Friday, July 18, 2008


I’m fat, and I don’t care.

I am so sick and tired of all the people- mainly women- I hear belly-aching about how they wish they could lose weight. They blather on about faddish diets, like not eating is the solution to their problem.

The person who has lost the most weight, hands down, is Richard Simmons. The man in the fruity shorts has burnt off more fat than the rest of the diet world combined. How did he do it? He made people get off their lazy arses and actually exercise. THAT is how you lose weight- you burn it off.

Whenever I try to tell people this- typically while knawing on a candybar or drinking a non-diet coke, I get death glares. I guess people see my manly stomach and think I’m full of hot air and fat. They fail to understand that I really could care less if I have a little fat. They must think I’m joking when I tell them that when the apocalypse comes, the skinny people will die soon, but those of us with fat reserves will be sittin’ pretty.

Still, despite my built-in survival rations and my laissez fat attitude, I have decided to enter the weight loss game for awhile myself. Not because I particularly want to or need to, but to shut people up. That’s right, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and show how easy it is to lose weight.

I plan to do this by a combination of diet and exercise. Lately, fate has conspired to put me on a diet anyway. We had some storms last week that knocked our power out for 21 hours. We cleaned out the fridge, throwing potentially-spoiled food away just like a crazed dieter. In the aftermath, there’s just not a lot of good snack food left in the fridge. My gallon of vanilla ice cream is gone- partially melted and replaced with a flavor I don’t like (it was the kids' turn to pick the flavor).

Then there’s the kids- they have eaten all the cookies and snacks that didn’t require refrigeration. I know, I can replace them when I go to the grocery, but last night I had nothing to snack on. Oh, the humanity.

For the Diet part of my plan then, I plan to limit myself to one softdrink in the evening (down from my usual 3 or 4), one 32oz glass of milk (down from my 2 or 3), reduced snacking and I’ll swear off thirds at dinner and only have seconds every now and then. That alone is bound to knock a load of calories off my weekly diet.

For the exercise part of my plan, instead of spending all my evening time seated on the couch watching TV, I shall try one half hour on the pedal-powered clothes rack in the basement- or what most people would call an "exercise bicycle". We’ve had it for years, but it never gets used.

Finally, to make this a manly endeavor, and not some girly exercise in trying to justify a wardrobe change, I’m making a contest out of this: one of my pals and I are having a weigh-off. Whoever can lose the most weight by Halloween wins a cash prize AND a smorgasboard-like lunch at our favorite purveyor of fatty, delicious food: Wendy’s.

Personally, I don’t think this is going to be so hard. And I’m going to get the perverse joy of still eating a candybar and coke for breakfast every morning at work, in front of the diet-obsessed chicks in my office, while somehow shedding pounds. It’ll drive them crazy.

So here we go. Week 1, my weight is 315 Lbs, stacked 6'4" high- when I stand up straight. I'm wearing 46 pants. I’ll be following up with weekly weigh-ins, so my pal and I know we aren’t cheating.

Friday, July 04, 2008

NEVER GIVE UP- A Father's Day Tale

I was over at EngadgetHD this morning and saw a horrible story about a Dad who won a 65" HD TV from Charter, then they screwed him and tried to give him only a 19 Inch set.


This reminded me of Engadget's own HD TV giveaway. And of my own brush with a rigged contest back in 2004. It went something like this:

In my day job, I take complaints. A lot of complaints. Complaints from real jerks that haven’t the slightest idea of what manners are. And I don’t exactly make the big bucks for putting up with all their crap.

For many, many years, I have always been a person hesitant to make complaints. The complaint taker is almost never the source of the problem anyway, so why be rude to them. However, as I have grown older, and had to listen to other people bitch and moan for ten years, I have changed my mind.

Now, I complain.

Actually, I should say that I complain when I’m justified to do so. Fair is fair, and when anyone doesn’t get treated fairly they should speak up. And that’s just what this story is about.

Several years ago, a few months before Father’s Day, a major retailer advertised a clever contest- dad’s could write down a great moment with their kids that they wished they’d caught on video. The entries had to be handwritten, and dropped off at each participating store. Each store would then select one winner, and then all those local winners would be further judged for a National grand prize winner.

