Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Fondest Christmas wishes II

Here we are at the end of yet another wonderful year and yet another wish-list post. So, that those out there who just stumbled onto my blog understand; I do this because my family brow beats me three or four times a week about twelve days before Thanksgiving until I have supplied them with an ample list of material desires that they feel they can chose from to make their Christmas stress that much easier to manage.

“Oh, that just isn’t what Christmas is about. (tsk-tsk)”, some of you glassy-eyed idealists may be thinking as you wrap the hastily put together Christmas ornaments that your untalented 5 year olds made in a half hour for no one in particular. Then you will present them to some poor bastard of a family member who spent hours standing in lines at the crowded malls to buy you the high ticket…whatever, and who will be thoroughly disappointed with your gift even though you won’t notice because you are stuffing your face with all the free food while complaining about how Christmas is just too commercial. Assholes.

Hmmm, that was a bit of a rant. Sorry, back on subject. Yes, I have found that making a virtual list that consists of helpful links, pictures and in a convenient place for all to see is the best solution. This way my family can just make a simple run through and see what I’m interested in this year. But, I digress.

So, without further ado…The list

  • A set of plans and armatures for the construction of a personally manufactured, rubber-band gun. Construction to begin soon after January 5th ’07. This one is essential, since the military wants a prototype ASAP with deals set for many European nations as well as local law enforcement branches and children across the U.S.
  • The CD/DVD album just put out by Gorillaz. Rockin’
  • Any of the collection of Dark Tower series on CD: Numbers 1, 2, 3, or 4 (I have the rest)
  • EFA-Linker II (1G) Flash Set. A must for any self respecting handheld gamer with a Gameboy Advance SP. With this little baby I can play all those great old NES games that are currently stuck on my computer and will be that much more entertained in places such as waiting rooms, elevators, funerals, and of course while talking to old friends on the phone.
  • Since it will be ski season here in snowy Nevada soon, any gift cards for REI will be gratefully accepted. Also, because gift card are easy to take back on an airplane.
  • A cool vintage cowboy shirt would look extra cool to all the kids at the skate park. Not to mention I could finally fit in at all the country western bars I go to.
  • Honestly, just walking through Best Buy is a great way to find the right thing.

So there you have it. Another awesomely awesome Christmas list. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or call.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Story of My Life…

…in four easy steps.

I was talking to LJ the other day and she reminded me that my mom’s birthday was a few days away (really, what would I do without this woman?). So, I procrastinated for the requisite day and then I called my family. I was in the middle of telling my dad that I was going to send a belated birthday card to my mom, per my usual lateness, with a Target gift card in it; that was when my dad informed me that sending money to my parents is completely inappropriate (really, what would I do without my dad?). So, I was talking to him about what would be appropriate to send.

At that point my mother chimed in like a ghostly voice from someone else’s phone call, “Write a blog about me!” “Didja here that?” my dad asked. “Yeah, but I don’t think you guys quite understand the dry spell I’m on. I mean I haven’t been writing regularly and it really isn’t flowing, etc.” Well, you know how it ended I guess. Let me just say that it takes me a while to write these things usually. I have to either be fired up about something (see last post), or I have to have a really cool idea that may take some massaging before it’s ready for full blog-dum (yes, I just made that word up. Up yours Webster). So, I had to do some prep for this and in doing so I actually had a pretty cool revelation. First, however, let me just say that writing about someone else’s motivations or personal characteristics is pretty much impossible unless fiction is the goal, so I decided to write about what I knew for sure…myself.

It is interesting how someone who is involved in your life can actually direct the paths you take, even if you think you are making the choices for yourself. This may seem like an obvious statement, but I have to admit it shook me a bit when I realized it for myself. Let me set the stage. It is the summer of 1990, I’m 12, and my mom is tired of seeing my ass in front of the TV. I remember she is driving me back from some place and gives me an ultimatum, as only parents can. She tells me that I can take acting lessons, photography lessons, or SCUBA diving lessons. I chose SCUBA because I thought it was outrageous to think that my parents would actually pay for it and I could get back to watching Transformers and playing whatever Nintendo game I was on at that time. Three weeks later I was four feet underwater in a local pool and finishing homework assignments that taught me about Boil’s law, pneumatic breathing systems, and human biology as it is affected by submersion in water.

Jump ahead five years; I’m now 17 and I am ankle deep in some nasty muck inside an ivy and weed covered spring house on the outskirts of a plantation house where my mother docents. She has some how convinced me that this would be a way better project than blazing a trail near the cool river at the rock cliffs where I literally spend all of my spare time rock climbing. No, here I am dredging old crap out of this 150 year old refrigerator, while mosquitoes are slowly draining not just my blood but my will to live. I have to admit to myself though, I am curious as hell to see what the next handful of slimy mud will uncover. I proudly line up my 1945 Coke bottle, a twirling baton, some old ceramics I can’t identify, and some iron fragments on the bank of the rivulet of the stream coming out of the stone door.

A year later, my mom tells me that after I graduate from high school I should think about taking a trip. I spend some time thinking about it but my best idea was going to Florida for yet another diving trip. She tells me I should think bigger. I came back with a backpacking trip or something when she suggested that I go west with some friends, way west. A few weeks later my bags are packed and I have a meticulously assembled black plastic binder with every hotel I should stay at as well as awesome sights to see and a minivan fully packed with two buddies in tow. I made my way west through Texas and up through The Great Basin, seeing sights that I had never dreamed I would see in person and especially not with the freedom of just myself. It is an amazing thing for a kid to see just how big the world really is and just how unprepared you are for it. I came back with a lust for adventure and exploration.

Before I left for the west, my mother suggested that I take all of my outdoor skills and apply to work at a high adventure camp, some place where I would be comfortable. She and I walked through some applications for an internship in Antarctica and more for some dream jobs at high adventure camps across the U.S. I didn’t hold my breath for any. But about a week after I got back from my trip, I was on my way to the Florida Keys. I’d gotten a job at the high adventure camp “Sea Base”. There I lead groups of kids snorkeling over pristine coral reefs, deep sea fishing, and other awesome activities that were really probably more fun for me than them.

One average humid and hot evening I was talking to my mom from a payphone near my base camp when she told me I needed to start thinking about college because I would be getting back soon. She had already sent me something that might help. For the next month, I was brow beat to read through this book that listed just about every job that has anything to do with SCUBA diving. I came across one that I thought was pretty cool, “Marine Archaeologist”. So eventually, I got into one of the five schools in the country that actually offered it as major.

Let me just wrap this up from here. Those who know me know that I am now employed at a commercial archaeology firm in Reno Nevada. They have heard all about my harrowing tales of adventure, high jinks, and discovery as I have explored through the most remote parts of the “high desert”. I won’t bore you with all sorts of deep emotional revelations, nor will I wax poetic about how life is funny, blah, blah, blah. What I will say is that it is pretty clear, at least to me, that I wouldn’t be here, doing this if those events hadn’t happened when and how they did. I’m also not going to say that other events didn’t contribute. Yet, when I thought about those pretty major and overall good events in my life they were all due to my mom (really, what would I do without her?).

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mark vs. Servers

The Title Match…ding ding

I went to a crappy truck-stop restaurant a few days back and the service was terrible. It was so bad that I left no tip. The people I was with had a bit of a problem with that until I explained my position on the matter. Then only half of them had a problem with it.

I was so incensed by the reprimand I received that I decided to take a poll from everyone I knew on what they felt the average gratuity should be. I then took the data and compiled a statistical model and found that the average tip that any server would receive on any given night would be somewhere around 17% of the total meal costs, this includes some really bad tips and some, of what I would consider, overly generous tips. The interesting thing when I took this poll was all the different philosophies I heard about tipping.

