Kris Johnson

  • Hamilton


    We saw Hamilton at Playhouse Square over the weekend. The tickets were our big “family” Christmas present, and we all had a blast. I was reminded of something that happened a few years ago.

    March 6, 2019

    We’re on the way home one evening last week. He’s singing “My Shot” from Hamilton in the back seat.

    “Only nineteen but my mind is older
    These New York City streets get colder, I shoulder
    Ev’ry burden, ev’ry disadvantage
    I have learned to manage, I don’t have a gun to brandish
    I walk these streets famished
    The plan is to fan this spark into a flame…”

    He pauses.

    “Can I have a Tier 1 swear?” he asks. “It’s part of the song.”

    I laugh. How can you not laugh? “Go ahead.”

    “But damn,” he continues, “it’s getting dark, so let me spell out the name,
    I am the
    We are meant to be
    A colony that runs independently.”

    Another pause. “Can I have one more?”

    “Yeah,” I say, chuckling. “Keep going.”

    “Meanwhile, Britain keeps shittin’ on us endlessly.”

    He continues, and I randomly belt out “Her-cu-les Mulligan!”

    He stops. “That part has an f-bomb in it. I’m not comfortable with that.”

    I laugh again, but only on the outside. Inside, I’m crying. For the innocence that remains in him, but is rapidly being eaten up by the world. I want to stop the car. Stop the world. Stop everything and let him be innocent for awhile longer. The highway is flying by at sixty-five miles per hour, but his life is going so, so much faster. So much childhood already behind him; thirteen years and only yesterday he first filled his lungs with air and announced his arrival to the world; only an hour ago he took his first steps; just five minutes ago he climbed on the bus to go to kindergarten.

    Tomorrow: a cell phone, a car, a job, a place of his own, a soulmate. Give me a minute to catch my breath, kid. Slow down. Let today last another few hours.

    Time has stubbornly marched on, as we all knew it would. He’s a junior in high school today. He’s been playing the alto saxophone in the marching band since the summer of 2020 (just a few short months after having surgery on both his Achilles tendons that required he be in casts for six-plus weeks); he had his first job in the summer of 2021; he plays the baritone saxophone in the jazz ensemble; this past fall he was the lead in a play; next month, he’s playing the tenor saxophone in the orchestra pit for a musical; he’s passed the written exam and gotten his temporary driver’s license (we’ve only practiced driving twice, mostly due to his hectic schedule).

    Next week he’ll be seventeen. In a few short months: a high school senior. But he’ll always be two, jamming a cotton swap up my nose to be helpful; he’ll always be five, frowning at me because the line to get into Hogwarts is too long; he’ll always be eight, creating waffle-based superheroes; he’ll always be nine, going to his first concert with me (“Weird Al” Yankovic at Nautica); he’ll always be thirteen, in the backseat of the car, asking if it’s okay to sing “damn,” because it’s part of the song.

    January 13, 2011. Waiting in line at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
    December 31, 2022. Waiting for Hamilton to start at the State Theater in Playhouse Square.
  • How-To: Provide Poor Customer Service (GDS Remix)


    What better way to blow the cobwebs off the ol’ blog than with a recent customer service exchange I had regarding garage doors? None! No better way, I say.

    First, a little background: We hired Garage Door Services (AKA Global Development Strategies, Inc.) to replace our aging garage doors and install an opener (or “operator”) on one. Neither door previously had an opener and one door didn’t like to stay up once opened, so we decided it was about time to give the garage a little love.

    Long story short, we now have one garage door with an opener and one garage door without (which we wanted), and neither has a lock or handle. This isn’t so much a problem with the opener-equipped door, but does present a security and accessibility issue with the door we opted not to install an opener on.

    After some back and forth with a number of people at GDS yesterday, we were told that (a) the salesman who came out to estimate the job was new, and (b) we were on the hook for another $170+ if we wanted them to install a lock on the door.

    Laura first contacted GDS by phone and was told the lock wasn’t on the invoice (an invoice we received via e-mail after the installer left). Prior to calling GDS, I filled out the “contact us” form on their website. What follows is an e-mail exchange with Brandon.

