Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Credit Card Scammer Makes Me Crash My Car

I happened to be at my desktop when another credit card scamming telemarketer called me. As I talked to him about lowering my interest rate, I brought up some sound effects on my computer. When he asked me for my expiration date, I told him that I was driving and to wait a second. I then played a car crash sound effect and tried to act as if I was mortally injured. Even as the ambulance sound effect played, the scammer still tried to get my info.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Debunking Tim Allen's Facebook Rant

There's a new political rant dirtying up my Facebook news feed. This one is attributed to actor and comedian Tim Allen, though much of it comes from a number of different sources including Ted Nugent, Kevin Sorbo and a Twitter user named Brn2Wander. An actual person named Tim Allen may have put this diatribe together, but the famous Tim Allen most certainly didn't. Here's the missive in question:

Tim Allen is credited with writing this.
From :Tim Allen

Here are some interesting points to think about prior to 2020, especially to my friends on the fence, like moderate Democrats, Libertarians and Independents and the never Trump Republicans and those thinking of "walking away" from the Democratic party.

Women are upset at Trump’s naughty words -- they also bought 80 million copies of 50 Shades of Gray.
Not one feminist has defended Sarah Sanders. It seems women’s rights only matter if those women are liberal.No Border Walls. No voter ID laws. Did you figure it out yet? But wait... there's more.
Chelsea Clinton got out of college and got a job at NBC that paid $900,000 per year. Her mom flies around the country speaking out about white privilege.
And just like that, they went from being against foreign interference in our elections to allowing non-citizens to vote in our elections.
President Trump’s wall costs less than the Obamacare website. Let that sink in, America.
We are one election away from open borders, socialism, gun confiscation, and full-term abortion nationally. We are fighting evil.
They sent more troops and armament to arrest Roger Stone than they sent to defend Benghazi.
60 years ago, Venezuela was 4th on the world economic freedom index. Today, they are 179th and their citizens are dying of starvation. In only 10 years, Venezuela was destroyed by democratic socialism.
Russia donated $0.00 to the Trump campaign. Russia donated $145,600,000 to the Clinton Foundation. But Trump was the one investigated!
Nancy Pelosi invited illegal aliens to the State of the Union. President Trump Invited victims of illegal aliens to the State of the Union. Let that sink in.
A socialist is basically a communist who doesn’t have the power to take everything from their citizens at gunpoint ... Yet!
How do you walk 3000 miles across Mexico without food or support and show up at our border 100 pounds overweight and with a cellphone?
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez wants to ban cars, ban planes, give out universal income and thinks socialism works. She calls Donald Trump crazy.
Bill Clinton paid $850,000 to Paula Jones To get her to go away. I don’t remember the FBI raiding his lawyer’s office.
I wake up every day and I am grateful that Hillary Clinton is not the president of the United States of America.
The same media that told me Hillary Clinton had a 95% chance of winning now tells me Trump’s approval ratings are low.
“The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”— Margaret Thatcher
Maxine Waters opposes voter ID laws; She thinks that they are racist. You need to have a photo ID to attend her town hall meetings.
Trump — They’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in their way.
Read that again. Again copy and paste.

The author's first point is a false equivalency by trying to point out supposed hypocrisy in women criticizing what Trump says and then turning around and buying 50 Shades Of Grey. We don't live in a binary world where opinions and standards have no nuance. It's perfectly reasonable to hold the public statements of The President of the United States to a higher standard than what we choose for our own private reading material.

The next point is actually word-for-word something actor Kevin Sorbo tweeted on June 18, 2019:

The perfect response to this came from LGBT activist and writer Amanda Jette Knox: "“No, most of us haven’t defended the questionable things she’s said to media and the world because those things are garbage. But as feminists, we WILL defend: – her equal rights as a woman – her right to be called out on those garbage things just like a man should be The end." Furthermore, plenty of people have taken critics to task for criticizing Sarah Sanders' appearance and other non-politically relevant traits.

I'm not sure exactly what the author's point is with "No Border Walls. No voter ID laws". The proposed border wall is a stupid idea that won't do much for border security because most people who are in the United States came here legally and then overstayed their visas. And voter ID is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist, as there were only four documented instances of voter fraud in the 2019 election.


I also have to wonder why the author felt the need to call out NBC's hiring of Chelsea Clinton when several other children of political superstars have been hired as correspondents as well. Jenna Bush was hired by NBC as a news correspondent on Today, and Megan McCain, Senator John McCain’s daughter has held positions at MSNBC and Fox News. Also, Mr. Allen got Chelsea Clinton's salary wrong. She was paid $600,000 by NBC, likely due to her name recognition and impressive resume. Ms. Clinton has a B.A. in History from Stanford University, a Master of Public Health degree from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, and a PhD in International Relations from Oxford University. She also has been employed by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company and Avenue Capital Group. Is all that worth $600,000? I'd say it is.

Now, as to the claim that Hillary Clinton "flies around the country speaking out about white privilege" it likely refers to a speech Hillary Clinton gave to the NAACP where she said "We white Americans…need to recognize our privilege". Other than that, I can find no other instances of Hillary Clinton giving a lecture where she speaks out about white privilege.

The author then goes on to accuse Democrats of wanting to allow non-citizens to vote in elections. I'm not sure where this claim comes from, but it's likely borne out of a mis-understanding of HR 1, a non-binding House motion pushed by Republican Rep Dan Crenshaw of Texas. The motion said "It is the sense of Congress that allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens." Democrats voted overwhelmingly against the non-binding, opinion based motion. But, just because Democrats voted against a motion reaffirming that illegal immigrants can’t vote, it doesn't doesn’t mean they voted to actually allow those immigrants to vote. Federal laws already exist to prohibit non-citizens from voting in federal elections.

