Monthly Archives: January, 2011

How the web was won (is makes me smarter)

father meets thinking machine 4Would it be surprising if I told you that I’m shorter in person than I appear on the blog?

Somehow I doubt it.

It turns out that the blog world and the “real” world (for lack of a better term) are decidedly different places. I guess you could say they number among the many stages where I play many varied roles.

In similar fashion, some real life folks (damn them) might not feel I’m as erudite in person as I seem to appear on the blog.

Imagine you are face-to-face with someone and engaged in conversation. Let’s assume that the other person is actually willing to stop talking long enough to let you speak and listen to what you have to say. (Hey! This is my hypothetical. I can make it as outrageous and unrealistic as I want.)

Further, let’s say you are expounding on an utterly fascinating topic of great import to the entire universe. Your strangely attentive companion is hanging on your every word. Wow, situations like this don’t just grow on trees!

In that sort of scenario, what is the one thing you cannot do?

I suggest it is this: Control-T (to open a tab) to a new dimension and look up an elusive word in the dictionary.

Yet, when writing a blog or composing a tweet, I often find myself doing exactly that to help plug some leaking hole in my brain. I realized that it just might make me look smarter than I really is.

So I just wanted to take time out of my day to say thank you to the series of tubes, the internet, the internat*, WordPress, and even Twitter and so forth for making me look smarter (and taller) than I really is in the real world. I owe you one, guys. Just don’t ever ask me how to pronounce one of those words I’ve looked up. That’s the exact moment when the whole house of cards takes a tumble. Laws, yes.

* I received a package from the “internat” the other day. I know this because it said so right on the box!


Control Man
I’m a regular participant in the Shutterboo Weekly Photo Challenge (WPC) 2011 over on the Flickr web site. The premise is simple: Each week Shutterboo throws out a random word and we grab our cameras and try to creatively interpret that word with our captures.

I’ll be sharing my weekly WPC photos here on the blog. Above is my take on the challenge word “control.”


Shutterboo’s Weekly Photo Challenge (WPC) 2011
Shutterboo’s Blog

The Breakfast Chub

Click the image for a definition of the word "chub." Image source: Wikipedia

At my old job I used to refer to myself as a “whore.” The loose translation of the word, in my opinion, was: “Someone who does something they hate in exchange for money.” Perhaps not the best definition of the word ever, but it worked for me in that circumstance.

Just recently, though, I realized that I’m another kind of whore. I’m a breakfast whore.

It turns out that I’m still kinda sorta friends with my boss from two jobs ago. In my 10-year ecommerce career he’s the guy with company #1. (There have been two others. My previous job AKA The Shithole and my latest gig.)

My sorta-friend is a pretty decent guy. He tries to be nice. And he doesn’t know jack shit about computers. That’s where I come in. We’ve maintained a relationship all these years. I help him and his wife with their computers on weekends and they pay me embarrassing little scrilla under the table. I don’t get much out it but they are so pathetic and needy I just can’t say no. I’m too nice to cut them loose.

Somewhere along the way it worked out that we’d meet for breakfast on Saturday mornings before heading to his office to knock out his task list. It was mostly business but he’d occasionally chat about his wife. He clearly needed time away from her. When the job was done, somehow I felt a little dirty, like I had not only been used for my technical expertise, but also, in some strange way, for companionship.

Their tale is a bit of a sad one. They had a nest egg and were getting older. They decided to buy a business, run it for a few years, then retire. Long story short, they bought the company where I used to work and got totally ripped off. (That in itself is quite an interesting story.) They didn’t know anyone in this town but moved here to take over the company. They thought it would be “passive income.” They were wrong. It turned out to be full-time jobs for the both of them just for the company to show a profit. They were in it up to their eyeballs.

Fast forward about six years: Their business is dwindling and the company is worth a fraction of what they paid. Their nest egg is gone. So yeah, I take pity on them, and still give them my services dirt cheap because I’m too damn nice. Dammit.

