2-2-2005 I hate gift cards

You have to hand it to Bush and the Neocons: they don't just talk about doing stuff, they actually get it done. Ugly and incompetent at times (basically the entire occupation)? Definitely. But they get it done. Others talk, promise, hedge, and generally give reasons why none of this can ever happen, but this election happened. It is awfully hard to imagine anything but Saddam still in power if Bush isn't president these last four years. And it's awfully hard to imagine all the change and tumult in the Middle East since 9/11 that actually has the region looking like it might finally start moving in the direction of something better after roughly half a century of U.S. presidents promising to do something and never quite doing anything but let it sink further.--Thomas P.M. Barnett

The big homecoming was just way too much fun yesterday. I got up this morning and wondered what the heck I might do today. What could top yesterday's proceedings? It was like a big letdown to some degree. But...

Citizen's Voice, Page 37: Rory Kirwan in the flesh.

Woo hoo!!!

From the e-mail inbox Dearest Genius-It's Bravo Battery and not Bravo Company. If you must continue treating us to your daily garbage, please try to be more accurate in the future.

I stand corrected. But I must still burst my pimples in your general direction. On a daily basis, I receive countless e-mails consisting of all of thirty or forty words that seem as if they were penned by illiterate river bottom slugs. But when I happen to make a mistake while throwing together a couple of thousand words, it's a federal crime punishable by a mandated sleepover with none other than Michael Jackson himself? Frig off! Battery? Company? Split a friggin' pubic hair why dontcha?

WILK reported today...that our former tower wants to change our pension system here in Wilkes-Barre. And he is demanding a public meeting with our city pension board to discuss his master plan to save America herself. Break into applause on my mark, 3...2...1...

And thanks entirely to this self-appointed avenging angel of ours, the State Auditor General will audit the city's pension system later this year. Anybody thinking sour grapes here? Revenge? Wouldn't it be a heck of a lot easier to take seriously the activist folks so completely worried about where our tax dollars go if they weren't trying to make certain that some of those very same tax dollars ended up going their way? Walter, you wanna chime in here? Christine, you out there?

Yeah. That reminds me, what ever happened to Walter? I'm really worried about him. Is he okay? Has he finally grown tired of making gross misrepresentations that are easily rebuked at city council meetings, or is something much more sinister afoot here? Can't we send a copper dude down to Simpson Street to check on his welfare? Walt, man. You alright? One tap means "yes" and two taps means "no." On my mark, 3...2...1

Know what, while we're busy requesting audits from whatever far-flung agency, maybe we should look into what the dreaded I.R.S. might think of a "businessman" who oversees a "cash only" business. That might prove to be really, really interesting, heyna? And what about that upstart Political Action Committee based here in Wilkes-Barre that published numerous ads in the newspapers seeking donations from the unwashed masses, and then very quickly dropped some sight never to be heard from again? Hmmm? Audits? Sure, why not? Let's set a few audits in motion here, kiddies. The more, the merrier, right? What's good for the political goose oughta be good for the activist gander, right?

Do any of you folks like Bowie? I do.

Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall
I'm not quite right at all

Don't set me free, I'm as helpless as can be
My libido's split on me
Gimme some good 'ole lobotomy

'Cause I'd rather stay here
With all the madmen
Than perish with the sadmen
Roaming free
And I'd rather play here
With all the madmen
For I'm quite content
They're all as sane as me

Zane, Zane, Zane
Ouvre le Chien

From the e-mail inbox "I was somewhat sidetracked while laughing at some really, really stupid e-mails sent my way. The usual bilge like: U're an effing dick. U're Leighton's boy toy. Now that we have no fire stations left, I hope u're house catches on fire."

Wow, that dude has some bad karma coming his way for that comment. Obviously this person doesn't know not to wish ill to a person because it just may happen to you instead.

I get that sort of thing all the time. I'm used to it and quite frankly, I kinda enjoy it. Trust me, it's gotten much lighter of late. You should have seen what I was treated to on a daily basis about four years ago or so when I was daring to question the utter brillinace (NOT!) of our former mayor before it became obvious to most that Wilkes-Barre's wheels were falling off. Jeez. If e-mails could kill...

