Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Trip to Ikea and TMI

Well, Ikea continues to provide endless fodder for bloggers like me. I was there a few Sundays ago with my friend Velvet to pick out and pick up some kitchen cabinets. The same cabinets that are in this post. I didn't want to tell the story without permission, but now that I have it, here we go. First of all, I hate IKEA. Every weekend there are thousands of people there and every single one of them is in my way. Every time.

Apparently I have no taste when it comes to kitchen colors, just like my choice in turtlenecks: "you have black appliances, oak floors and you want to order white cabinets? If you do, I will hurt you." With that, it was decided that I needed help picking out cabinets, and the person who would help me as she mocked me decided on the time and place.

It was good that I brought her because, it turns out, you need estrogen to differentiate between different shades of color since almost everything there looked the same to me: dark wood or light wood. But apparently, there's wood and then there's wood.

Velvet: "No, your floors are wood with brown and those cabinets are wood with yellow in them. Can't you see that?"

Ninja: Ummm, yeah, I see it. There's some yellow in there, right next to that umm, other color.

So we order the cabinets and pay for the ones that were in stock and go to the pickup place. It took longer than humanly possible, unless you take into account the incompetence of college kids working part time to earn money for drugs. After every 30 minutes or so we would ask where the cabinets were and the customer service monkey would reflexively spit out "they'll be out in half an hour." And Velvet would respond "that's what you said half an hour ago." Then her face changed and she said "that's it, I'm going into bitch mode now." Five minutes later the cabinets were in my NLAAV and were off.

Loading it up was a pain in the ass so she called her current beau to meet us so he can help with the unloading. We went to Hard Times for some greasy bar food and to meet the new free labor. I thought asking someone to move furniture was a big deal and I didn't think he'd show up, but on the way there she brags about how she is the perfect girlfriend so he can't possibly refuse to help her with something unreasonable like offloading heavy cabinets in exchange for nothing except a cheeseburger.

Ninja: What makes you such an awesome girlfriend?

Velvet: Well, for instance, last week I [blanked] his [blank] while we were [blanking]. Then I [blaannnnnnnnnnnnk].

Ninja: [Stunned silence]

Velvet: Yeah, THAT'S why you should never walk barefoot in the dressing room at an outlet mall.

Ninja: Wow…you really are an awesome girlfriend. I mean that's just…well…wow. I mean it's completely disgusting, but still.
So dinner was…enlightening.

I was off on Monday and Velvet suggested that I go with her to pick out a countertop from a place in Maryland because, she said, "I know a guy." Since I'm from NYC, I know that when someone tells you they know a guy, it's a good thing. It means that either they can get you a really good price on something, or can have someone killed for you. I'll show you what I mean:

Vinny: Gina sez she's pregnant and the baby is probably mine cuz I'm one of the only guys she made it with without a condom. I need an engagement ring but it costs a lot of money.

Joey: fuggedaboutit…I know a guy.

Or, in a different context:

Guido: I think that Fat Joe is gonna' rat me out to the Feds about that thing with the guy from Joi-zee who had that 'accident' and ended up in the meat grinder. What am I gonna' do about that friggin' snitch?

Big Tony: fuggedaboutit, I know a guy.

I tried to meet her at the place but when I got in my car, the Ninja Lite Armoured Assault Vehicle wouldn't start. Dead battery! Some moron left the headlights on the night before. I'm not going to point fingers, especially since I was the one who was driving and I was the last one to leave the car. But if the NLAAV can't start, then its combat readiness is greatly diminished. I'm gonna convene a special bipartisan commission to investigate what happened. It's gonna be like the 9/11 commission except that I'll be the only person on it and my findings will be unpublished and classified.

I should add that the last time this happened, about 6 months ago, I bought a battery recharger which you are supposed to plug in overnight and leave in your car in case your battery dies. Soooo…I went to the basement and found the re-charger (still in the box) and plugged it in.

Over my numerous trips to IKEA I have learned some things about IKEA, myself, and the universe:
  1. Everything is cheap in IKEA, even the hot dogs;
  2. If someone is selling you hot dogs for fifty cents, you will probably regret eating it later;
  3. society has a lowest common denominator, and you see them in retail;
  4. college kids are so stupid that I fear for the future of our once-great nation "mom, I luuuuuuuv this place, everything in here is so...european!";
  5. there is something very zen about assembling IKEA furniture;
  6. if eating one fifty cent hot dog is bad, then eating four of them is even worse.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thoughts on Iraq, Cheney, and Jersey Girls

I think this sums up the situation in Iraq pretty nicely. The Bush chicken hawks are so hard up for talent that they are sending me a letter, hoping that I can get them out their mess.

