Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Marking up change; cleaning up indifference – a hero’s story

I arrived home last week and noticed that part of my driveway was spray-painted orange, as were a bunch of rocks in our front yard and also there were little yellow flags everywhere that read GAS LINE. “Cool,” I said to myself. “This will end smoothly.”

I had a hunch as to the culprit. A few years ago I arrived home and in place of one of our lantanas rested a beautiful new green tower. Far be it from to know or care about the purpose of this tower, but the only way I can describe it is as one of those things you tell children not to touch so they don’t get electrocuted.

No one had made us aware we were getting a brand spankin’ new electrical tower in our front yard, nor that we were unwittingly losing one of our plants in the process, but we traced the gift-giver/plant-killer back to a local cable company. I called and expressed my displeasure that we were not notified of this, as well as my desire that our plant be replaced. This request surprised the company, which, I can only assume, had been accustomed to replacing plant life with small electrical columns in private, residential yards with zero repercussions. They nevertheless heeded our request and explained their purpose by repeatedly saying “fiber optic.”

So, again, I had a hunch. I called that company to inquire about the latest situation, and they claimed it was not them, and instead suggested I contact the city, which forced me down a rabbit hole of long and ultimately pointless telephone conversations that eventually led back to: that cable company. Sure enough, that very day I arrived home and in my driveway was a human person doing stuff to our beautiful green tower and who was wearing a shirt representing said cable company.

I gathered my composure and kindly asked the man what was going on, and he pointed to the house across the street and said, “They don’t have fiber optic, so we’re doing fiber optic stuff and also, fiber optic,” or something like that.

“Oh,” I replied, “the renter in that house that’s been vacant for three years doesn’t have fiber optic stuff? Why didn’t you say so? GO NUTS and use my front yard as your personal fiber optic playground!”

What I really said, however, was, “Whatever. How and when are you guys going to fix this?” as I gently guided my hand over the sea of orange spray paint and yellow flags in our yard. He blamed that all on another company, which I quickly identified as their subcontractor, and so I repeated my question. He said, “Uh … we don’t.”

I asked to speak to his supervisor, who knocked on my door a few minutes later and with whom I had the same exact conversation. I said, “So let me get this straight—you guys come and mark up private yards without any notification, and then don’t clean up your mess?” He responded by assuring me the orange spray paint would wash away “eventually.”

If I wasn’t accepting this answer, you know darn well the wonderful woman with whom I share a soul/fiber optic connection was not accepting this answer. More calls would have to be made.

And call I did. I got all the way to the CEO, who was, it should be noted, kind and understanding. And informative. Basically, service companies (cable, gas, electric) are not required to notify homeowners of marking their property, nor are they required to clean it up. For the latter they cite “liability,” like, to use the example I was given, if the company were to power wash your driveway of spray paint and in the process destroy your driveway. In other words, “We wipe our hands of the issue we have caused based on the hypothetical scenario of us making it worse due to incompetence.” (Also, “Our power washers are WMDs.”) For the former—a simple, standard ol’ note on a door—they cite, well, nothing really. And this is all OK.

Until now. It appears I have found my new purpose. Some feed the poor; others raise awareness for health causes; a select few lead nations. I want to make sure cable companies can’t spray paint your rocks bright orange without letting you know first, and then CLEAN IT UP. Don’t call me a hero. I am not a hero. (I kind of am though.)

So, has this ever happened to you? If so, call or email your councilmember. That’s what I am going to do. Let us initiate change by connecting in a manner not unlike the fiber optic lines we are mutually rallying against.

Thank you.

Note: This column appears in the 9/4 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/5 issue of Peoria Times.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spam email of the week


Sounds like I am being invited into a pornographic movie. Wish me luck!

Dear Friend,

I am Mr. KOH BOON HWEE, Managing Director DBS Bank Ltd, Hong Kong.

