Saturday, August 28, 2010

Winter Park, Here I Don't Come!

Last Sunday started out as normally as any other, cruising the web after breakfast, trying to decide what to do for the day. Usually, the answer to that is simply to stay in, yet again, and watch TV, watch DVDs, play a computer game or just amble through website after website searching for something, anything, that'll amuse distract me.

But after finding a post on Craigslist featuring a rental which looked aligned with the housing goals I'd been ruminating over for weeks, I decided to take action. I called the poster, set up a viewing for an hour later and before long I was signing a hand-scribbled promissory note of sorts in preparation to lease the place.

It was a small condo that, after visiting the place, had all the earmarks of something I should not even consider, but I was overlooking these because the price seemed right and the location much better than my present.

You see, ever since I accepted this new job, I knew that the commute would be a point of contention. I hate driving a long way everyday. The traffic, the gas use, the escalating mileage and wear on Nugget and, of course, the tolls. We can't leave out the tolls. At over a hundred dollars a month in tolls alone, I find this very unsettling.

Plus there's the other factors such as the desire for change, especially of home lifestyle. I'm tired of living in a 200 square foot cell, dealing with poor insulation causing oppressive heat build up that can only be fought back with 2 air conditioners running full-blast 24/7. I'm tired of a pull-out bunk bed, an ineffective toilet, persistent insect issues and diminished cable. I hoo...poor me. But it gets old, folks. Real old.

But I still needed something inexpensive, I surmised, since, after all, my employment is not the most secure. And with virtually no assets or savings, I'd be left high and dry if my housing costs became an impossible burden...which would happen really, REALLY fast if the rent was too high. But cheap means flawed, in some way, let's face it. And this condo, as I found out, sure had its share of flaws.

First, there were the things I saw right away but swept under the mental carpet. Though within Winter Park, an Orlando suburb considered swank and posh in its older section, the town's Goldenrod neighborhood is considerably less prestigious.

The complex was shaky at best, total ghetto at worst. Hard to discern in a half hour scope, but when 5 other apartments within a two building radius have FOR RENT signs in their windows, reflective foil covered the insides of other windows, broken blinds and ripped sheets as curtains, torn up lawns, and row after row of rust bucket cars in the oil-stained lot, you know this ain't the Ritz.

The central A/C units in the front of each home looked original to the construction which would place them at about 40 years old. I thought it odd, being hooked up with central A/C, that the unit above the apartment I was considering had a small in-window air conditioner...I later found out why.

When I called Progress Energy, they wanted a deposit from me, of course, I kinda figured since I left Cypress Gardens in '04 with an outstanding bill. The kicker was the deposit was twice the estimated monthly bill.

I remember this from early '04 when I was moving into Cypress Gardens, I had to pay that since I had burned the utility back in '03 when I skipped out of Reflections. Oh yes, I certainly have "history" with the utilities.

So back then, it amounted to $120 but in this new place it was quoted as $230! I "rep shopped" (called another CSR to see if I got the same answer) and he told me that was right and it was based on the last 12 months, but since the apartment was vacant with no power for several months it help lower that average. When it was occupied, it ran an average of $250 a month! For a 600 sq. ft. studio!

I put a stop payment on the deposit check I'd given to the lady who tried to rent this place to me, a soft-spoken Hispanic woman who could barely mumble English. I thought I'd call her and tell her I wasn't interested any longer but I lost her phone number and the Craigslist ad had already been removed.

Oh well, she'll probably try to call me next Friday when we were supposed to meet up so I could pay the remainder and sign the lease.

(UPDATE: She called today, Monday Aug. 30th. She's threatening to sue for "illegally" stopping payment on the check I gave her. Oh brother...)

Now this fiasco has me thinking it might be better to stay where I am. Had I moved next week as planned I would have ditched this place giving Mike, in essence, a negative 3 days notice since I would have stayed here till Sept. 4th, next Saturday, when I'd have the time to move. Even if I paid him a prorated rent for those three days, it would still be a dickish thing to do.

