Saturday, March 29, 2008

I'm A Walking English-to-American-to-Southern Dictionary

Having a British mother and an American father with Canadian heritage, I guess I'm just a multicultural kind of guy. I know about elevators and lifts. I can identify bathroom faucets, taps, and spigots. When I moved into South, my horizons expanded to included things like nabs, RC cola and moon pies. Now I drink a refreshing English hot tea, a northern style unsweetened iced tea and its southern cousin, the diabetic-coma-inducing sweet tea. I have no problem saying "you people", "yous guys" and "y'all" with the best of 'em. Yes sir, I have the United Nations going on in my head and, I gotta to tell you, it's getting a little crowded in here...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Is Not Voting An Option?

Yesterday North Carolina was invaded by Hillary in one part of the state and Obama in another. Lots of handshaking, baby kissing, and promises that "public servants" make when they're not spending their own money. And as the election nears, the stench of these putrid promises will reach a level that not even a convention hall filled with air purifiers can remove. It is encouraging that there are voters who are not gullible enough to believe what candidates say. Unfortunately, they are not part of the half of voters plus one who put these bureaucrats in office. I'm thinking that maybe we shouldn't vote for politicians. It only seems to encourage them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

CIGNA Makes Me Sick

So last month, my company's insurance company, CIGNA, called me and said that I should get a blood test done. My doctor tells me it's a good idea. Since he can't do blood test in his office, he sends me across the street to the hospital to have the work done. Not a problem, CIGNA covers 80% of the cost of my doctor visits.

A couple of days ago, I get a bill from the hospital (because my insurance had paid its part) for $502. No, this is not my 20% charge for the visit. It seems my insurance company does not like hospital visits. And no one, not my work, not CIGNA, not my doctor, informed me that I would charge the full amount for that fateful walk across the street. When I spoke with our human resource director, Ms. Catbert, she said she wasn't going to do anything about it. But that was no surprise. So I called CIGNA who said they will send me paperwork to begin a review of the claim.

Wonderful. Even though part of the blood work was for a PSA test (check for prostate cancer), I can hear the playful snap of exam gloves being put on by the hospital and the insurance company as they bend me over to see who's going to make me pay. Maybe this will work out and the insurance will do their job. But I can't hold my breath over this. I'm afraid that if any damage results, I won't be covered.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Silk As Weapon of Mass Destruction

It seems like our government has invaded every aspect of our bedroom. Still, with all the concerns for morality and safety, they have yet to touch on that one key element that can be a matter of life or death, between a good night's rest or a tragic accident. Yes, I'm talking about silk bedding. There's nothing like the coolness of the fabric against your skin. There is nothing so heavenly as the silky-smooth, effortless movement experienced in such a bed. Yet, for all its beauty and seductive appeal, it is a terror just waiting for the right moment.

I discovered this all too well when I got a set for my water bed. All squeaky clean and dried from a recent shower, I dashed nakedly in between the covers only to learn that there is very little friction between silk and skin. I zoomed in one end of the bed and ended up airborne on the other side. It would've been a great ride had bedroom wall not been silently standing two feet from my exit point. The only thing slicker and more dangerous is if you attempt the same movement while wearing silk pajamas. Not only is there no friction but I believe that there is a scientific principle that describes how silk-on-silk will actually add more momentum to an object in motion. In fact, right now as we speak, scientists are feverishly working on a perpetual motion machine based on this silk-on-silk phenomenon.

The last thing I want is for government to outlaw silk bedding. At the same time, I don't want any close friends or distant strangers to end up putting their heads through their bedroom walls after achieving escape velocity in the confines of their bedroom. Perhaps this is our answer to the current war. Perhaps we should make gifts of the finest silks pajamas and bedding to the members of Al Qaeda. What better way to hasten their goal of obtaining their heavenly reward of 40 virgins ...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Coffee Forgiveness

Apparently some of you were a tad upset by an earlier post where I talked about "Blessed are the >coffee makers." So before anyone calls for Christian version of the Jihad, let me filter your anger. Before you bite off my head in a decaffeination attempt, please know that I meant no offense as I tried to espresso myself. While I don't know what stirred your feelings and got you tea-ed off, I suspect that my thoughts hadn't percolated as well as I intended. My heart sanka as I read your emails. I didn't mean to come across as such a caf-fiend. So before you cream me, please understand that I'm only a human bean. Perhaps a little ungrounded and a bit of a drip, but there are times when I can be very robust and full flavored. All I can ask is that you give me a couple of lumps of your sugary love until my cup runneth over. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Merry Christmas! It's An Election Year!

