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January 29, 2007

Nice Start to a Monday

So, I am sitting on Culver stopped behind a bunch of traffic at a light thinking to myself, “You know, our roadway system really moves a lot of people without a lot of accidents.”


I jerk forward and my seatbelt stops me—the woman driving the white Jeep Cherokee behind me doesn’t see that traffic is stopped, or isn’t paying attention, and plows into me. Ugh!

We motion to each other to get over to the side of the road and I hop out with my first question being, “Are you alright?” and I smile at her. In the few fender-benders I’ve had, it is my experience that people come out angry and yelling because they are scared. By asking how the person is and smiling, I try to put whoever the other person is at ease. Seems to work, as the woman is a little shaky but otherwise becomes calm and smiles back. I would guess she’s in her late forties or early fifties with dark hair dyed so that it comes across very maroon in places. From her dress, she looks like a professional of some sort.

I wait for her answer, and she says yes, before I take a long look at my vehicle and hers. I inspect my undercarriage and muffler and then open my back door to make sure it still functions correctly. Then I ask her to open her hood and I take a long look at her engine compartment, radiator, and then get on the ground and look up at her undercarriage and bumper. I see no damage to either of our vehicles and nothing immediately seems wrong with either of us.

We discuss it a few more minutes and decide we got lucky, are both fine (relatively speaking), and our cars are not damaged enough to need to exchange insurance information, and we say our goodbyes. She seems relieved; by my calm demeanor and by our not exchanging insurance—I think she knows that, by hitting me from behind, she was going to be considered at fault and her insurance would have to pay everything.

I wish her a good luck on the rest of her morning.

It is now about two hours later and the adrenaline high and excitement of the accident is wearing off and I am finding I do have a headache and my neck has a very slight kink in it—nothing serious and nothing more than my arthritis routinely causes, but it is there. As I am coming up on the time when I need to get my truck serviced, I plan on also asking them to make a more careful inspection of that area of my vehicle, just in case.

What a way to start my Monday morning.

January 28, 2007

HR Block Adverts

I thought there were rules and regulations about lying in advertisements?

I hate the current HR Block advertisements that say you should use them because they have "people" instead of a box. Talk about sour grapes-- more people use a form of online tax preparation (most notably Turbo Tax) than HR Block. So of course they are going to say something like that.

But it is entirely false. A lie. Fabrication. Falsehood.

Whether you use Turbo Tax online, or Turbo Tax through the box, you HAVE access to real, live people to help answer your questions! Yes, you have to contact them (on the online version, it is incredibly easy and you get live help right there, via phone or IM) rather than having them there in front of you, but they ARE there.

It is like the Mac vs PC ads-- most of them are incredible fabrications that makes a PC look like it doesn't come with anything-- which, is a not true. You can't get Windows without IE, you can't install it without also getting their media player and all its features, and the OS comes with many utility tools that do the same types of things that a Mac does. Now, I'm no PC purist or anti-Mac; quite the contrary, I think Macs are great. But don't lie to me in the advertisement!

And don't even get me started on the plethora of drug commercial; all lies!

January 27, 2007

Annoyingly Polite

I hate grocery shopping. Most stores aren't designed in a way that makes sense to me (why aren't all the bread products together? Why are beverages spread out-- some here, some there, some over here). The "help" is, rarely, helpful. And don't get me started on the grocery store cards in order to get "savings" -- what a rip!

So, today, I had to go to the store. I pulled in and the parking lot was a mad-house; uh oh. Never a good sign. However, inside, it wasn't too hectic. I cruised the rows, finding my various products (still noting that the store hasn't improved its selection even with all the suggestion cards I have filled out).

Everything went as smoothly as it normally does, with me forgetting the aisles in which some of the items I want are located. As I pulled up to check out, I saw my worst nightmare: a peppy young girl doing the bagging in this row. It was obvious this was her first job and she was so excited about it. She was smiling and talking a mile a minute.

What she hasn't learned yet is that people may not want to hear her endless prattling about every little thing that flits through her head. I'm sure it is important to her, but I don't give a damn. On top of that, she was making comments that could be construed as anti-store and anti-customer.

She made some comments about how working at grocery stores is not the best job you could start with, but it pays the rent (ha, ha, ha) and you get to see so many different people. Next, she disparaged the fact that I was buying cat food and litter. Apparently, she doesn't like cats and is allergic. Lastly, she commented on the large amount of beverages I was buying. What's it to her? I drink a lot of things and I like variety in my liquids. She doesn't know; maybe I'm having a party tonight. Maybe I have children at home. Who knows?

