Friday, March 31, 2006


Today I was enjoying a deliciously crisp tuna melt sandwich from the diner around the corner when I started thinking about God.

"What if…" I thought.

I imagined dying and suddenly finding myself in a long line of people waiting for admission to heaven. There was no temperature, or stress, or time there. Just a line of people, all pleasantly surprised to discover that there was, in fact, a heaven, and all thankful that, at least for now, it appeared we were all getting in.

Suddenly, one of heaven’s helpers approached me with a clipboard, like the order takers at Portillo’s who come out to your car when the line for the drive thru gets too long. He was short and a little heavy, wore glasses, and was dressed in a full-length white cloak.

“Terry, right? Welcome to heaven. Would you be so kind as to remove your shoes before passing St. Peter. Thanks so much. Here’s your ID card. It has a string so you can hang it around you neck if you’d like. That's what I do," he said, tapping an ID card hanging in the middle of his chest. "There’s a steaming pot of baby back ribs boiling right now – they should be basted with barbecue sauce and sizzling on the grill the moment you step through those pearly gates. There are also people you haven't seen in awhile. Any questions?”

“Um, no…I don’t think so. You DID say this was heaven, right?”

“Of course! You seem a little surprised. I suppose everybody is at first. Except Michael Landon. He seemed right at home right away. Anyhow, you’re in luck. God himself is greeting new arrivals today, and he’s answering questions!”

“Answering questions?” I asked.

“Yeah – every now and again God likes to mingle with the fine people he invites to heaven. That’s why the line is so long today. Yesterday this time there was no wait at all. Had a party of eight check in all together. Tragic how they got here, but they're sure glad to be here now!”

“Can I just…I’m not…I'm sorry, this is all so strange. My conversations with God have always been one-way and you're telling me he's in there answering questions. What kinds of questions?”

“I'm sorry...I forget sometimes. You just died - you have no idea what's going on, do you? Everyone in line gets one question. Any question at all. It looks to me like you’ve got about ten more minutes before you’re up, so make it a good one!”

“Right. That’s, um, truly, remarkably fascinating. The last thing I remember was driving behind a garbage truck in the rain and now I’m getting answers from God.”

“Just one, my friend. Only one answer to one question. Can you imagine the line if you could ask as many questions as you wanted? It’d be like Space Mountain up here.”

“Right. Of course. It’s just that...I have no idea what I should ask him.”

“People ask questions because they want answers. If you already have all of the answers, you don't need to ask him anything.”

“Did you get to ask him a question?” I asked delicately.

“I did. I asked God if this was really heaven. Can you believe that?" He laughed. "What a waste. And since I’ve already told you that it is, you don’t have to ask him that.”

“Well, I thank you for that. Looks like the line is moving again.”

“It is – good luck, Terry. Don’t forget to remove your shoes before entering. We had new carpet put in last weekend.”

“Oh, right. I won’t. Thanks for your help.”

I was suddenly consumed by this amazing once-in-a-lifetime – once-in-an-eternity, rather – opportunity. I was going to be able to ask the Creator anything I wanted. But I only had 10 minutes to figure out what I wanted to know! My head filled with dozens of perfect questions. How would I be able to ask him only one? I needed more time!

And it was about here in my daydream that I finished eating my crispy, delicious tuna melt sandwich. I wiped my mouth, rubbed my greasy hands on my pants, and shifted my focus back to work.

But the question has been nagging me all afternoon: What WOULD I ask? Do you guys get internet service up here? What do you have against the Cubs anyway? Why do people still use chopsticks when the fork is far more efficient? Who shot John F. Kennedy? Can I drink without getting a hangover now? Who really won the 2000 election? What was the nicest thing anyone ever did for me that I didn't know about? Do we really have choices, or is the concept of free will an illusion created by our minds after the fact to make us feel like we are in control of our behavior when we're actually more predictable than ground squirrels? Can I watch a video of my life somewhere? Where did I lose my keys that one time? Did I get ripped off when I bought my car? Do you ever shave your beard or do you always wear it like that? Donde esta el bano?

What would YOU ask? You've got ten minutes to figure it out.


It’s all the same.

I worked with a guy once who said this every time someone asked him where he wanted to eat for lunch.

“I don’t care – you pick. It’s all the same.”

Yeah, there are plenty of different options to choose from, but when you get right down to it, lunch is about finding a place you can fill up for under six bucks. That’s it. And if you have tacos today, you’ll have a tuna melt tomorrow. And if you have a sub sandwich today, you’ll grab a couple hot dogs tomorrow. Fast food sandwiches and corner bakery salads. They don’t all taste the same, but they’re not really all that different either. Sure, Arby’s Roast Beef is a different experience than a Quizno’s Steakhouse Dip, but it’s really all about getting a little food in your belly so you don’t pass out on the job. Again.

