Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Here

*Blogger's Note: Change you can believe in*
Now, back to the nonsense...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Just In

*Blogger's Note: changes coming*

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Defense of the Home Frontier

*From my 2005 archives, with a little updating; with a current anti-Second Amendment AG and anti-Second Amendment congressional allies like a Black Panther-turned congressman from Illinois, probably not a bad one to repost*

"Go ahead...make my day".

One of my favorite movie lines of all time, from an actor who had the on and off screen presence to carry it off with a style of blunt brevity and a look: Clint Eastwood.

I have no doubt that, faced with the proper circumstances, my using the line would draw sarcastic laughter. More on that in a mo'.

The subject of home defense came up recently on a local radio talkshow, when the on-airs were discussing a home invasion in Boulder, CO, that went badly for the invader. Armed with a knife, he forced himself past the screaming wife into the home; whereupon she seized a bat, and began 'Barry Bonding' with the invader. Her husband, responding to the ruckus, pitched in with a vengeance.

Bottomline: they beat the invader to death. Mourners please omit flowers, and a high five for the defenders, from about everyone but the ACLU.

At any rate, the show hosts asked callers to relate what they think they would have done, if thus confronted like the victims-turned-defenders. The variety of answers was predictable, from "the same" to "I would have run away". More than one caller opined that, in essence, "it's hard to say, until or unless you're confronted, just how you'll react".

I reckon that's true of most of us.

Putting myself in such shoes -- it'd have to be his, 'cuz hers would most likely kill my feet -- the scenario wouldn't have played out the way it did. Firstly, I wouldn't have opened the door to someone pounding on it, claiming to be "county police".

We don't have those h'yar.

Secondly, I do have a security peephole to see who it is.

Thirdly -- and only relevant if "they" decide they're coming in, welcome or not -- I have something else.

Raised around firearms, I have a passing familiarity with handguns, rifles and shotguns. I've hunted in my time, generally small game. I was a police reserve officer. In former corporate job, I did property and corporate security, up to and including executive protection. I've been through formal combat handgun training.

In short, I can hit what I aim at. Even accounting for the unfortunate turkey episode in my youth (see, at my expense, a blog entry in '07 or '08, TurkeyDuck) .

In the early 90s, I got rid of my firearms. All of them. Not because I had some liberal conversion to "gun= immoral"; I just didn't feel the need to have one, and was undergoing other issues at the time.

Earlier this year, that changed. I decided it wasn't such a bad idea. Not that I had sudden qualms about being unarmed in a world that occasionally goes bonkers for no earthly reason; but it didn't hurt to think about.

In Colorado, home invaders well know that there's a law that's been on the books since, oh, say about 1976 or so: the "Make My Day" Law. Homeowners, confronted with an invader inside their humble abodes, can use deadly physical force to defend themselves and their families, if they feel the threat justifies it. The law -- criticized by opponents as an 'open season' for the trigger-happy -- has been applied a number of times since then. In only one or two cases that I recall has the applier of the law not been upheld (by chasing and shooting the invader in the yard or beyond).

In short, contrary to what the anti-gunners claimed would happen, when the "Make My Day" Law was passed, Colorado, in no way shape or form, became Dodge City.

So, what would YOU do, if your home was penetrated by a person of dubious intent and unwelcome presence?

My answer is simple, should I be home to be thus confronted: the weapon I have will dictate the terms. The invader can retreat, follow instructions, or push the issue. That will determine whether my local police will be responding to take a break-in report, make an arrest....or summon the coroner.

It wouldn't make my day, as I am not, by nature, a violence-prone person; but bad guys may be assured that despite the inclinations of the current AG and lesser congressional lights of dubious intent, I will make your forced entry very, VERY inhospitable.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Guinea Pig

Yes, I am soon to be a 'guinea pig'. And not the CGI kind that's involved in some kind of animated hit movie.
I'm going to be a dental guinea pig.
A friend I've knowd for a long time now -- more than a quarter century -- is on the downhill slide of her career change, from medical transcriptionist, mommy and divorced-from-a-total-nitwit, to a dental hygienist, mommy, and divorced-from-a-total-nitwit.
And she's made good on her 'threat' to use me as a 'patient', now that that downhill slide requires human for the students to get experience on.
And here I'd almost hoped she'd forgotten me...dammit ;-)
Don't misunderstand here; I have nothing against dentists. I've seen a couple of good 'uns over the years. I read a pretty sharp and gifted one that also reads this blog (check her own blog out h'yar).
I just hate going to the dentist. I'm a sizeable guy, and with a bit of macho in me. I can take pain. Except the dental kind. When it comes to oral pain, I'm a candyass. Like the time, many moons ago, I had my wisdom teeth out. All four at once.
Good thing, too. 'Cuz after the dry socket I got on my lower left jaw, if I hadn't done 'em all at once, I would have never gone back, EVAH, to finish the rest.
Though, I've been lucky in a dental sense. I had 8 cavities filled in my youth. But none since. After the wisdom teeth crap, I went through 3 1/2 years of braces (to correct TMJ), with another tooth surgically removed prior to the braces. Except for cleanings, nothing since.
Though, I've been a in the cleanings in the years. And the check ups. Some of it, 'cuz I had a stretch with no dental insurance.
And some of it...'cuz I hate going to the dentist.
I had to go to a preliminary check up in the spring of this year, so her instructor could evaluate my chops as teaching aids, and where the condition of my chops would fit into her training. Because I'm a tad older, with middle-aged teeth, I got relegated to her later semester.
And the day of "what was I thinking, volunteering?" reckoning is fast approaching. All both of them: two four-hour segments. Possibly more, if I'm more of an oral challenge.
But, for a friend...what the heck. What's a little pain between friends, right? After all, she's had to listen to my really bad jokes and puns over the past 27 years or so. Time for me to pay the piper.
And anyway, this experience will do more than just benefit her, career-wise. It will give her a chance to justly claim an opportunity absolutely NO ONE has been able to justly claim since my early childhood, and all of my teen and adult years, and one that might just make up for all those years of bad jokes and puns.
She'll be able, for the bulk of those segments, to shut me up.
She's already an envied hero with my coworkers and friends...

