Friday, May 30, 2008

Fifty Years Ago Today. . .

Yesterday was Miss Healthypant’s 35th birthday which is truly a joyous, auspicious occasion indeed.

However, fifty years ago today was a very special day for something else.

What happened fifty years ago you ask?

Fifty years ago today, I was conceived. I became a zygote. Oh, and get this - - it was also the day my parents were married. Somehow, the two events coincided.

They honeymooned in Austin Texas which is obviously where I began. Here is my first baby picture. (Everything was black-and-white back in 1958)

As a kid, we’d often drive up from south Texas to Dallas where my relatives lived. As we’d pass by the hotel in Austin where they spent their honeymoon, my mom would always say in a sing-songy voice, “Buck, there’s where you were conceived.”


So, here’s to my mom and dad. They’re both wonderful, fun, talented people.

I love you both very much. It’s been a great fifty years.

Well, except for that whole squeezing through the birth canal thing. I hated that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Apollo 13 . . . Redux

I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie Apollo 13 in which a moon-bound spacecraft had a major malfunction during the historic trip and the astronauts barely made it back to Earth.

I remember the actual event in 1971. I was in the sixth grade and our teacher, Mrs. Primm, had an actual television set wheeled into the classroom so that we could keep up with the events. The nation held its breath, not knowing if the three astronauts would make it back to earth or if they’d become a charcoal briquette in space. It was a real nail-biter.

She thought it would be very educational for us sixth-graders. We loved it, mainly because we got out of doing actual school work for a couple of days.

Much like the events of Apollo 13, I thought I’d keep you all up-to-date on the historic toilet malfunction on the International Space Station.

The three male astronauts have temporarily bypassed the liquid waste component of the toilet. In other words, they can pee but can’t go cockie-doodie in the toilet. (see photo)

Meanwhile, professionals at Mission Control realized at the last minute that they have a space shuttle about to leave for the Space Station on Saturday. Imagine that?

Due to their quick thinking, they called a co-worker in Russia who was able to smuggle a replacement pump in his luggage en route to the U.S.

Miraculously, the airline did not lose his luggage and NASA officials were able to make room on Discovery for the poop pump.

"Clearly, having a working toilet is a priority for us, so some of these things that we didn't need for the next six months or so could wait," payload manager Scott Higginbotham said.

If all goes according to plan, it looks like the malfunctioning toilet will be repaired by next week.

Whew!!! That was a close one. . .

. . . . I feel like I’m in Mrs. Primm’s sixth grade class all over again.

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A Room With A (soon to be gone) View

See this nice view to the northwest from my balcony?

It's about to be obliterated.

See that construction crane?

It's constructing a big building that will obliterate this view. Soon, I will have office workers staring back at me instead of this view.

However, I will always have this view over the river to the west. I don't think they can build anything over the river.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Funniest Date EVER

In honor of the Sex and the City movie coming out this week, I thought I’d share one of my most outrageous dating stories.

I’ve usually refrained from writing anything about my personal life when it comes to dating. However, this story is just too good to pass up, and I swear, every word of it is true and unexaggerated.

It was early 2001. I had just left behind seven years as a Roman Catholic seminarian and had moved to the big city of Chicago. I was this newbie 41-year-old guy who hadn't dated anyone in seven years and it was the year two-THOUSAND!

So, I went "online" which was wayyy new for me. The only online activity I had done previous to this was to tap in to the theological library at the University of Toronto for crying out loud. Really. (I’m not making this up).

So, I hooked up with what seemed like this nice guy online. He was of Italian background, about my age, we traded nice pictures and arranged a date to meet.

I wouldn't want to divulge his name, for that would really be indiscreet. . .

. . . Tony and I agreed to meet at an EL station near his apartment in the western suburb of Berwyn and go to a nearby Chinese buffet that he liked. Friday came along and I headed out to the Berwyn station after work on Friday, all excited about my date.

Tony was there. He looked like his picture; nice normal guy. Five minutes later, we entered this Chinese Buffet From Hell. . . . . .

He took me to this place where every person with an eating disorder goes to die. On Friday night.

The place is packed with people; huge people with their butts spilling out all over their chairs. There was a group of people clamoring for tables.

There was nothing on the buffet line but fried food along with a haze of grease hanging in the air.

“This is not good,” I thought to myself.

He spotted a table that was about to be cleared by a bus-boy and motioned me near it. While the bus boy approached, Tony spotted several fried shrimp left behind by the previous diners on their plates . . . . . . . and he began to pick them up and wolf them down!

I'm thinking, “This is not good.”

And isn't this a buffet? Aren't we about to go shovel up all the fried shrimp we can eat?

Not only that, but he dipped them into the sweet-n-sour sauce left behind on their plates. Can you imagine?

Now, I'm really freaking. I'm trying to think of something to say, something like, "I'm really not comfortable here. . . "

But the situation quickly got worse. . . It turns out that the previous diners who'd left the fried shrimp had not actually left. They were only at the buffet table refilling their plates and they were heading back -- To the table where Tony was wolfing down their shrimp -- along with their sweet & sour sauce that they'd left behind.

As they headed back, I bolted for the men's room. I left Tony to deal with them. I don't know what happened. By the time I returned, he'd found another table.

But wait! It gets worse. . . he returned to the table with a plate PILED high with food. I mean, his plate was a huge pyramid of Chinese food.

While I sat there gazing at his plate, he kept picking up bits of food from his plate and poking onto mine.

"Hey, try this! Oh, this is good! mff. nnff."

The thing was, it wasn't bits of fried food like shrimp puffs or crab rangoon that he was fingering onto my plate. It was bits of moo goo gai pan and other saucy things that he was pawing away toward me. And I have this “thing” about seeing anyone eat with their fingers, much less putting that food on my plate. . . .

"mff. nnff!"

While this was going on, the entire conversation was dominated with his tales of woe. Apparently, his entire life had gone downhill ever since his two-year-old brother fell out of a three-story window when Tony was six years old and his parents blamed him for it.

Meanwhile, more moo-goo was continually pawed onto my plate.

"mff. nnff! mmff!"

Finally, I said something like, "You know, I should get back to the train while it's running every twenty minutes."

That was my exit line. That was eight years ago. . . .

Believe it or not, I have been on blind dates since. It’s always nice to begin from a low point.

I’m really looking forward to the Sex and the City movie. If I ever find myself in a position like this, I'll just think of what Miranda would do and do that. Miranda's always my go-to gal.

But I don’t think any of the characters have ever had it this bad.

Houston, We Have a Problem. . .

For those of you who keep up with nerdy space things like I do, I’m sure you’re still amazed over the Phoenix polar explorer that landed on Mars the other day. It’s gone off without a hitch. Soon it will be digging up polar ice on the red planet and analyzing it for signs of life.

Isn’t that amazing?

On a more humbling note for NASA, it seems that the toilet has malfunctioned on the International Space Station. The three astronauts had to use the toilet on the Soyuz capsule that was moored to the space station.

