Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Friday, May 31, 2002 It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time for everyone’s favorite Velcrometer feature, the Reader Mail Slot.
Okay, it’s probably not everyone’s favorite yet, because this is the first one. But I have a good feeling about it.
A few weeks ago, this little blog started getting a lot more traffic for some mysterious reason. Since then, I’ve gotten a number of nice e-mails from thoughtful readers offering their advice and perspectives on some of the things I’ve written about here. I appreciate each and every one of them. But since they were nice, I can’t exactly make fun of them, can I?
Fortunately, they aren’t the only ones who wrote. Observe:
Star wars RROOLZ! You’re sight is bantha poodoo.
As bad as my “sight” may be without my glasses, I assure you that I was wearing them when I saw Attack of the Clones. If my experience of the movie had been limited to the aural level, I never would have made it to the end. Thanks for your concern. In case you’re talking about my site, however, thanks for bringing it to my attention. This’ll be my last entry. Thanks for reading, everyone.
Dear M. Giant:
We read with interest your article detailing your new bowling technique. Coincidentally, we’re looking for bowlers who don’t care about things like form, rules, or decorum. Based on your own description, it sounds like you would be an excellent candidate for our new venture, the Extreme Bowling Tour.
The XBT, as we’re calling it, is going to turn televised bowling on its ear. Frankly, nobody’s interrested in watching people politely take turns playing the game any more. It’s just not good TV. What we propose is Smash-Mouth Bowling, a much more exciting Event that pits bowler against bowler in a full-contact clash of power and personality. All we need is a bowling alley that will let us replace those bolted-down seats with folding chairs, and plenty of on-air talent. That’s where you come in.
If you’re interested in joining this revolution in sports entertainment, please send a five-minute audition video and copies of your medical records to the address below. The video should include footage of you speaking, bowling, and dragging a screaming opponent the full length of a bowling gutter by his or her hair and subjecting him or her to the pinsetter-based punishment of your choice. We look forward to seeing what you’ve got.
Thanks, Vince, but I’m only intrested if you’re paying in advance.
I just wanted to say how disgusted I was when I learned about your habit of burning your own lawn refuse. You may not think all the smoke you’re dumping into the air is a big deal, but take a minute to stop and think about all of those “harmless” chimineas that are sold nationwide. There are “literally” tens of thousands of them ending up in private hands every year. You know what? A little smoke from a lot of people adds up. You may not think your own “little” fire makes a difference, but anyone who claims to be “concerned” about the “environment” should realize the impact of the individual. Right now, all over this country, smoke is rising from countless backyards into the air we breathe, and every carcinogenic particle of it makes my job as a pro-pollution lobbyist harder.
After a hard day of trying to restore the God-given right of multinational corporations to burn off Olympic-sized open pools of mercury, dioxins, and sulfuric compounds on their own property, all I want to do is go home, have a few beers, and dump the empties into the incinerator. On my rare weekends off, I just want to drive my Humvee the fifty feet to the cigar club and tell everyone the truth about the Kyoto agreement. But no, I have to be defensive about my chosen profession because everyone assumes that all the pollution in the air comes from those huge smokestacks on the tops of massive poison factories, completely forgetting to take into account the percent or two that’s caused by yard-burners just like you. Well, I’m sick of it. We all have to share this planet, you know. Quit acting like you have the right to treat it as you please.
A Concerned Citizen
Hey, meet me halfway here. Start carpooling to the cigar club and we’ll talk.
It’s obvious I still have work to do around here. I’ve changed my mind about shutting down. You were worried for a minute there, though, weren’t you?
posted by M. Giant 3:52 PM 0 comments
Thursday, May 30, 2002 A couple of weeks ago, Trash and I bought a new china cabinet for our kitchen. We got it at a furniture store a couple of blocks from our house. This place is like an indoor yard sale that takes credit cards. It’s in a pretty big space, but the furniture is crammed in there so tight that you have to literally crawl over some items to see everything. It’s all about remaindered and scratch-and-dent stuff, which means they practically pay you to take the stuff away. Oddly enough, we always forget about the place until we’ve looked everywhere else and have all but resigned ourselves to dropping most of a paycheck on a highboy or something. Then we drive past it on our way home to agonize about all the money we’re going to have to spend because we really, really need a highboy, really, really soon, and we remember, “oh, yeah, that place” and decide to go in and see if they have a highboy with a scratch on the bottom that they’ll part with for the price of a nice dinner, and the next thing you know we’ve got a brand-new (to us) highboy occupying a spot that just yesterday was tormenting us with its irksome lack-of-highboyness. Obviously that’s a hypothetical example, since I’m not even clear on what a highboy is, but you get the point.
Anyway, our new china cabinet was so cheap I’m embarrassed to tell you what we paid for it. The back of it’s a bit dented and there’s a sticky strip where some bright spark slapped a hunk of packing tape onto the finish, but that’ll come off and the dents are, like I said, in the back. The only immediate issue was that one of the two glass shelves was missing, so we had to get a replacement. The alternative was to just stack all of our good dishes and glasses really high on top of each other, and I didn’t have much confidence in my ability to sell that as a good idea.
One day last week on my lunch break, I took the intact shelf to a nearby glass shop so they could fabricate a duplicate of it. Looking in the phone book, I was amazed at how many glass companies there are in this town. People in the Twin Cities must be really clumsy or something. Plus the guy who wrote Fast Food Nation really needs to look into auto glass companies next, what with all the boxes of dead cow those companies are giving away. Personally, I like to get my food from other sources than operations whose main by-product is an inconceivable number of tiny, innards-shredding shards of silicate death, but that might be just me.
So, yeah, my shelf. The lady at the shop said a new one would be about twenty-eight dollars and they could have it ready in a week. That was a bit longer and more expensive than I expected, so I went into this big debate with myself right there in the office:
Cheap self: When we reglazed the windows, that was like five or six bucks a pane.
Practical self: You don’t remember that.
CS: I know it wasn’t twenty-eight dollars.
PS: This piece is bigger, though.
CS: Not four times bigger.
PS: It’s thicker, too.
CS: Maybe it shouldn’t be.
PS: Remember how many panes we broke fixing the windows? Just from speaking harshly in their presence?
PS: So how much do you think it’ll cost to replace all of our china and stemware if your new, cheap, thin shelf collapses and shatters everything on and under it? Including the other shelf? You think that would be more than twenty-eight dollars?
CS: That won’t happen.
PS: No it won’t, because we’re getting the thicker glass.
CS: That still seems pretty steep.
PS: We’re also getting beveling around the edges.
PS: Why? Why? You want an untreated glass edge facing you every time you open the china cabinet?
CS: We won’t open it that often.
PS: We won’t have to open it that often, because every time we do there’ll be two cutting blades one molecule wide just sitting there waiting to maim us. You read Snowcrash.
CS: Oh, whatever.
PS: You say “whatever” now, but one day you go to put away a tumbler and *snick* there goes your hand. You won’t even know it’s gone until you close the door and it’s still in there going, “hey, what happened?”
CS: I’ll know it’s gone.
PS: And that makes it worth the couple of bucks we’d save not getting the beveled edges?
CS: You know—
PS: You think you’ll see your hand in there, looking out at you through the glass door, all sad and lonely, and you’ll open the door and be all Señor Wences, like, “Sorry,” and it’ll say back, “S’Alright”?
CS: We could just be careful.
PS: Accidents happen. Especially in a town as clumsy as this one. One second you’re being careful and the next second everyone’s calling you “Stumpy.”
CS: Nobody would call me—
PS: “Stumpy McStumperton.”
CS: I don’t think—
PS: “The Stumpmeister.”
PS: “Stump of the Antarctic.”
CS: All right—
PS: “Stumpy, Warrior Princess.”
PS: “Stumpy the Vampire Slayer.”
CS: ALL RIGHT!
PS: All right, then.
I like having arguments with myself because those are the ones I have the best chance of winning.
