Friday, December 30, 2005

Every day I write the book

Idle thoughts...

Do you have a flexible spending account? If so, did you call your plan administrator today, perhaps under the idiotic and ridiculously ignorant misapprehension that you had to have all your claims in by the end of the year, and although you've had that really torturously moronic idea in your head for at least 12 months now, nonetheless, you couldn't be bothered to do anything about it until today?

If so, you're a goddam cretin, and worse, you're probably one of the many goddam cretins who called me today in a fine frothing panic, because, well, see above.

Personally, I think it should be a law: if you wait until the last minute to do something, you waited too long. I think the post office should refuse to accept tax returns on April 15th, and I absolutely believe that whenever the fuck the close out date for your flexible spending account is, if you wait until then to submit your claims, your claims should automatically be denied.

Or, you know, just explode in your hands when you're feverishly stuffing them into an envelope or trying to frantically feed them into your fax machine.

In case you're not getting my gist, today was a really really crappy day at work.

Moving on from that -- SuperGirlfriend has some kind of magic touch. She wanted to cheer me up after today's spectacularly horrible work day, so she bought me three boosters of Armor Wars, and two of them had Shathras in them. I mean, personally, I think that's pretty astonishing. The boosters also yielded up yet another Veteran Quicksilver (that's the third I've pulled) and another Veteran Crimson Dynamo (my second, I think).

As to stuff I didn't already have, well, I got a Veteran Killer Shrike and a Veteran Warpath, along with an Inertial something something Battlefield Condition. And another Repulsor Shield, which is always a happy making thing. Now if I could just get a Shell Head...

I like three day weekends.

Those of you who haven't checked out my old friend Opus' blog as yet really should. She's a better, funnier writer than I am. He said, grudgingly, through clenched teeth. Why are all the women I've ever been in love with smarter and more talented than I am? I must secretly be a matriarchial monarchist, or something.

Okay, well, I take it back. Kristy's not smarter than I am. But my other girlfriends, past and present, certainly are.

Hmmm. All right, Rebecca isn't, either. But, fine. The first one and the current one. They're definitely smarter and more talented than I am. Plus all the bitterly unrequited loves of my life have been smarter than I am. Which, come to think of it, probably factors heavily into the whole 'unrequited' thing. Or maybe that's wisdom. I don't know.

Say, Bane's coming over tomorrow to hang out for a while. Maybe I'll get to play HeroClix with someone besides the older two SuperKids. That would be pretty cool. I'll probably play my female Fantastic Four -- Sue Storm, Medusa, She Hulk, and Crystal, most likely with a visiting Lockjaw (he's a dog; he doesn't upset the theme). Yeah, I know I loathe She-Hulk, but however much I truly hate every molecular nuance of the character, she's a genuine one time member of the group, and she has the TA, unlike Tigra, whom otherwise I would probably stick in instead. Besides, the FF should always have a beat stick.

I'll play the new FF TA, naturally, because otherwise Medusa is just a waste of points. I may even put the whole team In Touch With, I don't know, Reed, I guess, so I can amp up their stats a little at need.

Oh, over at Bewildering Stories, they're doing their yearly retrospective, where their editors pick out what they consider to be the year's best stuff they've published. As it happens, they chose three of my short stories and two of my articles, which seems like a pretty good score.

But still, no one will pay me for this crap.

Earlier this week I was planning to do a blog entry regarding fun and easy ways to bait hapless Modern Age comics fans into a shrieking frenzy, since I've gotten quite a lot of recent experience doing so over at the HC Realms threads. And I may still write it. But it's been a horribly busy week at work, and I haven't had much time to write otherwise.

Plus, the whole thing will probably be rather mean.

But, you know, Modern Age fans kind of deserve that. I was over at Ragnell's blog the other day and I started hitting all the links in her blog scroll, and oh my God! I am like the only person on that whole lengthy thing who is over the age of 12. And every other blogger she knows absolutely hates the Silver Age, especially Hal Jordan, and they all absolutely adore the Modern Age, especially Kyle Rayner. One of them (I think he's gay) goes into lengthy gushing rhapsodies on his blog about all the Silver Age stories where Hal Jordan hits his head on something. I mean, Jesus Christ, I would imagine there are many many Modern Age stories where Kyle Rayner hits his head on things, too (most likely the lower stomachs of various other male characters, while he's bobbing industriously in and out), but I'm at a disadvantage here, because in order for me to catalogue those occasions exhaustively, I'd have to read the truly appalling stories they appear in, which would make me long for death (Ron Marz's, not mine). Whereas Modern Age fans, if they want to yank a lot of Jordan bashing panels out of context and guffaw over them childishly, well, all they have to do is read Silver Age Green Lantern stories. And that's actually FUN.

Anyway, I may yet write that entry, because, honestly, why not? You can't possibly be unfair to a Modern Age fan who hates Hal Jordan and loves Kyle Rayner. In text, I mean. I suppose it's possible they don't actually deserve to be broken on the rack or anything... but... well... I wouldn't rush to that judgement. Certainly I'd want to bastinado them for a few hours while I made up my mind.

SuperGirlfriend and I get the SuperKids back tomorrow, so that will be cool.

If I'm not back before then, Happy 2006, everyone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Crystal is in the house

SuperGirlfriend and I stopped by The Great Escape last night on the way home from my job so I could pick up a particular Unique for Super Dependable Teen, since she didn't get it in her Hypertime case. The fig was, as I'd hoped, still in their Uniques tray, so I snatched it up, and on poking through the jumbled sculpts and dials a bit further, I was delighted to find a Crystal from Armor Wars, as well. She was relatively cheap (might as well be, she'll sleep with anyone, the red haired Inhuman hussy) so I added her to the tab.

I was especially delighted to learn (as one won't, if one simply looks at the WizKids pic of the fig on their site) that Crystal is actually on a flight stand, meaning she's a slightly better bargain for her 62 points than I'd thought she'd be. (She's a must have fig for me simply due to her place in Silver and Modern Age continuity; the fact that she's slightly more useful than I thought she'd be is just gravy.)

Meanwhile, in other loose ends:

Over at HC Realms I've received my first warning, for being overly negative and 'flame baiting', which apparently means, telling a bunch of Modern Age fan geek slackers that they're a bunch of Modern Age fan geek slackers, and their favorite characters all suck, too. I will, doubtless, receive several more warnings in short order and end up banned off the threads there fairly soon, which will mean that if I want to keep posting there, I'll have to spend 90 seconds or so creating a new log on ID. Woe is me.

I've also been finding new things to exasperate me at work. Here are two:

People who insist on explaining to me what phone number they are giving me, when I ask them for a day time phone number at the end of every call. This is just aggravating. Folks -- I don't care. It doesn't matter one good goddam to me if you're giving me your cell phone number, or your office number, or your home number, or if we'll only be able to reach you at this number for the rest of this week and then you'll be at work again, or whatever. It's just a field they make me fill in when I document calls. No one from my job is ever going to call you. You could make up 10 random digits and I wouldn't know, and half the time I don't listen anyway and end up punching in 10 random digits just to placate any pain in the ass in management who might check to see if I'm docc'ing calls. Okay?

People who repeat back information to me, after I repeat it back to them to see if I got it right. This seems to be the latest trend, especially with Social Security numbers. I ask for it, they give it to me, I repeat it back to make sure it's right, and instead of saying "Yes, that's it" or something like that, they then repeat it back to me AGAIN. This is annoying. Stop it.

Even more annoying are the people who say "No, it's --" and then repeat back exactly the Social Security number I just punched in and repeated back to them. CUT IT OUT. I swear to God, I'll just drop the call, and you can wend your way through the frickin' queue again.

Yesterday, a couple of packages rolled into SuperGirlfriend's office that were meant to be Christmas presents for me. One is a science fiction/fantasy anthology I'll happily tear into when I've finished off the stuff currently in my in pile. The other, I was delighted to find upon opening it, was A TASTE FOR DEATH... alas, not the Peter O'Donnell Modesty Blaise novel, the very last one in the series that I do not own a copy of, which SuperGirlfriend had very thoughtfully ordered for me, but instead, some P.D. James thing by the same name.

Still, it was a typically considerate and loving gesture on SuperGirlfriend's part to note which of my many books I was still assiduously yearning for and make an effort to acquire for me. Once again -- Luckiest Man In The Universe, right here.

Even if, you know, I'm about to get thrown off HC Realms for actually liking good characters.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Post Christmas post


Discover Your Sins - Click Here

Apparently, I'm a very nearly equal opportunity sinner. Not so SuperGirlfriend, whose little sin-bars were all miniscule nubs... except for Lust, which put a nice sized dent in the right side of our computer screen.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Luckiest. Guy. In. The. UNIVERSE.

On other stuff...

We saw KING KONG today. It's a spectacular movie, but I wouldn't say it's a good one. Peter Jackson clearly has enough pull now to be able to cut a movie any way he wants, since pretty much the entire first hour of the film serves no real purpose and could (and should) have been left on the editing room floor. Once the cast gets to Skull Island the action picks up a great deal, though, and the rest of the film is a real thrill ride. Still, I watch movies for the characterization, not the astonishing CGI, and I doubt this flick will look anywhere near as good on the small screen, so I doubt I'll grab it on DVD.

