Ativan in Tijuana, and Other Enticements

I was going through my blog’s spam folder a few days ago, after being notified that comments from one of my readers weren’t showing up. Sure enough, they had somehow incorrectly been flagged as spam. (I should note that I am referring to junk email and not processed lunch meat. And dammit, now I’m hungry). This has happened before. I once had an email from my mom marked as spam because the subject line was “It’s HOT today!” Weird, seeing it in there amongst the Viagra ads and Nigerian scam messages. Which, if correct, would mean I’d be worth approximately $22 million now.

But I digress.

I have to admit, for the most part the WordPress filter is doing its job. There were 189 messages in the spam folder, and 99% of them truly were junk. Not to mention horribly written. To wit:

Delights here. I’m willing to expert ones report. Thanks a lot a great deal of and i am waiting for effect people. Might you be sure to shed us a snail mail?

Umm…what?! I only shed snail mails to close friends and family. There are a lot of nonsensical comments in there. Here’s another.

Amazing! Its in fact remarkable paragraph, I have got much clear idea concerning
from this paragraph.

Wow. Thanks? Some of these people suck you in with what sounds like compliments. At least in a parallel universe where compliments are dished out in mangled English. Such as this one.

I referгed all of my goօd friends to come study this epic blog!
I hɑve never notiϲed a lot information in 1 spot
ahead of! Incredibly eyе-catchinɡ blog!

I almost fell for that one, too. I actually thought it might have been legit, until I saw it was from “find escorts los angeles.” In addition to offering questionable sexual services, the people who spam me also want to sell me a lot of handbags (Michael Kors in particular), prescription drugs (I can buy Ativan in Tijuana!), running shoes, sunglasses, SEO and web services, and funeral services in Dallas (do they know something I don’t?).

This guy seems a tad indecisive, huh?

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I
never found any interesting article like yours. {It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me.
{In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site
owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made good
content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much more|a lot more} useful than
ever before.|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.

{Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well} written!|
{I will|I’ll} {right away|immediately} {take hold of|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch} your {rss|rss feed} as
I {can not|can’t} {in finding|find|to find} your
{email|e-mail} subscription {link|hyperlink} or {newsletter|e-newsletter} service.
Do {you have|you’ve} any? {Please|Kindly} {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognise|know} {so that|in order that} I {may just|may|could} subscribe.

I also don’t know what to make of this guy:

って、をなかった。しい、いカエデの、 9なな,ティンバーランドアウトレット。々はピピハングがし、のをつける、をます、のスプラッシュパッドロード·ストリ

Or this one:

Clarté se réfère à une substance. Pureté chimique et de l’hydratation et de la réflexion globale d’autres facteurs d’importance. Typiquement, une longueur d’onde spécifique de la lumière, la transparence du matériau est représenté par le pourcentage de la transmittance d’un échantillon d’une substance.

If nothing else, my spam folder made for an entertaining read. It’s almost as good as checking out the search terms people use to find the blog.

In other news, the bank finally approved my short sale! I got a notice from them late last week that everything was a go. We are now waiting for the buyers to order an inspection. Once that’s done, my realtor believes the closing will happen fast, since it’s a cash sale and pre-approved. This is all a great relief to me, and yet, a little anti-climactic, given that it’s been nearly a month since we moved out. On the few occasions that I still stop by the townhouse, it just feels cold and barren. This might have something to do with the fact that the heat is off and it’s empty, but still. The only thing left occupying that space is memories; it ceased being a home the moment the moving truck pulled away.

It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to new situations. Tara and I love our new apartment home. It’s cozy and comfortable, and we have been able to work around the minor inconveniences. One bathroom has not been an issue yet. No barbecue grills allowed? No problem, we bought a George Foreman electric grill (the lease only forbids propane and charcoal). Loopholes, baby – gotta love ’em. Perhaps best of all, there are a lot of great places within easy walking distance. A local grocery store that offers fresh produce. The Kaiser clinic where I pick up my prescriptions. Our favorite salad bar buffet restaurant. This past Sunday, we walked to Elmer’s for breakfast…and they have Bloody Marys. That, my friends, is a win/win!

