At the Puter

Anybody Want a Free Wallet?

After years of service, my old wallet had been slipped in and out of my back pocket so frequently, sat upon for so many hours, and accidentally run through the laundry machine so many times that it was finally time for a replacement. I had gone to JC Penny several months ago to get a new wallet that looked exactly like the old one, but when I went to check out the line was absurdly long and I didn’t feel like waiting half an hour to buy a new wallet when the old one was still hanging in there (if only I’d known what was in store for me). But, alas, the old one just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

While getting a new wallet might seem like a relatively simple task, this has turned into quite the quest for two key reasons. The first is that I’m incredibly particular when it comes to my wallet. Some might say that I’m incredibly particular with everything I buy, but it’s even worse when it comes to my wallet. When I was a kid I always thought my dad’s wallet was really cool. He always had a slightly larger than normal bi-fold wallet made out of smooth, marbled brown leather. I remember the way it had a slight curve to it from sitting in his back pocket for so long and how the picture insert in the middle would flop around whenever he opened it to reveal two rows of credit and membership cards arranged in succession like a choir. And there was always the clear window that showed the driver’s license of whichever state we were living in at the time right next to the military ID that never changed. Most of all, I was always amazed at how big it looked. Being a child, I always had a tri-fold wallet myself because it was the only kind that would fit in my childhood sized pockets. I fear the consequences of delving too deeply into it, but somehow, in the depths of my twisted subconscious, this led to my associating having a big, brown, leather, bi-fold wallet with being a man, and anything that deviates from that formula being for little boys. Why I choose this one trait of my dad’s to try to emulate while going out of my way to try NOT to become my father in so many other respects is a question I’ll leave to any pop-psychologists out there, but it’s true – without the right kind of wallet, I feel like less of a man.

The second reason my search for a new wallet has become such an epic quest has to do with the recent site of all of my life’s seeming cross roads: the Galleria Mall (see blog of March 26). Surely somewhere in the Galleria I could find the perfect wallet. So I started browsing.

Now, I know things in the Galleria can be pricey, so it’s not that I had some delusion that I was going to be able to pick up a wallet for $5 or anything, but I quickly realized that most of the stores in there were simply out of my price range. I mean, if I spend $395 on a wallet then I won’t have any money to put in it, thus making it kind of pointless. Not to mention I just have a hard time paying more than $50 for something that’s going to spend most of it’s days soaking up my ass sweat (not that my ass really sweats that much).

Eventually I found my way into Brookstone figuring it would probably be cheaper and, lo and behold, I found exactly what I was looking for for about $35. Perfect! The only weird thing was that in the place where you put your driver’s license, this wallet had a kind of mesh rather than a clear piece of plastic. That didn’t seem like a big deal, so I headed to the cash register ready to pay for my purchase, ne masculinity. But then it occurred to me that the mesh would probably make it pretty hard to read the ID and that I’d better try it before I spent any money. Sure enough, the mesh only made it visible enough to be able to tell that it was an ID, but made it impossible to actually read anything on the ID or to even see the picture well enough to know it was my ID. WTF! Was the clear plastic THAT much more expensive to manufacture? The crazy thing is that the description of the wallet on the box actually BRAGGED about the mesh “feature.” Were these things designed by Mac? Did I almost stumble into an iWallet (although it wasn’t that soul sucking white color – fucking Macs)? Regardless, I put it back and headed back into the mall to continue my search for my manhood.

After another hour of frustration I decided that if one store could rescue this ill-fated quest to satisfy my bizarre mess of Freudian contradictions through the purchasing of a piece of leather folded in half it would be the crown jewel of all Galleria stores: Banana Republic! After all, the BR Luxe card was designed to look like the exact same pattern of leather as my dad’s old wallets, which had to be a good sign – an omen, even. And on top of that, what better way to carry my beautiful Banana Republic credit card than in an equally beautiful Banana Republic wallet? The whole walk there I was chastising myself for not just going to The Republic from the very beginning.

When I got there, however, I could immediately tell that all was not well with the Banana. Instead of the usual nondescript salesperson who usually greets me as I enter my shopping haven, I was met by this weird looking guy with a buzzcut who had done waaaayyyyy too many bench presses and not enough back exercises, so he had that overly-built, hunched over look to him. On top of that, he spoke as though he was a drill sergeant screaming orders as he hurried over to me and declaimed “All pants – 30% off! We also have new shirts – over there!” I had to fight back the urge to shout “Sir, yes, sir!” and salute him. Instead, I just said thanks and started browsing a bit (sure, I was there for a wallet, but I was in The Republic – might as well look around). In the meantime, this crazy salesperson (we’ll call him Benchpress McGee from now on) stalked around the store belting out the phrase “Do you need help!” to anyone who didn’t seem to be totally focused on a definite shopping task.

I headed over to the sale rack and there were these two guys next to me looking through the rack as well. I overheard one of the guys, who was looking at a dress shirt, say “I’m not sure what my neck size is.” Like a puma pouncing on prey at the first sign of weakness, Benchpress popped seemingly out of nowhere and screamed “You have a question!”

The guy looked kind of startled as he said “No, I just wasn’t sure of the size.”

With an intensity that shook me to my very soul, Benchy barked “You want me to measure you!”

I can only imagine the horrific image that must have been flashing through this guy’s mind of Benchy with a tape measure and a crazed look in his eye. After a few moments of panicked shock, he managed to stutter out “N, no thanks, I th, think I can figure it out.”

Afraid that I’d be next on Benchy’s Retail Bootcamp roster I headed to the other side of the store to look at dress clothes for work. After looking around a while longer, I was done browsing and ready to regain focus on my real reason for being there: wallets. I looked around for just a moment, wondering where the wallets would be. Alas, that was the window of opportunity that Benchy’d been waiting for – he was on me in an instant: “What do you need!” I asked if they had any wallets, but he didn’t know. Not to fear, he headed to the check out register as though he’d just been given a mission to rush into a war zone and rescue fallen members of his platoon. He returned shortly thereafter to inform me that the Banana doesn’t carry wallets!

So, after paying for my two new shirts and a pair of pants (it’s the Banana after all) I left the store now burdened with two very frightening and harsh realities – I would be haunted by nightmares of Benchy and his Tape-measure of Terror for weeks to come and, worst of all, words I never thought I would ever have to utter: The Republic failed me! If I can’t go to The Republic in my times of need, where am I supposed to go? I’m not sure I want to live in a world where the greatest clothing store in the world doesn’t carry wallets. In light of this distressing turn of events, I had no choice but to resort to drastic measures – so I went to (shudder at the thought) Macy’s.

What was really bizarre was that in such a huge store I couldn’t find a single salesperson to tell me where the wallets were. Say what I might about Benchpress McGee, at least he did, in the end, offer help – frighteningly intense help, but help nonetheless. After about twenty minutes of searching around this maze of a store (including having to push past several people who apparently thought that just because it was broken it was okay to go up the down escalator with their hands so full of shopping bags that it was impossible for me to get by) I finally found the men’s accessories department and zeroed in on the wallets. Unfortunately, right as I approached them I felt an undeniable urge to pee. As particular as I am about my wallet, I knew that browsing through them was not going to be a short process, so I was going to have to go to the bathroom before I could fully focus on the task at hand. I looked all over the men’s department but couldn’t find a bathroom anywhere (this is always a huge problem anywhere in the Galleria – I once left the mall and just went in an alley for this very reason).

Finally, I found a salesperson and asked where the men’s room was. She told me that it was up stairs next to the women’s petite! Of course - why wasn't that the first place I looked? So after another fifteen minutes of figuring out where the hell the women’s petite section was, I finally found the men’s room. What was startling was that it wasn’t as though this is where all of the restrooms were – just the men’s room! I don’t know where the women’s restroom was, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s probably somewhere around the men’s underwear section.

What was even more startling, though, was that the custodian was cleaning the men’s room and had it roped off so no one could use it! By now I was about ready to explode and getting really frustrated with this ridiculous store. “Is it possible for me to use the bathroom?” I called into the bathroom hoping that I’d hear some guy’s voice say sure, just be careful of the wet floor. Instead, I heard a female voice yell back with clear agitation, “Not while I’m in here!” I asked how long she’d be, and she said it’d be a while. Great.

