Mom, I want to grow up and be a lounge singer

While laying on my couch the other day I experienced one of those, “What should I be doing with my life” moments. OK, to be honest, I was sleeping on my couch in the middle of the afternoon when some random noise woke me up and caused me to go through the usual questions of self examination such as, “Who am I?”, “Did I oversleep some important television show?”, “Why is there an empty bag of parmesan flavored goldfish resting on my stomach?”, and, “Are strange objects really flying out of the television set at me, or was I just dreaming that part?”

After a few moments of getting my bearings and being reasonably sure I wasn’t being attacked by any of the electronic equipment in my living room, I started thinking about what I’m doing with my life. I got myself through college and I have been a computer geek for the past five years, but I never felt like my destiny was to sit in a cubical debugging computer code while the glow of the florescent lights slowly sucked away my life force.

I do not posses the background in behavioral science to explain this aspect of my psyche, but in my travels around the world I’ve discovered a strange admiration of lounge singers. I can’t imagine they make a lot of money or have hoards of young women following them from show to show, but from my point of view it is a noble profession.

I mentally traced this feeling back to a lounge singer I met when I was on a vacation in Hawaii. This guy’s job was to play music in the pool and bar area of the hotel from four until eight three times a week. The resort was on the west side of the island and the bar faced the beach. Any job that involves sitting near the beach in shorts and a T-shirt watching the sun set three times a week is OK in my book. Sure, he isn’t busy finding a cure for cancer and he probably isn’t contributing much to the Gross National Product, but I don’t think that really kept him awake at night.

I met another lounge singer role model when I spent six months living and working in Holland. Some of the people I worked with recommended this small hole-in-the-wall steak restaurant in the town of Haarlem. On the weekends they had a singer sitting behind the bar singing tunes in Dutch and English. I didn’t understand any of the songs in Dutch. For all I know he was singing the, “We drink Heineken and push annoying Americans into the icky canal water” song. That might explain why everyone would raise up their beers, look at me, and break into uncontrollable laughter as the more athletically inclined individuals threw me into the nearest canal.

I don’t want to come off as one of those “fancy lad know it all” types , but I know a lot of words to a lot of popular music. There are even some situations where I know ALL of the words to a given song. I also hypothesize that some of these might be the actual lyrics the original artist intended when they composed the song, although I haven’t done enough research to prove or disprove this theory. For example, I don’t think Jimmy Buffet ever used the phrase, “I’m heading down to the shore for another high colonic.” At least not in his songs.

Another skill I posses that I believe will help me become a successful lounge singer is my ability to sing. At the moment, I can only sing in the shower where nobody else can hear me. I pretend the shower head is a somewhat improperly placed microphone and the cartoon fish on my plastic shower curtain are people in the audience waiting to be entertained.

In order to be more relaxed when I’m performing I employ the classic technique of pretending that I’m naked. This doesn’t take too much imagination on my part since when I take a shower I have removed many of my clothes beforehand. Another issue is that most traditional microphones don’t have water shooting out of them. To get around this I tilt the shower head to one side and tilt my head the other way. A unique special effect I like to use involves singing as water is constantly shooting into my mouth. I believe that logistical considerations would keep me from incorporating this into any of my future lounge acts.

One potential problem I see on my way to becoming a lounge singer is the fact that I really don’t know how to play the piano. Even though I played trombone in high school, I don’t think this would directly benefit me as a lounge singer. One of the key elements in this line of work is the ability to play an instrument and sing at the same time. All my attempts to sing and play trombone simultaneously have failed. I have also learned that while waterproof, trombones do not seem to be designed to function in the shower.

While I’m not sure if I’ll ever become an actual lounge singer, I do like to entertain the thought when I’m stuck in traffic or trying to get my computer to submit to my will. It’s possible that my lack of talent may prove to be the biggest hurdle. And there is always “The Man” who is doing his best to keep me down. I may not be a lounge singer today, and depending on what is on television it might not happen tomorrow, but one of these days I’ll realize my dream-even if it means flying to Holland, beating the crap out of that lounge singer, and tossing his body into the nearest canal.

Time On My Hands

People covet that which is new and shiny. This universal truth has been demonstrated once again in the south suburbs of Denver, Colorado on Tuesday when hundreds of people waited for hours in the freezing early morning fog as the first Krispy Kreme store opened. I find this entertaining not because people camped out the night before the grand opening or that the wait to buy doughnuts was still an hour-and-a-half at eight o’clock in the evening. The really amusing part of this story was traffic was so heavy around the doughnut shop that it clogged up the highways in the area the entire day.

A lot of people tell me that I have too much time on my hands. While I don’t disagree with that statement, I feel it is my duty to point out that I was not one of the thousands of people who stopped at Krispy Kreme on Tuesday. I would also like to point out there are many, many bakeries in the Denver area that bake doughnuts every day that can be visited without cashing in a sick day.

The story got me thinking about what kind of things I do to waste time. A lot of people seem to think that running the newfunny.com web site is clear proof that I have too much time on my hands. While I can’t totally disagree with that statement, I’m not the kind of guy who wastes time with a single activity. No– I like to think I am very diversified in this part of my life. To prove my point (and waste a little time in the process), I thought I would talk about one of my more memorable recent time killers.

Before I go into the details here, I would like to emphasize the point that not everyone who uses a vacuum to clean their patio has a mental illness. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First of all, my patio is on the first floor and has a four foot high concrete barrier in lieu of a decorative railing. The concrete compliments the thorny bushes that block out 95 percent of the sunlight that attempts to get through. These architectural cues were borrowed from the beach front structures the Germans used to defend their positions in Normandy.

In addition to being a strategic location to mount heavy artillery, my porch is also a great place for dust and leaves to collect. If left unattended for a few years, the area would completely fill up with dirt and develop it’s own thriving ecosystem. While I’m generally all for allowing man and nature to peacefully coexist, I also would like to get back my damage deposit when I move out of my apartment. So every now and then I go out and clean up the area.

The leaves and random pieces of trash that visit my porch don’t really put up much of a fight when clean up time approaches. The real problem is the fine dirt– it doesn’t really sweep up very well since the area is not very large. The fact that the floor of the porch sits several feet below the ground means there isn’t anywhere to sweep the dirt. That was when I decided to bring out the vacuum cleaner.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time probably wouldn’t describe me as a “clean freak”. The whole point of vacuuming my patio was to get it clean with the least amount of effort. In all honesty, I didn’t think that using a vacuum cleaner was going to work very well. In fact it turned out to be a lot less effort than the half-assed approach I was initially going to use. Getting the porch cleaner than initially planned was just an added bonus to the entire situation.

I would like to encourage everyone who reads this to make sure to spend some time each day doing something that isn’t productive. You don’t have to look far to find such activities. Play a few games of “Minesweeper” on your computer. Think about what the sequel to “The Matrix” is going to be like. Sit around and imagine what Al Gore is doing today instead of running the country. And, if you are one of the many, many people who are wasting time waiting in line at Krispy Kreme, pick me up a half-dozen glazed doughnuts and a pint of milk.

Slowing Down in Boulder

It seems like you can’t take five minutes nowadays to lay in the grass and stare up at the cloud formations floating across the sky without something coming along trying to speed up the pace of life. Pagers and cell phones make sure we are constantly in touch with the rest of the world-whether we want to be or not. If it isn’t time to check e-mail over the phone then you better whip out the Palm Pilot for some fast paced day trading.

I remember a time when the world wasn’t in such a rush to get where it’s going. We would sit around that beat up old portable radio and learn about what animals the communists sent up into space and what dirty lyrics the FBI discovered in that “Mony Mony” song. Most of our spare time involved trying to figure out a way to get to Woodstock that summer. Wait a minute, I was born in 1974. I think it’s quite possible that I’m writing about false memories. But the pace of the world is getting faster-I’m sure about that. The city of Boulder, Colorado, however, is doing what it can to slow things down.

No, they aren’t chaining themselves to cell phone towers and requiring that all citizens wear sandals. Instead the city is focusing on ways to slow down the speed of traffic. Recently they have installed bright orange construction barrels in the middle of certain intersections with signs that say something like, “Stop for pedestrians in crosswalk.” I’m not taking the position of being against pedestrians. In fact there are times when I had to park my car a block or two away from where I was going and actually became a pedestrian myself.

I believe that people in cars have their own definition of what it means to yield to pedestrians. Some drivers come to a complete stop when they see someone that wants to cross at a cross walk. Other drivers purchased the front grill and headlight protection on their sport utility vehicles for the sole purpose of not having to slow down when encountering any indigenous mammal life forms. The other ninety-nine percent of the driving population seems to fall between these two terribly contrived extremes. My point here is that people’s driving habits aren’t going to change based on construction barrels placed in the middle of cross walks.

While I personally don’t like this new traffic control device, I have to admit that traffic does seem to slow down on that stretch of the road. Especially when the car in front of me slammed on its brakes when a cute little kitten jumped out from behind one of those barrels at just the wrong moment. OK, that was a cheap emotional ploy to win your sympathy. While I did just make up the part about the kitten, it brings up an important point about our automotive transportation network. When constructing intersections, the people who build roads generally try to keep the pavement clear of shrubbery, billboards, those little drive-through taco stands, and in general, anything that people can’t see through very well.

