Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jason Succeeds In Scaring The Crap Out Of Me

I live in a pretty quiet neighborhood. Most of the houses surrounding mine are occupied by people so elderly that, should one happen to walk out of their house and into the sunlight, I fear that they might crumble to dust. There are some pockets of college kids living nearby, but, aside from the occasional stray drunken idiot, we don't get much traffic from them. So, I am content to live quietly and not over-stimulate my dessicated neighbors by putting out an excess of holiday decorations.

The only time I tend to violate this pledge is during Halloween. My daughter insists on carving a number of pumpkins each year and putting them out on the porch. Like any good father, I do my best to accommodate her, letting her design the pumpkin but insisting that I take care of the actual carving. Each year we put the pumpkins out on the porch for about two weeks, watch them attract lady-beetles, slowly watch them rot, and then promptly discard the pumpkin corpses come November 1.

When I got home from work this afternoon, something strange greeted me. The pumpkins had been moved. Not only that, but pieces of sidewalk chalk, which my daughter had used earlier in the week to decorate the driveway, were pitted into the corner of each pumpkin's mouth. My first reaction was to think that stoner's had robbed my house. My second reaction was to lament at how useless my two lapdogs were as watch dogs. They wouldn't do much more than beg for treats while some stoned college student walked off with my television.

As I entered the house, I noticed that all was well. The television was still there. What a relief. I had obviously been the victim of a Halloween prank. But, by whom? None of my neighbors had the strength to manipulate their opposable thumbs, much less lift an entire pumpkin. Cautiously, I made a call to Jason. After the requisite small talk, I had to flat out ask him if he was the culprit. A laugh exploded from my cell phone. In a fit of creative inspiration, he had given each of the pumpkins a cigar. Brilliant. I was relieved that someone with a brain was toying with me, rather than some drunken frat boy stumbling home from Four O'Clock Club.

Good one, Jason. Kudos to you.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Dead Celebrity Endorsement

Just in time for Halloween, the rotting corpse of Chris Farley apparently signed his name on the dotted line of a Direct TV endorsement contract and allowed a scene from the movie "Tommy Boy" to be re-cut with footage of David Spade interacting with him, extolling the virtues of Direct TV's sweet, beautiful HD programming. Some viewers are outraged, calling the spot "distasteful" and a "stupid idea". Personally, I'm finding it hard to care. I guess the ad in some way diminishes the cultural significance of the "Fat Guy in a Little Coat" shtick, but I'm not really seeing how it disrespects Farley.

The fact is, dead celebrities have been shilling for corporations since before Fred Astaire danced with a Dirt Devil vacuum. And, let's face it, Chris Farley was far from some sort of saint who would receive a persona non-grata exemption from TV portrayal. When you make your living on TV, no matter how long you live, your work will be used long after you die for purposes other than the original intent. It's probably even in the standard boilerplate contracts now. And, as zombie celebrity commercials go, this particular one isn't nearly as bad as the stuff that has been done to Frank Sinatra. It actually makes me want to watch "Tommy Boy" again.

Besides, David Spade needed the work.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finally Saw Zombieland

Aside from "The Hangover" earlier this Summer, "Zombieland" is the most fun I've had at a movie theater all year. This includes the time that the popcorn lady got all flustered at me and spilled buttery popcorn goodness all over the counter.

"Zombieland" stars Jesse Eisenberg as a Michael Cera type character who actually out Ceras Cera. Woody Harrelson stars as a self appointed zombie hunter. They're joined by the always hot Emma Stone and some kid starring as her little sister whose name I haven't bothered to remember. The film is much more character driven than it is plot driven and evokes comparisons to "Shaun Of The Dead", though, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that "Zombieland" is the superior film.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Attack Of The Ladybug Beetles

It's Fall, which means that Asian Lady Beetles, also known as Harmonia Axyridis, are flocking from their summer feeding grounds in search of shelter from the cold. They look a lot like traditional ladybugs, aka Coccinellidae, but are much more of a nuisance as they tend to swarm and congregate.

