~Sunday~  Today I worked on the last item in the "Around the house" section of my my retirement to-do list, which was to "clean out and organize my storage shed."


Mea culpa CYA: If anyone reading this entry gave me any of the items in this blog entry that I mention having totally forgotten I owned, I apologize.

Seeing how I found cans of paint in there with "2001" written on the lid, it's been at least 13 years since I've ventured into the thing.

Being petrified of spiders, I started off my task with this Facebook status update, alluding to that fact and to the first item I came across covered in spider webs:

Ski Boots Bag

Many years ago, when I was married, my wife and I had two dogs that we loved dearly. I'm not sure how these two framed 8x10 pictures of them got relegated to the shed, but finding them put a smile on my face

8x10 picture of Misty

8x10 picture of Sophie

I had completely forgotten about these glasses from the 1979 Arby's Actors Collection. They were each wrapped separately in newspaper that I held by one corner with the tips of my fingers hoping to god nothing would crawl out of them as they unraveled.

1979 Arby's Collector Glasses

It's true that at one time I entertained a lot more than I do now. Out of all the items in the next 3 pictures, I'm embarrassed to say, I only remember owning the bagel set.

I have an entire set of Farberware pots and pans, so I guess it should come as no surprise that I have this electric skillet. But I don't remember getting it. I have no idea where that warming tray came from.

Electric Skillet & Warming Tray

I own a Pampered Chef Easy Accent® Decorator, but I had no idea I also own their Cookie Press (with 10 metal disks, too).

In the Cranberry Set, you can see what a silverplated serving utensil looks like when it hasn't been polished for at least 13 years. The spoon that's with the little—what I imagine my mother would call a—"bon-bon dish," is what a sliverplated spoon that was stored in a sealed plastic bag looks like.

Cookie press, bagel set, a candy dish, and a cranberry dish set

I totally don't remember owning this 9-bowl set. The dark area at the bottom of the large bowl is cardboard that is stuck to it from the box that it was in, whose bottom was deteriorating.

9-piece plastic bowl set—One large bowl and 8 small bowls

I don't remember when I got these or who gave them to me, but I was much delighted about this find, since I am using my deck again.

Citronella patio torches
Patio torches box

Hot knockers
Patio torches

So, back to that bag at the beginning of the entry. I really didn't think there were ski boots in that bag, because I'd already seen the white boots in a box, and completely forgot that I'd bought new boots (and skis, and poles) toward the very end of my skiing days, which was many, many years ago.

But, much to my surprise it wasn't a bowling ball, but the other pair of boots.

Ski Boots

And here's the entire new set. I think I'm going to try and sell these on what acts as the Red Hat Swap Shop list, since they're all so new and in very good shape. Things fly off that list, so maybe I'll get lucky.

Skis, Boots, and Poles

Click here if you're interested in seeing 3 more ski-related pictures—a close-up of the skis, sizing information on the skis, and the bindings...Collapse )

I'm happy to report that over the course of a few hours doing this, I only saw one spider, and it was a very small, black one, and it was at the very end of the chore.

Have you cleaned out a shed or garage lately? Find any fun stuff, or anything living? (Like a tortoise?)

Random thoughts from today and yesteryear...

~Thursday!~ Well, it was day 3 of retirement, and so far I just keep thinking it's the weekend.

I had quite the "productive" morning, as I did a load of laundry and wrote out 5 sympathy cards and 12 thank-you cards to put in the U.S. mail. It actually took me a couple of hours to get it all done. I don't write cards lightly.

I made some notes during my day today—one about something that happened yesterday, and a few about things that occurred to me today.

In a phone call from my parents yesterday to wish me a (belated) Happy Birthday and best wishes in retirement:

  • I was telling my dad about my retirement "to-do" list, and I asked him, "Did you have a retirement to-do list when you retired?" to which he responded, "Yeah, it had one thing on it. 'Don't go to work.'"

At the Method Post Office, which in spite of its name is on Beryl Road, not nearby Method Road:

  • I arrived at 2:18 to find the lobby open, but the service area dark, with this sign hanging on the door:
    Will return at 2:35.