I thought about going to the intersection and chaining myself to one of the barrels, but I quickly realized that I would be stuck in the intersection until I was hit by a car or arrested by the police. If anyone in town drives half as bad as I do, I would probably get hit first. Also, the logistics of chaining myself to a large rubber barrel seemed more complex than, say, a tree or a cell phone tower. Moving the barrel out of the intersection and then chaining myself to it would be safer, but not quite as effective as a protest.

In the end I decided to use my unique mix of witty banter and irrelevant emotional appeals to prove my case. Speaking of which, the kitten narrowly escaped injury. The car in front of me stopped just in time to avoid contact. The driver was so relieved seeing that the kitten was OK that she didn’t see the golden retriever puppy that was hiding behind the barrel on the other side of the street. Skipping over some of the gory details, the puppy survived the ordeal. The only way of knowing he was ever in an accident is the little doggie wheelchair he has to use for the rest of his life.

Entertainment of the Future

I have to admit up front that I have never written a story while being held against my will at the Boulder County Police Headquarters. Usually I sit home at my desk and mold the random thoughts running around in my head into a somewhat coherent and for the most part correctly-spelled piece of literature. On this occasion I was not afforded the meager luxuries of my small one bedroom apartment, but rather I scribbled my thoughts on the back of some legal documents with a small pencil the guards overlooked during the customary pat-down process. I suppose the guards didn’t view me as a traditional “psycho killer” type during the check in process. Either that or their apathy won over. What ever the reason, it gives me a chance to explain how I got here in the first place.

It all started rather innocently enough. After a few hours of one of our favorite Saturday night activities, my friends and I were talking about how we could improve the already wildly entertaining game of Laser Tag. The place where we usually play sports an impressive 8500 square foot multistory arena where up to forty people run around shooting each other for thirty minutes at a time. The next logical step would be to play it outdoors. Being regular customers, the manager let us take a few of the guns out in the parking lot to see how well it would work.

Playing laser tag in the parking lot was a blast. We would run around the buildings and take refuge behind the few cars that remained in the parking lot at two in the morning. If you aimed the gun carefully, you could hit someone that was standing still from about 200 yards away. The biggest problem was that after about thirty minutes of running around the parking lot we were all too out of breath to play anymore.

I suppose at this point in the story we could have all gone home, and the story would have ended there-and more importantly, without the need for police intervention. But that’s not what happened. After catching our breath on the curb of the parking lot, we created a slight variation of the game. We reasoned because we all like to play Laser Tag and we all like to drive our cars that, “Laser Car Tag” would be more entertaining than either activity by itself. We decided on boundaries for the game, picked teams, and each got into our own car.

The general idea was to chase down one of the cars from the other team and shoot the blinking lights on their gun in order to get points. With four cars and a rather large field of play it wasn’t very easy to find the other team, much less shoot the lights on their gun. We all drove around for twenty minutes without anyone getting hit. At that moment I realized my teammate Brian and I both had cell phones in our cars. I called him up and we set up a trap for the other team.

In case you were wondering, it’s not all that easy to drive a car with a standard transmission, talk on a cell phone, and aim a laser gun out the window trying to hit the other team all at the same time. Despite these difficulties, Brian and I were able to set up a trap where I got one of the other cars to chase me and Brian sneaked up from behind and hit one of their sensors. Victory was ours.

Sometimes in life you can win and lose at the same time. This was such an occasion.

While Brian was sneaking up on our prey, it turns out that there was a police car that was sneaking up behind all of us and witnessed the entire maneuver. He pulled all three of the cars over. In all honesty, I don’t think he appreciated our creative vision that night. While he didn’t specifically arrest us for playing laser car tag, he did mention some “laws” against going thirty-five miles an hour over the speed limit through the main street in Boulder, not stopping at red lights, and erratically changing lanes every three seconds. We presented what I thought was a convincing verbal argument that it’s the difference in speed that kills and since we were both going seventy miles an hour down 28th street, there was really no chance that we would hit each other. The officer seemed largely unconvinced and decided to give us the pleasure of spending the night in jail.

My first (and so far only) night in jail was not as bad as I imagined. Neither the guards or other prisoners deemed it necessary for me to receive any kind of “anal probe”, which I greatly appreciated. I spent four years in college living on dorm food, so what they gave us in jail really brought back memories. If all goes as planned tomorrow morning we will all get out on bail pending our court hearings.

Post Trial Comments:

The trial received much more publicity due to the accounts of that night and the corresponding video tape from the officer’s patrol car being the feature story on the television show “COPS” last week. As part of my plea bargain, I have agreed to provide a public service message on what has now become known as Xtreme Laser Tag.

Youth of America– playing Laser Tag while operating a car, motorcycle, mountain bike, or gyrocopter may seem like a whole lot of fun, but it’s actually a very dangerous sport. While there have been no documented deaths attributed to this activity in the United States, it is believed every year between 100 and 200 children in Mexico and other parts of South America die in Laser Tag related incidents. Remember– friends don’t let friends get really drunk at Christmas parties and… OOPS, that was a previous story. Just remember kids, officers have been authorized to use stun guns and other forms of violent-yet-non-lethal force to stop these now illegal Laser Tag games.

Well, that part is over. Now I can get this whole ugly mess behind me once I finish my 200 hours of community service in accordance with the terms of my parole.

Problems on the Hill

The unusually cold winter this season has given Boulder a few months of calm from the recurring problem of wildly inappropriate behavior up on the Hill. As a mix of retail, housing, and Greek organizations, the area west of the CU Boulder campus known as the Hill has become a real black eye for both the University of Colorado and the city of Boulder. While several approaches have been used to bring the occasional riot under control, the problem does not seem to be going away. While I don’t claim to have all the answers (or even to know what all the questions are for that matter), I have observed various conditions in the area that seem to aggravate the younger residents of Boulder and may be part of why this situation on the Hill is far from being resolved.

Anyone that has been on the CU Boulder campus for more than three seconds has more than likely encountered a parking Nazi hard at work writing tickets for illegally parked cars. I’m not sure exactly how they do this, but just pulling into a metered spot when you know you don’t have any change in your car attracts their attention. I suspect the CU Parking Department has formed an alliance with the National Security Agency to use high level military satellites and state-of-the-art computer algorithms to monitor each car that enters the campus. I think the rules such as, “don’t take up three handicapped parking spaces if you are on your way to participate in a sporting event” and, “No matter how late you are for class, please don’t abandon your car in the middle of busy intersections” should be strictly enforced. The parking situation on campus isn’t going to get any better by ticketing every single car that has gone over the meter. It gives the general impression that the University is more interested in parking revenue than providing students with an education. This, in turn, adds to the general frustration level in the area.

Another issue in the Boulder area at the moment involves closing down local raves. If you are not familiar with the concept, it’s a place where young people go on the weekends to listen and dance to music all night long. The organizers of these events work with local law enforcement officials to keep the situation under control. People are searched for drugs and weapons before going in and undercover officers patrol the event to discourage drug use. In the wake of some highly publicized incidents in the metro area involving teenagers and Ecstasy, the city of Boulder is considering using “nuisance laws” to shut down local raves. Eliminating this relatively controlled environment by classifying these young people as a nuisance is going to lead to more negative energy in the town. While sitting in an abandoned warehouse listening to alternative rave music until the sun comes up may not be everyone’s idea of fun, as far as I understand it does not involve vandalizing storefronts, lighting things on fire, or dispensing tear gas canisters.

In general, I like to think of myself as being on the side of the police. Sure, I’ve received an occasional speeding ticket, but I don’t hold a grudge when I knew all along that I was going twenty miles an hour over the speed limit as I flew by the police car parked in the convenience store parking lot. My view changed a little bit after attending a CU verses CSU football game at Mile High Stadium two years ago and watching police officers in full riot gear deploy pepper spray from behind a chain link fence at people who were sitting in their seats after the game had ended. I’m not sure what the commanding officer at the game was thinking, but if you put fourty or so fully armed police officers around the field at the end of a college football game you are going to have a whole bunch of curious people waiting around to see what happens. I can understand the desire to keep students from pouring on to the field, but the overt display of police force aggravated the situation more than it helped.

So the next time an unruly group of people gather up on the Hill looking for trouble, consider the big picture. Some part of the group is saying, “I believe the CU Parking Department is over zealous with their enforcement of parking regulations”. The next couch or dumpster that is lit on fire in the street is a statement of, “Thanks for trying to shut down the raves.” And when a drunken, unruly mob starts throwing empty beer bottles at the responding riot police officers they are saying, “This is for Mile High Stadium– where we were unfairly brutalized and beaten up by the CSU football team two years in a row!”

Fun and Games

While most people think of me as a mere computer geek, the truth is that my obsession with the less popular aspects of general amusement span the entire technological spectrum. I can entertain myself for indefinite amounts of time with the time honored tradition of poking at things with a stick. At the other extreme, anything that is shiny, contains a variety of colors, and makes funny sounds also captures my attention. This, of course, explains my life long obsession with Elton John.

I visit some of my friends on a regular basis and we will often times get together for an evening of Empire Builder– our favorite railroad board game. (It’s OK, Rail Baron– we love you too) The general idea is to build a network of railroad tracks across the board with different color crayons to connect various cities on the map. Once you have built up enough track, you earn money by acquiring and delivering different types of cargo (oil, wheat, steel, and so on) to different cities along your network of train tracks. A lot of things seem more amusing when it’s three in the morning and you have been drinking caffeinated beverages continuously for the past seven hours while staring at a bunch of crayon marks on a map of the United States. Having said that, our favorite type of cargo is oats because we get to use the phrase, “Hey everyone, I’m haulin’ oats”.