For a fleeting moment the persistent lack of salespeople anywhere in the store tempted me to just find a secluded corner in the perfume section and just go, but then I reminded myself that this wallet was, after all, all about being a man, and men can hold it, dammit! So I headed back to the wallets and started browsing.

After looking at every wallet they had, I couldn’t find anything exactly right, but by now in addition to having to pee, the mall was getting ready to close, and I really needed to just get a fucking wallet. Eventually I found one for half price ($15) that was a leather bi-fold, but it was black instead of brown, and not quite as big as I like them to be. But oh well, maybe it would be healthy to slowly disassociate my masculinity from the size and color of my wallet – plus this might help in my lifelong quest to not turn into my father. So I settled.

But this was only the first step. Now that I’d found a wallet, I had to pay for it. After searching the entire bottom floor, I was convinced that Macy’s doesn’t actually hire salespeople. I found four different cash registers but not a single employee manning a single one of them. Finally, in the juniors section I found a woman who was ringing up this couple who had a huge pile of clothes. Still needing to pee so badly I could hardly stand it (why is it that kids who need to pee can get away with just holding their crotches to pinch it off, and adults can’t?) I thought about trying to find someone else to ring me up, but the prospects didn’t look good, so I just decided to wait. After finally ringing up, folding, and bagging all of this couple’s clothes, the cashier asked if they’d like to open a Macy’s credit card account to save 10%. Turns out, they wanted to do just that. To top it all off, the man (who was getting the card) didn’t speak a word of English, so his girlfriend had to translate every step of the application process for him. This was going to take a while, so I bailed.

I headed back up to the women’s section and, once again, began a search for a salesperson. In the meantime, I heard several announcements on the intercom informing me that the store was closing soon so could I please take my purchases to the register. That’s what I’d been trying to do for the past fifteen minutes. And I had to pee! At this point I was thinking “To hell with the deserted corner of the perfume department, I’m just going to drop trou and piss all over the next unmanned cash register I find!” Finally, I saw someone behind one of the jewelry counters and asked if he could ring me up. He asked me what it was and I told him it was a wallet. He immediately pulled his hands away as though I had coated the wallet box in the bubonic plague before he told me I’d have to take it back to the men’s department.

I refused to believe that this was true, so when I saw a woman at one of the regular cash registers I raced over to her and asked if I could check out. She said yes and proceeded to try to ring up the wallet. It came up on her screen as $0. She said apparently it would only ring up in the men’s department, so I’d have to go down there. I told her that I’d tried but there was no one there to do it. She rolled her eyes and said, “well I can’t sell you something that rings up for $0” and then walked away! Forget about the cash register, I was about ready to just pee all over her! I was thinking about leaving and forgetting about the wallet, but I had come so far already.

So, I headed back down to the men’s department. On the way there I heard yet another announcement about the store closing and the need for customers to bring their final purchases to the registers. I began to wonder if this was actually part of some big joke – that as soon as they make these announcements they all immediately hide; that underneath each cash register station there was an employing giggling with childish glee at the prank they were all collectively pulling. Or maybe customer service at Macy’s just sucks. Either way, I was beyond frustrated.

Back in the men’s department I FINALLY found a guy reorganizing the shoes who could ring me up but, lo and behold, the wallet still rang up for $0. Unlike the woman upstairs, however, he eventually figured out how to ring it up and it actually was half off of the already reduced price and only cost $7.50. I’m not sure if the extra $7.50 I saved was worth the permanent damage I had probably done to my bladder, but at this point I was willing to take any small victory. So, finally, after overcoming a problem with the credit card reader that required me to try three different cards before I was able to make this slightly inadequate wallet my own, my quest seemed over.

After the ordeal I’d just faced I needed a drink and a bathroom, so I headed to the restaurant in the Galleria where my roommate works since I knew they’d be able to provide me with both. Usually I don’t use the bathroom there because they have one of those guys who turns on the water for you in exchange for tips, which I hate both because it makes me uncomfortable to have someone help me use the restroom (I’m not three and this guy isn’t my mom) and because I bristle (yes bristle) at the prospect of having to pay to use the bathroom (I mean, I could just not tip him, but this guy works in a bathroom for god’s sake, I wouldn’t feel right stiffing him). But this time, I had to go so badly that I was willing to endure the awkwardness, and so glad to finally get relief that I almost felt like tipping the poor guy $20.

But there is ultimately more to the story. The moment I was big enough to carry a bi-fold wallet I got one like my dad’s, so I’ve never experienced adult life with anything different, and thus didn’t realize that there are actually practical reasons for getting a wallet like the one my dad always carried (my dad being practical to a fault, I should have known). It turns out that this new wallet of mine is littered with problems. First, since it’s made of soft black leather instead of smooth marbled brown, it doesn’t slide in and out of my back pocket very easily. I’ve almost left it behind at various places simply because putting it back into my pocket is such an ordeal that I often don’t bother to do it right away and thus forget that it’s not there. Second, all of my credit cards have to go in vertically rather than horizontally, so they’re almost completely covered up and I can hardly tell them apart. Finally, and this is absolutely ridiculous – this smaller size of bi-fold is almost the exact width of U.S. currency – making it almost impossible to get cash in and out of it. This completely defeats the purpose of a wallet! This might rival the circular mouse of late 90s Mac infamy as the single biggest design flaw in a product ever.

But then there is the far larger problem. Far worse than the struggle to get this stupid new wallet out of my pocket is the unpleasant thought that when that struggle is over and I finally do pull it out, it doesn’t look or feel like MY wallet. Sure, the color matches more of my clothes, and the softer leather is nice to the touch, but it just doesn’t have that heft and substance to it that I’m used to. And it’s true that the smaller size makes it take up less space in my pocket, but whenever I sit down I can feel that it just doesn’t lay right between me and my seat.

And, in the end, it simply doesn’t line up with the childhood memories that I have of my dad pulling out his beat up, brown, leather wallet whenever we’d get to the checkout at the grocery store, or toy store, or movie theater. My dad would never be able to palm this smaller bi-fold the way he would when he’d move his wallet into his back pocket. And as time passed and the wallet got more and more worn, the black leather wouldn’t show the scuffing around the edges that always told me that my dad’s wallet had been around for a while – maybe even longer than I had.

Put even more simply, this wallet isn’t the wallet that I want.

Maybe there was more to it than simply thinking my dad’s wallet looked kind of cool, maybe it reminded me that there were parts of my dad that I SHOULD aspire to turn into one day. Maybe it wasn’t just a sign of manhood because it was big – maybe it reminded me that my father was a provider; someone who could buy groceries and toys; someone who could take me to the movies. And maybe that plastic insert that held all of the pictures of my brother and me, a picture marking every year of our young lives, reminded me just how much my dad, a man who never expressed himself very well, really loved us.

So, today, I’m headed back to JC Penny. If I have to wait in line forever to get it, so be it – maybe I should have stood in that line the first time and used the time to think a little bit.

I just have to remember to pee before I go.
  • Current Mood
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At the Puter

Ahhhh, The World Makes Sense Again

So, when all was said and done (see blog of March 1st, 2008), I didn’t get a Mac. Before the Mac users out there start to jump down my throat, let me just say that I did strongly consider getting one. But, of course, for such a major purchase I wanted to do some research. First, I looked at the Mac website where it seemed that I had a choice between the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. I checked out the Air and I must say, it encapsulated everything I hate about Macs. I was watching their little on-line video about it and they started by showing how impressively thin it is. Okay, fine. But then they kept repeatedly making comments about the size while talking about its hardware – things to the effect of:

“The MacBook Air has a 120 GB hard drive housed in the world’s thinnest computer.”

“Within the MacBook Air’s slender frame is a 1.66GHz Intel Processor.”

Of course, all of this was meant to distract the viewer from the fact that what it all boils down to is that the MacBook Air is hundreds of dollars more expensive than the MacBook even though a top of the line MacBook Air has less actual computing power than even the cheapest MacBook.

