Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tele-visionary Peers

I am way past keeping up with the Jones’. No really, I had real neighbors named that. Their house was always bigger, their stuff was always newer - they were the CLASSY neighbors. These types of folks are the first ones on the block to get the best stuff like a ‘projection’ TV. We on the other hand were moving up from a 12 inch portable to an incredibly HUGE and heavy 31” tube television. The family had watched the little TV for about two weeks after our previous 27” version had broken.

I had tried to put up with the small TV since nobody watched it that much anyway. It has only been the last few years that we have even had more than ONE TV in our house. Now except for guest rooms, we also never place TV’s in our bedrooms since they distract from sleeping. But I think it was a Star Wars movie being shown on network television one weekend that prompted the purchase of that last and biggest tube tele.

So a few years later, the Jones’ had moved away and we made room for our first attempt at a 55” projection TV. It was the “newest thing” in television too but a high definition converter box was an optional accessory. Since this was before mandatory digital TV and we did not have cable, it was unneeded anyway. Now I think we are fairly ‘state-of-the-art’ when all of a sudden the all digital flat screen TV’s become all the rage. Whew, this is already getting tiring and expensive. We had to do some remodeling around a fireplace and my daughter chastised me for not putting in a TV alcove for a flat screen even though we did not own one. Deciding it would be a good idea for OTHER people if not for us, I went back and tore out the wall above the fireplace and put in the box ‘just in case’.

Of course, if you EVER make the mistake of framing and finishing an alcove for a TV, then you had better expect that your family will INSIST on a TV to put in the space. So now I am on my 3rd new television just in the last few years. Probably in the span of my whole life prior to this time, I had only owned a total of 2 or 3 televisions. This new 50” LCD flat screen has it all – 1080p, HDMI, and of course all digital but the rub is we STILL don’t have cable or satellite because nobody watches television seriously.

Now I keep seeing ads for this NEW 3D television technology and I have to admit, Jones’ or no Jones’, I kind of think that would make for a very engaging experience – evening newscasts in 3D? I do not know much about these devices but as I understand it they use ‘electronic’ glasses which are at extra cost for more than $100 each? Supposedly even the Masters golf tourney is being offered on some cable systems in 3D too. I have not been to one yet, but many movies in the theater are now shot in 3D, so maybe these new TV’s will be best for a Home Theater environment? Maybe if I get one of these fancy 3D TV’s, MY neighbors will finally look up to me as a peer and want to keep up with my trend-setting ways! No, that won’t happen – at least not until I get one of those fancy rabbit ear antennas with the big plastic concave dish in between. Yeah, now THAT’s Classy!

Mean MOW green

Well this is it, the time of the year which I genuinely fear – the time to MOW the lawn. I know that sounds kind of wimpy but you have to understand my yard. I have one of those unique patches of mud that grows more weeds than blades of grass. In addition to that, it rolls and undulates and has a big hill at one end. It is too big for an ordinary mower but too small and hilly for a rider.

Honestly it is not my fault. The deer wander around all winter like it’s Disneyland, repeatedly stomping the ground when it’s wet and muddy. What passes for grass, basically get pounded into a pocked mark landscape more resembling the moon than a yard. I even had the ground tested to explain my yard problems and they said my soil is Loess (prn. LUSS)? What the heck is Loess? It is basically a soil that erodes very easily and drains well. It can be very fertile with the right conditions but it’s fussy to get the balance just right . The problem is that it is always changing and depositing new soil from up the hill so constant enriching is required to keep up with the pattern.

But if I fertilize the grass, it GROWS and then I have to CUT IT more often. It is the same with water. The more water I put down, the grass always demands I cut it more. I guess I appreciate the exercise but during the peak of Spring and Summer, the grass will need cutting nearly twice per week. As already described, this is not a 20 minute fast-cut and to do it right takes a couple of hours. To exacerbate the issue, we have those odd-ball wild onion shoots that pop up at random. The lawn looks particularly disheveled anyway, but once those random dandelions, onions, and mushrooms start joining the party, the whole property starts looking like an unshaven garden salad after a frat party.