Of course this entire “debate” took place at my normal speed of thought, which means it just wrapped up a few minutes ago. Now that the shop has called me to let me know the new shelf is ready, I just need another week to decide when to pick it up.
posted by M. Giant 3:00 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, May 29, 2002 I’m not big on yard work. It’s not that I don’t like being outside, or that I don’t want a nice yard. I do like being outside, and I do want a nice yard. It just seems that there’s never enough time to actually accomplish anything. You can cut, prune, trim, edge, and weed, but then you have to deal with all the loose vegetable matter that all of your cutting, pruning, trimming, edging, and weeding has generated. Snipping off bits of the hedge is all well and good, but knowing that you’re going to have to bag up all the snipped-off bits and haul them to the curb isn’t much of an incentive to keep snipping. Especially when everything’s going to be all grown back in a week anyway. If I couldn’t get away with leaving my grass clipping on the (front) lawn, I’d probably mow even less frequently than I do now.
Last Christmas, I got something that has changed my whole attitude about yard work. It’s called a chiminea. If you’re not familiar with this item, it’s basically an outdoor fireplace. It has changed my life.
There’s a big difference between producing yard waste you’re going to have to bag and drag, and producing yard waste that you eventually plan to set fire to. The two tasks may seem similar, but they have as much in common as cleaning grease traps and eating ice cream. Since we don’t have a fireplace in our house, having a chiminea pits my latent pyromania against my general laziness. And I’m here to tell you that my laziness doesn’t stand a chance.
I don’t pick up sticks any more; I gather kindling. Instead of trimming the hedges, I collect brush. And when I picked up a saw, climbed a ladder, and pruned a big branch from our backyard maple yesterday to give my new grass seeds a little more sun, I was cutting firewood.
I still had to bag up some leaves last week (hey, spring came late this year, so shut up), but instead of cursing all those maddening little twigs that poked holes in the bags, I just pulled them out to be consigned to the flames another day. That’ll learn ‘em.
Trash and I live within the city limits, so there are all these weird rules about yard waste disposal. I don’t even know them all. I do know that it’s illegal to burn leaves in a bonfire in your yard. My neighbor told me that you used to be able to rake the leaves into the street and burn them there. I’m generally not one for saying we should go back to the way things were in the good old days, but that sounds awesome. You’d be driving slowly through the neighborhood, weaving between these huge, smoldering piles that you could pretend were burning police cars in some imaginary apocalypse. That’s certainly worth the occasional house fire and the likelihood of all the neighborhood kids entering middle school with lung tumors.
At least the city still picks up leaves and brush if we leave it by the curb during certain times of the year, so we’re better off than some places in that respect. I’ve heard about towns and cities that don’t have any place to put the stuff, so people have to resort to flushing leaves down their toilets. Eventually that does a real number on your plumbing. Believe me, I know. That’s why I’m willing to spend a little money on toilet paper now.
But it’s still fun to burn stuff in the back yard. And don’t lecture me on how I’m ruining the environment by releasing smoke and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; if it’s good enough for Yellowstone, it’s good enough for me.
posted by M. Giant 4:16 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, May 28, 2002 I got yet another reason to be proud of Trash recently. Last week, my fellow Damn Hell Ass King Uncle Bob launched a new website called Suck Ass Poems. You should go there and post one. My wife did. And hers earned her a special shout-out from Uncle Bob himself. Don’t go crying foul—just because Uncle Bob and I share a few readers doesn’t mean we’ve ever met or spoken or exchanged e-mails (yet), and I don’t think that would guarantee special treatment anyway. No, that wife of mine made it on pure talent. See for yourself.
* * *
Speaking of pure talent, I’m in the midst of a project that’s going to call upon all my skills over the next few weeks. I’m going to have to become an expert in necromancy and the black arts on a par with Willow Rosenberg if I’m going to pull this off without going mad.
I’m going to bring my back lawn back from the dead.
We killed our lawn years ago. We built a deck in the back yard over the summer. Somehow, the grass didn’t take too kindly to spending the summer months buried under yards of lumber and all the dirt we displaced when we dug holes for eleven footings (which, in accordance with city building codes, now contain more buried concrete than the NORAD complex under Cheyenne Mountain). Never mind all the stomping around in work boots. Plus there’s the large maple tree which gives so much shade that it’s like permanent nuclear winter back there. Needless to say, our grass died a slow, painful death. Sometimes, very late, when the night was completely still, we could hear it screaming.
Now our back yard is an expanse of black hardpan like the side of an adobe house, a cracked, barren moonscape where nothing can grow but soul-numbing dread. There’s still a fringe of grass along one edge that I have to mow a couple of times every summer. And in late June, we do get a little green when the weeds take over. Mown weeds don’t look quite as nice as mown grass, so this year I’ve decided to do something about it.
Casting aside monetary concerns, I splurged and dropped twelve dollars on a bag of grass seed. Two days ago, I cleared some of the sticks, leaves, and acorn shells off the yard and scattered the seeds across the unwelcoming brick-like soil. I gently raked the area so the seeds would mix with the millmeter of gray dust I’d managed to scrape loose from the surface. And I’ve watered it twice a day ever since. So far, nothing. But at least the seeds haven’t blown away yet.
The next couple of weeks are going to be the real test. I’m going to have to get out there and water the lawn every morning before I go to work. This is going to be a severe departure from my usual morning routine, which normally calls for me to be at my desk within ten minutes of my last REM.
But when I see that trampled-down mud start to sprout with its first sparse patches of greenish peachfuzz, it’s going to be all worth it. It always is.
Then, by neglect or incompetence, I kill it again.
I’m just hoping that if I fail this time, the weeds won’t take the summer off. I’m going to need some ground cover back there.
posted by M. Giant 1:33 PM 0 comments
Sunday, May 26, 2002 My wife Trash is a magnet for random strangers. I can't tell you how many times I've left her alone in an airport for five minutes and come back to find her chatting amiably with someone in a way that indicates they're old friends.
"Where do you know that person from?" I used to ask after her friends went their own ways.
"I just met him/her while you were getting coffee," she'd say offhandedly.
Eventually, I stopped asking because this happened every. Single. Time.
At first she wouldn't believe me when I told her that this is not a commonplace occurrence for most people. It wasn't until other friends of ours started noticing the phenomenon and pointing it out to her that she realized there was anything unusual about it.
Not to blame the victim, but part of it's her fault. When strangers approach her (and they always do), she'll actually encourage them without even meaning to. She can't help it. Her conversational skills are so formidable that even when she's being standoffish she's easier to talk to than Oprah. My standard response to a conversational overture from someone I've never met is to hiss and bare my teeth. Whereas Trash will talk to the stinkiest, ugliest person in the building as if she's getting paid to do so. Factor in her intelligence, sense of humor, and considerable hotness, and you’ve got catnip for people who seem to think the world is one big cocktail party.
So pretty much every foray into public includes an encounter between Trash and one of her "randoms," as we've taken to collectively calling them. It's like she has a subliminal tattoo on her face that says "please tell me about your life. Everyone. You first."
Anyway, her most memorable random in recent months was this guy who was at the bar where our friend's band was playing. We'd noticed him earlier because he was the only one on the dance floor. He was this skinny, geeky little dude with glasses and a polo shirt, the only person I've ever seen mosh alone. He was also the only person I've ever seen dancing to a skipping CD in public. I'm pretty sure he was on X. He appeared to be part of a group at another table, so he really wasn't our problem.
Or so we thought.
So Trash is next to the bar talking to our friend Banana. I borrow Trash’s cell phone to call another friend of ours who is late. She tells me to get it out of her purse which is right next to her on the bar.
I go outside to make the call, then come back and drop the phone in her purse. Then I leave Trash there with Banana for a minute because hey, they're selling bottles of Schlitz for $1.25!
When I come back, X Boy has wedged himself between Trash and Banana. I say wedged because the noise of the bar necessitated close talking, which was what Trash and Banana had been doing. Which was what X Boy was now doing with my wife, leaving Banana to roll her eyes in disbelief.
I didn't hear the following exchange first hand. I heard about it later. This is what transpired during my absence:
X Boy: "Is that your cell phone?"
Note his pointed ignorance of the large man who had just dropped said phone into its owner’s purse, i.e., me.
X Boy: "I hope you don't talk on the phone when you're driving."
Trash: "I try not to."
X Boy: "It's dangerous to talk on the phone while driving."
Trash: (noncommittal grunt, which for her is the equivalent of stomping on her interlocutor's foot)
X Boy: "There are other things that are dangerous to do while driving. Changing tapes. Listening to the radio.
Having sex in the back seat."
Trash: (no response, which for her is the equivalent of shooting her interlocutor in the face)
X Boy: "I've never done that last one. But if you'd like to give it a try sometime..."
