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Tom Foolery's

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Photo Phoibles

A slightly embellished* story:

At lunch today I rode my little bicycle as fast as I could all the way to Hy-Vee to get some photos printed. Pant, pant, gasp, wheeze.

The lady there didn't have a clue what was going on. After I finished pushing buttons at the kiosk, she made me stand there with my receipt in my hand and wait for five or six minutes while she stood on the phone trying to call the supervisor to help the other lady that was standing there waiting. All I wanted to do was give her the receipt and tell her "I want these on that new 'Luster' paper." But I had to stand there for five or six minutes while the lady called the supervisor. Then I had to wait for the supervisor to actually walk across the store. Then I had to wait while the supervisor helped the other customer. The whole time the first little photo worker gal was just sort of standing there. I asked her if she had a pen. "If you can't tell the supervisor I want Luster paper, I'll write it down for you," I said. "You can give her the note." She told me to "wait just a minute and someone will be right with you." So I stood there longer.

Finally I got to talk to the supervisor. "Here," I said. "I'd like these on Luster paper please."

"You mean matte?"

"No," I said. "The machine gave me a choice between matte and glossy. I don't want either of those. I want it on Luster, please."

"Oh, well, we don't have matte paper any more, just Luster and glossy."

"I'd like Luster, please."

"You mean matte?" she asked.

I sighed. "Yes, matte."

"When do you want these?"

I scratched my head. "What's the cost difference?"

"Four cents."

"No, no. That's the price for 4x6 prints," I said. "I want 8x10's, just like it says on the receipt there."

"Oh. I don't know what 8x10's cost," she said. "But I think it costs a dollar more per print to get them in an hour."

"I don't need them in an hour -- but I'd like to have one of them by 5:30 tonight if I can...?"

"So you want them done in an hour?" she asked.

"No." I pointed at the receipt. "I ordered five 8x10 prints. I'd like just ONE of them done tonight by 5:30. That's still five hours away. The other four can wait."

The supervisor looked at me like I'd just grown horns. "How am I supposed to know which photo you want first?"

By this time I was getting edgy. I'd already been gone 45 minutes of my lunch hour, and I still had to bicycle several miles uphill to get back to work. And I have precious little tolerance for incompetence these days. "Well," I said, "if I had known the price difference between same day and next day was so great I would have run these through as separate orders, but you don't have your prices posted anywhere. The photo I need tonight is the one with NO motorcycle in it."

"But you ran five photos through. How do I know which one you want?"

"I just said, I want the photo of the people with no motorcycle. All the rest have motorcycles. I want the picture of my parents."

"Yes," she said, "I understand that... But now I'm going to have to process all five of your photos today so you can pick up just the one tonight."

"No. No no no... The other four can wait for a month for all I care. I just need the one. You can see them on your computer before you process them, can't you? Just print the one I want."

"Oh. Yes. You're right. I'll have that one done in an hour for you. You can pick the rest up tomorrow any time after noon."

"Okay," I said. "Just out of curiosity, when are you going to print the other four?"

"Oh, I'll do them all at the same time."

"So why can't I pick them all up tonight?"

"Because you only paid for next day. Same day costs more."

*By embellished, I mean "some of this happened,
but most of it is made up simply to make it more dramatic."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Weekend Happenings

The Weekend's Photos

Sunday was kinda interesting -- we went to Omaha (or suburb Ralston, to be exact) to a memorial service for Nebraska soldiers lost in the Iraq War. There were a TON of bikes there. It must have been quite impressive as we took our motorcade through town...

The ceremony consisted mainly of various local politicians talking, but it was interesting anyway.

The highlight, for me, was when the Patriot Guard made the bellringer an honorary Road Captain. I'd noticed that there was a man at every military funeral in Nebraska who rang a bell. Standing next to him were always a few ladies holding up a homemade banner saying "God Bless America." The bell always choked me up... The man would stand outside the church, his head down, ringing the bell every ten seconds or so. He would do that for the entire service. Then he'd somehow manage to beat everyone to the cemetery, where he'd set up his bell and continue ringing.

I found out that he'd been doing that since 2002, and the lady next to him is his wife. It was nice that the Patriot Guard honored him.

On Sunday he rang his bell for every Nebraska soldier that's died in Iraq as their names were read. They also released balloons, one for each soldier. I didn't cry until the Legionnaires fired their rifles and a man played taps...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Geeze, I almost forgot!


It's Talk Like a Pirate Day today! I just about forgot! Arrrrghhhh!