I have been down the path of a perfect lawn so I know what it takes. I tilled a smaller lawn, enriched it, seeded, and waited. Some unknown marauder drove doughnut circles with his car around it and made me paranoid. I re-seeded and the thing grew in perfectly. I was so proud of my new lawn I would cut it in TWO directions diagonally so the sun would hit the blades just right. I have also had a place that had ALL rock around it. It is fine, but I never quite get used to all that rock. It still needs maintenance to remove leaves and push the rocks back in their place. Also I still get this uncontrollable urge to start throwing them. Why? - because they are ROCKS!

So every year around this time, I start thinking about my only two remaining options – painting the grass or putting in artificial turf. Painting has become very popular with so many under-maintained foreclosure properties in the West. Artificial turf (or maybe just a putting green) is pricey but boy it would be fun to NOT CUT. However, I cannot imagine the obscenities that the deer would do on top of the turf nor the disrespect by the moles below? Nature never means well, it is just plain MEAN – well except for those wild onions and mushrooms on top of a tasty GREEN salad.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Newsworthy Circus of the Stars!

Every night around 6 O’clock our ‘short attention span’ broadcast news fulfills their expected obligations to report the day’s political hub-bub and touch on a war or two. Somewhere in the world, people will get hurt by either a natural disaster or better yet (by mass media standards) a man-made mess. A big weather event always grabs a few seconds of air time which regardless of source, will invariably track back to ‘global climate change’. But showing America’s distinct bi-polar tendencies, the main attraction hog of every newscast circus these days, is celebrity marriage foibles and daily crisis updates, akin to that usually reserved for disasters like the Katrina mess.

You would think in these tough times that the American consumer would cut back a bit on the mind-numbing Hollywood ‘3-ring’ prattle? I thought we as a nation were on the brink of disaster with economic excesses looming and REAL problems overshadowing the ‘big top’ draw? Yet every night, Americans get the incredible opportunity to sit through 4 or 5 minutes of ‘important updates’ on the state of Tiger Wood’s marriage. A typical network news broadcast feed is only 22 minutes long without commercials. So I guess that tells us that nearly 25% of our collective focus should ‘step right up’ to see famous people like Woods (the man of many faces) who screws up over and over again but suddenly feels ‘sorry’ when caught? Wow, what a unique freak show?

If that is not bad enough, how many escapist ‘insider’ type news rags do you have to walk past in the grocery store when you check out? Thank goodness our kids still grab for the racks of ‘wholesome’ impulse candy in those aisles, but do you? I believe just on broadcast systems alone, there are now at least 3 daily “Hollywood” gossip/news shows on the air – ‘Extra’, ‘Access Hollywood’, and ‘TMZ’. Not to mention the explosion of specialty cable shows and of course buckets of internet drivel ala ‘Perez Hilton’ et al. Yes, as ‘oh so modern’ and hip we think ourselves to be, apparently the nation is actually channeling the 1940’s ‘old school’ sideshow mavens of gossip, Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper for ‘hard’ news now.

Don’t get me wrong, if nothing else I’m a capitalist; so if somebody is buying this stuff, then I fully support the principle that folks like P.T. Barnum (or Hannum) , have a duty to sell it. But what bugs me most, is the media’s insatiable lethargy to report, re-report, and re-report AGAIN, upon each other’s Holly & Tiger Woods exploits? Is there not anything else in this ‘world circus’ that’s going on of REAL importance? Oh of course not – why would I ever think that? One can only hope that eventually all of this gossipy hot air will build-up and billow into one giant ‘global climate changing’ vacuous cloud. Then we might finally address our nation’s catatonia with some truly meaningful, ‘ozone-depleting’, REAL ‘Tiger-gas’ news for a change. But only for a few minutes mind you – it’s not good business to miss the birthdays of all those SUCKERS!

