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A Ghost Of Christmas Past

Last night, the GF and I were eating dinner at home, a rare occurrence, and my phone chimed, also a rare occurrence.  We were both surprised by it.  Who could it be?  My asshole brother?  AK?  T-Mobile?  I don’t get a lot of texts from anyone, and especially later in the evening, so I was curious.  I went over to the counter and got my phone, then opened up the messages app.  It wasn’t any of our original guesses.  It was an unexpected contact.  It was my ex-wife.

When I first saw the name, I was shocked.  I read the message, but it didn’t really sink in.  I read enough individual words to make out what it was about.  The message was benign.  She didn’t care about me or wish me a happy holiday or life or anything.  She just wanted to know how the cat was doing and maybe get some new pictures of her.  My immediate reaction was, “Nope.”

I have not had a single communication with this woman since I got all her shit out of the house 18 months ago.  I will admit, I had a morbid fascination of following her DUI trial through the online clerk of court records, but that wrapped up in March of this year and I haven’t cared since.  Life has been excellent ever since I got my house back and never had to think about her again.  Yes, I still get mail addressed to her, but that’s no different than getting mail for the house’s previous owners, which also still happens.

There’s countless ways I can handle this situation, and I’ve thought through quite a bit of them.  There’s plenty of replies that could be made.  I could say fuck off.  I could say, “who are you?” and pretend my phone number is no longer valid.  I could say the cat died just last week and make her feel terrible.  I could say the cat died last year and make her feel bad for not checking in earlier.  I could put her number online and let the Internet have its way with her.  All these different ways of retribution for contacting me out of the blue on such a stupid premise.

But, despite the schadenfreude of seeing her life go down in flames from a DUI conviction, I am not a vengeful person.  I also actively avoid conflict.  And, as I’ve mentioned recently, I’ve found myself to become a minstrel, always focusing on the positive.  So, after recovering from the shock of being contacted by an unpleasant memory of my past, I try to empathize.  She is probably not having a happy holiday.  She is probably alone.  She is obviously having nostalgic memories of her former pet.  So, her life is certainly not as good as mine is.

So, should I cheer her up and send her some recent pictures of the cat?  Be a Santa Clause and brighten her day?  Be the better person and engage in holiday cheer?  No.

While all of those things are laudable and good and kind, every person has an obligation to self-preservation.  And in this case, opening up a line of communication and engaging would threaten that delicate bubble of happiness I have in my life right now.  The received message alone was like an incoming projectile that rattled the defensive walls I erected over a year ago.  Why would I open up the gate and lower the drawbridge?  Likewise, why should I fire back?  The best course of action is simply to not respond. 

Nowhere is it written that says you have to sacrifice your happiness for another’s happiness.  In fact, it is a common truth that providing happiness for another should provide happiness for yourself.  If that is not what is happening, you need to re-evaluate.  This is the Christmas holiday and there is a lot of pressure to spread joy and happiness.  But, if you can’t do it without causing yourself grief, you should scale back your glad tidings.


If You Can’t Feed The One You Love, Feed The One You’re With

This idea came to me the night I was in charge of running my local Blimpie.  The customer in there was complaining about women.  You know, you can’t live with ‘em and whatnot.  He’d gotten himself in a bind because he had a girlfriend or maybe a wife, and one of his other female friends slipped a phone number to him of her friend who probably wanted to get with him.  The fact the guy was unattractive is completely beside the point, but does bear noting.

This guy thinks he’s going to get in trouble from one of these three women involved.  I’m thinking to myself, “Feed ‘em!”  You’re here at Blimpie and I’m in charge, wait, the owner’s back, so I guess I’m second in charge now.  Get an extra sub for the woman, whichever woman you’re going to see next.  That will show you care.

I made a promise to my GF a long time ago that I would always make sure she would be fed.  There was a period of time where she was schooling full-time with no income.  I kept my promise.  I cashed in tens of thousands of credit card reward miles for Longhorn gift cards and with those, she ate and studied at the local restaurant.  It was such a frequent thing for her that the wait staff gave her a corner of her own so she could eat and do schoolwork unbothered.

Back to this guy and his woman issues.  Showing affection with food is something that works on every relationship level. It keeps the relationship healthy (even if the food itself isn’t healthy).  Obviously I feed the GF well, but I also have a close friend that I gift food to, and another co-worker that I treat specially as well.  And it’s become a two-way street with gifts of snacks and candy going back and forth between all of us.  In addition to that, there’s social interaction over work cake (and it’s curious to see who participates and when and who huddles together devouring the spoils).