At this point I want to establish to you the reader that though I am an opinionated jerk, I have worked in the service industry most of my life and, yes, I have waited tables. I don’t feel that this gives me the right to never tip on some sort of misguided justifications, however it does give me the right to say that I do know what it is like to wait tables and how hard the work really is and how much I made at the job. Now, that said, the gratuity industry is not full of starving, poor, struggling, proletariats. This industry is just like any other. The laborers just have to contend with a more direct relationship to the capitalistic market place than most. In my research for this post I came across some web pages and opinions that gave what they considered to be undefeatable reasons as to why you should tip well. Now let me defeat those notions for you all.

1) Hourly wages are typically significantly less in the service industry, because tips are considered part of the servers’ income.

The reason that the wages are lower is not just to differ the operating costs of the restaurant but, to ensure that the service is actually good. The whole point of gratuity is that if you do a bad job you get tipped less. This should motivate you to do a good job. It should not be sympathy for the server’s income that makes you tip well, it is meant to be the quality of the service. I can tell you that in the restaurant that I worked in consistently poor service would have meant that that person would have been fired.

2) Your server does pay income taxes. In absence of proper documentation of tips, the government will look at the servers’ food and beverage sales and base their taxable tip income on a percent of it. So if you do not tip the server, it has actually cost the server money to serve you.

Let me just say BULLSHIT! Yes, they are taxed. However, let me put some perspective on the previous statement. Let’s say that Sally is a waitress and that she pays taxes like a good little citizen. Let’s also assume that she makes close to 30,000 a year (figure taken from my sister’s old job). Now, the government will assume that she makes a 15% tip on every meal. If she made a 15% tip on a thirty dollar meal she would get $4.50, out of that she would pay 0.68 cents to Uncle Sam making her take home $3.82. If you tip 10% on the same thirty dollar meal because Sally wasn’t doing a great job then she would make $3.00 of which she should be taxed 0.45 cents instead of the 0.68 cents the government will get. Does this mean that poor Sally won’t make rent? Hell no! She still takes home $2.32. She is still turning a profit people. Now, if Sally was really doing a shit-ass job and received no tip from a table she was serving on that same thirty dollar meal then yes she did pay 0.68 cents to serve you. However, as I stated earlier the average tip is 17% meaning that on average she is making $5.10 on that meal. So, even if you don’t tip her Sally still has a damn good surplus of tips that she probably isn’t reporting in her taxes that that money is coming out of. And one more time I want to emphasize that we are talking about less money than a cup of coffee would cost at the very restaurant she is working at. If you receive atrociously horrible service do you feel that maybe Sally should buy you that cup of coffee for ruining your meal? It isn’t like you’re not paying for the food, which may have been cold, late, and served rudely.

3) Believe it or not, servers do not always get a paycheck. Sometimes, because of the taxes they pay and/or deductions, servers must pay in to the company rather than get a check.

In some situations the above situation is true. However again lets put some perspective on that. Some serving jobs are so lucrative that, yes, the restaurant actually charges the servers to work there. The take home for these waiters is generally more than 40,000 a year. Also, the way the above statement is phrased would lead you to believe that the poor servers actually have to pay all their hard earned money to work. People do not work for free in this country. Slavery was outlawed with the thirteenth amendment. No one is being taken advantage of here…except your heartstrings.

4) Your server has to tip too. It is very common for a waiter or waitress to have to tip out their supporting staff, ie; the bartender, buss person, food runners and others. Bartenders may have to tip out their bar backs. These tips are based often on the sales of the server, so if you don’t tip them, in addition to the 8% the government gets they often have to shell out money to the support staff putting them further in the hole. Sometimes the support staff is tipped a percent of the servers’ tips. So not tipping the server is the same as not tipping any of the hard working support staff in the restaurant.

Again, all I have to say is capitalism. If a server is not providing good service on a frequent enough basis to pay the support staff then they need to rethink their job or their support staff will make them rethink it. This really isn’t a difficult job, no matter what some would have you believe. Keep the drinks filled, get the orders right, bring the food out in a timely fashion, and have a smile on your face and I guarantee you will make enough to tip your support staff the way you should.

5) Servers do a lot of work that they are not tipped on also. It is called side work and it is work that is done for no more than their hourly rate. Side work usually involves cleaning the restaurant, stocking supplies and getting the store ready for the next shifts business. Side work can be time consuming and at times physically straining.

Yes, but the waiter does this as a part of their serving job. If all they did were these side jobs then they should be making minimum wages, but they aren’t. They are getting cash at the end of every night of work. On average a good amount of money. Let’s not separate the responsibilities here. The server is making enough during waiting hours to cover the work that he or she does before or after waiting tables. Part of the same job people. Besides if work wasn’t time consuming then what the hell is an hourly wage? Work is time consuming for all of us. Here’s a tissue.

Here is an excerpt from an article written by a server that I would like to share. “When someone asks me why people should tip, I answer their question with a few of my own. Do you want hot food? Do you want your drink refilled? Do you want the person taking your order to care about the quality of food you are going to eat? The answer to these questions is always yes. So why would a person that is getting paid hourly whether you eat there or not care about any of those things if there is nothing extra in it for them?” I want to address the last sentence there, the one that goes “Why would a person that is getting paid hourly whether you eat there or not care about any of those things if there is nothing extra in it for them?”, well God damn it, it is obvious to me that the person who wrote this drivel has never worked in any other service industry because if you have three consecutive “bad customers” who make complaints about the quality of your work, not even three shifts, just three customers, you would be fired. And in most of the other service industries you have to put that smile on your face and work really hard without that carrot dangling in front of you, because that is what is expected. At no point did I ever have the expectation that I would get rewarded for working harder at any of the other service jobs I worked. I had to work hard and be courteous just to keep my employment.

In no way am I saying that you should never tip, what I am saying is that in the absence of all of those things listed above it is completely appropriate to leave a virtual FU. I’m not going to apologize for leaving nothing to the person who ruined my meal or my evening with rudeness or lack of concern for me. In my mind its simple, and all the articles I’ve read agree with my logic though I think they would make a hasty retraction if they read this post, I am tipping for good service; I should not tip for horrible service, ever.

Out of all the people I surveyed, the average for a great tip was anywhere between 18% to anything really. Yeah, I had one person say that they would tip almost anything for great service. In my mind that is just trying to be flashy or maybe just a little irresponsible, but to each his own. For average service I heard anything from 15% to over 20% making the average the 17% I gave you earlier. And finally, for poor service I got anything from a big fat 0 to 15%. I heard from most of the people I surveyed that they will still tip 15% when they receive bad service! The most common answer to this was that the server could just be having a bad night. To this I say why the hell do we have the gratuity system if you people are going to screw it up for the rest of us? Do you think your doing a service to the next people to be seated if you are rewarding bad behavior? Don’t have such good will damn it you aren’t helping anyone.

