Jun 01

I originally started writing this blog to capture my journey through turning 40 and the pain that journey entailed.  I wanted to, at least somewhat humorously, document how much turning 40 sucked.  Well, I turned 40, it did suck, and now here I am at 42 and things get no better.  People always say crap like, “Just give it time, things will get better,” or “At least things can’t get any worse.”  Well, I have come to a realization: people lie.  The only thing my future potentially holds is turning 50; I’m sure that will be a joy ride.

If you are down in the dumps or have a touch of the blues, people say ‘things will get better’ to prevent you from jumping off of a bridge or walking through the local Walmart with your hunting rifle a’blazing or something.  There is no real guarantee that anything is going to get any better.  In fact, things run a pretty substantial risk of getting worse.  Still, you should not jump off of a bridge or take out the entire population of a Walmart (believe it or not, there may actually a few good people in there).

When I start feeling down about the suckiness that life often dishes out, I blog.  It makes me feel better.  It might piss some people off, but then maybe they need to start their own blogs.  A small part of me has always thought that if I sit down and practice writing on a regular basis (i.e. blog), I might improve my writing skills to the level where I can actually making a living writing.

“Why would you want to make a living writing?” you may ask.

I don’t like dealing with people.  Any form of conflict stresses me out to a degree that I can barely function, and you cannot deal with people and avoid conflict.  What really amazes me are people who seem to thrive on conflict.  You know them, the people who can take a completely calm situation and turn it upside down by inserting a touch of drama… which always leads to conflict.  These people need to be locked away on their own island… hey, Total Drama Island!

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Good cartoon... I miss it :(

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I have not always been like this, but over the last several years, the degree of my anti-social thoughts and feelings has multiplied to the point that I really am pretty miserable a lot of the time.  This is mostly related to time when I am actually earning a living.  At home, and even in the occasional social setting, I am happy and pretty comfortable.  I have tried to think of a job where I would have very little personal contact with people in the realm of the method I use to earn an income, and writing seems to be an excellent choice.  There are additional choices, but none of them seem to fit quite right:

Methamphetamine Manufacturer

Oh sure, making the meth sounds like a great way to make a living.

*You can work at home.

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*You make a very high (no pun intended) return on investment.

*All of the simple instructions are easily accessible online.

*The only people you would have to deal with would be your dealers.

*I’ve seen some of the people who make this stuff… you don’t have to be a rocket scientist.

*You are making a product that is in demand and makes people feel better about their miserable lives.

However, if you really look at the consequences of making meth, you find that there may be some drawbacks.

*You can burn down your home.

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*Meth may make people feel better, but it has been discovered that it may not be good for them.

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*Apparently, making meth is illegal.

*The only people you would have to deal with would be your dealers.

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So… meth is out.

Pornography Actor

Okay, so you would have to deal with people, but I’m sure there wouldn’t be much conflict.  Even if there is conflict, who cares?.  Three words: female porn stars! This doesn’t sound like a bad choice…

And then reality sets in…

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CPAP

Yeah... no one is going to pay to see that...

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Crap!  I think the wife may have an issue with me being in porn… as would God.  Porn  is out.

Let’s see… what are some more jobs that would either be enjoyable or have limited conflict…

Bookstore Owner/Employee

I love books and used to think working in like a Barnes & Nobles would be a blast.  I mean, who in their right mind would be unhappy in a bookstore.  I used to think that way, until I saw some poor information booth employee at Barnes & Nobles get chewed up one side and down the other by some jerkwad who was bent out of shape because the store didn’t have a copy of some obscure philosophy book.  Jerkwad was upset that he would have to wait a couple of days for the store to get in a copy of Larry Fleitzerhinie’s Mans’ Walk on an Impartial Plain of Reason in the Twilight of the Mountains of Contradiction… or something like that.  “What kind of bookstore is this,” Jerkwad yelled.  Seriously… is there not a job on this planet where jerkwads are not present?  So the bookstore idea is out.

Working with Children

I used to work at Discovery Zone (a Chuck E. Cheese-like place with tubes and tunnels and ball pits and video games and birthday parties etc. etc. etc.).  One would think that a fun place like that would be reasonably stress free… but one would be wrong.  Parents become absolute imbeciles  when it comes to the happiness of their children… especially when they are paying for it.  And these imbeciles love to yell at whatever employee is closest to them when their child is for one second not having the ultimate in fun (like the kid just got reprimanded for biting another kid in the butt).

“You have no right to discipline my child, you minimum-wage piece of $@#&!”

Meanwhile, the parent of the child who was bitten is screaming, “You need to keep better control of the kids in here.  I should sue!”

Of course, neither of these parents say a word to each other… let’s just take it all out on the minimum-wage piece of $@#&!

So it is becoming relatively clear at this point that there is no such thing as an enjoyable job… or at least a job that is stress-free.  I understand that stress is supposed to be a good thing in small amounts because it helps us make decisions and whatnot… but I’m getting too old to deal with the stress crap anymore.  You know, if I had the money flowing in that I expected to be making in my “prime income-earning years”, the stress probably wouldn’t get to me as much.  Sounds silly, but it’s true.  If I was making six figures, I think my tolerance for all things stressful would be a little higher because I’d be able to put a sizable amount of that away for retirement and I’d have the knowledge that I would not have to deal with the crap forever.  However, given my current situation, I will be dealing with some sort of crap for every single workday for the rest of my natural life.

Go ahead, say it.  I know there is someone out there who is wanting to say it…

“Suck it up!  Quit your whining and do what you need to do!”

“Nobody ever said life was going to be fair, so shut your mouth and get busy working!”

“People who complain like you need to be thankful they aren’t a starving child in Africa!”

“If you worked as hard as you complained, you’d be making more money!”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself!  We all gotta deal with it and you don’t hear us complaining, do you?”

Oh my… if I had a nickel for every time I was the recipient of one of these comments, I’d already be able to retire.  I have never stated that I am not thankful for what I have.  I just want more out of life than being a working stiff who begrudgingly works a job until the day he dies.  I think it is best stated by Drake in Nikki Minaj’s song Moment 4 Life:

I’m really tryna make it more than what it is, cuz everybody dies but not everybody lives!”

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Apparently, one needs to look like a pink blow-up doll to be living life right?!?

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Word!  … does anybody really say “word” anymore?  Yeah, probably not.  I’m kind of out of the loop.  I am 42, after all…

Good gravy – I’m quoting a Nikki Minaj song?!?   ‘Bout time to wrap this post up.

Anywho, writing is about the only job I can think of that would have the limited public contact necessary to eradicate a large portion of the work-related stress from my life.  Of course, I only enjoy writing as a way to bitch.  If I had to write how-to manuals or reviews of laundry soaps or something like that, writing would suck.

So, if anyone knows of a good writing gig that requires a whiny writer who loves to bitch, give me a shout out.  Word!

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Nov 30

I remember back to when I first moved to the panhandle of Nebraska way too many years ago. I remember all of the disgusting smells that should have warned me that I wasn’t going to like it here, smells that I ignored and have somewhat gotten used to. I remember complaining about those smells only to have one crusty old codger or another tell me not to complain. “Smells like money,” was the codgerly proclamation. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. Money, from what little interaction I have with it here in the panhandle, smells of musty paper and cocaine. None of the things around the panhandle have what I consider to be the smell of money. I have people tell me that I need to appreciate the beauty of the panhandle. These are the same people who go around taking pictures of weeds and sunsets and crap and find beauty in these simple things. My observations tend to tilt in a little different direction, so I have tried to capture the stench of the panhandle through pictures. One of the first smells I had to adjust to was the smell of processing sugar beets.

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A sugar beet is a tuber-thingie that tastes like a potato. Apparently, through some magical chemical process, sugar can be drawn out of these bland wads of starch. I don’t know exactly how it is done, but I know it involves lime, a lot of heat, and the production of some major stink.

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Sugar beet is a major crop around these parts, and you can see the harvested beets in seemingly endless piles around the area.

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I remember the first time I inquired about this stench. “Smells like money,” I was told. I don’t remember ever opening up my wallet and being met with the smell of sun-ripened vomit, but I guess, to some, that’s what money smells like.  And, apparently, the smell of money is good for the environment, too.

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There is another smell that permeates the region from time to time.

