Friday, November 12, 2004

There's a price to pay

There's a price to pay for being my friend. You're going to listen to the same jokes over and over (and over and over and ...). You'll probably hear the same stories again and again. If you're female, you'll be subjected to an innuendo or two, and I'll probably tell you that your love interest is gay. You'll end up listening to me talk about myself a lot. And finally, you'll be on the receiving end of joke e-mails like the one below.

First, let me tell the backstory. My friend Sinde started a new job earlier this year at a large company that makes dispensers and point-of-sale systems, mostly for gas stations and such. When she arrived, the company was in the midst of converting to a new order fulfillment system, a project she inherited. The project was a classic train wreck waiting to happen: there were no official requirements, the developers were mostly contractors and some weren't local, and nobody seemed concerned about the enormity of the project. As expected, once coding was done, testing was going poorly. The biggest issue was that order configuration didn't work, which makes it difficult to sell anything. Sinde raised the issue (and many others) during testing, but an "executive decision" was made to switch over at the beginning of November because the old system cost too much money to maintain. When Sinde pointed out the very real possibility that things might not go well, she was told to make sure she had a contingency plan to handle any problems that might occur. (As always, executives are reactive instead of proactive.)

So last week, the switchover occurred. And not so surprisingly, orders couldn't be configured. Prior to the switchover, Sinde and her team worked many, many hours and most weekends testing and getting ready. And after the switch, they were working again last weekend (Saturday and Sunday until after 8:00 PM) entering orders by hand. In fact, they're still working on entering all those orders by hand to this day.

So what's the point? The point is that Sinde and her team had worked a lot of hours, she was tired, and she was stressed out. And earlier this week, she receives the following e-mail from me:

To: Sinde
From: Don
Subject: Order system problem

I was trying to place an order for a TRAC outdoor payment system, because my house is just begging for a transponder activation system for gas pumps. When I tried to configure my order, I ended up with a Teletubby ... Tinky Winky, to be specific. Now I can understand ending up with Dipsy or Laa-Laa, but not Tinky. Do you have a contingency plan to handle this?

Of course, you're probably asking yourself the same question that Sinde immediately asked me in her reply: how is it that I know so much about the Teletubbies? Uh ... research! I have a niece that's almost four, and I want to be prepared for any discussions she might want to have about the Teletubbies. :) I once got into a thirty minute argument with a five year old over which of the original Power Rangers was the best, so it's good to be prepared for these things. Seriously, if you've managed to sit through more than five minutes of the Teletubbies, you've lasted much longer than I ever have. The only thing I know about the Teletubbies is that Tinky is the one that Jerry Falwell claimed was ruining our children because he carries a purse.

Fortunately, Sinde saw the humor in my e-mail, and I lived to annoy again.

Monday, October 25, 2004

You too can try for second place

Yesterday, over 180 of my closest friends and I participated in the 5th Annual People4People Games (, the fundraising event for the People's Community Clinic, a non-profit clinic providing quality, affordable healthcare for under- and uninsured adults and children in the Austin area. The P4P Games blend corporate morale and community goodwill into a tapestry of obstacle courses, bull horns, and dillo dirt. (Yes, I got that from their website.) One hundred percent of the money raised through P4P events goes directly to benefit People's Community Clinic.

I am proud to announce that after a three year hiatus, Team BMC has once again returned to its rightful place atop the standings, which coincidentally happened the first time I participated on the BMC team. (Four other players were also on the team for the first time, but this is about me!) The team, led by me ... uh, I mean, led by our team captain Gus, finished in the top 4 after the main events were done (2nd or 3rd, I can't remember), which qualified us for the winner-take-all final relay event. And we took all.

In the individual events, Team BMC won the basketball event for the 5th year in a row. No other team has ever won this event, although it was a lot closer this year. One guy on our team was the only one who made a significant number of shots, which was enough to carry us. Personally, I stunk on ice! I probably could have made more shots with my eyes closed. I think the balls were over-inflated, and I believe we all know how painful that can be.

But, I made up for my poor shooting skills in the Brain Teaser event, which Team BMC also won. Brain Teaser consisted of a set of true/false questions, a set of Mensa-caliber brain teasers (most of which couldn't be answered in the time allotted), and a set of trivia questions. I earned my keep during the trivia portion ... who knew that no social life and watching lots of TV would come in handy. :)

So that's it for this year's event. For those of you in the Austin area that would like to have a team participate next year, check out their website for contact numbers and e-mail addresses. You'll need at least 2 girls and 4 guys, although it's a good idea to have a few extra people as alternates, because you'll get tired if you try to do every event. Please remember, you will be aiming for second place. :)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Soccer, Home Runs, and Exclusive Gold Toast (tm) technology!

