Friday, March 27, 2009

An Actual (Business) Conversation

I sell industrial piping equipment, particularly for the power generation industry. It's actually more exciting than it sounds, because I talk to people all over the world, and every day there's a new challenge.

Yesterday's challenge was a discussion with a project manager (PM), of Asian background, who wanted to know if one of my products would work in service conditions of 450 degrees Celsius. This equates to 842 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, the product he was buying (sorry, I should say bought....we shipped it last week, and he chose now to see if it will work with that temperature) was made out of cast carbon steel, which has a limit of 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

On top of that, this guy's math was really bad, he was basically asking if it was that big a deal if there was only a 22 degree difference (he thought it was 822 took me time to convince him that the website is never wrong). Unfortunately, carbon steel, when exposed to temperatures over 800 degrees, undergoes a chemical process called "graphitization." Basically, it breaks down. We had the following exchange of words on the phone:

PM: Is it that big a deal that it’s only 40 degrees higher then the limit?
Me: Yes. You have temperature limits for a reason.
PM: What will happen?
Me: Catastrophic failure.
PM: (pause) OK…...
Me: That’s not a good thing.
PM: But it will only see that temperature occasionally.
Me: If you use this item at that temp, the warranty is voided.
PM: Oh. OK. What can you sell me that will work with this temperature?
Me: (fights urge to rub hands together and say, in a C. Montgomery Burns voice, "excellent"): I'll have to get back to you.

It scares me that me and my 4 years of a Political Science degree have more knowledge than a guy with a 5 year engineering degree.

Full Body Shudder

We are all aware of the full body shudder. One second, you're perfectly fine, the next second, your body is consumed by an often-unexplained spasm, like a shiver, except it's not because of the room temperature.

Sometimes, the explanation is, "Someone just walked over your grave," indicating somewhere in the future, when you're dead and buried, someone walked over your grave, disturbing your ghost. Sometimes, perhaps in the case of guys like this, the full body shudder is a result of waking up next to a woman, only to discover the prosthetic hook, eyepatch, and burn scars (which you ignored the night before) are joined with a unibrow, female mustache, and a VERY recent tattoo....OF YOUR NAME. That would make most hung-over men get the full body shudder.

In my case, I get the shudder occasionally (and not just when watching America's Funniest Videos in the Marathon of Male Genital Injuries montage). But, most often, when I just got away with doing something stupid.

Take today, for example. I was leaving the Chick-Fil-A (after getting a delicious chicken biscuit), and had to make a right turn onto the highway. Unfortunately, about 100 yards to the right was the intersection where I had to turn left to go to my office. It's a very busy road. And it's pouring rain. I have to cross the right turn lane which begins at this driveway I was in (where you have to turn right at the light), 3 lanes of traffic, and then enter the left turn lane.

So, basically, I'm playing a car.

Unfortunately, traffic was not cooperating. Cars were staggered. No car in the right lane, but a car in the middle lanes, so I can't pull onto the road, because I can't move over. I sat there for a minute, trying to figure out if my V6 engine can get me across a gap. And then I saw it. An opening in each lane, but they were offset. I first gunned it into the right lane, allowed a car to pass, then swung left, allowed another car to pass, and then cut across two lanes into the turn lane which I needed to be in, all in a space smaller than a football pitch.

And it was then I realized how unbelievably stupid it was to do such a thing, on a rainy day, in the Atlanta area where people are often on a phone and eating breakfast at the same time and might not see me. And since this is a city addicted to Hummers, large pickups, SUV's, etc, car accidents are often painful lessons in physics.

So there I sat, in the left lane, waiting for my turn to turn, when the full body shudder overtook me. Fortunately, the Chick-Fil-A coffee helped to calm my nerves.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and in all professions.

This week, heroes are a bunch of guys who get paid to use explosives for a living, being dropped to the Missouri River via helicopter, to blow up ice floes that are basically damming up the river and flooding large parts of North Dakota. Read about it here:

Right now, hundreds of thousands of rednecks throughout the Upper Midwest are saying, "Oh ja, how do I get dat dere job? You betcha I can too blow up dem dere ice floes. I'd be like dem Duke Boys, with my bow and arrow and dem high explosive tips and I'd shoot dem arrows into the ice and blow dem tings to Kingdom Come." (In other news, Kona is probably tying C4 explosives to his arrows as I write this).