It’s a good thing it was there.

“Houston, we have a problem. . .

“Yes? Go ahead. . ."

“It seems our toilet has experienced a major malfunction.”

“Does it involve number one or number two?”

“At this point, number one. Number two may soon be in jeopardy.”

“Aren’t the Russians docked there?”


“Um. . . can’t you go next door?”

Sigh. . . “I guess so. But it’s a hassle. . . “

We may be in the process of conquering Mars, but we still have to go to the toilet.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Perfect Egg -- Finally

One of my pet peeves is when you boil eggs and can’t get the peelings off. You know, when you try to peel the egg and most of the white sticks to the shells. That drives me insane.

Conversely, I just coo with pleasure when the peelings slip off in the most cooperative way.

I’ve read all sorts of things on how to remedy this situation. One involved sticking a pin hole in the end of each egg. Others involved plunging the cooked eggs in cold water.

After some trial and error, I’ve come up with the PERFECT recipe for soft-boiled eggs. (I like them just a little squishy in the middle)

1 dozen Grade A extra large eggs (not jumbo eggs)

3 quarts of boiling water

Big bowl of ice water. (Cold tap water will not do)

Bring the water to a rolling boil. Lower the eggs into the boiling water with a slotted spoon.

Time them for SEVEN minutes.

Then remove the eggs to the ice water and leave them there until cool. At least 30 minutes.

You’ll be surprised how easily the peelings will slip off.

If you want them hard-boiled, you’re on your own.

Hitting the High Notes

This past weekend, I was watching a marathon line-up of I Love the 70’s on VH1.

One of the segments featured the 1975 hit, Lovin’ You by Minnie Riperton. Do you remember that song?

I remember right where I was the first time I heard her hit that extremely high note. I was working at the Dairy Queen, in the back making DQ Dudes. We always had a radio going back there and one of my co-workers said, “Hey, check out this high note!”

I was amazed.

Yesterday, when that song was played on VH1, I wondered exactly how high that note was. The highest note ever written in Classical music for a human voice was in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and that was a high F (four spaces above the treble staff).

I played along on the piano with Minnie Riperton. She goes above it to a high F-sharp.

You go, girl!

You know the part I'm talking about:

". . . La la la la laaa, la-la la la la-la,

Doodn-doo, doo-dooooh,

(*** dogs begin howling in the next county***)

Click here for a live performance of her singing it. Actually, this live performance is better than the recorded one.

Minnie Riperton passed away in 1979 from breast cancer. I guess the angels needed some help in hitting the high notes.


Snakes on the Plains

My aunt down in Texas took these photos on Mother's Day weekend.

Oh, and those are Western diamondback rattlesnakes.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Little Bitties

I found this photo and scanned it today. Its a photo taken about 45 years old on our family ranch.

From left to right:

1. My cousin, Janna
2. Me, age four
3. My paternal grandfather, Poppy
4. My younger brother, Brad, age two
5. My cousin, Than, age four

Even at that age, I remember hating the "burr" haircut and questioning my cousin's use of firearms.

Karen Carpenter

When I lived in Dallas, one of my best friends was a woman much older than I whose name was Karen.

Karen was so cool. She was an ex-hippie, had fair skin, long red hair, a vegetarian, and owned two huge Basset hounds named Josh and Abbey. I became Josh & Abbey's foster-dog-dads and spent a lot of time taking care of them when Karen needed to be away.Eighty-pound Basset hounds are difficult to maneuver in-and-out of bathtubs when bathed. Eighty-pound Basset hounds are adorable but not the smartest of animals.

One time as I was walking Josh one night, he took off after an errant raccoon. Before I knew it, he'd slipped off into a sewer drain on the side of the street. I still had him on the end of the leash, but the majority of my dear Basset hound was desperately clinging to the side of the storm drain.
I grabbed him by the front paws and pulled him to safety.

Karen hooked up with a really good friend of mine in Dallas -- a much younger guy who played minor league baseball. He was eleven years her junior. His last name is Carpenter.

Dan and Karen Carpenter have been married for seventeen years now.

I just love having a friend named Karen Carpenter. . . .
Dan's a pretty incredible guy too. . . .

Here's a pic of moi when I doggy-sat for them.

A Saturday Post

Okay, I realize that I'm rocking the blog world by posting on a Saturday. . . .

. . . . I don't care. . . My Saturday seems to be rocking.

My Saturday began with an 8:30 a.m. appointment with my doctor who wanted to test my blood and give me a physical exam. I still go to my doctor in the old neighborhood where I used to live for five years.

My doctor's lab is only open between the hours of 9:10 and 9:42 on every Saturday.

My last recorded weight was 229 pounds in January. Today's weight was 216 pounds. My blood pressure was a languid 110 over 75.

I lived in Canada for three years. So, in Canadian measurements, I'm 188 cm and my weight has dropped from a dreadful 104 down to 98 kgs. No Canadian really likes to have their weight above 90 . . .
. . . Just to keep it in perspective. . .


I'm currently reading two biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt at the moment. She was a fascinating and much admired woman. Both of her aristocratic parents died before she was twelve years old. She then lived with two aunts and a grandmother, one of whom was named "Aunt Pussie".

If I ever obtain a pet, it shall definitely be named "Aunt Pussie" whether it be male or female, canine, feline, vulpine, or whatever.
"Aunt Pussie" has got to be the best name, ever, for any beloved pet.

Wouldn't we all, but provided the opportunity, have enormously benefited from the fond relation of such an "Aunt Pussie" whilst growing up?


I went to the grocery store after my appointment and I couldn't help noticing this advertisement at a bus stop right outside my apartment building. It's an ad for Canadian Club whiskey.

It says, "Your mom wasn't your dad's first. . . .

Damn right your dad drank it!"

Even though it's blatantly heterosexual, I have to admit that it's pretty "hot"

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fu Fu and Watermelon Seeds

Recently, I was waiting for a couple of friends of mine to meet me at a Thai restaurant when I noticed a restaurant featuring “African Cuisine” across the street.

Intrigued, I trotted across to look at the menu that was posted outside. Here are some of the menu items:

Egusi A soup comprised of watermelon seeds, tomatoes, dried fish, and chilis.

Roasted guinea fowl with okra

Fu Fu

Cow skin soup

Now, regarding the watermelon seed soup, I guess I can see how that came about. In Texas, you’ll often find grandmas slicing the watermelon rind and pickling it like sweet pickles. I’m sure some frugal grandma somewhere just didn’t want to see the rinds go to waste and decided to pickle them.

I love pickled watermelon rind, by the way.

I’m sure some equally frugal grandma in Nigeria didn’t want to see the watermelon seeds go to waste and figured out how to utilize them. Good for her. Nourishment for a family should never be passed up.

By the way, the watermelon seeds in Egusi are ground to a paste and used as a thickener for the soup.

I don’t think I could get into cow skin soup. Some pretty hard times must have instigated that food item.