  • I told myself, "It's a good thing you don't have to be back to work," and I sat in my car until close to 2:30, when I went ahead in, since cars were starting to pull in.

  • Having already put my other 16 items in the letter slot in the lobby, I got (3rd) in line to have a small box weighed and stamped, and the clerk was actually friendly. "I recognize you," she said looking at my return address label, which has a picture of me on it that's several years old. You might have a big personality if you have return address labels with your picture on it.

  • As I headed up Beryl Road toward Blue Ridge Road, I could see a buttload of cars parked on either side of the street, which I thought were way too many to be visiting the JC Raulston Arboretum, and then as things clicked, said under my breath, "Oh shit. The NC State Fair opened today, and the madness has begun."
    North Carolina State Fair 2014 banner

On the way to the gym this song came on the radio, and it reminded me of a friend I haven't seen in a couple of years. He always sang it (and quite well) at karaoke at Flex. Funny how music does that.

At the gym, where I know I should be relaxing, I get annoyed with people sometimes.

  • When I arrived, there was no one at the front desk. I don't think this has ever happened in the entire 5-6 years I've been going there. I waited about a minute, and then being the patient person that I am (NOT!), I just went in.

  • There was a personal trainer with two clients working out right in front of the ab machines, and while I did my 240 ab crunches, I tried to overhear as much of their conversations as I could. Yenta. My assessment: He's not that good, and the one client is a biotch.

  • There was an annoying guy who walked—about every 3 minutes—from the free-weight area to a TV by me. There was a "breaking news" story on MSNBC—including alerts IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS—about ebola, which he apparently was interested in.

  • Another guy working out next to me spent 3 minutes on his phone, did a few sets on a machine, and then spent 3 minutes more on his phone. Swipe. Text. Repeat. I just don't get that. I'm very focused on my workouts while I'm in the gym. I want to get in and out of there.

  • A hot guy sat on a machine in front of me, and every time he raised his hands to pull a weighted bar down, the small of his back—right where a tramp stamp might be on a woman—was exposed and there was something sticking half in and half out of his pants. I think it was a Band-Aid®, or a generic variation thereof. Odd.

  • On Tuesday, I did ab work, upper body work, and the elliptical machine for cardio. Yesterday, I did ab work, lower body work, and the elliptical machine for cardio. Today, I just didn't feel like doing the elliptical machine for my cardio, so I chose the stationary bike instead. I feel lazy doing that, so I read a LinkedIn article while doing it, and then deleted a bunch of Red Hat email from my phone.

This evening, I dropped by The Borough, where I had two of my six credited drinks from my retirement soiree there on Tuesday evening. On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store.

At home, after dicing celery, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, green onion, and carrots, I made some tuna salad, which I'll bring to Bob's tomorrow for lunch. He has a George Forman grill, and we're going to make tuna melts.

And how was your day?



Well, I can't speak for all retirees, but this is how my day went. It's rather unremarkable, but I'm happy to report that I wasn't bored for a single minute. Overall assessment: It's not a bad gig.

Here's the high-level summary of my day:

  1. Got up after 8 complete hours of sleep.

  2. Checked my Google calendar and scanned the morning news.

  3. Sent an email—to the people on the two (one on Facebook, the other on Evite) invitations to my retirement gathering this afternoon—about it being (very) casual dress and about running a tab being the best bet for multiple drinks.

  4. Had breakfast, not without photographing it and making a Facebook posting about it, since it involved eating one of my retirement gifts.

  5. Enjoyed the soundtrack from Ladies in Lavender while having breakfast, "Facebooking," and making moves in 4 of my 10 concurrently running Scrabble games.

  6. Changed my Red Hat email "Out of the Office" message.

  7. Changed my LinkedIn work status to "Retired."

  8. Read Dear Prudence. Love her!

  9. Composed my 286th and 287th haiku of the year for my Facebook Haiku Ninja group, in which we've committed to write a haiku a day throughout 2014. (In the excitement of both my birthday and retiring, I forgot to write yesterday's, hence the two today.)