The prizes? Each local winner was to get a brand new flip cellphone with all sorts of gimmicks built in and a free year’s worth of service. The National Grandprize winner was to get a package worth $25,000. It included just about every electronic gadget a dad could want, a several-thousand dollar gift card to the Retailer and a Visa-type giftcard from the Retailer.

I was very interested.

I carefully printed off an entry and thought about what I would write for days. Eventually I settled on what I thought was a very appropriate tale of my three year old. At the time, my daughter greatly enjoyed watching the behind-the-scenes segments on DVDs with me. When Terminator 3 came out on DVD, we got a copy and raced home to watch it. When the movie was over, I started to watch the extras. However, my daughter wanted to watch some cartoons. Right about the time Arnold appeared on the screen and declared "I’ll be back." my girl grabbed the remote, declared "No you won’t." and turned the DVD player off.

Okay, it was a so-so story. Funny, but not a knee-slapper. We went to the retailer, driving for about 30 minutes to get there, dropped off my entry and ended up buying a few things when we browsed the store.

A few months passed and I thought I’d check online to see what the winning entries were. I was eager to read all kinds of great tales of child antics. One problem though. The webpage for the contest was gone.

I double-checked my bookmarks in Internet Explorer. I ran a search. Nothing.
Suspicious, I emailed customer service. They later emailed me back, claiming they had never heard of such a contest.

I called customer service. After claiming to not know about the contest, nor of being able to find it on the retailer’s website, the rep I talked to eventually started looking through the online Sunday fliers. Sure enough, he found the contest listed.

Unfortunately, I had called just one week too late. Had I called the week before, I could have requested a list of the winner’s names.

After a few minutes of arguing, the rep changed his mind and said that if I sent a letter showing I had emailed during the period posted he was sure they would give me the winner’s names.
At this point, I knew I was being had. It reminded me of the time I handwrote 650 postcards and deposited them in a drawing box for a free pickup. After all there was no limit on the number of entries.

My next step was the Better Business Bureau. I explained my complaint and cited some Indiana statutes that mandate the odds for winning in a contest have to be displayed.

By December, I began a series of emails with an attorney for the retailer. I learned that the contest had been delayed- that judging all the entries had proven too large a task for the company running the contest. I was assured the judging would continue and winners would be selected. I pointed out that a lot of retailers have been known to pull fast ones with these kinds of contests- claiming to award prizes merely to bait consumers into their stores.

February came and I checked back with the attorney- reminding him that I still wanted proof it was a real contest. I was told winners had been picked and I would get a list of the winners names.

A couple of days later, I came home to find a Fed Ex package on my doorstep. I opened it up expecting to find just a list of winners. Instead, it contained a gift card to the retailer for $576, and congratulations for winning at my local store.

The moral of this story is that like insurance companies, businesses will do their best to not respond to complaints how you want them to. But if you’re right, don’t give up. It doesn’t cost you anything but time to complain. On the otherhand, for a business, their attorneys are spending much more valuable time than you are answering your complaints.

And what’d I do with the money? Bought my little girl some DVDs and a wall-mount swing arm for her TV, got my wife a new cellphone, and bought myself a kickin’ graphics card for my PC and a couple of new games.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The 4th of JuLive:
This Independence Day celebrate in digital safety!

Ah, Independance Day. Unlike some cultures that sing and dance to celebrate the birth of their nations, we Americans do it right. We blow shit up.

It makes perfect sense, really. Look at our great National Anthem. "By the Rocket’s Red Glare, Bombs Bursting in Air...". While the rest of world celebrates their national holidays like a bunch of skipping pansies, we Americans remember the awesome whoop ass we had to lay out on our cousins from across the sea to gain our independence. We don’t sing Kumbayah or hold hands.

We... Blow... Shit... Up.

Unfortunately, blowing shit up is dangerous. Very dangerous. So how do you feed your demolitionist leanings and stay safe? How about Xbox Live?

Oh, sure, I know what you’re thinking- why stay inside on the Xbox when you could be out blowing shit up for real? I used to think like you. When I was a kid, I loved blowing shit up. Those were the good old days when firecrackers were illegal. My truck driving uncle never disappointed though. He’d smuggle some bricks of pure American firecracker fun back home to the Hoosier State and me and my cousins would celebrate in style. We would blow all kinds of shit up.

