Belichick Bingo

With the advent of new NFL season upon us, it’s time to prepare. The players and coaches prepare, why should we fans not do so? It’s a grueling season. If we slack off now, we might be unable to make it to the end.

Of course, as a native of Massachusetts, my job is easier. I’m rooting for the greatest team in the history of the sport, the New England Patriots. If you favor a different team and hate the Pats, I fully understand. I’d hate them, too, if I were from, say, Philadelphia or Oakland. Or Denver. Or Indy. Or… well, you get it. Sour grapes is an unappetizing but necessary part of the diet of the football fans of those cities, just as it has been for baseball fans from Boston. Until recently. 🙂

Below you will find an important new tool in your appreciation of the sport. Post-game news conferences are about the least enlightening 10 minutes of our lives, filled with platitudes, generalities, and more evasiveness than a Dion Lewis run. Especially if the speaker is the inimitable Bill Belichick. He’s the best coach in the history of the game, but he’s the least forthcoming. Listening to him in a post-game news conference gives one the distinct impression he’d rather have his gums scraped than stand in front of a room full of reporters trying to trip him up. Probably because he would.

To help you pass that painful time, I’ve created the following game: Belichick Bingo. Print the card out and, as you and your family and friends listen to the coach respond to the inane questions reporters throw at him, mark off the phrases you hear. The first to get a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row of five filled in wins!

You can even make your own cards with different common phrases from the Belichick post-game lexicon. Here’s a list of more possibilities to get you started:

  • turn the page
  • [player] has done a good job for us
  • good ball skills
  • ball security
  • they do/did a good job
  • doesn’t matter what we did last week
  • players win games
  • good effort
  • ready to play
  • gets better every day/week
  • have to do a better job
  • no question
  • there’s a lot of things we can still improve on
  • keep grinding
  • on a regular basis
  • have a lot of work to do
  • we’re just thinking about [next team]
  • everybody contributed
  • I don’t know
  • every week is different
  • situational football

There you go! The most fun you can have in the NFL without developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy!

A new take on the Nigerian scam

We get these letters via email all the time. 99% of them are screened out by our spam filters, but they keep right on coming.

Can you imagine anyone being so dense as to fall for such an obvious scam?

Attention recipient of email,

Welcome from world of Bank in Nigeria, I am Mr. Jamie Dimon, 
I wish to inform you that your lost funds has been approved by 
world of Bank and your File has been signed by Ministry of 
Finance to compensate you for complete destruction of your 
banking, mortgage and insurance companies of the America. So 
after our today's meeting with the board members we finalized 
to credit you with the ATM Visa card. My associate here in 
Nigeria will send you a a Card for your many uses. And issue 
you the ATM visa Card, So all you need to do is to contact The 
Mister Steven Mnuchin who will insist DHL Express Delivery 
Company regarding your VISA card, And do not forget to forward 
your delivery Details and payment to us as you make contact to 
enable to deliver The ATM valued to your doorstep.

To reclaim your financial system which we have left in shambles 
before running away to Nigeria for tax shelter (or the White 
House for new jobs), Submit your full information, also ask them 
how long you receive your ATM VISA CARD Package registered to 
them by world of Bank Director Mr. Jamie Dimon,

1. Your Full name_____
2. Your Address______
3. Your Phone Number____
4. Your age/sex______
5. Your country_____
6. Your occupation____

Director: Mister Steven Mnuchin 
Tel: +22xxxxxxx
E-mail: xxxxxxxxx@outlook.com

Also make to sure to include check certified for $700 billion USD. 
We will keep hold on your money system and the ATM visa Card for 
safekeeping until check arrives in Nigeria You must please truyst 
us. We are here to help that is why your the ATM visa Card will be 
coming to you for many good purchases.

Your expecting Package is Read in DHL Express Delivery Company 
Benin Republic, and you are to reconfirm your information to them 
and as soon as you reconfirm it and pay the ransom fee, them will 
give you your Package tracking Number for you to track and know 
when you expecting Package will arrive to your home address.

Yours Sincerely,
Mr. Jamie Dimon

Note: The basic content of the above letter was taken from an actual spam message I received. It didn’t have to be significantly modified to describe a real scam that we’ve fallen victim to once before and will again if we don’t wise up.

The All American Motel

Over two years ago, I wrote a post that was the first installment of a five-part short story. The story, “The Night I Woke Up”, described a vague remembrance from a childhood vacation. A few paragraphs into the tale, I briefly mentioned another memory from the same trip. That recollection might have contributed to an undercurrent of dread during that time of my life.

