Saturday, January 16, 2010

Apropos of Nothing redux

Calvin & Hobbes, the Norwegian version


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What am I thinking?

I volunteered to work the early shift at work on Friday.

Pros: Done by 1:15. (The shift starts at 4:45 AM.)

Cons: It's Black Friday, fer gawd's sake. Lines of people at the door, waiting for them to open at 5.

If I would've worked the evening shift, the trade off would've been empty store for last couple hours, but the place will be soooo messy...No easy choice here.

Happy consumering!

Apropos of nothing, the Muppets singing Bohemian Rhapsody:

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Apropos of nothing #7: Fun web toys

Found this while surfing politics threads. It's a web app that creates "word clouds" of any text you drop into it. The thread I was reading had one for each candidate in the 2nd Presidential debate.



I, being less ambitious, dropped one of my *ahem* anime fanfics into it.

Plus the Donna Lewis song that inspired the fic:

(Click on the thumbnails to get to full-size wordish goodness).

Give it a try. It's quite interesting.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Apropos of nothing #6: Bookstore memory

So one day in the distant past, I was working the back cashwrap at the big Barnes & Noble in town. (Yes, they call it a cashwrap. No, I don't know why.) Now at that time, the section of the store surrounding the back cashwrap was Religion. So, most of the books displayed around and behind the counter were books on various aspects of religion -- fiction, theology, and such.

Official store policy was that people working at the cashwraps were not allowed to read anything during the occasional downtime. However, because the store opened before most of the other stores in the mall, for the first few hours the back cashwrap was fairly dead. The managers tended to look the other way during these hours, so often we could grab a book or magazine from the displays and skim through them. The selection was limited to religion, however. (I credit this as the reason why I made it as far into the Left Behind series as I did, before the poor writing style and bad plotting threw me off. Man, did those guys need an editor...and maybe a ghost writer...)

One day, two guys came up to the back cashwrap to check out before venturing into the mall for other shopping. As I rang up their book, one of them noticed a display of the mass-market paperback edition of Billy Graham's autobiography, thought it looked interesting, and picked it up as well. I put their books in a bag, and one of them commented, "I bet you've never seen THOSE two books in a bag together before."

I looked.

Billy Graham's biography, and...the Homo Handbook, by Judy Carter.

We all laughed.

Since we were never all that busy at the back cash registers, we also got to call people and tell them their special orders were in. Saw lots of interesting titles that way...oddly, I can't seem to recall any of them right now. I guess they weren't all that interesting.

If when we called, a person was out, and they had no answering machine or voice mail, the general practice was that we'd try again in an hour or so. One shift I tried calling one woman three or four times. Now as it turns out this wasn't necessary, as somehow we had accidentally double-ordered her book and she already had picked up a copy. But when this woman got home and saw on her caller ID that B&N had called her four times, she immediately called the store and started complaining of harassment. "WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME SO MANY TIMES?!?" "Well, ma'am, I was unable to leave a message, so I thought--" "I'M GOING TO CALL THE POLICE! THIS IS HARASSMENT!"

Joe the manager took over at that point, taking a long time to calm this woman down. He apologized profusely, and swore that he'd reprimand me for doing my job calling so much. After he got off the phone, Joe turned to me, got in my face, and said, "...Good job trying to get in touch with the customer, Rob."

We all wondered why she had caller ID, but no answering machine. Well, whatever works, I guess.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Apropos of nothing #5: Airplane anecdote

I first came to Japan at the end of July, 2001. After our first JET Programme orientation in Chicago, we took off on an ANA jet out of O'Hare.

Also on this ANA flight was some church group out of Milwaukee. Most of them were teens, and they were wearing matching group t-shirts proudly emblazoned with a hand-drawn logo. "Manitou-something-or-other." (Manitou is probably the most over-used Native American word in non-Native-American context.) Anyway, I couldn't describe the group as a whole, but the two guys in the same row as us spent the first hour or so of the flight snarking about the JET Programme and us "losers in suits" who were in it. "Oh, I wanna be a JET toooooo..." was about the wittiest comment they made, but they were still being really annoying.

Finally the guy next to me turned to them and said, politely,

"So, you guys are from Wisconsin, right?"

"Uh, hey, yeah! We --"

"Fuckin' cheeseheads." And with that, he dropped the pretense of wanting to talk to them and turned back to continue our conversation.

This one still makes me laugh even now.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Apropos of nothing #4: Schoolteacher memories

So one day Wally the gym teacher and I were prepping to have two classes together in the gym. After repeating a question for no apparent reason, I shook my head and said that I was suffering from CRS.

Wally: "What's CRS?"
Me: "Can't remember s**t."

He laughed.

A few minutes later the kids came in (third grade, if I recall correctly). Early on in the class I made some sort of goofy error, and then said, "Don't worry, kids, I'm just suffering from CRS."

