November 15, 2018

A Late-Discovered Icon Passes

Roy Clark died today at the age of 85.


Growing up, I was too cool for Roy Clark.  Why, he was on Hee-Haw, that hick show for hick people!  Overall wearin', dirt-farmer soundin' redneck... 

Then one day, something strange happened.  I was walking around my favorite music store, Appletree, and I stumbled over a new album by Mark Knopfler.  Great!  I'm a huge Dire Straits fan, Money for Nothin', Sultans of Swing, y'know right?  But who's this Chet Atkins guy?
Wait.  Wait.  Waitwaitwait.  That's... oh my god, I bought a COUNTRY album???  But... but... this guy Atkins?  He's pretty good!  Maybe there's more to this than I thought...

I'm not a country music fan.  Most "modern country" is really just pop/rock music with a twang in it occasionally.  And most Country & Western music is really still kinda cringeworthy to me.  But I can tell talent when I hear it, and there's a LOT of skilled musicians in countrymusicland.

One of them, maybe one of the best, was Roy Clark.
Sure, he's kinda muggin' for the camera there, but there's no denying that being that good on three distinctly different instruments means somebody's got talent in spades.  
That he can stand next to Glen Campbell on guitar and not come off looking like a stooge is a pretty good indication that he's got chops... and not just on the side of his face.
This has got to be one of my favorite clips from Hee-Haw that I've ever seen.  That's bluesman Clarence Gatemouth Brown he's playing with.  Gatemouth wins, but it's not a runaway.  I'm more impressed that Hee-Haw put him on, actually.  But in my mind, Roy Clark was and always will be a banjo player.
What it really comes down to isn't that I was too cool for Roy Clark... he was too cool for me.  My loss.

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November 14, 2018

I Have Been Lax

Apparently the combination of "being quite sick" and "muscle relaxer" and "total silence for two days" is enough in this day and age to make people who read The Pond somewhat... jumpy.  I'm not sure why.


I'm okay.  I'm back on overtime... apparently my being bad was a one-week aberration.  Or since we're approaching end-of-month, they want to shove as many claims out the door as possible and recognize that I manage to at least do that much.  One of the two.

Thanksgiving is coming, and it'll be a six-day holiday for me.  Yeah, I hit the jackpot on the lottery at work.  Literally.  To prevent EVERYBODY asking for Christmas Eve off (for example), time around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years is blocked out so you literally can't request it.  Then everybody who wants to take some time off has to submit an e-mail to the boss, stating what your Top Three Picks for time off would be.  I actually requested some this year, mostly because Christmas and New Year's Day are on Tuesdays this time around.  I requested Dec 21 and 24, because five-day weekends are good, Nov 26 and 27, because six-day weekends are even better, and  Dec 31 and Jan 2, because hey, why not.

I got TWO of my choices, Thanksgiving and New Years.  I'll take it!  I dunno how many people got two selections, probably not many... I guess being a lil' angel at work pays off.  Which doesn't explain why I got in the greatest sick burn dude on my Big Boss today.  Big Boss?  Yeah, my original boss got promoted to overseer of the entire building, so she's now Big Boss, and her replacement is now my boss.  ANYway.  Big Boss and I have always gotten along well... Cubs fans, y'know?  When they won the World Series (did I mention that the Cubs won the World Series?) she texted me to celebrate because she knew I'd still be awake... we've gotten along well.  She was at the office late tonight, didn't leave until nearly 9pm, or a half-hour before I left.  While she was waiting for the multifunction photocopier (which is next to my cube) to spit out something or other, we were bantering away, blah blah blah Spartan pig Saracen dog blah blah blah, when she said "I used to be a good time once."  It was totally in context with our conversation, really.  Without even stopping to think, I come out with... "That's what all the writing on the bathroom walls said, yeah."

She couldn't stop laughing for at least five minutes.  So I entirely expect to go to work tomorrow, clock in, and be totally fired.  Like, epically, get police to escort him off the premises fired.  I mean, c'mon, the 13th Amendment makes it illegal to own people like that, I wouldn't blame her in the least.

But man, it was sweet.

Speaking of going to work tomorrow, I've got to. So I'm going to bed tonight. Good night!