The surprising thing to me was that only two other people agreed with my point of view. Even more surprising was how much people were willing to tolerate before they would give the server what they considered to be a bad tip which was actually a good or standard tip. I have to tell you it makes me hang my head and give up on the society I live in. Just promise me one thing. The next time you get egregiously bad service think of your children and how they will be brought up in a world where servers are making more than some college graduates. Imagine, your kids, trying to eek out a slim living on their bachelor’s degree they worked so hard for while receiving cold food and rude service from the fat-cat waitress who expects an exorbitant 25% tip on their meal and has no problem brow beating your children for that cash, all because you had to reward poor service. Please, please think of the children.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Speed Demon 2000

Warning: this post written while in a pissy mood

Ok, here I am, sitting at the most secluded table, at the F’ing Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble down the street from my house. I’m not here to sample any of their girl drink coffee-fections that so many out there think is hard core or whatever. I’m not here flipping through magazines that I have no intention to buy , though it is only hour one and there is only so log I can sit online. No, I payed four bucks to use their internet for two hours so that I could finish downloading a PC game I bought from Target like a week ago. *I never got through downloading it though due to the need for me to be connected for four hours! (*written after initial posting)

LJ and I bought Lappy, the newest member of our growing family, about a month ago. This is the first laptop I have ever owned and it is capable of doing things that a computer in my possession has never been able to do. Like store tons of info and having a good enough graphics card to play games more system demanding than solitaire. So, instead of buying a PS2 game at Target I figure “Hell, lets go check out the PC games." I am ambling through the selection trying to find a title that might peek my interest when I see a game titled “City of Heros”. “Cool”, I think to myself “a game where I can build my own ‘Hall of Justice’, create a heroic alter-ego, and go around fighting evil”. Then my gaze drifted next to it and I see another title, “City of Villains”. If you really know me you should know which game I purchased. “Holy crap, a game where I can build my own ‘Hall of Doom’, create my true villainous alter-ego instead of some pussy do-gooder, and a chance to cause random acts of chaos...delicious. Mwwwahahahaha”.

I take the game home and download it to my computer only to find out when I try and open it that I have to download like 430 megabytes from the net before I can play. I am going to put this gently, WHAT THE FUCK!. I have dial up, and yeah feel free to make all the jokes you want, so downloading anything is a virtual impossibility (no pun intended, unless it makes me sound smarter then yeah I intended it). Fucking PC games! This is no one’s fault but my own I realize. However, for years every once in a while I would try and break into PC gaming and get away from my console dependance and every time I will inevitably be foiled by my computers lack of some crucial component or software. This time I thought would be different though, because of my new lap-sized baby. But no, smacked down again by my lack of high speed internet service. Damn it!

I have been mired in all sorts of speed related bogs recently. After LJ and I sold my crapy little Honda, that while a piece of shit, could still reach speeds in excess of 100 mph. Now I am driving LJ’s crappy Ford Ranger that couldn’t make 100 mph if it was dropped off a cliff (which, strangely, is a somewhat pleasing thought actually). I can’t drive quickly, I can’t even accelerate quickly. Instead of gently passing slower moving traffic I am weaving so that traffic can pass me. The other day I took off from a red-light and was passed by about ten cars before I got up to 45 mph. This isn’t just embarrassing, this is slowly killing me. You ever have nightmares about falling? The ground, at higher and higher velocity, coming at you until the speed is almost palpable? I look forward to those dreams so at least in some way I can get my speed on. I practically get an erection from looking at sports cars and motorcycles. I am looking forward to getting a sedan, something unthinkable to me only four months ago, just so that I can chirp the tires while pulling away from a stop sign.

While I am out on sessions and am driving a company vehicle down some remote dirt roads, I start to throttle up and just see if I can barely corner the SUV into a slide in such a way that no one will notice. I actually said “screw it” on the last session and floored it around this beautiful curve. It was awesome. I put that vehicle into a controlled slide and came out the other side with a grin from ear to ear and my passengers clinging to any stable surface their hands could clasp. I lost my driving privileges for the next day, but it was worth it. I miss driving fast. No, not fast, just driving a vehicle that can keep up with what I want it to do.

Same goes for the internet. I used to have high speed in college and went back to dial up while making a budget with my wife after we got married. I guess I got used to it, but in the same way I miss a car that can preform like I want I miss having the ability to visit sites that require flash (which are on the increase). I can’t get streaming audio, download anything, see pics that my friends or family might post. Sorry, Mike, David, and Ryan but I only visit your sites when I know I have the time (5-10 minutes a page) and my dial up won’t cut out (15% of the time).

As much as Myspace is a joke (whole ‘nother topic that I won’t get into now) it has soooo much shit on one page that it requires too much bandwidth for my crappy dial up to handle. Because, everyone needs to have the latest funny video of that teenage idiot stapling his balls to a wooden chair or some other mindless video on their page. Oh, and I really need to see all those idiotic pics you think humorously define your personality so that everyone will know just how wild and kah-ha-razy you are. Lets be honest that shit is like putting “hilarious” bumper stickers on your car. It not only makes your car an eyesore but it makes you look like an idiot who needs a stupid piece of kitsch to look interesting or clever. It’s called content people. You wanna look smart or be cool then earn it with what you have to say and not with what you can swipe and put on your page.

Ew, that came off a little aggressive, sorry if I hurt any feelings. But, again most of this is coming from me not being able to visit anyone’s blog. Sorry, Patrick, Danny, and anyone else who’s got a crummy Myspace account. Damn, it is just like being a Formula 1 driver and having to drive a golf cart on the track while everyone else is whizzing bye. Oh well, someday I will either be able to afford it or go slowly insane (pun intended that time). That’ll be a short trip.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Say Hi Damn it!

I am a huge egotist when it comes to my hit counter. Not in the way that I feel superior to anyone or anything. No, it’s more like I wanna know who is stopping by my little corner of the web. So, I check my site meter kinda regularly to see where I am getting hits from , how frequently, and for how long.

I’ll tell you a secret. I discovered from my post “Sty in the Eye” that a more provocative title or even what would be a popular set of search words would yield more hits, thusly making me feel better about both my writing and my subject matter. That is why I have such awesome titles with such lame content. I expend all of my cool-hippness energy on the title and save none for the rest of my blog. Much like the music industry. That is why this blog only appeals to my closest friends…and some wayward blog travelers, who are usually lost, bored, or looking for some pictures to gank.

This brings me to you Mr. or Mrs. (and to a lesser degree Ms.) Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Yes, I know you have been hitting my site every day for like the last week and reading an unhealthy amount of halfassery. And yes, if you are sitting in front of your computer in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and wondering to yourself, “is he talking to me?“ the answer is yes, you are the one I am writing to. I love that you are hitting my page, don’t get me wrong. More power to you. I just want to know who you are and for you to maybe leave one little tiny comment. In fact you can simply copy/paste this comment:

Wow, what an awesome blog. You sir have an awesome blog. I too have an awesome blog or not. Boy, you sure are a card. I even appreciate your sporadic use of comas, and endearing misspellings. Well, I have to run (got other blogs to check out) I’ll bee reading your stuff tomorrow for at least 15-20 minutes. Keep up the mediocre work. ; ) winky smiley

See? That isn’t so hard. I just feel that if I am providing you with up to four hours of entertainment or insult (however you take my material) that you should just drop me a courtesy how-dee-do. That’s all. However if you are totally uncomfortable with the idea or you are fingerless or just painfully shy then no worry’s just keep coming by, there will be plenty more quasi-sophisticate, sophomoric, half assed opinions for you to read. Oh, and hey Murfreesboro, Tennessee…this post’s for you. <--Sung to the Budweiser ad theme.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Yay, I’m a happy boy! Let me just start by saying that, with LJ’s help and nagging, I got myself signed up for a college class on statistics at a local community college. This will complete my CLAST requirement that UWF needed so I can finally collect my degree. As some of you might remember this is more of a technicality for completion of my bachelors yet they just won’t give me my sheepskin without it, go figure. Back to topic, this class is offered online. Which is good because in order to keep busy with my job I have to be able to go out on sessions So, in order to get online while out in the boonies LJ bought me a laptop!

I feel like a sweaty nerd at comiccon, renfair, and dragoncon all in one. I’m so happy! In fact I am actually writing this sitting in a Panera Bread in Sacramento, while LJ is working a booth at the California State Fair. I am totally mobile now. I can write blogs at home or anywhere I feel like. This laptop, or Lappy as LJ and I have named it, has 100gb, 1.8ghz processing speed, and an upgraded graphics card. I love it.

