Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Once Again a Failure

For the past few years I have been celebrating No-Shave November. I hate having facial hair but also hate shaving and completely lazy. November is my designated month to not even shave my normal two times a week.

No-Shave November exists for a few reasons

A) gives me a chance to hit snooze again in the morning, I hate getting up when the weather starts changing to winter.

B) gives me an excuse to look all scruffy (besides being totally lazy)

C) makes me appreciate shaving for a couple months afterwards

D) lets me see if I have matured into an adult male able to grow a beard.

I am calling an early end to No-Shave November (again). I have once again proven that I am incapable of growing decent looking facial hair, and would rather look clean shaving for the family holiday gathering. It also itches like crazy and makes it hard to sleep. Once again, I am a failure in life (even at my own, pretend holiday). Some day, maybe I will grow up to be a manly man who can grow a respectable beard, but it is not this day.

Goodbye scruffy, weak-ass beard...I will most likely kill you in the morning.

RIP - scraggly beard 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Gubby Spirit

Be warned, in this post you will probably read the word "Gubby" more times that you have ever wanted to.

Every holiday season at my place of employment (Gubbyco, a division of Fuckyco International), we work with a local charity group to help provide gifts to underprivileged children. Human resources call them "Star Kids" because if you want to buy a gift for a child you are given a star shaped piece of paper with the child's name, age, interests, and gift ideas. I call them Gubby Kids.

This is where "Gubby" actually came from (in case you were wondering - I'm sure you weren't). The first year that I participated in the Star Kids program, my brother invited me to go out and do something one evening but I emailed him back saying "Can't got to go buy a present for my little, grubby kid." Of course I was joking, I know it is not the children's fault that they are growing up underprivileged (and I have loved the term grubby since local band Grubby Ernie). But I mistyped and it ended up 'gubby' instead of 'grubby.' That lead to a "What's gubby?" and I realised that it was too good of a word to forget about, so I adopted it. The real meaning of gubby is nothing, but yet it is like "smurf" and can match whatever context it is used it.

I have been a big supporter of the Gubby kid program over the years. HR usually calls me as soon as the Stars come in so that I can pick out my kids first. I want to make sure that I get kids that have good interests and tastes that don't just reflect the latest fads. I prefer creativity and books over dolls and video games. I like giving gifts that although the kids to use their mind's (because honestly, growing up underprivileged they probably don't have much more...and I know if I get anything that takes batteries that within a month they probably won't be able to play with it). I usually try to get one gubby boy and one gubby girl (at the minimum).

It used to be that the best toy wish would trump everything else. I like buying cool toys, books, art supplies. Those are the things that I would have wanted when I was a kid. I think Christmas should be about toys for the kids. Then Amanda The First had to come along and put social commentary into my gift buying by saying "You know, the kids that ask for clothes and other necessities probably REALLY need those items." That actually bothered me quite a bit because she was right. I loved buying the kids the coolest toys, books, art supplies but the ones that really needed a good Christmas were the ones that required necessities just to live life. Not just a toy to make them happy at Christmas time but coats to keep them warm all winter or clothing to wear to school. These were the kids that really needed help. I really don't enjoy buying those things though, so it seemed more like a chore than a fun activity. I now compromise and choose children that have both toys and other fun items as well as more necessity items on their wish list. This way, I still get to shop for smaller toys but also fulfill some requirements for living. So far, it has been working out well for me (hopefully for the children too).

I was a little disappointed with the boys this year though as it was mostly Transformers and Bakugan. I finally chose a young boy who wanted Hot Wheels and clothes. I wasn't crazy about the Hot Wheels but knew that I could find a couple small sets to go together to make a good experience and have money left over for clothing. I was really happy with my girl this year as she was a preteen who wanted science fiction and some school clothing. She was at the perfect age I think to really appreciate the Ugly series of books and a blossoming interest in sci-fi should be nurtured because I know she is probably getting all kinds of shit for being a dork at school. I hope they enjoy their gifts and hope they and all the rest of the underprivileged children have a really good Christmas.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hate Update (Retraction Actually)

I am rarely wrong.1 So as I stand here2 and announce that I was wrong, please know that it is a big deal.3

I would like to make it known that I re-read The Catcher in the Rye a couple months ago. After giving some time to digest and mull over, I have decided that it is not nearly as bad as I thought. It has gone from "What a god awful piece of shit" to "It's OK, I can see how some people would like it." That is an improvement of vast proportions in my mind. A book has rarely made that type of leap before.