The kids started asking, "What's CRS?" Wally gave me one of those WTF?! looks.

Me: "Can't remember stuff." I then turned to Wally and said, "What did you THINK I was gonna say?"

Ya gotta take those comedy opportunities when you can, folks.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Apropos of nothing #3: Fraud

A while back on one of the many webfora I peruse, someone posted this question: "Have any of you fallen for a scam?"

This was my response.

I almost got scammed once, to the tune of about $500 US.

I used to live in Kagoshima, Japan, and since it's out in the hind end of nowhere, if I wanted to buy anything invented in the 20th century I had to go to Kagoshima City.

One of the places I used to frequent there was the Kagoshima City branch of Tower Records. I wouldn't buy much there, because CDs and DVDs are insanely overpriced in Japan ($30 for a new-release CD? yaright). One rare occasion when I did buy something, I decided to use my credit card, 'cause I was a bit low on cash at that point in the month. They tried to swipe it through twice, but it didn't work. This didn't cause me to be suspicious, because there are CC readers in Japan that can't read U.S. cards due to different formatting.

That night, when I got home, NHK news was showing a feature about how there was a ring of credit card thieves working in Japan, surreptitiously switching store's CC readers with ones that had hidden transmitters that would send card info to someone w. a laptop hiding in the stairwell (usually). Again, this did not set off any alarm bells.

A few days later, I get the frantic e-mails from Citibank, along with the frantic phone calls from my parents. "Call us NOW. This is not a sales issue. There has been suspicious activity..."

Apparently, the swipe machine at Tower Records sent my CC info to the scammers, who then promptly put it on a fake credit card and tried to buy 60,000 yen worth of clothes with it. In Tokyo.

I had to explain to the nice Citibank lady that I was nowhere near Tokyo, and my card was still in my posession. This confused her because the records showed that a card was physically swiped at the store in Tokyo.

The thing that saved me from having to deal w. chargebacks, etc. was that at that time I was always riding very close to my limit with that card. On that particular day, I only had $50 of credit before I hit the limit, so the $500 charge was denied.

When the Citibank lady said that the thieves had tried to buy clothes, I had to point out that, as an average (big&tall, oh hell FAT) American, there was no way in hell that I could actually buy clothes in Japan. We laughed, and she fed-exed me a new card.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Apropos of nothing #2: College

Freshmen at St. Olaf College had only a limited number of options for classes the first year. One history seminar, one psychology class, an English class (and that will be a post of its own, later), etc.

I decided to take a history class called "Decline and Fall of the Russian Monarchy." It was a class of less than 10 students, and it was a new experience for all of us.

At the beginning of the semester, we all were still in "high school student" mode, trying to take notes as fast as we could without asking too many questions. Professor Nichols was getting a bit annoyed with this, and one day early on he decided to see if he could provoke us.

That day, Prof. Nichols welcomed us to class as usual, and then dropped this on us:

"Communism is better than Democracy."

A few moments of silence...

...followed by a huge argument. It was like a bomb went off or something. At first, we all were trying our best to knock down that statement, but the professor kept parrying our attacks effortlessly. I was trying to get my shots in, but then I suddenly started seeing his point of view, much to my surprise.

Prof. Nichols had commented about how a true communist nation wouldn't have problems with poverty (I think; it's been a long time), and one of my classmates shouted, "Yeah, that's why China's going down the shitter!"

Prof. Nichols: "Or words to that effect." (laughter)

Me: (slowly, due to a shift in my frame of reference) "China...isn't a true communist nation."

Prof. (Big grin)

I began to argue that there has never been a truly communist nation on Earth.... Someone else added that in its most idealistially (unrealistically?) perfect form, democracy may just be equivalent to communism...and the argument went on. I think we all switched sides more than once.

The class was a lot more lively after that.

It seems to me that college professors, especially those who teach freshmen seminars, have a really difficult job: They have to make students THINK.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Apropos of nothing, first in a series

Apropos of Nothing: Random stories of little import that I find interesting/amusing.

On our travels around Kyushu, we (the JET gang) once visited a shop called Fukusaya, which specializes in "castella", a kind of sponge cake first brought to Japan by the Portugese way back when. (I think we were in Fukuoka at the time. Airport code for Fukuoka airport: FUK)

Fukusaya (福砂屋) was founded in 1624 in Nagasaki, and has been making castella ever since. They're probably the most famous makers of castella in the country. Naturally, we all bought some to bring back to our various offices/school boards/etc.

When I presented the staff at one of the schools I worked at with some castella, they were very impressed. One of the teachers asked the English teacher if I knew that Fukusaya was famous.

She said, "Of course not."

I fired back from across the room, "YES I DID," in passable Japanese.

I'm not sure, but I think that it was at this point that the rest of the staff began to have a higher opinion of me.

It's the little victories in life that make it worthwhile.

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