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Archived Entries from June 2011


TSA Pat-Downs

So I was torn whether or not to make a big deal about this or not, and I guess blogging about it really doesn't qualify as "making a big deal" but still.

I went to DC earlier this week and returned home--well, sort of--on Wednesday.

When I got to Reagan airport three hours before my flight and tried to check in I found that my flight had been cancelled and I was being bumped until the next day.

I waited in line at the manual check-in ticket area, which was another irritation. They had three ticket windows up and two of them were taken up the entire time I was there--one by a hippie and his wife and baby who were trying to get to Africa with what looked like everything they owned, and another but a woman and her spastic son who were trying to get to South America. When there were only five people behind me the concierge woman came to ask some people with lots of luggage where they were going, so she could route them to somewhere else if necessary. While she was there asking the old woman behind me complained in a whiny voice that her flight had been cancelled and that she was nervous and scared that she wouldn't be able to get to her destination.

So she got to skip to the front of the line. WTF?

I'M nervous. I'M scared I'm not getting home.

EVERYONE in that line was there because their original flight had been cancelled. Grrrr.

So when there is only one person in front of me the woman working the third of the three windows closed up shop and left. Fantastic. Fortunately a very nice young woman came out from the back and opened another window. The dude in front of me was sorted out quickly and then it was my turn.

All flights from DCA to ORD had been cancelled because of weather in Chicago. Her only solution to get me back to CMI on Wednesday was to take a bus (on my dollar) to the Baltimore airport, then fly to Detroit, and then get on "standby" mode for the single flight from Detroit to CMI--a flight that she confirmed was already full.

So my options were stay another night in DC, or stay the night in Detroit after I don't get on that already-full flight.

I actually stopped my panic attack for a minute and thought on my feet--"Can you get me to Indianapolis today?" That's no more stupid than everyone else whose destination is East Central Illinois but goes to Indianapolis (on purpose) instead so that they can save $17, right?

U.S. Air, direct flight, DCA to Indy, in an hour and a half. Cancelled my AA itinerary and hurried over to the U.S. Air counter. Now fully shaking because of nerves and everything else, got my boarding pass and hurried off to security.

I had texted the redhead while at the AA counter and asked if she could come to Indy and pick me up (she was home sick). So now I just needed to get on the plane.

I get in the security line, which makes me nervous enough as it is, but now I'm in full freak out mode because I don't have a lot of time to catch my flight, I'm out of sorts because my whole day has essentially been turned upside-down, and then of course my phone starts ringing while I'm taking my shoes off and putting my stuff in the bin at the x-ray station.

I wasn't lucky enough to go through the metal detector and instead had to do the full-body x-ray. Fine with me. Look at my junk if you want.

Step out of that, and am stopped short. Two TSA agents go and get my stuff from after the x-ray machine, and I have to follow them to a small private room.

And I got the pat-down. Apparently seeing my junk wasn't enough--they wanted to grab it as well.

So stupid, but I wasn't surprised. The one time I flew with my boss and she made us switch airlines to catch a flight that was 15 minutes earlier than the one we were scheduled for we also got pulled out of line, but that was back when they were a little less, well, invasive.

Patted me down, but didn't look through any of my stuff--I thought that was interesting.

After the patting officer left and it was just the guy who was there as a witness taking notes and me and I was putting my shoes on I made some comment about how I wasn't surprised about that because I had switched not only airlines but also my destination city. (Which is stupid because if they would have used their noggins it might have made sense to them what happened--I don't think thinking is one of TSAs strong points....)

The guy said to me "that has nothing to do with it--we don't have that sort of information."

Uh.... Every single person I've relayed this story to had the same reaction that they each said but I only thought to myself at the time.

Bullshit.

Why not just a "it could have been for any of several reasons" and leave it at that. No, instead he lied.

Hey TSA dipshits, we're not that stupid.

He said that something probably showed up on the full-body x-ray and they couldn't tell what it was so they had to do the pat down.

I had on a t-shirt, footie socks, underwear, and a pair of shorts.

That was it.

Nothing in my pockets, nothing up my sleeves, no undershirt--just those few articles of clothing.

Exactly what TF did you see on the full-body x-ray? There was nothing to see.

"Gosh, I hope I don't have a tumor" I said to the guy.

Now to be fair, a part of me has always been in the "if you're not doing anything wrong, who cares if they are filming you walking down the street, patting you down in the airport, blah blah blah." We're trying to catch bad guys, right?