Years ago Andrew built a computer for me for like $500 and told me that owning my own computer will drastically improve my knowledge of the hardware and software. He was right. For the next like five years or so I have gutted the thing and installed all sorts of stuff and repaired it either by myself or with the help of various friends. Yet over time I invested less and less into it. Consequently it is now almost worthless and crashes kinda frequently. Hopefully though I will start putting some money into it and getting Desky back up to current par.


LJ and I have been saving up for a new car for the past 6 months or so. We thought we were in pretty good shape about three months ago so we went and talked to some car dealers. Well, other than getting the run-around, talked down to, and even threatened we came away with a different idea of what we needed to do before getting the new car. At first we had saved only like three grand for this but in order to get a good interest rate we feel like we need to put down like eight or more. So, in like another three months, NEW CAR!

I’m not really excited about the car per say, I am really eager to get that purchase out of the way so that we will have two reliable vehicles and then I can get a motorcycle. Yep, the bike is my real goal. I am so happy I married this girl she can really organize things, something I have been miserable at since my teachers saw the inside of my desk in elementary school.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It's not ALL about me

Sorry I haven’t posted in a bit. It seems I start a lot of posts that way. I have no excuse.Well here’s one; I have been doing a lot of office work recently which means that I sit inside all day and type on the computer, so coming home and doing the same really doesn’t interest me too much. Also I feel like nothing is really going on. Maybe, I can recap some stuff for you though. Ok, recently my parents and my sister came out to visit.

That was pretty cool because we haven’t seen anybody we knew since we first got out here. We went and saw some sites, ate out…you know the usual. My grandfather sent out some of the best cookies ever with them (Pinwheels) so that I could get some grandparent affection from back east. He even got up early on the day my parents were leaving to take the cookies over and made sure they packed them. Now, that is love. It’s kinda funny too. My grandfather and I love these cookies…like a lot. He gets them special then stockpiles them in a back closet that, if I remember right, my father told me he keeps specially cooled so that he can enjoy them in summer (they aren’t sold in summer in the south east due to the heat and moisture). God I hope I am this obsessive about chocolate when I am his age. What a role model.

He knows I love these cookies and has made sure that he has enough, on hand at all times, so that he and I can sit down and enjoy some together. In fact, he has always kinda surprised me with the links to which he will go to ensure that I have some of these cookies whenever possible. I was driving somewhere recently, just sort of thinking to myself, and I had this funny thought flash through my mind. Sadly, in this thought my grandfather had passed away and I was being read the will from some nameless attorney. “…and finally”, he reads, “I leave my entire Pinwheel Bonanza to Mark. I hope I saved enough to last him the rest of his life.” Then I am led to a warehouse much like the one at the end of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc. Where rows and rows of cookies as far the eye can see have been slowly stored for years. Beautiful.

Back to my parents. We all had a good time. LJ and I loved having them out here. My brother couldn’t come because his comedy career has taken off so that it is hard to get him anywhere that he isn’t being paid to be. I am so proud of him. I have to admit I really thought that he wasn’t going to do well in comedy, I am so glad I was dead wrong. He really is quite a funny guy and this really seems to suit him. He was never really a 9 to 5 kinda guy anyway. My sis (sorry Adrienne. I couldn't find your blog) is starting classes in college again and everything is just sort of rollin’ on as things do. Oh, my mother just started here first week of teaching high school. That promises to be interesting I’m sure. I hope she likes it, though I’m sure she will.

No, real big news other than LJ and I are both tossing around the idea of grad school. I don’t know which of us will do it or even whether that will happen at all, but I’ll just say we are thinking about the option. If I do it I am hoping to do one of those programs where you get your masters and doctorate rolled into like four years, but again we’ll see. ‘Course, if I do ever get a doctorate I’ll have to change my last name to like ‘X’ or ‘Strangelove’ or something.

Oh yeah, you guys should check out my buddy Mike’s blog. He has revamped it and has started blogging again. His content is second only to Half Assed’s and the site looks great too! It also appears that he has built a new site for Reference Toxicity, the only web comic H/A endorces due to the fact that I am a semi-pivital and reoccuring chacacter! Also, it's funny.

Lets see...ummm...oh, my hit counter is about to go over 6,000! Thats pretty cool. This hasn’t really been a very topical blog, but hey maybe I’ll have some half assed opinions about something next week…or the week after…or the week after…

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Holy Skeletons in the Closet Batman!

A few years ago I drove up from Florida for a visit to my parents on a school holiday. After I had packed my car and was on my way out the door I was saying “Bye” to my dad and in the process I casually asked whom the pictures on his desk were of. “Oh, my first wife”, he responded in an uninterested tone. “Ok, I’ll call you when I get back home. See ya.” “Later”, he called out. I actually made it all the way down to my car and was on my way out of the driveway before it fully hit me; “My first wife”!? I quickly ran back up the steps to see what the hell he was talking about. My dad then explained to me how he had been married before to another woman and then had a divorce a year later. Let me just say that he couldn’t understand why this had struck me so hard. When I asked him why he had never told me he merely replied, “It never came up.”

Today my parents and sister came to visit me in Nevada. While everyone was going through their morning routines my mother leans towards me in her chair and says, “I have to tell you something”. After a little back and forth she tells me that she had had a child before she met my dad and had to give it up for adoption. Also, that he had recently contacted her. I have to tell you here that I used up all my disbelief those years ago on my father’s whole first marriage bit so my reaction was a lot more subdued. Still, when I asked why she had never told me the answer was, again, “It never came up.”

It never freakin’ came up! In twenty-seven years of conversations with these people you’d think that at some point the discussion would have veered close enough to make the leap to this subject, let alone crashing directly into it. That aside, I have a biological half-brother out there. Exciting news really. I read a letter he had sent and saw a picture of him and got a bit of a biography too. Interestingly he had slipped his name into the letter through random capitalized letters. I just happened to be the first one to notice this and subsequently fueled a bit of a frenzy this morning that resulted in my mother writing an email to her first son.

You know as proud as I was to have studied and become an archaeologist it ain’t shit compared to this dude. As unrealistic as this may sound to those who know me and thereby feel that anyone hindered by my family’s genetics should achieve this; I swear it’s all true. He is a PhD in atomic physics and works at a particle accelerator lab. That is a lot to meet up to, but hey maybe this is how all younger siblings feel (I’m new to that feeling).

As curious and exciting as this news is I am rather taken aback. I mean is this it? Ok, my dad had a former wife, my mom had another kid. I am terrified to talk to my grandparents. I can just imagine sitting down in their family room chatting about whatever when my grandmother lets it slip that she worked as a spy during WWII and my grandfather wasn’t really in the armed forces, he was actually a globetrotting jewel thief…”d’you want more ice tea honey?”

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mediation = Awesomeness

So, I am one of those people who are unshakably sure of themselves most of the time. In fact, I am so sure of my correctitude that in a friendly discussion I will fling the rules of etiquette and good graces out the window faster than a pissed-off Russell Crowe in a hotel room and become quite belligerent toward my adversary. At this point I will usually call on my own personal mediator. That’s right, personal mediator.

While most people have personal financial advisors, physicians, lawyers, nutritionists, therapists and trainers; I feel it more advantageous to have a personal mediator. Someone with whom I can call upon to offer an unbiased appraisal of my current discussion. Someone to settle any conflict of trivial fact or opinion that might arise in any of my discussions. This personal mediator, in my opinion, is on call 24 hours a day and will always field my questions whether they are about movies, video games or deep societal issues. So, I guess this post is to say thanks bud for all the outrageous questions you have answered over the years.