Detailing the clix cases that the two older SuperKids got (although only Mike Norton will care, and he won't care much) -- the Hypertime case was disappointing, the Indy case was anything but. Around this house we're nearly all Hellboy fans, largely based on the movie; and I'd had high hopes, when I bought these cases, that each would yield up something that the girls would prize highly: the Golden Age Flash Unique, and the Hellboy Unique. Well, the Indy case held TWO Hellboy Uniques, which worked out well, since it meant that both Super Drama Teen and Super Dependable Teen could have one (and it also yielded up a Veteran Hellboy, which SuperDrama Teen gifted me with, to replace the one I'd traded to Super Dependable Teen last summer for her Norman Osborne LE). In addition, it contained a Judge Death, which pleased Super Drama Teen no end. She also pulled Hecate, Siamese, Samadahl Rey, Witchblade... and something else I can't remember right now.

The HyperTime, on the other hand, was a relative bust, putting out no less than two Parasites (one without a head), as well as a black suited Superman, a Commissioner Gordon, a Darkseid, a Unique Joker, a Key, and a Green Gloved Batman.

With very characteristic generosity, both SuperTeens made impromptu gifts to me from their cases; I got Commissioner Gordon from Super Dependable Teen, and a slew of Veteran Indy pieces I hadn't already had from SuperDrama Teen.

Other than KING KONG, much of today was burned off with sleeping in, [sex scene deleted], and doing laundry. Oddly (or at least, the love of my life thinks it's odd), I more or less enjoy doing laundry with SuperGirlfriend; I like doing little domestic chores with her. It makes me feel very... settled. I like that feeling.

In sad news, apparently John O'Connor didn't listen to John Bigboote (put in your own accent mark, I can't get my keyboard to do it) when he warned him it might be boobytrapped. Or something like that, as Vincent Schiavelli, who shone like an unstable isotope of gold even amidst the constellation of fine character actors bejeweling The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension, has passed away, leaving the world a significantly poorer place in his absence.

I'd be remiss not to give the man his props, given the derivation of this blog's title. Hell, he actually made Ghost bearable, for the all too brief moments he was on screen in it.

And now, to finish watching It's A Wonderful Life... and then, most likely, to sleep, and awaken once more at the start of another work week... although, as a lingering Christmas gift from the gods, it's a short work week, terminating in another three day weekend, which can't be a bad thing.

Once again, Happy Holidays to everyone, while they're still with us.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Holiday

There are days that will stay with you all your life, and for most of us in the Western Industrial reality tunnel, many of those days will be Christmases. I've had some wonderful childhood Christmases, and even a few lovely ones as an adult -- but this Christmas will, indeed, be one to remember for me. Glance through the pics below, and you should get some vague comprehension of why:

All right, all you out there. Super Adorable Toddler says it's Christmas, even if she's still a little shaky on the spelling (hey, it's a hard word, cut her some slack, she's only 5), so pay attention. There will be a test on this material when we're done.

SuperDrama Teen helps Super Adorable Toddler get access to some Christmas stocking goodies. Big sisters don't come any better than that.

Super Dependable Teen looking splendid in her brand new cable knit green sweater. Back off, boys, none of you are good enough for her.

What can I say? It's a good day for me and SuperGirlfriend, even if we did get very little sleep last night.

I preside over the ritual Opening of the Boosters. SuperDrama Teen got a case of Indy; Super Dependable Teen (not pictured here) got a case of Hypertime, and I got to have a great deal of fun watching the looks on their faces when they opened them up.

Okay, here's our test, as promised: Who's the luckiest man in the entire universe? I'll give you a hint -- he's the guy who gets to spend all his free time with these gorgeous babes.

Okay, enough of the graphics, let's get to the LOOT:

SuperGirlfriend got: the Kelly Clarkson CD from the two older kids, and a lot of stuff from me -- some square, hand thrown and glazed pottery plates, some mugs with a snowman motif, all hidden inside a black hollow footstool built to be used as a handy storage place; in addition, she got a shelf to help organize stuff under the sink, and a small wooden chest of drawers, because she likes wooden boxes.

In her stocking, which I was very pleased to put together for her when she told me she'd never had a Christmas stocking as an adult, she got a lot of sugar free candy, little pieces of fruit made of marzipan, a gorgeous vintage copper jewelry box, a lovely brass fish sculpt with a big chunk of crystal in the middle of it, a green T-shirt with a picture of the Hulk lifting dumb bells on it and the phrase ME WORK OUT on it, a nutcracker pin, and a Santa Pez.

She also got a nutcracker Santa who holds two blocks counting down the days to Christmas, but I gave that to her on the Friday after Thanksgiving so she could use it this year.

The kids -- I can't keep track of all their plunder, but they made out like bandits. Super Adorable Toddler got a ton of stuff, including a chest full of dress up outfits and accessories from me, and a lot of Barbie stuff, as well as an easel that doubles as a chalkboard and a lot of art supplies, something horrible called a Bella Ballerina, and a couple of baby dolls that giggle when you tickle them. SuperDependable Teen and SuperDrama Teen both got cases of HeroClix from me, as mentioned above. In addition, I got them both comics (a JLA collection for SuperDependable Teen, as she loves the character Prometheus, and several Strangers In Paradise collections for Super Drama Teen). SuperDependable Teen is a big Punisher fan, so she got the Frank Castle LE in her stocking and a Punisher action figure from me, along with a Punisher t-shirt from her mom. Super Drama Teen got a Strangers In Paradise t-shirt, a R'as Al Ghul LE in her stocking and... I can't remember what all else. All the kids got a lot of clothes, as well, and the two older kids got CDs and a DVD each. (Actually, Super Adorable Toddler also got a DVD; I believe it was SHREK 2.)

While this Christmas was, for me, much more about watching everyone else open their presents than opening mine, I must admit, I ended up with a primo haul, too. My stocking held a Sauron Unique as well as a Kingdom Come Flash, along with a Batman Begins DVD and a copy of the new X-BOX game SPARTAN, which I'll be getting to sometime this afternoon, most likely. I also got some Batman Bubblebath and some cufflinks, both of which are deeply appreciated. I now have more chocolate than any sane adult needs, including a delicious Tobler Orange. SuperDependable Teen got me an Armor Wars booster which yielded up a Veteran Spymaster, which was lovely. SuperDrama Teen got me a little traffic cone mock up that says I USED TO HAVE A LIFE, THEN I GOT A COMPUTER WITH A MODEM.

Then, from SuperGirlfriend, I got: a gorgeous red cable knit sweater with a brass zipper closing the neck, a copy of George R.R. Martin's A FEAST OF CROWS, a copy of the 2004 WRITER'S MARKETPLACE, a stuffed lynx I immediately named Lancelot, a set of lovely silk longjohns (these winters are a little cold to a man whose native Yankee blood has been thinned by an eight year exile to Florida), and a gorgeous leather cowboy hat I'll be wearing pretty much constantly from this moment forward.

It should be noted that everything in my stocking was, of course, from SuperGirlfriend as well. It should also be noted that another of my gifts, THE VERY BEST OF ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS, is playing on the DVD player right now. I'm going to need to clear some space in my X-Box music collection...

I also got a surprising amount of stuff from my sorta in-laws, SuperGirlfriend's parents and sister, at the extended family Christmas Eve party last night. And it's good stuff, too -- some excellent drawer string pajama bottoms, a beautiful blue sweater-shirt, a Spider-Man Christmas ornament for the SuperChristmas Tree, and a nice scarf/hat/glove set.

In addition to all this, SuperGirlfriend took my family in hand this year, as well as her own, buying enormously thoughtful gifts for my mom and stepdad, and all my nieces and nephews, as well as my brother Sean and his wife Erica, who had a really crappy year this year. She also made sure a couple of my good friends, Mike Norton and Nate Clark, got presents as well.

Once again, I refer you to the lesson of the day: I am the luckiest man in the world.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

They say this is Christmas

Christmas Eve, anyway, and so far, Santa (or someone) has delivered all kinds of goodies to me, such as:

The Bucs, after taking ten years off my life, finally managing to beat the miserable Falcons with 12 seconds left in OT

The Bills managing to beat the Bengals. It doesn't do anything much for the Bills, who have played one of their worst seasons ever, but at least it's a win

And, finally, the Panthers got upset by the Dallas Cowboys, meaning they fall to 2nd in the NFC South, right behind, yes, the Bucs.

Now, if the Bucs can win their last game (against the Saints, which should be as close to a near thing as you get in the NFL), they go into the play offs as the division champion, and, depending on how the Giants and Chicago do over the next two games, maybe even as the NFC's second seed, although that's unlikely.

SuperKids are due in half an hour or so, after which it's off to the sorta in-laws for Christmas Eve, then back here to pack the chilluns off to bed and then play Santa once they are at least pretending to snore.