Your name is the most absurd ALL CAPS racial stereotype I have read. Were you not managing director of a prestigious bank, I'd be suspicious.

I am contacting you with respect to a portfolio amounting to $30,520,000 USD (Thirty Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Thousand United States Dollar) deposited by a German Merchant named Mr. Jurgen Zimmermann.

Obvs. Bank managers the world over know: when you have questions about a German merchant's financial portfolio, contact Mike. What can I say? It's what I do. (It is not.)

On the 15th of May 2002 Mr. Jurgen Zimmermann deposited $12,000,000 USD (Twelve Million United States Dollars) under our portfolio management department for four years and the deposit matured on the 18th of October 2006 with over 196% growth which amounted to a total of $30,520,000 USD (Thirty Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Thousand United States Dollar).

Where can I find Mr. Jurgen Zimmermann? I would like him to analyze the growth potential of the multiple $50 savings bonds I received for my First Holy Communion that MY MOM idiotically refused to deposit in a Hong Kong bank.

Mr. Jurgen Zimmermann has since passed away


without stating his next of kin because he deposited the funds in our establishment at a point he was finalizing divorcing his wife and had no kids coupled with the fact that he
 was an orphan, this funds has since mature and the roll-over on the funds has also expired.

Jurgen Zimmermann, age unknown. Mr. Zimmermann, a German merchant, which is a thing in 2014, died of unknown causes (though possibly a bomb blaster). An orphan who was never adopted and who basically just graduated the orphanage, Mr. Zimmermann somehow worked his way up the corporate German merchant ladder to the point he made $12 million, which he invested into a diversified portfolio and saw mature to the tune of $30,520,000. One thing that didn't mature, however, was his relationship with his gold digger wife, who couldn't even bear children on account of not being real. Mr. Zimmermann will always be remembered by ... people, we guess, and for his love of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" which is a great show he probably watched. In lieu of flowers, please do nothing. This is a dream.

This sum of $30,520,000 USD (Thirty Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Thousand United States Dollar) is still in my possession in my Bank lifeless and unnoticed because there will never be a claim on the funds and all material and immaterial documents and certificates relating to the funds is also in my possession.

There is nothing sadder than a humongous pile of money that is lifeless and unloved because no one will claim it. Somewhere, Mr. KOH BOON HWEE is wasting away the hours diving into a sea of cash, Scrooge McDuck-style, in a pitch black room while also crying. It's almost as if the money is an orphan just like Mr. Zimmermann and oh man now I am going to cry.

According to the Hong Kong Law

Something I am well-versed in so DON'T FRONT.

regulating cases of this nature which is also typical to other Asian countries, at the expiration of 7(seven) years, such funds will revert to the ownership of the Government for financing military operations, such as purchasing of arms and ammunitions for the military.


In order to avert this negative development, I will like to seek for your permission as a foreigner to stand as the next of kin to Mr. Jurgen Zimmermann so that the fruits of this old man's

*dead* man's

That was my first order of business as his, ummm ... son.

labor will not be use for financing weapons which will further enhance the courses of war in the world in general.

Yes, fine - I will take the $30 million in the interest of world peace. It's what dead Jurgen dad - which is what I call him, affectionately - would have wanted.

The money will be paid into your account for us to share in the ratio of 60% for me and 35% for you and the balance of 5% for will be responsible for the major /trivial expenses incurred in the course of the transaction.

There is no trivial expense when it comes to honoring the memory of Mr. Jurgen Zimmermann. For example, I have already spent $12,000 on unlimited massages at Massage Envy to relieve the stress of this money transfer, so please take that out of the five percent or whatever.

There is no risk at all as all the paperwork for this project will be done by my attorney

Me: Babe, great news. Copped a cool $11 mill just by checking my email. Looks like we goin' on that Rick Springfield cruise after all ... (raises roof) (twerks)

Wife: (rolls eyes) Wonderful. How did it happen this time?