Trash: (look of disbelief, then turns back to Banana, which for her is the conversational equivalent of cramming a tactical nuclear device up her interlocutor's pee-hole)
My wife has been on the receiving end of some baaad pickup lines. But this was easily the worst. The fact that some guy would go that far, that clumsily, for a line that bad, made me embarrassed to be a biped.
I soon realized that X Boy wasn't part of that other group at all; he was just working the room. That became apparent as our group closed ranks around Trash, with X Boy insistently on the fringes trying to toss more of his non sequitur bons mots into our conversation. Meanwhile, I was staring at him and muttering to Trash, "please? I've never beat up a guy in a bar before."
Sadly, I still haven't.
posted by M. Giant 1:54 PM 0 comments
Friday, May 24, 2002 Obviously my claim to Star Wars apathy last week turned out to be nothing more than 28 kilobytes of hot air, since I had tickets for the next night’s 8:30 show in my shirt pocket twenty minutes after I posted. I didn’t go in expecting the movie to change my life, and I wasn’t disappointed.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t been getting a kick out of inhabiting the SW universe in other ways. I’ve been playing LucasArts’s Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast for the past couple of weeks. It may be called Jedi Knight II, but the first Jedi Knight game was actually Star Wars: Dark Forces II – Jedi Knight. So really it should be called Star Wars: Dark Forces III – Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast. Then we could look forward to games with infinitely recursive titles like Star Wars: Dark Forces VII – Jedi Knight VI – Jedi Outcast V – Jedi Master IV – Jedi Exterminator III – Jedi Ix-Nayer II – Sith On It and so on. Hey, it doesn’t make any less sense than Final Fantasy X, which pretty much reflexively undercuts the purported finality of the first nine.
Like its precursors, JKII puts the player in control of the movements of interplanetary badass Kyle Katarn, a freelance sometime Jedi perfectly suited for dangerous missions by virtue of his personal deflector shield and ability to rise from the dead with the touch of an “Escape” key. Eight years after the most formidable power in the history of the galaxy got spanked by an army of furry Precious Moments characters,* Katarn is dispatched to investigate a mysterious threat to the New Republic. Much violence and mayhem ensues, most of it directed at Katarn.
As much fun as it is to actually be able to deflect laser bolts with a lightsaber, a lot of the fun of the game derives from the fact that you get to walk around inside environments that are brilliantly translated from the movies. The design and rendering is first-rate. Wherever you’re standing, wherever you look, it’s immediately apparent that you’re in the Star Wars universe. Most of the game looks more convincing on the screen than parts of Attack of the Clones.
Obviously, if you’re going to find your way around in this world, there are a few things you should know.
- The New Republic has been in place for eight years, but they still haven’t gotten around to enforcing any safety regulations. Or perhaps those regulations are simply unenforceable, because after building soaring, narrow catwalks threading their way along the brinks of infernally deep ventilation shafts, the architects didn’t have enough material left over for things like, you know, railings. I’m not just talking about off-limits maintenance areas, either. You could be walking along a public boulevard in sunny, beautiful, downtown Bespin, and if your foot slips off the curb you’ll be dead before you hit the ground. Of starvation. No wonder the streets are abandoned. The cloud city’s population was probably decimated within a month of the introduction of Rollerblades.
- There’s only one way to get from point A to point B. There may be a few rooms or alcoves along the way filled with free ammunition, portable high-yield explosives, or aliens who don’t have anything to do all day but stand around waiting for you to show up and kill them, but overall it’s pretty hard to get lost. A corollary to this is that while many walls are covered with computer consoles and control panels, the only ones you can interact with are the ones that are immediately relevant to your mission. In some areas, the only way to proceed is via a Force-assisted superhuman leap. Why these areas aren’t littered with the bones of people who were unfortunate enough to lack a vertical four times their own height is a mystery to me.
- A thermal detonator only has about a six-foot blast radius, which means everyone who panicked at the sight of one in Jabba’s court is an even bigger wuss than I thought.
- Gonk still rules. He shows up here, every once in a while, trudging slowly back and forth and placidly muttering, “gonk….gonk…..gonk…..” If you’re feeling mean, you can take a pot shot at him and he’ll panic. He starts going “GONKGONKGONK” and stumbles into the nearest wall. Not that I would ever do that.
- Lando Calrissian has one fly hooptie. You run into him at some point in your adventures, and he gives you a ride in his bangin’ space-pimpmobile, the Lady Luck. It’s like a 70’s love van with a hyperdrive, all done up floor-to-ceiling in red leather upholstery with a belly turret and a locked door that presumably hides a planet-sized stash of Colt 45 (I’m sorry, but I’m required by law to make that joke). Surprisingly, Billy Dee Williams himself provided Lando’s voice for the game. You can totally tell. He keeps saying “Bezzbin” and everything. Luke Skywalker also makes an appearance, but someone else does his voice. I guess Mark Hamill is above voice acting or something. Oh, wait.
- Above all, pay attention to the musical cues. If you’re wandering around aimlessly to the strains of Princess Leia’s Theme and it abruptly segues into the Imperial March, you better have your weapons handy. All ten of them. Tangent: what’s with first-person-shooter games giving you more weapons than Rambo? Max Payne is a pretty cool-looking dude, but he would be a lot less intimidating if he carted his arsenal around in a Radio Flyer like he’d have to in real life. And I don’t see how he can pull off those slick bullet-time somersault dives and not blow off his digital cojones with all the firepower that must be stuffed down the front of his pants. Uh, end of tangent.
- The sinister force behind the game’s events is referred to as “The Imperial Remnant.” The word “imperial” implies the presence somewhere of an emperor, but we all know that he’s been dead for eight years. So who are these guys working for? Who’s building their top-secret research facilities? Who’s buying them their snazzy fascist uniforms and sparkly white armor? Who’s paying for all the weaponry that Katarn keeps looting from their corpses after he kills them? Maybe you get to find out later, but I haven’t yet. It’s not clear who thought that the word “Remnant” would strike fear into galaxy, either: “We don’t want trouble from the Remnant.” “You mean that scrap of carpet in the attic?” I guarantee you, if people started throwing the phrase “Nazi Remnant” around in 1953, there’d be a lot fewer skinheads right now.
Yeah, obviously I’m hooked on this game. I think that’s partially because it’s just nice to be able to be into something Star Wars-related while the movie’s out and the culture is temporarily immersed in it. I can only hope that if Episode III isn’t good, it’ll at least come out at about the same time as Star Wars: Dark Forces IV – Jedi Knight III – Jedi Outcast II – Jedi Tearer-Of-New-Assholes.
* My grammar check suggested I change this phrase to “An army of furry Precious Moments characters spanked Eight years after the most formidable power in the galaxy”. I just thought you might enjoy that.
posted by M. Giant 3:41 PM 0 comments
Thursday, May 23, 2002 I have this rule about not being rude to people who have access to my food while it's being prepared. It's just common sense. You piss someone off, and who knows how many of their bodily secretions you could be ingesting moments later? Sometimes it's hard, though.
Like the time my wife Trash and I hit the drive-thru on the way to work one morning. I won't tell you the name of the restaurant, because I'm discreet like that.
Anyway, I order us two Egg McMuffins. That's it. But from the reaction of the person at the other end of the speaker, I might as well have been in an airport control tower trying to convey DC-10 landing instrctions to a quadriplegic platypus with severe brain damage.
She "repeated" the order back to me.
"Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit?"
"No," I said patiently. "Two Egg McMuffins."
"Hash browns and orange juice?"
"Actually," I clarified, "that's two Egg McMuffins."
This exchange went back and forth, with me consistently repeating the phrase "Two Egg McMuffins," while she tirelessly came back at me with every other permutation of breakfast food she could think of.
Finally, I managed to get across the concept of an Egg McMuffin.
"One Egg McMuffin?" she asked.
Dear God, we're still not there.
"No," I kindly explained, "two Egg McMuffins."
"Egg McMuffin and what?" she asked.
I understood I would have to tread carefully here, or I would end up with a pair of Loogie McMuffins.
"Egg McMuffin," I said slowly, "and...another Egg McMuffin."
Silence. It was all or nothing. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and added:
"For a grand total of...two Egg McMuffins."