Tomorrow: presents!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Up, up, and away!

This is an entry I'd planned to make, I don't know, two months ago, back when the HeroClix set Icons first came out. But I needed graphics, and we can only sporadically get access to the digital camera from SuperGirlfriend's office. A month or so ago I did take some pics with it, but they came out blurry. Finally, this morning, after much messing around with different backgrounds, SuperGirlfriend managed to get some very usable pics (I seem to have the negative attribute 'cannot take clear digital photographs', which would be bad news if I planned to go into the espionage or amateur porn line, so it's good that I don't), so, at long last, here's an entry virtually no one in the world will care about:

Above is the official WizKids graphic of the Icons Superman. It is, as so many things are with WizKids, a damnable filthy lie... they gave him that ridiculously long knee peg to make us think he'd look as if he were flying high again (as Superman should be). But, when we finally picked up our sets, here's what we actually got:

So what the hell is this? It's the Stealth Superman, that's what it is, zipping in at super speed under the radar to take out the military forces in Corto Maltese without anyone getting a decent look at him. Put him on a shelf surrounded by his fellow JLA members and he disappears into the crowd. Is that Superman? No, my friend, this is some bizarre deviant aberration Superman, no doubt written by Grant Morrison, a worthless wretched puling creature unworthy of the title Man of Steel, who whips around at invisible velocity levels so he can reach into his bright red shorts and pull his pud at will without anyone being the wiser.

No. No. It can not, it shall not, it MUST not be.

Fortunately, I am Hi G. Hlander, Super Genius, and I knew exactly how to deal with this travesty in plastic. One snip of my handy toe nail clippers against the base of that annoying knee peg, a slight repositioning of the figure on the stand, and, voila --

Now that's SUPERMAN.

I still can't understand why no one is paying me for this stuff.

P.S. I am aware that in the sentence No, my friend, this is some bizarre deviant aberration Superman, no doubt written by Grant Morrison, a worthless wretched puling creature unworthy of the title Man of Steel , there is a dangling something or other, which can cause a hasty reader to believe that I am referring to Grant Morrison as a worthless wretched puling creature unworthy of the title Man of Steel.

But, you know, I like that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

For rizzle, my pizzle

It’s settled. It’s definitive. It’s not opinion, it is objective fact, amply established through exhaustive testing conducted over the course of years by a team of expert NASA scientists:

Jingle Bell Rock is the Worst.



It cannot be denied. It is inarguable. Jingle Bell Rock is rotten, it is fetid, it is putrid, it is an auditory horror, a grotesque, aberrant, unconscionable assault upon the collective timpani of humanity. It is torment, it is terror, it is toxic. The din of Jingle Bell Rock rises up to heaven, and heaven winces and covers its ears.

“But wait, Highlander,” I hear you moaning piteously en masse, your eyes upturned to me in tremulous, awestruck wonder. “You are, of course, infallible in your godlike wisdom, but still… Jingle Bell Rock… the worst song ever? What about Barry Manilow’s Copa Cabana? Or William Hung’s unfortunately deathless version of She Bangs? Or, for the love of God, Dan Fogelberg’s Met My Old Lover In The Parking Lot? Or The Pina Colada Song? Or Don’t Worry, Be Happy? Surely, Highlander, surely one of these must be a worst song than Jingle Bell Rock, which, yes, is a truly truly terrible song, but jeepers, Highlander, get a grip, it’s a Christmas song, so of course it sucks, but, honestly, you’re saying it’s worse than Achy Breaky Heart? Puh leeeze! There’s, like, no way, dude!”



And don’t call me Shirley.

From its sickly opening chord descent through the horrifying auditory mine field that comprises the entirety of this song’s mind bendingly insipid lyrics, Jingle Bell Rock is a foul and execrable blot on the musical escutcheon of the universe. Its writer should be bludgeoned, its arranger should be flailed with scorpions, anyone who has ever recorded the song should be broken on the rack, and dj’s who spin this particularly onerous platter should be forced to attend a showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 as Ann Coulter’s date.

Everything about it is despicable, deplorable, objectionable and wrong. It is an offense against man, god, and nature. It is abominable and hideous. Frankly, I don’t care for it much at all.

I mean, for the love of all that’s holy, it’s got references to a one horse sleigh in it.

No. No, no, a thousand times, no… there is nothing worse in this frame of reference. Jingle Bell Rock is wretched, it is icky, it is bad, and It Must Not Stand.

Let others fight their War On Christmas. I myself do hereby declare War On Jingle Bell Rock.

It’s time for someone’s fur trimmed, gum-booted foot to be put down… and that foot is me.

Penguins is nearly chicken

My old buddy, Opus P. Penguin, has a shiny new blog. The entries are hot off the presses , the comment threads are nearly unsullied... head on over there and press your footprints into the wet cement!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Oaf of office

If you go over here, you'll find a fascinating article about a meeting that took place in the Oval Office a little over a month ago. Congressional leaders were, apparently, meeting with El Jefe, to talk about renewing the PATRIOT Act.

I urge you to read it all, but here's what we Blue Oyster Cult fans might refer to as the nexus of the crisis:

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

Yes sir. Now, about that pesky oath you took... you know, with your hand on the Bible in front of the little woman and the twins and your mom and pop and all those other people? You don't remember? You were on TV, and everyone was kissing your ass...? Yeah, I know you were pretty drunk, but still, maybe this will jog your recollection --

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
::snapping fingers:: No? Still nothing? Well, we'll try to get a videotape of that for you.

In the meantime, have another beer.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Take a month of Sundays to try and explain

Well, yesterday would have been perfect if not for the godawful unconscionable asswhipping the Patriots ladled out to my Bucs.

Here's what no one in all the rehashing is talking about --

That field was obviously frozen solid. Playing on it was like playing on a skating rink. Everybody was falling on their ass.

However, the Bucs were falling on their asses about four times as often as the Patriots. The Bucs' front line was letting Patriots pass rushers get in to Simms unblocked. Cadillac Williams was getting nowhere. Joey Galloway wasn't hitting his routes correctly. The Bucs defenders were dropping what should have been certain interceptions.

The Patriots, on the other hand, were playing better than they've played so far this season, and, well... I'm wondering...

Could any of this have to do with the fact that the Patsies got to practice on a frozen field all week long, while the Bucs had to come in... er... cold?

Look, even if the game had been played in the Bucs' home stadium, it's possible the Patsies might have won. They played well, and I'm not trying to take that away from them. But the Bucs looked like stumbling idiots out there, and they aren't, by any stretch of the imagination... not this season, anyway. I have to think, had the game been played on a field where both teams had equal footing, the Bucs would have done much, much better.

It doesn't matter now, of course... the NFL doesn't give you do-overs because your opponent really REALLY took advantage of the home field. And odds are, we'll still win our last two games... and if either Atlanta or Dallas manages to beat the Panthers, we can still go in as winners of our division too. Beyond that, I suspect the Patriots are going at some point run head on into the Colts, and since the Colts will be playing in a dome, they should hand Tom Brady's pretty boys their pretty asses with little difficulty.

Okay, leaving football aside...

I think we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in reference to Christmas. There are still a few things on the To Do list, but for the most part, everything is wrapped and under the tree, stocking stuffers are at the ready, and we're pretty much set. SuperGirlfriend provides gifts and Christmas dinner to a needy family every year (they write what are called 'Santa letters', and she picks one out at the post office) and that's all in hand, as well -- we should be taking stuff over to this year's family Friday night. Then we get the SuperKids back Christmas Eve, go over to SuperGirlfriend's parents to open presents there that night, then back here for Christmas Day. It should be wonderful.

Bane, it turns out, isn't dead after all, and in fact, he stopped by yesterday for a few hours, and watched the Bucs get destroyed with us. Unfortunately, for the past three weeks or so he's been flat on his back and he played HeroClix a great deal during that period, so he didn't want to play with me... which was sad, since there are only about four people in the world who play clix by my House Rules, and I hate missing an opportunity to play with one. Still, it was nice to hang out with him for a while. He may be back on New Year's Eve. He's not working where I work any more, so we'll have to work at it if we're going to continue to hang out.

I've been trying to avoid ridiculing what I see on other blogs lately, since it generally strikes me as a sad way to act, and beyond that, I don't like giving the loathely of the world any extra attention. However, I just have to ask: is this chick a mind controlled dupe of the far right... or, on the other hand, is she simply the world's shapeliest retard?

Honestly, I simply cannot comprehend the level of brain damage it would take to type up something like 'The dhimmicrats voted down the only real protection a girl has. THE PATRIOT ACT IS DEAD! Man your battle stations!' In fact, if that opinion was the result of brain damage or mental retardation, either condition would have to be so profound as to preclude the hand/eye coordination necessary to type and post to a blog... so I guess she's mind controlled after all.

And... oh jesus, still scrolling down... she's a mom with two daughters. Ah, well... the next generation of Clinton haters is well launched, and John Derbyshire will know who to call for a date for the next decade and a half.