Here’s a snippet from that post:

We usually split the trip into two supposedly more manageable segments by spending a night in the cheapest, i.e. sleaziest, motel in North Carolina. (If you think sleazy, motel, and North Carolina is a redundancy, you’re not far off the mark. One of those joints could justify a story in itself. More than likely, it will.)

Well, it’s been a couple of years, but that joint, as implied, is about to have its very own post.

The motel in question was called “The All American Motel”. How much more promising could it be? We were an all-American family traveling in an all-American car (a Rambler, believe it or not) down the all-American east coast. The sun had set and we were well beyond exhausted and agitated from driving with three boys and their parents crammed into a vehicle for several hours. It was either stop and crash or continue on and, more than likely, crash.

In the darkness, the All American looked like the place to be. A full parking lot, a swimming pool, and all American. (My impression of what constitutes “all American” has changed since then, not in a positive direction.) What more could we ask for? We registered. We went to the room.

Not good.

There’s a reason motels have pretty much fallen out of favor in this country. They were never big on cleanliness or security. The All American set a new substandard for both. This place was disgusting. Putrescence was the decor of choice. The carpet had the consistency of Play-Doh, but stickier. The bathroom—I don’t even want to remember the bathroom. It might have had cockroaches, but if not, it was only because even the cockroaches have limits. Random lagoons of standing water probably bred entire civilizations of toxins. They should have dispensed antibiotics with every stay.

That night we went to a nearby restaurant, a dark and dingy steak house with a repulsive name like “Meaty D-Luxe” or such. The only thing I remember clearly from that dump was that the waitress was so creepy—kind of a female Norman Bates—we bolted from the place without even ordering. I’m not sure we ate anything that night. We were all too freaked out.

Back at the All American, we peeled apart the vile sheets and blankets, oozed into the beds, and somehow slept. The prospect of swimming in the pool the next day was the one hopeful thought that kept us kids going.

The All American wasn’t at its best in daylight because, well, you could see the place. The highly anticipated pool was a bust. It contained only about a foot of some kind of gelatinous fluid—it certainly wasn’t water. You wouldn’t have to be Jesus to walk across the surface of the thing.

The parking lot was still full, but…

There was something amiss with the cars. First of all, they were all ancient. No model was from the previous 30 years. Yet they all looked in good shape. That was only because every visible surface, all the metal, chrome, and tires of each vehicle had been freshly painted. The tires, while painted the colors of the cars: blue, red, white, whatever, were all flat. The license plates, also painted, were from decades before our stay. Not a single car in the lot was a real, running car.

Except ours.

We remedied that situation by tearing away as quickly as our little Rambler could ramble. I’m not sure we packed our stuff. We might have left it behind, afraid it was crawling with deadly microscopic life forms unknown to science. Probably whatever they served at the Meaty D-Luxe.

The only redeeming feature of the All American Motel is that it would make a great setting for a horror story. It was for us.

And it is for you now. Sleep well.

Thoughts between the storms of life

Life takes up all my time. Even weekends. That’s why I’m often reduced to dumping collected thoughts into posts just to meet my arbitrary weekly deadlines. Thus, here are some dead lines for this deadline:

Why isn’t postcocious a word, the opposite of precocious? It would apply to those who demonstrate an immaturity beyond (before?) their years. No one I know fits that description… outside of that guy in the mirror.

Whenever I watch a movie on DVD, I have to endure the declaration that “Piracy isn’t a victimless crime”. Tell me about it. I just wasted 10 seconds staring at the message.

I love my library. And I love my librarians. Still, I have to ask, how scientific is “library science”?

How lame is it when the news anchors blame the weather forecaster for bad weather? They don’t blame sportscasters when their teams lose. I hope one day to see the weather guy turn it around. (“Hey, Jim, when are you going to stop this rain and send us some sunshine?” “As soon as you stop all those mass shootings, Mary.”)

There are 2 kinds of people in the world: those who separate people into two groups and those who don’t.

Some say there are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

I wish I had a nickel for every empty bottle or can I see thrown on the side of the road. Wait…

Most house fans I’ve owned turn on at the highest speed. Dumb. That’s like a radio with an on/off dial that starts at the highest volume.

Remember when we worried about privacy? We’ve sacrificed it on the altar of social media. As Keith Lowell Jensen wisely observed, “What Orwell failed to predict [in his book “1984”] was that we’d buy the cameras ourselves, and that our biggest fear would be that nobody was watching.”

