Other times I’ll just start with “I feel…” or “I smell…” and write about what’s immediately around me.
And then there are the lists of writing topics. Usually pretty soon after I start a new notebook I’ll have a day where my writing practice is just “write a list of writing topics”, and when I don’t have something in mind I can come to this page, close my eyes, point a finger somewhere, and see what happens. When I’m writing those lists, they might look like this: (these are all from 3/11/2018)
Write about a tree.
Write about family trees.
Write about family obligations.
Write about family reunions.
Write about class reunions.
Write about low-class reunions.
Write about high-class reunions.
Write about “putting on airs.”
Write about “putting on heirs.”
Write about “putting on hairs.”
Write about artificiality.
Write about superficiality.
Write about boob jobs.
Why haven’t penis enlargement surgeries received the same kind of market saturation as boob jobs?
How far would you go to achieve your happiness?
How much of yourself are you willing to change for someone you love?
etcetera etcetera …
Obviously I’m not going to write about all of these topics. I probably won’t write about more than 4 or 5 before this notebook is filled and I move to the next one. But the process helps me think of connections, helps to identify associations that might not have been readily present for most people.
So … I want to ask you, readers … What do you think I should write about? Leave a comment, and I’ll use those as prompts in the next couple of weeks. What greatness might we cultivate together?
A few weeks ago I saw a beautiful picture in the local weekly paper. A happy couple, dressed up in their finest attire, kissing with passion. I’m pretty sure it was these people:
Now, I don’t have anything against weddings. Hell, I had one myself. Flowers, pretty dress, booze, rain, fraternity brothers hitting on sorority sisters, pictures in a book, tears, dancing, falling asleep before you could consummate, the whole works.
Weddings are fine things. They’re fun, they’re exciting, they’re a momentous occasion. I think they should be special.
I also think they should be reasonable. And what’s unreasonable about the picture I saw, in that newspaper, was that it was a full-page advertisement. For a bank.
Your Perfect Day
We’ll help you pay for it.
Wedding Loans as low as 4.99% APR
Special Rate through March 31
Ugh. Disgusting. We have now sunk so low as a society where this is acceptable. Where going into debt for an experience is considered reasonable. Where people who don’t have enough money to support themselves somehow think borrowing money is going to solve that problem.
Where bank executives, driven by profit targets, see an untapped opportunity and instead of counseling people to, perhaps, I don’t know, LIVE WITHIN THEIR MEANS!, reach out and collect interest from those who would likely be better off delaying the party for a year in order to save for it properly.
Where “investors”, a.k.a. you and me in our 401(k)s, seek ever higher and higher returns, driving bank executives to predatory practices, driving advertisement that indebtedness is a good thing to people who really shouldn’t be borrowing and are too naive to know better, driving dissatisfaction with life and the marriage, driving, ultimately, a negative cycle of emotion and action.
Don’t get me wrong – borrowing can have its good uses. Mortgage on a house, college loans, even auto loans are all using money to create more value for those who borrow. But borrowing to have a party? Putting yourself even further behind as you start your relationship? Seems ridiculous and short-sighted on the part of those who are taking out the loans, seems predatory for those who are making them, and seems negligent for those friends and family members who are sitting around and encouraging it.
Please stop this modern merry-go-round. I’m sick, and I want to get off.
Dear SJ: I learned recently that my mother’s retirement funds are gone. She has been scammed by the home health agency she hired a few years ago. Apparently they got her to sign a financial power of attorney form, authorizing one of their company employees to make withdrawals from her accounts. They drained over $200,000 in just the past 6 months. The employee posted Instagram and Facebook pictures from her trips to Cancun and Ireland, which I’m certain were taken with Mom’s money. (When I confronted her, she said “Prove it”. Ugh!) Not only retirement – that was supposed to be my inheritance!
I asked a lawyer, and he said that the forms are legit. Police can’t do anything. Better Business Bureau doesn’t really care about these small businesses – they sent my mom a flyer called “How to Avoid Senior Catfishing” after all the money was gone. What should I do? FRUSTRATED WITH FINANCES
All right, I’m going to do the hard work that nobody before you has cared enough to do. Frankly, I don’t really care about you or your crusty, “she-had-it-coming” mom, either, but I do get a bit of a chubby when thinking about people respecting my brain, so I keep doing it.
