Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Father's Day....

As Father's Day approaches my mind is drawn inexorably to memories of my now deceased father, who passed away a few years ago in California.

I don't have very many memories, and none of the fond variety, of my father because he left my mother and four boys when I was four.  Between the ages of four and about eleven we neither saw nor heard from him.  At eleven my mother, who was in desperate need of a break, agreed to allow my brothers and I to live with him in California for a time.

My memories of the California days are of him selling pot out of his bedroom, getting drunk and laying out in the yard crying about a dog that had recently died and that we suspected he had killed, and him leaving us with a friend of his and then promptly disappearing.  Shortly after his disappearing act my mother sent for us and I didn't see him again until I was in the Navy and stationed in San Diego.

I never addressed my father as dad, but I also never called him by his first name in his presence because for some reason I felt that it was the respecful thing to do for this man that I did not respect.  If I ever called his house and he didn't answer I would ask whoever did if "he" was there.  After a few phone calls though I quickly learned that he wasn't someone that I even wanted to talk to.  On the few occassions that we did talk I found that he liked to discuss how proud he was of his stepson Tommy.  I always thought how wonderful it was for him to have such a great relationship with his stepson when he had completely abandoned his four boys and never provided a penny of support.

My lack of respect for him had nothing to do, necessarily, with what he had done to his kids.  Instead, my lack of respect stemmed from how he had treated my mother.  About six years ago, which was probably two years before his death, I sent him an email asking him if he regretted how he had treated my mother and walking out on her and four kids.  I told him that I wanted closure and needed to know.  His response just reemphasized for me that I was actually pretty lucky to have grown up not knowing him.  My brothers have always been angry that we grew up without a father.  I, on the other hand, was just happy that we had a mother who did absolutely everything she could to make up for it.  All I ever asked him for was some expression of regret.

I used to think that reflecting on how you raised your kids with a somewhat critical eye and fear that you didn't do as good as you needed to was something that just mothers did.  I've since learned that fathers do this too. 

A buddy of mine recently said that he feared he hasn't been the parent he wanted to be because his kids didn't have the things that he wanted to give them.  He's a great dad and being a good parent isn't about the stuff your kids have, it's about the time you spend with them and the love that you show them.  It's about being a dad and not just a father.

Kids grow up and hope that they can make their parents proud of them.  Parents raise their kids and hope that their kids are proud of them; both sides are really seeking the same thing and in that sense parents and kids really aren't so different.  At the end of the day you do the best you can and hope that it's enough.

So if you have a dad who has done the best he can, make sure that you let him know that you appreciate him on Sunday.  As for me, I take comfort in knowing that although my father's gone, he's down there somewhere looking up at me.

Friday, April 13, 2012

On growing up....

Today for the first time my little girl, who isn't so little any more, and my little boy, who also isn't so little anymore, are both away from home in their first cars.  As I watched my son pull out and drive down the road I realized something; underneath my hard, crunchy exterior lies a soft, milky center.

I've always joked with the kids that they were getting a U-Haul for their 18th birthday.  In fact, I searched eBay and got my son a little toy replica of one just as I had always promised.  But today makes me realize that I never really wanted them to grow up; I've kind of grown fond of them.

All of the plans that I had for when they leave the house: walking around naked (except when frying bacon), turning their rooms into a wood shop, changing all the locks; all of those plans suddenly seemed trivial and meaningless to me.  Instead, I sat here and observed that a salty, water-like substance was carving tracks down my dusty face.  I realized that I was sad, and probably needed a shower.

So fly, fly young birds, spread your wings in flight, but you better be home by 9.  And remember, you will always be my little boy and little girl and I'm proud of the young people you both have become, but also very, very sad.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On birthdays....

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.
~Jennifer Yane

I turn 45 today and the above picture was taken 27 years ago when I was just 18.  Back then I was a lot smarter, or at least I thought I was.  Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and tell 18 year old Phillip that he's an idiot, and I'm sure that there are many who share that desire.

As I approached my 45th birthday I started to wonder why in the heck we celebrate birthday's anyway.  I suppose that when you're young and yearn to be older it's just another step in what you consider to be the the right direction.  But with every passing year it becomes less of a celebration, for me anyway, and more of a reminder that I'm not young anymore.

I've already decided what I want for my 46th and subsequent birthday's, and that's to forget that it's my birthday and that I'm a year older.  Of course, as several people have pointed out to me today, getting older is better than the alternative, but it still sucks.  Maybe I should just consider myself 18 with 27 years of experience.

Friday, March 9, 2012

On the Mayan calendar....

December 21st will be here before you know it and I don't know about you, but I have an extra pair of Fruit of The Looms packed away with my Vienna Sausages just in case I'm wrong and all of the nut cases aren't.  I find comfort in the knowledge that that I have a spare pair of drawers and a can of congealed pig parts should the unthinkable happen.

