A Twist Of Fate
January, 2009 Entries
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- My co-worker, Tyler

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(01/31/09 - 11:22 PM)
Went to my brother's house in Sycamore today to hang out for his wife's birthday (Happy Birthday again, Kathy!)

The house is coming together nicely, and the cat seems to have settled in nicely as well. We finally got to see her just as we were leaving (apparently she's shy), but she seemed perfectly content at the very least.

We didn't stay as long as we would have liked because my wife and I both were extremely tired, and not feeling 100% to begin with. Couple that with worrying that my Mom may very well end up in a commune in Iowa as likely as she may equally find her way back home, and we decided to call it an early night.

(01/29/09 - 11:23 PM)
My Boss and I had a meeting with one of our second-tier customers this week. The meeting included Managing Buyers from all five plants in North America. We were raked over the coals, being told how we barely measured up against our competition. That, in fact, there were twelve total companies in our category and that we were all pretty much equal, with the exception of our super-high pricing.

Really? I asked if these other twelve companies had 100% on-time delivery and 100% perfect quality on a quarter-million dollars of product each year.

According to the response I received, they do: "Pretty much, yes."

Now I was pissed, because I know for a fact that I'm being fed a line of bullshit. The reason? These fellas in ties (only one of which I had ever met - or had any dealings with - in the past eight years that we had done business with their company) were trying to scare me into dropping my prices.

So, I started asking questions about specifics. And they evaded - often obviously - each and every one with non-answer answers.

Here's how I know that they're lying to me: Our main buyer comes to us when he needs something in a hurry - and right - direct shipped to his customer. He's said - time and time again - that he calls us because he knows we're the guys to go to in situations such as this because he is guaranteed to get precisely what he asks for without a second thought.

And this is true.

He has further said - on many occasions - that he tried to give us first dibs on everything, because we're a hassle-free operation.

His colleagues - when they have an emergency - call us. And we've been enlisted to fix components that were shipped into them from other shops that weren't to print specifications. And alot of these were components whose aesthetics we would be ashamed to show to the outside world, let alone ship to a customer.

But wait - there's more! Over the last year, we began hearing from a Canadian buyer, an Atlanta buyer, and a buyer in yet another facility. I only mention this because the main guy in the tie in the meeting was saying that we were being prevented some avenues of commerce with their other divisions due to our high pricing.

I couldn't help but call him on it, so I asked if so-and-so in Canada, and so-and-so in Atlanta, and so-and-so in the other facility - as well as one of their outside project managers who always comes to us for his fixturing, might be who he was talking about.

The look on his face was beautiful.

Because, I went on, we've been doing progressively more business with these individuals over the last twelve months. A good deal, actually.

In the end, the one guy who knew me understood that I comprehended the game that was being played - especially by one fellow I had never met before who seemed to know alot about nothing, and didn't mind sharing his expertise on why we sucked - said that it wasn't as bad as his colleagues had made out, and not to take it personally.

I was brutally honest, "I take it very personally. I know for a fact that we return quotations either immediately or usually within a matter of hours. I know for a fact that other vendors take DAYS. I know for a fact that we're a go-to company in matters of great importance, because your buyers have told me so. I know we have a perfect delivery record, and a perfect quality record. I know how hard that is to do. I know who our competition is, and I know for a fact that at least two of them do not, in fact, offer that level of service. I also am responsible for keeping twenty individuals employed.

So, yes - I do take it personally - when I am told that we are a study in the average, who are overpriced and on the precipice of losing your business. I take it very personally."

I was nothing but vitriol for the next hour or so, and then I just stopped caring. There was nothing I could do about it. If the suits don't like us on paper, then they don't like us on paper. But they cannot negate the facts - no matter how much they want to. We're a company dedicated to quality and timeliness. We're not the cheapest. The reason is that cheaper isn't always better. If that were the case then we'd all be receiving surgery from any schmo and driving Yugo's. But we don't, because there's something to be said for quality and service; for open and consistant communication; for timeliness that's second to none, and speed and efficiency that would make your head spin; for economy of time and motion - and on and on.

