Tuesday, September 29, 2009

World's Best Presenter/Hair Stylist

Last week I mentioned that I freaked out while giving a training. It was pretty bad. I had to give a training on this application that we use here at work. Simple enough, one would think right? However, when I got up there in front of the group (oh, and when I mentioned "the group" did you picture a large group of people? You probably did. However, this was NOT a large group. It was 4 people) at the podium I just locked up. Suddenly I forgot everything that I knew about the application and how to use it. I stammered, went on tangents and sweated. Did I mention the sweating? Holy hell. I dunno why I freaked out so hard but the flop sweat was in full effect. I wonder if the freak out was due in part to my past experience in front of an audience...a little flashback maybe? I dunno.

At one point I looked down at my notes (and while I'm on the subject of notes, I may very well be the world's worst note taker. Any notes that I take during meetings usually contain several asterisks and arrows with "important!" or something equally as helpful written next to them. Never any explanation as to why this part of the note is more important than others. I wonder if this is part of the reason why I was such a terrible student...hmmmm) and a drop of sweat landed on the inside of my glasses. Nice. I'm sure that absolutely no one noticed that. Do I take off the glasses, mop the brow and try to clean the lens or do just soldier on and pretend none of that happened. Let's go with pretending there isn't a problem since it has served me so well in the past (right gall bladder? Oh right, you're not here anymore).

I blazed through the rest of the training, not really caring if anyone was understanding what was being said and wrapped everything up with too much time remaining in the session. I believe the term is "train wreck". Not at all what I had hoped would happen. So after the people left I talked to the guy who used to do these trainings (Andy, who had agreed to sit in on the session) about what he thought and what I should do to fix the presentation. He gave me some pointers and I got ready for the training session coming up the very next day. And by "got ready" I mean I had a nice glass of scotch when I got home.

The next day came and we headed over to the meeting. I was a little less nervous than I had been because I had gone over the application several times just prior to this session in hopes that I could remain focused on what I needed to convey to these people. I was expecting about 7-8 people (again, not a large group) and we arrived about 5 minutes before the meeting started to set up. When the time came that the meeting was scheduled to start only one of the people who had accepted the invite had even bothered to show up. I opted to wait for a bit to see if we would have any stragglers wandering in late. After about 10 minutes of waiting it became obvious that no one else was going to show (this isn't a required training for the employees but it does help). So now it was me and this one woman. I said, "Well, I can show you how to use the system and it won't take as long." To which she replied, "I'd rather not if that's ok. If no one else is here I have work I can do." and she got the heck outta the room. Well, fuck you very much indeed.

But I was relieved. I know that the best thing for me to improve my pathetic presentation skills would have been to have had everyone show up and go through the whole damn hour of the training. But I was already overheated and nervous so having that lady bail was fine by me. The main problem then was that I then had to tell my boss that no one showed up and I'm pretty sure he's going to make those people get trained at some point. Basically I've only dodged this temporarily.

Moving on. On Saturday the Wiff and I had been invited to a birthday party for our friend's kid. She was turning 6 and good lord I have no idea what a 6-year-old girl might like. I left all of that in the capable hands of la Wiff and moved on to matters that I can handle. One such matter was to give myself a lil' haircut. The ol' mop had become a tad unruly and rather than go get it cut by, oh I dunno, a PROFESSIONAL (and a professional in the form of my good friend Kerry too. She rules), I went into the bathroom and got out the handy-dandy clippers. I surveyed the 'do and decided that a #7 would do the trick. I brushed out my hair (noting just how much goddamn silver and white there was and wondered briefly if Just For Men looks as shitty as I suspect it does) and started giving myself a trim.

