Wanna Read This Blog? I Need To See Some ID

Well it’s official. This is an adult blog. If you wanna keep reading, you gotta prove to me your at least 17. Or you have a parent looking over your shoulder. (If you’re under 17, you probably do, you just don’t realize it.) For now, I’ll assume your ID is in the mail.

Brian's Random Thoughts, Rated R

I figured there was a good chance that I’d get at least a PG-13. But I didn’t get the rating because of the frequent discussion of cigars and other tobacco products, as I would have expected. I got the naughty rating because of the use of the following words:

  • “hell” – 4 times.
  • “asshole” – 2 times.
  • “pissed” – 1 time. (Which shouldn’t count because I meant “drunk”, damn it!)

(Of course, now my ratings will be even worse. Damn it! Shit!) So apparently, it’s not a very sophisticated rating system, it’s pretty much a website crawler with a dictionary of naughty words. (I could make one. πŸ’‘ And I might just if I have the time. Hell yeah.)

But you know you wanna try it out on your blog anyway. You’ll be pissed if you don’t! You can find the blog rater here. And you know, if your blog is coming in a little low on the naughtiness scale, you don’t have to be an asshole about it. It’s pretty easy thing to rectify. (Hell yeah, damn it! πŸ˜‰ ) Enjoy!

(And apologies about this Tourettes post. I swear future posts won’t have so much damn swearing in them. I just want to see if I can get to NC-17.)

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Aaron Pierce And The 24 Spin-Off We Want

Under-Appreciated 24 StallionWe’ve finally done it. We’re a bit late, but given we only started during the recently finished season, it’s an accomplishment. (Well, as much as watching TV can be considered an accomplishment. πŸ˜‰ ) This weekend we finished the final hour of the whole 144 hours of 24 (IMDB). That’s every episode of the whole 6-day series.

If you haven’t seen the series yet, I recommend setting up your TiVo to start picking up episodes. Or better yet, you could do it my way: Queue up the series back to back in NetFlix. (NetFlix is my Tivo, I just can’t justify paying for both services at the same time.) Either way, you’ve got a lot of edge-of-your seat entertainment ahead of you. I’m kinda jealous.

It’s safe to say that 24 is my favorite, non-animated, television series that’s still running. (Now that The Sopranos (IMDB) is over.) Even when plot lines of several of the seasons became dangerously similar, and I was sure I could predict the outcome, a twist or two would send the plot off in a complete new, fascinating direction. Heck, the show was so engrossing, that my wife, normally an early-to-bed, early-to-rise person, would stay up until 4 AM with me watching the episodes back to back.

But I don’t want to dig deep into the many story lines and thoroughly review the series. It’s been done by people who love the show more than I do, and have way more time to burn. What I want to talk about is the 24 spin off that my wife and I think might make for thoroughly enjoyable show.

Before I get to that, lets start with the characters that should not have a spin-off. I keep hearing people say how much they love Chloe. I agree with the sentiment. She’s great, and hopefully, she’ll be with the series until the end. But Chloe is like Thai chili peppers (Phrik Khii Nuu to be exact). A little of her adds a good amount of spice to the show. A whole show dedicated to her would melt your eyes and char the frontal lobes of your brain. You know I’m right.

And I’m pretty sure most people are very, very tired of seeing Bauer’s daughter Kim in the show. I know, I know, she is fun to look at, but her character is just far too accurate. And by accurate, I mean annoying. Annoying in that way that only angst-filled, know-it-all kids can be. (I don’t care what her age is supposed to be in any given season, she is always the same pain-in-the-ass kid.) In any situation where she was in danger (which was any and every time she appeared in the show), my wife and I would find ourselves yelling “just shoot her!” at the bad guys with slow trigger fingers.

That pretty much covers all the potential spin-off characters. All the other good candidates are pushing up daisies. (That is, if there was enough of them left to bury.) Well, all except one. The character we both really, really liked: Aaron Pierce (Glenn Morshower). The unassuming, ethical, tough-as-nails secret service agent that appeared unglamorously in every season of 24. (The only character other than Jack Bauer to do so.) Always near and closely guarding the current president, his performance in the show stood out. As we were finishing up Day 5 of the series, my wife and I determined that we’d really like to see more of him in action. Heck if Law And Order and CSI can have something like 90 spin offs (Law And Order: Apartment Security. CSI: Branson, MO.) why not 24? How about “24:SS” or “24: Secret Service” with Agent Pierce in the Jack Bauer role? (Don’t worry Kiefer, you’re always welcome to cameo!) Or maybe dispense with the 24 format completely and make a show about the Agent Pierce’s experiences in the Secret Service?