  10. I arrived at my gym at 11:45, where in an hour and 20 minutes, I did 240 ab crunches, an upper body workout (8 weight resistence machines), and 30 minutes of cardio on the elliptical machine for a total of 1137 calories burned according to tracker.dailyburn.com.

  11. Facebooked and make some more Scrabble moves.

  12. Responded to a couple of e-rewards.com surveys (for cash, of course).

  13. Left for Bob's at 3:30, picked him up and went to The Borough for my informal retirement gathering, of about 40 people over the course of 3 hours.

Oh yeah, and I'm pretty sure I felt stress leaving my body throughout the day.


~Friday~ Today after work, some of the wonderful Red Hat people I work with met at Busy Bee Cafe for a farewell celebration of my imminent retirement, on Monday October 13.

The calendar invitation read:

John Martin is retiring | Let's celebrate/commiserate

Reserving this time to celebrate John Martin's retirement. (His actual retirement date is also his birthday: October 13). Your ticket to entry is to write a related:

Please forward to his friends or other Red Hatters in different departments (outside Marketing Communications) who work with John.


Once at Busy Bee Cafe, after ordering several appetizers for the group, and after at least one round of liquid courage being served, these dear people took turns reading their creations for me, and tugging at my heartstrings.

The contents are herewith.

Arrie Brown ("RE")

John, you're my favorite ripe banana. (#TWSS) I <3 you!


One day John went for a walk
Intending to stroll 'round the block
As he neared the lake
he stopped to partake
In a man with a giant dock

As a man, John cared not for glitz,
preferring politeness and wits.
Be he can't deny
every time he comes by
he can't keep his eyes off my grits.

Now John is a man with great class
For that, we've assembled en masse
I've shared with him a cube
And not to sound like a boob...
But what I'll miss most is his ass.

Matt Morain

You're one-of-a-kind and welcome back on Up Top! any time.


I once knew a man named John Martin
From the workforce, he'd soon be departin'
His teammates were pissed
Because his jokes would be missed
But they coped by drinking booze by the carton

Ashleigh Brothers

That is not a sundial! I'll miss you a bunch. Don't be a stranger. <3


At first John’s vacation had style,
But a lewd dude was ready to defile.
He was on show and,
John said, ‘Oh hell no!’
‘Honey, that is NOT a sundial.’

Jared Schwitzke

"Life is one, grand sweet song, so start the music." - Ronald Reagan Enjoy the music, John. And have a happy retirement.


John Martin is leaving, and I’m nervous
His replacement could never deserve us!
For he’s changed us for better
And our [whispering] eyes, a little wetter;
We’ll miss your sundial-as-a-service.

Bascha Harris

I adore you. And I don't say that about just anyone. We are going to miss the fuck out of you—the glue that makes us stick. PLEASE still come visit. Don't go. Love you.


Summer we had found
A syntactical soulmate—
Yet now Falls away

Nay is it time to
retire old bones—but gain more
time to bury them


Some nudists should probably be nervous
Cause John-Martin is kind of perv-ish
He snapped and he posted
As tender parts roasted
Now that’s a sundial as a service!

A de-lic-ious Spammy gus-ta-tion
Was once stored in a fine fridge location
But our cleaning staff
Tossed it out with the chaff
And Bob gave you Tupper-probation

There once was a man from Virginia,
Who had a rare gift with a pen-ya
He does work in blue
But he’s technical too—
And a fine thing it’s been to befriend-ya!

Mallory Root

John, you're not old enough to retire! You're the heart of the team and will be missed dearly. Enjoy your retirement and come back for happy hours! <3


The heart of the team
Who keeps the party alive
A rare gem, indeed

Bourbon in his desk
Nude stories, never a bore
A rare gem, indeed

Colby Hoke


I met John, he was in a funk
At The Borough, perhaps I was drunk
I told him to go
To Red Hat, fo sho
And now he's quit, the punk

Nick Mann

No room to write everything. Beck of luck.