Air Show Memories

Even before our family got heavily involved in general aviation, we would pack up the clan and head out to some airfield in search of thrills and excitement that only aircraft at close quarters can provide. There are two types of air shows, the more County -Fair driven community events that would have lots of craft vendors and miscellaneous entertainment; and the ‘aviation centered’ military shows.

I prefer to head out to some military base to view one of their air show extravaganzas. These are always the ultra-patriotic events that give the public an opportunity to see what their taxes are paying for (at least in military hardware). These shows tend to be a bit louder and more bombastic as jets cut through the air at low level and show off their technology and proud pilots. If you are fortunate, the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, or other performance aircraft ‘aerobatic’ teams might be on the program for a half hour of unbelievably precision flying tricks.

I like any chance to see airplanes. They are amazingly simple machines in a lot of ways but the elegance of watching any kind of flying object, aircraft or toy, is a pleasure beyond words. What I HATE about airplanes, and particularly high performance aircraft, is they are built for raw power, not noise abatement. So anytime we attend an air show, we carry several sets of those little cone wavy-shaped yellow ear-plugs. These things are great. They are so portable, I will stick them in my wallet until needed. They are made of some type of memory foam or ‘spongy-something’ that collapses and then form fits to any ear, effectively blocking out excessive noise.

I remember that Edwards Air Force Base in California had put on a fantastic show. My favorite part had been a B1 bomber that flew just a hundred feet above the ground in excess of 600 miles an hour. Just as it passed the audience, the huge plane instantly turned skyward 90 degrees and rocketed its magical disappearance into the atmosphere. It was incredible display of aviation perfection, and INCREDIBLY loud, so we all donned our nifty foamy ear plugs.

Before we left Edwards we bought a large bag of popcorn. It was a tad stale after sitting in the sun all day but actually very delicious as a snack for the trip home. The next morning I was in a hurry to clean the van up from the trip. When travelling with the full crew, invariably things get dropped and tossed so I quickly grabbed and gathered up the leftovers throughout the van. The dome light was on and the garage was dimly lit but I deftly spied on my kid’s seat, a couple of kernels of that tasty popcorn. It just sat there begging to be consumed. I thought – “what the heck – they had not touched the van floor, and hey - I’m not proud; why waste anything?” Nobody sane was around to logically protest, so I popped those pale yellow kernels into my mouth anxious to remember the buttery splendor from the previous day. Unhappily, I savored the rubbery bounce of my kid’s YUMMY, spongy ear plugs. Yes as you may have guessed, I prefer ‘quieter’ county fair type air shows these days and the only kernels I eat in a ‘jiffy’ are hatched from a microwave.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Banks ‘suck’

Oh I’m so sorry to engage in yellow journalism by drawing you in with a sensationalist headline. Ordinarily I would self-edit especially when utilizing such teenage vernacular, however today it just seemed to fit perfectly. I am not actually unhappy with my bank at all, as I was referring to those ancient but efficient pneumatic carrier tubes at your typical bank’s multi-lane drive-up teller bays.

As any kid with a straw knows, the physics here is not that earthshaking, yet I have always been fascinated with the function of those pneumatic tube systems. I guess it harkens back to my dreams and wonderment when Star Trek’s crew would dissolve upon transporter pads and instantaneously show up unharmed somewhere else. I watched this tube delivery process again recently while the bank prepared some documents for me. The cylinders holding checks and bank slips would fly into the tellers workstation, then just as quickly back out to the cars with cash or receipts. It is all so fast, magical, and seemingly flawless. Most people associate the process with a vacuum (ergo the “sucking”) but in fact, most tube systems function through a series of compressed air BLOWERS and diverters to get the job done.

I hailed down a bank manager and pointed to the tube system and asked “ Do they ever get stuck?” He said “they do” from time to time, but “never anything that a full load of heavy coins can’t shove out”. I commented that the basic principle of operation had not changed in forty years and he quipped that the bank’s technology ‘felt’ that old sometimes too.

