Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#042 In which our hero has words for you.

I'm a word guy. That is to say, I enjoy words. Not just big, complicated words, but every day words that are used well. I especially enjoy a nice turn of phrase. Which leads me to eating a bag of dicks.

I came across that phrase while reading a Web site today. Now, the author of this site said the phrase makes her want to throttle someone (by the way, isn't "throttle" a great word? Much better in this case than just "choke"). But I read "eat a bag of dicks" and laughed out loud. It's not put into context on the site, but I'm assuming she means it to be used as an insult, as in "why don't you go eat a bag of dicks?!" Hard to image that it would be a compliment... "Hey! You look great! Did you just eat a bag of dicks?"

Anyway, it made me think of some of my favorite phrases. Which, being that I love you all so much, I thought I'd share.

"Dumb as a box of rocks." I know, it's not original, but I still think it's hilarious. Probably because I remember the exact moment I heard it for the first time. I was working in a restaurant kitchen, and a co-worker used it to describe one of the waitresses. "Box of rocks?" I asked. "Yeah," he replied, "You know, satchel of mallets? Bag of tacks?" Naturally, he was, at the time (as he was all the time) stoned.

"Blick." The Scientist invented this word, far as I can tell. It's an expression of disgust; a combination of "blah" and "ick." Almost always used to describe the taste of something she doesn't like. "It's blick," or sometimes, "blicky."

"Pryke" Another word I picked up from the wife, this one coined by a former co-worker of hers. It's a terrible person, a jerk. Combination of "prick" and... something else. "Dyke," maybe? However, it's always been applied to men. A true mystery.

"Shit the bed." Perhaps my favorite phrase of all time, again, picked up from the wife. Not only is shitting the bed a truly horrible situation, it's the perfect phrase to describe something that goes horribly wrong. "I thought you were playing Starcraft?" "I was, but the computer shit the bed and I had to reboot." In our house, it's always applied to something involving technology - more often than not the computer - but could work equally well with, well, anything. "The interview was going well but it shit the bed when I mentioned my felony record." We have also used in on one occasion to describe our daughter, but it that case it was meant in a completely literal fashion.

I'm sure there's more, and this doesn't even begin to cover the countless movie and TV references sprinkled in damn near every conversation. But I gotta go before my pryke of a boss catches me not working.


#041 In which our hero has a million-dollar plan.

Well, we're two weeks into the ninth season of Survivor. And since I've been watching it from my living room couch that can only mean one thing: I didn't get on the show.

After the very first season, I said to my wife "I could do that. I could totally live on an island for a month." And, it didn't hurt that the producers were offering a million dollar prize, either.

At this point, I should interject that The Scientist has no confidence in me, Survivor-wise. She actually said "Pfft! You'd be he first one voted out."

Now, this cut me to the quick, as you can imagine. If my wife doesn't have faith in me, well, what's the world coming to? Granted, I don't really suffer fools easily, and I have been known to be a bit... combative ... with idiots. But come on, there was never a $1MM prize on the line, was there?

So anyway, I could win that damn show. And to that end, I offer the four winning strategies for Survivor:
  1. Learn to fish. Every tribe so far has relied on fish to supplement their rice diet (except maybe Survivor: Africa, I didn't watch that season... I think they ate a lot of yams or something). Anyway, the guy who brings in the most fish - from season one's Richard Hatch to last season's Rupert, has been kept around longer than they might have been otherwise. People get hungry after a couple of weeks of rice and water... you want to be the food guy.
  2. Don't be an asshole. You wouldn't think I'd need to lay this one out, but experience tells me different. There's anyways someone yelling and/or getting in someone's face right from the start! Why would you do this? Someone is getting voted out, and in the beginning when everyone is pretty much on level ground, why rock the boat and be the jerk people want to be rid of?
  3. Learn to make fire. I am stupefied to see that no one has ever been able to make fire the first day. The contestants of the first couple of season's can be excused, maybe they didn't really know what they're getting into. But this is season NINE! There are no surprises any longer! You know you're not getting fire, and you know that Jeff Probst pissed in the well or something, and you're going to have to boil your drinking water. And, AND! You know it's not going to be easy because no one has been able to do it yet! So take some time to hang out with the neighborhood Boy Scout and learn to make a fire. Or stick some flint and steel up your ass right before you get off the boat.
  4. Keep your eye on the prize.There's a big payday at the end, if you're not dumb about it. Perfect example: Season two (Australian Outback). Final three: hunky Colby, big-boobed but sweet Tina, and jackass Keith. Colby wins immunity and gets to make the call as to who comes to the final two with him. And he picks Tina. Not Keith, who no one liked, who burned the rice, who was rather stiff and insulting. Colby picks the person he most wants to hang out with for another two days. Idiot! And what happens? The jury votes for Tina. Not because, in my opinion, they think she most deserves it, but because they hate Colby for winning so many immunities and sending them packing. So Tina gets the big prize, and Colby's now doing shaving cream commercials. Good work!
First one voted out, huh? See? I got a plan, baby!


