Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bicentennial, minus 198.

Productivity seems to come in waves. One week I'll write fifteen pages for my story. The next I'll spend my free time on nostalgia avenue playing SimCity 3000. For as popular a game as SimCity was, I feel like it was never truly appreciated enough by the gaming community. Maybe that's because by the time SimCity 3000 came out, the first person shooter had become all the rage and taken over the entire video game world forcing any sort of game that had any semblance of originality or actual fun to it out of the limelight so games based on Tom Clancy novels with little to no replay value could become the norm.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Hey, last week was Ang's and my 2-year anniversary. We made it two whole years without killing each other, so we must be doing something right. Heh.

And actually, since last year I decided to declare to the world how to have a happy marriage after only one actual year of it, I think perhaps I'll take this opportunity to clarify something about that:

I really can be an outlandish sensationalist sometimes, can't I?

Don't get me wrong. I stand by most of what I said last year. But... truly, there really is no definitive set list of guidelines by which one can govern his or herself through their respective marriages. A marriage is a living, organic thing, not a textbook with bullet points outlining the proper ins and outs thereof. You have to work with it, not for it. People change. Ideas and beliefs change. Sometimes those things were things that you thought were hallmarks of your relationship. They can be difficult changes to accept once you've tied the knot.

But that's where the things like communication come in. You talk about it. You work with it. You accept that change has occurred and figure out how to change with it. That's what makes marriages work, the ability to adapt to one another because you've made a commitment to stick with this person no matter what.

So here we are, Ang and I, sticking it to each other 2 years strong and ready for many more to come. :-)

Song stuck in my head: Blackbird - The Beatles

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Darn you, XKCD.

Gosh darn you to heck, XKCD.


Anyway, I think I know why I haven't been blogging, actually.

I've been actually writing.

Like... my story. For those of you who might be unaware, I've been attempting to write a science-fiction-y type of novel thing since, like, 8th grade or so. I actually had completed about three and a quarter little novella-length stories in the series, until I realized that I wasn't in 8th grade anymore (by now I was in 12th and getting ready for college) and my younger self kind of sucked as a writer.

Well, maybe that's a bit harsh. Let's say I hadn't yet learned the joys of proofreading back then. Still working on it, really.

Whatever the case, it became apparent at some point that my original stories were mostly junk riddled with a few good paragraphs here and there and that I was going to need a serious retooling of the series if I ever really wanted to turn it into something publishable. I think I determined this about the time that my parents' computer decided to melt its hard drive on itself and I lost nearly everything I had ever written on that thing (years and years of work, gone... I still get a little depressed when I think about it). At that point, all I had left was a printed copy of the first book, which was about 60 pages long on unspaced, 10-pt Times New Roman, so whatever that would equal in book form. I still have that, which I affectionately refer to as "The Hard Copy," the original tome from which my work is based. However, at the time, I was just so bummed about losing all that work (most of the best stuff I'd written was in books 2 and 3), I kind of gave up on the idea entirely, and I just about stopped writing entirely other than occasional poetry.

A few years back, however, I took a look back at the Hard Copy and got an itch to enter these characters' world again. I made a decision to commit to actually writing something worth reading, not just writing something for fun in my spare time.

So, over the course of the past three or four some odd or even years (that's probably terrible grammar in that sentence, but nuts to it), I've been working on retelling my tale of space-age comedy and intrigue. It wasn't originally intended to be a comedy, but that ended up happening to one extent or another. I was originally inspired to write the story in the first place because, at the time, I had just discovered Star Wars and thought it was the awesomest thing since slicing bread with a lightsaber. Several chapters into it, however, I discovered my favorite book of all time, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and was inspired to switch the feel of the book towards humor. This is actually probably why it didn't work as well as it might've, because I have a very... um... singular sense of humor. As in, things I might find hilarious probably wouldn't be so to 95% of humanity.

Consequently, the story is now about 90% altered from its original state. It's much more drama oriented, with hints of comedy thrown in for good measure (because unless you're Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke or something, you have no right to be writing humorless science-fiction). Nearly every character has received a dramatic overhaul in personality, or they've been eliminated altogether. The plot itself doesn't even begin to resemble the Hard Copy, save for the fact that the main character is still a man named Richard Crane and his parents are dead. (I'm trying my hardest not to make him either Batman or Iron Man, truly I am. The Iron Man connection is particularly difficult to get around. I think I've succeeded in making him his own character, though. I hope.)