I remember guinea fowls on the ranch where my grandmother lived. They look like quails on steroids and spend their days eating bugs. I don’t recall ever eating one so I’m not sure how they’d taste.

Fu Fu is a paste made from root vegetables like yams (not to be confused with sweet potatoes) or cassava root. Sounds pretty bland.

The next time I “meet the girls” for dinner, I’m going to suggest this place.

I doubt they will comply.

Life Performance Food Journal

We’re on a health kick at my workplace. Each of us has a weekly appointment with a “health consultant” who monitors our diet and weekly exercise habits.

A “health consultant” is basically a very enthusiastic guy named Mace who works out way too much. He knows nothing.

So, Mace and I have collaborated on a health plan for me in which I shall lose twenty pounds over the next four months. This will be accomplished by basically eating no more than four calories a day and running a marathon every morning at 4:30 am.

Mace said he would devise a menu for me that would enable me to reach my goal. I told him that I pretty much stick to a vegan diet.

He showed up the following week with one of those stupid, impractical, computer print-out diets. It had broiled meat and skim milk all over the place.

These diets are SO impractical. For example, it has you eating a boiled egg and half a grapefruit for breakfast one day. So what the hell are you supposed to do with the other half of the grapefruit? Boiled eggs don’t appear again after that. Am I supposed to boil ONE egg?

One dinner menu includes 2 ½ slices of cheese pizza (with low-fat cheese). Okay, like anyone’s going to leave a half slice of pizza lying around.

This diet is stupid.

So, I’m supposed to keep a “Life Performance Food Journal” for the next two weeks. Doesn’t that just make you wanna urp?

Here is my food journal for the past four days. Obviously, I’ve got to flip-flop my evening snacks for breakfast.


Breakfast: Coffee
Lunch: Large green salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Dinner: Tofu curry with mixed vegetables
Snack: Bowl of pasta with marinara sauce.


Breakfast: Coffee
Lunch: ½ serving of lentil curry, ½ serving of spinach curry
Dinner: Spicy Crazy Noodles, Tom Ka Kai Soup
Snack: Bowl of pasta with marinara sauce


Breakfast: Coffee
Lunch: ½ serving of lentil curry, ½ serving of spinach curry, small green salad
Dinner: Tofu curry w/rice, fresh fruit
Snack: Banana smoothie

Thursday: Breakfast: Veggie wrap, coffee
Lunch: Bowl of lentil soup
Dinner: Tofu curry w/rice
Snack: One mango, bowl of rice with marinara sauce

Yep. Those evening snacks while watching Sex and the City have got to go.

Naked on a Plane

Okay, we’ve heard about American Airlines plan to charge $15 for your first checked bag and $25 for the second. It seems like airlines are doing everything they can to produce extra revenue these days. Passengers are charged extra for pillows and blankets. On a recent flight, I noticed that the snacks now cost an extra three-to-five dollars.

But are you ready for this??? A German airline was due to provide a flight for nudists, but cancelled the trip. Here's the story. . .

Despite being fully booked by naturists wanting to take off and strip off, a German travel company said Thursday it has decided to scrap a special nude flight that had been scheduled for this summer.

The July 5 flight was due to be the first of many and was aimed at east Germans nostalgic for the naturism that was authorised and extremely popular under communist rule.

But, the firm organising the service to a picturesque Baltic Sea island, said it has had second thoughts after "moral objections" in the media and from visitors to its Internet portal, a spokesman said.

The 50 people with tickets would have boarded the flight in the eastern city of Erfurt fully clothed, but once on the plane would have been free to undress and enjoy the rest of the journey as nature intended.

They will now receive a full refund as well as a voucher for other products offered by the company, whose core business caters to holidaymakers who keep their clothes on, it stressed.

Now, I have no problem with nudists. I’ve even been to a nudist beach a few times and once you’re there, it all seems pretty nonchalant and natural. No big deal.

But on a flight??? No. I’m sorry. That just won’t do.

We’ve all been there. We find our aisle seat and buckle in. Then someone pushes their way right next to you, trying desperately to shove their over-sized carry-on in the overhead luggage bin. Their waist is right next to your face while they strain and shove and shove.

Okay, you get the picture.

When flying, I try my best to keep to myself. On crowded flights, we’re packed in there like sardines, fighting for the arm rest. I try not to touch my seat mate and avoid any contact whatsoever.

But on a nudist flight, their naughty bits would be right there next to you for three hours. That’s just wayyyy too intimate for me. And what if they’re ugly or smell bad? Many airline passengers are, you know.

Oh, and then your neighbor in the window seat always has to get up and wedge their way past you on their way to the toilet. That’s uncomfortable enough with clothes on.

And what about those really turbulent flights? I can just see it now. . .

So often, I get seated in the back of the plane. As you know, that’s where crowds gather to wait for the toilets. Can’t you just picture it, sitting in an aisle seat? All those genitalia just inches away from your ear.

Sorry. I’m just not into “aural” sex.

No. Nudity is fine at designated beaches, but I have to side with the German airline on this one.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


This morning, I passed by the place where I fed the pigeons the other day. . . .

. . . . They were waiting for me.

Eighteen Kids . . . And Counting

Have you guys seen any of the documentaries on Discovery Health Channel about the Duggar family? They’re the family in Arkansas that has 17 kids. That’s right, seventeen kids. The youngest is 9 months old and the oldest is 20.

Well, guess what? The mother, Michelle Duggar, is pregnant with number 18.

I’ve watched the documentaries and I have to admit that the kids seem to be happy, cared for and well-adjusted. I admire their principle of not buying anything on credit, never going into debt. And with all the horribly dysfunctional families out there, it’s difficult to criticize the Duggars for their lifestyle choices.

But how in the world does that mom have time to produce eighteen kids???

The family is fundamentalist Baptist, they home-school all the kids, and even have church services at home. Their favorite family recipe is tater-tot casserole. Obviously, mom and dad have a pretty robust sex life. But how??

With seventeen kids in the house, that’s 34 ears listening in. She’s been pregnant for a total of eleven years of her life. It seems like after 18 kids if hubby got the least bit amorous, he'd be sleeping on the porch. Any fun stuff would be a solo activity from here on out.

What if they got divorced? With sixteen kids under the age of eighteen, that’s about $8,000 a month in child support. It seems to me that a parent shouldn’t have more kids than they can pay child support for.

Yes, I’m sure the documentaries we see are well edited. I’m sure that TV viewers are shielded from the realities of seventeen kids under one roof. Tantrums, exploding diapers, puking, ear-piercing shrieks, fighting and general mayhem all end up on the editing room floor. The slamming of doors, alone, has got to be mind-boggling.
I have two younger brothers. Brothers try their best to kill each other. I remember tying my youngest brother to the side of the house, climbing on the roof and spitting on him when I was about fourteen. He was awfully noisy about it.
Then there was the time I locked my younger brother in a rabbit hutch which was perched on a wagon and sent it careening down the steep driveway.
There are ten boys in this family. Get the picture?