No, what these guys were doing was kicking a proven work-horse square in the testicles and asking why he smelled so bad. Sure, it's an issue, but apparently they were choosing price as the issue.

I could agree with this mindset, if everything were equal - as they claimed it to be - across a vendor base of twelve. But I know that - no matter how much they want to say that it's true; that we're only average or less in comparison to our competition on every issue but pricing - it's simply not the case.

(01/28/09 - 11:36 PM)
Today is my Dad's birthday. What's funny is that, for some reason, my calendar at work popped up and let me know that his birthday was on the 26th. My gut told me something was off about that but - hey - the computer is smarter than me.

So, I called him. And he thanked me for calling two days early.

Dammit. I'm TERRIBLE with dates. Figs and prunes I'm okay with... but not dates.

So, today, I had literally just made it into my office after a morning on the work floor doing all the other things I do, when I am informed that my Father is on the line.

I pick up the phone, and he wishes himself a happy birthday. He's being a smart-ass, but I still feel bad.

"Dammit, Dad. I just sat down in my office and was about to call you."

Which was actually one-hundred percent true. He laughed about it, and said he was just giving me a hard time, but I still felt bad.

(01/27/09 - 11:03 PM)
Heath's farmer joke (It may or may not have made it into the blog before - I'm too lazy to look, and this one's has been in my head for a while now - years, in fact. So if it's in here already, just learn to cope. Join a support group - whatever it is you do to avoid a killing spree.)

A cotton farmer is having serious problems with insects attacking his crop. Finally, he breaks down and brings in a bona-fide agronomist to assess the situation.

At the end of the afternoon, the agronomist reports his findings.

"Welp, Mr. Jackson," he says, "you have a serious problem here. You seem to have a great many Goliath Weevils eating your bolls of cotton. The worse news is that you also have a minor infestation of Pico Weevils.

We can treat one or the other, but - currently - no pesticides exist to exterminate both in one application. I recommend that we eliminate the Goliaths first, as they're the predominant problem here. The Pico Weevils are just beginning to get a foothold, so we can treat them in a week or so."

"Welp," says the farmer, "I appreciate your opinion, but I think we should do the Pico Weevils first. That makes the most sense to me."

Dumbfounded, the agronomist asks how he came to this conclusion.

"Welp," replied the farmer, "Before my Daddy died, God rest his soul, he told me something that I never understood until now. He said, 'Son. Always choose the lesser or two weevils.' "

(01/26/09 - 11:21 PM)
It's my sister-in-law's birthday - again! Didn't she just have one of these like, a year ago?

At any rate, Happy Birthday Kathy!

(01/25/09 - 10:32 AM)
Amazon.com has a neat little customer service gadget that allows you to put in your phone number, click a button and be connected immediately to a customer service representative who calls you. This is amazing! Twenty-four/seven this thing works!

Oh, but there is a downside... the woman on the other end, while well meaning, was halfway across the world. How could I tell? The line was scratchy, and her words were notably unaccentuated due to signal loss. Plus, she had a massive Indian accent, and didn't understand the difference between "Hang on for one moment" and "Go on right now as I'm trying to parse out what you just said."

Still, it's cool - and my problem did get solved.

(01/24/09 - 11:23 PM)
Finally got the last circuit of outlets in the basement integrated into the breaker box today. I bugged my Dad to come over and supervise while I did it, to make sure I didn't do anything stupid (I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing, but I wanted to be sure - I'd never installed a new breaker.)

It turns out it's not too bad, if you're careful. I would have asked Gary (my Father-in-law and electrical Yoda) for help, but I figured that he'd helped enough, and it was time for my Dad to take one for the team. Plus, my Dad lives all of three minutes away, he's retired, and he needs to come see me more often.

And I think he likes feeling needed, too.

(01/23/09 - 11:36 PM)

Take my advice...

"Or you could hit him with a banjo. I saw a guy get hit with a banjo once, and he stayed down."

                - Don Stark (That 70's Show)

(01/22/09 - 10:14 PM)
This economy is causing all sorts of strange occurances. Competitors are coming to us for work (as I've mentioned before), one of our largest competitors has now eliminated their entire second shift as well.