Then, the video went into a long explanation of the Air’s “innovative new technology” that would allow it to read the CD-ROM drive of other computers for software installation and data storage. While it might have looked like this was an interesting new feature, the only reason it’s actually necessary is that the Air DOESN’T HAVE IT’S OWN CD-ROM DRIVE!!!!!! If you want to install new software you either have to download it (not available for a lot of software) or install it through another computer! If someone burns a CD of photos and gives it to you, you have to put it in another computer on the same wireless network and access them that way. This rivals the circular mouse as one of the single dumbest design flaws ever!

Of course, in theory, compensating for all of these shortcomings is the fact that the Air is super thin and light. The video began with someone pulling the Air out of a manila envelope. Um, I don’t plan on mailing my laptop to anyone, thanks. I mean, I understand that it’s nice to have a laptop that isn’t heavy and bulky, but this is a bit ridiculous. Like the iPod Nano, the Air is small for small’s sake and thus the increase in price and decrease in hardware are simply absurd. Let me say it again: ridiculous marketing!

But, moving on. I looked into the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. I even tried a few different configurations and compared prices. The Pro is waaaaaaayyyyy more expensive than the regular MacBook, and the only real difference for my purposes was the size of the screen – the Mac Book has a 13 inch screen, the Pro a 17 inch screen. As some of you may know, part of the reason I want a laptop is so that I can pursue my budding on-line poker career without being stuck at home all the time. So, I figured it might be worth-while to spend the extra money to have a nice big screen since I plan on spending quite a bit of time staring at this thing. But it was going to cost at least an extra $1000 for the bigger screen. I started wondering just how big of a difference it actually made when it occurred to me: there’s a Mac store at the Galleria – I can go there and actually see these things in person. So I went, thus demonstrating just how seriously I was considering buying a Mac.

So I got to the store and immediately one of the twenty salespeople rushed over to talk to me. I asked him various questions and had him show me the difference between the MacBook and the Pro. Other than the glazed, “I am a Mac Person and I’m ready for the installation of my iI,” look he was actually pretty nice and helpful and even encouraged me to just go with the MacBook rather than spend a ton of extra money on the Pro. After I had looked at the different computers and asked my questions I started browsing around the store a little bit. It seemed like at least once every thirty seconds someone was asking if they could help me. I think some of them might have even been the same person – it was hard to tell since they all had that “Mac has taken over my soul so I have very little individuality left in me” look to them. That’s right, even the employees have the Mac “sheen.”

Finally, I left, thinking I might just go home and order a MacBook. While walking back to my car (okay, I was actually walking to Banana Republic – can’t go to the galleria without a trip to the Republic) I naturally started thinking about this blog, since I know that my readers have been waiting on the seats of their collective pants to find out whether or not I would trade my free will for a soul sucking computer that’ll match my iPod. So I was walking through the galleria thinking about what the title for this blog would be after I purchased my Mac (yes, this is the kind of crap I think about while walking through the Galleria – this is why I’m going to die alone). Instantly, the perfect title came to me: “I Feel Dirty and Want to Kill Myself.”

This was when I started doubting my decision to buy a Mac. Through that title something in my subconscious was screaming desperately to be heard and alert me to the danger that I, the reviler of every Mac marketing ploy of the past two decades, the great champion of consumer free will, the Bane of all subliminal corporate sales strategies, might fall for the very marketing that I have sworn to oppose. After all, I hadn’t spent any real time looking into other options. Sure, I had spent some time researching, but I had only researched Macs – I hadn’t even bothered to check out Dell or Gateway – I had simply gotten my heart set on a Mac and blindly pushed ahead. In other words, I had almost lost my soul to a sleek corporate identity without a fight. At that moment I resolved to fight back… as soon as I was done shopping at Banana Republic (where I bought two shirts – gotta love the Banana).

I got home feeling ashamed that the Mac marketing machine had come so close to pulling me in, so I decided to do something about it right away. On the drive home I had realized that part of the reason for my near failure was that everyone I had talked to about buying a computer had been a Mac person (“Mac person” doesn’t sound quite right, since “person” connotes individuality and humanity, maybe Macite, or Macian, or Macish). In fact, the more I thought about it, almost all of my friends were Macians (apparently I’ve settled on that title for Mac “people”), which led me to wonder if this was somehow connected to the French/Phil Collins phenomenon of a previous blog. Rather than pull at that thread, though, I decided to call the one person I know who is not only a PC person, but who also has a capacity for irrational disdain that surpasses even my own. That’s right, I called my brother.

In our brief conversation, my brother inadvertently made me realize just how insidious the Mac marketing campaign is. My brother has been using Vista for a while and actually said that he kind of likes it, though he did say it was a memory hog. In fact, he said the part he hates the most is the little animations that they added to try to make it look a little more like a Mac. At first I was stunned to hear someone say something positive about Vista. But then it occurred to me that I had never really heard any complaints about Vista from anyone who actually used it (even one Macian I know who uses Vista for business didn’t really have anything negative to say). Plenty of Macians had made fun of it, and those silly “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” commercials had panned it pretty badly, but I’d never actually heard someone who used Vista on a regular basis say anything negative at all. I have heard of people running into problems when trying to upgrade from XP to Vista on an existing PC, but I won’t be doing that, so it won’t be a problem.

Then my brother told me that he had bought a bunch of laptops recently for his lab and I was shocked out how little he had had to spend. Right after I got off the phone with him I hopped on-line and checked out Dell and Gateway. It turns out, there’s no need to spend $2500 on a 17 inch screen – Dell sells them starting at $699! The Mac website had bragged that the Mac OS was much more efficient and thus didn’t require as much RAM. That might be true, but Mac charged $400 to upgrade to 4MB of RAM, while Dell could do it for $100. With that much RAM even a memory hog won’t be a problem. Not only that, I was floored by the number of options that I had with a PC. With the Mac it was basically a choice between MacBook and MacBook Pro, which was basically a decision between $1500 and a 13 inch monitor or $2500 and a 17 inch monitor. The Dell and Gateway websites allowed for customization on almost every component. I could pick my screen size, processor speed, RAM, hard drive size, wireless card, whether or not I wanted BlueTooth, whether or not I wanted a Webcam installed, etc. Heck, I could even pick the color – something Macs have apparently abandoned – their laptops come in white or black, end of list (if anyone is interested, I went with Spring Green for my PC). In other words, I was able to get a computer set up for what I wanted my computer to do, rather than having the corporate goons at Mac force-feed me one of two options. When the time comes, I wonder if they’ll even bother with an iI Pro.

So, in the end, goodness and virtue prevailed. Free will is safe. After making my decision I was driving around good ol’ H-town and, in the span of five minutes, saw not one but two cars with the Apple logo on the rear windshield. I wanted to bang on these people's windows and ask: "Really? An Apple logo on your car? Really?" This struck me as a sign that I had done the right thing. Sure, Dell, Gateway, Microsoft, etc. are all big evil corporations, but those of us who use their products see them as just that: products. They aren’t an identity. I don’t consider myself part of an exclusive PC “club.” I would never put a Dell logo on my car.

When discussing the possibility of a Mac with one of my Macish friends (I won’t mention names for her sake) I mentioned that one of my hang-ups was that buying a Mac meant becoming part of the Mac culture. Her response was “yeah, you’ll be cool.” But there are two problems with this concept. First, there is no evident reason that Macs are in any way cool. In this regard, they remind me of the Dallas Cowboys’ claim to be “America’s Team” – the only people who ever think of the Cowboys as “America’s Team” are Cowboys fans themselves. Likewise, the only people who think that Macs somehow make their owners cool are people who own Macs. Second, the very notion that one’s computer COULD be linked to one’s coolness is simply ridiculous. And that’s the problem with Macs. Their users are an extension of their marketing – and their basic marketing strategy is that Macs are “cooler” than PCs. This strategy is so pervasive that it’s unavoidable. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never once thought that my relative “coolness” was in any way linked to my computer. To own a Mac is to be a part of Mac “culture” with all of its misguided notions of what is cool and what isn’t, and I am relieved to know that I have avoided this pitfall.