The speaker crackled softly. I listened to it. Time passed. Cars lined up behind us. The sun climbed higher into the sky.
"Sausage?" she asked. I took a deep breath and tried again.
I sent Trash to get a can of gas so I could keep idling. The sun set. Public officials served out their terms. The coasts flooded. Glaciers covered the parking lot, then receded. The sun became a dark red cinder.
Finally, I heard the words that had become the apotheosis of my very existence:
"$3.19, please pull forward."
Trash retrieved my eyeballs after they rolled all the way into the back seat, and I did so.
There was some drool on our sandwiches, but I don't think it was put there maliciously. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. posted by M. Giant 3:33 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, May 22, 2002 Life isn’t like The Brady Bunch, a fact that is amply demonstrated by the fact that I haven’t killed myself. Although, it would be kind of cool to live next door to Michael McKean. Maybe I could jam with Spinal Tap every once in a while. And if the suicidal urges became irresistible, I could just get behind their drum kit.
But I digress. You’d think I’d have figured out a lot quicker that just because Marcia’s sensitive schnozz almost got Tiger sent to the landfill that time, it didn’t mean that my new allergies would force me to choose between my cats and, you know, air. It’s three decades later, and Marcia didn’t have the benefit of five dozen drug commercials a day to sit through like I do.
With that in mind, I went to the clinic the other morning to get loaded up on the latest in anti-allergy pharmacology. I explained the situation to my nurse practitioner, and she basically agreed with my self-diagnosis after listening to my breathing and peering inside every hole in my head. Then she brought the force and majesty of Western medicine to bear on the situation, and solved my entire problem with seven little words:
Keep the cats out of the bedroom.
Excuse me? Helleew? WTF? Is this the Third Millennium of the Common Era or what? I can deal with the fact that we’re stuck with self-propelled hand trucks instead of jetpacks. I’ve accepted the fact that revolutionary advances in filmmaking technology have only ensured that Star Wars movies suck now. I can even get my brain around the fact that the Middle East is going to take years to produce a decent apocalypse at this rate. But it’s 2002, for crying to Jesus, and not only are we irredeemably behind schedule for a manned mission to Jupiter and psychotic A.I., I can’t even snuggle my little furballs without involuntarily metamorphosing into a wheezing, half-blind snot-beastie. What the hell are we waiting for? The future is HERE, people, and right now it’s so bright I gotta wear infrared goggles.
Okay, she also prescribed some antihistamine that’s supposed to be not quite as strong as OTC Benadryl. If that doesn’t work, I’m supposed to let her know. Jeez, if I’d known that was all I was going to be getting, I would have just gone to Walgreen’s myself and saved the copay. Two months from now, when I’m moonlighting as a mob enforcer so I can afford black-market Claritin, she’s going to feel pretty stupid. Meanwhile, I’m already feeling stupid, now that I’ve realized that the phrase “Western medicine,” which for me conjures images of Curly biting down on a leather strop while the town barber pours cheap whisky on the shoulder where Black Bart done shot ‘im up, is even more accurate than I imagined.
You think I’m taking this poorly? Try explaining it to the cats. After eleven years of sharing our bed with us, I really don’t think they’re going to be happy about suddenly getting locked out. Now I have to weigh my risk of anaphylactic shock against the likelihood of having to clean up dozens of foul-smelling messes. These are cats who take the phrase “pissed off” very, very literally, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.
The upside? Well, at least Kleenex is cheap. posted by M. Giant 3:48 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, May 21, 2002 Last night was the second time I’ve been bowling since I got my own ball (see my 4/15 entry). Except I didn’t use my ball, because I didn’t know I was going bowling until I’d already left the house. Instead I used the same neon-teal alley ball that I’d gotten attached to before I had my own. The results were fairly amusing.
I still like the way the ball fits my hand, but now it’s way too light for me. I’ve figured out my optimum technique since my curve disappeared, and that technique is what I tried to use. The problem last night was that the lighter ball for some reason brought my curve back with a vengeance. I threw my first ball expecting it to follow an arrow-straight trajectory into the spot between pins one and two. Instead it jinked along such a tight parabola that I nearly had to flee from it on its return arc.
Okay, I thought. I can adapt. On my next frame, I adjusted my starting spot back to where it used to be in the days when I could still hook the ball. The ball obliged by traveling utterly parallel to the edge of the gutter until it neatly clipped pin seven.
This is when I gave up. The lighter ball obviously wasn’t going to help me bowl more accurately. But at least it would let me bowl harder. I cast precision to the winds and concentrated on flinging the ball down the lane with all my strength. My hope was that if I just hit the pins hard enough, the explosive domino effect would make up for my total lack of finesse. If chaos theory was going to insist on being part of my game, it was bloody well going to be working for me.
It worked, for a little while. I got a few strikes with throws that would have left me splits and spares if they’d hit at normal speed. I didn’t have to wait as long after my throws to see how many pins I’d gotten, since the ball was arriving at the far end of the lane before I finished my follow-through. Plus I think the occasional sonic boom helped tip over a few pins that were thinking about staying up.
I couldn’t keep it up, though. Charging the lane like a sprinter out of the blocks and hurling the ball with the force of light artillery took its toll on my body. Involuntarily, I started releasing earlier. And hitting hard has a fairly limited effect when all you’re hitting is the gutter. After four or five times when I had to use my stretched tendons to reel back my detached arm from twenty feet down the boards, I had to admit that it wasn’t working any more.
Whereupon I kept doing it anyway. I was having too much fun to stop.
Trash also discovered a new technique. Her right index finger still isn’t healed, so that was causing her a lot of problems, while also swelling up in kind of an alarming way. Ergo, she switched to her left hand. It was rather entertaining to watch her stump awkwardly up to the lane, every muscle in her body protesting against the wrongness of what she was asking it to do, right up until she dumped the ball onto the lane in a vaguely pinward direction. When she consistently scored eight or nine pins per frame that way, it was funny. When she beat all of the rest of us that way, it was downright hysterical. A flurry of quotes from The Princess Bride ensued.
I tried to point out that I was bowling left-handed as well. She responded that I always bowl left-handed. I reluctantly conceded the point. This was kind of a tough pill for me to swallow, since I’m always going on about the many fine qualities of left-handed people like myself, not the least of which is our greater ambidexterity. Even I had to admit that I wouldn’t have done any better bowling with my right hand. Now I have to shut up about the superiority of lefties for, like, a whole day. I’d be pretty bitter about that if I weren’t too busy trying to un-dislocate my shoulder. posted by M. Giant 3:26 PM 0 comments
Monday, May 20, 2002 Let me tell you about my desk at work. It’s actually not so much a desk as it is a turret. It’s an admittedly short turret and it doesn’t have arrow slits or machine guns, but it’s fairly turret-y nonetheless. I sit inside a circular structure twelve feet wide and five feet tall, raised a step above the rest of the floor. I look pretty impressive. More than one of my coworkers has been known to address me as Captain Kirk when I’m sitting there. They might just be making fun of my gut, but since nobody called me that when I sat in a cubicle, I don’t think so.
When we first moved into this building, we called it the “Command Center,” but nobody could say that with a straight face so now it’s just “the podium.” It contains six computers, four VCRs, two phones, a printer, an adding machine, and several other pieces of highly specialized electronic equipment. Plus there’s one of those LED display boards immediately overhead which allows me to cause messages of my choosing to circle around above me. I’ve left the comedy potential for that more or less untapped by obeying my mandate to display stock prices. Although some of them were funny stock prices.
As groovy as it is to sit here every day and effectively become a giant cyborg, it does have some drawbacks. The work surface is too low to accommodate any kind of file cabinet or drawer-type structure, so all my stuff is still stuck in boxes on the floor. For five years, it’s looked like I just moved in. Then one day they told us to get everything off the floor so carpet cleaners could come in over the weekend. I piled everything in a highly visible mess on the podium’s outer counter, doing everything I could to make this expensive, flashy feature look like the front yard of a tarpaper shack somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains. Now I’m going to be getting custom-made file cabinets. Sometimes it pays to be obnoxious.
