A Twist Of Fate
April, 2009 Entries
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- Michael Bolton

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(04/30/09 - 11:20 PM)
As I was opening the blinds in the back bedroom today, I took note of the neighbors back yard. You know, the neighbors whose children play in my yard. The ones who - when they moved in - were incredulous that the old neighbors in that very same house allowed their children to play in our yard because (and I'm quoting here): "They've got a whole big, fenced in back yard! Why would they play in yours?!"

I agree. But when I saw their backyard today, it all made sense. Here is what I saw:

° Three weeks worth of unmowed grass that may or may not be hiding a pack of hyenas.
° Hundreds of patches of even higher crab grass and doggie patches from the TWO dogs that they now own.
° Dog poop aplenty.
° A firepit that is a mess, surrounded by errantly strewn chairs of all sorts that have not moved since the Bush administration.
° Weeds, trees, and shrubs growing out of control through and around their once pristine fence.
° A hillbilly deluxe hot tub.
° A massively overgrown shrub that is threatening to swallow their deck whole, as it has now grown to be about 20 feet in diameter.
° More dandelions than starving African children.
° Toys, dog items and various odds and ends strewn about the yard in no particular semblance of order.
° A deck chock full of towels, strewn chairs and tables so that usability is not immediately apparent unless you're a master of Tetris
° A woman out front holding a garage sale, next to her illegally parked motor home (on the lawn, even though they have a triple wide driveway) - Alright, this one isn't in their backyard, I just don't like it.
° They have mowed 1/2 of their front yard - but not the other half on the opposing side of the driveway. I can only surmise that we somehow shamed them into doing so, as the neighbors next to them are exponentially worse to the power of 7. Plus, this is the only area that they can see from inside their home. I think one or both explains it.

And you wonder why your children play in our yard? You wonder why your cat always comes over here? Gee - I can't imagine why that would happen. God forbid that maybe - oh, I don't know - they clean up some of that mess instead of coming over here. That might keep them busy huh?

Pfffft.

(04/29/09 - 11:06 PM)
Finished the "Neo Ranga" anime series, and was pretty much satisfied. This is definately in my top ten - perhaps even top five.

The series was solid, it didn't have alot of fluff, and the story line was fairly interesting. The only thing I didn't care for was the unexplained appearance of the ancient sub-Gods. They just kind of showed up, and I felt like there should be more of a story there based on the precursive story arc. That would have made a great series phenomenal, in my eyes.

(04/28/09 - 11:21 PM)
Ladies and Gentlemen, Hell has frozen over. For the first time in the history of our company we have found ourselves backed into a corner with no option but to lay off individuals who should never be without a job due to their skill-sets.

When labor and burger flippers and unskilled individuals lose a job, that's one thing. But when a highly skilled individual finds himself or herself without gainful employment then something is desperately wrong.

When an economy cannot support skilled labor, what does that say about the underpinnings of our society? When a top-tier machine shop such as the one I work for has no work incoming from 75 active customers across the United States who are in businesses such as oil pipelines, paper, pharmaceuticals, machinery, automotive, automation, machine tools, packaging, and on and on SOMEONE should have work while others do not - this is how a NORMAL economy works. But when these companies have no work, have skilled labor, and are also having layoffs for the first times in their history something is fundamentally flawed.

I can't pinpoint it, because I'm not a professional talking head or economist. What I can say is that we have driven ourselves to be a service economy, rather than a manufacturing juggernaut of decades past. Then, after going this route, we began electing to outsource a number of the services to countries like India, Scotland and Ireland. Call centers have sprung up all over the world, and apparently it's cheaper to annoy your customers with individuals who provide some sort of communication barrier than to hire local. To be fair, I once worked for a company where hiring local didn't exactly work well either. When I was training in the customer service section of a major medical insurer, my trainer was arguing with a woman on the phone that her costs were not covered because she believed the expenses to be drugs. In fact, the expenses were perfectly valid, and were for durable medical equipment.

So, as I waved my arms in frustration I wondered privately how many other individuals in call-center central were doing this to poor souls on the other end of the line. This was a mere few weeks before I simply quit my job there. I didn't like what I was a part of on a lot of levels, so I simply walked away.

I'm off topic.

Back on topic: We let five employees go - FIVE - cutting our workforce by 20%. We were forced to do this to keep the core group employed through this difficult time. And it was sad. I even cried a little.

These people aren't just your run-of-the-mill employees. These are highly skilled, highly motivated, best of the best individuals who have years and years of experience under their belts and can perform multiple skilled functions. How in the world these people can be out of work is beyond me.

And the economy shows no signs of immenent resucitation.

I hope to God that this whole thing is an eye-opener to the American public to spend wisely, to have a positive work ethic and to re-think outsourcing in favor of employing better personnel.

But I'll just bet that it won't be.

(04/27/09 - 11:06 PM)
Heath tries yet again to be funny by inventing jokes best left uninvented. Still, he perseveres but why?


A poet laureat is on a well-lit stage giving a lecture to an international delegation of poets. The lighting is such that he cannot make out individuals in the audience. In fact, he can barely make out anything at all beyond the edge of the stage. As he is speaking, he continually hears sneezing from the crowd.

