Saturday, June 5, 2010

Designer "SunGasses"

Hey I get it, you are supposed to protect your eyes from V.D., U.V., B.O., or some other random alphabet pairings of harmful sun rays. I think sunglasses are so great in fact that I even own a pair. But what I don’t get is the need to have fifty pairs of sunglasses or some designer initials glued on my face?

When did the world change so much from being ALMOST practical? When I was a kid, I do not remember everybody having lots of sunglasses or lots of anything for that matter. I knew we were not rich growing up, but I did not feel poor either. I always had what I needed to comfortably navigate through any given day, sunny or otherwise; but I just did not have lots of extras to waste.

Now it seems that everything from eyewear to underwear comes in various colors, styles, and designer brands. Honestly now at least with sunglasses somebody might actually notice that name brand advertisement framing your head. But how many people do you PURPOSELY introduce to your designer under-duds, bundling your rump every day? I’m thinking if it is a high number then it is inversely reflective of your I.Q.

I also don’t understand why the most expensive Sunglasses have the dorkiest names. I thought you are supposed to be ‘ultra-cool’ when you sport those top-flight, self-darkening Aviators? Is ‘OAKLEY’ really a great name? I don’t see people EVER naming their kids ‘Oakley’ and living to admit it. Now I have traveled coast to coast, and I have met many a hippy and hillbilly. But not one of these folks has had the guts to name any of their clan ‘Oakley’.

And what about ‘Ray-Ban’ – does anyone named Ray actually own these things or is the privilege strictly for the rest of us ‘un-RAY-diated’? 'Ray-Ban' sounds like a bad knock-off battery to me or maybe Flash Gordon’s interstellar ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. I don’t know, maybe I should breakdown and invest in pair of designer sunglasses that match my skivvies? If I do, you’ll be the first to know. Just look for the easily recognizable and famous maker’s initials – P.U. !

Extension Cords - Prime 9 uses

I recently wrote about all the reasons that extension cords and I do not get along. I kind of got a lot of pushback hate mail from extension cord fans (along with other small appliances too) who seem to really benefit from the mobility that longer cords bring. So in the interest of fairness and equal time. I now submit for your approval, the Prime Nine alternative uses for extension cords:

1) An anchor line for an Electric boat

2) The business end of a really REALLY big string trimmer

3) Dental floss for the Mountain Dew drinkin’, gap-toothed smilin’, Deliverance folks

4) Fishing line for stupid fat catfish of the evening who’ll ‘noodle’ ANYTHING, even fingers

5) For a high-powered 120 volt Electric Fence (Ha - Too Easy)

6) Hanging that really gauche black felt artwork with the real working car headlights

7) A modern swinging vine for a high tech Tarzan & his blue tooth connected chimp, 'Cheeta'

8) Use as a lasso by Robert Redford’s Electric Horseman to electrocute Jane Fonda

9) A clothesline for only SHORTS & wind BREAKERS (the JACKETS … nothing else)

There you have it - my ‘prime 9’ homage to alternative uses for stupid electrical extension cords. I am sure you have a few clever ideas of your own so do feel free to enLIGHTEN us all. Whatever you do though don’t get distracted from this post to do something else. Because if you do that is a clear sign you probably have ‘Extension Deficit Disorder ‘!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Targeting the MACHO myth

A favorite memory when I was younger was when my old man would take me out target shooting. I know that statement sounds a bit macho and sexist, but it really was a ‘mans’ thing then, uh at least the shooting part. My mother always seemed to encourage us to go as I think she knew it was good Dad/Son bonding time away from the normal home environment. As a family we would actually shop for ammunition, gun cleaning stuff, and of course the ubiquitous tan and black paper targets.

Probably one of these earliest excursions that I remember was to an abandoned missile silo somewhere on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado. My dad prepared a black satchel with the pistols while my mom brewed up a thermos of coffee and made some snacks for our adventure. Once there, we would set up cans and whatever we could find as targets. My Dad was an excellent shot and he tried to teach me proper breathing technique, how to pull vs. jerk the trigger, and the proper way to address the target ( … Hello Target! ) – Sorry, that has nothing to do with the story but I can never ‘address’ something without thinking of Art Carney using the similar gag ala the Honeymooners.

