I’m Chasing a Unicorn.

•May 14, 2010 • 3 Comments

Before I get into today’s (this year’s?) topic, let me preface it with the following: There is no good reason for me not writing anything for, uh, 9 months. I’m still alive. I’m still employed (whether or not I’m working is clearly a different story). I was not battling any inner turmoil, angst, or terrible experiences (other than trying to forget that Dane Cook exists and that the remake of Pocahontas Avatar was trumpeted by too many people as “amazing”). But man, I sure have a bunch of excuses for my brief absence. You know, like consciously choosing to forget this thing even existed. Can you blame me? Or lacking inspiration for writing yet another decidedly mediocre post. Regardless of my excuses, I’m back for at least one post, which I expect no one to read. So back to the topic at hand:

Unicorns.

Or as they’re known in real life: the single girl with the great mix of intelligence, personality, maturity, and looks that is interested in dating me.

I completely understand my handicaps when searching out said females; I do, after all, live in Wisconsin where the buffalo roam… where people aren’t exactly “thin.” That happens when a state is known for its vast, amazing cuisine, including many fried foods (seriously, we’ll find any excuse to fry cheese here), and beer. The freshman 15 is really the freshman 40 in Wisconsin, a harsh reality I came to grips with during college. And despite the quality higher education institutions in the vicinity (Madison and Chicago), I don’t believe anyone associates Wisconsin with areas where intelligent people tend to congregate.

But if you ignore all of that, the odds are clearly on my side.

A recent scientific study concluded that men should marry women that are 5 years younger and at least 27% smarter than them. To qualify the intellectual difference, the example given is that the woman should have a college degree and the man should not. Also, neither person should have a prior divorce. It has also been proven that men live longer when marrying a younger woman. My immediate response to reading all of this:

I’m fucked.

(Warning: This next section may make me sound like a pretentious ass that thinks way too highly of himself. In reality, I’m just aware of what I’m capable of. So if you don’t like it, you’re more than welcome to go die in a fire.)

I long ago came to grips with the fact that I’m unlikely to encounter a woman that is more intelligent than me, let alone one I’m also attracted to. I’m not one to be intimidated by such a thing, in fact I would welcome the challenge. I just don’t believe I’ll ever meet that particular person. Call it lowering my expectations if you want, I prefer to call it being realistic. That said, I’ve since grown up and also realized that that specific level of intelligence in a partner does not directly correlate to how happy I’d be in a relationship. You don’t have to be a genius to engage is great conversation or challenge ideas. Anyway, I digress.

Now don’t get me wrong, my expectations are hardly unrealistic in any of those areas (intelligence, maturity, personality, looks). I don’t expect the unicorn to excel in any one of those particular areas. But there are certain levels in each that they have to reach… it’s called having standards, which is something all most of you likely have.

In the case of maturity, I’ve never been into the partying/bar hopping/clubbing scene. In fact, I’ve never been drunk. So clearly anyone who still thinks and acts like they’re 21 is out of the question. And is it too much to ask for them to be moved out of their parents’ place and have a job that they can support themselves with? Apparently so. I know there’s the problems with the economy and completely understand the circumstances that sometimes occur that forces people to move back home. I have no problem with that. It’s the people who went to college to get some useless degree (assuming they went at all), and continue to work in retail because they’re unqualified for anything else.  Even worse is when they constantly complain about their job and living arrangements, yet refuse to do anything about it. And since most people lack ambition and love using any excuse they can (the most recent one being the aforementioned economic problems), I feel this is becoming an increasingly common trend. However, I’m willing to admit that perhaps I was just naive to it before, and my 4+ year stint in the dating world has opened my eyes. Regardless, I don’t think I ask for too much.

I was considering diving into the issue of looks, but I think I covered it earlier. I mean, I live in the dairy state, which is full of cows (I’m not referring to the animal). I would be surprised if the muffin top wasn’t invented in Wisconsin. I know too many girls that work out, but then don’t understand why they can’t lose weight while they eat like crap and get drunk multiple times a week. (Side note: Why do people refuse to believe that drinking works against any attempts to lose weight? Science is clearly not on your side, you damn drunks.) And before anyone accuses me, no, I don’t expect a model or any nonsense like that. But I don’t think I’m out of line expecting someone to at least attempt to take care of their body… because if they don’t, that type of behavior typically cascades into other areas of their life.

Clearly there’s also the whole sense of humor, ability to take a joke, self awareness, blah blah blah… You know, the typical things people randomly list off that they want in a partner. I figured that stuff doesn’t need to be completely spelled out.

So back to my original point: I’m chasing a unicorn. I’ve had friends try to set me up (and fail), my mom try to set me up (and tragically fail), and even tried my hand at online dating websites (ranging from tragic fails to just regular “this won’t work”). I’ve come to the conclusion that in order to find a unicorn, I’m going to have to just get really lucky. And to be honest, the fact that luck plays a large factor in any major area of my life frustrates the hell out of me.

Of course, there’s one option left: settling. But to anyone who knows me, they know that I absolutely refuse to settle when it comes to anything. The day I settle will be the day you find me working a low level desk job with no opportunity for advancement simply because it “pays the bills.”

Or even worse: Driving a Mustang.

