Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Risk management

If someone with more ambition does market this game, I will buy it. Parker Bros will want some money.

I just realized this is too small to be appreciated, which is too bad because I think it's damn funny and it took me a while to do it. But I don't know how to make it any bigger.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Corporate Outing

Obscuring this photo almost made it not worth using. Or so funny that I had to. I can't really tell.
But if you thought I wasn't going to write about the team scavanger hunt, you have not been paying attention.

So let's have a glass of wine and deconstruct what happens when 20 generally frustrated and overworked Drawing In Girls (including 4 honorary Mill Girl-boys) hit the Hub with 100 pieces of scavenger hunt quarry and 3 Polaroid cameras.

As we were crossing the street to take this photo, Rock Star says to me, "Please don't blog about this." I wet myself a little before she added, "Or least, let me ask, please be kind."

I said, "I am always kind to you. You have your own secret blog name and everything."

This public street acknowledgement of the DrawingIn Room has never been mentioned again. But I am on to you, Madam. And if you are reading this, you are in my house now. My rules. So damn right I'm blogging about it.
Ma'am. if that's all right. If you think that's best, I mean....

Ok, so this photo first. I am in the hat, in case you couldn't already identify my paws

Rock Star is behind me.
The Boss was on another team, and the Lieutenant on a third, because otherwise it is hardly a team-builder, is it? At the rendezvous point, we embraced at the mere sight of each other, and compared headaches.

The sixth member of our team is taking the photo; the seventh is obscured in the green box. Company mascot had to be in every photo for the quarry to count.

Our quarry here is the parking meter -- with 15 minutes left. That was actually the requirement. This was not a scavenger for the weak. It was not a high scorer, but we were already at the rendezvous and had film left.

The game is 3 teams of 6, 100 scored items, 20 pictures, stretch escalades, and nothing at stake but trash-talking rights and a duffel bag we can buy at the company store. And it...was... on.

Our team made its foundation score at a Wal-Mart, where we managed to compile a jigsaw puzzle's worth of items into 1 photo, including the team in matching housecoats and a stranger with a toddler to make the See-No-evil Monkey Pose. This was a 700 pt catch, so we felt confident hitting the road with a solid lead.

I declared that I would not coerce any strangers into doing anything, but I would agree to be handcuffed, pose in a barber chair, or anything else undignified. This is how I contribute. We never did find a cop with prowler, however, and the Super Cuts ladies threw us out, so I did not have to come into play.

We frightened people from the Public Garden to the Public Library. We stopped people on the street and lied about why ("don't say it's because they have a mullet," said our team captain, "Say it's something else."). Two girls who may have been prostitutes almost scored as "funniest thing we saw all day," but we were out of film. I suggested the convention of American Geographers we wandered into, looking for a hotel with a 13th floor. The team did not agree this was funny. (But you should have seen them.)

And then there was this.

As a courtesy, I have obscured his face too. But I don't think he cares. I told him our list said "Guy dressed like a Viking"! That is a fur skirt. Boots. Horns. Notice how chummy we became. I don't usually go for the bears, but it had been a trying day.

Other highlights :

Our team won, of course, by sheer force and attentiveness to the numbers, which is how one gets to be Rock Star, I expect. The Baroness will enjoy knowing that Rock Star was not above producing a 20 to get what we needed. She could have been a Hollins Girl. The Baroness herself taught me how to slip a 20.

The Boss's team won creativity points.

While the Lieutenant's may have achieved Most Bonded.

I hate to give the impression that any fun was had, when I have such a surly reputation.

But I think I do love these guys.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Grasping at straws

You thought you would let your frequent flier membership go. It just wasn't paying off in markdowns or upgrades, but don't cut that card so fast! Because USAirways has......

Aisle Seats!
Window Seats!
Saints preserve us, sure and it's seats that they're havin'.

You can choose your seat during check-in.
Did you know that?

They won't be able to keep it on the shelf. "Select aisle seats in the first several rows of Coach."

fine print: we selected this one, that one, and... that guy over there.

Have you had enough sarcasm yet? Dear Airline industry: I am grateful enough you left the seats in at all, because if you could find a way to make me pay even more money for less comfort, I know that you would.

Other new membership clubs you can enjoy.