In a week I’ll get my new Dell PC in the mail. It was a lot cheaper than a Mac would have been. It has a lot of features that I’ll use regularly, and doesn’t have a lot of features that I won’t. I’ll use it to write the last parts of my dissertation at Borders. I’ll use it to play poker while sitting outside on these beautiful spring days. I’ll use it to check e-mails in the morning without having to get out of bed. But in all of these scenarios the computer will simply be a machine facilitating my life. Who I am will remain separate. My identity will be my own, the spread of Apple products in my home will stop with my MP3 player, and my “coolness” will remain safely tied to who I am as a person (as well as the two new shirts that I’ll be wearing courtesy of Banana Republic™).
At the Puter

Punting Sports Writers - Two Years Later

Okay, almost two years since my initial rant against the inexplicable use of puns in sports writing (see blog entry from April 9th, 2006), I just have to mention one that I just came across. This is not to suggest that this is the first instance of bad sports punnery that I've encountered in the past two years. Indeed, if this issue is any indication, my blog is apparently completely unable to correct any of the world's great wrongs, since sports puns have continued to appear in staggering numbers despite my railing against them, which is surprising since my blog is read by literally twos of people each and every year.

Anyway, while reading an article on ESPN.com about risky free agent signings in the NFL, John Clayton, one of the most respected and intelligent sports writers in the business, decided that he needed to introduce his discussion of free agent nose tackles with the phrase "Exotic nose (tackle) jobs." So he's creating a pun that combines the concept of the nose tackle, a defensive lineman who lines up in the center of the 3-4 defense, with plastic surgery. Why? I have no idea. And I'm guessing that Mr. Clayton has no idea either. As I explained in my blog two years ago, this is the problem with sports puns: they don't make any sense, there's no connection between the two vehicles of this pun. Basically, he's just making the pun because he can.

But what makes this pun particularly bad, and thus worthy of another rant two years later, is the parenthetical insertion. He didn't just say "Nose jobs" but instead said "Nose (tackle) jobs." In other words, the pun was so bad that, without the explanation that the parenthetical insertion offers, Clayton was afraid that we wouldn't get it and this, in and of itself, indicates just how bad and unnecessary the pun is. Puns are like "That's what she said jokes" - since they're barely worth mentioning in the first place, if they require any explanation whatsoever then they definitely aren't worth mentioning at all. Yet this pun, which Clayton knew couldn't work without explanation, still appears as a heading within a major sportswriter's column. Seriously, something needs to be done about this. My solution would involve duct tape and a hatchet (the headline could be "No More Hack Jobs"), but I'm open to suggestions.
  • Current Mood
    frustrated frustrated
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At the Puter

The iPocalypse Is Upon Us!

As some of you may know, I hate Macs. So let me start by saying that that hasn’t changed. Some of my reasons are rational, and some not so rational (most are a blend of the two). I’ll get to those reasons in a moment but first, let me start by uttering what was once unthinkable: I’m thinking about getting a Mac. Ugh, there, I said it. I’ve hated Macs for so long that that sentence just feels unnatural. But, before I get accused of irrational computer bias, here are the main reasons that I hate Macs:

1. Software – I’ll start with the most rational reason. PCs are so dominant on the market that almost every software developer makes sure that their programs are PC compatible. The same can’t be said for Macs. The Mac OS might be more stable than the PC’s, but what good is a stable OS if there aren’t any programs that can run in it? It’s the computer equivalent of choosing to live in either California or Nebraska. Sure, in Nebraska you don’t ever have to worry about earthquakes, but what the hell are you supposed to do with yourself in the meantime? Fucking Macs.

2. Ridiculous Marketing – Sometime in the late 90s there was a Mac commercial in which several of the most recent Macs were spinning around, each one a different color, while the Rolling Stones “Colors” was playing, and then ended by bragging that you could buy the new Macs in any assortment of different colors. That was it. No mention of hardware performance, software availability, stability, cost, etc. Their entire selling point was that they came in different colors. Fucking Macs.

3. Ridiculous Design – This one is closely related to the last point: far too often Macs place aesthetics ahead of user-friendliness. Allowing consumers to pick the color of their computer, while certainly a ridiculous feature to use as the central selling point of their product, is acceptable. A mouse that is a perfect circle is not. Yet, in the late nineties, early 2000s, that’s exactly what Mac introduced: a perfectly circular mouse. Of course, at a glance it was cool and unusual looking. But, frankly, I don’t really care what my mouse looks like, I just want it to work and be easy to use. These weren’t. Seriously, did anyone at the Mac testing lab even try to use one of these things before they gave it the okay, or did it just go straight to a market research group full of people who squealed with glee at the sight of a mouse that was a circle but were distracted by shiny objects before they ever put their hands on the stupid things? Fucking Macs.

4. The “Apple Key” – A key on a keyboard should not be named after a fruit, the name of a company, or both. I don’t mind when companies place their logos on their products, but when the basic functionality of the product is tied to its logo in this way I just get a little creeped out. This is why I no longer eat breakfast at McDonald’s (well, one of three reasons, the other two being I’m never awake in time and their food is disgusting): a few years ago they started branding the “Golden Arches” onto the buns of their breakfast sandwiches and pancakes. If they want to put their logo on the wrapper or the napkins or whatever, that’s fine, but I want the food that’s entering my body to be logo free. Likewise, when I’m typing away at my computer I don’t want to be subliminally bombarded with the phrase “Apple Key” every time I need to hit what should just be called the “Ctrl” button. Fucking Macs.

5. The “Eject” Software Command – Actually, this one extends beyond eject, but I’ll use that to explain myself. Once, when using a Mac at work, I needed to leave, but also needed to get the data-CD that I had been using out of the computer before I left. So, I went to eject it, but there was no “Eject” botton. WTF! So I asked someone what the hell was going on and she said that you have to open it through the OS. WTF! But I found the place to do it and told the OS to eject my CD. It told me it couldn’t because the CD was still in use. WTF! As far as I could tell I had closed all the programs and wasn’t using the CD at all – I just needed to get it out of the fucking machine so I could go home. The Mac never bothered to tell me WHICH program was using it, just that SOME program was using it. WTF! When I need to get a CD out of a computer, I want to press a button on the CD drive and have it pop out. I don’t want to have to meekly go to my computer and ask “Um, excuse me. Can I please have my CD back now, sir or ma’am?” only to have it tell me “NO!” I get enough of that kind of rejection in my sex life. Fucking Macs.

6. The Mac “Sheen” – Have you ever noticed how everything Mac makes is glossy and (other than the portions that come in custom colors – see reason #2) hospital white? There’s something that I find freakishly sterile and uniform to it all. Most sci-fi movies that want to depict a controlled, passionless, computerized, future world do so by placing the characters in clothes and buildings of that same sickly white. Just think of the walls and clothes in “The Island” or the Storm Troopers in “Star Wars.” That color of white connotes evil empires robbing humanity of its individuality and free will. When our government forces all of us to wear cybernetic implants so it can monitor our thoughts, those implants will be that same glossy white and, I fear, will have a Mac logo as well.

7. One Mouse Button – Seriously, this is absolutely the worst and most unforgivable thing about Macs. Never, ever, EVER trust a computer that only has one mouse button. I can understand that back in the 80s when the mouse was an innovative technology one mouse button might have been all that they could pull off. But come on, it’s the 21st century! While PCs were adding second buttons, scroll wheels, “back” buttons, etc. Macs were too busy making their mice into perfect circles to ever make them actually DO more than they had in the past. Mac users always ask me “What do you need a second button for anyway?” I asked the same thing of the scroll wheel the first time I saw one, but then I came to realize that it greatly enhanced the functionality of the mouse. Likewise, a second button means that the mouse can do twice as many things. Mac users don’t get it because they’ve never had more than the single mouse button, and thus are unable to conceive of anything beyond the double click. Fucking Macs.

So why am I considering a Mac? First, one of the points on my list has actually become less true: more and more software developers are making their products Mac compatible. Also, I don’t play computer games nearly as much as I used to (if you don’t count poker, I don’t really play computer games at all anymore), so I don’t need that many different programs.

Then, there is Microsoft Vista – a.k.a. one of the biggest disasters in computer history. I haven’t actually been stupid enough to put it on my computer, but I’ve heard nothing but horror stories. My brother installed it and found out that his printer wasn’t Vista compatible. He had to buy a whole new printer. As he pointed out, if his printer was old and getting a new one meant getting a serious upgrade then that would be borderline acceptable. But the new printer didn’t do anything that the old one didn’t do, except work with Vista. That’s absurd. It’s also supposed to take up huge amounts of memory, crash frequently, and ask a million stupid security questions every time you try to do anything. I’ve not heard one positive thing about it. PC users have always had to grudgingly admit that Macs were more stable and ultimately better computers from a purely technical standpoint, but the annoyances that came with them (see the list above) still made PCs a better choice. Due to Vista, that is no longer true.