Me: Mr. Jurgen Zimmermann died. The German merchant. I just have to pretend he was my dad or whatever.

Wife: Honey, I hate to see you get your hopes up again after deals like this have fallen through so many times. Are you absolutely sure this is legit?

Me: Oh no doubt. Mr. KOH BOON HWEE's lawyer is doing all the paperwork. He's a lawyer, babe.

Wife: Oh, well in that case ...

and with my position as the credit officer guarantees the successful execution of this project. 

Me: Plus Mr. KOH BOON HWEE himself is the credit officer. It's like, pfffffttt. This b*tch is failproof.

Wife: ...

Me: Ya' know, sometimes I wish you would just trust me.

Upon your response, I shall then provide you with further information's and modalities that will help you understand the transaction.

Yes, please do that. For I am but an unfrozen caveman email user. I am unfamiliar with your "transactions" and "modalities."

You should observe utmost confidentiality, and rest assured that this project would be most profitable for both parties because I shall require your assistance to invest my share in your country.

Oh snap, Mr. KOH BOON HWEE's going to invest his share in 'Merica? USA! USA! USA! Mr. KOH BOON HWEE and I are basically saving the country o'er here. What about you, OBAMA?

Awaiting your urgent reply.

Thanks and regards,


I see you dropped the extra E off your last name and replaced it with a period. Very profesh. Smart move. You know, for your brand. Speaking of your brand, I thought of a cool tagline for every time a super-rich orphan German merchant dies and we get the money: KOH BOON, son!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tool time: Jack of no trades, master of none consolidates

I currently have something I never thought I’d have: a toolbox. For tools.

Because I already had a toolbox, only it was filled with medicine, almost all of which expired in 2007. When we became foster parents, it was required that we have all our medication locked up and secured. Looking for something to do just that, my wife and I stumbled on a traditional ol’ toolbox. I said, “This will work! Plus one day maybe I can actually use it for tools HA HA HA this will be for medication.”

But the joke is on me because now I have a tool-toolbox. We were in the process of going through some house junk, and I thought it would be a good idea to go through the medicine toolbox and throw out the ear drop medication my wife brought to Arizona from New Jersey seven years ago and a huge box of DayQuil that only had one DayQuil in it that was four years expired and also everything in the box. Staring at the empty toolbox, I took a deep breath and with a lump in my throat said to myself, “Now is the time.”

I knew the day would come; I just didn’t expect it to come so soon.

But listen, I want to be clear—I didn’t do this for me. I did it for the manly men I am related to who come to our house occasionally to visit but also to fix things. It used to be kind of funny when, having asked my dad or father-in-law or my wife’s uncle to fix something in the house, they would say, “Where does Mike keep his tools?” and we would laugh and laugh and laugh.

But all of a sudden that stopped being funny for some reason.

Uncle Paul: No, seriously. I cannot do this without tools.

Me: Random tools are scattered throughout all four corners of the house and also in the garage. I typically leave them in the spot I last failed at fixing what was there, so it’s probably nearby.

Uncle Paul: I just need a socket wrench—where do you keep that?

Me: I am honestly unsure if you are joking and making fun of me or if a ‘socket wrench’ is an actual thing. But to answer your question: no. I mean, I don’t know. I mean, what?

For the benefit of being able to continue having things fixed, I figured consolidating tools would be a good idea. And I was surprised at how many tools I had considering I have never purchased a tool in my life. Every tool I own—save for the mini screwdriver I was forced to buy to replace the batteries in a pink teapot that plays music—have been purchased for me as a means of goading me into learning how to do stuff, despite the fact I am 36 and have resisted this long. I think I had four straight birthdays where my father-in-law’s gift to me was a set of tools, all of which have remained in plastic except for the ones my father-in-law himself was forced to open when we asked him to fix something. “Oh, I see you’ve enjoyed the socket wrenches I got you in 2005.” (In my defense, you need a tool to open those things!)

