On Cloud 9, formerly known as Squid15

It started over a year ago. The emails began with a friendly and hopeful tone: “To better serve the needs of our growing customer base, Laughing Squid is migrating all hosting to the cloud! It’s awesome! Bigger! Faster! Better! Cloudier! It’s in a cloud! Like angels and kittens and unicorns! Come join us! We’ll be decommissioning all old servers by the end of 2012, so migrate to the CLOUD soon!”

Then a few months later, the emails started taking a slightly more pressing tone: “Don’t forget – Laughing Squid is migrating to the ***cloud*** before the end of 2012. You will need to take action before the end of calendar year 2012 AD if you want to get on the cloud, which is where everyone wants to be, because it’s on a cloud! See you in heaven… on the cloud!”

That’s when I first emailed Vahid (circa November 2012):

“Vahid. You use Laughing Squid, right? What the hell is this cloud thing they keep talking about, and why do I want to go to there?”

“Oh yeah, I did that months ago. Took me about 30 minutes – it’s super easy.”

“Okay, well, good to know. I may need to hit you up with questions when I try to migrate. TO THE CLOUD!”

Then came 2013.

I would check my site every so often to see if it was still there, or if the cloud nazis had taken it down.They hadn’t, so I quickly forgot about the cloud.

But then the emails started coming more frequently, and more aggressively.

“We are shutting down server squid15 VERY SOON! Migrate your site immediately TO THE GD CLOUD or we will keep charging you! Even after it doesn’t work anymore. Do you get what we’re saying? We mean it this time!”

Another month went by.

“You are seriously the last person on squid15. The last person in the entire world. If you do not get your lazy ass off the couch and migrate your site, we will hunt you down and take your thumbs. We have your address, you know.”

And then came May.

“Bitch. This stopped being funny 6 months ago. We just want to do our jobs. My kids won’t get birthday presents this year because my bonus is tied to 100% cloud coverage. Why won’t you migrate your stupid blog? You haven’t written anything in years – why do you even care? Seriously. Get the f*** off squid15 before I pop a cap in your ass.”

So finally, I called Vahid. He didn’t know what he was in for at first, but it quickly became clear when I said, “What’s an FTP, and do I have one? Wait… I don’t remember my password for WordPress. How do I backup my files? I don’t remember where I host my domain.”

It only went downhill from there. But ever the patient and generous friend, after only 3 hours on the phone, a failed webex session, and 25 password resets, Vahid finally was able to migrate my site.

TO THE CLOUD!

Look at me mofos… I’m in the cloud. Floating around, writing stuff, being green, keeping it real, drinking champagne out of leather boots. That’s how we play it in the cloud. Why didn’t I do this in 2012?

Post-script:

Dear Vahid -

I promise that the next time I call you, it won’t be to make you explain the internet to me. Honest! You are a scholar and a gentleman, and I owe you many drinks the next time we’re all in Santa Fe. I am forever in your debt.

- Jenny

Take the A1A

“It’s 78 degrees in Ft. Lauderdale right now,” I overheard him say to no one in particular as I waited for my drink.

He was pointing up at the television and shaking his head, watching some sporting event.

“Yeah, always beautiful there.”

“Really?” I asked. “I’m going there for work next week.”

“Oh yeah? You’ll love it! It’s my favorite place in the whole world. I used to get down there all the time.”

I told him I had never been there, and until I looked it up on Google maps, I didn’t even know how close it was to Miami.

He warned me not to go to Miami. Miami Beach, maybe, but not Miami. “So sleazy,” he said.

I asked him how long it had been since he last visited, and seeing his face drop, I realized I had touched on a sore subject.

“Can’t afford to anymore. Ever since the smoking ban went into effect, this bar is barely hanging on. Lost my health insurance, lost my benefits, might lose my bar. Best thing Illinois ever did for Indiana was to ban smoking in bars. Everybody just heads to Indiana and Wisconsin now.”

It didn’t seem like a good idea to mention that Wisconsin has had a smoking ban for years, or that I found it hard to believe that hordes of 20-somethings were crossing the border just to smoke, because really, maybe they were.

“Any places you would recommend I visit while I’m there?”