The other issue is the carpet. Rather than a single sheet of carpet, our floor is covered with self-adhesive carpet tiles about three feet square. Five years of sitting in my rolling chair and zinging around between my six computers has taken its toll on the floor. I actually raised a speed bump directly in front of my main workstation, what with all the countless times I’ve rolled over that spot. It was a pain to try and zing up to my keyboard several times a day and be brought up short by that little ridge, but now I have the quads of a fencer. Eventually they “fixed” it with a large patch of silver duct tape, but since that wasn’t impressing potential clients who toured the office, I was able to score an extra carpet tile from our stockpile in the basement and slot it in. Except now I’m getting a new speed bump right next to where the old tile used to be. Supposedly they’re going to be replacing the carpet on the entire floor soon. Why that’s preferable to buying me one of those plastic floor pads is beyond me.
As for my chair itself, it’s really not as foodstained as you might imagine given that I’ve eaten maybe a thousand meals in it. I’ve got it exactly the way I want it in terms of height, lumbar tension, armchair position, and whatever the chairological term is for rocking-back-y-ness. If anyone—and I mean anyone—adjusts anything about it while covering for me, I’m loudly disgruntled for the rest of the week about this being my workstation, dammit, and why can’t people have some freaking respect, for the love of Pete? I’ll bitch loudly to anyone who will listen (and quite a few people who won’t) about how they’d like it if I went into their cubicles or offices or homes and started futzing with their stuff. I suppose it works, because that hasn’t happened in a couple of years. People might think I’m overreacting, but we all get out of sorts when our asses aren’t being cradled just right, don’t we? And that Executive Vice President whom I got fired over this is sure to land on his feet.
Overall, it’s a pretty cushy place to spend eight hours a day. From my elevated position, I can peg anyone in my department with a Nerf gun, nobody can sneak up on me, and no one in the entire company has a shorter walk to the bathroom than I do. You’re wishing you were me right about now, aren’t you?
posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments
Friday, May 17, 2002 If you do a Google search on my Internet pseudonym, the very first link it lists will include a lie. In my defense, it was true when I wrote it. I’m just pretty sure it isn’t any more.
I think I’m becoming allergic to my cats.
I’ve been in denial about it for a few months. I think that’s because in my mind, “allergic to the pet” has always meant “pet has to go.” I blame The Brady Bunch for giving me this idea. Remember the one where Tiger almost got shitcanned because Marcia had the sniffles? Yeah, me too, obviously. Then it occurred to me that maybe all these commercials for allergy medications might have some relevance to me aside from how much I enjoy making fun of them.
Strat (short for Stratocaster) is an 11-year-old bruiser who looks like a marshmallow with whiskers. As soon as I get in bed at night, he likes to jump up on my chest and knead the blankets while purring energetically. My self-diagnosis arose from the fact that an increasing number of these sessions resulted in one or more of my eyes itching, then hurting (‘cause of all the scratching, you know), then sending signals to my brain claiming that cactus needles had invaded my eyesockets and my corneas would like very much to be going, if I didn’t mind. The accompanying sniffling and sneezing was another clue. I addressed the situation with an Orwellian capacity for denial. “I think I have something in my eye,” I would tell my wife as I dashed to the bathroom to keep my face from melting off the front of my skull.
I’ve always been kind of proud of not having allergies. Especially in a time where it seems like two out of three kids will go into anaphylactic shock if they so much as read “Peanuts” or walk into a wheat-colored room. I’ve kind of felt smug about it, like the fact that I wasn’t born with allergies made me some kind of smart shopper or something. When obviously I had absolutely nothing to do with it.
If, on the other hand, I get to keep my cats and quit having allergic reactions, I guess I’m a smart shopper after all.
I have an appointment with the doctor on Monday morning. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Do you think I should bring the cat?
posted by M. Giant 4:17 PM 0 comments
Thursday, May 16, 2002 In case it’s not already apparent, I’m a huge geek. I have every episode of Buffy on tape. For years, I used the names of Doctor Who cast members as my network passwords at the office. The high point of my last trip to Vegas was The Star Trek Experience. So where do you suppose I was at 12:01 this morning, when the lights went down on the first local sceening of Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones?
That’s right. I was in bed, sound asleep.
Three years ago, I heard a reviewer say this about Phantom Menace: “It’s like the air quality advisories they have in Los Angeles. The quality might be poor, but that isn’t going to stop anyone from breathing it.” Hence, I was present for the 12:03 a.m. showing. I went again that weekend. And I’ve been pissed off about the entire franchise ever since.
I knew Episode II would have to be better, so for a while I was actually looking forward to it. At the same time, I’ve scrupulously avoided every single media item about the film and the series itself, in the hope that maintaining total spoiler viginity will improve the chances that I might not hate it when I see it. I’m actually amazed at how successful I’ve been at avoiding the media deluge. I had totally forgotten that Jimmy Smits is even in the thing until my Entertainment Weekly fell open on his picture, and if you say the name “Jango” to me, I’m going to think of a dead guitarist.
The weird thing is that somewhere along the way, my feigned indifference towards the movie became actual indifference. How else to explain that I didn’t even know when the movie was opening until last week?
As much as it irritates me that the Star Wars line of products includes a “Masterpiece Edition” action figure of at least one “character” whom I’ve never seen before (“Expanded Universe?” Sorry, not buying it. In any sense), I’m not as bitter as, say, David Brin is about the whole thing. I’m not even as ambivalent as Aaron McGruder is. But even the fact that I care so little would have been unthinkable to me three years ago. Fifteen years ago, it would have been blasphemy. Twenty-five years ago, I’d hang myself before I claimed my independence from the whole phenomenon.
It’s a little sad, as if part of my childhood is dead. I’ll never anticipate another movie as much as I did The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi, let alone The Phantom Menace. Those days are gone forever.
But on the other hand, it’s kind of liberating. Last night I celebrated by playing two straight hours of Jedi Knight II.
It’s good to be free.
posted by M. Giant 3:42 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, May 15, 2002 Until fairly recently, car commercials have always presented the experience of driving as the apotheosis of human existence. We’ve always seen the driver inhabiting some sort of personal automotive nirvana while blissfully and effortlessly navigating the sensuous curves of some abandoned byway. You don’t see people getting cut off, flipping each other the bird, and cursing at the inconsiderate asses in front of them who made them miss the green light when you turn on the TV. Sure, there’s the guy in the Jetta screaming silently at the train crossing, but he’s the exception that proves the rule.
Driving in the real world is nothing like driving in commercials, of course. In addition to the glaring absence of the phrases “Professional driver” and “Closed course” in the lower part of our field of vision, we’re too busy not getting creamed by gormless cellphone users, trying to determine if that rhythmic thumping is the road surface or a flat tire, watching for police cars, and bitching about what’s on the radio to ascend to whatever elevated state of consciousness one must reach in order to be cast in a car commercial. And even those people don’t have to maintain it for more than thirty seconds. What if we encountered someone on the road looking like that? We’d probably keep our distance, because we don’t want to be driving next to someone who’s clearly experiencing some kind of psychotic break. In fact, that was my reaction when this happened to me the other day.
I’m totally serious. Trash and I were on our way home from work (we don’t work together, we just carpool) and waiting at a traffic light. Among the vehicles that crossed in front of us on the other direction’s green was a new Volkswagen Bug being piloted by a skinny dweeb sporting an expression of what I can only describe as utter rapture. As he made a left, his pop-eyed, gape-jawed grin widened even further, as if he were triumphantly saying “yeah!” to some invisible passenger.
“What the hell is that guy so happy about?” I asked my wife.
Since Grinny McSmileypants was alone in his car and not talking on a cellphone, he had no obvious reason to look like he had just received the best news of his life. The only explanation that came to mind was that he was celebrating a perfectly executed left turn. And if that were the case, it would more than explain why he didn’t have a passenger.
Then it hit me: I’d seen people looking that happy behind the wheel before. But only on the small screen. I’d always taken depictions of car-induced joy for the Madison Avenue snake oil they were. But now that I’ve actually counted the back fillings of a fellow rush-hour commuter, I’m being forced to reassess my cynical worldview.
I’m also considering the purchase of a Volkswagen Bug.
posted by M. Giant 4:20 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, May 14, 2002 During my last appointment with the dentist, she was kind enough to observe that I had a really strong tongue. Like, really strong. Freakishly strong. Ever see Anaconda? With the gigantic, sinuous, CGI beastie that could crush the life out of a full-grown human being in mere seconds? She’s talking strong.
