Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Plunger Paradox

Bathrooms are just about my favorite rooms in the whole world. Except for maybe the kitchen, what other rooms are so popular and important, that you want as many of ‘em as you can afford to stuff into a house. Generally I have a 1 bathroom per person rule, because after a big Chinese gut-buster meal, nobody should have to suffer restricted access to clean porcelain.

I do have a teensy tiny irritation though with my throne room. Beyond the standard operating gear, I always seem to be stuck with having to stock the joint with a variety of add-ons. Although these things may be necessary from time to time, they definitely are extras so I have little patience for all the space they require and the clutter they cause. My wife stocks band-aids, ‘girl stuff’, even a new toothbrush and paste in the guest bathrooms.

You need not worry, even here in Missouri, standard issue in our restrooms is toilet paper not corn cobs as some would have you believe. I am also ok with the little fancy ‘froo froo’ towels and the pretty pump bottle full of amber colored liquid soap too. Yes I wish it were filled with that gritty LAVA soap or maybe a tub of that 'Agent Orange' stuff they use to clean off fingernail grease at gas stations.

What I hate the most is those foot soldiers that line up behind the toilet waiting for my call to duty. You know the things – the Plunger and the Scrubber. Those dudes are not pretty no matter how you try to dress them up. The paradox of course is that nobody wants to look at these stool-tools in an attractive restroom, but if you hide them, guests will not be able to use them in time of need. If only I could invent a way to hide these things in plain sight, but still make them accessible? I know – I’ll mount them horizontally near the sink and hang fresh towels on them. Now that’s a kind of project I can PLUNGE in to!

Rose Bowl Girls

Especially these days, with a tough economy there are no dishonorable jobs. You take what you can get and can be darn proud to have it. Believe me, if you’re picking up trash or cleaning a soda machine while I blog in some corner of your restaurant – you are my hero! Still, I know there are jobs that ‘normal’ people probably prefer doing over others.

When we were young and work was tough to come by, my wife tried to get a gig cleaning up squished animals off of the highway. Those were still in the days when sexism was alive and well and they would not hire her because they thought it was not a good ‘fit’ for a young lady? You know what is a good fit for anyone – cold hard cash in the palm of our hands! Around this same time I got a job exactly for ONE DAY cleaning some elderly lady’s house. I did a good job and was trustworthy, but the next day the lady called in and wanted a ‘girl’ to clean her house because ‘cleaning’ was better left to the 'women folk'.

Then and now, most people do not like working on commission or in sales because it is performance based. Every day you must face rejection and (most difficult for many), you never know how much income you can count on earning. My kid had the same concerns but needed some real job experience even MORE than money. So after some weeks of the normal grocery store, mall, and restaurant applications, she actually settled on, an ‘all commission’ sales job at a local amphitheater selling ROSES.

Now oddly this is not a bad gig at all. My daughter gets exercise walking around up and down aisles and hanging out by the men’s restroom. She gets to listen to a variety of concerts for free (on the stage not in the restroom), and with tips and commissions, the pay is far better than minimum wage. An unexpected perk too, is that invariably concert patrons, inebriated and otherwise will buy roses FOR my daughter. So not only does she get a commission on the deal, but she brings a bouquet back home to help mask the smell of burnt waffles and wet raccoons (hillbilly staples).

Yes we have a vase or two in some dusty cabinet, but more often than not, my kid will stash those fancy roses in an ordinary water glass or cereal bowl. It seems somewhat of a pedestrian end for luxurious red roses, especially after all the work that went into standing and smiling at GUYS all night. Well it is a tough economy so I guess somebody’s got to stop the bullets. Gee, as I have gotten older, I stand by the bathroom all the time anyway, and I LOVE fresh flowers. After all these years, maybe society is finally ready to buck its sexist ways . . . I think I’m gonna' be a Rose Girl too!

Friday, July 9, 2010


My daughter was telling me that you have about 7 seconds to make a good first impression and capture your ‘victim’s’ attention. With statistics like that, is it any wonder that TV and news shows hop around so much? Being magnanimous (or challenged) as I am, I usually give people a minute or two before I start making judgments about them. Ok, I am pulling your leg just a little – the clock actually starts at about 30 seconds.

The point is, until people spend more quality time with you, or the ‘stink’ has cleared,(whichever comes first), the very first thing you present to the world is likely how you’ll be remembered. Thus enter my new blog masthead. I know, it actually says NOTHING differently than before. But in reality, hopefully the new banner DOES provide a more representative first impression of my typical blog posts.