ANYWAY, it’s all in the there now: screwdrivers, a hammer, measuring tape, some screws (for the screwdrivers), a thingee, pliers, electrical tape, a whole bunch of nutbolts (?) or something that apparently go with a tool I either don’t have or can’t find, a stud finder that I keep forgetting to put on me and make a beeping sound to make my wife roll her eyes, and a bunch of stuff that looks tool-y even though I have no idea what it is.

Now nobody can complain when we invite them to our house for the sole reason of fixing stuff as I pretend to watch and learn while instead managing my fantasy sports teams on my phone. I am 36.

Note: This column appears in the 8/28 issue of The Glendale Star and the 8/29 issue of the Peoria Times.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Spam email of the week

Subject: Dokumenty

HA HA spell much?

Fahrenheit 9/11 outtakes

"My name is Michael Moore, and I'm making a dokumenty about ... pfffffffffff HA HA! Did I just say 'dokumenty?' Cut, cut! I'm not awake yet, guys. Someone get me my coffee! Oh man ... that was hilarious."


OR: "Mike." Almost though!

Zwracam się z zapytaniem w imieniu internetowego serwisu tłumaczeniowego.

So far this dokumenty is confusing.

Polscy przedsiębiorcy szukają dobrych jakościowo tłumaczeń w związku z rosnącym eksportem i chęcią nawiązywania międzynarodowej współpracy.

What? Are you serious? I am never eating at McDonald's again, for real.

Chciałem się zapytać czy mogę przedstawić ofertę na usługi tłumaczeń pisemnych?

Is that a rhetorical question or do you want an answer?

Yes? No wait. No. No?

Bartosz Mazur

I feel like maybe I don't know what this email is trying to convey or who you are or what this dokumenty is about. What is your deal, anyway, Bartosz?

Senior Account Manager

Oh. See that I understood. Do you want to start over and do the whole email in that language so maybe I can respond appropriately? No? OK that's cool, too. What company do you work for?


"ISN'T IT IRONIC?" - Alanis Przedstawić

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Spam email of the week

Feeling lonely. Wishing someone could introduce me to some products. (logs on to email)

Subject: Introduction of products

(pumps fist)

Dear Sir/Madam,


I am a dude, btw, fwiw.

We are Box Marsh located In Pakistan  City, Sialkot, specialize in exporting various type of garment.

Nice to meet you, Box Marsh! May I also add that you specialize in grabbing my attention :0 :) ;)

Our main products are Martial Arts Uniforms,Boxing Gloves, Mixed Martial Arts Equipments, Protectors Wooden Weapon and relative products.

Here's the thing about email that makes it so great. Let's say I'm a [GENDER UNKNOWN], just sitting here wanting to do martial arts but I don't have a uniform. Also, what about equipments? You can't just do martial arts without equipments. And it's like, all of my martial arts friends ALREADY have protectors wooden weapon, so all of my martial arts moves - performed naked and without equipments because, again, I have no uniform or equipments - are useless because they are protected by their protectors wooden weapons. I have splinters from their protectors wooden weapons in my butt and stuff, and as a result, I am sad. Plus, to top it all off, I need relative products. All seems lost. But then I get this email.

We are proud of our highly experienced, skilled staffs who work very hard for the development of the company and meeting customers’ demand in an effective way.

If I were Box Marsh, I would be most proud of the staff(s) who put this email together because it is fine and wonderful.

Our aim is to serve customers and make sure that they are comfortable and satisfied with our products and services.

If "Protectors Wooden Weapon" doesn't elicit a strong sense of comfort, then you are barking up the wrong customer tree.

We like to work on demands.


Bam, there it is, your new slogan. You're welcome. Says it all. All other Box Marsh-related words are superfluous. But just in case, let's hear more.

Please visit our online website www.boxmarsh.com  and mentioned us your interested items.