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November 12, 2018

That Was... Unpleasant

Early Saturday afternoon, I started to feel... not so swell.  I think I had a low fever, but by the evening I developed... not chills, exactly, but sort of an intermediary state between chills and non-chills.  My left side, from the back of my head all the way down my back, would feel shivery, while the rest of me felt fine.  This is nothing out of the ordinary, I've had that exact feeling since I was a kid.  Everybody is different, y'know?


Sunday I definitely had a fever, but watching first the F1 race, then the Bears game, in real-time with friend Ben from Midnite Tease who is in Illinois for some training thing, distracted me enough that I kinda didn't notice until later.  Around 5pm I took a nap... if you can call a sleeping period that lasted six hours a nap... woke up feeling not terrible, then went to bed a couple of hours later (stopping to post the PSB thing below, of course).

That was a mistake.  I woke up this morning with a brainsplitter of a headache, definite fever, chills, the works.  I called in after trying to convince myself for a while that I was fine.  Failing in that, I took a shower and realized I just felt worse.  That's when I called in.  Like any good patient, I decided to do very little for a few hours, then go back to sleep.

Why I wound up watching two-hour long replays of 24 hour livestream events by a person who appears to be the go-to guy for GTAV racing mods.  There's apparently a huge community of GTAV players who don't actually play the game, but have modded it into a racing "sim".  Then I wound up watching a LIVE livestream event by my favorite racing sim driver... he takes it seriously, but not TOO seriously.  Oh, and along the way he's been noticed by actual broadcasters and provides commentary for one simracing championship or another.  He recently was in Japan for a stop on the tour there, and got to tell a great story where it turns out he was invited to Macau to do some of the coverage there.  His response was "I'd love to, but I'll be in Monaco then."  Just once, I'd love to be able to say that and mean it.  "Gosh, I appreciate the offer to work at Bathurst, but I'll be doing the 24 Hours of LeMans that weekend."

*ahem*

Eventually I did go lie down for a nap, around 430pm or so.  Nothing.  For five hours I laid in bed, remarkably vivid thoughts of being a sim driver in GTAV and just sucking at it running through my head.  And oh my stars and garters was I hot.  I don't know if I was hot because I was running a fever, or if it was because the heater was turned up and all the windows closed, or what, but it was horrible.  I've had this happen before, and I never can tell what the reason is.

Which brings us to now.  I'm going to take a muscle relaxer before I go to bed, that should let me sleep... and hope in the morning I feel better.  Fingers crossed.

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November 08, 2018

Space Doggity

I can't believe I forgot this.  This past Saturday, 11/3, was the anniversary of the first Earth-born living creature going into space.

One must also remember that it was the anniversary of the first Earth-born living creature dying in space, too.  

Good doggie... go fetch!

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November 04, 2018

You Are Young And Life Is Long And There Is Time To Kill Today...

Or, at least, it seems like there is.


Did you remember to turn your clocks back?  Or do you only use your phone/computer/device anymore? 

The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say...

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November 01, 2018

Movement!

Beginning next week, I'm off overtime for a while!


Because once again I'm too slow.

The fun never ends!

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October 16, 2018

One Day More...

As I was writing my diatribe against multiplayer video games below, I received a text message from my Boss, asking if I was okay?  Well, sure... is there some reason I wouldn't be?  "Well, you're not here and you didn't call in."  Oh?

I didn't know I had to call in when I'm taking an approved vacation day, boss.  "You're not on my schedule for having the day off, Wonderduck."  You okayed it on Friday morning, I've got the e-mails.  I even double-checked the request program.  "...oh dear, my fault. So you're off supposed to be off Monday through Wednesday, right?
You have no idea how badly I wanted to say why yes, yes I am.  Instead, I was a good little employee: "No, only through Tuesday, though if you said I could take another day off I certainly wouldn't say no."  "Okay, considering all the stress I just put you through, I can approve that.  See you Thursday."

Being on good terms with the boss is never a bad thing.