Later in life, I would repeat much of these same steps but with my wife ‘T’ in tow. Her family had not had a lot of experience with guns when she was growing up so it was exciting to learn some up-close weapons training and handling. We would go to the local police range to practice on those same stock styled paper targets from years ago. My wife learned quickly and she oddly was more accurate with the larger caliber pistols than the smaller .22 'plinker' guns. Later still, my daughter came along and we passed on the same target shooting tradition.

Like her mother, our kid is innately accurate with heavy caliber handguns. I probably would not have noticed it as much but unlike her parent’s ‘cheap’ targets, the young one insists on the bright orange and black ‘Splatter’ targets in the shape of HUMAN silhouettes. Beyond the human body painted on the front, just the target’s name ‘SPLATTER’ should give concern shouldn’t it? With every slug through the target’s rings, tiny fissures of white show around the hole, thus making the placement of your shot easier to see. My innocent little girl would rip the concentric 8, 9, and 10 rings up of that sad silhouette with glee and save her targets like they were time-honored trophies.

Since that time, our kid has gone off to college, in Texas no less - probably the perfect place for her? While most first year students were considering an art class elective, or maybe an intramural sport, our kid signed up for ‘Skeet Shooting’. A friend even brought a dead six foot snake in the back of his pick-up to show her what he had shot. I guess he knew she would appreciate his marksmanship? Yes, it turns out that gun skills are an equal opportunity employer. I’m proud that we have done our part to put that ‘macho’ stereotype myth to rest – or am I? Turns out they have an Equestrian team at my daughter’s university too, so I am beginning to wonder if my GIRL will end up majoring in cowBOY!?

When good rules go bad

I admit it, I am a bit of a ‘rules’ kind of guy. I prefer things to be fairly straightforward, vividly explicit, and my rainbows to come in two colors - black and white. It really is not my fault since my first and ONLY internship in college was at a legal clinic. Even as a lowly intern, it did not take too long to realize that no physics are involved at all - the world ACTUALLY revolves around contracts and the rule of law.

Now of course my parents were pretty careful to set me straight too whenever I attempted to stray as a youngster. So given all that foundation for a lawful life, it is no wonder that I am tuned a tad tighter than a cheap guitar when it comes to rules. Today, it is fashionable to find shades of gray in most every law and it seems even the rules of grammar, ( such as the true meaning of ‘IS’) are apparently debatable.

Preamble ramble aside, rules truly ARE important, but in my life, probably the one overriding principle that has proven MORE critical, time and time again, is fundamental fairness. Oh no, I have opened that triple-locked and sealed door of interpretation – what happened to all that ‘holier than thou’ tough 'Texas Ranger' talk?

Well I have to admit, even though I am not much of a sports fan, I was frustrated that Detroit Tigers baseball pitcher, Armando Galarraga was denied a ‘perfect game’ due to a admittedly erroneous umpire call. Now mind you this was not any old ump-blunder , this was the LAST OUT of the LAST INNING of a NO HITTER! There have been only 20 perfect games in the entire history of baseball and Galarraga delivered the goods for a 21st yesterday and deserves the appropriate recognition.

Now there is no CRISIS in baseball – this was an admitted error on the part of a human umpire. Replay tapes clearly show the batter was out and everyone knows it. Major League Baseball does not have to change any long term rules about the use or non-use of replays in games. The Commissioner simply has to step up and RIGHT AN OBVIOUS WRONG and reverse the call. It is a matter of fairness and is EXACTLY why we still have HUMANS with REAL gray matter in leadership positions judging anything or any contest. Our brains are BETTER because they are not rigid and inflexible like computerized machines.

Sports MUST compete with a set of common rules or else chaos would ensue and record books would become meaningless. However in rare and clearly SPECIAL circumstances, FAIRNESS should be the prevailing rule and the letter of the law must take a backseat. True leadership is knowing when those unusual and special times have arrived at your doorstep; and when history DEMANDS the use of your moral prerogative, power, and BRAINS to do something about it. See, even a ‘rules’ guy like me can have a heart – uh … but let’s wait and see, that opinion may yet be reversed upon closer inspection?