Although I consider myself more of a financial provider in my relationships, I can totally understand how women, mothers especially, get so much satisfaction from feeding people.  With the holidays here, I’ve somewhat taken on some cooking duties.  I’m not complaining, it’s a great thing to be able to do.  My skills are limited, but I am becoming a specialist in mashed potatoes.  I will not apologize for choosing such a specialty.

Evading Death

Story time.

It’s been very cold here recently, which makes me think of snow.  As I was working on my previous post regarding driving, I remembered a story that I shouldn’t have lived to tell.  This was a long time ago when I was in “college”.  Let’s see how many of the details I can remember.

Back then, I would have been driving… what?  It was probably a 1987 Dodge Lancer (turbo, of course).  I probably had recently gotten rid of my 1969 Mustang (fastback, of course).  The car is sort of important if you want to imagine what the result of my youthful stupidity could have looked like, but it doesn’t factor into any details of the story.

I was “going” to “school” at The Art “Institute” of Pittsburgh (for music production, of course) and we were coming up on a holiday break.  Probably Christmas, considering the weather.

I never really got close to anyone at school.  I never made any friends.  I was pretty much a loner and I had an apartment kind of distant from the school.  Other students were all in a common apartment building near the school, downtown, so they had opportunities to socialize.  But whatever.  Me being a loner is nothing new.

Fate was doing some weird shit that holiday.  The last day of class, before leaving, I happened to talk to the class burnout.  This guy was a major acid user and always complained about his back hurting.  (Minor research says that the pain was nothing involving spinal fluid and was probably just muscle tension, contrary to what we all believed at the time)  So, after a very uncommon decision to have a discussion with him, I found out he lived in a city less than half an hour from my hometown.  And I learned he had no way to get home for Christmas.  So I made the very uncommon decision to offer him a ride, since I was driving almost two hours that direction anyway.  And he accepted.  We’d never really spoken before and now we were going on a car ride for a couple of hours.  That’s not exactly normal for me.  Further, I’m probably going to be driving with someone tripping on acid.  Again, not normal.  I mean, I was the only person in my entire circle of friends that didn’t smoke pot, but acid?  That’s another plane of existence (for both of us).

School’s out, we’re loaded up in my car and we headed north.  Winter in the wasteland means it gets dark early.  Like nighttime at 5:00pm dark/early.  And it’s interstate driving the whole way.  And it’s winter.  And… we enter a blizzard.  There’s hardly any way for me to really explain the gravity of this.  I drove, me and this burnout doper, we drove through this blizzard in near white-out conditions, at full fucking highway speed.  I drove at 60 miles an hour or more, for at least an hour.  There was not a single car on the highway.  There was not a single snowplow truck on the highway.  There was nobody out but us.  For at least an hour.  If there was anyone – anyone – out on the highway, we would be dead.  Snowy roads with near zero visibility at 60 miles an hour.  No one would be able to avoid a collision or swerving off the road to their death.  For most of the drive, I don’t think we spoke much at all.  The snow flying over the windshield was like a hypnotic screen saver (in the days before screen savers).  Maybe my passenger was tripping, I wouldn’t know.  But if he was, the visuals would have been stupendous.  I don’t even know how I navigated turns.

I remember not taking him directly to his house, but dropping him off somewhere along the way.  He said he was going to meet someone there who would drive him home.  This is pre-cell phone era, so I don’t even know how this was planned.  I don’t remember much after that.  I don’t seem to remember him coming back to school after Christmas break.  I didn’t stay long in school after that incident either.  I’d become a little suspicious about how there would be jobs for all these music production graduates, so I eventually dropped out.

But that shared moment was something that just defies reality for me.  Primarily that we didn’t die, but also that this was a connection with someone that I never talked to before and never talked to since.  And the circumstances of that chance meeting delivering us safely to our destinations despite all efforts to the contrary.  I realize just how stupid I was and how I could have been just another headline in our shitty local paper.

It’s definitely an overused saying, but someone was watching over us that night.

Lack Of Drive

The other morning, I was in RaceTrac getting my usual breakfast and there were a couple of kids in the store.  I say kids, but I don’t mean like little kids.  Probably teens, probably 16.  They were milling around and eventually bought some stuff, then milled around a bit more.  A few things struck me as kind of odd about that.

