Monday, June 17, 2019

Yankees At White Sox 6/16/2019

A sellout crowd isn't something you often see at White Sox park these days, but we had one yesterday for the fourth game in the series against the Yankees. On the plus side, the Yankees always bring in a big crowd. On the minus side, the Yankees also bring along Yankees fans.

The weather wasn't great, but we had good seats with a bird's-eye view of home plate. Plus, it was polo shirt night in honor of Father's Day.

Even though the White Sox fell to the Yankees 10-3, there were still a few great Sox moments to savor, especially Jose Abreu's solo homer in the bottom of the first, Cameron Maybin getting nailed trying to steal second base and James McCann knocking a beautiful homer out to left center.

White Sox pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne, who gave up 9 hits during his tenure during the game was credited with the loss. And, after yet another terrible performance, I have to wonder why they keep giving him the ball.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Fonz Wants To Help Me Lower My Debt

A rep named Alfonzo called Clovis to help him lower his debt. Clovis was thrilled at the name, as it reminded him of "The Fonz" from Happy Days. Clovis immediately lept into the second iteration of the Happy Days theme song.

When The Fonz asked Clovis what his interest rate is, Clovis responded that he was 100% interested in what The Fonz has to say. Clovis then asked what Mork from Ork was really like. Remembering the original Happy Days theme song, Clovis lamented the fact that he can no longer rock around the clock. When asked what his home was worth, Clovis started talking about old Chuck Cunningham who disappeared after the first season. Clovis advanced the theory that Howard killed him since Howard owned a hardware store and had Al help him.


Monday, June 10, 2019

McDonald's International Favorites Menu Pays Off

McDonald's ran a very quiet promotion last week. Last Thursday, between the hours of 2 and 5, any customer who brought in a piece of foreign currency would get a free item off of their new "Worldwide Favorites" menu. The menu includes the Stroopwafel McFlurry from The Netherlands, the Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger from Spain, the Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich from Canada and Cheesy Bacon Fries from Australia. Personally, I was excited to try the Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich, so, at about 4:55pm, I popped into my local McDonald's and exchanged a Canadian nickel for one. As I turned to leave, I asked the manager what he planned to do with all of the foreign currency the collected for the promotion. The manager had no idea, as corporate had only alerted them to the promotion that morning. I asked if I could have the coins, as I am a fairly avid coin collector. The manager gladly handed them over.

Among the haul of Mexican pesos and Canadian coins were three interesting finds: A Ben Franklin half dollar, a One Shilling coin from the UK and an Australian Florin. First and foremost, the coins are interesting because they are made of silver which makes them worth much more than their face value. Conservatively, each coin is worth at least $10 which is more than the cost of any item on the McDonald's Worldwide Favorites menu. The One Shilling coin is in good enough shape and is potentially worth enough money that I am considering getting it professionally graded. With an issue date of 1865, it also qualifies as the oldest coin I have ever found in the wild, replacing an 1890 Indian Head penny that I found about a year ago.

As for the Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich itself, it tasted pretty damn good, though my elation was almost certainly influenced by the awesome coin find that accompanied the sandwich. In short: I'm Lovin' It!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

ComEd Energy Scammer Needs To Come Home

A guy calling himself Edward from Switch Energy called looking to get ComEd customers to change their energy provider. I told Edward to talk to my dad, Victor. Victor took the phone and immediately apologized for soiling himself, asking if Edward would send someone to clean him up. Edward asked where Victor's son was.

"You're my son?", Victor responded. He then told Edward that he needs to come home or he'll get his ass kicked.

"Oh, my God!", Edward exclaimed before trying to end the call.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Colon Plow Hot Sauce

I was out shopping for cooking supplies this weekend in order to find spices to help me make an attempt to perfect my fried chicken recipe. While taking pictures of unusual food to taunt my daughter with, such as Smoked Pickled Eggs and Hamburger-In-A-Can, I stumbled upon an unfortunately named hot sauce named Colon Plow.

Colon Plow is made by Goss Hot Sauce out of Central Illinois and can be purchased either online or at Rural King and other stores throughout the state. Goss Hot Sauce is the creation of Randy Goss who makes hot sauces and an award winning BBQ sauce.

