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Monday, April 30, 2012

WUMF: April 2012 Edition

Another month, another WUMF.

The film is less than two months away and I am trying so hard not to be spoiled. I just watched the International trailer which is a BIT more revealing than previous trailers. It’s almost two spoilerish for me. This is on par with finding out weeks ahead of time that the season 3 finale of LOST was a flash forward.


Sorry, I should have put that in before that five year old revelation.

Anyway, what I took from the trailer… and you have been forewarned…

The space jockey directly connects the film to Alien. I have a feeling that whatever race he was a part of was responsible for either discovering or engineering the xenomorphs we are familiar with in the Alien franchise. They might also be responsible for engineering human existence. However, by arriving on the planet, humans sort of set off some kind of plan and those aliens that look like the Space Jockey make their way to Earth to do some reengineering of the species. Unfortunately, the humans get implanted with an early incarnation of a xenomorph and combining with human DNA causes it to adapt to the shape we know. Then it effectively kills the space jockey by impregnating it with a queen who sets things in motion for the first Alien film.

Now, I could be way off, but I’m staking my claim now. Unfortunately, that trailer and subsequent attempts to find out more led me to some crap conspiracy from InfoWars d-bag Alex Jones who has a video out exclaiming that Prometheus is an attempt to indoctrinate audiences into the illuminati myths.

It’s a damn movie. I don’t know what scares me more, conspiracy theories or the theorists who theorize them. Get over yourself, Alex. You’re a year older than me and you sound like Blake Clark gargling broken glass.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, Dick Clark recently passed away. Well played Mayans. I’m actually beginning to believe in this crap. I recently saw a report on how scholars were trying to decipher text on the Mayan Calendar. They could only make out two words, Leonard Bernstein. We’re so doomed. Damn you Michael Stipe!

Actually, I don’t know what everyone’s so worried about. Dick Clark will still be at Times Square this New Year’s Eve. Coachella proved that to be possible.

Movie Night With My Kid
I’ve been making it a plan to introduce my four year old kid to a few of the movies I loved as a child before she gets all spoiled on CGI and 3D. Now, it’s not to say that I haven’t shown her movies that relied on CGI to get their point across, but I’m only going with ones that didn’t rely on it as a crutch. Yes, I’m looking at you Stephen and George.

Last year, it was the Iron Man movies. Why? Because I enjoyed them and she likes a good superhero movie. Also, in the past I showed her the first two Jurassic Park films, because she loves dinosaurs. Then, I went decidedly old school on her. Check out this brief list.
  • All six Star Wars films
  • The Goonies
  • The Last Unicorn
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Ghostbusters
Eventually, we’ll work up to The Hobbit because it might be a little heady for her, right now. And, of course I mean the Rankin/Bass one. She’s not quite ready for the marathon that will become the Peter Jackson version. She has seen a little of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I won’t subject her to the 1978 one which pretty much dilutes the series down into a mess. Dude, the Balrog, seriously?

One day, she’ll watch all five movies and hopefully, enjoy the hell out of them so much that she’ll read the books. That’s my plan. She’s already seen a good portion of the Harry Potter films and I will try to get her into reading them when she’s age appropriate.

And lastly, when she’s closer to ten or eleven, I’ll sit her down and we’ll watch Akira. Hopefully, there won’t be a live action version of that out, by then.

Next month’s WUMF will be hot on the heels of vacation. So, I might mail it in… just giving you a spoiler warning, now.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Damn Parents

We don’t cook a lot. I can count, on one hand, how many consecutive days we’ve eaten dinner at home and still have enough fingers left over to tell how I feel about the little punk in this story I am about to tell.

So, as I said, we tend to go out. We have regular haunts. On Wednesday’s we usually go for wings at Zackel’s in Claridge. We like Pasqaulino’s in Irwin. And at least once a week we go to Johnny’s Wife’s Place II in Harrison City for pizza. Last night was pizza night.

We’re pretty much well known in the restaurants we frequent and have a good relationship with the staff. Last night was no exception as the poor server at JWPII was all on her own dealing with some large parties in the dining room. One of those large parties had a lot of young kids, say between five and ten years old.