I've got guys who are chomping at the bit to work, but we can't fulfill their desires for weeks longer than forty hours. Plus, I've even got two highly-capable part-timers who I can't bring in. For the last five years, I've been trying to find more manpower, and now the situation is reversed. What gives?

Orders are almost non-existant or, worse, are being cancelled or moved out months at a pop.

When will this end? I've got customers of customers going out of business; I've got my own customers going out of business, and all I want to do is work more than 45 hours per week. Why? Because it's so engrained in my nature to be busy that I now don't know what to do with myself. I can't do projects around my house, because I don't want to spend any money due to my decreased income. And I have more time on my hands than I've had in nearly seven years.

It's depressing. The upside is that I'm blessed enough that I don't have to be concerned with the monetary ramifications of lesser hours. I'm just bored out of my skull alot more.

(01/21/09 - 11:26 PM)
I'm often asked by people how I can possibly listen to so much music. The truth, in fact, is that I can't. But my moods change, and having correct categories allows me to suit said mood. Plus, I let it run at work all day, which allows me to find gems that even I didn't necessarily know that I had.

I will say this: The pablum that we are fed from day to day on commercial radio stations is a far cry from what is out there. This is a shame, because most of my favorite bands have had little or no airplay.

Oftentimes, people have what are called 'Desert Island' CD lists. These are CD's that, no matter how much music they own, would be chosen to take with them if they were to be stranded on an island with no contact with the outside world for the rest of their life.

So, here's my desert island CD list (in no particular order):

  • "Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy" - The Refreshments
  • "One Cell In The Sea" - A Fine Frenzy
  • "4 Songs Live" - Josh Ritter
  • "Laid" - James
  • "Welcome Interstate Managers" - Fountains Of Wayne
  • "Catastrophe Keeps Us Together" - Rainer Maria
Tomorrow - who knows. But I know that for all the music that I posess, I always come back to these again and again. Don't recognize anything on the list? Then stop listening to top-40 radio and expand your horizons!

My advice? Go to the library and check out some CD's that you've never heard of, and just listen to them. Or, find a music junkie like myself and ask them about bands that they like - or bands that have a similar feel to bands that you really like. They're out there. For the most part, I can usually name at least one (and usually more) bands who have the same vibe as some band that you already love.

(01/20/09 - 11:16 PM)
I've been effectively cut off from the internet for a goodly portion of the week. At first I thought it was my modem acting up. I tried everything to fix the little guy, but nothing worked. Finally I swallowed my pride, and called tech support.

After re-trying everything I had already done, he says that the problem is that I've downloaded too much, and violated my contract.


Apparently (unbeknownst to me) I am only allocated 7,500Mb in a rolling 30-day period. And I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,125Mb at the moment we were speaking.


The problem is that I pretty much cleaned out the free area of music on Amazon.com, and then went on to spend the handsome gift certificate my boss gave me, as well as some others - all on music that I didn't have. And the downloads from the site are monsters, as they're ripped at a 256kb sampling rate - a standard CD is half of that, and I prefer about 192kb because the sound (to my ears) is optimal at this level, plus it keeps the size more manageable. The higher the number, the larger the file. And these babies were comparative whoppers, ranging from 7-12Mb each.

This explained the massive number quoted by tech support, and also explained my situation.

As such, it's been a rough week. Who knew one could become so attached to something as simlpe as unimpeded internet access?

(01/19/09 - 11:22 PM)
My cousin's daughter, who I haven't seen in a very long time, apparently had a baby in November that never made it out of the hospital. They did everything they could to save the little girl, but she finally passed away a couple of days ago.

The funeral was today, and it's sad on a lot of levels. Specifically, my family seems to have a difficult time communicating in any meaningful way. As such, this was not only the first that I had heard of the birth, but I also missed the funeral.

(01/18/09 - 10:11 AM)
I'm attempting to get all of my tax stuff ready today. It turns out I'm still waiting on a few things. At least I've got most of it, I suppose.

It's been a weird year, and I'm probably going to get slammed, tax-wise - even though I take out a monkey-pile of extra money and send it to the taxing entities each week. The upside (if one could truly call it that) is that my investments have tanked this year. I think there's a deduction that can be taken on some of them (not all of them, but what they hey.)