For a second I thought she was hitting on me. I had no idea how to respond. Fortunately I was flat on my back with my mouth wide open and had so much hardware in my face that any response--verbal or otherwise--was impossible and therefore not expected. I suppose I could have emitted a throaty, lascivious, Pepe LePew-sounding cackle, but you don’t want to risk offending someone who’s waving a jackhammer around inside your mush. So while the dental assistant was wheeling in the Jaws of Life to keep my Novocaine-deadened-but-still-Herculean oral appendage out of the dentist’s way, I just mentally added this new factoid about myself to the ever-growing list of Things That Would Have Gotten Me A Lot More Dates In High School Had I Known About Them At The Time.
Now, it’s not like I had a clear idea of what a strong tongue could do for a guy back then. But I’m sure other people did. It certainly couldn’t have hurt my hallway cred if word of my superhuman licker had gotten out. I can imagine my fellow students watching me walk by and nudging each other in awe. “Is that M. Giant?” they’d whisper. “The guy with the really strong…you know?”
“I heard he can crack nuts with his tongue.”
“I saw him do pull-ups with it.”
“He used it last week to change a tire without a jack.”
Whereupon I would immediately find myself surrounded three-deep in babes. God knows my Douglas Adams quotes weren’t getting me anywhere.
Of course, general awareness of my mutha tongue would have only gotten me so far. I probably would have gotten any number of first dates, then been utterly puzzled when my one-man rendition of the Hotblack Desiato bit from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe failed to enchant.
Obviously kids today know more about this kind of thing than I did, if last Tuesday’s Oprah is anything to go by. But if you’re a guy in school and you’ve been reading the work of some of my brilliant compatriots the past few days, you know even more than most of your classmates. If you haven’t been reading them, let me give you the bullet: chicks dig a guy who has a mouth and isn’t afraid to use it. So there. Even if you don’t have a lingua stronga like mine. Which you probably don’t, because I’m pretty sure no one does.
Now be careful out there.
P.S. By the way, was it clear that I'm not recommending that anyone try to kiss like an automated car wash? Because that's not what I'm saying at all. posted by M. Giant 3:32 PM 0 comments
Monday, May 13, 2002 Where was I? Oh, right...
By the time the appointed date for my first root canal came around (and I say “first” not in the sense that I may one day have to have another one, but in the sense that it was the first of a planned twenty-three root canals), I had just about worked myself into a big wimpy tizzy.
Up to a certain point, I was hoping I wouldn't be so worried about it if I didn't know what it was. After all, I'd gone over three decades without ever learning any definition of the term root canal aside from "pain." Naturally, I stumbled across a detailed description on the Internet. Thanks a lump, Monty.
Apparently it involves the dentist drilling a hole in your tooth and sucking out everything inside. Including the nerves.
"That doesn't sound so bad," I thought. "If there's no nerves in there, that means it can't hurt, right?"
Then I remembered the old joke about how you make a rope with one end: take a rope with two ends and cut one off. The joke, of course, being that now your rope just has a new end. Just like my nerve fibers would. Thus I was able to convince myself that I was about to be in a major ouch situation.
But I had a plan. I intended to be a total crybaby about it.
This wasn't my original plan. Since the appointment was scheduled on the same day as band practice, I was thinking about going directly to band from the dentist's office. Don't worry, I wasn't going to sing. I just thought it would be interesting to find out how many of my bass lines now live in my lower reptile brain, and trying to play while hopped up on Novocaine and painkillers would be a pretty effective way to find out. I might have been driven out the second one of the guitarists played a high note, but at least it would have been in the interests of science.
Of course, my loving wife Trash shot that idea down the minute she heard of it, which left me looking forward to an evening of mooning around the house, whimpering like a truck driver and swearing like a four-year-old girl. Or maybe the opposite of that.
The one hope I clung to was that the experience wouldn't be much less endurable than my teeth-cleaning a few months before. My first in ten years. You know, the one when the hygienist spent an hour going at my choppers and gums with a dull kitchen knife and a belt sander? That was Hell in my mouth. And so, with painstaking care worthy of a delusional psychotic, I constructed an elaborate mental fantasyland in which root canals are not as bad as overdue teeth-cleanings.
As it turns out, I actually live in that fantasyland. Believe it or not, the actual root canal was nowhere near as painful as the cleaning. Obviously the primary factor in that is the fact that I was pumped full of Novocaine all the way to my cerebellum, but I'm not complaining.
My dentist was great. She kept asking me if I was alright, reminding me to raise my left hand if I needed her to stop, and warning me every time she was going to do something painful or uncomfortable. I really appreciated that. Or maybe I was just suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
I got to wear a pair of those huge plastic old-lady sunglasses throughout the procedure. The dentist called them safety glasses, and at first I thought their purpose was to protect my eyes from flying debris. The source of any such debris didn’t bear much thinking about, but eventually I figured out that the shades’ true purpose was to prevent my eyeballs from popping out of my head and thumping her in the kisser during a delicate moment. Either way, they worked.
Despite the inherent discomfort of the situation and the fact that I was more tense than a guitar string, the whole procedure really only included a few brief flashes of blinding pain. After little more than an hour of suppressing my atavistic revulsion to having power tools in my mouth, a rubber sheet over the lower half of my face, and a length of bloody dental floss dangling millimeters from my eyes, I was free. For the moment.
Since then, I’ve been back twice (three times if you count the day I fell asleep in the chair waiting to get worked over) and I’m typing this with three temporary crowns in my mouth. Wait, that’s not exactly true. I’m typing with my hands, but I probably should be typing with the crowns. I ought to get as much use out of them as possible, considering what they’re costing me.
And I’m not done yet. I’m going back next week to get a permanent crown put in. And I’m going to keep going back (and telling you all about it) until you people start practicing good dental hygiene at home.
Or until my teeth are all better. Whichever comes first. posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments
Sunday, May 12, 2002 Hey! It's Mother's Day! What are you doing reading this? Go hug your mom!
Alright, fine. As long as you're here...
Yesterday my in-laws (including my wife's mother, in keeping with the Mother's Day theme) came over for a cookout. I got a chance to do some outdoor grilling for the first time this year. That was fun. In the sense that it wasn't.
For some reason, standing outside over the grill isn't quite the same when it's raining. Like it was yesterday. I'm one of those people who insists on grilling with charcoal. To me, there's just something so much cooler about building an actual fire and cooking something on it. Gas doesn't do it for me. If I want to cook with gas, I can stay in the kitchen.
If I had a gas grill yesterday, it would have been an entirely different experience. I know I looked plenty cool in my Perfect Storm foul-weather gear, with my jacket zipped to my chin and the hood pulled over my head. Any woman would have found me irresistible, the way I was holding the grill lid to protect the food and the fire from the rain. Plus I had to stand so close to the grill that by the time I finished cooking and came inside, I was ready for the cover of GQ with the tracks of smoke-induced tears cutting through the soot on my face. Sure, gas might be more convenient, but I'm all about the image.
* * *
In the city where I live, Mother's Day coincides with the annual "Race for the Cure," a 5K race in support of Breast Cancer Research. I was going to do this whole rant about how unfair it is that whoever wins the race really isn't likely to need the cure as much as the people who lose, but I don't especially want to go to Hell. So instead, here's a link to learn more about the organization behind the race, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. You can even donate online to the cause. Don't say I don't provide a public service around here.
Now go hug your mom. posted by M. Giant 1:23 PM 0 comments
Friday, May 10, 2002 I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the people who have been reading this site up to this point. I appreciate your interest and loyalty, and I won't forget a single one of you.
At the same time, to those of you who found your way here via my new affiliation with Damn Hell Ass Kings, welcome. All ninety-nine-point-something-percent-of-my-current-readership of you.
Not to pander, but when one has such a high proportion of readers from a certain demographic, one has to make certain concessions. So here's what I'm going to do. I know what a pain it is when you find a new site and you feel like you should go through the archives just to catch up; nearly eight weeks' worth in this case. So I'm providing an executive summary to all you new readers. Here goes:
Call me M. Giant. The secret love child of Benson stars James Noble and Inga Swenson, I was raised by the staff of a West Hollywood methadone clinic. In school, I was subjected to frequent beatings as a result of my profound inability to roll my "R"s. Currently I divide my time between Schuylkill, Puyallup, and several other cities whose names I don't know how to pronounce, and I've been married to a beautiful freelance defense contractor with a heart of gold and only one knee for eighty-seven glorious years.