The claim that President Trump’s wall costs less than the Obamacare website is simply false. The proposed border wall will cost between $12 billion and $70 billion while the Obamacare website cost, at most, $2.1 billion.

The notion that more troops were sent to arrest Roger Stone than were sent to defend the American consulate in Bengazi is spun off from something Roger Stone himself claimed. Whether or not it's true, it's yet another apples-to-oranges comparison. It's basically just Roger Stone trying to say that the way his arrest was conducted was over-the-top.

And then we float on over to claims about Venezuela. This is one of several tweets that "Tim Allen" copied from the Twitter account "Brn2Wander":

Venezuela had such a strong economy in the past due to its crude oil reserves. Its collapse is due to a number of factors, including falling oil prices, corruption, U.S. sanctions and economic mis-management.

Russia did not, in fact, donate $145,600,000 to the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign. This claim is spun out of the trumped up Uranium One controversy. Russia didn't donate any money to the Clinton campaign. And Trump was investigated because it was suspected that he engaged in tit-for-tat negotiations with Russia and then obstructed justice in order to cover it up. Read the complete Mueller report (not just the Barr summary) and form your own opinion.

I cannot find any documentation that Nancy Pelosi invited any illegal immigrants to attend Trump's State of the Union address. The best I could find is a number of articles indicating that California Rep Jimmy Gomez and New Jersey Rep Bonnie Watson invited former employees of the Trump Organization who were undocumented. It was obviously done to highlight Trump's hypocritical stance on illegal immigration.

Next up is the non-sequitur "A socialist is basically a communist who doesn’t have the power to take everything from their citizens at gunpoint ... Yet!". Whether or not you agree with Socialism as an economic theory, the statement shows a real lack of understanding as to what Socialism actually is. Furthermore, if you are truly against Socialism, then the way to keep Americans from calling for it isn’t casting Capitalism as good guy, while demonizing Socialism. The solution is to look at Capitalism logically and accept that its not the best method for everything in our economy.


The point about overweight refugees with iPhones goes back to a meme related to the migrant caravan published in November of 2018. The woman in the meme wasn't part of the caravan and the notion that a person who has access to a cell phone and is overweight can’t possibly be in a desperate situation is a both troubling and incorrect.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's Green New Deal does NOT seek to ban cars and/or planes.

With regard to the $850,000 that Bill Clinton paid to Paula Jones, it wasn't hush money. It was a settlement offer made in open court. It is well documented that Donald Trump not only paid hush money to Stormy Daniels, but he tried to cover his tracks while doing so. That's why Trump's lawer's office was raided.

Yes, it was said that Hillary Clinton had a 95% chance of winning the Presidential election in 2016. However, that means that she had a 5% chance of losing. The Trump campaign threaded the needle and pulled of what they needed to in order to win within that 5%. And still, Clinton won the popular vote. Also, the predicted chance of winning something is vastly different from an approval rating.

I can find no indication that you need a photo ID to attend a Maxine Waters town hall meeting. But, even if you do, voting is a civil right while attending a town hall isn't, so there should be no quibble about the differing standards as they are two different concepts.

Once again, we have a poorly written set of false equivalencies and non-sequiturs attributed to someone famous in order to give it more credibility. With just a little bit of research, its claims are easily debunked. But, don't let me do your homework for you, look into each of its claims yourself and you'll see.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Credit Card Scammer Calls Again And Gets Angry

Another one of those "lower your interest rate" guy called again. I went with the old "Let me ask my wife..." routine in order to try and mess with him. Plus, whenever he asked to "confirm" information with me, I acted as if I thought he was going to give me the information first in order to verify it.

At about 3:12 he gets irritated and throws out some kind of sexual insult. I ignored it and tried to clarify again. He tossed another insult out and said "You're wasting my time". He hung up after I asked why he needed my credit card expiration date.


Monday, September 2, 2019

My Wish.com Account Got Hacked

You are probably familiar with Wish.com. It's that website that sells a bunch of discounted crap, most of which is sourced from China. It almost certainly has shown up on your Facebook feed as a featured ad a few times over the years. Anyway, Wish.com is basically an e-commerce facilitator that allows sellers to list their products on the site and sell directly to the consumer. Wish doesn't stock the items, and instead acts as an intermediary handling payments. This has allowed Wish to become one of the leading platforms for selling counterfeit goods.

I bought something from Wish about five years ago and it was such utter crap that I never bothered to order anything off of the platform again. So, I found it pretty surprising when I got an e-mail from Wish.com stating that my account e-mail had been successfully changed to some account with a .ml extension. It was odd for two reasons: First off, I didn't request an account change. Second, even if I did, when making a change to the account e-mail address, a confirmation request should be sent to the original e-mail before such a change is authorized. That didn't happen. My only recourse was to e-mail Wish.com customer service who took two days to tell me that they had to escalate the matter due to its sensitive nature. Great. So the initial change isn't sensitive enough to merit added security, but the retraction of that change is.

It didn't really matter to me, because while I may have been dumb enough to open the account using an easy-to-guess password, I wasn't dumb enough to leave any of my credit card info in there. Even if I had, the info had likely expired years ago. But, it was the principle that mattered, so I pressed on. I sent a follow-up e-mail about four days after their first reply and suddenly, a new account had been created with my e-mail address. I went to log-in to the account and immediately clicked the "forgot password" feature. This allowed me to reset the password and log in. My order history was nowhere to be found. So, obviously, Wish.com decided that the easiest way to fix the problem was to just open up a new account for me using my old e-mail address.