I was making fantastic progress when my thumb popped the guide off of the head of the clipper just as I was making another pass and BZZZZZZZZZKKKKT! Ah, yes. A nice 2.5 inch wide swath. Hello scalp. How are you? Let's just take a look at this and see just how bad this is. Is it salvageable? Oh, no. No, it is not. Ok then. A wiffle it will be. God, whatta dope. Now to offset the lack of hair on the noggin I have decided to bring back the goatee. Actually, it's not really a goatee is it? Why am I asking you? It's just a beard thing that resides on my chin. It helps cover the second chin. There's no mustache and no "soul patch" either. Just the beardy thing. And all the little hairs that used to come in a bright red are now completely white. Wow. that's officially the worst paragraph ever. You're welcome.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Speaking In Front of People is so NOT My Strong Suit

This morning I had to run a training here at work and it was awful. What I mean by that is I was awful. I stumbled, stammered, forgot what I was talking about and sweated. A lot. Like, I sweated way too much for a normal person. "Flop sweat" I believe it is called. I could hear myself saying "Um, like...uh" and I was powerless to stop it. I started to go off on tangents and I'm not sure if I even got the point of the training across. I'm still processing the experience and I'll have an update on this whole thing at a future date. The worst part? I get to do it all over again tomorrow morning. Fuck me.

Meanwhile, here's a 5 Song Shuffle to look at while I go get a towel. God, I'm gross.
  1. Adam Ant – Stand and Deliver (shut up..)
  2. Black Lipstick – Hot Sinners
  3. Stiff Little Fingers – 78rpm
  4. Little Brother – Can't Win for Losing
  5. Cee-lo – Soul Machine

Monday, September 21, 2009

Purge, Purge and More Purge

The Great Purge of 2009 has begun. The Wiff and I had a smallish start a couple of weeks ago when we cleared out most of the cabinets in the pantry but this past weekend we tackled the back room of the basement. Here, lurking in boxes and Rubbermaid bins was an assload of stuff that we simply do not need. We cleared out enough things to fill about 12 boxes. And these are pretty decent sized boxes too. Next stop: The Attic.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Open Letter to Everyone Else on the Road

Hi it's me, Mark. Yea, I'm either the guy right behind you or the guy right in front of you. If you're the person in front of me, please get outta my way. If you're the person behind me, get offa my ass you clown. And thus I sum up my driving style. I used to drive really fast and aggressively, especially when I had that dumb job where I had to go to 4-5 different appointments everyday. Now-a-days I don't drive as fast or as aggressively but I'm still a jackass from Boston so, you know how much weight you can put behind that statement.

Most of the time when I'm on the road now I don't really have to be in a rush to get where I'm going. Usually I'm going either to work or back home so I don't have to be at either place at a specific time (for the most part). However, I do have to work a clutch, so I'm all about efficiency. I don't want to have slow down and I abhor stopping. Let's just keep this shit moving people.

