Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's force of habit that makes us think immediately of how much we have lost when someone close to us passes away. You can't call or write any more, you can't stop by, you don't need to set out their place setting at holidays. And these are all sad things. But so often we forget that we also gain so much what a person leaves us...the opportunity to review their glorious life while writing an obituary, the renewed reminder to cherish family and friends, the new knowledge that someone you love will always be keeping an eye on you from above.

My mind sprang immediately to how much I would miss Grandad when someone won the World Series. He was the one who sparked my interest in the game. I remember his being at our house one time and insisting on watching the game on TV. All around him, people were buzzing around, getting ready for dinner. No. He was watching the baseball. Eventually, Mom sent me in to collect Grandad, and I found him sitting on the couch, head back, mouth open, snoring. I figured then that there had to be something special about a game that led people to insist on watching it and then put them to sleep.

Now, Grandad had the sense to be a Phillies fan, whereas I took a wrong turn somewhere and sentenced myself to being a Red Sox fan. Grandad was the first person I thought to call when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004...luckily, I couldn't get good reception in the place I was calling from, since I'm not sure I was calm enough to use actual english words, but the next day I called, and got the classic Walter Brown "well how 'bout that?" which I hear in my head after most great plays and surprising wins. I loved Grandad's baseball...full of memories and stories. And I will be sad when someone winds the Series, because I won't be able to discuss it with him and hear what he thinks, but I know he's watching the hames and that at least part of what he would say is "well, how about that."

I've been lucky to be able to talk baseball with my grandparents. I discovered how unsusual it was to have so many living grandparents in college, where people were astounded to hear that I not only had the basic four pack of grandparents, even a six pack from a divorce and two remarriages on my mother's side. I do remember not feeling so lucky when I was younger and thought Grandad was about the most intimidating person alive. Try and remember when you were small...lower elementary school perhaps, when adults didn't exist and there were only Grownups. Now imagine a grown up almost double your height, with a bald head and big grownup glasses. And by the way, this super-grown-up has a great booming voice, smokes a pipe, which you've never seen anyone else do, and has a certain fondness for giving indian burns. Terrifying, right? He also didn't dumb down his jokes too much, but rather expected kids to be smart enough to figure it out. Thankfully, I finally put on some height and was able to understand how funny and warm Grandad was...I would have really missed out on a phenomenal man had I not come to understand these things about him. Unfortunately, he never really gave up on the indian burns.

It's so wonderful to see you all here today. I encourage all of you to find someone from a completely different part of Grandad's life and find out about their Walter Brown. Part of what made him so wonderful was how much he did...I passed his obituary around to one of my friends who had met him, and all I can say is that when you have lived for 88 years and people still wonder how you had time to do everything you accomplished, you have lived a good life, an exemplary life. Today, talk with each other about Walter. Talk about this good man and his good life, and gain from today, as we have all gained an eternal watchdog and spirit on our side. Let go of the feelings of loss and regret, and know that we all have gained by knowing him, and that he loved us all. Today, celebrate his life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Do The Right Thing

As you may have heard, I work on a loan program that helps people put in new furnaces, boilers, hot water systems, windows and insulation. It is an awesome program, with the one drawback being that you get to see how jerky some contractors get. Customers get cranky too, but it's generally the kind of cranky that only hurts their own case, whereas a lot of these contractors completely screw up the process for these folks and delay their work.

On the other hand, sometimes you get to see people being completely awesome, upstanding folks.

I got a call a couple days ago from one of my favorite customers (I am a sucker for senior citizens who refer to me as "honey," etc.) that sounded like it was headed for a disaster story. The old boiler had been removed, and as the contractor went to put in the new one, they managed to crack the cast iron casing of the unit. Uh oh. The contractor immediately apologized, and told the customer that he would be able to get a new unit from Rhode Island if the customer would be willing to accept an upgrade. Obviously, the question was what "accepting an upgrade" meant. The contractor answered that the replacement unit would be a new, super-awesome System 2000 EK-1, which was more efficient, but would cost the contractor about a thousand bucks more. What would be the cost to the customer? "Nothing, since it was our mistake." Obviously, the customer could hardly believe it. He pressed the contractor a little more, and they continued to say, no no, it was our mistake, there won't be any cost to you. The system was in the next day.

Needless to say, the customer said that the oil company would be HIS oil company until he croaked. (Which is what he actually said, which is awesome.)