As this continues, he grows more and more annoyed. Eventually, he says, "Will the delegate from Japan please leave the audience until he gets his sneezing under control!"

From somewhere in the back of the audience comes the reply, "How do you know it's me?"

"Because," said the speaker, "When you sneeze, you go 'Haiku! Haiku!'"

(04/26/09 - 10:48 AM)
A guy at work told me this story a couple of weeks ago, and it was one of the things that I meant to write down so I would not forget it. Suffice it to say, I forgot it, and just now recalled once more.

He was watching an episode of something relatively Cops-esque, and the responding officer had been called to handle a domestic dispute of some sort. The male half was nearby, bleeding from his head. The female half was still hollering, and the Officer got her all calmed down.

He began to parse out the situation, and it came to light that the woman had hit the man with something.

"What did you hit him with, ma'am?" inquired the Officer.

"I hit him wif a smoova!" came the woman's indignant reply.

Perplexed, the Officer said, "I'm sorry? You hit him with what?"

The woman was clearly agitated at having to repeat herself, but did so nonetheless. "I hit him wif a smoova!"

The Officer was still having a heck of a time understanding her, so he asked once more for her to repeat herself - slowly.

"I HIT HIM WIF A SMOOVA! A SMOOVA!"

At this, the woman offers to go and retrieve the item. She appears moments later holding an iron. And you thought your job was tough.

(04/25/09 - 11:04 PM)
Today, I decided to get something more done around the house. I wrapped up (oh yeah - pun intended, baby) a good deal more of the duct sealing project, and then - feeling ultra-ambitions - moved on to the garage to install a keen flourescent light that my dad gave me from his "Surplus Items" stash.

I now have a well-lit stairwell out there, and rather than hard-wiring it I elected to use a wireless switch I had lying around in my "Surplus Items" stash. I mounted the switch where my garage door opener used to be, before I realized that it was a stupid place to put a garage door opener and subsequently moved it. The result was that I was able to utilize existing holes and anchors, and put the switch in an all rather intuitive location.

Then I just hung out with Wanda and read for a while.

In the evening, she finally broke down and downloaded "Bejewled" and played that for a while. Before I went to bed, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I played a few games in Standard Mode and one in Action Mode.

Suffice it to say, I only got half-way through level five and realized that it can be a confoundingly strategic game for something so simple.

Maybe someday I'll be good at it. Beause, as much as I hate to admit it, it is a good game for the platform. You're not rushed in Standard Mode, and the controls are simple. As such, I can already see that I will most likely lose a healthy chunk of my life to this little gem of a game (a double-pun entry! Ya-hoo!)

(04/24/09 - 11:13 PM)
Today I mowed my lawn! It was nice to be out in the fresh air, and the warm sun after an abysmal fall and winter. I even did all the edging so that I had a good excuse to stay outside.

Everything is finally coming up - hostas included - and the lilys and irisis will be blooming in no time at all.

My neighbor (remember the lady who wanted to fall the tree in my yard?) said hi, and then let me know that the tree's days were numbered. She also went on to let me know that she would be taking out another dwarf tree that currently resides in her back yard. I looked for the cutest, neatest-looking tree and - sure enough - it's the one she plans on committing an act of arborcide upon.

But, she'll probably plant just a super-teriffic pine tree there >shudder<.

I went and got gas, and then stopped over to see my Dad (okay - I stopped over to get a light from him too, but still - count it) and talked with him a bit. My step-sister and her daughter were there, so I got to say hey to them too.

Dad is preparing once more for a garage sale which is good because he still has alot of >cough< 'stuff' in his posession that is doing nothing more than adorning nearly every spare square inch of his home. I hope he feels the kind of liberation that I do when I eliminate non-essential items from my life. Eventually, it becomes easier and easier and one finds oneself with only the bare necessities and plenty of breathing room in a home that is neat, organized, and easy to maintain. Yeah - it's totally Zen.

(04/23/09 - 10:26 PM)
The following story is true:

My assistant Becky decided that last night she was jonesing for a chocolate shake. She hopped in the car, and went down to the local ice cream shack only to find that it had closed just prior to her arrival.

Not to be thwarted, she headed up the street to a local fast-food place. She got in line, and when it came to her turn, she was told that they were out of chocolate shake mix.

Again, she headed off for the next-closest fast food place. Here, she was told that the shake machine itself was non-functioning at the moment.

Did she go home? Nope! Next place on down the line. Here, the shake machine was working. But they were out of chocolate, and only had vanilla and strawberry available. She got the strawberry (this was what her husband had requested) and went home. She gave her husband his shake, and then sent him out for a turn to find the elusive chocolate shake.

Obediently, he went to yet another fast food place only to be told that their shake machine was down. He called my assistant on the phone to let her know this, and she finally just said, "Then just get me some ice cream - I give up at this point."

So, he got back in line, and made his request. He was summarily told that not only was the shake machine out of order, but the ice cream machine was as well.

So, back on the phone he goes. "Then just go to the gas station and get me an ice cream sandwich - something with ice cream."

