I was in an interminable conversation with Allie today about her life's problems, and my mind wandered, out of self-defense. It wandered to another conversation with an ex, long ago.

• • •

In a Microsoft meeting room, I broke up with my girlfriend of several months. I had timed it for 15 minutes before a meeting so that people would trickle in and break up the breakup talk. I had this wired.

Then she showed up in my office, crying. My office-mate fled, the jerk. My new ex wanted more of an explanation. She wanted to tell me all about my own inadequacies. She wanted me to know that no one had ever hurt her this much before, not even the ex who beat her up. She said a whole lot of stuff. I emailed Bubba and told him that I might not be joining him for drinks after work due to the unfolding insanity.

Three hours later, the building was empty. Except for my office, that is, where I was completing lap 500 around Retard Park. My phone rang. It was Bubba.

"You're sitting there listening to the same stupid, stupid shit, over and over and over, and you're seriously thinking about a murder-suicide thing, aren't you?"

At the time, I thought he was some sort of sage. Many breakups later, I now know better.


You can find many fawning reviews of Dunkirk. This is not one of them. I left at the two-thirds point.

The movie is gorgeously shot and staged. If you see it, see it on the biggest screen you can find. Thus ends the complimentary portion of this post.

What this movie needs is more miracle and less masturbation. Christopher Nolan managed to take one of the greatest stories in history and turn it into a referendum on his own narrative cleverness. I found it self-indulgent and shallow, and as his indulgences revealed themselves, I grew disappointed and irritated. This story does not need to be cool-i-fied with quick cuts and time-jumps. I suppose Nolan thought that since we know the ending, we needed mystery—specifically the mystery of WTF is going on, who are these translucently thin characters, is that music or did someone fill a washing machine with cats and push it down a flight of stairs, and why didn't they just tell the damned story?

• • •

My Erwin Rommel story is fourth-hand and possibly filtered through senility, so take this with a commensurately sized grain of salt.

When I was a kid, I heard Woody Hayes give a commencement address. In addition to being a football coach, he was a history professor. The latter was his great passion, and that's what he spoke about that day. And spoke. And spoke. Woody was quite old at this point.

Woody had met Manfred Rommel, son of the great general. In Woody's recounting, he asked Rommel why his father had not pressed his advantage at Dunkirk and annihilated the British army. Rommel quoted his father as saying that with all the horrors of war he had witnessed and inflicted, he had a chance in Dunkirk to do "one good thing" in all the war. He took it.

The truth? Self-serving bullshit? The ramblings of a coot? You be the judge.

mr. free time

I have a lot of time on my hands, thanks to a work drought, so I'm mulling over taking some courses and fleshing out the ol' resume. It took all of 20 seconds of research for me to groan "Am I really up for this?"

My first stop was, dispenser of project management certifications. The web site is a bewildering maze of buzzwords and undefined acronyms. Educational institutions that cannot teach so much as "this is how you give us money" give me pause. Then I clicked the link Test yourself with CAPM Sample Questions and read the two, count 'em, two questions that were apparently written by a slovenly ESL chimpanzee in a Tilt-A-Whirl. Two questions include a comma error, passive voice, subject/verb disagreement, and a superfluous quotation mark. This slop is what they deemed representative? Please! Take my money, stat! And then there's the vapidity of the content itself, an exercise in "which non-mutually exclusive term is the one we prefer?"

Which foodstuff is digested after chewing and swallowing?
A. Apples
B. Carbon-based organics
C. Both A and B
D. A but not B
I am skeptical.


Unless you count web 1.0 stuff like this page, I am not into social media. I have a Facebook account, but I post maybe four things per year, none of them of substance, and I don't friend people.

An acquaintance recently sent me a friend request. I accepted, and immediately he dominated my feed. Of the top 20 posts, 17 were him. Do these people really think people aren't hiding their posts out of self-defense? It's an instablock here.

