Thursday, February 28, 2008

The TSA Blog

Since my occasions to travel by air have increased dramatically over the past 8 months, I have tried to equally increase my knowledge of all aspects of air travel for shear survival and a hope for a minimum of comfort. Some of the education has been through cold, hard, unpleasant experience, some has been learned at the feet of those more experienced than I, and some comes through reading and staying up to date.

A relatively new blog by, of all things, the Transportation Security Administration, may offer some assistance in keeping up with what to expect at security checkpoints or what new screening restrictions might be in place the next time you fly the not-so-friendly skies.

Not The Brightest Bulb In The Pack

A lot of my friends have already seen this, but I thought I'd post it up here just to show that some people simply don't pay attention.

Where I work I'm issued certain equipment at every location I work in and I turn it all back in when I move somewhere else. When I arrived in Baton Rouge I was issued a laptop and a cell phone (so they can call me when they please and I damn well better answer). A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from a drone in the property control section asking me the following (NOTE: I'm copying everything exactly as it was sent and only "X'ing" out identifiable information):


Ok, ignoring the fact that he's flouting netiquette by shouting at me in all caps, this will be easy. All my contact information is in my e-mail signature so I reply:

In the signature.

Jeff Wetherington
Baton Rouge XXX

Simple, right?

Apparently not. A few minutes later I receive this:


Now I'm shaking my head in disbelief and laughing, but I'm also a little ticked off that this guy keeps 1) shouting at me in his e-mail and 2) making me use valuable time to beat him over the head with the information he's asking for because, basically, he's a moron. Still, I always try to be courteous so I reply:

The phone number is in my signature. Marked "Cell". In other words XXX.XXX.XXXX.

Jeff Wetherington
Baton Rouge XXX

I'm assuming he finally figured it out, since I don't hear back from him.

But wait. This week, what should arrive in my inbox but the following?:


I just started beating my head on my desk. When I was almost unconscious, I took the e-mails I had saved (yes, I save them all to CMA) and forwarded them back to him.

I haven't heard back from him, but I'm wondering if I'll get another e-mail next week.

"Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error" - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Losing It

Monday night I was on the way back to my hotel after work and decided to stop for dinner at the CiCi's Pizza not far from the hotel. It's convenient because it's on the way and Monday is a quiet night there, for the most part, and I usually eat some salad and pizza while reading. The price is good for an all-you-can-eat place, though lately I've been trying to cut back on the quantity of pizza I consume while there.

I walked up to the young lady at the counter and said, "I'd like a buffet and drink, please."

"Certainly sir, will you be getting the senior citizen discount?"

I looked behind me to see if there some little old man peeking around me, but no, it was just me in line. And I sadly realized that, for the first time in my life, I was being asked if I wanted a senior citizen discount.

"Uh, I'm 52, does the discount apply?"
I would have been even sadder if she said something like, "Oh no, you have to be 65" or something similar that indicated I looked much older than I am. But instead she cheerily replied,

"Yes sir, it does." Ka ching, she rings up the register and my bill, which is usually almost $8.00, rings up as $4.00.

Hey, I think, that's not bad! I could get used to saving some dough for being old.

Except, I don't feel old.

I know it's all the fault of this damn lousy haircut! Curse you, Supercuts.

Now I'll always remember that I was at CiCi's Pizza...when I lost my senior citizen virginity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Word Usage Pique

Incorrect word usage is something that really irritates me, both in my own writing and the writings of others, especially when you imagine the writer of what you're reading to be a professional.

In doing some research into "business" writing I came across the paragraph below on an official government website. The piece was authored by an attorney (or at least a law firm attached its name to the writing. I know all too well that it may have indeed been "ghosted" by a non-lawyer, but that would make it even worse since you would expect a professional writer to not make the obvious mistake) and placed on a site for federal managers.

All of which would tend to make you think the wording would be exacting and precise. Unfortunately, it is not. See if you can spot the problem.

