A Twist Of Fate
May, 2009 Entries
"Spartans are particularly delicious."
- The Minotaur

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(05/31/09 - 10:06 PM)
Spent all day in the yard, and got a wicked sunburn on my scalp. Did I mention how much I enjoy being bald? I'm pretty sure that I did...

At any rate, all the shrubs got haircuts that even the toughest military leader would approve of, and all the edging got done as well. I finally took down that unsightly honeysuckle bush that was threatening to take over the Universe, but it just would not burn. It was far too green, so I made do with what I had at hand - namely, a lot of cardboard and newspaper. This gained me some leverage, but even that was not enough to get a fire hot enough to burn through the moisture-laden wood and leaves.

So, I did what any good, former Boy Scout, would do: I went and got gasoline. A common misconception with gasoline is that it is flammable. While this is true, it is even MORE dangerous when in vapor or aerosolized form. As I gaily poured the gas on the pile, I waited for the fire to hit it somewhere and hear the familiar, soft 'whoosh'.

When the 'whoosh' never arrived, I just lit the damn thing. I got some reprieve, and some more burning occured, but it was predominantly on the leaves - no the pulpy, green wood.

In my mind, a little gasoline is good, so a lot must be great! Now, I don't recommend this - I really don't. You have to have a healthy respect for both fire and gasoline - especially when they're making sweet love in front of you on a bed of greenery (awwww!). I have both, and have a great deal of experience with both.

So, I slathered a quarter gallon on the pile, and when nothing happened, I lit her up. The shockwave was visible, but I was prepared for it. What I was NOT prepared for was just how loud the bang was. Had I not been cautious, I could have been seriously hurt. My neighbor and wife came rushing out both asking - nearly in unison - "What was that!?!"

"I can tell you what it wasn't", came my reply, "It was NOT a former Boy Scout improperly using a copious amount of gasoline as an accellerant to get a fire moving. It definately was NOT that."

My neighbor looked at me, then at the gas can, and asked, "Did you use gasoline?"

Where's Bill Engvall when you need him? Finding myself fresh out of signs, I simply responded in the affirmative. I then went on to say that I apologized for interrupting her afternoon peace, and explained that - believe it or not - I actually did know what I was doing. Then I made the joke that I was a former Boy Scout after all.

To which she responded blithely, "I hope you didn't make it very far."


(05/30/09 - 10:21 PM)
Went to Mom's today to work on her Sonny-do list. Most of it was pretty straight-forward, and went pretty well. My Mom is funny sometimes, though.

For example: she had me pick up a new exhaust fan for her downstairs bathroom, because she thought that hers was on its way out. So, when I got there and prepared to install it, I asked her what was wrong with it. Her response?

"It sounds different than the one upstairs."

I explained my theory on this (acoustics, room size, and ductwork were all involved), and convinced her not to change it and save herself $30.00.

She's cute, in that the things that make her nuts are the same things that make me nuts; things no one else would even look twice at in a million years but things that, nonetheless, niggle the living crap out of us. To be fair, though, the things that bug her would not bother me. And probably vice-versa.

I actually got most of the list done, with the exception of the deck being power-washed and stained. That's a two-man, two-day job. And I may weigh as much as two men but, it turns out, I am only one. Bummer.

So, I am going to call my brother and hopefully get him to 'volunteer' to help me.

I moved a bunch of pictures around, and hung some new ones. I had an idea for staggering one set, rather than hanging them in-line as she had done before. She was astonished with the result, and mentioned that she would never think of that. Off the cuff, I replied, "Just be thankful that this is how I express my gayness, rather than doing so like my cousins."

My two cousins, her sister's son and step-son, are both gay. I still love them, and there's nothing I can do about it.

In hindsight, she probably was not the appropriate audience for this comment. Ironically, I would make the comment in front of my cousins, and they would probably not be embarassed (Patrick would probably laugh along with me), but she's embarassed about talking about it. I figure life's too short to dance around stuff like that - there's no point in pretending that it doesn't exist, and there's no point in trying to change it to suit your needs. Move on, and enjoy the good points. No one said you had to be in the bedroom with them. In fact, I mentioned this once before to some of my family, "You don't think about so-and-so having sex with her husband, do you? So why think about these two? Just enjoy their company."

Anyway... sorry about the tangent. >Ahem< So, the list is pretty much done, and I'm wiped. Next up: Yardwork Sunday at Chateau Heathenwanda!

(05/29/09 - 10:18 PM)
Today was slow at work and so I left a little early, as I already had my week finished - technically - on Thursday. As soon as I left - of course - things blew up. I did manage to get my groceries, and was once more on my way home when the shop called (just like LAST week!) with a question that required immediate attention for a customer. So, I swung by as my groceries baked in the back of my vehicle. I finished that issue, but it quickly became clear that I was still needed.

I excused myself long enough to go home and put my groceries away before I was forced to host a picnic in the parking lot, and promptly returned. The few simple tasks turned into hours of necessary work, and before I knew it, it was after five.

It could be worse. We could have nothing to do.

(05/28/09 - 10:26 PM)
It was a big day for Mr. Kitty today. He got to go outside. We even let him eat grass, because it's good for him, according to all the web sites we could find. Apparently, when your cat makes a beeline for the grass with a proverbial bib on and buffet plate in hand, it means that he needs to eat it to expunge a hairball. I guess.

So, he noshed like a death row inmate twelve minutes before the brownout. And then he barfed - like a death row inmate during the brownout. And then he did so again... and again.

After puking three times and not receiving a modeling contract, he settled down to laze in the afternoon warmth, contentedly.

After a bit, my wife took him for a walk around the yard, including the hill area where he's never been. This is also where about 300 wild catnip plants grow, so his good time just got better. He stalked bugs, he hid behind rocks and plants, he tried to climb a tree. He was so happy he didn't know what to do with himself.

All the birds in the yard reminded me of the molded-seed bird feeder that my Aunt had given us some months ago, so I elected to get it out and hang it up to see what came to eat it.