You new mothers, too. I'll unhide you after their first day of school is over.

cost of deadening

If you're a Pittsburgher and you want to die horribly, inform me of how much lower my cost of living is here.

You cannot swing a dead cat without three different municipalities slapping a flight tax on it. Last week, I paid 50% more to just the school district than the entirety of my state and local taxes for a year in Washington. This was easy to calculate because, like every other taxing body, the school district sent me a separate bill. A week later, I got my school income tax bill. This is not to be confused with my separate income, property, and business tax bills from the county, city, township, state, and school district. Paying tax bills is my exciting new hobby.

It's not hyperbole to say that if some fake collection company sent me a bill from the made-up Acme Parish, I would pay it unthinkingly.


Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter just celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary, meaning Jimmy edged my relationship endurance record by 65 years.

And counting.


I recounted my last post to Lynn, who was once my boss. She immediately recognized my present boss's pained, wheezing "John..." And she also recognized the pain of having no better personnel options than me.

"It is irritating," she said with obvious conviction. "I say that with love," she quickly added, with substantially less obvious conviction.

This morning I received a job posting for a gig at a university. I reviewed the job's required skills. "Got it. Got it. Got it. Got it. Got i—"

A letter describing your personal commitment to the Christian faith.
"Ick. I'd have to plagiarize that one."

I chuckled at the sheer deliciousness of stealing someone's statement of faith, which led me to wistfully recall a career highlight.

Two years ago, a client insisted that anyone with access to their network take their Corporate Ethics class.

"Fine," I told my boss. "I'll build your site without network access."

"John..." he sighed with the exasperation of someone who has no better personnel options. "Can you just take the class for me?"

It was an online course, which is how I came to pay a contractor to take my ethics class for me. She said I did really well on the test afterward.

drinking in the afternoon

For over two years now, my life has been in some form of self-inflicted limbo. I don't make friends; what's the point, when I hope to be gone in a few months? Likewise dating. Likewise improvements to my life of any kind. The sensation of running out the clock on my life is sadly routine, now.

It's a listless existence. I feel no investment. I can't plan for the future because I have no idea when my present will end. My chief hobby these days is impatiently watching time elapse. It's probably good that I've no interest in meeting new people, because to me I sound boring as hell.

tolerating box

No, that's not the name of an activity at a "Pray the Gay Away" camp. It's a heading in a technical manual that I'm presently editing. A little later, the author discusses the "box sharing policy."

You know you're in your career's twilight when you go to change such things, then stop because you kinda want to see it published.

white noise

This week's Amy theme continues.

We were in a conference call with our boss of five years. He's a Canadian gentleman, amiable and very slow to anger. But during this meeting, he heard news that outraged him, and he let fly an f-bomb.

"Oh jeez, I'm so soar-y, Amy," he said sheepishly. "I forgot there was a lady present."

There was some bewilderment in Amy's voice as she told him it was fine. "I can't even hear that word anymore," she added. "That's pretty much how John says 'good morning.'"


"I hope all your readers realize I'm a different Amy than Fucking Amy," she said.

This is a valid point. It's worth clarifying: they are totally and completely different women. The latter day Amy is Fuckless Amy. She gives zero fucks whatsoever.


So this is what happened next.

The day after I waxed sentimental about working with Amy, all hell broke loose with my business. I did what I could, but only one person on Earth could quickly fix the tool—the person who built it.

"Help!" I texted Amy on Friday. No reply. On Saturday, I texted her husband. "Is she around?"

He explained that Amy was spending the weekend at a silence retreat. No talking, no cell phones, no nothing.

You know you're engaged in a seriously flaky activity when your husband follows up his description with "I am not kidding."

I briefly entertained driving to the retreat with my smoldering production server and screaming "AAAAAAMYYYYYYYYY!" until she capitulated. It'd be more likely that she would turn to her fellow mutes and point accusingly at me. See?

very, very sorry

In 2010, a client asked if I could create technical diagrams. "No, but I know someone who can," I said, and that's how Amy came on board the project.