From the TLAPD web site (I did NOT write these):

Top Ten Pickup lines for use on International Talk Like a Pirate Day

10. Avast, me proud beauty! Wanna know why my Roger is so Jolly?

9. Have ya ever met a man with a real yardarm?

8. Come on up and see me urchins.

7. Yes, that is a hornpipe in my pocket and I am happy to see you.

6. I'd love to drop anchor in your lagoon.

5. Pardon me, but would ya mind if fired me cannon through your porthole?

4. How'd you like to scrape the barnacles off of me rudder?

3. Ya know, darlin’, I’m 97 percent chum free.

2. Well blow me down?

And the number one pickup line for use on International Talk Like a Pirate Day is …

1. Prepare to be boarded.

Bonus pickup lines (when the ones above don't work, as they often won't)

They don’t call me Long John because my head is so big.

You’re drinking a Salty Dog? How’d you like to try the real thing?

Shiver me timbers?

I’ve sailed the seven seas, and you’re the sleekest schooner I’ve ever sighted.

Brwaack! Polly want a cracker? … Oh, wait. That’s for Talk Like a PARROT Day.

That’s the finest pirate booty I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Let's get together and haul some keel.

That’s some treasure chest you’ve got there.

Top Ten Pickup Lines for the Lady Pirates

10. What are YOU doing here?

9. Is that a belayin' pin in yer britches, or are ye ... (this one is never completed)

8. Come show me how ye bury yer treasure, lad!

7. So, tell me, why do they call ye, "Cap'n Feathersword?"

6. That's quite a cutlass ye got thar, what ye need is a good scabbard!

5. Aye, I guarantee ye, I've had a twenty percent decrease in me "lice ratio!"

4. I've crushed seventeen men's skulls between me thighs!

3. C'mon, lad, shiver me timbers!


...and the number one Female Pirate Pick-up Line:

1. You. Pants Off. Now!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



"Hello?... No, no we didn't get disconnected. I just hung up on you."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Whoopie Doopie

Local Political Vacuum

I've done many varied and interesting things the past few days, mostly trying to find ways to help the community. Saturday I attended a leadership conference, then went off to help with a fundraiser. Sunday I went to a Legion Riders meeting where my friend Barb and I took photos for charity. Sunday night I started tweaking the portraits. (We're selling portraits for $10 each, figgering it'll cost about $4 to process the photo, leaving us with $6 to put in the Delaschmutt fund. Joe Delaschmutt is a local soldier who returned from Iraq with leukemia.) I'm not bragging or anything, but I want you to know that I'm aware of what's going on in my little corner of the world, and I like to think I can help.

Today I was sitting at work at the print shop, morosely pecking away at designing some newsletter or another, when I got an e-mail from a local politician. He's running for City Council, and is having us design some little handouts for him to distribute. The e-mail was simply saying, "Oh, I forgot, can you put this quotation on the bottom of my handouts when you do the design." I stopped what I was doing and did the "cut and past" thing and inserted his quote, right below the bullet points of all his achievements.

It struck me as I was doing this that, as interested as I am in politics, and as aware as I am of what's happening in my neighborhood, I really didn't care to read any of this guy's stuff. Even as I designed the piece, which took me about twenty minutes or so, I never bothered to read more than about five words. Twenty minutes I stared at that job, never reading it.

Now, you'd think that I'd be very interested in what a local politician has to say. What does he want to do about the homeless problem we have? What does he want to do about the gang situation? The drive-by shootings in my neighborhood? The veterans who can't afford medical care? But in the past few months I've seen so many "propaganda pieces" from politicians, both local and national, that they all blur together. They all say the same things.

"I support better education." Well, who doesn't? "I'm in favor of funding the police." Great! So is everyone else. (At least I've never seen anyone say they want to cut police protection before an election.) The candidates all want the same things -- economic growth, lower crime, better edumacation. So I've quit paying attention.

What I want to hear is specifics. "I want to lower youth crime and gang activity by increasing police presence in key neighborhoods, and having policemen individually responsible for neighborhoods such as the 'cop on the beat' in the old days." Or, "I want to increase economic diversity in the area by breaking the monopoly the power company currently enjoys. The power company should not be allowed to charge poor people $25 a month MORE if they don't have a telephone, nor should they be allowed to block private power development." I want to hear these things. I want to hear ANY specific plan.

Someone, anyone, please tell me what you're doing. Don't tell me you support just about everything. I know that. Tell me how you're going to do one little thing. Anything.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The wheel keeps turning

Talkin' 'bout my generation

You know, I still don't like this war much. It's been going on for a while, now, and I guess I was hoping I'd grow to like it. But I'm not.