The image that the name Colon Plow evokes isn't the kind that lends itself to thinking of delicious, spicy food, yet I thought that the title still merited a purchase. It's an unusual hot sauce in that it's chunky and seems more like a salsa than a hot sauce. So, I decided to try it with my regionally-famous chicken nachos. I had expected Colon Plow to have an overpowering heat that was hot just for hot's sake. Instead, I found a sweet and tangy sauce with a nice kick to it. The kick is enough that, if you aren't a huge fan of spicy food, you're not going to like this stuff at all. It's probably overpowering for those who prefer mild sauces, but Colon Plow is tasty enough that I hope that Goss Hot Sauce comes out with a mild version. Maybe they can call it "Skid Marks".

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Debt Consolidator Calls Hank Hill

A rep from a debt consolidation scam called looking for Hank Hill. Of course, I obliged and did my best Hank Hill voice (with drifted in Creole towards the end). At first Hank accused her of being a communist for wanting to record the conversation. Then, Hank said that the only help he needed was in selling his propane and propane accessories. Hank asked the rep what kind of fuel she uses for her grill. When she said she uses electric, Hank again accused her of being a communist.

Monday, May 27, 2019

I Got A Pension Buyout Offer

For my first "real" job, I worked as a programmer/analyst for a large insurance company. They had hired me as an intern during my last year in college and then hired me outright once I had graduated. For just under three years, I worked creating C++ programs and eventually moved towards being their intranet webmaster. The bottom finally fell out after our Y2K conversion work and the company merged with two other similar companies in order to stay afloat. I declined the opportunity to work with the new company, as it would have involved me moving to Rhode Island. As an incentive to stick around for six months to help migrate my programs to the new company, I was offered a generous severance package.

About five years ago, I got a notice from the new company telling me about the health of the company pension system. I found this odd as I had moved at least three times since working for them and they had obviously went through some effort to track down my latest address. I called the company's benefits department to tell them that I didn't need such notifications, as I hadn't worked for them nearly long enough to qualify for a pension. Turns out that, as part of my severance package, I was vested into the new company's pension system. I guess I should have read the fine print. I was told that the monthly payout when I retired would be very small.

Now, several years later, I found myself with a pension buyout offer. The company was offering to pay me a lump sum of money in order to rid themselves of their pension obligation to me. Companies offer pension buyouts for a number of reasons from funding issues to long-term cost savings. I suspect that my own company just wanted to get rid of all pensions and move everyone over to a more modern 401(k) model.

For anyone getting a buyout offer, there's a temptation to take the lump sum payment and put it directly into a trip or a big home improvement project. Problem is, if you take the payout directly, you have to pay taxes on it. Right off the bat, you lose 20% directly to the government. Then, of course, the remaining payout will raise your overall income for the year, possibly putting you into a higher income bracket.

Me, personally, I opted to have the buyout paid to the order of my deferred compensation plan which is separate from my main retirement plan. The thing is, I couldn't just give the account info to my old company and have them wire the money. My old company is going to cut me a check made out to my deferred compensation plan which I will then have to forward to my plan administrator. Pain in the butt, for sure, but that's to make sure that you aren't taking a payment directly.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Expectation vs Reality: Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet

At our last Faculty social of the semester, I was the stunned winner of the door prize, which is usually something goofy. This time, it was the Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet. "Thank you for being a friend!", I exclaimed as I accepted the prize. The organizers of the social asked if I would document my growing experience. I was trepidatious at the prospect, as I am known to have a a real brown thumb when it comes to growing things.


So, it was to absolutely nobody's surprise that my first attempt to grow a chia-pet resulted in something that fell far below advertised expectations. You can see the results in the comparison below:


Expectation

Reality


Ultimately, the issue seems to be that the Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet grew mold, which, I am told, is somewhat common with chia pets. Part of the issue may be that I didn't rotate poor Dorothy in the window. Her face was always looking inward, so I suppose her crown and forehead didn't get enough sunlight. Or maybe I'm completely wrong. I have no idea. Like I said, brown thumb.

