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Category Archives: Conspiracies Out To Get Me

Are those nylons pulled over your face or my old underwear?

Trigger warning: you will learn things about my underwear you can never unlearn.

A few days ago, I was putting on a pair of underwear when part of it tore at the seam.

This got me to thinking, because this particular pair of underwear is less than six months old.

Most of my underwear is a lot older.

A lot.

Let’s just say when I casually mentioned how old my underwear was at a doctor’s appointment, the doctor laughed, assuming I was joking, and said, “I hope not…please tell me that’s not true.”

I pretended I’d been joking all along.

But I wasn’t.

This appointment was about six months ago, and the reason I now possess underwear less than six months old.

And what I was thinking was this:

Sure my old underwear was so worn you could see through it, but in all its (many) years of service, it had never split at the seams.

And as an added bonus, it got a “RRrarr!” from the Missus whenever I changed in front of her.

Sadly (for both my tear-free lifestyle and my love life), at my doctor’s urging, I threw them all away. I didn’t even save a pair for special, romantic occasions. 😦

I also have relatively new socks (as young or younger than the new underwear). They developed holes within a couple of months of wearing them.

My old socks? That predate these new socks by years? Worn thin in a few spots (forming more than one window to my sole), but no actual, stick-a-finger-or-toe-through-them holes.

WTF?

I wore an XL cardigan back then because I find loose clothing comfortable

What, you were expecting a picture of my underwear??

And I have a cardigan sweater that is over THIRTY YEARS OLD. It came from Mervyn’s and has a few stains, but no frayed cuffs or split seams!

In comparison, I have jackets and coats that are a few years old that have holes, frays, splits, and even missing buttons.

My trusty cardigan? Original buttons all fully intact and never sewn back on.

I tried to find out who exactly made that cardigan, so I could favor them with my custom again. Clearly I need a better tailor than Hanes. But good look figuring that out for something made before the internet was really a thing. As best I can tell, my only options are eBay and thrift shops.

And based on the prices I’ve seen, those folks know what they’ve got and what it’s worth.

So much for affordable…

And to add to my indignation, they weren’t afraid to use material back in those days. Twenty years ago, a Large fit me just fine. Then ten years ago or so, I guess they decided to cut some corners on fabric usage and I had to start wearing “Xtra Large” to be comfortable. And now they’re skimping so much on material I have wear XXL. All to save what, a few cents?

Outrageous!

All of this has left me wondering what has happened to the quality of affordable, overseas-manufactured clothing. A couple of decades ago, they knew how to make textiles. But now, now the imports seem to be designed and built to require replacement within a year. Or less!

Like a lot of our consumer electronics. Hmm…

This is both wasteful and a shame. As much as it pains me to say something I never thought would cross my lips, I guess it’s true:

They really don’t make underwear like they used to.

 
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Posted by on 26 January 2021 in Angst, Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life

 

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The Marital Bed…Of Shame!

Every night, the Missus likes to spoon me and whisper sweet nothings in my ear as I drift off to sleep.

OK, maybe not every night, per se, but most nights.

Well, a lot of the time anyway.

Fine. Occasionally.

When she’s drunk.

The frequency isn’t really the point here, just know it’s more often than you get the same treatment.

From my Missus, anyway.

She’s always here with me.

That’s one of the benefits of the lock-down: I always know where she is and the lawyers can’t call it stalking.

Anymore.

But I digress.

The thing is, recently this whole “turn around so I can spoon you and quietly praise you” went from “Aw yeah, AWESOME” to “Oh crap, no!”

Why, you ask?

Three words:

Home brewed coffee.

I was never a huge coffee drinker before the lock-down. And to be perfectly honest, I’m still not a fan of the stuff. But lock-down, well, this may come as a shock to you, but it’s led to some problems.

The whole not having to drive into work, toil myself down to the bone, and then drive home from work an exhausted, broken, former shadow of a man thing kinda sorta disrupted my sleep schedule.

Oh sure, avoiding the daily commute and a demoralizing work day seems like a good thing, but

1) I still have to be demoralized, I just do it from home now with the added benefit of laggy internet, and

2) I somehow got the idea in my head that since I didn’t have to drive to work, I could stay up later and just roll out of bed right before the start of the workday.

Big mistake, that second one.

I end up staying up WAY too late, rolling out of bed just a hair too close to the start of my first meeting, struggling to make my way to the home office with eyes sealed shut by sleep crust, and desperately trying not to snore during said meeting.

(The Missus says I snore so loud I’m afraid my coworkers will hear even if I’m on mute.)

There was only one solution to this problem.

Coffee.

No, not going to bed earlier and setting a proper alarm.

Coffee.

And for awhile it was going great. The coffee boosted my awareness / consciousness, I got through the day without my soul completely sucked away, and, having stayed awake all day, I was able to go to bed at a reasonable(ish) hour where I would (occasionally) drift off to the dulcet tones of the Missus telling me how wonderful I am while ensconced in her warm, warm embrace.

Except not.

Because now when I crawl into bed, I deliberately face towards the Missus and secretly dread the singsong request to turn around and prepare to be, as the Tick might put it, “Spooned!”

(Spooooooned!)

“Who’s my yummy bummy sweeteekins,” she asks.

“Oh God, not tonight,” I scream (in my head, because I’m not so foolish as to diss the Missus right before entering the helpless sleep state…RIGHT NEXT TO HER FUMING SOUL).

“Who’s a wonder-thunder-dunderkin awesome-sauce tubby hubby,” she breathes into my ear.