Look, I understand that you have to get to wherever it is you people go but seriously? Just get you and your vehicle out of my way. Oh, and all you people who are retired? Yea, you are banned from the roads during my commute. You will only be allowed to drive your Buick LeSabres from 11am until 2:30pm. I'll give you until 3pm if you promise that you'll stay home on the weekends. I have noticed in my daily commute a few things that I think will help all of you to get out of my way faster:
  1. When the light turns green, that means it's time for you to go. Preferably immediately. There's no reason to look in your rear view mirror at me to see what I'm doing. I can tell you if you want to know: I'm waiting for you to go. Simple as that. See, if you don't go, then I can't go and then in turn jackass behind me will also not be able to go (which may make him lean on his horn and irritate me). 
  2. If you happen to think it would be a good idea to cut in front of me (the Jetta gets zero respect) I ask only that you do so quickly. I don't condone your action (and I'm probably calling you an asshole and/or making gestures), but if you do it swiftly and do not impede my own forward progress; then I'll get over it quicker than if you were to poke along and make me downshift.
  3. And while if you are behind me you are technically not in my way, you can distract me and get on my nerves. I don't drive fast anymore (it's the cheap Mic in me...I'm no hyper-miler but I am trying to squeeze as much out of a tank as I can get) so if you come flying up behind me and start tailgating me, that's going to cause me to go slower. I won't slam on the brakes (anymore) but I might make it my goal in life to make your commute that much shittier. I will at the very least downshift and then floor the accelerator thus dumping a big cloud of diesel smoke in your face.
  4. If you are a pedestrian and you want to cross the street, please understand that I don't want to stop for you. This is mainly for those people in and around M.I.T. They don't even bother to look most of the time. They just saunter across not even thinking that someone in a car might not be paying attention at that very moment and will take their sorry asses out. I'm not that guy but I do have a green light here so stay on the sidewalk for a couple of seconds while I zip on by.
We also need to talk about parking garages and how to get out of my way in there as well. If you enter a garage and you happen to notice that I'm behind you (just look for the giant head filling up your rear view mirror), the best thing for you to do is to park as quickly as possible. This does not mean to grab the first spot you see if said spot will require you to enter in at an awkward angle thus impeding my getting around you. I know that most of you love getting the spots as close to the exit of the garage as possible (to the point of trying to cram their cars into spaces that should be ignored as being too difficult to maneuver in and out of. Just this morning I was treated to some lady in front of me who just HAD to get her giant SUV into this spot that was clearly too small. She turned in at a stupid angle, realized too late that she couldn't make it and then backed up without looking and nearly rammed into me. Look lady, it is now obvious to me that you cannot drive and that you are not even aware of the dimensions of your own vehicle. You simply do not have the skill set necessary to drive that behemoth.You are now banned from being on the road at the same time as me. No arguments. Move it along. There are plenty of spaces on the next level) but if you could just park you goddamn car a few spaces further along I guarantee that you'll be out of my way quicker. And isn't that what everyone really strives to accomplish? Yes, of course it is.

I tend to give people names while I'm driving. Apart from the obvious ones (Fucking asshole, Asshole, Motherfucking asshole, Motherfucker, etc.), I tend to call people "Billy" a lot, as in: "C'mon Billy, let's go". I also use "Joey" or "Jimmy", such as: "Jimmy, it's the pedal on the right.." The name assigned to the person doesn't take into consideration if the driver is female or male. I am not that interested in the gender of the person. I just want them to move. The name will usually be assigned if said driver has done something that I have determined to be detrimental to my getting to where I want to go.

Offenses include but are not limited to:
  • Looking for something on the floor of your car when I'm behind you at a stop light. Look for it later and pay attention to the goddamn traffic light. When it turns green, I'm going to require you to move yer ass.
  • "Look talking". I define this as someone who has to look over at their passenger when they are talking to them. I'm behind this person and I cannot help but notice that their head is swiveling back and forth from looking at the road and then their passenger. This will annoy me to no end. Cut it out. It's perfectly acceptable in this situation to keep your goddamn eyes on the road in front of you and still be able to carry on a conversation with the person seated RIGHT NEXT TO YOU. Eye contact at 50mph is not necessary. I'm sure Ms. Manners would agree.
  • Dealing with whatever your children are doing in the backseat. If the little shits cannot behave while you are driving, then leave them at home. Ok, so that may not be practical but perhaps you could at the very least, pull over and let me pass you. And if you could allow one or more cars to pass you so that I have a little bit of a buffer between you and whatever vehicle you will eventually plow into that would be fantastic.
  • Really loud music rattling my fillings. Mira, I get it. You REALLY like this song, more than you probably should I'm guessing. But I'm trying to listen to my own stuff in here you see and I don't like how your jam is making my rear view mirror vibrate. Turn it down Joey.
  • Merging. There are a few places in my commute where two or more lanes have to merge together into one lane. I'm guessing that most of the people that are on these roads at the same time I am have gone this way before and therefore know that this merge is coming. So what do they do? Yep. They all jam themselves up at the entrance trying to get that one car length ahead of the next retard. "No way you're getting ahead ME, pal!!" Listen Billy, just think of this as a big zipper ok? We all need to get into this fucking tunnel at some point so if you imagine that your car and all the other cars around you are teeth on a giant zipper then we can get where we want to go a little quicker. If you continue to be a dick and try to force the other guy (who's also a dick by the way) to get behind you then the zipper thing goes out the window and we end up with a clusterfuck. No one likes a clusterfuck Billy, so fucking chill out on the testosterone and let the mini van go. Jeez.
  • Line cutters. No one likes a line cutter. You can trace this all the way back to elementary school. "Hey, no cutsies!!" I will admit that I have on occasion been one of those guys who bomb up the opposite lane of traffic and then cut in at the last minute to take the off-ramp or exit or whatever that everyone else is queuing up for but see, it's ok when I do it. It's NOT ok when others do it. Plus, it's bad driving karma anyway and you'll end up pissing off some lunatic one day who will take out all his frustrations on you. No one wants that, so to the back of the line there Jimmy.
To sum up: the take-home message is that getting out of my way is critical. I know that you all will be trying your best to move your sorry asses and make my commute much more pleasant. I only live 15 miles or so away from where I work and it can on occasion take an hour. This is unacceptable. I'm going to need all of you to work together to make my driving experience more palatable. If this means that more of you will have to take public transportation and/or ride a bike then that's a sacrifice that I'm willing to let you make. Just make sure that if you're on a bike that you don't do that thing where you wear spandex racing gear. You're not Lance Armstrong ok Billy? Move it along people.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Anyone Interested in Some VHS Tapes from the Early 90's?