    From: Brandon
    To: Me

    Kris,I contacted Laura yesterday concerning your issue. I researched the recordings and nothing was said about locks being needed on the call . I apologize if the estimator at the time did not suggest that. I listened to your wife’s call and she states that you assumed that locks would come with the door, which is not the case. The price that was given is correct. I was explaining this to your wife when I called her back and explained the part and the special drill we have to get cost extra. I was about to lower the price for you when she abruptly hung up on me. I will stand by the price given on the extra lock if you are not interested in a new motor. Thank you

    Yes, I’ve got a complaint about a missing lock Brandon is trying to sell me an additional garage door opener.

    From: Me
    To: Brandon


    You “apologize if the estimator at the time did not suggest” a lock? There is no “if” here. The lock was never mentioned. Not once. The door your installer removed had a lock on it. We hired you to replace that door. It is not our fault that you do not adequately train your estimators in how to properly sell your products. Your estimator told us we would be getting the two doors replaced, plus an operator with two remotes and a keypad as well as a replacement for our ceiling light fixture to provide power to the operator.

    That last item, by the way, wasn’t delivered either. When I asked your installer about it, he told me it wasn’t on the invoice. It was a six-dollar part at Home Depot, so rather than raise a stink about it, I bought and installed the new light fixture myself.

    When I asked your installer about the lock, though, he didn’t say it wasn’t on the invoice, he said he didn’t have one with him, that he would put it in his work notes and that you would be contacting us to arrange installation. None of that happened.

    What does “replaced” mean to you? If the door being replaced has a lock on it, do you think you could reasonably expect that a replacement for that door would also have a lock on it? I certainly do.

    Yes, my wife hung up on you. Because you were the fourth person we’d talked to about this issue yesterday and your idea of customer service was to blame your installer for being new and talk about a special tool.

    Brandon, your company sells and installs garage doors. If that tool is required in any aspect of garage door installation, IT IS NOT SPECIAL TO YOU.

    Now, unless you’re going to tell me that you are very sorry that your salesman was ill-trained and that GDS takes full responsibility for failing to deliver on what that salesman promised us, we are done.

    From: Brandon
    To: Me

    Bottom line Kris, if there was no mention of the lock then there was no promise for the lock unless you have that in writing. GDS accepts no no responsibility for a lock not being on the door. You can go to Home Depot if you would like and install a T-lock yourself, it will be cheaper for you. If we do it, then it will be $170 +tax. Locks do not come with the doors and there was no order for one on this replacement. Remember that you have to have the correct drill and bit for this and GDS is not responsible for damage to your door. Again if you would like us to install a lock for you then this is the cost.

    Also this is a SPECIAL drill because most clients let us know they need one so we have the manufacturer drill it for us.

    Thank you

    Apparently, in their history of installing garage doors GDS has never once had to drill the hole to install a lock on-site, so to do it now they’ve got to go out and buy a special drill. But never mind that…

    From: Me
    To: Brandon

    Bottom line, Brandon, is that your salesman was poorly trained and GDS, who advertises as “Best Value, Best Guarantee, Best Trained” takes no responsibility for that.

    I wish I’d had the foresight to check GDS in the Better Business Bureau before we called you. That “F” rating has been well-earned, I think, and I don’t suppose one more complaint is going to drive it any lower (you’re already at the bottom) but I can always hope that the complaint I file today will serve as a warning to the next potential GDS customer.

    I don’t know how Valpak responds to complaints, but they’ll be getting one too.

    There is no need to contact us any further.

    Yes, I should have checked BBB before we called these guys, and perhaps Valpak isn’t the best referral source in the world; hindsight is 20/20.

    So, we’re done here, right? Not quite.

    From: Brandon
    To: Me

    Your going to file a complaint because you didn’t have the foresight to ask for what you wanted.

    Oh, Brandon. You didn’t.

    From: Me
    To: Brandon


    You are mistaken in several respects:

    1. It’s not “Your going to file a complaint…” it’s “You’re going to file a complaint…” It’s a contraction of “you are,” not an indication of possession.
    2. I’m not going to file “a complaint,” I’m going to file TWO complaints; one to the Better Business Bureau and one to Valpak.
    3. Despite your repeated attempts to ignore it, this is about your salesman’s failure to do his job correctly, your failure to train your salesman to do his job correctly, and your failure to take responsibility for either of those things.