Those White Fluffs Aren't Little Chia Sprouts

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Credit Card Scammer Gets A Wrong Number

Another credit card scammer called me. When he asked me for my name, I told him that my last name was "Rotchhurtz" and that my first name was "Mike". I then asked him to say my first and last name together. So when he said "Mike Rotchhurtz", I asked him what he did to it to make it hurt.

The rep then asked me if I wanted a zero percent interest rate. He asked me if I had a card with a large balance on it. I told him that my Mastercard is perfectly balanced, as all things should be and wondered if he could snap his fingers and decimate my interest rate. When the rep asked for my card number, I feigned stupidity for a bit and then gave him a fake number. He figured it out pretty quick yet still tried to get my SSN and zip code. He then went offline for a bit and told me that I had provided him with wrong info.

I started to give him some new number and told him it was "5178 GO F--- YOURSELF". He promptly hung up on me.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Merkury Innovations BR30 Smart Light Bulb

My father is enjoying his smart home deployment so far. So much so, that he asked if I would install some smart bulbs into the recessed light fixtures in his room. I have a number of recessed light fixtures in my own living room, and, for them, I went with Merkury Innovations Color Smart A21 Light Bulbs simply because I had already had them on hand. For my father's recessed lighting, I wanted something that would be a better physical fit, so I went for the Merkury Innovations BR30 Smart Light Bulb which cost only $14.88 at Wal-Mart.

Like all other Merkury Innovations smart bulbs, the BR30 is controlled through the Genni App which is easily managed via Amazon Alexa and/or Google Home. The bulb's teardrop shape fits perfectly into the recessed lighting and operates as expected. Dad wasn't too keen on having a color changing bulb, so the BR30 fits his needs just fine. There isn't a Merkury Innovations branded version of the BR30 that supports color, but there is a Geeni branded version.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Energy Scammer Gets Busted

Yet another one of those "Lower your energy bill" scammers called me. When he said the word "Kilowatt", I asked him why he killed that watt. He responded that he didn't like him. I quipped back with "WATT did he ever do to you?".

I changed the subject and asked the rep's name. He said it was Jason Green. I laughed and said "Not with that accent". He kept insisting, so I asked him where he was located. He said Chicago. When I asked him what the temperature was, he said 24 degrees. That day in Chicago, it was 64 degree. He knew he was busted and started laughing. When I asked him who the White Sox were playing, he clearly had not even heard of the White Sox.

I then asked him to tell me why he was working for a company that scams people out of money. I could tell that he was offended. He indicated that this was the point where he would end the call. I managed to keep him on a bit longer. I told him that, if he wasn't scamming people, then why would he lie about where he was located?

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Graduate

About four months ago, I began shopping around an idea I had for a theater production that would be guaranteed to put a lot butts in the seats of whatever venue deigned to support me. Most theaters plan their seasons out about a year in advance, so I didn't expect immediate progress. However, the rinky dink little theater that I had walked out on in a huff over three years ago had heard about the project and enthusiastically called me in with an offer: They'd take up production of my proposed show if I would agree to help them get their current show, which had been mired in production hell for months, off the ground. How hard could it be? It was essentially project management. I didn't even need to act in the play. I'd just need to round the cast up, organize rehearsals, motivate the director and get enough people to buy tickets so that the theater could turn enough of a profit to finance my show. Easy, right? Wrong.

When I started calling the cast back to start rehearsals, I discovered that most of them had moved on to other projects and couldn't or wouldn't re-commit to the show. While I had most of the smaller roles covered, the actors who played Benjamin, Elaine, Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Braddock had bailed. So, I started making calls. The director had suggested dropping the Mrs. Braddock role from the show, but the character adds such a unique comedic element that I felt it should be kept if possible. I rang a supporting actress whom I worked with before and sweet talked her into accepting the role. Elaine was a bit easier to cast, as I just rang the first actress I thought of and she readily accepted. Casting Benjamin was a bit tougher, but I solicited some suggestions from other actors and found someone who perfectly embodied the awkward shyness I was looking for. This just left Mrs. Robinson and I kept coming up empty.

