Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kumar Goes to Bojangles

I don't want to press the "Bad Day" meme TOO far.

But my good friend Kesav Kuppa M. sent me his own version. Two pieces of background.
1. Kesav is a principal in the shopping website/search engine "How to be Websmart." Most important is the search tool Ultimate Pricechecker. Use it, shop it, love it. I am totally addicted.
2. Kesav's family comes from India, but he is a native of the subcontinent of New Jersey. He wears blue contacts, has strong views against virginity (hoping someday soon to lose his own) and is assumed by all southerners he meets to be Mexican. He's at Duke Law School, and no one knows why. Including Kesav. Kesav's bad day:

As I sit here laughing, I thought I would share my misfortune with those who I have shared misfortune all year. The incredible series of events which have happened to me this past week border on the absurd, and if Dante wrote the Comedy, I threaten to write the comedy 2: updated for modern times. To put this all into perspective, it is 5:23 pm when I write this email.

While any one of these events would be sad in its singularity, in their totality they beget only laughter. So here's the story. I hope your summer is going better than this.

1. On the day to drive home, my alarm doesn't go off. So I wake up late. Nice.

2. I burst out the door ready to seize the day. It's drizzling. Better.

3. I start driving my car with all of the weight in the back. It drives like a turtle. It takes me about 30 seconds to get it up to 15 miles an hour. At this rate, I suspect I will be home some time in August.

4. Car speeds up. Oops. I forgot breakfast. And to use the facilities. I stop at Bojangles.

5. Bad idea. What should have been a 5 minute stop becomes 30 minutes, at least. Between coffee and a biscuit and egg with sausages and the fact that the nearest piece of literature is the word bojangles on my napkin, this is not a happy time.
There is some sort of courtesy country music videos on the tv.

6. Get in the car. stomach growls. I think it's trying to digest the fat. Hurts, but I need to keep driving.

7. As the sun comes up, it starts getting hotter. A good time to turn on the air conditioning. I press the air conditioning button. Hot air comes out.

8. 40 minutes later - hot air is still coming out. Probably a better idea not to use it.

9. I push the "drop window down" button. The window ROTATES IN ITS SLOT - forward actually. Very geometric in its circular progression, but absolutely not the way a window is supposed to work. Ok. Windows out.

10. I push the sunroof button. sunroof is stuck. Ok, sunroof is out.

11. I push the "circulate air from the outside". It smells like rotten eggs. I consider taking my shirt off - but then I think, half naked blue eyed indian in a slow car going through west virginia. Shirt should stay on. I begin sweating.

12. Good thing I have easy pass. That way I can speed through tolls. Oh wait. the easy pass is not connected to my family's account. I have to stop an pay tolls.

13. Since I can't use the window, I have to actually open the drivers door and pay tolls.

14. 540 miles. It's a long drive. My bumper has come off the hinges, and is hanging off the back of the car.

15. I almost get pushed off the road by a truck, because I am in his blind spot. That is fun.

16. I get home. Awesome. Actually make it in good time.

17. My car needs to get serviced. So I need to unload my very adroitly packed car. Not awesome.

18. I get a new computer. Good. It's a sony vaio, and I am already in love. The chugger still sounds like a honda, but the new one is whisper silent. Beautiful. I use the pricechecker of course, and save some money online. I can't believe a laptop can be this silent.

19. Takes about 4 hours to transfer stuff over. Not good, but done. fall asleep.

19-2. Try to log on to my homes wireless network with my new computer. Have the 26 digit passkey and everything. The wireless network is so secure, even I can't get in on it. I end up stealing free wireless from our neighbors.

20. Casenote - not even close to done. At this rate...I don't know if it's worth doing. See farther.

21. thursday - Try to order contacts (regulate) online. My prescription is about 3 years too old. Not good. Need to get an appointment.

22. 830 am friday. At eye doctors. Turns out the duke insurance card - the one they say keep in your wallet - is not the one you are supposed to keep in your wallet for eye appointments. So I have to pay cash.

23. Get home. Dad calls - he had taken car this morning to the shop. Turns out that there are a lot more problems with the car than they thought. They are going to need to keep it overnight. So with the eye drops still in my eyes, I pick him up and come home.

24. Lunch. Nap. I'm exhausted.

25. Wake up. Dad is at computer. Apparently my car has something wrong with the rear suspension. To paraphrase "its a death trap for long distance driving" and would cost way too much to fix. Its ok for short distance driving.

I pause to think if 400 miles to milwaukee is short distance. Maybe if the relativity theory could be flipped.

26. Family decides - have to junk car. No car in milwaukee. I jump onto howtobewebsmart and rent a car to get up there.

27. Sister calls. She may be coming home for a job from Kuwait early, somewhere around August 3. That's exactly two days before I am booked to go to Kuwait.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bad Day

I had a bad day.

