Friday, November 2, 2012

Keeping Your Word: Part 2

My previous post takes place chronologically well after a long and frustrating battle with the One and Only Comcast.

The following is the beginning of a blog post that I began to write, and then agreed not to finish and publish after the executive escalations rep conceded to a refund of about $300 that I am due because of billing mistakes and promises broken. As of today, my account is still open with Comcast and I was billed for the account 5 days ago. It is unlikely that I will see the promised refund, as it is clear that as of yet no fulfillment on the part of Comcast has taken place.


Today is day 5. 

My phone tells me that it is a Wednesday. It is my only link to civilization, and I cling to it like the lifeline it has become.

My phone has become my life raft. It is my only link to the outside world. For five days I have been adrift in a shapeless void. Food, water, shelter, even companionship--nothing can give adequate comfort as I slowly waste away in the absence of a persistent, broadband internet connection.

"CURSE YOU, COMCAST!!" I weakly shout, shaking my first in the air. I am surrounded by boxes, furiously typing on the inadequate keyboard of my phone from my fetal position on the floor of my new apartment.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way, but I took a gamble. I gave too much credit where it was least due, and put all my money a horse with a proven track record for throwing the race...

**queue the wavy lines and flashback sequence music**

Day 1: The Flop

Comcast Support: "I'm sorry, but it looks like the address that you are moving to is not in our database; however, your neighbors across the street have service, so we should just be able to update the database and get you moved over on your move-in date. Here is your ticket number ######. Call back if you haven't heard from us in a few days."

Me: "I believe you, and I can't wait to continue our mutually beneficial relationship at my new address!"

Day 4: The Turn

Comcast Support: "Huh... It looks like that ticket was closed. Oh OK, we assigned it out to a local company. We have no way of tracking it now, but they will call you. We promise."

Me: "I feel confused, and I'm not entirely certain that you know what you're doing, yet I have no choice but to trust you."

Day 7: The River

Support Rep 1: "I'm retarded. Talk to someone else."

Support Rep 2: "I, too, am retarded. Talk to someone else."

Support Rep 3: "Those guys were retarded. Your ticket was closed because they entered your address incorrectly on day 1, and support guy from day 4 was a complete idiot too. I've made a new ticket #####. You should hear from us eventually. Some day you will see your precious interwebs again."

Me: "....please....  please, just... I'm a broken man. I need internet. I *need* it. So badly.... I know! I know! Take my water! Can you do that? I'll trade you my water. You can just turn it off. I'll go for weeks without water, but I *need* my internet..."

It is now day 10 since I first called Comcast. I am deep into day 5 without internet access, reporting from behind enemy lines in a foreign country. I hope one day to return to civilization...


As it turns out, it was a bad gamble giving Comcast a chance to get me connected, because ***three web-less weeks later*** they determined that in fact my address could not be serviced. The nearest cable box is two doors down (40 ft, give or take), and they refuse to connect me to it.

"Well why did you wait so long?" you ask. It's a fair question.

Pleasant Grove is not a podunk town, and our place is very near to the center of it. In an ideal world where broadband internet service is properly regulated like the utility that it truly is, one would expect that the options in my neighborhood would be either 1) abundant and competitive (assumes a functioning market where giant megacorps can't lobby their way into becoming local monopolies) or 2) limited, perhaps to one provider, but fair (in the regulated-as-a-utility model). We live in no such world.

Once Comcast wrote me off, I had two options for Internet.

  1. Broadband Wifi - supposedly with speeds of up to 15 megabit, but from a company with slimy business practices including bandwidth caps, overcharges, and a connection technology so fragile that even a minor trickle of rain shuts you down completely.
  2. DSL at 3 Mbps.
Both options suck. We're in a basement apartment so tethered 4G isn't an option, fiber is nowhere to be found in Pleasant Grove, and Comcast is the only game in town for cable, thanks largely to a backroom deal between Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner where they agree not to intrude on each other's territories. I ended up going with #2, a choice which eventually prompted the first of these posts. My package with Comcast previously gave me 20 megabit down, 5 up. I felt that a difference of 17 megabit was worth giving them a chance.

The conclusion that all of my experiences with broadband providers have brought me to is not surprising: Comcast sucks. Centurylink sucks. My faith in humanity is deeply challenged by this blatant and completely unchecked exploitation of the masses by the institutions that sate our ever-growing need for information.