Here’s the deal: you’re the one at fault here. If your mom had 200k in liquid assets that this flimsy mooch could access at the stroke of a pen, that’s a big black mark on your abilities as a responsible child. I mean, what intelligent, forward-looking heir leaves an aging, senile, incontinent grandmother in charge of her own money? Old broads like that should have a debit card with like a hundred and fifty deposited every week, just enough for a half-dozen cups of coffee and a couple of bowls of “medicinal” marijuana down at the VA. Access to any more than that is just stupid. Why? Well, I think the fact that you’re asking me this question should be Prosecution’s Exhibit #1.
Anyway. Too late to get that back now. Money’s spent, tan’s faded, hangover’s dissipated, the Irish bartender has returned to folding towels instead of folding his lips over some sweet health care aide’s nips. Sucks to be you, because for 200 large you should have at least gotten to watch.
But – you want to get something for your efforts, don’t you? Warning: you’re gonna have to play the long game on this one.
First, you have to find a dirty insurance agent. One that will allow your mother to buy a huge policy on herself at such an advanced age. You’re gonna need about a half a million, to do 2 things.
You’re replacing the 200k that should have been your inheritance, and you’re covering her living costs while she stays with you over the next two years. Yes, this has to happen. Suck it up and deal with it.
You are probably going to have to second mortgage the house in order to make the premium payments while this is going on. Ask the agent if you can gross up the policy to cover this amount, too. If he’s as dirty as I think he is, he’ll be all over it, because, remember, more premium = more commission!
Then, all you have to do then is wait out those 2 years. That’s the usual length of a suicide exclusion. And when time’s up? Make sure you get a “terminal illness” rider early withdrawal approved by your doctor, who should also be on the take already. Then you can use that money to pay for some fake test results to convince her she’s got cancer, or liver disease, or some kind of “heavy metal poisoning” that’s gonna just leave her bedridden and shitting herself on the daily. Then all you have to do is offer her a chance to do the right thing, go out “on her terms”, and call the good doctor for one last ‘script.
And if she doesn’t? Remember, county medical examiners don’t really know how to distinguish “suffocated under a pillow” from “died peacefully while sleeping”, anyway. I’ve seen the handbook, they’re not that competent.
Hopefully some of my other readers take a lesson from your imbecility and start their financial planning a hell of a lot sooner. Best of luck, I hope never to hear from you again.
My boss at work has been giving me a hard time about a new hire recently. I was assigned to be her mentor and “show her the ropes”. Since I’m a thirty-something married man, I’ve tried to keep my distance from the young, naïve, pretty little girl who could almost be my daughter. But my boss keeps insisting I spend more time with her outside of the office, to “build rapport”. I think it’s dangerous; especially since she has hinted that maybe she doesn’t have the best of morals. One time she let slip that she would “do anything” to get ahead in this company. And she admitted to me that she cheated on some tests and bought essays instead of writing them herself so she could get better grades. Oh, and another thing – my boss is another guy even older than me, and I suspect that he might have hired her simply for her looks. What do I do? Should I approach HR? Call out the boss? Just go with it?
I don’t get it. I mean, I really don’t. You’ve got a young, attractive girl practically throwing herself at you, you’ve got your boss’s approval, and you’ve got permission from HR to get close to her. Yet you haven’t yet gone for it. Why not?
You know HR isn’t really bothered by this kind of thing. Why else would they assign you to be her “mentor”? Everyone who’s anyone knows that “mentor” is just code-speak for “hit your quarterly sales and profit goals and you can do whatever the hell you want.” Including banging in the office. Especially banging in the office. Happy employees are productive employees, am I right?
I know it’s on your mind, since your letter concluded with “Just go with it?” I mean, if you were serious about not having sex with this girl, you’d have asked me, “How do I say no? I don’t want to cheat.” But, clearly, that’s not your angle. So we’re working under the following assumptions.
