Tuesday, Spam and… how to sell a Grand Piano?!

Posted in Unwelcomed notions published for no obvious reason on May 4th, 2010 by Jeppe Grünberger

So, I received quite a bit of spam today on a site that I work with. This was in no way surprising but the topic of my spam was. I mean, I expect someone to attempt to sell me Viagra using spam or to convince to increase my… size (how do they all know?! Who is telling everyone this?!) or anything that could be bought spontaneously or in a weak moment. Exactly for that reason I had not expected to be spammed into the ground by this guy selling… Grand Pianos. I know, you are thinking: how did that happen? How did someone decide to try and sell grand pianos using spam-mails? Well, it’s actually quite easy once you think about it.

I mean, imagine that you are waking up on a lazy Sunday morning and slowly you finish scratching yourself and tumble over to the computer. Now, it’s early in the month and you still have some disposable income and you are already considering how best to waste it – by no means excluding sordid options, by no means. You are open to any offer on pills, pumps and female shaped balloons and if someone told you about how you just won the special Bolivia Lottery for Former Llama Breeders, you would be ready to go nuts over that too. Instead, though, you are confronted with a series of staggering deals on Grand Pianos. So, rather than ending up with a suspicious but basically innocent bottle of blue pills that you will probably never use until you are at some poor souls bachelor party and use it to spike his drink, you end up with a three meter long, black grand piano that you somehow squeeze in between the back wall and the front door of your apartment just as you realise that you can’t even play the damn thing. Right about this time a bottle of Viagra is beginning to sound pretty good.

So, what on earth do you do? Your apartment is completely ruined by this majestic, black monster of a musical instrument that shouldn’t by all rights even have been able to get into your apartment in the first place. There really only is one thing to do – you have to sell the damn thing. So, then you start trying to get the spammer to take it back, but he is a spammer – no way. He probably lives somewhere in Africa or China where he mass-manufactures Grand Pianos in small sweatshops and then smuggles them all to the west using very obese humans for mules (it’s the only way known to successfully smuggle a grand piano). Then what? You try to contact friends and relatives on Facebook but no-one needs a grand piano or they are too embarrassed to admit that they do. Using Ebay only gets you banned from the site for selling that sort of illicit product.

So, what can you do? Only one answer: you set up a mail-server and you start spamming people with offers on Grand Pianos. With the awesome power of the spam-mail at your side, soon your piano is sold, but then it happens. Offers keep coming in on the damn piano even after it’s sold and it’s just too darn tempting. Before long you are trying desperately to import a batch of “genuine” Steinways from some guy who supposedly is named “Nick” and lives in Boston but still for some reason prefers to send his Grand Pianos from Porto Alegre using a small, fat Mexican named Pedro who has an uncanny amount of room up his backside.

For a moment everything is well and money is just pouring in but then Pedro gets caught burping up sequences of Mozart’s 21st piano concerto in C major right as he is passing through the toll at Amsterdam. Suddenly, you find yourself a wanted man and fleeing through Europe desperately dragging your last genuine Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand Piano behind you in a thin rope hoping to sell it at a bar in Marseilles for a boat ticket to Buenos Aires. Much later, retired and living with your much younger wife – a once-beautiful and famous concert pianist who never could give up the habit and married her pusher – you tell small children on the small market square on Sundays how you were once a big-shot, a major player during the legendary days of illicit grand piano smuggling at the very beginning of the century. They, of course, don’t believe a word of what you say.

And really, who wants that?

