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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012!

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What's your New's Year resolution? Mine is high-definition and life-sized. Actually, my New Year's resolution is to not to any resolutions. Somehow, I think I've failed before I started. That's all right though. At least, I get to have one more year of use out of my nifty Mayan calendar.

Speaking of end-of-the-world events, hopefully, the news won't report that some stupid terrorist ended 2011 with a bang ... unless, of course, that terrorist was alone at the time. That would then make him a genius. Maybe it's a good thing that we can't make New Year's Resolution for other people.

Anyway, don't worry that you didn't fulfill any of your goals for 2011. Just treat 2012's New Year's Resolution as the roll-over minutes from last year's well-meaning intentions. The way my life has gone, I have a ton of minutes!



Friday, December 30, 2011

and we're done...

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This year I did an extra special job at proving how badly I can wrap Christmas presents. Actually, it was more like smothering the gifts with lots of paper and tape until they stopped resisting. Not a pretty sight. The scene under the tree look more like an "after" than a "before" of the start of festivities.

Next year, I'm just going to give gift wrapping paper. Let everyone figure that one out.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Don't Think The Mayans Foresaw This

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The greatest immediate threat to today's civilization is not global warming, that takes too much time to things heated enough. It isn't Facebook either. History shows that we've been surrounding by people filling our days with nothingness and yet we managed to survive.

No, the greatest danger that threatens us is tangled cords. Every day finds us dealing with a conspiracy of knotted ear-bud strings, raveled power cords, gnarled Christmas lights, and ordinary string twisted into evil contortions.

If you need proof, look behind your computer and gaze upon the assortment of Ethernet, power, headphones, mouse, and keyboard cords that somehow have weaved themselves in a frustratingly tangled mess. Just one unintentional tug and your entire system will topple over. Worse yet, if a slight sneeze moves that unholy bundle of wires just a fraction of an inch, you can kiss your unsaved work good-bye. (Well, you could have kissed it if it had been saved. I rest my case.)

When I worked on my computer degree as my major, the college offered several minor degrees such as business management and arts management. In spite of the critical nature and destructive risks to the computer, they didn't offer "cord management". Why not? Probably because the abacuses we used didn't have any wiggly pieces of wire to worry about. Even so, such a vital course is still not offered these days. Why not? How should I know? Do I look like the answer guy?

Although, one local liberal arts college has created a specialty course based on the recent popularity of singing reality shows. Their "chord management" program is devoted to the proper care and handling of irritating, obnoxious, singing prima donnas. I think the aim of the course is to keep these diva-wanna-bes from tangling with each other and their promoters. Perhaps this is the greater threat. I would look it up but my fingers have somehow tangle themselves. Sorry about that.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Do I Want for Christmas?

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"What do you want for Christmas?", they keep asking me. Oh, I don't know ... how about a brand-new Lamborghini? OH! You know what! $1 million would be the bestest present in the world right now (I could pay for grammar lessons).

I don't say this to my yuletide inquisitors, of course. Mainly because they lack the means to fulfill my Christmas desires. So I respond pleasantly, "I'm good. As long as I have you in my life, all is well."

Yet, my sincere statement fails to satisfy any of them. When Christmas rolls around, I'll receive the usual gifts that I would never buy for myself: ties, socks, and plastic singing fish.

These well-intentioned goodies put me in the awkward position. I feel I now owe my generous Santas some small token to show my appreciation for the money that they wasted on me.

I don't need any tradition-based day to take care of my family and friends. When they need something vital to overcome a rough spot in their life, or they need something just let them know how important they are to me, I take care of them. I do this throughout the year - with or without them knowing their benefactor. Do I really need a special day to attend those who are special to me?

So. unless you have the means and desire to lavished me with some outrageously extravagant gift, without needing me to return the gesture - save your money. Spend it on yourself, or save up for a rainy day. The upcoming year will be filled lots of rainy days anyway. In any case, don't worry about me. Just give me a smile, your warmest hug, and your heartfelt love. We will be all right.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Less-Than-Happy Fairytale

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For the past few weeks, I had done a great job fighting off emissions of those walking germ factories, as known as my friends and coworkers. I felt certain that I had finally won this tough battle of the bugs.

Then, I awoke this morning. Immediately, I learned that my friends had generously shared enough of their sickness for my life to become part of a fairy story. Dwarfs included.

I'm not happy as I type this. And I'm certainly not going to be bashful as I tell you that I woke up very grumpy and sneezy. Since doc wasn't available, I knew I would have to take medicine that would make me dopey and sleepy.

As I tried to get out of bed, I discovered an eighth member of this sickly story – achy. Let me tell you that he is one pain in the butt, shoulder, knee ... everywhere! And nothing dwarf-sized about the pain either.

For now, I am going to pull the bed covers over my head and wait for the "lived happily ever after" part to arrive. Until then, I have another battle on my hands. The way my stomach is acting up, it's going to be all that I can do to keep my underwear snow white.

Home, Sweet Car

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As I left my home for my 55-mile commute to work, my car protested with random, gentle sputters. These sputters became increasing stronger and more prolonged the further I drove.

With each falter of the engine, my anxiety soared - what if I couldn't make it into work? What if I am urgently needed and I'm not available? Would I be fired? How much is this repair going to cost? Will I have enough money? Will I still have a job to pay for this overpriced repair?

As I arrived at my work’s parking lot, my faithful beast of burden violently lurched and spasmodically coughed to a climactic stop. At that point, the only thing still shaking was me as a carload of adrenaline and fear coursed through my body. I had made it, but just barely.

These little adventures have been happening on and off the past six months. Fortunately, I have AAA who has had to rescued me a couple of times now. And, once again, after yet another a tow back to civilization and much-needed repairs, my worries about my job and repair costs were greatly exaggerated over this most recent of adventures.

Still, perhaps I would be better off trading in my 300,000-mile car for a house-on-wheels. Today's recreational vehicles are pretty much a mobilized version of a furnished home. So, no matter where I get stranded, my broke-down vehicle instantly becomes a stocked kitchen, a furnished living room and a comfy bedroom as I waited for my trusty mechanic to begin necessary rv repairs.

In fact, I could save myself lots of time and money by parking my home-away-from-home in the parking lot of my employer. I could definitely sleep-in much later and still be able to dash to work at the last moment.

The only downside would be in not having the "inclement weather" excuse. "Sorry, boss, there's 2 feet of snow on the ground so I can't make it in." Not a problem though, with a little planning. I would only have to drive far enough away and maroon myself. "Sorry, boss. I can't make it into work today. I'm stuck in Hawaii."

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Time of Giving and Getting

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Yesterday, after making a record $36 million this year, our powers-that-be spent $4000 and gave us, each one a valued employee, a $50 Wal-mart card as a Christmas/bonus. Surprisingly, some ungrateful workers had the nerve to complain about this generous gift.

You would think they would be grateful that there are only 80 of us instead of the 200 greedy souls that existed just a few years ago. Given the various "make the investors rich" decisions that our new owners have made during the year, would they have spent $10,000 instead of $4,000 on our gifts? Yeah, right. A snowball would have a better chance vacationing in the Bahamas unscathed. Besides, this show of generosity goes well beyond what our previous owners did in December.

The old owners owed this business until three years ago. During that time, they would play "lottery Christmas" with their employees. The president would put our names into a hat and draw 10 of them out. These lucky employees would get prizes ranging from clock radios to large screen TVs. You didn't even have to be present to win.

It was a wonderful event, provided you were among those lucky few winners. During the almost 20 years that I worked for the old company, my name never got called. In fact, there were several of us who had a better chance of being struck by a meteor. For whatever reason, Fortune repeatedly smiled on a handful who had their name chosen more than once across those years. I could only imagine that some of us didn't kiss Fortune's butt often enough.

Thankfully, when the new company took over, they put an end to this absurd celebration of Christmas. So, when our glorious overlords handed out gift cards this year, well, my ship of good fortune had finally arrived!

In fact, I am so happy that I don't care that the powers-that-be have given themselves bonuses of $10,000 each. That is my Christmas gift to them – 14 months of work for 12 months of pay. Happy holidays, y'all!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Seasons in Life

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In few more weeks, it will be wintertime as the freshness and the growth of springtime either dies or goes into hiding. In a way, it feels like our relationship has entered its wintertime.

For seven years, we’ve talked about marriage. In this eighth year, we barely mentioned it. When I brought it up the other day, I already knew what you're going to say – both in my heart and in my head.

For several months, I’ve felt like a yo-yo. Not just any yo-yo. More like your yomega yoyo – brightly colored and special toy as I traveled up and down the string of your ever-changing moods.

I don't want you to think that your endearing toy is about to cut the string to end this unpredictable joyride of eight years. Right now, I am just at the end of what you're holding onto, lovingly spinning, yet contemplating whether to go on our separate stages of life or to emotionally hibernate until better times like our spring had been.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Year's Resolution

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As I contemplate my upcoming New Year's resolution, I realize we go through this yearly ritual only because we want longer and happier lives. According the latest top 4 studies on longevity:
  1. Religious people live longer.
  2. People who own pets live longer.
  3. People who exercise 20 minutes a day live longer.
  4. People who have a drink or two each day live longer.