Moving from a female blogger I can't stand to one whose work I always enjoy (not least of which when she's posting on my blog), I wanted to note that Ragnell delighted me with the following quote from her December 13 entry:

And finally, I don't want to say the following because a) I'm mad the spin-off is late this week, b) I'm mad the spin-off wasn't solicited for March, and c) there is a disturbing lack of opportunity to see Kyle Rayner's butt in March.

However, Green Lantern #10 was still the most interesting preview this week. Simone Bianchi draws a wonderful Hal Jordan. (I prefer him to Alex Ross as a cover artist). The beautiful pencils of Ivan Reis! The plot thread that kept me buying the book after issue #3! Sinestro!

Now, it's not that she's actually saying something nice about Hal Jordan, which is rare for her (and in fact, she's not, she's saying something nice about an artist who draws Hal Jordan, but I say good business is where you find it), and it certainly isn't that she's saying something nice about Kyle Rayner's ass... except, of course, that it is, because I just find it delightful whenever I stumble across a female comics fan behaving in a fashion that we male comics fans tend to get screamed at a lot for by female comics fans, which is to say, admiring the unrealistically exaggerated anatomical features of a favorite super-icon.

It's always nice to see one of my female spiritual brethren admitting to actually having a libido.

And kind of on that subject, someone over at HC Realms mentioned something in a chat thread I found a bit strange -- apparently Gail Simone, the rather talented writer of the excellent Villains United series, refused to use Dr. Light at all in the series because... get this... 'the character is now a rapist'.

Gail won't write about rapists, see.

I guess it's a feminist thing, or something.

Look, I'm a Silver Age fan, so, emotionally, I'm on board with her. To paraphrase Cyrus, one time leader of the Riffs -- back in the Silver Age nobody was raping nobody. In fact, people rarely killed each other, either. This is one of the many many reasons I prefer the Silver Age, in general, to the grim n' gritty, grisly, gruesome, and gory Modern Age. But Simone's stance troubles me nonetheless, because, well, it seems a trifle hypocritical to me. Why? Well, because Villains United features, among other things, graphically depicted scenes of cold blooded murder (issue 1, Deadshot puts a bullet through the original Fiddler's head), torture (issues 2 and 3), disfigurement and cannibalism (Scandal bites off Fatality's ear and eats it towards the end of issue 3), disembowelment and one of the more disturbing sex scenes ever depicted in mainstream comics (issue 4), and, anyway... yeah, Dr. Light is apparently a rapist, now. Apparently, he raped Sue Dibny, and because a male fictional character committed a fictional sexual assault against a female fictional character, a real female comics author will not include that male fictional character in her stories.

But, you know, she'll write about psychotic serial killers with guns mounted on their wrists, people being graphically tortured, women who bite body parts off different women and eat them, and women who seduce their teammates for the sole purpose of getting pregnant because they want to raise their kid to be as twisted as they are.

I don't know. Rape is a very very bad thing, yes... but, still... I'm thinking that if this is true (and I don't know if it is) Gail Simone badly needs a lesson in perspective.

And, hey, I picked up Angel Season 5 while we were out running errands tonight, and would like to check out one or two eps of that before bed tonight, so I shall post this and head for the DVD player.

Happy Monday to everyone. Except, you know, the crazy chick at Atlas Shrugged.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

World of Vampires

In my last post I put up a link to this David Fury interview, which was originally forwarded to me by the ever alert Hartmut, over in Germany, whom I really do owe some email to by now.

Here's the money shot, at least, as far as it reflects on Joss Whedon's approach to world building:

You know, Joss’ thing, and rightly so, is that he allowed the mythology to serve whatever story he wanted to tell so he didn’t lock himself into a concrete mythology that would limit him. If he had a story he wanted to tell, he would adjust the mythology accordingly.
I'm going to be very clear on this: this is not good writing.

Yeah, Joss Whedon has millions of fans and has made millions of dollars writing; I have dozens of detractors and have made dozens of dollars writing. Nonetheless, I do not hesitate to say: when you treat the world you are building under and around your characters as being subjective and subordinate to the needs of each succeeding episode in your ongoing saga, that's bad writing.

Joss doesn't seem to get it -- the setting is as important as the characters, because in a fantasy world, the world itself is a character.

Now we come to this:

And Joss was very clear, he said, "I don’t know how to do standalone episodes because if you’re trying to build emotional depth to these characters they have to carry the events of prior episodes into another episode."
See, Whedon cares about the characters, and that's a good thing. You have to feel that if someone came along and said "I have this great idea for a story, but we need to change the characters' back story just a little, we need to reveal that during Season 1, Buffy and Xander slept together a couple of times and nobody knew about it", Joss would most likely explode -- No, no, no, if Xander and Buffy slept together covertly back in Season 1 it would have completely reshaped not only their relationship but every other relationship the two of them had, you can't just go back and retroactively implant something that big, no matter how good a story idea you have that leads off it now, years later.

At least, I think that's what Whedon would say; I certainly hope it's what he would say.

Yet he doesn't seem to understand that 'mythology', i.e., the back story of the world itself, is just as important to the characters, and their relationships, as the emotional history of the characters themselves.

Honestly, it drives me crazy. But it certainly explains how we get so many internally contradictory episodes over the course of the show. We've seen, for example, Spike and Angel's origins each retold several times now; every time we see one or the other, some vital component seems to wildly vary from what we've already witnessed. If you care about these characters and the world they live in, if you'd like to be able to fully enter into it and fully suspend your disbelief, then it's jarring every time it happens... it's like, in order to make this one particular story flow more smoothly, the producers (and, very much, Joss Whedon) have deliberately left a big chunk of tile sticking up for you to stub your toe on painfully every time.

But to Joss Whedon, this is just what good writing is -- if you have a good idea for a story that conflicts with something that has already been established in a past story, well, that's no problem. After all, it's just fiction; none of it is real, and the writer should be able to do whatever he or she needs to at the moment without being 'limited by the mythology'.

I think that's horseshit. I think it's lazy writing and it's bad writing; I think it's 'in Hypertime, everything is real' nonsense. These worlds and the characters in them are fictional, yes, but it is part of the demand of the craft that the creator try to bring those fictions to life as credibly and convincingly as possible... and that means, paying attention to the details that have previously been laid down.

When you have a piece of fiction that you are making money from, you owe something to the paying public. Without his audience, Joss Whedon is driving a truck or washing dishes for a living. The BUFFY/ANGEL audience has demonstrated time and time again that we want this world to seem real, that we want to take these characters seriously; in contrast, Whedon has shown us, over and over, that he can't be bothered to make the effort.

And, on another, related subject, I'd mentioned in my last post my truculent, deeply rooted suspicion that Joss Whedon may have deliberately sandbagged BUFFY and ANGEL so he could clear the decks, so to speak, for FIREFLY. Whenever I type this out somewhere, or mention it to someone, I feel like I should be wearing a tinfoil hat -- after all, rotten as FIREFLY was (and thus, as deeply mental as Whedon must have been to come to prefer a crappy, poorly conceived and dreadfully executed space western to, well, one of the best horror/fantasy franchises ever), there's just no point in killing your first two kids when the one you really love comes along.

Yet sometimes emotions make no sense, and bizarre and conspiratorial though this theory seems, every time I read something else about the end of BUFFY and ANGEL, it gets a little more reinforced. For example:

Here’s the thing about it. Ultimately, a lot of the direction of the series went by Joss’ whim , as it should, it’s his show. He was busy writing the Firefly movie but he would still come in and he would say, "I want to do this, I want to do that, I want this to happen." Unlike early Buffy seasons, or even seasons of Angel when there was a consistent hierarchy like with Greenwalt and Minear, we weren’t really able to map out the season the way we really wanted to. Jeff Bell and I pretty much mapped out a season where we could see how it would work and we were planning on doing that but once Joss came into the mix Joss put his own mark on it and when he put his own mark in it, unfortunately, it blew a lot of our stuff out of the water.
Now, that's not particularly definitive -- all it proves is that Whedon came back onto his own show and pretty much took over creative control, while he was putting most of his effort into a project he liked a great deal more, during what turned out to be the final season. But then we get to this:

The only reason that Angel didn’t come’s a very simple thing. Because our ratings were up, because of our critical attention, Joss specifically asked Jordan Levitt, who was the head of The WB at the time, to give us an early pick-up because every year they [would] wait so long to give Angel a pick-up [and] a lot of us [would] turn down jobs hoping that Angel will continue - he didn’t want that to happen. So, he was feeling very confidant and he just asked Jordan, "Like, make your decision now whether you’re going to pick us up or not," and Jordan, sort of with his hands tied, with his back up against the wall, called him the next day and said, "Okay, we’re cancelling you."
I honestly can't see any way to take this except as almost irrefutable evidence that the show's creator had decided he wanted the show dead. I mean, sure, I suppose it could just be a cocky, arrogant mistake... I've seen enough of Whedon to know he has no shortage of hubris. But he's also a smart man and a very experienced one in the ways of television networks. It's very difficult for me to believe that he would make this kind of demand without having a pretty good idea what kind of answer was going to come back.