Life is like…

Posted in Unwelcomed notions published for no obvious reason on February 2nd, 2010 by Jeppe Grünberger

“Life is like a box of chocolates” – Forest Gump (or actually, his mother)

Admit it, you all thought it when you saw the headline, didn’t you? It’s the sort of sentence that really sticks if for no other reason then because of how often Forest Gump repeats it to us during the film (and probably the book). Of course, it really makes little sense. The punch line  “You never know what you’re gonna get” may be true about life, but it’s hardly true about a box of chocolates. You are almost certain to get chocolates out of a box of chocolates. Then, to be fair, the meaning of the metaphor is more along the line of how one cannot easily judge from the appearance of a chocolate how it’s going to taste. And so it goes to the element of seemingly random surprise that does sometimes seem to dominate life – at least it dominates the life of Forest Gump a lot – and the ability to enjoy it, whatever taste you receive. The sentence also seems to be what saves Forest Gump from the fate of Jenny, who symbolizes her generation much better in her restless idealism, drug abuse and finally to a too early demise. Forest on the other hand embraces passivity and lives exclusively in the moment, reacting to things that happen to him. So, to Forest, life is indeed a box of chocolates. It is hard, however, to claim the same for Jenny’s life. Her metaphor would most likely be “Life is life a broken ladder – one long disappointment”.

Well, when you write things that initially exist exclusively in your head (until you transform them into words and they somehow become living stories that annoy other people), you sometimes wonder about this sort of sentence. The life-metaphor. As it turns out, life it like a lot of things; chocolates, chess, a rollercoaster, a flower and so on. So, this got me thinking about a theme, I would do – a theme of things that  life may or may not be in the hunt for something that life really isn’t. It’s harder than you think, finding something that life really isn’t. Here are a couple of attempts so far:

Life is like a nuclear bomb – it eventually kills everyone.

See? Who would have thought.

Life is like a giraffe, long and useless.

Life is like an iPad, at lot less than you would expect

Life is like money, something you never have enough of and always worry about

Life is like a cheeseburger, addictive and very unhealthy

Life is like a fossilised sea turtle shell, surprisingly ancient and yet seemingly pointless.

I will come up with more useful observations on this subject soon, I promise you.

What the future brings

Posted in Unwelcomed notions published for no obvious reason on January 11th, 2010 by Jeppe Grünberger

So, it’s the New Year which often brings with it a disease of futile contemplation as to what the future brings. Since I already know this, I thought I would spare everyone the hassle. So here it is: the future revealed.

Alright, where to start. First of all the world does not end in 2012 no matter how the Maya indians felt about it. It turns out that whoever founded that theory really hadn’t spent more than a few minutes studying their calender system anyway. Instead the world ends in 2017 on an quite normal Wednesday for reasons unknown to all but the squirrel that causes it. And also, Elvis was in fact not dead, but he is kicked to death by a rampant mule just outside of Tulsa in 2015, no one will ever find out why.

Sports fans will be interested to know that international football will be dominated by Wales in the years to come, starting with a highly surprising win in the world cup 2010 where they aren’t even qualified to participate. The Super Bowl will eventually be acknowledged as the biggest single day sporting event, but only based on the average weight of players participating. Sumo wrestlers will continuously attempt to overturn this decision. Women football will be banned by law due to a dangerous epidemic of narcolepsy among its fans. Tiger Woods will make a remarkable comeback in golf but eventually be defeated by Kim Jong-Il who, much to the surprise of many, really is THAT good.

Those with an interest in politics will be glad to know that most politics still won’t make any sense in the future either. Oh yeah, and Norway implodes in 2014 due to what scientists describe as “a really bad case of having it coming”. I am not sure that is really political, but perhaps it should have been. The financial crisis will end the exact moment when people (on a particularly cold Monday) realise that the value of money is all made up anyway. Journalism will continue to deteriorate and write about it. There will be no more World Wars, but the earth will win a major strategic victory against The Moon in 2016. The war will be mostly fought on sea.

The next generations won’t have time to ruin everything, but it turns out that they actually would have, the punks. Finally, during 2010 (very early in fact) the misspelled word “teh” will permanently replace the word “the”. This will according to everyone born before teh year 1992 be considered teh end of teh world as we know it. To all of those people teh actually end of teh world in 2017 is considered a relief.