    It is not my responsibility to know what comes with a garage door. For all I know, the rails and springs and all other hardware are separate invoice items. Your salesman’s responsibility is to inform me of how much what I ask him to deliver (i.e., a replacement door) will cost me. If the existing door has features that are not included with the new door, then it is your salesman’s responsibility to inform me of those features and any costs associated with them.

    Now, I know that your salesman was at least partially aware of his responsibility in this respect. How do I know? Well, our old doors had windows in them. Your salesman explained that the new doors do not come with windows but that we could get windows if we wanted to pay more for them. We opted not to do that, and so our new doors do not have windows. This is not a surprise to us, because we were informed of it ahead of time. You’ll note that I did not say “we asked about the windows,” because we didn’t have to: it was a feature the old doors had that the new doors would not and your salesman brought it to our attention without prompting.

    While he was on the topic of “Features The Old Doors Have That Are Not Included With The New Doors,” your salesman could have mentioned locks, but he did not. This is not a failure in foresight on my part, Brandon, it is a failure of your salesman to do his job properly.

    Again, there is no need to contact us further.

    Brandon appears to have opted out of further contact, but should he elect to pursue things further I may update this post.

  • I’m 9 for 10 on backing Kickstarter projects, and thus far I’ve been pretty lucky as far as reward fulfillment goes: I reserved my Ouya username, received some Goon digital comics, my copy of Project Ninja Panda Taco is on a bookshelf upstairs, Matthew Wayne Selznick’s Pilgrimage is on my Kindle (I expect my physical copy to arrive any day now), and Shadowrun Returns should be installed on my PC by this time tomorrow.

    One more project has promised reward delivery this year and then I’ll have to wait until various points in 2014 and beyond for the other three.

    Promotional sticker for The Doom That Came To Atlantic City
    Promotional sticker for The Doom That Came To Atlantic City

    Hopefully, none of them will turn into the train wreck that is The Doom That Came To Atlantic City!, a board game that not only met its $35,000 funding goal, but more than tripled it. More than 1,200 backers pledged over $120,000 to this Cthulhu/Monopoly mashup a year ago, and yesterday the campaign creator 1Actually would-be publisher The Forking Path. Keith Baker and Lee Moyer, designers of The Doom That Came To Atlantic City!, did not create the Kickstarter campaign. announced that the game had been canceled.

    The backers—some of whom were surprised that their money was spent on an ill-fated attempt to “launch a new board game company” rather than simply covering manufacturing costs of a game that had been in development for the better part of two decades—are understandably upset. The video and all other material on the Kickstarter campaign page focus on getting The Doom That Came To Atlantic City! printed; nowhere is “launch a new board game company” mentioned. The comments section of the “Terminus” update is filled with information on how to file a fraud complaint depending upon where you live.

    More than 400 people pledged $100 or more to fund The Doom That Came To Atlantic City! Updates from The Forking Path in late 2012 gave the impression that the game was at the printer in China. What went wrong? The details are vague, to say the least, but Erik Chevalier, who appears to be the sole voice of The Forking Path has promised a detailed post-mortem and has made a pledge to return backers’ money out of his own pocket. Rights to The Doom That Came To Atlantic City! have reverted to Baker and Moyer, who have offered (in a statement on Baker’s blog) to make a print-and-play version of the game available to Kickstarter backers as soon as possible.

    I didn’t back The Doom That Came To Atlantic City!, but thanks to its implosion I am now more aware than ever of the $120+ “investment” I’ve made across four projects that, collectively, raised more than $5 million and hoping that the next update I see in my inbox won’t be one of those trains derailing.

    One failed project (no matter how spectacularly or heinously it fails) doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on Kickstarter as a whole (they’ve gotten some other less-than-wonderful press in the past couple of months), but that won’t stop me from thinking long and hard the next time my cursor hovers over that “Back This Project” button.