And the smell. My god, the smell! All those diapers and teenagers have got to make the place smell like a dead fruit-bat. Meanwhile, mom is knee-deep in tater-tot casserole.

Frankly, I’ll be more interested to see a documentary titled “The Duggars: Twenty Years Later.” Time will tell how they truly turn out.



Last night as I was about to calmly watch reruns of Sex and the City, my city exploded.

In the three years that I've lived here in my little high-rise, I've never seen or heard such a sight. There was a barge right below me on the Chicago River with fireworks going off from it. Right in the middle of downtown.

I have no idea what the occasion was. Perhaps the city officials just decided that "Tuesday" was enough to celebrate. Here's the view from my balcony.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pigeon Food

Okay, so I’m on this health kick, right? And I heard that flax seeds are loaded with those nice Omega 3 thingies. (For those of you who haven’t heard, we should all be consuming ten grillion milligrams of Omega 3’s ever day. Otherwise, we will have to undergo daily colonoscopies for the rest of our lives).

So, I immediately went to Whole Foods Market and procured my requisite ten grillion milligrams of flax seeds. (Ten grillion milligrams, by the way, equals “one pound”)

Feeling oh-so-healthy, I took the flax seeds home, just knowing I had warded off the dreaded daily colonoscopy. Then, they sat on my kitchen shelf for six months. How the hell am I supposed to eat flax seeds for crying out loud?

Rather than throw them down the trash chute, I decided to put them to good use.

“I’ll bet pigeons would love them,” I thought. We have LOTS of pigeons in downtown Chicago.

I scattered a handful of seeds on the sidewalk near a lone pigeon. He cocked his head, flew down and began to feast.

Apparently, pigeons have a communication device they employ and that any pigeon within a ten-mile radius can hear. This one pigeon must have sent the word out: “THERE’S FOOD HERE!!”

In less than a minute, a whole hoard of his friends swooped in from all corners of downtown Chicago. I have no more flax seeds. I missed out on my Omega 3’s.

But at least Chicago's pigeons won't have to undergo colonoscopies.

Reunited and It Feels So Good

My internet and phone problems have effectively been resolved.

You see, I used Vonage for my home phone. That’s the broadband-based phone system that gives you unlimited long distance and lots of other cool features for only $24.95 a month. Vonage’s advertisements tout their reliability; however, the very nature of Vonage is that it relies on broadband internet.

My broadband internet sucked. It was about as reliable as . . . . let me see. . . .what’s the most unreliable thing I can think of. . . . Oh yeah, my broadband provider, MDU Communications.

MDU (Multi-Dwelling Unit) has a monopoly on the downtown sector of Chicago. It’s the only broadband provider for all the high-rise condos. And they suck. They used to provide the cable TV as well, but their sucktitude forced them to give it up. (Now we have Direct TV)

If the wind blows above 5 mph, the internet goes down. If there is rain or snow, no internet. Same thing if a bird perches on the cable or if more than two users on at the same time.

Whenever I’d call them to complain, they’d just say that a lot of users were online and they’d look into improving the service, which essentially means, “Go rub a lamp.”

Since my internet was so iffy, that meant my phone service was too. Oh, and did I tell you that the cell phone reception in my building is non-existent?

“The cell phone reception in my building is non-existent.” Just ask my parents or Miss Healthypants.

So, because I had no phone service, I couldn’t do things like call Direct TV to have Showtime added or call out for Thai food. It was a horrible way to live.

Finally I called AT&T (from work) and requested good, old fashioned phone service. I have to admit that I was impressed with their customer service. The phone guy arrived when he said he would and once I had phone service, the floodgates opened.

I called everyone just to talk. It was wonderful.

After they got tired of me, I called Direct TV and changed my line-up. I had Spicy Crazy Noodles delivered from Sing-Ha.

I then called AT&T (from home) and ordered AT&T high speed internet. Within two days, the modem was shipped and I got it hooked up last night.

I couldn’t BELIEVE how fast it was! I was so used to the constipated broadband from MDU. I was making sounds of amazement with every click.

“What kinds of sounds?” you ask.

Okay, do you remember that famous scene in the deli from When Harry Met Sally? That’s what you would have heard in the hallway near my apartment last night.

Oh, and here’s the best part. Right after I got it all hooked up, I called MDU and broke up with them. Over the phone. Of course, they asked what they could do to keep me as a customer.

“Rub a lamp,” I replied.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Women's Gymnastics

I remember becoming hooked on women's gymnastics during the 1972 Olympics. Do any of you remember Olga Korbut?

She was the star of the show back then and I can remember so well the first time her "Korbut Flip" on the uneven bars was televised. Nothing like it had ever been done before and it was truly electrifying.

The "Korbut Flip" entailed standing on the higher bar, then doing a back flip and catching the same bar. Here's a video of it. Check it out.

After the 1972 Olympics, I became obsessed with gymnastics and was determined to be able to perform a floor exercise routine. (I don't know what came over me -- I was thirteen, so there's that).

I was hell-bent on being able to do a front handspring. I could do a cartwheel and a round-off, but not the elusive front handspring.

I practiced and practiced, doing all sorts of ridiculous tumbling moves in the front yard. Then, finally one day, I did it! No one in my whole school could do a front handspring; not even any of the cheerleaders. But I could.

Somewhere, there's an old 8 mm film of me performing my front handspring on the beach. It was the only athletic thing I ever did.

Okay, you know I've got to end this story with something humorous. Check out this video of this "gymnastic comedian." I swear, it's the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.

Click here.


Higher and Higher

Here is this morning's photo of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. I now have to stand back a couple of blocks to get it all in one photo. . . . And it's still got a ways to go.


Springtime in Chicago

There was still a chill in the air on Saturday morning (May 17) but it was such a lovely, Spring day that it brought out this cute little sailboat brigade down the Chicago River.

I heard the bells begin clanging which only means that they're about to raise the drawbridges. Then, here came all these little sailboats.
In order to keep traffic moving, only one or two drawbridges are opened at a time. The sailboats all scurry past the bridge and then float around in circles waiting for the next one to open up.
It's kinda cute. Here they are waiting for the bridge right under me to open up.
And, finally it opens and they all scoot through on their way to Lake Michigan

There you have it. A typical Saturday morning in downtown Chicago.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Gym Update

It’s been a month since I joined the Crunch Fitness and Torture Center. I have some progress to report.

It’s been hard. I still don't like it.

I am not nor have I ever been an athletic, active person. Now that I’m 49 years old, getting active and athletic is a slow process. I wanted to become trim and slim right away but that’s just not going to happen. Yet.

However, I have noticed a big difference in my stamina. If you had told me a month ago that I’d be able to walk/jog for 40 minutes on a treadmill, I wouldn’t have believed it. And you know what? It actually feels good.

Last night, I was couch-potato-ing (I love making nouns into verbs, e.g. “It’s time to KFC!”) and realized that I needed some things from Trader Joe’s. It’s an eight-block walk to TJ’s but on the way, I realized that I was walking much faster than usual.