I still think it is way over-hyped. I still think Holden is boorish (CT actually gave me that description when I was re-reading it and it was perfect). However, I will no longer think people who love this book are idiots. I can see some of the charm and see why some people connect with it so well. I might even recommend it to someone in the future (although with a caveat "don't believe the hype")

Good job J.D. Salinger. I was wrong.

1as long as you don't count my love life, personal life, and work life
2I'm actually sitting - typing while standing is weird
3not a big deal at all

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Great Bands You (prolly) Never Heard About (pt4)

Great Bands You (prolly) Never Heard About (pt4) -

The Marginal Prophets

This post is going to go in a little different musical direction than my norm. I am not much of a Rap type person. I've always been much more Rock, Metal, Punk, and even Classical and a little John Denver thrown in before rap type person. That's not to say that I don't enjoy some good rap every now and then. When I say good rap, there were two kinds of rap that I liked funny and not serious humor rap like the Beastie Boys or Hardcore rap in the vein of Public Enemy, NWA, and Ice-T. I always had a problem with the middle ground type of rap/hip hop because it was either forgettable or too corny for me to really like. I just couldn't take it seriously - like when they tried to re-invent Hammer as a Gangsta Rapper. I just couldn't listen to it. I either wanted something that was not serious at all and the artist new it or I wanted really hardcore stuff. I also liked artists who used to actually rap and not just go "Ugh" and shake their head like P.Diddy seemed to be up to all the time in the 90's. I'm also not a big fan of total digitally enhanced singing like Kanye (although I do love T.Pain on backups). I liked good word play and interesting music. In the late 90's and early 2000's it had been years since I had really listened to anything hip hop or rap related because nothing stuck with me. Maybe a little bit of Tupac, Snoop, and Eminem but mostly Rap was dead to me.

Along came The Marginal Prophets...they fit in the humor rap category but they were much more than just funny lyrics. I first became aware of The Marginal Prophets, when I worked at as the program director for my college student radio station. It was one of the many random CDs that we received one week. I thought the artwork was decent but didn't hold much faith for the music. I was wrong. MP used tons of samples (without permission) to wonderful and great effect. You'll hear Status Quo, Tori Amos, Jesus Christ Superstar, and everything in between. I do mean everything. Basically they are the hip-hop version of Scatterbrain. There are more samples on each track than most albums have in their entirety. Usually I would say that is a bad thing...but here it works. The samples are interwoven and layered to make a very interesting base. Even if you don't like the traditional bass heavy rap music, you will be able to connect and groove to something on this CD, it has a little something for everyone. Being non-musically talented as I am, I thought to myself "Now this is the type of CD I would make" but of course I wouldn't and couldn't because the Prophets are talented even if you think they are just "borrowing someone else's music."

I am really only familiar with their debut CD - Twist the Knob. Not everything on it is a masterpiece but I find that I can listen to it all in a sitting very easily and not get bored (which is pretty rare for any rap/hip-hop album for me). It is one of those albums where I am constantly discovering new lyrics that I had overlooked and they always bring me new appreciation for the Prophets. Here are a few of my favorites off the album:

Phat in the Whole (Rock Mix)

Like This!