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No, that’s dead possum.  Although it didn’t smell that much more unpleasant than what I’m referring to… and it does remind me of a series of unrelated pictures that I have on my phone. I think I’ll share them here.  In other words, here lies a totally unrelated sidetrack.  Stay tuned for more of the stench of the panhandle…

Okay, so last winter after one of my posts dogging on Nebraska, this guy comes up to me and says, “Why don’t you try to find the beauty in our area? Why can’t you be more like Katie Bradshaw?” Apparently, Katie recently moved here. She does a blog on her experiences (which are far different from mine), and she has major photo-taking abilities. Her blog actually landed her a position with one of the the local newspapers. I don’t have much in the way of photo-taking abilities, but I thought I would give it a shot.

I thought I could document the businesses that have gone under in our spectacular rural community.

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Problem is, this business is still open.  This business was a car wash, tanning salon, custom embroidery, restaurant, cocktail bar with a self-service dog wash.  No kidding, I couldn’t make something this ludicrous up.  Apparently, the rest of the business is doing great, they just had to close, you know, the restaurant part?!?

Then there are the plethora of these:

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During my younger days in Montana, I used to hunt… a lot.  Public land was everywhere, and finding a deer or an antelope or a pheasant or a grouse to take home and put in the freezer was easy.  In Nebraska, private land rules the range, and if you don’t know some crotchety old landowner, there is no reason to buy a hunting license.  Needless to say, even after 15+ years of living here, I don’t know any crotchety old landowners.

I could have focused on what we meager-wage-earners have to look forward to here in the panhandle…

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… but that would have just been plain-old depressing.

I’m going to throw this one in just because I think it’s cool.  It’s from a local tattoo shop and the outrage that it created was extraordinary.  It was free speech versus the anally uptight… and free speech won :)

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Wait a second!  What’s that beautiful dark figure in the awesomely artistic photograph I have taken below?

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Ah, the beauty of a winter’s night in the panhandle of Nebraska.  Is it a beautiful winter street flower? Is it a fairy from the tales of old?

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Yeah, no, it’s a dead cat. This stupid cat had been in the road by my house for like a week. Poor thing was hit by one of the speed-limit breaking residents of the trailer park up the road. I was going to dispose of it when I first saw it, but I figured there may be a little girl somewhere missing her lost kitty. I wanted the family to be able to find the cat for, you know, some closure. However, after a week, I was tired of looking at it and decided to scrape it’s frozen butt off the street and throw it gently place it in the trash receptacle. So, I scraped it and bagged it. Little did I realize that frozen cats are a little… pointy.

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So, I did what any good samaritan would have done… I double bagged it.

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Still pointy. If not so morbid, it’d almost be a bit funny… you know, how pointy that frozen cat was. Wouldn’t want to swing it around because you could put an eye out or something.

Anyway, so ended my attempt at capturing the beauty of the panhandle in pictures. I disposed of the cat properly, said a few words for the family who was probably still looking for her, and may have made a pointy-cat joke or two. Katie Bradshaw can keep her picture-taking ability.

Okay, so now we get back on-track to the smell of money that reminds me of roadkill.

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That’s right, the good old feedlots. When the breeze blows just right, you can get your face full of the smell of feedlot at any given time of the year. Summer seems to be best though.

“Smells like money!”

Seriously? Are you sure that smells like money?

“Yep, smells like money!”

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Smells like cow shit to me, but to each his own, I guess.

Finally, the third horse of the smells-like-money trifecta: the railroad.  In our little community, we have not one railroad line usurping the positive energy from our lives, but two monstrosities of greed and power to interfere with our daily being.  Stupid BNSF and Union Pacific.

“Don’t complain, ’cause it smells like money!”

But the railroads don’t really have a smell, do they.  I mean, that really doesn’t even make any sense…

“Shut up, whiny boy!  Smells like money!”

Okay, whatever.  The railroads apparently smell like money, too.  A few years ago here in the wonderful panhandle of Nebraska, BNSF smelled like benzine.  We got us a little national press coverage, and BNSF paid-off a lot of people to guarantee the prevention of future lawsuits.  Now, all is well.  I mean, there is the occasional child born with extra digits and whatnot, but we make them feel extra special… like one of the X-men.

“I’m gonna count your piggy toes… yes I am!  1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13!  13 just means you’ve been blessed by the benzine, and your special… like Wolverine… except with extra piggy toes instead of super claws.  We’ll call you Piggy-Toe Man, and your foot stench will be extra powerful… because, you know, you have extra piggy toes…”

Ah, the joys of benzine.  They should put it in our water… you know, like fluoride.  ‘Cause I’m guessing benzine may actually be less toxic than fluoride…

The tragic thing is, you can actually get stopped by multiple trains at multiple crossings if you are traveling from one end of Scottsbluff to the opposite end of Gering.  That’s right, not only can you get stopped by both BNSF and UP trains, you can get stopped by more than one train at each crossing.  But you know what really sucks?  What really sucks is when BNSF decides to close multiple crossings in Scottsbluff for repairs… AT THE SAME TIME!  BNSF has like 6 crossings within the Scottsbluff city limits, and 4 of them are currently closed.

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Talk about throwing a major screw-up wrench in the daily lives of thousands of people.  What mongoloid idiot made that insane decision… and why did no one from the city do anything to alter those magnificently dubious plans?  City manager Rick Kuckkahn made a statement to local news outlet KNEB and he said he understood drivers’ frustrations.  Does he really?  Apparently BNSF has “extra people” in town, so the jobs can be completed quicker than normal.  Notice all of the people humping ass to get the work done in my pictures above?  Yeah, drive by any of the closed crossings and they all look pretty much the same.  And not only is there an apparent lack of urgency in completing the work necessary to re-open the crossings, now all of the trains creep through town at like a quarter of there normal speed.  Talk about some small town gridlock.  Mr. Kuckkahn said the closings were “unavoidable.”  Really, Rick, unavoidable?  The city manager has no say on not closing the majority of crossings in the town he manages?  I don’t think Rick Kuckkahn understands much of anything.  Smells like money to me.

I have come to a distinct conclusion after considering the various smells of money that permeate our community:  there may very well come a time when one must stop living in a community where one can smell the money and  move to a community where one can actually earn it.

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Sep 10

If you were to judge this post based on the title, you’re probably thinking this is going to be me ranting about some crappy service I received from some crappy company that I need to vent about.  Wrong.  I am feeling the need to rant about crappy jobs in customer service, of which I have held my fair share.

You hear “business gurus” lament constantly about how poor customer service can destroy a company.  I do not disagree.  The gurus preach of the importance of customer service skills for every employee who could potentially come in any sort of contact with a customer or potential customer.  Amen!  The gurus don’t seem to understand why so many companies can’t provide quality customer service.  I think I can help answer this question with one word: money.

Oh, I know, money isn’t everything; job satisfaction isn’t reliant on money alone; there are numerous ways to motivate employees other than with money; blah… blah… blah.  The people who come up with these unrealistic views of the importance of money in employment have listened to the gurus for far too long!  Money is the reason that most people go to work every morning.  If you don’t believe me, think of it this way: if you won the lottery and would never have to work again for financial reasons, would you go to your current job every day and do it for free?  If you would, you are either a very lucky person who has found your calling and are able to utilize your inherent gifts and talents in a satisfying manner or… you’re an idiot.

So, back to customer service.  I am going to use my recent employment experience with an unnamed cellular telephone company for demonstrative purposes.  The unnamed cellular telephone company was Alltel.