That is it – enjoy teh future everyone! And a delayed Happy New Year!

Stepping into the new millennium – Spanish style!

Posted in Unwelcomed notions published for no obvious reason on December 10th, 2009 by Jeppe Grünberger

So, I finally got around to ordering my own internet connection with some much required help from our neighbour. I have been wondering when I would encounter this specific bureaucratic nonsense that people down here refer to with a shrug and “It’s Spain”, and this was to be the day.

First, I didn’t think it that bad. We called up the Internet service provider and discussed the location for my new line and they asked for my identification number, which always strikes me as slightly unnecessary as I am ordering something to my own home which I am very unlikely to run away from, but they do this all the time down here. Then we went on to my bank details so that I could pay the bills, and then they got my VISA card number to pay for the installation. But THEN it got strange. Until then my neighbour had been on the phone and been the mediator, but now this was no longer allowed. First of all, the call was put through to Argentina, where (much like USA and India) Spain employs people for no money to do meaningless things like support. Second, there would now be a recording of the conversation and only I would be allowed to speak on my own behalf – it was all very solemn. I was asked to confirm all manner of formalities before we could proceed with this life-and-death business of ordering an internet connection. At some point I half expected to be asked if I was or had ever been a member of the Communist Party, but I wasn’t.

Well, the conversation begins and first they ask me to confirm my name, which they have no clue as how to pronounce, but I just agree that I am indeed Signor Hrep Groan-burger. Then they ask me to confirm what I am ordering and I have to read my passport number, my address, my contact phone number and my VISA card number out loud – for the record. Then she goes on to reading a document to me of the same length as a disclaimer for a software program that no one ever reads, not even the people who write them. Time just went on and on. She kept telling me about senseless things in a language that I only partially understand, but I was generally very agreeable. I thought, if this official recording is used as an actual legally binding contract then we have in fact saved ourselves a bit of trouble – not having to send a contract to me, and me not having to send it back. But then, something went wrong with the recording and we had to start over – splendid. Armed with patience, I went through the same thing again, and I wasn’t really that upset yet. And 45 delightful minutes later we were done, and she thanked me kindly and said that she would now mail me a contract to sign, that I had to return to Madrid. And this was just too baffling. Why, for the Love of all that is holy, did this unfortunate Argentinian and I just spend the better part of an hour discussing senseless legal mumbo-jumbo that, frankly, none of us understood if it wasn’t binding anyway? What was the point? Someone owed both her and me an hour of our lives back. Something like that can make you feel as though the world is taunting you, it seem incredible that such a thing was ever conceived in it’s stunning idiocy by anyone – and to imagine it actually being carried out… well, it’s Spain, I suppose.

So, who do I turn to for this hour of my life? A clever demon of binding contracts have stolen an hour from the Argentinian woman and myself, but probably only I have really lost anything. I am guessing that if those 45 minutes would be sliced away in the name of efficiency, my friend in Argentina would be out of a job. So, even though she is wasting her time thoroughly, she is getting paid for it. I just lost my time.

Now, I was thinking about how to get it back, and then it dawned on me: if I wrote an entry on my blog about it and had just five people waste nine minutes each on it – then, from a point of view, I would be even. So there, now you go and find someone YOU can steal time from. Preferably from Argentina so that the circle may one day be completed, thank you.

The joy of travel and the search for the Sun

Posted in Unwelcomed notions published for no obvious reason on November 25th, 2009 by Jeppe Grünberger

I have been in Denmark the last week or so, if you wondered where I have been and have missed me terribly. And now I am on my way home from the joys of Autumn Denmark. I was there to participate in my grandmother’s 80th birthday, which was lovely. Conversation just never dies out at a party where so many of the guests can’t remember what they said ten minutes ago. But then I also had to go home again, and for some reason that is just always so much worse than going out.