But what matters most is that I'm actually writing again. I'm actually making headway. When last I checked, I believe I had made it to 48 pages, single spaced still, 11-pt Times New Roman, and only five chapters so far. Five! I had like 25 or something in the entire Hard Copy. I'm actually enjoying where my story is going. I feel like I could actuallys it down and enjoy reading it. That, to me, is a win, at least so far.

Anyway, I've been dedicating a great deal of time to that over the past two weeks, particularly last week (a chapter and a half!), and I pretty much only take free time after work before I pick Angela up from Denny's. We try to spend as much time that we actually have together together, rather than retreating to respective corners of the apartment to do solitary activities. We got married for a reason, after all. We kinda like spending time with each other. :-)

So, I write when I'm alone. I also blog, for the most part, when I'm alone, because blogs can take a good half an hour to an hour to churn out sometimes, and that's time I could be spending with Ang if she's here. So yeah. If I've been quiet lately, 7 times out of 10 it's been because I've been writing. Productively.

For the moment, I'm going to go review a movie or two on my other blog, which is also in dire need of updating. Honest, I really do intend to make this a more regular blogging experience. Maybe if I sprinkle some prune juice on the computer...

(cuz... then... it'd be more regular...)

(I'll shut up now...)

Song stuck in my head: That's How You Know - Amy Adams

Sunday, August 2, 2009

For the record.

My last post was a bit of a rant. Let me try to be clear here. (Crap, I just used an Obama-ism.)

Baseball, in and of itself, is hardly dead to me. I was honestly in a bit of a hurry last night and just wanted to get the rant off my chest, so I got it off and didn't really even look over it. I even forgot to give the post tags. But yeah, baseball as a sport is still alive and well.

It's Major League Baseball I couldn't give two flying flips about.

It seriously is a big joke now. Whereas in the NFL and the NHL, you have a wonderful parity among teams so that pretty much any team has the potential to affect a turnaround within a season or two and become competitive, MLB simply is not and probably never will be like that. You've got the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels, Giants... these are your teams that get all the spotlight, all the attention. Screw the Tampa Bay Rays, no one really cares about them. The Arizona Diamondbacks down here were being picked as a possible Wild Card team, if not to give the Dodgers a run for the division title. Here they sit, instead, doing worse than the Pirates this year.

But of course, the Pirates are the laughingstock. Har har.

Maybe it's because the Pirates are in fact from Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins, two of the best teams in all of sports. The poor Pirates are like the black sheep, the kid the family doesn't like to talk about holed up in the attic. I actually thought maybe the Pirates would see the other two teams winning their sports' biggest titles and suddenly be inspired to actually try for once.

Silly me.

And it really kills me, because I really love going to Pirates games. When the Pirates came down here to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks, I really wanted to go to a game. I have been to more Pirates games than any other sporting event, by quite a landslide (probably about a 25-1 ratio), and in that time they've probably won about 90% of the time. I always used to say I needed to get season tickets because the Pirates always did so well when I went to see them. So I knew what they were capable of. I knew they could win.

And besides the fact that the Pirates had a ridiculous win percentage when I went to see them, I actually enjoyed going to the games regardless. I have a lot of really fond memories in Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park with my family, and particularly my dad, watching the Pirates. Win or lose, I watched every game eagerly, watched every pitch in earnest, cheered for long hits to clear the wall. I got to see Mark McGuire hit home runs during practice warm-ups. I witnessed, in person, the 1997 combined extra-inning no-hitter pitched by Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon. These memories have no less magic for me now than they did previously.

Just right now? This Pirates team? In this Major League? Dead to me.

Call me in about two or three years, really. Once this reconstruction process really starts to take shape (if it does, in fact, actually take shape), I may find myself hopeful again. It's just really hard to care about my team when it's not only admitting utter and total defeat by trading virtually every player it's acquired over the years away, but it also exists in a league where only the bullies with the deepest pockets are able to tower over the others.

And to top it all off, the steroids thing is completely tainting the Red Sox's two World Series wins. Just how many players on those players were on the juice? I was enthralled by the Sox back then, since my sister Caryn is a Sox fan, and so I took on the Sox as my second team, rooting for them to reverse the curse. And so they did. But apparently steroids helped fund it. Does that mean the curse isn't really reversed? Could the Sox ever win without steroid-enhanced players?