Dear Me,

•August 9, 2009 • 1 Comment

Why do you keep doing this to yourself? You started this blog knowing full well it would fall by the wayside like every other previous attempt at writing for enjoyment uh… whatever reason it is you decided to this. But since you’ve never been one to not finish what you started, you should probably write something. Maybe. If you feel like it. Don’t want to inconvenience you or anything…

Okay, I’m lying already. I don’t follow through with things like this all the time, as evidenced by the massive drop off in frequency of blog posts shortly after beginning it. Don’t get me wrong, I follow through on things that matter. When it comes to things that are just kind of there though, it doesn’t work so well. I lose motivation. Hell, while writing this blog (and pretty much every previous one) I lost the desire to finish it a few times.

So why do I write? I’m not sure. Because of this, and the fact that both of my readers have probably left me for good, the posts will likely trend towards being more serious from here on out. At the very least, it allows me to write on a level that comes more natural to me. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a cynic… I just don’t often find anything to be cynical about for more than a few comments.)

My Poor, Neglected Blog…

•May 20, 2009 • 10 Comments

Hey, at least it hasn’t even been two full weeks since my last post, so get off my back. I’ve been busy. Actually, that’s a lie, but I have been busier. I’m counting that as a valid excuse. Busier at work (as in I’m actually doing some), and busier when not at work (no, still no girlfriend, so stop asking). Some people have gone from being a part of my every day life to virtually nonexistent and vice versa over the past few weeks. This is not entirely surprising, since it’s a cycle my life follows every few months.

I guess this is just a roundabout way of saying I need to write another blog, or certain people will become um… disgruntled. (Hey, you should appreciate the tact involved in using that word as opposed to the first few things I was going to put there.) And since I don’t have a great topic, you just get to read a few stories. Actually, make that suffer through a few stories, since I’m a terrible story teller. Deal. With. It.

So I recently discovered that there is an actual attractive girl in my corporation… within my division, even, who is around my age. Of course she works like 70 miles away from me, because no one works at my plant aside from me and dinosaurs. (They’re still frightened by computers and “technology”. One even tried to show me their iPhone to try and prove that she was “hip” (her words, not mine). Needless to say, I was not impressed.) Anyway, I met her because she was doing basic Six Sigma training, and my facility hosted an event for the class that divided them into small groups and teamed them with a Black Belt (which is what I pretend to be when I’m actually working. And no, it has nothing to do with karate). Naturally, my boss picked the teams, and since he thinks I’m awesome (or at least pretends to think so, I am the reason they all came here instead of to another plant), she was in my group.

Well, she was pretty quiet the whole time. She asked some questions, since we were on the manufacturing floor and she was just in HR, so she knew pretty much nothing about what she was looking at. Whatever, the point is she showed some promise. And then she was discussing what kind of project she was going to do, and dropped this line:

I want to do a project in HR, because if I did a project anywhere else, it would require me learning about it. And I’m really really slow at learning things.

She might as well have been wearing a dunce cap. Anyway, it virtually killed my attraction to her. I say “virtually” because attractive girls are still attractive, but I’m not one to waste my time on pretty girls that are lacking in substance (…anymore). The more she talked, the more obvious it became that she was the kind of cute girl you loathe in the corporate world: the one surrounded by a ton of guys (usually way older) and more than willing to have “friendly” discussions with all of them because she knows it gets her ahead. Damn her. It almost makes me wish these businesses were run by women, but then I realize I’d have to deal with hormonal rage on top of incompetency (before you feminists get on me, I’m implying that the current men controlling the business world are incompetent as well, so it’s not some exclusive thing to a gender), and it just wouldn’t be worth the switch. Plus most of the women would be old, and we all know it’s a proven scientific fact that old people are gross.

A little over a week ago I stopped at my parents’ for dinner and to visit. You know, because they obviously miss their favorite and best son. Unfortunately this amounted to watching the American Idol where the Milwaukee guy got kicked off the show. My dad used to play the “your mother makes me watch it” card, but recently he has switched to defending watching it because they’re all “amazing” singers. And apparently they even voted multiple times for this elimination show. Ugh. I’d like to blame it on the fact that the house is completely 2/3 of the year due to my two brothers in college and me out on my own, but I’m fairly certain my parents would’ve done this kind of thing anyway, since they wanted anyone but “the gay one” to win. From the one episode I half paid attention to, I couldn’t blame them for that judgment, since he did appear to be the most annoying of the bunch. (Don’t get me wrong, anyone who makes it this far on American Idol is bound to be annoying on some level… he just exceeded what the others typically reach. The last thing we need is another Clay Aiken in the news.)

Somehow this all evolved into a conversation about intelligence with my dad (my mom was out of the room when it started). He was insistent he was smarter than I was, because he has a lot of common sense and a great business sense (this part is true, but in true intelligence, he stopped being able to help me with my math homework by the time I was 12). But at the same time, he’ll never be the kind of guy that would blow you away with some deep philosophical or psychological statement or discussion. This led to the following exchange:

Me: So you think you’re more intelligent than me? Do you think you’d beat me on an IQ test?

Dad: Of course I could.

Me: Dad, it’s based on pattern recognition and spatial reasoning… how in the hell are you going to top me at that?

