British Airways, Will You Marry Me?

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British Airways (“BA”) you are one of a kind. Not many people are fans of the airlines these days, but you are special. Your beautiful spirit has captured my heart  (to the extent possible when one is crammed into a tiny seat with no legroom for 10 hours).

And how do I love thee? To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways…

1. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height   

Your Airbus 380 double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner is the world’s largest passenger airliner, with a body so luxurious and perfectly sized that I can fit in the  bathroom without having to suck in my gut and grease the door frame.

2.My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight   

When I leave my seat to partake in your luxurious bathroom and suddenly in my absence both my kids start throwing up simultaneously, you are there with a kind smile, barf bags, warm towelettes and garment stain remover wipes. You even escorted my third-class kid to privately vomit in the exclusive first-class bathroom. Suck it, United Airlines. Barfing isn’t nearly as fun with you.

3. For the ends of Being and ideal Grace   

You gave me wine that I didn’t even ask for. On both the initial and return flights! Doesn’t get more ideal than that.

4. I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need, by sun and candle-light

As it turns out, every day’s most quiet need is an inflight entertainment system with which every seat, even those in the Economy (aka “poor person”) section, is equipped. This fabulous private entertainment system not only includes dozens of free movies and TV shows but also modern versions of Atari game favorites like Space Invaders and Asteroids…not to mention the ability to instant message other passengers you don’t know and are probably sleeping. (This IM thing is a key selling point to Millennials and anyone sitting across the aisle from a dude who took off his shoes and needs to be gently informed that his feet are stinking out the cabin.)

5. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right

If my literary analysis is correct, this line has to do with willing and intense love, which is exactly what I felt when I tasted your delectable gourmet entrees including savory chicken, mouth-watering polenta and dessert pudding which, as correctly described on the package, was an “indulgent blend of milk and dark chocolate infused with fresh orange zest.” Again, people, I was in ECONOMY CLASS.

6.I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

Pure British accents…need I say more?

7. I love thee with the passion put to use

I am so passionate that from now on I’ll plan my vacations around where BA flies. I may not even get off the airplane – I’ll just fly back and forth for a week.

So, BA, what do you say? Will you marry me?

 

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Q & A With An Unsuccessful Blogger: Bad Answers to Your Good Questions

I like to pretend I have a blog. I say pretend, because I am not in the slightest bit successful. I only have about 20 followers, 19 of which are family members I force to read my blog under threat of no Christmas gifts. Over the year or so that I’ve been a “blogger”, my readers (aka family members who receive Christmas gifts from me) have asked me many questions about blogging. At the risk of breaking the Unsuccessful Blogger Code of Silence (UBCOS) and being banned from the world of bad bloggers, I will address these questions.

Q: How do you start a blog?

A: If you’re a Millennial, set up an account on WordPress.com and go from there. It’s intuitive.
If you’re from Generation X, get a bottle of wine, go to WordPress.com and pound wildly on your keyboard until you manage to launch a blog or are too drunk to care.

Q: Why do you write a blog?

A: lt’s simple. Since I have to live through this insanity, I had mind as well share the pain. Besides, I have to listen to your crap at the family reunions, so consider us even.

Q: Is your life really as nutty as you make it sound? (Only people with no kids and no job ask this question.)

A: Look, I can’t make this stuff up. If I were that creative I’d be making tons of money as a Hollywood screenwriter. 95% of what I write about I either experienced or observed. The other 5% is the result of hallucinations brought on by the alcohol my kids drove me drink.

Q: What inspires you?

A: It’s not about inspiration. Instead the name of the game is self-preservation, coupled with a strong desire to not go to jail. If I write about the neighbors’ obese, 11 year old, asthmatic Chihuahua, then I don’t feel as strong a need to throttle the thing when I find out that it’s the source of the rattling, wheezing noise every night that had me terrified I was going to be attacked by some kind of deranged science experiment cooked up in their basement.

