McDonalds wi-fi

In Nashville, anyway, it seems you can get around their proxy system (those outlets that use it), simply by using Google Chrome and maybe Firefox. It might be as simple as using any browser other than Internet Explorer.

Using Internet Explorer, I tried to be a good boy and sign up for a “free” account. The only problem is that you have to put in your email address, they send you a confirmation, and you have to click on that verification link in your email. They didn’t stop to realize you don't have internet access yet in order to GET your email. Retarded. Don't tell Sarah Palin I used that word. 🙂

Anyway, you might get by with other browsers just fine without signing up.

Make your own sports drink

… for a fraction of the cost. This is the one thing that kills our food budget, but we keep buying it because my back muscles seem to need the electrolytes to keep from spasming.

At least, that’s what I’ve convinced myself of. I’ve been battling back problems since 1996, and this is just part of the routine I’ve settled into.

Anyway, I’ve finally decided to make my own. Basically, it boils down to water, sugar, Kool-Aid, juice and salt. Here’s a link to more detailed recipes: food.com/search/gatorade

Waiting

I went to a pre-employment drug screening this morning. Last week, I had interviewed for an IT instructor position. Had to give a mock class, and everything. I chose the subject of “securing your home wireless network.” It was fun. Anyway, no, I haven’t been hired … yet. They require this test before even thinking about hiring me. I walked into the testing facility and approached the reception window, not sure what the process was. I don’t do this very often. There was no one to receive me, so I signed the sheet on the clipboard and sat down. The closest available seat was by an interior door into the testing area.

I soon realized why it was available. I had to move my legs every time someone went through the door. With nothing else to do while waiting, I read my drug screen “chain of custody” form, front to back. One of the guys across from me kept looking at me. I think he was, anyway. I didn’t verify it. You know how you can just tell when someone is looking at you. Sometimes it turns out they’re only looking in your direction, not at you specifically. I’m not sure which was the case here. I’ve always wondered how that works. Your eyes are obviously not physically touching, yet they feel you looking at them.

Is it some sort of electromagnetic force? Like, there’s literally a “disturbance in the force?” How can we tell? We just do. It must be an instinctive protection against predators. I can’t seem to look at anyone without them instantly turning and looking back at me. I don’t know if it’s me or just the people around here being extra-sensitive to being looked at. Anyway, I finally did look up to meet this guy’s gaze, only to have him look away. He was probably just as bored as I was. Or maybe he thought he recognized me as someone who owes him money. I don’t know.

Then a turkey walked by outside. Of course. I announced to the room, “There’s a turkey outside.” Several people turned to look. One guy in a cowboy hat laughed and smiled. The guy that’d been looking at me didn’t budge. He probably thought it was just a trick to make him look. He’d fallen for that before and was not going to fall for it again, not here, not now. The glass exterior walls of the office allowed a view of everything from ground to ceiling outside without much obstruction other than the window frames every six feet.

In the corner of my eye I had caught movement from the right, so I looked over. At first I thought it was a vulture. Not a health insurance executive or Wall Street banker, but an actual vulture. Once in full view, I could see it was a turkey, not that I’ve seen a lot of them alive and up close. It was just strolling along, probably looking for the drug testing center after applying for a job, like the rest of us. We’ll never know. He just kept on walking. The guy next to me was called back into the testing area, so I moved over to his seat so I didn’t have to contend with that doorway.

A few minutes later, a loud overweight 30-something bleach-blonde white woman — you know, white trash — came through the door with her three kids. The kids were cute. She was not. She stood at the reception window reading and laughing at the sign that said something like “Parents with kids may not leave their children alone in the area or expect our staff to look after them while the parent is being tested.” It probably happens all the time, and I figured this woman was just the type to try and do that. While the woman stood at the reception window, her youngest, a cute little three year old girl, came over and started talking to me. She was pointing out the princess characters on her shirt and telling me that the color of her shirt is called “pink.” I smiled and said, “Yes, that’s right.”