So, what's the lesson here? Make sure all of your online accounts employ a strong password and use two-factor authentication where possible. Also, don't ever leave your credit card information in an app, unless you use a card that can issue virtual numbers that you can quickly expire.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Veterans Service Loan Scammer Won't Apologize

Clovis got a call from some scammer trying to push crappy loans on veterans. When the rep told Clovis that she had programs available, Clovis said that he didn't know how to install those programs on his computer. The rep tried to push him off on a delegate to take his information and Clovis said he didn't know what a delegate was, though he was once a delegate for Barry Goldwater. The rep talked over Clovis' story and Clovis demanded an apology.

The rep, at this point, knew that she'd been had and tried to end the call, but Clovis got her back into the conversation by asking her why she had lost all passion for her job. Clovis kept asking the rep why she had such a bad attitude. The rep said "If I lost all passion for my job, I would not be on the phone with you right now". Clovis remarked that they both knew that it wasn't true. The rep actually laughed in tacit agreement.

Clovis demanded an apology again and the rep said she had interrupted because she thought Clovis was brushing her off. Clovis said that the rep wasn't his type. He started singing "Never Gonna Get It" and the rep gasped in astonishment and laughed.

Clovis let the rep talk a bit and she talked about The Mission Act of 2020. Clovis wondered how they could pass a 2020 act in 2019. When Clovis remarked that he knew that Donald Trump was really powerful, but he doubted that Trump could travel through time, you can hear the rep sigh in exasperation. She then ended the call.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Rangers At White Sox 8/24

Apparently, the term "Skybox" is outdated. For, when we arrived at Comisky Park and I asked some security folks where I could find the elevator to the Skybox seats, they looked at me weird.

"You mean the box seats? Which box are you looking for? Upper? Lower?, one asked.

"No, the Skybox. You know, the GOOD seats".

"They're all good seats here, sir".

The White Sox Beer Stein
I had booked some seats in the Guaranteed Rate Club section which is a large suite of seats behind home plate that includes a lounge area, bar and restrooms. I figured that it would be a great way to celebrate the end of Summer. And we had a great time despite the White Sox losing to the Texas Rangers 4 - 0. A huge fight broke out in the bleachers early in the game but it was briefly halted to show some respect for Jose Abreu's 1,000th career hit. Once that was over, the fight broke out again and the fat shirtless guy was taking out people left and right. I wonder if it being Beer Stein giveaway night had anything to do with it.

Meanwhile, in the Guaranteed Rate Club section, all was quiet. I had booked the tickets in secret and only told everyone that I had gotten really good seats behind home plate. When we approached the elevator to the Club, everyone else started to mutter, even going so far as to remark that I was up to some sort of trickery that would get us ejected. But, once our tickets were scanned and wristbands were applied to our wrists, they knew that it was legit.

"Is this your first time in the Guaranteed Rate Club?", the concierge asked.

We all affirmed that it was.

"You folks are in for a treat!"

Guests in the Guaranteed Rate Club seating are treated to an expansive dinner buffet that features all sorts of different fare. I was particularly fond of the chicken sliders and the smoked turkey carving station. Also included is open bar, so I personally managed to slug down my share of beers before the 7th inning. We discovered too late that, while you're at your seat, the wait staff will bring you typical ballpark fare like brats, nachos and hot dogs. I wish I would have left some room for a cheesy beef sandwich, but my stomach just couldn't accommodate one. About an hour and a half into the game, the dinner buffet became a dessert buffet featuring a make-you-own sundae bar

A foul ball made its way into our section and, had there not been a railing next to me, I would have been able to nab it once it bounced in. But, all told, it was a great way to watch the game and I'm hoping that we can do it again sometime next year.


The View From Section A Of The Guaranteed Rate Club Seats

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Switch Energy Keeps Calling

The fine folks at Switch Energy called yet again. When the rep asked if I was getting any assistance, I said I had to check and see. I asked aloud if were were getting any assistance and then asked the rep whether or not my dad helping with the bill counted as assistance. The rep asked if I had ever applied for PAPP assistance and I asked aloud whether or not we had ever applied for Paper Assistance. I then told the rep that the checks we use to pay the bill are printed on paper. The rep tried to clarify and I said that if someone peed on the electric, that it would shock and kill them. Yet another attempt to clarify seemed to really tick the rep off who vented a frustrated "Alright!".

The rep said he needed "a clear no. Say no". I then asked him how we got a clear nail to him in the mail. The rep ignored it and asked me to get a copy of my bill. The rep asked for the account number "as it appears on the bill" and I told him it was printed, though I had to ask what kind of font it was. The rep passed me off to a supervisor who got increasingly pissed off at my attempts to play dumb. The call ended when I made yet another attempt at the "Heywood Jablowmee" joke.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Places To Eat In Memphis

I wanted to take a little time to mention some of the great places we ate while we were in Memphis. The downtown area has a reputation for having some great food options. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to visit every place that we wanted to.

Flying Fish: It's a small chain restaurant, but there's a location right across the street from The Peabody. The fried catfish was really good and their tarter sauce was pretty remarkable. Their hushpuppies where the best that I have had in quite some time.

Blue Plate Cafe: We came here for breakfast right before the morning rush. The Eggs Benedict was on point and the fingerling potatoes were very well seasoned with a nice little kick to them.

Dyer's Burgers: One of many places boasting the best burger in Memphis. I thought they were fine. Nothing great. Thin patties on a standard bun. They're probably really good if you've been drinking heavily.

Aldo's Pies: Great place to either eat "artisan" pizza or grab a few slices of your tried-and-true favorites.

