Thursday, August 30, 2007


(Note... this was in The Dave100 at one time, when this was written several years ago.  The new list has undergone several changes, and this movie ends up dropping out--upon another viewing, its a great movie, but it really, really doesn't hold up... so even though its listed as a Dave100 film, its not anymore.  Just an fyi -- 1/29/12)

We enter the world of science fiction, as a spoof of Star Wars, perhaps not the first but the first that really worked, is in the Dave100... from 1987, its Mel Brooks modern classic "Spaceballs"

Starring: Bill Pullman, Rick Moranis, Daphne Zuniga, John Candy, Joan Rivers

The summary... The evil planet Spaceball is running out of air. The planet's ruler, President Skroob (a hilarious Mel Brooks) has devised a evil scheme, where he plans to steal the air from the atmosphere of the peaceful planet Druidia. When Druidia's ruler King Roland's beautiful daughter Princess Vespa (a pre-Melrose Daphne Zuniga, tackling the Leia character) and her loyal droid Dot Matrix (a C-3PO type robot voiced by Joan Rivers) flees from Druidia during her wedding to Prince Valium (the Hollywood Squares former stalwart JM J Bullock), the evil commander of the Spaceball fleet, Dark Helmet (a perfectly smarmy Rick Moranis, in the Darth Vader role) captures Princess Vespa so King Roland will be forced to give them the access code to the defense shield.

But heroic space pilot Lone Starr (Bill Pullman, back when he was a true That Guy, in the Han Solo role) and his sidekick, Barf (a still living John Candy, taking on the Chewie part) comes to Princess Vespa's rescue. With help from wise and powerful master of the magic ring "The Schwartz" Yogurt (Brooks again, as the Yoda-type wise sage), Lone Starr, Barf, Dot and Princess Vespa set out to save Druida and foil Dark Helmet and President Scroob's scheme and prevent them from stealing the air from Druidia.

That Guy Sighting... as mentioned, Bill Pullman, who had, before this, done one episode of Cagney & Lacey, and one other movie. Nowadays, he's not really a That Guy, though his lack of major roles lately threatens to make him an unrecognizable That Guy again. Oh, and yes, that's Brenda Strong of Desperate Housewives and Swayze's magnum opus Black Dog fame as Gretchen the Nurse.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Why Its in the Dave100... Are you kidding? Star Wars was one of those films that altered my life as I know it, and to have a movie like Spaceballs make fun of it in such a way that it made me laugh is fantastic. Spaceballs is just that... fun. Its silly, its stupid, but it spoofs Star Wars (and Star Trek and other space flicks, including a priceless Planet of the Apes jab at the end) not with mockery but with reverence. This came out when Bill Pullman was just becoming famous, John Candy was just beginning to peak, Rick Moranis was really at the height of his popularity, and Daphne Zuniga's movie career never was the same.

The nod to Alien towards the end is one of the stupidest, yet funniest bits ever. Though most people turn to "Blazing Saddles" as the definitive Mel Brooks movie, I daresay for our generation it has to be Spaceballs... I mean, it would be another fifteen years or so before another space spoof would be as effective, that being Galaxy Quest.

Dark Helmet: Before you die, there's something you should know about us, Lone Starr
Lone Starr: What?
Dark Helmet: I'm your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate
Lone Starr: What does that make us?
Dark Helmet: Absolutely nothing, which is what you are about to become!

Random Fact... Not only did George Lucas give a nod to the film, being a Brooks fan, he has his Industrial Light & Magic effects team build the lightsabers for Spaceballs. Lucas did stipulate, however, that no merchandise from the movie could be sold, which is why there is a running gag about merchandise in the film.

Matt Latta says... Never seen it (believe it or not) and really don't want to... Its kind of like Monty Python--its been built up so that's there no way it could be as good as I want it to be. Oh well, my loss.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

How We Met

People often ask, “Where’d you and the Lovely Steph Leann meet?”. It’s a good question, and actually it’s a fun little story. I was thinking about it over the last few days, I wanted to give an accurate portrayal of how, in fact, we met.

I was in Common Ground at Valleydale Baptist Church, cleaning up, alone. She came in, stumbling around, and since I didn't know who she was, I thought it might be best if she left.

She did leave… and came back in, and was holding a candle, unlit. The following is a pretty close transcript of our first conversation, and thus, how we met…

ME: What'd you forget?

STEPHANIE: Got a light?

ME: I know you... you're... you're shivering

STEPHANIE: It's nothing they turned off my heat, and I'm just a little weak on my feet. Would you light my candle? What are you staring at?

ME: Nothing, your hair in the moonlight… You look familiar. Can you make it?

STEPHANIE: Just haven't eaten much today. At least the room stopped spinning. Anyway... What?

ME: Nothing, your smile reminded me of...

STEPHANIE: I always remind people of - who is she?

ME: She left. Her name was Amy Wible

STEPHANIE: It's out again. Sorry about your friend. Would you light my candle?

ME: Well…


ME: Oh, the wax - it's...

STEPHANIE: Dripping! I like it...

ME: I figured ... Oh, well. Goodnight. It blew out again?

STEPHANIE: No - I think that I dropped my stash

ME: I know I've seen you out and about, when I used to go out. Your candle's out

STEPHANIE: I'm illin' - I had it when I walked in the door. It was pure - is it on the floor?

ME: The floor?

She started crawling around looking for whatever it is she was looking for

STEPHANIE: They say I have the best eyes below Hwy 280. Is it true?

ME: What?

STEPHANIE: You're staring again.

ME: Oh no… I mean you do... have nice... I mean... you look familiar

STEPHANIE: Like your old girlfriend?

ME: Only when you smile. But I'm sure I've seen you somewhere else -

STEPHANIE: Do you go to the Purple Onion? That's where I work... I cook

ME: Yes! They used to make you chop paprika-

STEPHANIE: It's a living

ME: I didn't recognize you, without the spatula

STEPHANIE: We could light the candle. Oh, won't you light the candle?

ME: Why don't you forget that stuff, you look like you're 23

STEPHANIE: I'm 24 - but I'm old for my age. I'm just born to be bad

ME: I once was born to be bad. I used to shiver like that

STEPHANIE: I have no heat, I told you...

ME: I used to sweat...

STEPHANIE: I got a cold...

ME: Uh huh. I used to be a junkie...

STEPHANIE: But now and then I like to…

ME: Uh huh

STEPHANIE: …feel good

ME: Oh, here it - um...

STEPHANIE: What's that?