Don’t think I don’t appreciate your willingness to wake up on a weeknight at 3:30 AM and entertain my drunken half-baked questions on whether the winged animal in Super Mario Bros. was a flying turtle or a duck. Or answering bizarre questions while at work or in the gym. Even taking impromptu polls, when asked, of your fellow compatriots or co-workers to solve a matter of popular opinion. It is this selfless attitude and willingness to entertain ridiculous questions posed at the most inopportune times that will assure your top five ranking on my cell phone’s speed-dial for years to come.

Kudos to you my personal mediator and kudos to all who toil fruitlessly for the benefit of us, the burdensome friends out there.

At this point I would like to cordially invite my mediator to become a full member of the Half-Assed Opinions Technical Staff. This will mean longer hours, a heavier workload, and an almost palpable sense of slackery that you must exude everywhere you go. Don’t think that this position doesn’t come with an awesome benefits package though. As all members of the H/A staff you will have a .002% financial right to any of the half invented products that will never be created, marketed or even discussed at future H/A meetings. Also, you might get a cool H/A T-shirt someday…if I remember to make one…ever.

This offer will self destruct all over your CPU in; 5…4…3…2…

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Putting the ‘Dis’ in Dysfunctional

So, LJ has been riding my case about having kids for like the last three months or more. It has gotten serious enough that when she goes to Wal-Mart, Target or any other clothes retailer she might want to stop by the kid sections to look at baby clothes. Maybe she’ll just tell me about reading numerous articles or blogs about babies. Hell, today we had to go to Babies R’ Us just so that she could look at baby room furniture.

Its not that I don’t want to have kids, it isn’t that I don’t like kids. It’s just that I don’t know if I can handle kids in a daddly way yet. For example I just know that to me having a kid around would just be, in my mind, supplying me with a punching bag for practical jokes. Now, before any of you fly off the handle you have to realize that this is just about normal behavior in my family. For the first five years of my life my father, in a rather brilliant parenting ploy, had me convinced that he had killed and devoured my older brother because he had misbehaved so grievously one day. Honestly this may have kept me inline somewhat for a time. I’m only trying to illustrate that in my family it was okay to bend the truth with your children because, hey they were easy dupes and it was amusing for the adults.

I can just imagine myself doing all sorts of crazy-ass things to my kids simply for my own amusement. Just off the top of my head the other day I thought about how funny it would be to sneak into my kid’s room at night and pee in his or her sock drawer. Then the next morning when they come running downstairs to tell me that their sock drawer smells like pee, I can look up from my coffee, with a shocked and dismayed look on my face, and say “Oh…jeeze…Well, some kids have this problem…I guess. You know Billy most kids have trouble with wetting the bed but you must be extra messed up…you pee the sock drawer in your sleep. How embarrassing.” Or maybe while they are at school I could raise their bike seat a little bit every day for a week until they come and tell me that their feet don’t reach the peddles anymore. At this point I say something like “Well Susie most kids your age grow up, but I guess you’re shrinking. Not a lot of kids shrink you know. You should be happy though, it’s kinda like winning the genetic freak lottery. Still your Mom and I are pretty disappointed though…(sigh).”

God, that is some heartless shit. That is way worse than any of the pranks I pulled on Mike or Danny, Beth and Brad. I just feel like maybe I need time to mature a little more. I am more concerned with my toys than the possibility of buying some other kid toys. I want a motorcycle damn it! Still, the idea of having a little kid to mold into a pranking-video gaming-punk music listening-machine. That…could be kinda fun. LJ seems enamored with the idea. Sometimes it’s all she ever talks about. It just worries me because it is so much responsibility and we have so many other things going on right now. My mind is just filled with the neat things I would love to do with the kid, but then I think of all the things I have to do for the kid. I’m a little scared. You know my Dad always told me that he wanted a sports car but my Mom wanted children, and she got her way. I better get that motorcycle.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The ADHD Epidemic

*WARNING: This is going to be a long post so anyone who may not have the time or the attention span then bookmark it and come back later…it looks as though I have to climb atop the old soapbox again.

I was talking to my parents the other day and they told me that my cousin was going to be tested for ADHD (Attention Defecate Hyperactivity Disorder). I was a little shocked and asked why. I got the stock reply that I would say most parents give, “Grades, attention, attitude, etc.”. I must admit I am a bit emotionally invested here, not to mention that I am not licensed in any medical discipline (unless you count MD of Awesomeness, which most people don’t) so take everything from here on with a grain of salt.

You see years ago when I was a pre teen my parents decided that I had to go see a series of shrinks to see if I could be qualified as what was then called ADD for all the same reasons listed above. Though I was declared to have ADD and was put on Ritalin I have always felt that it was done in error. That’s right, I felt the psychologists had misdiagnosed me. Now, I don’t want to come off as a crazy-ass Scientologist here, but I do believe that the human condition is such that accurately diagnosing a person with any disorder could, and in most cases should, take a long time to do. People are just too fucking complex to qualify and quantify into such general behavioral groups like that. I just feel that to diagnose a kid so quickly like that, especially a child whose self-image will be greatly affected by what this professional may say about them not to mention that in this child’s mind their parents have decided there is something deficient enough about them to warrant taking them to this professional, you should get to know them for more than a couple of hour long sessions.

In my case I was humiliated and destroyed by the verdict. I felt that I was different from everyone else around me because of my medication and supposed problem. That I didn’t belong with the normal kids because I was lacking. My self-image was shattered and as a result I had to build a new one. I don’t begrudge my parents for this. I know they were doing it out of concern and love. I mean any parent who doesn’t want to make their child’s life better or even easier is just sadistic. They just wanted me to be successful and for school to be easier, I got that. Yet when I was talking to them the other day about this, though I have on numerous occasions tried to dispel their belief that I was ever truly any kind of candidate for ADD, they were relentless. They still believe that I have a learning disability and were trying to be supportive. I gotta tell ya its like having to prove you’re NOT a witch to a bunch of pissed-off torch bearing puritans. Once the dye is cast it never comes out baby, never.

So, let me explain to you what the symptoms of ADHD in fact are…

Children who have ADHD often:

  • Are easily distracted by sights and sounds in their environment.
  • Are unable to concentrate for long periods of time on low stimulation tasks (homework vs. video games).
  • Are restless and impulsive.
  • Have a tendency to daydream.
  • Are slow to complete tasks.

Now it may just be me, but does that not sound like the typical child to anyone else? Is there any child who would rather be doing his or her math homework than out playing with the other kids down the street? Is there any kid with enough life experience or maturity to not seem impulsive? I mean seriously who’s kid is not ruled by their impulses? What I am trying to say here is that, to me and most of the other people I’ve talked to, ADHD is way too broadly defined to have any sort of real merit as a true psychiatric disorder. At least with most other disorders there are much narrower criteria that must be met. It seems that the term ADHD should be re-named “The normal kid complex”.

It is also striking how most of these symptoms are remarkably similar to the signs that anyone would display if they were bored. Now, I’m not saying that all the kids who are diagnosed with this are really a bunch of bright kids who just slipped through the cracks. Certainly there are children and adults who would benefit greatly from the medications provided. However, how many people are misdiagnosed a year?

When the illness was first discovered and the drug Ritalin was first marketed it seemed like most kids were either on Ritalin or had been on it for a while. Huge numbers of children in America were diagnosed as having ADD. Now, years later, there almost seems to be a bit of a backlash as those children have grown up. After doing a bit of research on the net I was surprised to see how many sites weren’t just about the symptoms of ADHD and the helpfulness of the current drugs but almost just as many articles or pages about why you shouldn’t be on these drugs or pages that seemed bent on the negative sides of the psychiatric community (as it pertained to the diagnoses of children with ADHD) as well as the drugs themselves. I felt that I had some vindication at this point. Apparently I wasn’t the only one.