The Pig: I'm not a huge fan of ribs, as food on the bone makes me want to boke. But a close friend of mine demanded that I visit this place and try the ribs. They are indeed some of the best ribs that I have ever had. The meat falls off the bone easily and the BBQ sauce is tangy and sweet. For me, though, the big winner was their smoked turkey.

Automatic Slim's: I mentioned them in a previous post and raved about the Blackened Salmon Eggs Benedict. It was a really well balanced dish. I was, however, disappointed in their Bloody Mary. It was nice and spicy, but there was no flair. I realize that at $3, you're not going to get a full garden, but they could have at least tossed in a few olives.

Blues City Cafe: Their catfish is decent, but the gumbo fries is the real winner at this place.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Energy Scammer Finally Says My Name

The Switch Energy scammer called me yet again trying to get me to give him the details on my ComEd bill. When he asked me my zip code, I went off on a tangent about how zip codes help mail delivery and wondered how we could incorporate Canada into our zip code system. When the rep asked me if I got any help paying my bill, I told him that, despite breaking my hand once, I wrote the check all on my own. The rep tried to clarify but I kept insisting that I was capable of writing checks without assistance.

The rep told me "You might get a little serious and quit with the jolly thing" and demanded to know whose name was on the bill.

I told him my name was Heywood Jablowme and asked the rep to repeat it back to me. When he said it, I laughed at him and told him he was the first one in several calls to actually fall for the joke.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Pet Friendly Memphis

Pet Friendly Hotels In Memphis


While planning our trip to Memphis, we decided very early on that we were going to bring the dog, Luna, with us. The decision to do so presented a number of challenges. First and foremost was finding a pet friendly hotel that was located close to the attractions we wanted to visit. The Peabody fit the bill quite nicely as it is located just a few steps from Beale Street and less than a mile from most everything you'd want to see in Memphis aside from Graceland. As it turns out, The Peabody is VERY pet friendly. Upon arrival, Luna was given a Peabody pet bowl, mat and treat. And there's a nice little green space complete with poop bags just outside of the valet parking area. You'll have to pay a non-refundable fee of $100 per stay to cover cleaning. I'd heard beforehand that the Peabody can be very strict about having your pet's shot records available. I had Luna's, but was never asked for them.

Some things to note about the pet policy at the Peabody is that pets are not allowed in restaurant/bar areas of the hotel. This includes the rooftop area. Pets are also not allowed near the grand fountain and are to remain a reasonable distance away from the ducks during the Peabody Duck March. And, of course, even if you are in a pet friendly area of the hotel, your pet is required to be leashed. If you leave your pet alone in your room and it becomes a noise nuisance, The Peabody reserves the right to enter your room and remove the pet to a private area and charge you a $15 per hour minding fee. If you don't want to take the risk, there's a nice doggie daycare place called Mutt Island just a half-mile from The Peabody. 

Some other other pet friendly hotels in Downtown Memphis include: 

  • La Quinta on Union Ave
  • The Westin on Beale
  • The Vista Inn and Suites on Union

The Peabody Dog Bowl, Dog Mat and Dog Treat. 



Are Dogs Allowed On Beale Street?

Dog Tired

In general, Beale Street is not pet friendly. I knew beforehand that the bars and restaurants along Beale do not allow dogs, but I didn't know that Beale Street itself had a ban on animals. We were halfway down the block before we discovered any signage that stated that pets are not allowed. Still, nobody batted an eye and we took Luna down Beale street several times without anyone saying anything. The one time a public safety officer warned us off the street, we were actually walking along Second Street en route back to the Peabody, so it wasn't an issue. The one somewhat pet friendly restaurant in the area is Automatic Slims. They have a very small outdoor area and we were allowed to have Luna there while we ate breakfast. And they make a pretty amazing Blackened Salmon Eggs Benedict. I suspect that we could have gotten away with having Luna at Flying Fish and Aldo's Pies since they also have outdoor areas, but we didn't have Luna with us at the time, so we didn't ask. 

Luna was quite the celebrity in Downtown Memphis. We walked her around quite a bit (always keeping water on hand for her) and a lot of people stopped to asked to pet her or have their picture taken with her. Luna was either very happy to engage with people or wanted nothing to do with them. It all seemed to depend on her mood.  She's used to walking a few blocks here and there, but we didn't know how she would do on half-mile walks in the Memphis heat. Turns out she did very well and seemed to enjoy herself. She was, however, worn out after each excursion and took to hogging whichever bed she happened to plop herself down on. 


Monday, August 12, 2019

A Visit To Graceland

"And I saw that silent mansion and I knew that I was lost. They were selling plastic souvenirs of Elvis on the cross." - Billy Joel

It has been said, in the movie "Pulp Fiction", I think, that you're either a Beatles fan or you're an Elvis fan. Well, I'm not an Elvis fan. I recognize his importance in the birthing of Rock N Roll and his influence on just about every band that came afterward, and I even like some of his songs. But, I'm just not a huge fan. The idea of visiting Graceland doesn't excite me near as much as the idea of visiting Lennon's childhood home at Mendips or McCartney's at Allerton. I don't care how Elvis lived. I don't care about his airplanes. I don't need to see all of his shrine to his Lansky Brothers outfits. I don't care if there's a pretty little thing waiting for the King down in the Jungle Room. And, yet, there I was this morning standing in line with the rest of the rabble waiting to go in.

As we were being ushered in, a lady turned to me and asked "When did Elvis die?".

I replied "Once he started making movies". I'm lucky I made it out of the mansion alive.