Well played, Satan.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Keeping Your Word: Part 1

If Satan were an enterprising fellow and Hell had its own corporation, all Internet Service Providers would be wholly owned subsidiaries.

This is the tale of two Comcasts, told in two parts.

I say "two  Comcasts", but truthfully this tragic tale tells of two different companies, both seemingly determined to outdo the other in vying for the title of worst customer service ever. Until now, I had assumed that no one could compete with Comcast in this arena. I wrote my undergrad thesis on the future of commercial telecomm, specifically taking time to analyze Comcast's legendary public failures in customer service.

Comcast, Centurylink has just thrown down the gauntlet.

Part 1


Thank you for using A CenturyLink Sales and Service Consultant will be with you in just a moment. Your account information is confidential and protected by law. Advise our agent if you prefer that we don't use it to market products or repair your services. This has no

effect on the service or offers we provide you. CenturyLink offers a bill block at no charge which prevents some 3rd party charges from appearing on your bill. This chat may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance.

All CenturyLink Sales and Service Consultants are currently assisting others. You are currently number 8 in queue. Thank you for holding, and we will answer your chat in the order it was received.

All CenturyLink Sales and Service Consultants are currently assisting others. You are currently number 1 in queue. Thank you for holding, and we will answer your chat in the order it was received.

Thank you for contacting CenturyLink. My name is Jeff J. (20850). How may I help you today?

Jeff J. (20850): Hello Mathew, how are you today?
Matthew Simons: Hi, I'm good thanks.
Jeff J. (20850): Great to hear. What can I do for you today?
Matthew Simons: My wife set up our account earlier this month and I'm going through making sure all our bills are paid. I'm not sure what my login credentials are.
Matthew Simons: I know that our account email is but that's about it.
Matthew Simons: sorry,*
Jeff J. (20850): Can I have your account number please?
Matthew Simons: I'm sorry, I don't know it.
Jeff J. (20850): Do you have your billing telephone number?
Jeff J. (20850): I have not heard from you for a couple of minutes. Do you still need me to keep this chat conversation open for you?
Matthew Simons: I'm sorry, I didn't see that the chat had updated
Matthew Simons: it's either going to be my number or my wife's, so my number is ###-###-####
Matthew Simons: my wife's is ###-###-####
Jeff J. (20850): I will be right with you.
Matthew Simons: ok great
Jeff J. (20850): Just to verify that I am speaking with a responsible party on this account, please provide me with your entire billing address, along with either the last four digits of the account holder's SSN or three digit account code.
Matthew Simons: I wouldn't have the account code
Matthew Simons: the billing address is #### pleasant grove, Utah 84062
Matthew Simons: give me a sec on the ssn, it'll be my wife's
Jeff J. (20850): No prolem.
Matthew Simons: How late are you guys open? I may need to do this later when she's not working and can respond to my texts.
Jeff J. (20850): We are open until midnight Central Time.
Matthew Simons: if it's under my social the last four are ####, but my guess is she put it under hers
Jeff J. (20850): I am sorry, but that is not the SSN we have on file.
Matthew Simons: no prob, going to look through files
Jeff J. (20850): No problem.
Matthew Simons: ####
Matthew Simons: ####*
Matthew Simons: She also probably put it on our visa ending in ####, if that helps for verification purposes
Jeff J. (20850): Thank you.
Jeff J. (20850): Before I can assist you further with your MyAccount I will need your security code.
Matthew Simons: Where would I find that?
Matthew Simons: truthfully, if it's not somewhere that I can access online I don't have it, my wife won't have it, and we will never ever have it.
Matthew Simons: [censored], I just want to pay my bill.
Jeff J. (20850): This will beo no your bill in the upper corner or in the green box.
Matthew Simons: we just got set up, we haven't gotten our first bill yet
Matthew Simons: we've only had service for 2 weeks
Matthew Simons: I want to set up online account access so that you can email me my bills and I can pay them online
Jeff J. (20850): Do you have your welcome letter or confirmation email?
Matthew Simons: the email gives my account number only, the welcome letter is in the trash, gone
Matthew Simons: ##########
Matthew Simons: is the account number
Jeff J. (20850): i understand. If you are unable to locate the security code I can have it sent to you via US mail to your billing address.
Matthew Simons: so I've now provided account number, email address, full mailing address, last four of social, name of the primary account holder, phone number on the account, along with card type and last four digits of the credit card on file, and you can't verify my access?
Matthew Simons: what the actual [censored]?
Jeff J. (20850): I would appreciate it if you did not use inappropriate language. If you continue to do so, this chat session will end.
Matthew Simons: Jeff, what more do you need from me?
Matthew Simons: This is beyond ridiculous, and this chat transcript is absolutely hitting my blog unless someone reasonable gets in contact with me.
Jeff J. (20850): I will need the security code before I can get you logged in to see your past bills. You can still make a payment with our QuickPay option by logging in with your account number and zip code.
Matthew Simons: What I'm finding out now is that our online account access credentials haven't been created yet. You couldn't tell me that?
Matthew Simons: Your set up account link is pointing me to
Matthew Simons: what's going on?
Jeff J. (20850): I am not sure, did you go to
Matthew Simons: /facepalm
Matthew Simons: yes
Matthew Simons: I went to and clicked on "Set up My Account" on the left of the sign in button
Jeff J. (20850): I understand. To set up your MyAccount you would need your security code. To payment you would need to click on the Quickpay option.
Matthew Simons: Is your call back system down?
Matthew Simons: for the security code
Jeff J. (20850): You would need to have a phone line for the automated phone call with your security code can be sent. I can have it sent to you via US maill.
Matthew Simons: ffs
Matthew Simons: it only dials land lines?
Matthew Simons: and you're a telecomm company?
Matthew Simons: Do you know how bad this chat makes your company look?
Matthew Simons: You could go take out a mortgage with the ID verification information I just gave you, but I can't log in to set up my ebilling.
Matthew Simons: I'm done. Saving this chat and going home. Have a manager call me at ###-###-#### within the next two hours or I'm posting this transcript, edited of course for personal information.