First, there weren’t any parents with them.  I’m not sure why I thought this, since they’re old enough to be out and about on their own.  But the idea that they didn’t just go in the store, buy stuff, then leave made me think they were chaperoned.

When I was growing up, when you got to your teens, you wanted to be independent.  You demanded independence.  Because I lived in such a tiny town, I would drive almost 45 minutes just to eat at Wendy’s.  I would drive over an hour to go to a decent mall.  Even today, I still don’t see any problem driving half an hour for food.

As a completely-unrelated aside, this current era is nothing like my youth.  I distinctly remember standing alone in a checkout line and the cashier wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence because I didn’t look old enough to buy anything on my own.  Kids now have purchasing power and don’t get ignored if they want to buy something.

But back to these teens, when they made their purchase, I expected them to head right outside and leave.  One probably just got his or her driver’s license.  But, because they remained in the building and just hung out, it was pretty clear they didn’t have their own vehicle, which is another oddity to me.

I’ve read plenty of articles saying that the new youth have little care for cars, which completely boggles my mind.  Having a vehicle is freedom.  It lets you get out and see more things, on your own terms.  I must assume that because so much entertainment is at hand via phones and TV, there is less desire to find entertainment through exploration.  Also, since everyone is so isolated in their virtual worlds, there is also little desire to get away – because they are always “away”.

The GF is the same way.  Maybe it also has to do with growing up in a small town, where you had to have transportation to do anything or see anything interesting.  But that desire to see and explore continued long into our lives.  On a vacation a while ago, while driving on some random highway, I observed that unlike other couples that sit at home and watch TV, this (identifying the car seats) was our couch, and this (identifying the windshield) was our television.  It’s not like we couldn’t see other places and other things by sitting home on the Internet, but that’s unsatisfying for us.

Recently, we wanted to go to touristville, which ended up with a crazy meal at a steakhouse.  Instead of taking the interstate, which would have been a minimum trip time of an hour (with no defined maximum due to traffic), we chose to take all back roads, which gave us a more predictable, although longer trip time.  But more importantly, it gave us something to experience other than stopped traffic.

Similarly, when I moved from the wasteland across the great commonwealth, I would sometimes return home to visit friends.  The first (or last depending on direction) leg of the return trip, I had a choice to take an interstate or take a smaller, alternate route.  Without fail, whenever I chose the interstate for time concerns, I always regretted it because the drive was so uninteresting and fatiguing.

Driving is embedded in my being.  If I lost the ability to drive, I think I would have a very difficult remainder of my life.  Driving is freedom; driving is experience; driving is risk and reward.  America is a big country and deserves to be seen down low, not from far above.

My Year In Review

This week is my annual review at my workplace.  I’m sure anyone that has an office job understands what an ordeal this is.  The post is already written in your head for those of you that have been through it.  So, what I’ll try to do is just give some insight as to our company’s brand of ineffectual review.

The process starts a few weeks out from your anniversary date.  This anniversary date is actually not your start date, because when you are hired contract-to-perm, the “contract” part of your time there is not as an employee.  Your actual start date is when you convert from contract to perm employee.  Yeah, I get it, I just think it’s kinda dumb.  If I really wanted to be bitter about it (which I guess I am internally, but you can’t blame fate), I could say that the difference between my first day of work and my first day of employment also means the difference between getting an annual holiday bonus based on my pre-raise salary or my post-raise salary.

Timing issues aside, what you get is a self evaluation document to fill out and return.  You need to return it something like a week before your review.  I always return it within a couple hours of getting it.  I never understand what the big deal is.

This eval form.  Because our department is considered administrative, the things we do can’t be evaluated, performance-wise, the same.  So we have a short list of statements and we have to choose how well we think we met the statement’s metric.  Is the scale 1-10?  No.  1-5 stars?  No.  It’s three options: Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, or Needs Improvement.  This is the second year we’ve had the 3-option scale and the second year that I have been unable to indicate where I feel I am good or bad.  Everything is “Meets Expectations”.  I don’t think I consistently exceed anything and likewise, I don’t think I suck all the time either (just lately).  But there’s no way for me to say I suck a little, but that’s ok, because I make up for it in other ways.

On review day, we all meet in the conference room and the weirdness starts.  I get a copy of the self evaluation I did, then I get a copy of an evaluation by my boss.  And while my boss and his boss silently watch me, I read the evaluation silently to myself.  It’s truly an awkward silence.