The story of how the Jungle Room came into being is an interesting one. Elvis' father, Vernon Presley had gone into town and saw what he called "the world's most ugliest furniture." When he returned to Graceland he told Elvis about it and Elvis went to go check out the hideous furniture for himself. Elvis because he bought the entire set and brought it back to Graceland and had lime green shag carpeting installed on both the ceiling and floor. This is where Elvis kept his friends waiting for him. Talk about a test of friendship.

Once you're in the Jungle Room, you're free to wander about the mansion on a self-guided tour. I was surprised at how small the house at Graceland really is. It's basically just a lavishly decorated Colonial. Once you're out of the house, you end up in the meditation garden where Elvis and some of his family are buried. In death, Elvis has become a tourist attraction. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Graceland every year, and with the cheapest tour being just north of $40, Presley makes more money dead than he ever did alive.

If you'd like to visit Elvis' grave but don't want to shell out $40 for a morbid tour of the mansion, then you can visit the Meditation Garden for free between the hours of 7:30 am and 8:30 am nearly every day.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

The National Civil Rights Museum

"Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. And so just as I said, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around. We aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. April 3, 1968

Jacqueline Smith
Jacqueline Smith has been sitting on the grounds of the National Civil Rights museum in silent protest for 31 years. The museum complex includes the Lorraine Motel building where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was killed in 1968. After his assassination, the owner of the hotel, Walter Bailey converted the hotel to low-income single room occupancy housing. In 1982, Bailey declared bankruptcy and the Lorraine would have been sold at auction had the Save The Lorraine organization not stepped in and bought it.  In 1984, the Save The Lorraine organization changed their name to the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation and hoped to raise funds to restore the motel and convert it into a museum. This meant closing the hotel and having its residents move out in order to prepare for the 8.8 million dollar renovation.

The Lorraine officially ceased operations as an SRO hotel on March 2, 1988. On that day, deputies were called to forcibly remove Jacqueline Smith from the premises. She had been living there since 1973 and had worked for the motel as a housekeeper. Upon her eviction, her belongings were thrown into a pile across the street where she covered them with a tarp and set up camp and continued to live as she daily maintains her protest vigil. I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Smith at her camp today.

Smith believes that the money that has been spent and continues to be spent on The National Civil Rights Museum would be better spent furthering the work that Dr. King left unfinished. That's not to say that she believes there shouldn't be a museum. "There are several civil rights museums throughout the country and Memphis should have its own.", she said. In her opinion, however, locating the museum in the South Main Street area has led to gentrification and has pushed low-income residents out of their longtime homes. Smith believes that by locating the museum in the place of Dr. King's death, it is essentially the James Earl Ray memorial, as the museum is focusing too heavily on the violence of Dr. King's death rather than concentrating on the work he did while he alive. This goes against King's message of peace and non-violence.

I asked Ms. Smith what it would take for her to end her protest. After all, what's done is done. The museum is there and the money has been spent. She referred me to an opinion piece that she wrote last year: "Let's relocate the museum within Memphis along with its Klan hoods, James Earl Ray rifle, and other negative memorabilia and turn the Lorraine into an establishment that Dr. King and Memphis can rightly be proud of and where visitors can experience his dream in action", she wrote.

Before leaving, I asked her how she was holding up and she said that she was hanging in there just fine. The authorities don't bother her or try to move her on and most people are generally very nice to her when they engage with her.

The Lorraine Motel. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Room Is Marked With A Wreath

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Peabody



Our headquarters for our long weekend in Memphis is the historic Peabody Hotel. It's best known for its duck parade where, twice a day, a paddling of ducks is led from their 13th floor (referred to as "The Skyway" rather than the 13th floor) home down to the Peabody's lobby fountain. This whole tradition started in the 1930s when General Manager Frank Schutt came back from a hunting trip and allowed some of his live call duck decoys to play in the fountain. Guests liked the idea and the Peabody has embraced it ever since. And, I mean they REALLY embraced it. There are ducks on everything here from the swizzle sticks to the toilet paper.

The Peabody is in a great location, situated within walking distance of many Memphis attractions such as Beale Street, Main Street, Autozone Park, FedEx Forum and a wide array of historic sites. They offer first-rate accommodations (seriously, they even pamper the dog here) with a refined yet relaxed vibe.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Walking In Memphis

"Put on my blue suede shoes and boarded the plane. Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of the pouring rain". - Marc Cohn.

Summer is nearly over and I've been way too busy with various projects to take any of the vacations that I have been wanting to take. And with my daughter busting her butt with her Summer job, I figure the poor girl deserves a trip before school starts back up. So, we trekked on down to Memphis for a short vacation.

The first thing we did was slide on down to Beale Street for a quick walk down the historic avenue filled with booze, music and good times. The Beale Street Entertainment District is only a few blocks long, and, much like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, open carry of alcohol is allowed. So, the first thing I did was stop at a "to go" desk to get a beer. And I actually got carded. So, I handed over my license.

"Do you have something that isn't expired?", the bartender asked as she grimaced at my license. I had recently renewed my driver's license online and the new one had to be mailed and hadn't gotten to me yet.

"So, once my license expires, I am now somehow under 21?", I asked. "Wish I looked it!", I added.

"I just don't know if it's real", she said.

"Do I LOOK under 21? Hell, do I look under 40?" I asked

 "We ID under 103 and you look younger than that.", she said.

I can appreciate that and I took it as a compliment, so I showed her my passport card and got my beer. Then, kiddo and doggo and I walked along Beale Street. Early on, my daughter pointed out to me that various posted signs indicate that dogs are not allowed on Beale Street. Yet, plenty of people came up to the pup to pet her and get their pic taken with her. Some police officers even petted her, so I guess it's not that strict of a rule. It helps that doggo is adorable.