Now, I will be the first to admit my kid can be a handful. She has her moments when she cannot be corralled but we do our best to rein her in and apologize when needed. However, this group we saw last night was very lax when it came to policing their kids. At one point, the most hellish of fiends wandered around, getting under foot and eyed up the ice bin. I could just tell what was going to happen next. As a parent, you get this sort of precognitive vibe when a kid is going to act ornery. You can see the child standing in a room and know exactly what kind of trouble they are about to get into given the various outlets for mischief that are available. In this instance, I knew he was headed for the ice bin, right under the drink station.

Demon spawn walked right over to the bin, and reached his big ole snotty paw into the bin, grabbing the ice scoop. Pulled it out and grabbed a chunk of ice with the other snot paw. He wandered over towards his table where the adults were oblivious to his actions. He put the ice in his mouth and then he was noticed by parental units who asked where he got his new toy. He pointed and they mouthed something and he wandered back. At this point, I knew, KNEW, what was going to happen next.

You guessed it. Ice scoop and slobbery chunk of ice went back into the ice bin. A barrage of “NOs” was coming from our table as both my wife and I began yelling to the kid not to do it. The only thing that stopped me from physically going over there was that it wasn’t my kid and the last thing I wanted was some adult looking at me like I’m Jerry Sandusky.

So, we grabbed our overworked server and explained what happened. She closed the ice bin and brought out a huge bucket of fresh ice for glasses.

But it didn’t end there. The demon spawn also wandered over and began banging on the POS screen for the food and drink orders. At this point I looked at him and said, “HEY! Hell no, man. Get!”

Meanwhile, parents and other adults at the raucous table were oblivious to the actions of the little bastard and I yelled out, “Why am I policing other people’s kids?”

Eventually, the party made plans to leave and I could tell that the mother was just looking to get the kids home and into bed before she sat down with her glass of wine and Ambien. I could tell this group was Penn Township’s pretentious elite. The, “I don’t police my kids because they’re angels and it interrupts my free time to give a damn!”

Had my kid pulled a stunt like this it would have been a huge ordeal. First of all, she would never have made it to the ice bin. Also, had she eluded the radar and made it into hostile territory and came back with the ice scoop we would have grabbed it and her and marched back to the wait staff to tell them what happened. Then she would have apologized to them and I would have offered to help fix the situation.

Cleaning out an ice bin is not fun. I’ve done it. And not even just the small ones on a rollaway bar. I’m talking the big ice machines in the kitchens of establishments. I’ve had to clean them out, completely. It’s a big undertaking when you don’t already have 14 other jobs to do.

Needless to say, we were angry and it didn’t even technically affect us.

Police your damn kids!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sick Of It

You know your kid is sick when on Easter morning the little tyke doesn’t dive head first into her basket of candy like Ewan McGregor into a toilet in Trainspotting. I will let that image sit with you for one second… no more, or might not come back from that place.

Turns out, my kid was working on a fever. She had already been put on antibiotics for an ear infection earlier in the week, so the doctors thought to do nothing else as this was more viral in nature. We just had to keep her fever down and keep her hydrated. It wasn’t easy. She was hovering around 102-104 and my wife kept wanting to pull the trigger and take her to the hospital.

I was not as ready to jump on that path, yet. We’ve been down that path before. The kid gets traumatized, an IV drip with saline, Motrin, and a $100 bill for the ER visit plus the emotional trauma. Been there, done that.

I suggested we keep trying to bring it down with alternating children’s strength Motrin and Tylenol, wet facial cloths for her forehead and coaxing her to drink more fluids. And guess what? It worked. We brought her fever down and by bed time the little hustler was besting me two out of three games in Candyland.

By the beginning of the next week, my wife began experiencing a fever. By Tuesday, I had it. Finally, on Thursday, her father had it. Each of us with varying symptoms.

By Friday, I was spent. So, I worked from home and then had to take care of my wife. I took her go for a chest x-ray which revealed she had pneumonia in her right lung. She also had pink eye. They put her on a Z-pack, drops for eye, and neb treatments.