Unfortunate for me, "people who procrastinate" did not make the list. To put off dying then, we have to invest a lot of time out of each day.

Hold on! If I'm going to spend 5 minutes on any life-extending activity, my days better be lengthen by more than just 5 minutes. Otherwise, I can just as easily waste my precious time on more enjoyable tasks, such as improving my skills as a couch potato.

Yes, I know I may look better on the day of my demise by spending more quality time on, say, working out. Nevertheless, I've never heard of any archaeologist digging up a body and exclaiming, "Will you look at the abs on this guy! No wonder he lived a long time. He must have exercised at least 24 hours a day!"

So, in order to make every minute of my 2012 count, I will undertake the most effective New's Year resolution for living longer, based on the previously mentioned studies -- I will religiously let some animal walk me 20 minutes a day.

I'm sure many people will be doing the same thing. Don't worry, you'll be able to spot me very easily in this crowd of leashes and pooper-scoopers. I'll be the one wearing a beer hat.

Friday, December 09, 2011

What Are You Worth?

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"Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of value." ~Albert Einstein

I tried to become a man of value. Sadly, no one on E-bay would buy me.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

So I took the challenge...

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One of my favorite comedians challenged her readers of her Facebook wall to come up with a caption for the following picture. My take?

"Cocky boy caught smoking, claims "No harm, no fowl!"

Little Timmy tried many way to stop his cigarette addiction. Here, we see his latest failure: trying to stop smoking warm chicken. Later, he would find success during the winter months while visiting a turkey farm. Today, he is famously known for "quit smoking cold turkey." The nameless chicken in the picture received no credit or royalties and spent her remaining days referring to Timmy as a "mother plucking baste-terd."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

bad combination of politics and the holidays

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When you see the phrase "wireless outdoor speakers", what comes to mind? Given our current political season, how about an ideological politician in a packed stadium, giving a blustery speech about fighting for the rights of the citizens. Naturally, since this is before he or she has accepted any sizable contributions, this is, in essence, a “no strings attached" speaker – wireless.

Of course, given the holiday season that we are in, the less jaded amongst you are probably thinking about a set of audio speakers set in a little snowy landscape, playing Christmas music broadcast by a Bluetooth transmitter that is nestled inside, near a glowing fireplace. A warm, wonderful place where you should be if you could have gotten someone else to chop wood or shovel snow. Like Grandma.

With my luck, I would be stuck in between these two extremes -- out with the same state-of-the-art Bluetooth speakers in the wintry outdoors for some ridiculous reason, listening to a fertilizing speech from Nancy Pelosi. Why? Because that's what happens when you get on the "who's been naughty" list. And Grandma has control of the radio.


Monday, December 05, 2011

See, Ronnie run. Run, Ronnie, run!

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Yesterday, my sister, who is about to reach that unmentionable half-century mark of age, crossed the finish line of the 26 mile marathon in 5 1/2 hours.

I mentioned this little tidbit proudly to a few of my friends who jog. Some run for reasons of health. A few race to catch the ice cream truck before it gets out of sight. Most of them are in their late 30s and early 40s. Naturally, they were impressed by my sister's accomplishment, especially since none of them have run any marathons.

Of course, they didn't want to appear to each other as slackers of the jogging world. When one person mentioned how he ran 5 miles the previous day, the rest chimed in with tales of two and six and 10 mile runs. They also chimed in with "I would have run more, but I have an injury I have to be careful of." Not excuses, of course. Some days you can't train as much when you have to get home to trim the cat's toe nails.

Their boasting finally quieted down as they stared at me, expecting to hear of my exercising exploits. The best I could do was, "Well, I hate to brag. I ran to the bathroom today! Four times! Three of which I made it there successfully. Not only did I not have to train, but, thanks to the medicine, I didn't feel the burn either!"

Now Hear This, Now Hear This!

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I've been designing electronic circuits for a relatively short couple of decades. Yet, in terms of technology, that time span is like comparing a Stone-Age cart to a Toyota Prius.

Back in the day, I designed and built power amplifiers based on tube technology – controlling the spray of electrons with tiny wire mesh screens encased by glass. These amplifiers were the size of small suitcases that weighed as much as today's Prius. However, the music quality of these luggable amplifiers had such a richness. There's a reason why guitarists notched up their volumes to "11".

Shortly after that, the miracle of silicon chips arrived. My amplifiers shrunk to half their former size and only weighed as much as a spare tire in the Prius. Yet, in spite of this advancement in technology, audio purists complained that the sound quality lacked a certain warmth. They didn't like my suggestion that they should listen to their music while using a blow dryer near their ears.

Today, I built a digital power amplifier that is the size of a postage stamp and weighs as much as a Chiclet found on the floorboard of the Prius. Finally, the magic of miniaturization and Class-D amplification has brought us back to those days of glass-and-wire musical perfection. The sound quality will have the most ardent audiophile turning off their hairdryers and weeping tears of joy. The best news of all is that you don't need a Prius to enjoy it! ("It" being the sound quality, and not the weeping.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

My friend bought his first home today

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Congratulations to my young friends! Today, they signed their life away and purchased their first home. Let the depletion of the bank accounts begin!

For those of you who always rent your home, sweet home, let me just tell you that you aren't missing out too much. Buying a home is just like renting, except that your landlord becomes your local government. Instead of fixing what's wrong on your property, they add to your honey-do lists with all sorts of fun rules and regulations. If you don't think that you own your new home, just miss a property tax payment.

I'm kidding. I bought my home years ago and have a lot of fond memories. In fact, if the walls of my home could talk, they'd scream, "No, not the nails! Not the hammer!"

Anyway, now my friends get to experience the joys of home maintenance. Fun times like wall-papering. I've heard that you only need 4 big guys to wallpaper a house, but you have to slice them really thin.

pathetic as an aging hipster?

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They tease me. Often. People who are supposed to be my love ones. People who are supposed to respect me. Supposed to. Yet, they tease me and called me "Austin Powers".

Ok, maybe I encourage the ribbing, just a bit. Thick glasses and a toothy grin. Yeah Baby!

Fortunately, no one refers to me as "Doctor Evil". Not that I haven't had bombastic thoughts of world domination during those darker moments in my day; my inner geek toying with ideas of starting a laser spine institute so I can graft weapons of deadly light onto sharks (or, at least, glue a laser pointer on their head). But I can't. I'm not evil enough. "[I'm] semi-evil. [I'm] quasi-evil. [I'm] the margarine of evil. [I'm] the Diet Coke of evil. Just one calorie, not evil enough."

For now, I stick to flirting with the "Man of Mystery" image ... and the good-natured teasing.

The Brilliance of xkcd.com

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Once again, xkcd.com has out done himself on his blog. Take a look at this amazing chart that shows your one dollar makes up the trillions of dollars in the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Up, up, and away

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I completed a successful flight from Raleigh to Nashville and am now in the comforts of my sister's home. All of my pre-flight worries were really a waste of time.

I was dreading the delays normally caused by security checks. But, I arrived at the gate early enough in the morning to breeze through the checks relatively quick.

I do want to thank that dedicated TSA agent and her enthusiastic pat-down. That was the closest I've come to joining the mile-high club --- all before even boarding the plane! Perhaps, I should not have started dancing as I walked up to the body scanner, waving my arms in the air and singing "I'm too sexy for my shoes, too sexy for my belt, just too sexy." Obviously, a terrorist plot to terrorize everyone with my singing and dancing. Fortunately, the body scanner didn't reveal anything threatening -- like overwhelming body odor.

The flight itself made me feel safe with its features: a bullet-proof kick plate on the door to the cockpit, and flight attendants who looked like members of the Women's Russian Wrestling team.

All-in-all, my plane ride went well. There was even a dinner and a show - a bag of stale peanuts and the safety flight announcements by one of those bulky stewardesses. I understand that the double bags over her face were additional safety protections for the passengers.

In a few more days, I'll be experiencing this adventure again as I ride those shiny metal wings homeward. Whatever I paid for this wonderful trip, it was ... too much!

Monday, November 14, 2011

gosh darn it, punctuation matters

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I'm reading a great book on punctuation called "Punctuation at Work " by Richard Lauchman. I must say that it has helped tremendously. I've gone from "I've led a life well-lived" to "I've led a life, well, lived."

Friday, November 11, 2011

More Price Increases a-coming!

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I'm not sure how cheap you can get your computer system if you use dell home coupons. When I checked out the site, I couldn't tell if the coupons simply reflected Dell’s special offerings or were giving you additional cost savings. Nevertheless, in my opinion, you might want to give that option (or something similar) serious consideration. I say this because of two major economic whammies in route to your favorite computer store as you read my post.

The first economic factor deals with Thailand -- a major supplier of memory chips and hard drives to the world. Last month, the country experienced flooding severe enough to take out several key manufacturers of vital chips and storage devices. Currently, the worldwide pipeline has enough material so that the computer industry won't feel the shortages until the first quarter of 2012. After that, those wonderful laws of supply and demand will kick in and sharply increase the prices of our electronic goodies.

