Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Doing Business

"Montana Jones." Said D__ as I walked in the door.

"D__, nice to see you again." Said I. The pleasantries were over, from here forward we were to have a confrontation. Not a violent one, not unpleasant either. But I was there to say some things D__ did not want, and to hear some things I did not. As the saying goes, just business.

"So what is up with the linen bill? Do I understand correctly that you are charging $10 per bed per night for the bedding?" Asks D__. I was not ready for this one. Caught me off guard from the start.

"Well yeah," don't stammer, don't say 'uh' "I, uh, we, well. With the shipping and laundry we are not even breaking even on the linins. Higher_Power wouldn't let us raise the rates. We had to use this loophole to make our money. Higher_Power approved it."

"So you are going to charge $20 for a two night stay on the same bedding?"

"Yeah, uh." Damnit, you just did it again. "Like I said, it is the only way to make our laundry and shipping bill back."

"Is there any way to get the linen rates reduced?"

"No, if you push the issue I could probably get you fresh linens for each night stay." The answer is weak and shows in his face.

"That doesn't help, how about reducing the rates for us."

"Well, I will have to consult my business partner K__ on this." An obvious dodge, keep spinning it. "You see, we agreed she would be the head of this facility and that I wouldn't make any decisions about it without her."

"Sure, get back to me."

This D__ is crafty. He set the tone and put on the defensive from the start.

"I also wanted to ask about the propane." He says. "We have several tanks mostly full with propane?"

This one is also unexpected, but not as difficult. I could actually use the propane. "That sounds reasonable. How many tanks do you have?"

"Uhh, four or six." ha, I made him say 'uh'

"Are they the same tanks you bought from us back when?"

"Yea, and mostly full right now. We would need to sell the propane too."

"That is within the realm of possibility. Include them in the inventory you are making for us."

"Can we get you to reconsider on buying back the blankets?"

"Doubt it. My experience with the bedding is that the blankets are the first things to wear out. I couldn't buy yours without inspecting them."

"They are in pretty good shape, we have kept them from the mice, they are ok."

"Are they the same blankets you bought from us in '96?"


"You want me to buy back ten year old blankets?"

D__ looks down and away, "Yea, they are still good. They last."

Now that I was back on confident ground I gave D__ a good hard look. His nose was purple and windburned and his eyes a crazy intense blue. He fit the look of a youthful outdoorsman. About my age, perhaps younger. I decided to be impressed that he was holding down the fort on his shiny clean giftshop lobby and doing his business as he was. Like me he was working hard at carving his niche. Now that I wasn't off guard from his first question I could see him as equal. I smiled with the knowing that he needed more from me than I needed from him.

"And what do you think of the fundraiser." D__ asks. My best topic. The issue I was most prepared to talk him down on. I had three solid reasons and a secret weapon. I was ready to argue down all his points.

"No, I don't think we can do it."

"Ok, thought we would ask." I am almost disappointed he doesn't want to hear my three reasons and force me to pull my secret weapon.

We talked about his reservations and deposit payment. He pulled out credit cards for the hefty bills and promptly dismissed my papers as past business.

"Do you send out these confirmation notices to all your customers?"

"Yes we do."

"Could you include one of our flyers in with each of those?"

I resist the urge to laugh. "Well my first thought would be postage. We had the scales out the other day and figured out we can only send three of our own flyers before the rates go up."

"Well we refer all the people we talk to on the phone over to you, we though you could do something nice for us."

Yea, that's cause you can't refer them to the motel six. Where else would you refer someone who wanted our services. We are one of a kind here. "My second thought would be what's in it for me to do your advertising?"

"What's in it for you?" He is smiling at least. "Well the goodwill of your neighbors of course."

"How about this? Could you cook dinner for all our guests on the nights you are on location?" One unreasonable request deserves another.

"Well, uh, well. No, I don't think that would work so well."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Having fun yet?