It just... the whole mess disgusts me. And I'm done with it. In a few years, when the so-called "Steroid Era" is really ebbing, and the Pirates are maybe starting to figure out how to run a baseball team, hopefully (and I do very much hope) I'll be able to care about baseball again.

For the time being, there's still two championship caliber teams in Pittsburgh well worth rooting for. Now if only we could manage to attract an NBA team...

Song stuck in my head: All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun - Sheryl Crow

Saturday, August 1, 2009

With my tail between my legs...

I know, I know. I skipped a week. For this, I apologize.

To recap my past two weeks, it's been hell having to come back to the desert after just a couple days in San Diego. I have to say it; I'm really sick of Phoenix.

I mean, there's nothing here. Nothing. We've already been to the Big Hole in the Ground up north once, and plan on going again when my parents visit. We've taken advantage of our nearness to both California and the Pacific Ocean with our trip to San Diego. Unfortunately, both trips are at least 4 hour drives away, meaning it's not Phoenix that's actually offering us these opportunities. Here in the Valley of the Sun?

Uh... Papago Park? Tempe Marketplace? The Arizona Cardinals?

Yeah. And endless summer.

*sigh* I really miss seasons. And snow. Heck, I miss weather. The whole Monsoon thing is nice, but it's so seldom it's almost not worth it. I need more temperate climates. This whole 115 degrees every day thing is really starting to get to me.

In related news, I'm officially going to go ahead and say that the sport of baseball is dead to me. The Pittsburgh Pirates just spent the past couple of months systematically destroying everything that I'd come to like about my team by restructuring it completely, suddenly, and without warning. Sure, they're in the middle of their 17th straight losing season, so it makes sense that they're going for such a drastic makeover.

But... what the crap is my team anymore? I barely know anyone on that roster now. I'm more interested in hearing from my dad about the Lynchburg Hillcats, single A minor league team for the Pirates, which my dad is the chaplain for. It makes for much more compelling sports, anyway. Meanwhile, the Pirates themselves are the laughingstock of the entire sports world, maybe even more than the Lions or the Clippers right now, with how ridiculous they're doing.

And besides all that... why the crap should I care about baseball anyway? The whole steroids scandal has completely mocked the entire integrity of the game to the point that I pretty much wish we'd never found out about the steroids issue and just left it alone. I honestly think we'd have been better off for it. Sure, maybe it'd be cheating, but at least we could've watched baseball casually and enjoyed it without wondering if the teams doing well are more juiced than the others. Or at least I could've. Now? Screw it. Baseball is dead to me. There's about six teams that really matter, and the rest are all just filler.

If I want baseball, I'll watch A League of Their Own or The Sandlot or something. Not ESPN.

Meh. Okay, enough ranting. Ang and I need to get groceries, and it's getting late, and I'm probably going to end up getting to bed even later because of it, making me tired and cranky tomorrow, so I'm gonna go. *sigh* This is why I haven't blogged, really. There really aren't enough hours in the day anymore.

I'm going now.

Song stuck in my head: Benny and the Jets - Elton John

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I almost wish life really was a beach.

As I type this, it is now two days since Angela and I returned to Phoenix from our three day excursion to San Diego. We took our 2-year anniversary a month early because it was the only way we could still use my floating holiday at ATS before it goes belly up when Delta officially takes over operations at the airport. We decided on San Diego for a vacation spot because it was within driving distance and it was the closest beach we'd be able to get to from here.

And ohhhh... boy, was it worth it.

The trip wasn't nearly long enough. I almost wish we'd have just called off an extra day and not worried about getting paid for the time off. It was so relaxing... and so needed. Ang and I have been getting pretty burnt out lately, at times quite literally (it is, after all, 115 degrees out there these days), and we definitely were in need of a recharge.

San Diego didn't fail to please. Like, if it wasn't further West, I'd really want to consider moving out there. I don't, however, want to move any further West than we already are, and in fact I'd prefer it if we'd make our way closer East in the future so we'd actually be a reasonable distance from the majority of people we miss and care about.

But yes, San Diego was awesome. The weather was gorgeous, the beaches were sandy and superb (virtually trash-free, I couldn't believe it), and every restaurant we tried was excellent (particularly this one burger lounge called, aptly, "The Burger Lounge," with the absolute best burgers I've ever tasted and some tasty onion rings to boot).