Isn't it awesome to hear about a company doing the right thing? Especially on that kind of scale? I wanted to run out and hug the contractor, but instead I'll tell the story here and tell you that the company was Albert Culver Oil, and they are based out of Rockland, MA. Their number is 781-878-5050 and if you live in the Rockland area, I highly, highly recommend them. They have had a couple other customers go through the loan program and they are always courteous and professional, and get the paperwork we ask them for in almost instantaneously.

Friday, November 10, 2006

CNN Is Now Projecting Tony the Tiger as the Winner in Columbus, GA Mayoral Race...

Okay, one more thing to add to the Things I Like List...the random crap that people put in the "write in" box on ballots. Have you ever checked this out? Fantastic. Here is a sampling.

Tony the Tiger
Anyone but her
I vote Democrat
Mickey Mouse
from the Columbus, GA Ledger-Enquirer

Snoop Doggy Dogg
Porky the Pig
Bonzi Wells
Barney Fife
Yoko Ono
Pooh Bear
Fidel Castro
GI Joe
from the SacBee

Ted Bundy
Jane Fonda
Santa Claus
Lorde Mayor
Joy the Bear
Chuck Norris
from the Baylor Information Network

The Rambler, The Gambler, The Back Biter

Additions to the happy list: Donald Rumsfeld stepping down, and John "Useless Dickhead" Bolton potentially/probably being ousted from his pissy little outpost in the UN Ambassadorship. (I hate that guy.)

Last night I was watching VH1 and saw a world premiere video for a Cash song I really like. It's called "God's Gonna Cut You Down" and I downloaded it a little bit ago and quicly began obsessively listening to it. What can I say, I love marching-ish, rhythmic beats and Johnny Cash's big ole rumbling voice. But here's the thing...as we know, Johnny Cash died a while back, so he wasn't able to create a video for this posthumously released tune. However, a bunch of artists got together and made one for him. These artists included the following.

Iggy Pop
Kanye West
Chris Martin
Kris Kristofferson
Patti Smith
Terrence howard
Adam Levine
Chris Rock
Justin Timberlake
Kate Moss
Sir Peter Blake
Sheryl Crow
Dennis Hopper
Woody Harrelson
Amy Lee
Tommy Lee
Dixie Chicks
Mick Jones
Sharon Stone
Shelby Lynne
Anthony Kiedis
Travis Barker
Lisa Marie Presley
Kid Rock
Jay Z
Keith Richards
Billy Gibbons
Corinne Bailey Rae
Johnny Depp
Brandon Flowers
Graham Nash
Brian Wilson
Rick Rubin
Owen Wilson

Now some of these make sense. Fine. But the VAST MAJORITY of them gave me this super-creepy vibe of exploitation...supposedly these folks were making a tribute video for the Man in Black, and what they came up with was a bunch of "I am SAD" shots of all of THEM? Gross. Just gross. Also, if you're going to take part in a tribute? Think about whether your presence will seem SO GODDAMN WEIRD that it will jolt the watcher right out of the experience to figure out what the hell you're doing there. I am talking to you, Johnny Depp, and I love you dearly. You know what, I love the video that a huge swath of artists did that was a remake of "What's Going On" with the blindfolds and everything, thought it was cool as hell. And they did it to raise awareness/money for AIDS...double great. They didn't just jump on someone's song and film a video of them all looking pretty while the camera jumped around for that added epilectic effect.

It just grossed me right out. I like to think Cash would have slapped the stupid out of all of them.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Singing The Stars And Stripes Forever At Top Volume


I LOVE election day, not least because the people in my little demographic alcove of Folks Who Are Perhaps A Bit Too Psyched About Things Like The Electoral College completely lose their minds today, and it never fails to delight. Needless to say, I have some thoughts.

Once upon a time, I was riding the Metro and explaining Massachusetts to someone. I explained that pretty much the whole state was Democrat, but then every couple of years, we dug around under rocks and stuff to find the only Republican in the state and elected him or her Governor. The person behind me on the Metro, who turned out to be from Quincy, started cracking up, clapped a hand on my shoulder, and said "that's the best summary of Massachusetts politics I think I've ever heard." It was kind of great. This year, however, we have a Democrat at least 30% up in every poll you can think of, and that is a thing of beauty.

Running this year are Christy Mihos(I-W.Yarmouth), who ran a fantastic commercial featuring cartoon politicians shoving their heads up their butts (yeah, you read that right) when questioned about what was up with problematic state politics, including one who looked exactly like Lt. Gov. and Republican candidate Kerry Healey. It also bears mentioning that in the first debate, he smacked Healey down so hard even people who DIDN'T LIKE her were calling in to Nerd Radio 580 all "Gee, settle down, guy," and that on his website, he has an entire section of his website dedicated to DOGS that support him (yeah, you read that right, too), an initiative apparently headed up by his own dog, Reagan. Don't you kind of want to vote for him?