Actually, it's not illegal to date a lower level employee. It may, however, be a bad idea. Over the past few decades, the American workplace - not just the federal workplace - has become a place where we spend more and more of our time, and thus a place where we're apt to meet someone who peaks a romantic interest. That seems perfectly normal. It also seems normal to want to explore that interest by dating the colleague. Indeed, many federal employees have met his or her spouse at work. So why do so many of us think it's illegal? Well, the explosion of sexual harassment cases in the 1990's has left its mark. But technically it's not against any federal law to date a co-worker, even someone lower in the chain.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Silver Screen In The Spring

After I was sheared on Saturday, I returned to the hotel and walked over to the movie theater to watch "Jumper." What a disappointment that movie was. As I wrote to my friend Denise, it had so much more potential than what was displayed on the screen. In fact, it was so bad, the best part of the experience was watching the previews for upcoming movies being released in the Spring, especially these three:

Iron Man - May 2nd I've been reading the Iron Man comic books since they began being published. Sometimes I've loved them, sometimes not so much. But I've always thought (ok, almost always thought) the character was a great creation. When I heard that Robert Downey Jr. had been cast as millionaire industrialist Tony Stark, I had high hopes the movie would be all it should be. After seeing the latest trailer in the theater, I believe this will be a great movie. Kudos to the studio for getting the rights to use Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" music.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - May 22nd There are a few movie/character theme songs that can truly get my blood racing. The theme from "Superman", the theme from "Star Wars", the theme from "Rocky" and, obviously, the theme from Indiana Jones. The trailer for this fourth and latest movie is classic. The character freely acknowledges that it has been almost 20 years since we last saw Indy and things may not be as easy as they used to be. I know the feeling.

The Happening - June 13th If there is a modern-day Alfred Hitchcock, it is M Night Shyamalan. I can honestly say I have enjoyed (even if I was occasionally puzzled by) every one of his films. He is a maestro of crafting a non-violent thriller that sucks you in trying to figure out WHAT is going on. That, apparently, is the entire premise of "The Happening" as people try to figure out what has happened that has cut them off from the rest of the world. My initial thought was, "This is probably similar to "The Mist" in execution" but judging from his past presentations, I have no doubt this will have many more nuances and plot points.

There certainly are other films coming out this Spring and Summer. The new Harry Potter movie, the Incredible Hulk reboot, the new Dark Knight movie and many others. What movie or movies are YOU especially looking forward to seeing?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

SmarterTravel Quiz

If you look around this site very much, you know that I enjoy traveling (as well as writing about it).

I came across this Travel Quiz that purports to determine the kind of travel/destination/activity you would enjoy. There wasn't much question that it would confirm what I already knew; that my favorite travel involves visiting local art and history museums, restaurants and historical locations.

Take the quiz and let me know how accurate it is in gauging what kind of traveler you are.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Supercuts, Indeed

I've been needing to get a haircut for about 3 weeks now. I really should have gone to my regular place when I was home last month, but I was only there for 2 1/2 days and didn't want to waste any of the little bit of time home on something like getting my mane shortened.

Now I wish I had.

The schedule has been so tight since arriving in Baton Rouge that I have not had time to get the needed haircut until today, when I worked a half-day. As soon as I left the office I made a beeline to the nearest haircutting establishment to my hotel, which happens to be a Supercuts. I'm not sure that I've ever been to a Supercuts, usually opting for Great Clips or Haircuttery near my home. I don't think I'll ever be patronizing them again, even if I have to drive several miles to avoid them.

(NOTE: The photo in the upper right hand corner of this blog is about 4 years old and does not accurately reflect my usual hair length these days. It's usually just over my collar and ears. I just didn't want anyone thinking I lost ALL that hair in this incident.)

So I get in the chair and tell the woman what I always say when I get a haircut; "I'd like to just have it trimmed up a little so that it just touches the tops of my ears and collar." I even had to repeat it a moment later because she was called away to the register after I told her the first time and she didn't remember when she returned.

Then I opened my magazine and started reading.

Big mistake.

Apparently she still didn't remember even after being told twice because I suddenly had the feeling I was being mauled by a Pit Bull and looked up to see half my head gone. Ok, actually it was my hair, not my head, but it was gone and there was nothing to be done about it but to let her finish or I'd look like a lawnmower ran over half my head. If this was "touching the tops of my ears and collar" then my ears had grown to the top of my head and my collar was sitting in the middle of the back of my head.

Now I have a haircut that looks like the one Mark Harmon sports on "NCIS"...except I'm nowhere near as handsome as he is in order to make up for it.