ME: Candy bar wrapper

STEPHANIE: We could light the candle. Oh, what'd you do with my candle?

ME: That was my last match

STEPHANIE: Our eyes'll adjust, thank God for the moon

ME: Maybe it's not the moon at all, I hear The Deuce has a party down the street

STEPHANIE: Bah humbug ... Bah humbug

ME: Cold hands

STEPHANIE: Yours too. Big, like my father's. Do you wanna dance?

ME: With you?

STEPHANIE: No - with my father

ME: I'm Dave

STEPHANIE: They call me… they call me Stephanieeeeeeee

And the rest, as they say, is history.

PS... some of you won't have a clue what I'm even talking about. but the ones who do are smiling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thousands of Possibilities? I Got Mine (Part 2)

Read Part One

So, Siad had gone off, the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico have left the counter, and I step up with my external hard drive, priced on Circuit City's shelf at $189.99, ready for them to not only match Best Buy's $169.99, but take off another 10% as per their "110% Price Match Guarantee".

The counter guy takes it and is about to scan it, and I say "Best Buy has this for $169.99, and I wanted to get it price matched, and discounted the 10%".

"Um, I don't think we do that anymore," the guy says. I stare at him for a second, and then my eyes dart tothe big red sign on the wall that states "IF YOU FIND THE SAME ITEM AT A LOWER PRICE, WE'LL REFUND 110% OF THE DIFFERENCE". I pointed and said "Yeah, man, I think you do."

He looked up at the sign, and said "Uh, okay, let me go check with my manager." As he walked away, I rolled my eyes and patiently waited for him to return. And return Counter Guy did, telling me he'd have to look it up. He looked it up--on Best Buy's website mind you, not any fancy computer system (Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler did the same thing) and true to form it was $169.99. Counter Guy scanned the hard drive, and it rang up... $169.99.

"Same price," Counter Guy looked at me like I was an idiot. "Your tag says $189.99," I explained, and handed him the hard drive box. "I'll let you restock this, I'm going elsewhere."

"Why would you want to do that?" Counter Guy asked, though I knew he wasn't asking because he truly wanted to know, like Siad and Little Blond wanted to know, he was just asking because that's what you do. "Better service, man," I smiled back and walked away. I spent over an hour in Circuit City, and I was headed back to where my journey began--Best Buy in Hoover, Alabama.

As soon as I walk in, I look for the calculators... and wouldn't you know it, as I'm rounding the iPod accessories aisle, a Best Buy guy says "Can I help you find something?". Why yes, I replied, and asked for calculators, to which I was pointed towards the back.

Grabbed a calculator, grabbed my pen and piece of note paper out my pocket, and started making notes about how much I was going to spend. It was alot. But... Steph Leann and I had budgeted for this, we had planned for it and was ready for the cost--its important to note this, as we're becoming known, or at least I am, for being more frugal and refusing to use credit or credit cards. So, as we spend money on this tonight, its cash in hand.

When I entered the computer area, I was immediately approached by a tall dude in a Best Buy shirt who asked if I needed anything. I looked at his tag and said, "Yes, Jared, you can help me." I then explained that I was here to pick up a number of things, and he said, "Alright then, you grab the hard drive you need, I'll grab the computer." He reached over and swiped 2 of the 1 gig chips I had mentioned needing for the upgrade.

I told him if he had other customers, then he could help them, and he said "No, man, we have enough people hereto cover everyone. I'll help you grab what you need." Finally... customer service.

I stood in front of the Seagate External Hard Drives, seeing two almost just alike, but one for $20 less than the other. "Hey Jared," I called, "can you tell me the difference in these two?" He explained that the Seagate FreeAgent Pro has an eSATA compatibility, which means little to me. Its a program that some computers have, but if you don't have it, which mine is too crappy to have anything above an abacus, then the FreeAgent and the regular is the same--except the FreeAgent 500 GB external drive is $20 cheaper, and on sale. Sold.

Turned around, remembering my conversation with JT earlier about routers. Grabbed the Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router, on sale.

By this time, Jared had pulled down the Toshiba Satellite A215-4747 laptop computer, and I had two of the 1 gig memory sticks and tossed them on the counter. By now, I started to have a pile. Finally, I grabbed the backpack I wanted, the Swiss Gear Triton.

Jared and I chatted about service, and the subject of Circuit City came up. He hung his head in shame and said, "Those guys are terrible. A buddy of mine works over in Geek Squad... he worked for Firedog for like, two days, and quit. No wonder you can in here so happy to spend money."

As he began to ring up, he scanned in the $39.99 charge for installation twice. I stopped him and said, "Hey... that's one charge, right?" He said, "No, actually, that's two installations." I smiled and said, "Dude, its one move. You open up the back of the laptop, pull out two 512 gig sticks, put in the two 1 gig sticks and you're done. Don't charge me twice for that."

He paused and said, "Hold on, let me get the MOD". That's manager on duty, I think. Here comes a rather rotund black woman named Sarah, complete with 1986 Control Janet Jackson hoop earrings. Jared explains to her what I'm buying, then asks if he can take on of the service fees off. I tell her, like I told Jared, its a zip-zip-done sort of thing, and if they were going to charge me twice, I wasn't going to get it done at all--my buddy JT could do it for free.

She then calls another manager, who takes longer to arrive. We chat back and forth, and she offers me the Best Buy Mastercard, where I could get double the reward points and so on, and I smile and said a big no thank you. Sarah asks why, and I tell her that after fifteen years of debt, my wife and I are months away from the end. She counters that I could just use the cash to pay it off each month and I counter-counter that I don't really trust myself with a credit card. Sarah smiles and nods.

The New Manager arrives, and Sarah explains the situation. She points to the counter where a computer, a router, and external hard drive sit, along with a big backpack and two memory sticks.

"He's paying with cash," Sarah tells New Manager, "and we can get rid of one of these charges, right?" Then I up the ante. "If you take off one of the charges," I say, "I'll pick up the wireless keyboard and mouse."

"What's the price on that?" New Manager asked, and I tell him $59.99. He asks me to go get it, and I grab the Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 4000. New Manager says, "The bad news I can't take off installation charges, those are set. However, let's take off $20 on the keyboard, and another $20 on the backpack."

Sarah tells me to follow her to Geek Squad, and they'll ring me up there. I say thanks to New Manager and to Jared, and we go to Geek Squad. Here, they've got a number of guys in the black pants, white shirts and ties, all ready for computer action. One of the Geeks rings me up, and Sarah is there to give my discounts... and she asks about the installation. Geek One says, "Oh, its just one charge. All we're doing is opening it up, pulling out two sticks and putting in two more." I looked at Sarah with a told-ya-so smile, and she smiled back, "We still have your prices set up like we talked about, okay?"