So if you are thinking this blog is now ‘bigger, bolder, and more bewildered – well all of those adjectives could probably fit the BILL. I’m usually all of those things at least once during the day, so as long as my writing veers away from the generic and mundane, I will be happy with THAT lasting, first impression.

As for the photo – ok give me a break it was late and like my profile picture, most of the time people only take pictures of me when weird stuff is stuck to my big fat face or I’m in a police line-up. I can’t help it if the camera has 20:20 vision. (adds 20 pounds and 20 years of age). I’ll eventually find a better snap to enhance your NEXT first impression of me. That will be the photo where I weigh 20 lbs less, have a bounty of brown hair AGAIN, and sadly still blissfully bewildered.


Remember when Disney VHS videos were all the rage? In fact they were so special, Disney had a policy of re-releasing its ANIMATED classics only once every ten years to limit supply, increase demand and create scarcity. This policy doesn’t apply to live action, Pixar, or other co-branded productions. So gee I guess all that macroeconomics I studied in college really was ‘kids play’; because even at the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’, CARTOONS heed the basics.

Why I started thinking about this topic was that I purchased a Toy Story 2 VHS video in its original oversized plastic case from a garage sale for a buck. I am not particularly in love with the movie or seeking it to complete my valuable collection. It just seemed kind of ‘dishonored’ among the piles of valueless junk and I thought I should give it a home.

Disney though fairly late to the DVD game due to their hedged bet with DivX, continues to preserve their most famous animated titles in the famed Disney vault. Similar to the VHS video policy, DVD’s are released for a limited time as ‘special editions’ or some similar language, before production ceases for up to ten years. This release period is a very short 60 days so of course demand is quite high and top dollar can be charged for the product.

What will be interesting is, since the degradation rate of DVD technology is much slower than VHS tape, what will Disney do if there is too much product floating around of a vaulted video over the next ten years? With VHS, you could assume that half the product would be lost to wear and accidents alone. Of the remaining half, a good portion is archived by collectors and just old Disney ‘softees’ like me, saving some good memories from the junk heap. Wow, if Disney would REALLY release Wall-E every 10 years, he could help me clean-up all of my accumulated and antiquated VALUELESS video junk . . . for my wife, that would REALLY be special.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hot House Pansies

For you folks on the East coast I know it has been miserably hot over the last week and sadly there is no end in sight. Even here in the Midwest, it has been no picnic either. Though the temps are lower, our 80% humidity makes it feel like somebody forgot to turn on the bathroom fan after a hot shower.

With that said however, does anyone remember what our folks and grandparents used to do when it got unbearably hot? Well, they didn’t do MUCH different from their normal routine actually. Their general attitude was ‘Yes it gets hot and cold sometimes – deal with it already you pansies’! Somewhere over the last 30 years or so, people have become so averse to REAL life and experience, they are actually starting to cripple themselves with constant needs.

Honestly, I don’t want to magically transform my house and car back 50 years ago when air conditioning was a genuine luxury. In the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s it was not unusual for large department stores to not even have air conditioning. Patrons of buses, cabs, and if you were lucky enough to have ‘em, streetcars would never have expected conditioned air. People then were just happy to have a ride and if they were really lucky, somebody next to you that actually USED that new fangled stuff called deodorant.

The point is, it’s hot – I get it, so take ADVANTAGE of it. Remember when you were kids and there were no fancy themed water slide centers with $20 fees JUST FOR PARKING. What did you do – you put a sprinkler on a hose and ran through it for hours on end. You got some water balloons and chucked them at your friends. You had a picnic in the shade of a big tree or lay in a hammock and you’d SWEAT. But you know what, that was ok because you had all that you really needed - and it wasn’t much.

So to those heat-wave wimps out there, I figure there are better than a hundred thirty thousand troops tromping around overseas in all forms of purgatory’s best weather. With 60 pounds of gear hung on them and nary an ice cube in sight, those soldiers sincerely ‘feel our pain’. Wow, I suddenly feel empowered and thirsty? Let’s go outside and raise a glass of ice-cold sun tea in honor of our new found independence from neediness. On second thought, you go . . . I’ll be fine here in front of the fan with a pitcher, along side the rest of the ‘hot house’ pansies!

Don't Tease the News Dummies

Do you ever watch the nightly news and just kind of stare in wonderment at their news anchors who resemble talking puppet heads with mouths that move? Are these folks real or are they made out of wood? I’m guessing they are real, or by now, their noses would be too big for television? What should I expect for a business that basically focuses on endless self-promotion rather than hard news these days.

