Received Achievement: Defender of the Cadbury

My family–that’s me, Wife Unit, Nublet, and our two Maine Coon cats, Fat Cat and Flat Cat–rent a small 85-year-old house that’s got “character.”  When somebody in, say, Southern Living talks about a house having “character,” they’re probably talking about its history, its charm, its “feel,” if you will.

When you’re talking about a house with “character” in the real world that I occupy, though, “character” means stuff like:

– a surprising number of corners that aren’t quite 90 degrees
– becoming one with nature because the doors and windows don’t seal very well
– getting to know your neighbors, mostly of the four-, six- and eight-legged variety

That last one is the key to this tale.  And it’s not helped by the fact that my wife and I are both longtime thirty-second degree Grand Weasels of the Ancient and Illuminated Order of Slobs.  When you’re dealing with the sheer amount of feces that life’s slung at us the past four years, there are things that slip through the cracks (or, in our case, roll down the slant in the living room floor and fall through the furnace intake grate), and keeping the Bunker of Love neat as a pin is sometimes one of them.

(That having been said, we love the house.  My wife has her own bead studio in the attic, we have a sunroom dedicated to our computers, Nublet has a yard to play in, it’s got nice big trees for shade, and it’s in a neighborhood that, when it’s not undergoing a rash of break-ins, has real charm and nice people.  Downsides?  Well, there was the slight matter of suffering through the hottest summer in 120 years with no central air conditioning, but, hey, that builds character.  Or something.)

Anyway.  So there we were last night, the Wife Unit and yours truly, on our respective computers in our rather cluttered sunroom.  We’re in the process of doing some spring cleaning, so the room was a bit more cluttered even than usual while things were being sorted out.  But, we’d called it an evening after some good hard work, and were off saving the world (in her case, playing Dragon Age) or just chilling out (in my case, noodling around on Youtube).  Nublet was in bed, and the house was blissfully quiet.

I heard a bit of a commotion from behind us, in the living room, but didn’t really pay it any mind…I figured it was just the cats having a bit of a “discussion,” as they do occasionally.  Fat Cat and Flat Cat are not blood relatives but we’ve had them both for seven years, and like any brothers, they have their spats occasionally.

A quick bit of background here:  Fat Cat and Flat Cat aren’t their real names, but they’ll do for here, and the pseudonyms are accurate.  Fat Cat was our first pet after getting married, bought from a reputable Maine Coon breeder, and he is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, fucking huge.  Yes, we have let him get too fat.  Yes, he was huge even before he got fat.  He’s a Maine Coon.  They do that.  He’s about thirty pounds, and while he’s not exactly nimble, he’s not as immobile as you’d think a thirty-pound cat would be.  He’s also lazy, arrogant, entitled, and dumber than a bag of hammers.

Flat Cat is our second cat.  We got him not long after we got Fat Cat, but Flat Cat is a rescue Maine Coon.  For a Maine Coon, he’s positively scrawny.  We’ve been repeatedly assured that he’s healthy as a horse, but he just won’t gain weight.  He’s skinny, solid gray, with the fluffiest, most pettable long fur you can imagine.  He’s also scared of people and as insecure as the day is long.  Oh, and he lost his tail when he was a kitten, so he just has a tiny little nub at the back, like a Doberman.  It’s tiny, but it’s very expressive.

So.  Back to the commotion.  All of a sudden, here comes Flat Cat, rocketing into the room at warp speed.  He slams on the brakes, scrabbles on the hardwood floors, does a Jeremy Clarkson Top Gear powerslide around a garbage bag, and comes to a stop in front of a pile of clutter soon to hit the garbage can, ears and nub twitching madly.  We both stop what we’re doing on our computers and look at him, because this is odd behavior for Flat Cat.

Suddenly he lunged with his paws (this cat has absolutely gigantic furry tufted paws, made bigger-looking because he’s skinny) at something under a box.  I looked at Wife Unit.  “Guess he’s found a palmetto bug?”, I asked, referring to the big brown redneck roaches that are prevalent around here.

“Maybe,” she replied, squinting to see.  “Or it might be a…”

Just then, Flat Cat popped his head back up from behind the box, and trotted out of the room, holding in his mouth a small, gray, furry shape.  With a tail.


Now, it’s not all that unusual for us to find mice.  A few months ago, we caught Fat Cat nomming on something we thought for a split-second was an olive, until we realized it was actually a mostly-defleshed mouse skull.  We’ve also seen live ones running around on two occasions…one even got caught between the panes of a living-room window, thus turning into a live-action mousequarium for the cats until it eventually got out.  (Better than “Animal Planet,” even.)

What we’d never seen before is Flat Cat, our shy, skittish, cowardice-is-the-better-part-of-valor cat, go after one.  We always figured he’d make a good mouser, since he’s fast, he’s got massive paws, and he loves to play with stuff on the ground (as opposed to Fat Cat, who always likes to bat stuff hanging up in the air).  But he never showed the least inclination to do it…until last night.  So needless to say, considering that (a) we don’t like mice, (b) we get mice in the house sometimes, and (c) two mouse-hunters are better than one, we were pleased at this turn of events, and cheered Flat Cat from afar.