That’s when her mother snapped her head around and barked at the little girl, glaring at me, “I taught you not to talk to strangers!” The mother was right, of course. You never know these days. She was just so crude about it, though. I rolled my eyes and looked away before the woman accused me of coveting her daughter. The woman asked the receptionist/technician if she could take her children back into the testing area because one of her kids needed to go potty. The receptionist agreed, and the mother very loudly herded her brood through the door, saying, “Come on, let’s go peeps!” I’m nearby cringing, wishing she would just shut up. I didn’t need silence. This wasn’t the library. She was just so obnoxious, I wanted her to shut up and go away as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, my “chair neighbor” had returned. Getting a better look at him now, I could see he was in his late teens or early twenties. The technician told him, “Here, drink this glass of water and come back when you’re ready to give me a sample.” The poor guy was obviously having trouble peeing. I was embarrassed for him. Then the white trash woman came out, looked at my neighbor and said, loud enough for the entire room to hear, “So, you’re having trouble peeing?” I could not believe it. I looked right at her, thinking, “You are the most obnoxious woman I have ever met,” though I didn’t actually say anything.

The guy replied to her, “You have a problem with that?” I almost said, “Yeah, lady, mind your own business!” He was obviously embarrassed. The woman then growled something about having spent the past two and half hours with him and not wanting to spend all day. It was only then that I realized they were together. The guy, trying desperately to keep his cool, said, “I’m aware of that, Doreen.” It was then my turn to go back, so I missed the rest of that little soap opera.

The technician apologized for the wait — forty minutes — and brought me into an office where she was entering things into a computer. For a second there I thought, “Am I going to have to pee in a cup right here somewhere?” No wonder that kid couldn’t perform. That wasn’t the case, though. They had an actual bathroom across the hall. You probably know the routine from here, so I’ll leave out the details.

And that was how I spent my Monday morning.


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New cell phone

Sprint called the other day and offered me a free new phone. The woman, sounding like she was from Indonesia or something, went on and on and on for twenty minutes. Luckily, the call did not count against my minutes. Just last month I had to increase my allowed minutes from 300 to 450 because I went way over and paid $105 that month instead of the usual $35. Anyway, they really wanted me to have this new phone.

After making it clear that I was not going to pay anything extra, I said they could send me the phone. They still tried to sneak in shipping, handling and activation fees, but I said, “No, you called me. I don’t need this phone. If it’s free, I’ll take it. Otherwise, no.”

I received it the next day and I doubt I’ll ever activate it. As my wife Tara says, it’s obviously designed with “texting” in mind. I don’t do texting. It has a slide-out keyboard, and the numbers are just too small. It’s almost a smart phone, providing icons for Internet and email access as well as texting, all of which costs extra. My 15 year old niece Destiny liked it. Maybe I should give it to her, let her activate it with whoever her provider is. I don’t know how that works. Then again, my current phone, not even a year old, is giving me this mysterious beep during calls for no reason. Maybe I’ll need this new one, after all.

Both the old and new phones are by Samsung, made in Korea. At least it’s not China, for a change. The new one is a “Reclaim,” green in color, with the word “Eco” on the back. Under that it says, “Use of bioplastic,” whatever that means. Are they trying to pass it off as some sort of eco-friendly cell phone? Aren’t electronic gadgets, like, the worst polluters of our environment? Apparently not this phone. Here’s what their website says about it:

“Reclaim™ is made from 100% biodegradable, corn-based bioplastic, a renewable source. You won’t find a trace of PVCs, flame retardants or phthalates in it. And it contains no mercury, lead, cadmium, or a ton of other toxins.”

That’s nice. But the keyboard is still way too small for my big fingers.

Happy spring!

I am sooooo glad winter is over … here in Nashville, anyway. I’m also glad we’re not getting any flooding like North Dakota. Now, I need to make up for last year in my vegetable garden. Last year was a wash-out because of the late freeze warnings, combined with my back and knee problems.