The same applies to Audrey living with us. She has become such a part of our daily lives, it’s weird when she’s gone. She left for a spring break trip to visit family in California with her mom early Wednesday morning, and won’t be back until Sunday afternoon. Which leaves us with 5 nights of freedom total, since her mom picked her up on Tuesday. We have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it’s great to have a break and not have to worry about wearing a bra all the time. And Tara can go without, too! But at the same time, we miss her. She is funny and smart and open with us. Last week, we had a deep discussion about life and death and religion. And, she can bust out a “that’s what she said” that will catch us off guard and leave us in stitches. She’s a good kid.

Off to make myself a Spamburger now!

You're drooling now, aren't you?
You’re drooling now, aren’t you?


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Needed: One Velvet Elvis

I work for the best company ever.

This morning, I filled out a request for PTO time. Tara and I are headin’ up to Seattle next Friday to celebrate her nephew’s first birthday, and we wanted to leave early for a change. We’ll be taking off around 2:00, so I submitted the paperwork to my boss, who promptly tore it in half before my eyes. That led to a brief WTF?! moment in which I wondered what I had done to spark such animosity. You could have just said no, I was about to say, but then Boss Man explained, “This one is on us. I know you put in some extra hours last week. You’ve earned this.”

Aww. How awesome is that? In all those years working for Big Corporations, never once did a boss do something nice and off-the-record like that. And then, a few hours later, we celebrated a warm and sunny spring afternoon with a barbecue in the parking lot. There is nothing like grilled meat and cold booze in the middle of a workday! And not just beer. Margaritas, people. That’s high class. Four months in, and it still boggles my mind how laid back and fun this place is. And yet, when there is work to be done, we all buckle down and give it our all. What a great concept. This is the type of company that inspires fierce loyalty. And a few hangovers.

This would be PERFECT for my cubicle!
This would be PERFECT for my cubicle!

By the way, I’m no longer the newbie. I’m not even the runner-up newbie. Two new people have been hired in the past few weeks, and they are interviewing for another. At this rate, I’m beginning to feel like a veteran. To accommodate one of the new hires, I had to give up my cubicle in the web and media office, but they moved me to a little cave-like area with four work stations. I happen to be the only one there, so it’s like I’ve got my own private office. I have taken to keeping the lights off and relying on the warm, soft glow of lava lamps, which adorn the top shelf of my desk. My coworkers joke that I need a beaded curtain and a velvet Elvis painting. Ahh, do they know me, or what? I will transform my work area into a groovy 70s pad before long, mark my words. I’m sure the way we’re growing I’ll have another person sitting near me before long. Let’s just hope he or she digs velvet, baby.

I can’t wait to hit the vintage stores!

Better Late Than Never or What’s in the Pantry? 

Last month (wow, time flies!), I talked about 5 foods I used to like but now loathe. And I promised to come up with a list of 5 foods I shouldn’t like, but inexplicably do. I haven’t forgotten, I’ve merely been sidetracked. So, without further ado, here you have it…my guilty food pleasures.