Girlfriend is the Best

So why am I am only familiar with their debut album? Well, I actually ordered their second album Bohemian Rap CD (which still makes me chuckle) when it first came out. I listened to it once and it disappeared. Completely. Gone. No sign of the CD, the case, or even the packaging that I received it in. It was kind of weird...I have lost CDs before, many times in fact, but this was strange as I could not even start to guess where it went. Usually I have some idea, whether I left if at work, accidentally dropped it out of a car, or loaned it to someone...I usually halfway know what happened to it. Marginal Prophets? No trace, the men and black must have come and repo'd it. It had too much power for this world. I need to buy it again but you don't mess with forces like that. What were my first impressions? Well that it was much more polished than their original. Truthfully, not sure if that was bad or good. I remember it being decent but nothing grabbed my attention but that is not rare for a rap album, my ear is just not attuned. I remember thinking it was pretty decent though (and it won a California Music Award for Outstanding Rap Album 2004). You can check out a couple tracks on the MP site.

I don't think the Marginal Prophets are active anymore. Maybe they are on extended hiatus. I am not sure, but if you enjoy the music at all, I would suggest buying the CD directly from the artist. You can get them off Keith Knight's (the black one) web site. You can also get their live album.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

I've said it many times before - I am just not a big fan of facebook. Don't get me wrong, it is decent when it is used correctly (solely judged by me on what I want to see). I don't mind when people post or update their status once or twice a day - and trust me, I don't know anyone interesting enough that I want to know more than that about their life. I don't care for your announcements that "It's Friday!" or that you feel the need to update me every 15 minutes on your day. I don't care! Keep it to the major stuff or keep the posts to a minimum. But that is not even the worst thing. I can not stand the apps that post stupid updates and messages. I don't care that you are level 246 in Mafia Wars, that you baked a souffle in Cafe World, or that you found a lost cow in Farmville. Not only do these kind of updates piss me off because I think they are pointless, but they make me think you are a loser. I love dorky stuff and really bad video games (I played through Sneakers twice after all)...but this stuff seems way too lame even for me. Twenty updates in a row about some stupid game is annoying and makes it so hard to find important info.
End Hate

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beware the Meh-pocalypse

So Friday night I was dragged to the movie 2012. I might not have been kicking and screaming but I was definitely moaning, groaning, and complaining. Months ago I had promised Jessica that I would take her to 2012 or New Moon, but not both. She chose 2012 for me... I am not sure if that was a good thing or not. To me, it seemed like a "Head or Gut" type choice. Either way I was going to get hit and it was going to hurt.
I was a little surprised by the movie as they didn't focus on the 2012 Mayan myth (yes myth, there is no Maya2K, grow a brain!). Basically, it was mentioned as the time frame and a stupid quote about the "Mayans knowing about the dangers thousands of years ago but with all of our science we are still blind." Not great, but I figured it would be much worse and there would be some sort of Mayan mystery to solve or something equally horrible that would teach everyone a lesson about the nature of mankind. I went in with really low expectations and because of that I was able to mildly enjoy it. Although my classic quote of "It wasn't good but at least it was long" applies, it was better than Transformers 2 (if only for the fact that I understood what was going on).
The good - special effects were good, stuff being destroyed is often pretty entertaining. John Cusack is decent like he usually is (although this would be one of his weaker movies).
The bad - special effects - just too many, eventually I got to the point where I didn't even find the destruction entertaining any more and was mostly just bored. It didn't help that I really didn't feel attached to any of the characters. Also the science was really suspect...than means a lot to me. You can have anything happen in a movie and as long as the science sounds halfway plausible then I will give the benefit of the doubt.
Verdict - Meh - it wasn't horrible but it wasn't good either. Too long, repetitive destruction. You feel a little bit like you are just watching the commercial as much of the destruction is shown in is just longer in the movie. I'm still a little pissed that it even mentioned the Mayan calendar bullshit - I would have been happier if they cut that five minutes and instead called it The Day After Tomorrow 2 or something. Besides the fact that the 2012 stuff is just a bunch of crap, through the promotion it has attracted a bunch of "experts" in the audience who felt the need to pontificate on the subject for the 20 minutes before the movie. Had I felt a little better I probably would have argued but instead I sat there and tried to unsuccessfully pretend these people weren't talking.
Final note - Woody Harrelson was decent in it (he plays a good wacko)...but he was much better in Zombieland. I would gladly see that over 2012 any day (and you could watch Zombieland twice in the time it takes you to watch 2012).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