When I returned home, I researched the history of pneumatic tube transport technology. I was surprised that the first ‘modern use’ pneumatic delivery system in the U.S. was documented in 1940. However, the idea of transporting humans in a subway of sorts went back to 1865. The genus of the modern ‘cash carrier’ using compressed air to move the tubes, was patented in 1875 by D. Brown, and later perfected by an inventor named Martin for widespread use in 1882.

Today pneumatic tube transport technology is alive and thriving in the computer age. Specialty firms such as PEVCO exist only to help large organizations design and maintain computerized blowers to move documents and material that weigh as much as 6 pounds and at a remarkably fast 17 miles per hour. So the next time you are banking, shopping at a warehouse club, or visiting a sick friend at a major hospital, look around. You may really love and appreciate all of those institutions but now you can declare with confidence -“they DON’T suck, but boy do they sure BLOW”!

Take a short walk

You know that funk you get into at the end of the day when you’ve been locked in your office or house without ever venturing outside for a breath of fresh air? It may be more of a Midwest or desert community phenomena, since opening windows in those environments often means venting undue humidity or dust. But in the Spring or Fall, I have little excuse to hide away behind a computer terminal all day – yet sadly I do, all too often.

It is not that I am averse to walking, I actually quite enjoy the activity though I don’t prefer walking oval tracks repeatedly. I have done several Komen 5K runs and when my kid used to take violin lessons twice per week, I would walk neighborhoods, explore, and kick rocks for distance, like a youngster while waiting. It was a quiet time for myself and my thoughts. I remember walking in the dark, the snow, the rain – even hail until I made it under a highway overpass. I enjoy looking for curious things of interest, both man and nature-made at the edge of the road or sidewalk. It reminds me of all the ‘little’ stuff we just throw away, ignore and in a real sense ‘miss’ when flying by in an automobile or school bus at 40 miles per hour. So much to see, smell, and experience beyond cars; yet all too often, the artificial world crowds out all senses with blaring radios, air conditioning, and endless closed-window distractions.

Tonight, my wife came home and exclaimed “ What a pretty day – we need to walk!” So we purchased a pair of fresh hot sandwiches and headed for an enormous lake park near our home. We shared the meal at a picnic table near the edge of the lake. Many other people were running, biking, rollerblading, and walking with dogs and children. As we talked, I could not think of a better way to cap off the day. We walked and talked and the time melted away effortlessly. It felt good to be free of my self-imposed confinement and released into the air, sun and breeze.

So if you find yourself grinding endlessly through a project, or your eyes are blurry from staring at your laptop - get a clue! You cannot live a quality life sandwiched in-between a man-made maze of wood, plaster, and glass. Heed the ultimate Zen teachings of pedestrian authority, your kid’s Crossing Guard – Stop, Look, and Listen. As soon as it’s safe, he’ll rotate that oversized sign and kindly encourage you to take a short walk.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Goodbye Freshman

Well quite a marker is coming up very soon. Yes, my kid will have completed her inaugural year away from home at college. Although it is a contradiction, it feels like it has been such a long COSTLY year, while at the same time, I cannot believe how fast it has all passed. I guess that is why college is not only an adventure for the students but for the parents as well?

Like any new experience, all of us were hyper-curious about every feeling, nuance, and impression during the first days of college. None of us knew what to expect though at 1000 miles away, one thing was for sure - there was no instantaneous lifeline. My wife and I had waited nearly a decade to have but one child so we were pretty sure we could handle the empty nest thing. As for the kid, she has grown up amazingly responsible and independently capable despite her youth.

Eight months later, we are all a little ‘less curious’ about what each day and the day after that will feel like and shape up to be. It is not that we don’t care, but in reality it becomes the act of simply ‘living life’. As we reach adulthood, it is that tempering of feeling which makes business and society predictable and tolerable. If the impetuousness and volatile spiking of hot and cold emotion and energy were to continue beyond the teen years for us all, then the world would be a very different place.