We also checked out Balboa Park for a bit on Thursday, which is like San Diego's version of Central Park, sort of. It's actually kind of better. It's basically a little cultural hub, with a bunch of museums and gardens and theatres and restaurants and such, all surrounded by your basic parkland and such. We checked out the San Diego Museum of Art, which was pretty cool, and in particular an exhibit showcasing various photos taken by the late Richard Avedon, who, if you don't know, spent his life taking pictures of various celebrities and political figures, mostly against blank white or gray backgrounds. He also took this famous photo of Bob Dylan, if perhaps you recognize that:

Anyway, yeah, his exhibit was pretty powerful, particularly a piece entitled "The Family," a collection of 69 members of the political, entertainment, and social elite in 1976, the year of America's bicentennial. It basically showed just about everyone who ran the American world three and a half decades ago. Pretty telling.

All in all, it was a very fulfilling trip. I find myself actually likening my enjoyment of San Diego to my enjoyment of Pittsburgh, oddly enough. Like... if I was to move to San Diego, I think I would be able to come to like the city itself. The skyline's pretty cool, the sites to see are many, varied, and interesting, and the people (at least from what we were able to see) seemed pretty friendly. Perhaps I'm biased, but that's what I think of when I think of Pittsburgh.

*shrugs* Whatever the case, it's dinner time now, so I must away with me. Baked BBQ chicken tonight with steamed rice and carrots. Mmmm...

Song stuck in my head: El Scorcho - Weezer

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Aches and bruises.

I'm pretty much blogging right now to ensure that I get a blog in this week and don't just let this go by the wayside. Today was a really long day. I woke up at 3:30 to my second alarm, never heard the first, so I quick hopped out of bed and munched down some Lucky Charms, kissed Ang goodbye, dressed, and ran out the door, barely awake. The day itself was so freakin' long... and it didn't help that it was about 115 degrees out there today.

I've gotten very used to living with aches and pains, though. My left wrist just perpetually hurts, which probably isn't a good thing. My neck and back get randomly tight from time to time. I don't even know how many little cuts and scars I've acquired since taking this job.

It's funny; I'm almost proud of this. It's like... I kind of feel a little superior knowing that I, tiny little Joel, am doing such a grueling work for a living. It almost makes me want to work in a factory somewhere. I'm sure the pay would probably be better.

But then, the steadiness of such a job would probably be horrendous in this economy. Let's just be glad I have a job. Heh.

Anyway, it's 8:40 now, which means I've been up about an hour later than I probably should've. So I'mma go sleep it up. Night.

Song stuck in my head: Get a Clue - Prozzak

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why I hate my job (sometimes).

I'm not going to beat around the bush here. There are days when I really do despise my job. Not because of the work itself, really. I can deal with mundane repetition pretty well, and this is the best exercise routine I've ever had in my life. It's not even the heat. I've come to get used to the oppression of hundred degree weather pretty well. Not that I'm really okay with it (I still miss cold weather like the dickens), but I can deal with it okay enough.

No, what makes me really despise my job some days... is my coworkers.

Case in point. This week, I have been in charge of the bag room at work. There is a reason for this, which I will get to in a moment, but for now let's just focus on the situation at hand. Today was the third day of this, and as I was looking at a bag to see where it was supposed to go, I noticed a coworker of mine exiting the elevator from downstairs and heading in for work. So, as I'm prone to do, I waved and said hi. He looked at me a little funny and nodded slightly.

"How's it going?" I asked.

He gave me a quizzical look. "Huh?" he asked, as though he had not heard. This is something I'm used to. I have a tendency to mumble without realizing it, so I'm often repeating myself.

"I said, how's it going?" I repeated.

Having realized what I'd asked him, he gets this silly grin on his face and proclaims rather proudly:


*fumes for a moment*

Okay. So. Yeah. I basically work with a bunch of drunken slacker idiots, half of which would actually be fairly intelligent people if they weren't drunken slacker idiots. (The other half would merely be idiots. I'm being kind.) The theme of the week, really, has been that of drunken slacked-off idiocy. I'm going to start talking about coworkers now, but I don't want to mention any names for the sake of fairness (although how any of this can be classified as fair I really don't know), so I'm going to start referring to Coworker A and Coworker B. I'm hoping this won't be too confusing.

It started on Friday, which for the work-week is my Monday. I see that I'm in the bagroom and that Coworker A will be running the bag room. I find this interesting. The guy who normally runs the bag room is apparently on vacation, which is why the task has fallen to Coworker A. Okay, whatever, I figure, and head to the bag room to start my day.