Dutifully, he fulfills the request. When he arrives at the local Gulp N' Blow, he heads for the ice cream freezer. When he arrives, he is shocked to find it empty and disconnected. Rather than leaving, he asks the clerk about this. The clrek respondes that it is down, and they had to remove all of the ice cream goods.

I have several thoughts on this:

° I don't understand their relationship - I can't imagine sending Wanda out alone for anything.
° I have never wanted something that bad in my life.
° Even if I did want something that bad, I would not leave my home for something so trivial.
° I would have given up LONG before they did.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with what they did - not in the slightest. I just find as an outside observer that it's difficult to comprehend. And no one - NO ONE - should have such miserable luck.

(04/22/09 - 10:16 PM)
The economic climate continues to degrade with aplomb, and we have apparently learned nothing from our past mistakes. To whit: The U.S. Government is considering a bailout of a major Automotive manufacturer. My question is this: Where was the Government when they were making bad business decisions? Where will the Government be when other businesses go under? The answer? Who the hell knows?

Here's the problem I have, and perhaps it's the laissaz faire businessperson in me: Isn't business supposed to be about survival of the fittest? Aren't we all supposed to be on a level playing field so that the end consumer benefits from being able to purchase products from competing companies? Companies that, due to competition, are continually forced to re-invent themselves with regard to pricing, quality, and delivery?

When this model is compromised, then you no longer have a fair business environment. When one of three competetitors makes poor business decisions, the result should be what it will be. And if that means closure of business, then so be it. The remaining businesses will hopefully become stronger, and learn from the mistakes of their now fallen bretheren. With specific regard to the automotive industry, had we allowed the same practices to pervade in earlier times, we may now all be driving poor-quality Edsels. But we aren't. Instead, Edsel failed on its own - for whatever reasons - and we moved on.

When you impart a financial band aid over the top of a festering wound, then the wound will never heal properly. It's time companies took a big-boy pill and allowed the economy to decline. Then the Government could focus on what IT is doing wrong, and rectify the sources of the problem, rather than protracting and prolonging them. YES it will hurt - it will hurt alot. But, in the end, if done correctly, I believe strongly that we could be introspective enough to fix the underlying issues and become a world power again.

Here's what needs fixing:

° Want to breathe new life into manufacturing in the United States? Shut-down one-sided trading with China. This will level the playing field. A secondary result should be better quality products, at a higher cost. The upside to this is that we have become a nation of throw-away consumers who choke our landfills with five dollar coffee makers (I know, I always harp on the coffee makers - so sue me). Yes, it will cost more to purchase durable goods. BUT, if the goods are more durable, then all will benefit.

° Develop a flat tax structure. I can't stress this one enough. A flat tax structure will reward individuals who save their money, and tax hyper-consumers more. It will also allow access to monies that slip under the radar - prostitutes need to eat; Mafiosi need yachts, etc. All of those ill-gotten gains will still be taxed at the point of purchase. Further, businesses and individuals will not need to fill out convoluted tax returns (although, I can see where this will still be applicable, unfortunately) and businesses will be taxed just like everyone else, rather than being allowed creative outs for non-payment of taxes.

° Stop this mindless war. Focus on internal protection, and stop trying to force yourself as a Nation on an unwitting world like some Democratic rapist on testosterone. If we focused our energies on infrastructural improvements, rather than infrastructural destruction of other nations, we would be far better off.

° Regulate commerce. Take a hint from the recent economic crash, and regulate commerce more effectively - hey! this will even create some new jobs!

° Create an environment of tighter restrictions and laws. If a politician takes a bribe, or does something to destroy a states' economy (I'm looking at you, Illinois) then prison sentences should be stiff and swift. Pansying around the issue does not thwart the crimes - that's a proven fact.

° Make criminals work for a living. Give them a job, segregate them further, and allow the work they put out to pay for structured learning within the prison system. A prisoner with no skills who is released into the world after a ten-year stint is a shoo-in for recitivism. A prisoner who comes in with no skills, and is trained in a skill prior to release stands a much better chance of success, as well as an improved sense of self-worth.

° Impart harsher sentences for violent criminals. If you're violent, society doesn't need you. If you're violent to an officer of the law, then society should never know you exist from that day on.

These aren't perfect answers, I'll admit. But I have yet to find a compelling argument against them, either. If you have one, I'd love to hear it. We'll go get coffee.

These ideas will hurt - a great deal, in fact. But if we as a Country take this opportunity to get to the root of our problems, and at the same time create a second new-deal, then I believe that we can get through it. This way, the Government is using its' funds to benefit everyone, rather than to prop up a business model that simply does not work. It has the opportunity to promote growth, self-worth, and prosperity - all the while weeding out the cancers that plague business in America today.

Would anyone like to vote for me? I feel like running for office all of the sudden...

(04/21/09 - 10:33 PM)
I read an article recently regarding a United States landmark that has been around for more than twenty-five years, yet which I had never heard of.

The landmark in question has become known as America's Stonehenge - The Georgia Guidestones. After reading the article, I was somewhat intrigued. Apparently, the individual(s) responsible for this monument believe that they have parsed down to the essence of what will be required from us to successfully live on this Earth. While many have branded them the 'Ten Commandments of the Anti-Christ', I simply cannot agree with this.

