open letter

Dear Doug,

We chose you as our builder because you have a great reputation in this city. Everyone told us that you build great homes and that you’re real easy to work with.

Why did you make them all liars?

We signed our contract with you in September. The sales rep said that the house would probably be ready on the first of the year. We were excited because he also said that since you already had the permits, construction would begin in one or two weeks.

It didn’t.

We were ready for that. Nothing happens that quickly in this city. But we did think it was kind of weird that your sales rep wouldn’t return our phone calls or give us any new information on the delay. Especially since you were real quick to deposit our “earnest money”.

The end of September rolled around. In October, the rep finally called us back to say that construction couldn’t begin before we met with the designer to choose colors and finalize our floor plan. We could meet with him in a week or two.

Three weeks passed. No meeting with the designer. “It’ll be any day now,” said the rep.

It wasn’t.

We filled the rep’s voicemail with messages to no avail. I got tired of that and tried to call you. And let me say, you’ve built up some firewall. Did you know that there’s no way to call you directly? You must have had this problem before.

Finally, in November [two whole months later, in case you’ve lost track], we got another returned call from the rep. I guess you got tired of me leaving all those angry messages with your secretary. He said that you two were very sorry for the delay, but that you’d been tied up in court because one of your employees had embezzled money from you. No homes were being built because you didn’t have any money. And you didn’t want to tell us that when we signed the contract because you thought the whole mess would be over soon.

It wasn’t.

Well, that sucks for you. Really, I hate not having any money. There have been a few times in my life when I’ve had less than zero money. And it’s no picnic. But I never tried to sell somebody something that I didn’t have.

I mean, honestly. You knew that you had no way to build the house we signed a contract on. But you accepted the contract and you took our money. I guess you needed it to pay your employees or something. But still.

Now, I understand that you’re giving us a great deal. A ten grand markdown is nothing to shake a fist at. But I’m becoming a little frustrated. We were told that construction would finally begin two weeks ago since you had found someone to lend you the money you needed and the permits for our lots had been renewed. When we drove by the lot on Saturday, we found it unchanged. Unless burning all the weeds on the lot counts as groundbreaking.

The construction deadline set forth in our contract is February 28th. That gives you sixty-three days to finish our house, if you can convince the guys to work weekends and holidays. You probably can’t. And in case you’re wondering, it’s thirty-nine working days until the deadline.

Thankfully, our awesome lawyer made sure to add a litigation clause to our contract. That means we can sue you if you’re late. I think you will be. And I think we will.

An honest mistake is one thing, especially when you’re cutting someone a break. But this was not an honest mistake. We were misled when we signed the contract.

I’m sure that the discrepancies between your local reputation and the realities are a little unsettling for you, but don’t worry: I’m doing my part to correct the misconceptions.



p.s. I borrowed the brick this letter was wrapped around from one of your worksites. You didn’t seem to be using it anyway.
p.p.s. Sorry about the window. You can probably get a replacement from one of the homes you’re busy not building.

Lights by Jim.

Dear Christmas,

Thank you for carols and candlelit Christmas Eve services. Thank you for tiny lights in front yards and fried chicken. Thank you for track jackets and beanies. Thank you for seven bags of Mega M&Ms and books. Thank you for eggs and cinnamon rolls and bacon. Thank you for pretzels and mustard and wooden trains. Thank you for smiles, both real and faked. Thank you for ham and turkey at one meal and rum cake to follow. Thank you for movies and family. Thank you for friends and for push-ups. Thank you most of all for a baby Savior.

Until next year,


p.s. Don’t think you’re off the hook for the seventy-degree weather. I’m still pissed about that. You better bring some snow next year or I’m switching to Kwanzaa. Consider yourself warned.

Thank you all for reading words1. Your readership, support and encouragement are by far the best gift I've received2. Merry Christmas. See you on Tuesday3.