Of course, Microsoft has since released an update to Windows XP, so it’s possible to just go that route but that worries me for the following reasons. First, this is Microsoft, and when Microsoft wants people to buy a new product like Vista they will generally use their market power to make sure it happens one way or another. Of course, Vista is so bad that this MIGHT not happen, but that leads to my second reason: if I buy a new computer I don’t want to have to gamble on which OS will be standard in a few years. I mean, sometimes these kinds of things come up: BETA vs. VHS, Nintendo vs. Sega, HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray. But in the computer world we already have a choice to make – PC vs. Mac – I don’t want to make that choice then have to make a second choice between operating systems, one of which might be obsolete in a year and both of which will crash far more than they should (a Microsoft trademark).

The final reason that I’m considering a Mac, though, is also the most distressing. The very marketing and design that I have always loathed has also made it increasingly difficult to live a Mac free life. This Christmas I got my first iPod. It suffers from many of the same things that bother me about Mac computers: the glossy design, the software controls (why not just have a volume control on the side like any other portable music device?), and the ridiculous commercials peddling absurd selling points (the nano is the worst in this regard – I mean, really, at what point did making an MP3 player too small to be observable by the human eye become a selling point?). However, Mac’s marketing has so flooded the market that when it came time to ask my parents for an MP3 player I didn’t know what else to ask for other than an iPod.

Little did I know that I was opening the gateway to a vast and disturbing world. Shortly after Christmas I went to the Mac store to get a case to protect my new iPod. Before I knew it I had spent $30 on a case, $40 on a new set of headphones, $80 on an iTrip so that I can play my music on my car’s radio, $100 on a docking station, and could have easily spent another $300 or so (or slightly more than the iPod itself) on other accessories.

And then, there is iTunes. Sure, it works on a PC, but everything from it’s interface to it’s aesthetic design to its terminology to the color and design of the cord that attached the computer to my iPod screams “This should be done on a Mac!”

This is the most compelling argument both for and against my getting a Mac. On the one hand, I envision a new hard drive full of weeks and weeks worth of music, arranged in playlists as far as the eye can see all ready to be put on or taken off my iPod at record speeds without the needless crashes and delays that come with a PC. But then I start thinking of the consequences. The iPod has already taken over my musical life. Whether at home or in my car, or sitting at Borders writing this senseless blog instead of writing my dissertation, my ears are filled with sounds provided by Mac products. If I get a Mac, then it will take over my computing life, including my e-mails, web browsing, writing, on-line poker playing, etc. Before I know it I’ll be downloading all of my favorite shows and Mac will have taken over a big portion of my entertainment. From there, it’s only a small step to an iPhone, thus taking over my conversations, my texts, my personal life.

And let’s face it, it won’t stop there either. It’s only a matter of time before Mac has some state of the art way to infiltrate even our most private moments. I mean, their products are already glossy white, so why not have some kind of state of the art toilet (they could call it the iTurd and instead of using a handle to flush you’d have to use a software command that half of the time would result in it saying “Unable to flush; colon still in use”). Then they’ll make the iCar, which will only have one pedal (pressing the pedal will accelerate, to break you’ll have to press the pedal and the “Apple Key” located on the dashboard right next to the CD player that only plays the same CD over and over because it’ll never let you have it back). After that it’ll be the iGasm, a sex toy that for aesthetic reasons will be in some ridiculous shape that makes it totally uncomfortable to use. Shortly thereafter we’ll all be getting the aforementioned cybernetic implants – they’ll call them the iMe, or, even better, the iI.

All of this is to say, then, that a lot is riding on my decision. Indeed, the continued existence of free will may hinge on whether or not I finally cave and get a Mac or continue to deal with the frustrating messes that Microsoft offers up every five years or so.

Or maybe I’ll look into Linux.
At the Puter

Following Up

For those who are interested (because I know that so many of you find the nonsense on my blog absolutely riveting) I inquired as to Bob and Molly's feelings about the French/Phil Collins. As I said at the end of my last blog, I was nervous because I knew Bob had taken French in grad school.

So, it turns out that both Molly and Bob took some French in school, but that they both ultimately seem pretty indifferent about the French in the larger scheme of things. Phew! Bullet dodged.

But then...

Molly went on to tell me that Bob thinks that Phil Collins's first album is "brilliantly dark"! This means that he has not only heard an entire Phil Collins album (normal people only know his singles), but knows it intimately enough to call it "brilliant." Phil Collins? Brilliant?

Then there's Molly, who said that she is "often filled with rage and confusion about Phil Collins." My first thought was that I had finally found someone who didn't like the French or Phil Collins but then it hit me - rage and confusion... about Phil Collins? She then went on to tell me that she and Bob have actually had fights about his talent and get into arguments when he comes on the radio about whether or not to change the station. As I said in my first entry, the beauty of the Phil Collinses of the world is that they don't inspire much feeling either way, they make driving while listening to the radio safe. What are we to do if people are hurtling down the highway at seventy miles an hour while FIGHTING over Phil Collins?! Molly might not be a fan of Mr. Collins, but her passionate feelings (of rage and confusion? really?) don't fall in line with the indifference that is supposed to be his gift to this world.

From now on, I'm walking everywhere I go.

So, the final breakdown is as follows:

Friends that feel passionately about Phil Collins - Liz, Katie, Misti, Bob, Molly
Friends that feel passionately about the French - Kendra, Cory, Stacie, Virginia, Kristin

Seriously, what is wrong with me?!

As a side note, after reading my blog, Kendra later informed me that the French love Phil Collins. I'm not quite sure how this fits into what Molly accurately described as my "life crisis," but it must mean something (beyond just being further proof that the French are a silly people. They're afraid of Skeletor* but love Phil Collins - hence they deserve my mockery).



*Apparently when they showed episodes of He-Man in France, they could only show the episodes that didn't include Skeletor because the censors were afraid that his skull face would frighten French children. That's right, Skeletor is too intense for France.
At the Puter

Phil Collins or the French - You Tell Me.

First, let me just start by saying I have nothing against Phil Collins.

In fact, I might even hold a grudging respect for him. I mean, any guy who manages, with only a sliver of talent, to rise from being the drummer of a band that lost its lead singer to being the new lead singer of that band and then somehow parlay that into a successful solo career, deserves some credit. And for someone who is short, balding, and not terribly attractive to accomplish all of this in the MTV era when looks matter at least as much as talent is truly remarkable.

So I have a certain respect for Phil Collins, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’ve always kind of thought of his music as filler. There are some songs on the radio that we love, and we spend our time flipping between stations trying to find those songs. Then there are those that we absolutely can’t stand, and we spend even more time flipping between stations to avoid those songs (since they vastly outnumber the songs we love). All of this flipping distracts us from concentrating on things like driving and operating heavy machinery, so it’s important for there to be some songs that we simply don’t have a strong feeling about one way or another so that we don’t go careening into oncoming traffic or chop off someone’s arm with a chain saw. I always thought that Phil Collins fit this description perfectly. When I’m trying to maneuver through heavy traffic or cranking up a power sander (okay, I’ve never cranked up a power sander, but there are people who do it often and they, too, have radios) and Phil Collins comes on I always think to myself “Eh, this is fine” and then I focus on the task in front of me.

In this respect, Phil Collins provides a valuable service to our society – forget about air bags, innocuous pop songs like “Sudio” and “One More Night” probably save more lives per year than all the safety equipment in the world. For that, we should all thank Mr. Collins.

But I always figured that that was as far as his role in this world went. I certainly thought that that was as far as his role in my life would ever go. His is the kind of music that you hear in the dressing room at Sears; or while your parents are getting ready to throw a dinner party (yes, that part is autobiographical). It’s not bad, but it’s not the kind of stuff that inspires… well, anything.

Which is why I find the phenomenon that I’m about to describe so strange.