The Geek Squad took my computer to do the work on it, I tossed in the Kaspersky Internet Security which added a little to my total... but after all that, I still have $25 left over. Not too bad.

You may have an opposite story--a horrible time at Best Buy and a red carpet roll out for Circuit City, this is just my story. However, I know where I'll go when I buy my laptop in the Spring (remember, this one is Steph's)... okay, I admit it, I'll go to both places, looking for a bargain--but darn it, I'll want to come to Best Buy.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thousands of Possibilities? I Got Mine (part one)

People ask me, "Dave, why do you blog?" and I can look to this past Friday night and say "For nights such as this. Some stories need to be told."

We've been looking for a laptop for the lovely Steph Leann for a few weeks now... she came back from Minneapolis, having been at Showcase. Showcase is the national convention for Creative Memories, and Steph Leann being a Creative Memories consultant, she was there. Was that a run-on sentence?

Like I did with the camera, I did my research, shopped around, and had discovered that its harder to get discounts on computers. Best Buy, Circuit City and others barely make any money, sometimes losing money, on sales of computers... its all the accessories that pull the money in. Sometimes the markups are big, other times they aren't. So it wasn't about "how much can I get off?" it was "how good of a deal can I get for the money I have".

Our needs include a laptop, a router, a laptop case and an external hard drive. Our wants include a wireless keyboard and mouse. Well, let's be honest, its all wants, right? We don't need any of it... but with new CM Software coming out, Steph Leann honestly needs more than our pile o'crap computer, with like, 8 bits of memory.

I go to Best Buy first, and meet up with my friend J-Taylor. JT is a pretty good computer geek, so he and I walk through the accessories and he helps me make some important decisions... the main one being to buy a $699 laptop, with 200 GB of memory and 1 GB of hard drive space instead of a $999 laptop with 250 GM of memory and 2 GB of hard drive space. They are both Toshiba's, they are both practically the same model, just different specs.

So what do we decide to do? Buy a couple of 1 GB cards, pay for the installation (to keep the manufacturer's warranty), and suddenly, we've doubled our hard drive space and save at least $200 bucks. However, I'm not satisfied... so I decide to bear in mind all the prices and deals, and I'll go price match at Circuit City.

Understand... I hate Circuit City. To explain it, know that since I work at Starbucks, I'm big big big on customer service. I don't expect you to hound me, I don't expect you to stalk me, but I do expect that if you are on the floor, your job is to ask customers like me if I need assistance. If I don't, I'll say so, and then you can leave me alone... but if I do, then yes, you can help me. That's what you are paid for, and that's why I give you my hard earned money for your products, many of which you've marked up ridiculously.

I've bought an iPod last year and a camera a few months ago, spending almost a thousand bucks, and both times I went shopping at Circuit City, and both times I was practically ignored while shopping. Heck, I even went there last week, while making decisions on the laptop, and when I walked--slowly--down the laptop aisle, there were two CC guys there, chatting, laughing, having a good time... neither one paid me any mind.

Well, tonight, we're talking big money. A thousand bucks or more I'm going to drop on what we want. So into the computer aisle I go, and some kid walks up... he's probably 16 or 17, he's got what we'd call in 1987 to be a mullet, but nowadays, its more of a shaggy in-style mop on his head. He's tall, lanky, pale, a few pimples, and he mumbles "Can I help you find something?"

I answer "Sure", and I explain to him that I'm looking for a certain computer, a router, an external hard drive, a keyboard and mouse and a case. I told him since I'm paying cash (and I flashed him my 13 benjamins) I would love to get a bargain on some accessories. He told me that he's heard of managers doing stuff like that before, and he'd have to talk to his manager

So Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler Boy disappears, and I look around at the backpacks and messenger bags, none of which are as nice as the one I like at Best Buy (our thinking is that she'll use this one until she gets the bag she wants, on the Dell website, and I'll get it for my laptop I'm going to buy in the Spring) and after a few minutes, Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler Boy comes back.

"So, like, uh, my manager said he can't do any of that, but what we can offer you is our great Cityplan, which is our warranty, and, like, if you get this with the computer you're going to buy, you'll get this great coupon book, some of them you can even use like, right now."

Bewildered at this sale, I took the coupon book. You have to understand that even though salespeople at retail stores like this don't work on commission per se, they do get credit for every warranty they sell--and I'm guessing this guy hasn't sold very many.

Flipping through the book, I see all sorts of great deals like saving 10% off of UPS services! Yeah! And there's some savings for monster cables! Wow! And I can save 10% off of computer services! Holy cow!

"Dude," I looked up at Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler, "I can't use any of these coupons. Like, none of them. Is this all you can do?"

"Well, if you wanna talk to the manager, he's over there," pointing to a tall black man and a short, light blond girl. "Which one?" I ask. "Either one," he responds.

Saying thanks, I head over to the odd pair standing together. The girl looks up at the big black man, almost looking intimidated. It's my guess that she's training, and she'll get her customer service lesson tonight. Introduce myself, and he says his name is "Siad", which I spell because I saw it on his nametag. Little Blond says nothing.

I tell Siad about my conversation I had just had with Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler, and how he told me that that Siad had told him to sell me the warranty with the fabulous coupons. Siad looked a little confused, then said "That ain't what I told him at all".

I talk to Siad for a minute, and we talk about discounts and such, and he tells me that although he can't discount accessories, if I gather up everything, we'll price match it all, and that Circuit City does offer another 10% discount off price matched stuff. So, off I go.

First, I find the external hard drive. Its on the shelf for $189.99, which at Best Buy, its $169.99, so I'm excited because finally, Circuit City might just earn my business! I mean, doing the quick math in my head, price matching, minus 10%, thats at least a few bucks. And the computer I want is more here ($824) than Best Buy ($699) so, you know, cha-ching.

Walking around with the big external hard drive box, I set off to find gigs of memory for laptops. Well, I can't find them, naturally. So, let me ask for help. Another dude and a Strawberry Blond girl are in the aisle, both with the CC red shirts on.

"Hey man," I asked in a friendly voice, "can you point me in the direction of the memory for upgrading laptops?"