So the Saturday breakfast become routine. And then, today, it all shifted again somehow. Today he invited me to breakfast and offered to pay, even though he had no work for me.

Light bulb!

The thought wasn’t a fun one. “I’m some damn kind of companionship whore!” Wow. Is there any aspect of whoredom that I’m not willing to plumb?

It’s not a homosexual thing, so the chub nomenclature doesn’t really apply, even though he kinda looks like an older version of the guy pictured above. He just needs someone to hang with and chit chat about life stuff and get away from his wife in a town where he doesn’t really know anyone. It’s kind of sad, really.

Luckily the universe was kind enough to provide me to fit his needs.


I was looking for a quote from the movie The Breakfast Club to go with my cute little subject line. I didn’t find one that I liked, but I did find this tasty bit of negativity. I enjoyed it so much I had to share.

Richard Vernon: That’s the last time, Bender. That the last time you ever make me look bad in front of those kids, you hear me? I make $31,000 a year and I have a home and I’m not about to throw it all away on some punk like you. But someday when you’re outta here and you’ve forgotten all about this place and they’ve forgotten all about you, and you’re wrapped up in your own pathetic life, I’m gonna be there. That’s right. And I’m gonna kick the living shit out of you. I’m gonna knock your dick in the dirt.

Bender: You threatening me?

Richard Vernon: What are you gonna do about it? You think anyone’s gonna believe you? You think anyone is gonna take your word over mine? I’m a man of respect around here. They love me around here. I’m a swell guy. You’re a lying sack of shit and everybody knows it. Oh, you’re a tough guy. Hey c’mon. Get on your feet pal. Let’s find out how tough you are. I wanna know right now how tough you are.

[offers Bender his chin]

Richard Vernon: Just take the first shot. I’m begging you, take a shot. Just one hit. Come on, that’s all I need, just one swing…

[Bender pauses, staring]

Richard Vernon: That’s what I thought. You’re a gutless turd.

Bingo! This post just qualified for the “poop” tag. And that’s how we wrap up another quality post here in the Abyss.

To fast, tofu-rious

Delano - Jack in the BoxWorst headline evar. I know. If you don’t like it, hit the delete key for our double-your-money-back guarantee.

The other day the boss’s daughter came into work after school, like she does most days. On her walk from school she had stopped at Jack In The Box. She asked me, “Do you want two tacos?”

I didn’t hesitate. “Oh yeah.” I can’t help it. I love those things. And, if memory serves, they’ve been two for 99 cents since the 80’s.

In my cubby at work I eagerly found my packets of taco sauce. I joined her at the table and was just about to rip into one of those suckers when I had a very disturbing thought.

“Wait a minute. These damn things aren’t vegetarian.” Aw, shit.

Oh moment of joy had once again turned to dispair in 6.5 seconds. I’m nothing if not consistent.

So I reluctantly handed the tacos to my boss who made short work of them by reenacting a scene from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. (Look away!)

The episode left me shaken but curious. What is vegetarian on the Jack In The Box menu? An internet search revealed stuff like hamburger bun (how un-citing), curly fries, potato wedges, and salad.

But wait? What’s this? Something about the tacos being vegetarian, too? Swoooon!

One website I found claimed the tacos contained soy and no meat. Could it possibly be true? Here’s a hint: No.

A search for the phrase “jack in the box tacos vegetarian” turns 112,000 results. According to one:

There is a widespread rumor in the vegetarian community that the famous tacos at Jack in the Box are not filled with meat but rather soy imitation meat and thus are a good vegetarian option. This is not true, the beef filling in the tacos are a mixture of both soy and beef. (Source:

Denied by the universe. Again!

Still, it got me to thinking. What isn’t there any fast food in the known universe featuring tofu rather than meat? I bet the geniuses at McDonalds, Burger King and Jack In The Box could think of something. So why haven’t they?

Why does it always have to be about the meat?

To me this seems like a huge opportunity in the world fast food tofu for some forward thinker. The internet is sure abuzz about vegetarian choices at food food restaurants. Someone should cash in on that.