Economic factor number two starts in January of next year. Workers in China will get a pay raise when their employers must start paying a 20% increase in the minimum wage. The workers’ gain will be your gain in the form of higher computer costs as those Chinese businesses pass along newly mandated expenses.

So, if you were planning to wait until year for your new computer, you might want to rethink that.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

daylight withdrawal times

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We are off of the Daylight Savings time now. Yeppy! I don't know what we've been saving up for, but I feel spent.

I hate when we go through this time change. It means I get to drive into work while it's dark and drive home in the darkness. It was especially bad this past few days. Then I realized that I had been driving with my car cover on. A tad embarrassing ...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Spending Your Money With A Bang

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Even though there are extremely important stories going on in my little town, it seems that our community don't matter to the local news groups unless someone is working the media to run for office.

However, today, I learned that a few fifth graders from an small elementary school down the road got to participate in a $20,000 Department of Defense STARBASE rocketry program. The vision statement of this DoD exercise is to:
"... raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which will provide for a highly educated and skilled American workforce that can meet the advanced technological requirements of the Department of Defense."
In other words, "spending your tax money on 50 children who at risk of being hoodlums, in hopes that we can get one or two to be a gang-banger for us in their adults years."

I understand the day went well. The instructor for DoD taught science and, more importantly, "life lessons." At the end of the program, as each children received their certificate, this highly paid government employee taught each student "to shake hands, look the adults in the eye, and to respect their peers as they waited."

I am glad to learn that our tax dollars have been used to teach a few lucky children out of millions how to shake hands, and how to respect their peers, all while playing with rockets. I know most of those parents probably do not have the means to expose their children to such an experience, including the rocketry part. Hopefully, those children won't get confused and end up shaking rockets at their peers, respectfully. But if it happens in my town, it probably won't get reported in the news -- unless there's a vote to be had, of course.

Future looks blight

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Yes, "blight", not "bright".

My mother used to say, "No rest for the wicked." Apparently, I've been a very bad boy. A quick look at my finances and the wondrous projections for my social security account, I see that I won't be retiring in 15 or 20 years. Rather, it will be more like 30 or 40 years, assuming that I'm still more productive than an extremely stubby pencil with a chewed-up eraser end. And you know how well companies treat used-up pencils.

Lately, I have been reviewing my future work options. For example, there are several bars in the area. I suppose I could always look into Cocktail Server Jobs. As long as my shakiness hasn't reached earthquake tremor levels, I’m sure I will be able to deliver more drinks than I spill.

There's always the option to trade my plasma for cash -- as long as my blood cells haven't acquired their own wheelchairs and oxygen support systems.

More promising is a third option that I have started working on. Like all promising tasks, it's easy to say, but involves a lot of work that wasn't initially obvious. It's kind of like "cook a meal." By the time you’ve finished, you've found that you spent more hours than first anticipated, worked over more food than you thought possible, and you now have tons of dirtied dishes demanding your attention. Who thought that three little words could involve so much work. Anyway, more on option number three later.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

pearls (or streaks) of wisdom ... maybe

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I think I might be getting a little smarter as I age. Today, I realized that some things in life are beyond my control. For example, no matter how much super glue I have, if I break wind, I can never fix it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Run to your bookstore NOW!

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As you can see, my fellow male compatriot, you can no longer have an excuse about misunderstanding your sweet, gentle, always-emotional stable love-of-your-life. The condensed version of "Understanding Women: Volume 1" has just been released. I think I can speak for us all when I say that this little tome is long overdue!

You might be saying to yourself, "I'll waiting and buy the unabridged edition when it is released." Yes, your favorite woman might be one of those rare angels of patience. However, even patience has its limits and you may be putting yourself in mortal danger if you don't act now to buy this current version. I say this because the printing of the unabridged edition is being held up due to concerns, surprisingly, from the timber industry about the environmental impact on lumber.

So, re-enforce your bookcase with concrete and steel, and get a hold of this potentially-life-saving (yours) book. I'm already adding a new addition to my home for Volume 2.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Politically Correct Halloween!

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Thank goodness someone is trying to stop racist Halloween costumes! I get so offended at people dressing like geeks and nerds and guys! Finally, someone with nothing constructive to do is making a stand for this obscure cause.

This has been a long time coming. For years, the tricker-treaters have try to become some silly alternate persona and have upset someone somewhere somehow. Last year, one of my contortionist friends got extremely bent out of shape when one Halloween-er from the Philippines went as a "Manila Folder"! Why do people dress up like that? It's as if that's the only way they can get candy from strangers.

But what are you going to do? The only remaining costume that is not stereo-typical would be a "Occupy Wall Street Protester". But given this is Halloween, the begging would be redundant.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This is your brain on Facebook

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According to this Mashable article, the more Facebook friends you have, the thicker your brain is. While I don't have thousand of people on my Facebook account, I am fortunate and thankful for the high quality of friends that I do have. For that reason, I'm not going to apologize for not being very dense.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

don't forget to remember not to forget about remembering

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You probably heard that old adage about how we only use 10% of our brain's capacity. Given the results of our political election, I wonder if 10% is being too generous.

In any case, I seem to be red-lining my mental capacity. Lately, my mind seems to repeatedly bump against its limit for storing memories and events. It's as if my brain has become a glass cup completely full of colorful marbles. As I add another shiny sphere to my mental container, it either rolls off unnoticed and goes missing or gets in the way as I frantically search for a different marble.

For example, as I walk by people that I've worked with for the past 20 years, I suddenly realize that their name alludes me. I end up greeting them with an embarrassingly halty, "Hey … you."

Recently, I was introducing myself to a new client. For a split second, I couldn't recall my own name! I almost used his monogram. "Wow! We have the same name. All the good people have our name. Let's be the bestest of friends!" This might be a great schmoozing technique until he calls me by his name and I forget about my lie.

The solution is obvious. I am going to have to buy several neck chains and name picture frames. Each frame will be stylish enough that my friends will want to wear them around their necks. More importantly, each frame will have a friend’s name large enough so that I can read it from a fair distance away --- a mile should be a good start.

I will also have this creative memory clue for myself. However, to the casual observer, my displayed name will appear upside down. This is for my benefit. If I have another "senior moment", I'll only have to look down to be reminded of who I am … as long as I remember not to wear the frame backwards. "In" might be a unique middle name, but I don't think saying, "Hi, I'm Mr. China. You can call me Made," will go over very well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Goodbye, my dear friend

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This morning, I stopped at my friend's doorway as I have been doing every couple weeks or so for the past 30 years. As I walked up to his always inviting entrance-way, I noticed that none of the lights were on inside. Then I saw the "property for sale" sign stuck in the lawn by the public sidewalk. Suddenly, I had the sicken realization that my friend of 30 years was gone.

Just this past weekend, I could have sworn that I had seen people coming and going to his same inviting entrance-way. His place has been a favorite of all the locals since it first opened. But there was no mistaking now that something had happened. While there was no sign posted in any of the windows, the marquee unmistakably read "closed".

I don't know what has happened for Spring Lake's famous Biscuit Kitchen to suddenly shut their doors. There is nothing in the news about this tragedy. Of course, journalism has never been a forte in this area.

For being such a small restaurant, it has touched the lives and memories of many people with its warmth, with its incredibly delicious food, and with the wonderfully staff of mothers who cooked as though every customer was one of their children in need of a really good meal.

Goodbye, my dear friend. You will be missed more than you know.

Take my garage ... please.

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A couple of doors down the street from me lives one neighbor who has recently taken up that fruitful of hobbies - being an annoying pest. Every weekend for the past several months, he has diligently, and quite noisily, worked from predawn hours to late at night to put together a metal storage building.

You would think that he had been constructing a heavily fortified castle. But no. When you see that his tremendous effort has been spent on creating a 10 x 20 foot shed, you realize that "handy man" is not part of his modus operandi ...or his vocabulary.

A couple of mornings ago, he stepped out of his house in the early morning hours only to discover that heisters had stolen his incomplete structure. He was very upset that some one had taken the term, "steel garages", literally by turning it into a verb–noun arrangement.

I tried to console him. I told him to think of it, not as losing a building, but as gaining valuable free time on his weekends. As for the rest of the neighbors, they got together and built a little something on his property --- a shrine to the thieves.

Friday, October 14, 2011

up, up, and away?

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My daughter has to do a college paper on the news of some guy who was shooting people of the top of a building. Shooting people off the top of buildings?! What is this world coming to?

Back in the day, a few crazy people would shoot bullets off the top of buildings at people on the ground. Now, they're shooting people off? What do flingers-of-human-beings use? Catapults? What happened to a simple, well intentioned shove? How are these tossers-of-terror convincing people to go on the top of buildings in the first place? "Hey, wanna be in the next Jackass movie?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Do you know what today is?!!!

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Today is International Skeptics Day ... but I doubt it.