I thoroughly enjoy playing Empire Builder despite the fact I hardly ever win. I suspect my problem is I derive too much pleasure from building tracks just to get in the way of everyone else. They say that defense wins championships, but I suspect that particular philosophy is more applicable in the NFL. Another problem I have involves bringing out my anger from past experiences. I have a deep psychological need to build tracks into Pittsburgh after an embarrassing tactical error on my part in a previous game that allowed Brian to take control of the city. In the long run it didn’t really matter-there are more than two dozen cities on the map. I felt as though I let the city down in its moment of need. Kind of like when I was five and my mom would leave me in the checkout line at the store to pick up something she forgot to put in the cart and I had visions of the checkout guy taking me off to jail when they realized I didn’t have any money to pay for the groceries.

On the more “high tech” side of social activities, my friends and I are really into playing Laser Tag. I know that most people associate it with a bunch of sixteen year olds running around with nothing better to do on a Saturday night. While that described us rather accurately when we first discovered the game, it’s now ten years later; we drive better cars and have a more lenient curfew. The part about having better things to do on a Saturday night is really a matter of perspective. I enjoy playing Laser Tag more than I like taking part in excessive alcohol consumption while having to deal with abrupt changes in the directional flow of my upper digestive track.

While Laser Tag is a physical game that involves running around a large maze, one of the keys to getting a high score involves employing a good strategy. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off is generally not the best way to go. Following basic rules like, “Don’t stand in the same place if you are getting hit every five seconds” and, “You can’t sneak up on people very well if you are yelling at one of your friends twenty feet away” can dramatically increase your score. Despite the use of the word “laser” in the name of the game, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a decent player. I’ve seen quite a few thirteen year olds girls with neon color hair and various metal objects in their nose get impressive rankings once the scores were tallied. Being skilled at Laser Tag and longing for various members of N’SYNC do not seem to be mutually exclusive.

Now you know insofar as can be described in eight hundred and twenty-four words what I like to do for fun. This story would’ve used more words if I wasn’t so lazy with the use of contractions, or fewer words if I eased up on the tangentially relevant anecdotes. If you are the type to stay awake at night wondering about my entertainment habits, you are going to have to think about something else tonight. I suggest going into your living room, turning the television to some random cable channel, and start thinking, “Now how have I managed to survive this long with a kitchen that doesn’t include a restaurant quality portable rotisserie cooker?”

Interview with Ertok

A lot of newfunny readers are curious to learn more about Ertok. For those of you who are new to the site, Ertok is an Evil Alien Overlord that oversees my work on the newfunny web site. The Evil Alien Overlords are planning to enslave the human race and create a planetary network of mining slave camps. Here are some questions I asked Ertok during a recent interview:

O: So what part of the Galaxy are you from?
E: We come from a planet known in your scientific community as BETA-MX-1974. For those less technically inclined humanoids, our home world is on a planet that orbits a star which, from this point in the time/space continuum of the galaxy, looks like an ear of a little bunny rabbit. Or the front headlight of a 1984 Pontiac Fiero, depending on your sociological upbringing.

O: How are you able to speak English so well?
E: You might suspect we have a complex computer system that provides real time bi-directional language translation or that we insert some mythical cold blooded sea dwelling life form into our aurial chamber. One of our long range listening posts detected patterned electromagnetic waves radiating from your planet. We were quickly able to decipher them into their respective audio and video signals. Once the invasion force was dispatched from the home world we assimilated your culture through what you refer to as television and radio. While not perfect, our understanding of your language should be adequate for our needs. For example, we still haven’t decoded what your television signals refer to as the, “ancient Chinese Secret”. But from what we do know, we consider this to be of minimal strategic military importance.

O: So why have you chosen me to be the spokesman for your Invasion Force?
E: Well, we examined several factors when choosing a candidate. First of all, you posses the computer skills needed to convey our message to a large audience through your planetary digital packet distribution system. We also noted your wildly overactive imagination will most likely cause disbelief when conveying this message.

O: I’m a little bit confused now. So you want me to tell the world about your plans, but you don’t want anyone to believe what I’m saying. What purpose does that serve?
E: One thing we learned about your culture is that humans seem to enjoy the idea of irony. This way, after all humanoids are toiling away in the mining camps, we can post a big sign saying “We told you our plans, but nobody took it seriously. Now you and countless generations of your offspring will pay for this insolence. Oh, and please wear eye protection when operating heavy machinery.”

O: Being your cooperative spokesman by devoting my time and energy to your cause, will I be allowed to have a cushy administrative position in your new world order?
E: No.

O: Do I get anything for my efforts?
E: Yes-we have noticed you are trying to solve a mathematical problem your race refers to as the Non Polynomial Complete Set Theory Conjecture. (Our species calls it the “Traveling Mining Camp Equipment Sales Humanoid” problem). We plan on giving you the mathematical proof, which is small enough to fit in the margin of a single piece of paper, right as we assign you to the most dangerous mining camp.

O: We are almost out of time, so would you like to say anything to all the faithful newfunny readers?
E: If any humanoids are curious, your future will be similar to the movie “Superman 2”. Except instead of three escaped convicts from planet Krypton, there will be several thousand of us, and there will be no Superman. To paraphrase your human expression: “May the more advanced life form bring cruelty and mining camps along with their victory”. Ertok out.

Well, hopefully this interview will help keep you informed about Ertok and the Evil Alien Overlords. If you have any more questions, please send them to the “Letters to the Editor” section of the newfunny web site.

Xmas Party Story

If you happen to be familiar with my annual Christmas letter you may be scratching your head thinking, “But Omar, it’s not anywhere near the end of the year– how can you already be posting your Christmas letter?” I decided that publishing my Christmas letter only once a year is not consistent with my idiom of working on “Internet Time.” I’m not exactly sure how to define “Internet Time,” but for the purposes of this letter it is me being up at 3 in the morning in my boxers and a T-shirt surfing the web because I got tired of watching infomercials on the television.

What do women want? This question has plagued mankind since God kicked us out of the Garden of Eden (which I believed contained no menstrual cycles, beauty magazine quizzes, or clothes that made Eve look fat). When contemplating what women want, I prefer to approach the problem from a different perspective. It is possible to list all the things that men could possibly do, take out the things that woman don’t want, and what is left, by the process of deduction, is what women want. While creating a list of all possible actions mankind can take is well beyond my attention span, I am willing to add a few items to the “don’t do” list.

First of all, women like compliments. There are, however, some important issues to consider when telling a woman “I love you.” Fellow men out there, I cannot stress this enough: only say this to a wife or established girlfriend. In general, a woman you have met for lunch once or twice and exchanged a few E-mail messages with does not meet these criterion. If you are invited to a party, it is generally considered bad taste to repeatedly yell out to the woman hosting the party “Angie, I love you. I know you don’t love me back, but that’s OK.” For whatever reason you may think it’s a good idea at the time (i.e. EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION), it will ultimately do more damage than good.

Secondly, trying to hit on women after excessive alcohol consumption is generally not a good idea. For example, you may think that going around at a party after downing a few drinks telling women you have never met they have a nice tail and a blouse full of goodies is an example of your witty banter, but in reality they usually just smile politely, leave the room for some reason or another, and strangely enough you never see them again.

And last of all, it is a good idea to stay after the party has died down and help clean up the mess. It is a bad idea to stay after the party has died down and repeatedly throw up in the sink before you pass out on the couch until the next afternoon. No further explanation is needed for this point.

I really can’t continue until I confess something here. I didn’t just use my overactive imagination to create three random activities women don’t like. I attended Angie’s Christmas party, got drunk, professed my unrequited love to her, told several other women they had nice tails and blouses full of goodies, threw up several times (for history’s sake, I remember it being once in the sink, and three times in the toilet), and passed out on their couch. Around eleven in the morning, on what I think was my last trip to bow down to the porcelain God, I looked down at my boxer shorts and bare legs and commented to Angie, “I’m not wearing any pants” in a somewhat matter-of-fact tone of voice. It was well past noon when I finally thought I could make it home without blowing chunks in my car.

I can’t say that I’m really proud of what I did, but I have to admit that it’s pretty amusing despite the fact that I am the ass in the story. In general I like to write stories where other people look stupid– it makes me feel better about my shortcomings in life. While I could have altered the facts of the story to make me look better, I don’t think it would have made for a funny story. Since I put (slightly) more importance on being funny than being truthful, I recorded the events as accurately as my impaired brain recalled them.

For reasons that I greatly appreciate yet do not totally comprehend, Angie doesn’t seem to hate me. I suspect it is analogous to the episode of “Cops” where the guy in the beat up old pickup truck gets caught with the prostitute only to realize SHE was really a HE while handcuffed in the back seat of the patrol car. Sure, you can send him down to the station to be booked, but in all reality everything that happened before the police and television crew arrived will torture his soul a lot longer than any consequences of legal proceedings. As far as Angie goes, I think it is safe to assume that her name will not come up in future letters any time soon. If I manage to get invited to next year’s party, I think I’ll be the designated driver.

And, just in case you are wondering, I took that line from the movie “Hot Shots.” The actual quote is “Not playing to win is like sleeping with your sister. Sure she’s a great piece of tail with a blouse full of goodies, but it’s just illegal.”