One: she’s DTF. Two: you’re DTF. Three: Your boss is down with you making the beast with two backs. Hell, he’s practically throwing her at you, encouraging you to “build rapport”. You’re going to have to get over whatever performance anxiety or antiquated guilt trip still holding you back in order for this to happen. Unfortunately I can’t be there to smack you upside the head and knock this kind of sense into you. You’re just going to have to man up on your own and decide to do this thing, for your own good, for her good, for your boss’s good, and for your company’s bottom line.
So here’s what you do.
Start with an early “performance review”. This should happen, ideally, on a Thursday afternoon, after most of the work is done for the day. [Why Thursday? Because I want another story to get me excited when I open up my e-mail on Friday.] When she comes in to your office, make sure you’re sitting behind your desk with your pants pulled down. You don’t have to be spanking it or anything, but it would be good if you had a hand in your underwear.
Mention how good she looks. Be specific – don’t just say, “You look nice,” use a direct compliment. “Your blouse really makes your eyes sparkle,” or some other drivel that women love to convince themselves is true and not just an inroad to her panties. Tell her, “Here in the office, things have been going good, but I think they can go better, don’t you think?” And use your eyes to indicate your crotch. Based on her reaction, you can decide whether the banging happens on your desk or in the bathroom at the local dive bar. If she starts touching herself and complimenting you, it’s on like Donkey Kong. If she is a little bit shy, that just means you’ll have to “take the meeting offsite” and call your cousin Jagermeister to wingman for you.
And as this is corporate America, they like to have documentation of everything. Make sure to wear your Google Glass and get some POV videos for your boss. Like you said, chances are good that he hired her for her looks and her willingness to sleep her way to the top. So you’ll need to have adequate evidence for your official written review coming later. Best would be if you save the condom too as evidence of your participation – they’re going to want to match the semen and the vaginal secretions later to make sure she’s not conspiring with a competitor. And when it’s all over? Don’t forget to “cycle back” with regular “action items” about every two weeks.
Best of luck, we’ll look for the resultant bump in your company’s performance to push you guys into the Fortune 500 in the near future.
A couple of months ago I saw a Facebook ad for Mocelli.com – they would send me watches for free, I just pay shipping ($13.00 each). This is to “get the word out” about their brand, in the hopes that people would see what I was wearing, ask me about it, and then they’d eventually get more paid business.
So, after browsing around a little, I ordered 3 – the DaVinci watch, the Business Classic watch, and the Luxury Fashion Rome. I didn’t do this until after I ordered, but eventually I found lots of Google results for “is Mocelli a scam? YES!” Eh, we’ll see. At least I’ll get a blog post out of the review if they’re not that bad.
I just decided, “Hey, I know I need a new watch, even if it’s not that great, how bad can it be? It’s probably worth as much as I’d get if I went to Target and bought a $13 watch there.”
This one was ordered first and arrived last. Not sure why, but it was. I’ll get to the review of this one later, because I want to give my impressions as I remember them happening, and I received (and opened) the other two first.
The Business Classic (BC)
Who doesn’t like more dials?
The Luxury Fashion Rome (LFR)
I ordered these two as “add-ons” to the original order, so they were shipped together. They arrived in a plastic grey package, no box, no instructions, nothing. Maybe that should have been my first clue.
Next clue – they have the “Val s(USD $)” on the package. The LFR had a value of 0.47, while the BC had a value of 2.42. Just a bit under the $79 advertised. Uh oh – what have I done?
Opening it up, each watch is in a plastic bag with a cushion around it. No box. Eh, what should I expect for free? It’s not like I thought these were going to be Patek Phillipe or anything.
The Luxury Fasion Rome review
The LFR looks nice. It’s got a gold-tinted edge, a pull-out knob for adjusting the time, the second hand is sweeping around … wait … does that say “IV” at six o’clock? IT DOES!
Further inspection reveals this: whoever put this together clearly doesn’t know how to use Roman Numerals appropriately. Instead of “IV”, they wrote “IIII”. And for 6, they put “IV”. Which is actually 4. Some little nugget of truth must be buried in there somewhere, because for 9 it’s “IX” and 11 it’s “XI”, so at least something must be getting around in that forced-labor camp. If only they’d been consistent.