For anyone who has ever had to wait in line at  a cell phone store to have an issue resolved, I feel for you.  For anyone who has had to wait in line at a cell phone store to have an issue resolved and then took out your frustration on the person who finally waits on you… go pound sand!  You have a problem; you would like that problem fixed; you’re mad because you’ve been in line for 45 minutes or so; so you yell at or cop an attitude with the person who you expect is going to fix your problem… seriously?!?  Remember, this person who you are yelling at has probably already had half-a-dozen other nincompoops yell at him or her and your yelling is getting pretty close to the straw that is going to break the camel’s back.  Do you want help or not?  If so, please remain calm and speak the way you would like to be spoken to.  If getting your problem resolved is not the true reason for your 45 minute wait in line and you really just want to yell at someone and make a donkey-butt out of yourself by causing a big scene to prove to everyone within a 4-block radius of the retail store exactly mad you really are… keep yelling, sap-sucker, ’cause when you finally finish your little tirade, you are most likely going to be told that your problem is unsolvable: “So sorry, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to GO POUND SAND!”  And it’s not that your problem is really unsolvable… it’s just that  you have  caused such a commotion and made such an… uh, to put it in acceptable English/slang/cockney format… “arse” out of yourself that you are beyond help.  If your problem is actually fixed, a precedent is being set that people who throw a temper tantrum and behave like an arse get their way just to shut them up… and that is a precedent that is not going to be set.  Why, you may ask, is that precedent not going to be set?  Why will the squeaky wheel not get the grease?  What is going through the head of the customer service representative at that crucial moment when he or she makes that uber-important decision not to help you resolve your problem?  I can tell you in one succinct sentence exactly what is going through the mind of that representative: THEY DON”T PAY ME ENOUGH TO DEAL WITH THIS.  And Mr. and Ms. business guru, all of a sudden monetary reward is important to get people to perform in menial jobs!

“Well, if current employees won’t get the job done, fire them and hire people who will!”

While I put in my time at Alltel, the turnover rate was over 30%.  What that meant was that for every 10 people hired, more than 3 people quit… and this was at a time when Alltel was striving for aggressive growth!  Finding someone who is willing to deal with belligerent customers all day (and actually not making any real money unless selling to said belligerent customers) takes more than $8 to $12 dollars per hour, especially when the rules that are put in place to actually take care of a ripped-off customer are ignored by all levels of management from store management to regional management… and rules that actually benefit the customer are few and far between!  Let’s look at an example from my personal portfolio of the crappy-life files:

A friend was having trouble with his cell phone.  I had recently quit Alltel, but I was still the “go to” guy for friends’ and family’s cell phone questions.  The friend had trouble with his cell phone ever since he first got it.  He was on his third replacement phone (“replacement phones”, by the way, are often refurbished pieces of crap… as are “insurance” phones).  His original new phone and three refurbished phones all froze up.  He was about a two-weeks past his original one-year warranty, but he had received his last replacement less than a month previously.

I wasn’t a vast clearinghouse of knowledge for every rule and regulation of Alltel while I worked there.  However, I did know every policy and procedure that was beneficial to our customers as far as receiving a POS phone (and there were a lot of POS phones) and what extents could be gone to in an effort to make a pissed-off customer happy.  I explained to my friend that, although he was past the original one-year warranty on the phone, each replacement phone (exchange by mail phone, or XBM) came with it’s own warranty above and beyond the original manufacturers’ warranty.   It has been over three years since I worked at Alltel, so I don’t remember if that warranty was 30, 60 or 90 days, but I remember that my friend’s was well within the XBM warranty period.  I told him that, at the very least, he should be able to get another POS XBM phone.  However, since he and had been through three replacements, there was a “lemon policy” that the store manager could apply which would result in a brand-spanking new replacement phone of like value.  I told him to go to his local store, to be “nice”, not cause a big stink, and ask politely for the manager if the customer service rep wouldn’t help him. I stressed the “be nice.”

Well, he called me a couple of days later and told me that no one there was willing to help him.  The rep and manager who helped her both said that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  They told him that the XBM phones had no warranty of their own and since he was past his original warranty, he was out of luck.  Pretty much, he got a big, “Sorry, sucks to be you!”

I was furious!  I was ready to get on the phone with that stupid manager and give her a piece of my mind… and then I was going to call the district manager and let him know what had happened!  Then, in a flashback,  remembered what it was like to work at Alltel.

“Did you remain calm and stay nice?” I asked.

“Well… I started out nice.”

“That’s not what I asked,” I said.  “Did you remain calm and nice throughout the conversation?”

“Well… no… but they weren’t willing to help me!”

“Did you yell?” I asked.

“A little.”

“Did you personally attack the person helping you?” I asked.

“Well… she was being a bitch!”

Now, I know that this friend can be a little demanding as a customer.  He is the sort of person who will hold up a line at Walmart for 15 minutes arguing about a 25 cent perceived difference in the advertised price and the price that rings up at the register… even when he is wrong.

“Yeah, maybe I was wrong about that XBM policy thing,” I concluded.  I was not wrong.

When I worked at Alltel, I never screwed a customer just because they treated me like crap, and employees who did abuse their “power” really pissed me off.  However, I can think back to what it was like to be treated like complete garbage by an abusive customer.  It wasn’t fun… and I tend to blame most of my current stress-issues on the two years I spent at Alltel.  Every time I deal with just about any stranger in just about any potentially confrontational situation, I am braced for the worst… which is stressful.  I couldn’t handle it, so I quit (and remain scarred from the experience).  For those who can stick it out… if they need to screw-over the occasional asshole just to keep their sanity (and keep working there), more power to ’em.

By being the guy who always did everything in his power to take care of the customer, I developed a reputation as being the guy to go to if you had a problem.  People would wait an extra half-hour in line just to see me with their problems, which was fine.  The problem I had, with the Alltel gig being commission-based, was that those same people weren’t nearly as willing to wait for me when it came to making an actual commission-earning purchase… they went to the first available rep… and those were the straws that finally shattered the spine of the hump-backed mammal… because the money wasn’t there.  The district manager told me, when I informed him that I was quitting, that if I just stuck around for four or five more years, I would start to see that loyalty from the problem-solving start to turn into sales.  I told him that I would be dead of a heart attack before I would ever reap those benefits.

And you know what’s strange?  I really think that if the money had been significantly better, I wouldn’t have minded dealing with the crap quite as much.  It’s harder to get stressed about a situation when they actually are paying you enough to deal with it.

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Sep 02

I’m a happily married dude.  I am about to embark on, most-likely, a once in a lifetime adventure with my family: a cruise to the Bahamas.  However, when I discovered that almost a third of the guests on Royal Caribbean’s  Majesty of the Sea were attendees of some sort of fraternity leadership conference that Royal Caribbean was happily ($$$) hosting, the wind in my sails diminished just a little.  Even though I’m happily married, I am not dead.  I had some preconceived notions of what the view around the pool on that cruise ship was going to look like.

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the Dream

This is not what frat boys look like.

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My “notions” were quickly replaced by reality.

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the Reality

This... I'm afraid... is what frat boys look like.

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Yeah.  Disappointing, to say the least.  Anywho, now I can try to focus on actually enjoying the family time, right?

The ship is amazing.  It’s like 14-stories tall, and it travels across the ocean; this in and of itself is utterly amazing to me.  There are two formal dining halls, a buffet, a pizza place, a deli, and a burger joint.  Everything except the burger joint is included in the cost of the cruise (you have to pay an entrance fee of like $5 to get into Johnny Rockets).  There was a full-fledged casino, two or three lounges, an awesome weight room with a spectacular view of the ocean (which I promised myself I would use… but never did), a teen hang-out area, a little kid hang-out area, two small swimming pools (constantly full of frat boys), two hot tubs (constantly full of frat boys), a basketball court, a climbing wall, a ping-pong table, and the Chorus Line theater which had nightly live entertainment.  The center of the ship was kind of like a mall, with various stores selling various expensive items: a Caribou Coffee, a jewelry store, a liquor store, a gift shop and the like.  Each day, in the area between the stores, they were selling different garbage that looked expensive and was ridiculously inexpensive.  The wife and youngest son each got a watch for like $10 each, and they looked like they were worth much more.  We’ll see how long they actually last :)  Needless to say, the ship itself was pretty cool.  Our room, on the other hand, not so much.

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Stateroom

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Standard rooms on a cruise ship are extremely small.  I cannot stress enough how small these stinking rooms are.  It’s a good thing you pretty much just sleep in the rooms, because, in a family of four, someone would end up dead if you had to spend too much time together in those stinking rooms.

So, we check in on the ship and go through a “muster drill”.

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Muster Drill

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A muster drill is where they make everyone get outside by the lifeboats and tell you what to do to avoid dying if the ship starts to sink.  Great!  Now that we are all now terrified, let the fun begin.