My initial assessment of Beale Street is that it's cleaner than Bourbon Street and it's much easier to get a beer to go. However, the area is much smaller than Bourbon Street and there's just not as much going on. I still had a pretty good time walking around and listening to the music, though.




Wednesday, August 7, 2019

What Font Is My Com Ed Bill Printed With

Clovis got yet another call from those Com Ed energy scammers. He had been suffering from a case of the scoots so poor Clovis was on the toilet when the rep called. Clovis was asked to find his Com Ed bill and had to rummage through the desk in order to find it. Once he did, the rep asked how his name was printed on the bill. Clovis wasn't sure what font his name had been printed with. He suspected Times New Roman, but wasn't sure, so he yelled for his wife for confirmation. His wife thought it was Comic Sans but Clovis knew that couldn't be correct.

The rep hung up after hearing Comic Sans. Nobody wants to deal with Comic Sans.

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Yeti Rambler

The coffee situation at work has become untenable. Everyone in the office prefers to use the Keurig and have spurned the purchase of a simple drip-brew maker. There isn't room for both in the break room, and we're not ponying up for a dual-brew. So, I've got to either drink sub-par K-pod coffee or I've got to brew my own at home and bring it to work in a thermos. No-brainer: I went with the thermos. For a while, I was bringing my coffee in a 16 oz knock-off Yeti tumbler. That worked okay, but it didn't quite hold enough coffee to get me through the morning and, by the time I got to work, the coffee had lost a noticeable amount of heat. Enter the 26 oz Yeti Rambler Bottle.

I came into work the other day with this bad boy in my clutches and got immediately side-lined by a last-minute meeting. Two hours later, I came out of the meeting looking like a coffee zombie. I would have even slurped up K-pod coffee and been glad to have it. But, I didn't have to, thanks to the Yeti Rambler Bottle. When I untwisted the lid, I could still feel the heat wafting out of the coffee. My coffee was still piping hot!

I'm a pretty huge klutz, so the best thing about the Yeti Rambler Bottle is that it seals up so well that I can drop this thing down the stairs and nothing will spill out. Okay, I haven't done that just yet, but it's only a matter of time before it happens organically. And once it does, I'm willing to bet that the Rambler is built Tonka Tough enough to gambol down the stairs without sustaining any dents.

Personally, I don't drink directly out of the Rambler, so I have no need for the optional straw-cap or the 5oz cup cap. Yet. Instead, I just let the Yeti Rambler store my coffee and pour it as needed into my coffee mug at my desk, so the included triple-haul cap works perfectly for me. Your usage needs may vary from mine, of course.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Com Ed Scammer Apologizes

Clovis got a call from an automated attendant saying "This is an apology call from Com Ed. We have overcharged you....". When the rep came on the line to get Clovis' information, Clovis insisted that the rep issue the apology that he was promised. Once the rep apologized, Clovis was triumphant and the rep ended the call.


Monday, July 29, 2019

I Hosted A Jazz Concert

Fresh off of my run as the co-star of a two-person musical, I got a call from a concert organizer asking me if I had any interest in doing a Jazz benefit. For a very brief moment, I thought that I was being asked to sing. But, no, despite my recent good reviews as a singer, the organizer was interested in me being the M.C. for the show. I was told that it was a two-night featuring three different singers backed by two different backup bands. All I would have to do is give some opening remarks, say a few words during intermission, and then wrap up with remarks before the big finale. There would be a rehearsal the night before the first show, so I figured I'd be given more specific instructions and an at least an outline covering the main points the organizer wanted me to hit during my remarks. Instead, I was just put through a mic check and told "just be you".

The Friday night run-through of the show was, for me, mediocre. I had no set list, very little information on the musicians and singers involved, and no outline on specific points to hit aside from the occasional verbal notes from the organizer. I was asked to fill ten minutes before introducing the first act, but struggled to fill five. Originally, the organizer didn't want me to introduce the individual acts, but that was quickly determined to be the wrong move, as the audience got confused over who was on stage. Things got better after intermission because I started talking to the artists and asked them pointed questions about themselves and the songs they were performing, just so I could have something to talk about on stage.

Ultimately, I wasn't satisfied with my performance during the Friday night show, so I spent much of Saturday morning thinking about how to improve my performance. What I came up with is

How To Be A Good M.C. :


1) Be Prepared: You don't have to write down everything you want to say, but it's a good idea to at least have a written outline. For example, my outline for the opening remarks went as follows:

  • Welcome
  • Introduce Myself
  • Anecdote about being asked to host
  • A very brief history of Jazz
  • List performers
  • Anecdote about first performer
  • Introduce first performer


2) Do A Runthrough: Even if you know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it, it will help to do an actual run-through of your remarks to see how they sound. Written remarks on paper can come off very differently in delivery, so it will help to practice your remarks. Even better if you can do it as part of a full event rehearsal. 

3) Realize That You Are NOT The Star: The purpose of an M.C. is to get the crowd warmed up and guide the direction of the show The M.C. sets the tone and is there to make the main stars of the show look good. The M.C. is not in the business of self promotion

4) Lay Off The Jokes: Funny anecdotes related to the event are fine, but try to refrain from telling actual jokes with punchlines. There's nothing worse than trying to recover from a joke that bombed.

5) Get To Know Your Performers: They will be a source of material for you to draw your remarks from. I asked one of the performers about the songs she chose and she told me that she had written them all herself and had written a particular one at the age of 12. That made for a good story and I used it when introducing one of her sets.

6) Be Positive: Even if you don't like the event that you're promoting, you're still being brought in to build the audience's enthusiasm for it. When an act finished up their set, I made sure to say something good about their performance and asked the audience to applaud by saying something like "Let's hear it for them? Weren't they great?"