“Can’t you just go to sleep and leave me alone, and also, I’m working on the gut!” I retort back (again, just in my head).

“Are you a special, amazing, wonderful human being who is perfect in every way I could possibly hope,” she gushes throatily.

“Not tonight, woman! But yes, yes I am,” I whine back in a pitch carefully calibrated to be inaudible to her ears.

What’s the problem, many of you are asking just about now. Especially those of you who’ve been married as long as the Missus and I have – this sort of fawning attention is UNHEARD OF this many years into marriage.

I’ve already told you the problem:

Home. Brewed. Coffee.

More specifically, home brewed coffee that causes stomach distress such that you desperately, feverishly need to but don’t want to let loose a barrage of avalanche-inducing farts while your beloved Missus is clamped to your back.

(Also, I’m convinced my coworkers will hear these bursts of gas even if I’m on mute and the meeting doesn’t start for hours. They. Are. That. Powerful.)

Think how far back THAT might set your matrimonial relationship!

So I am forced to mumble something about being SOOOO tired, throw in a few fake snores, and then “toss and turn” until the business end of my digestive system is pointed away from the ol’ Missus and then, finally, blissfully, happily, I can safely set the blankets a-flapping.

Unless, like that one time, the Missus is feeling romantic and has sprinkled rose petals all over the floor and bed and covered every non-cushy horizontal surface with lit candles.

Egads, woman! Don’t you know the bedroom is not the place for romance!?

Yeah, that was an interesting insurance claim.

Now, I know it’s been a rough year. I know people are looking for good news instead of bad. And given it’s nearly the end of 2020, I simply can’t go out on such a negative note, leaving you all worried about the status of my marriage and my sensitive digestive system.

That’s right, I actually have some good news, a sense of hope I can impart after this tale of (quite literally) nauseating woe!

J'accuse!

There’s a fish! In the percolator!

It turns out the coffee maker we used to make our home brewed coffee had mold in it.

Yes, if you have one of those single-serving coffee machines with a reusable brew basket and you leave the wet grinds in it, mold starts to grow!

I had no idea.

But once we took the mold out of the equation, the digestive system more active than the volcanoes on Io went into remission.

That’s right. I can now be safely spooned and nuzzled and sweet-nothing’ed every night.

OK, maybe not every night, per se, but most of the time.

Well, a lot of the time anyway.

Fine. Occasionally.

When the Missus is drunk.

Which reminds me. I need to restock the liquor cabinet.

 

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And So, As A Last Resort, We Threw A Farewell Dance Party

2020 has been, to put it mildly, a somewhat sub-optimal year.

A lot of bad things have happened this year, but the worst, as astute readers of my blog would have noticed in my last posting, is that rats have moved into the crawl spaces of my house.

Speaking of bad things – Trigger Warning: Flashing Lights ahead

I tried all the usual remedies:

  • Stomping on the floors, thumping on the ceilings
  • Calmly sitting outside one of the crawlspace vents, patiently and rationally explaining to the rats why they need to let go of their Rodentia Fragilitatem and inclinatum implicita habitant and just vacate the premises, please
  • Installing a high frequency noise generator
  • Yelling obscenities in the hopes of offending their sensibilities (it worked, but just on my kids)
  • Crawling under the house with a fistful of rubber bands and shooting at the little bastards (might have worked, but my aim needs improving (I blame the constrained space))
  • Drenching the crawlspaces with peppermint oil rodent repellent (this did result in a a frenzy of movement the first night, but mostly on the part of the Missus, kiddos, and dogs)

But no matter what I did, they either wouldn’t leave or kept coming back.

So I did what any rational, red-blooded Europhile would do:

The neighbors keep muttering under their breath about what sorcery is afoot at the Dudley abode and whining how it's causing all the nearby house values to depreciate.

The System. Is Down.

I threw a rave.

A 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, silent rave.

I achieved this by installing strobe lights in my crawlspaces. And testing them before installation gave me, the Missus, and the kiddos immediate nausea and stabbing headaches.

The rats don’t stand a chance.

And I have to admit, the nightly noises the rats make now are markedly more frenetic and, dare I say it, irritated, than before. I can’t help but beam with glee (pun absolutely, utterly intended) and derive incalculable pleasure and satisfaction from the skittering sounds that I wholeheartedly choose to interpret as anguished.

It’s the only thing keeping me sane right now.

 

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Working from home is the bee’s knees

An angry bee, full of ennui due to arthritis in the knee

He’s most upset by the fact he’s missing the rest of his legs.

I don’t know the provenance of the phrase The bee’s knees, and I’m too lazy to use an online search engine to find out, but if my work from home experience is any indication, it obviously is some sort of super villain origin story.

That is, to say I’ve been stung by WfH would be an understatement.

Sure, on paper there’s lots to love:

  • You don’t have to roll out of bed until just before your first meeting
  • You don’t have to shower or get dressed…ever
  • No dealing with traffic
  • Reduced mileage / insurance costs on your commuter vehicle
  • No more being ambushed by colleagues at your desk / in the hall when you’re trying to get actual, real work done
  • Reduced risk of catching/spreading a potentially fatal disease

But like the iPhone, looks aside, you actually have to use it. And like the iPhone, it turns out working from home has significant, painful drawbacks:

  • Your recent lack of good hygiene has left you…less attractive…to your significant other
  • Your commuter vehicle, having sat idle for months, has become home to a colony of wire- and hose-chewing rats that, to be honest, scare the bejeezus out of you what with their sharp needle-like teeth and glowing red eyes and tiny, skittering claws and that glare of intelligent hatred they seem to be directing at you
  • When sleeping at night, you discover that the above-mentioned colony of rats likes to take field trips after dark where they march up and down the crawlspaces directly above and below the room you sleep in
  • When moving to another room in order to escape the sounds of the rats, you discover the field trip isn’t limited to the spaces above and below your bedroom
  • Your kiddos, no matter how far along in brain development, simply don’t understand that you’re working and they aren’t supposed to even look at the door leading to your home office, let alone barge in and start expounding on the virtues of their most recent Minecraft mod, speaking at a volume and speed that prevents you from getting a word in edgewise and leads the leader of your Zoom meeting to mute you
  • Your dogs, no matter how far along in obedience training, simply don’t understand that you’re working and they aren’t supposed to even look at the door leading to your home office, let alone start scratching at the door while barking vociferously just because a fly (or maybe… a bee!?) landed on the tip of the radio aerial on the (idle) commuter vehicle in the driveway, leading the leader of your Zoom meeting to curse the day you were born before muting you
  • No matter how fast and ‘premium’ your internet service is, it isn’t fast or premium enough. Not. Even. Close
  • You are invariably home and have to directly deal with a pipe breaking, a child getting injured, a spouse discovering something bad you did, a fever-impaired driver crashing their car into your home office (warning: that fever-impaired driver just might be you) instead of having a phone and physical distance to serve as a bit of a protective buffer from the tr/drama
  • All the stuff your spouse complains about the house (bad pipes, terrible temperature control, leaky roof, rotting floors, rampant crime in the immediate neighborhood, feverish drivers crashing into things, etc.) that you used to just shrug off and say, “I don’t think it’s as bad as all that” turns out, now that you are directly experiencing it, to oh yes, be all that bad
  • You discover that the people you live with and used to love unconditionally have become around-the-clock irritants who just need to leave you the eff alone for a few hours a day, dammit!
  • The barrier between work time / hours and home time / hours is GONE; you’ve gone from working 40 hours per week to 168 hours per week
  • And by far the worst aspect, you now have plenty of time to follow, in excruciating detail, just how disastrously the election is unfolding

Scientists keep telling me that we need to save the bees. Well, I say, “Screw the bees and the knees they came in on!” Perhaps the dog’s bollocks would be a more accurate descriptor, but this is a family blog…

Though I hear tell traffic isn’t nearly as bad these days as it was in the pre-pandemic days

 

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Fast Cars and Loose End Times – David Hasselhoff is the Anti-Christ?

I’m dealing with a particularly pernicious ear worm just now.

It all started out of idle curiosity.

In the pilot episode of Knight Rider, was the pre-facelift Michael Long played by David Hasselhoff or another actor?

I was about 90% certain it was another actor, but memory is malleable and this is an important question. I had to know for sure.

Since nuking it from orbit wasn’t an option, I hopped onto the nearest local streaming service and found the pilot.

A two parter, and everyone knows how bad 80s television was. Would I be willing to endure nearly two hours of Vogon poetry-esque viewing in order to get my answer?

Clearly, no. Thankfully, to answer my question I would only need to watch the first couple of minutes.

Ahem.

I can confirm now that Michael Long/Michael Knight was played by a different actor for the pre-plastic surgery bits, one Larry (not Harry or Gerry!) Anderson.

(And the irony of using IMDB to look up his name for this post, and not thinking to do that earlier instead of actually watching, is not lost on me.)

I wonder if that actor was hoping for the series lead role, and if he was bummed to only get this entirely forgettable bit part instead. Is he at home now, in a fluffy recliner, watching YouTube footage of David Hasselhoff singing on the Berlin Wall, thinking bitterly, “That could have been me!”?

I like to think so. I mean, his career includes such post-Knight Rider highlights as “BMW Businessman” and “Tarlack Officer” in Star Trek:Insurrection.

On second thought, a glance at IMDB suggests he’s worked a lot more than The Hoff. Maybe it’s David sitting in the fluffy recliner, staring at the TV and shouting at Larry in that one episode of Castle.

(Let me just say, I have a newfound love of IMDB.)

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, pernicious ear worm.

I’ve got the theme to Knight Rider stuck in my head. Duh da duh da duh da duh da daaa duh duuuh duh doo doo doo doo doooo doo ARGH!

That, plus after quitting about 30 minutes into the pilot, I realized that Knight Rider is the start of the end times. KITT is a precursor to, not self-driving cars, but the Cylons that will nearly wipe us out in the not so unforeseeable future.

Judge for yourselves:

Based on the 'twitching' speed here, I think KITT was given some of that high octane gas by mistake.
Ya think KITT had Intel Inside?
Future human/robot hybrid, or just the future of UV protection?
Definitely Intel Inside
By your command
Mask hiding AMD Inside?

I guess we should start replying to every Elon Musk tweet with, “As you wish.” *

* NOTE: Thanks to the thoughtful comment below, I have corrected an error in this post. I originally misquoted the Cylon catch phrase and said: I guess we should start replying to every Elon Musk tweet with, “As you command.” I apologize for the error and constructive criticism is always welcome.

 
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Posted by on 14 September 2020 in Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life

 

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Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Moonlighting Superhero! No, It’s Just An In Over His Head Improv Student!

If you were peeking surreptitiously through my window tonight and saw me groaning in pain as I reached under the kitchen sink to grab a garbage bag, you could be forgiven for wondering:

“Is he a mild-mannered writer by day who uses Krav Maga to fight crime at night? Is that why he’s so stiff and in such obvious agony now, having over-exerted himself during the off hours in his zeal for intemperate Justice?”