Alien Speak

Thanks for subscribing to the newfunny.com newsletter. I created this site as a moderated showcase for the talents of up-and-coming comedy writers. So if you like to write and believe that you are the next Dave Berry or Douglas Adams, please feel free to submit your work. If you can’t write, but like to read what other people write when they are trying to be funny, please enjoy this site. If you can’t read or write and for some strange reason have e-mail, have someone read the newsletter out loud every issue.

Newfunny.com is the first web site to officially acknowledge being run by Evil Alien Overlords in an attempt to distract humanity from their future invasion and enslavement plans. My name is Omar and I host the site and shamelessly bow down to our future masters in a “Locutus Of Borg” capacity. I am controlled by one of the Evil Alien Overlords via a XR-2300 neural interface. Everyone else has the less painful option of submitting material through the newfunny.com web site [ERTOK: we can’t go around equipping every humanoid with an XR-2300 BEFORE the mass landing of the replicator vessels, now can we? HA HA HA]

Oh yes, I forgot to mention Ertok the Evil Alien Overlord who oversees this web site. He has a keen– if somewhat twisted– interest in humanity and occasionally likes to add his own thoughts to the web site. It is in my best interest to indulge Ertok since he has led me to believe that one of the features of the XR-2300 is the ability to make my head explode.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2000 Christmas Letter

Welcome to the sixth year of the increasingly inaccurately named “Christmas Letter Trilogy.” The world seemed to have survived the whole Y2K scare without too much pillaging and plundering. Or at least there wasn’t any more than last year (adjusted for inflation). Despite the fact I didn’t get to spend six months in Europe this year and I didn’t have any awkward experiences in the women’s bathroom of any fast food establishments, I did manage to keep myself busy enough to write a witty and amusing end-of-the-year letter. My name is Omar Lutfey, and these are my stories.

I started off the year Dr. Evil style by giving the command to fire the (make quotation mark gesture with your fingers) “laser” on my eyes in an attempt to improve my less-than-perfect vision. The entire procedure took 15 minutes for both eyes and I was awake and alert the whole time. Overall I would say the procedure was roughly as uncomfortable as sitting through an entire episode of “Threes Company” where, because of some wacky misunderstanding, Jack, Janet, and Mr. Furley think that Chrissy is pregnant. I was quite amused by the smell produced as the laser sculpted my eyes. I kept thinking how little pieces of my eye were vaporized and then sucked into my nasal cavity. Then I realized the entire operating staff was probably having the same experience. At that exact moment in time I stopped worrying about my personal safety or how my eyesight was going to be the next day, and focused exclusively on the fact a room full of people I will most likely never see again were calmly sitting there breathing in little pieces of my eye. In retrospect, my state of mind may have been affected by the fact the doctors had me hopped up on Valium.

The new year is all about making changes, and at the beginning of the year 2000 I changed my work hours at my job to four ten-hour days a week. Dispensing technical advise for C++ libraries ten hours a day isn’t the best way to spend time, but having a three day weekend every week was pretty damn cool. I had every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday free from any job-related responsibilities. I quickly discovered that going skiing during the week is preferable to the weekends. The traffic on I-70 is 80 percent less likely to get you killed, you can actually park close to where you want to ski, and you can go into the ski lodge and leisurely enjoy a 14 dollar greasy hamburger without the weekend levels of noise and commotion. I am by no stretch of the imagination a good skier, but there were a lot fewer people around to see me perform the ever embarrassing “mogul wedgie.”

In February I decided to use some of my extra free time by helping out at Habitat For Humanity. As a nonprofit organization, Habitat builds affordable, quality houses for families in need. I’ve picked up many new skills helping out– everything from building foundations to installing drywall. I’m not sure it’s going to help me out in the world of computer programming, but I think they are good general skills to have under my belt. Some people have told me volunteering my time at Habitat is a good way to meet women. I won’t disagree with that statement, but I have also taken a liking to the various power tools they let me use during the construction process. Oh yeah, and helping out poor people– that’s good too.

I’m really good at putting things off a lot longer than I probably should at times, so this year I decided to get a jump on my mid-life crisis and learn how to ride a motorcycle. A coworker of mine and I decided to sign up for a motorcycle training class in April. I called up and discovered there was only one open position left in the next session. Being the kind and helpful friend I am, I told Scott that motorcycles are too dangerous, and I signed myself up for the last spot as to protect him from any temptation of taking the class. Ironically, a few months later he took a friend’s motorcycle out for a spin and crashed it into someone’s front yard. Scott is fine, the lawn he crashed into survived, but the motorcycle wasn’t really happy about the whole incident.

I learned quite a bit about motorcycles during the weekend training class. We started Friday night by learning what all the knobs, levers, switches, and pedals do on a motorcycle and worked our way up to actually riding them around on the driving range Saturday and Sunday. We practiced just about every combination of how to stop, start, turn, and accelerate. I was one of the few students taking the class that had never ridden a motorcycle. I never got the cone weave down as well as I wanted, but I managed to get through the class without hitting anyone else or tipping the bike over, and for that I received my motorcycle license.

Once I could legally drive a motorcycle in the state of Colorado, the next step was to go out and buy a motorcycle. For me, this was by far the most annoying part of the entire process. I’m not very good at shopping in general (my wardrobe is strikingly similar to what it was in high school), and my total motorcycle experience started two weekends ago when I spent hours riding the same motorcycle around a small training course. I started by looking around at different motorcycle shops to see what they had to offer. That didn’t turn up anything that I liked that also happened to be in my price range, so I turned to the classified section of the newspaper. I eventually found a motorcycle that I liked and could afford– a dark blue 1993 Honda Nighthawk 750. After driving my motorcycle a few thousand miles since April I have become very comfortable with its abilities and limitations. If I ever encounter a police officer who wants to pull me over, I won’t have any reservations about eluding him in a high speed chase through residential neighborhoods.

October 31 was the last day I worked at Rogue Wave Software. I had been working in the Technical Support Department for 3 1/2 years, and I decided that it was time for a change in my life. I’m going to miss working with everyone in my department and all the good times we had over the years. I can’t possibly list every cool aspect of my job, but I’ll never forget the foosball table, arsenal of Nerf guns, and occasional boxing matches with the phone coordinators. Of course I can’t leave out our annual Gashos/Haunted House fun activity. Each year in October we would go to the Gashos of Japan (a Japanese restaurant where they cook the food right in front of you), get really drunk on saki and plum wine, and then go to a local haunted house. If you are wondering why I left such a fun work environment, I discovered that some of the people in the company received their positions by selling their souls to the Devil and go about their daily business as nothing more than minions of Satan.

I decided to celebrate my last day at Rogue Wave Software by going out that night and getting a four point speeding ticket. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The cop clocked me going 57 in a 45. To make matters worse, he didn’t even give me a chance to beg and grovel my way out of the ticket. I was telling a friend I had met online about what happened, and it turned out that she knew the officer who issued me the ticket. When I went into the courthouse to defend my driving skills, the clerk at the main desk informed me that the district attorney has offered me a zero point plea bargain. How cool is that? I accepted the offer and got out of there before they had a chance to change their minds. I never thought anything useful would ever come about from meeting women over the Internet, but I stand corrected. Thank you, Jenny 🙂

Where am I going to go from here? What will the true new millennium hold for me? If you know the answers to these questions, please e-mail me so I can get on with my life. I’m thinking of getting out of the computer industry all together and following my dream of dying my hair blue and forming a comedic guitar duo that sings funny songs for spare change out on the Pearl Street Mall when the weather is nice. I’m not sure exactly what kind of 401K plan that would provide, but I’ve already written a few songs such as “Taco Bell– Village of the Damned” and “Tupperware Death Party” that I believe will help me earn a name for myself in the cut throat world of street performing.

Well, I guess I’ve rambled on enough for this year. I wish only the best for everyone in 2001. Everyone, that is, except for Jar Jar Binks– I wish only bad and evil things for that computer generated monstrosity. I fantasize about him being pummeled to death in the next Star Wars movie by the Ewoks after some wacky misunderstanding during his gratuitous vacation scene on the third moon of Endor. But that’s just me. Thank you for coming, have a good night, and drive safely.

Do Pennies Make Our Lives Better?

Until last week I considered myself neutral on the entire penny issue. A recently published report sponsored by Americans for Common Cents (a pro-penny group backed by zinc companies) documents the effects if the Federal government were to take pennies out of circulation. Some of these negative consequences includes an effective 600 million dollar “rounding tax”, erosion of consumer confidence, and increase in the national deficit.

I believe this report should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Aside from the copper coating, pennies consist of 98% zinc. I will admit upfront that I have no previous experience with the zinc industry or how it operates, but I think it is reasonable to believe they make a fair number of dollars producing all those pretty pennies for the US Treasury Department. Every time a penny is lost down between the couch cushions, dropped down a wishing well, or carefully placed in the path of an oncoming locomotive, the zinc industry is there to help produce a brand new one. That doesn’t even include pennies that just get worn out by getting jiggled around in pockets and purses on a daily basis. If pennies were to be taken out of circulation, I don’t think the zinc industry would be very happy.