LATE UPDATE: This piece was prepared 12 hours prior to scheduled posting. Since that time, ML Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said 'He will not reverse' the bad call. But on a happier note, GM executive Mark Reuss, GAVE A BRAND NEW CORVETTE to pitcher Galarraga for his 'Grand Sportsmanship'. Way to go GM - I call that a class-act. Yet another reason to BUY American!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

'EX' Extension Cords

Yeah I have a love hate relationship with extension cords. When you need one, they are your best friend because while bathing, it is almost impossible to get the toaster close enough, for hot fresh toast without one. But other than that, most of the time they are bulky, hard to store, and always tripping me up. Let’s put it this way – I will never marry an extension cord no matter how titillating the tingle or how electric our connection seems to be.

My number one pet peeve with electrical cords are the ground plug and the polarized holes at the end of the cord. First off, whenever I plug something into that little surprised face at the end of the cord, I feel a little guilty. You probably would look shocked as well if somebody shoved some metal electrified prongs in your eyes and mouth too? Second, by the very nature of a polarized plug, one blade of your appliance will be wider than the other. You would think by odds alone, I would attempt to plug the thing in correctly at least half the time. Don’t bet on it.

The reality is that I NEVER get the plug right and properly oriented the first time. I will push and push on the plug trying to make the fat blade go into the skinny hole. My wife will stare in amusement as this scenario is repeated by me dozens of times per month. I am sure I remind her of the ‘slow’ kid who keeps PUSHING IN on the one way swinging door which reads ‘OUT ONLY’.

I get tired of storing these bulky orange garage extension cords too. I coil them up like snakes, wrap them in paper like fish, pile them up like … well you name it, but they are always a pain. Even when I KNOW and can see that a wormy extension cord is present, it will trip me up and tangle in my feet. I have become so gun-shy now, whenever I approach an unfurled cord, my pace and demeanor takes on the careful tip-toed persona of a diamond thief. Yes I admit it, I will likely continue to be menaced by these evil cords until they probably kill me. Like all electricity, and any bad marriage, my extension cord goal is to simply avoid contact, and hence eliminate the need for a messy, painful divorce. Because sadly, as many previously married folks know, you rarely can have an EX without TENSION!

Sole Man

Honestly I know I should eat more fish. While I do not eat much red meat these days, our crew around here eats a lot of turkey and chicken instead. On occasion when my daughter is complaining that she needs iron before giving blood, we will venture out for some ribs or a burger. But even then, at nicer restaurants, I am more of a ‘chicken man’.

Wow I really do not like the repressed memories called up from being a ‘chicken man’. Horrible images come to mind while I was a child when my parents would taunt me with an Easter card that featured a bright yellow chicken with a blood red beak. My folks will swear that I have it all wrong, but secretly my Dad tries too hard to hide a ‘ knowing smirk’ when this subject inevitably surfaces every Easter.

Hard to believe, when I was an adult, we kept a chicken as a pet for a few years. OK, I liked the egg production but beyond my responsibilities to begrudgingly feed and water her, that red chicken never ‘beaked’ my interest. It didn’t matter, the little red hen bonded more with my wife anyway. Yeah the tricky chick got its kicks by following my wife anywhere around our property, just like a dog.

Gee all this chicken talk REALLY makes me want to eat more fish so I can change my official food classification to ‘Sole Man’. I don’t mind seafood’s flavor at all especially when other people prepare it in THEIR kitchens. It seems though whenever I make fish at home … well the house REALLY STINKS? But I have to admit it’s worth it; there’s nothing like frying up a pile of those bite-sized 1200 milligram fish oil pills with a roll, side of rice, and a little garlic butter. Mmmmm – now that’s a meal with SOUL!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Needy Paradox

I have never owned a big boat but someday I would like to. Yes I know everyone says that the best days of boat ownership are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. I believe that’s humorously correct, but I also believe, THAT POINT is true for most things when you are human. Humans are inherently never satisfied. If they have shoes, they will eventually want a skateboard. If they have a reliable food source, they will always want more variety of foods. If they have a hut, they will eventually want a bigger hut than their neighbor PLUS a 3-skateboard garage.