About three minutes later, I heard the characteristic “pwumf-pwumf-pwumf” of Fat Cat’s paws on hardwood.  (Yes, you can hear him walking on the floor.  He’s about as stealthy as a rockslide.)  I looked down in time to see Fat Cat glide by me and flop down in the floor between me and Wife Unit…carrying a mouse.  Flat Cat’s mouse.  Flat Cat trailed behind him, but when he got about two kitty paces away, Fat Cat turned around and started growling.  It was a deep, low, menacing “get any closer and I will rip your whiskers off and shove them up your ass” noise that would be more at home coming out of a Rottweiler, not a flabby gray-and-white tabby cat with his pudgy face full of dying mouse.  (Fat Cat, obviously, is upper management material.  He let Flat Cat do all the hard work, like actually moving, to get the mouse, and then once the situation was in hand, he swooped down to reap the rewards and take all the credit.)

After a minute of alternately growling, nomming, and batting the dying mouse around, Fat Cat picked it up and pwumfed back out of the room to the living room.  By now, we figured we had to put an end to our own little episode of Mutual of Omaha’s “Domesticated Kingdom”–partially because we really didn’t like seeing the mouse suffer (hey, they’re vermin, but they’re cute furry vermin with twitchy noses, you must admit), but mostly because we didn’t want Fat Cat taking the corpus delecti and losing it in our laundry like he did the last time.  So I distracted him with a potato chip while Wife Unit scooped the mouse into a box and dumped it out in the front yard to bleed out.  (What, you thought we were going to take it to the emergency vet or something?)  So both cats were petted and praised as if they’d scored 1600 on their SATs…although Fat Cat, as the manager, did score a little bit of potato chip.

The true end to the story, though, didn’t come until this morning.  As I was staggering to the shower to get ready for work, Wife Unit called to me from the kitchen.  I wandered in there and blinked as she shoved something in my face.  It was small, and ovoid, and wrapped in blue foil.

It was a Cadbury creme egg.

More precisely, it was a Cadbury creme egg with the foil torn off one side and little mouse toothmarks in the exposed chocolate.

She then said, in what we’ve grown to call Reasonable Voice, “that little rodent fuck.”

Now, my wife is a reasonably mild-mannered human being.  She’s got a temper, as do we all, but it doesn’t show very often.  (She also doesn’t curse very much, especially f-bombs.)  However…if you even think about messing with her Cadbury creme eggs, she will shank you like it’s the showers at San Quentin.  I don’t even get Cadbury privileges in my own house.  If she’d found that egg last night, I would’ve had to explain to the neighbors why my beloved was jumping up and down in the front yard at 10:30 pm screaming “DIE YOU FURRY EGG-EATING PIECE OF SHIT!”

Mice in the house?  We live with it to a point.  Mice touching the Cadbury eggs?  Shit just got real, yo.


The Greatest Team-Building Story Ever

If you’ve been a cubicle slave for any length of time (as I have), you’ve probably heard the term “team-building.” “Team-building” is a management euphemism that, as near as I can tell, was coined by some management consultant who never actually held a real job trying to con corporations into paying him huge sums of money. Problem is, it worked.

Technically, “team-building” is supposed to be a way for companies to get more productivity out of groups of employees by building trust and interpersonal skills. In the real world, the one that you and I live in, it’s nothing more than a bunch of horseshit, shoveled by lobotomized managers under the spell of high-priced consultants. These consultants get companies to pay them large sums of money for the purpose of sitting the productive workers (that’s you and me, folks) in a room and telling us a bunch of crap that we already knew by third grade unless any of us were anti-social psychopaths on the level of, say, Ted Bundy.

Today, Dear Reader, I give you what I call The Greatest Team-Building Story What’s Ever Done Been Told. I swear on a stack of IBM technical manuals that this is 100% Grade A no-bullshit truth. The locations herein are true. The events herein are true. I’ll omit the names to protect the guilty, but trust me, if I used them, I’d use the real ones. The statute of limitations ran out a loooong time ago.


The year was 1989. I was 22, two years out of college, and living in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. I worked for AT&T as a programmer on various billing systems. I hated northern Virginia, but I liked my co-workers and I liked my job. This was just a few years post-divestiture, back when AT&T was still the Death Star, barely hanging on to being The Phone Company, Dammit, and it was a pretty solid place to work. There were about thirty of us split into three groups in my area; demographically we skewed pretty young, with over half of us under age 30. Our group managers were good people; they left us alone and let us do our jobs, and I daresay, we did them pretty damn well. At least, that’s what other people told us.