I was at a food truck event not long ago and took this picture:

When I blow that picture up (below) you can barely make out a disturbing sight in the background: Yes, that’s a bloodmobile. Evidently, they were expecting vampires at this event.

What’s with all the moving graphics?? Watch news or sports on TV and count the number of moving graphical objects on the screen. My ADD nature causes me to watch them obsessively and miss whatever is going on in the program. One more reason I don’t miss “news” broadcasts.

If You Give a Man a Cell Phone

[With apologies to Laura Numeroff and her whimsical “If you give a <something> to a <something else>” series of children’s books.]

If you give a man a cell phone…

He’ll want a case, a screen protector, a charger, extra cables, SD cards, a bluetooth headset and external speaker, and a pile of other accessories.

With all those accessories, he’ll ask you to give him a man-purse to carry them all.

The man-purse will leaving him questioning his sexuality. In his insecurity, you’ll have to buy him a huge, 4-wheel drive pickup truck with a hemi and a deliberately crippled muffler.

He might find that a large, loud truck isn’t sufficient to compensate for his lack of masculinity, in which case he’ll put a gun rack in the back window of the truck.

If he’s going to have that gun rack, he’ll need a rifle to feel truly macho.

He’ll ask himself, “Why do I have rifle if I’m not going to use it?” and he’ll ask you to take him hunting.

You’re too smart to accompany him, so he’ll go alone to spite you.

When he goes hunting, chances are his rifle will misfire causing him to accidentally shoot himself in the foot.

Alone and bleeding profusely, he’ll crawl back to the truck and try to drive for help.

Loss of blood will cause him to go into shock so he’ll pass out and drive into a tree.

Hitting the tree will trigger the airbag, which will concuss him.

He’ll spend a comatose month in a hospital in a town where no one knows him.

By the time he recovers and returns to his old life, everyone will believe he was dead so he’ll discover…
he lost his job,
his apartment was sub-let,
and his girlfriend has moved in with his former best friend.

The stress of all that loss will drive him to drugs and alcohol. It won’t be pretty.

When you finally get him to admit his addictions, you’ll have to check him into a rehab in northern California.

He’ll fall in love with his nurse who thinks his man-purse is cool.

To support his new laid-back lifestyle, they’ll move to a ranch in rural Montana…

which won’t have cell coverage…

so he’ll need a new cell service…

You’ll have to give him a new cell phone.

[Now all I need is adorable illustrations and I’ll be ready for a copyright infringement suit.]

The New Colossus of Fear

Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus”, which adorns the now-obsolete Statue of Liberty has to be replaced. It currently features the following lovely but oh-so-naive sentiment:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As a replacement, I humbly offer the more appropriate “New Colossus of Fear”:

Not like the wimpy statue that’s so lame,
That oversized chick draped in a green sheet;
Here to protect the cash on Wall Street
A macho man with a gun, whose aim
Will waste the bad hombres, and his name
Tyrant of Fear. From his weapon-hand
Shoots world-wide warning; we’re taking a stand
We’ll blow you back to hell whence you came.
“Keep to yourselves, you strangers all!” barks he
With bared teeth. “I’m tired of your lazy poor,
Your stinking masses with skin not like me,
If you’re here, will throw you out the door.
And to keep you foreigners out, you’ll see,
We’ll build a wall that you’ll pay for!”

It won’t make anyone forget Longfellow (or even Ogden Nash) but you must admit, it accurately captures the new, heinous “normal”.

God have mercy…

HTML for real life

When the technical and business worlds collide with real life, the results can be entertaining and instructive, giving insights into both. A couple of very clever guys, Tripp and Tyler, have leveraged this intersection to create (at least) two hysterical videos: A Conference Call in Real Life and Email in Real Life.

Why not push this into other areas? Back in the day when I was a software engineer, I dabbled in HTML. (Just enough to get myself in trouble.) In its simplest form, HTML involves a directive, i.e. an HTML command, that applies to all following text until an end marker, in the form of a slash and the same command, is encountered. For example, I can put text in italics by using the following syntax:

<i>This is in italics.</i>

…would appear on the screen as:

This is in italics.

It’s time to incorporate basic HTML notation in real life. That way, we can tell how to treat certain language and behaviors. Not only would this make intentions obvious to everyone, thus allowing us all to be prepared for what’s coming, it would be a boon for those of us who have trouble picking up both verbal and non-verbal cues.