After reading about how important the zinc industry thinks pennies are to the survival of this country, I started thinking about how pennies fit into my life. Every night I take the change out of my pockets and put it into a jar that sits on my nightstand. Once the jar gets filled up I take it to my bank and put the money into my checking account. The jar goes home and the whole process starts again. If I lived in a world without pennies, I think it would take a little longer to fill up the jar, but the process itself would remain unchanged.

I thought about this long and hard, and I have been unable to envision how pennies make my life any easier. Parking meters and vending machines don’t like pennies. Parking meters swallow my pennies, but don’t allow me to leave my car parked any longer. I guess it’s not worth their time to give them back. Vending machines generally spit the pennies out into the coin return slot. I suppose I would not be too happy if I was waiting behind someone who needed to insert 125 coins before the king-sized Snickers bar dropped out of the machine.

Can our great nation survive without pennies? How can we fairly conduct commerce without the proper tools to pay the exact goods and services? The answer is that we do it all the time without even realizing it. Do you ever stop at a gas station and worry about how you are going to pay for gasoline that costs $1.59 and 9/10ths of a penny per gallon? Do you ever wonder how the gas station can charge 9/10ths of a penny for a gallon of gasoline? Of course not– the gas station just rounds it to the nearest penny when they calculate the total price. Sure, they could set the price at $1.60, but then it doesn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.

Pennies used to be produced entirely of copper, but in the 1980’s the composition was changed when the cost of producing a penny out of copper exceeded the value of the coin itself. According to Americans for Common Cents, it costs taxpayers 0.72 cents to produce a penny. What are we going to do when, as it did once before, pennies are too expensive to produce? How about pennies with holes in the middle? Or better yet, we could get rid of the metal all together and declare that any scrap of paper with the hand written phrase “This piece of paper is worth one cent” is legal tender up to four cents. At least that way we could all sleep easier knowing that we don’t have to pay 600 million dollars in these so-called rounding taxes.

A sign that pennies aren’t valued in our society anymore can be seen in those little trays near the cash registers of most gas stations. A lot of people believe it’s easier to give pennies to a total stranger than slide them back into a purse or pocket. Do people leave their pennies in the tray because they believe in karma, or is it easier than having the coins stick around in their pockets until laundry day? Personally, I think it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. Either way, it doesn’t speak well for the value of a penny.

In all honesty, I don’t know which course of action is the best for our nation. I’m sure that either way the sun will still rise each morning, another wildly successful boy band will rocket out from total obscurity, and people will find something else to annoy them in their every day lives. Perhaps somewhere down the road I’ll write another article that starts “What’s the deal with nickels? Why are they larger than dimes? Do they REALLY make our lives any easier….”

Categories
Christmas Letters

1999 Christmas Letter

Assuming that I am not going to get hit by a meteorite or trampled to death in some freak Y2K riot, I have made it through another year to write my fifth Christmas letter. I’m quite impressed with my ability to stick with the program for five years now. I can’t really think of anything else off the top of my head that has involved such a level of commitment. I left my “Tamaguchi” in a restaurant a day after it hatched, college only took four years, and my longest romantic relationship was wrapped up in a little more than three years. What does all this mean? Not a thing. Now that I think about it, I took care of my dog for more than a decade, and I have stood by the Denver Broncos for even longer than that. Heck, I’m still waiting for that Haley’s comet thing to come back again. Perhaps my level of commitment is not as underdeveloped as I first imagined.

In any case, it’s been a rather eventful year for me. As you may or may not know, I spent the first six months of the year working and playing in various parts of Europe. I wrote a letter about that way back in June, so feel free to read “Six Months in Amsterdam” if you haven’t done so already.

Getting back to Boulder was an interesting affair. For some reason that I don’t quite understand, it takes roughly 5 times longer to fly from Europe to the US than the other way around. I think it has something to do with the fact that the pilots have to convert all of their calculations from the metric system back to our way of doing things. I walked by the cockpit during the flight where one of the crew members was asking “Now how many gallons are there in a kilogram? I always get that mixed up.” Regardless of the reason, I have to say that I have never had the chance to watch four complete movies in an uninterrupted 16 hour period. It really wouldn’t have been so bad, except that United Airlines picks out all the movies they show during the flight from the “Goober Bin” at the local video store. You would think that with all the money they spend on in flight video equipment they could find something more interesting to show than sappy B movies and old episodes of “Home Improvement.”

Coming back to Boulder was a mixed blessing. I can’t really say that I like one city over the other, so I made two top ten lists about what I miss and don’t miss now that I am back in Boulder.

Top 10 reasons for coming back:

10. I’m afraid of the Euro.
9. Electrical outlets are all weird.
8. Company apartment has temperamental hot water heater.
7. No 24-hour supermarkets in Holland
6. I hated the “revolving door of death” at the Amsterdam office.
5. You think parking is bad in Boulder!
4. Cricket is just too hard to figure out.
3. I like seeing the sun every now and then.
2. No Taco Bell in Holland.
1. Poor news coverage of the ongoing Ramsey investigation.

Top 10 reasons for staying in Amsterdam:

10. I was just starting to get the hang of snooker.
9. Everyone sounds so smart on those BBC channels.
8. Chocolate eggs with the toys inside.
7. Eurodisney!
6. Nobody cares when you urinate in the canals.
5. Color coated money and coins that are actually worth something.
4. The novelty condom shops.
3. Numerous bars within walking distance of the apartment.
2. The Chunnel.
1. Public Transportation that doesn’t suck!!!

After watching various Initial Public Offerings increase the value of a select few individuals by a couple of billion dollars (give or take a few hundred million), I’ve decided to form my own company with the intention of taking it public in the future. In order to capitalize on both the current Internet craze and the recent success of Martha Stewart’s IPO, my new company is going to center around a web site devoted to food recipes that focus primarily on the wants and needs of men. Feel free to check it out at www.boxostuff.com. My personal favorite recipe: Box o’ Cheeze Its.

Well, every year I comment on my increasingly pathetic attempts at working toward my Master’s degree. I am proud to announce that this year I spent an all-time low three weeks attending classes. While still living and working in Amsterdam, I went through all of the trouble of applying to the Graduate Business program at CU. I started my Financial Accounting and Numerical Analysis night classes in late August. By early September I realized that neither subjects are very interesting in my own little world. I also discovered that as a reward for throwing in the towel quickly, the University gives back most of your money when you drop your classes in the first couple of weeks. At this rate, the only hope that I have of actually finishing a Masters degree is if scientists develop a computer chip that I can plug into my brain with all the relevant knowledge that I would have otherwise gained from sitting in class for two years.

December has been a pretty busy for me as I have been feverishly preparing for any and all Y2K issues that might arise at the end of the year. While most people are checking flashlight batteries and chopping firewood, I am busy watching a lot of TV. I don’t know what the future will hold in the brave new world of the upcoming millennium, but I want to start it off with the reassuring feeling that I have committed every episode of “Charles In Charge” to memory. OK, in all honesty, I have bought into the hype just a little bit by going to the grocery store and buying an extra box of “Cheeze Its.”

I’ve decided to start a new tradition of bestowing “Web Site of the Year” to the corner of the Internet that has arbitrarily provided me with the most laughs over the past year. This award goes to www.witcity.com. One section, called “The Lying Game” asks a new question every day and the top 10 most entertaining, insightful, or otherwise unique answers are posted the next day. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but in the past couple of weeks I have gotten five or six of my entries published the next day. I am not exactly sure why, but I’ve developed a knack for making fun of Sony’s latest high tech toy, the “Robotic Dog.” Here are some of the questions along with my winning entries:

Q: What features are part of Sony’s new Robotic Dog?
A: Docking procedure no longer requires human leg.

Q: What are some of the merchandise spin-offs from “Toy Story 2?”
A: “Toy Story 3” trailer: It’s Buzz Lightyear vs. Sony’s Robotic Dog.

Q: What’s the most appropriate holiday gift to get for your boss?
A: That Sony Robotic Dog, set to “Evil.”

Q: In the Year 3000, what will be remembered about New Year’s 2000?
A: Who would have imagined those Sony Robotic Dogs were going to evolve and enslave the human race?

Of course there is a lot more to me than an endless string of Robotic Dog jokes. For example, here is the very first Lying Game Entry of mine that was published:

Q: What is the plot of the new film, “Charlie’s Angels: The Movie?”
A: Instead of working for the mysterious man on speaker phone, the Angels start a new job investigating questions submitted to the “Ask Jeeves” web site.

That pretty much wraps things up for this year. All that is left to do is to wait and see how life is going to be different now that the year odometer is making the big flip. I’ve done extensive testing and I am cautiously optimistic that my lava lamp and drinking bird are both going to operate correctly come January 1st. I don’t think anything bad is going to happen, but if it does I’ll be able to relax a little bit knowing that even though I didn’t send out my Christmas letter until after December 25th, all of my friends will have gotten at least one good laugh before the world comes to an end.

Six Months In Amsterdam

Now that I think about it, the title sounds like a good title for a song. It would be kind of like “One Night in Bankock” but with less of a techno beat and more references to sex and drugs. In case you didn’t already know, I spent the first half of 1999 living and working in Holland. Here is my trip report.

Technically, it’s illegal to buy and smoke marijuana in Holland. Of course it’s also possible that you will sleep walk into the nearby woods in the middle of the night only to be awakened by the sound of your leg setting off a bear trap, but most reasonable people don’t stay up at night worrying about getting caught. You can also go into special “herb” stores and get whatever other goodies that you feel the need to put into your body. Is this the best way to run a society? I really don’t know, but my experience has been that the number of people on the street that you don’t want to have anything to do with is comparable to any other large city I have ever visited. It’s way better than New York City.