But what’s weird to me about it is that my boss consistently ranks me higher than I rank myself.  Maybe that’s supposed to be good.  I understand they want to find cases where someone thinks, “I am on fire” and their boss has a totally different perspective.  BTW, the only time you can self-evaluate yourself as “I am on fire” is when the statement is literal and not colloquial.

So because of the useless ranking/rating system, what ends up happening is everything useful goes in the comments section, which as any programmer will tell you, is absolutely useless for extracting any useful metrics.  I’ve mentioned before that I worked on a survey engine.  One of the interesting sections of the report was a keyword search in the survey’s comment fields.  One interesting application of this would be to see if the survey taker “spoke the lingo”.  Anyway, that’s a pointless (and self-promoting) comment because we don’t do anything like that.

My comments are a list of higher-profile projects that I worked on the last year followed by some pity statements about how I didn’t meet my own expectations and that I’ll do better next year.  I’m not sure if my boss’s review of me is based off what I said, which would make his part super-easy.  But generally, it says kind of the same thing I said, just from a managerial standpoint, as if he’s pleading with HR to justify me remaining hired and even deserving of a raise.

And as time goes on – this is year 7 – this entire process becomes more and more irrelevant.  We aren’t so huge of a company that any IT person is unknown to management.  We all have high-profile projects.  We all save the day at one point or another.  Everyone knows who we are.  I list my biggest projects for the year like I’m releasing a greatest hits album and people are like “Oh, I remember that one!  Sick beat!”  But the greatest hits releases are the moneymakers, because that’s all people care about – the hits.  They honestly don’t remember the ones that never charted.  And they probably don’t care, because that’s not where we are now.

So, because I really want to beat this topic to death so I never have to talk about it again, I will say that we tried something to catch the failed hits, so they wouldn’t be forgotten at review time.  Or at least, they wouldn’t be a time bomb building up so your review wasn’t a shit shower blasted from a fire hose.  We tried quarterly, informal reviews.

This process was walking into my boss’s office, him asking “You got anything?”, me saying, “Nope.” and that was it.  To be fair, I was a lot more engaged when these reviews started, but there was more to talk about then, too.  Our team is quite stable and we all work well together, so there’s no changes worth discussing, like how the new guy is working out or OMG, there’s a female working with us now.

So by the time I got to the point of saying “nope”, they had scrapped the whole idea and the truth came out that these reviews were only implemented because some managers refused to talk to their subordinates.  I assume that problem cleared itself out through attrition.

But anyway, this year, I have an ace up my sleeve.  I’m taking the entire department out to lunch for the holidays and it happens to be on my review day.  As long as there is no food poisoning, I can’t lose.

Back To The Fringe

It’s been over five years now that I ditched Opera as my browser.  In that time, I’ve been using Internet Explorer and everything has been going quite well.  Believe it or not, I’ve never gotten a virus or malware using IE.  And I’ve also gotten it to do everything that I needed with JavaScript and custom protocol handlers.

Despite this, the writing has been on the wall, in kind of an inverse fade where the message grows bolder as time goes on.  The final straw was when Flickr displayed this message:


So, I guess that’s it.  IE is starting to get the same treatment I was getting when I was using Opera:  You are not welcome here.  So I figured the natural replacement would be MS Edge.  I didn’t like Edge initially because it seemed to be a very stripped down browsing experience.  But then again, it’s been a few years, certainly they’ve made improvements since then?

I launched Edge and immediately got to work writing Extensions (which weren’t supported before) to add the functions I needed.  I was successful converting two of the three functions, so I was satisfied for the time being.  I started using Edge as my default browser.

Within a week, I became disenchanted with Edge.  The thing that kept brewing and finally boiled over was the bookmark management.  Can you believe there is no way to edit a bookmark in Edge?  After over two years, you still can’t edit a goddamn bookmark?  And more than that, the bookmarks aren’t anywhere outside the browser where you can edit them either!  The whole “modern” app design that Microsoft has adopted where everything is self-contained completely works against Edge.  So, I went on the hunt again.

My options were the same as before: Firefox or Chrome.  I’m not using Chrome out of the same distaste for Google that Chrome users have for Microsoft.  Firefox just never seems to have their shit together.  Firefox is a great backup, but I can’t see it as my daily driver.  So, given those two options, I went back to Opera.