Honestly, right now it feels exactly like I do go out at night, but not to pummel ne’er-do-wells. Nope, sadly I think it’s more akin to them pummeling me.

But that is not the source of my discomfort.

No.

It’s something much simpler:

Improv comedy.

That darkest and deadliest of the comic arts, requiring its oh-so-foolish practitioners to work…without a net.

Dangerous stuff. Really gets the heart a-pumpin’.

Yes, instead of finishing his latest short story or the third book in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman saga, this mild-mannered author / engineer by day is moonlighting as an adrenaline-seeking improv artist during his “down” time.

And I’m not very good at it.

You see, in Comedy Which Is Improvised, as lay people call it, the audience expects to laugh. Ideally by something you or your fellow artists are saying and performing on stage.

You know, acting out wacky and hilarious scenes based on prompts from the people sitting in the dark in front of you, fidgeting in their seats, hungry for entertainment.

Ravenous, even.

And if you aren’t wacky and hilarious?

Well, the audience still needs to feed. And if they don’t get the delicious comedy they expect, there is a substitute they will accept.

Pain.

Turns out if you can’t make with the funny using words, the audience will eat up pain.

A very specific type of pain.

Self-inflicted.

Sure, you may think it’s funny to punch a castmate in the face and break their nose. Especially if they’ve been hogging the stage all night and stepping on your lines.

But not the audience. Oh no. From them it’s nothing but shocked gasps and indignant muttering and offers to testify on your castmate’s behalf at the assault trial.

But.

But!

Fall flat on your own face?

First a silence so deep descends upon the audience they can hear your teeth crack from the impact.

And then, a beat later, laughter.

Uproarious, gleeful laughter.

The more self-inflicted and gasp-inducing your injury, the more they lap it up.

And once they’ve supped on your personal misery, they discover too late they’ve developed a taste for it.

They want more.

They need more.

They. Must. Have. MORE.

More of your saucy, delectable pain.

So this past weekend I ended up flinging myself upon the hard, unyielding boards I was trodding in a desperate attempt to find a balance between killing myself (too much pain) and angering the audience (not enough).

Oh, how they laughed at my anguished wailing, how they chortled at my plaintive whimpers, how they guffawed at the gush of my hemoglobin all over the floor of the stage, hot and sticky and metallic.

Which is why today, I don’t have the strength to lift my damp, still blood-stained costume out of the washing machine.

Or a garbage bag out from the cabinet under the sink.

Today I learned it’s a good idea to have, if not a medical degree, at least an Associate’s Degree in anatomy if you want to get into the dangerous, high-stakes life of improv comedy.

Or, if you have the knack for it, be funny.

Either way, I think I’m in over my head.

 
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Posted by on 26 August 2019 in Art!, Conspiracies Out To Get Me, improv, Life

 

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You Want Me To Be Funny? Then Tell Me Where My ‘Effin Pajama Pants Are!

So I’ve been taking improv classes for the last several months. I’m in my third class now, and we’re doing a show in two weeks.

Three rounds of classes, and I still suck at it.

One of the things I’ve learned from the class is that it’s hard to be funny when you’re tired.

Another is it’s hard to be energetic when you can’t sleep.

Finally, I’ve figured out that it’s hard to sleep when you’re dealing with anxiety.

This anxiety thing is fairly new for me. I’ve touched on it here in recent posts, but touching on it hasn’t really done squat to help.

At first the anxiety was over finances. I used to think I was brilliant and lucky to be a homeowner rather than a renter, especially since my mortgage is less than half what it costs to rent small apartments here.

But then pipes started bursting. And toilets leaking. And of course, right after blowing the Xmas gift budget on the kiddos, the first installment on our crazy high property taxes came due.

Suddenly I had moments when I wished I was renting.

(They don’t last long – rents here are worse than the property tax bills.)

That was the start of the anxiety.

But then the dog got sick and triggered an expensive vet bill.

The car needed some repairs. Expensive repairs.

After the repairs, the car still needs repairs. Because apparently the first round of repairs weren’t expensive enough.

Oh, and the dryer sounds like someone has taken a power grinder to a bald eagle. Which is not only seriously unpatriotic, but means I need to buy a new one of those too.

(New dryer, that is, not a new bald eagle. One bald eagle is expensive enough to keep as a pet.)

The water and sewer lines to quite a few of the houses on my street, which were all built at the same time as my house, have over the last few months started failing in spectacular ways that require digging up lawns and jack-hammering sidewalks. And, no doubt, shelling out lots of dough.

To add to my potential cash flow problems, I’m now haunted by the fear that the changes to the tax code mean I will end up owing money I don’t have this April instead of getting a much-needed cash infusion in the form of a refund that will allow me to (partially) cover the second property tax installment that, of course, is also due in April.

But that’s just the worst stuff that’s keeping me up at night. The thing with anxiety is, you also start being kept up by stupid things.

Is that weird intermittent smell that I may or may not be imagining a gas leak?

Does the dog’s constant farting mean the latest batch of dog food is tainted and we somehow missed the recall notice?

Is my boss going to suddenly realize I have no idea what I’m doing and fire me, which would, of course, make it impossible to pay my income taxes, property taxes, and oh-so-many bills (insurance, car repairs, vet, plumber, etc., etc., etc. to name but a few!)

Once I lose the house after being unable to pay my mortgage, where will I live? It can’t be my car – the mechanic is still working on it. Will I lose custody of the kids? Will I get saddled with an impossible alimony payment when my wife decides I’m a loser who can’t provide for his family?