It’s true, Taco Bell tried with their alleged “ground beef” but, alas, it still contained 35 percent meat. Their scientists need to get back in the test kitchen and lower than number. There is simply no excuse for that amount of meat being in there!

Get your tofu on! I already know what I’ll call my chain of restaurants, too. Tofu Mofo.

Amazon and Google product pricing shenanigans

Online FraudHere we go, boys and girls. Another fun-filled excursion into the bowels of the internet’s world of ecommerce.

I started by searching Google for the phrase “mac mini.” The Mac Mini is a super-cool fully functional computer made by Apple that is about the size of an external hard drive and sits right on your desk. I already know that I can buy a new one direct from Apple for $699 with free shipping but I was checking to see what other deals might be out there.

On the Google results page, in the left column, I clicked the link for “Shopping” which takes you to results in “Google Product Search.”

There, in third position on the list of results, was a Mac Mini with slightly different specs than offered by the Apple Store, and priced at $599. It had the same amount of memory and operating system (Snow Leopard) but a slightly slower processor (2.26 GHz vs. 2.4) and half the hard disk space (160GB vs. 320). But the listed price was $100 less.

Unlike the listing below in fourth position, the product was not described as used. (Click here for screen shot.)

I went to take a look.

The Google Products page showed a picture of the Mac Mini and featured’s $599 as the “lowest price.” I clicked the link to drill down further.

This took me to the actual website where … what the fuck? There was nothing listed for sale at the promised price of $599. And I thought Google was supposed to like so-called “relevant” results?

As far as I could tell, nothing in new condition was offered for sale on this page. However, the site enticed me further with the promise of “3 used from $525.00.” Like a wiggly fish on a hook I clicked the link.

This showed me a page that stated there were zero available in new condition. But there were three units, with differing specs, priced at $525.00, $629.99, and $995.00, all offered with $7.99 shipping. All were offered from different sellers, none of whom were

What I want to know is, quite simply, how is this not bait and switch? The whole system seems rigged to entice me in with the promise of my desired product at a lower than normal price, which doesn’t even exist, then to try to get me to go for a used product from a third-party seller where, coincidentally enough, I believe collects 15 percent of the purchase price as a fee.

Why do they have to be this way?

The chef’s music selection for this post: Love for Sale

I could walk 3,000 miles

walking man tooSo. How you doin’ on those resolutions now, eh? We’re fast approaching the end of the month, or what I like to affectionately call, “Checkpoint #1.”

Reality kicked in yet?

For a lot of us, New Year’s Day packs a lot of mojo. (Or so I’ve heard. I’m not one of the “us.”) Still, sometimes I like to think big. “I’m going to be on Survivor,” I like to say quite often. It’ll never happen, of course, but what if it did? Wow. Even being the first one voted off would be one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I say “one of” the greatest things because I’m one of the lucky people who married for love. What else did I have to bring to the table?

So yeah. There I was on New Year’s Day, calculator in hand, calculating the what ifs.

I punched in some numbers. “Oh hell yeah. I’m going to walk 3,000 miles this year. Totally. That’s only 10 miles a day and that still leaves me 65 days to goof off. Not too shabby.”

My old friend Reason was no where to be found. If he was, he would have smacked me upside the head and said something like, “Hey you friggin’ obliviot. 10 miles a day? Wake up! Even if it didn’t kill you, which it totally would, at three miles an hour that’ll take you over three hours a day! You don’t have that kind of time. Duh.”

Day One. January 1, 2011. Things got off to a pretty good start. I walked about a mile. There’s nothing quite like walking to the grocery store and bringing home groceries under your own power. I’m not sure why, but that’s just so cool. “I don’t need no damn car!” Still, that was only 10 percent of my daily goal. But better than nothing, right?

OK, so Day Two wasn’t quite as good. I was too tired and sore from the previous day’s excursions and took a day of rest. And that day of rest has been extended all the way to today, about three weeks later.

Oops. Time to grab the calculator again.