Dangerous Times

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Such a dangerous time in my relationship. Next week marks the eighth year since my fiancee and I began dating. She marks each year as a special milestone of our enduring love for each other. I mark each year as an accomplishment that someone has stayed with me for another 365 days (bonus points for leap years).

It's also another year that I've learned more about her likes and dislikes. As a loving fiance, I try to use this info to help celebrate her important anniversary milestone.

Lately, she has been hinting that I should take her somewhere she's never visited. The kitchen immediately came to my mind. However, I don't think I can suggest this location that she rarely frequents and live to tell about it.

Married couple usually celebrate their eighth year with bronze gifts. As a romantic anniversary gift for her, I thought about bronzing her frying pan as a memento of the first and only meal she ever cooked for me. Again, I'm not sure I would live to tell what happened after she unwrapped my well-intended present.

Maybe I can send her to a tanning salon and let her get bronzed. I don't think I could get a safer metal-sounding gift than that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What's on tonight?

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Tonight, the best thing on with be the street lights. Otherwise, tonight's TV shows include "2 Broke Girls" and "2 And A Half Men". Obviously, CBS is going to pieces. Are they losing so much money that they can't afford super glue and extra pieces?

What's in Your Wallet? or "The story of unemployment numbers"

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When a majority of us hear about the employment numbers, we have this impression that some dedicated government worker went from business to business and house to house, asking "Are you working?" "Is your company hiring?" If only it were that straight forward.

Actually, the media is reporting 2 different surveys released by our federal labor agencies. First, there is the Establishment Data known as Current Employment Statistics (CES). Here, our intrepid government servant chats up 400,000 businesses out of almost 30 million. By talking with only 1 out of 75 businesses, the government releases its "number of jobs added" statistic. This is a wonderful way of figuring how many people are working. Yet, people seem to overlook the fact that it doesn't tell us how many people are not working.

In our next round of mathematical wizardry, our faithful political worker talks with 60,000 households (out of over 112 million) to count the number of people who are employed and unemployed. This is known as the Household Data or Current Population Survey (CPS). Based on the answers from 1 out of 1867 households, the government publishes its "unemployment rate". As you can imagine, no one asked anyone in those other 1866 households whether they were working or not. That piece of guess work is left up to the manipulators of statistics.

At best, the Establishment data shows how many jobs were lost from one month to the next; while the Household data shows the number of jobs that may have been created at the same time. With a little hype and political spin, you can make these numbers look as good or bad as you want the public to believe. Maybe.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

We can drink again!

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YAY! The ban has been lifted! Restaurants can open and tap water can flow!

The test results for 7 water samples have come back and not one sample is pregnant. Oh, sorry. Wrong test. I mean, all samples have been found to be purer than driven snow (which, I understand, is better than hitchhiked snow).

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Spring Lake restaurants closed after boil water notice

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My girlfriend and I learned about this last night as we from one fast food place to another. As we searched to satisfy our fast-food cravings, we found employees sticking signs on the doors: "Sorry. Closed due to water contamination." At first, I thought it was because someone washed their hands for a change, but then we noticed the finer eateries in town shutting off their lights as well.

We immediately went to that super store savior, Wal-Mart, to stock up on water. Surprisingly, no one else was there to join us in the hording of precious H2O. I guess only restaurant employees in the town knew about the crisis. Too bad. In any case, we now have a 3-day water supply while living in 'dry' town.

Anyone need a gallon? Only $50!

Update: One of my neighbors is one of the town's aldermen. This morning, he said that when the water department had tested the water at one house in another nearby Spring Lake neighborhood on Wednesday, it failed the purity check. Yesterday, when the water department tested the same water source again, it passed the test. However, the water at a home located a few doors away failed the quality assessment.

So, the county regulation required that an alert be issued (shutting down all the local restaurants) and water samples had to be sent to an independent lab for analysis. The lab is expected to release the results this evening.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Good bye, Mr Jobs

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I felt very sad when I learned that Steve Jobs lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. As the spokesman and decision-maker for Apple and for Pixar, we tend to associate him with all the fun and pleasure and excitement that we have intensely felt with our exotic gadgets and entertaining movies. So his unfortunate passing leaves the impression that we may never have shiny new toys ever again.

Yet, as you read all the touching obituaries and endearing tributes to Mr. Jobs, you get a feeling that he alone invented and designed and built each iPad and iPhone and iPod; that he alone did all of the marketing and all of the sales and all of the accounting.

You have to give him credit for being one of the main driving forces behind Apple's success. However, if you've ever worked in a manufacturing environment, you know that the job of head honcho is to meet with his (or her) managers and then yell at them for not making enough profit. They in turn meet with their sub-managers and scream at them for not meeting overly ambitious sales goals. These subs-managers then get to meet with their sub-sub-managers and curse them out for not bringing products to market quick enough.

Eventually, you get far enough down in the corporate food chain to the people who make things happen. For example, the overworked and underpaid engineers who get screeched at for taking more than a day and spending more than a dollar to design, build, and quality-test a new, complex product; and the equally unappreciated production people who get browbeaten for not working at 200% of their capacity.

Yes, the hype may credit Steven Jobs with changing the world, but I guarantee that he stood on the shoulders of thousands of people to do so. You probably will rarely hear the news lament about any one of unsung heroes when their life ends.


mmmmm, dolphin

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At $10 a person, movie theaters seem to have gotten even more exorbitant than they should be. Of course, I apologize if you're a big fan of sticky floors, overpriced food, and getting charged to watch 30 minutes worth of bad advertisements.

So tonight, we had an inexpensive family night. From the comfort of our home, we sort of watched "Dolphin Tale". AND for only $1.32! That's right, I made tuna fish sandwiches.


No, no, no.  I'm sorry.  While I haven't seen the movie, "Dolphin Tale" is supposed to be a good family story. It's about a dolphin who's loses his flukes in an accident and about the good, brave humans who help this poor mammal so the other sea creatures won't laugh at him.

It reminds me of a friend who bought his dolphin at a less-than reputable pet store a few years ago. His new pet had been playfully frolicking in his pool for a few days when the animal's tail fins suddenly fell off.

Well, my friend was quite upset. He took the dolphin back to the pet store and got a bit of a refund. The store owner would only pay wholesale because, after all, they couldn't retail the dolphin. What a fluke...


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

oh, snap

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Ever had a day so long and demanding that you say to yourself, "Skip the KitKat, just give me the break!" It's too bad that we couldn't have that kind of pay off --- the harder the day is, the sweeter it tastes.

I wonder if workers in a KitKat factory are allowed breaks ...




Saturday, October 01, 2011

Yo, Yo, Yo, Mr. Roboto

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What do I do for a 150 minutes each day? I endure a mind-numbing commute to and from work. Or used to. Since the lack of engaging material on the radio did little to help pass the time, I bought a Kindle and a Nook at very cheap yard-sale prices. Then I figured out how to get free audio books on my e-readers.

Tonight, my search for this week's listening material found "Yo, Robot". "Yo, Robot"? Oh great! A hip-hop version of Isaac Asimov's masterfully written book, "I, Robot". Is there no respect for the classics? Does every excellent piece of literature need a remix and an update? Are people so lazy that they have to rip-off and cash in on proven works of famous authors?

Oh wait. Sorry. Turns out I have found a spanish version of Mr. Asimov's legendary story. Who's the embarrassed ranter? Yo.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

say what?

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I've been using Dragon Naturally Speaking as a great method of generating correspondence, notes, and my blog posts. However, I think that I might have been using it too much lately. I caught myself ending a conversation with a friend with the words "close parentheses period". Of course, saying "L O L" didn't help either.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Look! Up in the Sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a ... ouch!

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You can track the crash-and-burn of a mult-million dollar UARS satellite (a name that sounds like an insult yelled by someone with a british accent) at http://reentrynews.aero.org/19

Just remember: duck at the right time and have your lawyer on speed-dial.


UPDATE: So now the above link is a dead one, presumably along with the satellite. It made a fiery plunge to the earth a few hours ago, but no one knows where any of flaming metal landed. At least, no one at NORAD (who can track baseball sized objects) is saying.

However, a Parisian amateur astronomer, Thierry Legault, did capture the slow spinning of the space craft. "The satellite appears to be tumbling, perhaps because a collision with satellite debris a few years ago," Legault told Spaceweather.com.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Arrrrrr! Or, what comes after Q and before S?

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Yes, you probably already know this. Today is "Talk like a Pirate" Day. Well, shiver me knotty timbers, I've got wood from all of the excitement of trying to imitate yester-year's heros (or boat-jacking thugs, depending upon which side of the scimitar you were on). It's gotten to be such a popular event that I expected Apple to release yet another award-winning device today --- the iPatch. Arrrrrrrrr .....

Friday, September 16, 2011

get rich quick ... just not you

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Here's a gem from the great humorist mind of Michael Ramirez:


I want to point out a flaw in comparing Social Security to a ponzi scheme. Many forget this important distinction between the two. In a ponzi scheme, you give up your hard-earned money to a fraud voluntarily ...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

careful what you suggest

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Today, I read and saw such an emotional outpouring on TV and the Internet.  Did people express this much sentiment on December 7th, 1951?   I don't know.  I do know that when you gather the family around the game table tonight, you probably don't want to suggest that they play Jenga.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

have you ever seen ...