If it is not the tease for the next segment coming up AFTER the 3 minutes of commercials, it is the hook to the celebrity gossip show right after the news. Often a correspondent’s report will conclude with a lengthy explanation of how to get to the news station’s website FIRST, so you can find the web address of something they JUST hyped on their show. I guess it is just too difficult to run a crawler on the screen or better yet, let the on-air talent earn their pay and TELL you the address for whatever they are pitching. Funny that little station icon, along with some sponsor’s ad seems to float ceaselessly on the screen with no problems?

I started trying to make a reasonable guess as to how much actual news I get in a 30 minute broadcast program. I do not get cable or satellite so your numbers might be different but I’ll bet, not by much. Out of 30 minutes, nearly a third of the program is commercials. Of the remaining 21minutes approximately 1 minute is dedicated to fancy digital graphics and colorful transitions for the opening, closing and introductions to each programming segment. 4 minutes is dedicated to weather and another 4 minutes to sports. That leaves an incredible 12 minutes to actually deliver REAL news – kind of?

8 minutes of that that time is local stuff related to our area. Generally less than 1 minute of all that local tripe will have anything to actually do with fiscal issues or local civics. It is no wonder no one votes or understands what government does or (more appropriately) doesn’t do for all that collected tax booty. Yeah the ‘newsies’ will do some lame segue to nary 2 minutes of national news and less than a minute of international stuff because if it’s not in my backyard , who cares right?

That last 1 minute, well that is the most important GLUE that keeps the nightly newscast house of cards from doing a Humpty Dumpty. That is the inane chit-chat, giggles, and ‘feel-good’ mindless self-promotion that we all love so much. Hmmm, sounds a little bit like THIS BLOG! Oh no, I think I’m slipping into the media abyss of endless pap like a ‘talking head’. No, never fear, I’m not that much of a dummy!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Too tight for pants or pretentious pizza

Last night the family and I ventured out to California Pizza Kitchen. My daughter likes the Jamaican Jerk pizza and my wife and I enjoy the lettuce wrap appetizer. Overall though, this joint is not my favorite restaurant chain, as the food is pricey and well, I’m really CHEAP. In fact all the time I lived in ‘pretentious’ California, I never ate at these restaurants. Now I am more likely to visit one at some random harried airport in some random state OTHER than California.

I never quite relax at CPK. The place always wants to be far more than a pizza shop and it feels that way. I get the same feeling when looking at little glass miniatures in the mall. Everything is to be admired and longed for but NEVER touched. Personally I don’t think when you are paying upwards of $12 for a small pizza, you should be afraid to eat it.

Now for all you fans of CPK, don’t get me wrong the food is high quality and well prepared. I even am fortunate enough to know a couple of lacrosse ladies that work there so everyone treats us great. It is just that a long time ago I finally decided to separate the arts from eating food. I appreciate the beautiful pictures in recipe books and a chef’s artistry in preparation, but overall I really just want SOMETHING TO EAT without taking a loan out at our bank.

At California Pizza Kitchen I am served a small pizza with sliced peppers fanned around a center of three bean salsa, cilantro, tomatoes and chicken cubes, which is then drizzled with milky green chipotle sauce. This may be a beautiful pizza, but it clearly is for somebody else. Whatever happened to just pounding out a ball of dough, schmearing on a spoonful of tomato sauce, a handful of cheese and a pepperoni or two, and then toasting the thing? If I want peppers, I’ll ask for some jalepenos and cut them up myself. No it is not artful, or particularly unique – but it is SIMPLE, CHEAP, AND TASTES GREAT!

Also at CPK, the dinner plate sized pizza is fine for supper, but it just does not provide enough ‘extra’ to take home for the fridge. Cold pizza for breakfast is a luxury all unto itself around here. I guess I am just too antiquated and UPTIGHT to appreciate the finer things in life that’s all? No, actually I think that ‘squeaky’ tightness sound is mysteriously coming from behind my back and uncomfortably close to my posterior? WHEW – I was worried for a minute . . . that was just my WALLET!

Unfinished Vision - NEVERMORE!

Remember that cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” . . . well, what do you make of this digital snap of a broken mechanical raven that I recently bought. To me, it is a PERFECT illustration of my ‘personal best’, when it comes to procrastinating and never finishing things that I start.

Don’t worry, I haven’t warmed up the noose yet, nor am I suffering a flashback Poe incarnation binging on alcohol, self pity, and despair. No, fear not, I am still fully engaged, as much as these old loose gears can be of course. I just happen to recognize that my principle failing in life, is not the things that elude my expertise, but actually the things that I CAN do well, but fail to follow through on and complete.

Call it laziness, boredom, disinterest, or a combo of all three – it doesn’t matter. The point is in life, if you want to REALLY succeed, you need to see your vision through and fairly quickly. You can have all the great ideas and a trunk-load of unmatched skills and abilities. But like speaking or writing, if you never finish your sentences, then only a precious few outsiders will ever understand what you are trying to say.