That was two hours ago.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Glowing Purple Armor and Questicles

A post from an old friend has brought me out of blogging pseudo-retirement. You should start by reading his post:

First off, this is exactly the kind of analysis and game theory crafting that I engage in with my close friends quite often, so finding this blog has been a breath of fresh air--a well-reasoned, intelligent discussion hidden among a virtually endless supply of half-assed, poorly written, mass-produced drivel. Kudos, Cavernshark.

I essentially agree with what's been written, with a few minor differences. The biggest objection I would raise is really just a matter of semantics, but it's an important distinction to me, so I'll make it. The use of the term "end game" generally refers to a point in any MMO that I hate. It embodies the idea of mindless tedium as a means to achieve mostly-meaningless goals. Admittedly, my perception is highly colored by my experience with World of Warcraft, but then whose isn't?

The Problem

Ultimately, I play a game for the journey. That's where all the fun is. With WoW, getting to 60/70/80/85 is one journey, while grinding up gear and raiding is another. For me personally, the first journey was more fun than the second, but that was mostly because the second journey lacked even the facade of a goal. It goes something like this:

1. Grind grind grind, get a piece of gear.
2. Show off your gear to your buddies.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 ad nauseum, until you can:
4. Kill Onyxia/The Lich King/A Giant World-Eating Panda or whatever the hell is the current boss of the month, and get a better piece of gear.
5. Kill it again, and again, and again, until all your gear glows bright purple and everyone else standing around, bored as hell with nothing to do at the bank in Stormwind can see how awesome you are.
6. Call everyone else a noob. Congrats, you have beaten WoW.

Now, I understand that there is an entirely other side of the end-game that I never engaged in, which is the PvP side of things. Not my thing, and from what I've observed, it's a relatively small subculture of WoW players that prefers PvP to raiding.

Why do I like the first journey better? It's more dynamic. Landscapes change, questgivers change, and there's a consistent, permeating sense of progression. Now, some of that enthusiasm ebbs when you figure out that this progression, too, is mostly meaningless and arbitrary, and the fanfare at hitting the level cap is quickly diminished when you figure out that it's really only the beginning of tedium. Let's face it: hitting the level cap is rather anti-climactic. You don't hit 85 by completing an epic quest where you slay a waffle-breathing dragon wearing rocket boots. You hit 85 because you were in the middle of fetching 32 boiled newts from the bellies of giant lava slugs for quest giver 367 who you don't give two shits about, and you happened to strike down your Nth lava slug, which magically granted you the expertise of a total badass.