10 miles a day? What was I thinking? That’s insane. Plan B is three miles a day. With about 330 days left, I can still log 1,000 miles if I push it. That might work.

The point is to have fun and revise your goal each and every month until you have something realistic and workable.

On March 1st, I’ll be doing another revision. “Okay. One mile logged so far. About 300 days left. If I can manage two miles a day, I just might make it to 500.”

On April 1st it will be one mile logged, 270 days left, and at one mile I day I just might make it to 250 miles.

I think you see where this is going, right?

fast forward to December 31, 2011 …

It’ll be early in the morning on New Year’s Eve. I’ll be holding a calculator in my hand. “Let’s see,” I’ll say. “If I can manage to walk 50 feet today, that’ll be, hmm, what? Oh yeah, the overall total for the entire year will be exactly one mile and fifty feet.”

That actually doesn’t sound quite so bad. So I got that to look forward to.

So, how are y’all doing on your New Year’s resolutions?

Music: 500 miles (get it fast before YouTube pulls the plug)

Pick me up on your way down

Self portrait_080609667There was an interview on the radio tonight. A young singer (in college) had written a fairly haunting song and the interviewer was asking him about one of the lyrics. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the singer or the lyrics. Google search fail.

The line was a self-deprecating one, and the singer spoke pointedly about how we get more jaded and disillusioned as we get older. Or something like that.

It got me to thinking.

Were you a better you when you were younger? Are you on the decline and would that singer’s message resonate with you? Are you on your way down?

Or, are you better now than you were back then? Are you on your way up?

In all honesty, I think I’m currently the best me I’ve ever been. I frequently refer to myself as “State of the art Tom.” In fact, this question, which should be all hard and introspective and stuff, is a bit of a let down. There was a time when I was younger I did things I’m not very proud of. I don’t do a lot those things anymore. Case closed, right?

Oh sure, I still have my moments of weakness. And I beat myself up for them pretty damn well. But somewhere down the line, and I’m still not sure how, I got some stuff right. Not the kind of stuff that will ever line my pockets with silver, mind you, but stuff I can be proud of just the same.

It’s about a four-hour drive to the small town where I grew up. I don’t like to visit there too much. I get all maudlin and feeling funny about the past. I still know a lot of the places and buildings, but seemingly everyone I ever knew is gone. My old high school is now an elementary school. And the grocery store across the street is now a church.

There is a Chinese restaurant on the edge of town that holds an especially vivid memory for me. It’s one of the moments of my life that have been frozen in crystal clear memory. I was just a wee youngster at the time. Our little family unit of four – mother, father, sister and myself – had just had a little dinner. I even remember we had lobster with black bean sauce.

After dinner we walked out to the car. Parked next to us was a pickup truck. My dad peered into the back of that truck and saw a power tool of some sort. I don’t exactly remember what it was. But I remember as clear as day what happened next. My dad reached into that truck and took that tool for himself. Apparently he needed one of those things.

Not the best life lesson to pick up from the old man, I’m afraid. And for a while there, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Somehow, though, between then and now, I turned out different and took a different path. I still don’t know why. I like to think of it as a road less traveled. Very less traveled. After successfully climbing my own slippery slope, I paused on higher ground to look down upon a species that I now feel like I view from above, oh so proud of my ethics and morals and honesty and all that. I don’t how the hell I got here. And it sort of scares the shit out of me.

It’s been a few years since I visited my home town. Coincidentally enough, the very last time I passed through was literally the day I attended my father’s funeral. We stayed the night there just because it was my home town. But looking at the phone in our motel room made me sad, because it was my home town and I couldn’t think of a single damn person to call.

Then, on our way out of town, there it was. The Chinese restaurant. Right out of my memory and right where I left it. In my mind I can even imagine I know the precise parking spot I still see with such clarity in my mind. Somehow I find it fitting that the place is now dingy and ramshackle. I don’t bother to slow down as we passed, but I did take a moment to feel grateful for how I turned out.

So, my question to you is simply this: Are you on your way up or your way down?