Fall River legend
Content wiz is now leaving
Pun king takes his throne

Laura Walters

How dare you retire so young. And how dare Jared quote Reagan. Really won't miss HIM but you I will!


John Martin is a kind of rarity
Unparalleled in his vulgarity
He’s my favorite wit
for his fuck, cunt, and shit
And I will miss his hilarity

Chris Morse

Fall River!


John Martin is great
Most things that he does are dope
Him leaving, I hate

Emily Stancil Martinez

John, I will miss our chats by the coffee pot. Have a wonderful retirement and don't be a stranger!


John my coffee mate
Nothing but the best for you
I will miss your smile

In the morning light
John is at the coffee pot
The day awaits him

At the coffee pot
He smiles affectionately
John you'll be missed much

At the coffee pot
His chats made the day brighter
I'll miss your sweet smile

Brandalyn Powell

I will be intentionally walking by Bob's house to see if you're on the porch! Congrats, and see you soon!


For years now John has been writing
Thick glasses to help typo sighting
As he now goes home
to leave his corporate throne
He fears retirement won't be as exciting

Amy VanCooney

I will miss your smile and jokes. I feel grateful to have had the chance to work with you. Congrats!


He surprised many with the talents he brought,
Friendships made, words written; ultimately a new journey sought,
Who knew he was a comedic rapper,
A Scrabble expert and greeting card crafter,
Although we tried, his extended stay couldn't be bought.

Loved by many for his comedic relief,
Laughing and working by the Red Hat belief,
Rapping and writing the words of encouragement for you and the BU,
Sadly you are to retire, good grief.

Rachel Cole

Red Hat will be :-( without you! So glad we could meet, though. Congrats!


John's leaving is sad,
but his memory will stay.
Don't go too far, John.

Bob McVeigh (Who didn't read his aloud, but only because I didn't think he had one! Love that man!)


Frances, Vincent, me
Waiting for John to retire
Rock, read, rest... bourbon

Megan Kennedy

Congrats & enjoy!


I will miss talking | of inappropriate things | with you john martin

John Adams

Congratulations & best of luck at your move on to the next chapter of your story. Even though you're leaving Red Hat, I have a feeling that our paths will continue to cross.


Move boldly forward | Like a noble stag bounding | off into the night

Other sentiments from the going away card:

Stephanie Whedbee
Congrats! It was so nice getting to know you! Enjoy yourself!

Laura Hamlyn
You are wonderful and I am lucky to know you. <3XO

Lindsey Parker
Congrats! Enjoy your retirement!

Beth Willison
Jealous much—yes I am! I'll miss your laugh over the glass wall. Enjoy to the fullest.

Maura McDonald
What an evil plan! Don't do the usual thing and surprise yourself. Enjoy! We'll miss you.

Chelsea Dvorak
You will be missed. Congrats! <3

Caitlin Goodwin
You can't go! You stink. Please stay. Who will laugh at my bad jokes if you leave? You will be greatly missed.

Jessica Duensing
Congrats on your retirement! We will miss you around here but I'm so happy for you!

Mary Catherine Cornick
Best of luck!

Wes Leonard
I'm jealous of your retirement, your calmness and will miss your sense of humor. Keep being awesome.

Kathryn Poole
Best of luck with the bourbon drinking. I know you will excel!

Anna Nathan
Your happy face will be missed. Best of luck & relax!

From the bottom of my heart, thanks to everyone for your generous spirit and filling my heart to the brim. I'm sure that being retired is only going to be slightly better than working with all of you.

My second venture at an open mic event...

Tongue & Groove Open Mic

Tonight I participated in an open mic event for the second time. This open mic is for poets and musicians, and there's usually quite an eclectic mix of each.

John Martin blazes through 12 haiku on grammar, sea turtles,
men in kilts, and cafeteria divider trays.


It was a lot of fun, and the crowd was very affirming. I'll let my quasi-transcript of tonight explain my "shtick."