The human paradox is, no matter what the ‘IT’ is, as soon as the perceived need is satisfied - it actually ISN’T. Now I know that seems as if I missed the point – the premise is that owning a boat is a lot of hassle after the fun wears off. I actually do get it. However, I simply think we are too quick sometimes to blame the OBJECT of our affections for our unhappiness rather than ourselves. More often than not, if we dig deeper beyond the emotional surface, regardless of the problem, the REAL ‘blame’ for negativity and dissatisfaction will be mostly with OURSELVES.

Most people will instantly reject the discomforting thought that family and friends too, fall along the same logic thread. It has been quite awhile since it was fashionable to consider people as mere objects. But syntax aside, the odds are high that you have chosen your friends and mates, beyond superficial camaraderie, because they fulfill some important need in your life. Yes just like those old smarmy dramas so often proclaim, your spouse actually DOES ‘complete you’. The hard part of these ‘developed’ relationships is to learn how to successfully balance between your needs and the needs of your loved ones.

Obviously every time you get a little antsy or distracted, you can’t simply discard your family and friends like that sporty floating ‘albatross’ you bought last year. Fortunately, people are much more complex and interesting than most objects. People continue to grow, change, and re-fresh constantly (assuming they will bathe once in awhile). Unlike THINGS, people actively interact within the environment around them, learn from their experiences, and usually get a little better with age. As we get older we are perceived wiser and more responsible because we temper our emotional highs, lows, and needs a bit. We are more self-assured, settled, and often choose to focus on the needs of others more, than those of ourselves. When we are young and impetuous, our needs are extreme and life is challenging, wildly unpredictable, and yes, necessarily selfish.

So when evaluating your newest needs or lamenting last year’s moment of weakness to possess that once big, beautiful, and perfect SOMETHING, remember the paradox. Another thing better will ALWAYS follow. That does not mean to endlessly wait, put your life on hold, and avoid life’s every risk, decision or significant relationship. It simply means to make THE BEST CHOICE when you are ready and don’t forever second guess that decision. Don’t blame others in your life for your dissatisfaction. You ALONE are ultimately in control and responsible to find a way through life’s maze and be happy for what you have MADE, with what you have. Ok, that’s MY LAST WORD on the subject but don’t tell my wife … I’m sure she’ll have a few more choice ones of her own on that boat idea!


Yeah I have a fondness for robots that may be a bit abnormal. It is ok because although my wife is not a robot herself, she enjoys robot extra-curricular interests as well. Most of the robots we are involved with are actually kind of beefy and quite large driven by wheels or tracks. The dream of robot designers is autonomous control – that is the robot is given a variety of input data and it in turn makes decisions and operates independently of a human operator. Take it from me, this robot Nirvana is a very difficult task and takes lots of time to perfect, so most of our robot adventures are remotely controlled by humans.

I always wanted to build a remote controlled airplane. With easy build fast kits, this goal has become far simpler now than when I was a kid. With new miniature gyroscopic circuitry you can now even amaze and terrorize your friends with small easy to fly indoor helicopters. To robot lovers, these little remote controlled marvels are truly amazing. Just a few years ago, to re-create the functionality of these micro copters would have cost thousands of dollars and endless hours of training to fly.

Now, not to be outdone, the Robo-folks over at the University of Pennsylvania decided to design a 4 rotor helicopter that is amazingly, small, agile … and are you ready - YES, autonomous. This is a pretty big deal actually so have a look. Beyond the obvious military and clandestine uses, such a device could be awfully fun around the school yard playing ‘Duck Duck Goose’. Maybe if I’m good this year, my wife will build me one of quad copter things for Christmas? I don’t know of course because I’ll have to ASK her. You see, despite my wife’s sophisticated programming and extensive training – as her husband, after all these years, I’m still not AUTONOMOUS!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bet on ANY port in a storm

Now I haven’t gambled much in my life. No it is not because I am an exceptionally moral or smart ‘dunder-dude’; It actually has more to do with the fact that I LOSE MOST OF THE TIME. Wow, I haven’t even started yet and I have already depressed myself. But REALLY, my poor gambling track history does not just extend to Vegas games of chance, or cards with buddies. No, I just tend to bet on the wrong things at the wrong time so now I am gun-shy to play Russian roulette.