We spent the first night at sea and just enjoyed the boat and tried to avoid the drunk, potty-mouthed frat boys.  Man, when the frats were sober, they were bearable, but once they got liquored-up, we pretty much had to walk with our hands over our sons’ ears to block the f-bombs.  Thanks, Royal Caribbean!  Thanks for not warning us our cruise was going to be a floating college party full of frat boys with no chicas for them to concentrate their alcohol-fueled, testosterone-driven horn-doggedness on.  I actually overheard a frat boy talking to a girl who appeared to be about 16-years-old, and he was trying to talk her into going to one of the lounges with him.  She kept shaking her head, looking around for someone to rescue her, and I heard him say, “I keep forgetting you’re under age.”  Man, that girl’s parents (as well as almost every parent with a daughter on that cruise) had to be loving Royal Caribbean for that week.

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Really?
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The next day, we ported in the Nassau.  Pretty cool, if you could look past the poverty that was prevalent everywhere.  We got off the ship and were immediately accosted by numerous people trying to get us to take a taxi or go on a tour or buy stupid toy turtles.  One old guy even asked me if I needed something to smoke, and when I told him I didn’t, he got pissed and stormed off.  We walked around the streets of Nassau.  Me loving people the way I do quickly grew tired of the people constantly in our faces, and we returned to the ship after a short time.

Later that afternoon, we went on a snorkeling tour.  We got on a boat and left the port area to an area where we could check out the corral.  We boated past a lot of really nice houses and the tour guide dropped a few names while cruising past these mansions.  Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan had houses there, along with a bunch of other people whose names I don’t remember.  Can’t imagine owning a mansion of such incredible grandeur surrounded by such intense poverty.  Nothing like rubbing it in the face of the locals, huh?

The snorkeling was kind of lame.  On the way, they warned us that people had seen lion fish in the area we were going to, and lion fish are apparently quite poisonous.  Coolest thing about snorkeling was that I actually found a lion fish.

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Lion Fish

This isn't the actual fish we saw, but it looked almost exactly like this.

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I got both of my boys and the wife to see it before one of the tour divers discovered it and scared it away.  Bastard!

That was pretty much the day in Nassau.  The next day, we relaxed on the beaches of Royal Caribbean’s private island, Coco Cay.  This was, by far, the most relaxing day of our adventure.

Swimming in the ocean…

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Swimming at Coco Cay

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… playing with the conch…

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Good Eating

These ugly suckers are surprisingly good eating

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…tearing it up at the water park

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Ocean Fun

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… avoiding the killer seagulls…

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Killer Seagulls of Coco Cay

These suckers will attack a hot dog like their lives depend on it

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… or hanging out in the hammocks…

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Dream Hammock

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…oops, I forgot… stinking frat boys…

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Reality Hammock

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Overall, a very good day.  Then, back to the boat for a relaxing evening and lots of eating.

The next day, we ported in Key West, FL.  Can you say “tourist trap?”  Of course you can. I really felt for all of the foreign (non-US) guests on the Majesty of the Sea when we ported in Key West.  Every single one of them had to take part of their day to go through US Immigration, whether they were getting off the boat in Key West or not.  The immigration officers apparently set-up shop in the theater and the lines were horrendous of families waiting for immigration’s approval.  I imagine those vacationers wasted hours of the last day of the cruise waiting for US Immigration to check them out.  Honest to God, it’s no wonder why so much of the rest of the world hates the United States.  Sometimes, our laws are just retarded.  I really thought it was cool how there were different people from all over the world on this cruise and, except for the frat boys, we all got along just splendidly… up until “Homeland Security” kicked in and the US made sure there wasn’t someone vacationing from Japan or France setting off a dirty bomb in Key West (or someone who has just spent thousands of dollars on a vacation trying to sneak into the country… if they can make that kind of money, they have brains and a good work ethic… let ’em in!) by making every man, woman and child go through an immigration checkpoint.  I didn’t feel safe, I felt embarrassed for our country.  Why not allow these people to enjoy the last day of their vacation and check them out after the cruise in Miami?  I didn’t have to go through immigration in the Bahamas… and I could of been planning to buy some crack from that dude who wanted to know if I needed a “smoke”… or something!!!

Anyway, back to the non-crappy part of the Key West visit.  We did a little sight seeing

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ahhh... art

Nothing says "art" like naked chicks... and NO, that's not me lying on my back looking up. He's part of the "art"... and my wife wouldn't let me lie beside him...

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… did a little shopping…

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Key West

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… ate some conch fritters…

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Conch Fritters... yummy

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… enjoyed frozen chocolate-covered Key Lime pie on a stick…

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good stuff

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and overall had a touristerrific, sunshiny day!

Then, back on the ship for the last time.  We had a wonderful evening of eating lots of food and swimming with the frat boys… and then eating some more.  I crap you not, I gained 10# on that stinking cruise!

When we woke up the next morning, we were in Miami.  Up and at ’em and off the ship.  We spent an entire day at Miami International Airport (’cause we had to watch our luggage… we could have “checked” it at this storage place, but they want to rape you and kill your first born as payment for that, so we said “screw it, airports are fun”).  We discovered that Miami isn’t too exciting when experienced from the airport, so airports aren’t really that fun.  Didn’t even get to see Tubbs, let alone Crockett :(

Finally, a turbulent flight back to Denver, a late-night hotel stop on the way home, and finally back to the Craphandle.  And then, back to work with another year until the next real vacation.

Crap man… I just realized how much I miss my ΣAE buddies…

Tagged with:
Sep 01

Have you ever dreamed of the perfect vacation?  Have you thought about it for years and years, and then made the decision that you were going to make it happen?  Well, the wife and I did just that: we planned for, saved for, and made happen our dream vacation.  We went on a cruise to the Bahamas.

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Bahamas

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Yippee-ki-yeah!

First off, I have to give a big shout-out to the wife.  She is the one who squirreled away money (tax refunds, Christmas bonuses, a little extra cash-flow every month, etc) to make our dream become a reality.   I want it to be known that the time I had with my wife and two sons was much more enjoyable than I am about to make it appear.  In fact, given the opportunity, I would remain with my wife and sons on that stinking cruise ship with the stupid frat boys until the day I die (if given the choice), and I would be one of the happiest dudes alive… until I died on the cruise ship, and then I would be one of the happiest dudes… uh… dead, I guess.

The wife and I planned on going on a cruise for our 15th anniversary.  It was going to be a really special treat, and we had been looking forward to it for years.  The problems that led to us not being able to make that happen were like the perfect storm of CRAP that transpired in the few years leading up to the 15th year of our ultimate declaration of love.  We had started a little business together, built it up to a level of creating a decent profit,  and had recently sold that business to a clueless chick who ended up declaring bankruptcy and screwing us out of a lot of money. At that point, we should have declared bankruptcy ourselves, but decided to take the higher road and repay all of the debt we owed.  Some “sage” at some point in time made me believe that repaying your debts will benefit you in the long run.  Yeah… I’m still waiting to reap the benefits of that stupid little piece of advice.   Shortly after being screwed in the candy business, the economy took a major tank; and shortly after that, reductions in pay (as opposed to raises) were the trend of the day.  Some of the employers had the balls to call it what it was (a reduction in pay), while others called it a “pay restructuring” or a “new compensation plan” and made you read Who Moved My Cheese.

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Who Moved My Cheese

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Needless to say, the 15th anniversary cruise was suddenly a pipe-dream.

Shortly before the 15th anniversary, we had started to save for the dream.  When we realized that it wasn’t going to happen at the 15-year mark, we decided to prolong it a couple of years and make it a full-family-free-for-all.  In other words, we were going to take our sons.  Much less romantic, absolutely NO hanky-panky,  more full of farts and body odor, and multitudes of inappropriate comments at the absolutely most inappropriate times.

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Chubbies

Mommy, is that big lady in the bathing suit pregnant, or is she just fat?

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Sounded like a relatively fair trade to me.  Don’t get me wrong… I likes me that there hanky-panky… but I likes me thems there farts too…

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Fart:)
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… theys makes me giggle… and giggling is good for the soul :)

So, we have it all planned to go on a cruise to the Bahamas.  We decide on Royal Caribbean, and we were ready to set sail on the Majesty of the Sea.

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Majesty of the Sea

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MS Pool / Day

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MS Pool / Night

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Sounds pretty cool, right?  Sure does.  Of course, we have to get on the ship in Miami, and we live hundreds and hundreds of miles from Miami.  So, we have to fly.

I hate flying!