His eyes lit up, as he yelled at the woman behind the bar, “Hang on… Amy! Grab me an index card and a pen!”

He was left-handed, I noticed, as he scribbled in a giant swirl on the card before throwing the pen in the trash and requesting another. Motioning for me to follow him, he led me over to the cigarette machine, where the glowing light behind the packs of Marlboros and Kools made it easier to read his instructions.

“You need to eat dinner at The Aruba Cafe. It’s my favorite restaurant in all of Ft. Lauderdale. If you’re there on a Friday – will you be there on Friday? – if you’re there on a Friday see if they have the blackened snapper. Spicy…”

He closed his eyes and smiled for just a moment, his voice trailing off as he remembered the meal. As he went down his list recommending other bars, restaurants and hot spots, he became more and more animated. At one point, I had to wipe fine droplets of spittle off my face while he reminisced about specific meals and the ocean air.

“Make sure you rent a car and drive along the A1A highway. It’s amazing – the road is here, and the ocean is here,” he gestured with his hands, indicating how close they were. “But you know the best thing about Ft. Lauderdale?”

By this point, he was half yelling, with spit punctuating each sentence, so I started to back away, folding the index card and shoving it in my back pocket.

“I’m older than you – 61 – and the one thing Ft. Lauderdale has that Chicago doesn’t have is adult nighttime entertainment.”

For a moment, I thought he might have meant that Ft. Lauderdale wasn’t just full of bars where young, rowdy kids hang out. Actually, I didn’t really think he meant that, but I wanted it to be true. He clarified.

“Strip clubs, escort services, massage parlors… you name it. They have it all! It’s amazing.”

He continued, “Yeah, Ft. Lauderdale is a woman-run town. You don’t see that here, you know? You don’t see beautiful women driving around in their Mercedes convertibles in Chicago. But there? Whoa! Everywhere. These gals go out at the end of the night, hitting the 4:00am bars, with $2000 cash in their pockets that they just earned that night. They run that town.”

It was at that point that I turned back toward my friends, thanking the man for the recommendations. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit ashamed at my own ignorance. I consider myself an ardent feminist and yet I had no idea that the women of Ft. Lauderdale had achieved what the first-wave feminists fought so hard to create: a bastion of social equality where women could shed the shackles of sexism, finally free to pursue any career they wanted, be it stripper, whore, or full-release masseuse.

And to be able to smoke indoors at the same time? It was almost too wonderful to process. To think I almost made the mistake of taking a day trip to Miami. Can you imagine? So sleazy.

Operation: Waste a Sunday

Listen, we don’t have much time.

If you want to do this right, then I’m going to need you to follow my instructions exactly. Are you in or not?

Good. Okay, first, I’m going to need to you to read some random article online. Something that makes reference to the author’s obsession with Joni Mitchell. Something that will link back to a YouTube video of Joni Mitchell singing “Both Sides Now.”

Once you’re on YouTube watching the video, pay attention to the related videos that pop up along the right hand side. About three videos down from the top, you’ll see a video that says something like “Emma Thompson Love Actually Best Scene.”

Click on that video.

It will be dubbed in Italian, but watch it anyway. But whatever you do, don’t take your eye off that right-hand column, because now you’re going to see some more videos pop up. Many of them will be shaky hand-held recordings of a TV screen that someone shot while watching “Love Actually.” Others will be fan-videos with random songs playing over still shots from the movie. Don’t move on to the cute puppy videos yet – I need you to focus.

Go back to the “Love Actually” clips and find the one with Jamie and Aurelia. Okay, once you’ve found it, then I’m going to need you to carefully start reading some of the comments. But watch out – it will get ugly in there. You’re going to read a few comments about the actress who plays Aurelia, and you’ll find out that she is a singer in Portugal. Now search for some of her videos.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re doing great. Next, you will need to go to imdb.com and research the kid from the movie to see if he’s been in anything since then. Once you’ve done that, go back to YouTube to find some clips of Colin Firth. Eventually it will hit you that the one actor is the guy who plays Sheriff Rick from “Walking Dead.” As soon as that happens, go back to imdb.com immediately to find out if he’s really English. Watch some clips from “Walking Dead.”

Assuming all is going well, it should be late afternoon by now. Check your watch to make sure.