My mother always taught me that you should always have a clean pair of underwear with you in case you're ever in an accident.  I guess she figured that if you had that clean pair of underwear and were in an accident you could put them on quickly before emergency crews arrived.  Or maybe she meant that you should always wear clean underwear.  I'm not sure exactly how she meant it, but just to be safe I will change into a fresh pair the morning of December 21st and have that spare pair on me.  I call them my doomsday underwear and I have them behind glass.

In a post-apocalyptic world clean Fruit of the Looms are going to be worth their weight in gold.

People have been predicting the end of the world for about as long as the world's been in existence, so I really don't expect anything to happen except for a lot of disappointment and wall-to-wall news coverage of the nothing that was.  Every network will go live to correspondents across the globe who will all confirm that nothing happened.  Then, the very next day, some scientist will hold a press conference to say that his calculations were incorrect, thus spawning renewed distress in people who have nothing better to do than worry about stuff that they can't control.   

On the other hand, those news reports might look something like this:

I remember sitting down to draw up a multiplication table when I was a kid because I was too stupid to realize that there already was one in the back of my math book.  I got to about 2x9, saw something shiny, lost interest, and went outside to annoy the neighbors.  I kind of figure the same thing might have happened to the Mayan who created their calendar.  Doing all of those calculations and then transferring said calculations onto a big ass rock is hard, tedious work, and the guy might have had a short attention span, or he might have just been tired and wanted to be outside sacrificing rival tribesmen like everyone else; he just never picked back up where he left off.

Every 18 months or so I create a calendar to stick on my wall that I can glance at and see all of the important dates; vacations, holidays, etc.  The calendar I currently have expires on the last day of July, 2013.  Just because I didn't complete all of 2013 doesn't mean the world ends at the end of July, it just means that I got lazy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On assvertisment....

My post on Exciting Business Opportunities and the Waistline-Age Continuum got me to thinking about butts and money for some reason, two things that aren't often closely associated with one another.  Nevertheless this is how my mind works; it's the cross that I must bear.

You've probably seen the shorts and pants with stuff written on the butts.  I don't really understand the rationale behind them; I personally don't want to draw any unnecessary attention to my buttocks, nor do I want my daughter drawing attention to hers, but to each his own. In case you don't know what I'm referring to, here's an example:

Like I said, I don't really understand why anyone would want anything written across their butt, but being a guy that tends to roll with the punches I think that I've figured out a way to cash in on the pant writing craze.  Instead of some nonsensical term or word, why not sell ad space on your backside?  After all, if you're going to have writing on your butt, you might as well cash in on it, right?  Here are some samples of what I propose:

After the idea came to me I broke out my abacus and slide rule and did some cyphering to try to figure out if the numbers would work.  I didn't want to go off all willy nilly investing my hard earned fortune on some crackpot idea that came to me in the shower; I learned something from my failed Port-a-Hottie venture.  And I don't want you to lose money either because this isn't about me, it's about you. 

I took a class or two in Quantitative Business Analysis when I was getting my Bachelor's in Business Administration at a highly prestigious business school (Spoiler alert:  I've just started my sales pitch, the first part of which is to point out and grossly exaggerate my business qualifications) and came up with a chart that I believe accurately reflects potential assvertising revenue projections.  Here is the chart:

Don't ask me to interpret this chart because that would just confuse and disorient you, and I don't want you to be confused or disoriented just yet, that comes later.  The important thing here is that it's a pretty chart, and pretty charts sell.  All that you really need to understand is that this is a cottage industry in a growth market.  There is a ton of low hanging fruit out there and I expect incremental growth if you're willing to take it to the next level and think outside of the box.  I just used six catch phrases in the last two sentences, which should illustrate to you that I know what the heck I'm talking about.

So I'm looking for business partners, people who are willing to absorb all of the risk in exchange for the empty promise of future rewards.  It's time to quit working for the man and instead make the man work for you.  This is a limited time offer, so don't miss out on this exciting opportunity.  Supplies are limited and callers are standing by.

Disclaimer:  Offer not available in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  Past performance is not indicative of future results, people can and will lose money.  Contents may be hot.  Exposure to this offer may cause lightheadedness, hair loss and trouble breathing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On The Waistline-Age Continuum....

The left half of this graphic, sans the age ranges, was posted on a friends Facebook page a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me of a concept that has been bubbling around in my noodle for a number of years, so I added the extra people and the age ranges.  I guess that if I had to put a name to this concept I would call it the Waistline-Age Continuum.

This concept first started to blossom while I was working at a group home for "troubled youth" (politically correct term for thug) in Chattanooga.  One of the kids ended up there because he held up a fish market.  The visual on that always made me chuckle.  "Give me all your cash and two of those lovely tuna, and tell me, are they best served with white or red wine?" 