#040 In which our hero hates car salesmen.

As previously reported, my car is dying a slow, painful death. So, The Scientist, little girl and I went to a used car lot a couple of weeks ago to look at a car. Just one car, though.

Here's the thing: my wife drives a Ford Explorer and loves it. LOVES IT. I like it too, but not like her. She babys that thing like you wouldn't believe. This has resulted in her developing a close relationship with her Certified Ford Maintenance Representative, Brian. Or, as he's typically called, her "buddy Brian." As in, "your buddy Brian called and the car is ready."

Being close friends like they are, she mentions to him at some point that most of my car doesn't work. Naturally, he jumps all over this and says there's a great car on the lot right now that's in our price range, has all the features we want, and so on.

Now, The Scientist and I have already spoken about this, and the plan was for me to drive the Neon for one more winter, then we'd start looking for a new car for me. Well, like every single other plan that she and I have ever discussed in our lives, it is subject to change at her whim.

Now to be fair, if this really was a fantastic deal that was being offered because of her long standing with their company... then, yeah, we should check it out.

But. I hate car salesmen. HATE THEM. If you're a car sales guy and we've never met, I'm sorry, but I hate you. They all act like you're their best friend while you know inside they are seething with loathing for you. I hate even driving onto the lot, when every single salesman's head swivels to scope me out, evaluate me as a buyer, then approaches me with greasy smile and outstretched hand. I haven't bought a ton of cars in my life, but my experiences have been universally terrible.
1989: I'm undecided on what exactly I want, but I know I want a small, economy car that's cheap. One sales guy actually tries to convince me to buy a mini-van. And the worst part is, he started to make sense. Came to my senses long enough to flee the lot.

1989: I buy my first car ever. It's a VW Rabbit, hatchback with a moon roof. Good Lord, but I loved that car. But, the salesman is a chubby overbearing guy that's working a little too hard to find me financing. His over-sincere manner is achingly false, such as when he finally calls me to announce "We did it! We did it!" when he finds a bank that will take a chance on me. And, frankly, the only reason "we did it" was because I called my parents and asked for some money so I could put down a bigger deposit.

1990: I test drive an SUV that I have no intention of buying. After I get back the sales guy immediately starts pushing papers across the desk for me to sign. To staunch the flow of forms I have to finally say "Look, I'm not going to buy a car today." He almost looks hurt, and says "But I thought we had a deal?"

1997: I buy my first new car. I have it in my head that I want a little two-door, mostly from driving my parent's hand-me-down cars, which are all giant Oldsmobiles or the like. Settling on a Neon, I negotiate with a sales guy for a week. (As an aside, this guy's name was "Ken Kreamer." Honest to God. Perhaps the best porn name I've ever heard.) At one of the final meetings he brings out his manager to help close the deal. When I tell him that I was really hoping to find something with a bigger engine, he says to me "You planning on racin' this car?" Insulted, I leave and buy practically the same car from another company. A car which was on the lot, despite Mr. Kreamer assuring me that there wasn't a car like the one I wanted "this side of the Mississippi." Ken doesn't sell me a car, but does cement in my mind that all car sales guys are lying assholes.