Now that you’ve watched all the key scenes of “Love Actually,” go immediately to Netflix to see if it is available on streaming. It isn’t, but check anyway. Listen to me carefully now: this is the point where you’re going to think about re-subscribing to their 1-disc at a time rental program. Don’t do it – there’s no time!

Get out of Netflix as fast as you can and get over to iTunes. From there, I need you to search for “Love Actually” rentals, but not HD. It will take way too long to download.

Go the kitchen and make a sandwich while you’re waiting for the movie to download.

Now watch “Love Actually.”

It should now be Monday. Mission accomplished.

Pa-Rum-Pa-Pum… D’OH!

Normally at this time of year, I welcome Christmas songs with open arms. We’ve made it through the Thanksgiving food-fest and I begin to look forward to decorating my apartment with lights and balsam-scented candles from Bath & Body Works. This year was no different, until, that is, a friend of mine alerted me to the game he and his friends play every year at this time. It’s called The Little Drummer Boy Challenge, and the only real rule is that once you hear The Little Drummer Boy, you’re out. Avoid that song, and you’re still in the game.

He created a Facebook page where players post their status and brag about narrow misses. Ever since I started playing, I have become even more paranoid and high strung than normal. I peeked my head into my hair salon and yelled, “Are you playing Christmas music?” before walking in for my appointment. I snatched up the first Christmas tree I saw on the lot and paid for it before Silent Night was done playing. I almost trampled a small child at Target while blindly shoving boxes of ornaments into my cart.

“The Santa Claus is a lie! Just pick out a damn stocking and move out of my way!”

I’ve been trying to avoid all the high-risk locations – shopping malls, Starbuckses, marching band practices. The funny thing is that I actually like the song. I mean, how can you not? Just listen the lyrics – this kid has nothing – NOTHING – to give, except the gift of music. And by golly, he’s going to play his little heart out. Even the ox and lamb kept time – what greater stamp of approval could a drummer boy hope for?

I’m not sure my heart can take the stress of this competition for the next 19 days, so I might just pull a Kamikaze at some point and hang out at the ice skating rink at Millennium Park. I would expect Little Drummer Boy to be playing on rotation there about every 30 minutes or so.

If you want to join the madness (and you haven’t already heard the song since the day after Thanksgiving), you can find fellow LDBCers here.

Until then, stay strong.

Lice

“My project manager has lice,” she said. She had recently started a new job in a new city and was still getting to know her coworkers. “She says they don’t jump, but I heard they can jump 40 feet.”

“No, I think you’re thinking of fleas. Fleas can jump 40 feet.”

“Well, but lice can live without food for like a year, so I can never feel safe.”

“No, you’re thinking of bedbugs. They can live for a really long time without food.”

“They push around giant piles of poo.”

“Those are dung beetles.”

“They lay eggs in your eyes.”

“Hookworms.”

“They eat the head off their mate.”

“That’s a praying mantis.”

“Well, I know they have poisonous spurs.”

“Okay, that’s a platypus. Now you’re just being ridiculous.”

“What were we talking about?”

“Lice. Your coworker told you she has lice.”

“Oh, right. They can jump like 40 feet, you know?”

Iran

He had the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen. They were all I could see as I sat in the back of his cab tonight. Normally I tap away on my phone during cab rides, hoping to avoid the typical awkward conversation that comes with the territory. But he was different. I couldn’t see his face, but his eyes gave away his smiles. The slope and the crinkle in the corners as he spoke.

He began.

“So do you prefer yesterday’s weather or today’s?”

It was 98 degrees yesterday, and it’s 52 degrees right now. I had just come from having drinks in a bar that still had the A/C on, so I was shivering.

“Honestly? I think I can deal with the cold better than the heat, but the 40 degree drop is more than even I can handle.”

“I agree,” he said. “Normally I don’t mind the cool weather, but this is just too much of a shift. Lake Shore Drive okay?”

“How’s the construction?”

“Done for the night.”

“Great.”

We didn’t talk for a while, but every so often, I would try to catch a glimpse of his face. All I could see were his eyes, though.

“You live near the mayor,” he said.

“Oh, you mean our old governor?”

“No. The new mayor. Emanuel. He lives right near here.”