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The days have begun their fall-time descent into coolness. Sadly, we must now say good-bye to all of those lovely tattoos prominently displayed on the lower backs of our summer-time beauties.

I enjoyed watching the gallery of interesting artwork as it seductively paraded by. Each exotic graphic enticingly shown by women whose pant's belt height won out over any sense of modesty.

In spite of these numerous tattoos, I have yet to see the ultimate tramp stamp - a portrait of Charlie Chaplin, gleefully grinning from his envious perch just above that shapely behind.


Friday, September 09, 2011

surprise ...

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Is there anything worse than finding out your boss has changed your work requirements five minutes before quitting time on Friday? When I logged in tonight after a long grueling day of two jobs, I discovered a new assignment … due tonight!

I have no idea if Web-Est.com auto collision estimating software will meet the needs of any of my readers. So, give the site a shot. Let me know what it does for you. I'll post the results here.

Adopt, adapt, and improve. Sometimes there are circumstances you can only go with the flow on and hope for the best.

our gracious overlords know what's best for us

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I read one of those silly conspiratorial reports that the government has been putting fluoride in our water to make us complacent. I don't know why but I don't care.

as if I could give a sheet

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Apparently, the expression "three sheets to the wind" has naval origins. When the wind pushed on two sheets attached to the mast of a boat, the seaworthy craft will move forward in a relatively stable manner. Three sheets, however, move the boat in an erratic fashion, similar to a sailor who had one too many delicious mai tais.

Since the trappings of a rich neighborhood are on one side of me and the not-so-wealthy residents border the other side, I get to see extremes. When a wealthy resident staggers home through our neck of the woods, their windy three sheets are of yves delorme quality. You can tell this when they trip over a blade of grass. Our inebriated friends awkwardly kiss the ground while gracefully extending their pinky finger to the sky.

My economically challenged neighbors will be more of a Wal-mart quality sheets to the wind. They will trip over that same blade of grass.  While mother Earth rudely impedes their progress to the center of the planet, they extending a different finger than the pinky. For some reason, this finger is associated with birdlike qualities. I can only assume is that it is because it gives our feathered friends a place to perch in the early hours of a new day.

I just want you to know that I do give a sheet. Still, my blanket apologies to anyone who might be offended.

I think my congressman cares

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After the President's speech last night, I received an e-mail from my congressman. The subject line was:
Subject: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: The Buck

I'm sure he has my interests at heart, but I still have this uneasy feeling ....

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

gambling on less stress

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Some dangerous signs of extreme stress in men are depression and racing thoughts. This might explain my recent obsession with low places and NASCAR. If my favorite driver (that is, the one I'm betting on to win a particular race) takes a lengthy pit stop just when he's about to win, that would be my heart attack in the making.

At one time, I thought it would be helpful for me to track my money, I mean, my favorite driver at each lap. I would use my cell phone as a barcode scanner and point it at the car's barcode each time it whizzed by me. My phone did a great job. It accurately showed how fast I was losing my bets. So I gave up my cell phone to stop my losing streak.

Please understand, I'm not addicted to gambling. I'm addicted to standing next to an oval shaped roadway along with thousands of screaming, drunk people. Or, as I like to call them, my support group.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

downside to adapt, adopt, and improving

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Sometimes you have to bury your true self deep within so that you can survive the impossible moment, or the ridiculous job, or that unnecessarily complicated relationship. It's not that you want to lie to your nature and yourself. Sometimes, you just have to do what is needed to keep the peace and make it through an unbearable situation with as little damage to everyone as possible.

This doesn't mean you have to stay hidden. With your depressed thoughts and dark emotions cloaked in an outward appearance of happiness and joy, you can plan. You can bid your time. You can survive. All you have to do is endure ...

a tablet is not a miniature table

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If there ever was an award for the biggest sales tease, it would have to go to HP and their tablets. A couple of weeks ago, HP announced they were going out of the tablet business and heavily discounted their $500 iPad-like device for $140. Within a matter of a few hours, stores around the world told the consumer masses, "Sorry, we ran out." These are the times I really hate the speed of information flow on the Internet.

Yes, I know. There are other systems out there like the Asus Tablet Canada but no one is selling at the low, low, HP marketing madness price.

Of course, there is my favorite --- the stone tablet, as long as you don't take that for granite either.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Part 2 of "Early signs of dementia or just too many years of frustration?"

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Refer to part 1 of my earlier post for the link to the actual article these posts are based on. Otherwise ... hey, you kids! Get off of my blog!

"Early sign of dementia #2: Problems with executive functioning

Trouble carrying out basic, familiar tasks can creep up slowly but surely. The person may, for example, have difficulty doing something that involves multiple steps, like following written directions or instructions. A longtime cook may avoid complicated recipes. A hobbyist may simplify the form of his or her craft.

Other hallmark trouble areas: making plans and not following through, whether for a vacation or an activity. Not tracking bills."

So, there you are, minding your own business, trying to carry out your important tasks while dealing with countless interruptions. Who wouldn't finally give up and avoid complicated recipes? What hobbyist hasn't simplified his or her craft with a few well-placed strokes of a hammer? If you're not going to get a moment's peace, you might as well shorten the task and create a few pieces.

Not able to follow through on vacation plans? Surprised? As you cross that century mark, try and count the number of plans you've unable to follow through on. I bet you run out of fingers and toes --- yours and the ones of the people you made plans with --- to make that count.

Not tracking bills? That's probably because you've discovered ... THE SECRET. Here it is for the rest of you. Once a month, place your bills onto the launch pad of a skeet shooter. Just BEFORE you yell "Pull!", fire your gun into the papery pile of perplexing preponderances, THEN yell "Pull!". See?! Nothing to track.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ignore those hidden costs behind the curtain!

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Back in 1998, I built our company's first tester system that used a laser barcode scanner to track production parts. Upper management loved how parts could be quickly traced through the plant. Quality loved it because it eliminated a lot of hand-written notes.

The scanner cost $500 then, which would be about $1,000,000 now (or a little less). Today, I could buy that barcode reader for $150 ... if they would let me. But no. That would go against our new company motto: "You can't make money if you have to spend it."

Not a problem. Last month, we still had to build a tester that would read bar codes. So we did the next best thing. We took an old, obsolete web cam and wrote a program to convert the bar code image into text. TA-DA! As of last week, the investors and upper management are making mo' money, mo' money, mo' money ... as long as you don't count the hundreds of hours we spent developing the system from scratch. Because that's just good business sense not to!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

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It's official! Sand blowing in your face is painful! At least, that's what EVERY news person standing on the NC beach has reported, repeatedly, for the past hour. Whose says our news stations aren't informative.

Here at my home, I'm seeing torrential outbursts and blustery gust of hot air ... this stuff on C-SPAN is amazing. Oh, and hurricane Irene isn't too bad either. Is it possible that Irene just out-stimulated anything Obama and Congress have tried?

According to my neighbor's radio, the wind is blowing at 55 miles per hour. At least, that's my guess as it and his lawn furniture went flying across my yard.

In any case, I want to send my sincerest sympathies to anyone named Irene right now. Don't worry. The repetitive teasing and jokes should end shortly. On the bright side, at least you weren't named Hurricane.

iRene: the last hurrah for Steve Jobs...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SEMA 2011

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Once again our sales team is abuzz about the world famous automotive trade show, SEMA. In less than six weeks, they get to fly to Las Vegas and spend four days showing off products that we haven't fully developed yet. Then they return and we'll hear four weeks about the terrible time our sales guys had with late-night parties, eating exotic foods on the company’s dime, and being hit on by beautiful booth babes.

Right now, to prepare for this horrendous ordeal, our sales team is practicing by having countless meetings. These meetings consist of them asking us why complex pop displays and demo systems aren't ready, even though we got a blurry, handwritten sketch just the other day. Several times during this time-sink session, we get to hear, “Oh, by the way, could you add yet another feature / remove a feature / completely redo an entire multifaceted fixture without spending any money or time? That’s a dear, thanks.”

We can't wait for them to leave. If we are lucky this year, the entire team will be kidnapped by a marauding band of senior citizens and sold for spare change. One can only hope.

Fun with the Sales team

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We've done a lot of work with brand name company to set up their touring line of motorcycles with our cruise controls. To get their business, our sales team felt it necessary to sell our intricate cruise systems to this brand-name business at our manufacturing cost. In other words, after two years of sales, we ain't making a plugged nickel on this little venture.

Still, you have to give our sales team a little credit for their strategy. They successfully convinced our upper management that selling our system with $0 profit was a good thing. They promised that, in two years, the brand name company would sell our cruise line as an add-on to their ATV Parts list and we could raise our prices to profitable levels. A lot has changed in two years, just not the ATV venture.