I've had hairstylist friends tell me in the past not to go to Supercuts, but I always thought it was just a professional bias against the chain.

Now I wish I had listened.

Oh well, at least I won't need to get another haircut for three or four months, if that.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Directional Difficulties

I spent last Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Hammond and Slidell, Louisiana. I saw quite a few interesting things in my travels, including what you see below. I turned a corner onto a street in Hammond and was greeted by this sight.

Pulling into the parking lot of a now closed lounge, I took several photos of the car that apparently belonged to someone who was having directional difficulties after imbibing a few adult refreshments.

And I'm sorry, I couldn't help but laugh.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

And The Beat Goes On

I put in 13 hours yesterday and 9 today. When I left the building today I was supposed to be off tomorrow, but I just received a call asking me to work. I've spent both days (and will spend tomorrow as well) in the Hammond area, which is about an hour's drive from Baton Rouge

So, no 3-day, 2-day or even 1-day weekend for this little blogger.

I had hoped to be off at least tomorrow to try and catch up on some things. I still have to work on the photos I took of south downtown Baton Rouge and get those uploaded, plus I have a review for Athena Comics Guide written in my head that I haven't been able to put down on software and upload. That doesn't count some research I wanted to do for various and sundry thoughts that have made their way through my mind over the past few days.

But it's probably what I get for teasing Cindy about how she wasn't going to be off for Presidents' Day. I'm sorry babe; now will you call off the gods of karma...please?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

There's a reason we don't say "Happy VD!"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Crossover Words Or Phrases

As a writer, words are the building blocks of everything I produce. Using them well, using them correctly and using them to their best effect is the foundation of every sentence, paragraph and article I write. Needless to say, I take particular notice of words, whether writing them or reading them.

Have you ever noticed how some words, created specifically for an area of expertise or discipline or even age group, eventually bleed over into everyday vocabulary usage? I was reminded of that process, and how jarring it can be when a word first begins to crossover, while reading a magazine at lunch today.

Originally, the word "mashup" referred to the practice of hip-hop and/or pop musicians producing a new song by mixing two (and sometimes, more) existing pieces of music. It did not enjoy widespread usage among those outside the music industry.

"Mash-up" (or mashup) is a word that only recently (within the last 2 years, maybe less) came into usage within the technology field as a means of describing the result of taking two separate software applications and mashing them together to create a helpful program. For example, the marriage of Google Maps with a program that alerts you to available rental resources. The resulting mash-up allows you to plot on a map where each house, apartment or houseboat might be located.

Until today, I had never seen the word used outside of the area of technology, but while reading the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveler I came across this phrase, describing an area of St. Petersburg, Russia, "A similar stylistic mash-up occurs around Alexander Column..." and my eyes just stopped at the shock of seeing the word in the totally unexpected environment of a travel magazine.

Sort of like the other day when a co-worker in her late 60's ended an e-mail to me with the phrase, "It's all good." I almost burst out laughing at my desk because I just don't associate the phrase with anyone over the age of 30 unless they're purposely trying to be funny, like my friend Denise. However, this woman wasn't trying to be funny, which had the effect of instantly making it funny as the phrase crossed over that invisible age-line; the point at which a word or phrase loses its original "coolness" or usage factor.

Have you ever been surprised by a word or phrase from one field crossing over into the general vocabulary? Share in the comments section below.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I worked a half day on Saturday, then left the office and drove to the downtown Baton Rouge area for two reasons; one, to eat lunch at a "hamburger shack" that several people had recommended and two, to do some photowalking around the area. I took about 160 photos over a three hour period and hopefully will have them posted on Flickr in the next day or so. That three hours only covered the southern portion of the downtown area, so my plan is to return in the next couple of weeks and photowalk the northern part of the downtown area.

Now, several people told me that before I leave Baton Rouge (and that won't be a while, as far as I know, but I was going to be in the area anyway so...)I must try the food at Frosty's, a sort of hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves hamburgers, fries, onion rings (mmmmmm), shakes, floats, seafood, po' boy sandwiches, and...ROOT BEER!

As you can see in the photo above of the exterior of Frosty's, they pride themselves on their root beer. Too bad I've never been able to stand root beer, so I had to pass on that particular beverage choice. The outside reminds me of an old 7-11 store, with all the plate glass on the front and side, and even with it's angled placement on the corner of the block.