I don't have a whole lot of experience with war. None, actually.

When I was a kid I saw Vietnam on TV every day. I have a feeling my parents tried to shield my little toddler eyes from the carnage, but I knew there was a war going on. I had a pretty good idea, too, that war wasn't such a good thing, and that people were getting hurt, and a lot of people were upset about it. The Vietnam War ended when I was six, so I didn't get drafted.

As I grew up I knew that a lot of people had been in wars. My grandfather served in the European Theater in World War II. He was a radioman. Someday I'll tell you about his experiences, but I generally get all teary-eyed when I think of it and I'm at work so today's not the day for that. Grandpa served in the Iowa Army National Guard for about a zillion and a half years, retiring as a Master Sergeant. So I knew that people that were about my grandpa's age may have been in World War II, but you could never really tell by looking at them if they'd served or not.

By the time I was 16 I realized that anyone over the age of 30 or so may have served in Vietnam. The next year, when I turned 17, I joined the Army National Guard myself. Quite a few of people I served with had been in Vietnam, and you could sort of tell, just by looking at their eyes.

I remember in 1985 looking at the group photo on the wall in the armory, taken in 1970 or so, when the unit left for Vietnam. That photo sure looked like ancient history. But we were using some of the same equipment, and there were still a few of the guys in the unit who were in that photo, including the First Sergeant. You know, in 1985, that photo was only 15 years old... But 15 years is a lifetime to a 17-year-old kid.

I noticed that people gave my grandfather a lot of respect, but people tended to avoid the 33-year-old Vietnam Vet -- you know, the one with the strange look in his eyes, the one who didn't talk much. But when we had a question about combat training, we went to the Vietnam Vet. And we listened to what he said. (As a sign of how people thought back then in the mid-80's, I remember telling my mother, in all sincerity, that I didn't expect to die a natural death. "Someone's going to drop a nuclear weapon," I told her. "Old age isn't a factor in my planning." The wall fell not too long after that, but I still worry from time to time.)

Five years later, in late 1990, the Gulf War happened. Most of the Vietnam vets in my unit had retired by this time, 20 years after their war, and we didn't have any Panama vets in the unit. But we were well trained. We knew what we were doing. I watched the Gulf War happen on TV. I even called the unit to make sure I wasn't supposed to be packing my bags, but they said they hadn't heard any word on mobilization. To double-check, I called a guy I knew at the state headquarters in Camp Dodge, down by Des Moines. "Are you sure I'm not supposed to be going somewhere," I asked him. "I don't mean to pester you or anything, but my job in the Guard is to help mobilize my unit and process the paperwork through. Are you SURE I'm not supposed to be doing something?" I was told to go back to college and wait for the phone call. It never came, at least not for me. Several of my buddies that served in different units were called up, though. I still feel guilty when I think of them.

Shortly after the Gulf War, my unit started getting new equipment. We'd been training with Vietnam-era gear, but times were changing. Not long after that my eight years were up, and I decided to get out. I never got the rank they promised me, and being a clerk I was able to look up how many positions were available in the state for my job. Not many... (For those of you who understand this sort of thing, I'd been in for 8, and had been an E-4 for six years. I was working in an E-6 slot that was soon to be upgraded to E-7, but the state was already over their quota, so to speak, of E-5's. So, had I stayed, I'd have been an E-4 working in an E-7 spot, with no chance of promotion for years and years.)

My grandfather's generation was defined by World War II. My father's generation was defined by the Vietnam War. My generation had the Gulf War... But we weren't defined by it. Few of us fought in the war. I'm not saying it was an easy war for those that were there, but few of us had personal loss during the Gulf War. There were around 500,000 casualties in World War II. Vietnam had around 50,000. Most people lost a family member or a friend.

We lost 146 Americans in the Gulf War. My generation blew out a collective sigh of relief, and went on about our business. "You can dance if you want to, and leave your friends behind..."

Right now there's some 17-year-old private standing in a National Guard armory somewhere looking at a 16-year-old photo of his unit's involvement in the Gulf War, thinking "Man, that photo looks like ancient history." And right now there's a four-year-old kid who's grown up his whole life seeing the Iraq war on TV, even though his parents try to shield him.