Our sales team received a good bonuses because of that deal. The rest of us put in long, unpaid hours. Only one of Scott Adams' Dilbert cartoon can truly capture the moment:

Early signs of dementia or just too many years of frustration? Part 1

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I've been a little concerned about my memory lapses of late. My mind might not be the most wonderful thing about me, but it helps keep me from wandering naked through the neighborhood. Still, recent times have found me forgetting the names of people I've known for years, as well as those occasional mental train wrecks of thoughts that seem to have mysteriously jumped the track into oblivion.

So I happened to come across an article called "5 Signs of Alzheimer's That Sometimes Show up Before Memory Loss". But as I read them, it seemed that these signs also sounded like the symptoms of people overwork, overstressed, and overtired from accumulated years of work, stress, and weariness.

For example:

Early sign of dementia #1: Personality change

A warm, friendly loved one may seem to morph into a bit of a grouch -- at first occasionally, and then increasingly. A gregarious person still jokes and talks a lot but begins to say inappropriate things or make odd accusations. A mild-mannered loved one begins cursing. All of these are examples of the kinds of personality changes that can predate memory loss in someone with dementia. Often, it's only later that friends and family look back and realize that behaviors they found off-putting or upsetting weren't intentional but related to the Alzheimer's.

Is this Alzheimer's or the result of one too many straws of frustration piling on the back of an otherwise patient camel?

I used to be quite patient and tolerant of inconveniences and costly mistakes that others put me through. Locked your keys in the car for the 20th time? That's ok. Let me drive across three states and help you out. Wipe out my bank account? No problem, it's only money.

Lately, however, I've found my patience running short. Perhaps it is because I'm beginning to realize that I just don't have the time to deal with others' repeated mistakes that they expect me to fix. Suddenly, I seem to have a lot less life than I used to have. (I know everything is getting taxed more but this is ridiculous.) Maybe it's because I'm reflecting on all that I gave up of myself to accommodate the needs and comforts of countless unappreciative people. Aging is such a high price for maturity and right now I want to throw a major temper tantrum. (I would but I would probably end up throwing out my back instead.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hey Y'all, Watch This

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In the annals of famous last words, "Hey y’all, watch this!" ranks right at the top if you live in my neck the woods. The instant we hear this phrase uttered, we’re immediately torn between fleeing for our lives and remaining where we are as the morbid fascination of watching a train wreck consumes us.

My friend walked up to our table in the lunchroom and announced in his slow Southern drawl, "Hey y’all, watch this!" We all instinctively cringed a bit and gave him our reluctant attention. He then showed his arm over the middle of our table and showed us his brand-new watch, a michael kors watch to be exact. His wife had bought him the first piece piece of real jewelry that didn't involve string or plated tin. And being the wise guy that he is, he couldn’t resist the “watch this” phrase.

Great! No one got hurt. Funny. Real funny.

changes

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My friend dated his future bride for 4 years then married her. Now three years later, he's been confiding in me his growing regrets.

" She'll ask about my day but then interrupt me in mid-story to tell me about her own multitude of crisis of the day. She'll ask my thoughts and then begin to criticize them before hearing the entire thought.

It took a few times before I change my behavior. So I've stopped telling her about my day and my thoughts.

Then she began to complain that we don't talk enough. At first, I felt bad. I felt bad until I realize how her complaint wasn't about us not talking enough. It's about my change in behavior. Now I don't spend more time than necessary to listen to her constant nattering.

Tell me again why we got married? I would try to tell her but I'd never get to finish."

I don't know what to say.

Stock up now, Irene!

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There's a hurricane a-comin’. Oh boy! Even though hurricanes are generally a one day event, people around here tend to hit the stores and shop as though the end of the world was about to befall them.

So with Irene three days away, be sure to act now and stock up on the essentials: lots of toilet paper to handle your fear-induced emanations, enough bread to fill a small room as a large, moldy science project in a week’s time, a shiny new bathtub – preferably one of those fancier clawfoot tubs so that you can be tossed about the neighborhood in style by one of those pesky tornadoes – and, the most important item of all, beer.

Of course, the buying beer goes without saying. It also goes very quickly from the store on the slightest mention of weather. Nice sunny day? Need beer. Possible hurricane in a couple of weeks? Need more beer. Slight dampness in the air? By all means, beer … just not that dark heavy stuff. Save that for the thunderstorms.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

changing of the guard

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About six months ago, on one of my other blogs, I mentioned that the board of directors for our company was considering the firing our company president. Today, during a plant wide meeting, our company president told us that he would no longer be running our business. That's right. The Board of Directors fired him into the position of Chairman of the Board.

Our VP of operations has often talked about how he would run things if he were president of the company. However, instead of promoting this ambitious VP, the board hired a new guy from Atlanta, Georgia.

We met our new company president today. He presented himself as a very likable person as he toured the plant yesterday, meeting many of the workers as possible. Today, he spoke about his amazement when he learned how long many of the people have been working here. He said that it was rare to find such commitment and loyalty to a company. He said that when he asked various people why they are still with the company after all these years, they told him that they loved working here. We all gave each other sideways glances and incredulous smiles as we wondered exactly who he spoke with. Especially as we know the response of one assembly worker who has endured 20 years with the company. When he asked why she has been here so long, she replied with, "Because I can't find work with any other company right now." I can tell you that she isn't the only one.

The next few weeks should be very interesting…

Friday, August 19, 2011

hosed

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You know a company meeting has taken a very mature turn when one attendee jumps up and angrily screams at another attendee, "Up your nose with a rubber hose!" Fortunately, our 20-something engineer spoke up and prevented this meeting from becoming an episode of extreme boxing. With youthful confusion on his face, he asked, "Rubber hose? Don't you mean straw?"

Apparently, our young engineer had led a sheltered life. He knew nothing of the sweat hogs and "Welcome Back, Kotter". He didn't even realize that straw doesn't rhyme with nose. He also didn't seem to know about the importance of the almighty rubber hose: it's durability when liberating gasoline from containers, it's life-saving properties when directing water from an overflowing kitchen sink (or toilet, depending upon your emergencies), or its behavior modification features that parents used in a bygone era.

Almost any brand would accomplish its task effectively and efficiently. However, if you mentioned an impressive sounding name like Delafield Corporation rubber hose, there was suddenly an air of mystique and superiority to your task. And, upon accomplishment of your serious undertaking, your peers saw you as the master of their universe.

Unfortunately, none of this seemed to impress our young engineer. So, we called him a baby and return to our less-than-productive meeting. We knew he was part of the team when he responded, "I know you are but what am I?"

Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick any two.

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As a customer, you can have any two of three choices. You can have something made good and fast, but it won't be cheap. You can have the desire of your dreams made quickly and cheap, but the quality won't be there. Or you have a quality-made item done inexpensively, but it won't be done in a hurry.

Those of us in the manufacturing world have to live by this little philosophical gem on a daily basis. Yet, when the customer gets a little power after rising through corporate ranks and becomes your boss, he (or she, in any case anyone feels left out) tends to forget this universal lesson learned during that managerial rise.

Two year ago, my boss wanted a new tester. One that was sophisticated enough to launch a space shuttle, designed and built as soon as possible, and without spending more than a dollar. My team came up with a tester that could test his new solenoid for $20,000 and be built within 12 months. After 9 months of listening to "is it built yet?" "why is it so much?", we had finished his fancy tester that had more features than the original design and cost us $10,000. Of course, we had to scrounge parts from antique systems, such as obsolete data acquisition cards, an old computer cabinet with an even older computer (including an ancient 14 inch monitor). But we did it.

Now he wants another tester --- one that doesn't have obsolete parts in it, for $5000 and ready in 6 months. I asked him if he had ever heard of 'good, fast, cheap' saying. He replied that he had many decades ago. "It still applies," I said. He ended the conversation with "Do you like your job?" I'm beginning to think ... not so much.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weight for it ...

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I saw a hopefully sign of economic growth in my area as yet another exercise gym opened its doors. Actually, YOU have to open them - large, heavy, steel framed rectangles on stiff pivots that cause you to have an instant workout. Of course, someone is just inside the entrance to immediately charge for using their 'equipment'. That, or to collect your body if you don't make it through their doors of death.

It seems to be a modern place with all of the latest in gadgets and outlandish fads guaranteed to make your wallet thinner. And, if you act now to sign up, you can pick one of two specials: hcg shots for weight loss or nude workout classes.

I understand the "no pain, no gain" mantra. But needles and I have a wonderful working arrangement. They stay away from me and I won't try to shove them through my delicate skin.

As for the other special, I don't know if I could handle a class where its overweight members can only workout in the nude. I'm sure you understand how it make for a great weight regiment. After a few minutes of watching a fat person sweat all over the exercise machine, you've pretty much lost your appetite and anything else on your stomach.

Either way, I'm sure that this gym will be in business for a while. The owners also rented the empty store next to their exercise facility. Judging by the tantalizing aromas coming from inside of that second business, it looks like we have a new, tasty doughnut shop!!!