As the day rolls on, it becomes evident that Coworker A is not going to show up. He never calls in to let us know why he isn't there, either. Apparently someone called in, but it was not him, and they had to do this for him because he was, quote, "incoherent."

Well gee. I wonder what that means. Whatever the case, the day rolls on, things go generally smoothly, and my supervisor asks me if I'd be willing to run the bagroom for the remainder of the week. I'm more than willing; AICs (agents in charge) get an extra fifteen cents on their paycheck for days they AIC. I'll take an extra few bucks for the week, sure.

Meanwhile, over the course of the day, I end up learning something from yet another of my coworkers.

"So, did you hear about Coworker B?" he asks.

"No, what about him?" I ask.

"Oh, dude. He got fired."

This rather floors me. Coworker B is/was what I would describe as a near-model employee. He was always on time, he gave above and beyond for his job, helped out his coworkers whenever he could, certainly helped me out a ton... except that he had a little problem with authority. Not that he couldn't take orders or anything like that. It was really one boss in particular that he had issues with (but then, we all do). Anyways, I can't for the life of me figure out why Coworker B would've been fired, so I ask what he did.

"Came to work pretty drunk."

This is when I really start to hate my job. Coworker A has come to work drunk many times before. So have several of my other coworkers (including the one I first mentioned at the beginning, who was not, in fact, Coworkers A or B). They've all been very obviously drunk, actually stank of alcohol, and in fact admitted to it when supervisors weren't around. It's seriously a pretty common thing, probably happens at least once every two weeks. And it infuriates me.

Even moreso now. Because Coworker B, who was the upstanding employee, is the one who got called on it.

What the hell. Seriously.

Now, I'm not an idiot. I understand that if they were to fire everyone who's done this over the course of working here, we'd be down about five guys right now. That can't happen all at once. What bothers me is that this Coworker B guy is basically taking the rap that every one of them should've been taking over the course of my working at this job. It's not like we didn't know this was going on. They could've easily weeded people out gradually as these incidents happened.

But noooooooooo. See, all these guys that do this? Nearly all of them are the real workhorses at this job. They pull their weight. They get things done. They understand the ins and outs of the job better than most of us. So management has pretty much just turned the other way because, quite frankly, they probably figure they can't afford to lose them.

Can't afford to lose them. These same guys that come into work wasted, then end up not coming into work five days out of the month sometimes. And I know they're staying home because they either have a hangover or they just don't feel like coming in. And because they know they can get away with it. I know this because they talk about it.

It makes me wonder why I bother taking such care to go to work every friggin' day, even when I am feeling a bit under the weather. I've taken two sick days in the past year. Two. There's probably a month's worth of "sick" days between these five guys.


All right. I needed to vent that. I'm okay now.

Unrelatedly, I think I'm going to try to update regularly at least on Sundays. I might update more, but I think Sunday will probably be a pretty good update day for me. Granted, that means it'll be Sunday afternoon, and that's Arizona Time (which, for the next few months, coincides with Pacific Standard Time, after which it will revert to Mountain Standard Time), so it'll probably end up pretty late on Sunday for most of you, but hey! At least it'll be regular.

That's what I've decided, anyway.

Song stuck in my head: Paralyzer - Finger Eleven

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I named him Pesto.

Hypocrisy is a funny thing. It can be something simple, like telling your kids not to eat cookies in bed when you know full well you munch on crackers and cream cheese in your own bed. It could be something a bit bigger, like telling your kids not to have sex before marriage when you know full well you've been having an affair with your boss's secretary. (Neither of these examples are taken from personal experience of any kind. FYI.)

Today, I found myself facing an odd sort of hypocrisy: cruelty to animals.

Ever seen those pictures in commercials or on the internet from Greenpeace or whoever showing images of poor, dilapidated animals covered in oil from oil spills compliments of Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell? They're supposed to have white fur or feathers or something, but they're completely black from being soaked in oil?

Any time I'd see one of these pictures, I wouldn't really think much of anything.

Today at work, I saw a minor version of this in real life. I was working a 767-400, real big plane, so big in fact that the normal air-conditioning hose wouldn't reach to attach to the outlet on the bottom of the plane. (We hook up a massive AC hose while the plane is still operating on ground power, before it powers up itself.) Instead, we had a portable AC unit parked near the port-side engine.

As we were moving it in preparation to push the plane out, a pigeon hopped out from underneath the AC unit and nearly got run over. I had to shoo it out to keep it from getting smooshed.