Friday, August 21, 2009


My favorite season of the yahr is h'yar.
From high school to pro, I love football. I was a great sandlot player in my day. I wasn't so good in high school, since they stuck me as a friggin' lineman, instead of using the speed and arm I had back then to better advantage. But eh.....y'all know what Bruce Springsteen sang about Glory Days, and now, I have the speed of a traffic jam.
So whatever my Glory Days, they have sooo passed me by. I'm content now to be a very satisfied spectator.
My high school alma mater has been competitive in Colorado 5A football of late, winning a state championship a few years ago. The college I attended...well, 'twas a lowly community college, and the only football there was intramural. But I follow the local colleges, though the two biggies -- CU and CSU -- haven't been BSCS*-caliber of late, and it isn't looking this year like that's going to change, at least as far as Sports Illustrated suggests in their pre-season NCAA polls.
Likewise for another team I follow from my home state -- the Iowa Hawkeyes.
And then there's the team that I parody-adopted as one that should be a BSCS* perennial: William & Mary. I'm not even sure they have a football team; William might have lost his equipment to Mary in divorce court, for all I know. But I digress.
Even if "my" teams aren't championship-quality, I don't care: it's football, and I lurve it.
Which brings me to the top of the heap...da Big Shoe...da prime time...da NFL. And it's gonna be a helluva season in Denver Bronco-land. What kind of "helluva" is highly speculative and wide open to interpretation.
For those who don't know or care: at the end of last season's lackluster finish (a pithy 7-9), the Bronco's head coach was suddenly fired/released/"left to pursue other options", etc. After a local media frenzy on who might replace Mike Shanahan, ownership selected a 32 year old football prodigy from the New England Patriots (their offensive coordinator the last few seasons), Josh McDaniels.
And Denver Bronco football in the off-season suddenly became a cross between the old Geraldo shows and the day time soap Days of Our Bite Me. The net result of which, the talented, mercurial, pouty, immature and possibly future (or not) Hall of Fame 2nd year Bronco QB was traded to Chicago (he just wanted to be traded), for a QB to less ability, and a couple of draft choices.
Meantime, Bronco media, pundits and fans alike, debated back and forth over the vices and virtues of such machinations by either a future NFL coaching Hall of Famer, or a stumbling fumbling Punky Brewster who'd set back Bronco Nation a generation or more.
And of more recent idiocy, the possible future Hall of Fame wide receiver -- assuming he can stay out of jail and quit beating people up and other stupid sh** to get there -- has become petulant, and wants more money, or to be traded. Perhaps he thinks he needs more money for future bail. What a twit. Anyway, he practices, then he sits out, and he bitches like a Huffington blogger. That saga goes on.
A coworker made his thoughts known when he posted an '09 game schedule at work: with his natural optimism in full bloom, he put an "L" next to every Bronco game this season. So far, he's 1-0 in pre-season: after the Bronco's first exhibition game in San Fran -- against an equally-hapless 49ers team in '08 -- a whole lotta naysayers would have crowned him Cleo the Psychic.
Failing to remember, of course, that there used to be a psychic named Cleo, who was a four star fraud, but I digress again.
Last year, Denver had an up-'n-down offense (thanks in some part to a MASH unit for running backs), lackluster special teams, and a defense that was akin to a free spot on a bingo card. After the tumultuous off-season, Denver has a new coach, a load of new assistants, a ton of free agents, new draft picks, a new system....and a crapload of questions. Many of which the new coach won't answer, to the annoyance of some local sports writers.
I've seen what the worst of the "optimists" have predicted for Denver this year; and I've actually heard a couple of sports analysts suggest Denver's an 11-5 sleeper that'll sneak up on folks.
I think if Coach McDaniels coaxes an 8-8 season out of this team in the throes of full-blown rebuilding mode -- and so many of the "experts" don't want to call it that, but what the horsefeathers else CAN it be? -- it'll be a victory, and perhaps a precursor to better things to come.
But I don't care about all of the soap opera that going on at Dove Valley right now. I don't care that Bret Favre has crawled out of primoral retirement again to thoroughly piss off everyone in Green Bay. I don't care who the BSCS* seems to think is in the Top Ten (they're rarely right by season's end, anyway), or what pre-season polls in Colorado 5A say. What I do care about is, in the words of Sonny Cannon from the '74 version of The Longest Yard, "fuh..footbawl..?".
My favorite season of the yahr is h'yar.
*BullS**CollegeStandings, the thing the NCAA uses to come up with bowl game opponents, especially as it relates to which college team is #1. It's really called the BCS, but as a lot of fans will tell you, the extra "S" fits...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Snakes On A Trail

*the second of two true hiking stories from my personal archives*
Yes, it's true: there are such things as "flying snakes", and I don't mean the ones that overran Samuel L. Jackson's plane in the bad movie on the subject. There really are a species of snakes that "fly" in southeast Asia. Or at least they propel themselves from tree top to tree top, "flying", so to speak.
One can assume that Bill Engvall (if you've ever heard his comedy routine as regards snakes) will be no where near southeast Asia anytime soon, but I digress.
There just aren't any around here. Or at least there weren't, until about the middle of last month.
Anyone who lives in the West -- especially anyone who lives on the west side of the Denver Metro Area -- knows we have snakes. Snakes lived here long before we came in droves. And along the foothills of the western suburbs, people and snakes share a common territory.
This summer has seen an increase in the episodes of rattlesnake bites: a golfer bitten at West Meadows Golf Course. A hiker or jogger bitten at Matthews-Winters Park. A hiker or jogger bitten at Red Rocks Park. A hiker or jogger bitten at William Frederick Hayden Park (aka, Green Mountain, my park of choice). I had my own run-in with a rattlesnake in early August (see A Reptile Dysfunction, a few entries back). I've talked with a number of other hikers and joggers who've had their own experiences this and previous summers. All agree that human-snake contacts seem to be on the increase in this neck of the woodsless.
After my first noted encounter, I changed none of my basic routine, other than trying to pay a little better attention to the trail directly ahead of me. No point in inviting an inadvertent encounter. Then came Wednesday, August 15: the Day of the IFS.
I had completed the first half of my Green Mountain excursion (the climb up), and as had been the case since the Thursday two weeks back, hadn't seen any kind of 'snake sign'. Granted, I knew them to be there. One very pissy two-footer in particular. At any rate, I was now on the descent part of my hike, where there were fewer opportunities for me to sound like an obscene phonecall (unlike on the trek up).
It was a calm morning -- as many have been this summer -- with the morning cool starting to give way to the anticipated middle-upper 90s heat that was promised later in the day. I encountered a few other folks -- mostly mountain bikers, a curious, lunatic bunch to be sure -- when as I approached a bend in the trail, two women and their labrador came round the bend, excitedly gesturing at me (the women, not the labrador).
They weren't carrying any Publisher's Clearing House balloons, oversized checks or crap, so I knew it wasn't probably anything good.
"There's a rattlesnake on the side of the trail!" one of them rasped out at me as she got close and grabbed my arm.
"Oh my gawd, it's about 20 yards back down there", she pointed, "and it was coiled up!"
"How big?" as an idea began to form in my thrice-concussed noggin.
The other, calmer of the two chimed in.."I think it was maybe, oh, 12-15 inches long, maybe?".
I assured the ladies that the trail ahead was...or at least had been...snake-free. One of them went onto regale me with how this was the fourth rattler they'd run into this year alone, and suggested that global warming was responsible for it.
Okay, she didn't really say that, but some pathetic progressive no doubt will.
They went on their way, and I, now alerted, cautiously proceeded on mine. And about 20 or so yards beyond where they had stopped me, sure enough, there he/she was: a 12-15" rattlesnake, coiled up on the edge of the trail, somewhat concealed in the weeds along the side. It didn't have the rattle that my previous encountered viper had, but as I got close enough to get its attention, it was *buzzing* for all it was worth.
Granted, I could bypass this specimen with no problem for me. But if another hiker/jogger happened along and didn't see it, stepping too close...well, my mind had been made up as soon as they told me about it. That previous *TOING* was the giveaway.
Wielding my trusty walking stick, I stepped into position. Granted, this was not what one would consider prime golf terrain; then again, for me with my penchant for playing out of the rough, it wasn't anything different than my pathetic game was rather used to. And granted, my 40" walking stick was a bit more in line with a driver than a chipping wedge. But I needed the practice. And -- to paraphrase the lines uttered by Peter Falk in a 40 year old war movie -- "this snake occupies a crucial position heah. Da snake hadda go".
So while I lined up my chip shot, the rattler conveniently sat there, coiled and paying mind to my out-of-range left leg, and not where it would have been wiser to pay heed...
Now, any of you golfers out there would probably agree: a six-eight foot chip shot, when one takes a "100 yard swing", is a disgrace. Practically a 'whiff'. But for a brief instant, the picture at the top right was acted out along side the Hayden Trail on Green Mountain. Never before had I ever seen a flying snake of any kind, let alone a rattlesnake.

Probably never before had this one anticipated the experience of it's southeast Asian cousins, either. I'm sure he/she wasn't amused by the abruptness of the launch that made it so.
But at least the trail was now clear. And the rattlesnake -- well off the trail -- could share it's Amelia Earhart experience with it's kin around the den. It might even relate the fact that I was laughing my ass off, until out of ear and eyeshot of the incident, too. I mean, I'm not sure what was funnier: the sight of a flying snake, or trying to figure out what to shout when it went airborne. "Fore!", just didn't seem to fit the moment.
At any rate...if you're ever in the Green Mountain area and decide to hike, jog or bike the William Frederick Hayden Park trails, remember: not only are there rattlesnakes there, but some of them actually fly.
Well, at least one of them has...