Last week, my reliable old toaster gave up the ghost. For the past 10+ years, Old Goldie had been performing the one job it was designed to do with precision and skill: toasting bread. Up until last week, that is. Part of the elements stopped working on one side, and the other side seemed to ignore the heat settings, so if you wanted one piece of bread toasted to perfection on only one side, and the other piece burned to a crisp, then this was the toaster for you.

So I needed a new toaster. I'm a simple man ... all I want is a toaster to toast bread, maybe even an occasional bagel. Good luck finding one of those. Each toaster contained features that I didn't know anyone would want or need, including the Oster toasters which featured the "Exclusive Gold Toast (tm) Technology!". First, I find it hard to believe that a feature like that would be exclusive to the Oster brand, and second, do you really need to trademark the phrase "Gold Toast"?

Since I didn't feel like spending $40 or more on a toaster, I went with a much cheaper model, although it still has more buttons than I think a toaster should, including a Cancel button. I thought lifting the handle would stop the toasting process, but apparently, that's much too complicated for some people. I opted for the stainless steel model over the red model, because eventhough red is my favorite color (helpful hint for those of you still shopping for my birthday present ... coming this Thursday!), it clashed with my kitchen. The model I chose included a 20+ page instruction manual and a cookbook ... I guess for people who don't know how to work the oven.

A couple of other notes: on Saturday my soccer team ( played one of their finest games, beating a team who had previously not lost before. And last Monday in my softball game, after starting out the game 0 for 3, I hit an in-the-park homerun in my final at bat, helping my team come from behind and score 12 runs in the final inning. Granted, I also made an error in the outfield earlier in the game which cost us a run, but I'll let that part fade into history. The homerun was my first since I was 9 or 10 playing Little League. Not bad for someone about to turn 37 on Thursday! I told my softball team that I was going to milk this for a little while, because it probably won't happen again.

NOTE: Yes, my thinly-veiled agenda for this post was to mention that my birthday was coming up. This Thursday! :)

Monday, September 13, 2004

Shut up and eat your food, old man!

After working a lot of late nights and weekends for the past few months, I took a much-needed vacation for a couple of weeks. And to what exotic locations did I travel, you ask? Italy? The Bahamas?

Nope. I traveled to West Virginia and Florida. Woo hoo! I drove to West Virginia a couple of weeks ago to visit my grandmother and my dad's side of the family. My dad was already up there. I spent a week there going to a cousin's high school football game, sampling the "Taste of Charleston", and watching lots and lots of CSI (Spike TV had a marathon).

After that, I drove to Florida to see my friend Laura's new daughter. I spent several more days watching CSI and generally doing nothing. We did get to go see the musical Mama Mia, which was very good (if you like the music of ABBA). I arrived after Frances and left before Ivan. I guess Florida survived Hurricane Don as well.

So what exciting pictures do I have? Absolutely none. For some reason, I didn't think pictures of me laying on the couch watching TV would be very exciting. Well, I guess that would depend on what I wore.

Here are the trip highlights:

  • Number of miles driven: 3447 miles.
  • Number of hours driven: approximately 50 hours.
  • Number of bugs killed on my windshield: 0. I maintain they committed suicide.
  • Number of books "read" on the trip: 4.8. I listened to 5 books on CD while I was driving, but one of them only had 4 out of its 5 CDs in the jewel case.
  • Number of repairs needed after the trip: 1. I had to get a new battery. When I tried to leave Florida Friday morning, my car wouldn't start because the battery was dead. I was jumpstarted to get on my way, and I had to get jumpstarted the last time I stopped for gas in Louisiana.
  • Number of touchdowns my cousin scored in his football game: 1. I believe it was a 62 yard catch.
  • Number of touchdowns my cousin still needs to score to equal my career touchdown totals in high school: Uh, he's already 1 ahead of me.
  • "Shut up and eat your food, old man!" When I was in high school, my dad is the only person I've ever witnessed getting a technical foul at a basketball game as a spectator (for yelling too much or for saying things he probably shouldn't). And he got two. In other words, my dad can yell. At my cousin Andrew's football game, a couple of the opposing fans were yelling at the refs because "our" team was taking too long to run plays (they were incorrect, by the way). This went on for several plays. Later in the game, the opposing team lost yardage on a play, and my dad yelled, "Well maybe they should take more time." An older fan for the other team told my dad that "there was no call for that" although he was one of the people yelling at the refs earlier, to which my dad replied, "Shut up and eat your food, old man!" Good to know he hasn't changed. :)
  • Best nickname: Nutsy the Clown. My friend Laura's mom is staying with Laura and her husband Ron while the mom works on her 12th divorce (nope, that's not a typo). Nutsy the Clown is the nickname Ron has given his mother-in-law, which I find hilarious for some reason.

