Are you shopping on Thanksgiving? You’re an asshole!

The title should say it all but I feel the need to throw in a few caveats, and explain why you’re a terrible person if you head to a shopping mall tomorrow.

First the caveats.  Lets pretend you’re driving to visit your family and you’re going to top off the tank at the gas station, then you see a random <insert gift here> on the shelf. It’s okay to pick that up.  It was something in passing, spontaneous, and more importantly at a place that is typically open 365 – 24/7.  From my experience from working at a gas station or convenience store, holidays are a must and comes with the job.  It’s not as if you actively went out of your way to stand in line at some sort of special sale at a store;  sales that are typically reserved for AFTER time with your family.

I remember when Black Friday became a thing.  I know the event has been around for decades, but it wasn’t really a thing until the past ten years.  Every year it gets crazier and crazier, and the stores that have these sales try to extend it longer and longer.  For instance there is now cyber Monday, and week long black Friday events.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to either of these things.  It spreads the mania out, and lessens the burden on everyone involved.

What I am opposed to are the special sales treading on to an actual holiday like Thanksgiving.  For me the Thanksgiving holiday means being with family.  I know some people dread the thought of spending time with your creepy uncle, but I know a lot of people also appreciate this family holiday. Even if you don’t have family to spend time with, it’s just nice to have a day off.

Instead stores are threatening to fire workers if they don’t show up, and telling them not to even ask for time off.  With this economy, they’ve got you by the balls. Before the housing crisis you could easily tell such employers where to shove their draconian demands.  Now you’re practically forced to work a job you most likely dislike, instead of relaxing with your family.

Those fuckers at the top of the Walmart food chain have the biggest balls ever.  They’re worth 36+ BILLION dollars, are paying people minimum wage, and telling each other to donate food to each other for Thanksgiving meals.  On top of that they’re forcing people to work on Thanksgiving. As if they need another few million dollars. I won’t even step into a Walmart unless it’s an absolute fucking emergency, or I cannot buy what I need within 100 miles of where I live.  In the past 10 years I have been into a Walmart three times.  One for a midnight birthday gift.  One because all the grocery stores were closed and I needed baking powder. And once for some Type C vacuum bags (that they didn’t even have but their website said they did).  Know what Walmart (and other stores that are open on Thanksgiving) should do?  Close down everything for a day as a sign of appreciating their workforce and their families.

But no, the economy is so shit, that lots of people can’t afford to lose their minimum wage jobs by saying “no way” to a mandatory Thanksgiving shift.  I used to joke about being a wage slave years ago, but now it’s a harsh reality for many people.  As consumers we should support the people who are forced to work on Thanksgiving by boycotting Black Friday creeping into Thanksgiving and not shopping at all on that day. No one should be forced to work with the threat of losing their job, that’s called extortion.  We’re all people with families, not just tools of mega-corporate greed.

Neo’s Grocery Adventures (April 2013)

Many people find grocery shopping dull, but not me!  For the most part I am highly entertained by all the ways consumerism, trademarks, bad marketing, and with the combination of my guttural mind warp what is seemingly innocent products into terrible things.  Just about every time I go to the store there is something new and amazing (in terrible ways).  So I figure that I’ll share my choice findings with you all. Besides, today is rolling restart day in Second Life.  We all know how much we can get done inworld while that’s going on!

20130416.Grocery_001First up: Salad Toppins — not Salad Toppings, or Salad Toppin’s, but Salad Toppins. These were found amongst the bacon bits, both real and fake. Upon finding them I just cocked my head a little and tried to process what I was seeing. We had already passed the croutons a long while ago, and these obviously weren’t bacon bits — but there they were amongst the fake bacon flavored chunks.  Skeptically we picked them up and shook them.  Southwest was the flavor, and all I could think of was how depression and retirement homes in Arizona tasted. Occasionally we buy things in the name of science, but this time we did not. Apo said something like, “These should be called Seasoned Starch Nubbins”. We put them back and moved on.