Here’s a sampling of ideas that would improve our quality of life immediately, were they to be implemented across the board:

  • <whine>They don’t make good movies anymore.</whine>
  • <sarcasm>Oh, yeah, that’s a great idea.</sarcasm>
  • <throwaway>I’m fine. How are you?</throwaway>
  • <lie>No one respects women more than me.</lie> (In reality, no need for an end marker for this guy.)
  • <defensive>As a matter of fact, yes, I am a vegan.</defensive>
  • <flirt>Here, let me fix that strap for you.</flirt>
  • <insult>Your words are like water to a drowning man.</insult>
  • <braindamaged>I have a gun in my house to keep my family safe.</braindamaged>
  • <gossip>It was probably someone else with that woman, but it sure looked like Jim.</gossip>
  • <delusional>Steven Spielberg said he’d read my screenplay.</delusional>
  • <selfpromotion>I wouldn’t say so myself, but some people call me a genius.</selfpromotion>
  • <insincere>Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.</insincere>

You get the idea. Wouldn’t discourse be easier to follow if this notation were used? Which syntax would you like to see implemented?

YALMP

This is YALMP: Yet Another Lazy Man’s Post. Sometimes, you do what you must to meet deadlines, even self-imposed ones. Case in point, this post.

First, a funny email header I saw:

clown

Hard to believe there’s room for any more clowns in corporate America.


Second, this being a writing blog, here’s a short story I wrote several years ago. I already published it in my other blog, Limping in the Light, before this blog was begun. Rather than copy it into this space, here are three links, each to a part of the story.

6 Hours

Part one

Part two

Part three

Enjoy! And Merry Christmas!

The Shoeshine (Part 3)

[The conclusion of a Haitian shoeshine’s story, begun here and continued in the previous post. Based on a minor character introduced in my book, A Slippery Land.]

The long line of customers at the mission was a mixed blessing. He was running so late, he decided to skip his usual next stop, Toussaint L’Ouverture Airport. No one would miss him there, where mobs swarmed the arriving passengers, grabbing luggage and asking for payment in return, offering rides on tap-taps, or simply begging for American dollars from any blans emerging from the sweltering terminal. Having been at this most of their lives, they knew the blans were probably charity workers already in a giving spirit. The shoeshine usually had to battle those beggars for position. He didn’t hold them a grudge knowing he was only one shoeshine box away from joining them. He didn’t need the reminder.

Cité Soleil

Cité Soleil

Proceeding to his next stop, he made sure to cut a wide swath around his old neighborhood of Cité Soleil. Although he’d arrived at an uneasy peace in his own heart regarding his old life there, he knew of others in that slum who would not be inclined to extend the same grace to him. He wasn’t proud of the life he’d led there or the things he’d done, some of which would follow him to his grave. While he was embroiled in those transgressions, he’d rationalized away his misdeeds, telling himself that he only did what he needed to do to survive and get out of the slum. He did get out of the slum, to be sure, but Cité Soleil was never completely out of him.

His next stop was part of his penance. A home had been established for a group of elderly men and women who had somehow survived the ravages of life in Haiti—the storms, the violence, and the final insult: the earthquake. His own actions had prevented some young men from ever having the chance to reach that age. Any of the residents who brought shoes to him would have them shined at no charge.

The old men whose shoes he shined knew that what he did was not free. A price had already been paid. They sensed in him the same turmoil they recognized in themselves. They had been young, too. A few had served as enforcers for the Duvaliers. Some younger residents were former activists in Fanmi Lavalas. On the streets years ago, they might have battled one another to the death. Age had allayed the differences weapons could not. The ideals of youth died long before their own bodies did.

The shoeshine had no political affiliations or inclinations. With the disappearance of his family, he’d become a one-man party with no representation in government he was aware of. He’d seen enough elections to prevent him putting any faith in that process.

The last shoe buffed to a sheen rarely seen on any other object in Haiti, he bade ovwa to the old men.

His last hope for customers was outside the church. A few harried congregants always neglected to shine their shoes. Seeing the gleam of other’s footwear would drive them to the shoeshine in a desperate attempt to prepare their outfits for an appearance before God, even if their souls still harbored pain and guilt. Something could be done about the shoes, at least.

The man wasn’t comfortable around the church. He kept as great a distance from the building as possible without endangering his business. He still believed in God, but his regard for His servants crumbled when his wife fell under the seductive power of the pastor. Other than tending the shoes of the people entering the building, he’d had nothing to do with the church since then.

A cemetery in the Haitian countryside.

          A cemetery in the Haitian countryside.