I went on Saturday with my father-in-law to MedExpress which revealed I had bronchitis, pharyngitis, and an ear infection. A strep test came back negative, but I was already cheating by taking two leftover Augmentin the day before. I was not originally going to go but considering I was coughing up bloody phlegm, it was probably a good thing. My father-in-law was not so lucky. He also had pneumonia in his right lung but his physician decided on a swifter course of treatment and gave him an antibiotic shoot in the ass. I got lucky. I managed to get through most of the week with a fever of around 101.

Now, the kiddo is coughing again and complaining her ear hurts.

Honestly, wtf? Was this mild Winter to blame for this rash of bad medical juju? Should we hope for three feet of snow, sub arctic temperatures, and hope for the best?


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Hungry Games

I’m fat. I know this. I do not have any delusions that I am who I am. I’m not trying to strut around in tight clothes unaware of the fact that I look like a sausage in casing. I have had a battle with weight most of my life and will probably continue to do so until I am either dead or diabetic. That doesn’t mean I have not tried to lose weight. I am pretty good at losing a few pounds here and there. Usually, I end up putting some back on but I wouldn’t consider myself in need of a Maury intervention and a crew to come cut me out of my house.

That being said, I scoff at the notion that there are people out there who are so obsessed with losing weight in order to fit into a bridal dress that they would voluntarily opt to have a nasal gastric feeding tube inserted instead of losing weight naturally.  The new fad costs around $1500 and allows the “patient” to get all the nutrition they need from their feeding tube under a doctor’s supervision.

Are people that nuts?

Feeding tubes are not sexy. They are not trendy. They are not a diet fad. They are a method for keeping people fed who cannot, or will not, ingest food any other way.

A friend of mine’s father just went into hospice for the end stages of intestinal cancer. He opted to remove his feeding tube and has decided to stop treatment. He is reconciling his fate. He did not have the luxury of using the feeding tube to lose weight. He had it because it was keeping him nourished because he couldn’t eat like everyone else. I’m sure he’d be willing to trade places with these self conscious, pretentious brides, and go out for a steak dinner, instead of sitting there waiting for his body to starve itself while hopped up on morphine.

I bet Terry Schiavo would have rather been out looking for a new dress instead of being trapped in a coma with a feeding tube while these idiots are running around counting the pounds they are losing thanks to this fad. 

Look, if you can't fit into your bridal dress, then you got the wrong size.  Plain and simple.   If you put on a few pounds due to stress or tasting all of the cookies and food for the reception, then you probably should go get on the treadmill.  This insanity where people don't actually have to do any of the work in order to lose the weight is the main problem we have.  Everybody's lazy.  I know I could lose 20 pounds just by changing my eating habits.  I'VE DONE IT.  If I wanted to lose more, I could do some more exercise, too.   But in order to get something out of it, you need to put some effort into it.  These idiots are cheating just to achieve a certain look for one day.  They are mocking the people who don't have that luxury; the ones who are stricken with disease or injury that cannot voluntarily choose to have or remove the feeding tube without suffering the consequences.

But hey, it’s a free country and people have every right to be assholes… just like me with my Twinkies.

BTW, tonight I’m going for a bacon cheese burger, cup of tortilla soup, and a warm chocolate cookie at Max & Erma’s. The only tube I’ll be using is the straw for my Diet Coke. Suck on that bridezillas.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Ruination Of Easter or How I Can't Win With My Kid

Here’s a little tip for all you parents out there just getting into the threes and fours with your children.  Expect the ruination of any holiday by your own hand.

On Good Friday, while my wife was at work, I took on the task of coloring eggs with my daughter. I set it all up and let her have at it and she did a really great job. She colored 2/3 of the eggs all by herself. She put the eggs in the cup and put them on the rack to dry. No parental mucking up of the process.  It was because of that self sufficiency that made it horribly apparent that this would all end in tears.

See, after Easter is over. Those eggs need to be dealt with in some manner. You either use them or throw them away.

Personally, I’d rather use them. Chef salad and egg salad sandwiches are a wonderful use of hard boiled colored eggs. Unfortunately, they are also the last fates a four year old wants to see beset upon her prized colored eggs.