So soon in our family, we will be saying 'goodbye' to a Freshman and in a very real sense, hello to a freshly minted adult. There is still much to learn and as parents we (of course) will STILL have lots to say since we are still covering the bills. But I am very curious to observe and report on this strange metamorphosis, especially with this ‘new person’ living in my house for a couple of months. I guess I had better get ready for yet ANOTHER adventure huh? Of this I’m sure, the good times will continue to pass at break-neck speed, and the mundane will simply STOP the passage of time. See I can be taught – maybe I should head back to college?

Belt-free ‘Cell-u-lar”

I have always tried to embrace technology changes willingly as long as they don’t hang on my belt. As an old dog, for the most part, I think the ‘gee whiz’ tricks of the new fangled devices are generally more helpful to others than to me. I have been happy with smaller and cheaper computers as they have become ever more sophisticated, portable, and a help in my daily life. However, the 'do all' cell phone seems to be the big 'tech-Kahuna' as compared to computers for now. That is interesting considering the fact that unlike computers, phone service costs seem to be getting more expensive all the time? I just don't get the whole bluetooth permanent cellular phone attached to my head thing anyway. Though, by just saying the whole word “Cell-u-lar” instead of “Cell”, I think I have lost all ‘street-cred’ on this topic already?

Part of my problem is that I am sensitive now because most folks make fun of my old tiny Nokia cell phone. In its day, it was the best that TRACFONE had and I still like it because it fits INSIDE my pocket. Yes I said it, I am the one guy left that uses TracFone. It is not a great service, nor is it bad – it just does what I need it to do most of the time and that is be “ON”. It does receive text messages for free which is nifty, and honestly for an occasional user like me, it is a bargain at a tenth the monthly cost of a modern Smart phone. I know it doesn't forecast weather or translate Spanish, or tell me how to mix drinks, but it does have a built in flashlight and that's enough for me to see the light.

Now I have never found a great need to be on the phone at all times even when they were tethered to my desk. I do appreciate cell phones greatly and the feeling they provide of safety and security in emergencies. I remember always being frustrated to have to carry a pager and a pocket full of dimes, in search of the dying corner pay phone. I at least had moved to a pager WATCH which would have impressed Dick Tracy, but without pay phones, what was the point?

So what is the next big high tech thing that I must soon embrace? I will tell you right now, it had better not clip on my belt. No matter if it is a pager, cell, gps, or pedometer, if it is on my belt, I will catch it on stuff and it will break. I would rather they glue something to my elbows or stick a tracking device under my neck-fat like a dog, before add one more thing to my “bat-belt” of electronic accessories. Hmmm, maybe THAT’S IT! Maybe we should take the next ‘BIO logical’ step in the advancement of real CELLULAR phone technology at the blood level? I’m on board with the idea as long as when the phone rings, my foot won’t wag like a happy old dog getting his back scratched.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Volunteers are tickled by 'Frickles'

Pretty much the way my life has gone for close to the last 30 years, is my wife starts off on some new charity project which requires large quantities of volunteers, and I get ‘included’. I’m not complaining actually, because as I look back, it’s those experiences that have woven a great deal of richness and color in my life’s basic blanket. Yes the pace can also be exhausting at times too, but overall if you have the time and desire, then by all means – challenge yourself to volunteer for (and eat) new things.

So it goes this past week. I found myself on a very windy day in a small Cessna airplane piloted by my wife, heading for Greenville, IL. The goal was to do some advance work to check on supplies / support to paint a giant 70 foot diameter compass on the tarmac of the City’s airport. These ‘compass rose’ painting projects are a time-honored tradition sponsored by the 99’s, a national women’s pilot group. I had expected a bumpy flight with the wind and variable clouds, but amazingly the day was pleasant and the wife crabbed the plane perfectly into the 18 knot plus crosswind for a smooth landing.

We tied off the plane and had a short meeting with the manager, inventoried the paint, went over the plans and survey pins for the project. It was great but the meeting went TOO fast. We had hoped to allow some time for the wind to die down. It had rained heavily the night before, so though the main runway is asphalt, the best runway to nose the plane into the wind for a successful takeoff was grass – soft and wet grass. Weather is the ‘boss’ when it comes to flying so we borrowed a car from the airport and got directions to a local favorite BBQ, Old School Smokers.