Border's and Barnes & Noble offer you books. books I tell you. If you spend $20, and then spend $200, you get 10% off. which is.... wait. what?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Readership has noticed that I seemed to be out of topics, and over the past couple of weeks has submitted suggestions from their own travels across the web-world. Your Humble Narrator thanks you, and will introduce these topics as needed.

Today's presentation:
I regret I will not be as enthusiastic (!!) and mesmermizing (!!) as Consumer Advisor Clark Howard, who is SO (!) EXCITED (!) by the idea of FREE (!) Books that he can hardly keep himself on that couch. But then, this is ACTION News, so he has a requirement to fulfill.

Long-time readers have been following Miss Bender's gentle urging to give your piles of books away. Miss Bender often uses you to project her own neuroses, but you keep coming back. To re-cap your options, view the For the Booklovers Label at left.

Who are they? Two Atlanta entreprenuers who found themselves with too many books on their hands, and apparently no ride downtown. They set up the infrastructure for a membership club based on credit points and the honor system.

How's it work?
The website is pretty complicated -- too many links from the home page -- but there is a video (featuring Clark "Action" Howard) overview and a simple "How to swap books" tab.

Anything good?
Paperbackswap is not limited to paperbacks. Hardcover and audio can also be found. The search engine has some presets like "added today" "NYT List" and "Member reviews," as well as an advanced search by format, pub. date, even ISBN, which suggests that at least some of the membership are bookdealers.

Is that bad?
No, but it does suggest that the books you are dumping have actual resale value, so maybe you are shortchanging yourself. On the other hand, if you just want to move books without legwork, let them come to you.

Ok, so you didn't answer my first question
Because you asked your follow-up before I could. Books Listed today:

What's the catch?
You pay the postage.
Referring to the above statement: if you are paying postage to someone who will be reselling your books, you might be missing out on the spirit of the swap. The idea is everyone pays their own postage, and you receive a "credit" for each book you ship. Each credit is good for one book back. To put this to numbers, let's say you ship (3) $7 paperbacks to Appleton for $3. You are now entitled to 3 books back of N-value for the cost of $3, which someone now spends to mail to you. Mailing Harry Potter will not be financially beneficial.

Couldn't I do that at the church yard sale?
Yes, you could. The appeal of these on-line bookclubs is that you can search for just what you want and have it sent to you. But Miss Bender does not support your gathering more books until you clean out the 3 shelves of that upstairs closet.

For myself, I send them along to specific friends, without worry about whether they have read it, own it, or would want to. It's fun to get free stuff in the mail, unexpected-like, and I do try to consider your tastes.

Clutter. Recipes...Sudoku...self-publishing...Careers....

Fo Reals?
Shizz. They are presently hiring a Web Developer.

Anything wierd about it?

The swap enjoys calling itself "PBS," which really can't last much longer, and could greatly reduce their market share.

Sister sites include, but this appears to be a gag. Let's not tell Clark Howard.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


The foreign exchange students of your workplace.

If you work for a globalised, economic conglomerate with its skinny Mr Burns fingers in too many pies.... if your workday consists of terms like "Asia-Pac," "sun to sun," "L10N," or "whilst," your company is also made up of people doing your same job in their "local region," under a set of cultural conditions often is stark opposition to the way other parts of the company work.

Sometimes that person is you.

The DrawingIn Room does the needful by offering our guide to welcoming and incorporating counterparts during their semi-annual visit to your location.

The group lunch
The assigned fun is awkward enough without cross-cultural confusion layered on top of it. But it can't be helped. It's rude to make the Counterpart eat alone, and just mean to make him wander out of bounds where he is bound to pick the scary restaurant no one in the company (or perhaps the town) has ever entered.

Counterparts will be surprised to discover Americans do not in fact discuss religion, sex, or politics. They have not the vocabulary. They do not know the Prime Minister of Canada. They do not really understand "the EU" more than that they should express concern for it in business conversations. This leaves only the topic of TV, which Americans will talk about long after subtle attempts to change the subject. They will especially deride the stupidity of American TV, every episode of which they can discuss in detail.

Somewhere between inane pop culture and Gaza (yeh...we don't really know... it's very complex) you can find something without talking about work. Cats vs. dogs is a good start. (see national holidays below)

After hours fun
In other lands, Counterparts are actually put up on the homes of co-workers, in neighborhood boarding houses, in (heaven forbid) workers' dorms. They will be surprised to find themselves in a hotel suite 35 miles from their work location, and a car waiting to pick them up promptly at 5:30 to take them back to this bleak off-ramp location. They had hoped you might show them the sights, ask them to dinner, pick up some chicks.