Subway Commercials
I am with Vlad and Teodor on the idea that Jared really doesn't make me feel good about food and has the sex appeal of a biscuit with two shits inside. However, I can usually ignore his commercials.
Until now. Have you seen the awful commercial with Jared, Michael Strahan, and Justin Tuck pretending to sing? It is pretty much the worst commercial of the year. I think it is supposed to be funny...take three guys who aren't known for their singing, then have them lip-sync to deep sonorous voices. What's not to be funny?
It is so bad that I refuse to link to it. The problem is that they are so awful at lip-syncing that it looks way more like a badly dubbed foreign film than a humorous commercial. They aren't even close to being even a little believable. Plus the song really isn't even good to begin with...but I have no idea what the song is saying because the visuals are so bad that it shuts down my brain. I am really not sure what message this commercial is supposed to be conveying to me. This commercial has the absolute opposite effect that a commercial should have. It makes me NOT want to go to Subway...but it's even more than that, it makes me angry at Subway. Even though the 5 Dollar Foot Long commercials got repetitive, at least they had a simple message and did make me want Subway every once in a while. This commercial makes me want to break the big front window in the local Subway restaurant.
I can't blame Jared...he is just some nobody who lucked into a pretty good job. I am sure they say jump and he jumps like crazy always careful not to upset his golden egg employers. But I have to think someone on the creative team or even Subway marketing had to think "This is awful, we really shouldn't do this." Why did no one step forward? Was Dick Cheney there going "Slam Dunk"? I just don't get it...this probably had to be approved by so many people.
The good news is that the greatest script for a Jared commercial has already been written. If only the marketing department would green light this idea.
End Hate

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am an Idiot

It probably doesn't come as much surprise that I am an idiot. You are probably thinking to yourselves "No duh, it is so obvious that you don't even need to mention it." But I thought I would share some of my idiocy.

I often don't know what year it is. I'm not stupid (OK, maybe) or that I can't remember the date. It's just that I spend of lot of my time at work forecasting sales of some 4000+ part numbers. I study trends, look over promotions, gauge customer support, judge product lifespans, etc... and then for about 2 weeks each month I enter the forecast into our system. This forecast is 6-12 months in the future, so I am constantly typing dates like 01/15/2010. After typing out 6 months worth of dates for 4000 part numbers, my brain starts to forget that it is actually 2009. It makes sense, 2010 has just been pounded into it 20,000 times, but it does make me feel like an idiot some times. I know it is 2009 after I think about it but my mind first jumps to 2010.

I often fear that I will faint, bump my head, or fall unconscious. Then upon being shaken awake by nearby people, someone will ask me what year it is to test my mental faculties and I will give the wrong year. Of course they will then think that I am crazy (or maybe I traveled back in time) and I will be locked away in some institution.

Just another reason why I suck.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Sad State of Trick or Treat

This Halloween, I took my niece America (human) trick-or-treating. Papa had to work, Grandma and Grandpa were babysitting Braeden, the other that left me to be the trick-or-treat custodian. America (human) is still just young enough to need someone to go with her, but also she was in my neighborhood which she was not really familiar with (and all the twisty streets, dead ends, and cul-de-sacs can be confusing - even for me after 10 years). Mostly, I ended up being the candy mule...hauling the large bag of candy that she would dump her small bag into every few houses.

Behold - The Princess America

It was a beautiful night and perfect trick-or-treating weather with just a slight chill in the air to keep you cool when running from house to house. I really enjoyed trick-or-treating with America this year. She had a good haul of candy (5 or 6 pounds probably) and I think we burned off all the future calories running from house to house.