I looked at the older gentleman who was the checker. We shared a look, and both rolled our eyes. And in that moment I knew I had become one of those people. I know we were both thinking, "She's young... she'll learn."

And then, to top it all off, she said, "Can I help you to your car, sir?" Now, I know they are all supposed to say that and be polite-- but it still took me back. And then it struck me-- I'm close to 20 years her senior. I probably look like every other adult in the store that day to her young eyes.

Now, don't get me wrong-- I'm pleased as punch she has her first job. I think it is great she is getting this experience in before she graduates High School. And she is perky and nice; she hasn't learned that people suck and will stomp on you as soon as look at you. I hope she keeps her positive attitude and has a happy life. But, that doesn't change the fact that I don't want to hear it. And I don't want to experience it.

Does this mean I am getting... dare I say it... old?

January 26, 2007

Thoughts for the Day

  • I have way too many mnemonics, acronyms, and abbreviations than I could ever possibly remember. No wonder I can't remember my own phone number half the time.
  • How did I become the guy in which so many people confide?
  • I hope they do a good job on The Dark Is Rising, book two of the Dark is Rising series. Not sure why they skipped book one, which is my favorite and about which I have often commented should be made into a movie. I guess because Will Stanton is not in book one and is in the other four. But Over Sea, Under Stone is the best novel.
  • Tell me whether you want me to solve your problem or just want me to listen. It'll save time later if I know going in what is expected of me.
  • I hate solving other people's PC issues. I also find it somewhat funny how often I get asked to.
  • -31 C/-22 F is really, really, really cold.
  • My cat is a goof. Today, for no reason at all, she just howled. I thought maybe she was dying or something, but she was just lying down and wanted some scratching.
  • "Individually, look around and see what you need to do as an individual," (Bernie) Bickerstaff said. (NBA coach)
  • I think President Bush suddenly realized what his legacy will be; you notice how old and discomfitted he looks lately?
  • Bill O'Reilly vs Stephen Colbert-- Colbert (the parody) got the best of O'Reilly (the actuality), hands down.
  • Happy Birthday, Levi Strauss (1826-1902). Without you, I'd have many more naked days.
  • I wonder if a theater would be successful if, for around $12 per ticket, the theater showed a double feature. Go back to the glory days movie-going and even have a cartoon. But, if you don't stay for both features, you do not get a discount or money back.
  • Addendum: Mindy has a theater that shows movie and serves drinks and food. I wonder if you could design a theater to make the best of both worlds and have it be successful? Seems like a good idea, but the tables and chairs at her theater were not comfortable.
  • I wonder where this Bush will rank in the overall list of best and worst Presidents? His dad is firmly around the Fillmores and the Coolidges-- will he be higher or lower?
  • I sometimes wish I still had my original, metal, Red/Green/Black Voltron Lions. They were awesome. I also sometimes wish I had some of my good, metal Transformers (Megatron who formed a pistol, Starscream, the white Porsche Autobot (can't remember name)).
  • Are things more clear to me because they aren't happening to me?
  • What the hell keeps biting me?

January 22, 2007

Movies 2007

This is more of a list for me to keep track of what is up and coming this year—movies that I am fast tracking to the “probably theater experience” list. I doubt I will see even half of these actually at the theater, but I’ll have the list to go back to for my always expanding Netflix list.

NameCurrent Release DateProbability Comments
Ghost RiderFeb 16LowUnless good reviews
The Number 23Feb 23LowUnless good reviews
300March 9MediumLooking good, enjoyed the comic
Spider-Man 3May 4CertainDefinitely
Shrek the ThirdMay 18HighWhat can I say? I liked the other two.
PotC: At World’s EndMay 25LowReally liked 1, disliked 2
Ocean’s ThirteenJune 8MediumLiked 1, 2 was okay
Fantastic 4: RotSSJune 15MediumEnjoyed the first, probably will go see
Nancy DrewJune 15LowI like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Might be fun to watch this.
Live Free or Die HardJuly 4MediumI like the Die Hard series
TransformersJuly 4MediumI enjoyed the cartoons; but I don’t like Michael Bay
Harry Potter: OotPJuly 13HighI really like what they’ve done with the movies; each one has gotten better.
Bourne UltimatumAug 3CertainI really like this series
UnderdogAug 3LowSoft spot for the super dog
Dark is RisingSept 28HighI’ve been saying this series needs a movie; just don’t know why they started with book 2.
I Am LegendDec 14LowNeed to see good reviews. Was a serious, good book, but has Will Smith in main role.
National Treasure: Book of SecretsDec 21MediumLiked the first one; decent fun
AVP 2Dec 21LowCheesy fun, but likely Netflix