The role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, while not the lead per se, is the most iconic role in the show. The line "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me" is arguably more famous than "No, Luke. I am your father!". Simon and Garfunkel even wrote a song about her.  I knew that I needed somebody who oozed sexuality on the surface that hid a degree of damage just below it. I was able to get some actresses to audition but couldn't find someone who had the right mix. I was about to go with a conventionally attractive actress until I found myself sitting down with one of my closest female friends describing the situation. She took a drag from her cigarette, shook her head as she exhaled the smoke and then popped off a sarcastic remark. And that's when it hit me. She'd be perfect. Sure, she had never acted before, and her life situation was crazy, but we could work through that. At first, she didn't want to do it. I told her that acting helps provide focus to one's life and that the role of Mrs. Robinson would be a catharsis for her. She'd also be a role model to those who were in her same situation who sought to find some way to rise above it. Then I told her that I was desperate and that she owed me. We had our Mrs. Robinson.

After a week of read-throughs, the actor playing Mr. Robinson dropped out. Rather than hit the pavement looking for another actor, I decided to step in. It would allow me to shore up any acting issues with Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson more directly. And then there was my own catharsis with the role. A week later, the actor playing Mr. Braddock dropped out. I hesitated to push the director into playing the role, as he was already burned out on the entire thing. However, we couldn't afford to delay any longer, so I convinced him to take yet another hit for the team.

Rehearsals weren't without issues. The director wasn't doing much actual directing. He offered very little in the way of motivation and Benjamin was coming off as way too nervous. And both Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin were having issues remembering their lines. In the scene where Mr. Robinson confronts Benjamin, I had to go from playing a lawyer-like interrogation and turn it into a loud barrage of accusations in order to pull Benjamin through the scene. I couldn't offer much help to Mrs. Robinson since we were not in many scenes together. The best I could do was try to help her memorize her lines as much as possible during our downtime. It was during one of these off-hours pizza and soda punctuated line-running sessions that I advised her: "Ignore what you've seen in the movie. Don't play Anne Bancroft playing Mrs. Robsinson. Play yourself playing Mrs. Robinson. Act how you would act as that character in that situation". Me giving acting advice to someone? High school me would want to have a very serious talk with adult me and possibly arrange an ass kicking.

Just before we all took the stage for the first time in front of a paying audience, Mrs. Robinson was stricken with the worst case of stage fear that I had ever seen. But, group hugs and words of encouragement got her through it. There's something very satisfying in watching someone who hasn't acted before come out and totally own a role. It's even more satisfying when it's one of your closest friends. And, as for me, I'm just glad that I was able to wield an actual axe during the climax and not cause an accident with it. The wedding scene in The Graduate is crowded and clunky and with Benjamin dropping lines all over the place, I decided that acting overly-aggressive and chewing the scenery would be a good distraction. It played really well and got a great audience reaction.

In the end, we pulled off a great show and even had a few sold-out nights. And that's how I saved the production and am the greatest. Now I can do my vanity project....as if my ego wasn't already big enough.

Monday, April 8, 2019

TP-LINK HS210 Kasa Smart 3-Way Kit WiFi Light Switch

I've reached the point in my Smart Home deployment where I've run out of regular switches to replace and am now replacing my three-way switches. A three-way switch is a setup where two switches control the same light. You typically find them in living rooms, hallways and staircases. I decided to replace my main hallway switches with the TP-LINK HS210 Kasa Smart 3-Way Kit WiFi Light Switch.

The 3-Way Kit comes with two switches, one for each end of the circuit. There are a number of reviews out there that say you only need one switch out of the kit in order for the circuit to work properly. I wouldn't know if that's truly the case, as I opted to install both switches, mainly because I wanted the switches in my hallway to match. But, to be honest, I'm not really convinced that you only have to use one of the 3-way switches and still get full functions from it. 

