September 26, 2005

Boys have a penis, Girls have a vagina

The conversation in the breakroom went something like this:

Billy: Hey Howard, you're a Jew, right?

I have never been comfortable being referred to as a Jew. I'd much rather be asked if I'm "Jewish". Sure, it's a semantic difference, but it still bothers me. The way he said it put me on the defensive immediately.

ME: Uh, well, my family is Jewish but I never paid much attention to it. Why?

Billy: Well, I wanted to ask you a question about it and thought you might be able to help.

ME: OK, I'll try. I can't promise you anything because I flunked 'Jew 101' way back when.

Billy: Uh. Yeah. Anyway. I know that circumcision is part of the Covenant...

ME: (holds up his hands) WHOA! WHOA! Hang on there, Dude. I have no idea why we do that. I just know that it's done at birth and we have a big party. Other than that, I have no idea.

Billy: I understand. I was just wondering what they do for the girls.

ME: For girls? Uh, I don't think we do anything for them. Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's nothing like that for girls. (pause pause), uh, well, you know girls don't have penises, right?

Billy: (flustered and red-faced) Well, yeah, um, yeah, I, uh, sure I know that girls don't have them.

He turns around, walks out of the breakroom, and 3 seconds later I hear his office door slam shut.

I walk out smiling. Call me a Jew again and see what happens.

September 25, 2005

Profession of Faith

This might get religiousy, so I thought I'd give you the option of passing...

Before I continue, let me say this. I am not now nor shall I ever be a bible-thumping, fire and brimstone speaking, stereotypical religious zealot. I won't tell you your going to Hell for not believing or for being bad or for whatever. I won't preach to you (although I have been told that I can be preachy), I won't minister to you, I won't do anything like that. Your beliefs, convictions, ideals, or whatever are yours and yours alone. For me, finding religion changes nothing on the outside, but it makes big changes on the inside. I am writing this to tell you, Dear Reader, that religion, specifically Christianity, means something to me now.

I've been thinking about the Profession of Faith a lot lately, to the point that I sometimes give myself a headache. For those of you who are unfamiliar with a 'profession of faith', it refers to making a statement whereby you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. No, I've not done this, but I've thought about it. A lot.

You see, I would never be confused with someone who was religious. I'm not anti religion, it's just never been a part of my life. Although both sides of my family are Jewish and I profess to being a Jew, I can't really say I am one. Being Jewish was thrust upon me, if you will, the day my parent's divorce became final. I went to bed having no religious affiliation and woke up a Jew. No, I'm not kidding. As a matter of fact, my real last name should be Goldberg, but my Dad changed it way back when.

For my Mom, growing up Jewish was a good thing, for my Dad, not so good. As a result, neither my brother nor I knew anything about being Jewish until the divorce. We celebrated Easter and Christmas, but it was secular, not religious celebration. I knew my Bubbie didn't do these things, but I don't remember if I ever knew why. Religion in my house, pre divorce, didn't exist. Post divorce, we were thrown into the middle of it. And I fought it, not because I didn't want to be Jewish, but because I had no idea what was going on. I meant it literally when I said I woke up and was a Jew.

As a result, I know almost nothing about what it means to be Jewish. I went to Hebrew school 3 times a week for close to 3 years and learned to read Hebrew. I couldn't translate it, but I could sure read it. I had a Bar Mitzvah, but that's just because it's what you did in my hometown when you turned 13. I did the entire service in Hebrew and have no idea at all of what I said. To me, that's really sad. I guess it's because I just didn't give a shit and was only doing it because it was expected of me. Now that I'm older, I find myself wanting to learn, but not about being Jewish.

I've been doing an on-again/off-again Bible study with my good friend Jack. The reason I asked him to help me was for several reasons, 1) He knows a tremendous amount about the Bible, 2) I knew he wouldn't laugh at my sheer ignorance, and 3) He is passionate in his Belief. I made the right choice.

At first, I was interested in learning about the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, but Jack didn't do it that way. I started learning about Christianity, which really wasn't my intent, but then I became interested in it. Really interested. Jack opened my eyes to a lot of things, but the part that struck me about this was he answered questions that he couldn't possibly know I had, because I'd never told him about them. He explained about sin, and the nature of man, and how it's possible to be Christian and to still be human, how good works alone cannot save you. The things he spoke about made sense to me, they made me think, and they helped me to see that being a Christian was 180 degrees from what I thought it meant. The thing that I got out of meeting with him is that for the first time in my life, religion made sense to me. Having faith in something you couldn't see or touch or smell always eluded me, but now I understand that it's possible.

Over the years, I've thought about making a Profession of Faith, but the reasons for doing it were not because I believed, but because I would be accepted. It was for the glad handing and the back slapping at the front of the Church, for the feeling of being wanted and accepted, but I knew those weren't the right reasons. For those reasons, I won't do it in front of an audience in Church, I'll do it surrounded by a few close friends who mean a lot to me and who'll know the reasons for it.

