Thursday, July 28, 2011

click and compare, then duck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 ...

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

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

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?

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.
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

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

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

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....

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 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!