Monday, August 31, 2009



Are there still people out there that don't understand smoking is bad for them? And if so, what legislation will possibly make people quit now? This "War on Smokers" has to be called on account of lunacy. The anti-smoking groups have been awarded billions, their commercials continue to ruin good TV, and I'm pretty sure they've succeeded in getting the word out - tobacco companies want their customers to keep smoking so they can continue making money. We get it. Feel free to stop with the self-righteous, antagonistic bullshit anytime now.

I have an idea. Let's look at some numbers, because, ya know, numbers don't lie! They say every cigarette takes 11 minutes off the smoker's life. Wanna know what that amounts to over a lifetime? At a pack a day, that's 55 days a year, over 40 years it's 6.1 years and over 50 years (smoking from 18-68, a pack/day mind you) 7.63 years. So with the modern world's current life expectancy around 75 or so, you get to start smoking a pack a day at 18 and die at 68 from your habit (on which you will have spent over $100,000). That is, figuring a rough average of $6/pack -- currently cigarettes are $9/pack here in Phoenix. Roughly 40% of that is taxes which means someone starting smoking today and smoking for 50 years will spend at least $164,250 of which $65,700 will go back to the state in the form of taxes. And that's just taxes from cigarettes, they'll also be paying income taxes (and potentially property taxes) to the state as well.

Also on The Truth site, you'll find such nuggets as, "In 2006, over 5 million people around the world died from tobacco products." and "Cigarettes kill over 50 people an hour." Oh no! That sounds terrible, and it is. But actually looking at the numbers reveals something else. First a note; the anti-smoking camp is very, very precise...until they start making stuff up. For example, they can tell you how much nicotine is in different smokeless tobaccos down to the hundredth of a milligram, but when we're talking about human lives it becomes "over 5 million" and "over 50". So what do those numbers add up to? Well cigarettes, at 50 deaths per day, cause 438,000 deaths over the course of a year. So other tobacco products account for 4,562,000. What other tobacco products cause that much death? That's a whole order of magnitude greater than the damage cigarettes do! If that's the case, then cigarettes seem to be the least lethal of all tobacco products!

Look, I understand that there aren't many people out there that enjoy the smell of smoke in the air or on clothes or on skin, but this is getting silly. Sticking $3 worth of taxes on every pack is a great way to increase the state's revenue stream(haha, you wacky smokers can't quit so we're going to bleed you dry!) but this holier-than-smoker attitude is only serving to ostracize and alienate a part of the population that already has trouble dealing with stress (or doesn't have trouble...I can't decide). In the end, if the "Truthers" actually gave a shit and wanted to help smokers, they would use some of the millions they were given and spend it on research for quitting aides or a cancer cure. But that's not their interest. Their interest is making "Big Tobacco" look bad and thinking of the children.

God help us if cancer ever overtakes heart disease as the leading cause of death. We'll never hear the end of it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

apparel appeal

Ah, it's that time of the year again. Classes around the country are being called back into session. You can always spot the freshmen; they're the ones showing up to 7:40 am classes dressed like they're going to a movie premier. This will last MAYBE through the first week, after which they'll figure out they don't need to be half an hour early and that it's a lot harder to go to bed at a reasonable hour when you share 120 square feet with another human being that - TURN THAT GOD DAMN STEREO DOWN - is either a vampire or insomniac. Hell, after my first week I realized I didn't even need to GO to morning classes, much less get dressed before noon.

As I said, it is the beginning of classes and that means it is the beginning of the end. My final class. Ever. It's likely to be the hardest of my classes and I will likely have to do actual work, but after this I move to Denver so I'm willing to put in my time.

Monday, August 17, 2009


First of all a big Thank You to the team that helped make Operation: Scott and Mary Go Skiing a success - or at least, phase ONE a success. Phase two is a little out of our hands. For those of you not privy to the finer details of the operation, allow me to elaborate.

Many years ago, as I was blissfully swishing, swooshing, and tumbling ski boots over goggles down the Alaskan slopes, it occurred to me it had been a long time since I had so thoroughly enjoyed myself. Maybe it was the company I was fortunate enough to keep or the cranial hemorrhaging suffered from a complete lack of balance or my unusual proximity to the Arctic Circle, but I hadn't been skiing in several years and I realized just how much I missed the activity. My parents had spent their mid 20s as ski bums in Park City, Vail, and other parts of Colorado and Utah and, from the wistful tones of their voices and faraway looks in their eyes - well, let's just say, I totally ruined that, haha! That day though I had so much fun and, as a broke twenty year-old college undergrad I realized what I had to do. Riding an Alaskan lift back to the top for another run, I promised I would send my parents on one more ski trip. Someday.