These switches were so easy to install, mainly because they have actual screw-in terminals for the hot and traveling wires. This means that you only have to use one twisting cap (for the neutral) rather than three, which means you've got more space in your switch box to accommodate the smart switch. I was able to get both of these switches installed in under 30 minutes which is about how long it usually takes for me to install a single one of the wire twist switches. If I have one complaint about the TP-LINK HS210 Smart 3-Way Switch Kit it's that the actually physical feel of the switch is weird. It's a rocker switch with the contact at the bottom which feels inverted to me. I can get past that, though. Eventually.

Overall, I liked the TP-LINK HS210 Smart 3-Way Switch Kit enough that I'm going to buy it again to install it in the 3-way switch circuit that resides in my home office.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Shaving With Harrys.com

I used to love shaving. There's something about the ritual of applying the shaving cream, preparing the blade and then calmly gliding the razor over your skin that's very soothing and relaxing. It's an act that we men do not only because it makes us look good, but because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Over the last year or so, shaving changed from a joyful task that I looked for ward to and turned into a daily chore that I wanted to get done as quick as possible. I had cheaped out on blades and shaving cream and from the moment I did, my joy of shaving started to decline until it fell into a black morass of razor burn, blade cuts and skin care despair.

The girlfriend had gotten it into her head that she wanted me to shave the goatee and see what I looked like clean-shaven. I told her that I wasn't willing to endure the constant skin irritation around my lips and chin, and having the goatee hid the blotchy skin around those areas. She doubled down on her request and followed up with a care package from Harrys.com. I was pretty surprised when I got this big box of stuff and opened it up. There was a lot of stuff in it and I made an effort to use all of it. Here's what I think:


The Shave Gel: This is something I've never put too much thought into. All shave gels are created equally, right? So, the store brand that runs you 99 cents for a big can should perform as well as Harry's which runs you $6. Is there $5 of extra value? For me, I think that there is, most especially because when I put Harry's shave gel on my face, it doesn't feel all "chemical-y". One of the reasons I've traditionally avoided shave gel in favor of shave soap is because of the chemical feeling that gels usually have. I don't know if it's thanks to Harry's shave gel being paraben-free and sulfate-free, but I know that the gel feels great and works wonders on my face.

The Truman Razor: It feels pretty slick and looks great. It's hard to make a razor exciting, but Harry's has done it. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for eye-popping colors and clever marketing (German engineering! For your face! Zounds!). Ultimately, it's the product that matters, right? So, how well does it work? Overall, it's lightweight, the grip feels good in my hand and shaving comes naturally. Plus, yeah, it looks cool. Not that anyone is actually watching me shave.

The Blades: Harrys.com blades feature a pivot head that conforms to the contours of your face very well. It also boasts a very cool trim tool which is great for edge trimming or removing hair from other unwanted places on your face. The most important part of a blade, of course, is how well it shaves. A bad blade can give you a piss-poor shave that will ruin your day. Thankfully, Harry's blades give a very close shave. The thing that I really noticed was how long it took for my five o'clock shadow to emerge after shaving at about 7am with Harry's blade. Usually, my five o'clock shadow gets noticeable after about 8 hours. My shave with a crisp, new Harry's blade has been pushing that up to about 12 hours. It's a little bit less after using the blade once, down to about 10 hours after using the blade twice which is still pretty good. I can get two great shaves and two acceptable shaves out of one blade set before having to throw it away. For comparison, the safety blades that I have been using over the past several months give me one good shave and one mediocre shave before I have to toss one.

The Post-Shave Balm: I did it. I got rid of the goatee. I trimmed it down with my electric and then shaved it off with a Harry's razor. And there it was - the skin blotch that comes with not shaving your facial hair for a good 12 months. Removing my facial hair after having it so long made me feel weird enough, but looking at the blotchy skin that remained undermined my confidence in my appearance. But, I had committed to this, so I applied the Harry's Post-Shave Balm to my face. It's after-shave, but better. After a few days of using the post-shave balm along with Harry's face wash cleared up my skin issues and made me feel pretty good about my appearance.