In coastal big city America, the more sophisticated corporations will arrange for this sort of business entertainment -- not quite Arab Emirates style, but maybe Japanese style. In the South and Midwest they will feel bad about not taking the Counterpart out, but they "don't know what they eat," and well, nothing every happens in Sioux Falls anyway. In New England - the country north of Standoffish -- it will not even occur to them. They barely tell each other goodbye in the elevator.

It will become necessary to press some willing souls into this service. (See "lunch," above.)

My way or the highway
or....where SOP meets the UN. The reason the Counterpart is visiting, of course, is to do some leveraging of synergies, myow-myow, and eventually a confrontation will arise about how something should be executed. "We do not do it that way," Counterpart will say, and if they are smart, chalk it up to a cultural difference, which Americans are too afraid to confront. This can backfire, of course, when the American mutters tersely, "Homey don't play that," in Mandarin.

Miss Ellen Moyer used to say, "You can take the turnpike or you can take the toll road. You'll still end up in Richmond." [the Ellen Moyer who said this was my geometry teacher, not the mayor of Annapolis. But whatever search result gets you here] She meant it might be OK to take a different approach to the same goal. So give a little.

What time is it
Whether you are the host or the guest, please refrain from commenting on time zones. It is a boring conversaton. We are also tired of jet lag, weather differences, and dual face watches. The world is wide, and one of you has crossed half of it. We get it.

If someone says good morning, and it isn't, just let it go.

Whatever.... about your calendar holidays
While looking for interesting chat topics, "our national holidays" is not a bad jumping-off point. You'll find, though, that visitors are not quite as fascinated by Patriot's Day, Chrysanthemum Day, or Rose of Tralee as you might hope, even if you are trying not to debate home rule or your preferred Darrin from Betwitched.

If you are the one subjected to this seminar, do try to listen. Might keep you from scheduling your next major business venture on May Day, which nearly everyone else celebrates, except the US. Like soccer.

Better make sure you know what you are talking about before you spout off on your national holidays. Not only might the Counterpart know more about it than you, but it probably exists in his culture too, since the British once managed to rule everybody.

Little children can learn Polish
...said a certain friend of mine when I was unable to learn it at 30. There is no single business barrier as irritating to everyone as the language barrier. You're frustrated they don't speak better English; they're frustrated you speak nothing else (because they have 4 others you could choose from). So slow down, tone down the idiom, articulate. Listen. Because your visit is coming. Probably Thanksgiving Weekend.

Please revert with any queries.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Things to do in the dentist chair

1. Prove your legs are equal in length.

2. Imagine your nemesis instead of you. Imagine yourself instead of the hygenist.

3. Explore the various pressure points you can find on your own hand.

4. Shoot the video of the song playing through the speakers. Feature yourself.

5. Choreograph an ice skating routine to it.

6. Imagine trying to do your job by looking at it upside-down in a mirror.

7. Kegel.

8. Name all the toothpastes you can think of. Wonder why America needs so damn many brands of toothpaste.

9. Go to your happy place.

10. Compare to your mammogram.

Gratutitous Jodie Foster link.

Monday, April 14, 2008

No television left behind

When I worked in public television over 10 years ago, we talked a lot about the coming of Digital Broadcasting. We capitalized it , made every decision based on it. We hardly noticed the Internet at all, except that Meeting Manager did make getting a conference room much easier.

At that time, the magic date was 2006, when the government was telling broadcasters and manufacturers they must be prepared to give up their airspace (that is sell in order to purchase something called band....width... oh these modr'n kids). Also at that time, television manufacturers replied with, well, good luck with that, US government, because we don't have the first idea how to make a digital TV, and we are Japanese, so you are not the boss of us. Sony, never to forget Betamax technology, said they would not be leading the charge on this one, thanks.

In public television, we were accustomed to government rules -- of the "grant-funding" kind, even though Sesame Street licensing is a $22M enterprise -- and we loved the idea of being on the cutting edge of anything. Remember that public broadcasting still considers a bank of telephones and some whiteboards riveting television and a viable fundraiser. When I asked our then VP of new technology what the urgency was on the part of the FCC, he said, without apology, "to make money." I admired his honesty. He is also the television executive who taught me the "follow the porn" theory of technology.