A couple of times a year I would have to take these young men shopping and they always wanted to buy pants that were several sizes too big for them; all of the Klumps could have fit into some of those pants.  Try as I might I could never convince them that they should buy size appropriate pants, and since I was always of the mindset that adults should let kids be kids (until I had two of my own) I never pushed it very hard.

I would take these kids to the YMCA to play basketball and they would have to hold up their pants to run and dribble.  Some of them had legitimate ball handling skills, even with that self-imposed handicap.  I tried to introduce them to the belt concept, explaining to them that it would take their game to a whole new level, but to them having their pants fall down while playing was just one of the costs of being cool.  Two handed basketball was just a little too progressive for them I suppose.

I used to work with this guy that was on the other end of the pants spectrum; me and a co-worker referred to him affectionately as pappaw.  We called him this not because he was old enough to be our pappaw, but instead because he wore his pants in such a way that the waist of said pants fell just below his chin; if his zipper was open you could see his Adam's Apple, and I don't mean that euphemistically.  It was as if that waistband was some kind of shield that would protect him from us young whipper snappers.  Pappaw looked kind of like a turtle in those pants.

So I've come to the conclusion over the years that, not unlike the rings of a tree, you can tell how old someone is by how they wear their pants.  The lower their waistline sits, the younger the person.  Think about it for a minute, have you ever seen a teenager not named Urkel wearing their pants up to their nipples?  Have you ever seen an older person with their crack showing?  Okay, have you ever seen an older person with their crack showing who wasn't working on your sink?

You never really have to ask a man how old he is.  Instead, start by asking yourself a series of questions.  First, can you see his shoes from the back?  If the answer is yes, then he's between the ages of 23 and 90.  Can you see his socks?  That narrows his age range down to between 40 to 90.  Can you see his shoes, socks and most of his leg?  If so then he's clearly between the ages of 50 and 90.  After 50 the immutable laws of physics won't not allow you to wear your pants any higher.

People over the age of 90 tend to abandon pants altogether in favor of the jogging suit, sweat pant or pajama bottom; when you get that old you just don't care, it's all about comfort.  Women are pretty much the same at that age.  I saw a woman the other day who had to be all of 115 wearing cowboy boots and a pair of sweat pants with "juicy" written across the rear.

I turn 45 this year, so by my count I have 5 more years before I have to figure out a way to get my belt line up around my nipples.  I don't know how to accomplish that yet, but I'm resigned to the fact that it's something I must do; it's as inevitable as the tide.  Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Friday, February 10, 2012

On "exciting business opportunities"....

The other day someone who I had previously unfriended on Facebook sent me a new friend request.  This probably sounds mean, but I have a habit of unfriending people who annoy me, and I'm pretty easy to annoy.  Don't get me wrong, I like this person, but if you post a bunch of stuff about politics, religion, your relationship or how crappy your life is you're setting yourself up for exclusion from the club.  Not that they did all of this, but they did enough of it to try my patience.  I post about those things on occasion, but those posts are the 15%, not the 85%.

Call me a cynic, but the minute I saw that request I knew that I was in for more aggravation; that they were working an angle.  I got the friend request and thought to myself "self, why is this person, who I exiled to the desolate landscape of the Facebook wilderness, forcing them to fend for themself without the comfort of my witticism's, friending me again after such a lengthy, and no doubt painful, banishment?"  Surely this banishment made them bitter and jealous of those left behind.  I learned what the angle was about 15 minutes later when this was posted: 

Call me if you want to have your own business & be your own boss. No set hours. Not a juice or pill company. No inventory, No experience, No employees, No Boss, No territories, No LIMIT To GROWTH. UNLEASH your potential! A real business dealing with brand name Fortune 100 companies! Unlimited Income Potential, BMW car program, Vacation program. Call me & let me show you the vehicle that could give you financial freedom, 256-XXX-XXX Why wait? Where will you be this time next year? Again, call me. Always looking for partners.

My mistake was responding with this:

I logged on to Facebook and stumbled into an infomercial.

What I really meant was "I didn't log on to Facebook to be subjected to an infomercial, take that crap somewhere else", but my comment wasn't taken that way.  Instead, it empowered them to use that response as an excuse to message me and invite me to an event in Huntsville where all of the secrets of this phenomenal income opportunity would be revealed to me.  I had been invited into the secret society, and this secret society would teach me how to get a BMW and vacations. (Spoiler alert:  there are BMW distributors all over the country that will sell you a BMW and you can call a travel agent for the vacations, but like everything, it ain't free). 