Last Wednesday was the day of eggs-ecution. I had hoped to do it in secret but unfortunately, my child is nosy and has to be involved with everything regardless of what kind of exploration Dora is doing at the time.

I pulled the carton out and began to peel the eggs. There was some initial begging and pleading for the eggs on her part. There was even some bargaining for a commuted sentence. I even think she promised to be a good girl at one point. Alas, dinner would wait for no one, not even the sobs of a four year old.

She fled to the safety of her bedroom and wet her pillow with the sobs and wails of someone who just watched their child put to death for the amusement of others. All her hard work, the accomplishment of coloring the eggs by herself, destroyed by the hand of the father. It was almost a tragedy of Greek or Biblical proportions.

Eventually, the cries of anguish subsided, replaced with the sounds of snores. She had cried herself to sleep, the poor thing. And in an hour, she was awakened for dinner and the sobs and ire for her father resumed.

But, I was to not be outdone by my wife who placed her bunny crazy straw in the dishwasher this past weekend. She straightened that bitch out… and I’m talking about the straw.

As I sat there, waiting for karma to free me from the guilt of being made the hand of fate against those eggs last week, I was given the cold shoulder and my daughter said, “It’s OK mommy. It was an accident.”

I hate holidays.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Slow Decay Of Reward Points

Way back in January of 2009 I explained how I used my PNC bank / VISA rewards points to get a WII. For every $1.00 in purchases I made using my check card in a credit transaction, I earned two reward points. For every check I wrote, I got 25 points. It was a wonderful thing.

Then, in July, it all changed. I reached a NEW EARNING LEVEL. I leveled up as it were. But instead of getting more, I got less. Where I used to earn two points for every one dollar of purchases, I now had a straight one to one relationship. Still, for gas, food, or drug purchase I made, I got double points. It was still a pretty decent thing.

I recently just checked my account and now I earn one point for every $2.00 I spend.

If I were to use my VISA credit card… which has no balance, I’d earn one point for every dollar. If were to use it as a debit purchase, I’d get a point for every $5.00.

I just don’t understand it. I was getting a lot of rewards for using my bank. I was being REWARDED for being a customer. So, what happened? Oh yeah, that’s right. Credit card companies became the bad guy and the Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights was enacted. That meant the nefarious practices that were going on for years to bilk more money out of customers with ridiculous fees and interest rates had to stop. So, since companies couldn’t offset the giving away of money to its customers by stealing it somewhere else, they had to reduce their costs the only way they were allowed. They stopped showing the love in rewards points.

I shouldn’t bitch though, right? After all, I was never obligated to make any purchases in order to gain rewards. VISA was nice enough to give me free money. The fact that they can’t afford to keep giving me free money should be a reason to stop doing it. I mean they only pulled in close to $1 billion dollars of profit last year. There are mouths to feed. I get it. It’s OK, VISA. You go take care of your own shareholders. Us customers will be just fine.

If that seemed a little sarcastic, then I apologize. Oh, wait, I’m not actually obligating anyone to listen to me, so I don’t need to offer an apology. Readers are here of their own free will.

See how that works? When people bitch about something offending them, others say, “Hey, you shouldn’t bitch. They don’t have to offer that.” To which I say, “I never asked them to offer it. They just did it. Now they can’t continue to do it and I’m supposed to be completely OK about it?” I am a consumer. I was being given a service in return for my continued consumption and now that service is gone. Will I quit using the bank that offers that service? Maybe. My bank deals with VISA not MasterCard or any other company, so if I choose to vote with my wallet, that’s what I should do.

A blogger may sound like a whiny gnat that keeps getting in your screen door during the summer nights. We may be annoying while being an insignificant creature but we’re drawn to the lights. Turn out the lights and we’ll go away.

Until then, we bug, we blog, we buzz around your salad, looking for a place to call home. I’m just here to tell everyone else that someone out there changed the game.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Remember To Pay Your Taxes

I learned a little something about taxes this month.  I learned that ignorance does not excuse you from paying what you owe.