That spring, for whatever reason, word came down from On High that everyone in our division—a good 500 people or so–would be required to attend team-building training over the next few months. The scuttlebutt floating around the office was that someone from far, far up in the Death Star had decreed this training, and flung a couple hundred thousand dollars at a bunch of “team-building consultants” to make it happen. As you’d expect, we collectively grumbled that they could’ve just taken that money and flung it at us instead to build our team spirit, but, hey, that’s not how Corporate America works, is it?

When our turn came up, the announcement we got caused more than a few raised eyebrows. We were told that we were to pack for an overnight stay at the Airlie Conference Center, about an hour’s drive down the road near Warrenton, VA. We were going to be out there all day Thursday, stay Thursday night, and most of the day on Friday. And there were no exceptions allowed. Single mom? Tough cookies, find a place to dump the rugrat(s). Going out of town? Sucks to be you, reschedule. Think it’s all a bunch of happy horseshit? No sweat, I hear MCI’s hiring, have a nice life.

And so, early one Thursday morning, one of my housemates (who also worked in the same programming group I did) and I piled into my car and headed out of the DC sprawl, down toward Airlie. It’s a lovely place, Airlie is, a conference center built on the grounds of an old farm, complete with what looked at the time like a neat old motel of three stories, surrounding a central courtyard with a swimming pool, which at the time was empty and being sandblasted. We were given rooms, told to throw our luggage in, and then herded off to the morning “team-building classroom sessions.”

These sessions were, not to put too fine a point on it, the biggest load of bovine excrement I’d ever seen this side of, well, any State of the Union address. They talked about team dynamics and communication and problem solving and shared space and how to empower the members of our team to unleash their full potential…and the whole time, all thirty of us are giving each other furtive “they spent 200 grand on this?” looks. We were already three of the best-performing teams in the entire division. Why were we sitting there listening to the two instructors breathlessly gasp their way through this elementary-school “don’t be a douchebag” stuff like it was written on stone tablets and carried down the side of Mount Sinai by Charlton Fucking Heston?

And then, just when a few of us were looking for sharp objects to take to our wrists to make the agony stop, they fed us lunch. A good lunch, but the lead instructor told us in her godawfully annoying chirpy manner, “Don’t eat too much, you don’t want to be too full for this afternoon!”

Sadly, she was right. The afternoon comprised the “outdoor team-building session.”


Now, before I go further, let me give you a little background. I’m a fatass. I’ve always been a fatass. On this lovely warm spring day in 1989, I looked much like I do now 22 years later, except I had more hair and my fat was slightly higher on my body. I weighed about, eh, 285 or 290 pounds, and very little of it was muscle except what I used to talk and chew. I’ve never been accused of missing many meals in my life, let’s just say that.

So there we were, 30 or so of us, standing on the lawn. We were told that we would be doing a number of “fun and exciting” team-building activities designed to engender trust and problem-solving behaviors. Also, they were going to videotape us while we were engendering trust and problem-solving behaviors. I think that’s called “engendering hatred of the intern with the video camera.”

First, they had us sit in a circle on the ground, facing outward. We were then told to link elbows with the people next to us and stand up. In theory, this is supposed to be pretty easy if you’ve got somebody on either side of you to brace against. “Theory” never ran across a 290-pound lardbutt paired with two women half my size on either side of me. Everybody else around the circle popped up like jack-in-the-boxes. Meanwhile, I sat there grunting and struggling and dislocating these poor womens’ shoulders and eventually falling flat on my ass, taking half the circle with me. I’m pretty sure Miss Chirpy’s perma-smile faltered a little bit at that point, but she recovered quickly. Camera Intern, of course, never missed a moment of it.

We were then split into three groups and herded off into the woods to face our “fun and exciting” torture—uh, team-building. My particular group was led down to a tree with a stepladder nailed to the base…yes, kids, that’s right, it was time for that team-building moldy oldie, the Trust Fall.

I felt my co-workers’ eyes boring into me as they thought as one, “oh sweet jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, we’ve got to catch him?!?”

Well, as it turns out, there’s a trick to it. The catchers formed two rows and grabbed each others’ arms up above the wrist to make a fairly solid base. The catchee was informed that they had to stay absolutely rigid during the fall backward, arms folded across the chest. The slightest bend at the waist would put too much weight in one spot and probably break somebody’s arm. No pressure.

Amazingly enough, I got up to the fourth step on the ladder, balanced on my tiptoes (because that’s all the room there was on the fucking step), and in one motion, stiffened my back, crossed my arms, and fell backward into the waiting arms of my terrified co-workers, who probably thought I looked like a toppling redwood ready to crush them. And the techniques worked. They caught me!

And then promptly dropped me on my right hip on top of a tree stump. Dear God, that hurt like a bastard.