Jason called me earlier this week to tell me what he was being overrun with swarms of the lady beetles. Initially, I thought we were safe on this side of town. I lightheartedly chuckled at my good fortune. But, oh, what a fool I was. They invaded when I least expected it: while I was at work. I took a walk along the street early in the evening yesterday and was constantly running into the annoying little buggers. A large group of them decided to gather on my porch outside and some of them pushed their way into the house. Thankfully, my dogs find them to be rather tasty and seem to prefer them to their dog food.

I'm not going down without a fight. Cry "Havoc!!!" and let slip loose my dogs who like to eat bugs. Once more unto the breach. Meanwhile, the bug zapper is set on its maximum kill setting and is zapping away into the night.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jury Duty

I was called to jury duty today, Even though I find it to be horribly inconvenient and an all around pain in the ass for the potential jurors, I do believe that everybody deserves a jury made up of intelligent people who will seriously consider the facts in the case. If I were on trial, I wouldn't want a jury made of people who were just too stupid to get out of jury duty. The right to a jury trial is a fundamental civil right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. So, yes, it's our civic duty as US Citizens to report for jury duty. It's a small price to pay for having the right to a trial by jury.

Still, couldn't they do something to make the whole process a little less tedious? Sitting around waiting to get your turn in front of the attorneys is one step above waiting around for your turn in the dentist's chair. At least, at my dentist's office, I can sit in a room that has some sort of news program playing on a television. Increasingly, courts are not allowing people to bring in any electronic devices that might be capable of recording voice and/or video, so using my iPod to tap out some blog entries was not an option. I decided to do some reading while I passed the time.

In the end, I was quickly released from service and went about my merry way, content that they wouldn't be calling me back during my assigned two week availability cycle.

This reminds me of the first time I was ever called to serve. I had just graduated from college and was working as a C++ programmer for an insurance company. Not even a month into my job, I got called to Daley Plaza. I had been given a lot of outlandish advice on how to get out of having to serve on a jury. Someone even suggested I show up dressed as Barney, but purple just isn't my color. The first person called indicated to the judge that the defendant "looks guilty". After insisting several times to the judge that he could not be impartial, the judge excused him from the jury, but ordered him to remain in the audience until the jury had been picked. It was 8:45am. The poor guy was stuck there until 5:00pm and had to watch as everyone with legitimate dismissals were allowed to go home.

Monday, October 12, 2009

An Important Thing I Learned From The Conference

I was, of course, very happy to be invited to travel to Alabama in order to participate in the conference. Being primarily a web guy, many of the mathematical modeling concepts introduced by the other speakers were quite far above my head. After considering much of the subject matter used to expressed the modeling concepts, I have come to understand this simple truth: Math kills!

Much of the mathematical modeling centered around potential damage caused by theoretical chemical attacks. While pursuing these sort of modeling techniques are necessary in order to be prepared for an actual attack, I just found it incredibly sobering to see how much damage could actually be caused.

That's not to say that the entire conference was all gloom and doom. There was a promising demonstration on the treatment of cancerous cells. And, of course, my own presentation rocked the Internet Security section of the conference simply because I managed to get it finished within the time allotted. These math guys may be great with numbers, but they have no concept of time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

JohnMac Joins The Party

A business trip shouldn't be all business. Luckily, my trip to Alabama allowed me to hang out with my older brother, JohnMac who lives nearby in Georgia. I hadn't seen JohnMac since December of last year, so I was pretty excited to be able to have some pizza and beer with him.

We headed out to a place called the Tilted Kilt. I apparently lead a very sheltered existence because I had never heard of the place before and had no idea that it was some sort of chain. If you're not familiar with it, Tilted Kilt is sort of like Hooters, except the waitresses wear mini kilts and push-up bras. It's a pretty fun atmosphere to get a few beers in. But, like any of these sort of themed bars, it's loud and there's a lot going on, so there's not much to do besides yell and ogle the waitresses. Which, don't get me wrong, it's a great environment to ogle in.

