My work, featured in an art gallery…sort of

Last night I headed to South Main for the monthly Trolley Art Tour. My first stop was 314 S. Main, where my friend Danita Beck was having her farewell-to-Memphis show. As I was walking around looking at her work, what did I discover on the wall but a quote from this very blog!

June 3, 2004: “Friday night I will be attending a reception for my friend Danita Beck’s exhibit “Biopic – A Narrative in 25 Images” at Universal Art Gallery, 111 G.E. Patterson near the corner of Main. Not only is Danita an accomplished artist, but she’s also the chair of Mpact’s Community Involvement Pillar. Please come out and support her! The reception lasts from 6 to 9 pm.”

It was on the wall in two places. As far as I know, that’s the first time anything I ever did was featured in an art gallery. Probably the last, too.

About an hour and five glasses of wine later, I ran into a friend of mine who is a regular Trolley Tour attendee and also a regular reader of this blog. She and I had a great conversation about what qualifies as a tube top, and she made some very insightful comments. “If it’s a real tube top it should be form-fitting all the way down,” she said. “I’ve seen some that are tight at the top, but then they flare out. I don’t think those are tube tops. They’re strapless tops, but not tube tops.” Excellent, excellent point. It’s a pleasure to speak with someone who communicates herself so eloquently.

She continued, “If it has straps that tie around your neck, it’s a halter top, not a tube top. If it has straps that go over the shoulders, it’s a tank top. A tube top doesn’t have any straps.” She also agreed that untying the neck strap of a halter top and saying “see, it stays up without the strap” does not turn it into a tube top. (ATTN CARMEL: Go back and re-read this paragraph a few times)

Today is June 25…just think, only five more days and this will go back to being a regular blog and you won’t have to read this idiotic blabbering about tube tops anymore. I’ve decided there will NOT be a theme for the month of July, for reasons I’ll explain in a future journal entry.

So, anyway, not much else happened for the remainder of Trolley Tour night. By 9:00 I had drunk an astounding TEN glasses of wine, and then I went to Earnestine & Hazel’s and had a beer at Nate’s upstairs bar. I was home passed out by 10:45.

Other random stuff:

– Happy birthday to my friend Kenny, who is one of my oldest drinking buddies from my Six-1-Six days in the 1990s. Kenny is one hell of a good pool player, and taught me how to use english, draw, follow and other concepts that vastly improved my game. One hell of a good guy too. Gonna try to make it to his birthday party tonight.

– Plans for the remainder of the month: Was going to go to a wine tasting this afternoon, but am now leaning toward skipping it because I need to get a friend’s website done. Tomorrow I’ll start the day at Sleep Out’s, and probably hang out on my rooftop later on – one of my neighbors is talking about having a Jimmy Buffett party. (How to get mentioned in my blog: wear a tube top or bikini, feed me, give me a vacuum cleaner, or have a Jimmy Buffett party.) Wednesday is the Mpact General Membership meeting at DISH, and I think I have a Membership Committee meeting afterwards. Thursday the Dempseys are playing on the Madison rooftop. I may have to take off after their first set though (dammit, that means I’ll probably miss “Thunder Road”/”Summertime Blues”, which lately they’ve been doing in their second set).

– If you live in Memphis and you’ve ever wondered what Los Angeles looks like, go outside. The worst smog I’ve ever seen is covering the city. Worse, these huge droplets of rain, like nothing I’ve ever seen before, are falling from the sky. Smrain?

Well, this journal entry certainly wandered all over the place. Guess I’ll get some work done on my friend’s website, and then go out and enjoy the weekend downtown. Ryburn’s Tube Top Removal Service is open for business!

Sunday change of venue

I’m thinking about re-routing my Sunday champagne festivities back to where it all started, Sleep Out Louie’s. Since July of last year I’ve been going to the downtown Blue Monkey, but I think it’s time for a change. Nothing against the Monkey – they still have great food and great service. It’s just that anyplace is likely to get a bit boring when you go there week in, week out for almost an entire year.

And, I’m starting to miss Sleep Out’s. With their huge windows, it just feels so open and airy there. They also get quite a few girls in tube tops who come to grab lunch before heading to afternoon Redbirds games. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl in a tube top in the Monkey on Sunday.) And, Sleep Out’s fried buffalo crawfish tails are really, really good.