Sticking with my general high-risk plan for life, there is nothing wiser than to load up on a lunch of heavy meats and fried food before a bumpy airplane flight home. But up to the challenge we bought a variety of menu items to sample. The fried pickles dubbed ‘FRICKLES’ were amazingly crisp and tasty. I volunteered first to try them and was pleasantly surprised. The turkey legs are supposedly very tasty too and firsthand, the pulled pork and ribs were great. We took back a catering menu for the airport manager since he’ll soon need lots of food for the painting volunteers next month.

When my wife and I got back to the airport, the wind had thankfully died down to under 15 knots. We returned our courtesy car and pre-flighted the plane quickly. I had my ‘frickles’ in hand and a load of odiferous leftovers to grace the plane’s small cabin and another meal. Indeed we ARE the intrepid volunteers that challenge life and its rich experiences at every turn. Today it’s the fabulous frickles as well as the fickle wind; tomorrow who knows - my wife will think of something!

Meat Pop-tarts?

There are probably very few things on earth that can beat Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts. No I am not talking about debatable good taste or nutritional content. Even as a life-long fan, I will acknowledge that there are better choices for breakfast (like ANYTHING else). But when you sit back and look at the ‘tarty’ foil-packed pastries objectively, you should be in awe of one of the greatest ‘filling’ delivery systems the world has ever known.

Yes Pop-Tarts since 1964 (history linked here) have set the standard for grab-n-go slabs of flavored ‘goo’ when eating time is at a premium. They currently offer better than two dozen individual flavors and caloric combinations to meet any snacking need. The problem is as I see it, that Kellogg’s has only focused their attention on sugary sweet breakfast ’snack-stuffings’ rather than food-fillings of substance. We Americans, nee the world, are hungry for portable REAL foods to juggle while driving our cars - or at least help balance our hectic schedules.

Why hasn’t Kellogg’s patriotically stepped up to the plate with “Flesh-Tarts” or “Meat-Pops”. I know the names still need a little work and surely in prudish States, they will be illegal or highly regulated. But everybody would love to meet the maker of an on-the-go, toaster-ready, meat-treat right? Just look at how many cultures have already devised ways to wrap up chunks of protein into breads, pasta, or fried coatings, yet America’s representation is sadly lacking.

The Slavs have their meat 'Kolaches' but oddly it took the Texans to doll them up with Jalepeno. Go ahead and just try to pass over a fresh steamed bun or Spring egg roll at your local Asian buffet. The Mexicans tout their tamales with fervent pride. The Italians fill their Raviolis with meat and cheeses, but only the health-conscious folks of St. Louis would dare toast those ‘Ravs’ to a golden brown, in oil and bread crumbs. The Poles call their stuffed pasta 'Perogies' and the Saudi’s make a version with lamb called ‘Sambousa’. And of course, who can forget Sweeny’s favorite British meat pie crafted by hand (and foot and …).

So finally those Tea-party folks have a cause that all of America can get behind since nothing goes down better with a ‘Meat-Tart’, than a tall frosty glass of sun tea. Now is the time to make a principled stand. We cannot allow other cultures to continue to dominate the stuffed-meat market any longer – America is demanding change. I for one am confident that our country’s superior pastry prowess will FILL the need, and our entrepreneurial spirit will MEAT the challenge.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Obama-talk: Poker Face or Fisherman?

Yes I have been accused of being too verbose at times. I can get carried away with the best of them and will hang almost anything (except pictures), given enough rope. From personal experience however I’m also a lousy poker player. If I start chattering too long and too fast, I am usually subconsciously nervous, and REALLY trying too hard to fake a bluff or avoid revealing my hand. That’s why I’ll stick with fishing – you can talk all day, but in the end you either catch fish or you don’t. No doublespeak to get in the way and confuse the results.