Today's Post is brought to you by the letter 'P'

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While travel in an Air France plane yesterday, GĂ©rard Depardieu took a moment to relieves himself in aisle way of the aircraft. Instead of asking "Are we there yet?", he must have assumed that he was already in France.  Either that, or he did ask and someone answered with "Oui, Oui."

While no one is certain if Mr. Depardieu had been drinking, passengers described the incident as "robust, with a hint of legs and not as reserved as it should be."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Genius of Hair?

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When I was young and saw pictures of Albert Einstein, I thought that his wild hairstyle and bushy eyebrows were just the nature of being a genius. Through the years, I've met several elderly man who reinforced this youthful notion.

I had to reconsider my earlier standard of genius as my male friends and acquaintances began to acquire eyebrows that would've given Medusa a scare. Given their actions and behavior, genius was not a term to associate with them.

Then it happened! My own eyebrows began to take on a untamed life of their own. I realized that Albert Einstein was a genius who just happened to have wild and crazy hair.

My eyebrows have become so unruly that I'm considering using one of my daughter’s hair straighteners. The only downside is that I would end up the curtain of hair in front of each eye. I suppose I could then braid the long strands into dreadlocks. Or perhaps, weave the long follicles into show time curtains complete with drawstrings that I could tug to look onto the stage of the world.

Of course, I could shave them off completely. No one would know when I was surprised. Nah …

Changing Of The Guard

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For most of this year, there had been quiet whisperings amongst us at work. Some murmuring hopeful, hushed words. Others muttering in slightly louder, bolder sarcastic tones. This time next week, they will know the truth because, last week, I learned about the investors’ fateful decision.

Our company president made a quick visit last week to our plant. Speaking to only a select few, he mentioned how the company's investors had fired him. Next week, there will be a plant wide meeting with an announcement of the change and introduction of the new company president.

I guess our former president knew this was coming so he wasn't too surprised or upset by the news. However, our vice president in charge of operations was extremely upset – he thought that he was in line for this position. But no. The head of the investors already had a friend lined up for this important post.

Next week should be very interesting indeed…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Staying on the Ball ... or not

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To stay technologically ahead at my job, I try to read a lot of … stuff. Granted, "stuff" isn't the most technological term that I could use. However, it does cover several trade journals and the myriad of high tech, geewhiz type websites that I have to wade through on a daily basis.

The latest automated gadget that caught my attention was one for ping pong tables. You're probably asking yourself, “Why would anybody want to automate that game?” Yet, that's the motivating force behind all gadgets – if you can imagine it, then it's worth the effort, the tears, and the trips to the emergency room to bring it into reality. Most of the time anyways.

So Newgy has mounted a machine at one end of the ping-pong table that fires balls at a preset rate to help you improve your game. Or, perhaps to keep that only child of yours entertained. Or, maybe even to just annoy the cat.

This product begs for modification as well as uses beyond its original purpose. With just a few motors, a couple of sliding rails, and a connection to your computer, you could program this baby to patrol the outside of your house. Any intruder or unwelcome visitor approaches your humble abode, WHAM a ping-pong ball whizzes passed their head at blazing speeds. Well, maybe not 'WHAM'. More like PING. In any case, if you're into extremely nostalgic mood, you could invite that annoying neighbor over and reenact the ping-pong ball scene made famous by Captain Kangaroo and Moose.

Whatever your desires are with ping pong balls, remember that you read it here first.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Depends upon the line you're in

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The news reported that Apple had more money on hand than our US Federal government. But whose surprised at that? When you stand in line at an Apple store, you don't have to worry about getting groped. I'd pay to stand in that line any day ...

shiny, shiny protection

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Contrary to what you may have been told, the phrase "RF ID" does not stand for Red Freckles Indicator. Maybe you already knew that because of the times you had to wrestle RFID tags off of your newly purchased clothes (the size of the hole in the fabric determines who won that match).

Now, these micro-miniature radio frequency tags are making their way into everything just to scream out to the world what it's attached to. If you're in Las Vegas, poker chips are embedded with these little marvels, ready to announce to the gambling establishment (and probably the IRS) how much you won and when.

At the gas station, the gas pump sits ready to listen for your new fangled credit card to broadcast your account number. Unfortunately, thieves also listen for this most private of transmissions. While they don't dress themselves up as a gas pump, they do sit concealed in their electronically equipped vehicle nearby.

There are solutions to protect your rfid credit card. One method that I have wondered about involves wrapping your entire body and wallet in those extremely thin and flexible sheets of aluminum. If a thief then sees you after he realizes that he can't get your vital data, would he say, "Curses, foiled again!"

I'm touched

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To give myself illusion that I'm not aging, I've been camouflaging my hair for the past couple of years with "a touch of gray hair dye for men". Of course, it's obvious that when the Demon of Old-Age sees my unnaturally youthful looking locks, he doesn't pass me by. If that were the case, I wouldn't be this constant target for his liver-spots spitballs.

In any case, for the past couple of years, I haven't looked too bad. I've had just enough gray for that distinguished look – old enough to look like I might know what I'm doing and young enough to look like I won't be retiring anytime soon (very important quality for those job interviews).

This all changed a couple of days ago when I reapplied my anti-aging camouflage. My graying strands of hair weren't just touched, they were body-slammed out of existence. By the time I stepped out of the shower as a final step in this vain process, a dark fur encased my scalp. My hair was so dark, the room dimmed as my blackened follicles sucked all the light out of the surrounding area.

Have you ever had hope in obviously stupid thoughts? Thoughts such as "maybe my ex will be reasonable," or “maybe they will drop my income taxes to only 10%.” As I walked through the main doors of my job, my ludicrous thought was "maybe no one will notice." I soon learned that "notice" was an understatement.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

click and compare, then duck

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I'm not real happy when the target phrase of my writing assignment is nothing more than a web address. Guess what? Today's key phrase is www.wholesaleinsurance.net.

I can say that I did enjoy clicking on the link. I was able to do a quick comparison of my term life insurance with several other companies in the industry. And, Ta-Da!, I still have the best rate … at the moment. Just wait till I had a few more years, and I'll have to check the above link again.

It's too bad they don't have links like this for dating. You enter information about your current love life, click a button or two, and find out if you need to upgrade or not.

For you married guys, most of you know the answer without going to my pretend dating website. In fact, I'm sure you're answering whether to upgrade your wife based on whether your significant other is close by or not. If you're haven't been knocked out of your chair at this point - congratulations on your good answer!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Future Was Yesterday

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I've been rereading some science-fiction classics from the 50s and 60s. Boy, did they get us wrong! Where are all the flying cars and personal spaceships? And the skinny people? Maybe that's why we don't have flying cars and our own private rockets. Those vehicles would have to be twice the size envisioned by science-fiction writers half a century ago.

Now, the only futuristic promises we hear our ads that scream “buy phenphedrine for that lean look” instead of “buy Exxon plutonium for the lean trip”.

The sad thing is, years from now, we will look back on today and say, "Those were the good old days."

I'm a Master Chef ... in my mind

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After watching Gordon Ramsay's "Master Chef" reality show, several of my family members playfully suggested that I try out for the next season. Perhaps they don't realize that there are a few major levels between what Mr. Ramsey's palates consider good and what we accept as edible in this household. There is a world of difference between creating an orgasmic meal with a $10 a pound steak and simply fending off starvation with $0.50 worth of meat byproduct.

Besides, if I wanted to stand in a kitchen and be screamed at for no reason, I would have remained married. Now if you'll excuse me, I just heard the squeal of tires and a deadly thud. If I hurry, I can dazzle my hungry brood with my culinary roadkill delights.

run away, run away

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A new flea market opened across the street. I was a little disappointed because there were no fleas for sale. I was very disappointed because everything begin sold was just extremely low quality items from China. For example, a pair of cheap sunglasses turned out to be spectacles with the lens covered in soot. Not only were they cheap, they were chipped - chipped sunglasses called "Better Locs Next Time".

I think they misspelled the name of the market. Judging by the way potential customers hurriedly left, it should have been called a flee market...

today's lesson

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Today, I learned about two things I can't count on - my former spouse and the social security administration. My ex has yet to send my son his SS card and birth certification. With the final sign-up of college fast approaching, it was up to me to save the day.

The very informative web site for this effective government agency had listed their hours as 8 am to 5 pm. At 7:45am on this day of my vacation, my son and I stood at the doors of the social security office and read the faded lettering on the front door of the building: "open 9 am to 4 pm". (A paper notice taped to the window said that hours would change on August 15th to 9 am to 3:30pm.) Yes, sir! The very peak of government effectiveness.

Fortunately, there were only two others waiting for the SSA doors to open when we arrived. They also learned that same wonderful surprise about the hours. By 9am, they had left and we were number one in a line that stretched around the building.

During the seemingly endless wait for the security guards to unlock the entrance, I would glance at the gathering of my fellow SSA customers. Soon one burning question filled my mind (mainly to keep the boredom from overtaking it) - did beautiful people ever do business here? I don't mean to be mean but, for example, one toothless woman was wearing a pink tank-top with the word "Rebel" printed across her saggy, braless front. Whatever she was rebelling against, I think she succeeded. The question bothered me until I caught site of myself in the door's window pane. Yep, beautiful people don't frequent here ... you can count on that.