Dad: No it’s not, it’s based on common sense. And I have way more of that than you.

At this point my mom came back into the room, and I told her “Dad claims he can beat me on an IQ test because he believes it’s based on common sense.” She just looked at him like he was crazy and shook her head. Then my dad, being who he is, refused to let this go:

Dad: I wouldn’t score a 180 or anything like that, but probably a 140 or so.

Me: Dad, you do realize that would still put you at near-genius level, right?

Dad: I have more common sense than anyone you’ve ever known, so that makes sense.

Me: For the last time, what does that have to do with IQ? Do you even know what is on an IQ test?

Dad: No, but I could use common sense to figure it out. In fact, we should both go take one just so I can prove myself right.

I agreed to do so if he was going to set it up, but I think my mom talked him out of it after I left. Either that or he conveniently forgot. And before you ask: Yes, my father is always this bullheaded about something he believes is true. It leads to quite a few “interesting” conversations.

I almost miss living at home. Almost…

You Suck at Conversation

•May 7, 2009 • 13 Comments

Look, I’m not going to lie to any of you and throw up some facade like I’m amazing at everything. That’s right, even I have things I don’t particularly excel at. One of those things happens to be small talk.

Now, I could launch into rant a few thousand words long about how utterly useless and worthless small talk really is in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t help you get to know someone all that well beyond superficial bullshit. It certainly doesn’t fulfill any void you have in your life. If anything, it’s merely nothing more than a time filler when spending time with people you truly don’t care much about. Like I said, I could detail this out for you, but I’m going to assume that my highly intelligent and socially retarded readers (both of you that are still left) know this already. So with that out of the way, let’s move on.

My inability to create small talk with virtually anyone is somewhat relevant to what I’m actually going to write about: the worst things to ask when attempting to have a conversation with someone. These particularly apply to someone you talk to on a consistent basis, since not only do they make you look desperate for some level of communication, but it also gives the semblance of inability to think of anything of actual substance to discuss. Also, they really annoy the fuck out of me. A lot.

I’ll quit with the jibber-jabber and get right to the list of Things You Should Never Ask Someone Unless You’re Intentionally Trying to Irritate Them.

Question #1: What are you doing? – I think this one almost speaks for itself, but let me elaborate anyway. Typically if you’re asking this question, odds are the conversation is either taking place online or over the phone, since no one would ask “What are you doing?” to someone standing right in front of them, unless it was natural curiosity due to being unfamiliar with whatever is going on (which is one of the very few instances that makes asking this question socially acceptable). As for the other two situations, well, no. Asking it over the phone is utterly pointless unless you’re being ignored for some particular reason, because the obvious answer is “talking to you”. Anything else you can usually deduce from background noise (TV, typing on the computer, eating, etc.). And if you can’t deduce it, then too bad, because it really doesn’t matter. And if you ask it while talking to someone online… well, what kind of answer do you truly expect? They’re stuck in their computer chair, sitting at their computer, and they’re having a conversation with you. What more could they possibly be doing? And even if they are doing something else at the time, how interesting could it possibly be? Paying bills, looking at websites, watching TV, talking to other people… none of this invokes further discussion or legitimate interest from the person asking the question. Unless they’re crazy and obsessed with your every action. And if this is the case, then you have even more reason to avoid the person asking. (Take note of this girls, especially you crazy jealous types, because guys will avoid prolonged conversations with you if you’re going to keep tabs on them even while they’re actually talking to you. Just. Stop.)

Bottom Line: If someone is talking to you on the phone or computer, odds are really good that they’re not doing anything interesting at all, so stop fucking asking already.

Question #2: What did you eat? – I ate my arm. Seriously. This is one of the questions that tends to irritate me the most since it not only doesn’t even feed into the crazy obsessive person’s mindset (because really what you ate doesn’t affect them in any way, unless your answer was “eating at the Y over at (insert girl’s name here)“). It’s just a mundane, terrible question, that screams “I have nothing interesting to say, so I’m going to inquire regarding the most uninteresting thing you could’ve possibly done in the past couple of hours.” The only exception here is if you were out at some important banquet or new restaurant and they were naturally curious as to what was served or how the food was. But even then, the question is still quite terrible.

Bottom Line: If you’re about to ask someone this question, just don’t.

Question #3: What are you thinking about?/What’s on your mind? – I’ll just get the exception(s) out of the way on this one right away: If you just wrapped up a serious conversation and are wondering how the other person feels about what was just said, or someone is obviously distressed over something and isn’t coming right out and saying what it is. That’s. It.

Any other time this question is asked, it’s again to point out “I have nothing of interest to say or any real topics of conversation”, but also adds a “I’m going to attempt to be deep and inquisitory by attempting to probe your thoughts”. It’s the go-to question for some pseudo-intellectual failure when they’re trying to show that their mind is capable of much higher level of thinking, feeling, and understanding that it truly is. Also remember that bit about crazy obsessive girls from before? Yeah, they love this question too. It’s almost like a set up, because they need you to be thinking about them and only them, otherwise they could be losing you and fall out of love with them and then go cheat on them with some other girl or dream about some other girl while having sex with this girl or whatever other ridiculous shit goes on in the head of a crazy girl. (I was going to have a woman fill this portion out for me with exactly how the female mind processes this, but that would’ve required way too much effort and I feel that not only am I close enough with what I already wrote, but the actual truth straight from the horse’s mouth might induce unrepairable damage to people unaware that crazy girls actually think this way.)