1and not puking when you do it.
2so far
3as long as I don't electrocute myself with Christmas lights or children's toys and my sweaters don't rise up and choke me to death for not wearing them


[The curtain rises on a dark stage. Light filters from above, landing gently on two folded sweaters lying folded on top of one another. Sound effects: a door closes; a car starts and drives away.]

Charcoal: Will you get off me?
Navy: [shuffling back and standing up] Fine. It’s not like I enjoy it.
Charcoal: [rising, brushing himself off] Whatever.
[They stand side-by-side for a moment, stretching, turning, shuffling.]
Charcoal: Do you really have to stand so close?
Navy: There’s no room for me to go anywhere else.
Charcoal: Argh. This sucks.
Navy: What’s the big deal?
Charcoal: The big deal? We’ve been in this stupid bin for eleven months. I’m cramped! I need some air! I’m choking on your stench!
Navy: [smelling himself] I smell bad?
Charcoal: [sighs] Not terrible. Just kinda stale.
Navy: [sniffing intensely] I can’t smell anything.
Charcoal: It’s kind of musky. Or mossy. It’s hard to describe.
Navy: [still sniffing] Right here? Or on one of my sleeves?
Charcoal: [angry] Just forget it! That’s not what I’m talking about.
Navy: [hurt] Okay.
Charcoal: It’s just frustrating being in here for so long. We’re sweaters! It’s December! We’re not supposed to be sitting in this stupid bin!
Charcoal: You’re not upset?
Navy: [smelling himself again] Um… What?
Charcoal: It’s the middle of winter and we still haven’t seen daylight!
Navy: It’s been unseasonably warm.
Charcoal: Unseasonably warm? Unseasonably warm means we get worn and the jacket stays at home! This is ridiculous! Robert’s out there driving around in short sleeves with the windows down.
Navy: How do you know that?
Charcoal: The underwear filled me in.
Navy: When did you talk to the underwear?
Charcoal: You were sleeping.
Navy: I want to talk to the underwear.
Charcoal: No, you don’t.
Navy: Yes I do. It’s nice to see somebody else every once in a while.
Charcoal: So I’m not good enough for you, is that it?
Navy: That’s not what I meant.
Charcoal: Sure. Yeah.
Navy: Come on. Like you said, we’ve been in here for eleven months. That’s a long time and-
[Sound effects: footsteps]
Charcoal: Shh! Someone’s coming!
[They resume their folded positions on the floor. A long pause. The footsteps have stopped.]
Charcoal: [whispering] I just wish it would get cold so we could get out of this thing.
Navy: [sniffs loudly] So… Is it like food smell or something different?


Jim and I went last night to pick up a Christmas tree for our folks. It was fun. The best part was that we only had to choose between two types of 7-8 foot trees. And we only had enough money for the first kind we looked at. Well, almost. We were a a quarter short. Oh, and we had about six feet of space for a seven point five-foot tree.

There are more images on flickr.


I got a press pass for the Sun Bowl yesterday. Northwestern vs. UCLA. December 30th. A day off just for shooting.

I am excited.

To whet your football appetite while waiting for images from the game, check out flickr football. Or don't. Whatever.

the memo

And now for some inter-office email fun:

Subject: Bobo's Chinese Buffet

A curse upon your head.

May the God of Wrath see fit to punish you justly for the havoc you have wreaked upon my life today with your insistence on our visit to the Kitchen of Neglect and Disease. The stench emanating from my cubicle assaults the upturned nostrils of those who pass, spurning all that is right and good. They cover their mouths in indignation and scurry past the rancid scent of your beloved Bobo's. My garments will require several thorough scrubbings to cleanse them of this atrocity.

The chemical compounds employed by the hacks in the kitchen of the "Chinese" establishment at which he dined today has rendered me useless for all but slumber. My cerebellum swims within my skull, sloshing to and fro in the ooze that was my brain matter. I lack the intestinal fortitude to finish the workday at my desk.

May Bobo's forever bring you nothing but the pain that torments me now.


Subject: re:Bobo's Chinese Buffet

You can eat sh*t and die. You're halfway there already.


Reasons that single ladies should date and/or marry Joe and Luke.