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “that’d be as fun to watch as paint drying.” Possibly, if the wrong people do it. But keep in mind, 24 doesn’t have room for two Jack Bauers. Agent Pierce simply can’t be as exciting or engaging as Bauer without stealing the show. (And at points he almost does in Day 5.) Given his own show, it could be every bit as action packed as 24, or alternately, the producers of such a show could substitute more elements of drama in place of some of the action. Either way, I think that it could be a great show. And if it helps get it made, I’ll even commit to watching the first season. (Hey, that’s more than generous, I’m not flush with spare time here.) πŸ™‚

And because lists are fun, here’s a list of fan sites dedicated to Aaron Pierce, who, if asked, would probably agree that he deserves his own show:

Of course, in keeping with my previously mentioned attitude toward actors and celebrities, I’m not likely to join “The Glenn Morshower Society”, or start hanging posters of him up on my wall. However, I’ve added him to the list of guys who are welcome to join me for a fine cigar in celebration of a fine bit of acting any time they happen to visit Atlanta. On me. (I don’t have a formal written list yet, but the cast of the Sopranos is on it, as is Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and of course, Kiefer Sutherland.) No kidding. I have a some Ashton VSG robustos on their way even as I type. Drop me a line, and I’ll pencil you in. πŸ˜‰

And for those of you that prefer buying to renting or TiVo-ing, here’s a handy list of the seasons currently available on DVD via Amazon. (I know, I’m so terribly helpful, huh?)

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Think You’re Smart? This Kid Can Think Circles Around You

Smarter, Cuter and Younger Than YouJust damn. I like to think of my self as a pretty clever fellow, but it’s hard not to feel a little dumb and a little disappointed with your accomplishments when you hear about a kid like Georgia Brown. She’s 2 years old, and she has a test-verified I.Q. of 152. And she’s also the youngest member of Mensa. And she’s learning French. Did I mention she’s 2?

According to the story, for her age, she’s every bit as bright as Mr. Stephen Hawking. I find that bit of information more reassuring than jealousy-inspiring. I mean, Mr. Hawking is getting up there in years (not to mention struggling with nasty case of Lou Gehrig’s disease), it’s good to know we’ll have a good crop of walking brains poised to take his place.

On a mostly unrelated note, the SweetWater Brewing Company may have found themselves an unwitting new spokes… er… girl. Yes, as luck would have it, there is a beer named Georgia Brown, and they make it. Most businesses would kill for this kind of good fortune. They don’t have to. I recommend they cash in with the slogan “Georgia Brown: Pure Genius”. And hey, SweetWater? Howzabout, hookin’ me up with cash or beer for the idea? You know it’ll be huge! I’ll assume the check is in the mail. πŸ™‚

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The CarPod: Saving The World By Stealing Scott Adams’ Ideas

The Green and Black Smart Car (My Favorite)On his blog today, Scott Adams’ put forth an idea of how to handily deal with a laundry list of problems plaguing the world today, including energy consumption and international oil dependence, terrorism, drunk driving and pollution. (And a few other items that are so politically-charged and boring to me that I won’t bother to mention.) To sum it up in a heavily hyphenated sentence, GPS-phone-enabled, Google-powered car-pooling.

Basically using the power of your GPS-enabled phone and a service provided by some behemoth like Google, people could enter a destination and automatically be connected with somebody heading that way. Web 2.0 hitchhiking, essentially. And in an attempt to anticipate problems that might arise from hitching the ride with the wrong person, you would be able to configure your service to filter out people based upon a number of predefined criteria. (Age, sex, propensity to mistreat kittens, etc.) Also, applicants to the service would be screened to eliminate obvious problems such as ax-murders and sexual predators. And anyone who forwards chain email.

In all, a pretty well consider solution. If you haven’t read it already, give it a read. Because I’m going to address the flaw I see in the system. The biggest problem I see with it is that people just don’t like sharing their ride with other people. If you’ve ridden a bus or the subway, you know you can’t count on people to bathe or be considerate. And if you’re commuting to or from work, you’re probably tired and just want to be left alone. Even with the incentives built into Mr. Adams’ plan, it will only take one sick drunk on a Friday night to change your mind about carpooling.

So the plan is doomed for failure, right? Well, not quite. This is where Brian steps in and harness the power of his caffeine-infused cranium to save the day. With mind bullets! No, wait, sorry, the mind bullets are for another post. I got carried away. πŸ™‚

Anyway, what we actually need is to revamp the way the bus system works. I’m talking about literally gutting the buses. (Stick with me here, it’ll make sense in a minute.) Here’s how it will work. The same system Mr. Adams described with the GPS-enhanced phone and ride sharing service would apply here. Except, you would dock that phone in a “CarPod” (hey, everybody else is ripping off the iPod, why not me?). A CarPod will be a small, solar-powered, single person vehicle. Kinda like the Smart car shown above, except a lot smaller, and lot more boxy. A bit more like a large phone booth with really cozy chair.