The other “selling point” of Holland is the legalized prostitution. If you go into the Red Light District you can shop around for women conveniently displayed behind the glass windows of their “shops.” Provided you have the money and you don’t have any visible open sores or other odd physical defects, you can have the woman of your dreams in convenient fifteen minute increments. Is this the best way to run a society? Once again, I really don’t know, but it doesn’t appear to be destroying the city. As one of my friends who came over to visit from Colorado said, “They still have pimps in Holland, but it’s more of a desk job.”

Holland is chalk full of first rate public transportation. Based on my experiences and some information that I pretty much just made up, here is my advice on how to build a city without having to depend on automobiles: First of all, start building the city in the middle ages when people are too busy with things like neighboring armies, crusades, and the plague to ponder ideas like the internal combustion engine, traffic flow patterns, and the needs of the middle class. Combine this with a series of interlocking canals and you have a city that just isn’t very friendly to automobiles.

There is actually a law in Holland that forbids the construction of parking spaces in the city limits. OK, OK, they don’t REALLY have laws in Holland, but it is almost impossible to find a parking spot in Amsterdam. The only vehicles that you see on the roads are taxi drivers and tour busses. Since their job is to just drive around all day it really isn’t a problem. Occasionally a lost tourist from a neighboring country will accidentally drive into town. The desperate search for a parking space ends when their fuel supply runs out and they are forced to stop in the middle of the road. When this happens, the angry taxi drivers and tour bus operators stuck behind the vehicle work together to push the car out of the street and into the closest canal.

As difficult as it is to get around Amsterdam with a car, it’s quite simple to get around with the public transportation. Intercity trains, subways, trams, and busses all work together to get you where you need to go. After a long day at work it is a lot less stressful to get on the train than to have to drive an automobile. I think it has something to do with the fact that you don’t have to actually drive the train. They have people for that.

While the trains in Holland are, on the whole, pretty safe, every now and then you will see things that make you wish you had waited for the next train. The most disgusting thing I saw on the trains was a guy who picked up a crumpled Heineken beer can from the floor in an attempt to extract the last precious drops of alcohol that the previous owner missed. There were also the two women on the train late one night who were shooting up heroin. The really strange thing was that nobody else on the train seemed to care.

Whenever I hear the phrase “stick it where the sun don’t shine,” I always picture Holland in the winter months. Between the extreme northern latitude and constant cloud cover, the sun doesn’t make much of an appearance until the spring. Combine this with cold temperatures and a fairly constant drizzle of rain and you have a nation that doesn’t receive many tourists for half the year. The popular joke for the Dutch to say to foreigners goes something like, “Of course we have summer in Holland. Last year it was on a Thursday.”

One of the most difficult aspects of my trip involved the language barrier. While the majority of the natives speak English, you never know when you will come across someone who can’t speak your language. Of course there are times when body language is more than enough to communicate information. A lovely example of this phenomenon occurred after a rather odd series of events put me in a unique situation with a young woman at a local restaurant. Our nonverbal conversation, insofar as it can be expressed in words, went something like this:

Me: “I know that I am in the women’s bathroom in a busy McDonald’s restaurant. I’ll leave now”

Her: “I don’t know why you are in the women’s bathroom in this busy McDonald’s restaurant, but I’ll let you save whatever small amount of dignity you have left at this moment in time by not screaming or otherwise drawing attention to the situation. I hope the rest of your day goes better than this.”

Here is an interesting concept that is worth mentioning: in Europe, they play music videos on MTV. Sure, they play commercials and they have occasional news updates, but it’s mostly just videos. It seems like the producers of MTV in Europe realized that constantly broadcasting footage of a bunch of twenty-year-old college dropouts driving around the world in a Winnebago just isn’t very entertaining.

I generally don’t keep track of any kind of vital statistics about myself beyond the usual, “my heart is beating,” “I’m hungry,” and “I’m currently standing in the women’s bathroom in a busy McDonalds restaurant,” but the past six months have seen some rather significant changes in my lifestyle. Here are some of the more interesting numbers that I came up with.

Taco Bell franchises I found in Holland: 0
House plants I killed: 1
Different countries in Europe I visited: 6
Number of fruit stickers I put on the phone in the apartment for no particular reason: 10
Most consecutive days I was forced to wear long pants: 89
Most consecutive days I didn’t eat at an American franchise fast food establishment: 121
Days I didn’t see a “Saturn” brand automobile: 183
Days I preserved the natural ecological balance of the back yard of the company apartment: 183
(or, the number of times I mowed the lawn) 0

I can honestly say that I enjoyed these six months in Amsterdam. For someone who hasn’t spent much time outside of Colorado, I have come to realize that there is a whole different world out there where people aren’t very tan, don’t wear sandals, and don’t have much interest in who killed JonBenet Ramsey. Sure, they get the words “soccer” and “football” mixed up most of the time and have adopted darts as their new national pastime just because a Dutch guy won the world darts competition last year, but these are small problems that can be easily overlooked. To quote the most commonly spoken phrase on any American talk show, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Categories
Christmas Letters

1998 Christmas Letter

Welcome to my fourth annual Christmas letter. Well, I can’t pretend my life wasn’t drastically changed this year when my dad died. I’ve tried not to dwell on it too much, but I don’t think that I could write my annual Christmas letter pretending that it never happened. Don’t worry though– that isn’t all that has happened to me this year.January 6, 1998 was the date. I’m not going to explain what happened in any kind of detail, but I will say that he went to the hospital with Pneumococcal Pneumonia and died two days later from complications that followed. His down fall was very quick and relatively painless– not a bad way to go.The one piece of advice I have when someone is forced to deal with the loss of a loved one is to ask how to help instead of assuming to know what to do. Some of our neighbors brought over a bunch of greasy Chinese food and had dinner with us the night after my dad died. While I am usually a big fan of greasy Chinese food, that night I just wasn’t in the mood. They meant well, but it just didn’t really help much. On the other hand, I asked one of my best friends to drive me up to my apartment in Boulder so I could get some of my things. There is no better feeling than being driven across town in rush hour traffic so I could change out of the underwear I had been wearing for the past three days.

OK, I guess I can go on to talk about the rest of the year.

The next Saturday morning I tried to put the events of the previous week behind me by going on my company ski trip. It started out innocently enough when I boarded one of the two busses Rogue Wave chartered for the day. Once everyone was settled the busses headed up I-70– destination Summit County. A light snowfall greeted us as we arrived at the base of Copper Mountain. After making a not so quick stop in the ski rental shop I hit the slopes. The light crowds and constant snowfall made for excellent ski conditions. A dozen or so runs later I climbed back on the bus wet, sore, and immensely satisfied from the day’s activities.

Instead of commuting straight back to Boulder the plan was to stop in Silverthorn for dinner and drinks. The idea was to enjoy a relaxing dinner and miss the evening ski traffic returning to the metro area. The intentions were good, but the results turned out disastrous.

After a hearty meal at Old Chicago’s we got on the busses to head home. The only problem was that I-70 was closed by the highway patrol minutes before we arrived. Instead of preparing for hot showers and comfortable beds we patiently waited near the on ramp to I-70. Information was scarce and the mood quickly changed when we realized the busses were not moving anytime soon. To say that everyone handles stress differently would be a monstrous understatement in this situation. Most people slept, talked, or played charades. Some people, however, didn’t handle the situation quite so gracefully. The names are not important, but I honestly believe the threat of legal action was the only factor preventing some of the occupants of the bus from being physically restrained and placed in the under carriage storage compartments for the duration of the trip.

In February I had the honor and privilege of representing Rogue Wave Software at the 1998 Software Development West conference held in San Francisco, California. My only responsibility for the week was to spend several hours a day at the Rogue Wave company booth answering whatever questions the attendants would throw at us. I answered a lot of questions during my booth duty, but the most common question by far was “What is the coolest thing I can get from you guys for free?” It was kind of sad to see people who make a good living as computer programmers going from exhibit to exhibit begging for cheap pens and crappy T-shirts.

The coolest thing about going to trade shows is having an expense account and a whole lot of free time. Despite the week long cloud cover and constant drizzle, we sampled quite a few lovely restaurants and bars in the downtown San Francisco area. The most exciting evening started out at what was called the “Vendor Bender” party. As a reward for countless hours standing on the concrete floor of the convention center, the organizers of the convention hosted a party that included a dinner buffet, two open bars, a DJ, and a live band. As best I can remember, we stayed at the party for the entire time and didn’t leave until the bouncers started kicking people out. After a quick cab ride back to the hotel there were still quite a few of us that just weren’t ready to go to bed. We had a lot of fun in the wee hours of that morning, unfortunately I can’t reveal any more of the specific details of the night as a high level company executive reminded everyone that the events of the evening were not to be made available to the general public. I was kind of worried about waking up my roommate by coming in at such a late hour, but it turned out to be a non issue as he was already up and getting ready to go downstairs to eat breakfast. Needless to say I didn’t join him.