5 Foods I Shamefully Admit to Liking

  1. Spam. I’ve written of my love for Spam before. I’m the guy who made a 19-mile detour on my cross-country road trip to visit a museum dedicated to the lunch meat (and it turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip). Maybe my fondness for canned SPiced hAM can be traced back to my years in Hawaii, where it’s considered a delicacy. Or maybe I just like the convenience and post-Apocalyptic shelf life. Either way, Spam is salty and meaty and delicious, particularly with fried eggs. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
  2. Underwood Chicken Spread. I had a girlfriend once who took one look at the stuff and wrinkled her nose. And my ex-wife thought it was disgusting, too. But I have been eating this since childhood, and love it. Maybe there’s something odd about a creamy, ready-to-spread chicken product, but you try to resist the tiny can with the devil logo. I eat it straight up, spread between two slices of bread, and it always makes for a tasty, enjoyable lunch. And it’s got chunks of white meat chicken in there, so it’s…umm…somewhat healthy and good for you. No?
  3. Krab salad. I am a writer and a self-professed Grammar nazi, so while the spelling bugs the hell out of me, the taste does not. Granted, imitation crab meat will never compare to the real deal, but it’s a lot cheaper – and still pretty tasty! And it’s not like fake crab isn’t real food: it’s usually made with Alaskan pollock, a type of mellow white fish, that is blended with egg white and crab flavoring, and dyed red on the outside so it resembles said shellfish. It’s often used in California rolls, but I prefer it mixed with mayo, celery, and onion, and served atop a cracker. Yum!
  4. Oriental mix. I’m not referring to actresses like Jennifer Tilly, but rather, those snack mixes that contain a variety of salty, sweet, and spicy ingredients like sesame sticks, dried peas, peanuts, rice crackers, and seaweed. They are often sold in bulk, and always make for a crunchy, delicious snack. So what if an opened bag smells like the ocean?
  5. Prunes (and prune juice). I pity the poor prune. It gets a bad rap. Several years ago, manufacturers started calling prunes dried plums instead, in an effort to bypass the stigma associated with eating prunes. Who cares if these fiber-rich fruits have a reputation for, ahem, aiding in the “excavation” process? They are sweet, chewy, and delicious. Whenever stewed prunes appeared on the school lunch menu, my classmates would kindly offer me theirs. I never turned ’em down, because I loved the flavor and texture! I was much happier seeing a pile of stewed prunes on my plate than, say, cake. And prune juice is a pretty tasty drink, as well!

And, since I had a bonus item on my last list, I’ll add one here, as well. I am a sucker for canned spinach. Maybe I was influenced by Popeye cartoons while growing up, but regardless of the reason, I have always had a fondness for spinach. In a can, that is. Heated up and sprinkled with salt, it’s a healthy and delicious side dish for any meal. “Real” spinach, by the way? It’s okay, but I don’t go gaga over it the way I do the canned stuff. To me, it just doesn’t have the same flavor profile. Or maybe it’s a textural thing. I dunno.

So, what about you? What “weird” food item floats your culinary boat?

Cauliflower in my In Box

This morning, I opened up one of the cans of SPAM I bought from the museum in Minnesota. It was the Garlic variety, and was – true to its word – quite garlicky (and delicious). Audrey and I enjoyed SPAM ‘n eggs, while Rusty opted for a SPAMburger. We all cleaned our plates. And this got me wondering why, exactly, we refer to junk e-mail as “spam.” That’s such a negative connotation for such an amazing, inventive and tasty product! So I did a little research, and here’s what I learned, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to the Internet Society and other sources, the term spam is derived from the 1970 Spamsketch of the BBC television comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus“. The sketch is set in a cafe where nearly every item on the menu includes Spam canned luncheon meat. As the waiter recites the Spam-filled menu, a chorus of Viking patrons drowns out all conversations with a song repeating “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… lovely Spam! wonderful Spam!”, hence “Spamming” the dialogue. The excessive amount of Spam mentioned in the sketch is a reference to the preponderance of imported canned meat products in the United Kingdom, particularly a brand of spiced ham (SPiced hAM = SPAM) from the USA, in the years after World War II, as the country struggled to rebuild its agricultural base…In the 1980s the term was adopted to describe certain abusive users who frequented BBSs and MUDs, who would repeat “Spam” a huge number of times to scroll other users’ text off the screen. In early Chat rooms services like PeopleLink and the early days of Online America (later known as America Online or AOL), they actually flooded the screen with quotes from the Monty Python Spam sketch. With internet connections over phone lines, typically running at 1200 or even 300 bit/s, it could take an enormous amount of time for a spammy logo, drawn in ASCII art to scroll to completion on a viewer’s terminal. Sending an irritating, large, meaningless block of text in this way was called spamming.