So, with the above directives in mind, I had a much better show on Saturday than I did on Friday. Even thought it was a small and tough crowd, I managed to get them fired up for the show, and, by the end of the night, they were clamoring for an encore rather than running for their cars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Energy Scammer Won't Say My Name

"Kevin", a rep from an energy savings company called Switch Energy called me looking to get me to switch from ComED in order to save on my energy bill. He asked me to get my current electric bill while he held the line. I said "Hold The Line. Love isn't always on time!" in reference to the Toto song. "Kevin" asked me how my name appears on my bill, and I told him that my name appears to be printed. When he asked my name, I told him that my first name was Heywood and my last name was Jablowme. That didn't seem to phase him until I asked him to say my name back to me.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Marlins at White Sox 7/22

Every year, the Mac siblings all try to get together for a White Sox game. Usually, there's at least one sibling missing for whatever reason. This year, it was looking like all five of us were going to be able to make it. But, alas, my sister had her jaw shattered and two of my brothers were delayed due to a Metra incident. It seems that the Mac siblings simply can't all be in the same place at the same time, lest cosmic destruction and galactic chaos ensue. So, it was just me, one Mac brother, and three of the Mac kids who all filled in at the last minute. For two of those kids, tonight's Marlins at White Sox game was their first ever MLB game. 

And what a game it was. To begin with, this was the first game at Comisky Park (screw you Guaranteed Rate Field) to use extended netting which is becoming the norm for MLB ballparks. It seems that, due to modern day performance enhancements, foul balls are causing more injuries to fans that in previous years. Since this was a Monday night inter-league game against an unimpressive foe, attendance was on the low side at about 14,500. This meant that lines at the concessions and the washrooms were almost non-existent. Our little group also got featured on the Jumbotron for about 15 seconds. What a thrill that was. 

The White Sox destroyed the Marlins 9-1. The White Sox homered four times during this game thanks to Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, James McCann and Ryan Goins. It was looking a little hairy for him towards the end, but Ivan Nova pitched a complete game and, of course, was given the win. This makes the White Sox undefeated with their new extended netting. This is what Sox fans needed to see: The White Sox defeating a clearly inferior opponent. Now, let's get some momentum going. 





Monday, July 15, 2019

Telemarketer Loses His Script

I have no idea what this guy was trying to sell because he flubbed his script the second I answered. When I asked him why he was calling he asked me what services I provide. I told him that for $100, I would shave his head, and for $105, I would give him the Kojak special where I would shove the scissors up his nose afterwards. I asked the rep again what he wanted. I could hear him laugh a bit nervously. He said he was going to come find me. I told him that I am a long way from India and he said he lived next to my apartment.

"I don't live in an apartment, dipshit!", I said.

"Do you live in a house?", he asked.

"Well, gee, if I don't live in an apartment, then what do I live in? I thought you lived right next to me!".

When I told him that it was the lamest telemarketer call I had ever gotten, the rep said I could ask him any question I wanted. I asked him why he was originally calling and what he was selling. The rep said he was just calling random people in order to ask random questions. I said that I could hear people in the background so it was obvious that he was in a calling center. The rep said that it was his father and brother talking. "Yeah, they are saying how disappointed they are in you!", I said.

The rep eventually asked me what advice I had for him and I tossed out some random thoughts and insults. I advised him to get a job where he wasn't scamming people. I even told him that he could write a book afterwards about his journey from telemarketing scammer to contributing member of society.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I Met With A Casting Director

I went on an audition recently for a small TV show that is being filmed in Chicago. It was a very small role and I had been recommended to the casting director by a fellow community theater actor. I had no delusions of being discovered or becoming famous due to this, but, work is work, so I spent a few days getting some headshots together along with a sizzle reel before meeting with this lady. I did my audition and sat down with her to get her thoughts.

"You're good", she said. "You're even a natural. You say you've had no formal training?"

"None", I answered. "Aside from having been cast as a tree in 'You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown' in first grade and being constantly ordered to stand still".

"I can tell that you're undisciplined, and that's the problem. Had you ever considered acting classes?". The casting director went on about honing my skills and offered to refer me to an acting coach who charges a reasonable fee. I instantly suspected that I was being directed to this acting coach so that the casting director would get a kickback for referring me. Or maybe I'm just an overly-suspicious bastard.

"That just isn't for me. I like acting, and I'm dedicated, but I'm not going to shell out money so that someone can tell me not to put my hands on my hips or shoot rubber bands at me every time I step off my mark".

"Do you like breakfast?", she asked.

"Of course", I said.

"So, you like bacon, eggs, sausage, those sort of things. You get up in the morning, and if the mood strikes you, you eat breakfast. When you're full, you push yourself away from the table and go on with your day. So many people are looking for the quick path to fame. You say you're dedicated, but you're really just enjoy the meal. The chicken and the pig, they are the ones who are dedicated".

"The chicken and the pig have no choice. They HAVE to be part of the meal", I offered.

"Exactly", she said smugly. "A dedicated actor has no choice. It's a calling. They HAVE to act. That's dedication".

That sort of rhetorical nonsense is difficult to argue against, especially if you're trying to keep within the analogy. The best I could come up with was: "Dedication is a blind submission to fate and contains no indication of ability. The pig is dedicated, but that dedication isn't a guarantee to be delicious simply because it gave its life up for breakfast. The egg isn't guaranteed to not be rotten simply because it was called to the frying pan. I admit that I can't give you that level of dedication. But, what I can give you is devotion. I'll be enthusiastic in eating whatever is put on my plate. Given the choice, I prefer my eggs scrambled , I love eggs benedict and I hate sunny-side-up. But you can cook the eggs however you want to cook them.Use traditional or turkey bacon. Serve me sausage as links or patties. You can even include stuff I can't stomach such as tomatoes and ham. Whatever is on my plate, I will eat it as if it's the best meal I have ever had, and I will always be full".