When will I do it? I don't know. I'm concerned about my family's reaction, specifically my Mom's. In the past, when I've told my Mom about major decisions in my life, her reaction has been less than joyful. When I told her I was moving to California to work for my Dad, she said a few choice words and hung up on me. When I told her I was getting married in a church because that's where the ex wanted to have it, she said, "What will my friend's think?" then hung up on me...and didn't talk to me for two weeks. Will I allow her reaction to stop me from making this decision? No, not at all. It hasn't in the past and it won't now. If she doesn't like it, she has two choices...she can get past it and accept it, or she can have one brother. It's her choice.

The thing I want you to understand about all of this is that the decision will be mine and mine alone. No one will pressure me or coerce me into doing'll be all me. I've shared alot with you, Dear Reader, over the last two years and although I don't normally talk about religion, I thought you might be interested in this. It's a huge step for me, but it feels right, and that's what counts.

September 21, 2005

Roll Tide!

In case you're wondering, Dear Reader, I will be here watching the Tide crush the bacon out of the Arkansas Razorpigs. No, I'm not a big Alabama fan, but the guy I'm going with is and I always cheer for the team of the ticket buyer. Just seems prudent since Jackson is a L O N G walk from Tuscaloosa.

In other news, I'm trying to teach myself how to code. I've decided to learn HTML and ASP. Not sure why really, other than I have a great idea for turning our paper inventory system into an automated system. At the rate I'm going, I'll be finished about a week before I retire. I'm not a coder, so this is hard for me, but hell, I got nothing else to do. I'll let you know how it goes.

And that, Dear Reader, is about all that's happening in my neck of the woods. Well, I did see some dumbf*cks lining up at the gas pumps this afternoon. According to the latest rumors, a hit on Galveston is going to decimate the countries' oil supply and within a week we'll be riding bikes to work. Calm the f*ck down, people. Now is not the time to panic. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go pump up the tires on my bike.

September 19, 2005

Work Tip #68

When secretly updating your resume, it would be wise to phrase the following question, "What month did I start working here?" in a less straight-forward manner. Otherwise, you will get a "Gee, that sounds like an updating the resume kinda question" response from your boss. At this point, it is best to look sheepish and reply, "what resume?".

September 18, 2005

A glass full of teeth

Dear Home Depot,

I have been a huge fan of your store ever since it came to my humble little town. I have bought 2 lawnmowers, 3 weed whackers, tools, lightbulbs, weed killer, lumber, ceiling fans, light fixtures, plants, and assorted other items over the years and have enjoyed the countless hours within your walls. To me, you're even more fun than being in Victoria's Secret because people don't look at me strangely when I'm in your store by myself, and I actually know people who use what they've bought from you. Unfortunately, I do have one small complaint, though.

It's like this, Home Depot. I have never asked anything of you other than to provide me with low prices and good merchandise, which you've done countless times. Today, I'm asking for something in return. It's not a monetary thing. I'm not asking you to stock something out of the ordinary. I don't want a coupon or a discount or a deal. What I want is simple. I want the cashier known as "Kathy" to put in her teeth while she's working.

Yes, that's right, Home Depot, I'm asking that this nice woman (and she is very nice) wear teeth during working hours. No, I don't expect her to rip open packages with them or to use them to bite off tags, I just don't want to see an all-gums smile that early in the morning. Watching her lower lip flap in the wind like a skin flag is enough to make me hurl. And please don't make me describe how I feel when I see her tongue slither out from between those rubbery lips like a pink, pointy-headed snake. I just can't do it.

Like I said, Home Depot, I love your store and enjoy giving you my business, but I just can't take any more of that flap-lipped woman. I'm sure if you spoke to her nicely about it, she'd go home, open her fridge, remove the glass full of teeth from the top shelf, and slip them on. Tell her it's an OSHA rule or something that all employees must wear teeth during working hours. I don't care how you do it, but please, Home Depot, make Miss Kathy wear her teeth.


September 16, 2005

My Mother would be proud

I went to church services with a good friend of mine Wednesday night. I sat in on what could best be described as a beginner's class. I'm afraid, however, that I have much further to go than most. Why? When the minister said that Jesus refers to himself as "I am" seven different times in the Bible, such as "I am the way, the truth, and the life", then asked for other examples, the only thing I could think of was...I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.

I hope there are air conditioners in Hell.

September 15, 2005


Well, it finally happened. I am able to consolidate my entire credit card debt onto a single card...for 1.9% interest for the life of the transfer. The good part is that I will be saving a huge chunk of change in interest payments. The bad news is that it'll take me close to 3 years to pay off the debt. Yes, I know...I'm a dumbass for getting this far into debt. Believe me, no one is beating myself up worse than me. The good thing is that I've finally gotten a handle on why I spent so much money.

I figured out one day that buying stuff made me happy when I was in a bad mood or depressed. I guess I'd always known that, but the difference this time was that I realized that I didn't stay happy for long. When that "happiness" wore off, I'd buy something else. It became a pattern. What I failed to grasp, however, was that the happiness wore off quickly because 1) it didn't really make me happy and 2) seeing my debt build up killed my buzz even more quickly. It became a cycle of buy, get happy, lose happy, buy, get happy, lose happy, and so on. That, my friends, is how a single guy like me got into serious credit card debt.