Though I hate the distance as it is now, the commute to and from work if living at this Winter Park place might actually have taken MORE time and would have been more frustratingly traffic jammed, despite being a little less than 5 miles each way.

So, for now, I'm still a Lake Mary citizen, living in my Lake Mary bubble, waving a cheery "How ya Doin'?" to my Lake Mary glazed-over, suburbia-intoxicated neigh-BORES.

Ho hum.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Devil, Who Art In Heaven

I was cruising the Yahoo Answers boards during these wee hours and decided to do a little rabble rousing in the Religion and Spirituality forum. Lots of us atheists post there and it's always a hoot seeing 10 to 1 ratios of non-believer to believer posts offering opinions on any given question. Finally, one corner of the planet we have majority...the Internet open forum message boards.

This one chick sounded genuine enough and asked something like:

I read on another site that Satan might not be such a bad guy. Is that true? Now my faith is in question.

Well, some Bible-thumpers did respond to this likely troll question meant to possibly elicit a heated pro-God response but it's late night baby, and mainly us heathens were typing in the bulk of answers.

Here's my two cents on the subject and so far, it's got a few thumbs up. Might even make it to the coveted "Best Response" status before long. Who knows?

Well, here's the thing, and I'm not trying to be disrespectful...

If I were Satan and wanted to "bend the will" of humanity and deceive them towards a lifetime of worship for me rather than God, then here's what I'd do, assuming I had all eternity to accomplish this:

I'd foster the development of the concept of proprietary worship in the first place (ie: you can't love any other supernatural being but Me)

I'd have agents on Earth that would create a compilation of fables designed to bring forward to humanity the "word of their One, True God" (I may as whittle down the pantheonic competition) and hope it's message is disseminated and proselytized by "good minded" people.

But I would have ensured that I was the actual entity to whom worship was being devoted. I would have either suppressed or destroyed the original "real" God long ago.

How could that be? Well, if a God existed that allowed a Satan to exist, then hasn't, in essence, "He" usurped his own hegemony and proved his own non-omnipotence. It'd only be a matter of from the "creation" of the Universe to the dawn of human civilization? Give or take some 13 billion years?

I'm sure that's plenty of time for Satan to plan his coup.

So ask yourself...just who are you praying to?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

SCRAPBOOK: Battle Of The Boobs

Oh, the primary races here in Florida are certainly hot. Hotter than the midday sunshine.

The political ads absolutely litter the airwaves. It makes it hard to get through a single TV show with almost every single commercial is yet another candidate (or one of their "supporter" groups) spewing vile comments about their opponent.

With Florida currently a "toss-up" state between the two parties, the candidates are fighting hard to gain their party's nod so they can continue the "good fight" to the general elections where, no doubt, the ads will be even more vicious and ubiquitous than they are right now.

In the U.S. Senate race, the incumbent is a pretty much unknown appointee, George LeMieux, put there by current governor Charlie Crist as a de facto placeholder for Crist himself.

Crist made his wish to vacate his current role and hop into the Senate seat known early on and the airwaves became heavily congested with his and fellow Republican Marco Rubio's mutual slander very quickly.

But when poll numbers indicated Crist was losing ground to Rubio, he slickly abandoned his party and became unaffiliated. This may have pissed off more than a few Republicans but now Independents and even Democrats are taking a look at Crist. His numbers have improved and are now better than Rubio's.

The list of other candidates for this post is long, but unimpressive. Most can't muster the millions needed for a modern campaign.

On the Democratic side, though, two candidates who have big funding are talking lots of smack 'bout one another. Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene alert the public to the depravity and corruption on the other guys' political and financial resume.

The most heated race though, in my opinion, is the massively funded campaigns for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Since Crist isn't running for Governor, the seat will be wide open and the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to make sure it's one of them to grab it. But which candidate, Attorney General Bill McCollum or businessman Rick Scott? According to the ads put out by either campaign, voting for the other guy would be akin to voting for the Devil.

But they all have one thing in common. And these days, it seems that almost all politicians and wanna-be politicians share this singularly unifying commonality...scandal.