In fact I stumbled across a lot of sites all about the problem of misdiagnosis of ADHD. Some even included a list of alternative reasons that a child might display the symptoms of ADHD. Believe me there were way too many to list here so you’ll have to check out the links at the bottom. Again I’m not saying that ADHD doesn’t exist; what I am saying is that it seems to be this “catch-all” diagnosis that some poorly qualified or inexperienced or even charlatans in the psychiatric community may use to prescribe a medication to children who may have some other condition or in fact nothing wrong with them at all.

Again, I am not saying that some people don't qualify or wouldn't benefit from medication for ADHD. However I am pleading with parents out there to not take this decision lightly. Think about what this could do to your child or even your relationship with your child. Also, think about what other causes this could be stemming from. It is way to easy to just say that this problem is genetic and therefore it couldn't be anything else; "Drug my child please." This should be a last resort and trust me it will have lasting consequences for both you and your child.

Check out these links for more info…

- ADHD Drug Side Effects
- Ritalin Side effects
- Misdiagnosis of ADHD
- The Overdiagnosis of ADHD (I highly recomend this one)

P.S. Yeah, yeah, sorry I haven't posted in a while but what can I say? I guess being a free-lance archaeologist for hire, not to mention a kick-ass husband keeps me pretty buisy. What's that? "But Mark, we need more opinions of a truely half-assed nature...whimper, whimper." Oh, ok. I'll whip up another batch of intelectual trav-sham-mockery as soon as I can. And maybe it won't take me a month like last time.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Eat Shit

So, I was out walking my dog the other day and per usual, Zeus, my eighty pound wonder-mutt, suddenly was dragging me over to something he had to check out. Before I could stop him he scarfed down a sizable chunk of dog poo. “Great” I think. I feel like the parent of the child who is constantly eating glue or some other rather nasty little habit. As I’m walking back to the apartment, Zeus happily bounding in front, satisfied no doubt in his found culinary treasure, I was thinking “Hmmm, why is there such a stigma attached to this?”

Yeah, yeah I know its poo. I know, I know. Gross as it is to us, maybe dogs just like the taste. I mean they aren’t pent up by social graces like we are and they aren’t people so why stress about it. Why not embrace it as their natural preference. Look at it this way you don’t get on your dog for liking the crotch notch and you don’t get onto them for sniffing other dog’s poop chutes, so why get on them about eating sod snickers? (Too much rhyming?) Anyway, so thinking about it I decided to give the idea to the old Half-Assed Innovations crew as I do any other half conceived notions. And here is what they gave me.

Here’s the thing: No overhead cost for product production or R&D. Simple box and wrapper design. All we need to do is alter people’s preconceived notions that dogs shouldn’t eat poo. Once that’s done its all profit baby.

Oh, yeah and while they were working on it the H/A staff also gave me this idea for future market development…”Scroungey’s Grab-Bag”, much the same as Pooties only for babies. We will just fill the boxes with anything a toddler might find and want to put in its mouth. With an adorable toddler aged mascot who looks like a sailor and is always searching for the next treat to taste. I had one word for my staff at that point…”brilliant”.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Conversations with LJ

Conversation 1

Mark: Wanna play Risk tonight?

LJ: No, I mean you’re always in the mood for world domination. Me, not so much.

Mark: So true.

Conversation 2

LJ: How was that movie about World War II?

Mark: Eh, it was ok. A little too dramatic, but ok. Well, it was about the last days in Hitler’s bunker, but still over dramatic.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Job Satisfaction

Hey everybody, sorry I haven’t blogged in a while but, I have had a hectic few weeks. Lets see, I sold my little Honda to an unsuspecting dupe. I have lost five pounds. I went to San Francisco with LJ (but I’ll let her tell that story). I ate the world’s hottest Thai food. I saw a robot pterodactyl fighting with a knight. I saw a homemade jet pack. I went to a haunted house. I discovered a whole new petroglyph (rock art) site that no one has seen since it was made. And finally I went to a small town called Ely (pronounced eelee) where a dog barked at me, then a girl barked at me…weird. Anyway I wanna tell you guys about my new job. (All true I swear to you)

So for years I have had to toil in retail jobs, and service jobs. Always working for minimal or close to minimal pay, and always doing something that I found to be beneath my abilities. I’m not trying to sound arrogant but c’mon, it’s true. Anyone who has a high school education shouldn’t have to work with ex-convicts. So lets see, why is my current job vastly better than any job I have ever had before?

I am appreciated from the get go. Everyone knows I have enough brains to be told something kinda complex once and then be able to do it again. Not to mention be able to expand on it with no explanations. I am responsible for at least $2,000 worth of equipment from the get go with no warnings or supervisors. My job takes me places that are way off the beaten path. I get to see environments that are so completely foreign to me that any little thing is a total thrill. Hmmm, I’ve seen wild horses, huge lizards, eagles, elk, antelope, deer, huge anthills, marmots, quail, rattlesnakes, and huge buzzards; all from a relative closeness that you couldn’t get from a zoo. Every day we are looking for something new so no repetitious work. One day I could be after an ancient Native American site or maybe old mining camps. I have personally found historic cans, mine shafts, prehistoric tools, rock shelters, and petroglyphs (ancient native rock art).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that for a “professional” type job this is more fun than I could have ever imagined. I get to hike around all day for four days then get three days off back to back, or work eight days straight in a paid for hotel in some remote part of Nevada, meals included, then come back to six days off. How could I have gotten so lucky?

Oh, maybe I haven’t mentioned the best part. When I go out and someone asks me what I do I get to say, “Oh me? I’m just an…ARCHAEOLOGIST.” Then sit back while they all go nuts. Its like telling someone you’re a secret agent then letting them buy you a martini while they hold your two way wrist communicator and call all their friends over to get a look. LJ and I went to a historic site recently and when we were finished with the tour I let it drop that I worked for an archaeological firm and from there I was In like Flint. The mood always seems to change, it’s great.

So anyway, there you have it. I am now Mark the successful, intelligent, handsome, and modest archaeologist instead of Mark the under-appreciated retail gimp. I am leaving for another eight day stint but unlike last time I have left two or three more blogs, pre-typed, and ready for LJ to post at given intervals. So you can all bask in my semi-humorous writings. ‘Till later my friends.

P.S. I have yet to punch my first Nazi but I have been assured it will happen. I just have to be patient.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Curing Myself

There are days when I don’t even think about it. There are more days that I think about it all the damn time. The worst of it came about a week after LJ and I got out here. We went to a casino to look around and decided to have a drink at a bar. So, we’re sitting there and I look around and at every table everyone is smoking. I quickly refocus my gaze down at the table to stem the rising urges and the ashtray seems to be so empty, too empty. Like some meaningless object that needed me to become what it was meant to be, it was calling to me. I started making deals with myself. “Ok”, I thought, “I’ll just smoke in casinos and that’s it. Hell, not even all the casinos just this one…and…and only in this bar. Yeah, in fact only at this table so if I come here and stroll past and see that this table is taken I can’t smoke that day.” But that wouldn’t have happened and I knew it.

I have to say that LJ wasn’t much help that night. She said that she didn’t think that she was going to quit smoking anyway. Easy for her to say, Mrs. smokes maybe one cigarette a week and never feels like having one. She went on to say that she was thinking of having a cigarillo right then and there. When I heard this I thought, “Damn, I can do it! Here is the chance I need. She said she wanted to smoke maybe I can get a pack of cigarettes. Yes!” I even asked the waitress if they had packs for sale. “No”, she said but then motioned to a glass door to the right of the bar where cigarettes were sold. All sorts! I spent most of that evening sitting there, thinking about that door and the colorful little boxes within. God, I wanted nothing more than to walk through that door and into that warm glow and smell the clean plastic coated boxes and the aroma of dried tobacco.