That's not saying much. A couple of friends have mentioned how slowly I walk. I often motion for sloths to go on around me. But last night, I actually felt “lithe.”

I’ve only lost five pounds so far, but my clothes are fitting differently. The pants that I bought at Target the other day were 2 inches smaller in the waist and they’ll soon be too big. I think I might even be building (gasp!) "muscle mass." How about them apples?

When I joined the gym, I weighed 229 pounds and had a 40-inch waist. Now, I’m down to 224 lbs and wear 38 waist pants. (I’m six-foot-two).

I still don’t like going to the gym, but I like the results. I really wish one could couch-potato and pizza every evening and still be healthy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Adam and Steve

Well, the California Supreme Court ruled today that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Here’s something fun:

Go to or and see how many times someone posts that awfully lame cliché that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

My response to that is that Adam and Eve must have been horrible parents. After all, one of their kids killed his sibling. And if you take the Bible literally, then the remaining son must have reproduced with his mother. . . Hardly a family worth emulating.

I’m just saying. . . .

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Prom Nightmares

Have you guys heard about the teen in Houston Texas who was prohibited from attending her prom because of her skimpy dress?


Okay. Here’s the story. This 17 year-old teen, Marche Taylor, arrived at her prom wearing a little more than a nasal strip. She became belligerent when school officials wouldn’t allow her in, they called the police, she was handcuffed and led away.

The thing is, all students had previously signed a form that outlined the dress code for the prom. It’s pretty outrageous that she thought her outfit was appropriate. If you read the comments on the news story, just about everyone was writing, “How could her mother possibly think this was okay to wear?”

We don’t know what occurred with the mother. Frankly, I’m not going to pass judgment on the mother just yet. I can just see this kid throwing a tantrum and demanding to wear the dress. If I had been the parent, I would have said, “Fine. Wear the dress. I hope it looks good with handcuffs.”

I can relate to Marche Taylor. My prom was a disaster.

I had “dated” the same girl since we were 13. Judy and I were more of “best friends” than boyfriend-and-girlfriend. At least I thought so; Judy probably thought differently.

It came time for the prom and I, of course asked Judy to go. However, we had one of our many fights right before the prom and broke up. My grandmother never really liked Judy very much because she was Catholic and my grandmother was a die-hard Baptist, bless her heart.

So, when Judy and I broke up, my grandmother saw this as her chance for me to take a proper young lady to the prom. By “proper” I mean the new Baptist preacher’s daughter, Cindy.

Cindy and her family had just moved to town and my grandmother thought Cindy was just about the greatest thing ever, especially for her grandson. No one had invited Cindy to the prom because (1) she was new to school (2) she was the Baptist preacher’s daughter (3) she wasn’t allowed to dance.

My grandmother was really pestering me to take her. Frankly, Cindy was drop-dead gorgeous but I wasn’t into girls at all, drop-dead gorgeous or otherwise. However, taking Cindy to the prom would be a great way to get back at Judy, so in a weak moment, I asked Cindy to accompany me to the prom.

Do you see “disaster” looming on the horizon?

Frankly, I was surprised that her dad let her go. In hindsight, since I was the pianist at his church, he probably knew, deep down, that I’d be the last person to try any hanky-panky with his precious daughter.

He was right about me. He was wrong about his daughter, but I’ll get to that later.

We arrive at the prom. Cindy looked gorgeous. I looked ever-so dashing in my powder-blue rented tux with the black-tipped ruffles.

Of course, Cindy didn’t dance but she said I was welcome to. After a while, the band began playing Colour My World and I asked Judy to dance. (My best friend, Sam, had asked Judy to go).

Of course, we made up on the dance floor and continued to dance. How can you not make up when swaying to Colour My World?

The prom ended and I drove Cindy home. She was really a trooper, having sat there the whole time and not dancing with anyone.

As protocol dictated, I walked her to the door. At the front door, she wheeled around facing me with a big “come hither” smile on her face and leaned in. I started to give her a peck on the cheek but the next thing I knew, her crowbar tongue was down to my tonsils.

Oh! My! God! My first thought was, “Germs! Germs!”

Judy had never done that to me before.

I was also thinking, “Onion dip! Onion dip!” (which had been served at the prom).

Finally, Cindy relinquished me from her death grip and I ushered her in the door. Just as I got home, the phone rang and it was Cindy. Apparently, she wasn’t done with me yet.

“Your mom and grandmother haven’t seen my dress. I’d really like to show it to them. Can you come get me?”

My grandmother demanded that I go retrieve Cindy and bring her over.

Of course, my grandmother ooooh’d and aaaw’d over what a fine couple we made. Photos we taken.

When I arrived with Cindy back at her house, she made another lunge at me in the car. I flinched, backed away and she ended up storming off into her house.

I went home to gargle. . . .

Twenty years later, I was at my high school reunion and there was Cindy. She had been married, divorced, married again, became an Episcopalian and was drinking a wine cooler.

We talked about that night at the prom, I told her what the “real deal” was, and we had a really good laugh over it.

Hopefully, this Marche Taylor will one day be laughing at herself and the dress she wore to her prom.

However, I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Feelin' Groovy

At the gym where I’ve been faithfully working out, (periodically) there’s always rather loud music playing over the sound system. I don’t mind it so much, for it’s usually a good mix of anything that’s energetic sounding. Disco, techno-pop, lots of Madonna, lots of rap; they all get played.

The thing is, even though I’m a musician myself, I very rarely listen to music. I’ve got a small sound system in my apartment and probably not over 30 CDs which seldom, if ever, get played. I don’t listen to the radio in the car except for NPR.

So, the music that Crunch Fitness plays over their sound system is the only pop music I’ve been exposed to since. . . . hmmm. . . . well, Culture Club, really.

Yes, my name is Buck and I’m a snob, especially when it comes to music.

So, I didn’t think I’d ever find anything remotely appealing while being exposed to anything at Crunch, but I was surprised recently.

I was doing a solid thirty minutes of jogging on the treadmill the other night when this song came on. (The corresponding video plays on the screen on the treadmill which is pretty cool). I thought, “Hey, that song’s pretty neat.”

Then, last night I was on the treadmill when it came on again. This time, I really liked it. When I returned to my apartment, I downloaded it onto my iPod.

I’m not making this up when I way that the last pop music I ever bought was Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers album. So, it was pretty remarkable that I found myself to be pretty jazzed over a new pop group.

I feel so “with it.”

The song, you ask?

It’s Somebody Told Me by The Killers. The lead singer sounds a lot like a young Ozzy Osbourne.
Click here for the video.

Like I said, I feel pretty hip and all, downloading a song that was produced after 1983. I feel pretty cool blogging about it, too.

Am I hip, or what?

Oh, god.

I just had a horrible thought. . . . Please please please don’t let this song be something that only 13 year-old girls like. That would be just my luck.