Now, I do love the Monkey, and could never give it up entirely. So rather than going back to Sleep Out’s exclusively, I’ll probably split the two restaurants 50/50. That could mean that I go to one the first week and the other the next, or it could mean I stop at Sleep Out’s and then the Monkey in the same afternoon.

I’ll have to give my fellow drunk Terry a call and see what he thinks. But most likely I’ll be at Sleep Out’s on Sunday.

My job

Just realized, I haven’t talked much about my job since I started back in October. The other day, a recruiter who saw my resume online called, and I told him, “Thanks, but I’m really happy where I’m working now.” It kind of surprised me when I said that. For a long time I didn’t ever think I’d be happy working regular business hours in an office setting.

The company I work for handles rebate and spiff programs for large corporations. We program websites so people can claim their rebates online, and we create reports for company management. We also handle the financial side – the transfer of funds. The company also offers other services that I’m not involved in, such as verifying that a manufacturer’s logo and model ran correctly in retailer ads, and doing research so manufacturers better understand how their competitors are advertising.

(I’d list the company’s name, but when people do Google searches for it, it’s probably best that they don’t turn up a blog site that talks about tube tops, bums, pigeons, and getting drunk.)

I “skin” websites, meaning I make our rebate and spiff websites look as much like our clients’ websites as possible, so people don’t notice that they’ve clicked over to us when the claim their rebates. I also do a lot of custom programming of reports and search functions.

From a technical standpoint, I write web pages mainly in ASP.NET, and I also maintain some older sites that were done in classic ASP. The sites pull data from Access (small companies) and SQL Server (large companies). I’ve learned a lot about SQL Server the past year – written a lot of stored procedures, and some DTS (Data Transformation Services) packages.

We’re also getting into a new area called “literature fulfillment” and I’m getting assigned the first project. This could be a big new source of business for the company, if done right.

Our biggest client is GM, but I got hired at the wrong time to get a piece of that account. I’ve been working mainly with air conditioning companies such as Bryant, York, Luxaire, and Coleman. I’ve also done some stuff for Shell, Volvo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Xerox.

Overall, it’s just a fantastic career path. I’m learning the programming and database skills that are the most relevant in the market today, and it’s interesting work.

In addition, it’s a comfortable place to work. One of the biggest advantages is that I don’t have to be there until 9:00. That means I can get up at 8:00 and still make it to work, which means I can stay up until midnight or even 1:00 on a weekday night and still get a decent night’s sleep. It’s a 7.5 hour workday, which means I can take a 30-minute lunch and be out by 5:00.

Most days I can wear a T-shirt and jeans to work, and even when there are clients in the office I only have to wear a shirt with a collar and pants that are not jeans. I don’t even tuck the shirt in most days.

I get along with everybody here, and have learned a lot from my boss and co-workers. Usually there’s at least one neurotic asshole in every office who makes life difficult, and in some places they’re the majority (Autozone comes to mind). But there don’t seem to be any people like that here. I guess an easygoing corporate culture attracts easygoing people.

So, basically, work is going well. Life is going well. I’m happy.

Great moments in the history of the tube top

In honor of tube top month here at, it is my pleasure to present this look at one of the great moments in the history of the tube top.

The year was 1979. Hollywood, California. The game show The Price is Right was filming an episode. This was back when Bob Barker still dyed his hair, and the original Barker’s Beauties – Diane, Janice, and Holly (was Holly one of the originals? not sure) were still on the show.

But this story isn’t about them. This story is about an unsuspecting woman in an audience of maybe 250, who just thought she was there to watch a game show taping. But then the announcer told her to COME ON DOWN! And she was thrilled beyond belief. And come on down she did. And as she screamed and jumped and squealed, the tube top she was wearing came on down as well.

And that was a beautiful moment in the history of television, and the history of the tube top.

Social Security forum

Tonight I went to the Social Security Forum at the Marriott, presented by the Federal Reserve Bank and sponsored by Mpact. This was a nonpartisan attempt to explain to the public what is going on with Social Security reform. It was the best Mpact event I’ve been to this year, except for Impacto (where there was free liquor and one of the Promote Memphis pillar chairs had on a tube top). Here are highlights of what I learned:

– When Social Security payroll taxes exceed paid-out benefits, the extra money goes into a trust fund by law. But the government simply buys T-Bills and in fact uses the excess for current federal spending. So the “trust fund” is nothing but debt – the government takes out loans to itself.