It began with Liz. We were driving around one day and she was listening to Phil Collins. After the second or third Phil Collins song came on I realized this wasn’t the radio – she actually owned a Phil Collins CD. It had never occurred to me that anyone (other than my parents) actually owned Phil Collins’s music. I mean, he’s had a successful career, so on some level I knew people must buy his CDs (mostly people’s parents who like to throw dinner parties), but I just never really thought about encountering an owner of a Phil Collins CD. And here I was in the car of one! When I made some kind of comment about it Liz revealed that she “loved” Phil Collins; that she thought he was great and that she was a genuine Phil Collins fan.

A Phil Collins fan?! I never thought of him as someone who had actual fans. Again, I don’t dislike Phil Collins, but I can’t imagine someone actually seeking his music out. I mean, if people are flipping around their radio stations looking for the likes of Phil Collins then I’m going to start being a hell of lot more careful every time I get on the highway.

But, I could still write this off to an isolated incident. After all, this is Liz, and Liz has a tendency to appreciate certain unusual things on a complicated and unique level that can sometimes be… oh hell, let’s call a spade a spade, Liz likes crap (this is the same women who not only went to, but thoroughly enjoyed, Resident Evil AND Resident Evil II – you owe me four hours of my life back Liz).

Then I was driving around with Katie about a year later and she decided to put in a CD. It starts playing and low and behold – Phil Collins! Once again, I made some kind of comment, and once again someone revealed to me that she not only owns a Phil Collins CD, but that she LOVES Phil Collins. Phil Fucking Collins! She knows the words to all the songs, loves to sing along to them, she even got excited when we saw a Genesis reunion on TV once! Now, don’t get me wrong, Katie likes a lot of crap, too. But she likes trendy crap – not Phil Collins style crap.

But it gets worse. Just a couple of months later I was on Myspace looking at my friends’ various pages and I went to Misti’s page. It took a second to load and then her selected song started playing and it was… Phil Collins!!!!! I immediately sent her an e-mail asking WTF is up with the Phil Collins and it turns out that she, too, LOVES FREAKIN’ PHIL COLLINS!!!

At this point I had a real dilemma. Of course, on the surface, there’s the question of what the hell is wrong with these people. But then there is the deeper question: what the hell is wrong with me? Why am I apparently drawn to Phil Collins fans? I mean, if there were some other artist that they all liked, it might be different. If they all liked Billie Holiday, that would be fine. In fact, anyone who doesn’t have three friends who like Billie Holiday is someone who probably needs to go get some new friends. Even if it was someone like Michael Jackson, hell, even Britney Spears, that would be okay – I mean, those people have such a large fan base and tend to inspire strong feelings one way or the other, so if you have enough friends it’s highly likely that three of them will be fans. But to be close friends with not one, not two, but three Phil Collins fans? That can’t be a coincidence.

I was so disturbed by this that I immediately started polling my other friends about their feelings regarding Phil Collins. Cory and Amanda – don’t like him. Virginia – feels about the same as I do (she said he’s like concrete – it’s fine that it exists, but she doesn’t really think about it that much). Kristin said she wouldn’t ever buy his music, but turns it up when it comes on the radio. Kendra’s response – “I like some of his songs. Wouldn’t go to a concert or buy any music, but might leave him on if [he was] on 99.1.” In other words, all of my other friends felt about Phil Collins EXACTLY how someone is SUPPOSED to feel about Phil Collins, which is to say not really feel much of anything at all, good or bad. This was encouraging, but still, three Phil Collins fans is more than I’m comfortable with.

Then, something else happened.

Let me just start by saying, I have nothing against the French.

Okay, that’s not true, at least not entirely. I don’t really hate the French, but I do love to make fun of them. In fact my love of mocking the French is third only to my love of mocking Canadians and my love of mocking, specifically, French Canadians.

So, a few weeks ago, Virginia told me that she’s decided to take a French class through Leisure Learning. At first, this seemed normal enough. Actually, I thought it was pretty cool. In the course of talking to her about it, I mentioned to her that she should practice her French on Kendra sometime, since she has a degree in French and speaks it fluently. Then it also occurred to me that Cory just took an intensive French class this summer and has, as far as I know, picked up quite a bit of the language. Then it also occurred to me that Kristin takes French and, when I asked her about it, she confirmed that she does, in fact, take French lessons three times a week.

In other words, all of my really close friends who aren’t Phil Collins fans are huge fans of the French!!!!! What the hell?! All these years I’ve always prided myself on the fact that my friends are a diverse bunch – that if someone were to meet all of the important people in my life they’d have a hard time seeing any patterns. But now I come to realize that there is a very simple pattern – my friends can be divided into two very separate and distinct categories: lovers of French and lovers of Phil Collins.

Again, the crucial question in all of this is WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT ME?! I mean, that several of my friends like poker is not surprising – I like poker, so it would make sense that I would be friends with people with whom I have that in common. It makes similar sense that I have a lot of friends who like to read, play board games, eat sushi, drink wine, etc. I enjoy all of those thing.

But I have no real feelings either way for the French or for Phil Collins and yet, on some strange, subconscious level, I apparently use a love of those two things as my criteria for deciding who I want to be close to and who I will simply drop from my life. Maybe this is a blessing. Maybe the next time I go on a date I should just ask, “Do you like Phil Collins? No? Do you currently study, or soon plan to study French? No? Okay, well, I certainly respect your feelings on both of those issues, but I don’t think this is going to work out. Have a good night.”

This still, though, does not answer the question of WHY I’m drawn to these (dare I say it) freaks! Ultimately, I think it’s best that I don’t know. Besides, there is still some hope for me. I have not yet asked Bob and Molly how they feel about Phil Collins or the French. They are my last bastions of hope. Although, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Bob studied French while in grad school…
At the Puter

Poker? I Don't Even Know Her!

Okay, seriously – this whole “gambling” thing is a cinch. I don’t know what other people’s problems are. So, for those who don’t know, I went to a casino in Lake Charles this weekend to play some poker and “gamble” a bit. Here’s my story:

So Cory and I get to the casino and go to the card room to register for a tournament. There was a $65 buy-in and that was about all we really knew – we don’t know the structure or the payouts or anything, just figure we’d give it a shot. So, we finish registering and decide to get some food while we wait for the tournament to start.

As we’re walking towards the restaurant area we pass the slot machines (of course, we could have been walking anywhere and passed slot machines – they are EVERYWHERE) and there’s a slot machine with one of the coolest themes EVER! That’s right, it was a slot machine with the theme of…

SEA MONKEYS!!!! (For the relevance of this, see my July 11th post “My Thoughts On Sea Monkeys and the Undoing of Democracy).

I had a dollar bill on me, so I figured I’d see if I could win money to pay for my dinner. Not one to mess around, I put the whole dollar into a single pull of the lever (actually, it was just the push of a button – another one of the many reason I hate slots and don’t play them unless they have cartoon brine shrimp painted all over them).

I won $10. Slot machines – easy.

So we eat and, in the meantime, a friend of Cory’s joins us and then he goes off to play some table games. We meet up with him later and he’s playing three-card poker. I’d never seen this game before, but it was pretty simple and looked kind of fun, so I bought $60 worth of chips and gave it a shot.

A few hands later I had won $40. Table games – no problem.

So then we head to the poker room and get ready for the tournament. So, it turns out that this is a shootout tournament, which means that there are ten tables with nine players per table and the winner of each table goes to the final table. I quickly realize that the overall quality of play at this tournament is LOW. A couple people at the table don’t even know all of the rules. I was talking to this very nice but very inexperienced woman at my table and she said that the only Hold ‘Em experience she had was playing the free games that they have at Buffalo Wild Wings during her lunch break. She didn’t have a clue what she was doing. Then there were a few people who knew more or less what they were doing but clearly didn’t have a very good sense of strategy beyond the very basics (i.e. bet with good cards, fold bad cards, bluff every once in a while). Suddenly I stop thinking that this is just a fun experience and start thinking I could seriously win this thing. With so many yayhoos at the table, I figure there’s no need to get too fancy – I’ll just play pretty straight ahead poker and just let the odds work in my favor.