The point that I'm getting at is that all goals defined by the devs in an MMO are usually completely arbitrary and don't actually present the player with a worthwhile objective, because they are never meant to provide a lasting sense of completion and satisfaction. Most MMOs just end for players when they wake up one day, running to generic dungeon number 7 and think to themselves "Why the fuck am I still playing this?" Ultimately, the best goals that motivate players are those that they create for themselves within the system.

(Part of) The Solution

Disclosure: I play (and love) EVE.

Fact: EVE has been around longer than WoW, released in 2003 (WoW released 2004). EVE subs continue to grow year after year.

The reason for this, as best I can tell, is that there are no arbitrary player goals assigned by the game. Players create their own agendas, their own plans, and their own end game. The system is designed in such a way that it provides you with a sense of progression and change for as long as you want it to. If your end game is to take over the EVE universe, go for it. Nobody says it can't technically happen, but be prepared for disappointment.

So when I read that end game content needs to be the primary focus for developers, I think we need to look at end game content differently. End game content shouldn't be just a set of activities that you can do once you jump off the level treadmill, designed to keep the player mindlessly enslaved to your subscription model. End game activities should be an integral part of the game design from the very beginning, when the developers think:

1. What, ultimately, do we want players to do in this game?
2. What epic storylines does our IP allow for, and how can we translate those into meaningful objectives that give players enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment?
3. How can we allow, and even facilitate player-created goals and objectives? *If we've learned anything from EVE, it's that these have the most lasting effect on player motivation

Let's change gears now. I could rant on that for hours, but I want to address some specific things mentioned in the original post.

Player Social Structures, Developer Limitations, and Player-Driven Development

The idea of having flexible player social structures is intriguing to me. I think it's great. I think that it would open up a lot of different possibilities for player interaction. I also think that a prerequisite to implementation for a system like what Cavernshark described would be a single-sharded world/universe, as in EVE. When playing WoW, I often found myself wishing that I could join one or more social circles who played the game but operated on different servers. In this situation, having more than one affiliation would be meaningless if only one social circle existed on a given shard. Still, kudos for an awesome, original idea.

Another point was made in the original post about the limitations of software developers. As an employee of a software company that operates as a subsidiary of a subsidiary of one of the IT industry's biggest players, I can absolutely confirm that we run on a triage basis. We throw tons of money at development, but it's never enough. We have a wish-list of features that's embarrassingly large, and most of it gets thrown on the back burner, because we're constantly switching from Oh-Shit-We-Broke-Something Mode over to Let's-Find-New-And-Inventive-Ways-To-Break-Our-Software Mode and back again. Somehow we end up with a decent product, but it's a never-ending cycle and you just have to live with the fact that development resources are always scarce.

So with that in mind, it seems to me that the Holy Grail of game design is to make something that is infinitely moddable.

Confession: I love Minecraft, and if you don't, then you are a bad person. The thing is, I haven't played vanilla Minecraft ever since I discovered mods. In fact, mods resurrected an otherwise waning appetite for the game and turned it into a raging, uncontrollable hunger that just takes hold of me at unpredictable times. When I have a severe case of the Minecrafties, there's nothing that will sate my appetite other than locking myself away for a few days and pounding away at chunky blocks in 8 bit pixilated glory. When I finally emerge from my Minecraft-induced, caffeine-fueled nerd marathon, I swear never to touch it again. That usually lasts about 6 weeks. I have been clean for 4 weeks now.

It goes to support my point, however, that player driven content is what gives players motivation. In minecraft, my goals are all my own and the means to achieve them is mostly provided by other players. The mods I use are Industrial Craft, Buildcraft, Redpower, Extra Pipes (teleport pipes for BC), and Power Converters for IC and BC. Hundreds of hours have been put into the development of these mods. Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, have spent absolutely nothing in the development of this content.

Similarly, my new obsession is Day Z. Now to clarify, Day Z is actually a mod--not the title of the game that is required to run it; yet I couldn't care less about Arma II. To hell with realistic FPS combat sims, I want to kill zombies. I shelled out $30 to the creators of Arma II just so I could play a free mod that made their crappy game worth buying. Me and almost half a million other people.

Rocket, the creator of this mod which has likely brought in revenues in excess of $10 million for the Arma team, was paid nothing to create it. He made it because he loved the framework that the original title provided and saw its potential. A free mod has generated more sales than 10 DLC packs could ever have done for this game.

