Unfortunately, Wanda has only been at this job for four weeks, and the staff is quite large. This led to alot of quite moments as islands of individuals around us told old stories, or just talked in general. I ended up sitting next to one of the partners, and one seat over from the principal in the business, who it turns out my mother and uncle remember as "little Jimmy", having grown up very near him. At the very least, we had this to discuss.

I like to think I am a fairly good - and quick - judge of people, and character. I'm not always correct, but you can danm near set your watch to me, nevertheless. This guy was good people. Great people, actually. I had always hoped that Wanda would find a niche for herself in a company that was not merely good - but great. And with this fellow, I think she may have just found it. I was so pleased to meet he and his wife, as well as most of her co-workers. I feel much more comfortable now, knowing she's in good hands.

I also took several opportunities to tell these people who still barely knew my wife all of the things that she had apparently neglected to mention. Specifically, that she got a ton of headhunter calls (this raised all the right eyebrows), and that she had been in management before (this interested one of the associate attorneys a great deal.) I figured, these people need to know exactly who they're dealing with, so they can do all the right things to keep her - unlike her previous two employers. And, unlike her two previous employers as well, I am confident that these individuals are equipped to properly handle greatness in an employee, such as my wife posesses. Which is probably why I also responded to one statement about her abilities by one of the associates by saying, "She's a dynamo - and you need never to hesitate to tap that ability to witness its full potential."

I thought that was pretty good.

(12/06/07 - 11:47 PM)
I got word today that the fellow who hosts my web sites - all six of them - is going to close up shop at the end of the year. Which means I now get the thrill of moving a bunch of web sites to a new provider who I don't know. It also means that my free blog site goes bye-bye at the end of the month. This, I could not let stand. So, today, I registered the new home of this page - www.heathnwanda.com will be the new, active home of this site as of January 1st, 2008. I hope to have the new site, and this one, running in tandem for testing by the fourth week of December. I'll keep you posted. The upside in all of this is that we'll finally be official, and it will be easier to let everyone who asks know where to find us, as opposed to trying to explain the whole infiniteeyes sub-site thing.

(12/05/07 - 11:47 PM)
Wow! This is amazing! Everyone says so! See for yourself!

Click Here

(12/04/07 - 10:41 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver came up to me last night, asking me to talk to the day shift operator on his machine. It turns out that while their shifts used to overlap, inexplicably the day shift operator began coming in an hour earlier, and leaving an hour before Mr. Phillips Screwdriver comes in. Who knows why stuff like this happens?

Anyway, he asks me to talk with the day shift operator, because, "Every time I have a brand-new endmill in a holder, I come back in the next day, and it's gone. I can't find it anywhere, and I think he's maybe putting them in his toolbox and locking them up, which does me no good."

He also took this opportunity to mention that no matter how many notes he left for the day shift operator, they were always ignored. Now, let's take this and run with it, shall we? Because not only has Mr. Phillips Screwdriver taken things off of the shelf with OTHER PEOPLE'S NAMES ON THEM TO RUN (i.e. - I specify a certain operator for a job, which makes it hands-off to anyone else via a large sticky note), he's then proceeded to puzzle over them (because he doesn't have the critical information that the specified individual has about that certain component, which is why IT HAD THEIR NAME ON IT in the first place), but the very next evening he came into my office asking all sorts of questions that I happened to know the answers to which were clearly outlined on a note left by the day shift operator ON TOP of the job. I know this, because I had seen the note not thirty minutes earlier, prior to his arrival. But, I digress.

As to the matter of the missing endmills, I told him I would look into it. Today, I looked into it. The day shift guy said, "I'm not certain what he means, but I know that I'm not taking them. Has he checked here on the shelf, or under this rack?"

I said that I didn't know, but that I would convey the answer. I did so, and he said (and I swear I'm not making this up), "Oh, well yeah, they're probably here on the shelf." What absolutely destroyed what little remainder of my soul that I still posessed was that he said this in a manner that - honest to God - indicated that I was the accusing party, and that this answer was as clear as day, if only I were capable enough to have come up with it on my own.

I never thought someone could be so blatantly condescending while solving their own problems. Apparently, it's possible.

