Friday, March 31, 2006

Escape from New Dork

Since I started my current job, I have had a problem with some of my co-workers. The problem is that some of them aren't very busy. The other problem is that they have years of experience disguising this fact. Thus, I am one of the few people that knows that these people don't do much on any given day. How do I know this? Because they come to my office almost daily and spend 20 to 60 minutes (1.75 hours is the record) talking to me. Every hour that they spend babbling is an hour that I either have to stay late or work at home.

It would be different if they wanted to talk about work related topics or even something remotely interesting. Instead, I have to hear about their latest medical procedure, what they saw on TV the previous night, or, my favorite, how busy they are. I've tried solutions like shutting the door, ignoring them, and strategic fan-enhanced flatulence, without success. Yesterday, all of that changed.

This is a functional prototype of my Office Safety Valve. Here is how it works: When a habitual babbler walks into my office to tell me how smart her kids are or some such foolishness, I reach over and flip a switch on the green board that is on the leftmost thingy. After a 90 second delay, the rightmost widget sends an e-mail, via our SMTP server, to my co-conspirator:

From: TFG's_Gizmo
Re: Rescue Me

You are receiving this e-mail because TFG's office has become infested by serial babbling. Please page TFG to the electrical department, via the PA system.

Excrementally Yours,

Once my helper makes the page, I politely excuse myself with a "production emergency" and walk out to our shop. Then, I briefly trade clever insights
with shop employees regarding their familial origins, and return to my office. Meanwhile, the babbler has moved on to his/her next victim. Yesterday, the system was employed twice with success. I look at the 2 hours I spent developing this not as wasted time, but as a long term time management strategy that helps maximize my efficiency. There is no i in team, but there is one in prick.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Welcome to Baltimore

Today, a vendor took us out to lunch at G&M Restaurant. This is a fairly popular seafood restaurant in Linthicum, indicated by the red dot on the map above. After I was finished eating, I remembered something that I forgot to buy on the way into work. So while the others finished eating, I left the restaurant and headed for the grocery store across the street. As I exited the building, I noticed a fire truck was pulling up and there was a small crowd gathered around something. As I approached, I saw an off-duty city firefighter attending to a man who was lying in a large pool of blood. I figured he had been hit crossing Hammonds Ferry Road. I went on to the grocery store, waited in line, and bought my item. When I returned, they had the injured man on a stretcher and were loading him into an ambulance. I stopped in the bathroom, on the way to the table, and saw the off-duty firefighter scrubbing the blood from his hands.

Me: "Did they catch the driver that hit him?"
Firefighter: "He wasn't hit by a car. He was stabbed."
Me: "Stabbed?"
Firefighter: "Yeah, through the lung. They said he tried to cut in line in the carryout part of G&M."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Decisions Regarding an Aging Parent

My father sent me a letter from a woman who said that she was interested in buying his house. He told her that the house was not for sale, but that could change in the near future, as he is getting on in years. He went on to say that it wasn't clear whether I would be returning to the Midwest or not. If I wasn't coming back, he said that he wouldn't be able to keep up with the house for another decade. I found this letter disconcerting. Currently, I am single with no children. Nobody is affected by my actions but myself. Now, I find myself in a position where someone else will be dependent on the decisions that I make. As an only child, with an aging parent, I find myself facing choices that I really don't fully comprehend. I know that I want my father to spend the rest of his life in a dignified manner, but I'm not sure how this goal is best achieved. Here are some of the factors that I need to consider.

I know that most nursing homes consist of a retirement community that is continually staffed by on-site medical professionals. Through structured activities, this community provides a social outlet for its residents, while ensuring that their medical needs are continually met. But aren't we talking about a matter of semantics here? I believe that there are more affordable options available that can also accomplish the same objectives. For instance, a lengthy prison sentence seems like a reasonable alternative. Modern correctional facilities provide nutritious meals, in-house medical care, and exercise facilities. Not to mention, the constant companionship and occasional field trips to local highway median strips will give Dad about all the excitement that he can handle.

Of course, this strategy raises a whole new set of issues. Clearly, any impending prison time must be federal time, in order to forego any troublesome possibility of parole. Sure, it wouldn't be hard to get him 15 years in a state lockup, but in a mere 7.5 years, I'd be back to worrying about whether he thinks he's back at Woodstock or if he's been crapping on the neighbor's lawn again. I believe that would definitely put a damper on the enjoyment that I anticipate from planning to spend my inheritance. Currently, Dad loves to garden. What I'm thinking is that I need to make a substitution with respect to this year's crop selection. I'll bet that an 1/8th of an acre of high grade marijuana would be in both of our best interests.