2004: We go to look at a used Ford.
There's a lot of "since you're a great customer of ours" and "the sales manager will be handling you personally" and crap like that. I'm escorted out to a Ford... what? I don't even remember what it was. A four door, nothing especially exciting about it. I drive it around for awhile. It's nice. Not great, but nice. I'm reminded of just how cool it is to have a car with working AC, radio and dashboard gauges. But that doesn't seem to be a great reason to buy this car.
So I get back and we sit down with the general manager (another "perk" since my wife's such a good customer). And this guy... oh boy.

First, he's fat. Like Jabba the Hutt fat. He lolls in his chair, begging to be pushed back into the ocean. His neck is covered with moles the size of the tip of my thumb. There's a picture of him standing with family at a wedding, so he can stand (or, at least, could at one time). He stresses how he wants to help us, and how he's going to be honest with us.

He pecks at his keyboard and gives us numbers and different options. Like everything dealing with numbers, I let The Scientist handle the details. Not only am I not good at this negotiating crap, I fucking HATE IT. I take out the trash, she deals with numbers. Works for us.

Finally, he says that he can get the price down to $5,100, and that's the best he can do. Now, mind you, we saw the exact same car - the very car I just test drove ten minutes ago - on their Web site for $4,900. And, they're running a "$2,000 for any trade in" special. Naturally, my wife and I, not being greasy car selling motherfuckers, think we're getting a $3,000 car.

Asking about the $2,000 trade in, this giant mound of flesh confides in us that to do that, he'd just have to jack up the price by $2,000. Swear to God, the very next words out of his mouth are "but I want to be honest with you people."

What it finally boils down to is he says the Neon is worthless because of the high miles (which is about the only thing he says that I really believe) and we didn't buy a car that day. Way I figure it, my car will be just as worthless a year from now, so why rush?

There will be plenty of assholes to shake my hand next year.


#039 In which our hero speaks of sisters and scientists.

Over this past Labor Day weekend, we packed up the entire family and drove to Virginia to visit my sister and her family. This was a potentially volatile situation, because my sister doesn't like The Scientist overmuch. And here's why:

My family owns a small hunting cabin in the Allegheny National Forest Reserve in Pennsylvania. It's been in my family for years, and my childhood involved at least three trips up there a year. It's absolutely beautiful, but primitive. And when I say primitive, I mean no-running-water-and-outhouse primitive. So it's not exactly a luxury getaway, but I love it.

Shortly before we were married, The Scientist and I went up there for a family gathering. And we took our big dumb dog. Now, Tucker is about 100 pounds, so he's a considerable amount of dog. And, I may have mentioned this before, he doesn't really like kids. I think it's a height thing, actually... if you're tall enough, he doesn't seem to mind. But if you're at eye level - he's not good with that. There's all sorts of growling if you get close, and there has been one biting incident that I'm aware of. But the kid totally had it coming.

So we go up with the dog, and my sister brings her kids, who are five and seven at the time, I think. In other words, right at the height that makes my dog nervous. Knowing this, we warned everyone that the dog isn't really that good around children, and maybe if they could steer clear a bit it would be better for everyone.

My sister then explained to us that her kids haven't been around dogs that much, and might be very excited to see a dog and want to play with him. And that's where the problem began.

The Scientist was hyper-aware that her dog (and he really is her dog, I'm just along for the ride) might very well bite these kids, and she wanted to avoid that at all costs. Plus, she had really just met my sister, and having her dog taste one of her children wouldn't be putting the best foot forward, as it were. So she was really protective of the dog... he couldn't get up and shift position without her jumping up and making sure he didn't, I dunno, rush at one of the kids like a maniac. Which wasn't going to happen anyway. But any time one of the kids got near him she shooed them away and repositioned the dog. The end result was that to the casual observer, she had a vicious dog that needed constant vigilance.

Naturally, my sister saw all of this. You could almost hear her thinking "Sweet Christ why in the world would you bring a vicious dog to a small cabin in the middle of the forest where there's nothing to eat but acorns and my children? How irresponsible to put everyone at risk like that, why wouldn't you kennel that beast - or better yet have him destroyed?"