Whatever. I don’t care.

I think Somebody Told Me is pretty darn groovy.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Eating & Shopping

Yesterday, I spent my Sunday afternoon doing one of my favorite activities:
Having lunch and shopping with Miss Healthypants.

It was a nasty day – raining, cold and horribly windy. At one point, I swear I saw Elmira Gulch on her bicycle fly past my balcony. But we braved the weather and trooped on anyway.

We had lunch at one of our favorite places – the Elephant & Castle Pub. It’s really more of a nice restaurant and not that pubby at all. They have a few English pub items, but mostly it’s just nice restaurant fare. She had a Ceasar salad with blackened salmon. Very healthy-pantsey. (See? Nice un-pubby food). Miss Healthypants, of course, had her usual side of extra dressing. Food has to be “moist” according to MHP.

Since I want my pants to be healthy too, I had the same thing, minus the extra dressing. What I really wanted was the roast beef & Yorkshire pudding with fish & chips for dessert.

Then, it was off for a mad afternoon of shopping at one of downtown Chicago’s most popular establishments: Target.

Since this particular Target is downtown, it has two levels. What I love about this Target are the contraptions next to the escalators which carry your shopping cart up and down. They work exactly like a chain lift on a roller coaster which is really cool. I had to examine the mechanism that enables the cart to connect to the chain lift, (I have to know how everything works. It’s my “thing”)

Here is the lovely MHP with her cart about to demonstrate the procedure.

There. The chain lift has nabbed the cart and away it goes. . .
Up. Up. Up. There is MHP ascending next to her cart, striking a demonstrative pose.
Isn’t that just the coolest thing ever?

Right after I took that last shot, I was immediately surrounded by a flock of Target employees telling me that no photography was allowed. I don’t know why. Perhaps they want to keep their cart-mechanism secrets safe from Wal-Mart or something.

Anyway we headed up to a department I was totally unfamiliar with -- the Baby Department.

MHP had been invited to her niece’s baby shower who had, apparently, registered at Target for all the necessary baby-things. The concept of “showers” and “registers” and “babies” was totally unknown to me. It was a whole new world, let me tell you.

She had the list of baby items that her niece had previously selected and we went to work seeking them out.

Now, I realize that a baby shower is a girly, bonding-experience, It Takes a Village type of endeavor. But to me, it just seems like it’s announcing right off the bat:


I don’t know. I guess I’m just really a private person and know that babies take up every waking moment you’ve got. If I-and-whoever were having a baby, the announcements would probably say something like, “We’re having a baby. Don’t call us for the next eighteen years.”

Anyway, everything Winnie the Pooh seems to be in vogue for babies these days. I didn’t know that. When we arrived at the baby department, MHP was saying, “Where’s the all Pooh stuff?” and I was thinking she meant “poo” stuff.

“Here’s some diapers.”

“No. Winnie-the-Pooh”


MHP was coo-ing over every thing, saying how cute it all was. The only thing I thought was cute was a little blue one-piece that said, “Warning: Automatic Sprinkler” on the front. It wouldn’t do. (Her niece is having a baby girl).

We acquired an appropriate number of things from the register list and then headed over to another department for a gift bag to put it all in.

“Here’s one,” I said.

“No! Let’s find the aisle for the baby gift bags.”

“There are baby gift bags?”

Sure enough. In the next aisle were a whole bunch of gift bags for baby showers. Who knew?

After a suitable baby-gift bag was procured, we continued on with the rest of the regular shopping. As we passed by the men’s department, I tossed a pair of khaki cargo pants in the basket.

“Aren’t you going to try those on?” she asked.

I hate trying things on at Target.

First, you have to spend 45 minutes trying to find an elusive staff member to let you in the changing rooms. The thing is, Target has no staff members to help with anything. (They’re all downstairs, watching out for errant photographers). Finding a sasquatch is easier than locating a Target employee to help.

Then, you have to try the pants on. If they don't fit, you have to put your old pants back on, plus your shoes and socks, schlep back out only to discover that they don't carry your size.

No way. I hate that. I avoid trying things on at all costs. I just buy it. Then if doesn’t fit, I just throw it away. That’s how much I hate trying on clothes.

We finished up our shopping and grabbed a cab back to our respective places. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Oh, and the pants fit perfectly.

Morning Pic

Just as I headed out of my apartment building this morning, this little guy was just outside the door waiting to say hello. He was ever so cooperative in posing for the photo.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Church Camp Nightmare

Date: June 1972

Place: Falls Creek Baptist Youth Camp, somewhere in Oklahoma

I was 13 years old and at church camp for two weeks. This wasn’t any old church camp. This was Falls Creek Baptist Youth Camp; the largest Southern Baptist church camp in the nation.

I was there with my two cousins from Dallas along with 2,500 other kids. (Like I said, it was huge). There were all sorts of revolting activities in which one could take part: Archery, swimming, horseback riding, softball, volleyball, hiking, campfires. . . .

. . . I hated it. I absolutely hated it.

However, most of the day was spent in church-related activities. There was Bible study for two hours in the morning followed by a two-hour church service in a huge outdoor church. Afternoons were for the activities mentioned above (which I hated), followed by a super-long church service in the evening.

I hated that too.

For those of you who don’t know about Baptists and church camp, the purpose of Baptist church camp is to get you “saved” if it hasn’t been done already. After you get “saved” you get baptized.

I got it out of the way when I was nine, so I was off the hook.

Anyway, every night a bunch of teens would get saved. The girls would cry a lot and hug each other. The boys would try to hug the girls to feel their boobies.

It's a good thing I'd already been "saved" and didn't have to participate in such nonsense.

Anyway, somehow I got roped into playing softball one afternoon. I don’t know how it happened, probably some hot-shot Youth Director thought I might end up being a sissy, but there I was in right field. I knew that hardly anyone hit balls into right field, so I opted for that position hoping I’d be left alone.

There I was, minding my own business when some cocky southpaw hit a high fly ball in my direction.

It was horrible.

Normally, when a fly ball would come at me, I'd just hold my arms straight out like a catatonic Barbie doll.

But this time, I actually made some effort to catch it. I ran backwards and could see that the ball was really high. So I ran backwards some more. . . . and some more. . . . and some more. . . .
. . . I was practically in Arkansas by now. . . .
and that’s when it happened. . . .

. . . . No one had told me that there was an eight-foot gravel pit at the edge of right field. The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back at the bottom of the pit.

I was later told that it looked really funny. I was just running backwards and then suddenly disappeared. A wave of laughter went through the spectators and then I didn’t reappear.

Needless to say, I didn’t play softball anymore. Or any type of ball for that matter.

Hopefully, the Youth Director was fired.

I spent the rest of camp calmly eating watermelon and listening to Black Sabbath on my eight-track.

It’s a good thing I had been saved already.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

My History With Boy George

Just like the Kennedy assassination, the Challenger explosion, and the events of 9/11, I can distinctly remember right where I was the first time I saw Boy George.