(01/17/09 - 10:26 PM)
Went to Madison today to get the oil changed and stop in at Half-Price Books. Today's visit wasn't to purchase books, however. No, today's visit was to raid their after the holidays $1.00 bargain bin of CD's. And man, did I find some good stuff!

I bought 27 CD's I didn't have and spent all of $30.00 (One was $3.00 and in the wrong place, but still a good deal.)

The roads weren't too bad, but we had a heck of a time on the northbound trip due to the plows and salt trucks plugging up traffic. So, what should have been a 45 minute trip took almost an hour and twenty minutes. Good thing we left early.

We also decided to pop in to the local Oreck store just down the street from where we were going to be. When we finally found it, however, we found that it was now a store specializing in a different brand of vacuum, and that it was also closed and vacant.

I'm questioning how in the world those mapping sites are updated - or when - as we pulled all the information from them. The cruelest irony was that in the whole strip mall, only one store was vacant - the one we needed.

(01/16/09 - 11:35 PM)
I left work early today because it was deader than dead. I can't remember the last time that I had nothing of substance to do at 2:00 PM. It's a little disconcerting.

At any rate, I decided to run some errands. Then I came home, and did all the usual chores. Finding myself with time on my hands, I decided to address a problem my wife had with our vacuum cleaner, and then I intended to vacuum. After 30 minutes, I found a solution, and then noticed that the belt was shot. So, I changed the belt with the one spare we had, and marvelled at the way the other one had left this world.

I juiced up the vacuum, and it worked like a champ for just about a minute. Then the excessive smoke and fumes began pouring out, and I was forced to haul hiney to the basement to get at the burning part.

Lo and behold, the belt looked EXACTLY like the one I had just replaced. Weird. It had mulched itself in precisely the same way. And I had no more belts.

So, now I'm nauseated (remember: if your nauseous, you're making others aruond you sick) and light-headed from the burning rubber fumes that I had just inadvertantly huffed, and I'm trying to figure out what in the world is up with our now eight-year old vacuum cleaner that looks like it's been through a war (and now smells like it to boot).

Eventually, I just resolved to give up as I had spent too great a deal of time monkeying with the thing at this point.

I'm planning on hitting the local vacuum store in Madison tomorrow when we go. Hopefully they'll have the things I need - as well as some possible insight into why the heck the belts elect to commit suicide so often (or is it perhaps homicide on the part of the vacuum motor itself? Where's Poirot when you need him?)

(01/15/09 - 11:12 PM)
Today when I went to work it was -20° outside. Wind chills overnight had reached -40°. I was later informed that - at that moment - it was colder HERE than it was at the North Pole. Not the South Pole, mind you, but still. What's THAT all about?

(01/13/09 - 11:26 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has been in monologue mode to the Nth degree this week. Two of my VMC operators each received - in succession - a 22-minute monologue about caliper screws (and hey - who DOESN'T want to discuss those!)

Was his machine running during this time? Nope! The semantics and design of caliper screws were apparently far more pressing than actually working for the money he was earning during those moments.

I also got to learn a great deal about all of the other things we, as an organization, were doing wrong; how a certain make of machine was a piece of junk, compared to another, and turn-of-the-century wiring techniques. All while he was being paid! Such a deal.

We have a part-time guy with us once more who hasn't been around for years (welcome back, Greg!) He made a slight error on a component, and I simply elected to put it back into general circulation for resolution with my usual green-highlighter-circle around the item in question. It was a super-simple, quick fix that required no explaination whatsoever beyond the simple green circle. Time-management is a great tool.

But this wasn't good enough for Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. Oh no, no, no. Not only did he momentarily ignore the jobs we had given him for the evening, he scrounged around the open job shelf, found the job in question, put a sticky-note on it saying, "Fix 3" Width" and then proceeded to give it to the part-time guy of his own volition. Which was a good thing, because clearly the decision I had made that did not involve him was WRONG, and I'm sure he knew that we needed him to Manage his co-workers in his position as an Machine Operator.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver also has a certain knack for knowing what we - as an organization - require. He further has a knack for pointing out the lack of these items on a daily basis, and imparting his prescient advice as to why we are foolish for not having said items in place.