Charlie Crist

Investigated for alleged favoritism based on political contributions to his campaign from convicted Ponzi-schemer former boy-band producer Lou Pearlman

Took a 12-day European vacation that cost Florida taxpayers over $400,000

Supported a ban on gay marriage, but it is widely speculated, by some, to be secretly gay himself.

Marco Rubio

Racked up over $100,000 on a State Republican credit card for personal items and services like repairs to his mini-van and hundred dollar haircuts.

Advocated for greater funding for Florida college FIU while Speaker of the Florida House. Then took a cushy "part-time" (read: no show) job at the institution after his term in the House ended and reported it to no one.

Kendrick Meek

As a U.S. Representative, Meek was accused of aiding a Miami developer gain lucrative federal funding for a building project that was never done. Allegedly received favors from the developer to the tune of an aide's home purchase as well as a high-paying job and a new Cadillac for Meek's mother.

Allegedly failed to disclose stock-ownership in a medical waste company that eventually went bankrupt and was accused of cooking the books.

Jeff Greene

Made over half a billion dollars investing in options that hedged on the anticipation that millions of homeowners would fall into foreclosure as a result of the 2008 housing loan crisis. As countless people entered homelessness, Greene profited on their misery, buying a huge luxury yacht, tearing up ecologically sensitive reefs in Belize and allegedly having drug and booze fueled parties on the yacht with European strippers.

Bill McCollum

McCollum and Democrat Alex Sink, both of whom are running for Governor of Florida, were the subject of reports questioning their 2009 use of state planes. Both candidates have had ongoing ethics complaints filed against them by citizens

As the Florida Attorney General he used over $120,000 in state funds to hire a psychologist, George Rekers, to testify as the star expert witness and one of only two to testify in defense of the state's homosexual-adoption ban. It was discovered that Rekers hired a homosexual prostitute for a 10 day vacation in Europe, raising questions about Bill McCollum's connections to Rekers and his conduct as Attorney General

Rick Scott

Ran one of the largest for-profit hospital corporations in the U.S. In the late 90's the company fraudulently over-billed Medicare and Medicaid amounting to millions. The company settled with the federal and state governments in an unprecedented record $1.7 billion. Rick Scott was never charged with wrong doing and insists he knew nothing of any fraud under his tenure.

Solantic, a health care services business founded by Scott has been the target of numerous employment discrimination suits, including one that settled with 7 plaintiffs for an undisclosed sum on May 23, 2007. These suits allegedly stem from a Scott directed policy to not hire elderly or overweight applicants, preferring "mainstream" candidates

Another Rick Scott venture which offers online social-networking services targeted at Hispanic users also offers links to a Spanish-language version of Playboy featuring naked women in erotic poses...a very unsettling venue for profit for his conservative Republican supporters.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On The Grassy Plains Of Pazze

August 17, 1975

Forces of the Norglobe Faction, a Chastenkean-funded and trained militia insurgency surrendered today to the Nastralian Liberation Front (NLF) at the newly-established settlement of Pazze in Central Marshland on the northbank of the Cherry.

Colonel Dav'd Cournya accepted the documents of Unconditional Surrender as Commander-in-Chief and President-Elect General Clovis announced to the people the glorious end to the War and the commencement of the Republic of Nastralia. Henceforth, this day would be known as Nastralian Independence Day.

Celebrations were witnessed the world over as this long awaited development signaled what should prove to be new age for our planet and the beginning of what promises to be an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity for our people, finally, after many millennia,united as one under one government, one law, one ruler!

All Hail Nastralia!

Four years after this announcement, the globe-straddling republic was formed into a hereditary monarchy and a year after that, the de facto "benevolent and enlightened" dictatorship under the Riothamus Clovis of the Nastralian Empire.

For nearly two decades the people lived in what the propoganda called "harmony", but was actually more akin to a unique form of passive, yet pervasive, silent oppression.