Good evening. I'm John, and I'm in a Facebook group of folks who are striving to post a haiku-a-day for the entire year. So, I've written 256 to-date, but I'm only going to subject you to 12 of them tonight. Here we go.
I’m a word nerd, and I love that there's a word for when a word is injected into the middle of another word. Does anyone know what it is? An audience member, Eleanor Mehlenbacher, correctly identified the word!

Whoopdee-damn-doo is one, too
Tmesis, that is

I was driving into work one morning, and I got behind someone with one of those “license plates for a cause,” which inspired this one.

I like sea turtles
But not enough to pay more
For a license plate

This one came to me on the way back from a weekend in Wilmington.

Driving from the beach
Back to the fast-paced city
Beach life loafs behind

This is another word nerd one. I was inspired to write this one upon my excitement in learning that there is a different term for “going comando” when it’s specifically under a kilt.

Boys in kilts are hot
When they go regimental
Swing low chariot

Several of you in the audience know that I'm retiring on my birthday, October 13th. I wrote this one fairly recently when I began considering "the big picture" of it all.

Autumn days of work
Meaning in the grandest sense
Sunsetting career

Recently on a work-related beach trip (obviously I work for a great company), I was inspired to write this one when a colleague cooked this breakfast item for us; it also alludes to a quirk of mine that goes back 40 or 50 years, which is to say, to my childhood.

Please don’t let, I beg
That gravy touch my biscuit
Love divider plates

I wrote this one on July 3, after purchasing a restaurant's specially themed bagels for the 4th of July.

They’re red, white, and blue
Fresh, hot bagels from Bruegger’s
Independence dough

I just love punny haiku. Here's another one.

Gathered all around
For the reading of the will:
A dead giveaway

I edit for a living, and one day I was contemplating how much my job has changed over the 33 years that I’ve been working, and this thought occurred to me.

Insert comment now
Fixing grammar and typos
Used to use red ink

Here's another word nerd one. I'm always thinking about words.

Was contemplating
What’s the plural of haiku
It’s its own plural

This is a thought I have each year as the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival rolls around in August.

Gay film festival
Story lines where in the end
The boy gets the boy

And I’ll close with yet another punny selection.

I'd like to juggle
But audiences scare me
I don't have the balls


~Saturday~ Last night I did something I haven't done in a very long time. I read a printed magazine.

And I must say (to put it rather mildly), it was not an optimal experience—it was not even a good experience.

In fact, I can't imagine doing it again—for another very long while.


It was Wired magazine, and more specifically, it was the March 2014 edition of Wired magazine. Here is a very basic content analysis of the first 42 pages of the 128-page edition:

  • 25 pages (60% of the 42 pages) of full page ads

  • 4 pages (10% of the 42 pages) of front matter (i.e., tables of contents and publishing info

  • 13 pages (20% of the 42 pages) of features or articles I might find interesting

And here's how that played (laid) out in terms of content type, placement, sponsors (where applicable), and font size:


So what contributed to my poor user experience? Although not the complete list, here are three big contributing elements:

  1. Clearly, a large majority of this magazine consists of full page ads.

  2. There was arguably a full 10 pages before I got to anything of real interest to read. (It's arguable as to whether tables of contents are of interest to read.)

  3. Most of the font in this magazine is too arduous to read for my 57-year old eyes. It's arguable as to whether I'm in the demographic of the audience for this publication, but I think I am—if not by the age criteria, by the industry that I work in, and with respect to my interest in "gadgets."

Is anyone else still reading printed magazines? Feel free to click on "Leave a comment" to share.

~Saturday~ I'm close enough to retiring now, that I'm tracking the days—37 calendars days, 26 business days. It'll all culminate on my 57th birthday, on October 13, 2014.

It's kind of mind-boggling to be self-aware of so few actual working days left in a career that has spanned 34.5 years. Well, that actually included a year off (attempting to write a novel), so technically it's 33.5 years, I suppose.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. When someone tells you they're going to retire, "What are you going to do?" is not what they want to hear. For your convenience, here are some suggested alternatives:

  • Congratulations!

  • That is so great! You must be so excited!

  • Won't it be great to just be?