No, of course not.  But I kind of did.  I downloaded Vivaldi, which is made by a company of the former Opera owner.  It’s the spiritual successor to Opera.  You want options, you got options.  Everything can be changed, and some in ridiculous ways.  But the things I really needed, Vivaldi gave me.  And it’s built on Chromium, so I get Chrome without being beholden to Google.

If there’s a testament to make here about going back to your home, here’s mine.  I downloaded Vivaldi and started setting it up like I used to when I used Opera.  Within two hours of using the browser, I started using mouse gestures like I was back on the classic Opera browser.  The gestures were already built in (no plug-in needed) and worked just as I remembered them.

My previous post’s argument about having tight integration with the mobile environment turned out to be the biggest letdown, since Microsoft abandoned Windows Phone.  Microsoft seems to be embracing Android, so I guess at some point in the near future, I’ll get some non-Google Android phone and put all the Microsoft apps on it.  but on the desktop environment, I guess I’m going to return to being independent and use Vivaldi.

Innocent Villains

It’s in the news today that Toys R Us executives are going to be granted bonuses, despite the company entering bankruptcy.  It was a little over a year ago that the same thing happened with Sports Authority.  In the case of Sports Authority, there were going to be bonuses, then a judge said no, then another judge said yes.  There was lots of public outrage.  Why should executives get bonuses for a failed company, especially when all the floor workers just lost their jobs?

I’m going to take an unpopular position and say that the bonuses should be awarded.  I can’t address the loss of employment for the rank and file workers.  I am also very sensitive to income inequality and I would hope that somehow we can curb outrageous executive pay in the future.  The only thing I am focused on is putting the blame where it belongs.  And that blame is actually not on the executives.  The fault is higher up than them.

Both Toys R Us and Sports Authority are victims of leveraged buyouts.  You can expect that Guitar Center will soon be joining them, because Guitar Center has the exact same situation stemming from its own leveraged buyout.  This article has a very succinct description of how the bought-out company is doomed after a leveraged buyout.

Private equity firms like Bain take mid-sized companies and pump them full of debt with the express intent of making them industry-dominating competitors, selling them to the stock market as a candidate for massive growth, and cashing in. To make this possible, private equity’s stake in the company is usually represented by “payment in kind” (PIK) notes, a type of bond that pays crushing interest – in this case 14.09% – but requires no cash outlay until the bond’s maturity. So that 14.09% is accruing, but it isn’t due for years, ideally after the company has been sold to what is often charmingly referred to as “the dumb money,” the retail investors who buy a stock without knowing the company’s true financial position. Before any of the company’s real problems are revealed, the private equity firm receives its payback in the form of stock, since PIK notes can be paid back in any medium of exchange. If all goes to plan, the stock price shoots up after the IPO and the PE firm makes a tidy profit – all in about three to five years.

The end result is that the company has enough money to pay the daily bills, but has no reserve cash to pay off this growing obligation.  It’s a lot like interest-only mortgages back before the last housing crisis.

But back to the executives.  These guys didn’t write up the buyout.  They weren’t able to stop it from happening.  When the buyout did go through, they kept the machine running.  They kept the company viable, if not spectacularly profitable.

So, how much at fault are they?  They did their job and fulfilled the duties in their job description to receive their full compensation package, which would include defined bonuses.  You can very easily protest, “They didn’t earn it!  The company went bankrupt!”  The company didn’t go bankrupt through their actions.  That card was cast long ago by people much higher than them.  These executive’s only fault was hitching their wagon to a falling star.

My point in taking this controversial stand is that the blame needs to go where it deserves.  It’s not with the executives, it’s with the companies that are executing leveraged buyouts and destroying perfectly valid corporations for their own gain.

In Retailiation

AK: “When are you ever going to blog again?”

Me: “I just posted yesterday!”

Much later…

Also Me: “When am I ever going to sleep again?”

Still Also Me: “You have to post something today.  Post now, sleep later.”

Today I got to visit a couple houses of insanity, each made further insane by the current season.  The inimitable Pier 1 Imports and its evil cousin Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  In the former, I was searching for holiday placemats specifically.  In the latter, I was searching for a secret Santa gift.

Let’s start with Pier 1.  This store has a very unique atmosphere.  I’ve tried to figure out what uplifting, empowering message they are trying to convey and the best I’ve come up with is: “There are many things you can buy in this world, some are cheap, some are not.  Here’s as many of them as we could fit inside this building.”  I’ve never been to a true “bazaar”, but because bazaar is so phonetically similar to bizarre, I envision that Pier 1 is similar to a bazaar.  Shopping there makes me feel like I have ADD.  It’s impossible to get through the store quickly, because there is always something somewhere attracting your attention.  And at the same time, because you can’t focus on any one thing, you want to get out of there because it’s so overwhelming.