    1 Actually would-be publisher The Forking Path. Keith Baker and Lee Moyer, designers of The Doom That Came To Atlantic City!, did not create the Kickstarter campaign.
  • URL Alphabet Soup


    For no reason whatsoever, I present a list of the websites that Chrome (my web browser of choice) presents when I type in each letter of the alphabet.

    A is for Amazon. Probably the site I visit most, whether I’m listening to music on the Cloud Player, shopping for Android apps, renting movies, buying ebooks, or even shopping for actual, physical stuff that will be shipped to me in a box, Amazon is a one-stop shop for emptying my wallet.

    B is for Bukkit. Home of CraftBukkit, which is some kinda Minecraft thing.

    C is for Concur Solutions. I occasionally use this for expense reporting.

    D is for (Google) Drive. The new home of Google Docs, which I use for documents and stuff. You know, spreadsheets.

    E is for Wikipedia. I’ve gotten in the habit of typing “” to bypass the Wikipedia landing page and get straight to the English version.

    F is for Words With Friends, I mean Facebook. Yeah.

    G is for GameServers. The Olde Fartz, my online gaming group, rents Halflife 2 Deathmatch and Minecraft servers here.

    H is for HoNoToGroABeMo. How Not To Grow A Beard Month, home of Beards4Boobs, where we are currently (if you’re reading this in November) growing beards and raising money for breast cancer research.

    I is for IMDb. I look up information about movies, television shows and actors. A lot. No surprise there.

    J is for Google, which means I don’t visit sites that start with J.

    K is for Kickstarter. Crowd funding! What have I funded? Project Ninja Panda Taco, Pilgrimage and The Goon, for…starters.

    L is for Least I Could Do. Finally, a webcomic! This one isn’t safe for the kiddies. But it’s funny.

    M is for (Google) Maps. Because I really don’t trust our old, outdated, off-brand GPS.

    N is for Netflix. The last thing I watched: Denjin Zabôgâ: Gekijô-ban.

    O is for Onion. America’s finest (satirical) news source.

    P is for (Google) Plus. Google does social networking.

    Q is for Questionable Content. Another webcomic! Also not safe for the kiddies. Hmm, am I sensing a trend?

    R is for Raw Story. A news site, I guess. Really? I’m sure I must have gone there once during the election hubbub, but…really?

    S is for Star Wars. Specifically, Star Wars Reads Day, which Kyle and I attended in at the Perry Public Library last month.

    T is for (Google) Translate. My dad posts stuff on Facebook in Suomi (Finnish), and if it’s not profanity I need some help with translation.

    U is for Upworthy. Some kind of social media/news thing, I guess.

    V is for Google, which helpfully suggests Verizon Wireless.

    W is for Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library. I’ve entered my library card number enough times that I’ve got in memorized.

    X is for Xbox. Because a certain young apprentice might want to play a demo fo the latest LEGO game.

    Y is for YouTube. Minecraft tutorials! Gangnam style! Crazy Star Wars-themed music videos!

    Z is for Google, which isn’t really surprising, since the only “Z” website I can think of off the top of my head is Zillow, and I’m not in the market for a house.

  • The Taken Trailers


    I enjoyed Liam Neeson kicking hectares of ass in Taken and I’m sure the sequel will ramp the action up even higher, but let’s be honest: even the trailer feels a bit like a rerun.

    Here’s a snippet of dialog from the trailer for Taken (2008):
    Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) on a cell phone to his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace): “Now, the next part is very important: they are going to take you.”

    And here’s a bit from the trailer for Taken 2 (2012):
    Bryan Mills on a cell phone to his daughter: “Listen to me carefully, Kim: your mother is gonna be taken.”

    I think I see where this is going.

    Taken 3 (2016)
    Bryan Mills on a cell phone to his daughter: “Kim, this is important: they’re going to take the dog…to a puppy farm upstate.”

    Taken 4 (2020)
    Bryan Mills on a cell phone to his daughter: “Listen, Kim: they’re going to take your order; make sure to get me a Diet Coke, and your mom wants onion rings instead of fries.”

    Taken 5 (2025)
    Bryan Mills on a cell phone to his daughter: “Julie…I mean, Kim…take the f$&%ing elephant!”