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Reptile Dysfunction

*a mostly-true story from my personal archives*
Among the many attractions to hikers, bikers and joggers on Green Mountain, is nature. Nature takes many awesome forms on this large, expansive "foothill" that spreads for a fur piece across western Lakewood and almost into the fringes of Golden. It is honeycombed with hiking and biking trails.
Granted, most, if not all, of the nature of Green Mountain has lived there far longer than the hiking-biking-jogging sect, minus the fossils on display on nearby Dinosaur Ridge, but I digress. And much of it seeks distance from the human interlopers. But sometimes, the two have occasion to meet, and it can prove an inhospitable meeting with handshakes and cordiality all around lacking. Once in a very great while, such inhospitality can require one of the two to seek more hospitable services for the inhospitality encountered, so to speak.
Such was almost the case today.
I took my usual early exercise sojourn up the usual Green Mountain route (Florida trailhead to the Heyden cutoff, up the hill to the main Green Mountain trail, down a ways and back: about a 6 mile round trip) on Thursday, July 26. In the several years that I have lived in this vicinity, and all my hiking on the hill, I have had but two encounters with snakes, both fleeting: a pair of small bullsnakes, both of whom were more interested in getting out of my way, than I was of caring they were there. Snakes don't bother me the way self-righteous progressives do, but I digress again.
Today, I'd done my usual "up the hill", sounding near the top like an obscene phonecall, and was returning from just past the summit. On the main trail, about the low point between two inclines, I was lost in thought, pondering several options for my various and pending email scammers, gently thumping the ground with my companion walking stick in my right hand. I had my headphones on, listening to some mellow late 60s rock, and was casting a casual glance around my general surroundings, when a movement about three feet from where I was about to step caught my attention, if not checking my forward momentum.
It was a moving green stick where I didn't recall a stick when I passed here before, and a stick that seemed to have an elasticity that was truly amazing. As I had this belated notion to check my forward progress, I recalled the line from an old Cary Grant movie, "that looks like a snake!".
Due to my failure to check forward momentum, the stick that looked like a snake removed all doubt: it went from a slow, undulating passage across the path, into a more compact, more upright pose. And it had the nicest little noisemaker attached to its tail, making a most definitive *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*.
And it was apparently in no mood to give ground, let alone tolerate my immediate proximity.
Now, I'll be frank, though that's not really my name: I am 50, and not possessed of the limber movements of even 10 years ago. I am a 6' 2", 240 lb. lumbering lunk-foot. But the sudden presence of a highly-elascitized moving stick with attached noisemaker, shifting from lunk-slinking to compressed pissed -- within inches of my right foot -- caused me a strange combination of spinchter tightening and a rearward one-footed horizontal/vertical leap that caused the "stick" to miss when it lashed out in my direction.
I am not quite sure how the spinchter held, but it's proof I wasn't looking for that I'm not ready for Depends just yet.
The coiled, noise-making stick -- flicking black tongue and all -- was plainly riled. My instinctive rearward shift of momentum (which I felt then, and later...ow), had given me a 3-foot buffer between me and 'it': a 2' long prairie rattlesnake, with an 8 button rattle that was going like a tamborine at a prayer revival. A quick piece of math suggested to me that with three feet of separation, I was safely beyond it's strike radius of about 2/3 or so of it's length.
And I still had the trump card: my 40" long, inch-thick walking stick.
With the two of us at something of a stand-off, and no other hikers, bikers or joggers in the immediate vicinity, I decided to engage the local denizen in something of An Interview With A Reptile*:
Me: Well now, hat-band-in-the-making, how's things with you?

It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

Me: Really? Is that the current buzz on the hill, or are you just rumor-mongering?

It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

Me: Y'know, it's a good thing you missed me...I mighta lost my spinchter control, and you'd be all wet...

It: *bzzzzz*
With my failure to advance or retreat any closer/further, the snake maintained it's defensive stance, but slowly the tail decided to take a rest:
Me: Bet that just works your ass off, eh?

It: *no reaction*

Me: Oh, a tough crowd, eh? Well, how about this one: did you hear about the far-sighted snake that went and got contacts, then went home and killed itself?

It: *flicked tongue*

Me: It discovered it'd been mating with a garden hose the past three years...

It: *snake 'rolled eyes' and hit over the head look*
It was then that another jogger came over the rise, about 20 yards away, between me and the no-sense-of-humor snake. I decided to alert her a bit faster than I had been to the presence in the trail:
Me *gesturing with my walking stick*....careful, Ma'am...rattlesnake..

It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz* (I don't think it liked my walking stick being shoved in it's snout)

Her: *feet now doing a happy dance*....OMG...a SNAKE!

It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

Her: *feet still doing a rapid happy dance* OMG, OMG OMG...

Me: Give me a moment, Ma'am...I'll try to clear it out of the trail..

It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

Her: see refrain
I began moving around to the snake's right, keeping the walking stick tip directly in front of the snake, which moved as I did. About midway around it, it struck out at the stick tip:
Her: OMG! Are you alright?

Me: Fine, Ma' bit the stick...

It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*
My effort at snake-herding merely accomplished me getting around to the same side of the trail she was on, while my stick took a couple additional hits from the very unimpressed reptile; the snake remained adamantly in the trail, buzzing like a cheap alarm clock.
Her: What am I going to do?

Me and It: *momentarily shared a "Huh?" look*

It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

Me: Okay...I'll keep it's attention, while you move around it wide on it's right...

Her: *still doing a lesser version of the happy feet dance*...ohhhh, I hate snakes...

Me: I'd of never guessed that, Ma'am...

It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*
With my stick playing nyah nyah with *the reptile dysfunction* on the snake's snout, she was able to move safely around and past the aggrieved obstruction, shouting a "thank you!" as she resumed her run. With no one else in immediate proximity, I decided my departure might convince the snake to move along as well.
Me: Been nice chattin' with you. You don't mind if I post this interview, do you?

It: *bzzzzz*
Me: You won't mind if I include the part about you as "the reptile dysfunction", will you?
It: *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*
I take that to be a "yes....he minds".
I was sure my walking stick would recover in time from being thrice-hit by a rattlesnake that was not amused that I had referred to it as "a reptile dysfunction". Maybe it's seen those commercials on Viagra, which would explain the reaction.
As I moved on, I last saw the snake, still compressed in defensive posture, but no longer rattling; however, I am convinced that I saw it give me "the finger" with it's rattle. Which might have been for the stick in the face, "the reptile dysfunction", or the really bad garden hose joke, I'm not sure which.
* okay, so I embellished the interview portion a tad...the snake took more of a 5th Amendment 'tude with me...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Grocery Store Romance and Pimento Loaf

From the website archives, widda bit of updating herein...

I can answer the title thus: bunk and boloney. And that covers this post. Bye.
Just kidding.
Shopping at the local grocery store recently, I was looking for the product section that's supposed to be full of single women who're looking to bump into single guys. I always see it depicted in TV commercials or during intensely humanized movie dramas that stress love, life and getting in touch with one's innerself, like Diehard and Twister.
Frankly, I was dubious as to my prospects in this thesis: I've spent many a moments browsing local grocery aisles for things from anti-septic to Zingers. In my personal experience, the aforementioned thesis is a Hollywood fabrication, as I have yet to find the aisle where guys and gals were checking out each others' melons and rump roasts.

But while seeking the mythical aisle, I happened upon the lunch meat section (no pun generally intended). The place where names like Oscar Meyer, Louis Rich, Jimmy Dean and Alfred Packer are commonplace. Whilst pondering my original quest, my thrice-concussed mind got to wondering about the term 'lunch meat', and whether I was digressing or not.
At any rate, with the primary quest in limbo, I began a secondary quest. A quest to find something that has always made me wonder, and culinarily convulse: pimento loaf.
Initially -- as with my primary quest -- I struck out on the secondary one, too. Nothing under the name of pimento loaf. But before returning to that, I found some other things even stranger than a single woman seeking a guy in the condiments/gherkins section.
For instance, I found an assortment of beef-based lunch meats: beef. Roast beef. Beef bologna and corned beef. And therewith, I found pastrami, which I guess has something to do with beef, too. The label suggested it did, saying "beef flavoring solution", without revealing what that solution had proven to be. It said other things that almost made me wish I'd paid more attention in Chemistry 101, like "sodium phosphate, sodium ascorbate and sodium nitrate". Guess they make pastrami taste like beef, too.