We all went in the house, and about eight minutes later Sparky the Squirrel arrived.

Now, let me say that while we have a fairly diverse amount of wildlife in our backyard including birds of all varieties (even woodpeckers!), lagomorphs a-plenty (or 'rabbits', as normal people label them), and etcetera and so on, we do not, nor have never had, squirrels. In fact, in all the years we've been here, we've had about four squirrel sightings, and even those were fleeting.

So, imagine our amazement when Sparky showed up, took the feeder down, and began disassembling it with haste, and thereafter burying chunks of it in our yard without even separating the seeds.

We were laughing as we were frustrated. We really wanted to see the thing disappear slowly as the birds came to our yard. Instead, we got a one-squirrel wrecking crew who took the whole thing out in a matter of minutes.

Good for him, I guess. The least he could do now is hang out and frolic once in a while for our amusement. I think he owes us at least that.

(05/27/09 - 10:12 PM)
My Boss called today from the resorts up North that he owns and has been working on for the past two weeks to check in on things. Unusually, he precursed the conversation with a statement that was way out of character for his normal, pragmatic self. He asked, "Guess what I'm doing right now?!"

Intrigued, I bit. "Okay - I give up. What?"

"I'm vacuuming out my gas grill."

"Is it dirty?" I asked, wondering where in the world this was going."

"Well," he said, "sort of."

"Sort of?"

"See, the propane grill ran out of propane. And someone had the bright idea to just solve the problem by using charcoal in it. Lots of charcoal, in fact."

Yeeps! "Um, isn't that bad for the grill?" I asked. Truthfully, I have no idea, as I have grilled all of two times in my life on my own, and both times were charcoal events.

"Uh, yeah. It's not good. What makes me even more upset is that there is a Weber charcoal grill about twenty feet away from this one. How about that for lazy and/or stupid?"

I just shook my head. What in the hell is wrong with people? Would they do this to their stuff? I'm so disappointed in humanity most days.

(05/26/09 - 10:16 PM)
Today was rough. My assistant is still on vacation, my Boss is busy with his other business up North, and now my Shipping/Receiving Manager is on vacation this week. Suffice it to say, my Expediter and I are both pulling double duty and then some. And it gets confusing - fast. Especially when one is attempting to do ones own job at the same time.

We've had alot of hurdles this week, as well as one guy who can't seem to whine enough about anything and everything at the most inopportune moments. Yeah, we've got time for that dude. Bring it. >SIGH<

To the outside observer, my Expediter and I must look like two tightly-wound rhesus monkeys who got ahold of their very first kilo of cocaine and decided to eat the whole thing at once. We're flying around the shop, putting out fires, and all the while the troops are asking questions at random moments.

(05/25/09 - 10:42 PM)
And now, for Monday's installment of "Heath Tries To Be Funny!"

There once was a frog who had learned to speak and act like a human. The only exception was that he could only speak in song. As time went on, the frog emulated humans in every way he could. He built a small house, and even planted grass seed resulting in a lush carpet of grass outside of his snug little home.

One morning, after waking up he went out his front door, only to discover that his grass was gone. Also, feet from his door, he saw a sign that he had never noticed before. The frog, amazing as he was, could not read. Were he able to, he would have seen that the sign read: "Garret's Sod Farm".

Woe-stricken, the frog began to sing: "Oh where, oh where! is my little frog lawn? Oh where, oh where! can it be!"

Until next time!

(05/24/09 - 10:12 AM)
Last night, we got home from my cousin's graduation party in Warren, and we decided to take the afternoon and just relax. About this time - 3:00 PM, to be exact - the neighbors began their own graduation party.

There were several people over, having a nice time on a nice day. The music began right around this point as well. It wasn't overly loud, per se. What it was, was extremely bass-heavy, and being pumped out of exceptionally good speakers. This poses a problem for us, because our tri-level house has two lower levels that are below ground - one completely, and the other four feet. As such, the bass was transitioning extremely well underground from one structure to another, and we could not hear anything but the incessant thumpa-thumpa-thumpa, which stoppped for a few seconds between songs, only to begin anew in a different rhythm.

So, we figured, no big deal. They're not hurting anyone, and it's only the afternoon. We elected to tolerate it.

But it went on. And on. By 9:00, it had been thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-ing us into a pair of borderline-psychotics, and we decided that enough was enough. Just about then, they turned it up. NOW, we could ALSO hear the dulcet tones of the Classic Rock crooners in all their stereophonic glory.

My neighbors have been nothing but jerks to me, even though I was originally just the opposite to them when they moved in. So, I finally broke down and called the cops.

I told the dispatcher that I didn't want to be 'That guy', so if she could just send someone over and ask them to knock it off, that'd be super.

One other thing we began to notice was that people had continued to show up in spades between the hour of eight and nine. There were now forty to fifty people that we could see out carousing in the back yard, and a number of them had alcoholic beverages while barely looking old enough to drive.

So, my wife turns on her scanner to hear the dispatch. The dispatch finally occurs, and the cop arrives. He relays to dispatch:

'This is the house next door to >Notorious Guy that all the cops in my home town know<.' (They actually use this guy's house as a landmark, because they ALL know him by name.)

Suddenly, a Sergeant gets on the channel, 'That's the guy who's friends with the Mayor of Rockton. I think they had a permit on file for loud music for tonight. There was a memo. Didn't you see it?'


Our cop out front replies that no, he didn't see any such memo, but the Sergeant suggests that he go and check - back at the station.

Apparently, you are allowed to break the covenant of 'Quiet Enjoyment' of one's own property, so long as you get a permit from the Township in which you live, regardless of whom it affects directly or otherwise. How come I've never heard of this?

So, our cop goes back to the station and - twenty minutes later - tells the Sarge that he's found no such memo. So he's going back now.


All the while, the music is unbearably loud, and the basslines are moving my walls.

We see the cop arrive, and then we hear over the radio, 'I'm in front of the house. It's a little loud, but I wouldn't say that's it's excessive.'