20130416.Grocery_002Near the end of our grocery adventure we ran into this little gem. It is an air freshener that is supposed to smell like BLACK iCE. Most of my adult working life has been driving jobs in Minnesota, and so I know a lot about black ice; both through the news and experience. I looked over to Apo and told her, “This smells like a fatal car crash!”. Being the horrible people we are we chuckled for a second, then sighed the sigh of depression. I know they’re trying to be “cool” with marketing and the like.  And I know Texas probably hasn’t experienced Black Ice.  But some marketing people should have done their research instead of stringing a cool sounding phrase together.


20130416.Grocery_003Moments before we saw the BLACK iCE at the end of the greeting card isle, at the bottom of  a giftcard rack, we saw this. It was a card with a half naked dude and a wiener dog on his lap who is saying “You look absolutely wonderful today!”.  At first I thought, “Oh the wiener dog is his wiener!”  But then I noticed the wiener dog is actually defying gravity on it’s own. It was then that I realized that the dog is being supported by his wiener. Oh the horrible wrong-bad places I go for a laugh. Just because you can make greeting cards with photoshop, doesn’t mean you should. I did not open the card, but in retrospect I should have.

Driving Tiffany

Scary Hitchhiker

This is a true story about when Apo and I picked up a hitchhiker. Before we begin, we had just finished eating dinner at Chipolte, then we stopped to pick up some Vodka.  She got in the car, and we started driving home.

As we were leaving the parking lot, a heavyset black woman flagged down our car. I rolled down the passenger side window to see what the problem was. “I need a ride home, can you give me a ride home?”

Being the overly helpful boyscout I am I agreed to help, and told her to hop in the back. In 2003 I used to drive a taxi for Suburban Green and White in Minnesota, and since I drive a Crown Victoria Police Interceptor now, I was feeling pretty nostalgic. Being a cab driver is essentially being paid to pick up hitchhikers. I asked her where we were going, and then she started to ramble.

“Doubleyou-shawdae-druh! At the HEB. No, you can drop me off at the walmart. My mom is looking for me for ten minutes now. Lets go to the HEB I live around the corner from there.” She went on like this for a little while, much more than I can actually remember. In all honesty, this should have probably been my first warning sign.

I was trying to concentrate on where she was really trying to go, because I really couldn’t understand what she was saying. I did know there’s there’s a Walmart down the road, and I know of about 5 HEB stores nearby. So I asked her again to see if she could clarify, I got the same unintelligible answer. Instead I switched tactics and asked which direction I should be going. To which she said take I-35 north, and that’s where I started to go. HEB and Walmart, can’t be that far right?

So as we’re driving to I-35, she asks about three times if we’re on 35 yet.  I-35 was no more than 3 minutes away from our current location. Given the previous dialog with her, and her current unawareness of what’s going on, the red lights are starting to light up in my head. Maybe she’s high. She can’t be drunk, because she doesn’t smell drunk. This was possibly a bad idea. So I dug out the GPS and plugged it in. I knew it would take about 5 minutes to charge up to a point where it could be turned on, and then load it’s maps…

Apo had been silent since I picked the person up, and with good reason because anything she said seemed to be pretty surreal. Then suddenly the hitchhiker started talking again without anyone asking a thing.

The Rock is Professor Oak“My name is Tiffany (I forgot her last name). I’m female. I am 27. I am black. I am 100% black.  I used to be blacker, but I spent time in the sun and it made me lighter. Like a tan you know? The sun does that to me. I’m 100% black. I’m a female.” I am paraphrasing to a degree, but not by much.  If anything I’m making her sound way better than what she actually said. So in my head, I was thinking perhaps she’s having a panic attack, or a bad drug trip. Either way that’s more of a reason to get her home, and I’m a little weirded out by now. Perhaps this wasn’t such a great idea.

While the GPS was charging we had driven quite a while on I-35, so I decided to ask how she got stranded down here. “A person stranded me down here.”  I asked if she knew them, but she kept going on about how it was “just a person”. To try to ease the tension between us all, I told her I used to drive a cab, and that this car is the same car they use for cabs. I only got a chuckle out of it. Apo told her some cab stories as well, but she was still very silent.