That does not mean that your vision must be small or quickly achieved simply to benefit others. On the contrary, the most satisfying of ultimate goals may take a lifetime of personal growth and experimentation to fully blossom. However it is developmentally critical that you have built in ‘markers’ or stages within your vision to track your personal progress. Don’t fall prey to having grandiose ideas and far-reaching goals without a plan of where you have been, and how far is yet to go before reaching that next evaluation marker.

So what’s the story with that dumb dead raven? Well he only cost a buck at a garage sale, so honestly as a metal sculpture alone, I was satisfied that I had met my first value marker. Next I’d like to rig up a new stepper motor and see if I can get the wings and mouth to flap again. There should be enough time between now and Halloween. Yep, ‘once upon a midnight dreary’ given my track record, this cold crow should warm up and ‘caw’ again somewhere around late 2025!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Military Intelligence

Far from a buffoon like me to judge the military and tell them what to do when it comes to public relations, buying planes, and high technology gizmos. After all I’m the guy whose ’P.R.’ skills produce a blog with only a dozen or so loyal followers. It’s also widely known that I have a hard time deciding between both guns or butter, and I’m still a little foggy over the whole ‘Spork’ thing. Is it REALLY more fork than spoon or vice versa?

Still when I see a few curious tidbits show up on my desk . . . oh sorry the hamster must be loose again – uh, lets regroup. When I HEAR an interesting news flash about the military or see some high-tech happenings brewing, I try to compile it and pass it along. You can then judge for yourself if the stories have merit, or need (much like these hamster treats) round filing.

This first piece of video is of an Israeli military unit on patrol apparently breaking the tension with a little synchronized dance number. The brass hats were none to amused but apparently the rest of the world is, because the vid went viral. In general, I prefer military units to ALWAYS remain professional when out in public. But let’s face it, there are flesh and blood humans under all that 70 pounds of battle-ready gear. ‘Professional’ does not mean lifeless, and if it ever does, don’t expect those automated robots to provide treats to lost puppies, or a comforting embrace to an innocent child caught in the crossfire.

For this next news item, I had to really break out the Stolichnaya so I could practice my Russian slurs. Because apparently the ‘Ruski’ aerospace conglomerate ‘United Aircraft’ wants a piece of the action of the $40 billion U.S. refueling tanker contract. No doubt the combined effort of Russia’s biggest names in planes can make a fine aircraft, and you might even find a few Air Force jockeys who MIGHT fly them. But the real question in my mind is ‘ARE YOU NUTS’? The air fueling wing is a major component of the global strategic defense plan for the United States. It is hard enough to let France’s EADS and NATO play in America’s proprietary sandbox, much less those ‘Siberian Laikas’ with their Cheshire cat smiles.

Finally let’s end on a high-tech happy note. Since our soldiers never know what risks they’ll ultimately face, I am whole-hog ‘gung-ho’ on TenCate’s new fire retardant Haute Couture for the U.S. Army’s Combat Uniform (ACU). Yes, these new camo-duds may not look new and improved, but take a gander at the vid here at about 30 seconds in on the company’s website. I can honestly say, if I was at the wrong end of a S’more fork, I know which uniform I would prefer to catch on ‘FIRE’ – fashionably speaking of course!

Cannibal Jam

Like the preference of millions of kids, I am a grape jelly fan. I know the choice is fairly benign as flavored toppings for toast go, but it is still my favorite. As a rule, I don’t like any kind of chunks floating around in my food. So preserves are a big ‘No No’, unless you are trying to corral untruthful and lazy wild animals like the aptly named ‘lions’.

Yes, keep that orange peel jam along with pulpy orange juice, and chunky fruit yogurt away from me. I want my jelly jolly pure, and everything else free of hidden texture and special surprises. So imagine my chagrin when yesterday reports from the U.K. surfaced of a jar of jam made from hair derived from the late Princess of Wales, Diana.

Can you believe they have already sold some 500 jars of this ‘hair-brained’ gunk for $7.60? Are anyone but cannibals and hairdressers dabbing this royal paste on their pancakes.? I’ve had a ‘Full Monty’ English breakfast in London, but I always thought THAT hair in my jam was by accident. If I had known tresses were so precious, I wouldn’t keep hacking off my mane, or my secondary hair for that matter.