Art has always been a malignant carbuncle on the ass of my career. Dealing with art and artists is seldom not a moronic and laborious experience. Knowing this history, Amy was not surprised when I brought her on under one condition: "It's all yours. I never want to hear about it."

And for six glorious years, I never heard about it. Art just happened by magic. Then Amy left, and I've spent the last 18 miserable months trying to replace her with an assortment of drooling misfits. I'm not only constantly dealing with art, it's always in the form of damage control or my impatiently explaining how to navigate folders in Windows. Again. My running joke with Amy is "Whatever I did, I'M SO SORRY!"

Last night at a bar, a really cute woman sat next to me and chatted me up. Spotting her drawing pad, I asked to see her etchings. She’s quite talented. Bright, too. We chatted for hours, and where normally I’d be thinking “Is it too soon to give her a key to my house?” I was thinking about something else entirely. Finally, I popped the question.

“Say, do you know Adobe Illustrator?”

“Not at all, why?”

Now, I’m used to being rejected by women, but this one really stung.

jesus christ, microsoft

With every unwanted step Microsoft adds to my everyday life—no, for the billionth time in a row, I don't want to save this or anything else to SkyDrive, fuckers—an explosion nears. It’s one thing to ignore bugs have been around for 10 years, but to instead add steps—for the trillionth time, I do not want to use your POS templates, fuckers—makes me positively stabby.

Fortunately, unlike most, I have a fair chance of identifying my exact persecutor. I’ve thought of little else today.

annus horribilis

I just decided that if I ever develop hemorrhoids, I shall announce it in a post entitled anus horribilis. It's almost worth rooting for hemorrhoids.

• • •

Until such a time that I develop bleeding vaginal warts on my eyeballs, the post-Fucking Amy year will surely retain its title as my worst. For me to pretend otherwise would be absurd. I have, however, lately wondered if I don't have a new #2. I find myself asking "Is my current year worse than my divorce? Than my mom dying? Than managing Dorkass?"

That I'm even posing the question is a testament to how utterly shit my life here has been. I have beaten-dog syndrome, at this point. "Can I use your bathroom?" someone will ask of a bathroom I've never used, and I feel a wave of anxiety course through me. Rule #1 in this house: if I've never used it before, it will spontaneously explode at my touch. Rule #2: if I just used it two minutes ago, it will still spontaneously explode at my touch.

It's kind of liberating, really. There's a certain sense of peace that comes with sleeping in a nitroglycerin tanker parked on railroad tracks.

pants aflame

My friend and onetime realtor has, I have realized too late, a certain detachment from the truth. I first noticed this when she would tell stories about moments at which I was present and they bore no resemblance to what had actually transpired.

"And then John said 'Fuck you, motherfucker, come over here and say that.' I thought the guy was going to piss himself," she recounted right in front of me. I had said nothing of the kind. The actual incident: a guy was being belligerent, and I quietly suggested that we pay our tab and leave.

That is typical. To say she feels compelled to punch up a story suggests that her stories are rooted in any fact whatsoever. Worse, she does not seem to be conscious of this. She'll tell me fabricated stories about myself. It's a curious thing.

It's also proven costly. Whenever I hear her lying, I think back to her summation of my house inspection, for which I was absent. "The inspector was just shaking his head over how great this house is. 'I can't find anything wrong with it! What would you like me to say on the inspection report?'"

In hindsight, I now recognize this as exactly the sort of nonsense she makes up. I don't even need to ask the inspector. I'm sure of it.

A fatefully unfortunate characteristic in a realtor.

"Hi, John!!!" chirped the message. A woman wanted to see an item I have for sale at 7pm that night. She said she would get back to me. She didn't.

"Screw this," I thought. "I want to watch hockey with my friends. I'm just going to tell her not to come. Unless she's really hot."