I was going to smoke a cigar that I had bought, but apparently Alabama has joined the growing list of states that don't allow smoking within restaurants. If I can't smoke it, I can still look cool in a picture with it, right?


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Road Trip!

It was a very interesting 8 hour car ride to Alabama. I have to send out my deepest sympathies to my traveling buddy, Dodge, for putting up with my incessant chatter during the whole ride. All told, it was a pretty good trip, aside from a few bad omens, including my lunch ringing up at $6.66 and our sudden realization that we booked ourselves at the wrong hotel.

For dinner, we staggered into a place call the Full Moon BBQ which claims to be "The Best Little Pork House In Alabama". I ate some BBQ that was so good, I could crap out a pig and still be happy.


Now, That There Is Some Awesome BBQ. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The TommyMac Is 'Bama Bound

Tomorrow morning, I will be embarking upon an 8 hour road-trip to Birmingham, Alabama. I'll be attending a conference for three days and am currently scheduled to be the last speaker on the last day of the conference. The prospect of me being able to pontificate to a captive audience is thrilling by itself. But, I'm also excited because I've never been to Alabama before and I'm hoping to make the most of the experience.

So far, I've got a small list of things I am going to try to do while I am there:

  • Hang out with my brother, John Mac, who lives fairly close
  • Interview some of the locals
  • Eat some real southern BBQ from a roadside BBQ pit
  • Eat some crawfish
  • See how long I can give a serious lecture without cracking a joke or flashing my sideways grin. 
Watch my Twitter feed for updates on the trip.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Letterman Gets Some Late Night Action

I grew up being a huge fan of David Letterman. In my mind, he was second only to Johnny Carson on the comedy food chain.  Over the years, Dave has gotten a bit grumpier with age but he still knows how to work a crowd and still puts on a great show.

There has been a lot of talk lately about Letterman being, at worst, a perverted old man and, at best, a hypocrite. This all stems from recent revelations that Letterman had, over the years, had a number of sexual affairs with women who worked for him. Letterman has always been quick to skewer politicians who were caught up in the same type of shenanigans. The difference here is that Letterman, unlike folks like Palin, has never claimed to stand for a certain type of moral agenda. The worst that Letterman is guilty of is fishing off of the company pier, which probably isn't that big of a deal at CBS, considering what happened between Les Moonves and Julie Chen.

The so-called 'scandal' is nothing of the sorts. He had consensual relationships with women of age, who, while they did work for him, none of them have ever even hinted at feeling harassed. The true scandal here is that a sleazy CBS producer tried to blackmail Letterman in order to get back at his ex and earn a little payola.

Out of this whole thing, I have come to respect Letterman more. Consenting sexual relations between two adults is a basic tenet of our society. And if the women felt in any way pressured, they would have sued Dave a long time ago. It's actually refreshing to see anyone, celebrity or not, take ownership of their flaws.

As difficult as this whole thing must be on Letterman, his family and the women involved, you can bet for sure that Letterman's ratings are going to go through the roof. Stuff like this is Late Night TV ratings gold.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

They Blew Out My Vein

I had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday. After the War on Sobriety, I decided that I should get myself checked out just to make sure I hadn't done any permanent damage to myself. You never know when Sobriety will try to secretly kick up your liver enzymes in a last ditch attempt to win the war. So, I got a complete blood workup done.

The last time I had blood drawn, the nurse was practically wetting herself over my veins, calling them beautiful and easy to plump up. Yeah, yeah, I get it. All the nurses love my sexy veins.

On Tuesday, the nurse took two vials of blood. It didn't hurt, and I watched her do it. She was moving the needle around a good bit and it was stretching the skin, but I thought little of it. Yesterday, my arm started hurting, so I rolled up my sleeve to rip off the band aid. The entire inside of my arm was bulging out around the needle site and there was a huge bruise around the needle site! I called the doctor's office and the nurse told me to elevate it and put ice on it. I couldn't find any ice, so I sat on the couch with a bag of frozen peas rubber-banded to my arm, with my arm in the air.