Yes, that’s right. Now I’m anxious my wife going to leave me. Is it a realistic fear? I don’t think so, but realism has nothing to do with anxiety.

In a similarly unrealistic vein, is that bump on my hand cancer? Are the tiles in my shower on the verge of popping off the wall, forcing me into a remodel I can’t afford? Will the screeching sound that dryer/bald eagle torture device is making cause a fire? Is the toilet seal I spent half my weekend installing actually leaking even though I don’t see any water on the floor and eventually going to soften the ground under the house so much the foundation settles and cracks, inevitably leading to a partial collapse of the house?

Speaking of collapses, what about those trees in the front and back yards? We’ve had some windy weather lately – is one or more on the verge of toppling over into the house?

And where the hell did my ‘effin pajama pants go? I can’t find them. Anywhere. I need them to sleep!

I mean, what am I going to do? Sleep in the nude? What would the Missus, who is, in all honesty, almost certainly contemplating divorce at this point, think about that? Would it push her over the edge and into the sweet, tender arms of a divorce lawyer?

And when that tree does fall into the house in the middle of the night and I run out front to see what happened, forgetting I’m naked, will the neighbors point and laugh? And post a video of the whole thing on YouTube?

But then again, the pattern on those pajama pants is pretty bright and wild. If I do find them and put them on, would they be so distracting they keep the Missus up at night, predisposing her more towards dumping me just so she can get some damn sleep???

Because right now I’d consider divorcing her if it meant I could fall asleep at a reasonable hour and stay asleep through the night.

Damn those pajama pants!

Any now you know why I’m struggling with the improv class. And life in general. I’m tired, I’m vacillating between the edge of and deep in the throes of panic, and just not focused or relaxed enough to be funny and entertaining.

The icing on that anxiety cake? I have a show in two freakin’ weeks!

Not that I’m stressing out about that or anything.

 

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I’m not getting older, dammit! The world is just getting darker!

So I have a problem. One that requires more than a little blue pill to resolve.

Oh, if only a pill could solve this problem!

Or, for that matter, even a suppository.

I am deeply saddened to report that when it gets dark, and I mean very, very dark, I can’t see.

This is particularly disturbing because I do my best work at night. When it’s, you know, dark.

Yes, when my body most desperately needs to rest and rejuvenate itself, my brain is all, “Hold my beer.”

But in a good, non-alcoholic, non-electoral sort of way.

As you might be starting to suspect, I wrote this entry during the day. But I had no choice, given I can’t see at night.

You see, since everyone else in my household have brains that listen to their bodies, they’re all asleep at night.

Or should be. Get back to bed right now, Kiddo!

Sorry about that. Because of this (nearly) mass slumber, I can’t just flip on all the lights, crank up the volume on my .mod files, and take care of business.

Oh no. Everyone else in my household gets cranky when I turn the productivity up to 11 past, well, eleven. Suddenly the Missus and the one kiddo who actually does sleep at night are making snide remarks about needing rest and don’t I have work in the morning and look you’re making the dogs bark and oh my gawd what is that racket you are listening to it should be illegal to distribute it!

(My hearing is fine. Spider by They Might Be Giants is meant to be listened to loud.)

In order to appease the Missus, I turn everything off, go to bed, and when dawn’s surly light finally returns, make yet another medical appointment.

My doctor always sort of wilts and sighs when he walks into the exam room and sees me, like a blow-up punching bag suddenly deflating after one punch too many, then mutters “Oh no, not again.”

While most people would see this reaction and think, “Uh oh, I must be really sick!” I’m not worried. I’ve been here before. Seen the doc about this many times. And after the poorly hidden but inevitable eye roll, he always tells me the same thing:

“Still not getting more exercise? I really think you should focus more on that. Not being able to see in the dark? That’s nothing to worry about. You’re just getting old. Try turning on the lights.”

I am not getting old!

And turn on the lights?? Did he not read the above paragraph about other people in the house wanting it dark so they can sleep?

Since modern medical science has cast me aside despite my numerous co-pays, I was forced to do my own research.

My own experiments.

And I figured it out.

(So start writing up those Nobel Prize nominations, in case they won’t accept my self-nomination.)

I’m not getting older. Nope.

The world…is getting darker.

Hear me out. Once you see the evidence you will drop your jaws in amazement.

(Or disbelief. But if you stay silent, I can still imagine it’s amazement. So hush.)

Here’s a modern-day keyboard. Notice anything about it, aside from the dirt?

Peek-a-boo, I can't see you, goddammit!

Who uses this? Members of the band Disaster Area?

That’s right. It’s super dark.

Here’s what it looks like at night with all the lights in the house in the mandated OFF position:

I see London, I see France, I do not see this freakin' keyboard

The real reason schools started mandating touch typing classes…

Now you can see my problem (or more specifically, can’t).

And don’t tell me to get a back-lit keyboard! I’ve tried that! They require you to press a key combo to turn on the back-lighting.

Can you see any of the keys in the dark on the above keyboard? Can you? Then how the hell am I supposed to see them, hmm?

Think about it. Their design solution when you can’t see the keyboard is to require you to hit specific keys on the keyboard so you can see the keys. On the keyboard! It’s Kafkaesque!

They’ll be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes, let me tell you!

But, I perceive you mumbling as you nervously edge away, what do keyboards have to do with my supposition that the world is getting darker?

Well, aside from black reflecting back less light into the environment (ergo, making the surrounding environment darker), we once had, long ago, better keyboards.