Mom and Dad came up to * and had lunch with L__ and I the other day for my birthday. That was nice. Mom asked if I was having fun. The question almost stumped me for a moment. The answer: I have been way too busy to give having fun much thought. There are times when I am enjoying myself, there are times when I am tired, times when I get frustrated, confused. Times when I have too much to do. I am certainly being challenged. Yep. I am definitely having fun.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Blogging about blogging

Or… the fine art of examining ones own navel.

There are several things about the blogosphere that bother me. The lookatmelookatmelookatme phenomena for starters. I am not a big fan of look at me behavior.

I recently read The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. Pretty good book. It talks (partly) about people who are connectors. People who are good at connecting with other people and handle social networks very well. I am not one of these people. I am horrible with social networks. The older I get the more I understand the implications of this on my life. Basically, I will never have the ability to rally groups of others to my ideas. Probably not even if I have good ideas. So it goes. Add one more item to my list of imperfections.

The blogosphere, as we all know by now, is a social network and by having a blog I have decided to participate in that network. Poor me without having any social network skills to speak of. So the questions looming large in my mind are: Why bother? Will anyone read this? Do I have anything worth saying? Should I make an effort toward lookatmelookatme? Will I regret getting attention should it ever come my way?

I recently did some searching and found a healthy number of Montana bloggers out there. In fact I made a point to read a few posts from every single one of them. And I found… no one special. Well, not true, let me rephrase. I found a variety of the same sorts of people I have found reading blogs from around the world for the past several years. Some are politically motivated (and vocal about it), some are family motivated, some are spiritually motivated, fashion motivated, lifestyle motivated, work, play, school, health, friends. All very different from each other, all presenting themselves in a variety of styles that I both like and dislike. They are each trying to say something about the world that occasionally speaks to me, but mostly does not. And the common threads between them all… they each have a blog and they are each Montanans. My people.

I don't care to re-create the list of links I found elsewhere, but I can point to where I started my own search for Montana bloggers, and at the same time make my first small contribution to this social network.

The fine list of Montana bloggers can be found on the sidebar there. And yes, I did visit every single one of them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Montana Jones Manifesto

  • Any part of this manifesto can and will be ignored by M. Jones when it inconveniences him.
  • I will not blog about politics.
  • I will not blog about blogging or otherwise engage in navel-gazing
  • I will not blog only to say 'I have nothing to say.'
  • I will blog naked whenever possible.
  • I will spell check my posts.
  • I will not fear the delete key.
  • I will always work to improve the quality of my writing.
  • I will post photos once in a while.
  • I will try to be succinct.
  • I will try to be creative and original.
  • I will blog with constant self denial about my mothers ability to find my blog.
  • Intoxication is no excuse.
  • I will not link to pages I found on blogdex, Bloglines, or any other blog aggregate. The world is already aware of these.
  • I will not post a link without also posting a reason to visit the link. (And posting what can be found at the link is a pretty good idea too.)
  • I will endeavor to have sex and blog about sex as often as possible, because this is what the internet was invented for in the first place will drive the most traffic to my blog.
  • I will try to be observant of the world around me.
  • If I can't think of anything original to say, I will at least try to find an original way to say it.
  • I will be honest.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Presidents' Day

Dear President Bush

I just wanted to pen a little note wishing you a happy Presidents' Day. As I was out and about today trying to get some things done I discovered that lots of places like the bank and the post office were closed and that there were lots of kids not in school today. Didn't take me too long to figure out we were having a national holiday.

It's nice that you can give lots of people the day off with Presidents' Day. Hope you got a little time off yourself. It would be really cool if you could do that with Fathers Day too. I've seen lots of dads get pretty grumpy from working too much, they could use an extra days off now and then, and not everybody gets Presidents' Day off from work. Mothers Day would be okay too, but moms already get those great brunches and lots of Hallmark cards.