To wit: This week, he gave a stunning monologue on the absolute necessity of power boxes at each machine that would allow us to shunt direct power flow to each individual machine thereby eliminating the possibility of a power spike damaging the equipment. In fact, he went so far as to say - and I'm quoting here: "I don't understand why in the world you guys haven't done this yet - it just makes sense!"

I agree. Except: It also costs alot of money. A great deal, actually. Further, we are constantly re-configuring our shop every couple of years, which would necessitate the re-wiring of the whole deal all over again.

But - hey - who's into logic and reason in this day and age.

As I went outside to my car, he was at it again, "You know, you need to buy one of those cigarette things for outside the door instead of using coffee cans. They're only like $50.00. I don't understand why we don't have them here."

I finally snapped. In a joking voice, I replied, "You know what? That's a great idea. But if we implemented every idea you insisted that we could not do without, we would be out of business. And fifty-bucks is fifty-bucks. We're in a tight economy here, and it's not a necessary expense. To take it one step further, if you didn't smoke, I wouldn't have to buy anything and YOU would have the fifty bucks in hand to buy this thing we need so desperately."

Without blinking, he said, "What? Are we trying to save money now?"

"No," I replied, "We're trying to HOARD money now, because the economy is tanking."

He laughed at this, but I think the underlying point wasn't entirely lost on him.

(01/12/09 - 11:21 PM)
Got all the forms I received from the Assessor's office in Missouri ready to go today. I don't know if I mentioned it earlier (if I did, I don't recall, so bear with me) but I received four forms - one for each year from 2006-2009 - that were about a mile long (double-sided!), and were inquiring how much personal property I owned in the state of Missouri including:

  • Livestock (it listed a bajillion kinds, including Emu's)
  • Stored hay, grain, feed, etc.
  • Vehicles of every shape, size and variety (thirty-some in all, I believe)
  • Docks, boat slips, runways, atomic bunkers, secret Soviet laser installations, etc.
  • Other miscellaneous stuff - and then it wanted to know the shape, size, condition, date of purchase, build, last use, and on and on and on

On top of this, it came with a nasty, threatening sounding letter demanding that I return all of the attached items no later than one day prior to the day I actually received the forms - even though the actual forms themselves dictated that they be returned by March. Further, each form went on to elicit - in great detail - just how much I could expect to pay in fines, because I had obviously been bilking the government of Missouri for some time now (I haven't - I just purchased my boat slip rights in March of this year.)

Why in the world the recorder's office did not - or can not - communicate this information to the Assessor's office boggles my mind. I closed on a deeded and titled property - so it's all on record, including more specifics than anyone would ever want to know, as well as the DATE OF CLOSING. So why in the hell are they trying to tax me all the way back to 2006?

Government: Yay!

(01/11/09 - 10:45 AM)
No matter how much I try to get away from working FURTHER on the now soul-crushing MP3 Archive, it seems to suck me right back in with tweaks that 'simply must be done right now!'

The problem, in a nutshell, is my obsessiveness. I can't stand mis-spellings, I can't stand incorrect genres. So, I've now found myself relegated to listening to a number of songs that I got for free somewhere (Amazon, Deep Elm, Etc.) to see what genre they should truly be in. What was worse was that I found five spelling errors in some artists' names that were difficult to spell (Psychedelic Furs, Loreena McKennitt, Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark, Etc.) that I simply had to fix.

So, after I did my daily chores, I sat down and began the fixes. Then I thought, "Hey! I still don't have my DVD's in an iPod compatible format, I should probably start converting those too!

It never ends.

(01/10/09 - 10:24 PM)
Snow: Part 2

Apparently, "A 30% chance with 1-3 inches of accumulation is possible" means, "There will be 10 inches, and probably alot of meandering snow throughout the day."

Let me just say this, at this point: If the meteorologist - any meteorologist - states that anything other than Death Valley heat is a comin', keep your shovel hand limber.

(01/09/09 - 11:06 PM)
Snow: Part 1

Apparently, "A 30% chance of flurries with a possible accumulation of 1/4-1 inch possible" means, "There will be 3 inches of snow on the ground when you get home."