"Yeah, on that endcap down there," Another Guy points to the end of the aisle. I say thanks, and walk to the endcap. There are four rows of small packages, some with 512 mb of memory, some with 1 gig and some with 2. I need two of the 1 gigs, but they are charging $70 per. And they are some brand I've never heard of, so I can't price match them with the Best Buy deal, which were $39.99 per. Another Guy and Strawberry Blond come down the aisle, with Another Guy carrying a clipboard, perhaps taking inventory.

"Excuse me," I asked, squatting in front of the low endcap, "is this it? Are there any more anywhere?" Strawberry Blond looks at me, turns to Another Guy, asks him the question, gets the answer then relays the answer to me: "That's it".

I'm about fifteen feet away from the Firedog counter, Firedog being the computer service answer to Best Buy's more well known Geek Squad, and there's an older woman standing there, with no assistance. Strawberry Blond sees her, steps right past me, and says "Is someone helping you?" The lady replied, "Well, someone was, but he walked away and ain't been back, so I guess I ain't as important as what he was doing"

"Awww," Strawberry Blond smiles fakely, "of course you're important!" I look up at Another Guy, who looks at me, looks at his clipboard and walks away. I hang up the gig that I was holding. Standing up, I see Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler helping someone else. Once again, I'm David Lee Rothin' it... I-I-I-I-I ain't got nobooooody.... nobody cares for me, nobody wants my money...

I wander back to the computers, and over to the wireless keyboard and mouse aisle. There stands a Jewish Gentleman and a guy from Puerto Rico. How did I know he was from Puerto Rico? Well...

"Are you having trouble findin' a'someone to help you too?" asked the Jewish Gentleman.

"Well, I did have someone helping me, but he found someone else to help, so yeah, I'm having trouble too," I replied.

"You know, my son is from Puerto Rico," he points at the Puerto Rican next to him, "and he says that inna his country, all customer service is a bad. You never no get no help. I feel like that is what we are like here. We have a economy collapse, and we will be just like'a that" I smile and agree and we make small talk for a few minutes. I tell him I always have customer service problems at Circuit City, and he tells me he never likes coming in because he feels so computer illiterate, and he needs people to help him understand what he's buying, but never gets help.

The Lovely Steph Leann calls a few minutes later, and I relay some of my frustrations to her about whats going on. She wonders why I even came in ("I know you hate that place") and I tell her that I've decided I'm just going to get the external hard drive, get my price match, then head to Best Buy and buy what we want.

While I'm on the phone, a large CC employee passes by me, and calls to the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico "Can I help you?" Graciously, the Jewish Gentleman points to me and says "This gentleman has been waiting much longer than we have, so please help him first." I'm still on the phone, but I tell Steph to hold on, as I start to speak the guy looks at me, apparently sees the phone and heads down the aisle for the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico. I'm done.

I start walking towards the check out, and passing me, in a hurry, is Siad. Right behind him is Little Blond, who sees me. I motion to her, and she walks over to me. "Can I help you?" she asks.

"Yeah, I work at Starbucks, and customer service is really big with me," I said. "and I would want to know if my employees were not doing their jobs correctly. That being said, I have to be honest with you and tell you your customer service is terrible."

Little Blond looked like I had just broken up with her.

"I'm so sorry," she started. I continued, respectfully and professionally, by the way, to tell her of my experiences tonight. How Strawberry Blond and Another Guy had passed me by with very little assistance. How Lanky Pimply Face Mumbler tried to push a warranty on me, and then didn't offer to assist me when I came back to the area, how the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico had been waiting forever for assistance, when I had seen several people just wandering around. I told her they had lost my $500 with the iPod and accessories, they had lost my $435 with my digital camera, and they were about to lose my $1300 with the computer, all because of their shoddy way they dealt with their customers.

Little Blond looked like I had not only broken up with her, but had cheated on her with her best friend, Strawberry Blond (who was cute, by the way. I'm just sayin). "I'm soooo sorry," she said. "I promise you, this will be dealt with." Looking around, it appeared as if they were having more customer service issues than just me.

I headed to the counter, where the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico stood, talking to none other than Siad. I overheard the Jewish Gentleman saying, "And we wait and wait and finally someone come to us but they skip over another man who waited longer than we did and..." he turns around and sees me behind him "...this gentleman here. He waited for a long time too, and no one helped him either."

Siad saw me, stepped to me and asked if I had found everything I needed. I held only the external hard drive. I half-smiled and said, "Well, I just talked to your other manager [pointing to Little Blond] and kinda gave her the story. I told her that as a manager, I am big on customer service..."

I recounted what I told Little Blond, and Siad stood firmly, arms crossed and listened. His face tightened a little, and as I continued about how most of the time I, along with others, were ignored, and passed by and offered little help, he had a look of what I can only describe as "professional fury". He was a little miffed. Especially when I told him that I was about to spend all 13 of my $100 bills at Best Buy, mostly based on service, because some of the items here were in fact cheaper.

Siad spoke slowly, apologizing first for my experience, then telling me that he'd been there 2 months, and that 75% of the staff had turned over for good reason. And it was a work in progress. I told him I understood that completely, but it didn't help either one of us now. Siad said that I wasn't the first one to say anything about it, indicating the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico (though Puerto Rico never actually said anything) and that the problem would be addressed immediately. He strode off in a way that looked professional, yet looked as if had he a mallet, it would be The Shining in Circuit City. "Heeere's Siad!"


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Bug's Death

I imagine as baby ants are in ant middle school, reading ant history and get to the chapter on ant disasters, they'll come across various accounts of slaughters and destruction of ant hills and colonies throughout the ages (who could forget the Twig of '93?), possibly including the time in scouts when a fellow scout sprayed a ant hill down with Off Bug Repellant, set it on fire, then peed on it to put it out.

Well, surely, there'll be some account, however small, of the Dollar Kitchen Massacre, and they'll rue the day they entered the household of one Stephanie Leann.

We'd been seeing ants here and there, randomly, just one or two, but never really enough to make a fuss over. While in the shower, you can look up and spot one here, maybe two there. It was like a game... "Oh, got one! Oh, got another!"... but it wasn't so bad that telling the office we needed pest control to come through was necessary... okay, it was necessary, but I kept forgetting, how about that?

Tuesday morning, I'm getting to sleep late, don't have to be at work until 2pm, but I'm awakened my lovely wife around 730am to tell me there has been an invasion in our kitchen and pantry. Being asleep, I sorta hear the words "pantry" "all over" "killed them" and then I hear the magic words "you'll need to clean it up before you go to work, because I have to leave shortly". Again, being asleep, I vaguely remember thinking "aw, man..."