The wheel keeps turning. It makes me want to cry. I got lucky. I was hoping the next generation would too.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Somber Thoughts

Death, sadly

My aunt died last night. It was expected; she's been fighting various forms of cancer for years now. They say she went peacefully, and wasn't in pain. My uncle passed away just a few months ago, also from cancer.

I worry for my cousin. Not only are his parents now gone, but his only brother was killed in an accident many years ago, and he has no relatives on his father's side of the family (his father was the only child of an only child). My cousin has to be feeling very alone right now. He lives thousands of miles away from the small town in central Iowa his parents lived in -- his plane probably landed in Des Moines just a few hours ago. My parents left town early this morning so they could meet him. "He doesn't need to face that empty house by himself," my mother told me last night.

People approach death in different ways.

I'm a little jealous of people who can let loose at funerals, who can cry and wail and touch the casket. I tend to sit stiffly upright, eyes locked straight ahead, afraid to show much emotion in public, but at the same time wondering if people think I'm being callous for not showing enough emotion. I don't know quite how to act. I don't know what's acceptable, what's expected. That makes me self-conscious.

Some people will go up to the casket, peer in, and say things like, "she looks so young," or "how peaceful she looks." I have a hard time with that. Not that I mind other people doing that -- that's fine. It's just that I can't. I'm like a small child; I tiptoe up to the casket during visitation, getting just close enough to peek in, then I need to run away. Does this mean I don't want to face death? Maybe. I don't know. But it's hard for me to see a loved one's body in a casket. There's no comfort there for me. Maybe I simply want to remember the person as they were, vibrant and happy.

I'm going to miss my aunt. I miss my uncle. We weren't particularly close; they lived a little over four hours away, so I didn't see them more than once or twice a year when I was a child. They would drive up for holidays and to visit my grandparents. Once my grandparents passed away I didn't see my aunt and uncle quite so often. But I have good memories of them nonetheless...

My uncle was the kind of man who managed to poke fun of himself whilst always maintaining an air of impenetrable self-confidence and utter sophistication. He chained smoked Winstons and drank whiskey. He was a minister, a bus driver, and a carpet cleaner. He could tell stories... And he took an honest interest in everyone around him. I gather he asked his congregations rather hard questions from time to time.

My aunt was a warm person, and gentle. She always smiled, even when it was raining. She was one of those rare people who talks to everyone in exactly the same way -- she never treated children like children, and that made me feel good. She respected people. She always knew what everyone in the family was doing. Who was working where, and who's children were doing well in school... My last memories of her are of my uncle's funeral, just a few months ago. I hadn't seen my aunt in a number of years, but she knew exactly what I had been doing in that time. She was dignified and had a quiet calm about her, even in a wheelchair at her husband's funeral. Class, personified. Elegant.

So, sometime in the next day or two I'll find myself driving to that particular house in that particular small town. This will be the fourth time in my life I've been to that house -- one high-school graduation and three funerals. In spite of that rather dubious record, I've always considered my aunt and uncle's house to be a happy place, full of contentment. I don't know why, exactly, but that's the impression the home always gives me. I'll be sad never to visit there again.

You know, when you don't cry when you're sad, it makes your head hurt in a funny way.

Bad Dreams

I've noticed a strange trend in my dreams lately. Starting a while back, maybe a year ago, maybe longer, I started having dreams where I didn't have arms. People would beat me up and threaten my family and such, and I couldn't defend myself. I had no arms!

Then a little later, my dreams changed. People would beat me up and chase me around. I had arms now, but no hands, so I couldn't defend myself.

After a few months, I had arms and hands, but they'd be tied. People were still beating me up and being cruel to me, and I still couldn't defend myself. All I could do was run.

Two nights ago my dreams took the most disturbing twist yet. In my dream, men broke into my house. One man simply told me not to move my arms. "You can't hit me," he said. "All you can do is stand there." So all I did was stand there, obediently, as this rather small man beat me. I simply let him beat me. I didn't even try to defend myself. I didn't even think of taking control of the situation.

This bothers me quite a bit. I certainly feel trapped and ineffective at work, but I loathe the thought that my subconscious is starting to accept my fate, that of being berated and taken for granted by my "superiors." It's time to fight back. It's time for me to make some changes. I need to do something new.


I've been feeling isolated lately. As an experiment, I'm going to keep track of how many people I speak with today. This is NOT made up or exaggerated.