I am no early adopter, for sure. "WebTV?" I said, face a puckered mass, "Who wants their TV and their computer in the same room?" I was unable to follow the obvious developmental step that computers would continue to get smaller. Now I ride any free signal I can get --on the trunk of my car if that's what it takes -- and I can't go twenty feet from my house without my iPod.

So I admit I was behind the curve. I have to add, though, that the television industry missed a step as well, in allowing programming to become completely ridiculous before we late-adopters had already invested in converter boxes and flat screens. TV people, you have overestimated my need to see "So you think you can _______" in "hi-def." You and I both know that the 2-hour Home Improvement segment on Nick will not get any better. You will not really use the multi-layer data features of digital bandwidth for "multicasting." You will air more advertising in there. You will follow the porn.

This is a pretty good FAQ list put together by the FCC, missing the most F A Q: Whose big fat idea was this anyway? But notice how they manage to equate this "transforming" technology with the War on terror:

Because public safety and emergency services have become even more important today, Congress established a “hard” DTV transition deadline that requires all full-power television stations to cease analog broadcasts after February 17, 2009.

You, grandpa, are not only a bad citizen and patriot if you grumble about the need for digital television, you let the terrorists win.

Converting to DTV will free up parts (“bands”) of the scarce and valuable broadcast spectrum, allowing these bands to be used for public safety and emergency services, such as police, fire and medical services, and new wireless services, such as wireless broadband.

Or... you could have just given them the digital bands.

The FCC explains for you what you gotta do to get on the bandwagon. Did the TVA send such a pamphlet around to explain to the good people of Tennessee how to prepare for the advent of electricity? (turns out... boy, did they ever)

Making a seamless switch to Grey's Anatomy, Season 5 is not top of my list of must-do. I am surprised by that -- I who taped every episode of Northern Exposure, Mad About You, Ally McBeal, when I didn't even have cable service. Horribly static, unwatchable VHS, but I was so terrified that I would not be able to watch them again "in the future."

I got bigger decisions to make, like my Presidential choice and my refinancing options. And what to put in position 1 in the Netflix queue.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bowman Body

#9 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true. (with limited local appeal)

When local TV was still local, and went off the air at Midnight, and my hometown station was still called WXEX (ooh, what an easy and predicatble Halloween prank), Bowman Body (correctly, THE Bowman Body) hosted SHOCK THEATRE (also easily nicknamed Schlock Theatre, etc, -- we did not like to reach far for the joke in the South. It's hot down there).

Bill Bowman was a hometown Willard Scott who could be counted on for Mall Openings and Pig Pickin's. He appeared in black cape and white converse to hand out autographs and souvenier bloody Band-Aids.

Hey, here's a joke:
Q: How many Virginians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: There is no reason to change this lightbulb.

As if this website isn't proof enough of the cavalier's nostalgia for all things yesteryear, join this discussion board where people are fondly remembering this topic. Or this one. Or this photo album.

Buy his CD! Why? I haven't the foggiest, but isn't this the very thing you said you would spend your money on when you were an adult and could buy whatever you want?

For my New England friends, who are not enjoying this post, this one's for you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The personal history and experience of Ric Jensen

Dodie and Ric kindly reply with their MadLib version of Ric's fake memoir

The sound woke me from a dead sleep. I rolled over, curled up in the fetal position, and blinked at the candle piercing my eyes to the back of my skull. My head was pounding, my fingers gold, and there was an incessant firesnapping in my ears.

[Ed Note: they have mutually awful handwriting. even her translation of his original appears to say firesnapping. Unless this is fire snapping...I have no idea what this emans. except now we have a title for the sequel..."]

"Who are you?" I said, unable to see how many of them there were. "Where am I?"
Then it all came back to me.

I remembered that I had left my Cousin Debbie's home just last Thursday, tired of the floggings with wet checkered dishtowel, and thinking only of my next score of Dozy Doodles. I'd been hard-pounding since I was 8 and now all I cared about was getting more. Throwing together a valise of jeans, a sweatshirt, pillbox and fancy soap, I had taken to Highway 37. I didn't know where I was going, but I already knew where I'd been.