– Right now, payroll tax revenue > benefits paid out. But by 2018 (assuming no change in payroll taxes or benefit formula) benefits will be > payroll tax revenue. At that point the government will begin cashing in the IOUs to itself – which means it will have to come up with extra money through higher taxes, reduced spending or more debt.

– In 2041, the trust fund will run out. At that point, benefits paid will amount to 74% of scheduled benefits, if payroll taxes and benefit formula remain as they currently are, because income will have to equal expenses. By 2079 it will go down to 68%.

– One proposal is not to use private accounts, but to do one or more of the following: increase the payroll tax, increase the retirement age, raise or eliminate the $90,000/year income cap on Social Security payroll tax, reduce benefits for higher-income earners, or switch benefit formula from wage indexing to price indexing. We learned that, although the cost-of-living raises for retirees and the maximum yearly contribution cap are indexed by inflation, the benefit formula determining how much you get as you’re about to retire is indexed by wages. In general wages grow more quickly than prices. This proposal would preserve the current system for at least another 75 years.

– Other proposals allow for a portion of your 6.2% old-age Social Security contribution to be invested in financial markets – generally 2 to 4 of the 6.2%. People will have options in terms of risk, but options will be limited. The private accounts could be either voluntary or mandatory – under the Bush plan, they’re voluntary.

– Diverting dollars to private accounts will mean less money is going into the trust fund – so the government will have to borrow even more over time.

– Some people feel that the no-privatization plan will reduce economic growth because it will mean increasing taxes and increasing the cap on contributions.

– On the other hand, there’s a public fear about retirement income depending on the market.

– Private accounts will be able to pass from one generation to the next, as 401(k)s do.

– Private accounts are not guaranteed to restore the long-run solvency of the system – we can’t be sure the market will actually go up.

– The reform plan most likely to pass is the one that is favored by the age/income cohort wielding the greatest political influence. As we move closer to 2018 this is going to become a hotter and hotter political issue.

– In the long long run, private accounts will almost certainly outperform the non-privatization solution. But in the gap between now and then, it will cost trillions.

And those are the notes I took. I’ll maintain the nonpartisan stance from the presentation and let you draw your own conclusions. Thanks to the Federal Reserve Bank for a most informative presentation. I learned a lot.

Father’s Day

I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating. It’s an annual tradition, like Miracle on 34th Street and the Rudolph cartoons for Christmas.

The year was 1972. This was back when tube tops were high fashion the first time around. I was a toddler. I decided that I wanted to be a big boy. So I went into Daddy’s closet and tried on his clothes. Then I wandered into the kitchen. “Look, Mama,” I said. “I’m wearing a sport coat, just like Daddy.”

“And I have liquor bottles in my pockets, just like Daddy!”

Mama and Daddy had a big argument that night. It wasn’t a very happy Father’s Day.

Happy Father’s Day.

Something I just thought of

For months now, I’ve heard a rumor that Emperor Bush is going to find a way to amend the Constitution or otherwise rig the election process so he can run for a third term. Up until today, I thought that would be a bad thing.

But today, as I was sitting at the Monkey drinking my champagne, I realized something. If the Constitution were amended to allow presidents to run for a third term, then Bush could face a challenge from the man who would kick his ass all over the electoral college.

Bill Clinton.

Now I could totally deal with a third Clinton term. Balanced budgets… compassion for everyone not just corporate billionaires… protection, rather than evaporation, of people’s civil rights… respect on the world stage through diplomacy rather than bullying… and I have a feeling Bill Clinton is a man who appreciates tube tops as much as I do.

Clinton in ’08! Bring it on!

Property taxes – I had no idea

Over the years, I’ve listened to friends who own homes bitch about their property taxes. “I don’t want an NBA team here if it means I have to pay one more dollar in property taxes…I’m thinking about moving to Eads so I don’t have to pay city property taxes…Developing the riverfront is nice, but not if it raises my property taxes…blah, blah, blah.” I must say, I’ve been unsympathetic to their complaints. Living in a town with culture and quality services costs money.