Apparently, he disagrees with our damaged brains and psyches, but he goes in anyway. And all is pleasantly quiet for about ten minutes.

Then he drives away, and the music goes right back up. And then the fireworks begin - literally. And then the partygoers begin heading out to their cars, and playing their bass-boosted stereos on 11 as well. Then someone knocks on our windows.


We try and tolerate it, but finally we give up. My wife now calls in a complaint (mentioning the now apparent underage drinking), and I enlist the assistance of one of my neighbors, who is also one of my employees, to call them as well. When nothing happens, I call once more, and advise that I'm the guy who called and hour ago, and (playing dumb) have they sent anyone yet?

She advises that they have, and that it was rectified. I know more than I let on, so I go on to say, "Look: I know he's friends with the Mayor. I get it. But can you please stop this?"

I am told that they have been advised not to send another unit unless someone is willing to speak with the Officer. I tell her that I don't want repercussions, I just want the bass turned down. I give her my name and phone number, and she says she will dispatch.

A few minutes later the original responding officer calls me and says, "Look, I'm not playing go-between all night - if you want to sign a complaint, then I'll issue a citation. Otherwise, quit calling us."

I ask about the fireworks, and he tells me that I'm probably mistaken, as they did see fireworks, but they were being set off by someone almost a mile away. What he doesn't know is that I grew up next door to Norm, the Fireworks King of Rockford, and I know my fireworks - kinds, noises, and - most importantly - points of origin.

Oooooookay. Here's what I propose to him: "Look, I don't want to be 'That Guy'. I don't want anyone financially damaged just because they're stupid and inconsiderate. Is it possible for you to speak with him again, letting him know that I will sign the damn ticket if he doesn't let up? If he keeps it up after that, then he's got it coming. And I know he's friends with the Mayor, but work with me here."

The cop is 'stupefied' that I have said this, and responds that that has no bearing on the situation (not knowing that, in fact, I had heard the whole back and forth between he and the Sarge just a while ago.) I want to say, "Your Sergeant seems to think differently", but then he'll know that I'm listening to him on dispatch, so I keep this to myself.

He also mentions that he does not feel that the music is all that loud, and that he can 'barely hear it from out in front of their house'.

WHAT? Are you deaf, or stupid?

I ask what is acceptable, and he says he feels it is acceptable, but if I feel that it is not, then he has to act. He also says that it's pushing the time of evening when it is inappropriate. I ask what time that is, and he responds that there is no time limit.

My next question is, of course, "Then how can it be getting close to that time, if that time doesn't exist? And how can it be too loud, if too loud doesn't exist? Especially if you think it's fine."

Again, he tells me that he's not coming again without me signing a ticket, and I ask him to please just reason with the assholes.

So, he goes in. This time, all the lights in the backyard go off. Everyone goes out front to speak with him, except a small cluster of what appear to be very young people clutching alcohol, and crouching in the corner of the now pitch-dark deck. There's your underage drinkers - just like my wife said, just where she said they would be to the dispatcher. They are never investigated, and the officer leaves once more.

As soon as he's out of earshot, the bass comes racing back - then they turn it up to 11.

I give up. The cops are mad at me, the neighbors are ass-monkeys, and I feel like a prisoner in my own home in the middle of the night in a residential neighborhood.

How can people be so inconsiderate? These are the people whose driveway I snowblowed when they had just moved in, and had a shovel break. These are the people whose lawn I mowed when they hadn't yet purchased a push mower. These are the people who were so incredulous about the previous neighbors children playing in our yard, yet went on to allow theirs to do just that - as well as their cat and their dogs. And I have the crap to prove it.

And this is how they elect to treat me, in return.

There is no hope for it, I'm afraid. I think I'll have to move to alleviate the amalgamation of stupid that I now find myself surrounded by on all sides.

Thank God I don't own a gun.

(05/23/09 - 2:42 PM)
Just got home from my cousin Ben's graduation party in Warren, IL. It was a long haul, but it was a nice day for a drive. I felt a little bad for him, though. His sister had just had her second child only ten days ago, and all the attention seemed focused on that event, rather than on his event. Suffice it to say that my Aunt even mentioned that she felt bad, because the invitations to the party had gone out late.

My cousin seemed in good spirits, and I think I talked to him more than I ever have (he's a quiet kid, who I honestly don't really know a whole lot about.) I still felt bad though, because the focus seemed to be predominantly on the new baby, rather than on his achievement. It wasn't intentional, it's just that new babies are like curiosity magnets. Especially the cutie-muffin ones that my cousin Sara periodically spawns forth.

As the afternoon wore on, my wife reminded me of a few funny stories about my cousin Ben, and I regaled him with those. My favorite was the time that he was about three, and had just discovered ChapStick. His mom had brought him into K-Mart to pick up some things, and he was sitting in the seat of the cart. I was working there at the time (soon to move on), and she was catching up with me. Neither of us was paying too much attention to the toddler in the cart, until we saw a vigorous motion occuring in our peripheral vision.

As I looked, she continued speaking. In the cart, Ben had opened a stick of Speed Stick and was rubbing it vigorously back and forth across his lips. I mentioned this to his mom, who thought it was hysterical, and went on to explain that he had just learned how to use aforementioned ChapStick, but apparently had not learned that Speed Stick and ChapStick, while similar in some ways, were not - in fact - the same product.

He said he had no recollection of this (no surprise - he was three), but seemed to get a good laugh out of it.

Then there was the Thanksgiving when he was, I think, four. He didn't really say anything to anyone EXCEPT, he did go around tapping us all on the legs, and telling us that we were 'In Jail'. We didn't have a clue where he was going with that, but it was cute. Especially when we argued that we were not, in fact, in jail and he in turn vociferously argued that, yes, we were in jail.

The most disturbing thing about the day was remembering when he was born, and now suddenly realizing that eighteen years had elapsed and he was now becoming a working part of the world at large.

Good Lord, I'm getting old.