First of all, I don’t know how the gob’ment knows about my home improvement skillz. I had my suspicions that the CIA and Pentagon were monitoring my blog in the hopes of developing some kind of secret humor weapon, but I never really believed it until now.

This recruitment letter is disturbing for several reasons:

  1. I’d like an extra $20,000 as much as the next guy (assuming the next guy really wants $20,000), but not enough to risk my life for it. Don't get me wrong, I don’t see anything wrong with shooting people for money, but it’s the part where they shoot back at you that puts me off of the whole military experience (or joining the Mafia). Can’t we declare war on some country that doesn’t have firearms? Some African tribe that hunts with spears, or maybe an Amazon tribe that we can wipe out so that we can clear their forest and use it to mass produce IKEA furniture? After all, would the world be better off with cheaper gas or more euro-style nesting tables?
  2. if recruitment is down so much that they have taken to mailing out pleas for enlistment to total strangers, this is not good. It's almost as bad as the ill-fated "renounce suicide bombing and get a free iPod Nano" promotion.
  3. Bush keeps talking about his NEW Iraq strategy. If that strategy involves me going there and fixing it, then we’re all fcuked. I haven’t been able to successfully rebuild an 1800 sq foot townhouse in 2 years, what makes you think I’d be able to rebuild an entire nation?
  4. I think the only way I could possibly be of assistance is if I was fighting for the other side. I’m pretty incompetent with a firearm and I would probably unintentionally kill anyone around me, so the best way to harm the insurgents would be to get them to rely on my military skillz. ("No, Mohammed, I'm almost positive this isn't loaded, in fact...oh sh1t...sorry 'bout that...Allah Baba Akbar Jihad, Durka durka?")
  5. Again, I wouldn’t fight for either side for any amount of money, so I think you’re better off not counting on me for anything besides the occasional post about the futility of war. I don’t know if that will solve anything, but then again I’m doing this for free so you get what you pay for.
In other news, sometime today, draft dodging sociopath Dick Cheney will become president for several hours while George Bush has doctors shoving a long, thick, snake-like machine up his ass. If Bush finds out that he likes it, does that mean that he will change his stance on gay marriage? Will Cheney pardon Scumbag Scooter Libby during the 2 hours that he is president? If Cheney becomes leader of the free world, will he renounce cannibalism or will he use the Oval office to summon Satan for guidance, like he does at the vice president's residence?

Also, last week I forgot to comment on the Miss New Jersey scandal. Luckily the scandal resolved itself without my having to get involved. However, since most people come here in order for me to tell them what to think, I will weigh in on the scandal so you can opine about it at the next work-sponsored event you attend and the boss will be so impressed by your knowledge of current events and warped logic that you'll be flagged as in independent thinker and you will either end up as the bosses new successor, or you will die by his hand.

Here we go: Although Miss New Jersey was found to have posted slutty pictures of herself on the internets, she was allowed to keep her crown (which is, apparently, as fake as her smile and boobs). I think this is the proper result. Let's not be hypocrites here. Are you really surprised there are slutty pictures of her on the internet? She's from New Jersey, so I'd be surprised if she didn't have slutty pics of herself on the net. New Jersey, people! You can't even swim on the Jersey shore because you'll catch a venereal disease, so are you really surprised that the girl who represents the values of the state has some (fully clothed) crotch shots of herself on the net? I've seen these pics of Miss New Jersey and all I have to say is: Call me!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Home Improvement Helpful Tip: outlets

In ye olde days, people didn't use many electric outlets. Typewriters were not electric and most other chores that are now done by appliances (like washing clothes and microwaving food) were done by subservient wives. This is still the case in most red states, but I digress. If you have an old house, you'll probably want to add more electric outlets at some point (or marry a goodly woman with wide birthing hips who is content to spend all day scrubbing your wash by hand down at the local stream with the other Amish women).

So here's how you do it:

First, mark out where you want the new outlet to go.

Then, make a hole in the wall with a keyhole saw.

Then, pull the wire through the hole (yes, this assumes you've got a live wire in the wall. We'll go over running a line from an existing outlet some other time...if I feel like it).