The Wiff and I have lived in our house now for 11 years this month. That's a long time in my book. The longest I've lived in any one place was for 16 years (I still have dreams that take place at 70 Linwood St. It's always right there just under the surface). And so as you may have guessed, we've accumulated quite a bit of stuff. I used to like to remind the Wiff that when we moved in together all my worldly possessions fit into the back of my parents Hyundai Excel (including my bed which was strapped to the roof). Now if we were to move it would take a very large truck indeed. So what to do? It's time to purge some shit.

My mom used to go into fits of purging every now and then and just toss stuff out without really consulting anyone (like beloved stuffed animals or comic books). Our house was cluttered but always clean. We just seemed have a lot of stuff everywhere and then suddenly one day when everyone was out of the house, she'd flip a switch and throw stuff out. This is why I think I now have that tendency. It used to be much more prominant in my personality but I think but ever since the Wiff and I tried and failed to sell our house we kind of went into a, well I wouldn't call it a depression necessarily but perhaps a malaise? When we had the house up for sale we had to keep the place absolutely spotless at all times just in case the real estate broker called to let us know she was going to show it. We also had to strip it of any real personality so all our pictures and the more "funky" decorations had to be taken down. These all got boxed up and stored in the basement. I also took all my stupid little toys out of the little bedroom upstairs to make it look more presentable.

After it became apparent that no one wanted to buy our house, we had pulled it off the market but we didn't put all the stuff back right away. A lot of it still resides in those very same boxes in our basement. I'm talking 2 years now. Also since we didn't have to have the place looking like it was going to be in a photo shoot for Better Homes and Shitty Back Gardens it was allowed to revert to it's natural state of clean but cluttered. Plus there's all the stuff that we either aren't interested in anymore or just simply don't ever use in the basement and/or attic as well. If I'm honest about it, there's things there that I'm fairly certain we've actually NEVER used. We have boxes of old cassette and VHS tapes somewhere as well. It's just stuff. But since it's all (for the most part) neatly stacked away and out of sight, I was ok with it (as was the Wiff). Then we started watching the show "Hoarders".

Holy fuck. This show messed my shit up. Now I don't want to give the impression that we have a hoarding problem at all. I could not imagine the hell that these people on Hoarders live in. First of all, the subjects' obvious mental illness is really quite terrible but it was the very tangible physical evidence that I focused on. Meaning: there's piles of stuff everywhere. I literally wanted to become an instant Buddhist and just get renounce all worldly possessions (except my T.V. and maybe my PS3...I really like those. Oh, and maybe the cars..those were expensive. And I really like having the coffee maker. Hmm, maybe I don't need to renounce every everything). Watching this show awakened that dormant purge gene and all I could think about was organizing and minimizing the amount of thingies in the house.