Also, on the drive out I killed a chimpmonk. I crested a hill doing 65, and there he was. I centered over him, and he elected to run - right under my tire. I actually heard the crunch, and in my rear-view mirror saw only about 1" of his business end still intact as though he were mooning God in one final act of defiance for allowing him to have been killed so brutally. I felt just awful, but there was nothing I could do about it.

So, in its memory, I offer a recent photo that my wife took of the chimpmonk who lives under our front sidewalk. I hate that she lives there, and Lord knows the value of the damage she's causing to our concrete work, but I just can't bring myself to kill her, dammit.

Our Own Furry Nemesis

Crap! Does she look pregnant to anyone else!?

(05/22/09 - 11:06 PM)
I received my credit card statement in the mail today. I opened it. Then I erupted. On the statement were $11.40 in finance charges, and a late payment penalty of $39.00.

Here's the problem: My payment was due on 05/14/09. I sent the payment via U.S. Mail on 04/30/09. I always pay my balance in full (I'm what the credit card companies confusingly call a 'deadbeat' - who invents these terms?), and I always pay it within a day or two of receipt.

So, I called 'Customer Service' and was, predictably, put through to someone in India who not only spoke broken English, but was apparently suffering from the curried goat she had eaten last night because she was CRANKY. The upside? For the first time in my history of calling numbers like this, I was specifically told that this conversation WOULD be recorded - not MIGHT - WOULD. I knew this - she, I can only assume did not.

Point to me.

I very calmly explained my situation: That I had had the card for nearly five years, had used it each month for just about everything, and on all but two occasions I had elected to pay off the full balance. I then explained to her that I had mailed the payment fourteen days prior to the due date. Finally, I asked if she could please see her way clear to reversing both the interest and the late fee?

Her initial response was, "You have a responsibility to get the payment here on time. You were late. That is why you are being charged these fees. It may not have been your fault, but late is late. This is how it is for everyone."

I wasn't arguing what had happened. Obviously, my payment had gone to Delaware via Sacramento - I got that part. What I was asking was for the person on the other end of the line to take into account my stellar record of payment, the date on the check, and the postmark date on the envelope.

I was advised that she did not have access to any of that (probably true), and again that "Late was late."

I asked if there were someone else above her (remember this statement) that I could speak with, and was told no. I went on to say that there had to be someone there that I could speak with who could resolve this.

I was told that anyone there would tell me the same thing - late was late was late.

Then, she hit the script. "I can hear that you are upset, sir. So what I can do as a courtesy to you is waive one fee or another - but I cannot waive both. Which would you prefer?"

I wondered what had suddenly changed. Then I let her know that I would prefer both. She continued to let me know that simply was not possible, and I continued to question how she would let a solid customer with high-usage and a stellar credit rating walk away over eleven dollars and some change - because that was precisely what I was prepared to do, and I let her know this calmly, but in no uncertain terms.

Once more, she hit the script, "I can hear that you are upset sir." This time, her voice was far more terse.

I stopped her, "Ma'am. I am not upset. I am a pragmatic individual who has not raised his voice once. I am simply asking why you cannot resolve this for me. I wish to have both charges reversed, and you are telling me that it is absolutely impossible. Correct, or incorrect?"


"And you are also telling me that no one else there can assist me any further than you can, correct?"


"So, in essence, you are saying that you are willing to allow a customer such as myself simply disappear for eleven dollars and some change, correct?"

"No, that is not correct!" Now, she's losing her cool.

Excellent. Now we're getting somewhere. Break down that facade, and let's see what's behind it.

"Then what are you saying?"

"We are willing, as a courtesy to a good customer such as yourself, to reverse one of the two charges - and we should not even have to do that because late is late. It does not matter why it was late - late is late, sir."

OoOoOoOo... the 'Sir' was bordering on venomous. I went for the jugular. "So, you're saying that there is no supervisor, no customer retention specialist, NO ONE but you who can resolve my problem any further than reversing one of the two charges. Have I got this clear? Because this doesn't seem to correspond with what I know about your industry and I find it hard to believe."

Ready? Remember several paragraphs ago when she told me that there was no one else above her that I could speak with? Apparently, that was not entirely true, because her response to my last question was, "I never said that I did not have a supervisor that you could speak with!"

Technically true, but I loved the way she was splitting hairs. "May I please speak to them, then?"

I was then transferred. An articulate woman who spoke perfect English was on the line. I explained my situation, and apparently as I was explaining she was pulling my credit information (she obviously had access that the other woman did not.)

She chuckled and said, ">Credit Card Company< has gotten away from waiving these fees so often, of late. But I see here that you've never been late, and that you nearly always pay off your balance. I see the check was written on the 30th, but was not processed until the 14th. It may have gotten hung up in our processing department - it happens sometimes. I can't see any reason not to waive the fees, so it will be on your statement in 48 hours. Will that be okay?"

BOOM - just like that. Why did I have to fight with a woman half-way around the world, who most likely thinks I'm a decadent jerk who doesn't feel he has to play by the rules, when I could have talked with Patty in Pennsylvania (I don't really know where she was) and resolved the whole thing in eight seconds flat, and without needing Xanax?

Here's something else I thought about after the fact. This month, for the first time, the payment return envelope has a HUGE message on the flap in block letters. It reads, 'Avoid Late Fees' and then goes on to laud the merits of paying electronically. In fact, they've been pushing this REALLY hard of late.

This made me take a step back, and get all conspiratorial. Maybe they're trying to save money by not sending out statements; by not having to staff a mailroom; by not having people such as myself contact customer service due to incidents like this. PLUS, they receive a 'nominal convenience fee' for 'allowing' me to pay more conveniently.

Hmmm... Translation? 'Let's hit everyone up for a late fee and see how many people switch because our people in India are hassling them due to what we've trained them to do. Then, let's phase out reversals of fees such as this. I'll just bet that we can get a whole lot of people who don't have time for this crap to change their method of payment - and pay us a 'nominal fee' to do so.'