Whenever I start in bitching about Joss Whedon, I admit, it seems a bit ungrateful and unappreciative. After all, without Joss, we'd have no BUFFY at all, and without BUFFY's subtle but pervasive influence over the cultural matrix, well, a great many things would be missing from the world.

Yet... BUFFY, good as it was, could have been better, and it should have been better. Worse, it could still be on the air... in one form or another, with or without Sarah Michelle Geller, or, for that matter, any other specific star. The franchise, and, yes, the mythology, are strong enough, and well enough conceived, to have gone on with an entirely new cast and an entirely new set of storylines... if only its creator had cared enough to make an effort to keep them going.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fly, you fool!

So yesterday I got up at 5 with the two oldest SuperKids, meaning it was my turn to rack in this morning. Meaning I'd snooze until 7 or so, get up, amble sleepily through my morning routine, mess around on the computer a lot, maybe blog a little, and end up more or less dressed and ready for work by 9, when I'd catch my bus out to the hinterlands for my normal 11:30 shift.

Except this morning SuperGirlfriend shakes me awake at 6:07 and says "Sorry, but I couldn't remember, how early do you have to go in today?"

And like a plague of insects, memory came buzzing back: tonight SuperAdorable Toddler and Super Drama Teen both have their school holiday concerts, so after begging and pleading, I got my schedule shifted and am going in to work at 8:30 today instead of 11:30.

"Good LORD!" I roared, leaping to my feet, dashing to the closet, yanking out my spare suit of Guardsman armor, and quickly clambering into it. Then, with a whoosh of boot-jets, I was away, blasting across the River City skyline with a comet tail of flaming rocket exhaust blazoning the morning air behind me!

Yeah. That would be the life.

The reality was more prosaic: stumbling blearily into the shower, hastily hauling on some work-suitable clothes, sitting in the passenger seat with Super Adorable Toddler on my lap as SuperGirlfriend drove me to the bus stop, watching apathetically as the Breckenridge bus rolled on by, realizing with chagrin fifteen minutes later that the goddam Jeffersontown driver on the 23 route must have stupidly put the Breckenridge instead of the Jeffersontown sign up and I'd missed my bus, trudging back through the depressing winter rain to the apartment to call SuperGirlfriend to make her late giving me a ride to work... yeah, yeah. No nuclear powered battle armor there, my friend. Just that same old stale cake that reality serves up to us every day... albeit frosted with the pleasures of holding a lovely toddler briefly on my lap, and the joy of SuperGirlfriend's company.

Just started re-reading F.M. Busby's Star Rebel, to prep me for all the Hulzein Family novels I have in the in stack from last summer's raid on a second hand bookstore. Yeah, I still haven't gotten around to those.

Sometime after the holidays, I mean to go out and pick up a copy of George R.R. Martin's A Feast of Crows... and then toss it aside resolutely until the other half of the book comes out, sometime in 2017. Then, once I actually have the entire volume at hand, I'll sit down and reread the series to date from the start... so, sometime around 2022, I may actually be finishing up the latest installment. Hopefully just in time for the final volume to come out. Or at least, the first several thousand pages of it...

My dry ironic wit aside, I certainly don't mind that Martin is taking his time and trying to do a story of this scope, with this rich a fantasy world and this many fascinating characters populating it, right.

I just wish the fucker could type faster, that's all.

Old email buddy Hartmut, from way over in Germany, has been sending me some interesting BUFFY related links lately. Hartmut doesn't seem to be able to post to the blog no matter what comment thread engine I use, so I wanted to give him a shout out here. Thanks, Hartmut!

The latest link, for any fellow BUFFY fans out there reading this, was to a
David Fury interview that touches on the last season of BUFFY and the hypothetical sixth season (that now never will be) of ANGEL.

It's always worth noting, when I bring up the ends of either series, that a great deal of the blame for the decline and fall of the franchise has to lie squarely on Joss Whedon's shoulders... and not just in the indirect manner that anyone who is in charge of an ongoing project has to accept responsibility blame, but much more squarely, too. Both BUFFY and ANGEL began to go badly off the rails at the same point where Whedon first conceived, and then became completely infatuated with, his utterly idiotic FIREFLY concept. It's all well and good for someone to get tired of one long standing project and want to move on to another, but Whedon's desire to shuck all BUFFY projects seems to have resulted in an active antipathy on his part towards the series... or, at least, that's about the most credible way to interpret the astonishingly abhorrent character developments Whedon oversaw over the course of the sixth and seventh seasons.

When one sets out, consciously or otherwise, to destroy something as beloved and creatively unique as BUFFY and ANGEL, it certainly helps if one's next project is an acceptable replacement. I'm aware that FIREFLY has its avid fans, but honestly, I don't care; anything ever aired on television has a few thousand maniacally devoted zealots out there, regardless of its quality. FIREFLY was, in my opinion, rubbish; if this is what Whedon wants to devote his muse to, well, good luck and good riddance... but I wish he'd turned BUFFY over to good hands rather than simply destroying it to clear his decks.

In work related news, up is down... black is white. While we were told in training that we had a certain amount of unscheduled break time we could use every day at need, I cannot get anyone to confirm that now... although I did get one team leader to kind of vaguely confirm that yes, out of every full time shift that runs 8.5 hours, we're expected to put in 7 hours on the phones. If you do the math, with half an hour of scheduled lunch and two 15 minute scheduled breaks, what is left over is 30 minutes for unscheduled time off the phone, which we are supposed to hit the BREAK button to take. And I've been doing it, especially on days when I work at least an hour of overtime... but now I'm being told that I'm using too much break time (even though I've never come close to using up a half hour extra a day) and when I ask about it, all I can get is a vague "well, they give you a few extra minutes for potty breaks if you need them".

Clearly, management has decided to back off a hard number, preferring to keep things as undefined as possible, so if they feel someone is spending too much time off the phones, they can bitch about it. It's exasperating, but not surprising, given the number of places I've worked in during an adulthood spent largely temping.

I also asked the supervisor over my department directly if there was any additional paperwork I should fill out to get the train rolling on me being permanently placed here. She looked really uncomfortable, then said that, well, there were some temps here who had been here a long time, so they were making offers to them first, and they didn't know how that would work out.

Now, I know with absolute certainty that there are no temps in this department with seniority to me, because I see the time sheets every time I log my hours. She may be referring to other temps working elsewhere in the company, but my department is highly specialized, and I find it hard to believe they'd give preference to untrained personnel over someone who has gone through the classroom and has been on the phones here for three months.

So, I imagine they will keep me on through our busiest month (March, when most of our clients do close out) and then I'll be out looking for work again... provided, of course, I don't do something really egregious and get termed prior to that, of course. Like posting all this nonsense on a blog, for example...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Nothing matters but the weekend

...from a Wednesday point of view...

Well, let's see. SuperGirlfriend just left without her cell phone. It's always an ironic situation when she does it, as my first instinct is to call her on her cell phone and tell her she left her cell phone here.

It also underscores how much of the heavy lifting I still let her do with the SuperKids, despite my best intentions. I want to call the daycare she's taking Super Adorable Toddler to and leave a message for her, but for the life of me, I can't remember what the name of the daycare is. I know where it is, but I don't know the name of it, or its phone number.

At some point, she'll realize she doesn't have it with her and come back to get it, but it's going to be a big inconvenience for her. And there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Tomorrow I'm working 8:30 to 5, by special dispensation from my supervisor, so I can get out early and go to a holiday concert for the kids. Naturally, the idiots at both Super Drama Teen's school and Super Adorable Toddler's school scheduled their holiday concerts on the same night, so we can go to one, but probably not the other. I realize that it would most likely be impossible for all the music teachers and principals of all the various different schools at various different levels in River City to schedule their holiday events on different nights, but is it too much to ask that the three different schools our kids go too get their act together? Geez.

In breaking news, it is now official: I am an insulting, cowardly hypocrite. Or, at least, so says my first ex-girlfriend, in response to a brief paragraph in my last entry about our recent and abortive attempt at getting re-acquainted via email:

Some things never change, I guess. You still have this way of
insulting someone and then hiding under a cloak of nobility. And now
you can hide behind your blog. It's cowardly. And a little

Of course, later on in her email, she notes that "given how we ended our relationship and then friendship..I knew you'd have every right to blast me to hell..."

I have every right to, but, of course, if I do it (which, actually, I don't think I did) I'm an insulting cowardly hypocrite. Or something like that, anyway.

Well, it doesn't matter. In honor of her, I'm thinking of retitling this blog "Cloak of Nobility". But I don't know. It seems to lack the geek bravado I generally strive for.

I'm really tired. I would love to call in sick today. Of course, I have no paid sick days, since I'm a temp, so calling in sick would be unforgivably stupid, since it would convert my two hours of overtime so far this week into six hours of unpaid sick leave, which would add up to about $70 gone from next week's paycheck, and we just can't afford it.