There was more than one problem with this plan. You might remember, for example, that I was a broke college student with my only steady source of income being my parents and a student job that paid $6.25/hr. Not a problem; they still had a dog, a horse, and a seventeen year old daughter at home to tend to. I amended my promise to, "When they no longer have those responsibilities, I will send them on a ski trip" and the quiet, unspoken thought that followed was, "please let [my little sister] grow up in the next few years". Fast forward six years to early spring of 2009 - my sister still isn't grown up (really, very immature) but she's at least moved out to the east coast and is no longer a physical and mental burden on my poor parents, the horse is still around, but all he needs is a bale of hay and he's good for a day or two and we have neighbors that are happy to help, and the dog, the dog finally passed. At 17 years old she was deaf, blind, and suffered from vertigo - if you could ignore how sad it was, it was pretty funny watching her navigate around by bumping off the walls/furniture/strategically placed boots. She was still happy though and not in any noticeable pain, until one day she was, and the next day wasn't any better, and the third day they made the tough decision that no parents or pet owners ever want to make. And with that Tootsie was laid to rest. Seventeen years spent being the smallest pup of the litter. Seventeen years spent making parents and kids/teens/young adults laugh. Seventeen years of non-stop barking at shadows. And seventeen years of being the perfect height to jump up and nail Dad in the junk. Never fail. That dog would jump, extend both front legs with purpose, and drill the family jewels. And, never fail, Dad would collapse onto a chair muttering something about the dog (and his testes) not being long for this world.

Now that the dog had finally stopped fighting the good fight, I had to fulfill my promise. As luck would have it their anniversary was coming up in a little more than three months and I was no longer an unemployed college kid (now I'm a tech grunt with a steady source of income, limited expenses, and student loans sitting in deferment!) The plan was twofold; first, I emailed their brothers and sisters asking for volunteers and donations. The donations would go towards buying gift certificates towards airfare, hotel stay, rental car, and lift tickets. The volunteers entered in Part Two where I gathered pictures of my parents skiing from relatives and my Mom (under the guise of doing a web project), photoshopped them into one picture, which ended up looking like my Mom was running Dad off the mountain. Then I blew the picture up into an 6' x 3' poster, numbered all 24 pages of the poster, and mailed 3 or 4 pages to each of the volunteers who then sent the packet to my parents. So, during the week of their anniversary my parents received three or four seemingly random pages with no distinguishable features printed on the front and a random number on the back. Slowly they filled in the puzzle until at last they received the final pages from me with a Visa gift card and a voucher good on American Airlines.

Special thanks to Grandma for not ruining the surprise with your love of ruining surprises...I mean, your incessant talking...I mean, talking. And special thanks to my Mom for not buying a similar trip as a present for yourself. In the three months leading up to this there were no fewer than a dozen phone calls in which my mother excitedly discussed the prospect of skiing again. Nostalgically she would recount the time that her and Ellen had skied The Upper Rim or something or the time it snowed a whole lot and their car could barely make it to the parking lot ¡LOL! I developed a sneaking suspicion that she knew about the whole Operation and was just enjoying the sound of grinding teeth on the other end of the line. To her credit though she didn't purchase her own trip and I didn't have to remove my hair with my own hands and shout expletives into a pillow all while pretending to be happy to hear that they'd get to go skiing again. No, instead we get this:

full-size image

Yes, that is my Mom putting bunny ears on a picture of my Dad - and now we know where my sister gets her maturity.

Monday, August 10, 2009


The longer I'm at my job the more and more I'm convinced that anyone could do it. It requires no special training; only patience, curiosity, and the ability to suppress your homicidal instincts. The last part is especially easy when your as mellow and easy-going as I am. We'll be in a meeting and my boss will make a comment along the lines of "Our specialist will get in touch with your coordinator and make sure everything is working together properly" and suddenly people are looking at me and saying things like, "Right?"