My point here is that the MMORPG community has yet to release a popular title that is open enough to be modded, but that is exactly what it needs. You want endless content? Let the community develop it for you. Are there challenges with this model? Absolutely, but I have to believe that the challenges can be overcome. I certainly don't think that it's the only way that a good MMO can be made now, but I really want to see someone take a decent stab at it.

I have awesome armor and you are all noobs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Abusive Jerks and Betrothed Zombies

A girl called me cute today. This is a problem.

You see, when a girl calls you cute, you suddenly wear the same label as puppies, shoes, old people, little brothers, and every other guy that she will never kiss.

Truth: girls love jerks. Why do girls love jerks? Ask any girl what the most attractive quality in a man is, and more often than not you will get one word: confidence. And jerks have confidence in spades. Nothing says confidence like "I don't need you, or even really want you." And whether or not girls will ever admit to it, they gobble that stuff up--at least at first.

The contradiction comes here: girls are attracted to jerks, but they don't want them. Girls start dating a jerk thinking "He's so confident. Look at him sweep me off my feet in his strong, confident, uncaring arms." The inevitable then takes place days, weeks, months, or years later, when she comes to the sudden realization that all of that confidence stems from the fact that he is in fact a jerk. Cue the tubs of ice cream and phone calls to girlfriends and sypathetic nice guys whom she will never date that all sound like "He's such a jerk. He doesn't love me, doesn't care about me, doesn't treat me right, never does X or Y for me, etc. etc." And always, it ends with "Why can't I just date a nice guy for once?"

Because in truth, girls want nice guys, but more often than not, they are not attracted to them. Nice guys get called "cute", "nice", and "safe", only to get dragged behind girls who aren't interested in them, watching them go through every abusive, uncaring, mentally challenged jock and meathead that has sufficient mental and physical presence to obnoxiously proclaim "I will treat you like garbage."

These guys--these followers--they're suckers. Have I been there? Have I been a sucker? I have. Never again.

I've decided that there are only three kinds of guys that get girls. The first, are the truly nice guys who get incredibly lucky and find abnormally sane women who are actually attracted to nice guys. Empirical evidence collected by yours truly suggests that these are extremely rare and precious women.

The second kind are just plain jerks. Most jerks will eventually find someone to be with for an extended period of time. That's usually either because he's able to clean up his act and become a nice guy, or he cleans up his act long enough to make the woman feel like she's trapped in the relationship once he goes back to being a jerk.

The third kind of guy is the nice guy who doesn't get lucky, who is forced by circumstance to get smart. These are the nice guys in disguise. If you can't be a jerk, you can fake it. The biggest issue is knowing when to take off the jerk mask to reveal that you're actually a nice guy. Timing is everything.

So now you understand why it bothers me that I was called cute today.
It was like I was being accused of being a nice guy, and a nice guy I am not. I have a motorcycle. My inbox is littered with the remains of conversations with girls that I've taken out and never called back. I make fun of sparkly vampires and any movie where women wear gigantic skirts and use the word "betrothed." In fact, if a movie doesn't have zombies, war, a heist, or a wartime zombie heist, it will likely take considerable effort to convince me to even agree to being in the same room while it's playing. The stereo in my car has only one setting for volume: it's called whatever-I-set-it-at-and-I-will-slap-your-hand-away-if-you-try-to-touch-it. Also, the playlist is mine to control, and there is no way in hell I will ever disgrace my car by playing country, no matter how much you beg and plead and attempt to coerce me. I will make every attempt to forget your birthday, your parents' names, and everything you said on our first date. In fact, I'll probably forget our first date entirely. I'll take every chance I can to badmouth you to my friends, and get with all of yours.

So girls, all of that and more I will do if, when, and however I decide, because I'm a jerk--an obnoxious, uncaring, abusive jerk. At least, until you come to your senses and decide you want me to be a nice guy. I can do that too :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cake-Pies and Songbirds

I am making a Cherpumple.

"What is a Cherpumple?" you ask.

Wrong question. The right question to be asking is "Why is a Cherpumple?"

I'll tell you why.

The Cherpumple is because society's "size-zero and washboard abs" version of beauty and social acceptance must be fought. The Cherpumple is because now and again we must break out of our health-conscious, death-by-heart-attack fearing mindset, and proclaim loudly to the world "I want diabetes!" The Cherpumple is the epitome of stunt food, in all its glory and deliciousness.

Of course, it is also an extreme food novelty, sure to earn me many quality high-fives at the celebration of Falliday. That is, if it will hold together.