We did get a message on the answering machine from my temp agency last night, though, saying I should call them today before I go into work. The message seemed to indicate that one of my supervisors called them up to complain about a few things that need to be straightened out so I'll have a good chance of being hired on permanently at my current assignment, so that would seem to indicate I'm not being fired... and December is a hellishly busy month at the call center and we are already down about six employees on my team so it's not like they are going to fire anyone who is trained, experienced, and halfway competent at the job right now... but still. I am wise in the ways of temp agencies. SuperGirlfriend tipped me off to the message while I was still at work last night, and I brought home all my personal items. If it turns out I'm no longer working there, well, that will be disastrous for our personal finances, but, on the other hand, I will no longer be working there, which neatly supplies its own upside.

Here's the thing: I have a giant stack of customer commendations. I've had a similar stack at every call center I've ever worked at. I meet or greatly exceed every stat they measure us on at my current job. Our adherence to schedule is supposed to be 95%, mine is habitually 99 to 100% (while my peer group's compliance averages out to 43%). Our average talk time is supposed to be six minutes, mine is 4:55; peer compliance to the requirement is at 50%. Our average hold time is supposed to be 15% of talk time, mine is 6%, peer compliance with the standard is 72%. We're supposed to take around 40 calls per day, I generally take 56 to 65.

By every measurement, I not only exceed performance standards, I exceed the performance of very nearly all of my co-workers. And yet, today I have to call my temp agency and go over a few matters, because one of my supervisors called them up and bitched at them about things.

I have a feeling I know what this is about. The phone message mentioned specifically 'breaks'. Now, this is a call center and we have two scheduled 15 minute breaks. We are also allowed another 30 minutes per day of unscheduled 'break time', mostly to go to the bathroom if we need to, or, so smokers can run out and cop an emergency cigarette. I've never gone over that 30 extra minutes, but I do use a lot of it on a daily basis, and I suspect it's really pissing at least one of my supervisors off, because she's aware that I often 'go to the bathroom' when we have a lot of calls in queue. But here's the thing about that:

We have a lot of calls in queue all day long on very busy days. Generally on very busy days, I sign in an hour to an hour and a half early to help out with the heavy call volume. (This is because the local bus schedule requires me to be at work at 10 am every day for a shift that starts at 11:30.) This makes my day longer, and goddamit, I need more break time, and of course I don't have any scheduled, so goddam it, I take it when I feel I need it, which is often after I've spent an hour answering call after call after call and there are still twenty fucking calls in the queue from absolute idiots who will not get the goddam news and hang up and call back some other time when it isn't so busy.

When I feel like the very next time some idiot asks me why their flex spending card was turned down at the dentist's office, I'm going to lose it and start screaming at them... then I take a break.

Now, yesterday wasn't a particularly busy day for us, and I had a total of 47 minutes break time... which is to say, my two scheduled breaks, and another 17 minutes out of the half hour of break time I'm allowed. Which isn't bad; I suspect everyone clocks in right around then on the average day.

I also suspect I'm going to get a flea put in my ear about logging off the phones at 7:59 instead of 8:00. Now, I always log ON the phones at 11:28 or so instead of 11:30, but of course management doesn't care about that. Let me log on one minute late and I'll hear about it, but two minutes early every single day... they got nothing to say about that.

At the last call center I worked at, when I was on the floor, I worked the closing shift, too. There, the rule was, you couldn't log off until the supervisor sent a GOOD NIGHT e-pop out to everyone on shift, which he or she wouldn't send until they were sure all calls were out of queue. Here they don't have that rule, and they probably badly need to institute it. But until they do, my inclination will be to log off the phones as early as I think I can get away with it without being dinged for adherence... especially when SuperGirlfriend is usually waiting for me outside, and every extra minute I stay on the phones is another chance for some whiney stupid participant to call me up and cry at me for twenty minutes past my scheduled shift time about their goddam idiotic flex spending account.

By the way: if you have a flexible spending account and you have to call your customer service line for any reason, try to avoid using the phrase "but it's MY money". I swear to God, any time a customer uses that phrase with any of us, there's at least a 30% chance we're simply going to hang up on him or her immediately. Why? Well, aside from the fact that we hear it about fourteen thousand times a day, here's the actual skinny:

It's NOT your goddam money any more. You voluntarily signed a piece of paper setting that money aside into a special account, which has certain requirements and conditions pertaining to the reimbursement of said money to you. You thought the idea of getting all your health care expenses tax free without having to go to the trouble of itemizing your deductions at the end of the year on your tax form was just spiffy, so you went for it, and in so doing, you gave up all rights you may have ever had to say 'it's my money'.

Now, you jump through all the hoops, you get your money back. You don't, and you don't. But it's not your money until we send you a check and you cash it, and sometimes it's not even your money then, if you submitted the same claim fourteen different times because you're too stupid to know how to run a fax machine and you end up with an overpayment.

If you don't like any of this, then for the love of God, don't sign up for a flex spending account next year.

Oh, and here's another clue: saying "You know, this is too much trouble, I really don't think I'm going to sign up for this next year" does not have the effect on the customer service rep you are talking to that you want it to have. You think you are making some sort of threat that will cause us to leap to attention and kiss your ass even more than we already are, because our lousy job requires it. However, the simple truth is this: not only do we not give a shit if you sign up for the flex spending account next year, we actually hope you don't, because you're a whiney annoying asshole and we'd love it if we never had to talk to you again.

One more thing I've learned on this particular job: if you consistently have problems with your flexible spending account, it's because you're a dolt.

Now, this isn't true of other businesses and services. When I took calls for the Post Office I constantly talked to people who were having all kinds of trouble with their mail and it wasn't their fault, and when I answered the phones for Sprint I talked to folks who constantly had problems with their long distance and it wasn't due to any fault or character flaw of their own. But with flexible spending accounts, yes, this is absolutely true.

Oh, we do occasionally make mistakes. So if you have had your account screwed up once or twice, well, that could be our fault, and if so, we'll apologize for it. But if you are calling us every single time you send in a claim because every single time you send in a claim we deny it, guess what? You're a moron. You're doing it wrong. And it's not that hard; a lot of people who aren't very bright fill out their claim forms correctly and get their checks without any difficulty at all.

One bright spot to the morning: SuperGirlfriend came back for her cell phone, and since she was already going to be late for work, we totally (explicit sex scene deleted) before she left again, and that was extremely pleasant.

Okay, I have to go get into the shower and then call my temp agency to be kicked around a little. Yay.

I really wish I could just go back to bed.

Post script: Well, I just called the agency. Julie, the person who left the message and who asked me to call back, won't be there until this afternoon. The girl who picked up the phone looked in my account for notes, and said that according to the email they got from SHPS, I am 47 minutes over my allotted break time for the week so far... which is absolute bullshit, but, whatever... and I need to watch my lunches and breaks.

So... ::shrug:: I don't know what's going on. Except that there is incompetence everywhere, so why can't I get a permanent job?

When I call you up, your line's engaged

A while back, I promised my readers here a lexicon of call center phrases -- a veritable Rosetta Stone for customer service terminology, translating what a customer service representative tells you into its actual meaning. I've been jotting some of these down over the past few weeks, and now it's time to share:

We say: May I help you?

We mean: What the hell are you doing, calling me? Are you retarded? This job isn't bad enough without you bugging the shit out of me? Fuck off!

We say: Yes sir/ma'am, I would be more than happy to help you with that.

We mean: I hate you, I hate the clan which shares your cave, I hate the society which spawned you and which trapped me in this miserable dead end nightmare of a job listening to you, and I yearn for your prompt expiration and eternal damnation.

We say: That should take [vague period of time, carefully worded to sound more definite than it is] to get done for you.

We mean: I have no frickin' clue how long this will take, or if it will ever get done, and I don't care, because anyone who can afford to pay your monthly cell phone bills, or set aside $5,000 for their French goddam nanny and then complain that the IRS doesn't allow more per year for dependent care, is the sort of person who in any sane, reasonable world would have been long since marched to the guillotine alongside Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette.

We say: I sincerely apologize, sir/ma'am.

We mean: It's not my fault, it's not my problem, I'm not getting paid enough to care, I hope you die, please shut up and go away, NOW.

We say: Is there anything else I can do for you, sir/ma'am?

We mean: For the love of GOD for the love of GOD for the love of GOD please shut up and go away and leave me alone.

We say: May I place you on hold while I research this further?

We mean: The hold button is right next to the disconnect button on my console and guess which one I'm about to 'accidentally' press, dipshit?

And on that last one, let's take a brief look Behind The Scenes At A Typical Call Center:

YVONNE THE EVIL TEAM LEADER: This customer complained that you said you were going to put her on hold and then disconnected her.

ME: No, I put her on hold and then another call immediately beeped in and I had to take it. I don't know what happened. I think my phone is broken.

YVONNE: We've put in three repair tickets for your phone. Nothing is wrong with your phone. Why do you think this keeps happening?

ME: The Lord moves in mysterious ways, Yvonne.