Then I found something claiming to be "pot roast beef loaf". It didn't look anything like any pot roast I'd ever had. Especially with ingredients like gelatin, dextrose, garlic powder flavoring, onion powder and worchestershire sauce. Add to that list sub-ingredients like molasses, distilled vinegar and tarmarind. It also listed "natural flavor". Natural flavor of what? Is there a natural worchestershire plant or animal with this taste? And it even listed in the ingredients, anchovies.
What the hell is this "pot roast beef loaf" supposed to be for: sandwiches, or halibut bait?

Next to it, I found something called "Liver Cheese". It contained things like pork fat-wrapped lining, pork livers, pork and pork fat. I knew that NASA built in redundancy, but I didn't know that NASA had a lunch meat-making division. The "Liver Cheese" also had something in it called "reconstituted onions". If they were onions in the first place, why did they need reconstituting? Weren't they "good" onions? Were they genetic disappointments, being given a second chance as a filler?
All the while, I never saw a single ingredient that mentioned "cheese". Hmmmm.
Keeping with that theme, I then stumbled upon "Head Cheese": again, no mention of any kind of real cheese in the ingredients. But the 'head' part was easy to figure out: pork snouts and cured pork tongues were in there. Cured pork tongues? And how was this cure an improvement over the disease? Without digressing into someone's efforts to "cure" hellthcare, I decided to move on.
Next I found "New England Brand Summer Sausage". I've had this and enjoyed it. But as I perused the label for hidden dietary ambushes, I noted in bold print on the package "Made in Wisconsin". WTF??? New England can't make their own branded summer sausage?

Liberal slackers.
Then I found a product that went from weird to just plain ominous: "Spiced Luncheon Loaf". Not that I found the name ominous; but one of the ingredients certainly appeared so: "mechanically-separated chicken". Whoa. And PETA thought chickens had it bad at KFC.
Finally, I did find something akin to pimento loaf, disguised under two different names: "Pickle Loaf" and "Olive Loaf". The former also contained remnants of "mechanically-separated chicken", as well as pickles, olives and those red pimento things. It didn't say if those other ingredients had been "mechanically-separated" as well, and I didn't have the heart to inquire.

As for the "Olive Loaf", I had had enough of random discovery, and wasn't up to finding out if Popeye's version of Twiggy was loafing after taking Bludo and Popeye to the cleaners in cartoon divorce court or not.
My curiosity was beyond satisfied. On both quests.
Henceforth, I'll just stick to grocery shopping for food. No more quests for mates or pimento loaf. Besides, with my luck, I'd meet a woman there who runs one of those "mechanical separators".
And I'm sure it doesn't work just on chickens...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crabs and Credibility

Taking advantage of stupid scammers is probably against the law, somewhere.
I just don't happen to live in such a place ;-)
One of the more common scammers I see are the "help me get money" from a bank, or security company, etc. Nothing new with most of them, but I got one from a Jerre Zongo -- love the name -- that wanted more than just my help in liberating money from a dormant account in the Bank of Africa in Burkina Faso; he wanted my "expertize" in investment advice. As he said in his pitch, "I find you in internet search and believe that you have financal expertize to help me invest moneys in your country for mutual benefits".
Some Third World scamster idiot on the 'Net thinks I have financal expertize?
Bwhahahahahahahahahahahaha! Fool ain't seed my checkbook! But I digress.
So I came up with an "investment" suggestion for Mr. Jerre Zongo -- love the name -- one that I reckoned he'd either (a) blow off or (b) bite on, with more chance of (a) than (b).
Thus, I -- as Ben Dover -- sent him off this response to his inquiry:
Damn! Really? You found my expertize, touted online? Wow. I thought my ex-partner Bernie mind.
At any rate, you're right...I do have financal expertize. It's a gift with me, one I am forever wondering how to unlock. But for you, I think the key is found, and the lock is ajar, which confuses folks who are too literal in their interpretive nodes during canning season.
I have the perfect investment opportunity for you, and I just know it's going to be the fiscal hit of the stimulus windfall that's the rage here! If you are truly interested, let me know, and I'll clue you in on an insider deal of a lifetime!
After a couple days, I get this:
Mr. Ben, i am interest to her more of your invest. please to tell me of.
With one of those evil *grins* of mine, I dive in wid both claws:
Zonkers, I have a controlling stake in a trial "boot camp", one that has been set up for recalcitrant individuals, where they are either made, or broken, by a boot camp-style atmosphere and rigid adherence to discipline, order, and regimentation. See, some years ago, an organization in Liechtenstein -- the International Crustacean Obedience Training Institute -- was pretty successful in selecting and training talented crustaceans (usually crabs and lobsters) for roles in beer and other TV commercials. But with the advent of CGI, the market quickly dried up, and a number of these trained crustaceans found themselves out of work, with only limited restaurant opportunities to look forward to.
It beget a generation of surly, disadvantaged, filled with despair and rage crustaceans.
So I saw an opportunity here: and with friends formerly from the US Military, I have established, on a compound outside of Great Falls, Montana, the one and only Flying Penguins Crustacean Boot Camp Ranch & Rehab Center, where formerly trained and docile crustaceans -- now turned into enraged, underprivileged creatures of crabby attitudes -- are taught discipline, control, self-esteem, self-respect, and are given the opportunity to re-enter society as productive, happy crustaceans.
Or, be introduced to cocktail sauce therapy, if the standard 12 week disciplinary regimen doesn't get 'er done.
Your proposed millions as an investment shot in the king crab legs, will give us just the growth potential and capital necessary to make this ranch world renown, not only for our success stories, but for our culinary answer to those too recalcitrant to salvage.
Whaddaya think, Zonkers?
The answer back from Zongo was ineptly....priceless:
Mr. Ben, i am much the pleesed this is you to help me by your money ideas. i have not heerd of this place you say montana? i seargh intenent but cant to find a list of it. are you okay to make a profit by this i ask to know?
Ben is quick to pounce on answering to asking knowd:
Zonkers, this is an absolute no-miss proposition! If we can successfully reclamate a wayward crab or lobster, think of the future for these crustacean misfits! Mine field reclamation; construction; Olympic sports (think about ping pong and tennis); music and the arts; high tech applications! I'm telling you, Zonkers, this is BIG!
And if it isn't, I can franchise a Red Lobster restaurant out of the delinquents. Cockerspaniel crap, Zonkers, there ain't NEVER been a failed Red Lobster restaurant in these here lower 48, even in redneck, backwoods, bible-shooting, gun-thumping, sheep-molesting Montana!
How soon can you get me the first installment? We gotta move on this faster than a flatulent porcupine in a balloon arcade!
Apparently, Jerre Zongo may not be the brightest candle in his fly-infested internet cafe down yonder in the wildebeest run; but one of his handlers is a bit quicker on the uptake. After a couple more days, Ben gets this:
sir, are you have jest with me to make fun here?
Should I be hurt and genuinely wounded by such a question, my good readers? Would I -- as Ben Dover -- be that lowbrow, that thoughtless, that shallow, that mean-spirited?
Yawp (with a little help from pirated dialogue from the movie Kelly's Heroes character, Oddball):
Hey, Zonkers! What's with the negative waves, baby? That is the lousiest stinkin' awful stupid joke, and you're always pulling that lousy awful stinking stupid joke. You don't want in this thing, you don't get in this thing, I cut you out of everything. $15 million USD from a bank in Burkina Faso I can pick up almost anywhere....schmuck.
That's good for one really confused response:
you to me makes not a sense you not funy here i wish not you to email of me any more i not trust of this now ok.
Damn....lost my credibility with a scammer. Guess he won't vote for me (reference my 8/6/09 entry). You just KNOW I'll be losing sleep over that, while dreaming of screaming like a DI at a crab, demanding it drop and give me fifty.
But perhaps there'll be someone who reads this, and has the financal expertize to bring this boot camp for wayward crustaceans to pass, near Great Falls, Montana.
What'll ol' Jerre Zongo -- love that name -- have to say then, hmmm?