But it is a violation. There was even the slightest cause for them to give me a pat down, unless, it was because of a profiling thing about people switching destinations--which they denied.

I'm a 41-year old white midwesterner who has lived in the United States my entire life. I had t-shirts and underwear in my bag, a laptop computer, a camera, and that was about it.

I can't see that anyone fitting my description has ever been listed in any sort of FBI profile on terrorism.

None of this baloney makes us safer. And as I'm getting older, maybe wiser, and definitely a bit more liberal, I am a tiny little bit ticked off. I was having a stressful enough day as it was and now these part-time rent-a-cops are giving me a private pat down for bullshit reasons.

If they truly don't have information on what people's destinations are, then that's a problem. So either the TSA is stupidly not being allowed to see individual flyer itinerary's....

Or that guy was full of baloney. Guess where my money's at?

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011, 5:28 pm
Mood: Worn Out | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Small-Town Living

So I ran up to our local grocery store to get a bottle of wine.

Our grocery store that sells Mayonnaise for $7 a jar and bacon for $9 a pound, but yet sells Yellow Tail wine for five bucks--which is cheaper than either Meijer or County Market. So I got three bottles.

While I was checking out an acquaintance came up behind me in line and handed me a pay-as-you-go (I assume) gift card in an envelope that said "a gift" on it. He handed it to me and said "Hey, don't forget your gift..." Huh? Oh, I get it.

As I was walking out to the car (all six steps to the car) a fat, older couple was on a Harley turning from Front Street onto Route 130 and as they turned my way the dude was bitching at her and then he stopped and she started bitching and he immediately gunned the engine in typical Harley style. Guess that shut her up.

A minute later, in the car, listening to a local radio station. A commercial is on for what I assume was a butcher--I wasn't necessarily paying attention. But then I heard "...no matter what, you can't beat Wade's meat." Seriously?

Then I got home and said to the redhead that Clay told me to tell her hello (the guy at the grocery store). "Oh, where'd you see him?"

I don't make this stuff up. :)

Posted: Thursday, June 09, 2011, 1:41 am
Mood: Amused | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Calories

Mmmm. Apple. I like the big granny smith ones that you pick out individually better than the ones in the 3 pound bags.

And putting it in the fridge overnight to make it nice and cool is even better too.

Just looked at another calorie counter that says I need to consume 1,500 a day, not 1,800. That said I'll lose 30 pounds by November.

Which makes me wonder, even at 1,500, how this can't work.

Okay, so apple for breakfast: 100 calories.

The bag of salad says it is 20 calories per serving and has four servings per bag. So okay, a half-bag of salad is 40 calories. Two tablespoons of italian dressing is 110 calories. Let's face it--two tablespoons isn't going to cut it so let's double that. Now we're at 220 + 40 = 260 calories for salad at lunch.

So by the time I get home after work I'll have only had 360 our of my 1,500 calories.

Hell, that means I can skip dinner and have 12 beers instead (which are 95 calories, by the way).

Okay, okay, just kidding.

I'm guessing for this to work I'm going to be eating a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Let's see how many calories one of those has.

I can't get a straight answer as to how many calories are in chicken--I get anywhere from 120 to 300. So I'll just say 300 to be safe.

If I have a chicken breast for dinner, and another salad, that would be a total of 560 calories. Plus the 360 from breakfast and lunch, and that puts me at 920 calories.

So this should be a piece of cake--I just need to quit drinking beer.

An eight ounce glass of red wine is 200 calories.

So let's say that I have two beers before dinner and a glass of wine with dinner and another glass of wine after dinner. That puts me right at 1,520 calories. See? I can do this.

I need to check on some other variables since there's no way I'm going to just eat a chicken breast and salad for dinner every night.

But I think the plan is to get dinner in under 600 calories total.

A big tortilla is 170 calories. Salsa/Picante sauce is 10 calories per serving (sriracha sauce is 5!). Cheese is 80 per 1/4 cup (so more like 160). So I could do a quesadilla for 250-300 or so. Not bad.

A hot dog is 130 and a bun is 110. Mustard? 0. So two hot dogs is 480.

(And I just checked the County Market bag 'o' chicken and it listed serving size as one breast with 190 calories...).

A quarter-pound hamburger is 350 calories. With bun gets that to 460. Mustard still 0. Ketchup 20. Figure 20 for lettuce etc. So 500 for a burger.

I can do this.

Starting weight today: 210 pounds.

Posted: Wednesday, June 08, 2011, 12:37 pm
Mood: Hopeful | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Fatso

Okay, I have to do this.