When you need a ride someplace, you hop in a CarPod, dock your uber-phone, enter your destination and it will coordinate with the nearest bus. Either you or the CarPod drives to a nearby intercept point with the bus. (We’ll say the CarPod does it, because we’re talking about the future, and cars just have to drive themselves in the future.) And here’s the cool part; the reason you’ve been reading this post. Instead of getting out of your CarPod to get on the bus, the CarPod docks with the bus and takes you along with it. You see, the bus is merely a large, green-fuel-propelled CarPod carrier. Kinda like the transports shown in this action sequence from I, Robot:

Except instead of being full of evil, human-killing robots, it’d be full of evil, meeting-calling, email-sending co-workers. Tell me you wouldn’t ride the bus all the time if you could do it in a CarPod.

Why the bus? Because buses already cover more ground in the U.S. than any other form of mass transportation. And because it uses existing road systems. We wouldn’t have to dig large expensive tunnels through cities to accommodate this. We could also outfit the existing subway trains to function in a similar way, which would also be cool, but not as practical.

Of course, the CarPod would have many of the features of the modern car, and a few that aren’t legal, like user-controlled window blackening. And television. Just for fun, here are the kind of features I imagine the CarPod having.

CarPod Features

  • User controlled window blackening. This way you can have all the privacy you could possibly want while still riding mass transit. You could sleep, or even change on your way to or from work. You could even work on your secret plans for world domination without need of one of those laptop privacy screens.
  • Cozy reclining chair. The CarPod will be small, but not airplane-seat-small.
  • Air Conditioning. No brainer.
  • Television/Music playing system. Who knows what crazy space-age way we’ll listen to tunes and watch the tube in the future. Rest assured that it will be very compact, whatever it is, and that the CarPod will have it. It will likely be integrated with your futuristic GPS-enabled phone.
  • Steering system. In case you need to actually drive the thing. Which you won’t. But it’ll be there because some politician or another will make a big deal about it. And probably an organized group of overly concerned mothers.
  • Built in humidor. Since I’m making this thing, it will have a humidor and a cigar-sized ash tray. And a built in cigar lighter. Hey, it’s single occupancy, so don’t give me any crap about bothering other people with second hand tobacco perfume.

Now quick, somebody build one, because I want to ride my CarPod home from the office. I’m tired.

P.S. I’ve trademarked the term “CarPod”. And “Commuti-Car”, just in case. Licensing available! And at great rates!

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6 Words To Get Your Teeth Drilled To

Happy Shootin’ DudeOK, I’m back. The great thing about sneaking in a post after midnight, is that it makes your absences appear less long or noteworthy. To look at my calendar, you’d think I’d only been gone a day. Where was I? How long was I gone? What was I smoking? Did it involve paramilitary and dense jungle? I’m not telling. You have to pay for that kind of information. What you can have for free is a list of words I hate.

So anyway, everybody has them. Words that make you shiver uncomfortably like a duck just walked over your grave. (If you’ve never experienced that shudder, don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’ll live forever, it just means you’ll be buried at sea. Glad I could help.) Words that you wish would be expunged from the language immediately and without fanfare to make way for new, useful swear words. Well, I have them anyway, and that’s what really matters for the purposes of this post.

Obey Andre!Meme. I first encountered this word a year or two ago on a website that tracked stenciled graffiti and how similar stencils appeared unexpectedly in different parts of the world. (It could have been this site or this one or some other that no longer exists, I’m not sure.) For some reason, a stylized head of Andre the Giant seemed to be appearing all over the place and with no apparent explanation. (Note image to the left. I just saw this sticker under a drive in window at a Wendy’s this past weekend.)

At first, I thought it was terribly clever concept, this meme thing. But it wasn’t too long before it became painfully obvious to me that this word had become a catch-all cliche, who’s actual purpose is to indicate the hipness and intelligence of the user rather than convey useful information. Of course in no time flat it started appearing everywhere online, all the time, to describe anything. In short “meme” is the text equivalent to Emo glasses. The best part is that the word is, quite literally “me” and “me” shoved together, as if to say “me too” or “notice me, I’ve very trendy.” Enough already. What’s wrong with a word like “trend” or “concept” or “idea”? Oh yeah, I forgot, those words don’t automagically grant you hipness you haven’t earned.

Milk. No I don’t have it in for all words that start with M. I dislike this word because it’s unpleasant to say, unpleasant to hear people say, and because I’m not down with the nipple nectar. When you see me ordering a overpriced coffee concoction with soy, it’s not because I’m watching my figure (though I probably should), or because I’m Northwest granola. It’s because tree-hugger juice is the lesser of two evils in my book. The real stuff just grosses me out (though it is usually tolerable after it’s been steamed). And it sits really badly with the ol’ digestive system.