He Tasks Me, Starbuck

M is quick to point out to me that getting the Italian Delight sandwich made correctly (and by that I mean according to the directions/ingredients listed on the wall minus the one item I don’t like) has become my white whale.

I had to get some meds today, and I use the Sav-On pharmacy within that Albertson's. So, I ordered The Sandwich.

Dorothy and I walked up, were the only two in line, and she can verify that I said to the guy who has helped me at least a half dozen times with this sandwich, “Italian Delight, no onions or tomatoes.” Because it was this guy, I had to add “onions” as he always includes them even though they are not listed for the sandwich.

He smiled, as he knew what I was going to order, repeated the order back to me, and then got to work. I walked to the other side of the store to the pharmacy, took care of my business there, and came back as he was finishing the sandwich.

Back at the office, I carefully took the sandwich out of its bag, unwrapped it from the paper and, lo and behold, there were onions and tomatoes. Dorothy, in her uniquely sarcastic way of putting things said, “Well, at least you got lettuce this time!” True enough, Doro. True enough.

Now, normally I would complain. Normally I would be there asking for the manager. But I’ve actually had the manager prepare the sandwich incorrectly! It is insane.

As one who worked retail in customer-oriented positions for quite some time, I just do not understand how an entire department of people can get this so consistently wrong. This guy adds onions and frequently forgets lettuce. Another feels the cheese is unimportant and tries to add mustard and mayo to it and put it on a French roll. The manager also adds additional condiments and goes for the French roll and often includes the tomatoes. The only woman to get it right, the exact way I always order it, is the woman who sometimes works there on loan from the bakery. I guess the bakers are used to having customers being specific in what they want?

The sandwich is so tasty and such a good value that I keep going back. And each time is an adventure! When ordering it, I can almost feel the salt water spray on my face. When I get the sandwich and see how they have mangled it, it feels like the whale ramming my bow. And yet, I keep signing on for another stint at whaling—am I glutton for punishment?

January 19, 2007

Know When to Fold 'em

I went with my buddy Robert to his regular poker night last evening. Card games and gambling are two things that I generally stay away from. I usually stay away from card games because I do not generally care for them and, just as I get used to the rules and rhythm of one game, people change the game on me. I stay away from gambling because I have a bit of an obsessive personality when it comes to these activities and do not want to become addicted to it and lose my shirt (or more).

However, it was a friendly game with set limits and payouts for the top three players. So, I figured, I would be sociable, try my skills at this game, and could walk away with only loosing $40 (two $20 games).

The rules were fairly straightforward: Texas No-limit Hold’em was the game throughout (so I didn’t have to worry about new rules, wild cards, etc.), 10 minute blinds (meaning every ten minutes the blinds doubled), and your minimum bet had to be at least one multiple of the small blind (to call) or the big blind to raise. Two games, $20 buy-in for each. Red chips were 1, blue chips were 2, green chips were 5, and black/gray chips were 10. A few other incidental rules, but nothing important.

I tied for last place in the first game, being one of two players knocked out during an all-in play between three players. However, I did have one good play in the first game—I had a two hearts in my hand, was forced by the rising blinds to go all-in, and pulled out a flush draw to win the pot and stay in for two more hands. It was pretty exciting.

I did better in the second game. Fairly early on I made a “read” on a guy at the table and, with absolutely nothing in my hand (Jack high card, nothing else), managed to bluff the socks off him, steal the pot, and put him in a low-chip bind. Then, in order to set him up for later, I actually showed my bluff to the table. Robert was impressed with the move, as it was a stone-cold bluff and I had the moxie to actually show it, and said that it was the ‘play of the night.’ He also commented that I took that gentleman, who is normally a pretty aggressive player, out of his comfort zone for the rest of the game. Later on, with crap on the flop and the same person being aggressive trying to stay in the game, I played him the exact same way. I managed to get him to go all-in and then I turned over trip Deuces to take the pot on what, I am fairly sure, he thought was another bluff attempt. I managed to make it into third place in this game, and won my $20 back for the game.