Monday, August 10, 2009

He REALLY No Like This Joke

Bruno Weka ( is really pissed.

He shoulda thought about that before engaging me in email scambat.

At the conclusion of an especially amusing and rather email-heavy scambait (about 115 messages between the scammers and me, total, and an upcoming blog column), I did an impromptu "awards email" to all of those scammers I'd dealt with through the month of June, including hisself:

Welcome all, to another email from the producers of Scam or No Scam, where we lowlight bit players from the world of Nigerian (and other) 419 online scammers who tried -- albeit pithily -- to pull off their chosen ploy on U. R. Phulovit, aka, the 419-Busting Texas Tornado (I have to laugh).

June 2007 consolation prizes -- a mention righ' chere, and on two scambaiting websites -- go to:

George Nyerere
Stan Luthuli-thing
Johan Otto, Dupe Extrordinaire
Bannister Scott Nicholson/James/Chambers et al, International Scam Firm
Nelly Watch (you made to look foolish)
Ether Korroro
Dennis Brown, Esq and corpse-in-waiting (BTW, Dennis, is that re-written scam letter I did for you making you rich?)
Kelley Ko (I'm still waiting for you to "get me for this")



Congratulations to all of you players, and please play Scam or No Scam again! No limit to entries! Coming soon to an Internet cafe in Lagos...Johannesburg...and all sorts of fly-infested mud huts spread all over that neck of the woods!

A rain of grateful 'thank you's...didn't follow. But one rather testy, ungrateful response did result. FROM THE WINNER/WHINER of June's award, no less:

From: Bruno Weka
Subject: Bitch Ass

(warning: I'm going to type this just as it was sent to me; my apologies to the easily-offended)

you have ben making fool of youself all along you gay...looling for asshole to slot in you miserble 2inches dick. for your informaton, you americans are mugus guide by sheer greed. And we have been ripping you off.there is nothing you or anybody cando about it.go to hell for all I care!!!bitch.

LOL...guess he thinks he told me, eh?

Though the lad of dubious antecedence and outcome-based education still can't spell for squat, I do have to concede him a point in his diatribe. So I decided a dignified response that concedes a point in the argument is in order:


LOL...I got a kick out of your most recent effort to make yourself feel better. Venting is good. A great emotional release. I'm sure you feel much better now. You'd make a great outcome-base-(ill)educated, progressive voter here.

Now, I don't blame you for venting. I haven't given your email much rest since you rather ineptly and ill-advisedly tried to sucker me with your fourth-rate scam. I take it you're not enjoying how I'm using your name and email address with every one of your fellow scammers who cross my path here. Well, know that I have posted all of our exchanges so that anyone on the WORLD WIDE WEB can read about how incredibly stupid and ham-handed you are.

With that said, I can at the same time understand your lashing out, using the language of an uneducated, angry child. I agree that it really sucks when you're beat at a game you're rather lousy at in the first place. But if you hope to make anything useful of yourself, you might at least learn some basic spelling. You give your game away in a number of ways; fixing your spelling would at least not make you look so simplistically idiotic.

I do have to acknowledge a point you made, Bruno: you and some of your lowlife chums have duped some Americans with your scams, as well as some Europeans. In a society like ours, there are kind-hearted, easily-trusting souls who believe in the inherent goodness in all; they are like sheep, and can fall easy prey to scum-sucking outhouse pit trash like you. And there are some greedy folks hereabouts as well, who let greed override better common sense. I don't have much sympathy for the latter, to be sure.

But for the former, scambaiters like me step in and take up your time and waste your efforts. We also, slowly and gradually, help to educate the ill-informed about what you are and why you'll ultimately return to the outhouse sludge pit you crawled from.

But you have missed the essential truth in your childish diatribe, Bruno: I AM doing something about you. So are my many and growing number of cohorts. Some of them even more successfully than me. And what's most important in that essential truth, Bruno...there's nothing YOU CAN DO ABOUT US MAKING MUGUS OF YOU, and posting it for the WHOLE WORLD TO READ ABOUT AND LAUGH AT YOU OVER!

And, my Third World buffoon, you haven't duped this here American. And you never will. I've whipped and humiliated more than 400 of your kind over the years. I have made mugus of you and your kind in public and online. I find it incredibly easy to do. The smartest of you on your best day haven't conned me on my worst.

Thus, Bruno, your pinnacle is behind you, and your downward spiral is assured. So amuse me with your angry, emotional pin-pricks as you choose. As I told you now twice, you started this with me; I will finish it, on my terms and in my own good time.

And there's nothing YOU can do about it. Unless you wanna come meet me? Puh-leease!

And I drove that point home by rewriting his angry email to me, and using it with four new potential scammers. One of which wrote back to me, thanking me for "showing her this hateful person she doesn't know, but will warn her friends about".

Of course, when I do this, I always give them Bruno's email address; but I don't give him theirs.

Thus, Bruno's not done getting angry. Perhaps I'll get him angry enough to pop a vein or a syntax. And he proves it, as this response suggests:


Dang, I have "no idee" who I mess with? Well, let's get an idee:

You're right...I only know you by the name you give, and your piss-poor spelling. But you did offer to come visit me when you come to Texas. So, come git some! I'll have coffee and a can of whup ass waiting, as well as your certificate of award! Introduce me to who I mess with! C'mawn, dude, lay a big baaaaaaaaaad introduction on my ass, Bruno! Bring it on!

A couple of days go by, and finally, my last peep from bad ol' Brunoid:


And I was finally forced to leave him alone...after sending him a couple weeks worth of Mwhahahahaha...I always come back! emails, his email address finally quit working.

I might also add that the Houston area code phone number Bruno gave me to contact his banker buddy on, John Word, was not left out of the equation: I gave it to the next couple dozen scammers that contacted me, instructing them that the best time to call me on it was between 1-5a US Central time. I even called the number once myself, using my Chinese engrish accent, and got a very grumpy-sounding person with a strange accent on the phone, before he hung up on me (it was about 3:20a his time, but I assure him that "it dayright where I make carr from"). About the same time that Bruno's email addy went phfffft, so did that telephone number suddenly go disconnected.

Bad Skunk....Bruno REALLY no like this joke.