So, that was the trip. And what a long, strange trip it's been.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

I thought I still had it

I thought I still had it - the charm, the wit, the charisma ... IT. Granted, some would argue that I never had IT to begin with, but those people are just big stupid heads. (See, there's that wit.)

Saturday morning, it was raining here in the Austin area, and it looked like another one of my team's soccer games was going to be cancelled. However, the soccer association wasn't going to make the decision until game time (9:00 AM), so I was standing by the gate and passing on the game status to the players as they got there. It was still cold and rainy, so I was dressed in a loose pair of sweats and holding my umbrella ... not exactly dressed for the town.

A van from one of the local radio stations was parked by the gate, and I assumed that they had planned on doing a remote from the soccer fields that day, but the weather wasn't cooperating. Inside the van were two very attractive women, possibly DJs for all I know. As I was standing there, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the ladies were smiling in my direction. Apparently, they couldn't get enough of this medium-sized drink of man. Or so I thought.

After the game was finally cancelled, I met some of the parents for some breakfast tacos. During the meal, I got a phone call on my cell, so I stepped away from the table briefly. After the call, I sat back down at the table, and my friend Amie brought clarity to why I was getting so much attention earlier that morning. Amie said to me, "Do you know you have a dryer sheet stuck to your butt?"

Oh well, at least my fly wasn't down.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

My brush with celebrity

To give some perspective to the following story, I don't watch any reality shows. Well, not since the first couple of seasons of the Real World 10+ years ago. In my opinion, "reality show" is a misnomer anyway. How real can someone be when they're being followed around by TV cameras? Plus, I think most people on those shows are just wannabe actors trying to catch a break, so how "normal" and "real" can they be? And if these shows are so real and unscripted, how come they have writers listed in the credits? As for the reality matchmaking shows, how true of a love can you hope to find in a contrived situation crunched into a 2-3 week courtship? Gee, how surprising is it that only one of those shows has ended up in marriage, and I'll be shocked if that one lasts more than 2 years.

That being said, last Monday I attended a viewing party for Average Joe 3. No, I haven't gone over to the dark side of reality show watchers. My friend Hollie was one of the hosts, and part of the evening involved auctioning off one of the average Joe's from the first season (Joe Fabiani, for those that watched the show). The prize included a fabulous dinner for two at Al Biernat's in Dallas, and the proceeds were donated to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Orphanage, a no-kill shelter that rescues animals from other shelters in the Dallas/Ft. Worth before their time runs out. Joe, who is also in this season of Average Joe, was very nice and only slightly nervous about letting the ladies in the crowd bid on him. I volunteered myself to be auctioned off, but there were no takers. :)

Hollie met Joe because she was actually going to be on Average Joe 3. She was selected to be on it and had already started filming some parts for the show. She was dressed up and ready to go to the first elimination ceremony when the executives pulled her and 3 other girls from the cast. Apparently, the NBC lawyer was uncomfortable with the fact that Hollie had been involved in a hit and run accident over 10 years ago, eventhough she was the one hit. To cover their butts, they pulled the four girls from the show. Not only was she disappointed, but so was I (and aren't these posts always about me anyway). I told her before she left that when she became famous, I was going to tell everyone that we once dated, which was only a slight embellishment. After all, we did go on a blind date almost 15 years ago, and that particular event has the word "date" in it. Actually, it was a triple date with me, Ron, our best friend Greg, Hollie, her sister Crissy, and their cousin Michelle (who was our friend from back home). And with both me and Ron there, you can imagine how little talking anyone else got to do. But I digress.

Eventhough I can't brag about dating a celebrity, I did have fun that evening. I haven't been that close to a "celebrity" since that time I saw Samuel L. Jackson at a comic book store in Hollywood. I still remember that touching thing he said to my girlfriend's son: "No, I ain't no Denzel Washington!" (That's a true story, by the way.)

One other thing ... while Hollie was in LA, she filmed an infomercial with her friend Christine for an anti-wrinkle cream. It's supposed to start airing in the next week or so. Here's a picture of Hollie and me at Monday's event (, so if you see her face on the TV, you've probably stumbled upon her infomercial. If you see my face, you've probably stumbled upon an episode of Cops.

NOTE: You can send a donation to the animal rescue group at the following address:

Fuzzy Wuzzy Orphanage Animal Rescue
P.O. Box 531693
Grand Prairie, TX 75053-1693