That's why I am writing in fact. I forgot to send my mom a mothers day card one year and I caught holy hell for that. Not from mom, bless her heart, but dad gave me a good talking too. Then my brother lit into me, and after that his wife called up to chew me out. Now I keep a stack of Mothers Day cards sitting in the closet and when I get that feeling I am forgetting something important I just shoot one off in case that is it. So anyway, when I figured out it was Presidents' Day today I figured I better write out a quick note. I'm sure you wouldn't get too mad if I blew off your Presidents' Day card, but I am a little worried about some of the people watching your back. The secret service guys make me nervous. I would rather not tangle with the IRS either. Let's not even talk about the CIA and the FBI with all the homeland security and patriot acts going on. Let's just say I would rather not end up on your enemy combatants list if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I know that you and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of issues and I am sure you would have preferred that I voted for you instead of sending a card. But I do appreciate all the hard work you do being the leader of the free world. So for the sake of the national holiday I am willing to put our differences aside for a day, especially if it gives those hard working postal workers and bank tellers a little break too.

Wishing you a great Presidents' Day!
Montana Jones

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Customer Service

Ring. Ring-a-ring. Ring.
Girls voice on the phone:
Hello, Mr Jones*?
I am calling from Century Tel** to follow up on your new phone service and see if everything is okay. Were you satisfied with your new phone line installation?
I guess so. Just one little thing though.
And what is that?
Well there were problems getting the DSL line working. It took you two weeks longer than I was told it would. Can I get that two weeks pro-rated on my bill.
I'm sorry, I don't have any connection with the billing department. But you could call customer service.
Well since you are a Century Tel employee perhaps you could do that for me.
Well, I'm not really employed by Century Tel.
Your not a Century Tel employee?
Well, uh, no. We are contracted to make these calls.
So what can you do for me?
I could connect you to customer service.
You called me remember. I would like you to do that.
I can't do that sir.
Then why did you call me?
We, uh, are calling to follow up on your new phone line and asking if you are happy with the service.
Well the answer would be apparently not.
Yes, I understand. I can connect you to customer service.
Well if that is the only thing you can do, you might as well do that.
One moment please. (pause) Sir, I have just been informed that it is after hours and i can't connect you to customer service.
Then what good are you?
I, uh, well, uh, we are...
Listen, I don't appreciate getting called like this to be told you can't do anything for me. Tell me again why you called?
We, uh, are following up on your new phone installation.
And what can you do about my problem?
I could give you the number for the customer service department.
You might as well, if that is all you are capable of.
Thank you.
And thank you Mr. Jones. Is there anything else I can do you for you?
Perhaps you better not call again unless there is something you can do for me.
Yes sir, have a good evening.
Thank you. You too.

* Names changed to protect the innocent. ** But not all names, the guilty have to answer for themselves.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Driving in Montana

I did something yesterday that I can't ever recall doing before in my entire life. Nothing too earth shaking or difficult. Simply rare.

While stopped for a fillup at the GasitMart I went in and bought a big jug of wiper fluid and refilled the little reservoir under the hood.

Like I said, not too earth shaking. But it is unusual because at my previous address this was never done. My wiper fluid would get refilled at my semi-regular oil changes, A couple weeks out of the year in the bad weather I would use it regularly and that was it. Here in Montana I am pumping the crap on my windscreen daily and we are currently having nice sunny weather. It is just one of those odd little facts of Montana life. Your vehicle attracts dirt and you have to use lots of wiper fluid just to see out the window. I remember visiting California and how there were no dirty cars to be seen anywhere. Montana is the opposite, the attitude appears to be 'why fight it'.

Which brings me to some of my other observations about driving in Montana. The local drivers have no consistent style to their driving.

At one extreme you have the speed demons, usually driving dirty, rusted, old pickup trucks. These are the locals that know the roads like the back of their hand and are hell bent on getting somewhere. On the two lane highways they will hang right on your bumper until you get to the passing lane and then tear by you kicking up dust. But oddly these drivers are not in the majority. At least I expected more of them from the land of 'reasonable and prudent' speed limits.

At the other extreme are the laid back drivers. They appear to be living on 'Montana time'. No real hurry to be anywhere, usually cruising at about 5-10MPH below the posted limit, tolerant of all other drivers, showing no urgency or stress when caught behind the slowpoke logging truck going uphill. In a way I admire the attitude, except when I really want to be somewhere and I am behind them. There appears to be more members of this group than of the speed demons.