There you go. Now you're up to speed.
Be sure to tune in on Monday, when I'll get back to what I was talking about before my traffic increased by a factor of several thousand. posted by M. Giant 10:15 PM 0 comments
Thursday, May 09, 2002 So, to continue with the whole dental remodeling thing...
I actually had two appointments during the first two weeks of December, but had to cancel them at the time for what I'm sure were completely legitimate reasons, even though I can't remember them right now.
So now I was in this dilemma where I really, really, really didn't want to get my teeth fixed, but I really, really, really had to. And my brain was dealing with the situation by pulling a HAL 9000 and making sure I forgot entirely about the existence of anything remotely resembling a dental profession during the day when I could actually call and make an appointment, until I would leave work at five and the cold outside air would hit my upper left molar and I would go, "OW OW OW OW! I really have to call tomorrow and make that appointment." Then I would suffer through dinner, during which I'd have to make sure not to eat anything too hard, and I would drink less pop, and I would brush, floss, and use magic mouthwash before bed every night, and I would wake up the next morning and go to work, and gum my breakfast bar, and remind myself again that today, for sure, I really, really, really have to call, and then I would forget until the cold outside air hit my upper left molar again.
Now I was starting to get really bitter, mainly because I'd ignored my instincts and gone back to the dentist in the first place. My teeth didn't hurt at all until I got them cleaned. Apparently that ten-year build-up of tartar was providing all the protection my teeth needed, along with some much-needed structural integrity. At this point, I was just wishing I'd waited another ten years so it wouldn't be an issue.
Eventually, after several dozen circadian cycles of "forget, forget, forget, OW, forget forget, OW," I finally called the dentist's office to set up a new appointment. Naturally, the appointment clerk wasn't in, so I had to leave a message. Then she'd call me back, and I wouldn't be there, and I'd erase the message and lose the number again, and it'd be while again before I'd call back, at which point I wouldn't be able to get an appointment anyway for another two months after that, an appointment which I would be likely to end up canceling anyway. At this rate, I figured that ten years would go by in a snap, and all I had to do was look forward to the day when I could count my teeth staring up at me from the bathroom sink.
Or so I thought.
I hope you're brushing and flossing regularly now, because I'm just going to keep telling this story until you do. I'm not even bluffing here. posted by M. Giant 3:52 PM 0 comments
Oscar Wilde said, "Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast." If that's the case, I must be scintillating.
I thought I'd do a little experiment this morning, wherein I make use of the few minutes between getting up and going to work to try to dash something off. How's it going so far?
I'm not a morning person. I hate getting up in the morning so much that I worked nights for three years. Now that was a good gig. I only saw one ten o'clock per day, commuting was a breeze, and I missed three solid years of bad primetime television. Those were the days.
Now I'm expected to be somewhere at 8:00 every morning, give or take a half hour. I'm still not used to it. It's totally counter to my nature. I'd so much rather still be in bed than awake that I think somewhere along the way the word "morning" dropped a U or something.
This is the point where I would normally wrap it up, but I can't think of a snappy ending. I'm too sad that I'm already wearing pants at this time of the day. posted by M. Giant 6:10 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, May 08, 2002 In case you missed yesterday’s entry and are too lazy to scroll down to it, I’m in the midst of a filibuster about the ongoing renovation project in my mouth. And I’m not talking about an effort to quit saying “dude,” because that’ll never happen.
A couple of weeks after my teeth-cleaning-from-Hell, I went back to the dentist to find out just how bad the situation in my mouth was. Turns out I needed some work done. Specifically, root canal. More specifically, twenty-three of them.
Technically, I could stop right here because, as I've since learned, if anything in the world is funnier than someone else getting a root canal, it’s someone else getting twenty-three root canals.
After I get this outstanding piece of news, they bring me into this tiny office to schedule my first few appointments. The woman at the desk in there tells my guide that they're training next door, so my case will be a good demo for the trainees. So I have to go to that office instead.
I go in there, and there's a person driving a desk and three other people on chairs watching her. So they sit and watch her enter my data, no doubt imagining that the inside of my mouth looks like a bombing range. I wish I could give them a nasty, rotten, mossy, Harry-Connick-in-Copycat smile, but my teeth actually look fine until you start waving a dental mirror around in there. Which makes me regret coming back here in the first place. This is why my original plan was to just wait another few years so I could get the bastards yanked out and replaced with a row of staple pullers. I think I mentioned that yesterday, though.
Anyway, I just decide to start pretending the trainees aren't there. I tell myself, probably inaccurately, that they're just as uncomfortable with the situation as I am. The appointment lady finishes setting me up, and then goes away to pull something off the printer, leaving me alone with the trainees.
So, now what? Am I supposed to have a conversation with these people? What kind of openings do you use for that kind of situation?
"So...have you always wanted to make appointments for people?"
"Should I be worried that there are more appointment-makers than dentists in this office?"
"Did you know toothless guys give the best oral?"
Instead I just pretended that I was was concentrating really, really hard on getting my dental insurance card back into its little slot in my wallet until the appointment lady got back with my printout. I'm sure I looked much cooler that way.
Eventually the appointment lady came back and scheduled me for a couple of appointments in early December. I didn’t make it to either of them, because early December ended up being a tumultuous period in my life during which I was briefly and successively a fugitive from justice, the toast of Broadway, a mid-level functionary at the Japanese consulate in Qatar, and, most memorably, a lesbian. I’ll tell you all about that stuff tomorrow.
Okay, not really, but I wanted to go out with a cliffhanger.
posted by M. Giant 4:33 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, May 07, 2002 Once when I was a kid, I saw a billboard that has always stuck with me. It said, “Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away.”
That was actually my plan for a while. It was going pretty well. I was on track, as they say. Then my wife Trash totally derailed that plan for what I’m sure are totally selfish reasons of her own.
Back in October, I slunk guiltily into a dental office for the first time in…oh, let’s just say it was a while. It was just supposed to be for a teeth-cleaning. By the time the hygienist was done, it felt like my teeth were taken out and put back in upside down.
It was my own fault, of course. I don't think I'd been to the dentist since our current president's dad was in office, so naturally my choppers were getting a litte Austin Powers-y. Here's a tip: if you go that long between cleanings, the next one tends to hurt.
Here's the best part. After the cleaning, the hygienist took this sharp hook and slid it in between my gums and every. Single. One. Of my teeth to see if I have gum disease. Oh, and that? HURTS.
Howzabout this, lady--maybe I should take that hook and see if you have eye disease. Hmm, how would I determine that? Maybe I should see how far I can jam this between your eyelid and cornea. That would be really informative, I think.
Being back in the dentist’s chair brought back a lot of old memories. For instance, I remembered that the back of my skull is too smooth and flat to be an effective tool for burrowing through the chair to escape. My shoulder blades aren't much better. As for my heels, I couldn't say for sure, because my legs were stuck straight out, which meant my feet were a good ten inches above the footrest. I kept expecting the hygienist to start asking me "is it safe?"
Anyway, my teeth had so much tartar buildup that she couldn't get it all in one session and I had to go back for another round. Goody. Naturally, I immediately gave myself a first-class case of OCD and started spending four hours a day brushing and flossing.
Floss and brush every day, kids. Don't end up like me.
Not convinced yet? Fine. More tomorrow.
posted by M. Giant 3:20 PM 0 comments
Monday, May 06, 2002 I work at a company that does recordkeeping for 401(k) retirement plans. We have roughly a hundred employees in our building, a number that will more than double by the end of the year. The department I work in is the Call Center. When people who work for our client companies have questions about their retirement accounts, they don't call their employers; they call us. So it's pretty important that our phones work all the time.
And yet, there isn't a single soul in our building who can fix the phones if anything goes wrong.
I have reason to hope that will change soon, but it hasn't yet. In the meantime, when something breaks I'm pretty much on my own. That's pretty terrifying.
Today I had a problem that I had half a dozen people working on. The head of the IT department, a couple of people from another of our company's offices that's a thousand miles away, two guys from our telecommunications vendor, and myself were all trying to figure out why one of the telecom terminals and its dedicated printer aren't working. Of the six of us, I think I was the one with the clearest bead on what had gone wrong, but none of us had clue one as to what to do about it.