After everybody had a chance to play Will My Co-Workers Let Me Break My Neck, we were herded off to the next event. We found ourselves standing in front of a crazy jumble of ropes strung between two trees about 15 feet apart. This, we were informed, was the web of a huge spider (oooooooh). We all had to get through the web without touching any of the strands, or else we would be eaten (oooooooh). Oh, and each opening between the jumble of ropes could only be used once (oooh…wait, what?). Obviously, this was designed so that we had to ask the spider for 10 or 15 minutes to work out who could fit through which hole. I asked the “facilitator” if I could just nobly sacrifice myself to the spider so the rest of the group could get through while I was being eaten. When she said no, then I asked if I had a sword or shield with me to defend myself from the spider and hold it off while the rest of the group got through. She didn’t see the humor in it. Clearly, she hadn’t played as much D&D as I had.

Honestly, I don’t even remember how the hell I got through that. I’m sure that somehow I was pushed, pulled, prodded, or poked through it, ever under the watchful eye of Camera Intern, who always seemed to be there when one of us did something of a dumbass nature. Which was often.

Miss Chirpy then announced that we were all to form up in a human chain, holding each other’s hands…after all but one of us were blindfolded. The one who was not blindfolded led the chain. We were to head off through the woods, holding hands, led by one of our senior analysts who just happened to be at the front of the group.

Woods, at least the woods I’m familiar with, are not flat. They are not regular. They have things like tree roots to trip you and ruts to step in. None of us were wearing hiking boots—we were all told “dress casually” so we were in jeans and T-shirts or polos, except for a couple of the older grizzled programmer types for whom “casual dress” meant “opening their sleeves and taking out the pocket protector.” Sneakers—or in the grizzled ones’ case, wingtips—weren’t exactly made for overland hiking.

But off we went. Slowly. Verrrry slowly. We stumbled. We tripped. We fell. Well, I fell, because if anybody was going to fall down on that trip, it was the fat guy with the high center of gravity and the lousy sense of balance. Eventually, after somewhere between five minutes and three lifetimes, we were told to stop.

Miss Chirpy informed us that we were in a sinking capsized ship and the room was full of smoke (hence the blindfolds). We were told that there was a porthole above us that we would have to use to escape before the ship sank. Like everybody else, I cheated by peeking around my blindfold, and I saw a large truck tire suspended seven feet off the ground between two trees. That, apparently, was our “porthole.” We were not allowed to remove our blindfolds until our heads were through the “porthole,” signifying we were out in the fresh air and could see again.

At this point, since it appeared we were re-creating The Poseidon Adventure, I wondered if I could just go Gene Hackman and fall into a pool of water covered by flaming oil to end this misery. No such luck. My destiny, it seemed, lay seven feet in the air and on the other side of a truck tire.

I was in the middle of the group sent through; the theory being there were enough people on one side to push my immensitude up and enough on the other side to catch me. The concept was a good one, but the execution was a bit…flawed, shall we say.

Up I went, hanging onto this swaying tire with all my limited might as people pushed from underneath. Idly, I wondered how many ship portholes actually fucking swayed as I started trying to wiggle myself through the bloody thing. I managed to get myself high-centered in the tire, slowly wiggling and pushing myself through like the tire was giving birth to me (“Congratulations, Mrs. Michelin! It’s a fat nerd!”). I was making progress. I couldn’t breathe, I was covered in sweat, and I looked like a goddamn idiot, but I was making progress.

Then I ran into a problem. See, they had duct-taped across the inside of the tire in an attempt to smooth the edges. But the duct tape had sagged. And as I pushed enough of my bulk through to reach a sort of tipping point, I felt the top of my jeans and belt catch on the inside edge of the tire.

I pivoted, not voluntarily. My loyal co-workers on the other side got the hell out of the way as I came crashing down on my head and hands from seven feet in the air…with my pants pulled down around my thighs. I had a tiny cut on my hand but was otherwise OK.

Then I looked up and saw Camera Intern. As I pulled my pants back up and tried to salvage any dignity I could find, I jokingly said to him, “you’d better not do anything with that footage, hoss.”

Instead of seeing the joke, the college boy glared at me and growled, “I’d like to see you try, man.” Oooooookay then. Surly Camera Intern is surly. Right, moving on.


After the Goodyear Porthole of Depantsing, all three sub-groups were merged back together in front of our final objective…The Wall. The Wall was just what it says on the tin; it was a wall, about twelve feet high. There were no handholds, no ropes. There was a small catwalk over on the far side a couple feet down from the top. The objective, Miss Chirpy explained, was simple: Everybody goes over the wall. Everybody (except the woman with her shoulder in a sling from recent surgery, who was finally exempted from something). People can stand on the catwalk to help, but no more than four at a time.

I stood before The Wall in utter shock and humiliation as some of our fitter men began going over it first. I knew that somewhere in the middle of the bunch of us, they were going to have to get my fat ass over that thing, somehow, someway. It was going to take everybody pushing to do it. I was exhausted, I was sore, I was bruised, and I wanted to be anywhere else but here—say, the projects in Anacostia at about 2:30 in the morning, alone. This was the cherry on top of the shit sandwich of a day. If I’d wanted to climb walls and crawl through tires, I’d have joined the goddamned Army.