And after the AC unit was gone, it just sort of sat there. I tried to shoo it a little more, but he just kept coming back. He couldn't fly very well and, on closer examination, looked a little blacker than most pigeons.

A little like this:

Only not quite so covered in oil. I felt really bad for the little guy. He didn't look injured exactly, but it was clear that he wasn't in the best of health. He hopped away gingerly under a nearby truck, and I hoped he would keep going after we'd left.

An hour and a half later, we'd already had another plane come in, turned it, and sent it on its way. I headed over there again, just to see. Sure enough, there he sat, now entrenched under the water cooler furiously drinking up as much as he could.

I decided to name him Pesto. That would make him named after this guy:

Good ol' Pesto. Always making Joe Pesci-esque threats.

Anyway, far as I know, that pigeon is still there, hiding underneath the Gate 15 jetway. I really feel sorry for the little dude. He seems petrified to go anywhere else, and from what I can tell he looks like he might've been doused a little in oil from the AC unit. Not a lot, but the AC unit was there overnight, so he might've been there overnight as well.

It is here that we come to see the apparent hypocrisy I'm finding myself experiencing. Those pictures of baby seals covered in oil? Never meant anything to me. Still doesn't, really. I mean, we need oil. If we're going to get around anywhere in this society, we need oil to put in our vehicles. Right?

Then I see this pigeon. And I kinda hate pigeons. They're annoying and everywhere. But this little guy is ailing, seems terrified to even breathe, and my heart goes out to him. A pigeon!

So... apparently I feel bad for animals that I can actually see in front of me, but animals halfway across the world that I merely see pictures of... not so much. That makes me feel good.

Meh. I'm not really depressed about it or anything. Just... introspective, I guess. Thought I would share.

In other news, hypocrisy is a really weird word to spell. Just look at it. The "hypo" part I get. But "crisy"? Come on, English language, throw me a freakin' bone here!

Song stuck in my head: FNT - Semisonic

Monday, June 29, 2009

So hey. Check it out.

I just created a second Blogger blog. It's called Falkner On Film. The idea here is to give me an outlet to review all the movies that I've seen over the years, which I have a tendency of doing anyways. So yes. I'll be doing that from time to time. Hopefully more often than not.

In other news, Angela and I bought a queen size mattress and box-spring the other day which we'll be picking up in about ten minutes. This we purchased for a total of $60, USD. The current owner of the bed is moving to India (back there, actually), and needed to get rid of pretty much everything by tomorrow. Since we've currently been dealing with a mere full size bed for the first two years of our marriage, Ang and I were pretty psyched at the idea of upgrading to the bigger sized bed. We won't have the bed frame just yet, but we figure we can sleep on a mattress on the floor for a while.

And come on, $60? Couldn't freakin' pass that up!

Okay, gotta go now. Tee tee eff en.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

So... Primerica.

First of all, my Physical Aptitude Test for Delta went pretty well. It consisted of a hearing test (press a button when you hear a beep), a step test (step up, step down, step up, step down, repeat for three minutes), and a lifting test (put 75 lbs. in this box and lift it from this level to this level, while maintaining good posture). *shrugs* Piece o' cake.

After that, Ang and I met with the Primerica cult. Er, I mean, financial service. Sorry, Freudian slip, there.

Yeah, lemme see if I can accurately describe Primerica to those not in the know. Ang found out about this company from one of the customers at Denny's (it wasn't even her customer, actually). The woman said she thought Ang was a very positive and outgoing person and she felt those would be excellent qualities for the kind of work she was in, so she gave Ang her card and invited her to go to a meeting about the job that Tuesday evening. She even invited me along, the more the merrier. So, we figured, eh, if Ang could pick up a second job relatively part-time, why not? We're hardly hurting for cash right now, but we could always use the money.

So, not really knowing anything about the job other than the fact that it involved "financial services," we headed on down to Mesa, a good 20 minute drive from here, to see what all Primerica was about. We were greeted very kindly by the woman who first invited Ang in the first place, and she led us into the office complex where Primerica was meeting. A greeter at the door welcomed us inside and invited us to sign in, since it was our first time there. From there, a another man who presumably worked there ushered us in to the main area in the office space, which was set up like your average small church, about six rows of four chairs on either side of a middle aisle, with an overhead projector shining toward a white screen at the front.

Eyebrows raised yet? Greeters? Ushers? Guestbook? Overhead projector? Sure sounds like a church to me.