I hate the fear of having no control of anything while soaring at 30,000 feet above the earth (or, as I like to think of it, about a 40 second nightmarish fall to a certain, messy, instant death).  My palms get clammy and my stomach doesn’t feel too swell just thinking about it.  I also hate getting to the point of being able to get on the stinking plane,  You know, the whole TSA nightmare.

“But they are just keeping us safe!” says the nincompoop who likes the TSA.

“Flying is a privilege, not a right,” says the government advocate.

I’m gonna call BS on both of those statements.  They are not keeping us safe by patting down small children and old ladies.  They are not keeping us safe by subjecting us to radiation.  They are not keeping us safe by making me put all of the liquids I need in 3 oz bottles and limiting them to a 1 quart bag.  This is all retarded.  This is all “shock and awe” in an attempt to make us think that they are really keeping us safe… and, in the meantime, they are stepping all over our civil liberties.  But it’s all in the name of “stopping terrorism,” so the vast majority of us just let it slide. And when there are armed National Guard in front of Walmart making sure we aren’t trying to bomb super centers, that will be all right too.  And when they start reading our mail and listening in on our phone conversations in the name of national security, we’ll be fine with that as well.  And when the civil unrest finally starts, those involved in the unrest will be hauled off to “camps” to protect the rest of the population from the “extremists.”

Rant much?  Why yes, thank you, I do.  Anywho, I hate the TSA.  They are just people doing a job, right?  Yeah, so are the buttmunchs who send you unsolicited spam, and the jerkwads who call you at 7:30 on a Saturday morning trying to get you to buy their auto insurance.  Personally, I’d rather flip burgers at McDonald’s than help implement the military state and invade citizens’ civil liberties… but hey, that’s just me.

So, we get to the airport in Denver, check our bags, take off half of our clothes, get radiated, and make it through security.  We get on the plane, and we fly to Miami.  Well, we fly to over Miami, and then we circle over Miami for like an hour because of some storms.  Then we fly to Ft. Lauderdale because we’re low on fuel.  Then we sit in the plane on the tarmac for like an hour getting refueled and waiting for the okay to fly back to Miami.  Then we fly back to Miami and land.  My least favorite parts of flying, other than the turbulence and the extreme heights and the small seats in “business class” and the fat-assed flight attendants who bump my shoulder every time they walk down the narrow aisle (I thought flight attendants had to be petite… now they’re all fat or dudes and most definitely like banging into passengers) and the narrow aisles and the small restrooms and the long lines to the small restrooms and trying to pee in turbulence… the parts I hate the most are taking off and landing.  Taking off and landing are where most accidents occur.  Well, on the trip to Miami, what was supposed to be a 4-hour non-stop flight from DIA to MIA turned into an almost 7-hour ordeal with two take-offs and two landings.  We really got some bang for our buck on that stupid flight.  So, instead of having an afternoon to check out Miami, we went straight to the hotel, grabbed some supper, and got ready for bed.

The next morning, after feasting on the hotel’s all you can eat breakfast buffet (just the beginning of us gorging ourselves), we take a cab out to the port.  Going through the boarding process is quite a bit less intimidating than the airport security, but still kind of sucks.  Finally, we get on the boat and are ready to really start enjoying our vacation… when I notice them.

Dudes… young dudes… rich-looking young dudes… everywhere.  Preppy guys looking like their ready to get their drink on.  What the…?!?  And they all have Greek letters on their shirts.  Frat boys… seriously… everywhere!  Most of them appear to be ΣAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon), although there are some something-with-a-Deltas there, and a something-Kappa-something or two as well.  EVERYWHERE!!!  It’s nothing personal against young gentlemen in fraternities, God love ’em.  I just have a very strong aversion to guys who are almost guaranteed success because they have rich daddies and like looking down on those not in their group.  I had to deal with frat boys when I went to college, and I didn’t much care for them then… and now, almost 20 years later, my dream vacation is in jeopardy of being tainted by an extremely large ship FULL of them…

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Frat Boys

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… and not a sorority girl in sight :(  It was shaping up to be a long week.

to be continued

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Aug 28

I haven’t been to a dentist since I was 18-years-old.  I’m now 41-years-old.  For those of you bad at math, I haven’t been to a dentist in 23 years.  The last time I went was at the urging of my parents before I went off to college.  I was still on my parents insurance and they paid for the whole shebang.  I remember it being painful, full of screeching drills and the smell of smoking teeth.  I remember shots (notice the plural) in my mouth that didn’t seem to numb everything the way they were supposed to.  I remember thinking to myself that the dentist was a skinny little preppy dude, and my 18-year-old body, fresh out of four years of high school football, could kick this jerk’s ass.  I’m pretty sure that dentist was about one drill insertion away from having a little dental work done himself… at no charge.  That was then.

This is now.  I no longer fear the pain.  The thought of having some dude sticking his hairy fingers in my mouth is unsettling, but it doesn’t prevent me from having my oral orifice examined.  I don’t go to the dentist for the same reason that I don’t see a psychiatrist (of which I am plenty in need of seeing), I don’t go to a chiropractor, I forgo the use of an attorney, and I seldom set foot in a doctor’s office;  I hate senators and school superintendents and city managers and CEOs and Hollywood actors and rock stars and successful entrepreneurs.

I have a severe case of class envy.

I hate people who are successful and make a lot of money.  I don’t hate them for what they have… I hate them for making me realize what I do not have.  I don’t hate them for their outgoing personalities and successful traits… I hate them for making me realize how low my self-esteem is and how my traits all suck.  I don’t hate their money… I just do everything I can to not add to their wealth by sacrificing any of my lower-middle-class income to them.  That’s one of the main reasons I hate paying taxes… because I know part of what I pay goes into those $150,000 salaries of those morons in Washington who can’t pull their heads out of their asses for long enough to do what’s right for the country.

I remember when I first moved to Scottsbluff, NE.  I was in my early 20s and pretty fresh out of college.  I was an assistant manager at Sherwin-Williams… you know… the paint store.  That’s right… first job out of college was in retail management.  Explains a lot about why I think life sucks, huh?  I remember my college professors all warning about jobs in retail.  “Once you go into retail, it’s very hard to get out… or to do any better.”  I was hesitant to go into retail, but after sending out hundreds of resumes with only a handful of resulting interviews and only one actual job offer, I didn’t feel I had much choice.  I took what was offered.  So, I end up in Scottsbluff, NE making a salary of like $17,000/year working 45 to 55 hours per week.  I knew this wasn’t a lot of money, but I could afford a crappy, mildew covered, bug infested little basement apartment, and I could pay my bills and put food on the table.  Not good food, mind you, but food.  I was also able to keep up on the repayment of the thousands of dollars in student loans I had accumulated.  College… funny huh?  You spend thousands of dollars on an education that never really seems to pay for itself.  Where’s the ROI on a stupid business degree?  I guess if you’re a doctor or lawyer, you must finally realize some return on that investment, huh?  Anyways, even though I was making pretty crappy money for a college graduate, I was still pretty naive and felt that life might still work out and that hard work would provide it’s benefits in the future.  In other words, I was still stupid

I can remember when my attitude started to change… when I experienced my “awakening”.  I was driving in downtown Scottsbluff (it’s about five blocks long, so it was a short drive), when I was passed by a car.  This was not just any car, this was a fancy little BMW sportster.  You know, a silver little two-seater convertible jobbie.  And it had vanity plates.

Vanity plates.

And guess what vanity was expressed on those stinking license plates?

“DRTOOTH”

I crap you not.  Some dentist was driving around town in a $40,000-plus sports car and was letting everyone know that he bought that car through the cavities of the little children.  That is the exact moment that I decided that I was never going to go to a dentist again.  I was never going to help some arrogant SOB buy his next Mercedes or Beemer or country club membership or vacation condo in Las Vegas or Miami.  Thanks for the invitation, but I’m afraid that doesn’t sound like the kind of party I’m interested in attending.  Gather your wealth through the teeth of some other miserable assistant manager at some other crappy retail establishment, I’m gonna peace-out on this one.