My mind struggles to figure out who I am in this scenario...I'm certainly no coordinator, I'm merely a tech grunt. Am I the specialist? Holy crap, she did mean me, me the specialist, when did this happen? How did this happen? Did I get a raise too? No? What about a new title? Nu-huh? Ok, how would you like this "specialist" to proceed? Contact the coordinator, work with the director, fulfill all their requests, and make sure their conference goes off without a hitch? No problem. By five o'clock you say? Easier done than said.

I think any field that requires a "specialist" to interpret things into lay terms is pretty suspect. Specialists and consultants fall into the charlatan category when it comes to job knowledge and amount of work done - think of them as the op-ed author in your local paper. They talk a good game, but largely they're grasping at straws and making up technical jargon that they'll cite as "industry speak". When it comes to work actually getting done or getting things to actually function properly, you can rest assured the specialists and consultants will be far removed from the action, but always at the ready to swoop in and take credit for what the proletariat has accomplished. When in doubt, remember this graph:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Constants Pt. 2

A shuffling sound in the room triggered something, a primal response, a wave of fear and anxiety rushed over him. He was the protector after all. Slowly and calmly he opened an eye. She was tugging at the bottom of her sports bra with one hand and in the other held...running shoes. Crap, he thought. It was too early for this nonsense, he had just gone to bed a couple hours ago after thanklessly patrolling the living room and keeping it free from invaders. Besides, it was cold and wet outside. He could smell it. No, this was not a morning for running, this was a morning for lying curled up with ones favorite chew toy or stretched across floor getting a tummy rub. He closed his eye and tucked his head down into his pillow hoping she wouldn't notice.

The door closed with a click behind her and he found himself wondering if maybe he should have gone with her. He had anointed himself her personal bodyguard and he wondered if he was negligent in his duties by wanting a couple extra hours of sleep. The thought wouldn't leave him. He tried changing positions, stand up, circle, circle, circle, change directions, circle, circle, flop, close eyes. Nope. He was awake now and really wishing he had gone with. Maybe he could find solace next to Jason - she called him Jay or Jason (he just thought of him as His Pal). He'd either get yelled at for being on the bed or be ignored, but a warm body might be a nice comfort. He hopped up and, as stealthy as he could, stretched across the remaining part of the bed. It was easily large enough for the both of them, but his long, slender frame took up considerably more than half of the space. Jason adjusted himself and he felt one of his paws and toenails make contact with his back. Uh oh, he thought, this will not end well. He continued to adjust himself and his nail continued to dig into his back until, finally, a muffled "Hmph, huh, wha" was heard and what followed next was as predictable as the sunrise. "Dammit dog, get DOWN". Fine, he thought sullenly, I didn't want to be up there anyway, but you'll notice you're all by yourself. And for emphasis, he barked.

He paced his way into the living room, back into the bedroom, checked the bathroom, and meandered his way into the kitchen. He stopped here to take in the smells; last night's baked mostaccioli still hung in the air like a heavy mist and the sweet smell of wine cut through like a single ray of light through a thundercloud. He looked up at the hanging basket where they kept the peaches and bananas, and their scents reached down and tickled his nose with a pleasant odor that begged him to poke one out for breakfast. He'd had peaches before, when she was making fruit salad or had an extra slice from a morning snack she'd slip it to him when Jason wasn't looking. He liked the sweet, tangy juice, but he was already in the doghouse for clawing Jay so he thought better of sneaking any fruit. He hadn't had bananas before, at least, he didn't think he'd ever had bananas before. He remembered once how she had told Jason, "you're not supposed to eat them when they're still crispy" and he'd mumbled something about being left to eat his not-yet-rotten bananas in peace. The kitchen was nothing but temptation and he decided to evacuate before he submitted to the voices in the trash can telling him to tip it over.

He found himself in the living room again, there weren't many other places for an anxious cerberus to go, collapsed in front of the door and woefully stared up at the handle. Maybe he could will her back. She had left her phone, maybe she'd come back for it and see him eagerly waiting for her. She'd retrieve his leash from the top of the fridge and maybe grab a tennis ball from the closet and he'd play keep away. He was good at luring them in before snatching the ball up and running off. They were gullible like that, but she had a quicker first step and would occasionally pounce on him before ripping the ball away. He always did like a challenge. His Pal was content to serve as interference, standing in her way while he hid behind, or sometimes actively teaming up and tossing him the ball while she chased after. He closed his eyes and felt himself begin to dream of games of keep away and chasing after the Australian Shepherd that was always at the park.