Take the weather for instance. My wife and I had all day to work on some projects and update the GPS on a Cessna that we use. For some odd reason, we waited until around 3PM to accomplish this rather minor task. Well the reality in the Midwest is that thunderclouds build rapidly in the afternoon so this was not our best plan nor as usual, a GOOD BET for me. Actually the GPS work went fine, but we also had some equipment checks to do on a tiny Piper Tripacer that my wife will be flying with a partner, in an air race at the end of the month.

We watch the weather fairly carefully as it can be a matter of life and death for a pilot. My wife and I weren’t worried actually; even if a storm came, it would drop a few drips, maybe a clap of thunder – how bad could it be? My wife’s under dash work tied her up in a knot inside the little plane. I was holding the door and offering sage advice, when all of a sudden the wind picked up. It proceeds to become a gale force blow and I can feel the little plane rocking on the ground wanting to fly. We had left our car at the front of the building and walked to the ‘north 40’ of the tarmac, so there was no easy retreat. The rain started pouring in buckets and the thunder crashed above us. I was mostly dry under the starboard wing but the wind continued to push more rain my way still.

My wife expressed some concern that I was standing in a water puddle with lightning cracking overhead and tried to make room for me to haul myself up into the plane where at least the rubber tires might keep me toast-free if I said something particularly offensive to anger the lightning gods. So there I was – legs half hanging out in the wind like a fat windsock and the other half crammed into this clown-sized mini plane? My wife and I are stuck in this position for fifteen minutes as wind-driven rain is dripping on my arm and all the other parts attached to my legs. What a pleasant little diversion this turned out to be? Can you now see why I am not a betting man. Too many dark clouds follow me around I guess? I think I need to move somewhere that it doesn’t rain much. Hmmm your thinking maybe Las Vegas … uh, nice try but, NO, I wouldn’t bet on it.

10,000 steps

Just about every wellness program known seems to include some sort of a provision for walking. Most of them have settled on the idea that 10,000 steps is about enough to get you on the road to good health habits. Now I know from experience, that number seems totally unachievable especially if you sit around all day at a computer. But happily I am here to tell you that it takes only surprisingly LITTLE extra effort to achieve this goal and feel a little better about your personal health.

Now before you accuse me of trying to kill you, I know all the books say check with the doctor before starting any new exercise program. But hey folks, I am talking about WALKING here not digging ditches or chasing kites in storms. Call your mom, Rabbi, or that freckled kid who packs your bags at the supermarket – all of them will tell you that a little walking never hurt anyone. Anyway, you have to trust me on this, it is considered poor blogging etiquette to kill off your readers unless it is through boredom – then that’s actually quite normal.

So assuming you’re still alive and are willing to up your health ante a tad, probably the easiest part of doing 10,000 steps is to do NOTHING DIFFERENT for the first few days. Grab your pedometer and record how many steps your normal routine consists of currently. You will probably be surprised because even sedentary people tend to walk 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. Now mind you half of that is back and forth between the refrigerator, but let’s think positive and realize that you are already well on your way! My normal routine was just under 5000 steps per day. Now it did and DOES take effort to double my activity rate daily. But oddly, a trip to the market here, or a window shopping mall excursion in the afternoon – it is amazing how fast the steps build up.

The goal is to INCREASE your activity so don’t beat yourself up if you never reach 10,000 steps consistently – do things that interest and motivate you first and then slowly incorporate more movement and walking in your normal routine. By working in the garage with my wife over the weekend, I generated more than 1200 steps in less than an hour. Remember, most of that is just puttering and organizing things – it’s fun, not stressful work or evil exercise. Seek out walking ‘missions’ that you and your family can do together. We sometimes pick berries off a beaten path at the park, or other times we may just take a quickie hike around the neighborhood. Whatever the minor goal, it is better than just sitting around and staring at a computer screens all day. Hmmm but what if I walked BETWEEN computer screens all day? Wow this 10,000 steps dealy is easier to achieve than I thought!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Priorities NOT Politics

With Obama’s decision to not go to Arlington cemetery this Memorial day, I am more disappointed with the President’s priorities than I am interested in mocking his patriotism. Bush Sr. and Reagan missed the wreath ceremony at Arlington at least once in their presidencies (both were not on vacation however). It’s not that the President is resting on his laurels – we all understand he’s got a very busy job. But the point is that HE has chosen, THIS one weekend out of all the options available, to tour the oil ravaged Gulf spill rather than attend a few hours at Arlington.

