20 January 2009

An Invention I Can Wholeheartedly Recommend

Courtesy of that excellent Christian publication, The End Times:
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, — Christianware, Inc., a supplier for Christian bookstores worldwide, today announced a new product that will enable born again women to convert the secular romance novels they once used to gratify the desires of their sinful nature into romance novels that will encourage more heavenly desires.

“I am excited to introduce the Christian Romance Novel Converter," said Jedidiah Thomas, president of Christianware, "You simply place a worldly romance novel into the converter, wait 10 minutes for the book conversion machinery to perform its function, and then open up the converter to find a Christian romance novel much better suited to women of a Christian mindset."
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is correct! Make haste to read this article before you are consumed with sinful fleshly passions!!

17 January 2009

In Which I Learn I Am Not the Only Recovering "Full House" Addict in My Department

When things get slow in the policy administration area, IM conversations like this sometimes occur.

Date: Friday, January 16, 2009

Co-worker 1 [11:02 AM]:
Just got a call from an agents office, his name is John Stamos, its good to see he's doing well

Luaphacim [11:02 AM]:

Luaphacim [11:02 AM]:
Everywhere you look, everywhere you look
[note: this was also sung in over the cube wall – at a business-appropriate volume, of course]

Co-worker 1 [11:02 AM]:
thats great

Co-worker 1 [11:03 AM]:
I think the reps assistant was DJ

Nine Minutes Later...
[Co-worker 2 is starting the conversation with this message:]
Man!!! Now I have the Full House theme stuck in my head!! Thanks, Co-worker 1!!

Luaphacim [11:12 AM]:
Co-worker 1 thinks DJ might have been the rep's assistant

Co-worker 1 [11:12 AM]:
Either her or Kimmy Gibbler

Luaphacim [11:12 AM]:

Co-worker 2 [11:13 AM]:
Please don't tell me his office is out of San Francisco . . . .

Co-worker 1 [11:13 AM]:
Its actually in the same building as Wake up San Franscisco

Co-worker 2 [11:14 AM]:
You are a wealth of trivia on Full House. I'm impressed!

Luaphacim [11:14 AM]:
it's even the right day for him to be calling...

Luaphacim [11:14 AM]:
I will be watching TGIF eagerly tonight to see if you make it on

Co-worker 1 [11:15 AM]:
Have mercy!
This is probably the correct place to reiterate that I have the best job EVAR. Happy weekend!

12 January 2009

If only it worked like that...

luaphacim [9:29 AM]:
not sure when I will be off...

luaphacim [9:29 AM]:
and then we haz to go to burlington coat factriz

luaphacim [9:29 AM]:
(iz moar tahn GRATE COAST)

marshwiggle [9:29 AM]:
hehe, I was about to say teh same

luaphacim [9:29 AM]:
to trade my BIG coat for a less big coat

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
for Christmas, my MIL bought me the kind of coat I would never buy myself

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
(i.e., not from Goodwill)

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
but she didn't know how big a size to get, and the coat was too large

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
so I am like a little kid

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
in the coat

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
and also on a maturity level

luaphacim [9:31 AM]:
but I don't think the immaturity can be fixed by Burlington Coat Factory, regrettably

06 January 2009

How Much Deficit is Too Much?

There was an interesting op-ed by Andrew Parasiliti in the Washington Times yesterday. In it, he addresses the ideas of President-Elect Obama about the need for yet another off-budget economic stimulus package. Parasiliti observes:
in thinking prescriptively about the economy, is there not also a lesson from the current crisis that bills eventually come due, and that when you spend more than you take in, there is a day of reckoning?

That was the experience of those Americans who bought houses they could not afford, and who are now facing foreclosure or painful economic decisions. Shouldn't it also be the lesson of the U.S. government that we need to stop living beyond our means? It is unrealistic either to imagine "growing" out of a deficit of this projected magnitude or that there will be a return on the TARP expenditures anytime soon. The day of reckoning for these massive deficits will eventually come in the form of tax increases or printing more money, and the resulting weakened dollar and inflation that goes along with the latter option. In sum, the recovery will be running on even more borrowed money from foreign creditors and on borrowed time. Our savings and retirement accounts will know no long-term security as long as we carry such massive deficits and we are taking no steps to address them.
Hear, hear. I was uncomfortable with TARP, uncomfortable with talk of bailing out the auto industry, and I will continue to be uncomfortable with Obama's proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. Why? because we are literally spending trillions of dollars that we do not actually have.