9am rolls around, I wake up and figured I should get up, so I immediately go from the bed to the couch to start my day. I smell Raid, but I figure I'll wait a little while before I go see the damage. And hour goes by, I sigh, and make my way into the kitchen.

It really was an ant holocaust. The floor was littered with tiny little non-moving ant carcasses. On the wall by the stove, there was a still wet pool of bug spray which collected hundreds more ant corpses in it. On the counter, they were spread out like bread crumbs. I open the pantry door, and the wall has a wet streak going down it, where the Raid has dripped. Ants lay stuck to the wall, in a deathly position. There are one or two stragglers moving around, but slowly. They are possibly the ant coronors, surveying the damage.

My box of Apple Jacks is wet from bug spray, with ants glued to it. The box of oatmeal is damp on one side, it being collateral damage. Stephanie went nuts in here. She grabbed the raid, and I imagine the Mollie Weasley coming out in her... "NOT MY KITCHEN, YOU B*&^%!!" she would scream.

And being the loyal and loving husband I am, I got to clean it all up. I used at least a dozen paper towels, wiping up most of them in big clumps. I tossed the Apple Jacks, and raked ant bodies... ant fathers who'd never see their larvae grow up... ant mothers who leave behind children wondering where mommy is... ant children who never hear their parents call "Come in for dinner" because, well, because they are dead now... ant lives forever altered because they made the decision to come here.

The carcasses lined the wire shelves in our pantry, forcing me to go line by line to rake them all off. I grabbed the dustbuster, went after all I could on the floor, around the fridged... I moved the microwave and stove--more ants. More dead ants, that is. Finally, I ran a sink full of soapy hot water to wipe down the counters and the wall. I had to empty out and refill the sink three times, because the rag was spotted with little, curled up black dots that I had to wash out.

As I went out for the day, I stopped by the office to ask for pest control to come by. The lady said that everyone is having issues with ants. Its been so dry here (stupid global warming!) that the ants are looking for water and moisture. Pest control is schedule to come, but she said that everyone is just going to have to take precaution.

Perhaps they'll come back. Perhaps they'll plot revenge, amass a bigger army and have a beachfront D-Day invasion. Or, perhaps they'll say "no way" to this house. This is my wife's home, I just live here, and she will not allow it to be filled with ants.

Friday, August 10, 2007

32 Reasons

I got rice cookin' in the microwave, got a three day beard I don't plan to shave. It's a goofy thing, but I just gotta say, hey, I'm doing alright. I think I'll make me some homemade soup, feeling pretty good and that's the truth. It's neither drink nor drunk induced, naw, I'm just doing alright. And its a great day to be alive, the sun's still shining when I close my eyes. It's a hard time in the neighborhood, why can't every day be just this good... Travis Tritt.

Have you ever noticed that country music has several "I feel really great" songs? Not as many as "my life sucks" songs, but still...

Anyway, my life rocks. Seriously, it really does. I woke up this morning 32 years old. Well, theoretically, I don't turn 32 until 815 CST tonight, but hey, who's counting? I'm 32 years old today. So I figured I would do a post... among the many hundreds of reasons I'm happy to be alive, I thought I'd pick 32, in no particular order...

1. Jesus Christ. He saved me. He lives through me, and for me. I go outside and get shot in a drive-by fruiting, and you know what, I wake up in paradise. Can't beat that, really.

2. Stephanie. She's awesome. She really is. She is everything that God planning for me to be with, and if not everything God knew I wanted, then definately, everything God knew I needed.

3. WalkAbout. I love my kids. Love leading drama. Its a passion. And I get to do it.

4. My job at Starbucks. Ohmigosh, I get paid great money to SERVE COFFEE. You know, as an ASM, there's more to it, in turns of planning, leadership, hiring, firing, support, so on and so on... but still... I get to meet people, I get to work with FABULOUS people like Alyssa and Kat and Petey and my manager rocks and... well there.

They call them strong, those who can face the world alone, who seem to get by on their own, those who will never change or fall. We call them weak, who are unable to resist the slightest chance that might exist and for that, forsake it all. Their so hell-bent on giving, walking a wire, convinced its not living if you're standing outside the fire... Garth Brooks.

"Hell-bent on giving, walking a wire, convinced its not living if you're standing outside the fire" What a line... totally my life. Hell-bent on living.

5. Sweet potato casserole. My favorite food. Its great that Steph could cook this, because this could have been a deal breaker.

6. I don't get sick. I just don't. Maybe I ate too many boogers as a 2 year old and my immune system is strong, who knows.. in 17 years in the work field, I've called in sick, maybe five or six times. I know I've left work sick twice. I even worked with strep throat (though I didn't know I had it at that point).

7. My iPod. Come on, its revolutionized the way I hear music. Completely. To be able to access, like, any song ever, its pretty handy.

8, 9, 10. There aren't a whole lot of girls I'll say "that's my buddy", but Paula Maddox, Meredith Quintana and April Adams are my buddies. I don't get to see them nearly enough, but its the kind of buddy you can just high five and laugh with, without fear of your wife saying "what are you doing?"

I have been blessed, and I feel like I've found my way. I thank God for all I've been given at the end of every days. I have been blessed, with so much more than I deserve. To be here with ones who love me, to love them so much it hurts, I have been blessed... Martina McBride

11. Ashley Spell. Love this kid. She's just a ball of fun wrapped up in a "my life is too stressful" body.

12. My digital camera. I paid cash for it, bargained at Best Buy, and its all mine!

13. Financial Peace. Okay, so in five or six months, we'll be debt free. We won't owe anyone anything. We have emergency savings ready, and we'll have a bunch of monthly income not going to bills we'll be able to save and pay cash for a house, a car, another Disney vacation. We're in a great place.

14. Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship). For all its faults, and every church has 'em, its got some of the best leaders and greatest people you could ever know. Its a great thing.

15. Haircuts. This may seem trivial, but its a hard thing sometimes to find a great place to get your haircut. Might I recommend Melissa Clark at Xscape Salon? She goes to church with us, and is in KidStuf with us, and cuts great hair. Let me know, I'd love to hook you up.

16. Movies. Lots and lots of movies. Lots and lots and lots of movies.

17. Music. Lots and lots of music. Lots and lots and lots and lots of music

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Whenever one door closes, I hope that one door opens. Promise me that you'll gtive faith a fighting chance, and when get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. I hope you dance... Lee Ann Womack (One of Steph's favorite songs)

18. Rush Limbaugh. I'm truly a student at the Limbaugh Institute of Advanced Conservative Studies. The same way some of you libs soak up every word that Hillary, Obama or Pelosi says, only I question what I hear from Rush and make my own decisions. Just sayin'.