However, I also want to consider options that allow him to stay in his own home. The problem with this solution is that in-home care providers are prohibitively expensive. Depending on the level of attention required, costs can accumulate as high as hundreds of dollars a day. I believe that remarriage might be a preferable option. I envision a conversation with my future mom that goes like this:

Nikkee: "What's this?"
TFG: "It's a liability waiver from the doctor's office. You know how they worry about lawsuits these days"
Nikkee: "Oh. What does pre-nuptial mean?"
TFG: "It's one of those complicated medical terms. What it means is enormous implants."
Nikkee: "Goody. Does tubal ligation mean the same thing?"
TFG: "It sure does. Your pretty sharp with all this legal stuff."
Nikkee: "Wow! All the others girls at the massage parlor say the same thing."

As you can see, I have much to contemplate. Even at this early junction, my father and I are learning that retirement isn't all that it's purported to be. I just hope that the challenges of finding a dignified solution don't overshadow dad's
appreciation of his Golden Years. Thus, I hope to do everything in my power to prevent him from worrying about issues like his health care management and financial stability. This should provide him the time necessary to worry about more pressing matters, like impromptu prostate examinations:

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dog Fag

I have previously posted about TFD. TFD is not actually my dog, he is the dog of a friend of mine who travels frequently. Since I like TFD, I take care of him when his owner is away. I have a rat terrier, with the operative word in the previous sentence being terrier. Terriers are aggressive, intelligent and fearless little dogs that demand a lot of attention. In many cases, they turn out be a pain in the ass. When the workers at the humane society, where I adopted her, found out that I'd never owned a dog before, they strongly encouraged me to pick another. They said that my dog had been returned to them twice by new owners, and suggested that a third time would mean euthanization. I figured that it's only a 25 lb animal, how hard could it be?

Little did I know that I was going to have to become the Sigmund Freud of dog psychology. Unfortunately, as a novice dog owner, I listened to the humane society's philosophy of positive reinforcement training. Positive reinforcement training involves rewarding the dog for good behavior and not punishing the bad behavior. The idea is that the dog instinctively wants to be good, but doesn't realize what it needs to do to please its owners. This is a nice sentiment but it certainly didn't work for my terrier. I spent a month using positive reinforcement. When the dog chewed on furniture, I gave her an approved chew toy alternative. When she peed on the floor, I took her outside immediately and encouraged her to pee there instead. When the dog rifled the trash can, I lead her to her food bowl. None of this had any effect and I was starting to see how she kept getting returned to the humane society, despite being so cute.

During this period, I had seen a documenetary about the social habits of wolves. In a wolf pack, there is an established hierarchy, with the alpha wolf at the top and the omega wolf at the base. According to the documentary, social position is dynamic and is determined through physical and mental challenges. The light bulb in my head went off. I wondered if I was seeing something similar in my dog. I was thinking that when she arrived at a new owner's home, she would begin testing the social structure of her new "pack" to see if she might be the alpha dog.

I tried an experiment. Trash can raids were a daily occurence, so I waited and caught her in the act. Instead of leading her to the food bowl, I grabbed her collar, placed my face an inch from her's, and yelled at her for 30 seconds. I repeated this process for all types of unacceptable behavior for several days. The results were astonishing. In one week, I had what appeared to be a good dog. This lasted for 2 weeks and the system got tested again with the same results. Over the next year, the tests became increasingly infrequent until they ceased altogether. The hierarchy was established with me being alpha "dog" and the dog being the omega dog.

Ironically, once she was accepted her role as underdog, she became very receptive to positve reinforcement training. This is how I taught her various tricks and commands. I've had the dog for 4 years and I've only had to yell at her once in the last three.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

When Assclowns Attack

Here's a riddle for you:

When you have a piece of equipment that is critical to the operation of your plant and you want to move its electrical wiring around, what is the best tool for the job?

If the following implement did not enter your thought process when you formulated your answer, then you are smarter then many of my customers. I'm off to Michigan. More dick jokes next week.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Is Rush Going to Help With My Power Bill?