*2009 note: Bruno never did "come git some".*

Saturday, August 8, 2009

He No Like This Joke

*An unexpected two parter from my scambaiting archives, and a minature classic*
I have had that affect on some people as you blog readers know, shore 'nuff.
Take for instance my latest email scamster of funny bone dysfunction: Bruno Weka ( He sent me one of those ATM card scams, where I'd provide him with all the necessary information, then get in touch with his 'banker', who'd inform me of the fees I would need to pay to obtain an ATM card to access a fund left behind in the National Westminster Bank PLC, Suite 6070, Texas Commerce Tower, 600 Travis Street, Houston TX 77002.
Fancy that; a Nigerian with Texican connections. And he -- Weka -- purported himself to represent the Chairman, Anti-Fraud Department, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The amusing thing about this was the initial email header that led it all off: ANTI FARUD DEPARTMENT...(PAYMENT ON HOLD)!!!
And it 'twas from there that I began right off to annoy Mr. Weka:
Dear Bruno:
What's an anti-farud department?
Yep; I was 'Skunk'. It didn't matter to Bruno; a day later, his reply came with the same header (ANTI FARUD), even though he attempted to clarify what he was:
Dear Sir:
We are Anti Fraud Deparment. Not anti-farud department. 1 have sent you mail through our offical emial address instructing you on what to do. Please comply for effective transfer of your funds. Keep me posted.
Bruno Weka
Since he was making it so easy to do -- typos up the bunghole -- I decided to stick with the typo theme:
Dear Bruno Weaka:
If you are an anti fraud deparment, then why is your email headed anti-farud department? And are you a deparment or a department? And since when did '1' replace 'I'? Words mean things. Please explain.
After an intervening weekend, Bruno still hasn't fixed the email header, but attempts to ignore my nitpickiness and get right to the point:
Dear Skunk *TOING*,
We have received your mail debunking the cliams of fund transfer by an unknown person. Thanks for letting us know about this. Now, all you have to do is go right ahead and contact Mr. Collins Hammer, the Director; Foreign Operations Department at tel 1-713-481-5223 (wahl shazzam, a Houston area code, and a number I had a lot of fun with later..). File in to secure the release of your funds forthwith. please co-operate stricly with the company's norms to avoid mistakes and delayed transfer. Better still, if you will prefer a diplomatic courier company delivery of your funds to your doorstep, that can be arranged. Do let us know. If you prefer banking transfer, then contact Mr. Collins Hammer with above information. Always keep me posted with events as they progress.
Bruno Weka
Since he tried to ignore my follow-up nitpicking, I treat it like an itch I can't scratch, and keep pickin' at it:
I never sent a debunkment letter to you at the anti-farud deparment in Lagos. Now I am really confused. What is this fund you say I'm debunking? Please explain.
Bruno is starting to get just a tad perturbed, and -- still using the same email header -- picks up on my nitpicking:
It could have been a typographical erro. Simply pay attention to the instructs and follow them please. Our time is to precious waste.
I really hate to tell him this but...nah, I really don't hate to tell him this, and nah, our time isn't that precious, as I waste tons of time with these yo-yos:
It could have been a typo? Three times? And what's an erro? Good gawd man, if you want to give me the business, please spell check first and THEN send me what it is you wish me to do. I am easily distracted by typographies.
He still hasn't corrected the header on his next, and is a tad more testy in response:
1 want to believe 1 have been directed on what to do...go right ahead and do it, now. Stop all these, lest we think you are not the bonafide owner of the sad funds. Thank you.
I wait a day, and then I tell him what's really sad about this:
"I" wish to believe 1 have been directed on what to do? My oh speak in code? But, you -- aka, "1" -- are right: 1 should stop all these, lest you think 1 am not the bonerfried owner of the sad funds.
So Bruno, of the anti-farud deparment, 1 will commit no more erro here, and am ready for you to give me the business. So give it to me. Gimme dat ting, gimme dat, gimme gimme dat, gimme dat farud ting! Send me my cash. I will accept a check, but prefer cash.
Skunk almost thought he'd of picked up on the fact he was going nowhere with this, but a couple days later, I get Bruno's response, and with a changed email header:
CONTACT DR. JOHN WORD (what happened to Collins Hammer, I wunner?) FOR MORE INFORMATION: 1-713-481-5223 OR FAX 1-309-416-9632
Beats me where area code 309 is, but decide to reward Bruno (sorta) for changing the email header, as well as going right to contacting his newest best business bud:
At last! Thank you for clarifying the "anti-farud", finally! It is so much easier for me to grasp now. And thank you for giving me a contact whom which can continue your effort to give me this business. I shall use this opportunity of this email to establish contact with Dr. John Word at the provided address.
Dr. Word, I am directed to you by Bruno Weka's anti-farud deparment regarding a fund and an ATM card to access it. What can you tell me of this, and what is it you require of me, besides better typing than Bruno's?
After waiting a couple of days with no response, I prod Bruno:
I write to the bank just like you say. The bank doesn't write back. Is this Dr. Word without any?
Are you playing me here, Bruno?
I await your explain.
Two days later, still no reply. So I prod Bruno again:
Hey, Bruno!
Whazzamata U? Cat got your keyboard? No response to my inquiry? What about your bank? Hello??? Is there anyone intelligent out there?
You're excused from responding to that one, Bruno.
That 'un finally produces a reply the next day, but Bruno only types a header, no text. His header: I DON'T LIKE THIS JOKE.
Awwwwww...he no find me funny. Bruno, you have company out there.
But I'm not done widdem:
Bruno, bud:
What joke? You wrote to me with this offer to give ME the business, representing yourself as the chairman of the anti-farud deparment, remember?
Oh, how soon you forget!
Now, as to jokes...I got a millyun of 'em. For instance: what do you get when you cross an atheist with a Jehovah Witness? Someone who knocks on your door for no reason!!!!!! Mwhahhahahahahahahaha....I kill me! I'll bet you wish you could, too!
But back to bidness, Bruno...whatever happened with your banker bud you told me to contact? Hmmmm? Could it be that YOU were the one joking here, Bruno?
That didn't prod him to reply. So I tried another approach: I sent him tweaks and jokes from this and four other email accounts, generally with the same theme: a really bad joke and a "wazzamatta, Bruno?" message.
That did it; from another of my email accounts came this from the now thoroughly annoyed Bruno:
Hey friend,
give me a break!!! I need it, don't I??? (that's debatable)
And live the wrong spelling "anti-farud deparment" alone. we all stand corrected, got that? (touchy, touchy...and now he takes a counter shot) I see you are jobleess, you have nothing good doing with your time.go get a job. and live me the f*** alone!!!
(that's the potty-mouthed pot calling the kettle black...and finally, he ends on what I suppose was meant to be a threat) Hey, I will be in Texas by next month. would you wanna see me?
Poke a stick enough times into a hornets' nest, one is bound to get a reply. So I stuck it in there again, from all five accounts. Each answer was a bit different, so I'll go with the one I sent him from the account he responded to:
Hey "friend",
Do you really NEED a break? You aren't working THAT HARD...if at all.
And haven't yet "got that". You did it again: "and live the wrong spelling.." should be "and LEAVE the wrong spelling...". Your problem, Mr. Spellcheck, is that you don't. Not once. Ever. You stand corrected with each email. Bad scammer! Bad! Bad, bad!
As for my job, Brunoid, it leaves me a plethora of time to craft calculated responses to morons like you. It's no trouble, really. In fact, you should be in my debt, what with the spelling lessons I've given you the past two weeks.
As for your promise/threat to visit me in Texas, you mean it? You'll really come look me up? You promise? Please do. Oh please oh please oh PUH-LEASE, look me up! You will allow me to answer a hypothesis I came up with when I received your first reply to my first reply to your first message: if you really do come look me up, it'll prove to me that you really are as STUPID as your emails suggested you are.
Please, Bruno...look me up!
While there's been no reply so far, I must tell you that 419 scambaiters consider a 'threat' email to be something of a trophy. Hooha!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Good Question