It took about five minutes to get me over the wall, and don’t ask me how they did it because I don’t remember. It was a blur of people pushing me from underneath and dragging me from up top, of grunts and shouts of encouragement, of me praying “dear God don’t let me break anybody’s arm,” of Miss Chirpy’s smug “damn but I love my job because I get to watch these fucks make idiots of themselves” smile as she watched me struggle, and, of course, of Camera Intern filming the entire damn thing.

And then, there I was, pulling myself over the top of the wall onto the catwalk with the last reserves of my strength, hearing the cheers of my co-workers as I flopped down on my knees and tried to catch my breath. The moment actually felt pretty damn good, if I’m honest…I’d done it. I’d actually fucking done it! Well, really, we’d done it, it’s not like I could’ve done it myself. The tingle of the good vibes lasted about three seconds until I heard Miss Chirpy yell “only four people on the catwalk, let’s go!” Right, well, thanks for pissing in my celebratory Wheaties, chick. I dragged myself to the ladder and climbed down, then stood there getting my bearings back as the rest of the group got over The Wall.

And that, mercifully, was the end of the afternoon session. We were led back to the conference center, tired, bruised, battered, but ultimately, successful at…not killing any of the team-building staff, I guess. We were allowed to head to our assigned hotel rooms for a quick change of clothes (not even enough time for a shower, the bastards) before heading to the dining room for dinner.

Dinner, however, held its own surprise. The food was good, but before we were allowed to eat, Miss Chirpy got up at the front of the room and announced that there would be special entertainment along with dinner. She stood back to reveal…a projection TV screen. (If you don’t know what a projection TV is, ask your parents.)

You guessed it. Camera Intern hadn’t been filming all that stuff for his own private collection of programmer humiliation bondage pr0nz. In the short interval we’d been getting ready, the staff had gone through the footage and culled out the most humiliating bits. Which were then replayed during dinner. On a loop.

I featured rather prominently.

There I was, unable to stand up in the circle. There I was, landing on the stump after the Trust Fall. There I was, falling out of the tire and crashing to the ground on my head with my Hanes proudly on display. (Hey, at least they didn’t have any skid marks on them.) There I was, getting hauled over The Wall like a giant flabby flailing sack of fail to the cheers of my fellow workers.

Was I humiliated? Oh God yes. I wanted the world to open up and swallow me. But mercifully, I did work with a very wonderful group of people. Nobody gave me too much shit over it. We were able to bond and sympathize with each other as our embarrassing moments came and went on the screen. It was probably the only serious episode of team-building that we’d had the entire horrible day.


You’d probably think that was the end of it. That we all went off, stumbled to our rooms, and fell into an exhausted but highly team-built sleep.

You’d be dead wrong.

You see, the organizers, after dinner, made a critical mistake. They didn’t occupy us with any more team-building nonsense, probably because they correctly interpreted that we’d kill them if they tried. They made an even worse error. A catastrophic error. An error for the ages.

They brought in two large coolers…

…full of ice-cold beer.

Remember that I mentioned that over half our group was under 30? And that most of us were male? And we’d just had two big coolers full of beer dumped in front of us.

We dove into the beer coolers like starving men on a Ruth’s Chris steak. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, first one cooler, then the second, was empty. The staffers quickly carried the coolers away.

And brought them back with more beer.

I honestly don’t know why they thought it was a good idea to keep throwing beer at a bunch of twenty-somethings who were spending a night away from home. I’d say they were being decent and trying to make up for putting us through four hours of sheer hell in the afternoon, but that would require Miss Chirpy and her crew to not be management consultants blinded by their own bullshit, and that wasn’t happening. Maybe they figured we were so tired that a beer or two would knock us right out…well, that didn’t work, because the heavy drinkers in the group (my housemate included) were young, fit, and had a tremendous capacity to ingest alcohol.

In the end, the whys and wherefores didn’t matter. All that mattered is that we cleaned both coolers out again in record time. At that point, the conference center staff informed us that that was all the beer they had.

Was that going to stop us? Hell no. We were problem-solvers, dammit. We were a built team, weren’t we? We’d scaled The Wall! We weren’t going to let a little thing like being four miles from town stop us from getting more beer!

Someone who was relatively sober, God bless ’em, volunteered to make a beer run. And faster than you could say “where’s the nearest 7-11?”, they were back with a couple more cases of beer. The beer was consumed, again in record time, but this time, there really was no more. It was getting late, and those who were not drunk were getting tired. Actually, by that point, I was getting drunk, and I was tired.

So off I staggered to my room, leaving the hardcore five or six left partying to their plotting if they could find someone sober to hit yet another 7-11 for more brew. I stumbled up to the third floor of the hotel, went to my room, and crashed hard.


Maybe you’d think that is the end of the story. Not even.

The next morning came way too soon. I woke up feeling like I’d been through a war. It wasn’t that I had a particularly bad hangover, though my head was pounding pretty good. It was the combination of the hangover and the bruises and the sore muscles. I felt like total, utter, complete shit. I also noticed, with some surprise, that my housemate, who was supposed to be in the other bed, had never come in. His bag was still on the bed and the covers hadn’t been touched. That was odd.