Ironically, she also posted the above image.  The picture pretty much sums up, for me anyway, what all of these "exciting income opportunities" boil down to.  I had to chuckle at the notion that the person who had just friended me because they saw me as a fat plum ripe for picking had posted this picture as an expression of their disdain for corporate life when in fact it is an accurate, visual representation of what these pyramid schemes are all about.  Let's be real here, people don't try to get you involved in their "opportunities" because they're concerned about your financial freedom, they do it in an attempt to move up to a higher perch.

Probably all who read this have been offered at least one of these exciting opportunities before, and some of you have probably taken the sales pitch, spent $250 for a kit, and converted your homes to the products that these companies peddle, only to realize later that you were paying $20 for a pound of laundry detergent that can be picked up for $10 at Wal-Mart and not making a penny off of it.

These "opportunities" make money for the people at the top of the pyramid because, as P.T. Barnum once said, there's a sucker born every minute, and a healthy percentage of those suckers are going to be spend the $250 and buy the product, thus benefiting the top birds.  Eventually, though, these suckers experience that moment of epiphany where they realize that the fruits of their labors and the profit from their purchases only benefit the upper layers.  Barnum's observation is truer today than ever before, and the supply of suckers will never be exhausted because people these days want to take short cuts rather than putting in the time and toil needed to be successful, which makes these opportunities very attractive.  After all this is the Occupy Wall Street generation, remember?

I've noticed one thing in common with all of these opportunities; when you ask for specifics the person recruiting you gets all cloak and dagger on you and says something like "you'll just have to come see for yourself, but I promise you won't be disappointed."  If you don't know the secret handshake they won't tell you anything until you're sitting in a room with 50 other marks listening to their best salesperson giving his spiel.  They say it's a great opportunity and that you will not be disappointed because they believe these things, they've already had the Kool-Aid and it tasted good.  They won't detect that unpleasant after taste until later. 

There are great products out there that are almost exclusively available through direct sales.  Pampered Chef is a good example.  I have several Pampered Chef pans and I would buy more; it's a great product, if you're willing to pay a little extra for it.  However, you're not going to get rich selling Pampered Chef to your small circle of friends because eventually your friends will have all the Pampered Chef they can handle, and you'll run out of friends.

I like to consider myself a pretty good investigator, although more in the tradition of Inspector Clouseau than Sherlock Holmes, so I did some looking around and figured out the name of the company, which turned out to be FHTM, a company I had never heard of.  Here's a snippet from their website:

You may have also heard the term multilevel marketing (MLM).  MLM is not a type of company or industry.  Rather, MLM is a type of compensation plan found in the direct selling industry.  Instead of using a single-level compensation plan, FHTM utilizes a multilevel marketing compensation plan. This allows compensation to be based on a Representative’s product and service sales, as well as the sales made by a Representative’s downline.   This helps FHTM to encourage Representatives to build a business, while still placing an emphasis on product and service sales.

This also encourages people to bend the fabric of reality just a bit, stretching the truth about their own success so that they can suck you in.  They their dreams with you, but present it as their reality. 

Here's a screen shot from a video that was labeled "Here are the people who earned their trip to Tuscon, AZ:

Do you see anyone in this clip?  I don't.  All of those people in these empty lounge chairs earned their way to Tucson though, which I have to admit is impressive.  To be fair, here's a picture from the website that they said was taken in Tuscon as well:

Did you notice Waldo standing beside the girl who apparently was told that she was posing for Playboy?  If not, here's that part of the image blown up:

Odds are that in 2 years Waldo will be easier to find at an FHTM event than the rest of this crowd; by then they will have figured it out.

Don't get me wrong here, this soon-to-be Facebook friend twice removed, person is a well-meaning soul, but since the dawn of mankind folks have lost their shorts looking for those "great income opportunities" and I'm rather fond of my shorts.  They aren't pretty, but they're mine if you know what I mean.

Here are a couple of things that I've learned in my 44 years of existence:

  1. The saying "if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is" is incorrect.  See #2.
  2. If it sounds too good to be true, then it absolutely is too good to be true. 
  3. There are no short cuts. 
  4. If this opportunity was so great, everyone would know about it.
  5. If this really was a phenomenal opportunity the secret society stuff would be out the window.
  6. Just because someone you know is doing it doesn't mean that it's good for you.
The only vehicle that is going to be driving me to financial freedom is the one I drive to work in.

I'll leave with this, the last sentence in that initial post:  "Always looking for partners".  Partners are the birds sitting at the bottom of that first picture.  No thanks.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

On Granthall Day....

Today being Groundhog day I remembered, and I look forward to it with eager anticipation, that next Friday is Granthall Day; I can't wait to find out if the Granthall will see its shadow.  What's Granthall Day you ask?  I'll tell you.