While I don't feel that they are any better than the original Ten Commandments, I do feel that they could be looked upon as accessories to something already nearing perfection. Below, I have placed the 'Commandments' side by side. You be your own judge:

The Ten Commandments:

I am the Lord your God.
You shall have no other gods before me,
nor make for yourself an idol

You shall not make wrongful use
of the name of your God

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy

Honor your father and mother

You shall not murder

You shall not commit adultery

You shall not steal

You shall not bear false witness
against your neighbor

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife

You shall not covet anything that
belongs to your neighbor

The Georgia Guidestones:

MAINTAIN HUMANITY UNDER 500,000,000
IN PERPETUAL BALANCE WITH NATURE

GUIDE REPRODUCTION WISELY
IMPROVING FITNESS AND DIVERSITY

UNITE HUMANITY WITH A LIVING
NEW LANGUAGE

RULE PASSION FAITH TRADITION
AND ALL THINGS
WITH TEMPERED REASON

PROTECT PEOPLE AND NATIONS
WITH FAIR LAWS AND JUST COURTS

LET ALL NATIONS RULE INTERNALLY
RESOLVING EXTERNAL DISPUTES
IN A WORLD COURT

AVOID PETTY LAWS AND USELESS
OFFICIALS

BALANCE PERSONAL RIGHTS WITH
SOCIAL DUTIES.

PRIZE TRUTH BEAUTY LOVE
SEEKING HARMONY WITH THE
INFINITE

BE NOT A CANCER ON THE EARTH
LEAVE ROOM FOR NATURE
LEAVE ROOM FOR NATURE

(04/20/09 - 10:42 PM)
Wanda's cousin Nick showed this to me on Easter Sunday. It is one of the single funniest things that I have ever seen. If you click the play button below, you will see the embedded YouTube video so that you may experience one man's literal interpretation of the video for "Take On Me" by A-Ha (now with lyrics!)

If you haven't seen the original video, or aren't familiar with the song, then it won't be nearly as funny. But OH if you HAVE! You are in for a rare treat. And Nick (not Wanda's cousin, but my brother) - if you don't watch this, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Enjoy!

(04/19/09 - 10:36 AM)
Today I think I will continue on my Duct-sealing adventure. And maybe begin to read the new Neal Stephenson book, "Anathem" because Neal is about due for another blockbuster novel after his interesting (but lenghty) Baroque-Cycle trilogy.

(04/18/09 - 10:06 PM)
Woke up this morning, and got right to it. I went out and burned the latest round of branches that have fallen from my Chinese Elms (or, as I like to think of them, God's little arboreal joke) and burned up some newspaper and boxes as well so they don't end up in a landfill somewhere. I'm probably hurting the environment more by burning, but Ed Begley, Jr. didn't show up to lambaste me so I'm calling it a win.

Then I tried something new. Last week, I bought some of that foil tape that you use for ductwork. I had never used it before, but I figured hey - it's tape - how hard can it be?

Turns out, it was even easier than I expected. I taped a number of seams in my ductwork for several hours while listening to my iPod. When the furnace kicked on, you could hear and feel the difference. I don't know what I was hoping to accomplish, exactly. I just figured it would cut down on the random dust around the house, and make the unit more efficient. Here's to hoping.

Then, I knocked off at about 2:30 and changed into what I like to call "Clean" clothes (i.e. - without cobwebs, gypsum, or dirt from little crawlspaces in my basement on them) and read the latest edition of my favorite magazine (that's "Wired" for those of you who just made a joke about "Playboy", "Teen Beat", or "Soap Opera Digest".

Then I made dinner and Wanda and I watched some compelling television. Okay, that's a lie. We watched shows about people doing stupid things hosted by quasi-famous individuals who have likewise done stupid things, or have gained fame for odd reasons.

That pretty much sums up the day. OH! Except that Wanda got about four pounds of cat fur off of our little bundle of evil with her spiffy new cat comb-thingee. He also seemed to enjoy being outside for the first time this year, so it was a big day for him as well.

(04/17/09 - 10:03 PM)


Some folk'll never eat a skunk... but, then again, some folk'll.
"Git yer own habi-tat."
                            - Cletus Spuckler (The Simpsons)


(04/16/09 - 10:32 PM)
My wife and I watched the oft-lauded animated film, "A Scanner Darkly" this evening. For those of you out of the loop, it's based on a story by Philip K. Dick (again, the guy the 'Philip K. Dick Award' is named after. See how clever that is?)

The story centers around an undercover drug enforcement agent who is right in the thick of things (a la "Rush") and gets in too deep. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't say anything more.

An interesting side note was that the director had originally intended to film Phillip K. Dick's "Ubik" but was persuaded by an aquaintance to film this story instead. Having not read this book, but having read "Ubik", I would have liked to have seen the resultant film to some degree.

Maybe someday.

If you can stomach the MTV generation-esque storyline and animation (i.e. - this movie moves - FAST) and you can follow the plot (difficult at times) then it's a fairly good film. I can't say with any certainty that I'd ever watch it again (maybe someday, if the mood was right) but I also can't say that I didn't derive any enjoyment from it either.