So, yeah - lunch - it’s all the same.

Life is a lot like lunch. There are a lot of different things going on out in the world – and we all make decisions from day to day – but year after year, the foundation of our existence doesn’t change a whole lot. Take a look at what you did this year, and last year, and the year before that, and a pattern emerges.

It's all the same.

All of us, like it or not, are on this dizzying loop called a calendar year. When we were born, we were dropped by the hand of God right into the middle of this spinning blue wheel - living, breathing roulette balls - articles of faith, hope, and mixed fortune. Roulette balls hit a lot of different numbers and colors as they spin around that wheel, but the numbers are always 1-36, the colors are always red, black, and green, and the ball itself always comes to grinding halt – just as we all will someday.

Our big blue wheel was spinning for some time before we were dropped in, but we've been here long enough to get a good feel for the lay of the land.

For modern Americans, life looks a lot like this:

Happy New Year, the Superbowl, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, Spring training, April Fools Day, tax time, tornadoes, spring cleaning, Easter, graduation, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, summer vacations, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, back to school shopping, Labor Day, tornadoes, World Series, Columbus Day, Halloween, election day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, Christmas, blizzards, ice storms, New Years resolutions, the Superbowl, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, Spring training, April Fools Day, tax time, tornadoes, spring cleaning, Easter, graduation, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, summer vacations, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, back to school shopping, Labor Day, tornadoes, World Series, Columbus Day, Halloween, election day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, Christmas, blizzards, ice storms, New Years resolutions, the Superbowl, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, Spring training, April Fools Day, tax time, tornadoes, spring cleaning, Easter, graduation, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, summer vacations, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, back to school shopping, Labor Day, tornadoes, World Series, Columbus Day, Halloween, election day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, Christmas, blizzards, ice storms, ad infinitum/nauseum...

Every so often we mix things up with a Leap Year, Olympic games, or the invasion of a country on false pretenses, but things are otherwise the same year after year. The same holidays. The same sporting events. The same seasonal rituals year after year after year. Add a few birthdays and weddings to the mix and you’ve got yourself plans for a lifetime.

This is what I want.

I want a randomized calendar of events that’s compiled by a computer and announced on January first (by Dick Clark). All annual holidays and events are to be assigned completely at random and can fall on any day of the year. Imagine the possibilities.

We could have Halloween the day before St. Patrick’s Day. Christmas in April. Thanksgiving turkey cooked on the grill. We could vote for a president on April Fools Day (appropriately?). Our taxes could be due on Labor Day. It might be a little weird to postpone the Superbowl until the following September, but at least the teams would be at full strength. Randomizing annual events every year would really mix things up – for the better!

And to really mix things up, I propose we add another week (5 work days) of holidays. They would fall on completely random days and each one would celebrate a different American person. Not famous Americans, just average everyday normal Americans like you and me. So October 7th, 2006 could be AYNtK day. And people would get off of work in honor of my naughty monkey. We need more time off in this country anyhow, and celebrating the lives of ordinary citizens at random points during the year would be a fun way to do it. No more Casmir Pulaski days. If I'm going to celebrate a person I've never heard of before, I want that person to be every bit as mediocre as I am. And the best part of all of this is that every year would be completely different.

So what do you say? Are you with me? Let's do it.

Otherwise life will continue to be like lunch – a six dollar sandwich, soda, and side.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


It doesn’t matter how old, rich, or famous we become, guys never seem to stop calling each other “gay.”

We just can’t do it.

The word has transcended the realm of schoolyard insults to become a term of endearment. This hilarious story is proof.

Thanks to SH for sharing…


Is it just me, or does e-mail enable passive aggressive behavior in the workplace?

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE e-mail. I actually PREFER e-mail to other forms of communication most of the time…for a lot of reasons. I’m just beginning to wonder if perhaps we’ve come to rely on it a little too much. Personally speaking, I KNOW I have.

The merits of electronic correspondence are many.

• E-mail gives me the ability to craft considerate, thoughtful messages with a level of clarity I can’t reliably produce in real-time conversation. I can actually THINK about what I want to say before I say it. I can be more wary of my tone, and read my communiqué before dispatching it to ensure it accomplishes precisely what I intend it to.

• I also think e-mail is a better way to communicate because it can mitigate a lot of the emotion associated with real-time discussions. I can keep my cool in formulating rational, respectful responses instead of relying on risky knee-jerk reactions to a harshly spoken word. I’m an emotional guy with strong opinions and, unfortunately, I’m not nearly as articulate without a keyboard as I am with one. As a result, I tend to avoid verbal confrontation. Not only does e-mail permit me a voice, it affords me a voice of reason.