Another blogger I visit -- Christina Jade -- apparently has a somewhat regular thing she does, usually on Fridays, but sometimes on Mondays ;-). She calls it The One Thing.
She asks readers to name The One Thing, and has a question on a variety of topics (for example, name The One Thing that you look for most in a stimulus bailout program that allows you a girlfriend/boyfriend like the one former NY Governor Spitzer bought hisself?).
This week, she asked her readers to name The One Thing that you look for the most in a candidate.
When I visited, there had only been a few answers, from some lengthy but well-expressed ones, to a tongue-in-cheek one from another of my blogging buds.
Amazingly, I found it easy to have a quick, The One Thing answer to the question posed. And nowadays, it's even easier to want this the most in a candidate one would find support-worthy: credibility.
Alas, it's easier to want, than to find.
I don't find credibility, not when a candidate campaigns on hope and change, and having the most transparent administration in modern times, only to constantly renege on the transparency. Not when a candidate campaigns on being a uniter and not a divider, and then weighs into a small town local issue and, without knowing all the facts, blames one side and irresponsibly cites it as proof of racial profiling, when it's proven to be nothing of the sort.
Not when a married candidate campaigns on self-responsibility, a good moral compass and religious foundation, only to have an affair with his intern. Not when a candidate achieves the epitomy of power in the US House of Representatives, and uses that position to enrich herself through her legislation and bully pulpit, a gross conflict of interest and self-service at the expense of the public good. Not when other candidates talk fiscal responsibility, and then spend money in Congress like drunken sailors on a 72 hour liberty that goes on for years.
Not when a candidate takes demonstrated tax cheats, and puts them in control of the nation's money supply. Not when a candidate bypasses a key leg of the Constitutionally-established government triad -- the legislative branch -- and brings in a growing number of "czars", answerable for their actions only to him and no one else.
Not when a candidate takes an oath to protect his constituents, the USA and Constitution, and then votes on bills that he/she has never read, has no idea what's in them, and doesn't think it's important for the public to know what's in them. Not when an elected official's administration establishes a "snitch on opponents" program that smacks of the Nazis and Stalin's odious apparatus for controlling dissent.
Name The One Thing that you look for the most in a candidate. I look for credibility.
Someone who says I believe in this, this and this, and then goes out and not only says it, but stands for and lives it.
Christina Jade asked a helluva question there. Wouldn't more of you like to see a candidate that lived it the way he/she campaigned it?
Of course, it's our fault that we don't demand it be so. And too many of us don't. We have the power to. Many very fine young men and women have served and died, protecting that power, and our right to exercise it through our vote.
We owe it to them, to ourselves, and to the future, to make up for that. And we best get started on it, in 2010.
Name The One Thing that I look for the most in a candidate: credibility. If you're a candidate on my ballot, and your words and deeds to me aren't matched by your history and prior ain't got it.
And my vote, you won't get, either.
Good one, Christina Jade. I hope this real teachable moment it isn't wasted.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Night of the Crow

*from the archives*

*Tick...tick...tick* goes the dull, rythmic beat of my cheap, no-frills clock on the wall behind me. The clock is pretty much like me...rather plain and austere. Not the kind of clock I would have had much to do with almost 20 years ago.

In my younger business travelling days, I had a thing for silly, novelty items. At one time, I had that stupid, battery-operated talking "trophy" bass. A decoy-looking duck telephone that quacked when it rang. An Addam's Family coin bank. And, of course, a remote-controlled fart machine.

Friends and acquaintances considered me mildly insufferable.

Returning from one business trip, I found something in one of those travel magazines that I decided I simply had to have: a battery-operated travel alarm clock. This was no ordinary travel alarm clock: it was special. It had the annoying 'beep' alarm, as most travel alarm clocks do. But it had another setting, too. One that, instead of 'beep'ing, crowed. Like a rooster.

An old Iowa farm boy, I simply had to have it. At first opportunity, I ordered it. Upon it's delivery, I wasted no time in a test of it's authenticity. After all, an old Iowa farm boy would know a credible crow when I heard it.

The alarm cock -- as it became known -- met and surpassed my silliest expectations.

Two weeks or so later, I had to make a trip to northern Indiana, via Chicago. With my alarm cock ensconced safely inside my briefcase, I settled into my business class seat and found that I had had a seating stroke of luck: for a change, instead of being seated next to a 400 lb Sumo, I was joined by a very charming, personable business woman. We exchanged pre-flight pleasantries, and I forgot about my reading material for the flight ahead.

Not long after we reached cruising altitude, I heard something. A muffled sound. A sound that kept repeating, over and over. A sound that my seatmate also heard, as well as persons all around. The sound was emanating from my briefcase. The subsequent conversation, as I recall it, went something akin to this:

Her: Your briefcase is...crowing.

Me: Uh....yeah.

Her: Why is your briefcase...crowing?

Me: Uh..well, it's on account of this (and I retrieve and open the case)..

Of course, with the case open, now all of business class was being treated to my crowing alarm cock. Which I quickly silenced, but too late for more immediate prospects:

Me: It's alarm clock.

Her: *with a look that'd changed from "you're really funny" to "you're really weird"*...oh.

For the balance of the flight, I was glad I'd brought reading material.

I figured it was a fluke, and after landing in O'Hare, I got my rental car, baggage, and was off to South Bend, Indiana, with nary a further peep from my alarm cock.

After dinner and settling in to my room in the Ramada Inn, I set up the alarm cock to provide me with a 4:30am wake-up crow, and dispensed with my usual wake-up call from the hotel desk. I figured one fluke was just that. Thus, I drifted off to visions of my lost travelling companion, dancing on my lap...

cockadoodle dooo....cockadoodle dooo...

Shot me out of bed like I'd been tasered on the soles of my feet. A quick glance at the bedside clock told me it was only 2am, not 4:30...

cockadoodle dooo...cockadoodle dooo...

Flailing around in the dark to reach and muzzle my over-eager alarm cock, I took about everything not nailed down off the night stand: phone, lamp, bedside clock, water glass, complimentary mints, Gideon Bible...and the General Quarters-like alarm cock.

cockadoodle dooo...cockadoodle dooo...

Trying to find the light to turn on, I managed to trip over the lamp -- or something -- kicking the phone against the wall and expressing to no one in particular a series of colorfully metaphoric expletives over a jammed toe...

cockadoodle dooo...cockadoodle dooo....

By now it was obvious that I had missed an ominous warning and opportunity on the plane, when the damned alarm cock screwed me over with my seatmate, I should have left the obviously demonic device in the closet restroom, or given it to a screaming four year old in coach. But it was too late now: betrayed and injured in the dark, and probably having awakened half the friggin' floor in the opening melee, I was on a new mission: to find and kill that friggin' demon alarm.

cockadoodle dooo...cockadoodle dooo...

Finally on hands and knees, I managed to turn on the floored lamp, and traced that darn fool piece of subversive vegan apparatus to where it'd taken refuge under the bed, while someone was knocking with annoyance on my wall, and someone else was knocking on my door, and the Rooster from Hell continued it's call for my personal destruction. I grabbed the alarm cock and hit the 'silence' button with force that should have been sufficient to silence a screaming cat.

cockadoodle dooo...cockadoodle dooo...

The knocking on my door became more insistent, along with a voice demanding to know "what is going on in there?"

Me: *in the calmest voice I could muster from a state of near-maniacal rage*..uh, just a minute...

cockadoodle dooo...cockado *CRUNCH*

After all that time of business travel, I'd finally found a use for that complimentary Gideon Bible: beating into silent submission, the heathenesque Alarm Cock from Hell.

Thankfully, it didn't take much explaining to my rather annoyed neighbor and hotel person as to what had happened: I am sure that my disheveled self with crazed eyes, and holding the shattered remains of a demonic alarm cock, didn't lead them to want to know more.

Upon hearing the story later -- and knowing me as they did -- my coworkers were very gracious and humored me by not telling the story to others in my presence. They did it behind my back, which had me having to answer for a couple of months the question from folks I barely knew, "uh, what happened to your alarm cock?".

And that is why, today, I have this dull, plain-Jane ticking clock on my wall. My love of novelty toys is long-since cured. Besides, I no longer have a Gideon Bible handy, in case I have to beat the heathen snarf out of any future possessed clocks.

Now, I just use a hammer.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A "Royal Garden" Party

Just when I was beginning to think they had no new scam ideas left to float to me, I can always count on the scammers to try one.

Got invited to a garden party,
to spend some time with some new friends,
and a chance to spend two weeks abroad,
and getting had again...

There I was, just getting over laughing my butt off about how Facebook had decided to make me "engaged", when I got the most curious email from a "foundation" about a "conference". A two week-long conference. In London, UK.

And I was invited? *Snort*...what was this, a conference of bloomin' idiots?

Well, not quite...but it sought some. To be scammed. And I was being invited. Well, not quite invited: I had to apply to be accepted to be invited.

That made it even better.

Of course, there was a chance -- a sub-atomic particle of chance -- that this was an authentic email, simply misdirected to someone of no import whatsoever. I satirically note that mistakes happen. Besides, it was the most *professionally-written* email I'd seen from anyone remotely scammish in the last few minutes.

So on the off chance this were so, I gave them the benefit of the doubt: I filled out the application as Eric Cartman, age 8, and sent it back.