I'm not saying it's true or not, but it does give one pause, does it not?

And, speaking of conspiracies, my wife and I had an interesting conversation a few weeks back when Swine Flu was poised to wipe out every man, woman, child and hermaphrodite from here to Swaziland.

Here is what I asked her:

What if the economy tanked. Badly. People all worry about their money. So what gets their mind off of money? Only one thing is more important to them, and that's their mortality...

...(Speaking as a Government Official)...

"So, let's threaten it!

Enter, Swine Flu. We have the CDC create press releases, and then juxtapose them with steadily increasing 'confirmations' of the illness and news reports about its origins.

Let's originate the thing in Mexico. Why Mexico? This is where it gets good! We used to have a divided opinion as a nation about whether illegal immigrants from Mexico were a blessing or a curse. But with unemployment near an all-time high, perhaps individuals will be less sympathetic with those illegals. Maybe, they'll even WANT those jobs that only a few months ago were far beneath them. Perhaps we can deflect some of that anger about our tanked banking and commerce system AWAY from the source, and blame the Mexicans!

THEN, we can also gain favor for stopping them from coming over the border, because they will almost assuredly bring swine flu with them! They simlpy must be stopped at all costs, or we will all be killed!

As you know, we've had problems gaining approval for a 'Great Wall' (nee, fence) of Mexico for years now. Further, we can't get anyone to come down here and work Border Patrol, no matter how hard we try and recruit. But, with the advent of Swine flu, America will surely wake up to the threat and BEG us to put up that fence!

Which is great, because a project of that size takes a ton of money and manpower. We'll create new jobs, just like during Roosevelts' 'New Deal', and employment will be bolstered all around - on the labor side, as well as the supply side!

Now, who can we hire to staff this damn thing? Well, by the time it's finished, we should have a great many of our troops back from Afghanistan, and we sure could use some of those soldiers down there to act as Border Patrol Agents. It's great, because they're predominantly disciplined and understand the use of firearms.

But where will THOSE people live? There's nearly no towns down in that area. I guess we'll have to build some! As well as the electrical and water infrastructure that go along with them. And that will create even more jobs, and stimulate the economy even further!"

Sound far fetched? Perhaps. Or, perhaps, I'm dead on. Time will tell, but I will say this: Question Everything.

(05/21/09 - 10:06 PM)
A guy at work told me about this video a while back. This video is both hilarious AND disgusting. I have no idea what the setup was on this one (i.e. - it could be someone's birthday, a party, drunk college kids, or the precursor to a porn shoot - who knows) but it's seriously funny. Make sure you watch the girl in the upper-left hand corner.

P.S. - It's mildly offensive, but I think the funny outweighs the offensiveness. If you're offended, you can turn your volume down so you don't have to hear the 'S' word. Or just move on =)

(05/20/09 - 10:48 PM)
Tonight we finished the ".Hack//Sign" anime series. This one, amazingly enough, tended to suck you in due to what the premise was, moreso than the storyline. Essentially, the story is set in a 'World of Warcraft'-esque universe where people congregate to play a MMORPG (that's 'Massively-Multi-User On-Line Role-Playing Game', to you super-non geeks out there) called 'The World'. Within 'The World', we are introduced to a series of characters who come from all walks of life, are never what they truly seem to be, and all have hidden agendas of their own.

One character, in particular, is Tsukasa (and go ahead and make the 'Mi Casa is Tsukasa' joke - I already have) - a character who has been unable to log out for eight continuous days and has somehow managed to gain the ability to feel pain in 'The World'.

Once more, I will defer to WikiPedia to give you way more specifics than I ever could.

The series, as a whole, was pretty decent. I especially liked how there were no real segue episodes - it was all just linear story, which is something that other series could take to heart. Especially if I have to see another "Neo Ranga" Christmas episode. Who's buying into THAT?

I can recommend this series, simply because it always kept you guessing. So much so, in fact, that I was a little disappointed with the ambiguity of the ending. The upside is that it allows for a follow-up series to be made with relative ease - perhaps one where we follow the lives of the characters both inside and outside of 'The World', rather than just seeing them inside, and never really knowing their true identities or motivations.

Also, one has to wonder what evil plot the Wintermute-like A.I. is plotting next.

(05/19/09 - 10:16 PM)
Greetings! It is I, Pinky the House Elf! I was over today to visit Plinky, Heath's House Elf, and he allowed me to play with his information machine! It's really not all that impressive, but he did show me how I could impart a message that Mistress Dena has been asking me to impart all week. You see, I live with Mistress Dena and Master Zach - as well as my ignoble steed, Dragon. Mistress Dena sent me up here because her power cord is broken, and Zach and Aaron have to 'level up' (I have no idea what this means, but as a House Elf, I am ever vigilant in my blind obedience.)

And so, Plinky has shown me how to use this information disseminating machine to give you the following message, courtesy of Mistress Dena:

Master Heath's top-five Bejeweled scores after fifty-something plays are:

* 119,260
* 98,650
* 96,870
* 96,210
* 90,760

I'm not sure what's that's all about, but she assured me it was a matter of the highest importance and that the 'Arch Nemesis of the North' would never find out. I swear, sometimes I don't understand humans. I also don't understand why the few house elves that I've met don't look all flamingo-ish like myself. Strange indeed.

(05/18/09 - 10:22 PM)
Last week, we had a huge blow on the evening of garbage day. In the morning, we found that a wayward garbage can had made its way right smack into the center of our driveway (as well as the usual flotsam of trash from my lacadaisical neighbors, who don't know how to use garbage bags and/or cans properly, having washed up in our backyard.)

Now, being decent folk, and not wanting someone else to suffer as we have (our cans have blown down the street, only to be hastily adopted by less scrupulous neighbors and never heard from again) we elected to put it aside in the street until it could make its way back home.

And there it sat. One day; then two and then three. By day five, some anonymous Ms. Crabtree in our neighborhood got the bright idea to "Teach those hillbilly assholes, the Alberts' a lesson" and while we were at work, the wayward can was placed upside-down DIRECTLY in front of our front door on our porch.