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Boston Dynamics Mean To Another Bot

If you read The Pond, you're probably familiar with those cruel people over at Boston Dynamics.  Y'know, the people who appear to make robots just so they can be mean to them:

(edit: if the playback isn't working, try going here)

Well, they've done it again... except this time, they're not just being mean to one, they're torturing the poor thing!
Making it dance to a knockoff version of Uptown Funk for our entertainment... if that isn't a human rights violation, I don't know what is.  Synth rights (Fallout 4, salute!) maybe?  Wait, I'm confused now.

Oh, Fallout 4... how I want to love you!  But relationships require work from both sides, and you're not putting in the effort.  As much as I love wandering around the scorched earth that is the Commonwealth, I'd like there to be a compelling story and Preston Gravy ain't doin' it for me.  I mean, I can see how crafting a settlement or two would be fun for some players.  I can, really!  But y'know the term "social gamer"?  Well, I'm nothing if not an ASOCIAL gamer.  I'll play multiplayer games like World of Warships or War Thunder because of the tie to my MilHist background, but the fact is that there are a LOT of unappealing jackweasels out there.  I mean, the last time I played WoW, some naval geenyus started berating me for firing HE shells from my battleship. 

At practically unarmored light cruisers.

At Tier III.

And I was sailing an Orion, the first RN battleship in the game... which with flags has something like a 50% chance of setting fires with its HE rounds.

Yeah.  I love being yelled at for doing the right thing.

So, "asocial gamer."  On the whole, I like a good single-player game... Skyrim and Fallout 3 both have something like 400-500 hours on them.  But having to build settlements and cater to the whims of Preston Gravy and settlers that are the least grateful NPCs I've ever made bedding for?  Yeah, that's waaaaay too much like being screamed at by some wanna-be Panzer Oberst-Gruppenfuhrer because he didn't like the "68" I had on the side of my StuG III.

So love me, Fallout 4, love me!

Okay, enough of that.  I'm going to write a sternly-worded letter to Boston Dynamics now.

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October 15, 2018

Four Days Off! A Clarification

This was not supposed to happen.  I wasn't scheduled to have Monday and Tuesday off.  In fact, I couldn't have had those days off, as October was closed for vacation requests back in August.  But then, a funny thing happened...


...almost everybody in my office called in sick a couple Fridays ago.  I was one of the few who showed up, and there was only one other person in my aisle, when normally there'd be 11 of us.  Why that happened I leave open as an exercise for the observer... I'm sure I have no idea.  The reaction from The Powers That Be was... confusing.  Instead of grumbling about all the outages, they decided to reopen October for vacation requests.
No, I don't claim to understand it.  I will, however, claim that I took advantage of it.  About an hour after the announcement was made, I had my request in... and it was approved late last week.  I don't have to be back in-office until Wednesday!  I really need it, too... I took a nap this afternoon/evening, around 530pm.  Jokingly, I set my alarm for 10pm, thinking there's no way I'd sleep for that long.

If you've ever read The Pond before, you know what this means... I slept until 11pm.  There was a chance everything was going to go as planned, as at about 9pm I woke briefly.  Then I reset my alarm for midnight and went back to sleep.  Instead of cursing myself when I have to get up for work the next day, I just grinned when I finally did rise from my slumber.  Two more days!  It's like I've been set free.  I'm trying to ignore the whole "going back to work" thing.

I don't have to worry about that for a couple of days yet.

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October 13, 2018

Four Days Off!

Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off!Four Days Off! 
Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off!Four Days Off!
Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off!Four Days Off!

Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off!Four Days Off! 
Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off!Four Days Off!
Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off! Four Days Off!Four Days Off!

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October 09, 2018

Wellness Status Update

I think it's the weather.  It's pretty warm for October, mid-80s today, and humid as all get-out.  Tomorrow it's supposed to get down to the high-30s.  That whipsawing has been going on for a couple-three weeks, which is bad enough.  But that humidity is what's really killing me.  It feels like my face is actually a couple of inches away from my skull, and faces aren't supposed to feel that way (newsflash, I know).


I almost called in, but somehow managed to drag myself to work.  I'm so adult and stuff.  Let's hope for a recovery tomorrow, after the rainy season is done.  I'd really like that.

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October 08, 2018

I Am... Unwell.