Works like a champ. After folding for quite a while I catch a flush and make a bunch of chips. I look over my shoulder to see how Cory’s doing at his table and he has a huge stack of chips, so it’s not just my table – the room is full of yayhoos. Shortly thereafter I play pocket nines and catch a set – knocking three players out in the process. Not too long after that a guy tries to bluff me by going all-in with his last 1,200 chips. Since I had already invested about 3,000 in the hand and still had 24,000 more chips it was a horrible bluff by him and an easy call for me. So I knock him out. So it’s down to this older woman, and a poker pro who, fortunately, is short stack. Ten minutes later it’s over and I’m the winner of my table (that's right, I beat a poker pro). Cory eventually took second at his table – not a bad showing by the Rice grad students.

So I go to the final table. This is where the story actually gets pretty wild. The official rules state that everyone at the table is guaranteed to get $100. Third place gets something like $1200, 2nd gets around $1500, and first gets $3000. But, we can also make a deal at any time as long as everyone still alive in the tournament agrees. One option is that we could all just agree to split the prize pool evenly ($480 each) and call it a night. So the official goes around the table asking if everyone wants to do that. We all say “yes” until it gets to the very last guy, who starts acting all cocky and says “I came here to gamble, let’s gamble! Come on, let’s play some cards!” So I look at this guy (from this point on I’ll refer to him as “asshole”) and say “Look around! If you want to gamble that’s fine – you’re in a casino! Gamble all you want, but play against the casino’s money, not mine.” He won’t listen.

The biggest problem at this point is that the blinds are so high that none of us have any room to maneuver. We each have 40,000 chips and the blinds are at 4,000 and 8,000 and rise every twenty minutes. There’s just no way to play sophisticated poker at this point, it really all just comes down to the cards. So two people promptly get eliminated and then this asshole asks how much we’d get if we split the pot now. The number has risen to $580, which, in addition to being $100 more than before, is also under the magic $600 limit at which point we would have to pay taxes and fill out paperwork and all that crap. So, suddenly this asshole, who hadn’t played a single hand, is willing to make a deal and split the pool.

However…

The guy who had won the previous hands now had a HUGE chip stack. So he doesn’t want to just split the pool. But he agrees that if we are willing to give him more money than the rest of us he’ll go ahead and agree to split it up. So the rest of us quickly agree that we’ll pay him $30 each – giving each of us $550 and leaving him with $790. This guy is a poker pro and is trying to be nice, but eventually says “Do you know what I can do to you guys with a stack like this? $30 each just isn’t enough.” So we ask what he thinks is fair and he suggests $50 each. We all agree except for asshole, who says that he’ll pay $30, but not $50. So the pro looks at him and says “Son, you’ve got a lot to learn” and starts getting ready to play poker (and with that stack by playing poker I mean kick our asses – I mean, really, with the blinds having already gone up to 5,000 and 10,000 and him having 200,0000 chips, we’re all just hoping to be the last two people that he eliminates so we can back into 2nd or 3rd – it’s purely a gamble). So, seeing $550 flash before my eyes I quickly speak up and say “Look, I’ll give you $70 to make up for this idiot only being willing to pay $30.” The pro looks at the asshole and I could tell that he was thinking about not taking the deal just so he could nail this moron for being an asshole. Maybe he had heard me talking about being a poor grad student and feels bad for me or maybe he just wants to go play in the higher stakes games, but he eventually says to the asshole, “Yep, you really have a lot to learn. But for everyone else’s sake I’ll take the deal.” Someone else was nice enough to give me $10 to make up part of the extra $20 that I put in to pay off the pro, so, finally, I was able to walk away with $520.

Minus my buy-in I made $455. Poker – piece of cake.

So, feeling good about my night I decide to take $100 of my winnings and play some more three card poker just for the hell of it. So I sit at the table and I’m chatting with the dealer and the other guys at the table. In the meantime the guy to my left is making incredibly stupid plays and ends up losing all of his $200. The guy to my right burns through $300 like it’s nothing. Meanwhile, I casually turn $100 into $315. So I tip the dealer $15 and decide to cash out.

Table games – seriously, no problem.

Before I leave I decide to count my cash and I have $885. Minus the $200 I brought with me I’ve made $685. So I figured, what the hell, I’ll keep the $600 but go ahead and play with the $85 for fun. So I go back to the same table and proceed to turn $85 into $320.

No really – table games – NOT A PROBLEM.

I tip the dealer $20 and take my three shiny new black chips to the cash-out and call it a night with $1,100 in my pocket - $900 of which is pure profit. I then proceed to drive back to Houston happier than an angel half full of pie!

So, really, I mean it – this whole “gambling” thing is a cinch.
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Pig 02

The All Men Are Pigs Theory - Continued

To fully understand this post, make sure that you've read the previous post.

Rule #2: ALL MEN ARE PIGS, BUT NOT IN THE SAME WAY. Within the overarching category of the pig, which includes all men, there are three sub-categories, only one of which is really all that harmful. The three categories are Nice Guys (yes, they exist, but, yes, they, like all men, are pigs), Jerks, and Assholes. What follows is a brief description of the basic traits of each category. In order to not make things sound hopeless, I'll start on a positive note:

Nice Guys - The first, and most important trait of the Nice Guy is that he is a pig. Moving on from there, the second most important trait of the Nice Guy is that he knows he's a pig and is trying not to be. Nice Guys have all of the same piggish thoughts and impulses that the rest of the pigs have, but also have enough self awareness and self control to realize that just because half of the population is a pig at heart doesn't mean that half of the population has the right to be piggish towards the other half of the population. However, it's a constant struggle.

Jerks - The first, and most important trait of the Jerk is that he is a pig. The second most important trait is that he wears his pigness on his sleeve. This would make the Jerk harmless if not for the sheer number of his kind. Guys that whistle as women walk by; guys that brazenly stare at a woman's chest while he talks to her; guys that think that flexing in front of woman is attractive, these are all Jerks. There are a lot of them out there. In fact, this category probably includes more men than the other two categories combined and it is in their sheer numbers that they are so dangerous - but more on that in a moment.

There are two subcategories of Jerk: those that know that they're pigs, and those that don't. Those that don't are simply too piggish to even think about such things. Those that do simply don't care. So, while there are two categories, the distinction doesn’t really matter. Either way, they act the same.

The funny thing is, some women do seem to be attracted by blatantly piggish behavior. Those Jerks who don't realize that they're pigs will make lewd comments to women, and flex in front of women, and generally act like idiots around women because, in their unaware pigness, they really think that women will be attracted by this and, again, some are. Those Jerks who are aware of their pigness know that some women are attracted by piggish behavior, so they, too, make lewd comments, flex, and generally act like idiots because they know eventually it'll work. Either way, the end result is the same - Jerks, like all men, are pigs, but they are pigs who show their pigness, thus making them very easy to spot and thus almost harmless.

The reason that they aren't harmless is that there are so god-damn many of them. In fact, there are so many of them that there just aren't enough of the other types to go around, meaning that for purely numeric reasons, some women (even after we exclude those women who are genuinely attracted to Jerks) will either have to settle for a Jerk or remain single (my suggestion - remain single). I will discuss the second reason that their numbers are so dangerous in a moment.

Assholes - The first, and most important trait of the Asshole is that he is a pig. The second most important trait of the Asshole is that he is aware that all men are pigs, and knows how to use this to his advantage. This make the Asshole, by far, the most dangerous of the group. Assholes are intimately familiar with what constitutes piggish behavior and are willing to act differently - for a while. This is what makes the Asshole so dangerous - he, like the Nice Guy, has self awareness and self control but, unlike the nice guy, he sees nothing wrong with treating women in the piggish way that is his nature. Examples of the Asshole include the guy who says all the right things until he has sex with a woman, then suddenly wants nothing to do with her; the guy who seems great then bolts at the first mention of real committment; the seemingly loving husband who cheats on his wife on the side. What you may notice about these examples is that they all APPEAR to be nice guys on the surface, but, in fact, are Assholes. Also, some might reveal their pigness quickly (after sex for the first time) or much, much later (cheating on the wife). This makes them very hard to identify since, again, on the surface, they so closely resemble the Nice Guy and the amount of time that they're willing to fake it depends on what they are after. But rest assured, it only depends on what THEY are after - the Asshole doesn't really care about women. If he treats a woman well, it is only because that's what he has to do to get what he wants - once he gets what he wants, his motivation is gone and his piggishness will emerge.