Recently President Obama was asked a question that was fairly short and sweet. The crux of it was “Is it a wise decision to add more taxes to us with health care – aren’t we over-taxed as it is?” The President started strong with his defense of his policy and the reasons as he sees it to make the sacrifice. The problem was that he could not seem to stop talking. I am assuming that he just got a fresh set of Energizers before the press conference, because the Prez even astounded his own staff at his verbosity and the length of his rambling filibuster.

No I did not pull-up the transcript to confirm the word count or even time the exchange for that matter. But reportedly the Washington Post (web linked here) did the numbers and the President took some 2500 words and over 17 minutes to answer the single question? Wow, no wonder it takes so long to get stuff processed through the government bureaucracy. I had better remember that when I cut my head or need some of those top-shelf healthcare medical services in the future.

I know I am being a bit too picky. President Obama’s probably got a decent poker face and he’s not the first politician or last, to get his line tangled with dozens of others when fishing on a public pier. It’s just that in THIS case, if the public cannot understand the original legislation or its ‘benefits’ that have been forced upon them. Why can’t Obama or anyone else explain why we caught fish or didn’t concisely – doesn’t that send up a red flag warning? Oh- wait … please Mr. President, I don’t have the time for you to answer that. You see, I have to get back to work – since after taxes, my lunch HOUR is really only 17 minutes long!

Drivers license challenge

I have some notary business coming up this week. Most of the paperwork has been booked and the hard stuff is done but to finalize it all I need to get some documents notarized. So we scheduled a notary to come out to the house and quickly take care of everything at once. The notary only had one request at the time of signing and that is to provide her copies of our driver’s licenses for her files.

So I gathered up the licenses and went to scan them in the computer and print them out for the upcoming meeting. I paid no attention to my picture or the tiny details on each license and simply slipped them onto the scanner bed. On two levels this process amazes me still after nearly two decades. First, I perpetually find it amazing that average people have access at all, to inexpensive equipment that captures and reproduces images in such perfect detail and color. Second, the high cost of ink still frustrates me regardless of printer speed, brand or model. That inky irritation in combination with the clicking and clacking of paper handling feeders and rollers shifting, printing and spitting out NOISE still bugs me daily.

On the monitor popped up the enlarged image of my license to review prior to printing. Of course the image reproduction was flawless, but what I noticed was my weight. My face looks the same, however my weight is a full 15% heavier than just a couple of years ago. Even if I assume I had ‘fudged’ the number a little down when I originally got the license, it had to be at least a 12% up over a short time ago. Yeah I know I don’t feel as spry as before and my clothes all seem to have shrunk a tad, but I just hadn’t felt as unhealthy as that weight gain implies.

Sometimes it only takes something small to get you to wake up and look objectively at the direction of your life. We all have something that could probably benefit from a little introspection even if it is not displayed in living color on your computer monitor and drivers license. The trick of course is to START doing something to correct those little deficiencies, getting past them, and literally getting back to living a better life. So, I am now challenged to return my weight to the ‘official’ number noted on my drivers license. I still will not be any skinny mini marathon runner. But in the end, I will be well on my way toward positive self-improvement and hopefully better personal health. If nothing else, the notary will not need such a ‘fat’ file to store my license picture in!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Role Model by choice

Like all people I get frustrated from time to time. I will get cut off in traffic or someone might be talking loudly on a cell phone next to me in a restaurant. For the most part I ignore these type of bad behaviors but admittedly, there is still a part of me that just wants to cut loose and return the favor ten-fold. I don’t however, not because I’m too weak to stand my ground, but because I CHOOSE to be strong and maintain my principles. I want to set a positive example whenever it is possible, even when it hurts.

Now that does not mean in all situations, I should or do ignore bad behavior. In fact, especially for the younger set, I will insist that playing basketball with the store fruit is unacceptable behavior, EVEN if the oblivious parents are nearby. I think it is ok to courteously ask someone talking on a phone or blowing smoke in your direction, to desist. I always try to maintain my good humor in such situations as I am less concerned with exercising my dominance and more interested in encouraging future thoughtful consideration, towards ME and hopefully society in general.