After a Phyrric hostile takeover of the distant planets of Hevra and Hezra, economic difficulties in maintaining these far-flung colonies as well as political pressure and influence from the powerful Epilliarian Arm Council the people of Nastralia exiled the Riothamus to his own extravagantly expensive Space Station NASTAR in 1997. But after the escape of the Riothamus and his attempted reassertion of power in 2001, the people voted to permanently banish Clovis to the Blue Planet, with no means of return.

So, on the backward and barbarian Earth, the former ruler struggles to find gainful means of survival without exposing to the Earthlings his true origin. For, if his true identity were attempted to be disclosed, equipped with no shred of proof, he would surely be deemed unfit for even their primitive society and incarcerated, perhaps forever, as a lunatic.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Steven Slater Is My Hero!

"To the passenger who called me a m---f--er, f--- you,"
-Steven Slater (allegedly)

I read the story of this JetBlue flight attendant who "embarqed" in a blaze of fabulous Drama Queen glory this morning before going to work and thought, "I'm gonna praise him in a post on my blog tonight."

Apparently I wasn't alone in that impulse...

Thousands of blog posts and even multiple Facebook fanpages have sprouted up throughout the day in support of this man who represents the secret wishes of abused and unappreciated customer service workers across the globe.

There have been many, many days in my career in customer service where I would have paid someone to allow me to go out with such panache as he did.

And to the prick who was the fucking asshole who caused all this:

Yes, that's right, arrogant entitled obnoxious fuck who thinks they can treat people as less than human...the media will eventually publish who you are and though you'll try to defend yourself, in my eyes, forever, you should just hurry up and die! The world would be better without you.

Way to go Steven!

You ruined your career, of course, and it may be hard to get ANY job after this but hell, better to be penniless and living on the streets than having to sell your soul for a dirty shekel or two wiping the assess of man-babies who should have been taught basic manners by their god-dammed mommas, for cryin' out loud!

I only wish I had your bravery and gumption.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

New Job Roast 5

It's time again for another scathing review of my new co-workers, trainers and management at yet another place of employment in the few years we've done these. That's right, it's another New Job ROAST!

I just finished my second week of training and I've been acutely observing and interacting with my fellow trainees and other staff in order to testify here today that, yet again, everyone around me is crazy. What is it they say about thinking you're the only sane person in the world? Well it doesn't matter since they're crazy too!

I present to you the following cases:

Diane (our head training facilitator): She says she's been with the company for over 20 years, apparently all in customer service. She's the training facilitator but has no idea how to train. Oh yes, she's been told to use phrases like "learning curve", "post your questions to the parking lot", and "learning opportunities". And she knows not to ever confirm or deny anything. It's always, "Well, what do YOU think of that answer?"

But peel back the facade she tries hard to maintain and Diane, who looks, and somewhat acts, like the court stenographer character played by Fred Armisen on SNL, is yet another TCT. Totally clueless tool.

In her fifties and "kickin' it" (think of that other great over-the-top SNL character Sally O'Malley (played superbly by the always-hilarious Molly Shannon) Diane is married to one of the senior security guards who she calls Captain Bob and gave birth to her first baby naturally, without aid of drugs, splayed out with her hairy Flower Child legs spread wide open. Gulp. Yeah, apparently she's totally scripted and "phoning it in" when talking about work but when she shifts into personal out!

Hopelessly lost and technologically retarded most of the day (revisit the image of Armisen's stenographer) Diane seems to get REALLY glossy right around 4:20 pm. "I can't find my brownies. I can't find my brownies."

Christian: Though he's lived and worked in the States for years, he still retains his Canadian citizenship so if the Shit Hits The Fan (like Sarah Palin becoming President) he has a retreat plan. Worked in IT for years and proudly geeky. Thin and awkwardly lanky he says he's married but admittedly loves IKEA, Volkswagen and Lady Gaga. "Contact in range, Sir!" reports the gaydar operator.

Steven: At first I took Steven for a heavy metal lovin', Colt .45 toting, Harley drivin', homophobic bonehead but after getting to know him better I found out it's worse. The real affinities are hip-hop, Springfield SV, and Honda respectively. Oh, and he loves Jesus. And yes, he thinks he's "all that and a side of fries" to women. Even though he's short, fat, zit-faced and sports a self-cut mohawk which looks like a mangy ferret decided to sleep on his head.