And in related news, this is the news team from this TV station, KXMB in North Dakota.

They seem to cover all the demographics. You have the Cougar. The MILF (who looks a tad like Marge Helgenberger from CSI). Then there's Goofy Bastard Who Never Got The Memo That Nobody Wears The Caesar Haircut Anymore (news doesn't travel as fast to ND, as you can see from his haircut reminiscent of the heyday of N*Synch). And then there's the woman who could easily be a stripper. But not in North Dakota, judging by her full set of teeth. Definitely Minneapolis, probably even Dallas. And her name is Amber Schatz. For her sake, I hope she pronounces it "Shots" (which would be the correct German pronunciation). If it's "Shats," well...sorry, that's just too easy and I consider myself a pro. And finally, we have cute-as-a-button Sarah Gustin, who is probably asked out daily by GBWNGTMTNWTCHA (AKA Brad Feldman) and she politely declines, and then goes home, changes clothes and makeup, puts on a disguise, and becomes an internet porn star, probably named "Sierra Gusty".

The really cool thing about small-market TV news is that the anchors haven't lost their regional accents yet, so chances are these reporters all sound like extras in "Grumpy Old Men" or "Fargo."

In closing, I'd like to suggest that tonight we all go home and raise a glass to the guys who are being paid to blow ice floes up. God bless them, and if only that were us. Cause that would be awesome.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


On Saturday, the soccer team which I coach had its first "real" game. We played 2 games in one day 2 weeks ago, both against Academy teams (I coach a recreational team), both were considered friendlies. One was a close 4-3 loss, the other was one I'd rather forget.

Saturday was our redemption, we played against a team from a neighboring YMCA club, and won 7-0. With about 10 minutes to go in the first half, up 4-0, I put in my weakest goalie to give her some experience, and put my best all-around player (who was the starting goalie) on the field with one simple instruction...."go tell all your teammates that there is now a 3-pass requirement before you're allowed to shoot." At the next stoppage, she did just that, running to each player and telling them we had to have 3 passes before we were allowed to shoot. We could've scored 10-12 goals that day, but I refuse to run up a score more than necessary. I'm developing soccer players, not sadists.

After the game, I found that one of our better players had apparently been trash-talking the other team near the end of the game, telling them things like "you guys suck," and other such things. So, tonight at practice, I have to be in the difficult position to talk to her and her mother about her behavior, and how there is nothing worse in my mind than doing that. If she wants to do handstands on the field to celebrate a win, that's fine. But the kind of stuff you see in the NFL, to me, is completely classless and must be stopped at this age or it will only get worse. Having this talk is not something I am relishing, but I owe it to this girl to teach her the right way to behave. As Judge Smails once said, "I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them." Well, I owe it to her to throw her under the bus in front of her mom (who I know will believe me, and will break a foot off in her daughter's butt on the way home from practice).

The coolest part of the of my players stole the ball and went in on a breakaway. 15 feet from the goal, around where the goal box line is, she realized she didn't have her 3 passes. She turned, fired it back to a teammate, who fired it right back to the first girl, who launched it back to the second girl, who sent it back to the first girl, who then put it right in the net, with the defender and goalie running back and forth trying to keep up with the ball. Afterwards, the opposing coach said he was amazed at our ability to pass the ball.

In a game like that, anyone can run up the score. What I want to do is use that opportunity to teach the game the way it should be played.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ooohh, Visitors!

There is an ISO quality audit going on in my office today (thankfully, not one that involves me.....those here who've been through such an audit know how lucky I am). Because there are out of town visitors, the operations manager decided that breakroom food was necessary.

Of course, it goes without saying the food was for those involved in the audit that were here at 7AM.

Of course, it goes without saying that while the auditor and those he was auditing were in the conference room with the door closed, I stuffed an entire section of cheese coffeecake into my mouth while making coffee.

It also goes without saying that of the two dozen Dunkin Donuts munchkins (donut holes, for those not familiar with the term) purchased for the occasion, NOT A DAMN ONE was jelly-filled. They were just the dry, hard-to-swallow cinnamon and white powdered sugar varieties.