Oddly enough, I’m fine with the word “ilk” (of cliche “you and your ilk” fame). So maybe I do have a problem with ‘M’. No, wait, I like cigars with a Maduro wrapper, so it isn’t that. It must be a faulty synapse.

Symbology. Somehow, I managed to make it most of the way through a literature-heavy school career without ever hearing this word. And the first time I heard it, I thought the person saying it was an idiot with a malaprop problem. But then I did a bit of investigation. It’s a real word (damn!), but I was right about the idiocy/malapropism diagnosis. The speaker really meant symbolism, a word I much prefer.

If this word looks (or sounds) familiar to you, it’s probably because you read it in one of Dan Brown‘s books, or saw it in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. While his use of the word is technically correct, I can’t get over how stupid the word sounds. I probably have my malaprop friend to thank for that.

Libation. I keep hearing this word, and it’s really starting to bug me. And I think it’s because nobody just says “libation”. There’s always pause for dramatic effect before or after the word, as if to silently trumpet a triple-word-score Scrabble masterpiece. Or it’s simply over pronounced, with artistic flair and false pompous accent. Dammit, can we just get back to having “drinks” or “pints” or just “beer”? Unless, of course, you really are pouring a ceremonial beverage upon the ground for the gods. In that case, forgive me and let me get out of the way. I don’t want to get any libation on me.

Simplistic. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word used where it wasn’t being misused, or at least mistreated. Fortunately, it’s been quite a while since I’ve heard it, which is just the way I like it. If this word comes to mind, think twice, you’ll probably realize you’re adding a syllable for no good reason.

I’m heavily biased against any words that end in -istic. They strike me as the lazy way of communicating any idea. Or really, not communicating an idea, communicating where the idea is likely to be found. It’s kind of like an obscure pun without the humorous payoff. And if I’m gonna do your work for you, I want to at least be amused. As I’ve said before, if you put no thought into your words, don’t be terribly surprised if I don’t put any thought into them either. “Simplistic” enough for ya?

Greedy. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not about to quote Gordon Gecko as part of my rationale. I just think this is the single most ironic word in the English language. When was the last time you heard somebody use this word (aside from your mother) when it wasn’t motivated by a measure of greed equal to that of the accused? Think about it. (But not too hard, let Brian do the thinking for you. It’s just easier that way.) This word makes a judgment call that the user isn’t qualified to make, unless they are speaking about themselves. And somehow it’s thrown around all the time in our supposedly non-judgmental society without any sense of irony.

Take for example, Paris Hilton. Some might say she’s being greedy collecting six figures for an appearance at a restaurant. But hey, you don’t know how her trust fund works. Maybe she’s on a strict budget of $20,000 a month. If, for example, she was nursing a spendy coke and Cristal addiction, it’s entirely possible that she’s living trust fund check to trust fund check. That stuff is expensive, especially if she has to share it with whomever she’s filming with on any given day! That 6 figure check will help keep jewelry out of hawk while she’s skiing down that mountain of white powder, knocking back champagne bottles and driving on an suspended license. In this scenario, I wouldn’t say Miss Hilton was being greedy, I’d just say she had expensive lifestyle requirements.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “who the hell died and left you in charge of the English vocabulary?” Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to discuss the things that took place during my deceptively short absence. Just keep an eye on the papers. If you see something noteworthy, I may have had something to do with it. Unless it was illegal. In that case, it totally wasn’t me. I have witnesses.

Well now you have ’em. A gold star to the person that comes up with the most annoying (or creative or funny) comment containing all these words. (Comments about in-again-out-again jailbird are optional.) You know you were going to write one anyway! πŸ˜‰

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The Transformers Trailer You Haven’t Seen

You haven’t seen this preview for the Transformers movie for a couple of reasons. 1.) It’s not part of the move and 2.) It wasn’t made by anybody working on the movie. But don’t let that deter you. Watch this, it’s awesome.

Michael Smith and Joe Mangione Transformers Animation

So what the heck is this then, if it isn’t from the upcoming Transformers movie? It’s the hard work of several people including one Michael Smith who badly wants to get a job with Industrial Lights and Magic (or possibly with the people working on the upcoming movie or any sequels to it). And frankly, after watching the clip above, and this clip on MSN Soapbox, I want him to get that job too.

[UPDATE: Where are my manners? Thanks Scott for the for the heads up on this! If you like these video clips, spread the word and get these guys a job! And consider making a donation to Scott’s Team Hanselman and the fight to eliminate diabetes! ]

Want to know more about this guy and his work, check out his website. Or better yet, check out his Transformers page and get the latest word and video clips!