My wife and I moved to Grant about 14 years ago and for about the first 9 or 10 years we had a Mr. and Mrs. Hall who lived beside us.  Mr. and Mrs. Hall were an elderly couple who lived a quiet, peaceful existence, never making any commotion and never bothering anyone.  With one exception:  Mrs. Hall was a bit of a snoop, and when I say a bit of a snoop I'm being kind; she made your business her business and she had years of experience at it.  She was at the top of her game and all the other snoopers envied her.  She was to snooping what Alabama is to college football..

Mrs. Hall's nosiness quickly caught my attention.  When we were in the pool she would stand at her garage window and stare at us.  When I mowed the lawn she was right there with me, staring wistfully from her garage window, her eyes reaching across the distance to the man on the Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  In short, anything that we did in our back yard was watched..

Now I'm a good guy, but it became extremely annoying.  One day I was particularly aggravated so I got out of the pool, bared my posterior and shook it in her general direction, much to the dismay and embarrassment of my wife.  Yes, I mooned a 150 year old woman and I'm not proud of it...much.  What happened?  Nothing, she didn't move a muscle, bat an eye or make any effort whatsoever to modify her behavior in the least.  At other times I would wave and gesticulate in obvious signs of distress and displeasure and it did nothing; she didn't skip a beat.  The woman was the consummate professional in the realm of snoopery.

It got to the point that I couldn't bear it any longer (and didn't want to bare it any longer, pun intended) and with no previous construction or brick laying experience I built this:

Not the prettiest job ever, but if nothing else I could sit out on that part of the deck without being watched.

During the typical viewing I would be out in the yard for no more than 5 minutes before she would pop up to stare at me from afar.  She would do this for hours.  Her ability to sense my presence was uncanny, it's like she had flying monkeys hovering over my house just waiting to report back to her the minute I walked out the door.  And flying monkeys don't come cheap, but she was really into her watching.

Over time I began to understand that there was a seasonal pattern to her behavior; she watched almost exclusively from spring to fall, but not during the winter, probably because she didn't have a heated garage and the cold was hard on her old bones.  Year after year in the early spring she would take up residence by her door whenever I was outside.

I began to joke to my wife that we could tell when spring was over because Mrs. Hall would come out of hibernation and start staring at me again.  I realized that, unlike Puxatony Phil, I could rely on Mrs. Hall to accurately predict the end of winter and the beginning of spring, so I began to call that time of year Granthall Day.  If she came out to observe but it was still cold, she would scurry back inside until it warmed up a bit more.

A few years ago we built a privacy fence around our yard and Mr. and Mrs. Hall are no longer our neighbors, but every February I think back to the Granthall Days of yore.  Do I miss it?  Not in the least.

On puppies....

Recently I broke down and agreed to get the family a poopy, I mean puppy.  She's a cute little thing that I actually got to name this time (Gabby), but I feel a little like Nostradamus because the things that made me not want to get a puppy in the first place are coming to pass.  I realized that I had accurately predicted how all of this would go down while standing in the yard at 1:20 in the morning waiting for Gabby to do her business.

Puppies are poo factories; their waste to weight ratio is astounding and most days it seems like they poop in excess of their own body weight.  Teaching them to poo where they're supposed to is not something that I have ever had on my bucket list, and cleaning up when they miss the target is no fun either.

I believe that if you get a pet though, or have one thrust upon you, you're obligated to take care of it like it's one of the family.  I don't like to see people go get a dog only to chain it to a tree and never give it any attention.  I want to take people like that and chain them to a tree to see how well they like it.

Someone once told me a story about a guy who chained their dog to a tree like that.  When the dog came up pregnant and they were asked what they were going to do about the puppies the guy told him that he guessed he was going to have to plant more trees. 

Perhaps the worst part of the new puppy experience, and I'm not sure that any degree of hell is better or worse than the other, is crate training them.  I'm a guy who likes my sleep, and hearing a puppy screaming its head off all night isn't much fun.  One night Gabby screamed for about 15 minutes and then stopped.  "She's fallen asleep", I thought to myself, but of course that wasn't it, she was just taking a short break to catch her breath, and in short order the cacophony began anew.  There is no sound as horrible as the screams of a puppy.

Having a puppy is like having my daughter's boyfriend over; I have to stay vigilant and can't let my guard down for even a moment.  It really does wear a person out.  The boyfriend is only here for a couple of hours, puppies are forever.

This summer I have a couple of sprained ankles to look forward to when I step in the holes that she will dig.  I will dirty my shoes at least a dozen times, and there's no telling what I will find chewed to pieces; last time we had a dog it chewed the wood around our deck.

I guess I'm really not a pet kind of guy; I like animals, but I like them when they belong to someone else.  If there was such thing as a dog rental I might pick one up for a couple of hours occasionally to go hiking with, but beyond that I'm not really interested in having one of my own.  Of course it's kind of like I have a rent-a-dog anyway; it's the family dog unless it's 1 AM and then it's my dog.  I know a guy who takes care of his neighbors dog; he feeds it and even has a doghouse for it.  To me that is the perfect arrangement.