And the resemblance hardly ended there. The entire meeting was basically a little pep rally for the job itself, with multiple speakers talking about what the job consisted of (without actually explaining what the job consisted of), and all of them talking up how wonderful the company was, how much better a model it was than other similar companies, and how much money you could conceivably make doing this job. There were actually posters on the walls advertising "the $100,000 club," which celebrated "your first $100,000" with a sort of Superbowl Ring decked out in diamonds and stuff.

One of the speakers in particular, a guy from Hawaii who apparently had flown in special for this meeting, acted as a pseudo-pastor for the evening, encouraging the audience to be winners, "not losers," as he specifically put it. It was incredible. He'd pose a question, such as, "Boy, times are tough, huh? Anyone out there think times are tough right now?" And to this, the audience would respond with empassioned "Yeah's" and "Mmhmm's" and "Oh yes's," bearing not just a passing resemblance to your average Full Gospel Baptist Church. I've never been able to stomach the blind agreement with a pastor of any kind, regardless of how much truth (or Truth) he's preaching, I'm going to actually think about what he's saying before agreeing with it automatically, so I sure wasn't going to be feeding fire into this guy's kindling.

And yet... as the night drew on, I found myself wanting to participate. I found myself actually wanting to speak up when the moment seemed appropriate, go along with the service, give in to the business revival being preached. It was unsettling.

Anyway, we left the meeting feeling odd, but hesitantly optimistic about the prospect of the job. Ang moreso than me, but it was more a nagging uncertainty than an actual pessimism at that point.

That night, I had a dream that basically directly pointed to Primerica being an unstable investment. Nagging uncertainty turned pretty quickly into boldfaced skepticism.

The following day was the day of the test for Delta and our second meeting with Primerca. After I got home from the Delta test, we quickly ate some lunch and then drove out to where they'd told us to go. And we drove... and drove... and drove a little more. Come to find out this place was all the way out on the border of Queen Creek, almost a good hour away from us here. Did not realize that one when they were telling us where to go.

But find it we did, and once we got there, we quickly got into discussing the real, honest work that the job would entail. And to be entirely fair, it does seem for all intents and purposes to be very honest work. Primerica is kind of an amalgamation of any kind of financial service you can think of. They're part bank, part insurance company, part investment firm... and all love. Well, at least they seem to be. Their biggest selling point is their Financial Needs Analysis, or FNA, which basically maps out all of your current finances, be it income, debts, or expenditures, and gives you a bit of a tool to use to help you get out of debt. This isn't the loan part; all they really do is show you what you're doing with your money right now and steering you toward a possible better plan for how to manage your money, be it making bigger payments on specific loans or investing more in life insurance, or a 401k. That's the biggest thing.

It's even free of charge. You don't have to pay them a dime if you don't want to. Pretty good, honest work, right?

Well, far as I can tell, yes... it's the actual job that's the shady part.

Remember, this is a company built like a Full Gospel Baptist Church. In addition to that mentality, it's also something of a multi-level management scheme, or pyramid scheme. The actual way we'd make money doing this is, essentially by recruiting other people to do the job. You can make money by never accomplishing this, but it won't ever amount to much. This I think is how Primerica has been allowed to exist for the past 30-some years, because while it's clearly a pyramid scheme (which is actually illegal in this country), it isn't merely dependent upon the recruitment part. For every loan or insurance policy or investment you do get someone to take through Primerica, you get a cut (be it $100 bucks or $50 or whatever). So that part is merely like your average commission-based sales job.

So... it's like the shady part of the job is shady on whether or not it's actually shady. Pretty clever, if you ask me.

However, whenever you do recruit someone into Primerica and are able to yourself personally train them in the job, you'll automatically be given a cut of whatever that person makes. You don't take money away from them, however; as a more senior member of the company, you're now due more cash per every transaction, and whenever your recruit makes a sale, you basically make the difference of what you would make if you'd done it yourself and what they actually do make. Like... if you're now owed $400, and they make a sale for $100, you'd make $300, just because they're your personal recruit.

What I don't get is... where's all this money coming from? Supposedly you're owed, like, $100 bucks for every life insurance policy you get signed. However, life insurance only costs, like, $40 bucks a month on the high end for most people. Where'd the extra $60 come from, and why are you making so much as the lowest level employee?

So, um. Yeah. After some careful thought and discussing it with some outside opinions, we decided not to give Primerica the go-ahead. We think it was probably in our best interest.