I know that sounds mean, but in my defense, I pretty much had to keep my karate nunchucks at my side for a year. (In case you weren’t aware, nunchucks are proven to be the best defense against science experiments gone wrong. You don’t even have to know how to use them – just wave them around wildly to look intimidating. Note, however, that you should always wear a helmet when flinging nunchucks around wildly, as there is a 90% chance you will hit yourself in the head…and that hurts.)

Q: You work full time and have kids. How do you have time to blog?

A: It’s really not as hard as it seems. All you have to do is produce low quality, sub-standard work product and feed your kids cereal for dinner. By keeping people’s expectations low, I find I’m able to squeeze out free time for hobbies.

Q: How long does it take you to compose a post?

A: Anywhere from 2 hours to 2 weeks. I’m much faster now that I don’t have to carry nunchucks around and have both hands free to type.

How Well are you Integrating on Your European Vacation? Take This Short Quiz to Find Out.

In the past two weeks, I’ve written a few blog posts about our recent vacation to Europe to visit my husband’s family and our friends. One thing which has become abundantly clear is that it’s tough being an American in Europe. Sure I lived there for several years, but that was in the 1990’s and I’m clearly out of practice, not to mention old.

To help Americans figure out how well they’re integrating while on their European vacation, I’ve put together this helpful quiz. If you’re American, or just want to play along, then place a check mark next to any of the below things you’ve experienced or done. Once completed, total the number of check marks and read the result which corresponds with your score.

1. Every conversation ends up with a discussion of American politics. You’re slightly embarrassed when you realize most Europeans know more than you do about what’s happening in your own country. You quickly check Facebook for some talking points; if something has at least 1,000 likes then it must be true.

2. Since these European people seem to really know their stuff, you pull out your voters’ guide to the next elections to get their take on your local upcoming propositions. You feel like you’re doing your civic duty now, since you were just going to flip a coin. Let’s be honest people, it’s too hard to actually understand what you’re voting on!

3. Your Swiss friends complain that Americans think Switzerland is the same country as Sweden. Wait, there’s a difference? You probably shouldn’t have copied off your friend’s test in 7th grade geography.

4. You’re impressed by the different coins worth several dollars. In fact, you proudly tip the helpful bartender the biggest coin in your wallet. You later discover it was worth two cents.

5. You spend most of your vacation in London trying not to get run over. Why do they drive on the wrong side of the street anyway? Those wacky foreigners!

6. You get excited at the prospect of eating at a “real English pub.” Soggy peas are exotic, you know.

7. You have to go to the bathroom after eating all those peas, but you can’t fit in the stall.

8. You search your purse for your cell phone to find out what time it is; you forget you’re standing in front of Big Ben.

9. When crossing London Bridge you cleverly lead the family in a rendition of “London Bridge is Falling Down.” An elderly local man passing by gently points out to you that you’re actually on Tower Bridge. You try to convince yourself that you’re really right, since every bridge in London is a London bridge.

10. Even British people insulting you sounds sexy. Who cares what they’re saying, as long as they keep talking!

11. After you get back to America, you try to impress your friends by using British expressions. “Those pub peas were absolutely brilliant. It’s a shame I couldn’t fit in the toilet.”

Score

1-3 Check Marks: You’re a little nutty, but so am I. Overall you’re doing a good job of representing your country. Continue keeping your mouth shut and your ears open.

4-8 Check Marks: You need some help here. Consult a few reputable news feeds and a map before going back to Europe. To really fit in on your next trip, buy a pair of red shorts and ankle socks. At least you’ll look like a native.

9 -11 Check Marks: Call the government and have your passport revoked. No one this crazy should be let out of the country.

10 Signs Your Vacation is NOT Normal

I recently wrote a blog post entitled “Rate Your European Vacation – A Short Quiz.” Unfortunately, I quickly noticed that publishing that post was premature, since we were still on vacation and overwhelmingly subjected to further torture by the Vacation Gods. In pursuit of my mission to provide cutting edge (albeit clearly uninspiring and unprofessional) journalism, I feel it is my duty to continue on with this topic. Thus I present to you, my loyal readers, 10 signs your vacation is not normal (and has probably landed you in the Twilight Zone.)