Dude, we're silly, not lazy.

I was a little peeved, so I immediately put the thing right back where I had it in the street. The next morning, it was gone.

My theory? Whoever had moved it onto our porch thought that it must be free for the taking - and did so. I just wonder how many of our neighbors now think we're lazy rednecks because we wait a week to take our garbage cans up.

New subject: Today, I was informed that my Assistant's husband had been moved from whatever he does at Frito-Lay to a forklift position, with a raise of over $3.00, American. He now makes $21.50, plus benefits, and yet he has no marketable skills. I'm happy for them, but to me this is a problem as well. I'm all for a living wage, but... nevermind - it doesn't really matter what I think. Good for him, though.

(05/17/09 - 11:13 AM)
I cound not sleep well last night, so I got up early. Then I got tired, so I went back to bed. What's up with that?

I finally got around to updating the REST of my web site (I've been lazy the last two weeks) and got it all ported over again. This means nothing to you, and you probably won't even notice. But it bugs me because, well - I'm me, and I'm anal-retentive to a fault some days.

I'm just sitting here trying to recollect what happened this week. Once more, I have a ton of stories, but I didn't take notes this week. When will I learn?

(05/16/09 - 10:18 PM)
Today it seemed as though all my neighbors had somehow conspired to be as noisy as possible - all day.

Here's what I heard today:

° My neighbor FINALLY mowing his back lawn (I couldn't believe my eyes)

° Then he weed whacked too! (Was I dead? In a coma?)

° Then he decided to re-seat all of those nails that were sticking out of his fence (He's been eaten by a pod-person - that must be it)

° My OTHER neighbor has been having a five-star garage sale since Thursday. I don't know what in the hell she's selling over there, but she's had them lined up half-way around the block for it for days on end. People just keep coming, and they all seem to stay for a good long time before departing with their loot. This is in stark contrast to my hillbilly neighbor whose garage sale LAST weekend was patheti-sad with a capital 'P'.

° The guy across the street is - once more - working in his Sanford & Son set of a yard with a piece motorized power equipment of some sort or another

° Then, garage sale central decided to mow the lawn and do the trimming DURING the garage sale

° The kids kitty-corner to us were all outside screaming

Man, I'm too young to be the cranky old guy. I guess if I didn't want to live in a family neighborhood, I should have bought a house in the country. Hindsight is 20-20.

(05/15/09 - 11:06 PM)
This week at work has been full of ups and downs. One day we're slammed (a good thing) and the next day it's like Death Valley. I can't figure out the pattern, so I just find myself thankful when we get things to quote or orders.

The interesting trend shift seems to be toward things picking up. We've gotten more quotes - from more diverse sources - of late, and likewise with orders. We're also discovering how versatile and malleable we are as a company and as a team. With only the best of the best remaining, individuals are truly shining (for the most part) and things are running with minimal caveats. If only day-to-day business at full staff could be this easy.

At this point, I am cautiously optimistic - but just barely.

At any rate, I got home in time to mow the lawn before the rain came. Oh - that's right - it DIDN'T. I guess south of here got pounded, but we never saw more than a sprinkle. This isn't a bad thing, except if you consider that I hauled hiney to get the lawn mowed, and skipped the edging.

Once the mowing is done, the edging is more or less moot. If I don't do it first, it just looks crappy.

Still, it could have been worse: I could have been mowing in the rain.

(05/14/09 - 11:11 PM)
Seth McFarlane's "Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy" finally arrived. I was so excited when I heard that this title was coming, because it would give this guy a chance to work outside of his two hit cartoon shows. I just knew that it would be hilarious.

Prior to my receiving it, I happened across numerous reviews on Amazon.com - and they were sheer abhorrance for this product. I know that I should have known better, but I just figured that these individuals had no sense of humor.

Man - was I way off. I watched this piece of crap from beginning to end and did not laugh, giggle, chuckle, guffaw, snicker, etc. ONE SINGLE TIME. Not once.

This was - by far - the worst cartoon presentation geared toward adults that I have seen since the debut of "Tom Goes To The Mayor", and "Squidbillies". This was nothing short of a pile of unfunny, offensive crap that went nowhere. It was almost as though he laced it with profanity and offensiveness to attempt to lift the humor factor via shock. Sometimes this works - say, if you're Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock. And sometimes it doesn't - say, if you're Andrew Dice Clay or Seth McFarlane trying to sell something different.

I will never watch this piece of crap again. If you feel that you must for the sake of being a huge McFarlane fan, and for the sake of continuity, heed my warning: I will never get those 54 minutes of my life back. And I would rather castrate myself with a blunt instrument than watch that pile of tripe once more.

Seriously - it was THAT bad.

(05/13/09 - 11:09 PM)
I finished Bob Morris' newest novel, "A Deadly Silver Sea". Once again, protagonist Zack Chasteen is back. Along for the ride are his new wife, and 'Critter' - his yet unnamed, forthcoming, offspring.

This book takes the series in a new direction, keeping it fresh and interesting. This book felt very much like a Clive Cussler novel, which is okay, so long as Mr. Morris does not play out the often formulaic writing of Mr. Cussler ad-nauseum.

On the whole, it was a solid addition to the series and was worth the wait. For my money, Dorsey is still the king of Floridian fiction, but Bob Morris is slowly gaining momentum in the genre, rather than backsliding with this senior effort.

If you like action novels, then this one will probably fit you well. You don't need to have read the series prior to read this installment, but - as I usually say - it certainly helps to understand what in the world is going on and what the characters underlying motivations are.

(05/12/09 - 11:02 PM)
My wife showed me the coolest thing tonight. It's called Babelfish (referencing the tower of Babel, as well as the strange creature concocted by Douglas Adams in his "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Series" which allowed him to get around how disparate alien species could possibly comunicate with one another. What this amazing tool does is translate single words all the way up to web sites from one language to another in the blink of an eye.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in Japanese.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in Greek.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in Russian.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in Dutch.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in French.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in German.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in Italian.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in Korean.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in Chinese.