Want to compare Mr. Smith’s (and crew!) Transformers to those in the actual movie? Here’s the trailer for your viewing pleasure:

Transformers Live Action Movie Trailer

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5 Tips For I.T. Recruiters

You don’t have to look like this to be a good I.T. consultant.I’m no xenophobe, some of my best friends are xenos. (Take a moment to let that sink in and have a hearty chuckle. The rest of this post will be happy to wait.) Seriously though, I just don’t get I.T. recruiting firms that hire recruiters with nearly-impregnable foreign accents. A little exotic spice is one thing, a mouth full of proverbial peanut butter (or the 300-horse power galloping tongue) is another matter entirely. I’m also at a loss as to why anybody would get into the field that doesn’t love sales and marketing. (OK, you don’t have to love it, but you have to at least be good at it.) I’ve been crossing paths with more and more recruiters of late who, for one reason or another cannot possibly be successful in this line of work because they simply can’t communicate effectively. And it just blows my mind.

For those of you who don’t work in the eccentric and introverted world of technology, bear with me, this will make sense in the end. Recruiters are essentially the I.T. professional’s marketing department. You put your resume up online, and they give you a call and pitch you a job. If you’re interested (i.e. they offer to pay you enough to afford both your mortgage and your expensive cigar habit), they then pitch you to the employer who actually has the job. If the recruiter is any good, and you don’t stick both feet in your mouth at the same time during the interview, they’ll not only land you a job, but they’ll actually remember who you are by the time the contract is over. And if they’re great, they’ll buy you a lunch. (Or sometimes they do that because they’re snagging an unusually large percentage of your hourly contract rate.) Make sense? Quick review: I.T. Recruiters are pimps: They find you, they find the John, and they take a percentage. But unlike the world’s oldest profession, these technological pimps actually have to do some work and a lot of talking. (And I don’t have a desk on a street corner.)

As a guy who really gets around in a professional sense (if there was a communicable disease specific to the I.T. world, I’d not only have it, I’d be infecting people) I have a reasonable grip on sales and marketing. You’ve got to. You’re selling you in every interview. (One more for The Quotable Brian!) If there’s one thing that’s as important as technical prowess, it’s your ability to communicate and establish report. We’ve all seen guys that couldn’t (insert your occupation’s primary action verb here) their way out of a wet paper bag. But damn were they a heck of a lot of fun to hang out with, and they knew everybody. Even people in senior management. And they got you invited to parties that you weren’t cool enough to get into on your own. That’s just how powerful the ability to build relationships can be. It’s the jet fuel that powers the Peter Principle.

So back to the I.T. recruiters. These guys have to both sell themselves to you, and sell themselves and you to the person who has the job. So basically, they have to be the best sales people in the world, right? You’d think so. And you’d be right about fifty percent of the time. The rest of the time it’s absolutely the opposite. They’re people that are extremely uncomfortable with the phone. They’re people with really thick accents or even worse, weak grasp of language du jour. And they’re people who read a pre-written script and know nothing about sales, and are clearly not at all interested in you either. The thing I don’t get is how they stay in business. And why they all seem to call me.

Of course, its easy enough to shake my head and complain about it. God knows I do plenty of that. It’s more challenging to try to fix it. And I’m all about challenges and fixing stuff. It’s what I do. So here are a few pointers for my awkward I.T. Recruiters friends that I’ve cooked up over the years. Follow these, and I can guarantee you success… in not pissing me off when we talk. πŸ™‚

  • Get a speech coach or study your target accent. If you find that people in your chosen market have a great deal of difficulty understanding you, study the accent. Or better yet, study the Australian accent (if English is the language du jour). I read an article recently (sorry, I can’t find it, I really tried! 😦 ) of all the English language dialects, the Australian accent is most universally understood form. And if you’re doing business in the United States, it has the benefit of sounding really cool.
  • Develop and refine your rap. I’m not talking about clever rhymes carefully laid down over old disco hooks. Giant diamond-encrusted chains that spell “Stallion” in an exaggerated script font are not required. (But who knows, maybe you’ll find it helpful. If you can afford one, you’re taking too big a percentage of my take!) Everyone in every business has one, even if they don’t realize it. It’s your stock set of brainless words, phrases and jargon you can use even when you’re drunk, half asleep and hanging upside down in a tree. They’ve been polished with usage, they roll off the tongue, and you can mix them into every conversation with ease. Find them and use them. If a phone call goes extremely well, consider harvesting some of the dialog for use later.
  • You’re a sales person, speak accordingly. I literally cringe every time a recruiter calls me and says they have “a requirement” for such and such a developer. Not to be a heartless prick or anything, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about your requirement. I have plenty of my own, and they all involve late nights, walking on water and having it done by yesterday. You need to remember that you’re selling me on the idea of taking the job through your firm. Potential customers want to hear about what’s in it for them, which is why you’ll never hear the term requirement used by any successful recruiter. Successful recruiters speak of positions, or better yet, opportunities. Those words get you excited, requirements weigh a prospect down or scare them away.
  • Not listening. I can’t tell you how much I hate it when I tell a recruiter that I’m not on the market, only to have them go on with a monotonous scripted speech about the position anyways. I’m not on the market. That means you’re calling me at work, on my customer’s dime. Sure, you can ask me if I know anybody else that’s looking and send me your contact details, but that’s it. I gotta go before you get me fired. I don’t wanna hang up on you, but I have once or twice when somebody just doesn’t get it. And don’t you dare try to hard sell me. I will tell you off. (Honestly happened, and the “requirement” was a lot worse than my current gig! 😈 )
  • Poor email grammar or awfully formatted template job forwards. If you make it obvious that you’ve spent zero time to contact me by email, I’ll spend zero time considering your email. It is not OK to contact me with SMS/text message grammar, I won’t take you seriously, and I won’t trust you to pay my invoices. Ya rly! Of course, I’m a bit more forgiving in tougher job markets. But right now, the ball is totally in my court. πŸ™‚