And I have been peaced-out ever since.  My teeth, of course, are falling apart.  They are stained and cracked and filled with cavities.  I don’t think there is much enamel left, because sometimes too hot or too cold makes them hurt.  One of my back teeth that was filled decades ago when I last visited a dentist has had a huge crack down the side of it for almost 15 years.  Finally, a couple of nights ago while eating spaghetti (spaghetti, for crying out loud), that back half of the cracked tooth just disappeared.  I must have swallowed it.  Better I use it as roughage then let some dentist charge me hundreds of dollars to fix.  I have a wisdom tooth that has been trying to come in for the past 20 years, and it’s growing out of the side of my jaw.  It gets a little sore and leaks a little pus from time to time (I originally wrote that “my tooth gets a little pusy from time to time”, but I originally thought “pus” had two s’s… and that sentence made me laugh for longer than was appropriate, so I changed it… and then I pointed it out again here, because… damn it, it’s just funny).

The strange thing is, my mouth never really hurts.  Aside from the occasional sensitivity issues, and the wisdom tooth acting up on occasion, I feel little pain.  I know there have to be tons of cavities in that sucker.  I know all of the crack and chips should probably cause some discomfort, but they don’t.  Even when that stupid wisdom tooth starts acting up, I just gargle with some peroxide, and it feels better.  I brush at least twice a day, and I floss… I floss on occasion (special occassions, like Christmas and Martin Luther King’s birthday).

I know that I should probably go to see a dentist.  Modern dentistry is what sets us apart from neanderthals… like the British.  I know I could probably extend my miserable existence (oh yeah) by taking better care of my teeth.  I can just picture the look on the dentist’s face the first time he gets a gander inside my mouth.  You know how in cartoons the eyes roll like slots into dollar signs?  Well, my dentists eye’s are gonna roll into Beemers.  I just know it.

Tagged with:
Mar 18

I have really big plans for this blog.  Someday, I will make enough money with this blog that I can spend all of the time that I now devote to my job doing nothing more than bitching about stuff here all day.  You know what they say, do something you love, and it won’t really be “work”.  Well, bitching is about the only thing I do that I really enjoy, so this has to be the answer to my prayers… at some point… right?  Oh please, let it be so.

Okay, so to make money with a blog, you have to… uh… COME ON!  There has to be a way to make money with a blog! Every once in awhile, I put a link to something on Amazon on here.  I’m an Amazon Associate, which means I can get commission if someone clicks one of those links and actually buys something from Amazon.  I have been an Amazon Associate for about two years, and I have actually made some money doing it.  Of course, I haven’t seen any of that money yet.   Amazon won’t actually pay anything out until you have built up at least $10 in commission… and I haven’t hit that mark yet.  In another three or four years, I should get my first $10 check from Amazon.

$10

I’m stoked!

There is also Google Ads.  I could have a list of stupid links on the side of my blog with Google ads and I would get paid every time someone clicks one of those links.  Happy Stinking Joy doesn’t really have a lot of visitors, and, at this point, I’d rather have you stay and read my thoughts than get distracted by the ads on the side and leave my site.  Also, it would mess up my ultra-professional layout… or something.

I haven’t exactly had an onslaught of individual advertisers approaching me with bids for some of the precious real estate on my site.  I guess rant sites aren’t real popular with traditional advertisers.  Before I’m going to see any real revenue from this site, I’m going to have to get more than a handful of people coming here on a daily basis.

Most popular blogs seem to fall into a couple of categories, the first of which is the “expert” blogger.  You know, these are the Seth Godins of the world who share all kinds of free insight into crap that they are experts about.  Their whole ploy is to give you “free advice” to make you feel like a friend, and then they try to sell their books to you or try to talk you into hiring them to do consulting or speaking engagements.  Well, my forty-one-years of life have not exactly led me to become much of an expert at anything.  I know a little about a lot, but a lot about little.  I have been too busy chasing the next-step-up in middle-class pay to stay with any one company in any given field for more than a couple of years.  If your current promotions and pay increases aren’t getting you where you want to be: quit, and maybe the next job will take you where you want to go.  Of course, the next job never does.  So, I’ve had the opportunity to work with all kinds of interesting people in many different fields, but I haven’t stuck around any of them long enough to actually have become an expert at anything.  I’m an expert bitcher, but companies aren’t going to hire me to give a “bitch seminar” to their workforce… at least not yet.  I figure if I pray about it long enough, God, if nothing else, will get tired of me asking and either give it to me just to shut me up or strike me dead…

Strike me Dead

… either of which would lead to no more Monday mornings dreading work.

The other major category of successful bloggers seems to be those who cover current events.  Whether it be Perez Hilton covering the latest embarrassments of the rich and famous, or any of the slew of Yahoo! bloggers covering the latest in world events; people who get the story first tend to get a following.  I think this may be the route I need to follow.  I need to get the hot stories first.  Of course, I live in Nebraska, so the celebrity fodder may be a little out of my grasp.

Miss America

Ooh… Ooh… Miss America is from my part of Nebraska, so I could dedicate my blog to digging up all of the crap I can to humiliate Miss America I did a little blog about Miss America right after she won and it was actually one of the most visited rants I have posted!  But… I have a pretty strong suspicion that Teresa Scanlan is almost as squeaky clean as you would think a Miss America should be. I bet she actually believes what she says she believes, and I don’t think that “Miss America thought about skipping church once because she was just too tired to go, but then she prayed about it and changed her mind” will draw a lot of visitors to my little site.

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So, I’ve got to find a way to get the latest and greatest news before anybody else.  This is a “must” if I ever want to make this thing my sugar daddy.  Okay, so here it goes:

Breaking news… Charlie Sheen has gone insane!  The impact was devastating.  Damages are estimated… oh, great, my kid just looked over my shoulder and informed me that this is old news.  Okay, I guess I need to find something a little more “hot”.

Alright, I just did a Google search for “breaking news” and I don’t think I’m going to be able to go this route.  It seems that all of the “news” sites already have the breaking news covered.  The news sites and a bunch of Twitter people.  I don’t tweet or chirp or cockadoodledoo… or whatever it is that those people do.  I’m not quite hip enough for that.  Besides, all I’d be able to add to the Twitter conversation would be unique things I’m experiencing.

“It’s windy in Nebraska… again!”

Windy Trees

See, it just doesn’t work.

Hmmm… I gotta figure something out.  Okay, I know, I could just make kind of creative news stories.  No, that wasn’t “make up news stories”, it was “make kind of creative news stories”.  There’s… uh… sort of a difference.

Breaking news…. There is a humongous oil leak in the… uh… Gulf of Istanbul.  Yeah, and it’s causing infertility in the… uh… Great Northern Spike-Backed Whale.  Oh, you should hear the sad song those poor whales are singing at this moment.  It would make you cry.

PETA

Okay... yeah... I don't know what Alicia Silverstone being a Vegetarian has to do with "funny whale oil leaks" either, but a Google image search came up with this. I love Google...

This just in… apparently the oil spill was caused by… uh… Miss America!  Yeah, that’s it!  Apparently Miss America was on a diplomatic mission to Alderan and she and her entourage accidentally knocked over a big oil thingie in the Gulf of Istanbul.  Anti-American sentiment is through the roof in the countries bordering the Gulf… and by Great Northern Spiked-Back Whale lovers around the world!  Check back to this site often for more of the latest…

This just may work 😉

Tagged with:
Feb 14

My snore has been likened to the thunderous growl of a Tyrannosaurus rex. Now, I know that no living person is exactly sure what a T. Rex growl really sounds like, but I have been told that my snore has to be in the ballpark.

T-Rex

Of course, I have never heard my snore. My snoring has woke me up in the middle of the night on thousands of occasions, but by the time I’m actually awake, I’m done snoring. Funny how that works.

Anyway, my wife and I have been married for over 16 years.  My wife has complained about my snoring for, well, a little over 16 years.  I finally decided that maybe it was time to do something about it.  See what a great guy I am?

Why would I avoid going to the doctor to have something done about my snoring?  Well, the reasons are multiple:

1st:  I hate doctors.  I don’t hate them on a personal level, I just don’t like the fact that I have to rely on someone who makes a buttload of money for my physical well being.  I also don’t like the fact that I have to pay said person a buttload of money for services rendered.  Yeah… it’s all about the Benjamins.