When the spring rolled around my mom decided that she wanted to move out of her big house and into a townhouse. Of course before that could happen we had to sort through the belongings all four members of our family had accumulated over the past 21 years. It’s easy to say that you love someone when things are going well in life. It’s even pretty easy when things are going bad. The true test of love is when you have to spend countless hours in the basement trying to decide what you want to keep and what to throw away. The whole thing was so stressful that I ended up getting in a big fight with my mom when I thought she was putting too much tape on the packing boxes. For a woman in her early fifties she put up quite a struggle when I decided to take matters into my own hands and wrestle the tape gun away from her. There were a few tense moments, but we somehow managed to survive the whole moving process.

In my continued half hearten attempt to earn a Masters degree, I enrolled in a graduate level mathematics class during the summer session at the Denver campus of the University of Colorado. It turns out the class was taught by the same teacher and convened in the same room as the class I took last year. This year, however, I had to deal with a full time job in addition to the demands of the class. This drastically reduced the amount of time I could allocate to my homework. Sometimes I could work on my assignments after work on the nights I didn’t have class. When that wasn’t an option I employed the time honored tradition of doing my homework on the bus on the way to school. At the rate I am going I will have all the required credits for my Masters degree in the year 2007.

That pretty much describes the important and/or entertaining events for 1998. The year didn’t go anything like I imagined, but I guess that is what life is all about. As I am writing this I am getting ready to spend the next 6 months in Europe on company business. I’ve never been out of the state of Colorado for more than two weeks at a time or out of the United States at all, so traveling half way around the world will be an exciting experience. Since I am leaving the beginning of January it will have to wait until my 1999 Christmas letter. Until then, I’ll end this letter with one of my favorite song lyrics:

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four and there’s so much more
I live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.

Categories
Christmas Letters

1997 Christmas Letter

Well folks, it’s that time of year again– the days are getting shorter, annoying Christmas music is playing at the mall, the political forces that run our nation are gearing up for the next presidential election, and, of course, it’s time to publish my third annual Christmas letter. This brings up the question of whether I should even try to construct a letter that surpasses the high standard that I set for myself when writing the first two Christmas letters. Consider the world of movies for a moment. By the time they get to making a third movie in a series it pretty much just sucks. I am sure they meant well when they made “Superman 3”, but putting Christopher Reeves, Richard Prior, and a wacky evil computer together isn’t something to be proud of. Even “Return of the Jedi” wasn’t as good as its predecessors. Oh no, they built ANOTHER Death Star for the good guys to blow up at the very end. On the other hand, I listened to the School House Rock CD (which I own, of course) and learned that three is a magic number. I don’t think they would have made a number magical if there was an inherent problem with it. In conclusion (of the introduction), I know the risks but I am none the less going to give it a shot. If you are not completely satisfied with this product, just send any unused portion to the address provided for a full refund.

In case you didn’t already know, I left my job at Saxe, Inc. Among other things, the thought of developing software to help companies send out more junk mail slowly wore down my will to live. After a while I would wake up in the morning and stare at the ceiling thinking the world would be a better place if I just called in sick for the day. Even the lure of the cappuccino machine and the ping pong table (see last year’s Christmas letter) wasn’t enough to convince me to stay. My departure was civil and professional, considering the fact that several of the upper level managers were (and to the best of my knowledge still are) minions of Satan.

One of the last things I did before leaving Saxe was use up all of my vacation time on a road trip to see the Indianapolis 500. My friend Tina and I drove a total of 2,048 miles to watch thirty-three men drive around a big loop 200 times. Of course not all of them made it all the way through to finish the race. I don’t have exact numbers, but quite a few of the racers stopped themselves by smashing into the outside walls, a few just ran into each other, and then there was one guy who was driving along minding his own business when his car just caught on fire. I felt bad for the guy, but then a bunch of people came along and extinguished him.

The sheer magnitude of the Indianapolis 500 is impressive. Hundreds of thousands of people converge to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one day a year to see the big race. The planning required to pull something like this off is extensive– roads are blocked off, businesses are closed down, and special busses are brought in to move the masses more efficiently. Every effort is made to ensure the audience enjoys the race. Having taken all of this into consideration, I don’t understand why they built one of the world’s largest racing facilities in a climate that on average receives more precipitation during the last weekend in May than the entire Amazon Basin gets all year. I guess I am still a little bitter about the fact that we were forced to go to the race track three different days before the race track was dry enough to get the race finished.

I really should have had a new job lined up BEFORE I left my old job at Saxe, but then it would have been a lot harder to take the entire summer off. After a few weeks of doing no productive work, I realized my summer needed a little more structure. Applying the theory that there cannot be light without darkness, good without evil, and “tastes great” without “less filling” to my otherwise unproductive summer free time, I decided to go back to school to start working toward my Masters Degree. After a rather flimsy search, I decided to take a graduate level mathematics class at the University of Colorado at Denver. It was rough, but twice a week all summer I got up, shaved, showered, and made my way to downtown Denver in time for my 4 PM class– even if it was raining. A lesser person might have just stayed home and watched that old episode of “The A Team” where George Peppard and company save the defenseless workers from the evil bad guy while narrowly eluding the military forces that are relentlessly pursuing them for the crime they didn’t commit. You know the one. Anyway, I got through summer school with only minor bruises and am planning on receiving my Masters degree sometime in the next 8 to 10 years.

All good things must come to an end, and my “summer of unemployment” was no exception. After evaluating my bank account, I begrudgingly realized that an “autumn of unemployment” was not a financial option. I started sending my resume out to companies and eventually was hired at company called Rogue Wave Software. Rogue Wave’s current focus involves brokering brides of the Philippines to wealthy but socially underdeveloped gentlemen. Of course it’s all a front to hide the fact they are really developing, marketing, and supporting digital dynamic reusable hierarchical multi-platform modularized procedural language libraries.

I am currently working in the Technical Support division of Rogue Wave Software. We have constructed an international array of computers connected through a highly evolved network of PPP, ISDN, and T1 telecommunication lines that allow for the fast, efficient, and reliable movement of information allowing us to seamlessly communicate in our ever increasing global community. Does this investment in time and money improve our relationship with our customers? I don’t know, but it runs Quake really well.

One of the more interesting aspects of this job, besides, of course, playing Quake, involves the notion that part of our responsibility involves helping the customers so they don’t have to call us in the first place. To achieve this goal we are constantly reporting bugs in our software, finding problems with our documentation, and publishing helpful hints on the Internet. The more successful we become at this venture the more people get fired due to a decrease in the number of customer calls. But, since most of us in technical support were just recently hired, we are only performing our jobs at a level where our wages are garnished.

With the possible exception of leaving a bunch of store bought tortillas in my refrigerator for an entire year just to see what would happen (they shattered when I tried to move them), I believe that my crowning accomplishment of the year would have to be the day that I completed all the levels on the “Duke Nukem 3D” CD that I bought for my computer in January. Anyone can get through a few levels and then give up, but I had what it takes to get through all 30 levels (and one of the secret levels that I am not allowed to talk about) without getting burned out. Sure, I could have stopped half way through and gone outside or read a book, but that would have been a cop out. I stuck by my guns– knowing that I made it down a path where so few see any value whatsoever.

I am sending this letter by E-mail as much as possible in an effort to promote living environmentally friendly lifestyles. Remember to recycle folks, because if you don’t all of us will have to live with the garbage until the sun runs out of fuel and collapses on itself with the resulting explosion enveloping the planet Earth as we know it– instantaneously converting countless generations of accomplishments back into the basic building blocks of matter from which we were created. And that’s a long time.

That about wraps things up here. If you ever question how to live your life, just remember what everyone tells John Cusack in the movie “Better Off Dead”– “Go that way really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.”

Categories
Christmas Letters

1996 Christmas Letter

The earth and the sun have once again completed another round of their cosmic tag team, no holds barred wrestling match which means it is time for the second annual publication of my Christmas letter. My goal for this year is to have at least three people (including myself) read this letter. I am sure that there are some people who are skeptical about this letter reaching such a vast audience. To you naysayers out there I would like to proudly introduce my new ally– exponential growth. In much the same way rabbits procreate and chain letters clog your mailbox, this plan revolves around my ability to harness this largely unexplored force of nature. After you read this, pass it on to two of your friends and then give $100 to the Mission Impossible guy who is outside posing as a garbage collector. Here is how the conversation will go:

IMF agent (a.k.a. “Garbage man”): “How much for the women?”
You: “My spleen is fine, thank you”
IMF agent “What the hell are you talking about? Just give me the damn money!”
(You give him the money and then he kills you)

Believe it or not, I managed to graduate from college. I received degrees in both Computer Science and Mathematics. When I tell people that I have a CS degree the usual response is “You won’t have any problem finding a good job.” And when I tell people that I have a degree in general Mathematics they say “So you’re going to grad school.” I guess getting the math part is like being on the game show “Jeopardy” and knowing the Final Jeopardy question only to realize that the guy next to you has three times as much money as you do.

I have very mixed feelings about graduating college. On one hand I don’t miss the “cultural anthropology” class I was required to take or the “Oh, but he does a lot of research” professors that are forced to teach classes. On the other hand, I liked being able to watch television until my eyes hurt and spend most of my time on campus with 10,000 women, most of whom were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five.