  • 6:10 to 7:30 a.m. -- General conversation with beloved wife.
  • 7:59 a.m. -- Brief conversation with Fruitloop (cat extraordinaire) about the benefits of coming inside.
  • 8:10 a.m. -- Co-worker A says "hello." I smile and wave back.
  • 8:11 a.m. -- Brief conversation with Office Lady A. In toto: "Here." "Thanks."
  • 8:30 a.m. -- Office Lady A calls. "Where's Mr. X?" "I dunno."
  • 8:35 a.m. -- Customer A calls in a correction on a newsletter.
  • 8:49 a.m. -- Boss A to me (as he hands over a stack of papers): "These need to be designed, proofed, printed, and delivered by three. Do it now." Me to boss: "Sure, okay."
  • 8:54 a.m. -- Boss to me: "Do you have those done yet?" Me to boss: "No."
  • 9:17 a.m. -- Co-worker B to me: "Good morning." Me: "Morning."
  • 9:32 a.m. -- Co-worker C, handing me a CD: "Can you copy this to my drive?"
  • 10:02 a.m. -- Twenty second "sorry to hear about your aunt dying" conversation with Co-worker C, cut short by dirty look from Boss A.
  • 10:12 a.m. -- Co-worker C to me: "How do you import a white logo in InDesign? All I get is a white box." Me: "Make sure the image background is set to transparent."
  • 10:32 a.m. -- Boss A to me: "Are these the plates for that rush job?" I nod. "They're not going to work. You might have to do them again."
  • 10:51 a.m. -- Boss A to me: "Sorry to hear about your aunt's passing. Is that my phone ringing?"
  • 11:02 a.m. -- Short conversation with Customer B about the possibility of me doing a bunch of design work for free and whether I would consider maybe trying to talk the boss into printing a bunch of stuff for free.
  • 11:25 a.m. -- Co-worker B (inexplicably speaking in a Marlin Brando voice): "Did Co-worker C go to lunch?"
  • 11:26 a.m. -- A neat three-minute phone conversation with beloved wife.
  • 11:31 a.m. -- Co-worker Peckerhead to me: "Hey, they're painting lines on the parking lot. You should have them make you a tiny little spot for your bike, ha ha. Boy, that'd be funny, ha ha." Me: "Yeah. Ha ha."
  • 1:12 p.m. -- Customer A calls in yet another correction on her newsletter.
  • 1:35 p.m. -- Customer A calls in yet another correction on her newsletter.
  • 2:06 p.m. -- My beloved wife called.
  • 2:21 p.m. -- Customer A calls in yet another correction on her newsletter.
  • 2:50 p.m. -- Boss B to me: "Has 'Customer X' talked to you about that perfect-bound book yet?" Me to Boss B: "Who is Customer X, and what book are you talking about?" Boss B turns and walks away.
It's nearly four. I'm going to quit counting words now. So, to analyze this data...

Six people here at work spoke to me today. One person said one word to me. Another spoke four words. Another said five words to me all day. The fourth co-worker actually said a few sentences, but they were only to mock me. Boss B walked past me five million times today (the boss' office is right next to mine) yet never said anything to me until nearly three in the afternoon, and then had me confused with someone else anyway (there's a whole 12 people in the shop you know). Boss A spoke to me several times, but nothing positive, nor of significance.

I spoke to one customer on the phone several times throughout the day. She's a very nice lady, but somehow I always get the impression that she thinks I made the mistakes on the newsletter she typed. It gets to be depressing after a while.

Not counting the phone conversations with the customer and my wife, less than 150 words were directed to me between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (well, nearly 4 p.m.). I'd be curious if that's normal.

Aw, shoot!

My boss knew all day today that I'm going to be out of town Monday and Tuesday for my aunt's funeral. Why did he have to wait until after four o'clock on Friday to tell me that he needs to have the imposition done and plates made on a 75-page book by Monday morning? The customer approved the book three weeks ago, but no one said a damned word to me about it until now. Now I have to work most of the weekend to get it done on time...

Oh, disappointment.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Ever have one of those days...

...where you e-mail yourself just to have someone to talk to?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Here and There

Our Educational System at Work

Seems these days the local thugs can't even spell their gang's name correctly when they spray paint graffiti on public edifices. (Guess it kind of shows you what kind of person who defaces public property with spray paint, doesn't it?)

And how are you?

Someone asked me how I was doing the other day. "Well," I replied, "the bad news is that I have hemorrhoids. The good news is I'm constipated." It's been like that lately.

The Ease of Z's

Dagmar and I went camping with a group of friends this weekend. We only stayed one night. I got the award for "most annoying snore." Yay for me!

Mat D and the Profane Saints

Good band! Goofy, but lovable, drummer. See 'em HERE.

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