Instead of asking this, why not just tell me what’s on your mind and perhaps the natural flow of conversation will move to what’s on my mind? Unless you’re completely devoid of thought (and many people are), this would be a much easier (and much less irritating) method to go about it if you really want to delve into another person’s psyche. Also, you can understand much more about a person based on their reactions to the things you say and the context in which they respond than flat out asking blunt questions like that and getting some terrible response. And if you must know if they’re thinking about you, odds are very good they are in some capacity since they are having a conversation with you, but to gauge the amount that they’re thinking about you is borderline insanity. Which is fitting, since girls are insane.

Bottom Line: Asking me what’s on my mind makes you look desperate for “deep” conversation, and that you’re incapable of generating real conversation any other way.

Question #4: What did you do at work today? – This is one of those questions that simply should never be asked, unless you work with the person and you need the details of what was accomplished for when you go to do your work. But since this is rarely the case, the person asking the question likely has no clue as to your job activities, duties, and other responsibilities, absolutely nothing of substance could be said in response. I could tell someone what I did today, but since most of it ends up with business jargon thrown in (plus the additional fun of most people not even knowing what the hell my position does, let alone it’s mere existence in the first place), they’re not going to get anything out of it except more questions to ask and ultimately giving up.

So let’s say I do actually detail what I did at work that day (yes, I do actual work at times… my entire day is not spent only talking to people on AIM, going online, and posting blogs). What do they get out of it? Nothing. None of what I said means a damn thing to them, it’s just more filler conversation due to the absence of actual conversation. I don’t bring up the details of my job in typical conversation on purpose; I don’t expect most people to really understand what I do or my particular job function beyond “I try to save the company money”. In fact, it takes quite a while just to describe my job in the first place, before even bothering to describe anything I’m working on (which also includes a bunch of explanation as to what the project truly entails before getting into the details). So unless you’re intimately familiar with what I do for some odd reason (which is highly unlikely for me since so few people hold a position like mine), stop asking what I did at work.

Bottom Line: You don’t want to hear what I did at work, and I don’t want to explain it. It’s just as boring for me to talk about as it would be for you to listen to.

These are merely the most common questions I’ve been asked over the years that irritate the hell out of me. I’m sure there are more. In fact, I know there are more. But none are as obvious as these. I could get into mundane stuff such as “how was your day?” and “how was work?”, but really, those serve the purpose of showing that you remotely care about how someone’s life is going.

I’m not sure if this is ironic or simply just someone trying to torture me, but as I was about to Publish this post, I got asked “So how is your project at work going?” by someone on AIM. I think Jesus hates me. Bastard.

It’s Officially an Epidemic.

•April 28, 2009 • 15 Comments

Ugh.

I think that pretty much sums it up. I went and put way too much faith in people, believed they could keep a level head, not cause the situation to get out of hand and truly be worried about nothing. Apparently I expected too much of them. Apparently my corporation is full of gullible fools who buy into media scare tactics nearly immediately. If only they had bought into things such as “technology” as quickly, then I wouldn’t have started working here 3 years ago on a Windows 95 computer at a place with only dial up internet access. And this was in 2006! (Don’t worry, I quickly convinced my GM that Engineering all needed new computers, custom built my own with the biggest monitor in the place, and help set up a T1 line so I could properly slack off. After my transfer to another division, I have now secured myself an even bigger monitor, new desktop, and a new laptop which sees more use at home for personal reasons than any actual work.)

Anyway, back on topic. Here is the conversation I had this morning with our commercial leader, completely unedited (except for privacy reasons):

Commercial Leader (CL): anyone coming here from Mexico for our Kaizans? (Note: Kaizens are part of my job, events I run and participate in for rapid improvement that either cut cost or streamline flow to improve processes.)
Me: Not that I’m aware of.
Should they be?
CL: nope – just concerned w/virus
on call now wit (Corporate name redacted) on it
Me: … seriously?
CL: yep
Me: Sigh.

The virus he is referring to is of course the pig flu. Well, swine flu, if you want to get technical on me. At first I was slightly offended that he felt like I would even bother bringing anyone from Mexico to do work for me (it’s not like I’m being charged for their labor, or else I would strongly consider the option), especially with so many other more relevant plants with far more qualified people for me to swipe nearby. Then I realized that this was merely the soccer moms at the corporate office (or wives of VPs/CEO) panicking over the media scare machine working its magic. (Don’t worry, I’m well aware many men were involved in this decision too.) Now, why they were focused solely on Mexicans was not readily apparent to me, until I looked at the pig flu map:

Reported cases of pig flu. Canada was cut off because no one really cares about that country anyway.

Reported cases of pig flu. Canada was cut off because, well, no one really gives a shit about Canada.

See all of those markers in Mexico!? That means Mexicans are hosts for the disease! We can’t risk having their kind coming around here and taking our jobs! infecting us all. Let’s ignore the concentration of markers in southern California (they’re probably Mexican anyway) and on the east coast. There’s no way any of the infected people would be one of the people coming here to visit. But from Mexico? Let’s be reasonable here: we simply cannot take that chance.