A couple of weeks ago, we also watched "Renaissance" which had a similar feel, but was set in an alternate future and was all in black and white animation. Like "A Scanner Darkly", it was difficult to watch at first until a short period of acclamation was reached. I would caution once more that if you're not of the MTV generation, you more than likely will be down-right annoyed watching either of these films.

If you meet that single criteria (okay - and can stomach avant-garde films) then I highly recommend both. They're introspective, well-written and above all, unique and interesting.

(04/15/09 - 10:18 PM)
Here's something fun for you users of iTunes out there! Did you know that you can hack iTunes to allow 1/2-star ratings? Yep! It's true! Here's how:

First, you need to locate a file called "iTunesPrefs.xml". Mine was here:

C:\Documents and Settings\Default User\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\

If you don't find it here, roll your eyes, and steel your soul for a crushing bout with Microsoft Corps. masterwork - the search utility. Hosted by a dog that you'd sooner run over than ever see again. And then wait.

        And wait.

                And wait some more.

Close iTunes. Then:

Open the above-mentioned .XML file in WordPad or NotePad (I prefer WordPad, but that's just me.) If you're a fumble-fingers or are missing a chromosome, you may wish to make a backup of this file prior to getting in there and going all Edward Scissorhands on it.

Within the file, you should see this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
        <key>EQ Preferences</key>
        <dict/>
        <key>User Preferences</key>
        <dict/>
</dict>
</plist>

Now, we simply add a line (yes - it IS case sensitive!):

        <key>allow-half-stars</key>
        <data>dHJ1ZQ==</data>

The finished product should look something like this (based on what was in there before - you may have more stuff, but you get the point):

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
        <key>EQ Preferences</key>
        <dict/>
        <key>User Preferences</key>
        <key>allow-half-stars</key>
        <data>dHJ1ZQ==</data>
        <dict/>
</dict>
</plist>

Now, re-open iTunes. In order to use the half-star option, you need to have the "Rating" column toggled on in the preferences. When you go to rate the item, hold the left mouse button and drag it to the point where you feel the song should be rated. As you drag, you will note the "1/2" popping up as you move between stars. This is the only way I have found to use this option, as the Rating and Album Rating drop-down options still only show the standard 1-5 star rating options.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy giving Slim Witman his due!

(04/14/09 - 10:18 PM)
Wanda managed to hack our phones sideways in a matter of hours, as expected. Not only do we now have access to the back end of things, we also have the latest software, free custom ringtones in MIDI form (you wouldn't believe how many free MIDI web sites there are out there!), free custom wallpaper via BMP and JPG files we have on our PC, and the ability to transfer items from drive to drive, rather than cable transfers. I told you she was good.

The back-end "You're not supposed to be in there!" menu wasn't quite as simple as the old phones were (and believe me, dialing all zeroes seven times from the main screen was EASY to remember). We purchased Motorola W755's. Here's how to crack the back end on these babies:

Simply Dial: #073887*

Voila! Happy hacking!

(04/13/09 - 10:31 PM)
Ever wonder what "WD-40" actually means? Wow! Me too! It's like we're twins or something. Are you reading my mind? What are you wearing in there? Can you tell, because I was just remembering a dream I had - yeah - YEAH! That's it!...

>Ahem< Anywaaaaaay. The good folks at Wired Magazine ran a one page article this month that not only tells you what it means, it also tells you what's in it. Not that that's much help for an ingnoramous without a chemistry PhD such as myself, but it still feels interesting. The reading of the article, not the "WD-40" itself. You get my point.

Here's the skinny:

It literally stands for "Water Displacement - 40th Attempt". Droll, to say the least. But what's in it?

  • Mineral Oil
  • Decane
  • Nonane
  • Tridecane
  • Undecane
  • Tetradecane
  • Dimethyl Napthalene
  • Cyclohexane
  • Carbon Dioxide
Coincidentally, this also happens to be a majority of the ingredients in my favorite breakfast cereal!

(04/12/09 - 8:07 AM)
Happy Easter!

I'm not a traditional Christian, per se. Those of you who know me know that I believe in God. I have some interesting thoughts about the remainder of mainstream Religion (my Thetin levels are low, but my Mitichlorians are high!), but on the whole I feel that the Universe is too vast and intricate to be a mere accident. The fact that we cannot comprehend how many dimensions there are (11, anyone?) and the fact that still we cannot decide how the Universe began is, to me, humbling at best.

That being said, I still have a hard time with the New Testament. Jesus was obviously a real individual. That, or he is the biggest fictional character perpetrated on mankind. And if this were true, then Disney would have already found a way to capitalize on him. Probably with a movie starring Miley Cyrus.

So while I am thankful daily of all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me, or bestowed upon myself due to the knowledge and intellect that I have been blessed with, I am still skeptical of the holiday itself.

This may seem like blasphemy, I'll grant you. I know that my Boss would take this opportunity to let me know that I will now be going to Hell for all eternity with all of the un-baptized babies and the suicides. But I'd like to think there's something more. I see Hell more as a metaphor than a real place. If we didn't have Hell, metaphorically or otherwise, then Heaven wouldn't seem so good, would it?

It's the Yin to Heaven's Yang. It's like an old saying that I had: 'Without Chaos, There Can Be No Order'. I still believe that this holds true with regard to Religious beliefs as well. You must have the scary to have the amazing.