  • Not so fast, buddy.


    "Anna at the not so express lane" by redjar
    Photo by redjar

    I was in the express checkout line at Target with two items: a tire pressure gauge and a pair of kids’ swim goggles. The store was packed; all other checkout lines were full of people. There were only two customers in front of me. I thought all was well…

    …and then the cashier asked whether the guy at the front of the line would be interested in signing up for a Target credit card.

    The guy said, sure, he’d love to sign up for a Target credit card.

    The cashier needed to see the guy’s driver’s license.

    The guy needed to enter his annual income on the keypad. The cashier guided him through the process, explaining that he should just enter what he thought, in his opinion, he was bringing in a year.

    The cashier explained the privacy policies; he went over which data would and would not be retained by the store.

    The cashier explained how the credit card works—that payment must be made within 25 days of receiving the bill.

    The were still there, processing the guy’s credit application—in the express checkout line—when I moved to the other express checkout line…only to be told by the cashier there that she was closing her register.

    They were still there, processing the guy’s credit application—in the express checkout line—when I checked out at the photo counter.

    They were still there, processing the guy’s credit application—in the only open express checkout line—when I left the store with my two items.

  • Spider on My Head: Day 7


    If I’ve learned anything from seven days of spiders on my head, it’s that I probably wouldn’t have a head after the eighth day. And while I’m sure an illustration of my decapitated corpse might appeal to someone—this is the Internet, after all—it’s not likely to be anyone who reads this blog with any regularity.

    Art by Natalie Metzger (AKA, The Fuzzy Slug). Many, many thanks to Natalie for turning my silly whim into…not reality, but perhaps surreality. As always, click the image for added embiggaliciousness.


    FUN FACT: Just as the spider in today’s illustration is watching me, there is probably a spider watching you right now. Watching you with eight eyes. Tell me that doesn’t make you just a little bit paranoid.

  • Spider on My Head: Day 6


    In the nearly nine years they’ve been living at the International House of Johnson, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have not proven to be especially effective spider hunters; they are, at best, inconsistent. I can recall one occasion when one of the cats (Rosie, I believe) cornered a spider and “played” with the arachnid until it expired. There was a rather unenthusiastic attempt at consuming the recently-deceased, but apparently spiders don’t taste very good and I ultimately had to dispose of the corpse myself. Since that day, I’ve seen eight-legged intruders trundle across the floor inches away from one cat or the other, in full view and yet completely ignored.

    It should come as no surprise, then, that the cat sleeping behind me in today’s illustration displays nary a hint of the predator-prey instinct, nor any sort of compulsion to protect its master from enormous, hideously-befanged arachnid horror.

    Art by Natalie Metzger (AKA, The Fuzzy Slug). Click to embiggenize.


    FUN FACT: I can only assume that The Bosom & The Bacon (a) was written by Jane Austen, is (b) an immediate sequel to Pride & Prejudice, and (c) features Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet Darcy in a rather ribald kitchen scene that at least partially inspired the film 9 1/2 Weeks. I would totally read this novel. In hardcover. Twice.

  • Spider on My Head: Day 5


    I think it’s safe to say that the tenuous link between reality and fantasy has been severed in today’s illustration. I mean, when was the last time Important Stuff—even as an abstract—was discussed in a meeting?

    Art by Natalize Metzger (AKA, The Fuzzy Slug). Click for embiggory.


    FUN FACT: Spiders are not my Apex Phobia. I believe they rank 3rd, overall. Immediately above spiders: heights. At the very top of the list: losing my glasses. I don’t even know if there’s a proper -phobia name for that.

  • Spider on My Head: Day 4


    I read once that you are never more than three feet from a spider, which seems entirely plausible in my case but is actually another spider myth. Today’s spider is large enough to pose a real threat…to my sandwich. It’s bad enough that the thing is an eight-legged denizen of my worst nightmares, now I have to worry about it stealing my lunch, too.

    Art by Natalie Metzger (AKA, The Fuzzy Slug). Click for the embiggening.


    FUN FACT: I don’t eat cold Swiss cheese, so that bit of hole-riddled stuff sticking out of my sandwich is something else entirely.