A stop at the church was always emotionally draining for him. He needed to rest before he returned home. On the way was a cemetery where he knew he could find quiet. He settled on a stone, hoping it didn’t mark the finally resting place of some poor soul. In his box he found the little treats the kids at the mission house had left him. He took one out and examined it. The colors on the packaging alone mesmerized him. What kind of country had these colorful goods in such quantity that mere children were giving them away? America was a dream. He knew distant relatives who had moved there. He tried to imagine their lives in a place where food was so abundant and opportunity lurked everywhere. How much better his life might be in such an environment, he couldn’t even begin to imagine.

To distract himself from such dreams, which tended to induce more despair than hope, he scanned the area where he sat. Each time he encountered the large, impressive monuments in the cemetery, he was amazed. Ornate wrought iron designs adorned intricately poured concrete structures. Many dwarfed his own home. It made him laugh to himself to think he might have to die to improve his living conditions.

Nothing was new under the Haitian sun. After consuming half the gritty, bland American bar, he wrapped the rest up and stuffed it back into his box. He rose and turned his back on the cemetery, ready to make his way home. In his imagination, his wife and son awaited him.

The author in Cité Soleil.

The author in Cité Soleil.

The Shoeshine (Part 2)

[A Haitian shoeshines story, continued from the previous post.]

shoes

His first stop after roaming along his own street was the orphanage, not because it was a likely spot to find customers, but simply because it was the nearest large building. Occasionally, the people who owned the orphanage would be there. Clean shoes lent them an air of credibility, or so they felt.

The shoeshine had come to know many of the children in the orphanage over the years. He’d even met some of their parents, whose inability to feed and house them had forced them to turn their little ones over to the care of this institution. The children were fed and housed, but whether they were truly cared for was another question, the answer to which saddened him.

He wondered how he would have handled the situation if his son had survived the quake but the boy’s mother had still perished. Could he have given up the only child he would ever have? Against his will, he had anyway. The memory of the little boy was so vivid, he swore he felt the child’s breath whenever a stealth breeze caught him by surprise. The man had never shed a tear for the boy since he died, although he remembered crying over him constantly while he was still with him. He cried as the boy slept, when he played, and when he sat on the roof of their home staring over the city, never knowing what thoughts passed through the child’s mind. Were they the same as his own? Where were those thoughts now?

No customers emerged from the orphanage so the shoeshine moved on.

His hopes for a good return from the mission house were high. He’d seen evidence of a team of young people from the US staying there. The Americans always carried plenty of cash. While he only charged his fellow Haitians a few gourdes, he could easily ask an American dollar for each pair of shoes from the blans. It was rare that their shoes actually needed cleaning, packed away as they had been in luggage few Haitians could afford. It was an unspoken agreement of a metaphysical transaction. They would give up what to them was worthless to clean not their footwear but their consciences.

His English was limited to the few expressions required to accomplish the deal. “One dollar.” “Two shoes.” “Thank you.” Few of the team members made an effort to expand communications, so he appreciated all that much more the ones who did. They would approach him with smiles and ask in their American accents, “Konben?” A few would actually try to bargain with him. While he went along with the game and didn’t begrudge them their amusement, it annoyed him all the same.

The teens had come to help build a school. He appreciated the Americans’ misguided attempts at assistance, but he’d known more than one construction worker who had lost their jobs to visiting American kids. Despite the fact that one Haitian worker could accomplish as much in an hour as a team of American youths could do in a day, they kept coming like some invading force, taking opportunity captive.

The house was alive with activity. Through the screened windows, the shoeshine saw the teens scurrying back and forth, exhibiting the same degree of purpose as that shown by the ants that crisscrossed the walls of the building with no apparent goal.

One white face glanced out from a hole in a wall and saw him. A young girl who couldn’t have been more than fifteen approached him. She held out a bag in her hand. With a shining smile, she told him, “Kado.” A conflict of fear and gratitude contorted his face as he took the gift. Looking inside, he saw a brand new tin of black polish. His smile of more gaps than teeth was sincere, but he couldn’t help thinking of the man he usually bought his polish from. This was one less bit of income his friend would receive. He felt bad, but wasn’t about to turn down this meager windfall.

Most of the kids just left their shoes on the steps with a dollar in one of them. A couple had bits of food, strange, colorfully wrapped bars of nuts and grains flecked with bits of chocolate. He would make the most of those scraps. One bar could be made to last for two meals if money or food were scarce, as they often were. There was no telling when the next team might arrive carrying more free goods.

To be continued…