Supposedly, our right to express our opinions is protected by the Constitution of this country. Just you go and try it in a public forum? You're entitled to your opinions provided that they don't ruffle any feathers. I think I worded it much like this quite a ways back, "Don't be judgemental of others or you will be judged very harshly." Or, in other words in this politically correct environment, keep it to yourself.

But, you do need to remember that I brought all of that on all by myself. I got annoyed with our local newspapers because of their alarming penchant for only printing letters to the editor that fit their unstated agendas, or their political points of view, and I sought out the internet as the place where I could publish whatever words I wanted to. In some respects, I'm still weighing whether that was such a bright idea or not, but I've learned much for having done so, and I've met a lot of really great people that I would have never met otherwise. And the piles of free T-shirts and such was cool.

Whoever wants to can gleefully hack away at me. I basically invited most of it. But at this point in time, I don't think drawing people out of the doldrums to discuss the important issues of the day on the internet is a bad thing in a struggling city. In fact, I know with certainty that copious amounts of information posted on this site over the past few years would have otherwise never been available for public consumption. There's no way I could have made that happen on my own, but I do take pride in the undisputable fact that this site was the conduit by which anyone who really wanted one had a voice while tyrrany ruled the day in this city.

Has this internet experiment outlived it's usefullness? Maybe. Maybe not. But I still enjoy mucking about for the most part, and despite all of the counterblow wet dreams I have personally caused; nobody has stabbed me just yet. Stay tuned on that. All I ever really wanted was a Wilkes-Barre that I could be proud of again and as my dream is about to be realized in earnest, glaring mistakes and all, I wouldn't change a single thing if I could. Whoever wants to can hack away on me. Deep down, I know that my ill-advised efforts were not in vain. And no matter what the future may bring to me, nobody can take that away from me.

As far as Wilkes-Barre Online and the steady participation from all involved is concerned, we, as a city, done good. We done real good. We really did.

Did I ever happen to mention...that I freaking absolutely hate gift cards? No? Scroll down.


I took wifey on a shopping spree today, so needless to say, I came very close to hanging myself from a steel rafter. She needed another half ton of crafting supplies. I would have preferred to have my gonads poached than to have to wander aimlessly through the bix bog store for an extended period, but there was not a single poacher in sight.

Anyway, I hate gift cards. And I'm about to tell you why.

Thanks entirely to my mom, I love Christmas and I always have. And now that I've reluctantly become the Grand Poobah of Christmas in this house, my only dyed-in-the-wool rule has always been that no one, and I mean no one, must ever know what was concealed by those thousands of yards of wrapping paper we deploy every Christmas. Since mom went away and left me in charge of the yuletide stuff, my only rule set has always been that every single Christmas present that would ever enter this smallish joint would equal a surprise when it was finally savaged by someone's fingernails. This rule set was not negotiable in any way. Whether you liked your Christmas presents or not, they were sure to a surprise. I have spoken.

And then all of this unchecked technology starting eroding what I always liked about Christmas. You know, trying to judge by the size of the wrapped box or the sound it made when rattled just what the heck it might be. I think more than half of the fun of Christmas is the anticipation of it all. These days, no matter how hard we try to disguise things, the kids can spot a gift card a hundred miles away. And so can I.

So, Bill. What did you get for Christmas?

Let's see, I got Philthydumpia Eagles velcro underwear, a new cherry pipe, "Nora does Noxen" on DVD, Mets slippers, a Wal-Mart gift card, a Target gift card, a Curcuit City gift card and a Playtime Boutique gift card.

That gift card nonsense directly flies in the face of what I always thought we were supposed to do after the traditional grits and pancakes breakfast. You know, like open presents. Whatever, man. That's my hang-up and mine alone. Perhaps.