I can only hope they treated Canadians the same way during the SARS “epidemic”.

I fully expect an email from Corporate or HR regarding this epidemic sometime today. It’s not a full blown disaster until this happens.

UPDATE: Naturally, I received the email at 10:44 am from our local HR person. Big surprise. On the upside, they gave a “DO NOT COME TO WORK” for anyone exhibiting any flu-like symptoms. That sounds way too easy to take advantage of.

It’s Official: Work Has Cock Blocked Me

•April 20, 2009 • 16 Comments

My company has finally given me the finger. (Well not really finally… they’ve done this before.) How did they do this to me? By blocking both AIM Express and my proxy to access GMail. Bastards.

Apparently they were unaware that I, their star overachieving worker, do my best work while completely distracted by multiple IMs and emails. And instead of letting me just have this, they instead have forced me to spend the last couple hours (and the next few days) searching for a new way around their network filters. I have so far failed, making my time completely unproductive… that is, unless you count this post as “productivity”. I have been neglecting this blog for quite a while, so I’m going to let it count.

Currently my work day feels so… empty. No AIM. Facebook. GMail. Hotmail. AOL Mail. GTalk. 3rd party messengers (i.e. Meebo). Pidgin. All I have left is this blog, most of the websites I visit daily (which will now become hourly), and my corporate email with inter-company IM. I feel like a middle school girl since I have to rely on texting people to communicate with them during the day. So yeah, my options are slim. For now.

Luckily there is a light at the end of the tunnel: I’m (finally) getting a smartphone within the next month or two. The downside, of course, is how obvious it is I’m slacking off when I’m spending more time on my phone than on my computer at work. At least I work with a bunch of dinosaurs who barely know how computers work, let alone new mobile devices. (I had the joy of setting up a couple of the staff level peoples’ corporate Blackberrys. And teaching staff level managers Basic Excel. This included high level topics such as “Opening a file” and “Erasing Data”. I’m not even joking. One woman couldn’t even keep the left and right mouse buttons straight.)

But until then, I will fight the good fight… I will find a way around these damn filters. I think that will be my main task for the week. (Well, aside from from the review with the VP that is directly above my position tomorrow, and the training I have to give to 30 people, which includes some of my former bosses and other high ranking people in the corporation on Friday.) To me, this will be time well spent. I can’t let The Man hold me down!

On a side note: I think this marks my almost triumphant return to blogging. If anything could force me to actually write something once again, it would be being at work (and not traveling) and having to survive without email or AIM. I know you missed me. I would say I missed you too… but I’m not one to lie.

Oh, and for all of you out there who even considered telling me “You’re supposed to work at work”, I have two words for you: Blow me.

The Love Palace Gets Some Flair

•March 23, 2009 • 36 Comments

My apartment was deemed the “Love Palace” by Brit years ago. She was probably being ironic, now that I think about it. Damn her. Now you have the history of the name.

Saturday night, my mom and brother (I have two brothers, both younger, this is the oldest of the two) came out to where I live to go out to dinner with me. They live 40 minutes away, so this isn’t exactly a common thing, but whatever. Anyway, at dinner I made a comment inquiring if they noticed how neat my apartment was. (I’m notoriously neat, especially for a guy, and usually get comments about it out of surprise the first time anyone stops by.)

Mom: “Yeah, but you don’t have anything in there. There’s still nothing on your walls.”

Brother: “And you barely have any furniture!”

(Side note: There is nothing on my walls for a reason. If I have a… uh… guest, the focus is usually on each other or the 50″ TV that everything in the room positions you to look at. If it’s just me, I’m looking at either my computer monitor or the TV. Therefore, nothing needs to be on the walls unless someone else moves in or spends a significant amount of time there and would be more inclined to spend more time there, assuming that’s what I want, and they desire stuff on my walls. I will argue this until the day I die. But as I remain single, my walls shall remain empty.)

Me: “Barely any furniture? What in the hell could I possibly add that I don’t already have for furniture?”

Brother: “Well, you could get a coffee table!”

Mom: “There’s no place for him to put a coffee table, he has that giant ottoman for his couch. But he could get like a table top thing for that!”

Me: “Uh… first of all, why in the hell would I buy a table top thing for my ottoman? It’s for my feet. Second, I have an end table and TV trays, so I have no shortage of places to set things. Any other bright ideas?”

Mom: “Well your end table just looks so empty. You’ve only that that lamp and that remote charger on it.”

Me: “That’s because I put the other 6 remotes away that I don’t need because of the universal remote. I could get those back out for show, if that will make my apartment look more homey.”

Mom: “Well you could put some books on your end table, you know, for looks.”

Brother: “Yeah, he could use both of his books…”

(Another note: I actually have Five books now, thank you very much. Someone bought me three of them for Christmas. Number I’ve read from cover to cover: Zero. And I’ve had one of them for about 4 years. I’m working on it, okay? Back off.)

We get back to my apartment, and while we’re talking, I decide to see what I can do to “decorate” my place to their liking while they’re still there. So what do I do? I grab a few Maxims that were sitting on my desk and fan them out on my end table.