And that leaves us with everyone else who fit into the middle between the extremes. Oddly I find the 'everyone else' group to be the minority on the roads here. Another observation is that many drivers transition from one extreme to the other without any apparent reason. Another observation is that the interaction of all these disparate groups is so... friendly.

Everywhere else in this country that I have had the pleasure of driving, and that is a lot of places, there always appears to be a local 'style'. Sometimes fast, sometimes medium, almost never slow. Sometimes the locals are red light runners. Sometimes they are green light honkers. There is usually consistency. Here the only consistent thing is friendliness. The speed demons are friendly and tolerant with the slow pokes blocking them. The slow pokes are friendly with the school bus drivers. The school bus drivers wave to the logging truck drivers. Everyone pretty much lets everyone else do their thing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Doing Business

The snow gave a reassuring crunch under foot and the cold pounded at my legs through the thin denim of my blue jeans. T__ was trying to tell me something, but I did not hear it. He was facing away and loosing breath to the uphill trudge just as I was. A part of me was not too sure what I was doing here or what I was looking for so I tried to concentrate on having some fun with an impromptu snowy romp. T__ would point and say "This area here is where the front ten are, then there is the another ten acre plot behind that that was sold to * and on the other side are the back ten. The Heavens Peak property borders it over on this side and right over here is the plot that I am going to keep. I'm thinking it would be a nice place for a little cabin." Which is all nice and good I think, but where exactly is the piece of land that I am supposed to be looking at now, and where is it in relation to where I am standing? K__ is talking her piece as though she and T__ are on the same wavelength, but I don't see how she knows any better than I what exactly we are looking at. I pause to peer through the trees and gaze up at the twilit sky. A brief moment of peace.

It had been a long day. I had begun to find solace in the office work. Attacking the pile of mail as though it were a game to see how far I could make it dwindle. Experimenting with new ways to talk cheerfully on the phone. I had a quiet and productive time in the morning until K__ showed up all a bubble with her latest progress on her projects. We talked about some things that she and I needed to cover and I felt like she actually understood my points this time. Then when L__ and P__ showed up from their closing everything erupted into the chaos that I knew would come. P__ was preoccupied with her thoughts about the closing and business, and I am sure that having K__ there was not helping her disposition. L__ and K__ loudly tore into some sort of agenda of their own. Nothing is calm in a room where people love to hear the sound of their own voices. It was a good time to quietly turn back to the mail. One ear open to the conversations behind me. Listen and learn. Good thing the phone was quiet.

When the clock ticked two I switched off the phone, closed out the credit card slips, double checked my notes and reminded K__ to start thinking about our afternoon mission. I was giving her about a twenty minute lead. Good thing too, these people can't turn on a dime. I wonder if that is a Montanan trait? The twenty minutes was about right, K__ used most of it to refocus on our new task and we left to meet the realtor. K__ had some different takes on the properties that I did, but that was good. It helps sometimes to have that different perspective on hand. Three properties total. Lots of walking and talking and looking and estimating property lines. By the time we got back to home I was tired and getting hungry and heard enough voices trying to make sure they were acknowledged through volume alone. Putting L__ and K__ in the same room will always accomplished that. I can deal with them one on one most of the time, but together I would usually prefer not to be in the conversation. My throat goes dry just trying to get a word in edgewise. I could feel myself getting cranky.

K__ was still working full blast. I don't think she felt the realtor was giving her all the information she wanted to know. As if he were holding back the best properties for himself. Driving down the highway she would point out the for sale signs and call out "Oh and what about that one?" to what were obviously oversized and expensive and not appropriate properties. When we got to the diner for diner she had the cellphone to her ear having called the numbers on a couple of the signs along the way. "Did you learn anything?" I asked. "Yea, that land just over there by Coram is going for 1.2million." I nodded and smiled.

I was ready to call it a day, but K__ had arranged one more last minute property viewing. And that is what put me out in the snowy woods with the cold biting and a shiver lurking just under my ribs. T__ struck me as good people. The sort of person I would feel comfortable befriending if life diddn't revolve around the wife and kids and we had a chance to kick back and find some common ground. Preferably somewhere with a familiar environment like smog and city traffic and noisy urban hangouts. I doubt if I will ever see him again.