There's no such thing as "Spam" in my In Box anymore! (Courtesy of

That’s all well and good and interesting, but I object. Furthermore, I demand we take back SPAM! It should be returned to its rightful status as the tin can American icon that it is, rather than being relegated to something we groan at when we see it waiting for us every time we fire up our computers. So, I’m starting a revolution! From this point forward, I’m going to call all that annoying junk e-mail piling up in my In Box cauliflower. Why cauliflower? Because that is a truly awful and hideous thing to behold. I have never liked cauliflower – I think it’s pretty disgusting, actually (and lest you accuse me of disliking vegetables in general, I can assure you this is not true – I enjoy most veggies). Other possibilities I considered – but eventually rejected – included lima beans, Brussels sprouts, oysters, and skim milk. I even thought about straying from a food analogy altogether and calling junk mail something like Walmart or Bush or Oakland Raiders, but things were getting a bit too complicated (and confusing), so I decided to stick with cauliflower. Cauliflower it is. That annoying message from Nigeria claiming I’m privy to loads of unclaimed cash if I just forward them a nominal fee? It’s called cauliflower. Do I want to magically enhance my manhood? Cauliflower, baby. Replica watches? That’s cauliflower that takes a licking but keeps on ticking. I trust I’ve made my point!

I realize this is a one-man battle I’m fighting. There’s nothing I can do about Gmail (or even WordPress) with their “Spam” folders built right into the program, although in the case of the former I can always create a custom Cauliflower folder and redirect the Spam stuff to go there. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but I’m ready, willing and relatively stable. Err, I mean, able. Spam is out, cauliflower’s in!

If you could help spread the word, that would be spamtastic…

Getting My Griswold On – Day 6: Austin, MN

Miles traveled today: 556.9
Total miles traveled: 2282.9

So That’s How They Came Up With The Lyrics

My alarm was set for 6 AM today, but I woke up at 5:46 with bright sunshine peeking through the curtains. I sighed, because I knew it was time to bid Rapid City farewell, but I was also excited to be hitting the road again. An hour later the city dwindled to a speck in my rearview mirror before being swallowed up by the seemingly endless South Dakota prairie. It was a chilly morning, and very windy all day; I was awestruck by the way the prairie grasses were “rolling” wavelike in the gusty breezes. It’s hard to explain, but picture tall green grass blades with raggedy amber tips, flattening and spreading out over the land with each gust of wind, like an ocean tide pushing up on the sand before retreating. It dawned on me then that the lyrics to America The Beautiful perfectly summed it up: “amber waves of grain.” This was grass – not grain – but otherwise, it’s fitting.

And I have to say, this trip is making me feel all sorts of patriotic. I am rediscovering how vast and beautiful this country of ours is, and how fortunate I am to live here and have the ability to take a road trip like this one. I started feeling this way when driving through the purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain, you might say. Corny but true. Seeing Mount Rushmore again certainly helped.

Time Ch-ch-changes

Somewhere around the middle of South Dakota, I crossed into the Central Time Zone. Once I hit Indiana, I’ll reach the Eastern Time Zone, and will have experienced all four U.S. time zones. I’ve had to take that into consideration when planning each day’s trip; 8+ hours of driving today felt like 9 with the time change – but it’ll work in my favor on the return journey. I’ve always thought of Central Time as being the odd one. I don’t know if this is still the case, but the television networks always showed primetime programming an hour early here (“an all-new episode of The Office tonight at 8 PM, 7 Central” for example). My understanding is that’s because the farmers tend to get up early and, therefore, go to sleep early.