The GPS finally turned on, and as with any potentially high or crazy person, it’s very important to dictate your actions. So I told her we were going to pull over so I could type her address into the GPS. What I didn’t tell her is that I wanted to know where exactly we were going, and that if she got any crazier I’d leave here there.  She then told me it was Poague street in Killeen Texas, and that it was just 30 minutes away. I know the Austin area kind of okay, but I haven’t committed to memory all the nearby cities. I know Killeen is nearby, but not in my head exactly where. Already 10 minutes into this adventure, the GPS is telling me we’re an hour away from our destination. I’ve committed myself to this, so there’s no turning back. It’s not like I DIDN’T have time either, and I DO like to drive.

We drove for about another five minutes and the fuel light was on. I hadn’t filled up in a few weeks, so I told her we’d have to stop and get some gas. I threw $20 in the tank, sat back down and looked back at her to ask if she was ready. More importantly I wanted to read her body language.  She seemed delighted and relaxed. Which put my mind at ease.

Nicholas Cage RagefaceWe drove for about 20 more minutes, everything is cool, everything is mellow, when suddenly out of no where: “I am female.  I am small.  I am small because I am female.” That “at ease-ness” I had…  Totally gone. With her evasiveness about why she was stranded down here, how apparently high she was, and her repeated assertiveness about how she was female. I drew up a mental image of an overweight but passable transsexual homicidal prostitute crackhead who kills drivers as she hitchhikes across the nation. I started to make a mental list of all the potential weapons in my car. I silently cursed myself for not keeping my half-hammer half-hatchet in my drivers side door as I always used to. I am not a very paranoid person, but I wanted to be prepared. I put on her favorite radio station — If anything to keep her silent, mellow, and pre-occupied.

If things went extremely south I was ready with:

  • My drink would make an excellent opener to any sort of brawl. Cold, wet, shock.
  • That bottle of vodka would make a great club, or painful shiv.
  • I have a steak knife in the glovebox.
  • The dome light (as seen in the Rock Driving Meme picture above) is actually pretty blinding when turned on in a totally dark car.
  • Car keys make superb punching augmentation devices.
  • I don’t think she put on her seatbelt, and if worse comes to worse, I could wreck the car.

Satisfied with my defense plan and music playing, we kept driving forward into the night. Eventually we arrive in Killeen, and she asked me if this is where all the clubs were.  I didn’t fuckin’ know, but her recognizing the place made me feel a bit better. From there on she started giving directions towards home. One thing I noticed is that Killeen is a dump. There are pawn shops and same day check cashing places on EVERY block. It was only as we were leaving that we found out there was a military base nearby.

We finally pulled up to her place, where she told me to drive forward more, so I pulled up 20 feet and stopped.  Then she told me to go backwards, so I rolled 10 feet back and stopped. She wanted me to go back some more, so I did. Seriously lady, I drove you 60 miles, you can walk those extra ten feet. When she did finally get out, she thanked me several times and walked away into the night. I was just glad it was over.

In the end, she was just trying to get home; but probably higher than a kite. I like to think we’ve all been stranded someplace at some point. I feel sort of good helping someone, even if it was pretty risky. She didn’t really do anything to assure me that she was just wanting to get home. It’s a shame she wasn’t more forthcoming in what was really going on, because I can only speculate as to what was really happening.

On the way home though, my Lighting Control Module glitched out and my headlights went off. It’s a notoriously known problem with Crown Victorias from my era. It happens when LCM overheats, which means it’s more prone to doing while running the lights in the summer.  Swiftly pulling over in the dark, and going over those very noisy “WAKE UP YOU SLEEPING ASSHOLE” road groves caused my engine to stall. While I am very familiar with the LCM issue, this was totally new.