So, thank god I found some decent placements within the first two minutes of walking in.  But as I was standing in line, the ADD hit me and I had a thought of a product I knew they sold that would be a nice stocking stuffer.  I broke out of the line and walked the store, looking for this item.  I never found it.  After checking out, I found I had spent almost 20 minutes in the store.  How the hell did that happen?

Later in the evening, the GF and I went to BB&B.  As we were walking the parking lot to the store, the power turned off in the entire plaza.  That’s not a good omen.  We stood outside the store for a minute or two and determined this wasn’t just a small power blip.  So we moved on to another shopping plaza and came back later.  Power’s back on; we’re good to go.

The atmosphere in BB&B is slightly different than Pier 1.  They are both packed to the gills with shit, but the difference between the two would be, Pier 1 is “chaotic” and BB&B is “claustrophobic”.  BB&B is nicely organized into departments, BUT, there’s a whole bunch of shit that doesn’t fit into any standard department.  That stuff goes in the aisles.  It’s everywhere!  The specific thing I am looking for is one of those aisle things, I assume, because it would be classified as a “beyond” product.  I have to walk all the aisles, which is a misnomer, because there’s only one aisle that loops the store.  So, I make a loop around the store and constantly dodge other people’s shopping carts.  Like Pier 1, the aisles are organized utilizing using the excellent sorting algorithm, “shuffle”.  There’s no rhyme or reason to anything, which means you have to look at everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I love treasure hunting.  Ross, TJMaxx, Bealls Outlet, even flea markets.  That’s all fun.  But when I want something, I want to be able to find it quickly.  And neither of these stores are made for such precision.

And as it turned out, the product I wanted at BB&B was not stocked in store.  It was online-only.  Which makes you wonder why retail stores are having such a hard time against online shopping.  I really wonder why.

My Asshole Neighbor

This is Grover.


Grover, a gopher tortoise, chose my property to build on.  He’s dug two burrows that I know of.  Grover’s name is a portmanteau of “ground rover” and has no affiliation with Sesame Street.  Anyway, he’s an asshole.  If he’s not hiding from you, he’s hissing at you.  Let me tell his story.

The screen on my screened-in pool enclosure on my house was getting a bit shabby.  The roof had a hole in it, the spline was falling out of multiple panels, and finally, a panel fell out because of the missing spline.  So I made an appointment to get it all replaced.

A couple days before the company came to give me a quote, I walked around the patio.  In the back was a large hole.  What the fuck.  Because my GF is knowledgeable in such things nature, I knew what this was.  It was a gopher tortoise burrow.  If this were the GF’s blog, she would insert at least five paragraphs here on the importance of gopher tortoises in nature.  And I’d heard it all before, so I understood what needed done.

Gopher tortoises are a protected species.  Don’t fuck with them.  Knowing this, I called a wildlife trapper (not a pest removal company) and asked him if he could take care of my unnamed-as-of-yet problem.  He told me that I needed to contact a trapper who was specially licensed to trap gopher tortoises, of which there were few in my state.  That’s something I didn’t know yet.

I found a licensed trapper and called him up.  Trapping was no big deal.  It would cost probably around $300.  Sure, no problem, let’s do it.  But there’s other issues.  You can’t just take the tortoise and drop him off in the woods.  Anyone could do that, right?  Gopher tortoises have a strong homing instinct.  There’s a better than good chance he’ll just show up again and reclaim his burrow.  Also, to rehome a gopher tortoise properly, you have to grant them enough land to claim as their own, without other competing tortoises.  And they like to roam.  So, what’s that mean?  Finding a new home for the asshole would cost me $3000.  Plus the trapping fee. Plus no guarantee he wouldn’t come back.

So, asshole got a name.  He lives there now.

Back now to my total screen replacement.  The crew arrives and I point out the very obvious burrow right next to the patio wall.  I tell them this is a gopher tortoise burrow.  It is a protected species.  Don’t fuck with it.  Everything went swimmingly well with the screen replacement.  They called me one day and said they were all done and cleaned up.  After work that day, I got home and saw that they really cleaned up.  They filled in Grover’s burrow.  What the fuck, indeed.