Speaking of my knee, the hospital is still trying to collect payment for that operation because my so-called “insurance” company, Aetna — more like unnecessary middle man — refuses to pay them (around $10,000 or $4,800, depending on who you ask), saying that it was a cosmetic surgery, which they don’t cover. The only flaw with their argument is that it wasn’t “cosmetic surgery.” Who the hell has cosmetic surgery on their knee?! Runway models, maybe. You don’t want to see me on the catwalk.

Aetna had no problem paying the surgeon, anesthesiologist and staff, just not the hospital itself, and it was for the SAME OPERATION! Pinheads. They, Aetna, are just trying to bury me in paperwork. Maybe it’s my legal secretary experience, but that sort of tactic doesn’t intimidate me. Speaking of legal, does anyone know of a good attorney who’s been successful fighting retarded health insurance companies? It might come to that.

Speaking of hospitals, my wife Tara had a good idea: I should sign up as an IT temp with Vanderbilt hospital. They have their own temp agency for their IT staffing needs. Temp-to-perm jobs have always gone well for me because I NEVER interview well, but they like me once they see how well I work. I just don’t seem to make a good first impression; not with Southern male hiring managers, anyway. They like me on paper, then they meet me in person and sometimes seem to just have this gut-level dislike of me.

Temp-to-perm is how I got the two best jobs I’ve had in Nashville: first, with Healthtrust (now HCA), where I started as a temp doing Lotus Freelance presentations for the CIO, then “naturally” segued into running their email system; then in 2005, I started with Franklin Industrial Minerals (now Lhoist North America) as a temp “Application Support Specialist”, or “A.S.S.”, where everything was great until they were bought out by those jerks from Belgium. I almost forgot, I had another temp-to-perm job at Louisville Ladder in Smyrna (just south of Nashville) as their network admin before that plant was shut down and moved to Mexico.

Screenplay submitted

I submitted a screenplay to Scriptapalooza today. See scriptapalooza.com. The first deadline is Friday the 5th. The real deadline is April 15. I think first prize is $10,000, but the main thing is that real Hollywood industry people read all of the scripts, so maybe even if you don’t win the contest you might still have your screenplay optioned or bought and made into a movie.

My screenplay is called Slight Detour. [Ended up being called Operation Detour.] The novel/novella version (Kindle version here or paperback version here) was panned by one brother (harshly, but I don’t care) and one sister; given faint praise by my wife and her sister; and actually liked by my Dad and another sister.

I almost forgot, I also submitted that version to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award competition last month. I didn’t even make the top 1000 submissions in that one. 🙂

When I saw that all of the judges were women, I knew I didn’t have a chance. My story is geared toward guys, regular guys, not intellectuals and especially not pseudo-intellectuals (like that brother). So, I reworked it a little bit, especially the beginning, changed things around, added/deleted here and there and, voilà, it’s a screenplay!

I don’t expect it to win, I’m just hoping to get noticed (in a good way). They don’t announce winners until August 15, so I’ll probably have completely forgotten about it by then. 🙂

All of My Novels

Cake mixes & toxins

PLEASE remember to check your cupboards when you get home tonight!!!

Throw away ALL OUTDATED pancake mix, brownie mixes, Bisquick, cake and cookie mixes, etc., you have in your home.

A high school student had pancakes and it almost became fatal. His mom, a registered nurse, made him pancakes, dropped him off at school and headed to play tennis. She never takes her cell phone on the court but did this time. Her son called to say he was having trouble breathing. She told him to go to the nurse immediately, and she called the school to alert the nurse. The nurse called the paramedics and they were there in 3 minutes and worked on the boy all the way to the hospital. He came so close to dying. Evidently this is more common than I ever knew. Check the expiration dates on packages like pancakes and cake mixes that have yeast which, over time, develop mold spores. Apparently, the mold that forms in old mixes can be toxic!

This is partially confirmed on Snopes. The gist there is, basically, if you’re allergic to mold, you might become violently sick, even die, from this. But normally, it’s not something to worry too much about.

Still, when it doubt, throw it out.