You see, I am no ordinary chef. When I enter the kitchen, birds alight on the windowsill to watch the artist at work and sing inspiration while I create my masterpieces. The knives, dishes, and appliances all greet me with enthusiasm, proud to be a part of the great work about to be wrought by my hands. When I open the spice cabinet, I am met with a cacophony of desperate pleas, saying "pick me! pick me!" Truly, the kitchen is my home, and I am master of my domain.

But with such incredible skill comes a burdensome responsibility: I cannot follow any recipe exactly as it is written. It is my solemn duty to improve upon the recipes of the uninspired, to lift them out of mediocrity, and into the light of tastebud zen. Such is my calling, and therefore, in my decision to take on the great Cherpumple, I have sought to improve upon its already magnificent magnificence.

"How can it be?" you ask. "The arrogance! The gumption! How dare you?" you continue.

I dare, and the cries of pleasure that result from the fruits of my labor shall vindicate me.

The original recipe calls for a pumpkin pie inside of a spice cake, a cherry pie inside of a white cake, and an apple pie inside of a yellow cake. I wasn't terribly impressed with the synergy of the pie flavors, so for my Cherpumple (which likely can no longer be called a Cherpumple, as that name was derived from the names of the pies inside), I have a berry pie inside of a chocolate cake, a chocolate pie inside of a yellow cake, and a cherry pie inside of a confetti cake. Hence, I shall name mine The Cherrocleberry. Cherpumple, you have been one-upped.

However, there is one problem. You see, pies don't stand up to pressure as well as cakes. you take a pie, put something heavy on it, like two other pies sheathed in layers of cake and covered in frosting, and it tends to just squish and ooze all over the place. This is what the berry pie on the bottom layer has been demonstrating to me ever since I put on the second layer, which has the chocolate pie in it. The cherry, also susceptible (I'm guessing) to being squished, is going on top.

This has been a learning experience. The birds abandoned me about an hour ago, and the spices are cowering in fear behind the flour, but I will not be discouraged. The layers are all in the freezer, cooling off and hopefully firming up. Soon I will assemble the top layer and slather the Cherrocleberry in obnoxious amounts of cream cheese frosting, and all will be well in the world. I take heart in the fact that no one seems to be able to make it look pretty. In fact, another blogger described it as looking like "a forbidding white tower, the Soviet Bloc apartment building of cakes."

Mmm... diabetes never tasted so good.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Motor Oil and 1337 Sauce

Brace yourselves, friends, for a tale of joy and sadness! A tale of triumphant triumphs and miniature LED flashlights!

My car needs a new rear shock absorber.


Anyone who's ridden in my car recently (all 3 of them) will tell you that, when properly loaded with 300 lbs of computers and associated electronic goodies, 50 lbs of junk food, roughly half a ton of nerdy weekend escapists, and enough mountain dew to give a horse a heart attack, my car makes a sound that most people would describe to their mechanic as "kkrkrrrrrrhghghgghheeeeegheghghggrrrrrkk."

That's usually the point at which your mechanic smiles and says "that's car speak for $600." Then for kicks and giggles, "But just to be sure, could you make that really stupid noise again? I don't think all the guys got to hear that."

Not me. No sir. I'm wise to the mechanic world. I once managed to infiltrate their ranks, and learned all of their secrets.

So I'm going to replace it myself. With the help of handy Mr. Internet, I was able to locate just the parts I needed and found them for a great price. Just to be sure, however, I decided it would be prudent to look at the shocks on my car and make sure they matched the ones I found online.

LED Flashlight, I choose you!!!

I always like to keep one of these things around. Cars are dark, scary places--especially underneath at 8 pm--and LED flashlights (especially those made for automotive use) are conveniently sized to get in and shine where their bulky big brothers fall short. Now, selecting a quality LED flashlight is important, so I made sure to turn mine around and look at it from all angles after picking it up from the display near the cash register. It was beautiful. I took one look and thought, "Baby, you had me from 'press here.'"

Sadly, it wasn't meant to last. The greatest strength of my beloved flashlight may yet prove to be its Achilles' Heel. It's tiny.

I usually keep it in my assorted box 'o tech goodies. This is like a geeky treasure trove that I keep hidden from the world in my closet. You know, I think I'm still kind of a closet geek, to be honest. Based on who's asking, my response to any question about my background with computers will range anywhere from "I dabble in them here and there" to "My (insert WoW character race/class) is so 1337 he totally pwns teh n00bs with wtfomgbbq sauce."