The roads were so bad, and we were so tired that we didn't even go grocery shopping at the usual place. It's a good thing that our Madison trip fell through for this weekend, because I think it would have been a bad idea. Hopefully next weekend will be better.

(01/08/09 - 11:08 PM)
I received the following e-mail from my brother:

"Hello, Friends,

I typically dislike mass, impersonal emails, so I apologize for putting you through this.

I recently registered with LinkedIn, a professional networking website. That site has a function that allows the user to check his or her address book to see if any contacts are already LinkedIn users. Because of my email account's wacky suffix and my lack of technological prowess, I can't make that function work.

So, I just wanted to check to see if anyone happened to be a user on the site the old-fashioned way, by mass emailing my people. If you are a user on that site, and if you want to connect as contacts on that site, please just let me know. If neither of those two conditions are true for you, please just delete this email and move on with your life. Ok. Thanks. And happy new year."

Apparently, instead of hitting 'reply', my mouse moved one more down as I clicked and instead chose 'reply to all' in my e-mail software. This occured, I surmise, as I had about fifteen things running at the time on my computer, and there was a great deal of lag occuring. My only thought was that during the lag, I had highlighted what I wanted, but between then and the time I clicked, it had moved enough to cause this error.

Here was my response, in typical Heath fashion:

"Well, let's see... >checking Rolodex<... I'm a member of the Black Panthers, the KKK, the Communist Party, Victoria's Secret Panty of The Month Club, Oprah's Book Club, People Who Love Sheep Too Much... Nope! Not a member. Sorry!"

Now, the problem was that my brother had sent this thing to EVERYONE in his mailing list - friends, relatives, co-workers, important fellow attorneys, etc.

Needless to say he was none too happy with his Black Sheep brother for his moronic mistake.

I offered to send a letter of apology to each and every recipient, but I think my brother wanted me to stay the hell away from his mailing list at that point. And I can't say that I blame him.

Dear Nick: I'm really sorry.

(01/07/09 - 10:49 PM)
Received an urgent message on my answering machine tonight, requesting that I contact my power and gas company immediately within the next 48 hours.

My wife did. Here's what she was told:

There was a penalty on our account, and they needed our permission to apply our CREDIT BALANCE (yes, you read that right) to our power bill because "Gas is so expensive this time of year, that people want to pay for it first." Even though the power and gas bill are all on one statement.

I have just two questions:

1.) Why - again - am I being assessed a penalty for having a $126.00 credit balance?

2.) Why does it matter where you apply it, so long as the bill is paid in full and then some?

I once again state:

Rock Energy Cooperative: You can keep your stupid magazine - I don't need it, thanks. Instead, why don't you focus on customer service, and possibly allocate the resources being squandered on the magazine to purchase a computer system that doesn't give two shits about how a bill is paid, so long as it's paid.

That's free advice - I won't even assess you a penalty for it.

God, I miss Alliant. >SIGH<

(01/06/09 - 11:21 PM)
Dear Clinton:

Thank you for granting China 'most favored nation status', based on all those campaign contributions they gave you. The results of this are finally being felt, and I just wanted you to know how much we all appreciate it. You're awesome!

Dear America:

Thank you for buying all the low-priced crap that the Chinese sent over here, thereby negating what little industry remained stateside. Your short-sightedness in purchasing has now enabled China to become competetive on far more levels, thanks to your working capital which they have thoroughly reinvested while we rested on our laurels and bought throwaway coffee makers. Good job!

Dear American Worker:

Thanks for your sense of entitlement! We appreciate the fact that you believe that the world owes you a living, and that you shouldn't have to work too hard for anything. And to those of you whose sense of entitlement goes far beyond that, to the welfare and unemployment line, I say thank you as well! Your indescriminate torpor has allowed the other remaining hard-working Americans to take good care of you due to the short-sightedness of our Governmental officials who have placed into being programs that are not regulated to the point where individuals like some of you are not reprimanded for their indescriminate misuse of systems designed to help those in true, short-term need. Way to go, guys and gals!