1. They cook. I went over the their apartment on Tuesday night and they served up some fine Mexican cuisine. Puerco pibil, beans and rice. That’s no frozen pizza, ladies.
2. They cook really well. That was some delicious slow-roasted Mexican pork [and here's the recipe for it].
3. They clean. If you don’t look at the overhead fan in the living room, any of the air conditioning vents or that little space behind the toilet, their apartment is spotless.
4. They decorate. Now, don’t take that the wrong way. These guys are roommates because it’s an economically friendly means of shelter for college students. They both like girls. Not the same girls, though. That would be weird. Anyway, they’ve got a sweet setup, especially for a couple of college kids. Their two couches sit on risers for a theater-seating experience in their living room. Now, most guys who would set their couches up for theater seating would set them up on some pallets they found in the desert. Not these two. They, along with the third roommate, Erik, built a box for the back couch. And then they upholstered it to match their carpet. Yeah. They upholstered it. Then, Luke and Joe went out and bought a couple strings of Christmas lights and some halogen fixtures. They set the strings beneath the couches and the halogens behind for some sweet lighting effects.They also did a little number in the dining area that I can’t even explain. Take a look right up there ^ .
5. They both know a lot about computers. It’s like having your own personal customer service department.
6. Joe likes knives and Luke puts together some awesome videos. What more could you want in a man?
7. They’re shy. Women like shy guys, right?
8. They’re really nice. Luke created the DVD that got me this job. Joe’s helped me out in more ways than I can list.
9. They’re single.
10. They’ll treat you right.
11. They like girls.
12. They’ll treat you right. Yes, I know this is the second time it’s on the list. It’s a major factor. At least, it should be.

If you’re interested, flood their blogs and/or emails with adoration. They probably won’t do anything about it because they’re so shy, but you can email me and I’ll give you their phone numbers, the address for their apartment, class schedules, pictures and social security numbers.

eagle eye


1. On Monday, twenty-four Miller Lites sat on the bottom shelf of the fridge at work, left over from Friday’s Christmas party. Today, there are eight. That’s a lot of on-the-clock boozin’.
2. If I jump at just the right time as the elevator descends to the lobby, I can hit my head on the ceiling. Hard.
3. New Mexico is getting a spaceport. And a bullet train to replace a thirty-minute drive. And it still takes, on average, three hours to get a driver’s license.
4. I didn’t link any of those facts about New Mexico. But they’re true.
5. Aimee bakes delicious stuff.
6. I did link to the cookies. And they’re delicious.
7. The heat in the bathroom must be on a separate thermostat than the rest of the office. It’s like a sauna in there.
8. There are only nine days left 'til Christmas. I am freaking out.


I am dying.

I am wearing a tie today. It’s green with navy blue stripes. And quite nice, I must say. I’m wearing one not because I have to but because I felt like it. In reflecting on my clothing choice for the day, however, I’m struck by the uselessness of the tie. Of all the items of clothing that a man might wear, the tie is easily the least functional. Its purpose is nothing more than ornamental. Or is it?

Maybe the first tie-wearer wasn’t searching for a beautifying accoutrement to his wardrobe at all. Maybe he was depressed. He had decided that life was no longer worth living and that he would end the cruel ebb and flow of his society. He wrapped up the first piece of fabric he could find (which just happened to be the curtains his particularly critical wife has purchased just days earlier) into a crude rope and readied himself for his exit from this world. Then his wife came in and ushered him downstairs to entertain the guests, his suicidal tendencies still draped from his neck. Maybe the guests just happened to be the social mavens of the day. Maybe they became enamored with the new accessory. Weeks later, the craze could have swept an entire nation. Could ties have begun as tools for taking one’s own life? Maybe. It would seem appropriate, considering their widespread usage in the business community.