End TableMe: “There! Now my apartment has decoration. It’s more homely, just like you wanted.”

Mom: “What are those? But it does look better now, smart ass.”

Me: “It’s just a few Maxims that I recently got for free in the mail.”

She goes over to look and see what I put on the table as my brother tries not to crack up. I’d like to think the expression on my mom’s face showed how proud she was of me. Well, or Seriously, Brandon? You really are your dad’s son. It really could go either way. I’m going with the former.

I Downloaded Something Illegally in College

•March 20, 2009 • 14 Comments

I began college in the Fall of 2001. This was my first time living away from home, I had my own computer, and I was living with a bunch of people my age in the dorms. And of course, I finally get away from stupid dial up (which was common in everyone’s house at the time) and moved up to a T1 high speed connection… which was fairly new even on campus, so IT had yet to put any restrictions or caps on it. So what did my friends and I do? Well, we did exactly what every other 18 year old guy with a high speed internet connection would do: download tons of porn. Oh, and lots of music. (Morpheus, Kazaa, etc… pretty much any downloading program we could find was utilized.)

As college progressed, the IT there wised up and eventually started blocking certain things from being used to download, among other things. More people were on campus and doing more with their internet, so the connection slowed a bit. Naturally, that didn’t deter any of us from continuing to download as much as we could find. This brings me to my final semester in college…

It was the fall of 2005, I was living in the dorms for a couple of reason. First of all, the dorm I lived in was across the sidewalk from the engineering building, where I spent 90% of my “in class” time (which wasn’t that often, but still I’m way too lazy to walk any further than out the door and across the sidewalk). Second, where I went to college, finding someone to sub-lease an apartment or house from you for a semester (since I’d have to sign a one year lease to live there) is damn near impossible. It was in the middle of nowhere, in a city of 10k people, where the population doubled when college was in session. And third, I was with The Ex at the time, who didn’t have a car and went to a much bigger school in a much bigger city… and was only an hour away. So needless to say, my weekends were spent there.

So anyway, my friends and I would continue to download everything, and by this point it was common to download any and all games and programs we could find. One of my friends wanted a new game that had just come out (Civilization 4), so I set out to download it using torrents. About 2 minutes into it, someone else claimed they had just finished downloading it, so I canceled my download and deleted the worthless partial files I had. Everyone got Civ4 from this guy, and everyone was happy. (Well, I didn’t get it from him because Civ4 sucked balls.)

A week or so later, I get a message in my mail to come talk to the RD (Resident Director, in charge of that particular dorm building). I go to my room, get on my computer, and well… my internet isn’t working. So I go to the RD’s office, sit down, and the following conversation ensues:

RD: “Brandon, do you know why you’re here?”

Me: “Um… no, but I’m sure you’re about to tell me.”

RD: “Well, have you downloaded anything illegally in the past month.”

Me: “Not that I’m aware of, why do you ask?”

RD: “I have a letter here from a lawyer threatening legal action because you downloaded something illegally. He included a list of over a hundred files that are included in this. Lucky for you, since this is your first offense, we can just punish you and no further action will be taken.”

(NOTE: When you start downloading a torrent, a ton of files show up to begin downloading, but they’re all entirely useless until the torrent is complete. So when I went to download this program, a ton of files show up basically as an image on my computer just to start the download, and then they finish as the download progresses.)

Me: “Um, could you give me the names of some of these files I supposedly downloaded illegaly?”

Rather than reading off the list, she just hands it to me so I can read it. It’s obviously the Civilization 4 download I didn’t even finish, and was completely wiped off of my computer almost right away.

RD: “It says here you were downloading this for 2 minutes and 37 seconds. That’s stealing. It is against IT policy on campus.”

Me: “2 minutes and 37 seconds? How am I supposed to download a 1.2GB file in under THREE minutes? At most I can get some partial worthless files that amount to nothing.”

RD: “It says here that you stole the whole thing and that’s illegal. We are suspending your in room internet for one month. IT will be contacting you to come check your computer for these files to make sure you don’t have them.”

I fought a little bit more with how ridiculous it was, and even got her to try to download a 100mb (legal) file from a host website and see how long it took (estimated download time: 15 minutes). Didn’t matter. Didn’t really matter to me either, since I had an ace up my sleeve: My roommate’s internet port was enabled, but his POS laptop’s internet port didn’t work. So I did what anyone else would do: Borrowed a router from my brother (Hey, my Xbox needs the internet too!) and connected through his port. Man, what a punishment.

As for IT coming to check my computer, well, they called me a couple of days later to tell me they were sending someone over. I asked exactly what they were looking for, and they told me they were only allowed to search for specific files that were on the list, and everything else had to be left alone and couldn’t be “reported”. So of course, I left all of my other files on there, which included other games that I had obviously downloaded. So I unplug my computer from the internet, hide the router, and change my search settings on my computer to be annoying as possible (with thumbnails for files showing up instead of just a list). About 20 minutes later, the IT person shows up at my room… a girl. Poor girl. She’s relatively plain looking, so definitely not someone I would bother with even if I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time. Immediately I realize this is going to be great, so I have my friend from across the hall come over to “watch TV” while she’s doing file searches based on the stuff on this list (usually short 3-4 digit searches). I see this, and I just knew these searches would turn up nothing she was looking for, but everything she wasn’t.