I already knew what it was like to whisper over a Windsor chair and sniffle out brick...already knew how to mortar for cash without smacking... already knew that "Viele-Hande machen leichte arbeit." Now I wanted to know what it was like to feel Bitchen.........

Actually, what I think they have written is A Clockwork Orange.

I'm working out a new MadLib, Dr Suess style:

One morning where the [rhymes with fleegle-floggle] blooms,
Sat a [rhymes with tum-rum-drummer] and a [rhymes with blooms].

I don't think you're really a doctor.....Suess.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ways to manipulate time between posts

Frequent readers may be familiar with these tricks. They start by dating this post April 11, which is most certainly is not. And the tricks mostly end there too.

You must believe that I am writing between posting what I write, and that posting just takes more time. One falls behind. You must believe it because you have nothing else to stand on. But I have a list of topics here beside me, and we will work our way through them over the next "10 days" to bring you up to date. You're going to have to pace yourself here, because it could be another 10 days before I reappear.

I am having trouble keeping up with my own blog reading -- with whether Sparky has been born, or Karen's heart will mend, whether the Orange family has survived school break, or Diesel has gotten trapped inside a nap-pod. [you see what I did there - tried to distract you with links] My point is, I know how it is to get attached to a site like a weekly series and then find a month full of REEpeats. (You have to accent the first syllable, southern style. Perhaps I should launch a "2-parter," or a very special episode.)

Blogging takes longer than you think, which is your punishment for using it as a verb. I have just spent 45 minutes on 3 paragraphs (because I too was distracted by linking). This is another reason I list before blogging. Besides listing being so sexually invigorating, it helps me organize my thoughts, links, pics, and balance a nice long post/short post cadence. Everything I needed to know I learned from yearbooking. That is not a post. Just a sad fact of my life.

You are on your own for how you manage this windfall. Pour coffee and read straight through, ration yourself, read first/link later (Arthur Link-later. Kids blog the darnedest things), give up on this entirely because certainly blogging is dead by now, isn't it?

Let me use the rest of this space to go on about - where music and geeks meet to form "interactive radio." If you are tired of online radio buffering interruptions and AOL-XM's "parents the anti-drug" commercial campaign (soon they will just say, "hey, a*****e, get off the computer and find your family."), you may wish to explore Pandora.

Why "Pandora"? I don't know, but nothing good ever came from opening that box.
[Sketch Idea: Pandora the Explora. Go]
But here's the concept: the Music Genome project has mapped popular music by style, and not just overlapping Grammy categories, but actual arrangements, like G-funk synth line" and "chromatic harmony."

You start with an artist or song you like (I chose Robert Goulet - oh yes I did) and the genome starts branching. Your job is to trim and steer by giving thumbs up or down to selections in order to isolate the gene. If you are bored already, I'll stick with their tag line: "only the songs you like!"

I learned that Robert Goulet radio was not enough Broadway and too many standards, so I split the gene into "Showtunes radio" by adding Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Howard Keel (come ON, there is not enough Howard Keel on the radio), with frequent pruning of Andrew Lloyd Webber required -- because I just plain hate Phantom of the Opera. "Standards radio" became where Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis, Diana Krall go.

So here's what else I am listening to - designed and maintained by DJ Me.
Billy Joel radio - 70s balladeers who do occasionally rock it.
Nancy Griffith radio - trad-folk singer/songwriter chix
House o' Blues radio - self-explanatory
Merseyside radio - a Beatles base with Monkees, Hermits, and a dash of Decemberists
Jars of Clay radio - contempo christian/sensitive new age boy guitarists

There are also some pre-sets to enjoy - like AOL without the commercial breaks. In the drawing-in row, we like Bubble Gum classics. Bobby Sherman, where have you been?

Must start my day. More to come through the weekend... er --- week of April 11, because, yeh, that's what day it is.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tarzan opening monologue

#8 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

I can never predict which of these will resonate with the Readership. The Avon tribute brought many Old Girls out into the light, dabbing glu-stik onto their wrists and lisping, "It's Tho Pratty!" Way to go, Girls. Maybe this is one for the boys. I can't be sure, having grown up mostly a boy and living mostly a bachelor, but completely unable to buy their shirts.

Some people can recite the opening of The Lone Ranger. Some, The A Team. This was one I knew. That part of my brain grew over, which is what the Internet is for.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Shiny objects

Thanks to AOL, I never have to worry about world news. There is always something more important to turn to.