Holy **** you just killed grammar. Grammar is dead. GO HOME EVERYONE, GRAMMAR HAS DIED. Time of death: now. Victim: Grammar. Suspect: Box Marsh. RIP GRAMMAR, SEE YOU AT THE CROSSROADS.

Also, I went on your website. The headline is "Box Marsh, Manufacturer & Exporter of Boxing Equipments." I have bookmarked it for two reasons: a) as a general source for all my boxing equipments needs, and b) specifically to browse "MMA RASH GUARDS" when I am feeling down. But what if I still have questions?

If you don't find what you need on our website...e-mail us boxmarsh@gmail.com  , and one of our friendly, knowledgeable Person will be happy to help you.

Thank you. It is indeed comforting to know that within a company as big and Pakistani as Box Marsh, you can still reach a friendly Person (whose name is Person, we can assume) when you want to order a Protectors Wooden Weapon to ward off oncomers. DON'T YOU GO CHANGIN' BOX MARSH.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Erring my way through errant errands

I went out to run errands during my lunch hour at work. Those errands were:

•    Get an iced coffee (not really an errand; bear with me)
•    Drop off donations at St. Vincent de Paul
•    Get money out of ATM for babysitter

I arrived at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru speaker. Here was that conversation:

Speaker: Welcome to Dunkin’ Donuts … (shuffling noises)

Me: (waiting for them to follow up with “Can I help you?” so I know it’s OK to speak)

Speaker: …

Me: …

Speaker: …

Me: Uhhh, can I get a-

Speaker: How can I help you?

Me: Yes, can I get a medium iced coffee, easy cream, NO sugar.

Speaker: You uh … want cream?

Me: Yes, but not a lot. ‘Easy cream’ is what I’ve been instructed to say by other locations, ha.

Speaker: $1.08.

I pull through. The worker puts my coffee near the window while he goes to the register and I take a look at the coffee and it looks good. They nailed the cream-to-coffee ratio. I look up at the worker and he, apparently watching me looking at the coffee, has his eyes locked on mine and does not look happy. He honestly looks like he wants to kill me. Murder me, hard. I do not know why, and I am paralyzed by confusion and yes, a little bit of fear because he kind of looks like Meatloaf, only angrier. We make the money transaction as he maintains eye contact, and I don’t know what is happening. I have obviously offended him but I do not know how.

As good as the coffee looks, can I drink it? Was my staring at the coffee what prompted his hate or did he hate me from the start? If the latter, is this coffee safe? Is this how I am going to die, drinking contaminated iced coffee? I subconsciously began drinking the coffee while contemplating all this because I am an idiot, and it was OK. I didn’t die. Cool. Off to St. Vincent de Paul!

All I had to drop off were some old clothes and a planter. Because if there’s anything the less fortunate need, it’s oddly-formed v-neck T-shirts with “bacon-ing” collars and a pot to display one of their wide array of plants. The man working there handed me my receipt—“Dear IRS, today I donated some old T-shirts and planters to SVDP; please reimburse me accordingly”—and when I went to close my trunk, I noticed that excess dirt from the planter had gotten all over the inside of my car. (To answer your question, yes—I neglected to adequately wash the planter before donating, figuring some excess dirt would let people know what this thing even is and besides, dirt is going back in anyway.)

Now the easy part—going to the ATM. My wife had somehow managed to arrange a date night for us, and we would need to pay the babysitter with money and not unused planters, as I had originally suggested. I put my card in and, as I waited for it to pop back out so I could enter my PIN, I heard a crunch and the screen displayed the following message: WE HAVE DESTROYED YOUR CARD FOR SECURITY PURPOSES. PLEASE CALL CUSTOMER SERVICE FOR FURTHER ASSISTANCE.

I didn’t know why this happened, but suspected the Dunkin’ Donuts guy was involved. I parked and walked into the bank to find out what happened. Their answer was they did not know, but would I like to refinance my mortgage? When I got back to my car after accomplishing nothing, my iced coffee was lukewarm water coffee because it was 115 degrees outside. While pulling out of my spot, I drove over the curb.