I was talking to a friend, from the Midwest, this weekend. I was trying to explain how I am looking at a 72% rate hike in my electric bill in June. She asked, "I thought Maryland was a Democratic paradise. How come the people are allowing this to happen?" I replied," Well, the first problem is that common sense is at a premium here. The second is that Marylanders are so used to getting screwed by government and business, they don't know any better."

What I told her is true. If Constellation Energy had, instead, implemented four successive increases of 20%, this issue would have likely flown under the radar. Small consistent increases are standard operating procedure in the price-fixing strategies of their brethren in the petroleum industry, so why didn't Constellation follow suit? I'm not sure, but I'd wager that rampant greed is part of the equation.

Here is what I do know:

1. The Maryland Public Service Commision (PSC) Is Owned By Electric Utilities
The Maryland Public Service Commision's role is to protect the interests of the citizen's of Maryland in matters of electric utility regulation. Instead, Republican Governor Ehrlich has appointed party cronies as commissioners to the PSC. These commissioners, in turn, fired experienced staffers and replaced them with more party cronies. On Saturday, the Baltimore Sun revealed that chair Kenneth Schisler has been consulting with an electric industry lobbyist with respect to strategy on how to keep deregulation on track in the face of the unpopularity of the impending 72% rate hike. In other words, the state agency that is empowered to protect us from electric rate price gouging, has, instead, been taking direction from the industry that will be gouging us.

2. Constellation Energy Is Creating Crisis For Profit
WBAL quotes BGE spokesman Rob Gould, "Our position continues to be that anything that penalizes BGE for something that's totally out its control, in this case, the world energy markets and supply and demand -- something we don’t control -- is simply inequitable." This situation is not out of BGE's control, it was caused by BGE. In July 2001, BGE was allowed, (pg 10, Electric Regulatory Matters and Competition) under the terms of the deregulation agreement, to transfer all of its power generation facilities to Constellation Energy's unregulated merchant energy business. Thus, the rolling blackouts that Constellation is threatening are due to the fact that the power plants that BGE's customers paid for will now be selling their power to the highest bidder. The rising costs of electricity that BGE continually cites are the costs of buying electricity, not producing it. Gould goes on to say,"The market price is the market price, we can't do anything about that. It's simply a pass-through. BGE does not profit from the commodity piece of this, counter to what some people may think." BGE may not profit from high market prices, but the merchant energy division of Constellation certainly will.

3. Constellation Is Lying
To listen to Constellation's CEO, Mayo Shattuck III, you could get the idea that the status quo has not been profitable for BGE or Constellation. In an interview with Paul Adams of the Baltimore Sun, Shattuck stated, "In Maryland, we've been under a rate freeze for six years, and during that period of time the customers ... have been, in effect, subsidized and protected against market rates for power..." Subsidized is the NeoCon code word for welfare. And we all know that welfare is the ultimate menace, next to Clinton's infidelity, of course. In actuality, Constellation and BGE are both, indeed, profitable (pg 31): Thus, the hardship that Constellation complains of is that they are not able to reap enormous profit margins.

BGE Annual Results (millions)

Revenue 3009.32724.72647.62547.3
Earnings175.8 153.1150.0129.9

4. The Corruption is Bipartisan
When asked about the status of the proposed merger with FPL, Shattuck says. "The Maryland legislature at the end of the day will make a sound decision, like they have in the past. They will not do anything that's confiscatory, that's anti-commerce." This is a fairly arrogant statement. It's sounds like Shattuck believes that the the legislature owes Constellation Energy. In fact, they probably do. Constellation Energy's Political Action Campaign has pumped over $130,000 in campaign contributions into the state legislative and executive branches since January 2004, with the largest contribution of $25,000 going to the Democratic Central Committee. The Repuclican Central Committee pocketed $10,000, while Ehrlich's campaign received $4,000.

Constellation did not make this contributions for any other reason but to ensure that deregulation stays on track. In my opinion, campaign contributions are little more than institutionalized bribery. They have almost completely circumvented the democratic process, transforming elected officials into corporate stooges.

5. Competition
When Democratic Governor Glendening and the Democratic majority of the legislator, voted to enact deregulation in 1999, they say that they were promised that competition between power suppliers would guarantee low rates for consumers. To date, this competition has never materialized. Constellation Energy attributes this to the the 6 year rate freeze and they are likely correct. It is possible for additional power suppliers to enter our market in the future. However, with the castration of the PSC and endless campaign contributions, Marylanders will have little protection from price manipulation and collusion. Look at what is happening at the gas pump, if you doubt this.