With all of that needless gibberish having been said, wifey is next to impossible to shop for. She doesn't wear makeup. She doesn't wear jewelry. She doesn't wear perfume. And she's been known to claim what were rightfully my rock T-shirts on many occasions. And she's more than a bit of a throwback to a bygone era. She's loves to sew, bake, knit and create all sorts of other crafts that makes rocket science seem easier by direct comparison. And if you think shopping for some crazy middle-aged crafter is even remotely possible, trust me, you're much more likely to generate billions of dollars by buying miles upon miles of forgotten steam heat pipes. A 1:24 scale bead set is well, well beyond what I'm capable of comprehending, let alone shopping for. 3/4" elastic waist bands? Zircon-encrusted, retractable sewing scissors? Needle threaders? Crocheting whatnot? I'd rather take a shot at separating Greg Skrepenak from his customized cheese steak. Or cheese steaks. Hell, I'd rather face Todd Vonderheid's legendary stress ball assaults.

You see what I'm saying here? What would you get wifey for Christmas? Dare I say it? GIFT CARD!!! There. I said it.

So...much to my freaking chagrin...we headed on up to Michael's today with her two gift cards in tow totaling a supposed net worth of 45 bucks. Ah, Michaels's. Ye---ah! One of those big box stores that is frequently offered up to us as a sign of unfettered progress. As effing if!

And she shopped. And she shopped. And she shopped some more. She picked and she choosed. She picked and she choosed some more. And thanks to tons of interference from the steel structure, WILK was no longer an option. And she picked and choosed some more. And suddenly, I questioned why I had decided long, long ago that punching chicks right in the side of the frickin' eye was off limits? Sadly, I ended up amusing myself by comparing the differences between a whole bunch of iron-on embroidered letters. Thank goodness nobody saw me other than a bunch of equally deranged crafter chicks. An hour spent in Michael's just about brought me to my knees. Please! No more! I swear...I swear, I'll go to freaking church! I won't drink no more and I'll join the Girlie Men Corps! Please! No more! No one deserves this! Please, Lord! Take me from this place, I swear...

And then I heard wifey say from somewhere behind me, "Okay, I'm done."

So much for my not being able to cry. I wiped on tears on the sleeve of my nifty Army/Navy hoodie and quickly headed for the checkout aisle. Thank you! Thank you! Holy Mary. Mother of God. Pray for us sinners...

So the nice lady at the register scanned all of wifey's crafting trinkets and hit the total button. And with that, wifey handed over two of her gift card Christmas presents. And they bounced. And the nice lady scanned them again only to have them bounce even higher. She tried something different on her computerized register and they bounced once again. And we were told that they were worthless. My reaction? Nope. Try something else.

So the nice lady called over another nice lady and the result was the same. These gift cards weren't as much plastic as they were rubber. Bounced! And then they started quizzing us. "Are you sure you didn't redeem these cards already?" Um...yeah, that's it, we're freaking numbskulls of the highest order. I was getting a bit miffed at this point, but I was nice about it. The second nice lady said the register was listing them as "declined" which meant that we had already used them. Oh, wait. Now the $25 card is showing that it's worth $20, but the $20 card is still worthless. Whoopee! Progress? How 'bout if we scan them until they read correctly? I reminded her that this was not the case, that we had not used them, and the error was on their side of the retail equation. So the store manager was paged and asked to proceed to the high-tech register that can't get anything right. He repeated the steps that the two nice ladies had both waltzed through and then he gave me the short, but very polished version of "See ya!"

And then that adrenaline gland of mine that's buried deep within wherever it is that they bury adrenaline glands just about ripped through my last available f**king nerve. I slapped my debit card on the counter and said, "Just f**kin' charge me, okay?" And the apologies flowed forth. Wanting to hear nothing more from these poor bastards that work for a f**ked-up company, I dispensed with the uesless apologies and pointed to the debit card. "Just ring it up!"

So wifey piled up $52 worth of crafting supplies, the $25 gift card came up as being worth $20 and the now infamous $20 gift card was absolutely worthless. And I forked over 32 dollars and 14 cents to correct their error. They bagged the sh*t, we assured the first nice lady that this was not her fault and headed out right after I made sure that everyone standing in the two register lines heard me say, "What we should take from this is that Michael's gift cards are not a reliable investment." They knew what I was talking about. They were watching and listening while waiting their turn.