The put the outlet into place by feeding the wire through it. Make sure it's an Old Work Junction Box, so that it can be secured to the drywall from behind, without screws or nails.

On to the Misceallany:

1) A friend of mine was commenting recently on how big my place is and how I could rent out a couple of rooms if I wanted to (the basement, for instance, will have it's own bathroom, so I'd only ever need to see the person in the kitchen). Although my mortgage is more than I like, I still don't like the idea of living with someone, and whenever I feel like I'm warming to the idea, I read something like THIS, which brings me back to reality. A lot of people are assholes, and they have to live someplace, so if you rent a room to someone you might eventually end up with an asshole in your house. And although my place is big, it's not big enough for two assholes. Unlike Florida, which is Landlord friendly, DC is asshole friendly. No thanks.

2) It's 6pm on Saturday and I just woke up an hour ago. I feel like sh1t. Kill me now and get it over with. I was out too late last night and ended up making out with a woman who is very attractive and very married with a kid. As I was trying to wrap my head around that, my friend summed it up nicely: "You's all fun and games until you have an angry husband shooting at you". Does this make me a home wrecker?

3) I don't plan on writing much for the next few weeks, for reasons I won't go into, but I have some half-finished posts about my trip to Ikea with a friend who showed me what her "bitch mode" looks like; a post from the legal chronicles about how I ended up not working for a dead guy who liked me; and a post about the green eyed monster called Carl (yes this will make sense in time).

4) I am thinking of adopting a dog. Although a cat would require less maintenance and would pull it's own weight by killing any mice that dared infiltrate the fortress, a cat would also be kinda gay. Not that there's anything wrong with gay people, but I don't think I could afford a whole new wardrobe right now (although apparently, I don't have to change my entire wardrobe). So if you were me, would you adopt a big dog or a small dog?

With a big dog, I could take it jogging (if I did jog, which I don't, but maybe I don't jog because I don't have a big dog), and it could guard the house when I'm out. But a smaller dog will probably make smaller poops for me to pick up and when I sell the place and look for a condo, there are more places that allow small dogs than big dogs. Also, if I need someone to dogsit, I'm sure that someone would more likely agree to dogsit for a dog who's owners give it names like "teacup" or "bijou" than if I had a dog who's owner's commonly name it things like "cujo" or "godzilla".

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Work Progress

In a change of pace, I'm going to post some pics of actual work that I've done recently. I get tired just thinking about it.

Part of the reason that I'd run over the contractor I fired if I ever saw him crossing the street is that I had to undo so much of what he did and re-do it myself. So I got to do the work myself, but still ended up paying a lot of money for it. It's feels like being asked to dig your own grave. The end result is you get screwed. Why did I pay this moron if I was going to re-do it myself? Anyway, enough complaints. If you wanna hear people complain about their problems and do nothing about it, you can buy the Sex and The City DVD Box Set.

I've alluded to a structural problem I need to address before installing the cabinets. I could just leave it the way it is and hoped that no one notices, but Catholic guilt prevents me from not doing the right thing.

The window in the kitchen was crooked and I thought it might be a symptom of a larger problem, like when your car's check engine light comes on and you take it to a mechanic and find out that Paris Hilton has a drug problem.

I did some exploratory surgery and took a look at why the window was was crooked and I noticed that the bottom was pushing up on the window.

When I took a look above the window, I noticed there was no proper header above the window, which would transfer the weight correctly. It was only a 2x4 laying on it's side.

Then I stripped the drywall off the old wall.

I really have no idea what they were thinking when the originally did this. And I have no idea why the original contractor I hired didn't say anything about it, but just covered it in drywall.

This is like some feng shui nightmare. The flow of chi energy is blocked by these right angles.

Since the header wasn't distributing the energy, the window was getting warped and would probably get worse over time until the house collapsed, killing the yuppie family that I would eventually sell this place too for way too much money.

So I didn't want to take the old supports out and put them back the right way (because that would involve jacking up the whole room, so I decided to build a new wall in front of it, to take the weight (like when you put your car up on jackstands).

First I started to make some supports in front of the old wall. After putting the top plate and sill plate in, I made the support beams taller than would fit by about 1/2", then I hammered them into place with a sledgehammer so that the new 2x4s would take the weight of the house off the old supports.

Then I added a header.