I staggered to the bathroom, drank as much water as I thought I could stand, slammed some ibuprofen that I’d thoughtfully brought, and took a shower. By the time I was ready to head to breakfast, at least I looked human even if I didn’t feel it.

I packed my bags up and opened the door to the third-floor catwalk…and stopped.

The catwalk was covered in…snow? No, wait, couldn’t be snow, it was warm. It was some kind of white powder, all over the concrete in front of my room and the one next to me.  My addled, hungover brain couldn’t make any sense of it.  For a second, I thought maybe a wind had kicked up and blown the powder covering the bottom of the empty swimming pool up onto the third floor.  But it was too thick and too localized.

I wandered over to the room next door, where two other late-20s co-workers were staying.  Their door was open.  I wandered inside, tracking white powder everywhere.

The sight that greeted me was probably similar to something a hotel concierge might’ve seen in the early ’70s when The Who or The Rolling Stones were staying at their hotel on tour.  One of the two double beds was sitting with one corner down on the floor, missing a leg; the other was just plain broken in the middle.  One mattress was skewed on its bed, the other was stood up against a wall, and both of them were covered in white powder, as was the floor of the room and some of the furniture.  Just then, one of the guys walked out of the bathroom, casually brushing his teeth and apparently none the worse for wear from the previous night.  (I hate people with metabolisms like that.)  “Hey dude!”, he greeted me.  “Kinda, uh, got a little crazy in here last night.”

I looked in the bathroom behind him.  The sink hung off the wall at an obviously abnormal angle, as if it had been partially broken loose.

He must’ve seen my gobsmacked look, because he chuckled nervously and said, “ah, yeah, y’know, we were kinda horsin’ around, doin’ a little, y’know, rasslin’.  I dunno where the hell (my housemate) got off to.”

I knew that both of the guys billeted for that room, plus my housemate, were big-time pro wrestling fans.  Also, all three of those guys were 200 pounds or more.  Apparently, they’d decided to throw their own private cage match in the hotel room, and they’d trashed the ever-loving hell out of it.  I imagine Keith Moon would’ve looked around at it, nodded, and said, “not ‘arf bad, mate.”

My housemate walked in about then, apparently also unaffected by a hangover, but unlike the first guy, he seemed to have figured out that Something Bad had happened.  He had that puppy-just-peed-on-the-floor look about him.  “You don’t think (our manager) is gonna be mad, do you?”, he asked me.

I looked at him like he’d grown a second head.  “Um…man, this shit is broken.  The sink?  Two beds?  Yeah, she might be a little pissed when she gets the bill.  And what’s this crap on the floor and outside?”

“Fire extinguisher stuff.”

“Fire extinguisher stuff.”


“How many?”

“Two I think.  Maybe three.”


“Yeah.  At least the pool wasn’t full.”


“We kinda pitched the mattresses off the balcony and that’s where they landed.”

“In the pool.”

“Yeah.  In the pool.”

“Three stories down.”


What else could I say?  I thought about saying something sympathetic, something like, “Well, man, if you get your ass fired over this, we’re gonna have to throw you out because we can’t afford to split the rent three ways, sorry.”  Instead, I think I just walked back outside.

The best part?  I slept through that.  Two broken beds, two discharged fire extinguishers, flinging things off the balcony, even smashing a sink half off a wall, in the room next door to me, and I fucking slept through it.


Needless to say, things got just a little bit awkward when we got downstairs to breakfast.  Our manager beckoned my housemate over, with a look on her face that indicated not only had she heard what happened, she knew who’d done it, and Impending Doom Was Impending.

My housemate and the two other guys weren’t in the room when we started the second “morning team-building session,” along with one other guy who’d been partaking of the brew rather extensively the night before.  Yes, that’s right, folks, after trying to kill us on Thursday, they put us through yet another three hours of Buzzword Bullshit Bingo on Friday.  I don’t remember a word that was said, my pounding head drowned it out rather effectively.

Two moments do stand out, however.  The first was when the three room-trashers came back in, looking suitably sheepish.  They sat down, looking for all the world like our manager (a stern, matronly black woman who could seriously lay the smack down when she wanted to) had given them the lecture of their lifetimes.  That still, though, left us one person short.

That problem solved itself fifteen minutes later, about 10 in the morning, when he stumbled into the room, clearly hung over.  He staggered across to a chair, paying no heed to the daggers Miss Chirpy was looking at him, flopped down into it, reached into his pocket, pulled out a pair of sunglasses, and put them on.

Ten minutes later, we heard snoring.

If that doesn’t sum “team-building” up, nothing will.


Amazingly enough, none of the miscreants (including my housemate) were fired.  They did have to make arrangements to pay back almost $2,000 in damage to the room, but they kept their jobs.

We were told that all later groups that went to Airlie for team-building were not served any alcohol after their Dinner of Humiliation.