What I learned from this night is that playing against live opponents is very different than playing poker online, even with other actual people (as opposed to . I did not care for how quickly the blinds went up, as it caused the players to constantly want to speed up play—and I felt a few times rushed into a bet or a fold by this. I also found that I had more success when I varied how I played—I played tighter the entire first game and was knocked out early and did not feel comfortable. I loosened up my style a bit, varied from hand to hand how I would play (tight or aggressive), and had a better read on how the rest of the table played. Robert also suggested that I could learn to use the blinds, betting position, and the “big stack” better with additional playing time; there were a few times where I probably should have used my chips and my betting position to force some people out and I did not. But that just takes experience and a better knowledge of the rules and game mechanics.

More importantly, I learned that I play very differently when it is my money on the line. The style I developed during online play with fake money just did not suit me when I had real cash on the table.

I had a great time, learned a lot, and will certainly consider playing again in the future.

January 17, 2007

Championship Caliber

Not bad, I went 3-4 and the one game I missed was the one that I thought could go either way and I said I wouldn't be unhappy if the (eventual winner) Patriots managed to take it.

This week's Championship games are:

Saints vs Bears: The Bears have a great defense, made only slightly more vulnerable by the loss of some key players. Their offense, however, is another thing-- Grossman is inconsistent and can be pressured into serious mistakes. The Saints had the top passing offense this season and have a good tandem at RB. In addition, their defense is not too shabby as it uses the "bend but don't break" philosophy. Plus, they are playing with passion, having the entire state of Louisiana behind them. I just don't think the Bears D can slow the Saints down enough and I'm sure that the Bears O can't keep up for all 4 quarters. Saints: 28-17

Patriots vs Colts: I said it for last week's games: the winner of the Pats/Chargers game will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. And I stand by that. However, the Colts are sneaky good this post season and will have some tricks up their sleeves. I expect this to be a hell of a game and very back and forth. I will reiterate one other thing from last week: it's hard to bet against Belichick and Brady in the post season. I know this sounds like hedging my bet, but I will not be disappointed if Manning can get the monkey off his back and make it to the big game; and he has Vinatieri this year. However, I just don't think he can do it against the Pats. Patriots: 31-28

One further comment: Saints vs either AFC team in the Super Bowl-- could be one of the most exciting SBs in recent memory, eh?

January 12, 2007


I'm going to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and actually put in writing how I think the playoffs will go in this round. What the hell, right?
  • Colts vs Ravens - I think the Colts will win. I think their defense will come out with the same statement as in the previous game. Manning will have a much better day (as will his WRs) and the Colts D is enough to keep Lewis in check and contain McNair. Early in the season the Colts proved they could win tight games and they now have Vinatieri as their Kicker. While the Ravens have a stout D, their offense is not that strong and got really lucky in at least 4 games this season. Colts, 24-21.
  • Eagles vs Saints - I like the Saints, playing with fire and emotion at home. However, I think the bye week may hurt the NO offense and they may come out flat. The Eagles will give them some trouble, especially Westbrook and early in the game. This could be a decently high-scoring game. Saints, 31-24.
  • Seahawks vs Bears - I am rooting for the 'Hawks, but think the Bears will get the win. The 'Hawks just aren't the same team as last season and neither Hasselbeck nor Alexander are running on all cylinders. Even with the injuries, the Bears D can keep the 'Hawks O in check in what I think will be a lower scoring game. Bears, 21-17.
  • Patriots vs Chargers - I have to admit that I don't care who wins this game, really. Both teams are good, solid on both sides of the ball, and are well-coached. I'll be rooting for SD and think they will pull it out on Defense. I just don't see the Pats D able to control all of the Bolts weapons. However, it is hard to bet against Brady and Belichick in the playoffs; the coach is a strategy genius and Brady is the perfect QB to enact his plan. I believe the winner of this game will be the AFC representative to the Super Bowl. However, I think it is the time and this is the team that helps get Schottenheimer off the playoff schneid. I also think this is the game where the Pats miss Vinatieri's clutch kicking. Guessing a score for this one is tough, as it could be a low or a high scoring affair. Chargers 31-28.

We'll see how I do. If Pickem this year is any indication, I will only get one right. Anyone else willing to put their thoughts on paper, feel free to post a response with your picks for these games.