So what do I believe? I'm still on the fence about Jesus. I've been on the fence since High School where we were mandated to read the Bible every day. This wasn't a bad thing, mind you. But I have yet to achieve an inner peace about Jesus. Every time I attempt to believe in him, rather than God (and I know you triune believers out there are now shouting, "They're one in the same!"), I find that I gain a sense of inner peace when my belief in God Himself is brought to the fore, that I have never been able to achieve via belief in Jesus alone.

I realize that to some this may seem paradoxical - even ridiculous. And that's okay too. I know what I believe. I had a Catholic upbringing, and was heavily schooled in the Bible - both Testaments. I work with a devout W.E.L.S. Lutheran, who is always all too happy to discuss why his beliefs are the only ones that are correct. I have been to other churches, and have even tried to indoctrinate myself with their individual belief systems. The end result has always been a feeling of falsehood. I never felt as though I were doing what was right. I wanted to - I truly did. But all of these Religions were so Jesus-centric that I felt like the underpinnings of the Religious beliefs were set aside for the more palpable.

I would analogize it like this: There's a beautiful machine beneath the skin of a Porsche: It's elegantly designed and stout; it performs well. But if you buy the vehicle for just what you see on the outside - perhaps a candy-apple red gloss finish and elegant styling - then you do yourself a disservice by not appreciating what's under there.

My choice thus far has been to continue to appreciate the underlying vehicle while attempting to understand its inner workings and find the perfect style and color that is right for me. So far, I haven't been able to achieve this. Perhaps someday I will. I certainly hope so.

(04/11/09 - 8:13 PM)
I finally bought some planters yesterday when I was out shopping (for a detailed list of the other exciting things I purchased, see below!)

For my birthday, my wife had a keen plant bouquet delivered to my place of employment and we had since been nurturing it. As time passed, it was clear that we had not killed it, and also that the cat had no interest in eating it. So today I took my new planters and broke up the individual plants.

I took the two tallest varieties, and planted them in independant rectangle pots. These had been selected to match our downstairs basement decor and paint color. The philodendron and the variegated fellows I left in the same pot for the moment. The variegated guys were a little worse for wear, as the other plants had effectively choked them down in their previous collective home.

These I left on our dining room table where the collective lot had lived through most of the winter. I'm actually pretty pleased with the way things worked out. My downstairs living room now feels a bit more homey and vibrant; the plants are already stretching their roots in their new, roomier homes; and every time I look at the plants, I am reminded of my wife who thought enough of me to get them. Yay!

(04/10/09 - 10:08 PM)
Happy Good Friday. Well, not happy I guess, but you know what I mean.

Today, I had the day off, so I went to get some things that I have been in need of: Socks, underwear, softener salt, screws, furnace filters, and... oh, the list of exciting things just goes on and on!

At any rate, Wanda only had to work a half-day, so when she got home we went to lunch together and then decided it was high time we renewed our cell phone contract, as I had recently been made aware that we were a year out of contract.

My hopes for a smaller plan (with a smaller bill) were dashed when I was told that we WERE on the smallest plan with the smallest bill. Somewhere, a C.E.O. is rolling in my money and laughing through his Cuban cigar. He's probably naked.

At any rate, we were offered the obligatory new phones at the discounted renewal rate. This was for the best, because both of our phones had seen better days - especially mine.

I let Wanda pick the phone, because to me it's just another tool. I don't have quite the techno-lust for small electronics that she does. I'm a PC guy. That's where I direct all of my lust. That, and at her. But I'm getting off topic.

She chose the newest iteration of the Motorola thin line, and I simply agreed. To me, they're all pretty much alike.

When I heard that they came with a memory card, I was knocked sideways. My old memory card was about the size of a nickel, and was - at the time - the smallest iteration in the SanDisk line. It had to be adapted to fit a standard SanDisk slot on my PC, in fact.

So, when I heard that the smallest one available was now 2Gb, I figured that things had come a long way. What shocked the hell out of me was when I saw the thing: It was about 1/32" thick, 1/4" wide, and about 1/2" long. It weighed nothing, and if you sneezed while holding it, you would most likely never see it again.

I was awestruck.

The phones are pretty cool, all in all, and Wanda spent a good deal of the remainder of the day learning how to hack it to do her bidding. She was particularly interested in getting, of all things, the Mortal Kombat™ theme song as her ring tone. After several hours, and pieces of software, she succeeded.

So, I figure I'll do what I usually do on these occasions: I'll leverage her techno-lust for small electronics to my advantage by essentially allowing her to give me the Cliff Notes version of what I want to know when she's all done. I told her as much, so it's not like she doesn't know that I do this. In fact, I defer to her abilities with regard to matters such as this. Because with small electronics, she's way more articulate and adept than I. And I'm not ashamed of this - I'm actually pretty happy about it.

(04/09/09 - 10:46 PM)
It finally happened. Our Mazak operator who jumped ship for a day-shift position with one of our former part-time employees' companies has been laid off. I had actually hoped that it would not come to this, truth be told, because I actually like the guy. I can't fault him for his decision and, as stated before, we as Managers could certainly have done a better job to retain his services.