The rest of the department never forgave us for ruining it for the rest of them.

New look, same management

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started blogging on WordPress about three years ago.  I’ve always liked to write, and I guess like a lot of people, I’ve always had the sneaking (and almost always incorrect) suspicion that people might be interested in my opinions on things.  So I started this blog, and then after a year and a half it just kind of, well, died.

There’s a few reasons for it.  Foremost among them was the success of Achtung Panzercow.  Amazingly, people did actually want to read what I thought about World of Warcraft in general, and protection warriors and tanking in particular.  It’s not like I’m famous or anything, but I figure that getting several posts linked on WoW Insider, which is a fairly big fish in the WoW gaming Internet community, and picking up over 225,000 hits in not quite two years, means that I must be doing something a little bit right.  In contrast, my humble little personal home here was averaging, oh, I don’t know, about five hits a day.  Stuff that 5 people read versus stuff that 500 people read.  Hmm, let me think where I should put my time and effort.

Secondly, I got burned out on politics.  I didn’t mean for Moose Droppings to become a political blog, but with the 2008 election in full swing, and my side (conservatism) getting a Compton-style beatdown, there was a lot to talk about.  Unfortunately, very few of my Internet-based friends other than my wife agree with me politically, and some days I just felt like a lone salmon trying to swim upstream, with no backup.  So after we entered the era of Hope-n-Change, I took some time off away from caring about politics, and just never really bothered to come back here.  But now it’s 2010, and things look a hell of a lot redder from where I sit than they did a year and a half ago.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to be as political as I was in ’08.  I know that, given my hardcore social and fiscal conservative beliefs, compared against the beliefs of people who will visit here, most will not agree with me.  That’s fine, I’m not going to change what I think.  But politics aren’t what I’m about.  They’re just something I talk about from time to time.

Finally…I look back on some of the stuff I wrote in 2007 and 2008 and I cringe.  Not that it was particularly awful or anything, but some of it was really whiny.  There’s a reason for that, we were going through some pretty rough times back then.  My wife and I ended up peeled away from both our families for reasons somewhat beyond our control, and found ourselves in a strange town neither of us wanted to be in, with little to no backup, right when we needed that backup the most.  The multiple shocks of losing her mother, losing her grandmother, moving here to Durham, and other family issues inside of a year sent my wife into two years of clinical depression that she’s just pulled out of, now replaced by total exhaustion as we both fight to raise a smart, high-energy, headstrong child without any chance to catch our breath or get our mental energy back.  We’re still broke.  Our cars still barely run.  We’re still shoveling money toward our debts as fast as we can and they never seem to go away.  Every time something good happens, something bad seems to follow it and overshadow it.  That’s a state of mind not exactly conducive to writing entertaining or funny (or even accurate) blog posts that people might actually give a damn about reading.

So why come back and start my non-WoW blog up again?  Honestly, I really don’t know.  I’ve got a couple of ideas about things that don’t really fit over at Achtung Panzercow, so where else am I going to put them, right?  I thought about blowing every single post away and starting Moose Droppings over completely fresh, but in the end, I’ve decided to leave the old stuff up here.  I don’t know how frequently I’ll update, or even what I’ll write about.  You may find my views don’t agree with yours, and if that’s true, I hope you understand that nothing here is personal (if it ever is, trust me, it’ll be very obvious) and everyone is welcome.

So welcome to Moose Droppings 1.1.  It’s not a whole new version…more of a graphical update.

Pull my finger, capitalist pigs

I don’t think this is an April Fool’s joke by the Beeb, but even if it is, I love it:  Bomb blows hole in Lenin statue.

One of Russia’s most famous statues of Vladimir Lenin has been bombed, leaving the Bolshevik revolutionary with a gaping hole in his rear.

The bronze statue, in the city of St Petersburg, was badly damaged before dawn on Wednesday, when the blast blew a hole in Lenin’s coat.

The picture, though, is what truly makes this work:

That’s Communism in a nutshell, kids.  It just smells like vodka farts.


Here’s your WTF moment of the day:  House passes bill taxing AIG and other bonuses.

Acting with lightning speed, the Democratic-led House has approved a bill to slap punishing taxes on big employee bonuses from firms bailed out by taxpayers.

The vote was 328-93.

OK, so let’s recap.  AIG was contractually obligated, by employment contract with certain of their employees, to pay these bonuses.  Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) slipped a provision into the Porkulus bill specifically allowing the bonuses…or maybe it was the Obama Treasury Department that wanted him to do it.

The bonuses come to light, and suddenly, every Democrat (and some Republicans) between Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue is screaming for blood–including the very people who knew the bonus provision was in the bill.  This, of course, after it comes to light that the two biggest receipients of AIG campaign cash were…wait for it…Christopher Dodd and Barack Obama.