I thought the day started fairly well, but somewhere along the way I began to feel very cruddy.  Bad enough that after eight hours on the clock, I just came right home instead of doing some of my overtime.  It'll make the rest of the week suck, but I'm pretty sure I don't care about that right now.  I'm going to try this whole "life" thing again tomorrow... hopefully there'll be better results.  Maybe some sleep is just what this little ol' duckie needs.


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October 03, 2018

This Afternoon At Work...

So, like, y'know, test of the cellphone alarm system this afternoon?  I actually didn't know about it, but no biggie for me.  However, the same can not be said for everybody.


There I am, grinding away at the claims, feeling like a total idiot for being there, when at 118pm Pond Central Time, the test message is sent.  That EAS alarm... siren... thing... then rockets through the aether to cellphones all over the country.  In her office, my boss's smartphone goes off, screaming at the top of its little silicon lungs.  In the office of the MiniBoss, her smartphone warbles like all the demons of hell are chasing after Garfield Goose.

And on the production floor, four other phones begin to sing us the song of their people.  Which is kinda bad, because the production floor is supposed to be a smartphone/camera-enabled device-free area.  You can have a phone, but it has to be shut off and stored in your filing cabinet.

Gotta say though... it was amusing as hell to see the frantic scrabbling and clawing at things that weren't supposed to be there as the owners (busted!) tried to shut them off.

Yes, I'm petty.

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October 01, 2018

Distracted

So I seem to be completely unable to actually, y'know, concentrate on writing the F1U! for Russia tonight.  I've started it, but I keep getting distracted by bright, shiny objects.  So why I get a grip upon... something... here, have this:


...or this...
You can thank me later.

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September 27, 2018

In Which Wonderduck Is Furious

Something happened at work today that nearly caused a very large number of people to quit.  The gist of it was as follows:


The Good News: Permanent reduction of overtime hours to eight instead of 10.

The Bad News: We'll now have a set time to work each day, 8a - 430p (eight hours, with a half-hour lunch).  But wait, eight hours for five days is only 40 hours...

The Horrible News: We will now be working Monday thru Saturday.

But wait, there's more!  It was all a joke, just kidding. See, at the bottom of the e-mail, at the end of the usual business disclaimer text, was a little "j/k".  Eight-point font size and everything!

Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

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September 25, 2018

In Which Wonderduck Complains About Audiobooks

As the three Pond Scum members remaining will recall, I work in a job that allows me... nay, friggin' requires me... to have something to distract my brain from the repetitive task I perform for 9-12 hours/day.  Music was a good way to start but even with over 500 songs on the mp3 player, you start to hear the same songs over and over again.


This is not helped when the mp3 player in question loses its place when you have it on "random" and you press pause to go use the little ducks' room.  Further, it's almost like the memory has a groove worn in it, because it seems to go back to the same songs repeatedly.  The bad thing is, it's not the same songs every time.  Today it might be this, that and the other... but tomorrow it'll be penguin, ocelot, and serval.  So I can't even count on that.  No complaints, but it does get a bit tedious.

So the next step was audiobooks.  These have proven to be a mixed bag.  On the plus side, some of them are long enough to last me a whole week of work.  On the minus, dear god have these people never performed before?  I can count on the fingers of one had just how many audiobooks I've listened to that do a good job on actually understanding what the author wrote.  Just as an example of what I'm talking about, a few months back I listened to the audiobook of Starship Troopers.

Now, this is my favorite Heinlein novel, which means it's on the very short list of my favorite books.  I cannot say how many times I've read it over the past 40 years... if you told me 100, I wouldn't be surprised.  I know this book inside and out, is what I'm trying to tell you.  It is at least theoretically possible that the man who did the audio reading had read the book before.  I wouldn't put any money on it, but it's possible.  Anybody who can read the line "C'mon you apes, do you want to live forever?" and make it sound like an actual question simply doesn't have a grasp on the subject material.  And speaking of grasping, what they did to The Mote In God's Eye and the sequel, The Gripping Hand, is simply criminal.  The reader does do a good job of differentiating voices, so points for that.  Unfortunately, his interpretation makes it sound like everybody in the cast hates everybody else.  Captain Roderick Blaine's relationship with his navigator, Kevin Renner, is completely and totally antagonistic, full of snarling and gnashing of teeth.  Which is weird, because when I read it Renner was a much more lighthearted rogue trader, and Blaine the Navy captain/aristocrat that puts up with him.  I'm fairly sure the reader took his cue from one line: "Blaine decided that he didn't like his navigator."  If true, he blew it completely.