The other third party contender is Grace Ross(G/R-Worcester), who is a nice lady who has held up well in debates but whom I suspect could not really cut it in the corner office. She is involved inpolitics pretty heavily, and clearly understands what needs to get done without being ridiculous about it and making change for change’s sake, but I think she is one of those people who is better and more effective at a lower level of government, rather than the glad-handing super-leadership levels. But the thing is, you need a good hardcore trenches person, and I think she's it. If the Patrick/Murray gang is smart, they will snap her up and get her working for them.

So now we come to the main event. For the Democrats we have Deval Patrick(D-Milton), running with Tim Murray, Mayor of Worcester. Patrick has basically been doing the equivalent of planting his hand on Kerry Healey's forehead while she whales away, trying to end him for all time. Ain't happening. I don't necessarily blame this on the huge cavern between their ideologies (I don't think the gap is that drastic, to be honest with you), but rather on the incredibly negative campaign she has run. I personally voted for Patrick for three reasons...one, Tim Murray, two, Patrick's been effective at getting shit done in both government and in the corporate world, and three, Kerry Healey is a useless pest who ran a hideously nasty campaign and who I don't want being the first woman ANYTHING much less Governor of the state I live in.

And then we have the infamous Kerry Healey (R-Beverley), who was the incumbent Lieutenant Governor and has very pretty blonde hair. I think if she'd run a less aggressively negative campaign, she would have had a chance, but once she went negative, so did her poll numbers, and they never really rebounded. When I woke up Election Day morning, she was 30 points or more behind Patrick in every poll you could find. She also did something that I HATE politicians doing, which was to make a 50 point list of stuff she would do...it's just too much in the sound-bite society we're all operating in. Pick your ten favorites and then discuss the rest on the trail. Criminy. Ain't no one gonna read your 50 points except the dorks like me, kid, and we already know who we're voting for.

Can I just tell you that I love voting for the Hon. James P. McGovern SO MUCH? He wasn't even running against anyone this cycle, and I'm there in the voting cube coloring in the little circle all "YEAH! UNH! GO JIM!" in my head. He is everything I love about politics and I am SO HAPPY to have him as my Congressman. He will be the second ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, which is so, SO huge and I am psyched.

Other things that make me happy:
  • Democrats taking the House!! And maybe the Senate! But even if they don't, giving the GOP a run for their money!
  • Record turn out across the board - get outraged! WOOOOO! Vote with your iron ballot of influence!
  • Someone using a glass paperweight to smash a voting machine in Allentown, PA.
  • Showing up to vote and finding LINES rather than a ghost town.
  • Semi-drunk texting between Scarlett and I about how awesome everything is involving lots of profanity.
  • First messages of the day with Scarlett, to wit: "I KNOW!!!!!!!!!! fuck i am tired dude and still drunk but what the fuck is going on with VA i'm so pissed i went to bed at like 4 and webb had won lol"
  • Santorum getting ousted. (FINALLY! Good job, PA, dude was poison.)
  • Ted Kennedy, in general
  • Ted Kennedy wondering aloud why anyone would want to be out in California, Maria.
  • Ted Kennedy's Arnold Schwartzenegger impression. (No, I'm not kidding. I laughed until I choked.)
  • Did I mention Jim McGovern is now the 2nd ranking on Rules? Because he is.
  • CNN's election coverage...your regular news is crap now, y'all, but your election stuff still rocks.
  • McCaskill vs. Talent...she pulled it out. Not that it was worth my contract, but still.
  • James Carville, in general.
  • James Carville, snapping at Paul Begala to shut the hell up.
  • Jim McGovern getting arrested at a protest

Things that did NOT make me happy:

  • John Freaking Kerry being all up in the place with Kennedy and Patrick. STOP ENCOURAGING HIM, PEOPLE.
  • Staying up late only for stupid Virginia to go to a recount.
  • ...stupid Virginia.
  • Kerry lurking in the background of EVERY SHOT.
  • Having Kennedy walk across the stage for like TEN MILES to talk about Deval Patrick...dude is fantastic, but he is also old, and he looks it when you watch him like that.
  • Not being in DC for the election.
Oh man that was so great. Still waiting on Montana and Virginia but I am so pumped.

Monday, November 6, 2006

If I WANTED You to Call Me Jessica, I Would Tell You.