Of course, I immediately broke the opening up again, even though I’m pretty sure he could have burrowed back out on his own.  That’s what they do, right?  And by the next day, Grover the asshole had made his entrance even bigger than before, probably out of spite.  Did I mention this illegal activity to the screening company?  Yes I did.

Grover’s been there for years since.  For our Hurricane Irma lockdown party, we put out a bunch of watermelon for him, which was gnawed down to the rind in short order. 


He’s an asshole, but he’s part of the property now.  These bastards live 40-60 years.  He’s going to outlive me for sure.

The Roller Coaster Meal

Over the weekend, the GF and I were out in Touristville and I made the decision to eat at Kobe Steakhouse.  Kobe is a place we used to go frequently, and one I still manage to eat there every once in a while.  It’s at a location we hadn’t been to before, like I said, right in Touristville, near the premium outlets.  Don’t ask me why we chose to go to the outlets on Black Friday weekend.  Some things can’t be rationalized.

So, we make our way to the restaurant through traffic that moved like sludge through a sewer pipe.  I mean, it was shitty traffic.  When we got inside the restaurant, it was unsurprising that there were plenty of people waiting already.  The hostess says the wait is going to be 40-45 minutes.  We’re only mildly hungry right then, so this will be fine for us to build up some hunger.  We get the pager and sit down for an extended wait.

Five minutes into our wait, the pager goes off.  Hooray for being a rockstar!  Well, that’s not true.  They never asked who I was, so my frequent flyer status wouldn’t have anything to do with this.  Doesn’t matter, getting to eat now!  We get seated at a table with another family of four.  Each table seats ten, so there’s four empty seats between us.

I’ll take a moment to explain Kobe policy.  You don’t get considered for seating until your entire party is present.  It’s pretty obvious this family is dining with another family, so our table has a party of 8 and a party of 2.  But the party of 8 is only half-there.  There’s an actual business reason they won’t seat you like this, which is going to become obvious, very soon.

The server takes our drink orders.  He asks about the people not there yet, and it is determined to just bring waters for them.  The drinks are served and now orders are taken.  The missing people can’t place their orders as they are not there.  The GF and I are starting to think that we’re going to have a half-full table, which sucks for the chef.

The soup is served.  The empty places get a bowl of soup each.  The salad is served.  The empty seats now have a soup and salad sitting in front of each of them.  Soon, the chef will come out and these people haven’t even shown up to place their orders.  Is this considered abandonment yet?  The server consults with the family and they don’t know where their friends are, but they are sure to be here soon.  I commented to the GF that our 45 minute wait was still in effect, it was just being applied after getting seated.

Then, a holiday miracle.  The other family shows up.  There’s a flurry of greetings and everyone takes their seats.  There’s a small issue though.  There’s five people.  The party of eight, which was seated as a party of four is actually a party of nine.  See, this is why you wait for the whole goddamn party to show up before you seat anyone. 

Despite this, everyone crams the fuck in there and the server talks with each new person to get their drink and food order.  Karmically enough, the issue of being short one soup and salad is never resolved.  The chef finally comes out and tries to confirm everyone’s order.  There’s confusion because he has two tickets, because the second party arrived so late.  The chef is struggling with the orders and the number of people and I say to him, “You have 11 here.”  Whether that helped or not, I have no idea.

He begins with the sauces.  The table is designed for 10, and everything is planned for 10.  He has 10 sauce trays.  I try to help by saying I don’t want any sauce, so he pulls one tray back.  Now he has 9 trays and there’s 10 people that will want sauce.  This is simply not working out.

Despite this ridiculousness, things worked out really well for me and the GF.  The other parties turned down a lot of the food.  Extra rice, extra noodles, extra veggies – we were loaded up.  Maybe it was for the best because I’m not sure they prepped for 11 at a table.

However, even though we were fed heartily, even good food can’t make up for your meal running into 2 hours.  That’s just way too much.  So, it was hard for us to tell if we were happy with the meal or not.  The food was good, the experience was not as much.

The server brought my check, and fortunately, I had a $10 reward that was applied to my check.  I sent the bill off with my credit card and the server came back to talk to me.  The manager felt bad about us being crammed in on a table of 11 and took an extra $20 off the bill.  That was unexpected and quite pleasant.  So the bill was paid and we got the hell out of that shitshow.

The rise and fall of expectations and reality left us completely confused as to how we should be feeling, other than full and tired.