So I watch her do the first search, and immediately some porn shows up, and she shakes her head, and as the search continues… more and more keeps piling on, along with a ton of songs and a few of my other programs I downloaded. My friend takes a glance at the stuff showing up on the search… and does his best not to crack up. Every search this girl is doing is turning up porn (which shows screen caps in the thumbnails or previews of the pictures) and tons of songs that were obviously downloaded illegally. She has this look of dismay, like she couldn’t believe I would leave it all there for her to find. Being the smart ass I am…

Me: “So have you found anything you were looking for?”

IT girl (sheepishly): “No… but it seems you have quite the uh… collection. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do about this.”

Me: “Oh, well that’s a shame. I’m sure you won’t find any of the other things you’re looking for either, but feel free to keep looking.”

IT girl: “… I think I’m done here, I’ve seen enough.”

A Great Business Opportunity!

•March 16, 2009 • 36 Comments

So there I am, on a Sunday night, spending a little bit of time on the internet, browsing the usual sites: facebook, some random blogs, porn, ESPN… the usual. Then something out of the ordinary happens: I get a facebook IM from someone I haven’t spoken to in over 3 years (when I was in college). Let’s call him Fred. (I haven’t used that name yet, have I?) Now this was surprising for a couple of reasons: First of all, Fred hated me in college. Not only was I a condescending prick to him, but I constantly mocked how absolutely retarded his girlfriend was (now his wife, a wedding I was not invited to for some reason). This girl was beyond dumb. I once answered Fred’s cell when she was calling and told her that she had the wrong number, so she apologized and hung up. She called back, process was repeated, hung up again. Third time she calls, she finally catches on that something just doesn’t seem right, and so I give the phone to Fred while me and everyone else in the room is laughing. He was not happy. (I later learned he actually wanted to punch me in the face at that point. Oops?) Oh, back to the reasons why I was surprised he messaged me… did I mention Fred hated me? Because he did. A lot.

Naturally, this caused me to become skeptical of where this conversation was going right from the start. It began with some random pleasantries, he reveals he dropped out of college after one year, followed by asking about jobs, to which Fred responded that he and his wife had their own “internet business” of some sort. I asked how the business was going, and of course he said it was going “great!” Who am I to question that? But then he breaks out the “I know this may be too forward, and I don’t know what your financial status is as an engineer, but would you be interested in making some extra money in your spare time?”

At first I was a bit perplexed, because immediately I knew it was related to his “internet business.” Initially I turned it down, but Fred persisted with “Well, if you know anyone interested in making some extra cash, let me know.” At this point, since I knew Fred wasn’t playing with a full deck, I just had to inquire further about this opportunity. Fred sends me a link to a website with “Fred Enterprise” at the top to watch a video that will briefly explain what is going on with this, but with a “ltdteam.com” extension on the address. Red flag #1. I click on the link, and I have to log in to even watch the introductory video. Red flag #2. He gives me the log in information, and then it asks for my name and email address… or I can just hit “skip” to watch the video. (Guess which option I chose!)

The video begins, and this infomercial type lady starts talking in general vagueness with moving pictures, buzz words galore, and absolutely zero substance. Red flag #3. (Okay, I give up counting the red flags, there’s too many over the course of this.) It’s a five and a half minute video, and about halfway through it gets to a list where it’s going to talk about four separate points, with business plan and strategy being two of them. Maybe I’ll get some real information at this point I thought. Nope. More nonsense. Oh, and I have to attend a required seminar to learn the real details of this whole thing. Then the lady dropped this gem: “It’s like ebay meets Amazon meets Facebook.” Really. I can guarantee you that’s the line that suckered Fred and his wife in. “Hey, I can relate to all of those super successful websites, and this is all of those combined, so it’s a sure thing!”

After reaching this point, I have two options. I can either be a complete dick about this, laugh in his face for being an idiot and buying into this crap (not that I would ever do this), or I could play along and only hope this could become more entertaining as it went on. I went with the latter. This led to the following exchange (the portions of conversation posted are completely unedited):

Me: “So… what exactly do you DO then?
The video said you can start a business model that isn’t subject to time, money, or experience related risk… isn’t that impossible?”
(Note: The video literally said this.)

Fred: “No. Not when you work with a business system.”

Me: “What does that even mean?”

Fred: “well, a form of business system is franchise
just like mc donalds
does that make sense?”

Me: “Um… not really. How does this compare to McDonald’s? Like, how exactly are you making money?
Without putting in any time or money?”

Fred: “you could get those questions answered at an info session! there is no way I could explain it through IM”

Really? The info session? The mandatory one? This business scheme is either so complex or secret that it simply cannot be explained to someone in a simple IM conversation, apparently. Meanwhile, I’m researching even further into this LTD business, just to see what I can dig up for information. Did you know that this LTD thing operates similar to a cult? Well, they do. They have a mandatory Sunday service. Seriously. But don’t worry, the fun doesn’t stop there… the conversation continues!

Fred: “well, did u interview for your job through facebook?”

Me: “No, but I knew going into the job how I was going to make money.”

Fred: “exactly! i’m just letting you know the easiest way to get more info is to meet some members of our team!”