You can always tell when it's election year. Suddenly every candidate is very generous with what they want to do for you if elected. Now, I agree that it is wonderful that they want to do noble deeds for all of us. It's just discouraging when they approach every problem with an open wallet -- ours! At times it's kind of like feeling compassion and happiness when the neighborhood drunk turns himself in for drug rehab. But all that quickly becomes tainted when you discover you've got to foot the bill at the expense of your family's own needs. Of course, a great politician makes sure that you don't know about the bill. What's the difference between Mafia and government? The Mafia can't pass laws to make their actions legal.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Are You A Semi-Colon?

Have you ever had one of those bosses who barely knows how you do your job and yet has no problem giving you advice on how to do your work? Last week, I was trying to reverse-engineer some code written by another employee. I believe his official title now is "former employee" because he got tired of the VP of engineering, who isn't a programmer, telling him how to program. That led to a confrontation between the two which resulted in the VP downsizing my fellow programmer into his new title.

Unfortunately, "former employee" didn't believe in documenting his work very well. So as I was paper deep in my diagrams and his code, praising his work in that universal programming language known as Profanity, who should appear at my back but our friendly and ever so helpful VP. "There is an awful lot of those semicolons in that code," he remarked. "You should give some thought to removing as many of those as you can. Sort of a really good colon cleanse." Then he gave his extremely annoying "I made a funny because I'm superior" toothy laugh. So I said "A really good colon cleanse will be when you leave the company."... to myself. Out loud, I answered "Yes, sir." He walked away with that smug look that he had saved the company and justified his exorbitant paycheck once again. As for me, I'm going to keep the semicolons in place. Not just because the program won't run without them... they do serve a purpose in life unlike some people. No, every time I begin to feel a little superior, I want them to remind me of that part of the human anatomy that I do not want to become to the good people around me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Sound of One Phone Not Calling

Today was an unusually peaceful day at work. Usually when I'm deep into a critical project, I get to a point where my intense focus is about to be rewarded with a solution. Yet, somewhere, somehow, an alarm must go off in the plant. Next thing I know, I'm getting interrupted by the PA system calling me to the production floor to solve a problem or there is an urgent telephone call to deal with the latest managerial crisis. Sometimes I think there is a conspiracy to keep me from completing my appointed tasks.

Today was different -- no pages, no phone calls. The only thing that I noticed was a lot more face-to-face interaction. It almost made work feel quite... human. And then I picked up the phone and learned why everyone seemed more friendly today. Our 15 year old phone system had died. This antiquated marvel of technology (a marvel when it worked correctly), this vital contraption of small business phone systems, this amazing feat of engineering that is only a couple of steps above strings and tin cans has tolled its last bell.

I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. The last I heard was that they no longer made the integrated circuit that ran our phone system. As we speak, the countryside is being scoured, calls are being made (but not from our system) trying to locate an obsoleted replacement part. Will management loosen their tight purse strings for new equipment? Or will our next communications will be done through smoke signals? With all the smoke and mirrors that go on in this place, that shouldn't be a difficult scheme for them to implement.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

To Hear Or Not To Hear

Of all the high tech gadgets I'd like to have, I think one of those noise cancellation type Bose headphones would make my day. But no sooner would I get this convenience of modern technology, when it would be banned because of the idiotic actions of people weeding themselves from the gene pool.