Yes, we have more borrowing power than most other countries on earth, but credit always comes with a price, and if we don't learn that now, our country could face severe consequences for it before too long.

03 January 2009

Adventures With My Flex Card

I really like my company-sponsored Medical Flex Spending Account. Maybe it's just the Scotsman in me, but there is something awfully appealing about using tax-free money to buy medical goods and services that I would use anyway. To make the deal even sweeter, my company even issues a debit card to expedite the claim process, so I theoretically don't even have to submit receipts every single time!

The problem, of course, is that they also do "random" checks to verify that I am not misusing the flex spending debit card. And as far as I can tell, these "random" checks seem to require me to submit receipts for 90% of the purchases I have ever made with said debit card. So, basically, it is only deferring and complicating the claim process, rather than expediting it.

The best part is that most of the "we need your payment" notices are sent by offshore associates who work during their daytime, which is, of course, our night-time. This can be amusing, like for instance when I receive a notice via e-mail at 1:07 a.m. on Christmas morning. Also amusing is the fact that this notice said it was the second request even though I had never received the first one.

Being the good citizen that I am, I promptly complied and sent them a receipt. Of course, being the ornery person I am, I also enclosed the following letter:

January 2, 2009

(Haha, just kidding – it’s only my first
response! I bet I got you, didn’t I?)

From: luaphacim
To: Whom It May Concern
Re: Your Very Thoughtful Christmas Gift

My very dear Whom (May I call you Whom, or would you prefer Mr./Ms. May-Concern?):

It is with a heavy heart that I take keyboard in hand on this second day of the new year. Why, you ask, should my heart be so heavy? Because of the all cholesterol in there, that’s why. But also because I am clearly not working hard enough. I had once thought of myself as a Certified First-Rate Workaholic©, but your office is clearly full of much more dedicated work-persons than I.

Perhaps I should begin at the beginning. I came to work on the morning December 26, 2008 chock-full of good tidings, great joy, and also my mother’s home-made fudge. In short, if anyone had asked how I was, I probably would have responded, “Full of Holiday Cheer, my friend! Merry Christmas!” However, no one asked, as very few of my co-workers inquire after my health – or, indeed, communicate with me at all, unless their job duties mandate that they do so. But fine, whatever, let them be that way. See if I care.

And then, in the midst of my festal glee, I saw it in my inbox: your e-mail, a copy of which I have enclosed, signed, stamped, and fingerprinted for your reference. I would have sealed it too, but I was out of wax.

The moment I saw that e-mail, I had a life-changing revelation. Your simple electronic message, comprised of mere ones and zeroes, sparkling so guilelessly in ASCII format on my workstation computer monitor, taught me that the true Spirit of Christmas resides neither in presents, nor hot chocolate, nor yet homemade confectionary delights from one’s mother.

No, the True Spirit of Christmas cannot be accurately conveyed in any manner other than e-mails sent at 1:07 AM on Christmas morning requesting copies of receipts for services that are eligible for Flex Spending Accounts and containing polite threats regarding the “interruption in the use of my card” if I do not comply. Apparently, the True Spirit of Christmas also requires for the e-mail to be marked “Second Notice,” thus perplexing its recipient, who cannot remember ever receiving a first one. Perhaps it was clogged in the Internetic Tubes along with a clump of other cyber-paraphernalia such as Sesame Street–Harry Potter crossover fan fiction, cute pictures of Aunt Essie’s kittens, and e-mails from Senator Ted Stevens (R – AK) to Dell Technical Support, inquiring as to the location of his electronic typing computer machine’s “Any” key.

But I digress. My point is simply to thank you, my dearest Whom, from the bottom of my heart for sharing your inexpressibly great wisdom and grasp of the True Meaning of Christmas with me, your unworthy servant! Without you, I would be helpless. Without you, there would be no one to suspect me of committing tax fraud by using my Flex Convenience Card on items such as Cocoa Puffs and racehorses and clown shoes and Lord knows what else. Without you, I would be utterly incomplete.