Dear George W.:

While you were busy in your own little world, bombing the shit out of foreign nations that had no real bearing on our infrastructure here, you might not have noticed that you have sapped this country dry of resources. You also may not have noticed that your spending policies and your political policies were too focused on one factor, at the expense of far too many others. But - hey! - that's not your problem for long now, is it!

Dear Mr. Obama:

I have no complaints against you. Here is my request: Do what your heart and your head tell you is right. Do what is necessary for the American people to take a hard look at themselves, their spending, and their motivations. Fix the welfare and public aid systems. Regulate the credit industry, because it's more than abundantly clear that without regulation bad debt will once more ramp up to the point where it's as senseless as it is now. And if there's time, focus on healthcare.

We need just one good term (and, if you do it right, two) to turn this sorry country around. And I hope that you're the man to do it. Please don't let me down. The hard-working, tax-paying, non-sycophantic, non-lecherous individuals such as myself need your help - because we can't continue to carry this country alone.

(01/05/09 - 11:04 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver usually visits me in my office each day shortly after his arrival. About 40% of the time he has an actual question. The remainder of the time, he has some gripe about the way a blueprint is drawn, as though I can somehow fix it.

What's worse is that, often, the print is so old that the guy or gal who drew it is most likely dead (and probably their kids, too) or it's from a foreign country, or from a company that no longer exists in the form it once did when the print was drawn.

And he knows this.

Yes, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, I realize that every print is not drawn to your meticulous standards. Yes, I realize that a few more rotational views would be helpful - even if they aren't necessary. Yes, I get that for your purposes you do not require the phantom-lined assembly structure. I get it - I truly, truly do.

But I can't fix it. So, like you, I make the best of it and use the skills I have honed over the years to still make certain a correct component is produced.

What made today's visit even worse, was that as I was talking, he kept getting closer. Then he cleared his throat, and I felt a few little sprinklettes of his spit hit my tongue full on. It was all I could do not to barf.

So, how was your day?

(01/04/09 - 04:22 PM)
Holy cow the roads were icy today! Even in my car, I ended up sideways - twice.

I went to Dad's house to update his computer and install some new software, and then I came home and 'finilized' the iTunes files (for real this time - I added several hundred more tracks, but that's it - until my new CD's come in.)

Last night we had a thunderstorm at about 12:30 (I guess that makes it this morning, huh?) which was odd as all get out. This year has been so odd, what with the snow in October and now a thunderstorm in January. Whatever - the Earth's doomed, etc., etc.

(01/03/09 - 11:18 PM)
Finished the "Ergo Proxy" and "Excell Saga" series both tonight. The prior we had been working our way through as sleep and work and other things allowed, and the latter one we could only take in small doses (like cannoli - too much of a good thing, and all that.)

"Ergo Proxy" also introduced what may very well be one of the most adorable characters to date in the form of the recently self-realized, self-aware AutoReiv (i.e. - Android) named Pino.


"Excell Saga" was the oddest series I've ever encountered. It's basically a whole lot of nothing that involves a ton of self-referential humor as well as humor aimed at everything that makes Anime, Anime. And it's funny as hell. Mostly.

There were a few interspersed episodes that I could have done without (Pedro and The Man were both obnoxious), but for the most part it was a series that went nowhere, and changed genres every episode - intentionally - and it was brilliant. I can't recommend it highly enough, especially if you can appreciate humor along the lines of Family Guy, Animaniacs and the old Ambush Bug comic series.

On the whole, it's tought to describe, so you just have to see it. But you need to make sure that you see it. It's important - so do it!

(01/02/09 - 03:45 PM)
It is done.

After nearly one-hundred and thirty hours (probably more, I lost count on the evenings when I hit hour nineteen) I have finally accomplished what I set out to do just over two weeks ago.

Behold, I have created what is quite possibly the most astounding thing since the Popiel Pocket Fisherman or Underoos. I have created a near-perfect library of MP3's.

Sure, there are some flaws. Incorrect years (a smattering), incorrect album art (three, I think), and a few things I just could not nail down. Further, I still have some residual issues with my old cataloging system now being 100% sub-foldered for one-offs from certain artists, as well as some album folders missing the dates in the folder title.