In addition to "What are you going to do?" here are a few other things that you might want to reconsider saying:

  • Aren't you going to get bored? (This is unoriginal and uninformed, and in many cases, probably projection.)

  • You can't just do nothing! (Actually, I can just do nothing, if I want to.)

  • I don't think I'll ever get to retire. (Makes it about you.)

  • I won't be able to retire until I'm 65 or 70. (Makes it more, specifically, about you.)

  • You can retire early, because you don't have kids. (Makes it about you, and the trade-off resulting from the choices you've made.)

The thing is, no one really knows how they're going to react to the things they are—or are not—going to do in retirement.

I've spoken to several different people now who are in various stages of retirement (i.e., recently, a year out, several years out), and everyone is handling it differently. And everyone has found that some things are how they thought they'd be, and some things are different than they thought they'd be. Imagine that. Just like real life.

There is a lot of pressure from our (American) society to feel "productive," or to do something "meaningful"—even in retirement it seems. I'm going to do my best to not be driven by those expectations, but I'm also open to the possibility that they'll come back to bite me.

I have a long list of things I want to do, at a slow pace (and that part is key) when I'm retired and just have the luxury of time. Once an item is done, I'm not sure if I will have felt "productive" in retrospect doing it, or if it will have provided "meaning" to my life, but that's for me to sort out.

Here is a list of the things to do that I've captured so far:

  • Emotional/intellectual activity

    • Continue to meet monthly with my Mostly Social Book Club

    • Continue to meet monthly with my Salon group

    • Continue my volunteer work as a member of the board of directors of Manbites Dog Theater

    • Continue my volunteer work as a member of the board of directors of my townhouse's homeowners' association

    • Continue my weekly line-dancing and two-stepping night (for as long as my knees will permit)

    • Participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is the month of November)

    • Write for at least two hours a day

    • Create greetings cards

    • Write an entry for McSweeney's and submit it

    • Create a personal YouTube video pun channel and create more video puns, like this one

    • Create a DIY: calendar journal on 3"x5" index cards

    • Socialize on Facebook

    • Do crossword puzzles

    • Participate in Lumosity's Human Cognition Project for at least 15 minutes a day

    • Read lots of books (lying in my hammock on my deck, whenever the weather is agreeable)

    • Spend more time with Bob and Frances and Vincent

    • Actually get 8 hours of sleep regularly

  • Physical activity

    • Go to the gym 1-1.5 hours 5-6 days a week (Quit laughing. I can dream!)

    • Maybe, slowly, start riding my bike again—in the fall, assuming it finally cools down

  • Computer/online

    • Get one of my printers working

    • Restore original OS to old workstation or wipe it clean, and take it to the electronics recycle center

    • Dispose of my old Think Pad

    • Unpack the "My Documents" folder on my new workstation

    • Sync my iTunes account to the cloud

    • Configure my iPod to sync for only certain music

    • Scan in all my found writing

    • Go through online (and printed) pictures and organize them

    • Move all MDT agendas and minutes to Google drive

    • Update my identity inventory

    • Move my "professional portfolio" to my WordPress site

    • Complete the conversion of my personal website to WordPress

    • Pick an app as a feed reader and set up some feeds

  • Around the house

    • Cook more at home

    • Go through 2 cassette tapes to see if there's anything to save from them

    • Go through 5 VHS tapes to see what I want to keep

    • Hang up my master's degree diploma

    • Organize all of my MBTI materials into one 3-ring binder

    • Paint my guest bedroom, and maybe my master bedroom

    • Replace quarter-rounds in my downstairs bathroom

    • Clean out and organize kitchen cabinets

    • Clean out and organize guest room closet

    • Clean out and organize master bedroom closet

    • Clean out and organize linen closet

    • Clean out and organize entrance hall closet

    • Clean out and organize filing cabinet

    • Clean out and organize storage shed

  • Travel

    • Considering a month-long RV trip around the U.S., visiting various people that Bob and I know

So, those are the things that are currently on my radar. I'm also not opposed to eventually doing a little freelance editing work, which is a distinct possibility from the great employer I'm working for until October 13. I'm thinking a little extra bourbon money can always come in handy.