It's amazing just how common this is.  Almost completely forgot the most egregious example: Robert Asprin's Phule's Company!  If you've read it, you know it's a comedy novel.  It's supposed to be funny.  Somehow, the reader turned Willard Phule, aka Captain Jester, into a typical military man.  Sorta puts a damper on the whole rest of the novel, y'know?

That's not to say they're all bad.  I had cause recently to hear The Rise And Fall Of  D.O.D.O., by Neil Stephenson and Nicole Galland, and it's a terrific listen.  There's at least six different people doing different voices, which is pretty much a requirement for the book... in print form, it's made up of journal entries, computer logs, audio transcripts, etc etc etc, all of which look different from each other.  So, in audiobook form, different voices for each character's individual entries.  To be sure, if Tristan (our hero) shows up in Melisande's (our heroine/main character) entry, the woman who reads Melisande's stuff will differentiate for Tristan, it's not the person who reads Tristan's entries.  Still, it works, and it's a hoot.  Ditto for Gaiman and Pratchett's Good Omens.  

But the best audiobook I've yet listened to is the classic With The Old Breed by Eugene Sledge.  Unlike, I think, most other audiobooks, this one is actually read by someone who did research and knew the book inside and out.  Which makes sense since Joe Mazzello, the man who played Sledge in the amazing HBO miniseries The Pacific, is the reader.  It's a gruesome book, but that's good; it was originally written just for Sledge's family, so they knew what grandpa did in the War.  It pulls no punches, and Mazzello brings it to life in a way no other audiobook I've listened to has managed.  

More like that, please and thank you Audiobook companies.  Get people who know the books to read 'em, huh?

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September 22, 2018

Figure Foto Fun Four: All Right Mr DeMille, I'm Ready For My Close-Up

A little while ago I picked up a set of extension tubes for my camera lens... basically they turn it into a macro lens for closeups.  I mean, it's not like it was terrible at them before, but now it's a whole different portrait level.  For example:


The lighting on this one is... pretty okay.  But I got better.

Just a tiny bit of color editing, and voila, Haruhi's happy.

One of these days I'll take a good picture of this figure and I'll be so surprised I'd probably drop dead.  Something about it defies good photography, and by "good", I really mean "whatever I'm able to produce."

Still, once in a while I get lucky.

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September 11, 2018

Seventeen Years Ago

It was a Tuesday morning at Pond Central.  Tuesdays meant New Release Day at the bookstore I ran at the time, which required resetting the new Top 20 display at the front of the store.  I woke up about a half-hour earlier than I normally did, intending to get to the store early.  Nothing too out of the ordinary there, truth be told.


That all changed when my clock radio turned on.  Instead of hearing the usual light-hearted sports talk, I realized that the morning duo sounded... serious.  I mean, really serious.  Something about one of the World Trade Center buildings having been hit by an airplane.  Honestly, my first reaction was one of total unconcern; as a World War II buff, of course I knew about the B-25 Mitchell flying into the Empire State Building in a thick fog.  Of course I thought that it would be something similar.  I headed out to Pond Central's kitchen, grabbed some orange juice, then turned on the TV to see what was going on.

I had had just enough time to say to myself "that's a really big hole, and a lot of smoke.  It sure wasn't a light airplane."  I also noted that the sky was clear and blue, so it couldn't be that the pilot had gotten lost in the fog like the B-25 had.  But before I could really boil all that down to the obvious conclusion, the second plane hit.  In my rush to get up close to my 13" TV/VCR combo, I spilled my orange juice and barked my shins on the coffee table.  I stood there for 10 or 15 minutes, before heading for the shower.  Listened to the shower radio the whole time, got dressed, then watched the TV until I absolutely had to leave.  At the time, I literally had to drive from one end of Duckford to the other, at least a half-hour long jaunt.