If this Princess Diana ‘hair gel’ is such a good idea, why do they have to infuse the follicle with gin and a bunch of milk and sugar? Doesn’t anything with enough milk and sugar just end up tasting like ice cream mix? I’m sure the only thing that was REALLY infused with gin was the jam-packed liver of the guy who invented this ‘Do-Goo’. Who knows, if this fleecing trend keeps up, maybe Smuckers will open a bunch of salons to harvest other celebrity locks for jugs of jam. We already know that 'Hollyweird' seems to magically PRESERVE their looks and JELLY their brains!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Greasy Gift Cards

The one thing that my jury is still definitely OUT on is gift cards. I do like the convenience of being able to give an almost universally usable gift that ships flat and CHEAP. I also like that those skinny little cards can snuggle in behind other things in my wallet, and every now and again I find a surprise ‘bonus’ which MIGHT be enough to buy me a Slurpee.

But to be honest as a thoughtful remembrance, gift cards are probably my LAST choice as a caring gift. I know the recipient is thankful no matter what I give. But even if I choose a ‘lame’ gift, it is probably better than giving a card which the giftee will ultimately buy everyday stuff like Alka Seltzer or ear wax lube.

Like everyone, I am also really slow to use my gift cards. Instead of one or two credit cards, I have to load my wallet up with every store-specific gift card ‘just in case’ I stop to shop. Guy’s wallets now are like sitting on bricks. In fact we have to rotate our wallet between back pockets weekly, or like the food bank, we’ll be stuck with DENTED cans.

I also hate when a gift card has $1.03 or some odd tiny amount of remaining cash left on it. I still have to carry the thing around – you can’t throw it away. That would be dumb, just like tossing a fistful of change out on to a busy street. Who would do that, unless like me, your mission was to reduce enrollment at an overcrowded preschool and make some room for your kid? See I told you the jury is still out . . . I think the judge will let me off with a warning if I grease the wheels of justice – as long as he accepts GIFT CARDS of course!

Adult Diapers – Duty Calls

Can we talk privately for a minute? What would you do if you HAD to wear an adult diaper? No don’t worry, that LAST piece of my Missouri dignity still seems to be intact, unless of course I eat too much roadkill stew. It’s just that today I had to take leave of my ‘blog-droppings’ to RETURN some super DOOper, Depends adult ‘diapies’ to a Target store, and it got me thinking.

I know I know, it is a bad idea when I start to think, but believe me when you have to stand in front of a cash register lady and sheepishly hand over not one, but TWO packs of ‘panty hampers’ you’ll be trying to think, OF ANYTHING ELSE too! Couldn’t the stupid things be colorless white like normal underwear, rather than powder blue and pale pink WITH FLOWERS. I’m telling you, anytime I have been around diapers in the past, I may have been thinking I was in a field, but it was definitely NOT filled with fragrant flowers.

This whole thing started because of my wife’s air race adventure a couple of weeks ago. You might recall that originally she was scheduled to fly a very slow aircraft more than 2400 statute miles across the country. As a precaution, the crew decided to carry these ‘load-bearing bloomers’ rather than risk a mid-air explosion.

As luck would have it (for the pilots) the slow plane was replaced at the last minute with a very fast aircraft. I guess that karma caught up with me too, since inexplicably my duty became to dump the empty undies back at the store. Yes, I’ve been promoted from the race team’s dedicated ‘blogmaster’, to the adult diaper delivery boy, all in one day. Oh goody, the BOTTOM must be getting really close now!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Spirit of Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! Yes I gripe a lot about the Gov. and its multitude of problems and practices. But July 4th magically always draws me back in and encourages pause for reflection on the good ol’ U.S. of A. From my earliest days as a tot to now as a graying geezer, this day has always been one of my favorite holidays to stand in awe of not only America as a nation, but my incredible individual good fortune as an AMERICAN as well.

Even if you are not a fan of all the fireworks, fanfare, and hoopla associated with the holiday, I think you might change your mind a bit if all that stuff were missing. What better way to add an exclamation point to the ideals of personal FREEDOM, than with endless volleys of pyrotechnic mortars or a long sweaty parade?

But this day is more than fireworks, BBQ’s, and park outings, it is truly about the ever-present yet intangible SPIRIT that silently propels this nation forward through thick, thin, and the impossible. Regardless of political persuasion or personal identity, even when things get tough, Americans have proven time and time again – we have the will, and literally the 'constitution' to carry-on and make a difference.

Yeah, I’m sure our forefathers would have preferred the fun of shooting off a week’s salary worth of Chinese made fireworks, rather than capturing the true essence of the American spirit. They chose wisely, though, at incredible personal risk, to dog it out and translate that founding philosophy onto a little hunk of parchment called, the Constitution. How we got so lucky, I will never know. All I know is that I am proud, in awe, and incredibly hungry for a grilled burger, chips, and double helping of gratitude!