I've fixed the whole school thing--that cross has been dropped for good.

Piano lessons (hopefully) starting soon (?).

Work is busier than hell but things are going awesomely.

Time to drop the weight. Seriously.

I'm not running in 90 degree temperatures. I'm not lifting weights in that weather either.

I just plain need to quit eating like an idiot.

Seriously. Made-at-home or not, I've been having hot breakfast sandwiches EVERY DAY for breakfast. I don't care if they are free-range eggs. I don't care if the sausage doesn't have preservatives in it. That's just not good for me.

I just put a note on the fridge--"Dad--Eat an APPLE for breakfast."

Starting tomorrow I'm counting calories.

Apples--100 a piece.

Let's go from there. I need to eat 1,800 a day to start losing weight.

Yes, I will figure beer and wine into this.

I started salvaging our finances in January of 2010 and that is going quite well. Time to make sure I live to see the kids through college which, if all goes well, I might actually be able to afford to pay for.

The forest is pretty. The forest is green. And it's a lot leaner than I am. Let's all admit that I'm never going to be able to get away completely from "fat, drunk, & stupid" so I may as well tackle one of them.

I'm already okay with salad for lunch. This can't be impossible.

Posted: Wednesday, June 08, 2011, 1:48 am
Mood: Heavy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Bucket List

So I've heard people talk about making a "bucket list," which is apparently a list of things one would like to do/accomplish before they die, or "kick the bucket."

The other day I was thinking about what I'd put on mine, and came to the conclusion that there is little point for me to make such a list, because I'll never be able to afford anything that I'd put on it.

For example, one thing that I've really wanted in my life is to own a cottage somewhere on a lake or river. I'm never going to be able to afford that. I've looked into buying land and then maybe a few years down the road build a modest house and renting whatever I would need to dig out a small pond, but even non-prime land costs a small fortune. Most dumpy cottages on the market sell for gobs more money than our 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 2,400 square foot tri-level house costs.

And I don't even want to be on a big "popular" lake like Lake Geneva in Wisconsin or some of the bigger lakes in Indiana or Illinois. I mean, if I could even find a cheap lot (and by lot I mean a somewhat sizable area--one where with enough trees I wouldn't see or hear neighbors) I'd be happy camping on it and living in a tent for several weekends of the year while saving up or figuring out how to afford building a house.

But as my salary goes up, so too do home prices. And prices for land. I'm never going to get there.

I'd love to own a Harley. That's never going to happen. Which is stupid--an 883 costs like $5,000, but I can't envision a time when I'm going to have five grand to just waste on something. I guess this is all sort of unfair for me to be hard on myself about considering I have two kids who will be in high school next year and Alex is three years away from costly, costly college tuition (and more costly room and board).

Even after that is done and over with, I don't see these things happening. And what's the point of owning a cottage on a lake after the kids have grown up and moved out? The whole point is to be water skiing with the kids and fishing and hanging out and taking fun pictures in the water to post on Facebook.

My dad once explained to me that a mid-life crisis happens to a man when he finally realizes in his career that he's never going to be the boss, and is never going to have the corner office, and is never going to make a million dollars a year, so to compensate for that he goes and buys a red sports car or has an affair or something to prove that he's still "got it" or whatever.

I'm never going to have a mid-life crisis. I'm too cynical. I've known from the beginning that I'm never going to have all the money in the world. Are the redhead and I on track to have a million-dollar retirement? I think we can get there, but now they tell me I'm going to need two million. I'm sure 20-years from now it'll be five million.

I'd love to travel to Europe. Never going to happen. Let's not forget, of course, that this is sort of a ridiculous thing to begin with because I'm terrified enough of two-hour flights over the United States--I'd have to be knocked out in order to even get on one of those big planes that fly over the ocean for 10-hours. That Air France plane that they are recovering right now off of South America? Yeah, that's what happens. Yikes.

Besides, I'll never be able to afford that. And even if I scraped up enough money to get there and back and stay wherever and have some modest amount of eating and spending money I'd probably be so damn stressed and worried about not having enough money that I'd be completely unable to enjoy myself. The redhead and her mom, and probably Molly, should go. They'd have fun, and would be laid back and not stressed. Me? Not so much.

Some people put getting a Ph.D. on their list. When I was finishing up my Master's I was asked (encouraged?) by more than one person to pursue my Doctorate. One of them was even a computer science faculty member at UIS. Three words: Wait. No. Two words and a slang contraction: Not. Gonna. Happen.