1. The side of the hotel room’s shower/tub combo is so high, you have to hoist yourself up on the edge and roll over the top. You wonder if pole vaulting in would be easier. Good thing the Olympics are on – you can watch the professionals to learn proper technique.

2. The bedsheets are starched like nothing you’ve experienced since the 1970’s. At least you wake up freshly exfoliated. Now you can cancel that expensive spa treatment you have planned when you get back.

3. The TV is set up so you can only see it by looking into the mirror above the bathroom sink.

4. After running around the ruins of the nearby ancient Roman amphitheater, your kids relax by watching YouTube on their iPads.

5. The hotel furniture your kids are relaxing on is so old you suspect it too may have belonged to the Romans. You entertain yourself by inspecting it for Latin inscriptions.

6. You find some.

7. The horse you take a selfie with while visiting your brother in-law’s farm keeps nudging you until you show it the picture. You wonder if it wants you to tag it on Facebook.

8. You watch in awe as a wasp lands on your dinner, bites off a piece of meat and flies away with it. You consider trying to sic that wasp and its relatives on the hotel’s manager, who turned off your Wifi without telling you and then went to bed.

9. After watching the Olympics every night from his bathroom sink mirror, your English-speaking dad has managed to pick up enough German to fill you in on all the highlights. By the end of the first week, he starts correcting your German grammatical errors. You fear what will happen now that he’s switched to the Italian channel.

10. You spend every morning at the hotel breakfast buffet trying to figure out how many packs of hot chocolate you have to steal to make up for the outrageous cost of the room. On second thought, you might recoup your losses more quickly by selling the Roman artifact furniture on eBay. Your plan is foiled when you realize the manager still hasn’t turned back on your Wifi.

Corporate Mentoring Series: Job Qualifications

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You may have noticed that in the corporate world, the required qualifications stated on a job description are not actually the qualifications required for the job. In fact, in many cases, actual capabilities of any kind at all are not even necessary. As long as your resume makes you look like you know what you’re doing and you aren’t drooling during the job interview, your career is secured. To illustrate my point, here are a few actual examples of blockheads that populate the business world.

Consultant: Dictionary.com defines the word consultant as a “person who gives professional or expert advice.” This definition is complete nonsense and proof that this free internet dictionary is of substandard quality (you get what you pay for).

With the exception of my two consultant friends and any of the readers of this blog who happen to be consultants, I have found that consultants are neither professional nor able to give expert advice. They are, however, skilled in assembling pretty spreadsheets and making meaningless recommendations while giving the appearance of being knowledgeable. Don’t be deceived into believing they know anything, just because they use sophisticated terms like “recalibration” and prepare important-sounding documents like “heat maps.”

Before paying their astronomical bill, take a close look at the information actually contained in the spreadsheets they produced for you. I once found this unintelligible (not to mention grammatically challenged) statement in an analysis for which my company paid an obscene amount of money:

The workflow process for the critical staff are in place to provide guidelines on the information collection process.

If anyone reading this is a consultant and knows what this sentence means, please leave the translation in the Comments.

Marketing Specialist: While you might think that one should have an English degree or at the very least have a decent command of Standard English to create marketing materials, this is not the case.

Marketing is a creative pursuit and, consequently, marketing employees take the liberty to apply their artistic tendencies to the English language. In the corporate world, this entails creative use of past and present tenses, colorful spelling and punctuation, and unique phraseology.

For example, I reviewed a draft Happy Holidays card to be sent out in early December to our company’s clients. The card expressed the company’s hope that the card recipient had had a happy holiday season. (Who cares about this year’s holidays? Given the use of the past tense, it’s apparently last year’s holiday season that’s important.) The card then went on to spread the word that “In the spirit of the new starts, we have made donations to a number of local organizations…” The new starts? Even my first grader knows that while Santa is alive and well, there is no such thing as “the new starts.”

Facilities Supervisor: This person is responsible for organizing moves to new buildings but, surprisingly, organizational skills are not truly sought after when hiring this person. Nor is the ability to communicate key pieces of information to affected employees…such as the ones who are being relocated.