Monday, December 12, 2005

There's nothing you and I won't do


A busy, stressful weekend, full of minor downs and euphoric ups, with SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids. Friday night we got the tree, Saturday we decorated it during the brief period the middle kid, Super Dependable Teen, was home (she went out for a birthday beauty bash with her aunt in the morning, came back to decorate, then went over to a friend's to study for several hours in the afternoon). Saturday evening SuperGirlfriend and the eldest, Super Drama Teen, went out shopping, leaving me and SuperDependable Teen to watch SuperAdorable Toddler and wrap SuperGirlfriend's presents from me.

Sunday, perhaps foolishly, I decided to try to shoehorn the Bucs game into an already packed schedule. The Bucs were kind enough to utterly crush the hated Panthers, for which I am duly grateful, and watching the game at the local Dundee Tavern with SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids was fun... except SuperGirlfriend left in the middle to run a brief errand, which turned into a nightmare of epic proportions for her, which made me feel bad because I wasn't there to help her with any of it, I was happily watching Cadillac Williams run all over Carolina's front line. After that we trundled off to see CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, about which I could say many things, few of them good, but I will simply content myself with "Worst film adaptation of a great book ever" and... "GO READ THE BOOKS".

I still hate the idea that millions of people all over the world will only ever know LORD OF THE RINGS from the film trilogy... but at least the first chapter in the film trilogy really rocks hard, for all it leaves out. However, this particular adaptation mostly blows like a firehose. It makes me sad... but, in all honesty, as many times as I've read and loved the Narnia books, I've always been uneasily aware that a live action version would nearly have to suck, because no matter how one decorates English school children with swords and armor and bows and such, they're still going to look ridiculous fighting Mythological Evil. And, well, I was right.

After the movie we dropped the SuperKids off at the house, shooed Super Drama Teen's girlfriend out (we can't leave those two alone; the place would burn down), and SuperGirlfriend and I went off to do laundry... a prosaic enough chore, and one I mostly dreaded when I was single, but that I kind of enjoy doing with the love and light of my life, who makes livin' fun.

I will say this: the holidays are a great deal of work when you have three kids, especially if they come on you all of a sudden when you're middle aged. Still, one assumes the pay off on Christmas morning will have to be worth it.

Home, finally, from laundry, after a busy, hectic, tiring day, all I and SG wanted to do was tumble into bed... so, naturally, SuperDepenadable Teen suddenly came over all clammy and nauseous, and had to puke her guts out for most of two hours before finally managing to get her stomach settled enough to get back to sleep.

Then I was an idiot with the best commenter I've ever had on this or any blog, something for which I am utterly and woefully sorry. And, finally, off to bed. I got up early with the kids so SuperGirlfriend could get a little more sleep, but neither of us is exactly well rested today. I get no paid sick days and am still holding onto a vestigial hope of getting hired on permanently at my current job, so I can't take the day off no matter how punk I feel, and SuperGirlfriend took two paid sick days last week, so she can't take the day off, either. And we both have fairly horrific Mondays staring at us down their predatory snouts, too.

I seem to have picked up a few new commenters, at least, on the comics related stuff, and I'm grateful for that. No telling who, if any, will stick around, of course... commenters come and go; I've come and gone myself from enough blogs to know that. Still, welcome to everyone who's dropped by, and thanks for any attention you've spared my endless blathering.

Remember the old friend who sent me an email out of the blue last week? I was digging on that, but I guess it's run its course. It's just as well... a few more emails and we'd probably have found each other intolerable. Her rant about Hilary Clinton, in her last email, really had me wondering just how much prescription medicine she was supposed to take on a daily basis, and when was the last time she'd had a dose... but never mind that. It's sad, but I'm learning more and more, sometimes we have to let go of the past... especially when it's obvious that the past has long since let go of us.

I haven't said much about comics in this entry... actually, I don't think I've said anything -- so let me close with a conciliatory statement towards all the grubby young Modern Age fans I've alienated on various blogs and chat boards over the last three weeks:

Kyle Rayner STILL sucks, and Hal Jordan is STILL the One, True Green Lantern and the Greatest Green Lantern EVER. Geoff Johns may have made Kyle seem tolerably cool in REBIRTH, but that's just because Johns is a genius. Underneath it all, Kyle is still the same pitiful, pointless, posturing wank he always was and ever will be... a circulation stunt, pure and simple, designed for overstimulated and infantile adultolescents with MTV attention spans and VH-1 intellects. He's the Pop Up Box Green Lantern. You kids must just be so proud of him.

There. That's the kind of shrill, pointless, vitriol that geek blogging is all about, dammit -- and has the additional benefit of being largely true.

I'll stop the world and meld with you...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reasons to hate me

So I finished the last post, and started making my usual rounds of the various lefty blogs I enjoy (I should set up a blog scroll, but, you know what, I had a blog scroll on my very first blog, and none of those fuckers ever linked back to me, so scroom, and none of them will read this blog or comment on it either, so scroom again), and I got over to Bottle o' Blog (oh, Google the URL your damn self, I'm tired) and was reminded, once again, of the War on Christmas.

Which reminded me, once again, that I've been meaning for months or weeks, now, to do a post on All The Issues That Make My Fellow Liberals Wish I Was Dead:

1. I like Christmas. I think it's very cool. I'm not a Christian, am not even particularly religous (although I have articles of faith, at least one of which we'll get to on this list because it also pisses off my fellow liberals no end, the tiny minded little fuckers), but Christmas is what the Winter Solstice Holiday that every human culture has always celebrated was always called in my childhood, and that's the word I have the strongest, most positive associations with. So I say "Merry Christmas" on my own time, and in my house (and in SuperGirlfriend's house) our holiday celebration is, and will remain, Christmas, despite the fact that we are about as secular humanist as you can get, and we are both educated enough to know that even if Jesus ever was born, it wasn't anywhere near December 25th. We make Christmas cookies, we send Christmas cards, we put up Christmas decorations, we will goddam well have a Christmas tree.

Now, at work, on the phone with participants, I say "Happy Holidays". I do not do this to placate Bill O'Reilly, who is a colossal tool (although he probably doesn't actually have one). I do it because there are a great many jackasses in the world who damned well will take offense at me if I tell them "Merry Christmas", and while in my personal life I have only two words for those people (and those two words are not "Happy Birthday"), on the time I sell to my employer, I well endeavor not to piss off the people who supply the funds that eventually trickle down into my paycheck. (I also try to occasionally make vague, truculent, rudimentary gestures towards keeping my job, because, you know, we have this big apartment now and I have to pay the rent here.)

But on my own time, I say "Merry Christmas", and if that pisses anyone off (and I imagine it will, at some point), well, there are many people who get pissed off over how I choose to wear my hair, too. I think people who get exasperated over such things badly NEED to be exasperated, hopefully into fatal aneurysms. So I wear my hair long and I say "Merry Christmas", and that's enough about that for now.

2. I hate affirmative action. I know, I know, as a white male I have no right to say this, and it automatically makes me a racist and I should just give up the futile effort at fooling anyone and go put on a sheet with a hood. Well, fuck anyone who thinks that way, and fuck everyone who thinks that you can somehow fix racism by reversing it and then institutionalizing it. If the Federal government is going to be in the business of redressing social inequity... and I have no problem with that as a basic concept of government... then instead of creating laws that force people to take race into consideration with every personnel decision, they should be trying to create and model policies designed towards making such processes as color blind as possible.

One thing I've yearned all my life to see made illegal is the horribly medieval, utterly useless ceremony of the 'personal interview'. There is no necessary or desirable purpose to it. We now have the technology to test any candidate for any position at an impersonal distance, and anything that might suddenly crop up when this man or woman first shows up to actually do the job that actually bears on their ability to do it well would be legitimate cause to hire someone else. The personal interview doesn't give a potential employer the opportunity to evaluate a potential employee for anything that matters, what it does is, it lets your new boss sniff your crotch and test your asskissing abilities. Eliminate the 'personal interview' and you will eliminate 80% of the bias in hiring practices right there.

Let the Feds establish some kind of Fair Employment Testing standards. Some kind of standardized exam for every job that employers can use to evaluate your work skills and aptitude. Sure, they can also look at your experience and what past employers may say about you, but what they don't get to look at is your gender, your age, your race, your relative pulchitrude, how long your hair is, how stylishly you dress, or how well you cast your eyes downward and simper/chuckle at their lame ass jokes.

Let the Feds also set up means whereby interviews can be conducted entirely online. Yeah, this will place an emphasis on certain skills (like literacy, and articulation) but the personal interview simply puts the emphasis on other skills (like grooming, and groveling). I'd rather give new generations of job applicants a reason to learn how to spell, construct smooth sentences, and type quickly, than continue conducting seminars on how to provide slick, completely insincere answers while 'dressing appropriately'... which for men means professional, and for women means 'sexy but elegant'.

Bottom line: Affirmative action is racism; I dislike racism. And if Aaron Hawkins were still alive, he'd be coming for me with a table knife right now.