Today also marked the end of all that fantastic scenery I’ve been enjoying. Amber waves of grass aside, once you pass the Badlands there ain’t nothing to see, folks. I mentioned the next leg of my journey on last night’s Facebook status update, and somebody said to be careful and not to fall asleep at the wheel. Another friend commented that even if I did, it wouldn’t matter, because this is the straightest strip of highway in the U.S. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but it certainly felt that way. Just one long, straight trek through endless empty land minus the occasional small town. I actually did start to feel a bit drowsy at one point and began yawning, so I cranked up the music and made sure to stop the car and stretch my legs. It worked, as I got my second wind. Crossing the Missouri River helped – it brought a change of scenery and something interesting to look at. There is a rest stop just across the river, and it’s the nicest one I’ve ever seen. It’s situated on a bluff overlooking the river, with a scenic viewpoint and an interpretive center inside. I was nearly blown off the side of the cliff by the strong winds; I’d forgotten how gusty it can be across the northern plains. It remained cool all day, but sunny, with just a few scattered fair-weather cumulus clouds dotting the sky. The severe weather of the past few days is history for now.

Shortly after 1:00 I crossed into Minnesota. Down side: the speed limit dropped to 70 mph. Up side: there was no road construction to contend with. Up side, part two: the scenery changed. Slightly, anyway. The landscape became even flatter – if that’s possible – but I started seeing evergreen trees. When I think of this state, trees and lakes spring to mind, so that was fitting. By the way, the rivers and lakes throughout Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota have been running very high and flooding the surrounding plains. All of them. Every time I pass a body of water, it is inevitably spilling over its banks and covering the bases of the nearby trees, and nearly every city I go through has flood advisories posted. The folks up in Minot aren’t the only ones dealing with high water.

I Drove 19 Miles Out of My Way for SPAM

There are two things you should know about me. I like quirky attractions, and I love museums. So when my friend Ron told me that “the world famous SPAM museum in Austin, Minnesota” was a must-stop, I was on board. Only, it turned out, Austin was actually 19 miles past my turnoff onto I-35 and points south. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a detour, but Ron was insistent, and then threw in a little bonus trivia, stating that Austin, MN is also the birthplace of legendary football player, coach and commentator (and video game namesake) John Madden. After hearing that, I was in.

It was going to be a close call, though. The museum closes at 5 PM, and Maggie was projecting my arrival to Austin just an hour earlier. Sure enough, she was dead on. I quickly found a Super 8 right off the interstate, checked in, and then drove a few miles to the museum, arriving about 45 minutes before closing time.

Ron, it turns out, was right. The museum was awesome! It’s located right next to a Hormel plant and one of two SPAM-producing factories in the country, which explains its existence in a small town like Austin. The outside of the building is brick with blue and yellow, SPAM-colored touches, and once you enter the lobby, you are immersed in a world of SPAM. It was actually very cool. There were displays tracing the history of the Hormel corporation in general and SPAM in particular, interactive games and kiosks, advertisements from each decade, glass-encased SPAM samples that included varieties I’d never even heard of – SPAM pizza, anyone? – an overhead conveyor belt with cans of SPAM whizzing by, and a very large gift shop. I purchased a couple of hard-to-find varieties (Garlic SPAM and Hot ‘n Spicy SPAM) and a few other trinkets, including a shot glass and a recipe book. I absolutely loved the museum, and could have spent more time there. I didn’t get to see the SPAM movie (but I did enjoy the SPAM-themed decor throughout). This was a totally worthwhile stop, and I’m glad I went out of my way to see it. It’s a slice of Americana I never knew existed before, and probably would never have heard of if not for this trip.

There’s not much else to do in Austin, so I’m holed up for the night. I’ve got some rum and Coke and I’m planning the next stage of my trip tomorrow. Turns out I’ll be passing through Clear Lake, Iowa. Something historical happened there in 1959, and I’ll be hunting down the site. Details tomorrow. :)

The Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota.
The nicest rest stop I've ever seen. Chamberlain, SD if you're passing through.
Austin Minnesota
Other than John Madden, Austin Minnesota's biggest claim to fame.
How can you not love this place?!
Those are cans of SPAM stacked up in the lobby.
Mmm. The use of the word "base" instead of "crust" makes my mouth water. Seriously, why don't they sell this anymore?!
Yum! Guess what I'm serving at my next dinner party?
Fun fact: it takes each can of SPAM on this conveyor belt about 17 minutes to circle the museum.
I'm no interior decorator, but I'd kinda love this in my townhouse!