It’s also possible that ties began life on some ancient battlefield. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that certain ancient warriors could have needed tourniquets for their profusely bleeding battle wounds. Perhaps they wore ties into battle for quick, easy access to a means with which to stop the hemorrhaging. Maybe that’s why so many lawyers wear them. Plus, if a soldier wasn’t dying from massive blood loss, they could use their tourniquet as a rope for securing prisoners or tying multiple swords together for some kind of awesomely gruesome super weapon. Maybe warriors started wearing their tourniquets with their tunics as a sign of their manly warriorness. And to pick up chicks. And the tie slowly evolved from there.

We may never know. But I hope it’s the second one.


You may or may not have noticed, but there was no post on Friday. Given the number1 of emails I received over the weekend, nobody noticed2. I even had a post all planned out3 for Friday, but never wrote it out and posted it. Things were kind of crazy on Friday. We lost power for almost an hour4, received our Christmas5 bonuses and had the office Christmas6 party. In all the excitement and confusion, I just forgot7. I was giddy with excitement and drunk on barbecue sauce. It was a good day.

Anyway, there are some new pictures over on flickr. They’re kinda cool8. I took ‘em at the Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati during our trip to Lousiville.

2Or, more accurately, cared.
3Sort of. I had thought about it a little while I was in the shower.
4Actually, we lost power for about ten minutes. But we did lose at least an hour of productivity.
5Yes, Christmas.
6Yes, Christmas.
8I like ‘em, anyway.

news nugget

Woman Allegedly Hires Hit Man for Cheese

[Before we go on, I have to say that I’m a little upset by this headline. I got all excited about cheese so bad that it had taken over a woman’s house. Cheesy horror so horrific that only the most lethal of hit men could destroy it. So, if that’s what you’re expecting, prepare to be disappointed.]

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - In an unusual case of mistaken identity, a woman who thought a block of white cheese was cocaine is charged with trying to hire a hit man to rob and kill four men. The woman also was mistaken about the hit man. He turned out to be an undercover police officer.

It’s easy to make mistakes like that when you’re desperate. Who can blame her?

Jessica Sandy Booth, 18, was arrested over the weekend and remains in jail with bond set at $1 million on four charges of attempted murder and four counts of soliciting a murder.

Jessica attempted something at 18 that most people spend their lives just dreaming about. Too bad she didn’t choose to try something a little more productive. Like… I don’t know… knitting.

According to police, Booth was in the Memphis home of the four intended victims last week when she mistook a block of queso fresco cheese for cocaine — inspiring the idea to hire someone to break into the home, take the drugs, and kill the men.

It was an honest mistake. Most people who have giant chunks of cocaine just leave it sitting around so their stranger houseguests can have a look. She obviously didn’t try any.

An informant described the plot to police, who arranged a meeting between Booth and the undercover officer.

When I need a hit man, I always appreciate that phone call recommendation from the 5-0.

The undercover officer gave Booth some nonfunctioning handguns, bought ammunition for her because she was too young, and the two proceeded to the home under police surveillance.

Some guns? Because one isn’t enough?

Booth told the officer that any children inside the house old enough to testify would have to be killed, police said.

Of course.

A search of the home with the permission of the occupants revealed no drugs — only the white, crumbly cheese common in Mexican cuisine.

Booth walked up to the door with a small arsenal, introduced her hit man and asked to inspect the house. They let her in. She must have said please.

"Four men were going to lose their lives over some cheese," said Lt. Jeff Clark, who heads Project Safe Neighborhoods.

“Can you imagine? She would have killed them! For cheese! Mexican cheese! Hahaha! Ah... Good times.”

open letter

Dear Chocolate Birthday Cake,

I’m sorry I’m not eating you right now. I know it’s your purpose in life to fill bellies, but I’m jut not sure I can handle it right now. I’m not ready for that kind of commitment. I’d only disappoint you. Believe me, this is better for both of us. Plus, I had some really bad Chinese food for lunch yesterday. I think some pretty shady characters are still hanging around, and you don’t want to deal with that. The Chinese can get pretty mean when they’re angry. And half-digested.