When we moved to another office building across town a few years ago, the employees were given the new street address. However, the actual location of our suite somewhere within the 11 story office building was left off the communication. Not a big deal, since there was certainly a company directory in the lobby. There was indeed a company directory, and it contained the name of every company in the building….except ours.

It took about 2 hours to figure out which door was ours and another 2 years before our company was added to the directory (making mail delivery entertaining). In an attempt to help new hires and others find us while we were (literally) off the grid, employees would put hand-written signs on the door. Unfortunately, these signs were promptly removed by the building management company who required professional logos on plaques as opposed to company names written with Sharpies on large post-its.

Before our next corporate move, I will suggest the company hire a consultant to recalibrate our relocation process using a heat map.

How to Save Money at Disneyland

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Around the holidays we all have to be cost-conscious. Not just in our shopping but also in our  choice of family entertainment. Therefore, the intent of this piece is to help you afford to go to an amusement park (if you happen to be in Southern California) and afford all those holiday gifts your kids are trying to force you to buy. Keep in mind that, as you can infer from the title of my blog, my advice is generally pretty crappy and you may or may not wish to actually take it.

So, how do you save money at Disneyland? That flat answer is DON’T GO. Wait…hear me out. You can save significant amounts of your hard-earned money and still have a fun day bonding with your family by avoiding Disneyland altogether when you are in Southern California and, instead, visiting the much cheaper, albeit trashier, alternative known as Knott’s Berry Farm.

To be clear, I’m not encouraging you to give up Cinderella to pick berries. The name derives from days long past when the Knott family sold berry preserves, pies, etc. Now the “farm” is an amusement park surrounded by busy roads, a mall and a Claim Jumper. I’m not judging….that’s just how it is here in Southern California.

In addition to the cost, Disneyland is also densely crowded. (Now, I’m judging.) By the time you’ve parked your car, ridden the tram to the entrance and fought your way through the front gate, it’s already lunchtime and you’re ready to throttle your and everyone else’s kids.

The following comparisons illustrate some of the key differences between the two:

Disneyland: One-day admission for a family of four is approximately $400.

Knott’s: With a coupon you can get  2 adults and 2 kids in for about $150.  If they’re running a food drive, you can cut this cost in half by cleaning out your cupboard and bringing in the Spam your stepmom snuck into your house and the dented cans of tuna you found at the back of the top shelf.

Disneyland: You wait in line for 2 hours for your daughters to spend 2 minutes with whichever princess isn’t currently on break.

Knott’s: You successfully stalk Snoopy and take pictures with him and the rest of the Charles Schultz Peanuts characters. Your wild Canadian friend starts taking selfies with Linus and you wait patiently as she then tries to convince Linus and Charlie Brown to each hold one end of her as she planks between them.

Later when you look through your pictures you find you were photobombed by a much-too-happy-looking Peppermint Patty.

Disneyland: You elbow international tourists who don’t understand the local custom of waiting your turn. (Not trying to be a hater here, but c’mon people! This is not Walmart on Black Friday!)

Knott’s: You try to count the tatoos on the the scalp, neck and legs of the gang member in front of you in line for the Snoopy ride while you chit chat with him about his cute kids. By the time you get to the front of the line, you’re scoping out the right place on your body to get your hubby’s name inked.

Disneyland: You throw up after your children convince you to go on the kiddy spinning teacup ride. Now you know why that was the only ride without a line.

Knott’s: You go on as many rollercoasters as possible to compensate for your mid-life crisis. To save face, don’t admit that you might have wet yourself on the one where your feet dangle in the air. When the ride is over and you’ve assessed the dampness of your seat, look to the left to make sure your ten year old didn’t fall out. If she is missing, register a complaint with management that they shouldn’t have put her in the extra-wide seat meant for “big and tall” people.IMG_1461.JPG

Note: in case there was any confusion, this is not a serious review. I might have exaggerated a few of the facts, though my Canadian friend is wacky and I did nearly wet myself on the Silver Bullet ride. Don’t misunderstand, I’ll definitely ride the Silver Bullet again, but I’ll make sure I purchase some Depends first.

Birth of the Crappy Christmas Letter

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In honor of the holiday season and with Christmas just around the corner, it seems appropriate to share the story of the birth of the Crappy Christmas Letter.