To put it more clearly, I know exactly why they aren't working. They aren't working because somebody broke them. So someone does actually have a better idea of why things went pear-shaped, but that person isn't talking because that would interfere with that person's own-ass-covering duties, which after all take priority. I really want to say to everyone, "This isn't working because ____________ broke it, and we could probably fix it if ____________ would just say what ___________ did" but since the chances of my needing something from _____________ in the next few weeks are roughly one in one, I'm not in a position to say that.
Which is why we really, really, really need someone in our building who's qualified to address these sorts of issues, so we're not at the mercy of other people's priorities and schedules and ass-covering agendas.
This is the point where a lot of people would say, "I hope someone figures that out soon because it's really bothering me." But not this cowboy. No, I took action. I took matters into my own hands. I put my foot down, and I put my other foot down, and I stood up (at which point I was glad I'd had the foresight to put my feet down), and I cried out into the darkness, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"
That's really a metaphor for what I actually did, which was to write a proposal. But just saying "I wrote a proposal" doesn't exactly have the ring of rugged individualism and swift frontier justice, which is kind of what I was going for in the last paragraph.
I shouldn't be too modest, because my little proposal is quickly ascending to among the highest echelons of the corporation, circulating among the desks of Executive Vice Presidents and other titans of industry. That makes me sound like more of a bad-ass, I think. Except that it hasn't gotten me fired, but I think that's something I can live with. Something good might actually come of my suggestion--not only for the company, but for me, which is infinitely more important. Stay tuned and I'll let you know how it turns out. posted by M. Giant 8:42 PM 0 comments
Friday, May 03, 2002 Tomorrow's the day I rent a floor sander and start refinishing the hardwood in the second bedroom. I'm so looking forward to getting everything back in there where it belongs, but I'm a little intimidated by this machine I'm going to have to operate. I've heard horror stories about these things. They can remove a whole lot of wood in a very short time, which is after all their entire purpose. But there's a dark side. You let it stop moving for a second while the power's on and WHAM! It's in the basement. I think I have it figured out, though. All I have to do is be smarter than the sander.
Okay, that's it. I'm doomed.
Seriously, though, I should be okay. My dad's coming over to help me. A lot of the projects we've done over the past year never would have gotten off the ground without his effort and know-how (as well as that of my mom), so I'm confident he'll be able to prevent me from screwing this up too badly. Plus I can blame him for anything that goes wrong. Either way, I'm in good shape.
* * *
Trash's aunt came to town for a visit this evening. She's staying at Trash's mom's house in the northwestern suburbs of the city where we live. Which is why it was a little alarming when she called us on her cell phone from somewhere in the southeastern suburbs. Of an entirely different city. It seems she had gotten on a freeway going east instead of west like she was supposed to. By the time she called, she was almost an hour out of her way. I had to look at a map to figure out where she was. Why did she go the wrong way? Because someone told her the wrong way. What kind of idiot would give her such horrible directions?
I'll give you a clue. You're reading his weblog right now.
I'm really thinking that "whoops" is not a strong enough word.
Thank God she had a sense of humor about it. If I were her, I'd be kicking my ass over this. I might kick it anyway, just on general principle.
I'll hold off for now, but if my floor ends up looking like a My First Crop Circle project tomorrow, all bets are off.
posted by M. Giant 10:15 PM 0 comments
Thursday, May 02, 2002 I’m a little freaked out right now. One of my coworkers got fired today. He’s on a different floor, so I don’t see him as much as I used to. But we used to work in the same department. We used to carpool. He bought my first car from me years ago, a gesture which plainly demonstrated just how desperately he needed a car at the time, because that car was a piece of crap. He’s been an employee of this company for almost as long as I have, but now he’s not because he violated the company’s “electronic media policy.”
Our electronic media policy is, on the face of it, quite simple: all non-business-related use of company e-mail and Internet connection is forbidden. Violation of the policy is grounds for immediate termination. Full stop.
Obviously nobody adheres to this policy one hundred per cent. You can’t plunk people down in front of a high-speed connection for eight hours a day and expect them to never click on that little blue “e.” You can’t cut people off from the outside world in the age of e-mail. It’s not realistic. If the company fired everyone who indulges in a little non-business-related surfing and e-mailing, nobody would be left.
The problem with the policy is that it leaves no room to exercise judgment in following it, but obviously somebody is using their judgment in enforcing it. For every employee, there’s a continuum between a) pulling out his or her modem cable entirely and b) using his or her work computer to loudly play video files of barnyard pr0n on a continuous loop. Somewhere along that continuum is a pink slip. And what freaks me out is that the powers that be aren’t being honest about where that pink slip sits waiting to jump out at us. I don’t know exactly what my ex-coworker did to get himself fired. Which means that I don’t know if I’m doing it too. And that gives me the heebs.
It also pisses me off, because when I look at a favorite site to keep myself more alert, more awake, and yes, better at my job, I’m made to feel like some kind of sneaky criminal for it. I can’t see how this is good for business.
The upshot for you, the readers, is that I’m going to be updating in the evenings for the foreseeable future. I’d tell you who to write to in order to complain about this, but we sneaky criminal types can’t be drawing that kind of attention to ourselves.
posted by M. Giant 3:46 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, May 01, 2002 A reader who is also a friend e-mailed me regarding yesterday's entry. Apparently my mention of Trash's finger injury raised more questions than it answered. Since it answered no questions, that wasn't hard. Fortunately, since Trash is being a good sport about my using her as fodder for my ramblings, I'll try to rectify the situation now.
About a month ago we were redecorating the bathroom (even I'm getting bored with this home-improvement theme) and Trash was busily trying to remove a rusty nail from an old piece of wooden trim that I thought we should keep. However, instead of dropping obediently onto the floor, the nail slashed open her right index finger, right on the back of the knuckle. Stupid nail.
Since Trash’s tetanus vaccinations are up to date, we figured all she had to do was patch it up and wait for it to heal. We’re still waiting.
That’s not entirely true, actually. Last week she checked with our nurse-practitioner, who said it sounded like Trash had a nicked tendon and probably an infection. She prescribed Keflex and lots of movement in the infected finger.
After about a weekend of that course of treatment, her hand felt as if she’d been crucified. Off to Urgent Care we went, where her finger was X-rayed and put in a splint. The physician’s assistant who saw her said that yes, the tendon was damaged, but there was no sign of infection. And in order to let the tendon heal, the finger would have to be immobilized. Hence the splint that put her hand in the configuration of a permanent point. Please note that this is the opposite of what the nurse practioner had previously said. Finally, the PA made her an appointment with a hand surgeon for the next day (yesterday). Just for a consultation and the opinion of a specialist.
The hand surgeon had, by all appearances, scheduled himself to perform Trash’s surgery in his head even before he met her. I guess the insurance on his yacht is coming due. He gave her finger and X-rays a cursory glance, then said she was going to have to come in in a couple of months to have him remove the scar tissue.
“What scar tissue?” Trash said.
“It’s not there yet, but it will be.”
“Maybe we could, you know, make sure it’s there before you, like, cut me open.”
The hand surgeon responded to my wife’s concern with the unshakeable self-confidence and decisiveness that, in our experience, always goes along with a medical professional who is full of shit. Then he instructed her to keep moving the finger—yet another total reversal of previous medical advice. Except he said it in the form of this charming mnemonic device:
“Motion is lotion.”
Okay, we all know from the O.J. Simpson trial that if something rhymes, it must be true (or, to put it more accurately, “if you say it in verse, you could do a lot worse”). Whatever. This little bon mot has the added benefit of sounding like some kind of skeevy come-on line. Worst of all, we have no clue what Trash is supposed to be doing with her finger. Although, after hearing her story about the hand surgeon, I have some ideas.
Obviously she's going to get a second opinion. Or, more accurately a fourth opinion. But that still leaves open the possibility of a tie on the whole "move the finger/don't move the finger" issue. So I'm opening this up to the readers. E-mail me using the link in the "about" section of this page. I'll tally the votes and we'll go from there.
If you think about it, this is really an exciting and innovative use of web technology. Where else are you non-medical types going to have a chance to actively participate in an injured person's recovery? Or, alternately, get sued for malpractice? Either way, everybody wins. Or at least we do, which is the important thing. posted by M. Giant 3:01 PM 0 comments