REWIND: About three years ago in Athens, Georgia I smoked a cigarette that started me on a habit that didn’t end until a little more than a month ago. Over the past few years I had smoked about one pack a week sometimes more, sometimes less, during this period. I never really loved the idea that I smoked it just got to be one of those things I did to relax. Marlboro (reds, 100’s, and 27’s), Benson & Hedges, Camels, really what ever would give me my nicotine fix.

I am now proud to say that I have gone a month and a half without one smoke (honestly more like two, but I broke down after the failed CLAST exam and had a pack). It wasn’t easy either, let me tell ya, and I’m still not all the way there. I feel that if I can make it a year without smoking then I will have successfully kicked the habit. Still, I am a little concerned because there is so much temptation out here. Smoking, in Reno, is allowed everywhere. There is smoking in restaurants, in public buildings, even in grocery stores. I can’t tell you how weird it is to walk into a grocery store and immediately smell that familiar stale odor wafting at you. For a recent ex-smoker it is like biscuits and gravy.

All of my co-workers smoke and every fucking day they ask me to come outside with them, that I can even bum a cigarette if I want. And you’re God damned right “I want”. However, every day I say “No”, that “I’m trying to quit” and that “I have come too far to give up now.” Still, every day they invite me. I don’t hate them for this; I just wish they’d stop inviting me. I wish that I didn’t see it everywhere.

They say a smoker’s always a smoker when the chips are down. Maybe, but for now I’m no smoker and I want desperately for it to stay that way. I think I can do it too. Every day gets just a little bit easier. Oh well, one month down ten and a half to go.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Friday, March 24, 2006

Venti Crapachino

Ok, so LJ and I left Pensacola and traveled more than 2,000 miles west. We have come to a strange and wonderful land. Yet this land is filled with danger. Danger that if not minded may destroy the very foundations of our sanity and leave us penniless with not but the vague recollections of speaking in a pseudo-sophisticate that we barely understood and our breath smelling of burnt coffee. I am, of course, alluding to the coffee house of the damned…STARBUCKS.

It seems that the city planners in Reno decided that no shopping mall would be complete or intersection would be left bereft of a Starbucks. The people out here seem to either bask in the lustrous figure of Starbucks’ succubus logo, called to her like doomed sailors to the song of Sirens, or they are seemingly oblivious to the edifices. They ignore it as the proverbial elephant in the corner.

I am a coffee lover. I have sampled most all varieties of coffee from most nationalities that choose to grow and ship it. In my house I keep the coffee that I purchase frozen until consumption. I grind whole beans before I start my machine and I can enjoy coffee black, creamed or sugared. Again, I love coffee. “Why”, might you ask, “do I hate these particular chain café’s so much?”

For a few simple reasons…Firstly, I despise the product. Though most wouldn’t believe it Starbucks coffee is over-roasted. This makes the beverage overly bitter. You may not know this though because most people order deluded variations of the standard Cup-of-Joe. If you don’t believe me go in and order a cup of coffee the next time. I swear that you will not want to drink it black. A truly good cup of coffee should be drinkable black or otherwise without overpowering all of your taste sensations and leaving your tongue ravaged and left for dead.

Second: The attitude projected by the overly smug staff and most patrons always pisses me off a bit. If I forgo the ridiculous language change and presume to order my drink in my native English I must endure the glares of ridicule and pity of those around me. To them I am the un-inducted the brigand who wandered into their private club and who is embarrassing himself and offending all. Sometimes, worse the condescending reprimand given me by the high school educated, metro-sexual behind the counter; “We serve Tall, Grande and Venti here…Sir.” “Whatever. I see that you have three sizes of cups and I will just assume that you have eaten elsewhere in your life and in doing so have ordered a small, medium or large drink. Now, if you were to apply that same formula to the empty cups in front of you which one do you think would be a small?” Why should ordering a cup of coffee be so difficult?

Lastly: I suppose the atmosphere is soothing to some but I am generally made uncomfortable by the time I sit down with my boiling cup of burnt coffee. I sit having to listen to some Italian version of Kenny G (but its foreign so its high class, right?) and marvel at the price tags on all the sundries that have less taste than anything one could purchase from a grocery store.

This may permanently brand me as an uncultured barbarian, however I must toss a life vest to those out there who may not know. Some of the best places to get a great cup of coffee that is reasonably priced are both Dunkin’ Doughnuts and Krispy Kreme. Yes, I know, horrible eateries of the proletariat though they may be, they still can make one hell of a damned fine coffee. Krispy Kreme in particular with their three varieties of richness is outstanding.

Was that over the top? Maybe I need to lay off the coffee.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Will Dig for Food

Ok so here’s the deal, I went for an interview today with a CRM firm (Cultural Research Management) and was offered a job. This job is basically part-time until they have more work that, from what I’m told, will be all spring summer and fall. So in the meantime I will still be working at The Shack but will be leaving increasingly for more and more archaeological work. The job is going to pay me quite a bit more than Radio Shack, and I have all sorts of room for advancement (with more pay of coarse). I am nothing if not ruthless in fighting for advancements at work.

This is really great especially considering what happened with the CLAST in Florida. This is also a huge ego boost. I mean, the job set up is perfect so that I can work and get the CLAST finished. Also, if I keep both jobs I can be making some real BUCK$!

The CRM guy tells me that I may be working what are called tens. These are ten days on the job in remote areas of Nevada, followed by four days off. He tells me that I will see parts of this country that are remote as hell and more beautiful than the places most people get to see. I can’t wait. I just hope this doesn’t put a strain on LJ and I, but she knew this was what had to happen with this career choice, and I know she’ll like the money. My new boss also seems to think that I’ll fit right in with the crew. “There are some tough hombres that work here”, he tells me “You should fit right in.”

While I was in Pensacola Mike, LJ, her parents and I went out to a restaurant. Once seated the waitress came over and to my amazement it was one of the girls I did my field school with. I am not trying to be demeaning here because God knows I am still not much better off. When I saw that it was her though, the class suck-up and all around know-it-all, I was heart sunk. I felt more than ever that I would never use my training as an archaeologist. I felt like I was doomed to work in low-level sales all my life. I mean if anyone was going to go places and make a name for themselves, hell even just get a job as an honest to God archaeologist, it was her. So, today was a huge day for me. Finally, I am taking the first steps in doing what I set out to do all those years ago. Who knows, maybe I’ll love it, and this will be my career. Not to mention, I will finally be able to wear my Indiana Jones hat with pride instead of longing.

Things that I expected:

The work is unsteady and the only full time jobs are for those who have been there for years

I will have to go out for long stints in the field

What you learn in school and the way it is in the real world are as different as night an day

All professional archaeologists wear earth tones

Things I didn’t expect:

There is no digging in the west when doing basic survey. Not even brushing

If something must be dug it is with a backhoe

My father sent me to college so that I wouldn’t become a ditch-digger…sorry dad.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Go West

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in like a week or two. We moved…westward. For those of you who don’t know, LJ got a job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She is now a full-fledged bureaucrat with a cubical and everything. I, however, am still with the Shack unfortunately. Yet, I have had many leads into the CRM (archaeology for hire) field that may pan out. So we are both doing well and are very excited to be out here.

Let me just tell you all a little about our trip. When we were planning our move from Pensacola, Florida to Reno, Nevada (pronounced Nəv-a-də-a not Nəv-ä-də-ä, by the locals, though both are technically correct) I was basing most of my time frame estimates on a trip that I took with some friends out west right after high school. In this rational I thought that 3-4 days was a rather close approximation. Wrong! Here is a little math problem for you: You are leaving on a trip that is approximately 2,500 miles long, in a van that can’t reverse and only goes 65 miles per hour (at best) and that this van also needs to stop and be refueled every 180 to 200 miles. Now also take into consideration that flat tires, road debris, roadblocks, blizzards, and other miscellaneous obstacles will delay you. How log does it take to reach your destination? Answer: 5-6 days at best.