I ordered a cheeseburger with everything but onions, onion rings and an unsweetened iced tea. It's not something I'm really supposed to eat and I'll hear about it from my wife and my doctor, but you have to take these opportunities when they present themselves. The cheeseburger was a tasty hunk of meat; thick, juicy, nicely grilled and definitely NOT swallowed up by the bun. The onion rings were thinner and not as flavorful as I had expected, but they weren't bad, just less than I had hoped. The iced tea was VERY unsweet, for which I was grateful. Sweetened tea makes me gag.

Looking at the photo above (taken with my Blackberry, so it's not as sharp as it could be) you can see that the interior looks like a conglomeration of an old Steak n' Shake counter, old Denny's booths and an old Dairy Queen "special" board on the counter. The grill, fryer, bun warmer, etc were right behind the counter in full view of the customers, like the old Royal Castle restaurants used to be set up. The smell of grease was heavy in the air and the old jukebox in the corner was playing disco music the entire duration of my dining experience. The janitor was actually dancing as he swept and mopped the floors.

It was fun, even in its "hole-in-the-wall ness" atmosphere. I won't make a habit of going there to eat, but I'll probably try and be sure to stop by one more time before I leave Baton Rouge.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bogus IRS Refund E-mail & Phone Calls Warning

Congress just finished arguing over the proposed economic stimulus package legislation and sent it to the President last night, but the con men and scammers are already out there trying to steal your money and financial information by e-mailing or calling with the promise of advance payments if you give them your bank account information.

Here's a warning e-mail (from a trustworthy source, believe me) describing the e-mail scam that has been used:

"...have reported receiving an e-mail that claims to come from the IRS telling the recipient that he or she is eligible for a tax refund for a specific amount, and instructs the recipient to click on a link in the e-mail to access a refund claim form. This is a scam. The form asks the recipient to enter personal information that the scamsters can then use to access the e-mail recipient’s bank or credit card account.

The current version of the refund scam includes two paragraphs that appear to be directed toward tax-exempt organizations that distribute funds to other organizations or individuals. The e-mail contains the name and supposed signature of the Director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations business division.

This e-mail is not from the IRS. The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mail about tax account matters to individual, business, tax-exempt or other taxpayers.

Filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a tax refund; there is no separate application form."

For more information on the scams (including the phone scam), see the IRS News Release.

Please, always be cautious with your financial or identity information while online and NEVER click unsolicited e-mail links dealing with such information.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dwarf-Tossing Revenge?

Strange, but strangely true.

From the land that gave us the Swedish Bikini Team (or maybe not), comes the strange news of what can only be some long-coming revenge for all those bars that had dwarf tossing contests a few years back.

That's right, "people of limited stature" are being cited for hiding in checked luggage, rifling through the hundreds of bags in the cargo hold while in flight and then returning to their hiding place to be claimed at a destination airport by an accomplice.

Now I'm REALLY glad I use only carry-ons when flying.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Spoiled By The Internet

Deb over at Freelance Writing Jobs posted a list of "20 Ways the Internet Spoils Us" and some (including yours truly) have added our input.

How about you? Is there a way you've been spoiled by the Internet that isn't listed?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happy Mardi Gras!

It's "Fat Tuesday", "Shrove Tuesday" or "Pancake Day" (take your choice) and I'm planning to drive down to New Orleans from Baton Rouge, head over to Bourbon Street in the French Quarter and pull my shirt up to see if I can get some beads.

Ok, not really.

Actually, it will be another long day here in the Red Stick.

I DID have this past weekend off, and that was nice. Saturday morning, I ran some errands like getting groceries, stopping by the Books-A-Million, mailing some things home from the Post Office and then grabbing lunch. After lunch I returned to the hotel and then walked over to the Barnes & Noble that is nearby and after that walked a little farther over to the movie theater to watch "Untraceable" which, while predictable was entertaining nonetheless.

Sunday was pretty much a day to just relax, although I did eye the fitness room here at the hotel once as I walked past it. I'm trying to sneak up on my body/mind (hence the increase in walking) with this exercise thing. The doctor and my wife are getting pretty serious about riding my case regarding my diet and working out.