On Saturday the Wiff and I started down the path by cleaning out the pantry cabinets. We're contemplating getting that room fixed up and I figured this would be a good way to promote my new "Let's throw shit out" agenda. Luckily the Wiff is smarter than me and suggested that we donate the stuff that's still good rather than renting a giant dumpster and just hurling everything into it. Fine. We'll do it your "sane" way or whatever. Hmph. The pantry is a pretty small space and there isn't much in the way of storage space but holy crap had we crammed a bunch of stuff in there. After all was said and done we ended up with 5 boxes for donation and only one that will be sent to the basement for storage (I know, I know...baby steps. Eventually we'll get the extra stuff to go away). The Wiff did a great job. It was harder for her than it was for me cuz for the most part the stuff in question were in her domain. I don't mean to make that sound like she "belongs in the kitchen" or any of that chauvinist bullshit, no I just mean that she's the chef of the house so these are all her tools. And goddamn if she didn't have a bunch of them.

Now all I can think about is what to tackle next. The coat closet? The back room in the basement? My tool area? The attic? There are plenty of places that need attention. The Great Post No-Sale of the House Depression has run its course. It's time to chuck shit into boxes and send 'em off to Salvation Army and/or Big Brother/Big Sister. Again, this is not to give the impression that our place is a mess. It simply isn't. But what we do have is a whole lot of shit that we don't need to keep around anymore. Especially if it's stuff that one of these charities can make some dough off of (mmmm, dangling preposition). "Why not have a yard sale then, Mark?" Oh silly reader. Don't you know by now that if you have a yard sale that people show up? I don't like people remember? This way is better me thinks.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Night Out with Mr. Crankbottom

Last night the Wiff and I went out to dinner. She had gone online and purchased a $100 gift certificate (half price too! Go get something for a restaurant you like at Project Half Price or at the WBZ site) for a little restaurant near our place that she's been wanting to try for a while now (I have to mention that when I went to check out the restaurant's website, the first thing I noticed was a spelling error. In the title of the site it reads "A New Tase on the North Short". Awesome job, website douche). We haven't gone out to dinner in a long time so it was supposed to be a nice night out to enjoy each others company and some good food. What we forgot to factor in is the humans that will inevitably throw a monkey wrench into the works and ruin the night.

The restaurant is about a mile from our house over in Swampscott so getting there was easy enough. The place is right near the water (not quite within view of the ocean but you know it's there) and I got a parking space right in front. I chose to take this is a good sign and happily parked the car. We walked in and you know that feeling you get when you instantly don't like a place? Yea, I got that feeling right off the bat. Tacky is a good description. It's trying to be a high-end place but not quite pulling it off. But since I'm trying to be less anti-social (HA!), I dismissed it as just me being my usual cranky self and even though the place is decorated like a Long Island housewife's wet dream, I'm sure it'll be fine. We were greeted right away by a woman who looked like she just got out of the spray tan booth 5 minutes before showing up for work. The place was completely empty and she said that we could sit wherever we wanted. I kinda wanted to sit in the dark, back corner but I figured that would be overruled as too gloomy so we ended up sitting right at the front of the big windows that overlooked, well, our little diesel Jetta mostly.

The server (who I think must be an owner too or something...no proof of this but she gave that impression. Perhaps it was just the fake tan and giant painted nails) gave us menus and a cocktail menu (which was empty by the way. The Wiff opened the cocktail menu and there was nothing in there. It was just a blank, leatherette folder at this stage). After getting the real cocktail menu we were left alone to figure out what we wanted. Then this Porsche SUV pulled up outside and a this small family of 4 got out. I didn't really pay attention to them (other than noting the two kids were wearing those horrible Ed Hardy "fashion" T-shirts and that the woman was also overly spray tanned and had on I'm guessing 10 gold rings. Ok, I guess I did notice them a little. I think the situation was the Porsche-douche is dating the super-tanned lady and the Ed Hardy assholes are her kids) until they came into the restaurant itself. Now remember, the place is completely empty except for us two. So where do you think the waitress sat them? If you said DIRECTLY behind us (and right in my line of sight) then you'd be correct. I must have looked like I wanted to bail 'cuz the Wiff gave me that "Just let it go" look. But I can't just let it go can I? No, I can't. I'm a jackass remember?