6. Solutions
A. It is clear that the Maryland PSC is woefully derelict in its duties. The legislature should initiate impeachment action against Ehrlich, unless he agrees to replace all of the PSC commissioners with non-industry stooges.

B. The legislation that allowed deregulation should be repealed. Rates should be fixed and Constellation Energy should be forced to transfer its power generation assets back to its regulated BGE subsidiary. These assets would provide sufficient generation capacity for Maryland and ensure that we are not subjected to demand fluctuations from other regions. If BGE wants to sell excess capacity on the open market, that is acceptable, but Marylanders come first.

C. Any losses (and I don't mean anticipated profits) that are incurred by Constellation by the implementation of B, should be borne solely by Constellation's shareholders. This is a reasonable penalty for getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Energy is far too important of an economic commodity, to allow profiteering.

In conclusion, I don't anticipate that any of these solutions will be implemented. I've already heard Dittoheads regurgitating the talking points fed to them by corporate shills like Ron Smith. Somehow these people lack the circumspection to realize how idiotic they appear when they arguing to cut their own throats. Regardless, so long as we can afford enough juice to keep our teevees on, I expect that Constellation will be allowed to run amok.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

An Explicit Look Into My Drawers

For decade, there has been a question that has been plaguing humanity: What's going on in TFG's drawers? Many a virologist and aspiring adult entertainer have attempted to solve this mystery, without success. Today, I put all of these questions to rest.

Of all of the plastic toys in my drawers, the yellow chicken is my favorite. Although it was designed as a keychain, I've found that it's entirely worthless in this capacity. However, it compensates for this shortcoming by satisfying my primary toy criteria, which is the ability to project spherical objects from its butt.

My drawers are home to many keys, these are just some of them. I have only the vaguest recollection of what most of the keys go to. For example, the leftmost set of keys unlocks something in Illinois. The middle set clearly keys an automobile lock, but not mine. I haven't a clue regarding the remaining set. The only thing that I am certain of is that if I throw them out, I'll find out precisely what they go to at a most inopportune moment. Trust me, there is nothing more embarassing than having Tyra Banks show up, in heat, and not being able to produce the key to her chastity belt.

Not only do I have large quantities of bullshit in my drawers, I have a book about bullshit, as well. On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt, is an eighty page treatise dedicated to establishing a philosophical framework for the analysis of bullshit. Frankfurt goes on to examine the potential ramifications of bullshitting on contemporary American society.

The fact that Frankfurt is a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Princeton University goes far in supporting the conclusion that I drew from the book: 95% of what goes on in a modern university is bullshit. In my opinion, the primary skill that most people develop in college is the ability to bullshit. The fact that I paid $9.95 to read about bullshit that is written by a master bullshitter who specializes in a bullshit major is also, well, bullshit.

This is a Honeywell UDC 3000 Versa-Pro controller, the cadillac of standalone temperature controllers and lists for about $1000. I found it buried under a some folders in the bottom of one of my drawers. This is troubling because I have no earthly idea why I have it. It came from a former employer, but I couldn't tell you how it ended up in my junk drawer for several years. I powered it up and it's fully functional, which means that it will be replacing my thermostat if BG&E gets their 72% rate gouge approved.

No junk drawer is complete without an authentic looking rubber turd. I am telling the truth when I say that this was a Valentine's Day gift, several years ago. I am also telling the truth when I say that all of the women I date are insane. Other presents from this woman included a t-shirt embroidered with a large A for Asshole and an engraved plaque that proclaimed mastery of a certain unnamed skill, which was prominently displayed in her apartment. In retrospect, it is clear that I should have married this girl.

I hope this has cleared up any nagging questions that you might have had with respect to the inner workings of my drawers. Stay tuned, next time I may provide an in-depth description of the nifty things that you might find in my underwear.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Undercover Non-Brother

It has been established that I am to stupid to ever be Jewish. It has also come to my attention that I am probably never going to be black. Not that I am saying that there is anything wrong with being black. Most, if not all, of my African-American friends are black and have been years. Nor am I particularly unhappy about being white, but I'm the kind of guy who likes to keep his options open.