19. "Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake. Random. Its on, and it rocks. I'm jammin.

20, 21. The Purple Onion & Dale's Southern Grill. Two of my favorite places to eat.

22. Kingdom Comics. One of my favorite places to shop, and build my ever expansive comic collection. When I have money, that is.

23. Paid for car. Its a 1999 Limited Edition Mercury Pezeahchit, pardon the expression, but its paid for. It had air. It runs pretty well. And when I get another car next summer, we'll trade in and pay cash for another paid for car. See #13.

24, 25. Myspace and Facebook. I keep in touch with people, people I never see, like K-Dub, Launi, NYCJenni and others.

And the white line's getting longer, and the saddle's getting colder, Lord I'm much to young to feel this damn old. All the cards left on the table with the no ace left in the hole, I'm much to young to feel this damn old... Garth Brooks. (okay, its a song about rodeos, but heck, who hasn't felt this way here and there?)

26. The DFC. I live for college football, and NFL, and The Deuce Football Championships make it worthwhile. I love and hate, at the same time, that I need to worry about the outcome of Boise State and BYU.

27. The Deuce Guys. Tommy, Tom, Mikey, Shawnifer, Ty, and my best mate Wookiee. Perhaps the combined best friends ever. Even Shawnifer.

28. Steph's family. I mean, how many times have I heard "my in-laws...." followed by a sigh or a complaint from my friends? My in-laws rock. They're good to us. We're thankful. And Tyler might be the coolest brother in law, like, ever. Good kid. He won a car. How ridiculous is that.

29. My mom. I don't call her nearly enough, but she loves me, like a mama should.

Keep your 40, I'll just have an Earl Grey tea. My rims never spin, to the contrary, you'll find their quite stationary. All of my action figures are cherry, Stephen Hawking's in my library. My MySpace is totally pimped out, got people begging for my top 8 spaces... Alfred Yankovic

30. This country. We live in a country that let you not only defend but test the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and even though liberals are only using the word "from", we have freedom IN religion. We are the Effin' United States of Effin' America. We are in the most powerful, richest, most technologically advanced, most economically powered country in the history of the world. I'd rather be dirt poor here than rich in, say, Syria. I'm blessed to be born here. Its a country that affords us the chance to argue about our freedoms, and even affords the President (with his 25% approval number that you hear about in the media constantly) and Democratic Congress (with their THREE PERCENT approval rating on the handling of the war, a number you never heard about in the media... one, two THREE percent) the chance to fight over out to lead this country.

31. My leather couches. I love my couches. Dark red leather, expensive, fine grain, three recliners, some of the most comfortable furniture ever. And its paid for.

32. Hot showers. I'm about to go take one. Its going to be awesome.

The above list is not conclusive, there's stuff that I'm sure I've left off, theres a ton more stuff I love about my life. Thats just 32 things--I could have mentioned Ashley Judd movies, Scott Latta, Hootie music, Harry Potter, The Sport Guy, $1 tv dinners, digital cable, thick hair, iced coffee con leches, and much more...

Anyway, happy birthday to me. My life rocks. Have a great day.

I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu-Manchu. I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying. I hope someday you get the chance to live like you were dying... Tim McGraw

And remember... Life is not tried, its just merely survived if you're standing outside the fire...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Six Flags Thursday

Ever been so tired that your eyelids stick together? Seriously, no joke, driving on Thursday night, everytime I blinked it was a struggle because my top eyelids were actually sticking together and I had to make a goofy stretch-face expression to unstick my eyelids.

The night before, the Lovely Steph Leann had come home from three days at Calloway Gardens in Georgia, where she had been for a business trip. And on Thursday morning, she was flying out at 515am to Minneapolis, MN, for a Creative Memories Conference, with she being a Creative Memories Consultant and all. So, I get back from Financal Peace University, she's packing, we're both up late, neither one really sleeps well, and all in all, I got about 2 1/2 hours of sleep. Up at 330am, out the door around 4am, go out and pick up Steph Leann's cousin who is going with her, and to the airport by 5.

Well, I could go home and sleep for... 2 hours, having to be at the church at 730, or I could pass the time until then. I decide to go to Waffle House for breakfast, then go to Starbucks because I have a few things to take care of before Monday, even though I am on five days vacation.

Finally, at 710, I'm out the door and headed to Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship). Where are we going, you ask?

Six Flags Over Georgia

I had signed up to be a chaperone for the middle school group going... why can't we say Junior High? You have High School, and Junior High School, and thats it, why do this "Middle School" thing? Where was I?

Because we aren't a loaded church, it was decided not to rent any sort of charter bus of any kind, so we were taking cars... and I was a driver. Kathy Compton, the middle school assistant, put out a sheet with everyone's name on it, letting the kids sign up for the car they wanted.

And wouldn't you know it... in my car... Jessica Heckman, Emily Griner, Kayleigh Parvin and Jenny Combs. All girls. And not just all girls, but Jessica, Emily and Kayleigh are three of the loudest, most hyper 13 to 14 year olds you'll ever meet. Kayleigh is actually the younger sister of a friend of mine, Christy... it's one of those "you know you are getting older" moments when you realize that a friend's little sister is suddenly not so little anymore.

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Two of my passengers that kept me awake

So we're humming down the road, headed to the ATL, and the girls are all arguing over which music to listen to... I give in to Fergilicious, but ban Justin, Britney, Christina and Pink from the car, just for the inappropriateness, then ban the Backstreet Boys just on principal. Seriously, I felt like Chris Hansen was going to pull me over. "Have a seat right there. What are you doing with four 14 year old girls in your car?"

It was actually reasonable mild outside... it was hot, because, well its the South + August = Muggy and Humid, but it still wasn't too bad. When we got there, I managed to attach myself to a couple of the guys that I know from WalkAbout, Grant, Jacob (who is called Pinky), Connor and Aaron, and we end up walking from coaster to coaster most of the day.

Because the day really isn't that remarkable, or at least, other than the usual day at Six Flags--lines, high prices for anything, gum all over the signs in every ride queue--I won't go into great detail.

I will say, though, Six Flags is apparently trying to set themselves up as more than a stop for roller coasters... numerous Warner Brothers characters were throughout the park, as were DC characters. I saw everyone from Sylvester the Cat to the Green Lantern standing around, and the Q-Bot thingy rented to get through the lines faster is now called the "Flash Pass", with the Flash as the mascot.