I don’t want anybody thinking I’m beating on visa holders/legal immigrants to this country. I’m not one of those guys screaming “they took our jobs!”

And you know why? To begin with, my wife is a legal immigrant to this country. But more importantly, they didn’t take your job, I did. Any position I fill is a job outsourced or one that didn’t exist to begin with. I’m a consultant. (And a bastard.) πŸ˜€

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Indian Monsoon Coffee Review (Blame The Cigars)

Coffee Beans!Talk about an unintended consequence. Ever since I’ve been smoking and reviewing cigars on my blog, I’ve started noticing crazy things in the food I eat and the drinks I down. Things like flavor. And I’m talking about flavors beyond “good” and “nasty.” I think I must have broken something. God, I hope this isn’t life-threatening. I have two full humidors of cigars to smoke. Some of them extremely desirable and controversial. (No, I’m not gonna tell you what I mean by that.)

This is kind of new to me, I spent my formative years training for the food Olympics. Food came between me and running around outside or playing video games. And my parents knew this. If I dawdled, they’d tell me things like “the sooner you finish your dinner, the sooner you can go play!” So I earned my nicknames of “Hoover” and “The Vacuum” and easily got in an extra half a childhood more than my more finicky sisters. My folks couldn’t have been happier. They still refer to me as the “easy” kid.

In much the same way speed-eating makes tasting food difficult, speed smoking is a liability when it comes to evaluating cigars. In my early cigar smoking days (before and during the 90’s boom), I’d suck down a hour long cigar in half an hour. Smoking that way is rough on the tongue and throat, and results in a very consistent smoke across all cigars. Tarry, charred and bitter. A rough flavor I would have called “cigar” a decade ago.

But I started slowing my puff-per-minute down once I got out of college and started smoking decent cigars in decent places with decent guys. (Sorry Shorty, your decency has been compromised for the sake of clever repetition. πŸ˜‰ ) That made it a more pleasant experience. And recently, I’ve slowed it down even more and have started really savoring the flavors. More than savor, I hunt for them. Kind of like the way silly folks with binoculars wander through the brush seeking out the Black-Throated Huet-Huet, Red-Footed Booby and Scaly-Throated Leaftosser. (Want more? You know you do. Go here and indulge your need for comical bird-name innuendo.)

I guess this focus on flavor has awakened my existent, but dormant taste buds. Because I’m tasting stuff everywhere now. And I’m afraid this means I’ll never enjoy Velveeta Cheese ever again.

This brings me to my Indian Monsoon Coffee. (I bought it last week at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Atlanta, in case you’re interested in picking some up and live in Atlanta. Funny, you can also get it through Amazon!) I bought it because the neat little charts indicated it was a full bodied coffee, but with extremely low levels of acid. In short, the perfect coffee to over consume! πŸ˜€ And when I tasted it, I immediately noticed that this coffee has an unusual flavor. While discussing it with some other bean-heads in the office, I realized I was talking about it like it was a cigar. That gave me an idea. Why not review it like I’d review a cigar?

So here goes.

Coffee Stats
Body: Medium to Full
Strength: Seems to have slightly less caffeine than average…
Acid: Very Low
Grind: Coarse
Maker: French Press
Price Per Pound: $5.69 (Farmers Market), $12.99 (Amazon)

I’ve noticed that the ground beans appear to be of mixed color, with some lighter colors than I expected to see in coffee reported to be full-bodied. The grounds have a rich smell, with a noticeable element of sweet caramel. (Also, I could totally smell the store in the grounds, which is both cool, and a little scary.)

The coffee produced a great thick layer of crema when brewed and I noticed that the coffee has a distinctly more reddish brown color than most of the coffee I’ve had before.

The most striking thing about this coffee is that it’s smooth. Smooth as a stout on nitro. Actually smoother. If you normally like to put creamer or half and half in your coffee, taste this first. You’ll probably decide not to.