You know as well as I do that there will be people jogging or riding on the street, be-bopping to the uninterrupted sounds of their favorite music, oblivious to the noises of traffic and people about them. "Watch out for that honking car behind you! Oh, too late..." And you know there will be people sitting in their office cubicle, serenading themselves to overcome the mindnumbing tasks in their dead-end jobs. This would be fine except when the fire alarm goes off. Or worse yet, when their boss tells them of yet another assignment and works away without waiting around for an acknowledgment.

Yes, there would be advantages. Imagine how relaxing it would be to fly in a plane and not hear the agonizing cries of babies, the yammering from the person sitting next to you, or the screams of passengers as your plane makes that unscheduled drive toward the earth. For you guys who are constantly badgered into going to yet another chick flick, that once dreaded movie can become a lot more interesting. Instead of watching two people gush about their undying love for each other, the leading man might say "Hasta la vista, Baby!" while his leading lady answers with a burp of bullets (naturally, your version will vary depending on which movie soundtrack you play in your headset. And you will have to have iron-man-like control over your reactions to the hysterical combination of her heart wrenching movie and your alternate soundtrack. If you don't, I believe my warning about Darwin-award type deaths will apply.)

So perhaps we should invest in a little noise canceling technology before they pry it from our cold, deaf ears. Why should we lose out because of a few inconsiderate instances of its use?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Great Uncle or just "Pretty Good"?

My niece recently gave birth to her daughter. So now I'm a great uncle... well, lets say "pretty good" uncle and I'll work up from there. But I'm never going to achieve "great" status if I don't make the 900 mile journey and visit the new family. The only problem is the price of gas. So I've created a spreadsheet that lets me compare the cost of driving versus scoring one of those cheap flights. With my spreadsheet, I've done several what-if scenarios to find that break-even point between driving and flying. Now it's just a matter of finding the money and the time from of work.

Traffic Solutions

During tonight's heavy downpour, I drove through extremely heavy traffic in one town. A blind man with a cane could have seen better and traveled faster than I did. Since I work in the automotive industry, I know about the gadgets that could make that grueling drive home much easier. I also know how pricey these gadgets are. Not a problem. There are ways to make a system using the free resources on the Internet. The only obstacle is that Internet connection itself. If we lived in Europe, we could take advantage of their high speed cell phones. It's embarrassing how far behind we are in the United States in terms of cell phone technology. But even if we had the speed, we would still need a mobile router to boost the laughably weak phone signal that fills the air ... whenever cell phone companies graciously allow that signal into the air. If I had my laptop in my car, I could get real time weather and traffic updates. At first sign of a problem, I could reroute my long trip and quickly arrive in the comfy confines of my home. Oh well. Given my generous budget, I'm just going to have to rely on old-school technology -- my eyes and lots of patience.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Becoming A Really Grape Guy

Now I'm getting a little age on me, my tastes have become a little more sophisticated. I'm considering giving up the Thunderbird and the Ripple and joining a wine club. That's what sophisticated people do. If you've noticed, it's that sophisticated lot who tell you what wine to drink, when to drink it, where the grapes came from and who picked them. They're usually the ones who constantly say "a meal without a perfect wine is like a day without sunshine." Of course, I'm thinking that on a day without sunshine, you can still get drunk. I also have to wonder about a "meal with a perfect wine." Is there such thing as the perfect alcohol beverage for breakfast? If you're drinking wine for breakfast, you're already passed the point of caring how perfect that bottle of fermented grapes really is.

Maybe I'm just not that sophisticated. Maybe I will just buy a heavy stick and beat defenseless grapes into my very own juicy pulp -- my very own wine club. And each slaying with the club, I'll just be sure to extend my pinky finger to show that I've got class.

A Wrinkle In Time

I have been around several of my women friends for about 15 years now. As I listened to them chat the other day, I couldn't help but notice how their passions have changed over the years. At one time, they would get very excited over the latest fashion reviews. Now they get just as excited talking about the latest wrinkle cream reviews. In a way, it is a little bothersome. They're just as lovely now as they were when I first met them. Those invisible wrinkles that they are worried about are really a badge of mature beauty and sophistication. At least it is in my eyes. Besides, if that wrinkle cream can't turn a raisin back into a grape, then it's all a waste of money, isn't it?