“Really? He’s up here, too? I didn’t know that.”

“Yes. Right on this block, or maybe one over.”

I tried to gauge how old he was. Sixty, maybe?

“I’m from Iran. There, corruption is everywhere. But you know what? It costs much more to corrupt people in Iran. It doesn’t cost much to corrupt in America.”

“How long have you lived in Chicago?”

“Since 1976.”

“Then you’ve seen a lot of corruption.”

“I have.”

His eyes smiled.

“Once, when he was Senator, I had Obama in my cab.”

“Really? Did he tip well?”

“You know, I don’t remember.”

Smile.

“You’ll turn right at this light.”

“Okay.”

He pulled away before I could get a good look at his face.

Was it password, or password123?

This started out as a test to see if I could remember my WordPress login. It took a few tries, but eventually I got it right.

I’ve been playing god a lot lately. Mostly with my plants. I withhold water until they start to droop and shrivel, and then just when they are on the brink of death, I tell them they are beautiful and give them lots of water and sunshine. They all have Stockholm syndrome, and that’s the way I’d like to keep it.

I predict that in another couple days that jade plant will tell me everything I want to know.

Jenny and the Chocolate Factory

Dave, did I ever tell you you’re my hero? You’re everything, everything, I wish I could be. I can fly higher than an eagle, for you are the guy who got me a pass into the 2010 Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago. Today, my deepest, darkest dreams became a reality when I was given a golden ticket, gaining me unlimited access to all the free candy I could eat.

lemonhead
[I meet Mr. Lemonhead, and we totally hit it off.]

See, I have a bit of a sweet tooth. It’s really my worst vice, next to scotch and cocaine. I like candy and lots of it, so when Dave mentioned a while back that he would be attending the candy convention in Chicago, I could barely contain myself. Sure, I tried to play it cool, but deep down inside I was just hoping against all hopes that Dave would somehow finagle a way to get me into the show.

chief wannapop
[Chief Wannapop says eat more candy, paleface!]

The only thing greater than free candy is free CUTTING EDGE NEVER BEFORE SEEN candy. I feel exactly like Veruca Salt because now I am a candy insider – I know what’s going to show up on the shelves of your local 7-11 before anyone. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Chocolate covered Peeps, cocktail flavored Jelly Bellies, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion… all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.

Except that they won’t be lost in time, because I stuffed all of them into my purse like it was Halloween.

purse
[Yeah, that's a giant beef jerky stick on top. You got something to say?]

I tried to play it cool and not be a greedy boor like so many of the other attendees, mostly since I was pretending to represent Dave’s company, but what do you expect me to do when I am faced with the Pez display that is bigger than my apartment? And it’s right next to the Jelly Belly Mona Lisa? And just past that is some crazy vendor hawking Mexican tamarind/chile flavored lollipops? I FREAKED OUT, that’s what I did.

mona lisa
[Da Vinci would be proud]

I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I am so sick of candy right now that I might eat celery for three weeks straight. After two hours of wandering the aisles of candy and snack vendor after candy and snack vendor, I started to get delirious. That has to be my excuse for agreeing to sample the candy at this vendor:

worms
[You can dress 'em up all you like, but a worm's a worm, and it ain't no kind of candy.]

I had a chocolate-covered meal worm, followed by a chocolate-covered grasshopper. Some guy next to me just grimaced as I bit through grasshopper.

“They just taste like chocolate,” the woman reassured me.

“They taste like chocolate… with legs,” I clarified.

The man decided to take a pass.

I have seen the future, and its name is Pretzel M&Ms. Take a peanut M&M, but remove the peanut and replace it with a crunchy, salty pretzel. That’s right, you heard me. THEY PUT PRETZELS INSIDE OF M&M’s!! And don’t even get me started on the Butterfingers Snackerz. Yeah, that’s Snackerz with a “Z” because they’re too badass for an “S.” As Dave so succinctly put it, “It’s like Butterfingers meets cereal.” All we needed was a pint of milk and I would have made a permanent nest in their booth.

glo pop
[Unleash your inner rave-tramp with glo-pop pacifiers!]