So for a few minutes as the sun set and the half moon hung large in the crisp sky. My head was filled with too many things to worry about and my ears ached from the yammering of everyone's opinions around me. I walked in the woods and pretended to care about property lines.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Bad Browser

Okay, I just did some fiddling about with the blog template. Nothing major, just putting links I like over there on the right and stuff like that. Oh, and I fixed the width of the sidebar column because the variable width template was widowing words in some of the longer links. Normal stuff to do with a new blog I would presume.

So anyway, just as I call it a day and decide to move on I get the wild hair to double check my work with a different web browser. Good practice for us web geeks. Naturally the page looks crappy in the other browser with the links pushing off the right side of the content box. And here begins the rant.

I will not support the Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser on this blog. Period. If you think this blog looks bad that is because you are using a bad browser.

Use this browser please ==> Firefox

Anyone who is still using the Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser is being a bad citizen of the internet. Web standards will not be adhered to until companies that do not support them lose market share.

Why web standards are good.

Remind me later to go off on my rant about how Microsoft will never release a free, high quality, standards compliant browser.

This ends today's rant.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Why Montana is a cooler place to live than the previous address.

  • They sell beer in the grocery stores.
  • No sales tax.
  • The bartender will sell your drinks ‘to go’ if you want.
  • The microbreweries here put out way better beer than what you can find in Boulder Colorado.
  • Mountains. The finest mountains in the entire rocky mountain west.
  • 11 hours of sunlight in the summertime.
  • Traffic is so light it amazes me.
  • No 85 octane gas. Only 87 and up.
  • I have never had a bad cheeseburger here.

Why Montana is not so cool.

  • Where are all the girls?
  • About 5 hours of sunlight in the winter.
  • What is there to do after dark?
  • No one uses the internet.

To be fair, I have met some pretty nice girls here, but I think this state has a transitional population. All the young and outgoing people come here in the summertime but leave for more fertile ground in the winter. And who could blame them. But now I am stuck here, and it is winter, and the only people here are retirees that like cold. Not exactly a barrel of laughs this local population.

I’m pretty sure there is a nightlife here somewhere. Everyone would get cabin fever otherwise. I guess Whitefish has some nightlife. But there is only so much time one can spend in Whitefish. That thing about no sales tax does not apply to Whitefish as they have applied a local city tax to everything. The rich yuppy fuckers are taking over and driving the prices up for everyone else. Damn them.

And that internet thing too. I tried looking up some real estate online the other day and found squat. This part of the world still does its business through the freakin’ ink smeared on paper, only released once a week classified ads. And they like it that way! Talk about behind the times. I even looked at the online dating websites and found exactly three listings for a 75 mile radius of my zip code. Sad.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Montana makes me fart.

I have no idea what is up with that.

I have spent time in this state before, like the summer employment from previous years, and it happens every time. There is something about this place that has me ripping the ripe ones It doesn’t happen in other states. At my previous address I only tooted when eating obnoxious foods just like a normal person. I’ve been here about three weeks and the gaseous output has increased pretty much daily. I can no longer deny it. In the past as soon as I left Montana the tooting stopped and everything was rosy once again. Now, I’m afraid I have a permanent address and no relief in sight.

It could be that I am feeling the repercussions of that pastrami sandwich I had for lunch, but that does not explain the interesting smells coming from my butt yesterday or the day before. It is not like I am eating unusual things either. I am doing my own shopping and I am buying pretty much the same stuff I bought at my last domicile. I may have to adjust my diet a little to see what effect that has. I am not feeling too hopeful though, I did that last year when I spent three months in this state. No results.

Fortunately my interaction with others is limited mostly to phone work. But if you ever visit this fine state and see a guy in public with clenched cheeks and eyes turning green, that’s me, just trying to be polite.

New Blog Time!!!

You may remeber me from that other obscure blog that I abandoned a few years back. You know the one, where I ranted a lot but diddn't say anything. The one that only had about two readers. Yea, thats me. And I'm back.