~Friday~ This evening I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond at Crossroads Plaza where I bought 3 gifts from my friend Courtney's registry for her bridal shower, which is tomorrow afternoon.

After paying for the items, I was directed to the Do-It-Yourself Gift Wrapping station in one corner of the store, where I was greeted with:

  • 2 huge rolls of wrapping paper to chose from (although they both held the same pattern of paper)

  • Some purplish, lacy ribbon

  • Various sized white gift boxes

  • White tissue paper

  • 2 tape dispensers (albeit one was empty)

  • 2 pair of scissors

Oh yeah, and four other people already at work. One was a (man-woman) married couple, and the other two were guys who were there together, but not a couple.

Here are snippets of conversations I overheard, since we were all there within a 6x6-foot shared space:

  1. The married couple:

    She: "Make sure you wrap it like this one." (indicating the one she was wrapping)

    He (returning after a few minutes of wrapping at the other end of the table): "Here you go."

    She: "Why'd you wrap it that way? I told you to make sure it matched this one."  <Heavy sigh.> "I just don't understand why you wrapped it that way when I told you to wrap it like this one."

  3. The two men after about two minutes of not speaking, with one guy wrapping and the other guy just watching him:

    Guy wrapping: "Whew. I just never thought I'd be here in Raleigh wrapping a gift after working all day."

    Guy watching: "Yeah, it's amazing what they'll make you do." (Presumably talking about wives.)

    Guy wrapping (after a little silence): "You see that State game against Georgia Southern?"

    Guy watching: "Yeah, that was sumpin', wadn't it?"

    Guy watching (after a little silence): "This friend of mine's getting married. He wants his color to be gray."

    Guy wrapping: "You mean for the tuxes?"

    Guy watching: "Yeah."

  5. My conversation, which I started right after the tux comments:

    Me: "I'm going to a wedding where the groom wants gray tuxes, too."

    Guy watching looks up at me and nods in acknowledgement.

    Me: But the other groom wants a very light brown.

    Guy wrapping looks up.

    Married couple scurries off.

Okay, only two of those three conversations took place out loud. The other one was just in my head.
The Finished Product
3 gifts wrapped in wedding paper

A practical joke from a far-away land...

~Monday~ Recently, I was a guest on Up Top! with Matt Morain, a podcast created by my work colleague and friend, Matt. It was two hours of zaniness, which was about... well a lot of things. You can read Matt's description below.


In one of Matt's earlier podcasts, in talking about who, or how many people, might be listening to his podcast, he noted that there was "one guy from Kazakhstan" that had accessed the podcast. Said listener was referenced on and off in subsequent podcasts, including the podcast I was just in.

In a moment of wickedness, I thought it would be funny to send a "fan letter" to Matt, and make it look like it had come from that listener in Kazakhstan.


  • Me

  • Google

  • Leigh (work colleague and mutual friend of mine and Matt)

  • The postal clerk

  • Tracy (Matt's wife)

  • Matt (the stooge)


  1. I Googled "most popular names in Kazakhstan," from which list I selected two names to make up the first and last name of the person the letter would come from.

  2. I used Google maps to get a real street name in Kazakhstan, which I used in the return address after Googling the proper format for Kazakhstan addresses.

  3. I wrote a letter to Matt using what I (probably stereotypically) imagined was a "Kazakhstan voice," and then chose a font to simulate a hand-written look.

  4. I let my friend and colleague, Leigh, who is also an editor like Matt and myself, read the letter and she pointed out that although I did a decent job with the broken English, all of my punctuation was impeccable. Of course it was. So, I went through and removed all of the commas and apostrophes. Thanks, Leigh!

  5. I Googled "Kazakhstan stamps" and printed two of them to use on the envelope.

  6. I went to the post office, where I interacted with a decidedly un-fun clerk. I wanted her to let me pay for a U.S. stamp and have her just stamp the envelope (I think it's called "metering" it), so I wouldn't have to add a real U.S. stamp to the envelope. I showed her the contents of the envelope—consisting only of the letter with a gift card attached—to assure her that I was sincere when I said I wanted to make this look as much like it came from Kazakhstan, but without doing anything illegal. She made me put a U.S. stamp on it.