But yesterday, it hit home. One of my friends went condo-shopping at the Shrine Building, and found out that the property taxes on the unit she wanted would add almost $300 a month to her payment, thereby pricing it out of her range and forcing her to remain a renter for the time being. And I doubt she was looking at the penthouse – probably a studio or 1BR at the most. Three hundred bucks! I had no idea. I thought property taxes were like, 40, 50 dollars a month for an average homeowner.

(By the way, there was a party on my building’s roof last night, and this same neighbor showed up in a tube top. Just thought that needed to be mentioned.)

No wonder people complain. Now I understand a little better why people fall for the Republicans’ dog-and-pony show about cutting taxes. Of course, their portrayal of themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility is utter bullshit, but I can see why people would latch on to any fleeting promise of a plan to cut their tax bill. And now it makes more sense why people move to the far reaches of the county, to get outside of the city limits. And I thought it was just because they didn’t want to send their children to the horrible city schools.

All right, that’s it for now. I have ideas for at least two more journal entries, but it’s 11:00 on Sunday morning, so that means it’s time to go to church. The kind of church that serves mimosas and bloody marys. See you later!

Mail bag

Time to dip into the mail. Looks like we have a lot of correspondence this week.

Subj: does it squirm and not squirt

You know, where was this e-mail message in 1988? Back then, I was trying to wash the car, using the garden hose in the back yard. But somehow it had got a pebble stuck in it, and it did exactly what the message implied: it squirmed and never squirted. We eventually had to throw it away and go to Wal-Mart Garden Center and get a new hose. Too bad we didn’t have e-mail back then; perhaps we could have salvaged it.

Subj: naughty granny gets crazy on camera

You know, I remember a time when my grandmother went absolutely crazy. The garbage man had taken an alternate route in his truck and missed our street altogether. So, the bags of garbage stayed out on the curb all night, and the neighborhood cats got into them, leaving trash spread all over the yard. The next morning, my grandmother called the city to complain, and “crazy” was a good word to describe how angry she was. I thought she was somehow going to crawl through the phone line and rip the customer service rep’s heart out. We should have rented a video camera and recorded her, as this message suggests; now that Grandmama is gone, it would be a wonderful way to remember her as she was.

Subj: Find a Fuck Friend without leaving your home

Since this says, “without leaving your home,” I’m assuming this was sent by one of my neighbors in the building, although the return address of doesn’t ring a bell. But, I gotta ask… DON’T YOU THINK YOU’RE BEING A BIT FORWARD? I mean, come on, at least buy me dinner first.

…Oh, who am I kidding, the dinner probably isn’t necessary. Just come on over, naked, and bring liquor. Oh, bring some strawberries too, we can make chocolate-covered strawberries in my fondue pot. Note: disregard if you are ugly, or a guy

Subj: Your e-mail account has been disabled

This message came with a form for me to fill out, asking for information like my birth date and Social Security number, to get my account turned back on. But, first, I have a question… how would I have gotten this message if my e-mail account had really been disabled?

Subj: exquisite cherry piddle speaker Jack

10 o’clock pizza feature scooter icing on the dusty billboards. Grilled sheep lighting violets south asphalt oranges. Effervescent tube top parking dogs in the Space Needle. thinking, speaker phone showers, she said. Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower. I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus, GOOB GOOB GA JOOB!

Subj: very important e-mail


Subj: very important e-mail
From: Marilyn Ryburn

Probably telling me I should get a haircut, or dress more professionally, or go to church more often.


Subj: Hows it hangin, get the lowest m0rtg-age qu;otes here dafgqbvnm

Now I can tell this is a legit e-mail, because they started off with the traditional greeting used in the mortgage industry, “hows it hangin.”

Back when I was in sales, I was a member of a networking group that included a mortgage lender. One day he gave a presentation about his work. “The greeting ‘hows it hangin’ builds rapport with customers and lets them know that you’re serious about doing business. Studies indicate that lenders who open with this greeting close an average of 23% more loans.”

And, this must be a very creative company, based on their spelling of “mortgage quotes.” Bet they have some creative lending options to get me into that new home of my dreams.

Well, folks, that’s the mail bag for this week. Back soon with more Pulitzer-quality prose for your reading enjoyment.