They even had a stinkin' parade, with the WB and DC icons all riding floats or walking in it. I'm thinking its a little much, because with Disney, you go not just for the rides, but the experience. Every ride and attraction is an atmosphere, its a story, nay, its an adventure! At Six Flags, you go to ride roller coasters. Plain and simple. With Disney you have breakfasts with Stitch, and marvel over Cinderella's castle and collect pins and yeah, enjoy Space Mountain, but with Six Flags, I just want to be tossed to and fro by some metal beast. In fact, stop paying the characters and build me another coaster--or fix the stinkin' Deja Vu.

It reminds me of the attempt of Las Vegas to set themselves up as a more family oriented place, several years ago. They ran a huge ad campaign, letting people know they weren't just dancers and stripper and casinos and gambling, but they were in fact family friendly, so hey, bring the kids. Apparently, that didn't work, and the Las Vegas Tourist guys sat around a table and said "Screw this family crap. Everyone thinks we are Sin City... lets embrace that. If you can't beat 'em, at least get 'em to come here".

So they tossed out the family friendly thought, embraced who they were, or at least, who everyone thought they were, and thus, the highly successful "What happens here stays here" ad was born. This is what Six Flags should do. "Screw this Bugs Bunny crap. Let's use that money to keep the park cleaner, and build, like, four more monster coasters!" That's what I would do, anyway. I should be an amusement park director.

They've also added names to the park sections... not just one or two easy names, but names like "Cotton States", "British Section", "Confederate Section" (which you'd think would be the same as Cotton States...), again trying to be like Disney or Busch Gardens.

Oh, and another thing... you're sitting on a coaster, and suddenly you remember you've got a hat on, or you're carrying a small bag or something... what do you do? You just toss it onto the platform, where you'll get it later, right? Oh, nay nay.

Not only do they have lockers before a few of the newer rides, with big signs saying "Put your crap in here, cause you ain't leaving it on the platform", they are now coming down hard on people who do toss their stuff. Several times I'd see a hat hit the platform, then have Shequetha the "Ride Entertainer" say "Whoever threw that hat, raise your hand!" A few seconds later, you'd see the hand of some unknowning little kid, and she'd say "Pick it up and put it away". The whole ride would be held up for this little kid to unbuckle, grab his hat and either sit on it, or put it in the shelves they have.

My guess is, the rides have been put through the ringer this year... not only did the Deja Vu stop, start, stop and start again, the Superman ride was shut down for an hour or so, the Georgia Scorcher stopped midway up the hill, and the Batman ride stopped while we were two people from boarding. In that one, the harnesses wouldn't come unlocked, which is good for the people riding, but bad for the ones about to get off... and even worse when it happened at Superman because you are literally facing the ground, hanging by the harness.

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You never want your ride to stop and see a worker climb beside you. Not good times, bad times.

So, in order, the coasters at Six Flags:

10. The Ninja... the most uncomfortable ride ever. Your head is smacking the headrest, its jerky, its violent. Just not well thought out. I don't know a single person who likes this ride. I'm betting this ride goes away in the next few years for another coaster.

9. The Great American Scream Machine... kinda boring, but I love wooden coasters, so it has its moments. The hills are great, but it just doesn't do much... but its got one of the best roller coaster names ever.

8. The Dahlonega Mine Train... almost a kiddie coaster, its still fun in the back, just for the amount of shaking. Unlike the Ninja, its a fun jerky violence.

7. The Mindbender... I remember back, before Batman (which brought in the DC connection) when this coaster was an ugly brown and by itself over here in the corner. When they made Batman Forever, with the Riddler, they built the Batman ride, then painted this one green with question marks all over it... the ?? are gone, but the ride is still classic.

6. Deja Vu... this has the potential to rank much, much higher, except for two things... number one, it takes then almost ten minutes to load and unload passengers. I actually timed it several rides, and it was unbearably long. Number two, its always broken. Steph Leann and I rode it when it first opened, and in the couple of times I've been back, its not worked. We stood in line for about 30 minutes, a line we only joined because it had just reopened and we figured not a ton of people would be there. We decided to leave, because it just was taking too long, and on our way out, we saw other people leaving, and we heard they had shut it down again.

5. The Georgia Scorcher... one of those standing coasters where, you get into the seat and you have to position yourself before they lock the seats in place. Too high and guys have problems. Too low and you're bent awkwardly for 90 seconds. Its a great ride, though. Loud and whipping, and 4Gs can't be wrong.

4. Superman Ultimate Flight... the appeal of this is that you get strapped in, they strap your feet in execution style, then your seat goes horizontal, with you facing the ground. So as you ride, it feels like you're flying... and you keep a mental image of how far you'd go if the harnesses broke.

3. Batman: The Ride... probably the best feet-dangly ride I've been on. Its just a lot of fun, really, though they really should shorten the queue... you have to walk about 1/4 of a mile just to get to the line.

2. The Georgia Cyclone... I love wooden coasters, and this one is awesome. Modeled after the Coney Island Cyclone, the coolest thing about 2005, its just rip roaring shaking whippin' tossin' fun. Especially if you're in the back. In fact, the Cyclone is the basis of my theory that every coaster should be ridden in the front and in the back. NYCJenny, insert jokes here.

1. The Goliath... the newest coaster at Six Flags, it is AWESOME. Worth the price of admission alone is the 200 foot drop, one that doesnt look nearly as tall until you are in the car ascending the hill. And the drop is massive. 70+ miles per hour, the thing runs through half the park... the Free Fall and Parachutes are both gone. It really is the smoothest coaster I've ever been on. And actually comfortable too.

I also managed to get video footage of the Batman, the Scorcher and the Cyclone, all from the front row... if my computer wasn't so slow, and if I knew how, I'd post it.

Anyway, the boys and I decided against eating for the afternoon, because we had only gotten on 2 rides before 3pm, and we were leaving a 7 for dinner, so we just kept ourselves hydrated (we found a concession stand that sold $6 funnel cakes, but gave out free water...). When we did leave, we stopped at the Arbor Place Mall Food Court, where I devoured Sbarros in about a minute.

And needless to say, I was tired. Very tired. But... it was a good time, and that's whats important.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Amberly & the Digital Sell

I finally bought myself a digital camera.

Anytime I buy electronic stuff more than, say, a hundred bucks or so, I do my research first... I took about three months to forget the new Zune or the Creative Zen mp3 player, and decide on the 60gig iPod, and I've already started my preliminary looking at laptops, even though we won't buy one until at least spring.