The upside to this has been that since he left, he has begun dating our Shipping/Receiving Manager, who I had tried to pair him with for some time. The day-shift operator has also gained abilities by leaps and bounds as a result of necessity (i.e. - he didn't have this guy to lean on anymore, and there was only one thing left for him to do: keep trying until he failed or succeeded. Fortunately, he has succeeded superbly.)

I feel bad as well for this individual because when he left our employ, we had information from the company who he would be working for that they were in some dire straits with regard to workload. The problem was that our former, part-time employee who hired him wasn't aware of this, because we were speaking with the upper management of his parent company (candidly, it turns out) due solely to the fact that they are also one of our oldest customers (in hindsight, this all seems confusing to the outside observer and quite soap-opera-esque.)

At any rate, I am certain that he will once more find employment, and I still hold out hope that one day he will choose to return to the fold of our company. The upside is that he is a dynomite tile guy, and is in high demand for this skill. The only caveat being that he hates doing it for anyone. Unfortunately, now isn't a time for someone to be choosy.

So, I wish him luck, and I wish him well. I hope that he comes through this okay (even though I know he will) and I further hope that he marries our Shipping/Receiving Manager eventually, because she's perfect for him.

(04/08/09 - 10:18 PM)
We watched "Delta Farce" this evening. I really can't say anything good about it. It was totally ridiculous, not all that funny, and - like a G.I. Joe cartoon - frought with bullets being shot, but no one getting hit.

I didn't really expect a lot from this film, but I certainly expected more than I received. I will say this: Jeff Foxworthy did well - for whatever reason - by staying away from this stinker.

(04/07/09 - 10:11 PM)
One of my employees had his dog stolen last night. I didn't know people actually did this. Apparently, they do.

He's a great guy, who truly loves his animals. He and his wife had gone all the way to Iowa not too long ago to get a pure-bred Chocolate Lab. Like a Cabbage Patch Kid, it came with its own papers.

Yesterday evening, he went to the gas station and the convenience store. His daughter was home washing dishes while the event occured. The total time lapse was under twenty minutes. In that time, a neighbor saw someone in a red Jeep pull up, run out, grab the dog from its leash in the yard, throw it into the vehicle and speed off.

The good news was that the neighbor was observant. The bad news was that she was elderly, and could not make out the tag on the vehicle.

I initially contemplated why someone would steal such an animal. Several thoughts came to mind: They know the guy, and don't like him for some reason (possible, but improbable - he's super-nice); they want to use the dog to make more puppies (improbable as well, given that the papers wouldn't fly - or exist); they want to use the dog to make more puppies that can then be sold to individuals who just want a pretty dog (possible); or, the worst case scenario: They just needed a bait dog for dog fighting, and there was one right in front of them.

This, unfortunately, seems like the most likely scenario. I hope to God that it isn't, because no family - or especially dog - should have to suffer that fate at the hands of a stupid human being.

My employee is confident that he'll see his dog again. I shared his enthusiasm, if only to help him through his time of loss. But I don't personally hold out much hope for the dog.

I hope like crazy that I'm wrong.

(04/06/09 - 10:23 PM)
So, I realized yesterday afternoon that while I had meant to add a book review to the blog at the end of March, I totally spaced it when I broke the months up in HTML. My bad.

So, what will now be a week late by the time this gets posted, I offer you the following book review:

"Revenge Of The Spellmans" by Lisa Lutz (not yet available in paperback!) was, once more, a true pleasure to read. This book, like its two predecessors, delivers on every level. Once more, Lutz has written a book that has achieved the distinction of being 'un-put-downable.'

If you haven't read the two prior books in the series (now available in paperback!), then you simply have to. Really, I insist. And then you have to get your hot little hands on the third installment because if you don't then I'm pretty sure that you're in breach of the Geneva Convention - or something equally foreboding.

Great job, Lisa! And once more I say: Hurry up and write!

(04/05/09 - 09:13 AM)
Dude - it's snowing. AGAIN. How in the world am I supposed to get excited about spring, when I'm envisioning the Easter Bunny and/or Jesus frozen in their warren and/or proverbial tomb at this time of year?

This bites.

Yesterday, it was sunny out, and yet I found myself freezing my butt off indoors. To be fair, I think I'm coming down with something, but even so it was still annoying.

(04/04/09 - 10:06 PM)
Does anyone out there in blog-land know how to lock-in ratings on mp3's or m4a's via the ID3 tags in iTunes? What I DON'T want to do is have to use some third-party piece of software to do it, because I won't live to see the end of it. What I WOULD like to do is find a toggle-able setting in iTunes that just scans the songs and ratings, and adjusts the ID3 tags by itself, as well as doing so from then on out.

Anyone?

(04/03/09 - 11:04 PM)
Got off work early again today, so I went on my weekly pilgrimage to the groceteria. I still find that when I go alone I buy too much and also buy things that I perceive I don't have enough of, only to find that I have a more than adequate supply at home - once I return there, that is.

For example: I thought we were getting low on cereal bars, so I bought some more. I now have 13 boxes. Whoops.

The upside is that we won't starve during any sort of apocalyptic event in the near-term. So, 'Yay', I guess.