Other than that, it's mostly work, work, work, come home, eat sleep and repeat. The room here is very nice, as are the staff. I'm pretty sure I'll be working this weekend, but I'm hoping to get out and get some photos of Baton Rouge the following weekend.

And if you're reading this from one of the twenty-something states holding primaries on this Super Tuesday, I hope you'll be sure to exercise your right to vote.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Funny Photos From New Zealand

A stop sign on Victoria Street in Auckland, New Zealand. Posted on Flickr by parkesmj.

I used to have some parachute pants, but they were never as full blown as M.C. Hammer's.

The Auckland Old Folks Association building. Also posted on Flickr by parkesmj.

This one reminds me of the guy who was on the phone with the printers to get business cards. After giving them all the pertinent information (name, address, phone, company) the printer asked him if he wanted his title under his name. "Yes", he said, "Assistant to the Executive Vice President." When the printer told him that title had 5 more characters than would fit he said, "Fine, just abbreviate 'Assistant'." You've already guessed what his title was when he received the cards;

"Ass. to the Executive Vice President"

The Saddest Moment In Comic Strip History

I've been reading comic strips for almost 50 years. When I was a little tyke, I would crawl up in my dad's lap as he sat at the dining room table sipping coffee and ask him to read the comics in the Sunday paper to me. My dad was a fine, hard-working man, but reading was not his strong point. One Sunday morning, when I was 4 or 5, I pointed out the words he skipped or mispronounced as he read (or worse, read the word out loud as he was struggling to pronounce it) and dad decided that his days of reading to me were over. After that, no matter how many times I asked, he would not do it. When I grew older my mom explained that it was embarrassing for my dad to try to read to me when I was already reading better than he did, but of course that had never been my intention or even entered my 4 or 5 year old mind. I just looked at it as something we did together and I was sad when it ended.

But that was not The Saddest Moment In Comic Strip History for me.

Back in this post I mentioned how much I loved watching TV shows like Rin Tin Tin and Lassie when I was a child. I have always had a love for dogs, like a lot of boys I suppose. I don't recall it, but my mom would later tell how I would sit in front of the TV and cry when it looked like "Rinny" or Lassie had been hurt or killed (always being injured or apparently giving their life in order to save someone) during the course of one of their stories. Later, when I was a little older, we had a beautiful German Shepherd named "Lady", that we had to have put to sleep due to her hip dysplasia and I was utterly devastated. When I was about 15 my cousin Harry and I went to see "Big Jake", a John Wayne western. Wayne's character had a smart, loyal dog named...."Dog." That's it, just "Dog." At the movie's climax, "Dog" gives his life saving Wayne's character and his character's grandson. At 15 I was too old and too cool to show it outwardly, but inside I was heartbroken at the onscreen death of "Dog."

You might be able to see where this is going by now.

In 1995 I was a grown man with children of my own who were almost grown. Cartoonist Lynn Johnston had been writing and drawing a comic strip called "For Better or Worse" since 1979 and I think I had been reading it from the beginning or close to it. Much like the TV series "24' or it's predecessor "Murder One", Johnston kept the strip and its characters in "real time", aging them as if they lived in the real world, and this created a problem when she realized that the Patterson family dog, Farley, was nearly 14 or 15 years old. So she wrote and drew a storyline in which Farley gives his life saving 4 year old April Patterson from drowning in the nearby river. You can read the archived strips online here.

I remember reading the strip each day and saying, "No, no no!" each day as it progressed toward what seemed its inevitable conclusion. This panel, in particular, had this grown adult man tearing up and sniffling like a child.

And that was The Saddest Moment In Comic Strip History for me.

Apparently I wasn't the only one as Johnston was inundated with complaints from readers around the world. Legend has it that the late Charles Schultz, upon hearing of the plan to have Farley die, threatened to have his cartoon dog, Snoopy, get hit by a truck if Johnston followed through with the story. Fortunately, he never carried out that threat.

Farley was buried beneath what became known as "Farley's Tree" and has remained an occasional part of the lives of characters in the strip, sometimes appearing as a spirit or something that only Edgar, Farley's son, can see.

Do you have something you feel is The Saddest Moment In Comic Strip History? If so, I hope you'll share in the comments below.

Rest In Peace, Farley. I'm going to get some tissue.
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