Ok, I probably wouldn't actually say the latter. Probably.

Back to my geeky treasure trove, I've got everything in there. Extra power cables, cat 5 cables, display cables, extra hard drives (possibly shot), extra optical drives (likely shot), old ram, an old graphics card, a 4 port router, a wireless card, headphones... you get the idea. Basically, anything I get my hands on that still works and can be placed into, on top of, around, or next to a computer, it goes in the box. Random assorted techie things can also find a home there. It comes in handy.

But the closet is dark, and the flashlight is tiny. So I was searching through my box when I realized "man, I could really use a flashlight." Then, overcome by the irony of the situation, I decided to pull the box out of the closet.

It was then that I discovered that my dear flashlight had left me.

I am a man in ruins.

Sadly, the ending to this story is unwritten. Like many a terrible blog posting, I have begun with nary an end in sight. Will the two star-crossed lovers be reunited? Will I ever be truly at one with my nerdy self? Will my car continue to plead with me for mercy? Will the world ever know how many licks it takes to get the center of a tootsie pop?

No, Mr. Owl. No it won't.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Corn Dogs and Relationship Maintenance

I realized today that love and I have been apart for quite some time.

I'm ok. I'm not sad.

I just feel bad for love sometimes.

It's been so long since we've even spoken. I haven't written. I haven't called. Love was never much for texting, but I really haven't even thought to do that in quite some time. I just don't think about it much. I know, I'm a jerk. I still see it every now and then, in passing. Occasionally I pass it in the hallways at the university, catch its eye at work, or see it sitting all alone in the food court, eating a corn dog--a touch of mustard waiting to be dabbed from its cheek with a napkin, and no one to dab.

I know it wouldn't take much. I'm sure love just wants to talk every now and then--you know, catch up and spend some time together just talking about what's been going on in our lives. It's not like it hasn't tried. It wouldn't even need to be a romantic thing really. Love has always been like that. It just enjoys spending time together. I mean, we could probably just grab chinese food and a movie from redbox. Sure, we get kind of lazy together, so it would probably end up as ritz crackers and the discovery channel, but that's not what's important, right?

I've just been so busy. I mean, life is crazy, you know? Stuff happens, you lose focus... things that seemed less important become more so, and vise versa.

I should give love a call. Do you think it's been too long? I mean, what if it's moved on? What if it hates me now? What if it got back together with whats-its-face? It's got so much going for it, there's no way it could have waited for me all this time.

Oh what a fool I've been! We had something good, once upon a time. Maybe there's still time. Maybe there's still hope for us. I've gotta believe that. I just have to.

But I've still gotta play it smart. Fools rush in, right? No, if I come running back it'll think I'm desperate. Right there--Boom! game over. No... no, I can't risk that. I've still gotta play it smooth. I can do that.

Afterall, I don't really miss love. I've been this long without it, and I'm ok. I don't really need it. I'm ok. I'm not sad. I just feel bad for love, that's all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dill Pickles and West Nile

I live near Utah Lake. Aside from being one of the most polluted, disease-ridden cesspools I've ever had the pleasure of living near, it's also home to enormous populations of mosquitoes.

I hate mosquitoes.

Apparently, I have "sweet blood." That's a lot nicer way of framing the harsh truth that I'm only slightly luckier than the guy who got an extra ear on his forehead from mother nature's wonderful genetic lottery. To say that I attract mosquitoes would be a gross understatement. Forget bug repellent--take me with you into the woods and you are invisible. I am the sun eclipsing your small candle.

I woke up this morning after putting forth a truly commendable effort to deny the sun's existence. Grudgingly, I opened my eyes and turned onto my side, feeling the air from my fan blowing gently across me--singing it's siren song of continued comfort and rest--pleading with me to forsake all thoughts of work and duty and surrender to another snooze-button's worth of blissful denial. I was strong.

I opened my eyes and saw a pillow, thrown aside and positioned about where you would expect to find the head of a second occupant. As I was looking at the pillow a rather large mosquito landed gently, almost casually upon it's surface. Knowing that this mosquito had likely been feasting on me all night long, watching it sit on the pillow, unmoving, unafraid--it seemed to be asking me, "Was it good for you too?"

I killed the mosquito.

