Diary of a Mad County

Wednesday, March 2 UC Irvineis a top-flight center of learning and research, but I'd sure hate to have to clean it. The serviceworkerswho do are joined by students and community leaders today in a rally in front of the school's administration building after a report by the NationalEconomicDevelopmentandLawCenterfinds that 50 percent of the workers don't earn enough to support themselves. UCI pays just $8.91 per hour as a starting wage for a senior custodian, making it next to impossible for workers to cover rent, food and other basic needs. On the bright side, the wage has been a boom to UCI economics students who've been able to study the effects of poverty up close and personal. What's more—or less—is that UCI is far below what even local community colleges pay. For instance, custodians get $13.38 at Rancho Santiago and $13.91 at South Orange County community colleges, though it should be noted that those custodians have to clean up a lot more discarded anti-zionist pamphlets as well as deal with students less adept at eating with utensils. It's uncertain how the low pay will affect the image of UCI, which aspires to be the Harvard of the West Coast, but the fact that some have already taken to calling it UC Wal-Mart can't help.

Thursday, March 3 For reasons no one can quite understand, the Armyannounces today that it signed up 27 percent fewer recruits than it wanted in February. This follows another puzzling announcement by the Marinesthat they, too, have missed their recruiting target numbers for the past two months. Whatever could be the matter? One Army-recruiting spokesman, thinking outside the box, says the problem may actually be the ongoing victory parade that is Iraq.“The war is obviously having an effect,” says DouglasSmith,continuing the armed forces' charming tradition of understatement when it comes to the cessation of human life, having in the past come up with such quaint terms for death as “collateral damage,” “friendly fire,” “shock and awe,” and “we'll give you money to pay for college.” Smith said his recruiters are seeing more “hesitation on the part of potential applicants and their families. People are very alert to the fact of the risks that go along with Army service.” And that's just the food. Though talk about Iraq seems to center more on political machinations these days, the fact is that soldiers are dying at an ever-increasing rate. Consider the Pentagon'sannouncement this week that American deaths have now reached 1,500 in Iraq. It took 295 days to reach the 500 mark, 242 days to reach 1,000 and a lightning-quick 177 to get to 1,500. So, in summation, we have more American soldiers dying with fewer Americans signing up to take their places, while we seem bent on fighting just about any country that doesn't adopt our national anthem. Who wants some of this? Iran? Syria? Togo? Anybody feel a draft?

Friday, March 4 Speaking of shooting kids, gun manufacturer Jimenez Armsis planning on opening shop in Nevada. You may remember Jimenez as the former BrycoArmsof Costa Mesa, a company that was put out of business—we thought—when a seven-year-old boy was paralyzed after accidentally being shot by a defectively designed Bryco gun, though some would argue the gun did exactly what a gun was designed to do. That was 10 years ago, and the boy, BrandonMaxfield,received a $24 million court judgment against Bryco that plunged the company into bankruptcy. Maxfield had planned to buy the company in court and then put it out of business, but his plans were foiled by PaulJimenez,who bid $510,000 to Maxfield's $505,000. A lot of people thought the sale was kind of strange given that Jimenez was just an employee of Bryco—say this for Bryco, they may have peddled in human misery, but they paid better than UCI. It later came out that Jimenez had been given $430,000 by Bryco's former owner JaniceJenningsto make the purchase. Now, Jimenez says he'll move his company to Nevada because of the “regulations here in California,” one of those regulations being the draconian policy against shooting seven-year-old kids. Impressed by Nevada's pro-suffering business model, Jimenez plans on opening a plant in Henderson, just outside Las Vegas. He chose the spot for its close proximity to desperation and, CSInotwithstanding, the state's longstanding tradition of lawlessness so humorlessly trumpeted in TV commercials. Jimenez was also impressed at Nevada's almost total lack of safety tests for guns. When the company was still called Bryco, its JA-9 model was tested in California by three state-certified labs and failed each time. That won't happen in Nevada, where state regulators spend most of their time certifying whorehouses and all-you-can-eat waffle bars.

Saturday, March 5 Matt Cokerfinds himself shopping for tile today; shopping for tile being something you do in that time between ceasing to have a life and when you officially “die.” Another is shopping for couches and big chairs while saying things like “I think we should go with a neutral color in the couch, and we can dress it up or down with throw pillows. Oh, by the way, could someone please kill me? That would be great.” Anyway, Coker, unburdened by hope, is shopping as he overhears a woman talking to a saleslady in one of the pricier stores along Anaheim's Tile Mile. “The challenge,” she says, “is that I have a very small house. It's only 5,700 square feet.”

Sunday, March 6 My apologies to Coker. I have just spent the weekend filling up my minivan three times with gas as I shuttled children to Little League games and volleyball tournaments and my wife to myriad furniture stores to look and sit upon couches and big chairs. I spend $2.27 per gallon on Saturday and $2.33 on Sunday. Uh, to all the people who are talking about a Bush boom,yeah, shut the hell up. The guy who takes my money today says to wait for summer, “when it's going to get really bad.”

Monday, March 7 Remember all the outrage when the Anaheim Angelschanged their name to the LosAngelesAngels?“Oh, we're not going to buy tickets, and we're not going to support a team that's not named Anaheim.” Yeah, well, the Angels announced today that all that outrage has translated into them already selling 2.3 million tickets. That's more than the other LA team, which sold about 2 million. What's more, the Angels have sold 26,000 season tickets, an increase of 1,000 from last year and about 4,000 more than the Dodgers. The numbers might give the city of Anaheim pause about going forward with its plans to take the team to court over the name change. The city, as of Jan. 31, had already spent more than $200,000 on legal bills that only figure to skyrocket. The numbers prompted Angel owner ArteMorenoto thank fans while inviting the AnaheimCityCouncilto “go make me a sandwich.”

Tuesday, March 8 We went with the light-brown couch and a chair and ottoman with a matching pattern that also draws in the couch. The couch is very comfortable, especially for me, since I'm no longer weighted down by a soul.


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