Amazingly, the auditor (who strikes a close resemblance to the guy in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" to the guy whose downfall was the "wafer thin mint", or Fat Bastard with glasses) did not appear to be covered in powered sugar. I would've thought otherwise.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I would like my Karma topped with a sprinkling of Schadenfreude

I went out for lunch today (and had my first-ever hot Cuban sandwich, and it was gooooood) and the drive back to my office was ruined by a jackass. I was in the left lane, Jackass was in the right. I came up to the light where I need to turn left to head to my office, and pulled into the left turn lane. All of a sudden, Jackass went from the right lane, across the left, and (after finally realizing he didn't use his blinker and finally turned it on) then cut in front of me, to get into the left turn lane. Obviously, Jackass didn't realize he was supposed to turn, and therefore I had to stomp on the breaks to keep from hitting him.

We both turned, and of course Jackass, who was in an AWFUL DAMN hurry to get in front of me, was driving really slowly. After a few hundred yards, he hit the brake hard, causing me to brake, and then turned right.....into the Georgia Department of Labor office building parking lot. Basically, this is where you go if you're unemployed and need to file for unemployment benefits or look for job information. When I first started working in my present office, there were always cars there, but now, the parking lot is full every day, all day. Normally, I feel sadness for everyone there.....

.....but not today. Today, I realize that at least one person there lost his job not because of a failing economy, but because he's obviously a douchenozzle who probably wrecked the boss' forklift while Warehouse Jousting (you'd be surprised how often that game is played) and is now among the huddled masses trying to find a job. And while there are dozens of people who are there through no fault of their own, I hope they can all rest assured that not everybody in that building will be a direct competitor for a job they might get. Some of them will be doomed to wait for months, no more able to get a job as they are able to USE THEIR FRIGGIN BLINKERS.

*end of rant*

Commuter of the Day 3/20/2009: Let's Roll!

Red Corvette convertible. 50-ish woman driving. The license plate said:


It's obvious this means, "Let's roll," (or as they say in the South, when drunk, "Lesh rollll!"), but I'm not sure if this is a "I've got my Corvette, so Let's Roll!" Or, if it's the famous 9/11 battle cry (from Flight 92, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania, where they tried to take back the plane). It's Georgia, where people will put car flags on their car and leave them there for 3 years, until the flag is completely worn off and all you have is a white plastic pole with a little bit of red, white and blue fabric hanging from it.

I almost rammed someone simply out of spite yesterday. I was in a left-turn lane. To the right of me, the lane was for traffic going straight. The woman in that lane realized she was in the wrong lane, and when I got the green arrow to turn (the straight lane still had the red), she whipped in front of me and made the left turn....from the right lane.

Yes, she was on a cell phone. I honked. I used profanity. I even gave her the international symbol for "hang up your fucking phone." Interestingly enough, this symbol can also be mistaken for the one you use to tell people, "You're #1!!!!" And when I passed her (it was a 4 lane road), she pulled in behind me, I continued talking to her, talking in my rearview mirror, asking her if she had shit for brains and if she knew how fucking stupid she was.

I thought I might need anger management counseling. But, then I realized people who need such counseling would've actually gotten out of the car and beaten her with her phone, so I think I'm OK.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Generational Differences

This past weekend was the second weekend of the spring soccer season. It started raining on Friday night, and it stopped raining.....well, I should say it's supposed to stop raining sometime this afternoon. The team which I coach (and on which my 10 year old daughter, Thing 1, plays) was due to travel to a neighboring town in the next county to play a team from another club. That club canceled all of their games due to weather (it was 46 deg F and raining).

When I was a kid, I played two sports, fall soccer and spring baseball. Baseball constantly had games canceled, as it simply can't be played safely in the rain, and with spring rains, we lost a few games per season (sometimes make up games had to be made up...fortunately, the league scheduler had a PhD in Astrophysics and could mathematically figure out how to do all of this. I know this because it was my dad). Soccer, on the other hand, was NEVER canceled, unless there was lightning in the area. Even in the 70's, we knew to leave the field when there was lightning. But, rain or snow, or heat, we played.

The cancellations this weekend caused some of the parents to be thankful, as they don't want our precious little snowflakes getting pneumonia. I, on the other hand, was thinking, "I played in this as a kid and I never got pneumonia. It builds character."