With the help of a very good friend, I am now attempting to operate under a real, live budget. This friend recently lit a huge fire under my ass, which got me motivated. Since Tuesday, I've consolidated all debt onto a single card, closed and cut up the remaining cards, and will run a 'cash only' existence. This is going to be tough because I've never done it before and it's a completely new way of thinking. My friend is very good at this, though, and has assured me that it'll be entirely possible, with some practice. And, to be honest, I'm looking forward to this. I've had few challenges in my life lately and this is going to be a big one. I'd like to publicly say thank you, Friend, for getting me motivated. You get all the credit for this one. :-)

In other news, not much happening around here, which is why you haven't heard from me. Went to a friend's church last night and found it very interesting. More on that later, maybe. Gotta get back to work right now.

We'll chat more later.

September 07, 2005

Helping the animals

Thanks to Helen and Paul, the three-leggers and I can do our part to aid in the disaster. You'll notice the new link to the ASPCA site for helping the pets of Katrina. If you can, please donate.

I'll be taking food to our local animal shelter once I get back on Tuesday.

September 02, 2005


This was my first hurricane and was it ever a motherfucker. I’ve been in thunderstorms, snow storms, hail storms, Nor’easters, and even a few shitstorms, but they were nothing compared to this bitch. I’m typing this from the office and it’s about 9:30 Friday night. My group is on rotating 12-hour shifts for the next several days to keep our claims center up and running. I work for a large regional insurance company that has a big presence in MS and LA. We may have handled close to 10,000 claims already and if the center goes down, we’re in deep doodie, so I’ll be sleeping up here tonight.

I’ve had to ask people several times what day it is because I honestly can’t remember. They’ve blurred into this fuzzy picture of long hours, horrendous destruction, and overwhelming change. And please, don’t get me started on the looters…I agree with our governor, they should be handled ‘ruthlessly’ and without mercy (that last part is mine).

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you my hurricane story. It’s not much, but it’s something to share nonetheless.

For hours, I did nothing but walk from the back door to the front window to the office window to my bedroom window…hitting all corners of the house to make sure nothing was being torn apart. I watched the trees in the back yard lean over like they wanted to kiss the ground. I watched my Bradford pear tree bend over like a two-dollar hooker, only to stick straight up when the wind died down. Several times I thought my fence was going to fly away, but it stayed put, although it is now a little bent.

The worst part, besides the 80 mph winds and the tornado sirens, was the waiting. You couldn’t do anything but wait. You could try and eat, but my stomach was in knots so that was out. You could try and sleep, but hell that sure wasn’t going to happen. All you could do was wait and watch the news. It got worse when the power out and the sun went down.

The winds were pretty steady through most of the night. Once the power went out, I tried to read. Thank goodness for Stephen King. If anyone can take my mind somewhere else, it’s him. I would disappear for about 15 minutes at a time, only to be brought back by the wind. And my house creaking. That, my friends, is a scary fucking sound.

Believe it or not, I had to leave my house and head into the office about 9:00 p.m. because someone in Texas couldn’t get an ftp job to work. They called our CEO about it and the shit rolled downhill till it landed on my buddy and me. We had to go out, in the freakin’ hurricane, to fix an ftp job. If I ever find out who called this in, I’m going to personally drive over there and kick them in the nuts. Twice.

Our normal 15 minute drive took us close to an hour. I wasn’t scared, but let’s just say that I was puckered tight enough to bend quarters. We had to back track and start over again twice due to downed trees or downed power lines and almost ran into a tree surrounded by power lines. It was an adventure, to say the least. Fortunately, we were able to pass the time by coming up with creative ways to kick the bastard who caused this in the nuts.

When we arrived, the building was pitch black, although I could hear the generator running which meant my computers were still working. Turns out a mild power surge happened when the gennie kicked in, causing a reboot of our machines. It took about an hour to pinpoint the problem, and then we hung around to bring everything else back up. I got back to my house about 11:30, packed a bag with flashlight in mouth, and stayed with my buddy and his family since they had power.

As we drove into work the next morning, it was pretty surreal. The roads were paved with green leaves, twigs, branches, and in some cases, whole trees pulled up at roots. We saw half an oak tree buried in the roof of one brand-new home, which happened to be unoccupied. On our campus alone, we must have lost close to a dozen trees. Traffic lights were out all over the place, but folks were smart and remembered to at least slow down before blowin’ through the intersection.

We saw roofs blown off, awnings stripped of their cloth, trees toppled, utility poles snapped like toothpicks, and even a building that had been wiped out. What we got was mild compared to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. I cannot conceive of winds blowing steadily at 120 mph. My mind just won’t allow it. Stick your face out a car window doing 60, then imagine going twice as fast. Bet you can’t do it either.

Katrina has changed the lives of so many people that I thank God that my family and I came through it with almost no damage. I lost a few small trees that I was going to get rid of anyway, but other than that, my life continues as it did before. It’s weird, but I have a strange feeling of guilt for my good fortune. I’m going to try and turn that into something positive by doing what I can to help others. You should to. There are many places accepting donations and I ask that you give whatever you can, no matter how small. We're going to need all the help we can get.