Instead of getting depressed reading your friends’ holiday letters about their awesome vacations in tropical lands or their toddler’s uncanny ability to speak 5 languages fluently, you can feel good about your life as I regale you with stories of how my plumbing backed up and spilled sewage and toilet paper onto our front lawn. (Refer to blog post #2 “Plumbing and 3D”)

So, gather around a warm fire (unless you’re in California, in which case, don’t start a fire; we’re in a drought and you don’t want to burn down the whole block right before Christmas) and get in the holiday spirit as you enter the world of my crappy life…

“Opening Remarks” – My First Blog Post

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Disclaimer

This blog[1] was my cousin Wayne’s idea. If you find it as ridiculous and nonsensical as I do, then I’ll give you his contact information and you can complain to him directly. Wayne is a writer/director/producer, so if you are indignant enough in your complaint, you might land yourself free tickets to his dinner theater (which is excellent, by the way). In fact, maybe if I complain, he’ll send me free tickets. I’ll give it a shot and let you know how it goes.

Background

In all fairness, I suppose I can’t completely blame my cousin. After all, he was just trying to help me find a more suitable forum for my middle-age ramblings[2]. You see about 10 years ago I had taken to expressing myself (that is, dumping on everyone) through an annual Christmas letter. After all, it was cheaper than therapy. However, as I got older (better said, as my kids got older), my life became increasingly more dramatic – which meant I needed more cheap therapy – which meant longer, crappier Christmas letters. Unfortunately, like with many things, holiday letters have a point of diminishing marginal utility. Statistical testing has shown this point to be about 4 pages. In other words, if you send people holiday letters longer than 4 pages in length, they will find more utility in using it to line their cat’s litter box than in reading it.

I knew I had reached this point when I stopped receiving Christmas cards from people with cats. The true enlightenment came however when I started getting requests to provide my letter in an audio format. This request came exclusively from people who had no cats or litter boxes to line, which meant that they were forced to read it and more than likely would need to take a day off work to get through the whole thing.

I try to be accommodating and took this request seriously. After careful consideration, though, I was forced to admit that an audio version was out of my league. Although I had joined Toastmasters over a year ago, I was doubtful that I could get through a 12 page letter without peppering every pause with at least one “uh”, “um” and, the real signature of failure, “you know”.

The logical solution was to simply send out mid-year update letters. This worked for awhile, but it proved not to be a viable long-term solution. This year the jig was up. It was clear to anyone who read my June update letter that an update to the update letter would be forthcoming. This was mainly due to the fact that we had purchased a house that everyone started affectionately referring to as “The Money Pit”. In Italy they have a saying about the city of Naples[3] which can also be applied to our money pit: “le storie non finiscono mai” which translates to “the stories are never ending.” How many updates to updates can you do before physics steps in and you go back in time? Luckily, right when I found myself on the edge of the swirling black hole of update letters, my cousin entered with his blog idea.

Birth of the Blog

Wayne was a child computer genius. In elementary school he could do pretty much anything with his Tandem computer, and I secretly suspect he may have invented hacking. Consequently, he has automatic credibility regarding anything computer-related, including blogs. In all honesty, it didn’t take much convincing. I was almost immediately on board, since being a blogger clearly meant I could quit my job compiling boring statistical information into PowerPoints and instead could drop my kids off at school and hang out at Starbucks drinking vanilla lattes all day.

Whether or not anyone actually reads this will be seen, but at least trees and everyone in my address book can breathe a sigh of relief.

[1] For disclosure purposes, this may not actually meet the definition of a blog, since I don’t actually know what a blog is. Using the term “blog” makes me feel cool, so I’m going to stick with it.

[2] Yes, I’ve already started to ramble in my 40’s. I’m certain my kids will catch on by the time they’re in high school and start making plans to move abroad…permanently.

[3] On second thought this may not actually be an official Italian saying. Well, in any case, I can personally confirm that at least one Italian has said this. His name was Carlo. Sorry Carlo, I don’t remember your whole name or I’d give you more credit. After all, that was 20 years ago.