Oh, the customers.

Did it somehow become passe to worry about pronouncing people's names right while I wasn't paying attention? I mean, there are a lot of semi-archaic things - usually grammatical - that bother me when they shouldn't, but I always thought getting people's names right was an important thing that people would always sort of make a game attempt at. Apparently, once again, I am wrong.

Last week I either received faxes addressed to or was referred to as the following:

ONE WEEK, PEOPLE. And my favorite was the guy who was trying to talk me into making an exception for his totally stupid contract which would actually take his household efficiency BACK several paces, and who mostly liked being in charge of people and thus kept referring to me as "Josephine" in a demented attempt to invoke the effects of the Patented Maternal Deployment of The Full Given Name technique and make me feel like a three year old so I would knuckle under. Note to Mr. Dipstick: that technique, if not in use by my mother, only makes me feel ornery. Also? Nice try, but my name ain't Josephine, so you lose ALL intimidation potential. The thing is, too, that if people ask for my name, I spell it, and I spell that bastard ALL THE TIME. I also sing the Josie and the Pussycats song if they are still confused. It's JOSIE, goddammit!

I've worked with people too, who can't be bothered to slow down to pronounce a name right, which is business suicide...my last name is easy, but Speed's could go a couple ways, so when someone gets it wrong, I just immediately ask what they're selling. Not that people HAVEN'T gotten my name wrong, because they have, and those people make me weep for the future, except for the awesome, awesome lady from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation who stumbled on it, garbled it, paused, then said "you know what, I think maybe I should go back to school. Preschool." It's one thing to use shorthand between coworkers - my loan buddy here and I refer to the folks with more insane and consonant-based names in shorthand all the time because no one wants to spend ten minutes just saying someone's name, but when I get on the phone, it's the whole thing, and if I'm not 100% sure, I ask. It's just manners, people. Your name is such an important part of your identity...show some respect and at least make the effort.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

To Fashion, With Love.

Dear Fashion Industry,

I am writing today to inform you that whoever told you that fat people want nothing more out of life than to wear muumuus might have been lying to you. I'm not sure what nefarious purpose that would serve, but you have clearly been misinformed. I would understand if just a few companies here and there were churning out the diaphonous shape-free gear...the obvious motive there would be to bring down the victimized companies and relegate their designers and creations to the worst dressed lists for all time, but it seems like the same devious bastard has hit all of you. I hope this will help - I'm worried about you guys!

I am fat. I am not thrilled about it either, quite frankly, but we all put on a few pounds in college and I just got a little overzealous about it. I didn't decide one day I wanted to look like I do, so I've been doing the right stuff to get un-fat. But here's the thing, guys...I would rather have clothes that don't emphasize my weight and aren't covered with sequins. I have lost over thirty pounds so far, and I am still going into stores and basically choosing the least horrible things on the rack. I am just confused, because I don't know a single fat person who WANTS to wear this crap. IT IS UNFLATTERING. Adding another three inches in drapey fabric on every possible surface is NOT HELPFUL. It is ugly.

Here's the other thing that confuses me - you seem to be aware of a large population of gargantuan prostitutes. I'm not sure where they are, and I am happy about that, but the alternative to wearing an actual sack (available in three different hideous prints) is wearing a denim bodysuit or a micro mini. NO ONE wants to see that. I see myself naked every day and I know no one wants to see that. Why is there no middle ground? Why are the options "parachute" and "hooker"? Where are these enormous prostitutes?

And let's talk for a minute about something that won't change even if I'm a size 6 - my shoes. People with size ten feet wants cute shoes too. I don't want granny boots, I don't want weird sneakers with lots of neon, and I DEFINITELY don't want a shoe that's so aggressively ugly that children run shrieking away from me. WHAT IS THE DEAL? Why can I not go into a shoe store and find a cute shoe in a size ten? Don't get me wrong, I love Zappos, but it can't quite match the instant gratification of going into a shoe store and not having to settle for (AGAIN) the least horrible shoe option in my size.

In review - start making some cute shit. Fat girls want to be fashionable too, whether they need some cute duds while they slim down or need them while they revel in being a size 20. People with big feet want cute shoes. It's crap that you give up once you hit size 12 in women's clothes and size 7 or 8 in shoes and start making hideous sacks and combat boots. You guys make some totally cute stuff! Why do you get so stumped when people get bigger than a size 3?

Get on the stick, you guys, and make some cute clothes and shoes. I promise you we will totally buy it. Let me know when you're done.