While the oil in the Gulf of Mexico is a horrible tragedy, the fact remains that it was there yesterday and the 40 days before that, and it will be there tomorrow, and sadly, literally for years to come. The President apparently is willing to take precious time away from his Chicago family getaway to highlight political face-saving in the Gulf, yet sends surrogate Biden to play second fiddle at Arlington? I can’t understand leadership making this decision.

Memorial day is but ONE DAY per year. It is the day we remember our fallen – our nation’s purest heroes who have sacrificed literally EVERYTHING for liberty and the protection of our entire citizenry. While the Gulf mess is horrible, it will eventually be cleaned up and the region will return to something approaching ‘normal’. On the other hand, the precious lives of our ‘gone forever’ military service people and their families, WILL NEVER GO BACK TO NORMAL.

Should not any Chief Executive, make this one day - this one tiny, yet incredibly symbolic MEMORIAL day, THE MOST IMPORTANT priority of his administration? Given the world we face, all Americans need MORE understanding and respect for the true meaning of Memorial day not less. Special holidays aside, the President has roughly 350 other really nice days on the calendar to extol grand political gestures and appease regional voting blocks. But NO, not today of all days, as our national priority should be clear. Our nation’s leadership is duty bound to respect, honor and above all else … REMEMBER. Because this day SHOULD BE different; this day is SPECIAL – yes, today is Memorial day, our highest priority.

A Model Club

I have friend in his early 40’s who owns a successful mechanics shop. He knows just about anything you would ever need to know about internal combustion motors, vehicle maintenance, and buying or selling cars. You would think such a person would be keen on flashy high tech modern sports cars or maybe a dangerously fast motorcycle. Nope, not this guy – he’s lost his heart to a coupe with a rumble seat nearly 35 years his senior … the Ford Model A.

Now what is most incredible, is that this guy (though admittedly younger than most) is but one, of a local large and very active Model A car club here in St. Louis. Members’ highest calling is not just to recover, rehabilitate, and restore these historic cars, but it is more specifically, to teach and preserve the rich history of the Model A as well.

Though we do not have historic cars ourselves, my family certainly appreciates them. So my wife and I usually try at least once per year to stop by and see the Model A club and their “start-up” party. This is a tradition where a dilapidated donor car is found in an old garage or farm which has not been running at best … for DECADES. The club folks start a timer and work as fast as they can to physically start and drive the old car in the least amount of time. This year they worked their charm in a mere 29 minutes and drove the old rusty beast around the block to parade their skill.

My wife has driven a Model T which is quite primitive as compared to cars of today. The workings of a Model A are basically a simple, lower powered version of a modern car. No these oldster machines are not high tech or particularly sporty by today’s standards but you’ll think they are ‘cool’ just the same. You see, these happy historic buggies attract positive attention wherever they go. Look up a historic car club in your area and drop by sometime. If you’re lucky, you may get a ride in a really COOL car – especially if you get stuck in the open air rumble seat!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Candle Enlightenment

Candles at one time were unbelievably important to ordinary life. I mean how could you have possibly made a horror movie in days of old without a hearty supply of eerie flickering candles? Most of my experience with candles has been limited to dressing up the inside of pumpkins and atop an occasional cake, covered in an impossible number of those waxy ‘fire sticks to puff out.

But it seems for many, candles are not just for random holidays anymore, but they actually have melted their way into some people’s hearts - EVERYDAY. I was already kind of amazed at the amount of shelf space dedicated to candles at Target and similar variety stores. But then at the mall I found a Yankee Candle specialty shop and realized that this fad has actually matured into a full-blown pricey decorator phenom.

