Saturday, September 22, 2007

Executive Toys

Over the last few weeks, I've had the misfortune of spending more time than I'd like in a number of different offices - including those of some executives.

Something I've noticed is that the more 'important' someone is (or believes themselves to be), the greater the likelihood that they have one (or more) 'toys' in their office.

I don't mean Slinkys, or dartboards, or stuff like that; what I'm talking about is crap like indoor artificial waterfalls (varying in size from desktop models to something that likely needed a dolly to haul it in), personal water coolers (the kind with bottles on top), and any number of other things that could have some vague functionality and usefulness. Except that in a few rare cases, these 'toys' are not in real, actual use - in fact, most of them had clearly not been used in quite some time, but were still cluttering the office of the executive in question.

I'm left wondering: did these indivuals buy these things with money from their own pockets, or (as I'm afraid) did they manage to exercise their 'authority' to get them in a probably petty exercise of power? If these items were purchased with 'company' money, what did the rest of the staff think about it, and what was the effect on office morale?

For myself, I don't think I'd want to work where anyone was allowed to buy crap like that using 'company' funds - it seems to suggest that there's simply too much petty politics, power games, and other nonsense to make it tolerable, never mind enjoyable, place.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I suppose that everyone has heard or made a comment on the ostentatious consumption of those with a high level of disposable income - most notably, those that drive vehicles like Hummers, the extra-large SUVs (such as the Yukon, Suburban, Navigator, and the like).

While I'm not a big fan of such monstrosities, I can understand that they do meet a certain specific designed function: the (perhaps theoretical) capability of going places that most other vehicles can't. By way of illustration, the original Hummer was the military version that was designed to meet the needs of ground forces. I wasn't surprised when there was a civilian version developed - after all, the military aren't the only ones that need to get from point "A" to point "B" regardless of what terrain might be between them.

Similarly, the SUV (which is short for Sport Utility Vehicle, after all) was designed with the idea that the owner/operator had the need to travel places where there weren't any roads, and other rough terrain - say, a rancher that needed to get himself and a small-ish crew to a remote location, surveying crews, and so on.

However, these vehicles have pretty much lost all claim to 'sport' or 'utility' for the simple reason that far too few of them are used for either of those purposes. I've taken to really observing the SUVs that I see, and I daresay that for the vast majority of them, the closest they've been to 'off road' has been when the owner accidentally ran one of the tires into a flowerbed. I mean, really: would a rational, normal person that intended to take a vehicle off road and into conditions that could conceivably cause damage to the outside of it give it a fancy paint job? Or rig it with all that shiny chrome? I sure as hell wouldn't!

I'm reminded of a supervisor I had at the first job I had when I got out of the Navy: he'd gone out and bought a fancy Jeep with 4-wheel drive that was capable of taking him just about anywhere he wanted to go - he was into fishing and hunting, and some of his favorite spots to engage in these activities were fairly remote. The problem was that his shiny new Jeep also came with a fairly elaborate paint job on the hood (an eagle), pinstriping, and a pretty snazzy basic paint job. The net result was that he didn't dare take the damn thing off the road in case anything scratched it!

Something else that I've noticed about the majority of the SUVs I've seen on the road is that it is very rare to see more than a couple of people in them - in fact, most often, it's one person driving (in the case of a Soccer Mom, she might have a kid or two in the back). That's hardly the efficient use of resources (not just the fuel to drive these monsters, but the energy and materials needed to MAKE them) that I like to see. I've heard a number of different justifications why people 'need' these behemoths, but none of them really works:

  • I need 4-wheel drive (fine - there are smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles that have that, if not ALL wheel drive)
  • I need the space (what? for you and one or two other people?)
  • They're safer (maybe for you when you get into an accident because the damn things have so much inertia that you can't stop them on wet/icy/snowy road, but whoever you run into is probably fucked)
  • I need the capacity (sure, maybe once or twice a year; it'd be cheaper to rent a U-Haul those times)

No, I figure people buy the damn things purely to be seen in them: they can drive a monster like that, so they're damn well going to, regardless of any other consideration.

Oh, that FEBF that's the title for this post? Some little old ladies once hit W.C. Fields up for a donation to some charity or other; he told them that the only organization that he gave money to was F.E.B.F. The granny-ladies made the mistake of asking him what it meant - and he politely explained that it stood for Fuck Everybody But Fields.


During my somewhat mis-spent youth, there was a period when I was actually a member of a Boy Kraut troop.

That membership was not out of any commitment to the Boy Scout philosophy, a desire to live a Better Life, or any of that nonsense.

I just wanted to go camping.

As a consequence I ultimately found myself a member of the Nerd Patrol.

Oh, that wasn't the actual name we had (it was something like Flaming Arrows or Babbling Brook or somesuch). No, that was the function we served, compared to the Eagle Patrol, Bear Patrol, Wolf Patrol, et al.

Granted, there were a couple of guys in the patrol that likely shouldn't have been in the Boy Scouts, anyway - but the majority of us were members simply for the camping and other activities. Not a one of us ever got as far as First Class, for example - we simply didn't give a shit about merit badges or any of the other nonsense.