The first part of my journey was a train ride across the wet, grey desolation that is Denmark at this time of year. Now, the weather is not actually that cold, it really isn’t. But when you are waiting for your train to pull in, the wind will find you, and it will feel like it’s pulling the very life from your helpless flesh. It does not matter how much clothes you put on (but in Denmark you’d better try anyway), it will just tear right through it – dragging your will to live with it. It was also early in the morning, which just made it all that much more enjoyable, but no one knew what time it was anyway. You just can’t tell. The fact is, that when summer is officially over, Denmark is invaded by a layer of low hanging, grey clouds that flood in and hide the sun and sky for six months. It is like God just turned the contrast on his LED TV waaaaay down. The clouds only leave the sky to hurry out to sea and get more water to throw at you.

But, eventually I got into the train and found my seat. And I was soon joined by my companions who were hideously morphed people-walruses. They dragged themselves to their seats and tried to squeeze me out trough the wall. I fought relentlessly for my seat, and to be fair the woman walrus actually did try to contain herself to the natural habitat of her own seat. The male however was the real joy. He was the sort of person who didn’t exactly snoar in waking condition but instead moaned constantly like he was the horny German gardener in a porn-flick. I didn’t mention that fact to him, as his hand was larger than my head. So, he moaned obscenely through our four hour journey to Copenhagen Airport, to my delight. He was later joined in the seat next to him by the tiniest lesbian I have ever seen – and that soothed my pain slightly by relative comparison. I can only imagine the joy a tiny, slender lesbian must feel being squashed up against a huge sweating man-whale who moans constantly like he is having slow, noxious sex. So that really put my suffering into perspective for me.

So now I am waiting for my plane to board at Copenhagen airport. For those who have not been to Copenhagen Airport, it’s a contraption of fancy restaurants, fashion boutiques and jewellery shops exclusively designed to make you feel guilty about not having more money. No matter how much money you actually have. I would post this to my blog right now, if I could afford the price of the Wi-Fi here. But the fact is that it would be cheaper for me to upload it with my mobile phone, and I simply refuse to do either. So I will post it tonight, when I am once again in a country where you can actually tell the difference between early morning and mid day. A place where the sun still exists. So when you read this, I made it back and I am likely to be sleeping.

Something otterly and perhaps utterly useless

Posted in Unwelcomed notions published for no obvious reason on November 2nd, 2009 by Jeppe Grünberger

Monday was back. This time it didn’t sneak up on me but rather jumped right in my face and started yelling. This has made it very hard for me to focus all day. The constant distractions of Monday are spawning the oddest ideas in my head. To give you an impression of just how bad it is, here is an idea that I actually have taken the time to tell you about.

Today I was chatting with a good friend of mine during my lunch break and one of her many periods during the day where she refuses to do her mindless, soul-annihilating job. We were discussing this quote from How I Met Your Mother:

“When you date someone, you’re taking one long course on who that person is, and when you break up, all of that stuff is useless. It’s the emotional equivalent of an English degree.”

And since she has exactly an English degree, she agreed – declaring her utter uselessness. But in the heat of the moment it came out as “otterly useless”, which I felt sure was not exactly correct. Awed by the power of her English degree, though, I thought I had better look it up before pointing the error out to her. A quick googling revealed that the word otterly actually does exist, though it means something different altogether. At least at first inspection.

The word otterly means, of course, exactly the same as humanly – just relative to an otter rather than a human. So things that can be humanly possible, can also be otterly possible or not. For example swimming seems to be otterly possible, while space travel is less so. At the moment at least – you never know. But the misunderstanding started with the phonetic similarity between utterly useless and otterly useless, and that got us thinking about what otterly useless actually means. My friend had said something that wasn’t actually incorrect, but what had she said then?  What did it mean?

Otterly useless must be something that is useless to an otter and as it turns out, if you think about it, almost anything apart from fish and water would be considered otterly useless. What, for example, would an otter do with an iPhone? See? Good. But wait, there’s more!