• Another reason I prefer e-mail is its unobtrusive nature. E-mail gives me complete control over my time. Phone calls and face-to-face discussions are sophisticated dances requiring partners be conscientious of each other’s time and level of involvement. Entering and exiting conversations in today’s busy world can be awkward, and delicate conversations can be emotional minefields – a single verbal misstep and you won’t have a leg left to stand on! Let’s face it, sometimes we’re just not in the mood to talk – and when we are, sometimes the person we’d like to speak with isn’t in the mood to listen. E-mail bridges that divide by letting us carry on entire conversations when it’s most convenient for us to do so.

• Finally, I like that e-mail is verifiable. Unless recorded, spoken words are fast forgotten. Consider how often your recollection of a conversation doesn’t match the recollection of someone else who was engaged in that same conversation! It happens every single day. More often than not, we hear what we want to hear, and remember what we choose to remember – the good, bad, and exceedingly ugly. E-mail lets us bypass the proverbial “He said, she said” drama in favor of a single, indelible truth. If you wrote it, there’s a record of it. Argument settled.

Still, for all of these advantages, I’ve decided that e-mail is a productivity killer in the workplace, largely because it’s an easy way for people to avoid – ahem – WORKING. I’m not talking about the person who procrastinates by reading and sending personal e-mail all day long (to say nothing of the prolific blogger). That’s a time management issue. I’m talking about the person who consistently compromises workplace efficiency by e-mailing instead of picking up the phone and calling. You know who you are – and we are each other.

I admit it. I'm not much of a phone guy. But at work, schedules often demand immediate action. And e-mail does not serve this purpose. The whole idea behind e-mail is that it is NOT immediate! And yet day after day I hear people at the office waiting around for e-mails. When I ask for status updates on time-sensitive projects, I get the same (unacceptable) response: “I e-mailed earlier and am just waiting to hear back.” Meanwhile, valuable grains of sand are slipping away.

E-mail is easy. It’s a great way to communicate exactly what you want to say. It’s unobtrusive. It’s verifiable. But it’s SLOW. More and more I’ve found myself gently suggesting that people pick up the phone to get answers instead of sending an e-mail, and more and more I’m finding that people are resisting real-time contact. E-mail has made us lazy. Instead of engaging a live person to solicit an answer or commitment, we shoot off an e-mail and trust that the person on the other end is as engaged in the process as we are. This is seldom the case. How often do people sit at their computers anxiously awaiting the arrival of an e-mail so they can immediately respond, like eager high school kids flirting online at midnight? Working people have other things to do. The most egregious example of this kind of behavior, in my less than humble opinion, is the inter-workplace e-mail situation where people often sit within earshot of each other - yet send e-mails back and forth instead of settling important matters instantly, in the open. But, alas, we are who we are.

And that brings me back to my original thought. If I were the passive aggressive type, e-mail would be a tool of empowerment. It would enable me to logjam and bottleneck workflow at every impasse. If I didn’t like the way things were going, I could sit on important e-mails for days. I could drag productivity to a grinding halt by asking pointless, time-consuming questions that would take even longer to answer because all communications were being executed via e-mail. In this way, e-mail as a workplace communications tool is actually COUNTER-productive.

I see this kind of behavior all the time and I wonder why we let it happen. Perhaps we’re complicit because we appreciate the many advantages of sending an e-mail over making a call. Or, because we don’t want to put someone on the spot. Or, because we’re trying to be considerate of a person’s clear preference in communication. Or, maybe e-mail happens to be more convenient for us as well. Whatever the underlying justification for this inefficiency, it creates undue tension and probably ought to be addressed if we want to start getting things done for a change.

In fact, I’m going to fire off a quick e-mail about all of this right now…

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


President Bush's Chief of Staff and Presidential Puppeteer, Andy Card, resigned this morning. Unbreak my heart!

Do you realize that if the President wasn't allowed to replace people who resign, there wouldn't be anybody left to tell him what to do? I am reminded of the popular saying: A cabinet position in the hands of any other administration is worth two in the Bush. People are diving off this sinking ship head first. You know things are bad when the Chief of Staff bails midway through the second term. Whatever's going around over there is contagious.

Does anyone else get the feeling that the only two people who haven't resigned yet are the ones who probably ought to?

Monday, March 27, 2006


I don’t know who this guy is, but his NCAA tournament picks are completely ridiculous.

At least they were before this past weekend.

Check this shit out real quick.


(Better get your money on UCLA!)


Lord, hear our prayer...

Amen, my brothers and sisters.