I pulled over and tried to start the car. It was cranking, but it wasn’t starting. So I began pulling and testing every fuse with car manual in hand. Interesting thing is that I found a few fuses that were in there but underrated. Such as a 5a fuse in place of a 10a slot, and a 10a fuse in place if a 15a slot. What I didn’t find was any blown fuses. So I started flipping through the manual, and saw something that says if you’re in an accident your fuel pump switch may turn off.  Turns out that’s what happened, and all I needed to do was open the trunk and press the switch.

We finished driving home talking about how crazy it was, with the AC on max to keep the car cabin chilly for the headlights.

Busy week, but still trucking forward!

The past week has been really hectic, however the beginning of the month was oddly calm. Although it’s been busy, it’s nothing I couldn’t handle, and everything’s comin’ up Milhouse! They only sort of odd side effect is that it’s kept me out of Second Life, moreso than usual.  I’ve noticed a trend for the past few months in that the end of the month has a lot for me to do.

Skyrim Butterfly RagecomicThe free time I did have earlier in the month was spent playing Skyrim and working on The Wastelands. I didn’t think I’d like Skyrim because it was a high fantasy first person clobberer. What really got me into it though was the sheer amount of information and questing. I did a half dozen book fetching quests, before I found out about Skyrims dynamic quest generating thing.  If I hadn’t found out about it, I would have fetched ALL the books, simply because I like libraries. From a technical standpoint, Skyrim is really impressive, although the NPCs can be a little DERP at times. One thing I really like to do in these open-world sandbox games is hoard things. Gathering reagents for alchemy was strangely satisfying, the comic on the right is the EXACT set of expressions I made. I neatly organize things into specific containers!  WOOO  OCD! I am proud Skyrim lived up to the hype, as I have a tendency to play games six months to a two years after they’ve been released.

Video Editors and Cocaine

Like all good children, I went to visit my parents for the holidays last December. When we travel we get to stay at a few hotels or lounge around and watch actual television. And every year I am always taken back because I notice something about television commercials  that I hadn’t noticed before.

I personally don’t remember when the majority of television programming turned to crap, nor do I remember when people in marketing became unable to sustain our interest with their commercials. I do remember when commercials became unbearably loud, and how congress intervened. Morbid curiosity made me at least a little eager to see what had happened to commercials over the past year, since they couldn’t be deafeningly loud anymore.

I am uncertain if anyone else noticed this, but commercials change the ‘scene’ every quarter of a second now in order to assault our brains with imagery. Watching these commercials made me feel a bit ill, not in the sense that I’m going to throw up, but in the sense that I’m brain fatigued by STUPID information. I am not a slow person by any standard, and even on my worst days I can comprehend information spews. “Weonlyhavefifteensecondstotalkaboutourproductsoletsshowyoufourtyimagesandtellyouoneminutesworthofinformationinthistime”, didn’t really sit well with me. Eventually I just closed my eyes during the commercial breaks, and by listening I could hear what they wanted to tell me about, and not feel on the verge of having an epileptic seizure. It’s very apparent that the people in charge of commercial editing, are on ALL of the cocaine ever.

A few shows on television also do this. Whatever happened to the slow leisurely pace of enjoying something?  But then there’s the other swing of the pendulum, where shows spend 5 minutes recapping what happened prior to the commercial break, thus padding their run time. I sort of feel cheated by whatever I’m watching that does that. Perhaps they do it because we’re having our minds blanked by the commercials.  All in all TV is in a very sad state. 1/3rd of any program is dedicated to commercials, and what’s left of the program is dedicated to product placement.

Know what commercials I’ve actively looked online for and enjoyed?  Those Old Spice Ones — because they’re creative and funny.

I accidentally Amazon Prime

Many moons ago I decided to try Amazon Prime for some free shipping on some stuff I bought.  Well… I forgot to quit it before the trial expired, so I decided to give it a go.  Since then I’ve ordered more stuff online, mostly car parts and some DVDs.  I’ve also been watching a lot of their free stuff for amazon prime members.  The selection is pretty lacking, but there’s a few gems in there.  However I went to Amazon today and found this. I’ll gladly throw another $80 to amazon next year for discovery channel content! Now if they could only get NatGeo!