My wife keeps telling me that I need to bond with Gabby, but if going out with her at 1 or 2 in the morning isn't bonding, I don't know what is.  I'm sure that there will come a time when the annoyances start to decrease and I'll start to warm up to the idea of being a dog owner, but before that days comes there are a lot of things to be chewed, ankles to be sprained, and shoes to be washed.  She is cute though.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On "Hey Phil!"....

I’m befuddled.  Over the last 6 months or so I haven’t been able to steer co-workers away from calling me Phil.  I think that it started last year with our most recent merger/acquisition and since then I have fought an almost constant battle against my seemingly inevitable transformation from Phillip to Phil.  I’ve always wanted to be called Ace, but Phil?

Like I said it seems to have started with our most recent merger/acquisition.  With each acquisition the culture of the company has changed a little.  I call it a merger/acquisition because like everyone else in the company I don’t know what to really call it anymore.  Just like with the previous merger/acquisition, this one was publicized within the company as an acquisition, but those employees who were allegedly acquired acted like they were the ones who did the acquiring and this one has felt pretty much the same. 

With the first big acquisition (there have been other smaller ones) the company picked up the term “meeting maker” from the company that we acquired, which replaced the old tried and true “meeting request” or “calendar notice”.  These are the Outlook meeting requests that we get for conference calls.  I’ve refused to use the term meeting maker because it represents the new; there’s a certain bit of familiarity that the term meeting notice carried with it.  Now everyone in the company sends you a meeting maker; no one sends a meeting request anymore.  I Googled the term Meeting Maker and it is a program that allows you to see other people’s calendar and send out meeting requests, so apparently the company used to use that software and the name stuck, much in the same way that adhesive bandages are now called Band-Aids.

With the second big merger I slowly became Phil.  Actually it wasn’t very slow, it happened almost overnight; one evening I went home as Phillip and the next day I was reborn as Phil.  There was no pain involved with the transition.

I counted and I had 18 conference calls last week and on nearly all of them the same thing happened.  As people joined the moderator would ask “who just joined” and Sally would answer “this is Sally” (Sally's clever like that) which usually elicited a “thanks for joining, Sally” from the moderator.  I joined with a “hi, this is Phillip” and got a “oh, hey Phil, thanks for joining”.  The same thing happens on probably 95% of the calls that I attend.  Why?  My only guess is that it has something to do with the culture of the company we acquired, or that acquired us, or whatever the hell happened.  Prior to the acquisition no one called me Phil.  Now EVERYONE calls me Phil, including people that I’ve worked with for 13 years.

I tell people about this and they tell me that I should correct them.  It does no good.  There was one moderator on a call that did the “hey Phil, thanks for joining” followed by a “by-the-way, do you prefer to be called Phillip or Phil”?  I laughed about how everyone else was calling me Phil, but that I preferred Phillip and he said “thanks Phil, I will try to keep that in mind”.  Seriously, it happened.

People who read this and who served in the Navy with me are probably shaking their heads and thinking that I’ve always been Phil.  Yes, when I was in the Navy I went by Phil, but my wife told me when we first started dating that she preferred Phillip, so I started going by Phillip.  Momma gets what momma wants.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t care what anyone calls me, but it’s a curious thing that all of the people from the most recent acquisition can't seem to hear me when I say Phillip; they're Phillip Deaf.  Like I said, I think it’s a company culture thing, just like the term meeting maker. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Wilson Phillips Disease....

I coined a new term today, Wilson Phillips Disease, or WPD.  For those of you unfamiliar with who Wilson Phillips is, they were a 90's all girl band  that consisted of Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson (the daughters of Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson) and Chynna Phillips (daughter of John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas and half-sister of Mackenzie Phillip of One Day at a Time).

When Wilson Phillips burst onto the musical scene in 1990 their first two songs were Hold On and Release Me.  I always found the indecisiveness in those two song titles rather humorous and I remember joining the lyrics together and getting a few chuckles out of that years ago.  "Hold on for one more day, release me, can you release me?" I used to sing, and it never got old.  It kind of reminds me of how I will hug the kids or my wife and when they hang on for too long say "break", meaning okay, I'm done and it's time to break away there you clingy little thing you.

Anyway, about a month and a half ago I was roaming around the mall with my wife and we found ourselves in Bath and Body Works (we had been in Victoria's Secret just before that, so after this trip I had to run home and watch some NASCAR to bring my testosterone levels back up to an acceptable level, and I abhor NASCAR).  

For those of you who have never been in Bath and Body works, it's that place that charges way too much money for a little bottle of lotion, but makes you feel like you're getting a great deal by giving you three for free if you buy three.  What the three for free really does though is just make that stuff only slightly overly expensive.  Anyway, there was a body spray that she liked but for some reason we left without any; she just couldn't pull the trigger.