Next thing I notice while trying to put it on is that the leather on the band is extremely stiff. Almost impossible to bend it back to slide the pin through to hold it. I wouldn’t want to put it on or take it off more than once a day because of this. Not a good thing in my –
Hold on – let me look at those gears a little more – HOLY SHIT! Those aren’t gears at all! This isn’t a “skeleton” watch like what you see advertised by Rolex, or even Stauer (I see those in the SkyMall mags when I am afforded the luxury of airline travel – hint hint). Nope, those gears right there? Those are a single piece of metal, stamped into the shape of gears. They don’t move, they don’t oscillate, nothing. Just there for eye candy and to deceive the simpletons. Well, call me Charly, because it worked.
Next – there are also statements on the product page as follows:
Brand Name: Susenstone I highly doubt this. There is no brand name written anywhere on the watch. I did a search on amazon for Susenstone, and there are a number of watches, but this one did not show up.
Feature: Back Light, Rattrapante, Auto Date I have no clue what a Rattrapante is supposed to be, but clearly there is no Back Light or Auto Date. There isn’t even a manual date on the thing anywhere. False advertising? Clearly. Worth shouting about? Eh, probably not.
is_customized: Yes Uh, no, that didn’t happen. Nothing at all is “customized” about this watch.
Overall – probably pretty fair advertising to give it a value of $0.47. Had I looked a little more closely at the image before buying, I probably would have noticed the flaws. But, it was on a cell phone, it was cheap, it was an impulse buy, and so I’m not sweating it.
On to the next!
The Business Classic review
I’m expecting a few different features with this one. The buttons at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock, on a watch like this, are most likely starting, stopping, and resetting some chronometer (stopwatch) elements. With the three inset dials, surely one of those is “hours” and another is “minutes” and the last is “seconds”. Plus, the word “tachymeter” on the rim should be able to be used to find an average speed. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) So there has to be some kind of stopwatch feature, right?
WRONG, bitch! Pulled this watch out and I see three four things wrong with it right away:
1 – the top and bottom buttons DON’T DO ANYTHING. They don’t even push in, to give you the illusion that you’re doing something. They’re just nubs, pips, stand-out things even more useless than nipples on a silverback gorilla
2 – Those little inner dials? Yeah, they DON’T DO ANYTHING either. They just sit there, with fixed “hands” that don’t move. They don’t even rotate on their own, to give you the illusion that they’re doing something. They just sit, pointing at 26, and at half past 1, and at 60. Not sure what they were intended to do, but they’re clearly not achieving that part of the mission.
3 – the little hour markers, with the white rectangles outlined in silver – yeah, those are bogus as well. How can you screw that up? Well, so far 2 of those little silver rectangles have fallen off. They’re now floating around inside the face, and potentially gumming up the works. I wonder how long it will take the others to fall off, too.
4 – Tachymeter is spelled wrong on this one. They put it as “tachymetre”, as if it is paralleling the differences between British and French spellings of “meter / metre”.
I think this is supposed to be copying this one:
That one, in fact, may have actual moving parts inside, and therefore have a value of something like $20 listed. However, even this is sketchy, as that website has a total of 0 reviews for that product. Another scam? Perhaps.
At least I overpaid for the BC. I mean, I could have gotten the same item for either $10.45 or as low as $4.10 (free shipping!). I know, because my Amazon search for “Susenstone” turned up at least 3 hits for this same watch. Looks like I could have saved enough for a large Starbucks. Oh well, at least I’ll be redeemed when my last watch arrives and is actually a $79 value that I practically stole from them for just the shipping.
The DaVinci Watch review
As I said, it took about a week longer for this one to show up. No idea why, it just did. It was packaged separately, again in simple grey plastic bag and a cushion inside. No box, no insert, no instructions. I guess the description on the Mocelli page showing the watch INSIDE A BOX was intended to be “hey, this is what it won’t come in, don’t get your hopes up”. They must have just forgotten that caption.
This is a bracelet clasp, not a buckle and hook type, so it’s going to need to be adjusted if I ever get around to it. The band says “stainless steel”, but it feels more like aluminum. I’d be shocked it it really was stainless. At least the face really doesn’t have anything to get wrong. There are little dots at all the hours, and even the 6 is written in the correct Roman Numeral, “VI”. Yay!