Travelling to visit with my good friends Bill Keech (Carnegie-Mellon U) and Carl Simon (UMich), to encourage them to work on a book with my name on it. We were also going to see some baseball, the Pirates vs. the Marlins, with Public Choice star Dennis Epple and his wife Mary, also a very interesting academic talent, as well as with Bill's SDS colleague Kristina Fong.

Flight leaves at 11:00 am. I leave the house at 9:15, knowing the airport is only 8 miles away on the interstate, and there won't be any traffic. Except there is traffic: total standstill, parking lot city. I have no idea what it was, 'cause I got off at the first exit and took surface streets and went in through the secret back entrance to RDU.

So, it's now 9:55, still good on time. Except that the computers are down at USAirways. They are processing about 1 person every two minutes, and there are 30 people in line. I get to the front, but the head guy calls out for anyone who hasn't tried the computer kiosks (which were NOT working) to try them. Ten people went ahead of me (I had tried, already), and when the computers STILL didn't work they waited, AHEAD OF ME, in line at each of the stations where there was a human.

I point this out to the guy who was supposed to be directing people. He sends ANOTHER group of ten ahead of me, and then told me, "You can go right after those people. You thought I forgot you, didn't you."

I said, "No, I think you are the son of a World War II concentration camp guard, getting his sadistic jollies from ordering people around." He walked away, which was likely the right thing to do.

I get my boarding pass. 10:30 now. I had checked a bag, hoping I could get through security faster. Security is TOTALLY blocked, no one moving. I start to get in the shortest line, but one of the TSA stormtroopers barks, "Stay in the line we tell you, SIR." By "sir" he clearly meant "shithead;" you could tell from his tone.

10:50: I'm through security. It suddenly occurs to me that the baseball tickets, 11 of them, purchased from a scal....from a reseller of tickets, and so uncheap, are in my checked bag. This can't be a problem, though: it's a direct flight. Not even U.S.Airways can lose a bag on a direct flight.

Gate is third on the right, so it's close. I run up....and see that the plane is delayed 45 minutes. Under the circ's, not a bad thing. I go get some coffee, and talk to the pretty Ethiopian ladies at the coffee shop. We are old friends, and talk every time I come through, which is perhaps once a week on average. The youngest one is getting married, and the two older women are giving her a savagely hard time about the impending wedding night. "It will be for you not fun at all, but at least it won't last long. He'll fall asleep in no time." Younger woman is so embarrassed she hides her face in the muffin bin. Hilarious. Women are rough.

Flight leaves, we get into P'burgh. We wait a little on the tarmac. But I have called Bill K on my cell at his house, and let him know we are late. (he doesn't have a cell phone, having been transported by time machine from the 1830s).

We wait for the bag at baggage claim. Long time. I notice a black pull bag, just like mine, with the SAME PINK THREAD, same color and everything, tied to the handle. Notice that it is NOT mine, BECAUSE I CHECKED THE LABEL. I notice that it belongs to a woman from Kentucky. I have a bad feeling about this....those bags look VERY similar.

After a few minutes, the bag is gone, so I assume I am just being paranoid.

Bill goes to get his mini-Cooper. Now, Bill is 6'8" tall, and weighs about 160 lbs. He has to fold himself to get into the mini-Cooper. I go to talk to the baggage claim people, who tell me, "Oh there are more bags to be unloaded from that flight." It has been an hour; the flight had 30 people on a tiny plane too small for me to stand up. I think baggage people pull a Kissinger: Henry Kissenger, when he was a prof., famously just wrote: "This is awful! Rewrite completely, and hand it back in." Then, when he read it the first time, it was already a second draft. Baggage guys just want you to go away, so they can argue about their vacation days with their supervisor.

I go back to look at the silent, unmoving baggage claim belt. Bill, by this time, has gotten into a tiff with the parking Gestapo, who told him he has to move along, and can't park or even wait with his car. This is because....I have no idea. For some reason, because some guys crashed some planes (and that was bad, I admit), the authorites decided that AIRPORTS are terrorist targets, even though the total number of attacks on airports is zero. That's like having a traffic accident, and then putting up a guardrail around your garage. Bill asks if he can go inside and tell me that he is going somewhere else (not clear where, and remember that neanderBill has no cell phone), and the cop starts yelling at him. (I later defended the cop to Bill. If the guy were smarter, he'd have a better job).

I go back to baggage claim office. Three guys, I'm not making this up, are having a sprited argument about vacation days in SEPTEMBER. More than 3 months from now. I try to interrupt, and one of them angrily says, "Sir, just a moment. We are on break." (Look for that union label! You can't outsource baggage guys to Bangalore, so they can still rock those union work rules). Finally, the dispute is resolved, presumably by letting ALL Of them take all the vacation they want. One of the guys takes my card, and cell phone number, and says he'll call right away if he hears anything. The reason the other bag, the one that belonged to the woman from Kentucky, had disappeared was that the baggage guys had taken it off the rack. They had that bag, and said they would try to track her down. They only had her Kentucky address and phone, but still....a lead.