Six years ago when I started Mongo, Angry!  Mongo Smash!  I had little hope of ever turning any kind of profit.  I mean, after all, it’s an Internet business with hardly any overhead, manpower, or buzz.  Three years later, I went from zero profits to needing a 1099 and the meager empire was just taking its first breaths.  2010 was first year I had to do any kind of real tax consideration for my shirt sites.  I worked it all out with my tax guy and unfortunately, my return was cut in half that year.

This past year saw an increase of about 20% in revenue, while maintaining less than $500 of actual cost of ownership.  Seems great right?  It was until I saw my tax forms. 

I owed as much as I had coming back to me last year. 

So, where did I go wrong? 

I turned a profit.

That sounds a little ridiculous but it’s the truth.  Well, that and I forgot to pay the quarterly 1040 payments on the business.  Seeing as how my family’s income and my self-employment income all fall into the same bucket, I thought I was already paying on it.   Apparently not.  There’s a little thing called a 1040-ES that needs paid every quarter.

See, when you have a regular job with regular deductions from your paycheck, you don’t think about those things.   When you are the business owner and are only getting a 1099 from the sites you do business with, the responsibility falls on you to pay those taxes.

Unfortunately, Phase 2 is Pay Your Taxes.

So, I have to pay last years, plus a penalty, and the first quarter of 2012’s putting me in the red from the starting gate. 

I plan to meet with my tax guy after the end of the busy season and discuss deductions.   For one, I use a room in my house as an office.  That’s a total year of my electrical bill divided by the number of rooms in my house.  Then I can claim that.  I can also probably do that with my Internet connection since more than 75% of my Internet is devoted to shirt work.  I pay $60 a year to CafePress for a premium shop, $10 a year to Zazzle for free ground shipping, and I spend around $200 to do giveaways throughout the year.   Granted, I should be able to deduct my cable bill, my Entertainment Weekly subscription and my car since I will be making it an advertisement tool.   But, let’s not go from making t-shirts to making license plates, just yet.  Slow steps.  That’s how it works in my business.

Well, that’s your newest tip for success.  As always, I serve as an example of what not to do for your benefit.

Peace out!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mass Entitlement

Recently, the gamers of the world went after EA and the makers of Mass Effect 3 because they didn’t like the ending. In turn, BioWare is supposedly appeasing fans by providing a better ending.

Can you imagine another instance where the fan base had that much impact or influence on the way a company markets a product? Are customers more savvy? Are they less accepting? Are we too entitled?

I say “Too Entitled” because there was talk of a lawsuit. Really, gamers? Since when did the public get the ability to sue a video entertainment company because it didn’t like the product? Did us 30 year old+ fanboys sue Lucas for the Prequel Trilogy? Did we sue Spielberg for putting Aliens in the last Indiana Jones movie? No on both counts.

I expect value for my money, but at the same time, if I buy something that turns out to be crap… I just don’t buy anything else. I take to the Interwebs and complain like a child. I sell it to Game Stop for something else, recouping a small portion of my money. I don’t SUE THE FREAKING COMPANY?!?!?

With the distance between consumer and company shrinking every day thanks to social media, people tend to feel more entitled to voice their opinion directly at the source of their ire and demand some kind of retribution. It may be the best thing to happen to business by allowing more accountability for crap performance, leading to more quality in the future… or It will continue us on this trend of feeling that the squeaky wheel demands oiling above actually changing the wheel.

I liken it to the shift in the teacher / parent relationship where, when I was growing up and a teacher gave my parents a bad report, I was the one responsible for the problem. Nowadays, parents tend to say their kid is an angelic innocent and it’s the teacher’s fault. Get over it. Not every soccer game ends in a tie. Your kid is the instigator. The game world does not bow to your every whim. I get it, though. EA has a bit of a bad model; price things pretty expensively for a base product and then offer multiple micropayments for more, expanded content.

Still, social media has given the consumer another arm of contact and sometimes, depending on the company, it can yield positive results. But there is a responsibility as a consumer to act in a certain manner and, in turn, the company might do you a solid. Be a pissy customer and the company may just ignore you. Though, judging how BioWare is responding to the Mass Effect 3 issue, get enough pissy customers and you can change the world. But for the better?