Giovanni: Just 20 years old, he's originally from Moscow, Russia and has been living in Florida since he was 9. He barely has an accent and speaks better English than most natural born Americans. Nice guy but tries too hard to be cool which includes playing the part of the class clown. Has been wearing the same dress pants, dress shirt and tie since day one. Stated that before we got paid yesterday, he'd had just $14 to his name. Hey man, I've been there. But oddly, he says he's got an economics degree from Rollins College. And I saw him get into his very new-looking white Toyota Camry. Hmmm.

Mike B.: Definitely into the realm of what I'd consider retirement age, Mike seems to be this office's Ross. (Remember Ross from Symantec? Creepy, silent most of the time, perpetual scowl on his face and sneaky...but, oddly, well-liked by many.) This guy too seems to carry an air of "I'm above all this" about him. Like most in his age range, he seems totally confounded by the funny black box, thin flat screen and flimsy typewriter-like keyboard on his desk in front of him. It takes up too much space as he tries to keep up, writing copious notes in his huge notebook with his pencil.

Richard: Maybe a year or two older than me, he seems, like me, to be pretty, well, normal. He seems to know the realities of this position and especially our focus in training. Shine like a bright red apple. 'Cause the instructors are watching and rating everyone, you better believe it.

It's a competition and the winners get a permanent placement. The others...the majority...get a tap on the shoulder, some unknown day, letting them know they're not needed anymore. Rich knows how to play it. I can see it in his actions.

He's only had experience at one small, family-run call center for decades. And he too looks a little like a deer in the headlights when navigating his computer systems. But I think he'll make it.

He's amiable, friendly and got lots of personality. He's also the first one in the door every morning. Though, he admits he loves a "couple" of frosty brews after he gets home to far away Apopka every evening after his almost 1 hour, traffic-infested, many-tolled commute. Hope neither of those things get to him.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Lovin' The Luxe Option

There are two potential routes I could go from home to work and back again on any given day:

First, there's the Cheap Route. It involves traversing, none-too-smoothly, along 6 different stop-and-go roads (Lake Mary Blvd., 17-92, 419, 434, Research Pkwy., and Discovery Drive) with heavy traffic, especially as one approaches the UCF area and numerous, achingly-long stop lights.

But then there's what I call the "Luxe Option". Pure Heaven. A more direct path, virtually no stopping, almost all highway, average speed of 65-70 mph, smooth, well-maintained road surface and light, orderly traffic. Fast, slick and as stress-free as a 20 mile commute could be. And pretty much devoid of ugly, recession-worn beaters billowing exhaust fumes since they cant afford to ride this route.

That's right, it's all tolls. $3.50 each way.

That's $35.00 a week...over $1,800 a year!

But that's the cash price. Luckily (I guess), the state has another payment option. Sun Pass, an electronic debiting transponder affixed to your car's windshield allowing you to use the no-stop Sun Pass lanes and whizz through toll stations letting the sensors deduct the fare automatically from your pre-paid account. Beep! Cha-ching! It saves you, so they claim, about a quarter each toll station.

We'll see. I just got one today and will try it out in the morning. Nugget doesn't like the ugly sticker on her windshield, which seems like it will be very difficult to remove in the future when no longer needed.

But it beats a constant pile of quarters in my cup holders, rolling down my windows, letting in the oppressive heat, and having to stop at either the "Exact Change Only" (which sometimes malfunction, ripping you off) or human-operated (by sad, sad, people) toll booths.

Ah, to live in a state, like say, California, which has highways so toll-free as to be named "freeways"!

I guess toll roads are one of the reasons why we don't have an income tax.

Well, I'd rather be taxed since I don't think I'd have to pay $1,800 a year in state income tax!

Arrgh! I'm so frustrated...

Well, at least my deluxe scenic commute tomorrow should calm me down...

At least until I have to refill my Sun Pass account by the end of the week.