I say I'll call, soon. And, to his credit, this guy (Jerry) tells me to make sure and call HIM, directly. He writes his direct number on a piece of paper, and says he'll make sure they get the bag. I mention the Pirates tickets, and that does seem to get their attention. "Let's see, 2 o'clock's at should be okay. We'll get it for you."

We give up, and drive to P'burgh. Pretty far away from the airport. My cell phone rings. It is Sharon, wife of neanderBill. Nice to talk to her, but my heart is pounding. I was hoping they found my bag. Five minutes later, cell phone rings again. It is....Sharon again. I hand the phone to Bill, muttering about Bill not needing a cell phone since he just bogarts everyone else's for free.

We meet Carl, start planning our book activities, sitting outside. I mention how upset I am about the tickets, and how I am nervous. Bill and I go inside, to buy some coffee. My phone rings, and both drop it and kick it, trying to answer. Pick up the phone, and it is....Carl. He says, "Just checking: Has the airline called you yet?" (We had been apart about 45 seconds at this point). I yell, "Asshole!" into the phone, which gets the attention of everyone in the fairly large room by the coffee stand.

We get back out, Carl is VERY proud of himself (why should today be any different?) for the phone gag. I call the special direct number, hoping my man Jerry has come through. I had really gotten the impression he would work for this, once he found out about the baseball tickets. It rang 20 times or so. Nada. So I call the main number. A woman answers; I ask for Jerry. "Oh, he has left for the day. Can I help you?" Remember, Jerry had taken notes, a description of the bag, and had the name of the person who had MY bag. And now, over the phone, I have to START OVER, since no description of any kind had been entered into the claim record.

Fortunately, I heard the other line ring, and the woman asks me if I will hold. She comes back on, laughing: "Did you say your name is 'Munger'? Well, you are in luck! The woman on the other line has your bag! We can deliver it to you in two to four hours from the time she gets it to us. She says she will have the bag back to us by 5, at the latest."

5? Two to four hours? THE GAME STARTS AT 7! DIDN'T JERRY TELL YOU WHAT WAS GOING ON? "Sir, I'm sorry, let me see if I can expedite, we can't."

Me: "A taxi. Put the bag on a taxi. I will pay you $100 to deliver that bag."

Her: "We can't. Liability issues."


So, we all climb into Carl's 1931 Caravan (I swear, it had wooden spokes), and head for the airport. It's 4:45 now, and traffic is JAMMED. We get out of the city, and it breaks up a bit. In fact, looks pretty good. We are flying along...but then we notice that traffic heading INto the city is totally backed up. (I said, "Maybe they are going to the Pirates' game?" We had a good laugh at that.)

We get to the airport, and call as we are pulling in. The nice lady (Lisa) has my bag out at the curb when we pull in. We get the bag, and Lisa gives us directions for a route that will get us off the interstate 5 miles before the city, and may get us to the game on time after all.

And, to be fair to Lisa, her directions were terrific. We got to the game just in time to buy scorecards and beer, and were seated in time to see the leadoff guy come to the plate. An outstanding game, the beer was good, and the company was...well, the beer was good. And great to see Dennis Epple, a fine man and a political economist of note.

At one point in the game, the Pirate third baseman runs in a slow roller, and bobbles it. Hard play, but a major league third baseman has to pick that up and make a throw. Carl insists this is an error, I call it a hit. Carl points out that the official scorer called it a hit. *I* point that the whole reason to KEEP score at a game is so you don't have to accept the official scorer's calls. "If you want the official score, you can just XEROX it, Carl! Have a little courage! That was an error!" (Sharon Keech, a fine intelligent and perceptive woman, except for her marriage choices, backs me on this 100%)

Things devolve a bit. I accuse Carl of being a socialist pussweiler, unable to hold people responsible for their mistakes. And I note that the official scorer is probably a union man also, like the airport baggage guys, and wants to avoid extra effort (it takes longer to write "E-5" than it does to mark it as a hit). Carl says...well, I'm not going to say what Carl said, but if I had followed his instructions I would have needed a new pencil to keep score with.

Later, a grounder goes cleanly, untouched, through the shortstop's legs. "A hit! A workers' paradise hit!" I shriek. I notice that there is a mustard-covered jalapeno from the hot dog Carl is eating, sitting on my pants leg. I'm not saying Carl threw it. But if he didn't, then jalapenos can fly.

A bad day, but it ended very nicely. You can't go wrong with baseball.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Time is passing very, very, very, very slow

Dutch boy MM sends this link.

An excerpt:

Sanchez: I think I’m having an overdose and so is my wife.

Operator: Overdose of what?

Sanchez: Marijuana. I don’t know if it had something in it. Can you please send rescue?

Operator: Do you guys have fever or anything?

Sanchez: No, I’m just, I think we’re dying.

Operator: How much did you guys have?

Sanchez: I don’t know. We made brownies. And I think we’re dead. Time is going by really, really, really, really slow.

The full audio. Very nice. As Brian Sorgatz points out, "This guy was really, really, really, really unqualified for his essential job as a gun-toting addiction counselor who makes surprise house calls."