On the bright side, on the drive over to Queen Creek, we found a real live Anthropologie store that Angela just had to go in. She's been in love with this retailer ever since she learned it existed online, but we'd never found an actual store apart from the online store. I'm thinking it's probably because everything in Anthropologie costs about $150 bucks a piece, and we don't usually find ourselves in neighborhoods where such places would be abundant. Ang actually ended up finding a pair of pants in her size that was marked down from $158 to $19.95. Insanity. She's awaiting her mother to hem the legs (they were clearly designed with a supermodel's stilt-legs in mind), at which point I'm sure she'll be wearing them incessantly. Perhaps we'll get a picture of them up sometime.

Okay, this ended up being really, really long, as I figured it would be, and I've just wasted an hour. Commence vegging!

Song stuck in my head: True Affection - The Blow

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fitter than the average Joel B.

Today promises to be an eventful day. It's my first of two days off at the airport, but at 11:30 this morning (Arizona time, of course), I get to take a Physical Agility Test and hearing test in relation to my recent hiring with Delta Air Lines. For those that may not be aware yet, I've been working at a company called Airport Terminal Services for the past year, which was contracted out to Delta, as opposed to working directly for them. Not a terrible deal... except that it skips over all the main benefits of working for an airline. Like free flights on Delta routes.

Well no more. Far as I'm aware, once I'm officially a Delta employee, I'll have the perks of being able to fly anywhere that Delta flies free of charge. Not sure if that means anyone who flies with me can fly for free too, but heck, one free ticket is one free ticket. Totally gonna take advantage of this. :-)

But yes, because of this, today I take the Physical Agility Test, in order to determine if I'm physically fit enough to perform the job that I'm already doing. It involves 3 full minutes of walking up and down a step, lifting 70 lbs. multiple times to multiple shelves, etc. A year ago, I probably would've been nervous about something like that.

Today? Bring it on.

This really makes me happy. Physical labor is no longer a daunting prospect to me. It's not like I'm all of a sudden able to bench twice my own body weight or something, I'm just... well... healthy. Hehh.

I think when Ang and I get around to having kids, I'm going to require them to do something physically demanding like once a day or something. Like, for an hour a day or something, "Okay, time to go outside and run a lap around the block, kids!" Perhaps we'll have kids who actually like playing outside and this won't be an issue, but if my kids are anything like me, I'm gonna need to drill this into them.

Anyway, later today at 3, Ang and I are going to be meeting with some people for this company called Primerica, which is like a sort of amalgamation of a bunch of different financial services (morgaging, consolidating, debt consulting, and the like). We're doing this because we went to a sort of business pep rally for the company last night intended as something of a recruitment and training meeting. I'll get more into that later.

For now, I'm going to eat breakfast with my beautiful wife. Happy morning, everyone!

Song stuck in my head: Paper Bag - Fiona Apple

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Inevitable.

Welp. This was bound to happen sooner or later. I'm not sure if it's sooner or later, but here it is.

I'm going to blog again.

Obviously, this is not Xanga. This is Blogger, which, back when I first set up an account in the first place, used to be called Blogspot. Back then I just wanted to be able to comment. I've been amazed that, ever since then, the Blogger website has been able to recognize that I'm apparently still logged in every single time I return to a Blogger blog, regardless of how long it's been or if the computer's been shut off or whatever.

But I digress.

Yes, I'm going to blog again. I have come to the conclusion that I need this. If just for the sake of keeping my creative juices from stagnating into pickle juice, I need this. I've really missed my old chronicle, and by golly, I'm gonna have it again whether I have anything to chronicle or not!

So why Blogger and not Xanga? Well, for starters, Xanga seems to have gone the way of the buffalo. It's hardly extinct, but neither is it surviving very well out in the wild. Clearly plenty of people still use it, but I know roughly two of them, and the rest all seem to be outside my social conciousness. Suffice to say, I really couldn't care less what Datingish or Mancouch or Revelife have to say about pretty much anything, and don't care much to look anymore.

In addition to this, I've always sort of quietly admired Blogger's format. It's simple, and hey, we all know Joel likes simplicity, right? Maybe I'll try to fool around with the colors or something later, but for now, this works for me. Simple. Yeah.

Anyway, I hope this turns into something a bit more interesting than my last blog ended up being. I'm gonna go eat my pizza which turned out not as thoroughly cooked as I'd hoped. Yay!

Song stuck in my head: Have You Ever - Incubus