Well, now it’s time for me to try my best to come down off this sugar high so I can get some rest before work tomorrow. But knowing what I now know, I’m not sure how I can ever walk among the uninformed masses, feigning surprise when a co-worker one day brings in Pretzel M&Ms like he invented them. As the song goes, how you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris? When someone figures that out, please let me know. Until then, you’ll find me eating my mocha flavored Necco wafers.

It’s here! It’s here!

I don’t know if it’s the 47 mini Snickers I ate yesterday, the incessant dripping of rain on the patio outside my bedroom, or just good old fashioned excitement, but I didn’t sleep at all last night. And that’s because after so many long months, Tequilacon 2010 is finally here! As always, Dave2 came through with a gorgeous poster for the event:

Print

I just hope this rains slows down before tonight, otherwise I’m going to need to reserve a separate room for my hair…

Baggage

There are several phrases you hope never to hear on a four-hour flight:

“Prepare for a water landing.”

“There’s mother*ckin’ snakes on the plane!”

“Today’s movie stars Robin Williams.”

But earlier this year, I heard the five words that struck more terror into my heart than all the others combined, as they were uttered in a hushed tone by the mother of the 8-year old boy seated next to me:

“Does your tummy still hurt?”

When his immediate response was, “Yeah – real bad,” and she handed him an air-sick bag, I knew I was in for the ride of my life.

The plane hadn’t even taken off yet when he began squirming in his seat. The second the seat belt sign was turned off, his father rushed him to the bathroom, but not before he threw up in the aisle opposite me.

After about a half hour, he returned to his seat, smelling of an acrid combination of vomit and airplane soap. Given that I am highly susceptible to stomach bugs, I focused all my energy on becoming as small and as light as a feather so as not to come into contact with his disease. My body floated above the armrests. My lungs would only inhale 100 molecules of air at a time. Eventually, he fell asleep and I allowed my body to land.

Midway through the flight, he began to stir. His mother was occupied with her infant daughter in the seat next to her, as the boy weakly said, “Mom? Mom?”

I immediately reached over and yanked her sleeve, pointing down at her now sweaty son. He sat up and searched for a bag, which I took as my cue to leap up, grab my book, kick my purse as far under the seat as it would go and make my escape.

I went to the galley up by first class and saw a stack of garbage bags, so I grabbed one and brought it back to the mom, ensuring that the boy had as large a target as possible. From there, it was just a waiting game. We had over two hours left in the flight, so I ran some quick mental calculations and determined that at his rate of vomiting every 30 minutes, and his estimated maximum stomach volume, I needed to stay in the galley for at least another 90 minutes.

As I stood there reading my book, one of the flight attendants – Joakim – asked if he could get me anything. I told him I was fine, and that I was just avoiding my seat-mate who was vomiting.

“Oh god, are you next to that little boy? Is he getting sick again? His dad tried to hand me the bag of vomit while I was delivering food service!”

I told him my story, and he apologized and said that unfortunately it was a totally full flight so there was nowhere for me to go. I said I was fine in the galley, far from the sounds and smells of my neighbor.

On his next galley run, he asked again if he could get me anything, “Bloody Mary? Screwdriver? Glass of wine?”

It was 10:00am. I hadn’t eaten anything other than a piece of toast four hours earlier. So I said hell yeah bring me some wine, and that’s when it became one of the best flights ever. Leaning up against the counter, sipping my wine and reading my book, I started to chat up everyone as they waited in line for the bathrooms. They would ask if I was in line, and I would say no, I was just trying to avoid getting vomit on me. Then we would talk, they would hang out in the galley for a while, some more people would join us – it was like a house party.

Every so often, Joakim would come back and hang out with me. He shared vomit and diaper horror stories from previous flights. He was my favorite flight attendant ever, and not just because he brought me two more glasses of wine during the two hours I stood there.

When the seat belt sign came on as we began our descent, I flashed Joakim a sad look and he shook his head. “Not yet,” he said. I could stay back there a few more minutes. Once it was truly time for me to take my seat, he handed me another garbage bag, “Just in case.”

The boy was again sleeping and my seat did not appear to be contaminated, so I quietly slid in, buckled my seat belt and closed my eyes. When I arrived in San Francisco, the text I sent my friend simply said, “Plane here. So drunk.” When life hands you lemons, sometimes you have to make Cabernet.