I got a free cinnamon roll tonight. That made me happy. Renae made it for me. Apparently, Renae is pregnant. I think she made them for a baby shower... or something. I don't know Renae, but a mutual acquaintance didn't want her neatly packaged, very appetizing cinnamon roll. Always willing to save a delicious treat from Almost-Certainly-Going-To-Be-Eaten-By-Somebody-That's-Not-Me Doom, I decided it was time to take action and volunteer my digestive services to the poor wayward cinnamon roll. It was packaged in plastic kitchen wrap and tied at the top with some string and a note (how craftsy-cute!). The note read, "Thanks! from Renae's bun-in-the-oven!" At first I thought this was sickeningly cute--then after a moment's pause I realized that for the first time in my twenty three years of existence, I was just thanked by a fetus.

Then it was just creepy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Politics and Parasites

These are difficult times for America. We face very tough and complex issues both now and in the coming months and years. Inflation is up, the economy is down... way down, wars rage overseas, super-viruses threaten all mankind, and mullets still roam free and unchecked within our borders.

And so it is in these times of economic and fashion-related uncertainty that we face the issues and prepare to select a new leader for our beloved country. Many candidates have been scrutinized and found wanting, leaving only two men to continue the race to the end and a wake of broken and defeated hopefuls behind them. The lines have been drawn and the final showdown is commencing.

We have explored and continue to explore each candidate very carefully. We want to know where they stand on key issues and what their plans are to make our country great and keep gas from hitting $34 a gallon. We want to know where these candidates stand on the war in Iraq, on immigration, and health care. And yet, I feel that in the midst of all the rhetoric and debating there is an issue which has been grossly overlooked. An issue which I feel is very important to all Americans and on which we should all place great emphasis. I want a President who will crack down on public breastfeeding.

I'm not proposing anything drastic. A small fine or maybe public humiliation would be good enough for me. I just don't want to see it. Honestly, who does? ...never mind that... I don't want to know. It's awkward!!!

To recap: I work in a restaurant. It's not a super amazingly high-class place, but it's nice. It rides the line between upper casual and fine dining. I can't tell you how many times I've seen women pull out that little blanket and throw it over their shoulders. Yes - thank you for using a blanket, but you've just created a swirling cloud of awkwardness around you and everyone near you in what's supposed to be a nice relaxing atmosphere.

I mean, what do you say to that? Nothing, obviously... I guess. It's just one of those situations that, from a waiter's perspective, you're not quite sure how to handle. Do you ignore it? Make a joke out if it?

"Oh hey looks like you picked up a parasite."
"Yeah I've heard that leeches are great for reducing swelling."
"So I'm not certain about this but I think there's something under that blanket that's eating you alive."

Most of the time you just don't even want to acknowledge what's going on. I've seen even the most outgoing people run from feeding mothers like frightened cattle. You don't even want to look near it, afraid that the mother will suddenly bare her teeth and growl to protect her young. "What do I do?" "Ummm.... ummm.... tune it out! Pretend like everything is fine and it will go away! It senses motion - just don't move and it won't know you're there!"

Yes, nature is beautiful - but it has it's place. Outside. With the hippies.

That is why I feel that this election year we should all be looking for a candidate who takes a strong stand on the issue of public breastfeeding.

We may be divided in many ways, but I think I speak for a unified America when I say, "Candidates, we want lower gas prices, a strong economy, and we want tough policies against mullets, public breastfeeding, and France."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sticky Hands and Mind Bullets

I love popsicles.

Since when?

Since now.

What's not to love about popsicles? They're cold and sweet and they taste like childhood. Simply delicious.

I wonder why I ate so many more popsicles as a child than I do now. I certainly don't eat less sweets; that's just preposterous. Are popsicles less refined? Have my taste buds become too good for popsicles?

I hope not.

Maybe it's the mess. Or rather, maybe it's the fear of making a mess. I do have a lot of childhood memories of half-eaten popsicles falling off the stick, oftentimes onto my shirt or hands... or just into the dirt. I'm not sure which of those made me the saddest. Probably the dirt. Clothes can be cleaned and hands can be washed, but a good popsicle can only be replaced by an uncharacteristically kind parent (usually I got a "I told you you should/shouldn't have _____, and now you've lost your popsicle.")

Good times. Maybe I can attribute my cavity free childhood to half eaten popsicles. Nah, I'll give that one to my superior genetic make-up. If only my superior genetic make-up had also given me telekinesis.

Then I could have saved my popsicles.