When I was a teenager though, I finally learned that blowing shit up could be dangerous. One day, after having run out of hotwheels, Army men, little frogs and everything else fun to blow up, my cuz and I really scraped the bottom of the barrel. The trash barrel. Where my uncle would burn trash. (they lived on a farm). There we found brown treasure- beer bottles blackened but intact. Previous experiments had shown that a firecracker dropped into a 16 oz glass coke bottle (yep, showing my age there) made a really cool noise. So we decided we would determine the tonal range of a Coors bottle.

Boom! The fire-weakened bottle exploded from the little firecracker- quite surprising considering these same firecrackers had done little more than sting our fingers when we didn’t time our throws right earlier in the day (I will, as a public service to parents everywhere, not divulge what we were flinging at or why).

Holy Crap! That was awesome, I thought in that first half-second of manic glee. Then a piece of glass hit me in the leg and my cousin, standing beside me, screamed and held a hand up to his face.

I spun in place, not looking at the incredibly f*cking painful spot on my leg I was sure was gushing blood, and panickedly asked my cousin if he was okay. Chills went up my spine as I envisioned the ass-whooping my dad would undoubtably be giving me when he learned I had put my cousin’s eye out. With a firecracker.

Thank God (thanks again Lord, I know it’s been years since I thanked you, but let me just reiterate my appreciation for your intervention that day) but Dan’s eye was intact. In fact, he wasn’t bleeding at all. He just had this bright red spot on his forehead that was causing him excruciating pain. I chanced a glance to my leg. Eureka! My bluejeans were intact. Even though my leg was stinging like crazy, I had avoided laceration. I was fragment proof! No glass in my leg, no glass in Dan’s forehead or eye!

From that day foreward, my love affair with explosives was tempered with caution. I am kind of accident prone after all, best to be careful and keep all my fingers. Unfortunately, cost of caution is the reduction of fun.

Then, years later, I got an Xbox 360.

Oh, the joy! Rainbow 6 Vegas, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. Battlefield Bad Company. Thanks to these wonderful first person shooters, I can get my maximum bomb on, and keep myself, my loved ones, and my home intact.

It started in GRAW, when I discovered that all those cars parked in Mexico would explode in these beautifully rendered fireballs. From that day on, it was not uncommon for me to stop chasing bad guys to take out some rage on a parked car, or use up all my grenades long before reaching my objective.

Rainbow Six Vegas upped the ante. Not only did I have grenades I could fling at doors, blowing them off their hinges, but I could lay traps of C4, remotely detonating my little surprises and then watch the digital bodies go flying. Mwuhahahahaha!

Both GRAW2 and R6V2 upped the ante on their predecessors. GRAW2 features much improved graphics and R6V2 added these great rippling shock waves- compression of the air that radiates out from blasts. With my surround sound turned up, playing in HD, I could swear I feel the blasts in each game. Ubisoft also added more stuff to blow up in R6V2; my favorite is the grand piano from the Villa map- it makes this swell noise, like it’s been dropped by movers when you grenade it.

But the culmination of all your explosive wishes has got to be the destructible environment of Battlefield Bad Company. Not only can you blow up other players, or vehicles- now you can blow up buildings. Trees. Even the frickin’ ground. And not just with grenades and C4. You’ve got rocket launchers. You’ve got GPS-coordinated mortar strikes. You’ve got laser-guided, air dropped bombs! Bodies fly through the air. Craters form in the ground. Walls and roofs explode into debris clouds. Vehicles fly into the air and burst into flames.

Firecrackers? Bottle rockets? Please.

What could be more fun than spotting a bad guy hiding in a building, whipping out your GPS unit, targeting the building, then sitting back to watch mortar rounds fall from Xbox heaven to demolish house and enemy? Oh, sure sometimes the first volley doesn’t get them, but if you hide in a good spot, where you can’t be seen, you can do it again.

Not Boom-o-rific enough for you? Then try the laser-guidance system. You target an area with your super-sized binoculars and then you suddenly see the area from far above. A bomb appears, as though dropped by a plane. Using your controller, you get to steer that sucker in, hitting whatever you want at ground level. It packs such a big boom you can take a tank out with one hit.

This fourth of July I’ll go outside and set off some sparkler cones and roman candles for the kids. Maybe some noise makers. But come midnight I’ll be down in front of the HDTV, unleashing some Rocket’s Red Glare on the Battlefield.

No igniter required.