I elected to live with this, so long as the files that iTunes reads were correct. Album, Artist, Album Artist, Track Number, Release Date, Album Art, Genre, Disk X of Y, and so on, and so forth, and scooby-dooby doo (thank you, Three Dog Night.)

Conversational whiplash here: the term 'Three-dog night' apparently stems from something the Eskimos used to gage how cold it was. It was based on how many other dogs you would want to sleep with to keep warm. Or so I'm told.

>SNAP!< Back into the blog entry! When everything was said and done, I had an archive that I could build upon for years to come. By Sunday, I will have a fully-updated playlist posted, which will be one-thousand plus songs larger than the prior one.

I've been a busy boy on that front as well, Hoovering up all of the little gems that my collection was missing via my new favorite thing: The Amazon.com MP3 download utility.

This tiny piece of software allows you to purchase single tracks for between zero dollars and .99¢ - all from the comfort of your own home. This proved to be a huge attraction to me, as my collection is full of staples, but still lacks some of those oddball one-off's. And the best part of all is that you are downloading a 'free to roam' MP3 file with no strings attached. This is something that has always prevented me from purchasing from iTunes as the MP3's (or M4A's) come with strings attached - such gems as computer authorization, authorization limits, and limited portability. And who wants that?

Coupled with my gift certificate from my Boss, my excess time off from work due to the holidays, my new iPod, and my general desire to hoard music, all of the stars aligned just right.

And while my days seemed to last only minutes, as hours stacked upon hours and keystroke gave way to mouse click, which gave way to keystroke - it was all worth it.

And I'd never do it again. It's just too much work. Just in case you were wondering.

But it's done now, so I guess I'm thankful for my horrible lack of foresight. When I began this project, I estimated a timeline that kept getting progressively pushed back. After day three, my wife began to think it was cute that I thought that 'Today might be the day!'

Each morning, when I went to turn the computer on, I began referring to it as 'the mistress', because my wife saw about as much of me on a daily basis as, say, my mail carrier.

(01/01/09 - 12:03 AM)
Greetings all! It is I - Plinky the House Elf! Mistress Wanda and Master Heath are asleep, but I find myself being kept awake by the emanation of loud pops, bangs and screeches occuring out-of-doors. Apparently, this is New Year's Eve. Yes, yet another holiday that you humans celebrate. Don't you ever grow weary of all this celebration? And why would you celebrate the loss of a year of your life? Was it really that bad? Will the new one really be that good? And how do you know?

I can't fathom it, but to be honest most all of your holidays are nonsensical to my kind.

I elected to forego my normal in-depth homework on the subject of this entire 'New Year' phenomena, but I did find that apparently the Chinese don't see eye to eye with you on this. Nor does a group called 'The Pagans' who I've discovered is an outlaw motorcycle gang operating overtly in the Southwest.

Apparently, they think that you're all backwards on the issue. I personally can't say one way or the other, simply because I cannot comprehend how you can actually tell the difference between one year and the next. I personally don't feel any different. Nothing smells different. Everything is the same color. So how is this quantified?

Egads, perhaps this is what all the noise coming from out of doors is about! Perhaps there is one sagacious individual within each prefecture who is responsible for alerting others when the new year occurs, thereby making everyone aware through the use of noisemakers. I hadn't thought of that! One moment, let me do some research...


Aha! It's very closely akin to what I have just described! Victory is mine! It appears as though a Seer named Dick Clark is the primary catalyst for informing the United States when a new year has officially begun. To do so, he utilizes his prescient psychic ability coupled with a large ball of magic light. As the ball of magic light responds to his telekinetic and psychich powers, it collapses to a point where it can no longer motate further.

Then, through the television (which I still cannot seem to work right, and am still relegated to watching predominantly the Lifetime channel specifically due to my inability to figure out how to communicate with other channels that I have been lead to believe exist), the individuals responsible for notifying the residents of their local prefecture are also notified as they watch this Dick Clark work his big magic in real-time.

To me it all just seems like a lot of work. Why not just wake up when you do, and go to bed when you're tired? Why not simply celebrate life each day, rather than celebrating the arrival of a year that you will only scorn 365 1/4 days from now?

You humans... I just don't get it.

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