Many of the world’s ‘little’ problems are often a result of poor choices and negative role models. If you want your teenager to drive safely and carefully, then it is YOUR JOB as a parent and a role model to act appropriately as well. What is the model that is reinforced if a parent sneaks a secret smoke in the car after kids are lectured repeatedly that smoking is detrimental to long term health? Why would anyone expect teen drivers to avoid talking on cell phones while driving, when their older siblings and parents routinely ignore the EXACT same safety advice. Yes I know, high pressured society demands phone accessibility 24 hours a day – yeah right? The country and business specifically seemed to be moving along quite nicely two decades ago, BEFORE the advent of instant communications.

I was recently perusing random websites and I came across a purported school teacher’s recreational blog. I was shocked to see that many of her posts were laced with profanity and fairly negative in tone. Now certainly I understand people having a bad day, but for a teacher to open up like a field dressed deer, in front of all the world to see, is unthinkable to me? I understand it is supposedly a ‘personal’ blog to vent and such, but isn’t even THAT premise a questionable example for today’s kids? Do we want our youth unleashing more of their anxieties, vulnerabilities, and drama on-line, or do we want them to come TALK TO US in person?

I am not perfect nor do I expect others to be. Regardless of how people see any of us, each individual should bear the responsibility to provide the best examples for others to follow. Even if you don’t choose to act as a role model, your behaviors will still inadvertently affect those around you. Therefore if you act in a principled positive way, it is a strong possibility that others around you will feel compelled to act that way as well. Practice what you preach and treat others in the way that you wish to be treated. The philosophy is as old as time, but still just as good today for role models or anyone that chooses the success of strength over the failure of weakness – even if it hurts.

”EASY-TER” - No Hang-ups

You know many holidays come with a lot of baggage. Halloween’s got the candy, strobe lights, and the fog. To do it right, you have to hang a lot of spider webs, sheets as ghosts, and strings of orange lights. Christmas too requires tons of effort. First the tree, ornaments, static-laden icicles, wreaths, and then again MORE lights? All holidays must be better with lights and lots of 'hangy' things right? Nope, Easter is one of those special celebrations that is fairly simple and easy to enjoy without all of the ‘hang-ups’ of the ‘in your face’ holidays.

Yes, the Madison Avenue ‘marketeers’ have tried to ‘glam’ up Easter to be more commercial but it has never caught on in the same way as some of the other holidays. The kids still get to color the eggs and of course a pastel basket of fun goodies is part of the Easter landscape. My Aunt and Uncle do their share by putting on an amazing Easter egg hunt annually for mostly kids they don’t even know. They’ll spend a week filling eggs with their friends for no other reason than to spread their own brand of JOY. Easter is THAT kind of softer, warmer, and overall peaceful holiday, and that’s the way we like it.

Of course the Ten Commandments movie produced close to 55 years ago is still a staple for Easter weekend. Who can ever REALLY get tired of Moses literally cutting a swath with that walking staff of his? There are just some movies like that which define a season. I always have to see ‘The Music Man’ on July 4th and how could Christmas ever proceed if I were to miss “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and the “Grinch that stole Christmas”? In fact, I was so ‘un-cool’ in 7th grade that I had to excuse myself from a boy/girl dance and live band – JUST so I could get home to see Clarice tell Rudolph he’s “Cute”. Thank heaven now for VCR’s and DVD’s – no more embarrassing disappearing acts from dinner parties.

So take it easy today and stuff your face with the ham and turkey feasts. The diets are off limits so even splurge on that second piece of pie or ask your kid ‘WWJD’ to your ‘loan’ request for a ‘pack of yellow PEEPS’ (who can eat just one?). Kick the Keds off and put your feet up, but please make sure Mom gets a turn too. This ‘Easy-ter’ is the day for EVERYONE to lose the hang-ups and loosen the pants. I sincerely wish you all the most peaceful, relaxing, and baggage-free celebration of the year. After all, this is THE holiday that has had a couple thousand years of practice and tradition to get it right. - HAPPY EASTER!