This is the second year in a row that we haven't joined the local country club. Yeah we tried to justify it saying that the course was always under water and we could spend that money playing other courses in the area, etc., etc., and that the kids have a pool to swim in...

Oh. Wait. The pool liner has finally become irreparable, and since we don't have the $3,000 to have that replaced, no pool this year. And that's right about what it would cost me to buy a new (used) golf cart and pay the annual dues for the club down the street. So it's looking like no golf next year either, but maybe hopefully the pool.

Seventeen or eighteen years ago I told the redhead that I had it figured out--if we could get our household income up to to six-figure mark by the time I turned 40, we'd be set for the rest of our lives. Well I'm 41. We're a couple of small raises away from that mark, but we're awfully close (definitely close enough). So what about that whole business about being set for life? Hardly even close.

We went to Meijer the other day to get $200 worth of groceries. Just basic food stuff because I screwed up the previous week and was trying to be all "extreme couponing" and was all proud of myself for getting $260 worth of "groceries" for $180 or whatever it was. Got it all home, all proud of myself, and then my wife pointed out that we had no dish detergent, no laundry detergent, and while I got a fantastic deal on six bottles of Powerade, there was nothing to eat in the house.

So last weekend we went to go spend $200 to rectify my attempt at grocery shopping so that we'd actually have something to eat for the next two weeks.

$389 and two carts later we were out the door and headed home.

It's so expensive just to live any more. Thank goodness we traded that stupid Pontiac Torrent for the Honda or we'd really be broke.

I don't know. I should stop being so whiny--I see the forest now, and the forest is pretty, but it is also really, really green.

I'm content where we're at, and life is good. But I really see no need to make any sort of "bucket list." Oh well.

Posted: Saturday, June 04, 2011, 1:43 pm
Mood: Eh | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Summer Begins...

...with no class for me. It's weird. Bizarre, actually. I see students walking to class and panic momentarily. I woke up Monday scared to death that I forgot to turn in homework on Sunday.

Yeah, it still hasn't gotten to me that I'm done with school.

I actually looked into several Ph.D. programs in a moment of weakness. What about an MBA? I even considered and MIS degree, which would be the most ridiculous of the three (and I remember on of my Computer Science professors at UIS scoffing to me about the whole MIS thing by saying it has little to do with management and even less to do with systems...).

I haven't started up piano lessons, because quite frankly I think I'm scared to. But I still hope to do that.

Today I planted my "backup garden." I say backup because this Spring I tilled up the entire area south of our deck to use as a garden--it's an unused area of yard and typically what happens when either Alex or I mow is that we finish the back yard, finish the front yard, shut off the mower and go to put it away and then instead utter a curse word and have to go mow that small area of grass.

Well I tilled up the entire area so that it was nice black dirt and moved the raised bed garden into one part of it and planted all sorts of stuff in the raised bed, and also planted sixteen tomato plants and two dozen pepper plants outside the raised bed.

And then the grass started to come back.

And then the bunnies started in on the pepper plants (I thought they were supposed to be spicy enough--even the leaves--that the stupid rabbits would leave them alone...).

The weeds went crazy in the raised bed, and I have finally gotten control of them. We've harvested our first full batch of radishes and the second batch has already germinated. The carrots won't work--they never do (I think I need to mix sand in with the dirt where the carrots are). The cucumbers were overwhelmed by weeds and while they are free of them now and ready to go and climb the fence I'm sure when the ding-a-ling that sprays my neighbor Pete's yard for weeds comes that the overspray will make quick work of the cukes.

And now I'm worried that even though this area gets good morning sun that now that all the leaves have filled in on the trees in the area, that we won't get enough direct sunlight.

Fabulous.

So today, the backup garden.

I bought six jalapenos and three tomato plants from County Market today for a total of $2.09. And two of the pepper plants not only have flowers on them, but also small peppers.

The area where I used to have my small garden is still grass and weed free thanks to the Scott's fertilizer plus "Haltz" crabgrass control that I put down a couple of months ago. It prevents crabgrass from germinating, and also happens to prevent anything else from germinating as well. Fortunately, the plants don't need to germinate, so they should work fine.

I busted up the dirt with my Garden Claw and planted my nine plants, and spread a bunch of peat moss as well. I was going to take a picture but my camera batteries are dead and the "war of the double-A batteries" in our house has apparently ended with neither kid having any. Sigh.

Now that graduate school is over and done with I'm going to try to be a better blogger as well. Today is the first of June--we'll see how it goes...

Posted: Thursday, June 02, 2011, 12:15 am
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


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