Since that trip I've probably heard about 15 times how good that stuff smelled, so I took her today to get her some, plus we needed to go to the mall anyway because daddy needed some new shoes.  It probably took me about an hour to pick out some shoes, but this post isn't about me, so I won't write about how I tried on about a hundred pairs of shoes until I found a pair that the doggies really liked.

Bath and Body Works had these little pieces of paper that you could spray and then smell to find what you liked and eventually my wife had enough paper in her hands to print a New York City phone book; she was having a terrible time deciding what she wanted.  She would spray one, walk over to the next one and spray it, then forget which paper was which and have to start the process all over again.  At one point she looked at me and said "isn't this fun"?  No, not much.  At another point she looked at the glazed, dull expression on my face and asked me if I was okay.  I guess I was, but we had exceeded my 15 minute attention span hours ago.

Anyway, after about 3 hours of sniffing we finally walked out of there with our 6 bottles of lotions and sprays.  We had been there for so long that at one point some of the employees thought that I worked there and kept asking me if I needed to clock out and take a break.  I think that they were concerned about paying me overtime.  I'm pretty sure that when I turn 65 I'll get a little bit of retirement money from Bath and Body Works.

The point of all this being that my wife, who I love dearly by-the-way, clearly suffers from WPD.  Or perhaps more appropriately, we suffer with her WPD.

And now my video tribute to Wilson Phillips.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On airline travel....

I got to experience the joys of air travel again last week.  Okay, there's nothing joyful about air travel, but usually I observe a few things that make me chuckle anyway.

I'm not really afraid of flying or anything, but I got a little nervous on the first leg of my journey this time.  The real reason for the nervousness was that I usually just get on the plane and nothing of consequence catches my eye.  On this particular flight though we had a particularly chatty flight attendant.  She was talking to a group of older Red Hat ladies who had all graduated from high school together and were taking a girl's trip.  This was a lively group of lasses and the flight attendant commented on how she hoped they could stay out of trouble.

Then the flight attendant walked a couple of rows forward to coo at a baby and talk gibberish to it.  She chatted it up with the parents of the baby, talking about how cute it was and about their final destination.

On this flight I observed many individual scenes like the Red Hat Ladies and the baby.  As I sat there I thought to myself that this is exactly how plane crash movies always work; the passengers don't just walk on the plane and then plummet to their deaths, they all get to know a little about one another.  Think about the first episode of Lost; it showed a scene with Kate and the federal agent, a scene with Charlie and his drugs and several other smalls scenes.  What happened?  They crashed of course.  If you're going to be involved in a plane crash, you must first witness a number of seemingly inconsequential vignette's that set the scene and add to the shock and sorrow of your untimely death; the viewer has to know a little about you.

If the stewardess said it once she said it a dozen times; make sure that your seat belts are fastened.  She even demonstrated for everyone how those fancy, complex seat belts work.  I had to wonder though just how much the seat belt would improve my odds of survival in the event of a crash.  I've never read a single story of emergency responders finding people safely fastened into their seats in the middle of a cornfield after a crash, but I suppose it's possible.

Obviously the plane didn't crash, but throughout the flight I found myself continuously gauging my odds of survival should the worst happen.  When we were above 10,000 feet I gave myself no chance because I had unfastened my seatbelt.  When I was able to pick out cars on the ground I gave myself a 50/50 chance.  When I could see people on the sidewalks below me I figured my chances improved to 75% and when the wheels finally hit the ground I was confident that everything was going to be okay unless one of those baggage cart drivers didn't notice the huge plane behind him and zipped out in front of us, which is something that I could see myself doing if I were a baggage cart driver.  While we were over Lake Michigan I figured I could probably swim for it if a seagull flew into the jet intake, but knew that the water was going to be awfully cold.  I didn't particularly like the idea of hitting cold water at 800 miles an hour.

On the flight from Detroit back to Huntsville I sat next to an elderly lady and for the first time ever I was at the very back of the plane.  I made a comment to her about how far back we were and she looked at me and in perfect English said "I'm sorry, I don't understand English, I'm not from America."  Then I saw her reach into her purse and pull out a book of crossword puzzles.  How hilarious would it be, I thought to myself, if these were English crossword puzzles.  Alas, though, they weren't, but this did give me a great idea for how to deter those irritating yappers that I almost always end up sitting with and I now have a Russian crossword book on order from eBay.

I know that this all sounds a bit crazy, most of what I say does, but it's the kind of stuff that one thinks about if one is me.  Besides, we've all heard the saying that art imitates life, and with my luck that imitation is likely to happen while I'm strapped into 13D next to the lady doing the foreign crossword puzzles.