Apparently I reached the point where even he is deflecting questions. Isn’t the whole point of trying to get a friend involved that you can provide them answers before they buy into this stuff? If it’s even half as great as you claim it to be, you should be able to provide even basic information. But alas, this is not the case with Fred, nor did I expect it to be. At this point, after a solid half hour of laughing at this whole business opportunity, I feel it is my duty to attempt to save this poor guy from ignorance and stupidity.

Me:http://erichmusick.com/index.html?article=709
You may want to read that.”

Fred: “haha! thats funny! did u google that?”

Me: “Indeed.”

Fred: “haha! well if you’re asking, LTD and Amway global are seperate entities
i think that Amway Global, a 8 billion dollar business, has done a little more research than your google search!
haha!
i hope u sent that as a joke!
wow!”

Me (absolutely dumbfounded): “… no. It sounds like a pyramid scheme.”

Fred: “kinda like the job i work at!?i dont know how it is for u, but where i work my boss makes more money than me, and his boss makes more money than him and so on
what we do, whoever does the work make money”

Me: “No, that’s experience, knowledge, and capability based pay. You get paid to do your job, based on the average of what other people in your position are made. That has nothing to do with a pyramid.”

Fred: “ok”

So now we’ve reached step 2: canned responses. Notice the bold text (Amway and LTD are separate entities, yet he cites Amway as the company that did the “research”)… it’ll be even more relevant in a minute. So after a short pause, Fred comes back with this:

Fred: “what is a pyrimid?”

….

…….. (At this point I’m nearly falling out of my chair laughing.)

Me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_scheme (The very first line of this article states that it is a non-sustainable business model.)

Fred (not skipping a beat, apparently not interested in reading the article): “not sure what the website is but the social security website show that 98% of people who are employed their entire life are either dead or broke at age of 65
good luck!”

Me: “Thanks, although I’ll be fine. I know how to save and invest. Good luck to you as well… you’ll need it more than me.

Fred: “i appreciate it! God bless!”

I’m not sure if I should be honored or insulted that such an opportunity was presented to me. If anything, it provided me with quite a few laughs… plus he was thinking of me when it came to an opportunity to make money (let’s just completely disregard the fact that he would make money off of me), so I guess I’ll go with honored. I kept him around for a few more lines of conversation, and I inquire as to whether he has to pay a monthly fee to participate (which after online research, is around $300 a month). Fred’s response:

“na Amway Global pays me”

Lent – You Know What That Means!

•March 8, 2009 • 20 Comments

That’s right boys and girls, it’s Lent time. I know I’m a bit late with this, as Lent technically started a couple of weeks ago, but me and God are tight, so he probably doesn’t mind. So there’s one important aspect of Lent that people like to harp on, and that is…

It’s time to give something up.

Well, I’m going to take it a bit further and give up multiple things, because I’m such a great follower of Jesus Code. So when it comes time to getting into the farce that is “Heaven”, I’m going to be way ahead of those foolish Christians that only gave up one thing (aside from meat). I win even in the fake afterlife. Anyway, here’s what I’m giving up:

I’m giving up the giving up of meat during Lent. I have it on good authority that this isn’t that big of a deal anyway. Plus meat is soooo delicious, nothing makes me happier than eating other former living things that died solely for the pleasure of my taste buds and stomach. Also, I feel it’s somewhat racist that fish apparently count less to God than other animals and are okay to eat according to Jesus Code during this period. You’d think he’d follow his own teachings of “all living things are viewed equally in the eyes of the Lord”, but apparently he forgot that he is the Lord. (Some omnipotent being he is.)

I’m giving up tact. I tried it out for a bit, had some success, some failure. I determined it’s not for me.

I’m giving up the internet. Just kidding. I can’t do this, no matter who it’s for. What in the hell would I do while at work? Work? Dream on.

I’m giving up blogging. This shit is a lot of work. Seriously.*

I’m giving up boy bands, American Idol, Mustangs, girls with major psychological issues, fat girls, extreme liberal pundits, Change I can believe in!, Nancy Pelosi, overachieving, and Brett Favre. I know it’s hard to believe I can give all of that up, but I’m going to do it. For real.

I’m giving up on God. What kind of selfish omnipotent bastard demands his followers give stuff up for weeks at a time every year in the honor of his son? Isn’t being worshiped daily by billions of people enough for you? Millions of monuments in your honor simply not cutting it these days? Well, since following your own Jesus Code has caused me to give up on tact, I have something to tell you: Get over yourself. Also, you kind of let me down. I’m 25, and I don’t have women lined up my door begging for my attention, nor do I have countless millions of dollars. (Millions? Oops, I meant billions.) So forget you, I’m finding some other all-powerful being that will simply hand me what I want. I hear Allah is promising 50 virgins if I do something in his honor…

So there you have it Christians, I’m giving up 15 things, and you’re only giving up 2 (I’m giving you meat on Fridays as a freebie). I would say that makes me at least 7.5 times better than you, but that would be an understatement, and I’d rather hold back until I get a more realistic number.

*I’m not really giving up blogging. Really, I was just kidding. I couldn’t leave my followers over something silly like Lent. Plus the elephant will kill me if I do that.