After relating this story to some of my acting colleagues, the general agreement was that I've tanked any hope of getting "professional" work in the area. And I honestly don't care. Maybe I do lack dedication. But, on the other hand, I also am not looking for instant success or even the kind of success that comes after paying my "dues". I just want to work. But I want to work on my own terms. If that's incompatible with 99% of the available work out there, then so be it. I'll hang around and wait for when the 1% becomes available.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Loan Depot Not Home Depot

A telemarketer from Loan Depot called and once I got past the automated attendant, I pretended that I thought he was from Home Depot. I asked him where my ladder was and he said it was on the delivery truck. Once I purposely got his name wrong, he decided to hang up.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Tigers At White Sox 7/3/19 Afternoon Game

We saw the Chicago White Sox take on and win (7-5) against the Detroit Tigers this afternoon at Comisky Park (GuaranteedRate Field). This was a make up-game that had to be re-scheduled. This Tigers at White Sox game was originally supposed to occur back in May, but Mother Nature was not having it and sent one last gasp of cold weather to Chicago in the form of an ice storm. The weather for this afternoon's game, however, was perfect. It was a bright, sunny, warm day and we had great seats just a few rows behind home plate.

This game saw the Major League debut of White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease. His first inning didn't go so well considering that he walked three batters in a row, loading the bases and then gave up a hit to Harold Castro who singled to center field and drove a run in. If Cease had been rattled, then he hit it well because, even after that gaffe he still seemed cool as a cucumber. With his first Major League Baseball inning under his belt, Cease got settled and pitched a great game, ending up with the win. Food for thought: Dylan Cease now has 1 more career regular season win at Guaranteed Rate Field than Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish has regular season wins at Wrigley Field. Just sayin!

Aside from the great seats and the dollar hot-dogs one other highlight of the game for us was the Jose Abreu bobblehead promotion. Abreu seemed to benefit from the bobblehead boost and had a pretty damn good game this afternoon getting two hits and one run off of four at-bats and having only one strike-out.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Nexgrill 5-Burner Propane Gas Grill

As part of my Summer patio construction project, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a propane grill well before the stone for the patio has been laid down. I settled on the Nexgrill 5-Burner Propane Gas Grill in Stainless Steel with Side Burner and Black Cabinet. First off, it's clearly not a Weber grill, so I am not expecting a top quality product. It doesn't feel as solidly built as the equivalent Weber, but I don't need a tank in order to grill a few burgers and brats. That being said, the Nexgrill 5-Burner grill is well engineered and reinforced. All of the burners function as needed and heat at an even rate. The burners are angled higher in the front for faster and hotter cooking at the front and lower heat at the back. The side burner is a nice feature and it's perfect for using a cast-iron skillet to fry chicken or to use it for cooking lobster tails in a pot while grilling steak on the primary burners.

I purchased the Nexgrill 5-Burner grill on sale from Home Depot for $149. It usually runs $199. You have the option of having the good folks at Home Depot assemble it for you at no extra cost, but, if you do decide to assemble it yourself, it's not too terribly difficult. It took me about 90 minutes on my own.

For some extra protection from the weather, I also purchased the Nexgrill 52 in. Grill Cover for $25.

The Nexgrill doesn't come with a propane gauge, but Nexgrill does make a propane tank gauge that sells for about $15 at Home Depot. It makes a handy addition to the grill 

The only things missing from the Nexgrill 5-Burner grill are tool hooks. I've got you covered there. Check out the Yukon Glory YG-779 4Pc Magnetic Grilling Tool Set.

Nexgrill 5 Burner Grill with the Yukon Glory YG-779 Magnetic Grilling Tool Set 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red

A number of my faculty friends and I have banded together to do a monthly beer group where each member brings in a unique and/or interesting beer for everyone to try. For this month's meeting, I thought that I had a line on a bottle of Samuel Adams Utopias, but, as it turns out, the Friar Tuck's website was blatantly lying about the inventory at my local store. Defeated, I drove over to my local Binny's and picked up two bottles of Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red for the group instead.

Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red is an American Wild Ale that is aged in oak barrels, then hand bottled and corked. It's a very tart beer with a malty aroma. To look at the beer in the standard Samuel Adams tulip glass, you'd almost think it was a wine rather than a beer. It has a nice burgundy color without much carbonation. It goes down smooth with a little fizz and overall tastes a lot like a port wine with a robust, woody finish.

If you like beer and would like to try getting into sours, then Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red is a good place to start. But, once you have sampled the bold flavors of more complex sour beers, then this will quickly fall by the wayside. It's a good beer, one that is very drinkable, and my beer group liked it overall. It's just not what a beer snob would reach for if looking to have a sour. Thank God I'm not a beer snob.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Telemarketer Tells Me I'm Going To Hell

It was another one of those "Lower your debt" credit card scams. I asked him if he was going to forgive my debt. When he confirmed, I sent out some Hallelujas and praises to Jesus. The rep actually thought it was funny and started laughing after telling me to Eff-off.

When I asked what I had to do in order to receive this blessing, the rep hesitated. I told him to read his script and asked him what his script told him to say. He replied that his script told me that I'm going to Hell for taking Jesus' name in vain. I told the rep I'd see him there.

What came next was a flurry of expletives and a convoluted explanation of why I'm going to Hell. He also admitted that he's a scammer, but said he wouldn't be going to Hell because he would ask for forgiveness.

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.