It definitely has an earthy full flavor, but the most interesting part of the flavor was the aftertaste. I detected dry straw or grain. My first instinct was to say it tastes like dry open desert areas of Eastern Oregon around Pendleton, but there’s only a couple of thousand people out there that would know what I mean. (And I don’t think any of them read my blog.)

It just occurred to me that the flavor kind of reminds me of Mate (or Yerba Mate), the somewhat popular coffee alternative I’ve tried in the past. (<conspiratorial whisper> It’s tea! </conspiratorial whisper>)

The Burn
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it to light. Not even with my butane torch. So, not applicable. πŸ™‚

The Verdict
This is a great coffee if you’ve got a sensitive stomach due to ulcer or just drinking way too much coffee. It’s also a fun alternative to the more popular lines of coffee out there. I don’t think this is going to become my regular brew, but I will probably buy it from time to time. (Besides, I’m a coffee slut, I can’t commit to just one bean.) And you can’t argue with that price (from the Farmer’s Market), it’s well below anything you can buy in the supermarket or coffee shop.

In Summary
Like It: YES
Buy It Again: YES
Recommend It: YES (And I have to the people stop by my office to “chat”, i.e. steal some coffee.)

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Air Trumpet? I Call Bullshit

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in a country with an ultra-repressive government sporting a Virtue and Vice Ministry (which is kind of like living under a rock) you’ve likely been exposed to it. If you live in the United States, and you watch any television or even pass through a major city on your way to work, you’ve seen it. You simply can’t escape it. It’s the manic, flailing-haired, iPod-bearing, convulsing silhouette. And there’s no apparent cure. But I’m not interested in curing you. (If you’re infected, that’s your problem.)

Like the slick little MP3 player, the commercial seems to be tremendously popular. Probably every ad that has ever been shown on TV has made it to YouTube, with titles and comments indicating that each new one is much better than the previous. Bullshit. Each new one is the same thing, with different music and different background colors. But that’s not what this post is about.

What I’m really calling bullshit on is the “Air Trumpet”. (I’ve trademarked that term. Wanna use it? It’ll cost you. But we can come up with a reasonable payment plan.) Of all the instruments you could pretend to play, the “Air Trumpet” is only slightly more likely than the “Air Tuba”. (Also thoroughly trademarked.) Does anybody really play air trumpet when they’re listening to jazz? Or anything else with a prominent brass section? And before you correct me on this, you need to know that I’ve eliminated actual trumpet players from consideration. They actually have a reason to wiggle their fingers.

Offending iPod Commercial (“Air Trumpet” at about 0:22)

What makes this even more ridiculous is that I’ve seen the air trumpet in at least two iPod ads, the latest (above) and another I couldn’t find. (Actually I got too sick of watching iPod ads to finish my pursuit.) What I don’t see is air guitar. You know there’s a lot of that being played behind locked doors to music being cranked out of the iPod. Way more than air trumpet. So I’m calling bullshit there too.
You know what really bugs me about these commercials? The narcissism. I have no time for narcissism other than my own. (OK, and in some blogs I read, but they have the added benefit of being amusing/funny.) It’s irritating to have somebody other than myself making a scene in my living room. I want to reach a silhouetted hand into the screen and tap them on the shoulder. When the figure momentarily halts his epileptic fit, I lean in with my silhouetted head and whisper, “you know, you look like a complete idiot dancing by your self like that.” I envision myself talking to Mr. Stompy-Dance in this video (about 9 seconds in):

And the worst thing about this popular silliness is that it inspires lesser mortals to make (huge, labored sigh) their own iPod commercials. And that invariably involves acting out an old Barenaked Ladies song while while walking on a treadmill or standing on a desk in your socks. View at your own risk. There’s a reason this one carries the prestigious one-star designation. (Safe for work, but not safe for your mental health.)

But surely, you say, there’s one of these innovative commercials you like, Brian. Oh yes, there is. But probably not one that CrApple sanctions:

You’ve been serrrrved! (Still don’t know what it means, but it seems like such a great way to end a post.)

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5 Passive-Aggressive Super Heroes (And Baldwin-Tron)

Alec Baldwin on 30 RockOne of the dangers of excessive blogging is that it opens a brain-geyser of random nonsense that doesn’t stop flowing when your head hits the pillow at night. And for me, its often still flowing when I wake up in the morning. Friday morning, as I was trying to get to the office, my brain had fixed on two things. Passive-aggressiveness and super powers.

I think it had something to do with a poll I found online the previous day regarding the virtues of being able to change water to Colt 45 versus the ability to summon the Baldwins to do your bidding. (Please note that Colt 45 is not featured in my parallel universe Irish pub. It is, however, available in the alley behind it.) Apparently my comment was uproariously funny to be accepted by the blog’s owner (I can understand that, I’d hate to draw attention away from his poll with my witty banter).