Click HERE to see what my header page would look like in Spanish

Neat, huh?

(05/11/09 - 11:22 PM)
My wife received this in her e-mail. Normally, I abhorr when individuals pass things along that I simply must see (anyone remember the 'Ship made from the World Trade Center' e-mail? Yeah - crap like that.)

This one, however, really struck a chord with me. I am a Republican predominantly due to my distaste for out of control social programs. I am not for big business either - a Republican staple - but I simply cannot abide overtly giving away my hard earned cash to individuals who are milking a corrupted and morally bankrupt system where the primary currency is votes.

And yes, for the record, I realize that NUMEROUS parallels could be drawn between either party. We're just talking about this one at the moment. Here is what the e-mail read:

I recently asked my friend's little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up.

She said she wanted to be President some day. Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, 'If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?'

She replied, 'I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people.' Her parents beamed.

'Wow...what a worthy goal' I told her, 'But you don't have to wait until you're President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.'

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, 'Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?'

I said, 'Welcome to the Republican Party.'

Her parents still aren't speaking to me.

(05/10/09 - 10:06 AM)
Feliz Dias de Madre! It's Mother's day - another Hallmark holiday cooked up to force families to get together and honor matrons by choice or otherwise.

My wife went over to the store this morning to pick up a card for her Mother - mine was coming to the house shortly, so I remained home since it runs in my family to show up early. She went into the card aisle, and saw a man and woman with a toddler in a cart looking for a card. The toddler was a bit unruly, so the Father began garnering his attention so that the Mother could look in peace, and the toddler wouldn't get into any trouble.

Wait for it...

And... then: Right about now the Mother turned to the Father and said, in a snide tone, "You know, it would be nice if you could help me pick out a card here!"

A lovely woman!

So, the dutiful Father suspends running interference on the child and does what his Wife desires. As they are choosing a card, the toddler begins to find other things to occupy his time. Within the minute, he has mined deeply into his Mother's purse, and has removed a great many of the contents, perhaps in the hopes of finding the seven lost LifeSavers of Cibola.

At this point, the Mother turns on the Father again, saying, "Thanks for letting him dig through my purse! Can't you keep an eye on him?"

I'm thinking she's lucky that she got laid even the one time.

Happy Mother's Day!

(05/08/09 - 11:02 PM)
Today is my sister-in-law Dena's birthday. She's >mumble mumble< years old! Hooray!

As a special birthday present, she has asked me to post the following blog entry to whomever might read it and garner some meaning from it:

I, Heath Alberts, scored 96,210 on Bejeweled for the iPod after playing only twenty-seven games.

I don't know why this is important, but it's her birthday, so I agreed.

Happy birthday Dena!

(05/07/09 - 11:03 PM)
I would like to wish a happy birthday to Grandma Marilynn (and I hope to God I spelled Marilynn right in this context, as there was no one available for a consult at the time of this writing.)

For her birthday, I would like to write a short biography of her life. Again, since there is no one available for a consult, I have enlisted the assistance of Plinky, my House Elf to regurgitate facts that he has picked up while hiding during family functions over the past few years. According to Plinky:

Grandma Marilynn was born in 1927 in the small Asian town of Tong-Poo. She was born to a poor family of rice farmers, and at the age of five was kicked by an ox, causing her oriental eye slant to become an occidental one (Oh! Ox-Cidental! Wow, that's a double pun!)

Her family then shunned her, and she was sent to America in trade for some packs of menthol smokes and a high-chair. She was adopted by a German family, and was raised on a farm where a hybridized corn-horseradish plant was the primary crop. Unfortunately, the tase never caught on, but she did learn to make some awesome horseradish during her days on the farm.

Later, she married and had children. I am told that she raised them near a water fountain on a bike path and that... wait, what? Plinky, are you certain about this?... You're sure there isn't more to that?... Okay, I can't argue... Ahem...

Anyway, she had several children, and was blessed to have Gary as one of her own. Normally, this would be more than enough for any Mother to die happy. But, she's no ordinary woman.

She went on to have a short acting career doing commercials for Dr. Bob's Super-Wonder Pills, only to find out that taking these pills resulted in many women having boys who grew up to have full beards and be interested in electricity. For some reason, they were discontinued.

She then spent a few years doing undercover work for the F.B.I., where she infiltrated the world's largest ring of clandestine beet smugglers (there were four guys, in all - hey, they're beets, after all) and was awarded the Golden Spyglass by J. Edgar Hoover himself. At the time, Grandma didn't know it was him, as he was wearing a sundress and lipstick.

Once the kids were all grown up (or, in Gary's case, old enough to move out, anyway) she did correspondance writing for what would later become the Tonight Show, while writing crossword puzzles for the New Yorker on the side.

One fateful afternoon in 1943 she was having lunch with a young Jewish scientist named Einstein who, after seeing a demonstration of the proper way to birth a lamb, began musing about splitting atoms and then disappeared with an Italian guy named Fermi for a few years.

Later, Grandma worked for a towing company - first as a road enforcer, and later as a dispatcher. She discovered computers, and developed the first file-sharing service in America. Although not well known, 'Insane Cats, U.S.A.' was a haven for individuals who had adopted mentally unstable yet lovable feline companions.

She moved to an apartment complex north of her previous home for some time, and later conquered her fear of heights by joining the Flying Elvis's of Utah for a few months, and then moved into a high-rise where she resides today.

Yes, truly she has had an amazing life - at least, what we know of it, or Plinky was able to recall. So, Happy Birthday Grandma! I'm glad that you're around, and I'm happy to know you. >Smooch<

(05/06/09 - 11:04 PM)
I have recently discovered Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic. I think I have a new favorite drink. I have no idea who decided to blend all the weird things in there together but they were a genius. Click HERE for a complete listing.

As an interesting aside, 'Bombay' was a British aberration of the name 'Mumbai' - the true (and current) name of Bombay, India.