It was 1983 and I had the TV on while making dinner. There was this new group called Culture Club on TV and I couldn’t figure out if the lead singer was a guy in drag or a girl who didn’t sing very well.

I was captivated, although not in a sexual way at all, by the crooning creature on TV. After that, anytime Boy George or Culture Club were on TV, I’d tape it. I soon knew all the words to Karma Chameleon.

The next year, I was living in Austin Texas and Culture Club had a date to tour there. I had tickets and knew which hotel they were staying in. It was awfully exciting.

Then, for some unknown reason, they cancelled the concert. By then in 1984, the group had already had their flash in the pan and were on a downhill spiral. Perhaps a concert in Austin Texas wouldn’t pay off, so they cancelled.

I never got to see Culture Club.

Fast forward ten years. I had just joined a monastery near Dallas Texas and was in my “novitiate” year there.

The novitiate year is sort of like “monk boot camp.” You’re cloistered from the outside world, you can’t leave the monastery for the entire year (except for doctor appointments and such), there’s very little contact with the outside world. The novice can call or write his parents once a month but that’s about it. There’s no access to TV, radio or newspapers.

I had a contraband radio and headphones in my room. (couldn't give up NPR, sorry.) I learned that Boy George had just published his autobiography, Take It Like a Man, and would be at a bookstore in Dallas signing his new book.

He was going to be at the bookstore for one night from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

I had to go.

That night after Evening Prayers, I shucked my habit, donned a pair of black Levis and Polo shirt and snuck out. There were eight cars for the 25 monks in the monastery and several were available that evening. I remember that there was a full moon.

My plan was to get to the bookstore soon before 9:00 PM in hopes that the line would have died down by then.

I got there in time and there he was, signing away. I purchased the book with money that I had squirreled away in a savings account and got in line. . .

. . . And Boy George left.

The manager of the bookstore came around, apologizing, saying that Boy George had had some kind of “prima donna snit” and had suddenly decided to leave.

There were just a few of us left in line and the bookstore manager had a number of autographed copies of the book for us which he exchanged at no extra cost.

I still have the book. Here's the autograph:
I made it back to the monastery late that night and no one ever found out about my clandestine escape. I spent most of the night reading Take It Like a Man. . . .

Well, guess who’s coming to Chicago this summer? None other than Boy George. One night only.

I called a friend of mine last night to tell her:

“Hey, guess who I have tickets to go see. . . Boy George!”

“He’s still alive??”

“Yeah, he hasn’t killed himself yet.”

“Wasn’t he in jail?”

“He got out.”

“Wasn’t he in rehab?”

“He got out.”

Anyway, he’ll be performing at the House of Blues which is in the plaza of my apartment building. I’ll just have to take the elevator to see him as opposed to sneaking out of a monastery and breaking vows.

He better show up this time.

Boy George owes me.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

This is Yummy. . .

I really enjoy it when bloggers post recipes or ideas about food. Lorraine and Kimberly Ann are wonderful food bloggers and I just love their stuff.

So, here is my nifty little recipe for fruit sorbet.

Take a bowl of Costco’s frozen tropical fruit. (It contains pineapple, mango, papaya and strawberries). Nuke it for about 30 seconds to soften it a little. Then blitz it in the food processor with the juice of half a lime and 2 Tbs of sugar. (You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to get it going).

Ta-dahhh. Yeah, it looks like salmon mousse, but it's the best frozen sorbet you've ever tasted; better than you could ever buy.

Warning: Do not use Sweet-n-Low or any sugar substitute containing saccharin. For some reason, saccharin reacts with frozen pineapple, making the whole thing incredibly bitter.

I don't know about sweeteners like Equal that contain aspartame because I'm too cheap to buy Equal. Also, I actually like that bitter, artificial taste of Sweet-n-Low in my coffee because, hello, I grew up in the Sixties. Bitter and artificial works for me.

Roof Pics

Now that winter weather in Chicago has finally abated, the rooftop to my apartment building has been opened up for the season. It's 61 stories up.

Here are some pretty pics.

Looking East over the Chicago River toward Navy Pier and Lake Michigan.

The top of the Trump Tower is now peeking over the big building next to me.
It will be 94 stories tall.

Here's the building I work in. It's 80 stories tall.
(My windowless office is in the middle of the building on the 22nd floor.)

Looking Northeast. That's the John Hancock building. It's 100 stories tall.

The building with the blue condo sign on it is where Iwanski and Miss Healthypants live.
They have a lovely apartment but my building's taller than theirs. And that makes me better than them.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

These Boots

This old film of Nancy Sinatra performing "These Boots Are Made For Walkin" just screams Nineteen Sixty-Six.

Click here.

Even as a kid, I loved that sliding bass line.

Also, could those dresses BE any shorter??

A friend of mine's grandmother once told his sister, "Girl, in that dress you can practically see what you had for lunch!"

Busy Busy Busy

I'm crazy-busy at work and haven't had much time or inclination to post anything.

Except this:

I'm really really really excited because I just found out that Boy George is on tour again.

What's better is that he's coming to Chicago on August 7th.

What's even better is that he'll be performing at the House of Blues in Chicago.

What's even better is that the House of Blues is in the plaza of my apartment building. I can just trot out of my apartment and see The Boy.

More exciting news later. . . .


Monday, May 05, 2008

Pics of Portia

Here is Portia in what we call her "Alligator Pose"

(It usually signifies that she's waiting for a treat)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Jurassic Poop

Get this - - A piece of fossilized dinosaur dung that was 130 million years old fetched $950 bucks at an auction.

Hmmm. Someone, probably named Og, obviously didn’t scoop up after his dinosaur like he was supposed to. And now, someone is making out with a thousand bucks due to his negligence.

It’s amazing what we buy at auctions. For example, I don’t understand how someone can pay ten million dollars for a painting. A painting!

How could you possibly get ten million dollars worth of enjoyment out of a painting? Even if I looked at it for the rest of my life, continually, I couldn’t enjoy it that much.

Let’s say I live to be 80 years old. That’s 30 years. If I bought that painting and looked at it for the rest of my life (without sleeping), it would cost me 38 dollars and hour.

I wouldn’t pay 38 dollars for even one hour of looking at a painting. One can go to a fine museum for ten bucks and admire lots and lots and lots of paintings. For ten bucks!

But lookie here what I did get at an auction (eBay). These wonderful Atomic Retro Wine Glasses. Aren’t they deliciously hideous? I couldn’t pass them up.

I just love winning auctions on eBay. . . .

. . . . Actually, no one else bid on them. The seller is probably amazed that he could schlep this stuff.

But these are fun and only cost $15.95. I’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of these than any old painting. The comedic potential, alone, is off the charts.

I hope the buyer of the dino poop enjoys his purchase too.

This is Scary

Two things are missing in my life right now and I’m very uncomfortable about it.

1. My ATM card has expired

2. My home phone isn’t working

Regarding the first, I remember receiving a voice mail from my bank saying that my new ATM card had been returned in the mail and for me to call them back.