Although, it was a great night...I am more and more shocked about how over-protective people have become on Halloween. It was rare to see a kid without a parent or some kind of custodian along for the night. I'm not talking 5 and 6 year olds - kids that looked 10, 12 and one that looked like she was 14 had parents coddling them along all evening. Where is childhood independence? Admittedly, I grew up in a somewhat isolated semi-rural neighborhood and not the "big city" (ha ha)...but still, today's parents seem way too hovering. I don't think I had a parental guardian after second-grade. Instead I had a tight knit group of candy loving friends who would all take care of each other each Halloween. Let me say this once: Halloween is safe. People aren't poisoning candy, there are no razor blades (both overblown examples of hoaxes, coincidences, and pranks), and the pedophiles are not any more dangerous on Halloween than every other night. These are the same people that live in your neighborhood 364 other days of the year. Let your child go out with a group of friends, have fun, and blow off steam.

Let the kids be kids. Halloween is a chance to run a little wild and to be rewarded for being a child. As a child, my friends and I would run from house to house as fast as week could...arriving completely out of breath. Sidewalks and driveways be damned, all flower beds and shrubbery were endangered of being trampled as we strode through yards from house to house. Halloween was a non-stop foot race and you had to take that into account when you were planned your costume. You didn't want anything to bulky that would slow you down (neighborhood kin remember Kristina in her awesome Rubik's Cube costume? great looking costume but not built for the candy hunt), nothing loose that could fall off, nothing to hamper leg motion, and easily removable layers and breathable masks were very important as you were going to be sweating (a lot).

We also believed in a little bit of tricking...if you weren't handing out candy, you might be the subject of getting the apples we received a few doors down thrown into your roof gutters or maybe the mini tube of toothpaste squirted in your mailbox. You can't do that with parents around. Being a guardian this year, I left a bowl of candy and miniature flashlights on my porch for all the ghosts and ghouls. When I got back, it still had some candy and a few flashlights. This is all a far cry from when I was young. If you were foolish enough to leave a bowl of candy unattended on your porch in my neighborhood, chances were very good that the first person in my group to reach your porch would dump the entire bowl into their candy bag and throw the empty bowl in the bushes or on the roof (to dispose of the evidence, so the group of kids would think you left your light on by accident or fell asleep or something - or maybe it was just fun). Admittedly it was not very nice, I can see that now...but the race for that candy bowl was one of the funnest things ever. I can still remember the feeling as those sprints started and the pounding of your heart when you reached the candy bowl in either glorious victory or agonizing defeat. Rarely is so sweet a victory achieved in this life (both literally and figuratively). I was sort of hoping that I would find some evidence of that kind of exuberance - but with everyone having parental guardians along, kids actually paid attention to the "Please Take One" sign.

Halloween just seems a little too sanitized and supervised for my tastes. I hope the kids get to experience a little bit of the feeling of Halloween Freedom for an entire night (really 6pm - 8pm but it felt like all night when I was a kid) because that is one of my favorite childhood memories.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

People Who Use Texting Slang/Shorthand in Business Emails
I am not a big fan of all the abbreviations and texting slang in the first place. I don't mind a LOL OMG, BTW, or WTF thrown in a personal message every once in a while but once they reach the point of IDK My BFF Jill levels I am completely turned off. However, there is no reason that this type of lexicon should be used in business emails.
It looks completely unprofessional. Even though you may be sending a message to someone internally (although I have seen it on external emails also), you never know when that message will be forwarded or CC to someone outside the company.
Personally, I find it more difficult to read...being slightly dyslexic, I've had to train my brain quite a bit to learn words. If you do not have any problems in this area you have no idea how much work it can be to decipher a message. "U'll" does not equal "You'll" in my mind very easily. Yes, I know they sound the same so my mind should quickly make the connection but my reading and writing doesn't work that way. It takes me much longer to read a shorthand message than regular writing. And writing it is just a disaster...I just can not do it, my mind has a specific set of rules and doesn't change or substitute well.
My usual response to someone who sends me an email asking me something with this kind of shorthand is "OMG, U must think Ai iz stoopid." (I've practised this one enough that I can pound it out fast). That is pretty much the only response I give until they ask me in an appropriate manner. The best part is that they won't even get half the time and keep sending me the same message.
It's not that I am completely against this form of shorthand. I think it is great for texting (although I still can't do it) because of its personal and informal nature, and limited space. Just remember there is a time and a place people. In the office is not it.
End Hate