January 8, 2007

6 Years

Today is my 6-year anniversary at my present employer. Which officially makes this the longest I have been employed with one company. My previous employer let me go a few months before my 6 year anniversary because "(we) don't need technical writers any more." Of course, at that point, I was hardly doing any technical writing for them and they wound up having to hire someone to take over all those other tasks I was doing within 2 months of letting me go. And then they hired new tech writers within 6 months to cover those they got rid of. Stupid.

My present employment has undergone quite a few changes over these years. The company was purchased. I've survived quite a few purges of employees. Our stock went in the crapper and then crawled its way back out 3 years later. We've purchased quite a few competitors. We have sunsetted and dawned a few product lines. We are currently undergoing a shift of programming and support to India (neither of which is going very well, but management insists that having Indian programmers having to redo things 2-3 times is still less expensive than having an American programmer do it right once). I fought for and managed to get a "Lead" title only to see the company redo its titling policies (I'm now an "Engineer 2").

I'll be sad to leave this place, as it has provided quite a few challenges and interesting times. The people, above all, have made it a great place to work. However, it is looking like this place may have me for another 8-9 months right now, so no need to dwell on that yet!

January 6, 2007

The Year in Movies Review

I have the following movie stubs from the previous year:

Good Night and Good Luck (2/10/06): A very good movie, with superb acting by David Strathairn. My only complaint is the side story about the married couple; it was well acted but took away from the force of the main story. I still think that David Strathairn should have won Best Actor over Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote. I thought this was a far superior movie to Capote. Grade: A-

Walk the Line (don't have stub): M reminded me that we saw this picture around the same time. Fabulous movie about the early life and times of Johnny Cash. Extremely well-acted by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. I actually liked this movie more than Ray, another Oscar-winning movie about a musician. My only question is why they stopped it where they did-- I was very interested in seeing his rise to fame again in the late 90s/early 00s with a whole new host of artists and fans. Grade: A

V for Vendetta (3/18/06): The first really good movie of an Alan Moore story from the comic books. They really didn't change much for the movie, I felt, and the few changes they did make were for cinematic reasons. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. I was even more surprised by how much of the original dialogue they managed to keep! Grade: B

Mission: Impossible 3 (5/21/06): I enjoyed the first M:I and disliked the second immensely. So I had an open mind but reservations going into this one. And I will readily admit that Tom Cruise's antics prior to this movie's release annoyed me. However, I was entertained. I thought this was a terrific action movie, well-acted, with a good story. Grade: B

Da Vinci Code (5/21/06): What a waste of time and money. As I had already read the book, I expected-- no, needed-- them to make some changes from the book to a movie in order to provide a more cinematic experience. Instead, they chose to keep the long, wandering dialogue rather than showing us those passages in action-filled sequences. Plus, while a fan of Tom Hanks, I felt this was his worst effort in many years. Ian McKellen was a treat, as always. Grade: D

X-Men: The Last Stand (5/28/06): Not nearly as good as it could have been, I was, however, entertained. Had good action and effects and wrapped up the stories being told in a way in which I was satisfied. Grade: C+

Superman Returns (7/4/06): A surprisingly good comic book movie. However, the entire addition of the son of Lois Lane became a thorough distraction and little to no explanation of the varying effects of Kryptonite caused me issues. For example, he has lost all his powers while on the rock of crystal and Kryptonite enough that some common thugs and Lex Luthor can beat him to a pulp and stab him, yet moments later he does not lose his super-strength or ability to fly and is able to heave that rock into orbit, but then falls to earth in a coma after doing so. Hunh?

However, if you are a comic book or action movie fan, then the entire scene where Superman saves the shuttle and the airplane is worth the price of admission alone. Grade: B+

Note: I just watched Superman 2: The Donner Cut. First, this is a far superior movie to the 2 that was released in theaters. Secondly, Returns seems to be a sequel to this version more than to the original 2. I recommend that anyone who enjoyed the first Superman movie rent or watch The Donner Cut for a far better sequel and a much better story.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (7/10/06): I thoroughly enjoyed the original movie. This movie was flawed. First and foremost: Elizabeth and Will seem to have forgotten everything that Jack is about and that they experienced from the first movie. That annoyed me. Second, the director seemed to put in multiple shots of the "best" of the comic action from the first film into the second and then extended those scenes to the point where I was asking, "When are we moving on from this?" Third, this movie is half of a two-parter. Unlike most movies, which try to tell a complete story that can stand alone, this one just ends at the half-way marker and insists that you watch the third to get the entire story. The only highlights were Johnny Depp and the dog. Grade: D+