And by better I don’t mean clickier (though that was better too). I mean beige:

Seriously, does it get any better than an IBM mechanical keyboard?

If my sunglasses were handy, I’d put them on before using this keyboard

See what this pinnacle of keyboard engineering looks like in normal lighting? Compare that to yet another modern keyboard (this time grey):

The Great Computer Compromise of 1995 between IBM and Apple solved nothing and only punted down the road the final, disastrous decision to switch to black for computers and accessories that future generations would lament for all time.

“We think beige is too bright. Waa waa. If black is too dark, how about we meet in the middle and try gray?” No. Just no.

But check it out what happened when I photographed my, if the Keyboard Industrial Complex PR hacks are to be believed, “old, tired, and passé” vintage keyboard in the dark.

WTFtl;dr! It actually got brighter:

OK, even I agree that white is too bright. Turn it up to beige AND THEN STOP!

CAPS LOCK on because DAMN IT, YES, I’M EXCITED ABOUT THIS KEYBOARD! AND NO COLLUSION! TOTALLY NO COLLUSION! COVFEFE!

Beige is a color I can type on in the dark. Because with beige, the cold encroachment of darkness is stopped in its sneaky, disabling tracks. I can look down and see the damn keys I need to press and then press them.

Presto! No back-light, front-light, or side-light required.

And it’s not just the keyboard. Tell me, how am I going to find that black CD eject button, cleverly placed, of course, right next to the black power button, on this particular, recently manufactured computer?

Stephen King's got nothin' on this scary beast

Hell, in this photo I have a spotlight on the chassis and I’m using a flash, and you still can’t see anything (except the dust bunny residue)!

But take away the above modern, fancy-pants, 1080p, USB 3.0, multi-core and multi-threaded (guess the color of the thread – hint: it’s BLACK) super computer and replace it with a late-80s, early-90s computer, and what do you get?

You get this, a right proper computing machine:

This. This I can effin' see.

The IBM “Just Try And Make The Room This Is In Dark” PS/2 P70. They don’t build ’em like this any more. Can’t afford to. Too much lead needed for the chassis.

That’s right. I closed the curtains, turned off the lights, and then tented the entire house (due to termites) before taking this picture, and it still looks like I’m standing outside on a bright summer day.

That’s how much frickin’ light beige computers give off!

Now it might be the termiticide talking, but I think I’d be able to use my computer at night just fine…if it were made out of beige. But sadly, as amazing as the above computer is, it does lack one feature deemed unnecessary in the 1980s and 1990s:

WiFi.


Do you have tales of horror trying to use an albedo-challenged computer in the wee hours? Share them in the comments so we can commiserate together and maybe put together a kickstarter to make a modern beige computer!

(Please comment. The Missus thinks I’m nuts and I need you to help me prove her wrong.)
 

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I’m dying, and it’s all NPR’s fault

The Missus and I recently celebrated another marriage anniversary, having destroyed the divorce pool our friends had going by quite a few years (if I can hold out for a couple more years I’ll win the jackpot, and I am totally going to win that jackpot).

As a reward for endur surviv enjoying so many years of agon horror blissful wedded matrimony, we decided to get ourselves FitBits.

(OK, the Missus is convinced I’m going to drop dead if I don’t get more exercise, and this was supposed to help put off that outcome. Which is strange considering the strychnine I’m pretty sure she’s been lacing my morning tea with (she has her own jackpot date in the pool, and I suspect it’s considerably earlier than mine…)).

The FitBits are great, once you get past all the data they are sucking up and phoning home to the manufacturer. So yeah, if you enjoy tinfoil hats as much as I do, then maybe “great” is a bit strong of a word to describe it.

But there are upsides. And one of those is the feature that is saving my life: the step tracking and daily goals associated with that walking. If I hit 10k steps a day, according to the FibtBit manual, I will live forever.

Immortality (and on top of that, looking pretty good too) is a pretty effective incentive, assuming most of that time is spent being single and looking fit (because you can be single and lonely or single and not lonely, and let’s face it, this culture is all about how good you look), so I’ve been pretty diligent in getting those steps in because when I hit that divorce pool jackpot I am gonna be rich AND look good!

Which is why I’m so upset that NPR has taken it upon itself to kill me.

That’s right, National Public Radio, you are really making me consider the possibility that Trump is right to want to cut off all your funding and redirect it to the Brown Shirts of America organization (welovehate.org, a 501c non-profit charity where, for tax purposes, you can write off your bigotry!).

Wait, I can hear you shouting, with more than a little surprise in your tone, NPR is good, how can you say it wants to kill you?

Two words, my loyal reader:

Pledge breaks.

What, that isn’t sufficient explanation? Seriously, it’s not obvious from just those two words?

Fine. I’ll spend more time sitting at a keyboard typing instead of getting in my steps, which means I’m adding you, loyal reader, to the list of things trying to kill me.

NPR is killing me with its pledge breaks.

Here’s how it works. I drive to and from work in a car. With a radio. And since I get incredibly anxious when there isn’t noise around me, I listen to the radio. And because I need to feel somewhat anxious in order to be motivated to move around and do things (also sometimes referred to as “functioning”), I counteract the soothing effects of radio noise by tuning into the news. That is, NPR.

It works great. The lizard portion of my brain is lulled by the cacophony spit out by the radio, but the sleep center is constantly stabbed awake by the onslaught of stories about all the terrible things happening in the world. And NPR strikes just the right balance of bad news and unbiased, level-headed commentary to keep me functional but not in a state. Unlike some other radio news sources.

(I’m looking at you, KCBS!)