It wasn’t long after graduation that my parents expressed an interest in my time management skills. (“Get your ass of the couch and find a job or we will put you up for adoption”) After pounding the pavement for a while (until I got to my car) I drove to a building often referred to as “McDonalds.” I told them about my situation and they were very interested in giving me one of those legendary high paying cushy cashier jobs with my own personal secretary and limousine driver. This didn’t last very long, however, due to the fact that I have a very rare neurological disorder that I only found out about after my training. It seems that whenever I try and say “would you like fries with that?” my vocal chords take over and produce wildly inappropriate phases like “There are squirrels in my pants. Hee hee hee,” “I did it. I did it. I shot JR!”, and “Have you ever showered with Rush Limbaugh? It’s not as bad as people say.”

After the whole McDonalds episode, I ended up at a company called “Saxe Inc.” It is run by a guy named, strangely enough, Andrew Saxe. He spends half of his time in Denver and the other half in New York city. It turns out that he loves the legendary brown cloud found in Denver, but he just can’t tear himself away from the more traditional forms of pollution found in New York City. Talk about the best of both worlds.

Saxe Inc. is a very liberal company. So liberal, in fact, that all the employees are gay transvestites running around with pitchforks. No, wait a minute. I am thinking of the classic cult film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” To the best of my knowledge, nobody at Saxe Inc. is a gay transvestite, and we only run around with pitchforks when there aren’t any of our clients in the building.

Saxe Inc. is a somewhat liberal company. Everyone is allowed to run around in shorts and T-shirts. The only rule is that you can’t run with scissors. We also have a place to play ping pong when we get frustrated and feel like hitting stuff. Just to make it perfect, we also have a cappuccino machine. The front of the machine shows a picture of some great looking cappuccino with perfect looking whip cream with just the right amount of evenly distributed sprinkles. Unfortunately, when I went to get some cappuccino I realized that the machine is not equipped to dispense either whip cream or sprinkles. In an angry fit of rage I ripped the machine out of the wall, raised it up over my head, yelled “Where are the fucking sprinkles?”, and proceeded to throw the entire apparatus at a prospective client. He didn’t die or anything, but I don’t know if he is retaining our services. My lawyer advised my not to disclose the terms of the settlement.

As a software developer, I spent some time working on a project to answer the question “What is the meaning of life?” After several months, I came up with an elegant and efficient solution for producing an answer to the question that has eluded philosophers, theologians, and Douglas Adams, author of the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” for thousands of years. I started running the program only to discover to my dismay that the answer to the question “What is the meaning of life” cannot be answered by sitting inside a sterile office building at a desk with stale fluorescent lights and a 486 computer. It turns out I need a Pentium.

The other night I went out to an Avalanche game with some people I know, including a nose pierced, ex-stripper, bisexual Satan worshiper. No kidding. If I ever have kids I hope they never find out about this and use it to their advantage by saying stuff like “Come on Dad, I just want to go out and get drunk with this 24 year old guy I met at the bowling alley, it’s not like I’m going out with a nose pierced, ex-stripper, bisexual Satan worshiper or anything.” To be honest, we all had a reasonably good time and I can add her to the extensive list of women that I am too chicken to ever ask out.

Another highlight of this year was the condominium that I purchased in October. It came with two bedrooms, one bath, a huge loft, and a years supply of Spam. The biggest problem that I have right now is that I bought a couch that is too large to fit up the stairway. OOPS. All of my appliances are twenty years old and I say a prayer each night hoping that they don’t all die at once. It is a strange feeling to have a thirty year mortgage to think about. Saying that it will take thirty years to pay it off makes it seem like a huge deal. I just think of it as 358 more payments. Assuming that the postage rate for first class mail doesn’t go up in the next thirty years (hahahaha) I will be spending $114.56 on stamps alone. Sorry, I guess that the math-geek part of me is coming out.

While cleaning out all of my old college stuff, I came across a paper that I had written during my first year at CSU for a mathematics course. It started like this:

I can honestly say that I feel more complete as a human being now that I have written this paper. All my life I knew that there was some calling in my life that had remained, up until now, unanswered. Who knew that my calling would be to write a recursive algorithm for generating a lexicographical set of permutations from the set {1,2,3,…,N}? The Lord works in mysterious ways. Who am I to disagree with powers that I can hardly fathom?

Who says that science and religion can’t just get along? The best part of this paper, in my opinion, is the following passage:

After I finished the algorithm, I went home and showed it to my mother. I could go on about how my mother is an algorithm analysis expert and pulls in the big bucks at Hewlett Packard, but I will refrain from doing so because of the fact that it would be an outright lie. She is actually a registered nurse who really has absolutely no understanding of the world of computers, but she thought that it was wonderful and found space to display it on the refrigerator.

I am sure you will be happy to know that I received an “A” for my efforts.

I think that I have said enough for this year, so (insert cliché end of the year saying here) and remember folks– you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

Categories
Christmas Letters

1995 Christmas Letter

Dear friend,

Another year has passed before us and I am taking time out of my busy schedule to personally write you this letter explaining to you what is going on in my life. Please do not infer that just because I am constantly referring to you in the generic second person and not including any personal information about you that this is one of those tacky one-size-fits-all impersonal letters that are being mass mailed to everyone I know instead of taking the time to write individual letters. I would like to think that you know me well enough to realize that I am above that type of behavior.

Anyway, I guess that this part of the letter should be devoted to my accomplishments over the past year. I have managed to stay in school for another year. If you do not already know, I am currently a senior attending Colorado State University. I am currently working toward degrees in both Computer Science and Mathematics. I am, however, considering staying in college for an extra semester to get a minor in Viking Cuisine. My counselor, who coincidentally lives in the Viking homeland, is always telling me that I should expand my dining horizons.

During the school year I am employed as a tutor for the beginning level computer science students. Earning a wage that is comparable to that of migrant farm workers, I give helpful advice and words of encouragement to students who have not mastered all of the ins and outs of C++. Most of the time the problems are simple– a missed semicolon or a misspelled word, but there was one guy this last semester who would always sit at the computer closest to my desk just so he could turn around every five minutes and say “Its not working” and expect me to correct every single problem in his program until it was completed. In retrospect, it probably would have been considerably less strenuous for everyone involved if I just sat at his terminal and wrote his entire program for him. That way I would have fewer visions of impaling him with a computer monitor and he would not have to suffer the strain of repeatedly turning his head around to talk to me. Needless to say (although I am saying it anyway) this young man was quickly labeled “The dumb guy.” In the end the other tutors and I decided that taking a big permanent magic marker and writing something to that effect on his forehead, while being completely accurate, would have probably gotten us into some kind of trouble.

In other news, I am putting the four weeks of winter vacation to good use. I went to the dentist last week and in addition to having no cavities, I also received, at no additional cost, a dinosaur toothbrush. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I got home and opened up the box that I realized that the actual toothbrush was designed for the mouths of three year olds and didn’t really fit my brushing needs. I have decided to keep it in its original box and hold onto it as a collectors’ item. Not all toothbrushes go up in value, but I have a good feeling about this one.

I guess that I could talk about the other members of my family now. My sister Karen was in town for the holidays. We spent most of our time together coming up with excuses to not walk the dog. My other sister Barf, who does not actually exist and is a figment of my imagination, is currently in counseling. She is depressed because nobody is paying any attention to her. My dog Cal is doing fine. He has learned through continued positive reinforcement that if he whines enough when someone is in the kitchen, he will eventually wind up with a doggie biscuit. My parents are doing typical parent activities such as working, paying for me to go through college, and detonating small explosive devices in the back yard.

Getting back to my sister Karen, she is attending school somewhere in one of those “I” states, but I always seem to get them all mixed up. She is a graduate student in the area of sociology which means that I have no idea what is going on in her academic life. She is going out with some guy named Jeremy, who is also a sociology graduate student. I don’t know much about him except that he plays a lot of computer games which means that he automatically gets my approval. Karen recently received her Masters Degree and is now working toward her Ph.D. thingie. While she was here last week she told me that she and this Jeremy guy got married in a super-secret ancient Indian ceremony. It involved, among other things, that Jeremy spend three days and three nights naked in the woods with only a small plastic spoon that he had to use to hunt down the largest moose in the entire state. This is sort of a secret, so if you see my parents, please do not mention the wedding.

I also have a girlfriend who is named Karen. She is working at Longs pharmacy where she got promoted to the position of technician. She spends her days being nice to all of the customers and pretending she cares about their medical problems. “Young lady, you just wouldn’t believe how good this here medicine is when it comes to getting rid of them pesky little heartworms!!!” “You’re right sir, excuse me if I get nauseated at the mere thought of that, have a nice day.”

Karen has also spent the last two years letting her hair grow out. It is now all the way down to her knees. I keep on telling her that she should get it cut, but she refuses to listen to my pleading. She said something about getting into the “Guinness Book of World Records” if she can just grow it out another thirty-two feet. I guess that we can all root for her to make it.

Getting back to me, I am planning to graduate on May 10th ish 1996. Everyone is welcome to come and see it provided that I in no way incur any financial responsibility and that you leave when I grow tired of your company. Hope to see you there.

I really cannot think of anything else to say, so hope that I can see/hear from you a lot next year. To all my Christian, Jewish, and very tall friends, have a happy 1996!

Omar Lutfey

PS: You will be happy to know that my spell checker now has the word “heartworms” added to its database.

Categories
Uncategorized

Soft Cell

California offically launched its controversial $3 billion stem cell research program. Robert Klien, the chairman of the operation, went on record pledging “public oversight, transparency, accountability and the highest ethical conduct” for the committee. After the news conference, calls for Klien’s resignation were put forward by the Bush administration.