I googled her. She was supremely hot.

And thus did she get an extra chance she did not deserve, and of course, she neither showed nor replied to inquiring messages. I'm not sure whether I hate her or myself more, really.

war of the worlds

I just watched a documentary about Orson Welles' infamous War of the Worlds broadcast and the hysteria, recriminations, and investigations that followed. The below headlines caught my eye. It's some small comfort, really, that my country has always been able to manufacture outrage over vapid distractions while the world burns.




shadows and echoes

"When the president does it, that means it is not illegal."
—Richard Nixon

the petulant right

I've decided on a term for distinguishing the problematic portion of the right wing. My choice of adjectives was inspired by the only philosophy common to all of their positions: the petulant right. I thought about the "spiteful right," 'cuz it rhymes and all, but petulance is more accurate.

Ditzy left, meet the petulant right. Due in no small part to your tireless efforts at correcting and chastising people, they are now in charge. Thanks heaps.

the _____ right

I've been trying to come up with the right-wing equivalent of the term ditzy left. The faction I want to target are these vacuous, petulant trolls whose beliefs are completely unmoored from any sort of coherent unifying philosophy and which often, in fact, conflict with actual conservative principles. For example, let's consider the scientific method. There's nothing more conservative than cautiously forming hypotheses, testing them, and incrementally revising them based on the results of the tests. Yet these shrill airheads proclaiming themselves "conservative" are often hostile to the scientific method, because they already know what's true.

Yeah. Real "conservative." I think the word they're actually looking for is "fuckheaded."

Example two: self-proclaimed "conservatives" rammed the health care bill through the House before the nonpartisan OMB could perform its budget/risk analysis.

You can just feel the conservatism emanating from them, can't you?

And so I'm left with coining the disparaging identifier for them. Faux conservative comes to mind, but it's so nonspecific in a way "ditzy" isn't.

Petulant, gun-fetishizing, bigot-fellating intellectual and emotional 12-year olds who couldn't pass a high school civics test borders on being, perhaps, too specific. I need something in between.

the ditzy left strikes back

The term doesn't come up often anymore, as I'm no longer surrounded by Seattle folk, but today I must dust off the term "ditzy left." This is how I differentiate between thoughtful liberalism and, well, this:

Seattle Mayor Adds Diet Drinks to His Soda Tax ‘To Tackle White Privilege’

Do they like having a President Trump? Because jerking off like this is how we got President Trump.

pant, pant, pant

Although my friends here know I'm dumping my house, only two know I'm dumping Pittsburgh entirely. I simply don't want to have the conversation. I love this town, but it's a bad fit, and the thought of explaining that to the natives does not appeal. I don't want to shit on their town. They're justly proud to be from here. It's just not for me.

A month after I mailed all those 2016 tax payments, yesterday I mailed six more for Q1 2017. One of them was for $14. "I'd pay up to $32 not to have to write that check," I thought. And that's when it hit me. I found the perfect way to explain my discomfort here: everyday life in Pittsburgh is exhausting.

Things I used to do without breaking a sweat are laborious now. Taxes are so labor-intensive, my accountant fees have quadrupled. I have to nag people to take my money. This includes the accountant. I have to pester people to answer emails. Driving is harder. Finding someone to paint my window trim and not my screens is harder. Having dinner with friends at an agreed upon hour is harder. Going a day without something in my house breaking at my touch is nigh-on-impossible.

I'm spent.

the clothes unmake the man

There's a gazillionaire in my circle. I have no idea how much he's actually worth, but he's in six-car garage territory, that garage being filled with a Mercedes, Porsche, Lotus, and Ferarri. Those are the four cars I've seen, anyway. I assume there's a gold-plated Rolls with spinning rims in there somewhere, too.

He's a nice guy. A sweetheart, really. The combination of his kind disposition and fat wallet leads him to being abused by the riff-raff. When they're turned down for a mortgage, he's the first person they call. And they expect him to pick up every check. Perhaps I'm projecting, but I think he finds it wearying.