It’s a little heavier than the others, but not nearly anything like a comparable watch with actual stainless steel band and intricate machinery inside. I’ve held and worn those before, and you know they’re on your wrist. This one feels as light as the other two, comparable with my exercise wristwatch which is a plastic band and little digital readout. So nothing extraordinary here.
But would you look at that? My Amazon search an hour ago also shows this same watch as a “Susenstone Fashion Watch”, with a retail price of $4.98 + FREE SHIPPING! And again with the no reviews. I really ought to do my homework better next time.
A quick Google search for “da Vinci watch” turns up this same item on a few other websites, with prices at $14.99 or $19.99. So, yeah, I overpaid, but at least not as much as I could have!!! [Incidentally, other “DaVinci” watches on that page cost thousands of $$$. Don’t buy me one of those. If you do, I’ll return it for the cash and give you only half of the cash back. Maybe 30%.]
Oh, and looking at the “Val s(USD $)” on the outside of this bag, looks like the DaVinci has a value of 2.00. Which is about right for something that should retail for $4.98 without shipping cost.
As I said, this one needs to be adjusted before I can wear it comfortably. However, when I look at the band edges, it doesn’t look like there are adjustment pins so I can take a couple of links out of the band. If they’re there, they’re hiding pretty well. I’m kind of expecting that if I go to the Watch Stop in the mall I’ll get laughed at. And maybe I will – but that can be an addendum to this post.
In all, I think I could wear the DaVinci watch once a week, the Roman once a month, and the BC one not at all. It’s just not the kind of image (Hey, I’m a big phony!) I want to present when I wear a watch.
About the only good thing I can say about these three is that they’re reasonably accurate on keeping time. They’ve been set for about a week now, and all are fairly maintaining the hours and minutes. I suppose I could track it over a year’s time, but that seems like a lot of work for very little benefit.
Ultimately, the ratings are as follows:
Luxury Fashion Rome: 1 / 5 stars.
Could have gotten to 2 if they’d not pretended to make a skeleton watch and then just stamped out a pattern. And had the correct numerals. Still would have been overpriced at $13, because comparable are only $5 all over the web.
Business Classic: 1 / 5 stars.
Nothing more to say here – they’re a cheap knockoff, and it shows, and I even got overcharged at that.
DaVinci: 2 / 5 stars.
This one has a little potential due to design. Non-deceptive advertising in the “stainless steel” on the band would have given it at least a chance at respectability.
Mocelli Overall: 5 / 5 stars
They did their job. They got me to buy their product without returning it. Their delivery was solid, hitting on all the trigger points that led me to a sale. They managed to do it in a manner that got me to buy without doing any kind of due diligence about the product or the company. And they managed to get me to do it without a product return and, ultimately, with a 5-star review. [APPLAUSE] Well done, Mocelli. You deserve the minimalist profits you’ve skimmed from me this week. [APPLAUSE]
Dear SJ: My neighbor has been inviting us over for dinner for months. We went once and were quite disgusted. The place was a mess. Pizza boxes on the floor, dirty clothes all over, old newspapers and mail covering all the counters, and the cat’s litter box is right in the middle of the room with little pieces scattered in front. We had to move decades-old piles of food trash to sit at the dinner table, and even then I could barely see my wife on the other side. I can’t imagine that these people raised two children in a house like this. I am not interested in going again. So far we’ve been able to have convenient “plans” every Friday with my wife’s teaching schedule. However, the semester has come to an end so they know we’re no longer busy on Friday nights. How can we politely decline this invitation?
Yours, CONFLICTED IN CHICAGO
All right, here’s the deal, Conflicted. It’s clear from the situation inside the house that these people don’t give a shit about themselves or you. If they’ve let the place go half as much as I imagine it’s probably just a month away from being featured on a Hoarders: Special Edition episode. In situations like this, remember: It’s not about the stuff. It’s about the imbeciles behind the piles.
This couple is so dense they can’t see the feces right in front of their faces. [Hahaha! Made myself laugh with that one.] Instead of building a better future for the next generation, people like this and their progeny are lowering the average IQ of their community, the state, and, unfortunately for the rest of us, the nation. This couple puts paid the adage “Some people shouldn’t breed.” And the sad part is they’ve most likely trained their children to do the same. Thus, since you and I have a vested interest in making this world better, the solution is obvious.