I never even knew that being black was a possibility, until I lived in the Midwest. Midwestern teens take their fashion cues from MTV. If MTV were to show celebrities with flaming cowpies on their heads, you can bet that there would be an instantaneous fertilizer shortage plaguing the heartland. Thus, when Eminem became popular, there was a plethora of very white kids who started acting and speaking like gangstas in the midwest and other places where there are no actual black people. When I learned that Slim Shady and I are the same age, I realized that I, too, could become become black. However, in retrospect, I see that I was fooling myself. I have about as much chance of successfully becoming a black person as Dale Earnhart Jr., or even Condoleeza Rice.

My first problem being black would definitely be with fashion. At left, is a photo of R&B singer Chris Brown at a Grammys party. Although you've never seen me, believe me when I say that there is no amount of alcohol that would make me look good in a lavender suit. In other words, if the guy in the picture knocked on your door, you'd invite him in for drinks and dinner. If I knocked on your door in a lavender suit, you'd press some candy into hand and tell me that I'm getting a little too old for trick-or-treating.

On C-Love's blog, A Day in the Life of a Hip Hop Heroine, I found the follow picture. It is an ad for Style Warz, which is a monthly Baltimore MC contest, organized and promoted by C Love. From what she says, C Love's goal is to emphasize the positive aspects of Hip Hop to the youth of Baltimore. The ad references a site called, which gives the rules for Style Warz. At, I found the following contest rules: "Each MC performs 1 verse & hook (between 16 & 24 bars) to a beat selected by the DJ....These 2 MCs compete for best 2 of 3 rounds (#1 verse/hook, #2 freestyle, #3 freestyle w/ 3 provided words)." I have no idea what verses, hooks, and freestyles refer to, but if I were to compete, I'd bet I'd be the only cracker to show up with a Bible, a fishing pole, and swimming trunks.

In conclusion, I think that I'd best leave being black to genuine black people. If I were to make to the transition, it is inevitable that I'd be forced to bust a cap in my ass because I couldn't keep it real. Peace.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Random Crap II

It's more random crap:

-It's 8:52, on a Friday morning, which means I should have been sitting at my desk for the last 52 minutes. However, I'm still in my boxers, it's 65 degrees outside and TFD wants to play, so I'm thinking 11:30 AM is more appropriate.

- As I may have mentioned, we have two office weird guys at work. OWG2 likes costumes. When I started, the Dockworker ensemble was his standard fare. Recently, he has been dressing like Indiana Jones, complete with the hat and leather jacket. I wish I knew the psychological significance of this, because I am A-1 on his list when he commences the inevitable workplace shooting spree.

- When the hell did Ohio get so funny? I've been to Cincinnati and Columbus many times and I never found the state even slightly amusing. Okay, maybe I laughed a little at Circleville's Pumpkin Festival, but that's about it. Yet, I keep finding blogs from Ohio that are hilarious: Shop Dungarees, God, people piss me off, and Dr. Zombie's Midnight Theater of Terror . I guess Ohio is the "Fart in a Space Suit" kind of funny, it's much more amusing if you aren't in it.

- I've noticed that some blogs have "members only" areas for selected commenters. I'm the curious kind, so I signed up for two of them. So far, I've been deleted from both. In the first case, I was deleted within 2 minutes of registering, while the second deletion took a few weeks. I imagine it is my Marxist leanings cause me to say that this is a good thing. As Groucho eloquently put it, "I don't want to be part of any club that would have someone like me as a member."

-There seems to be quite a bit of Blog Drama going on these days. The Sweetneys are battling their archrivals, the Cheeses, or something. This has lead to debates on blog policy statements, comment moderation, and what not. I guess I'm not sharp enough to fathom the subleties of proper blog etiquette. The way I see it is that a blog is the sole property of the blogger, who is free to do what they like with it.

I have deleted posts for various reasons, but primarily because they sucked. And I will delete more posts. I am constantly deleting my own comments because I proofread like a drunken immigrant on crack. I haven't deleted anyone else's comments because nobody has told me that I'm a huge prick and when they do they'll be preaching to the choir.

- I have invented a portable sockholder:

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Technology Issues

I found an interesting article about technology from Reuters. The key point of the article is as follows:

Half of all malfunctioning products returned to stores by consumers are in full working order, but customers can't figure out how to operate the devices, a scientist said on Monday......The average consumer in the United States will struggle for 20 minutes to get a device working, before giving up, the study found.

I can't say that I was particularly surprised by this information. As technology progresses, devices are becoming more compact in both size and functionality. The rate at which technology advances has also increased over that of past generations. For instance, if one learned the operation of a manual typewriter in 1920, they could still probably use an electric model in 1980. However, in 1990 it is doubtful they would find a word processor very useful. Clearly, being a technophile requires much more effort than in days past.