Maybe we aren’t ready for this kind of interaction yet. Maybe we have been given the Twitter equivalent of the fire from Mount Olympus. We are still too young to wield it without burning down our village. Think of how well we adapted to QR codes. That was sarcasm. We haven’t. In fact, I saw perhaps the stupidest form of QR code placement.  It was on the back gate of a Tyler Mountain truck, driving on the Parkway East.

That’s safe.

“Hey, buddy, while you’re driving on a highway, tailgate us, whip our your smart phone and line up a camera shot of this small code on the back of our moving truck so you can go to our website… while you’re driving.”

What could possibly go wrong there? Well, maybe if you wreck, you can sue the company or take to social media and bring about restitution for your hardship. Because that’s more important than actually taking steps to prevent something bad from happening.

Here’s another little tip for you. Don’t buy a hotly anticipated game the nanosecond it comes out. Wait a week or two and see what other people have to say about it. You don’t have to be spoiled by others reviews… just cautious of the response. Can we do that?

Now, back to the early planning stages of my massive class action suit against Michael Bay for making the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aliens.  Gotta get this done before a single shot of movie has been filmed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mega Loser

I didn’t win. None of us won. We had 44 people play $4 each to the tune of $176 worth of numbers and we cleared maybe $15-$17 in winnings. Roughly $0.33 each.

But man, the hype. The Mega Millions made the rounds of two awards shows as joke fodder. The Kids Choice awards and the American Country Awards both had mentions of the big jackpot.

As for myself, I played $20 and even played the numbers from LOST.
Guess what? I lost.

But now that Mega hype has died down the real issues arise. The scandals.

When will people learn? If you are the coordinator of your work’s lottery pool, you need a little CYA quality assurance.

For me, I took the ridiculous task of coordinating efforts, collecting money, buying tickets, and giving out bad news.

But I was smart about it. I collected all the money ahead of time, giving people a Wednesday through Friday window of opportunity. I made sure to offer inclusion to anyone in the office. And then I went to buy the tickets somewhere that I could do without the lines and madness, to ensure that everything was right.

I walked into the local beer distributor near my building and had complete attention of the cashier. She took all my cash, we counted it twice and then we counted the tickets twice to make sure we had the exact number. Then, I scanned all of the tickets into pdfs and emailed them to all of the participants. That way, if we did win, and I stress “IF”, I had no chance to have that awkward, “Well, I bought the winning ticket separately” moment. In fact, I did buy mine separately, later at a completely different location.

Why don’t people get that? We’ve already seen two cases recently in the news where the winner claimed to have bought the ticket separate from the group they bought tickets for and the first one ended up being decided in court, in favor of the coworkers. How does this lady from a Maryland McDonald’s think she’s going to get away with this? Unless she made two separate purchases with different amounts of money and they can place the winning number into the second pool that was her own purchase, she’ll have to share the winnings.

Sometimes lotteries bring out the worst in humanity. You can imagine a tight knit group of people turning on each other like it’s a bad movie. Even with the prospect of the most evil aspects of human nature taking over, I’d still want to win. I mean, duh!

I’d just be smart. Immediately sign the back of the ticket. That’s tops overall. The last thing you want to do is misplace it where someone else can find it. Next, contact a lawyer and get a financial person involved to set up a trust or some kind of shelter so that you can’t take advantage of your urge to go Brewster’s Millions with the winnings… especially, since you may not even have them yet. Then plan the exit strategy.

I say exit strategy because as soon as you go public with the news that you’ve won, you will be inundated with all sorts of ridiculousness. I do think that I would at least treat my family to a week or two long vacation on me at a nice beach house to plan what to do. I’d want to include them somehow, but for everything else, I’ll probably go off the grid.

The fact that the at least one of the winners, scandal or not, has been identified is probably a bad sign. That kind of thing you want to drag out as long as you can. I want enough time to get all my ducks in a row before the world comes crashing into my life.

So, I guess not winning is kind of a blessing. Then again, they keep saying that money can’t buy happiness. Fine, challenge accepted.

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