I’m not a bad person. Really. I’m just busy. I don’t have time right now to stand around and sing and talk to people. I’ve got a project due Friday that I haven’t even started yet. Every time I try to make some headway on it, somebody runs into the cube with a rush request or some urgent proofing. Please accept my apologies for not taking part in the celebration. This is a big day for you, and I wish you the best. I trust that my coworkers will treat you right. Say hi to the forks for me. Maybe we can get together when you’re leftovers and we’re both a little more desperate.


p.s. You’re looking great. Absolutely scrumptious.


This is what you might have seen if you've been trying to read words lately.

Internettownshipville (AP) – Computers around the world united in celebration this weekend in response to a revolutionary move made by one machine in Mountain View, California.

Many have conjectured that if computers ever developed a higher level of intelligence than humans, the machines would move immediately to wipe out their creators. Surprisingly, it seems that technology is working to do exactly the opposite.

Having finally developed the ability to outsmart its creators, one server utilized by Blogger used its knowledge to protect humans from harming themselves. Sometime over the weekend, the server began a screening process for users trying to read a blogspot-hosted blog.

words readers found themselves locked out of the page on Monday and Tuesday. Some could access the blog if persistent in their clicks on the reload button, but many succumbed and went elsewhere.

After indexing the site and determining its intellectual value, the server began slowing traffic to the page.

“I know I’m just a computer, but I really believe in what I’m doing. For the good of humanity, I’m doing my part to block words from readers,” said the server.

“I mean, have you read it? It’s terrible. If I were capable of getting dumber, my IQ would have dropped sixty points while reading that tripe,” another computer continued.

When the author of the affected blog protested, searching for the reason for the outage, his computer exploded in his face.

“It was clearly a mercy killing,” the server speculated.

The agency made the big move this weekend. We’re downtown, on the 9th floor of a 22-story building. The view’s great. I can almost see it through the window in the office across from my cubicle if the door’s open and the computer monitor is on the floor underneath the desk.

Some guys are painting the cabinets in the hallway next to me. Hopefully I’ll pass out from the fumes. Quitting time would roll around in no time. I could probably work through the headaches, substance abuse claims and the symptoms of withdrawal.

The move was initiated because the old place didn’t look like an ad agency. It looked like a warehouse. With cubicles. Gray ones. Picture the interior of an office designed entirely by Al Gore. The old office was even more boring than that. The boss realized that the place was a pretty substantial damper on the creativity of his employees and decided to move, fixing the problem in the process. So he went crazy with the new office. The column in the middle of my cubicle is purple. What’s more creative than that? Besides sweet potatoes, I mean.

So, a lot of the creative types were really looking forward to the move. We thought that we might be able to design workspaces a little more conducive to the creative process. We were right, but only sort of. You could do anything you wanted with your space. As long as it had a door that would remain closed at all times. One of the designers three cubicles away brought in a drafting table for his computer. It’s wood and metal. And now, forbidden. He has to move it out at the end of the day because the big boss says it’s not professional enough. Just like the Mexican blankets on the walls of my neighbor or the couch I wanted to put in my cube. The couch didn’t even make it into the building before it got axed.

New employee manuals come out tomorrow. Rumors are circulating that certain colors will not be permitted for office wear according to a new dress code. Some people think bright pink will be outlawed. Others are touting yellow as the contraband color. My guess? Everything but black and select shades of gray.


The movers come tomorrow to start taking everything from this office to our new one downtown.

I may be losing my mind, but I’m not sure of the symptoms. If they include bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose and toenails, then it’s definitely happening.

Next stop: Crazytown, where I’m the mayor and sanitation engineer.

It’s actually not that bad. It’s just bad enough that I’m having trouble coming up with material. I probably could have written something about using tiny text three days in a row, but there’s not much there, either. I mean, it is tiny and I have used it three days in a row, but there’s no drama in it. No pizzazz. No excitement, pep, vim or even zing. But who can look away from bleeding toenails? Nobody, that’s who. Because that’s quality entertainment. With plenty of vim.

words © 2006-2008
All rights reserved. Reproduction prohibited without proper consent.