As I was driving, the South Tower collapsed, and I very nearly bent the Duckmobile's steering wheel in shock and surprise.  I drove the rest of the way in thinking to myself, "there's a sister bookstore in the mall underneath the WTC."  It was kind of a weird feeling, knowing that some people that you've got a very very weak tie to have probably just died... people just like you, probably got in early to set the new Top 20 display, and they just had one of the tallest buildings in the world fall on their heads.

(I'm going to interrupt my story to let you all know that no employees of that bookstore were killed, or even injured, that day.  The rest of the chain didn't find that out for a couple of days, however.  I can only imagine how the manager's phone call to their District Manager went...)

With that image in my head I pulled into my mall's parking lot, and practically sprinted into the building, so best to pull the boom box out of the back room and bring it to the cashwrap so to keep listening to the events of the day... and discovered once again that fluorescent lights scream like banshees in all sorts of radio frequencies.  I managed to find a station that wasn't drowned out by static, waaaaaay up at the top of the dial.  I think it was broadcasting from Wisconsin, but I don't remember for sure anymore.  And sometime between leaving my car and tuning in WCHZ, the North Tower had collapsed.  Not knowing what else to do, I started resetting the Top 20.

At 10am, I opened the gates to let the flood of customers into the store... and by "flood", I mean "nobody."  Exact times get a little hazy around this point.  I did have one customer come in, we talked for a bit, and then she left.  She almost looked dazed, and to be honest, I probably did too.  My DM called, said that half of the stores in our district were having to close because their malls were shutting down early.  I hadn't heard anything yet from my mall's manager, but I'd let her know as soon as I did.  I suspected it wouldn't be long: other than dazed woman, I couldn't see a single customer anywhere in the mall.

Then stores began closing up on their own.  The guy who ran the tuxedo place directly across from me said that his boss had called and said "I don't care what the mall is doing, get out of there."  If you weren't working in a mall or a big building at the time, you might not remember the fear that permeated that day.  There was a lot of concern that more attacks might occur.  I know that they evacuated both the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Building in Chicago because of a report of another hijacked plane.  Why would terrorists attack a small, dying mall in upstate Illinois?  Doesn't matter... there was a lot of irrational thought occurring just then.  Eventually, the Powers That Be at the mall said "shut it down," so after calling my staff to tell 'em not to come in, I did just that.

On the way home, I stopped at a grocery store.  Looking back at it, that was a weird decision for me to make, but what the hell, I needed my frozen pizza.  Unsurprisingly, there was no wait for a cashier.  Once I got home and got my foodstuffs put away, I turned the TV back on and took up residence on my couch for the rest of the day and a good portion of the night. A little while ago, I mentioned this to a coworker.  He asked me why I didn't get on the internet to follow events that day.  Did I mention that he is a very young coworker?

That was... quite the day.  Quite the day indeed.

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September 08, 2018

I Call For A Boycott!

There is a minor league baseball team in Akron.  They are called the Akron Rubberducks.  I am calling for all right-minded waterfowl (humans can join in, too) to participate in a boycott of the Akron Rubberducks.


I can hear you saying "But Wonderduck!  They're the Rubberducks!  It'd only be natural for you to love them!"  And you would be correct, normally.  But!  A team named the Rubberducks should sell Rubberducks rubberducks, and they don't. They do sell rubberducks, but those rubberducks aren't Rubberducks rubberducks, they're regular rubberducks.

So until the Rubberducks sell Rubberducks rubberducks, I will boycott the Rubberducks.  Really, it's quite sad. After all, I collect rubberducks, so a Rubberducks rubberduck would be great to own. But I can't put a Rubberducks rubberduck in my rubberduck collection, as the Rubberducks don't sell a Rubberducks rubberduck.

So hop to it, Rubberducks!  Carry an Akron Rubberducks rubberduck, so I can send you my money for an Rubberducks rubberduck.  Oh, I know there's some problem in licensing since the Major Leagues doesn't have a rubberduck manufacturer anymore, but c'mon!  The ball is in your court... pond... stadium... whatever.  

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September 05, 2018

The BunDucksLiga Is Back!

...and this time, they're flying!


If soccer involved rubber ducks, I'd watch a lot more.

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