Simple Saturday: Dunkin’ Deadnuts

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I’ve usually updated the blog on Saturday morning before going to work, but this time I’m doing so on my break. An empty Dunkin’ Donuts is the scene and a new Dell Mini 10v is my canvas.

It might be kind of dumb at first glance to have gotten a netbook when I can’t even access broadband at my house (hooray for country living!), but I’ve been wanting a portable writing system for some time and knowing the fact that I will be ready for wi-fi somehow provides a little more hope I can actually get out of this area to a land of milk and data. It also gets me out of the office itself, which is something I need to force myself to do more often.

Hope your Halloween went well. If you have any fun stories of the day, I’d love to hear ’em! Aside from them, this festive orange straw in my iced coffee is about all the celebration I’m getting.

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H1N1 fears spur potential for lamest Halloween on record

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DECATUR, Ill.–As parents panic this Halloween to protect their children from the virus that will make them go “BLORF” in the night, children themselves are fearing the repercussions.

Helen Redding could be found the evening before Halloween scavenging through the stores for what last remained of mini bottles of hand sanitizer; not to set out in her home, but to give out to trick-or-treaters.

“Last night I was over at my best friend Kate’s and told her how great the slime all over her son’s zombie costume looked,” Redding said. “She told me he wasn’t wearing a costume, and that’s when I knew we’d be in trouble.”

Maureen Russo still plans to give out the homemade candy apples that make her home one of the most popular on the block, but has what she believes is a safer way of distributing them this year.

“They’re the same apples, but I’ve stuck them on these 5-foot-long dowels I got at the Home Depot,” Russo said, brandishing one of her creations. “That should keep a reasonable atmospheric barrier between me and any contagions coming from the little darlings. I’ve even put that reflective tape around the other ends of the sticks so cars can see the kids better when they’re running along with them jabbing out of their buckets.”

Russo quickly added that she would advise the kids not to run with the sticks and that candy apple jousting would be strictly prohibited.

The treats are not the only aspect of Halloween under attack by H1N1 concerns. A dramatic change in costumes has been seen in the weeks leading up to the holiday, with popular choices such as President Obama, Wild Things and Young Michael Jackson quickly outsold by outfits including surgeon, Cobra Commander and older Michael Jackson with a Face Mask.

“I wanted to be a fairy princess,” 8-year-old Ally Peters huffed, donning a poofy pink dress followed by a fully concealing black hood. “But dad says I have to be a ninja princess.”

Even Larry Haskil, known as “Mr. Halloween” for the elaborate haunted house he sets up every year, has felt the need to make changes. The Lysol he has poured into his fog machines now gives the “Swamp of Despair ” a clean linen scent and the blob replica that pops out from behind his garage can now be squeezed to dispense antibacterial soap.

Haskil admits it brings a touch of Martha Stewart to his Murderville, but all sacrifices have been made with the youth utmost in his mind.

“In the end it’s all for the kids,” Haskil said. “And for all the great things about them, kids are vile, festering sponges of disease squeezing themselves out all over the place. What’s really scarier than them nowadays?”

With a Great Hat Comes Great Responsibility

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I once thought I knew how to properly use a hat — after that time in kindergarten I tried to wear one on my kneecap, I accepted the constructive criticism of my teacher and have never looked back.

Nintendo, however, is not one to accept the norm and has sent me a hat to blow one’s mind; a hat that pushes the envelope of headgear-as-we-know-it so extremely that it needs its own instruction manual!

OK, so it’s really just a normal-looking hat, but I’m not lying about the instructions.

Several months back, the Club Nintendo program set to reward faithful Nintendo purchasers with a choice of exclusive products. Being the dorky Nintendo-phernalia collector that I am, I went with the authentic-looking Mario cap. It’s one of the best-known icons of the gaming world; right up there with the Master Sword, Master Chief’s helmet and the dateless Saturday night.

The hat arrived just a week before Halloween, giving some the opportunity to complete costumes of their favorite plumber or, with all due respect, Zombie Captain Lou Albano (rest in peace, Captain). It’s honestly a more nicely-made product than I expected; sturdy, relatively symmetrical and with a stretchable band in the back to fit most heads, as my model will show:

Kirby

I told you I was dorky.