Negative word of mouth has the potential to very slowly drain any successful business of it's anticipated sales.

Big whoop, right? I was out a mere $32.14, so don't expect to bump into me at the soup kitchen anytime soon.

But as a former businessman, (GASP! HACK!) I figured that this outfit needed a friendly shout out so as to not to screw themselves and I dialed 1-800-MICHAELS. My point was not to try to recoup what should have been rightfully mine. My only motivation was to make these people aware of the fact that they had an internal problem that has the potential to do them tons of harm. And the story got even weirder after I got a girl from Texas on the phone.

She was really pleasant, if not downright likeable. And after a bit of banging away on her keyboard, she told me the $25 gift card that was worth $20 at the point of sale was actually worth $25 from where she was sitting. And the $20 gift card that bounced and was worthless at the point of sale here in Culm County was showing a net worth of $9.32 on her 'spensive 'puter thingamabob. What the...!!!! Jesus! I immediately pointed out to her that both of these tainted gift cards were showing different monetary values at these two locations both controlled by her company. And I reiterated my original point that we had been ripped-off and her own computer was telling her as much. She then asked me if she could put me on hold, I agreed to that, and my phone call was immediately disconnected.

So, by my easy-going standards, we're left with nothing more than the word-of-mouth thing? Are you going to purchase a pricey gift card from Michael's for that Mad Hatter of a craft lady in your family?

If so, good f**king luck.

I was kind of awestruck...by this column from Mark Guydish of The Times Leader way back on January 31, 2005:

Graffiti lends new meaning to Huber's rust

The graffiti scrawled on the obscure side of a rusting black hulk of history read "White Power." Talk about irony. Talk about cowardice. Talk about unintended meaning.

Talk about my wandering mind.

I was on a cross-country ski excursion along the railroad tracks bisecting Wilkes-Barre, the ones that separate Pennsylvania Avenue and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard downtown and carve a chasm between Covell and Arch streets as they head south.

Follow them long enough in that direction and you brush by the back side of the Huber Breaker, where someone painted the graffiti.

The irony? Putting a tired claim of bogus supremacy on the decaying corpse of an industrial juggernaut. White power? As far as relevance in reality goes, you may just as well declare "coal power."

The cowardice? Proclaiming your superiority anonymously on the rear of a remote abandoned structure where few will ever see it.


Sure, I cut the column short with my cut & paste talents, but I was really put off by what he had to say in the first few paragraphs.

Never one to snort any sort of household chemicals, I'm beginning to wonder if I had snorted tons of cleanser at some point, only to forget about it after my brain cells went and calcified on me.

Cowardice? Anonimity? Cowardice and anonymous comments should upset anyone employed by what little that remains of The Times Leader? Is he f**king serious? Or is he smoking some of that funny-looking fungi type stuff that has sprouted from the mounds of Casey Jones' piled and rotting garbage?

Even though these local journalists think that they post their internet comments in some sort of other-worldly vacuum, I just happen to read their internet comments as posted on the "What Happened to Walzer?" forum page.

Cowardice? Anonymous attacks? Why not read what some of the present and former employees of The Times Leader think of anonymous attacks.

Two, and most important, it is not appearing in a newspaper of general interest. Sayso is journalistic bilge, and I hope is is appropriately relegated to the waste heap by Ms. Walzer's successor. Last, these are the rants of journalists (in my case former). And who's going to bother reading them, let alone pay them any mind.

Indeed, the T-L has used Sayso in the same manner - precisely for its own benefit -- a device thought to garner news "tips" from people who would be free to speak their mind if allowed to do so without identifying themselves. That's, in essence, not something normally worthy of a "news tip", let alone something worthy of publication. And printing these rants borders on the unconscionable

A newspaper that publishes a forum like Sayso about its community deserves a forum like this one about itself.

Am I missing something?

The flags of Nanticoke

It's the extremely rare day when I find something in the e-mail inbox that aptly describes my current situation, but this one will do very nicely:

I've learned that I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy it.