And, I could almost hear (and when I say almost I mean exactly hear her on the way home) my wife say "What's so hard about controlling your kids? All she needed to do was to tell them to keep their distance and not pester the dog and all would be well. But no-ooo, she let them run around like little animals doing whatever they wanted and bug my dog and I had to spend the entire weekend making sure no-one went home with teeth marks in their leg!"

And since then, it's been a little tense.

However, I am pleased to report that the Virginia trip went well. It was even The Scientist's idea to go, an olive branch of sorts. Now, I haven't gotten a debrief from my other sisters yet, so maybe my sister still hates my wife. But I don't think so.

But if she does, I'm totally siccing my dog on her.


#038 In which our hero hates this war.

I hate this war.

I hate every damn thing about it... I hate that my country is now the most hated and reviled nation on Earth, I hate that 18-year-old kids are dying on foreign sand, I hate that our president has, at best, executed an ill-advised invasion based on bad information, and at worst, lied to all of us - knowingly, and without remorse.

I hate that by even voicing these opinions that some people will label me "unpatriotic." I hate that a friend of mine will read this and be disappointed in me.

I hate that Iraqi insurgents are killing our troops with homemade bombs and American made rocket launchers and the media is slammed for putting a negative spin on their coverage. A negative spin on war.

I hate that even if John Kerry is elected in a few months, that this war won't change. We're already there, we've made a god-awful mess of the country, so a unilateral pull out now would be even more devastating than the thousands of tons of bombs we have already dropped. I hate the feeling that I've brought a child into a bad, bad world, and maybe it was a mistake.

But, throughout it all, I've managed to remain a little distant. I don't know anyone that's in Iraq, or going to Iraq. No-one from my home town has been killed. There are no black banners in my neighborhood. None of my friends have been activated.

Until yesterday.

The news came via email. A friend of mine has been called up, and will be in Iraq early next month. She's not a great friend, we don't call each other on the phone and chat, we don't make special trips to spend time with one another. But she is a friend... I'd help her move, I've spent the night at her and her husband's house... and their 7-year-old. Good Lord, how do you tell a 7-year-old that mommy is going off to war and may not come back?

I was furious with my government... now I just feel scared. And I hate that; angry was much easier to deal with.

I hate this war.

Stay safe, Natalia.


#037 In which our hero is busy.

The Scientist gave me hell last night for not updating this site for so long. So, as someone in marketing, I know if 50% of your target audience demand a thing, you'd better give it to them.

Truth is, ever since I got back from a week's vacation, I've been busy. Too busy, frankly. I've been putting in full days worth of work... I know! Can you believe it? Needless to say, it's put a real crimp on my daytime Web surfing and non-work writing.

So what have I been writing? The project currently cluttering up my desk is a newsletter for a mid-western steel distributorship. Four pages, tabloid size, four-color. That's actually a pretty big space to fill up with words. And there will be pictures, too. But my involvement in this project included driving out to their plant (which is hell and gone, took me an hour to get there), interviewing 14 people in a single marathon day of scribbled notes, collecting information from their Web site and other materials they gave me, listening in on a conference call, and now, sitting down and hopefully creating some interesting stories that read well. Which is the real challenge, because their business is boring.

I'm actually amazed at what this company does. They ship in giant coils of steel, straighten them, and then cut them into sheets. That's it! This company has been around for 50+ years and employs a hundred people. They don't make the steel, they don't do anything with the steel, they don't build anything from it... they just straighten it and cut it to size. You wouldn't think that there would be a reason for such a niche business... but apparently there is. And, to give them credit, they are very good at what they do. Which is, y'know, straighten.

Anyway, I now know more about this business then I ever wanted to. Don't get me wrong, nice people, seem to really know what they're doing. If I had a giant coil of steel in my backyard that I needed to lie flat, these are the folks I'd call.

But, this project has to be done by mid-next week, so I best get back to it. But! Coming Soon: Used car salesmen! Cross-country trips! Tense family gatherings! Stay tuned!