Yet as my mind already began to fill with the adventures of me and my Mario hat, I spotted a slip of paper at the bottom of the shipping box. I picked it up, expecting one of those “Enjoy your way cool new hat and don’t forget Mario’s next games!” pitches that PR interns use to blow their noses while crying themselves to sleep at night, but I was somewhat surprised to instead find an “instruction manual.”

MarioHatInst

Obviously, this is going a bit overboard. For one thing, of course this hat is not for practical use. It’s for use in saving the Mushroom Kingdom and/or galaxy! Everyone knows Mario wears an entirely different hat when performing actual mundane plumbing duties (and a pair of ill-fitting jeans that garner him a Teen rating whenever he’s squatting beneath a sink). There is also positively no need to warn people not to expose the hat to direct sunlight, as anyone who may actually attempt to employ the hat for practical uses has only heard of such a thing in fearfully whispered legends.

The color loss warning makes it sound as though the hat bleeds like a pair of hemophiliac hedgehogs in a pinball machine, but I have so far had no problems. For those wondering, it has not made Kirby look like a pink bullseye when viewed from above.

The rest of the instructions border just a bit on the creepy side: Do not handle the hat roughly. Do not keep the hat near a heat source. Do not leave the hat unattended if it becomes wet. If it weren’t for the mandatory MADE IN CHINA at the bottom, I almost fear we’d see “Do not feed the hat after midnight.” too.

Also, the plastic wrapping that was shipped with the hat may cause “accidents.” I have driven a stake through it and buried it upside-down in my backyard, just to be safe.

On a serious note, I appreciate how Nintendo chose to cater more toward the collector than issuing a cheaper, wearable novelty, and I can understand how they feel a sheet of guidelines would be necessary for those who might want to just toss it to little Billy or strap it to Mittens to make a “Meow-io” LOLcat. If everything goes well and not too many complaints and/or deaths are registered, we might see even better replicas next year.

Boswer: The Flamethrower? The kids would love that one.

Retraction

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I wish to apologize to the pilots of Northwest Flight 188 for all but accusing them of overshooting the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles because they were sleeping in the cockpit. It turns out they were not sleeping at all, but actually fiddling around on their personal laptops.

I know the campaign to get Paranormal Activity to go nationwide was very engrossing, or that Microsoft Flight Simulator has become so advanced that if you were simulating landing a plane in Minneapolis, you might be fooled into thinking you were doing your job, so I can’t really blame these professional pilots for losing track of minutiae such as the instrument array, consistent hails from the tower, or an airport.

Northwest has issued $500 vouchers to passengers in compensation for the mistakes that occurred. I would ask for that in cash and put it toward whatever awesome, world-consuming computers the pilots had. They seem to be the only thing in this case you can be assured will function well.

(Just when you think it can’t get scarier, laptops become the new giant cell phone…)

Hacking with Feeling

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Bentley

Hackers have no creativity; no sense of casing marks or organizing capers or any other terms that sound all cool and old-timey thievish. They just smash and grab whatever individual’s info they can and go on a spree with fraudulent credit cards until the gig is up. Where’s the class in that? It doesn’t even register an Ocean’s 3 on the Ocean’s 13 Heist Grandiosity Scale.

Case in point: Hackers recently compromised personal information at The Guardian’s jobs site. Robin Hoods these people are obviously not.

If you’re going to take advantage of a bunch of likely jobless people, at least give it some time and pseudo-good guy panache. Steal the info, sure, but then use it to mass apply to tons of jobs. Your victims will wake up someday to all of these opportunities mysteriously pouring in, finally find the one of their dreams, regain financial stability, buy a house, meet that perfect spouse, have a few kids and finally find a ray of contentment in a very dark, disappointing world. Then you rob them! Get enough richer people out there and the credit companies will increase their spending limits. How can you lose?

Or better yet, why not help the employment situation out there as a whole and actually employ these people yourselves? It can’t be easy keeping up with the latest Nigerian Widow Lottery scams out there on your own. There are plenty of people out there willing to compromise (i.e. desperate) and will turn a blind eye to the fact that you’re robbing Peter as long as they’re the Paul who gets paid.