Two weeks ago, three of us went out for drinks. He left our gathering first, so he handed me $40 to cover his tab. "Your money's no good here, Rod," I said, handing him his money back. He protested politely, but I waved him off. "The universe says you're due."

He thanked me and departed. In the intervening time, he's pestered me to allow him to reciprocate. The texts got more intense. He clearly detests feeling like he's in anyone's debt. It's like watching a man implode in text form. I get it. I hate feeling indebted, too. Naturally, I canceled on him twice.

Finally, last night, I relented and let him take me to an expensive restaurant, where he promptly picked up my $200 tab. He was extraordinaily satisfied, like the island castaway who finally gets to take a shower. "Have you ever had a steak that good before?" he asked chipperly. I told him I'd had that exact steak a few weeks ago. He was surprised.

It was then that I realized he thought I couldn't afford to eat at this restaurant without his benevolence. I don't blame him for thinking that, really. Everyone else in our circle is broke. And then there's the confusing matter of presentation.

"I only dress like a homeless person," I explained.

on north korea

Huh. In most dick-measuring contests, it's about whose is bigger.

no full measures, walter

Walt sighed the now-familiar sigh of a repair guy about to deliver bad news.

"It ain't good..." he said. He sighed again. "If you were going to fix this the right way, you'd have to—"

"Skip to the half-assed solution, please."

a whiff of stupidity

I was watching TV when I thought I caught a whiff of natural gas. I held a match to the burners of my stove, but all seemed normal. I did the bubble test on the gas lines, but they too were okay. The next day, I thought I smelled it again. I smelled it after I opened the back door. "It must be the neighbor's grill," I thought.

Today as I went to turn on the water spigot, I got a face full of gas. My garden hose is connected to the water spigot, and a few feet away is an unused gas tap. It was in the full-open position.

"How..?" I thought, just for a second. I knew.

I texted handyman George. "Did you use the hose when you were here last week?"

"Yes. Why?" said the moron who, in the literal shadow of the connected water hose, turned on a gas tap and left it on.


I was at an appointment when my phone vibrated. My burglar alarm had gone off. I quickly checked to see if it was the usual false alarms—maybe I hit the panic button on my keychain, or maybe I accidentally left the motion detectors on when Fredo was at home—and for the first time, it was neither. Someone had opened my door. I begged off and raced home. The police were questioning my handyman, George.

No, George did not have permission to enter the premises for his task of exterior painting.

No, George had not let me know he was coming.

Yes, George is my only option. By that I mean his work is hit or miss, but he freaking shows up, which makes him Pittsburgh's Absolute Finest.

"I was looking for a shop-vac," he sheepishly explained. I had accidentally left a door unlocked. How convenient for him.

I went back to the appointment and rescheduled, then returned home to find brown paint slopped in my window screens.

I repeat: Only. Option.

pony express

I've been casually looking at houses. There are many to like, but a problematic theme has developed: swimming pools and horse stables. An amazing percentage of houses I like happen to have one or both of those PITA things I do not want.

Especially stables.

You see, for years now I've tortured my Mom Friends who have daughters. "I'll buy you a pony for your 10th birthday," I told Allie's kid, Lily, during her birthday call. "Just so long as it's okay with Mom."

(She talks to Mom)

Lily: "She says we don't have room for a pony and that you're a filthy liar."

Me: "What is she talking about? Your back yard is HUGE!"

Lily (to Mom): "What are you talking about? Our back yard is HUGE!"

Lily (to me): "I'm not allowed to repeat what she just said about you. But it was really bad."

And so it goes, every time we talk. You can see, then, that I can absolutely not move to Lily's hometown into a place with a stable. I'm thinking maybe an efficiency apartment until she's 30.

moron taxonomy
stupid church signs
super bowl xl officiating
percy chronicles

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