None of us was into sports or athletics or any of the other things the guys in the other patrols were so serious about. Rather, we did stuff like play chess, read books, and engage in similar non-jock pursuits.

Thus, we were subject to a certain amount of harassment by the other patrols - right up until we decided that enough was enough.

Once that decision was reached, it was a fairly simple and straightforward process of deciding how to deal with it. We knew that we couldn't compete with the other patrols on their terms; we ultimately settled on using something that we had that they apparently didn't: brains.

Sure enough, it wasn't but a couple of camping trips later that a couple of guys from one of the other patrols did some damn thing or other to make things difficult for us. We didn't fuss or complain or anything else. We just waited for our oppotunity for a little creative retribution.

That night, the patrol whose members had given us such grief discovered that someone had spiked some of their firewood with small magnesium rods. Now, magnesium wire (more like thread) is what is flashbulbs use - it burns really hot, and with a bright, bright light. It's also damn near impossible to put out - certainly not with anything a bunch of Boy Scouts out in the middle of nowhere are likely to have available. So the magnesium rods (probably about the size of large kitchen matches) tended to burn with a vengeance, screwing up any sense of tranquility or comraderie that might have existed.

Naturally enough, the other patrol associated this singularly unusual event to us - and tried to complain to the Scoutmaster. When he came to us (with a couple of the patrol members in tow), we did our very best "Who? Us?" impression, and asking what possible reason we would have for doing anything like that.

If the guys from the other patrol had fessed up, we would have had our asses in a real sling; but since they didn't, we were off the hook.

After that, it didn't take long for the other patrols to figure out that if they screwed with ANY of us, they were taking on ALL of us - and could look forward to some serious payback: they might discover that during the night, the ashes of their fire had been thoroughly 'seeded' with black powder, making the next mornings campfire rather 'vigorous'. Or they might get a repeat of the magnesium-in-the-firewood trick. Or perhaps their firewood might prove to have a hollow spot that contained chemicals (equal parts of sulfur, sugar, and phenolthalene) that would emit a dense, odorous smoke. It was never anything permanent or that caused any kind of injury (other than a few guys returning home sans eyebrows, anyway), but was inevitably something that drove the point home with a sledgehammer: don't mess with those guys.

I don't doubt that the Scoutmaster figured out what happened, and knew what was going on - and I expect he understood that we weren't doing anything to anyone that hadn't started it in the first place. We never got caught (that I know of, anyway), and even got a smile and look of what I think was appreciation for our 'style' after one of our paybacks.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Scrood Agin

Thank you, Republican gonzos in the Senate: thanks to your votes on the Defense Authorization Act, you've shown that you don't give a damn about the rights of the American people.

For those that weren't aware of it, there were two amendments attached to a bit of legislation meant to fund the military for FY 2008. These amendments were a call to re-establish the right of Habeas Corpus (which allows us Mere Mortals to challenge being incarcerated by the government) in the wake of all the "anti-terrorism" crap that Dubya has implemented in the wake of 9/11. Well, thanks to the votes of a bunch of candy-assed, chicken-shit, scumbags in the Senate, the attempt to give us one of our fundamental rights back was prevented.

So we are still subject to being tossed into a jail/prison cell, shipped off to Gitmo, or god-only-knows where else at the whim of whatever federal agent or agency that claims to be doing Dubya's work.

Nice going, you bunch of fucking weasels.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Difference of Opinion

While here at home, I got a phone call this afternoon:

"Hello! This is not a sales call. Please stand by for an important announcement. Someone will be with you shortly..."

On hearing that, my first thought was "Not a sales call, huh? Sure... and Santa Clause is going to bring me lots of presents this year..." - but I waited, anyway.

Several seconds go by, and I hear "Hello! This is not a sales call. Please..." (you know the rest).

Query to self: "If it's so damn important, why the hell isn't a Human Bean making the call instead of this damn 'bot?"

A few seconds more, and it's time for the not-a-sales-call 'bot again.

Query to self:"If it's an announcement, why not just tell me, instead of going through all this bullshit?"

Seconds tick by, and I get another not-a-sales-call.

Query to self:"This is 'shortly'? If I hear that damn 'bot again, I'm hanging up..."

On hearing the next "Hello! This is not a sales call...", I did hang up.

Clearly, whoever the hell told that farookin' machine to call me has a different idea of what constitutes "important", "announcement", and "shortly". If they really want to talk to me, they'll call back.

Otherwise... fuck 'em.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


After seeing this prank on SFO, I've recalled a number of the various stunts that I and others have pulled on each other.

Just this morning, I had something pop into mind:

As a two-part prank, an individual allows himself (or herself, if so inclined) to be temporarily tattooed with a design that resembes the 'cuts of meat' think one can find in butcher shops and the meat department of some stores. This individual then takes a place in the area used for a medical school type class that involves dissection or anatomy, so that the students pull the sheet back only to be presented with the sight of a human being marked for piecemeal resale.

The second part of the prank is simply for the individual to remain as still as possible until such time as one of the students touches him (her), and then suddenly - and preferably dramatically - coming back to life.

I'm don't doubt that one or both of these have been done before, but I still think that it would be highly amusing to witness.

Yes, I have a warped, sick, and twisted sense of humor.