I often see this viral email going around about how we didn't have bike helmets, and we played soccer in the rain, and we never wore seatbelts, and we turned out OK. But, that email wasn't written by the thousands of kids who needed bike helmets, or were thrown from a vehicle, or got a lung infection from playing sports in the rain. It was written by the survivors. So, were we tougher, or were we lucky? I've had 2 or 3 bike accidents where I was a few millimeters from getting a serious head injury. One of my older brothers was hit by a car while riding a moped to school, and wasn't wearing a helmet. He landed on tall, soft grass after it had recently rained, so he walked away from the accident. Another brother was playing soccer in a torrential downpour, wiped out in the wet field and landed on his shoulder, dislocating it. Between my three brothers and I, all of us have ended up in the ER due to at least one sports-related incident (mine was from baseball, I was the catcher and a kid slid into brothers had soccer, skiing, and karate incidents).

I begin each soccer season reminding the parents that we do not play baseball, we play a real sport and we play in the rain, unless there's lightning. Am I a good coach? Or am I an asshole? Our club will cancel games, but only when the rain is so much that playing/practicing will do irreparable damage to the field. But on Saturday, most of our club's home games were played (we canceled the afternoon games at one field which drains poorly). I felt that was the right thing. Other parents thought it was crazy.

Are we overprotective? Or are we all simply remembering how lucky we were when we were kids, a few millimeters away from a trip to the ER?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Commuter of the Day 3/12/2009: Sexual Innuendos

Seen in front of the nearby Taco Mac while going to lunch (by the way, I'd like to give a shout-out to my corporate Amex.....I love you baby, more than you'll ever know) was a bright red car that could only have been driven by a female college student or a single woman in her 40's:


Such license plates devoted to pets (you know, the kind with an almost uncomfortable devotion to pets) usually come with a sticker somewhere that says, "My child drinks from the toilet" with a picture of a Scottish terrier or Dalmatian, but I saw no such pro-cat stickers on this car. Which leads me to make one of the two following conclusions:

1. Her nickname is Kitten.
2. She likes kitties. And I mean that in a genitalic way.

I suppose the car could've been new, and she just hasn't gotten around to putting stickers proclaiming her love for the North American Shorthair or Russian Blue or Manx.

I doubt it though.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cinderella story. Outta nowhere.......

Imagine getting a phone call late in the day from a customer, and the customer sounds exactly....and I mean Carl Spackler from Caddyshack (Bill Murray's character). He's trying to explain an issue he's having with a part, and all I can hear is, "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a miracle... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!" Or, "I don't think the hard stuff's going to come down for a while."

It's probably going to be pretty hard to keep a straight face, right?

Now imagine....his name is......Dick Johnson.

My inner Beavis & Butthead was in full overdrive. Here I am discussing a part worth thousands of dollars, and all I can think is, "yeah, umm, yeah, hehe, Dick Johnson, Dick Johnson, Dick Dick Dick Dick Dick JOHNSON!" I was a fifty cent cab ride away from doing Cornholio.

This world won't be anywhere near as fun a place when people stop using Dick as a nickname for Richard (in fact, I've known couples who considered using Richard as a baby name until it occurred to one of them that the nickname would be Dick and scrapped it for this reason, so Richard might become extinct).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lost Cat

On my commute to and from work, road kill is a common site. Usually, it consists of possums and squirrels, but occasionally I'll see an obviously slow-moving rabbit, a raccoon, or a domesticated animal such as a cat or a dog.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw what appeared to be the body of either a very small black bear cub, or a large cat, on my commute home. Every day I would see it, and eventually determined that it was indeed a cat, body pushed to the side of the road against the curb where it wouldn't be in the road.

Yesterday, on the way home, it was in a different position...someone had moved it so that its body actually stretched into the road, so if someone was close to the curb there's a chance they would hit it. This same person apparently got creative, and wrote a sign on cardboard, stapled to a stick and stuck into the ground, that said, "LOST CAT" with an arrow pointing down to the animal (amusing at first, until I realized that people who play with animal corpses are often on the downward slope to becoming serial killers).

My guess is, there's a little girl in the neighboring apartment complex who lost Fluffy, and whose mother has been convincing her for 2 weeks that the animal was a baby black bear cub, who will suddenly lose all faith and trust she had for her mom.