Monday, July 25, 2011

scrub a dub dub

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This morning, I jumped out of bed full of excitement and joyous anticipation of a new day, even if it was a Monday. I enthusiastically threw on my nursing scrubs and mentally prepared myself for day full of life saving surgeries.

Well, they weren't exactly nursing scrubs. More like dress pants and a clean shirt.

Also, it wasn't necessarily surgery in medical sense. However, my day did involved a lot of cutting, sewing, cauterizing, bending, and healing our flawed business operations.

thinkin' of my elders ...

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So as the baby boomers age (or baby doom-and-gloomers, depending upon how much garbage they are putting into their mouths or how much garbage they are verbally spewing out), we need to take advantage of this and come up with some business ideas.

Here's one to develop: as more of these folks become single once again, we should design a matchmaking service especially for senior citizens. We can call it "Carbon Dating".

Saturday, July 23, 2011

RV breakdown blues

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I told a friend about my exciting, thrill-seeking adventures so far this summer, as my car stranded me not once, not twice, but thrice along a sparsely populated and rarely traveled highway in the sweltering heat of extremely sunny afternoons. I should have known better to tell my story of struggle to Mr. "If you think that was bad, let me tell you my experience."

He then began to regale me with his tale of hardship. It involved his RV breaking down on a hot, lonely highway during his trip across America. As he waited for the breakdown service to come to his rescue, the wait forced him to make a tasty lunch in the comfort of his RV’s air-conditioned kitchen, while watching television.

I failed to see how his experience was worse than mine. There's a reason it is called a recreational vehicle. I have something similar to it. It just doesn't have wheels. I call it “my home”.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Looking out for my friends

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Yesterday, I received an email from a job recruiter offering employment at $17 an hour as a field technician. I've done enough field technician work during my past 30 year career. I've had more than enough traveling and dealing with strangers' daily problems. However, I do know at least 4 other people who could use this experience and especially are due this pay raise.

My co-workers are my friends and family. I find their happiness and that of their families important to me. The first thing I did was talk to my 4 friends about this potentially helpful email. Once I had their permission, I forwarded the opportunity-knocking-at-the-door message to their in-boxes. Now, the next step is up to them.

Of course, I had to agonize a day about whether I should do even let them know about this job offer. If they leave, the company and the remaining co-workers will suffer -- especially me. The technical work they perform now will be added to the few of us that remain. And I have a better chance at winning the lottery than my beloved employers hiring more help. Still, if a business wants to treat its employees as a necessary evil, then perhaps they need to start losing their talented work force. Losing our jobs with an incompetent firm isn't a bad thing ...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where am I again?

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Turn around and, more than likely, you will bump into someone using GPS (global position satellite) contraption. In fact, not only can they tell you where you are at that moment, but they will even tell you where to go -- and they won't even consult their GPS system to give you directions to this very hot place.

There seems to be a GPS gadget for everything you use now. There is even a garmin hand held gps for your golfing hobby. This has me a little confused. Do you really need to strap this handy-dandy device on your golf ball and whack it onward into the great unknown? I mean, how helpful is it if the ball knows where it is and you don't.
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So last week, my car's alternator died after giving me 280,000 miles of service. My clutch must have had a very close relationship with the alternator; a relationship that I can only imagine as being slippery and electrifying. I say this because, this week, my clutch followed my alternator into automotive heaven.

The alternator was $350 to fix. Fortunately, I had money aside for car emergencies. Actually, enough for one emergency. So when the clutch gave up its ghost ... I wasn't prepared for the $550 labor bill. The parts were only $150, thanks to my excellent friend who has contacts in the transmission field. Still, almost a $1000 in a week. This month, I'm supposed to move a family into my tiny abode and fund a college-bound kid. I wonder if I can put tires on them for use as transportation ...

sugar-free post

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Lately, everyone seems to be jumping on the "add a healthy adjective to the name of your product" band wagon. You've probably been regaled with sugar free chocolates, salt-free pretzels, fat-free meats, glutton-free glutton (whatever glutton is - which I suspect isn't the result of adhering 2000 pounds of stuff together).

This labeling is a good thing since it helps you make healthy decisions (assume those decisions don't involving eat an aisle full of fat-free cookies). What frustrates me is that these healthy sounding nomenclatures are starting to work their way into areas they shouldn't be in.

For example, last week, my daughter and I were looking at buying a used car for her. At one dealership, the ethics-free sales guy slithered up beside my daughter and cooed, "Here's a car that is sugar-free ... until you get in it." Yeah, let's see what your car does with a little sweetener poured into the gas tank. Maybe, we should take care of that lump-free face of yours too.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The break-down of my car was a religious experience

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As I traveled home during an extremely hot afternoon this week, my baby, my life-and-blood, my shiny metal extension of my being gave a shudder and then began to catastrophically fail. When this adventure started, I was out in the boonies, no houses around and very little traffic.

First, my car of 280,000 miles gave a brief shudder. Then its radio cut out followed by the disappearance of the clock's display in the dashboard. A few moments later, the air bag light came on, the speedometer went wild, and the car beginning to lose power.

Fortunately, I kept going long enough to make it 10 miles down the road. There, I saw the first joyous sign of civilization - the parking lot of the Spring Lake's Bethel AME Zion church. Not only that, but there were cars parked at the minister's entrance.

This is one of those church that constantly fill their marque with thoughts and sayings of brotherly love, helping your neighbor, and being a good steward. Even though I was still 5 miles from home, I didn't feel worried as I coasted into the this blessed parking lot.

The first thing I did was prop up my car's hood and check to make sure nothing obvious was wrong. It is extremely embarrassing to ask for help and having them put a wire back into place --- something very simple that you could have put done if you'd only looked in the first place. But not this time. No quick fix or potential embarrassments under my hood.

As I walked to the parked cars, two women exited from the church's back door, happily chatted amongst themselves. They saw me walking towards them with my obvious disabled car behind me. These two upstanding sisters of God got into their cars and continued to stare at me from inside. Even with me cautiously standing by their cars, it took several of "excuse me"s before one lady cracked her window down an inch.

"Excuse me", I said using my best manners. I was glad I still had my business clothes on. "My car has died. Could I use the phone in the church to call AAA?" She just blinked and replied curtly, "Oh, we can't do that. We're just coming from a funeral. Why don't you try one of the house down the road?" With that, she rolled up her window and started her car. As they drove away, I watched as that lady put a cell phone up to her ear. Thanks for the help!

Fortunately, I did find a good Samaritan couple down the road. They let me stand on their porch in the 100 degree heat and make a call with their cordless phone. After another broiling 40 minutes wait at that wonderful parking lot, a beautiful, air-conditioned AAA tow truck arrived. Not a god-send but very close.

Getting stranded by my car wasn't the most unpleasant part of this event. It was experiencing the hypocrisy of yet another church. Every few months or so, members of this 'holy' church come through my neighbor, going door-to-door and invite people to their services. I no longer think they are looking for believers to join their church. Now, I believe they are simply looking for new people who can be easily pried from their money. After all, you can't fleece your flock and fill your coffers if you don't get more of the gullible in the doors.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Stamping out obsolence

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The order came for on-high, higher than heaven - the investors. We were charged to obsolete as much of our old parts and inventory as possible and have it done by tomorrow. Just kidding. Tomorrow is holiday. We're too have it done by Wednesday or we'll find our jobs obsolete. Like that's a bad thing.

We found over 10,000 items. To rid them from our inventory system, we had find all the prints and all the specification sheets. After painstakingly reviewing each part, we then fill out more paperwork, entering it all into the company's computers, and then stamp "OBSOLETE" on each and every piece of paper related to this fiasco.

We did everything except the marking of the papers. One part has 10 to 20 pages of documentation. Multiply that by 10,000 items, and you have a lot of dead trees to process.

Not a problem. It's ok. I'm an engineer. I had our boys in the model shop create rubber soles that attach to the bottom of shoes of our cracker jack team. On the bottom of these high-tech soles are the words "Obsolete Obsolete". We then spread out hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper across an empty section of the plant with trays of ink on each side of this bureaucratic mess. With our modified shoes, team "Stampers Of Obsolence" went into action. Quickly walking from one side of the plant to the other (because running is a no-no and Lord-of-the-Dance is a worse offense), we had our paperwork completely stamped in no time.

Let me just say that we are also available for children's parties. We stamp the fun into any occasion ... provide you supply the ink.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Maybe things aren't that bad....

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In high school, I read "If" by Rudyard Kipling and felt awed by the ideals of stoicism and the "stiff upper lip" practices as manly ways to endure rough times.

Lately, I found myself wanting to whine like a spoiled teenager. Not the ideal model for a man with a half century's of daunting experiences.

Today, as I went through old papers and memorabilia, I happened to come across Mr. Kipling's inspiring poem that I had written down in my childish scribble. Here it is. The poem, that is, not my childish scribble.

==============================
Rudyard Kipling
If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!