I have to admit that I've had my fair share of disappointments with new products that I've purchased. Although, I never surrendered after 20 minutes, there are some products that I haven't been able to get the desired results from. I've never had the nerve to return these items, so I stash them in a closet and pretend that I never bought them. Here are a couple of the devices that I haven't had any luck with.

The first time I saw a Flowbee on TV, I was sold. It looked so easy to use and it even cleaned up the mess. It came with an assortment of clever attachments that allowed numerous types of haircuts to be given. I figured that for only $60, it would pay for itself in a matter of months. No matter how much I practiced with the Flowbee, I never could quite get the hang of it. As you can imagine, I was kind of unpopular with my former girlfriend and her dog for several weeks.

When I saw this product, I thought I'd found a winner. As you can see from the ad, this product is supposed to accelerate the drying process. I can tell you that this is a blatant falsehood. When I received the product, I followed the directions explicitly. The results were disappointing to say the least, particularly during the humid Baltimore summer.

I seriously considered filing a false advertising complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. It is clearly fraudulent for the manufacturer to claim that this product provides any assistance with embarrassing crotch-based perspiration issues. Maybe they could market this product as a fabric softener for clothing, instead.

This was another device that looked so simple to use on TV. In fact, the actor that demonstrated it on the commercial was an elderly woman. Clap on -- clap off, I figured that I'd found the answer to many of my problems. And at $17.95, their offer seemed too good to be true. It turns out that it was. When I received my Clapper, I plugged it into the receptacle, just like I'd seen on the commercial. Then I'd walk around my apartment, clapping my hands with no discernible effect. I tried it at various distances and angles and observed no improvement. I even tried clapping while repeating "Clap off -- Clap off", just like the actor did and it still didn't work. To be honest, I'm going to have to say that this was the most ineffective syphilis cure that I've run across.

I like new technologies and their potential to make my life easier. Even though I found these devices disappointing, I haven't let it discourage me. I think that my problem is simply that I am too bashful to ask for help. Thus, I'd like to take this opportunity to ask for advice with my newest purchase, as I'm certain that many of you are intimately familiar with it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sanford and Son Revisited

While most of you were spending your Saturday on mundane tasks, like frolicking naked in vats of scented baby oil or bungee jumping into silos of Dexedrine, I was involved in far more glamorous activities -- like hanging out in a junkyard. The reason for my visit is that I need a new windshield washer reservoir for my car. The top of the existing reservoir has deteriorated in such a manner that chunks of the reservoir fall inside, clogging the pump strainer and washer jets. Thus, I am forced to hold down the washer button for a protracted period to generate enough line pressure to get any fluid dispensed. When I do obtain a moneyshot, it is usually a single, disappointing squirt -- not the blue ammonia/methanol bukkake extravaganza that I desire. The bottom line is that cleaning the windshield has turned into an elaborate exercise in fluid mechanics:

As you might imagine, coordinating the above process requires the utmost timing. This can pose a real challenge while simultaneously performing other common driving tasks, like passing in the exit lane, petting TFD, or applying Preparation H. Thus, I concluded that this situation was intolerable. It only took 2 years to reach this conclusion, which gives you a little insight into how much a despise working on automobiles.

After nearly excreting zinc twinkies when I heard the dealership's price, I looked up several local salvage yards. I was hoping for a U-Pull-It yard, but these are apparently nonexistent in Maryland. I settled for Smitty's on Baltimore & Annapolis Blvd, because they are located about 20 minutes from work. I called them and was assured that they had the part in stock, as well as Saturday hours, so I left work and headed for Smitty's. I will confess a filthy, redneck secret here: I am not a stranger to salvage yards. As I soon as I entered Smitty's, I knew things were amiss. For one, the counter guy had teeth and no facial tattoos, which is unacceptable by Midwestern junkyard standards. I should have left right then, but I was a man on a mission. He gleefully informed me that I was $7 short and they didn't take credit cards. I told him I'd have to find an ATM, so I asked him again, "Are you certain that you have the part in stock?" He replied indignantly that he was certain. I went to fetch the additional cash, thinking that he would have the parts pulled in my absence. I returned to find that, even though there were no customers, he hadn't lifted a finger. Then he tells me that he would call his yard guy and I'd have to go into the yard with him. Here is a Google Earth image of the yard:

The junkyard is the yellow shaded region of the picture and the office is at A. Between A and B, the yard guy showed me a Subaru, a Honda, and a '98 Toyota Tercel. You don't really have to be an automotive aficionado to realize that none of these vehicles are remotely Camry-like. Once we got to B, he announced, "Well, I don't see any Camrys. We must not have any." As this was less that 10% of their holdings and I'd already wasted the afternoon I replied, "What in the hell do you mean you don't have any Camrys? Show me your map." He then revealed that they don't map the cars, so nobody really knew what they had. I found this hard to believe, so I continued on. I did find several resevoirless Camrys and a set of replacement jets, but without a new tank they will quickly clog. I surrendered to the yard worker's laziness because I knew that without someone who actually knew the vehicle locations, I was wasting my time.

In closing, I did learn some valuable lessons on Saturday:

1. MD salvage yards are to be avoided like a dose of the clap. Apparently, the business from auto repair shops is so good, that they don't need to mess with individuals. Now, there is a little something to think about the next time your mechanic charges you for "factory" parts.

2. After-market car parts should only be purchased from genuine rednecks. MD rednecks haven't quite mastered the gearhead aspect of the lifestyle, although I bet they can kiss a sister with the best of them.

3. If I have to get a part in MD, U-Pull-It is clearly the way to go. No bumbling inbreds to get in the way and you can get exactly what you need when you need it. Of course, I have no intention with dealing with any more MD junk yards or after-market dealers. So, if you have a '93 Camry and like to park on the street, let me know.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I have a houseguest staying with me. Since we have become pretty good friends, he has become a regular visitor. As it turns out, we have a lot in common since we are both partial to panting, drooling, and humping the occasional leg. I will refer to my him as TFD and have posted his picture below.

As you can see from the photo, TFD is a dog of action. He is a purebred Pembroke Corgi, which is an AKC recognized working breed, meaning that historically the breed has been used in some type of agricultural capacity. Apparently, the Corgi's role in agriculture was to fill in for missing sheep. I think this because I have never seen a dog shed as much as TFD. In mere minutes, TFD is capable of shedding sufficient hair to weave an entirely new dog.

I have been taking care of TFD, off and on, for the last few months. During this period, I have accumulated quite a collection of dog toys. I've bought him Nylabones, a rubber chew toy, several plush toys, a rope tug toy, a tennis ball-type ring, and a particularly devious device known as a Kong. Of the $50 worth of dog toys that I now own, the only thing he shows any lasting interest in is a pair of $9 welding gloves, which aren't actually dog toys. Nevertheless, his favorite game consists of me wearing the gloves and grabbing his nose and paws while he tries to bite them. This is hours of fun for him and is an option that probably never gets recommended at PetSmart.

TFD is an intelligent dog and has data processing skills that rival any SQL server. He maintains an internal database of every object that he has ever peed on or thought about peeing on. When I take him out in the yard behind my apartment, he mentally solves some type of canine, Karnaugh map that tells him precisely which objects need immediate attention and which can wait. I have been observing his system intermittently for months and I still haven't figured out what it is based upon. Here are this week's routings:

I have learned that TFD is quite a fan of the performing arts. In fact, he sings tenor in a very local barbershop quartet. They typically give semi-weekly performances, which start around 3AM. The other singers include a Yorkie who lives downstairs, a Lab who lives across the hall, and two other dogs who I haven't met yet. As you might imagine, their concerts don't last long, but judging from the responses that I've heard from my dogless neighbors, their performances are indeed stirring.

TFD is very polite dog. He doesn't jump on people and won't jump on furniture unless he is invited to. TFD doesn't even like profanity. I learned this the hard way during his second visit, on which he got directly between the TV and myself and peed on the floor. Since he is a 3 year old dog that is housebroken, I knew he was testing me to see if he was the alpha dog. Thus, I walked towards him while working my way through all of the minor profanities. I hadn't planned on touching him, but I wanted him to know that I was not pleased. I continued yelling as I got close to him and I could tell, by his body language, that he was getting the idea. I concluded my discourse with my all time favorite obscenity; fuck. Instantly, the dog's demeanor changed and he laid into my right leg before I could register that I had a pair of ripped pants and a shoe full of my own blood. Of course, this lead to a more succinct discussion, in which we agreed that he would be the beta dog and I would not say fuck. Since that day, he has been one of the best behaved dogs that I've known.