See what I mean, though? You spend all this time learning your compu-mumbo-jumbo only to do the equivalent of smacking someone over the head with a virtual blackjack and raiding their pockets. If you’re going to be thieves, at least make your marks feel like they just got exploited by someone who cares about them. It’s what George Clooney would do.

Cursives!

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As someone who truly is a lover and not a <3er, I mourn the blows modern technology has inflicted upon the written language. The world has become increasingly capitalization- and vowel-optional. Weaker punctuation has been hunted to the point of near-extinction as populations of stronger marks like question and exclamation explode and increasingly gather in packs. You think I'm lying???? Just look at them!!!!!!

But on the bright side, technology is evicting one trend that I'm more than happy to see go: cursive handwriting. I can't wait for the last generation of crusty squigglebits to flourish off into the sunset.

Sure, the concept of cursive wasn't so bad. It's a form of writing designed for speed and efficiency, right? You don't have to lift the pen as often and everything just flows together.

The means of educating us to the ways of cursive was pretty good, too. If you're like me, you were taught on extra-wide highway rule paper, like this:

Not only do you learn how to write the cursive letter “A,” you get advance notice on how to pull off a three-point turn.

After days at the desk scrawling out giant letters, most of us actually became pretty good at the style. Unfortunately, as life goes on, our letters tend to deflate into scraggly strands of ink. What could’ve been as simple as a shopping list is instead a matted hairball of confusion clogging the pipes of communication. It’s like an individual’s cursive writing melds with their DNA, creating a new dialect that’s only decipherable by them, and even then they sometimes can’t even make out what they’ve spazzed onto a page.

My experience — and personal vendetta — with all this comes from the newspaper office and, specifically, submissions from senior clubs. No, I have nothing against the Greatest Generation and its right to let everyone know their pinochle scores, but whenever a handwritten submission comes in there’s always a period where you have to pick out bits and pieces just to make sure you weren’t sent their prescription forms by mistake.

It certainly doesn’t help that our area has a high Polish concentration, meaning many of the names we have to spell out can be made by bashing the bottom row of your keyboard and ending it with “-ski,” as such: Bxcvznski (which, of course, is pronounced “Smithski”). We must resort to — and this is completely true — a proofreader who possesses major Polish pride to determine whether we’re even close with the names as we’ve decoded them.

So we give seniors a pass because of the whole World War two-peat victory thing, but if you’re under the age of 65 and want to make your local newspaper very happy, never EVER send them anything written in cursive. We don’t care how perfect you think your handwriting is; you could send us your new podiatry clinic press release in calligraphy on frameable parchment. It doesn’t matter. We will come after you, and we have someone trained in the Polish Deadly Arts.

End here with a smile.

Simple Saturday: Plane Tired

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The blog hit a new pageview record on Oct. 21, with 71! Once again, thank you to all who bother to take a look–it really inspires me to keep the writing up as best I can.

Speaking of which, sorry for not having anything yesterday. Work just beat me down. Left home at 3 p.m., got back at 2:30 a.m., and, unfortunately, I have to go back today. You know you’re in the wrong state of mind when you think becoming sick would be a reasonable alternative to attending the workplace.

So I’m tired, but that’s OK. I mean, I know my job isn’t as crucial as, say, an airline pilot’s, but I’ve never been accused of falling asleep on the job.

It feels the skies have been full of lies recently, hasn’t it. Why am I not believing the pilots right now? Because, according to an NTSB report, “The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness.”

Come on; that just screams “Busted!”

INVESTIGATOR: What were you doing up there? Why did you never respond to the tower for 78 minutes?

CO-PILOT: We were slee–er… talking! Yeah, talking!

PILOT: And not, like, about the Vikings/Steelers game, to pull a completely random example out of thin air! We were talking airplane stuff!

CO-PILOT: Yeah! Super-important airplane business-type stuff!

PILOT: Around the time of approach! For 78 minutes…

INVESTIGATOR: …

CO-PILOT: I wouldn’t believe us, either…

I would be more willing to lampoon the whole affair, but frankly the situation’s pretty scary. It was a loss of “situational awareness” that brought Flight 3407 down in my region earlier this year, killing 50 people, and how many stories have there been now of public transit crashing because the people in control were on the phone or texting? I know people make mistakes, but more needs to be done to ensure those who have so many people’s lives in their hands at one time are fit both physically and mentally to do the job.

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