This is what the finished product with the (correct) header looks like.

Now this wall is Northern Eagle Claw Kung Fu.

Then we covered it in drywall.

Like this

Then we installed the cabinets and stove. It still needs a proper countertop, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Adventures in Law Part 1: Batman Hires Me

Well, I got another call from a headhunter in NY. The good news is that I’m becoming more popular than the iPhone. For the third time in as many weeks I was asked to explain what I want out of my life. That got me thinking about what I do want to do with my life (besides being Mr. Rachel McHottie). So maybe I’ll discuss it on here in a series of meandering and picaresque posts and I’ll just refer future questioners to my blog.

Let’s start by discussing every legal job that I’ve ever had. (don’t worry, there aren’t that many, I was so incompetent at most of them that it will make for a few good posts). My first legal job was working for a guy I call Batman. His real name is Bruce Wayne [Last Name] and he was an idealistic lawyer in the town where I went to law school.*

A lot of people in law school will clerk for a local attorney (or judge) in order to earn some beer money and learn a little about how to actually practice law. Money was never a big deal to me, but I did want to learn how to actually sue people since I didn’t want to work for anyone when I graduated. I wanted to hang out my shingle and be a solo practitioner; a lone ranger…a ninja! So I figured it would good to learn how it’s done.

Rather than mailing out resumes, I dropped them off in person because when people see me in a suit they mistakenly assume that I’m smart and competent. Batman said that he’d gotten lots of resumes in the mail but that I was the only one who walked in personally so I was hired. He asked how much I wanted and I said that the going rate was $7 an hour for law clerks (this was 1996) and he said “how about $8 instead?”. Fine by me.

Although most Midwesterners are genuinely nice people (especially compared to southerners, who only pretend to be nice, and northerners (like me) who are assholes), Batman was considered really nice, even among midwesterners. Batman's Dad was the town sherriff for most of his life, so he had an inborn sense of justice.

Batman had personal injury cases where he made money, and other cases that he would take because nobody wanted them and he felt bad for the clients. There were cases where people were fired for filing a workers comp claim; a case where a couple’s baby died and no lawyers would take the case because of the new “tort reform” law that was passed, which made it unprofitable to sue; and there was a family whose house was destroyed and the insurance company wouldn’t pay. All Batman had to hear was “no one will take my case” and he’d leap into action.

He once filed a workers comp claim for someone who earned minimum wage (meaning that his fee wouldn’t even cover the cost of Xerox copies). The company paid the full demand when Batman told them "I'm not doing this for the money, so I'm not going to negotiate. You pay him every cent in the demand or I'll keep filing motions and running up your legal fees until you're bankrupt and you end up working for him."

Batman hated the lawyers who worked doing insurance defense work (partly because they were his opponents, and partly because they worship Satan). I mentioned that the daughter of one of the prominent insurance defense lawyers was in my class.

Batman: Are you sure it’s that guy’s daughter?

Ninja: Yeah…she said he’s her dad.

Batman: That’s surprising…I just assumed that he ate his young.

Now, here's what I liked and didn't like about the job.

Self Employment: It's nice working for yourself and deciding what cases you'll take and what you won't. It sux having to answer to anyone, so if you're the boss there is no one to tell you what to do and what time to come and go.

Co-workers: Batman, his wife (the secretary), and the two paralegals were all really nice people. I think in every job that I've ever had, most of what determines whether I liked it or not is the people I deal with every day. I think the key is to work with midwesterners and avoid northerners and southerners.

The Pro Bono Stuff: Helping people who have nowhere else to turn is really gratifying. When I saw some of those people in tears in his office, I really don't know how the other lawyers turned them away.

Learning: I didn't know anything about law firms before I started there, so I learned a lot of things about personal injury law that I'll probably never use, but that I'm glad I got to be a part of.

Money: Beer money is fine in law school, but if you have a mortgage then the sporadic payments you get from settling cases is a little difficult to manage. Some months you'll settle several cases and be rolling in dough; and other times you can go 6 months without a paycheck.

Cases: The pro bono cases are gratifying, but you can't do them all the time. The personal injury stuff pays well, but it's cookie cutter work.

Responsibility: As a solo it's tough to take vacations or call in sick. There is no firm without you.

*I won’t mention his real last name since that would tell you where I went to law school, and you could use that

Coming Next Week: More Jobs I Don't Want to Do.