In this case, I began looking at cameras around April or May, deciding not necessarily what brand or style I wanted, just determining what features I wanted. Viewfinder, at least 7 or 7.5 megapixels, large screen, good nighttime shooting, good flash, battery powered, video with sound, and perhaps the most important thing, a slim design that will fit into my pocket.

As much as I'd like a more expensive camera, I didn't want to be walking around Disney World with a fat, packed camera case slapping me in the waist everytime I took a step--plus, you'd have to set it down for some rides, hope that no one swipes it, and so on and so on...

So, I wanted something to slip into my pocket. But I didn't want cheap. I could get a cheaper model for $125 or maybe $199, but there's something to be said for a higher price sometimes--better features.

The Lovely Steph Leann wants the Nikon D40, the newest digital camera on the market. I've heard good things about it as well, but too big. Maybe that would be a good "we're debt free" purchase for her later, but right now, I've been saving, counting on bonus money and such.

I went into HHGregg, the newest electronic kid on the block, and looked at what they had. There were pretty good deals, and I went to Circuit City... I hate Circuit City. Not because they don't have good product, but NO ONE talks to me. I'm big on customer service. Yes, I could ask someone for help, but its your job as store representative to approach me and say "Can I help you with anything sir?", and its my job to either say "Why no, thank you, I'm just looking", and then ask when I do need help, or to say "Why yes, I am looking for..." and allow the person to help me.

When I was searching for my iPod in Spring '06, Circuit City actually had them a little cheaper... but I spent 30 minutes looking at the mp3 player section, and the two Circuit City guys, standing there chatting and laughing, never offered any assistance. Same with the camera... never a "How can we, as Circuit City employees, help you to not only earn your business but keep your business?" And, like with the iPod search, I know they saw me. Not even a "Hey, sir, I know it looks like we aren't doing anything, but we actually are trying to resolve a situation, but we will definately be with you in a just a minute. Thank you for your patience."

Off to Best Buy, who pretty much attacks me every time I come in. Maybe because they know me by now, or something. Anyway, I went to the camera section, where I met a nice young lady named Amberly.

That is just a cool name... Amberly. Not just Amber, but Amberly. Not Kimberly, but Amberly. I'm going to keep a mental note... in case some of the couples in our Sunday Sch... er, Life Connection, steal Lorelei Addison (the name Steph Leann have decided on when and if we have a girl, almost ensuring us of a houseful of boys), I'm going to toss Amberly into the discussion.

So, Amberly and I talk about cameras for about 20 minutes. She teaches me the following facts, when looking for a camera:
  • Viewfinders are good. Though not necessary, it helps when taking photos in high light situations, such as the beach, where the screen may be washed out because of the light.
  • Higher megapixels are great if you are taking pictures for special photography, such as enlarging, or commercial photographs. By making them bigger, you want something with a higher pixelaton rate like 9 or 10 or more. However, for just vacation photos and everyday use, 7 to 8 will do just fine.
  • Any camera that you buy will necessitate the purchase of a memory card or stick. The camera itself comes with about enough memory to take 10 to 12 pictures. That's just how they roll nowadays.
  • Its good to buy one that uses a battery that can be recharged. Otherwise, you'll have to charge the camera itself, which is inconvenient on long days of heavy usage.

They had a Panasonic for sale, one that I had seen at HHGregg, and Amberly told me they would price match, and I almost bit... but I stopped. I had the money, but it would be a little tight. I would rather buy it when it wasn't tight, when I had the cash in my pocket. So I waited.

Skip ahead a month or two later, and I have the cash in my pocket. Five Benjamins. And I was ready. I went to HH Gregg first, just to see what unbelievable deals they might have, and they didn't really have anything unbelievable. Besides, I preferred Best Buy.

Traveled across the street to Best Buy, and guess who's in the camera section? Amberly. So I asked her a few questions, she answered them, and in discussion, I narrowed it down to two cameras... one was $299, the other was $399.

"Honestly, Amberly, out of these two, which do you like? What makes this one a hundred bucks more, even though it has the same pixelation and much of the same features?" I asked.

"Well, I like control. The more expensive one has more manual controls, and I'd rather turn off the auto control and do it myself. But thats me. If you aren't concerned with that, the $299 Sony Cybershot is really your best bet," she replied.

The moment had arrived. A graduate student of Financial Peace University, I was ready for my first negotiation test--FPU's motto is "never pay retail", and so I was ready to negotiate for a better deal. I added up what I wanted in my head... the camera case, the extra battery, the 2gig memory stick and the camera together would be about $450 or more... but I didn't want to pay $450.

"Alright, Amberly, I want that camera, a case, a battery and a memory stick, and," I paused as I pulled out 4 Dead Presidents, "I have $400. This is what I'd like to pay."

She looked at me funny, and shifted slightly, "Um... well, there's tax...""That's cool. $400 plus tax sounds fair to me." I smiled big. This might just work.

So, I followed her around as she grabbed the Sony battery, a brand name memory stick (not the cheap one, mind you) and then we discussed camera cases, in which I decided on a slim, compact case that retailed for about $15 or so. Then Amberly opened up the case, pulled out a box and handed me my camera. As we walked to the register, she said, "Okay, so like, I'm going to have to ask about taking money off."

I smiled back, and nicely said, "That's fine. I'll wait while you ask. If they say no, I think HH Gregg has the same stuff across the street, and I know they'd do it--you guys are probably killing them in market share." She smiled back, and disappeared into the store, headed for a manager.

I waited perhaps ten minutes... kinda curious if she couldn't find anyone, if it took that long to convince someone to do it, or if she spent 9 minutes griping about customers not wanting to pay the price and one minute asking. Either way, she came back, and said "Alright, $400 plus tax".

"Thank you for not making me to go HHGregg," I replied.

"Yeah, well they probably don't have any of this stuff," she said in a little dig to the new store across the street.

And so, I came home with my new Sony Cybershot W90, with face detection, double anti-blur technology, megamovieVX software, 8.1 pixels, 2.5 inch display, viewfinder and so on. Now, please don't email me telling me I shoulda bought this other brand, because "for the money, you coulda..." or tell me "I got the same camera for only $259 at...", 'cause that's just not necessary.

I love my new camera, and I'm excited that its mine--I paid cash for it, I'm not making a high interest credit card payment, and I've been taking pictures of everything for a week.

Thank you, Amberly. Thank you very much.