Let me also tell all of you who may be expecting phone calls that the reason we haven’t called is that LJ and I have a very low minute plan and we have already used up our minutes for this month. Our evening minutes start at 9pm and out here nine is actually midnight for those of you on the east coast. So we will have to try saving minutes next month or use the net to communicate more.

Our Place is great. We are situated on the south side of Reno, which is close to all sorts of new development and malls and such. Our apartment has just been remodeled and is awesome. Our digital camera is broken so I can’t show you any pictures yet unfortunately, but let me just say SNOW and MOUNTAINS! Yes the city seems to be surrounded by snow capped mountains that are visible from anywhere. Another mountain range of huge clouds are almost always visible behind them but seem to be held back almost like the rocks on the shore of an ocean holding back a giant crashing breakwater. You will still catch the occasional tumbleweed rolling past, but the city is pretty big and has all sorts of entertainment, food, and recreation to offer. The people have been really nice and though there are trucker types about I have yet to see my first redneck. I’ll try and update as soon as I can with anything. Until I see ya next east coast represent!

P.S. Mike I have your McGuire’s stein. Sorry it must have been packed in the move I will send it back when I can…or maybe hold it for when you come to visit.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I failed today. Just another failure in a long string of failures, some small, some large. This just happens to be one that comes at the last hurtle of a long race for me. A stumble that sets the finishing line just a bit farther away, much to the disappointment of myself and loved ones. In my mind, now, I feel as though I am an abnormality. I feel deficient compared to some I know and many I see in day-to-day life. This particular race has taken me much longer than most and in that sense I feel like a charity case to be pitied. As I look back, there have been so many things that have gone wrong on the road to this goal. Apathy, depression, procrastination, disillusionment, frustration, distractions, wondering, the list could go on.

I’m not writing this, however, as a work of self-depravation; rather, as an article of hope. I have never been one to wallow in misery and I don’t want to come off that way now. This is merely an assertion, to my family, to my friends, and perhaps even to myself, that the struggle isn’t over yet for me. I am not one to give up.

If you were to ask a mountain climber, who had just come back from a failed attempt to summit Everest, would he try again? Despite the time and energy, cost and hardships, the work and suffering (not just for him but his loved ones as well) I would bet you that person would say “yes” every time. Why? Because, this person isn’t doing it for anything or anyone but themselves. They are doing it to complete a goal they had set for themselves. I am much like that person.

When I was eleven, still in Cub Scouts and unprepared for the hard trials a long hike could dish out, I went on a fifty mile backpacking trip with my father and a group of older boys. This was actually my first backpacking trip, a tall order for someone so young. I remember my father got me a kid sized external frame pack and I hiked the first two days in an old pair of sneakers.

On the morning of the third day my mother met us on a road that intersected the trail. She had come to pick up any boys that wanted to go home before the next three days of grueling trail. Some of the younger boys (thirteen to fifteen year olds) decided to leave. When my mother took me aside she asked me if I wanted to go too. She said that there was no shame in it because other boys were going to leave also. There was never a doubt in my mind. I told her I wanted to finish. She walked to the car and came back with a small brown box that contained my first set of hiking boots.

The next few days were hell for me. We encountered rain and cold followed by sleet on the fourth night. I cried one day, as I hiked, because my body was pained to move and I was frustrated with myself for being so weak. I remember being so exhausted that one night I couldn’t eat. I just lay in my tent feeling beaten and anguished.

On the fifth day, in the early afternoon, I walked down to the parking lot where a van was waiting to take us home. There was no celebration or awards only the personal knowledge that you had done it. I had help, of coarse, not just from my father but also from the other adults with me. I held up the rear of the group most days and slowed everything down. But I did it. I finished in spite of physical and mental stress. This has been a metaphor for most of my life.

I rely on those around me for help when I need it and the ones who really care have been there for me time and time again. I am embarrassed that this particular goal has taken me so long to complete especially compared to others, yet I will persist. Not for anything but the knowledge that I could. Maybe I was wrong to use the analogy of a race. To me this is more like a solo run. I don’t care what others think or say. I certainly don’t care how long it should take. For me this goal will be about how long it did take.


Thursday, January 12, 2006


The greatest of all Super Heroes

I have been of the impression, for a long while now, that most every super power out there actually sucks. Really, when you ask someone “Hey, if you could have any super power what would it be?” There will be the inevitable person who answers, “I would want to be able to fly” or “I want super strength” or “I want to be able to…” What most people don’t realize is that there are a shit-ton of draw backs to having any of these super powers.

First off, if you could fly you would still be susceptible to any number of problems. Atmospheric pressures, windburn, wind chill, hitting obstacles (what do you think would happen to you while flying 200mph + and you hit a bird), not to mention what would happen if people saw you flying around. You think people are just going to be happy for you? Second, super strength. If you were super strong you would barely be able to handle normal life. Everything you touched would be in danger of breaking. What happens when you have a nightmare and kick whomever you are sleep next to? You might wake up with a hole in the wall and the police at your door. All I’m saying is that to wish for these types of super powers is asinine.

I have long believed that the best super power to have would be the ability to find anything any where at any time. Think about it. How much time in your life would you save if suddenly you knew where your car keys were. Where you left your _____. Better yet, how valuable of a person would you be to any government if they knew you could find who ever or whatever facility or whatever spy? How awesome would it be to know where anything, and I mean ANYTHING was? Totally awesome that’s what. And for this reason if I had this power my super identity would be Findor. I even came up with some T-shirt logos…that’s right T-shirts because I don’t have the money for an incredible costume. So, I guess either one of these.

Upon further thought I decided that any super hero team would have to have this person around otherwise how would they find criminals? I could be all like,”Yeah, Lex Luthor. He’s in the Hall of Doom at the bottom of the Florida everglades. You need me to draw you a map…Superman?” Plus, if a villain ever screwed with me I could tell him “Yeah, I know where you live asshole.” And mean it. Fuck’n A

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Half-Assed Innovations

Yesterday my wife and I were walking through the vacuum section of our local Target. While we were there she told me that Roseanne Barr made a great quote about vacuums.

"The day I worry about cleaning my house is the day
Harrods comes out with a ride-on vacuum cleaner."
-Roseanne Barr-

So that got me thinking. Why shouldn’t there be a ride on vacuum cleaner? I came home and put the entire Hall-Assed Opinions Research and Development Staff on that very problem. Again, we here at H/A are always looking for ways to better mankind, as long as it doesn’t take too much time or energy.

Of coarse when you read the above statement you would assume that the idea is impossible, neigh ridiculous. That, however, is because people would immediately assume that any “ride on” item would look like a Ride on lawn mower. We here at H/A are innovators though. Remember the Segway? That rather useless contraption that was supposed to revolutionize our lives and change the way cities were designed? Stands on two wheels…you’ll see ‘em in Theme Parks. We realized that this would solve our size issue. Then, by simply fastening a Dyson Vacuum to the front using bungee cords and mounting a car battery to power the vacuum we had done it!We had taken a fastenating, yet remarkably unprofitable, invention (the Segway) and a wonderful, yet not self-driven, vacuum and combined them to make the world’s first ride on vacuum.

I was quite proud of this new labor saving device and have dubbed it The Seg-uum [patent pending]. Now, anyone with a severe aversion to manual labor, a penchant for hastily contrived technology and who has loads of money to blow can get this amazing devise. Basic models start at a reasonable $20,000.

All sales final. No refunds or exchanges. C.O.D. only no checks or money orders. Half-Assed Opinions will not be held liable for any damage to personal property, pets or children.

Now read some testimonials from some of our satisfied customers, just follow the link below!