So everything worked out as planned, except for the fourth errand—accomplish first three errands seamlessly—which I didn’t do because I am an idiot. But hey, like Meatloaf always said, three out of four ain’t bad.

Note: This column appears in the 8/21 issue of The Glendale Star and the 8/22 issue of the Peoria Times.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Spam email of the week

Subject: DRIVE YOUR CAR AND GET PAID ADVERTISING FOR JetBlue Airlines. ($400 Weekly)

The way I know this is not spam is because:

From: ©JetBlue Airlines Advertisment™   [ulyssesrhg@gmail.com]

Totes legit to quit. What's up, Ulysses?

We got your email address through a local Business directory on the web. We must apologise for taking some of your valuable time to explain a proposal that will imagine will be of utmost benefit.

Please, Ulysses - any email that invites me to get paid for driving an advertising car is never a waste of time. You write well.

We are currently seeking individuals Strictly in the United State who would like to make money by simply driving their vehicle advertising for JetBlue Airlines. This is in our view to create more awairness and attract more customers to be willing to patronise us for local and international flights.

You have explained well the general purpose of advertising. Also, I must now add to my list of "Benefits of being born in the United State(s)":

  • You can be president
  • Freedom
  • You can drive a JetBlue advertising car

This is a basic strategy of the "pay me to drive" concept: JetBlue Airlines seeks people, regular citizens, professional drivers and more to go about their normal routine, only with a small advert for "JetBlue Airlines" plastered on their vehicle.

"Small" and "plastered" seem at odds in the description department. So like a bumper sticker?

The advert are typically vinyl decals, also known as "auto wraps" that almost seem to be painted on the vehicle, and which will cover any and little portion of the vehicle's exterior surface.

Oh you mean "small" like "auto wrap," like my entire vehicle will be a JetBlue advertisement and I will have to register my vehicle as "commercial" and everyone will be well aware I've sacrificed my dignity for an extra $400 a week which will actually be zero dollars a week because this is nonsense.

This strategy gives JetBlue Airlines Lots of exposure and awareness. The auto wrap tend to be colorful, eye-catching and attract lots of attention. Plus, it's a form of advertising with a captive audience eye catching, people who are stuck in traffic can't avoid seeing the wrapped car alongside them.

I feel like I've just graduated from advertising school, and also grammar school. I can picture it now:

Husband and wife stuck in traffic

Husband: I'm sick of traffic! Stupid cars! We should fly somewhere. On a plane. But what airline should we use?

Wife: I don't know anything about anything.

Husband: Hey, check out that toolbag driving that eye-catching car over there. It has definitely caught my eye. What a toolbag though.

Wife: I hate him.

Husband: "JetBlue." Huh. I wonder what their deal is. I heard about them on the news. Terrible things.

Wife: They only fly to like three airports.

Husband: ...

Wife: ...

Husband: I'm in love with your sister.

This program will last for as long as you want it and the minimum you can participate is 2 months and you get paid weekly, also individual with two or more vehicle can only participate once and with one vehicle at a time.

Darn I was hoping our JetBlue family could have a garage full of JetBlue cars that pay for themselves and maybe finally people would respect us. When I want to end the program who will turn my JetBlue vehicle back to normal? My car is leased.

You will be compensated with $400 per week which is essentially a rental payment for letting JetBlue Airlines use the space on your vehicle, no fee is required from you. We have experts that would handle the advert placement on your vehicle. You will receive an upfront payment of $400 inform of check via courier service for accepting to carry this advert on your vehicle.

Wow, you are giving me so much money for nothing I should call you Ulysses S. Grant LOL. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha seriously though you are terrible and I hate you.

(Sign me up though.) (JetBlue for LIFE, son.)