Now my family has not been entirely immune to this fiery age of enlightenment. My Mother has assembled a large collection of candles, however unlike those designer folks, she actually burns them. It is not unusual for the house to smell like a forest of pine, strawberry Pop-Rocks underwear, and a overpowering gingerbread burp … all at the same time. My father complains incessantly to no avail. Soon he fights back with his own unique blend of 2 competing aftershaves, Vicks Vaporub, and (some would say) an over the top foggy release of a whole-house bug bomb.

During these nasal assault campaigns, it is best to retreat until the air ‘clears’ so to speak. Like in any war there are unintended casualties. Unlike most homes, my parent’s hut has a long line of bug refugees trying to escape to the neighbors., There are literally no insects left to be repelled by the pulsing, electronic , ultra high frequency bug devices plugged into every spare outlet. Fortunately all my Mother’s newest candle acquisitions run on batteries. Yeah, she has ones that flicker like the real thing and even fake tea lights you can ‘blow out’ just like a real candle. Wow, ‘fire and smoke-free’ candles – technology may really rescue my family yet? Yeah like that will ever happen – when they finally invent a candle that smells just like … ‘NOTHING’!

Chicago 101: Unethical politics

I had to chuckle at the news media today since they were aghast that the White House administration may have orchestrated an ‘un-paid’ job offer to Rep. Joe Sestak. This of course was to get him to bow out of his Pennsylvania democrat primary race, against the established crony, Sen. Arlen Specter. Wow is this really news? Aren’t almost all of the President’s top advisors based out of Chicago – America’s smoke-filled schoolyard for hard-ball politics? I love the area around the windy city, but honestly the back door deals and high level corruption in that town, are about as close as Al Capone’s scar was to his cigar.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not resigned to acceptance of this unethical turn of events; it is just that I am not surprised either. In fact, not just with this White House, but for MOST of the administrations before, I am probably more surprised that these creepy crawly, political hacks don’t get caught-up in their own tangled ethics webs more often. This stuff is so common now that even at the lowest levels of political thought, it sadly goes on all of the time.

When I was a younger, bright-eyed, and idealistically bushy tailed, I ran for a city council seat in a community of roughly 300,000 people. This was an un-paid position with the exception of a small meeting stipend and a city provided cell phone and fax machine (at a time both of those machines were REALLY unique). I was one of 5 candidates who ran for the seat and one of four of them who LOST! But here is where the fun begins, I was approached on numerous occasions with ‘advice’ to drop out of the race ‘for the good of the people I wanted to represent and myself’. Now don’t worry, it was not meant to be as dramatic as I make it sound. Basically the advice was geared toward the city and other ‘favored’ candidates preserving funds so as to not necessarily spend time and cash on the likes of little ol’ flies in the ointment like me. As for the benefit to myself, it was clear that a nice ‘commission’ appointment on the city planning board was probably a good fit for my experience and ambition if I left the race early.

As you might expect, I am rather granite-headed, so I did not take the deal and stayed in the race for the long haul, but unlike Rep. Sestak, lost handily. I was not blacklisted or threatened in any way for my defiance. In fact I did go on to OPENLY accept an unpaid Commissioner job on another City board to stay involved. But the moral is clear; these pushy wannabe Kingmakers infect ALL levels of government RIGHT NOW. They are like cockroaches so moral indignation will not kill them. They don’t care what we really think of them as long as we yield our will and personal power to their destructive selfish pressures.

If we want to improve ethics, then like in war, we have to stand-up and expose these rat nests early on and work our way up the food chain. Don’t cede power to the bullies and the political ‘handlers’ who make manipulation an ARTFORM. Most of us know what is ‘right and wrong’ so do IT and INSIST that your kids, family and local political representatives behave that way as well. Expose and embarrass the cheats, liars, and untrustworthy in your workplace, community, and yes, even your own family. Won’t it be wonderful someday if conniving, self-indulgent and unethical manipulators ARE really rare news? Sadly we may have to wait awhile until Chicago’s unseemly school of politics ‘hard-freezes’ over.