I never got around to it.

Then, yesterday, while trying to pay for my lunch at the Overpriced Food Court at work, the cashier pointed out that the card had expired.


I actually had to go INSIDE A BANK and talk to a Real Person. I also had to go to a teller to withdraw cash from my account. It felt so weird.

It seems just like yesterday that I was working at a bank (it was in 1984) and one, old gruff customer said he would “never use one of those newfangled ‘tit-less tellers’.”

Yeah, that’s really charming.

Now, it felt really strange going to a teller (I don't recall any tits, naturally) and obtain money from her.

I want my ATM card back so I can procure cash from a machine like God intended! (Bangs fists on high-chair)

It should be here in a week-to-ten-days.

My home phone has conked out. I use the internet-based phone service, Vonage, and I really like it. I can go online and listen to voice mails, see who’s called me three months ago, all that stuff. And it really is only $24.95 a month.

Their commercial talks about how reliable Vonage is.
That’s true.
Sort of.

Yes, Vonage is reliable, IF your broadband internet service is working, IF your modem is working, IF your cable router is working, and IF there’s not a thunderstorm, or IF your moon isn’t in your seventh house.

It turns out that my router has conked out. In the meantime, I got fed up with the iffy service which I really rely upon. I don’t get cell phone reception in my apartment due to the concrete structure or because it’s 500 feet up. So, when I get home, I always forward my cell phone to my home phone.

Which isn’t working.

I called AT&T and will have good, old-fashioned phone service hooked up within a week-to-ten-days.

In the meantime, I have no ATM card or home phone service.

I’m frightened.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

New Term. This is Cute. . .

We’ve all heard of “couch potatoes.” Those are the folks like me who waller on the couch watching countless hours of quality TV programming like documentaries on Bigfoot or UFOs.

Now that many TV networks are broadcasting reruns on internet websites, folks that spend endless hours watching those are called “mouse potatoes.”

Isn’t that cute?


In my last post, I mentioned that I used to work as a customer service rep at a bank in Austin Texas back in the 80’s.

It was an interesting job and I learned a lot about how to deal with irate customers. I wouldn’t want to do it again in a million years.

One of the more interesting tales involved a customer who discovered a series of $20 withdrawals on his checking that he didn’t make. They had all been ATM withdrawals during the past month or so and he swore he didn’t make them.

I asked if any other member of his family had an ATM card to this account.

“Only my fourteen year-old son, but he knows it’s for emergency purposes only. There’s no way he would have done this,” he replied.

I explained to the customer that we could obtain photographs of the perpetrator, but if it turned out to be an authorized user such as his son, he’d be responsible for the hefty processing fees.

He went home and asked the kid if he knew anything about the withdrawals. Nope. The kid swore up and down that he didn’t make them.

The customer called me back the next day, insisting that his kid didn’t make the withdrawals and told me to go ahead and request the photographs.

A few days later, the photos arrived on my desk. My co-workers and I crowded around as we took a look.

Of course, there was an angel-faced moppet of about fourteen in every photo. In one photo, he was even looking directly into the camera with a quizzical look on his face. He looked like a nice kid.

I wish you could have seen the look of disappointment and disgust on the customer’s face when I gave him the photos. . . .

See? This is one reason (among many) why I don’t have kids. I don’t know what I would have done to him in that case.

I would have toyed with him, letting him did himself in deeper. Then I would have enlisted the help of a police officer to show up with the photos and scare the bejeezus out of him.

Then I would have grounded him until he was 28, maybe 29 years old.

And then hung the framed photos in the dining room so that they’d be there during every meal.

Yep. That’s how I would have handled it . . .

. . . That is, after I had finished crying in front of him.

I don’t know how parents do it, raising kids. I just don’t.

My Sordid Past

I have a somewhat sordid past that I wish to confess. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I need to get it off my chest.

Okay, here goes. . .

(Heaves a heavy sigh. . . )

I once worked as a telemarketer.

There, I said it.

It was back in 1986 and I needed extra money in order to go on a vacation to England. I was making a paltry wage at my regular job as a customer service person at a bank in Austin, Texas at the time. The bank had just rolled out Gold Mastercards and we were offered extra money to peddle them during the evenings.

I did it. I was one of those horrible people that calls just as you’re sitting down for dinner.

It was such a smarmy operation, too. We got paid an hourly wage, but also received hefty commissions on the sales we made. We were given all the tricks of the trade in order to make the sale.

All we had were lists of names and phone numbers nationwide. We’d sit there and call hundreds of people during a shift. Once someone would answer, we’d start in on our spiel:

“I'm just calling to let you know that because of your excellent credit rating, you’ve qualified to receive a Gold Mastercard!” we’d chirp.

In order to make the sale “fly” we had to obtain the person’s social security number or their date of birth.

“Now, just for security purposes, may I verify your date of birth?”

The thing is, once the person accepted the offer, they’d receive a $30 annual fee on their very first bill. However, we had to tell them up front that there was a charge.

Again, it was deceptive. As we would wind up the call, telling them about the many advantages of a Gold Mastercard, we’d just throw in that “it comes with the usual annual of thirty dollars” like it was some type of fantastic benefit.

It gets worse. When we’d come on duty, each of us would shuffle through the list of phone numbers and instantly pilfer the ones where elderly people lived.

Tempe, Arizona and Boca Raton, Florida were gold mines.

On the other hand, Seattle and Portland were the worst. Those folks were hip and smart up there.

I’ll admit I made a lot of sales.

After the Gold Mastercard sales were finished, I got another telemarketing job. This one was horrible. It was selling season tickets to the Austin Ballet.

Season tickets to the Austin Ballet are not exactly an “impulse purchase.” I never made a sale. I don’t think anyone did. We just sat there in a dingy room with dial telephones making call after call.

Anyway, I made it to England in May of ’86. It was right after the Chernobyl disaster and plane tickets to Europe were practically being given away. (Probably by telemarketers) My round trip from Austin to London was $398 on Pan Am. There were 35 passengers on the 747 from New York. We each had an entire row to ourselves. It was fabulous.

To this day, I’m nice to telemarketers when they call. I know that they hate their jobs and that they’re probably unemployed folks just trying to make some money.

I also know that, no matter what, all telemarketers are calling to scam you out of money. Whenever they call, I politely reply, “I’m sorry, but I don’t give out information over the phone unless I initiate the call.” That puts an end to any telemarketer or those that are calling to “take a survey.”

To this day, I still feel bad about scamming all those grandmas in Tempe and Boca Raton.

I just had to get that off my chest.

Partridge Family Heaven

Guess what I found??

iTunes has a karaoke, instrumental version of "I Think I Love You"!

Isn't that just the greatest thing ever??

I downloaded it the other night and just sang away. Now my neighbor can hear just me singing it instead of a Buck/David Cassidy duet.

I can't wait for a road trip. I can sing it all the way to Peoria.