But right now NPR is in the middle of a pledge drive, which means they’re going on and on about how important we the listeners are, how easy and affordable it is to pledge, how vile and guilt-ridden we should feel if we haven’t pledged yet, and matching funds and the like.

Which means I’m not listening to NPR.

I know, I know, they’ve got this thing called Pledge Free Streaming, which allows me to listen without the pledge breaks during the pledge drive, but I only listen in the car on my way to and from work, and I don’t have an unlimited data plan on my phone, and my state has a hands-free law, so risk of impending death aside, that just isn’t a workable option for me.

So because of pledge breaks you’ve stopped listening to NPR and now you’re suffering from a spike in anxiety that you’re afraid will kill you, you ask?

No. That is not how NPR is killing me. That’s far too obvious a play for an evil, left-wing liberal media outlet to use when trying to silence its own constituency.

No, their plan is far more insidious.

I have an AED strapped to my other wrist.

According to my FibBit and reports on NPR, my heart has stopped beating. Also, before pledge drive season, my arms were as smooth and hairless as a baby’s butt. Anxious Hair Growth syndrome strikes again, dammit. Also also, those 1980 steps? I haven’t gotten out of bed yet. Thanks, Obama, I mean, NPR.

You see, when I tune out NPR, I don’t turn off the radio.

I switch stations.

And because all the other news stations make me too anxious, and because the lack of NPR dials up my existing anxiety to 11, I turn to soothing, relaxing music.

Classical music.

The kind of music you swing your arm to, as if holding a baton and conducting the orchestra.

The arm your FitBit is on.

The FitBit that reads this ‘conducting’ as steps taken, therefore falsely incrementing your step counter so you think, at the end of the day, that you have attained those 10k steps when, in fact, YOU HAVEN’T!

That, that is how NPR is killing me. With pledge breaks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get in some more steps. I think.

Would you like to support NPR and end its pledge drive early so Ian can drive to and from work at a relatively familiar level of anxiety? If so, click here to donate. Ian would appreciate it and NPR probably wouldn’t mind either. Just put “Give Ian some peace!!!” in the comment section so they know I sent you.

Better yet, don’t leave a comment. That might be seen as violating the restraining order they had issued against me after all the letters I sent and calls I made asking them to stop the pledge breaks…

I’m also thinking of a Walk-A-Thon sort of event where people can sponsor me. You know, hit x number of steps and you’ll buy a copy of my book. Or, conversely, if I don’t hit x number of steps you will return my book for a refund. If there’s enough interest, I’ll put together a cool sign-up sheet (that is, xerox the kiddos’ most recent walk-a-thon form from school with the school name crossed out) and let you, my loyal reader, make a pledge.

Call now, operators are standing by!

 
 

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Natural selection: Survival of the rudest

Humans may be the most evil animals on Earth, but raccoons surely are a close second.

Certainly they are the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Right bastards, they are, raccoons.

Whoa, Ian, what’s with the raccoon hate? What, you ask, have these cute, cuddly-looking little bandits ever done to you?

Plenty. They’ve had it in for me from day one, and you’re a naive fool to see them as anything but the thieving, conniving bastards that they are. To wit:

  • As a small child, a raccoon mauled our beloved family pet, a soft, cuddly, and thoroughly un-maul-worthy bunny rabbit.
  • Frequently while camping, raccoons have raided my campsite, stealing the heavy food I packed in. And, surprisingly, all the beer. Though I haven’t ruled out my campmates on that.
  • On one camping trip, the raccoons broke into my car and stole all the Blake Shelton CDs that somehow found themselves, against all odds, in my car. They left all the classical music CDs untouched.
  • A few months ago, a domestic dispute between two raccoons unfolded on my roof. Loudly. At two in the morning.
  • Regularly while driving at twilight, I see raccoons skulking about the street corner storm drains, a shifty glint in their eyes. Clearly up to no good.

As I said, the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Which brings to me last weekend, when they went from inconsiderate to just f*cking with me.

About six months ago, my beloved kiddos, playing in the backyard, decided that throwing toys on the roof and then asking big, gullible ol’ Daddy to get them was the bestest, funnest game in the world.

Teenage Mutant Smug Turtle, more like

This crime fighter doesn’t inspire confidence.

It took me about three rounds of this sport to catch on, at which point I flatly refused to go back up and fetch their latest volley, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll, a plush stuffed animal that shouted TMNT catchphrases when flung against hard surfaces.

Such as the ground and roofs with slate shingles.

So up it stayed on the roof, through sun and rain and wind. My refusal to recover it instantly converted this into their favorite toy. The kiddos still cry themselves to sleep at night, mourning the loss of that toy and cursing not just my name, but the date of my birth.

Which I find ironic, given if their curses against my birth had any weight or power, there would be no them to curse me.

Time travel has its paradoxes, and so too, it turns out, does black magic.

I’ve attempted to explain to them the dangerous lack of logic in such a curse, in case it turns out they do have magical powers, but apparently six-year olds aren’t that good at understanding where babies come from or how their Daddy’s genetics contributed greatly to who they are.

And as they are still six, I have no enthusiasm for the birds and the bees conversation yet because I know, when I make the Missus give it to them, I will bear the brunt of her irritation at making her do it.

So the kiddos, not understanding, just wail anew and spit at me.

Numbskulls.

(I will say, the spitting is an improvement over their pre-potty training days, when they found less pleasant things close at hand to fling at me when expressing their disdain.)

But speaking of bastards, back to the raccoons.