And so, as my return gift to you, Whom, I have enclosed a facsimile image of the receipt you requested for my transaction of $83.20 on November 19, 2008. You will notice from the detailed list of “Services and Procedures” that my lovely wife spent these funds on eyeglasses, and not on any illicit, non-tax-exemptable items such as cases of Tang© Astronaut Drink, fuzzy dice, or twin ill-tempered Shetland Ponies named José and Enrique.

For good measure, I have also enclosed a receipt for another transaction wherein I spent $126.00 on eyeglasses (my eyes are apparently 52% weaker than my wife’s eyes, if these prices are any indicator!). I noticed that I had $0.80 left in my Flex Account, and I would be most obliged if you would send it to me in the form of a cheque so that I may squander it on a pair of fancy socks or something equally frivolous. If you cannot do this, then I would appreciate a written notice to that effect, because I know that generating such a written notice will probably cost at least $0.80, so I will have gotten my money’s worth either way.

Wishing you and yours a splendidly terrifical new year, I remain your most humble and obedient servant,

Ne’er-Do-Well and Silly-Pants Extraordinaire

(I am not even joking -- I really did send this. I hope it will be displayed in some poor cube-dweller's Hall of Crazy some day.)

02 January 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, dear reader! It is now 2009. Exciting, huh? There is very little that gets me so worked up as the rolling over of more or less arbitrary measurements of time. WHAT AN EARTH SHAKING DAY YESTERDAY WAS

Ha ha, just kidding; it was only another day.

Still, New Year's day is always a little bittersweet for me. It is the holiday that makes me the most conscious of all my old relationships that have been terminated (or perhaps just placed on hold) because of distance, difference, or decay. It's a funny thing how people can be enormously important to us for long periods of time, and then, for various reasons, virtually vanish from our lives. People who once were some of my closest friends are now just items on my Christmas card list, or, even worse, mere Facebook friends.

I love Robert Burns's "Auld Lang Syne" because it recognizes both the significance of past friendship and the difficulty of keeping one's friendships in good working order when life gets in the way:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

I think music is fairly powerful, and the more times we hear something, the more ingrained it becomes in our consciousness. That is especially true with songs like this one, which gets a lot of air time. It's the theme song of Dick Clark's Rocking New Year's Eve, it is played at the end of no less than three Frank Capra films, and it is sung to celebrate the New Year in virtually every English-speaking country. There is even a Japanese version, which is often played at the end of the day in supermarkets to signal that they are about to close. (Yes, I do think that is comical. No, I am not surprised that it happens in Japan.)

For me -- and I suspect for you, too, dear reader -- this particular song has a great deal of power. It brings back memories of good times and good friends in whose lives I have invested a great deal of time and affection. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can even see the old friends I've left behind...

So here, in my chilly basement study in Kansas, I find myself surrounded on this second morning of the New Year by divers and sundry ghosts.

Over in the corner, blissfully playing "Zelda" on his Gameboy, is my old 4-H Cooking Class friend who taught me that video games are never out of season.

All my favorite college professors are perusing my fiction bookshelf and nodding in admiration at my choice of reading material. They are arguing about how the metaphor of the American Frontier has shaped our nation's literature and culture.

Some of my newspaper friends are designing a new layout on one corner of my desk, and my junior high students from the mission school are playing cards with my Mexican construction buddies on another corner.

A group of camp friends sits in a circle, playing the guitar, singing old favorites, and, a little disturbingly, roasting marshmallows over a fire that they have started in my wastepaper basket.

My cousins and a few of the staff from the mission are using my filing cabinet as a makeshift table to plan out a hiking tour through the Rockies, while my grad school classmates are admiring the poster of an unnecessarily ominous Jesus that hangs on my wall.

It's starting to get loud in here, so I go into the other room, where I can just sit and relax with some of the guys from my high school basketball team and the girls they used to have crushes on. It's a little awkward (as most of them are now married to other people and have small children), but anything's better than hearing a single word more from my old professors about Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis.

Whatever you're doing today, and wherever your old friends are, I hope your new year will be a joyous one. And if you ever need someone to talk to or tak a right gude-willy waught with, I'll just be right here in the basement, hanging with my ghost-homies.