Before I get to any reply I might have received, here's the seminal gist of the inaugural email from the Apex Foundation:

Hello delegate, This is an all for participation in an international conference of Ngo's holding from 10th of August till the 23rd of August 2009 in London, United Kingdom. where as many as 250 participans from across the world including health practitioners, professionals in relevant fields, lawyers, psychologists, women and youth development groups, government officials, donor agencies and participating Ngo's will mee to discuss issues pertaining to the welfare of the needy and also to meet others like yourself; to learn, teach, inspire and being inspired. This event will be exploring the potential of a practical approach that will unleash and nurture the human capacity to create, collaborate and change positively the world at large.

* Note to White House press of your aides is moonlighting* But I digress.

It goes on to address the objectives of the meeting, in part "to provide a medium where participating individuals, groups and Ngo's will convene to aaddress and discuss ways of improving key humanitarian issues and topics with much emphasis on human rights, gender equality, peace and security, social and economic development, youth and children, health education, ethics and value and environmental protection. Participating Ngo's have direct access to grants by international donor agencies".

And it titillates the email recipient further by noting "the opening lecture will be held by Dr. Mrs. Artemisia Franco who is the president of the center for human rights research and development, Maputo-Mozambique. The program will include:
- thought-provoking plenary
- in depth breakout and dinner sessions for strategy development
- capacity and skills-building sessions; and
- debates to stimulate discussions

It added further enticements, like that the Foundation would pay for the airfare and visa/travel paper costs for each delegate, leaving only the lodging fees to be paid by each delegate. *Possible TOING* And it concluded with an application to become a delegate. Which, as noted above, I filled out as Eric Cartman, noted savant and animated cartoon character, emeritus cussalottus.

The response from the Apex Foundation's managing director, Kelvin Hook (two days later), was both concise and convinced me to work into the text h'yar a parodied slaughtering of Garden Party by the late Ricky Nelson (scattered throughout the text):

Hello delegate Eric Cartman,

After a meeting of the executive committee for delegate selection to the Apex conference in London UK, we have unanimously voted to accept your application and welcome you to the Apex conference! We congratulate you on your noted background and skills you bring to the conference (these guys are killing me h'yar).

To confirm your attendance at the conference, you are directed to at once contact via email the Royal Garden Hotel, London UK at (an email address that ended in the same, and upon receipt of reservtions, forward a copy of them to us for confirmation.

When I got to the garden party,
I already...knew their game,
they didn't recognize that..
for them a f***ing shame.

Before sending off an email as directed, I went online to find both the Apex Foundation and Royal Garden Hotel; both apparently exist. So I sent the real ones emails inquiring as to the authenticity of the conference (to Apex) and booking of said conference at the hotel (to the Royal Garden Hotel). Both of which I noted had differing email addresses than those of Kelvin Hook and the Royal Garden Hotel I was dealing with.

Neither of the authentic entities responded to my inquiry to authenticate anything, which is not unusual with the number of scams running rampant out there. Had either bothered to respond, they might have just denied any knowledge of what I was inquiring about, and suggested I "delete" the inauthentic emails, anyway. Killjoys.

I was free to play it my way ;-)

After a couple days to await any comment from the 'real' entities -- and getting none -- I fired off a request for reservations to the 'faux' RGH, requesting a "king room with a view, single occupancy, with a working dunny".

What I got back was a formal, and again reasonably well-written email from the 'faux' RGH (using the authentic physical address), with a price list of rooms, from a 'single' at 98 UKPS (UK Pound Sterling) per day, up to the 'Executive Double' at 153 UKPS per day.

I decided to let Eric live a little, and requested reservations in the top-drawer category, the 'Executive Double'. Later that day, I received an email that confirmed my reservation for August 10-23, in the 'Executive Double', single occupany, for a total cost of 2,142 UKPS.

Payable in advance via Western Union....*TOING CONFIRMED* What was better, it was payable to the General Manager of the Royal Garden Hotel, Graham Bamford. But NOT at the listed address for the hotel (on Kensington High Street).

An earlier scammer -- using the "you have an ATM card with millions in the account" ploy -- had sent me (aka Eric) a photocopy of the ATM card, faux account number and all, so I thought it worthy of a try to use that to "reserve and hold" my reservations. It would have been a coup de chicken to dupe one scammer with another scammer's photoshop handiwork.

Alas, Mr. Bamford was insistent that the RGH's policy was "cash in advance via Western Union". Probably the only hotel in the world that has such a requirement, and of all the hotel gin joints et cetra that I could have been duped by, I hadda be duped by this one-of-a-kind. Dang.

So I made up my Western Union receipt to send Bamford, and made up an impressively bad reservation confirmation email from Bamford, to send to Kelvin Hook, showing my good faith in obtaining the hotel reservation.

Within a day of sending each their respective receipts, the game began to go south a tad, first with Bamford and the RGH, whose quality of email writing took one of those predictable nose dives as Eric led them off-script:

Mr. Cartman, what is the nature of this pleese? i get from western union that they cant authorise pay on receept that is unreadable. send to me MTCN and amount send soonest if reservaton to get hold.

From Captain Hook, I got...confusion:

delegate Eric Cartman,
I am receept of your confirmed, but i am not clear what is why this is provable from hotel to confirm. please to resend and ak the hotel to dupicate for me.

I love script makes for such amusing emails. And such similarity in the email styles, too.

To Bamford and his RGH, I sent back Graham, dude, yer breakin' my balls hyah...I've always found that a scanned copy of the Western Union receipt was good enough for average folks to take to Western Union and cash. I guess you ain't average, dude. So here's the information that was on the receipt, which I'll print in upsized font for you (and I did, using the largest font size my email would support, to send him a bogus MTCN number). Take that and shove it under the nose of your illiterate Western Union clerk.

To Hook, I sent dude, what is this babble you write to me? You asked for confirmation of my reservations from the Royal Garden Hotel....I sent you my reservations for confirmation from the Royal Garden Hotel. This is what you required. This is what I did. I mean, what the f*** more do you need, a seeing-eye dildo to read it?

From Hook, I get back a snarky reply: cartman this not autentic confirm for hotel i contact hotel and they clam you send them bad wire transper numbers i am most angered to you with wast of my value time. unlest you repare matter soonest your delegate sttus will be revoke.

A day afterward, I get this from Bamford: you faud!!! western union say this numbers no good for money and they insult me for this of you!!! i know you not reel you stupid person!!!'s smartass reply to Bamford goes without further deteriorating comment; but Eric does make one effort to save and extend the game with Hooky:

Kelvin, would revoke my status as a delegate to possibly the most mundane conference London has never seen? That is so lame, dude. You made me a delegate. You said I had a noted background and skills to bring to the conference. How can you yank my invitation now? Think of the fame your conference will lose, not having ME at your conference! I would bring genuine animation to the proceedings, and draw a lot of interest thereto. See what I just did there? Dude, ya gotta keep me on the delegate list. I'm waaay more kewl than that stupid beeyotch you had scheduled to start the conference. I can speak to a wide range of subjects, from why dolphins are soooo stupid, to how rainbows crawl up your leg and bite the inside of your ass, and what it feels like to have an alien probe implanted in your butt, causing you flaming gas. And how about the time I got the best of Bin Laden, using Loony Toons tactics, eh? And made Sally Struthers give up her warehouse full of stuff for poor kids? Dude, I got 14 seasons of achievements way more kewl than some bimbo from some backwater country that doesn't know sand paper from toilet paper! Ya gotta keep me on as a delegate, dude. Your conference will flop like a carp on hot asphalt if you drop me, you butt licker! I'll bet Kyle put you up to this, right? I'll bet you ARE Kyle, aren't you? I'm coming over there and kick you right squah in the balls, Kyle!

That was apparently much too much for ol' Hook to comprehend, as my last communique from him was you stupid person stop now all emale.

So I sent him and Bamford a three page MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I mean, shouldn't we end this all laughing and jovial?

Apparently, they didn't think so.

At the end of the garden party,
they were mad enough to spit,
angry and all offended,
I didn't give a sh** ;-)