The Last Kiss (unsure, can't find ticket stub): I am a fan of Zach Braff. Garden State is a favorite of mine, so I was very interested in seeing this one. The story was strong, the relationships were meaningful, and the ensemble cast was well-played. My only complaint has nothing to do with this movie itself: M and I watched it just days prior to her leaving for Canada. Since the movie is about a relationship breaking up, not the best choice we could have made. Left us a bit sad and melancholy prior to her departure.

I continue to make the argument that the Academy Awards needs to add a "Best Ensemble" award so that movies like this one (or Crash, Gossford Park, etc.) can have the entire cast nominated instead of trying to pull individuals out of the ensemble or having multiple people from the same movie competing against each other. Grade: B+

Casino Royale (11/19/06): I was initially a little surprised by the casting of Craig as Bond. Not that I was against him, per se, but the other roles I had watched him in didn't give me any indication he would fit into the Bond character. I was wrong. This is one of the best Bond movies made and Craig makes a good Bond. The story was a bit long, I could have cut about 15 minutes total time out of the movie and been a little happier, but I was completely entertained, pleasantly surprised by the strong, adult violence (most of these movies have been relatively mild in the violence and play it for more humor), and happy with the tone and story. I look forward to a sequel. Grade: A-

Rocky Balboa (12/06): I am a fan of the first three Rocky movies and I enjoyed the fourth but admit it wasn't the best movie in the world. The fifth Rocky was awful-- a painful waste of time. This Rocky is surprisingly good. It does have its flaws: too many soliloquies, not enough character development of the love interest, her son, the "villain," or Rocky's son. Otherwise, it is a decent movie that plays with the concept of getting older and having unfinished business. It was fun to see Rocky go out the way he should and wipes clean, for me, the memory of 5. Grade: C+

January 3, 2007

Home Again

Made it home. Had to get up at 4:30 am AST to get to flight on time. Had to endure the usual ripping out and eating of my heart that goes with having to leave my beloved. Our relationship will be super-human in strength if there is any truth to that "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" saying.

Only have one brief story to tell, involving changing terminals and customs in Toronto. The pen I was using to fill out the customs declaration form for the US ran out of ink. I had finished most of it, but couldn't sign it. The first woman trying to be helpful directed me into the non-US citizen's line, but I realized my mistake and got the second woman to give me better direction. (Aside: The really need to make that "US Citizens go here" sign bigger and maybe attach it to the ceiling so you can identify it). I finally get to the front of the line and to the agent and she takes one look at the form that is not completed (needs my signature) and she says, "I can't take this unless it is completed-- you've got to complete it and then go through the line again." To which I responded, "I can't, I only have a pencil and...." She cuts me off right there with, "Well you can stand over there and finish it. I ain't giving you my pen."

So, I move to the location she indicates, fish out my pencil, and complete the form (sign it-- everything else is done). She takes the next person while I do this, and then I cut in front once they are gone.

"As I said, I only needed to sign the card and I was done."

"Is this pencil? You can't use pencil."

With The Look, "You want it done, it is done. You don't want to give me your pen to finish it, it is finished in pencil. Is there anything else?"

She tries to give me The Look back, I'm not buying it or budging. "Okay, fine, sign it with my pen. But I better get it back!"

"Ma'am," I say, using my sweetest voice with my most irritated voice, "I'll sign it right here in front of you." I do. I then hand her back her sweet, precious pen and say, "Have a nice day" in a tone of voice that conveys that I really mean, "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on."

Not sure how I got away with that, and I fully expect I'll need a full-body cavity search the next time I go through customs, but she didn't even ask me any more questions after that little exchange. Managed to make it to my connection after the 15 minute rule, but they were nice and let everyone on as nearly 200 of the 300 passengers were similarly late.

There HAS to be an easier way, even with all the wholly ineffectual new laws and rules we have for airport security.

Anyway, I'm home, Caly is so happy she actually came out from under my bed covers talking like a baby kitten and is sitting next to me. I have my mail for the two weeks I was gone. And I'm really, really not pleased to be home, even if it is warm and sunny here.