Coming up... Rule #3 - PIGS NEED EACH OTHER
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Pig 01

The All Men Are Pigs Theory

Okay, so I've discussed parts of this theory with several of my female friends, but figured I'd use my blog to lay out the theory in its brilliant entirety. But first, let me just list my qualifications for making the claims that I'm about to make.

1. I'm a man. While I certainly don't think that I can universalize my own experience, I can say that this theory is not the product of an outside observer. I include myself in everything that follows. I'm on the inside, which leads to qulaification #2...

2. I'm a man. Despite what many women think, men say things to other men that they would never say around a woman. I've heard some women say that while their boyfriends might not say certain things around them, their guy friends do, so they've heard men at their worst. I promise you, this is not true. Think of the worst thing you've heard a guy say while knowingly in your presence and then multiply it by about ten. That's the kind of things that guys will say when there is no woman present. So, being a guy, I've heard guys at their absolute worst and thus have some insights that I don't think women ever get unless they do a lot of spying.

Some examples:

I once had a friend - we'll call her Ann - who was dating this guy - we'll call him Troy. We all worked at the same place. Ann and I were pretty close but I really only ever talked to Troy at work or if I was hanging out with Ann. As a result, I really didn't know Troy well at all. He always seemed like a decent guy - he was attentive and affectionate with Ann, but something just didn't seem quite right to me. Sure enough, a few weeks later a group of guys from work went out for drinks. Now that there were no women around, Troy started showing his true colors. He started telling everyone about what sex with Ann was like and that sex was always better when "you're just stringing them along." He knew that I was friends with Ann and that my loyalties would be with her and not with him. But, since we were both men, he assumed he could say things to me that he would have NEVER said around her or any of her girl-friends.

A friend of mine - we'll call her Jill - once said that she had guy friends that treated her like one of the guys - so she'd heard guys at their worst. After hanging out with her and one of her closest guy friends - we'll call him Ed - we drove back to his place. Jill drove her car and Ed rode with me. During the drive Ed went on a ten minute rant about why women were worse drivers than men and men should do all of the driving all of the time. When we got to his place and she had trouble parking the car, he made fun of her for it, but never once attributed it to her being a woman - and I don't think he would ever say something like that to her - at least not in the serious manner that he said it to me. Trust me, guys say things to other guys that they would NEVER say with a woman around. Period.

But enough of that, on to the theory:

Rule #1: ALL MEN ARE PIGS. Really, the theory could almost stop there. It's just that simple. There are no exceptions. It's one of the few universal constants. If I ever have a daughter I want these to be the first words she learns.

In my opinion, women would be so much better able to deal with men if they would just come to terms with this fact. So much male behavior can be explained by this simple truth. Why do guys whistle when women walk by? Because they're pigs. Why do guys watch porn and read Playboy? Because they're pigs. Why do guys lie to women to get them to sleep with them? Because they're pigs. Why do guys cheat? Because they're pigs. It's just that simple.

While these examples might seem obvious, knowing that all men are pigs also explains some more subtle, but equally perplexing behaviors. Why do men run away from committment? Because they're pigs. Why do men not express themselves more openly? Because they're pigs. Far too often I think women try to rationalize men's behavior, or to attribute it to some deep psychological motive. Trust me, we're not that complicated. We do what we do because we're pigs. That's it. In the entries that follow I will elaborate on my theory. But, at the heart of it all is the all-important notion that ALL MEN ARE PIGS.

Coming up... Rule #2: ALL MEN ARE PIGS, BUT NOT IN THE SAME WAY
Cop

Sometimes It's Just Undeniable

So I had to go to court today to take care of two tickets – one for driving with one of my headlights out and one for not having proof of insurance with me at the time. This is all a story unto itself, but not the point of what I intend to say here*. I was pulled over in West University, so I went to their municipal court, which is right in the middle of the neighborhood.

When I walked in, I felt like something was a little odd, but couldn’t quite figure out what. It looked like any other courtroom, a lot of frustrated people who don’t really know what’s going on being treated like crap by a bunch of city bureaucrats who seem to think that their job is to be as cryptic and unhelpful as humanly possible rather than helping people really understand what their options are. But then I figured it out – here I was, in a court whose jurisdiction was West U, one of the whitest neighborhoods in Houston and one in which most of the people are very well off, and I was one of the only white people in the room.

Now, given the demographics of West U, one would expect that most of the traffic violations that take place are perpetrated by well-off white people. Yet all of the people at court (with an occasional exception, such as myself) were people of color. Now, I’m not shocked by the notion that cops tend to pull over people of color more often, statistics have proven that for years, but the magnitude of it was really staggering. In a room of over one hundred people I could only count five white people, even though white people must constitute the vast majority of people that drive in West U.

Well, five white people if we don’t count the judge, the city prosecutors (one of whom had a frightening resemblance to Ann Coulter), and all of the cops. And, of course, all of these white city employees were being incredibly rude and condescending to all of the people who were in the courtroom. The police officers (I saw a total of four and each and every one of them was vastly overweight – proving that cops are incapable of actually doing anything to protect anyone and are nothing more than bureaucrats on wheels – well, racially profiling bureaucrats on wheels, anyway) yelled at anyone who couldn’t figure out how to fill in the forms (which are written in such a way that I, a PhD in the English language, had to read more than once to figure out) and treated everyone with clear disdain. The prosecutors snapped at anyone who didn’t, upon hearing their name, immediately make their way to the front of the room (even though the room was packed and moving was very difficult) and rolled their eyes every time they had to get someone to help them translate for a Spanish speaking citizen (which was often). When people asked questions they went out of their way to be unhelpful, and acted as if they were doing people a huge favor by allowing them to pay their exorbitant fines in installments instead of paying three hundred dollars right then and there, even though it was clear that for most of these people, three hundred dollars was probably a week’s wages.

I don’t consider myself naïve when it comes to racial politics in this country, but I just found it startling how blatant this situation was. Ten white people handing down “justice” on a room full of Mexican-Americans and African-Americans who had clearly been racially profiled in the first place seems like something that would appear in a nineteenth century protest novel, not something still going on today – I though racism had become more subtle and sophisticated than that. Maybe that’s why West U feels the need to have its own police department and court system – the HPD and Houston Courts have enough constituents of color that they have to find clever ways to be racist. Apparently the West U people don’t want to go to all that trouble and would prefer to conduct their racism the old fashioned way.

Of course, eventually my name was called. The judge saw me and immediately smiled. He dropped one of tickets immediately and asked if I had gotten my headlight fixed. I told him I had and he asked if I had done it within ten days of getting the ticket. Since my proof that I had fixed it was an auto-parts store receipt with today’s date on it, I figured I’d better not lie, so I told him I had only gotten it taken care of that day. It turns out I could have lied, because he never even asked for me to provide any evidence that I had had it fixed, but just told me not to worry about it, he’d make an exception and wave both of my tickets, and that I was free to go.

As I was walking out I heard one of the prosecutors yelling (literally yelling) at a Mexican-American woman who didn’t speak very good English because she didn’t understand what paperwork she needed to prove she had insurance. I also saw a young white woman and what I assume was her father sitting in the aisles looking very nervous. Why she was nervous I don’t know – she was clearly going to get off without any punishment whatsoever.



*Here is that story:

A few months ago I was in a minor car accident involving a fire department paramedic vehicle. My car got a little dinged up and, most importantly, one of the headlights no longer worked. In order to file a claim against the city, I have to submit an accident report. In order to get an accident report, I have to go to the police department downtown and make a request for the report in person. However, the police department won’t release reports involving city vehicles as quickly as they do for other vehicles – sometimes it takes months. So, I’ve been driving around with a damaged car and no right front headlight.

I have now been pulled over a total of four times for driving with a headlight out, and have gotten two tickets for it (as well as a ticket for not having proof of insurance with me, which I didn’t have because I had left it in my apartment while scanning a copy of it to send to the city to try to make my claim, which I still can’t make without an accident report).

So basically, the city damaged my car. The city won’t fix my car without a police report. The city won’t give me the police report, because the accident involved the city. Meanwhile, the city writes me tickets for having a damaged car. The city sucks.
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