(05/05/09 - 11:18 PM)
The following is a real posting from Craig's List that was forwarded to my Assistant by her husband:

Come get my Husband's crap! (Janesville, WI)

I have a big bag of clothes, jacket, shoes, hats, CD's and some nice shirts that were my husbands. I would love to trade for a high-chair, couple packs of menthol smokes, children's DVD's, diapers size 3, a few plastic lawn chairs, or cold hard cash or change :-)

Most of the clothes are sizes small to medium. There are some Hanes? plain white and black tagless t-shirts.

Some brands are Volcom, Aeropostale. New York Yankees hat, Corona hat, Volcom hat. Some nice dress shirts too will make you look like Mr. GQ. You can even pretend you are in the Army with a pair of rainproof Army pants! The devent pair of jeans is a size 33x30 Levi's I think boot cut? Just think you, your friend, brother, son, or significant other can have a new wardrobe! Hey, I don't even care if you are a female and want to dress in men's clothes! just come and take all his stuff. I will even vacuum seal some of the clothes for you in a space saver bag and you can have the bag! Wow! What a deal! E-mail me w/an offer!

Alot of things went through my mind: She's divorcing (most likely), her husband died overseas in the military (possible, but she seems too peppy at the moment) or she's throwing him out, and he doesn't know it yet. Or he's gone to prison for a very, very long time and she's had enough of Mr. Janesville being in the pokey.

She seems like a marginally intelligent woman - not stupid, but not a rocket scientist either - based on her vocabulary and sales tactics. She also seemed like a good mother, until the high chair and menthol smokes appeared in the same sentence, whereupon her parenting skills became immediately suspect.

This is - by far - one of the strangest ads I have ever seen in my life. I don't care so much about the stuff (who wants to wear another guys clothes?) as I do about the backstory. It feels an awful lot like there's a Lifetime movie in there somewhere for anyone who is sleuthy enough to draw it out.

(05/04/09 - 11:22 PM)

We'll miss you, Bea
In Loving Memory
May 13th, 1922 - April 25th, 2009

(05/03/09 - 10:06 AM)
I got up this morning with the notion that I would blog first, and then do my chores and finally rip all the CD's that I purchased yesterday.

Apparently, my brain and my hands were on two different planets, because as soon as I sat down, I began working on the music. Sometimes I feel like it's a ball and chain that I simply cannot break away from. Why in the world I am so obsessive about things is beyond me. I find myself giving myself things to do (that don't have to be done - they're nothing more than personal goals) and then fretting and worrying about getting them done in the least amount of time and the most efficient manner.

For example: This morning, I got up. I brushed my teeth as I walked around and opened up the house. While I was doing this, I ran dish water and turned on the computer. When I finished brushing, I used mouthwash. As I swished, I stopped the dishwater, and logged into my computer to get it up and going.

I got rid of the mouthwash (I'll spare you the details) and began a CD ripping. Then I began opening and sizing all the windows that I would need open on my computer for the day. I arranged them intuitively, and logged in to Amazon.com four times so that I could bring up album art before-hand.

While this was coming up, I made coffee. And by the time I returned, we were all set to go.

I brought up all the album art for the upcoming rips, as I changed them out one by one and began to parse them out to my specifications for permanence in my music collection. This entails enqueing them in WinAmp so that I can produce the playlist for my web site, as well as adding them to iTunes. Then, I change the ID3 data to match my specifications, and add the album art to both the folder and the ID3's themselves. Then I add the music to the appropriate playlists.

All the while, I'm calculating my checkbook and paying bills in the odd moments in between, as well as writing this blog and breaking up compilation albums that I download for free from Amazon.com weekly, as well as downloading the MP3 deal of the day (today: Ornette Coleman for .99 cents - woowoo!)

I still have dishes to do, but I can't do them from here - so that's one thing I cannot exactly do more efficiently.

I'm like this all the time, and it used to make my poor wife nuts. Now I find that - more and more - she has become the same way.

Interesting. =)

P.S. - I just got to this CD that I bought yesterday. Can anyone tell me what in the hell this says? I bought it because I was curious, and I can't find the track listings in English anywhere...

Takao Kasugi - "Goodbye Day"

Update! - I have them now, thanks for the help!

(05/02/09 - 1:12 PM)
Went to Madison today to get the oil changed. Wanda and I took a walk while we waited and the day was absolutely gorgeous. We stopped by one of the two bookstores we like up there, and I hit the $1.00 CD bins pretty hard (I got 32 CD's for about $34.00 - woohoo!) and filled out some artists' offerings that were lacking in my current hoard o' music.

Then we came home, and had tacos for lunch because we felt like cooking together. After that, we played some games on the iPods and sat in the sun in the living room (I still cannot break 50,000 on Bejeweled even after playing twenty times - someday, though).

In the evening, we watched some "House" on DVD. I'm still not entirely certain about the show, but it has some decent moments while remaining a bit more than hokey at times. I did correctly diagnose meningitis and rabies prior to the reveal, however.


Then we made a pizza and just hung out.

All in all, it was one of the better days that we've had of late.

(05/01/09 - 11:04 PM)
This is getting out of hand. Today, we laid off another two skilled machinists, and cut everyone's hours to 32. We've already cut off one of the companies' arms to save the head, and now we just removed a leg. Pretty soon we'll need one of thoes Futurama head jars in order for our company to survive.

Once more, customers who have no business having no business still do not have business (wow, that's alot of business for not having any.) Customers are going under, taking pay cuts, alternating unemployment or layoffs altogether.

I'm watching companies who do business world-wide in mission-critical endeavors sit by and watch their businesses simply bleed out because there are no contracts to be had.

I am told that the banks are holding out purposely because they disagree with President Obama's stance on something or another. So, if this is indeed true, we essentially have Banks and Finance Companies underlying the initial collapse, followed by the very same institutions quashing the rebound because they have desires incompatible with the current President.

If this is true, then I think it's time to move to Canada.

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