You need to take a Molotov cocktail to their place when they’re sleeping one Saturday night. Now, I say Saturday, because, just like anal sex, I’m going to ask you to take one for the team soon. It’s not great in the moment, but you know the outcome is going to be totally worth it.
The next Friday they invite you over, you need to accept their invitation. Go, have that dinner of expired kibble with the side of dried-up roach wings. Wipe your mouth with the cum-stained sweat socks they offer you as napkins. Excuse yourself for a minute after dinner, and that’s when you and your wife have the most critical task: find and disable all their smoke detectors. It’s not enough just to remove the batteries – you’ve got to get in there and cut the wires. And you’ve got to be good – we don’t want any unfortunate misses on this one.
Then, on Saturday, make sure to call those kids and remind them how much mommy and daddy miss them, want to see them, and really, really, really need them to come home for the night. If you can do that, we’ll all owe you a debt of gratitude. And don’t worry – your conscience will be clear as a forest stream for all the good work you’ve done. Good luck, and happy snipping!
DEAR ABBY: My middle-aged younger sister is 12 months into a midlife crisis. She has divorced her husband and abdicated her role as a mother, preferring instead to be a buddy to her teenage sons. She has started sleeping around, smoking pot and drinking — a lot. Needless to say, our family is very concerned.
This behavior is nothing like her. When she does take our calls, she lies about what she’s doing. We have caught her doing it, and so far we have just held our tongues. I’m unsure whether confronting her about her behavior would help or hurt her.
I love my sister and always will, but I have lost a lot of respect for her, and our relationship has been damaged. Should I tell her I know she is acting reckless and being dishonest? — HELPING OR HURTING IN THE SOUTH
First of all, you’ve got my name all wrong. I’m Stephan. But I’m going to overlook that just this once. Because it looks like you have a pretty serious situation on your hands and you are in need of some Extremely Bad Advice (TM). Lucky for you, I’m an EBA expert.
What you’ve described is a classic case of mistaken identity. You’ve put the onus on your younger sister, Hurting, but in reality the problem is you. I suspect it is your life that has taken a turn for the miserable, and you’re just not ready to admit it.
The once-a-week unimpassioned sex with your 31-BMI husband has become boring and routine. What used to be an exciting night of gossip over the card table with your girlfriends has turned into the same old, same old bitchfest about how terrible their husbands or ex-husbands are and how little they’re valued at work and how they look forward to that week’s vacation in Cancun that you’re all still deluding yourselves you’ll actually take this year. And whereas you used to at least get some solace from the soccer games of little Trevor and the Brownie meetings of sweet Katheryn, (oh, remember how adorbs they looked running around in their little uniforms!), they have grown from cute toddlers into insolent, moody teenagers, with all the requisite angst and hatred directed mostly at you.
It’s no wonder you’re looking for an escape route.
But to put the blame on your sister, Hurting, is to miss the point entirely. Can’t you see that, instead of falling victim to the “kids’ happiness first, kids’ happiness only” mentality that has gone viral within white suburbia over the past generation, she has actually found a solution to the problem of her misery? She opened her eyes to the reality around her. She took the red pill. She woke up and began to live again. And yes, maybe she is covered in goo and completely naive about the impact her decisions could have on her world, but at least she’s trying.
Which is more than I can say for you. All you’ve got is the same complaints she had but without any of the solutions.
Perhaps you could give it a try. You don’t know what you’re missing. These are not your parents’ midlife crises, where all that happened was an extra dish thrown against the wall at dinner followed by everyone retiring back to their beds to self-destruct in peace, heart attacks at 55 welcomed with relish. No, these days we recognize that when people go off the deep end, it’s signaling something far deeper inside them that is wrong. And no amount of nagging from you is going to solve the problem; it’s for her to either figure out or die trying.
So should you call your sister out for her bad behavior? Only when she’s bogarting that log. Until then, your best solution is to snuggle up to her and her newest boy-toy for a special invitation-only night of fun, remind her that it’s puff, puff, pass, and let go. You’ll thank me in the morning.