Body Wash: Okay, I admit it: I'm an Old Spice guy. Old Spice Fiji is my go-to body wash, deodorant and body spray. That habit is going to die hard and the girlfriend knows it. She put three different types of Harry's Body Wash into the care package in order to try and break me of the Old Spice habit.  Okay, yeah, I like the stuff just fine and I said I'd commit to using all of it until it runs out before making a final decision. I see what she's doing. She's trying to wean me off of Old Spice Fiji. It won't work, I tell you! I will not break!

So, let's talk about cost. The blades is where they get you, right? Wrong. If you buy direct from Harry's.com you can get blades for as little as 1.88 per blade depending on how many you buy. that's a pretty incredible deal. Best of all, if you don't want to deal with having to remember to buy your shaving supplies on a regular basis, you can purchase a subscription to Harrys.com and get a box of supplies every month (cancel at any time).

Overall, I'm digging the Harry's experience and if you're thinking that you're burned out with your shaving routine, then you should check them out yourself. Pick up a blade and some gel and maybe some face wash and see how you feel. You'll fall in love wish shaving again.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Shopping Shenanigans

It was time for a new leather jacket. The one I had been wearing had served me well ever since Jason slapped it on me early last year. "You need a better look and I'm too fat for this now", he said at the time. It was a good jacket and I got a lot of compliments on it. But, it started to fall apart and now it's in dire need of being retired. So, it was off to the local Wilson's Leather to pick up a new one.

I do most of my apparel purchases online these days. However, if I'm going to drop $300 on a jacket, I'm going to want to see what it looks like on me before I start counting out the cash. Of course, I brought Jason along just to confirm that my choice in jackets didn't make me look like a doofus. Not any more than usual, anyway. We walked into Wilson's and while I looked for a few jackets I liked, Jason skulked around the store looking for ways to annoy me. He spied one of the older sales ladies and brought her over to get her opinion on how the jacket I picked out looked on me.

"How does this jacket look on him?", Jason asked the sales lady while I stared daggers at him. The sales lady began putting her hands on my shoulders and shoulder blades to help gauge the fit of the jacket on me, which made my skin crawl because I hate being touched by strangers. I resisted my urge to scream "I need an adult....I NEED AN ADULT" while the lady checked the fit of my jacket. Satisfied that I didn't look like a goon, I decided to purchase the jacket.

"Do you want to buy some leather protector spay for $6.95?", the saleslady asked me while she rang up my purchase.

"Nah", I said. "I bought a leather sport coat not too long ago. I still have that stuff", I replied.

"Well, you're just amazing. But, I bet you hear that all the time". The sales lady was apparently working hard to hold any potential buyer's remorse in abeyance.

"I do. But it's still nice to hear", I grinned.

Jason's eyes rolled so hard that he nearly got whiplash. "Yeah, you're all pizza and pixie farts, aren't you?"

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of comedy, but, in your case, I'll allow it for this one instance. Just know that I expect more of you", I said in a mock-scolding tone.

The saleslady cut in with "Where did the two of you get your curly hair from?"

"Our mother!", Jason and I replied in unison. Even though we're not related, and I don't have curly hair at all, we're often mistaken for cousins or brothers because of how we interact with each other. The fact that we both replied the same thing quickly just shows how well we know each other.

"I'm sure that all the women love it", the sales-lady said. Geez, she was really working it.

"Well, they love it on ME", I quipped.

Jason rolled his eyes again as he ushered me out of the store.

We happened upon yet another closing retail place and picked through the boxes of random crap for sale. In one box, I found a winter glove that was merged with a windshield scraper.

"What an awesome time we live in", I said out loud. "We must keep this technological marvel from the serfs lest they rise up and dethrone the landed gentry!".

"It's great for when it's really cold out and you have ice on your windshield", the cashier said, having overheard me.

"That's what my daughter is for!", I shot back. And it's true. My daughter, who just got her own car a few months ago, currently finds scraping the windshield to be a novel thing, so she scrapes both her own car and mine.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" a large, well-fed old woman bellowed at me.

"Oh believe me, lady, I AM ashamed of myself. For MANY reasons. None of which have anything to do with my daughter scraping my windshield".

"Whatever. We both know you have no shame", Jason said.

"No....but I have un-iced windshields!".