My thoughts on the matter is that summoning the Baldwin brothers would be a great thing if you call them individually for specific task (“Quickly Alec, that kid’s being a selfish little pig! Use your power of scathing voicemail!“), or all together, if you were shooting a bad action movie. Or a funny, self-deprecating TV show about showbiz. The deal would be made even sweeter if they could all come together to form Baldwin-Tron to fight Godzilla. Or the Decepticons.

Anyway, back to passive-aggressiveness and super powers. Combining the two, I’ve compiled a list of likely super heroes/villains that you should watch out for:

The Tire Flattener
This super hero has the ability to flatten all the tires of any car improperly or illegally parked. Meaning that if your tire is touching a yellow stripe or your bumper is resting over a handy capped pavement graphic, one glare from this irate super hero will have you calling a tow truck.

However the Tire Flattener is powerless against a properly parked vehicle. And traveling vehicles, for that matter. And angry assholes toting tire-irons who park improperly, but are able to put two and two together. One evening the Flattener will himself be flattened and found laying in the tracks of a monster-jacked-up truck in his own lawn.

The Eavesdropper
The Eavesdropper could be friend or could be foe, but will always be a pain in the ass. He has the ability to hear past dialog by standing in the same place as the person who spoke earlier. The challenge here is that people rarely stand still while talking, which means this guy has to play charades with himself to get the full scoop. This leads the Eavesdropper to perform no end of ridiculous activities. Alone. And sometimes in office supply closet.

The thing that keeps this villain from achieving levels of greatness in the corporate world is that everybody hates a gossip, especially one with a quiver full of daggers with everyone’s name on them. They have the uncanny natural ability to alienate. Combine this with his weird antics alone in the board room and supply closet, he’s destined for short flight to the sidewalk outside the company’s front door. But not before he spills the beans to everyone on Peggy and Bill’s forbidden office affair, outs Tom in accounting, and gets you fired for toilet papering the boss’s car. (Hey, if you wanted to get away with it, you shouldn’t have had that whispered conversation in the conference room.)

The Trash Teleporter
This cranky office laborer is annoyed by other people’s messes. And when her rage builds to the point that blood vessels tango on her forehead, she assumes the power to beam a heap of garbage directly onto the pillow of the offending party.

The good news is that her secret power is never wrong. The bad news is that she never gets the satisfaction of seeing the look on the slob’s face when he finds the balled-up, half-used stack of paper towels he threw on the break room floor on his bed after a hard day of being a messy prick. This lack of closure will ultimately lead to her succumbing to a massive heart attack, but not before doubling the price of Bed Bath and Beyond stock. (You know, ‘cuz they sell bedding. Get it? No? Well, your blog isn’t funny either. I’m kidding. I love you blog. Really. It’s the only one for me.)

The Tear Jerker
This jerk is able to summon ambient moisture in the atmosphere and direct it into a persons eyes and throat, making them appear to be totally losing it. Though he will use this in meetings to emasculate his competitors for the open position in upper management, this bastard prefers to use his power on underlings in public. The combination of uncontrollable sobbing of a coworker with the heavy pepper of his ridicule in a public setting is his caviar.

Though more deserving than most super villains to be defeated utterly (but as passive aggressively as possible), this ass will continue to thrive well into old age. Ultimately, he will make it to the top of several large corporations, pillaging them one by one, screwing shareholders and employees alike by expensing luxurious personal vacations in the French Riviera and acquiring other poorly-managed irrelevant businesses so he can get their product for free.

His only weakness is unbalanced, unrealistically beautiful women. He will realize this flaw only moments before one shoots him aboard the “corporate” yacht at the ripe old age of 89. His power will be useless, because this synthetic beauty will already be crying, and likely on a nearly lethal combination of pain killers and antidepressants. Hey, it was a good run, jerk.

The Petard Hoister
This villain has the magical ability to steer people toward courses of thought, speech and action that ultimately result in them being “hoist on their own petard.” He has a supernatural talent for drawing out people’s natural inclination to try to screw the him, and even boasts the ability to cultivate the desire when none previously existed. In short, the Petard Hoister is a bastard.

Though the source of numerous career suicides, untimely deaths involving explosives and computer mice and two freak car accidents, the Petard Hoister is truly untouchable. And by virtue of the inherent convolution of his power, he is likely to remain that way, at least until his backfire backfires. Until then he lurks as a consultant I.T. world, and blogs in his spare time about passive-aggressive super heroes.

Having achieved the necessary volume of narcissism required on a per-post basis by this blog, we draw our super hero list to a close. Be safe out there, and clean up after yourselves. Feel free to use these ideas in this post for a summer movie blockbuster. All I ask is that I’m listed in the credits as “executive production stallion”. And a million bucks. And merchandising. I really don’t think that’s asking too much.

And careful about those mean thoughts you have about me, they’re not good for you. πŸ™‚

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