All I wanted to do was to go to my instinct and either move our seats to the other side of the L-shaped space or just bolt and forget the whole thing. We hadn't ordered at this stage so we totally should have left. Now I know I sound like a high-maintainance jerk-o now (and I am) but honestly, why seat them right there? Oh, plus they were friends with the server/suspected owner-lady and the bartender guy. This I mention because our server wasn't that into being a server in the first place (my impression) and when you add people that she already knows into the mix, she's just gonna go hang out and talk to them instead of, oh I dunno, checking on us for instance. At this time is when I noticed that the music there was really loud italian "rock". As I tried to process that this shitty song was yes in fact louder than it should be and yes they are singing in Italian, I looked up and realized that I was sitting directly under a speaker. Niiiiiice. Where's my scotch?

Then the guy at the other table started coughing. It was a harsh, and perhaps (I'm hoping) painful cough that was quite loud. Louder even than the shitty italian rock music. I can't really blame the restaurant for the guy having a cough like that but I can certainly focus on it and allow it to mess up my dinner. This guy was sitting facing me and right over the Wiff's left shoulder. So I could see exactly when he was gearing up for the next burst of hacking. It was the opposite of awesome. It took some doing but I actually let it go. No, seriously, I was not "ok with it" but I was trying desperately to not let it ruin the evening. Then the food started to come out.

We had ordered a couple of apps which isn't normally something we'd do but since we had this lovely $100 gift certificate that we snagged for $50 we figured what the hell. The first app was a lobster and crab pancake thing that was just....meh. It was too oily for my taste. The Wiff seemed to like it. The other app was a potato gnocci that I swear to jeebus christmas tasted like Chef Boyardee made it. Except that the Chef doesn't charge $18 for his shit. Ok, so the apps aren't fantastic. Whatevs, let's just move on to the main course and try to enjoy ourselves. But I can't. Why? Cuz the douchebag with the cough is going on and on about how the younger of the two kids should get the Mercedes-something SUV and the other brother should totally get either the BMW or Land Rover. By now the Wiff has also noticed that this place is not really our cup of tea. And then the guy went into another coughing fit. Hooray! Swine flu for everyone!

The main course comes and it's good. I got the lemon chicken and since the Wiff loves nothing more than a tortured animal, she got the veal (I'm surprised she didn't get it with a side of foie gras and an assortment of kittens that she could punch). My meal was pretty good. But that's really the gist of the whole place right there: It was "pretty good" not "amazing" or "wicked pissah". By now the place is filling up with other patrons and so I do a quick glance over my shoulder to silently judge the rest of them as well. As I had expected it was chock full of assholes. God, I really don't like people at all. The waitress comes over with the check and I take a look-see. Now, I'm figuring that based on 1) where we are, Swampscott on the fucking Lynn border 2) what we had, Chef Boyardee apps and mediocre main courses and 3) there's only 2 of us that the check would be what? $75? Maybe $85? Nope. $124. Are you fucking kidding me? My scotch all by itself was $12. Holy shit. Good thing I only had one of those. This is not Boston you assholes. What the fuck? More swear words!

So as I get wallet out I look at the Wiff and say "I'm never coming back here". And I think she agreed. We settled up and got the hell out of there. I guess this place decided that all you have to do to be considered "fine dining" was to have inflated prices. I wouldn't mind so much if the experience and food hadn't been such a let down. I had been looking forward to a night out too. Next time we'll just head over to The Blue Ox in downtown Lynn. At least there the waitstaff seem to actually care if you're enjoying yourself.