Last Sunday, I retired to bed early. I’d recently been tasked to hire an engineer at work, and the lovely recruiter scheduled an 8am phone screen with the latest candidate.

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. If the sun wasn’t essential for all life on Earth, I would have it snuffed out just to sleep in an extra five minutes. This is how I feel about getting up early, let alone being well-rested when I rise.

So I not only had to be at work at the normal start time, but I had to be sharp and pleasant and ready to talk to potential talent.

Where_in_the_world_is_Agent_Carter

Greatest (British) American hero

Hence the retiring early, despite the Missus’ entreaties to finish watching Agent Carter with her on the DVR. I’d sat through the first hour, quite enjoying the episode, but it was one of those ‘two hour events’ networks often put on to generate excitement about a program, and I simply could not stay up another hour.

I left my poor Missus, wailing and gnashing her teeth at my absence from her side as she watched the second hour without me, and went to bed.

Except shortly after closing my eyes, I heard something in the crawlspace above my bed.

Well, possibly in the crawlspace. Or possibly on the roof.

It’s surprisingly hard to tell, when lying half-asleep in the dark, whether the thump thumps you hear above you are on the roof, in the crawlspace, or maybe the result of some Lovecraftian beast walking upside down on the ceiling directly above you.

I am not a morning person because the night terrors that arise from my twisted, dark imagination keep me up at night.

I am a morning person out of necessity.

I struggled awake. I threw on the lights. I reached for the cricket bat next to my bed.

Nothing on the ceiling, thank the Old Ones.

Still some thump thumps, though.

I went outside, still clutching that cricket bat, and checked the roof as best I could in my PJs, bare feet, and with no ladder.

Nothing, which told me a truly shifty bastard was at work.

Naturally, my thoughts went immediately to raccoons.

I went back to bed, light left on, and tried to doze off. All was silent and right with the world.

At first.

But then the thump thump again. Only this time, something new:

The Thing On The Roof (henceforth known as TTOTR): Thump Thump “Cowabunga!” Thump thump
Me: WFT?
TTOTR: Thump thump “Totally awesome, dudes!” Thump thump
Me: OMFG! The neighborhood teenage hooligans are playing on my roof, and they brought a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll with them! I mean action figure, I added, knowing they’d correct me as such had they heard my thoughts. Such are the teenage hooligans in my neighborhood – smug.
TTOTR: Thump thump “Cowabunga” thump thump I taunt you with my spooky ambiguity thump thump

I abandoned raccoons for teenage hooligans because come on, what raccoon plays with toys on a stranger’s roof in the middle of the night? It defies all logic.

I rose again from bed, blearly-eyed and more than a little put out. This time I went to the backyard, where a ladder leans against one wall of the house, left over from that game, many months ago, of Daddy Fetch From the Roof.

I climbed the ladder, and because I was tired and I couldn’t find a proper flashlight, used my cell phone for illumination.

Let me just say, when attempting to see something in the dark from far enough away that you have time to successfully climb down a ladder and flee in case said thing decides to charge you, a cell phone light is not sufficient.

This thought is the very one that went through my head as I alighted that ladder. It was not a comforting thought.

Made all the moreso by the fact that I couldn’t climb the ladder, hold my cell phone, and hold a cricket bat at the same time.

I felt naked.

Yes, my PJs are slight and flimsy (and mostly see-through), but I’ve never felt naked in them before.

Of course, I had forgotten all about the kiddos’ little game and the toy left up there as I ascended that ladder. I just knew that something very wrong was happening on my roof, and while I really, really had no desire to see what exactly that wrong was, the only way to get some sleep was to investigate.

I don’t do my best thinking when I’m tired.

Fortunately, in moving the ladder into position, I’d made a lot of grunting, groaning, and “Ow!”ing sounds. This, apparently, alerted the bastard raccoon on the roof that I was coming.

I was back to raccoons at this point because once my head cleared the eave and saw no living creature there, I knew only a raccoon could have slipped off so stealthily.

Almost like a ninja.

Teenage hooligans tend to make a lot more noise disembarking my roof in a hurry.

I speak from experience on that count…

The only thing to greet me, as I tottered on the top rung of my ladder, surveying my roof, was the now silent and dismembered TMNT doll.

This battle goes to you, raccoon, but the war goes on.

As is natural in these situations, I paused for a moment in order to tweet about it. I then scraped the remains off the roof, carried them into the kiddos’ room, and with a scream fit to reanimate a thoroughly dead-due-to-mauling toy, woke them so they might see the logical conclusion of fun had at Daddy’s expense.

I explained, as my father once explained to me while I lay sick in bed one morning, that a raccoon had mauled their precious, beloved companion.

There was much crying and wailing after this. Mostly from the Missus, who was not happy that I had awakened the kiddos in the middle of the night and distressed them so.

But they were out of school for the whole week and didn’t need to get up early like I did.

Why should I be the only one to suffer?

I am living proof that humans are the most evil animals on the planet. At least when they’re really, really tired.

No doubt the kiddos will carry on that tradition when, years from now and despite my protests to the contrary, they decide it’s time to unplug Daddy from life support.

Holy Disemboweled Ninja Turtles, Batman, the shingles on this roof look, well, OK, actually!

In case you thought I made this whole horrifying story up…


Yes, I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. It hasn’t just been raccoons depriving me of sleep and leaving me too stressed out and exhausted to post.
I had pretty much given up on life, and by extension, this blog, but then the raccoons came, and their outrageous disregard for common decency fired me up again. Gave me the will to live. Endowed within me a newfound zest for life (or at least revenge…).

 

 

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