(12/03/07 - 09:37 PM)
Once in a great while, I find a book at Half-Price Books that I pick up on a whim to broaden my horizons. Usually, they're crap. On rare occasion I find a gem (like Eric J. Fullilove's "Blowback" published under the Amistad imprint.)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the sort of book that risks are taken for. In this case, the book I found was exceptionally well crafted - physically. It was published by Write-Way - a publishing house that I had never heard of. It was inscribed and flatsigned and it was five bucks. I figured, what the heck. The author was Jane Rubino, and the book was called "Fruitcake". Part of the appeal (beyond what I have just mentioned) was that it was a mystery set around Christmas, where one now far-less-than jolly Kris Kringle finds his dead torso stuck halfway in an elevator. This mystery was well written, well cast with interesting characters, and funny at odd moments. Interestingly, it read very much like an Evanovich Stephanie Plum novel. The difference being that the characters were fresh and seemed to have more depth.

Cat Austen is a small-time reporter trying to raise her two kids after her former husband was killed in the line of duty. Half of her family - and her current lukewarm man-friend - are also cops. Cat is writing a story about a local revitalization project (read - Casino in a poverty stricken neighborhood owned by a Donald Trump-esque guy who once was a king amongst moguls, but is fast approaching peasanthood) when she stumbles on a stiff in a Santa suit in the parking garage elevator, deader than Paris Hilton's career.

She follows events to their beginnings, parallel to her "male companion" (they're not to the boyfriend/girlfriend stage just yet - he's a widower and she's a widow, and it's too soon for them both) on the police force, and together they parse out different portions of the mystery on different timelines.

In the end, things aren't as we are led to surmise, and this I feel is a key point in what makes a truly great mystery writer. I can't believe that such a small publishing house, with such a small print run on a book such as this, could get ahold of such a gem. But there it was - and for five bucks, you can't beat an extremely well made, mint condition, signed and inscribed first edition, first printing of a short print run book. I hope to heck this woman gets her work out there in the mainstream in the near term. After four books with the same publishing house, I don't hold out much hope. But to a book collector such as myself, the tactility and the jacket art alone were enough to sell me on this title.

I recommend it highly (especially with its Christmas-y undertones at this time of year), and fervently hope that I can be the catalyst for even one single person discovering what I hope to find is a great - and consistent author (I ordered her other three books last night, signed and in perfect condition, first edition, first printing. Total cost: $41.00 for the lot - a damn shame that I hope to help rectify.)

Like mysteries? Like Evanovich? Find this book. Read this book. I promise that it's worth it.

(12/02/07 - 11:48 AM)
I'm trying to figure out how to use emulator software for old video games. Clearly, I'm not young enough to comprehend the proper usage of these digital tools. If anyone out there in blog-land has any idea how to make any of the following go, I would appreciate knowing:

  • NES
  • SNES
  • N64
  • GameCube
  • PS1
  • PS2
  • NeoGeo

Help! I'm too old, and I don't understand these new-fangled things. Now, where's my sundial and buggy whip? I'm taking the whiffletree in for repairs on my wagonette and need to get a move on!

Hillbilly Deluxe Christmas Lights

My wife just walked in with her iPod. She often plays a highly addictive game on it called "Zuma", and has just finished a high level. Below is precisely what appeared on the screen:

"Perhaps you were sent to release me from my wicked capture person finally. But no namely this was the story of the exactly old wive. You want to live. Now retreat! Ribbit."

I haven't seen anything this funny since:

Zero Wing's - "All your base are belong to us!"
-- OR --
Goonies II's - "Ouch! What do you do?"

(12/01/07 - 4:17 PM)
Went back to Mom's today. Put up her new ceiling fan, bathroom lights, vanity lights, towel bars & toilet paper holders. Got her fireplace grate disconnected and changed a phone jack in a mere five hours. The house is finally looking more and more like a house, but her monochromatic choice in nearly everything puts me off to the point of physical discomfort almost every time I walk in the door. I hesitate to call it depressing, but to me it almost is. I'm glad she's happy, but I still want to sneak in and paint at least one room flambeau orange or something equally attention getting just so my senses have something to latch onto.

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