Benjamins

I couldn’t be a doctor because I’m really not smart enough, and the thought of messing with someone’s other than my own bodily fluids makes me slightly light-headed.  Just another of the “life isn’t fair” deals that pisses me off.  Okay, so maybe I do hate them on a personal level…

2nd:  When you go to the doctor, he or she always ends up finding a bunch of crap wrong that has nothing to do with the reason for your visit.  It’s kind of like when you take your car in for an oil change, you know.  All of a sudden, you’re needing new brake pads and a front-end alignment and your head-gasket is leaking… you, at the doctor… your car, at the mechanic… it’s all the same.  Now that I am “in my forties”, I know that crap is going to start breaking down at an alarming rate.  I’d really rather just not know about it.  After all, maybe I can get another 2000 miles out of the car without fixing the problem, right?  Besides, it seems like when they start trying to fix one problem, everything else starts to go to hell.  You know, like the 35-year-old lady who goes in because she sprains her ankle, and they discover she has pancreatic cancer, so they cut her open to get to the cancer, and they find out that it is EVERYWHERE, and she is dead within a couple of weeks… because of a stinking sprained ankle.  If she hadn’t gone in for the stupid sprained ankle, she would probably be alive today!

3rd:  Uh… I don’t take exactly the best care of myself.  I know this.  I don’t need some yahoo driving a BMW to point this out and talk down to me while doing so, because when he or she does, my level of class-envy goes through the stinking roof!

Okay, so I don’t like going to the doctor.  In fact, I don’t even have a doctor.  I go to a local urgent care clinic (Quick Care) for all of my medical needs… which are few and far between.  You’d think that, seeing as how I’m getting to the point where annual visits are looming on the horizon, I should probably find a doctor.  I don’t like shopping for shoes… and I like shoes… so why would I spend time shopping for a doctor?

So, back to the snoring.  I call one of them “sleep centers” (Western Sleep Medicine, I believe it is called) to see how I go about getting fitted with one of those Darth Vader masks to make me stop snoring.

Darth Vader snores?

They say I have to be referred by a doctor.  I say I don’t have a doctor.  They say I can use Quick Care to refer me.   I call Quick Care and make sure that they can refer me, which they reassure me that they can.  I ask, “So, uh, I’m wanting a referral for a sleep study… and that’s it.  You aren’t going to test me for a bunch of other crap, are you?”  And I am reassured that I will only be tested for the condition that I am visiting about.  Great!  So I drive on over to Quick Care.  Never believe medical people.

I get to Quick Care and they make me fill out the stinking form that all medical places make you fill out when you first arrive.  I get done filling the stupid form out and I realize that right beside the line where I fill-out my date of birth, there is a line for me to fill-out my age.  I ask the receptionist, “So, why is there a line right beside my date of birth for my age.  Wouldn’t just my date of birth be sufficient?  Can’t you figure out my age?”  Of course, I’m being a little smart-assy, but in a good-natured way.  The receptionists at Quick Care are not exactly “good natured”.

“It’s there so we don’t have to figure it out,” the receptionist says, and I can tell by the look on her face that I’m pissing her off by breathing her air, so I let it drop.

So now I’m thinking to myself that I may be making a mistake by not actually having an actual doctor.  I’m thinking that using Quick Care for a referral may not have been the swiftest of my most recent decisions.  Did I have to list my age beside my date of birth so they didn’t have to figure it out… or because they couldn’t figure it out?  I know, I should assume that the receptionist (or anyone else who touches my chart) would be able to figure out my age from my date of birth.  However, before I entered Quick Care, I assumed that a receptionist in a place where people are going to have medical issues addressed and are looking for a little comfort would be able to smile… or at least be partially pleasant.  I have learned to never trust my assumptions.

After a short wait, I am led into an examination room.  The nurse tells me that the first thing she needs to do is check my blood pressure.  Crap!  This is exactly what I don’t want.  This is why I called before I came… to make sure unnecessary crap wasn’t going to be tested.  What does my blood pressure have to do with my snoring?  But I’m already thinking I need to keep my mouth shut because of the whole receptionist encounter, so I sit down and let her test it.

170 over 130.

She looks at me like I should already be dead.

“Uh, is your blood pressure always this high?” she asked.

“No, these places freak me out,” I said.  “It’s usually more like 150 over 100.” Of course my blood pressure is high.  Everyone and their dog stresses me out.  I hate any sort of confrontation and life is full of it… confrontation that is.  The older I get, the less I am able to deal with the basic BS that every person on the planet seems intent on dishing out.  If I could hole-up in a dark room and not have to ever deal with anyone or their problems, I bet my blood pressure would be just fine.  I pray to God to let me not get stressed out, but stress is still there around every single stinking corner in this road of life… and God just looks down from heaven and laughs.  I think jacking around with me is how God deals with His own stress.

Again… she looks at me like I should already be dead.

“I’m going to get the P.A.,” she said and disappeared out the door.

P.A. stands for “physician’s assistant”.  A P.A. is like a doctor, except they didn’t have to go to school as long as a doctor, and instead of BMWs, they usually drive Audis.  I don’t hate P.A.s quite as much as I hate doctors.

The P.A. comes in and he talks about getting me a referral for the sleep test, he fills out the necessary paperwork, and then he starts talking about what we are going to do about my blood pressure.  He has the nurse run a ECG, and then she sticks me with a needle and red crap comes out my arm into a little vial.  I’m ready to pass out as he tells me about the blood pressure medication that I’m going to be put on.

Crap!

So, I leave, I go and get my blood pressure medication, and I go home.

The next day, I take the first of the pills.  It’s Lisinopril.  It’s supposed to have very few side-effects.  I notice nothing and think I’m golden.

I take my second pill the following morning.  All is well… until I get out of the shower, reach for the hair gel (it’s Sunday, and I gel my hair up on Sunday to keep from looking like such a hippie freak), and I fall to the floor with chest pain.  I can’t even stand up.  The wife and kids are already gone, because the wife takes the kids to Sunday school.

Crap!

Okay, so I figure I’m having a heart attack.  Figures, right?  I mean, if I hadn’t gone in for the stupid snoring issue, I would have been fine.  Anyway, I’m downstairs, and I need to find a way to get upstairs.  I figure out that if I bend over and do not stand straight up, I can walk without a ton of pain.   So I hunch it upstairs and sit down at the dining room table.  I start weighing my options.

I can call the wife and freak the crap out of her.  Yeah… not going to happen.

I can call 911 and get an ambulance coming.  That would, however, be expensive.  I’m all about the Benjamins.

Benjamins

Then, I start thinking that I really don’t feel like I’m going to die.  You know how people who have heart attacks claim that they get all freaked out because they can tell that they are dying?  Well, I’m not freaking out.  I’m just pissed because my chest hurts.  There is no pain shooting through my shoulder or up my arm, just a sharp pain under my left man-boob.  Feels more like something is pulled than I’m dying.  I think to myself, “If this cramp in my chest gets worse, do I feel like my heart is going to stop?”  I answer myself, “No.”  So, I sit there and wait for the pain to go away.

Western Sleep Medicine is supposed to call me to schedule a sleep study.  I haven’t heard from them yet.  I may not have to worry about it.  After all, I went to medical people for one problem and they discovered another.  I give myself two weeks, tops.  Damn it…  I swear, I could have got another 2000 miles out of this s.o.b.

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Feb 15

My wife and I recently finished up Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  I am not going to dog on Dave’s system too much… ’cause I think it works and is pretty much worth the effort for anyone who wants to gain control of his or her finances.  Dave teaches a lot of common sense stuff (and makes a buttload of money teaching it… how much is a buttload… well, it’s more than most of us will ever see; an amount of money that verges on the border of being uncomfortable.)

Dave teaches “baby steps” that anyone can follow and everyone could benefit from implementing.  Dave’s little catch-phrase is that you should “live like no one else” (i.e. sacrifice having any sort of life-joy now,) “so later, you can live like no one else” (i.e. so if you find a way to avoid death and make it to 70, you can finally start realizing some of the fruit of your labor.)    Yeah, doesn’t sound real dreamie to me either, but it sounds a lot better than completely depending on the soon-to-be-extinct Social Security (damn democrats… instead of finding more ways to spend my flipping tax money, like health care, why don’t you guarantee that I’ll get back some of the stinking Social Security benefits that I have given those who went before me!)  Dave paints a much rosier picture than what I believe is truly possible for average folks out there.   I think Dave may be a little unrealistic and misleading in some of his assertions and examples.

Dave Ramsey: “If you start investing $2000 per year beginning at age 12 and can make a simple 20% interest, by the time you retire at age 90, you will be a millionaire!”