(04/02/09 - 11:16 PM)
It amazes me how some of my employees find the oddest things to complain about. Specifically, I negotiated a deal with one of our customers. They recently shut down their machine shop to focus on their core business of engineering and design work. As such, they were eliminating their tooling, and it just so happens that out vertical machining centers use the same toolholders as theirs did.

For the uninitiated, a tool holder is simply the intermediary conduit between the machine and the tool itself. Each machine takes a certain type of tool holder, and each tool holder is designed to hold a specific type of tool. The benefit of having a great number of these is that it allows you to setup a job very quickly if you have a great many toolholders already loaded with various tooling, rather than loading and unloading a finite number of holders.

So, when we heard that they were moving 50 holders in one lot, we were interested. After several days of negotiation, I accepted a favorable agreement. I was excited because we could now run our three vertical machining centers more efficiently due to the increase in toolholders that we could pre-load.

I sent some employees to pick up the goods, and no sooner had we brought them into the building than individuals in other departments began balking. Specifically, they wondered why we didn't buy so-and-so before we got more tooling for those machines.

First of all, not a single individual save myself and the owner knew the specifics of the deal. Further, the owner was on his way to an auction in Wheeling, IL the following day to look for the specific type of things that they were complaining about not having. Even so, they made it their business to carp about what a foolish thing we had done.

What surprised me the most was that individuals who I never would have expected to make such complaints were the primary sources.

Here's what I say: We cannot control when a good deal will come along. We got a hell of a deal. We'll be that much more profitable and lean now. Be excited because this translates into savings for the company. This, in turn, will assist us in remaining in business during this economic catastrophe while others less fortunate cannot do so.

So, get pumped - not angry. What's wrong with people?

The worst part was that the items that these individuals were complaining that we 'needed more desperately' were NEVER mentioned to me. And that's an important point, because I'm the guy who buys the tooling. Had I known, I would have looked into it. And, based on what I now know, would have purchased the items in question.

So, if they must be unhappy, they could at least have given me the chance to fix the problem rather than test my psychic abilities.

(04/01/09 - 11:04 PM)
For April Fool's day, I elected not to do another interview. The reason? Well, I could lie, but the truth is I'm just REALLY lazy.

Instead, I offer the following encapsulation of an e-mail full of actual newspaper clippings that my wife sent me the other day. These are all real, and are all from papers around the U.S.

"Correction: Due to incorrect information received from the Clerk of Courts Office,
Diane K. Merchant, 38, was incorrectly listed as being fined for prostitution in Wednesday's
paper. The charge should have been failure to stop at a railroad crossing."


"A deputy responded to a report of a vehicle stopping at mail boxes.
It was the mailman."


"Utah Poison Control reminds everyone not to take poison."


"1:33 PM, Sonora - A man came to the Sheriff's Department to
'Find out how to legally kill' a person who was harassing him."


"Theft: A woman in the 1900 block of 129th Lane Northwest
reported Oct. 15 that someone must have stolen her mail,
because she did not receive birthday cards from some of her friends."


"5:00 PM - Police were called to Market Square for a report about a suspicious coin.
Investigating officer reported it was a quarter."


"Wal-Mart: Police received a report of a newborn infant found in a trash can.
Upon investigation, officers discovered it was only a burrito."


"Caskets Found As Workers Demolish Mausoleum:

'We had no idea anyone was buried there.'"


"Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25."


"Tombstone: Standard gray. A good buy for someone named Grady. 508-375-XXXX."


"Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons."


"Question Of The Day: What Constitutes A Millionaire?

Answer: A millionaire is someone who has $1 Million, according to Jerry Beto,
branch manager and senior vice-president of investments at A.G. Edwards & Sons.
"


"1995 Nissan Maxima, green, leather, loaded, CD, sunroof,
auto start, 4-door, goood condition, $4500. Not for sale."


"One-Armed Man Applauds Kindness Of Strangers."


"Crack Found In Man's Buttocks."


"Army Vehicle Disappears:

An Australian Army vehicle worth $74,000 has gone
missing after being painted with camouflage."


"County to pay $250,000 to advertise lack of funds."


"Police checked the area and found an open door in the back of the building.
An officer went inside and called out 'Marco'.

Police found the suspect after he responded, 'Polo'."


"An Edgewood man reported recently that his wife had gone missing some 18 months ago."


"Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke.
P.O. Box 322, Oakview, CA 93022. You'll get paid after we get back.
Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed.
I have only done this once before."


"Get 50% off or half price, whichever is less."


"A caller reported at 7:14 P.M. that someone was on a porch
yelling 'help' from a residence on Bank Street.

Officers responded and learned the person was
calling her cat that is named 'Help'."


"Alton attorney accidentially sues himself."


"Fish Need Water, Feds Say"


"Full Size Mattress. Royal Tonic, 20 year warranty.
Like new. Slight urine smell. $40.00 (818) 222-XXXX."


"Tiger Woods Plays With Own Balls, Nike Says."


"2:58 P.M. - The Learning Center on Hanson Street reports a man across the way
stands at his window for hours watching the center, making parents nervous. Police ID
the subject as a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger."


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