3. I intensely, and I mean INTENSELY, loathe abortion. I am pro choice... but only grudgingly, because I believe that, ultimately, it's not my decision to make, and individual human beings who happen to possess wombs should have the freedom to choose what transpires within their own bodies.

But, still, I hate abortion. Passionately.

4. I'm not sure about gun control. I'm still up on the rails about it. See, I hate guns, absolutely. Yet... our forefathers seemed to feel that individual ownership of weaponry was an essential component of individual liberty and social freedom... and I am not sure they are wrong.

I intensely dislike the idea of anyone anywhere being able to walk around with the power of life and death over me, or people I love. Yet, at the same time... the idea of giving all the boomsticks over to the authorities makes my hackles crawl. Would it make cops safer? Yeah, but... well, we don't draft cops in this country; they sign up for the job and last I heard, nobody advertised it as being 'safe'. I'd be happy to pay cops more and equip them better; I'm not sure I'm happy with the idea of seeing to it that they are the only people on the streets with guns.

Beyond that, it's extremely impractical. There are millions of guns in circulation. Gun control laws are not a magic genie; most of the people that society feels shouldn't carry guns are criminals already.

I've already come up with a solution for this; I wrote it up on a much older blog. I called it 'gun insurance'. Maybe I'll go back and dig it up again.

I also think our Constitution pretty unequivocally denies the power to pass any laws in regard to gun control whatsoever. I'm hardly a strict constructionist of the Constitution; in fact, I feel it's a deeply flawed document... but it is the Owner's Manual of the United States, so I do feel we should pay some attention to what it actually says.

Whatever the case, in the end and at this point, I'm just not sure about gun control.

4. I cannot support 'hate speech' and 'hate crime' legislation.

I deeply loathe many of the more extreme consequences of absolute freedom of expression. I abhor most exclusionary hate speech, and there are kinds of porn that will make even a filthy jaded old Internet pervert like me blanche... but, nonetheless, I think that the essential concept of freedom of expression requires that we tolerate ALL forms of expression. Letting any authority decide which speech is acceptable and which isn't... nuh uh, that's a bad road to start walking on. So when you start pointing out certain types of extremely distasteful speech and levying fines and even jail sentences on people simply for speaking their minds, well... I think you've left the Freedom Trail and are heading towards despotism. At a fairly decent clip.

Similarly, I feel that when you set aside a certain type of crime as a 'hate crime', what you are doing is criminalizing a person's thoughts and feelings, rather than their actions. I cannot support that. I don't mind 'criminalizing politics', whatever the hell that means. But criminalizing speech, and criminalizing thought... that troubles me deeply.

5. I believe in intelligent design. I really, honest to Whatever, do. I think the universe around us is simply too complex to have 'jest happened'. I think it's an artifact of some sort. What sort? I have no idea, any more than I have the slightest frickin' clue who or what set the whole thing in motion, or whether there is any greater purpose to existence than just existing.

I do not believe the idea of 'intelligent design' qualifies as science, but on the other hand, it mostly doesn't qualify as science because religious people think they KNOW who designed the universe, and 'scientists' feel just as certain that nobody/nothing did... so no one is trying to do any research into it. I understand my 'faith' in intelligent design is just that... but instead of having one side rather smugly say "Well, it's the absolute truth, and we know all the details because they're in our Bibles", and the other side just as contemptuously declare "No, there is no Higher Intelligence, that's all childish superstition, we KNOW the universe just 'evolved' over a course of billions of years as a progression of various random chemical interactions"... I'd like to see actually unbiased people who know something about how the world really works, really looking into it.

It's been said many times before, but I will say it again, because it's always worth repeating these essential truths: atheism is in every way as much a leap of faith, or an organized religion, as Christianity or Buddhism or anything else. Insisting that something DOESN'T exist takes as much arrogant gall as insisting that it does. No human being I am aware of understands how the universe around us works, or where it came from, or where it's going, or even, for the vast most part, where it is and what it is doing right now. We don't truly comprehend time, or space, or matter, or energy; our most brilliant researchers are waving a couple of lit matches around in an infinitely dark cavern of ignorance.

We have to keep trying to find stuff out. Embracing the ignorance and making a virtue of it, as the ultraconservative Christian right wants us to do, is absolutely deranged, but it's nearly as addle-minded to simply say "well, those guys we don't like believe in something, so we're going to laugh at it and pretend that we know it isn't true, when we actually do not know any such thing, because we haven't bothered to do any real research or experimentation on it".

I, personally, believe in Intelligent Design... in a vague sort of way. I don't insist anyone else believe in it... but I do get annoyed when all my fellow liberals insist that the entire concept that the Universe 'just goddam is', is the only acceptable thing for a truly enlightened and rational being to believe. The truth, at this point, is that no one knows for certain a single frickin' thing about the actual nature of the Universe. And if we can't agree on that and move forward with open minds, we aren't going to ever learn anything.

So, there you have it: a punch list of reasons for all true blue, red blooded liberals to hate me and want me off their bus. But, you know, I still loathe Bush and conservatives and Republicans and want us out of Iraq right goddam now, so maybe I can sit in the back, if I promise to be really, really quiet...?

Updates schmupdates

SuperGirlfriend just called and advised me she'll be getting off work early enough to drive me to my job, meaning I don't have to catch my usual 9 o'clock bus to get to a job that starts at 11:30, so I have way more time to work on this blog. I win, you win, the girl wins... everybody wins! Or something like that.

Let's see... I recently got some email from an old friend (who at this time shall remain nameless) and I'm diggin' on that. SuperGirlfriend and I, after my egregious misstep of earlier this week, are getting back into the Christmas spirit... we're off with the SuperKids tonight to hunt down and slay The Dreaded Christmas Tree, after which we'll drag it home and dress up its corpse in Yuletide gaud... a good time we're all eagerly anticipating. Our front porch looks, honestly, gorgeous, with the lit garland and the fake tree I bought last year all festooned with lights and little red velvet bows and the multicolored lights on the bushes.

So all that's cool.

In HeroClix... since getting my birthday clix brick, I've picked up 6 more boosters of ARMOR WARS, and added the House of M Wolverine (sigh) and Sentry (heavier sigh) to my Uniques for the set. No Crystal yet, dammit. On the flip side, I got a couple of rookie Executioners with the MOE TA, which I'd actually wanted more than the Vet I got, and both rookie and experienced Banshees. I also picked up a rookie and a vet version of Wendigo.

Now, explain this to me:

Crystal, a character with a genuine character arc over the course of the forty years that Marvel Comics has been putting out superhero stuff, who is an Inhuman and who has been a member of the Fantastic Four (in two different eras) and the Avengers... get's done, finally, as a Unique.

The Executioner, who is an immortal of Asgard, and the Wendigo, who is a frickin' brainless monster, both get full Rookie/Experienced/Veteran sets.

I mean, come on now. The Executioner's REV covers the maybe-ten Marvel-time years that occurred between his first appearance on Earth as a member of the Masters of Evil fighting the Avengers in their early issues, to his more or less heroic death in a Simonson THOR in the early 80s. And, as stated, he's got to be several thousand years old. I seriously doubt he changed very much in that time period. If anyone should be a Unique, it's him.

The Wendigo, as stated, is a brainless monster... a man eating carnivore that, according to Canadian legend, is what someone becomes when they eat human flesh (and apparently, the legend has the strength of a working mystical curse in the Canadian North Woods, at the very least). Once again, you'd figure pretty much any version of the Wendigo is going to be the same as any other, so if you're going to give us a Wendigo fig (and while I love Steve Englehart's writing, and the story in which he created the Wendigo, there are about 70 Hulk villains I'd put into plastic before I reached this far down into the bin), shouldn't it also be a Unique?

Someone at HC Realms mentioned what should have been obvious to me... that game mechanics also come into picking who is going to get a REV set, instead of Unique status, because the rules of HeroClix forbid playing with more than one Unique figure, while you can have a rookie Saturn Girl, an Experienced Saturn Girl, and a Veteran Saturn Girl all on the same team... which is one reason, of course, why I only play clix under
Doc Nebula's House Rules, to avoid such egregious bullshit.

Still, looking at Crystal's dial, it's hard to see exactly what WizKids was afraid of. Yeah, yeah, the front loaded Pulse Wave, combined with the inevitable Nova Blast feat card, will tear some stuff up, but it's not like they gave her Running Shot to let her move into place and get it off... and it's not like they'd have to give every version of Crystal in a REV that front loaded power. They could have saved the current power array for the Vet version, if they were so worried about it being duplicated, and made the Rookie and Experienced versions less susceptible to abuse... give the rookie some Force Blast, some Energy Explosion and maybe a little bit of Incapacitate, at, say, a 6 range, add some Perplex and some Quake to the Experienced version, then kick out the jams and give the Vet all that Pulse Wave. Then we could have had an Experienced Crystal with the FF TA and the Vet with the Avengers TA... but... well... they didn't.

It just aggravates me. But, hey, at least they finally gave us one. We're only about four sculpts away from an entire Inhumans Royal Family...