  7. I contacted Tracy to let her in on the joke, and to ask her, if it wouldn't be an inconvenience, to try and intercept the mail and remove the U.S. stamp from the envelope if it would peel off easily. And I told her that Leigh had mentioned that she'd love for her to videotape the event if at all possible.


Here is what the envelope looked like after it arrived and Tracy was able to remove the U.S. stamp:



Tracy was generous enough to film the event. You can watch the 3.5-minute video. The password is "uptop."

And thanks for being such a good sport, Matt. Personally, I hate practical jokes, and it was a stretch for me to play one. The fact that it was for a good cause helped me get through it. :-)

~Sunday~ Recently—twice in fact—I've been tagged on Facebook to participate in a meme that asks you to list 10 books that have stayed with you or have impacted your life in some way.

I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that immediately came to mind.

They are somewhat in order from most impactful to least, but it's more qualitative than quantitative.

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

    • This book struck me mostly for how wonderfully it presented a cogent story of fate. I was really sucked into it even though fate as a "meaning of life" paradigm doesn't resonate with me personally.

  2. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

    • What I loved about this book, which I had to read in high school in "AP" English, was how impactful and beautiful tragedy can be in a story. And, how a "classic" could read like one big soap opera.

  3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    • I read this book when I was quite young, probably in AP English as well, and I remember the "ah-ha moment" from this book being that it was the first time I ever considered that you could actually be punished (that is to say, suffer) more by getting away with a crime than by getting caught for it. I was just that naive, to have not had that thought, up until that point in my life.

  4. South of Broad by Pat Controy

    • I actually only read this recently, in the last couple of months, in fact. What struck me most was how beautiful the writing was. It also made me remember that that was what I loved about The Prince of Tides when I read it many, many years ago. I also think the beautiful writing was so palatable, because I'd just finished reading Divergent, by Veronica Roth, whose writing was, well, let's just say it was for young adults. And showed it.

  5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

    • There were just so many things to love about this book. Themes explored included: father-son relationships, male friendships, social class, fear and helplessness, guilt, endurance, perseverance, atonement, and redemption.

  6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

    • A classic that I read later in life, there are two things that struck me about this one: 1) How accessible it was, especially considering the stereotype I had of classical Russian authors. It was actually very easy to read—character names aside, and 2) Not unlike The Mayor of Casterbridge, this read like a big ole soap opera, too.

  7. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

    • I love this novella, and I've read it several times, because it's the quintessential study in what's known in literature, film, and the theater as the unreliable narrator, which not only makes it a fun read, but one in which you can see things very differently on a second and third reading.

  8. Perfume by Patrick Süskind

    • The words "wonderfully bizarre" are the ones that come to mind when I think about this German murder mystery that I also read many, many years ago. I'm not sure if it was around the time that I had a 6-week business trip to LaGaude, France, virtually on the French Riviera, and a day trip I took during that time to Grasse to visit one of the perfumeries that that area is known for. But if it was, that certainly would have heightened my enjoyment of this story.

  9. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

    • Five reasons that I, personally, loved this book (of the Ten reasons why we love Donna Tartt's The Secret History) were: 1) It starts with a murder, 2) It has all the best elements of the campus novel, 3) It has a classic, lonely narrator, 4) It is full of quotations, and 5) It lets you in on secrets.

  10. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

    • Again, this is a book I read many, many years ago, so it was before all the hoopla connecting Ayn Rand and her philosophy to "right-wing politics." What I loved about this book was that I read it around the time I was working on becoming certified to administer and interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, and the protagonist in this story, Howard Roark, has been called the archetypal INTP. BTW, if you don't know, it's not pronounced "Ann." Correct pronunciation of Ayn Rand's name.

You're invited to comment with your list, and your reasons if you're so inclined.



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