So as a result, the House, spineless lemmings that they are, has now passed a bill that basically targets about four hundred bonus-receiving households with a 90% punitive tax rate–and in noted tax-cheat Charlie Rangel’s words, “we were figuring the state and local would get the other 10%.”  These people who received the bonuses have not been convicted of a crime.  They have not gone through any legal due process.  They’re simply going to have the government yank 90% of these contractually-obligated bonuses away from them–legally it may not be a bill of attainder, but it sure looks damn close, doesn’t it?.  While Chris Dodd and Barney Frank and the people who did as much as any “fat cat” at AIG to fuck up the housing market get away scot free, and the people at AIG have to live with death threats.

Meanwhile, we’re flushing hundreds of billions of dollars down the toilet of a useless pork-laden “stimulus package,”  crushing our children with debt, and talking about loading even more taxes for “carbon neutrality” on top of that, and nobody cares.  But you let AIG give out $165 million in bonuses, and Uncle Teleprompter is on the case, man.

Posted in news, rant. 2 Comments »

Maybe Obama should’ve gotten Gordon Brown one of these

Just go look.  The pictures alone are worth it, even if you can’t read the Japanese (I certainly can’t).

I wonder if this company has done any other figures like this.  Maybe George Bush with flight suit and “Mission Accomplished” banner?  Bill Clinton with a Mickey D’s takeout sack and lipstick on his collar?  Dick Cheney…oh, wait, there’s already a Dick Cheney figure in one of those shots, never mind.

One thing you never want to hear…

…the grinding sound of a car that’ll turn over, but not start, when you don’t have enough money to pay the bills you’ve already got.

Yep, the Divine Teabag has hit us in the face again.  Wife Unit’s car won’t start and is quite possibly an ex-parrot, leaving us with my rusted, dodgy, 162,000-mile-veteran truck as our sole means of transport for the forseeable future.  Apparently every piece of good news–Wife Unit getting beadwork up on Etsy, and getting in a local Ren Faire at the end of this month–has to be balanced by a much larger piece of bad news, in this case, a broken car with what sounds like serious-to-terminal engine problems.

All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall.  I just wish the wall wasn’t made out of poo.

Blackout for New Zealand

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. Join the black out protest against it!

There isn’t a whole hell of a lot that Marty and I agree on politically.  On this particular travesty from New Zealand, however, I think we’re at the barricades shoulder to shoulder:

A “copyright holder” can get you kicked off an ISP without having to provide any evidence of an actual infringement. Having to [provide evidence] is apparently “impractical” and “ridiculous” in the words of RIANZ chief executive Campbell Smith. What happens when the “you” above is a public library, or a school? Or if the “copyright holder” makes a mistake or a malicious accusation?

This is the kind of Draconian ready-fire-aim stuff that powerful organizations like the MPAA and RIAA would love to shove down our throats here in the United States if they could.  So it’s important not to let it get a toehold, even halfway around the world.  Because I don’t care if it’s the USA or New Zealand or bloody Rwanda, I get the heebie-jeebies when I read a former member of the government say:

It is easier for ISPs, Internet Service Providers, to cut off anyone who might be breaking the law.

So.  Moose Droppings is as blacked out as I can get it (considering I don’t actually have any graphics to black out, I did all that I could by changing the theme color).  Stand up for “Guilt Upon Accusation” for New Zealand.

We’ll be back after this brief message

Just a quick personal note here, for them what reads this here blog thang occasionally:  My wife, the lovely and talented Wife Unit, is attempting to sell some of her handmade beaded jewelry.  This stuff is handwoven by her own two hands, from just loose beads, thread, wire, imagination, and time.  She’s been doing it professionally, selling at craft shows around the Southeast, for about twelve years, and since we lost our business website last year (love ya, Network Solutions, mean it) we’ve not had an Internet presence to sell it.  So she’s put some shinies up on her LiveJournal for y’all to ooh and ahh over, and hopefully buy. 

If we sell enough, we’ll be able to afford the entry fee into a local Ren Faire in a couple of months and sell more there.  If we don’t, we can’t.  Simple.  Our theory is, we’re not going to get jack shit out of the $850 billion porkulus bill that Obama and Congress are about to shove down our throats, so we’ll just stimulate ourselves.  And no, you may not watch.

Please go visit The Magpie’s Nest and see if anything strikes your fancy.  Details and contact information are over there.

Thank you.

This just in: Groundhogs have teeth

That is a fact which New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to have forgotten this morning:

Perhaps lashing out against budget cuts for local zoos, or perhaps just because he wasn’t ready to be awakened from his winter nap, Staten Island Chuck took a nibble out of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s hand during this morning’s Groundhog Day festivities at the Staten Island Zoo.

“His hand was nicked,” a Bloomberg spokesman said. The mayor is up to date on his Tetanus shot, so he simply washed his wounded finger and put on a bandage.

(Video of the shocking groundhog attack is available at the link.)

Word is coming down that in response, Mayor Bloomberg is going to propose new taxes on groundhogs, groundhog food, people who own groundhogs, everybody who lives on Staten Island, and teeth.