On another leg of the flight we had a bit of a militant stewardess who had the personality of a rock and really bad hair.  And I mean really bad hair, the kind of hair that, ironically, beauticians usually have. She actually came through and did a seat belt check and fussed at the elderly lady beside me for having her Kindle out.  A seat belt check, who does that?  Later she claimed that the pilot was still detecting electronics and said that we would not take off until everything was turned off, so the elderly lady beside me reached into her bag and turned off her iPad and smartphone too.  This lady had to be in her 70's and yet she had a smartphone, an iPad and Kindle.  You have to admire someone who embraces technology so completely.

The highlight of the trip though was when the foreign crossword puzzle lady stood up at the end of the flight and passed gas.  I don't think that it was intentional, but that really doesn't matter much; whether intentional or not and regardless of the country of origin of the farter or what language they speak it still stinks just as much.  At least I was home when she farted on me though.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

On Can Knockdown....

Someone who works for me, knowing the pain I was enduring after my bitter breakup with Angy Birds, suggested that I try Can Knockdown.  This game combines my two loves; throwing things and cursing.  The cursing is more of the under-the-breath kind and is my reaction to either missing a can or having one fly all the way to the top of the screen and then land flat on the board again, costing me a ball.

It's not quite as addictive as Angry Birds, but I'm finding myself spending too much time playing it, which in turn makes me more unpleasant to live with.  I guess it's time to relegate Can Knockdown to the bone yard with Angry Birds.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On hair....

I'm turning into a Hobbit.  I told my wife that the other day and she laughed, but after explaining further she had to agree with me.  Over the last couple of years my ear and nose hair has begun to grow at an alarming rate and it's really starting to get out of control.  The stuff is like kudzu.

I have to take a little pair of scissors with me everywhere I go because if I don't clip them during the day it gets to the point where I can't hear or breath.  Don't believe me?  Last year we went to Gatlinburg for a week at Christmas and I forgot to bring my little scissors.  This picture was taken on the the last day of the trip.

Luckily we were snowed in, so I didn't have to go out in public looking like that.

If I was a woman the ear hair wouldn't be such a terrible thing, I could just do my hair like Princess Leia and no one would be the wiser.

She doesn't seem pleased with her ear hair either and I can't say that I blame her.  Getting older sucks.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

On Twilight, Breaking Wind....

I went to watch the latest Twilight movie with my wife today, I think it's called Twilight 24 or something like that.  When it was my turn at the ticket counter I said as quietly as possible "two for Twilight please."  The girl behind the counter turned to the guy beside her and winked, then looked back at me and said "I'm sorry I didn't hear you, can you speak a little louder please?"  So I repeated myself louder and all of the 12 year old girls in line behind me burst out laughing, then converged on me and beat me up, all the time screaming "outsider, outsider."

Okay, that first part didn't happen, but I did take my wife to see Twilight today and I have to say that it was the worst movie I have ever seen in my entire life, and I've seen a lot of bad movies.  It wasn't the fact that it was a chick flick that made is so horrible, though that's reason enough really, it's the fact that they took a 15 minute story and turned it into an agonizing 117 minutes.

Here's a plot synopsis:

Bella and Edward get married, which pisses Jacob off.  They then go on their honeymoon and Bella gets pregnant, which pisses Jacob off.  The baby is killing her and Jacob is pissed about it, so Bella has to drink blood (which she finds yummy), to keep the baby alive, which both grosses Jacob out and pisses him off.  Bella dies in child birth, which pisses Jacob off, so Edward vampirizes her, which pisses Jacob off again.  Then she comes back to life.

That whole coming back to life process was, I have to admit, cool because you could see her skin change color, her boobs grow, her cheeks filling in, and makeup suddenly appear on her face.  Who would have known that Mabelline and Doctor 90210 would play such a prominent roll in the vampirization process?

At the end of the movie Jacob (henceforth dubbed by me Jacob the Disturbed), who's pissed again, storms into the room where the baby is, looks at it, and has a moment.  Apparently in this moment he thinks that the baby's hot so he imprints her.  I thought that imprinting involved urine, but if it does then thankfully they didn't show Jacob peeing on that baby.  I guess we have child labor laws to thank for that.

That movie isn't just about vampires, it actually is a vampire; I left feeling like every shred of intelligence that I came into that theater with was sucked out through my carotid artery.  My wife had to help me walk to the car because I could barely muster enough intelligence to figure out how that walking stuff worked.  For the first fifteen minutes after the movie all I could say was "can I pet the rabbit George?"  It's ironic that Edward's family name is Cullen because, just like old Tom Cullen from The Stand, I babbled about how m-o-o-n spelled "crappy movie."  Maybe the use of the Cullen name was a bit of clever foreshadowing.

If you haven't seen the movie consider yourself blessed; it makes Joe Dirt look like Citizen Kane.