So, what then is the difference actually between the expressions “utterly useless” and “otterly useless”? Utterly useless is defined by Webster’s to be complete uselessness, but since (as we have just agreed – yes you did, I was there) anything apart from water and fish and perhaps a few other things found in nature would also be considered otterly useless, what is the actual difference? If I said that a thing was utterly useless, it would almost always also be otterly useless – unless I was talking about water and fish, and then I would by all rights be flat wrong in any case. So, as it turns out the sentence “otterly useless” is not only correct in itself, but is also pretty spot on in actuality when used to describe the use of anything also considered utterly useless.

Of course, there are certain drawbacks to using otterly instead of utterly. People may wonder why you are being so specifically otter-related in your assessments of things, but as long as you just say the word without spelling it out to them, you should be okay. Only you will know that you are actually talking about the uses related specifically to an otter and not everything else. It may also make the conversation a lot more entertaining to you than to anyone else involved in it, and it doesn’t seem to lead to any obvious misunderstandings.

So, that was a thought from this Monday for you. And it is very obviously otterly useless, I am yet to decide if it is also utterly useless.

An otter, obviously

An otter, obviously

Monday, spam and how my brother killed my email address

Posted in Unwelcomed notions published for no obvious reason on October 26th, 2009 by Jeppe Grünberger

So it was Monday again. It really shouldn’t keep surprising me that this happens, but somehow the arrival of Monday keeps sneaking up on me. This time my week started with a revisit from an old friend that I had almost forgotten: the porn-spammer. One of the emails in this mornings inbox informed that I was but a single click away from enjoying the virtual company of a delightfully charming, seemingly female character who was hung like a horse. I politely declined, but it got me thinking about a tragedy of my youth: the story of how I lost my first ever email address.

It happened during the end of the nineties in a conflict similar in type, if not in scale, to the Cold War. My older brother and I (being the respective representatives of The Warsaw Pact and NATO of course) were involved in some sort of debate that, for reasons lost in time, caused me to strain the fragile state of truth in our household with a minor threat. I informed my brother that, if he were not careful, I would sign his email up for an online, rather graphic newsletter concerning same-sex relations between young male adults. One must remember that this was a time when spam-filters were about as effective as the American Star Wars defense project of the late 1980s, and that the internet was still something you called on the phone and spoke to in the strange, hizzing and screeching language of modems. So, the prospect of receiving more than a megabyte of imagery concerning dubious subjects involved in explicit physical activities was not altogether pleasant.

My brother, stunned at first by the audacity of my new tactic, soon informed me that there would really be nothing preventing him from returning the favor. Well, no sooner had I invented this new weapon before my adversary caught up and presented the option for total retaliation. So, I thought, it would be back to the drawing board – no reason to actually carry the threat out seeing as neither of us really had any interest in becoming the victim of such a ploy. But alas, my brother and I were still teenagers, and we weren’t ready to manage a conflict of this sensitive type.

So the next day I began receiving emails concerning young ladies whose bust size was rivaled only by the size of their male genitalia. I was rather surprised at this (in many ways), especially since I had not signed my brother up for anything similar yet. Inquiries soon confirmed my suspicions of  a preemptive strike carried out by my brother the evening before, fearing that I would otherwise strike first. Now I had to retaliate, of course, and so the tragedy unfolded with both our email-addresses as innocent casualties.

This story clearly shows two things… well, perhaps not clearly, but then at least remotely. The first is that the world was fortunate not to have me and my brother in charge of the two superpowers of the Cold War. The second is that even though we may have forgotten about the porn-spammer, he has not gone away. He was there when the internet grew up and he will occasionally, like Mondays, return to catch us off guard – reminding us of the sordid truth behind the ever cleaner and more respectable technology called the internet. A truth never expressed better than by the words of this great character:

I’m fairly sure that if they took all the porn off the Internet, there’d only be one website left… and it would be called Bring Back The Porn.” – Dr. Perry Cox