Ok, this example may be a little far fetched… a little.  Maybe Dave didn’t actually use any examples that were quite so retarded.  It is funny, however, that whenever he gives an example of the average guy, he picks some 30 year-old schmuck making an above average income(’cause I think you have to make above average to really “live like no one else” in the long run,) and Dave proceeds to tell us all of the sacrifices this guy is going to have to make to (which usually involves, for some strange reason, a night job delivering pizza?!?); this is the first part of the “live like no one else.”  Then, when we get to the second half of the “live like no one else,” Dave is throwing out examples of multimillionaires (like himself) who can drop cash for about anything because, well, they’re multimillionaires.  The thing is, that 30 year-old schmuck isn’t going to get Dave Ramsey-rich just because he delivered pizzas.  The only way to get Dave Ramsey-rich is to make a lot of money through your career (maybe by charging honest folks $100 to take your class where you can teach them how to find financial peace…,) which those of us living in the remote, rural areas of this country will never do.  So, although Dave never actually comes out and says that the 30 year-old schmuck will get Dave Ramsey-rich, the way the “live like no one else, so later, you can live like no one else” is presented could be interpreted as a little misleading by anyone who is actually paying attention.

In most of his examples, Dave starts with a savings plan starting at or around age 30 and a retirement age of 70.  He gives several examples of how you can amass a ton of wealth (MILLIONS) by investing X amount of money at age 30, making 12% on that money, and retiring when you are 70.  First of all, I don’t know what the average age is of someone going through Financial Peace University… but I’m guessing it is well above 30.  Crap, I’m 40, so I guess I would have to retire at 80 to hit Dave’s projections.  Second, 12% earnings on a retirement fund may be slightly unrealistic in today’s market.  I’m going to cut Dave a little slack on this one because the video series I watched was made like 2 years ago (I think it was made in 2008), so things are a little less financially rosy at present time than they were 2 years ago, and who know, maybe the markets will completely rebound and no other major damage will be done to the markets again (but I think the radical Muslims may have a thing or two to say about that.)  Finally, even if I had started working toward financial peace 10 years ago, I have no intention of working until I’m 70!  Hell, I have no intention of living until I’m 70, so why would I base future plans on retiring at that age?

Dave Ramsey is, first and foremost, a salesman.  He tries to sell his ideas, and his books, and his program, and his swag (it kills me that Dave preaches that we shouldn’t spend money on unnecessary crap and there, right in the middle of his workbook which tells you not to buy crap, is an add for all kinds of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University CRAP that Dave would love for you to buy… ’cause God knows that coffee is going to taste a helluva lot better while you’re doing all this personal sacrifice stuff if you’re drinking it out of a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University coffee mug!)  Dave portrays himself as, you know, just this dude who is trying to help others.  He is so willing to help others that it only costs like $100 to take his course that will help you gain control over… uh… your money.  But seriously, no harm, no foul.  The dude needs to make money, and the course is well worth the money it costs to take… but the “I’m just here to help you” front doesn’t fly.  Dave, if you are going to be honest with us and yourself, let’s try, “I’m here to help you, but it’s gonna cost you about 100 bucks because that’s how I got Dave Ramsey-rich and I ain’t ever going back, you’re gonna have to sacrifice more than you are probably comfortable with and you are going to miss out on a lot of crap for now, and you will NEVER be as rich as me.  Want to buy a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University fanny-pack?”

Dave works a biblical approach into his plan, which I like.  He actually seems sincere when it comes to his faith, so I’ll give him props for that.

One of the portions of the course I really enjoyed was Dave’s philosophy on insurance.  He starts out this section of the course talking about how insurance agents HATE this part of the course.  Dave then goes on to talk about why whole life insurance is for idiots and all kinds of other things that I’m sure most insurance agents would not like the average person thinking about.  Well, Dave gets done, the DVD player gets turned off, and the one insurance agent we have in our class goes off about how Dave Ramsey is not “all knowing”; about how Dave Ramsey is a salesman more than anything, after all we all paid for his class… he isn’t doing it for free… and about how each individual’s insurance needs are different and we can’t all base our needs for insurance off of what Dave Ramsey is trying to sell us on.  In other words, the insurance agent in our class HATED this part of the course.  The thing is, the “crappy” stuff that insurance agents try to do which Dave discussed are not things this agent does. I think Dave ended up pissing every person off in our class with one point or another… and it wasn’t that I really enjoyed Dave’s teaching so much as I enjoyed watching how right Dave was about insurance agents not liking this part of the course.  Our insurance agent (who is, by the way, a good, honest person… and I like the dude) made this section enjoyable just by how much he let it upset him.  It’s always fun to watch someone unnecessarily defend what they do for a living!  I know, I used to work for a cell phone company… and there are few jobs that require more defense than when you represent one of the cell phone monsters:

“Isn’t cell phone insurance a rip-off?”

“Well, it makes it easier to replace your phone if something happens to it.”

“But you don’t get a new phone, do you?”

“No, you don’t.  You get a refurbished phone.”

“How can you push cell phone insurance when it puts a customer in a refurbished phone?”

“Because I have had the people without insurance come up to me with the 2-day old phone that they dropped in the toilet and which now does not work, and I have had to explain to them that they are under a two-year contract and they have no insurance so their only option is to spend $200 or more full-retail price for a replacement phone.  These people almost always yell at me, like I make the rules or I have the power to just give them a brand new phone because they have, after all, been a customer for three years or something.  I don’t like being yelled at, I have no control over the policies and procedures of the company, you’re the retard that dropped a $300 cell phone in the toilet, I don’t make any more commission just because you have been a customer for three years… in fact, I don’t make any money unless you actually purchase something… and did I mention that I hate being yelled at… so buy the stupid insurance and quit wasting my time.”

Yeah, working at the cell phone company sucked… the money was good, but people are pretty stupid when it comes to their cell phones.  Anyway… long story short (too late), I understand the insurance dude trying to justify around Dave Ramsey’s observations.  No one likes to have what they do called into question by a “professional” like Dave Ramsey.  Thank goodness there were no credit card customer service reps in our class :)

Probably my favorite lesson in the Financial Peace University course was the one on careers.  Dave said some stuff that I thought really made sense.  He spoke of finding a job that utilizes your natural talents.  He said that those who tell you that you can “learn” to overcome personality traits that work against certain aspects of your career… well, those people are full of crap (ok, he didn’t say crap, but it was implied.)  If managing people, or outside sales, or whatever, is not something you are good at or comfortable with, you will not “learn” to be good at this stuff.  You need to find something you are naturally good at or enjoy and go full forward with that.  I love this advice… and I agree wholeheartedly!  Those people who tell you that you need to “work outside of your comfort zone” to be successful have no idea how extraordinarily craptastic the area outside of the comfort zone can be for many of us!

Dave refers to using personality tests to help you figure out what careers you can be successful in.   Upon completing the Gary Smalley test, I have determined that I am almost 100% pure golden retriever, which means I have no self-confidence and do almost anything to avoid conflict… wow, big surprise there.  There aren’t exactly a ton of high-dollar jobs available to golden retrievers.

Librarian was one that I think I would actually love… but that would mean, probably, another stinking bachelor’s degree  PLUS a MLS degree to actually be able to make ok money… so, at 40, sell the house, take out some student loans, go back to school, and hopefully by the time I’m 50 I can have a career I love… and a crapload more debt.  Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen.

I can’t really remember what other jobs a golden retriever could excel at, but I know they all paid CRAP!  For example, I would probably make an excellent file clerk.  I don’t care how long I work as a file clerk… or how GREAT I get a being a file clerk… or how indispensable I become to my employer as a file clerk… I ain’t ever topping about 12 bucks an hour as a file clerk, and I REALLY ain’t gonna get even close to Dave Ramsey-rich at $12 an hour.  Ok, so the “follow your personality trait” deal sounds golden… but in all reality, I think it’s really just a stinking pile of pyrite.

Dave Ramsey has some great ideas, and if you are having issues with your personal finances… or have no idea how you are ever going to be able to retire… you might want to check Dave out.  Dave’s system is not get rich quick (and he stresses that it is not get rich quick.)  Financial Peace University is touted as a get-rich-very-slowly-system, and if your earnings are above average, you can get there.  For those of us with a little less income coming in through the front door, Financial Peace University may offer us the hope of not having to reverse-mortgage our homes to survive when we retire!

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